Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cooking Tip #16

"For an easy weeknight meal, save and freeze leftover sauces from previous meals in ice cube trays. The cubes can be reheated in a sauté pan when you need a quick sauce." - David Burke

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Tis the season of sweet potatoes and yams. This is an easy-to-fix recipe that will surprise even those that aren't crazy about sweet potatoes. You can use yams too... if you don't have the potatoes... or use both! The bacon gives it a wonderful, balanced sweet & salt flavor... and like my friend Byron says, "Everything is better with bacon!" It's a perfect side dish for you with roasted Turkey or chicken. Enjoy!

Candied Sweet Potatoes


3 medium
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 strips of bacon, chopped and diced into small pieces
1 pinch of black pepper


1. In a pot of boiling water cook sweet potatoes with their skin on until tender. Cool, peel and dice, then set aside.

2. In a skillet, over medium-high heat, fry diced bacon. Set aside after crispy.

3. Add olive oil and butter to the bacon grease. Stir.

4. Add sweet potatoes, spices and bacon.

5. Reduce heat; let simmer until sugar is melted and the sweet potatoes are glazed.

6. Spoon sweet potatoes into a serving dish.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cooking Tip #15

Tips for Making the Best Burger
by Linda Larsen

Everyone has had a bad burger with that dry, tasteless meat and tough texture. With just a few tricks and tips for making the best burgers, you'll be in demand! Here's how:

1. Start with really good meat. I like using 80/20 ground chuck, which offers best flavor and a juicier hamburger that isn't too fatty. You could buy some chuck and ask the butcher to grind it for you for the freshest meat.

2. Don't handle the meat too much. Overhandling will make the burgers tough.

3. A panade, or mixture of bread crumbs and milk, will add moisture and tenderness to the meat when the burgers are cooked well-done.

4. Add a tablespoon of water to the meat along with the seasonings when you mix them in. If you are adding a lot of ingredients to the meat, combine all of them first, then add the meat and mix just to blend.

5. Gently form the meat into patties about 3/4" thick. Place the patties on waxed paper and press slightly into the center of each with the bottom of a drinking glass. This will stop the burgers from puffing up when they're grilled.

6. Cook the burgers over medium coals that have an even gray ash covering.

7. Don't press down on the meat when the burgers are on the grill. That will just press out moisture and you'll end up with dry burgers.

8. Cook the meat to 160 degrees F. The temperature will rise to 165 degrees while you are adding the toppings. This is the minimum safe temperature for ground beef or any ground meat.

9. In the last minute of cooking, place cheese on the burgers if using, and cover the grill to melt.

10. Be sure to place the cooked burgers on a clean platter; don't use the one that transported the raw meat. I even like to use a fresh spatula to remove them from the grill just to be extra safe.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Portuguese White Beans

One of the interesting facts about me that few people know is that I'm a quarter Portuguese. My Grandma Joyce is full-blooded Portuguese and a fantastic cook. One of the dishes she's famous for in our family is her AMAZING Portuguese beans. It's certainly one of her signature dishes and one that I absolutely love. I wanted to explore making my own batch of beans and I discovered this great recipe online at foodnetwork.com by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. I think my Grandma used pinto beans instead of white beans... but I'm sure either would be fine. This recipe is truly delicious and worth the preparation time. Chef Lagasse must have learned how to make this from his mother, who was Portuguese. It's authentic cooking.

My Tip - Add 3/4 cup of red wine and 1 can of diced tomatoes with the broth mixture.

Portuguese White Beans
by Emeril Lagasse

1 pound navy beans, washed and sorted
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1 pound chorizo or linguica, sliced
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
4 cups water


* Place the beans in a large bowl and add enough water to cover by 3 inches. Soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans well.

* Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon is crisp and has released all of its fat, 5 to 6 minutes.

* Add the chorizo to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. Using a spoon, remove any excess fat from the pan, leaving 2 to 3 tablespoons only. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, paprika, crushed red pepper and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved beans, the chicken broth, and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the beans, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until very tender, usually 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water if necessary to keep the beans moist yet not soupy. When the beans are very tender, season with salt, to taste, and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes before serving. Serve the beans family style.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cooking Tip #14

"For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight."
- Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

One of my favorite celebrity chefs is Ina Garten - the author and host of the Food Network show, The Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are easy to follow and always full of well balanced flavors. Here's her recipe of Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli that I prepared recently for dinner. This absolutely to DIE for! On top of being delicious, vegetarian and relatively healthy, it's also very simple and take no time to throw together. Ina says that even people who don't normally like broccoli will enjoy this recipe... and I'll second that. Lemon juice, garlic and dry roasted pine nuts... topped with a nice aged Parmesan cheese... that just makes my mouth water.

Note - If you've never cooked with pine nuts (like myself prior to this recipe), I'll warn you that sometimes they can be expensive... depending, of course, on where you buy them. They were $17.95 per pound at the Farmers Market I went to... which scared me until I realized that a pine nut is extremely light... so an entire pound would be waaay too many. You don't need very many for this recipe - about a handful.

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli


4 to 5 pounds of broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Good olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.

3. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil.

4. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

5. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

6. Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil.

7. Serve hot.

To see the video of Ina Garten preparing this recipe, click here.