Monday, March 31, 2014

The Dorot Challenge

We were THRILLED to be invited to work with DorotIn the following days, you will see the results of our cooks' creativity using their fabulous products!  

In Dorot's first correspondence to us, the introduction included the word "exciting." Not many herb and spice companies can pull that adjective off, but we think Dorot can!  "Here at Dorot, we are revolutionizing home cooking by offering our customers the freshest herbs and spices with unparalleled convenience. Because our products come frozen in neatly packaged freezer trays, they are uniquely easy to use: Simply pop in a cube of frozen herb or spice and instantly add flavor and depth to whatever you're cooking! For both amateur and advanced cooks across this world, this has meant exposure to cooking avenues that they would have previously avoided—often due to the mess, hassle and waste involved in preparing herbs. Thanks to Dorot, millions of cooks have begun exploring healthier, more flavorful and more inventive cooking."

After using their products, we concur!

Their products are also especially appealing to health-conscious cooks. Not only are they all natural, non-GMO and gluten-free, they're loaded will all the health benefits, vitamins and nutritive properties of fresh herbs and spices. And let's face it, there aren't many who wouldn't love to have a garden with fresh herbs galore, but we can't all manage it. And even for those who can, well, it snows! Ha!

Back to the word "exciting." The company is owned by a kibbutz in southern Israel. For an American girl, I think that is pretty cool! And yes, exciting! "The company was established in 1992 and is fully owned by Kibbutz Dorot in the southern part of Israel. The kibbutz has more than 3,500 acres of field crops – garlic & herbs – which are picked, and then immediately chopped, packaged and frozen in a unique fast freeze process, maintaining their taste, freshness and 
nutritive value. Over the years, the company has grown and expanded, and is today the largest supplier in Israel of fresh frozen seasoning products."

Enjoy our recipes, folks! And check out Dorot's product line at your local grocer and online. ~Sandra

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Recipe Round-Up (The Spice House) Argyle Street Roasted Chicken

A Recipe Roundup is what happens when one of the 37 cooks thinks of a wonderful recipe weeks or months after the challenge ends. Enjoy!

The Spice House’s Argyle Street Asian Blend is a terrific combination of Thai-oriented ingredients (but will nicely accent many other recipes): Lemon grass, cilantro, coriander, chile peppers, garlic, ginger, onion, white pepper, and sesame seeds. This roasted chicken truly benefits from this spice blend: The flavors mingle well with the simple oil and soy sauce rub, and the spices and sesame seeds brown up quite nicely. Spatchcocking the bird for roasting allows for more even cooking and browning, making for a beautiful presentation. The result is a delicious take on your everyday roasted chicken!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Recipe Round-Up (The Spice House) Lavender Rack of Lamb

A Recipe Roundup is what happens when one of the 37 cooks thinks of a wonderful recipe weeks or months after the challenge ends. Enjoy!

Lavender Rack of Lamb
by Debbie
adapted from Lavender Racks of Lamb by Merrilyn on The Spice House website

3 Tablespoons The Spice House Lavender Flower Buds

1 Tablespoon Whole cardamom
1 teaspoon The Spice House Sel Marin de Guerande French Grey Sea Salt
2 racks of lamb, Frenched
1 Tablespoon coconut oil

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Recipe Round-Up (The Spice House) Black Garlic Chicken

A Recipe Roundup is what happens when one of the 37 cooks thinks of a wonderful recipe weeks or months after the challenge ends. Enjoy!

This flavorful roasted chicken benefits from the best of the Asian condiment shelf: umami-packed soy and oyster sauces, sweet hoisin and honey, and a dash of sesame oil for a nutty note. Both regular and fermented black garlic really punch up the flavor profile; be sure to save the delicious pan juices to spoon over steamed rice!

Black Garlic Chicken
by Gary

serves 4

1 whole chicken, about 4-5 pounds, cut up and patted dry (or use 4-5 pounds bone-in chicken parts)
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
3 cloves The Spice House Black Garlic, mashed and chopped
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 green onions, chopped, for garnish

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Recipe Round-Up (Tropical Traditions) Coconut Cloud Martini

A Recipe Roundup is what happens when one of the 37 cooks thinks of a wonderful recipe weeks or months after the challenge ends. Enjoy!

This is a drink that I absolutely love. As in love, Love, LOVE!!! My husband and I first tried it at the Tommy Bahama restaurant here in Houston. The kind bartender there let us know that pretty much all of The Tommy Bahama signature drinks were available for download online. So we printed the entire collection out and proceeded to sample them all. If you are a fan of tropical, rum-based libations, I encourage you to do the same. They are all fantastic, although this one remains my favorite. It's a great pick-me-up when I'm feeling down, yet it's a perfect celebratory drink, as well. Just be careful, as it's pretty strong and will sneak up on you in a heartbeat! Plan to sit a spell, kick back, and relax. We all deserve to do that every once in a while...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recipe Round-Up (The Spice House) Hoummous al Za’atar

A Recipe Roundup is what happens when one of the 37 cooks thinks of a wonderful recipe weeks or months after the challenge ends. Enjoy!

This salad is really a wonderful mix of flavors and texture combinations. Za’atar is an ancient middle eastern spice blend made from lightly toasted sesame seeds, sun dried herbs and ground sumac. Not the poisonous sumac you've undoubtedly been warned about since childhood, but a very food-friendly type of sumac native to the Middle East. The bark of this sumac tree is ground to a powder and tastes lemony and earthy. The salad is made with chickpeas, wheat berries, sumac, roasted eggplant, tomatoes, parsley and feta cheese. Everything is drizzled with olive oil and lemon, and then sprinkled with za’atar. If you close your eyes, the scent of the lemon and za’atar will hopefully bring you to a dusty camel caravan heading across the desert for a souq far in the shimmering distance.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pita Bread

We lived in Israel for two years and my husband worked in Lebanon with the U.N. Pita Bread is a staple in the Middle East and can be found on street corners and every shop. This recipe reminds me of the wonderful smells walking by the vendors.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Shrimp Creole

Back in August of 2000, I visited New Orleans, Louisiana for the first time. Man was it hot! It was 97° in the shade with 90% humidity. All we could do to keep cool was drink Hurricanes and hide in the shade. I ate at many restaurants, both large and small, but one of my favorites was The Gumbo Shop located in the heart of the French Quarter. At the time, I wasn't familiar with Cajun or Creole cooking but quickly fell in love. It was unlike anything I had had before (being from the Midwest) and I've been replicating many of those recipes ever since. One of my favorites is a Cajun classic and I highly recommend it if you've never tried food from New Orleans. Now go grab yourself a Blackened Voodoo beer and try this out. Like they say in 'Nawlins, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Heavenly Hellenic Yogurt

We visited Greece before we had children (I was actually 3 months pregnant with my oldest.) We spent two heavenly weeks enjoying beaches and Greek culture while ferry-hopping our way across the islands. On the island of Santorini (one of our favorites), we were staying at a small pension and had fresh Greek yogurt and honey with a few berries every morning. It was amazing! So simple, but so delicious and a great way to start the day without feeling weighed down. This version adds in some nuts and seeds that we have come to love. These add a nutritional blast to this high protein, low fat, and great tasting meal.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lobster Pie

When my husband retired a few years ago, we took a road trip to Wells, Maine, all the way from Houston, Texas. It was a whopping 1,986 miles one way! We were blessed to get a really good deal on an end-of-the-season vacation home that belonged to his ex-boss. We got there just in time to see the beautiful fall colors and because it was the end of season, all the big crowds were gone. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Toasted Coconut Tartlets

"If anyone asks, it's only a coconut."

A few winters ago, we escaped the bitter cold and went on a two-week Caribbean cruise. The ship left from New Jersey, so it took a few days for us to actually reach warmer waters, but once we got there it was AMAZING. Our first stop was in Puerto Rico, and we were so excited to get off the boat and explore (and also eat some better food!). We ate lunch at a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant and then spent the day wandering around aimlessly. At one point, I saw a sign advertising aged rum served in coconut shells; I decided that I absolutely had to have one. We stopped at a courtyard bar and ordered one to share. Even though we fully intended on sitting at the bar with it, the bartender told us we could take it with us if we wanted. Her only warning? "If anyone asks, it's only a coconut." I guess a coconut shell is a little classier than a brown paper bag, but I'm not generally one to break the rules so we stayed in the courtyard. Luckily, open container laws don't apply to these coconut tartlets.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lobster Pound Lobster Rolls

About 12 years ago, my husband and I went camping for a week near Bar Harbor, Maine. As we approached our destination, easing in toward the coast, we started noticing ramshackle structures along the sides of the road. These one-story buildings looked like weathered mini-houses: they had served their purposes as dwellings, but with a minimum of TLC shown to their exteriors over the years. Outside some of these, picnic tables with plastic tablecloths were positioned in two or three rows, ready for occupants. Each mini-house boasted a sign somewhere on its property, often hand-painted, and often with just one word: Lobster. We had discovered lobster pounds.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mom's Peanut Butter Squares

Vacations in our family were always more like "staycations".  We camped and we went to the beach, but it was always fairly close to home. We have made a couple of road trips to Florida and Tennessee to visit my sister. One common thread through our lives, through any trips, parties and celebrations has always been Mom's Peanut Butter Squares. This is the legacy Mom left for us...we will never, ever eat these without thinking about her. It just seemed fitting to me to make these for the Vacation Destination Challenge. Mom passed in November, and a day hasn't passed that I haven't thought of her. While going through her things I came across the original recipe...I was shocked to see that the recipe card was written in my own handwriting! I was completely unaware all these years that I was the one who had given her the recipe. I'm sure I found it in a magazine or cook book sometime back in the 1980's. For over 30 years no event in our lives was complete without those peanut butter squares. She made them for birthdays, weddings, picnics, graduations, illness and death. One of her neighbors told me she 'healed the neighborhood' with her pb squares. They are so simple to make, yet not so simple to perfect. Through trial and error, she learned how important it was to make sure the graham cracker crumbs were ground fine enough. Rather than buying already ground crumbs, she would grind them herself in the food processor until they met her standards.

I have taken the recipe one step further and begun to melt the peanut butter with the butter, ensuring a smooth, almost fudge-like texture. I think Mom would approve. Here's to you, mom...I promise to carry on your legacy and ensure the peanut butter squares continue to heal and love our extended family and friends.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cheese Empanadas with Chimichurri

I love empanadas, probably because when I was 12, we lived in Venezuela for two years. It was a two-year vacation that I will never forget. My parents learned to golf there - a whole other story! We would go to the golf club with them and swim and have snacks. The empanadas were to die for. I only remember the meat and potato ones. I have never found any I like as much as those, but I do love cheese - who doesn't? The dough for these empanadas is made with lard. I know. Who uses lard these days? I am sure my grandmothers did and they both lived to a ripe old age. So, for an occasional special treat, make these! If you aren't comfortable working with dough, Goya also makes empanada discs, found in the frozen aisle of your grocery store. I have some in the freezer, but I haven't used them yet. They will come in handy for a quick appetizer or lunch. This recipe makes a lot of dough, so I filled some with cheese and then froze them, unfried, on a cookie sheet, and then transferred to freezer bags for later. I also filled some with peach pie filling and with a caramelized banana filling, and after frying I rolled them in cinnamon and sugar. If you like, you can also freeze the dough. Roll in to a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then put in a freezer bag. The options are limitless.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Conch Fritters with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce

My family loves to vacation in the Florida Keys. Key West, in particular, is a trip we always enjoy. The fishing, the snorkeling, the sunsets, the night life, and the food. Ah, the food. Fresh seafood, Cuban sandwiches and cafecito, daiquiris, key lime pie. All enjoyed in a laid back yet vibrant setting. It's hard to have a bad meal in Key West. But, the one dish that we look forward to more than any other is the conch. To sit down with a plate of conch fritters and a nice cold adult beverage is the first thing that we do when we hit town. And it's a ritual that we repeat as often as possible while there.