Naan shrimp flatbread

Are you looking to change-up your standard flatbread or Naan pizza recipe?  Why not use grilled or sautéed shrimp?  I made these flatbreads one week ago and they were well received by everyone.

I used about 10 shrimp for three flatbread.  After preheating the oven to 400 degrees, I tossed the shrimp in an everyday pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  I added some lemon pepper seasoning and cooked them until pink and firm.  I removed them from the stovetop and cut into smaller pieces for the topping.

Using the three flatbread, I spread a thin layer of tomato paste first and added shredded mozzarella cheese.  Then I baked this layer for about 5 minutes and removed them from the oven.

Meanwhile, I sliced three small tomatoes, and seeded them and chopped fresh basil from my indoor herb garden.  When the flatbreads were out of the oven, I placed the other ingredients on top, including some fresh mozzarella and sesame seeds.

Return the flatbreads to the oven and bake for a total of 15 to 20 minutes.  Slice and serve for appetizers for your next party.

Champagne Gummy Hearts

I have fallen in love with a great candy store named Sugarfina.  I visited one of their boutiques when visiting Chicago recently, and love the branding of this upscale candy. They offer a variety of lovely gummy bears in their stores.

So for my own wedding anniversary,  I decided to try my hand at making champagne gummy hearts, roses and leaves.  They were relatively easy to make.  And, I was quickly able to find a great recipe online. In fact, there are many websites and blogs with recipes out there for various type of champagne or other flavored gummy bears.

Here is how I made my selection of champagne gummy hearts.  First of all, I used my chocolate candy molds and purchased unflavored gelatin.  The other ingredients I happened to have in my pantry.  Many other types of molds are available, but I happened to have hearts, leaves and roses which seemed very appropriate for our anniversary.

Here is what you need:  1 cup champagne, 5 packets of unflavored gelatin which equal about 5 tablespoons, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon strawberry extract, a dot of Wilton pink food coloring, and the candy molds.

In a saucepan, add the champagne and mix in the gelatin.  Allow it to firm up, which will take only a few minutes.  Once the gelatin has set, place on the stove top and gently stir until heated, but not boiling.  Do not cook off the alcohol content by allowing this mixture to boil.

Whisk the contents and then add the sugar and continue to heat on medium-low until all of the sugar is dissolved into the gelatin mixture.  This will take a few minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add in the strawberry extract and the food coloring.

Use your favorite small cup or a food syringe and fill the candy molds.  Place on trays in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to one hour until set.  Remove the hearts from the molds onto waxed paper, and then store in a sealed container until ready to use.

The champagne taste is very evident, and these candies are so festive for an anniversary party.  The candy treats are also fun for holidays, birthdays, afternoon tea or even for a small sweet dessert.  Serve a couple of them in a champagne glass to your adult guests. They will be surprised that you made them for a fraction of the cost of those in the boutiques.

Birthday cake icing

For years I have owned a checkerboard cake pan and finally decided to attempt to make this layer cake.  First and foremost, I want to emphasize–this takes time.  I planned two days to prepare the cake, chill the cake, and make and decorate the cake.

And by no means, am I any sort of expert.  I call myself a cooking and baking enthusiast.  But, over the years, I have developed confidence in trying many new recipes and experimenting with my own recipes and modifications.

This icing recipe is not an experiment.  It came directly from the pages of Martha’s American Food cookbook.  It was made exactly as she recommended.  And, it is an amazing recipe.  Although she does not say to chill the cake after icing, I highly recommend that step.

The icing is perfect consistency for spreading on a layer cake, but needs to firm up for serving.  I also feel that by chilling the cake prior to icing, allows the cake to firm up as well.  There is nothing worse than a layer cake that is sagging, tilting, or falling over.

If ever thinking of making a layer cake, consider this recipe, it is delicious. This recipe made 7 1/2 cups of icing.  I had about 1/2 cup left over after frosting three layers.  Certainly, the quantity could be changed based on your cake size.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 1 cup boiling water, 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter SOFTENED, 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, pinch of salt

Heat and melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Combine the cocoa with the boiling water in a bowl. Dissolve.  Beat softened room temperature butter in a stand mixer, with the sugar and salt until fluffy.  Add melted chocolate slowly and then add in the cocoa mixture.

Use immediately.  The icing will be soft and free-flowing and covers the cake very well.  To firm up the icing, chill in the refrigerator.

And about the cake itself, the pan is the key to the checkerboard cake.  You can use any two types of cake mixes, or any of your favorite cake recipes.  The pan does the work.  I baked the cakes for 25 minutes, chilled, and leveled the tops prior to assembling the layer cake.  These pans provide an easy release and there were no worries with the results. I used a Chicago Metallic checkerboard cake pan, but many others are also available online, including one from Wilton.

I always have a nice feeling when I bake a cake for the one I love.

 

Spinach, cheese and ravioli bake

Michigan May temperatures are still chilly, though the sunshine has been warming me up for some outdoor gardening and exercise. I had some ingredients ready to go for another dinner dish, but decided to pair them up and make a classic comfort meal last week. I have made variations of this dish, already on this blog, but just made up this recipe and it was equally delicious.

I also wanted to test out my new box cheese grater, which is a huge improvement over other types of old-fashioned graters.  This easy pour grater by Venn Kitchen has four stainless steel grating sides which are very sharp.  The base is also non-slip with a design that can be used in two directions–vertical or horizontal, depending on personal preference.  Also included and what gives this grater a market advantage, is the unique compartment which collects the grated ingredients neatly and easily.

I loved the grater which I used for this recipe, and it made the whole dish come together so fast.

Here is how to make this comforting meatless pasta dish.  Gather these ingredients:  Pasta sauce, frozen mini cheese ravioli, shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded Parmesan cheese, frozen spinach

Start by shredding the cheeses.  I used one cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Layer the casserole dish with a thin coat of pasta sauce.  Add a layer of ravioli, top with cheese and then the spinach layer.

Layer 2-3 more times to complete the dish. Finish the top of the dish with grated Parmesan. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling hot.

Serve with a side salad.  This recipe freezes well for future leftovers.

For more information on Venn Kitchen products, follow them on Facebook.

Save

Flowers in the garden

Mid-Michigan is still experiencing chilly days even though our Spring flowers are blooming.  Today it is only in the 40’s, and we are expecting rain.  My garden is producing a spectacular display of flowers this year, perhaps because it is aging.

We moved to this home ten years ago this coming Fall.  Just saying that sentence is difficult for me to believe, as the time has passed so quickly.  However, when I walk about my yard and garden, it is easy to understand.  So many of the very small plants that I planted in 2008, 2009, and 2010 are growing into loving blooming shrubs, colorful ground covers, classic plantings and interesting additions to my surroundings.

Each one has a story, came from a certain plant nursery, plant sale or a new Michigan friend. I even have a tree from a friend from West Virginia who visited me and brought me a sapling the first Winter.  I remember being hesitant to even put it into the ground, but it is growing into a lovely Japanese Maple today. I received seeds from other WV friends and those flowers have grown into beautiful plants as well.  Some of my plants I have lost along the way, but somehow others have crept in to cover up the open spots.

I often say that I have a Spring garden because I like my garden the best this time of year. I have many plants, shrubs and bulbs that bloom and flower throughout the Summer and Fall, but it is the Spring season that makes me the happiest.  Coming through a cold Winter and realizing that the perennials with a story will be back to greet me just makes gardening all worthwhile.

One of my favorite ground covers has to be Lily of the Valley.  I took a clump from my mother’s garden in 2009 and placed it in a featured spot near my front entrance, that is now filled with my bridal bouquet flower every Spring. The entire bed is almost completed covered in Lily of the Valley.  It has woven around the Virginia bluebells, the varying sized hosta, the lirope, and the English ivy. My blue periwinkle is a sea of blue around the front perimeter of my property. I planted a few small clumps here and there and somehow it became a lovely border.

My herbs are growing and my fenced garden has been cleaned and cleared from the winter leaf cover.  Now to make my planting list for the summer patch of edibles.

Here are some photos of my flowering trees and shrubs, along with other Spring plants in bloom. I did not plant my garden to be a showcase, so don’t look for anything spectacular. This is just a garden where I have learned to understand the beauty of the seasons. And I appreciate the smallest and the most delicate plants, hoping to see them again every Spring.

sesame orange pork ribs

Are you ready for another great tasting meal for the slow cooker? Here is an easy recipe that has great flavor and is made with boneless country-style pork ribs. And, it is not made with barbecue sauce.  These ribs have an Asian flavor.

I purchased two packages, but the recipe may be increased based on the size of your family.

I made this recipe on a day I was home, as halfway through the cooking, I did add extra ingredients which rounded out the basic recipe.

To make these ribs, gather these ingredients:  3 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, 10 ounces of orange marmalade, one jar of hoisin sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, one red pepper, 2 medium yellow onions, black pepper

Trim ribs to make certain that is no fat. To a multi-cooker, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brown the ribs on all sides at 350 degrees.  While the ribs are browning in the cooker, in a small bowl, mix these ingredients:  marmalade, hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil.

 

When ribs are browned, pour sauce over the ribs.  Cover and cook for 4 hours on LOW.

Next, open the pot and strain the excess fat from the ribs and the pot.  Then add the following ingredients which have been sautéed on the stove-top–1 sliced red pepper and 2 medium yellow onions which have been seasoned with black pepper to taste. I cooked these just long enough to soften them and lightly tenderize the pepper.

Continue to cook on LOW for 3 1/2 hours.  Then, increase the temperature, stir the pot and cook on HIGH for one more hour.  Season with sesame seeds just before serving.

Serve with rice, noodles, mashed potatoes, or alone in a large bowl.

 

Crispy spiralized sweet potatoes

Another delicious way to serve sweet potatoes is by using a spiralizer. First, I peel and remove the two ends of the potatoes. After using the Paderno three blade spiralizer, I gather the potatoes and place in my Venn Kitchen mixing bowl. Next, I just add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, season them with Weber grilling vegetable seasoning and parsley flakes,  and place on a baking sheet.

I would recommend roasting at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then rotate and mix them up on the pan.  Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast until crispy and browned.  I roasted mine for a total of 20 minutes and they were ultra crispy and delicious.  They can be seasoned with salt, pepper or any type of spicy seasoning if desired. Vary by decreasing the roasting time for less crispy potatoes.

These sweet potatoes are a great snack, a perfect accompaniment to a burger or sandwich for a meal. And the spiralizer is so much fun to use.  Having the right equipment makes this recipe come together very quickly.

After visiting the home and housewares show this spring in Chicago, I have been so happy to test some new products coming soon to the kitchen marketplace.

Please notice my favorite new tools from Venn Kitchen products.  The mixing bowls are graduated and the perfect size for all types of food preparation. They are stain resistant and manufactured from food grade silicone coated nylon.  They are dishwasher safe and stack so nicely in a cabinet. The bowls have a non-slip base and even lids for storage.

I especially love my new Venn Kitchen cutting board, which served also as a great platter for my spiralizing.  As always, I love my Paderno spiralizer which was purchased at Williams Sonoma this spring. I used the smallest blade for my sweet potatoes.

Venn Kitchen products are distributed through Captivate Brands, a global manufacturer and innovator new to the marketplace.  For more information, follow them on Facebook at Venn Kitchen.  Their brand has so many new products coming to the market.