Monday, May 2, 2011

Antipasto Tray Appetizer

Today we are putting together an antipasto tray as an appetizer for our meal. The great thing about an antipasto plate is that a chef that is just starting out can put one together easily, as most platters are assembled with ingredients that are ready to eat when purchased.  A well stocked pantry makes it  simple to put together an antipasto tray  quickly and at the last minute. It's a great idea to stock up on a few non-perishable gourmet items so you have them when you need them.

Choose your items from a few or all of the following categories:
Breads~such as French or Italian Bread slices, Breadsticks, Pita Breads, Crackers
Meats~Dry Salami, Prosciutto, Pancetto, Ham
Vegetables~Marinated Sun Dried Tomatoes, Marinated Mushrooms, Roasted Artichokes, Capers,  Peppers,
                   Pepperoncini Peppers, Capers
Cheeses~Goat Cheese, Mozarella,Parmesan, Brie
Fresh/Dried Fruits~Cantaloupe, Grapes, Raspberries, Strawberries, Figs, Dates, Raisins, Cranberries,
Other Items~Tapenade, Hummus, Chutney.

For the antipasto tray we are making, I chose 3 cheeses~ Goat Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella, and Boursin. I used Roasted Red Peppers, Oven Roasted Artichoke, French Bread Slices, Whole Grain Wheat Crackers, and Dried Sliced Salami. I know there is a picture of asparagus above, but after I took the picture, I changed my mind about using it. I would have liked to use some other meats also, like Prosciutto or Pancetto, but we are a low salt household, so salami is all I used.
Everything I used for the platter was purchased ready to go, except for the artichoke. I oven roasted the artichoke, and it was very easy to do. The first thing you need to do is scrub the artichoke  to clean it up a little.     
Cut off the bottom stem from the artichoke so it can lay flat. Cut the tips off each of the leaves, so they are straight across.

Your artichoke should now look like this. Next, place the artichoke on 2 pieces of foil. Don't drown it in oil, but pour it into the artichoke so it gets into every level. You can also pour some balsamic vinegar in with the olive oil.




  Place bits of garlic between the leaves of the artichoke.


                                                                                                                                                Double wrap the artichoke in foil.

                                   Bake in the oven for 1 hour @ 425. When the artichoke is done, pull the leaves apart to place on your plate.

Put all your platter ingredients together. Make your plate look stylish and appealing by grouping the colors together so they compliment each other.I put this antipasto platter together on a white plate. I think I should have used a plate color that contrast with all the white bread, green artichokes, and red peppers. I could have used lettuce as a base, or I have even used banana leaves in the past. Use your creativity. That's what makes cooking and entertaining fun!

If you want to know more about artichokes and different ways to prepare them, you can get more info at Check it out!

If you have any questions about any part of this antipasto platter blog, please send me an email. You can reach me at You can also say whatever you want in the comment section of my blog. I will be happy to answer you. I would love to see pics of your antipasto platters. Send them to me!!

Tomorrow we will make Tuscan Vegetable Soup. See you then. Thanks for stopping by!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lasagna Dinner Meal

Today is the first post of my newly designed Freshman Cook. I hope you like it! Lets jump in!!!

The menu for this week:

Appetizer: Antipasto Tray
Soup/Salad: Tuscan Vegetable Soup
Entree: Homestyle Lasagna
Side Dish: Garlic Bread
Dessert: Tiramisu Mousse

I hope this sounds good to you!!               Here is your shopping list:

Antipasto Tray~Cheese ( I used 3 kinds-Boursin Garlic & Herb, Goat Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella)
                         Fresh Artichoke
                         Salami ( I bought mine sliced)
                         Loaf of French Bread
                         Whole Grain Wheat Crackers
                         Fresh asparagus
Antipasto Ingredients

Tuscan Vegetable Soup~15 oz can low sodium Canellini Beans
                                       extra virgin Olive oil
                                       Onion (you will need 1 cup, diced)
                                       2 Carrots
                                       2 stalks Celery
                                       1 small Zuchini
                                       1 clove Garlic
                                      dried Thyme Leaves
                                      dried Sage Leaves
                                      Black Pepper
                                     32 ounces low sodium Chicken Broth
                                     14.5 ounce can no salt added diced Tomato
                                      2 cups chopped Baby Spinach Leaves
                                      1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Tuscan Ingredients

Homestyle Lasagna~ extra virgin Olive Oil
                                 1 small Onion
                                 2 Garlic Cloves
                                 1 pound lean ground beef
                                 28 ounce can Tomato Puree
                                 small can Tomato Paste
                                 Dried Oregano
                                 Dried Thyme
                                 Bay Leaf
                                 Salt & Pepper
                                 1 box Lasagna Noodles
Lasagna Ingredients

Garlic Bread~loaf of Italian Bread
                     Minced Garlic
                     Unsalted Butter
Garlic Bread Ingredients
 Tiramisu Mousse~8 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
                            1/4 cup brewed Coffee
                            2 eggs
                            1 cup Whipping Cream
                            Cocoa Powder
Tiramisu Ingredients
On Monday's post we will talk about how to oven roast the artichoke, and prepare the antipasto plate!
 It's the beginning of a wonderful meal!!!
 Culinary Talk ~Mascarpone Cheese is made from low fat content fresh creme. It is a triple creme, and looks a lot like creme cheese.It is rich tasting, and has a buttery flavor. It comes in the same type of container as creme cheese, and it is pronounced [mas-kar-pohn]. I have purchased mascarpone at Walmart, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and most grocery stores.

See you tomorrow!!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 2 ~ Seafood Scampi for 2

Today we are making Seafood Scampi for 2. This scampi is a mix of my husbands favorite seafood, shrimp, scallops, and crab.  Because these are his favorite, I thought this dish would make the perfect Valentine's Day meal. When I went to buy the ingredients for this meal, I bought a little big. What I mean by that is that I bought a lot of extra, planning on using the leftover in future meals. For instance, I bought a large bag of scallops, a big bag of shrimp, and a huge amount of king crab legs. It is not necessary to buy like I did. I bought my ingredients at Sam,s Club, but you can by all of the same ingredients by going to the seafood counter in your local grocery store, and just buying the amount you want. Here is my list of ingredients:

2 scallops
4 colassal shrimp
1 king crab leg
angel hair pasta
loaf of Italian bread cut into slices

Begin by melting 2 tablespoons of butter. As that is melting, begin cleaning your shrimp. I bought shrimp that was uncooked, but deveined. You need to peel the shell off, and then I like too devein the underside of the shrimp also. I like to use a small paring knife to devein the shrimp. It gives me more control because of its' small size.

Once your butter is melted, add about 1 teaspoon of garlic, and let it simmer in the butter. Add more if you are a die hard garlic lover!
This garlic butter will be used for your garlic bread. Make sure you keep an eye on the butter and garlic, as you don't want your garlic to burn.
Your scallops don't need any prep at all. Just take them out of the bag, and they are ready. Your crab will be ready to use as soon as you get it out of its' shell. Just crack the shell, pull out the crab, and get ready to cook.
Put your water on to boil for your pasta. Also slice your bread from the loaf, coat it with garlic butter, and put it on a baking sheet ready to go into the oven.
Put 3 tablespoons of butter and 2 teaspoons of garlic in your frying or saute pan. Start by cooking the scallops first.
The scallops take the longest, but not by much. Turn the scallops over a few times, and as soon as the scallops begin to get a little flaky, add the shrimp.
See how the scallops are just beginning to get a little brown? They should look like this. Aren't they a thing of beauty?!!
Your scallops and your shrimp should be browning nicely. As they become browned and nearly finished, add the crab. You only want to heat the crab slightly.
See how pretty everything looks! Turn the pan off, and get your bread slices and put them in the oven under the broiler.
Drain and plate your pasta. Then place your seafood pieces on top of the pasta, and pour the butter garlic mixture over the top.Sprinkle with parmesan, mozzarella, or your favorite cheese.
Bon Appetit!

Tomorrow~ Day 3~Valentine Petit Fours

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 1 of 14 Days of Valentines!

For day 1 of our celebration we are making white chocolate Valentine tumbleweeds! Gather your ingredients and make these as a special treat for friends, family, neighbors, teachers, or a special someone. Everyone loves tumbleweeds!

3 cups of chinese noodles
2 cups of white chocolate chips
2 cups of party peanuts
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
decorative sprinkles, like hearts or circles in Valentine colors like red or pink 
  Melt your chocolate by putting the white chocolate in a double boiler. 
Stir the chocolate until it is smooth and completely melted, Add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the melted chocolate to thin it a little.
Add the melted chocolate to the noodles, and mix. Add the peanuts and mix again.

Make small mounds of tumbleweeds on your cookie sheet. 

After all your tumbleweeds are made, go back and add decorative sprinkles or valentines conversation hearts.

There is no limit to what you can decorate with.

 Day 2 of 14 Days of Valentines-Seafood Scampi!!!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

14 Days of Valentine Ideals!

Valentine's Day is 14 days away!So what should we do to celebrate? How about 14 days of ideas for delicious  Valentine's Day treats! Delectable ideas that are a delight to the eye, and a feast for the soul. The Freshman Cook is going to feature a couple dinners, some breakfast ideas, some specials desserts, some chocolate delights, and all of the recipes are easily prepared by a freshman cook. So stay tuned! The recipes and fun start tomorrow!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Southwest Sandwich Spread

I created this recipe for one reason and I love it. I love sandwiches. I love mayo on them. Now that I have high blood pressure,  mayo is no longer an option. I love avocados. I love them in any form. They are fantastic for fighting high blood pressure. So this recipe is my answer for a sandwich spread that is good and good for me.
Southwest Sandwich Spread
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced onions
1/2 cup sour cream
1 medium avocado
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Dice your tomato and your onion. Mix it into the sour cream. Cut the avocado into the mix. You can just scoop it out of the skin if you want. You are going to mash it up, so it does not have to be pretty. Add the garlic powder. Mix everything together. Use a fork. It makes it easier to incorporate the avocado evenly. Make sure you put the sauce in the refrigerator for at least two hours. This gives time for the flavors to meld together.

Now, this is how I use this spread. But you can use it for lots of things. It could be used for wraps, or with soft tacos. You could also add ingredients to spice it up or give it a different taste. Red peppers come to mind. Or what about jalapenos, YUM! 
I use it for the spread on chicken sandwiches.  I grill a chicken breast in a pan with pepper and garlic powder seasoning. Then I pull it apart from itself, and make a sandwich. I use Sargento baby swiss cheese. It is delicious and 1 piece only has 40 grams of sodium. I also put the sandwich on whole wheat bread. It is delicious, and the sauce makes it feel like a wonderful treat. 
Try this the next time you are making a sandwich or if you are looking for something different to wrap in your wrap. Let me know what different ingredients you add. The sky's the limit!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eggs and Room Temperature

As a cook and a baker, there is no doubt that eggs are a staple of your pantry. I always have plenty of eggs, just in case. Besides, I am an egg eater. I love egg sandwiches, fried eggs, hard boiled eggs, omelets, and 2 minute eggs with bread. Anything with eggs. Besides, isn't it amazing that one little egg can have so many uses? 

     I am a big cookie baker, so eggs and I are the best of friends. But sometimes, I do have to admit, I forget to take the eggs out of the refrigerator before I begin putting my recipe together. And I know that eggs should be at room temperature before using them to bake or cook. Right? Right! But why? 
     Because in most recipes you cream together the fat (butter) with the sugar, then you add the eggs. This is called emulsion. If the eggs are cold, the fat and the egg will not combine and are unmixable. Adding cold eggs to your butter & sugar mixture can curdle the egg and make your baked goods have little flavor, ending up grainy and flat.
    So what to do? How about a simple 5 minute fix!! Put the eggs you need for your recipe in a bowl,
and immerse them in warm (not hot) water for 5 minutes! It's that simple!
Now your eggs are ready to use!
Happy Baking!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Baking Biscotti

A really good neighbor is just the luck of the draw, is it not? I mean, you can't plan who your neighbors will be. My family and I had a great neighbor when we lived in Utah. He lived next door, and he never grumbled or complained when our dog barked or when my son and his group of 20 or so  friends would come into the yard to ride the bike jumps my son built on the neighbors side of the house. He would come over early, in the cold morning snow, and scrape our driveway with his 4 wheeler, so we wouldn't have to go out there later using a shovel.  I could easily spend an hour in the backyard, on a clear summer afternoon, talking over the fence with my neighbor, about what was going on in our little piece of paradise and basically solving all the problems of the world! He was a great neighbor and a nice person. After we left I sent him some holiday biscotti, (they are great to mail because they are sturdy) along with some other treats for the holidays. I got a call from him saying how much he liked the treats, but how much he loved those long cookies with the cranberries. So I sent him some more, and every couple months I would send the holiday biscotti with another kind of  biscotti for him to try. Sometimes he liked the new, and sometimes he doesn't. I value his opinion, so I keep sending him different biscotti to try, but I have a feeling that I always have to send the holiday biscotti. This month I am sending him the holiday biscotti and some biscotti with a fall design to it. Maybe something with apples, pecans, and caramel. I don't know. I will have to think about it and experiment. (That's my favorite part!!) If he likes it I will share it with you! But he loves the holiday biscotti, so here is the recipe:

Holiday Biscotti
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, (but changed just slightly)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped  FRESHMAN TIP:( This means chopped, but to no particular size)
2/3 cup craisins

Preheat oven to 350.
Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour and  baking powder into a medium bowl.

FRESHMAN TIP: Zesting (Is that a word?) Well it should be!! Because that is what we are doing here. 
 Wash your lemon, then pull the lemon along the zester, but don't go too deep into the skin. You don't want to use the white part of the lemon skin. Only the yellow. The white has a bitter flavor that will ruin your recipe.

This is what your teaspoon of grated lemon zest should look like. In the interest of always trying to use everything I buy, I usually will make something with the lemon juice within the next day or two. That way nothing gets wasted. If I can't seem to make it happen in that time frame, I at least squeeze the lemon to get the juice out, and I usually use it for tea or to flavor my water.

Beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time.

 Add the flour mix  and beat until just blended.

It should look like this:

Add your pistachios and craisins and mix in with a spoon.

Your dough will be rather thick. Place it on your baking sheet, and stretch and pat out the dough until it becomes a log measuring 13" long and 3" wide. It is important to measure the dough. Use a plastic ruler that can be easily washed. The ruler can also be used to square your sides, so your biscotti  loaf is even .
   Bake until it is light golden, about 35 minutes.

Remove your biscotti from the oven, and let it cool for 20 minutes. Then cut the biscotti into 1/2 " wide pieces. I like to use a serrated edge knife to cut with. I use it like a saw, and it seems to minimize any  crumbling. The biscotti will crumble a little, but don't worry. 
Place your sliced pieces back on a cookie sheet, with a side up. Put them back into the oven for 10 minutes.
Pull the biscotti out of the oven and flip the pieces over, so that the other side can be finished.
 Let them bake for 5 minutes longer.
This is your finished product. They take a little while longer than most cookies, but they are worth it! These are great to dunk in tea, coffee, milk or even hot chocolate. Try them and let me know what you think!

With the holidays coming up they are a great cookie to send to family and friends far away.