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Having friends for the weekend is always fun as it allows me to be a bit more creative in the kitchen. However my son and guest did not feel my excitement on the new muffins that I was going to prepare for them.
Me: I am going to make chocolate chip sweet potatoes muffins
Son: Sweet potatoes?? Really!! I don’t think that will taste that good, potatoes muffins!!!
Me: You must expand your food repertoire and I would like for you to try them. I know once you bite into one, you will love them.
Friend: I do not like chocolate chip muffins.
Me: You do not like chocolate chip muffins?
Son: my mom can’t have them either as she gave up chocolate for lent, so you are in luck.
Me: I guess it will be sweet potatoes muffins.
Son and Friend: Oh!!
I have not made this very old recipe, which it was handed me down by someone ions ago, was delicious with the chocolate chips, and now without them, I was in unknown territory and had no idea what to expect.  Not too sweet, light and just delicious was the final verdict. we enjoyed them also with butter and jam.
We hope you will enjoy them as well as much as we did.
Bon Appetit!

Giangi

 

SWEET POTATOES MUFFINS
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup orange juice
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
16 ounces – 2 medium sweet potatoes or yams- cooked in the oven until soft
1 cup chocolate chip
Sanding sugar for decoration

Cook in the oven the sweet potatoes until soft. Remove from the oven and peel them. Place the meat into a dish, smash to reduce to a no chunk pulp and let it cool.
Keep the oven at 400°.
Mix all the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon and chocolate chips if using.
Add to the dry ingredients the orange juice, sweet potatoes, egg and oil and mix well.
Place muffins cups in muffins pan and pour muffins mix up to cup high.
Sprinkle sanding sugar and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.
Serve at room temperature.

 

Trying to add a new flavor during the week is rather challenging but not impossible. As you may have notice we are not beans eaters in our family, and as lamb was on the dinner menu, I wanted to prepare alongside something new. Browsing thru some old French cookbooks, I often saw lamb prepared with beans. Why not give it a try.
The white bean recipe last night  was a combination of three recipe books and created as I was looking at my ingredients that I had on hand and did not feel like going to the store to just purchase one ingredient. Kind of fun to see what you can get away with and still  have a delicious easy meal prepared.
Great family dish, enjoyed by all and no left overs.
Bon Appetit!!!
Giangi

Tonight’s February 24, 2014 dinner:

Herbs Rack of Lamb with White Bean and Rosemary Ragout
Oven Roasted Potatoes

 

HERBS RACK OF LAMB WITH WHITE BEAN AND ROSEMARY RAGOUT

2 8 ribs each rack of lamb, frenched
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon rosemary
4 teaspoons unsalted butter melted
1 15 oz. cannellini beans can, drained, juices reserved
½ Knorr cube concentrate for chicken soup or vegetables soup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven at 375°.
Stir together the mustard seeds, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, bread crumbs, parsley, rosemary, and melted butter. Spread this mixture over the top of the rack of lamb. Place the lamb in a roasting pan and cook in the oven at 375° for 25 minutes.
While the lamb is cooking prepare the white bean ragout. Combine the cannellini beans, ½ cup of their reserved juices, 1 tablespoon rosemary, the soup concentrate Knorr cube and the lemon zest in a saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer the ragout for 10 minutes. If the ragout becomes too thick, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved juices from the beans to restore the consistency.
Keep warm.
Remove the lamb from the oven, cover and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Playing with new flavors last night. Browsing in my cupboard, the idea of tonight dinner  vegetable side dish was born.

I always have chickpeas in my pantry, love them in my salad for lunch, and preparing them along side Brussels sprouts and cauliflower  was something I never thought of doing and why not??
Searching thru my cookbooks, I found the idea of  sautéing  the chickpeas. Different, I thought, and curious as to the flavor they will give out.
In the kitchen I went, skillet out and ready to have fun.
Be very careful while sautéing the chickpeas as to not leave them unattended, as I did for 1 small minute: the chickpeas pop and I had a few that who flew the coop.
Well!! was I surprised.  Not only we really enjoyed the nuttiness of the chickpeas, the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower were delicious together.  Sautéing them, made them tender. Roasting them sealed in the great flavor.
A fun winter side dish.

Bon Appetit!!

Giangi

Tonight’s January 27, 2014 dinner:

Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower and Chickpeas
Leg quarters roasted
Apples quartered

 

BRUSSELS SPROUTS, CAULIFLOWER AND CHICKPEAS
½ cup olive oil
1 15 ounces can chickpeas, drain and patted dry
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and the chickpeas and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Do not leave unattended.
Add the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, season with salt and pepper and add the thyme. Cook stirring until lightly browned.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the vegetables for another 15 minutes or tender. Stir half way thru the oven roasting.
Squeeze the lemon juice and serve immediately.
Coming home late and wanting to prepare a new recipe , can be a recipe for disaster. I have been wanting to prepare this great cauliflower gratin from Bobby Flays’s “Bar Americain Cookbook” for a while now, but every time I read the recipe I got discourage because it was  too late to start  and I did not have the time necessary to donate to it. Re reading the recipe  I decided it to modify it and make it more school night friendly.
Steaming the cauliflowers was a quick short cut that eliminate a good 20 minutes from the oven cooking and could be done alongside preparing the béchamel sauce. And voila, what was supposed to be an over one hour meal preparation it was done in less than 45 minutes.
We served alongside a nice bone in pork chop.

TIP: * Life lesson from my grandmother: when cooking cauliflower,  squeeze a teaspoon of lemon in the water, or place some slices of lemon in the water. The lemon will absorb the smell that we are not too fond of.

* Make sure the cauliflower is not to cook but still has a bite or the whole plate will become mush.
* Using regular goat cheese is fine, actually that is what was required on the original recipe. I did not have any on hand.
* Use a good Monterey Jack cheese that is not too high on fat content.
Bon Appetit!!!

Giangi

Tonight’s January 23, 2014 dinner:

Cauliflower and Goat Cheese Gratin
Bone in Pork Chop

 

CAULIFLOWER AND GOAT CHEESE GRATIN

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 -3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoon flour
1 ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
6 oz. herbed goat cheese, cut in small pieces
½ cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets, and each florets cut in half

Preheat oven to 350° and butter a 10 inch gratin baking dish.
Steam the cut cauliflower until slightly tender. Remove from heat and place in a dish to cool off.
Meanwhile in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat melt butter and whisk in the flour. Stir to blend and cook for I minute. Gradually add the milk while whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened.
Remove from heat and add the Monterey cheese, ¾ of the goat cheese and ½ of the Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the sauce over the cauliflower and stir well.
Place the cheese and cauliflower mixture into the buttered gratin dish and top with remaining goat cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Place the gratin dish over a cookie sheet (for spillage) and bake until the cauliflower is tender and the top bobbly and golden brown.
Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Fish: I can ever get enough of it. We have a few favorite, but salmon is always our run to for dinner.

Last night we had fun putting together something new. With our backyard grapefruits ready to be enjoyed and a tree full, what a better occasion to enjoy them at dinner time too.

Easy put together sauce, just make sure that none of the membrane of the grapefruit are in the sauce. After the pulp is removed, squeeze the juice out and discard. The membrane not only it gives it a bitter flavor, but they are no fun to eat.
Salad with Champagne dressing and smashed fried potatoes as a side dish.

Lovely combination put together in less than 40 minutes. Start with the potatoes as they take the longest to cook.
Bon Appetit!!!

Giangi

Tonight’s January 14, 2014 dinner:
Roasted Salmon with Shallot and Grapefruit Sauce
Smashed Fried Potatoes
Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

 

ROASTED SALMON WITH SHALLOT AND GRAPEFRUIT SAUCE

2 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 grapefruit, cut into segments, membranes tossed and pulp section cut up into chunks, juices reserved
3 teaspoon honey
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons Italian flat leave parsley, finely chopped
4 skinless salmon fillets
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven at 375°. Place a sheet of aluminum foil to cover a cookie sheet. Place the salmon over it and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile heat oil and butter in a medium size skillet over medium heat.
Add shallots and sauté until translucent and soft.
Stir in the ginger, grapefruit juice and the pulp, honey, brown sugar and pepper flakes. Cook sauce until it is reduced by half.
Add the lemon juice and season to taste. Add more brown sugar if too bitter. Add the parsley and 1 teaspoon of butter, turn off the heat and melt the butter and mixed it well with the citrus sauce.
Place the salmon in the middle of a serving plate and spoon sauce over the top.
Serve warm and enjoy.

 

SMASHED FRIED POTATOES

1 ½ pound (24 oz. bag) fingerlings potatoes, all the same size if possible
¼ cup oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
Parsley, finely chopped

In a large pot of salted water place the well-scrubbed potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water. Using the palm, or the back of a large spatula, press the potatoes until slightly mashed.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until a nice golden brown color. Using a spatula or cooking thongs place over a paper towel to drain. Season with salt generously and with the chopped parsley.
Mix well and serve.
Brillat-Savarin once said “ Poultry is for the cook what canvas is for the painter”. I truly believe that as I have made more recipes  with chicken than any other meats. Last night was no exception.

Thanks to my favorite gentleman, Pete at Personal Gourmet Foods , I always have a well stocked freezer and chicken is a staple, a most. Easy to be creative.

The recipe that follows was created as I was going along. I love lemon chicken and I love leeks in the winter, combining the two was a quick decision.
The relish that was created while cooking from the combination of the two was a great compliment to the chicken. Sweet and tangy.

While I had the oven on, I crushed a couple of garlic cloves, seasoned well the broccolis with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them in a cookie sheet. In the oven they went for 15 minutes while the chicken was finishing cooking.

I hope you will enjoy this meal as much as we did.
Bon Appetit!!

Giangi

Tonight’s January 12, 2014 dinner:

Boneless Chicken with Leeks and Lemons
Roasted Garlic Broccolis
Mashed Potatoes

BONELESS CHICKEN WITH LEEKS AND LEMONS

1 whole boneless chicken, skin on
2 medium leeks, white part only thinly sliced
3 lemons: 2 sliced thinly and 1 juice squeezed
3 garlic cloves, peeled and hard end removed
½ cup white wine
Salt and pepper
Butter

Preheat oven at 375°.
Butter an ovenproof roasting pan. Cover the bottom of the roasting pan with the thinly sliced lemons and add the thinly sliced leeks over it.
Pat the chicken dry, salt and pepper all over, Place the chicken on top of the leeks. Salt and pepper generously. Add the garlic cloves, juice from 1 lemon and the white wine around the chicken.
Place in the warm oven and lower the heat to 350°.
Check while cooking to make sure that the lemons and leeks do not burn and baste the chicken with juices every 15-20 minutes. Add more wine if needed.
Once the chicken is nice and golden, 45 to 50 minutes and no more juices are running when pierced, remove from the oven and let sit covered for 5 minutes before serving.
Cut into 4 pieces and serve with the leeks and lemons relish.
Fresh vegetables have been such a part of my life since an early age. I remember when I was very little collecting fresh carrots, salad, herbs, zucchini, beans, peas and tomatoes from my grandmother garden. My grandmother and her cousin even took me Porcini mushroom picking. An experience of a lifetime.
I try to instill on my son the same food values by having at least two side dishes of vegetables at dinner time. I guess I succeeded because I am asked on a daily basis to prepare broccolis.
Wanting a bit of a change, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts were it last night. Nose went up as mushrooms are not the favorite of my son, however the polite bite to try was reached. Loved them but he will not admit it. Loved the Brussels sprouts.
From my kitchen to yours, enjoy!!
Bon Appetit!!

Giangi

Tonight’s January 11, 2014 dinner:
Orange Roughy with Sautéed mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH BACON AND SHALLOTS
1 pounds Brussels sprouts halved
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 slices of bacon cut in small slices (center cut  preferred)
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice

In a large skillet place the bacon and cook until golden brown.
Add the shallots and cook until tender. Add the Brussels sprouts and sauté to high heat to give it a nice golden outside.
Add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to season and serve.

 

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