Hawaiian Pineapple Crockpot Chicken

On Sundays, I rarely want to make plans – I like to see how I feel as the day goes along – and many Sundays I don’t feel like spending hours in the kitchen. Here’s a great recipe for those lazy Sundays…or Mondays…or

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1 package (approx. 1.5 lb) boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 6 oz can pineapple juice

1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup BBQ sauce

3/4 cup fresh pineapple, chopped into half inch chunks

Place all ingredients into a crock pot on LOW for 6 hours. I serve this with red pepper brown rice mixed with 2 tbsp mango salsa. This dinner is so easy and delicious you will want to make it all the time. You can also make this as a party appetizer – just chop the chicken into two inch chunks before cooking and serve right in the crock pot. Aloha!

 

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Manicotti with Fresh Basil and Parsley

Manicotti

Cravings…everyone has cravings, right?  I have had a craving for this dish since we moved to sunny California three years ago. California is a wonderful place to live – the ocean, the mountains, the weather, the wine….a foodies’ paradise too, with all of the fresh fruits and vegetables available year round. They have some stellar restaurants here. The one thing I haven’t found is a real authentic Italian restaurant. I’m not talking “new american” Italian cuisine – I’m looking for an old school, dimly lit place, the menu filled with old family recipes hand carried over on the boat by great grandma Maria.  The kind of place they would film “The Godfather Part 4” in (hey you never know…..) I have been to several wonderful old school Italian restaurants in New York City and also in St. Louis in an area known as “The Hill” where there are a couple dozen amazing and authentic Italian restaurants.

This recipe is an authentic manicotti made with crespelle (italian crepes), not those ridged tubular noodles called manicotti shells in the store. It takes some time but it is actually very simple to prepare – and the results are so worth it! The crespelle are made just like french dessert crepes – the technique takes a little practice – but after a few tries you will have your crepes all ready to stuff with the ricotta mixture.

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The photo is a little blurry because I’m moving the pan around…you have to get the crepes very thin and just lightly browned. I always make the sauce first, then the crepes, then the filling.  Bake 20 minutes in the oven and you have one amazing dinner.

Ingredients:

Marinara Sauce

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped fine

2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic (cloves or the jar kind found in the produce section)

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons fresh italian parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style, divided

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

salt to taste

Crespelle Batter

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Ricotta filling

1 8 ounce container part skim ricotta cheese

8 ounces shredded mozarella, divided

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh italian parsley

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and sautee until just lightly browned. Add the crushed tomatoes, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring often.  (you will be making the crepes and filling while this is cooking)  Add the wine, salt, pepper and herbs and simmer 10 more minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon basil for garnish.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients for ricotta filling, reserving 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Store in refrigerator until you finish the crepes.

Make the crepes by whisking together the eggs, milk and slightly cooled melted butter in a chilled mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the flour and salt until the mixture is smooth. Lightly coat an 8 inch nonstick skillet with olive oil and place the pan over medium heat. With a 1/4 cup measuring cup or small ladle, pour the batter in the middle of the pan. Turn the pan at an angle and shake from side to side to coat the entire bottom of the pan with batter. Cook only about 30 seconds, or until lightly browned on bottom. Turn crepe over with a large spatula and cook 20 – 30  seconds more. Stack the crepes on a plate lined with waxed paper between each layer.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan with with 2 cups of the marinara sauce. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta about an inch from the end of each crepe. Roll evenly into a tube, keeping the filling even as you roll. Place seam side down in the sauce filled pan. Repeat with the remaining crepes. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over top of the manicotti, then sprinkle remaining mozarella over top. Cover loosely with foil and bake approximately 20 minutes, until the sides of the pan are bubbling. Let sit 10 minutes to firm up the filling. Top each serving with reserved fresh basil.

Strawberry Cottage Pudding Shortcake

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I was driving down Highway 65 today and I saw the first “fresh strawberries” sign of the spring by the road. I tried not to spin too much gravel as I quickly did a U turn and pulled off to the side of the road.  Let me tell you, if you have never had fresh-picked-that-morning strawberries from the farmer who grew them, then you are missing out on a foodie flavor treat that simply cannot be replicated. The strawberries that are grown commercially are much sturdier and firmer since they have to travel well and stay fresh for at least 10 days in the store. They are usually picked greener too. Its like the difference between a home grown tomato and the ones you get in the produce section of Safeway. This is a wonderful shortcake recipe that is a variation of  the original Cottage Pudding Cake that was featured in the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook” published in 1966. The original Fannie Farmer Cookbook was published in 1896 (wow) and it has been updated and revised over the years. I am not sure why the cake was called Cottage Pudding Cake – maybe someone knows that story and you will share with me.  I found the recipe and I have been experimenting with the basic recipe. This shortcake is like a big sweet biscuit with a wonderful buttery vanilla flavor and a little bit of almond that really brings out the flavor of the berries. If you don’t want to buy buttermilk just for this recipe, then you can just substitute all milk instead of 1/2 and 1/2. I ran out of milk last time and I used all buttermilk and it turned out wonderfully! It is really important to macerate the berries for a few hours if you can on the countertop.  To macerate strawberries, all you have to do is sprinkle sugar on them, which draws out their juices so they become soft and sweet and deliciously saucy. This is the secret to the perfect deliciousness that is this strawberry shortcake recipe!

Ingredients:

2 cups minus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 egg

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (you can substitute good vanilla extract)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch round layer cake pan with flour based nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl; set aside. Beat the shortening and sugar on medium speed with an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this step – it takes 3-5 minutes to get the right consistency. Add the egg, almond extract and vanilla bean paste and combine. Pour in the flour mixture alternatively with the milks, mixing on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. This is a lightly browned, buttery sugary shortbread that is ready for your fresh berries!

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Clean, de stem and slice 2 quarts of fresh strawberries. Place in bowl with 1/8 cup water and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Let sit on countertop, stirring occasionally, for a few hours to macerate. To assemble, slice one 3″ piece of cake and split in half lengthwise. add 3/4 cup berries and top with your favorite whipped cream. I saw another farm stand on the way home and the cherries are ripe now for the whole month of May. Stay tuned for the most amazing cherry cloufiti recipe ever…..

Bananas Foster Aloha

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This was meant to be a week of sharing recipes that are made with wine- but it was a busy week at work, and its already Friday – so in keeping with the theme (and the sign in my kitchen) I am instead sharing a recipe made with rum. (its all alcohol, right?) This is a twist on a classic bananas foster recipe that I made while I was in Kauai using some great local ingredients – macadamia nut ice cream and coconut flavored rum in place of the vanilla ice cream and dark rum traditionally used.

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I did not think it was possible to improve on bananas foster, but this gives it a really special flavor and kick.

The pictures aren’t that great –  sorry but the lighting in the rental condo wasn’t the best – but this dessert tastes at least 20 times better than it looks!

Ingredients:

6 ounces butter

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

juice of 1/2 blood orange

3 bananas

2 ounces coconut rum

macadamia nut ice cream

Melt butter over medium heat then add brown sugar and orange juice, stirring constantly. The sauce will carmelize and be the consistency of maple syrup. Slice bananas in half, then split in half lengthwise. Add to sauce and coat well. Now comes the fun part -the first time I saw this I was probably 10 or 12 and I was so impressed!  Pour the rum over the sauce and light it up — you will get a gorgeous flambé! Keep shaking the pan back and forth until the flame goes out. If you are having a dinner party (or just cooking for a special date) this is very impressive!

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Serve immediately over a couple of scoops of ice cream. Enjoy!

TIP: When I am having more than one or two people and making a larger batch, I pre scoop and freeze the ice cream in individual bowls. This also helps keep the ice cream from melting too fast while you are serving everyone.

Classic Lasagna Bolognese with red wine – mangia!

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To kick off my “recipes with wine” week I am starting out with my best – the mother of all italian dishes, in my opinion. Some people (like my hubby) like their Chicken Parmesean, or traditional spaghetti….but for my money this is the best of the traditional italian dishes. I know there are as many lasagna recipes as there cooks in Rome…maybe more.  This is made with beef (not sausage or ground pork) red wine and fresh herbs. The great thing about using fresh herbs in the winter when it is cold and miserable out is that you get a wonderful reminder of your summer garden while infusing this dish with really amazing flavor. Since fresh herbs are so easy to find year round ( I keep pots of italian parsley and basil on my covered porch or in my kitchen if it really gets cold here) and I use them all winter.

This does take some time to prepare and assemble but its not difficult – just a bit time consuming. After you taste it you will know it is definitely worth it! Bonus – it tastes even better the next day!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)

2 tablespoons minced garlic (I use the fresh chopped garlic in jars in the produce section)

1  1/4 pounds lean ground beef

1 2 pound 3 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil, divided

1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano

3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1/4 cup red wine

1/2 pound mozarella cheese

20 ounces fresh ricotta cheese

2 eggs, beaten

12 ounces lasagna noodles

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil and sautee chopped onion until lightly browned. Add the ground beef and brown. Stir in tomatoes and garlic, and simmer covered 30 minutes. Add salt, peppers, sugar, 1 teaspoon basil,  oregano and red wine. Simmer 20 more minutes. This sauce will be so good looking and smell so good – actually your whole kitchen will be smelling pretty amazing right about now….

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In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, eggs and 2 tablespoons of the fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the lasagna in a large pot according to package directions, adding salt and some olive oil to the water. Stir often and do not overcook or noodles will be too fragile. Drain and seperate noodles, and lay out flat on a foil lined baking sheet drizzled with olive oil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13 baking pan and start to build lasagna. Arrange 4 noodles side by side at the bottom of the baking dish, then add a layer of sauce. Drop ricotta mixture by heaping tablespoons over sauce, then sprinkle with mozarella. Repeat for all three layers.

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Sprinkle parmesan and remaining mozarella over top of dish. Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes until bubbling hot and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley and basil and serve hot.

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I serve this with my crusty artisan bread and a green salad. I know it is a lot of work – but there is so much food here that you will be able to eat for days…maybe all week!

Mangia!

cooking with wine…and rum…and….

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I love this little sign I bought on Etsy – it was supposed to be a gift for a “secret santa” exchange but it arrived too late so I repurposed it for my kitchen. I added the cork and the wire/twig hangar and it sits right above my cooktop. I am working on a couple of recipes that have red wine in them – the first one is this awesome lasagna I made last night. Recipe to follow…..

Purple Sticky Rice with Mango

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Long before someone coined the term “foodie” I knew I was one. According to Wiki a foodie is “a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude.”

I have always enjoyed dining experiences that I feel I cannot replicate at home – one of the main reasons I have always enjoyed eating at Thai restaurants. The specialized ingredients and kitchen equipment were more time and money than I was willing to invest to have an authentic Thai meal at home. My two favorite Thai places are on opposite sides of the country  – Thai 99 II in Charlottesville, Virginia www.thai99usa.com and Thai Chili in Rocklin, California www.thaichili-rocklin.com . They are very different but are both wonderful because the food is really fresh and tasty and the staff is always so wonderful to us. The common denominator is they both have amazingly good sticky rice with mango – my all time favorite dessert (tied with bananas foster but I like to make bananas foster at home. ) Thai 99 introduced me to the dish, and Thai Chili introduced me to the purple (or black) rice version. Sometimes, once you get to the restaurant, the seasonal nature of mangoes might mean that they weren’t on the menu and I would be disappointed at the end of an amazing meal.  After a lot of trial and error, I made this – an easy and delicious choice when you don’t feel like going out. This recipe is a combination of the traditional Thai method adapted to my cooking style and what I own as far as kitchen equipment. I also use “light” coconut milk because I honestly can’t taste the difference bwetween that and the regular, and if I want to have seconds I don’t feel quite so guilty about it  🙂

Ingredients:

1 cup purple or black sticky rice (find at local asian markets or on amazon.com)

1  14 ounce can light coconut milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons raw shredded coconut, divided

2 ripe mangoes

Directions:

In large covered heavy pot or dutch oven, add 1 cup cold water to the rice. Let soak for one hour to soften. The water will just cover the rice.

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Make the coconut sauce by whisking together 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves in the mixture. Set aside.

Cook the rice by adding 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup of the coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of the coconut. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.Turn heat down to low and cook uncovered 20-25 minutes.

Slice the mango by first cutting off  1/2 inch  of the top and bottom, then slicing each side starting just past the seed. Remove the skin with a paring knife and slice into lengthwise strips.

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After 15-20 minutes, the rice should be sticky and soft.Pour half the coconut sauce in, fluffing and stirring with a fork. Add remaining coconut sauce and stir well. It will be soupy – let stand 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Lightly toast remaining coconut in a saucepan on the stove.

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Now its time to serve this amazing dessert! Ladle a half cup or so of the rice on a dessert plate, then place 4 or 5 slices of the mango over top of the rice. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and dig in!

OPTION: for a more “authentic” version, substitute 3 tablespoons sesame seeds in place of 3 tablespoons coconut. Lightly toast in saucepan and sprinkle over dessert.