Monday, December 24, 2012

CHRISTMAS LEMONS


In January of this year, when we harvested our first few lemons, I wrote about our Meyer Lemon tree.  After  the first fruits were picked, the tree started budding, then blooming, then setting more fruit.  Our second harvest produced 32 large, juicy, slightly tart lemons.  I see a lemon meringue pie in our future.

This is what our tree looked like in January:

This is what it looked like during harvest:

It's already starting to bud again.  We bought a Persian lime tree online in May since the specimens from Lowe's were not to our liking.  It's been growing like crazy, but no buds yet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MY FAVORITE THANKSGIVING RECIPES


If you're looking for recipes for this year's Thanksgiving dinner, I have some for you.  I put together a list of my favorite recipes, with photos.  Just click on the links to get the tried-and-true recipes.  Read more...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MY FAVORITE WINTER SQUASH RECIPES


Butternut and acorn squashes are great, but do yourself a favor.  Buy some hubbard or buttercup squash when you can.  You may pay more, but the flavor difference is so worth it.  Hubbard and buttercup squashes are darker orange inside, and flavors are more defined and intense, making  them perfect for pumpkin pies or pumpkin soups.  If you need ideas for how to use them, or other winter squashes, I've collected 9 of my favorite recipes.  Read more....

Monday, October 22, 2012

LOWER-FAT CRANBERRY-ORANGE MUFFINS WITH WALNUT CRUMB TOPPING



Here's a muffin to make you smile.  It's lower in fat than the original version, and whole wheat flour in the tender, crispy topping adds some whole grains to the mix.  You can make this muffin even healthier if you use a sugar substitute.  The flavors are spot on, and you'll want these for breakfast, dessert or anytime in between.

Lower-Fat Glazed Cranberry-Orange Muffins with Walnut Crumb Topping
Inspired by Food & Wine Magazine, March 2001
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

TOPPING:
1/2 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar (or 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals stevia)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

MUFFIN:
1-1/4 cups dried, sweetened cranberries
4 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 Tbsp. water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals stevia)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, or 1/4 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest, packed
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 Tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt + enough milk to make 1 cup (or 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. orange extract

CRANBERRY-ORANGE DRIZZLE:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. reserved juice from cranberries

Prep:  Combine cranberries, juice and water in small saucepan; heat to boiling; cover pot, remove from heat.  Let cranberries sit for 30 minutes to plump.  In the meantime, set out all muffin ingredients to bring to room temperature.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper baking cups and spray the interior of the cups with nonstick cooking spray.  Heat oven to 350F (325F for dark or coated pans).

Make the crumb topping:  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and baking powder.  Stir in melted butter with fork.  Add walnuts, pinching mixture into clumps with fingers.  Set aside.

Make muffins:  In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zest.  Drain cranberries well, pressing them down slightly in sieve, reserving juices for glaze.  Pat cranberries dry with paper towels, then add them to the flour mixture, tossing to coat well.

In large bowl, whisk together melted butter, applesauce, yogurt/milk mixture, egg and orange extract.  Pour over flour mixture and stir with spoon or spatula just till barely combined. Do not overmix.  Divide batter equally among muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for each.  Cover with crumb topping, gently pressing topping onto batter.  Bake about 15 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.Cool muffins on wire rack.  While muffins are cooling, prepare glaze by combining confectioner's sugar and about 2 Tbsp. reserved juice.  Add more juice, if needed, to make a thin glaze.  Drizzle over tops of warm muffins.  Serve immediately.  Yield:  12 muffins




Friday, October 19, 2012

MY BEST STUFFED PEPPERS WITH BEEF, PORK AND RICE


My hubby is a stuffed pepper snob.  He wants them a certain way -- with a moist, tender filling, not too much rice, lots of flavor, a thin sauce and a shell that's not mushy.  It had been more than 20 years since I made stuffed peppers, so it was kind of like starting over.

My first attempt was delicious, I thought.  The flavor was outstanding, but hubby objected to my use of a red pepper instead of a green pepper.  (Red peppers, though sweeter, cook more quickly and get softer (mushier) faster.  If using a red pepper, I discovered, you must precook the meat so you can cook the pepper for a shorter time.) He also wanted a thinner sauce and less rice.

My second attempt turned out more to his liking, but he wanted even less rice and moister, more tender meat filling -- in other words, perfection.   So he presented me with a recipe from Emeril Lagasse that he thought would work.  But after reading the recipe, I found it had tons of rice, and no sauce at all -- the peppers were baked in water.  So I came up with my own recipe, and he has declared it the best stuffed pepper recipe ever.  Adding some ground pork and  tomato sauce to the meat mixture made a major difference.  Hubby said the search is over.

This stuffed pepper is more like a stuffed pepper soup.  Served in soup bowls, the flavorful tomato-beef broth is poured over and around the pepper.



Eat it with a soup spoon because the pepper is tender, and a spoon works best to scoop up the delicious broth.

Though stuffed peppers never really excited me before, this recipe has won me over.  However, after we ate the stuffed peppers, I found out that ground pork must be cooked to 160F.  The filling for my peppers registered about 150F and, blissfully ignorant, we ate the peppers and had no ill effects.  You can cook them to 160F and possibly have a mushy pepper, or you can precook the meat with the veggies to take the worry out.)

MY BEST STUFFED PEPPERS WITH BEEF, PORK AND RICE
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

INGREDIENTS:
6 large green bell peppers, tops, membranes and seeds removed
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped sweet onions + 1/3 cup coarsely chopped for broth
1/3 cup finely chopped green peppers from tops + 1/3 cup coarsely chopped for broth
1-3/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp. grated or minced fresh garlic
8 oz. lean ground pork
1 lb. lean ground beef
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
scant 1 cup cooked and cooled Jasmine rice (rinse raw rice in warm water before cooking)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 (8 oz. cans) tomato sauce, divided
1 (14.5 oz.) can low-sodium beef broth
Enough tomato juice to almost cover peppers

Rinse peppers and place, upside down, on paper towels.  Finely chop enough of the tops to equal 1/3 cup; set aside.

In large saute pan, using medium-high heat, cook oil, onions, peppers and 1/4 tsp. salt till softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep garlic from burning.  (If desired, add the ground meats here and precook to be sure the pork is well done.)  Set aside to cool completely, about 1/2 to 1 hour.  When thoroughly cool, add pork and beef if you have not precooked them already.  Sprinkle remaining 1-1/2 tsp. salt and both peppers over the meat.  Lightly but thoroughly mix meat with onion mixture.  Add cooked rice, parsley and 1 (8 oz.) can + 3 Tbsp. tomato sauce, combining lightly but thoroughly.  Stuff mixture into peppers, dividing equally.  (I make balls of filling and weigh them on my kitchen scale to get the same weight for each pepper.)

In large soup pot or dutch oven, combine remainder of tomato sauce and beef broth.  Add peppers and enough tomato juice to almost cover them.  Sprinkle with coarsely chopped onions and peppers.  Heat to boiling on high heat, then cover pot and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, till pepper is cooked through and soft but not mushy (if stuffing peppers with raw meats, cook till a meat thermometer registers 160F when placed in center of filling).  Serve peppers in soup bowls with broth ladled over and around peppers.  Yield:  6 servings

TIP:  To reheat, slice peppers in half vertically.  Spoon some broth into a saute pan or fry pan.  Lay peppers, filling side down, onto broth.  Spoon more broth over, as desired.  Cover, heat on medium heat, adjusting to a simmer if mixture boils.  Cook about 10 minutes, or till peppers are hot all the way through.  To freeze, place peppers filling side up in container.  Spoon broth over and around pepper.  Cover; freeze.  Thaw overnight in fridge and reheat as mentioned above.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SOUTHERN-STYLE MACARONI SALAD


Southern macaroni salad, I have learned, is different.  Like other Southern salads, hard-boiled eggs and sweet pickle relish are ingredients.  Too much sweet pickle relish can ruin a dish, this coming from my Yankee perspective.  But the amount of relish in this macaroni salad is perfect, and that's because you don't really know it's there, except that it rounds out the flavors.  And, speaking of flavors, this salad has plenty.  Perfect for game day during colder months, or for summertime picnics, or just about any time, this one is a real crowd pleaser.

I guess you can say this is my recipe.  It's a compilation of several internet recipes, plus my own additions.

Southern-Style Macaroni Salad
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

INGREDIENTS:
Salad:
8 oz. dry elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions*, cooled 5 minutes
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)
1/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt (or table salt, if preferred)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black pepper if preferred)
2 large eggs, hard boiled, cooled, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped ham
1 stalk celery with leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped green or red sweet bell pepper
1 small shallot, minced (about 1-1/2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
*Be sure to salt the water when cooking macaroni.  Do not rinse the cooked macaroni.  Instead, cook for 1 minute less than package states and drain in a colander, then return to pot.  The macaroni will continue to cook as it cools in the pot.

Dressing:
1/3 cup Duke's light mayonnaise (or other mayonnaise, if preferred)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish (or minced sweet pickle)
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle juice
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt (or table salt, if preferred)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black pepper, if preferred)

Garnish:  Paprika

Make the salad:  Toss the partially cooled elbows with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Set aside to completely cool.  When cool, add the remaining salad ingredients (not the dressing) and toss to combine.  Refrigerate.

Make the dressing:  Whisk ingredients together in small bowl.  Pour over salad; toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to blend flavors.  Sprinkle salad with paprika before serving.  Yield:  4-6 servings

Monday, October 8, 2012

MY TOP TEN APPLE DESSERTS

This year was not a good one for North Carolina apples.  An early spring, followed by a freeze, damaged many of the apple blossoms.  It's hard to even find any mountain apples.  Parker Farms and the New Bern Farmer's Market both have North Carolina apples.  I'll warn you ahead -- they're not the best apples.  I've tasted several, and the most flavorful are the winesaps at Parker Farms.  They're small, but make good pies as well as eating apples.  At $1.59/lb., they're not exactly cheap, but here's hoping that next year will be better.

In the meantime, I've put together my ten favorite apple recipes.  Some are simple, some are complex, all are wonderful.  Most are adapted lower-fat, lower-sugar versions, but I think you'll find these recipes are plenty sweet.  Get the recipes....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

RIVER CITY MASSAGE WELLNESS


My massage therapist, Leann, is the "new kid on the block."  Her office on Glenburnie Road is decorated with patients in mind.  I love the waiting room.  Tones of green, blue and brown create an instantly relaxing atmosphere.


Leann even has a tea station in one corner to provide a welcoming feeling.



Your massage room has the same tranquil look and feel.


Leann's friendly personality and gentle, firm touch complete the massage experience here at River City.  I am so happy I've found her.  You can connect with Leann on her Facebook Page.  Oh, and did I mention that her rates are very affordable?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BAKED SHRIMP WITH CRABMEAT STUFFING











With crabmeat left over from our last crab party that I froze and thawed, and some big shrimp that caught my eye at the fish market, I made a dinner for two with plenty of leftovers for the next day's big game.  We liked the flavorings in this recipe.  There's just a background suggestion of heat and it's not too salty.  A squeeze of lemon juice is all we added at the table.  Get the recipe....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GRILLED LEMON-OREGANO FRESH TUNA


It's been a little over two months since my hubby returned from his "fishing trip of a lifetime" in Grand Isle, LA, with a stellar catch of fresh tuna and red snapper.  Most of the fish went right into the freezer, in small packets convenient for a family of two.  Whoo Dat Tuna Salad continues to be a favorite way to use up the tuna, but today's very easy recipe is also absolutely delicious, especially when you don't have the time or motivation to fuss.  Leftovers are terrific cut up on a green salad, or made into -- you guessed it -- tuna salad.

If you can get some fresh tuna (from B&J's on Route 70 or Harris Teeter), give this recipe a try.  You won't be disappointed.

Grilled Lemon-Oregano Fresh Tuna
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 medium garlic clove, grated or minced
1/2 tsp. dried Meditteranean or Greek oregano
About 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or Diamond kosher salt
About 1/4 tsp. white or black pepper
1 (10-12 oz.) fresh tuna steak, about 1-1/2" thick

Combine lemon juice, oil, zest, garlic and oregano in resealable plastic bag; massage to distribute evenly.  Salt and pepper both sides of tuna with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste.  Add tuna; reseal bag; marinate for 1 hour, or up to 2 hours.  (Any longer will cook the fish.)  

Heat indoor or outdoor grill to medium-high (about 400-425F).  Remove fish from marinade and place on well-oiled indoor grill or well-oiled outdoor grill grates.  Cook about 4-5 minutes each side, turning only once, and basting with marinade, or to preferred degree of doneness.  Transfer tuna to a plate and keep covered off grill for 5-10 minutes to allow juices to settle.  (Amount of time on grill will depend on desired doneness and thickness of fish.  Should you remove the fish prematurely and find that you want it to be more done, just return it to the grill.)  Yield:  2-3 servings

Saturday, September 8, 2012

LOW-FAT CRAB SALAD FOR TWO


This crab salad is perfect for anyone who appreciates the delicate flavor of crab meat and doesn't like to cover it up with tons of spices and ingredients that mask it.  Four ingredients, not counting the crab meat and salt and pepper, and you're on your way to crab heaven.  Serve it as is, on lettuce or spinach, in a sandwich, or in a tomato or avocado.  It doesn't get much better than this.

Get the recipe....

Friday, August 17, 2012

INDIVIDUAL GINGER-PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKES


I never was one for gooey sweet pineapple upside-down cake, which is why I resisted making peach upside-down cake.   So I tried this recipe, from Alton Brown on Food Network, and I must say I have been missing out all these years.  Alton uses candied ginger to flavor the peaches, and it really is a perfect complement.  Chopped fine, the ginger is hardly noticeable, yet the subtle lift turns the peaches into something very special.

This is a sweet dessert, but not uber-sweet like pineapple upside-down cake usually is, and it's perfect for a small dinner party.  You can top it off with ice cream, sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche.  I chose to very lightly sweeten some non-fat Greek yogurt and, for me, it was perfect.

Alton's recipe calls for about 3 Tbsp. candied ginger, but I used 2 Tbsp, per many reviewers' recommendations.  However, the amount will depend on which crystallized ginger you use.  Ginger People's (available online) is the best and will be stronger.  Other brands may use more sugar on smaller, thinner pieces of ginger and will have less of a ginger bite.  I recommend using 2 Tbsp. at first to see how you like the flavors.

The recipe makes 4 cakes.  This was just a test, so all I needed was one.  Since I was experimenting, I decided to try freezing the other 3.  Instead of cooling all the baked cakes for 5 minutes, then turning them over, I left 3 cakes in the ramekins for an additional 5 minutes.  The juices were starting to come together by that point.  I turned the cakes, cake sides down, onto a wire rack to cool, and there were no juices dripping at that point.  It was then easy to place the cooled cakes, peach sides down, into wax-paper-lined containers (empty 5.3 oz. Greek yogurt containers are perfect).  


When I removed a frozen cake from the freezer, I found it could stay in the container to thaw on the counter (give it at least 1 hour), then be slid out onto a plate, cake side down.  A quick nuke (about 20-25 seconds on high) warmed it up.  My experiment was a success and I was able to enjoy these delightful peach upside-down cakes on demand.



Individual Peach Upside-Down Cakes
Adapted from Alton Brown, 2006
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

Please note:  This recipe does not use eggs!

INGREDIENTS:
3 Tbsp.softened unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 medium peaches, peeled, cut into 12-14 pieces each
2-3 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger (I used 2 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup + 1-1/2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (I used 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup milk.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract.)
Ice cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche, or sweetened Greek yogurt for serving (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease each of 4 (6-oz.) ramekins with 1/2 Tbsp. butter.  In a small custard cup, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. brown sugar evenly into bottoms of each ramekin.

Cut each peach into 12-14 pieces.  Lay peaches on top of sugar, evenly dividing them between the ramekins.  Sprinkle with ginger, dividing equally among dishes according to amount you use.  (For 2 Tbsp. ginger, you will use 1-1/2 tsp. for each ramekin;  for 3 Tbsp. ginger, you will use 2-1/4 tsp. for each..)  Set aside.


In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, buttermilk, vanilla and the reserved 1 Tbsp. melted butter.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir gently, just to barely combine (think pancakes, muffins -- do not overmix).  Spoon batter over peaches, dividing equally -- about 3 Tbsp. for each.


Place ramekins on a baking sheet and set on middle rack of oven.  Bake 20-25 minutes (mine took 23 minutes), or till cakes reach internal temperatures of 190F on an instant-read thermometer.  Transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes*

Run a knife around the edge of each dish and turn upside down onto a serving plate.  Repeat with each cake.  Serve immediately topped with ice cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche or sweetened Greek yogurt, if desired.


*Cook's note:  To freeze one or more of the cakes, do the following:  Leave cakes on wire rack in ramekins for an additional 5 minutes (total of 10 minutes).  Run knife around edges of ramekins, then turn cakes, cake sides down, onto a wire rack to cool.  Place cooled cakes, peach sides down, into wax-paper-lined containers (empty 5.3 oz. Greek yogurt containers are perfect).  Thaw frozen cakes on the counter in the containers, for at least 1 hour.  Unmold cakes onto individual plates, cake sides down.  Nuke each cake about 20-25 seconds on high to warm it up.



Monday, August 6, 2012

WHOO DAT FRESH TUNA SALAD


So my hubby got invited on the "fishing trip of a lifetime."  Giddy with joy, he and two buddies traveled to Grand Isle, Louisiana, where they were guests of a young man who repairs oil rigs and owns a 58-foot yacht that comfortably sleeps seven.  They each had their own bedroom, outfitted with New Orleans Saints everything, from sheets to blankets to towels.  Keith, captain and owner, is an avid Saints fan -- he even named his yacht the "Whoo Dat."  (The extra "o" was put in to avoid copyright infringement.)

(For those of you who don't know, the Saints are called Who Dats because of the chant that's repeated during their games.  According to wiki.answers.com, it began circa 1983, when Bum Phillips was head coach of the Saints and the team came close to making the playoffs. New Orleans fans used a popular football chant and adopted it as their own. It went: "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Who dat? Who dat?" Occasionally, opposing teams would defeat the Saints and respond, "We dat!")

Turns out, Keith, of Cajun origin, is a foodie who cooks.  The men came home with fresh yellowfin tuna, red snapper and a recipe for tuna salad they said they couldn't live without.  The only problem was it started off with 1/2 gallon of fresh tuna, 8 hardboiled eggs and a list of other ingredients with no measurements at all. This was particularly problematic when it came to the liquid crab boil.  I worked it out, though, and my final version has just enough spice to linger a bit on your tongue, but not enough to cause you to sweat. The only other problem is that, once you taste it, you may never want to open a can of tuna again. (You can find yellowfin tuna at Harris Teeter or B&J's on Route 70, when in season.  Sorry, but I'm not sharing what's in my freezer.)

Whoo Dat Fresh Tuna Salad
Adapted from Keith Richardson
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 tsp. liquid crab boil (adds a nice hint of spice -- add 1/2 tsp. more if you like it hot.)
8 oz. fresh tuna
1 hardboiled egg, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped celery, preferably organic
3 Tbsp. finely chopped dill pickle
1/3 cup light mayo (Hellmann's or Duke's)
3 Tbsp. plain nonfat Greek yogurt (my addition)
1-1/2 tsp. Grey Poupon mustard
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black if preferred)

In a small saucepan, bring water, salt and crab boil to rolling boil.  Add tuna; cover; cook 1 minute; off heat.  Let tuna steep for about 20 minutes; drain; cool.  

In the meantime, in a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Flake tuna into the bowl and toss lightly to combine.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed.  Chill.  Serves two to four.






Saturday, August 4, 2012

THE WILD CUPCAKE GIVEAWAY







Here's an exciting giveaway from one of my favorite gals that I've posted about previously.  She makes cupcakes, but not ordinary ones.  I love Nicole and what she has brought to our little town of New Bern, so please read below how you can be entered into this fabulous giveaway.  If you can't wait, just go on over to Rebecca's on Metcalf Street, where you will find Nicole and her cupcakes.


Check out Nicole's website and her facebook page. 


Nicole says, 
"This is how it's going to work...I haven't done a give away throughout the entirety of The Wild Cupcake's existence...when I reach 500 (my goal that I had for The Wild Cupcake when all of this mayhem started) I will give out a free dozen (that I will hand deliver) to one lucky winner. Rules of engagement...if you are in the New Bern (Havelock, Morehead, James City, Bridgeton...you get the idea) area (and you must be local...sorry for any disappointment) feel free to enter this give away by liking this post and sharing The wild Cupcake's page with your friends (YOU MUST SHARE TO BE CONSIDERED)...leave a comment below that says you liked and shared (must leave the comment or you are not eligible...because I'm not super tech savvy and wouldn't know unless you told me...honor system). Once I reach the magic number I will literally put your names in a hat and draw the winner...I will blog...no worries...I will also be in and out of town quite a lot this month...but no worries...I have cupcakes for you...May the force (of cupcakes) be with you"

SHRIMP WITH BEET GREENS (OR SPINACH OR SWISS CHARD) AND PASTA


Don't throw those beet tops away!  They taste like spinach when cooked, and the small leaves are great, raw, in a salad.  Beet greens and Swiss chard are both cousins of spinach, and can be used in any spinach recipe.  This recipe will serve two big eaters, or four smaller ones.  We get enough for two meals, and the leftovers are even better when they're reheated a couple nights later.

Always buy wild-caught U. S. shrimp, preferably North Carolina for best flavor and quality.  Harris Teeter and B&J's on Route 70 in James City both carry North Carolina shrimp in season.

Also be sure to buy the freshest beets possible, with greens that are not wilted or brown, for the best results.  If beet greens are unavailable, use Swiss chard or spinach.

When you look at the list of ingredients below, you may think it's too much trouble to make this dish.  But remember, it's a complete meal by itself and you don't have any other preparations to consider.  Once you line up your ingredients, this is a snap to make, and the flavors are so balanced, your taste buds will thank you.




Shrimp with Beet Greens (or Swiss Chard or Spinach) and Pasta
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

2-3/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided use
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1 lb. raw wild-caught, preferably North Carolina, shrimp, peeled, deveined, patted dry 
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 1 tsp. dried crushed oregano)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 tsp. crushed dried basil)
1/4 cup drinking-quality dry white wine
3/4 cup canned, diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Black pepper to taste (up to 1/2 tsp.
8 oz. dry thin spaghetti, or other pasta of choice
3 cups chopped fresh beet greens (or Swiss chard or spinach)
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. heavy cream, divided use
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with cold water and 2 tsp. Morton kosher salt.  Set on stove but do not heat.  In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil till very hot. Add shrimp and quickly par-cook on both sides, but don't cook through. Remove shrimp to a dish and keep warm.  

Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to pan with onions and mushrooms and saute over medium heat till soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and basil and cook for another minute, stirring as needed. Pour wine over veggies and let it bubble for about 30 seconds while scraping up bits on bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and broth and bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, till mixture reduces.  Taste sauce, adding up to 3/4 tsp. salt and up to 1/2 tsp. pepper as needed.  Cover pan and continue to cook sauce on low heat.

Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and cook per package directions, until tender.  When pasta is almost done cooking,  stir in the greens, par-cooked shrimp, and 2 Tbsp. cream, cooking just till heated through.  Drain pasta and toss with 1 Tbsp. butter, remaining 1 Tbsp. cream and parsley.

Place pasta  in serving bowls and spoon shrimp sauce over pasta. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of shrimp sauce.   Yield:  Serves two big eaters, or four smaller ones, and leftovers are delicious gently reheated.


Friday, August 3, 2012

HARVEY MANSION


When we first moved to New Bern in 1993, the Harvey Mansion was the restaurant for fine dining.  We ate there often and enjoyed their excellent food.  Then the chef took ownership, and, strangely, everything went down hill fast.  Business fell off and never quite recovered.

We haven't been back to the Mansion since the late 90's.  Our neighbors, though, have been eating there regularly and telling us how good the food is.  We decided to join them for Early Bird dining (5PM - 6:30PM).  All entrees are $13.95 during Early Bird hours, and are served with house salad and bread.  The menu is varied and interesting.

We were greeted warmly by our hosts, who escorted us to an intimate dining room complete with fireplace.  Instantly, we were transported back to the 18th century, when this house was part of a thriving seaport.

Our meal started with small house salads, nicely prepared, fresh and tasty.

Rita had asparagus pea soup.  I tasted it, and it was delicious.

Guy's meatloaf was served vertically on a bed of red-skinned potatoes, surrounded by gravy and topped with chef-prepared french-fried onion slices.  He was so very happy.

Tom ordered Lamb Osso Bucco, his favorite.  He said he orders it every time he comes because it's the best.



The Herb-Fried Chicken and lemon linguini tossed with prosciutto, peas and roasted tomatoes in a chardonnay cream sauce sounded interesting, but I wanted grilled chicken.  No problem, the chef made it with grilled chicken.  The flavors were perfectly balanced and the chicken was cooked to perfection.


Rita ordered her usual:  Grilled Salmon and Mango Salad.  Served atop organic greens, and drizzled with champagne orange vinaigrette, slivered almonds and orange segments, the salad got extra crunch from fried wonton strips.

We were very impressed with Harvey Mansion and will definitely be returning soon.  Owner Gene Simon and Chef Scott Durocher have brought this place back to fine dining.  We left filled and happy.


Harvey Mansion Historic Inn221 South Front Street, New Bern, NC 28560, 252-635-3232                                 

Dinner Hours: Tue-Sun Open at 5pm

Monday, July 23, 2012

GRILLED LEMON-DILL WILD-CAUGHT SALMON


There is a notable difference in the taste and texture of fresh wild-caught salmon versus frozen and thawed.  I buy salmon all year long, so I'm not against frozen and thawed, so long as it's US (preferably Alaskan) fish. I never buy farm-raised salmon.  Besides the higher PCB count, it's also been fed antibiotics.  And, anyway, it doesn't taste anything like wild-caught salmon.  Wild-caught salmon is delicate but full of flavor.  (True disclosure:  Wild-caught salmon is started in a controlled environment, then released to the "wild" at puberty so it can be "caught."  While it is not as nutritious as 100% wild salmon, it's affordable for the masses and better than 100% farm-raised salmon.)  


I buy wild-caught salmon at Harris Teeter.  Fresh Alaskan salmon is only available for a select number of months a year, roughly May to September.  After that, it's frozen, but still very good.  There are many ways to cook salmon, but I usually look for something easy and quick and preferably for the grill.  The flavors of lemon, dill and garlic marry perfectly with the mild, flavorful salmon.  Any leftovers make a great sandwich the next day, or can be chopped up on a tossed salad.

Grilled Lemon-Dill Wild-Caught Salmon
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


INGREDIENTS:  For each 4-6 oz. serving piece of salmon, use the following:
1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, grated finely
1-1/2 tsp. finely chopped dill weed + sprig of dill weed for garnish
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or Diamond kosher salt
2 big pinches of white pepper
lemon wedge

In plastic resealable bag, combine juice, zest, oil, garlic and dill weed.   Salt and pepper both sides of salmon, then add to marinade bag.  Refrigerate 15 minutes, or up to 30 minutes.  Any longer and the citrus will start to cook the fish.

In the meantime, start the grill and get it to hot, about 400-425F.  Oil the grates with a paper towel folded over and dipped in vegetable oil.  Hold the paper towel with long tongs and rub over the grates to season them.  (There may be a flareup, so be careful.)


Place the fish on the oiled grates.  Close lid.  Cook 2-3 minutes per side, depending on thickness of fish and desired degree of doneness.  I like my salmon rare.  If you like yours medium or well done, leave on grill 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer salmon to a plate, so it can rest for 5-10 minutes and finish cooking, just like a piece of meat.  The microwave oven (turned off, of course) is a great place for that.  Serve garnished with a dill sprig and a wedge of lemon.





Thursday, July 19, 2012

EL TACO LOCO


If you haven't tried El Taco Loco yet, don't wait any longer.  This is real Mexican food, not part of any chain.
Mostly everything is made in house, and Carmen (the owner), who hails from California, knows how to cook.  The food is ridiculously cheap and amazingly delicious.

Forget atmosphere.  This is basic dining like McDonald's, but with better food.  Place your order at the counter (or call in for takeout).

The menu is on the wall just like at other fast-food eateries.  But that's where comparisons end.

Lunchtime during the week might be busy because all the Mexican workers eat at El Taco Loco.  What does that tell you?  (The recession has shortened the lines though.)

Soft, thin, tender corn tortillas are used for tacos.  You can have them with steak, pork, chorizo, chicken or tongue.  The "Taco Loco" has beef, pork, bacon, Chorizo and Ham.  And there's also taco salad.

On Saturdays and Sundays, you can get chicken or pork tamales.  (Also available on Saturdays and Sundays:  Tripe Soup, Shrimp Soup and Shrimp Cocktail.)

If you've never eaten sopes, give them a try.  With a cornmeal base, I call them "Mexican pizzas."

If you order a sub or a burrito, better have someone to split it with because they're way huge for one person.  Consider El Taco Loco for your next party.  A friend recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and Carmen catered a fabulous feast for the small group of friends who gathered in his honor at his home.

El Taco Loco has my highest recommendation.  The restaurant is clean as a whistle, the food is wonderful, and the prices are extremely reasonable.

EL TACO LOCO, 2408 MLK Blvd, New Bern (252 633-3326
HOURS:  Sunday, 10AM - 5PM; Monday - Thursday, 10AM - 8PM; 
Friday & Saturday, 10AM-10PM

Monday, June 25, 2012

BLUEBERRIES, BLUEBERRIES, BLUEBERRIES


Right now, it's hard to go anywhere in New Bern and not see blueberries.  The Farmer's Market has locally grown blueberries from several farms.  Prices range from $3.00 to $3.50 per pint.  Last week, I found organic blueberries at Harris Teeter, usually $4.99 per pint, marked 2/$3.00, and they were fresh. Wal-Mart has some good prices on blueberries, but they're not as fresh as I would like.

The best overall price for day-to-day shopping in New Bern is at the Lowe's Blvd. stand.  They're selling Nelson's blueberries 2/$5.00, and he's having a hard time keeping them in stock.  If you want some, better go early.  (Please note that Nelson's does use pesticides.)

If you stock up on blueberries and have too many, you can always freeze some for later.  It's easy:  just put the pint container in a freezer bag and freeze.  Never rinse blueberries before freezing!  When you're ready to use the blueberries, take out the amount you want, dump them into a strainer and rinse under cool water.  Blueberries don't stick together in the freezer and the quality of the berry doesn't change much.  They don't get terribly mushy the way strawberries do.

If you want some good blueberry desserts, I've collected some of my best recipes for you.
Lemon Blueberry Cheese Tart,  

Blueberry Swirl-Lemon Shortbread Bars, 


Blueberry Cheesecake Bars, 


Cook's Illustrated Blueberry Pie, 


Bon Appetit's Blueberry Sour Cream Pie, 


Blueberry-Raspberry Crumb Pie, 


Wholegrain Blueberry Cobbler, 


Blueberry-Coconut Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping, 

America's Test Kitchen Blueberry Muffins, 


King Arthur Flour's Classic Blueberry Muffins, 


Buttermilk Berry Muffins

 and Limoncello Apple-Blueberry Pie  -- 


these are all recipes that I've tried and given top ratings.  Click on this link to find all the recipes.  Well, what are you waiting for?