Friday, December 7, 2012

All Things Pumpkin

I don’t know if you noticed, but this seemed to be the “Year of the Pumpkin”.  I realized this on a trip to the grocery store back in October.  I was about to put a tub of pumpkin flavored cream cheese into my shopping cart when my friends with whom I was shopping intervened. That’s when I looked down in my cart and saw the pumpkin flavored coffee drinks, pumpkin spice cookie mix & a bag of pumpkin-filled raviolis.  A week later I was watching the news show “Nightline” which dedicated a segment to what seemed to be pumpkin flavored everything. Pumpkin marshmallows anyone?  Even Hershey’s Kisses® got on board by creating a seasonal pumpkin spice kiss.  Since I had a $1 off coupon for them, I thought I’d give them a try.  They were very orange & tasted as bad as they looked.  Given this year’s “pumpkin mania” I figured I should make something with pumpkin.  One afternoon, I was watching “The Chew” and Clinton Kelly concocted a pumpkin colada.  I thought this would be a good recipe to add to my holiday cocktail repertoire and if you’re like me, you may have several cans of pumpkin sitting on a shelf in the pantry. You know, for all the pumpkin pies you say you’re going to make but never do.  So this weekend while you’re trimming the Christmas tree and putting the final touches on your holiday decorations, dust off the blender and make a batch of these.  Just don’t climb any ladders. 

Clinton Kelly’s Pina Colada

This makes one serving so increase accordingly for additional servings.

1scoop     vanilla bean ice cream
2Tb          pumpkin pie filling
1oz          dark rum
8oz          milk

Canned whipped cream & nutmeg for garnish

Combine all ingredients in blender & pour into tall glasses.  Preferably a tulip shaped or hurricane style glass.  Top off with whipped cream & a sprinkle of nutmeg. 

Keep the blender out because you’ll probably be making a whole lot of these.

NOTE:  For a non-alcoholic treat, just leave out the rum.  But add a little more ice cream. J

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cool Cukes

Well, the final day of summer is fading into history. It was a particularly hard summer for farmers in the U.S.  – especially in the Midwest.  Here in the Mid-Atlantic we fared a bit better though if you talk to frequent farmer’s market folks – we all noticed that everything seemed to be a month early.  I don’t know about any of you but as we were heading into what seemed to be our 10th heat wave of the summer I could barely make eye contact with my oven.  We just tried to avoid each other altogether.  So when it came to fresh produce, everything was made pretty much “crudo” – raw!  I’ve developed a newfound love and respect for cucumbers more so than ever before.  This cucumber salad I made was perfect on those hot, humid days and I’m stretching it out into this cooler weather – cool cukes – because it makes such a great side dish to a sandwich or soup. Not to mention it’s a great way to use up any leftover cucumbers you may have from your garden or the farmer’s market.  And save those peels!! From me to my mom to my stylist Paula Jean, we know that nothing soothes eye puffiness from these seasonal allergies like a cool cucumber eye compress! 

Cucumber Salad with Feta & Dill Vinaigrette


1            medium cucumber, peeled & cut into 1/16” slices

3Tb        fresh lemon juice      
1Tb        finely chopped dill
1 ½ tsp  Dijon mustard
1 clove   garlic minced
½ cup   extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup     crumbled feta cheese

Sprig of dill for garnish

 Whisk together the lemon juice, dill, mustard & garlic.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Place the cucumber slices in a large bowl and pour the vinaigrette over top.  Then add the feta cheese.  Gently stir the salad until all the ingredients are combined.  When ready to serve at the table, garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.

**This recipe will make about 4 side servings and can easily be doubled as shown in the picture.  To save time, the vinaigrette can also be made in a food processor which is easier when the amount is doubled.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy As A Clam

So, back in June, I started the South Beach Plan. For the first 2 weeks, starches are not allowed. Anyone who knows me, knows that I could live off of French baguettes, cheese & butter for the rest of my life. Along with a side of bacon. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it but I figured 2 weeks out of my life, I think I can forgo some starches. To my surprise, it was seemingly easy. Though I was looking forward to biting into something doughy once the two weeks were up. My creativity really kicked in for those 2 weeks. Being a lover of clams, I bought a 50 count bag of middlenecks. Prior to aforementioned diet plan, I would’ve been fine eating them with a big bowl of melted butter & some hot sauce but unfortunately, butter isn’t part of the plan, either. L I looked in the cabinets & the fridge and just started grabbing. I came up with this Mediterranean style clam dish and after I tried it….Needless to say, I was happy as a clam! JJ

BTW: I think this is a great dish to entertain friends with. It’s a tasty starter to any meal. I would serve it along with some nice grilled rustic bread rubbed with a little olive oil, garlic & sea salt.


50 count middleneck clams, cleaned of any sandy particles by soaking in cold water

1 ½ Tb   olive oil
½           Vidalia onion, small dice
1 ½ tsp   dried Italian seasoning          
1Tb        garlic paste **(see recipe below)
15oz       canned petite diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup      canned chickpeas, drained
Kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste
Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley

Steam clams & carefully remove from shells reserving any of the clam liquid remaining in the shells. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir until soft & translucent being careful not to brown. Add in the Italian seasoning stirring until incorporated with the onions. Reduce temperature to a medium heat, then add the garlic paste being careful not to burn. Stir & cook for 1-2 minutes then add the tomatoes with their juice & the chickpeas. Cover and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat to a medium-low and add the clams with their juice. Cook uncovered for another 3-5 minutes just to allow the flavors to come together and warm the clams. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Pour into a large serving bowl & garnish with the parsley.

**Garlic Paste:
This is a quickie that I usually make a week’s worth of so that I can plop it into any dish that I want to add garlic paste into. Not to mention it’s cheaper than buying the stuff in a tube. Be sure to cover it & place it in the refrigerator. It will last about a week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Thighs Have It

Ahhh….the unassuming chicken thigh.  Like a wallflower at a high school dance or the last one picked in gym class for a game of dodgeball.  The chicken thigh always seems to be the last piece left on the platter after everyone has taken all the glamorous chicken breasts or the fun-loving wings & drumsticks.  I admit, in the past I’ve always overlooked chicken thighs.  I just never really gave them much thought & didn’t bother to cook them figuring nobody would like them.  Over the years though, I’ve come across some very tasty recipes using the ever flavorful chicken thigh.  To me, they’re probably the “chickeniest” tasting part of the bird.  Braising is my favorite way to cook them and I like to purchase them boneless/skin-on especially if I want a nice crispy skin.  In this recipe I’ve created, I crisp the skin twice – once before braising and then under the broiler after they’ve cooked.  And yes, I know the skin is not a healthy thing to eat, but the crispiness of the skin in this recipe will keep me sated until my “Thankgiving turkey crispy skin roll-up”.   This recipe is cooked completely on the stovetop and I like to use my lovely, oval Chantal enamel Dutch oven w. the glass lid so I can see what’s going on inside.  I’m proud of this piece of cookware because I bought it on sale 12 years ago for only $35!!  For some of the slow-cooking recipes I have created over the years, I’ve enjoyed adding various Campbell’s© soups as an easy and efficient way to add concentrated flavor.  Their Golden Mushroom Soup flavor is quite versatile and I love it in this recipe.  I like to serve this chicken over a plate of creamy, Parmesan cauliflower puree with some of the sauce spooned atop.  Maybe the cauliflower makes me feel a little less indulgent after eating the crispy chicken skin J.

Here's how to make this dish:

Braised Chicken Thighs

5          boneless/skin-on chicken thighs
1tsp      garlic powder
1tsp      Kosher salt
1tsp      fresh cracked black pepper
½         large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1Tb      butter
1Tb      olive oil
½ cup   dry Marsala wine
1can     Campbell’s© Golden Mushroom Soup
½ cup   chicken broth (salt free)


Season the chicken thighs with the garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Heat the butter & olive oil*  in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat.  Sear the chicken thighs skin side down first until well browned then turn over to brown the other side.  Remove the chicken to a plate.  Drain all but 1Tb of the fat.  Add the onion and cook until well browned on a medium heat.  Once cooked, return to a medium-high heat and add the Marsala wine to the onions being sure to scrape up all the bits that adhered to the pot.  Allow this mixture to reduce for approximately 3 minutes.  Place chicken atop the onion mixture skin side up.  Then take the soup and place it around the chicken thighs.  Don’t cover the thighs completely with the soup.  Add the chicken stock.  Partially cover & cook the chicken over medium-low heat for approximately 40 minutes.  When ready to serve, place the chicken thighs separately on a sheet pan and place under the broiler until skin is nice and crispy.  Reserve the gravy for spooning over the cauliflower puree and then top off with a chicken thigh.

*Adding olive oil while heating butter helps to lower the burning point of the butter. 

Creamy Parmesan Cauliflower Puree

1          large head of cauliflower cut into medium sized florets
½ cup   milk
½ cup   heavy cream
¾ cup   grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt to taste


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add cauliflower and cook until just tender when pierced with a fork.  Don’t overcook.  Drain cauliflower and place in a blender or food processor.  Begin to puree and add milk & heavy cream slowly.  If you prefer a thicker puree, cut back on the amount of milk and heavy cream.  Once pureed, fold in the parmesan cheese and then add salt to taste. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let Me Eat Cake!

Well, Valentine’s Day came & went almost a month ago and while I’m a bit delayed in writing a Valentine themed post; nonetheless, I thought I would share: How I Celebrated Valentine’s Day or as it’s known to those of us without a Valentine: Single’s Awareness Day.  Being single for many years now, I have almost come to loathe the day that celebrates “love".  But this year, I decided to embrace it.  I even bought a heart shaped wreath & hung it on my front door; which, if you live in South Philly, is somewhat expected in the ritual of holiday window decorating.    At some point, I even flirted with the idea of actually going out to dinner on Valentine’s -- ALONE.  I decided I’m brave but not that brave.  Instead I enjoyed an evening at home with me, myself & I.  Armed with Adele’s “21” cd, Veuve Clicquot champagne (my fave) & a large fork, I cheerfully celebrated (with forkfuls of decadent chocolate cake) what I now affectionately refer to as “Singles Appreciation Day”. 
Now, I don’t profess to be a great baker & I have to tell you, I don’t always make everything from scratch, but the cake I made for my Valentine’s Day, truly was made with love along with a lot of patience.   The cake is a multi-tier cake w. layers of chocolate mousse & whipped cream.  The icing is a chocolate German buttercream.  The actual cake mix is store bought but the mousse filling & icing are all homemade.  When I was a child, my mother used to always make homemade  birthday tortes.  Her German buttercream icing still lingers in my mind & tastebuds.  To me, there is none better.  It’s a combination of pastry cream & butter and is incredibly light.  The chocolate mousse is a classic preparation using bittersweet chocolate and while it is rich it is not overly sweet & is perfect as a filling for a cake or served on its own.  There are several steps to this recipe and it’s somewhat challenging but the end result is worth it!  It’s a definite crowd pleaser and packs a lot of “Wow”!


Equipment:  2 small heart-shaped cake pans or 2 regular 8-inch cake pans
Cake Mix:
1 store bought package of Devil’s Food cake mix prepared according to the instructions
Chocolate Mousse:
7.5oz    chopped bittersweet chocolate
4.5oz    unsalted butter
3           egg yolks
6           egg whites
1.25oz  granulated sugar
4oz       heavy cream
Melt the chocolate & butter in a double-boiler over low heat.  Stir until smooth.  Take off stove & allow to cool slightly then whisk in egg yolks one at a time. Set aside.  In a mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form then slowly add the sugar and beat until egg whites form stiff peaks.  Fold the egg whites by thirds into the chocolate mixture.  Be sure egg whites are fully incorporated into mixture.  In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks.  By now chocolate mixture should be cool.  Fold the whipped cream into the mixture, again making sure no streaks of white remain. Chill mousse if not using immediately.
Chocolate Pastry Cream:
2 cups   milk
¾ cups  sugar
6           egg yolks
2Tb      flour
3Tb      cornstarch
Pinch of salt
4oz      chopped semi-sweet chocolate
Scald the milk with half of the sugar.  In a stainless steel bowl, ribbon the egg yolks with the remaining sugar.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch & salt and then whisk into the egg yolk mixture. Slowly pour a small portion of the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly so as not to curdle the egg yolks.  Then in a slow steady stream add the remaining milk mixture while continuing to whisk.  Now pour the pastry cream into a heavy saucepan and on medium heat slowly bring the pastry cream just to the boiling point all the while stirring.  As soon as the cream comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for a minute or two.  It’s very important to stir the cream & not allow it to get too hot; otherwise, it will curdle.  If it turns out you have a few lumps, you can always strain it through a fine metal sieve. Remove the pastry cream from the stove and add the chocolate.  Stir until completely melted.  You can cool the pastry cream in a separate bowl placed in a shallow ice bath.  Place plastic wrap directly onto the pastry cream to avoid a skin forming.  By now you have probably realized that you just made homemade pudding. J
German Buttercream Icing:
8oz      unsalted butter @ room temperature
8oz      chocolate pastry cream @ room temperature (recipe above)
Cream the butter in a mixer then add the pastry cream and continue to blend on a medium speed until both the butter & pastry cream are incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy.  Slightly chill the icing until ready to use.
Stabilized Whipped Cream:
1 cup   heavy whipping cream(chilled)
1pkg    whipped cream stabilizer such as Dr. Oetker© brand
Add the stabilizer to the whipping cream and beat until medium peaks form.
To assemble cake:
Slice each cake in half horizontally so as to have 4 pieces.  Lay down the first piece then top with the chocolate mousse.  Add second piece and top with the stabilized whipped cream.  Add the third piece and top with the chocolate mousse.  Add the final piece and frost the cake with the buttercream icing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Tasty Comforting Cure for What Ails You

Greetings from the Kitchen on Carlisle!  So this is my first entry in my first ever experience of blogging.  I know there are tons of blogs out there that revolve around food, along with lots of foodies, experienced culinary professionals and very good home cooks.  I’m hoping to bring a little bit of light-heartedness along with some useful information and recipes that address my passion of all things food & wine-related.  It’s going to be a bit of a work in progress while I tweak some design and format issues so thanks in advance for suffering through with me J.

I hope everyone has had a good start to the New Year.  I enjoyed ringing in 2012 with good friends, good food & of course good wine! For the past 2 weeks I’ve had a nasty cold and to me and a lot of other people -  nothing makes you feel better than chicken soup.  In light of the Chinese New Year I thought I would make an Asian-inspired soup to cure what ails me.  I conjured up this recipe while I was watching the Giants play their way to victory in the Superbowl  (sorry all you Patriots fans).  The mellowness of the ginger, the meatiness of oyster mushrooms, a bit of heat from the dried red peppers & the tasty chicken-cilantro wontons REALLY hits the spot.

Thanks for reading and I’m hoping 2012 brings good health, happiness & prosperity to you all!

3Tb butter
1Tb olive oil
1 cup medium diced onion
1 cup medium diced carrot
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
4 Tb flour
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 small dried red chilies
1 cup oyster mushrooms, cleaned & torn by hand
1 bag chicken-cilantro wontons (preferably TraderJoe’s© brand)
Kosher salt to taste
Fennel fronds or Italian parsley for garnish


Melt butter and olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onion, carrot & ginger and allow to soften/sweat for 10 minutes on medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes making sure not to burn. Add flour and stir for 5-6 minutes until flour turns a blonde color.  Add the chicken broth and continue to stir until flour is incorporated into the liquid (essentially you are making a veloute).  Add the dried peppers & simmer on medium low for 60 minutes to allow liquid to thicken and reduce. Add mushrooms and simmer for another 20 minutes.  Add the wontons and allow to warm through approx. 8-10 minutes.  Prior to serving, remove the chilies (can use as a garnish but don't eat them)  and garnish with either the fennel fronds or parsley.