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Authors Posts by Jo Dale

Jo Dale

Jo Dale
138 POSTS 13 COMMENTS

I love potatoes!  It’s as simple as that.  It really doesn’t matter whether they are baked, scalloped, au gratin, mashed, boiled, hashbrowned, or in some other form.  Potatoes are just yummy.   But, if you are looking for a version that takes potatoes to the next level, try these Duchess Potatoes.  With egg yolks, cream, butter, and parmesan, these are stellar potatoes!


These look fancy but are not that hard to make.  The cooking process just takes two steps  First, you boil the potatoes and then you bake them.

To get started, peel some russet potatoes and cut them into 1 inch chunks.  Now they are ready for the first cooking process—boiling.  When boiling potatoes it is really important to place the potatoes in a pot and cover them with room temperature water.  You want the water and potatoes to heat up together so that the potatoes will cook evenly.  Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer the potatoes until a fork can be easily inserted and the potatoes are tender.  When the potatoes are tender, drain the water and return the potatoes to the warm pot for a couple of minutes to let the rest of the water evaporate.  Be sure the burner under the pot is turned off when drying the potatoes to prevent sticking and burning.

Using a potato masher, mash the warm potatoes until they are smooth.  Then add the egg yolks, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream to the potatoes. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine the ingredients into a smooth potato mixture. Be careful not to overmix the potatoes.  Just gently combine them until the butter is melted.

Now it is time to get the potatoes ready for baking, so transfer the potato mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.  Pipe round mounds of potatoes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Space them about 2 inches apart. This recipe will make approximately 8 mounds.  No pastry bag?  Don’t stress.  You can cut the corner off of a zip-top bag and push a large star tip through the hole.  No large star tip?  No worries.  Just use a zip-top bag with a cut-off corner to pipe the potatoes into mounds.  The potato mountains won’t have the nicely browned ridges, but they will still be delicious!

For the final touch, I like to dust the top of the mounds with a little finely-grated Swiss cheese.

Now it is time to bake these little snow-covered mountains of potato lusciousness.

They need to bake for about 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Be sure to rotate the baking sheet after the first 15 minutes.  When they are done, the ridges will be lightly browned and the outside will be a little crispy.

While these are intended to jazz up the looks of your dinner, you may have trouble getting all of them to the table.  You will just want to bite into that crispy exterior to reach the mouth-watering creamy interior the minute they come out of the oven.  No fork necessary.  Take my advice, do it and just Enjoy!

Duchess Potatoes
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds russet potatoes
  • 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • ½ kosher salt plus salt for the water to boil the potatoes
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup finely shredded Swiss cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment.
  3. Peel potatoes. Cut them into 1 inch chunks.
  4. Place the potatoes in a pot. Cover the potatoes with water. The water level should be 1 to 2 inches above the potatoes. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, turn the heat down to medium and simmer the potatoes until a fork can be easily inserted and the potatoes are tender. This will take 10 to 20 minutes.
  5. Drain the potatoes in a colander, removing as much water as possible.
  6. Return the potatoes to the pot and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to dry them further.
  7. Using a potato masher, mash the warm potatoes until they are smooth.
  8. Add the egg yolks, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream to the potatoes. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine the ingredients into a smooth potato mixture. Gently stir until the butter is melted. Do not overmix.
  9. Transfer the potato mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
  10. Pipe round mounds of potatoes onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Space them about 2 inches apart. This will make approximately 8 mounds.
  11. Sprinkle the potato mounds with Swiss cheese.
  12. Bake the potatoes for about 25-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after the first 15 minutes.
Notes
You can make the potatoes ahead of time and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to bake them. Just remember they may take a little longer to bake if forget to set them out to return to room temperature before baking!

© 2017 FoodieOasis

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These Chicken Cordon Bleu appetizers will be perfect for your party!  They are baked instead of fried, so you can even rationalize that they are good for you. 🙂  Just make a lot of them—they will go fast.

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I like to use boneless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts because they will stay more moist and have a more intense chicken flavor.  Just cut the thighs into small pieces and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

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Next you need some slices of Swiss cheese and ham, so head to the deli department of your favorite store.  Black Forest ham works great, but feel free to pick your favorite kind.  Then cut each slice into strips.  Each slice will yield three to four strips about 3/4 inch wide and 3 or 4 inches long.  The ham strips should be slightly longer than the cheese strips.

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Assembly time!  Start with a strip of ham and then place a strip of cheese on top.

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Now place a small piece of chicken on top of the cheese.  The chicken goes near the end of the strip.

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Start rolling!

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Use a toothpick to secure the ham, chicken and cheese roll.

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Now it is time for the breading.  You will need three bowls.  Place flour, salt and pepper in the first bowl.  Egg blended with a little water or milk goes in the second bowl.  Then panko bread crumbs seasoned with some fresh chopped thyme fills the third bowl.  The toothpicks not only keep the chicken rolls together, but they also make it a little less messy to coat the chicken.  First, lightly coat the chicken rolls with flour.  Don’t forget to cover the sides too!  Then dip them in the egg mixture.  A spoon is useful to get them completely coated.  Let the excess egg drip off.  Then coat the chicken rolls with Panko bread crumbs.  Again, make sure to coat the sides with crumbs too!  That will help keep the cheese from oozing out while they bake.

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Place the chicken rolls on a parchment-coated baking sheet.

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Lightly spray the rolls with cooking spray or oil from an oil mister.  Bake the chicken rolls in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove the toothpicks before serving.  You can serve the Chicken Cordon Bleu appetizers plain or with a dipping sauce.  A spicy, apricot sauce works great.  Just heat some apricot jam with a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Thin the sauce with a little water or soy sauce for the desired consistency.

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This recipe was inspired by, and is similar to, one of Rachel Ray’s recipes.  Click here to check out her recipe.  It is great too!  The difference is that I prefer dark meat for the chicken, fresh rather than dried thyme, and Panko rather than regular bread crumbs.  I also like to use toothpicks to make the whole process easier.

Enjoy!

© 2017 FoodieOasis

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Prime rib is a new tradition for us at Christmas.  When I was growing up and until very, very recently, we always had turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  You may find that surprising given that I grew up in Texas surrounded by all those ranches that produced outstanding beef, but most families I knew still roasted a turkey for the holidays.  But now I like to mix our traditions with new ones, so I have been venturing out and including prime rib on the menu either during the holidays.  Here is how I make an easy herb and black pepper crusted prime rib.

The first step is to set your prime rib out to come to room temperature.  You will need to allow at least 2 hours for this step.  While you are waiting, it is time to get the herb and black pepper rub ready.  Start with fresh rosemary and thyme.  For the 4-rib roast in the photo below, I used 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt and pepper and 2 to 3 tablespoons each of chopped rosemary and thyme.

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Mix the herbs, salt and pepper together and then added enough olive oil to form a wet paste.

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Now for the messy fun part! 🙂  Carefully slice the bones away from the main roast but leave them attached on one side.  Then using kitchen string, tie the bones back onto the main part of the roast.  The bones will form a nice rack for roasting the prime rib and will add moisture and flavor, but they will be easy to remove when you ready to slice the prime rib.  Then slather the herb, salt and pepper mixture all over the prime rib.

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Make sure to get some of the mixture on each end too.

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Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Place the prime rib on a roasting rack with the rib side down.  Roast the prime rib for 15 minutes at 500 degrees F.  Then turn the oven down to 325 degrees F and roast the prime rib until it is the desired doneness.  This will give the prime rib a nice sear on the outside while keeping the inside juicy.  The cooking time at 325 degrees F will be about 12-15 minutes per pound depending on the doneness desired, but you will want to start checking the prime rib early to make sure not to overcook it!  You can always cook it more, but you can’t un-cook it!

You will definitely want to use a meat thermometer to check the doneness.  To check the temperature, stick the thermometer into the center of the prime rib.  Make sure it is not touching the bones.  While not everyone agrees on what temperature represents what doneness, here is a handy chart you can use for a guideline.  Remember that when you remove the prime rib from the oven, it will continue cooking and the temperature will continue to rise.  It will rise at least 5 degrees as you let it rest for 20-30 minutes, so you will want to remove it from the oven when it is a few degrees below the desired doneness.

Rare—120-125 degrees F (Remove at 120 degrees F)

Medium Rare—130-135 degrees F (Remove at 125 to 130 degrees F)

Medium—135-140 degrees F (Remove at 135 degrees F)

Medium Well—145-150 degrees F (Remove at 145 degrees F)

Well—155+ degrees F (not recommended—the ends of the roast will be too done)

Also, remember that the prime rib will be more done at each end and gradually rarer as you move toward the center.  Therefore, most people aim for rare or medium rare in the center.

After you take the prime rib out of the oven, be sure to let it rest about 30 minutes so that the juices will redistribute throughout it and not be lost on the cutting board.  Tent it with foil to keep the heat in while it rests.

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Then cut off the strings and cut away the bones.  You are now ready to slice and serve your gorgeous prime rib!  But save the bones either for a nice snack or for flavoring soup.

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Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

 

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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These crunchy wontons are the perfect, bit-sized, edible appetizer cups.  Whether you fill them with guacamole, taco meat, bean dip, seafood salad, or any other tasty concoction, these will be the hit of the party!  You can find a number of recipes for these easy, go-to favorites, but here is how I make them.

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Just start out with a package of wonton wrappers.  I prefer the round ones, but the square ones will work too.  Lightly brush both sides of the wrappers with vegetable oil or give them a quick spritz of cooking spray.

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Then sprinkle them with a pinch of kosher salt to bake in a little added flavor.

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Mini-muffin pans are perfect for baking these.  Either brush or spray each cup in the muffin tin with vegetable oil to make sure that the wontons don’t stick.  I love these miniature silicon brushes for tasks like this!

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Now press a wonton wrapper into each muffin cup.  Be sure to press the folds of the wonton wrapper against the side of the muffin cup to ensure that the center opening in the wonton cup will be as large as possible.

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Now the wonton cups are ready to bake in a 350 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes.  Check them often and rotate the muffin tin at least once during baking to make sure they don’t burn.

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Let the cups cools on a rack and then fill them with our favorite filling.

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After these have cooled, you can also freeze the wonton cups in a zip-top bag and take them out as needed.  These are great to have on hand when you need a last minute appetizer.  They thaw almost instantly and are as crispy as when you first made them.

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Enjoy!  Watch for the next post with my favorite crab and shrimp fillings for the wonton cups!

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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You know the saying “Fall is in the Air”?  That is how I’ve been feeling.  The air is a little crisper, the leaves along my drive to work – even here in San Diego – are turning yellow and orange, and the sun is setting a little earlier each day.  And you know me, those changes are making me think of fall foods:  pumpkin, cinnamon, squash, apple cider, and Halloween candy! 🙂  These Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls are my first step to welcoming fall into my kitchen.  Hopefully, they will put you into that warm and fuzzy frame of mind too.

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I always had trouble making rolls and bread until I discovered the magic of my stand mixer and its dough hook.  Now, I have gained the confidence to even experiment with dough/bread recipes.  The secret to the tenderness and moistness of these rolls is buttermilk and pumpkin puree.  I just combined the ingredients in the mixer and then used the dough hook to knead the dough for 6 minutes.  Then it was time for the dough to hang out in an oiled bowl until it double in size.  The result was this beautiful, orange-tinted dough!

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The rest is easy.  I rolled the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, brushed it with melted butter, and then sprinkled it with a generous layer of brown sugar and cinnamon.  But don’t forget to flour the surface where you roll the dough or it will stick!

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Now it was time to seal that cinnamon sugary goodness inside the rolls, so I rolled the dough into a long log.

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Slice the roll into 1 1/2 inch slices for the perfect rolls.

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To make sure the rolls didn’t stick, I buttered a baking dish and placed the rolls cut-side up in the baking dish.  (I know, there are two cut sides.  Either one can be up. 🙂 ) Be sure to leave a little space between each roll so that they will have room to rise.  Remember this was an experiment, so I wasn’t sure how many rolls it would make.  It made 6 rolls, I could only fit 12 in my baking dish, so I buttered a pie pan and used it for the other rolls.

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It takes about an hour, or a little longer for them to double in size.  Alternatively, you can refrigerate them overnight and then set the out for 30 minutes or so before baking them the next morning.  I baked them in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until they were golden brown.  I wish you could have smelled the kitchen!  Wow!

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Of course, I think all cinnamon rolls need cream cheese frosting, so I made a cream cheese pecan frosting with butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and chopped pecans to ensure these were really the perfect kickoff for fall!

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I used about two-thirds of the frosting for the rolls and saved the rest for those of us that like to add a little extra during the tasting.  Get ready for ooey gooey goodness!  Enjoy and if you have any left over, they freeze well for another day.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 16
Ingredients
Dough
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pkg. yeast
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 4 cups flour
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¾ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. salt
Filling
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
Instructions
  1. Warm the buttermilk to 95-100 degrees F.
  2. Add the warm buttermilk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.
  3. Add the yeast and the sugar to the warm milk. Stir. Let the mixture stand 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the melted butter for the dough, egg, pumpkin puree and salt to the bowl. Turn the mixture on low and mix until the ingredients are combined.
  5. With the mixture on low, gradually add the flour.
  6. When all of the flour is added, turn the mixture to medium and mix until the flour is combined with the other ingredients.
  7. Stop the mixture and change the paddle to a dough hook.
  8. Turn the mixture to medium high and knead the dough for 6 minutes.
  9. Using vegetable oil, rub a bowl with the oil.
  10. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and let it rise for 1 to 1½ hours until it is doubled in size.
  11. Roll the dough on a floured surface until it is about 16 inches by 12 inches and ¼ inch thick.
  12. For the filling, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  13. Brush the melted butter for the filling onto the dough.
  14. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling evenly over the dough. Leave a narrow border (about ½ inch) without filling.
  15. Roll the dough along the long edge to form a log.
  16. Press the outside edge against the log to seal it.
  17. Cut the log into 1½ inch slides.
  18. Place the cut rolls, cut side up, in a buttered baking dish.
  19. Cover the rolls with a kitchen towel and let them rise 1 hour or so until doubled I size.
  20. Bake the rolls at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  21. Spread the cream cheese frosting (instructions below) on the warm rolls.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, softened butter and salt.
  2. Mix until fully combined.
  3. Stir in pecans.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Let’s talk about Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  First, in case you weren’t sure, rather than “brussel sprouts,” which is a common misspelling, these veggies are called “Brussels sprouts” because they are named after the city of Brussels.  As cauliflower season ends with the end of summer, Brussels sprouts come into season with the arrival of fall, so this recipe is a great transitional recipe to try as the seasons change.  But I must admit that I never was a big fan of Brussels sprouts as a kid, and I preferred cauliflower raw and crunchy rather than cooked.  Then as an adult, I learned that Brussels sprouts don’t have to be bitter and cooked cauliflower can be tasty.

But, if you are still skeptical, you may want to give this recipe for Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin a try because preparing veggies au gratin style makes almost any veggie better, and bacon makes everything better!  That means this scrumptious recipe, which combines both, has to be a winner, right?!  🙂

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To start, you need the florets from about 1/2 a head of cauliflower.  If you made the Roasted Cauliflower Steaks, then use the leftover florets.  (Click here for the Roasted Cauliflower Steak recipe.)
Cut the florets into small pieces so that each can be eaten in one or two bites.  Then quarter 6 Brussels sprouts.

To make sure the veggies are tender after they are baked, you need to pre-cook them a little.  Just bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and add the veggies to the boiling water for 4-5 minutes.  (You can cut back on the cooking time if you want to keep the veggies a little crunchy.) Then thoroughly drain them.

While the veggies are boiling, cook 1 slice of bacon and chop it into pieces.  The microwave is great for cooking the bacon!

While the veggies are draining and cooling a little, you can make the creamy cheese sauce.  To save on dirty dishes, use the same pot that you cooked the veggies in.  Just dry it out.  Add a tablespoon of butter and melt it over medium heat.  Then whisk in 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour.  Keep whisking for a minute or two to cook out the raw flour flavor.   Then whisk in a cup of milk.  (You can use skim milk or 1% milk if you want to save some calories.  It will still taste great.)  Heat the milk mixture until it thickens and add salt and pepper to taste.  I also like to add a dash of freshly grated nutmeg!  It will add extra flavor and make everyone wonder exactly what made the sauce so special.

When the milk mixture is thickened, turn down the heat and stir in an ounce of Havarti cheese and an ounce of sharp cheddar.  (If you don’t have any Havarti, you can just double the amount of cheddar.) When the cheese is melted, gently mix in the cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and bacon.  Transfer the veggies to a buttered baking dish.

Now for the crunchy topping.  Melt a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick skillet over low heat.  Then add 1/2 a cup of Panko breadcrumbs.  Stir the breadcrumbs until they just start to brown.  Watch them carefully or they will burn!  Then sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

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Bake the veggies in a 375 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes.  If the top is not brown enough after 30 minutes, then place the veggies under the broiler for a minute or two.  But watch them carefully to make sure that they don’t burn.

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Now it is time to enjoy your luscious, cheese-coated veggies!

Thanks to Ina Garten for inspiring this recipe with her Cauliflower Gratin Recipe. You can find the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe here.

Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin (Bacon Optional)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ a head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
  • 6 brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1 slice bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1½ Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 oz. Havarti cheese
  • 1 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut the cauliflower florets into small pieces so that each piece can be eaten in one or two bites.
  3. Quarter 6 Brussels sprouts.
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and add the veggies to the boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Then thoroughly drain them.
  5. Cook 1 slice bacon and chop it into small pieces. The microwave is great for cooking the bacon!
  6. While the veggies are draining and cooling a little, make the creamy cheese sauce. To save on dirty dishes, you can use the same pot that you cooked the veggies in. Just dry it out. Add a tablespoon of butter and melt it over medium heat.
  7. Whisk in 1½ tablespoons of flour. Keep whisking for a minute or two to cook out the raw flour flavor.
  8. Whisk in a cup of milk. (You can use skim milk or 1% milk if you want to save some calories.)
  9. Heat the milk mixture until it thickens
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add a dash of freshly grated nutmeg!
  11. When the milk mixture is thickened, turn down the head and stir in an ounce of Havarti cheese and an ounce of grated sharp cheddar.
  12. When the cheese is melted, gently mix in the broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bacon.
  13. Transfer the veggies to a buttered baking dish.
  14. For the crunchy topping, melt a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick skillet over low heat.
  15. Add ½ a cup of Panko breadcrumbs.
  16. Stir the breadcrumbs until they just start to brown. Watch them carefully or they will burn!
  17. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the cauliflower and broccoli.
  18. Bake the veggies for 25-30 minutes.
  19. If the topping is not brown enough, put the veggies under the broiler for a minute or two. Watch them carefully to prevent burning.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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I seem to crave fruits and veggies during the summer months, and I bet you do too!  With cauliflower currently in season, nothing could be easier than Roasted Cauliflower Steaks.  They make a satisfying and hearty side dish and can even serve as the centerpiece of a meal.  Think of them as vegetarian steaks!

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Each head of cauliflower will make two or three “steaks,” depending on the size of the head.  To cut the steaks, first peel away the green leaves, rinse the cauliflower, and cut a little off the bottom stem/stalk of the cauliflower.  Be sure to leave the stem/stalk intact because it will hold the florets together!

The goal is to cut steaks from the middle part of the cauliflower.  You can lay the cauliflower on its side and with one cut, take off the florets to the right of the stem.  Then cut the first steak about 1/2 inch thick by cutting a slice through the florets and stem.  Gently lay the steak on a parchment-covered baking sheet.  Repeat.  You should be able to cut one or two more steaks.  Save the extra florets for the Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin recipe coming up on FoodieOasis or your favorite cauliflower side dish!

It is time to season and roast the cauliflower.  Brush each steak with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  We all need a little extra spice in our life, right?  Right!  So add a little kick with some crushed red pepper flakes.   Roast for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees F.   Then place them under the broiler (watching constantly) for a minute or two to add some color.

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These are great just like this or herbify them with a little gremolata (click here for a gremolata recipe ) or pesto.  (I know, herbify isn’t really a word, but it describes what came to mind when I made this version.) Enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetarian
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 heads of cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Peel away any green leaves, rinse the cauliflower, and trim the stems.
  3. Leave the stems intact.
  4. The goal is to cut steaks from the middle part of the cauliflower. Lay the cauliflower on its side and with one cut, take off the florets to the right of the stem.
  5. Cut the first steak about ½ inch thick by cutting a slice through the florets and stem.
  6. Gently lay the steak on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
  7. Repeat. You should be able to cut one or two more steaks.
  8. Brush each steak with olive oil.
  9. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  10. (Optional) Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.
  11. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees F until barely tender.
  12. Then place under them under the broiler (watching constantly) for a minute or two to add some color.
  13. For added flavor, serve with gremolata or pesto.
Notes
Save the extra florets for another cauliflower side dish!

 

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Confetti Salad is my favorite pasta salad and is perfect for summer parties.  This recipe combines orzo pasta, colorful fresh veggies, and a vinaigrette to create a bowlful of scrumptious, edible confetti.   For a gluten-free version, just substitute rice for the orzo.  This Confetti Salad is a great main dish or side dish!

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To get started, cook 1 cup of dry orzo pasta or rice.  This will make at least 3 cups of cooked pasta or rice.  If you are using pasta, drain it.  Let the pasta/rice cool.  While the pasta/rice cooks, it is time to get the veggie add-ins ready.  I like to have a variety of textures—some crunchy and some soft and creamy.  To achieve this, leave some of the veggies raw (radishes, green onions and bell peppers), slice the carrots and cook them in lightly-salted water until they are just tender, and blanch the whole snap peas in salted, boiling water for a minute.   Dice the yellow and red bell peppers and slice the green onions and radishes.  I like to use a mandolin to slice the radishes so they are all the same thickness.  If the radishes are large, slice the rounds in half (see photo below).

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Slice the snap peas at an angle to add a pretty touch to the salad.  The goal is to add about 1/2 a cup of each of the veggies, except I only use about 1/4 cup of the sliced green onions.

Now it is time to assemble.  You will need 1/4 cup of your favorite Italian dressing or vinaigrette.  Don’t tell, but if you are in a hurry you can even use a store-bought dressing and it will still be great! 🙂  Add the dressing to the cooked pasta and gently stir to coat each grain of the orzo with the silky liquid.

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Then add each of the veggies to the pasta, except for the green onions.

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Now sprinkle on some salt and pepper.  You can even add a few red pepper flakes if you want to give the salad a little kick.

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Then gently stir the mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly spread throughout.  At this point, I can’t resist tasting it, but it needs to be refrigerated to let the flavors come together.  (Don’t forget to put the green onions in the refrigerator too.)  This salad just gets better with time.  When you are ready to serve it, stir in the green onions and place this edible confetti on a serving platter or just serve it right out of the bowl.

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This will be a festive addition to your next summer party.  As with many recipes, this one was inspired by my mom.  She used to make a version of this with rice instead of pasta, a creamy Italian dressing instead of the vinaigrette, and a slightly different combination of veggies, so feel free to experiment.  But, as always, enjoy!

Confetti Salad with Pasta or Rice
 
This is my favorite pasta salad and is perfect for summer parties. Substitute rice for a gluten-free version.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 5-6 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta or rice
  • ½ cup blanched and sliced, fresh snap peas
  • ½ cup sliced, cooked carrots
  • ½ cup thinly sliced radishes
  • ¼ cup diced red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup diced yellow bell peppers
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup Italian dressing/vinaigrette
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook the orzo pasta or rice according to package directions. Do not overcook it. Let the pasta/rice cool.
  2. Blanch the whole snap peas. Blanch them by bringing lightly-salted water to a boil. Add the whole snap peas to the boiling water and let them boil for 1 minute. Remove the snap peas and immediately put them in a bowl of ice water to instantly stop the cooking.
  3. When the snap peas are cool, drain them completely and slice them at an angle to create 3 or 4 pieces from each snap pea.
  4. Peel and slice one or two carrots, depending on size. Place the sliced carrots in enough salted water to just cover them. Simmer then until they are just tender. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
  5. Add the dressing/vinaigrette to the cooled pasta/rice. Gently stir to coat the pasta/rice with the dressing/vinaigrette.
  6. Add all of the vegetables, except for the green onions, to the pasta/rice.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you are using red pepper flakes, add them now.
  8. Gently stir the mixture to combine.
  9. Refrigerate the mixture and the green onions until chilled.
  10. When you are ready to serve it, gently stir in the green onions.

 

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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We took some of our friends sailing, so I decided that we had to have some cookies.  I remembered that one of our friends can only have gluten-free cookies and another prefers crispy cookies.  Therefore, I knew these Chocolate chip & Pecan Meringue Cookies were the perfect choice.  Both the original and raspberry (shown below) are crispy, crunchy and addictive!

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They are also naturally gluten-free because the “batter” is entirely made from egg whites and sugar.  In addition, they are somewhat low in fat because you do not use any oil or butter.  The only sources of fat are a handful of chocolate chips and pecans.  Besides, chocolate and nuts are good for you, right? 🙂

These cookies are also very easy to make.  Just place two egg whites, preferably room temperature, in the bowl of a stand mixer.  (If you forgot to set your eggs out to warm up, you can place in them in a bowl with warm water and let them stand for about 10 minutes.  Just make sure not to use hot or boiling water because you don’t want hard-boiled eggs. 🙂 )  If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can also use a glass or metal bowl and a handheld mixer.  Just don’t use a plastic bowl.  Plastic bowls tend to hold oil from prior cooking ingredients and prevent the egg whites from getting stiff enough when beaten.

Once the eggs whites are starting to get stiff, add in the sugar and continue beating until they are stiff.  Then gently fold in the remaining ingredients and scoop mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

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If you want, you can even add a little raspberry juice to turn them light pink!

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Place the cookies in a preheated 350 degree F oven and turn the oven off.  Let the cookies “bake” for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Don’t open the door until the time has elapsed.  Now you know the only hard part—you have to remember to make the cookies at least 3 hours before you need them. 🙂 Then be ready for addictive crunchy cookies.  Just like potato chips, you can’t eat just one.  Enjoy!

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© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Chocolate chip & Pecan Meringue Cookies --- Naturally Gluten Free & Low Fat
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
  • 2-3 Tbsp. raspberry juice from 1 cup frozen raspberries (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and they glisten
  3. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating the egg whites until the sugar is incorporated
  4. If you want raspberry cookies, add the raspberry juice (optional) and beat until combined.
  5. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and pecans with a spatula. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites.
  6. Using a small scoop or teaspoon, scoop small mounds of the meringue mixture onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Leave an inch or two between each cookie.
  7. Place the meringue cookies in the oven and turn the oven off.
  8. Leave the cookies in the oven at least 3 hours, overnight is even better, to let the meringue cook and dry to a nice crispy texture. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN UNTIL THEY ARE DONE!
Notes
The raspberries are completely optional. They turn these typically white cookies into light pink cookies (shown in the photo). If you decide to use the raspberries, thaw them and place them in a fine mesh strainer. Place the strainer over a bowl. Using the back of a spoon press the raspberries to release their juice.

These Easy Faux Macarons (like French macarons rather than like coconut macaroons) were the result of my desire to create some colorful spring cookies for Easter that would be really easy to make.  This would be a great project to do with your kids too!  All you need is some sugar cookie dough, a round cookie cutter (1 1/2 to 2 inches) cream cheese or buttercream icing, and some food coloring and you are ready to go.

Easter Cookies

I made my half a batch of my go-to sugar cookie dough, but almost any sugar cookie dough will work.  This recipe has a little nutmeg in it, which gives it a little extra flavor and character.  It also combines butter and shortening so you get the butter flavor, tenderness from the shortening and a little less spreading when they bake.  ( Click here for the recipe. Omit the chocolate for plain cookies.)  I rolled/spread the dough to about 1/4 inch thick on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  The goal is to bake the dough as one or two big cookies.  I made half a batch of dough and used one small cookie sheet.   For a full batch, I would have divided it into two big rectangular cookies on two cookie sheets.  I also baked the cookies a little longer than usual (about 13-15 minutes) because it was one large cookie rather than the 8-10 minutes for individual cookies.

As soon as the big cookie was done, I took it out of the oven and immediately cut the cookie into a lot of small round cookies using my cookie cutter.  I used the 1 1/2 inch round cutter, but 2 inches would be great too.  I then just let the cookies cool.

Then it was time to make the icing.  I went with cream cheese icing, which tastes great, but you will have to keep the cookies refrigerated before serving.  ( Click here for the recipe. Omit the raspberry juice.)  If you want to leave these cookies out or if you are making them for kids, who may not like the tang of cream cheese frosting, you will likely want to go with buttercream icing.

I made the icing and divided it into 5 small bowls, so that I could make five pastel (or maybe a little brighter) colors for Easter.  I used gel food colors, but you can use any type of food coloring you have.  Just add a little at first, stir it in, and then decide whether to add more.  You can always make the colors darker.  You may also want to reserve a little of the white icing to mix in if you accidentally get one of the colors too dark. 🙂

Now for the fun step.  Take one cookie and place about two teaspoons of icing on the bottom surface.  Then place the bottom side of a second cookie against the icing.  Press and twist slightly to gently squeeze the icing to the edges.  Then run a knife (or a clean finger, my preference) around the edge of the icing to smooth it off.  You can then sprinkle sanding sugar (coarse sugar) on top for a little extra sparkle.

Easter Cookies

Happy Easter!  Enjoy.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Spaghetti Squash StroganoffWhile roasted spaghetti squash may not taste just like pasta, it is a wonderful, blank slate for delicious sauces just like pasta but with fewer calories.  That got me to thinking that I could replace the egg noodles with spaghetti squash in my easy, ground beef stroganoff recipe.  This stroganoff recipe is an updated version of the one my mom made when I was growing up.  To update the recipe, I replaced the canned mushrooms with fresh cremini mushrooms and made a homemade sauce in place of using canned cream soups.  You can also turn this into a hearty vegetarian dish by replacing the ground beef with more mushrooms.  Yummy!

 

The first step is to roast your spaghetti squash.  I prefer the slightly larger ones with a nice golden color.  They will be more tender and have longer “spaghetti strands.”  Click here for instructions on how to roast spaghetti squash.

Now for the creamy, yummy stroganoff sauce.  This is an easy version that either uses lean ground beef and mushrooms or just mushrooms.  Start by sautéing sliced cremini mushrooms and chopped onion in a little butter and olive oil.  If you are using ground beef, use 8 oz. of mushrooms.  If not, use 1 lb., 8 oz. of mushrooms.  Hold off on the salt and pepper until the mushrooms and onions are tender.

Beef Stroganoff

When the mushrooms and onions are tender, add a clove or two of minced garlic and sauté until the garlic fragrance fills the air.  This will not take long!  Don’t let the garlic brown or it will turn bitter.

Beef Stroganoff

If you are using ground beef, select a lean version.  I like to buy chuck roasts when they are on sale, cut off the extra fat and grind the meat using the grinding attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer.  The quality of meat you grind yourself is so much better, and you can remove the extra fat and membranes so you know what is in the ground beef.  Add the ground beef to the mushrooms and onions and use a spatula to break it up.

Beef Stroganoff

Continue cooking until the meat is browned.

Beef Stroganoff

Sprinkle two tablespoons of flour over the mixture.

Beef Stroganoff

Use a spatula to mix the flour into the meat and cook it for two or three minutes.  This will prevent the final sauce from having a raw flour flavor.

Beef Stroganoff

Add a cup of milk or cream.  Cream is richer, but milk, such as 2% milk, will keep the fat content and calories lower.  I leave that choice to you.

Beef Stroganoff

Add salt and pepper.  Let the mixture cook over medium or medium-low heat until it bubbles and thickens.

Beef Stroganoff

Turn the heat down to low and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sour cream depending on how tart you like your sauces.  I like to add 1/4 cup and then taste it.  Then I decide whether to add more.  Mix in the sour cream and let the mixture heat through.  Do not let it boil.  If it is too thick, add more milk or cream for the desired consistency.

Beef Stroganoff

Mix in two tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Beef Stroganoff

Place a portion of the roasted spaghetti squash on a plate.  Top with the stroganoff sauce and some fresh parsley.  Whether you choose the beef or vegetarian version, this is a hearty, satisfying meal.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash Stroganoff

Roasted Spaghetti Squash Stroganoff (Beef or Vegetarian)
 
Omit the ground beef and add more mushrooms for a vegetarian version of this hearty meal.
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 roasted spaghetti squash
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced (if using ground beef) or 1 lb., 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced (for the vegetarian version)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 to 1½ cups milk or cream (I like to use 2% milk)
  • ¼ to ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp., fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil (3 Tbsp. for the vegetarian version)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Roast the spaghetti squash.
  2. Sauté the sliced cremini mushrooms and chopped onion in the butter and olive oil over medium low heat until tender (about 7 minutes).
  3. When the mushrooms and onions are tender, add the minced garlic and sauté until the garlic fragrance fills the air. This will not take long! Don't let the garlic brown or it will turn bitter.
  4. If you are using ground beef, add it to the mushrooms and onions. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Use a spatula to break it up and cook until the ground beef over medium heat until it is browned (about 10 minutes).
  5. Sprinkle two tablespoons of flour over the mixture.
  6. Use a spatula to mix the flour into the meat and cook it over medium low heat for two or three minutes.
  7. Add a cup of milk or cream and salt and pepper.
  8. Let the mixture cook over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens.
  9. Turn the heat down to low and add ¼ of sour cream. Mix in the sour cream and let the mixture heat through. Do not let it boil. Taste it and decide whether you want to add more sour cream. If so, I recommend adding one tablespoon at a time.
  10. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk or cream until it reaches the desired consistency..
  11. Mix in two tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  12. Place a portion of the roasted spaghetti squash on each plate. Top with the stroganoff sauce and some fresh parsley.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Growing up in Texas, casseroles were common options for potluck dinners or any other time you needed to feed a crowd.  They could be assembled ahead of time, baked in a single dish, and easily transported.  These casseroles also often involved time-saving options, such as canned cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.  The results were warm and comforting meals shared with family and friends.  Today, we still crave (at least I do) the same comfort food but prefer to use fresh ingredients, cut down on fat (at least a little), and avoid processed foods when we can.  With those goals in mind, I created this updated version of Chicken Tetrazzini.

Chicken Tetrazini

I started by slicing 8 oz. of cremini mushrooms, a red and a green bell pepper, and an onion.  I almost always use a sweet onion because it usually results in a slightly milder onion flavor and fewer tears during the chopping. 🙂

Chicken Tetrazini

While the veggies sauté, it is time to cook a pound of spaghetti, so bring the cooking liquid for the pasta to a boil.  I use either salted water or a combination of chicken broth, water, and salt.  The only time you get to season the pasta itself is while it cooks, so I prefer to cook it in a mixture of half chicken broth, half water and about 1 tablespoon of salt because it adds so much flavor.  When the liquid is boiling, break the dry spaghetti in half and cook it in the boiling liquid.   It is really important to take the pasta out of the water a minute or two before it is al dente because the pasta will be baking in sauce and finish cooking then.  I usually check the spaghetti package’s instructions for cooking time and then subtract 2 minutes.  Also, you can substitute penne or other pastas for the spaghetti, if you prefer.

While the pasta cooks, add two or three tablespoons of olive oil to a heavy Dutch oven and sauté the vegetables over medium or medium-low heat.  Note that I wait to add salt and pepper until later.  While I usually like to season along the way, I don’t want the salt to immediately draw out the water from the onions and mushrooms.  I want these veggies to cook slowly and naturally release their juices along the way.  That means adding the salt later.

Sauté the veggies until they are just tender but not browned.  The onions will be translucent at this point.

Chicken Tetrazini

Now it is time to get ready to make a creamy sauce.  I start by sprinkling about 1/4 cup of flour over the veggies.  This is an easy way to end up with a thickened sauce without lumps.

Chicken Tetrazini

Toss the veggies with the flour and let the flour/veggie combo cook for two or three minutes so that it won’t have a raw flour flavor.

Chicken Tetrazini

Now for the sauce part.  Add fat-free milk (about 3 cups)!  Believe me, it will still be yummy and creamy.  But this is a place where you can cut fat without noticing it, so that you can use real, sharp cheddar cheese at the end!

Chicken Tetrazini

Cook the mixture until it just bubbles and thickens.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken Tetrazini

Next it is time to add some additional liquid (about 1 cup low-fat chicken stock) and spice (1/4 cup chopped green chiles) and some grated cheddar cheese (1 to 2 cups).

Chicken Tetrazini

Stir the mixture to combine.

Chicken Tetrazini

Now, add some shredded chicken, along with a little more salt and pepper.  This is a place that you can save some time and buy a roasted chicken at the grocery store, or you can just poach a couple of chicken breasts.  It is up to you how much to add.  I don’t like too much, so I usually add a cup or two.  I know others that like a lot of chicken in tetrazzini, so they use twice this amount.

Chicken Tetrazini

Gently stir in the chicken so that you don’t break the pieces too much.

Chicken Tetrazini

Add the spaghetti to the creamy sauce and gently stir to combine.  A spaghetti spoon works great for this.  The pasta will absorb a lot of the liquid, so if it seems too dry, just add a little more chicken stock at this point.

Chicken Tetrazini

This tetrazzini travels really well.  I was taking this one to a group event where I wasn’t getting my dish back, so I baked it in an aluminum pan.  But I usually bake it in a baking dish that I lightly spray with cooking spray.

Chicken Tetrazini

While I used skim milk, low-fat chicken broth and fresh veggies, I still wanted the yummy sharp cheddar flavor, so I saved a little (maybe more than a little—1/2 a cup to a cup) for the top.

Chicken Tetrazini

This tetrazzini needs to cook covered until it is just bubbly all over (30-40 minutes) at 350 degrees F, but if you are not careful, the cheese will stick to the aluminum foil and be lost!  Too sad.  I learned that I could save the cheese by placing a piece of parchment paper over the top.

Chicken Tetrazini

Then, I cover it with foil and bake it.  When it starts bubbling all over (30-40 minutes), I remove the foil and parchment and bake it for about 10 more minutes.   That allows it to crisp/brown a little on the top without drying out the pasta.  You could even turn on the broiler for a minute or two (watch it really carefully) if you want the cheese slightly more browned.

Chicken Tetrazini

Now for the best part, time to eat!  The hard part is not going back for a second serving.  Enjoy!

Chicken Tetrazini

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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The Beet Ingredient Challenge ended Feb. 15.  Last month, I put out a challenge for everyone to try beets as part of one meal before Feb. 15 and send me a photo or post a photo on social media.  Many of you “liked” the challenge on social media but then were too shy to share your photos.  Next time maybe I will have to come up with a prize to get everyone past their shyness.  Here is what I made with beets—Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Candied Walnuts and Asian Dressing!  I love golden beets because they are mild, and they don’t stain your fingers when you peel them. 🙂  Here is how you can make this beautiful salad that combines just the right amount of nutty crunch, crispy greens, fork-tender beets, salty-nutty parmesan and tangy, Asian-inspired dressing.

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The Beets

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the greens off your beets (save them for the salad) and scrub the beets to remove any dirt and tiny roots.  Rub the beets with olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and wrap them in aluminum foil.  Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size, until tender.  Check them every 15-30 minutes.  A knife should slide into the center easily.  Remove them from the oven and let them cool.  When they are cool enough to touch, use your fingers or a paper towel to gently rub off the skin.  You will be left with beautiful, whole roasted beets. They are good chilled or at room temperature, but I like to refrigerate the beets until I am ready to assemble the salad.

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The Candied Walnuts

Now for the candied walnuts.  I had never made candied walnuts, so I did what we all do—I searched the web for recipes that sounded good.  I decided to make this slightly spicy version that I found on FoodNetwork.com. These walnuts turned out slightly sweet and just a little spicy.  I loved them and thought they would add just the right crunch and kick to my beet salad.  You can click here for the original recipe, but here is what I did.  I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F.  While the oven preheated, I put about two cups of water in a pot and brought the water to a boil  Then I added a heaping cup of whole walnuts (4 oz., which is really between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 level cups) to the boiling water.  I let the walnuts blanch in the boiling water for 3 minutes.  While the walnuts were blanching, I made the sugar coating for them by combining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, and 1/8 tsp. salt. After 3 minutes, I drained the walnuts in a fine mesh sieve to shake out all the water and then added the warm, slightly moist nuts to the powdered sugar mixture.  I gently stirred the walnuts until they were completely coated and then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Then they needed to bake for about 10 minutes.  I stirred them around after 5 minutes and kept a close eye on them to make sure the nuts and sugar didn’t burn.  When they came out of the oven, I placed them on a wire rack to dry and cool—ok, I did taste one or two before they were cool. 🙂  Like magic, candied walnuts!

The Asian-Inspired Dressing

After thinking about what would be a good dressing for the salad, I decided that something with an Asian twist would add a lot of flavor.  I decided on a yummy combination (see the recipe below) of olive oil, rice vinegar, sesame oil, low-sodium soy sauce, freshly minced garlic, sesame seeds and optionally, freshly minced ginger.  Place all the ingredients in a mason jar, tighten the lid and shake, shake, shake!  So simple, but lots of flavor!

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Some Assembly Required

Don’t worry, this is not one of those furniture projects that takes all night to assemble.  This is really easy.  Either on a serving platter or in individual salad bowls, make a nice nest of fresh salad greens.  If you remembered to save your beet greens, chop or tear them into pieces and add them to the greens.  Cut your beets into wedges.  Mine were large enough that each beet could be cut into 8 wedges.  If you have smaller beets, just cut them into 6 wedges, quarters or halves.  Place the beets on top of the salad greens.  Then add some shaved parmesan and candied walnuts.  Now you just need to drizzle a little of the dressing on top.  Enjoy!

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Asian-Inspired Salad Dressing
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: ¾ cup
Ingredients
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (depending on how much you like garlic)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 Tbps. rice vinegar
  • ¼-1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a mason jar.
  2. Place the lid on top and tighten.
  3. Shake the jar until the mixture is well combined.
  4. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

 

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  But this gluten-free molten chocolate cake is great any day whether or not you have to avoid gluten!  In fact, Jeff couldn’t decide which was which in a side-by-side comparison with my flour-based molten-chocolate cake recipe ( click here for that recipe ).  He said they were both great and trying to tell them apart was like splitting hairs, so I took that as a success on both accounts!  Now for this fudgy, gluten free version…

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A friend who hoped I would start developing more gluten-free recipes, gave me some Blue Diamond Extra-Fine Almond flour.  Thanks Peggy!

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As a result, I had a lot of fun experimenting with how to turn my original recipe for molten chocolate cake into a gluten-free version using the almond flour.   I had two main goals:  1)  the gluten-free version had to taste as good as the original, and 2) in addition to the almond flour, I wanted to find all the other ingredients in my pantry—no other special ingredients.

I started with a one-for-one substitution of an equal amount of almond flour for the all-purpose flour just to get an idea for what the texture would be like, so I could decide what changes I should make.  The end result tasted good, but it was too wet and didn’t develop enough of a cake-like texture on the edges.  I knew I needed more almond flour, but I didn’t want to “water-down” the chocolate flavor.  So I also added some cocoa powder, which served the double purpose of adding more depth to the chocolate flavor and keeping the batter from being too wet.

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After experimenting, I was excited to hit on what we decided was the winning combination.  Melted semisweet chocolate, melted butter, sugar, almond flour, cocoa, an egg, and an egg yolk.

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Then it was simple.  I just whisked together the ingredients until they were wet and combined.

Gluten-Free-Molten-Chocolate-Cake-20160213-05

 

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This recipe makes two servings, so I divided the chocolate batter between two individual baking cups and placed the baking cups on a small baking sheet.

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A little patience is required while they bake for about 18 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Ovens vary a lot, so I experimented to find just the right time .  You can test the cakes with a toothpick.   The center should be molten (still wet) and the edges should be cake like.  The cakes will keep cooking when you remove them from the oven, so take them out a little before you think they are ready.

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Remove the cakes and let them cool for 2-3 minutes.  Enjoy them immediately!

Easy Gluten-Free Molten Chocolate Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. extra fine Almond Flour (I used Blue Diamond Extra-Fine Almond Flour)
  • 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
  3. Place the butter and chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave it for 30 seconds at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the heating and stirring until all of the chocolate is melted after you stir it. You do not want the chocolate mixture to get too hot---just warm enough for the chocolate to melt.
  4. Let the chocolate and butter mixture cool for 2-3 minutes to make sure it will not cook the eggs when you add them.
  5. Place the egg and egg yolk in a bowl and whisk them quickly to break up the egg yolks.
  6. Add the almond flour, cocoa, sugar, and chocolate mixture to the eggs. Whisk gently until just combined.
  7. Divide the chocolate batter between two individual baking cups (e.g., custard cups).
  8. Place the custard cups on a small baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 17-18 minutes
  10. Test with toothpick. The center should still be wet, but the edges should be cake-like.
  11. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 2-3 minutes.
Notes
If you bake the cakes too long or let them cool too long after removing them from the oven, the center will not be molten but will become more like fudge. Don't worry, they will still taste good! Because every oven is a little different, you may want to experiment with the baking time to get the center texture just like you like it. My husband loved these experiments!

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Valentine’s Day always reminds me of chocolate, so I thought today was the perfect time to share this  recipe for an easy molten chocolate cake that you can whip up tonight and impress the chocolate lover in your life.   I came up with this recipe for those nights when we are craving a chocolate dessert before bedtime and a warm gooey dessert sounds like the perfect comforting end to the day.  This recipe makes two servings, but you can double it for four.  For those friends who need/want a gluten-free version, I am posting that recipe separately.  It is amazingly yummy too.  I knew I had two winners when Jeff wasn’t sure which was which in a side-by-side taste test of this recipe and the gluten-free version (see photo below).

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Start by chopping semisweet chocolate into small pieces.  It is important to use good quality chocolate bars rather than chocolate chips.  Chips have stabilizers that we don’t want for the molten chocolate cake.

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Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl.

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I know my microwave pretty well, so I microwaved the chocolate and butter for 30 seconds and it was perfect.  (See photo below.)  The butter was melted, some of the chocolate was melted and the mixture was warm but not hot.

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Once I stirred it for a minute or so, I had a smooth mixture with all of the chocolate perfectly melted.  However, microwaves vary a lot!  So the safer approach is to microwave the mixture for 30 seconds on half (50%) power.  Stir and repeat until you get a smooth chocolate mixture.  It is important for the chocolate not to get too hot because you don’t want it to cook the eggs when you add them to it.

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I set the chocolate aside to cool a little and broke an egg and egg yolk into a separate bowl.  Then I whisked the eggs a little to break up the yolks.  (If you aren’t worried about bad eggs (rare) or getting egg shells (less rare in my case 🙂 ) in the mixture, you could save a bowl and put the eggs directly into the chocolate after the chocolate has cooled a couple of minutes.  But I always play it safe and use a separate bowl for the eggs.)

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Now is time to finish the batter.  Combine the chocolate, eggs, flour and sugar in the bowl with the chocolate mixture.

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Whisk the ingredients together.

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Whisk just until the ingredients are all wet and combined.  Do not over mix.

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Carefully divide the mixture between two baking cups.

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Then place the baking cups on a small sheet pan.  (Below, I baked a gluten-free batch and this recipe at the same time)

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Bake at 350 degrees F for about 17 minutes, then remove them from the oven and let them cool 2-3 minutes.  Serve (eat) immediately.

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I hope you will try this recipe and post a comment below.  Enjoy!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Quick and Easy Molten Chocolate Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This amazing chocolate dessert looks impressive but can be prepared in just a few minutes with ingredients you have on hand. It is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or for a late night snack when the chocolate lover in your life says, "Do we have anything chocolate for dessert?"
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • Raspberries for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
  3. Place the butter and chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave it for 30 seconds at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the heating and stirring until all of the chocolate is melted after you stir it. You do not want the chocolate mixture to get too hot---just warm enough for the chocolate to melt.
  4. Let the chocolate and butter mixture cool for 2-3 minutes to make sure it will not cook the eggs when you add them.
  5. Place the egg and egg yolk in a bowl and whisk them quickly to break up the egg yolks.
  6. Add the flour, sugar, and chocolate mixture to the eggs. Whisk gently until just combined.
  7. Divide the chocolate batter between two individual baking cups (e.g., custard cups).
  8. Place the custard cups on a small baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 17-18 minutes
  10. Test with toothpick. The center should still be wet, but the edges should be cake-like.
  11. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 2-3 minutes.
Notes
If you bake the cakes too long or let them cool too long after removing them from the oven, the center will not be molten but will become more like fudge. Don't worry, they will still taste good! Because every oven is a little different, you may want to experiment with the baking time to get the center texture just like you like it. My husband loved these experiments!

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Guacamole (“guac”), chile con queso (“queso”) and pico de gallo are always must-have dips for football parties at our place.  Add taco meat, tortillas and tortilla chips and you also have the perfect taco and nacho bar for the game!  But the Super Bowl calls for taking it up another notch.  That means Taco Queso dip.  In other words, we are going to take all the good toppings for tacos and nachos and put them in the queso.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

It starts with a layer of melted queso, a layer of taco meat and then another layer of queso.  Top that with a big dollop of creamy guacamole and then spoon pico de gallo over the top.  All you need is a bunch of chips and you may even forget the game is on.  Just kidding, but really you will be lost in the ultimate comfort food.  You won’t believe how extra creamy the guac makes the queso.  It is like tacos and nachos combined in one bowl.  But don’t take my word for it.  Makes some for the game and watch it disappear.

Here’s how to make it.  You can even take a couple of shortcuts and buy the pico de gallo and guacamole if you are short on time, but if you have time, make your own.

Let’s start with the chile con queso.  You can use your crock pot to make the queso and then keep it warm during the party.  Just cut up the cheese into small cubes and put them into the crock pot.  If you want, you can add 1 to 2 ounces of cream cheese for each pound of Velveeta for another layer of creamy yumminess (is that a word?).

This is the caption

Then pour jarred, medium picante sauce over the top.  Many of my friends from Texas prefer using canned RoTel tomatoes, so feel free to substitute those if you like.

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Use a large spoon to distribute the picante sauce throughout the cheese cubes then put the top on the crock pot, set it to low and let the mixture melt into gooey goodness.  (If you are in a hurry, start it off on high, but don’t forget to turn it down as soon as the cheese is almost melted.)

While the cheese is melting, it is time to make the pico de gallo, guacamole and taco meat.

The pico is really simple, it just requires some chopping.  Start by chopping the tomatoes.

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Then you need some chopped onions.  I like to use sweet onions.  They add onion flavor without overpowering the tomatoes.

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Next I chop some cilantro.  You can see that I kept a few of the stems.  They have quite a bit of flavor, but you could just use the leaves if you prefer that look…

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and for some heat, finely chopped Serrano peppers.  I like quite a bit of spice, so I left in the seeds, but you can remove the seeds and membranes if you want a little less heat.

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All that is left is to combine these ingredients in a bowl.  You can add a little salt and a squeeze of lime if you like.

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Once the pico de gallo is made, the guacamole is a snap.  Just halve and peel ripe avocados and place them in a bowl.

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Then using a fork or potato masher, mash the avocadoes.  You can leave it chunky or make it smooth.  Now for the really easy part.  Just take a scoop of the pico de gallo and gently stir it into the mashed avocados.  A squeeze of lime juice will help prevent the avocados from darkening.  Like magic, you just made guacamole!

Now you have three dips ready for your party—pico de gallo, queso, and guac!  We just need some taco meat.  I make a really easy version.  I just brown lean ground beef in a skillet with chopped onion and salt and pepper.  When it is browned, I stir in a little jarred, medium picante sauce for a mildly spicy taco meat.  It is perfect for tacos, nachos or the Taco Queso!  If you want it spicier, you can use hot picante sauce and/or add in some chopped Serrano peppers.

Now we can assemble the Taco Queso.  Put a ladle of chile con queso in a bowl.

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Sprinkle some of the warm taco meat on top.

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Then add another ladle of chile con queso, a scoop of guacamole, and a sprinkling of pico de gallo on top.  You can make another bowl without the taco meat for the vegetarians in the crowd!

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Now it is time for the game!

Taco Queso
 
This chile con queso is the ultimate party dip and perfect for game day!
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer/Dip
Ingredients
Chile Con Queso
  • 1 lb. Velveeta (really!), cut into small cubes
  • 1 to 2 ounces cream cheese (optional)
  • 1 cup medium picante sauce (e.g., Pace's)
Pico de Gallo
  • 2½ cups chopped tomatoes (about 8-10 tomatoes)
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1-3 Tbsp. Serrano peppers, finely chopped (depending on how hot the peppers are and how hot you like your pico de gallo)
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste (optional)
  • Juice of t/4 to ½ a lime (optional)
Guacamole
  • 2 avocados, mashed
  • ½ cup pico de gallo
  • Juice of ½ Lime
  • Salt to taste (optional)
Taco Meat
  • 1 lb. Lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup medium picante sauce
  • 1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Taco Queso
  • 2 cups chile con queso
  • ½ to ⅔ cup taco meat
  • ½ cup guacamole
  • ¼ cup pico de gallo
Instructions
Chile Con Queso
  1. Melt the cheese and picante sauce in a slow cooker, microwave bowl or over low heat on the stove.
Pico de Gallo
  1. Chop the tomatoes, onion, cilantro and Serrano peppers.
  2. Combine them in a bowl.
  3. Add salt to taste (optional).
  4. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, if desired. I usually prefer to skip the lime.
Guacamole
  1. Halve and peel the avocados, removing the seeds.
  2. Mash the avocados with a fork or potato masher until the desired texture. You can leave it chunky or mash it until it is smooth.
  3. Add the pico de gallo and stir gently.
  4. Squeeze lime on top and ;et it spread to cover the surface of the guacamole, but do not mix it in.
  5. Cover it with plastic wrap, letting the plastic wrap touch the top of the guacamole, until ready to use.
Taco Meat
  1. Brown the ground meat and chopped onion in a skillet, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
  2. When the meat is cooked, stir in the picante sauce and Serrano peppers (optional).
  3. Let the mixture heat through.
Assembling the Taco Queso
  1. Place 1 cup of chile con queso in a bowl
  2. Sprinkle the taco meat on top.
  3. Place another cup of chile con queso on top of the taco meat layer.
  4. Scoop the guacamole top of the chile con queso in the center.
  5. Sprinkle pico de gallo over the top.
Notes
Chile Con Queso Note: you need one cup of picante sauce for each pound of Velveeta. My regular-sized slow cooker will hold about 4 pounds of Velveeta with the 4 cups of picante sauce. That is a lot of queso, but it is perfect for a big party. Just cut it in half for a smaller group. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave the next day!

Feel free to double, triple, or quadruple these recipes depending on the size of your party.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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On football Sundays when I was growing up, our house was always filled with the yeasty, buttery aroma of my dad’s homemade braided bread!

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In Texas we took our football seriously, so I think he kneaded out his “game stress” during timeouts and halftime. 🙂  When Jeff and I were watching the last playoff games a week ago, I got a little sentimental and longed for some of Dad’s bread and wanted that delicious smell to waft through the kitchen again.  But I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.  Prior attempts did not go so well.

I was pretty sure that my prior failures were because I just didn’t have the right technique for kneading the dough.  But recently I very successfully experimented, aided by a great YouTube video, with homemade dinner rolls using my electric mixer and dough hook to knead the dough.  (Watch a an upcoming post on the rosemary dinner rolls.)  So I decided to try Dad’s recipe again using the electric mixer to handle the kneading.

What I didn’t remember was that all I really had for his recipe were a few of his notes and a couple of pages with an incomplete recipe copied from an unidentifiable cookbook!  To further complicate the process, the handwritten notes were a little different than the notes from the cookbook pages.  So I did the best to remember what I could from watching Dad make this bread so many times over the years and set out to give it my best shot.

The first step was to proof the yeast by mixing a package of dry yeast with a little sugar and warm water.  Then I let it sit for 5-10 minutes or so to make sure that the yeast was still alive.  I would know it was good if it got foamy.

While I waited for the yeast to foam up, I scalded the milk.  When you scald milk you heat it until the point just before it boils, then take it off the heat.  Then I added butter, salt and a tablespoon of sugar to the milk and let the butter melt as the mixture cooled a little.

When the milk had cooled a little and the yeast mixture was foamy, I added the yeast mixture to the milk and gently stirred them together.  Now it was time to start integrating the flour, so I added 1 1/4 cups of the flour into the bowl of my electric mixer and poured the wet mixture on top.  Then I turned the mixer on low and let the dough hook combine the ingredients to start forming a dough.  When all the flour was moistened, it was to time add the rest of the flour.  I turned off the mixer and added flour in two or three portions, mixing between each addition to let the newly-added flour just get moistened before adding the next portion.  When it was all moist, I turned the mixer up to medium and let the dough hook work its kneading magic for 6 minutes.  Why 6 minutes, you ask?  Because that worked out great for the dinner rolls I have been making! 🙂  Sure enough, the dough was smooth and ready to go!

The next phase requires some patience.  We have to let the dough rise in an olive oil coated bowl for about an hour.  I also coated the top of the dough with a little olive oil to make sure that a dry crust didn’t form.  Interestingly, Dad’s instructions called for using shortening in the milk instead of butter and shortening to “grease” the bowl and top of the dough instead of olive oil.  But then when the bread came out of the oven, Dad always—and I mean always—brushed the tops with loads of butter!  So I decided that butter should be in the bread too and olive oil just seemed like a better choice for coating the bowl (again relying on the dinner roll experiments).

After an hour the dough had doubled in size, so I punched it down and placed it on a cutting board where I divided the dough into two equal pieces.  I forgot to mention that we are making two braided loaves.  Now for the braids, we need to cut each half into three equal pieces for the three parts of the braid.  Then roll each piece of the braid into a long log about 10-12 inches long like in the drawing below.  Try to make them as equal in diameter as you can.

Braid1

Now it was time to place parchment on a half baking sheet, which is a large cookie sheet, and place three of the braid pieces on the cookie sheet parallel to the long side of the cookie sheet.  Then I connected the three braids together at one end by pressing the dough together and tucking the end of the seam underneath just a little like in the drawing below.

Braid2

Now for the braiding—just like you braid hair.  I remembered that Dad braided it very loosely, leaving a little air between the braids to allow room for rising.  I hadn’t braided anything in a long time, but after a little experimenting, I remembered you just bring the right piece over the center but inside the left piece.  Then you bring the left piece over the new center piece but inside the current right piece.  Continue alternating bringing the right and left pieces over the current center piece until you reach the end of the braids.  Then press the ends together and turn a little of the end underneath the loaf to secure it.  Repeat for the second loaf!

Then I gently rubbed a little olive oil on top and let it rise for another hour.  We want this to be a light and tender loaf of bread rather than like denser traditional loaves.  Given my recent dinner roll experiment, I figured out that this recipe is more like a dinner roll dough than a traditional loaf of sliceable bread.

About 20 minutes before the rising time was up, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F.

When the oven was preheated and the dough had finished rising, it was time to bake the loaves for 10 minutes.  Then I followed Dad’s instruction on one of the little pieces of paper I found and lowered the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.  Why?  I really don’t know yet, but Dad’s notes said to and his bread was awesome, so I wasn’t going to mess with this step.  Then it took another 20-25 minutes for the bread to turn golden brown.

Now for the decadent addition—melted butter slathered all over the top and in the seams between the braids.  Dad probably put two tablespoons on melted butter on each loaf!  See how it glistens!  I couldn’t wait to bite into it!  Wow!  It tasted like Dad’s, or at least really close.  Good memories…

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Football and Dad’s bread—the perfect Sunday afternoon!  A tradition has been reborn.  Now time for the Super Bowl!

Dad's Braided Bread---Super Bowl Favorite
 
Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Ingredients
  • 1 pkg. dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water (100 degrees F)
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. butter (1 Tbsp. for the dough, 4 Tbsp. melted to brush on the finished loaves)
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast, 1 tsp. sugar and warm water (about 100 degrees F, just warm to the touch). Let it sit until yeast foams, 5-10 minutes.
  2. While you are waiting for the yeast to foam, scald the milk. (Heat it just until it almost boils, then remove it from the heat.)
  3. Remove the milk from the heat and add butter, salt, and 1 Tbsp. sugar into the milk.
  4. When the butter has melted, add the yeast mixture into the milk mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Combine milk mixture and 1¼ cups flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  6. Run the mixture on low until the flour is moistened.
  7. Add 1¾ cups flour, about ¾ a cup at a time and mix on low until the flour is moistened before the next addition.
  8. Then knead the dough on medium for 6 minutes.
  9. Rub olive oil on the inside of a large bowl. The bowl needs to be large enough to allow the dough to double in size.
  10. Place the dough in the bowl and rub the top of the bread with a little olive oil.
  11. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 1 hour
  12. Divide the dough in half. Cut each half into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long strand, about 10-12 in inches long.
  13. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  14. Press the ends of three strands together. Then braid three strands. Press the ends together and turn them under slightly to secure them. Then braid the other three strands creating a second loaf.
  15. Let the braided bread loaves rise for an hour.
  16. About twenty minutes before the loaves are finished rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  17. Bake the bread for 10 minutes.
  18. Then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
  19. Bake the bread until it is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes more.
  20. When the bread is almost ready, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  21. When the bread comes out of the oven, generously brush butter over the top of each loaf.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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Jeff’s mom used to bring this cheesy, soufflé-like corn and zucchini to family gatherings when we were first married.  When I thought of it recently, I realized that I didn’t have the recipe, but fortunately, my sister-in-law Debbie did.  I couldn’t wait to make it to see if it lived up to my memories—it did!  Jeff loved it too and decided we should call it Baked CornZini. 🙂

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It is easy to make, great for groups, and a hearty vegetarian option.  Just start by cutting the zucchini into 1 inch thick slices. Place the zucchini in a sauce pan with water and a little salt.  Then cook it for about 15 minutes over medium heat until the zucchini is just tender.  It is ready when a fork can be easily inserted into it.

The next step is important if you don’t want a soupy mess, so don’t skip it.  You need to thoroughly drain the squash to get rid of the water and then gently mash it with a fork or potato masher.  After mashing the squash, drain it again to make sure there is no excess water remaining.  I just left the mashed zucchini in a mesh strainer sitting over a bowl while I sautéed chopped onions in a tablespoon of butter.

When the onions were tender, but not browned, I gently combined the eggs, zucchini, chopped onions, corn, cheddar cheese and a little salt and poured the mixture into a buttered baking dish.

Now for the crunchy, parmesan topping!  Combine melted butter with Panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.  Then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the corn and zucchini mixture.  After about 35-40 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, it should be ready.  You can test it by inserting a knife into the middle.  If the knife comes out clean, then it is ready.

From the crunchy parmesan, breadcrumb topping to the cheesy corn and zucchini filling, it has the perfect combination of crunchy and fluffy textures.  You will definitely be going back for seconds, so think about making a double recipe!

Baked Corn and Zucchini (CornZini)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable Side Dish
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. zucchini
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh corn or 10 oz. frozen corn (thawed and drained)
  • 4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs (or other dry breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ tsp. salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Use 1 Tbsp. of butter a baking dish.
  3. Cut zucchini into 1 inch thick slices.
  4. Place zucchini in a sauce pan. Add ½ cup water and ½ tsp. salt.
  5. Cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Drain the zucchini and place it in a bowl. Using a fork or potato masher, gently mash the zucchini.
  7. Saute the onion in 1 Tbsp. butter until tender but not browned.
  8. Gently combine eggs, zucchini, onion, corn, cheddar cheese and ¼ tsp. salt.
  9. Pour the mixture into the buttered baking dish.
  10. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter.
  11. Combine the melted butter with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the zucchini mixture.
  12. Bake zucchini until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. About 35-40 minutes.
  13. Let the zucchini rest for 5-10 minutes before serving so it will set up.

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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This easy, roasted tomato side dish is the perfect way to lighten up a meal while maximizing flavors with the addition of a little pre-made olive tapenade!

I was inspired by the adorable tomato-decorated dish (see photo below) that I found at our farmer’s market weekend before last.  Even though tomatoes are not in season right now, you can still find them at the store and roasting them brings out sweetness and flavor even out of season.

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It is super easy to put together this side dish.  Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F.  Then place cherry, grape or other small tomatoes (the ones in the photo were called strawberry tomatoes) on a baking sheet and toss them with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Place them in the oven, and they will be perfectly roasted in 15 to 20 minutes, but watch them to make sure they don’t burn or completely burst.  You want them to just barely start to crack open but not completely fall apart.

When they are just right, take them out of the oven and put them on a serving dish.  Then spoon a little olive tapenade on top.  I kept it simple by buying a fresh Mediterranean olive tapenade at the olive bar at our grocery store.  Then finish it with a little fresh, chopped basil, and it is ready to eat.

I know I said this was a lighter side dish, but you are probably asking what about the tapenade?  Simple.  Just don’t use too much.  The goal is to accent the dish with the tapenade, not overpower it with olives.  After all, the tomatoes are supposed to be the star!  Besides, not only are olives delicious, but also olive oil is often considered the healthiest of cooking/eating oils because it has less saturated fats.  So use it for flavor but limit the quantity to keep the calories in check.

Enjoy!  By the way, I must confess that I ate the whole platter of these gems myself.  Next time I will have to make extra so Jeff can try them :).

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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So are you looking for ideas for how to use the Gremolata recipe I posted a few days ago?  Here’s what I made with it—Easy Fresh Pan-Seared Scallops.  I know, fresh scallops are a little pricey, but I wanted to make a special dinner for Jeff, and after all, they are a low fat, high protein option, which makes them a healthy choice for the new year (you can hear me rationalizing, right?).  But you can substitute thawed, frozen scallops, which are a little less expensive or save this recipe for a day you find fresh scallops on sale.

I patted the scallops dry and sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper.  Then it was time to get out my cast iron skillet, which is perfect for pan searing.  I put a couple of tablespoons of canola oil in the skillet and turned it to between medium high and high heat and waited for the oil to start smoking a little.  That meant the skillet was hot enough and ready for the scallops, so using a pair of tongs, I gently placed each scallop in the skillet.

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It is really important not to move them until they are browned.  Depending on the size of the scallops, it will take 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes.  It also depends on how done you like them, but be careful not to cook them too long.  No one likes rubbery scallops!  You can see the scallops are starting to brown on the bottom.

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Just a few seconds longer and it was time to turn them.  Tongs are a great tool for turning the scallops, but you can use a spatula.  Another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and these will be ready to eat!

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Now it is time for the Gremolata, which is an herb-based condiment.  I made this version with cilantro and lime zest instead of the traditional parsley and lemon.  For the Gremolata recipe,  click here.  It is really simple and quick to make but will dress up these pan-seared scallops.

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Just a little sprinkle of this garlicky cilantro gremolata will transform these simple pan-seared scallops into a meal fit for royalty!  Jeff’s comment was that they were perfectly seasoned.  That put a smile on my face!

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For an Asian-inspired version of scallops, you may also want to try the recipe for Seared Sea Scallops with Sesame-Cilantro Gremolata on the Fine Cooking website . Click here for the Fine Cooking recipe.

Here’s to more healthier, delicious and unforgettable meals this year with a few (maybe more than a few) indulgences along the way!

© 2016 FoodieOasis

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