February 28, 2013

Garlic-Ginger Chicken w/ Arborio Rice & Stir Fry

I have been craving Asian flavors.  This past Saturday completed my month long study of Spanish and Latin food components with the "Spanish Inspired Tapas Style Dinner" for 70 guests, finally presented.  Immediately, on Monday when I began to meal plan for the week, I was drawn to recipes that had an Asian flare.  Maybe that can be next years dinner!  We have done Italian, French, Greek & Spanish themed dinners for an annual couples banquet in February.   Anyhow, my first recipe used boneless chicken coated in a spicy, sweet ginger -garlic  sauce.  I marinated the chicken in soy sauce and Sherry for about 20 minutes to soften up the fibers.  I didn't  want the chicken drying out during the cooking process and I for sure wanted to produce a tangy multi -layer flavor from the meat.   I used rice flour to make it gluten free as well as egg whites and smaller amounts of oil to reduce calories. 
I had 3 pounds of chicken and I cut them in strips for 1 recipe and  cubes for another, setting the cubes aside for a later dish.

For the Chicken:
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken, cut in strips.
1/2 cup Sherry wine (not cooking Sherry)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
1 cup of rice flour
3 beaten egg whites
1 small piece of ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. siriachi sauce or other hot sauce
1/4 cup of sugar
Optional: toasted sesame seeds
Oil for fying/sauteeing
1 Tbsp. butter
2 green onions, washed, sliced on the diagonal in 1 inch pieces. 

For the Stir Fy Vegetables:
1 cup of slivered ehite onion
3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced on the diagaonal
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups of snow pea pods
1 Tbsp. oil for sauteeing. 
Arborio rice
1 cup of chopped fresh colantro
For the Vegetables-
  1. Heat oil in saute pan or wok.  
  2. Stir fry/saute vegetables about 2 minutes until coated with oil and heated through.   
  3. Set aside. 
 For the Rice-
  1. Cook according to package instructions (I used 1 1/2 cups rice to 2 1/2 cups water).
  2. Set aside rice, fluff with a fork.
  3. Add chopped cilantro and  2 Tbsp. soy sauce

For the Chicken-

Mise en place: set up dredging station, paper towel lined plate, measure out needed  ingredients
  1. Place chicken in a bowl and cover wtih Sherry & 1/4 cup of the soy sauce.  
  2. Marinate 20 minutes.  Drain chicken and pat dry.
  3. Whisk egg white with a pinch or 2 of salt in a shallow dish.
  4. pour rice flour into 2 separate bowls.  this will be your dredging station.
  5. take a piece of chicken, coat it in the flour, toss with egg, then roll in flour again. 
  6. This 3 step process insures that the flour will stick to the chicken during the cooking process.
  7. Place the chicken on plate and finish all the pieces, using more dredging ingredients if you run out.  
  8. Heat about 1 cup of oil in heavy bottom skillet or saute pan(use the same one you used for the vegetables) or wok over medium high heat  
  9. Adjust as necessary during the cooking process if you see it brown too fast.  Add more oil if necessary.
  10. Place about 6-8 strips in the pan at at time, being careful not to crowd the pieces.  
  11. Flip the chicken when you se the bottom turn a golden brown-about 3 minutes.  
  12. Flip and brown evenly on the next side.  
  13. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.  
  14. Finish cooking the rest of the chicken.  
  15. Finally, drain most of the oil, add reserved garlic, ginger and sirachi sauce with butter.  Melt and heat through for about 30 seconds.
  16. Put all the chicken into the pan, sprinkle with the sugar and add remainder 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
  17. toss and saute until sugar is dissolved and all chicken is evenly coated.
  18. Turn off heat and plate:
  • Scoop a serving of rice onto the plate
  • Top with vegetables
  • Add chicken
  • Garnish with chopped green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

February 27, 2013

Gluten Free Pasta With Cream Sauce & Herbs

This is a recipe for a simple cream sauce that is so versatile.  Use it for Gluten-free  pasta & rice, chicken and seafood. I even serve it with my Island Pork Tenderloin.  I double and triple the recipe for later uses and to make your we have plenty of sauce for the meal. 

  • 2 TBSP. butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Tarragon or other herbs of choice 
  • Gluten-free pasta of choice.  I prefer corn and rice based.
  1. Melt butter in a saute pan. 
  2. Add garlic. Saute 1 minute. 
  3. Add wine and reduce to about half. 
  4. Add cream, salt and pepper, HERBS.


  • Add about 1 cup of the pasta water to the sauce.  
  • Reserve 1 cup of  sauce before putting pasta directly onto sauce in the sauce pan.  Coat the pasta, and garnish with pine nuts, cheese, herbs.  
  • You may even squeeze a bit of fresh lemon to liven up the flavors. 
  • I also have added a small amount of BBQ sauce for a rustic pasta dish that uses grilled chicken.
  • You may add a good tomato paste for a pasta "pink" sauce.
  • I may keep it vegetarian and add sliced, blanched vegetables.  This would make it a traditional "Pasta Primavera".  My favorite vegetables to use would be: yellow squash & carrots, sliced and cut on the diagonal, small broccoli florets,slivered onion and snow pea pods.   
  • Sometimes a nice crunch is a pleasant surprise in a pasta dish.  Use pine nuts for a pleasant  addition.

Pasta For A Crowd

For feeding a crowd this is my go- to recipe.  A creamy pasta with chicken.  My flavors vary by my mood,  but the foundation stays the same. I make the cream sauce, boil the pasta, add my meat and finish with the herbs or other ingredients.  The pasta of choice is based on who my crowd is and what the seating arrangement might be like.  If its standing, a serve a penne or bowtie.  If we sit, I might serve a linguini.  I don't like fettuccine size and a spaghetti noodle can be a bit old fashioned (unless its Carbonara). 
I have adjusted my original recipe to feed a crowd of 25.

 The Foundation:
  • 2 lbs. real butter
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
  • 1 bottle of good white wine ( I like a Reisling or Pinot Grigio)
  • 1/2 gallon of heavy cream
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Tarragon or other herbs of choice 
  • Freshly shaved  Asiago or  Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta of choice

  1. Melt butter in a saute pan. 
  1. Add garlic. Saute 1 minute. 
  1. Add wine and reduce to about half. 
  1. Add cream, salt and pepper, HERBS. Simmer until a bit thicker.
 I use 1 lb. of pasta per 5 people. 
 Basic cooking instructions are found here ( I do 2 1/2 lbs at once)
  • Add about 1 cup of the pasta water to the sauce.  
  • Reserve 1 cup of  sauce before putting pasta directly onto sauce in the sauce pan.  Coat the pasta, and garnish with pine nuts, cheese, herbs.  You may even squeeze a it of fresh lemon to freshen up the flavors. 
  • I also have added a small amount of BBQ sauce for a rustic pasta dish that uses grilled chicken.
  • You may add a good tomato paste for a pasta "pink" sauce.
  • I may keep it vegetarian and add sliced, blanched vegetables.  This would make it a traditional "Pasta Primavera".  My favorite vegetables to use would be: yellow squash & carrots, sliced and cut on the diagonal, small broccoli florets,slivered onion and snow pea pods.   
  • Sometimes a nice crunch is a pleasant surprise in a pasta dish.  Use pine nuts or breadcrumbs to top it off. 


How to Boil Pasta

The type of pasta you use should be based on the recipe you plan to make. Ridged pasta, for example, is best for absorbing pasta sauce.
Every type of pasta has a different cooking time. Egg pasta, for example, cooks much more quickly than dried wheat pasta. When cooking pasta, bare in mind that it will continue to cook even once it has been drained, tossed with the sauce and served. If you like your pasta al dente, or plan to finish cooking the pasta in the pan with the sauce, it is advisable to drain the pasta 2 minutes before the time indicated on the box.

The average portion size is 3.5 oz per person. If your menu includes multiple courses, consider serving only 3 oz  per person.

The rule should be 1 lb pasta, 1 gallon of water, 1 TBS and 1 TSP of salt.
These proportions will give the pasta plenty of room to cook in and will allow the water to come to a boil quickly.

With regards to the actual cooking process, just be sure to follow these simple steps:

  1. Fill a large, tall pot with water and place over high heat.
  2. When the water begins to boil, add salt. After the salt has dissolved and the water is really boiling, add pasta to the water and stir frequently the first two minutes, then occasionally until the end of the cooking process. Before draining the pasta, taste it to see if it is cooked to your liking.
  3. If the pasta is “al dente,” you should feel a slight resistance when you bite into it or cut it with a fork. There should also be a thin white vein at the center.
Remember,  you plan to toss the pasta in a pan with the sauce, you should drain it when it is al dente. If, instead, you plan to serve it with pesto, it is advisable to follow the cooking time on the box. 
If you plan to make a pasta salad, place the pasta in a bowl of ice water and olive oil immediately after draining to stop the cooking process.

February 26, 2013

Liebster Blog Award

Yesterday I received a blog award from ginger, lemon & spice called  The Liebster Blog Award! 
The Liebster Blog Award is given to new bloggers that only have about 200 followers. ‘Liebster is German for dearest, loveliest or favorite.I noticed your blog and would like to pass the award on to you.  This is a vehicle to help you connect with other new bloggers and to mutually encourage one another.  Have fun!
liebster blog award
There are some rules to accepting this award:
1. Each awarded blogger will post 11 random facts about themselves
2. 11 questions provided by the sender have to be answered
3. 11 new bloggers have to be chosen to which the award will be passed on
Go to their pages, tell them about the award and pass on the link to your post!
So it is kind of a blogger chain mail. This is a nice way to hep promote new blogs and to  get to know the owners.
So here it goes: 11 random facts about me:
1.I live in South West Michigan, on the Great Lake Michigan
2. I am an only child
3.I love to cook for people and plan events 
4. I studied Criminal Justice and Social Work at the University of South Florida
5. I a a member of a Reformed Baptist Church.  Many have never heard of that.  Here is a link!
6. I have 4 boys who are all very different from one another but great combinations of their parents!
7. I lived in Florida at 2 separate times in my life...even 2 years in Key West!
8. I want to travel to France and Italy.  My oldest son was able to go to England and France last summer. 
 9. I cannot draw
10. I love being home
11. My hobbies are food and catering.

So now is the time to pass this award along!
I looked through Facebook pages that I am associated with and really enjoy.  I would love to help promote their work.   Here they are:
Mumsfilibab.  Nordic food
My Turn For Us
Christines Pantry.  Easy & affordable cooking with a dash of history 
Food Blog Life  A food blog community
Our Little Family Adventures  Family food blog
Life, Liberty an the Pursuit of Foodiness
Getting Stuffed 
Gourmet on the go Gourmet food made easy
Tips For Delicious and Healthy Cooking
Good Food and Useful things 
These were the questions asked by ginger, lemon & spice
1. What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten? Probably alligator ( I lived in Florida)
2. Summer or winter? SUMMER!!!!!
3. What did you dream of becoming when you were growing up? a lawyer
4. What is your profession? Homemaker
5. Beer or wine? BOTH
6. What are your hobbies besides blogging? catering and nutrition
7. What is your favorite band?
8. Is there a food you hate? venison
9. Sweet or salty snacks? BOTH.  One after the other!
10. Coffee or tea? Coffee
11. What was the first blog you read? Can not remember.

Now, Here are my 11 Questions:
1.  Where do you live NOW?
2.  What made you decide to bog?
3.  What was the number one tool that helped you get started?
4.  Share a blog address that INSPIRED you.
5.   What are your goals for your bog?
6.  How do you take your photos?
7.  How much time do you spend per day/week on your blog or Facebook interactions?
8.  What do you like most in a blog post from others?
9.  What are other hobbies that you have besides blogging?
10. Favorite blog?
11. Favorite ingredient? 
Fun stuff.  Please just cut and paste into a new blog post changing the information to suite YOU!  I hope you get more traffic to your blog because of it.  

Almond Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Cherry BBQ Sauce

These dates were part of the second course of my Spanish inspired, tapas dinner last weekend.  They were the most talked about item on the menu.  When guests were asked about their evening, the dates were mentioned in EVERY CONVERSATION!  They loved them.  I believe they will be used on several of  my menus for years to come.  

20 fresh dates
20 whole blanched almonds
1 lb. of bacon
Cherry BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  1. Heat oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut each piece of bacon into 3 strips.  Set aside
  3. Using a knife, cut a slit vertically down the date to remove the pit.
  4. Replace the pit with an almond and close by pressing together.  (The pit looks just like an almond so be careful you don't mix them up).  
  5. Wrap each date in a piece of bacon.
  6. Place your date on a baking sheet or a cast iron skillet. (I used a skillet)
  7. Brush with bbq sauce
  8. Heat dates about 15 minutes until bacon is cooked and browned.  Keep checking to make sure it doesn't burn!
  9. Take out of the oven and brush with a bit more sauce.  
  10. Serve hot.  

Cherry BBQ sauce
1 small jar of cherry preserves
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of ketchup
2 TBSP. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of molasses
1/4 cup of honey
2 tsp. of dry ground mustard
salt to taste
  1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until combined and sugar is dissolved.
  2. Push through a sieve for a smooth consistency.
  3. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Some people like it sweeter, some like more of a vinegar flavor.  

February 22, 2013

Sherry's Shepard's Pie

I just made this last night- a flashback to my childhood in Western Massachusetts.
One of the only dishes my stepfather would make for dinner.  Pure comfort food.  This meal actually defined the idea of comfort food for  me.  When someone even brings up the phrase, this is 1 of 3 dishes I picture.  I love the contrast of creamy sweet corn that bubbles from underneath  the salty potatoes.
Last night  I needed a recipe that was something I could make quickly  and would be easy to heat up as everyone was  coming home at different times.  
You basically, brown the beef, make mashed potatoes and open a few cans of cream corn. Layer the ingredients  and there you have it.  
I like to put the potatoes on the top so they form a nice crust.  Then I pat it with some butter just before taking it out of the oven.  
For the potatoes:
4 pounds golden potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons chopped chives  
  1. Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. 
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. 
  4. Meanwhile, heat the cream and 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. 
  5. Mix the potatoes with hand beater or stand mixer to desired consistency. 
  6. Add remaining butter to help with beating. 
  7. Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. 
  8. Mix together with a spoon and add the chives.

For the meat filling:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cans of creamed corn


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. 
  2. Once the oil heats, add the onion and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. 
  3. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 7 minutes.
  4. Pour the beef mixture into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the corn, then spread with the potatoes, nice and evenly.
  5. Sprinkle with favorite season blend.  I use Emeril's Essence.
  6. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until heated through with a light golden top.

February 20, 2013

Asparagus Tart w/ Balsamic

I first came across this recipe from a Demarle At Home demonstration.  It was like candy.   All the guests were freaking out about how gorgeous the tart was and how amazing the flavors and textures were together.  This tart is perfect for a nice brunch with friends or served on a buffet for 50.  It holds up well and is extremely versatile.  Top the tart with a mix of fresh greens, sprinkle with your  favorite salad dressing or serve it along side a nice grilled steak.  You could even add  ham or prosciutto.  Use your favorite quiche ingredients. Tons of possibilities.

 Yields: 20 appetizers
INGREDIENTS: 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2 Cups Gruyere cheese,shredded
1 1/1 lbs medium or thick asparagus
Balsamic vinegar (tastes even better when it is reduced)
Herbs de Provence (optional) or fresh ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place oven rack in center position. Place puff pastry a stick-free  mat . Gently rollout to a 16” x 10” rectangle. 
  2. Cut straight edges around the pastry
  3. Place pastry on a silicone mat
  4. Score the pastry dough one inch from the edge making an inner rectangle. With a fork gently pierce the inner rectangle once or twice per inch. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 
  5. Remove from oven. Sprinkle cheese atop the pastry.
  6. Trim the asparagus to fit the inner rectangular of the pastry. 
  7. Place asparagus in a single layer over the cheese and alternate the tips and ends. Season with Sea Salt and pepper and bake until tender, about 20-25 minutes.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and Herbs de Provence OR fresh pepper

Try drizzling our Demarle Apple Pear Balsamic Vinegar on top of this tart…amazing!

February 19, 2013

Cumin Chicken Croquets

This is my first recipe to develop for my Spanish inspired tapas style dinner event this week.  We have 6 courses and a strolling classical guitarist who will play spanish music.  We are very excited to put this on and pray all the courses come together smoothly.  I have about 10-12 young people who will be preparing and serving.  I do this several times a year at church:  Spring Lunch and Valentines Dinner.  My mission is to encourage the young ladies (and gentlemen) in the importance of preparing your own food and serving others through hospitality.  We should have about 50-60 guests.  Oh my. 
This is the original recipe, however I am using Chorizo to give it the spanish flair I am looking for.  Serrano ham could also be used.  

Keep in mind you need to begin the process, at the very least, 2 hours ahead of time. You may even begin the day before. 

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, minced fine
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
4 cups  cooked chicken
1 cup dry bread crumbs
salt and fresh pepper
1/4 fresh  lime


2 eggs , beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs (I use panko)
Flour for coating

1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)

  1. I n a large pan, melt the butter, add the onions, and sauté until translucent.
  2. Stir in 1/3 cup flour to make a roux – add more butter if necessary to make a smooth roux. Gradually whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce. 
  3. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens. Your sauce should be quite thick.
  4. Whisk in nutmeg, sherry, and parsley. Fold in the chicken and one cup bread crumbs.
  5. Let simmer for five minutes on low heat. Season accordingly.
  6. Pour mixture into a bowl and refrigerate about 1 hour so that you can easily form the croquets with your hands. 
  7. Shape the chicken mixture into balls about 1 TABLESPOON.  Some people also form them into disks.
  8. Roll balls into flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.  
  9. IMPORTANT: Cover croquets with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  10. Heat oil to about 350.  Place croquets in oil and cook until golden brown- three to four minutes, turning occasionally.
  11. Remove  and drain on paper towels.
  12. Squeeze lime just before serving.
  13. Serve with  cilantro aoli.
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