Perfect Pasta Carbonara

June 26th, 2010

By Sheri

A SATISFYING PASTA DISH

Pasta Alla Carbonara originated in Italy’s Lazio region. Carbonara comes from the Italian word for “charcoal.” The exact reason for the name has many theories rather than a definite explanation. Many people think it refers to the early practice of charcoal grilling the meat for the dish.

Traditionally, fatty Italian sausage such as guanciale or pancetta is used to make Carbonara pasta, but American bacon makes an ideal substitute. My recipe uses both shrimp and bacon as well as heavy cream. The addition of cream isn’t traditionally Italian, but is popular in American versions of Pasta Alla Carbonara. I like spinach fettucine as well as peas to add some color, but, if you prefer, you can use regular pasta and skip the peas.

Eggs are a traditional part of Carbonara pasta. They become soft-scrambled and are delicious mixed with the Parmesan cheese and the other hot ingredients. Lots of good Parmesan cheese to stir in at the last minute and add on top is a must!

PERFECT PASTA CARBONARA

8 oz spinach fettucine

1 ½ cups shrimp – cooked

1 ½ cups bacon – cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion – chopped

2 cups mushrooms – sliced

1 cup frozen peas

¼ – ½ tsp basil to taste

¼ – ½ tsp oregano to taste

ground pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup (plus more for top) Parmesan cheese

4 eggs — beaten

3 Tablespoons parsley – chopped

1.  In a frying pan, saute the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and frozen peas. Keep cooking until the onions, peas and mushrooms are starting to get tender. Stir in the basil, oregano and pepper plus the garlic. Cook for a few more minutes before adding the beaten egg and stirring it into the mixture in the pan until the eggs are soft-scrambled. Remove from heat, set aside and keep warm.

2.   In a saucepan or double boiler, heat the cream carefully over low heat to warm it. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, cooked shrimp, cooked bacon and cooked pasta. Blend this mixture with the ingredients in the frying pan. Distribute the Pasta Carbonara onto serving plates. Serve immediately topped with Parmesan cheese.

Chicken And Pineapple Soft Tacos

June 25th, 2010

By Sheri

A GREAT SUMMER CHICKEN MEAL ON THE RUN!

For something a little different than the regular beef or seafood hard taco, a soft taco with the refreshing taste of pineapple makes a fast and tasty summer lunch or light supper. If you don’t care for corn tortillas, you can use flour tortillas instead. These tacos are a great way to use up leftover, cooked chicken to turn it into a meal.

If you’re using canned pineapple, be sure to drain it well before using it in the soft tacos — especially if you’re eating it on the go, or it can be messy. I like to buy a ready to eat, barbecued whole chicken for dinner one night, then chop and measure the amount needed for the soft tacos and store it in a plastic bag or container in the fridge.

If you’ve read a lot of my recipes here, you’ll know I’m not one for spicy peppers, but definitely add jalepeno or another pepper if you do like the spice. A flavorful Caesar salad would be a great dinner accompaniment to the chicken and pineapple soft tacos.

Chicken And Pineapple Soft Tacos

¼ cup lemon juice

1 ½ tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper

3 Tablespoons oil

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 tomatoes – chopped

(1 jalapeno pepper – finely chopped – optional)

2 cups pineapple chunks – chopped

about 1 ¼ lbs cooked chicken meat – sliced into bite-sized pieces

10 corn tortillas – heated in a stack wrapped in foil at 350F for about 5 minutes

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the tortillas in a shallow container or plastic bag. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes – tossing occasionally.
  2. Pour the mixture into a hot frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly for several minutes.
  3. Distribute the filling between the 10 heated tortillas and fold. Serve with a green salad and a simple dessert for a light summer meal.




Cold Rice And Steak Salad

June 25th, 2010

By Sheri

FILLING AND REFRESHING SUMMER MEAL!

Rice salad is one of my favorite summer meals. On hot days, hot rice isn’t something I want, but cooked rice chilled with a yummy dressing is another story. It’s tasty as well as filling, plus any type of leftover meat or fish and veggies can go into it so it’s a great way to keep the leftovers from piling up in the fridge.

If you don’t have enough leftover, grilled sliced steak to add to the rice salad for a meal, you can supplement what you do have with crumbled cooked bacon or cooked chicken. The veggies can be varied according to what you have cooked on hand as well as your preference. For example, instead of cooked broccoli and fresh cucumber, you could use cooked peas and thinly sliced celery.

This cold rice salad is not only perfect for a hot weather, ‘no cook’ meal, but also to pack for a work lunch. Keep it in the office fridge until lunchtime.

I prefer brown rice, both for the extra nutrients and the extra nutty flavor, but you could use white rice or a combination of white and brown. If you’re making a stir fry or something for dinner one night, making a little extra rice ahead for the salad is a good idea. This is both a healthy and convenient summer dish to have in the fridge!

COLD RICE AND STEAK SALAD

4 cups cooked rice – white, brown or a combination

1 ½ cups cooked broccoli florets

3/4 cup cucumber – diced

¾ cup kernel corn

1 ½ cups cooked steak – sliced

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon honey

1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard

3 Tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

pinch oregano

pinch garlic powder

1.Simply blend all the ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate at least a few hours before eating.

Fire And Ice Cream: Cherries Jubilee

June 25th, 2010

By Sheri

PRESENT THIS SUMMER FRUIT IN A BLAZE OF GLORY!

My father used to make Cherries Jubilee when I was a child. It was a science project and delicious dessert all in one! My brother, Greg, and I watched in wonder as the cherries in the frying pan my father held near the table blazed high up in red flames that finally burned low and blue until they were gone. What was left was a delicious, hot cherry sauce that tasted amazing over cold vanilla ice cream.

Cherries Jubilee is literally a flash in the pan, thanks to the combination of brandy and a lighter, but a keeper in terms of classics. Don’t make this near small children who just can’t sit still at the table. (Greg and I wouldn’t dare move an inch for fear of the Cherries Jubilee being called off!) Also use a long lighter and of course choose a clear area away from drapery, people and anything flammable before lighting the cherry and brandy mixture in the pan.

(BTW, use real, premium vanilla ice cream!)

CHERRIES JUBILEE

1 ½ lbs sweet dark cherries such as Bing

¾ cup white sugar

¾ cup apple juice

3 Tablespoons corn starch

¾ tsp grated lemon peel

¼ cup plus 1/8 cup brandy

about 5 cups vanilla ice cream

  1. Wash and pit the cherries. Set aside.
  2. In a frying pan, blend the sugar, apple juice and cornstarch. Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring constantly until it thickens.
  3. Add the prepared cherries and the lemon peel. Bring the mixture back to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer about 8 minutes.
  4. Stir in the brandy. Using a long lighter, light the mixture until flames appear. Keep a safe distance from people and anything flammable. Gently toss the cherry mixture in the pans as the flames change from red and high to blue and low. Keep the flames going as long as possible.
  5. When the flames go out, spoon the mixture over scoops of vanilla ice cream in dessert dishes and serve immediately.

Sweet Summer Strawberry Shortcake

June 21st, 2010

By Sheri

NOTHING SAYS ‘SUMMER DESSERT’ LIKE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

I love the idea of homemade strawberry shortcake at summer dinner parties. It’s simple and unpretentious, yet also delicious and somehow elegant. Splurge on real whipped cream and serve the strawberry shortcake on your best china. If you want to further the dinner party elegance, add candlelight, a box of chocolates and a bottle of good Merlot!

Making a two layer homemade strawberry shortcake doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Let the biscuit-like cake cool a bit before cutting it in half to create the two layers. You can serve the layered, strawberry-filled and whipped cream-topped shortcake on a pretty platter and cut the dessert into slices at the table.

SWEET SUMMER STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

3 pints (6 cups) strawberries – hulled, washed and sliced

½ cup white sugar

SHORTCAKE BATTER:

2 ¼ cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 Tablespoons white sugar

¼ tsp salt

1/3 cup shortening

2/3 cup milk

1 egg – beaten

2 tsp vanilla

about 2 ½ cups prepared whipped cream

SWEET SUMMER STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

1.  Blend together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 2 Tablespoons white sugar and salt in a bowl. With a fork, cut in the shortening to create coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk, egg and vanilla just until blended.

2.  Place the batter into a greased and floured 8 inch, round cake pan. Bake at 425F for about 18 – 20 minutes or until golden. Let the shortcake cool quite a bit in the pan on a wire rack before turning it out onto a platter and cutting it in half.

3.  In a bowl, mix the ½ cup sugar into the prepared, sliced strawberries. Let this stand until the biscuit-cake is ready.

4.  Just before serving time, place the bottom cake layer on a platter and add half of the strawberry-sugar mixture. Cover with the top cake layer and the remaining strawberries. Top with the prepared whipped cream and serve immediately.

Really Great Guacamole

June 21st, 2010

By Sheri

A DELICIOUS AND NUTRITIOUS FAVORITE

Guacamole, with mashed avocados as its base, dates back to the Aztecs in Mexico in the 1500s. Its bright green color makes guacamole a favorite appetizer. To further the color appeal, serve the guacamole dip with blue or red tortilla chips instead of, or along with, the regular golden ones.

Making guacamole is easy. The only trick is the ripeness of the avocados. Typically, stores sell them too hard and unripe, so it’s a good idea to buy them several days before you want to make the guacamole. Let them ripen on a sunny kitchen windowsill or counter. Don’t let them become mushy or black, however, as that makes the oils inside rancid and not good to eat. Ripe avocados should just give in slightly to the pressure of fingertips.

Avocados are packed with vitamins and healthy, monounsaturated, oils. They’re a great natural moisturizer for skin too. The problem with buying commercial guacamole is the often low amount of avocado used in the products. Bad fats are used as fillers. It’s much healthier to make homemade guacamole and it’s simple to do!

REALLY GREAT GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados – peeled, pitted and mashed

juice from 1 lime

½ – ¾ tsp salt to taste

freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ tsp cumin

2 tomatoes – diced

1 small onion – finely chopped

2 cloves garlic – minced

¼ cup fresh parsley – chopped

1. Simply mix in all of the ingredients into the mashed avocados and you’re done! Guacamole is perfect for parties, barbecues or appetizers.

Remember that you can and should adjust the ingredients to your preference. There are many different possible variations of guacamole. Some people like to add kernel corn or canned black beans.  Others even include fruit such as mango in their guacamole.

If you like a spicy guacamole (I don’t), you can mix in some finely chopped chile peppers. I like to add about 1/4 tsp of oregano — Imogen, and other oregano lovers, you may like that addition as well. :)

Pineapple Rum Upside Down Cake

June 19th, 2010

By Sheri

USE FRESH PINEAPPLE FOR A YUMMY SUMMER CAKE

For me, there is nothing like the tropical, refreshing taste of fresh pineapple when warmer weather hits. It’s delicious placed on skewers and grilled as a side dish or sauted in butter to use in this rum and vanilla flavored upside down cake or in other desserts.

This cake is especially great to serve warm topped with ice cream after a grilled dinner. It also tastes good cold with whipped cream. Marinating the fresh pineapple chunks in rum and vanilla before sauteing them in butter helps add a rich flavor to the cake.

PINEAPPLE RUM UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

up to 2 fresh pineapples – peeled, cored, sliced and cut into chunks

2 Tablespoons vanilla

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons rum

1 ½ cups butter for the batter, plus extra for greasing the pan and sauteing the pineapple

1 ½ cups brown sugar

8 eggs – beaten

2 cups wholewheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 ½ Tablespoons baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1.  Place the pineapple chunks in a bowl and toss with the vanilla and rum. Let the mixture marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

2.  In another bowl, blend the 1 1/2 cups butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

3.  In one more bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir in these blended dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture just until mixed.

4.  Saute the marinated pineapple chunks in butter as needed in a frying pan in batches.

5.  Place a layer of the sauted pineapple chunks in a greased 9×13 baking pan. Fill in any gaps with more pineapple pieces. Pour any remaining marinade over the pineapple layer.

6.  Pour the cake batter over the marinade and pineapple. Bake in a 350F oven for about 35 minutes or until a knife blade inserted into the middle comes out clean.

7.  Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning the cake out upside down onto a cookie sheet or large platter. Serve warm with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.

Caribbean Grilled Shrimp

June 16th, 2010

By Sheri

JUST ADD BELL PEPPERS FOR VEGGIES AND COLOR!

With barbecue season underway, a grilled, skewered shrimp dinner with Caribbean flavors of allspice and rum can be fun and delicious. Choose large shrimp. Use metal skewers, or if you want to use wooden ones, make sure to soak the wooden skewers in water for ½ hour before grilling time or the wood will burn.

I love to serve the skewered Caribbean shrimp with mashed sweet potatoes and grilled pineapple. You can skewer pineapple and grill it alongside the shrimp and bell pepper skewers if you want. For dessert, I love a still-warm Pineapple Rum Upside Down Cake (recipe follows in next post) topped with ice cream and caramel sauce mmm. (You can sneak a little rum in the caramel sauce too.)

1 ½ lbs large shrimp – peeled and deveined

2 medium green peppers

2 medium red peppers

1 ½ Tablespoons cooking oil, plus extra to grease the grill

3 ½ Tablespoons rum

1 ½ Tablespoons lime or lemon juice

1 – 2 cloves garlic – minced

1 – 2 Tablespoons parsley – finely chopped

¾ tsp allspice

salt and pepper

1.  Mix together the 1 ½ Tablespoons cooking oil, rum, citrus juice, garlic, parsley, allspice, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

2.  If using wooden skewers, soak them in a shallow pan of water for at least ½ hour before grilling the Caribbean shrimp. Use a heavy kitchen utensil or other item to keep the skewers submerged in the water.

3.  Thread the shrimp and bell peppers onto the soaked wooden skewers or on metal skewers, if using, leaving about 1 – 2 inches of space on both ends of each skewer. After every shrimp, add a few pieces of pepper.

4.  Pour the rum marinade over the skewered shrimp and peppers as evenly as possible. Let the skewers sit in the marinade at least 15 minutes before grilling.

5.  Place the skewers on a lightly oiled, heated grill and cook for a few minutes on each side. Don’t overcook the shrimp or it won’t be tender – cook until it’s just opaque.

Super Salmon Steaks

May 31st, 2010

By Sheri

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE GRILLED WILD PACIFIC SALMON!

As a change from grilled steak, salmon can be wonderful. There really is a difference in flavor between farmed and wild fish – for me, grilled wild Pacific salmon is the best! Just like a steak can be too tough and dry if overcooked, salmon steak is the same. As a general rule of thumb, cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. The salmon steaks should be cooked until just translucent with the meat flaking easily.

Grilled wild Pacific salmon is delicious with mayonnaise/Dijon/dill sauce (recipe follows), rice or baked potato, and a green veggie such as green beans, peas or broccoli. I’m not one for adding sugar to either a sauce for fish or its marinade, but you could sneak a little brown sugar or honey into either or both if you like. Marinading the salmon steaks can help give them even more yummy flavor. The salmon steaks may also be pan fried or oven or stove-top grilled.

SUPER SALMON STEAKS

4 wild Pacific salmon steaks – about 1 inch thick

MARINADE:

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 tsp dried dill weed
garlic powder
pepper

SAUCE:

¼ cup mayonnaise
3 ½ Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Combine the salmon steaks with the marinade ingredients in a zip top bag or covered container. Keep the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours turning occasionally.

2. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until it’s time to serve it on top of the salmon steaks.

3. Discard the marinade and grill the salmon steaks over medium hot coals or in a gas barbecue for about 5 minutes per side. The salmon steaks may also be cooked in an oven or stove top grill as well as pan fried in oil.

Be My Hero Sandwich

May 31st, 2010

By Sheri

LET A MAKE AHEAD HERO SAVE YOUR DAY

I love those olive, oil and vinegar-laden hero sandwiches where you have to take some of the bread out to fit everything in and let the flavors soak in. (Rather than throwing the excess bread out, cube it and add to a bag you keep in the freezer for breads to use to make poultry stuffing.)You can make a large hero sandwich from a 1 lb Italian bread loaf up to a day ahead of time, except for adding the lettuce and tomatoes just before serving.

A large hero sandwich is perfect for serving a group of people during a TV sports game or movie because you can have it basically ready to go so you don’t have to miss the show playing hostess. Chips and a raw veggie plate are great accompaniments. Packed with your favorite cold cuts and cheeses, this sandwich, when made with good Italian bread (Calabrese) can be super-satisfying and filling. Not only for sports games or lunches, it can also make a great dinner when the weather gets too hot and you just don’t feel like cooking.

BE MY HERO SANDWICH

1 large loaf Italian bread (Calabrese)
1 medium onion – sliced
2 ½ cups mushrooms – sliced
3 cloves garlic – minced
¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup black olives – sliced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
½ tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
1 ¼ lbs assorted cold cuts such as salami and smoked turkey
½ lb (or more) assorted cheeses such as mozzarella and Swiss
mayonnaise
Dijon mustard
leafy lettuce
2 medium tomatoes – sliced

1. Saute the mushrooms and onions. Stir in the garlic and heat for a few minutes without burning it. Let the mixture cool.

2. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, olives, lemon juice, salt and pepper, basil and oregano together in a bowl. Stir the mixture into the cooled, sauteed ingredients.

3. Cut the Italian bread loaf in half lengthwise. Hollow out the bottom half slightly. Spread the mushroom and olive oil mixture evenly in the hollowed out bread half.

4. Place a layer of sliced cheeses on top of the mixture in the bottom half. Next, add a layer of sliced meats by slightly curling each meat slice to create an airy effect.

5. Spread the top half of the bread loaf generously with mayonnaise. Then stir in Dijon mustard and spread the mustard and mayonnaise mixture thickly and evenly on the top bread half. Replace the top half on the bottom half of the sandwich, wrap and refrigerate up to a day.

6. Before serving, add a layer of lettuce leaves followed by the sliced tomatoes.