Thursday, December 29, 2011

Make Pizza at Home Part 2: Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza, hot from the oven, topped with seasoned burger and cheddar and Monteray Jack cheese
Here's a different take on making pizza at home, Taco Pizza. This is NOT the fat and calorie laden fast food one you may be familiar with, but something my sister and I came up with years ago, when we REALLY wanted tacos but had no taco shells or corn tortillas to fry.
FIRST, I made my usual pizza crust recipe but instead of using 1T. cornmeal, I removed 1 T. flour and used 2 T. cornmeal.  I also dusted the crust liberally with a little more cornmeal. Then, instead of tomato sauce, I spread salsa over the uncooked crust. We like Chi Chi's Original in the medium heat. Don't be too generous with the salsa, just spread it evenly and thinly.
Next, I added some leftover taco meat (made from 93% lean ground beef, but whatever your family likes is fine) from dinner a few nights before. If you don't have any leftover meat, try spreading some refried beans on the crust BEFORE the salsa, and then you'll have a vegetarian version of this, which is just as tasty! Next, the pizza gets sprinkled liberally with cheddar and monterey jack cheeses, black olives and some roasted red peppers, diced up, and pickled jalapeno peppers. Into a 400 degree oven for about 17 minutes, and the result you see above!
Now, here's the twist: When you serve this pizza, top it like you would a taco. We used shredded lettuce, a little sour cream, as well as more salsa, jalapenos and cheese, because you can NEVER have enough cheese!  And, voila, an original creation that is super tasty. See the completed slice below:
A perfect slice of Taco Pizza, topped with lettuce, salsa, black olives and a little more cheese
Doesn't that look good? I promise -- you will LOVE this take on pizza! You'll never want to go back to that fast food pizza thingie from the place with the bell! Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Dinner at My House

Yesterday I posted that I was going to make these rolls for dinner and I did.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/best-dinner-rolls-recipe/index.html?soc=share

I made them in my handy dandy bread machine, and it worked really well. The machine did the kneading for me and all I had to do was to add the ingredients in  the correct order, in a timely fashion. I used the dough cycle, and made the liquid mixture and started the machine. I let that mix well and then started adding in the flour, a cup or so at intervals. While it mixed away, I made side dishes so used my time efficiently.

I made some in the pan, as suggested on the recipe:

Homemade rolls, ready for the oven
I saved this pan for later in the week. The ones I served for dinner last night, I made in my muffin pan. They were so tasty I had a hard time getting a picture of them, but I just did manage, right before they disappeared!

Yummy homemade rolls -- I snapped this picture just before they disappeared!
Making a standing rib roast is a little bit of spluge but I got one on sale locally. It was everything you would hope a roast would be:

Standing rib roast, all tied up, and ready for baking!
Whenever I make a roast, I always use this recipe from Paula Deen on the Food Network:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/foolproof-standing-rib-roast-recipe/index.html

Try some of these for New Years weekend! You can NOT go wrong! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!!
Merry Christmas, from my house to yours!
I am Christmas Crazy and love decorating my Christmas Tree!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best Dinner Rolls on the Food Network

This is what I am making for Christmas Dinner:

Best Dinner Rolls on the Food Network

I've made them before and they are delish!
Merry Christmas and have a Happy and Healthy 2012!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tuscan Bean Salad | Recipes & Tips | Mezzetta.com | Don't Forgetta Mezzetta

This looks good! I haven't done a share before, but hey, it's the holidays and we are all busy! Try and let me know if you like it. Merry, Merry!


Tuscan Bean Salad Recipes & Tips Mezzetta.com Don't Forgetta Mezzetta

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Make your pizza at home tonight!

Here is it --  All ready for the oven!
Why not make your pizza at home tonight, save a little money and control what you put onto it? When I've got a little of this and a little of that, I often make pizza! It's great if you have just a little leftover spaghetti sauce -- not really enough for another meal, just a cup or so. You can always add a little pizza sauce from a jar or some tomato sauce. You generally need about 1 -1 1/3 cups of sauce per pizza and at least 2 cups of cheese. Then pile on whatever you've got around. We like mushrooms, pepperoni, olives, peppers -- banana, green, roasted red, jalapenos -- and anything else YOU like. I've posted my homemade crust recipe here -- don't be intimidated about making pizza crust! It's easy, I promise! Your family will eat it up, I promise! I always put the cheese on top of the sauce and THEN add the extras, to keep the cheese from getting too browned. The more toppings you have, the longer you'll have to cook it. Then, at the very last minute, save just a handful or so of cheese to sprinkle on top, for that extra gooey facor! Delish!
Gooey, cheesey, homemade goodness, your family will love it and you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chile Rellenos

Chile Rellenos


I've written before about my friends' mom in Tampa, Florida, who first introduced me to Mexican cooking. They were an Air Force family who came to Tampa by way of California. In Cali, they had an Hispanic maid, who taught them her way of cooking. My friends' mom taught me at the tender age of 14, because I was SO taken with this way of cooking. I've been cooking the dishes she showed me ever since, and they are always a big hit!

When she first taught me how to make chile rellenos, there was no great abundance of fresh peppers in the markets like there are now. Over the years, I've tried this dish with different kinds of fresh peppers, but I always come back to the original canned peppers. They are peeled, ready to use and just the right size for an appetizer or a side dish! If you want a bigger version, like the ones sold in so many Mexican Restaurants, you can try a poblano pepper or any that you like, but this is what I've used for many years:
Canned Chilies for Chile Rellenos
Whole Chilies draining on paper towels
First, you need to lay the chilies out on a paper towel and drain them, like this:
Next, mix up the batter:

1/2 c. Bisquick

1 large egg

1/4 c. beer

Mix this well, pressing a fork into the mixture to get rid of all the lumps. You will have enough batter for about 6 of these smaller sized chilies. Most cans have 3 to 5 chilies in them, so if you need more, you'll have to buy 2 cans. I made four and discarded the rest of my batter. (NOTE: this batter is good for onion rings too!!)


Now, stuff your chilies:

1/4 med. onion, finely minced

about 2 ounces of white cheddar cheese, cut into rectangles and slightly tapered at the bottom

Put a few pieces of onion into the bottom of the chile, then slide in the cheese and stuff in a little more onion. Make sure to cut the onion VERY finely and slice the cheese into a shape that will fit your chilies!


Preheat about half an inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. The oil is ready when a drop of the batter sizzles and floats to the top when dripped into the skillet. If the the oil starts to smoke or the drop to burn your oil is too hot.

While the oil is preheating, put the chilies carefully into the batter and turn them over until they are completely coated, including the open tops. Plenty of batter will prevent your cheese from melting out of the chile.

Place them carefully into the hot cooking oil, and drizzle a little more batter on the side facing up ( a small tsp. works well for this, just be careful so the oil does not pop and splatter). Let them fry for a minute or 2 and turn them over, keeping the oil hot enough to sizzle but not burn. Cook them until they are golden brown. Serve with a little salsa if desired. Enjoy!

Yummy Chile Rellenos, topped with salsa and cheese oozing out!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Joys of Baking Bread

Rustic Italian Bread, with a pesto swirl in the middle


Ever since I received my first bread machine as a birthday gift, way back in the early '90's, I have loved making bread. I ALWAYS loved eating homemade bread, but never had the patience for all the kneading and rising and more kneading and waiting. The bread machine takes the dull part out and leaves you free to enjoy the satisfying part. You get to pick the type of ingredients you want to use, flour, herbs, amount and types of oil and salt and the machine does most of the work, or even all of it, if you so choose. And the aroma of baking bread is probably the most appetizing and welcoming of cooking aromas to come home to.


When my kids were little, I knew that no matter what I was serving for dinner, if I made bread, they would eat dinner! You know the trick, eat a bite of everything on your plate and you can have another piece of bread...


I am now on my second bread machine -- I wore the first one out! -- and I still love making homemade breads, pizza dough and rolls. The way I do it these days is to make the dough in the machine and finish the loaf in the oven. That way, I get to choose a more natural attractive shape and get the option of some last minute additions to my dough. Lately, since I have so much basil in my garden, I've been adding pesto to my dough and rolling it up into an Italian style loaf, so that each slice has a swirl of pesto in the middle. Really yummy and looks pretty also! Here's one way I make bread. This is great served with any full bodied pasta with red sauce, or a grilled meat dish.

Rustic Italian Bread with Pesto

1 cup water
3 T. olive oil

3 cups bread flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. dry yeast

Simple Pesto (recipe below)


Put your ingredients into your bread machine in the order your manufacturer recommends. Mine calls for wet ingredients first, with dry on top. So, water, olive oil, flour, salt, sugar and yeast (the pesto comes later!). if not using a bread machine, soften the yeast in warmed water, then mix in your flour, salt and sugar.

Choose the dough setting on the bread machine, or get to kneading if you aren't going to use one! After the final rise, when the machine goes beep, beep, beep, turn the dough out on a floured, dry surface and shape into a rough rectangle. Spread on the pesto sauce, about 1 -2 tablespoons, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top and an inch at each end with no sauce. Begin to roll up the bread dough, jelly roll style, at the end with the pesto. Roll it into a long cylinder and let it rise about 45 more minutes, covered, in a warm dry place (I use my oven with the light turned on and the door closed.)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and bake the loaf for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing. (Don't forget to take the bread OUT of the oven before turning it on to preheat!!)

Simple Pesto


1/4 c. packed clean basil leaves

1 clove garlic

1 T. Parmesan

1 tsp. toasted pine nuts or walnuts

2 T. olive oil


Blend this together in a mini food processor or food chopper until nice and smooth. Use to fill the bread or serve over pasta, on pizza, or grilled fish or chicken.
I've posted a slightly more complicated recipe for pasta earlier but this one is quick and easy.


























Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Fish Tacos



Fish Tacos, Refried Beans, Guacamole and Chips -- Yum!
Hurricane Irene is ON TOP of us, here in Midlothian, VA -- winds are blowing, and the rain is coming in sideways! What to do? COOK of course!

I love fish tacos in the restaurants, but was hesitant to try them here at home. I really don't know why, except that I'd never made a fish taco before, and I want everything I cook to turn out delicious! I am sometimes unwilling to try something new out of fear that it might not be THAT good, but what a silly attitude.

We must try new things in order to grow, right?? !! ??
So, here's my take on Fish Tacos. They are measured against Cabo Fish Tacos in Blacksburg VA, where I have never eaten, but where my family keeps RAVING about and sets the standard as far as Fish Tacos go. I hope you enjoy them, we did! I think, after about 4 tries, I nailed it!

I like to make the slaw for the tacos earlier in the day, so that the flavors can meld.

Tilapia Fish Tacos with Jalapeno Slaw
4 tilapia fillets
2 limes
soft, fresh corn tortillas
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
dash cayenne
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Lay your fillets side by side and squeeze 1/2 of one of the limes over them. Spray the fish lightly with a little more cooking spray and sprinkle on your spices evenly. Be careful with the cayenne pepper if you are not a fan of spicy! (You could even substitute paprika to get the color without the heat, but it will change the taste a little.)
Bake them for about 20 minutes. Squeeze a little more lime juice over the fish and chop it all up -- no knife really required with tilapia -- and put it into a bowl for serving. Warm your tortillas up just a little, wrapped in a damp towel.

Jalapeno Slaw
1/2 of a small to medium green cabbage ( you need about 2+ cups shredded)
1 T. finely minced onion
1 jalapeno, seeds mostly removed, finely minced
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed and chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 rounded T. light mayo (I like Dukes)
1/2 tsp. sugar
salt to taste
1 T. cider vinegar
zest of 1/2 lime
First, make your dressing:
In a small bowl, combine mayo, lime juice, sugar, vinegar, lime zest and a pinch of salt. If your lime is not juicy and the dressing looks too thick, add a little more vinegar until it thins out.
Next, thinly shred your cabbage until you have 2 heaping cups. Add the onion cilantro and jalapeno and toss until well combined. Pour your dressing over and mix well. At this point I put the slaw into the refrigerator and stir it a few times to let it all come together.

To serve your tacos, put a few spoonfuls of fish on a warm corn tortilla and top with a little slaw. We like this with jazzed up, fat free re fried beans and some guacamole! Oh, guacamole!! See the recipe below:

Fantastic guacamole
2 ripe avocados
juice of one lime
a little garlic salt
2 T. of your favorite salsa
1 heaping T. light sour cream
a few dashed of hot sauce or 1/2 minced jalapeno
Put your avocado into a nonreactive bowl (not metal). Squeeze your lime juice all over it and sprinkle with garlic salt. Mash this with the back of fork or mince up with a knife. Mix in the salsa and sour cream and either the hot sauce or the minced jalapeno. If not serving immediately, place some clear plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the guacamole. This will help to keep it from turning brown.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jambalaya -- Fabulous one skillet meal!

Assorted Peppers from my garden, cayenne and jalapenos
I've got peppers coming in, am loaded up with tomatoes and herbs, so I decided to make a pot of jambalaya. My nice neighbor gave me a bunch of green and orange banana peppers, and I've been growing these!



I always begin my jambalaya with by chopping up some veggies -- 3 cloves of minced garlic and the trifecta of taste, peppers, onions and celery, about a cup of each, diced like below.
Always remember the trinity, here's the garlic, onions and celery ready for the pot
The picture only shows the green pepper, but I used 1 each of the orange and green banana peppers, as well as a minced cayenne and a finely chopped jalapeno (seeds removed).


Next, slice your favorite smoked sausage (1 12 - 16 oz. portion). For this dish, I used low fat polksa kielbasa. Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a deep, heavy skillet and cook your sliced sausageit till it starts to brown along the edges. Remove it until a little later. Next, saute' your veggies, in a BIG skillet, with a about a T. each of butter and olive oil. That seems like a lot, but you are going to be making a lot! When the veggies start to soften, add one cup of rice ( I like a mixture of 2/3 c. white to 1/3 c. brown) and stir this around with the vegetables, coating the grains, with the oil and butter mixture. Sprinkle the rice with 1 T. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. celery salt and 1 T. fresh thyme and a pinch of saffron if you have it or can afford some! I did not have any, so I substituted 1 1/2 tsp. of smoked paprika and 1/2 tsp. of cumin. The flavor profile is different, but you'll get some smokey flavor and the orange color, like you would from the saffron. Next, add one can of diced tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved.


Stir in 2 cups of chicken stock, and 1/2 cup of dry white wine and bring this to a boil. Lower to a simmer and put on the lid. Sprinkle in a little salt, maybe 1/2 tsp. and some freshly ground black pepper. Let this mixture cook for at least 30 minutes, stirring periodically to make sure nothing sticks. If it starts to dry out, as mine did, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time. After 30 to 45 minutes add the sausage back into the mixture along with 1 - 2 cups of your favorite seafood, or whatever you have in your freezer. I used 1 cup of raw, peeled and deveined shrimp and 1 cup of frozen bay scallops. Here's a picture of my big, ol' skillet of yumminess!

Big ol' pan of Jambalaya!

The only thing left to do, is dig in! This will make 5 adult sized portions. We had it with a green salad and some crusty bread for sopping up the spicy drippins! Laissez les bon temps rollons! (Pardon my french, very rusty!)
Sure wish you could taste it! Yummy Jambalaya!

Here's a list of ingredients to help you shop:

1 32 oz. box chicken stock
1 smoked sausage or polska kielbasa
rice
1 large onion
1 medium green pepper, plus a few other assorted ones for color and texture
fresh garlic cloves
seafood - 1 1/2 cups asst. such as shrimp, scallops or clams
dry white wine
1 can diced tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes
Fresh thyme, celery salt, chili powder, saffron if you feel rich, otherwise use smoked paprika and cumin
















Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweeeet Corn and Other Vegetables...plus a little family wisdom!

The other day I was in the grocery store shucking some corn over the trash bin, and a lady asked me how I cooked corn. She said, "You boil it, I guess? I've been grilling it and I don't have much luck with that." I replied that no, I don't grill it or boil it, I microwave it....and she looked so puzzled that I had to explain. After doing so she asked me HOW to pick out the best cobs, so that the corn would be sweet and tender, and not tough and stringy. After that conversation, I thought that maybe I ought to blog these simple cooking and selecting tips, because maybe not everyone knows about this stuff.



I was blessed to grow up in a family with 2 grandmothers who were wonderful cooks, who had raised their families during the depression (the one in the 1930's, not the more recent "recessions"). Having done that gave an added dimension to their cooking: Both of them could turn out a delicious meal at almost no cost. Picking out the very best of the season was second nature to them. Both Bessie and Rosie had it down to a science! Here's a picture of the two fabulous ladies, at the my parents wedding reception. That's Rosie on the right and Bessie on the left, flanked by my parents:

Notice the champagne! This was a party all the way! And don't my parents look young and glamorous?? However, I digress....Here is the first rule of thumb that the ladies passed on to me, regarding fresh veggies and fruit: The heavier the fruit, the better, the lighter the vegetable, the better. Now, remember, technically tomatoes are fruit, so the heavier the better, and this rule does not really include starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, beans, and corn. "Lighter is better" especially applies to leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale etc. If you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. A light apple would probably mean it did not have much moisture in it, so therefore not too juicy. A heavy head of lettuce would mean it has a big center core, and not as many tender leaves.



Back to corn...for the best tasting corn, you want smaller rather than larger kernels on the cob, with no visible sign of drying. I like to cook it in the microwave, in about an inch of water with a little sugar sprinkled into the water. Adding salt at this point will toughen it. Pick a wide shallow dish with a glass lid, preferably.
Put the lid on and microwave it for 6 minutes. Remove the pan, rotate the corn so the other side is immersed and cook for about 3 - 6 minutes more, depending on how much corn you have in your pan and how strong your microwave is. I promise you will produce sweet, juicy delicious corn on the cob, just the way grandma used to serve it. Hey, and before you think, NO WAY did her grandmothers have a microwave, YOU ARE RIGHT, but hey, we all grow and learn, don't we? And what they did teach me was how to cook!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making Homemade Onion Rings

Onion Rings?? REALLY??!!?? I know, not exactly healthy eating, but OK once in a while, in limited amounts. My family loves onion rings and often bake up a few frozen ones for eating alongside burgers and such. My mom used to fry up homemade ones every now and then, and I've always remembered them fondly, so I decided to try some myself. I did this YEARS ago and decided it was more trouble than it was worth, but forged ahead out of motherly love. The results were absolutely delish, and only a little trouble. Halfway through the frying process, dear husband came in to man the frying pan, because, Baby, IT'S HOT standing over one, dipping and turning! I even remembered to take some pictures along the way so you could see exactly how to do them!!





Homemade Onion Rings
First, start slicing some onions. Slice them about 1/4' thick and separate them into rings. Discard the very center of the onions and save them for another dish in a baggie. Lay them out in a single layer on paper towels and let them dry out a little while you prepare the batter. I tried to take a picture of them laid out on paper towels, but you could not see the onions against the white towels, so here is a representation for size.


Cut the onions kind of thick, like this.

The batter:


2/3 cup Bisquick

1 small egg

a few ounces of beer

Break the egg into the bottom of a shallow dish, wide enough to put a few of your rings into. A pie plate will work for this. Add the Bisquick and then drizzle in a little beer, whisking together until you get a thick batter. The batter should be thicker than pancake batter but not like dough.


Preheat a large skillet with an inch of vegetable oil in it. The oil is ready for frying when a drop of batter sizzles and rises immediately to the top. Begin frying your onion rings in a single layer, without crowding the pan.
Don't crowd the pan while cooking!

Turn them once as they begin to brown. Watch them closely so they don't burn. As they are done, drain them on some more paper towels. This takes a little time, but it's worth the extra work. We had them alongside some sloppy joes, a few french fries and marinated cucumbers from my neighbors garden. YUMMY!



Ther's nothing like Homemade Onion Rings!













Thursday, June 9, 2011

Perfect burger?

This is my sons' idea of HIS perfect burger, complete with cheddar cheese, mayo, juicy tomato and a FRIED EGG! He toasted his bun on the outside grill and then loaded it up. I don't know what I think of the fried egg on top, but I must admit it LOOKED tasty. See how cute the egg is? We attended a family party over the weekend, and one of my many cousins brought tiny little chicken eggs, from her "teenage" chickens, as she called them. They were organic, free range, happy chickens too, with little speckles on their tiny eggs. They fried up into a perfect size for burger topping.

Prior to cooking our burgers on the grill, there ensued a major, rather loud discussion, about how to form the patties. My husband likes to make the patties, and he forms them into roughly the shape of a fat flying saucer, with a big hump in the middle. After many hours spent watching the Food Network, I think they should be slightly hollowed out in the center, with uniform edges. Dear hubs taper off at the edges, resulting in overcooked edges and almost raw middles. I won last night, and the burgers were perfect, if I do say so myself. Cudos to Bobby Flay and Rachel Ray for the shaping lessons!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Low Country Boil or Frogmore Stew?

Low Country Boil or Frogmore Stew? Either way, it's good eatin'!
Several years ago, a friend bought us tickets to go to what was named a "Shrimp Boil". This turned out to be a delicious affair, with huge steamer pots filled with new potatoes, corn on the cob, smoked sausage or kielbasa and shrimp, doused with a healthy shake of Old Bay Seasoning. Everything was dumped out on picnic tables covered with oilcloth and newspapers. My whole family loved it, so I started making my version of this at home. When I described what I was doing to one of my NUMEROUS cousins, he said, "Oh we call that Frogmore Stew". Later, while at the beach on a memorable family vacation, one of the newer family members made something similar, but he called his a Low Country Boil. No matter what you call it, it sure is tasty and well worth trying in your own kitchen.



The main thing you need to make this dish is a two part steamer pot. Here is mine:



You'll need a steamer pot like this to prepare Low Country Boil
The first thing I decided to do, while working on this dish, was to make the water in the bottom taste like something, so I replaced it with beer. After that switch, it was full steam ahead. I also have added more veggies, so that it really is a complete meal in a pot. The result, I believe you'll agree, is a tasty treat that is, as they say, FUN to eat! By the way, my father in law, known for his quaint turns of phrase, called this Second Class Eating. When I asked him why he called it that, he said anything that was dumped out on newspaper and eaten with your hands, is Second Class Eating!! Since I added cabbage to this meal, you need a knife and fork, but those are minor details. OH, and don't forget to heat up some crusty rolls to serve with this, as well as a few different kinds of mustard, some melted butter and Old Bay Seasoning on the side!






Low Country Boil


2 beers
1 clove garlic, smashed + 2 cloves slivered
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning + 1 T. of the same
Put the above ingredients into the bottom of a steamer pot and fill your basket in layers.

In the bottom of the basket place:
6 - 8 small new potatoes
3 onions, halved
1 head cabbage, halved and then each half cut into thirds
2 cloves of slivered garlic
Some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Layer this over the simmering beer mixture, sprinkling each vegetable with a little salt and pepper (don't over do it). Let it cook for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are almost tender when pierced with a knife.

On top of this add: (Remember to check you cooking liquid, if it gets too low, add another beer or a little water)
4 ears of corn, shucked, cleaned and broken in half.
1 Smoked Sausage or Polska Kielbasa, cut into about 16 pieces
a few garden chives if you have them
Sprinkle the corn with a little more salt and pepper, strew with chives and put the sausage on top of it. Cook about 10 minutes and

lastly add:
1 lb. of raw, shell on shrimp, sprinkled with some Old Bay Seasoning, to taste.
Cook for 10 more minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Drain the basket let cool slightly and dump it all out. FEAST and Have Fun!! This will serve about 6 people or 4 very hungry people!







Monday, May 2, 2011

My Grandmother's Lasagna

Everyone loves THEIR grandmother's lasagna. However, my Grandmother's lasagna is truly special and everyone who tastes it, LOVES IT. She learned it from her very Italian friend, Florence, who learned it form her VERY ITALIAN Mother, who did not even speak English. I loved visiting that family and loved absolutely everything they cooked. Part of what makes this lasagna so special is the sauce. Made with love, it is always made with a meat blend, ground pork and ground beef and sometimes a little ground veal, which is harder to find. We simmer it low and slow at our house, with lots of garlic, onion, basil and tomato sauce. Make your own or buy your favorite and fix this for your family. I promise that they will love it!



I have adjusted this recipe to feed a smaller group of 4 - 6. Double it for a bigger group.




Classic Lasagna


1 qt. tomato meat sauce


8 oz. lasagna noodles, cooked al dente


15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese


8 oz. small curd low fat cottage cheese


1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese


1 egg


1 tsp. basil


8 - 10 oz. grated part skim mozzarella cheese



Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook your noodles "al dente" (about 6 - 7 minutes). While they are cooking, make the cheese filling:

In a big bowl, mix together the ricotta, cottage, and Parmesan cheese. Add in the egg and basil and stir well until combined.

When the noodles are done, drain them well and rinse with cold water. I normally DO NOT rinse my pasta, but this helps to keep them from sticking together and makes them easier to handle.

Spray deep 8.5" X 8.5" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and ladle about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom. Start to build your lasagna, by cutting 3 noodles to fit the bottom. Top them with the cheese mixture. I find it works best to put 3 spoonfuls on each noodle and gently spread them to meet, covering the entire noodle. Add a layer of sauce and a big handful of mozzarella, spreading to cover the entire surface. For the next layer, rotate the direction of the noodles, and repeat the procedure above, a layer of cheese, a layer of sauce, a layer of mozzarella. Do it again. Then finally top your lasagna with noodles, sauce and mozzarella. Cover it carefully with some foil sprayed with the non-stick cooking spray -- you don't want to loose any cheese by having it stick to the foil!! Place the dish on a cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Lasagna is done when it is bubbly around the edges and hot all the way through. I had a little leftover noodles, sauce and cheese mixture, so I made this cute little single serving to freeze for later or to give away. It only has 2 layers, but it's still a hefty serving!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!



Nothing says Easter at my house like classic, deviled eggs. We've always colored the "whites" using the same formula you use to color the shells at Easter. Hard boil your eggs the Martha Stewart way: Cover room temperature eggs with cold water in a sauce pan. Put a lid on and bring it to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat and leave it alone for 16 minutes. Drain the water and cover the eggs with cold water and ice. Let them sit for about 15 more minutes, peel and cut in half. Remove the yolks, and put them into a mixing bowl, set aside. Immerse the halved eggs in your food dyes. To devil the eggs, I like to mash the yolks with celery salt, yellow mustard and light Duke's mayonnaise. Yummy and delicious too!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Perfect Spring Dinner!

Panko breaded pork chops, oven roasted green beans and fingerling potatoes
Last night I made a meal that was new to our family. I am not usually a big fan of pork chops, but I think that is mostly due to to the fact that most of what I've been served have been overcooked. Chewy, tough leathery meat, is not palatable to me, even if it's been slathered in barbeque sauce. For a long time, I've looked for a recipe that showcases the tenderness of pork and tells how to produce it. I found this recipe in an old Southern Living magazine, and made it almost exactly the way it was written. The article had paired the chops with oven roasted green beans and pecans, which I tweaked slightly and make with almonds. I also added new fingerling potatoes, a new favorite of my husband. Tender and flavored with fresh herbs, these tiny potatoes are worth the price! The best part of this meal is that it can all be put together in about 35 minutes, making it perfect on a busy weeknight. I'll try and walk you through it, with a timeline that will help you get it on the table quickly too! You are going to love this easy, good for you, springtime dinner! First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash the potatoes and "snap" the beans and rinse them well. (To "snap" them means to remove the stringy ends, totally optional) Drain all the water off of the beans and potatoes and put them on a clean dishtowel to dry out. While they are drying off, prepare the mixture for dredging the pork chops.
Pan Fried Pork Chops
4 center cut pork chops, about 3/4" thick 1/4 c. vegetable oil, for frying 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs 1/4 c. parmesan cheese 1 T. lemon zest 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper Mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, lemon zest and thyme in a wide shallow dish (a pie plate works well). Season your chops with a little salt and pepper, both sides. NEXT, prepare the potatoes.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes 1 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved if large 1 T. olive oil 1 T. chopped fresh rosemary 2 cloves sliced garlic 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper In a ziplock bag, toss the potatoes with the olive oil and herbs. Put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook at 400 for approximately 30 minutes. Go ahead and put them into the oven to get going. NOW, dredge the pork chops and preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Put in the vegetable oil and let it heat up a little. The pan is ready when a breadcrumb dropped into the oil sizzles on contact. Place the chops into the pan, and set your timer for 5 minutes. While they sizzle away, prepare the green beans.
Oven Roasted Green Beans 1 lb. green beans 1 T. olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced 1/4 c. slivered almonds 1 tsp. butter On a cookie sheet, toss the green beans with the olive oil and garlic. Spread them in a single layer and cook in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. While they are cooking, melt the butter and saute the almonds. After 10 minutes, remove the beans and pour the almonds and butter over them. Return them to the oven, and roast 5 - 10 minutes more, until the almonds and beans brown but don't burn! After 5 minutes, turn your chops over and fry for another 5 minutes. Don't let your pan get too hot and burn them! You may need to adjust the heat, so keep your eye on it while you are getting the veggies ready. I cooked the green beans and potatoes in the same oven, simply by putting the beans in after the potatoes had been cooking for about 15 minutes. That way, everything came out hot and ready at the same time. If you chops are ready first, put them on a plate and cover them loosely with foil or put them in a warm (275 degrees) oven.

YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS DINNER!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chicken Stir Fry

Growing up, I don't believe I ever even heard of a "stir fry". My mother never made stir fry, but she did make what she called Pepper Steak. Basically, it was a cheaper grade of steak, sauteed in a little oil -- Wesson Vegetable, I am certain -- with green peppers, onions, celery and lots of soy sauce. She would pour 2 - 3 cups of beef bouillon over this, added in some salt and pepper, and let it cook for at least an hour, over low heat. Closer to dinner time, she made some rice -- always Uncle Ben's Converted, don't ask me why -- and thickened up the broth with a teaspoon or two of cornstarch mixed with 2/3 cup of water. She said the cornstarch would make the broth smooth, no lumps, and she was right. That was the extent of "Chinese" cooking in our house. Tasty, but not too exciting, it seems like comfort food to me, now that I am the grown up. Since we lived in lots of different places, and spent 3 years in Germany, there was not always take-out food available to us, and I guess she figured it out the best that she could!

However, I digress. Stir fry is an easy way to get your vegetables and use up a leftover chicken breast or two. I like to marinate the chicken for for some added flavor. My family likes things spicy so I am always looking for easy ways to "kick it up a notch"! Try my way the first time you make this, and then do it YOUR way. A stir fry is easy, good for you and tasty...plus you get to eat all your vegetables in one meal! Let me say, however, that in my opinion, a good stir fry ALWAYS has onions, garlic, celery and bean sprouts. The other veggies can be anything you want or like, but I've always got to have those basic elements.

Chicken Stir Fry For Four

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Marinated in:

1 tsp. Chinese mustard powder

1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder

2 T. soy sauce

2 T. fish sauce

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Get your rice going: the ratio is always 2 to 1-- that is two cups water, brought to a boil, add in one cup of rice, turn it down and cover it, cook for 16+ minutes until the water is absorbed and you will have 3 cups of rice.

Next prepare your vegetables, chopping everything and slicing it up before you start:

1 medium onion, sliced

2 - 3 sliced garlic cloves

3 ribs celery, cleaned and sliced on the diagonal

1 - 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1/2 c. green pepper, cut in matchsticks OR 1/2 c. shredded carrot

1 c. chopped broccoli

1 c. bean sprouts

Peanut Oil for the stir frying

salt and pepper

a little more soy sauce

1 cup chicken broth

2 - 3 tsp. cornstarch mixed with about 1/2 cup water

Get your pan screaming hot. I use a wok, but any heavy bottomed, large frying pan will work, as long as it has fairly deep sides. Pour a little peanut oil over the bottom and and add in your chicken. Stir that rapidly until it begins to brown and turn opaque. Remove your chicken to a clean bowl (NOT the bowl you had the marinade in -- cross contamination!!) and begin to stir fry your veggies, starting with the heavier ones, like onions, peppers, broccoli and celery. Never overload your pan, always make sure you have room for things to cook and stir around. Remove and add in more as you need too. Don't add the bean sprouts until the very last thing, as they are tender and don't take long to cook. When you've cooked it all up, put it ALL back into the pan, and pour over the chicken broth, a few more T. of soy sauce and lastly the corn starch and water combination. Bring this mixture to a boil, and let it cook through over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Voila, stir fry.....serve over rice.

Don't forget to pass the Sirachi Sauce and crispy rice noodles! Pick up some egg rolls or spring rolls -- it's almost a party! Stir fry at home is tasty and good for you!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle

A beautiful additon to your table, Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle
A few years ago, on an impulse, at one of those at-home-buy-stuff parties, I bought what I thought would be a small punch bowl and pretty stemmed glasses to match it. I learned pretty quickly, that is was a VERY small punch bowl, and much better suited for dessert. Now, I am not much of sweets eater, and rarely eat dessert, but my husband's family really can't leave the table without dessert. How they all stay so thin is beyond me, but such is the inequity of life.




Since I had bought this pretty bowl, with matching serving pieces, I had to come up with something to put in it. Something tasty yet pretty enough to do my impulse purchase justice, thereby validating my shopping. I started out with a few layered jello-type salads, but they were SO big, I had to have a boatload of company to make them. So, I began researching layered desserts. Watching my girl Nigella one morning, way back in the days when she was on the Style Network, I discovered Trifles. A trifle is basically a fruit, cream, cake and liquor concoction, layered into a deep bowl with high sides. The bowl is traditionally glass, the better to show off the layers. Nigella was making an Italian Trifle, which featured mascarpone cheese. Back in 2003, in Richmond, VA no one carried mascarpone cheese except one International grocery store, which was on the other side of town. Since I was still travelling with my small boy fraternity back in those days, I decided to come up with an alternative. It's not so "haute" cuisine as the original, but I promise, it's tasty! I also cut way back on the liquor in my trifle, as I had several under 21 eaters! This dessert is a winner, if I do say so myself.

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle


1.5 lbs. strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved

6 oz. blueberries, washed

1 loaf plain pound cake

1 pint whipped cream

a small jar of lemon curd

1 Jello No Bake cheese cake (plain) (1 1/2 c. cold milk)

3 oz. framboise or Lemoncello liquor

First, prepare your berries, whip your cream and make the cheesecake filling from the package, according to package directions w/the 1 1/2 cups cold milk. Slice the pound cake -- as thinly as you can -- into an even number of pieces. Make sandwiches of the pound cake -- 2 pieces with a little lemon curd spread in between.

Lemon Curd and pound cake

This is what you will use to line the bottom of your trifle dish. Cut them into halves or quarters as needed to line the bottom and a little ways up the sides. Save 3 or 4 to use in another layer. Drizzle about 1.5 oz. of framboise or lemoncello over the sandwiches, as shown below:

Drizzle the liquor over the pound cake.

The next layer will be a layer of fruit, half of the halved strawberries, half of the blueberries, drizzled with a little more of the framboise or lemoncello.


Top with lots of berries!
Next, spoon on half of the cheesecake batter and half of the whipped cream. Now do it again.
First, your remaining lemon curd sanwiches, cut into 3rds. Drizzle a little liquor, arrange the rest of the berries in a pretty pattern, pressing a few against the sides of the bowl, so that they show (be sure to save a few pretty berries for the very top!). Next, smooth over the other half of the cheesecake batter, the rest of the whipped cream and a sprinkling of the graham cracker crumbs from the cheesecake box. Finally a few choice berries for decoration. Voila! Isn't it pretty?

Finished Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle

Sunday, March 27, 2011

National Grilled Cheese Month!


When I was a little girl, traveling around with my career army family, the one thing that never failed to thrill my taste buds was a grilled cheese sandwich. I've had them everywhere, all over America and Europe, and I don't think I ever met one I didn't like! In honor of March being National Grilled Cheese Month, I pulled out my handy dandy sandwich grill and made a few entries that could possibly qualify for the Grilled Cheese Hall of Fame. Try them out and let me know what you think!


First, I made a Chicken Pesto with Roasted Red Peppers and Provolone. I used some good sourdough bread, slightly stale, that I found on the half price rack at the supermarket. I mixed up a quick pesto sauce with olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, basil and Parmesan (you can search my blog if you want exact proportions, I wrote them up a while ago). I had some a leftover grilled chicken breast in the frig, so I thinly sliced that up. I also had provolone cheese and a jar of roasted red peppers that was already opened. The assembly was easy: A slice of sourdough, a smear of pesto, a slice and a half of provolone, some chicken, a little roasted red pepper and some more provolone (after all, this IS a grilled CHEESE sandwich, no skimping on cheese!). I lightly brushed the grill with olive oil, thinly spread the sandwich with a little room temperature butter, and let it grill baby, GRILL! 


Second, I made a Classic Caprese Grilled Cheese. For this sandwich, I used Italian bread, sliced sort of thinly, a fresh mozzarella cheese (the round kind that is packed in water). I added on the classic caprese ingredients, sliced Roma tomatoes and thinly sliced basil leaves, topped with a little more cheese. Once again, a lightly oiled grill, and a little butter spread on the bread, and onto the grill.


Third, I mixed things up with a Mozarella, Pesto, Red Pepper and Chicken Grilled Cheese. For the third sammie, I used what I had on hand and just layered it up. I used another slice of the sourdough bread, smeared with a little pesto, some sliced grilled chicken and more of the fresh mozzarella. There was a big basil leaf left over, so I added that too, and back to the lightly oiled grill with another schmear of butter. Toasting away, grilled cheese heaven!


Don't be afraid to experiment around and celebrate the end of March Madness with a few new takes on that old favorite, Grilled Cheese! Happy Eating!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strawberry Time!

Fresh strawberries, red and ripe

Look what I found in the market today....fresh, Florida strawberries, and they smell and taste like STRAWBERRIES! A sure sign spring is here (I told you it was coming!) ...
Check back in a few days for a tribute to National Grill Cheese month!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Comfort Food -- Not my Mom's Meatloaf


When I was growing up, meatloaf was the MOST dreaded dinner my mother served. Where she got her recipe, I'll never know, but it was awful. Terrible. Dreadful. I won't elaborate any further, except to say that for some misinformed reason, she made it with dried onions (not onion soup) and dried green peppers. Think leathery, chewy weird stuff in greasy ground beef. Yuck.

Let me add a disclaimer and say that, for the most part, my mom was a good cook. I made her fried chicken last night, and it simply can not be beat, nor can her chili, which I've blogged earlier. (Search chili at the top if you want to try it.)
Fast forward 15 or 20 years, and now I am the mom, on a budget, trying to figure out another way to serve ground beef. By this time, "hamburger" has progressed, so that you can purchase lower fat versions, and I've been around enough to have eaten meatloaf that actually tastes good. I experimented and finally hit on a recipe that my family loves (with the exception of one son who will remain nameless, like Voldemort). Try MY meatloaf, and forget greasy, nasty extended meat logs with chewy weird stuff.
Meatloaf Your Family Will Love

1 lb. 90% (or higher) lean ground beef

1 egg

1/3 c. minced onion

1/4 c. minced green pepper

1 T. worchestershire sauce

1 tsp. finely minced or grated garlic

1 T. Sauer's* barbeque sauce + 1 more for topping

2 T. V 8 juice

1 T. catsup + 1 more for topping

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 c. dried bread crumbs (use plain, but if you have Italian style, use that and eliminate the orgegano, salt and pepper)

1/3 c. parmesan cheese

pinch salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


In a medium to large bowl, mix together ground beef, egg, worchestershire sauce, onion, green pepper, garlic, V8, 1 T. of barbeque sauce and catsup, and oregano. Add in the salt and pepper, bread crumbs and parmesan until the mixture just holds togethera and the vegetables look evenly distributed. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and press your meatloaf mixture into it. Top the meatloaf with the remaining 1 T. of catsup and barbeque sauce.


Bake for about 45 minutes until the juices run clear.


Serve it with some roasted vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes, and don't forget to pass the catsup!


*We like Sauer's barbeque sauce because it is not too sweet, but you can use your family's favorite brand.




















Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Old Fashioned Beef Stew



With a few common ingredients and a little prep time, you can create a hearty, comforting stew that will make everyone at the table feel right at home. I like to make this the night before or early in the morning and then put it into the crock pot to cook all day. Your house will be filled with a savory aroma that will call your family to the dinner table right on time! It's a humble stew, not much to look at, but delicious nonetheless.


Old Fashioned Beef Stew

1 1/3 lb. stew beef
2 T. olive oil
1 large chopped onion
1 tsp. chopped garlic
a little sprinkle of both salt and fresh ground pepper
1 T. A-1 Steak Sauce (deepens the color)
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 can beef consomme'
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh)
1/3 cup + 2 T. flour, divided use
1/2 c. dry red wine
3 1/2 c. water
3 T. tomato paste
1 c. sliced carrots
3 large all purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed
1+ tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 c. halved mushrooms + 1 tsp. butter (optional)

Cut your beef into 1 to 1 1/2" cubes, removing any excess fatty bits. In a dutch oven, heat your olive oil over medium high heat, and add beef, stirring to sear on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper (it's important to season as you go along, it helps develop the flavors).

When the beef is browned, add the onion and the garlic, and continue to stir until the onion starts to soften. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the A-1 and then 1/3 c. of flour, making sure all of the flour gets incorporated into the beef mixture (that means no white shows). Let this brown for a few minutes, and add the consomme', water, wine, bay leaf and tomato paste. Stir well and bring this to a boil. Stir in the thyme, carrots and potatoes. Season the stew with the remaining salt and pepper.

At this point, you have several options. You can put the stew into a crock pot, and leave it to simmer for 8 hours. OR you can finish the stew in the oven, set at 325 degrees for 3 hours. OR you can let it simmer on low heat on the stove for 2 - 3 hours. If you opt for stove top cooking, you will need to stir the stew at least every 30 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. About an hour before you plan to serve, check the stew for thickness and seasoning. If it does not seem thick enough, shake the 2 T. flour in a small jar with a little water until the flour dissolves and add it to the stew. You should also add your mushrooms at this point if you are using them. I like to saute them briefly in a tsp. of butter before adding them to the stew. This is a trick I saw Ina Garten do on TV and it definitely gives a nice rich flavor, right there at the end of the cooking process.
Make sure to taste the stew, because the potatoes absorb alot of salt and you may need to add a little more.

Serve this with some crusty bread and perhaps a simple romaine lettuce salad. Or serve it all alone, after all, it's got everything you need for a well rounded dinner cooked right in!












Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Here's a light, springtime dish that can easily serve as a vegetarian main dish, a side dish or an appetizer: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. I made this up as I went along, using what I had in my pantry and refrigerator, and the results were so good, I've concluded it must be hard to mess this dish up! Man oh man, were they delish! We ate this alonside a piece of tilapia, that I "oven poached". The hearty mushrooms balanced nicely with the delicate fish, and we hardly knew we were eating healthy -- something I have to sometimes hide from my family! My son does not care for mushrooms, so I set aside some stuffing for him to eat as a side dish. The extra used as a side dish was really good too, so don't hesitate to try this even if you don't like mushrooms! If you have not tried Portobellos, because of the cost, which I admit can be daunting, check your local big box store or Trader Joe's, where they are a little more affordable. If you don't want to spring for Portobellos, there is no reason this could not be stuffed into white mushroom caps. That way, they would be a perfect appetizer bite!






Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms


2 Portobello mushrooms


1 medium onion (about 2/3 c.)


2 minced garlic cloves


2 T. olive oil, divided use


2-3 big handfulls baby spinach, stemmed, washed and dried


2 pieces whole grain bread, stale is better, toasted


6 stems fresh thyme


1/4 c. dry white wine


salt and pepper


a few drops of balsamic vinegar

a few shavings of parmesan reggiano, optional


Over medium heat, in a large, shallow skillet, add one T. olive oil, the onion and garlic. Saute for several minutes, until the onion begins to get translucent. Remove the mushroom stems, wipe them down, chop them (small pieces, discarding any part that seems too "woody") and add to the skillet. Rough chop the spinach and add to the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Strip the leaves from the thyme stems and add this also. Continue to saute over low heat, while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your mushroom caps.


To prepare the mushrooms, dampen a clean dish towel or a heavy duty paper towel. Wipe the exterior of the mushrooms clean of all debris, and peal off any of the looser "skin"from the outside of the caps -- it will kind of come off in strips. Don't worry if it all does not come off, just make sure they are wiped cleanly. With a teaspoon, make a shallow indentation in the center where the stem was -- you can add this little bit to the skillet also.


Add a tablespoon of white wine to the skillet and stir this in.Crumble up your toast, into small pieces and add to the mixture, incorporating it well. Taste and correct the seasoning -- you may need a little more salt at this point. Stuff the mixture into the mushrooms, mounding it up slightly. This amount will make more than enough for 2 mushrooms, with a little left over for another mushroom (or 2) or a side dish for a non-mushroom eating teenager.


Place the mushrooms into a casserole and pour the rest of the wine around the sides. Put them into the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the mushrooms soften. When you remove them, sprinkle a drop or 2 of balsamic vinegar over each. Top with a shave or 2 of parmesan reggiano, if desired.


I bet you are going to love this dish! Let me know what you think!




Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't Save This Dish For a Special Occasion Creamy Crab and Shrimp with Linguine

There is simply nothing like crabmeat from the Chesapeake Bay. I've tried lots of different types from all over the world, and you will never convince me that there is any better than our local favorite. The one drawback, naturally, is the price. Even in season, in Richmond, VA, the price hovers around $16 per pound. I created this dish to make that pound go a long way and feed a crowd. Rich and creamy, with a little shrimp thrown in for added texture, this will satisfy your yen for crabby goodness!
Creamy Crab Casserole
1 lb. regular crabmeat, picked clean of shells and debris
1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 stick butter
1 clove minced garlic
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. flour
8 oz. light cream (table cream, not heavy whipping cream)
2 T. light cream cheese
2 - 3 T. white wine or sherry (totally optional, a matter of taste)
about 10 basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced.
1 lb. linguine cooked to just al dente (should be firm to the tooth)
Melt butter in a large, deep skillet and add the minced garlic. Saute for a few minutes and add your picked over crab meat (DO NOT omit picking over the crabmeat for shells and cartlidge -- no matter who you buy it from, there will be stuff in there you don't want to chew!). Add the Worcestershire sauce and stir till well combined. Grind in a little black pepper, and stir in the flour. Saute this mixture until ALL of the flour is absorbed, then add the cream, wine and cream cheese. Continue to stir until the cream cheese melts and you have a smooth, creamy, crabby sauce. At this point you may want to taste the mixture for seasoning, it may need a little salt, or more pepper. If it still has a little raw flour taste, continue to saute over low heat for a few more minutes.
Spray a 9"X13" pan with cooking spray. Layer the barely cooked linguini in the bottom and top with the crabmeat mixture, thinly sliced basil and the raw shrimp. Over the top sprinkle 1/2 c. parmesan reggiano cheese, if desired. (I know, I know, no cheese with seafood, but I like it!)
At this point you can cover and refrigerate your dish for up to 2 days or bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until hot throughout and the shrimp on the top have turned pink.
This dish will serve 6 adults as a main dish. If you make a 'surf and turf" kind of dinner, with a grilled meat, you can easily serve 8 to 10 people. This is a rich, decadent kind of casserole that makes it perfect for company -- but don't just serve it on special occasions -- treat yourself now and then!