I'm Just Here To Cook…and Eat!


Leave a comment

A new Thanksgiving Hors d’oeuvre

I’ve recently decided I need to clean house of all my Food Network and Rachael Ray magazines that I’ve kept around for years. Whenever I get a new magazine I read through it, ear mark recipes I want to try, and then place it on my bookshelf. Well, I’m running out of room. So I decided to start a project. Pulling a bunch of the magazines off the shelves. I bought a brand new binder to house all of the recipes I’m carefully ripping out of the magazines, diligently noting which issue it came from. This project will take awhile, but it’s definitely well worth it!
20141126-215429.jpg
I have another binder fill of recipes ripped out of magazines over the years or printed from online. Hundreds of recipes I probably have never tried! I remembered pulling some Hors d’oeuvre recipes awhile back which have the autumn flavors and spices – perfect for Thanksgiving. So I tried my hand at one this year – Acorn Squash, Apple and Sage Appetizer Puffs. Of course I never wrote down where I got these recipes from so crediting them was going to provide difficult. But after a quick google search, I found this is a Je Mange La Ville recipe. And it is amazing. If you do one thing this Thanksgiving, it should be to save this recipe for next year!

Acorn Squash, Apple and Sage Appetizer Puffs
recipe by Je Mange La Ville

ingredients
1 box puff pastry, defrosted
1 granny smith apple, quartered and cored
1 acorn squash
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
1/3 block of cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste
flour for dusting work surface
small dish of water
a 3-inch biscuit cutter

directions
Preheat oven to 425. Carefully halve squash. Rub the olive oil on the squash halves (concentrating on the cut sides). Sprinkle with salt & pepper and roast cut side down for about 30-40 minutes — until tender and caramelized.

When cool enough to handle scoop out flesh into big bowl. Add the sage, cream cheese, garlic and parmesan. Grate two quarters of the apple onto two layered paper towels. Squeeze out extra liquid and the add grated apple to squash mixture. Snack on the other two apple quarters.

Sprinkle flour on your work surface. I found it the easiest to break puff pastry along the perforated lines and roll out each rectangle large enough to fit ten circles on — five rows of two. Fill each circle with about one teaspoon of squash.

With dish of water, wet one edge of a circle with your finger, pull and stretch dough a bit to cover squash. Press down the edges to make a seal. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Repeat with all of the circles of dough. Each full sheet (three rectangles) of puff pastry will yield 30 puffs. A whole box will yield 60. Leftover filling makes a great dip or ravioli filling.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange puffs on a baking sheet. Don’t crowd. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and puffed up. Repeat as necessary to bake as many puffs as desired. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
20141126-220338.jpg
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Leave a comment

An Apple A Day…

Keeps the doctor away. So the saying goes, right? Have you ever wondered why that is and if it’s really true? Apples are another superfood listed in Superfoods: 50 Best Foods To Change Your Life. Apples are a good source of pectin which helps to lower bad cholesterol and is known to help prevent colon cancer. It is said that apples help adults to have smaller waistlines and lower blood pressure. They are high in fiber and can be a source for potassium. So yes, an apple a day can very well keep the doctor away!

Apples are a great fall fruit. Apple pies are a staple at any thanksgiving dinner. And apple picking is a favorite fall weekend festivity. You all know I love the fall and apple picking! And although I didn’t get to go this year, apples are still a favorite of mine for cooking this time of year. And it’s the perfect compliment to my healthy eating kick for after the wedding binging and before the holiday binging!

Today, as a polar vortex entered the Northeast and I walked to my car in the cold cold cold air that no one was quite ready for yet, I thought about this pork and apple meal finishing up in my slow cooker. Warm and comforting, this meal was inspired by the pork chops braised with apples recipe in my Superfoods cookbook. Hope you enjoy!

ingredients
2 bone-in thick cut pork chops
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup white wine
2 apples cut in 4 chunks with the cores discarded
2/3 cup apple cider
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauces
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes

directions
In a sauté pan, brown the chops seasoned with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Once browned, add them to the slow cooker.

In the sauté pan, begin to brown the onions. Season with salt and pepper. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch and mix for about 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. This should thicken up very quickly.

Add the apples, onions and wine sauce, cider, Worcestershire sauce and rosemary to the slow cooker. Cook on low for about 8-9 hours. The pork should become fall off the bone tender.

I served this over mash potatoes with a side of roasted asparagus. The perfect meal to throw in a bowl, plop on the couch under a blanket, throw on the tv and warm your core. Enjoy!

20141118-202554.jpg


Leave a comment

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Bell Pepper Pasta – A Super-Pasta

Three other superfoods that my book Superfoods: 50 Best Foods To Change Your Life teaches about are red bell peppers, leeks and pumpkin. Red bell peppers contain a high amount of vitamins A, B6 and C as well as a high amount of antioxidants all which help to have a healthy heart, help stop damage to skin from UV light, as well as to make stomach acid which fights against bacteria. Pumpkin is rich in alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein which are anti-aging nutrients. Leeks are known to lower total bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. They are also high in vitamin C, fiber, vitamin E and folate. For tonight’s dish, I substituted the pumpkin with butternut squash which is so high in beta-carotene. Using all three of these ingredients, plus pine nuts, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil is why I’m calling tonight’s dinner a super-pasta!

My super-pasta was created a bit by accident actually. I knew I had butternut squash and leeks, but completely forgot I also bought a red bell pepper! So I created this beautiful fall dish knowing that roasting these vegetables would develop sweet, nutty comforting flavors needed after a long day with a cold week looming ahead. Hope you enjoy and start your healthy kick soon! Oh, and serve this with a glass of red wine and you have another superfood from this book. 🙂

ingredients
1 cup cubed butternut squash
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 baby leeks or 1 leek, diced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb egg noodles

directions
In a 350 degree oven, roast the butternut squash and red bell pepper tossed with the oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for 10-15 minutes on a flat pan with raised edges, until the squash is almost soft. Add leeks to the pan as well as the pine nuts to the pan to toast. Roast another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta and cook the pasta until al dente. Mix the roasted vegetables with the pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
20141117-211715.jpg


Leave a comment

Pasta with Shrimp and Broccoli

Here’s to eating healthy! A few months ago I bought a new cookbook – Superfoods: 50 Best Foods to Change Your Life By. It goes through 50 different foods and why they are good for you, and provides some recipes. I didn’t use the recipe for tonight’s superfood, but learned more about broccoli. Broccoli is one of the very best vegetables for you. It is a high source of vitamin C, selenium and calcium. It helps to prevent certain types of cancer because of it’s rich nutrients. And it also helps to a healthy digestive tract. Read up on broccoli and learn how to love it if you don’t. It certainly loves us!

I’ve told you, I was a weird kid and loved everything kids don’t. I ate broccoli as a kid. And it’s gone through stages. First I just ate boiled frozen broccoli. Then my mom would start steaming it, so I ate that too. Stir fry was next. Then roasting. Roasting is my absolute favorite. It brings such a yummy nutty flavor to the broccoli. This is how I made the broccoli for tonight’s dinner. It’s a simple recipe which many chefs have made or shared, but it’s good for a quick night meal with a very good superfood.

ingredients
1 head broccoli
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 lbs pasta
8 shrimp, peeled and deveined
Red pepper flakes.

directions
Preheat the oven to 350.

Wash the broccoli and cut off the florets. Put the florets in a glass pan with the garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, until the broccoli begins to brown.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook the pasta to al dente.

While the broccoli and pasta cook, heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the shrimp coated in oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until pink.

When all three parts are ready, toss all together and serve. Enjoy and get healthy!
20141112-213143.jpg


Leave a comment

French Onion Soup

This past Friday was Danielle’s wedding, and it was absolutely amazing. I was so honored to serve as my sister’s Maid of Honor and witness to her marrying Nick. It was such a beautiful ceremony and amazingly fun reception. The food was great, the music was pumping, and there was not an inch of space left on the dance floor. Danielle looked absolutely gorgeous and the “first look” that Danielle and Nick shared before the ceremony was so special.  I am so happy for them. Oh, and I nailed the speech, too, and even made people laugh! 🙂

The wedding festivities started on Wednesday evening with the Rehearsal dinner and didn’t end until yesterday when most of the out of town family started leaving. So for 5 days we ate and drank, ate and drank. It’s definitely time for some healthy food – which will be the theme for this week. But first I absolutely needed to make French Onion soup.

I took today off as well to ease back into the work week, and I have been dying for French Onion soup for the past week. It all started last Saturday when The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond posted her French Onion soup on Instagram since she was making it on her show that day. The same weekend, the Food Network posted a picture of French Onion soup. Not two days later, my friend Lauren posted her French Onion soup. It was on every menu of every restaurant I went to over the last week. And when I went to visit Lauren yesterday, we talked about her recipe. My mouth has been watering for it! So, since I had a few hours to labor over this amazing soup today, I decided to take some time for me (the intention of this day off!) and do just that.

I always use Julia’s Child’s French Onion Soup recipe. I love Julia Child. It’s amazing to me how she succeeded in culinary school in France by never giving up, and her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which she wrote with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, is a timeless edition to any kitchen.  As Julia had said, “Find something you’re passionate about and stay tremendously interested in it.”  This is exactly what she did, and this quote inspires me to stay passionate and focus on me.

After a couple of hours in the kitchen today, I am eating my soup on the couch, catching up on Scandal, and writing this out for all of you. Hope this cures those Monday blues for you!

recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simon Beck

ingredients
1 1/2 lbs or 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions3 tbs butter
1 tbs oil
a heavy-bottomed, 4 qt covered saucepan
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown
3 tbs flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 qt of boiling and 1 qt of stock or bouillon
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbs cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted french bread
1 to 2 cups grated swiss cheese or Parmesan cheese

directions
Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.
IMG_2549
Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep golden brown.
IMG_2557Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct the seasoning.

Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread, and pass the cheese separately.

** I change the end of Julia’s Child recipe slightly.  I don’t use the cognac, and I don’t like the bread in it. So I buy slices of swiss cheese and lay it over the top of a broiler proof soup bowl.

IMG_2561I then broil until the cheese is bubbly and browned slightly – this only takes a minute or two. Enjoy!

IMG_2567


Leave a comment

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

There is nothing better on a cool fall morning than a huge, hot mug of pumpkin spice coffee. And I don’t mean a PSL from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or wherever else, although that would do fine as well. I’m talking about a fresh brewed, at home, under a blanket hot mug of coffee. And if you don’t want to purchase an entire bag of pumpkin spice coffee, it’s so easy to make! Just add some pumpkin spice to your coffee grounds and brew!! A nice hot mug of Pumpkin Spice Coffee… Yum! Have a Happy Hump Day!

20141105-125050.jpg


Leave a comment

Mini Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

This is a repost from last year, but a good one. Pumpkin Bread is one of the best things to make with leftover pumpkin. And you came make a few batches and freeze them! This year, I used my favorite new pan from Pampered Chef – my brownie pan – to make mini pumpkin breads. How cute are they?? Here is the recipe for this yummy bread from my grandmother’s recipe box. Enjoy!

https://imjustheretocook.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/grandmas-chocolate-pumpkin-bread/

20141104-080113.jpg

20141104-080140.jpg