Sunday, April 28, 2019

Blood Orange Margarita's

The weather here in N FL is warming up and timing is perfect for a cooling cocktail. A dear friend of mine gave me this recipe and I have since changed it up a bit, a little tweak here and there. I should also say that I am a stickler for using excellent ingredients, it does make a difference in the taste. For example, my choice of tequila is Patron but you may prefer something different.

The first time I made these I used freshly squeezed blood oranges but there is a very short season for blood oranges. We can get them from California but for only about a month. I have since found that Fresh Market and Whole Foods carry pure blood orange juice imported from Italy and I can get it just about year round.


Blood Orange Margarita's


1 cup tequila
1 cup triple sec
2 1/2 cups Margarita Mix
2 1/2 cups blood orange juice
1/2 cup simple syrup
lime squeeze in each glass

To make the simple syrup place 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan on low stirring constantly until the sugar has melted. I always make a cup since it will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks and it must cool before putting these together.

Mix all ingredients in a tall pitcher. Rim a margarita glass with a cut lime and dip the rim in kosher salt. Place some ice in the glass, pour margarita into the glass, add a slice of lime and enjoy. These are delicious.
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This will probably serve six.
I used Stirring's Margarita mix but some would use Jose Cuervo. I have made them with fresh blood oranges when they are in season but found that Fresh Market carried Saint Volcano 100% organic blood orange juice in the veggie area and I could not tell a difference between that and freshly squeezed blood oranges. Fresh Market has in the area where they sell milk a pasteurized blood orange juice that works just as well also.
When I make simple syrup I do 1 to 1 meaning 1 cup but taste the mixture before you add in the simple syrup. Everyone has a taste difference and I only put in 1/2 cup to this mixture and it was awesome. The next time I put in even less and liked it even better, I think I like a more tart cocktail. At first did the rim salt on the glasses but decided that I preferred not having it with this particular margarita. I normally do when I order a regular Margarita when I am out somewhere since that is my cocktail of choice. Didn't even use my pretty blue margarita glasses the second time I made these but always in a pretty piece of stemware. It definitely tastes better in an elegant glass.
 
If you like a really good margarita you should try this. They have become a favorite of mine especially on a warm afternoon. They are so refreshing.
Enjoy the remainder of your day, Carolyn

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Chocolate Cupcake Brownies

Many years ago a dear friend shared this recipe with me and I loved these for so many reasons. I hadn't made them in quite sometime but recently came across this recipe that I had tucked away in another cookbook. And Yes, you guessed it, I made them right away.
Chocolate Cupcake Brownies, rich and chewy in the center with a nice crunchy top.
These are so quick and easy to put together and definitely quench that chocolate craving. They are great for picnics, children love them and you can add all the decadence you want for a great dessert as I did with some chocolate and vanilla ice cream. A little drizzle of caramel or chocolate wouldn't hurt either. Now that would become really decadent and I also think they would be an excellent dinner party dessert, you'd be a rock star with this little dessert. And remember, I mentioned how easy to make they are.
Now I'm getting hungry to make a new batch as I type this post.
They don't stay around long either especially since I have a sweet toothed husband and grands that come over frequently too. Now I don't eat too many sweets but these are sooooooo good.
 
Chocolate Cupcake Brownies
Makes 12 regular size cupcakes
 
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, whisked
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
 
Mix together sugar, flour, and eggs. In a saucepan melt chocolate and butter and then let the mixture cool a bit. Combine the flour mixture and chocolate. Add vanilla and pecans being careful not to over mix. Place in muffin tins that are lined with paper bake cups almost to the top and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 minutes. Do not overcook.
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I used the Ghirardelli chocolate squares and not semi-sweet chocolate pieces. I also used walnuts instead of pecans and liked them better but it is a matter of preference. This recipe can be easily doubled as well.

These heavenly cupcakes will satisfy any chocolate craving and a great little recipe to have in your recipe files. If you try the recipe I hope you will let me know how you liked them and I hope they are enjoyed by your family as they are mine.
Thank you for visiting my blog and please come again.

Carolyn

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Comfort Food~A Good Beef Stew

Making stew is a perfect weekend activity and this time of year perfect comfort food. Most of the work is done up front, then all you need to do is enjoy the lovely aromas that fill your kitchen as the stew simmers. There are so many different ways to prepare a good beef stew but I will share mine. It never fails to please my husband.

Many years ago, 1969 to be exact, the year I got married. Yes, we have been married for 49 years now. This was given to me by my dear mother. It apparently was printed in our newspaper the year we were married and it has served me well. I have saved this clipping all these years.
 
The title certainly speaks volumes about the times we lived in at the time. However, the truth is as I have learned over the years is that if you serve your husband or significant other a good meal often they'll love you forever. 
 
Now I have changed my recipe over the years and there are surely many ways to change it up but this recipe is my go to recipe when I prepare a beef stew.
 Using a 5 quart heavy pot (I use a Le Crueset Pot) I begin with mixing the flour, salt, and freshly ground pepper together in a shallow bowl. Dredge the meat in the mixture and shake off any excess flour. You want the meat to be bite size pieces, often the grocery cuts them in to too large of  pieces. After dredging in the flour mixture brown them in batches if necessary on all sides. Begin with just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil but add more olive oil to it if the pot gets too dry.
 
 Remove the browned meat, add a little more olive oil and then add the Mirepoix. This is a French term for finely chopped carrots, onion and celery. Sauté' them just until the onions are clear. Add the garlic and sauté for just a minute being careful not to burn the garlic.
 Move all the vegetables to one side to make room for the tomato paste. Cook it just long enough to deepen the flavor, just a couple of minutes.
Add to the pot 2 cups of a good beef broth, tomato sauce, a cup of water, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, bundle of fresh thyme, bay leaf, a tablespoon of beef base (optional) and the browned beef chunks. Sometimes I add in some beef base for a little added depth of flavor and simmer for an hour.
 
 
 
Then add in your prepped veggies; carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and cook until just tender. I usually don't even peel my potatoes using Yukon gold potatoes or small reds since they have such a thin skin. When the veggies are tender and just before serving I add a cup of a good red wine (optional), something you would drink with this dinner  Since my husband likes his stew served over egg noodles it makes for a delicious comfort food.
A Good Beef Stew

1 1/2- 2 Pounds beef round chunks
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 large onion finely diced
2 carrots finely diced
2 stalks celery finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup water
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon beef base (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme tied in a bundle
1 bay leaf
4 carrots, cut in chunks
6 Yukon gold potatoes, cut in chunks
8-ounces or more fresh baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced or in large chunks
1 cup of a good red wine (optional)
a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Mix together flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Cut beef chunks into bite size pieces, dredge in flour mixture.

In a large heavy Dutch Oven, heat olive oil and begin to brown beef on all sides.

Add some more olive oil if needed and add the mirepoix, finely diced onion, celery and carrots. Sauté just until onions are clear and then add in the garlic. Sauté the garlic for just a minute taking care not to burn the garlic.

Make a spot in the pot moving veggies to the side to sauté the tomato paste for just a few minutes. Add the beef broth, tomato sauce,  sprigs of thyme tied in a bundle, bay leaf, water, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for an hour, covered.

Add to the pot all the veggies, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms. Cook until just tender. Check again to make sure if salt and pepper are needed. In the meantime cook the egg noodles according to package directions. When the veggies are cooked add the wine if desired. Serve stew over a bed of egg noodles, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Enjoy.
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An excellent Beef Stew, it's a "Good Thing". All that is needed to round out this dinner would be a simple mixed green salad.

I hope you will try this stew, it is delicious and thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

September Cookbook Book Club Luncheon

Each and every month I look forward to our cookbook book club monthly gathering. Our hostess for the month chooses the cookbook from which we cook and we have enjoyed cooking from some of the newer books available to us as well some really tried and true cookbooks. This month was no exception, our hostess chose to cook from a new book on the market but one I was not familiar with. Written by blogger, Jennifer Segal, "Once Upon a Chef". We also had the option to choose a recipe from her blog. This was an excellent choice by our hostess, I bought the book and it is one I will often cook from. I have many recipes book marked to try at another time as well as making copies from Jennifer's blog that are not in her book. It's always great fun to get a taste of some of the recipes that are brought to our luncheon. I knew that this was a book I would use again and again and I also highly recommend her blog, Once Upon a Chef. You can click on to the name of her book and blog to access her blog.
Every month each hostess goes to great lengths to set the stage for a lovely luncheon and this was certainly the case this month.
Seasonal decorations and flower arrangement set the stage as we entered her home.

And an exquisitely set dining table.
As well as the lovely buffet table. And here are the recipes brought to our luncheon.

Our hostess prepared an outstanding Andouille Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo served over rice, of course. Not your typical Louisiana Creole Gumbo but as Jennifer says in her book, everyone has a different take on gumbo. The most important flavor component is of course, the Roux and this particular gumbo had lots and lots of flavor. I was offered to take some home to my husband for his dinner and he was delighted. I was as well, especially on cookbook book club luncheon day, I am stuffed when I leave and never feel like preparing dinner that evening.

Another entrée' served was Chicken Tikka Masala. I don't usually prepare or even order out Indian dishes but this was particularly good and a recipe I would be inclined to prepare at home. Another interesting thing about this dish was that it used a typical Indian spice, Garam Masala that I have never used before. It is a blend of peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. This was a dish with complex flavors but not overly spicy and also served over Basmati Rice.
Creamy Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad, an excellent chicken salad. The chicken is first marinated for six hours and then grilled creating layers of flavor. This is on my list to prepare at home and probably the best chicken salad I have ever eaten.
Corn, Zucchini and Tomatoes with Goat Cheese, what an outstanding blend of flavors. I was so anxious to try this side dish and it did not disappoint. A perfect side to any meat you may be serving and can be prepared ahead of time. I dearly love make ahead dishes especially when company is coming. It is served warm but this was served at room temperature and was just as good.
Cauliflower Fried Rice, an amazingly delicious dish. These days you can find grated cauliflower in the produce section and will often be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores but yet you can also grind your own cauliflower in a food processor for this recipe. I can honestly say that it did not taste like cauliflower to me and that's important since my husband won't touch cauliflower. The general consensus was that I try it out on him to see if he could tell what it was. With all the other ingredients added in and the seasonings, I am betting he would love this and I'll wait for him to go on and on about it and then tell him what he was eating. Oh I do have a little bit of bad in me. This was a dish that could in fact be served as a main dish or pared with maybe some salmon, an outstanding dish.
This was a very different take on a Baked Artichoke and Spinach Dip. It was an updated version eliminating the use of mayonnaise and sour cream. Instead the recipe called for preparing a Béchamel sauce, a French twist and using instead of jarred or canned artichokes, using frozen artichokes. It was delicious and I will make this again and again. I loved the way she changed up an old and tired recipe.
My contribution to this lovely soiree was Golden Orange Gazpacho with Basil. A very different take on gazpacho using yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow bell pepper and freshly squeezed orange juice. I thought the changes were excellent and I said while there that I could make this early in the week and eat on it every day, a healthy lunch.

Golden Orange Gazpacho with Basil

3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
2 pounds golden cherry tomatoes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced (do not peel)
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 3 large oranges (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup water
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce, to taste

Place the onions in a small bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine half of the tomatoes, half of the bell pepper, half of the cucumber, and half of the drained onion. Pulse until finely chopped but not puréed, 25 to 30 one-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, and onion, along with all of the basil, to the food processor (no need to wipe the bowl clean beforehand). Process until the vegetables are finely chopped, 25 to 30 one-second pulses, then add to the bowl with the other vegetables.

Add the remaining ingredients to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. Before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve cold. This soup is best served fresh, but will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
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Serving this in a glass vessel was important, so you could see all the healthy deliciousness.
An unusual take on Gazpacho and it was outstanding.
Is it any wonder why I look forward to this luncheon each and every month. It makes for a delightful afternoon, great food and good friends as we walk our way through our chosen cookbook. There was a dessert brought, Blobbs but unfortunately I failed to get a picture of them. It was chocolaty deliciousness, yummy.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope this will be inspiration for others to start their own Cookbook Book Club. Enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Delicious Macaroni Salad

I have tried so many macaroni salads over the years but have never quite found one that I really really liked. Now most people don't make much of a fuss about a simple macaroni salad, why most people just throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Wellllllllllll, I came upon a really good one that I would like to share.
It is so very simple and that's probably what my problem has been. In an effort to make that amazing out of this world macaroni salad I was probably adding in way more than I should. I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to a macaroni salad, simple is better.

My Favorite Macaroni Salad

 7 ounces uncooked large pasta shells (2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain well and place in a large bowl. Stir in the canola oil until coated. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until blended and smooth. Add pasta, stirring until pasta is creamy and coated. Stir in onion and remaining 2 ingredients. Serve immediately or cover and chill.
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I added in some ham to the mixture to make it a one dish meal. You could also add in some leftover rotisserie chicken or even some tuna fish, would be fantastic.
 Some freshly sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a chiffonade of fresh basil from the garden it made for an excellent dinner. I won't say a lighter dinner in terms of calories but a not so heavy dinner on a very hot and muggy night.
 
 
It's a slightly tart main dish salad or side salad that makes an ideal dish to go with any barbecue or just to have on hand for a weekend. This is quite simply delicious.
 I have learned, simple is most often better. I hope you'll try this. You won't be disappointed and I love having an excellent macaroni salad in my repertoire.

Thank you for visiting and please do come again. I always enjoy your comments if you should decide to do so.

Carolyn

Monday, July 16, 2018

Cookbook Book Club

Several weeks ago I hosted my cookbook book club. Since it was just a week before the Fourth of July that's what I chose as my theme. As hostess I chose the book from which we cooked also. It had just come out the month before so I thought there would be a great deal of enthusiasm about cooking from this book.
I was right, everyone enjoyed cooking from this book and I must add that each and every recipe cooked from this book was outstanding. I would cook any one of them for my own family. Now we probably should have thought through all the cheese that was in each recipe, there was cheese in each and every one of them with only one exception. They were all delicious just the same.
I used a vintage floral jacquard tablecloth that I had gotten some time ago from William Sonoma with my blue and white dinnerware in mind.

I used my blue Spode Italian, hotel silver, cobalt blue wine glasses and water glasses and at each place setting I had a small African violet in a wee blue and white container. A "take home" for each guest.
 
I love using birds on most all my tables and these napkin rings I picked up a long time ago and each one are different. I even used my little bird salt and pepper cellars.
 
I used in my arrangement blue hydrangeas, whitish pink roses, and added in the flags for a more patriotic theme. 
 
I prepared the main dish which was what Joanna called, Dedication Casserole. It basically was a chicken and wild rice casserole but the BEST one I have ever prepared. One thing I thought was super terrific was that it called for your favorite rotisserie chicken which that's a no brainer, Costco's is the absolute best. It also called for a jar of marinated artichokes and you add in the liquid from those artichokes and for creaminess it called for cream cheese. Not using cream of mushroom soup which I liked that much better. It called for 4 cups of cheddar cheese but if I were to prepare this dish again I would definitely use much less. Since it was for my cookbook group I like to prepare the dish as it reads. It was excellent and I think everyone else thought so as well. It could feed an army there was so much of it but most of the time my friends take home enough to feed their husbands that evening as they should.

Not sure why I can't get this pic to straighten but I can't.

I also made an appetizer since I had made a rather stout Sangria. I didn't want them sipping on the Sangria without something going in their tummy's while everyone was arriving. It was a great excuse to try this recipe as well and it is excellent.
Joanna calls it Last-Minute Party Dip, the ingredients most people would have in their pantry and everyone just raved over it. It was quite good and one I will make again.

Last-Minute Party Dip

Two 8-ounce blocks 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
One 7.5-ounce jar marinated quartered artichokes, drained and chopped
1 cup minced green onions (light and dark green parts)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Bagel crisps or crackers, for serving

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, green onions, garlic powder and kosher salt until well combined.

Transfer half of the dip to a small serving bowl and top with half of the pepper. Store the remaining dip in the refrigerator and refill the bowl as necessary, topping with additional pepper before serving. Serve with bagel crisps or crackers.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes about 4 cups
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One of my favorite dishes brought was the Peach Caprese Salad. This was a delightful different take on the traditional Caprese Salad especially since peaches are in season right now. It was light, refreshing and pared well with the fresh mozzarella.
Other dishes that were brought were,
Three Cheese Quiche
 
Stuffed Broccoli Casserole
 
Creamy Squash Casserole



 Dutch Oven Cabbage and Bacon
 
There were two desserts brought and both were excellent. 
 Blueberry Buttermilk Puff
 
Aunt Opal's Banana Pudding
 
This was such a different take on most Banana puddings in that it used creamed cheese and sweetened condensed milk. It's not something I would make every week but I must say it had WOW factor.
 
I think it is fair to say that a fun time was had by all and the book we cooked from was a winner.
 
I will be sharing this post on Susan's Tablescape Thursday. To see others shared post just click HERE.