Thursday, May 29, 2014

Curried Pot Sticker and Vegetable Soup

My friend Dan Clark has some fabulous recipes that he shares in an online recipe group I belong to. I've shared his chili mac in the past and make it whenever I need a cozy little taste of Tex-Mex cooking. But his recipes don't stop at Tex-Mex. This little jewel of his is Asian inspired and really simple in comparison to some of the Asian soups I've tried to make. If you like the flavor of curry, this is a soup for you. His soup has chicken and rice noodles, but I couldn't wait to make this and used what was in my freezer- Tai Pei frozen chicken pot stickers. It worked like a charm and I know the secret to this soup is the flavorful broth- so you could add rice, spaghetti or lots of veggies and you'd be happy with this bowlful of goodness. Ready to cook and get this on the table in about an hour? Let's go!

Curried Pot Sticker and Vegetable Soup
Inspired by Dan and Jerry
Serves 6

1 small onion chopped
1 T canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (Dan uses 1 tsp)
1 T curry powder- I used McCormick regular (not spicy) curry powder, it sounds like a lot, but it is a curry soup
1-1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 dried Anaheim chile chopped
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup white wine
3 green onions sliced
3 cloves garlic chopped
3 celery stalks chopped
3 carrots chopped
12 frozen pot stickers
3/4 cup frozen peas
Garnish with cilantro

Prep your raw vegetables and dried chile.

 Combine all your dry spices.

In large soup pan on medium low heat, add the canola oil and onions. Soften (sweat) onions for a few minutes and add your spice mixture and stir the spices into the softened onions. Let cook a few more minutes until the aroma is permeating your kitchen. Add the wine, broth and the rest of the fresh vegetables and dried chile. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a very low simmer.

Simmer broth and vegetables on stove top for 45 minutes covered. Now add the pot stickers, cook 5 minutes with lid on. Add your peas, cook another 2 minutes and your soup is done. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Super fabulous dish Dan and Jerry. Thank you both once again for inspiring me!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pork Sirloin Braised in Pineapple Chili Sauce

I have an internet cooking friend that I have been following now for a few years. And I feel like I know her. You see, there was a video she was in for a promotion for a new cooking product and after watching I felt an immediate kinship with her (she seemed to have the same New York/New Jersey accent as me). But her creativity in the kitchen is far better than mine and just last week, after reading one of her posts, she had me at the market buying a pork roast and putting together one of the most flavorful dinners I've had in a long time. So today's post is inspired by Lillian Russo and you can find her original recipe here.

Lillian cooked her pork in the oven and used a peach salsa. I still do not have an oven-proof baking dish that I am happy with so I improvised and went with my insticts and braised the pork on the stove top and used a pineapple habanero sauce that a friend from work turned me onto (available at BJ's and Whole Foods).

This sauce packs quite a punch and after I ate spoonful after spoonful (tasting is what I was doing) I decided it would be the perfect sauce for Lillian's pork. Ready for my recipe? It's a spicy one.

Pork Sirloin Braised in Pineapple Chili Sauce
Inspired by Lillian Russo

2.5 pound pork sirloin roast
2 T flour
Salt and pepper
2 T canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 cups S&F Pineapple Habanero Sauce
10 oz crushed pineapple (half a can)
1 cup chicken stock
1 Fresno chili

Wipe moisture off the pork roast and roll in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.

On medium high heat brown the pork on all sides in the oil.

Add the chopped onions, S&F sauce, chicken broth, crushed pineapple and Fresno chili to pan.

Reduce heat to the lowest your stove top will permit, cover and cook for 2-1/2 hours, turning roast every so often. When the roast is done, remove from cooking liquid. Reduce cooking liquid to half (this took about 25 minutes). Slice this delicious roast and serve with the concentrated reduced gravy and mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli. So good. Thanks Lillian.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Grilled Pineapple and Creamy Blue Cheese Bruschetta

Grilling season is upon us. And if you're like me and don't have an outdoor grill, use your indoor grill pan and whip up this tasty appetizer in your kitchen. It's so easy and it's gonna wake up every little taste bud in your mouth.

Grilled Pineapple and Creamy Blue Cheese Bruschetta
Inspired by Lauren "The Pie Maker"

1-1/2 cans (8 oz each) pineapple slices in 100% pineapple juice (6 slices)
1/2 baguette sliced 3/8"-1/2" on the diagonal
8 oz neufchatel cheese softened
5 oz blue cheese crumbled and at room temp
1/3 cup raisins
2 stalks celery finely chopped
3 tsp scallions finely chopped
2 tsp pineapple juice from the can of sliced pineapple
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Parsley or mint for garnish

Heat your grill pan on high and toast/grill your bread slices a few minutes on each side.

Set the bread aside and do the same thing with the pineapple slices until they become caramalized and light brown.

Set the pineapple slices aside to cool and let's make the cheese topping. Combine the neufchatel and blue cheese. I use a flexible spatuala. Now add the raisins, celery, scallions, Worcestershire, and pineapple juice.

Take four of the grilled pineapple slices and finely chop. Add these to the mixture and combine.

We're just about ready to plate. Take a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture and place on grilled bread. With the two remaining slices of grilled pineapple cut them into 4 pieces (so they look like little fans) and place one atop each bruschetta. Now garnish with parsley or mint. Isn't that simple? And the combo of creamy and crispy is just what I'm always looking for.

There are many ways to re-mix this cheese spread- use dried cranberries or dried cherries instead of the raisins, pistachio nuts in place of the celery (we want crunch and this is a great option), and I've thought about some hot Fresno chilis but have not tested this idea yet. And then the addition of bacon came into the picture. I haven't tried that yet either, but bacon seems to go with everything and how could that fail? 


Here's an update on what I did this past weekend with this creamy, fruity spread. I over-stuffed some extra large mushrooms. Super quick and delish. Sprinkle tops with some paprika for color and bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and gobble them up.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sweet and Salty Lettuce Cups

Even though it doesn't feel like summer yet here in New England, next weekend is the unofficial start of the season. Whether you're dusting off your grill, getting together with friends, or just enjoying the day off from work, here's a nice little appetizer to help you enjoy the day. It's a new recipe for me that I made tonight for the first time, and just the dish to get you ready for the hot days ahead. And it's perfect if you're feeding vegetarians.

Orange and Goat Cheese Orzo Lettuce Cups
Inspired by excess oranges and orzo in my pantry

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup onion diced
Kosher salt and pepper
1-3/4 cups water
2 navel oranges supremed
Juice from the 2 oranges
1-2 T capers
3 scallions chopped
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
5 oz goat cheese
Boston lettuce leaves, washed and dried

1 large garlic clove finely minced
Kosher salt
2 lemons juiced
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Lets cook the orzo first. In medium saucepan on medium/low heat add butter and oil. Add onions, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and soften (3-4 minutes) stirring occasionally. You don't want the onions to brown, just soften. Now add the orzo and stir into the onion mixture. You want to toast the pasta- but again, you don't want it to brown. This takes a minute or so. Add a bit more salt at this point, just to add some flavor to the orzo and stir. Add water, increase heat to a low boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook about 12-13 minutes. Give the orzo a stir and let rest and cool.

While orzo is cooling you can make the dressing. This is a simple lemon/mustard vinaigrette that I use for everything. Finely chop garlic and mix with kosher salt (start with 1/2 tsp). There's a technique that many chef's use to combine the salt and garlic to make make a paste. That's what I do here. I'll try to explain- take the flat side of your chef's knife and press the garlic and salt together on your cutting board in a small sweeping motion. Now chop the mixture with your knife and press (sweep) it again and again until you have somewhat of a paste, chopping every once in a while until you're satisfied with a medium- smooth paste. I don't have enough patience to get it completely smooth. Now add some pepper and place in medium size mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, mustard, olive oil (wish I had an exact amount- I don't, because it's a different amount every time, but I want to say about 1/3 cup). I also like my dressing acidic. My recommendation- taste and adjust the amount of olive oil. Whisk it well and set aside while you assemble the salad.

To cooked, cooled orzo add supremed oranges and their juice, capers, scallions and the creamy goat cheese crumbled. At the last minute I decided to add raisins and I'm glad I did. I'm a raisin lover but I realize not everybody is, so this is obviously an optional ingredient. Add your dressing and toss gently.

Fill lettuce leaves with about 2 tablespoons of this creamy mixture, garnish with parsley, serve and enjoy!

If you're making this salad ahead of time, refrigerate until serving time and squeeze half a lemon over the orzo mixture before plating, just to refresh the salad. I think you'll really like this sweet and salty appetizer. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Decadent Orange Ricotta Cake

I had quite a bit of oranges left from my Saucy Mama challenge last week and had a serious sweet tooth to boot. I remembered the ricotta cheese in my fridge and before I knew it, I was prepping my loaf pan for a variation of Mike's Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake. It's creamy. Oh so creamy! And for those who think the consistency of ricotta is grainy, you won't find that in this sweet little confection. It's a cake that almost reminds me of a flan. It's simple to put together and I think you'll enjoy making it and eating it- especially with the orange/sugar glaze that seeps into the cake and the strawberry/orange sauce that just puts it a little over the edge. Plus there's no waste when it comes to the oranges- you'll use the zest, flesh and juice. Enough talk, let's get cooking.

Orange Ricotta Cake
9 x 5 inch loaf pan

1-1/2 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter at room temp
1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese (I used the lower fat)
1-1/2 cups sugar (I used Splenda no calorie)
3 large eggs at room temp
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Dash of orange extract (optional)

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Juice of orange that you used for the zest

Orange Strawberry Sauce
16 oz strawberries diced
Zest of 2 oranges
Supremed orange slices from the 2 oranges
Juice of both oranges
1/4 cup water
1 T sugar or Splenda

Prepare loaf pan with cooking spray and pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. In medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix ingredients with whisk or fork and set aside.

In large bowl cream your softened butter. I do not have a stand mixer and find that my small hand mixer works fine. Add your sugar (or Splenda) in a few batches and beat until creamy and light. Now add the ricotta and combine to the mix. Add 1 egg at a time until all 3 have been incorporated. Now add the zest, and extracts.

When all the yummy wet ingredients are mixed well add the dry ingredients. I do this in two steps. And like most cakes, don't over beat. Combine until all ingredients are incorporated and there is no dry flour hanging around. Remember to scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times while mixing.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 15 minutes. Lower oven heat to 325 degrees and turn loaf pan 180 degrees. Bake another 45 minutes and your cake should be ready. Use the toothpick trick- if a toothpick inserted into the cooked cake comes out clean, you're cake is done. And don't throw away that toothpick because we'll be poking some mini holes in the cake. But first, let cake cool on cooling rack.

Remove from pan and continue to cool on rack. While cake is cooling, make your glaze by whisking together the confectioner's sugar and juice of zested orange.

When the cake is easy to handle, transfer to plate and poke as many holes with your toothpick as you like. These holes are going to allow the sweet glaze to seep into the cake to make it even richer and creamier than you ever imagined.

With holes adequately poked, take a spoon and drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. Let some of it sink in and repeat. And repeat and repeat until all the glaze is used up.

I let my cake sit overnight carefully wrapped in plastic wrap with toothpicks standing guard on all sides.

As soon as I got home from work tonight I added the final touch, the orange strawberry sauce. Now this is easy. Take your diced strawberries, supremed oranges, sugar (or Splenda), water, zest and orange juice and place in a saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer until mixture concentrates and begins to thicken, about 15-20 minutes. Stir this sauce occasionally as the sugar likes to try and stick to the pan.

Let the sauce cool and plate your dessert and sauce.

The addition of a dab of whipped cream would have been nice on top of the sauce, but darn it again, I didn't have any cream in the fridge. When I make this little bit of decadence again, you can be sure I will have some on hand.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

There are a lot of Saucy Mamas out there, and I'm one of them!

I've been blogging now for almost five years. I love the writing and the cooking, love the friends I've made and love the newest opportunity that came my way a few weeks ago. I've been chosen as one of 25 bloggers to compete in the Saucy Mama blogger challenge.  And it's a big one. The winner of the challenge will win $1,000, a Golden Ticket to the World Food Championships and a $1,000 travel stipend. Barhyte foods sent me 6 of their Saucy Mama sauces and asked me get saucy with an original recipe. The package included: 12 oz each of Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Wing Sauce, Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce, Honey Barbecue Wing Sauce, Hot Wing Sauce, Honey Dijon Dressing and Four Leaf Balsamic.

So the tasting began. Each and every sauce has a quality of it's own. My two favs were the Orange Habanero and Four Leaf Balsamic, but I could have been happy creating with any one of the six. Those who know me have probably guessed by now that I fell in love with the Orange Habanero Wing Sauce. The flavors are complex (as are the other sauces), but this baby won my heart. I love me some heat and citrus and I was on the road to happiness.

My mom used to make the creamiest orzo (pasta) and I decided to add a little zest/oomph to her recipe and update it by adding orange supremes, a little orange zest and a tad of the Habanero Orange Sauce. And what goes better with orzo than shrimp? Well probably nothing... and so my cooking adventure began. I did a few test runs to get the recipe just the way I wanted it, and here's what I came up with.

Zesty Orzo Smothered with Orange Habanero Shrimp
Serves 4

2 cups uncooked orzo (I used Barilla)
3 T unsalted butter
1 T canola oil
1/2 cup onion diced
Salt and pepper
3-1/2 cups chicken broth with extra juice from the oranges
1-1/2 T Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Wing Sauce
Zest of 2 navel oranges
2 navel oranges supremed (save the juice to add to broth)

1 pound Gulf shrimp peeled and deveined (I like the 16-21 per pound)
1 medium onion chopped
5 cloves garlic finely chopped
3 T unsalted butter
1 T canola oil
1 tsp Azafran seasoning
1/3 cup Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Wing Sauce
1 bottle Shock Top orange beer
Juice of half lemon and juice of half orange

I'm ready to put this dish together with some pictures. It's really a quick fix and simple, simple, simple.

To make the orzo: Add butter and oil to medium size skillet on medium low heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until softened (3-4 minutes). Don't brown them, just soften. Now add your orzo and toast the pasta in the butter mixture kind of like you're making risotto. Add the Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Sauce and combine. Add a small amount of salt and pepper and take a moment to admire the toasty goodness of the orzo.

Now it's time to add the broth, zest and orange supremes.

Cover pot and cook on a low simmer for 15 minutes. Voila! Creamy orzo is ready.

Set the orzo aside and let's get ready to cook the shrimp. Besides the Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Sauce, there's another secret ingredient to this dish. It's orange beer, and apparently easy to find. One stop at a liquor store and I found what I was looking for.

 In large pot add butter, oil, garlic and onions. Cook on medium to low until onions and garlic are translucent, but not brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add beer, Saucy Mama Orange Habanero Sauce, Azafran, lemon and orange juice. Increase heat a bit and add shrimp.

Cover and cook on a low boil 5-6 minutes until shrimp become pink. Remove shrimp from cooking liquid and set aside to cool a bit.

Once shrimp are removed, increase stove heat slightly and reduce the beer, habanero orange sauce mixture to intensify the flavors. Do this with the cover off. This takes about 10-15 minutes. While you're reducing the liquid, I give you permission to taste the shrimp, just one or two though. Aren't they delish? And that's without the decadent sauce. A few more minutes and you're ready to eat.

While my sauce was concentrating, I put together an avocado, orange, scallion, and Fresno chili salsa to go with this flavorful meal. It's certainly not a necessity, but I always like some veggies with my meal.

And now for the reader giveaway. Saucy Mama would like you to try their sauces and has offered a give-away to my readers. Simply leave a comment here on the blog or on my facebook page by the Saucy Mama post and you could be chosen to receive 3 Saucy Mama wing sauces. That's a saucy way to begin the summer season, don't you think?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Saucy Challenge

I'm Ready!!! My package came today for participation in the Saucy Mama Blogger Challenge. I'll be posting a recipe on here using one of their amazing six sauces. The choices are: Honey Dijon Dressing, Honey Barbecue Wing Sauce, Orange Habanero Wing Sauce, Jamaican Jerk Wing Sauce, Four Leaf Balsamic Vinaigrette & Marinade, or Hot Wing Sauce. There'll also be a product give-away on the blog (yum) and a chance for me to go back to Vegas to compete again in the World Food Championships. Stay tuned and I'll keep you posted. I can't wait to get cooking.