Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quick Asian Soup

The weather outside is frightful and nothing in the Boston area these days is delightful, especially schlepping a grocery cart across an icy parking lot. So I'm low on provisions again and soup seems to be my answer for avoiding the market. Here's a little gem, a variation of an Asian soup my friend Donna posted the other day on facebook. It's six ingredients, and ready in under 15 minutes. And it's delish!

Quick Pot Sticker Soup
Serves 4

4 cups chicken stock
4 scallions sliced 1/4 inch
1 T oyster sauce
2 T light soy sauce
12 frozen pot stickers
1/2 cup frozen corn

Heat chicken stock on stovetop in large pot. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce and scallions and bring to a low boil.

Add frozen pot stickers, cover, lower heat a bit and simmer 5 minutes. Add frozen corn and cook with lid on another 2 minutes. Soup's ready!

Wasn't that quick? I garnished with a teaspoon of Huy Fong's chili garlic sauce which gave it a bit of a bite. I would have added cilantro as well, but as you can imagine, I was without any fresh herbs. With or without cilantro, this is the perfect dish for the imperfect weather we've had in the northeast this winter.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Make Yourself Comfortable

Craving comfort food? I sure am. This little gem managed to get me out of the bad mood I've been in due to the constant snow that has invaded New England for 2-1/2 weeks. Oh yes, 2 or 3 more days of shoveling, salting, are sanding are in the forecast, not to mention an additional 12 to 15 inches of the white stuff. When we have a snowy winter like this one, I always try to keep bread, eggs, cheese, cream and butter in the house.  One of the reasons is so that I have an excuse to comfort myself with this decadent strata. It's great right out of the oven, and almost as good at room temp. Here's the recipe.

Ham and Cheese Strata
Serves 9

Cooking spray
2 T unsalted butter
8 slices hearty white bread cubed 1" pieces
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz honey ham sliced 1" pieces
2 scallions chopped
5 large eggs
1-3/4 cups fat free half and half
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Ready to assemble this cheesy, buttery, savory concoction? I sure am.

Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish and set aside. On stovetop on low, melt butter in small saucepan and remove to cool. Place half the bread cubes on top of the sprayed baking dish.

Sprinkle with 1-1/2 cups of cheese. Top with all the ham and chopped scallions. Add the rest of the cubed bread and the remaining cheese.

Set the baking dish aside and make the custard: Whisk together eggs, half and half, melted butter, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pour this liquid gold over your ham, cheese and bread mixture.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours (or longer shouldn't hurt), letting the custard soak into all the elements of the dish. About an hour before you're ready to bake, remove dish from fridge and let come to room temperature.

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake 50-60 minutes in middle rack on oven. All ovens are different, so start checking for brown-ness at about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let rest about 10 minutes before serving. I slice into 9 squares. Doesn't that look comforting?

There are so many ways to re-mix this recipe...add some Dijon mustard to the custard. Place a layer of roasted red peppers or softened sun dried tomatoes on the ham and cheese. Of course some chopped, cooked bacon would be heavenly as well. One of my favorites is blue cheese and caramelized onions. You can even make this on a sweet note, with cottage cheese, raisins and cinnamon. There are so many ways to make yourself comfortable, I suggest you give a strata a try!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cream-Filled Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cookies with a Twist

The twist. Ahh the twist is the addition of Maple Extract. I don't bake with it often enough, and it's the perfect addition to so many fall and winter dishes (both sweet and savory).

I know some people are not fond of maple anything, and then some go wild over maple everything. Both my parents were fanatics about maple walnut ice cream and maple walnut coffee cake. So that was my inspiration when I decided to put this experiment together last night. There are a few steps to making these little darlings, but the results are so worth it. And as usual, I've tried to cut some calories and sugar. There might be some future tweaking, but for now...this is a yummy cookie your maple lovers will adore.

Cream-Filled Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cookies
makes approximately 20-22 sandwich cookies

8 oz Neufchatel cheese softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick)
1/2-3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 T Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 2 T regular brown sugar)
1 tsp natural maple extract
1/3 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts

1 cup unsalted butter softened (2 sticks)
1 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (same amount if you're using granulated sugar)
1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 1 cup regular brown sugar)
2 large eggs at room temp
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp natural maple extract
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1cup rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts

I like to make my filling first. In medium size bowl, combine your butter and Neufchatel. I use a hand mixer. Now add your sugars and maple extract.

And fold in your ground nuts.

Wrap filling in plastic wrap and set aside in your refrigerator to set up and let the flavors meld.

Let's make the cookies. Pre heat your oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment. In medium size bowl, combine salt, flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk with a fork or spoon to incorporate. No need for any sifting. Set aside.

On to the batter. Place butter and sugars in a large bowl. With hand mixer combine sugars and butter until smooth. Add eggs and both extracts and incorporate.

Now add the flour mixture in two batches to the wet ingredients and combine. And fold in the oats, raisins and chopped walnuts.

I usually just plop my oatmeal dough by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment paper, but since I was filling these little beauties, I decided to make them into 1 inch to 1-1/2 inch balls, so they would all be pretty uniform in size.

Bake each cookie sheet 9 minutes. Let cool on cooling rack and remove cookies to paper towels to finish setting up. And amazingly enough, the cookies are all pretty much the same size. I lucked out on that one.

While cookies are cooling, remove the filling from the fridge, let it come to almost room temp so filling the cookies will be a snap. Lovingly pile a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the maple infused filling on to the bottom (flat side) of one cookie and top with a second. Keep going, and be sure to sample at least one (or two). They really are yummy.