Monday, February 27, 2012

Mary Frank's Chicken Pot Pie

Earlier this year the Cousins met Mary Frank, photographer for the Asbury Park Press, when she and her colleague, reporter Lorraine Ash, came to my house to do a story on Cousins in the Kitchen. (We'll let you know when the story appears!) We had such a great time with Mary and Lorraine, and ended up talking about pot pies. Yes, pot pies. I mentioned that I practically lived on chicken pot pie during my college years and haven't had one since. Mary was quick to offer up a recipe for a homemade pot pie that is easy, delicious and made me regret that I didn't have this recipe back in the day. This is so much better than the frozen variety and I definitely could have pulled this off in college...I think. OK, maybe not. After all, I was very busy studying. (Not buying it, are ya?) Well forget that, and remember to put this on your list of must-try recipes! —Diana  

You’ll need:
1 box Pillsbury Pie Crust with 2 crusts
2 pieces chicken breast, boiled and cubed
2 cans Campbell’s Cream of Potato Soup
½ cup milk
1 16-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables (I used peas and carrots), thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together soup and milk. Add chicken and vegetables and mix well. 

Spread one crust into the bottom of an ungreased pie pan. Pour in the mixture. Go ahead....load it up! 

Cover the top with the with second pie crust, cinch edges, and make a few slits on top to vent.
Bake for about one hour until the top of the crust is golden brown. Let cool  a bit and enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jelly-Filled Cake Balls

I promised I would tell you how I made these delicious Jelly filled cake balls.  It’s really very easy.  I have the cake pop pans, which you can now find anywhere.  I ordered mine online but I’ve seen them at Party City and Walmart.  Follow the directions on a box of Betty Crocker white cake mix and add one small box of instant vanilla pudding mix. Mix thoroughly, then fill each cake ball mold with the batter and put the top on. Bake for about ½ hour or until a toothpick put in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Meanwhile I made chocolate ganache frosting with heavy cream and chocolate chips.  I let that cool just a little.

When the cake balls are completely cooled, I put raspberry jelly (not preserves) into a plastic bag with the corner cut out.  Over the cut corner put a steel tip (for cake decorating) and puncture the cake balls adding the jelly to the center. When done, cover them with the chocolate ganache. Put them on wax paper to completely set.  Voila!

You can use any kind of cake mix and filling.  Chocolate cake with Fluff center would be good. Hmmm…I may have to make them next! —Lisa

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Zucchini Ribbons with Campari Tomatoes

"I remember getting so excited when we would visit my cousins and aunt and uncle. I couldn’t wait to get over there, see everyone, and play. My brother and I would run into the house and go directly to the basement, where they had the best playroom. I loved it! To be honest, I barely remember eating because we were too busy playing. What I do remember is the sheer volume of noise—the adults talking, the kids screaming, and everyone laughing. Our family does a lot of laughing. I distinctly remember Aunt Paula’s laugh and how it was usually my father who was making her laugh. He has that gift; all Bucco’s do. I remember Aunt Paula calling me Jilly. To this day, my family  calls me Jilly. When I think of Aunt Paula I smile. She was a great woman. I miss her dearly. Thinking of her brings fond memories to my mind and tears to my eyes. What a great aunt she was!

This zucchini dish is light, fast, and contains a ton of nutrients. I came up with this recipe because I’ve been trying to eat healthy and drop a few extra pounds before summer. I’m constantly trying new ways to make veggies without adding fat and calories." —Jill
You’ll need:
2 Zucchini, peeled
5 small Campari tomatoes, chopped
Olive oil
Black pepper
Fresh spinach, one bunch
1 Lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Garlic, 4 small cloves or 2 large cloves

To make the spinach pesto, combine spinach, cheese, and garlic in a food processor. Slowly add about three tablespoons of olive oil as the pesto blends. Once blended, add the lemon juice, stir, and set aside.

Peel the zucchini with a potato peeler to remove the waxy layer. Still with the peeler, shred each zucchini into ribbons into a pan. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, tomatoes salt and pepper to taste and sauté over medium heat until tomatoes and zucchini are tender. Toss with the pesto and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

This is delicious served warm or cold. It’s also great tossed with whole wheat pasta with grilled chicken or fish on top. It’s heart healthy and loaded with flavor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stuffed Portobello mushrooms

It’s easy to remember how long it’s been since my Aunt Paula passed away because I was 6 ½ months pregnant with my son Alex.

I had just spoken with her the day before she died, and a couple of weeks prior she and my Uncle John had come to our home in Rockaway for a visit. On that day my aunt and I took a ride into town. She remarked about the small antique shop as we passed it, and I pointed out the green wicker rocking chair displayed outside the front door. I was planning on buying it for the baby’s room. She snickered about it being green because the only other people beside myself who knew the baby’s gender were my husband and my parents. I wanted it to be a surprise for everyone else. But she was relentless in wanting to know. I stood strong. “You’ll find out soon enough,” I said again and again.  Still she asked and asked.

Later that day she disappeared for a while and came back with the chair in her car trunk. She called out to my uncle and the two of them brought it up to the second floor and placed it in the pale green painted nursery with wall border of pastel-colored baby animals. “Now will you tell me?” she begged. “No!” I insisted. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

The day before she died she called. “Hey Button Nose.” She called me that from day I was born because she said my nose looked like a button. Then she laughed. She had this distinctive, hardy laugh that made me laugh just hearing it. So I started laughing, too. “What? If you are calling to find out what the baby is, forget it,” I teased. She laughed through her words, “That’s OK. I was talking to your father and he slipped. It’s a boy!” I couldn’t believe it. “What? He promised me…” I ranted. Her laugh got even louder. “I was just kidding,” she said. “He didn’t tell me, but you just did.”  We laughed even more. The next day she had a heart attack and was gone.

There was a certain comfort in knowing that she knew before she died that the baby I’d be rocking in that green wicker chair was a boy. And I know she was smiling down when my cousin Jennifer held him in her arms as his Godmother. The chair has moved with us twice and remains the same the gender-neutral green. The little boy she never got to meet is turning 18 and will be heading off to college. I have a feeling I’ll be rocking in that chair a lot when he leaves and that Aunt Paula will be right with me.

The recipe I picked is stuffed mushrooms because it was one of Aunt Paula’s favorite dishes to make. I took her version and adapted it using portobello mushrooms and turkey meat to make it heart-healthy. I think she’d like it. —Diana

You’ll need
3-4 medium-sized portobello mushroom caps, scrape out gills
¾-1 lb ground turkey
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Rosemary, fresh or dried
Grated parmesan cheese
Low-fat mozzarella, sliced (as many slices as you have mushroom caps)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Go once around the pan with the olive oil and sautee the onion and garlic. In a large bowl, add the onion and garlic to the turkey meat along with the rosemary, pepper and salt. (Go easy on the salt to make this heart friendly. I also went light on the rosemary because I’m not a big fan. But you can use whatever seasoning you like best.)

Coat both sides of the mushrooms caps with Worcestershire sauce and then give a few shakes into the ground turkey for good measure and mix well.

Place the mushroom caps with top side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle inside with a little grated cheese (this is optional). Stuff the mushroom caps with the turkey mixture and cook for about 20 minutes or until the meat is cooked thoroughly.

Place sliced mozzarella over the top and cook for a couple more minutes until cheese melts.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blue Cheese Wedge

I would talk to Aunt Paula on the phone weekly. She made me laugh, listened to me when I needed her to, and I so looked forward to and enjoyed our talks.  I’ll never forget that awful night, exactly three months to the day when I lost my father-in-law to a massive heart attack, when my grandmother screamed up to my apartment…“Oh My God, Paula is gone!” What could have happened?  I had just spoken to her a couple of days before. She wasn’t sick, but  the scary truth is that my Aunt Paula had died of a massive heart attack. We had no warning, no indication that she had heart disease. 

I am 49. The same age as my aunt when she died. I’m trying to eat healthier, get regular check-ups and lose some weight.  I have never been a big salad fan but since I’ve adopted this healthier way of eating I’m trying to add salads to at least one meal a day. My favorite way to eat my salad is a blue cheese wedge. You can make it healthier by substituting low-fat blue cheese dressing (on the side) and turkey bacon for the real high-fat stuff. Also, another I found I eat less dressing is to dip my fork in the dressing first then put the salad on your fork. 

Here’s to you Aunt Paula.  I miss our talks. —Lisa

You'll need:
¼ of a head of iceberg lettuce
Low-fat blue cheese dressing – on the side
Turkey bacon, two strips, crispy and crumbled
Diced tomatoes
Shredded carrots

Make sure the lettuce is very cold and fresh.
Place everything on the plate as shown and remember, dip your fork in the dressing first—you’ll eat less of it and save those calories!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Grilled Eggplant Over Mixed Greens

Hearts and that little red dress are not just for Valentine’s Day. They are for all of February as the American Heart Association dedicates the month to awareness and prevention of the number one killer of women—heart disease.  February has a special, personal place in my heart. I lost my mother to a massive heart attack 18 years ago this month. She was 49.  Every year on Feb. 8th I go to her grave and tell her about all the things she has missed. My victories and struggles come out in a massive, private catharsis. Over the years she has missed a lot—my graduation from college, my first day of teaching, my wedding, and the birth of her granddaughters. I cry more now for the things that she will never know than for the things that once were. Heart disease, you can say, broke my heart.

Jennifer with her mom Paula.
With my marriage and birth of my daughters I felt my heart begin to heal and it filled me with a resolve to keep my heart healthy enough to see all the things she did not.  I started eating healthier and exercise more. Last year it seemed the moon and stars aligned when, encouraged by my sister-in-laws, I started running.  In one year I went from running three miles to finishing the NYC Marathon.  On my runs, I often hear my mother’s voice whispering words of encouragement and I think of all the reasons to stay healthy: To see my daughters graduate, shop for their wedding dresses, 
and hold my grandbabies.

But exercise and a positive attitude are not enough in the fight against heart disease.  We must also eat right and make healthy choices such as cutting back on salt and fat.  For example, instead of indulging in chicken parmigiana, have grilled eggplant over mixed greens. Small, positive choices and slight changes add up to healthier you.  Take care of your heart and it will help you take care of those who need you. —Jennifer

What you’ll need:
1 eggplant
1 bag mixed greens
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tsps. and 2 tbsps. garlic powder
1 package cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 package of low-fat mozzarella cheese
Pepper and salt

To prepare:
Skin the eggplant and cut long ways into thin strips.
In a large bowl mix the oil and and three teaspoons of garlic powder, then coat the eggplant in the mixture.
Grill eggplant on outside grill or stovetop.

For the salad:
Clean your greens. Add the onion and tomatoes. Go twice around a bowl with olive oil. Add a pinch of pepper, pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of garlic powder and toss.

Top the salad with the grilled eggplant and place a slice of low-fat mozzarella on top to melt. It’s a delicious, healthy alternative to eggplant parmigiana!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chicken and Spinach and Mushrooms, Oh My!

By the time I get out of work during the week and pick up the girls from preschool, I need dinner to be fast, easy AND healthy. Sometimes I make this dish in my slow cooker, but if I’m not that organized I just whip out the large sauce pan. It's done in 30 minutes and it looks like I spent hours preparing it. Shhh...don't tell Jared! —Jennifer

What you’ll need:
2 cans cream of mushroom soup. I use Campbell's reduced fat and less sodium It's umm, umm, good!
1 package chicken cutlets
1 box cut mushrooms, cleaned  
1 bag fresh spinach
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil

In a large sauce pan, simmer the soup mixed with 1 cup water. 
In another pan, go once around with the oil and sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms. When done, add to the soup. Add the chicken and cook until chicken is tender. In the last couple of minutes, add the spinach. 
Serve over rice or with a nice hunk of bread. Like I said...umm, umm good! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jill's Crazy Couscous

“I was sitting at home on a rainy night not really wanting to cook anything major but I wanted something healthy since I had just worked out. I wasn’t sure what I had a taste for until I saw the box of whole wheat garlic and olive oil couscous in the pantry. It’s one of my favorite staples since I usually have it for lunch chilled with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and vinaigrette. Sounds good, right? But I, I usually don’t eat couscous hot, so l went through my fridge to see how I could make this work. Oh, I made it work and one beautiful mistake actually made the dish! I never intended to add white wine until I accidently turned on the wrong burner and burned the bottom of the couscous pan. I added white wine to ”deglaze” as the fancy food folk like say and wow, what do you know…it made it awesome!  It was the best dish I had all week, and without the guilt. And I even treated myself to an extra glass of wine!” —Jill

You’ll need:
1 box whole wheat couscous
3 roma tomoatoes
1 bag fresh spinach
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
1 small container kalamata olives from salad bar
½ cup parmesan cheese, and additional for topping
Red pepper flakes, a pinch
Olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 cup white wine

Slice tomatoes, coat lightly with olive oil, add some salt and pepper and roast in oven for 25 minutes on 350 degrees.

While the tomatoes are roasting, go once around a frying pan with olive oil and add the olives, artichoke hearts, cheese, white wine, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer.

In a small saucepan, follow directions for cooking the couscous. While that’s cooking, add the entire package of fresh spinach to artichoke mixture until spinach wilts.  

When couscous is done, add spinach mixture and roasted tomatoes. Toss together and serve. Sprinkle top with parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!