Cookbook review: Cooking for Jeffrey

Ina Garten’s tenth book was released at the end of last year, and it was dedicated to cooking for her husband Jeffrey.  Beginning with the introduction to the book and continuing with each chapter, Ina shares photos and stories of her love of cooking, her business, and her life with her husband. Included in the book is a list of Jeffrey’s all time favorite dinners, suggestions for items to stock in a pantry, as well as selected tools for a starter kitchen or for a professional kitchen.

As with any of Ina’s books, the colorful food photography is lovely and her down to earth instructions are charming. So many of the dishes just beg to be prepared, as the ingredient combinations sound delicious.

Thankful to receive this book as a Christmas gift, I will be cooking this year from the pages and sharing with my family and friends. Like Ina, I agree that cooking for others is what cooking is all about–sharing the love and the community of meals.

Spinach and Tomato Tortellini

After doing an Internet search, I was not able to find a recipe which comes close to how I have prepared this dish several times.  It is quite tasty and has gone through some variations in the past years. I have finally settled on this method which produces a very delicious quick and easy dinner.

I use microwave bacon to start, which immediately speeds up the cooking process. In a large 10 inch deep saucepan, I heat 5 strips of bacon with just a teaspoon of olive oil.  Remove the bacon and set aside to cut into pieces.  In the pan, brown one white chopped onion.

   

Next, add 1/2 of one frozen box of spinach, which has been thawed and drained.  And, also 1/2 bag of frozen tortellini, which have been thawed, but not yet cooked. Stir to combine and heat slightly.  Then add, one canned of drained diced tomatoes.

Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Then add bacon pieces and cook and additional five minutes.

Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley flakes. Serve and enjoy.

Air popped popcorn

Popcorn is my favorite snack food.  Over the years, I have had many types of poppers.  This one is new to my home, and it has been an easy transition into use.  Cuisinart offers this new popper which allows for no use of oil.

The air popped popcorn is super fluffy and light.  There is almost no clean up to this popper, as the chamber wipes clean after use.  The plastic chute is the only part that needs a quick wash in the sink.  The unit uses 1500 watts of power, so it is a fast process.

The best part of this machine is that it works in under 3 minutes.  10 cups of perfect popcorn in less than one commercial break is nothing short of amazing. This is a super fun tool to use.  So glad that I added it to my home this winter.

If you need a gift idea for that next party, this is one that everyone should love.

Roasted chicken with citrus

Lemon chicken is one of my favorite dishes.  Here is a different recipe that includes other citrus with an equally tasty flavor for dinner. I used two chicken breasts with bones, 2 lemons, 2 tangerines, 3 shallots, red potatoes, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, Kosher salt, and ground pepper.

Place the chicken in a roaster pan on a wire rack.  Spray with Pam, squeeze a bit of lemon over the chicken, and top with lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Add 1- 1/2 cups water to the pan under the rack.

Cut the lemons and tangerines in half and place around the chicken.  Peel the shallots and cut in segments and also place around the chicken.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake for 60 minutes.  This dish has an excellent citrus taste and is a delightful change to a standard roasted chicken.

Stuffed Portobellos

One of my favorite hot appetizer “go-to’s” is always stuffed mushrooms.  I have posted a few ideas on this blog in years past of those recipes.  This recipe, however, is a dinner entrée recipe that is wonderful for a Meatless Monday menu plan. Made with larger mushrooms, this recipe is terrific served with a side salad for a complete meal.

Here is how I made this delicious dinner.  Select larger Portobello mushrooms, one per guest. Wash well and remove the stem.  Clean out the black scales and wash again.  Place on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.  I poured about 1/2 cup of White Zinfindel wine in the pan for added flavor and moisture to the dish while cooking.

In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon margarine and saute 2 stalks chopped celery, 1/3 chopped red onion, and 2 ounces of crumbled bacon.  I used crumbled bacon in a bag.  Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

When the vegetables are soft, remove them from the stove top. In a bowl, mix in 1/2 cup Panko crumbs and 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. Add the sauteed ingredients to the bowl.  Add enough light mayonnaise, about 1/2 cup, just to pull together the mixture.

Stuff the mushrooms and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  This recipe can also be placed in a casserole dish and baked to serve with crackers as an appetizer.

Additional cheese can always be put on top of this casserole or the mushrooms prior to baking for an extra cheesy taste.  This recipe will fill four large mushrooms.

Book review: Celebrate Everything!

As a brand new grandmother, I am so excited to be able to share some special events with our new grandson in the coming years. This book, written by Darcy Miller is brimming with ideas for every occasion. As a celebrity party planner, she shares many ideas on how to personalize every event and bring every party to life.

Many types of parties are showcased in her book, including everything from an ice cream party to an anniversary party.  Ideas for food and drink, fun and games and even cakes and sweets are delightfully photographed, illustrated, and described.  Recipes, descriptions of meals, suggestions for gifts and even menus are included in the chapters.

Personally I love her sweet table display ideas along with her conversation starters. Just about every idea in the book is fresh and new.  The whole book is cheerful as well as classic.

Memories can be made by reading and exploring the ideas within.  I can’t wait for a chance to plan an occasion with Darcy’s ideas.  She shares her blueprint for success with style and class.

 

Noodle bowl

Noodle bowls are very easy to make at home. And, they are often one pot meals, making them very easy for a weeknight dinner when schedules are hectic. I modified a recipe that I found last year in Real Simple magazine, and came up with a great dish. Here are the ingredients needed for this dish:

1 Tablespoon sesame oil, 10 white mushrooms-cleaned and sliced, 1/3 bag of small carrots, 1 teaspoon minced ginger, 6 green onions, 4 cups chicken broth and 3 cups hot water, lo mein noodles, 2 small bok choy-chopped, 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar

I used my Staub cast iron pot and with the sesame oil, added the mushrooms, carrots, ginger and scallion whites only, cooking for about 3 minutes until just starting to soften.

Next, add the chicken broth and water, bringing the soup up to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Next add the desired amount of noodles and the bok choy and cook for up to 4 minutes maximum.  Stir in the vinegar and scallion greens at the end just prior to serving.

 

This cooking pot is wonderful, as it operates like a rain forest. By keeping the moisture and flavors within the pot, it makes any soup or stew just delicious. This noodle bowl can also include shrimp or cooked chicken breast.