Sunday, December 18, 2011

Garde Manger Revisited

My semester of Garde Manger has finished.  Our final was last week and I was happy with my presentation.  I chose to have it on Marilyn's Table this weekend.

Chicken Galantine
Couscous with Grilled Vegetables

Since my group made three galantines and I only used one for our presentation, there were two left.  I brought one home and kept it frozen until time to prepare dinner. First let me explain that a galantine is a French dish.  It is a meat wrapped pate.  In this case the ground meat was chicken with pistachio nuts and small cubes of ham. it is mixed with eggs, spices and brandy.  The skin is removed in one piece from a whole chicken and spread on plastic wrap; one chicken breast is pounded flat and placed on top of the skin.  The ground mixture is piled in the center and rolled up.  The roll is triple wrapped in plastic and then in foil.  The ends are twisted and the roll is poached in a hot water bath on the stove top.  When the internal temperature reaches   170 degrees it is removed and cooled.  At that point it was frozen until we used it this week.  When I thawed it, I unwrapped it and browned it in the oven.  The roll is sliced and served atop the couscous and vegetable salad.

The couscous is simmered in chicken broth until all the liquid is absorbed.  Thin slices of zucchini, yellow squash, red and green peppers are marinated in a vinaigrette and grilled.  When grill marks are clear and the vegetables softened they are cut in small pieces and mixed with the couscous.  A bit of the vinaigrette is tossed and the salad is served at room temperature with slices of the galantine on top.  A pretty dish as well as tasty.

The class prepared a number of items that are to be served cold.  Garde Manger is the art of cold food.  Most of the preparations were of items I had never done before. We prepared a number of sausages, (mine was Kielbasa), duck confit which I used in a tart, gravlax of salmon, which I thought was a disaster; way too salty for my taste and a waste of lovely salmon.  We also smoked several seafood products.  My favorite was shrimp.  Smoking gave them  a unique flavor and we used them in salads and as garnishes for open faced sandwiches.  The one preparation I was nervous about was sushi, but it turned out to be one of my favorites.  The most difficult part is the preparation of the sticky rice.  Rolling the rice in a sheet of nori and raw tuna was easier than I thought.

All in all the class was worth while and I see a stand mixer with some attachments and a sushi kit in my future.

Next week is Christmas and I will again travel north to my family in Wisconsin.  I will fill you in on our table both for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


After some technical difficulties, I think I'm back.  Thanksgiving, as always was fabulous.  The company was great and the food....superior.  This was not so much "Marilyn's Table" as, The Clay Table.  Here is what we had:

Caramelized Onion Spread with Melba Toasts
Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Terrine
Spiced Nuts

The spread was simple but very nice.  Sliced onions are caramelized with a bit of garlic until browned.  Cream cheese and yogurt are added.  The spread is chilled for easier spreading. The nuts are tossed with a mixture of beaten egg whites, sugar and spices.  They are then spread on a baking sheet and toasted until crispy.  The terrine was the biggest challenge.  I had never attempted one before, but a group in my class made one and I thought, why not?  Vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and portobello mushrooms) are thinly sliced and brushed with a marinade.  They are spread on baking sheets and dried in a low oven.  They are alternately layered in a plastic wrap lined loaf pan. A layer of goat cheese and egg is spread over all.  Another layer of vegetables and goat cheese is added ending with egg plant.  The plastic wrap tightly covers the  pan.  A cover of foil is put over the pan and it is placed in a hot water bath and cooked.  When done, the pan is cooled slightly.  A couple of heavy cans of vegetables are placed on top and the pan is refrigerated for a couple of days.  At serving, the cans are removed and the foil.  The plastic loaf is removed, uncovered and sliced.  Very pretty layers and quite tasty.

Roasted Turkey Breasts and Gravy
Rice and Wheat Berry Pilaf with chopped Vegetables
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Shallots and a Panko and Cheese topping
Loretta's Holiday Molded Salad

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Rum Nut Glaze and Whipped Cream

For dinner, we had not one, not two, but three turkey breasts.  Two were brined with a mixture from World Market.  Excellent flavor and very juicy.  The third was a smoked breast and gave a very different flavor.  Excellent as well.  The pilaf was very pretty and the wheat berries added a crunch to the dish.  I need to get the recipe!  The sprouts are roasted and tossed with sauteed shallots and bacon.  The Panko and cheese are spread over the top and baked until crusty.  As always the molded salad special.  Fruit pieces in red gelatin. Something we all look forward to.

What can I say about cheesecake??  It was creamy and very pumpkiny. (not a word, but a very abt description)  The glaze and whipped cream set it off perfectly.

Though I have photos, this new browser does not seem to recognize them?  Will work on it for next time

I hope your Thanksgiving was a nice as ours.  Time to start making the Christmas menu.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Pasta Week

This week Marilyn's Table has only one dish. I have begun putting together things to take for Thanksgiving, so next week should be a full meal. Pasta is my 'go to' meal. This one was outlined in a blog I follow, "Octoberfarm'. Bacon, eggs and cheese are the main ingredients in a Carbonara. Some unexpected extras make this a great meal.

Shrimp Carbonara with Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

The bacon is cooked until crisp and set aside. Spinach and mushrooms are sauteed in the bacon fat. Salt and Pepper are added along with a bit of cream. Remove from pan. Shrimp, garlic and a bit of butter are added just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Salt and Pepper and Paprika are stirred in and set aside.

Cook linguini in the salted water. Drain saving about a cup of the pasta water. Dump the hot cooked pasta into the bowl with the eggs, butter and herbs. Toss until well mixed. Add grated Parmesan and toss again. Stir in enough of the pasta water to make the sauce smooth and creamy. Add crumbled bacon. To serve, spoon the pasta into a shallow bowl; top with the spinach and mushroom mixture and arrange the shrimp on top. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan.

In a large bowl put egg yolks and cubed butter. Add some of your favorite fresh herbs; I used thyme.

I thought I would share a photo of the pumpkin ravioli from last week. It to was excellent.

I look forward to sharing photos from our Wisconsin Thanksgiving. Have a great week and a blessed holiday with family and friends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Bit of Nostalgia....

During my growing up years, my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins vacationed together. We stayed at a resort on Lake Kaubashine in northern Wisconsin for two weeks every summer. Later on when my boys were in high school, we returned with my parents. It was always a good time. One meal became a staple of our vacations. This week it was on Marilyn's Table with a couple of new twists.

Pot roast with sliced onions, canned tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Pumpkin Ravioli with browned butter and sage

Mom always brought our electric frying pan (remember those?) to prepare it. I used my slow cooker. The roast is seared in a bit of oil until all the sided are browned. Thick slices of onion are laid over the top and a couple of cans of tomatoes poured over everything. I had some kale and some Swiss chard which I chopped and added to the tomatoes along with salt and pepper. The lid is replaced and the dish is slow simmered until the meat is falling apart. Slices of mozzarella cheese are layered over the top and slightly melted. The meat is served with mashed or baked potatoes. The gravy is spooned over all. This is one of my favorite winter dishes and I will prepare it again when the snow flies. I expect to use the leftovers by shredding the meat and spooning some of the gravy over the top and serving it on a Ciabatta roll. Messy but good!

While doing my shopping this week, I came across frozen pumpkin ravioli. I don't usually buy prepared foods, but this was pumpkin ravioli. Pumpkin is a favorite of mine, I even put it in my oatmeal. To my surprise the ravioli pillows were excellent. A bit of sweetness and some spices gave it a lot of flavor. After they were cooked in boiling water I spooned browned butter and sage over the top. Excellent with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese over the top. I will purchase more of the ravioli and keep them in the freezer for later on.

I appears that fall is slowly changing to winter. The colored leaves are pretty much gone and we even had some snow flurries on Thursday. More comfort food will be on the table in the next weeks and, of course, Thanksgiving is only a few days away. Stay warm!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Great Pumpkin...

One of the reasons I love fall so much is the availability of fall vegetables. Pumpkin is one of my favorites and this week I have three dishes on the table using it. All three use pumpkin from a can, not pumpkin pie mix, but plain pumpkin puree.

Oatmeal with Pumpkin, Nuts and Cranberries

Pumpkin Chili
Pumpkin Cornbread

Breakfast for me as soon as the weather cools down is oatmeal. I use Kashi Go Lean instant. It is mixed with hot soy milk and pumpkin, cinnamon and chopped nuts are stirred together. The oatmeal is topped with blueberries and dried cranberries. This is a filling way to start the day. Very tasty too I might add paired with a cup of tea.

Soups and stews are great ways to warm the body and soul as the seasons change. I have many variations of chili, but this one was new and quite good. Good quality ground beef is browned with chopped onions and minced garlic. Chopped green peppers are added and cooked until slightly softened. Canned diced tomatoes are added along with pureed pumpkin, drained kidney beans, chili powder and cumin. Salt and pepper to taste and served with sour cream and grated sharp cheddar cheese. The leftovers will make for great lunches since the weather is to be cool and wet in the next week.

Cornbread is a natural to accompany chili. This one has the addition of pumpkin and spices. Whisk together all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl beat two eggs. Whisk in pumpkin, brown sugar oil and molasses. Make a well in the dry ingredients and gradually add the wet ones. Pour mixture in a greased square baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Served warm with cinnamon butter, this is excellent with the chili.

This weeks' table was all about comfort foods. My annual bottle of egg nog is in the refrigerator to add to morning coffee and hot tea. It does seem that our summer is gone and winter is in our future. Next weeks' menu is still in the works. Stop by and see what's on Marilyn's Table next week. Stay warm!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kohler Food Revisited

This weeks table has a dish from the Kohler Food and Wine Experience of last week. Andrew Zimmern prepared two chicken dishes, one of them is on the table today. Along with the dish is a pilaf. I will also show the dish that I prepared as part of my class mid-term. This table is an interesting mixture of flavors and textures. I was very pleased with everything. Here is the table:

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Apples and Cider

Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf with herbs and Cranberries

Toasted Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Smoked Shrimp

I used chicken thighs and a breast cut in half. Since there is heavy cream in the dish, I removed the skin. The chicken is sauteed in a bit of butter until nicely browned on all sides. The chicken is moved to one side of the pan and sliced shallots are added and cooked until softened. A mixture of cider vinegar, apple jack, apple cider and broth are added with two thinly sliced Granny Smith apples. The liquid is reduced by half and a cup of cream is added. The sauce thickens quickly and dried cranberries and fresh tarragon are stirred in. The sauce is served over the chicken pieces. Lots of flavor, though not a lot of color.

The pilaf begins with chopped onion and fresh thyme are heated in EVOO. Celery and chopped butternut squash are added along with chicken stock, salt and pepper. Brown and wild rice are added and simmered until the broth is absorbed. Dried cranberries are added before serving. This was a nice dish to accompany the chicken. A nice comfort meal for a rainy afternoon.

The toasted couscous salad was a dish I was very proud of. The couscous is toasted in a pan with a spritz of EVOO. Hot stock is added and the pan covered so that the broth can be absorbed. In a bowl a dressing/marinade is prepared with white balsamic, Dijon mustard, garlic, EVOO and S&P. Zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers are cut in pieces and marinated in the dressing. They are then grilled until slightly soft with grill marks. The vegetables are cut in bit size pieces and tossed with the couscous. The smoked shrimp are cut in thirds and added to the salad. The dressing is poured over the salad and a squeeze of lemon over the top. The tomato rose in the photo was a bit large, but since it was my first and it actually worked, I left it. The rose in class was not so successful so I garnished the salad with a plump whole shrimp. I like this salad a lot and will use it often with seasonal vegetables and a different protein....or none at all.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Midterm Trial Run

The midterm for my class is in two weeks. We will need to prepare a cold soup, a composed salad and a sandwich. This weeks table shows the recipes I elected to try. We shall see if the other two in my group agree or if we will select something different. Here is what on my table:

Gazpacho with Herbed Goat Cheese
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Chili Rubbed Tenderloin
Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Gazpacho is the simplest of all soups. Not exactly a soup for the fall, but I think it could also be heated. Everything goes in a blender and chilled. Chopped cored tomatoes, diced cucumber, diced red and green peppers, sliced onion, chopped garlic and jalapeno. Bread cubes are soaked in tomato juice and added to the vegetables. White wine vinegar, salt and pepper are the seasonings with more tomato juice to thin the consistency. I did have to blend it in batches, and it came out slightly chunky. I served it with a round of herbed goat cheese and some fresh herbs. I think I have finally found a recipe I will repeat.

The salad is made up of oven roasted beets and sweet potatoes; a very colorful combination. The tenderloin is rubbed with a chili based mixture, grilled, finished in the oven and cooled slightly. The beets and sweet potatoes are arranged over a bed of arugula and chopped herbs with the sliced tenderloin along one side. The vinaigrette is standard; vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper whisked with EVOO. The addition of a teaspoon of the beet juice gave the dressing a nice red color. I was not crazy about this. I think I would have liked better without the meat.

Instead of the traditional sandwich, I chose to do a crostini. A whole grain baguette is cut in half inch slices and toasted in the oven. Onions are caramelized in a pan and cooled slightly. Goat cheese is spread on the toasts with the onions on top. This is going to be a regular for me. Very flavorful.

This table had it's high points and some not so high. It will be interesting to see how the rest of my group respond.

I will not be here next week. I will be at the Kohler Food & Wine Experience. One of my favorite Food Network chefs, Alex Guarnaschelli is doing two demonstrations for which I have tickets. The event is always fun and informative. Kohler is a lovely town and some of the activities are in The American Club resort. Have a good week and try to stay warm. It sounds like the weather is going to turn chilly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegetarian Delight

This was a glorious fall weekend. So...I decided the menu for the Table would be quick and easy. I planned a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden with my camera. Also with the produce being extra special, I used as much fresh as I could. Here is what is on the Table:

South American Squash and Vegetable Ragout
Tomato-Basil Granite

The ragout is a variation of an Argentinean stew. A lot of fresh vegetables are used along with a surprise. The surprise is dried fruit! Apricots and prunes are put in a jar with a cup of boiling water over them. They sit for at least a couple of hours, drained (save the water) and rough chop. Set aside while onion, garlic and dry oregano are sauteed. Chopped red pepper and diced canned tomatoes and juice are added. Simmer about 15 minutes. Coarsely chopped Yukon gold potatoes and a sweet potato are added and cooked until slightly soft when fresh sweet corn kernels, the apricot and prunes and their soaking water are added. Heat through and add a can of drained, rinsed kidney beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I filled half an acorn squash (slice off the bottom so it will sit flat) with the stew and baked until the squash is soft, but not collapsed. This is a hardy filling meal. The rest of the ragout will be heated and served as a stew, perhaps over rice later in the week.

Because the dish is filling, I thought a simple light dessert was in order. I chose a Granite made with more fresh produce. Tomatoes (cut an X in the bottom) are dropped in boiling water until the skin begins to loosen. Immediately remove them and put in ice water. The peels will come away easily. Seed and chop the flesh; put in blender with some simple syrup (water and sugar heated until sugar is dissolved, set aside to cool) lemon juice, tomato paste, salt and chopped basil. Blend until smooth and pour into a glass dish. Put in freezer. Check on it and as it begins to freeze, scrape with a fork to that is becomes slushy. This should take several hours. Serve in a glass dish with basil leaf garnish. I had never done this before and was pleased with the result. More Granite in my future.

This is was a great meal and more vegetarian dishes will appear on the Table. By the way I did roast a turkey breast to use the rest of the week, but it did not appear on this table. Have a great week and enjoy the lovely weather.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Day

This was a perfect autumn weekend. Lots of sun, the trees are well into the color change and it was Apple Fest in Long Grove. Way too many people, so I stayed only long enough to have my annual cider donut, then came home to put together the meal for this weeks Table.

Pumpkin Spider

Tuna Confit

Grilled Vegetables

Parsley Salad with Grilled Figs and Gorgonzola

Baked Apple with Spiced Cranberry Relish

The spider (spiked cider) is an interesting drink to take the chill off a cold day. Fresh cider is simmered with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Canned pumpkin is whisked in and heated through. The mixture is drained into a mug; a shot of rum added as well as a cinnamon stick. Very pretty, but the rum didn't add anything at all so I left it out of the second cup. I expect this will be a new staple on a cold winter evening. Very simple.

The tuna confit was a new experience. The tuna steak is salted and refrigerated over night. Into a pot goes yellow onion and fennel, thinly sliced, garlic, a split serrano pepper, basil, thyme, bay leaves and pepper corns. EVOO and Canola oil are added to cover and simmered for about half an hour. The herbs will be wilted and the oil very fragrant. The tuna is added and simmered until pink in the middle, about 10-15 minutes. Be sure there is enough oil to cover the tuna. The tuna is set aside until it is room temperature. The herbs are pressed through a sieve to get all their flavor out and into the oil. It's a terrific base for a vinaigrette. The vegetables are placed on an oiled grill and basted with the herb oil. I used red potato and acorn squash slices, thick onion and tomato slices, and red and yellow peppers. After grilling the vegetables are placed in the center of the plate and the tuna steak on top. A bit more of the oil is drizzled over all. I was very pleased with this dish and look forward to the leftovers.

Using Parsley for a salad is new in the last weeks. I tossed the parsley with a bit of the herb oil mixed with some balsamic vinegar. The fresh figs are cut in half and grilled basting with balsamic vinegar, just until soft. They top the parsley salad and a bit of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese is a garnish. Figs are new thing for me. Had not had them until a few years ago (Fig Newtons don't count) Fresh ones have a short life so I enjoy them while I can.

Last year about this time I did a baked apple, so I decided to do another this year. I found a different recipe that incorporated another of my favorite fall/winter foods, cranberries. I had a bag in the freezer and cooked them in ruby port wine with diced red onion, fresh ginger slices, dark brown sugar, salt, pepper and cinnamon. When the cranberries have popped, set aside to cool a bit. The apple is hollowed out with a melon baller and the hole filled with the relish. Cover with foil and bake until apple is soft, but not collapsed. I let it cool a bit and added a bit of whipped cream and a sprig of mint. I particularly liked this relish because it was not overly sweet and I will use this recipe again during the holidays.

This table was one I am very proud of. It looked wonderful and tasted the same. A very fitting table for this time of year.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Strange Weekend Weather...

It rained...the sun came out...thunder. Repeat for 2 days. The leaves have come a long way toward color changes. It was the kind of weekend that inspires me to cook something that will fill my apartment with wonderful aromas. I found a chubby Cornish hen in Whole Foods and decided to change my original plan and prepare it. Question became, should I try something different than just roasting it? Here is what I put on the table:

Moroccan Cornish Hen
Fennel Salad with Artichokes, and Jicama in a vinaigrette
Warm Wheat Berries with Asparagus and Onion

I have a tin of Tagine spices and made a paste with it. Tagine is a Moroccan stew featuring meat or poultry prepared with vegetables, olives, preserved lemons, and garlic. The spice mix is made of: cinnamon, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, paprika and saffron. I put cut up lemon inside and some herbs under the skin. Let me tell you, the aroma was fabulous. The rub gave the skin a crispy red brown color.

The salad came from the textbook for my class. I enhanced it a bit with the jicama, chopped Italian flat leaf parsley and made my own vinaigrette a la Julia Child. The shaved Parmesan on top was a good addition. The different flavors and textures of the fennel, artichoke and jicama were brought together with the dressing and cheese.

I had some cooked wheat berries in the freezer from last week and added chopped onion and asparagus. It was a bit of a stir fry. The chewy texture of the wheat berries is becoming a favorite.

The weather changes daily this time of year. We shall see what next weekend will bring. Have a good week!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Falling Leaves outside my window...

Well the leaves are not actually falling ....yet, but they are beginning to change color a bit. There are other signs of fall in the air. The lake is covered with Canada Geese preparing to go South and there is a nip in the air.. This time of year brings to mind 'comfort food'. This weeks table fills the comfort food bill:

Apple Cider Martini
Meatloaf with Tomato Relish
Roasted Asparagus
Wheat Berry and Mushroom Salad
Apple Crisp

This week I will add a 'drink' to the Table. Since I am able to purchase single serving bottles I will use them as I can. This week the martini is made from vodka and apple cider. The vodka bottle has a small opening but a cinnamon stick fit nicely and changed the vodka without purchasing a large bottle. The vodka is mixed with the cider and shaken with ice. A nice beginning to the meal.

The meatloaf is a mixture of ground beef, pork and lamb. The relish is made from oil, bay leaves, diced red peppers, diced tomatoes, parsley,catsup, worstershire. After the relish is cooked part is mixed with the meat and formed into a loaf. The rest of the relish is spread over the top and strips of bacon cover the loaf. It is baked until done. Excellent! I will make this meatloaf again!

Roasted asparagus is a simple dish, but excellent. Trimmed asparagus is sprayed with EVOO are roasted until tender crisp.

The wheat berry salad is amazing. The berries are cooked with bay leaves and fresh thyme. Saute bacon with EVOO, onions and a pinch of red pepper and fresh rosemary. Garlic is added as is a mushroom mixture. Add white wine and chicken stock. Cook until berries are softened and mushroom mixture is cooked. This can be served warm or room temperature. Love it!!

Dessert is an apple crisp. The apples are a mixture of sweet and tart apples. They are mixed with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and flour The topping is oatmeal, butter, nuts and a bit of sugar. A topping of Greek Yogurt, brandy flavoring and sugar is put on top of the warm crisp.

This was a satisfying meal and a nice beginning to heavier foods for the cooler weather. We shall see what next weeks bring.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Labor Day Feast

The last 3 day weekend for a bit and I wanted to fix something homey; something that would make my apartment smell great while cooking. I think my table this week reflects the end of summer and it's lighter meals and the beginning of heavier autumn cooking.

Roasted Turmeric Chicken with Vegetables
Coleslaw with Berries
Ricotta Mousse with Berries

Turmeric is a spice related to ginger and is known as a powerful healer, specifically for arthritis. I made a paste of it with EVOO and rubbed the outside of a whole chicken. The chicken is placed on a vertical roasting device (sometimes a beer can, but not this time) Rosemary and lemon are placed inside to flavor the meat from the inside. The vertical chicken is placed in a roasting pan and surrounded by chunks of Yukon gold potatoes, chunks of sweet onion, and slices of red, yellow and orange peppers. My herbs have been very prolific this year and I snipped some sage and thyme to sprinkle over the vegetables along with salt and pepper. A bit of chicken broth is poured over the vegetables and inside the cavity. The pan is placed in the oven to roast until the skin is crispy and juices are clear. The aroma of the roasting chicken and vegetables is lovely. Since the weather was nice I had windows open and could smell the chicken when I went outside. The color of the broth was a bright gold from the turmeric as a bit off putting, but it tasted terrific.

Along with the chicken and vegetables I prepared a slaw. A bag of coleslaw mix with end of season strawberries and scallion slices is dressed with lemon yogurt, salt and pepper. Very pretty and the crunch of the slaw mix complimented the chicken dish.

I had visited Valentino Vineyard on Saturday and purchased a very nice white wine. It was excellent with the meal.

I'm not big on desserts, but this sounded light and yummy. I whipped low fat ricotta with a bit of orange zest and a couple of tablespoons of the juice. It is layered in a wine glass with crushed raspberries, blue berries and black berries. A tiny bit of sugar and more orange zest is added. I garnished the glass with the last of the bing cherries and some mint leaves.

We shall see what the farmers market holds next week. It's the beginning of soup season and I'm hoping for some nice ripe vegetables for a pot of minestrone. Have a good week everyone.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

...and The Next Food Network Star is....The Sandwich King

Last week Jeff Mauro was crowned the Next Food Network Star. He is also known as The Sandwich King from Elmwood Park, Illinois. My table this week features two of his sandwiches; one from the competition and one from an appearance on Good Morning America. His motto is: that he can turn any meal into a sandwich and any sandwich into a meal.

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Sliders
Jeff Mauro's Greek Taco

Cheesecake-Stuffed Peaches with Blueberries

Chicken breasts and thighs are put in a processor until chunky. Then mixed in a bowl with ricotta, Worchestershire, S&P and parsley. Mix well and form into patties. Chill. Onions are put into an pan with EVOO and caramelized with sugar, S&P and a bit of whiskey to deglaze. The chicken patties are browned on both sides and finished in the oven. This combination of ingredients is excellent and I will use it again.

A dressing is made from egg yolks, lemon juice, Canola oil, hot sauce, capers and ketchup, and processed in a blender and chilled.

To assemble the sandwich a pretzel roll is buttered and toasted; the chicken slider is placed on the bottom , the onion relish and dressing are added and served with a dill pickle and garnished with minced chives.

The second sandwich is the Greek Taco. Ground lamb is browned in a bit of EVOO and removed from the pan. Red onion is cooked in the drippings; garlic and oregano are added. Tomato paste is added. Deglaze with red wine and put browned lamb back into pan. Set aside

Prepare Tzatziki; grate cucumber and place in strainer with salt to remove liquid. In a bowl mix Greek yogurt, Feta cheese, garlic and mint. Squeeze liquid from cucumber and add to bowl.

Tomato relish: Toss chopped and seeded tomato , diced cucumbers and red onions with EVOO, red wine vinegar and S&P. Let set at room temperature.

To assemble:
Toast a corn tortilla and place on a plate. Top with Tzatziki, lamb mixture and top with relish. Fold over to eat. An excellent sandwich!!

As a sweet after thought I prepared a cheesecake stuffed peach. The cream cheese is mixed with cinnamon and sugar, one egg yolk and vanilla. This mixture is spooned into peach halves and roasted in the oven. Half way through the baking a mixture of blueberries, brown sugar, butter and peach white balsamic vinegar is spooned over the top for another 1o minutes. This is a lovely light dessert.

These are a great couple of meals. I served the sandwiches with apple coleslaw for an extra crunch.

I have lots of possibilities for next week, but they will all depend on the weather. Have a great week.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gorgeous Week-End...Can Fall Be Far Behind??

This weekend was cooler and less humid. It gave me inspiration to cook!!! Actually it was good to be able to turn on the oven. Today On Marilyn's Table are dishes that fit the season and were ingredients from the farmers market. Here is what is on Marilyn's Table:

Stacked Caprese Salad

Gilled Tri-Tip With Oregano Herb Rub
Tomato-Sweet Corn with Fresh Basil Dressing and Crumbled Blue Cheese
Salsa Rice With Black Beans and Corn

The Caprese Salad comes from inspiration from the Old Fort Pub on Hilton Head Island. It was almost to pretty to eat....almost. It was fabulous and so simple. The bottom layer is the tomato slice, then a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese. In the center is a thick slice of grilled sweet onion; another slice of the tomato and another of the cheese. A sprig of basil is put on top. The dressing brings it all together. Rice wine vinegar, fresh basil leaves (from my herb garden) sugar, S&P and EVOO in a blender . Drizzle the dressing over the top and around the stack. Lovely!!

Tri-Tip is not a cut of meat you see often; it is a bit tough. I was in Trader Joes' to pick up frozen brown rice packets I love and saw small packages of tri-tip. This is a cut of meat that is very low in fat but must be marinated. It is very flavorful!! This recipe is for the meat to be marinated in an herb rub. The rub is: garlic salt, celery salt, ground black pepper, onion powder, paprika, dill, sage, crushed rosemary, S&P. Moisten the meat and rub in the marinade, and refrigerate overnight. Then grill the meat on both sides until there are prominent grill marks and finish in the oven until the meat is medium rare. Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing. Great meat and good for very thin slices for sandwiches the rest of the week.

The next is a corn-sweet onion dish: a simple vegetable dish: mixed fresh corn kernels, sweet onion, and cherry tomatoes. The dressing is the same as with the Stacked Caprese Salad. Mix the vegetables with the dressing and refrigerate until serving. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and serve. Excellent.

For lunches this week I prepared the Salsa Rice with Back Beans and Corn. The rice from Trader Joes is gently warmed. The black bean, salsa and fresh corn are added with minced cilantro S&P.

Another recipe provided by the chef from The Old Fort Pub is their Sea Island Bouillabaisse. Amazing!! I will prepare it later in the fall. A bit warm for it now. Next week is expected to be very warm and humid. I will think about what to prepare for the table!

Have a good week! Classes begin next week so I will think about simpler cooking.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Celebration of Summer

This week was very hot again so cooking was not big on my radar. However, it's the time of many of fresh summer vegetables and fruits. When I visited my farmers market I found some great ingredients. The table this week focuses on what I found:

Tomato Zucchini Gratin
Mirai Sweet Corn with Lime Parmesan Butter
Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp
Wine Poached Summer Fruit

Herbed Gazpacho
Vegetable Quiona

This week the focus is on the fresh vegetables and fruits of the season. The Tomato Zucchini Gratin I made last week with a zucchini I received from my Wisconsin Family. Tomatoes and zucchini are sliced and salted. Then they sweat to remove some of the water. They are wiped dry and layered with garlic, chopped kalamata olives, chopped basil and Parmesan cheese and baked. This was an excellent dish and I will repeat it as long as tomatoes and zucchini are available.

Dinner this weekend was included sweet corn...My favorite, Mirai from Twin Garden Farms was available at the farmers market. This corn is amazing. It can be eaten raw!!!, But I cooked it and spread it with butter, lime zest and juice and Parmesan cheese. YUMMY!!

Along with it I served pan seared scallops and shrimp. They are dredged in Panko, chili powder, oregano, cumin and thyme. They are seared in EVOO and served with an orange butter reduction. A simple dinner but excellent.

For a light dessert I prepared a dish of poached summer fruit. White wine, sugar, a cinnamon stick, lemon juice and zest and a slice of fresh ginger are heated. Then the fruits are simmered, sliced pears, peaches and plums until soft. The fruit is removed and cooled. The sauce reduced and served over the top. Lovely.

For lunches this week I prepared gazpacho and quinoa pilaf.

The gazpacho is simple as well. All the ingredients are combined and chilled. The ingredients are low sodium V-8 juice, canned fire roasted tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, yellow pepper, cucumber, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. I expect it will be great at work this week with the quinoa.

Quinoa is one of my favorite ingredients. Here it is cooked and then mixed with sauteed garlic, yellow pepper, scallions, broccoli florets, canned tomatoes with juice, and salt and pepper. Can be served warm or room temperature.

We shall see what the weather brings this week and there for our menu for next week. Take care and keep cool.

Monday, July 25, 2011


This was a week of very hot weather. Heating up the kitchen just did not sound like a good idea. So this week-end primarily cold foods were featured. Here is what was on the table:

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber soup
Green Tea Watermelon Super Punch
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
Antipasto on Toasted Pretzel Bread Crostini
Caramel Apple and Brie Skewers

The first thing early Saturday I toasted the pretzel bread, cooked the tortellini and grilled the Portobello caps so that the rest of the food could be prepared without turning on the stove.

The soup could not have been easier. Everything goes into the blender and then into the refrigerator to chill. Into the blender goes a cut up English cucumber, chopped avocado, green curry paste, a bit of sugar, lime zest, a seeded chopped jalapeno pepper, unsweetened coconut milk, and lime juice. Coconut flakes and chopped chives are used to garnish. The soup is a wonderful color and very refreshing. A cold soup on a hot summer day really hit the spot.

The punch was another dump everything into the blender drink. Ice, cubed watermelon, Greek yogurt, lime juice, agave nectar and chopped fresh pineapple. The recipe called for unsweetened matcha green tea powder, but a $20 for a very small package, I substituted ground green tea leaves and Chai Seeds. This drink is a very pretty pink and healthy.

I let the previously grilled mushroom caps come to room temperature while I prepared the filling of chopped grape tomatoes, minced garlic, diced fresh mozzarella and minced basil leaves. The caps are drizzled with EVOO and salt and pepper are added and then filled. I liked these a lot. Not quite a finger food, but close.

The antipasto was marinated in Balsamic vinegar, grated Parmesan cheese, minced basil, Dijon mustard, EVOO, honey and pepper. The marinade is put in a zip lock bag along with drained, quartered artichoke hearts, cooked cheese tortellini, chopped red pepper, grape tomatoes, pitted olives, and diced deli ham. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and drain off the marinade. Spoon on to the toasted pretzel bread and garnish with chopped basil. These were great with the soup. I will take some to work as a salad for lunch.

Last but not least, dessert. I'm not a big dessert person, but these sounded good and they were. Place on a skewer, Granny Smith apple chunks and cubes of Brie. Drizzle with hot caramel ice cream topping. Garnish with chopped nuts and dried cranberries. YUM!

Next weekend is expected to be hot again, so look for more cold food. Have a great week and keep cool.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cherries Revisited

This was an interesting week. We had a storm on Monday that did a lot of damage all across the Chicago area. Nearly a million people were without power, I was one of them. It came back just under 48 hours. I packed ice in my freezer to try and save as much as possible. It worked quite well, only a few things needed to be thrown away. I can't say the same for my refrigerator. Pretty much everything went in the garbage, including my cherry preparations from the weekend. I redid the recipes for Cherry Salsa and the Lentil Cherry salad. Here is what was on my table this weekend:

Cherry Salsa with Grilled Grouper
Spicy Vegetable Soup
Lentil-Cherry Salad

The salsa went very nicely with the grouper and I expect it will be good with the grilled chicken breast tonight.

The soup is one that can be served hot or room temperature. Onion is sauteed in EVOO and some smoked paprika. A large box of vegetable broth is stirred in along with diced plum tomatoes, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, Yukon gold potatoes, green beans and a package of frozen spinach. When the vegetables are cooked and the mixture cooled, red-wine vinegar is added. The soup is served with pesto as a garnish. My friend JoAnn gave me a nice bag of basil and the pesto was made with walnuts, sunflower seeds, garlic, salt and pepper. This is blended with the basil while EVOO is added and grated Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. It made quite a bit so I filled an ice cube tray with it and froze it for use later.

The cherry-lentil salad was simple and is very tasty. The lentils are cooked until they are just tender. Drain and cool. The dressing is red wine vinegar, EVOO, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. One bunch of green onions is sliced and stirred in with the cooled lentils. At serving the cherries are cut in quarters and put on top as a garnish.

This week is to be very hot; upper 90's and very humid. I have a feeling next weeks table will be light and mostly cold. Stay cool!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

It's cherry time in my world. In the last days I have stemmed and pitted about five pounds of cherries. This week the table features cherries in several ways.

Scallops with Cherry-Tarragon Sauce
Salmon with Caramelized Cherries
Wilted Kale with Cherries
Cherry Salsa with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil
Cherry Chocolate Trifle

Cherry-Lentil Salad

Cherries are only fresh a short time and I want to use them as much as I can during this time. Here is my cherry table:

Scallops are salt and peppered and seared in a very hot pan. They are removed and shallots are cooked until soft. Rice vinegar and chopped cherries are added. The scallops are returned to the pan along with chopped fresh tarragon. The sauce is poured over the scallops at serving. It was an excellent dish and I will use the sauce with other seafood.

Salmon was also cooked quickly in a hot pan. Chopped cherries are added with lemon juice, agave nectar and fresh thyme. Cherries are an excellent accompaniment to seafood.

A side dish of kale with cherries was also part of the table. Shallots are cooked with apple juice. The kale is chopped and added, covered to wilt. At service, the kale is tossed with toasted walnuts and chopped cherries. A colorful and delicious dish.

A dish of cherry salsa was made and will be used during the week with chicken. In a covered container chopped cherries are mixed with chopped jalapeno, shallot, chopped basil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.

Dessert was a cherry chocolate trifle. In a tall glass I chopped Walker's shortbread cookies. Cherries are simmered with brandy (I used water and brandy flavoring) until the cherries are soft. The mixture is cooled and spooned over the cookies. Cream cheese and whipping cream are mixed with a bit of almond extract and spooned over the cherries. Toasted almond slices and grated dark chocolate top the glass and it is chilled. Yummy!

I had a recipe for Cherry-Lentil Salad for the week, but, would you believe...I ran out of cherries. Will need to buy more for the dish and also to freeze and bag for future use.

Have a good week and perhaps cherries will be on the table next week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Star Spangled Table

Happy 4th of July to you all! It was a great weekend, both with the weather and the table. There were a couple of real stars on the table and I was happy with my choices.

Watermelon Margarita
Tuna Two Ways:
Grilled Tuna Steak with Chard Salad
Grilled Tuna Kabob with Watermelon Salsa
Smokin' Grilled Potato Salad

The watermelon margarita was a bit of a disappointment and I was glad I only made one. The watermelon, tequila, sugar and lime juice are blended and poured over ice. The flavor was fine, but it was a bit chewy. Very pretty however.

The Tuna steak was grilled very simply with salt and pepper and a bit of lime juice. The chard salad was the star of this plate. Chard is stemmed and cut into pieces and placed in a glass bowl. In a skillet anchovy fillets are cooked in a bit of EVOO until melted. Garlic is added until softened. Cherry tomatoes are halved and added to the pan with lemon juice, salt and pepper. The warm dressing is then poured over the chard to wilt. Toasted bread cubes are added. This is a very colorful salad and very tasty. The dressing was a bit different, but one I will use again; perhaps with spinach.

The potato salad was another star. Yukon Gold potatoes are cut in half inch slices and tossed with EVOO, smoked paprika and salt and pepper. I heated and oiled a grill pan and the slices are cooked until puffed and golden. They are then cooled and cut in quarters. They are put in a bowl with diced red onion, sliced celery and chopped parsley. The dressing is Greek yogurt, light mayo, yellow mustard and chopped capers. Lemon juice is added before mixing with the potato mixture. The smokiness of the potatoes gave the salad a lovely flavor and again one I will make again.

The second tuna preparation was a kabob. The tuna chunks were put on wood skewers that had been soaked in water. Along with onion pieces, red and yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes they were brushed with EVOO, Tabasco, lemon grass and Paul Newman Asian dressing. They are grilled until the vegetables were softened and the tuna lightly browned. They were served with a watermelon salsa made of watermelon cubes, chopped kalamata olives, chopped English cucumber, diced jalapeno pepper, red onion and white balsamic vinegar. Loved the salsa. It was pretty on the plate and perfect with the kabob. More of the potato salad joined the kabob and salsa.

On the whole I was pleased with the table. I have not worked with chard or anchovies before but will use them again. The preparations were simple and that made for free time to enjoy the nice weather and a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden for an art festival. I expect fireworks tonight from the country club up the road. Have a great week everyone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lazy Days of Summer

This past weekend was a perfect example of lazy days. Strawberry Fest in Long Grove, an art show in Arlington Heights and a visit to the farmers market were on my schedule. The table featured some of the things that go well with summer eating.

Toasted Pretzel Bread Rounds with Summer Butter and Radishes
Oven Fried chicken
Spicy Cucumber and Blueberry Salad
Green Beans with Wheat Berries

While visiting strawberry fest I stopped into my favorite store, The Olive Tap. They featured a baguette of pretzel bread that smelled wonderful. It was one of the things I brought home. I cut thin slices and lightly toasted them, then spread them with a thin layer of summer butter from the farmers market and topped them with thinly sliced radishes. Added a bit of fresh ground black pepper. They made a nice appetizer with ginger mint iced tea.

Fried chicken is a favorite, but often greasy. The skinless chicken pieces are soaked in buttermilk overnight in the refrigerator. The breading is a mix of flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I added a bit of dried oregano. After shaking off the excess buttermilk, the chicken pieces are dredged in the flout mix and lightly browned in a cast iron skillet with a bit of canola oil. The pieces are removed and placed on a cookie sheet with a rack and finished in the oven. No grease and the flavor is excellent. I will do this again.

I came across the cucumber/blueberry salad in a magazine and it sounded interesting. I am partial to English cucumbers in plastic; no wax coating and few seeds. A dressing of lime juice, garlic, cumin and EVOO are whisked together and thinly sliced cucumber rounds are added along with one finely diced jalapeno pepper. The blueberries are stirred in at the end. Very refreshing. I will do this one again as well.

I have not worked with wheat berries before and they were quite interesting. One cup is soaked in water overnight in the refrigerator. They are then drained and patted dry. Over medium heat they are toasted in a bit of EVOO and salt. Water is added and they are cooked until the water evaporates. Their texture is firm but chewy. Toss them with cooked green beans and a bit of EVOO, balsamic and sherry vinegars and pepper. I will use the berries with other vegetables. The combination of textures and flavors is one I really liked.

The rest of the weekend I spent on my balcony with more iced tea and a book. I look forward to next weekend, the 4th of July. I am thinking kabobs and perhaps a new potato salad I came across. Four days off will be very nice. I hope the weather cooperates. Have a great week!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hilton Head Island Revisited

I am home from 7 great days on Hilton Head Island, Sea Pines Plantation. The weather was perfect and the seafood exceptional. Today's table is a celebration of seafood and the southern table.

Shrimp Creole
Coconut Rice with Black Beans
Baking Powder Biscuits
Fresh Fruit with Toasted Almonds and Chopped Fresh Mint

Shrimp is available in many ways on the island and surrounding area. Creole is one way I did not have it while there, so here is the one I prepared. The Trinity (green pepper, onion and celery) is sauteed in olive oil. Chili powder is added with canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of sugar and salt and pepper. This is gently simmered over low heat for about 60-90 minutes. Peeled, deveined shrimp are added at the end and cooked until just done, about 5 minutes.

The rice is cooked in lite coconut milk until aldente. Black beans are rinsed and drained and stirred in at the end. On Sunday I bought fresh asparagus at the farmers market and roasted in with EVOO, garlic, salt and pepper. I cut it up and added it to the rice. The creole is spooned over the rice and garnished with sliced green onions.

Baking powder biscuits are an important part of the southern table. These were made with buttermilk and the dough was very soft. They made a perfect compliment to the creole dish.

Fresh berries were at the farmers market and I had them for dessert with sliced toasted almonds and fresh mint from my herb garden.

On the whole it was a nice reminder of the great food of the islands. And in my plan to eliminate red meat, this was a beginning that was very satisfying. Next week I will be working on oven fried chicken and a green bean dish with wheat berries.

Have a great week, it sounds like it will be wet and hot!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Carolina Preview

Next week I will be spending a week on Hilton Head Island, so this week I am preparing my taste buds for the cuisine.

Pulled Pork Barbecue
Vinegar Barbecue Sauce
Mexican Coleslaw

I have not fixed pulled pork before so this was a first and much easier than expected. I purchased a 5 pound pork shoulder. (it was a bit scary looking) The rub is made of; smoked paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and sea salt. The rub is rubbed on all sides of the pork, covered with plastic and refrigerated overnight. The next day, in a foiled lined pan, the pork is roasted at 300 degrees for 6 hours. This was a wonderful piece of meat. After roasting and resting for about 30 minutes, the fat (such as it was, came off easily as did the very small bone) With two forks I pulled apart the meat. There was lots of it.

While the meat was roasting, I made the a vinegar barbecue sauce. I do product testing a couple of times a year and now had a Holland House Red Wine Vinegar to test. The recipe called for cider vinegar; I substituted the red wine. The other ingredients were yellow mustard, ketchup, sugar, garlic, cayenne, and black pepper. This is simmered until thoroughly mixed and set aside. When the pork was shredded, I added some of the sauce and saved the rest to add as desired.

The slaw was mostly my own. I don't care for 'creamy' coleslaw, made with mayonnaise. As long as I was testing the red wine vinegar I used it in the slaw as well. I bought a bag of green and red cabbage with carrots. I added chopped cilantro, diced jalepeno, and orange bell pepper. The dressing is red wine vinegar, EVOO and salt. Very crunchy and an excellent compliment to the pulled pork.

I served it on a sliced toasted Ciabatta roll, though it was just fine served without the roll.

A small dish of ice cream cooled off my pallet.

The table was excellent and I will do pulled meat again, perhaps chicken?
I will be taking a couple of weeks off for vacation. When I come back, I plan to cut back on 'red' meat and my table will be more vegetable/fruit/grain showplaces. We shall see how that goes. Have a great couple of weeks and Happy Memorial Day. Let's remember out service people; past and present.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All Things Rhubarb....Almost

The table this week will focus on rhubarb...Thank you Mimi. Rhubarb is a wonderful spring fruit. This week I used it in several ways. Here is what's on Marilyn's Table:

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Rhubarb Glaze
Roasted Artichokes
Mixed Spring greens with Rhubarb Vinaigrette
Meringue Nests with Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce

The glaze for the chicken breasts is made of rhubarb and thawed cranberry-apple juice concentrate. It is simmered and thickened with cornstarch and water. Dijon mustard is added with red wine vinegar until reduced by half. The glaze is painted on partial grilled chicken breasts and cooked until done. Paint again just before removing from heat. Slice and serve.

I love artichokes but have never roasted them. Clean artichokes by cutting off the stems; slice off the top and cut off the tips of the leaves. Place a clove of garlic in the top; squeeze lemon over the top and drizzle with EVOO and salt. Wrap in foil. Roast for about 1 hour. Serve with butter lemon dipping sauce or sauce of your choice. An excellent preparation and will roast them again.

The salad is a mix of spring greens and sliced English cucumber. The dressing is water and honey simmered until combined. Add strawberries, rhubarb and minced shallots. Add red wine vinegar and lemon zest until reduced by half. Put in processor with Dijon mustard until smooth and drizzle EVOO until dressing consistency. Drizzle over salad. Excellent!!!

I remember as a child my Mom having parties for her sewing club and Mission Society from church. Dessert was always part of the get together. Schaum Tort (meringue nests) were often part of the dessert. A bakery in Rockford was always available for the tarts. Weather had a lot to due with the nests. If the weather was humid, tarts were not available. Egg whites are whipped with sugar until stiff peaks and baked in a very slow oven until crisp and filled with berries and rhubarb sauce. Topped with whipped cream. Though my nests were a bit stickey, they were very good. Lovely!!

This table was an excellent showing of spring rhubarb. Next week I will do a Memorial Day menu. I'm not sure what as yet so check it out...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood....

This Mother's Day is perhaps the nicest day so far this spring. I took the opportunity to take a long walk in my neighborhood. The flowering trees on the property are almost at their peak. The fragrance of the blossoms was lovely. Lots of spring activity along the way. Robins and a couple of Downy woodpeckers were in the park behind the condos. The edge of the woods was a carpet of violets. Squirrels and the ever present chipmunks were enjoying the day chasing each other around. There were ducks in the creek that runs through the park and a family of Canada Geese were checking out the lake. A white and a blue heron, and a turtle sunning himself on a log in the lake made me think winter is finally over. I came home to day two of my Cinco de Mayo Table. Mexican food is one of my favorites cuisines. The bold flavors and colors are a large part of the meal. A couple of real winners this week and a real dud.

Santa Barbara Sunset Margarita
Steak Quesadillas with Roasted Tomatillo and Apple Salsa
Eva Langoria's Chunky Guacamole
Spice Rubbed Cedar Plank Salmon Tacos
Caramel Banana Taquitos

The margarita was a surprise. I saw it prepared on Food Network and the colors were so much like a sunset, I tried it. Tequila, lemonade and Fresca (yes the soda of years ago is still around) are shaken with ice and poured over more ice in a glass. A bit of cranberry juice is added. The juice floats on the tequila mix and does look much like a sunset. It is a very refreshing drink and I wished that I had had more tequila than what was in the little bottle. Just enough for one on Saturday and one on Sunday. A winner!

The steak quesadilla was also quite good. However, I would use a different cut of meat. The skirt steak was a bit on the tough side. It is grilled and sliced thin. A flour tortilla is warmed in a cast iron pan. The steak is layered on the tortilla and the salsa is spread over the top. The salsa was also a pleasant surprise. Tomatillos, jalapeno pepper, garlic, onion and a quartered Granny Smith apple are tossed with EVOO and S&P. The mix is roasted until the tomatillos are soft. The mixture is then blended until smooth. The jalapeno was very mild so I added a dash of cayenne pepper to perk it up a bit. I don't think I would call it a salsa since it blended and not chunky at all. Good flavor, however. Shredded mozzarella is spread over the salsa and with another tortilla on top. It is then put back in the cast iron skillet and cooked on both sides until the cheese melts. Cut in quarters and served with Eva's guacamole it is an excellent dish.

The guacamole is cubes of avocado, ripe tomatoes seeded and chopped, chopped white onion, cilantro and minced, seeded Serrano chile. The ingredients are gently mixed and lemon juice, salt and pepper are added. It's a very chunky guacamole and one of the best I've had. Who knew Eva could also cook?

On Sunday I made the cedar planked salmon tacos. The wood is soaked for a couple of hours. A spice mixture is spooned onto the plank, the salmon is laid skin side down on the spice with more pressed into the flesh. The plank is put in the oven for about 25 minutes. The salmon came out juicy and the spice gave it a lot of flavor. The salmon is flaked and mixed with a salad to be put in corn tortillas. The salad is made from chopped cilantro and parsley, chopped green onions, shredded red and green cabbage, fire roasted pasilla and Anaheim chiles, diced Serrano chile and fresh squeezed lime juice. I roasted the peppers over the flame on the stove until blackened. The skin is scraped off and the pepper chopped. It's a great salad, lots of color and flavor with the salmon. A bit of crumbled Mexican cheese is added and some of the leftover guacamole. Excellent, but I would use flour tortillas next time. The corn ones tear and fall apart.

Dessert was the dud of the meal. Flour tortillas are spread with dulce de leche. A banana is cut length wise and laid at one side. Coconut is added and the banana is rolled up like a cigar. A tooth pick holds the tortilla together and it is fried in canola oil. A mixture of melted chocolate, hot coffee and cinnamon are drizzled over the fried roll. It was awful. A waste of banana and chocolate. Except for that both meals were ones I would do again.

Hope you all had a good weekend. I will be away next week, but will return the following one. Enjoy the nice spring weather.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Celebrate Spring...

This was a lovely spring weekend. A bit cool, but lots of sun. It was also Chocolate Festival in Long Grove. I needed my annual warm chocolate donut and it was as expected. Wonderful!! I look forward to the Strawberry festival the end of June and Apple Festival in fall. The weather made the menu for this weeks Table very special. Spring brings new fruits and vegetables and I used those available in the menu. Here's what is on Marilyn's Table:

Blackberry-Bourbon Iced Tea
Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb
Roasted Artichokes, Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus
Not Your Usual Strawberry Shortcake

The drink was a bit of a disappointment. I'm not a fan of bourbon to start with, but it sounded good. Fresh blackberries are mashed with a bit of sugar. Black tea bags are simmered in hot water, cooled and added to the blackberry mash, cooled and strained into a pitcher. It is then chilled in the fridge, poured over ice and a jigger of bourbon is added. Chopped fresh mint is stirred in at the end. A bit Blah. I was glad I was again able to get a mini bottle of bourbon so I don't have a mostly full bottle to take up space.

The lamb, however, was excellent. A rub of fresh rosemary, garlic, S&P and EVOO are blended and rubbed into the lamb. Leave to rest for about an hour before putting into oven to roast. Meanwhile clean 2 artichokes, cut in half and simmer in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Drain, remove the choke and toss with fingerling potatoes cut in half and cleaned asparagus spears with EVOO S&P. About 20 minutes before meat is cooked to desired doneness (for me medium rare) arrange artichokes, potatoes and asparagus around meat an finish roasting. Let meat rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve slices with artichoke, potatoes and asparagus. Spring on a plate.

I love strawberries, but shortcakes leave me flat. So I chose an angel food cake to use for the base. I cut slices and toasted them in the oven to brown the edges. Lightly sugared berries are put on the cake, whipped cream is spooned over the top with grated dark chocolate and a fresh mint sprig. YUM!

After Cinco de Mayo next week, I expect to have more spring recipes. There are lots of spring ingredients to use; rhubarb, spring onions, ramps and who knows what will appear at the farmers market in June.

Come back for Cince de Mayo next week. One of my favorite food cultures. So much color and flavor. Have a good week and hopefully Spring is here to stay.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Meatless Weekend

This weeks table is meatless. I had not planned it that way, it's just the way it worked out. The focus is a bottle of wine. One of my FaceBook friends mentioned Fattoria di Lucignano Chianti Colli Fiorentini on his page. Since he has probably forgotten more about wine than I will ever know, I decided to give it a try. What goes better with Chianti than pasta.

Nick and Toni's Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola
Salad of Winter Greens

I saw this pasta prepared on Ina Garten's Food Network show. I could almost smell it. Onion and garlic are put in a large pot and softened in EVOO; red pepper flakes and dried oregano are added. After a minute or so a cup of vodka is added. The mixture is cooked down by half. Two large cans of whole plum tomatoes are drained (save the juice to be added later.) The tomatoes are crushed by hand into the onion/garlic/vodka mixture. S&P are added The pot is covered and put in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir once during cooking. Cool the mixture for about 15 minutes and put in blender until smooth. Place it back in the pot and reheat with fresh oregano, heavy cream, the reserved juice, S&P and some Parmesan cheese. Heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with cooked penne pasta. Top with more cheese and fresh oregano. This is a wonderful sauce and I was able to freeze several containers to use at a later date. The possibilities are endless.

The salad is also a product of the Food Network. Alex Guamaschelli prepared it and the process was intriguing. I'm not sure why they call it winter greens however. They are all available year round. The greens are radicchio, arugula, escarole and endive. The dressing is simple; EVOO, cider vinegar and black pepper. The chopped greens area lightly dressed and then the bowl is put in a warm oven to slightly wilt the greens. After it is removed from the oven the salad is topped with toasted pecans and McIntosh apple slices which have been soaked in bourbon. The wilting of the greens was something I have not seen done and the warmth of the greens is a nice contrast to the pecans and apples. The bourbon was an odd ingredient and when I prepared the salad on Sunday I substituted the apples with strawberries and no bourbon. I was happy I was able to purchase the bourbon in an airplane size bottle.

The wine went well with the table. Thank you Ernie for posting it. I will use it again with pasta or pizza.

Next week is Easter and as always I expect the table will be terrific.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winter to Spring

The weekend is neither winter or spring, but a transition. Given the warmer temperatures and the sight of green shoots coming from the ground signaling the arrival of spring flowers, I decided it was time to check out my freezer for signs of things for seasonal change. I found a pork loin and decided to go with it for a couple of pork dishes to end the heavy winter season. The following are on Marilyn's Table to show the end of the winter season of heavy food and the entrance of spring.

Pork and Artichoke Stew with Avgolomono
Sherried Pork
Snow Pea-Radish Slaw
Strawberry-Mango Granita

The first pork dish is a stew with artichoke hearts and Avgolomono. The artichokes are cut up and reduced to the hearts which are placed in lemon water in order not to turn brown. The pork chunks are browned in a Dutch oven on all sides with chopped onion. White wine, chicken broth, artichokes, lemon juice, dill and more broth are added and simmered. The pork and artichokes are removed and the kept warm. The avgolemono is prepared. Combine egg, water, lemon juice in bowl. With water and cornstarch, mix and add to egg mixture. Add to pan and cook until thickened. Add pork and artichokes and simmer with dill. Serve on rice or noodles.
A serving is 7 points without rice or noodles. Very tasty.

The second dish is made with pork slices dusted with flour (I use Wondra as it is light and easy to use), browned in a pan sprayed with olive oil until lightly browned. Remove and add minced shallots, garlic and sliced mushrooms. Add chicken broth and dry sherry. Simmer with thyme and whisk until thickened. Return pork and simmer until desired doneness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. My favorite and very tasty. A serving is 6 points

Both days I served the pork dish with the same sides.

The snow pea-radish slaw was the star this week. Sliced red onion and sliced radishes are put to soak in ice water for 5 minutes. Drain and wipe dry. Add vegetable oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, dijon mustard and a bit of sugar. Stir in snow peas cut in thin slices and chill to serve. Add salt. Excellent. About 2 points per serving

For dessert I took strawberries and a mango and pureed them in a blender with water, and lemon juice. Sugar is added depending on the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit. My fruit took less than half a cup of superfine sugar. Blend and put in 8X8 dish and place in freezer. Chill at least 4 hours. Scrape into dish for serving with a mint leaf. A very nice ending to the heavier meal. About 3 points per serving

This week was a great way of cleaning out of heavier food from the freezer. Next week I will do a couple of stir frys. Have a great week and hopefully the warmer weather will continue.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall???

The last couple of weeks have been a strange mix of weather. The menu on Marilyn's Table reflects most of the mix.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Roasted Baby Spring Vegetables
Meringue Nests with Berries

I love turkey; it's not just for Thanksgiving anymore. Though for spring I have chosen a breast. The recipe called for a skinless breast, however, I have discovered that a breast cooked long enough to be cooked through without skin would be dry. I chose to leave the skin on and put the herb mixture under the skin and remove the skin when cooked. The herb rub is chopped garlic, sage, thyme, and rosemary leaves, chopped and mixed with a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper. The aroma is excellent. Turkey slices are very versatile and I will use them in many ways this week.

The vegetable mixture is simply spring vegetables. This dish can be changed to reflect the freshness of the season. A tablespoon of EVOO is put in a 9X13 pan along with baby carrots, fingerling potatoes, cut in half, and radishes, quartered. The vegetables are tossed with salt and pepper. and roasted for about 20 minutes. Asparagus pieces and cherry tomatoes are added with white balsamic vinegar and a diced shallot. Return to the oven stirred for another 5 minutes. Cool and toss in chopped parsley. I have not made roasted radishes before and I will do them again. A nice flavor and texture. It's a beautiful dish and very good.

Dessert this week is a simple meringue of egg whites and sugar, beaten and baked into shell forms. Diced strawberries fill the center and a simple whipped topping is added with a mint leaf.

I'm hopeful by next week we will have real spring weather. We shall see what presents itself for next week. Have a great week!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrating the Spring Equinox

At 6:21 PM spring comes to the Midwest. Looking outside you'd never know it. It's a cold rainy day. At the start of spring, day and night are approximately 12 hours long, thus equinox or equal. Spring brings thoughts of spring foods. Three of my spring favorites are asparagus, morel mushrooms and strawberries. Here is what is on Marilyn's Table to celebrate these fresh spring foods.

Asparagus and Artichokes in Tarragon Vinaigrette
Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Morels and Thyme
Honey Coconut Cream Tarts with Toasted Coconut and Strawberries

The salad is a lovely presentation. Blanched asparagus and artichoke hearts are arranged on a bed of a mixed spring greens. A garnish of chopped baby spinach is mixed with chopped hard cook egg and minced fresh tarragon. The dressing brings it all together and I will use it again and again over the spring and summer. The vinaigrette has EVOO, heavy cream, French mustard, tarragon vinegar and salt and pepper.

Fresh morels are available for a very short time in spring and are very perishable. I only purchased fresh ones once and most had to be thrown away because the went bad. Because they have such a short life, they are very pricey. So I have treated myself to one package of dried morels each year. I went to four stores before I found any. This recipe reconstitutes a handful in warm water; the mushrooms are removed, drained and chopped. The mushroom water is saved for the sauce. The tenderloin is cut in medallions and browned in a bit of EVOO until almost cooked through. They are removed from the pan and covered to keep warm. A bit of butter is added to the browned bits in the pan. The chopped morels are added as are a mix of chopped fresh wild mushrooms. Chicken stock, chopped thyme and the mushroom liquid are added and reduced by half. The pork is returned to the pan and the dish is simmered until the pork is cooked through. The medallions are served with a spoonful of the mushroom sauce. The house took on an earthy aroma from cooking the mushrooms. I felt like I had taken a walk in the woods in early spring when things are beginning to awaken.

Dessert took on a last minute change. I bought lavender during the holiday's for some lavender and rose water cookies. I have no idea what I did with the bag of lavender I had left. So instead of a lavender syrup reduction, I changed the assembly some. A honey coconut pudding is made and put in graham cracker tart shells and chilled until firm. They are served with toasted coconut on top with strawberry halves and a sprig of fresh mint. Very refreshing and a pretty dish as well. I'm sure when I spring clean my kitchen the lavender will appear and I will try again. I do have a recipe for strawberry lavender muffins I will try.

Saturday night was also the night of the 'supermoon'. This event of a full moon happens only every 18 years. The moon is closer to the earth than at any other time. The low hanging moon looks unnaturally large and appears close enough to touch. Unfortunately, our sky was cloud covered and the moon was not visible. I will mark my calendar for 2029 when this event will happen again. However at 86 years, I will likely not remember why I marked the calendar.

Have a great week and hopefully warmer, drier weather will grace us with it's presence.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

I spent some time this week reading about the history of this celebration. St. Patrick was a fifth century missionary to Ireland and is thought to have converted many of the pagans on the island to Christianity. The feast day has been observed on March 17 for hundreds of years, the day of his death. St. Patrick's Day in Ireland was primarily a religious festival. However, in the early 1990's the Irish government sought to make it an opportunity to showcase the Irish culture to the world with parades and the wearing of green. Traditional symbols of the day are shamrocks, leprechauns and Corned Beef and Cabbage. Cabbage and potatoes have long been a staple of the Irish diet and traditionally served with Irish bacon. Around the turn of the century corned beef was substituted for the bacon by Irish immigrants who could not afford the real thing. In celebration of St. Patrick's Day this is what is on my table:

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Vegetables
Beer Bread
Irish Creme Brulee

I chose a flat cut of corned beef. It is placed in a large pot with the packet of seasonings that come in the package of meat. The beef is covered with water and simmered for about 3 hours. At that time carrots, small red potatoes, celery and whole onions are cooked for about 20 minutes. The meat is removed to rest and wedges of cabbage are added to the liquid. The meat is sliced thinly and served with a sauce of Greek yogurt mixed with horseradish. The cooked vegetables are served along side. 2 slices of beef and a small portion of each of the vegetables is about 9 points.

The unexpected star of this table was the beer bread. Last year I made individual Irish Soda Breads so I could freeze the extra for use later in the year. This year I came across a recipe for beer bread made with Stout. I have not used beer in a bread, but this also had dill and cheddar cheese and sounded good. I baked it in miniature loaves and froze 3 of them. It is a very flavorful quick bread and there is no need to put any spread on it.

I'm not big on dessert, but Irish Creme Brulee sounded interesting. The verdict is taste = 10, looks = 2. Burlee is a new dish for me. When I was starting my shopping list, I discovered that the recipe called for Irish creme liquid coffee creamer and not the Irish Cream sold in the liquor department as I had expected. The coffee creamer, heavy cream, sugar, and salt are cooked until the sugar dissolves. Then it is slowly whipped into egg yolks until it is thoroughly mixed. Ramekins are put into a roasting pan and the liquid spooned into them. Hot water is put into the pan to provide a water bath for the custard. Cover the pan with foil and bake until the center is set. The dishes are cooled and then chilled in the refrigerator. To serve, brown sugar is sprinkled on top and 'torched'. Return to the refrigerator to cool. I just didn't care for the way it looked, but the taste was very silky and smooth. I will have to work on this another time. Creme Brulee has long been a favorite when eating out.

This week is spring break and I expect to be more relaxed. I look forward to next week and the first day of spring! The menu will feature some of my favorites in spring; asparagus, morel mushrooms and strawberries.

Have a great week and think spring. The robins are back and the chipmunks are back terrorizing my cats from outside the balcony doors.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March...a Month of Transitions

'March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb', a saying I grew up with, but March is so many other things. It's a month of celebrations and a month of transitions and self examination. First comes Mardi Gras then Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent, St. Patrick's Day and lastly, the first day of spring. Many things packed into 31 days. On the table this week is New Orleans fare for Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras. Typically pancakes are eaten on Fat Tuesday (aka Shrove Tuesday) the last day before Ash Wednesday. The ones I will prepare I have had before so I know they are good. Not the traditional pancake with butter and syrup but a savory one.

Cheese, Corn and Bacon Pancakes

Cornmeal and water are mixed with boxed pancake mix. Grated cheddar, kernel corn, diced Canadian bacon and chopped green onions are mixed and 1/4 cup cakes are griddled. I like to serve mine with a jarred chutney. This year it's mango.

The table this weekend has only 2 items, but they both took a lot of time and preparation.

Chicken, Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo with Rice
King Cake

The gumbo was an all day preparation, but well worth the time. First a stock is made with the shells from the shrimp, chicken wings, and tomato paste. They are cooked until the chicken is browned when chicken stock and bay leaves are added. This is BTBRTS (bring to boil reduce to simmer) Love saying that, thank you Anne Burrell. The stock is simmered for almost 2 hours. Chicken thighs are added and simmered another 40 minutes. The mixture is strained into a large bowl and the chicken is set aside to cool. When cool, the skin and bones are discarded and the chicken shredded. In a clean pot the famous roux is made. Oil and flour are heated and stirred until the mixture is thickened and a dark caramel color. Garlic, scallions, celery, onions, green pepper and chopped andouille are added along with fresh thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and tomato paste. The strained stock is added and left to simmer about another hour. At this point trimmed cut op okra is to be added. I dislike okra so I left it choice. The chicken is added and simmered for 10 or so more minutes. Taste for seasonings and add cut up raw shrimp for the last minute of cooking. File' powder is to be added at the end, however, the few times I have had file' I found it to make the dish very slimy. Icky. I left that out too. The gumbo is served over a scoop of cooked brown rice. Excellent! I'm happy it made a large pot so I can enjoy it again and again. This did not come out of the Weight Watchers cookbook, but they nutritional make up is available online and it comes out to 10 points per serving.

One of the traditions of Mardi Gras is the King Cake; a kind of coffee cake. The cake is filled with cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, chopped pecans and raisins. Since I don't care for raisins I substituted dried cranberries. I found a recipe that used refrigerated crescent rolls instead of a yeast dough and it worked just fine. The triangles are positioned next together, points to the center. The filling is spread down the center. A small plastic baby is hidden in the filling and the wide ends of the dough are brought over the top of the filling. The pointed ends are brought over the covered filling and it is baked until lightly browned. As simple glaze of powder sugar and milk is spooned over the cooled cake and three stripes of colored sugar. Purple representing justice, Green for faith and yellow for power. The person who gets the slice with the baby in it must make the cake the next year or host the next party.

The Hurricane is the Mardi Gras drink. Not much of a rum fan, but I found a small bottle of premade hurricanes and will try that. The color looks right. We shall see.

March 9 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. 40 days when Christians reflect on the past year and traditionally 'give up' something as their sacrifice. Something to think about.

Next week will include the tradtional St. Patrick's Day feast. Come back to see how I kick it up.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Menu to Keep Away the Vampires

It's been a gloomy weekend so going outside held little appeal. Spending time in the kitchen was at the top my list of activity. Garlic is the highlight of the recipes and has long been thought to keep away vampires, providing you believe in vampires. The menu for this week is guaranteed to do just that. I have spent some time in the Caribbean on a couple of cruise ships. The foods of the islands feature lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Caribbean-Style Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Pineapple
Oven Roasted Asparagus and Red Pepper

Vegetable-Barley Soup

Pork tenderloin is a very lean meat choice. I prefer to marinate it. This marinade is a mixture of the zest of one orange and lime. The juice of each is also added along with olive oil, lots of minced garlic, cumin, S&P and a pinch of cayenne. I marinated it overnight in a plastic bag. The meat is roasted with the marinade used as a basting liquid. It is cut into quarter inch slices and served with pineapple slices dusted with cinnamon and topped with chopped cilantro. The meat becomes very flavorful and the pineapple is a great accent. 3 slices is 4 points.

This isn't exactly asparagus season, but I did find a nice bunch so I was able to go ahead with this dish. I like to roast vegetables. The process is simple and brings out the flavors. Along with the asparagus a red pepper is sliced up and both are tossed with EVOO, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt and the zest of the lemon. The vegetables are roasted on a baking sheet which has been non-stick sprayed. They are turned a couple of times during the 15 minute roasting time. The vegetables bring a lot of color to the plate and are excellent. 2/3 cup of the vegetables is 1 point.

I love this soup recipe. The hardest part is the cutting up of all the vegetables. Mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, celery, onion, garlic, edemame, and barley are put in a large pot with vegetable broth, basil and S&P. Then it's BTBRTS (bring to boil reduce to simmer) How easy is that. A really nice chunky soup and the barley brings a different texture to the soup. 1 1/2 cups is 4 points

I tried a couple of techniques during the weekend. I seem to throw away a lot of cilantro or parsley so I took a large part of the cilantro and dried it in the microwave. The leaves are chopped and placed between two pieces of white paper towel and nuked for 15 - 30 seconds until they are dry and can be easily removed from the stems. I now have a jar of dried cilantro leaves to flavor other dishes.

I also am attempting to dry lemon slices to take to work and use in tea. The directions I was given were to slice the lemon thinly and placed on parchment covered cookie sheet. The tray is put in the oven (I have a gas stove so the inside of the oven is warm all the time) I am on day 2 of the process and they are finally beginning to dry out. I'm not sure I will do this again, but it has been an experience.

That's all for this week. I am looking forward to warmer weather, but I expect that for the next few weeks my menus will continue to be comfort food. Have a good week and stay warm.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

5 Star Weekend Menu

This is the fourth week of my Weight Watchers Challenge and it was by far the most successful. Every dish was remarkable. Some are a slight variation of the recipe in the cookbook. This is what's on "Marilyn's Table" this week:

Cedar Planked Salmon
Barley, Leek and Rosemary Gratin
Greek Island Salad

Turkey Mulligatawny Soup

This week I tackled new techniques and ingredients. The cedar planked salmon came about through one of the food blogs I follow, "October Farm". I had no idea cooking on a cedar plank could be done in the oven. When the author of this blog did it, I decided to give it a try. The cedar plank is soaked in water for several hours. The seasoning on the salmon is Potlatch; a Pacific Northwest seasoning used by the North American Indians to season salmon nailed to planks and cooked around a fire. There are several variations of the mixtures. I used salt, crushed red pepper, chili powder, oregano, basil and coriander. The result was amazing. The salmon is placed skin side down and cooked slightly rare in the middle. The seasoning and the cedar plank give the salmon an exceptional flavor. Will use the planks again for chicken and other seafood.
The 6 oz piece of salmon is 6 WW points

Barley is a grain I have not ever used, but if this dish is any indication, I will use it again....often. The barley is simmered in vegetable broth until most of the liquid is absorbed. Leeks are sauteed in a separate large skilled in a bit of EVOO and butter until softened. The cooked barley is added to the leeks along with chopped fresh rosemary, salt & pepper. It is poured into a casserole dish and grated Gruyere cheese is sprinkled over the top and baked until the cheese melts. A great dish with lots of flavor and....fiber. WW points 1/2 cup 4 points

Greek Island Salad is a variation of a Caesar salad. I grilled the romaine so my grill pan is sprayed with a bit of EVOO and heated. I cut a stalk of romaine in half lengthwise and grilled until slightly wilted and there are nice grill marks. The lettuce is cut in pieces and topped with a mixture of tomato, English cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion and chopped Calamata olives. A very light dressing of lemon juice, EVOO, garlic, dried oregano and black pepper. A bit of Feta Cheese is also sprinkled on top. A nice mixture of warm and cold crunch. 1 cup is 2 WW points.

The soup for this week is Turkey Mulligatawny. The name comes from the Tamil, a southern India people. It means 'pepper water'. The turkey is leftover from a roasted breast from last week from which I made sandwiches for work this week. Lots of vegetables; celery, carrot, onion, red pepper, tomato, and diced Granny Smith apple are cooked in chicken broth with seasonings. The main seasoning is curry. Not being a big fan, so I cut the quantity back and it was just fine. After the vegetables and seasonings are simmered, chopped turkey is added with salt, pepper and cayenne and heated through. A great soup which I will be happy with this week for lunch. 1 1/3 cups is 3 WW points.

All in all this was one of the most successful menus overall so far. Will be a tough act to follow. Tonight is the finale of 'Worst Cooks' on Food Network and I look forward to it after this fine meal. Have a great week. Strange weather in the Midwest. Hopefully spring is just around the corner.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Hint of Spring...

The forecast for the weekend sounded too good to be true. Both days have been sunny and warm enough to open windows. I took a walk this afternoon and the mountains of snow are beginning to melt. I do believe spring will come after all.

Since I knew it was supposed to be nice and I would have a chance to get out I planned my table accordingly. The crock pot came out of hibernation and became the center of my food preparation. Here is what is on the table this week:

Cheese Straws
Tuscan Chicken and Sausage Stew
Watermelon Peach Salad

Brunch on Sunday:
French Toast with Fresh Fruit and Yogurt

The cheese straws were very easy. The flour, butter, seasonings, and cheese all were in the processor until the dough formed a ball. The dough was rolled out and cut into long strips and baked. They were the crunch factor with the stew and the cayenne pepper gave them a bit of a kick. Will do them again. 2 points for 3 straws

The stew was a real winner. Cubed chicken (both white and dark meat) are browned as is chicken sausage cut in 2 inch pieces. The browned chicken is the bottom layer in the crock pot. The rest of the layers are sliced cremini mushrooms, chopped red onion, chopped garlic, and seasonings. A package of thawed artichoke hearts and a chopped red pepper are added. Chicken broth is poured over the top and the mixture is cooked on low for about 6 hours. Lots of flavor and the aroma is mouth watering. Should be a nice dinner with the rest of the cheese straws for most of the week. 1 1/2 cups of the stew is 9 points.

I'm not a fan of watermelon, or any melon for that matter. However the picture of the salad was so colorful I couldn't resist. The watermelon and peaches are cut in bite size cubes. An English cucumber is thinly sliced and added. I had some jicama left from last week, so I cut it in thin strips and tossed it in with the rest. Not much in the way of dressing, salt and champagne vinegar are added and left to marinate with the fruit and cucumber for about 15 minutes. At serving time thin slices of green onion are added and a bit of crumbled goat cheese. I may have changed my mind about least when it's mixed with other fruit. Refreshing and colorful. 1 cup is 4 points

With the stew as the centerpiece, I didn't feel the need for a soup. Instead I tried a simple French toast with fruit for brunch on Sunday. Since the toast is baked in custard cups in the oven, it is necessary to cut an 'X' in the center of the bread before dipping it in a mixture of beaten egg, a bit of water, cinnamon and nutmeg. The cups are sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. The bread is gently tucked into the cup. It is baked for about 15 minutes and cooled for a bit. Removed the cups to the serving dish and fill the center with your choice of berries. I used blueberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries. A spoon of non-fat Greek yogurt (my favorite is Fage) on the berries and just a tiny drizzle of maple syrup over the top. This recipe didn't come out of the Weight Watcher cookbook, but from Food Network. I estimate one serving is about 4 points. It's a very pretty dish and whatever fruit is in season would make it very versatile any time of year.

That's it for this week. Stay dry, since by Thursday the temperature might reach the upper 50's. Bye Bye snow, bring on the spring flowers.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snow Storm and the Super Bowl

This week has been a challenge with the snow storm and now the Super Bowl. Just getting out to shop proved a slippery task. This is week 2 of my mission to use the new Weight Watcher cookbook. Here is what is on the table:

Beer Can Chicken
Sweet Potato Wedges with Chipotle Yogurt Dip
Radicchio, Broccoli, and Jicama Slaw

Toasted Coconut Custard

Superbowl Nacho's

Normally beer can chicken focuses on the rub on the skin during cooking. However the skin is to be removed after cooking, so the rub (garlic, brown sugar, paprika, poultry seasoning and salt and pepper) is put under the skin, with only a couple of tablespoons on the skin. The bird is perched on the beer can during roasting. I really liked the rub under the skin. A lot of flavor remains with the meat after the skin is removed. A very successful chicken. 3 slices of chicken are 5 points

I have read a lot about incorporating more color in your food for the best health benefits. I love sweet potatoes and cutting them in wedges and roasting them until crisp was really good. The dipping sauce was made with Greek yogurt mixed with a couple of table spoons of chipotle salsa. A bright flavorful combination. 8 wedges and 2 tablespoons of the dip are 3 points

The slaw provided a crunch to the meal. I used a bag of broccoli slaw mix, shredded radicchio, sliced celery and slivers of yellow pepper and jicama. The dressing is a light mixture of yogurt, pickle relish, lemon zest and salt and pepper. I have made slaw before, but this one is a repeater. I will use some on sandwiches this week with slices of the chicken and the chipotle sauce. 1 cup of the slaw is only 1 point.

The only disappointment of the week was the coconut custard. The flavor was excellent, but the texture was a bit rubbery. I will need to work on that because it should have been better than it was. 1 custard is 3 points

I had planned a soup as I usually do. However, I have a lot of leftover food to use the rest of the week. So some of the chicken is in the freezer and next week Chicken Mulligatawny will be on the menu.

I had trouble deciding on my game food. Wings and nachos are my favorites, but only needed to make one. It became a no brainer since the wing recipe required removing the skin before cooking. Have you ever skinned chicken wings? Not a good time. The nacho recipe is a good one with ground turkey, onion, kidney beans cooked together and spooned over reduced fat tortilla chips. Sliced black olives and pickled jalepenos are put on top and then shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar on top. They are put in the oven until the cheese melts. These are and very tasty. However when I make them again I will substitute a milder jalepeno. This one was spicier than I care for. The points are a bit hard to determine. The recipe says 1/12 of the recipe is 3 points. What the heck is 1/12???

This was a good week in spite of the mountain of snow. A walk today to see the new frosting of snow on the 20 inches we already had was a pleasure. The stillness that comes with a lot of snow is very relaxing. Lots of birds singing in the trees. Not sure what they have to sing about, but they sounded happy.. Have a good week; stay warm and drive carefully.