Greek Pasta Salad

I took my homemade dressing which has a Greek vinaigrette taste, and I added some pasta, and some veggies to create a pasta salad that tastes similar to a Greek salad.

It’s a little heartier than just a salad, and it makes a great leftover lunch.

For the dressing:

  • juice from 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ cup olive oil (I use a combination of light and extra virgin)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sun dried tomatoes (in oil) minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

In a mixing bowl, whisk the lemon juice, the oregano, the salt, the pepper, the red pepper flakes, the optional sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon zest, and the garlic. Then add the oil slowly as you continue to whisk. You can make this earlier in the day, and put it in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Then when you are ready to use it, give it a few good shakes, and pour it over the salad right before you serve the salad.

for the pasta salad:

12 oz. rotelle or penne

1 1/2 greenhouse cucumbers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

about 12 kalamata pitted olives, cut in half

a few slices of red onion, diced

1-2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half

about 1 lb. of good feta, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

Cook the pasta till al dente.  Run under cool water.  Place in large serving bowl, and add all the veggies.  Then pour vinaigrette over salad and mix.  Put in fridge until ready to serve.

New Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been wanting  a muffin that’s bigger and tastes more like a bakery muffin.  This is what I came up with. They are fluffy, perfectly sweet, and a little lemony.  These take a little more effort than my original blueberry muffins, and although I do like these, I’m still stuck on my originals.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 heavy cups blueberries dusted with flour
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 scant cup sugar
  • about 1 teaspoon lemon zest (zest from maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of one lemon)
  • optional sugar for sprinkling on muffins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 385 degrees.  Put paper muffin cups in standard 12 muffin tin.  (This makes about 16 muffins though, so you’ll need 2 muffin tins.)

In large mixing bowl, put flour, powder, soda, and salt, and mix gently.  In second bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, yogurt, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry.  Gently fold dry into wet.  When about 1/2 way folded in, add the blueberries, and continue to fold flour and berries in just until you don’t see any more flour.  Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into muffin cups.  Cups will be filled almost to the top.

Bake at 385 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Then reduce the temperature to 350.  Bake about 30-40 minutes until tops are nicely browned but not burnt, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks.  Sprinkle with sugar after muffins come out of muffin for that professional look.

THE MOST FLUFFY BUTTERMILK PANCAKES IN THE WORLD WITH THE TASTIEST BACON!

My son Danny’s best friend Stephanie stayed with us over the weekend, and I had the best time trying to spoil her with some of my cooking.  Saturday morning was a rare day for me with no work, so I made homemade buttermilk pancakes and bacon. Oh my god! The pancakes were the fluffiest, most tender, perfect buttermilk pancakes I’ve ever made or eaten. I have so many recipes for pancakes, but this one came from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.

for the pancakes:

  • 2 cups King Arthur Flour unbleached organic flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I used Friendship 1 1/2 percent milkfat)
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons corn oil for the frying

In large mixing bowl, put dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and mix with fork to blend.  In large measuring cup, measure buttermilk and break egg in and mix with fork, add slightly cooled melted butter and mix with fork to blend.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk by hand for just a bit till there are still a few lumps in there.  If you feel the batter is too thick- which I did- add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of buttermilk and whisk again.

I use a griddle pan that has a nonstick finish.  Heat the pan up for a couple of minutes- medium flame.  Then brush griddle pan with a small bit of oil.  Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and use it as your spoon.  I use a scant 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  Gently scoop batter into measuring cup and then pour it onto griddle.  Since griddle is already hot, it will only take a minute or two to cook the batter.  You will start to see a few bubbles form on your pancakes.  Turn when beautifully browned on bottom.  Take a peek before you flip- if the underside is not browned, do not turn yet! Let cook till browned before you flip.  Flip and then cook on other side till browned.  For next batch, brush pan again with oil and repeat above instructions.

Serve with butter and the best syrup- Whole Foods brand Organic maple syrup!

for the bacon:

Best bacon:  Stop n Shop’s brand- Nature’s Promise  (no nitrates or nitrites) bacon- it comes in a 12 oz. package

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place bacon on half sheet pan or slightly smaller pan.  Try not to overlap slices.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes.  We like ours well- done, so that might take a little more time.  Drain on paper towels and keep covered with paper towels to keep warm till pancakes are ready.

Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

I’m always thinking about what I can make to bring over to my daughter’s house.  She likes me to make things that taste great but aren’t too unhealthy.  I had all the organic ingredients in the house for this, so I threw it together in no time and it was delicious.  The only problem I had was that the piece of it I brought over to my daughter’s house wasn’t big enough.  So, I’ll make it for her again next week but I’ll bring over the whole thing.

  • 2 cups organic yellow cornmeal (I used 1 1/2 cups of Arrowhead Mills and 1/2 cup of Hodgson Mills
  • 1/4 cup Whole Food organic cane sugar (lately I’ve been reducing this to a  1/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder-  Rumsford aluminum free
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk  or- (I didn’t have it on hand, so I used 1 cup whole milk to which I added 1 tablespoon of white vinegar- which sat for about 30 min.)
  • 1/2 cup whole organic milk
  • 1 jumbo large egg
  • 1/2 stick salted organic butter – melted in microwave
  • 2 tablespoons butter for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In measuring cup, pour 1 cup whole milk as a substitute for buttermilk and add the 1 tablespoon vinegar.  Let sit out on counter for 30 min. to thicken.

Put cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt in mixing bowl.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup) in microwave.  In another measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup whole milk.  Pour into another mixing bowl.  Add the remaining 1 cup milk or buttermilk, the egg, and mix with fork. Add the melted butter and mix with fork.   Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients with rubber spatula just until everything is moistened and some of the lumps are gone.

Place pan in oven with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  When butter is melted in pan, take pan out of oven and pour batter in.  Place on center rack of oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until slightly browned on top, bread has come off sides of pan, and toothpick comes out clean.

Serve plain or with butter.

Jewish Apple Cake

My daughter Randi had eaten some homemade apple cake at a friend’s house, and she claimed it was the best apple cake she’d ever eaten.  It turned out the recipe had come from Smitten Kitchen and is called Mom’s Apple Cake.  I basically followed the recipe to a t.  It turned out to be absolutely delicious.

( adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

  • 6 apples (I used a combination of apples)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (squeeze fresh if you have it)
  • 2 3/4 cup flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs (extra large)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Croissant Bread Pudding With Chocolate Chips

I recently watched an old episode of Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello, and he made a luscious looking bread pudding.  I made a few changes to his recipe, and I really loved the results.  What is remarkable about this recipe is that it is so easy to make. Below is my version of his recipe.

  • 12 plain croissants (I bought mine at Costco) (let sit unwrapped for a few hours before you use them)
  • about 15 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 stick butter
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions:

Generously grease a large 10 by 13 pan- sides and bottom- with butter.  Tear croissants into 1 inch pieces- maybe about 4 or 5 pieces for each croissant.  Put all pieces in prepared dish.  Then sprinkle the chips all over.  Toss lightly with your hands or move the some of the top pieces so that some of the chips slip through. 

Prepare the custard by melted the stick of butter in the microwave in a mixing bowl large enough to eventually fit all the custard ingredients.  Let cool a few minutes or stick in the fridge to cool for about 5 minutes.  Then, add the sugar and mix.  Add the cream, and then the eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Whisk till  blended well. 

Ladle the custard mixture over the croissants and chocolate chips.  Push the croissants down lightly with your hands to submerge as best as possible in the custard.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Refrigerate until ready to bake. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake (still covered in foil) in center of oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.   Uncover and let cool for a few minutes and serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

***If you are baking this at home and then bringing it with you, put it on a half sheet pan after it comes out of the oven, keep it covered with the foil until you serve it. 

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing

My grandson Noah’s third birthday was coming up, and my daughter Randi asked me if I wanted to make the cupcakes.  I think she knew what my answer would be.  I just needed to find the perfect recipe.  After reading many blogs about cupcakes, I couldn’t decide between a recipe from the Hershey’s website which Hershey’s calls, “Perfectly Chocolate Cake” and a recipe called “that Chocolate Cake” on the Scharffen Berger web site.  It was then that it dawned on me that they were literally the same, except that on the Hershey’s site, the recipe calls for 2 tsp. of vanilla, and on the Scharffen Berger web site, their recipe calls for no vanilla.  I compromised and settled on using 1 tsp. of vanilla.  I also changed the recipe by using extra large eggs and corn oil rather than canola oil.  No reason- I just grew up in a house where corn oil was used.  I used Hershey’s cocoa as that’s what I’ve got in my pantry-  I have both Hershey’s natural cocoa and Hershey’s special dark cocoa, so I used a combination of both- using a bit more of the natural than the dark.  I was “perfectly” happy with this recipe for the “Perfectly Chocolate Cake.”  This is so easy to make- I think just as easy as a mix- because you are doing it all in one bowl- practically just dumping the ingredients in.  The batter is very thin, so I ladled it into my muffin cups.  The result was very dark chocolate cupcakes, and very light- which was exactly what I was looking or.  My daughter compared the experience of eating these to eating Hostess chocolate cupcakes- only much better!  I used a standard recipe for vanilla icing which I adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.  These cupcakes are amazing!

 Ingredients:

2 cups sugar1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa (I used a mixture of natural and dark)1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 eggs (I used extra large) 

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used corn oil)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe called for 2)

1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 12 muffin pans with muffin cups.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl of standing mixer.   Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans (I used a ladle, but I think next time, I will pour the batter into a large bowl I have which has a spout, so that I can just pour the batter right into the muffin cups.Bake 22-25 min. or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with vanilla frosting (which will  follow shortly).   Vanilla Frosting:1 stick butter, softened4 cups confectioners sugar1/4 cup regular milk 1 teaspoon pure vanillapinch of salt if using unsalted butterDirections:  Put softened butter in mixer.  Mix with paddle.  Add 10x sugar, and mix, add milk, vanilla, and salt, and mix till smooth.  This makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Over the last few months, I’ve been wanting to make my own ricotta cheese.  I read a few recipes for this delicate and delicious cheese, I took a some ideas from a few sources and came up with my own version.  I served mine this weekend at my grandson’s third birthday party, and it was a hit.  It’s super easy to make and as fresh tasting as you can imagine.

Ingredients:

2 quarts whole milk

1 pint heavy cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

for seasoning later:

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2 scallions, both green and white part, minced

about 2 tablespoons minced  fresh chives

1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced

the zest of one lemon, and its juice, too

Instructions:

In a heavy six quart pot, pour the milk, the cream, and the 1 teaspoon salt.  Over medium heat, bring to a full boil, stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching.  When it comes to a boil and bubbles all over, add the lemon juice and turn off the flame.  Let sit for a minute until the mixture curdles and the curds separate from the whey (the liquid).  Set a sieve over a deep bowl and line the sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth.  Pour the mixture through the sieve.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  Then turn the cheese in the cheesecloth into a bowl.  Cover and put in fridge to cool.  After about 30 minutes, take out and add all the seasonings above:  the dill, scallion, chive, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Mix gently with rubber spatula, and refrigerate until you serve with crackers or on toasted slices of baguette.

Eggs and Potatoes in One Pan

I often make one of my specialties, called brenta, which is a recipe of my Grandma Hindes.  Brenta means burned in Yiddish, and these are basically fried potatoes- a Jewish version of hash browns-  but better (you can find this recipe on this site under potatoes). 

To make this, I put about 1 tablespoon of butter in a small nonstick frying pan and melted it on a medium flame.  Then, I put some leftover brenta (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) in the pan and flattened them to cover the bottom of the pan.  Then I cracked 2 extra large organic eggs on top of the brenta.  I broke the yolks a little, then I covered the pan, and cooked over a medium high flame until the eggs were cooked.  I served and ate immediately, sprinkling with a little kosher salt and some fresh black pepper.  This Is as yummy as can be. 

The next time I do this, I may sprinkle some grated extra sharp cheddar on top of the eggs as they cook.  I’m also thinking about making this dish but in a larger quantity for my family or to bring to school for one of our teacher breakfasts.  I’d do it in an oval baking dish, and bake it in the oven on a high temperature – of course add more of everything- maybe about 4 cups of the brenta, 1 dozen eggs, and about 1/2 cup shredded cheddar over all.  I’ll keep you posted once I do this for more people than just myself.

Fastastic Italian Broccoli Or Asparagus With Seasoned Breadcrumbs and Romano Cheese

My friend Lisa gave me this fabulous recipe that her grandmother had made.  I have now made this every week since she gave it to me for my daughter and her family.  This recipe reminds me of the flavors you get with chicken or shrimp oreganata- very tasty and satisfying.  When Lisa gave me the recipe, she told me that she had discovered that when her daughter was really little, she actually liked eating broccoli because, I guess it was disguised by delicious flavors.  So it turned out that my grandson Noah also loved the broccoli this way.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my son Danny to give it a try- that’s how much he hates broccoli anything.  But what makes this such a great recipe is that it is very substantial, and you don’t need as much of your main course, because this is just so amazing and very filling too! Thanks Lisa for sharing this recipe of your grandma’s with me!

As much broccoli or asparagus as you wish (I usually buy about 2 pounds of organic)

Italian seasoned bread crumbs

shredded Romano cheese

garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, dried parsley flakes

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Cut about 1 inch off the bottoms of the broccoli or asparagus, rinse with cold water to wash.  Boil a large pot of water.  Then drop broccoli into boiling water, and boil for 5 minutes.  Dump into collander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. 

Put oven on broil, and put oven rack about 8 inches from the heat element.  Dump broccoli on sheet pan covered with foil in single layer.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper.  Sprinkle bread crumbs heavily over all.  Then sprinkle parsley flakes over all.  Then sprinkle shredded Romano generously over all.  Give another sprinkling of black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Place under the broiler for about 5 -7 minutes till nicely browned, but not burned.   

Do the same with asparagus.