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November 25, 2013

Pasta and Bolognese Casserole with Spicy Meatballs

There's nothing like a good Bolognese sauce, rich and flavorful it is usually served over pasta. This recipe takes it one more step, adding cheese and baking until the cheese melts.

Serves 4


For the Casserole

  • ½ pound Penne pasta
  • 2 cups Bolognese sauce
  • 12 small meatballs
  • 2 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 4 ounces fresh Mozzarella


    to assemble the casserole:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions, al dente. Add Bolognese sauce and pesto and stir to combine, coating pasta with sauce. Stir in meatballs. Top with cheese and bake covered until sauce bubbles. Remove cover and continue to cook until cheese slightly browns on top.

    Bolognese Sauce


  • 1 cup milk
  • 10 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 cup small diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup small diced celery
  • 1 cup small diced onions
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and black


    In a small sauce pot, bring the milk up to a simmer and reduce by 1/3. About 6 tablespoons of milk should be remaining. In a sauce pot, cook the pancetta over medium heat, about 8 minutes, or until almost all the fat is rendered.

    Stir in the carrots, celery, and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables for about 3 minutes or until the vegetables are translucent.

    In a mixing bowl, combine the meats. Season the meats with salt and pepper. Increase the heat and stir the meat in with the vegetables. Brown the meat for 5 minutes, or until the meat is medium brown in color.

    Stir in the wine, garlic and tomato paste, and reduce the heat to very low. Add ¼ of the milk. Cook partially covered for 30 minutes up to 2 hours. From time to time stir in more milk until all of the milk is incorporated. Stir in the cream. Season with salt and black pepper.

    For the meatballs:

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ ounces ground pork sausage
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red chili
  • ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • ¼ cup milk
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Enough oil for frying meatballs


    Heat oil in large skillet. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Roll meatballs into desired size. Add to skillet and cook until browned and juices run clear.

    Cooking Wiser

    Save time by making the meatballs ping pong ball size; they will cook faster.

    For less fat and cholesterol use lean ground beef
    Using Italian sausage will add more flavor with less fat

    Posted by terri at 02:09 AM | Comments (0)

    Lobster Bisque

    Serve something different during the Holidays but be aware, lobster prices are soaring due to its ever increasing popularity. If you take the time with this recipe though you can create amazing flavor with two medium to large lobster tails.

    Serves 8
    Prep time: 30 minutes
    Total time:

    Lobster Stock


  • 6 cups water
  • 2 large lobster shells
  • shells from 1 pound of shrimp (save shrimp for another use)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 garlic head, cut in half
  • 2 cups aromatics, roughly chopped
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs parsley
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 1 cup dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling

    Aromatics are the vegetables that add flavor and depth to a stock. The basic French aromatics are celery, onion and carrot. Making stock is more of an art than a science; there is no precise amount of each aromatic to use. This is why each chef has his or her own uniquely flavored soups and sauces.



  • lobster meat from two large shells, cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, minced
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • salt and pepper, to taste


    Stock: Add all the ingredients to a large, heavy stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
    Remove the stock from the heat; strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
    Return the liquid to the stovetop and simmer over moderate heat until it is reduced by about half- should have at least 4 cups.
    Store cooled stock for up to four days in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

    Tasting the stock is the key. Taste at different stages, add aromatics if necessary, and be creative!

    Bisque: Heat the butter in large pot, add the onions, carrots, celery and cook until tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the flour and cook until slightly golden. Add the cayenne and 1/3 of the lobster, cook 3 minutes. Add the sherry, and ½ of the stock, cook 3 more minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until coarsely pureed. Add puree back to pot and add remaining stock, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and the milk and stir until thickened, about 20 minutes on medium low heat. Add the cream and remaining lobster and heat gently until lobster is pink.

    Serve with crusty bread.

    Cooking Wiser

    Add 1/2 pound coarsely chopped shrimp to save a little money. Add the shrimp at the end with the lobster meat.

    Decrease the calories by replacing heavy cream with half and half.
    Sometimes you can't compromise flavor and textures but you can cut down on your serving size.

    Posted by terri at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)

    November 22, 2013

    Pumpkin Dip

    Take a few ingredients and create wonderful holiday dip in 5 minutes that is tasty, healthy and versatile.

    The dip could also serve as the custard for a pumpkin trifle!

    Pumpkin Custard Dip
    Makes about 3 cups


  • 1 (5.1-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix (sugar free)
  • 1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping

    2 apples sliced
    1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional


    Stir the pudding mix and 1 container of the whipped topping into the pumpkin pie filling. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

    Note: do not make the pudding, just stir the dry mix into the whipped topping

    Serve with apple slices and or gingersnaps

    Posted by terri at 02:51 AM | Comments (0)

    November 21, 2013

    Momma Mia, that’s a spicy meatball

    I love teaching Italian cooking classes. There are so many fabulous ingredients to talk about and each region has its own distinct culinary specialties. Again the students had they own set of skills, some more advanced than others but each eager to try a few new recipes. During this class we all learned a little bit more and enjoyed a delicious meal in the end.

    They enjoyed the final product, their scallop stuffed roasted red peppers were fabulous.

    Presentation was the key and these caprese skewers were beautiful.

    They had a good time and enjoyed their successes

    It took a little bit of time to cook these egg yolks but they perfectly mastered it.

    This class provided information on a good range of Regional Italian food. Techniques included how to:

  • select and successfully cook pasta,
  • turn egg yolks into a delicate custard,
  • select cheeses, extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

    On the menu:

    Caprese Salad Skewers with Balsamic Sauce

    Scallop Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers with Pesto

    Pasta and Bolognese Casserole with Spicy Meatballs

    For dessert we enjoyed a very simple and sumptuous Italian dessert, Zabaglione

    Posted by terri at 02:34 AM | Comments (0)

    November 16, 2013

    Scallop Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers with Pesto

    This is a great combination of flavors with scallops, roasted red pepper and pesto and the end results make a beautiful presentation. Place on a colorful platter to serve.

    Serves 4


  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced into slivers or rounds
  • ½ pound medium scallops (about 16-20 count)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons pesto sauce (already prepared)
  • Kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salad and basil leaves to garnish


    Pre- heat the oven to 350 degrees

    Cut the peppers in half length ways and remove ribs and seeds.

    Divide the slices of garlic equally and place in each pepper half, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

    Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.

    Cut each of the scallops in half horizontally to make two flat discs.

    Combine with the bread crumbs and melted butter.

    When peppers have cooked, remove them from the oven and place equal amounts of scallop mixture in each pepper half, then top the scallops with pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese

    Return the roasting pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes more or until the cheese melts and the scallop are done.

    Transfer the peppers to individual serving plates and garnish each plate with a few salad leaves and basil sprigs.

    Cooking Wiser
    The scallops can be cut into smaller pieces if necessary depending on the size of the pepper half

    Don't overcook the scallops, it causes them to become tough. If you cut them into smaller pieces adjust your cooking time.

    Posted by terri at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)


    Zabaglione is a fabulous dessert made from a few ingredients including egg yolks. The eggs are whisked together and cooked into a light custard. It can be served warm by itself or with berries, cake, ice cream or pastry. Thanks to the Italians for creating!

    Makes ½ cup


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala


    Whisk all ingredients over a double boiler until thickened like pudding. Take on and off the heat while cooking so as not to scramble the eggs.

    Serve warm.

    Cooking Wiser
    If you don't have a double boiler, don't buy one. Simply heat a pot of water and top with a stainless steel bowl that sets mostly atop the pot.

    Avoid using aluminum bowls which absorb oils and can interfere with the cooking process.

    tips for separating the egg yolk from the whites

    Separate eggs while they are cold, the yolk will hold together better.

    Gently crack the egg in the middle of the shell and break apart at an upward angle.

    Place a bowl under the egg to catch the white of the egg and gently toss the yolk back and forth between the two shell halves until the white is gone. place the yolk into the other bowl.

    If you get a piece of shell into the bowl it can easily be removed with one of the shell halves. It is actually amazing how this works.

    Posted by terri at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

    Caprese Salad Skewers with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

    Ciliegine mozzarella are small round balls of mozzarella cheese. They are used for their visual appeal more than anything and in this recipe they're perfect for skewers. Serve these as an appetizer or use the skewer to top a salad.

    Serves 4


  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 8 oz Ciliegine mozzarella cheese, drained
  • ¼ Cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) red pepper flakes, add more or less to suit your taste
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 4 Skewers


    Place tomatoes and drained mozzarella into a bowl

    Whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over tomatoes and mozzarella, gently combine. Set aside or place in fridge while preparing the balsamic sauce.

    Pour balsamic vinegar into a small pot and simmer on med-low heat until it’s reduced by half. Stir constantly. Do not let it come to a roaring boil. The reduction should be thicker and slightly sweet.

    Skewer the tomatoes and mozzarella. There’s no particular way or right or wrong way to do this: I did tomato, cheese, basil, tomato, cheese. In the past, I’ve done: tomato, basil, cheese, tomato, basil, cheese. That’s the fun part of cooking – you can adjust to your own taste. How much basil you use is up to you. If the leaf is big I just fold the leaf in half or tear it in half and skewer it. If the leaf is small I use two leaves.

    Place skewers on plate and drizzle the balsamic reduction over the skewers, using as little or much as you want.

    Cooking Wiser:

    Save time by making the balsamic sauce in advance. It will keep in refrigerator for several weeks.

    If you don’t have time to make a reduction drizzle a little balsamic vinegar into the olive oil mixture and let the tomatoes and mozzarella marinade in it for a few hours or overnight.

    To add more flavor, pierce the tomato with a toothpick in 2 or 3 places and marinade with the balsamic sauce.

    Serve as an appetizer or top the skewer over a bed of salad greens. Drizzle a little more sauce over the greens.

    Posted by terri at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

    November 06, 2013

    Thai Cooking Class

    Thai cooking allows you to try new ingredients and different cooking techniques. I recently taught a class through UT non-credit program and it was a great experience. Most of the students had great cooking skills so my job was to assist when needed and share a few great recipes. I was so impressed with the results. I think they were too.

    Here are a few of the highlights.

    Cashew and Cabbage Salad with a Soy Lime Dressing

    Stir Fried Shrimp in a Tangy Thai Garlic Sauce

    The students were busy plating their shrimp, making salads and baking cakes.

    Posted by terri at 03:36 AM | Comments (0)

    Coconut Cake with Rich Coconut Icing

    If you've ever wanted to make fluffy white icing this is the recipe for you. It is fast, simple and fabulous. The presentation is beautiful with this coconut cake.

    Serves 12



  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ additional cup of sugar for egg whites


  • 5 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Cake: Prepare 2 (8 inch) round metal cake pans with oil and dust with flour.

    Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, in a bowl and stir. Combine sugar, oil, butter and vanilla in a large bowl and beat with mixer until fluffy. Add coconut milk, beat until combined. Slowly add flour mixture and beat at low speed until well combined.

    Place 4 egg whites in a large, clean bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until medium peaks form using clean, dry beaters. Stir ¼ of egg white mixture into batter, gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 19 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes them remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

    Toast the coconut by placing it in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until most of the coconut is lightly browned. Immediately transfer to a bowl to cool.

    Have ready two pots that can serve as a double-boiler (or use a stainless-steel bowl set over a pot). In the top pot, combine egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Stir well and set aside.

    Add 1 inch water to the lower pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low (water should be steaming but not boiling). Now set the pot with the egg mixture tightly over it. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture starting at low speed. Gradually increase speed over 5 minutes, ending at high speed. Add the flavoring (if using) when you switch to high speed. Beat until icing is stiff and easily holds its shape. Remove from heat.

    To a assemble cake
    Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, spread with 1/3 of the frosting. Top with the other cake layer and spread cake with remaining frosting, including the sides. Gently press coconut flakes into sides and top of cake.

    Posted by terri at 03:25 AM | Comments (0)

    Cashew and Cabbage Salad with a soy-lime dressing

    The key to this recipe is to marinate the vegetables in the dressing about 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to plating.

    Serves 4


  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup cashews, whole roasted, unsalted
  • ½ large red bell pepper, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage, washed and torn into bite size pieces

    For the dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • Fresh grated black pepper to taste
    Garnish with fresh basil and cilantro


    Make the dressing by mixing all salad dressing ingredients together in a bowl

    Place cucumbers in bowl with carrot, cashews, red pepper and onions.

    Pour the dressing over vegetables and toss well.

    Place cabbage equally onto 4 plates. Add salad to plate. Garnish with fresh basil and cilantro.

    Cooking Wiser Tips

    Adjust flavors with more sugar or vinegar to your taste, or more chili if it isn’t spicy enough

    You can use any salad greens that you like

    Posted by terri at 03:16 AM | Comments (0)

    Stir Fried Shrimp in a Tangy Thai Garlic Sauce

    The marinade for the shrimp is a combination of oyster, fish and soy sauce with a hint of sweet and sour. Oyster sauce is cooked down oyster juice that is caramelized for added flavor; the flavors work very well with the shrimp.

    The shrimp can be served with noodles or rice.

    Serves 4


  • 1 pound 15-20 count shrimp, shelled and butterflied
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil for stir frying
  • 1 fresh red chili, minced

    Lime wedges
    ¼ cup fresh cilantro


    For the marinade: In a medium mixing bowl combine the oyster, soy and fish sauces, brown sugar, garlic lime juice and chili. Stir well.

    Place shrimp in the marinade and stir to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

    Heat oil in a skillet, enough to cover bottom. When hot add the shrimp and marinade.

    Stir fry 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are plump and pink. Do not over cook

    Cooking Wiser Tips:

    Serve as an appetizer: Arrange shrimp on a serving platter, sprinkle with cilantro, serve with lime wedges and more chili if desired. Pour the sauce into a small bowl and serve on the side for dipping.

    You can tell when shrimp is done by the C and O test. Shrimp that are cooked right amount of time will form a C and when overcooked will form an O (for over cooked).

    Shrimp are low in calories and contain iron, but they are also a little high in cholesterol.

    The smaller shrimp usually have more flavor

    Use white or tiger shrimp- they are more firm, hold their shape and have a mild flavor. Pink shrimp are good for shrimp cocktail.

    Posted by terri at 02:40 AM | Comments (0)