I recently did food styling & photography for Newman’s Own Salad Dressing and Arnold Bread for their annual recipe contest websites, advertisements and marketing materials.
I also have been doing photography for Baked By Melissa (the mini cupcakes in NYC!), for their website, social media and advertising and events. Here are some new shots I’ve done for them recently too!
Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to cook and do food styling for a special healthy food segment on the “Joy Behar: Say Anything!” TV Show featuring Dr. Neal D. Barnard, M.D., founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Dr. Barnard sits down with guest host Marilu Henner to discuss how saturated fat makes you sluggish and which colored foods are good for your brain and improve memory. Barnard says, “Greens, foliage — that contributes folate, which is a B vitamin which protects the brain.” He adds, “So when you see the greens, you know that’s good for the brain.” He also goes into discussing what foods to avoid such as heavy carb and fat-laden foods that make us tired and lack energy.
I was asked to cook and style four of Dr. Barnard’s recipes from his new book “Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory” to display during the TV interview food segment. The recipes were all colorful and healthy and made with Power Foods and all-natural ingredients: Summer Salad made with Rainbow Chard, tomatoes, corn, onions and garlic and pecans, Minted Fruit Kebabs made with a Citrus Lime and Mint light dressing, Marinated Grilled Veggie Kabobs marinated in a balsamic and herb dressing, and Super Raspberry Protein Brownies made with black beans, raspberry jam, cocoa powder and figs.
Could that glass of milk affect your memory? Is that aluminum can increasing your risk for Alzheimer’s disease? Can a banana be a brain booster? Everyone knows that good nutrition supports your overall health, but did you know that certain foods can protect your brain and optimize its function?
In POWER FOODS FOR THE BRAIN, Dr. Neal Barnard has gathered the most important research and studies to deliver a program that can boost brain health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and other less serious malfunctions, including low energy, poor sleep patterns, irritability, and lack of focus. The plan includes information on:
The best foods to increase cognitive function and boost folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
The dangers dairy products and meats may have on memory
The role alcohol plays in Alzheimer’s risk
The latest research on certain toxic metals, like aluminums found in cookware, soda cans, and common antacids
Plus, 50-75 recipes and timesaving kitchen tips.
Here are the recipes I made and styled for the show. Enjoy!
Summer Salad – The more naturally colorful your meal is, the more likely it is to have an abundance of immune-boosting antioxidants and phytochemicals. The same foods that are good for your heart are good for your brain.
Chard’s slight bitterness is beautifully balanced by the sweetness of the corn and grapes, resulting in a surprising depth of flavor.
½ small white onion
3 cloves garlic
Leaves from 1 bunch chard
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
¼ cup pecan halves
1 cup seedless black grapes
Pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mince the onion and garlic, then smash them together a couple times with the back of a knife or with a mortar and pestle.
Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly, as it tends to be gritty, then slice it into ribbons by tightly bunching the leaves together and slicing them with a sharp, heavy knife. Place the chard in a salad bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and toss.
Marinated Grilled Veggie Kebabs – these are super easy to make and super colorful, and healthy. Marinated in a dressing made with balsamic vinegar, orange juice, honey, mustard and maple syrup with Italian season before grilling, they are super tasty too.
Serve these savory kebabs over a brown rice pilaf for a satisfying and easy meal.
16 cherry tomatoes
2 red onions, each cut into 8 bite-size chunks
2 green or red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 8 pieces each
16 button mushrooms
1 small yellow summer squash, cut into 8 pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 8 pieces
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 metal skewers, or bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
Place the cherry tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, squash, and zucchini in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and whisk well. Pour the marinade over the vegetables and stir to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill or your oven’s broiler. Onto one skewer, thread the ingredients in the following manner: 1 tomato, 1 red onion chunk, 1 pepper piece, 1 mushroom, 1 yellow summer squash slice, 1 tomato, 1 zucchini slice, 1 red onion chunk, 1 pepper, and 1 mushroom. Repeat with remaining ingredients and skewers. Place the kebabs on the hot grill or a broiler pan and brush with the marinade. Grill for 7 minutes, or until desired tenderness, turning the kebabs a few times. Serve immediately.
Minted Fruit Kebabs – Power up with blueberries and grapes. These “brain berries” get their deep colors from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants shown to improve learning and recall in studies at the University of Cincinnati.
Fresh fruit makes a striking appearance in these antioxidant-rich kebabs. Enjoy them for a refreshing, light dessert!
8 red or green grapes
4 large strawberries
4 1-inch-square cantaloupe chunks
4 1-inch-square honeydew chunks
4 1/2-inch-thick slices peeled kiwi
4 1-inch-square watermelon chunks
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 10-inch bamboo skewers
Thread 1 grape, 1 strawberry, 1 cantaloupe chunk, 1 honeydew chunk, 1 slice kiwi, 1 watermelon chunk, and 1 more grape onto a skewer. Repeat with the remaining fruit and skewers. Place the finished skewers in a shallow container.
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, mint, and vanilla. Pour the marinade over the fruit kebabs, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours) in the refrigerator before serving.
Super Raspberry Protein Brownies – A brownie made with black beans? You bet! Beans are high in fiber, calcium, and protein, making them a nutrition powerhouse. Beans are free from saturated and trans fats. Researchers find people consuming the most saturated fat in their diets have more than triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A brownie made with black beans? You bet! Beans are high in fiber, calcium, and protein, making them a nutrition powerhouse.
Beans are free from saturated and trans fats. Researchers find people consuming the most saturated fat in their diets have more than triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
1/4 teaspoon safflower oil
2 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup all-fruit raspberry jam
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with the oil.
Combine the black beans, dates, jam, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and process again.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top looks set. Remove from the oven and cool completely, then cut into 16 squares. The brownies will keep, refrigerated in a covered container, for up to 1 week.
Summer is my favorite time of year – family picnics, outdoor BBQs, trips to the park or lake, birthday and graduation parties and alfresco dining on the back patio. On a recent trip home to visit my family, I found a treasured recipe book of my Grandmother’s family recipes that I grew up with and I couldn’t resist sharing some of them with you.
I found a few classic summer side salads that are perfect for an outdoor picnic or BBQ – fresh, tasty and most of all they remind me of home when my family made these for our own Summer parties gathered around the table. In fact, the Broccoli Salad was such a hit that it made it to TWO parties in one week! Enjoy. (and stay tuned for future posts with more of my Grandma’s recipes!)
Cut raw broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Cook bacon until crisp and crumble. Add onion and raisins. Mix mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar together and add to other ingredients. Garnish with sunflower seeds. Must be made the night before. Stir occasionally to blend flavors.
Note: Peel broccoli stalks and then cut into thin slices and add to the other mixture. Dressing may seem dry but don't add extra as it will get mushy from moisture in the broccoli while marinating.
Cook macaroni. Cut provolone, salami, and pepperoni into small bite size pieces. Slice olives. Cut tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Chop onion, pepper and celery. Combine all ingredients, toss and chill overnight. Add provolone cheese and a sprinkle of parmesan, basil or oregano leaves just before serving and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6-8 medium Salt or Red Potatoes, skin on and cut into halves or wedges.
1 can drained green beans
1 sliced large red or vidalia onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Boil potatoes in salted water and drain, cool and set aside. Cut cooled potatoes into halves or wedges and add green beans and onion. Drizzle mixture with olive oil, red wine vinegar and a small amount of balsamic vinegar, to taste. Add salt and pepper, oregano or Italian seasoning, and blend well into the salad. Let salad marinate in the refrigerator and serve room temperature garnished with green onions.
I recently had an opportunity to meet an amazing author/chef/blogger/photographer at a recent book launch party at Candle 79, Michael Natkin. If you haven’t checked out Michael’s award-winning vegetarian blog, Herbivoracious, then you absolutely must. His creative vegetarian dishes are colorful, fresh and vibrant, and he recently published his first cookbook named after his blog. I had the opportunity to meet Michael at the party and get a signed copy of his cookbook which I absolutely adore (even though I am not a vegetarian) and loved the recipes so much that I wanted to share a few with you and offer a chance for you to enter to win a copy of the amazing cookbook yourself, giveaway courtesy of Harvard Common Press.
The cookbook is full of 150 recipes and global dishes that he has created based on inspiration from his travels around the world: Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia are some of the main areas of influence on his cooking, which has led to his unique dishes full of taste, texture, aroma and gorgeous presentation. Appetizers and Small Plates, Soups and Salads, Sandwiches and Tacos, Pasta and Noodle DIshes, Side Veggie Dishes and Desserts are all colorfully presented in this beautiful cookbook.
Whether you are an omnivore, herbivore, vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian (or just love fresh veggies, salads and healthy recipes) – I know you’ll love this cookbook as much as I do! Michael has also graciously given me two recipes from his cookbook to share with you: Over The Top Eggplant Parmesan and a cool and refreshing Watermelon, Radish and Watercress Salad (see recipes following). Enjoy!
***THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED! CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER, SHEA ROSS OF ATLANTA GA! STAY TUNED FOR FUTURE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAYS 🙂
Here’s how to enter to win a copy of the cookbook (open to US/Canadian residents only):
Comment on this post: Tell me what is your favorite vegetable or vegetarian dish, or simply why you would like to win the cookbook to receive one (1) entry;
Share this post on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Pinterest with your followers & get an additional entry for each post;
*** VERY IMPORTANT! ***Leave a separate comment for EACH of your entries or only one entry will be counted.For example, leave your first comment about your favorite vegetable or vegetarian dish and why you want to win the cookbook, then add another comment to say “I follow you on Twitter”, another to say “I follow you on Pinterest”, etc. If you already follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and/or Facebook let me know as well, since this counts as an entry.
*NOTE: Please make sure to provide your current email address (which won’t be visible) so I can reach you if you win.
I will randomly draw one lucky winner on Sunday, June 10 at 11 pm EST. Good Luck and enjoy the recipes from Michael’s book below!
Over-the-Top Eggplant Parmigiana
SERVES 6 1 HOUR (40 MINUTES ACTIVE)
For this no-holds-barred eggplant parmigiana, the eggplant is breaded with panko and pan-fried, layered with fresh mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce, finished in the oven, and then topped with a dice of fresh heirloom tomatoes. It makes a satisfying entrée, and you need only add a green salad to make a celebratory dinner.
I don’t salt and drain eggplant for most uses, but it is worthwhile in this recipe. Extracting some of the liquid makes the eggplant fry up firm yet fork-tender. You don’t want any mush factor in your parmigiana.
Here’s a great tip for breading. Use one hand to put the eggplant in the flour, egg, and bread crumbs. Use the other hand to toss the eggplant in the bread crumbs and into the skillet. By keeping one hand for the wet stuff and the other for the dry, you avoid getting your hands breaded along with the eggplant!
The finest canned tomatoes for Italian dishes come from the area of San Marzano; look for that name on the can.
3 large or 5 smaller globe eggplants (about 4 pounds total)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups panko bread crumbs
4 large eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil, for pan-frying
12 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1⁄2 cups diced vine-ripened tomatoes (only truly good, ripe tomatoes will do here; don’t use those supermarket ones ripened with ethylene gas)
1 handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the eggplants and slice lengthwise into planks a scant 1⁄2 inch thick. Layer in a colander with a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt between each layer, top with a plate, and weight with some cans. Set aside on a plate to drain for at least 30 minutes. Wipe off excess salt with a paper towel.
Heat the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, while you make the rest of the recipe. Don’t add salt, because the eggplant will still have residual salt from the draining process.
Set up a rack or baking sheet covered with paper towels for draining the fried eggplant. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Set up for dredging, with plates for the flour and bread crumbs and a shallow bowl for the eggs. Heat a good 1⁄4 inch of vegetable oil in your biggest skillet over high heat. Working with two slices of eggplant at a time, pat them in the flour until they have a dry coating, then drag through the egg, and finally press both sides in the bread crumbs, covering thoroughly. Place them in the skillet, where they should start sizzling immediately. Don’t pack them in too tightly in the skillet; leave yourself some room to work. Flip when brown, about 2 minutes, then brown on the other side. They should be fork-tender at this point (the oven time is just to melt the cheese, not cook the eggplant). Transfer the eggplant to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding more vegetable oil as necessary.
To assemble, set down your first layer of eggplant in the prepared baking dish, and top each slice with a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce, a piece of mozzarella, a bit of Parmigiano, and a bit of basil. Build up three layers, finishing with cheese.
Bake until the cheese is thoroughly melted, about 20 minutes.
To serve: Toss the diced tomatoes with the basil and a pinch of salt. Put an eggplant stack on each plate, and top with 1⁄4 cup of the tomato salad and a grind of fresh black pepper.
Watermelon Radish and Watercress Salad
This delicious salad is driven purely by its beautiful ingredients; all you have to do is take a little care to arrange them nicely.
Watermelon radishes are green on the outside, but when sliced you see that they are intensely red in the middle, looking much like tiny watermelons. If you have a mandoline, use it here: It is excellent for slicing them thinly and evenly.
If you have difficulty finding watercress, check the refrigerated produce section of upscale markets. They often carry hydroponic watercress, making this peppery green, once strictly seasonal, available year-round. Look for bright, fresh leaves with no signs of wilting. The tart cress makes a great foil for the sweet figs and pomegranate seeds (or more technically, arils).
1 large watermelon radish, very thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 handfuls watercress, rinsed and dried
4 ripe fresh figs, halved
1⁄4 cup pomegranate seeds
16 shavings Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard aged cheese
12 toasted walnut halves
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Arrange a circle of watermelon radish slices on each of four chilled plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Toss the watercress with a bit of the olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Place a fluffy handful on each plate. This is the critical step to making the salad look nice—aim to make a tall, high mound in the center, and don’t let it spread out.
Add 2 fig halves, 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds, 4 cheese shavings, and 3 toasted walnut halves to each plate. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.
Herbivoracious is also available in an enhanced e-book edition, with 25 videos featuring Natkin touring ethnic markets, introducing ingredients and showing how to choose them, and preparing recipes from the book. The e-book will also offer social media functionality for sharing recipes, photos, and video on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.
OK folks – listen up. It’s that time of year again where Summer is coming, the sun is shining and we need to fit into that teeny bikini again… With Memorial Day approaching and sunny days on the boat, beach and lake ahead, I whipped up this recipe for a refreshingly light crab salad to get myself ready for the weekend. Chock full of fresh crab, lemon, veggies and tasty herbs and seasonings, you’ll love this healthy salad made with a low-fat dressing of grapeseed oil, white wine vinegar, lemon and a hint of low-fat/low-calorie mayonnaise. It’s full of flavor, vitamins, and protein, and so light it won’t touch your waistline.
If you aren’t into crab meat then switch it up and make this with tuna, shrimp or shredded chicken. Serve the salad over large lettuce leaves with some slices of fresh avocado and lemon wedges on salad greens and hit the beach while rockin’ that bikini! If you want to make a sandwich try it on a whole wheat pita or low carb tortilla wrap to keep light! Enjoy!
I love Italian food. I mean reallyloooove Italian food.. And who doesn’t? But especially authentic, homemade Italian – cooked with fresh ingredients and simple, healthy recipes that are downright divine. I recently took a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City with Chef and Culinary Instructor Pia Vallone, who teaches the Techniques of Italian Cooking course. It was a 5-week intensive class 6 hours long. Lots to learn in a short amount of time. Chef Pia, a native of Italy and graduate of ICE, taught us a a variety of recipes from different regions of Italy spanning the basic recipes and techniques.
We made fresh pasta and risottos, hearty ragus and fresh and creamy sauces, roasted and braised meats, seafood dishes, soups and stews,
roasted and braised vegetables (my favorites were the Roasted Tomatoes and Stuffed Wine-braised Artichokes), desserts such as Classic Tiramisu, Mascarpone Mousse and Rustic Italian Apple Crostata,
and healthy, fresh Italian salads and small plates.
We always had red and white Italian wine and fresh Italian bread to accompany, and learned the customs of eating the way the Italians do – start with an “antipasti” (appetizer), next order a “primo” (first course usually consisting of pasta, risotto, minestrone or other soups), then pick your main “secondi” (second course usually a meat or fish dish), have a small bit of “formaggi” (cheese) after your main, then on to “dolci” (sweets/desserts such as cheese, fruit, sweet wine, and coffee/cappucino).
We made some of the most amazing Italian food during this class and learned classic authentic cooking techniques that I was able to bring home with me to prepare my own delicious Italian food. In fact, I was so impressed with Pia’s class that I had to interview her to share her culinary background and story along with a recipe with all of you! Enjoy.
Can you tell me a little bit about your culinary training and professional background? What was your first job as a Chef and what was that like?
My first and only hands-on restaurant experience was in an Italian restaurant in London (cannot remember the name of the restaurant), near Victoria Station, in the summer of 1978. A friend of mine who worked as an executive chef there, offered me a job as a sous chef. After a month of hard work, I had to leave the restaurant, because my visa was about to expire and soon after, I returned to Italy. The second experience related to food, was working for several years as a bookkeeper for a restaurant and corporate catering. There I learned so much about food and was exposed to new ingredients and flavor profiles, although I worked in the establishment’s office. As for training, I graduated from The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and hold a Culinary Arts diploma and a Pastry and Baking Arts diploma. I currently work at ICE as a Manager of Kitchen Assistants and as a Recreational Chef Instructor, though I have worked in different areas in the company, within the past 10 years.
When did you realize you wanted to be a Chef? Who inspired you most as a young cook and what did you learn from them?
I always loved cooking and eating, but I began to spend time experimenting with recipes from various kinds of cuisines in my home kitchen, cooking for friends when I arrived to New York in 1980. Wanting to get involved with food and becoming a chef was a second career change for me, which began in 2001.
My greatest inspiration was my father, who was a gourmand and a terrific cook. I spent many hours in the kitchen with him during my childhood, helping out, observing him and absorbing all the knowledge I could. From my father, I learned passion, love and appreciation of good food and the importance of using fresh ingredients.
Can you tell us a little bit about your culinary style and what makes your menus and recipes unique?
My style is mainly rustic. I like rustic food for its simplicity and because it is nourishes the body and soul. My menus and recipes are unique, because the ingredients I use are accessible and inexpensive.
Is there a difference in the recipes you create/the food you eat in Italy versus the Italian food here in the United States and what are the main differences?
The difference between food in Italy and food here…? Food in Italy is extremely fresh, mostly organic and seasonal. Its flavor(s) cannot be replicated in dishes cooked outside of the Country. Food in Italy is also quite simple. In fact, most of the best food I have ever eaten there was prepared with just a few ingredients. On the contrary, Italian American food is the result of ‘imported’ traditions and transformations, mostly due the immigrant’s longing for the ‘Old Country’. Immigrants, who arrived here tried to capture flavors and freeze memories, by utilizing similar ingredients grown in a different terroir. Nowadays though, great Italian chefs live here in the States, so the differences between Italian food in Italy and the US is narrowing down.
In your opinion, what are the most important elements when creating a recipe from scratch?
The most important elements are: fresh ingredients, simplicity and focus, Make sure to tastes the food while cooking it.
What is your signature dish or your favorite recipe?
My favorite dish is ‘Roman Style Tripe’, a dish that brings back childhood memories.
What is your favorite spice or ingredient to cook with and why?
I love black pepper, which I use in all savory recipes. Besides liking its pungent flavor, I add it to dishes because it helps improve digestion.
What is your favorite cooking gadget or kitchen item you can’t live without and why?
I own many gadgets and often buy the new ones that are the latest invention in the market, but always tend to use the familiar ones over and over. A gadget I cannot live without is a hand held grater, because it is efficient and does not use too much space in the kitchen.
Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs and home cooks?
Start by cooking a simple recipe, one with 4 or 5 ingredients. Learn basic skills and techniques at first and then move on to a larger repertoire. Patience, practice and repetition are important to achieve success with cooking, as with other things in life.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
Yes. I am always looking to inspire others to cook. It is a pleasure to see that people are interested in cooking and familiarizing themselves with ingredients. Sharing passion for food and cooking with people is an all-around relaxing experience for me.
Spring Vegetable Soup
Yield: serves 6
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, diced
1 small butternut squash, diced
1 bunch escarole, chopped
½ cup peas, frozen
1 tablespoon basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for bread and for drizzling on soup
4 quarts chicken stock
1 small ciabatta bread
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Sauté carrots, celery and onions in a large stock pot over medium heat, for approximately 5 minutes, making sure that you stir the vegetables while they cook.
Add chicken stock to the pan. Increase the heat to high, cover the pan, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
Slice bread into 1” thick slices. Brush slices with the additional olive oil on both sides and place in a sauté pan over low heat. Turn bread slices once and cook until they are golden brown. Place bread in a tray and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside.
Add butternut squash to the stockpot and cook for 3 minutes.
Add zucchini and peas to the stockpot and cook for 3 more minutes.
Add escarole, basil, parsley, salt and pepper and cook for 4 additional minutes.
Remove two ladles of soup from the stockpot and puree in a blender, then return the pureed soup to the pot (the puree will thicken the soup). Stir and cook for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.
Add some grated cheese into the soup and stir. Ladle soup in individual bowls, drizzle oil and sprinkle additional cheese.
I recently picked up a cookbook at a conference called Recipes Worth Sharing by Favorite Recipes Press. It’s a collection of the most prized, tried-and-true tested home cook recipes from some of the most popular regional community cookbooks and charitable organizations in America. I remember my Mom and Grandmother would occasionally cook from these spiral-bound community cookbooks and they usually made some type of yummy salad or casserole dish for a Sunday family brunch or neighborhood potluck supper. Usually these cookbooks go unappreciated or overlooked, but this one deserves to be noticed.
The reason I picked up this book was mainly because of the recipes themselves, not the beautiful photos which normally are what grab my attention when I pick up or buy a cookbook. The recipes are a collection of delicious comfort food, down-home favorites and are not particularly complicated to make but delicious all the same. A lot of these recipes remind of the Southern cooking I experienced and learned to make when I lived in Atlanta and made trips to Savannah, Charleston and New Orleans – lots of seafood, fresh veggies and salads, grilled and roasted meats, pasta dishes, homemade breads, pies and desserts, and of course the delicious creamycasseroles made out of basically EVERYTHING under the sun. The foods and recipes in this book are the ones that your Grandmother and Mother probably made too, and passed along to their friends at church, bridge club or the local junior league. Fussy and stuffy recipes they are not, but simple, delicious and comforting – they are indeed.
The recipes in the book are organized in typical categories: Appetizers and Beverages, Breads and Brunch, Soups, Salads and Sandwiches, Entrees, Fish and Seafood, Vegetables and Sides, Cakes, Pies and Cookies, Desserts, and Kid’s Recipes. I’ve gone through the book and picked out a sampling of my favorite recipes below (a few from each category) to share with you. I hope you enjoy them and maybe even try a few for your next potluck party or family picnic. If you want to check out the cookbook for yourself – you can preview and purchase the cookbook online. Enjoy!
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cooked crab meat, drained
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup cooked shrimp, cut into small pieces
40 frozen phyllo cups, thawed
Grated parmesan cheese
Blend the cream cheese, milk, horseradish, butter, wine, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Fold in the crab meat, scallions and shrimp. Fill the phyllo cups with the seafood mixture. Place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the cheese and almonds. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until heated through.
Recipe from Toast of the Coast, The Junior League of Jacksonville, Florida
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup chopped cooked ham
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup chopped green chilies
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (1-pound) round loaf French or Sourdough bread
Combine the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, ham, green onions, green chilies and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and mix well. Cut a thin slice from the top of the bread loaf; reserve. Remove the center carefully, leaving a shell. Cut the bread from the center into 1-inch cubes. Fill the bread shell with the dip; top with the reserved top. Wrap in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with the bread cubes, crackers or chips.
Recipe from Downtown Savannah Style, The Junior League of Savannah, Georgia.
Pirate’s Milk Punch
1 cup sugar
1 cup bourbon (not sour mash)
1 cup French brandy (Cognac)
1 cup vodka
2 ounces pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Combine the sugar, bourbon, brandy and vodka in a gallon container with a lid. An empty gallon milk jug will work. Secure the lid and shake vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla and nutmeg; shake well. Add the milk, 2 cups at a time, until the jug is full; shaking well after each addition. Chill for 8 to 24 hours before serving. Serve very cold or over ice in old-fashioned glasses. Sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg over the top before serving.
Makes 1 gallon (16 servings).
Recipe from The Life of the Party, The Junior League of Tampa, Florida.
6 English muffins, split into halves
Butter to taste
12 slices Canadian bacon
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
To prepare the eggs, toast the English muffin halves and spread with butter. Brown the Canadian bacon in a skillet; drain. Whisk the eggs in a bowl until light and frothy. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and mix well. Arrange the muffin halves in the bottom of a baking dish, split side up. Top each muffin half with a slice of Canadian bacon. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the Canadian bacon. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until eggs are set. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Slice into squares around the muffin halves.
To prepare the sauce, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and Tabasco sauce in a blender and process until smooth. Bring the butter to a simmer in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and immediately add to the egg yolk mixture in a find stream, processing constantly at high speed until combined.
To serve, top each serving with a spoonful of Hollandaise sauce. Note: The sauce can be kept warm in a baking dish placed in a pan of hot water.
Recipe from Shall We Gather, Trinity Episcopal Church, Wetumpka, Alabama.
White Spanish Gazpacho
3 cucumbers, peeled and cubed
1 small garlic clove
3 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
3 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
4 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sliced green onions
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted and salted
Puree the cucumbers and garlic in a blender. Pour into a bowl. Whisk in a small amount of chicken broth until smooth. Whisk in remaining chicken broth gradually. Whisk the cucumber mixture gradually inot the sour cream in a bowl. Stir in the vinegar and salt. Chill, covered, until cold. Ladle into 6 chilled soup bowls. Top each with equal portions of the tomatoes, parsley, green onions, almonds and croutons.
Recipe from Recipes of Note, Greensboro Symphony Guild, Greensboro, NC
Sweet Tart Salad
Poppy Seed Dressing:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
10 ounces salad greens or 16 cups torn lettuce
4 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
2 cups garlic bagel chips, crushed
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon pepper
For the dressing, combine the sugar, oil, vinegar, poppy seeds, paprika and Worcestershire sauce in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly. Shake to mix. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator until serving time. The flavor is enhanced if made in advance and chilled.
For the salad, mix the salad greens, apples, bagel chips, cheese, pecans, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Recipe from Tables of Content, Junior League of Birmingham, Alabama.
Toasted Brie Chicken Tea Sandwiches
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup red grapes, sliced
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Italian herbs
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
6 to 12 croissants
2 (8 ounce) wheels Brie cheese, rind removed and cheese sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the chicken and broth in a roasting pan. Roast for 12 to 18 minutes or until cooked through. Do not allow the chicken to brown. Drain and discard the broth. Place the chicken in a large bowl and let stand until cool. Mix the mayonnaise, grapes, celery, Italian herbs, pepper and onion powder in a bowl. Stir in the chicken. Cut each croissant into halves crosswise and cut each half into halves horizontally. Toast the croissants. Place a slice of Brie on half of the croissant pieces. Top with the chicken mixture and the remaining croissant pieces.
Makes 12 to 14 sandwiches.
Recipe from Savor the Seasons, The Junior League of Tampa, Florida.
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
1 (14 ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and sliced
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
6 tablespoons salad oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Juice of 2 garlic cloves
4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large tomatoes, cut into 12 slices
1/4 cup crumbled crisp-cooked bacon
Combine the artichokes, hearts of palm, green onions and parsley in a bowl and mix gently. Add a mixture of the salad oil, lemon juice and garlic juice and bleu cheese; toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator until serving time. The salad may be prepared to this point one day in advance. Line 6 chilled salad plates with romaine. Arrange 2 tomato slices on each salad plate. Top with the artichoke mixture. Sprinkle with the bacon just before serving.
Recipe from Art Fare, Toledo Museum of Art Aides, Toledo, Ohio.
Father Art’s Pozole
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (2-pound) pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
10 tomatillos, husked, cored and cut into quarters
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 (15-ounce) can hominy, drained and rinsed
2 whole dried red chiles, stems removed
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add the pork and saute until brown on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook for 10 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Combine the pork mixture with 3 cups of chicken broth in a large saucepan. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is very tender. Combine the remaining 2 cups chicken broth with the tomatillos and cilantro in a blender and process until pureed. Add the puree, hominy and red chiles to the pork mixture and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the chiles and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with chopped onion, shredded lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, cheese, cilantro and lime wedges.
Note: Pozole can be prepared a day or two in advance and chilled, covered, until needed. Reheat over low heat to serve.
Recipe from The Bells are Ringing: A Call to Table, Mission San Juan Capistrano Women’s Guild, San Juan Capistrano, California.
6 whole chicken breasts, split and skinned
3 1/2 cups ice water
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne to taste
Spray a baking sheet 3 times with a nonstick cooking spray. Rinse the chicken. Place the chicken in the ice water in a bowl. Spoon the yogurt into a medium bowl. Combine the bread crumbs, flour, Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder, Creole seasoning, thyme, basil, oregano, black pepper and cayenne in a sealable plastic bag, shaking to mix. Remove 2 pieces of chicken from the water; coat with yogurt. Place the chicken in the plastic bag with seasonings, shaking to coat. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Spray the chicken lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Place the baking sheet on the bottom oven rack. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, turning every 20 minutes to assure even browning.
Recipe from A Taste of the Good Life: From the Heart of Tennessee, St. Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee.
1 stick butter
1 small bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons flour
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 pound grated Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon sherry wine
Red pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 pound white crabmeat
Melt butter in heavy pot and saute onions and parsley. Blend in flour, cream and cheese, until cheese is melted. Add other ingredients and gently fold in crab meat. This may be served in a chafing dish with Melba toast or in puff pastry shells.
Recipe from River Roads Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine, Junior League of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Baked Heirloom Beets with Balsamic Vinegar
1 pound of beets various colors, leaves and stems trimmed (golf ball size)
10 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup fresh marjoram or oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the beets, garlic, and marjoram on a sheet of foil large enough to enclose. Season generously with salt and pepper and bring the sides of the foil up. Pour a mixture of the vinegar and olive oil over the beet mixture and seal the foil.
Bake for 1 hour or until the beets are tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel and slice or chop the beets, reserving the juices. Serve the beets with the reserved juices over watercress or mixed salad greens or as a side to grilled meats. Serve at room temperature if desired.
Recipe from California Mosaic, The Junior League of Pasadena, California.
Church Street Squash
2 pounds yellow or zucchini squash (or medley of both)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, plain
1 tablespoon paprika
Cook squash until tender. Mash with fork after draining. Let stand until cool. Saute onion in 2 tablespoons butter until yellow, not brown. Mix squash, onion, cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper and egg. Gently pour into greased casserole. Sprinkle stuffing mix on top and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle paprika on top. Cook, uncovered 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until bubbly. It does freeze well after cooking and covered.
Recipe from Charleston Receipts Repeats, Junior League of Charleston, South Carolina.
Fresh Peach Crisp
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine or butter
4 cups fresh peaches, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; cut in margarine or butter with 2 knives or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Combine peaches, lemon juice and water; spoon into a greased 9x9x1 3/4 inch baking dish. Sprinkle flour mixture over peaches. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake 35 to 45 minutes longer.
Recipe from Savannah Style, Junior League of Savannah, Georgia.
1/2 cup margarine
1 (6 ounce) package chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1 (10 1/2 ounce) package mini marshmallows
4 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup peanuts, optional
Combine margarine, chocolate chips, and peanut butter in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until melted, stirring until smooth. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Blend in cereal and peanuts. Spread in 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Chill until firm. Prepare frosting by melting chocolate chips and butterscotch chips together, blending until smooth. Spread on chilled bars. Cut into 2×1-inch bars.
Makes 60 bars.
Recipe from Children’s Party Book, The Junior League of Hampton Roads, Virginia
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and there’s no guessing why – it’s all about visiting friends and family, being thankful for the wonderful things in our lives and of course, it’s all about the food.
Turkey and Dressing is the normal star of the table, but I love to experiment with the side dishes to mix it up and spice up the menu each year. Here’s a couple of recipes I plan on making this year (one tried and true, one a new experiment!)..would love to hear from all of you what your favorite side dishes are and what you’ll be making this year that’s a change from just mashed potatoes and green bean casserole!
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Shallots
I made this recipe a couple Thanksgivings ago and it was an absolute delicious hit at the table! The crispy bacon, butter and shallots, mixed with the tangy vinegar gives the brussel sprouts an amazing trio of flavors and the roasting in the oven technique cooks down the balsamic into a glaze coating the crispy oven browned sprouts. The original recipe came from Williams Sonoma and I adapted it a bit by adding the balsamic vinegar and shallots. Thought you didn’t like brussel sprouts? Wait until you try this recipe.
Water to steam
1 pound large Brussels sprouts
2 ounces thin-sliced pancetta or bacon (3-4 slices)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon premium unsalted butter
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste
Add water to a large pot with a steamer basket and bring to a boil.
Trim the sprouts: Slice off the base and remove the outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise through the core, then make V-shaped cuts to remove the core. With your thumbs on the either side of the V, twist the sprout to open up the leaves a bit. Steam the sprouts for 5 minutes until bright green and tender.
Meanwhile, saute the sliced pancetta or bacon over medium heat in a small skillet until the edges have started to brown, breaking it into pieces with a spatula while it cooks. Remove the cooked bacon and reserve the bacon grease, adding a teaspoon of butter and then add the shallots and cook until soft and golden.
Drain the water from the steamer and plunge sprouts into ice water to stop the cooking, pat dry with paper towels and return the sprouts to the hot pan. Stir in with the pancetta and shallot mixture, including the fat in the skillet. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until the vinegar reduces and the sprouts are brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce and toss well.
Put the entire mixture in to a casserole baking dish and cook in the oven for 20 mins on 350 degrees until golden brown. Take out of the oven, drizzle a little more olive oil on top, stir well and serve.
Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin
Everyone loves mashed potatoes and gravy for Thanksgiving but this year I decided I’m going to make a Gratin, but mix it up with not just potatoes and cheese, but adding some butternut squash and sweet potatoes to give it a kick and blended flavors of 3 of my favorite veggie sides. The decadent consistency of the garlic Gruyere cream sauce with this trio of veggies is a delicious twist on this classic French potato dish.
1 garlic clove
½ tsp. sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of nutmeg
1/3 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/3 lb. butternut squash, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/3 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Thoroughly rub garlic on the bottom and sides of a shallow porcelain gratin dish or medium sized glass casserole dish. Coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle the nutmeg and paprika in the heavy cream and stir. Peel the potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash and cut them into thin slices.
Layer the potatoes in the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese and then 1/3 of the cream. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a second layer using the squash, another 1/3 of the cheese and then 1/3 of the cream. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Add the top layer using the sweet potatoes, the last 1/3 of the cheese and final 1/3 of the cream. Top it off with a dash more salt and pepper. Sprinkle the entire top of the casserole with fresh Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley or thyme.
Bake uncovered, about an 50-60 minutes until the gratin is golden brown on top and serve immediately.
Wild Rice with Cranberries and Pecans
My mom always used to make a wild rice casserole over the holidays with either chicken or shrimp which is delicious as a main course or buffet dinner, but for a Thanksgiving side, this recipe is a bit lighter with tart cranberries to complement the turkey and some pecans for extra crunch.
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
3 large shallots minced
2 cups wild rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 bay leaf
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 375.
In a saucepan over medium low heat bring stock to a simmer. In a heavy 2-quart flameproof casserole over medium heat melt butter with the oil. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, add rice and stir until the grains are well coated about 3 minutes.
Stir in the simmering stock, dried cranberries, bay leaf, thyme, sea salt and white pepper. Bring to a simmer then stir and cover. Transfer casserole to the oven and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven.
Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Stir in the pecans and parsley. Serve hot or warm.
Cheddar and Herb Biscuits
Having lived in the South in Atlanta for over a decade, I grew a love for fresh, homemade buttery biscuits. They definitely beat your standard prepackaged rolls from the grocery store and are delicious hot out of the oven with a little bit of real (yes, real!) butter. This version is made with milk, cream and fresh herbs (chives and parsley), mixed with tangy shredded cheddar andParmesan cheese with a dash of cayenne for a spicy kick.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated sharp yellow Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cayenne together using a whisk. Add the herbs, cheese and buttermilk. Stir together until dough forms. Once dough has formed, using an ice cream scooper, scoop out dough onto baking tray. With a brush, lightly butter tops. Bake for 15 minutes.