Louisiana Cajun Creole Style Red Beans & Rice

Best Plated

All Pretty in the Plate

While I didn’t grow up in Louisiana I simply love Cajun fare especially red beans and rice. I remember watching Creole Chef Justin Wilson as a teen—‘memba him?? He was a wonderful cooking inspiration and I looked forward to each of his programs with great anticipation. Justin’s Deep- South Cajun style and mannerisms made him one amusing cooking entertainer.

Recently, I had the opportunity to serve this dish to a good Cajun friend of mine. I asked for his honest opinion and critique and his exact words to me were, “Oooo wee dis give me frissons (goose bumps) they’re just like I remember!” I passed the test with flying colors—coulda been beans instead ;-)

This simple Cajun dish is easy to prepare, slightly spicy, very filling and brimming with Creole flavors. Made with Cajun seasonings and andouille sausage. This is a great Sunday dinner served with buttered, long grain rice and crusty bread.”

Best Pan

Bubbling Beans

Ingredients:

2 15 ounce cans red kidney beans

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper; red, green, yellow or orange or a combination, chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried SAGE

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 pound andouille sausage, sliced

1 lb ground sweet Italian sausage

Directions:

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion, bell pepper, garlic, and celery in olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Rinse beans, Stir cooked vegetables into beans and add tomatoes. Season with bay leaves, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage, parsley, and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir sausage into beans, and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Serve beans over steamed white rice.

Having a Cookie Craving? No Brown Sugar! What Next? SUBSTITUTE! The Golden Guide of Cooking Substitutions!

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cooking-ingredient-sub

Want to make a cake and don’t have cake flour? Out of brown sugar and having a craving for cookies? This is the most complete and comprehensive guide around! Make room on your frig for more frig art because this inclusive guide has it all! Never find yourself short of ingredients ever again! This is one golden guide!

Common Ingredient Substitutions

Ingredient

Amount

 Substitution

Allspice 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves
Arrowroot starch 1 teaspoon 1 tablespoon flour, OR 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Baking mix 1 cup 1 cup pancake mix OR 1 cup Easy Biscuit Mixture
Baking powder 1 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 cup buttermilk (decrease liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup)
Beer 1 cup 1 cup nonalcoholic beer OR 1 cup chicken broth
Brandy 1/4 cup 1 teaspoon imitation brandy EXTRACTplus enough water to make 1/4 cup
Bread crumbs 1 cup 1 cup cracker crumbs OR 1 cup matzo meal OR 1 cup ground oats
Broth: beef or chicken 1 cup 1 bouillon cube plus 1 cup boiling water OR1 tablespoon soy sauce plus enough water to make 1 cup OR 1 cup vegetable broth
Brown sugar 1 cup, packed 1 cup white sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses and decrease the liquid in recipe by 1/4 cupOR 1 cup white sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Butter (salted) 1 cup 1 cup margarine OR 1 cup shortening plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
Butter (unsalted) 1 cup 1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil OR 7/8 cup lard
Buttermilk 1 cup 1 cup yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup
Cheddar cheese 1 cup shredded 1 cup shredded Colby cheddar OR 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Chervil 1 tablespoon chopped fresh 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Chicken base 1 tablespoon 1 cup canned or homemade chicken broth or stock. Reduce liquid in recipe by 1 cup
Chocolate(semisweet) 1 ounce 1 (1-ounce) square of unsweetened chocolate plus 4 teaspoons sugar OR 1 ounce semisweet chocolate chips plus 1 teaspoon shortening
Chocolate (unsweetened) 1 ounce 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening or vegetable oil
Cocoa 1/4 cup 1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate
Condensed cream of mushroom soup 1 (10.75-ounce) can 1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of celery, cream of chicken, OR golden mushroom soup
Corn syrup 1 cup 1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup waterOR 1 cup honey OR 1 cup light treacle syrup
Cottage cheese 1 cup 1 cup farmer’s cheese OR 1 cup ricotta cheese
Cracker crumbs 1 cup

1 cup bread crumbs OR 1 cup matzo mealOR 1 cup ground oats

Cream (half and half) 1 cup 7/8 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon butter
Cream (heavy) 1 cup 1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter
Cream (light) 1 cup 1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 3 tablespoons butter
Cream (whipped) 1 cup 1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
Cream cheese 1 cup 1 cup pureed cottage cheese OR 1 cup plain yogurt, strained overnight in a cheesecloth
Cream of tartar 1 teaspoon 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
Crème fraiche 1 cup Combine 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Let stand for 6 hours at room temperature
Egg 1 whole (3 tablespoons or 1.7 oz) 2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered egg substitute plus 2 1/2 tablespoons water OR1/4 cup liquid egg substitute OR 1/4 cup silken tofu pureed OR 3 tablespoons mayonnaise OR half a banana mashed with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder OR 1 tablespoon powdered flax seed soaked in 3 tablespoons water
Evaporated milk 1 cup 1 cup light cream
Farmer’s cheese 8 ounces 8 ounces dry cottage cheese OR 8 ounces creamed cottage cheese, DRAINED
Fats for baking 1 cup 1 cup applesauce OR 1 cup fruit puree
Flour–Bread 1 cup 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon wheat gluten (available at health food stores & some supermarkets)
Flour–Cake 1 cup 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons
Flour–Self-Rising 1 cup 7/8 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Garlic 1 clove 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt–reduce salt in recipe
Gelatin 1 tablespoon, granulated 2 teaspoons agar agar
Ginger–dry 1 teaspoon 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
Ginger–fresh 1 teaspoon, minced 1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger
Green onion 1/2 cup , chopped 1/2 cup chopped onion, OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped shallots
Hazelnuts 1 cup whole 1 cup macadamia nuts OR 1 cup almonds
Herbs–fresh 1 tablespoon chopped fresh 1 teaspoon (chopped or whole leaf) dried herbs
Herring 8 ounces 8 ounces of sardines
Honey 1 cup 1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup waterOR 1 cup corn syrup OR 1 cup light treacle syrup
Hot pepper sauce 1 teaspoon 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus 1 teaspoon vinegar
Ketchup 1 cup 1 cup tomato sauce plus 1 teaspoon vinegar plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Lard 1 cup 1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oilOR 1 cup butter
Lemon grass 2 fresh stalks 1 tablespoon lemon zest
Lemon juice 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lime juice
Lemon zest 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract OR 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Lime juice 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Lime zest 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon lemon zest
Macadamia nuts 1 cup 1 cup almonds OR 1 cup hazelnuts
Mace 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon nutmeg
Margarine 1 cup 1 cup shortening plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR1 cup butter OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mayonnaise 1 cup 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup plain yogurt
Milk–whole 1 cup 1 cup soy milk OR 1 cup rice milk OR 1 cup water or juice OR 1/4 cup dry milk powder plus 1 cup water OR 2/3 cup evaporated milk plus 1/3 cup water
Mint–fresh 1/4 cup chopped 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
Molasses 1 cup Mix 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Mustard–prepared 1 tablespoon Mix together 1 tablespoon dried mustard, 1 teaspoon water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar
Onion 1 cup, chopped 1 cup chopped green onions OR 1 cup chopped shallots OR 1 cup chopped leeksOR 1/4 cup dried minced onion OR 1/4 cup onion powder
Orange juice 1 tablespoon 1 tablespoon other citrus juice
Orange zest 1 tablespoon 1/2 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup, grated 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese OR 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
Parsley 1 tablespoon chopped fresh 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil OR 1 teaspoon dried parsley
Pepperoni 1 ounce 1 ounce salami
Raisin 1 cup 1 cup dried currants OR 1 cup dried cranberries OR 1 cup chopped pitted prunes
Rice–white 1 cup, cooked 1 cup cooked barley OR 1 cup cooked bulgur OR 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
Ricotta 1 cup 1 cup dry cottage cheese OR 1 cup silken tofu
Rum 1 tablespoon 1/2 teaspoon rum EXTRACT, plus enough water to make 1 tablespoon
Saffron 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Salami 1 ounce 1 ounce pepperoni
Semisweet chocolate chips 1 cup 1 cup chocolate candies OR 1 cup peanut butter or other flavored chips OR 1 cup chopped nuts OR 1 cup chopped dried fruit
Shallots, chopped 1/2 cup 1/2 cup chopped onion, OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped green onion
Shortening 1 cup 1 cup butter OR 1 cup margarine minus 1/2 teaspoon salt from recipe
Sour cream 1 cup 1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup OR 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter
Sour milk 1 cup 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup: Let stand 5 minutes to thicken
Soy sauce 1/2 cup 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Stock–beef or chicken 1 cup 1 cube beef or chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 cup water
Sweetened condensed milk 1 (14-ounce) can 3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/2 cup water and 1 1/8 cups dry powdered milk: Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minutes
Vegetable oil–for baking 1 cup 1 cup applesauce OR 1 cup fruit puree
Vegetable oil–for frying 1 cup 1 cup lard OR 1 cup vegetable shortening
Vinegar 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice OR 2 teaspoons white wine
White sugar 1 cup 1 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar OR 3/4 cup honey OR3/4 cup corn syrup
Wine 1 cup 1 cup chicken or beef broth OR 1 cup fruit juice mixed with 2 teaspoons vinegar OR 1 cup water
Yeast-active dry 1 (.25-ounce) package 1 cake compressed yeast OR 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast OR 2 1/2 teaspoonsrapid rise yeast
Yogurt 1 cup 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup sour milk

Source: All-Recipes

Have You Ever Tasted Sound? Here’s Your Chance! “The Sound of Taste”

This stunning display of “art meets food” was created as a commercial for Schwartz Flavour Shots, a pre-packaged soup and meal company out of the United Kingdom, who boasts “Flavour Shots—the little pots with big flavour.” This slow-motion video dubbed “The Sound of Taste” is a stunning arrangement of cinematography and pyrotechnics that creates what filmmaker Chris Cairns calls “an audiovisual feast.” To this day, when I see spices overflowing in canvas bags, this video always makes its way into the forefront of my mind. Breathtakingly tasty!

The-Sound-of-Taste-by-Schwartz-7

To create this ‘feast,’ Cairns was joined by musician MJ Cole and pyrotechnician Paul Mann. Together, the launching of this brainchild was deciding how to best put together a half-visual, half-auditory symphony that would entirely capture what it is like to truly experience “taste.”

What they settled on was a commercial that would show billows of spices exploding into the air in slow-motion, flawlessly synchronized to the music Cole had written.

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“What does flavour look like? How does it sound? These are the questions that inspired herb and spice experts, Schwartz, to create what they describe as a ‘Sonic Flavourscape’.

Several tons of black peppercorns, cardamom, turmeric, paprika, cumin seeds, ginger, chilli and coriander were rigged to explode in perfect sync with a bespoke musical composition. Each explosion represents an individual piano note or chord, which when filmed at high-speed, creates a surreal three-dimensional sound scape.

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It’s been said “if ever a video deserved the title ‘mesmerizing,’ Adam Magyar’s Stainless videos are it.”

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At the end of the BTS video, musician MJ Cole is heard saying, “I hope people just find it a satisfying, vibrant, colorful, exciting thing to watch.” If we’re anything to judge by, Mr. Cole’s wish came true with (pun forthcoming) flying colors.

 

 

 

Video

“The Sicilian” The Ultimate Italian Burger!

Best Italian Burger

“The Sicilian”

Every time I develop something Sicilian inspired “The Godfather” theme rings incessantly in my mind and memories of my Sicilian father weigh heavily into the equation as well :-) Grazia, Daddy!

Obviously, this burger is an indulgence rather than every day fare, but as they say “variety is the spice of life.” And today I would like to offer just that.  It combines all of the flavors of Old World Sicily: fresh mozzarella, smoky provolone, sweet Roma tomatoes, crisp, peppery basil and slightly spicy and salty Genoa salami lead the pack, but the simple secret sauce really packs the punch.  The combinations of tastes in this decadent, juicy and flavorful burger are explosive! This is my idea of getting grilled by a Sicilian! :-) Bah da Bing!

On a side note: We achieved 1000 likes on our Facebook page!! I’d like to thank my amazing team at “Once Upon a Spice” for helping get us there and I wish a 1000 dreams come true to all of our friends and followers—after all, “you” are the reason for my season. God Bless each and every one of you!!

Ingredients:

2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey

1/4 cup finely minced onions

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6 hamburger or ciabatta buns, split: toast if desired

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1 large onion & 8 ounces of sliced baby portabellas sautéed in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until slightly golden

6 slices fresh mozzarella

6 slices provolone

12 slices Genoa salami

2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

Sicilian Style Sauce:

1/2 cup mayo, 1/3 cup pasta sauce, 1/4 teaspoon tsp Italian herbs and 1/4 cup of grated or shredded Parmesan. Mix until combined and refrigerate until ready to assemble burger.

Directions:

In a medium sized bowl, combine ground meat, minced onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well, and form into 6 patties.

Grill patties on BBQ; 7 minutes on each side or until spongy in the middle.

Place slices of cheese on top of each patty, cover grill and grill until cheese melts.

Spread mayo equally on bottom of each bun, place 2 slices of salami on each. Top equally with sliced tomatoes, basil leaves and burger. Top with sautéed veggies. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and fresh cracked pepper and top of bun. Serve while hot! This is one tasty Sicilian!

 

 

 

 

Brine Instead of Marinade? Why Brine? Because Nature Loves Equilibrium…

Chicken-Brine

Thanksgiving in July…The Divine Brine “Roasted Turkey with Potatoes & Herbs”

No worries, today is not a Science lesson, but I want you to understand the full benefits and differences between brining and marinades. So, why brine? Today we have a visual crash course. I’m allowing the charts to tell the story because they are thorough and all inclusive. So make room on your frig for some new cooking art!

what-is-a-brine-and-how-does-it-work-to

brine chart

Comprehensive Chart…What Kind & How Long

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When Brine Borders Marinade

Yesterday’s blog offers one simple brining recipe. However, in the future, I will be sure to suggest many brine and marinade recipes to enhance each of your cooking experiences. People will ask for your recipes time and time again after you serve them your “brined.” Marinades and brines offer an impact and tremendous flavor experiences so let’s get prepared!

Maryland Fried Chicken with Country Pan Gravy—the BEST! 2 Secret Ingredients that Make Flavors Pop!

Best

Down home country fare at it’s finest! This crispy, moist, tender, scrumptious chicken is unbelievably juicy and bursting with country flavors! I’ve tried many fried chicken recipes during my cooking tour, but always gravitate back to this one for “fried with a crust.” There are 2 ingredients in this recipe that make the flavors “pop!” I’ll let you guess which 2 they are ;-)

MFC (Maryland Fried Chicken) is perfect for Sunday dinners or when you’re entertaining guests. Serve with whipped buttered potatoes, green beans or fresh ears of corn with butter. Fresh dinner rolls are an excellent addition as well—ever try 7-Up rolls? You may need to google them for now, but the recipe is forthcoming. Enjoy Y’all!

Ingredients:

4-8 oz boneless or bone in chicken breasts

¼ cup, kosher salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 (or more) cups water

1 cup milk

1 large egg

1 to 1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

3 tsp granulated chicken powder (base)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tsp poultry seasoning

6-8 oz bacon, sliced thin, fried and crumbled

Canola oil for frying

Directions

*Brining: this step is optional, but recommended. Brining adds flavor, tenderness and makes the chicken very moist. If you choose not to brine, move onto the next step.

In large plastic container, dissolve ¼ cup salt and 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar in 4 cups of water. Remove skin from chicken pieces (optional) and place in container. Add more water if necessary to cover chicken. Place lid on container and place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Remove from brine and drain. Continue on to next step or place in the refrigerator for 2-8 hours to “cold dry” the pieces (optional).

Pour milk into medium-sized bowl. Add egg and beat with fork until combined; set aside. In a medium shallow bowl add flour, seasonings, baking powder, baking soda and chicken powder, mix well with fork. Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, dip in milk and egg mixture and again, roll in flour mixture. If you have the time let coated pieces sit 15-30 minutes before frying, dust with additional flour if pieces become too moist. This step makes the crust extra crispy.

In a large deep cast iron skillet fry bacon until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon; drain on paper towel—set aside. Add oil to bacon drippings until about 1″ deep. Heat oil to about 375 degrees and add chicken pieces—don not crowd pieces. Cook chicken on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes per side or until juices run clear.

Transfer chicken to serving platter and top with gravy and crumbled bacon if desired.

Pan Gravy:

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup whole milk or half and half

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons of fresh tarragon, chopped (optional, but recommended)

Directions:

Make a roux by melting butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and continue to stir until roux is golden. Slowly stir in broth then milk, chopped parsley and tarragon, if using. Continue to whisk to keep gravy smooth. Simmer on low heat until gravy thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over fried chicken and top with additional chopped herbs and fresh cracked pepper if desired. If you really want to get bold, you can also top with crumbled bacon…AMAZING!!

 

 

 

It’s Guest Chef Wednesday! Bret Clark’s Fresh Clams & Mussels, Pasta Aglio Olio and Killer Marinated Tomatoes!

Are you a fan of the sea? Food that is! Today’s gorgeous offering, by talented self-taught Chef and honorary Sicilian Bret Clark, is a stunning display of culinary, ocean treasures that Poseidon would enthusiastically approve.  This buttery sea presentation is paired with simple, yet extremely flavorful, garlicky Pasta Aglio Olio and the appropriately named  “Killer Marinated Tomatoes.”  Remember the crusty bread so you can sop up every delicious savory bite! Simple, luscious and beautiful! Molto Grazia for another winning combination, Bret!! Buon Appetito!!

Bret Pasta

Steamed Mussels & Clams with Pasta Aglio Olio and Marinated Killer Tomatoes!

Fresh Clams & Mussels

Ingredients:

2-3 Dozen Fresh Clams (depending on size)

2 Dozen Fresh Mussels

1 Stick Unsalted Butter

4-5 Sliced Garlic Cloves

½ Cup White Wine

2-3 Lemons – Quartered

Pasta Aglio & Olio

1 Package Spaghetti

½ Stick Butter

¼-1/2 Cup Good Olive Oil

2-4 Minced Garlic Cloves

¼ Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped

1/3 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions for Clams & Mussels:

Heat a pot large enough to cook the clams and mussels melt butter and heat until bubbly.  Add garlic and sauté until translucent and fragrant.  Add white wine and bring to a boil.  When boiling add the clams and mussels.  Squeeze the quartered lemons over the clams and but the rinds in the pot to cook along with the shellfish.  Heat/steam until all of the clams and mussels have opened; remove shellfish from pot to a large serving bowl.

Meanwhile cook pasta al dente.  When it’s cooked, drain.  Pour olive oil into the pot and heat until hot.  Add garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant.  Add butter and melt.  Add pasta back to the pot and stir to mix all together.  Once pasta is coated with the oil/garlic/butter and heated through turn off the heat and add parsley and parmesan tossing to thoroughly mix ingredients.

Serve pasta in a bowl/plate along with the desired amount of shellfish.  Spoon liquid from the shellfish over pasta.  Garnish with additional parsley and/or parmesan cheese if desired.

“Killer” Marinated Tomatoes

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, Chopped

2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, Chopped

1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar

1-½ teaspoon Garlic Salt

1-½ teaspoon Seasoned Salt

¾ teaspoons Dried Thyme

½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper

¾ cups Extra virgin olive oil

½ cups Red Wine Vinegar

3 whole Scallions, Sliced

6 whole Tomatoes Cut Into Wedges

Directions:

Whisk together all the ingredients except the tomato wedges. Add tomatoes and toss to coat. Allow to marinate at room temperature for a couple of hours, stirring every now and then. Serve with lots of bread to soak up all the yummy marinade. Enjoy!

Fantastic Fresh Strawberry Spice Baked Donuts—Lower Fat & Sugar

 

Best Half

Even though strawberries are plentiful much of the year, the sweet season for our beloved succulent berry is coming to a close. I wanted to offer these luscious sweet treats while berries are still sweet on their vines. While there is far less fat and reduced sugar in this recipe, please don’t let that scare you away—these ruby gems pack a flavor punch! Since there is no frying, there isn’t much prep work and far less heat in the kitchen. All of the intense flavors are provided by Mother Nature’s berries themselves—filled with natural fresh goodness and sweetness!

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2/3 cup finely chopped strawberries

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup finely chopped strawberries

1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries, finely crushed to powder (place in a Ziploc bag, crush with rolling pin or zip in food processor)

Best Far

Directions:

Preheat oven 375* Spray pans with Baker’s Joy or good quality baking spray with flour. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour and all remaining dry ingredients; set aside.  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, vanilla and eggs; mix in flour mixture just until combined, fold in 2/3 cup finely chopped strawberries.

Spoon 2 1/2 Tbsp batter evenly into each well of the donut pans—I use a small cookie scoop for evenness. Bake in preheated oven 12 – 14 minutes until springy to the touch or toothpick inserted into donut comes out clean. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes in pan then invert onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, dip top halves into glaze and allow some excess to run off, then return to wire rack, glazed side upward. Transfer donuts to freezer to allow glaze to set, about 5 minutes.

Best Close

Strawberry Glaze:

Prepare glaze just before dipping cooled donuts. In a mixing bowl, combine the other 2/3 cup of finely chopped strawberries and half of powdered sugar. Stir until mixture starts to become moist, allow to rest 1 minute. Add in remaining powdered sugar and freeze dried strawberry powder, stir until well combined. By now, mixture should have the consistency of a dip able thick glaze, if not allow to rest another minute or two until some of the liquid has been extracted from the strawberries then stir again. Do not thin with water, simply allow to rest if needed until strawberries begin to break down. Use glaze immediately, dip tops 2-3 times to get thicker top coating of glaze. Let sit on wire racks until glaze has slightly hardened. Want more sweetness? After glaze has slightly set, swirl in extra powder sugar, add some sprinkles and top off with whipped cream. Transfer to airtight container, they will keep for 2-3 days if stored in frig.

Makes a Baker’s dozen.

Best Pwedered

Preserve Your Superb Herbs!

Herbs in Bowl

Is your basil bushy? And your oregano out of hand? Yes, we all have wonderful intentions for our herb gardens and get overly zealous and buy every potted herb in sight at the nursery during the onset of summer, but now what? Preserve your herbs! It’s simple quick and tastefully easy! Dig out your ice cube trays and get to freezing! You will have the taste of summertime herbs in the dead of winter and any season.  Not to mention, you’ll feel great that you didn’t waste one little flavorsome leaf.

Herbs Tray

Amazing herbs frozen in thyme :-)

The list and combinations are endless. You can chop each herb separately or combine them—your choice. Want Italian? Chop basil, oregano & rosemary. Want Greek? Add some mint to your Italian chop. See where I’m going with this? Chopped garlic and toasted nuts work great in your combos as well. The lists are left only to your imaginations and creativity.

Fill ice cube trays about 2/3’s full, top off with olive oil, broth, wine or water–pop in the freezer…

Once frozen, pop out and place your icy herbs in another container or Ziploc bag.—be sure to name the herb on the container—not everyone likes oregano in their iced tea :-)

Herbs board

They just look pretty don’t they? Incredible for winter soups, stews, sauces and any dish that calls for fresh herbs

Whenever you’re cooking and want some “fresh” (not really fresh but much MUCH better than store-bought dried!) just grab a frozen cube or two and you’ll revisit summer in no time! Super fast and easy!

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Nasturtiums or Edible Flowers for “pretty” iced teas, cold drinks and cocktails

So instead of scratching your head near your bumper-cropped herb garden, get creative! Do a little work now and you’ll be set for any season! Enjoy!

Donuts: A Few Recorded Golden Nuggets

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Dunkin here and Krispy there, “donuts” have twisted and turned their way into the hearts of many only to find themselves prime examples of “everyday” indulgences– thanks to a melting pot of influential artistic inhabitants, historical coincidences and of course, sweet tooths. Not to mention, copious pots of bubbling oil. Did you know the Nation has a day set aside for them? Yes! America celebrates “National Donut Day” at the beginning of June! Sorry I missed the deadline for recipe submissions, but today I am offering a few tidbits of their past for your perusal with the promise of future recipes dancing in my head :-)

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Fun Fact: The first National Donut Day was established in Chicago in 1938 to raise money for people in need during the Great Depression. The holiday has since been celebrated on the first Friday in June as a way to commemorate the service of The Salvation Army’s Doughnut Lassies and honor the memory of our soldiers

 

Dutch settlers introduced doughnuts to the U.S. when they landed in Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam. They called these doughnut predecessors “olykoeks,” or oily cakes, which were fried in pork fat. Formed by dropping dough off the end of a spoon, their name evolved to “oliebollen,” or oily balls, thanks to their irregular round shape.

Olykoeks began slowly evolving, and Americans started calling these confectionery indulgences “doughnuts.” At the start of the 19th century, doughnuts, as we know them today, with holes in the center, were being consumed across the nation as an inherently American treat.

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A 16 year old American sailor named Hanson Gregory claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 while aboard a lime-trading ship. Gregory said he disliked that the center of doughnuts often didn’t cook as much as the rest. So he punched a hole in the center of the dough before frying so they could be evenly cooked; Later teaching the technique to his mother. After reading many stories about the void in the center of a doughnut, I’d like to believe this, because it’s a lot more gratifying to know the answer than to say “no one knows who decided to put a hole in a doughnut first, but they were a genius.” Was this a mere fabrication on Gregory’s part? Who really knows!?! It’s still genius!

Onward into Military making history. Nearing the end of World War I in 1917, The Salvation Army established an operation to provide needs of U.S. soldiers fighting in France. Approximately 250 Salvation Army volunteers traveled overseas to set up service “huts” located in abandoned buildings near the front lines where they could serve baked goods and other supplies to soldiers in battle.

When providing freshly baked goods proved to be a difficult feat considering the hut’s conditions, two entrepreneurs cleverly thought to fry donuts in soldiers’ helmets, despite their limited ingredients and facilities. The volunteers were capable of frying seven donuts per batch. Want to try their sweet recipe for yourself?

Here’s the Original Salvation Army Doughnut recipe…

http://blog.salvationarmyusa.org/2011/06/02/for-you-a-salvation-army-style-doughnut-recipe/

These sweet treats, along with the warm hearts and shimmering smiles of the “Doughnut Lassies and Donut Girls” who served them, brought a bit of comfort to American soldiers who were serving their country and likely missing the care of their special ladies back home.

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Salvation Army Doughnut Girl

Nicknamed “Doughnut Lassies” and “Doughnut Girls”, these women made history by introducing this otherwise unknown confection to the United States when the “Doughboys” returned from war.

dunkin

In 1950, Bill Rosenberg opened the first Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Quincy, Massachusetts

Yes, donuts possess somewhat of an unclear and diverse past, but our much-loved deep-fried circles of dough have come a long way since they originally arrived in America. With a sprinkling of sugar and a dusting of cinnamon, they continue to interweave and transform their way into our hearts and have glazed  their way into one of the most iconic pastries in America.

 

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