Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eat Your Spinach...Morning, Noon and Night

There seems to be a special day for everything these days. You know where I'm going with this... Sunday is National Spinach Day! That’s a good thing because it gives me the opportunity to share a few recipes for using this glorious green.

Spinach Breakfast Frittata


Spinach is not only versatile in cooking, it’s really good for you. One of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, spinach is low in calories and high in vitamins. 


It gets even better; according to the USDA, spinach is fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free and high in dietary fiber. In addition, those dark green leaves are high in vitamins A and C, high in iron, high in folate, and a good source of magnesium. What’s not to love?






Here are a few recipes to help you enjoy your spinach at breakfast, lunch and dinnertime.


Spinach Breakfast Frittata
Like a quiche without the crust, frittatas are a versatile dish that can be modified for all tastes. With lots of veggies, plus eggs and cheese, a frittata will give you the nutrients and protein you need to get your day off to a great start.


Servings: 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded and chopped
8 large fresh mushrooms, chopped
5 ounces fresh spinach
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend
(or any combination of cheese you like)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg


Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep-dish pie plate with olive oil spray. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, bell pepper and carrot until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and then spinach. Cook until spinach wilts. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.


In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add sautéed veggies and mix well. Pour mixture into pie plate. Bake for 35-40 or until frittata has set.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)






Strawberry Spinach Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
This bright and colorful salad is wonderful on its own, or give it an extra boost of protein by adding sliced grilled chicken or steak.

Servings: 4
½ cup walnuts
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
8 ounces baby spinach

Vinaigrette
1 shallot, peeled and quartered
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender, add vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture is smooth. Slowly stream oil into mixture and pulse until blended. Refrigerate leftover dressing.
(Vinaigrette recipe adapted from marthastewart.com)







Greek Spinach Pasta
This pasta dish is loaded with fresh spinach, and you can control the amount of feta that you use, making it healthier than lasagna or other cheesy pasta dishes. Don’t shy away from the cinnamon in it though. It gives the dish just enough sweetness to balance the tartness of the spinach and feta.

Servings 4 
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons minced garlic
15-ounce can tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine (optional)
8 ounces penne pasta
A few handfuls of fresh spinach
Crumbled feta
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onion. Drain well. Add oregano, cinnamon, garlic, tomato sauce and wine to beef mixture. Simmer over low heat.
   
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Stir pasta and fresh spinach into beef mixture. Simmer until spinach wilts. Add crumbled feta to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)









Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Host the Perfect Pasta Party

When it comes to feeding a hungry crowd, there aren’t a lot of foods that fill the bill as well as pasta. Loved by kids and adults alike, pasta is one of those versatile foods that can be customized to satisfy all tastes including meat lovers and veggie lovers. Why not plan a party where your guests can create their own masterpieces with a build-your-own pasta buffet? 




From choosing the shape of pasta and the type of sauce to their favorite toppings – it’s all about personalization. Here are some ideas to help you plan the perfect pasta party.   



It’s all about the base. Serve two types of pasta – one long-stranded pasta such as spaghetti, linguine, fettucine or bucatini and one shaped pasta such as penne, farfalle (bowties), rigatoni or conchiglie (shells). Cook the pasta to al dente, which is Italian for to the tooth, meaning the pasta should be cooked until tender, but slightly firm. Drain the pasta, place into a serving bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.






The sauces. Include two or three types of sauce on the buffet to choose from such as a marinara, a tomato-based sauce; an Alfredo, a creamy sauce made with butter and Parmesan cheese; and a pesto sauce, which is generally made with fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. A bottle of good, quality extra-virgin olive oil is a nice addition to the buffet for guests who prefer no sauce.   



The accoutrements. The sky’s the limit here. Include a couple of meats such as meatballs, crumbled Italian sausage, or grilled chicken. Set out bowls of toppings - chopped fresh basil leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, boiled shrimp, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and sautéed bell peppers and onions.







The drinks. A variety of beverages such as S. Pellegrino sparkling water with lime wedges, fruity Italian sodas, and a couple varieties of wine will ensure there’s something for all tastes.



The décor. Fill large baskets with market goodies such as loaves of crusty bread, packages of dried pasta, canned Italian tomatoes, fresh herbs and wine bottles. A red-checkered table cover and classic candle in a Chianti bottle will set the mood.







Marinara Sauce 
¼ pound pancetta (Italian bacon), diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
Two 28-ounce cans Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes 
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil, chopped 
Fresh oregano, finely chopped
Pinch of sugar (optional)

In a large saucepan, cook the minced pancetta until browned, but not crispy. Add the onion and the garlic and cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the canned tomatoes and about ½  can of water. Cook over low heat for about 45 minutes. Add the fresh herbs. Continue to cook for 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If sauce seems slightly acidic, add a pinch of sugar.

At this point, you have two options. If you like a thicker, chunkier marinara, you can leave it alone. If you want a smother marinara, process Quickly in a food processor or with an immersion blender. 
(Recipe by Liz Donaldson, assistant chef at Walt Churchill’s Market, Maumee) 


Alfredo Sauce
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 ¾ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and the sauté the garlic. Add the cream and heat through on medium-low heat. When hot, add the cheese. Heat for about 10 minutes until it thickens. Add the parsley.
(Recipe by Liz Donaldson, assistant chef at Walt Churchill’s Market, Maumee)


Basil Pesto
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
¾ teaspoon garlic sea salt
¼ cup pine nuts
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup basil-infused olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
To prepare the pesto, pulse first five ingredients in a blender or food processor. Slowly add basil olive oil.
(Recipe from Ashleigh Tresso, owner of Bumble Olive Oil Company)






Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cooking with Flavored Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars

Flavored olive oils are becoming increasingly popular – showing up in tasting shops, boutiques and specialty grocery stores. That’s good news for home cooks as well as the health conscious. “Olive oil is good for you, and it is extremely versatile in cooking,” said Ashleigh Tresso, owner of Bumble Olive Oil Company.




“Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, a class of antioxidants, which are good for the joints and can help with arthritis and inflammation. They can also help lower blood pressure, boost good cholesterol, and enhance cancer medications,” explained Tresso.


In addition to olive oil, Bumble offers a large selection of flavored balsamic vinegars such as Blackberry Ginger, Neapolitan Herb and Cinnamon Pear.







When it comes to flavored oils and vinegars, Tresso pointed out, “You can’t be afraid to experiment with flavors. Some of my best dishes have happened by accident. There’s no limit with what you can do.” 






Pesto with Mozzarella and Roasted Tomatoes
For a beautiful presentation, spoon the pesto onto a serving plate, top with slices of fresh mozzarella, add a bit more pesto and roasted tomatoes. Basil pesto is also delicious mixed with pasta or as a sauce for pizza.

1 cup basil leaves
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
¾ teaspoon garlic sea salt
¼ cup pine nuts
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup basil-infused olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 fresh mozzarella balls

To prepare the pesto, pulse first five ingredients in a blender or food processor. Slowly add basil olive oil. Set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan and sauté tomatoes over medium heat for approximately eight minutes. Or roast them at 425 F for approximately 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.






Bumble Appetizing Bread
Garlic lovers will swoon over this cheesy and spicy appetizer. Just be sure to save room for dinner.


1-pound loaf white bread, unsliced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
6 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried red chili pepper flakes


Heat oven to 300 F. On a large, oven-safe serving dish, place bread loaf. Cutting only half way down the loaf, make eight slices. Sprinkle cheeses, garlic, parsley, and half of the oil over loaf.


Spread peppers around base of bread. Bake approximately 15 minutes or until cheese has melted, but not browned. Remove from oven and cover with remaining olive oil.


 




Balsamic Vinegar Cocktails
Be bold and experiment with flavored vinegars to create your own signature cocktails. Here are two of Tresso’s favorite combinations.


Apple Vodka
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces apple vinegar
Sparkling water or soda water
Apple slices

To a glass, add vodka, vinegar and crushed ice. Fill with sparkling or soda water. Garnish with apple slices.


Cranberry Pear and Champagne
2 ounces cranberry-pear vinegar
Dry champagne
Pear slices

To a glass, add vinegar. Fill with champagne and garnish with pear slices. 







Bumble Classic Hummus Dip
To serve this classic dip, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on a bit more paprika and chopped parsley.


2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, reserve liquid 
½ cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil 
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tablespoon ground paprika, plus a sprinkling for garnish
Juice from 1 lemon
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish


In a food processor, combine all ingredients, except parsley, and begin to process. Add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree. Taste and adjust the seasonings. 


To read the full article in the Sylvania AdVantage, visit Sizzle Simmer Sauté Sylvania 02.07.17 « Sylvania AdVantage



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cookbook Aims to Stir Up a Cure, Texas Style

If you’re looking for some delicious and hearty dishes to serve at your upcoming Super Bowl party, or any party, take a cue from the Cavenders, and help stir up a cure at the same time. 
  
Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce



As the Spur Stirs - The Art of Bringing A Western Family, Friends and Food Together is a beautiful, Texas-sized cookbook by Jacqueline Skeens Cavender of the Cavender family, famed for founding Cavender’s Western Outfitters. 

The family-owned and operated western wear retail chain, based in Tyler, Texas, has over 75 locations throughout the southwest.







Twenty years in the making, the cookbook was a labor of love for Cavender, an idea she came up with when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. 

In 2015, with the help of four close friends, Cavender published and released As the Spur Stirs to help raise funds for the American Cancer Society and Cystic Fibrosis research.
Raising funds for a good cause is only part of the book’s allure though. “A cookbook seemed like it meant something more, something people could walk away with,” said Cavender. “People tell me things like, ‘I gave this to my friends, or I cooked this with my mother.’ It’s really a gift that continues to give.”

The 272-page cookbook features a collection of recipes Cavender gathered over the years from her mother and mother-in-law’s kitchens as well as from inside the cupboards of close friends and celebrity supporters including Grammy-award winner Celine Dion, First Lady Laura Bush, country singer Pat Green, “King of Country” George Strait, model Kathy Ireland and actor Dennis Quaid, to name just a few.

The book is also about stories of loved ones and honoring them. “This is not just a cookbook, it’s like a novel about people and their struggles,” explained Cavender. “We wanted to create a treasure that people would pass down through their families and their legacies would live on through that.”

In little over a year, about 18,000 copies of the book have been sold. “It has been a journey and a joyful experience for us. People share stories about their family and how much they appreciate our putting this book together for charity,” said Cavender. “It’s a bit of therapy for me. I lost my mom at such a young age. It’s a way to continue to stay close to her.”  

As the Spur Stirs can be purchased at asthespurstirs.com or cavenders.com. Net proceeds benefit The American Cancer Society and research for Cystic Fibrosis. Here is just a sample of the fabulous recipes that are included.




Mini Lobster Tacos with Mango Salsa



Mini Lobster Tacos with Mango Salsa
Serves 8
Vegetable oil for frying
8 corn tortillas, cut into 2½ -inch diameter rounds
2 limes
1 mango, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons coconut oil
½ small red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 lobster tails, steamed and chopped
Chopped jalapeño chile to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Add vegetable oil to a heavy skillet to 1-inch depth. Heat the oil to 365 degrees over medium heat.

Add one tortilla round and fry for 15 seconds. Turn the tortilla over and fold in half using tongs. Hold the shell in place using tongs and fry for 15 second or until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining tortilla rounds.

Grate the zest from the limes and set aside. Juice the limes into a bowl. Add the mango, salt and pepper and toss to mix.

Heat the coconut oil in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Add the lobster and jalapeño chile and sauté until heated through.

Fill the taco shells with the lobster mixture and top with Mango Salsa. Sprinkle with lime zest and cilantro. (Recipe by Jacqueline Cavender, As the Spur Stirs)




The Most Delicious Margaritas



The Most Delicious Margaritas
Serves 12
3 cups good-quality tequila, such as Tres Generaciones or Patron
⅔ cup Grand Marnier
1 large bottle Jose Cuervo margarita mix

Combine the tequila, Grand Marnier and margarita mix in a pitcher and mix well.
(Recipe from Billy Bob’s Texas Restaurant, As the Spur Stirs)




Su Dip



Su Dip
Serves 10
2 pounds Jimmy Dean mild or hot bulk pork sausage
32 ounces cream cheese
2 (10-ounce) cans tomatoes with green chiles, undrained

Brown the sausage in a skillet, stirring until crumbly; drain. Heat the cream cheese and tomatoes with green chiles in a saucepan over low heat until the cream cheese is melted, stirring frequently.

Stir in the sausage and cook until heated through. Remove to a bowl and serve with corn chips. (Recipe by Susan Davis, As the Spur Stirs)




Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce



Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Serves 8
6 or 7 dried red ancho chiles
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 garlic cloves
Vegetable oil
1 package corn tortillas
1 chicken, cooked, boned and shredded
½ onion, chopped
Shredded cheese

Combine the chiles and water in a blender container and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the salt and garlic and process for 5 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve into a shallow bowl. Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet. Dip one tortilla into the sauce, being sure to coat both sides of the tortilla with the sauce.

Fry the coated tortilla for 30 seconds per side and remove to a serving plate. Place one-eighth of the chicken over one end of the tortilla. Top with one-eighth of the onion and roll up. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, sauce, chicken, onion and cheese. Garnish with sour cream, pico de gallo or guacamole and serve.
(Recipe by Jacqueline Cavender, As the Spur Stirs)


Jacqueline Cavender



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cinnamon French Toast for a Crowd

I wasn’t going to post this weekend, but I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to share one last dish for your Christmas brunch buffet. Think of it as a public service announcement – it’s so good. This Cinnamon French Toast Casserole is easy to prepare – make it the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning – and it’s always a hit with kids and adults alike. More importantly, I wish you and your family a very joyous, safe and the happiest of holidays. Enjoy!



Cinnamon French Toast Casserole
Serves 9

1 16 oz. loaf cinnamon swirl bread, cubed
6 eggs
1 ¾ cups milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup chopped pecans
Maple syrup

Coat a 9" x 13" baking dish with cooking spray, and add the bread cubes.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, nutmeg and salt.  Pour the mixture over the cubed bread, pressing the bread down gently so it absorbs the egg mixture.


In a small saucepan, melt butter and whisk in brown sugar until melted.  Add in pecans and pour over bread. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Journey Through the Holidays

Yesterday someone asked me if I had all my holiday stuff wrapped up. My first thought was to reply, “Huh? I have a million things to do over the next 10 days – wrapping, food preparation, straightening the house, holiday parties, never ending grocery runs – you name it.” But instead, I smiled and replied, “I look at this time of year as more of a journey.”




A journey that seems to begin earlier each year. 



From that first Christmas card written and mailed to the packing away of the tree and trimmings, it’s not over till it’s over.







Don’t misunderstand me. I love this season. Really. But it is tiring – I’m sure you can agree. 



It's just that some days I feel as if I need a giant organizational flow chart on the wall to pull it all off.







So why do we bother?







Because we are givers and love to see the joy these tasks bring to our friends and loved ones.



So, here’s to joyous pre-holiday preparations, a very Merry Christmas, a festive New Year’s Eve, and a well-deserved nap.




Monday, December 12, 2016

Cranberry Muffins with Orange Crumble Topping

Whether you'll be hosting a holiday brunch buffet for a crowd or cooking up a Christmas breakfast for your family, make it easy on yourself and whip up a batch or several batches of these scrumptious sweet and tart muffins a week or so ahead of time. Freeze them now, thaw them the morning you need them, and then set them on the buffet. Easy. Peasy.
  



Cranberry Muffins with Orange Crumble Topping
Makes 1 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 large eggs
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ cup milk
½ cup sour cream


Topping
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted







Heat oven to 400 F. Grease and sugar a 12-cup muffin pan; set aside.


Prepare topping. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, orange zest and cinnamon. Add melted butter, stirring until crumbly. Set aside.


In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add cranberries, stirring to combine.


In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, milk and sour cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. (Batter will be lumpy; do not over mix.) Evenly divide batter among muffin cups. Evenly divide topping over the batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. (Recipe adapted from Christmas Cottage 2011)





Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cooking for a Cause

I finally got it, and I only had to drive 1,250 miles to the nearest Cavender’s Boot City in Amarillo, Texas to get it. Lucky for me that drive also came with a much-needed vacation in New Mexico.




As the Spur Stirs - The Art of Bringing A Western Family, Friends and Food Together, by Jacqueline Cavender, is a beautiful cookbook featuring recipes from Cavender’s family, friends and friends of friends. 


Twenty years in the making, this cookbook was a labor of love for Cavender, an idea she dreamed about while spending time with her mother who was battling cancer.


This book is not only packed with delicious recipes for all occasions, it was created to help those affected by cancer or cystic fibrosis as proceeds from its sales are donated to the American Cancer Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.






As the Spur Stirs is loaded with great ideas for entertaining. 


This Baked Pizza Dip is just one of many quick and fabulous appetizers in the book that’s perfect for holiday parties, the rest of football season, or a New Year’s Eve celebration.






Baked Pizza Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
14-ounce can pizza sauce
4-6 green onions, chopped
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 small cans sliced black olives
Chopped pepperoni


Layer the cream cheese, pizza sauce, green onions, mozzarella cheese, olives, (I added fresh mushrooms) and pepperoni in a pie plate. 

Bake at 325 F for 25 minutes. Serve with slices of crusty bread.




P.S. the boots at Cavender’s are pretty fabulous too!