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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

09/20/2017

~ Start Dunking: Double-Raisin Bran Cereal Cookies ~

IMG_3767If you're one of the few, the proud and the many who adore Kellogg's raisin bran, this cookie recipe is for you.  I'm sure the recipe is a Kellogg's original too, because I remember sitting at my mother's kitchen counter the day she made them, for me, the first time.  It's odd, but, as a child, when all the other kids were reaching for the Frosted Flakes and Sugar Pops, the only two cold cereals I would eat were: Kellogg's Raisin Bran and Special K exclusively.  That 1960's Winter afternoon, which was a snow day off from school, we decided to experiment with something new: Raisin-Bran cookies (instead of our usual Quaker's oatmeal cookies), as printed on the box.

Trust me, these are full-throttle full-of-raisin cookies:  

Our cookies turned out great, but we both agreed they needed more raisins, so, next time around, they became double-raisin bran cookies.  It was fun, quality mother-daughter time back then, and, to this day, when I'm down to near-the-end of a box of Raisin Bran, I use the last couple of cups to treat myself to these cookies.  They're crispy around the edges with chewy centers, not overly sweet, and, perfect for dunking in a glass of milk or enjoying with my morning coffee.  If you're looking for a cookie to serve or take to a breakfast or brunch, these are indeed the ones:

IMG_3778Crunchy outside & chewy inside w/bits of bran too.

IMG_37143/4  cup salted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

2/3  cup sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  cups Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal

2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup additional raisins

IMG_3716 IMG_3720 IMG_3723 IMG_3724~Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer and working your way up to to high speed, combine the butter, and sugars until light-colored and fluffy, about 1 full minute.  Crack in the eggs, add the vanilla, then, continue to mix until creamy, 30-45 seconds.

IMG_3728 IMG_3731 IMG_3734 IMG_3739~Step 2.  Add Raisin Bran.  With mixer on medium, while scraping down sides of bowl with spatula, thoroughly incorporate the cereal, 45-60 seconds..  Mixer will effectively chop bran flakes into smaller bits and pieces.  Lower mixer speed to low and add flour, baking soda and salt. Continue mixing and scraping bowl until flour is incorporated and a thick cookie batter forms.

IMG_3742 IMG_3746 IMG_3749 IMG_3756~Step 3.  Remove the mixer -- you won't need it anymore.  Add the raisins.  Use the spatula to fold them into the cookie dough.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place 12 balls of dough onto each of 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.

IMG_3760 IMG_3762 IMG_3773~ Step 4.  One pan of cookies at a time, bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven, 12-13 minutes, until puffed up through to their centers and nicely, but not overly, golden brown.  Remove pan from oven.  Using a metal spatula, immediately transfer each cookie to a wire rack to cool completely, 45-60 minutes.

Raisin Bran cookies.  I love thee.  The few, proud & many:

IMG_3786Start Dunking:  Double-Raisin Bran Cereal Cookies:  Recipe yields 2 dozen cookies

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack

IMG_5181Cook's Note:  We all agree that a muffin is at its best as soon as it can be eaten -- as soon as it has cooled enough to pick it up with your fingertips and pull it apart.  For me, a warm muffin with a slather of softened butter or cream cheese is the ideal breakfast.  Check out my recipe for ~ Make the Batter ahead: Buttermilk & Bran Muffins ~.  Make the batter ahead and bake the muffins up fresh -- the whole batch or 1-2 at a time.  FYI:  These are full of Raisin Bran and raisins too!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/18/2017

~ Balsamic Mayonnaise: The Other Italian Dressing ~

IMG_3916We all have our quirks.  I'm no exception.  Today's example:  I love Italian dressing, but I don't love creamy Italian dressing.  I don't love Balsamic dressing, but I do love creamy balsamic dressing -- especially if it is mayonnaise-based.  Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike creamy Italian or regular balsamic dressings, I simply have my (quirky) preferences.  While I often make my own, like most folks, for convenience sake, store-bought dressings have earned a place in my kitchen.  There is always a bottle of Wishbone Light Italian dressing on the door of my refrigerator, and, for a time, I happily kept a jar of Hellmann's Balsamic Mayonnaise there too.

999999-68400318217Hellmann's introduced their balsamic mayonnaise in 2013 -- a new product in celebration of their 100th anniversary.  A recent internet search revealed it was discontinued -- shocking, because the same search revealed there are a lot of folks, like me, who loved the stuff.  I even came across a discussion in an on-line "foodie chat place" where folks were attempting to duplicate the recipe.  This was not surprising, as, for those of us who loved it, there was more to it than just a basic stir together of mayo and balsamic vinegar.  Once I finished sharing my recipe with those in need, I decided to take a few moments to share it with you all too. 

Toss into salads or pasta salads, slather on subs or clubs or:

IMG_3947anything your creamy-balsamic-dressing heart desires. 

IMG_37061/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon onion powder

1/4  teaspoon dried basil (Note:  I used dried basil today.  That said, depending what I'm serving this on or with, I sometimes substitute dried Mediterranean oregano or Italian seasoning blend.

1/4-1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together all ingredients.  Refrigerate one hour prior to serving.

IMG_3711I adore it on my Caprese-Style Ground Chicken Burgers:

IMG_3854Balsamic Mayonnaise:  The Other Italian Dressing:  Recipe yields 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid.

IMG_1418Cook's Note:  If you'd like to know the history behind America's two most famous brands of mayonnaise, check out my post ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Duke's vs Hellmann's ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

09/15/2017

~Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers~

IMG_3854Today is a glorious day in mid-September, but unless we get a wealth of warm weather and sunshine for at least two more weeks, it's probable that I picked the last substantive batch of our garden's tomatoes this morning -- and it's been a banner year.  While walking my basket of dew-covered beauties back to my kitchen, I passed by my last full-leafed basil plant, the one I've been saving for that celebratory "last caprese day" of the season.  Today ended up being the day.

IMG_6487While I'm always, and I mean always, in the mood for a classic caprese salad (sliced same-day-picked garden tomatoes, fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, a drizzle of fruity olive oil -- occasionally a splash of balsamic vinegar too -- freshly-ground sea salt and pepper), I reminded myself how much Joe was looking forward to my thick, juicy chile cheddar cheeseburgers w/chile-lime mayo for an early dinner on our deck tonight.  A promise is a promise, and, when a man's got cheeseburgers on his mind, it's pretty hard to change it. Then it not only rained, it poured.

The move indoors opened the topic up for discussion, which was convenient because I'd had "this caprese thing" rattling around in my head all morning.  Very diplomatically, I said, "How about chicken-burgers done in the grill pan instead.  I've got all the stuff on-hand to make them caprese-style.  We can make cheeseburgers anytime."  Joe's response:  "Sounds like a plan."  Joe likes plans.  Dinner was divine -- Joe still got a great burger and I quelled my caprese craving:

IMG_3873A moist, juicy chicken burger full of caprese flavors + a drizzle of some awesome balsamic mayonnaise = a great burger.

IMG_3795For the chicken burgers:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  medium yellow or sweet onion, medium-diced, 6-7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups 

2  large garlic cloves

1/2  cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1  extra-large egg

1/2  teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

16  slices deli-style mozzarella cheese, or, 8 slices deli-style mozzarella cheese + 8 slices deli-style provolone cheese, your choice

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill pan

For the assembly and garnishes:

8  burger rolls of choice

2-3 cups shredded romaine lettuce, a generous 1/4 cup per sandwich

16-24 tomato slices, 2-3 per sandwich depending upon size of tomatoes

balsamic mayonnaise (Note:  See Cook's Note at end of recipe.)

16-24 large, whole, fresh basil leaves, 2-3 per sandwich

IMG_3800 IMG_3802 IMG_3807 IMG_3812 IMG_3815~Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken piecess in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the diced onion and basil chiffonade.  Using a series of 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken, along with the onion and basil.  Add the egg, dried basil, sea salt and pepper to work-bowl of processor.  With processor motor running for 10-15 seconds, incorporate the egg and spices throughout the now finely-ground chicken.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Note:  You will have a little over 2 1/2 pounds chicken mixture.  The mixture will resemble the soft "sticky" consistency of a meatloaf mixture rather than a typical burger mixture.  This is intentional. Because ground chicken is naturally dry when it is cooked, extra moisture must be added to the poultry mixture at the outset, and, it was done in the form of onion, garlic and fresh basil.

IMG_3819 IMG_3822 IMG_3824~ Step 2.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide poultry mixture into 8, 5-ounce portions, form the portions into 3 1/2"-round x 3/4"-thick discs, placing them side-by-side on pan.  While you can form the burgers, like you would less-sticky hamburgers, using your hands, if you have a 3 1/2" food ring and a tablespoon, it'll be incredibly easy (and you won't get "sticky chicken goo" all over your fingers and palms of hands).  Cover pan with plastic wrap and partially-freeze burgers for 55-60 minutes, no longer than that.

Note:  Partially freezing the burgers makes them easy to handle when it comes time to put them on the grill pan (or on the grids of a gas grill outdoors).  Do not freeze the burgers completely. You want them just firm enough to easily lift off the parchment while maintaining their shape.

IMG_3827 IMG_3836 IMG_3842 IMG_3849~Step 3.  Spray grill pan with no-stick cooking spray and place over medium heat on stovetop. Place as many chicken burgers as will comfortably fit (without crowding pan) on the grill grid. Cook, turning only once, until burgers are golden on both sides, about 13-15 minutes per side, lowering the heat if and when necessary to keep them from over-browning or burning before they cook through to their centers. Safe temperature = safe-to-eat poultry:  use an instant-read meat thermometer to insure burgers have reached an internal temperature of 165°.  

IMG_3914Once an internal temperature of 162°-165º has been reached, adjust heat as low as it will go, top each burger with 2 mozzarella slices, cover the grill pan and wait for cheese to melt, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

Note:  Grill pans don't come with lids.  The lid to my 16"-quart Cuisinart stockpot fits on my Cuisinart grill pan.  Can't find a lid? Cover the pan with a piece of foil.

Note:  To cook on an outdoor gas grill, preheat grill to medium.  Place burgers, side-by-side, either over indirect heat or on the upper rack of grill (if you have one).  Close lid and allow to cook 13-15 minutes.  After 13-15 minutes, open the grill lid.  Using a long-handled grilling spatula, flip burgers over.  They will have firmed up and be golden brown on the first side.  Close the grill lid and continue to cook on the second side for 13-15 minutes, or, to an internal temperature of 165°.

Bun, shredded lettuce, burger, tomatoes, mayo & basil:

IMG_3860Pick it (or half of it) up in your mitt:

IMG_3883Savor each & every end-of-caprese-season bite:

IMG_3890Grillmarked:  Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers:  Recipe yields 8 large, hearty caprese-style chicken burgers & 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise/1 tablespoon mayo per burger.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; kitchen scale; 3 1/2" food ring and tablespoon; grill pan w/lid; instant-read meat thermometer

IMG_3711 IMG_3706Cook's Note: To make 1/2 cup balsamic mayo, in a small bowl, stir together:

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, coarsely-ground black pepper and sea salt

Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/13/2017

~ Thai-Style Chicken-Tender Peanut-Butter Red Curry~

IMG_3692Peanut butter?  Yep.  Pulverized wok-roasted peanuts are commonly served with or in Thai food, and:  Oh my Thai -- if you love Thai food, as I do, you want this recipe in your recipe box.  If you cook Thai food, as I do, even if only on an occasional basis, I'm guessing you already have everything you need in the Asian section of your pantry and refrigerator to make this meal without making a special trip to your local Asian market.  Is this an authentic Thai recipe?  Yes and no. Yes, in that the flavors are authentic Thai.  No, in that I took a few shortcuts (mostly in the form of a can of store-bought red curry paste and some Jiff extra-crunchy peanut butter), but, nothing that a Thai cook would call me out on. Ok, perhaps a few Thai cooks would call me out, but, too bad. I'm an American gal in an American kitchen and I love Thai food.  To my Thai friends, be flattered.

IMG_3687In my food world, curries are comfort food.  Served steeping hot over or with freshly-steamed rice, they're perfect for the crisp, cold days of Fall and Winter.  Once the ingredients are prepped, which typically takes me about 30 minutes, Thai curries are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish (never a combination, but, one can be substituted for another, so feel free to do so), and they range in texture from very soupy to very thick and stewlike.  That said, they differ from other curries (like Indian and Jamaican), in that they rely upon a variety of freshly-made pulverized "wet" curry pastes rather than "dry" curry powders.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904d5f8970dNowadays, busy cooks, even Thai cooks, purchase canned curry pastes, and, the ones sold in Asian markets are of high-quality. That said, savvy Thai cooks add a few things to store-bought curry paste to brighten and personalize the flavor -- which is exactly what I've learned to do.

Today's stewlike red chicken curry recipe is a dish I was taught to make back in 1993 by a Home Economist from Thailand living in Happy Valley with her husband Fu. Kanya and I became foodie friends fast, and, over the course of two years, I had the priviledge of learning how to combine Thai ingredients to properly balance the classic four Thai flavors -- hot, sour, sweet & salty -- and serve them in authentic Thai style too.

Two time-savers: canned curry paste & peanut butter:

IMG_36292 1/2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, well-drained

6  tablespoons sesame oil

2  teaspoons curry powder

1  teaspoon powdered turmeric

1-1 1/2  4-ounce cans Thai red curry paste (Note:  Red curry paste is your heat gauge.  Use 1 can for less spice, 1 1/2 cans for medium spice, and, 2 cans for a lot of spice.  I use 1 1/2 cans.)

1 1/2  cups medium-diced red bell pepper

1  cup thinly-sliced green onion, white and light-green part only (diced yellow or sweet onion may be substituted

1  15-ounce can straw mushrooms, well-drained, 1 generous cup

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce (Note: Thai fish sauce is the "salt" of Thailand.)

2  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce (Note:  Thai soy sauce differs from Chinese soy sauce, so, make sure the label reads "seasoning soy" or "Thai soy" sauce.)

2  tablespoons Thai palm sugar or light brown sugar 

4  tablespoon crunchy-style peanut butter

3/4  cups chopped, wok-roasted peanuts, from 1 cup blanched, unsalted peanuts (Note: See Cook's Note at end of post.

4-6  fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves  (Note:  I keep fresh ones in my freezer and dried ones in my pantry at all times.)

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

6  cups steamed jasmine rice (Note:  This allows 1-1 1/2 cups steamed rice per person.)

IMG_3638 IMG_3640 IMG_3645~ Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken cubes in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the well-drained water chestnuts.  Using a series of about 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely grind the chicken and rough chop the water chestnuts.  Remove from work bowl and set aside.

IMG_3652 IMG_3654 IMG_3658 IMG_3661~Step 2.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of sesame oil over 250° (medium-high on the stovetop).  Add the red curry paste, curry powder and powdered turmeric.  Using a large nonstick spoon, work the wet curry and the dry spices into the sesame oil and cook until curry paste is bubbling and fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.  Add chicken/water chestnut mixture, bell pepper, scallions and straw mushrooms.  Stir until ingredients are evenly-coated in curry and spices.

Note:  I prefer to use a 16" electric skillet to prepare this type of Thai curry dish for my family. Why?  It has the capacity to make enough to feed 6-8 people + enough surface area to produce a rather quick evaporation of liquid, which thickens the curry, and, it controls the heat perfectly too (a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides on the stovetop may be substituted).

IMG_3665 IMG_3670 IMG_3671 IMG_3684~Step 3.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes.  Add and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, seasoning soy, palm or light-brown sugar, peanut butter, kaffir lime leaves and 1/4 cup of wok-roasted peanuts.  Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and curry sauce is uniform in color, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to simmer gently but steadily, about 220°-225° (medium on the stovetop), until curry sauce is nicely thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Turn heat off, cover skillet and allow to steep while steaming rice and mincing cilantro garnish. 

"When in Rome."  A bit of Thai-style mealtime etiquette:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1eb32ea970cWe've all heard the saying, "when in Rome, do as the Romans."  It means, when in a foreign country, or, being entertained by foreigners:  respect their customs.  In Thailand, meals are served family-style.  Each dish is served in its own vessel, and, after the food is on the table, everyone sits down together.  The food is passed and it's impolite to take too much of any one item at one time, but, it's very polite to go back for seconds or thirds.  There's more.  Because Thai food is bite-sized (sliced, diced, chopped, or pulverized), you will never find a knife on a Thai table.  For a proper Thai place setting:  a plate and/or bowl, a fork and a spoon, and, a water glass.

Portion some rice in a bowl, top generously w/chicken curry, then, garnish w/a sprinkling of peanuts & cilantro: 

IMG_3686Oh my Thai -- that very first Thai-licious forkful:

IMG_7164Thai-Style Chicken-Tender Peanut-Butter Red Curry:  Recipe yields 9-10 cups thick, hearty, stewlike curry/6-8 servings.  Leftovers freeze, thaw and reheat (in the microwave) really well.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 16" electric skillet w/lid or 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides on stovetop; large nonstick spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904fbcf970d 6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904fc13970dCook's Note: To wok-roast the peanuts, place a thin coating of sesame oil in bottom of a wok and swirl to coat the wok a few inches up the sides -- the amount of oil will vary depending upon size of  wok. Heat over medium-high, add peanuts and stir-fry, stirring constantly, until golden, 1-2-3 minutes.  Cool and chop the nuts.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)