Friday, September 25, 2009

Creamy Cucumbers & Onions

Cucumbers & Onions...a perfect summer potluck dish! Every family has their own version of this summer favorite, but we have to tell you...this one right here is our favorite! My grandma and mom always made cucumbers and onions with milk, vinegar, and little bit of sugar...and I liked them, but this version really adds some creamy goodness to the cooling sensation of the cucumbers. We'll never go back to the old way, we promise you that! I make these several times per summer, because I have a huge issue with planting too many cucumbers. Every year, I decide to only plant two or three, but then the panic sets in.

"What if two of them die?"
"What if one plant only yields yucky yellow cucumbers?"
"What if I don't get enough to make cucumbers & onions????"

So then I go and plant an entire 12 foot row. And what I end up with is a huge wheelbarrow full of big green cucumbers. Oh sure, I could invite all the gals in my neighborhood over to sit around on the deck, sipping mimosas with cucumber slices on our eyes, eating cucumber sandwiches and listening to Harry Connick Jr., but ....hey! Wait a minute! THAT'S an idea!! The whole "wheelbarrow full of cucumbers" thing doesn't sound so miserable as before! I'll have to keep that idea in mind for next summer! Anybody want to join us?

HOWEVER, if you don't have enough cucumbers to have a Harry Connick Jr./cucumber party with your best girlfriends, feel free to try out this recipe. It will still knock your socks off!

Creamy Cucumbers & Onions

2 large cucumbers
1 large onion
3/4 c. sour cream
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
salt & pepper

Slice your cucumbers and onions and place them in a large bowl. You can leave the peels on the cucumbers if you like...we always do! In another bowl, mix the sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper together. Pour the sour cream mixture over the cucumbers and onions, cover and chill for 2 hours or so to let the flavors meld. We like to sprinkle them with freshly ground pepper just before adds a nice little kick!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Green Bean Spaghetti

Okay people, Fall is upon us and we love Fall! We just have a teeny tiny issue with the season that follows it, but the important thing is to live in the moment we are in and THAT moment is Fall.

This Spaghetti dish can be made at any time throughout the year, but we usually dream of fresh garden salads when it's hot and summery, and a little more comforting foods as the temperature drops a few degrees. So for us, this simple spaghetti wonder springs to mind as soon as the leaves start-a-changing.

This is a favorite standby recipe and if you have any sort of pantry, you usually have the ingredients on hand if you're in a pinch. It also makes for fantastic leftovers.

Green Bean Spaghetti

One Pound Hamburger cooked with One Small Onion
1/2 Pound Spaghetti al dente'
Two 14-Ounce Cans of French Style Green Beans, drained
One Cup Cheddar Cheese
28-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes with juice
One 14-Ounce Can Cream of Mushroom Soup*
7-Ounce Can Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pinches of Basil, Thyme, and/or Oregano for flair

Mix all the ingredients together and pour in a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 until heated all the way through.

That's it!

Simple and Stellar!


*Special Note: If you do not wish to use Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup due to the MSG content, we have an easy substitute.

One Tablespoon Salted Butter
One Tablespoon Flour
One Cup Milk
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
Can of Mushrooms

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add flour and dried mustard and stir. Add milk and whisk until all three ingredients become one. Add mushrooms. Stir constantly until sauce thickens. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lemon Cream Chicken

It was April 5th, 2003 when we both took our first heavenly bite of this lemony chicken. We remember the night very clearly because most of our dinners together are filled with much conversation and laughter, but that night, the table was so quiet you could almost hear a pin drop - that is, if it wasn't for the "mmmm's" and "ahhhhh's" that echoed throughout the room. Even Barry was a very happy man. We all looked at each other that evening with dopey pride, because we knew we had just stumbled upon something truly great. This recipe is one of the six dinners we always serve while vacationing at the ocean with friends, which says a lot!


If you want a night to remember, all you need is chicken!

Bok, Bok!

Lemon Cream Chicken

1/2 Cup + One Tablespoon Flour, divided
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves
1/4 Cup Butter
One Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Pound Sliced Mushrooms
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
One Cup Whipping Cream

Take a large sized ziploc bag and put 1/2 cup flour, salt, pepper, and chicken inside. Shake it baby, shake it baby, shake it like that!! (name that song!) Now take out your largest skillet, put the butter inside, and heat it up. When the butter is melted, but not browned, place the chicken in the skillet and cook it for about 8-9 minutes on each side, until the juices run clear. Does your kitchen smell good yet?? It should!

Remove those luscious chicken breasts from the pan and keep them warm in a covered dish. Don't scrape the pan clean!! We need all of that yumminess that's stuck all over the inside of it. That's where the flavor is! Now add your chicken broth to the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Give it a stir, just for fun, and then let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Here comes the best part! Stir in 3/4 cup of the cream, lemon juice, and mushrooms. Mmmmmm!!! Cook this creamy goodness for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat. While that's cooking, combine the remaining 1 tbsp of flour and 1/4 cream in a small bowl and mix it until it's smooth. Now, stir this into the skillet. Yes, we DID just use a whole cup of cream...schedule an extra workout this week and get over it!! It'll all be worth it in the end, we promise!

Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring for 2 minutes until it gets thick. We know you can't resist tasting it... go ahead...we give you permission!! Isn't it gooood?? Now finish it off by returning the chicken to the pan and heating it through.

Move the chickens and the sauce they bathe in, into a fancy serving dish because these lemoned chickens deserve ONLY the best!


Chicken....and a night to remember!


OH! And we LOVE to drench each and every bite in the lemony really helps the calorie count go up by leaps and bounds! :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chocolate Mandarin Ice Cream

For all of you out there with ice cream makers, have a seat in the front row and prepare to take notes. For those of you we have yet to convince that owning your own ice cream maker is one of the most important things you will ever do for you and your family, this is the time to axe the cable for a month and use the money saved to buy yourself an ice cream maker.

Of course there are other options, such as borrowing your neighbors', presenting this recipe to a good friend who does own a maker and begging them to make it for you, or just sitting there, reading this, and crying because this flavor cannot be found in the store, which means you're going to miss out on something fabulous! I know that would certainly make us cry!

My wonderful friend from Vermont, (who owns an ice cream maker), who can visit the Ben and Jerry plant anytime she wishes, passed along this little gem to me. Turns out, it was on page 46 in my Ben and Jerry Ice Cream Recipe Book that I got from my godson, Austin for my birthday last year. How did I miss that one?

This ice cream is not rich, not terribly sweet, but it is the perfect balance of chocolate and orange. I would dare say, "It's refreshing!" I could eat it every single day if I lived in a world where ice cream and broccoli were equally healthy and nutritous. But I do not, so I eat it as a dessert on special occasions. Do what you want depending on the type of world you live in.

Chocolate Mandarin Ice Cream

One Ounce Semi or Bittersweet Chocolate
One Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1-1/2 Cups Whole Milk
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Large Eggs
One Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup Orange Juice Concentrate

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot - not boiling - water. Gradually whisk in cocoa, stirring constantly, until smooth. (The chocolate may "seize" or clump together. Don't worry, the milk will dissolve it.) Whisk in the milk a little at a time, and heat until completely blended. Remove from heat and let cool.

Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy - 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about one minute more. Pour in the cream, orange juice concentrate, and vanilla and whisk to blend.

Pour the chocolate mixture into cream mixture and blend. Cover and refrigerate until cold - 1 to 3 hours.

Transfer to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is done "mixing" I like to give it a couple hours in the freezer to really let it set and firm up.

Special Note: If you want your ice cream NOW and you must have it NOW, you could skip the whole melting the one ounce of chocolate over the double boiler drama and skip to step number two - whisking the eggs......Just add the cocoa to those eggs along with everything else and the mixture can go right in the maker. You could have ice cream in less than 45 minutes if you really needed a quick fix. The one ounce of chocolate does add a speckled effect in the finished product that could probably be achieved by pulverizing the chocolate and throwing it in the mixture.

In short.....the one little ounce of chocolate does play a pertinent role here, but it could be left out and you would still have fantabulous ice cream. I know. I've done it!


(Go get yourself an ice cream maker!)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Summer Tomato Soup

I know we've had quite a few recipes on here lately featuring the almighty tomato, but you know what? There's just not a large span of time where tomatoes are good, so you have to do as much with them as you can when they're in season! And to be honest, we like to strike while the iron's hot, so to speak. This particular recipe is a wonderful way to use up all of those "not so pretty" tomatoes that pop up in your garden. You know, the ones you don't slice up when company pops in for lunch? Well, you just cut them all up for the soup, so it doesn't matter what they look like! Perfect!

We LOVE this summer soup, and whether it's served hot or cold, it's always very fresh tasting and delicious! I also freeze it in loaf pans, then put two "loaves" in each gallon-sized ziploc. That way, when you're craving a little taste of summer, you can just throw a "loaf" into a saucepan, heat it up, and voila...summer in a bowl!

Summer Tomato Soup

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp. creme fraiche, sour cream, or plain yogurt
salt & freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and carrot and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until just soft, stirring occasionally. Add the quartered tomatoes, chopped garlic and herbs. Lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Now, the original recipe calls for straining the soup, but I like mine I skip that part. But feel free to do whatever floats your boat, including adjusting all of the ingredients to your liking! I always add extra garlic, and sometimes extra tomatoes too. Just taste as you go along! Stir in the cream or yogurt and season with salt and pepper. I highly suggest using freshly ground pepper in this makes all the difference!

Also of note:The recipe calls for serving this soup chilled, but my family likes it warm with a scoop of sour cream and a few chives on top. Try it both's very versatile!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mango Muffins

If you're in the mood for scrumptious, exotic, mini-muffins, we have the perfect recipe for you! These little baby muffins are filled with lots of juicy mango bites, a splash of almond extract, a squeezing of OJ, and a happy shot of rum - just what the doctor ordered, right?

You've never worked with Mango before? You don't know how to cut one? No problem. We did a step-by-step demonstration on the magic of mango cutting just so you would be able to create these. Check it out!

Go ahead.....make 'em. You know you want to......


Mango Muffins with Rum
1/2 Cup Oat Flour
1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
One Cup Smashed Ripe Mango
One Tablespoon Coconut Oil ( or oil)
One Egg, beaten
One Tablespoon Orange Juice Concentrate
One Teaspoon Rum (optional really)
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mix. Combine mango, oil, egg, OJ, rum, and extracts; add liquid mix to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into greased and flour miniature muffin pans, or pans which have been lined with miniature muffin cups. ( OR use the silicone muffin "pan" like us) Fill 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans and let cool slightly on wire rack.

Aren't they Mangonificent?!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Magic Mango Cutting Trick

Looks like a beautiful flower, doesn't it? A flowering mango, maybe.

If you remember, our gregarious newcomer to the Tasting Parties, Teri brought us a box full of magnificent mangoes. When she offered them up to us, I was completely excited. When Patty asked if we wanted to see a demonstration on how to cut the mango, I said, "sure!", but was secretly thinking, "How tricky is this process that we need a demonstration?"

Patty even commented that I may want to take pictures to document the "procedure" to share with all of you. At first I agreed, but after the first two steps, it all seemed a little too mundane to be photographing, so I stopped and just observed.

She took us through each step as I politely followed along and I found it to be very helpful because I can tell you that I would have butchered the poor thing had she not demonstrated the proper way to do it, but still I would not had labeled the experience as "WOW!". That is until she revealed the magic trick at the end.


I was like a little kid at a clown show - grinning from ear to ear - thrilled and amazed at what I had just seen.

She took a plain looking fruit - no offense Mr.Mango - made a few slices with the knife and then Wa-La....Magic!

Now, I want to share that magic with you!

So.... Here is our plain looking Mr. Mango sitting tall side up. We don't want him lying on his side, we want him tall.

Using a large and killer sharp knife (maybe not killer sharp) cut the mango's sides off, getting as close to the seed as you can. If you're really doing it right, you might feel the side of the stone ( the mango has a large seed/stone). If you feel the knife graze the stone, just glide around it and follow through on your cut through the fruit.

Setting the two sides aside, pick up the middle piece and using the knife, peel away the skin - trying your best not the take much of the fruit with you. Then just chip away the fleshy mango from the stone until only the stone is left. In the photo below, you notice the large seed/stone in front, followed by the bites of mango, and then the peel that you'll discard to the compost.

THEN, take one of the sides in your hand, just like below, and score the fruit with your knife, making a crisscross pattern.

Then, use your fingers to push up from the bottom slowly.....

Keep pushing up.....


The Magic Mango Trick!

Was it as good for you as it was for me?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Perfect Poached Pear

Isn't she stunning?

A beautiful Bosc pear peeled and lovingly submerged in a sea of red wine, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, black peppercorns and vanilla beans in an effort to be transformed into a blushing, drunken pear.

Why take a perfectly good pear and soak it in red wine? Why not? Poaching a pear is a brilliant, yet simple way to dress up the everyday fruit and turn it into an elegant dessert. This is the perfect way to top off a meal when you or your guests do not wish to indulge in the more decadent desserts; such as chocolate mousse, strawberry cheesecake, or cherry pie.

We must insist you serve this Cinderella pear with freshly whipped cream, because it is the perfect compliment to it.

This is one of the easiest elegant desserts you'll ever make, you'll see.....

Poached Pears with Fresh Whipped Cream

One Bottle Dry Red Wine
One Cup Sugar
1/2 Vanilla Bean, seeds scraped and saved
One Cinnamon Stick
1/2 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
One Bay Leaf
6 Bosc Pears

Place everything but pears in a pot, bring to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes. Place pears in liquid; add enough water to cover pears. Place smaller lid over pears to hold them down if they float to the surface. Bring the liquid back to a bare simmer and cook pears until the can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife; roughly 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool pears and store them in the liquid until ready to serve. They can be kept in fridge for up to three days.

Serve each pear with freshly whipped cream, of course!