Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sausage and peppers in the oven

I thawed out some Italian sausage and then realized that it was hot and humid and the last thing I wanted to do was to stand over a hot stove. I googled sausage and peppers in the oven and found out that it was possible to make them that way. So that became my mission today. 

What you need:
1 pound of Italian sausage of your choice
1 large green pepper
1 medium onion

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

I first cut the sausage into pieces, mine was in the rope form. I washed and seeded the pepper, sliced it, peeled and chopped the onion. I placed everything into a bowl and added my season sea salt with garlic and pepper, about a teaspoon.

I then added olive oil about two or three tablespoons. Toss it all together until everything is well coated. Place on a sheet pan. 

I used the oven shelf in the middle. The original recipe called for cooking it 20 minutes, I cooked it 40 minutes and it was just perfect. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Easy one pan fall meal

I have, to be honest, and admit that this is more of a fall or winter meal than a summer meal unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere or in a very cold climate. However, it is a big favorite with my husband and I and it gives us a good dinner and then leftovers.  It is a delicious one pan meal that is easy to fix.

This meal fits quite nicely in a 12 by 9 pan which most of us have. I,  however,  have a glass 14 by 10 that I usually use. Begin by adding 1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil to the pan. I like flavored oils and the roasted butternut squash flavor was particularly good with this recipe. I get mine from Fiore in Rockland, Maine.

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees and set the rack in the middle to the oven.

My recipe feeds my husband and myself with leftovers so I think I can safely say it feeds 4.  Wash 4 potatoes, I like red-skinned ones and chop into small pieces. Add to the pan. Clean 3 small purple turnips, 3 large carrots or 10 baby carrots and a large red or sweet onion depending on your taste. I also add parsnips when I have them. Try to be sure that all the vegetables are cut into similar size pieces.

To the vegetables in the pan add an additional tablespoon of olive oil, sea salt, pepper and rosemary to taste and toss the vegetable to cover with the seasoning.

The last thing I added was a ring of smoked sausage (I like Hillshire Farm). I cut it into 2-inch pieces and placed the pieces on top of the vegetables. I covered it with aluminum foil and placed in the oven for 40 minutes. I removed the sausage at that time and cooked the veggies for an additional 15 minutes without the foil. Check the veggies to make sure they are tender and if you need additional time let it go.

We love this meal, obviously,  you can change up the meat used and other types of sausage (Polish, Spanish or Portuguese ) would also work well. It is simple, tasty and easy cleanup, everything a woman loves about a meal. I love to create a delicious one pan meal.
  • 1 Ring Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage
  • 4 Red potatoes unpeeled
  • 3 Large carrots or 10 baby carrots
  • 3 Small purple turnips
  • Parsnips if you have them
  • 1 Large onion (I like Spanish, Bermuda or Vidalia)
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Where to find a great smorgasbord

Merriam-Webster defines a smorgasbord as a “luncheon or supper buffet offering a variety of foods and dishes such as hors d’oeuvres, hot and cold meats, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses, salads, and relishes.” It is a combination of two Swedish words, “smörgås,” which means open sandwich and “bord” which means table. A simple definition would be a table of open sandwiches.

Most smorgasbords today are not necessarily Scandinavian nor do they serve traditional food. As a matter of fact, one area of the country where there are numerous restaurants that have the word smorgasbord in their names is the Amish country of Pennsylvania. For example, the Bird in Hand website lists Bird in Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord as a place to eat.

The Bird in Hand Family Restaurant begins serving what they refer to as a breakfast smorgasbord at 7 a.m. and continue well into the evening with the lunch and dinner smorgasbords. In this case, the dishes offered are traditional Pennsylvania style food. They offer soup, salad and a dessert bar in addition to the meals that alternate daily for lunch and dinner.

Some things you can expect to find at this smorgasboard are ham balls, roasted chicken and pork, and sauerkraut. At dinner, there is a carving station. While this is not what you will necessarily find in Norway or Sweden, the concept of a groaning board is certainly evident in the phrase “all you can eat smorgasboard” and “salad bar.”

Every fall, the Norwegian Capital of Texas, Clifton, offers a traditional Norse Smorgasbord. It takes place at the local Lutheran Church and there are two seatings of 120 people each for two nights. The food served is much more traditional and tickets are a hot commodity that must be ordered in advance. Not only will you get a taste of recipes that have been passed down for generations, you can buy a cookbook so that you can duplicate some of them at home.

What Clifton is to Norway, Solvang, California is to Denmark. There are several Danish restaurants in town that offer a smorgasbord and every year there is a Taste of Solvang, which some people might consider a walking smorgasbord.

To create a Swedish smorgasbord at home may be easier than traveling around the country trying to find a restaurant that serves traditional smorgasbord. Some of the Scandinavian foods that have a place on the traditional smorgasbord buffet are pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, potato salad, pickled beets, shrimp, salmon, cheeses, salads, bread and butter and plenty of delicious desserts. Fish should have a prominent place as well.

So what is a smorgasbord? It can be a cold summer buffet, a warm winter spread or just about anything in between. The common denominator is that there is a table laden with lots of different dishes and offering plenty of choices.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tasty vegetarian dishes

When you are looking for tasty vegetarian dishes there are countless choices. My favorites are usually ethnic or comfort food and sometimes a combination of the two. Here are two meals that are both economical and easy to prepare that are part of my recipe arsenal.

Eggplant Parmesan

If you are looking for a hearty vegetarian dish that is Italian, eggplant Parmesan fits the bill perfectly. If you use gluten free crumbs it can be gluten free as well as vegetarian. It is not, however, vegan since eggs are used.

What you need:
2 eggs
1 Canister flavored bread crumbs
1 Large eggplant
Olive Oil
3 plates
Paper towel
Frying pan
1 Jar marinara sauce
2 Bags grated mozzarella cheese

I usually buy one large eggplant. You need a sharp knife to slice the eggplant into ¼ inch slices. The slices will be round. Place the two eggs in a small bowl and mix with a fork until the yokes and whites are combined. Place Italian flavored breadcrumbs on a plate. Have another clean plate available.

Dredge the eggplant in the egg and then the crumbs and place on the clean plate. The third plate should be lined with the paper towel. Heat the olive oil in the frying pan and then cooked the eggplant until browned on both sides.

Place the eggplant in a single layer in a 13 by 9 pan, stone or glass are good options. On the top of the eggplant place a layer of marinara sauce followed by grated mozzarella cheese. Repeat this as many times as needed to use all the eggplant. You can make your own sauce or use jarred, the choice is yours. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Many people who are not generally fond of eggplant find that eggplant Parmesan is the exception.

Mac 'n cheese

One of the most popular meatless meals in the world is macaroni and cheese. Some may consider this a dish for children but that is far from the truth. Making this dish adult friendly only requires adult choices in cheese. While elbows are the traditional shape of pasta, I prefer to go a little crazy and choose gemelli, farfalle or hubby’s favorite ziti.

One of my friends makes the most delicious mac and cheese with American Cheese which is baked in the oven with a Saltine crumb crust. I prefer to make mine with cheddar cheese. I have been known to use smoked Gouda or Swiss in combination with Cheddar or Jack. One of the wonderful things about macaroni and cheese is that it never has to be the same.

I make a white sauce from a roux and add the cheeses. I also add Worcestershire Sauce. It adds a nice little zing to the sauce. Sometimes I bake it with Ritz crumbs and other times I just make it on top of the stove.

Many vegetarian dishes are just as delicious as these two. If you are looking for a good vegetarian cookbook you might want to try The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Planning a French dinner party

Having the perfect French dinner party is not as hard as you might imagine. All of these recipes are special and not that difficult to prepare. Be sure that all your ingredients are the freshest possible. Plating is important so take the time to make sure that every dish looks as good as it tastes. Set your table with a crisp white cloth and use cloth napkins to add a perfect touch of class.

  • Potage de chataigne
  • Banquette de Veau Francaise
  • Pots du creme chocolat

Potage de chataigne- Chestnut soup
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 6 oz cooked chestnuts
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
Add all the ingredients except the heavy cream to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in the half cup of heavy cream.

Get out the blender and process the soup in small batches. You can do this with an immersion blender if you have one. Spoon the soup into bowls and serve hot with a tablespoon of heavy cream on the top.

This recipe will make six servings.

Banquette de veau- French veal stew
  • 2 lbs stewing veal
  • 1 large onion studded with cloves
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1-quart boiling water
  • 12 small peeled onions
  • 5 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups veal stock
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 2 egg yokes
  • 1 6 oz can sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs. parsley
Cut the veal into bite size pieces, add the large onion, carrots, the bay leaf, the thyme, the peppercorns and the salt. Pour the boiling water over and bring to a boil then simmer for one hour or until the veal is tender.

Cook the small onions in 2 Tbs. butter in a small pan for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
Drain the veal and retain 3 cups of the veal stock. Melt the remaining three Tbs. of butter and stir in flour to make a smooth paste then add the stock. Remove a little of the thickened stock and add the lemon juice and egg yokes, add back into the stock. Add the mushrooms, veal, and the parsley. Bring it back just to the boiling point.

Get a large platter and plate the stew and then place the onions on the platter with it.
Serve with rice and a good red French wine like Bordeaux. Have some crusty French bread cut up and placed on the table.

Pots du creme chocolat- Chocolate cream pots
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. sweet chocolate
  • 6 egg yokes
  • whipped cream
Break the chocolate up into pieces, pour milk over and cook on low heat, stirring continually. When it reaches the boiling point remove from the heat immediately. Beat the egg yokes until thick and lemon colored. Pour the chocolate in and stir. Pour into small custard cups. Makes six servings. When serving, add a dollop of whipped cream.

Using a French press make a pot of good strong French coffee to end the French dinner party. Sit back, relax and accept all the compliments.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Easy and nutritious school lunches for your child

When it comes to school lunches it can be easier for a mom or dad to just pay for hot lunch at school. The problem with that is that you have no idea what your children are actually eating. Many children don’t really like the food that is offered in the hot lunch program at school.  Easy and nutritious school lunches are something most parents can manage with a little creativity and plenty of good taste. 

If you want to make sure that your children have a good and nutritious lunch you need to pack it yourself. Here are some tips that will help you to provide a quick and vitamin filled lunch that your children will enjoy.

Sandwiches are a traditional lunch food. Many sandwich fillings are things that most children will love. With more and more schools being designated nut-free zones, it has now become impossible to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If your child is an adventurous eater you can try to introduce them to hummus which when served with crispy vegetables in a wrap is quite a delicious sandwich. 

Carrots can be grated into the wrap with slices of cucumber. Turkey and ham are traditional sandwich meats, why not use a pita and stuff it with meat and cheese. The meat and cheese can also be cut into small squares and serve with crackers. By using whole wheat bread, pitas, wraps, and crackers you can raise the nutrition value of the lunch.

Use leftovers to make great lunches. By taking last night’s chicken and slicing it with some dried cranberries, cherries or grapes you can make a delicious filling for a pita or wrap. You can add thin slices of apple to the chicken. (be sure to put some lemon on it to keep it from darkening)  If your school is not nut free, peanut butter and apple is a delicious and nutritious choice.

Celery is a nice crunchy choice for lunch, it can be stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese or other cheese spread. Add raisins or dried cherries to make ants on a log!! Children like crunch and carrot sticks, cucumbers and pickles are all low-calorie options that taste good and travel well.

When it comes to a drink, some of the new vegetable juices that taste like fruit juice are delicious and children love them. Freeze up a small yogurt and place it in the lunch box in the morning, it should be thawed out just in time for lunch. They sell things like Gogurt which are made to do just this.

You need to include snacks in a lunch. Steer clear of the too sweet or too salty snacks. Popcorn is a good choice and pretzels are quite good as well. Apples, melon slices, chocolate pudding, and bananas are all great sweet snacks that are easy to fix and child-friendly.

To fix your child an easy and nutritious school lunch just takes a little creativity. Consider buying a lunch box that can be placed in the freezer overnight and then keeps food at a safe temperature or invest in cold packs. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Boat House Hawley, PA.

I have seen this restaurant before but in the 15 years we have been coming here, we have never stopped. We went to Hawley to take a boat ride on Lake Wallenpaupack. From the outside it is hard to tell anything about the restaurant, frankly we were a little afraid that it was too dressy for us. We were wrong!!

The restaurant had a very busy bar area and an expansive dining area. It is very definitely family friendly and casual. We didn't have to wait long to be seated which we were a little afraid we would have to because we were a larger group. We were not the only large family group and they have plenty of sets to accommodate that. 

We had menus and drinks quickly, but order taking wasn't quite as quick to happen but our waitress was not just sitting around, she had a lot of tables. One thing I have to say is that they are willing to d whatever it takes to make you happy when it comes to your meal, substitutions are no problem and even better, they all came out just as we asked. 

We ordered a variety of things too from chicken fingers and burgers to French Onion Soup and salad. I have a half chicken salad sandwich and crab bisque that was good.  Everything was more than acceptable. Up to this point I was thinking that everything was pretty average, maybe a 3 or 3.5 out of 5. But then we ordered the rice pudding. OMG, probably the best rice pudding I have ever had in a restaurant. Al and I shared it and I have to tell you, next time we are each getting out own.