Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creamy Pesto Shrimp Over Risotto

It was a week before Thanksgiving and I wanted to make room in my fridge and freezer for the turkey and other Thanksgiving items that would be moving in. I began to take inventory: I had pesto (I always keep a jar handy because I usually don’t have fresh basil around when I need it); I had frozen extra large shrimp in the freezer; I always have heavy cream in the fridge; and white wine...yeah, got that, too. OK, that should make some room! 

Put all those things together, make some risotto and I was in business. The sauce from the shrimp over the risotto is amazing. (Get yourself some nice, fresh Italian bread because you’ll definitely want to dunk. And the best part...there were no leftovers for the fridge!—Lisa

You'll need:
1.5 pounds extra large shrimp, boiled until pink then drained
1 cup pesto (from a jar or fresh)
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, chopped

In a large fry pan, sauté the garlic. Add the shrimp, pesto, white wine and heavy cream Mix together thoroughly and simmer on stove until just bubbly and sauce thickens a little (shrimp should be completely curled up)

Serve over risotto. Done!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories...

Lisa, Diana, Jennifer and Jill take time out from sharing recipes to share their thoughts on Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Cousins in the Kitchen wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving. Bon Appétit!

Lisa: Hanging the decorations that looked like they were made of popcorn, my father securing the Santa sleigh with four reindeer onto the roof so it looked like they were flying, and adorning our silver Christmas tree with the red, blue and green rotating lights shining upon it—these are a few memories of my childhood holidays. All the decorations went up right after Thanksgiving. I always got this great feeling around the holidays. Almost like everything was just perfect. I think  Diana, Jimmy, and I may have even got through a dinner without throwing the peas at each other...or that may just be my imagination!

I still begin decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. I think it's because I want that feeling to last as long as possible. So the day after Thanksgiving my four kids, now grown, know to come to the house to help decorate the tree. They know it's tradition, even though they say that I re-arrange the ornaments every year. It must be habit since I did that when they were small because only the bottom half of the tree got adorned by their tiny hands.  

This year, however, will be a little different. We are going through an unplanned remodel due to Hurricane Irene. My house is a total mess with everything that was salvageable from downstairs, now upstairs. It doesn't look like I'll be decorating on Black Friday this year. My husband, knowing how badly I want to do that, is working frantically to get the house back in order, but I just have to face the fact that the tree may not go up, the lights may not go on, and the wreath may not get hung on November 25. I still, however, have that wonderful feeling about the holidays that I do every year. We have a new granddaughter who will celebrate her first Christmas and first birthday in December; we have two new babies from my cousins in Tennessee; my grandmother will turn 92 years young Nov. 27  and I will celebrate my 29th wedding anniversary with my husband Arnold a week before Christmas! 

The decorations will eventually go up but I realize I don't need them in order to have that wonderful holiday feeling. It's almost like a Charlie Brown Christmas moment! I have a lot to be thankful for and to celebrate. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!       

(Pictured: Last year Lisa was so excited about the pre-lit tree she ordered that she didn't even wait until the day after Thanksgiving to begin decorating for Christmas. As soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were cleared, she and her son Arnold got to it. Sadly, the tree did not meet Lisa's expectations and was taken apart and shipped back the next day!)

* * * *
Jennifer: On the way home from school this week my daughter Eliza said, “Mommy, I’m thankful that you and daddy took us to see the Rockettes.” Abigail then chimed in and said, “I’m thankful that you are a good mommy.” Of course I cried. Yes, it’s that time of year when we hug our loved ones a little tighter, laugh a little harder as the wine flows, and smile through our tears as we think of all the things we are thankful for this holiday season.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, not just because of the food, but also because it gently reminds us how blessed we truly are. Granted, the food is pretty spectacular, especially an Italian Thanksgiving, which uses the turkey more as a centerpiece than a main course. But it’s the people who make the memories, not the food. Whether it’s the funny family stories told at the table, or the children running around the house giggling with delight, Thanksgiving provides families with the future memories that they will cherish.My fondest memories of childhood come from Thanksgiving with my cousins Jill and Adam. We would prep all afternoon in the basement for our ‘show’ that we would put on after dinner. It was a win/win situation for everyone. Our parents got to hangout, share the ‘spirits’ (wine) without the children in their hair, and we got to play and fantasize about being famous. That memory seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday all at the same time.

Thanksgiving is the official start to the holiday season.  While many are making their shopping lists and complaining about all they have to do, Thanksgiving should remind us of all the wonderful memories we have and all that we have to look forward to.

* * * *

Jill: Ahhh...the week before Thanksgiving, probably the most under rated week of all holidays. I call it the prep week. The week where the grocery stores wish they hired more people. The week we rush around with our lists and our carts, up one aisle and down another as if there was a total food shortage. I've never seen so many frantic people rush around so fast.  

This is why I dislike shopping for Thanksgiving. The good news is that my job on the radio allows me to shop at odd hours. Since I wake up at 4 a.m. to do the morning show, I have the super power of not being tired at an early hour,  making me unstoppable at 5 a.m. on a Saturday. I know it's not easy to shop at that hour, but if you can do it on Black Friday then you can do it a week prior to ease your mind and shopping experience. 

Another way I get a jump on things (and some may not believe in this method) is my husband and I put up our Christmas decorations the weekend before Thanksgiving. I realize this is taboo, to which I reply, "I do not care." This tradition started last year when I was hella-pregnant and had a due date freakishly close to Christmas. My husband and I decided this would be easier so we could be totally focused on baby instead of decorations. We loved having that extra time with the decorations and let's face it, it doesn't make the Thanksgiving turkey taste any less delicious.  

Elliot and Autumn are new additions to the table this Thanksgiving.

The week is now upon us where the food is purchased, the wine is chilling, and the table is set. I have my list of things to pack for the family so we can spend the night at my parents' house and wake up to the smell of the turkey and sound of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. Only this year, I'm a mom! Not only will there be a new baby boy at the table this year, but also a baby girl—my niece Autumn. My dad will have a baby in a highchair to his left and to his right, which is all he's been talking about since last Thanksgiving. No matter where you sit or what you eat or how you decorate, I hope your holiday is filled with love, happiness and many traditions...new and old.

* * * *

Diana: I’m fessing up…mainly because I know somehow, someday word will eventually get out that the year I hosted my first Thanksgiving I forgot to remove the paper-wrapped giblets from inside the turkey before putting it in the oven. My bad. But at the first sign of smoke I quickly made the save and no one was the wiser. Of course, my husband couldn’t let this go without telling the entire family about my slight mishap. “Guess what Diana did?!” I recall was his greeting at the front door, and I spent the rest of the day being roasted more than Tom the Turkey. 

But there was something so exciting about hosting that first Thanksgiving. We had just purchased our first home, I was pregnant with our first child, and all was right with the world. (Although I’m sure the turkey thought otherwise.) Since then, I have hosted several Thanksgivings—usually due to defeat against Lisa at our very thoughtful and sophisticated method of deciding who gets to host, Rock, Paper, Scissors. But it is always that first time that comes to mind when reminiscing about past Thanksgivings. After years of watching my mother prepare for Thanksgiving, then having it go to my sister, I had finally  become part of the rotation. I had arrived! 

To me, what makes Thanksgiving so great is that no matter who hosts it, everyone brings something to the table…literally. The conversations weeks ahead to decide who’s bringing what; the kids advocating for their favorite dishes; making sure the desserts include something for everyone—it’s family collaboration at its best. Thanksgiving is probably the biggest meal of the year, yet it comes together seamlessly because everyone works together for the common good—eating, laughing, sharing and being together. And to me, that truly marks the start of the holiday season!

Diana's husband Evan with their very first Thanksgiving turkey (minus the giblets!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Olio D'Oliva arrives from Italy!

When Lisa and Diana's father, Jimmy, passed in August 2010, Jill's parents Butch and Rita celebrated his life by adopting an olive tree in Italy. The first shipment of the oil made from the tree arrived at Lisa's house this week! It included three types of oil: one made with chillies, one made with mandarins and another made with lemons. 

The "hot" oil is infused with Sicilian chillies for three weeks. The folks at Nudo Grove say this is just long enough for the chili flavor to assert itself, but not so long that it takes over. The can says, "The end result is like a Sicilian donkey: a soft nose at the front and a cheeky kick at the back." Say what?! They say it's great drizzled over pasta dishes, pizza, red meats and eggs. Yum! 

The oil with mandarins is ideal on salads, smoked meats and citrusy cakes. It's made with fresh mandarins from Southern Italy, which are "hustled straight off the tree into our olive press." Cool! 

The lemon oil, they say, is perfect on salads, white meats and fish. Within hours of being picked, the Sicilian lemons are driven "at breakneck speed" to the press where they are stone-milled together with the olives. Nudo uses late-harvest olives with a subtler flavor to allow the lemons "to burst through for their moment in the spotlight." Lemony good! 

We can't wait to try each of these oils and let you know how they are. We have a feeling each one will be fabulous. 

Thanks Aunt Rita and Uncle Butch...We love you! —Lisa and Diana 

P.S. If you want to learn more about adopting a tree, go to www.nudio-italia.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grilled Salmon over Sauteed Spinach

This recipe was perfected when my husband and I were dating. I never ate salmon growing up so I didn’t know how to cook it or how to serve it. One Sunday, Jared and I decided we were going to try to replicate a salmon dish we had at a restaurant. After a couple of attempts, I got the marinade and Jared got the grilling down to perfection. Now every time I eat this dish, I think of us, young and in love. This one’s for you babe..Love you!Jennifer

What you’ll need:
6 oz. salmon fillets with skin on
1/3 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for pan
4 cloves of garlic, 2 finely chopped; 2 coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles

To make the marinade, mix together the sesame oil, olive oil, finely chopped garlic, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over the salmon fillets and let marinade for about 30 minutes before grilling.  (I like to make extra marinade and use it as a dipping sauce.)

Sautée the spinach. (You can do it this way or use Lisa's spinach recipe from last week).
Place fresh, clean spinach in skillet
Twice around the pan with EVOO
Add the coarsely chopped garlic and a pinch of salt. 
Cover spinach and let it cook. At the end, add the feta cheese

Grill the salmon skin side down first.  We love to grill all year round, so we use our outdoor grill every time we make this dish. Grill each side for about 4 minutes. Peel skin off the salmon before placing on over the spinach to serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

This is a no-cook recipe I have seen made a thousand ways. It's fresh, it's healthy, it's AMAZING. It got my attention immediately when I saw that bread was involved. I could never ever eat low carb. I'm convinced that there has to be a high-carb diet out there that works. Trust me, if it's out there I'll find it. For the nine years I was a vegetarian, I tried all kinds of vegetable recipes I thought I'd enjoy. This salad can be made with leftover veggies in your fridge or any cold, crisp vegetable that is in season. I've seen it made with capers, roasted red peppers, bell peppers and more. Use your imagination and let your appetite lead the way! My version includes seven simple ingredients.— Jill

You'll Need: 
Red onion
Bread (can be day old bread) Ciabatta, whole grain, or any other crusty bread. This is a great way to not only use up veggies in the fridge, but to also use up leftover bread of all kinds.
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Oregano
Cube the bread, red onion, cucumber, and tomato into large bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl. Add a generous amount of the oil and vinegar. (I use red wine vinegar, but balsamic is also good if you want to use a mixture.) 
Add the oregano, toss and eat. This is great as a side dish, or as a light lunch. 
Add tuna, chicken, or shrimp for a more hardy meal.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sauteed Spinach with Goat Cheese and Pignoli Nuts

 This is an easy side dish (or main dish—the way I like it!).  Spinach was never my kids' favorite, which I think is the case with most kids. The only way I could get them to eat spinach when they were younger was to buy the canned spinach with Popeye on it. I would have to show them the can, and have them watch me open it and put it in the pot. I guess they figured if Popeye could eat it, then they could, too!  Today my son Jimmy loves this more grown-up version of spinach. He would eat the whole dish...and has...if I let him. —Lisa 

You'll need:
18 oz fresh spinach
3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced thin
2 ½ turns of the pan of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pignoli (pine) nuts
Generous handful of crumbled goat cheese

In a large, deep pan sautée the garlic in the oil on low heat for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the spinach (it looks like a lot but it shrinks down to nothing.) Toss the spinach, cover, and turn the heat off.

With the heat off, toss every now and again until the spinach is wilted almost all the way. Add goat cheese and cover.

Meanwhile, toast the Pignoli nuts on low heat and only until you can smell that woodsy aroma of the nut. Be careful not to burn them.

Right before serving, toss the spinach again and add the nuts.
The cheese will be slightly melted and adding the pignoli nuts gives the spinach just a little crunch. Add some grilled chicken or sausage and this side dish becomes a meal in itself. Take that Popeye!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Banana Bread with Walnuts & Chocolate Chips

My husband and I met Lisa and Glenn Leibel in the beginning of the summer of 1991. They had just married in March, and Evan and I were engaged to get married that October. I can remember when we sat down to do our wedding invitations later that summer, we debated on inviting them to the wedding. We had known them only a few months, but felt a strong connection to our new friends. We decided to invite them, and the four of us have been an integral part of each others’ lives ever since—through the births of our children, the deaths of three of our fathers, career changes, new homes, and the list goes on. Our families have vacationed together, spent holidays together, and are there for each other for life’s celebrations and heartaches. These are friends that are not like family; they ARE family. You know what I mean; we all have these special people in our lives. 

Now that the kids are grown, we found ourselves out to dinner recently, just the four of us. As we all put on our reading glasses to look at the menu, we realized that 20 years has gone by in the blink in the eye. We sipped our wine and toasted to 20 years of marriage and friendship, then spent the rest of the night enjoying a hardy meal and hardy laughs. —Diana

* * * *

On this recent visit Lisa brought her incredible banana bread. It's so delicious, you may not want to share.

You'll need:
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 medium-size bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1/3 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Blend the sugar and butter. Mix in eggs and bananas and blend until smooth. Add salt and baking soda. Mix together. Add flour and hot water, alternating each ingredient. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips (if desired). 

Pour into greased 9-by-5 loaf pan and bake for one hour. Grab a big glass of cold milk and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Syrup Frosting and Bacon

Who says you can't have cupcakes for breakfast? This recipe comes from Cousins in the Kitchen fan Lisa Stanley from Memphis, Tenn. who writes: "It was hard not to eat one of these for breakfast this morning. Who am I kidding? It was hard not to eat all six. I found this recipe and made some slight adjustments. Enjoy!" 

Thanks Lisa for satisfying our sweet tooth first thing in the morning. Love it! 

For the cupcakes you'll need:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 + 2 tbsp cup milk
1 ½ tsps vanilla
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs, separated
6-8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

For the maple buttercream frosting you'll need:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature 
2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 tsps heavy cream, at room temperature
3/4 tsp maple extract 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and vanilla and set aside. Add the egg yolks to the creamed butter one at time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Alternately, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Raise the speed to medium and mix briefly until a smooth batter is formed. 

Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Thoroughly clean the bowl of the mixer and put the egg whites inside. Whip the egg whites on high speed, using the whisk attachment, until stiff peaks are formed. Working in 3 batches, using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter, until just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the cups in the muffin pan. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, mix the butter and sugar on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the heavy cream and maple extract. Beat until fluffy and well blended. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Frost cupcakes and then add the crispy bacon...yes, bacon!