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Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

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Happy New Year! What a better way to kick off  2013, than by cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  This recipe came to me from a friend who grew up cooking by her Italian-American mother and Italian Grandmother’s side. The best way to learn how to cook, in my opinion. Adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, a more instinctive way of cooking and way more delicious. Here is my version of her classic recipe. It is an Italian stuffed mushroom 101 appetizer recipe that lends itself to add-ins. I added-in cooked sausage, but crab, spinach or your special ingredient could be added at the final stages.043

 

1 Large package or two small packs of very fresh mushrooms-about 15029

 

Fresh Parsley: ½ cup

Lots of garlic:4-5 cloves or 1 large clove of elephant garlic

 1 Cup of Italian bread crumbs-store bought or homemade

 1 medium onion

 1 cup of add-in of your choice- sausage, chopped cooked spinach, crabmeat- diced, totally optional and can be left out completely

 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

 Black pepper to taste

 1/2 teaspoon  dried Basil

 ½ Cup grated cheese:  parmesan or your choice-finely grated

 Salt to taste

 1 cup white wine or water

 1. Clean mushrooms, which ever way you feel comfortable. Some people argue that you should only lightly dust them off. I wash mine and towel dry, removing any soil, that clings to them. Separate caps from stems, reserving stems.027

 

2. In food processor: finely dice onion, garlic, mushroom stems and fresh parsley, about 20 seconds.031

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3. Saute mixture in skillet with olive oil. Season with pepper, basil, ½ cup of the white wine. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until vegetables and herbs are tender. Turn off heat.034

 4. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese ,and cooked filling and any add-in of your choice. I added cooked diced Italian sausage. Filling should have the texture of stuffing.036

 5. Fill caps with a generous, mounting teaspoon or two of stuffing, slightly over filling caps. Can refrigerate at this point, if serving later.038

 6. On a baking tray, or serving casserole dish , place mushroom caps. Add ½ cup of the reserved white wine to the bottom of the bakeware, bake 35-40 minutes depending on size of caps, at 350 degrees until hot and golden.041

 7. Serve hot and enjoy. Stuffed mushrooms will shrink  as they cook.046

 

044Totally delicious, after making these I had trouble stopping eating them! There has been new scientific research stating the benefits of eating mushrooms.  Check out this link to learn more about mushrooms. These are guaranteed to disappear at your next party or even as a part of a light dinner. What are you cooking in the kitchen this winter??? Let us know.

Jenn at The Antique Garden

 

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Mummer’s Parade Party Cheese Ball Recipe

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I’ve decided to leave my large Kitchen Aid mixer out on the counter for the holiday season. 010    With Halloween almost here, this officially means things around here won’t get back to normal until 12th Night in January. Hopefully this will encourage me to make all kinds of delicious treats all the way until the new year. So far I’ve managed to make cookies and yesterday I tried out another new recipe for a party we were attending in town for the annual Mummer’s Parade in Hagerstown, Maryland. Supposedly the largest night time parade east of the Mississippi.027

I’ve honestly never made a cheese ball before. After seeing a recipe online, from Family Fresh Meals, I tweaked it as I usually do and made my own version. I actually think this is pretty easy to make and everyone seemed to like it. The stand mixer did make this easy to whip up. Here’s the ingredient list for one cheese ball.

16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature (2 packs)

2 cups cheddar cheese, finely shredded

3 tablespoons red pepper jelly

1 teaspoon cumin

1 cup roasted pepitos (pumpkin seeds out of the shell)

Top of 1 bell pepper for stem garnish if you want to make this look like a pumpkin

1. With mixer on low add cream cheese, 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, jelly, cumin and ¾ cups pepitos. Turn up speed and combine until well blended.

Turn out on plastic wrap and shape into ball. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

2. Remove cheese ball from refrigerator and unwrap. Roll in ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese and remaining pumpkin seeds. Top with pepper stem. Serve with crackers and cut up veggis.

I can imagine making this with salsa instead of pepper jelly and different types of roasted nuts. 023015Perhaps for Christmas roll in green herbs and serve with slices of red pepper. The cheese ball held up well and was nice and firm but not too hard.027

As we get into the fall and winter season it is fun to try out new recipes don’t you think?!

Happy Gardens!

Jenn at The Antique Garden

Cookie Time: Chai Pumpkin Spice Blossoms

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I brought all the makings for Chai Pumpkin Spice Blossom Cookies up to my parent’s home in White Plains this week-end.037 039 040 041 042 044   047  051 This and other similar recipes has been floating around the internet and Pinterest since September. I’ve been using the recipe that was posted by Michael and his blog Inspired by Charm, which he found from the blog Pass the Sushi! which was adapted from the site The Curvy Carrot. I don’t know for sure who invented these but they ARE delicious and use the very special seasonal Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses. I had a hard time finding them in my supermarket. First I checked the candy aisle, then the Halloween candy area and finally when I was giving up I found them up front near one of the registers in a display. I also have heard Target carries them. Today the temperatures have cooled, it’s rainy out, and it’s Sunday, the perfect excuse to pull out the ole stand mixer and get baking. In my parents case, the mixer is a vintage Sunbeam that they got as a wedding gift in the 1950’s, that still works great. I just got Dad, aged 83, to peel the wrappers off the kisses! Nothing like a couple of teenagers in the house to help make cookies. It is very handy. I found the liquid Chai concentrate easily in my market near the regular tea bags. I used the Tazo Brand.  Enjoy these wonderful, easy to make cookies.  As you can tell I like to have helpers in the kitchen young and old.  It makes a task easier and much more fun.  These cookies will be a hit, there is no doubt!  Here is the recipe: 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup liquid chai concentrate (I used Tazo brand.)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
22-24 Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses
 
Plus:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
 
 
 
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon.
 
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (about three minutes).
 
Add egg, chai concentrate, and vanilla to the butter mixture. Mix until combined.
 
Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture until incorporated.
 
Refrigerate for about an hour as the dough is too soft to handle at this stage
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
 
Unwrap Pumpkin Kisses (my Dad’s job)
 
Then in a small bowl mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
 
Using your hands, roll the dough into one-inch round balls. Then, roll dough balls in sugar and pumpkin pie spice mixture.
 
Place the dough balls about two inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
 
Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place pumpkin kisses in the center of each cookie. Cool completely.
 
Do not touch or move your cookies until the Kisses have firmed up-yes this is very important!

To top off the  week-end, my oldest son Andy brought over this basket of fresh autumn flowers. I think I’m finally easing into Autumn…..


Grandma’s Secret Zucchini Flower Appetizers

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Zucchini Flower Appetizer -(a secret recipe)

In a past life I had an Italian Grandmother. The things I remember most were her multi course meals, that were a daily occurrence and the amazing vegetable garden in the backyard. From this revered family favorite appetizer recipe that Nonni never wrote down to her legendary pizzelle cookies, Grandma Ciffolillo knew how to cook with simple ingredients she had on hand. She’d whip up a Swiss Chard frittata to die for and Grandpa would serve the simple peaches and red wine from the jug. I once asked her for this zucchini flower recipe and she told me, “you add a little bit of this and a little bit of that“, nothing very precise but it works. It definitely works and with out any leavening these delicate little fritters are light and airy. I don’t know about the sex life of zucchini plants but evidently only the females produce the flower and the squash and the males just the flowers which you can cut while very fresh and use for this recipe. While not sold in most retail markets I believe you could possibly find the zucchini flower at a farmer’s market, if you’re lucky.

The recipe as told to me by Laura Ciffolillo:

A handful of very fresh Zucchini Flowers- (I used about 6)

Gently wash the flowers and cut open and remove the pollen. Slice into small pieces. In a bowl mix up

1 or 2 eggs

Chopped fresh parsley- a small handful

Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese-about a tablespoon

Add a little bit of flour until a bit thick, can thin with water. Add flowers and mix with a fork. Mixture should have the consistency of a pancake batter.

Cooking oil- a few tablespoons to coat a skillet

Add a spoonful of batter to hot oil in the skillet, cooking about 3-4 Zucchini Flower appetizers at a time. Turn over when golden brown and cook other side. I used my favorite cast iron pan and it worked well. Watch over pan while cooking with hot oil and don’t over cook. Remove Zucchini Flower Fritters when golden on both sides. Serve hot or warm, these actually keep well and are delicious served at room temperature. Watch them disappear quickly when served, everyone will love them. Happy Gardens from Jenn at The Antique Garden

Julia’s Cold Beet and Cucumber Soup

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I have a fabulous recipe that I want to share that I made this week and will definitely be making again. It is a recipe from the Food Network that was courtesy of the late great Julia Child. It is called Cold Beet and Cucumber Soup. I have always enjoyed cold summer soups especially when it is scorching hot out. I tend to make them early in the day and let the flavors marry until serving. If you like gazpacho and vichyssoise then add this Cold Beet and Cucumber Soup to your repertoire.  Click here for the recipe.  Not a Borscht but a blend of cooked beets, cucumber, onion and broth, this one is very low-fat. The garnishes of sour cream, I used non-fat Greek yogurt, dill sprigs and chopped cucumber also added to the final product. And the color, it’s a wow! The taste is very clean, healthful and satisfying. I made this soup after an afternoon of canning pickled beets and had a few cooked beets left over and made the whole soup in the blender. I found a few other similar recipes on Pinterest that also looked good.  There was one from Esther Hardman for JustaPinch.com with great color. Click here for her recipe.

Here is one  from blogger Brooke McLay from Cheekykitchen.com that looks amazing. Brooke’s recipe is here. Have a great week-end everyone and Happy Gardens!

Jenn at The Antique Garden

Fried Green Tomato Heaven


 

I couldn’t wait, those fat green tomatoes were calling my name….If I had to pick any food group that I cook the best I would have to say vegetables. I love veggies. Don’t ask me to cook a steak or create a world-class cake, but grill up an assortment of vegetables, steam, dice, slice, a salad perhaps or maybe a creative pasta/vegetable dish and I’m there, no problemo.  I literally never had a fried tomato until I moved south of the Mason Dixon. Heck the farther you go ‘down south’ the more you’ll find fried green tomatoes on the menu. They even sell green ones at the Food City market, try finding a frying green tomato at Stop ’n Shop in New York or New England. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or have a friend that does (beg, borrow or steal if you have to), try to get some of the green tomatoes because they are that good. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family and when fried green they have a strange similarity to fried eggplant. Lightly breaded and pan-fried, they are tangy, crispy and savory. Perfect with eggs in the morning or as a side at dinner. They are really good. Pick a couple of large green tomatoes that are getting close to ripening. Slice into ¼” pieces. Dredge in a little mix of flour and cornmeal. After coating both sides, I like to rest my slices in the frig for about 10 minutes as it makes the breading slick better. Fry in a cast iron skillet with a little cooking oil, you don’t need much. Don’t over crowd in the pan and use a medium heat. Watch carefully when frying. Flip when they turn a golden brown and drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil. Season with salt and pepper. These would also make a great snack or appetizer. Watch them disappear….yum!

 Happy Gardens from Jenn at The Antique Garden

PS my canning fest has begun with peppers and beets on the menu…..

I Made Watermelon Salad, a True Story

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Once upon a time there was a seedless watermelon that was lonely….and a hot day, a very hot day…THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A HEAT ADVISORY-IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THIS MORNING TO 9 PM EDT THIS EVENING. * HEAT INDEX VALUES-AROUND 105 DEGREES THIS AFTERNOON. * TEMPERATURES-AROUND 100 DEGREES. * IMPACT-RISK OF HEAT EXHAUSTION OR OTHER HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS FOR THOSE WITHOUT AIR-CONDITIONING OR THOSE SPENDING TIME OUTDOORS FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD. No joke! This recipe is the perfect thing for a hot day.

I have been reading a lot of recipes on pinterest for this terrific summer salad that to some faint of heart would seem downright weird.Here is a version from down under, that adds sunflower seeds and pepitas…….Press here for this unique version.

It passed the test in my household and we all loved it, or at least liked it very much. I didn’t make the fancy one, all cut up into neat cubes, that would be perfect for a dinner party, but made a  easy simple version.

                                                                                                                        press here for the above recipe

Ingredients in order of importance and quantity:

Watermelon

Avocado

Feta cheese

Mint

Scallions

Pepper

That is it! I, a salt fanatic, didn’t even need it, because the Feta added the salt element. Dice all into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl. Sweet melon and salty cheese, mint and avocado, pepper and scallion, perfect combo. Impressive too, this is going to be a new regular at my homestead.

Easy Swiss Chard Quiche

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Swiss Chard that strange-sounding vegetable.  What is it exactly, you ask??? Press here to learn more about this super nutritious green vegetable that is similar in taste to fresh spinach and widely available in most markets.

I’ve been making variations of this delicious vegetable Quiche for years as it is so easy and everyone seems to like it. With so many great veggies to choose from you can use your own imagination and come up with unique combinations. This is perfect to whip up for parties or as a take along dish as it is yummy warm or cold. I’ve been known to take Quiche to the beach in a cooler. The basic things you will need is a good pastry crust, either homemade, those refrigerated pie crusts, or even frozen will work great. Yup, I cheated and used  frozen crusts and they were fine and a real summer time saver. For the filling you’ll need eggs, milk and some half and half cream and cheese. Tonight I’m serving a Quiche also known as cheese pie with the Swiss Chard, green peppers and onions I have growing in the garden. Other combinations that work are asparagus and dill, broccoli, onion and Swiss cheese, spinach and feta or leeks. I think fresh tomatoes would also be excellent. Just make sure to sauté veggies first in a little oil. Here’s the recipe for 2 pies:

2 Pie shells that have been cooked at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, empty. I usually cover with foil and weigh the pastry down with dried beans or rice. This step ensures a cooked crust that is not doughy and the beans prevent the crust from bubbling up. Remove from oven, remove foil and allow to rest.

4 cups chopped Swiss Chard-this cooks down

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bell pepper-diced

1-2 T. butter, olive oil or coconut oil

Cook vegetables in heavy pan for about 10 minutes, medium heat, stirring occasionally. Place in prepared pie shells. Spread cooked veggies evenly in shells. Top with cheeses.

½ pound of your favorite cheeses-diced or shredded-good choices are cheddar, Swiss, feta and Parmesan(I used romano, cheddar and provolone)

Here is my all-purpose filling to use for all variations:

4 eggs

¾ cup half and half cream

1 ¼ cup milk

Whisk up eggs, milk and cream. Add a little salt and pepper. Pour over contents of pies. For a special touch place some sage leaves in a pattern on the top of Quiche before baking. Press them in gently. Bake at 375 for about 35-40 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and cool. Eat hot, at room temperature or cold. They also freeze well and you know, even the men in my family love this dish. Who would have thunk it?!  Happy Gardens from Jenn at The Antique Garden!

Ample Sufficiency Raspberry Jam

I named this raspberry jam after my Grandmother, Betty Kakerbeck, because after a big meal she would always say, she’d had an ample sufficiency.  It almost became a family joke, as she was such a lady, and would never be vulgar enough to say she was plum stuffed. When we have a bumper crop of anything in the garden, we could certainly say we have an ample sufficiency.  garden 026Bombom would be proud, yes that’s what we called her, don’t ask. This year we have lots of our pesticide free red raspberries in the gardens that have early, big, fat berries, perfect for making jam. 006 With this jam I can make one my Grandmother’s favorite special desserts, the old classic Peach Melba. She would take a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a peach half and store-bought Melba sauce, which was made from raspberries, and serve it on special occasions.  You know, it was good, very good.  Did you know Peach Melba was named after a famous opera singer and created by the  famed chef Escoffier?007

For the jam, I followed the basic recipe from this web site which has very good detailed instructions for home canning, aswell as the Ball Blue Book recipe.  I liked the lower sugar recipe using the pectin that calls for no sugar and the results were perfect.  You can decide for your self if you want to strain the seeds out or keep them in. Here’s the recipe:

4 cups fresh red raspberries-washed and picked over

4 cups sugar

1 box plus 2 teaspoons more, no sugar needed Pectin-a natural thickener read more at that web site I was telling you about

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Combine raspberries and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Stir in pectin.  Return to a rolling boil.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.  Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Adjust two-piece caps.  Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.  This batch produced 4  half pint jars, plus a little extra for my Melba Sauce.My batch came out thick, sweet and yummy, perfect for that Peach Melba dessert or even toast.  Jams and jellies always should be made in small batches for best flavor. So when YOU have a ‘ample sufficiency’ try making raspberry jam or any of the other wonderful canning recipes. As always Happy Gardens!002

Jenn at The Antique Garden

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Canning Fest 101 Pickled Pepperoncini Peppers (or any kind)

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So I made this recipe yesterday and my husband declared that I was the first person in America to can peppers this early in the season! I don’t know about that but I do know this canning recipe is a winner.  (I know this because I scarfed down half a jar already.) Here is the recipe from eHOW for Pickled Pepperoncini. I especially like this  recipe because I wanted my peppers to be like those jarred Italian peppers you buy in the supermarket. This recipe has NO sugar, is low in salt and has  just 4 ingredients. You don’t even have to seed small peppers or take off the tops, just slit the sides and they will be as tender as can be. Perfect for a bruccheta with a little olive oil and salt. If you don’t grow these small, mildly spicy peppers check your local farmer’s market, plant your  own, or stop by for a taste. Very easy canning recipe is suitable for the beginner and the finished product will make a wonderful gift  for the pepper lover. Recommended reading is the canner’s Bible, the Ball Blue Book. 

Instructions

Things You’ll Need

2 quarts small pepperoncini peppers (1 quart =4 cups so about 8 cups)

Sterilized canning jars with new lids and rings-yes! ALWAYS use NEW lids.

Kitchen towel

Knife

2 cups vinegar

2 cups water

2 tsp. salt

Water bath canner

 

Rinse the pepperoncini thoroughly under cool running water. Gently rub off any dirt or dust. Dry the peppers gently with a kitchen towel, then cut them into your preferred shape. You can leave the peppers whole if you wish, but make two slits in each if you do so. This will allow the liquid you use to pickle the peppers to get inside. Place the peppers into your sterilized canning jars, packing them in fairly tightly. Do not pack the peppers in forcefully.

Mix the vinegar and water into a saucepan. Heat the saucepan over medium heat until the liquid begins to simmer gently. Pour the hot liquid into the jars, filling each jar to ½ inch from the top. Tap firmly on the jar several times to get out excess air, then top up the jars with more brine if necessary to leave only ½ inch of air at the top. Add the salt, dividing it evenly between the jars. Place a lid onto each canning jar and screw into place with the accompanying ring.summer vegetable garden julia child book 008 garden duck pond 009  peppers 003 peppers 004 peppers 006 peppers 007 peppers 009

Process the closed jars for 15 minutes in your water bath canner. Remove and cool undisturbed. Store in a cool dark closet and refrigerate after opening.  If you enjoy peppers then you will love these. Perfect for salads, sandwiches, pizzas and bruccheta. PS I got about 4 pints from this recipe.  Enjoy!  Happy Gardens….

Jenn at The Antique Garden