Monday, March 31, 2014

Pina Colada Cream Filled Cookies

Every year I celebrate my friend Jonathan's birthday with a new cookie. This year I did a take off on my Raspberry Cloud Cakes that I made at the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas. Since Jon will be spending some time soon in the Caribbean I thought a coconut and pineapple combo would be appropriate. I didn't take any pictures to guide us through the baking process, but it's simple and I think when you make these you'll be as pleased as I was.
Pina Colada Cream Filled Cookies
8 oz neufchatel cheese at room temp
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 cup sweetened coconut ground in spice grinder or food processor
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend- if you choose to use regular brown sugar double the amount
2 large eggs at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup candied/dried pineapple rings chopped
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Chopped candied/dried pineapple rings
Cream cheese coconut mixture
I always make the filling first: In medium size bowl combine your neufchatel cheese and butter. Now add your ground coconut, confectioners sugar and coconut extract. I cover this with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge while I'm making the cookie dough.
To make the cookies: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In medium size bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir with a whisk or fork to combine and set aside.
In large bowl, with hand or stand mixer combine butter and brown sugar and mix until smooth and airy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla and continue to mix. Add half the dry ingredients into the wet and mix on low. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Fold in the candied/dried pineapple pieces. Cover with plastic wrap, and let cool in your refrigerator 20-30 minutes.
When dough is chilled, form into small balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on baking sheets and cook 11 minutes. Cool slightly on cooling rack, then remove to kitchen or paper towels to cool completely.
Remove coconut filling from fridge and take a tablespoon (or maybe a little more) and place this creamy mixture on the flat side of the cooled cookie. Cover with a second cookie to make a sandwich. Keep going until you've matched up all the mates.
Sprinkle the top of all cookies with confectioners sugar, add a dab of coconut cream cheese on top and plunk in a piece or two of chopped pineapple. Nice presentation and a very sweet cookie.
I refrigerate these cookies and take them out about 30 minutes to one hour before serving. Happy Birthday Jonathan! Oh my, what am I going to make you next year?    

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tater Salad Fake Out

Is anybody besides me ready for a barbecue and some time outdoors? I'm just about losing my mind with the snow, rain and cold this year. When I get my first invitation this spring to an outdoor event, I know what I'm bringing... my newest potato salad recipe.  It's low carb and delish. And nobody, and I mean nobody will realize the fake-out unless you tell them. But I'm happy to tell you- it's 1/3 potatoes and 2/3 cauliflower. And the dressing is out-of-this-world good. The Brown Eyed Baker gets the credit for this dressing for sure. There's something magical that happens when you add a bit of bacon fat to your mayo mixture. Double, triple or quadruple this recipe when you're sharing with others. Otherwise this will serve 4.

Cauliflower Potato Salad

2 cups  cauliflower florets chopped
1 cup potatoes diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 hard boiled eggs chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 T onion finely chopped
5 slices bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup mayo (I use the low fat)
1 to 1-1/2 T (or a little more) bacon fat
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp capers

Cook potatoes on stovetop for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, let cool and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking, microwave the cauliflower florets for 3 minutes. When they are done, set them aside and let them cool as well. On medium heat, fry your bacon. Doesn't this look good?

When bacon is browned, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Pour bacon fat from pan and reserve about 1-2 tablespoons. You'll be using this in your dressing. I actually made my dressing in the pan that I cooked the bacon in. To bacon drippings add your mayo, mustard, sugar, salt, chopped celery, and onions. Whisk to combine.

I think we're ready to put this dish together. In large mixing bowl combine your eggs, potatoes, cauliflower and bacon.

Now add the heavenly dressing and as many capers as you like. I opted for about 2 teaspoons. I give you permission to add more (note- Brown Eyed Baker didn't use capers but used a pickle relish I think).

I ate this immediately, but if you're making it ahead, refrigerate and if the dressing seems a little tight- just add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to loosen it up. I know that will work for sure.

Hurry up Spring- Can't wait to make this dish for my friends!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mom's Stewed Chicken with a Tex-Mex Flair

My mother Elaine was a good cook. She was never considered a warrior in the kitchen, but even 40 plus years ago she was cooking healthy. And one of my favorite meals of hers was her stewed chicken. I  could smell it walking in the door and couldn't wait for the tender chicken, tomato broth and veggies to be done so I could indulge in one of my favorite meals ever. And thankfully before she passed away she actually gave me the recipe in writing.

I've toyed with her recipe over the years and nothing I did to tweak or impove it seemed to be any better than hers. Until tonight. A little Tex Mex seasoning, some diced jalapeno and of course some corn. This is a pretty quick fix, under an hour- and I promise you if you don't eat it all in the first sitting, you will enjoy the flavors even more the next day. As with most stews, it just gets better and better if you have the patience to let it sit.

Elaine's Stewed Chicken with a Tex-Mex Flair

6 chicken thighs bone in, skin removed
2 tsp canola oil
2 cups onions chopped
4 cloves garlic fined chopped
2 jalapeno peppers diced
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
2 tsp Old El Paso Hot and Spicy Taco Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried coriander
1/4 tsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes no salt added
1 8oz can tomato sauce no salt added
1 14.5 low sodium fat free chicken broth
3 green peppers sliced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen corn

In large soup pot on medium low heat add your canola oil. Now add your onions and jalapeno. Let veggies soften about 5 minutes and add your garlic, Old Bay, Taco Seasoning, salt, coriander, cumin and chili powder. Stir to combine and let cook a few more minutes to let the flavors combine. Now add your diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and add your chicken thighs. Take a look at the size of these chicken thighs. They are huge!

Reduce broth to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Now add your fresh veggies and frozen corn.

Continue to simmer covered for 10-15 minutes and dinner is done. I made some brown rice and Colby Jack flatbread as a side. Delicious dinner tonight.

Thanks mom, you've always inspired me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Corned Beef and Grilled Cheese

Wow, yesterday I had a huge, beautiful plate of corned beef and today I am left with enough for a sandwich. Did we really gobble up all the beef? I guess we did. No matter, next time we'll make more. Tonight we have a grilled cheese corned beef sandwich to make.

Cooking Light (in their March issue) had an article on one of their ultimate grilled cheese sandwiches and I decided to take a tip from them to create tonight's dinner on the stovetop. I loved two things I read about their recipe- the cheese was creamy and lower fat than we regularly use and the amount of oil (not butter) that the sammie was fried in was a lot less calories. Well, the first statement is true- the cheese mixture is without a doubt creamy, flavorful and simply delish. The 1/2 tsp of olive oil for both sides of the sandwich just didn't seem to cut it, so I improvised and had to add a tad, just a tad of butter. Let's remember, grilled anything is never going to be figure friendly, so bring on the butter- not a whole lot, but let's at least be able to brown up the bread and taste something good and give this new grilled cheese and corned beef a try. I have to say, with my little changes, I loved it.

Grilled Cheese and Corned Beef Sandwiches
Inspired by Cooking Light
Revised by me

2 slices fresh rye bread
Leftover corned beef sliced thin
1 T softened goat cheese (Cooking Light used cream cheese)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (my addition)
1 tsp mayo (I used the light)
1/2 cup or a little more shredded light cheddar cheese
butter and 1/2 tsp canola oil for frying

In small bowl combine your mustard and goat cheese.

Mix it up and add the mayo and shredded cheddar. I tasted this and decided it didn't need any salt or pepper, but if you're a pepper person, add a few grinds, you'll be happy I'm sure.

 Take out two slices of rye bread and slather one side with the cheese mixture.

Now add your sliced cornbeef.

Well I was almost ready to close this little darling up when I realized I had a bit more cheese left, so what's a gal to do? Slather the remaining cheese on the other piece of bread I guess. Seemed like a plan.
Top that sammie with the other slice of cheesy bread and heat your skillet/pan to medium/medium low. Add in your 1/2 tsp of oil, but make sure to add alittle butter to your pan or you won't be happy. Saute a few minutes on side one. Flip and repeat. See what a beautiful litte grilled cheese sandwich you just made!
And think of the possibilities you could add to the cheese mixture instead of the mustard, A few that come to mind are horseradish, sriracha or pico de gallo. I do think any grilled cheese is worth an experiment or two, just don't forget to add a little butter. I'm so glad  did!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Guinness Stout Bread

Yesterday I came across a recipe for beer bread on the blog Half Baked Harvest. It looked so good and SIMPLE, I had to give it a try. I used Guinness Extra Stout and added some raisins to the already yummy mix. Ready for a super delish bread? I sure was- six ingredients, no kneading, and less than an hour baking time. Let's do it!

Guinness Stout Raisin Bread
Inspired by Half Baked Harvest
Makes one 9 x 5 loaf

3 cups flour
4-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar loosely packed
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz Guinness Extra Stout
1/2 to 3/4 cups raisins plumped in boiling water and drained

Lightly spritz a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first 4 ingredients together in a large bowl (flour through salt) and whisk to combine.  Add your Guinness.

Then the raisins. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined and there is no extra flour mixture or clumps. Pour into prepared loaf pan.

I tried to smooth the batter on top but had no success. It's just the nature of this bread to be lumpy. Bake 50 minutes and remove from oven. Let cool about a half hour, cut and enjoy.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

O'Dalton's Holiday Cooking

I love a nice holiday meal. It doesn't matter if I celebrate the holiday per se, I just like to enjoy the foods that others eat to commemorate their special gatherings. I got this holiday/food sharing bug from my mom Elaine. She cooked a roast for Christmas, Lamb for Easter and of course we ordered take-in for Chinese New Year. And there was no one Irish in our family, but I could always come home to a corned beef and cabbage dinner for St Patty's day. In honor of my mom's festive spirit, I made corned beef with all the fixin' today and Fran (my gardener friend) and I will indulge tomorrow. It's very simple to put together and surprisingly budget friendly.

Linda O'Dalton's New England Boiled Dinner
Inspired by Elaine Dalton with a little help from Fannie Farmer

3 pounds flat cut corned beef brisket
3 onions peeled and quartered
3 Russet potatoes halved
6-7 carrots cleaned and halved
1 medium head green cabbage quartered and cored
2 dried bay leaves

Remove your brisket from the package and cut off some of the excess fat that you'll find on one side.

I did the best I could. Maybe you'll do better than me, but it seems that the small amount of fat I removed did the trick. There was very little scum in the pot when I started cooking. In large pot place your brisket and cover with at least a few extra inches of cold water. Bring water to a boil and lower heat to a gentle simmer. In the first 10 minutes of cooking, you will notice that some impurities release themselves from the meat and you need to skim them off (that's the scum I was just referring to). I used a slotted spoon. Now add 2 dried bay leaves, cover pot and lower heat a bit more so that your meat is just barely simmering. Set your timer for 1-1/2 hours and prep your vegetables. I keep my peeled carrots and potatoes in cold water. The onions I just let sit out. The cabbage I get to at the last minute.

After an hour and a half, add your onions. In my version, the onions are more for flavor and not really served as a vegetable. Cook an addtional 1/2 hour and add your potatoes. After 15 minutes of the potatoes cooking, add your carrots and cook 30 minutes more. By now your kitchen is smelling heavenly. We're almost there. Remove your brisket, potatoes and carrots and set aside.


To your pot of flavored broth, add the quartered cabbage and cook about 10-15 minutes. Remove and get ready to plate this O'happy meal. The cabbage is cooked to perfection, the meat has settled a bit and you're ready to do some surgery.

Slice your brisket against the grain. It's the only way to serve this piece of meat. It makes it very presentable and easy to eat. See that little stash of end pieces in the upper left corner of the picture? That's what I like to nibble on while I'm cutting the meat. It's Oh so yummy, so remember to treat yourself.

Transfer sliced meat and veggies to a large platter and serve with horseradish sour cream sauce. It's a great compliment to both veg and meat.

I have a raisin beer bread in the oven now and if it's a winner, I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Comfort Food

Yes, I've been cooking a lot of comfort food lately. It's March and New England weather is so cruel and it's been getting me down. My comfort food routine has been mostly re-heatable dishes and casseroles that allow me to spend some time chatting with my friends on the internet and not slaving over a stove after a snowy ride home from work (like today). My friends are a lot like me, and Carol J (another New Englander) has a recipe on Just a Pinch that I recently "pinched" that most definately had my name on it. I kept hearing it talk to me in my head saying, "Try me. Try me". And so I did. It's definately blog worthy and I hope you'll give it a whirl. It's meaty, cheesy, and contains quite a bit of spinach, my kind of food for sure. I made a few minor changes and tried to cut the calories and fat wherever I could, 'cause that's what I like to do so I can maybe fit into my spring clothes.

Ground Beef, Spinach and Cheese Casserole
Inspired by Carol J from Just a Pinch Recipe Club

12 oz frozen chopped spinach
8 oz neufchatel cheese at room temp
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
3 T skim milk
1 T Boursin spreadable cheese
1 scallion chopped
1/2 medium onion diced
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups uncooked penne pasta (I use Dreamfields low carb)
15 oz marinara sauce (homemade is best, store bought is fine)
1 cup lower fat shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Cook spinach. I used the microwave on high for 3 minutes.

Let cool and squeeze out all the moisture. Set aside and cook the penne according to package directions. While pasta is cooking brown your ground beef with diced onion on medium heat. Add a little salt and pepper if you like, I did. I also would recommend some crushed red pepper flakes. I forgot to do that (but I did add it when I served myself a heaping portion at the dinner table).

Now I'm not into stress in the kitchen, but if you can handle this... while beef is browning and pasta is cooking, mix your cream cheese, Boursin, milk and chopped scallion in a bowl and set aside. I was actually able to do this. And I pre heated my oven to 350 degrees as well.

When pasta is done, drain and add to beef mixture. Make sure you drain off any excess fat from the beef before you do this. Now add your marinara sauce. Doesn't this look like a meal on it's own?

Time to get the casserole together. I used my large souffle dish of course, because every casserole deserves to be served in a nice dish, plus it's my all time favorite. Spritz your casserole dish with a little cooking spray and place half your pasta/beef/sauce mixture in the bottom. Top with half the cream cheese mix and top that with all the spinach.

Add the rest of your pasta beef mixture, cover your dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven, add the remaining cream cheese mixture and top with shredded cheddar. Bake for another 10 minutes uncovered and you're ready to eat this melty, ooey, gooey, yummy meal. 

I served this with some toasted slices of parmesan pita triangles so I could scoop up some of the cheesy goodness and was a very happy gal. And no salad needed with this casserole, my veggie was waiting for me inside. Great dish Carol J, it's a definate keeper!.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Evie's Cornbread Tamale Pie

One of my new internet cooking buddies cooks for seven on a daily basis. I cook for one- that would be me and sometimes a few good friends who enjoy my cooking. So when Evie posted her recipe for Cornbread Tamale Pie for 4, I jumped at the opportunity to give one of her recipes a whirl. I didn't follow Evie's recipe to the letter, but I kept pretty close, and wow is this a delight to the senses and tastebuds. Pleasantly spicy, meaty and cheesy inside with a simple, cool (slightly sweet) cornbread topping. What more do you need for success at the dinner table? Maybe a side salad with a cool ranch dressing. Yes, I'd recommend a salad. Here's what you'll need to put my version of Evie's lovely little pie together:

Chicken and Cornbread Tamale Pie
Inspired by Evie DB
Serves 4

1 pound ground chicken
2 jalapeno peppers diced
1 fresno chili diced
1 T cilantro chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 T olive oil (canola oil will work fine too)
salt and pepper to taste
2 packs Goya Sazon seasoning
1-1/2 tsp Old El Paso Hot & Spicy Taco Seasoning Mix
1 cup corn
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix (8.5 oz)
1 cup Colby cheese shredded
Cooking spray

In large skillet on medium heat add your oil and saute onions, peppers, cilantro and garlic. Add a small amount of salt and pepper if you like (I always do). Cook about 5-8 minutes until onion is transparent and peppers are cooked. Evie cooks her veggies on high, but I've burned way too many a good meal on my over ambitious stovetop.

Remove onion mixture from pan and set aside. To the same pan, add your ground chicken and cook until all the pink has disappeared. I usually don't have much fat accumulation from ground chicken, but if you do- please drain. Now add your Sazon and taco seasoning and incorporate with the chicken. Add the onion mixture back to the pan with the chicken and toss in your corn. Remove from heat and set aside.

Doesn't that just look good enough to eat already? Hold on, we're almost done. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a small baking dish with cooking spray (I used my 7 inch round souffle dish and it worked like a charm). Prepare the Jiffy corn bread mixture according to package directions. Now we're ready for assembly

Into your prepared pan, place 1/2 of your cooked chicken. Top with the Colby cheese. Now add the rest of the chicken/veg mix.

Pour the cornbread mixture on top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, let cool a bit and then dig in.

Garnish with sour cream, salsa, guac, or anything your little heart desires. Thanks Evie, next time you have the ladies to lunch I'll be waiting for another one of your recipes for 4.