Showing posts with label Buffalo West Wing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buffalo West Wing. Show all posts

Friday, February 25, 2011

Scallops over a bed of Creamed Spinach


Is anyone here from Indiana? Hope so, because I'll be appearing on WNIT's Dinner and a Book television show on April 23rd, but the show broadcasts only in Indiana.

I'll get a copy of the program, and when I do (the week it airs, I believe) I'll post it on my website. What a fun experience. We had TelePrompTers and three cameras and even an audience. The host of the show, Gail Martin, couldn't have been nicer. Brenda, the director, Angel, Paul, and so many others were supportive and just plain fun to hang out with. I had a blast, can you tell?

Anyway, as Gail and I talked about the White House Chef series and the Manor House series, we made dinner. And of course we used recipes from Buffalo West Wing!

Gail prepared a Greek salad, and Nantucket sea scallops. I prepared hummus and creamed spinach with olive oil and shallots. We finished off with the Triple Berry Cobbler that Gail had prepared ahead of time. Too fun.

I should have taken pictures between segments, but I forgot. I think I was just too nervous and excited to think about anything else but not looking like a goofball on camera.

The recipes, as they appear in Buffalo West Wing, are available via the PDF (and they're also in the back of the book, natch). My personal changes and tweaks, however, appear below

Nantucket Sea Scallops

(I'm not 100% sure mine came from Nantucket, but the ones I found were on sale. Just as good! There's a whole section on how to clean scallops in Buffalo West Wing, but I bought the kind that come pre-cleaned in nice vacuum packs.)

2 tablespoons of canola oil (I used olive oil instead)

4 tablespoons butter

3 cleaned scallops per person for an appetizer portion. 6 cleaned scallops per person for a main course (I used an entire 1 lb bag and boy did these guys shrink!)

1 clove garlic, smashed, cleaned, and finely minced (because I had more scallops and we love garlic, I upped this to 4 cloves)

Salt and pepper, to taste

You will need a sturdy cast iron skillet or equivalent. You want something with a heavy bottom that will evenly distribute the heat from your cooktop, and not have hot spots that might burn the scallops. Place the pan on a burner set on medium-high heat. Place the canola oil in the bottom of the pan with the butter. Mix together as the butter melts. Toss in the minced garlic and give the pan a stir. Let the oil heat up until it is hot, but not smoking. You can test the surface to see if it’s hot enough by carefully dropping a drop of water into the pan. If it sizzles and dances across the surface, the oil’s hot enough.

Using tongs, transfer the scallops to the prepared hot oil in the pan. Let brown for roughly 2 minutes, then turn to brown the other side. Remove cooked scallops from skillet onto warmed plates. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve on a bed of Creamed Spinach with Olive Oil and Shallots (below).

**Okay, for the record, I didn't have a cast iron skillet. I used my non-stick skillet, and I have to say, the scallops did not brown as nicely as they should have. When Gail Martin of Dinner and a Book did this, hers came out so beautifully. Gosh, I wish I would have taken a picture. Lightly browned, beautiful scallops. Mine were cooked and tasty. Just not so pretty.***

Creamed Spinach with Olive Oil and Shallots

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup shallots, finely minced

10–12 oz. fresh spinach, washed, dried, and trimmed to remove tough stems (I used frozen. Should have doubled this recipe. Wow, it was good!)

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

½ cup liquid—milk, chicken broth, or white wine, depending on personal taste

1 pinch fresh ground nutmeg

¼–½ tablespoon salt, or to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put olive oil in a sturdy cast iron skillet or equivalent over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add shallots, stirring until they are clear, about 1 minute. Add spinach, and continue stirring until mixture is heated through and reduced and wilted, about 2–3 minutes.

Remove from heat. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk vigorously until a smooth bubbling paste forms, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the liquid. Keep stirring until you have a thickened sauce. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste. Whisk. Add in the spinach mixture. Stir to coat. Plate. Top with grated cheese. Serve.


My husband commented at least three times about how great this meal was. He's not much of a seafood eater, so this was high praise indeed. And he liked the spinach so much, he finished it. I really should have made more! Would have been a nice leftover for lunch today!

These are really super easy to make. And they take surprisingly little time. Try it!

Enjoy,
Julie

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Vegetarian Split Pea soup


Sometime back I posted my go-to recipe for split pea soup and lamented the fact that it wasn't vegetarian because I start with a chicken broth base and add ham. Now, we love this soup, but our youngest is vegetarian and she misses it.

Several Mystery Lovers' Kitchen readers contacted me and pointed to a recipe online for a vegan split pea soup at The Perfect Pantry. You can find that recipe here.

Game for finding a vegetarian option, I tried it. Verdict: not bad, but not great. There was a flavor in there I didn't like. Same for our daughter. We think the thyme was misplaced, so in my version, I skip that entirely and make up for it with bay leaves and garlic powder. My husband loved it, but I thought it needed a tweak. Here's my version:

Vegetarian Split Pea soup

1 lb green split peas
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 - 3 Tbsp Hickory flavored barbecue sauce
Handful of baby carrots, added about 1-1/2 hour before serving
6 cups water



The Perfect Pantry recipe tells you to put all this in a large slow cooker set on high, then after 4 hours, transfer to a food processor to smooth it out.

Here's a photo of my attempt to do this.

It took forever for the peas to break down, and then the soup got way too thick.

Not cool.

Me, I much prefer to simmer this on my stove. This way the peas break down completely, and there's no messy transfer-to-a-food-processor-and-back to deal with. You'll need to keep an eye on this so that it doesn't get too thick too quickly. I found myself adding a bit more water, until the peas broke down completely.

What I found odd about the Perfect Pantry site, was their note "if you're adding smoked turkey or cooked sausage..." Umm... isn't their version supposed to be vegan? Made me a bit suspicious and so I double-checked my barbecue sauce to make sure it didn't include any meat by-products. Safe.

If you love pea soup, and you're not vegetarian, I suggest you check out either Krista's wonderful split pea soup for a rainy day Krista's split pea soup, or my favorite recipe Split pea soup.


This picture is actually of my original soup. For some reason, I can't find the photos we took of the vegetarian version. And now the entire pot is gone and I can't take a new one.
Ooops!!

In any case, soup seems like the best answer to the cold, the snow, and the general yickiness outside these days.

Enjoy!
Julie

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winner - BWW Contest

For all of you who entered my contest this week - we have a winner!

JEN McE.

Congrats, Jen!!
If you see this, please give me a shout so I can send you your gift certificate.
Otherwise, I'll be in touch over the next couple of days.

Julie's Favorite Salad

Okay, I can't help it. I had to post this picture.

Kitka, one of our two cats, is determined to open the door to the room where we keep her food.

She's hanging on the doorknob in this shot. Can't believe I timed it and got the picture! I swear, if she had opposable thumbs we would be in trouble. Her sister, Violet, is much more sedate than this little critter.

She's constantly trying to get in there and I can just about hear her calling - Mom, I'm hungry!!!

When your family is hungry, it's always great to have a go-to. I particularly like to go out, but when that's not possible, I love trying to recreate favorite dishes at home.

I like salad as a meal. So does my husband. We both tend to order Cobb Salads, or Garbage Salads, or Capaccio, or a restaurant's specialty salad, etc. when we go out. Carpaccio... mmm... but that's a post for another day.

There's a standout salad that sits head and shoulders above all we've tried. It's the Barbecue Ranch Chopped Chicken Salad from our favorite restaurant, Cooper's Hawk. I have no doubt that one of the reasons this restaurant is our favorite is because of that fresh and delicious salad. And also because of its amazing (truly, truly amazing) lobster bisque. But I digress with yet another topic for another day!

The Barbecue Ranch Chopped Chicken Salad we order is so good that we've tried to reproduce it at home. We haven't succeeded completely, but every single attempt has been worth the effort!

Last week my husband said, "You should blog about this!"
So here I am.

The *real* Cooper's Hawk salad has black beans, corn, onion strings, and cucumber in addition to what I'm about to describe below. I don't particularly care for cukes in my salad, so I left them out. And I didn't have any black beans or corn.

But the salad we created was wonderful! No question about it. We tried adding French's fried onions to take the place of the onion strings, but -- eh -- going forward I wouldn't bother. The crispy fried onions competed with the actual salad. When Cooper's Hawk puts theirs together, their onion strings are fresh, soft, and warm.


Julie's Easy Barbecue Ranch Chopped Chicken Salad

Feeds 4

1 bag Fresh Express American blend, contents chopped into small pieces
1 cup of chopped cilantro
1 or 2 (we used 2) avocados, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing (I use homemade Hidden Valley Ranch but you could also use Shel's)
3 Tbsp (give or take) your favorite BBQ sauce
Chopped chicken (I used leftovers)
1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)



At the restaurant, the salad is a beautiful thing. At home -- well, it tastes good. We like to put all the ingredients (except for the onions) in a Tupperware bowl with a lid and then shake it up so that everything gets evenly coated with Ranch and BBQ sauce. You may want to adjust those quantities up or down as your tastes dictate.

The version pictured here is one without chicken (for our veggie daughter). Everyone else had finished eating before we remembered to take a picture! LOL

The cilantro is what makes this dish, IMHO. I hope you try it. I bet you'll love it!!

Stay tuned. I'll be announcing the winner of the Quick Reader Contest later today - both here and on my personal blog! Thanks for all your great entries. Love hearing which characters you like (or hate) best!

Mmm... I have a taste for some of that salad right now. And since I have all the ingredients here at home... you know what I'll be doing!

Enjoy!
Julie


Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheese Slices (Dessert!) and a Contest!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thank you to my wonderful blog-sisters here for the incredible launch support for Buffalo West Wing. I am thrilled to have Ollie's fourth adventure out there and I'm very excited to see all the great reviews. Thank you!!

Couple of things you may not know about this new book...

The Buffalo Wings central to the story are named for my best friend, Rene. She makes the most awesome chocolate chip cookies. Ask anyone who knows her... Rene's chocolate chips are the best. If you ask her for the recipe, she'll tell you she just follows the directions on the back of Nestle Toll House morsel packages and that's it. I've followed that, too, but mine are never as good as hers are. She's not hiding any ingredients or secrets, because that's not her style. It's a mystery and we all love investigating because it means more cookies for us.

Anyway, I originally planned to have cookies as the the mysterious gift in BWW, but once another friend, Margie, came up with the fabulous title, Buffalo West Wing, I decided that Rene's chocolate chips needed to morph.

With all that in mind, and in honor of the chocolate chip cookies that didn't make it into the story, I'm here to share a different recipe from Rene with you. Cheese slices. Sounds like something you get from Kraft in little cellophane wrappers, right? Not even close.

You're going to love these. Rene got the recipe from her mother-in-law (Hey Nana Nancy!!) and this dessert shows up at almost all their events. My family loves these so now the slices show up at most of our events, too. You just can't get enough cheese slices!

Thank you, Rene! Thank you Mrs. B!

(Stay tuned for contest news after the recipe!)

Cheese Slices


2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (original flavor. Spring for the name brand here. I've tried using store brands and the dough just doesn't hold up. Sticky, icky!)

2 pkgs 8 oz cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg yolk (save the white for later)

1 tsp vanilla



Spread one package of rolls in the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Smash and maneuver until the entire bottom is covered. Mix cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Spread over the bottom layer.



At this point, you need to decide if you want them plain, or with other flavors. Here I did half plain, half with mini-morsels. I haven't yet tried it with fruit, but I plan to. We just all like the plain *so* much that I'm reluctant to mess with success.


Spread the second set of crescent rolls on top.
Beat the egg white until frothy. Brush on top.


Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Refrigerate. Slice into serving pieces (I really like to cut these on an angle) and dust with powdered sugar. Serve.





Enjoy!!
Julie

* * *

Now, are you ready for a contest?

CONTEST!

This one is for all you fast readers out there who devour books
as fast as you get your hands on them!

I want to send one lucky winner a $10 bookstore gift certificate.

How to win it?

Simply email me JulieHyzy (at) gmail (dot) com -- put CHARACTER or CONTEST in the subject. In the body of your email, answer a question (or two):

1) Who is your favorite *new* character in Buffalo West Wing?

2) Why is he/she your favorite of the newbies?

(I really love to know how readers relate to new characters, so this is enormously helpful for me!)

Answer one question, you're entered once. Answer both, you're entered twice.
It's that easy.
There's no right or wrong answer. The winner will be chosen at random. No matter which of the newbies you love (or love to hate), just providing an answer gets you in the running. (BTW, there's one character we haven't seen since book #2. If he's your favorite, that's fine too.)

ENTER BY MIDNIGHT JANUARY 13, 2011
I will announce the winner sometime on Friday, January 14, 2011

I'll announce a winner a week from today. So many of you have emailed to let me know they've already read it, so I thought this would be a perfect way to pick your brains before I start book #6 (#5, as yet unnamed, is done).

Thanks in advance, and happy reading!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve - Celebrate with Salsa!



HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE!




What an amazing year this has been. Can you believe 2010 is almost over? I can't. It's been whirlwind - and I know that as I look back on the year I am very, very grateful for the community we have here on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. You make it a joy to cook, to blog, to read, to comment. I love getting to know all of you, and I look forward to our daily conversations. So let me take this moment to thank all of you for sharing your recipes, your stories, and your lives with us!

I chose today's recipe because I'd like to end the year with a feature from the Chicago Tribune's Best Recipes of 2010.

Why the Chicago Tribune? Because 2011 will begin with a feature in the Printers Row book section I'm particularly excited about.

Editor Julia Keller interviewed me about my White House Chef Mysteries and my Manor House Mysteries!
Woo-hoo!!

They sent a photographer out here and everything. The piece runs tomorrow and I can't think of a better way to start out the New Year!

To thank the Trib, I'd like to return the favor and feature one of the items from their fabulous "Best of 2010 Recipes" where you'll find sauteed scallops with chermoula, chocolate peanut butter pots de creme, and sweet potato and coconut custard with toasted coconut, among other mouthwatering dishes.

Today, the last day of 2010, I suggest we all
Celebrate with Salsa!

I love salsa. All kinds. Our favorite local restaurant serves a tomatillo salsa I haven't been able to recreate at home (yet), but I keep trying.

This one is a spicy new addition to my repertoire. Delicious and easy! I used only 2 serrano chilies. If you prefer yours less hot, you may want to drop it down to one.


Salsa Verde

2 - 3 serrano chilies, stemmed and seeded (I used 2)
2 green onions, trimmed, roughly chopped (I used three because they were small)
1 or 2 cloves garlic (I used 3)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (I used cilantro and didn't exactly measure. I think it might have been a bit more than a 1/2 cup.... but I really love cilantro)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp salt

Drop chilies, onions and garlic into a food processor with the machine running to mince finely. (Very excited to use my food processor - got it for Christmas *last* year and I've been trying out new recipes all year.) Add remaining ingredients. Process, scraping container once or twice, until smooth. Adjust with a little more water if needed for a smooth, slightly thick sauce. (I didn't need to add any water.)

This is so easy and so delicious. I know that the Trib's food editors combed through hundreds of recipes to come up with these "Best" choices. I can't wait to try out another!

Enjoy!


A little news here:

Buffalo West Wing received an amazing and wonderful review on Season for Romance here. I hope you stop by to read it (you have to click on the little brown bar beneath the cover to find the review).

Buffalo West Wing got ten out of ten stars! I am so excited. Not only that, but from what I understand this is the first time the reviewer "Kat" gave out ten stars. Am I excited? You bet!! Thank you, Season for Romance!

And a big thank you to Lori a/k/a Dollycas! She reviewed BWW yesterday on her blog here. Lori has a fabulous spot filled with great reviews and giveaways. Thank you, Lori!




I'm looking forward to another fabulous year here on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Thank you, Avery (Daryl), Cleo, Elizabeth (Riley), Jenn, Krista, and all our wonderful friends here. You are the best!

Happy New Year's Eve.
Celebrate, enjoy, and be safe!

Love and hugs,
Julie


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guess who's Guesting? Me!

Twas the day after Christmas and whaddya know?
Guests for this blog day were all a no-show!

Can't say that I blame them, they've used up their zest,
Presents are opened, it's now time to rest!

* * *
Okay, lame poem... but you get the idea.
Today is the day after Christmas, which means it's either a quiet day at home or a crazed trip back to the stores for returning unwanted items and snatching up great deals.

Here's where I would usually include a recipe. But.... I'm not planning to cook today. Are you?

Instead I might open a nice bottle of wine. But before I do, since I'm the official guest here today, I'm going to talk just a little bit about my new book, Buffalo West Wing, which comes out January 4, 2011.

With a new First Family, White House executive chef Olivia Paras can't afford to make any mistakes. But when a box of take-out chicken mysteriously shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a "no-wing" situation. After Olivia refuses to serve the chicken, the First Lady gives her the cold shoulder. But when it turns out to be poisoned poultry, Olivia realizes the kids are true targets.

I'm very excited about this new adventure. If you've read Eggsecutive Orders, you know Ollie made a pretty big decision regarding her love life in that one. This one picks up over a year later, when her heart has settled down and she decides she doesn't have time for a relationship (uh-huh, heh heh).

I just love throwing challenges at Ollie! She somehow always works through them, although she occasionally fights back and tells me "No way!"

Anyway, I digress.

I have a huge box of beautiful Buffalo West Wing bookmarks just waiting for good homes. I would love to send you some -- with one small catch. If you'd like bookmarks for yourself and to pass out to friends, check my blog here for guidelines. Happy as anything to send them to you!

I've already had a slew of requests for bookmarks via a random "free bot" that notified the world... and I'm sitting home, now that Christmas is complete, the family fed and pampered (me too!) addressing a bunch of envelopes to send these bookmarks out.

As I do, I'm sipping a nice red wine.... Which brings me to my topic today.

I am not a wine connoisseur. Ooh, no. But, after many years of suffering through vinegary vintages because I just didn't know better, I've finally gotten to the point where I truly believe life is too short to drink bad wine. Now I'm eager to learn how to tell the difference!

Note, I didn't say cheap wine. There are some wonderful wines out there under $15 per bottle.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I joined the wine club at our local winery/restaurant - Cooper's Hawk. Fabulous decision. Every month we try a new wine - and every month we receive a newsletter explaining the new wine, how it was made and what it's best enjoyed with. (PS - just added --For Christmas my husband surprised me with reservations for the next "Study in Reds" at Cooper's Hawk and the girls got us a red wine mini-aerator and red wine glasses. How fun!)

I guess everybody knows where I've been leaning lately, huh? My husband and I even went a step further and created our "Wine Spreadsheet of Fun."

My husband is an accountant, which means we live by spreadsheets. Our trip to Europe was plotted on a spreadsheet. Every trip to Disney is on a spreadsheet. I kid you not. But you know what? It works marvelously well and we're now using one to chart the wines we try, how much we pay, and then we include a few notes about our impressions.

Two recent red standouts are the Nebbiola Barbera from Cooper's Hawk (2010) and the Chianti from DaVinci (2008). Wow.

Although I like a good Gewurztraminer from time to time, my husband and I usually prefer smooth reds, especially those that are full-flavored, good aroma, with no bite. We recently received a gift certificate to a local wine store, and we had so much fun picking out choices from France, Italy, Argentina and even a few domestics.

I tend toward Merlot, my husband toward Cabernet Sauvignon. But we both enjoy a good Malbec and we're happy to try something new.

On this lovely day after Christmas, I'd like to ask you for something... recommendations for our next wine shopping trip!

So... let me know... what wines do you like best?

Julie

Don't forget to stop by my blog for bookmarks...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fresh Soup Without Leaving the House!


So there I was, desperately trying to finish my manuscript due December 15th. Outside, the driveway was so icy that it made the short trip to the mailbox treacherous. I didn't want to change out of my comfy writing clothes. I didn't want to leave the house. But I wanted soup. Homemade soup.

Problem was - with my deadline, I didn't have a lot of ingredients to work with, nor time to search out a new recipe using what little I had on hand.

So...I improvised. My favorite thing to do in the kitchen. What follows is a relatively quick and easy recipe for soup that I will most definitely use again. I know it will never come out exactly the same, but isn't that the beauty of experimentation?

My husband and kids loved this. A broth-based soup rather than a cream soup, it's very fresh and full of flavor. Yum!

So, what did I have in the house to create this delicious concoction?
Here you go...

WHATEVER IS IN THE HOUSE SOUP

1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
8 cups vegetable broth
2 pinches rosemary
1 pinch ground white pepper
2 pinches oregano
2 bay leaves
1 16 oz bag of frozen vegetables, I used a "San Franscisco Blend" because that's what I had in the freezer.

So many good recipes start with sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil, so that's how this one begins. Once onions and garlic have softened and started to brown, add drained cannellini beans. Keep on low heat and stir occasionally.


While the beans simmer to soak up flavor from the onions and garlic, pull out a large soup pot. In it, combine broth, rosemary, pepper, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for about an hour or so.





Add frozen veggies to beans/onions/garlic. Cook through.





Add veggie mix to broth. Remove bay leaves. Serve.



Easy as anything. And incredibly delicious. Nice and hot to chase the chill away.

Enjoy!
Julie

Oh, and in case you're wondering whether I made my deadline - I DID!! Woo-hoo. Weirdly, even though I was under the gun writing it, this might very well be my favorite WHChef adventure yet.

Speaking of WHChef - my next newsletter will be coming out in early January, to coincide with the release of Buffalo West Wing. If you're not receiving my newsletters yet, please sign up today here on my blog or at my website.