Monday, December 27, 2010

Uncle Pete's Baked Shrimp

What are you doing on this snowy Monday? We're getting hammered with this blizzard, but so far-knocking on wood-we still have power remarkably enough! It's really a good day for staying in and cooking! What can we make?

I had early 4am detail for shoveling this morn, so as soon as I came in, I put on a big pot of sauce. Meatballs you'll always find in my freezer, readied for a hungry crowd. I knew the kids would really work up an appetite when they come in from their detail. The winds are howling along with much drifting snow, and the visibility is just awful here so no one is getting out on these roads, not if I have anything to say about it :) So as I grabbed the meatballs I spotted some shrimp in the deep freeze, and as we didn't have our Christmas Eve seafood, why not today?

My Uncle Pete made the best baked shrimp I've ever eaten. Such an easy dish that disappears off the platters typically made for a gang, with it's buttery crumb topping, it's sure to be a crowd pleaser. When I was a youngster and our family got together, my uncle would make trays of this dish, as well at holiday time. I have fond remembrances of him lowering the tailgate of the station wagon on a hot summer's day at the beach and lining up these trays of shrimp for all to enjoy. I just made one casserole dish as I knew we had plenty with the pasta, salad and crusty peasant bread. Double or triple this recipe as needed. No need to worry about leftovers--there won't be any. Stay warm.

Uncle Pete's Baked Shrimp

2 lbs thawed and rinsed frozen jumbo shrimp
1 cup melted unsalted butter
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
4-6 drops tabasco sauce
2 cups Ritz crackers crushed
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
2 scallions, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme, rosemary and oregano blended
zest of one lemon
hot pepper flakes **optional

Pulse the Ritz cracker and corn flakes in a food processor until you have a rough crumb. Drizzle the melted butter, scallions and seasoning in thoroughly. Drizzle a bit of oilive oil into a 2 quart casserole and layer in the shrimp, alternating with the crumb mixture. Mix all together and pack onto and around the shrimp. Foil cover and bake in a 400 degree oven for only 18 minutes--no longer and serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas confections

Well it’s nearly here. Are you all set for it? Shopping done? Christmas cards mailed? Gifts all wrapped? Cookies and confections all made? Isn’t it crazy how we all overextend ourselves this time of year? I’m guilty as much as the next one most years, but this year I decided to put a stop to all the craziness and simply enjoy this holiday. Well except for the cookies and sweets ;-) In spite of the hectic schedules we all experience this time of year I have to say I had a blast baking trays of cookies and candies--Anise cookies, almond biscotti, Todo's, tea cakes, pizelles, date nut balls,chocolate espresso's, fennel pistachio cookies, cappuccino blondies, brownies, peanut butter cookies, assorted fudges, peanut and almond brittles, limoncello bars and of course gingerbread men.

I think everyone needs a good 'visiting cake' during the holidays. You know the ones? You get a call about a last minute get together and will you please bring dessert? Well you'll need something that's delicious and easy-to-make right? This one is mine. It's moist, buttery, and mildly sweet, and pairs perfectly with a cup of tea of coffee.

May the special gifts of Christmas be yours to treasure this holiday season. Merry Christmas! Buon natale! xo

Cranberry Amaretto Sour Cream Cake

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 pint sour cream
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Amaretto
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 TBLS sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 can whole cranberry sauce

Almond Glaze:

2 TBLS milk
3/4 cup confectionary sugar
1/4 cup Almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch Bundt or tube cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.Add the sour cream mixing well.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend this into the creamed sugar mixture. Mix in the Amaretto and vanilla extract. Pour 1/3 the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chopped walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Add a little more batter. Spoon whole cranberry sauce for your next layer and top with the rest of the batter, swirling the cranberry into this top layer. Bake 1 hour, or until golden brown.

For the almond glaze: Whisk the sugar and milk until creamy and smooth. Add in almond extract. Pour this glaze over completely cooled cake and serve. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

On the mend Chicken Pot Pie

Our good friend Steve recently got out of the hospital after some surgery with specific instructions to simply take it easy and not overdo! You have to know Steve, to see how difficult a task this would be for him--he's just one of those people that's always on the go and very active senior. About the only time he really slows down is at mealtime. But since he got home he's been complaining about always feeling 'cold'. So I popped in on him the other day for two reasons. One to see that he was following his doctors orders {and, I promised his wife I'd harp on him of the benefits of him following those orders :) and to bring him a warm pot pie just out of the oven. What better dish will warm you from the inside out and brings a big smile to the recipients face? Chicken Pot Pie, that's what!

This is a very easy pie to make, especially for those on the run, and these days who isn't busy? We just love chicken pot pies around here, and though I typically make mine with a buttery flaky crust, this time just used puff pastry sheets. I also like my chicken pot pies loaded with vegetables. You can prepare four individual five inch pies or one large pie from this recipe. This one features chunks of chicken with big pieces of carrots, potatoes and peas jammed with a savory herb gravy.

Cricket Corner Farm Chicken Pot Pie

3 cups chicken broth (homemade or stock)
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh carrots, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups peeled potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas
4 TBLS unsalted butter
6 TBLS flour
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
sea salt & ground pepper to taste
One pie crust topping.. or puff pastry to cover

Pour the chicken broth and wine into a large skillet and bring to a simmer. Add chicken pieces, carrots and potatoes pressing them down into an even layer. Cover the skillet and return to simmer. Tilt the lid slightly to let the steam escape and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, add in the peas, cover and let sit 15 more minutes. Strain the hot broth from the mixture into a bowl and reserve. Let the veggies cool off.

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and whisk together for just a few moments. Add the reserved broth all at once and whisk briskly. Bring to a gentle boil--then lower the heat and stir until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Add fresh thyme leaves and seasoning to taste.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetable mixture in the skillet and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 2 1/2 quart or four five inch individual pie tins and set aside. Top with your favorite pie crust or puff pastry cover. Pierce the pie to vent and bake in a 350 degree oven approximately 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and just bubbly. Enjoy!