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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

March Meatloaf Madness

In the past week or so, I've been asked a couple of times if I've ever thought about making a meatloaf for the blog, wellllllllllllll, true confession:

I make horrible meatloaf. sigh

I don't know why, but perfect meatloaf -- that succulent, light, flavorful, and browned to perfection lump of meaty goodness -- continues to allude me despite my better efforts.  Please don't ask why I can whip together a five course fancy pants gourmet meal for six but can't toss together a simple, edible meatloaf for everynight fare.  I'm just ironic that way.

SO...I had this crazy notion to enlist some meatloaf-making help in the form of a readers contest. Yay!

Welcome to

Going to make this really simple, to enter:

1) Email a copy of your favorite and/or best meatloaf recipe to by Wed March 13, 2013 (11:59 PM EST).

2) Each contest entry will be reviewed in consultation with my expert panel of culinary judges (i.e., Guinea Pig Mom and Dad).

3) Each member of the juding panel will pick their favorite among the recipes submitted which will then be featured as posts on The Culinary Creative at the end of the month.  If you send me a recipe, I'm going to take that as consent to make, photograph, and publish (with full credit given to the recipe provider, of course) that recipe online.  Just sayin.

4) Super Cool Prizes (yet to be determined) will be awarded to the top 3 recipes chosen and featured on TCC.

Sounds easy, right?  I hope you will indulge me in this endeavor and send me something good stuff because I know a lot of you have some gems in your recipe stash and I NEED some serious meatloafing assistance.

Let the games begin! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chocolate Pistachio Peanut Butter Chip Coffee Dippers

Okay, before I move on from pistachios, I wanted to send you off with a not-too-sweet sweet treat recipe.  Yummy cookies!  Perfect for coffee, tea or shoveling in your mouth.

Chocolate Pistachio Peanut Butter Chip Coffee Dippers
the kitchen sink was full or I would have added that as well

2-1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/3 cup rough chopped pistachios

In a small bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until well blended.

Side note -- you'll notice that I changed mixers during the process of putting this recipe together.  Found that I really needed a mixer with paddle attachment to pull the cookie dough together, the beaters don't bring the dough together like it needs to be brought.   

Add egg yolk and vanilla, mix until blended.

Add the flour mixture in a bit at a time until fully incorporated.

Fold in the peanut butter chips and chopped pistachios.

Beat on low until the mixture comes together in a nice smooth dough lump.

Roll out dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet.  Don't need to leave a lot of space between because they won't spread much.

With the flat bottom of a drinking glass, press the balls flat.

Bake for 13-14 minutes at 375 degrees.

After removing cookies from the oven, transfer them to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Makes 3 to 3-1/2 dozen.


These are not a super sweet cookie because the cocoa offsets the sugar in the recipe.  If you like your cookies a little sweeter, trying melting some chocolate and drizzling over them.  Both decorative and tasty.

If you don't like peanut butter chips, you can always substitute regular chocolate chips or white chocolate chips.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pasta with Pistachio-Parmesan Cream Sauce

I'm usually a red sauce gal when it comes to pasta, but the idea for this cream sauce came to me as I was driving home from the grocery store with one of my household staples, a package of chicken tortellini.  I remembered that I had a basic "pasta con panna" recipe at home that I thought I could manipulate into something new and different.  I love it when a plan comes together. I used my filled tortellini, but you can make to coat your favorite pasta. Will go well with anything.

Buon appetito, y'all!

Pistachio-Parmesan Cream Sauce

1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup white wine, room temp
1 cup Half and Half or heavy cream, room temp
1/4 cup shredded Paremesan
salt and pepper to taste
cornstarch (optional)

Using a food processor, finely chop the pistachios.  If you don't want nut chunks in your sauce, but still want the flavor, you can process to a nut paste consistency and use that in the sauce.  Set aside.

In a medium size pan, saute minced garlic with olive oil over medium high heat until translucent and fragrant.

Pour in white wine and bring mixture to a boil.  Allow to cook until wine is reduced by half. The reduction will intensify the flavor.

Whisk in cream until well blended.  Make sure your cream is not cold when you add it to the pan, otherwise it will curdle and you don't want cream chunks in your sauce.

Whisk in shredded paremesan until melted and blended into sauce.

Add in the pistachios, and still until evenly spread throughout the sauce.  If you went with the nut paste, whisk in until well blended.  Salt and pepper to taste.

OPTIONAL -- if you want a slightly thicker sauce (like I did), spoon out 2 tsp of the liquidy sauce and mix with 1 tsp of cornstarch.  Pour mixture back into the sauce pan and bring to a quick boil.  When it starts to thicken, remove from heat and set aside.

Boil up a batch of your favorite pasta according to directions, rinse, drain, add sauce and enjoy.  Garnish with rough chopped pistachios and/or Parmesan.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quinoa with Toasted Pistachios

Either as a side dish or part of a vegetarian meal, here is savory low-cal way to serve up pistachios. Quinoa is an excellent source of plant protein, which teams up well with the good for you qualities of these little green nuts.  Enjoy!

Quinoa with Toasted Pistachios

3/4 cup quinoa
1-3/4 cups water
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup red bell pepper, fine chopped
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, unsalted
2 tsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Then cover and simmer for 13-15 minutes until cooked through.

While quinoa is simmering, place pistachios on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until browned and fragrant.

Allow to cool, then rough chop and set aside.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a small skillet, add red bell pepper and green onion and cook until softened.

Mix together cooked quinoa, chopped nuts, veggies, vinegar and 1 tsp olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper, then serve.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Good and Good for You: Pistachios

So I know a lot of you spend a lot of your time trying to nail down that perfect gift for that special day this month, but c’mon…what could be more perfect for World Pistachio Day than pistachios?!?!? 

So to help you make Feb 23 just a little bit more wonderful, I’m going to work on some special pistachios recipes.  But first, what makes those little green nuts so darned fabulous?  Let’s find out.


People have been noshing on these little treats since way back in the way back-whens (that’d be the BCs).  Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees and native to the Middle East.  Because they grow so well in hot climates, pistachios spread across the Middle East to the Mediterranean. Their high nutritional value combined with a long shelf life made pistachios the perfect caravan road trip snack food and they were carried by travelers, traders and explorers.

Around the Mediterranean, they became revered as a delicacy.  According to multiple sources, King Nebuchadnezzar grew them in his fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon as a treat for his wife.  The Queen of Sheba called dibs on them as a royal food and forbade the commoners from growing them for their own use.

Moving ahead to the ADs, Roman Emperor Vitellius is rumored to have polished off many a fine meal with a mouthful of pistachios and they are mentioned in the first century Roman cookbook by Apicius.

One of the most interesting things I found out is that pistachios are one of only two nuts mentioned by name in the Bible.  Genesis 43:11 – Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. I still haven't discovered what the other nut was yet...oh, maybe almonds. :/

It took a while for pistachios to make their way to the Americas and it wasn’t until the 1940s that, with the help of a little vehicle called ice cream, pistachios became quite popular.  It was another 30 years or so later before pistachios were cultivated domestically in the U.S.

You used to be able to more easily find red-dyed pistachios sold in the store.  They were colored to make them more "appealing" and hide flaws, but honestly, I find their naturally green state much more to my liking.  Though the thought of Christmas still conjures up images of my Grandma J sitting in a chair by the fireplace plowing through a bag of red pistachios...she does love her pistachios.  (Sorry, Gma, but you know it's true!)

And how good are they for you?
  • Pistachios are a rich source of energy and a plentiful source of good fats and antioxidants.
  • Consumed regularly, they can contribute to lowering bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels within your blood.
  • Pistachios are a great source of potassium, which helps lower blood pressure.
  • They are high in fiber, especially soluble fiber which aids in the digestive system.  The brown skin around the nut adds extra fiber and nutrients to your pistachio intake benefits, so it’s okay to it them.
  • Pistachios are a good snack for those with diabetes because they can help with controlling blood sugar levels.
All that and they are darned tooting tasty to boot!  So if you haven’t given them a chance before, you should certainly check them out.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Mint Milanos

Okay, made my decision and today I turned out some homemade Pepperidge Farm treats.  These are some of my all-time favorite cookies.  Turns out it's actually a very simple recipe, and they are very braggable.  Oh, you bought us Mint Milanos!  No, I MADE you Mint Milanos.  Aren't I fabulous?  :)

Mint Milanos ®
Classic Snacks, page 26, recipe occasionally paraphrased

YIELD:  18-20 sandwich cookies
TOTAL TIME:  2-1/2 hours including rest time
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  stand mixer, pastry bag(or zip top bag) with large round piping tip

1-1/4 cups (5-3/8 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp kosher salt
3 large egg whites
8 tbsp (4 oz) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup (4 oz) powder sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

chocolate filling
4 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (a scant 2/3 cup)
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Make the Cookies

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Whisk the egg whites by hand in a separate small bowl for about 30 seconds, until bubbly, frothy, and slightly thickened but still liquid.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together starting on low speed until the butter coats the sugar.

Then beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes until the butter is pale and creamy.

Scrape down the bowl and add the egg whites in thirds on low speed, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before drizzling in more.

Scrape the bowl again, add the vanilla, and mix (still on low) to incorporate.  There will still be a few chunks of butter visible.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined into a thick, whipped batter.  Do not overbeat.

Fit a pastry bag or gallon-size zip-top bag with a large round piping tip and fill the bag with batter.

Form each cookie directly on a prepared baking sheet by piping a line of batter about 2-1/2 inches long, then reversing directions -- still piping -- to make a second line, forming a "U" with the long edges touching.

great illustration of piping from book (on page27)

Space the cookies about 1-1/2 inches apart, since they'll spread slightly.  Because the batter is thicker than a typical frosting or filling, it may take a few tries to get into the rhythm of piping, and you may need to squeeze lower on the bag -- closer to the piping tip -- than you normally would.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes (I baked mine for 16-17 minutes), until the cookies are no longer puffy and glossy and are just turning golden brown at the edges.  The cookies will still be a little soft, but they'll crisp as they cool.  I left mine on the cookie tray for 5 minutes.

Transer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Fill the Cookies
When the cookies are cool, melt the chocolate in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring constantlywith a silicone spatula until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint extract.

Dip the flat (bottom) side of the cookie in the melted chocolate, or brush on chocolate using a silicone pastry brush; top with another cookie, flat side down, to make a sandwich. 

Repeat with the remaining cookies. All the chocolate to firm up for at least 1 hour before serving the cookies.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  Hahahahahaha, that's funny, like they would last that long.  Whooo (wipe a tear), that's a good one.


Author:  "I bet you thought 'Milano' was just a random name bestowed by Pepperidge Farm, but the cookies -- at least the homemade version -- really do have an Italian background.  The recipe for the pale, crispy cookie wafers is based on a traditional recipe called ossi dei morti, or "bones of the dead."

K2:  For all you fans out there of The Walking Dead, I thought this sounded appropriate for today.

Author:  "Want to make these in another flavor?  Substitute orange, almond, or your favorite extract for the peppermint in the melted chocolate.  Or just leave the chocolate plain for the original version."

K2:  They may not be "exactly" like the original, but they're so close everyone (including yourself) will be impressed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Check It Out: Classic Snacks Made From Scratch

New cookbook! New cookbook! New cookbook!

Hey TCCers, have a new cookbook that I think you might like.  If you, like me, look back on your childhood through a fond sugar-glazed haze of snack food memories, you are going to want to get this for your kitchen collection.

It's got EVERYTHING!!!!  The sections cover all the basic snack food groups -- Cookies (Nutter Butters!), Cakey Treats (Devil Dogs!), Cheesy Snacks (Nacho Cheese Doritos!), Salty Snacks (Funyuns!), Ice Cream Treats (Strawberry Shortcake Bars!), and Sweets and Candies (Peeps! yeah, I said Peeps!).

The only thing I wish the book had was more photos.  You will be on your own trying out the recipes because (unlike TCC) there are no step-by-step photos. But what there is, is a way to preserve the classic Hostess goodies like Twinies and Chocolate Cupcakes in your kitchen and hearts forever.

Yes, I am more than a little excited to be able to add this to my culinary library.  The hardest thing now is deciding what I'm going to make for you this weekend...decisions, decisions...

An enthusiastic two thumbs up.

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch by Casey Barber
January 2013, Ulysses Press, 192 pp, $17.95
ISBN 978-1-61243-121-5

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Quick-n-Easy Shrimp Po'Boy

Hope everyone is enjoying their Superbowl Sunday.  Go Team! 

I wanted to try something I've not made before -- a po'boy and what I'm bringing you tonight is a variation on a Dressed Shrimp Shorty.  Po'boys are a Louisiana specialty sandwich and consist of roast beef or fried seafood served on a French baguette.  A regular po'boy is a foot long, while a shorty is a 6" sandwich.  If you ever grab a po'boy in New Orleans and they asked you if you want it dressed, this mean do you want it with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo, onions and spicy mustard are an option too.  Usually a roast beef po'boy will have gravy and sometimes french fries on it.

So my Dressed Shrimp Shorty has red leaf lettuce, sandwich-sliced Kosher dills, and Cajun mayo (aka remoulade).  Spicy and flavorful, if you like them, the pickle slices are KEY! Now you can deep fry up some shrimp, but I went the semi-premade route which works just as well.

Quick-n-Easy Dresssed Shrimp Shorty Po'Boy

frozen shrimp poppers
red leaf lettuce
French baguette
sliced pickles
Cajun mayo (see recipe)

Cajun mayo
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp chili sauce
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
2 tsp Creole seasoning*
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Tabasco
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Mix together all Cajun mayo ingredients and set aside.

Cook up shrimp according to package directions.

Slice 6" section of French baguette lengthwise.

Slather bread with Cajun mayo, layer with lettuce and pickles. Pile cooked shrimp on top and enjoy.


*In case you don't have Creole seasoning on hand, here is a recipe to make your own batch.

Creole seasoning
2-1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme

The Cajun mayo has a really nice flavor, would be great for a Creole chicken salad, a spicy egg salad, or as a spread for a roast beef sandwich.