Forget Take-Out

My husband is sick and I am not a nurse. In fact I’m pretty bad at it, but I called him during the day to see how he was doing and he said he thought he might be feeling a bit better.  He was a little hungry.  He didn’t have a cold, but my first thought went straight to chicken noodle soup.  Hmmm….that really wasn’t going to work for me but I had to make something that would be easy on his stomach.

I thought I had heard somewhere that ginger was good for the stomach.  Well, it sounded like a good idea anyway, but remember I’m not a nurse. And in my opinion, wonton soup is like chicken noodle soup and I remembered when I was looking at the new Fine Cooking magazine there was a recipe that had me interested. It was in the category of easy dinners.  This was perfect!

I came home with all the ingredients I needed for the soup and there he was lying on the sofa, just like any man who thinks he is dying.   I told him I would make him some soup and he would probably feel much better.  This was so easy to put together that even my friend Emily would be able to make it and so fast I think I beat a really good Chinese delivery.  Plus I had the added bonus of witnessing a medical miracle.  My husband was about to rise from the sofa and proclaim good health once again.

In no time at all I had the soup made and poured two wonderfully aromatic bowls, offering one to my husband.  However, in a really sad voice said he wasn’t hungry.  Wow…perhaps this really wasn’t drama. Perhaps he was really sick.  So I poured him a glass of ginger ale and I sat down alone and devoured my wonton soup. It was so good!  I felt bad that my husband had to miss it but I throughly enjoyed it.   It was like take out without the wait.

On the downside, it was not the medical miracle I anticipated.  My husband went to bed without any dinner. On the upside, it was a great bowl of soup and not a lot of trouble, ranking a very high YUM on the taste thermometer.

Make it some night when you want a light dinner,  playing nurse or just wanting take out without the wait.  You’ll be glad you did.

Roasted Fennel and Sausage Orecchiette

Pasta has always been one of my favorite go-to comfort foods.  it’s probably not the best thing for my diet, but on a cold night there is nothing better.  For someone like me, however,  the basic tomato sauce can be a bit boring so I’m always trying to find something that ranks a little higher on the taste thermometer.

I think I found something.

This had everything I was looking for…ingredients that could stand alone individually on flavor, lots of color and it was not your typical spaghetti and red sauce.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over with my husband…he is after all, a sauce man and you typically cannot change is mind.  The pressure was on…..

I adapted this from Giada’s cooking show.  One of the things I changed was the sausage.  You can use whatever sausage you like but I opted for a sausage made at Whole Foods.  Chicken sausage with red peppers and garlic..  One of their best in my opinion with a lot of zest and flavor.  And for me, I roasted the fennel just a bit longer than the time given, only because I like mine a bit more charred.

The aroma when cooking this meal was amazing, the colors were beautiful and the taste was so flavorful.  I don’t think my husband even realized there wasn’t a sauce.  I must have changed his way of thinking because he went back for more!

I love this meal and I think you will too.  Pair it with a nice salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got a comfort food that your guests will all enjoy!

SPICY SHRIMP

If you asked my husband about cooking with shrimp he would say there would only be two ways to do it….with cocktail sauce or as shrimp scampi.  There are no other options.

Well, until now that is.

I was in the mood to make something spicy for dinner.  And that included something with shrimp.  You know how it is, you just get that urge and you have to look until you find something that fits what you’re looking for.  Although I’ve never had it, my brain was telling me Thai Shrimp. Don’t ask me why because I couldn’t tell you anything about it except that I knew it was known for being spicy.  I looked through several recipes and none of them really made me scream “make this!”,  so I took a couple of ideas, merged them together and created my version.  It was everything I had hoped for… and more.  You should ask my husband, Mr.Onlycocktailsauceorscampi what he thought.  He is now known as Mr. SogoodI’mhavingseconds.  He loved it.  I loved it and I think you will too.

Step outside of the box and try something new.  It was easy and tasty and a nice change from our typical weekday dinner.  Bon Appetite!

Spicy Shrimp

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1/3 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 bulbs baby bok choy sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 hot peppers (I used one with seeds and one without),
  • 1/2 cup cream of coconut
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 scallions, sliced

Instructions

  1. Combine minced garlic, lime zest, lemon juice and zest, grated ginger, sweet chili sauce, chili sauce and brown sugar. Stir until mixed together.

  2. Add peeled and deveined shrimp to mixture, making sure shrimp is well coated with sauce and set aside for at least 10 minutes.

  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil to pan and heat over medium high heat until very hot. Add zucchini until it turns slightly brown, stirring frequently. Add baby bok choy, season dish with salt and pepper and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

  4. In the same pan add onions and cook until translucent, stirring frequently. Add hot peppers and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add shrimp and marinade and cook until shrimp are cooked through, approximately 3 minutes more. Add cream of coconut and stir until well combined with shrimp mixture. Reduce heat to medium low and add tomatoes and cashews, cooking 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Stir in chopped basil.

Don’t let your meatloaf!

The fourth annual “Don’t Let your Meatloaf” party happened in my neighborhood this past weekend.  It was the first time my husband and I had been invited to the event and I was terribly excited about going.  A party geared towards cooking something?  Right up my alley.

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The rule was no garlic.  Not sure the hows and whys of where this rule came about but I followed it.  I was not going to be disqualified because of a rule like that…I was in it to win it!  I had a meatloaf recipe that was pretty good, but this had to be the best.  After all, I was going to write about the party and brag how much everyone loved my meatloaf.  I practiced, I added and I tweaked.  This was going to be amazing!

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The time of the party arrived and I thought my meatloaf looked beautiful.  I was very proud.  First mistake of the evening…I didn’t try it.  We arrived at the home of Judy and Steve and pictures were taken.  The rules were explained to us on how to vote.  Wow…this was really serious!  Second mistake of the evening….I thought it was really serious.  It was time to taste and vote but judging the meatloaves was proving to be a challenge because each award needed to be voted on individually and there were a lot of meatloaves!  Vote first for best looking meatloaf and then go back through the line and flag all the bites taken and taste test.  Third mistake of the evening….I thought I could win.

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As instructed, we had to pick a first place winner, second place and third place, one for best looking and one for worst, all separate categories.  Little did I know then how important this could be.  We ate, we drank, we tallied, we drank, we turned our votes in and we drank some more.  The waiting began for the results. (It’s very important to note at this time that everyone drank.)

The bell rang and the winners were announced.  The first award given was for the worst tasting meatloaf.  I wasn’t even paying attention…after all there was no way I was going to be in this category.  I wasn’t paying attention…..until they called my name!  WHAT?!?!?!?!  They called my name…. the one who writes and cooks and shares my recipes received the worst tasting meatloaf?! Holy smokes…what just happened?!  I think I might have died a little at that moment.  All  I could do was smile and accept my award with grace and as much dignity as I possibly could in such a boisterous crowd. (remember, I mentioned earlier everyone drank…I want to believe that may have influenced the voting!)

I do want to mention that they showed me the final results on the voting and I was actually one vote shy of tieing for first.  I also placed in the second, and third category.  That did help with the ego factor a bit, but I was still labeled the worst!  But then I got to thinking,   everyone messes up now and then, everyone makes something that someone doesn’t like….even professional chefs don’t always get it right. Right?  Empowered with that knowledge,  I realized that I could go on with life, despite a flawed entry,  and my husband and I continued to have an extremely fun evening with a great group of people.  I had the will and determination to make another meatloaf, and another 364 days to practice at it!

So just wait until next year’s “Don’t Let Your Meatloaf” party…. I’ll be ready for the big comeback.  Just you wait!

THE WINNING MEATLOAF RECIPE by Lynn Fortunato Hodges!

Lynn's winning recipe!
Lynn’s winning recipe!

2 lbs ground chuck mixed with two cans of Rotel (drained).  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Cover 1/2 of a large flour tortilla with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes.  Slice meatloaf and place 4 slices on top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle with a mixture of shredded Mexican cheese and frozen corn.  Top each slice of meatloaf with another spoonful of mashed potatoes.  Fold over the other half of the tortilla and place in a heated frypan with olive oil.  Brown each side of the quesadilla.  Serve with salsa and jalapeno as garnish.

Winner Lynn Fortunato Hodges
Winner Lynn Fortunato Hodges

 

 

 

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Valentine’s Day.  Most people are going out to dinner, sending flowers or eating pounds of chocolate.  In my earlier life, I may have wanted all that but I have to say as I’ve gotten older it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  Sorry Hallmark….but I think you should show the people in your life that you love them every day of the year and not just one.  With that said, I still wanted to do something nice for my husband so I decided to make a dinner that I thought he would enjoy.  Throw in a little candlelight, a nice bottle of wine and voilà!

I decided on seasoned beef tenderloin, roasted pepper salsa and stuffed gorgonzola tomatoes.  I am not a beef lover, but my husband certainly is and we both felt the tenderloin turned out quite nice.  The salsa, with it’s tangy bite  was a nice compliment to the savory tenderness of the meat.  What surprised me however, was that the tomato turned out to be the star of the evening.  It was so easy to do and yet such an elegant addition to the meal.

I was telling my friends what I had done a day or two later and I was amazed that everyone seemed interested in my sharing of this recipe.   It was one I found in a magazine,  inspired by Giada. I think this is really great if you’re having a dinner party, if it’s just a couple of people or even if you’re eating alone.  It’s very easy and very good.  I highly recommend this.

So, make this for someone you love, including yourself…. and it can be any day of the year.

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium firm ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons plain dried panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons finely crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Using a teaspoon, remove seeds from tomatoes, place cut side down on paper towels to drain, about 5 minutes.

  3. Mix 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

  4. Add the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Marinate 10 minutes.

  5. Combine breadcrumbs and gorgonzola. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Fill tomatoes with the breadcrumb mixture, drizzle with remaining oil.

  6. Roast tomatoes in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until crumb topping is golden brown and tomatoes are slightly softened. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Duck Ragu

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A couple of years ago, my husband Peter and I were in Las Vegas.  It was dinner time and we were starving because of the three-hour time difference in our normal eating routine.  Like the other casinos, they had so many restaurants for us to choose from and most of them were unfamiliar to us. However, after some discussion, we decided on this little back hole italian restaurant.  DOCG. Remember the name and if you are ever at the Cosmopolitan, make sure you go.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what to order because for an italian restaurant it was a little avant-garde for me.  But I thought, take a chance.  Isn’t that what Vegas is all about?  So, at the waitress’ suggestion, I decided to try the duck ragu.  Wow….my meal turned out to be the winner of the evening!

Well, fast forward to this past weekend and what do I find in my recipe collection but one for duck ragu?  And conveniently enough, I had duck legs in my freezer that I had intended for something else.  It was kizmit!  Forces had come together to bring back my Vegas dinner.  I was going down memory lane.  (I am seriously starting to sound a little corny!)

My husband was a little skeptical.  Ok, maybe not skeptical….maybe scared and horrified that I would actually consider making this for dinner.  That moment when he realizes this is his only option for a real meal, trepidation written all over his face……it’s priceless.  .But I think it was winner winner chicken dinner (or duck in this case)!  He loved it.  And I believe you will too.  I would even recommend making this the night before and letting the flavors meld a little more…..amazingly flavorful.

So, once in a while, take a chance.  Try something new. You might find that you’ve hit the jackpot.

I hope you enjoy this recipe inspired by Fine Cooking.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Julie and Julia….a movie about a blogger who takes on the infamous Julia Child’s cookbook.  I liked it so much,  I think I must have watched it three times the first day I bought the DVD. I enjoyed the French cooking class scenes, Meryl Streep’s character and the cooking project Julie challenged herself with…… but the Boeuf Bourguignon scene really seemed to catch my attention.  I’m not sure why because I’m really not a big red meat-eater.  I’m your chicken and fish kind of girl. But don’t you think they just made it look so incredibly tasty?  How is it that I would not want to make it?  So,  like a true fan,  I went out and bought the book, put it on my shelf and resolved that I would make the bourguignon very soon.  That was three years ago. ( Fast forward to now.)  Book sitting on my shelf covered in dust, a very cold day and a desire to make something memorable…. the recipe was calling my name.  It was now time to make the classic Julia Child beef stew…..her Boeuf Bourguignon!  My husband, Peter, and I went out and bought everything we needed.  His mouth was already watering, and although challenged by this I wasn’t crazy over what it was going to taste like.  (see earlier comments about me and red meat).  I followed the recipe exactly, drying the meat with the paper towels, browning the mushrooms, adding the red wine and oh my…..   I will have to say….. the aroma, the flavor and the tenderness of the beef changed my mind.  This was a definite “yum” moment and a memorable one at that.  I will definitely make this again and I would recommend you try it.  You and your guests won’t regret it.  And Julia, let me just say… Bon Appetit!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Course Entree
Cook Time 2 minutes
Servings 6

Recipe Notes

Ingredients:
• 6 ounces chunk of bacon
• 1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
• 3 lbs lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
• 1 sliced carrot
• 1 sliced onion
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 3 cups of a full bodied young red wine
• 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 2 cloves mashed garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon thyme
• A crumbled bay leaf
• The blanched bacon rind
• 18=24 small white onions, brown braised in stock
• 1 lb quartered fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter
• Parsley sprigs
Directions:
1. Remove the rind from the bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in a 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Saute the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat util fat is almost smoking before you saute the beef.
4. Dry the beef in paper towels (it will not brown if it is damp). Saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.
5. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sauteing fat.
6. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 minutes more. (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust) Remove casserole ad turn oven down to 325 degrees.
7. Stir i the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
8. While the beef is cookig, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.
9. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
10. Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off addiitional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If it is too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
11. Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve with roasted or boiled potatoes, noodles or rice. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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