Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Finger Food...that's healthy???

Don't think it's possible to have happy and party and healthy all in one bite of holiday eating?

Think delicious and different.

Think stand out beautiful presentation.

Think healthy holiday finger food.  Why not?

  • Collard and Cream Cheese Dumplings
  • Texas Hummus
  • Greek Salad Spoons
Thank me later.  Here are the recipes.
Creamy, healthy, jumping with goodness and big flavors.  Sounds like Texas to me!

Collard and Cream Cheese Dumplings
My recipe is vegetarian all the way.  For a meat-lover's version, you may want to try Paula Deen's recipe, which uses ham hocks. Be sure to incorporate some of the meat in your filling.   If you have a favorite way of preparing collards, stick with that recipe and substitute it here.  To fold the dumplings, I recommend watching this video tutorial, or you can fold into whatever shape suits you.  I don't think anyone will be standing by to rate your folding technique.

2 cups cooked collards, cooled completely and chopped finely
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature (so that it is soft enough to mix)
12 dashes of hot sauce (I prefer Texas Pete)
40 wonton wrappers
small bowl of water
vegetable oil for frying

Combine the collards, hot sauce and cream cheese, adding more or less hot sauce to suit your taste. Place about 1 teaspoon of the filling onto the center of a wrapper, moisten two sides and fold over into a triangle, pinching sides together to seal in the filling.  Remember, you can fold into a more traditional dumpling shape by watching this easy video tutorial.  Heat oil and fry dumplings about 3-4 minutes. Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.  Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Vegetarian Collards (for filling)
One bunch of  collards
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper, adjusted to suit your taste
water or vegetable stock

Heat a heavy pan on high, pour all olive oil, stir in onions and garlic.  Turn heat to medium-low and continue to cook until onions are wilted.  In the meantime, wash collard leaves well.  Gather a few leaves, roll into a large cigar-shape and cut into 1/2" ribbons.  Add to the pot, stir to combine everything, season and pour in the water or vegetable stock, which should cover the collards by about one inch.  Bring to a rolling boil, cover and reduce to a medium boil.  Collards should be tender and ready to eat at around 30 to 45 minutes.

Texas Hummus
1 cup cooked pinto beans
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
4 T. cilantro, chopped
2 T. lime juice
1 t. Texas Pete hot sauce (use your favorite, but this is my preference)
1 t. ground cumin
2 T. pecans
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. salt
pepper (to suit your taste)

1 T. extra virgin olive oil and 1 T. chopped cilantro to dress the hummus

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients (except beans) to a coarse puree. Add the beans and process until incorporated into the mix.  Use water, one teaspoon at a time to assist in the processing, if mixture is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Pour into a serving bowl, drizzle with reserved extra virgin olive oil and cilantro.  Serve with celery and carrot sticks and sliced red and green peppers.

Greek Salad Spoons
10 Campari tomatoes  (the only Winter tomatoes available in grocery stores which taste and smell like tomatoes)
1/2 small yellow onion
1 cucumber
1/2 t. dry oregano
salt to taste
1 t. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. Kalamata olives, finely chopped*
2 T. Feta cheese, crumbled

Chop all vegetables and combine with salt, oregano, vinegar, oil and olives. Stir in Feta cheese.  Use teaspoons to load with the salad and serve on a long platter lined with a white cloth napkin.  Set spoons on the napkin to serve.  If you have it available, you can substitute the spoons with radicchio and Belgian endive leaves.

*Do not substitute.  If you cannot find any, leave them out.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spirited Holiday Cheer

Enjoying a classic Manhattan at High Cotton in Greenville, SC, recently, I took a good 60 minutes to finish my sipping.
During the holidays or at any special celebration, a generous dash of spirits encourages good cheer.  .  For your next holiday party, consider serving up a little spirited cheer, courtesy of one or all three of these classic cocktails.  Offer them to your guests, instead of wine and eggnog.

How about sending out this customizable invitation and dressing things up a bit.  Along with your cocktails, you may want to offer the following hors d’oeuvres.  Recipes should serve 10-12 people with 1-2 bites per person.  No plates or forks required, which is why everything is bite-sized! You will only need nice cocktail napkins and glass barware.  Don't skimp on the barware, even if you have to borrow or rent the correct cocktail glasses--it's important.  .

The following video offers a history of cocktails with a recipe for the classic Old Fashioned at 3:48 minutes.  Two more classic cocktail recipes follow, but I ask you to sip responsibly--these drinks are potent.  Click on the name to watch a video with instructions by experienced mixologists.

2 parts Rye Whiskey (can use bourbon)
1 part sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters

Add ice and stir until very, very cold. The stirring will also serve to dilute the alcohol--this is a good thing. Strain into cocktail glass and finish with a maraschino cherry.  Sip very, very slowly, enjoying that touch of sweetness from the cherry at the end.

2 parts brandy or cognac
1 part crème de cacao
1 part cream
Shake very well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.  Top with light dusting of nutmeg.  This is a lovely classic cocktail to use instead of a dessert.

Devilled Eggs on Melba Toast
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
2 T. Duke’s mayonnaise
1 T. Dijon mustard
½ t. white wine vinegar, if needed for extra “punch”
salt and pepper, if needed
caviar (red or black) *
Melba toast (original)

Cut eggs in half and put yolks into a small bowl.  Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix well.  Taste and add the vinegar, salt and pepper, if needed.   No more than 1 hour before the party (to ensure that the toast doesn't get soggy), spread , spoon or pipe a generous amount of the egg mixture onto the toast and top with the caviar.  Set on a platter and garnish with a few long and elegant cuttings of the chives.

*If you cannot find the caviar (or just don’t like it), use any of the following:  capers, thinly sliced slivers of roasted red pepper, anchovy fillets, chopped parsley or chives.

Chicken Salad Filled Tomato Cups
Your favorite chicken salad (about 2 cups)
Campari tomatoes, washed and cut in half.  One package will yield about 16 halves
Boston lettuce leaves
chopped parsley or chives

Fill the tomato halves with chicken salad.  Line a platter or tray with the lettuce and place the tomato cups on top.  Garnish each tomato with the chopped greenery.  Keep in the refrigerator up to 6 hours, but remove one hour before serving.

If you have chicken salad left after filling the tomatoes, gather your teaspoons and fill them with the salad.  Serve them arranged neatly on a plate or serving dish lined with a white napkin.  Garnish with the chopped greenery.  Set a smaller dish beside this.  Each guest will pick up a spoon, eat the chicken salad and place the used spoon in the small dish.

Roast Beef & Horseradish Sauce
½ lb rare roast beef cut into 2 “pieces (a rough square or round)
Rye or pumpernickel bread cut into 2” squares or rounds

Spoon a generous amount of sauce on the bread and top with beef, arranging in a fold.  Prepare 30 minutes prior to serving.

Horseradish Sauce
½ cup sour cream
1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
¼ t. Dijon mustard
½ T. lemon juice
¼ cup prepared horseradish (Adjust this to suit your taste. Begin with half of the horseradish, taste and add the remainder, if you like)
1 T. fresh dill, chopped

Combine everything and refrigerate.  Stir in the dill just before serving. The bite of the horseradish mellows with age, so you can prepare 3-4 days ahead, if you wish.
You may also wish to serve…
·         A nice mix of salted nuts.  Serve them in an attractive glass or crystal bowl.

·         A mix of feta cheese (cut into bite sized cubes), assorted olives and a few matchstick sized pieces of celery and carrots (peel, string, cut off ends and slice into 4” long matchsticks).  A light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil will add extra flavor and give everything a glistening appearance.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Angels and Devils In the Kitchen

Angels!  My two granddaughters, Corley and Olivia, in the kitchen recently.  They love to learn and I love to share my knowledge of cooking with them.  Such enthusiasm!

Corley has been helping me and my husband Dewey in the kitchen since she was old enough to be lifted onto the kitchen counter to help with washing and tasting tomatoes and stripping collards from the stalks.

Olivia has known how to use a knife [properly] to slice and chop since she was 6 years old.  Why, she's almost a pro now, even though she still has to climb onto a stool do do her work! Thomas, my 25-year-old stepson, has been cooking with me and his dad since he was 6.  He still loves to cook, which is helpful now that he's living on his own. It always takes SO much longer to have little helpers, but the
exchange of ideas and knowledge and love which occurs is priceless, so I recommend to you to find the time to recruit your children, grandchildren, nieces & nephews or neighborhood children next time you go to the kitchen to prepare dinner.  It's one of those activities that you'll never regret. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you have the perfect opportunity to give the kitchen a try as the new meeting place for you and a couple of young people.

Well, that's the angels.  How about the devils?

The devils I'll be talking about are devilled eggs, because that's what Corley and Olivia helped me with most recently.

They can be deviled or devilled and they're basically the same most places that you look.  Eggs are easy to find, they're relatively inexpensive and they're easy to cook.  That's the eggs.  How about the devilled part? It appears that devilled=spicy or zesty and that this term has been used since the late 1700s, although devilled eggs have been around much longer, with recipes dating back to ancient Rome!

Devilled Eggs

7 large eggs, boiled, cooled and peeled*
3 T. Duke's mayonnaise
1 T. yellow mustard
1 t. white vinegar
salt and pepper

Cut eggs in half, placing the yolks in a bowl and the whites on a plate or devilled egg dish.  Discard two of the whites.  I do this so that the filling is richer with the two extra yolks.

Using a fork, mash the yolks.  Stir in the mayonnaise and mustard and taste.  If the flavor suits you, then stuff the egg whites with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with paprika.  You're done.

Depending on your personal taste, you may need to add a bit of white vinegar to add a little more spice to the filling.  My personal tasting apparatus (my tongue) tells me not to add any salt or pepper.  (There's enough salt added from the mayonnaise and I don't like the pepper.) If you like more mustard, add more mustard, but do it 1 teaspoon at a time, or you'll end up with a runny filling.  The same goes for the mayonnaise.

Dressing Up:  While they're perfectly wonderful in their rich simplicity, you may want to jazz up your devilled eggs by topping each stuffed egg with a couple of capers, a sliver or two of roasted peppers or with half an anchovy.  You can dress them up for breakfast by topping with a sliver of lox and chopped chives or take them to a fancy cocktail party by accessorizing with a teeny dab of caviar.

Go ahead, take your dressed up devilled eggs to the next party that you're invited to.  They're not just for picnics anymore.

*It's so easy to hard-boil eggs.  Place eggs in pot with ample water and a large teaspoon of salt.  When the water begins to boil, set your timer to 6 minutes.  Take to the sink immediately after the timer goes off, pour out the water and turn on cold water, allowing it to run over the eggs for a while.  This will stop the cooking process.  Allow eggs to cool completely before peeling.  The salt in the cooking water makes facilitates the peeling.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jerry Douglas Inspires Chicken & Bean Stew

This recipe and comments appeared in 2005 in my very first blog in the online community of singer, Maura O'Connell's, website.  As a result of Maura's generosity and that community's enthusiasm, my first blog now has well over 104,000 views.  How did that happen?  What follows is a lightly edited version of that post.

Well, this might be stretching things a little, BUT after a wonderful performance at The Bohemian Cafe (Greenville, South Carolina) recently, I met internationally known Dobro player, Jerry Douglas. (What a NICE person! I think he smiled throughout his performance and through all the meeting fans, autographing CDs and being photographed.) Anyway, somehow I wound up at Garner's Natural Foods Market and was inspired to purchase a few things for making a chicken, kale and white bean stew. Yup, just built a recipe out of the fresh meat and produce that I found there. Some people play the Dobro and some people compose meals. Both outputs FEED people, just different parts. Jerry works on your ears and soul and I work on your belly--kind of a soul thing too, in some ways.

SO...here's the recipe inspired by Jerry Douglas.

Jerry Douglas White Bean & Kale Chicken Stew

1 cups dry white beans (Great Northern is what I use)

1 2-3 lb organic chicken
1 gallon water
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper

2 large leeks (greens cut off) sliced length-wise and washed thoroughly*
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small bunch kale (about 5 cups chopped), washed and chopped**
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

2 T. Italian parsley, chopped

Fill pot with water, add beans, heat until boiling. No salt, as it toughens the beans. Allow to boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Allow beans to soak for about 1 hour. Return pot to heat, bring to the boil and reduce heat to med-low for a slow bubbling. Continue to cook for about 30-45 minutes. Drain. Beans should still be a little firm to the tooth.

Combine gallon of water, chicken, garlic and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to med-high and continue to cook for one hour. Remove the scum that rises to the top. Remove chicken and set aside. Reserve chicken stock.

Wipe out pot with paper towel. Place pot back over high heat and pour in olive oil, garlic, leeks, and onions, stirring until lightly wilted. Add kale and stir to coat with oil and other ingredients. When kale is lightly wilted, add salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper and 1 cup of parsley. Add the partially cooked beans. Pour back into pot the reserved chicken stock, stir, cover and reduce heat to medium. This should take about 30 minutes.

While the vegetables and beans are cooking, de-bone the chicken and cut into large natural chunks, not tiny and uniform pieces. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

When beans and kale are cooked, add the remaining 2 T. parsley and chicken. Allow to cook further for 5 minutes and remove from heat. 

*If they're available, otherwise, add another onion.
**I use Lacinato Kale, a Tuscan variety, because it's not as coarse as the regular, very curly variety.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Three Loves: TEDx, Cooking and Creativity

Three things that I love are hidden in this post:  TEDx, cooking and creativity.

Spanish-born chef, Jose Andres Puerta talks about cooking and creativity in this TEDxMidAtlantic talk.  He shakes us up, reminding us to risk, reach and ask questions.  Be aware and observe, fuel your fire to DO and to help others.  What passion!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Happens When Science and Food Get Married?

A wonderful (and fun) post from the International Culinary Center blog (formerly know as the French Culinary Institute of America).

While there is no video to accompany their post, this is a serious (can you believe it???) video of Anthony Bourdain talking about the importance of a culinary education.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Tribute

To honor dear mother earth, I am sharing with you my potato, green bean and caper salad recipe. After all, what is more of the earth than the humble potato, which grows in the earth?  Right.  I knew you'd agree.

3 lbs red new potatoes, scrubbed clean in a sink of cold water, unpeeled
2 cups fresh green beans (pinch the ends off if needed, cut into 1”-2” pieces)
5 eggs, hard boiled, cooled and peeled*
¾ cup Italian parsley, chopped (pack it down when measuring)
1 ½ cup sweet yellow onion, chopped 
1/3 cup capers
salt and black pepper

2 T. Dijon mustard
1/3  cup white wine vinegar
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk the mustard and vinegar until combined well.  Add oil in a slow stream and continue whisking until everything is well combined.

In a large pot of well-salted water, cook the green beans until lightly cooked.  Remove beans, using a slotted spoon, and drop into iced water; this will stop the cooking and seal in that lovely bright green color.

In the same pot, cook the potatoes.  They are fully cooked when a small thin paring knife is inserted in one of the largest potatoes and the potato feels soft.  Don’t let them get mushy!  Pour potatoes (water and all) into a big colander in the sink.  Pour cold running water over the potatoes to cool them down and to remove a little of the starch.

Before you do anything else, take one of the peeled eggs, remove the white and throw it away.  Keep the yolk.  This extra yolk will make the salad feel richer in flavor.

Quarter the potatoes, cut the eggs into small dice and place everything into a big bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients (capers, parsley, onions, green beans) and toss very lightly.  Pour dressing into bowl and toss again, making sure that all ingredients are evenly distributed and coated with the dressing. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust, if needed.

*I usually cook the eggs a day ahead.  This insures that they are cold enough to handle when I’m ready to use them.  People who don’t like potato salad are usually converted with this one. You can add chopped pitted Greek olives to this dish for a nice color contrast.  The salty-tangy olives go well with all of the other ingredients.