Friday, July 10, 2009

Feast Fit for the 4th

With the holiday weekend already here and the weather hot as firecrackers, we need look no further than old Glory for inspiration for a great 4th of July feast. This month’s Dinner @ 6 features festive red, white & blue fare you and your family are sure to celebrate!

Red Wine Marinade for Beef

4-6 steaks
1 small bottle Worcestershire sauce
½ cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in Ziploc bag. Allow steaks to marinade at least 2-3 hours before cooking. Grill to your liking.

This next recipe is for your bread machine and can be tailored to your family’s tastes.

Focaccia Bread Dough

Add these ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the handbook.

1 cup warm water
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
3 ¼ cup bread flour
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 ½ teaspoons bread machine yeast

Set your machine to its “dough cycle” and in an hour and a half or so you should have enough dough to make 2 loaves. Once the machine indicates dough is ready. Let it rest on cutting board for 15 minutes. Then cut dough in half, placing each half into greased 8” cake pan sprinkled with garlic salt. Press dough into circle, reaching edges of cake pan. Then place into oven that has spent about 5 minutes on “warm” setting. Let dough rise until nearly doubled (about 20 or 30 minutes).

At this point, top with whatever you like. I usually use mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced tomatoes and slices of red onion. Sprinkle with garlic salt & a little basil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

And what would 4th of July be without a good old-fashioned blueberry pie?

Blueberry Pie

4 cups fresh blueberries
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 box refrigerated pie crusts (for double crust pie)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place washed blueberries (removing all stems) in large bowl. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in separate bowl. Sprinkle mixture over blueberries and gently toss to coat. Line pie dish with one pie crust. Pour blueberry mixture in. Dot with butter. Top with 2nd crust. Cut slits in top to vent. Sprinkle top crust with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes, checking midway to make sure edges of crust don’t burn. If they start to get too brown, put foil over pie as it continues to bake. Serve warm topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Takin' it to the Streets

This month’s Dinner @ 6 is hittin’ the road …. literally. If your family is anything like mine, you no more hit the interstate that some little voice pipes up and declares, “I’m hungry!” Snacks are fine, but somehow, they don’t really tide you over for enough miles before you need to dive in again. So, in honor of summer vacations everywhere, I decided to share a time-honored recipe that is sure to beat anything you can get at a drive-thru and a couple of things to go with you as you travel.

Hot Ham Sandwiches

Mix together and spread on top and bottom of onion rolls:

1 stick margarine
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 ½ tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons mustard
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Pile mounds of ham on top of mixture spread on rolls and wrap each sandwich individually in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

NOTE: To keep these sandwiches warm as you travel, place them inside a small cooler with the lid secure.

Sweet Potato Crisps

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Stir all spices except parmesan cheese into melted butter. Arrange sweet potato slices flat and evenly distributed on baking sheet. Brush top of potato slice with butter mixture. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring twice and recoating potatoes with mixture so that they cook evenly. Let cool a little before sprinkling with parmesan cheese. (At home, these are great served with honey mustard sauce for dipping!)

Muddy Travel Buddies

1 box Corn Chex
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

In large bowl in microwave place chocolate morsels, peanut butter and butter and cook for 1 minute on high. Stir, then microwave for 30 seconds more. Stir in vanilla. Pour box of Chex into very large bowl. At that point, you can throw in some miniature marshmallows, nuts, raisins … whatever you like. Once the chocolate mixture cools just a little, pour over Chex mixture then stir to coat. Once cereal is sufficiently coated, pour powdered sugar over it, again stirring to coat. This will keep well in a large Tupperware container or can be put into Ziploc bags.

Each of these recipes is a fun treat for a long ride and I hope it leaves your family with many smiles for many miles.

Simple. Satisfying. Snackrageous! That’s this month’s dinner @ 6! Until next month ……….

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Florida Grillin'

Grilling out is a year-round activity in Florida but many people never get beyond burgers, chicken and steaks. It’s time to get a little creative and take advantage of Florida’s abundance of seafood in our outdoor cooking endeavors. This is a very quick, very healthy dish that is great as an entrée or as a salad topper. The ingredients blend in a surprising Caribbean flavor that pairs well with any side dish.

Coconut-Lime Shrimp

4 T. canned coconut milk
4 T. lime juice
4 t. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar
4 T. chopped fresh cilantro
6 drops hot sauce (optional)
2 lbs. shrimp, shelled and deveined

Combine first six ingredients in a Ziplock back and blend. Add shrimp and shake to coat. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat grill to very hot. Thread shrimp on skewers, discarding marinade, leaving a little space between to promote even cooking. Grill skewers 3-4 minutes per side turning once. These are great hot or cold. (Serves 6)

Garlic Green Beans

1 ½ lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 T. butter or margarine
Salt & pepper to taste

Fill a large saucepan with water about 2” deep. Place beans and garlic in water and heat to boiling, covered. Allow green beans to cook, covered, in the boiling water for 4 minutes on high. Drain beans and add salt, pepper and butter and toss to coat.

Simple. Satisfying. Savory. That’s this month’s dinner @ 6! Until next month ....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Versatility in the Springtime

Spring is officially here and with it comes an abundance of daylight hours, fresh herbs and in-season veggies. The recipe I’m sharing with you today takes into account of all of the above as well as the fact that with spring often comes an increase in the amount of time spent on extra-curricular activities, which can put any cook in a time crunch to get a meal on the table to accommodate the revolving door of family members with varied schedules. The key to this dish is, in a word, versatility. In my experience, the more hectic the schedule the more challenged I am to get something on the table that appeals to all the various taste buds that live here. What I like about this recipe is that it can be served as a meat with two sides or a one dish wonder.

The basic premise is simple. A simple seasoned chicken breast paired with your pasta of choice, accompanied by two vegetables – one red, one green – all topped with your favorite sauce. Here’s the version I like the best, but I have enjoyed experimenting with the seasonings and vegetables I pair with it.

Pan Seared Chicken with Penne Pasta & Vegetables

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 stick butter, softened
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 (14 oz.) cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 box penne pasta
2 (15 oz.) jars Alfredo sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine softened butter with chopped basil and let stand for at least an hour, if not more, to flavor the butter. While that’s sitting, put grape tomatoes in a baking dish in a single layer. Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast tomatoes until they start to break down, about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to promote even roasting. (This can be done well ahead of time in advance, the tomatoes refrigerated then added in later.)

In a large, non-stick skillet heated to medium-high heat, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil. Slather basil butter on each chicken breast. Season with salt & pepper. Place chicken in skillet, making sure both sides are seasoned. Cook each side until a deep golden brown. While chicken is cooking, bring pasta to a boil and cook according to package directions. Drain. Once chicken is done, remove from pan and reduce heat to medium. Let chicken rest 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into strips or you can leave it whole and place it on top. While chicken is cooling, place roasted tomatoes and drained artichoke hearts in skillet, stirring to remove pan drippings and combine seasonings. In large casserole dish, combine pasta, vegetables from skillet, sauce (as much or as little as you like) and chicken. Stir to combine. (Serves 6)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Strawberry Season Brings Another Sweet Treat

Strawberry season got off to a rough start this year with all the freezes but in spite of it all, the berries are some of the sweetest I remember tasting in years past. I usually serve strawberry shortcake throughout the season to my family as well as make a batch of preserves with a recipe that not only preserves the berry but their beautiful red color as well. I'll post that recipe next.

Now, on to that all important last meal of the day. Dinner! A friend suggested I try the “strawberry onion” that’s grown in the fields during the off-season, saying it had a very distinctive and sweet taste. She was right, and I found a great way to serve them along-side a quick and easy entrée for 6.

Pork Chops with Gravy & Onions

½ c. flour
2 ½ teaspoons dry ground mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
6 pork chops (1” thick)
16 oz. chicken broth, heated
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 strawberry onion, slice (both the green & white part of the onion)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a shallow dish; dredge chops in mix and set aside. Combine remaining flour mix and heated chicken broth in a 3 ½ quart slow cooker, stirring until lumps are gone. Sauté chops in oil in skillet on medium high just until browned. Place browned chops down in gravy in slow cooker. Sauté sliced onion in pan that chops were cooked in, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the bits & pieces left by the chops. At this point, you may need to add another tablespoon of oil. Sauté until tender. Once onions are cooked to tender, add to slow cooker on top of chops and cook on high for 2-2 ½ hours.

Mashed potatoes are the perfect side dish to serve along side this biscuit-sopping entrée.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Loaded Twice-Baked Pototoes

This is probably my all time favorite twice-baked potato recipe because it's not only easy, but freezes well for later use.

6 large potatoes, baked
1 c. sour cream
5 slices bacon, cooked
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 c. milk
2 T. butter, melted
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 t. salt
Additional shredded cheddar cheese

Cut hot potatoes in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out pulp into large bowl, leaving the shell intact. In bowl, mash pulp until smooth. Beat in sour cream, bacon, cheese, onion, milk, butter, parsley & salt. Fill shells. Cover & refrigerate for about an hour. At this point, you can choose to freeze the stuffed shells for later use. You need to wrap each potato half in plastic wrap, and place each individually wrapped half in a ziplock freezer bag or a freezer container. To serve, simply thaw and place in an ungreased shallow baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden and heated through. During the last 5 minutes of baking, sprinkle on additional shredded cheddar cheese.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Grillin' Love

Ok, if salmon isn't the main dish for the man in your life, maybe a hearty meal on the grill will satisfy him.

Marinated Steaks

2-4 steaks, any size, any variety
1 small bottle Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
juice of 2 lemons
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, slivered
seasoned salt
cracked pepper

Mix all ingredients together, allowing steaks to marinate 2-3 hours. Grill to desired doneness.

Potatoes & Onions on the Grill

Par-boil 4-6 medium potatoes, cut into chunks for 10 minutes. Drain. On a very large piece of heavy duty foil, sprayed with cooking spray, place potatoes and thinly sliced large vidalia onion. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg and dot with several pats of butter. Seal up completely and place on grill for about 10-12 minutes while steaks are cooking. Be careful opening foil as steam could burn.

And, last but not least, dessert. Can grill this one, but it's beautiful and worth every effort. I got this recipe years ago from "Taste of Home" magazine and it's been a favorite of ours ever since. Read through the recipe though, because you have to start this one the day before to get the meringue *just right*. Again, don't shy away from that -- it's totally worth it!

Cherry-Berries in a Cloud

6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups sugar

2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Add the cream of tartar and salt; beat until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form (do not under beat). Spread evenly in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 275° for 1 hour; turn off oven (do not open door). Let cool in oven overnight or at least 12 hours.
In another large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth; gently fold in whipped cream and marshmallows. Spread over meringue. Chill for 4 hours. Cut into 16 pieces. Combine topping ingredients; spoon 1/4 cup over each serving. Yield: 16 servings.

A hearty meal for Valentine's Day or any other day for that matter! Enjoy!!