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Cinnamon Dusted Meringues with Dark Chocolate & Salted Nuts

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I can’t lay claim to creating these delicious cookies. I found them in a fantastic cookbook,
Chewey Gooey Crispy Crunchy, which has never failed me. And then, quite by accident, I only put in half the sugar. And they turned out great.

These cookies are light as air, not too sweet, and have lots of great crunch & texture. Every time I make them, the people who eat them rave.

And as far as cookies go, you can’t get much more diet friendly: these contain no flour, no yolks, & no butter.

You’ll Need:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
1 cup salted nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
Cinnamon for dusting

Electric mixer with whipping attachment
Spatula
Tablespoon sized cookie scoop, or tablespoon sized measuring spoon
Two cookie sheets
2 Silpats or parchment paper to line the cookie sheets

Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 & adjust the racks to upper and lower thirds of the oven.

2. Whip the egg whites & cream of tartar until they hold a soft shape.

3. Slowly add the sugar, continuing to whip the mixture until the egg whites stand in very stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.

4. Fold in the chocolate chunks & salted nuts with the spatula.

5. With the cookie scoop (or a tablespoon measure) drop the batter 1 1/2 tbs apart on the two lined cookie sheets.

6. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown lightly.

7. Rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom & back to front in the oven.

8. Turn the oven down to 200 and bake another 90 minutes.

9. Then turn off the oven & leave the cookies in there to cool.

10. Once cooled, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies

VARIATIONS:

— For a little less sweetness and a tiny bit of tang, try using a cup of roughly chopped high quality very dark bittersweet chocolate and a cup of unsalted walnuts. Then dust with confectioners sugar after you dust with cinnamon.

— If you like a bit of spice, try using a cup of roughly chopped Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate bars (approximately 1 1/2 bars) and a cup of nuts (I used unsalted walnuts but I think pecans would be great also.) It’s a fantastic and really interesting chocolate choice for these cookies. And don’t forget the cinnamon dust!

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Quick & Tender Biscuits

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In just 20 minutes — 10 minutes to prepare the dough, another 10 minutes to bake — you can proudly serve these incredibly easy & deliciously tender biscuits.

You’ll Need:

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
5 tbs cold butter, cut into chunks
1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
Butter
Honey

A food processor
A cutting board sprinkled with flour
An ungreased baking sheet
A drinking glass or biscuit cutter

Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Blend the dry ingredients briefly in the food processor.

3. Add the butter chunks & pulse 5 times.

4. Add the yogurt & process just until the dough forms a ball.

5. Turn the dough out on to a very lightly floured cutting board.

6. Knead the dough just a few times, then flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick with your hands.

7. Use the glass or biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits; then put them on the ungreased baking sheet.

8. Recombine & flatten the scraps of dough, then cut more biscuits for the baking sheet.

9. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until golden brown.

10. Serve immediately, with both butter and honey on the side.

Makes about a dozen biscuits.

Short Rib Mushroom Barley Soup

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I’m a fool for soup, but had never made Beef Mushroom Barley myself, so I trolled the internet looking for a great recipe.

I discovered there were many MANY variations of this classic. None exactly the one I wanted to try, but each with some ingredient or technique that caught my eye.

So I took what I thought were the best parts of the five or six recipes I’d printed out, considered issues of proportion, and fashioned my very own version.

From one, I took parsnips. From another, tomatoes. Another one mentioned horseradish. One liked short ribs over other cuts of beef. Thyme was often used, but only one mentioned garlic. One browned the vegetables. Another used a combination of dry and fresh mushrooms. One used white wine. And so on.

The result was remarkably good. A hearty, flavorful bowl of pure comfort, perfect for a cold evening at home with people you love and your favorite wine.

Enjoy!

You’ll Need:

1 1/2 lbs beef short ribs
8 cups cold water
3 cups boiling water
12 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 parsnip, peeled & diced
8 -10 oz fresh button or other mushrooms, cleaned & quartered
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
2 tsp prepared horseradish
1/2 cup white wine

1 large soup pot with a lid
1 large frying pan
2 medium bowls
1 strainer
Paper towels

Steps:

1. Place the short ribs & cold water in the soup pot & bring to a boil.

2. Put the dried mushrooms in the bowl of boiling water & allow to soak & soften for 20 minutes.

3. Drain the softened mushrooms over the strainer lined with paper towels, reserving the strained liquid in the bowl beneath it.

4. Add the strained mushroom liquid to the soup pot.

5. Cut the softened mushrooms into quarters & add them to the soup pot.

6. Reduce the heat to simmer, add the salt & pepper, then partly cover, and cook for about 60 – 90 minutes, until ribs are quite tender and nearly falling off the bone.

7. As this simmers, check the pot from time to time and skim off any foam that collects on the top of the simmering liquid.

8. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmies in the frying pan.

9. Reduce the heat to medium and brown the diced onion, carrots, parsnip, celery & mushrooms well, for about 25 minutes, stirring often.

10. Add the thyme, minced garlic & barley to the frying pan, and cook another minute or so.

11. When the short ribs are tender, remove them with a slotted spoon & allow them to cool before removing the meat from the bones and shredding or cutting it into bite sized pieces.

12. Skim the foam again, if any, then add the contents of the frying pan, the diced tomatoes, the horseradish & the wine to the soup pot.

13. Add the meat you’ve taken off the short ribs back to the soup pot, then simmer everything, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, until the barley is tender.

14. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper, as desired.

Crispy Quinoa Cakes with Chorizo & Shrimp

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The food blog Food52 is generally pretty reliable. Some recipes (their ricotta cake & their pear soup, for example) are simply outstanding. Almost as important, it’s very rare to find a flop and quite often even the recipes that don’t totally wow me nevertheless successfully inspire me to try something new.

Such was the case with a quinoa cake recipe I spotted there recently. It called for browning the quinoa in butter before cooking it, then adding some spices & binders to form a thick batter, frying the batter up as cakes, and finally, serving the cakes with a freshly prepared salsa.

The preparation inspired me to create this shrimp & chorizo quinoa cake. It’s deliciously crispy, spicy & nutty.

You’ll Need:

1 cup quinoa
3 tbs butter, divided into 2 equal portions
2 cups water
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
3 oz dried chorizo, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 raw medium peeled & deveined shrimp, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 scallion, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
3 tbs grated Romano cheese
Pepper
3 tbs canola oil

A medium saucepan with a lid
A large mixing bowl
A large frying pan
Wooden spoon
Slotted spoon
Spatula
A roasting pan lined with paper towels

Steps:

1. Melt 1 1/2 tbs of the butter in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the quinoa and brown over medium heat, stirring with the wooden spoon frequently.

3. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook about 15 – 20 minutes, until the water is fully absorbed.

4. Remove the quinoa and reserve it in the large mixing bowl.

5. In the same saucepan, brown the diced chorizo & sweet onion over medium heat, stirring often.

6. Remove the chorizo & onion with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil released by the chorizo in the pan. Put the chorizo & onion into to the bowl holding the cooked quinoa.

7. In the same saucepan, sauté the diced shrimp briefly, just until they turn pink.

8. Add the cooked shrimp to the bowl holding the quinoa, chorizo & onion.

9. Allow the mixture to cool, then add the eggs, flour, minced scallion, and Romano cheese. Season with 1/2 tsp ground pepper.

10. Allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

11. In the large frypan, heat the canola oil & remaining 1 1/2 tbs butter over medium high heat until it starts to shimmy.

12. Drop fist sized portions of the quinoa cake batter into the pan, taking care not to crowd the pan. (Yield: 8 cakes).

13. Flatten each cake slightly with the back of the spatula & allow to cook undisturbed for about 5 – 7 minutes per side, or until very well browned.

14. Remove to paper towel lined roasting pan to drain excess oil.

15. Serve with a simply dressed fresh salad.

Chinese Roast Pork

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I’ve tried many recipes for Chinese roast pork, and most were good … But none were great.

So I decided to blend a few ideas from one recipe with a few ideas from some others, and then add a twist or two of my own … And here’s the result.

Most recipes call for a different cut of pork than what I use. But I like using country style pork ribs for several reasons: they’re inexpensive, and the bones and high fat content deliver excellent depth of flavor.

This recipe makes a very large batch. Perfect for storing in the freezer.

You’ll Need:

5 pounds pork country ribs, bone in

For the Marinade
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tbs minced ginger
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup

Several roasting pans
Saran Wrap

Steps:

1. Blend all marinade ingredients in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the pork in a single layer.

2. Add the pork, turning it over a few times to coat.

3. Cover with Saran Wrap & refrigerate overnight.

4. The next day, place roasting pans with a few inches of water in them on the bottom rack of your oven. Enough pans to mostly cover the rack.

5. Heat oven to 300 degrees. If you have a convection fan, turn it on.

6. Remove the ribs from the marinade & distribute in a single layer directly on the rack that sits above the pans filled with water. As the ribs cook, the drippings should fall into the pans of water, so consider that as you place the ribs on the rack.

7. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the meat is well browned & crisped. Check the oven a few times during this cooking time & add more water to the roasting pans if they start to dry out.

8. After you remove the ribs from the oven, let them cool, then remove meat from the bone, slicing or dicing, in whatever form you want to use and/or store it.

9. You will definitely need to clean the rack of your oven after cooking. The easiest time to do this is when the rack is still warm, as the drippings won’t have hardened yet. Don’t let this step deter you — soap, water & a scrubby sponge will easily do the trick!

Pulled Pork from a Stovetop Smoker

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A few years ago I bought a Camerons Stove Top Smoker on Amazon. It’s a great little gadget that stores easily & only costs about $40. That said, and despite what they claim, it doesn’t actually replace a real outdoor smoker.

BUT as part of a multi-step cooking process, it definitely adds real dimension & genuine smokey goodness.

Before you make this recipe, accept the fact that there’s simply no way to make pulled pork quickly. But it’s largely unattended time, so you can go about most of your day with just a few reminders from your smartphone.

Also, every step is very easy & the recipe makes a giant batch that freezes well.

Oh, and the result is really, really tasty.

You’ll Need:

6 lb Pork Butt
1 cup favorite BBQ Rub (I used Memphis style)
1 cup ginger ale, plus another 1/2 cup
1/2 cup favorite BBQ Sauce (I used Hoboken Eddy’s) plus additional for serving

Large Bowl
Stove Top Smoker
6 Tbs Wood Chips (I used equal parts Oak & Hickory)
Aluminum Foil
Roasting Pan

Steps:

1. Pour the rub over the pork butt and slather it well, covering the meat completely.

2. Put it in a bowl, covered, and refrigerate over night.

3. The next morning, prepare the smoker by placing the wood chips in the proper compartment and bringing the smoker up to temperature over medium heat on the stove.

4. Put the meat on the rack above the drip pan, and cover tightly with foil.

5. Drop the heat to low, and smoke the meat for 90 minutes.

6. When the smoking time is nearly up, preheat the oven to 275.

7. Place the smoked meat in a roasting pan and pour 1 cup ginger ale around it.

8. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook at 275 for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The bone should be visible, retracted from the meat, and the meat should pull away easily with a fork.

9. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup ginger ale with 1/2 cup BBQ sauce. Pour half this mixture over the meat.

10. Raise the temperature to 350 and if you have a convection fan, turn it on. Then continue cooking uncovered for 15 minutes.

11. At the end of the 15 minutes, if a lot of juices have accumulated in the bottom of the pan, pour most of them off.

12. Then pour the remaining BBQ sauce & ginger ale mixture over the meat, raise the temperature to 425 and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

It should look like this when fully cooked.

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13. After all the cook time is completed, let the meat rest for 30 minutes, then carefully pull the meat apart with your hands and a fork.

Pulled, its more than enough to serve a hungry crowd.

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It’s fantastic tossed with a little BBQ sauce, topped with coleslaw, and served on a toasted roll — and don’t forget some good pickles on the side!

Banana Muffins with Coconut, Walnuts & Chocolate Chunks

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These are super easy, moist & full of flavor.

You’ll Need:

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut – with 1/4 cup reserved
3/4 cup walnut pieces
3/4 cup chocolate chunks

Mixer
Rubber Spatula
Muffin Tins for 12
Baking Spray
A Large Serving Spoon

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Mix the bananas, melted butter, sugar, eggs & vanilla together until smooth.

3. Add the flour, salt & baking powder & blend until just incorporated.

4. Fold in 3/4 cup of the coconut, all the walnuts & all the chocolate chunks with the rubber spatula.

5. Spray the baking spray into the muffin tins.

6. Divide the batter equally in the muffin tins, using the serving spoon to fill each compartment. This batter makes 12 muffins.

7. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup reserved coconut on top of the muffins.

8. Bake for 25 minutes.

9. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.

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