Wednesday, August 29

HOW TO: Cook Scallops

Scallops are probably one of the most intimidating seafood items to cook. They can instantly go rubbery if you over cook them. And unfortunately, if you under cook them, it isn't easy to put them back in a pan to cook them more. Scallops however, are actually quite easy to cook. If you follow these simple steps you will have perfectly cooked scallops every time!

To properly cook scallops you will first need to make sure they are clean and ready. If you are using frozen scallops you are going to want to make sure they are completely defrosted before even beginning to do this.

To begin, look carefully at your scallop is should be nice and round, sometimes oval. And there should be no muscle attached to its side. If there is a muscle attached you will want to remove it. Simple pull it off gently with your fingers and discard.

scallop with muscle
scallop that has been cleaned

Most scallops are sold clean, but it is always good to know how to clean them.

Once you have made sure they are all completely cleaned. Place them on a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and pat dry any excess moisture.

Now, get a saute pan heated over medium-high heat. Add in 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil, allow to melt for 30 seconds.

Once pan is hot, add in the scallops. Cook 2-3 minutes or until scallop turns nice and opaque.

You will want to flip over at least once to get a nice golden sear on both sides.

Photo at beginning of recipe is a simple Scallop salad. Cook scallops and arrange around plate of mixed greens which have been lightly tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. For my recipe on Lemon Vinaigrette try:

Monday, August 27

Refreshing Fizzy Limeade

Seasonal refreshing beverages are a great way to finish of a menu. Incorporating a nice sparkling beverage into a shower, party, or picnic really ties the meal up nicely. I love making fresh Sparkling Limeade or even Lemonade and I think you will too!

For a fun extra touch. Mix a small amount of lime juice with water to use for making ice cubes. Place a small mint leaf into the ice tray before filling with the limed water and freeze, creating a nice minted touch while drinking!

Serves 4-6
Full time: 5 minutes

You will need:

2 fresh limes, quartered
2 quarts club soda or sparkling water, cold
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar

*For Lemonade substitute lemon wedges and lemon juice in above amounts.

Let us begin:

To begin mix lime juice with sugar in beverage container until sugar dissolves.

Slowly add in the soda or water.

Drop in line lime wedges.

Serve and enjoy!

Chinese Take-away Egg Fu Yung

Egg Fu Yung, is a common take-away dish from Chinese restaurants. Also,  referred to as Egg Foo Young, Egg Fooyong, or Egg Furong. Literally 'lotus egg', this dish is prepared with beaten eggs and diced ham. It may be made with various vegetables such as bean sprouts, pea sprouts, bamboo shoots, sliced cabbage, spring onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts.

It is a traditional Chinese dish which is basically an omelet dish. It can be served as either a folded pancake style dish where the non-egg ingredients are folded into the middle of the egg. Or as a flat pancake style omelet where the non-egg ingredients are incorporated right into the egg. I however, learned to make it from a nice woman in Hangzhou, who actually scrambled it all together. I actually prefer this method, but if desired you can make this a flat omelet.

Regardless, of your desired serving style, Egg Fu Yung is a great way to use leftover ham after a holiday or special occasion. You can also easily make it with a ham steak. If ham isn't your favorite meat you can easily substitute chicken, pork, sausage, or shrimp! It is sort of a leftover user in the Chinese recipe world. I love making Egg Fu Yung for easy quick dinners and homemade Take-away!

Full time: 20-30 minutes (depending on how much you need to dice and prep)
Serves: 2-4 people

You will need:

For brown sauce:

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry (or rice wine)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt* taste sauce for soy sauce saltiness before adding

For Egg Part:

6 eggs
2 cups diced ham, or protein of your choice or vegetarian friendly extra vegetables
1 cup pea or bean sprouts
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter (or additional oil)
3 tsp dry sherry (or rice wine)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Let us start with the sauce first:

In a small sauce pan combine stock, soy sauce, sherry, oil, and black pepper.

Bring this to a low boil over medium-high heat.

While this comes to a boil, dissolve the cornstarch in the water.

Whisk this into the boiling sauce and cook until it returns to a boil.

Lower heat as low as you stove top will go and let it sit there to keep warm while making the egg part.

Okay now for the egg part.

Get a wok or saute pan heated over medium high heat.

Add in 1 1/2 tbsp oil, onion, and ham pieces. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until ham is warmed through.

Add in butter and mushrooms. Cook 5-8 minutes or until mushrooms have cooked to a nice light brown and are tender.

Add in sprouts and cabbage, along with remaining oil.

Cook 2-3 minutes or until they have wilted from the heat. You are now ready to add egg.

If you plan to scramble this, add egg right to the center of the pan.

Keep stiring the egg around the pan to full cook and intergrate with the other ingredients.

Turn out onto a serving dish and turn off heat from the sauce. Place sauce in a serving conatiner and enjoy!

If you plan to sevrve this as an omlete style, add egg acroos the top of the pan. Allow it to sink into the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes. Carefully flip over and cook second side for 2-3 minutes.

Turn out onto a serving dish and turn off heat from the sauce. Place sauce in a serving conatiner and enjoy!

Saturday, August 25

Minted Zucchini Ribbons

Zucchini ribbons are a great side. They require a little prep, cook fast, and easily can be seasoned to fit any meal. Even better the help bring your meal to the next level in appearance, platting, and can even add a little romance to a meal.

You will need:

2 large zucchini: I like using both green and yellow
2 sprigs fresh mint
1 lemon
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper

Let us begin:

You will need to cut the ends off your zucchini.

Using a sharp vegetable leaker, remove the outside peel.

Once the outside peel is off, you'll start ribboning the zucchini. To do this keep running the vegetable peeler across the zucchini.

(left is sample of peel: right is sample of ribbon piece)

If you keep going until you hit the seeded core, you will get a nice pile of ribbons.

Place ribbons in a sauté pan.

Squeeze in lemon and carefully mix in the seasonings.

Add butter to pan and turn heat to medium-high.

Sauté for 5 minutes or until zucchini ribbons become slightly softened and hot.

Turn off heat and let sit for a minute.

While this rests finely chop mint.

Plate zucchini and sprinkle across mint.

Thursday, August 23

HOW TO: Make a Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette is one of the classic Mother Sauces. It is an emulsion made of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. It is usually 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar but can change based on desired finished outcome. The term vinaigrette is actually nothing more than a shortened version of vinaigrette, which is French Dressing. There really is no history on the beginning of a vinaigrette as it was common in Ancient Rome.

Vinaigrette is very popular these days, the two most common being the Balsamic Vinaigrette and the Lemon Vinaigrette. Both are used often for salads in a variety of restaurants and recipes. Lemon Vinaigrette is a little more versatile than Balsamic Vinaigrette. It can be used as a dressing, marinade, or even a finishing sauce. I actually prefer the flavor of a Lemon Vinaigrette over a salad it creates a light and refreshing taste.

(above photo of a Lemon Vinaigrette)
Here is a great recipe for a both a Balsamic Vinaigrette and a Lemon Vinaigrette. I will include a few recommendations for each alongside the recipe.

Classic Lemon Vinaigrette:

Some great uses for this include garden salads. Vegetable salads. Marinade for chicken, salmon or vegetables. Use as a finishing sauce for scallops, shrimp, or lobster. Use as a finishing sauce for asparagus, green beans, or eggplant. Use as a grilling base for kabobs.

Full time: less than 10 minutes
Yields 1 1/2 cup vinaigrette

You will need:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, not concentrate
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Let us begin:

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.

Pour in oil and lemon juice.

Whisk until fully blended and airy, approximately 2 minutes.

Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette:
Some great uses for this include garden salads. Tomato and mozzarella salad. Drizzled over some fresh mozzarella and basil. Marinade chicken in it for grilling.

Full time: less than 10 minutes
Yields 1 1/2 cup vinaigrette

You will need:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp sugar or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Let us begin:

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.

Pour in oil and vinegar.

Whisk until fully blended and airy, approximately 2 minutes.


Monday, August 20

HOW TO: Make Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole is a classic American side dish usually served at holidays or large family gatherings. It can be made with either fresh sweet potatoes or more commonly canned yams.

I recently started collecting email questions regarding recipes and how to make things, this has been a huge question. So for all the new cooks out their or cooks who have just never made this, here is the classic Sweet Potato Casserole.
Full time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6 people, but can easily double or triple!

You will need:

1 40 oz can cut yams in light syrup
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp pumpkin pie (or apple pie) spice*

*Just a quick side note you can easily spice this up a little by adding in extra seasonings. Try 1/2 tbsp of each ground nutmeg, ground allspice, and 1 tsp ground ginger. This will add a little extra zing or double the spice called for in the recipe for extra yumminess!

If your not a spice fan, you can substitute ground cinnamon for the spice called for in recipe or leave it out all together.
Let us begin:

Get your oven preheated to 350 degrees.

Grab a 9"  baking dish, square or round, either is okay. Set dish aside for a moment.

Open the can of yams and drain them in a colander.

Pour drained yams into the baking dish. It is okay if some of the liquid is still on them.

Sprinkle over the brown sugar.

Sprinkle over the pie spice.

Give it a gentle stir.

Top with the miniature marshmallows.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly puffy and have begun to turn golden brown.


Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and Artichoke dip is an extremely popular appetizer these days. Several restaurants, catering companies, and even frozen food companies make it. It's a great blend of ingredients which balance out for a velvety smooth dip, kissed with yummy artichoke chunks.

If you don't like artichokes, don't worry you can easily leave them out and still have an amazing spinach dip.

You can make this in either your oven or in a "Little Dipper Crock-pot", both take roughly the same amount of time!

This will make approximately 2 1/2 cups
Full time: 30-40 minutes

You will need:

1 14 oz. can chopped artichoke hearts
1 13.5 oz. can chopped spinach
1 8 oz. package Neufchâtel Cheese or cream cheese
1 oz. Fresh Mozzarella sliced or shredded (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white or black pepper

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350, if using crock pot skip this step.

Drain the spinach and artichokes and set them aside for a moment.

In a medium bowl soften Neufchâtel in microwave for 30 seconds and then mix until smooth.

Blend in Parmesan, salt, pepper, and basil.

Blend in spinach.

Gently fold in artichokes.

Fill crockpot or 3 cup baking dish.

Top with mozzarella. (optional)

Bake in oven or crockpot for 20-30 minutes. Or until it is bubbling with a light golden color.

Serve alongside vegetables, crackers, tortillas, or bread for dipping and enjoy!

(shown with cheese topping)

Thursday, August 16

CRAFT KITCHEN: Edible Marshmallow Clay

Ever have one of those days? The one where your not sure what you want to do? Love sculpting or have little ones who do? Try making edible clay, not only is it a great way to be creative but dessert will never be the same again!

Edible clay is actually just a modified fondant which will create stiffer end product than traditional fondant.

This will make 1 pound clay

You will need:

3 cups miniature marshmallows
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp butter, diced into tiny pieces
1 1/2 tsp milk
Paste food coloring

Let us begin:

In a large microwaveable bowl add marshmallows, butter, and milk

Microwave on high for 1 minute. The marshmallows should appear slightly melted and puffy. If not return to microwave for 10 sec increments until they appear slightly melty and puffy.

Stir contents of bowl to a smooth texture.

Add in 2 cups powdered sugar and stir. It will appear as if it does not want to mix in, just keep working at it for a few moments and it will form a ball around spoon.

Sprinkle a board with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Turn out mixture onto surface and begin to knead.

Kneading until no longer sticky and smooth.
-you may need to add more sugar to the board, use the reserved 1/2 for this trying not to add more than a total of 3 cups

Once it feels good. Divide and color.

To color, place a very small amount of coloring on the clay and kneading until uniform in color.

Store in sealed plastic wrap in refrigerator, bringing to room temperature to use.

After shaping figure, place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up.