Monday, May 27, 2013

Easy Tropical Sherbet

Summertime means cool and creamy, so today I'm giving you a super easy go-to dessert that will wow your company.  It only has three ingredients.  Yes, THREE!  And you don't need an ice cream maker, blender, mixer, or sauce pan.  Here's a picture:
This shows it topped with blueberries, but that's optional.  Another great thing about this "sorbet"-style dessert is that you can use any fruit juice you want-- mango, grape, cranberry, pomegranate, lemonade.  My favorite happens to be Dole's Pineapple-Orange-Banana blend.  

Here's what you need:
2 Cups any fruit juice (but trust me, that Dole blend is the best for this)
1 Cup sugar
2 Cups whipping cream (not whipped)

In a bowl, stir the juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then stir in the cream.  Pour into a 9x5-inch loaf pan, or a square 9-inch pan.  Freeze exactly 4 hours before you're ready to serve it.  This way it will be almost firm.  If you wait too long it will be too hard, so time it right. 
I haven't won any awards with this one, but I've definitely received rave reviews!  (Looks great in a goblet, by the way)  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Man Cake

           Okay, we all know the upcoming holiday is a Manly Man one:  Father’s Day.  And we all know it’s a pain to shop for men because they have a particular electronic or power tool or sporting good item that only they can pick out, unlike women who are simple.  Not simple-minded, mind you-- simple to shop for. First of all, we love everything— home decorations, clothing, jewelry, handbags, cosmetics, flowers, gourmet stuff—the list is endless.  Incidentally, guys, this is why you’ve been getting nothing but neckties for the last few years.
            But I have solved the dilemma this year and created the perfect Father’s Day gift!  It’s a MAN CAKE made from all kinds of handy tools and gadgets men love.  It looks festive, it’s clever to the tenth power, it’s inexpensive, and your guy will receive items he actually wants and will undoubtedly use.  Here’s what it looks like:

            And here’s how to make one.  Let’s start with the shopping list of just 5 “ingredients” (all available at the Dollar Store, by the way):

            4-6 micro fiber towels, depending on thickness.  Mine were 16” by 24” and fairly fluffy.  Guys love these for their cars, sporting goods, you-name-it. Any color works.
            3 bungee cords-- again, any color you choose
            8 batteries
            One package of zip ties, 6 inches or longer
            6-8 small tubes of Super Glue with red caps

            Here’s how you assemble the cake.  Fold each towel into halves or thirds, whatever it takes to make them about 5 or 6 inches wide.  Roll the first one up, like this:

Now roll the rest around it to create the body of the cake, like this:

Hold them in shape with bungee cords.

Nestle batteries into the top, to resemble frosting roses—ha!  But you get the idea.  (Little kids will love making this, by the way)

Tuck zip ties in the outer-most space between towels, looping them over in a scallop design to dress up the cake.

Now tuck tubes of Super Glue in as well, to resemble lit candles.  The red caps are the “flames.”

Place your cake on a tray or platter and it’s ready to present to Dad.  This is also lightweight enough to ship to Grandpa. It comes together in just minutes, but will provide a lifetime of memories!  
Pin this on Pinterest and you can win a fantastic prize:  A one-year FREE subscription (worth $25) to Cooking Contest Central, the premier one-line website for information about cooking contests!  This site has been around for 15 years and I’ve won dozens of cook-offs and recipe contests I’ve learned about through CCC.  Let me know that you’ve pinned the MAN CAKE, and I’ll put you in my drawing!  Post it on your Facebook page and I’ll put your name in a second time, doubling your chances of winning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Honey Crab Cakes with Mango Peanut Sauce

Guys, guys-- gather round. This is about to become your favorite appetizer.  It won a contest sponsored by both Redbook Magazine and the National Honey Board, and it's not only delicious, but super easy.  Whenever you wonder what to make for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, Crab Cakes are the answer.  And here's why:  They can become sliders if you put them in a bun, they can be placed on a green salad, they can nestle into an eggs benedict, they can top a pile of pasta or rice, they can even rest atop a steak. They can slip into a taco with some salsa, rest aside a bowl of soup, even be made into gigantic crab burgers.  Or just have them as is, with this killer Asian-inspired sauce.  Oh-- and if fresh crab is affordable, use it.  But if not, canned crab is actually pretty delish in this yummy creation of mine:

15 oz. canned crab meat, drained
1/2 Cup gingersnap crumbs (just whirl the cookies in a food processor or blender)
2 Tbsp. honey
1 egg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 green onions, minced
1 Tbsp. oil (I like coconut oil)

Mango-Peanut Sauce
1/2 Cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 Cup honey
1 mango, chopped

1. Mix crab meat, crumbs, honey, egg, pepper and onions together.  Chill 20 minutes.
2. Prepare sauce: Mix peanut butter, honey, and mango in a sauce pan over medium heat, until well blended.  Keep warm.
3. Form crab mixture into 4 patties.  Saute in oil 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Serve cakes drizzled with Mango-Peanut sauce.  Makes 4 servings (one patty per person).  OR... make them smaller for tiny appetizers.  OR... double or triple this recipe to make more!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Caribbean Frittata

Here's an easy, colorful dish that won a Better Homes and Gardens contest.  If you've never made a frittata, it's simply an Italian-style omelet that you never fold in half.  It fills the whole pan and works great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.  A super easy, one-pot meal that's a fun departure from the usual fare.  Frittatas are so forgiving, too-- you can substitute your favorite ingredients or whatever you have on hand.  If you want to melt cheese on top you need to make frittatas in a broiler-proof skillet, such as a cast iron one, but that's not essential.  This one is a great fusion because it uses zesty Caribbean flavors-- enjoy!

Here's what you need:
2 Tbsp. cooking oil (I like coconut oil)
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
2 tsp. Caribbean Jerk Seasoning (McCormick/Schilling makes a great one)
1 & 1/2 Cups diced cooked ham (or bacon, or sausage)
1 (4.5 oz.) can diced mild green chili peppers
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
6 beaten eggs
1/4 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Cup mango sliced, chopped (may use bottled)
Snipped fresh parsley

In a 10-inch broiler-proof skillet cook potatoes and jerk seasoning in hot oil over medium heat, until potatoes are tender and golden, about 10 minutes.  Add ham, chili peppers, onions, salt and pepper.  Gently stir to combine.  Cook for 5 minutes more, until onion is tender.  Pour beaten eggs over all.  As mixture sets, run a spatula around edge of skillet, lifting egg mixture so the uncooked portion flows underneath.  Continue cooking and lifting until the egg mixture is just set.  Place skillet under the broiler 4 to 5 inches from the heat.  Broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until top is set.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese.  Broil for another minute until cheese melts.  Sprinkle with chopped mango and parsley.  Cut into wedges.  Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Strawberry Dumplings

Just in time for Mother's Day, a decadent, wonderful dessert!  It won the Grand Prize in a Reddi-Wip Contest, so I'll give you that version first, followed by an even richer, more sinful version.  Both are heavenly (and super easy, too).
Scroll down for a photo of me holding a plate of them.  I'm sitting on the staircase of our house in Iowa, and our third son, Cassidy, can hardly wait to dig in!

16 square wonton wrappers
8 fresh strawberries, trimmed and cleaned
oil for frying
powered sugar
Reddi Wip

Place one strawberry on each of 8 wonton wrappers.  Moisten edges of the other 8 wrappers and cover strawberries, pressing to seal edges and form dumplings.  Fry in skillet over high heat, turning wontons frequently, five minutes or until golden brown.  Drain dumplings, dust lightly with powdered sugar, and serve with Reddi Wip.

Use filled strawberries!  Simply beat 6 oz. of softened cream cheese with 1 & 1/2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Then hollow out the berries and pipe this creamy mixture into them.  (You'll have lots of filling left-- use it for additional berries that you don't fry.)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Iowa Short Stack Omelette

Today I thought I'd share the first recipe I ever entered in a contest.  It won 2nd place and I was thrilled!  We had just moved from L.A. to Iowa so Bob could be the evening TV news anchor, and I'd read about an egg cookoff in the local paper.  I've always liked cooking and goodness knows I love to play with my food, so I came up with an idea that's actually current for today, almost 20 years later.
Today the hottest trend is a cake with a zillion thin layers, and now you can impress brunch guests with an OMELETTE stack, every bit as pretty as a cake (see the photo below).  I layered it with Iowa products such as ham and cheese, and called it the Iowa Short Stack (but there are other variations I've listed below).  I surrounded it with flowers and berries, then sliced it into wedges.  Bingo-- gorgeous enough to be a centerpiece, and a fun way to serve an omelette to a crowd.

Here's what you need:
2 eggs
1 tsp. water
1/8 tsp. salt
1 dash pepper
2 tsp. butter
6 thick slices of ham
6 slices of your favorite cheese
1 small onion, sliced and grilled
1 chopped tomato, or a scoop of thick salsa
Garnishes: Fruit, berries, flowers, or parsley

1. Beat eggs lightly with water, salt and pepper.  Coat a hot, 7-inch frying pan with butter, tilting pan to coat evenly.  Add egg mixture and shake pan to spread eggs across surface. Lift with spatula to allow uncooked eggs to flow beneath if necessary.  When surface is set, turn omelette out of pan onto serving plate.  Repeat to make 3 more omelettes.
2. Assemble the stack: Place first omelette on serving platter.  Cover with ham slices, overlapping as necessary.  Top with second omelette.  Cover with cheese slices.  Add third omelette.  Cover with grilled onion.  Top with final omelette and place tomato or scoop of salsa in center. Surround with garnishes.  Cut into wedges.  Serves 4-6.
* Sour cream, mild green chilies, avocado, and black olives
* Crab, Jack cheese, bacon, and sauteed mushrooms
* Flaked salmon, spinach, hollandaise sauce, and green onions
* Sausage, mozarella cheese, pizza sauce, and mushrooms