Monday, February 15, 2016

Praline Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday.  If I had to choose my last meal, it would most definitely be my Thanksgiving plate and although I always promise myself to do so, I never replicate this menu throughout the year.  But that’s not the only reason why I love Thanksgiving. 
As a two-religion household, we celebrate all of the holidays.  At our Christmas brunch, we include members of our Jewish family to experience the season.  At our Passover Seder, we always share the ceremonial dinner with Christian friends….but Thanksgiving is different.  Thanksgiving belongs to everyone.  We are all Americans, we are all patriotic and most of all we all have reasons to be thankful. 
Only on Thanksgiving can I rationalize having mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn soufflé, green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese as only a few of the many accompaniments to our star, the big beautiful turkey. 
I would like to share with you my recipe for Praline Sweet Potatoes which can be made a day or two ahead and will probably taste better if you do.
§     1/4 cup butter
§     2 tablespoons vegetable oil
§     2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes (2 – 3 large sweet potatoes)
§     2 granny smith apples cut into ½ inch cubes
§     1/4 cup sugar
§     1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
§     1/2 cup pecans, chopped
§     1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
§     1/2 teaspoon salt
§     3 – 4 tablespoons water

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil to keep the butter from burning.

Add sweet potatoes, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until golden.  Mix potatoes and reduce heat, add salt, cover and cook 5 more minutes. Remove potatoes from skillet.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet.  Add apples and cook for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally. Return potatoes to skillet. 

Add sugar, pecans and cinnamon, tossing to coat.  Add water stirring to loosen brown particles.  Cook 5 – 10 minutes or until potatoes and apples and glazed and tender.

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Praline Sweet Potatoes. Enjoy!

Autumn Squash Soup

Everyone loves the fall.  Some say it’s because of the brisk air.  Others love the changing color of the foliage.  Fall is my favorite season because it ushers in the time for warm comforting food.  Now I realize that I can make my savory Pumpkin Soup, Praline Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Mousse any time of the year…and I do…but there is something about a slight chill in the air that makes them all taste better. 

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I love soup.  I’m not normally a chain restaurant kind of girl, but there is one I love for their selection of soups.  They do a good job introducing new and exciting seasonal selections.  My taste buds were pleasantly surprised by their newly featured Autumn Squash Soup.  I fell in love at first bite with the fall delicacy lightly seasoned with curry and sweetened with apples. 

I couldn’t wait to get home to recreate my new favorite autumn soup.  I bought a butternut squash and two kinds of apples and began cooking away on my stovetop.  The soup turned out great but a little more complicated to make than my average most requested recipe. Most of the feedback I get from my readers is from people who rarely cook but love my recipes because they are impressive to serve yet easy to make.  So I went back to the drawing board and came up with this easy version of my new favorite soup.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

§     3 tablespoons butter
§     1 tablespoon vegetable oil
§     1 medium onion, chopped
§     1 teaspoon Kosher salt
§     1 12 ounce package of frozen squash
§     1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree
§     1 cup chicken broth
§     1 cup apple cider
§     1/4 cup honey
§     1/4 cup sugar
§     1/2 cup cream or half and half
§     2 teaspoons curry powder
§     1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
§     Freshly grated nutmeg
§     Toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts

In a large pot, melt butter.  To keep the butter from browning, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Add onion and salt.

The salt will sweat the onions and keep them from turning brown.  Sauté the onion until translucent, about 8 minutes. 
Add squash, pumpkin puree, chicken broth and apple cider.  Cook over low heat until the soup begins to bubble.  Add honey, sugar, curry powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook for another 5 - 7 minutes. 
Lastly, add cream and heat through.  Using an emersion blender, mix soup until smooth and creamy.  If you don't have an emersion blender, carefully ladle the soup into a blender and mix until smooth and creamy. 
Serve hot with toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts.
For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Autumn Squash Soup. Enjoy!


I can’t say that this is an actual recipe, but I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t share one of my favorite last minute meal secrets with you.  Because it is as good served at room temperature as it is warm from the oven, and I don’t have to prepare in advance to have particular ingredients on hand, this has become my go to recipe when packing a lunch to take on the boat, a backyard picnic or when asked to bring an appetizer to a last minute gathering. 
I first started making these Flatbreads when looking for something to do with the small dishes filled with an assortment of leftovers in the refrigerator. Not enough of any single item to make a complete meal, but items too good to just toss.  That’s when I pulled out my flatbreads and got creative. 
NOTE: I was in the supermarket and couldn’t find flatbreads so I asked an employee in the department.  He said “Wait right here and I’ll get you some,” proceeded to go to the freezer in the back of the store and returned with several frozen bags.  That’s when I got the idea to always buy them frozen and keep them in my freezer until ready to use.  They take only 2 – 5 minutes at room temperature to defrost and are always fresh.

Suggested Ingredients:
§     2 pieces of flatbreads
§     1 cup grated cheese (i.e. Swiss, cheddar, Monterey jack, Fontina)
§     Approximately 4 – 6 ounces of any leftover or deli meats (i.e. salami, chicken, turkey, ham)
§     1/2 cup crumbled soft cheese (i.e. blue, gorgonzola, feta or goat cheese)
§     1 cup chopped vegetables (i.e. red or yellow peppers, red onion, jalapeno and/or fennel)
§     1/2 cup crumbled soft cheese (i.e. blue, gorgonzola or goat cheese)
§     BBQ Sauce (Regular or Carolina mustard based)
§     Salt and Pepper to taste
§     Optional:  Chopped parsley and/or chives to sprinkle on top after removing from oven


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place flatbreads on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with grated cheese. The cheese at the bottom will act as the glue for the rest of the ingredients. 
In a small bowl combine the chopped vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
Pile the vegetable top of the meat and splash lightly splash with BBQ sauce. 
Dot with soft cheese and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. 
Place in hot oven for about 10 – 12 minutes or until cheese melts. 
Remove from oven serve warm or at room temperature.  For color and freshness, sprinkle with chopped parsley or chives. 
For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Flatbreads. Enjoy!

Chicken Corn Chowder

Chicken Corn Chowder is one of my favorite soups and I've never met a person to whom I've served it who hasn't loved it, but I never posted the recipe to my blog because I’m trying to keep it simple and this soup takes a while to make.  In order to prepare the ingredients, I first have to make the chicken stock and debone the chicken.  But when I had almost a whole rotisserie chicken in the refrigerator, I thought I would try to make the soup with a few shortcuts, just to see how it came out.
If you have the time and want to make the original version of this soup, download the recipe for my homemade chicken broth from ”Mama Marko’s Chicken Noodle Matzo Ball Soup" and prepare the soup without the noodles or matzo balls.  In the original recipe I use homemade cooked chicken, homemade chicken stock and fresh corn.  In this shortcut, I used homemade stock because I had plenty in the freezer but you can use containers of prepared chicken stock.  I also substituted rotisserie chicken and canned corn (yes, I’m embarrassed but that’s all I had in the house).  The next time I promise to use frozen corn. This soup may not be as wonderful as my original recipe, but it surely didn’t taste like I threw this together in less than an hour.

§     1 stick butter
§     1 tablespoon oil
§     1 large onion, diced
§     1/2 cup all-purpose flour
§     2 quart containers / 8 cups canned chicken stock, warmed
§     2 cups heavy cream, warmed
§     4 large potatoes peeled and diced
§     6 cups corn
§     4 cups cooked chicken, diced
§     Salt
§     1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon


Heat the butter with one tablespoon of oil to keep the butter from burning over medium heat.  Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 5 – 7 minutes until tender and translucent soft. Add the flour and stir to make a roux.  Cook while stirring until roux is lightly brown to cook out the raw taste of the flour.

Slowly pour in the warm chicken stock while whisking briskly so it doesn’t lump. Slowly bring to a boil.  The mixture should become thick.

Add the diced potatoes and cook for about 10 – 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Add the warm cream, corn and cooked chicken and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Finish with fresh tarragon and salt to taste.

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Chicken Corn ChowderEnjoy!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Artichoke Dip Pinwheels

With a calendar full of events around the holidays, our local chapter of WPO (Women’s Presidents Organization) opted to hold our annual holiday party in January.  As business owners we are all wrapping up year-end details or scrambling to take time off to be with family. Sometimes parties around the holidays are burdensome, but a cocktail hour gathering of good friends and colleagues in the middle of January is a pleasant addition to a month light on commitments. The idea was brilliant. Rather than going to a small, private room in a restaurant, one of our members offered her newly remodeled loft, and everyone was asked to bring a “finger food” to the cocktail party and a Dirty Santa gift exchange. 

I knew I couldn’t show up without a plate of my Candy Bacon, but I wanted to make another dish as well.  My Artichoke Dip is always a hit, but I was reluctant to bring a casserole dish that requires baking immediately before serving. So after some culinary brainstorming, I created this recipe which combines the delicious taste of Artichoke Dip with the palette of a chip, bread or crostini. This easy to make and serve finger food will be your new "go to" for any event.

§     3 (8 ounces) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or crescent dough sheet
§     1 (14 ounces) can artichokes (very finely chopped)
§     3/4 cup Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
§     3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
§     1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
§     1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
§     Pinch of salt

§     Each can of crescent dinner rolls will yield 12 pinwheels.  To make 24 pieces, half the mixture between 2 cans of rolls.  To make 36 pieces, divide the mixture equally among 3 cans of rolls.
§     Any time I use a recipe where one of the ingredients is mayonnaise and the dish requires baking, I always use Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise.  It is the only mayonnaise I have found will remain creamy and will not separate into an oily mess.

I use canned artichokes because they are convenient and can be found at my local market, but frozen artichokes would work well.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain artichokes and chop finely.

In a bowl, mix together artichokes, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt.  Unroll dough and firmly press perforations to seal. 

Thinly spread ½ or 1/3 of the artichoke mixture over the crescent dough, depending on how many pinwheels you want to make.

Beginning with the long edge of the rectangle, roll dough forming a tight log.

Using a sharp, thin knife, cut the log in half and then again into quarters.  Cut each quarter into thirds and place on a cookie sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper for even baking. 

Be sure to leave enough room between each pinwheel, as they will spread a bit.  Bake at 350 degrees for 7 – 10 minutes or until warm and lightly browned. 

Artichoke Dip Pinwheels are best served warm from the oven, but can be served room temperature.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Artichoke Dip Pinwheels. Enjoy!