Monday, November 30, 2015

Ginger Cookies

We're kicking off a week of holiday baked goods today, dear readers.

Actually, my daughters and I got the baking party started last week by appearing Friday on Fox 46's Good Day Charlotte to show off our Sugar Cookies. (Click here to watch the "What's Your Dish?" segment featuring Lucy, Penny and me. Click here to read the blog post all about it.)

Anyhow, ginger cookies are my favorite cookies of all time. Always have been, always will be. And now my two little gingers love baking and eating them, too!

My mom made ginger cookies for me throughout my childhood. Sometimes I'd ask for these cookies -- like ginger snaps but soft -- instead of birthday cake. I still would -- no matter that my birthday is in June.

I say make ginger cookies this holiday season and all year round!


PS: The key to ginger cookies is to find unsulphured blackstrap molasses. Molasses comes from sugar cane and is the byproduct in the production of sugar. Juice extracted from sugar cane is boiled up to three times to become three different kinds of molasses -- light molasses from the first boiling, dark molasses from the second boiling and blackstrap molasses from the third boiling. In these ginger cookies, blackstrap molasses brings out the flavor of the cloves, ginger and cinnamon, whereas light molasses makes some disappoing, bland cookies. Blackstrap molasses is super healthy too, so pass me another cookie. Kidding. No, seriously, for real, pass me another cookie.

PPS: I never bake a single batch of cookies. If I'm getting out all my baking supplies, I'm going to make it worth the effort and double the recipe. This recipe doubles nicely and the cookies freeze well after they are baked, too.

Ginger Cookies
Yields about five dozen cookies

2 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling cookie dough
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons unsulphured blackstrap molasses
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to slightly runny

Combine all  dry ingredients, except sugar, and set aside. Mix together sugar and all other ingredients. Gradually add the dry mix to the egg and butter mixture. Refrigerate cookie dough for a few hours or overnight -- or place in freezer for a shorter amount of time. Basically, you want to dough to harden a bit so that  you can roll it into balls.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into small balls and then roll in sugar. Bake on ungreased or lightly greased cookie sheets for about 9 minutes. You will see the bottoms of the cookies turn very slightly brown. Be careful not to overbake!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Good Day Charlotte Features George Girls and Sugar Cookies

Dear readers, you know how I like to be in the kitchen with my daughters, right? Well, we spent some special time cooking this morning. On live TV. OK, it wasn't actually cooking. But it was live TV. Lucy, 8, Penny, 6, and I went on Fox 46's Good Day Charlotte to show how we make holiday Sugar Cookies in a "What's Your Dish?" segment.

Pretty sweet time! Or, as Lucy said, "They're delicious!"

(VIDEO): What's Your Dish? Amy George and her daughters Lucy and Penny show us how to make Christmas  Sugar Cookies

In case you missed it, earlier this month, I appeared on "What's Your Dish?," which features area food bloggers, to demonstrate roasted chicken, chicken stock and chicken noodle soup. Lucy and Penny tagged along for moral support and got a taste for broadcast stardom and just had to return.

(BLOG POST): Cooking Chicken 3 Ways on Fox 46's Good Day Charlotte

(VIDEO): What's Your Dish? Amy George Makes Roasted Chicken

Anyhow, today was even sweeter, because my sous chefs got to go on air with me! And who doesn't like an excuse to eat sugar cookies before 9 a.m.?

Stay tuned to this blog next week when we will post three more holiday baking recipes. On Monday, I'll bring you Ginger Cookies. On Wednesday, Andrea will treat you to Cherry Orange White Chocolate 7-Layer Bars. And on Friday, Erin will feature her mom's Kris Kringles.

Happy holidays, readers and fellow bringers of hot dinner! We hope they are the sweetest.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fried Matzah

My husband spent many years working in restaurants, but he rarely cooks. When he does, he makes Fried Matzah.

This Thanksgiving weekend, as I'm prepping the turkey and sides, he'll whip up this tasty breakfast for our house full of guests.

It's a meal he learned from his father. Also called Matzah (or Matzo) Brei, this is a traditional Passover dish, but we eat it whenever the husband feels like making it.

When I shared the news of the husband's meal-making with my mom, she reminded me that my Uncle Rick used to make us Matzo Brei, too. It's a comforting, homey, simple meal that satisfies and fills you up. And it's easy to vary the recipe to suit your particular tastes, like adding fresh herbs or topping the finished fried matzah with shredded cheese or apple sauce.

So, as you prepare for your Turkey Day feast, invite someone else into the kitchen to do the breakfast honors so that you can enjoy a little down time.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fried Matzah
This recipe serves 4-5 people.

10 full matzo crackers (the husband prefers Manischewitz)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided
5 green onions or 1 red onion, finely diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 eggs
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, optional

Break up the matzo into smaller pieces and put them into a strainer. Run the strainer and crackers under hot water, tossing the crackers a few times until they are dampened but not softened. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and onions starts to soften. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Crack eggs into large bowl and whisk to combine. Place pieces of matzo into eggs, ensuring pieces do not stick together.

Let the matzo soak in the eggs for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add butter and let it melt. Then pour matzo and egg mixture into pan. Add salt and pepper.

Using a large spatula, flip pieces of the matzo so that it cooks evenly. After eggs begin to firm up, add the cooked onions and garlic and any herbs. Continue to turn sections of the matzo-egg mixture, breaking up large pieces.

Cook until the eggs are no longer runny and the matzo is lightly browned. Divide among 4 or 5 plates and serve. If you like, top with some shredded cheese, apple sauce or sour cream.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Growing up I always liked cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, even though all my family ever did was open up a can of Ocean Spray. Imagine my surprise when many years later, I discovered the awesomeness of homemade cranberry sauce.

At Thanksgiving 2006, I found my forever cranberry sauce -- the kind I have been making every year since and will contine to make for ... well forever. That year, my editor Mike and his wife Alison invited us to celebrate the holiday at their house. I was three weeks away from having my first baby, so you can imagine how relieved I was not to be cooking. I had nothing else to do but stuff my face. What I remember the most: the cranberry sauce, spiced with cloves. I liked the cranberry sauce so much that Alison kindly shared the recipe, which she'd gotten from Mike's mom.

I've shared my forever cranberry sauce recipe with so many friends and  now with you, dear readers. Enjoy and have a very happy Thanksgiving!


PS: Check out Erin's Thanksgiving Round-Up, in which she offers up Citrus and Ginger Cranberry Sauce a la her mother-in-law.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup pineapple juice

Combine all items in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Adjust heat down to medium or medium high and cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot or cold. This cranberry sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen, too.

One final thing: I always double this recipe so that there's enough for Thanksgiving leftovers and even some for Christmas. It's easy to do since the recipe calls for a pound of cranberries but Ocean Spray packages berries in 12 ounce bags; just buy three bags of berries to double.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Round-Up

The Thanksgiving countdown is on. Today I'm sharing my perfect Thanksgiving menu.

Let's get cooking!

Spiked Cider: Get the party started right with a holiday cocktail. Make a giant batch of Spiked Cider and keep it warm in your slow cooker so guests can help themselves.

Roast Turkey Breast with Gravy: I like to brine the bird to ensure it's moist and delicious. Roasting just the breast is easier and faster than roasting the whole, plus it takes up less room in your fridge and oven.

Mashed Potatoes: Prepare these babies the day before Thanksgiving and then bake them just before dinner.

Stuffing with Sausage & Cranberries: Stuffing is totally my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Salty sausage, crunchy pecans, sweet cranberries...this recipe has it all.

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: Maple syrup! Bacon!! I think that's all I need to say about this one.

Cranberry Sauce: I put this Cranberry Sauce on everything. And it's the perfect condiment for a leftover turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving.

Apple Pie: C'mon now. It's a classic.

Gooey Pumpkin Bars: Because one dessert is never enough on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Apple, Lemon & Tomato Chicken

When I was growing up, my mom would leave notes on the kitchen table for my brother, sister and I to find when we got home from school. Usually there were instructions on what to start getting ready for dinner. The dish we made most often was baked chicken with paprika and garlic.

When I got my first job, I wanted to expand the chicken recipes I knew how to cook. I came across 365 Ways to Cook Chicken in a local bookstore and have been using it ever since. (I got my Mom a copy, too.)

This one-pot meal is full of fall flavors and is easy to make. Be sure to thinly slice the lemon so that the rind softens and you can eat it along with everything else in the dish. Now that I have kids, I serve this with egg noodles, but it tastes just delicious on its own, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Apple, Lemon & Tomato Chicken
Adapted from the 365 Ways to Cook Chicken cookbook

1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
4 thin, skinless, boneless chicken breasts (you can pound out thicker breasts to make them thinner)
1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
2 apples, cored and sliced
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
8 ounces egg noodles cooked to package directions (optional)

In a bowl combine tomatoes, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Toss onion slices over chicken. Pour tomato sauce on top. Lay lemon slices over everything.

Bring to a boil. Then cover pan with a lid and lower the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add apple slices. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes, until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken and apples to a platter and keep warm.

Add dissolved corn starch to sauce in pan and turn heat up to high. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring until sauce thickens. Spoon sauce over chicken and apples.

Serve with egg noodles if you like.

You can find the 365 Ways to Cook Chicken cookbook on Amazon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears

You know what goes nicely with Andrea's Buttermilk Spoonbread? You know what would make a tasty appetizer?

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears.

Cooking really can be that simple, my friends.

I made this combo for dinner the other night and it reminded me of a grown-up version of breakfast for dinner. Truthfully, my husband hates breakfast for dinner (a.k.a. brinner), so this was a genius move on my part.


Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears

Equal number of asparagus spears and prosciutto slices
Melted butter or olive oil, couple tablespoons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim asparagus. My mom has a friend who taught her how to trim the right amount and I think of Mom's friend every time I make asparagus. So with your sharp knife start at the very bottom of the asparagus and tap your way toward the top until you feel a slight give. When you feel the give, that's where you cut.

Wrap one piece of prosciutto around each stalk.

Brush each stalk with melted butter or olive oil.

Place in oven until asparagus is roasted and prosciutto is crispy, about five minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Spears

The ladies of Hot Dinner Happy Home clearly have zucchini on the brain. Last week, Andrea posted these tasty Zucchini Pancakes, and today I'm sharing a recipe for Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Spears.

With a cheesy, crisp crust, these veggie spears will trick you (and your unsuspecting family) into thinking you're eating a decadent side dish. But feel free to have an extra brownie for dessert, because these Zucchini Spears are as healthy as they are delicious. Zucchini cancels out brownie, right? That's what I keep telling myself.

Let's get cooking!

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Spears
Adapted from these Asparagus Fries

3 small zucchini, cut into spears 1/2" wide by 2" long
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss zucchini with oil, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. You may need to press the mixture onto the zucchini to make sure it sticks. Place zucchini in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, flipping carefully halfway through baking, until zucchini is dark golden brown.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cincinnati Chili

Every time we visit Cincinnati, we make at least one visit to the iconic chili parlor in our old neighborhood. Chili is this Ohio city's signature dish and I've been trying to recreate the exact taste for years.

My husband grew up eating this soup-like meat sauce served over spaghetti and topped with a gigantic mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese. This is the 3-way. Add onions on top for a 4-way; add beans to make it a 5-way. You must sprinkle on some oyster crackers (or 'Cincinnati crackers' as my son Sam calls them) before you eat this meal. The crackers soak up the sauce that the spaghetti doesn't catch.

You can also ladle this chili onto a hot dog in a bun and load it with cheese for a coney.

Cincinnati-style chili originated with immigrants from Macedonia and Greece who created the dish to appeal to more customers.

My boys have been eating this chili since they could hold a spoon. My first exposure came when I was in college, and the taste has grown on me ever since.

What sets Cincinnati chili apart is the tenderness of the ground beef (achieved by cooking the meat in water) and the blend of spices, which I'm still trying to perfect.

This recipe is the closest I've come to mimicking the flavor of my family's favorite brand of Cincinnati chili. (If you want to try the real deal, look for cans or frozen packages of Skyline Chili or Gold Star Chili in your grocery store.) What's served in Cincinnati's chili parlors does not have onion or beans cooked with the meat, but we like it that way. If you want to be more traditional, save the onions and beans for topping.

Lots of online resources debate whether the original recipe used bay leaves or cumin. We'll probably never know the secret blend. If you have ideas or tips on how to tweak the spices, tell us!

Mangia! Mangia!

Cincinnati Chili

2 cups of water
20 ounces ground beef (cut the fat and use 1 pound 90% lean ground sirloin and 4 ounces 80% lean ground chuck)
1 large or jumbo sweet onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 ounce can plus 3/4 cup tomato sauce, unsalted
3 teaspoons tablespoon cider vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 bay leaf
1 15 ounce can of unsalted dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound to 3/4 pound spaghetti, cooked to package directions

Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped onion
Warm kidney beans
Oyster crackers

Using a Dutch oven or other sturdy large pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add ground beef, breaking up and stirring to crumble the meat into very small pieces.

Stir in all other ingredients (using 2 teaspoons of the cider vinegar) up to and including the bay leaf. Return contents to a low simmer and then partially cover. Cook between 1.5 and 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until sauce just starts to thicken. You want to maintain a nearly soup-like consistency.

Add in kidney beans and cook for another 5 minutes or until heated through. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar and remove from heat.

Fill bowls with about 1/2 cup of spaghetti. Add about 1 cup of chili. Top with shredded cheese, onions, kidney beans and oyster crackers to taste.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cooking Chicken 3 Ways on Fox 46's Good Day Charlotte

Consider the following post a bit of a #humblebrag.

We at Hot Dinner Happy Home have been grinning ear to ear and virtual high-fiving all weekend. You see, Charlotte's Fox affiliate asked Amy to come on Good Day Charlotte and demonstrate a recipe in a "What's Your Dish?" segment that features local food bloggers. Ever the overachiever, Amy opted to show three recipes: her signature Amy's Roasted Chicken, Slow Cooker Chicken Stock and Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Our favorite line in the three-and-a-half  minute segment: "Do not fear the whole chicken." As Erin put it in one of many group texts between your three Bringers of Hot Dinner: "That's our message on HDHH. Just get in the kitchen  and don't be afraid! BRAVO!"

Thank you, dear readers, for keeping up with our culinary adventures and indulging us as we say, "Yay, us!"

Erin, Andrea & Amy

PS: Amy's family -- husband, Jeff,  and daughters,  Lucy and Penny -- tagged along for moral support. The girls even  got to be in a promo spot in which the anchor said they were studying up to come back and cook with Mom! A good day in Charlotte, indeed!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

You guys. Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away. I. Am. So. Excited.

Are you hosting this year? Going to your mom's house? Maybe heading to the neighbors' for Friendsgiving? And the most important question...what are you making for the big day?

This is the first year since 2006 that I'm not hosting Thanksgiving, and I'm pretty psyched to be taking a back seat. It'll be a nice change of pace, especially with the baby and all. Babies aren't conducive to cooking all of the things. I'll be putting all of my Thanksgiving culinary love into the cranberry sauce. And then I'll just enjoy the hard work of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

Today's Slow Cooker Turkey Breast is perfect if you're feeding a small group for Thanksgiving. Or if you're not hosting, but you'd still like some turkey to slice for sandwiches the next day. This is easy, set-it-and-forget-it cooking. Plus it frees up your oven for the stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, apple pie...

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Like the idea of a turkey breast, but looking for a more traditionally cooked bird? Look no further! Check out this recipe for a brined and oven-roasted turkey breast.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

6-7 pound bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
3 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Sprinkle salt and poultry seasoning evenly over turkey breast. Place onion, carrots, and bay leaves on the bottom of the slow cooker and pour the broth on top of the vegetables. Top with turkey.

Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Allow turkey to rest for 10 minutes. The skin gets a little soggy, so I recommend removing it before slicing and serving the turkey.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Zucchini Pancakes

Yes, I'm using zucchini in yet another recipe. The prolific vegetable is the ideal blank slate or accompaniment for so many meals, as evidenced by it's frequent appearance in our happy homes.

Zucchini's mild taste and Mom-approved nutritional value make it a great food for healthy eaters.

One medium zucchini with its skin provides about 7 grams of carbohydrates, including 2 grams from dietary fiber and 3 grams from sugars. It also has 2 grams of protein and lots of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium.

Some of my favorites? Blueberry Zucchini Bread and Zucchini Rice. And of course these tasty pancakes. I try to use as little flour as possible so that the zucchini takes charge.

These savory bites are just the thing when you need a vegetarian main course or a fun side dish.

And who can say no to pancakes served up with a dollop of sour cream?

Mangia! Mangia!

Zucchini Pancakes

2 medium zucchini, shredded
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 large egg
1/2 a yellow or white onion, finely chopped (or use 1 bunch green onions, finely sliced)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 to 6 tablespoons flour (white, whole wheat or gluten free)
Several tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
Several tablespoons butter

Place zucchini in a strainer and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let drain for about 10 minutes. Press with wooden spoon to squeeze out moisture.

Whisk egg in a bowl. Add zucchini, onion, cheese, nutmeg, pepper and flour. Mix until well combined. If the batter is too wet, add another tablespoon of flour.

Now you're ready to fry up your fritters — in batches.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 10-inch or 12-inch skillet (cast iron works well here) until hot. Drop heaping tablespoons of zucchini batter (about 1/4 cup) into skillet and flatten just a little with a spatula.

Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer pancakes to a plate lined with paper towels.

Wipe out skillet if needed and repeat the cooking process until you've used up all of the batter.

Serve with sour cream.

Zucchini pancakes freeze really well. After thawing you can reheat them in the oven. Place on a cookie sheet and broil for 1 or 2 minutes.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sausage and Mint Stuffed Tomatoes

I brought this recipe back from France 20 years ago. Gosh, that makes me feel very grown-up. Not old, just grown-up.

Anyhow, back in Fall 1995 I was living in Paris and interning at the Associated Press. The woman I boarded with made these sausage and mint stuffed tomatoes. She'd also pick up lamb or a whole fish from the outdoor market and do nothing in the way of prep, literally just throwing them in the oven. But when dinner was ready, it was incroyable. Until I met Francoise, I'd never seen anyone cook so simply and so wonderfully at the same time.

I still haven't made a whole fish, though it is on my culinary bucket list. But I have made these tomatoes beaucoup. Merci, Francoise.


Sausage and Mint Stuffed Tomatoes

4 red tomatoes, beefsteak are ideal
3/4 pound to 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage
1/3 to 3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
Handful of mint, roughly chopped
Salt, pepper to taste

First, remember that all quantities are approximate. All depends on how large your tomatoes are, how much you like mint, how bready or meaty you like your sausage stuffing and how many people you are feeding. While big beefsteak tomatoes are best, heirlooms won't work due to their odd shapes, which make it hard to form a big hole inside the tomato to fill with the sausage stuffing.

The last time I made this dish, which was for this blog, I had smallish vine ripened tomatoes (see photo), which weren't ideal, but I made do. I used 3/4 pound of sausage and 1/3 cup breadcrumbs. While the meat and bread crumb ratios will change depending on the size of your tomatoes, you can pretty much always get away with using just one egg.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Hollow out your tomatoes so there is a hole for the sausage stuffing. Place tomatoes in baking dish.

Combine sausage, bread crumbs, egg and mint. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Stuff tomatoes. Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the sausage should be brown and crispy and the inside should be barely pinkish.