Monday, January 26, 2015

Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

Hi everyone! I am excited to share two things with you today! I don't usually talk about my non-food related daily experiences on this blog, but I have to say that this weekend started out in the best way possible for me. Why is that? Well, I got to cross off one of the things on my bucket list, and that is to see Garth Brooks in concert. I have waited over 14 years (since he retired) for the opportunity to see him, and I am so thankful that I FINALLY got the chance. I have high respect for the man for putting his family first, but THANK YOU GARTH for coming out of retirement! He was as good as I imagined. And I have to give my husband the credit for snagging the tickets when I had given up. He really came through for me!    

Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus



Second, I am so happy that I got a chance to bring you a lobster recipe this week. If you read my About Me page, you know that I love my lobster. I have to thank LobsterAnywhere for supplying the beautiful North Atlantic colossal lobster tails I used for this post today. This beauty here is over one pound. The two I received were shipped overnight and arrived at my house, frozen as a rock, so I was able to pop them in the freezer to be used whenever I chose. As a disclosure, I am not being compensated for writing this post, but my experience has been so wonderful with LobsterAnywhere that I wanted to give them a shoutout. Check them out if you are looking for the best Maine lobster around! 

LobsterAnywhere Booklets



The package I received came with a handy dandy cooking and handling guide. My husband is actually the lobster cooker in my house (but he will attest that I am one of the best lobster eaters around), so I used the guide to gauge how long to steam the lobster tails. They came out perfectly done. I also received a mouth-watering catalog of prepared lobster dishes—Baked Stuffed Lobster, Lazy Man's Surf and Turf,  Lobster Mac & Cheese...and more. There are so many to choose from. I really want to try them all!

Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus



For the preparation, I split the top of the shell open and steamed the lobster tails. I then removed the meat from and shell and topped them with bacon-wrapped asparagus. And it doesn't stop there. No my friends! The tails then get drizzled with a luscious lemon butter sauce. This sauce is a thick lemon butter sauce with a hint of garlic, sends the whole thing over the top (the sauce is the same one I use on my Chicken Piccata). Talk about decadent! 
Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus



By the way, Valentine's Day is approaching. Surprise and impress the one you love with this lobster dish. It would definitely make them feel special.

You have no idea how hard it was not to sneak a bite of these lobster tails as I was prepping them for the photo shoot. You should have seen my crustacean-loving family waiting impatiently, salivating, on the sidelines to dig in once the shoot was over.  I think they will all tell you it was worth the wait. We took no time devouring the lobster tails. Thanks LobsterAnywhere for a great meal!!

Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus


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Lobster Tail with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus:

6 bacon slices
6 asparagus spears, bottom 2"- 2 1/2" cut off
3 tbsp. butter, divided
2 tsp. minced shallot
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. flour
1/8 scant tsp. salt
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
water for steaming lobster
salt for salting water
2 (16-20 oz.) colossal lobster tails with shell on, defrosted if frozen


Note: If you are using smaller (around 8 oz.) tails, use four and increase bacon and asparagus to 8 each. Each tail will be served with two bacon-wrapped asparagus spears.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place bacon on a baking sheet and cook for 7 to 8 minutes to par-cook. Remove and discard fat and juices. Cool slightly. Wrap1 bacon around each asparagus starting at the bottom of the spear head. Prep a baking sheet with cooking spray and bake for 18-20 minutes or until bacon is brown and cooked through.

While asparagus spears bake, make the butter sauce. Preheat a small saucepan on medium to medium low. Add 1 tablespoon butter and melt. Add shallot and garlic cooking about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir in flour, whisking for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium to medium high and add chicken broth, lemon juice, and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium, stirring constantly until thicken slightly. Turn off heat and remove pan. Cut the remaining butter into 4 chunks. Add one at a time, stirring to melt butter before adding the next chunk. The pan may be placed back on the stovetop with heat off if the butter melts too slowly. Keep warm when done.

Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Add about 2 tablespoon of salt for every 1 quart of water used. Place a metal steaming rack into pot, making sure the top of the rack is above water level. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut the top of the shell, starting at the front of the shell an cutting towards the back, stopping before the tail. Evenly space two 2 long wooden skewers through the lobster meat, from the front towards the back to prevent lobster tails from curling as they cook. Make sure water is fully boiling, and place tails on rack. Cover and steam for 10-12 minutes. For smaller tails reduce cooking time and cook roughly 1 minute per ounce of lobster. Lobster is done when white, not translucent, throughout. Remove from pan.

To serve, separate lobster meat from the shell by spreading shell open with hands without completely splitting it in half. Run fingers or a dull butter knife between the meat and shell to separate it. Lift lobster out of shell. Make a slice down the back to butterfly the tail meat and remove the dark vein. Top with 3 asparagus spears (two for smaller tails) and drizzle with lemon butter sauce. Serve with potatoes—baked or mashed, and/or a salad. Makes 2 servings.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

This is the best olive oil dipping sauce I have ever made! Okay...maybe it's the only olive oil dipping sauce I have ever made! But you know what? I think I hit it out of the park. It is packed full of flavor. Each ingredient is distinctive and adds a the depth of flavor to the dish. I used olives, artichoke hearts, garlic, red pepper flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, black pepper, and shaved Parmesan cheese to flavor extra light tasting olive oil. Honesty, I like it better than any of the ones I have had at restaurants!

Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce



Oh yeah, I left out one ingredient from the list above. This ingredient adds distinctive flavor note and is essential to the sauce. It's ANCHOVIES!! If you don't like anchovies, please force yourself to "shake it off". They are cooked in a olive oil and disintegrate when cooked. They do not add a fishy taste and do so much to enhance the flavor of the sauce. If you have never tried anchovies, please promise you won't leave them out if you want to try out this recipe? Deal? You will be doing yourself a favor. No lie.

Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce


Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce



My favorite bread to serve with this is the crusty artisan type. This appetizer is little taste of Italy. Eating it transports me to the rolling hills, quaint farmhouses, and warm sunshine of Tuscany...a place I have never been but has always been my happy place.

Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce


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Loaded Olive Oil Dipping Sauce:

3 sun-dried tomato halves (about tbsp. reconstituted and chopped)
2 artichoke hearts
12 medium black olives
1 garlic clove
1 cup extra light tasting olive oil, divided
2 anchovy fillets
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 rounded tsp. chopped fresh basil
1/4 rounded cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Soak sun-dried tomato in boiling water for about 5 minutes (skip this step if using tomato packed in olive oil). Pat dry and finely chop. Finely chop artichoke hearts and olives. Mince garlic.

Preheat a small skillet or saucepan on medium to medium low heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add anchovies and red pepper flakes. Cook for  minute or so, stirring to dissolve anchovies. Add garlic, artichoke, olives, black pepper, and cook for a couple minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic get too brown. Add the remaining oil. Remove from heat. Gently stir in basil and cheese when oil is no longer hot. Allow to rest at room for about 20 minutes or so for the flavors to meld. Serve with crusty bread.  Serves 4 to 6. 



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In Good Flavor likes to keep in good company and parties at Full Plate Thursday, The Country Cook, Lady Behind the Curtain and these other places. Please check them out!





Monday, January 19, 2015

Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter


Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter


This ravioli platter has everything a party food should: it has crunch; it has meat, it has pasta, it has cheese, it has sauce, and it has spice (from hot cherry peppers, which can be substituted or omitted if you don't like spice). It is perfect for game day or hanging out with friends. Store bought ravioli allows this to be put together with ease. I used Italian sausage ravioli, but you can use beef, chicken, or any kind your heart desires (not butternut squash...which is wonderful...but ewww! in this application). I made my own marinara sauce, but if you don't feel like making your own, use your favorite from a jar.   

Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter

The ravioli was coated with a flour, egg and milk mixture, and panko crumbs, then fried until crispy and golden brown. The cherry peppers were also cooked in the same manner. Once both were fried, they were topped with marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, then broiled until the cheese was hot and gooey. How does that sound?

Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter



The marinara was simply made. I sautéed onion and garlic in olive oil, added tomato sauce and seasoning, and simmered for 10 minutes. It was then finished off with chopped fresh basil. 

Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter



I served this to my husband and son who were all too happy to dig in. Make this for your hungry crowd. They will be happy that you did!

Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter




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Fried Sausage Ravioli and Cherry Pepper Platter:

For the Marinara:
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 cup crushed tomatoes 
1/4 tsp. salt 
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 rounded tbsp. julienned basil 

For the Fried Ravioli:
oil for frying
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup panko crumbs
1 pkg. (9 oz.) Italian Sausage Ravioli
1/4 cup hot cherry pepper—deli sliced, patted dried
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 tbsp. julienned basil 


Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring until onion is translucent, about a couple minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring to a light boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Cover.

Preheat 1 inch of oil (I use half extra virgin olive oil and half canola) in a medium skillet or saucepan on medium heat. Whisk egg, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place flour in a second bowl and panko crumbs in a third bowl. Dip ravioli in flour to coat, patting off excess. Dip in egg/milk mixture. Place in panko and pat onto ravioli. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Repeat coating ravioli until all are coated.

Coat cherry pepper in the same manner as ravioli, dipping in flour, then egg/milk mixture, then panko.

Place 4 ravioli in oil. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes per side. If ravioli browns too quickly, reduce heat. Cook until golden brown. Some of the ravioli may bubble up. Place on paper towel to drain. Repeat cooking in batches of 4 until all ravioli are cooked. 

Place cherry peppers in oil and fry until golden brown, flipping halfway. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Preheat oven to broil.

Place ravioli and cherry peppers on a baking sheet. Spoon on marinara. Top with mozzarella. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Slide onto serving platter. Garnish with basil. Makes four servings.



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Friday, January 16, 2015

Crazy Whoopie Pie

Crazy Whoopie Pie

Hi there! Hope you are doing well. Let's pick up where we left off. The last time, I introduced you to  frosting made with pureed cottage cheese, and today, I am using it as a filling for a healthy-fied whoopie pie. Just as the filling, the cake also has its own hidden ingredient—spinach. (The next post will not be light or contain hidden ingredients. Promise!) If you have children (or adults) in your life who need to eat more veggies and will not do it on their own free will, try giving them these whoopie pies. Don't spill the beans. All your victims...I mean loved ones...need to know is the bare essentials—that these treats are low in saturated fat and sugar. They will never know the difference! 

Sneaky? Not really. I consider it looking out for the ones we love.  :)

Crazy Whoopie Pie



The name Crazy Whoopie Pie comes from the fact that the cake component is a modification of the Crazy (or Wacky) Cake. Aside from the fact that it is moist and delicious, this type of cake is also the simplest to whip up. What makes it unique is that it does not require eggs or butter. Rather, it relies on the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar to act as a leavener. And did I tell you there is no mixer required? All you need is a little hand mixing.  So easy! 

This recipe yields twenty four 1/2-inch thick cakes and will produce 12 whoopie pies. If you want thicker cakes, fill the cake pan cavities with a little more batter and bake for a minute or so longer. Just remember, the number of servings will be reduced. Once baked and cooled, fill with the creamy and smooth Vanilla Frosting Surprise (Healthy Secret Ingredient) and enjoy!

Crazy Whoopie Pie



In parting, I have to point out that I felt the need to include a wide shot even though I am not very satisfied with how it came out. But after two photoshoots and about 40 photos, I regret to say that this is as good as it's going to get folks. The top of this whoopie pie is a bit sloppy from being manhandled—no time for a third. Going to keep on keeping on! 


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Crazy Whoopie Pie:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 rounded tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. Stevia White Powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup frozen spinach
1 tbsp. vinegar
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup water
Vanilla Frosting Surprise (Healthy Secret Ingredient)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 12-cavity whoopie pie pans with cooking spray. Set aside.

Finely chop frozen spinach using a large chopping knife. I find the spinach chops better frozen than at room temp. Microwave for a few seconds to defrost. Wrap in 3 to 4 layers of paper towels and squeeze dry.

Add flour, cocoa powder, Stevia, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add spinach, separating the clumps as best as you can. Use a whisk to blend into the flour mixture. Make 3 wells in the flour mixture using a spoon. Add oil to one, vinegar to the second, and vanilla to the third. Add water and whisk until blended.

Pour batter into each baking sheet cavity, filling half way. Bake about 7 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few sticky crumbs. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. To assemble, spread a dollop of frosting on one cake. Top with a second. Makes 12 whoopie pies.



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Monday, January 12, 2015

Vanilla Frosting Surprise (Healthy Secret Ingredient)



There is a secret ingredient in this frosting that I did not want to give away by putting it in the title. I wanted you to see a photo first to show you that this ingredient makes perfect sense as a dessert item.  As you can see, there is nothing unusual looking about this frosting—and there lies the beauty in it. For, my dear friends, the hidden ingredient iiiSSSSSSS...........cottage cheese! Yep!.. the one and only, the white stuff with lots of curdles that we are all familiar with! And let me tell you, this frosting tastes NOTHING like cottage cheese. NOTHING. NOTHING. NOTHING.

I personally think this healthy, nutritious, and an under-ultilized cheese has so much more potential than to be eaten on celery sticks, with crackers, or as a ricotta substitute in lasagnas. When I came up the the idea to puree cottage cheese into a smooth and creamy consistency, a whole new world of possibilities opened up. Cottage cheese as a dessert item? Yes! It works wonderfully...and with benefits! It adds protein without the extra fats and calories of cream cheese, mascarpone, butter, or sour cream. Today, I am going to show you how to transform cottage cheese into vanilla frosting that is low calorie, low-fat and reduced sugar.




Transforming the lumpy cottage cheese into a smooth, creamy filling is very attainable. It took me six test batches to get it right. Ironically enough, my first batch was pretty much spot-on and needed only minor tweaking. Batches two through five had variations and yielded unsuccessful results—too lumpy, too watery, too yucky...too happy, too sneezy, too dopey...

Sorry, I drifted off for a second.

Anyway, I quickly learned some key things during the development of this frosting. I found out that under pureeing the cottage cheese produces a frosting that is firm and holds its shape, but it is granular. On the flip side, blending the cheese into a creamy and smooth consistency produces a thinner, somewhat runny end result. What seems to be happen in this instance, is as the cottage cheese is pureed more and more, the water content is extracted out of the solids and thins out the cheese. I tried pressing out the liquid through a fine mesh strainer prior to pureeing it in hopes of obtaining a thicker consistency. What resulted after blending was a thick cream with very granular bits. I could not puree it enough to smooth it out! The lesson learned here was not to squeeze the water out of the cheese.

Vanilla Frosting Surprise (Healthy Secret Ingredient)



So far, I have created cottage cheese that is smooth and creamy. It now needs to be firmed up. This is achieved by adding a small amount of Neufchâtel cheese and cornstarch. The former firms up the frosting without making it taste cream cheesy and the latter absorbs any liquid. For flavoring, vanilla extract is added. Finally, to add sweetness, I use a combination of powdered sugar and Stevia White Powder (my personal favorite sweetener that can purchase online or health food stores). There is just enough sweetener to make the frosting sweet without being overly so. Once you start playing around with the recipe, you can adjust the sweetness to suit your taste.

There you have it, cottage cheese frosting! Follow the directions, keep the tips in mind, and you will end up with cottage cheese frosting that is the consistency of whipped cream frosting. Get started by using it to decorate your cakes, cupcakes, any other baked goods. I hope you try it out. Come back later this week,  and I will show you what I am going to do with it!

Vanilla Frosting Surprise (Healthy Secret Ingredient)




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Vanilla Frosting Surprise (Healthy Secret Ingredient):

2 cups low-fat plain cottage cheese
4 oz. Neufchâtel cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. Stevia White Powder (or other powdered sweeteners—adjust quantity to suit taste)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tsp. cornstarch

If there are obvious pools of water in the cottage cheese, you may pour out the excess, but don't press to drain out liquid. Place cottage cheese into a blender and puree until at least 90% smooth. See picture below.



You might need to stop the blender a few to times to scrape and stir to ensure that everything is pureed. Add the remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape if needed. Frosting will be smooth and somewhat runny. Refrigerate in a shallow container (more surface area to expedite chilling) for at least 1 hour to firm up, longer is better. Store refrigerated. Makes about 2 1/4 cups. 





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