Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jim's Steak Diane

Some time ago one of you asked if I would be making any of Jim's recipes. I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea, so last night I made what came to be known as “Jim's” Steak Diane. The non-Jim version is fairly standard; what makes his special is the addition of mushrooms.

He didn't set out to wander from the original recipe that he’d found in the cookbook accompanying the box of Omaha Steaks we'd received, it was pure serendipity, much like that experienced by Rachel Green in her failed attempt to make Trifle on the old sitcom, “Friends.” Jim combined the recipe for Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and the recipe for Steak Diane. In his defense, they were side-by-side on the same page in the cookbook, and that type is small! As it turned out, we liked his version quite well, and this is how we’ve made it ever since. My philosophy has always been that mushrooms enhance any savory dish to which they are added. This recipe proves that’s right. 
Jim's Steak Diane

2 6-oz. Filet Mignons
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh chives, minced
1 tsp. brandy
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a heavy skillet, and sauté mushrooms until juices are released; add mustard and shallots, and sauté 1 minute more. Add steaks and cook approximately 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Remove steaks to serving plate and keep warm.

To pan drippings, add 1 Tbsp. butter, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and chives.

Cook for 2 minutes. Add brandy, stirring until warmed through, and pour sauce over steaks.

Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chocolate Dulces

I know I’m not the only one who occasionally gets a craving for chocolate, only to find that there is none in the house. Okay, okay, I did have a bag of chocolate chips, but I wanted something that I could really sink my teeth into. Enter this old recipe for Chocolate Dulces and I’m in business. 

I’ve had this recipe forever, but never made it, so as I am wont to do, changed things up a bit by adding a tiny bit of cinnamon, and made things easier by melting the chocolate in a microwave instead of a double boiler. I also used parchment-covered cookie sheets, which made it very easy to slide the cookies off to cool. Because I find dropping cookies to be tedious, I used a disposable pastry bag to pipe mine. This made the job much faster and easier. The recipe claims that it makes 50 cookies. Umm, no. Piping a teaspoon for each cookie, I finally stopped at 178. That is not a typo. They are small bites, very chewy and chocolaty, and very good, so you can eat a number of them and still feel virtuous. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) 
Chocolate Dulces

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup sugar
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 t. Mexican vanilla extract
A whisper of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix chocolate chips and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted, 1-2 minutes. Add condensed milk and butter, stirring until blended. Stir in flour, nuts, vanilla, and cinnamon, until combined. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for exactly 10 minutes. Remove at once to a sheet of waxed paper to cool.

Makes lots! 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Greek Pasta Salad

Knowing how much I love a good Greek Salad (I am fortunate enough to have a Greek restaurant just a couple of miles from my house -- hello baklava!), a friend of mine gave me this recipe for a Greek Pasta Salad. I love pasta salad, too, so this was really the best of both worlds. I ate it as a main dish as is, but for a heartier version you could add cubed salami. I'll be making this again and again.
Greek Pasta Salad

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed

3 cups fusili, cooked according to package directions
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
12 pitted Kalamata olives
1 small jar marinated artichokes
1 ½ cups feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
4 scallions, sliced

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic until thick and creamy; chill. In a large mixing bowl combine pasta, tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, olives, artichokes, feta cheese, parsley, and green onions. Toss salad ingredients with dressing gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beet Chutney

For the uninitiated, chutney, from the East Indian word chatni, is a spicy condiment, sometimes chunky, sometimes smooth, containing fruit, sometimes nuts, vinegar, sugar, and a wide variety of spices. It can be hot or mild, depending upon your tastes, and is an excellent accompaniment to curried dishes. But you don't have to be a fan of curry to enjoy this delicious relish. I like to serve it with ham, roast chicken or turkey, and pork. I have also been known to whir it in the food processor along with a healthy amount of Duke's and make a piquant chutney mayonnaise, a wonderful topping for a turkey sandwich, and when stirred into chicken salad can perk up even the weariest of chickens.

 This recipe is a snap to make, particularly if you buy Melissa's steamed beets. The worst (and messiest) part about dealing with beets is the cleaning and cooking. All of that is done away with here. What could be easier?
Beet Chutney
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 8-oz. pkg.
Melissa's Steamed Baby Beets, cubed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons raisins
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon
Melissa's organic ginger, chopped fine
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
Pinch of cumin seeds
Pinch of cinnamon

Heat olive oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped red onion and cook until onion is tender but not brown, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Stir in beet cubes and water. Increase heat to high and boil until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chutney is thick, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Scallops with Mushrooms and Asparagus

I bought more asparagus. What can I say? It's so fresh, and so delicious, and then there's Aldi with their beautiful, economical produce, and big bags of asparagus with delicate stems. Sigh. So, like it or not, you're going to be treated to more recipes that feature this versatile vegetable.

This recipe, adapted from one I found on
epicurious.com serves one (and that would be me), but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. to serve a family.
 Scallops with Mushrooms and Asparagus

6 spears thin asparagus
4 large crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large sea scallops, cleaned
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Trim asparagus, then cut stems into 1-1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices, leaving tips whole.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté asparagus, stirring occasionally, until just tender. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Sauté mushrooms, adding a drizzle of oil, if needed, for 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute. Transfer mushrooms and garlic to the plate with the asparagus, reserving skillet off heat (do not clean).

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, 3 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to a plate and keep warm.

Carefully add wine and vinegar to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 1-3 minutes. Add any scallop juices accumulated on plate and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter.

Add reserved vegetables, and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.

Serve scallops topped with asparagus and sauce. To serve as a main dish, as I did, serve on top of thin spaghetti.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Crunchy Chicken Casserole

Casserole, casserole, how do I love thee, casserole? A lot, I can tell you. I have been so busy that the thought of cooking even a “meal for one” seemed daunting. There is a lot that needs doing when someone leaves this earth, and I have been tackling a portion of that every day. I've also gone a bit crazy cleaning, organizing, and painting, exhausting myself in the process. Last week, I kid you not, I moved a full-sized recliner from the lower level, up a staircase into the upper level, all by myself. It was foolish of course; one might even say crazy. I was one of them, particularly when I got three steps from the top and thought I'm not going to make it. I stood there, braced against the steps and the chair, feeling bruises starting to form for about five minutes before I took a deep breath and muscled it the rest of the way to the top. I was one proud girl, I can tell you.

Responses to my feat of hoisting this bulky beast up a staircase were varied.

Son #1: Are you kidding me!?!?  You should have let me do that.

Son #2: Dang! That's awesome.

Dad: Raised his eyebrows as the color drained from his face.

Where am I going with this? Before I moved the chair, I put this casserole together, covering it, and storing it in the fridge until it was time to bake. When it was time for dinner I was so glad that I could crawl into the kitchen, pop this into the oven, and have dinner ready in half an hour. With school starting, you'll want to have a family pleasing casserole at the ready to bake as well. This is the one.
Crunchy Chicken Casserole

1 ½ to 2 cups cooked cut up chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 cup diced celery
1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 cups chow mein noodles
2 Tablespoons chopped green pepper
1 3-oz. can French fried onions (reserve ½ cup for topping)
3-4 spears Melissa’s Hearts of Palm, sliced into ¼” coins
¼ cup Melissa’s Fire Roasted Red Bell Peppers, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 1-1/2-quart casserole with Pam; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except reserved onions. Spoon mixture into casserole, spread evenly to edges, and sprinkle with reserved onions. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes until bubbly. Serves 4.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Slow Cooker Bourbon Chicken

Two words: Bourbon. Chicken. What more could you possibly ask? Oh, how about Slow Cooker? This incredibly good dish is made easy in a slow cooker while you get on doing what needs to be done.​ It slowly scents the house, tempting you while it is cooking, and pleases even the pickiest of eaters because of its complex and inviting taste. Rich, spicy, slightly sweet, you don't need to like bourbon to love it!
Slow Cooker Bourbon Chicken
  1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
3 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
⅓ cup pineapple juice
1½ tablespoons honey
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup Bourbon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

4 scallions, sliced into 1" diagonals, for garnish

Remove all fat from chicken thighs and place into the bottom of a medium-sized slow cooker. Mix the next 12 ingredients together and pour sauce over chicken. Cover and cook on the "Low" setting for 4-5 hours.
With a slotted spoon, remove chicken to a cutting board and shred or dice into bite-sized pieces; set aside.
Combine cornstarch and water and whisk into sauce until it begins to thicken. Return chicken to the pot and cook until heated through.
Serve over rice and garnish with scallions.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

French Riviera Tablescape

Has this not been the longest summer ever? It seems like it's been eight months long if it's been a day. The heat and high humidity set in during the first week of June and never let up. I know I'm not alone in being very eager for cooler weather.
Because I am absolutely itching for fall, this will be my last summer tablescape. I just cannot wait to get into the warm autumn colors.
A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about the lovely chargers I was given by Marigene Purcell of In the Middle of Nowhere blog, I also mentioned that she had included with the plates, some lovely tablecloths as packing. I showed you one of them here, and this setting features yet another.
Being a big fan of the blue and yellow combination, this made me feel cheery and as if I were vacationing in the south of France. 
To give a nod to the Riviera, I added these starfish plates with edges in light hints of blue.
The cobalt flutes (first mentioned here) have been getting a workout of late, and look particularly festive here.
This summer has had me mad about lilies, with this centerpiece no exception. The vase is from a lovely arrangement given to me when Jim passed away, so has special meaning for me. It looks perfect here full of yellow Asian lilies.
I use these yellow goblets a lot. I have no idea as to the manufacturer, and no hint is given on the bottom. These were given to me by my mother about 25 years ago. They tend to go with pretty much everything, short of patriotic or Christmas colors.
The small carafes my son and I ran across when we were cleaning out Mr.O-P's storage locker. (I'd mentioned previously about finding this very cool jug from Spain as well.) He had an entire case of them! (Don't ask me why.) So, I brought them home, washed them up, and thought they would be perfect for serving individual portions of infused water.
The blue and white salt and pepper shakers were a purchase made when I was in college. I still love them.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Lemon Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread

I am a HUGE fan of the lemon/poppy seed combination, from cookies, to muffins, to quick breads, and even my favorite, pancakes. I have a friend who feels the same way I do, and so was only too happy to share her latest lemon poppy seed recipe with me, this one for zucchini bread. Can you imagine? I mean, zucchini bread is moist and delicious on its own, but to combine it with lemon and poppy seeds? It is truly heaven on a plate.
Lemon Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup grated zucchini (one small zucchini)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease and flour an 8 ½” x 4” loaf pan; set aside.
In the work bowl of a stand mixture, cream together butter, sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon oil until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
In a separate bowl place the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest, whisk to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir to combine. Do not over mix.
Fold in the zucchini, vanilla extract, and poppy seeds until evenly distributed. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until loaf tests done. Let cool for at least 10 minute in pans before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
For the Glaze:
The loaf is fine as is, but if you choose to glaze it as I did, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the bread and garnish with lemon zest, if desired.