Learning to Make Bagels

happy easter

Wishing those who celebrate a very Happy Easter and Happy Passover.

I was so happy to have an extra day off for a three day weekend so I knew I had to plan to make something that I had on my to-do list. One of my favorite online video chefs is Laura Vitale of Laura in the Kitchen. Earlier in the week, I had watched her making bagels. Over the years I’ve learned to make bread and rolls but I avoided making bagels thinking they would be out of my level of cooking skills. I watched her video and I was really amazed at how simple they could be. I’m a bit of a visual learner so her instructions were just what I needed. So on Friday I dug in my heals and gave it a try. All I can say is WOW! My bagels may not look perfect but I was so pleased with how they turned out and so was my husband.

While I do not have my own recipe to share, here are the results of my first time making bagels and the link to the video. I hope you will give these a try as they really are easy to make at home and are very delicious.

Just as an added note the bagels are just a little darker because I had used a whole egg for the egg wash. I needed to use a whole egg wash earlier for something else I baked didn’t want to waste it so these baked up a darker color. Next time I will use the egg white wash as in the recipe.

Thank you to Laura Vitale for your wonderful videos and delicious recipes!

I hope you will give it a try, here is the link to the video.

How to Make Bagels by Laura Vitale

Good Friday Recipes- Baked Scrod & Mahi Mahi

Good Friday is around the corner so I wanted to make sure I shared a few easy to prepare fish recipes. Here are two of my favorites, both are baked with a crumb topping. Easy to prepare after a busy day on Good Friday or any time. I use either of these toppings on any fish filet whether it be scrod, cod, flounder, catfish or Mahi Mahi, just remember to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the fish you are using. All you need is a few easy to prepare side dishes and you can save yourself from those crowded seafood restaurants this time of year, relax at home and feel very satisfied.

BAKED SCROD WITH LEMONY PANKO CRUMB TOPPING

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1 1/2-2 lbs scrod fillets (cod or haddock)
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large juicy lemon also grate the lemon peel from the lemon
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup white wine
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a skillet, sauté the onion in 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of butter until soft but not browned.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the panko crumbs with the parsley, 1 teaspoon of melted butter, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, half of the lemon juice, and half of the grated lemon peel.
Once the onions are soft, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, remaining grated lemon peel, salt and pepper, the remaining lemon juice and the white wine and continue to cook for another minute or so until heated through.
Put the onion and lemon mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Place the fish on top of the onions and season the fish lightly with salt and pepper.
Divide the crumb topping evenly over the fish and give a light spray of olive oil.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until fish is cooked through and the crumbs are golden brown. This can be served with spaghetti, even spaghetti squash or zucchini zoodles. Don’t forget to top with the lemon sauce from the baking dish.

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Pesto Crusted Mahi Mahi

Parmesan Baked Crusted Mahi Mahi

A simple and delicious Mahi Mahi recipe with a pesto crust 

• Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

FOR THE FISH:
• 4 six-ounce portions of mahi-mahi
• 1/2 cup of your favorite Pest – Basil Pesto or Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
• 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
• salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
FOR THE FISH:
1. In a medium bowl, mix pesto and breadcrumbs together until they form a coarse paste.
2. Place mahi-mahi portions on a large baking sheet, lightly season with salt and pepper.
3. Spread pesto mixture evenly across all four mahi-mahi portions. Use your fingers to pat the pesto mixture down into the fish to form an even crust.
4. Bake Mahi Mahi at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Fish should reach an internal temperature of approximately 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Memories of Italian Easter Pies

Spring has arrived and Easter is only two weeks away. When I was growing up I remember my mother just before Easter making Italian Grain Pie and on occasion, a meat and cheese filled pie which I never knew the name of back then, but both were so delicious.

Italian Grain Pie

The Italian Wheat Grain Pie is a tasty dessert of cooked wheat berries, sweetened ricotta, the delicate flavors of lemon and orange peel and a bit of candied citron fruit. I have never made the pie myself but thinking this might be the year to give it a try. My mother’s recipe is only a scribbling of pencil notes but I did manage to find a similar recipe that looked close to the one I have.

Easter Grain Pie

This fruity ricotta and wheat pie is dense and moist. A real Italian treat for Easter

Ingredients
• 5 cups water
• 1/2 cup whole wheat berries
• 6 eggs
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 (8 ounces) package mixed candied fruit
• 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
• 1 tablespoon shortening
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 pastries for 9-inch lattice-top pies
• 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions
1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Pour in wheat and allow to boil 40 minutes. As wheat is cooking, beat eggs in a large bowl while gradually adding 1 cup sugar to eggs. Mix in fruit, ricotta, vanilla extract, cinnamon, lemon rind, and orange rind.
2. When wheat is ready, drain in a colander and rinse with warm water. Place 3/4 cup of cooked wheat in a small bowl, and mix in shortening and salt. Stir until shortening is melted, then stir wheat mixture into ricotta mixture along with the rest of the cooked wheat berries.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4. Line two 9 inch pie pans with pastry. Cut remaining pastry into strips for tops of pies. Spoon half of filling into each pan. Cover with pastry strips to form lattice tops. Crimp edges.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle each pie with 1 tablespoon sugar and allow to cool at room temperature. Chill overnight before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Pizza Rustica or Easter Pie

Over the years, I learned that delicious meat and cheese pie I remember eating was called Pizzagaina or Pizza Rustica. There are so many versions of this recipe to choose from. I have made several versions over the years from a simple easy to make quiche recipe to others that were much more labor intensive but so amazingly delicious. Easter Pie is traditionally served noon or later on Easter Saturday or as my mom would say “After the church bells ring” signaling the end of Lent.

This is the first version of Pizza Rustica I made:

Pizzagaina

pizzagaina

1/2 lb ham (sliced thick from deli-counter or cubed pieces of boiled ham)
• 1/4 lb prosciutto (regular prosciutto)
• 1/4 lb capicola (spiced-hot capicola )
• 1/4 lb genoa salami
• 1 lb mozzarella cheese (1 entire brick of whole milk mozzarella, shredded)
• 2 lbs ricotta cheese (whole milk)
• 1 stick pepperoni (sliced) about ¼ lb or so could be more
• 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
• 12 -14 eggs (start with 12 and if too dry add 1 or 2 more)
• 2 lbs pizza dough (homemade or store bought)

1. Cube ham meat. Cut sliced meat by rolling & slicing or cutting with scissors. Shred mozzarella. In a very large bowl, add ricotta. Add 12 – 14 eggs. Add 3 heaping tablespoons Grated cheese – then stir in the cubed meat and cheese.
2. Brush pan (Large deep lasagna pan about 9 x 13 or 9 x 15) with oil then melted butter. Roll out & lay dough. Add cheese/meat mixture. Add top layer of dough and pinch bottom & top dough seams together tightly.
3. Brush top with oil then egg. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Make Easter Cross with a large fork to vent. Bless.
4. Bake 375º x 10 min. Then 350º x 60 min. Then 325º x 30-45 minute.
5. Remove from oven. Brush top with melted butter. Cool 2-3 hours.
Turn upside down overnight on large board. Cover pizza tightly with paper towels, foil, & dish-towel. Refrigerate.

The Pizza Rustica I am most proud of was one filled with Spinach and Peppers. It was so beautiful when sliced.

Pizza Rustica with Spinach & Peppers

Easter Pizza Rustica

Pastry Dough
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
3 large eggs, beaten
3 T ice water, or more as needed

Blend flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Blend in the eggs. With the machine running, add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, with 1 piece twice as large as the second piece. Flatten the dough pieces into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes (and up to 1 day).

Filling
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (or 2 300-gram boxes of frozen spinach)
2 T olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce/475 gram) container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup plus 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 large egg yolks
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni
4 ounces thinly sliced salami
1 (10 to 12 ounce/300 ml) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
1 large egg, beaten

Position the rack on the bottom of the oven, and preheat oven to 375F. Squeeze the spinach to drain off as much liquid as possible. Heat oil in medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and sauté until heated through about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Blend the ricotta, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and the egg yolks in a food processor, until smooth.

Roll out the larger dough ball on a lightly floured surface to a 17-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle half of the spinach mixture over the bottom of the dough. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese over the spinach. Spread half of the ricotta mixture (about 1 cup) over the mozzarella cheese. Arrange half of each of the prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami over the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella over the meats. Arrange half the roasted red peppers in an even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining spinach mixture over the peppers. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the mozzarella over the spinach. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the remaining prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami over the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese over the meats. Arrange the remaining roasted peppers over the cheese.

Roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch round. Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the doughs together to seal. Using scissors, trim the edge of the dough to 1/2 inch. Fold the dough edges in, creating a decorative rim atop the pizza. Brush some of the egg over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the top. Bake on bottom rack until the crust is brown on top and around the sides (cover the top with foil if it begins to brown too quickly before the sides are brown), about 1 hour.

Let the pizza stand until just warm, about 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Serves: 8 – 10

Leftover Ham – Ham and Cheese Muffins & Ham and Split Pea Soup

What to make when you have leftovers? Since making a baked bone in ham butt last Sunday I’ve managed to turn it into several meals this week and the one thing I always look forward to making is Ham and Split Pea soup. The weather is still cold and a warm bowl of creamy soup is comfort food for me and my family.

Another favorite of mine for using left over ham is to make Ham and Cheese Muffins. The muffins pull together quick and go great along side a bowl of your favorite soup. I have even served them up as part of a Sunday brunch.

Ham & Cheese Muffins

Makes 1 dozen muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup diced ham
• Add some herbs and spices to the dry ingredients to make it more savory
Fresh black pepper, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or silicone muffin cups and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk, and butter. Add these wet ingredients to the dry and mix lightly (e.g., with a wooden spoon, not a mixer) until well combined. Once the batter is smooth, fold in cheese and ham.
4. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 of the way. If you like, sprinkle some more shredded cheese and freshly cracked black pepper on top. Bake for about 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and finish cooling on a rack. See notes above on storing these.
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Split Pea and Ham Soup

1 pound ham bone
4 cups chicken stock (1 Qt.)
3 cups cold water
1 16 oz. bag split green peas

1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cups chopped leeks or green onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 Bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream or Half & Half
1 cup chopped ham, cooked
Sauté the onions, carrots and celery in butter.
Place the ham bone in a large pot. Add the water, chicken stock and peas and bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat and simmer. Add all the seasonings and continue to simmer the mixture until the peas are very soft, about 1 hour and 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Remove the ham bone. Use an emersion blender to smooth peas and veggies so they are creamy.
Stir in the milk and cream. Add chopped ham. Simmer, stirring occasionally for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve topped with a buttery croutons.
ham and split pea soup

The Old Tin Recipe Box – Steak Pub Banana Nut Bread

Tin recipe box

 

As I go through my recipe file that I now keep on my computer, my memories are sometimes drawn back to the 1970’s where I would collect recipes in a tin recipe box like the one in the photo above. This is how my mother kept her most cherished recipes and I did it that way too. A housewife’s personal treasure chest.

In my tin box I would keep my handwritten recipe cards or clippings from the local paper or magazines that I was sure I would make. In time, it would eventually rust, pit and get scratched up but would continue to be displayed prominently on my kitchen counter. That old rusty box guarded my collection of delicious dishes like a steadfast soldier for years. Then…the home computer arrived and it became my modern recipe box relieving my old tin box of its duties.

When I had one of my first computers I would spend hours using my Mastercook program entering my recipes and browsing the hundreds of recipes they included in the program. Entering recipes could be a bit tedious back then but it gave me a sense of accomplishment.

These days I no longer use any particular recipe program. All I use now is MS Word where I can create lots of different category folders. I am not limited by a pre-designed program and my recipes can be in a free form of  notes and photos that I can store all in one place.

Though the old rusty tin recipe box is long gone and the newspaper clippings have yellowed with age; I still keep several of my most cherished cards from back then in a decorative photo box.

One of the recipes that I’ve saved over the years was originally taken from our local newspaper that was shared from a local steak pub restaurant chain that made the best Banana Bread. I’ve been making it for over 40 years. Although the restaurant is long gone it has always been one of those recipes people ask for after they taste it. Hope you enjoy it too!

Steakpub banana bread

Steak Pub Banana Nut Bread

Ingredients
1 c packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c corn oil
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange juice
1 c mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 c all-purpose flour
Instructions

In bowl, beat eggs and mix in brown sugar and oil until thoroughly
blended. Add sour cream, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, orange
juice. Add mashed banana to the mixture. Add walnuts and flour mixing well. Pour the batter into oiled 12″ x 4 1/2″ x 4″ loaf pan. Bake in 375 oven for 50-60 minutes. Test for doneness with a cake tester or a toothpick. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges and turn out to complete cooling on rack. Wrap in foil. Makes 12 Servings