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Recipe: Mini Spinach and Bacon Quiches


This recipe for Mini Spinach and Bacon Quiches is so easy…. you will never buy the commercial mini quiches again…. for a fraction of the cost you can have delicious mini quiches… perfect for a party or a snack while watching the game….

You can make these ahead a number of ways…. since they’re so easy to make…. I assemble everything except I add the egg/milk mixture just before I bake them…. they come out perfect every time. You can also freeze them after totally assembling them (including the egg mixture).. freeze them in the greased muffin tin until solid, then turn out and store in an airtight container in the freezer. When ready to use, place in a greased muffin tin... thaw for about 30 minutes and bake.

Some Quick Tips:

I use bagged frozen chopped spinach… I personally like it better than the cartons… this way I can take only what I need each time… I found it has saved me quite a bit.

After thawing the spinach… I put the spinach in my mini chopped to chop it even finer… it’s easier to handle when adding it to the quiches.

I cook my bacon in the oven… I posted the instructions a while ago… go to that post for tips on making bacon in the oven.

I cook the bacon until it’s cooked through… but not ultra crisp… I like it to be a little pliable still.

Chop the bacon in a mini chopper to get it into very small pieces… which is much easier to handle.

I also chop my onion in the mini chopper to get it finely chopped.

I use finely shredded Artisan Blend Swiss and Gruyere from Sargento for the cheese.

The easiest way to get the egg/milk mixture into the mini quiches without a mess and to make them uniform…. use a measuring teaspoon to pour it into the quiche…. each mini quiche takes 2 teaspoons of egg mixture.

Each piece of pie crust will make about 14 mini quiches.

I have a set of 3 biscuit cutters…. the middle size (approximately 2 ¼ inch) is perfect for cutting out the pie crust.

Try these…. you’ll love them!







Recipe: Mini Spinach and Bacon Quiches

All you need:

1 package refrigerated pie crust (2 sheets), softened as directed
2 strips of bacon, cooked and finely chopped
¼ of a small onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely shredded Sargento Artisan Blend Swiss and Gruyere cheese
½ cup frozen chopped spinach, chopped again in the mini chopper
2 eggs
½ cup milk
Cooking spray to grease the mini muffin tins (butter flavor preferred)

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly spray the mini muffin tin (I do this even though it is a non-stick pan… to ensure they don’t get stuck). Set aside.

Beat the eggs with the milk and set aside.

Lightly dust a flat surface with flour.

Carefully unroll one of the pie crusts.



Using the biscuit cutter cut the pie crust into rounds.

Gently push the pie crust rounds into the mini muffin tin.





Add a small amount of the chopped onion to each.

Add a small amount of the chopped bacon to each.









Add a small amount of spinach to each.






Add a small amount of the shredded cheese to each.

Add a little more bacon to the top of each (will make the mini quiches look pretty).





Add 2 teaspoons of the egg/milk mixture to each quiche.








Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes until set.

Cool for 2-3 minutes in the pan, then turn out and arrange on a serving dish.



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Recipe: Mini Italian Calzones


This recipe for Mini Italian Calzones is extremely easy and definitely a crowd pleaser… watching the big game? Have a lot of manly men to feed? …. why not make calzones… you can prepare them ahead and pop them in the oven about 30 minutes before you want to serve them…. they’re filling … and best of all… pretty inexpensive to make.

You can make a Stromboli to go with it…. maybe an Antipasto Salad…. you can feed a bunch of people for about $20… now you can’t beat that!

The reason I suggested making a Stromboli to go with it… all you have to do is make up an extra pizza dough batch for the Stromboli…. a full recipe of my pizza dough will make two Strombolis … and a full recipe of the pizza dough will make about 20 mini calzones…. depending on how big you make them…. in fact you don’t have to make them minis… make them bigger and you have a hearty “sandwich”…. vary the size…. it’s up to you.

TIPS:

Plan ahead…. I like to make my Italian meatballs for dinner… I save about 6 meatballs and freeze them…. then when I want to make meaty calzones or need a meat topping for pizza… all I have to do is defrost them.

You can use a variety of fillings…. or just pick one…. be creative… you can fill these with just about anything…. I am posting three fillings… cheese, spinach and cheese, and meatball and cheese.

When using the cheese filling… the traditional Italian Calzone doesn’t have tomato sauce in it…. serve it along side it…. I use pizza sauce.

You can use commercially made pizza dough available in the dairy section of the grocery store or make your own…. if you have a mixer with a dough hook… making the dough is a snap!

I previously posted a pizza dough recipe with instructions… if you are making it …see that post.

I also previously posted my meatball recipe…. you can use that recipe for the meat filling or one of your own.

Enjoy!



Recipe: Mini Italian Calzones

All you need:

Commercially made pizza dough or homemade
Fillings
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
1 jar of pizza sauce

Cheese Filling:

½ container (15 ounce) part skim ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten

Spinach and Cheese Filling:

½ container (15 ounce) part skim ricotta cheese
¾ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten

Meatball and Cheese Filling:

3-4 Italian meatballs, mashed
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

All you have to do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

If you are making the pizza dough…. while the dough is rising, make the fillings.

Simply combine the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

When dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured board.

The dough will be sticky, you will have to knead it with a small amount of flour (about 2 tablespoons).

Knead it gently with your hands to incorporate a bit of the flour.

Cut the dough in half with a knife…. it will be easier to work with the dough in two batches.

Roll the dough out until it’s thin.

I use my biscuit cutter to cut a circle.

The dough will still be too thick… so roll the cut circle out until it’s very thin.

TIP: It’s difficult to get a perfect circle by rolling the cut circle…. So pick it up with your hands and gently pull it into shape…. Carefully…. Don’t tear the dough. The dough will easily shape.




If you are making mini calzones you will want a about a 4 inch circle.

Drop about a teaspoon and a half of filling in the middle.




Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together…make sure you have sealed the calzone.

Place the calzone on the parchment paper.

Repeat until you have filled the baking sheet…. I bake about 9-12 at a time.

Let the calzones rest for about 15 minutes.

Brush the calzones with the egg wash.

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

If any filling leaks out…. take a sharp knife and simply trim the leakage off… it will cut easily off.

Serve warm with pizza sauce.

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Recipe: Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Squares


This recipe for Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Squares is from the Barefoot Contessa…. I saw it recently on her show and thought it was a terrific idea for a “substantial” appetizer/hors’dourve….

I only made two minor changes from her recipe. Her recipe calls for Dijon mustard… which I have used… and it was very good… but I like a coarse spicy brown mustard a little better….

Her recipe uses Gruyere cheese… on her show she uses quite a large piece and trims it.. then slices it…. Gruyere has become really expensive… a small wedge is about $16 in the supermarket… and I would need a piece 4 times that size…. so no way was I going to use Gruyere….. instead I substituted a shredded Artisan Blend of Swiss and Gruyere by Sargento… a much more economical alternative.

This is a perfect addition to a cocktail party… it makes for a lot of squares and is substantial enough for people drinking alcohol… best of all you can prepare this ahead ... say in the morning of the party... it assembles fairly quickly...store it in the fridge...and bake it an hour or so before the party… it’s delicious slightly warm or at room temperature…. AND it won’t break the bank.







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Recipe: Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Squares

All you need:

1 box of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
2 tablespoons coarse brown mustard (or Dijon if you prefer)
1 bag Sargento Artisan Blend Swiss and Gruyere shredded cheese
¼ pound thinly sliced Black Forest ham
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water for an egg wash

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Lightly flour a flat surface to roll out the pastry sheet.

Carefully unfold one thawed pastry sheet and place on the floured surface, then turn over to dust the other side with flour to prevent it from sticking.

Gently roll the pastry sheet into a 10 inch x 12 inch rectangle.

Place the pastry sheet in the center of the parchment paper.

Using a pastry brush… brush the pastry sheet with the mustard leaving a 1 inch border around the edge.

Layer the ham over the mustard, overlapping them slightly…. Be sure to leave the 1 inch border.

Layer the shredded cheese over the ham…. Be sure to leave the 1 inch border.

Using a pastry brush… brush the 1 inch border with egg wash.

Roll out the second pastry sheet into a 10 inch x 12 inch rectangle.

Place the second pastry sheet over the layered first sheet.

Gently press the edges together to seal the rectangle.

If the rectangles are slightly uneven, trim them to to even them up.

Using a fork gently press the fork along the edge to make an imprint with the tongs for a decorative look.

Brush the top with egg wash so the puff pastry will bake to a beautiful golden brown.
Using a sharp knife make three slits in the top to allow steam to escape during baking.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes … until puffed and golden brown.
Allow the pastry to cool before cutting.

TIPS:

Make sure you use a very sharp knife to cut the puff pastry… and use a sawing motion for best results.

Cut them into any size squares you like.... I cut a variety of sizes and I didn't photograph the complete yield.... The Barefoot Contessa's recipe says 6 servings... I figure 1-2 pieces per person....2 inch by 2 inch pieces.... it can serve as many as 10 or so.

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Last Minute Ideas for Ringing in the New Year


Whether you plan on a quiet evening for two… or a family event or a party… planning is essential to making your life easy and economical.

We usually plan a nice evening for two…. I either make an abundance of appetizers and hors’dourves followed by a really nice dessert or I make a several course meal…. depending on how elaborate the main course is… which it usually isn’t …. will dictate how much work I put into the appetizer, side dishes and dessert. I’m big on a make ahead plan… I don’t spend my time ringing in the New Year in the kitchen slaving away.

When planning a party… I follow my Father’s cardinal rule… always make sure you serve a enough food and have a wide variety to suit all tastes when serving alcohol. You certainly can buy large boxes of hors’dourves at Costco and BJ’s…. or a sampling of smaller ones at the grocery store… but that can add up to a really expensive evening, especially when you factor in alcohol.

So what do you do?

Plan ahead and make ahead…. make a list of possible food choices and then divide the list into things that need attention during the party or dinner…. keep those to an absolute minimum… eliminating anything too time consuming.

Make sure your list includes healthy alternatives… vegetable and fruit trays for an example. Cheese and cubed summer sausage are paired well with grapes, apples and pears.

Try to limit your hot hors’dourves to about three or at least three turns in the oven… what I mean by that is I try to group a variety of hors’dourves baking at the same temperature and baking times so I can put a variety on a tray and only have to watch it once in the oven. I do this whether I’m making a variety for two people or twenty…. it saves time.

Commercially made…even at discounters… are still expensive…. smaller packages can run you between $9-$12 dollars for what they call “serves 8 or 12” at the grocery store….. larger boxes at discounters… will have 100 count boxes running you some serious cash… for example… Kosher Potato Puffs… 100 count box sells for $79.99… OUCH! … and what’s doubly bad about it… that’s only one kind of hors’dourve…. you need a variety.

So my advice is figure on fruit, vegetable and cheese trays…. The trays can be done in advance…. I like to make one chafing dish food… say spicy cocktail meatballs…. make them heat them and forget about it… your done…. and I pre-make a variety of appetizers and freeze them… you can make fried raviolis for under ten dollars… something that would cost you probably over $50 to buy pre-made. The savings add up.

It’s not too late to start… it’s only December 27th… make one or two kinds each day… when using pie crusts… for example… I make my mini quiches and mini empanadas the same day… the fillings are quick and I already have the pie dough setup …. so making them is a snap….freeze them and you’re ready!

One last thing…. How Much to Make?

I like to have an assortment of 6-8 types of snacks including the cheese tray …. plus the fruit and vegetable trays…. I don’t count the fruit and veggie tray because I consider that as an extra to cover all dietary needs…..then I figure 3-4 per person per type of snack I make….

And don't forget dips... Mexican Layered Dip is a perfect example of a festive dip to serve.

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From the Archives: Champagne Tips

Tip of the Day:

These tips are from the Korbel website…. I thought it would be a good idea to include some information on champagne with New Year’s just around the corner. I hope you find the information helpful.

Store your champagne in a cool, dark area and keep the bottle on its side. Champagne remains good for up to three years.

How much to buy?

Allow six very generous glasses per standard 750 ml. bottle. For a toast or dessert, allow one glass per person. For cocktails or as an aperitif, you may need two per person. For an entire evening, plan on ½ bottle per person.

How to chill champagne

For a large party, you may want to chill your champagne in a bucket of ice cubes instead of a refrigerator. The champagne will chill faster in a bucket or container that is half filled with ice and water and it is considered the best cooling method. It will chill in 30 minutes as opposed to an hour in a refrigerator.

Champagne that has been chilled does not need to remain chilled. As long as the bottle is stored on its side, it can be placed back in the wine rack until ready to be chilled again.

How to open a bottle of champagne

“The popping of a cork may sound festive and exciting, but it does waste champagne. The pop may also be dangerous if it causes the cork to fly. The recommended Korbel way to properly open a bottle is to ease the cork out slowly, with the sound of a gentle sigh.

For the best results in opening, follow these steps:

1. Avoid shaking the bottle. Remove the foil and wire muzzle, keeping your thumb on the cork to prevent it from shooting out of the bottle. Or, wrap a towel around the neck of the bottle, covering the cork.

2. Tilt the bottle at a 45 degree angle while holding the cork firmly with one hand and the base of the bottle with the other. Be sure to point the bottle away from your guests.

3. Do not twist the cork. Rather, twist the bottle slowly while letting the cork glide out gently, emitting a gentle sigh.

4. Never use a corkscrew. A champagne cork is highly compressed. If a corkscrew is inserted at an angle, you may have an exploding bottle in your hand. Exercise caution!”

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Recipe: Fried Ravioli


Making Fried Ravioli is so easy…. and you won’t believe just how inexpensive it is to make your own. I like to serve a variety of hors’douvres to my guests…. something for everyone…. but that can get expensive. There are frozen breaded ravioli in the freezer section in the grocery store but you don’t get many in a box and they’re not cheap…. so making it yourself ahead can save you quite a bit.

This can be a terrific make ahead hors’dourve for your party. You can make them ahead and freeze them until you’re ready to use them. To freeze put them on baking sheets lined with waxed paper and freeze for about 10 minutes (to avoid them freezing in clumps)…. Then store in an airtight container or bag until you want to make them. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about 8 minutes.

I used Giada De Laurentis’ s method of using buttermilk instead of a milk/egg coating… I found the bread crumbs adhered better with the buttermilk.

Quantities will depend on how many you are making.

I hope you try these!







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Recipe: Fried Ravioli

All you need:

1 box ravioli (found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store)
Buttermilk
Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Oil for frying

All you need to do:

Line one cookie sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

Line one cookie sheet with a double layer of paper towels and set aside.

Pour the buttermilk into a shallow bowl (start with about ¾ of a cup and refill if necessary)

Put about 1 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl (refill as necessary).

Dip the ravioli in the buttermilk, letting excess drip off.

Then dip the ravioli in the seasoned bread crumbs.

Place the breaded ravioli on the cookie sheet with waxed paper.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil to 325 degrees. Using a skillet helps because the surface area is larger than a pot.

Gently drop the breaded raviolis in the oil and fry until the underside is a light golden brown, then gently roll the ravioli over to brown the other side.

When both sides are a light golden brown, remove and drain on the cookie sheet with paper towels.

Serve with marinara sauce.

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Recipe: Antipasto Salad


I like to serve Antipasto Salad as part of party buffets. The salad is delicious and easy to put together…. isn’t very expensive to make…. and best of all… takes only about 10 minutes to put it together.

I like to chop and prepare the ingredients ahead of time… then assemble it when I put together my buffet… it only takes a few minutes.

Antipasto salads can be made with a wide variety of ingredients… personal taste, availability of ingredients and budget dictate what to include. Most often they are made with a variety of meats, cheeses, and vegetables and sometimes pasta.

The salad I made included lettuces, tomato, thinly sliced then julienned salami, pepperoni and provolone cheese, sliced black olives, chopped roasted red peppers…I usually slice red onion into rings and add them as well.

Dress the salad with your personal choice of a vinaigrette … I recommend a seasoned oil and vinegar or Italian dressing.

I used a store bought one that I highly recommend… Lily’s Northern Italian Dressing…. the company is owned by Ken’s… unfortunately the dressing isn’t available everywhere… but if you see it … you should try it… it’s terrific.

I also used a bagged salad… from Fresh Express… you may recall I did a product review on their salads a while ago… they’re great…. and the convenience can’t be beat.

The quantities used made the platter shown…. it should serve four…. Depending on what other foods you serve with it… it would make a great salad for dinner with some fresh bread…. maybe some soup with it….then it would serve only two.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Antipasto Salad

All you need:

1 bag salad (your preference type.. I used Butter Lettuces)
1 tomato, cut up
6 thin slices Genoa Salami, julienned
6 thin slices Provolone cheese, julienned
6 thin slices Pepperoni, julienned
¼ cup sliced black olives
2 slices of red onion (cut into ¼ inch slices), separated into rings
1 roasted red pepper (jarred in oil), chopped
Italian vinaigrette (your choice)

All you need to do:

If you plan to dress the salad yourself… add all ingredients into a large bowl and toss to mix… then add your dressing and toss to coat…. then pour the ingredients on a platter.

OR…. if you want to keep the dressing on the side and let everyone take the amounts they want (I usually do this)….then...

On a large platter, arrange the lettuce.

Layer all ingredients on top of the lettuce.

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Safety Tips for Buffets & Party Platters

Food Safety Tip of the Day

The holiday season is underway! Protect yourself and your guests this holiday season by making sure the food you serve is safe. Don’t leave foods out for more than two hours.

Some tips:

Keep Cold Foods Cold!

Foods on a buffet can be kept cold by placing food dishes in larger bowls of ice. For party trays purchased at the supermarket, remove the lid and fill the lid with ice. Put the tray on top.

If you aren’t purchasing a party platter from a supermarket, you can purchase party platters with lids and make your own trays. You can find them at party supply stores and some supermarkets.

Rather than serve food from one platter, arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it’s time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.

Keep Hot Foods Hot!

Hot foods on a buffet can be kept hot with chafing dishes, crock pots and warming trays and should be at 140 degrees F or warmer.

Fill serving dishes with enough food for one round of eating… refill with hot food as needed… this way the food isn’t sitting out too long and is safe to eat.

Source: Partnership for Food Safety Education

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Recipe: Beer Batter Onion Rings


Growing up in New York, one of my favorite diner foods was batter fried onion rings. Diners all over the five boroughs of New York make these fantastic onion rings… some restaurants do too… I have no idea how they make theirs… but I finally figured out how to duplicate it at home.

When I took some graduate courses at Long Island University in Brooklyn (don’t ask me why it’s in Brooklyn not Long Island… I have no clue)… there was this great restaurant just across the street… the famous Junior’s restaurant…. they’re still there….they have the best cheesecake and …. you guessed it… onion rings… I used to eat lunch there … and split either a cheesecake slice or a plate of onion rings with a friend… the waiters thought we were crazy… we’d each order a small salad and share the onion rings or cheesecake.

When I got married and moved out of the New York area, I began my quest to find someplace that made the onion rings the way the diners did in New York. I simply couldn’t find any place that served them like they did in New York. I finally gave up and started my quest to find a recipe that I liked.

I found that my recipe came close but it still didn’t produce that wonderful “puffed up” onion ring I loved, then I read that adding beer instead of water or milk would do the trick… the onion rings improved. … but were still not perfect.

Then I saw Rachael Ray use pancake mix (complete) and beer and I thought nothing ventured nothing gained…. I tried it and viola! …. I found the recipe that worked. For some reason the pancake mix made a better batter than doing it from scratch…

Rachael Ray uses a number of spices, which I tried… but have since removed from the recipe…. I frankly couldn’t taste the spices and feel they’re unnecessary. I also find the batter needs more beer to get the right consistency.

TIP: Use a large skillet as opposed to a deep pot…. the surface area is larger and will make it easier to fit the onion rings in the oil.

So here is the best beer batter onion ring recipe I have yet to come up with…. If you like that doughy thick batter fried onion ring… this recipe is for you.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Beer Batter Onion Rings

All you need:

1 large sweet onion, sliced (1/2 inch slices)
2 cups Aunt Jemima Original Complete Pancake Mix
1 ¼ cups beer
¼ teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying

All you need to do:

Line a large cookie sheet with paper towel and set aside.

Melt vegetable shortening or heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Make sure you have about 1-1 ½ inches of oil. NEVER LEAVE THE OIL UNATTENDED.

In a medium bowl, combine the pancake mix, salt and beer. Stir until you have a thick batter.

Test the oil by dropping a tiny drop of batter in it… when it floats and bubbles… your oil is hot.


Dip the onion rings in the batter. Make sure the ring is completely covered…. as you pull it out of the batter… let the excess drip off.

Drop the battered onion ring in the hot oil.

The rings will puff up and brown on the bottom side, carefully flip them over to brown the other side.

When both sides are browned, remove the onion ring to the paper towel to drain.

When all onion rings have been fried, remove skillet from heat and allow the oil to cool completely before discarding.

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Recipe: Stromboli



This is no ordinary Stromboli…. I decided to make it with a dough made with Italian Herb and Garlic. Made with a mixer fitted with a dough hook, this meal is a snap to make and ohhhh so good.... but if yo prefer .. you can use a purchased dough... bread or pizza dough both work well.

For those of you not quite sure just what a Stromboli is…. it’s Italian bread dough that’s rolled flat… and layered with assorted Italian meats, cheeses, and vegetables such as olives, roasted peppers, onions and the like. The bread dough is then rolled, jelly roll style and baked. When served, the Stromboli is sliced into thick slices.

So what is a Stromboli?

Just a bit of trivia…. according to Wikipedia… Stromboli is reported to have originated in 1950 just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at a place called Romano’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria which was owned by Nazzareno Romano. The story goes that William Schofield gave it the name of Stromboli after the movie by the same name starring Ingrid Bergman. There are other sources that claim the Stromboli was invented by Mike Aquino, Sr. from Spokane, Washington in 1954.

When I worked at a large company, food days were often celebrated with people bringing in homemade foods. A friend of mine, Ruth, always brought in what she called “Garbage Bread”…. a Stromboli by another name. No matter what you call it or who was the first to make it… it’s very good.

TIPS

You can make this with any recipe for pizza dough…. It doesn’t have to be seasoned….I posted my pizza dough recipe a while ago… this recipe is just cut in half…. and to add a bit of variety I seasoned the dough… the result was terrific and will be my standard from now on. If you want step by step instructions on making pizza dough… take a look at that post.

You can also purchase pizza dough, you can find it in the dairy section of the grocery store.

I used thinly sliced pepperoni by Hormel… the slices were the same size as salami slices… if you use the smaller slices of pepperoni, obviously you will need more than the 5 or 6 slices the recipe calls for.

This Stromboli will make about 10 thickly sliced pieces… I figure about 2 per person depending on what you serve with it. We had dinner salads with ours for a weeknight dinner.

Enjoy!



Recipe: Stromboli 

All you need:

Pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
5-6 slices Genoa Salami, very thinly sliced
5-6 slices Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
5-6 slices ham, thinly sliced
¼ cup sliced black olives
1 large roasted pepper (jarred in oil), chopped
¾ cup mozzarella, shredded (fine or regular)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


For the Optional Italian Herb and Garlic Dough you will need:

2 cups of flour
1 packet Fleishmans Rapid Rise yeast
¾ cup warm tap water
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic flavored olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil

All you need to do to make the Italian Herb and Garlic Dough:

(If you are using a purchased dough, skip down to how to assemble the Stromboli)

In a measuring cup… combine the water, yeast and sugar. Allow the yeast to form a “head” like a beer… about 10 minutes…this way you are sure the yeast will work to make the dough rise.

In a mixer bowl for a mixer fitted with dough hook, combine the flour, salt, Italian Seasoning, garlic olive oil and yeast in water.

On medium speed, let the dough hook mix the dough. Stop the mixer periodically and knead the dough by hand by rolling the dough a bit to incorporate the ingredients.
Continue to allow the mixer to knead the dough until it feels like “chewed bubble gum”…. If it feels sticky … add a little more flour… a ½ tablespoon at a time… if it’s dry and crumbly… add a little water… a ½ tablespoon at a time. Hand knead it a bit to make sure you have all the ingredients incorporated and form a ball.

Pour the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium bowl, using a paper towel…quickly coat the inside of the bowl.

Roll the dough ball in the bowl to coat with the olive oil.

Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cotton towel and place in a warm place that doesn’t have a draft. I usually heat my oven to warm then turn it off when I start the dough. When the dough is ready I put it into the oven …. Make sure the oven isn’t too warm… it should be around 100 degrees F.

Let the dough rise until doubled in size (about an hour if you use the Rapid Rise yeast).

To assemble the Stromboli:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease the pan.



Flour a pastry board and place the dough on it… punch down the dough (deflate it) ….it will be very sticky… knead the dough into a ball using the flour from the board.

Roll out the dough to a rectangle about 14 inches by 10 inches.






Layer the ingredients on the dough leaving a 1 inch border.









Brush the 1 inch border with the egg wash using a pastry brush.








Carefully roll the dough and ingredients like a jelly roll starting on the long side.
Tuck the ends in and pinch the dough.

Pinch the dough where the dough ends to secure.

Transfer the Stromboli to the prepared baking sheet.

Brush the Stromboli with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 30 minutes or until light golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the Stromboli with the grated Parmesan cheese.




Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for another 5 minutes until golden brown and the cheese melts slightly.


Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 15 minutes…

Use a pizza cutter to cut thick slices and serve.

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Recipe: Oatmeal Scotchies


This recipe for Oatmeal Scotchies comes from the folks at Nestle. I have made these every year at Christmas for many years…. my son discovered the recipe and one year at Christmas when he was off from school and I was at work …. I came home to find that he surprised me with them…. it is one of the nicest surprises and became one of his favorites cookies.

I must admit I love them too…. of course, we’re cookie people…. if there’s a cookie around…. beware… it may disappear before you get a chance to try one.

This cookie is positively addicting… the great butterscotch flavor and oats…. they are absolutely delicious…. and each year I still make them and bring them to him at Christmas…. it’s just one of those things you don’t stop doing just because they’re grown now…. at Christmas… the kid in all of us comes out.

If you haven’t tried this recipe from Nestle…. you must… I’m sure it will become a favorite!

Enjoy!



Recipe: Oatmeal Scotchies

All you need:

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 2/3 cups (1 package 11 ounce) Nestle Toll House Butterscotch Flavored Morsels

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy cookie removal. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, stir until well combined.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar until creamy.
Add the eggs and beat until well mixed.

Add the vanilla and continue beating.

Slowly add the flour mixture while the mixer is on low speed. Mix until well combined.

Stir in the oats and butterscotch morsels.

Using a medium size melon ball scoop, drop rounded scoops onto the lined baking sheets. (If you don’t have a melon ball scoop, either drop rounded teaspoons (actually about a teaspoon and a half) or roll dough into balls and drop on the baking sheets.

TIP: By making your dough into uniform sized balls or scoops… the cookies will bake evenly.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 7-8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9-10 minutes for crisp cookies.

Cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes then remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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Make Similar Cookies at the Same Time

Cooking Tip of the Day

I love to bake cookies…. but they can be time consuming… especially with the clean-up. I found I save tons of time if I make similar cookies at the same time.

For example, I make a couple of different varieties of oatmeal cookies. I make the doughs one after the other… I just wipe out the bowl if there is any residue remaining… no need to wash the bowls and utensils since the cookies are very similar.

It just makes sense not to make wildly different cookies at the same time… otherwise you spend half your time cleaning up and setting up new ingredients for the different kinds of cookies.

This goes also for making the dough for use at another time. When I’m working… the last thing I want to do is spend weeks cookie baking after work… and leaving it for the weekends doesn’t always work out either....

So I make the doughs up on one night and wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate… making the dough takes only about 15 minutes in most cases. Then the next night I bake them, this way I’m not stuck in the kitchen all night…. and clean-up is a snap the night I bake them.

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Recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


We love cookies… especially Oatmeal Raisin Cookies….. actually they’re Warren’s favorite. This recipe has been tweeked over the years…. it’s a basic recipe… probably hundreds just like it….my original recipe called for only shortening… I then went to butter flavored shortening… then I split the shortening quantity in two and used half butter…. the result is a buttery cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookie…..

I doubt they will last until Christmas…. well maybe if I hide some…but at least the house smells wonderful…. I love this time of year!

Enjoy!



Recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

All you need:

1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter flavored shortening
1 stick ( ½ cup of butter), softened
½ cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup raisins

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, stir until well incorporated. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, butter flavored shortening, sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture with the mixer on low.

Add the oats and raisins and stir until well mixed.

Using a medium sized melon ball scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE otherwise the cookies will be dry.

Let them cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer them to a baking rack. Cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

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Recipe: Blueberry Crumb Muffins


This recipe was originally for Blueberry Crumb Cake from the Barefoot Contessa…. I love crumb muffins, cake, pie …. you name it… you put a crumb topping on it and chances are I’ll love it…. and while I like crumb cake… I wanted to make muffins… so I simply made the recipe into muffins instead of cake.

I must tell you it took two tries to get this recipe into muffins. The cake is extremely light and fluffy… which, believe me, is not a bad thing…. EXCEPT… it can make getting the muffins out of the pan all but impossible. Oh.. I got them out alright… but they ended up the weirdest shapes you ever want to see… but they tasted delicious.

You absolutely MUST use cupcake liners when making these…otherwise you can’t get them out of the pan without falling apart. Trust me on this one.

TIPS:

This cake recipe will rise … a lot. So when filling the muffin cups… only fill to ½ full… not the usual 2/3 full or your cup runnith over.

I coated my blueberries in a little flour.... this helps make the blueberries not sink too much to the bottom. The Barefoot Contessa doesn't do this step...

And for the record… I love her crumb topping…. I use it for recipes as well. It’s a recipe worth keeping.

Her recipe calls for extra large eggs… I had only large eggs and the recipe worked fine. This recipe rates 5 stars out of 5…. a wonderful recipe!

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Blueberry Crumb Muffins

All you need:

For the Crumb Topping:

¼ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups flour

For the muffin:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick)unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (large eggs also work fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon flour
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

To make the Crumb Topping:

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

To make the muffin:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the blueberries with 1 tablespoon to coat them. Set aside.

Cream, at high speed, the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment for about 4-5 minutes until light.

Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, 1 at a time.

Add the vanilla and continue beating at low speed.

Add the lemon zest and sour cream and continue beating.

Add the flour mixture while continue to beat at low speed until just combined.

Fold the blueberries in with a spatula and completely mix until the blueberries are well incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until half full.

Drop bits of the crumb topping over each muffin pressing them into the batter just a bit.

Then add a little more crumb topping on each.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool for about 10 minutes then gently remove the muffins from the pan.

TIP: I use two forks to gently lift the muffins out of the pan.

Cool completely.

Sprinkle tops with confectioner’s sugar.

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Recipe: Boursin Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes


This recipe is a quick and easy hors’dourve…. my friend Shirley made stuffed cherry tomatoes for a gathering we had… she used a seasoned cream cheese… and they were gone in no time….

I like to use Boursin…. It’s easy and readily available. Now you might think cutting and seeded the cherry tomatoes is labor intensive… well it really isn’t. I did an entire bunch in about 20 minutes.

I like to add these to a variety of hors’dourves because it really isn’t too high in calorie and a nice little change from all the other finger foods.

I hope you think about adding these to your holiday party table.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Boursin Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

All you need:

Cherry tomatoes
Boursin Spread

All you need to do:

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and using a small spoon (I used the tip of an iced tea spoon) seed the tomato.

Using a sharp knife, cut out the center pulp of the tomato to form a hollow bowl.

Using a small spoon, spoon in the Boursin and place on a serving dish.

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Another Great Give-Away!!


I’m giving away one Vacu Vin Garlic Press to one lucky winner. I posted a product review of this terrific gadget yesterday. This durable, easy to use gadget has a nifty scraper that scrapes the garlic from the raster… no more scraping with a knife. For information about the garlic press read my product review post.

I’m sure the lucky winner will love this Garlic Press. Don’t need a garlic press? Enter anyway… this would make a great stocking stuffer for someone who loves to cook….. or going to a wedding shower?… this would make a great add-on gift. It retails for just over $24.00 (US) on Amazon so this is a great value Give-Away!

TO ENTER:

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment on this post….. you get one entry

Become a follower… you get another entry

Subscribe to Cooking Tip of the Day …. you get another entry

Refer a friend…. You get an additional 3 entries (just ask your friend to note in their comment that you referred them).

Bloggers….. mention my give-away in your blog and get an additional 5 entries!!! Let me know your URL in your comment

Indicate in your comment if you are following and/or subscribing.

Previous winners of my give-aways are eligible!

This Give-Away contest will last until midnight EST until December 11th, so enter soon and spread the word!

It’s so easy to enter… so enter today!

I'll post the winner and they can contact me at the Cooking Tip of the Day email so I can have the company send the garlic press directly to them.

Good Luck!!

This Give-a-Way has ended.

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Recipe: Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies


Yesterday I posted a Shortbread Cookie recipe. While they’re delicious as is… for chocolate lovers there is nothing better than a cookie dipped in chocolate…. and Grill already asked…no icing?? So here you have a variation that should make your sweet tooth a happy one.

I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, which wasn’t quite sweet enough for my taste…. I would rather use milk chocolate chips…. you can use any chocolate type that you prefer…

The ones in the picture are just dipped in chocolate… but if you want to get even fancier… after dipping them in chocolate, roll them in sprinkles…chocolate or colored for a festive cookie… I like to make some of these to mix into a cookie plate…. It just adds a bit of pizzazz.







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Recipe: Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies

All you need:

Shortbread cookies (see my recipe)
1 cup chocolate chips (any type)

All you need to do:

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

Place the chocolate chips into a medium microwavable bowl.

Microwave on high for about 1 minute and stir.

Microwave again for another 30 seconds and stir.

The chocolate should be all melted and not too thick… if it’s too thick then microwave at 10 second intervals until you have the desired consistency.

Dip one side of the cookies in the chocolate and place on the wax paper-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate until set.

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Recipe: Shortbread Cookies


I love Shortbread Cookies… no doubt about it…. I will always make a beeline for them. I just love the buttery flavor.

I’ve tried numerous recipes…. recently I posted a recipe for Chocolate Frosted Shortbread Bars that are absolutely delicious. My only gripe with them is that they tend to be very light and flaky… I like my Shortbread Cookies to have a little more crunch… well maybe not crunch but not as delicate. I was given advice to add a bit more flour… so I tried it… nothing ventured nothing gained.

The result is the following recipe…. I liked the way it came out…. it had the same buttery flavor I love and the cookies held together nicely.

My recipe is a little different from most Shortbread recipes, I use light brown sugar and add a little salt and vanilla to the dough… it enhances the flavor.

You can go to the trouble of rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters or you can use a small melon ball scoop and then flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass or you can roll the dough into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for about ½ hour then unwrap it and slice it.

I like to do the log method but tried the melon ball scoop technique this time. Both methods were easy …. but I found that when I used the melon ball scoop method, and pressed them flat with a glass… they tended to split around the edges… they didn’t come out looking quite as perfect as when I slice them.

I recommend using a mixer to make the dough. The dough will be extremely crumbly at first, keep mixing until the dough comes together to form a soft dough.

Enjoy!



Recipe: Shortbread Cookies

All you need:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper for easier cookie removal.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Add the flour and salt slowly beating and medium speed.

Beat until a soft dough forms.

Choose a method of cutting the cookies:

Roll the dough out and cut out cookies using a cookie cutter OR

Roll the dough into a log and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Unwrap and cut the dough into slices OR

Using a small melon ball scoop, scoop dough unto the cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a lightly greased glass, press gently down on the balls to flatten.

Pierce cookies with a fork and bake at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes or until edges

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Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie



This recipe for Shepherd’s Pie is one I’ve been making for years…. it’s perfect for using up leftover mashed potatoes. This hearty meal is always welcome to even the pickiest eaters. It’s quick to make and perfect for a winter night. Serve with some crusty bread… and maybe a small salad and you have one terrific meal.

TIPS

Over the years I’ve made variations… especially when I had leftover beef stew… you can substitute the leftover stew meat and stew gravy for the ground beef and gravy… just add a little more vegetables and top with mashed potatoes.

You can use fresh or frozen vegetables…. I wouldn’t recommend canned. Mushrooms can either be canned or fresh… I use fresh.

I gave you instructions for my Creamy Mashed Potatoes… however.. you can use your own favorite recipe if you desire.

The recipe calls for beef broth… if you find you don’t have beef broth on hand… you can substitute a brown gravy seasoning packet and water. Simply sprinkle the brown gravy mix over the beef mixture and add 1 cup of water….. it’s not as good as beef broth but it certainly is good enough to serve to your family.

I hope you try this great recipe.








Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie

All you need:

1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 small pkg. (8 ounces) fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen carrots
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
¼ cup ketchup OR 1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
¼ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Mashed potatoes

For Mashed Potatoes:

4 large potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred), peeled and cubed
4-6 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt to taste

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, crumble the meat and brown it and diced onions over medium high heat.

When meat is fully cooked, drain off any excess fat.

Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms begin to soften (if using fresh mushrooms).

Sprinkle the garlic powder over the meat mixture and stir.

Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture.

Add the beef broth and make sure you stir well so there aren’t any lumps of flour.

TIP: If you’re not the best at sprinkling the flour… you can add the flour to the beef broth in a larger measuring cup or medium bowl… whisk vigorously until the flour is well incorporated into the beef broth.

Add the peas and carrots, stir well.

Add the Worcestershire Sauce and ketchup (or tomato paste), stir well to incorporate.
Salt and pepper to taste.

To Make the Mashed Potatoes:

Peel and dice the potatoes… making sure the pieces are the same size so they cook in the same amount of time.

Place in a large pot with 1 tablespoon salt and cover with water and bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer the potatoes about 20 minutes or until fork tender.

Drain and return to the pot or place into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Heat the milk and 4 tablespoons butter until butter is just melted.

Mash the potatoes until desired consistency.

Add the milk and butter mixture and stir.

Add the heavy cream and stir.

Add the ground black pepper and stir.

Salt to taste.

To assemble the pie:

Spread the meat mixture in a 13 x 9 baking dish or individual dishes.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture.

Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese over the top of the potatoes (if using).

Place dish on a foil lined cookie sheet so if the pie bubbles over it doesn’t make a mess in your oven (mine did not bubble over).

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 25 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown a bit and the pie is bubbly.

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Product Review: Vacu Vin Garlic Press


Several weeks ago I was sent this Garlic Press from Vacu Vin to review. Initially I thought it was similar to my own garlic press that I’ve been using which is a good quality…. but after using the Vac Vin Garlic Press I realized that this press goes above and beyond. My garlic press can be a pain scraping the pressed garlic from the bottom of the press…. the Vacu Vin has a nifty feature… a lever that scrapes the garlic from the raster. It’s design is definitely unique and very handy.

The press is made of a heavier gauge metal, it’s easy to use and clean. I would definitely recommend this garlic press over the others found in stores. While it is a little more expensive than some other garlic presses around…. It will definitely out last and out perform its competitors.

In fact, a word about Vacu Vin products…. I recently was in need of a couple of different gadgets and went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and lo and behold there were Vacu Vin products, so we decided to try them since we’ve been so impressed with what I have reviewed…. I must say we have been more than satisfied with their superior quality. They’re well made and durable. So when choosing kitchen gadgets, look to Vacu Vin and compare…. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Garlic Press is available at Amazon.

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