Tag Archives: easy

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Port Sauce and Strawberries

If you’ve only ordered panna cotta in a restaurant, you need to make this. If you can make Jello, you can do this. It’s closely related in terms of preparation.

Panna cotta is an eggless Italian custard. It’s fairly plain but is often served with a nice fruit sauce that enhances the flavor.

I created this red, white and blue sweet treat for the Fourth of July.

Since I needed something blue for my theme, I decided to make a blueberry port sauce to pour over and it’s wonderful. Strawberries add a touch of red and texture.  It’s very nice.

For the photos, I styled my panna cotta two ways: in a champagne flute, which is beautiful; and then in a star glass dish that I bought from Dollar Tree.

 

DSC_0709 (2)

 

You can also serve them in ramekins which is more traditional.

It’s simple and perfect for a couple or small family because there’s only five servings. Enjoy!

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Port Sauce and Strawberries

Makes 5 servings

1/2 cup whole milk

1 ½ envelopes (.25 ounces each) unflavored gelatin

2 cups of heavy whipping cream (1 pint)

½ cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sauce:

1 pint blueberries

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

3 tablespoons port

1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

For the panna cotta: place whole milk in a bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it. Set aside for 3 minutes.

Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the tiny seeds inside into a heavy bottomed pot. The seeds contain the vanilla flavor. Next add the heavy cream and sugar and heat it over medium or medium-low heat. You don’t want to rush it because you don’t want the cream to curdle. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Then pour the gelatin/milk mixture into the cream. Stir until gelatin is dissolved which takes about 3 minutes.

When it’s done, turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract.

Pour ½ cup of mixture into ramekins or champagne glasses, whatever you plan to use to serve the dish.  Refrigerate for 4 hours.

For the port sauce, heat blueberries, water and sugar in a small pan over medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens. When it’s done, stir in the port.   For a mild port flavor, use 2 tablespoons. If you want more pronounced flavor, add 3 or even 4. I used Taylor Port which is readily available, inexpensive and works wells in this recipe.

Refrigerate the port sauce until it’s time to use. Note, you can also serve the port sauce warm but if you decide to do this make it right before serving.

Before serving, top each panna cotta with blueberry port sauce and fresh strawberries.

DSC_0683 (2)

 

Advertisements

A Fourth of July Cake the Crowd will Remember

Heavenly. That is how I describe this cake. First, I took Vanilla Oreo’s and lined the bottom of a pan. Then I topped those with sweet shredded coconut. I whipped together cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar and then blended that with a package of cheesecake flavored pudding and a package of white chocolate pudding and whipped topping.

The result is sweet, creamy, light and refreshing. This is a cake your family will remember this holiday weekend.

There’s a funny little story that goes along with this cake that I shared in my column this week. Here it goes:

One of the joys of being a parent is passing on traditions.

I was so excited to write this patriotic desserts column because I planned to create them with my 3-year-old daughter Bella.

Growing up, every holiday was festive in our home.  The traditional American flag cake was a Fourth of July favorite.  Typically, we’d make a white cake topped with whipped cream and then decorate it with blueberries and strawberries but since I was writing a column, I wanted to create something special.

I came up with a Flag Sheet Dessert which was inspired by coconut cream pudding and dirt cake (a Halloween tradition).

I thought my daughter would be excited to help me but after placing two blueberries, she was done. I finished the cake.

But the kicker was when I proudly displayed the finished product and she looked at my flag and told me I had done it wrong. The background should be blue and the stars white so she told to make it again with cream on top this time. She even picked up a flag napkin I’d been using as a prop to prove she was right. I laughed my head off.

During my photo shoot, she grew jealous of the attention I was paying to the desserts and came over and tried to sit on my lap, then took the red dish cloth I was using and placed it on her head like a hat to make me laugh.

DSC_0704 (2)

The day didn’t turn out as I expected, but luckily the desserts did.

 

Flag Sheet Dessert

Serves 12

1 package Vanilla Oreos

1 cup sweet shredded coconut

1 (3.4 ounce) package cheesecake flavored pudding

1 (3.4 ounce) package white chocolate pudding

1 package cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (8 ounce) carton whipped topping, divided in half.

½ cup fresh blueberries

1 pound strawberries

First, line a 9 x 13 inch pan with vanilla Oreos. Then sprinkle shredded coconut over the cookies.

In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together both pudding mixes, milk and half of the container of whipped topping.

Then beat together the cream cheese mixture and pudding mixture. Spread it over the bananas. Top it with the last half of the whipped topping. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or more. This can be made a day in advance but shouldn’t be decorated until the day you are going to serve it because the strawberries may bleed into the topping.

Chicken Sandwich with Curried Mayo, Mango and Banana

I have not posted in forever, but I’ve been so busy. I just got back from Jamaica and for the next few days, want to share some culinary inspiration from the country. I love Jamaican curry so I decided to craft a rotisserie chicken sandwich that captures flavors from the island: curry, mango and banana.

I am crazy about this sandwich and it takes 10 minutes to prepare so it’s perfect for a busy night (like my nights have been).

I hope you enjoy it! I will be back to posting this week.

Chicken Sandwich with Curried Mayo, Mango and Banana

Serves 2

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 rolls or ciabatta rolls

1 large rotisserie chicken breast, sliced

1 large mango, peeled and sliced into thick slices

1 small ripe banana, peeled and sliced

Slices of red or green bell pepper (desired amount)

Handful of cilantro

Salt to taste

Stir together the mayonnaise, curry powder, onion and set aside.

Pull the chicken breast off the rotisserie chicken and cut it into slices that will fit on your bread.

Peel and slice your mango and banana. Slice a desired amount of red or green bell pepper.

Slice the bread in half and generously spread curried mayonnaise mixture on both sides. Place the chicken on the bottom and top it with mango. Place the sliced bananas on the top layer pressing into the mayonnaise using the mayonnaise as a glue to keep them in place.

Add a dash of salt to the banana. Top with sliced bell pepper and some fresh cilantro. Close and consume.

Healthy Chocolate Pudding- it’s dairy free, gluten free and still fabulous

A healthy chocolate pudding?

Yes. I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can’t. My husband is a teacher and one of his colleagues brought this to a meeting. He came home and told me I had to get the recipe for this rich, incredible chocolate pudding.

What makes it so special? Avocados.

The basis for the pudding is actually avocados but you cannot taste them because the flavor is disguised by cocoa powder. This recipe is easy to make- all you do is blend the ingredients.

You can serve this chocolate pudding for dessert or even breakfast (for those of you who must start your day with something sweet). This is a healthier alternative to cinnamon rolls or doughnuts. While the pudding is high in fat and calories, it’s an excellent source of fiber (16 grams), potassium (contains 36 percent of DRV), and contains 7 grams of protein and 24 percent of your daily vitamin C and iron needs.

If you compare that to a chocolate doughnut which is high in fat and calories too, the doughnut has virtually no redeeming properties- it’s high in sodium, has almost no fiber, no potassium and no vitamin C.

And if you eat it with sliced strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, or a banana, you boost the health benefits and already have one serving of fruits and one serving of vegetables for the day.

I adapted the original recipe, cut out some of the sugar and dairy (replaced it with almond milk), and came up with this version.

The key is it needs 8-12 hours to marinate so make it before you go to bed. It’s shockingly good. If you don’t want it for breakfast, it makes a great dessert.

 

pudding vertical

Chocolate  Pudding

2 ripe avocadoes

½ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk

4 to 6 tablespoons agave syrup

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Serving suggestions: serve with sliced banana, ¼ cup pomegranate seeds, ½ cup sliced strawberries or 1 teaspoon orange zest.

 

Slice avocados in half and remove pit. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the avocado. Place in a food processor with cocoa powder, almond milk, agave and vanilla extract. I start with 4 tablespoons and add more sweetener if needed.

Pulse until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours before serving.

Serve with fresh fruit.

 

Calories: 411; Fat: 23.7 g; Cholesterol 0; Potassium 1269 mg; Carbs 57g;  Fiber 16.3g; Sugar 1.5 g. Protein 6.8 g. Also contains 24 percent of DRV of vitamin C and iron.

Lighter Artichoke Dip- 1,000 calories and 100 grams of fat lighter! But still delicious!

I adore bubbly, gooey delicious artichoke dip slathered on French bread.

It’s my weakness at any party. And  I make an incredible version but it is so unhealthy- it contains 1 cup of mayonnaise and 3 cups of cheese.

artichoke dip up close

I knew my recipe was unhealthy but had no idea how bad it was until recently when I wrote a food column about it ran the ingredients through a database and my jaw dropped: it contains 2,092 calories and 203 grams of fat.

Ouch. I calculated for the entire dish instead of per serving because you never know how much people will eat.

I’m determined not to gain weight this holiday season and that means that dip is out. I am at an age where weight doesn’t come off like it used to so I am going to be more careful which means revamping some of my favorite recipes.

So I lightened up the dip and the results were AMAZING. AMAZING. I am so proud of it. I can’t believe it saves that many calories and that much fat and still tastes this fantastic. Look how gooey it still is

artichoke cheese

.   Just by switching from artichokes packed in oil to canned ones packed in water, I saved 36 grams of fat. Then, I used light mayonnaise which slashed 39 grams of fat and 460 calories. I cut out 1 ¼ cups of cheese, too. Whenever you remove fat, you have to add extra flavor so I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and garlic salt. Also, I used Parmesan because that’s a flavorful cheese.  The new dip has 1,130 calories for the entire dish which is made in a pie pan and 84 grams of fat (that’s 119 grams less of fat).

 

 

I hope you enjoy it.

Light Artichoke Dip

1 (14.5-ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, thoroughly drained and patted dry

2/3 cup Duke’s light mayonnaise (or your favorite brand)

1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese

¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the first five ingredients until combined. Place in a shallow pie pan. Top with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve warm with French bread or crackers.

artichoke dip on crackers

 

Still have turkey leftovers? Try Buffalo Turkey Dip

My Buffalo Turkey Dip is awesome and great for a party or watching the football game.

I make a Buffalo Chicken dip all the time and basically swapped out the chicken for turkey as a way to use those turkey leftovers.

The wing sauce is strong so it’s a good way to use a mix of white and dark meat if you don’t like dark meat because it helps cover up the taste.

It’s simple, easy and delicious.

Buffalo Turkey Dip

Serves 5 as an appetizer

2 cups chopped leftover turkey

1 to 1 ½ cups Buffalo wing sauce (depends on how spicy you like it and how dry the turkey is)

12 ounces of cream cheese (1 ½ blocks)

½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 1/4 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese mix

Celery sticks for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss together the turkey and wing sauce. Stir until all the turkey is coated.

In a pie plate or 8 by 8 inch dish, spread the cream cheese over the bottom. Then top with the turkey. Sprinkle both types of cheese over the turkey and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese bubbles on top.

Serve with thick slices of celery sticks for a low carb option. If you don’t care about carbs, serve with tortilla chips or toasted French bread.

Vertical wing dip

Use those Thanksgiving leftovers-and a great soup recipe

The day after Thanksgiving brings the same conundrum every year: what to do with all the leftovers.

My family goes overboard and we have enough food to last five or six days. In the past, I have embraced this tradition, but this year I am trying to shy away from the onslaught of calories and carbs that continues after Turkey Day. I’ve shed nearly 15 pounds since July and my goal is not to gain any weight through the holidays. So this soup recipe is a lower carb option- although I have plenty of suggestions on how to use leftovers for people who are not watching their weight.

First, let’s get to the suggestions.

Last year, my good friend and I had a “leftover” party the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Three friends brought leftovers and dishes we had repurposed using leftovers (like casseroles and soup).  We drank wine, talked and then split up the dishes which was great because we all had new food.  Even though I went home with more dressing, it wasn’t my traditional dressing recipe so it broke up the monotony of the meal. I highly recommend it.

One dish my family always makes too much of is mashed potatoes. If you can’t use all the potatoes now, freeze them. When you warm the potatoes up, you will need to revive them with a little milk and butter. The best way to defrost mashed potatoes is in the refrigerator overnight.

Mashed potatoes are also an excellent thickening agent in soups. You can take a classic soup that calls for sliced potatoes- like potato leek soup, or sausage kale potato soup—and use mashed potatoes instead. The texture is different but the flavor is great.

I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes in dishes that usually use rice. For example, instead of serving gumbo or chili on rice, we’ve served it on mashed potatoes which mellows out any heat.

You can use mashed potatoes to make potato bread or as a binding agent in recipes.

Shepherd’s pie is one of the classic ways to use a lot of mashed potatoes.  I make an incredibly easy version: First, I sauté 1 pound of ground beef and mix it with a can of Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce. Then I layer the meat in a 9- inch by 9-inch baking dish, top it with green beans, peas, mashed potatoes, about 1 cup of shredded cheese and bake it at 400 degrees until the cheese melts (about 20 minutes). This dish is comforting, delicious and a good way to use up leftover green beans and peas, too.

If you have leftover dressing use it to make a crust on a casserole; sprinkle it on top of stuffed mushrooms before you bake those; or if the dressing is dry enough, you can put it in the food processor and transform it into breadcrumbs to use in meatloaf or meatballs. You can also use dressing in an overnight sausage breakfast casserole supplementing some of the bread in the recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for 6 cups of sliced bread, use 2 cups of dressing and 4 cups of bread and proceed as usual.

Leftover cranberry sauce makes a great glaze for pork chops. I mix 1 ½ cups of cranberry sauce with ½ cup of orange juice and 2 garlic cloves and then use that as a simmering sauce for pork chops (after first browning the chops).

Other ways to use cranberry sauce is to stir it into plain yogurt or smoothies. Mix cranberry sauce and cream cheese and stuff that into refrigerated crescent rolls before you roll them up and bake them. When the rolls are done, sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar. You can serve a smear of cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich or a ham sandwich with extra sharp cheddar cheese.

The turkey is the easiest thing to use because you can substitute turkey for chicken in many recipes and then you can always make a variety of turkey soups.  Soups and casseroles are particularly good uses of turkey is the bird has dried out.

Now for my lower carb recipes: I made an incredibly easy Sausage, Artichoke and Turkey Soup in the slow cooker that has tomatoes, artichokes and oregano. It’s delicious .Give it a try.

sausage artichoke turkey soup

Sausage Artichoke and Turkey Soup

Serves 5-6

1 pound hot Italian sausage (or sage if you don’t like spicy things)

1 extra large white onion

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (15-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained

1 (6-ounce) jar of artichoke hearts in oil, drained

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in its liquid

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups chopped leftover turkey

In a skillet, sauté onion and sausage together at the same time. Add the oregano and Italian seasoning when the mixture has cooked about halfway.

When the sausage is done, transfer the meat mixture (and the rendered fat) to a slow cooker and add all the other ingredients except the turkey. Set the slow cooker on the 4 hour setting and after 3 hours, add turkey. Cook one more hour, stir and serve.

 

sausage artichoke chicken soup