Sunday, May 23, 2010


Today is my birthday, so I thought I would just rant about the foods I simply love, love love, even though I may not eat some of them anymore, or only just rarely. They are not in order of preference, just whatever comes to mind next. You know, stuff like Kentucky Fried Chicken. I'd love to eat a piece right now - I like the thigh parts. Is there anything that tastes better? It's crispy and juicy and just spicy enough. It doesn't even taste greasy while you eat it, although we all know it's so high in fat you could go a week without another ounce of fat in your diet after eating one piece! And this kind of fatty food just kills my tummy! So KFC is completely OUT of my diet. To satisfy that craving when I get it, once in a while I'll make some breaded chicken tenders at home. They aren't nearly as greasy. They are delicious though and fill that KFC gap in my life.

Fast food items have a very small space in my list of favorite foods. One other is Taco Bell. A Chicken Gordita with Southwest Chipotle Sauce is high on my list as is their Mexican Pizza. But, alas, I don't eat those anymore either. It's probably been ten years since I've had one. And if I get to craving a cheeseburger, Dairy Queen's Classic Cheeseburger (cheese only) is the one I go for.

(none of the photos in this blog post are mine)

My Mom's Hungarian Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings. (Paprikas Csirke es Nokedli) Well, mine too since I learned to make it from Mom.This is one of my all time favorite foods and it's a real crowd pleaser. It's not even that bad for you! I skim the fat off the pot before I finish it. The dumplings are part you could do without because of the white flour, but it's just not the same without them. I sometimes will make them with a chunky kind of pasta like Orichette, or Campanelli, if I don't feel like making the dumplings. They are Hungarian Nokedli - made from flour, water and eggs. Easy, but it takes a little intuition when mixing them to know when the dough is the right consistency. The secret to a good dumpling is to the let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes after you mix it. This lets the flour "bloom" in the liquids and makes for a much more tender dumpling. This picture looks the closest to my own dish when it's done. There are a million recipes on the net for both the chicken and the dumplings. Here's mine for Chicken Paprikash.

1 large white onion - diced
1 - 2 cloves garlic - minced
1 whole chicken cut into pieces - skin on (to be removed later)
If the breast are whole, cut them in half so they are about the same size as the thighs.
1 T salt
Pepper to taste
4 - 5 T. sweet paprika (don't use the smoked paprika - it's too strong for this dish
Water or chicken stock or both - enough to cover the chicken
4 T flour
1/2 c water
1/2 c sour cream

Salt and pepper all the chicken pieces amply. In a large pot (dutch oven type) over medium high heat, brown all the chicken very well. It doesn't have to be cooked through, just brown. When it's just about brown enough, add in the diced onion and garlic and let them cook until they are a little softened careful not to burn the garlic.

Push the chicken aside in the pan, and add the paprika. Then immediately stir the chicken around to coat. Immediately add your liquid, enough to cover the chicken by about an inch. Turn the heat down to simmer, and let the chicken cook until it's almost, but not quite fall off the bone, about 45 minutes or so. When it's done, take all the chicken out to a platter. Let it cool for a few minutes so you can remove the skins. Also, now would be the time to de-fat the pot. If you let the pot sit for about 20 minutes, all the fat will rise to the top. Use paper towels, or a spoon or whatever method you use to skim the fat. You could also make this the night before and put it in the refrigerator so you can take the fat off before re-heating and finishing the dish. (I can't remember if Mom did all this skin removing and de-fatting, but I do.)

After you have removed the excess fat, in a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the 4 T of flour and water until smooth. Pour this mixture into the hot pot and stir well. Let the pot come back to a boil for just a second as this slurry will not reach it's full thickening potential unless it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and add the sour cream. No more boiling here - it might break or curdle the sour cream. If it does break, the dish is not ruined. It's still completely edible - it's just a little unattractive.

Serve over any kind of dumplings or noodles you like. Make some Nokedli if you feel adventurous! This link will take you to a recipe that is almost exactly the way my Mom and I make the dumplings. We don't use a machine to make ours though. Mom cuts pieces off of a board, I use the tip of a teaspoon to cut pieces out of a bowl. I like my dumplings fairly large, about the size of a large grape after they cook (they swell quite a bit so don't cut your pieces too large if you do it by hand). But you can make them any size you like.

How to make Nokedli (Hungarian dumplings)

Or just buy a package of potato gnocchi, use wide egg noodles, or use rice, or mashed potatoes.

Like any recipe, can be altered to your taste. Less Paprika (I wouldn't do that though). If you don't have a fresh onion in the house, throw a handful of dried onion flakes into the liquid. Leave out the sour cream. Add a big handful of fresh chopped parsley at the end. If you have wheat allergies, use rice flour to thicken the soup - it's works just the same. Add less or more garlic. The only cooking technique that has to be exact is baking, so go ahead and experiment. Next time I make this, I might try to add some shrimp. Mmmmm. Can't wait to try that one!

I've even taken this dish to another level and thinned it down with more chicken stock, a little more seasoning, taken all the meat off the bones carefully, and made it into a soup, adding lots of curly noodles and fresh parsley. When I served it at one of my Soup Nights, it turned out to be one of the favorites of the season. I actually stole this idea from a small restaurant in downtown Cleveland that was right across the street from where I worked. The Hanna Deli on 14th Street. The owners, Kathy and Fred, used to serve Chicken Paprikash Soup once in a while. It sold out before the lunch hour was over every time they featured it. So when I started my Soup Nights, I made sure it was on my list of soups.

Huge Lobster Tails with tons of butter and a baked potato. I've learned that it's really hard to find a giant lobster tail anywhere in a restaurant.You'll pay $30 - $40 and you get a tail that, in my opinion, is never big enough. So as a result it's something I rarely eat anymore because it's so expensive. Hmmmm, maybe I'll get my husband to take me out for lobster for my birthday!

Whenever I want lobster these days, if I feel like spending the money, I'll get tails from Sam's Club. They sell frozen tails that are pretty big for a fairly decent price. Two big tails for about $30. All you have to do is thaw and broil. Lobster is one of those foods that you need to be careful not to overcook. It'll get tough on you. No recipe needed. Just split them in half lengthwise and broil until the meat is just done. Depending on the size 5 - 10 minutes.

I've given up on whole lobsters too. The shells poke you, and are just too much trouble to tear apart. Have you ever tried to open a Spiny Lobster? It'll put at least a dozen holes in your hands unless you wear Kevlar gloves. And frankly, it's a little disgusting too (to me). Some people don't mind. I don't like my food looking at me. Tearing them apart is not only extremely messy, but I don't like to see what's inside, it's not appetizing to me. This picture shows the best way to serve lobster as far as I am concerned. Cooked to perfection; lightly browned and juicy and easy access. No digging around trying to pull out those tasty morsels. Just lift it out with a fork, dip in that golden melted butter and eat. Mmmmmm!

Hot Fudge Sundae with Wet Walnuts - Oh my gawd!!! Ice cream with nuts is the best! But when it's in the form of a Hot Fudge Sundae with Wet Walnuts, there isn't anything that can top it! Wet walnuts are walnuts that have been mixed up into a syrupy sauce made with maple syrup and some other flavors. They don't stay crunchy, but they still have a bite to them, sort of chewy/crunchy. There is a place here in Ocean City called Dumser's. You can get a small Hot Fudge Sundae with Wet Walnuts that is to die for! I had one for lunch about 2 years ago. I haven't had one since. But it was by far the best sundae I ever ate. And it wasn't cheap! It was $4.50 for a once scoop sundae! Maybe this summer I'll indulge in another one.

You can even make your own wet walnuts. Pretty easy. There are any number of recipes out there on the net. I have never made them since I would just eat them with a spoon in one sitting. Here is one that is simple and even suggests some adaptations to the recipe.

Coconut Cake. Heavenly! I love coconut, I love cake, I love frosting. This cake has it all! Chocolate cake is yummy, yellow cake is yummy, I even like carrot cake, and spice cake which are both yummy. But Coconut Cake is right there at the top of the cake list. I haven't had for years. Maybe two or three years ago I had a piece at a fund raiser I attended. There were three or four huge logs of coconut cake for the slicing. I had two pieces! It was absolutely delectable! Creamy moist cake with butter cream coconut frosting that wasn't too sweet, and covered with fresh grated coconut. I don't have a recipe to share - I've never made one. I don't make whole cakes at home because I would just get a fork and eat right off the cake dish. So for me and my husband, no baking of cakes in my kitchen anymore. I'll still bake a cake and decorate one for someone else though. I save my cake tasting for events where cake is served and I am lucky enough to have been invited!

Believe it or not, I can't think of another thing to add to this list. Most everything else I love, I eat. With the exception of the Chicken Paprikash, the others are on the "Forbidden Foods" list. But never say never! Once in a while, I still indulge in a piece of coconut cake or a hot fudge sundae.

It was fun to write this blog! Ranting about the foods you love, even if you know you won't be indulging any time soon was fun to do.

What foods would make it to your favorites list?

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Last week, I posted a healthy, low fat, low calorie, high fiber dish for a Reader Request . Sounds boring, I know. But it was really yummy. As a matter of fact, later that same week, I made eight individual packets of the Tilapia With Vegetables in Olive Oil and Tarragon Sauce. I put one large or two small fillets in the packet with the veggies and seasonings and I ate if for lunch every day! It was that good. I have three left, so I froze them for another time.

For this week, I have another reader request who asked for good ways to use Fennel. Fennel is as beautiful growing as it is delicious. It has a light anise flavor and gets very sweet when cooked, sort of like a Vidalia onion, except not oniony. The tops can be eaten too and make a beautiful garnish. I grew some last year and before I could pick it all, it went to seed. So I let the seeds mature on the plant and harvested them. I keep them in a little jar and use them in spice mixes that I make myself, and I've used them in soups and marinades too. They would be wonderful ground up a little and used in home made bread, rolls, scones or cookies. Hmm, that gives me some ideas!

As it happens I love fennel so I've used it a time or two. I have found that it's a vegetable that not a lot of people have tried. It's gaining in popularity and there are a multitude of ways to use it in hot or cold dishes. I'll post a few different ideas for using it but with the warmer weather coming, I'm going to feature a cold dish. Shaved Fennel and Orange Salad. I couldn't find the recipe I used to use. My recipe box is still in the attic - a place I do not venture. So I looked up several on the Internet. None of them appealed separately, so I used what I thought were the best of each of them. Here's is what I came up with. Although the salad itself is fairly unique because so many people don't know about fennel, it's not a unique recipe. There are dozens of fennel salad recipes. Try looking for some others on the Internet. Don't let the seemingly lengthy directions put you off. It's really easy to make. Cut up a few ingredients, mix a dressing, and you are done.


1 med. to large fennel bulb
3 small - medium navel oranges, or buy a jar of orange sections
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped pecans

For the dressing:
1/3 c. olive oil
1 med shallot or 1/2 of a small red onion, minced finely (or 1 t. dried onion flakes)
juice from one orange (plus extra)
1 T orange zest
1 small lemon, juiced (I didn't have fresh so I used store bought, but fresh would be best)
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. finely minced fennel top greens
1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper

For the oranges: if you are using fresh navel oranges, peel two of them with a knife and cut the sections from the pulp. This is called "supreming". Here is a link on how to do that.

(You could also use a jar of orange sections that you can get at the grocery, but again, fresh would be best). Or, instead of cutting out the sections, slice off the peel with a knife so all the white is gone, and just slice them across the sections into 1/4 in slices. Put the orange pieces in a bowl. As they sit there, some juice will accumulate in the bottom of the bowl - pour this into a measuring cup to use for the dressing. Take the third orange and use a zester to get about a tablespoon of zest from it. Now cut it in half and just squeeze all the juice from it into the measuring cup for the dressing.

Chop off the long green stems of the fennel. If you have one, use a mandolin to shave the fennel bulb. If you don't have one, use a good sharp knife to cut it into the thinnest slices you can. Place the shaved fennel into a large bowl.

For the Dressing:
Dice the shallot (or red onion or a little dried onion flake if you don't have an onion) and add it to the measuring cup with the orange juice. Add all the other dressing ingredients and use a fork of a small whisk to mix vigorously until it thickens up. Taste it and re-season with salt or pepper if needed.

Pour the dressing over the fennel, oranges and dried cranberries. Mix well and let sit for about 10 minutes. Stir well. Serve with pecans sprinkled on top as a side dish, or as a lite lunch with some crusty bread and butter. This is a refreshing and unique salad you are sure to enjoy!

In the picture above I served it with Chive and Fontina Risotto Cakes. They were soooo good! Creamy and cheesy on the inside and crispy on the outside. They were wonderful with this Fennel Salad. I'd love to make these and have my girlfriends over for a lunch on the patio with a nice glass of chilly white wine - or two. Here is the link for that recipe from Ina Garten on the Food Network:

One of my favorite ways to use fennel in a warm dish is to slice the fennel and saute in some olive oil. Then I add just a little salt and pepper and use it as a topping on a grilled steak. Luscious!

It's also delicious added to rice. Just slice a whole bulb like you would an onion and saute in olive oil until soft with a little bit of salt and pepper. Then add it to a pot of almost finished rice and let it cook with the rice until the rice is done. Serve it as a side with any meat or fish, or dice up your meat or fish and add it to the rice as a one dish meal.

It can be sliced like an onion from top to bottom, brushed with live oil and grilled as a side for chicken, beef or pork or fish.

Here is a link to a recipe for a wonderfully lite fennel soup:

Here is another fennel and orange salad that has arugula and a honey-lemon dressing.

Here's one for Fennel and Fig Scones! I will want to try these!!!