Monday, September 22, 2008

Tomato Garden Party

One of the great joys of blogging is meeting people across the world or right in your own backyard who share your interests.

Foodbuzz, one of the blogging communities that I am part of hosted an event called 24 meals in 24 hours on 24 blogs. Deb of Jersey Bites and founder of the Jersey Biters blog community was one of the featured bloggers in the Foodbuzz event. She hosted a Tomato Garden Party that featured an all tomato menu. We were joined by neighborhood friends and fellow blogger John of John and Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey. By the way, please help promote Deb's post on the event by clicking the little "buzz" icon on the upper right hand corner of the page.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Greek Fest, St. Barbara's Church, Toms River, NJ

St. Barbara's Greek Orthodox Church is one of the gems of Ocean County. The church features beautiful icons that have been expanded over the years. The front of the church features a screen evokes the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Tabernacle. Behind these screens, the elements for communion are consecrated, just as in the Tabernacle the blood of the atonement is sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. The large picture of the "Theodikus" (Mother of God) with the child Jesus is significant reminding the worshiper that because God became man in the Jesus Christ, we can be united with God through his birth, life, sacrifice and resurrection.The dome of most Orthodox churches feature this icon of Christos Pantocrator, as St. Barbara's does. The title translated is Christ, the ruler of the universe. It depicts the glorified Christ holding the book of the Gospels and his hand is raised in blessing, proclaiming God's loving kindness toward us. St. Barbara's had funded the construction and adornment of their church in part through the semi-annual Greek Fest. It is a wonderful time featuring Greek food, traditional dancing and other aspects of Greek culture. Stopping by the Greek fest is an annual must do for our family.

This is a batch of Loukoumades coming out of the frier. Loukoumades are yeast donuts coated with sugar, very similar to zepoles.

Here is a fresh spit of gyros rotating on the broiler. Gyros is Greek street food. It is usually made of minced seasoned lamb that is sliced off the spit as it is roasted. It is served in a pita with tomatoe, lettuce, onion and tzatziki. Tzatziki is a yogurt cucumber sauce.

I had a tasty dish of Greek food. In addition to the gyro I had some souvlaki and a piece of spanakopita. Souvlaki is basically Greek shish kabob. It is usually pork, but in Greek restaurants or diners you can usually get chicken or beef souvlaki. It is seasoned with olive oil, lemon, garlic and oregano. Spanakopita is phyllo filled with spinach and feta cheese.

Of course, for both my wife and I the highlight of Greek fest is picking up some tasty Greek pastry. In addition to the Baklava, we bought some Kadaifi and some Galaktoboureko. Most people know Baklava. It is sheets of phyllo, layed with cinnamon and walnuts, then soaked in a honey syrup. Kadaifi is made from similar ingredients accept the phyllo is shredded. They end product are crunchy haystacks dripping with honey. These are my youngest daughter's favorites. Christine and I are especially fond of Galktoboureko. This phyllo filled with a thick milk custard.

If you are in the Toms River area or even in driving distance, make sure to check out St. Barbara's website so you can put the Greek Fest on your calendar.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

World's Best (and easiest) Pot Roast

My mom is known at our church as the Pot Roast Lady. Whenever someone is sick or have some crisis from the church, she brings over a dish of pot roast to make their life a little easier. Her Pot Roast is so coveted, that folk in our church have been known to feign illness, in order to be recipients of her roast. Pot roast is one the most simple of comfort food. It is the epitome of meat and potatoes. You can put this on in the morning, turn the heat down and have a great, warm comforting meal in the evening. Since we had the first hint of fall in the air yesterday, I cooked my mom's recipe of pot roast. As usual, it was delicious.

Pot Roast

2 T vegetable oil
1 4-6 lb bottom round beef roast
1 large onion sliced
salt and pepper
1 c water
8 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 c potato water (the reserved water from boiled potatoes)
1 T butter
2 T wondra flour

In a heavy dutch oven, brown the meat very well on all sides, add the sliced onions, heavily salt and pepper the roast, add 1 cup of water and reduce heat. Allow meat to braise for 3-4 hours until it is tender. Add carrots 1-2 hours before you are finished cooking the beef. Check occasionally and add more water if necessary to keep about an inch to 2 inches of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Remove meat from pan and cover with foil. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Remove carrots and onions from pan and set aside. Pour off cooking liquid from dutch oven and reserve for later. Deglaze pan with potato water, making sure you get all the browned bits from pan, pour into reserved cooking liquid. Melt 1 T butter in pan, add 2 T wondra flour and cook for about 2 minutes until flour is bubbly and slightly golden. Return cooking liquid to pan and whisk with flour making sure all lumps are removed, cook for 5 or so minutes until gravy is thickened. Slice meat against the grain. Arrange on platter with carrots and onions. Serve with gravy, mashed potatoes and red cabbage.


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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dutch Plum Cake (Zwetschgenkuchen)

I made this with the Italian plums we picked at Strawberry Hill Farm a couple of weeks ago. Very tasty.



1/2 c butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t grated lemon peel
1/4 t nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons cold water

Cut butter into flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon peel and nutmeg until crumbly. Stir in egg with a fork and then water until the dough comes together. Press into a spring form pan sprayed with cooking spray.


Italian plums, halved and pitted (enough to cover the top of the pastry)
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 T flour
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 c slivered almonds

Top dough with plums, arranging so that most of the cake is covered. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of plums. Sprinkle almonds on top of sugar.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until plums are bubbly about 35 to 40 minutes.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Quick and Easy Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella, Tomatoes and Basil

My Dad had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, so I used them for supper tonight. I made a kind of a tomato bruschetta using tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, a dash of red wine vinegar, garlic, shallots, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Then I tossed in some steaming pasta, well chilled diced mozzarella and basil. It was great.

Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Basil

2 or 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2/3 olive oil
1/4 red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 minced shallot or about 1 T minced red onion
1 large clove of garlic, smashed
pinch of sugar
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cubed and well chilled
1 lb medium size pasta (I used medium shells)
10 or so basil leaved, chiffonad

Mix tomatoes, olive oil, wine vinegar, shallots, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. After it has sat for about 10 minutes and tomatoes have given off some of their juice taste and adjust for flavor. Add a bit more sugar or acid depending on taste.

Boil pasta for 8-10 minutes. Drain, add to tomato mixture. Toss in well chilled mozzarella and basil leaves.

Serve with grated cheese.


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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pistachio Cupcakes

Our friends, Sue and Matt had us over for an end of the summer cook out a few days ago. Sue, who is a very good cook, made these tasty cupcakes for desert. I got the recipe for them and share it with you here.

Pistachio Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
2 boxes instant pistachio pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup club soda or seltzer
1 teaspoon almond extract
1- 4 oz jar of cherries, chopped, without juice
1/2 cup minced walnuts

Combine all ingredients except for the cherries and walnuts, after thoroughly mixed, fold in cherries and walnuts.
Bake at 350
Cupcakes 25-30 minutes
Cake 45-50 minutes
Normally it can take longer just be sure the middle is firm, every oven temp is different,
Cover with Powdered Sugar

Friday, September 5, 2008

Norwegian Meatballs (kjottkaker)

Back to school for the kids this week.  It's time for some Norwegian soul food, so I made Norwegian Meatballs. The recipe given here tells you how to make gravy, which you must have, however I learned a secret from my mother-in-law--freeze your leftover gravy from a pot roast, then deglase the pan  after browning the meatballs and add the frozen gravy to the pan, return the meatballs and cook for 30 minutes or so.

Norwegian Meatballs (Kjottkakker)

1 T butter
1 medium onion, minced
1 & 1/2 lb ground beef
3 slices white bread
1/3 c milk
1 egg
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t allspice
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Melt butter in a frying pan. Cook onions in butter until clear.  Soak bread in milk.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Form meat into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Melt about 1 T. butter in pan, brown meatballs on all sides.  Remove from pan.


1/4 c flour
2 1/2 c beef stock

Cook flour in pan, (add additional fat if necessary).  Add the beef stock.  Cook until thickened.


Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of water.  Add 2 cups of left over beef gravy that you have in the freezer.

Return meatballs to the gravy and cook for 20-40 minutes.  Serve meatballs with mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam.  (Cranberry sauce is a good substitute if you can't find lingonberry jam).


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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Creamy Corn Chowder

I got a ham bone from my sister-in-law and have been pondering what to do with it. I make a mean split pea soup, but to me, that is more of a fall or winter soup. We have some unused corn on the cob so I decided to create a creamy corn chowder. It came out fantastic!

Creamy Corn Chowder

1 ham bone
2 ribs of celery
2 carrots
1 medium onion
8 cups of water
6 pepper corns

Put ham bone, celery, carrots, onion, pepper corns and water into a stock pot. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat and simmer for at 3-4 hours. Strain broth and put ham bone aside, when cool remove any meat from the bone and mince.

2 T butter
3 ribs of celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1/2 jalapeno (seeds and pith removed) minced (more or less depending on your preference for heat)
4 cups ham broth
kernels from 4 ears of corn
3 potatoes, pealed and diced
2 c. of milk
1 lb. cream cheese
minced ham
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Melt butter in stock pot, saute onions, celery, green peppers, and jalapeno pepper until soft, but not browned. Pour in ham stock, corn and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. In a bowl, mix milk and cream cheese together, until smooth. Pour mixture into soup. Add ham, red pepper, cayenne pepper. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.


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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast

Christine and I had this dish years ago at a bed and breakfast we stayed at. I can't remember which one. The inn keeper was kind enough to give us the recipe. This past Sunday, "covered dish" brunch after the service. We brought this dish as our contribution.

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast

French Toast

1 loaf of white bread (about 24 slices)
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
10 eggs
1/3 c. maple syrup
2 c. milk

Cut bread in cubes. Spray the bottom of a 9' X 13" glass baking with cooking spray and place half the bread in the pan. Cube the cream cheese and put on top of the bread. Sprinkle the blueberries over the bread and cream cheese. Put the remaining bread on top of the blueberries.

Beat the eggs together with the maple syrup and the milk. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate over night.

Cover the pan with foil. Bake the french toast in the middle of 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes until french toast is puffed and golden.

Blueberry Sauce

1 c. water
1c. sugar
2 T. corn starch
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 T butter

Cook the water, cornstarch, sugar and 1 cup of blueberries until it thickens. Then add the rest of blueberries and the butter. Server over the french toast.

Note: I have done this dish with other fruit. Raspberries work well as do thinly slice peaches or plums.


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Monday, September 1, 2008

Scrambled Eggs the Right Way (What My Kids Call "Creamy Eggs")

I have often told people that Julia Child taught me to cook. What I learned from watching her shows and reading her books was technique -- how cooking simple food the right way produces memorable meals. One of the things Julia taught me was how to cook scrambled eggs correctly. When I was a kid scrambled eggs were hard, watery, rubbery globs of yellow. Not very tasty. I don't know where I learned this, but I read somewhere Julia's instructions for doing scrambled eggs the right way, and what this technique produces is nothing like the nasty stuff I ate growing. When I feel like fussing over the eggs for breakfast I will do the eggs this way. My kids call them "creamy eggs" thinking they are something really special but what they are are just scrambled eggs done the right way. If you follow the instructions to the T you will be surprised at how great scrambled eggs can be.

Scrambled Eggs the Right Way (Creamy Eggs)

8 eggs, beaten
3 T butter
salt and pepper

In a cast iron or other heavy skillet (not non-stick) melt 2 T butter, just until bubbly. Coat pan with melted butter. Reduce heat as though you were going to simmer soup. Pour the beaten eggs into the skillet. Let eggs sit for about 30 seconds. With a wooden spatula scrape egg mixture off the bottom. Continue to cook the eggs very gently, scraping frequently. What you are trying to do is to just let the eggs set up on the bottom of the skillet while continually incorporating them into the uncooked eggs. Take care not to brown the eggs at all or let them set up to quickly. Keep doing this for about 8-15 minutes until you have a soft, creamy product.

When eggs are just set, no longer has any raw eggs, but are still creamy, remove from the heat and incorporate the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season the eggs with salt, pepper or any kind of herbs you like. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

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