Cooking

HALLOWEEN!

For an evening that will make their skin crawl, plan a hair-raising Halloween bash. Get in the “spirit” of things by asking your guests to pick their potion – a spooky Ghost Martini floating a ghostly Peep (WOW – who knew that a Peep could be so delicious?), a coffee-flavored Midnight Martini with “bleeding heart” garnish, or a glass of Slime Punch clouded in a fog of dry ice.

 

_DSC6021

The “Frightful Halloween Fare” begins with a trifecta of ghoulish dips: Guacamoldy, Wormy Onion and Wilted Swamp Grass served with a bowl of blue corn chips. And don’t forget to include a Dirt Cheese Ball, Bedeviled Goblin Eggs, Bleeding Heart Brie and a bowl of homemade Blood and Guts. For a tasty nibble, serve a bowl of Witch’s Toenails.

 

As the main dish, a normal casserole turns into an Earthworm Bake when you use squiggly noodles and creatively slice hot dogs to resemble “worms.”

 

But no Halloween table would be complete without eerie desserts. The Nest of Spiders Cheesecake contains hidden cherry pie filling – because who wouldn’t want to draw blood when carving up cheesecake? And the Scary SkullPound Cake is covered in gray frosting and silver sanding sugar. The pound cake recipe comes along with the 3-D cake pan from Williams Sonoma. What an eerie feeling to hack into the skull and eat a slice of its head …

 

Many of these ghastly recipes were adapted from normal recipes, but I also perused the many Halloween magazines on bookstands, as well as online sources like Martha Stewart, Food Network (Sandra Lee is a Halloween nut!), Kraft, etc.

 

 

EARTHWORM BAKE
  • _DSC60488 hot dogs, quartered lengthwise (or sliced in rings any other day)
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 2 cups Trottole noodles (or any noodle)
  • ¼ cup buttered, browned breadcrumbs

 

Brown hot dogs and onions in olive oil. Place in casserole with soup, water, mustard and noodles. Stir to combine, then sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake 30 minutes in 350-degree oven. Serves 4.

 

(If you’re in a hurry, forego the baking step by adding the noodles, soup, water and mustard to the pan after sautéing the hot dogs and onions. Cook a few minutes to warm everything up and the sauce reduces and thickens a bit. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and the dish is ready to serve in about 15 minutes.)

 

 

BLEEDING HEART BRIE
  • _DSC61438-oz. round of Brie
  • Cherry preserves

 

Score the top of the brie, making sure to cut through the rind, which will curl up and reveal the brie during baking –  about 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven (don’t overheat or brie will be too runny). When warm, top with cherry preserves and serve with crackers.

 

 

GUACAMOLDY
  • _DSC61472-3 avocados, cut into small cubes
  • Lime juice
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • Jalapeño, seeded and deveined, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • Cilantro
  • Salt & pepper

 

Much of this recipe is to taste – add as much as you want, even red pepper flakes for more heat. Mash the avocado for a creamier dip, or gently mix together for a chunkier version.

 

 

WORMY ONION
  • _DSC6111Onion soup packet
  • 16-oz. carton sour cream
  • ½ onion, sliced in rings and sautéed in olive oil until brown

 

The old standby – mix the sour cream and onion soup mix, and refrigerate preferably overnight to develop the flavor. Top with the browned “wormy” onions.

 

BLOOD AND GUTS
  • 16-oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4-oz. jar pimientos
  • Lite mayonnaise

 

Mix all ingredients together, using as much mayo as you like. Save a few pimientos to decorate top of dip. This is best made the day before also.

 

 

WILTED SWAMP GRASS
  • _DSC61568-oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 – 6-oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and diced
  • 10-oz. bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed in a dish towel to drain
  • ½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder

 

Mix all ingredients in an ovenproof dish. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips. For a change, stir in a dollop of sour cream after baking, and serve a bowl of your favorite salsa alongside.

 

 

WITCH’S TOENAILS
  • _DSC61331 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

 

Toast the pumpkin seeds in an iron skillet over medium heat. When they start to brown, they may crackle and even pop. Remove from heat, stir in olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and seasoning and stir until well mixed. Allow to coolbefore serving. You can substitute other dry seasonings, like cumin, curry or chipotle chili, but keep the amount to about 1 T.

 

 

DIRT CHEESE BALL
  • 2 – 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 4-oz. package crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup sliced green onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. each – chopped fresh dill and parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Black sesame seeds (either bulk or in a jar)

 

Sauté garlic in olive oil until just beginning to brown. Allow to cool, then add to the cream cheese in large bowl. Beat until smooth. Stir in feta, green onions, herbs and seasoning. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

 

Remove from refrigerator and form into a large ball. Rollin the black sesame seeds, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. You could substitute chopped chives and chopped fresh dill instead of the black sesame seeds for a different taste.

 

 

BEDEVILED GOBLIN EGGS
  • _DSC605712 hard-boiled eggs
  • Mustard/mayonnaise as desired
  • Chopped fresh herbs – dill, parsley, chives

 

Make your favorite deviled eggs, adding the fresh chopped herbs. Put the egg halves together, allowing some of the filling to ooze out. Decorate with additional fresh dill and chives.

 

(I triedcracking the hard-boiled egg shells but not peeling them, and immersing them in water that was dyed green with food coloring and a bit of cider vinegar. After an hour, I peeled the eggs, but the dye didn’t penetrate the egg membrane, so I didn’t get veiny lines on my eggs. Let me know if this works for you.)

 

 

NEST OF SPIDERS CHEESECAKE
  • _DSC6030Crust: 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate graham crackers, processed until fine
  • 1 ½ sticks melted butter
  • Pinch of salt

 

Filling:4 – 8-oz. packages cream cheese

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 ½ sticks butter, melted
  • 1 can cherry pie filling

 

Topping:2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped

2 oz. heavy cream

 

Mix the chocolate crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt. Pat into bottom and sides of greased 10-inch springform pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

 

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add sugar and salt. Turn mixer to high speed and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in lemon juice.

 

Beat 1 ½ cups heavy cream until nearly stiff. Gently fold half into the cream cheese mixture; fold in the remainder and set aside. Pour the can of cherry pie filling over the chocolate crust and smooth out to the sides of the pan. Pour the cream cheese over the cherries, and tap pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles.

 

Heat cream until just beginning to bubble, and pour over the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted, and is creamy and shiny. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer into a plastic zipper bag. Cut a small hole in one corner and, starting in the center, pipe a chocolate spiral all around the cheesecake until you run out of room. Then take a wooden skewer and pull through the chocolate from the center to the outer edge of the pan to form a spider web – repeat all around cheesecake.

 

Cover and freeze for 1 hour, then keep in refrigerator until ready to serve. Decorate with a candy or plastic spider. When serving, the cherry pie filling will ooze out like blood!

 

 

SCARY SKULL POUND CAKE

Any pound cake recipe would work, but the only change I would make is to add some cocoa powder for a chocolate pound cake. Don’t try this with a regular cake – this needs to be a firm cake to stand up properly.

 

Frosting this cake was very tricky – I tinted royal icing gray using black food gel, spread it all over the skull, then sprinkled silver sanding sugar all over. I used black gel icing in the eye and nose holes, and “painted” the teeth as well. A baker at the Williams Sonoma store used a pastry brush to “paint” black royal icing on her cake, and sprinkled black sanding sugar all over. This is a great look, but didn’t show up very well amid all the black decorations.

 

 

GHOST MARTINI
  • 3 oz. half-and-half
  • 2 oz. white chocolate liqueur
  • 2 oz. vanilla vodka

 

Dip the rim of a martini glass in corn syrup, then green or black sanding sugar. For a dripping blood effect, pipe red gel icing around the rim and allow to drip down the outside of the glass. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker along with ice, and shake about 30 seconds. Carefully pour into the glass, then float a ghost Peep on top. (On a normal day, top with white chocolate shavings.)

 

 

MIDNIGHT MARTINI
  • ¼ cup coffee liqueur
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • ½ cup black vodka
  • ¼ cup dark crème de cocoa
  • ¼ cup vanilla vodka
  • Ice

 

Rim martini glass with green sugar (Food Network suggests dipping the glass in a shallow bowl of coffee liqueur, then into crushed chocolate-covered espresso beans.) Mix all ingredients in a pitcher with ice, stirring to chill. Carefully strainand pour into martini glasses. Garnish with a dark cherry on a Halloween cocktailpick.

 

 

GREEN SLIME PUNCH
  • 2 packets of lemon-lime drink mix
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 46-oz. can pineapple juice
  • 16 oz. cold water
  • 1 – 12-oz. can frozen lime juice, thawed
  • 16 oz. lime vodka
  • 1 – 2-liter bottle ginger ale

 

Pour water into a one-gallon container, and add the drink mixes and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients except ginger ale and stir; refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, pour into your punch bowl and add the ginger ale. (If serving to kids, replace the vodka with water.)

 

Just before party time: If using dry ice (always use gloves when handling dry ice), place the ice into the bottom of a large punch bowl. On top of this, place another glass bowl, into which you will pour the punch. When your guests arrive, add the ginger ale into the punch bowl. Pour water over the dry ice and watch the fun! (Do not put dry ice directly into the punch or drinks. Dry ice may crack glass, so you may want to use a metal cauldron instead.)

 

Pour a small amount of punch into glass test tubes, then add a small piece of dry ice to each tube.

 

Try adding a few drops of green liquid dish soap to the dry ice, which will create waves of smoky bubbles. Fabulous special effect! Just make sure you don’t get the bubbles into the punch.

 

If not using dry ice, make up a batch of punch beforehand and freeze into large cubes using silicone ice cube trays. In each cube, place candy worms, spiders, eyeballs, etc. Float ice cubes in the punch just before serving, and place a cube in each glass.

BRUNCH: SAVORY AND SWEET

CINNAMON ROLL BREAD PUDDING

Ingredients:
  • Cinnamon rolls, cubed
  • Maple flavored bacon, cooked and quartered
_DSC5704Sauce:
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
Topping:
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • Maple Cream:  1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp. real maple syrup (not the pancake stuff)
  • 3 tbsp. light corn syrup

 

Directions:  Use store-bought cinnamon rolls, or bake from the refrigerated can, but don’t ice them. Let cool, and cut into quarters. Put the rolls in a buttered baking dish. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour over cinnamon rolls. Wrap with foil and refrigerate overnight. (The recipe originally calls for baguette or brioche slices, which makes for a delicious baked French toast.)

 

Next morning, take the pan out of the refrigerator and let it sit and come to room temperature while you prepare the topping. The topping will be gooey, not like a crumbly streusel. Spread topping over the bread pudding, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

 

While the bread pudding bakes, prepare the maple cream. Heat cream in heavy saucepan over medium heat, adding the maple and corn syrup. Stirring constantly, the cream will thicken and reduce by about one-third, about 10-15 minutes. Refrigerate the cream until it cools and thickens even more.

 

The bread pudding will be puffed like a soufflé when you remove it from the oven, and will deflate a bit as you let it cool. Try to resist cutting into the bread pudding until it has a chance to firm up. When you can’t wait any longer, drizzle Maple Cream over the bread pudding, and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

 

 

CHILE RELLENOS

_DSC5740Ingredients:
  • 2-3 – 7-oz. cans whole roasted chiles (or strips)
  • ¾ lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Sauce:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 small can evaporated milk
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
Topping:
  • 1 – 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • ½ lb. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

 

Directions:  Cut open, clean and drain chiles. Lay a flat layer of chiles in a rectangular pan. Top with a layer of Monterey Jack cheese. Continue layering until chiles and Jack cheese are gone (should be about 3 layers; you may need that third can of chiles). End with a cheese layer.

 

Whisk together sauce ingredients and pour over the layered chiles. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, making sure egg sauce is set. Spread the tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese, and return to the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese melts. Leaving the pan in the oven, turn broiler on and let the cheese brown up a bit, watching constantly.

 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before cutting (otherwise, the cheese will ooze out).

 

This recipe was given to me almost 40 years ago, when there wasn’t much of a selection when it came to canned tomato sauce. Today, we’re lucky enough to have canned sauces with Mexican seasoning, which would probably be a great addition to this recipe.

 

 

ROASTED POTATOES

_DSC5736Ingredients:
  • 2 ½ pounds red potatoes, scrubbed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 small onions, cut into about 8 chunks
  • 1-pound bag of Sweet Mini peppers – red, yellow and orange, seeded and sliced into rings
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Chopped fresh rosemary, parsley and chives

 

Cut the potatoes into uniform bite-sized pieces so they all cook at the same time. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and add remaining ingredients except the fresh herbs. Stir the potatoes so all the ingredients are evenly coated and seasoned. Pour into a large baking pan and bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, stirring a few times. Raise the oven temperature to 500 and continue cooking for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are brown and fork tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with kosher salt and the fresh chopped herbs. This would be a great side dish for any meal of the day!

 

 

FRESH “AMBROSIA” SALAD

Ingredients:
  • 1 ripe golden pineapple, cored and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 oranges, supremed
  • 2 ruby grapefruit, supremed
  • 2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
  • 2 cups green grapes
  • 1 cup toasted pecan halves
_DSC5749Sauce:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Scant 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Topping:
  • 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • ½ cup crushed pistachios

 

Directions:  If you don’t know how to “supreme” citrus, do yourself a favor and watch a YouTube video called “How to Supreme an Orange.” This is a skill that all cooks should have.

 

In a large bowl, mix the fruit. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside until you’re ready to serve brunch. Toast pecans in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes; toast the pecans for about 7 minutes. Just before serving, pour sauce over the fruit, add the toasted pecans and gently mix to coat fruit and nuts.

 

Before serving, top with toasted coconut and crushed pistachios.

 

Another option is to spoon fruit and pecans into individual bowls, and top with a dollop of the sauce. (For a fluffier sauce, you can gently fold 1 cup of whipped topping into the sauce.) Sprinkle with toasted coconut and crushed pistachios, then top with a whole fresh cherry. This one will really take you back, but in a good way!

 

 

BRUNCH COFFEE

To make your coffee special for brunch, mix Amaretto or Nocello (an Italian liqueur flavored with walnuts and hazelnuts) into whipped topping. Spoon a dollop onto hot coffee and enjoy!

COOL DOWN IN AUGUST

By Judy Brotton

 

_DSC5096Summer is a time to be outdoors with your family – whether you’re at the pool or the beach, having a picnic or a family reunion. The less time spent in the kitchen, the better! Our recipes this month require little or no cooking, except for a little oven time for our sandwich. The rest … stir and serve! Our Picnic Round is a layered sandwich within a sour dough bread bowl. The Chopped Salad can be made of any ingredients you and your family prefer, and tossed with your favorite dressing, or make a classic vinaigrette. Key Lime Pie Shooters need only four ingredients and require no baking. Serve lemonade to the kids, but for the adults, we have a Blue Summer Lemonade, made with Prairie Wolf vodka provided by Prairie Wolf Spirits. (Read about the Prairie Wolf Spirits distillery in Guthrie in this issue ofDistinctly Oklahoma).

 

 

PICNIC ROUND

  • _DSC5177 Cut the top off a sour dough round, and hollow out the center, leaving about a ½-inch shell (save the bread to make croutons later).
  • Brush the inside of bowl and lid with store-bought Italian dressing, or make a classic herb vinaigrette.
  • Now comes the fun part – customizing this to your family’s favorites: alternate layers of spinach, red onions, tomatoes and red and yellow bell peppers; your favorite cheeses, either sliced or shredded; and your favorite meats – we’ve used mesquite smoked turkey, baked ham and rare roast beef.
  • Place the lid back on the bowl, wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Slice in wedges and serve.

 

CHOPPED SALAD

  • _DSC51682 cups cooked small pasta – Dittalini, shells, elbows, orecchiette or orzo
  • 1 cup crumbled, cooked bacon
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 cup chopped red cabbage
  • 1 cup each red and yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped yellow and red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup diced English cucumber
  • Mix of spinach and romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Fresh chives, snipped
  • Classic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

 

Mix first 10 ingredients, then pile in a bowl over the lettuce/spinach mix. Pour dressing over the top; sprinkle with Gorgonzola and arrange egg and avocado slices on top. Decorate with snipped chives. Toss salad before serving.

 

CLASSIC VINAIGRETTE

  • _DSC5096½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. roasted minced garlic
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ½ tsp. each salt & pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 T fresh herbs

 

Place all ingredients except oil and herbs into glass jar and shake to blend. Add the oil and shake well to emulsify all ingredients. Add fresh chopped herbs like rosemary, dill, oregano, parsley and chives.

 

 

KEY LIME PIE SHOOTERS

Ingredients:
  • _DSC51951 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 carton Key Lime Pie yogurt
  • ½cup Key lime juice
  • 2 tsp. grated lime zest
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • Additional whipped topping
  • Green food coloring (optional)

 

Crust:
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts, crushed
  • ½ cup graham crackers, crushed
  • 2 T melted butter

 

Toast macadamia nuts in a dry pan until just beginning to brown, remove and let cool. Crush and mix with the graham crackers and melted butter. Place 1 T into bottom of each shooter glass and pat down.

 

In large bowl, mix milk, yogurt, lime juice and lime zest until blended. Fold in the whipped topping, adding a few drops of green food coloring, if desired, to make a prettier green color. Fold only until blended, then fill the shooter glasses. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Before serving, top each dessert with more whipped topping, add a wafer cookie straw, and sprinkle with more toasted and crushed macadamia nuts. Garnish with a half slice of lime.

 

 

BLUE SUMMER LEMONADE

Ingredients:
  • _DSC52221 part Prairie Wolf vodka
  • 1 part Sweet & Sour mix
  • 1 part Blue Curacao
  • 2 parts lemonade

 

Mix in a large pitcher and garnish with lemon slices. Serve in tall glasses filled with ice.

Braum’s Adds 7 New Flavors … All Chocolate!!

By Judy Brotton

 

_DSC4249Chocolate lovers will be in heaven this summer as Braum’s has added 7 new flavors to their lineup, all starting with a chocolate base. Add to that base such yummy ingredients as hazelnuts, pecans, caramel and chocolate ribbons, and you have the makings for some heavenly desserts. We made our own beautiful pie using the Chocolate Turtle, but any of the flavors will work – Molten Lava Cake, Billionaire Shortbread, Chocolate Caramel Mousse, Chocolate Chunk Hazelnut, Chocolate Amaretto Cookie (No-sugar Added) or Deep Chocolate. All of the ingredients are available at Braum’s, for a one-stop dessert shop.

 

CHOCOLATE TURTLE PIE

Ingredients:

  • Braum’s Chocolate Turtle ice cream
  • 30 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 3 T. butter, melted
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Caramel syrup
  • Pecan halves
  • Maraschino cherries

 

_DSC4195Directions:

Remove ice cream from freezer and allow to soften while preparing crust.

In food processor, pulse vanilla wafer cookies and pecans until very fine. Slowly add the melted butter and pulse until blended. Pat into pie dish, then cover with sliced bananas. Top with the softened ice cream and return to freezer until ready to serve.

 

Before serving, whip the cream until almost firm, then add the powdered sugar and beat until firm peaks form. Spread over pie, then drizzle with chocolate and caramel syrup. Decorate top of pie with pecan halves and cherries. Enjoy!

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

By Róisín Crowe

 

Cooking food outdoors has been around since the beginning of time. Now it’s time to put some new twists on an old ritual … seasoning with chocolate or coffee, pairing up unlikely food combinations, grilling dessert, as well as adding hardwood smoke chips to charcoal for some unexpected flavors. Whether you’re grilling on a tiny Hibachi or utilizing a full-scale outdoor kitchen, the basics remain essentially the same:

 

FIRE
FUEL
FOOD
FLAVOR

_DSC4118It is estimated that fire was domesticated some 500,000 years ago, making cooking food over an open flame as old as the Stone Age. Outdoor cooking or grilling was primarily limited to campsites and picnics until after World War II; as middle-class suburbia grew, so did the passion for backyard grilling. Once the craze exploded, so did the gear, menus and imagination.

The key to successful outdoor cooking is a clean-burning and consistently hot fire. Safety is also a necessary component. Check for burn bans before firing up, and take care on windy days. Always cook in well-ventilated areas and extinguish all fires – no matter what source – completely, and safely dispose of the ashes.

 

Fuel sources and cooking methods range from hardwood fire pits, charcoal grills, propane gas, natural gas and smoker grills. More recently added to the line-up are infrared heat grills, which use a gas burner and ceramic tiles to create intense heat and very high temperatures. Whatever method you utilize, there are pros and cons to each choice, yet there is no substitute for the flavor of grilled food.

 

If hardwood is your choice, it must be bone dry and well seasoned. Using moist, green sapling wood causes lots of smoke and leaves a very distasteful flavor. Charcoal briquettes are available plain and traditional or with starter fuel built in. A relatively newer option of charcoal is that of the flavored varieties. In addition, flavored wood chips such as apple, cherry or mesquite can be added to charcoal in endless combinations for flavor so tasty that rubs and sauces can be eliminated. The heat from the fire does most of the cooking, while the smoke from the coals or wood adds an additional element. For more convenience, many prefer propane or natural gas, with the most common drawback being that gas just doesn’t provide the same flavor as good, old-fashioned charcoal.

For most of us, the food is the fun part. From Artichokes to Zucchini, there is no limit to your outdoor menu, which can literally run the gamut from A to Z. Incidentally, that includes fruits from Apples to Zig-Zag vine as well. Savory or sweet, you can grill almost anything you can think of. Fire-roasted marshmallows fit nicely in many wonderful recipes from S’mores to Roasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Sundaes.

 

Steaks, burgers and hot dogs top the most popular list where standard grilling fare is concerned, with chicken, fish, shrimp, ribs, bratwurst and other sausages still high in the running. Pork chops, turkey and lamb, which were once not so traditional in this region, are fast becoming frequent choices for the more adventurous outdoor chef, replacing the oven with the grill and borrowing some exotic recipes and seasonings from afar.

 

Helpful hint:  Parboiling Bratwurst and other encased sausages in water or beer before grilling enhances the flavor and cuts down on grilling time, plus ensures even searing.

 

The kabob (which has many accepted spellings) originated in the Middle East and was later adopted in parts of Europe and Asia, and now found worldwide. Kabob or Shish Kabob literally means “cooked on a skewer.” This is not limited to meat; in fact, many, if not most kabobs alternate meat with different vegetables, creating countless possibilities. Fruit can be skewered and grilled as either a complement to the savory main course or for a separate dessert, served alone, with pie or any number of gelato or sorbet flavors.

 

Helpful hint:  While selecting items to grill kabob-style, wooden skewers are flammable, so soak them in water before skewering. Metal spears won’t burn, but they do get red hot. Also, remember to combine food choices that require approximately the same amount of flame time.

 

Flavors can be derived in myriad treatments from marinades and rubs before grilling or sauces applied during or after cooking. Any of these options can be purchased commercially made or easily prepared in your own kitchen. Rubs, which are generally combinations of dry ingredients, can be rubbed on meats, poultry or fish ahead of time or right before grilling. Coffee and spicy peppers are among favorite choices, even finely ground dry, dark chocolate. Seasoning with marinades, which are liquids such as oil, vinegar or fruit juice with added herbs or spices, can be done hours ahead of time or even overnight to permeate and flavor the foods.

 

Helpful hint:  Don’t let your hard work go up in flames. Fat, oils and sugars can cause flare-ups, as can a grate that hasn’t been cleaned. If your flames get out of hand, quickly move the food to another part of the grill and cover the flames by closing the lid. Fires need oxygen, so in most cases this takes care of the situation. Some foods, like steaks, really benefit from a nice charred crust, depending upon your tastes.

 

Even the weather doesn’t have to cooperate. Outdoor grilling is not limited to hot, sunny days as it once might have been. Any season is grilling season!

 

 

STEAK and GRILLED VEGETABLES

_DSC4082We used center cut sirloin, seasoned with cracked black pepper and grilled to medium rare. After allowing to rest for a few minutes, we sliced it thin and arranged it on a platter along with grilled vegetables. To grill the vegetables, we sliced them and sprayed them with olive oil before placing them on the grill. Try bell peppers of all colors, jalapeños, zucchini and summer squash, red or yellow onions, asparagus, mushrooms, even Roma tomatoes. Artichokes are wonderful grilled – parboil them first, and remove the center choke before consuming.

 

REDUCED BALSAMIC Dipping Sauce

Pour a bottle of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and heat almost to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer until it thickens and volume is reduced by half. The balsamic should coat a spoon. Blend with a few tablespoons of melted herb butter and serve. You can also purchase Balsamic Cream in a squeeze bottle.

 

CHIMICHURRI Butter

We used the classic ingredients of Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce and turned them into a compound butter. Let four sticks of butter soften to room temperature in a large bowl. Add 1 cup chopped parsley, 3-5 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, ½ tsp. chili pepper flakes, 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves and 2 Tbsp. minced shallot. Zest and juice ½ lemon and add to the butter; mix well. Place the butter on a piece of parchment paper, form into a log and roll up. Refrigerate until ready to use. This butter is wonderful on all meats and grilled vegetables.

 

WATERMELON MOJITOS

Make a pitcher without rum for the kids, and another with rum for the adults.

Cut up ½ watermelon; remove seeds and purée in blender or food processor. Pour through a strainer and discard foam. This can be done a day ahead and refrigerated. (Hint: purchase pre-cut seedless watermelon for a much easier task!)

Mash 30 large fresh mint leaves in a pitcher. Add 2 cups watermelon juice, 1 ½ cups white rum, ½ cup simple syrup (equal amounts water and sugar heated until sugar dissolves, then cooled), and juice of 3 limes (about ½ cup). Stir and pour over glasses of ice (or purée extra watermelon to make watermelon ice cubes with mint leaves frozen inside). Garnish with a sprig of mint and a wedge of watermelon on the side of each glass. For the kids – simply substitute ice water, lemon-lime or other soda for the rum.

HERBAN MYTH … Dispelled!

By Róisín Crowe

 

Herban Myth: You must have a green thumb to grow fresh herbs.

NOT NECESSARY. Myth dispelled!

Whether it is a single plant on your kitchen windowsill or multiple plants outside in your yard, you, too, can become an Herban Gardener.

_DSC2832-1Herbs have been used before recorded history in myriad diverse applications from cooking to medicine and even religious rites. All the way from aphrodisiacs to adding zesty zing to any meal, herbs truly run the gamut from A to Z.

Growing herbs indoors is exceptionally simple if you have lots of sunlight and use pots with good drainage. Many plants can be purchased already potted, requiring little care, and can be enjoyed for months.

Outdoors, especially with our Distinctly Oklahoma red clay, cultivating herbs can be a little trickier. The heavy clay usually interferes with proper drainage, which is essential to healthy plants and a robust harvest. The soil will have to be improved by adding organic matter. Also, most herbs require a location with full sunlight to thrive.

Herbs can be grown everywhere from Argentina to Zimbabwe; however, the best choices for any gardener are to select plants that thrive in the USDA hardiness zone of your garden. Oklahoma falls between zones 6 and 7, making herbs like chives, rosemary, oregano, garlic and sage great options because they tend to winter well here. Basil and parsley do very well in the warmth, yet will not live through the frost – they must be planted anew each year like an annual.

If you don’t want to tackle a full garden, plant a few of your favorites in your flowerbed, in planters on your patio or a favorite sunny window. They are beautiful plants and highly fragrant, with aromatic properties capable of healing. Get creative and enjoy!

Here are some of our favorite herb recipes, from one Herban Gardener to another.

 

HERB BUTTER or CREAM CHEESE

_DSC2873-1Soften ½ pound (two sticks) unsalted sweet cream butter or 8 oz. cream cheese. When softened, finely chop 1 T of the following fresh herbs and place in a large bowl: chives, parsley, dill and sweet basil. Add ½ tsp. sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. With a fork, blend into softened butter and form “log” on waxed or parchment paper. Roll until completely covered and twist ends. Refrigerate or freeze until hardened. Gently remove paper and slice. If serving in a bowl, allow to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. For cream cheese, blend and refrigerate.

If using a food processor, put the fresh herbs in first and pulse until well minced. Then add softened butter or cream cheese, salt and pepper and pulse until well mixed. Warning – this will create a green mixture, so if you prefer your cream cheese to remain white or your butter yellow, mix by hand. Experiment with different combinations and create your own flavors.

Note: Dried herbs can also be used. To dry, remove leaves or needles from stems, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in a 175-degree oven for about two hours. “Wetter” herbs like chives and parsley may take longer to dry. When completely dried, store in airtight container until needed. Be aware that herbs change flavor when they are dried, primarily due to the evaporation of the essential oils. As a rule, they tend to become stronger in flavor when dried, and the quantities must be adjusted. In general terms, use half the amount of dried herbs as you would fresh.

 

HERB-INFUSED SALT

Place ½ cup of your favorite coarse salt – sea salt, kosher, pink Himalayan, even smoked salt – into bowl of small food processor along with zest of one lemon and 2 tsp. dried rosemary. Pulse until well blended, but don’t break down salt too much. Here, too, experiment with your favorite dried herbs.

 

 

HERB-INFUSED OLIVE OIL

_DSC2887-1Wash fresh herbs and allow to dry overnight to prevent bacteria growth from the water. Place rosemary sprigs and 2 T peppercorns in clear bottle with a good stopper. Fill with olive oil, seal, and allow to sit in a cool, dark place until the flavors infuse. When ready, discard rosemary and peppercorns and rebottle the oil. Check online recipes for proper care and alternative cooking method; but remember that cooking may affect the flavor of your finished product. Also try oregano, tarragon and chives.

 

 

MINTY BEVERAGES

We decided to simply add citrus slices and fresh mint to our decanter of spring water, but you can use fruit juices, tea, mojitos, margaritas, or your favorite beverage recipe for a refreshing thirst quencher.

 

 

ROSEMARY ROLLS

_DSC2905-1Follow thawing directions from a bag of 36 frozen rolls. Once risen, brush with melted herb butter and sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary-infused sea salt. Bake as directed. Remove from oven and brush with more butter and serve. We topped our rolls with Flash-Fried Rosemary – simply remove needlesfrom stems and quickly fry in hot peanut oil for just a few seconds. Fabulous – try other herbs as well for a delightfully fresh crunch on salads, bread, pasta, vegetables, etc.

 

 

ROASTED CORN WITH HERB BUTTER

Boil corn until almost tender. Finish on grill or indoor grill pan. When ready, brush with herb butter and sprinkle with herb-infused salt. You can also place raw corn on a piece of foil, add a pat of herb butter and sprinkle of herb-infused salt; wrap tightly and cook on outdoor grill until tender. Either method produces a delightful smokiness to the corn; sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Queso Fresco while warm for an extra treat.

 

 

BASIL PESTO

_DSC2868-1This can get rather pricey, so feel free to purchase ready-made – Whole Foods has an excellent version.

Combine 2 cups fresh basil leaves and 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts in bowl of food processor. Pulse lightly, then add three garlic cloves and pulse. With processor running, slowly drizzle in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil until well blended. Add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese and pulse until mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use on pasta, grilled bread, steamed vegetables, as a pizza topping, or as a dressing before grilling chicken. One of our favorites is as a sandwich topping, with slices of rare roast beef.

 

 

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE BAKING

By Judy Brotton

 

_DSC2734Last month’s HEALTH story was about eating gluten-free and the reasons behind it. Turns out, two people I know follow this regimen for various reasons. I presented this chocolate cake to my neighbor, Sharon, who was thrilled with the results. She shared a recipe that she uses, from Food Network’s Nigella Lawson, which includes the addition of orange zest and Cointreau. Paula Deen tops hers with a white chocolate glaze that uses white chocolate liqueur. I can’t wait for my next outing into the flourless world!

 

When baking anything that is flourless, be prepared for “the fall.” Your cake or cupcakes will appear rounded and firm when you remove them from the oven, and right in front of your eyes the center will cave in and even crack open. This is simply an opportunity to fill the completely cooled craters with ganache, cream filling or whipped cream topping. As if I needed a reason to add more chocolate or cream!

 

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter cut into pieces, @ room temperature
  • 6 large eggs @ room temperature
  • 12 T. sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder

 

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir chocolate and butter until melted, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and stir occasionally until lukewarm.

Separate egg yolks and whites into separate bowls. Add half the sugar to yolks and beat on medium to high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.

Fold chocolate mixture into egg yolks with a spatula, then fold in the vanilla and espresso.

In separate bowl with clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the remaining sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form. Little by little, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Spoon batter evenly into cupcake cups. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan, and bake 12 more minutes. Remove from oven and completely cool before icing.

 

FILLING

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. container gluten-free mascarpone cheese
  • 1 T. liqueur
  • 1 T. strong brewed coffee, cold
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 oz. cream cheese

 

In medium bowl, beat all ingredients until smooth and well blended. Spoon into plastic squeeze bottle and squeeze about 1 T. filling into the center of each cupcake. Top with chocolate ganache glaze or whipped cream and store in refrigerator.

 

_DSC2715FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup chocolate, hazelnut of coffee liqueur
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 7 eggs @ room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350° F. Before buttering a 9” springform pan, remove the bottom and trace a circle onto parchment paper, and cut out. Generously butter the pan, line with parchment circle (pencil side down) and butter this also.

Melt chocolate and butter in heavy pan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from stove and stir in liqueur and vanilla, then set aside to cool.

Beat eggs and sugar on high until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes, these will never form peaks like the egg whites). Gradually add eggs to chocolate mixture, folding with spatula. Spoon into buttered pan and bake for about 1 hour or until toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool in pan for 1 hour, then gently loosen springform and remove (run a knife around edge first). When completely cool, sprinkle cake with confectioner’s sugar or top with chocolate ganache glaze and store in refrigerator.

 

CHOCOLATE GANACHE GLAZE

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 4 tsp. butter

In heavy saucepan, heat cream and butter over low/medium heat until mixture nears boiling, stirring constantly. Pour cream over chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth. Cool about 5 minutes, but don’t allow mixture to get too hard or it won’t pour properly. Pour over cake or spoon over cupcakes and allow to dribble down sides.

 

WHIPPED CREAM WITH ATTITUDE

Ingredients:

  • 1 container whipping cream
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. liqueur of choice

Beat whipping cream until medium peaks form. Slowly add sugar and continue to beat until firm, adding liqueur at the very end. Dollop over cake or cupcakes.

 

Finish top of cake or cupcakes with a simple dusting of powdered sugar (sift over a paper doily to achieve a pretty pattern, but remember to remove the doily before serving) or drizzle with cooled chocolate ganache glaze. Decorate tops with chopped, toasted hazelnuts, chocolate covered coffee beans, dark chocolate pomegranate drops or fresh raspberries. And of course whipped cream with attitude!

Not-so-traditional Beef Stew and Irish Soda Bread

By Judy Brotton

 

While recuperating from my recent bout with flu, I became immersed in watching the cooking channels, as well as online chefs, and was inspired to cook! So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I have prepared a beef stew that draws from these sources to tweak my favorite stew recipe. Alongside, I have made a traditional Irish Soda Bread, which contains nothing but flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. (Adding caraway seeds, currants or raisins turns the bread into “Barmbrack” or “Spotted Dog.”) This dense, rustic bread is easy to make, since there is no rising time, and was traditionally baked every few days and eaten daily. Irish women baked it early in the day and wrapped it in a damp tea towel to keep it moist. Let the bread cool for a bit before breaking it into quarters (the reason for the cross cut into the top), then slather it with fresh butter and enjoy!

 

 

_DSC1926-1BEEF STEW

  • 1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
  • 2 T. flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 ½-2 lb. lean stew meat, cubed
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 medium onions cut into eighths
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 8-oz. pkg. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, quartered, tops on
  • 1 16-oz. bag baby carrots
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and halved
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 6 sprigs parsley, tied in a bundle

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine onion soup mix, flour and seasonings in large zipper bag. Add stew meat and shake until all coated. Place meat in a covered baking dish and arrange all vegetables over meat.

In a separate bowl, stir together cream of celery soup (this was a blogger’s idea, but I tried it, and it’s very tasty, but I still add the beef broth) ketchup and beef broth; whisk until smooth. Pour over the meat and vegetables, place parsley on top, cover and bake for 2-3 hours, or until beef is tender.

To serve, remove parsley bundle and ladle stew into bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve with Irish Soda Bread. (I’ve served this over mashed potatoes, but a baked potato is also great.)

 

 

_DSC1899-1IRISH SODA BREAD

  • 3 ½ cups white flour (not self-rising)
  • (For Brown Bread, substitute whole-wheat flour for 1-2 cups white flour)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ¾ cups buttermilk
  • Butter

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Lightly grease and flour a round cake pan. In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center, and start pouring in the buttermilk so that a sticky dough forms – more or less may be needed, depending on the humidity and absorbency of your flour. Mix together and knead for about one minute in bowl. (The lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the soda, causing tiny carbon dioxide bubbles. Too much kneading will allow the gas to escape and your bread won’t rise properly.) Turn out onto floured surface and shape into a flattened ball. Place in pan and cut a cross into the top of the dough with a large, floured knife, going almost all the way across.

Cover with another pan, leaving room to rise. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake for 15 minutes more, or until golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven, and allow to cool. When done, the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Wrap in a damp dishtowel to keep bread moist, then break it open along the cross cuts and serve with butter.

Cooking Up a Cure for Hunger

By Lindsay Whelchel

Riverwind Casino ManagersIn a realm of culinary delicacy known by chefs in the metro, the idea of hunger might seem pretty far away.

The food at trendy and delicious restaurants like Café 7 and The Museum Café, among many others, is plentiful. But the chefs in the kitchen understand that for far too many fellow Oklahomans, a meal is not a guarantee. Now, they’ve quite literally cooked up a plan to help.

For the 26th year, the Chefs’ Feast – a food and wine tasting event to be held March 28 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum – will raise money to support the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

“It’s a great event. The thing I like best about this event is that every chef really wants to participate. They put on a good show for the food bank, so it’s an important event for everyone in the community,” says Christine Dowd, chef and co-owner of Aunt Pittypat’s Catering. Dowd, who is co-coordinating the event for the third year alongside Chef Don Thiery of Market Source, works to help the event by mobilizing participation in the culinary community. She explains that the response from chefs who want to be involved is strong.

“It means a lot when you know that there are hungry kids, so anything you can do to help is always the best, and everyone does a great job with that,” Dowd says.

7202932780_dbff1d399c_oWhen you look at the numbers, many are sobering. One in six Oklahomans deals with hunger. One in four children struggles with not knowing where their next meal will come from. These statistics, according to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, make Oklahoma the fifth hungriest state in the nation. But the food bank, a nonprofit organization that began 33 years ago, is fighting back with a few numbers of its own.

In the year 2012 alone, the organization distributed 42.2 million pounds of products to fight hunger in the state. More specifically, the organization hosts the Food for Kids Program, which acts as an umbrella for several initiatives targeted at providing meals for children.

Last year 13,500 students were fed through the Backpack Program, in place at 475 schools in 53 counties around the state. This program allows backpacks full of food to go home with elementary-age children, to ensure they will have food over the weekend. The School Pantry Program provides meals for older students, with a food pantry located at the school. Expanding from these are an afterschool snack and tutoring opportunity, as well as a host of family and senior citizen efforts.

7202924356_cff4e12d9d_o“Our administrative and fundraising costs are less than 4 percent, so 96 cents from every dollar you donate goes back to our programs,” says Angie Gaines, director of marketing for the food bank.

Rodney Bivens, founder and executive director for the food bank, grew up in a food-insecure household. Gaines explains, “This really sets the tone for our entire organization. We’re always looking to do something better in terms of feeding more people, saving more money, doing something more efficient so we can help more people,” she says.

Hunger differs from many issues in that it has a cure.

“With hunger, there is a solution … it’s just the resources we’re lacking,” Gaines says.

Events like the Chefs’ Feast help to provide those resources.

7202920578_608fdf2218_o“All of the proceeds from this event go to the Food for Kids programs. Last year we made over $115,000 after all the taxes and expenses were paid out, and our goal is always to make over $100,000,” Gaines says.

The benefits extend beyond recipients at the food bank to the chefs themselves, Gaines explains.

“From the chefs’ side, it’s really nice because some of the chefs say it’s their favorite event. Not only are they giving back to the community with something at which they are talented, I think the fact that we try to choose themes that let them be very creative.”

Dowd would likely agree to the benefits.

7202913450_250326fe9d_o“It’s great for the chefs to be at the event because there’s a lot of communication with their direct customers, so they can actually recognize a face, have a conversation and talk about what’s coming up at their respective restaurants,” she says of the opportunity and adds that, “most chefs, are behind the scenes a lot. They’re not necessarily in front of the customer, so it gives them the opportunity to shake hands and participate on a whole different level.”

Dowd is quick to credit the friendly competition aspect of the event with adding to the fun.

“Oh, it’s very competitive. The chefs really want to try to outdo each other, so they put on their best show,” she says.

Each year, a Foodie Favorite is voted on and awarded a traveling trophy or plaque, along with good-natured bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Added to the already entertaining time are music, opportunity drawings and the theme to the evening. Last year featured an international theme, while this year it’s “television.”

For Dowd, that might mean TV dinner … “with a twist.”

“If you think about a TV dinner, you have to be able to take that idea of a Salisbury steak with macaroni and an apple thingy and update it, make it fashion-forward and trendy. So I think it’s really fun to be able to play with a theme.”

7199070656_a0f2cf89e4_oChefs may go retro-style TV and do Hawaiian for “Hawaii Five-o,” or bring the “Brady Bunch.” The possibilities are endless. Every table at the event will have a different TV show, says Gaines. She adds that the night has also become a reunion of sorts for the culinary community. One chef even met his future wife at the event, and the couple had a baby by the time the following year’s Chefs’ Feast rolled around.

But the bigger purpose for the night is ever-present.

“People are very open and there’s a lot of sharing going on, which doesn’t necessarily always happen, but that event really does create a sense of community because everybody understands a child who is hungry,” Dowd says.

There are approximately 750 guests, 100 volunteers, and 25 chefs and restaurants participating each year.

7202920578_608fdf2218_oTwo weeks before the event, tickets usually sell out; but even if you can’t attend, Gaines emphasizes there are many ways to help fight hunger.

“Everyone can help, whether it’s donating, coming out and volunteering, or holding a food drive. The food bank is here for the community; without it we wouldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t be able to help people,” she adds.

The food bank has a volunteer center where last year 44,160 volunteers gave their time and saved the organization $2.4 million in labor costs, Gaines says. Since $1 can provide five meals to those in need, it seems the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma has found a recipe for success in battling hunger.

In this case, a pinch of help and a dash of hope are the perfect ingredients.

Tickets to Chefs’ Feast are $120 in advance, with patron tables offered at $1,400. For a list of participating restaurants and more information visit www.regionalfoodbank.org

CHOCOLATE & COFFEE TREATS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

By Judy Brotton

 

One of the best things about Valentine’s Day is CHOCOLATE! Research tells us that there are actually many benefits to eating DARK chocolate, including the abundance of flavonoid compounds that can lower the risk of heart disease; it can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels; it contains a number of antioxidants to protect the body from aging; stimulants like theobromine and caffeine work to produce endorphins that can reduce stress levels; it lowers blood sugar; and since it is made from plants, it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. The Aztecs believed chocolate was a source of wisdom, energy and sexual power … so on the off chance that any of this research is true, lets dive into dark chocolate.

 

_DSC1340Add this all to the reported benefits of coffee consumption – including lowering the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as being effective in weight management – and you have the perfect recipe for Valentine’s Day.

 

 

COFFEE CAKE

  • 1 pkg. ladyfingers
  • 2 containers Braum’s Cappuccino Chunky Chocolate Frozen Yogurt
    • or Braum’s Premium Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  • Small carton Whipping Cream
  • ¼ cup Clear Crème de Cacao
  • Heath Bar baking bits
  • Chocolate syrup

 

Line a springform pan with ladyfingers. Scoop in the softened frozen yogurt or ice cream and return to the freezer. Before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Beat in the crème de cacao and beat until stiff peaks form; pipe inside the ladyfinger border. Sprinkle the Heath Bar bits in the center. Slice and serve with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

 

 

_DSC1254ESPRESSO BROWNIES

  • 1 box Pillsbury brownie mix
  • Vegetable oil, water and eggs per package instructions
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Topping
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/8 tsp. instant espresso coffee
  • 1-2 T milk or cream

 

Bake brownies as directed; remove from oven and place on wire rack. Melt chocolate chips and butter in a bowl placed over a pan of boiling water, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat, and with a wire whisk, stir in the coffee and enough milk until desired consistency. Add the walnuts and drizzle over warm brownies. Cool and cut into bars.

 

 

STRAWBERRIES & DIP

  • Large strawberries, tops left intact or long-stemmed
  • Sour cream
  • Brown sugar

 

Wash strawberries and place on platter with small bowls of sour cream and brown sugar. To serve, dip a strawberry in sour cream, then brown sugar, and feed to your loved one.

 

Or, if you prefer, melt a 3.5-oz. dark chocolate bar in a bowl placed over boiling water. Starting with 2 T cream, stir until chocolate is just melted and smooth; add more cream as needed. Allow to cool slightly, pour into small bowl and serve with strawberries.

 

 

_DSC1295VIETNAMESE ICED COFFEE

  • 1 cup strong coffee brewed using your preferred method
  • 2 T sweetened condensed milk
  • Ice cubes

 

Place milk in glass. Drip coffee into the glass over the back of a spoon so the coffee and milk remain separated. Pour over a tall glass of ice and stir just before serving.

 

My favorite Vietnamese restaurant serves this tableside – during your meal, you smell the incredible aroma as coffee drips from the single-cup metal coffee filter into the milk. This is then poured over a glass of ice and vigorously stirred with a long spoon until the coffee is refreshingly chilled. This is the best part of any meal.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!