Friday, March 22, 2013

Croque Monsieurs, fancy ham and cheese sandwiches

While traveling in France with my high school french class during the summer of 1984, I fell in love with French food.  You could say it was the butter, the cream sauces or even the french bread, but I think it was more about the french kitchen and the french cook.  

They were passionate about their food, they loved their kitchen tools, the techniques were perfect and most dishes had the most deliciously sounding titles.  The French language is music to my years.  Even to this day if I hear it spoken I just want to sit and listen.  I don't care that I don't understand much anymore because it reminds me of the time I did spend in France when I could understand a few things.

Many of you know that I write for a local magazine, Capital Style Magazine.  For the month of March my assignment was to find family friendly French recipes.  I looked to my own family for inspiration.  My kids eat a ham and cheese sandwich every single day, sometimes two a day.  I go through about 6 pounds of ham a month.

I remembered this sandwich and thought of several things.  First it's French.  Secondly it can be prepared in a short amount time (family friendly) and thirdly, it can be made the traditional way with white bread or you can substitute gluten free bread or a croissant (pictured above).  It is a sandwich that can be altered to fit your dietary needs and still retain some of the original idea.

I know that at Whole Foods you can buy frozen gluten free croissants or attempt to make them from scratch.  I found this recipe HERE, although I have not tried them myself.

I will tell you the cheese sauce that goes over the sandwich is heavenly.  Smooth, creamy and the right balance of flavors.  I had some left over and added it to a bowl of noodles...YUM!  Just saying--it's super good.

Enjoy this recipe and I will be posting the other recipes that I shared with the magazine soon, so check back!

Recipe: Croque Monsieurs

Makes 8 sandwiches
Prep and Cook Time: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons flour (I used brown rice flour to make it gluten free)
2 cups of hot milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
12 ounces of Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
8 croissants or 16 slices of white bread (use gluten free bread if this is an issue for you)
Dijon mustard
8 ounces of ham, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan, add flour and stir for 2 minutes.  Slowly pour in hot milk and whisk until sauce is thick.  Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted and set aside.

Cut the croissants in half and place on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 4 minutes, flip and bake for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove croissants, spread Dijon mustard on one half.

Add the ham and Gruyere Cheese, top with croissant.  

Spoon cheese sauce over each sandwich, top with more Gruyere cheese.

Bake in the oven for 5 minutes or until tops are browned.

I have included the pictures below to walk you through the process of making the sandwiches.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies, gluten free

The one thing that seems to be constant when I become pregnant is the need for peanut butter.  If at anytime--and this has been most of the time over the last two months--I start to feel queazy, I long for a peanut butter fix.

In searching the internet and pinterest I found this delicious recipe.  I have changed it just a hair and added my own special ingredient but the original recipe can be found on a blog titled Laurens Latest which another blog titled The Spiffy Cookie shared too. 

I am pretty sure I have made these too many times to count.

They are easy.

They are tasty.

They are my new favorite.

I added the uncooked oatmeal to add more texture and to add more fiber.  I think the pairing of the three flavors works well. 

Tell me what you think?  A keeper or what?  

Have a wonderful start to your 2013 Spring, I know I will.

Recipe:  Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies, Gluten Free

1 1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter  (260 g)
1/4 cup white sugar (55g)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (55g)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella
1/4 cup uncooked old fashion oats (20g)
Course Salt, optional

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl blend peanut butter and sugars.  Add egg and vanilla.  Blend until smooth.

Stir in oatmeal.

Scoop onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to wire cookie rack to cool.  While still hot, use something to make a well in the top of the cookie.  I have an old spoon that works well.

Place Nutella in baggie and pipe into the well of each cookie.

Let finish cooling and then serve or eat them hot, either way they are moorish and you may find yourself making a second batch immediately...LOL

Written by Sherron Watson

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Parchment Poached Salmon Pouches #SundaySupper

Parchment paper and I are very good friends.  We met a few years back and it was the best union.  I cook and it helps things to not stick to my cookie sheet AND it makes these darling parchment pouches.
I guess in a way it's our version of a TV dinner.  You fill half a side of parchment with what you would like and it all cooks at the same time...viola...dinner in 20 minutes.  Now if you are one of those that don't like your food to touch other foods, then prepare the different items in different pouches.  I do this when I make our meat and potato pouches.  I fill a separate pouch with carrots to steam.  Carrots add a very sweet flavor to food and I don't like my potatoes tasting like carrots.

I have very strong opinions about carrots, you may already know this from reading another post. Now in this pouch, I added a few carrots because it married well with the other veggies and I used them sparingly--more for color, I guess.

Our theme this week was Skinny Sunday Dinner. I have not shared any parchment pouch dinners on my blog and thought this would be an excellent fit for a skinny dinner. Lots of veggies, a great quality piece of salmon, fresh herbs, citrus, and extra virgin olive oil all steamed together in under 25 minutes.

I am going to share with you how I prepared my salmon pouch but you can add any veggies you would like, any herbs that you enjoy and any spices that rock your world.  Do you see how this works?  I will prove you with the basics of how to fold the paper, cook the fish and what I used but you have the ultimate control over what is put inside.  The only thing that will take longer to cook is the potatoes unless they are cut up very small.  Other than that...go crazy and create parchment pouches for your family.

I find that many recipes name their parchment pouches and include the term poach. To poach something is to immerse it into the water and gently cook delicate items like fish or an egg.  I think the salmon is probably closer to being steamed with the end result being your salmon and veggies are resting in a small amount of liquid: water, the juice from the salmon, and olive oil.  I went with the popular title and left it as Parchment Poached Salmon instead of calling it Parchment Steamed Salmon.

To add some garnish to my dish I used fresh thyme in the pouch and served the salmon with a few toasted almond slices and a combination of Sriracha Sauce and mayonnaise.

So let's get started with the recipe.  I have included a step by step pictorial of how I stacked my pouches as well as a step by step pictorial of how to fold the pouches.  You will also find a great list of recipes from our Sunday Supper group with the links to other fabulous skinny dishes at the very end. 

Recipe:  Parchment Poached Salmon Pouches
This will make 6 pouches.

1.5 pounds of salmon, cut into 2 inch wide pieces (I was able to get 6 pieces)
2 small zucchini's, cut at an angle into thin slices
2 small carrots, peeled and then using the peeler I sliced curls of carrots
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced thin
1 lemon, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup of spinach PER pouch
1 small red onion, sliced thin
fresh thyme sprigs (about 2 per pouch)
olive oil 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

I would have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go.  Cut you salmon into desired servings, find your olive oil and have the salt ready to season.

Tear a piece of parchment paper about 20 inches long for each pouch.  Stack your veggies, fruit and salmon on one side.

Drizzle olive oil over the top (the amount is up to you, some like more than others), season with salt and add the sprigs of thyme.

Using the pictures below,  fold your parchment paper in half; starting on one side, fold the paper over each other and continue around to the other side.  The parchment should not come undone.  Take the end and tightly fold it under the pouch.

Bake time should be 20 minutes.  Rest the pouches for 5 minutes.

Serve the pouches on a plate or remove contents to a plate.  I have included a picture above of the salmon and veggies served on a plate.

NOTE:  To open pouches, I use a pair of scissors and cut down the middle with a few cuts to the left and a few to the right, this allows people to finish tearing their pouches.  Remember there is steam in the pouch, be very careful to not burn your fingers with the first cut.

I started with spinach and sprinkled my onions across them.

I adde carrot curls and the blood red oranges next.

I laid my salmon (wish skin) on top of the oranges.

I topped each piece with lemon slices, olive oil, salt and sprigs of thyme.
This is how the salmon looked before I cooked it for 20 minutes.

This is how they looked when they were done.

To start the process, fold the parchment in half.
Take the left side and fold the first twist next to the salmon, and continue turning and twisting the paper around the contents.

You can see the twisting and turning, continue to do this around to the other side.
When you have made it to the other side, take the little tail and fold it under.  I cook 4 on a cookie sheet at a time.

I had some odd pieces left and added smoked paprika, olive oil, and thyme and baked them without any veggies for the same amount of time-20 minutes.

Just take a look at all these amazing Skinny recipes!  A huge thanks to Sunithi, of Sue’s Nutrition Buzz, for hosting us this week!
Sizzling Skinny Appetizers & Soups
 Healthy Skinny Mains & Sides
Guilt Free Skinny Desserts & Snacks
Wine Pairing Recommendations for Skinny Sunday Supper by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. This week we will be sharing out special skinnified recipes! Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET and you do not want to miss out on the fun. Follow the#SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.
Join us Around the Family Table this Sunday at 7pm Eastern Time and share your favorite healthy recipes with us!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meringue Filled Cups

I made my first couple batches of meringues last month.  I was quite proud of myself because this had been on my bucket list for some time.

The first batch was a bomb, not in a good way, but in a burnt way.  I over cooked them and then tried to convince myself they were not burnt.  I was a bit devastated and then I realized it was my oven.  

I had been having problems with it not keeping the temperature and then getting too hot.  I thought I could "work with it".  These are just too delicate to take chances with a broken oven.

I ordered a new oven and tried them again.  They turned out perfect.  Lightly cream in color with a slight caramel flavor to each one.  My family had never had such a treat and found themselves returning throughout the day.

I think this is the tricky part about this dessert: humidity.  I live in Maryland and we have a lot of moisture in the air.  You want to keep these as dry as possible so they maintain their crisp and airy texture.  For me, the best way to keep them dry, was to put them into an air tight container or storage baggie.  Try not to stack them on top of each other either.

I also dipped mine in chocolate and then white candy beads.  This kept them from sticking to the plate if I left them out for company or my family a bit longer than they should have been.

I got creative on my second batch, I made little cups, a pavlova of sorts.  I piped these with a Wilton tip and pastry bag.  I wanted them to look like little nest.  I did the same thing to these little cups that I did with the meringues, I dipped them into chocolate and white candy beads.  You can just as easily spoon tiny dollops of meringue and bake to create a round shape that can also be filled with the filling and topped with fruit and nuts.  The little cups pictured below are very small-bite size.  For this reason I did not add any fruit to the top.  I instead prepared a filling of raspberries and mascarpone cheese.

A magical thing happens to the little cups when you add the filling, they become soft--like soft marshmallow.  I was surprised when I bit into my first one and it melted into my mouth.  The dipped chocolate and candy bead bottom made them easy to pick up.  This did not happen right away only to those that were left sitting out for too long.  

I added these cute little pavlova cups to a mini bundt cake that I made and the softness acted like frosting while the white candy beads gave the mini cake some texture.  I thought they were wonderful.
The mini bundt cake recipe will be published soon.  It's for a gluten free chocolate espresso cake that is rich in flavor and goes well with the pavlova topped cup of raspberry and mascarpone filling.

The recipe that I used for the Pavlova (meringues) can be found over at Tartine and Apron Strings.  There pictures are so wonderful and the presentation of the dessert is breathtaking.

I had to alter the cooking method a bit from what they suggested so my interpretation and process of baking the meringues will be slightly different only because this is what worked for me.  

Recipe:  Meringue for Pavlova's
Adapted from Tartine and Apron Strings

For the Meringues:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup of confectioner's sugar, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

For the filling:
8-9 raspberries
1/3 cup of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon sugar

grated dark chocolate
fruit: raspberries, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries
nuts: almonds, pistachios

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  If your heat element is at the top of your stove, place your rack at the very bottom.  If the heat element is exposed on the bottom place the rack in the middle or towards the top.  You don't want the heat source and the meringues too close.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  This should take about 4 minutes.  I did not use a stand mixer (mine is in the shop) so I used a hand held mixer instead.

Gradually add 3/4 cup of a cup of confectioner's sugar to the soft peak egg whites.  The meringue should start to get a bit thicker.  This should take about3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar with the cornstarch. Gradually beat this mixture into the egg/sugar mixture until very stiff, around 2 more minutes.  Beat in vinegar for 1 minute.

Your meringue  will be very thick.  To make the nest, use a piping bag and any size tip that will achieve the size nest or cup you want leaving an inch space between each one.   To make the pavlova's, drop spoonfuls of meringue spaced two inches apart on parchment lined cookie tray.

This is where I did things a bit differently than the original recipe and mine turned out great.

I let them bake for 40 minutes. Do not open the door.  Turn the oven off and crack the door.  Let cool in oven for 30 minutes.  Remove cookie sheet and remove meringues/Pavlova's to cool completely and then add them to a storage container.

For the filling I used 8-9 fresh raspberries, 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Mash the raspberries, add the cheese and sugar.  Combine well.  Pipe filling into each cup, nest or bowl of meringue.  Fill them right before serving to maintain the freshest dessert..if left out, the filling will turn the meringue in to a "melt in your mouth"-still delicious- dessert.

I grated some dark chocolate over each cup for an added garnish, this is optional.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Strawberry Cups

We love strawberries!

I try to buy them when they are in season but there are times I just want some in the winter too.

I pay the extra money to get the large strawberries.  They make wonderful cups.

I filled these with a combination of fresh strawberries and mascarpone cheese...oh, were they good!

To make them sit better, I cut the bottoms and dipped them in chocolate AND then dipped them in little white candy balls.

The combination of strawberry, filling, chocolate along with the crunch of the white candy was a delight to our mouths. For an added touch I dusted some dark cocoa over the top.

This is a super easy dessert.  I would suggest that these be made the morning of your event or family function.  The strawberries are juicy and with each passing day they get a bit wilted and the chocolate on the bottom can get sticky--still delicious mind you--just not picture perfect.

Recipe:  Strawberry Cups filled with Mascarpone Cheese

12 large strawberries
1/2 cup of melted chocolate
2 tablespoons of white candy balls (Michaels or any place that sells cake supplies will carry them.)
1/3 cup of soft mascarpone cheese
6-8 fresh raspberries (use jam if you have that instead)
cocoa (optional) for dusting

Wash and dry the strawberries.  With a sharp knife, cut the bottoms and the tops off.

The strawberries should be hollow inside.  If you need to trim a bit out of the strawberry just use a sharp knife and carefully remove the pulp to create a cup.

Dip the bottom of each strawberry in the melted chocolate and then the white candy.  Let set on a lined cookie tray.

In a small bowl add the raspberries and mash them.  Add the mascarpone cheese and blend well.

I used a baggie and piped the filling into each strawberry.

Dust with chocolate if you desire to do so.

Refrigerate the strawberry cups until ready to serve.

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ox-tail Soup

The local dairy that I purchase my milk, eggs, butter and meat from had Ox-tail.  To be honest, I have heard of it but never used it.

I decided to try a few packages and make Ox-tail soup.  I felt like a pioneer saying "ox-tail soup" throughout the day.  I don't know why, other than to me, I think it sounds like an old recipe and something the pioneers or ranch hands would have eaten along the trails in the wild west.

Yes, I do have an active imagination...LOL

I did some homework and found out how I should best prepare this beef (it's not Ox anymore unless you have a direct source to purchase Ox, it will be beef).   I used this resource HERE to help me decide the best route to prepare the meat.

I decided to make a soup and use my slow cooker.

The meat is tender, but needs to be cooked a long time.  If you don't do this it will come out stringy.  The bones make a wonderful beef broth for the soup.  I would plan on 2-3 ox tail bones per bowl.

The family enjoyed this simple recipe that warmed their hearts and cold bodies during this cold time of year.

Recipe:  Ox-tail Soup
Prepares enough soup for 4 adults

4 cups of water
2 teaspoons of beef stock granules (2 cubes of bouillon)
2 pounds of Ox-tail (estimate-8 pieces)
oil to brown meat
4 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large red onion, diced into big pieces
2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

In a frying pan heat oil.

Brown each ox-tail on both sides and place into bottom of slow cooker.

Add remaining ingredients.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Meat should be tender and vegetables soft.  Taste to season.

I served this with cornbread.  The soup is great as leftovers too.  ENJOY!

Written by Sherron Watson

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cream Cheese Mints #SundaySupper

I had great plans for this post.  I even ordered the cute little molds to make roses and leaves.  I had planned to get fancy.

Well, you can see these are not shaped like flowers, no leaves in site and there is nothing fancy about this post...LOL

I have been so sick for the last three weeks.  Barely hanging on to be exact.  Two weekends in a row trying to "rest and sleep" this beast away.  No go!

Sometimes life takes over and I have to just say, "oh well".

I am heading to the doctor today to get something to help with the cough and hopefully exile this thing from my body.  It has really messed up my schedule. (Turns out I had bronchitis and my asthma made it worse...the meds are finally kicking in and working).

I was asked to do an interview for a local TV station on Wednesday and was able to muddle through that with the help of a few cold and sinus tablets.

This recipe is special to me because it was given to me by a woman I met 25 years ago.  I met her through church and as we would sit and visit once a month, she would be busy making these cream cheese mints.

Her fingers worked so fast!  This is what she would do for the bride and grooms in our area as part of their wedding gift.  The mints were always a hit at each wedding reception.  How could they not be?

Made with love, each one pressed into the mold and then flipped out onto the table.

Her home smelled so good on the days that she made the mints---minty fresh and clean!

I wrote this recipe down on an old napkin and have kept it this whole time.  When our Sunday Supper group was deciding on Valentine Day recipes I knew this is what I wanted to make.

You don't go through this much work (referring to the fancy molded mints) for just anybody, you do it for the ones you love.   This is my first batch that is pictured and I went the easy route of rolling the dough into long ropes and cutting them into bit size pieces.  A practice run you could say.

Well, when this bug is all said and done, I will add a few more pictures of the mints in the shapes that I purchased--leaves and roses.

Keep in mind that you can make the mints any color or keep them white.  This batch I have had sealed in a bag for two months and they taste just as fresh as that first week that I made them.

They are buttery, creamy and minty morsels of love.  See below the list and recipes of the Sunday Supper group sharing their LOVE with each of us today.

Recipe:  Cream Cheese Mints

3 oz. cream cheese, soft
3 cups of confectioner's sugar
3 teaspoons of peppermint extract
food coloring (optional)
confectioner's sugar to help with the molds

Combine cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, extract and food coloring until well blended.

The dough should be kneadable (not too sticky).  If this happens, add more sugar.

Knead dough for 3 minutes.

Sprinkle parchment paper with confectioner's sugar and roll  sections of the mint dough into a snake, about a 1/4-1/2 inch thick.

Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes, remove and cut into tiny candy segments.

If using the molds:  Pinch off a piece of peppermint dough, dip in sugar and press into mold. Gently pop them out and store on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

The mints will become harder the longer they sit (7-10 days is recommended).  I stored mine in large bags until I was ready to use and share them.

#SundaySupper Valentine’s Day Breakfasts, Apps & Main Dishes:
#SundaySupper Valentine’s Day Sweet Eats:
#SundaySupper Valentine’s Day Drinks:
#SundaySupper Valentine’s Day Tablescape:  A Romantic Table For Two Please from An Appealing Plan
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET and you do not want to miss out on the fun. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.
Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here → Sunday Supper Movement.

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