Recipes @ April 2011

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Right now, we are the height of the summer cooking season. There's just enough time before the children head off back to school to do some more experimenting in the kitchen. One great way to add flavor and interest to your meals is with the addition of fresh herbs. Herbs are easy to grow in a small garden, in a container or even right on your kitchen windowsill. While there are a variety of herbs you can grow, three of my favorite include flat-leaf parsley, basil and thyme. With these three herbs, you can certainly create interesting flavor combinations. Here are two recipes for using fresh herbs. One is for a roasted corn with flavorful oregano and thyme butter, and the other is for a basil glaze for a baked ham, submitted by David Thorne of Lansing, Michigan.

Roasted Corn with Oregano-Thyme Butter

Sprigs of fresh herbs tucked inside the husk add a fantastic flavor to the corn.

Serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves, plus 8 sprigs
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, plus 8 sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ears corn
  1. Heat a charcoal until the coals are medium-hot (if using a gas grill, heat the grill to a medium-low heat). Place the butter in a small mixing bowl and combine with the oregano leaves, thyme leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Transfer the herb butter to a small dish and set aside.
  2. Trim the stems and discard the tough outer husks from the cobs of corn. Peel back the remaining husks, being careful not to completely detach them from the corn. Discard the corn silk.
  3. Use a pastry brush to evenly spread the herb butter over the kernels and season the corn kernels with the remaining salt and pepper. Place 2 sprigs of oregano and 2 sprigs of thyme on each ear of corn and pull the husks back up to enclose the corn and herbs. Wrap kitchen string around the tip of the ear and tie.
  4. Place the corn on the grill racks, and roast, turning once, until the corn is fragrant and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the string. Pull back the husks and tie them in a knot, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Basil Glaze for Baked Ham
Makes About 1 1/2 Cups

  • 1/2 cup bottled hot salsa
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup dried basil
  • 6 ounces ginger ale
In the jar of a blender, combine the salsa, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, dried basil and ginger ale. Blend until the mixture forms a smooth paste. If the mixture is too thin, add additional dried basil. To use, brush the basil glaze over a baked ham in two applications: once approximately 30 minutes before serving and the second time, 5 minutes before serving.

David Thorne
Lansing, Michigan

Tomato and Corn Salad

Did you ever get an invitation to a picnic or other similar gathering and discovered this message "Bring a favorite covered dish to share"? Most of us probably have, and we've probably found ourselves flipping through recipe books and files trying to find a recipe you can make for something to bring.

Whenever I get one of these invitations, I try to make something that will please everyone and will be easy to prepare. There's no reason to make an elaborate dish that looks great but one that no one will hardly eat. So here are my suggestions for some items you can make for covered dish events:
  • Salads are always popular items to bring. With just lettuce and a variety of vegetables, you can whip up a tasty and healthy salad. If you don't know whether your guests will like the dressing you choose, bring it in a separate container and then place it next to your salad on the serving table so that people can add the amount they're comfortable with on their salad. You may even decide to offer a choice of dressings so that guests feel like they can have variety.
  • Vegetable side dishes are another very popular item. Sometimes, your host or hostess will want an accompanying vegetable side dish if the main course they are preparing involves meat. One of the most simplest of side dishes is sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and garnished with fresh basil leaves.
  • Desserts, too, are always a popular option. If your event will be outside, try to choose a dessert that won't need refrigeration or freezing. Popular desserts include cookies, brownies, cupcakes or even baked fruit desserts, like apple or peach cobbler.
If you're looking for a great-tasting healthy salad, try this recipe for Tomato and Corn Salad, combining two of summer's best vegetables in a salad everyone will love.

Tomato and Corn Salad
Serves 12
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from the cobs
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced 6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, peeled and finely diced 3
  •  tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cover and bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the corn; cook until the corn kernels are tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the corn and the remaining ingredients. Toss to combine well. The salad may be stored, covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. Bring to room temperature briefly before serving. This salad tastes best when made the day before to allow the flavors to develop.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

Mustard is one of those condiments that everyone loves. We especially enjoy slathering it on top of a hot dog at the ballpark on spread over meat in a sandwich. But few of us can really appreciate the depth of flavor and color it can bring to other dishes.

Mustard is great in a variety of homemade salad dressings and vinaigrettes, and depending on which kind you use, it can take an ordinary dressing into a whole new taste sensation. One mustard that I have started to use more and more in my cooking is Dijon mustard.

Ask someone what Dijon mustard is and you'll probably get the response, "Ah, isn't that the Grey Poupon mustard?" Yes, Grey Poupon is one brand name attached to this mustard whose name originates from an area in France known as Dijon. This mustard is a not a common mustard by any means; it's sophisticated and it's great for a variety of uses. Try spreading this on top of a warm ham sandwich the next time you want a new and unusual taste.

A great way to try mustards is to buy small quantities and taste them to see which one you like. And in the recipe below, Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce, you'll see just how much flavor this condiment can add to a simple pork tenderloin dish.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 3/4-1 pound each), trimmed of any excess fat
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons classic yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper; transfer the meat to the skillet and cook, turning the pork until browned on all sides, about 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet; cook the pork, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pork from the skillet, wrap it in aluminum foil, and let it stand for about 10 minutes (reserve the juices in the skillet).
  2. To juices in the skillet, add mustards and sour cream and any accumulated juices from the pork; whisk over medium heat until the sauce is heated through (do not bring it to a boil). Add water, one tablespoon at a time, if the sauce is too thick.
  3. Slice the pork thinly and serve with the mustard sauce.

Glossary of Peaches

Chances are you're bound to find wonderful varieties of fresh local peaches at farmer's markets and produce stands at this time of year. With names like 'Earliglo' and 'Snow Flame' and 'Biscoe' you won't have to look too hard to find a peach you can enjoy. Here is just a sampling of some of the many varieties of peaches:
  • Red Haven is an early ripening peach variety. Generally, early ripening varieties tend to be less sweeter than their later ripening counterparts since they don't have enough time to build up their sugar stores.
  • Bisoe is a variety you can try growing in your own backyard. The tree produces a plethora of blooms in the spring and performs well if properly nurtured and cared for.
  • Belle of Georgia is perhaps one of the most revered peaches. It has a slightly crimson blush on the skin, is firm and so flavorful that many people who sample this peach for the first time claim it is the sweetest peach they have ever eaten.
  • Snow Flame is a white-fleshed peach that tastes sweeter when they have not fully ripened.
  • Earliglo is another early-season variety that tends to be less sweeter than other later-ripening varieties.
  • Red Top is a variety commonly grown in California, so you typically won't find it east of the Mississippi River. Red tops are firm, full of body and have a high sugar content.
  • White Lady is another white-fleshed peach with a low acid content than yellow-fleshed varieties. It is soft in texture and highly scented. This variety also is native to California.
While peaches are in season, why not try a few new and unusual varieties for baking, canning or just plain eating?

Fourth of July Berry Cobbler

How lucky it is that just as Americans are celebrating the Fourth of July, probably the largest celebration of the summer season, that two of the country's flag colors are in full bloom in fields where shiny red and blue berries are growing in abundance and waiting to be picked. Why not take advantage of this happy circumstance and use these fresh berries in a tasty berry cobbler that can be made, packed in a picnic basket and taken to wherever you're going to enjoy some spectacular fireworks lighting the night sky. Even better, if you're going to be attending a Fourth of July barbecue or party, why not think of your hostess and put together a very patriotic-themed hostess gift?

Start with a flat picnic basket. You can find a variety of baskets at craft stores, home stores like Ikea and some department stores. Line the basket with some red-and-white dish towels and place some berry baskets filled with fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. If you want, you can include your favorite pie crust and a recipe for making a delicious blueberry pie or berry cobbler. Don't forget to include the recipes: You can either handwrite them on recipe cards or print them out, attach them to card stock, and tie to the basket handles with red, white and blue ribbons.

Summer Berry Cobbler
Serves 8 to 10
  • 4 cups fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the berries, juice, sugar and cinnamon. Place the berries in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, blend the butter with the egg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until the mixture begins to come together. Drop the cobbler topping by tablespoonfuls on top of the berry filling. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the juices from the fruits are bubbling. Allow the cobbler to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Kitchen Timesavers

All home cooks have a few tricks up their sleeves. No, we can't suddenly make dinner appear on the table with the wave of a wooden spoon, but we can rely on a few simple ideas to make our time in the kitchen easier and more productive. Here are a few quick tips and techniques I've discovered that are real timesavers:
  • Whenever you are measuring a sticky liquid like honey or molasses, coat your measuring spoon or measuring cup with a light coat of nonstick cooking spray. You'll get a more accurate measurement every time, since the sticky liquid won't be able to cling to the cooking utensil.
  • To remove the core from a head of iceberg lettuce, bang the head, core end down, on a cutting board. The core will easily pop out from the head of lettuce.
  • Often you'll find yourself frustrated with a stubborn jar lid that won't budge no matter how hard you try to turn it. Try wrapping the lid with a thick rubber band to give yourself a better grip.
  • Here's a tasty discovery I made one day while trying to whip cream. Rather than producing a fluffy cloud of whipped cream, I ended up making a batch of butter. Since I really didn't want to throw it out, I poured off the remaining liquid left from the heavy cream, folded in some chopped strawberries and honey, placed the mixture into a container and put in the refrigerator. I thought that the mixture probably wasn't going to be any good, but the next morning I tried it on a muffin and it was the best-tasting flavored butter.
What are some of your favorite kitchen tips and techniques? Let readers know by e-mailing them to me at Please include your name, address and telephone number (this number is for verification purposes only and will not be published). We're looking for your submission, so send one today!

Campfire Cooking

With the start of summer, I'm sure everyone is anxious to embark on their special summer trip to the beach, the mountains or maybe just to your own backyard. If your forays take you into the great outdoors, you're in luck. There's nothing quite nicer than foods prepared and enjoyed outdoors, especially if it occurs during a camping trip. The variety of foods you can bring to a campfire cookout are almost endless, but anything that will taste good cooked over an open fire is usually in order.

Potatoes make excellent choices for meals in the outdoors and they're easy to carry in a backpack or knapsack. Here's a great recipe for campfire roasted potatoes that really accentuates the flavors of great potatoes and the best part is that it only requires less than ten ingredients!

Campfire Roasted Potatoes
Serves 6

  • 2 pounds small potatoes, such as Russian fingerlings or Red Bliss, scrubbed well
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  1. Heat a grill pan over a fire until medium hot. If necessary, cut the potatoes into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary and garlic. Toss to combine.
  2. Transfer the potatoes to a 12-by-24-inch piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold and seal the edges of the foil to form a package.
  3. Place the foil package on the grill pan. Grill the potatoes over the fire until they are tender when tested with the tip of a knife, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the foil package, and serve.

Cool Down with Iced Tea

Iced tea is a great beverage all year round, but it's especially delicious during the hot summer months. On a sweltering day when you've worked up a sweat just moving around, nothing can quench your thirst like a tall, cool glass of iced tea. This refreshing beverage can be made even more delicious when you use flavored herbal teas all steeped together and served over ice.

For the most flavorful iced tea, it's best to choose a herbal tea with a strong flavor. One combination I particularly like is hibiscus mixed with peppermint. The tart flavor of the hibiscus herbal tea is toned down slightly by the soothing taste of peppermint. You can, however, experiment with other teas, such as lemon, chamomile or English Breakfast.

Select eight tea bags and then hang them from an 8-cup glass measuring cup; if you're using loose bags, put them together in a cheesecloth sack, tie up the sack and place it in the bottom of the container. Then pour boiling water over the tea bags and let the tea bags steep for about 10 minutes. It's important not to let the tea bags steep too long, otherwise you'll end up with a rather bitter, insipid tea that will be too strong to drink.

Once the tea is brewed, refrigerate the container at least 1 hour. When you're ready to prepare the tea, pour the brewed tea into a serving pitcher, add 1/4 cup of sugar (or more to suit your taste). Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the tea mixture; add more to your taste if desired.

To keep your tea chilled, don't add ice cubes to the pitcher itself; the melting ice will dilute your tea's flavor. Instead, pour the tea into ice-filled glasses (better yet, keep some leftover tea and then freeze the leftovers in ice cubes so that you have flavored ice cubes that won't dilute your tea). Garnish the glasses with thin slices of lemon, and serve. Add a sprig of mint to each glass, if desired.

The Cookie Exchange

If you took a poll, you would probably find that almost everyone has a favorite cookie he or she likes. Perhaps it's a crisp peanut butter cookie, or maybe a delicious chocolate chip cookie, or a jam-filled sandwich cookie. Whatever it may be, we can't deny that cookies are one of the most popular snack foods in America. Each year, hundreds and thousands of cookies are consumed at parties, from school lunch boxes and right out of home cookie jars. There's a real love affair with cookies, and we're proud to admit it.

We also know that you have a cookie recipe that is your very best. Maybe you make the best sugar cookies or gingersnaps or you know a friend or neighbor who makes the most delicious almond-apricot squares. Here's your chance to tell us what's in your cookie jar and share your favorite cookie recipe with readers of Recipes here at Just send your recipe (one that has not been copied directly from a cookbook, magazine or on Internet websites, but one from your personal recipe files) by e-mail to and we'll feature it in future Cookie Exchanges right here in the Recipes blog.

To get us started off, here's a recipe for Peanut Butter S'Mores Cookies from my recipe files. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter S'Mores Cookies
Makes 16 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 (1 1/2-ounce) milk chocolate candy bars
  • 16 large marshmallows
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small mixing bowl; set the flour mixture aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract until the peanut butter is incorporated into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Gradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed until combined.
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap; chill for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. After 30 minutes, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Form 1-inch balls from the dough, and place them about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten the balls with the tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern.
  4. Bake the cookies for about 14 minutes or until the cookies are set and the edges are light golden brown in color. Allow the cookies to cool for two minutes on the baking sheet; remove to cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. To make the s'mores, break each candy bar into four separate sections. Place one section of the chocolate candy on the flat side of one cookie. Place the cookie on a microwavable dish (or toaster-oven rack); top the candy with one marshmallow. Repeat with half of the remaining cookies (reserve the other half for the top of the s'mores.) Microwave on high for 15 to 30 seconds (or in a toaster oven at 300 degrees for 1 to 2 minutes) until the marshmallow is puffy. Remove the cookies from the microwave or toaster oven. Immediately top each marshmallow with one of the reserved cookies, flat side down. Press down slightly. Repeat with remaining cookies. Cool the s'mores slightly before eating.

Vegetables on the Grill

At this time of year, all of us are thinking about pulling out those grills and welcoming in the summer season. And while you can cook meats and steaks on the grill, did you ever think about cooking vegetables? Well you can; if you follow the expert tips below, found in The Better Homes and Gardens New Grilling Cookbook, you, too, can achieve perfect results every time.

Tips for Direct-Grilling Vegetables, from The Better Homes and Gardens® New Grilling Cookbook
Before grilling, rinse, trim, cut up, and precook your desired vegetables as directed below. To precook the vegetables, bring a small amount of water to a boil in a saucepan; add the vegetables and simmer, covered, for the time specified below. Before grilling, drain the vegetables well. Test for medium or high temperature on the grill. Brush the vegetables with olive oil or unsalted butter. Place the vegetables on a lightly oiled grilling tray or vegetable-grilling basket, on a piece of heavy foil, or directly on the grill rack (perpendicular to the grates, directly over preheated coals). Grill vegetables, uncovered, for the amount of time given below or until tender, turning occasionally. Monitor the grilling closely so that the vegetables don't char.
  • Asparagus: Snap off and discard any tough bases of the stems. Precook the stalks for 3 to 4 minutes, then tie the asparagus in bundles with strips of cooked green onion tops. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Corn on the Cob: Remove the husks from the corn; scrub the ears well to remove any silk, then rinse and pat dry the ears. Do not precook the corn. Grill for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Fennel: Snip off the feathery leaves from the top of the fennel bulb. Cut off the stems. Precook the fennel for 10 minutes, then cut the bulbs into 6 to 8 wedges. Grill for about 8 minutes.
  • Leeks: Cut off the green tops of the fennel; trim the bulb roots and remove the tough outer layers. Precook the leeks for 10 minutes or until tender, then halve the leeks lengthwise. Grill for 5 minutes.
  • Mushrooms, whole or sliced: Do not precook mushrooms. Grill for 7 to 10 minutes.
  • New potatoes: Halve the potatoes crosswise. Precook the potatoes for 10 minutes or until almost tender. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Sweet peppers: Remove the stems from the sweet peppers. Quarter the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes from the interior. Cut the pepper into 1-inch-wide strips. Do not precook sweet peppers. Grill for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Zucchini or yellow summer squash: Cut off the ends of the zucchini or summer squash. Quarter the vegetables

Homemade Blueberry Syrup

It won't be long before everything will be coming up blue in fields and farms. Blueberries, those blue beauties that are a trademark summertime fruit, will be available for picking fresh or for puchasing at your local farm stands. There's so many different things you can do with blueberries--from pies to cobblers, tarts and muffins. For a healthy topping, stir together vanilla yogurt and a little honey (to taste); whip it to make it a creamy consistency. Serve this topping over fresh blueberries.

One great idea to get the most flavor from blueberries is to make a homemade syrup that you can use as a topping for pancakes or waffles. Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a reader asking for the blueberry syrup recipe that we featured on Suite101 a few years ago. Well, we culled the Food & Drink archive to find that exact same recipe and we printed it below. The recipe actually originates from the Yelton Manor Bread & Breakfast, located in South Haven, Michigan. The recipe does take some time to make, but the result, a thick and rich blueberry syrup, is worth the time and effort.

Blueberry Syrup
  • 2 pints ripe blueberries
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Sort and stem the blueberries, removing any soft or bruised blueberries. Place the blueberries in a blender container. Cover; blend the blueberries until pureed. Place the blueberry puree in a bowl, cover with a towel, and let the mixture stand in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Stir the puree occasionally.
  2. Pour the blueberry puree through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Allow the blueberry liquid to drain from the blueberry puree. Once the puree has completely drained, discard the pulp and reserve the juice.
  3. Place the sugar and water in a 4-quart stockpot. Stir, cover, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Uncover the pot, and insert a candy thermometer onto the side of the pot.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook the syrup until the temperature of the syrup reaches 230 degrees Fahrenheit, about 45 minutes.Add the reserved blueberry and lemon juice.
  5. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes more. Do not allow the syrup to boil at this point. (If the syrup boils at this stage, the mixture will foam and boil over the sides of the pot, so watch the syrup carefully.)
  6. Remove from the heat, and allow the syrup to cool completely. Transfer the cooled syrup to clean jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Great Breakfast Ideas

What is your favorite breakfast? From scrambled eggs and bacon, to hash browns and pancakes, it seems everyone has his or her own favorite. Diane Laney Fitzpatrick, a contributing writer for, says, "Mine is a toasted English muffin with cream cheese and strawberry jam (with coffee, of course!)."

I happen to like the taste of pancakes. Plain pancakes are good, but every now and then, I like to incorporate either a fruit or a different flavor into the pancake. With summer quickly approaching, I'd thought I'd share a recipe for Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes that will certainly have all of your family up and around the breakfast table on a sunny Saturday summer morning. The recipe was adapted from a blueberry buttermilk pancake served at the Glen-Ella Springs Inn located just a few miles north of Atlanta in Clarksville, Georgia. This centuries old inn is actually on the National Register of Historic Places and first opened in 1988.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
Serves 4

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon, for griddle
  1. Place a griddle pan or a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, blueberries, and 4 tablespoons melted butter, and stir to combine. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
  2. When the griddle is hot, using a pastry brush, brush the remaining tablespoon of butter onto the griddle.
  3. Pour 3 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet or griddle for each pancake, spaced about 2 inches apart, and cook for 1 minute or until the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges. Flip over and cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.
  4. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve the pancakes with maple syrup or whatever favorite toppings you desire.

Flavors from the Garden

Many local farm stands have already opened for the season with their offering of fresh spring vegetables. Here are just a few tips for using the best vegetables of the season:
  • Asparagus: One of the most familiar springtime vegetables, asparagus come in colors ranging from green to purple to pure white. These tender spears are great on their own either steamed or incorporated into a stir-fry.
  • Green Beans: Crunchy green beans are delicious additions to side dishes. Forgo the green-bean casserole and try them over a crisp salad. You can cook green beans in advance without losing their freshness. Just steam them until they're tender, then place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
  • Green Onions Most often referred to as scallions or spring onions, these tender vegetables have a sweet yet spicy onion flavor. Try adding them to mashed potatoes combined with grated Cheddar cheese for extra flavor.
  • Radishes Ranging in flavor from slightly peppery to fiery hot, radishes are a great garnish to many different meals and they're great on their own for snacking. Just slice off the roots and leaves and serve them with the dip of your choice. If you just can't get past the spicy flavor, try cooking them briefly in melted unsalted butter for a few minutes. This brief cooking will help tame the strong flavor of raw radishes.

Malted Milkshakes

Most of us remember special childhood treats we enjoyed. They may have been snow cones, or Dairy Queen flurries or even homemade ice cream. But one treat I think many of us remember is the malted milkshake. The frothy milk combined with the creaminess of ice cream made for a drink that could cure the heat of an oppressive summer day. One of the good things about milkshakes is that you can make them year round, and you don't even have to wait for summertime. Here's a recipe for malted milkshakes that I think you'll enjoy and your children will enjoy.

Malted Milkshakes
Serves 4
  1. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup chocolated-covered malted milk balls (you'll find these candies in the candy aisle of your local grocery store). Set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine 1 cup milk (use whole milk, but if you're on a diet, you can use low-fat or skim milk), 1/4 cup malted-milk powder, and 1 1/2 pints of the best vanilla ice cream (you could use low-fat frozen yogurt if you're on a diet). Blend the ingredients until they are smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into four glasses; garnish each drink with a sprinkling of the reserved chopped malted milk balls. Serve immediately.

Make Your Own Spaghetti Sauce

Whether you are Italian by heritage (or just love Italian food), you can't undermine the taste of a good spaghetti sauce. And while you've probably had fantastic-tasting sauces in restaurants, you might be wondering how do you make a good sauce that rivals the commercially prepared version. Below, you'll find a basic recipe for spaghetti sauce that you can use not just over pasta, but in any recipe that calls for spaghetti sauce.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan over medim heat. Add 1 medium onion, chopped and 2 minced cloves garlic to the saucepan. Cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until the vegetables are tender.
  • Add 1/4 cup dry red wine, 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes with the juice included, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until the mixture thickens slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Once you have your basic tomato sauce prepared, you can create other versions by adding different ingredients. If you enjoy the taste of fresh mushrooms, you can add 1 cup fresh mushrooms or 1/2 cup sliced pitted black olives. If you want to have a version of Brooklyn Clam Sauce, you could add fresh clams to the sauce.
Experiment with different ingredients and combinations of ingredients, and you'll have a version of tomato sauce that will taste unlike anything you can find commercially prepared.

Food to Start Your Day

We've probably all heard the mantra dozens of times from many different sources: "Always eat a good breakfast; it's the most important meal of the day." Growing up, weekday breakfast usually consisted of cereal, perhaps a sweet breakfast pastry and a warm cup of tea. On weekends, pancakes, sausage, eggs, hash browns or homemade waffles were a welcome change of pace.

It seems everyone has their own favorite breakfast food, which may not always be eaten sitting at the kitchen table. Yogurt always seems to be popular; whether flavored or unflavored, with fruit or without. And speaking of fruit, summertime always brings with it the most delectable and freshest tasting fruits you'll eat. A juicy peach or a few tasty blueberries or raspberries with a bowl of cereal can really make for a flavorful start to the day. Then there are those purists who insist you must have eggs for breakfast. Well, you can have them poached, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, scrambled, shirred or fried to suit your particular tastes. Best of all, you get the protein you need to get you through the day. There are also those folks who enjoy a steaming bowl or cup of oatmeal for breakfast. This too is delicious on its own, but with the addition of fresh fruit or a drizzle of pure maple syrup, you might think about having a bowl every now and then.

Of course, I cannot forget to include those people who enjoy weird (well, not really weird, but unusual) items for breakfast. You know these types of people: the ones who eat a slice of leftover pizza cold from the refrigerator, the ones who grab whatever condiment they can find to slather on a bagel, the ones who think that chocolate cake is the hallmark of a morning breakfast. Yes, it seems all of us have our fondness for certain breakfast items. One of my favorites for a sumptuous breakfast feast is French toast, which for me is the ultimate breakfast comfort food.

What is your favorite breakfast item? Send me an e-mail here at Recipes and I'll post a few of your responses in a future blog.

Brew the Perfect Pot of Tea

If you don't favor coffee as your morning beverage, why not start your day with a warm, comforting cup of tea? By following the tips below, you'll ensure that you get a great cup of tea every time.
  1. Before brewing your tea, warm your teapot by pouring about 2 inches of boiling water into the pot. Cover the teapot with a tea towel for about 5 minutes. Discard the warming water.
  2. Add loose tea leaves to the warmed teapot. If you desire a mild brew, add a large pinch of tea leaves; for an average strength, add 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves for each cup, plus 1 teaspoon for the teapot. Fill the pot with boiling water, wrap it with a tea towel, and allow it to steep for about 5 minutes. Be careful not to leave the tea leaves in too long or you will get a bitter-tasting tea.
  3. Strain the tea leaves using a tea strainer or a small sieve. Serve the tea with sugar, a slice of lemon or cream.
Sources for Teas and Tea Supplies: Fortnum & Mason "Fortmason" tea (#509), $8.50 for 4.4 ounces, from McNulty's Tea & Coffee Company, 109 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014; 800-356-5200. For local retailers on the East Coast of the United States, call Haddon House Food Products, Inc., 609-953-0790. For local retailers on the West Coast of the United States, call Gourmet Specialities, 510-887-7322. Collectible English teapots, $20 to $75, and stainless-steel tea strainer, $6 to $12, both from Carry On Tea & Sympathy, 110 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY 10011; 212-989-9735.

Preparing an Artichoke

Artichokes unfortunately are snubbed by too many consumers. Many people are really unfamiliar about how to prepare let alone eat an artichoke, so this week, learn some tips on how to prepare and enjoy this unusual vegetable.

Preparing an Artichoke
  • 1 artichoke
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vinaigrette or dipping sauce of your choice
  1. When shopping for artichokes, look for a bright green artichoke without any blemishes. Remove any torn or bruised leaves. With a sharp knife, cut off all but 1 inch of the stem. Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the artichoke. Cut off the sharp points of the leaves with a scissor.
  2. Rub a lemon half over the cut edges and immerse the artichoke in a bowl filled with water and the juice of 1 to 2 lemons until ready to steam. The juice of the lemons will prevent the artichoke from turning brown.
  3. Steam the artichoke in a shallow pan filled with about 1 1/2 inches of water. Stand the artichokes upside down on the steamer pan; cover. Steam over a high heat for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife easily pierces the stem.
  4. Sprinkle the cooked artichoke with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Serve on a plate with the vinaigrette of dipping sauce of your choice.

How to Peel Tropical Fruits

If you've ever had the opportunity to really examine all of the various fruits available in your local supermaket, you might discover a variety of tropical fruits such as the mango, mamey, papaya and the more familiar pineapple available for purchase. And if you've ever passed them by because you didn't know the best ways to prepare them, you're not alone. Unfortunately, you're missing out on a flavorful treat for your taste buds. These sweet and juicy fruits are a great way to add fruit into your daily diet—you just have to know a few techniques on how to peel and serve them. It's important to use a stainless-steel knife when you're cutting up this fruit; carbon-steel knives tend to discolor the flesh of the fruit.

How to Peel a Mango
  1. Hold a mango on a cutting board, with the stem-end up. With a sharp paring knife, carefully cut the mango into two halves, cutting down on either side of the large pit that's in the middle. Don't try to cut exactly in the middle, or you'll hit the pit with your knife.
  2. Once you've separated the two halves from the pit, cut the flesh into cubes by scoring the inside of each mango half with diagonal parallel lines; slice in the opposite direction to create a cross-hatched pattern. From the skin side, gently push the center out, and cut off the cubes from the peel.
How to Peel a Papaya

  1. On a cutting board, hold the papaya on its side. Slice the fruit in half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop out the black seeds, and use for a garnish (if desired).
  3. Place each papaya half, cut-side down, on a cutting board, and remove the peel with a knife. Remove about 1 inch to 3 inches of the narrow end of the papaya, since this part usually has very little flavor. Slice each half of papaya with a paring knife into the desired pieces.
How to Peel a Mamey
Similar in shape to a papaya, the mamey has a brown-skin covering a pink-orange flesh.
  1. Place the mamey on its side, and cut lengthwise around the circumference of the seed in the middle of the fruit with a sharp knife. Separate the two halves, and use a spoon to remove the seed.
  2. Cut around the outer perimeter of the flesh with a grapefruit knife, and peel away the skin with your fingers. Place the mamey, flat-side down, on a cutting board and slice into the desired pieces.
How to Peel a Pineapple
  1. Slice off the pineapple's plumes and the bottom with a sharp knife.
  2. Stand the pineapple on its base, and cut away the skin in long, vertical strips. Remove the eyes with a melon baller.
  3. Cut the pineapple into quarters from the top down. Remove the core from the center of each piece with a paring knife. Cut into triangles, and serve.

Facts About Phyllo Dough

The Greek word "phyllo" means leaf. The word "filo" refers to paper-thin leaves, or layers, of pastry dough. Filo is thought to date back as far as 2,000 years. You can find boxed of commercially prepared filo or phyllo dough in freezer or refrigerator counters at most supermarkets and grocery stores. Phyllo is a classic dough in many great savory and sweet baked items.

However, many people are unfamiliar or intimidated by using this pastry, so let's demystify this a bit. First, when you open a package of phyllo dough, you'll notice it will come out in a large roll. In that roll, there are many many paper-thin layers of dough that you can use for a variety of recipes. Look at your recipe to determine how many sheets you'll need, pull out only that amount, and promptly place the unused portion on a new layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Since you typically will only be working with one sheet at a time, keep the remaining sheets of dough covered with a damp kitchen or paper towel to prevent the sheets from drying out. Once the sheets dry out, forget it: You won't be able to salvage them, since they will turn hard and brittle.

Most recipes call for buttering phyllo dough in a recipe. It's important to use butter, not a margarine or other vegetable oil-based spread for this, since the butter will impart flavor to your finished item. Melt the butter as directed in the recipe and then brush it onto your dough with a pastry brush. Bake according to the temperature and time directed in your recipe, and you'll be rewarded with tender, flaky dough. I hope this has helped you understand the basics of working with phyllo (filo) dough.

Freshen Your Kitchen with Lemons

As decorative as they are in the kitchen, wooden cutting boards are notorious for holding in food odors long after your meal has been prepared. Since you really can't use harsh cleansers on the board or wash it in the dishwasher, how can you freshen up this kitchen workhorse? You probably never thought that a lemon and some salt can do the trick, but it can.

Here's an easy, all-natural way you can eradicate odors and keep your wooden cutting board smelling clean and fresh. You'll need a large handful of salt (you can use either a coarse, kosher salt or a fine sea salt) and one lemon, cut in half. First, sprinkle the salt generously over the cutting board, and then using the lemon half as a scouring pad, scrub the board well with the cut side of the lemon. If you like, you can use some salt with a few drops of white vinegar mixed in and a plastic scrubber brush to clean the board, but the smell of the fresh lemon is much nicer compared to the somewhat astringent smell of the vinegar. Finally, wipe off the salt with a damp kitchen towel.

Why does this work? The salt acts as a natural abrasive, going down into the wood like a scouring pad while the lemon juice dissolves any grease or food residue that may remain on the board. Rather than reaching for the exhaust fan the next time you've had a kitchen mistake or after cooking pungent-smelling food, turn to a few lemon peels to remove odors in your kitchen. Just place a few lemon peels in a pot of water on your stove. Bring the water to a boil and cook the lemon peels, gently, over simmering water for a few minutes. The heat from the water will gently coax out the oil from the lemon peels, which in turn will perk up your kitchen with a delightful citrus scent.

Kitchen Techniques

In our recipe for Turkey Cobb Salad, you'll want to use an avocado that is ripe but not mushy to the touch. It should yield when you apply gentle pressure with your fingers. An unripe avocado will generally take between 3 or 4 days to ripen. An easy way to ripen an avocado is to place it in a brown paper lunch bag and keep it at room temperature, away from direct sunlight or heat. Once an avocado has ripened, you can prevent it from becoming overripe by storing it in the refrigerator. The chill of the refrigerator will slow down the ripening process for a few days.

Sometimes people avoid using avocados simply because they don't know how to prepare them for a recipe. The process is actually simple. To seed an avocado, cut lengthwise through the fruit and around the seed. With your hands, gently twist the two halves in opposite directions from one another to separate them. Carefully tap the seed with the blade of a sharp knife so that it catches in the seed. Rotate the knife a quarter-turn to loosen the seed from the flesh. Lift the knife up and the seed should come out of the flesh still attached to the knife. To remove the peel, gently pull it off using your fingertips or the tip of a knife. Then, slice the avocado or cube it according to your recipe.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes were long only relegated to gourmet dishes and specialty food stores. In fact, you couldn't even walk into a supermarket and expect to find them on the shelves. I remember years ago how difficult it was to hunt these down at my neighborhood grocery store, particularly since I wanted to make an Italian pasta dish that called for sun-dried tomatoes. Lately, they're beginning to be used more frequently in daily cooking and you can now find them in most supermarkets.

Generally, sun-dried tomatoes are usually available packed in oil, but this luxury does come with a consequence: oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes tend to be expensive. One economical idea that will save you money is to make your own version of the oil-packed tomatoes with the dry-packed variety.

To do this, bring some water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and a drop of red-wine vinegar to the boiling water. Next, add the dry-packed tomatoes to the water, turn off the heat, and allow the tomatoes to steep in the water for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, drain off the water. You can then use your tomatoes immediately for a salad or you can cover them with a layer of extra-virgin olive oil in a glass jar and refrigerate them for up to three weeks.

Coeur a la Creme

Coeur a la Creme
 There are certain desserts that look impressive to make but are really simple to prepare. Coeur a la creme is one of them. Literally translated from French it means "heart of cream" and this heart-shaped dessert makes a perfect finishing touch to a romantic Valentine's Day dinner.


Serves 6

  • 4 tablespoons raspberry puree (from about 1/2 pint fresh berries, or 1 cup frozen berries, thawed)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces heavy cream Raspberry Sauce, recipe follows
  • Fresh raspberries and mint for garnish
  1. Cut six rinsed 8-inch-by-8-inch squares of cheesecloth, three to four layers thick, for each small mold, or one 16-inch-by-16-inch square for a large mold. Line the molds with the dampened cheesecloth.
  2. Make the raspberry puree by pressing the berries through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds. Combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla, and combine; add the raspberry puree, and mix well.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream with a whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold the stiff cream into the raspberry mixture.
  4. Fill the molds with the mixture, and smooth the top surface. Neatly fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the mixture, and place the molds on plates to catch the draining whey. Chill the molds for 24 hours before serving.
  5. To serve, unwrap the cheesecloth, center a serving plate on top of the mold, and filp the plate and mold right-side up. Remove the mold; carefully pull away the cheesecloth. Pour on the Raspberry Sauce, and garnish with berries and mint.

Raspberry Sauce
 Makes 1 1/2 Cups
  • 12 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup sugar
In a small saucepan over medium heat, boil the raspberries and sugar for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Strain the mixture through a sieve; add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture resembles a sauce. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sources: Ceramic coeur a la creme mold, available in 1/2-cup mold and 4-cup mold sizes, from Lamalle Kitchenware, 36 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10010; 212-242-0750 or 800-660-0750.

Tips for Preparing Pasta

  1. Cook pasta in a large amount of boiling salted water. You should use between 6 to 8 quarts of boiling water per pound of pasta and keep the lid off the pot to prevent the water from boiling over onto your stove.
  2. Add the pasta as soon as the water reaches a rapid boil and stir well after adding your pasta. Don't start timing until after the water returns to a full boil.
  3. 3. When cooking pasta that you will serve in a baked dish, cook it for about two thirds of the recommended time on the package. This will ensure that your pasta won't be overcooked in the final dish.
Dried pasta comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are just a few organized according to type:

  1. Bow ties or butterflies (farfalle)
  2. Wagon wheels (rotelle)
  3. Corkscrews (fusilli)
  4. Penne
  5. Macaroni, rigatoni
  6. Shells (conchiglie and conchiglioni) or cavatelli
  1. Lasagna
  2. Pappardelle
  3. Mafalde
  4. Manicotti
  1. Tortellini
  2. Cappelletti
  3. Agnolotti
  1. Cheddar—Any of the cheddar cheeses match well with pasta, but if you're watching your fat intake, you may want to select cheddars with stonger flavors. You'll be able to use less cheese in your pasta.
  2. Parmesan—Parmesan is an aged hard cheese that is best if you buy it in a block and then grate only the amount you need for a recipe.
  3. Ricotta—A mild and creamy cheese, ricotta is a tasty and rich-tasting cheese, suitable for lasagna and stuffed shells.
  4. Mozzarella—Natural when paired with tomato, mozzarella has a soft, subtle flavor that blends well with a variety of pasta dishes.
  5. Romano—You can use this tasty, pungent cheese as an alternative to Parmesan in most recipes.
  6. Provolone—This highly piquant-flavored cheese has a tangy buttery flavor.

Sunday Supper

There's a certain fondness I have for Sunday dinners. It doesn't matter what month of the year it is, when it comes to deciding what to make for Sunday dinner, you always want it to be a great meal. During winter, a slow-cooked pot roast or a hearty chicken stew is just the antidote to a cold and windy Sunday. During the spring and summer, dishes prepared from fresh vegetables and grilled meats are just what everyone is looking for to cool off. Unlike weekday dinners where ease of preparation is usually the deciding factor, Sunday dinners are meant to take time and effort. I treasure those Sundays when I can spend almost an entire afternoon in the kitchen preparing a hearty pot roast, assembling side dishes and baking a cake or pie for dessert.

Even if you dread going to work on Monday, you can forget about the upcoming week when you're preparing Sunday dinner. The smells emanating from the oven or stovetop really can help you think, "But it can't be Monday yet because we haven't had Sunday dinner." One of my favorite Sunday dinners is Oven Roasted Turkey Breast. Even if you think you've seen enough turkey from the past holiday season, you'll want to try this recipe. Since you're roasting a turkey breast, the cooking time is not as long as it would be if you're roasting a whole turkey.

Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
Serves 6 plus leftovers

  • 5-pound turey breast (bone-in), rinsed and well dried
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fit a small roasting pan with a V-shaped rack. Drizzle oil over turkey breast, and season with salt and pepper. Center turkey breast on rack. Transfer to oven, and roast until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F. when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Transfer to a platter, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  2. Meanwhile, make the gravy: Remove the rack, and place roasting pan directly over a burner set on high heat. Add flour to pan, and whisk for 2 minutes, scraping up the pan drippings and incorporating all of the juices from the pan into the flour. Add water, and continue whisking until a smooth gravy forms, about 2 minutes. Serve gravy over turkey.

Oven Dried Apple Chips

Homemade apple chips make a tasty and delicious snack; learn how to dry your own apple chips.

If you've ever been served apple chips when dining at a restaurant, you probably can remember just how sweet, elegant and subtly crunchy they can be--a simple but delicious luxury. Apple chips are easy to prepare at home. Just select the finest unblemished apples you can find, such as Ida Reds or Granny Smiths. To make these correctly, you must slice the apples very thinly; a mandoline or electric slicer will help you achieve thin slices. If you don't have either tool, use the sharpest knife you own to slice the apples paper thin.

Oven Dried Apple Chips

  • 2 uncored apples
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Slice off the bottoms of the apples. Using a mandoline, slice the apples thinly, applying even pressure. Be sure each slice has the same thickness. Turn the apple one-quarter turn after each slice to prevent torn skin.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cover the parchment with the apple slices arranged in a single layer. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar over the slices.
  3. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Store apple chips in an airtight container up to 1 day.

Apple Corers, Peelers and Cutters

With a few essential tools at your fingertips, you can easily prepare apples for use in a variety of recipes.

Several doors down from my home, I have a neighbor who planted her apple trees more than 23 years ago. And this year, I must say, she has the best crop she's ever had. The apples are so plentiful probably because of the really dry summer that we had—no rain, no mildew resulting in beautiful apples.

At this time of year, thank goodness for the apple corer. The corer I use has a very simple design. To core an apple, place the corer with its "teeth" positioned around the stem of the apple and push it straight through the center of the apple, being careful not to puncture the blossom end. With a twist of the wrist, pull out the core and the seeds. You can easily core all your apples with this tool if you're making pie or brown betty. Save all the cores and peels; they're great for the compost.

If you really want to simplify your task of peeling an apple, first cut off a slice from the top and the bottom. Then, using an apple or potato peeler, peel the apple; it will then be ready to cut into wedges by hand or into very thin fine slices for the top of an apple tart.

Another apple gadget you can use (which I find slightly amusing) is an apple cutter. It's useful only if the apple has already been peeled. To use it, place the tool over the apple and push it down through the apple; the tool will cut the apple into perfect pie wedges. It will also remove the core, but I find that if you peel the apple first, it will slice through the flesh of the apple really well.

Once you've cut into an apple, it will quickly turn brown when it's exposed to the air. To discourage browning, drop the apple pieces into a mixture of acidulated water, water mixed with 1/4 cup of lemon juice. This lemon-water mixture will help keep your apples from turning brown until you're ready to use them in your recipe.

Our tools of the week—an old-fashioned but ever useful apple corer, a potato peeler which really works well for peeling apples, and an apple cutter—will help you prepare apples easily for a variety of dishes.

Favorite Recipes from 2006

Since I never make something new without capturing it for posterity with either my digital camera or regular 35-mm camera, I have a entire photo file filled with photographs of some of these culinary creations. It's amazing how the memories come flooding back. I'm also thankful for the opportunity to share these recipes here each week.

Here are just a few of some of my favorite recipes that I prepared in 2006:

  1. I would be remiss if I neglected to include Madeleines as one of my favorite cookies I baked this past year. Bake them once, and you'll find yourself baking them for special occasions throughout the year.
  2. Pulled Pork made in the crockery cooker was another favorite. If you've never tried making this Southern favorite before, try the crockery cooking method, and you'll discover just how tasty and finger-licking good it is.
  3. As the U.S. marked the first anniversary of the destruction brought to the southern United States (particularly New Orleans) by Hurricane Katrina, we highlighted some favorite Southern dishes in our three-part series "Salute to the Foods of New Orleans." We covered everything from beignets and jambalya to Sauteed Catfish with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Andouille Sausage Sauce, as a rememberance of the fine cuisine this locale offers.
  4. The chocolate lovers in my family exclaimed when I discovered a simple recipe for a Chocolate Souffle Cake that rivals the best chocolate cake from an upscale restaurant. If you're looking for a new chocolate cake recipe, this one is a must-have for your recipe files.
  5. As we headed into fall, my second-favorite season of the year, apples held a place of honor in my kitchen. One recipe which I like (and was consistently among the top viewed articles on Recipes) was the Caramel Apple Pie. It seems that many people were looking for a new twist on an old favorite, so give this one a try!
  6. Apples also appeared in a great-tasting dinner dish: Pork Chops with Apples. There's just something about the marriage of apples with pork in this dish that really makes it such a tasty meal for dinner. I try to use the best apples I can find for this dish.
  7. If it wasn't for Sara Smith, we would not have been able to bring you a compendium of great holiday pie recipes. Sara endured a long session in the kitchen on the basics of making pie crust and pie baking, but she was an excellent student who will be able to impress anyone with her new skills!
  8. If you have a taste for the spicy side, our spicy Herb Rubbed Turkey will have your taste buds jumping. If you're looking for a new idea for your Thanksgiving turkey next year, give this one a try.
  9. In the spirit of the Christmas season, I had to share the spritz cookies recipe. These are such a great cookie to bake for Christmas and they make plenty for gift-giving.
  10.  Perhaps one of my favorite (because it uses so few ingredients) was the Classic Hamburger from our Fourth of July Cookout article. Paired with the other recipes included there, it's summer entertaining at its best.
I hope you have tried some of these recipes, and if not, perhaps this brief retrospective will encourage you to make some of these taste-tantalizing recipes.

Cookie Place Card

Add fun and whimsy to your holiday table setting with cookie place cards. They not only serve a functional purpose; they're also an edible treat your guests will enjoy.

Often an important part of a table setting for a large dinner party, place cards can often add sophistication to your table. If you're hosting a holiday dinner, try this idea: Bake a batch of cookies, then using a pastry bag filled with royal icing, pipe the name of each guest onto the surface of the cookie. You can select a favorite shape cookie cutter or one that is tailored to your dinner's theme. These fun cookie cards not only direct guests where to sit at the table, but they become an inexpensive favor that can be taken home at the end of the evening. For recipes that make the best bases for decorated place cards, try gingerbread cookies, chocolate butter cookies, or sugar cookies.

Homemade Fruit Butter

There’s a particular warmth and coziness from a gift that comes from your own home kitchen. At holiday time, homemade presents are a wonderful idea, like homemade fruit butters.

Pear butter is quite simple to make. Take pears that are very ripe—not rotten—but if they have a bruise or two, this is the perfect use for fruit that is slightly over the hill. Quarter the pears, core them, and peel them. A lot of people make fruit butters with the skin on, but this tends to add a little grittiness to the final fruit butter, and you don’t want that grittiness.

Use about 12 ripe pears, 1 cup of granulated sugar, ¼ cup of water and 1 vanilla bean. Combine ingredients in a heavy-bottom pot because this is going to cook for about two to three hours and you don’t want any scorching.

Add the juice of 1 lemon to the pears to prevent the fruit from darkening. You can also, if you like, use a little bit of the rind, just the yellow, in with the fruit for a little added flavor. Stir it up and put it on a low flame. Cook for two to three hours until the fruit is extremely soft and can be put through a food mill.

After cooking for two to three hours, the pears will have taken on an extremely golden color. Putting the pear mixture through a food mill gives you the really perfect texture for the fruit butter.

To fill a jar, use a wide-mouth funnel. You want to come to about one half-inch of the top of the jar. Just give the jar a tap to get out the air bubbles. Hold the center of the lid of a screw-top jar, screw on the ring and tighten it. There you have a jar of pear butter.

To cover the pear butter for a gift, you can use a round of parchment paper with a little bit of a pinked edge; it makes a decorative top for a jar. Dampen the piece of paper in warm water. It becomes much more pliable. Place it on top of the jar with a rubber band. As the parchment dries, it will stretch nice and tightly and give a very professional look to the finished jar.

A jar of pear butter will last for two to four weeks in the refrigerator. Once the parchment is dry and taut, tie a ribbon with a handmade gift tag. Write very clearly on the tag “refrigerate immediately,” and it’s ready to give as a gift. Adding fruit butters to your Christmas repertoire will make it a truly handmade Christmas this year.


Create holiday cheer at any gathering with this recipe for a seasonal favorite, eggnog.

As light and frothy as can be, this version of eggnog is topped with ground nutmeg and contains three types of liquors. When separating the eggs to make the eggnog base, it is imperative that no egg yolks touch the egg whites. Even the smallest particle of egg yolk will inhibit the whites from achieving a fluffy consistency. Make sure your mixing bowl is washed well with warm soapy water and dried very well. For best results, use a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl; plastic bowls will not work well. If a piece of eggshell makes its way into the bowl, remove it with a clean metal spoon and wash your hands with soap and water before continuing with the recipe. When beating the egg whites, stop the mixer when the whites form stiff peaks, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not overbeat, as the protein linings of the air bubbles formed when mixing will dry out. The base of the eggnog can be made one day in advance. Simply beat in the stiff egg whites and whipped cream before you serve it.

Serves 16
  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 2 quarts heavy cream
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups light rum
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  1. In an oversized mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow in color. Gradually add the sugar to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Whisk in the milk and 1 quart cream. Add bourbon, brandy, and rum, stirring constantly.
  2. Just before serving, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the eggnog base. Whip the remaining 1 quart heavy cream until stiff peaks form, and gently fold into the eggnog base with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg.
Caution Raw Eggs: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the eldery, and anyone whose immune system is compromised in any way.

Making Homemade Applesauce

Enjoy a bowl of homemade applesauce; our two recipes for this favorite comfort food rival the commercially prepared variety.

The sweet flavor of homemade applesauce makes it a perfect companion to potato latkes. During the holiday season, I like to make homemade applesauce—both stovetop applesauce and a pink applesauce, both kinds keep well in the freezer after they are prepared. I first learned about pink applesauce from Martha Stewart, who developed her recipe when she found out that when you add lemon juice to red-skinned apples, the acid from the lemon reacts with the skin of the apple to create a pink color. In my version of Martha's pink applesauce recipe, I like to use Ida Reds, but McIntosh apples will work just as well. It's important to alter the amount of sugar you use, since different varieties of apples will vary in their sweetness. The stovetop applesauce is prepared with spices to produce a flavor that can be likened to eating a home-baked apple pie.

Stovetop Applesauce
Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon juice, plus zest of 1/2 lemon 1
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Granny Smith or Macoun apples, peeled, cored, and cut into pieces
  • 2 Empire apples, peeled, cored, and cut into pieces
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and zest, brown sugar, and butter. Add all the apples, and toss well to combine.
  2. 2. Cover the pan and cook, simmering over medium heat, until the apples are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the apples to the bowl of a food processor; pulse until the mixture is smooth. Serve warm.
Pink Applesauce
Serves 4

  • 4 Ida Red, McIntosh, or other similar red-skinned variety
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste depending on sweetness of apples)
  1. Cut the apples into quarters, leaving the skin on, and remove the seeds and the cores. Place the apples in a mixing bowl and add lemon juice; toss to combine.
  2. Place the apples, sugar, and 3/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan. Cover the pan, and let the apples simmer over medium heat, about 20 minutes, or until the apples are very soft.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, uncover, and let the apples cool slightly. Using a rubber spatula, push the apples through a wire sieve. Pull out and discard the skins. Refrigerate until ready to serve.