Thursday, April 28, 2011

Seafood Gratin

Our gourmet group met last week.  We haven't had an opportunity to get together in a long time so we were all thrilled to spend an evening filled with great food and conversation!  When the menu was put together I must admit that I went a bit overboard with the shrimp, it appeared in three courses!  I rationalized that by convincing myself that one can never have too much seafood!

The gratin was a combination of lobster, halibut, shrimp, and scallops!  It was very rich and delicious!

Seafood Gratin

Sauce Ingredients
1 cup clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons good white wine. (I used a Sauvignon Blanc.)
3 Tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp saffron threads
8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and cu in half crosswise
8 ounces raw halibut, cut into 1-inch chunks
8 ounces raw scallops, cut into chunks
8 ounces cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 Tbsp flour
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 cups leeks, white and light green parts cut into half moons (about 2 large)
1 1/2 cups julienned carrots (about 3 carrots)
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 Tbsp minced garlic (2 cloves)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Place four gratin dishes on sheet pans.

Combine the stock, cream, 1/2 cup of the wine, the tomato puree, and saffron in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and add the shrimp.  After 3 minutes, remove the shrimp to a bowl using a slotted spoon.  Add the halibut to the stock and cook for 3 minutes, until just cooked through.  Remove to the same bowl using a slotted spoon.  Add the cooked lobster to the bowl.

Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 12 minutes.  Mash 1 tablespoon of the butter together with the flour. Whisk the butter mixture into the sauce along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saute pan. Add the leeks and carrots and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender. Set aside.
Combine the panko, Parmesan, parsley, tarragon, and garlic. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and mix it into the crumbs until they're moistened.
Divide the seafood among the 4 gratin dishes. Strew the vegetables on top of each dish. Pour the sauce equally over the seafood  and vegetables and spoon the crumbs evenly on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Serve hot.


I wasn't able to finish mine so it became lunch the next was just as yummy!
I am sending this over to Michael at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday.
And, to Miranda at Mangoes and Chutney for Fat Camp Friday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do you remember Me and My Llama?

The llama had a baby!  How exciting is that!

When my daughters were little we would drive to the nearby countryside to see the llama.  We were avid fans of Sesame Street and the visit always seemed to coincide with the program's "Me and My Llama" trip to the dentist.  Our trip always included the song (Well, at least the refrain!) and was so much fun!

Today, we live quite a distance from isn't really, truly country any longer but it is on the edge of the foothills and just about country!  We drive by the field with the llama every day.  And every day I think about the trips we took with our daughters to see them.  Today, though, brought a surprise.  There was a baby llama!  This is the first time we have seen a baby llama.  It is adorable.

I was never able to get a picture of the little guy standing up!

Recently, they were moved to a different pen and I can see why...the little guy could easily get under the fence.

I don't think the mama was happy with the intrusion...her ears are back...

I really want to reach out and pet him.  He looks as though he would be so soft.

I am sending this over to Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday!  Take a few minutes to visit.  There are always some exciting adventures!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Layered Black Bean Enchiladas

As I perused the frig and the cupboard I decided that I had ingredients that could come together to make some sort of enchilada.  I wasn't up for rolling enchiladas so I took the easy way out and layered them.  One doesn't need a recipe for this dish, just a general plan!

My plan was that the Kitchen Gnome would make guacamole.  He makes the best guacamole and I know he was thrilled that he got drafted.  One of these days I will pay close attention and try to write out what he does...he doesn't measure anything...but I think I can give approximates.

I made a quick pico de gallo.  I combined some chopped tomatoes (two romas), white onion (about 1 small, chopped), jalapeno (1/2 large, chopped) and cilantro (minced, about 2 Tbsp) in a bowl.  I added the juice from one lime and a little salt and pepper.  I adjusted the amounts to serve just the two of us.

Layered Black Bean Enchiladas

Serves 4-6

6  six inch corn tortillas
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 can black beans (15 oz), drained
1 jar salsa (about 15 oz., medium heat)
Taco seasoning (either use a package or add your own:  cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, etc.)
Mexican blend cheese (or shred some cheddar)
Avocado (for garnish or make guacamole)
Sour Cream

Preheat oven 350°
Grease a 13 X 9 casserole dish

Cut 6 tortillas into quarters.  Cover the bottom of the pan with the quarters.

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium high heat and drain any grease.  Add the taco mix or seasonings and mix.  Reduce the heat to medium.

In a small bowl combine the drain beans and salsa. (I judged the amount of salsa by sight...I used about 3/4 of the jar.  I did not want the mixture to be runny....)

Place about 1/2 of the meat mixture over the tortillas in the casserole dish.
Layer the bean and salsa mixture next.
Sprinkle cheese next.

Add another layer of tortilla quarters.
Layer the remaining meat mixture.
Cover with cheese.
Sprinkle with 1-2 Tbsp of cilantro.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.


Serve with a spoonful of pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

There really isn't anything exact about this recipe.  One could add more or less of any ingredient.  Or, there could be the addition of a can of corn (15 oz., drained) or some chopped chilis, drained, if desired.  It just depends on personal taste preference!

We had enough to share.  It was a great quick and easy dish.  I am going to make this again, soon!

 I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Designs by Gollum and Fat Camp Friday hosted by Miranda at Mangoes and Chutney.  Thank you ladies for the opportunity to share!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Have A Favorite Smoothie...the Classic Strawberry-Banana!

Yes, spring is bursting at my house!  The weather is perfect for working in the garden, watching the hummingbirds or having dinner on the patio.   No, this is not a strawberry daiquiri, however, that would be tasty too.  It is a Strawberry-Banana Smoothie!

I thought it would be nice to do something different for breakfast and since the sun was shining and it was warmer outside.  What a quick and easy breakfast!

The Classic Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

2/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
1 banana, peeled, chunked
2 cups frozen strawberries (other frozen berries or a mixture could be used)

In a blender combine the orange juice, yogurt, banana and 1 cup of the strawberries.  Blend at low speed or pulse to mix.  Once it is blended, add the remaining berries.  Blend until smooth.

A perfect, quick and delicious breakfast!
I am sending this over to Real Food Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bees No Birds

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood...
It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood...
So in true Mr. Rogers fashion, I decided to tour the back yard.   
I became mesmerized by the bees swarming over the plants!

The adventure continued to the front yard.
I found a bird nest but there were no birds...
it may have been abandoned....
or from last year.

The adventures continued at the park...but that is for another time.
We made the most of this beautiful day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mac and Cheese a la The Pioneer Woman

I guess I waited until the last crow was cooked to decide what I would make for the Celebrity Cook-Along hosted by Lynn at Happier Than A Pig In Mud.  As I thumbed through The Pioneer Woman Cooks I saw quite a few recipes that I thought the Kitchen Gnome might enjoy.  I know that I will have to go back and try the chicken fried steak....but for today, it is something down-home simple and a classic:  Macaroni and Cheese.

Everybody has a recipe for mac and cheese...the first time I had to prepare dinner for my dad I made mom's mac and cheese.  (Mom had to work the 4:00 to midnight shift which left me, a high schooler, making dinner!  Poor Dad...looking back, he was such a good sport.)  Mom's recipe didn't include making a roux...I just layered the mac, the cheese, poured on a beaten egg and some evaporated milk....that was it.

Ree's recipe is pretty basic, no fancy cheeses, just down-home good!  The Kitchen Gnome told me it was the best I had much for those times when I tried to fancy up a basic dish that we all have a memory lock on!  I did step just a bit out of the basic box...I looked at the variations....bacon was listed.  I figured everything tastes great with bacon added so that is what I did.  I also cut the amount of pasta in half.  It just seemed like a lot as written.

Pioneer Woman's Mac and Cheese

4 cups dried macaroni  (I cut this in half for the two of us...)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk (I cut this down to 2 cups.)
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (more if desired)
1 egg, beaten
1 pound cheese, grated (I used about 2/3 pound)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme
Optional Additions:  caramelized onions, bacon, ham, tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If you plan to bake it, cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain. (If you do NOT plan to bake, cook a bit longer.)
In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.
Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
Add in cheese and stir to melt.
Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.

Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.


I can hardly wait to have some of the leftovers for lunch!

Linking up to Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday and to Mangoes and Chutney for Fat Camp Friday.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kahlua Bars

I was born with a sweet tooth.  Sure wish I hadn't been.  Sure wish I could train myself better.  If I had proper training maybe I could pass up dessert recipes.  It comes in spurts...and I promise after this post, no more sweets for a long time!  (I don't break promises...remind me of that, if I should lapse!)

What is better than brownies?  Well, brownies that are flavored with Kahlua, topped with frosting that is flavored with Kahlua and then drizzled with chocolate.  That sounded mighty fine to me!  I even had an excuse to make them....we had some friends for dinner and I needed a quick and tasty dessert.  And, since it was for company, why not add a scoop of vanilla ice cream?

Unfortunately, these taste so good and they are so rich that reaching for a second brownie or a third brownie, even though they were small, left me feeling uncomfortable.  Did I return the next day...but of course.

Kahlua Bars

Yield:  24 to 32 bars

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp Kahlua
1 tsp instant Expresso
1/2 cup butter (1 cube), room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tsps half and half

1 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 Tbsp butter

Brownie Preparation
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking pan

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together.  Remove pan from the heat and mix in sugar, eggs, vanilla and Kahlua.  Stir flour, baking powder and salt.

Spread in prepared pan.  Bake at 350°, 25 to 30 minutes or until batter starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool.

Frosting Preparation
In a small bowl, mix Kahlua with the instant Expresso, stirring until the coffee is dissolved.  In a medium bowl, cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla together.  Add coffee mixture and beat until well blended.  Add half and half to desired consistency.  Spread frosting over cooled brownies.

Topping Preparation
In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and butter together.  Cool slightly, then drizzle topping over frosting.  Cool until chocolate is set.  Cut into bars.


Alert:  You may wish to give as many brownies away as possible.  I gifted my daughter and neighbor with a few.

I am sending this to The Saturday Evening Pot for Make a Food-"e"-Friend Mondays!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake with Strawberries

A friend recently raved about a pound cake that she had just made.  She told me to make it because I wouldn't regret it.  Since I had just gotten some beautiful strawberries, there was ricotta in the frig, I thought, "Why not?!"

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake with Strawberries
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature (additional to grease the pan)
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
2 Tbsp Amaretto
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
Whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease a 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan with butter.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla, orange zest, and Amaretto until combined.  Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a tooth pick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45-50 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Using a mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.

Meanwhile, place the strawberries in a small bowl with the remaining one Tablespoon sugar.  Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.

Prepare whipping cream, flavoring it with vanilla and Amaretto.

To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.  Add a dollop of whipped cream.


Such goodness shouldn't be readily available in my house.  It is way too easy to grab a piece of pound cake as one walks through the kitchen!  It is delicious even without the strawberries!  I have made it twice and each time it has been perfect.

One must watch the baking time.  Those reviewing had concerns that the time was not accurate.  If your oven is not calibrated correctly, it may require additional baking time...  I did not share the concern but thought I should mention it so that you would be alerted.

I am sending this over to Michael at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Fridays, to Miranda at Mangoes and Chutney for Fat Camp Fridays and to Allison at Sweet Tooth Friday!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Linguine in Vodka Sauce with Shrimp and Asparagus

There are times when the day gets away from me and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to fix for dinner.  It is invariably too late to thaw something...except shrimp!  I am always happy to find that I have a bag of shrimp in the freezer.  That was the situation last week.  Okay, great, I had shrimp, now what?  Well, I found some pasta and I had some asparagus from the weekly veggie box.  I didn't have much time so it looked like a one dish wonder was on the horizon!

Linguine in Vodka Sauce 
with Shrimp and Asparagus

1 pound linguine
1 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
12 spears asparagus, cut into thirds (young, thin asparagus)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp basil and/or thyme, chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste
shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

While pasta water comes to a boil, saute the garlic and red pepper flakes in butter.  Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.  Start cooking the linguine.

Stir the ricotta cheese and half and half into the tomatoes.  Heat thoroughly.

Add the shrimp and vodka.  Cook about 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and basil and/or thyme.  Cook 2 more minutes.  Taste and add salt, if needed.

Serve over linguine.  Garnish with more fresh basil and/or thyme, cheese and black pepper to taste.


This was such a simple dish and totally delicious.  The Kitchen Gnome raved!

When I make this again I will drain part of the liquid from the tomatoes and I will blanch the asparagus.  The shrimp cook much faster than the asparagus so the asparagus needs a head start!

I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Designs by Gollum and Fat Camp Fridays hosted by Miranda at Mangoes and Chutney