Friday’s Flavors: Fried Green Tomatoes

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

I’m not going to lie. The first time I tried making Fried Green Tomatoes years ago was because I love the movie (even more than the book, which is rare for me!).

But the reason I’ve kept making them is because I like the flavor. And while there are MANY different ways to make these, some more labor intensive than others, this recipe cuts down on the work without cutting down on the flavor!

Ingredients:

2-3 green tomatoes

2 cups bread crumbs

1.5 cups flour

2 eggs

salt

garlic powder

old bay

garlic salt

pepper

oil for frying (I use peanut)

Preparation:

Wash and slice tomatoes. Salt both sides and allow to sit for at least ten minutes.

While tomatoes are resting, lay out your flour and breadcrumbs. (For yeast free breadcrumbs, add a couple Pillsbury Crescent Rolls or Biscuits to a food processor. I’ve used rice ‘bread’ crumbs before, and they don’t have the best flavor.) Season both flour and breadcrumbs with the old bay, garlic powder, garlic salt, and pepper. In a small bowl, beat your eggs.

Heat your oil over medium high heat.

You’ll find your tomatoes are now sitting in a puddle of liquid. Wipe both sides of your tomatoes, removing the salt. Dredge in the flour, then the egg wash, then the breadcrumbs. I do them all at once and set them on a piece of wax paper, but you can dredge, dip and dredge as you go if you want.

Add your tomatoes to the oil, working in batches. You may have to turn the oil down in temperature as you go.

Remove from oil using a metal spatula or spoon and allow to dry on a paper towel lined plate. And that’s it!

For dipping sauces, I like ranch dressing mixed with chili powder or tzatziki. They taste best freshly fried, and while still tasty, will be a bit soggy the next day.

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Best Ever Sugar Cookies With Butter Frosting

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday, and for those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas!

I don’t think it’s a secret that I do a lot of cooking. But I used to do a lot of baking, too. I always had fresh chocolate chip cookies on hand, and never hesitated to whip up a batch of brownies, cupcakes, or a delectable cake whenever the whim arose.

Why the change? Well, you can’t eat like a kid forever. But more than that (because I’d probably still try), I stopped being able to handle sugar well. And when something feels bad, it makes sense to stop doing it, right?

But, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I know I can no longer handle more than two bites of rich chocolate cake. More than a handful of M&Ms. More than just a dab of maple syrup on my waffles or pancakes. But I can still handle the absolute best cookie recipe I’ve ever met, in moderation of course. And the frosting? Enough can’t be said about it! Odes and sonnets, love poems of every kind have been written about this Butter Frosting! (I know – I’ve written them!)

I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are best described as addictive! Back when I was a choco-holic, I’d make an exception for these!

Growing up, my family would make these every Christmas, but they’re not just for the holidays! While I have Halloween and Easter themed cookie cutters, I also have many types of animal, sea creature, flower shapes and more!

I’m not going to lie – these take a lot of work. But they are SO worth the effort, every. Single. Time. What’s more? They get better with age!

Ingredients:

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

2 ½ cups flour                                                 1 ½ cups sugar

1 tsp. baking powder                                    2 eggs, well beaten

½ tsp. salt                                                        3 tsp. vanilla

1 cup shortening

Preparation:

Sift flour, measure; add baking powder and salt. Sift again. (Don’t try to short cut this step. I know it’s a pain, but sift the flour before you measure, then sift again!)

Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, beating until light. Add well beaten eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Add vanilla. (It’s very important that you add the eggs one at a time, blending well between them. I don’t know why but the cookies don’t come out the same if you add them both at once.)

Combine dry ingredients with the creamed mixture, mix thoroughly and chill for at least an hour.

PREHEAT oven to 400.

Roll as thin as possible on a lightly floured board and cut with cookie cutter. (Tip: I keep a small bowl of flour handy so I don’t contaminate the bag. Also, keep your rolling pin well floured.)

BAKE 6-10 minutes.

Allow to cool for a minute or two before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.

Ingredients:

BUTTER FROSTING

½ cup butter, set out to room temperature

1 lb. (3 ½ cups) Confectioner’s sugar

Pinch of salt

4 – 5 tbsp. liquid (hot water or milk)

1 tbsp. vanilla

food coloring

sprinkles and decorations as desired

Preparation:

Cream room temperature butter; add sugar gradually, stirring until well blended. (Eventually it’s going to look like straight sugar, just a little lumpier.)

Add salt. Stir in liquid a little at a time, adding just enough to give a good spreading consistency. Beat until fluffy; add vanilla or other flavoring.

Makes enough frosting for tops and sides of 2 9” layers, 3 8” layers, 2 dozen cup cakes, and the entirety of the above cookie recipe.

I put these in tins and give them to friends and family!

I cover a table with wax paper to make for easy cleanup. Portion frosting into containers (coffee cups work great) and mix desired colors using food coloring. Apply with dull butter knifes or utensil of choice. Add sprinkles, nonpareils, and whatever other decorations you want! Allow to dry thoroughly before storing.

I didn’t get too fancy decorating this year, but they still tasted fantastic!

If you try it, let me know how you like it! (And don’t say I didn’t warn you about your new addiction!)

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Jalapeno Stuffed Poppers

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Now, I am not a fan of anything spicy. Hot peppers and I are mortal enemies. But, if you look in my garden, you’ll see that I grow 7 different types of peppers, from Jalapenos all the way to Carolina Reapers. Sigh. The things we do for love.

As you might of guessed, my husband is a fan of the spicy. In a family of people who love the hot stuff, his nickname is Leather Tongue. I’ve yet to find something too spicy for him to eat, and even though I do most of the cooking, and I can’t handle the hot stuff, I still make a lot of it. So, for those of you who are like me, here’s a simple solution for poppers: stuff baby bell peppers. I’m not a huge fan of those, either, but my stuffing is too tasty to miss out on!

(I’m giving you the measurements necessary to make 36 poppers, but the amounts are easily reduced and if you have any stuffing left over, it’s great on bagels, sandwiches, celery, or just by the spoonful!)

Ingredients:

Jalapenos

Mini Bell Peppers

one 7.5 oz. container of Cream Cheese (whipped is easier to work with, I like the chive flavor for this recipe)

one and a half 8 oz. blocks of Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

lots of fresh crushed garlic

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Empty the cream cheese into a bowl. Crush plenty of garlic on top, and mix well. Grate your cheddar and mix into the cream cheese a little at a time, until you absolutely can’t get any more in.

Wash and dry the peppers. (I take my contacts out AND wear gloves anytime I’m handling peppers.) Remove tops and core. They make a nifty little tool for this, but if you don’t have one, carefully cut around the inside with a knife. If you can’t get the seeds and pith out, push them to the bottom.

Stuff the Peppers.

Spray a baking cheese and your popper holder with spray oil. Place poppers in holder or in a baking dish as you stuff them. Cook for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the insides are going to be piping hot, so do your best to wait a few minutes before you enjoy them!

If you try it, please let me know how you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Oven Roasted Duck

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

There’s no denying that this past year’s been a rough one. We’ve all had to make sacrifices and changes. And unfortunately, like the rest of 2020, the holidays are taking a hit. It kind of makes it hard to celebrate, or even want to. Even those who rallied for Thanksgiving and still cooked a turkey despite the fact they were feeding far fewer people were then faced with what to do with all the extra leftovers.

But cooking a nice holiday meal on a smaller scale doesn’t have to pose a problem. And I know some people cooked chickens instead this year, but that doesn’t really feel special, does it? So why not give duck a try?

People tend to be reluctant to cook duck, but here’s the thing – they’re less hands on than a turkey. You don’t have to baste it. And while duck skin is fatty, if you prepare it right, not only will the fat render from your bird, the meat will be fork tender – no knives required! Also, for presentation, you can easily remove the entire breast with one cut!

Duck is a great option for special occasions, date nights, and even just for a change of pace!

A 6-7 pound duck will feed 3-4 people.

Ingredients:

1 duck

olive oil

spices (I use garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt and Old Bay)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray your baking pan and wire rack with oil for easier cleanup.

Rinse your defrosted duck, making sure to remove all loose parts from the inside cavity, and dry well.

Using a very sharp knife – if you have a sharpener, give your knife a fresh blade – carefully score the duck skin diagonally, being careful not to cut through the skin into the meat. The bottom side will require much shallower cuts than the breast side, where the skin is more fatty.

Rub the inside with olive oil and spices. Using a lighter hand with the olive oil, do the same to the outside. A duck’s skin is fatty enough that you don’t actually have to use oil, and you certainly don’t have to baste the skin, but a light coat of oil helps the spices stick and keeps the meat moist and tender.

Even if your baking pan has a lid, cover the pan tightly with tinfoil. Your duck won’t take up as much room as a turkey, and cutting down on the cooking space helps it cook a little quicker, plus you can get a much tighter seal using tinfoil, which will help the meat practically steam off the bones.

Most ducks will have cooking instructions on the package. I’ve found the sweet spot is to bake them for about 22 minutes per pound.

When 1/2 hour of cooking time remains, carefully remove the tinfoil and let the duck roast uncovered.

And that’s it! Remove the duck from the pan, let it set for a few minutes, carve and serve!

When I cook this I’m just feeding two, so instead of carving the breast meat like a chicken or a turkey, I simply remove the entire breast in one stroke (possible because you just cooked a fork tender bird!) and serve it that way.

If you try it, please let me know if you liked it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Fork Tender Veal Marsala

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

When talking about restaurants, there are 3 little words I have to say to get it on my husband’s list – “They have veal.” But, invariably, if we try the restaurant, and my husband orders the veal, he complains on the ride home about how tough it was.

It isn’t hard to keep a veal cutlet juicy and fork tender – all it takes is a tiny bit of effort – but that tiny bit of effort is well rewarded and this recipe will even it out because, unlike other veal marsala recipes, you don’t have to cook the meat, remove it, set it aside, keep it warm, cook the mushrooms and sauce, reduce, add the veal back . . . you get the idea. I promise you this method is worth it!

Ingredients:

veal cutlets, 1-2 pounds

fresh, whole Portobello mushrooms

2 large shallots

5 cloves garlic

olive oil

Marsala wine or Cream Sherry

flour seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, pepper, dried basil and dried tarragon

*** A frying or braising pan with a tight fitting lid. ***

Preparation:

Don’t wash your mushrooms! Clean with a dry brush or with a paper towel, removing all dirt and loose matter. Slice. Chop your shallots and peel your garlic.

Season your flour, mixing well. You want to be able to see the seasonings.

Using the business end of a meat mallet, beat the cutlet, flip, beat again, flip, and beat again for a total of 3 times, working from one end to the other.

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan, then add a splash more.

Add shallots to the pan, mix with the oil, then push them to the edges of the pan.

Dredge your beaten veal cutlets in the flour, coating both sides (no egg wash necessary), then add to the pan. Don’t worry about overcrowding the veal, it shrinks and there will be plenty of time for it to cook thoroughly.

Top with your sliced mushrooms, crushed garlic, a bit of tarragon and enough wine to come halfway up the veal cutlets. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove cover, flip, making sure your mushrooms are now in the wine, stir your shallots, and replace cover. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your cutlets. Usually, by this time, the wine has reduced to a nice, thick sauce absorbed by the mushrooms and meat, but if necessary, remove the lid and cook down.

And that’s it! Plate your veal and top with your mushrooms, shallots, and sauce!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Onion Crusted Grouper

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Onion Crusted Grouper (Pictured With Sautéed Spinach and Leeks)

My husband had Onion Crusted Grouper at a restaurant last year and thought ‘we’ could do better ‘ourselves’. I knew he wasn’t going to help, but challenge accepted. I did a little research, learned some new things – sour cream on seafood? Yeah. Turns out it’s a secret ingredient in plenty of seafood dips and dishes. Who knew? – and created this recipe which I was reluctant to taste at first but found surprisingly delicious. I’ve made it a half dozen times now and it’s quickly become a favorite!

A tasty meal for two in under 30 minutes!

Ingredients:

Baked, not fried, no MSG.

1 Grouper fillet, about 1 pound

1/3 cup cream cheese (I like chive flavored)

1 tbsp sour cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 package crispy onions

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with spray oil. Rinse and dry Grouper fillet.

In a measuring cup or bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, onion powder and garlic powder together until well blended.

Spread a thin coat of the mixture on one side of the fillet, flip, then spread the remaining mixture on the second side. You want a nice layer of the mixture, but if you apply it too thickly it will melt your onion crust off while baking.

Crush the crispy onions and coat the top side of the Grouper in a thick layer.

Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, adjusting time for a thicker/larger or smaller piece of fish.

And that’s it! If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Easy Mediterranean Eggplant (Paleo, Keto, Celiac, Anti-Candida Diet Friendly)

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Today I have a riddle for you: What do eggplant, basil and garlic have in common?

Answer: This delicious (and nutritious) dish!

All corniness aside, this is another recipe where I have to give credit to my mom., so you know it’s gotta be good! When she first tried it, she sliced the eggplant lengthwise and had my dad grill it, which is great if you have the time and patience to man the grill and if you seek a smoky flavor, like you’d find in baba ghanoush.

Jump forward a few decades and I’ve mastered how to create this dish in either the oven or on the stovetop! The oven preparation is more hands off, but for those times when your oven is already in use, the stovetop method works well too!

Bonus: This recipe is keto, paleo, celiac, and anti-candida diet friendly!

Ingredients:

1 eggplant

2 large cloves garlic

1 handful fresh basil

2 tablespoons capers

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Oven Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice eggplant widthwise into 1/4 – 1/2 slices. Using a bowl, dip slices in olive oil until well coated. Place slices on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flip, and bake another 10-15 minutes. (The thicker your slices, the more time they’ll need.)

Mix 2/3 cup olive oil, 2 large crushed garlic cloves, a handful of basil chopped finely into ribbons, 2 tablespoons capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.

Remove cooked eggplant from baking sheet, put a serving on a plate, and spoon mixture on top.

Stovetop Preparation:

Cube eggplant into 1 inch chunks.

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add eggplant. Cook until soft, stirring frequently and adding additional olive oil as needed, about 10-15 minutes.

Add crushed garlic, capers, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until garlic is fragrant, and serve.

Any leftovers (if you have them) taste great the next day!

I’m always looking for new flavors to try! What’s your favorite way to cook eggplant?

If you try it, please let me know if you like it! Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Fridays Flavors: Easy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

What comes to mind when you think about Brussel Sprouts?

A childhood fear of being forced to eat them?

That they’ve been hailed as a ‘superfood’?

Or that they’re trendy in a deep fried or fattened up with bacon kind of way? (Which, as much as I love bacon, kind of defeats the purpose of a vegetable.)

The truth is, Brussel Sprouts are incredibly good for you, but it seems like there’s a bit of confusion about what to do with them. And honestly, prepared the wrong way, that childhood fear just might be realized.

But with just a tiny bit of effort, you can make Brussel Sprouts that are both delicious and nutritious!

(This same roasting method also works for broccoli, cauliflower and fennel!)

Ingredients:

Brussel Sprouts

Olive Oil

Pepper to Taste

Garlic Salt to Taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut off the butt end of the sprouts, then slice up the middle. Remove any loose or damaged leaves.

Dip Brussel Sprout halves into a bowl of olive oil, and place on a baking sheet cut edge down. Be generous with the olive oil – it’ll take more than you think – because you want the sprouts to roast until they caramelize, but if they’re too dry, they’ll get crusty and dry instead.

Sprinkle oiled sprouts with Garlic Salt and Pepper to taste.

Roast in oven for 30 minutes (adjusting for smaller or larger than normal sized sprouts). The top side should turn color a darker green and begin to brown. The bottoms should caramelize and look like heated sugar (think the top of Crème Brule). And that’s it. Tender, flavorful, and healthy!

How do you cook your Brussel Sprouts?

If you try it please let me know if you like it, and don’t forget to check back next week for more Friday Flavors!

Friday’s Flavors: Easy (But Tasty) Mussels

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Mussels are one of the foods that I’ve found a lot of people like to eat, but tend to only do so when dining out – they want someone else to cook them. But it’s SO easy to do it yourself! This recipe works whether you want them plain or (if like me) you want to serve them over pasta!

Ingredients:

2 pounds mussels

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white wine

1 large shallot, chopped

8 large cloves garlic, chopped

4 large cloves garlic, pressed

salt and pepper to taste

Optional:

2 large handfuls spinach

pasta

parmesan cheese

Preparation:

I think what turns a lot of people off about cooking mussels is the debearding, but it really isn’t that hard and doesn’t take that long. Rinse each mussel individually, making sure the shells are clean. As you do that, grab any whiskers that protrude from the seam of the shell and tug back and forth until they come free.

(Some people soak the mussels for 20 minutes in cold water to get them to release any sand they have in their shells – I’ve never done this and have never had any issues.)

Peel garlic. Chop shallots and some of the garlic. Add olive oil, butter and wine to a cooking container with a lid (braising pan, stock pot, large frying pan, etc.). Add shallots and chopped garlic. When shallots start becoming pale and translucent, add crushed garlic, salt and pepper.

Add mussels, stirring to coat with the mix, then cover. After a couple minutes, when the shells start opening, stir again and recover.

Mussels generally only take about 5 minutes to cook. If you decide you want to serve your mussels over pasta, I suggest adding some spinach for the last minute of cooking. And that’s it! Time to serve!

If you’re a cheese person, a little freshly grated parmesan compliments the flavor nicely.

(Mussels water down the mixture, making it more of a mild flavored broth than a sauce. I think it works nicely over pasta, but if you want something thicker and more flavorful, remove the mussels and spinach, add a little more wine, butter and garlic and reduce.)

If you try it, please let me know how you like it!

Check back next Friday for more Foodie Flavors!

Friday’s Flavors: Delicious Stuffed Clams

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

To me, Stuffed Clams are one of those comfort foods that I could eat all the time. The flavor, the consistency, there’s nothing about them that I don’t like – except for that long list of ingredients in the store bought ones. And since they include breadcrumbs, I can’t order them at restaurants because of the yeast.

Luckily, over the years I’ve managed to find a way to satisfy my food cravings working around dietary restrictions. Pillsbury biscuits are leavened with baking soda instead of yeast (thank you, Pillsbury!!!). I bake them according to the directions, break into chunks which I let get stale over a day or two, then put them in a food processor to get the fine texture of store bought bread crumbs.

Armed with the one ingredient that’s hard for me to find, this recipe has become a favorite at my house! It is labor intensive, so I usually make enough for 2 or three dinners, but they freeze wonderfully and taste just as good when defrosted overnight and reheated at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

The amount of your ingredients will depend on the size of your clams and how many you are making. I’m including amounts for up to 2 dozen large (4 inch) clams. I usually have to work in batches for both steaming and using the food processor, so I split the ingredients accordingly.

Ingredients:

1-2 dozen large clams (cherry, chowder, Quahog or top neck)

1-2 large shallots

1/2 to 1 bell pepper (orange or yellow)

3-6 green onions

1-3 celery ribs

4-10 cloves garlic

3-6 tbsp butter

1/2-1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

Old Bay seasoning

garlic salt

paprika

Preparation:

Scrub the clam shells to remove any dirt and debris, then steam until they are open. You may have to work in batches. I line a baking sheet with tinfoil and set the cooked clams on there to cool while I’m steaming the next batch.

Peel garlic. Chop shallots, bell pepper, green onions, and celery. In a large frying pan, cook vegetables in just enough butter to keep ingredients moist. Add crushed garlic. Set aside when done.

(If I’m making 2 dozen large clams, I have to split the ingredients into thirds to use my food processor. Using a spatula, I usually separate the cooked vegetables into three even portions in the pan. If the clams are smaller, two even portions.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove cooked clams from their shells, setting the shells aside for later use. I usually remove the muscle attachments, as these tend to be tough and chewy.

Separate the two halves of the shells. You won’t need both halves, so choose the shells that are best for stuffing. Rinse again to remove any remaining grit.

Put the clams in the food processor. Add vegetables.

(If I’m splitting into three batches, I put 1/3 of the clams and 1/3 of the vegetables into the food processor at a time. Likewise 2 batches means half the clams and half the vegetables.)

Now comes the tricky part. The trick is that you don’t want to use more breadcrumbs than you have to. There is no set amount because some clams are ‘juicier’ than others. I suggest you start sparingly – you can always add more. Using both the chop and grind option on the food processor, mix the ingredients together.

When the mixture is a nice moist – but not wet – consistency, thick enough to stick to a spoon but not so dry that it starts caking, add the Old Bay and garlic salt to taste. (If you add too many breadcrumbs, add a splash of chicken stock or melted butter.)

Next, stuff the clam shells with your mixture and place on a baking sheet. (I use the same tinfoil covered baking sheet I use to cool the steamed clams, just give it a wipe with a paper towel and it’s good to go.) You many need to use more than one baking sheet to accommodate all your clams.

Once clams are stuffed, melt some butter and spoon a little over each clam. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 20-30 minutes until tops start to brown. Serve with lemon, Dijon mustard, and/or cocktail suce.

If you make it, please let me know how you like it!

Check back next Friday for another flavorful recipe!

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