Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Marinara Sauce

Ah, my favorite summer staples: fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. My favorite summer meal incorporating them? Marinara sauce over spaghetti noodles. It does double duty; it tastes delicious and fresh, but it's kid-friendly too. Can't beat it!

Put a good dash of olive oil in sauté pan and throw in one, large diced onion, a couple cloves of minced garlic and some kosher salt. Keep the heat low and cook until onions are soft. Add one pound ground beef, crank the heat up a bit (medium-high should do it) and brown the meat. You can drain the fat after it's browned, if you like. The add your fresh tomatoes; three to four extra-large ones; more if they're smaller (or two 14.5 oz. cans), one 6 oz. can tomato paste, one 8 oz. can tomato sauce and a ton of fresh, finely chopped basil (honestly, I have no idea how much I use; I just chop it, add it, taste and repeat as necessary). At this point I also add some water; usually I just fill up my tomato sauce can and add that. Seems to do the trick. I also some more salt as needed at this point. Simmer for at least an hour uncovered and then enjoy.

Also, this freezes really well and, best of all, can easily be made early in the day before the kids start acting like lunatics, refrigerated and heated up at mealtime.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Two New Easy Staples

What's better than a delicious meal? A delicious meal that's easy to prepare, of course! If you're looking for a couple more ideas to add to a stale battery of easy, yummy supper dishes look no farther than my two most recent Trader Joe's discoveries (all the ingredients are available there).

First up, Mandarin Orange Chicken, located in an orange (of course) bag in the frozen food section. One bag will feed a family of four eaters plus a toddler, two will supply ample leftovers. Prepare your favorite grain of rice (we prefer basmati rice) and a tossed green salad, and presto-- supper is served.

Second are mini-pizzas. Buy a bag of garlic naan (in a green bag in the frozen food aisle), one jar TJ's red pepper sauce (with garlic and eggplant) and top with feta cheese. Bake in oven (I haven't done it yet, I just sampled yesterday, but I'm sure a low-ish oven-- 350ish-- would work for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is just starting to turn a nice golden color). There are four pieces of naan in the bag, so this feeds a family of four.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Chocolate Cheesecake

This is fabulously rich and delicious and is especially decadent topped with whipped cream.

1 9-inch graham cracker crust
2 (8-0z) packages cream cheese
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Finally, stir in the melted chocolate. Pour into the prepared crust.

Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, until the center is set. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Mocha Torte

This is a recipe that's been in my family forever. I clearly remember eating it as a young child. Mom made it often and I remember requesting as a birthday cake on a few occasions.

The cake came from Grandmommy, my mom and Sixty-five's mom, though whether she got it from a friend or invented it, I have no idea. Apparently Grandmommy made it often too.

It is so, so easy, fantastically delicious and people always think it must be more complicated than it really is.

I made it this afternoon for an after school snack for the kids. It was a hit.

Mocha Torte

5 eggs, separated and beaten
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. very strong coffee*
2 tbsp. water

Bring eggs to room temperature. Beat whites until thick. Add 1/4 c. of sugar, gradually. Set aside.

Beat yolks well. Add water and coffee. Beat. Add remaining 3/4 c. sugar by degrees and beat more.

Fold in flour and baking powder, mixed together. Then fold in egg whites.

Bake in 2 ungreased 9" pans about 30-40 minutes and 350 degrees. Top with whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar and strong coffee*.

* make by adding about 5 tbsp. of boiling water to about 3 tbsp. instant coffee.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A diversity of edible treasures fills our tables

Dennis Getto, Milwaukee's preeminent restaurant critic, has come out with a list of twenty-five "must-have" Milwaukee morsels. Some I've tried, but not most. Looks like 2007 has new purpose.

Here's the link.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Potato Soup

I realize as I add this that this is my third potato recipe in a row. I like potatoes but I truthfully never thought I liked them this much.

This recipe came courtesy of an old Penzey's Spices catalog. They advocate using their spices. While it's not a requirement, of course, I highly recommend doing so; their spices really are just that much better.

Potato Soup

8 strips bacon cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 medium onions, peeled and minced
2 stalks celery, peeled and minced
3 carrots peeled and diced
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 c. potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 tbsp. flour
2 qts. chicken stock
1 big pinch saffron threads
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
salt and ground pepper to taste

Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Don't heat too high, as you will use some of the bacon drippings and they shouldn't be too dark. Remove bacon to a paper towel. Drain off all but 2 tbsp. drippings. Add onions, carrots, celery, marjoram and thyme; stir. Cover and cook on low for ten minutes. Add potatoes, stir to coat and cook for fifteen minutes. Push vegetables to side and add flour 1 tbsp. at a time; mix with vegetables when all incorporated. Add the bacon, cook for 5 minutes. Add 1 qt. chicken stock; stir until smooth. Add the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Add saffron threads. Reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes until potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Add parsley flakes, taste and season with salt and pepper.

Yield: About 12 cups soup
Prep time: 15 minutes

Now, I will confess I had to improvise a bit. I decided to make this tonight on a whim and didn't have all the necessary components. Instead of bacon I used ground beef (what can I say, I was really in the mood for meat), instead of marjoram I used oregano and (here's where it gets really dicey) instead of saffron I used cardamom.

I've been smelling it and tasting it for twenty minutes now and, I have to say, it's fabulous. I'm sure it would be better with the bacon and saffron, but I'm still anxious to dip into a big old bowl.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Drink more coffee!

The steaming cup that wakes you up also can keep you healthy.

Research shows that coffee protects against a variety of ailments, from cavities to colon cancer. Some studies suggest that the more you drink the better! Coffee lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and can protect your liver from damage. Caffeine gets credit for some of coffee's magic powers, including protection from Parkinson's disease and gallstones. But coffee's main benefit comes from its wealth of antioxidants.

In fact, the coffee bean (which is really a berry) has one of the highest antioxidant contents of all berries according to the Vanderbilt University Institute for Coffee Studies. That is why coffee has more antioxidants than red wine (drop for drop).

So get out your milk foamers and enjoy!