Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jazzed up Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Herb Butter

As a kid, I loved spicy, super-garlicy sausages.  So did all of my family.  Then, I married a guy who did not really care for sausages. Sometimes I crave for it but all the beef sausages I find are stuffed in natural hog casing.  So from time to time I'd make my own beef sausages, stuff them in sheep casing (!!!) or I just wrap them in plastic then freeze them to keep their shape when cooking. They never were quite as good as the ones I had as a child. My son never liked beef sausages specially my homemade version.

One day, FoodBuzz Tastemakers Program sent me a Party Planner Gift Box to try out.  It was a Home for the Holiday Gift Box from Hickory Farms.  It had beef summer sausages, cheeses, honey pineapple mustard and cracked wheat crackers.  Hickory Farms has been making gourmet beef sausages and cheeses since 1951 and this time of the year they offer gift boxes at very reasonable prices.  Right now they are 50% off. 
My failed experiments in making beef sausages must have given these sausages a bad rap with my son.  He did not even want to try them!
Last night, he had friends over and they wanted baked potatoes but I did not have sour cream, green onions and cheese.  Instead of heading to the store, I made a garlic herb butter and hasselback potatoes with slices of beef sausage in between.  Guess what?  It was a big hit with the boys!  Better than baked potatoes is what I heard. Even my son said the beef sausage was crazy delicious! 

Jazzed up Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Herb Butter

2 lbs baking potatoes
2 sticks of salted butter, softened at room temperature
3-4 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced 
lots of finely minced parsley
3 mm round slices of Hickory Farms beef sausage, cut in half

To prepare the garlic herb butter, mix softened salted butter, fresh minced garlic and parsely in a small bowl. Stir well until garlic and parsely is well distributed.  Take plastic wrap and shape the garlic herb butter into a log.  Place in the freezer to solidify. If you are on a low salt diet, go ahead and use unsalted butter.

Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush and rinse well to remove any adhering soil particles.  Do not peel the potatoes. Boil the potatoes and when they are almost completely cooked, drain the water and lay them on their flat side.  Start from one end of the potato, cut across almost all the way through, at 2-3 mm intervals. The potatoes should now look like an open accordion.

Insert slices of garlic herb butter and/ or half discs of beef sausage into the cuts. Place potatoes on a baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated oven at 400 F until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy outside.  The inside will be soft and buttery.  When serving up, top with more garlic herb butter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Quinoa Corn Salad

Have you heard of red quinoa? My friend Janet introduced me to this seed crop from the Andes where ancient Incas revered it and referred to quinoa as the "Mother of all Grains".  It is a high protein, high fiber "grain" similar to oats in that it has all 20 essential amino acids nutritionally important for humans.  Best of all, it's easily digestible and gluten-free so it's a boon to people with difficulties digesting gluten.

We found red quinoa on sale for less than $3 a pound at a bulk organic food outlet. It was a bargain considering a pack of eight 16 oz pouches can cost about $40.  If you soak it for a few minutes before boiling, it cooks faster and swells up and 1 cup of uncooked quinoa is enough for two people.  I really like its mild nutty flavor that goes well with corn and cilantro and a light vinegar dressing.  Here is a yummy, nutritious and easy side dish that can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature. 

Red Quinoa Corn Salad
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup drained, sweet corn kernels (add more if you wish)
finely chopped cilantro
about 1 T seasoned rice vinegar* (you can adjust the acidity to taste)

Soak red quinoa  for about 10 minutes in 2 cups water.  Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it in running water. This step removes saponins (a mild laxative) and makes it even more digestible.  Pre-rinsed quinoa is available too if you prefer to skip this step.  Cook quinoa in a rice cooker with 2 cups water or cook covered in a pot at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes till nearly all the water is absorbed and the cooked germ looks like a tiny curl separating from the red seed coat and the cooked "grain".  Fluff up the quinoa with a fork and place in a bowl. Add drained sweet corn kernels, cilantro and seasoned rice vinegar. Serve and enjoy!

*One time, we tried balsamic vinegar but it tended to overpower the flavors.

This post is part of this weeks Simple Lives Thursday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in my sling backpack? Jackfruit Custard Bonbons!

If I asked you to name one thing you can't do without when you step out of the house, what would it be?   For me, it's my bag.   With never-ending deadlines and a gazillion things I have to do at work and home, I rely on sling_backpacks to make sure I don't forget stuff.  They're handy specially at parties or picnics. Along with keys, purse, etc, I often pack cookies or other treats (for emergencies..LOL) in my bag . What's in it right now? Jackfruit Custard Bonbons for a party!

Custard bonbons are simple to prepare.  What makes these special is the addition of jackfruit. Jackfruit is a tropical fruit found in South-East Asia. The edible part of ripe jackfruit is brilliant yellow-orange in color and sugary sweet.  It can be eaten raw or in desserts.  It's unique aroma is sweet and inviting.  A little fruit goes a long way.
I learned this family recipe for Jackfruit Custard Bonbons when my in-laws stayed with us for more than a  month.  These festive bonbons are absolutely delicious so I'm sharing the recipe with you. They were my hubby's favorite treat as a child and now my son's too!

Jackfruit Custard Bonbons

1 can condensed milk
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoon flour
1/2 tablespoon of melted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped jackfruit or 1 tsp jackfruit extract

In a bowl, combine egg yolks, flour and condensed milk.  Pour mixture into a saucepan and cook the custard slowly over medium-low flame.  Keep stirring to ensure that the custard cooks evenly without scorching the milk.  It will take a while for custard to thicken.   Blend in the jack fruit pieces when the custard attains the consistency of dulce de leche.  Cook 2 minutes more while stirring.  Transfer custard to a bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes. Shape into tiny balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature. You'll love these!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ile de France Normandie Camembert and Creamy Holiday Camembert Puffs

Happy Thanksgiving!  Last month, I received a sample Ile de France's Normandie Camembert Cheese.  This is a soft-textured cheese, extremely creamy with a deliciously earthy, rustic flavor.  It is made in the town of Pace in Normandie, believed to be the birthplace of Camembert cheese.  The milk used to make the cheese is taken from cows that leisurely graze on lush vegetation.  Within 48 hours, the milk is transformed into this savory, fresh-tasting creamy fromage that can be enjoyed as is or in appetizers,salads, entrees, desserts and snacks.


This cheese is delicious on sesame seed crackers. But I decided to make Holiday Camembert Puffs with just three ingredients, Camembert cheese, kiwi and apple butter.   The apple butter was from an Amish store in Branson we visited last month and for a quick and easy dough, I used store-bought buttermilk biscuit dough.


First, I split each dough portion in the middle to create two discs. Then, I placed a slice of Camembert cheese, kiwi and a teaspoon of apple butter in the center of one. I laid the other disc over the first and sealed the edge with a fork. I baked the pastry till they were golden brown.   These puffs were easy to make and the taste was so amazing!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winners of $50 Hormel Coupons Giveaway

Yay! LAGirl70094 and TheMomChef are winners of the $50 Hormel Coupon Giveaway. Congratulations!  Please email your postal address to momgateway@gmail.com. Thank you so much to all who participated!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Warm and Comforting Porcini Mushroom-Onion Soup Pasta with Parmesan Crisp

Voting at MarxFoods will be from Nov. 15-19, 2010.  Thanks!
For the Truffles, Pasta and More Recipe Challenge at MarxFoods. I had to create a dish using pappardelle pasta from Italy, porcini mushrooms, black truffle salt and fennel pollen.  Some of the ingredients were totally new to me so I first tasted each one.  Pappardelle pasta are very broad fettucini or ribbon pasta about 3/4 inch wide.  When cooked al dente, they were very pleasant and satisfying so I though they'd be perfect with a rich broth or a flavorful sauce.  The rehydrated porcini mushrooms had a strong-nutty, complex, almost meaty taste.  Personally, they taste better than shitake and portabella mushrooms.

The black truffle salt had a woodsy, heady flavor and the strong anise aroma of fennel pollen was very enticing. I felt a tiny pinch of both would go a long way.  The ingredients I received could stand on their own with minimal infusion of other flavors so I decided to make a porcini mushroom-onion broth with pasta and blanched vegetable ribbons then added parmesan crisps with fennel pollen as a crispy element to the dish.

For the porcini mushroom-onion broth, I used:
1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups beef stock or consumme
black truffle salt

For the parmesan crisps:
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
fennel pollen

Here's what I did.  First, I soaked dried porcini mushroom slices in warm water then I chopped most of them finely but left some pieces intact for the plating.  Next, I melted butter and sauteed the chopped onions till they caramelized and added the minced and sliced pieces of porcini mushroom.  After 5 minutes, I poured beef stock into the pot and let the porcini-mushroom broth simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes to extract the full-bodied flavors.  Then, I cooled down the broth and strained it through cheesecloth to get the clear essence of the mushroom and onions.  I sprinkled black truffle salt into the porcini mushroom-onion broth and let it boil vigorously just before serving it with the pappardelle pasta and vegetable ribbons.
While waiting for the broth to be ready, I boiled the pasta.  It took 14 minutes for the pappardelle pasta to cook al dente.   Then, I made zucchini and carrot ribbons with my vegetable peeler and blanched the vegetable ribbons in vigorously boiling salted water for 1 minute then I quickly cooled them down in a huge bowl of ice water. 

To make parmesan crisps, I placed small mounds of shredded parmesan cheese on a Silpat baking sheet,topped them with fennel pollen and baked them at 350 F for a few minutes till the cheese were golden-brown and crispy.  I kept checking the oven to make sure the cheese.did not burn  The results were so pretty and flavorful.

Once all the components were ready, I plated the pasta, carrot and zucchini ribbons and the porcini mushroom slices in a bowl and poured in piping hot, porcini mushroom-onion broth.  A sprinkling of  black truffle salt and they were ready to serve. The parmesan crisps were a perfect foil for this warm and comforting pasta dish.  Just right for the cool autumn weather!
Voting at MarxFoods will be from Nov. 15-19, 2010.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Round-up of Grow Your Own #46

 This month, the submissions for GYO was awesome. Let's check out what our dear foodies cooked up with what they grew in their gardens and received as gifts from friends and family.
Shannon of  Tri to Cook (Boston, Massachusets, USA) used porcini mushrooms she received as a gift and created a homemade Wild Mushroom Pasta from scratch! Fresh pasta cooks so quickly and the flavor is amazing!  More so when topped with Mushroom-Goat Cheese Sauce.  Can I have a plate please?
Jenny of Southernfriedcurry (Georgia, USA) made a super spicy jalapeno carrot pickle with the bountiful harvest of jalapenos from her garden (she used 13 jalapenos for this recipe!!) and rainbow carrots.  The spicy pickles go so well with quesadilla and can jazz up any meal!

Heather of Girliehef (Indiana, USA) offers everyone a a luscious dessert with her pepitas and cinnamon streusel-topped skillet pear crisp from organic yellow pears she received from her generous neighbors. Yum!

I, Momgateway (USA) of Momgateway:Portal to Healthy Cooking and Recipes recently bought a stove-top smoker and decided to smoke tomatoes and habaneros from my container garden and pair them with homemade smoked salmon in an amazingly moist and delicious Smoked Salmon with Tomatoes and Habanero! You might also want to check out my "Healthy Zucchini Boat Pizzas" and $50 Hormel Coupon Giveaway.
Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe (Melbourne, Australia) roasted some cauliflowers and topped it with a sauce made with tahini and pomegranate syrup in Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce

Dorothy of Shockinglydelicious (California, USA) had leftover basil-honey dressing and decided to punch up the flavor of hard-boiled eggs in her Sweet Basil Deviled Eggs!

Soma of eCurry (Texas, USA) made Barley and Spinach Fall Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette with spinach from her garden, pears and pomegranates---perfect for fall!

Annie Kate of Teatime with Annie Kate (Ontario, Canada) made a huge batch of sauerkraut from the huge crop of cabbage they harvested.

This was GYO #46 round-up was so much fun!  Thanks to Andrea and everyone who participated in Grow Your Own #46.  If you are interested in hosting GYO, get in touch with Andrea of Andrea Meyers: cooking, gardening, & four hungry guys.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Healthy Zucchini Boat "Pizzas" and Two $50 Hormel Coupons Giveaway

Food Buzz Tastemaker Program sent me some coupons for Hormel meat products and samples of Hormel Turkey Pepperoni Minis.  I used the pepperoni for this healthy no fuss recipe that is cooked in the microwave. Cut up into smaller pieces, these zucchini boat "pizzas" can easily be served as side dish or appetizer. You can find the recipe and details for two $50 Hormel coupon giveaway at the end of this post (scroll down).

Healthy Zucchini Boat "Pizzas" 

8 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise (to create zucchini boats)
1/4 c carrot, finely diced
3 mushrooms, finely diced
1/4 c cilantro, finely miced
3 slices American cheese, finely diced or 1/2 c shredded sharp cheese
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1/4 c green onions, finely minced
1/4 c Hormel Turkey Mini Pepperoni

Spray a microwave-safe baking dish with cooking spray.
Use a teaspoon to carve out a groove down the center of each zucchini boat.
To make the stuffing, mix carrots, mushrooms, cilantro, green onion, Hormel turkey mini pepperoni, Parmesan and American/sharp cheese. Feel free to adjust this recipe if you want more cheese or more pepperoni or any other ingredient.  Divide stuffing among the zucchini boats and place stuffed zucchini boats in the microwave-safe baking dish.
Microwave on high for 3 minutes.  Check if the zucchini is tender. Microwave again at short intervals till the zucchini is soft.  The zucchini "pizzas" will be VERY HOT! Let cool for a few minutes before serving. 

To enter the Hormel Coupon Giveaway:
Simply answer this question in the comment section:  What is your favorite no fuss, go-to appetizer or side dish?  You can also email your answer to: momgateway@gmail.com so I can get in touch with you should you win.
There will be two winners for the $50 Hormel coupons (Cure 81 Ham products).  Drawing date will be November 15.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Salmon and My Shiny New Toy

On Thursday, I was browsing for console tables on the CSN website when there was a knock on the door.  It was the FedEx man with a package for me.  I ordered a stove top smoker two days earlier so I was not expecting it anytime soon.  As I tore open the box, I discovered that my shiny new toy was inside! Yes!...and it was just gorgeous! Plus, there were samples of 4 wood chips (alder, cherry, hickory and oak) and a cookbook.  Could not wait to try it out so I rushed to the store to get some salmon to smoke for dinner.
The cookbook recommended using alder wood chips to smoke salmon but hubby and I decided we'll try the hickory instead.  At first I placed the smoker over our kitchen range. We noticed a little smoke coming out of the sides.  It did not bother me at all but I remembered that mine was not a high performance range hood.  So, we decided to bring the smoker outdoors and use it over my portable gas range. We wanted to smoke salmon, not the kitchen! 
We brought out camp chairs, drinks and snacks and spent the next hour just hanging out and enjoying the perfect outdoor weather.  Soon our dinner was ready.  I decided to place the salmon in the oven for a few minutes to cook it longer and keep it warm as I set the table.  The salmon was super moist with just the right amount of smoke flavor! Wow! I'm not going back to liquid smoke!

Smoked Salmon, Tomatoes and Habanero
              1 whole salmon fillet
              1 1/2 tsp salt
              1 tsp sugar
              canola oil
Prep the smoker by placing a tablespoon of hickory wood chips in the middle of the smoker pan.  Place the smoker grill over it. Blot salmon fillet with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Drizzle a little oil on the salmon and rub the salt and sugar on the surface of the fish.  Sprinkle salt and oil on the tomatoes and habaneros.  Lay the fish, tomatoes and habaneros on the smoker grill.  Place smoker on stove top. Smoke salmon and veggies for 50 minutes or till the desired smokiness is achieved.  You may finish off the cooking in an oven. Serve warm and enjoy this succulent dish.

*I used habaneros and tomatoes freshly picked from my container garden.  This is my contribution to Grow Your Own # 46.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This Month I'm Hosting GROW YOUR OWN #46

Do you have a backyard vegetable garden?  Do you harvest seasonal fruits from your own trees?   Do you fish in your pond or a nearby lake, hunt game or forage for berries or mushrooms in the forest?  Have you received any homegrown produce or meats from friends that grow their own?  If so, please join us for GROW YOUR OWN # 46.  Created by Andrea Meyers,  it's a fun event celebrating what you've grown, fished, hunted, foraged or harvested from your own "backyard" anywhere in the world.  Come share with us how you prepare what's in season now in your part of the world!

How to participate:

1. Make a dish that uses at least one item from your very own garden or farm and post about it. Your garden doesn’t have to be big, container gardens are welcome! If you hunted or foraged, those items are also eligible. You can also use something that was given to you, but the giver must have personally grown or raised the item. If you paid for it, then it doesn’t count.

2. Anything edible that you have grown or raised qualifies, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, sprouts, edible flowers, nuts, grains, legumes, dairy products, eggs, livestock, fish, etc.

3. Please make sure your dish is posted during the month of October.

4. Please include a link to THIS POST in your GYO post.

5. Send me an email momgateway@gmail.com by October 31, no later than 11:00 pm (Central time) with the following information:
      * Subject line: Grow Your Own #46
      * Your name and location (State, Country)
      * Your blog name and URL
      * Permalink to your post
      * Attach a photo for the round-up (I can just pull one from your post.)

I'll post the round-up at the beginning of November.  Can't wait to see what you all share with everyone!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Son's Favorite Brisket Sandwich

My son gets so excited when we have leftover brisket. He loves bringing home lunch to school and his current favorite is Grilled Brisket-Muenster Cheese Sandwich made with thickly cut brisket, pan-fried until the sides are crispy.   I like brisket with steamed jasmine rice but he prefers crispy, shredded brisket in a sandwich. This Grilled Brisket-Muenster Cheese Sandwich sticks to your sides.  It's spicy, hot and flavor-packed....Brisket + Siracha (a hot, red pepper sauce) + Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce makes a great combination.  We've been using Bulls-Eye Barbecue Sauce ever since our dear friend, Gary M, slathered Bull's-Eye on grilled burgers when they invited us for a barbie at their condo in Branson, MO three years ago!

Did you know?
Although brisket is a tough cut of meat, it has lots of connective tissue that gelatinizes and moistens the muscle fibers rendering the meat very tender when slow-cooked in a smoker, oven or braised a crock pot. It is a great cut not just for barbecue, pastrami and corned beef  but also for Korean and Chinese braised dishes and making beef bacon. How do you cook your brisket? How do you serve leftovers?  

Grilled Brisket-Muenster Cheese Sandwich

brisket slices (pan-fried then shredded)
honey whole wheat bread
Siracha sauce
Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce
Muenster cheese
Assemble the sandwich. Use butter or spray canola oil on the surface of a cast iron pan and grill the sandwich till golden brown on both sides. Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ribeye with Young Tamarind Leaves

My potted tamarind plants are loving the blisteringly hot weather outdoors.  They are budding like crazy and are sending out hundreds of young, succulent leaves.  These have a pleasant but sharp, tart flavor.  In south east Asian cooking, young tamarind leaves are traditionally used in stews, soups, chutneys, pulses, candies or jams.

With leftover grilled rib-eye staring at me in the fridge, I decided to do a rib-eye rice bowl makeover by briefly searing the cubed rib-eye in a pan, adding young tamarind leaves, cooked carrots, red bell peppers and a sweet and tangy sauce made with raw, organic honey and balsamic vinegar to tie everything together.

Did you know?
In South Asia and Africa, fresh leaves and fruit of tamarind is a common health remedy.  In many parts of India and Africa, it is used for digestive problems.  In Malaysia, Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia, a leaf infusion is used in managing malaria and fever.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dinner for Six

...because we live so far away and it's been difficult to get all our vacation times in sync.....it's been more than 10 years since my in-laws came to visit for an extended time. We're so excited.... they are staying with us for a month...hopefully enough for me to learn my mother-in-law's cherished family recipes...
They have their airline tickets... and are all set .... I'm frantically trying to get things ready.  New linens,  towels, cookware, flatware and a lot of other things are needed for the kitchen and bedrooms.  CSN  has a fabulous selection of dinnerware sets 

and a three section buffet server I'm eager to get.......really glad CSN offers free shipping.

There's so much to do and certainly it will be toxic as the day draws closer but we're thrilled they're coming!

Dinners will be for six---a sister from New Orleans and my sister-in-law from L.A. will be flying in too.....so... been hinting to hubby that I need a
                                            Kitchen Aid mixer or a Le Creuset in flame
                                                                       or cobalt, 
                                                         an immersion blender and
                            a kitchen torch for the crème brulee, halibut and steaks...
..... my wish list of items to buy from CSN keeps getting longer....... hubby will say I need to prioritize but ....problem is...I want them all!