Friday, January 29, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Scallops

Fish has never really been my thing. When I was younger my family would throw huge get together's in the summer time with tons of steamed clams and shrimp cocktails and I would eat them with no problem. While my family still has get together's, clams don't grace the table often. In the summer time it's fish fry's made with trout or bass and in the winter it's bacon wrapped scallops. I will not eat scallops any other way. The salty smoky flavor from the bacon permeates the delicate flesh and taste of the scallops. They make the perfect and elegant appetizer for any dinner party. You can use either bay scallops which are smaller, about 100 per pound and sweeter in taste, or the big sea scallops which have a chewier taste. Bay scallops  generally come from the east coast and have a very short season, but are less expensive then sea scallops whose season runs from fall to spring.

What you need:

Approx 1 lb of sea scallops, or 1/2 lb bay scallops
Approx 1 lb of sliced bacon
Salt and Pepper

What to do:

If you are using the larger sea scallops cut them in half. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Cut the bacon in half or into thirds depending on the size of scallops and wrap one piece around a scallop. Use a tooth pick to secure if needed. Place under a broiler until the bacon is crisp and the scallop is cooked through. Just a few mins should do it.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

General Orange's Chicken

I love Chinese take out. More importantly, I love General Tso's. They crispy chicken and spicy sauce are worth every penny. However, take out can be loaded with salt and the ingredients aren't always of a decent quality. I have been trying for years to find a recipe that can compete with the take out version. I still haven't done it but General Orange's Chicken does come close. It's sort of like a cross between the spiciness of General Tso and the sweet tanginess of Orange chicken. The chicken is nice and crisp and the sauce has a nice orange flavor with a touch of spice to it. This is a great "fake" out meal. It's also better for you because you control the salt content and the quality of ingredients. This recipe calls for chicken thighs. The dark meat of the thighs, keeps the chicken moist and flavorful and also makes it cheaper to make. Don't be discouraged by the list of ingredients. A lot of them are just repeated. This is a very simple dish to make, I promise!

What you Need:
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
2 tbs lite soy sauce
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil

2 eggs
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c flour
1/4 c cornstarch
Peanut oil for frying

2 c no pulp orange juice
1/3 c brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 in piece ginger
1 stick or 6 tbs butter
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs worchestershire sauce
2 tbs rice wine vinegar

What to do:
Cut any remaining fat off of the chicken thighs and cut them into bite size pieces. Place them into a resealable plastic bag. In a bowl combined the remaining marinade ingredients, whisking them together to combine. Pour into the bag with the chicken, press the air out and seal. Then just press the bag around to make sure all the pieces of chicken get coated. Place in the fridge overnight or for at least an hour or two. However overnight is  best in my opinion.
Heat a deep skillet with a couple inches of peanut oil to about 350 degrees. While the oil is heating, drain the marinade off the chicken and pat dry. In a bowl combine the two eggs with the cayenne pepper, a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. In a seperate bowl combined the flour with the cornstarch. Dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture then into the flour to coat it. Set the coated pieces of chicken aside for a few minutes so that the flour adheres to it. Then start to fry in batches. It takes about 5-10 minutes for the chicken to cook through depending on how big your "bite" sized pieces are. Let drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, in another skillet, melt the butter. Take a micro-plane (a very fine grater) and grate the garlic and ginger into the butter. Give it a stir and then add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat to high and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce bubble and cook while the chicken is frying. You want the sauce to reduce by about half.
Once all the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reduced combine it all together and serve over your favorite rice. I used just plain white rice that I added some garlic and ginger too while it was cooking. Garish with a few sliced up scallions.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cooking with Fat: Butter vs Margarine vs Oils

There are several different types of fats on the market today. Knowing which to use and why can be a little confusing. Plus which is really better for you? This post, hopefully, will be one of my most imformative and shed a little light on the subject of fat!!!

Margarine: Just to forewarn every reading this: I AM ANTI-MARGARINE!!! I feel that this chemical substance (because that's what it really is) should be banned from the earth! There are several articles on why margarine is so bad and even some describing how it actually increases the risk of heart disease depending on which type of fat that is used in the spread. However the most compelling thing that made me stop consuming margarine all together was this experiment: Take a tub of margarine and a stick of butter. Set them both outside on a normal day or even a hot a day. The butter will completely melt if it's warm enough outside, if it doesn't melt, bugs will attracted to it before it eventually goes rancid. The tub of margarine, while it will melt, will not go rancid. Bugs will not touch it. Animals will not touch it. Why? Because it's made of chemicals and contains hydrogenated oil which in simplest terms = bad for you health. When something is hydrogenated, it means that hydrogen was added to it, making the chemical compound that much closer to plastic. If that isn't bad enough these hydrogenated oils are very high in trans fatty acids which as we all know now, are very bad for our bodies and especially our hearts.
Now if you still insist using margarine knowing all this then really just keep in mind that it contains a lot of water. When baking, this water makes your cookies spread out more and not always brown the way they should. When cooking, the water can make things soggy instead letting them brown nicely.

Butter: Yes, butter is an animal product which means it's going to contain cholesterol, about 30 mg per tablespoon or roughly 10% of the USDA daily allowance. However butter also contains nutrients which margarine does not unless it's added to it. Something else to keep in mind is that butter and margarine contain the same about of calories and in most cases the same amount of fat as well.
When baking, butter gives a flavor and flakiness that margarine just can't compete with. When cooking the smoke point of butter is relatively low when compared to most oils and is generally combined with a touch of olive oil to raise the smoke point. It has great non stick properties when baking or cooking. I use butter when cooking and a mixture or butter and oil when cooking depending on the dish.

Oils: An oil is nothing more then purified fats of plant origins. There are several types of  oils available on the market, but only three that should be kept on hand. Those are canola oil, a good olive oil and peanut oil.

Canola oil is an all purpose oil. I use it in most of my recipe that call for oil, unless a specific oil is called for. Canola is light and is good for making salad dressing and used in baked goods. You can fry with it but it has a lower smoke point, about 300 degrees, which makes this oil the last I would choose to fry with.
Olive oil ranges from extra virgin to just regular olive oil and each can be used for different things. I stick with a light olive oil which is great for several things. Combine oilive with some butter to sautee onions, use it by itself for flavor and to prevent foods from sticking when pan searing. It is great for salad dressings as well as marinades. Olive oil is also great to just drizzle over things like nice crusty hard bread. You can use it for frying as it has a smoke point of around 400 degree however olive oil can be a little expensive to use for frying.
Which brings us to Peanut oil. Peanut oil has a high smoke point of around 500 degrees which makes this the perfect for frying. Fried foods won't absorb as much oil when fried at higher temperatures. To me this is a strictly frying oil and I wouldn't use it for anything else. It's also one that I don't keep on hand for the simple fact that I don't do much deep frying. However I will pick up a small bottle if I know I'm going to make fried chicken during the week.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Buffalo Potato Skins

In a town called Portville, in the state of New York sits a maple farm named Spragues. They are nestled on a beautiful hillside among hundreds of sugar maple trees. They tap their trees every spring and make some really delicious maple syrup. Spragues also has an incredible restaurant. When you walk in the front door you see all the equipment just waiting for the maple sap. Walk a little further and you come to this huge open area with gorgeous wood floors, booths and paneling.  Look up and you'll see these huge chandeliers made from what I can only assume are caribou antlers. The first time you venture into Spragues won't be your last I can promise you that! From their pancakes infused with maple syrup and ranging from blueberry to buckwheat, to their very tasty lunch and dinner selections, there is something for everyone. I have been there several times and have always had breakfast. It's my favorite meal. However one time we decided to try lunch. On their appetizer menu was something called Buffalo Potato Skins. They sounded so good that my husband and I had to try it. When I was back home, I was thinking of something different to make one night and these potatoes crossed my mind. I decided to take some potato wedges and fry them until they were golden brown and crispy, cover them in wing sauce and cheddar cheese and well lets just say I gobbled them up! So here is my version, which would be perfect to serve up during the upcoming super bowl!

What You Need:
1 large russet potatoe per person or a large bag of frozen potato wedges
Garlic Powder
Your favorite buffalo wing sauce
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Sour cream, blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing for dipping
Oil for frying

What To Do:
If your using frozen potato wedges, place in hot oil and cook until they are golden brown and crispy. To use russet potatoes, pre-cook them in the microwave or oven first until the are mostly cooked through but still a little hard. Slice them into wedges once cooled and cook in hot oil until they are golden brown and crispy.

Remove crispy potatoes to paper towel to drain and season with a good healthly pinch of both salt and garlic.
Place a bowl and pour just a little wing sauce on top. Toss them to coat, adding more sauce if needed.
Place onto a serving plate and cover with cheddar cheese. Place them in a hot oven to just melt the cheese or into the microwave for a few seconds to melt it. Serve with sour cream, blue cheese dressing, or ranch dressing for dipping along side.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to: Make your own sausage!

My family is full of hunters and we eat everything we hunt. From deer meat or venison, we make tons of different things such as jerky and other types of smoked meat. The thing we make the most though is sausage. Hot, sweet and breakfast sausage are the easiest things to make. You do need some special equipment such as a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer if you plan on making links. Both of which you can buy for most stand mixers. If you plan on making links you also need to find casings. I always use natural casings which can be found in your local grocery store. They might not carry it all year round, but you should be able to find them during your states hunting season. They last practically forever too, as long as they are kept packed in salt. Natural casings are nothing more then intestines from whatever animal, usually cow, hog, or sheep. It's the natural casings that give sausage their nice snap when you bite into them. If you prefer you can use synthetic casing, however they are harder to find, usually only in specialty shops or online. The Sausage Maker website has several types of casings you can choose from.
Your sausage can be made from most any type of meat. I make mine from just pork or a mixture of venison and pork. You can use chicken or turkey as well just make sure to add in some pork scraps or pork fat.
There are several recipes you can use. I use a basic seasoning mix called Leggs or Old Plantation Seasoning. You might be able to find it in Agway stores if you have one near buy but you can also buy it from Cumberland Mountain General Store, which is where my family gets it from. One bag will seasoning 20lbs of meat for the making of Italian sausage.

What you need:
5lbs of pork scraps, a whole pork shoulder, or 4lbs of chicken, turkey and 1lb of pork fat or scraps
3oz Leggs seasoning (not by weight, this equals about 3/8 cup)
1oz fennel seeds
2 tbs caraway seeds
1oz crushed red pepper (if you want to make hot sausage)

What to do:
Cut all of your meat into about 1 inch pieces and weigh to make sure you have 5lbs total. Mix your seasoning together in a small bowl and sprinkle over your meat.

Mix the meat with your hands until it's fully coated with the seasoning. Let this sit in the fridge for a couple hours so that it's nice and cold. This makes it easier to grind.

Set up your grinder. I normally grind my meat twice, first with a 3/8 plate and then again with a 3/16 or 1/8 plate. It just makes it easier to get a fine grind on your meat if you  use a bigger one first. In these pictures I left everything at a 3/8 grind.

Grind your meat into a large bowl, and place back in the fridge to stay cold while you prepare the casings.
I only use natural casings so that's the process I have included. When making Italian sausage I use hog casings. Take about two or three casings from the bunch and soak in cold water while you prepare your sausage stuffer. I use either a one inch or a 3/4 inch tube for stuffing Italian sausage.

Find the end of the casing and open it to run a stream of water through the inside of the casing. This not only gets rid of any salt on the inside but also makes it easier to slide onto the stuffer tubes. I also slightly moisten the stuffer tube. Slide an open end of the casing all the way onto the tube. Leave about two inches of casing off the end. Fill the sausage stuffer with your ground meat. Once the meat reaches the casings you can tie the casing end closed. Slowly fill the casings being careful not to over stuff them or they will split while stuffing or when you go to make the links. Continue stuffing until you have about two inches of casing left. Stop, pull the casing off and tie the other end closed. Coil it up and set it aside. Repeat with the remaining casings and ground meat.

To make the links start about 6 inches form one of the ends and give it a pinch so that the meat has been compressed to either side. Then just give it a twist. Repeat with the remaining casing, every 6 inches. Once all your links have been made, take a very sharp knife and cut through the twist. Let your sausage sit overnight in the fridge before wrapping and storing in the freezer. You have just made your very own Italian sausage!

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache

It doesn't get much better then a creamy cheesecake
with chocolate on top, that is, until you add pumpkin to the mix. This is great for something different on thanksgiving or really anytime you want to impress. The key to a smooth and creamy cheesecake is to have all of your ingredients at room temperature, especially the cream cheese. It is important to also remember to scrap the sides of your bowl often as cream cheese will stick to the side and not be incorporated. There really isn't much to making cheesecake, it's quite easy to make. I promise!

What you need:
2 cups grahm cracker crumbs
1 stick of butter, melted
2 tbs sugar

3 (8oz) packages of cream cheese at room temp
1 c sugar
1 tsp vaniila
1 (15oz) can (approx 2 cups) pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 1/2 oz of milk (2% works fine)
5 oz of your favorite chocolate or just plain chocolate chips works too.

What you do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs together with the stick of melted butter and the 2 tbs of sugar. Using the bottom of a flat measuring cup or glass, press the mixture into the bottom and 2/3 up the sides of a 9 incn spring form pan. Place in the oven and back for 10 mins just to set the graham crackers. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.
The best way to make cheesecake is with the whip attachment to a stand mixer, but a good hand mixer and a large bowl works just fine. Blend together the sugar and cream cheese on high speed until nice and smooth. Scrap down the sides of the bowl. Blend in the pumpkin and vanilla. Scrap down the sides of the bowl again. On medium speed, mix the eggs in, one at a time until incorporated. Once they are all in, scrap down the sides of the bowl and add in the spices. Scrap down the sides of the bowl one last time and give it one last mix. Pour into the cooled crust. Place a pan of very hot tap water on the bottom most rack of your oven. Then place your cheesecake on the middle rack of your oven and let bake at 350 degree for at least an hour. Your cheesecake is set when it is no longer giggly in the middle and a toothpick comes out clean.
Don't worry if the top cracks. They will be covered with the chocolate. Let cool for an hour before making the ganache for the top.
To make the topping, finely chop the 5oz of chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat the milk in a small sauce pan just until it simmers. Pour the milk on top of the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk the chocolate until it's all melted and smooth. Pour on top of the cooled cheesecake and place in the refrigerator. The chocolate will set and give a nice rich topping to the cheese cake. Make sure you keep it in the refrigerator. It's also a good idea to let the cheesecake sit overnight before eating but I don't know of very many people who could do that!

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tomato, Cucumber and Cheese Sammys

All summer long my dad would eat these simple, fresh and tasty sandwiches.  They are great for those hot summer days because they are so light. Plus, if you grow your own garden it's a great way to use up the over abundance of tomatoes I always seemed to have. It really is like eating a ray of sunshine.

Per sandwhich you need:

2 slices of whole wheat bread, lightly toasted
2-4 thick slices of tomatoes (depends on size of tomato)
4 slices of cucumber
2 pieces of american cheese
Salt and Pepper

Lightly toast your bread and smear a little mayo on both pieces. Layer your cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers on top. Season with some salt and pepper, cut in half and enjoy.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How To: Roast Garlic

If you have never had roasted garlic before, I hope you take the time to make some and try it. When roasting garlic the smell takes over the whole house. To me, it smells so much better then air freshener! When roasted, garlic takes on a very complex, almost sweet flavor. It's great in soups, mixed into your favorite hummus recipe, or smeared on French bread to make the best garlic bread you've ever had. It is pretty easy to make and you don't need any special garlic roaster to do it either, just a double thickness of aluminum foil.

What you need:
1 large head of garlic
Good Olive Oil
Double thickness of aluminum foil or a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil

How to:
Slice the top off the head of garlic so the that cloves are exposed. Place on a sheet of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil up around it, but not tightly. Place in a preheated 350 oven and bake for about an hour or until the garlic has browned and becomes nice and soft. Let cool then either squeeze the garlic out into a dish or take a knife and scoop it out.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Polenta and Sausage Casserole

I found this casserole on one of the many food sites that I visit constantly for fresh ideas. The ingredients were simple, it took minutes to make, and the flavor was incredible. Creamy polenta is so cheap and actually really easy to make. I don't know the exact dollar amount I bet this meal cost less then $15 total and it will easily feed a family of 4 with some left overs.

Polenta and Sausage Casserole

4 cups of chicken stock or water
1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)
1/4 c granted Parmesan cheese
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tbs dried oregano
2 med onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb Italian sausage, removed from casings
8 oz bag of shredded mozzarella

How To:

Make the polenta by bringing the chicken stock or water to a boil. Once boil, reduce heat to medium and quickly whisk in the cornmeal. It should start to thicken immediately. Continue to cook the polenta for about 5 to 10 min or until it's thic and creamy. Make sure to whisk it often so it doesn't burn on the bottom. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Poor into a greased 13x9 pan and set aside to cool until firm.

Preheat oven broiler on high. Meanwhile in a sauce pan combine the crushed tomatoes and oregano over medium heat. Let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, in a large fry pan, heat 1 tbs of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic, cover the pan and let cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions have softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the sausage, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Cover again until the sausage is cooked through about 5-10 minutes. Add in the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 more minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, coat the top of the polenta with the remaining tbs of olive oil and place about 4-5 inches under broiler element. Let cook for about 10 mins or until it's golden brown and crispy.

Cover the polenta with the tomato sauce and sausage. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese and place back under the broiler until the cheese is melted, bubbly and browned.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Anti-Pasta Salad

There used to be this little pizzeria type place in the town where I worked. They made this incredible salad with salami, pepperoni, cheeses and lots of yummy stuff. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I would eat one at least twice a week. My favorite part were these little garlic toasts that they would serve with them. I'm still working on how to make those garlic toast but now that I'm pregnant again this salad has become my favorite thing to eat.

Antipasta Salad

15-16oz mixed salad greens or any type of greens you like
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 lb of ham or turkey breast (from the deli counter)
1/8 lb sliced sandwhich pepperoni or 1/4 regular pepperoni
1/8 lb sliced Genoa (hard) salami
1/4 lb provolone cheese
1/2lb shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small can of sliced black olives
4 peperochini's (pickled hot peppers, optional)
Zesty Italian or Oil/Vinegar dressing

In a large platter layer the salad greens, tomatoes and onions. Slice the deli meats and cheese into 1/4 inch strips and layer on top. Cover the whole thing with the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with the olives. Place the peperochini's on top if desired and serve with the dressing. This should be plenty to serve as a meal for 2 or 3 people or along side a meal for at least 4 people.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Divine Chocolate Pound Cake

I found this recipe on the inside of a Nordic Ware bunt pan that was on sale after Christmas. My brother in law, Eran, was visiting for a couple days so I decided to make this for dessert one night. I have to warn you that it is in no way, shape or from low calorie so if you made a resolution to watch your diet this year then you may want to leave the page now. One look at this cake and I know you will want to make it!


3 cups of sugar (yes that does say cups)
1 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk or half and half
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups of flour
1 cup cocoa powder (dark cocoa powder works good too)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 325. Grease and flour your pan. The flouring of a pan is especially important if you use a fancy bunt pan with lots of grooves. It helps the cake to release much better without tearing. To do this, first grease your pan with cooking spray, lard, shortening, whatever you use. Then take 2 tbs of flour and sprinkle it around the pan. Take the pan in your hands and rotate it in all directions, tapping the outside as you go to move excess flour. Once the whole pan is coated, turn it upside down and tap it again to remove any flour that is left.
In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add in the milk and vanilla; mixing well.
Mix in the remaining ingredients, making sure that it all gets incorporated.
Spoon into prepared pan, only filling about 3/4 full.
Bake for 90 to 95 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire wrack to finish cooking.
Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar if you desire and serve with ice cream.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!
HostGator Promotion Code

Get Our Latest Posts Via Email - It's Free

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner