Friday, October 25, 2013

Everything Comes Together

Tonight's frost warning prompted me to pick the last of the basil leaves from my 5 plants as I got out of my car.  It will be a miracle if the plants aren't dead tomorrow.  So I plucked all the nice leaves off that didn't get frost bitten last night. You can see some of them already got nipped last night. When I came inside I decided I would have a cocktail tonight while I washed dishes.  I had some pre-mixed Cosmopolitans  so I shook one up with some ice.  I had purchased some Swiss cheese and ham on the way home along with a little box of Sesame flavored Melba toasts. 
When I got home, I realized I needed to make some more mayonnaise if I wanted a ham and cheese sandwich tomorrow for lunch.  So all these little incidences came together to make a nibble to have with my cocktail and this lovely little nibble was born. 
I had melba toast, fresh basil, Swiss cheese slices, and a mostly empty jar of home made mayonnaise.  A slice of Swiss cheese folded in three, placed on top of a melba toast that has just a tad of mayo scraped from the jar on it.  The cheese is also topped with a smear of mayo to "glue" the tiny or torn basil leaves that I used to top the cheese cracker.  Sounds really simple doesn't it?  It is!  And it was really, really good for a little nibble with a cocktail.  A tray full of them at a party would make a beautiful tray and  your guests will love these as a light, fresh tasting appetizer, with whatever your are serving as an aperitif! (I had three of them!) They would be wonderful with a red or a white wine, or even a glass of ginger ale!

These days you can buy fresh basil most times of the year at the grocery store.  Try these, you'll love them!  I'm off to make more mayonnaise!

Monday, September 16, 2013


I recently posted on FB that I made a pot of Cauliflower Soup. Since I was asked for the recipe, I'll share it in a blog.  I learned to make this from my Mom a very long time ago.  We had this frequently when we were kids and we all loved it. Not only is it delicious, it is very inexpensive to make. To this day, we still make it just like mom taught us.  So without too much story telling, here are the recipe and techniques for making it.   If you read the recipe first, it may sound a like a lot of steps, but it really is very easy to make.

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite sized florets
4 carrots. sliced (or as many as you like)
2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock (you can use water, but you'll need more seasonings)
2 t.  salt (to taste)

2 T olive oil
2 T flour (use rice flour for gluten free)
1 T paprika
1 - 2 cloves garlic finely minced
2 T parsley finely minced

Add the chicken stock to a soup pot and put over medium high heat. 
Trim the cauliflower  and separate the florets into bite sized pieces and add to the pot.  Discard the outer dark tougher pieces, but save  the lighter green and white bits and pieces that are left from the inner stems.  We will use them. 

I don't peel my carrots if they are nice and smooth, clean carrots, but peel the carrots if you like.  Slice them and add to the stock and cauliflower.  While this comes to a boil and the cauliflower and carrots cook until they are tender you will make a roux.

In a small skillet over medium heat, add the 2 T olive oil and 2 T of flour.  Let this cook and bubble for a minute or two until the flour just begins to take on a little golden color.  Make sure the heat isn't too high.  This can burn in an  instant!  Now add the garlic and the paprika and the parsley all at one time.  Stir for just a moment until the garlic becomes very fragrant.  This can burn very quickly too!  (If you burn it, throw it out and start over.  The flavor is awful if this gets burned.)  After a moment, add this roux mixture to the soup pot and stir.  The soup won't get thick, but it will get some body and beautiful color along with fantastic flavor!  Turn the heat down to medium and let this continue to simmer until the cauliflower and carrots are tender.

This part is optional. My mom didn't do this, but I decided I wanted to use all the bits and pieces cut away from the florets. It won't really change the flavor of the soup but it will add silkiness and more flavor to the soup. I took all the bits and pieces and cut them up very small about the size of peas. Then I put them in a deep bowl with about 1/4 of water and microwaved it until it was very tender.  I transferred it to a deep bowl, added a little more chicken stock (just enough cover the bits and pieces) and used my stick blender to make a puree.  Pour this into the soup to use as a thickener.

The soup is ready when the veggies are tender to your liking.  Add more salt and/or pepper to taste.

(I also added some garlic chives because I had them. Feel free to start with some sautéed onions before you add the chicken stock and cauliflower, use more ore less garlic, more or less parsley.  I've even considered dicing some parsnips to add.)
Another option for this soup is to make some farina dumplings.  I didn't make any this time, but these are absolutely fantastic in this soup!  For those of you who don't know what Farina is, it's cream of wheat cereal!

Crack one egg into a small bowl.  Add enough farina to make a thick mixture approximately as thick as creamy yogurt.  Let this sit in the bowl for about five or ten minutes.  It will get much thicker as the egg soaks into the cream of wheat.  Now take a spoon and drop this by the spoonful into the simmer soup.  I like my dumpling pretty large, but ideal size is about 2 t of batter. These cook up to about the same size as the pieces of cauliflower in the soup. They will expand to about twice the size of the raw batter as they cook. No need to be exact, just try to make them all the same size so they cook evenly - about 5 minutes. 

Enjoy! Let me know how you like this soup!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Something From Nothing - Again

I love to grocery shop, and I wanted to go again today.  But NO!  I had to resist!  I have so much food in the refrigerator that buying more food would be simply - well - it would be stupid.  So I searched around the refrigerator to see what was in there.  3 small zucchinis that were going to be compost in another three or four days.  Several pieces of chicken tenders I made the other night breaded with Panko and Parmesan cheese. (Oh, they were so good!) I also had a small bunch of tomatoes from the garden (small  Romas and Cherry) that I hadn't used yet. The rest of the ingredients are things I always have on hand.  Whenever I have veggies that need to be used up I usually think of Pasta Primavera.

So I assembled all the ingredients on the chopping board and  then put them together to make this delicious pasta dish.

Before I go on with the recipe, I want to share something else.  The pan I used to cook the Pasta Primavera veggies is an enameled cast iron Casserole Skillet.  I have been wanting an enameled cast iron pan FOREVER!  But they are expensive and I would absolutely NOT buy one for more than $200!!!  Then I found one on line for $40.  I wasn't sure what I'd be getting.  But when my Bon Appetite Casserole Pan arrived (free shipping!) I was - well - I'll admit it!  I was elated!  I use it all the time.  If you don't have one, and you like to cook, I'd recommend owning one. The even heat distribution and the ability to cook on very low heat and still keep the heat going is unsurpassed!  Anyway, here's the recipe.


3 small zucchini quartered, seeded and sliced.
10 or 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (to taste) minced as finely as possible
2 Breaded Chicken Tenders (cooked) sliced into 1/4 inch slices (if you don't have any left over breaded chicken tenders, just add two sliced chicken tenders.
1 1/2  cup of uncooked penne pasta, cooked until just about done.
1/4 c. white wine
1/4 c. chick stock
1/2 - 3/4 c marinara (use your favorite sauce - I used some I made myself)
1 T. dried basil leaves, crushed, or about 12 fresh basil leaves chopped finely.
1/2 c. or more of grated Parmesan (I used low fat grated, but feel free to use whatever you like)
Fresh ground black pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

You shouldn't need any salt (except in the pasta cooking water).  The wine, chicken stock and Parmesan Cheese should be enough.
Add as much ground black pepper or red pepper flakes as you like, or don't add any.  I didn't add any tonight even though I love spicy food. It was very satisfying and delicious!

Cook the pasta in salted water until it's not quite done.  While the water boils and the pasta is cooking .....

Slice the zucchini.  Quarter them lengthwise and remove the seeds and slice into 1/4 inch pieces.  Slice the small tomatoes in half.  Mince the garlic.  Arrange this all on your cutting board.

Now over medium heat add about 3 T of olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven.  When the oil is glistening with heat, add the garlic and stir for a minute or two, careful not to burn. 

Drop in all the sliced zucchini, the sliced chicken and the basil.  Stir for 2 or 3 minutes.  Now add the tomatoes and the white whine and the chicken stock and marinara (or your favorite sauce).  Stir to get everything warmed through. 

Now drop in the drained almost cooked pasta.  Add the grated Parmesan Cheese and stir well. 

Taste and make any adjustments in seasoning that seem good to you.  More salt, spice, cheese, more marinara? Make it to your liking!

Serve with a glass of red wine.  Better than most dishes you'll pay $25.00 for in a restaurant!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Quick Stuffed Pepper Soup
Last weekend I made a very large Turkey Meatloaf for clients. I bought 5 pounds of ground turkey instead of the usual three so it was way too much.  So large, all the meat wouldn't fit into my meatloaf pan.  I stuffed the loaf pan with all it would hold and used the extra to  make about 20 meatballs.  I just packed them up and put them into the fridge.  I noshed on a couple of them during the week, but still had a container full leftover.  I didn't feel like Spaghetti and Meatballs today and was feeling a little lazy -   not feeling very creative.  I was listening to a cooking show and they were making Un-Stuffed Cabbage Soup.  Since I had no cabbage, but did have frozen diced green peppers from my garden, I turned my meatballs into Un-Stuffed Pepper Soup!

3 14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of diced green peppers
1 can of water
1/2 c of uncooked rice
1/4 c ketchup
about 15 or twenty meatballs (home made or purchased will work)
Salt to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons)

Take two of the cans of tomatoes and puree them in your blender, pour into a soup pot. 
Add the third can without pureeing them.  Now add all the other ingredients.  Your soup should be a little watery because that rice has to absorb some of the liquid to cook.

Now turn the heat up to medium high and get it started boiling.  As soon as it starts boiling, turn the heat down to very low and let it simmer until the rice is done, stirring occasionally.

How easy is that!!  Makes enough to feed up to six people!

Tip:  Instead of using diced tomatoes and pureeing them, you can use two or three cans of Campbells Tomato soup.  It'll be delicious that way too!  Just adjust your salt because the soup already has salt.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


It's the morning after Brunch with friends at the house, and I'm supposed to be getting ready for a yoga session.  Hmmm.  I've found everything else under the sun to do besides getting showered and out of the house.  Checking e-mails, playing with the cat, opening my new blender/food processor  and reading the instruction book (my old blender  died on me), you name it.  Everything but getting ready.  So I called my friend and confessed I was procrastinating.  So we will skip yoga together  today and go to a movie later. We're going to see the Hobbit.

And now I'm hungry!  Yesterday's Brunch leftovers gave me lots of options.  Among them was an extra dozen eggs and some ham slices.  I had a real taste for an ham and egg sandwich with cheese .
Of course anyone can make an egg sandwich, but how you cook the eggs can make a taste difference.  Most people don't care for their scrambled eggs to be very moist.  I love them that way - they have ever so much more flavor!

I just diced some ham and a little bit of cheddar cheese I had in the fridge.  I also had some fresh frozen chives from my garden so I took out a tablespoon for my eggs.

Crack two eggs into a bowl with just a tiny splash of half and half (fat free) or water - just a teaspoon or so. This liquid helps to make your eggs a little fluffier.  If you prefer them very dense, leave out the liquid.  Beat with a fork them until they are well mixed, but not too foamy,  Mix in the cheese and the chives.

Heat a skillet to medium high, add a little butter and the diced ham.  Cook the ham for just a minute and add the gg mixture.  Stir them until they are beautifully creamy and soft.  (If you must, cook them until they are done, done done.  You can even let the cheese brown a little on the bottom.  This tastes totally different from soft cooked, but it's just as good if that's the way you like your eggs.)   Make yourself some of your favorite toast  and top with your creamy eggs.    You'll never want another egg mc muffin again!

I only ate half so the rest will be my early dinner after the movie. This sandwich reminded me of a Western Omelet Sandwich on Rye that I used to get for lunch at the New York Deli in Cleveland!

Use your favorite ingredients:  sauteed mushrooms or onions, bacon bits, chunks of sausage, green peppers, swiss cheese.  And just this once, try the eggs cooked moist.  You will be amazed at the flavor difference.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Maggaliscious is Back

After more than a year I finally got the urge to write again and share some recipes and food stories.  Life threw me a few curves and put out the flames that fueled my desire for doing this. Those curves have straightened out some and now it's time to write again.  There isn't much that I enjoy more than having friends in to enjoy something delicious to eat! I think I enjoy having them here more than they enjoy coming!

I was out with a few friends for a Birthday dinner (not mine) and during the conversation, I described what I had made for breakfast that day.  They all thought it sounded so good, so I suggested a Brunch at my house.  It turned out to be a small group, but it was so much fun.
The menu:  Poached Eggs with Creamy Cognac Mushrooms, Turkey Bacon, Turkey Sausage, Smithfield Ham Slices, Toasted English Muffins and Fresh Pineapple.   Oh, and let's not forget the Mimosas! OK, here is how it all goes.

Setting up for Mimosas
MIMOSA.  Use Champagne or any sparkling white wine.  One of my guests brought  some Spumanti sparkling wine for us and it was a giant bottle!  She also told me that if you take the handle of a metal spoon and put it into the neck of the bottle after it's opened (but don't let it touch the sparkling wine), it will keep the bottle from going flat.  I can only believe her since the bottle was still bubbly later in the evening.  Fill your flute a little less than half full of orange juice and then fill the glass with sparkling wine.  I prefer an orange juice without pulp for this. (I enjoyed three of them!)

The day before I made the CREAMY COGNAC MUSHROOMS.
2 T butter or olive oil
24 oz. white button or crimini mushrooms
1 small shallot, diced finely
1/2 t. salt
1 T. flour
2 T Cognac or brandy
1/2 to 3/4 c chicken stock
2 T Half and Half (I used fat free)
Clean up the mushrooms by wiping them clean with a paper towel.  You should never run mushrooms under water.  They are very absorbent and will end up being chewy when they are cooked because of all the liquid in them.  Slice all the mushrooms fairly thinly and saute them with the shallot in a fairly hot skillet to evaporate the liquid as they cook, about 3 - 4 minutes.  Add the flour and keep stirring until the flour cooks up a little.  Add another pat of butter if you like.  Now add the salt and the cognac.  Stir well and add half of the chicken stock.  Keep adding chicken stock until you get a nice consistency.  Add the cream and simmer for a minute or two.  Done!  Set aside to warm later.

Now cook up some bacon, sausage or ham, whatever you like and as much as you like.

Next poach or fry or scramble some eggs.  I made them to order for each person since I didn't have a large crowd.  If you have a large crowd, you can make them in advance a little, but be sure not to overcook since you'll want to reheat a little when it's time to eat.   Most of my guests wanted poacched, so I poached 8 eggs.  I made one order of scrambled too, with a little cheese and some salt and pepper.  He liked them quite moist so I got them out of the skillet before they were done, and let them set up a bit more while I finished up the poaching.

Perfect Poached Eggs  There is a lot of discussion about how to poach an egg properly and there isn't really a single way.  I used a large deep skillet so I could do 4 at a time.  Be sure the water is deep enough to cover the eggs. But there are a couple of secrets to poaching a nice egg.  One, I greased the bottom of the pan lightly with butter before filling it with water.  This helped a little so the eggs didn't stick to the pan.  Two, don't drop your eggs into boiling water!  The boiling water will send your egg whites all over the pan.  So once the water boils, turn the water down to a gentle simmer.   Three, use the freshest eggs possible.  Eggs that aren't as fresh will spread out much more than afresh egg.  Crack each egg into a small bowl or shallow cup and very gently pour the egg into the hot water. Let them poach for about 3 - 4 minutes.   Cook them until they are the doneness you like.  You can check by gently pressing on the yolk to see how hard it is getting.  Some people like to put a little vinegar in the water.  Supposedly this helps to set the egg whites.  I prefer not to use the vinegar.   When the eggs are done the way you like, gently use a slotted spoon to remove them to a shallow baking dish for serving.

When the eggs were done, I had already loaded up the empty serving dishes on the buffet counter with the breakfast meats and we were ready to eat. 

I had toasted some English Muffins earlier.  We served it up kind of like Eggs Benedict.  A muffin underneath, Mushroom sauce on the muffin, an egg on top and a nice selection of meat and a little pineapple.  Some coffee and another Mimosa and we started eating and enjoying some conversation. 

Everyone has gone home to enjoy the rest of their Saturday.

We must do this again!