Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You lose some, you win some...

A few of you have noticed my picture and winning recipe in April's Better Homes and Gardens. Thank you so much for your kind comments. The honest to goodness truth is that I lose far more recipe contests than I win. I'm always very honored to be a finalist, a runner up, a red ribbon girl, an also ran. There's some stiff and impressive competition out there. But once in a while, I take home the prize. And that makes me smile and blush for a minute or two. I think you'll really love this recipe. It's cheap and easy, and it's just about time to fire up your grills, anyway. If you're looking for something a little non-traditional for Easter, this would be grand, although I'd leave out the grilled peaches until they're in season.
I also did a little Q and A about cooking with Better Homes and Gardens. If you're interested, follow this link.
Vanilla Peach Pork Chops with Green Onion Slaw
Estimated Cost: $10.00 for four servings
4 nonenhanced boneless pork loin chops, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick (about 1 lb.)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Green Onion Slaw
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup thin, bite-size strips green onion
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup snipped fresh cilantro
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped*
1/4 cup lime juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 large peaches or nectarines, halved and pitted
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. peach preserves
1 Tbsp. horseradish mustard
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Fresh cilantro sprigs
1. Place pork chops in large plastic bag set in deep bowl. For bring, in small bowl combine water, salt, sugar, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add to chops in bag. Seal bag; turn to coat. Refrigerated 6 to 24 hours.
2. In large bowl combine cabbage, green onion, raisins, snipped cilantro, and jalapeño pepper. In small bowl whisk together lime juice, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, and the honey. Add to cabbage mixture; toss to coat. Cover and chill 30 minutes before serving.
3. Pat brown sugar onto cut sides of peach halves. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. In small bowl combine preserves, mustard, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Drain chops, discarding brine. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Spread preserves mixture on both sides of chops.
4. For charcoal grill, grill peaches and chops on rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill peaches 4 to 6 minutes or until lightly browned and just tender, turning once halfway through grilling. Grill chops 7 to 9 minutes or until slightly pink in the center (160 degrees F), turning once halfway through grilling. (For gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Add peach halves and chops to grill rack over heat. Cover; grill as above.)
5. Serve chops with slaw and sliced peaches. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Makes 4 servings.
6. *Hot chile peppers contain volatile oils. Avoid direct contact and wear plastic or rubber gloves. If bare skin touches the chile peppers, wash well with soap and water.
UP NEXT: I finally perfected my pound cake, after dozens of attempts. It is soooo unbelievably yummy. I'm waiting till I have 400 followers to post. (A little incentive to sign up today!) In the meantime, I'm hoping to post some chocolate covered fudge Easter Eggs. I'm so busy I could skip a night's sleep and still be buried, so wish me luck!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easiest Brown Sugar and Honey Glazed Ham

I used to buy a glazed ham from a certain shop every Easter. It was expensive and the lines were ridiculously long, but I believed that was my only option. Making a ham, after all, must be at least as difficult as roasting a pig in a pit, right? Hams were something that grandmothers made, certainly not modern women with options. After we'd moved to a small town, and I couldn't revert to buying that specialty ham, I decided I'd have to face my fears and make my own ham, just like Grandma. I've never looked back since. There's a conspiracy out there to make you believe that making a ham is too difficult or time consuming. The simple truth is that it couldn't be easier-or cheaper for that matter. I've made it as easy as I can in the directions. You just can't go wrong. Every grocery store in town is going to try to lure you in this week, with rosy pink hams just ripe for the picking at downright cheap prices. Buy it fully or partially cooked. Buy it half, buy it whole, buy just a few pounds. I've got you covered with directions below.
My glaze is simply brown sugar, mustard, and honey-a pleasing balance of sweet and tangy. You could go crazy and experiment with jams, marmalades, or even a bit of cola. And by way of endorsement, I made this ham for my parents last year. Dad asked, "Why would anyone ever get a specialty ham, when they could make this?" 'Nuff said.
Money Saving Tips:
Hams will be so cheap this week, you might just want to buy two and freeze one. Use good brown sugar for the most complex flavor.
Brown Sugar and Honey Glazed Ham
1 half or whole Ham, labeled as "fully cooked", or "ready to eat"
**** See directions below for a ham that is not fully cooked
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup yellow mustard
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for 17 minutes per pound for a whole ham, or 22 minutes per pound for a half ham. Use a thermometer to check the temperature-it should read 140 degrees. ABOUT 30 MINUTES BEFORE THE HAM IS FINISHED, combine mustard, brown sugar, and honey in medium bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove ham from the oven and slash the fatty part of the ham in a diamond pattern, if desired. Slather the ham with the glaze. Return the ham to the oven for the remaining 30 minutes. Let the ham rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Ladle any syruppy juices from the pan over the sliced ham.
***** For a ham that requires cooking before eating, follo w the directions above, but cook the ham for 18-20 minutes per pound for a whole ham, and 20 minutes per pound for a half ham. For a shank or butt portion, cook for 35 minutes per pound. Cook the ham to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Next Up:
Lemon Tea Cake

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Frozen Hot Chocolate-what in the heck?

I thought I was the only person left in the human race that didn't know what Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity was. Judging from yesterday's comments, there were at least a couple of others with me in my Uninformed Citizens of America Club. (Want to join-all you have to do is stay home with the TV off for a couple of years.) So what is Frozen Hot Chocolate? And more importantly, can something be hot and frozen at the same time, or is it just a clever oxymoron? (No and yes, respectively.) And where do you get it? (You make it-right after you read my post.) Frozen Hot chocolate is a smooth and creamy frozen version of the hot holiday drink. It is icy cold, but the flavor is unmistakably that of hot chocolate, thanks to the addition of instant hot chocolate mix. Apparently it originated (or at least become famous) at a NYC restaurant with the irresistible name of Serendipity. The place is so adorable, kitschy and cozy, crowded with Tiffany lamps, wonky tables, and latticework. The line winds outside the door and into the streets. Everything is oversized-except for the space, and it makes you feel a bit like a diminutive Alice in Wonderland. The food was good, but good food abounds in NYC. People come for the Frozen Hot Chocolate, which was precisely why we were there. It comes in a giant goblet, with mounds of whipped cream and chocolate shavings, flanked by four straws. It's more along the lines of a dessert than a drink, and I made the fortunate mistake of ordering it before my meal. Skip the meal if you must, but you've got to have the chocolate. As soon as I came home, I scoured the Internet for copy cat recipes-which turned out to be poor imitations. I fiddled and fretted and came up with a version that we all dubbed delicious. I can't taste test them side by side, since they don't have a Serendipity in my tiny Utah town, but to the best of my recollection, this is it. And if you make it at home, it'll save you not just the $13 bucks for the drink, but also the plane ticket to NYC. Don't let that stop you from going-but make some this weekend, too. Of course you'll have to give up your membership in the Uninformed Citizens of America Club, but it's a small price to pay.
Frozen Hot Chocolate
Estimated Cost for four servings: $3.00
Notes: I'm sure that you'll get the best results with high quality chocolate, but all I had was chocolate chips and they were delicious, too. I used Nestle hot chocolate mix, but any kind would work.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 packet instant hot chocolate mix (2 tbsps. loose mix)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cream
1 and 1/3 cup milk
3 cups ice cubes
For Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat. Whisk in hot chocolate mix, sugar, and cream until smooth. Whisk in milk and transfer mixture to blender. Add ice and process until smooth. Meawhile, beat whipping cream until fluffy; stir in sugar and vanilla. Serve frozen hot chocolate with whipped cream, and if you're cleverer than I, you can add some chocolate shavings, too.
Be back soon with Easter Dinner Ideas
(Don't order an expensive ready to eat ham, though-we're going to make our own.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

West on Today, Today

We have a winsome, yet reluctant celebrity in the family. And it certainly isn't going to his head.
West was on the Today Show this morning making his More Rockin' Moroccan Peanutty Pita sandwich with the four other adorable little girl finalists. I don't know if he realizes how lucky he is. Does any child? West looked so small and timid on TV. It made me want to poke him in the ribs and make him smile. But I wasn't anywhere near him; I was in the lobby, hobnobbing with Curtis Stone. Curtis Stone! Not really hobnobbing, but begging for photos and smiling adoringly. He's about as kind as they come, but we'll talk about that later.

Anyway, I was glad that West was on with Hoda and Ralph Machhio. In case you are wondering, Ralph looks approximately two years older than Westy. I wanted to wrap the two of them up in a soft blue banket, my West and the Karate Kid, pinch their cheeks and feed them a jar of vanilla custard baby food. Two wee babes in arms and neither one of them hogs for attention. Hoda was sweet too, and the last thing she says on the video made me burst out laughing. Something like "Look at West-he just wants to get out of here!" I think she was right, because he perked right up, and recovered his strength by gulping down an entire frozen mint hot chocolate at Serendipity.
All I can say is that we are having the very best of times. I honestly don't care about the outcome of the cook-off. We feel like winners just for the experience and the finalist prize of $2500. But hurry over and watch my boy on the Today show, before they whisk away the link. And once again, thank you, dear readers for voting for my little peanut butter celebrity.
P.S. Sailor is happy too, since she made it on the show as one of the jumpy fans peeking through the Today Show windows. Phew. That was easy.
P.S.S. For my New Yorkers, West will be on channel 11 in NYC tomorrow morning around 7ish.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Luck of the Irish to you-and the Food, too

Top o'the Morning and Happy St. Paddy's Day! We're headed to NYC, the Quiet Man and charges and I, for the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest. I'll be wearing my green, but I won't be eating any Irish foods. (Unless bags of peanuts and soda are Irish foods.) I did pack some green M and Ms in my travel bags, plus some shamrock napkins and gold coins to hide in the hotel room later tonight. Shhh, don't tell. Every mom has to have a few tricks up her sleeve. For those of you on the ground and at home, here's some of my favorite Irish (or not so Irish, but seemingly Irish) foods.
Corned Beef and Grilled Cheese On Rye Creamy Potato Soup
Irish Ploughman's Lunch on Freshly Baked Irish Soda Bread
Irish Oatmeal Cupcakes with Broiled Frosting
Mint Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream Torte
Or you could make some mint brownies-just scroll down one post and you'll spot it. Well folks, wish us luck! I'm bringing my laptop so I'll stay in touch. West is so nervous he's spastic. Right now, he's smothered in blankets and is rolling around on the carpet belting out, "This old man came rolling home." I hope he can behave himself in public. Of course, he'll probably clam up and act like the shiest little homeschooler this side of the Missippi once we get there.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Be back as soon as I have any news in New York.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Irish Ploughman's Lunch for Saint Patrick's Day

Last year, before I went on my trip to London, an English friend told me to be sure to have a "Ploughman's Lunch." What? Never heard of it. Had you? Here's what wikipedia had to say about it: "A ploughman's lunch (often just called a ploughman's) is a cold snack or meal originating in the United Kingdom, comprising at a minimum cheese, pickle, bread, and butter. It is often accompanied by a green salad..." It sounded reasonably good at the time, but I couldn't squeeze it in-literally and figuratively-between all the other lovely foods I devoured in London. Right before I got on the plane home, I stopped at a take-and-go food shop, called Pret a Manger, where I grabbed an assembled Ploughman's Sandwich. It was a brown bread sandwich with cheese, chutney, and dressed greens. Not bad, but not as fantastic as I had hoped. I really still didn't have an idea what a real Plougman's Lunch consisted of-that is until I opened March's Cooking Light Magazine and saw this glorious sight.
I had to make this stunning version, created by Irish cook book author, Margaret M. Johnson, post haste. I invited my parents to a family lunch on Sunday afternoon and we sat around the table and savored every morsel. The bread itself is worthy of attention. It's fantastic, full of whole wheat goodness and cruncy bits of steel cut oats. It's not sweet, like American versions of soda bread, but savory and moist. (My mom has made two loaves of it since Sunday. It's that good, people.) I served our sandwich with a bit of mayonnaise to balance out the sweet and tart chutney-which was also absolutely delicious. This will make a lovely Saint Patrick's Day Feast, but I'm quite sure it will show up on my table much more often than that. But start there and see if you don't fall head over heels for a Ploughman's Lunch. For these and other great healthy Irish recipes, check out Cooking Light's Website.
Irish Ploughman's Lunch from Cooking Light Magazine
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups salad, 1 1/2 ounces sausage, 3/4 ounce cheese, 1/2 bread slice, about 2 cornichons, and about 2 tablespoons chutney)
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
3 (3-ounce) links chicken apple sausage, cooked and sliced diagonally
4 ounces reduced-fat cheddar cheese (such as Kerrygold), sliced
3 slices Brown Soda Bread, each cut into quarters
2 ounces cornichons
3/4 cup Tomato Chutney
1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well. Slowly drizzle oil into vinegar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add lettuce; toss to coat. Arrange salad on a platter with sausage, cheese, Brown Soda Bread, and cornichons. Place Tomato Chutney in a bowl; add to platter.
Brown Soda Bread from Cooking Light
Whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and steel-cut oats (also called Irish oatmeal) make this a super-healthy interpretation of the classic Irish bread.
Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 slice)
Cooking spray
11.25 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup steel-cut oats (such as McCann's)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Coat a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, and coat with cooking spray.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through salt). Combine buttermilk and egg; add to flour mixture. Stir just until combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert bread onto a wire rack; cool completely. Remove parchment; slice bread into 12 slices.
Tomato Chutney from Cooking Light
Notes: I used a (14 ounce) can of diced tomatoes with juices
Yield: 2 cups (serving size: 2 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
7 plum tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1. Place first 7 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Add onion and remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until thick, stirring occasionally.
Next Up:
Chocolate Mint Brownies

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints for Big Little Kids

Post Edit:
I jumped the gun this morning in sharing some news-I'll repost when the time is right. Thanks for your patience!
Today is Tuesday, and time for a treat with my weekly baking club, Tuesdays with Dorie. Our assignment today was Thumprints for Grown ups, but what fun would that be for my little charges? They wouldn't have appreciated a sophisticated cookie, loaded with ground hazelnuts. Luckily, Dorie has a thumprint cookie especially for kids. Perfect! It's a delicate peanut butter cookie-rolled in peanuts (or not, for my charges), and bejeweled with a dab of strawberry jam. They're supposed to be for kids, but I think the grown ups enjoyed them at least equally well. We adored them! They're on my new top ten list of cookies, the list that exists only in my head, but that I fully plan to include on my blog someday. But for today, this is enough.
Kids' Thumprints, slightly adpated from Dorie Greenspan
Estimated Cost: $2.00 for 30
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
1/2 cup jam
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, cream butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and egg yolk. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and stir to form soft dough. Roll cookies into small balls. Dip balls into egg white and roll in peanuts, if desired. (I skipped this step on some.) Poke a hole in the center of the cookie with the spoon handle. (The hole will expand in the oven.) Bake cookies for about 15-18 minutes, or until just beginning to color. Cool completely. Heat jam in microwave safe bowl. Spoon jam into cookies. Makes about 30.
Up Next:
Ploughman's Lunch for St. Patrick's Day

Sunday, March 7, 2010

To Die For Chocolate Waffles

Eating these for breakfast will spoil your appetite. Permanently.
The last time I made these waffles, I didn't have enough self control to snap a photo. If you want a hot crisp waffle, there is simply no time for photography. I planned to make them again for a late brunch this morning. But I forgot that it was Fast Sunday, the once monthly appointed day for abstaining from two meals and donating the saved money for needs in the community. It is very easy to fast when you planned to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. It is very, very hard to fast when you planned to eat chocolate waffles. Plus, what about my responsibilities to my readers? Didn't I promise a full report, recipe, and pictures? I had two out of three, so I resorted to borrowing a photo off the Internet. Thank you, Colorado State Fair, for your lovely, artistic, and tempting photos.
I'm packing up this morning for a quick trip up to Provo, Utah to visit my little sister and her rosy, fat babies. You won't even know I'm gone, since I'll post from there. I have to post, since I have news that involves West, a jar of peanut butter, and national TV.
Ghiradelli Chocolate Waffles (Yields: 3 eight-inch waffles)
Estimated Cost: $4.00
For Waffles:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup (1/2 bag) Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, optional
For Chocolate Sauce:
4 ounces (1 bar) Ghirardelli 70% Cacao Extra Bittersweet Baking Bar
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions. Sift flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Whisk together milk, egg yolks and oil. Add to flour mixture and whisk gently just until combined. In clean, dry bowl, whisk egg whites with hand held beater until they form soft peaks. Fold into batter, with chocolate chips, if using. Ladle one-third of the batter onto the center of the waffle iron. Close top and cook until the waffle is crispy on both sides. Repeat to make 3 waffles. Serve immediately. To make chocolate sauce: In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate with cream, stirring occasionally until smooth. Keep warm, or reheat before using. Drizzle waffles with chocolate sauce and garnish with seasonal berries and whipped cream.
Up Next:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumprint Cookies

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscar Party-for Real People

Now, I know that Wolfgang Puck is planning a mahvelous Oscar party menu, dahling. But I didn't get invited and besides, I don't have a thing to wear. I'm staying home and eating real-people food (read, junk) anyway. Want to come over? We're having more fun than Wolfie's guests anyway. The truth is we probably won't actually EAT many or even any of this things, but double doggone if we don't have a great time thinking of them. I bet you could even think of better ones. This year was tough, since they increased the number of movies nominated for best picture.
Here's my pick for the most appropriate cinematic Snacks:
The Blind Flip Side
Sailor thought of this one. Have you tried these yet? They're salty and yummy.
District 9 layer bean dip
I really might make this one. I've loved it since 1983-no lie. Thanks to whomever this pic belongs to. I got it off the internet.
A Serious Ginger Man
I worried that I'd only be able to find a smiling gingerbread man for the pic. These faceless cookies are perfectly serious, almost somber even.
Inglorious POP Tarts. I didn't really want to write a naughty word on my blog, but I think Pop Tart is a good stand in for a naughty word. Pop-Tart sounds more like a naughty word than a breakfast food, anyway. If you eat everyday, will you grow up to be a Pop-tart?
Precious Mozzarella
Way too easy.
Way too hard. This one's my biggest stretch. Can anyone out there think of a better food to go with Avatar? We sure couldn't. I hope that the Academy will consider that next year, and only choose movies that have easy snack tie-ins.
Seven UP
The Quiet Man's contribution.
Up in the Airheads
Phew! Two movies with the word Up. I didn't think we were going to make it. And speaking of UP-
Up next:
Chocolate Waffles-really, truly, cross my heart.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Forth on March 4th (and Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup)

Tomorrow is the big day to March Forth! Tah-rump-pum-pum! I love the sound of March 4th. It's as stirring as a big brass band. What will you March forth and do?
I've got a whopping list the size of Alaska of things I ought to March Forth and accomplish. I'll limit myself to five or ten.
1. Wash off the car windows. People are starting to suspect I competed in the Olympics.
2. Call my sister. (Any of them-I'm overdue on everybody.)
3. Clean out the front closet. Boring-but it's got to be done.
4. Mail off those free DVD cereal tokens that are sitting around.
5. Write a little love note to Sailor, West, and the Quiet Man and hide it under the pillow-YIKES-which brings me to number six
6. REMIND that darned lazy, forgetful tooth fairy to finally leave some money for Sailor's tooth.
And more pleasantly
7. Post that Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup I've been writing about.
This one'll be easy. I wanted to share this recipe during the Olympics, but it's their fault for finishing before March 4th, the only day of the year that I don't procrastinate. It's still winter, and you can make it for yourself after a day of skiing, bobsledding, or ice dancing. I know that's how I spend most of my afternoons. But the soup-it's creamy and delicious, especially with a crusty hunk of bread to sop it up. But wait-there's more! I like it even better with a twist- an equal side of black bean soup. They're both a cinch to make, and they taste great on their own-but together they are soup magic. The black bean side is hearty and spicy, and the cheesy side whips it to tame. Ay, mamacita-it's good. So March Forth and make yourself a big bowl.
Did I forget anything on my to do list??? What's on your's?
Money Saving Tips:
Beans for dinner-what could be cheaper? Save a little extra dough by using dried beans instead of canned. You can swap evaporated milk for the cream and bouillion for the broth.
The execution is easy-just pour the soups in simultaneously. Decorate the middle with some cilantro leaves and red pepper strips.
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup with a Black Bean Twist
Estimated Cost for Both: $7.00 for 4 generous servings
2 tablespoons butter
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped (save some strips for garnish)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half or cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar chees
Melt butter in medium pot over medium heat. Add peppers, garlic, and onions. Saute for six minutes. Add flour and stir for two minutes. Add broth, milk, and cream. Simmer until thickened, about three minutes. Gradually add cheese. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
Black Bean Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 (14 ounce) cans black beans drained
2 (14 ounce) cans broth (chicken, vegetable, or beef)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
hot sauce, to taste
In a medium pot, warm oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for five minutes. Add beans, broth, cumin and chili powder. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste. YOu can mash some of the beans for a semi-smooth texture.
Up Next:
Chocolate Waffles

Monday, March 1, 2010

French's Fantastic Cook-Off with Sue Ellen's Winning Recipe

Well, friends, I am home from a whirlwind weekend in New York City for the French's Cook Off. I did not win the 25 grand. Darn, I would have had a good time spending that money on travel. The winner will put it to better and more noble use. My new friend Sue Ellen of Des Moisnes, Iowa, won top honors with an absolutely delicious polenta and avocado concotion. (Recipe below.) Sue Ellen is involved with humanitarian work and plan to use the money to help the people of Malta. I was very impressed with her kindness, generosity, and tasty recipe. She really deserved it!
I also had a really great time. The city was CRAZY stormy, but that didn't stop the show. The folks at French's really know how to host a cook off. We had a get-to-know-you dinner at Blue Smoke, a BBQ joint, that included spare ribs, grilled salmon, sesame slaw and sweet potato fries with maple dipping sauce. The sweet potato fries, people, the sweet potato fries. They were crispy-smoky perfection and I'm going to get started on a copy cat recipe right away. I almost ate the whole basket all by myself, without any regard to making a good first impression. The cook off itself was relaxing and stress-free, especially since my college buddy Kimmarie, came up from Philly to keep me company. Now I remember why I hardly slept a wink in college. I can't sleep in the presence of a true comedianne. All I want to do is stay up all night long and laugh. I've missed doing that. But there's always something to miss, isn't there? I missed my family this week.
The best part of the trip was coming home. Sailor had decorated the car and made me a gold medal, to ward off any disappointment. West had papered the house with"I love you, Mom" signs. Who wouldn't be happy to come home to this? (Remind me to review capital "I" in a few days. But, shucks!) The Quiet Man had polished the house to gleaming. And I won a new mixer! A beautiful, fancy, new-fangled kind of thing. As soon as Quiet Man, ahem, reads the instructions, I'll give it a go.
And one more item of good news. West is officially a finalist in the Jif Peanut Butter Contest. So, back to New York City for the whole family in just two weeks. Woo-weee. I owe you all a huge thank you. THANK YOU!
And now here's the winning recipe.

Onion Polenta with Avocado and Tomato Salad
6 oz FRENCH'S® Cheddar French Fried Onions
1/3 cup FRENCH'S® Horseradish Mustard
11/2 cup pre cooked Polenta (dry)
1 lb tomatoes, seeded, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 ripe Avocados, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
41/2 cup water
2 tsp salt
In a medium saucepan add water, 1 teaspoon salt; bring to boil. Slowly add polenta to water, whisking continuously until all of polenta is used. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously. Remove polenta from heat and stir in coarsely chopped FRENCH’S Cheddar French Fried Onions. Spoon into a 10 inch pie dish. Let stand for 15-20 minutes to firm. Meanwhile in a large bowl mix tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and FRENCH'S Horseradish Mustard until blended. Set aside. Turn polenta out onto a board. Carefully cut into 6 pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large (10 or12 inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place polenta pieces in hot oil. Brown polenta until golden on each side, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and serve browned polenta pieces topped with spiced tomato avocado salad Serves 6
Next Up:
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup-with a twist