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Winter Appetizers—Spinach and Mushroom Bruschetta

I was looking for a winter bruschetta. Something my guests could enjoy when tomatoes are out-of-season and something I could serve on those cold winter nights.  These savory treats are addictive and I always get requests for more. You can make these in advance and pop them in the oven when your guests arrive.

Spinach and Mushroom Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 1 small package chopped frozen spinach
  • 4 Tbls. olive oil
  • 1 small onion,  chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1- 8 oz. package mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 french baguette, 1/4 inch sliced
  • butter

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Directions:
Thaw spinach and drain well.
Heat olive oil in a large pan, add onions and garlic and sauté until transparent, 5-8 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until cooked through, another 10 minutes. Add spinach and mix until mixture is warm. Remove from heat and cool.
Add mayonnaise and cheese to mushroom mixture and mix to combine.
Butter bottom of each slice of bread, spread mixture on top and arrange slices on a cookie sheet.
Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Note: Can be assembled & frozen for up to 3 months. To bake, thaw about 15 minutes and bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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Fast and Easy Dinner—Israeli Couscous With Shrimp, Artichokes and Feta

I don’t think we could technically call this the tail end of winter (wishful thinking), but my taste buds are longing for something fresh and light.  This dish does the trick.  The citrusy-lemony flavor melds perfectly with artichokes, shrimp, and feta to make this dish taste like the Mediterranean.

You will want to eat this for lunch the next day….I promise.

Israeli Couscous With Shrimp, Artichokes and Feta

(Adapted from Fox Loves Lemons)

Ingredients:

  • 1-8 oz. box Israeli (pearl) couscous prepared according to directions (use chicken stock instead of water)
  • 1 Tbls. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  shallot, minced
  • 1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pound 26-30 count peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed, patted dry
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbls. roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 1 Tbls. roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
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Directions:

In medium saucepan, bring broth to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in couscous. Cook according to package instructions.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallot; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add white wine and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add artichokes, roasted red bell pepper, shrimp, black pepper and red pepper flakes; cook until shrimp turn opaque throughout, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Add lemon juice, dill, parsley and couscous; toss until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add crumbled feta on top.

Serve Immediately.

 

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Mardi Gras Madness–Chicken Étouffée

Today is Mardi Gras and if your not celebrating in New Olreans, you can make your own Fat Tuesday feast at home with this incredibly easy Chicken Étouffée.  Étouffée is a thick stew that is made with a roux and cooked until deep brown to ensure that it is full of flavor.  The word Étouffée is a riff on the old French verb “to smother”, as in gravy “smothering” a mound of rice.  It is usually made with shellfish but I’ve made this with chicken.

Toss your beads and give this one a try, it’s creole at its best.

Chicken Étouffée

Ingredients:
Spice Blend:
  • 3/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2  Tbls. vegetable oil
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle of your favorite beer
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Crystal hot sauce
  • 1 Tbls. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 pounds Chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes or 1-1/2 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

 

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Directions:

Mix spice blend together in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, add chicken and season with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the spice blend.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat and sear chicken pieces until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Remove to a platter and reserve.

Add butter to pan and when melted, add flour, and stir to combine well. Continue to cook roux, stirring constantly, until chocolate brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Immediately add onion, celery, bell pepper, and bay leaves and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes, then add the beer and stir well to loosen any brown bits from pan bottom. Add the stock, brown sugar, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine well. Bring to a boil, return chicken pieces to the pot, and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until chicken is very tender.

Add chopped parsley and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve immediately over rice.

 

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Valentines Dinner—Tarragon Chicken With Mushrooms and Champagne Sauce

Staying home for Valentines day, avoiding the crowds, and cooking together can really be one of the most romantic and relaxing ways to spend the evening.  This meal is fun because you can toast AND cook with a nice bottle of champagne to make a most memorable romantic meal.  Speaking of romance, this recipe has the wonderful flavors of France– tarragon and champagne–ooo la la, and it’s really a cinch to make.

Instead of a traditional potato side dish, I’ve kicked this up with an easy make-ahead savory bread pudding.  It may have been equally as good as the chicken.  You can pop these both in the oven, light a candle, and enjoy!

Our Valentines playlist:

  • Thinking Out Loud       Ed Sheeran
  • Crazy Lucky         Better Than Ezra
  • Try A Little Tenderness        The Commitments
  • Sugar        Maroon 5    V
  • Wait For Me         Kings Of Leon
  • Run            Matt Nathanson
  • Scenes from an Italian Restaurant            Billy Joel
  • You’re All I Need to Get By         Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
  • God Only Knows         The Beach Boys
  • I’ll Be Waiting            Michael Franti & Spearhead

 

Tarragon Chicken With Mushrooms and Champagne Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbls. olive oil
  • 3 Tbls. butter
  • 4  chicken breasts (skin on, bone in)
  •  salt and ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 large shallot (minced)
  • 1 cup champagne
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 Tbls. chopped, fresh tarragon
  • fresh lemon juice

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat 1 Tbls. each butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place chicken skin side down and sear for 5-7 minutes until skin is crisp.  Flip over chicken and sear for an additional 3 minutes.

Remove chicken and set aside.

Turn heat down to medium and add shallots to the pan.  Heat and stir for 2-3 minutes.

Add the champagne, cream and chicken stock.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the the cooked bits.  Simmer for 5 minutes and season again to taste.

Place chicken back in the pan, baste with the champagne sauce and place in the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until thoroughly cooked.

In the meantime, Heat additional 2 Tbls. of butter in another large skillet over high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes until all the water is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown.  Turn off heat and add peas.

Remove chicken from the oven.  Add the sauted mushrooms and peas.  Stir in the tarragon and drizzle with lemon juice.

Place chicken on a platter and pour sauce over the top.

Serve with french green beans and a savory bread pudding.

Savory Bread Pudding With Parmesan, Swiss, Mozzarella and Fresh Herbs

This makes a really big batch so it’s perfect for reheating in the morning with a couple of eggs.  Yum.

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2  cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 6 eggs
  • 2¼ cups half and half
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesean cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives
  • ¼ cup minced fresh thyme
  • 1 lb. day old sourdough baguette, cut into ½ inch pieces
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Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small saute pan melt the butter over medium heat. Cook the shallots until they are soft and translucent. Add the wine and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes until wine is reduced to approximately 2 Tbsp. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, half and half, salt and pepper together. Add the herbs and the shallot/wine mixture. Stir to combine. Stir in the cheese. Fold in the bread cubes. Let sit for an hour (or refrigerate overnight in the refrigerator).
Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and pour bread mixture in. Bake bread pudding for 35 – 40 minutes until it is puffed and golden. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve

 

 

 

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Winter Sides—Brussels Sprouts With Bacon, Shallots and Pecans

I wanted to get the real scoop on Brussels Sprouts this week.  They have been gracing the restaurant scene for quite sometime and there are lots of delicious variations out there.  I also wanted to find out why they are so good for me?
Brussels Sprouts are very high in Vitamin K.  Never heard of it?  Vitamin K is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten vitamin” because its major benefits are often overlooked.  Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting, building strong bones, and preventing heart disease.
Ok, that’s about as M.D.–ish as I’m going to get.  The other thing to know about these sprouts is that if made properly, they taste nothing like the boiled kind you had growing up.  My favorite is sautéing.  This way the sprouts can caramelize a whole bunch, which really brings out the sweetness and delicate nutty flavor.
So with little effort here, you can have a restaurant quality side dish at home.
Tips:
Always quarter your sprouts so all the pieces can get caramelized.
Make sure your pan is big enough to hold sprouts in a single layer.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Shallots and Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 1  pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 Tbls. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup  chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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Directions:

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and sauté for 5-7 minutes or until bacon begins to brown. Remove the bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan.  Chop bacon and set aside.

Return pan to medium-high heat, stir in shallots and Brussels sprouts; sauté 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Season to taste.  Add the bacon and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until the broth mostly evaporates and the sprouts are crisp yet tender, stirring occasionally.

Add balsamic vinegar and reduce for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in chopped pecans.

Serve immediately.