Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Quesadilla Dippers

I love mexican food. Who doesn't? My feeling is anything you can put sour cream on can't be all that bad. I love dips and I'm always looking for a healthier way to make the things I love.That's how I came up with this amazingly tasty soup with these delicious dippers. You can eat a lot of these and leave the guilt at the door because. Whenever I eat this flavorful soup I feel like I'm on vacation...without the moral hangover. (P.S. This is best served with a Corona or your favorite margarita!) — Jill

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8-10

You will need:
2 small rotisserie chickens (usually available already cooked at your local grocery store.)
1 large can of San Martzano tomatoes
1 large box of chicken stock or broth (I use 1 large broth and 1 small box of stock.)
1 green pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small bag frozen corn (or you can shuck fresh if you are ambitious.)
1 can of white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 small white potatoes, diced
3 tbsps hot sauce
1 packet of taco seasoning or you can use ground cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic, and onion powder
1 small jar of your favorite salsa (or you can make your own by combining tomatoes, onions, green peppers, jalapenos, cilantro, lime, onion)

Sautee the onion and peppers in a few drizzles of olive oil until tender.
Add in potatoes and sautee for a few minutes.
Add tomatoes and broth
Add the rest of the ingredients
Shred chicken off bone of one chicken and add to soup
Let all ingredients simmer for 30 minutes. (This recipe is great made in advance. You can even make it in a crock pot if you like that slow cooked flavor and want to use raw chicken. I prefer the rotisserie chicken because it’s moist and tender.)

Quesadilla Dipppers:
Your favorite flat bread or tortillas. I use Flat Out Italian or Flat Out Tomato.
Take 2 tortillas. Fill with your favorite cheese; I use jack and Monterey.)
Add some sliced scallions and shredded chicken from the second rotisserie.
Grill in a griddle pan until golden brown on each side and cheese is melted.
Top soup with sour cream, salsa, chopped tomato, raw onion, tortilla chips and serve w a quesadilla wedge on the side.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zeppole—The Fried Dough Treat!

When we were kids, our grandfather (pictured) would take us to the Feast of San Gennaro in Fairview, NJ. It wasn't quite on the scale of the feast in New York, but we loved it—The crowds of people, the food vendors lining the street, and all the excitement of being at "the feast." But the best part was that our grandfather would help carrying the Statue of San Gennaro through the streets during the procession. It was a great honor to be one of the about one dozen men that it took to carry the massive structure. We were so proud. I  can still recall the smell of the delicious combinations of food—sausage, peppers, onions, braciole, and of course, zeppoles. It didn’t get any better than when our grandfather would take us to the zeppole stand and buy us each a bag of freshly made zeppoles loaded with confectioners sugar.  We took the bag, gave it a good shake to make sure all the zeppoles were completely covered in sugar and dug in. And by the time we got home, we were covered in white powder from head to toe. Now, we don't wait for a feast to enjoy the delicious fried dough; we just make them at home. It’s easy, fun and you can do it, too. But beware...most of the time the zeppoles never make it to the table because the kids (and adults) will grab them right away! —Lisa

(Watch the video below and Lisa will show you how to make zeppoles!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cuzzie's Blueberry Pie

Here’s a recipe for blueberry pie that comes from the Boston cuzzie who is now the Atlanta cuzzie. My husband’s cousin Allyn—who is a Jersey girl at heart because she was born and raised here—is actually the originator of the “cuzzie” reference in our family. We all only refer to each other as “cuzzie,” so you can imagine when we're out in public and the group of us is calling each other "cuzzie." We get looks...weird looks. Over the years the word caught on throughout our extended families and now any cousin of anyone in the family is called “cuzzie.” When we get together it’s one big CuzFest! So here’s an original from the original: Cuzzie’s Blueberry Pie! —Diana

Allyn (aka the original "cuzzie") shows off her blueberry pie. But look closely...it's a personalized pie!

You’ll need:
2 frozen pie shells. (Mrs. Smith's and a few other brands come in  two-pack)
2 pints fresh blueberries
¾ cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
5 tbsp. flour
1 ½ tbsp. butter
1-2 egg whites, beaten

Defrost one pie shell. This is the one you will use for the top of the pie.

In a bowl, mix the blueberries, sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Pour into the undefrosted pie shell. You can mash blueberries down a bit if they are sticking up. Dot the blueberries with the butter.

Using a rolling pin, flatten the defrosted shell on parchment paper sprinkled with flour so it doesn’t stick. Once flattened, lift carefully and put on top of the pie. Pinch around the sides to make a tight seal.  With a knife, make four slits on the top crust to vent, sort of like four wheel spokes. Rub the egg white with your hands on the top of the pie and the sides. This will allow it to turn golden brown when you bake it the first 15-20 minutes on 400 degrees. (Put the pie on a baking sheet in the oven.) After you get that golden color, bake another 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serving a la mode is optional. But really, is it?

When the cousins are together, there is always something going on in the kitchen, whether it's cooking or dancing. On this day, Evan and Allyn decide that it's time to cha-cha in the kitchen!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bananas Foster

So here's the story behind this recipe. It's really great...are you ready? There is no story. I'm a horrible baker. I cannot bake, nor can I do anything that requires any type of math or exact measurement. One half teaspoon of baking stuff, 2 tablespoons of rising stuff...blah blah blah. I can't do any of that. I'm a "pinch-of-this, bit-of-that" kinda gal. This recipe requires very little measuring and almost no effort. It also happens to be one of my father's favorites. Is there a fire hazard attached to this recipe? Sure! All things awesome come with some sort of hazard. I managed to do this one with a little tweaking of my own (it actually makes the recipe easier) while refraining from setting the kitchen on fire. All in all, a good day and a delicious result. Here is Bananas Foster like you've never had before. —Jill

You will need:
 3 bananas (sliced or cut in half lengthwise)
1/2 cup brown sugar (I use Splenda brown sugar blend)
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsps of butter
1 pinch of salt
1 shot glass of dark rum (you can use 2 shots if you really like the taste of rum) 
Your favorite vanilla ice cream

Melt the butter on low heat in a large saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add the bananas. Coat all the bananas in the brown sugar butter sauce. Add the rum.

DISCLAIMER— This next part can be a little dangerous because it involves fire. Kids: Do not try this on your own! Ask a parent to help you.

Remove the saucepan from the stove away from the heat source. With a long lighter, ignite the bananas in the sauce pan. This will burn off the alcohol. It's not a lot of alcohol so you should only get a small purple flame. This should last a few seconds. If you'd rather not do this part, you can skip it.
You can place your favorite vanilla ice cream in a bowl and spoon the bananas foster over the ice cream or you can make it an elegant dessert by serving it in a chilled wine glass and a dollop of whipped cream along side your favorite coffee. Enjoy!

Serves: 6

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate Dumplings

The truth is, I’m not a baker. Unlike Lisa, I never enjoyed baking, and given that I am married to a Type 1 diabetic, well, let’s just say there’s not a lot of sugary treats making their way into my oven. But when the Cousins decided to do desserts, I knew I had to come through.  So I took my vision of gooey chocolate in a deep fried pastry to my friend Ann-Marie’s house to test it out on some tough critics…her kids! They (and the adults) loved it, but I had one problem: I didn’t have a name.  So I asked one of my favorite little friends, Christopher, what he thought and, without missing a beat, he said, “chocolate dumplings.” So, here they are…oooey, gooey chocolate dumplings! —Jennifer

Christopher not only named these delicious treats, he helped make them, too!
1 Package of dark or milk chocolate. I use Hershey’s Specialty Dark individually wrapped pieces.
1 Pillsbury piecrust
1 package of powdered sugar

Chop the chocolate
Cut pastry dough into triangles
Place chocolate into the center of the triangle and roll the pastry
Cut off excess pastry
Using a fork, seal off ends to prevent leakage

Place ‘dumplings’ into deep fryer until brown. (You can bake them as well.)
Top with powdered sugar. Serve warm!
If you're not a fan of chocolate, use a mixture of mascarpone cheese and honey instead.

The finished product!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

When I tell my family I’m going to my “Happy Place,” they know where that is…the kitchen. But it’s not to cook, it’s to bake. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. I enjoy cooking every day.  But baking makes me happy, happy, happy!  I absolutely love to bake and I mostly love to bake cookies.  I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s that smell of the fresh baked cookies, and tasting one warm right from the oven.  But whenever I need a mental health break, I go straight to the cookbooks and find a cookie that sounds amazing.  This is one of those cookies.  Its lemony goodness is just perfect for these warm summer days.  (It doesn’t hurt that one of the ingredients is ricotta cheese!)  So grab a glass of milk and be prepared to say, “Mmm...cookies!”—Lisa

 For the cookies:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter,-softened to room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 small (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese
3 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

For the glaze:
1 ½ cups powdered confectioners ‘sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. 
In a mixer (or large bowl) combine butter and sugar.  Beat until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the ricotta cheese, the lemon juice and lemon zest.  Beat until combined and then add the flour mixture.  Mix well.

Drop the dough by a full tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  The edges should be slightly golden brown.  Take out of the oven and cool on the cookie sheet.  Meanwhile, make the glaze.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until well incorporated. When cookies are cool, spoon a little of the glaze on top of each cookie.  Sprinkle a little of the lemon zest on top of the glaze.  Let the cookies sit for a while (if you can stand it) until the glaze hardens.  Grab a large glass of milk and enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Steak with Potatoes and Eggs

Here's a dish my mother ate a lot when she was younger. Her family, like ours, made a staple out of steak with potatoes and eggs. The key to this recipe is that the potatoes are in the egg. It's almost like having steak and fries with scrambled eggs in with the fries.  You can eliminate the steak if you want a vegetarian meal, and serve the potato and eggs with a side salad. (Or you can serve it my favorite way, which is potato and eggs on crusty bread with mayo and black pepper.) It's out of this world and so easy and inexpensive because so few ingredients are required.  If you love steak and eggs, or you're just exhausted after a long week, this is a meal that is sure to please everyone. - Jill

What you'll need:
Steak, 1 per person. Use any type of steak you prefer. You can grill the steak if you like. We like how my grandpa cooked steak, which was to fry it in an iron skillet. My father always says that it was the best steak he's ever had.
Potatoes, 2 to every 1 egg (for a side dish with the steak). You will want to double this for the vegetarian meal without the steak.
Olive oil 
Salt and pepper

(Note: Even in a large skillet it's difficult to fit more than the 2 potatoes and the 1 egg in the skillet, so you may have to make several batches for more than 2 people)
Slice potatoes very thin and saute in olive oil in a large skillet.
When potatoes become golden brown, add 1 beaten egg and scramble.
Thats it! I told you it was easy!
Add salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy on a sandwich, as a light lunch with a side salad or along side a fried steak as we do in our family.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Poached Eggs Marinara

If you think you can’t Italianize an egg, then you’ve never had poached eggs marinara. Growing up, my family was big on eggs. An egg meal worked for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it was a good thing that we had home delivery of eggs and milk a few times a week. I have fond memories of checking the insulated silver box located outside our front door for the glass bottles of milk and several cartons of eggs. Sunday morning breakfasts were always the best, and my mother knew that that wonderful smell of bacon and sausage sizzling on the stovetop was a sure way of getting us out of bed. We had a choice of how we wanted our eggs: scrambled, over easy, bird in a nest (an egg cooked in a piece of bread where a hole was made in the middle with the top of a glass cup), or poached eggs marinara. No matter what, we were sure to go through at least a dozen eggs every Sunday! —Diana

HINT: If you have leftover marinara sauce from a pasta night during the week, you can use that sauce. If not, follow the quick and easy sauce below.

Poached Eggs Marinara
4 large eggs
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon basil (and whatever other Italian seasoning you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil on medium in a large sautee pan. Sautee the onion until soft and translucent.

Add the can of tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper and cook over medium heat. When the sauce bubbles, break the eggs into the sauce and cover the pan until the eggs are poached.

When eggs are ready, scoop each egg with the sauce onto a piece of Italian bread of a toasted English muffin.