The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce

The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce - Dinner Is Served3When was the last time you raved about cranberry sauce?  Too often it’s an afterthought to the Thanksgiving meal.  Hosts feel obligated to include it but often do not put a lot of effort into it.  Well with just the minimal amount of effort and the addition of tart cherries, you can elevate this side sauce to new levels.  20171119_201227250_iOS

The entire sauce comes together in under 20 minutes and can be made several days in advance.  A pinch of cloves adds a nice depth to the flavor as well.

Remember too that cranberry sauce is not just for Thanksgiving! It makes a wonderful topping for warm, baked brie  or served alongside roast pork or a seared duck breast.  And of course with leftover turkey sandwiches!

If you’re not feeling the cherry thing, take a look at the other fantastic cranberry sauce recipe here on Dinner Is Served: Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Pinot Noir

Happy food prep to one and all!The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce - DInner Is Served1

The BEST Cranberry-Cherry Sauce*

  • 2 1/2 cups cherry cider, cherry juice or cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 8-ounce package dried tart cherries (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Bring juice to simmer in a heavy, large saucepan.  Add dried cherries and remove from heat. Let stand 8 minutes. Mix in sugar, then cranberries and cloves. Over medium-high heat, bring sauce to a boil.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst, about 9 minutes.  Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours (sauce will thicken). Can be prepared up to four days in advance.  Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.

*Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

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Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes

 

Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 3Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart.  A wonderful mix of comfort food, family time.  And chaos.  A little of which is expected but too much can quickly turn the fun family celebration into “next year we’re getting take-out!”   One of the biggest culprits in that mix of kitchen calamity: mashed potatoes.

To be clear, mashed potatoes are a MUST at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner if for no other reason than to serve as a vessel to hold all the delicious gravy.  But that last minute mashing and hauling out of the hand mixer or ricer and “how do we keep them warm while we carve the turkey” conundrum.

The solution?  This incredibly easy make-ahead mashed potato casseroleThanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 5 Buttery Yukon Gold potatoes are whipped with a little sour cream and topped with a golden, crunchy Parmesan/Panko topping.  And best of all: IT CAN ALL BE prepped up to three days before so no frantic, last minute mashing!

A couple of recipe notes. You may certainly use any kind of potatoes you wish, although I am very partial to the Yukon Golds when it comes to mashed potatoes.  Purchase the largest ones you can find to minimize the amount of peeling.Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 1

And speaking of peeling, if you don’t already own a Zyliss Vegetable Peeler, BUY ONE NOW!  For about $9 and free shipping (if you’re an Amazon Prime member), you will get a peeler that will peel vegetables with such ease, you’ll wonder how you ever got along with out it.  WELL WORTH THE MONEY!Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served 2

Another item worth purchasing for this dish and countless others is a jar of Trader Joe’s Seasoning Salt.  It’s wonderfully balanced and adds a nice depth of flavor without overwhelming the dish.Trader Joe's Seasoned Salt

Lastly a plug for using freshly grated Parmesan cheese in all that you cook. If you can spring for the real deal, Parmigiano Reggiano, go for it!  Otherwise there are plenty of domestic brands that taste great (BelGioioso’s Parmesan Cheese is a fave).Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

The more you can do ahead of time, the more you can spend with your family and loved ones and enjoy a chaos-free holiday.  Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!

Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole*

  • 7 TBS softened unsalted butter + more to grease pan
  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 TBS + 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp Trader Joe’s Seasoning Salt (or other brand of seasoned salt)
  • 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dash paprika
  • Chopped chives (optional)

Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish (See Note 1>)  and set aside.

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Add 1 TBS salt and partially cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat then lower heat, uncover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are just tender and still holding their shape.

Drain, then place potatoes back in the pot.  Place pot over medium heat, shaking pan, for about 30 seconds to let some of the excess moisture evaporate.  Remove from heat.

Mash potatoes using either a ricer, potato masher or hand mixer (see Note 2>).  Add 5 TBS of the butter, sour cream, 3/4 tsp each: Kosher salt, Seasoned Salt and white pepper.  Using a rubber spatula, spoon potatoes into prepared baking dish. (Can be prepared up to three days ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before final baking).

Combine in a small bowl, remaining 2 TBS softened butter, Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Using your fingers, break up butter and combine to form coarse crumbs.  (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before final baking).

Heat oven to 400°.  Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the casserole.  Sprinkle a little paprika over top.  Bake until golden and bread crumb topping is golden, about 30 minutes (Note> If you double recipe, it may take up to 40 minutes).

Remove from oven.  Garnish with fresh chives and serve.

Serves: 6

*Recipe adapted from New York Times

NOTE 1> If doubling recipe, use a 9×13-inch baking pan

NOTE 2> For fluffy, super smooth mashed potatoes, nothing works like a Potato Ricer.   Standard Potato Mashers get the job done, although more likely to leave some lumps behind (which…some people LIKE lumps!).  Last but not least, a sturdy Hand Mixer will get the job done in no time.  Just be sure not to over mix or potatoes will become gummy.

NOTE 3> For a gluten free version, use Kikkoman’s Gluten Free Panko Breadcrumbs.

Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Casserole - Dinner Is Served

 

 

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto

 

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This one’s been on my list FOREVER to share with you as it’s one of my very favorite ways to serve shrimp. It’s very simple to make and…I just happen to have an ample supply of basil in my garden right now (yes, basil pesto has already been made!)Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served4 Grilled shrimp make the perfect summertime patio meal, accompanied by a green salad, fresh ciabatta bread and a crisp white.  They also make a wonderful appetizer.  Versatility: it’s a good thing!

Start with a classic white wine/lemon marinade that’s spruced up with some fresh chopped basil and Dijon mustard: Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served1

Then let your gorgeous shrimp marinate for a good three hours in the fridge. You can probably get away with two hours.  I wouldn’t go longer than four:Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served2Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served3

To assemble, just wrap a fresh basil leaf around each shrimp, followed by a strip of prosciutto and grill, basting with the reserved marinade. The result is juicy shrimp with just enough lemon and basil flavors, surrounded by smokey, crispy prosciutto.

We’re headed up to the great state of Wisconsin for a little R&R then back to harvest this year’s honey (you can see our hives in the photo below).   Looking forward to sharing that with you!  Until then…be well, eat well, love lots!  And may all your days be as beautiful as the one we had yesterday here in Chicago20170729_232905956_iOS

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto

  • 1# Jumbo – to Colossal size shrimp, peeled and deveined (See NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Fresh or coarsely ground black pepper
  • About 15 large fresh basil leaves (or 1 per shrimp)
  • About 15 thin slices of prosciutto (or 1 per shrimp)  For smaller shrimp you may get by with 1 slice of prosciutto for two shrimp
  • Two thick lemon wedges for grilling and garnishing (optional)
  • Toothpicks
  • Non-stick grill spray + basting brush

Combine the white wine, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, chopped basil and pepper to taste in a bowl, whisking to combine.  Place shrimp in a shallow glass or non-reactive dish.  Pour marinade over, turning shrimp a few times to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 4.

Remove shrimp from marinade, reserving marinade for basting.  Wrap the middle of each shrimp with a basil leaf followed by a slice of prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick and repeat with remaining shrimp.

Preheat grill and clean surface.  Spray with nonstick spray. Grill shrimp for several minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade.  Make sure the shrimp is cooked through the prosciutto is just starting to crisp.  While shrimp is cooking, place lemon wedges on grate and cook until slightly charred.

Remove shrimp to a platter. Serve with fresh sprigs of basil and grilled lemon wedges

Serves: 3 as a main course; 8 as an appetizer

NOTE> Shrimp sizes and descriptions can be tricky which is why I usually end up just eyeballing it when I’m at the store.  For this recipe, I found some GORGEOUS pink Key West shrimp that were labeled “U12,” meaning under 12 shrimp per pound.  To me, that’s THE perfect size for grilling.  Technically these fall into the “colossal” category but they’re not really all that huge!  You can step it down to Jumbo shrimp, especially if you’re making this as an appetizer.  Just keep in mind they will cook in no time at all on the grill so be prepared with that spatula and platter.  ENJOY!

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto . Dinner Is Served

 

 

Spring Lamb Stew w/ Spinach and Chick Peas

Spring Lamb Stew5 - Dinner Is Served

Does it feel like I spend an inordinate about of time talking about the weather?  Mostly…COMPLAINING about the weather! Maybe it’s a “Chicago” thing, I don’t know.  Our seasons seem so jumbled lately.  A mild winter, followed by a cold spring and delayed summer. Or a blistering hot summer that carries on till fall.  As I write this post, I am staring out at a sea of mud and puddles in my back yard. Grey skies and drizzle.  Spring…sigh.

Thankfully, I always have a good recipe in my back pocket, to make us happy even when the weather is getting us down and this Spring Lamb Stew is perfect for those chilly spring evenings when winter just won’t let go.Spring Lamb Stew3 - Dinner Is Served

Especially if you’ve been stuck in the beef stew rut, this stew is a welcome change.  Very simple ingredients that require minimum prep time and best of all: it’s ready in a little over an hour!  I imagine if you have one of those fancy “Instant Pots”, you could probably pull this off in no time! Spring Lamb Stew - Dinner Is Served

Also love this recipe because it offers something a bit different that your typical “run of the mill” lamb stews.  Chick peas (See Resources section after recipe) and an abundant amount of fresh spinach at the end, add a nice touch of texture and color, not to mention health benefits!  If chick peas aren’t your thing, definitely feel free to substitute canned white beans.Spring Lamb Stew4 - Dinner Is Served

Also recommend serving over mashed potatoes or soft polenta to complete the meal and of course some red wine and plenty of candles to make you forget all about Mother Nature’s wrath.

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!20170326_014157478_iOS

~Spring Lamb Stew with Spinach and Chick Peas~

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (see Note>)
  • Garlic powder, Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups pieces peeled carrots (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 15-ounce can chick peas (or canned white beans), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 8 or 10-ounce package ready-to-use spinach leaves
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Piece of parchment paper, cut to fit inside pot

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and season all over with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heath olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add stew meat in one layer and leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Then turn and continue browning about five more minutes.  Add onions and carrots and continue to brown, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes longer).

Stir in tomato sauce, chicken stock, chick peas and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Carefully lay parchment paper over the surface of the stew.  Cover with lid and reduce heat.  Simmer until stew meat is tender, about 1 hour.

Remove lid and discard parchment paper. If stew seems too dry, just add a little more stock to your liking.  Add spinach by the handful, stirring. Cover and cook until spinach wilts, about 4 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve over mashed potatoes or polenta, with lemon wedges.

Serves 4

NOTE> Lamb shoulder chops are usually your best bet for stew meat, unless your butcher or grocery store happen to have meat already cut up.  If purchasing shoulder chops, be sure to purchase about 2# to yield 1 1/4# of stew meat.

-RESOURCES-

chickpeas

Evidence of chicken pea (aka garbanzo bean) consumption dates back to thousands of years B.C. This legume is known for its versatility, health benefits (high in fiber, iron and protein) and is used widely through many different cuisines.  They can be roasted, added to soups, stews, salads and pureed for dishes like my world famous hummus.

Canned chickpeas are widely available but the quality varies, as this tasting panel from Fine Cooking Magazine discovered.  Their #1 pick: Goya brand chick peas, followed by Pastene (a brand I have never seen here in the Chicago area).  I also think La Preferida brand to be superior as well.  So next time you’re in the market for best quality canned chick peas, head to the Hispanic section instead of the canned vegetable aisle!

Ann’s Essential Guacamole

 

Ann's Essential Guac - DInner Is ServedThis post is going to be fairly short since it’s a tandem recipe to another one I will be posting later today or tomorrow.  Bottom line though, it that guacamole is something everyone should at least try making from scratch. You’ll realize how easy it is to make and how FAR superior it is to any pre-packaged guac you buy at the grocery store.

Another advantage is that you can make it YOUR way.  You control the ingredients, the creaminess (or not), the amount of spice (or none).  There is really only one ingredient that’s a must: avocados.  The rest of the add-ins are up to you. Here are the ones I love:Ann's Essential Guac - DInner Is Served2

And since I like just a hint of spice, I add some Cholula Hot Sauce, starting with about 1/2 tsp and adding a little more, drop by drop, until it’s just right.

One final note before I jump right in. Finding avocados that are just the perfect ripeness is important.  Bright green, rock hard ones just won’t work. On the flip side, mushy and overripe ones will just make your guacamole mushy and sad.  Look for medium-ripe avocados, that yield just a bit, when pressed.

Enjoy!

Ann’s Essential Guacamole

  • 3 medium ripe avocados
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 a white or red onion, diced (or you can use about 1/3 cup chopped green onions)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 small lines (about 1-2 TBS)
  • Cholula hot sauce
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Remove pit from avocados and scoop insides out into a large bowl along with the lime juice.  Mash with a fork (or a potato masher works), until desired consistency.  I prefer somewhat smooth, but with small pieces of solid avocado in act.  Gently fold in tomatoes, onions and cilantro along with about 1/2 tsp of the hot sauce, a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Taste for seasonings, adding additional hot sauce, lime juice or salt and pepper if desired.

Place in a glass or plastic container and place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the guacamole, pressing down to ensure no air bubbles (this step helps it keep it’s beautiful green color).  Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.

 

Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers with Hoisin Glaze

Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (5).jpgWhat an evil tease.  This Spring in the Midwest. March was so winter-like, the season was dubbed “sprinter” (spring + winter). April we fared a little better, although I still recall having to wear my parka on occasion so not completely out of the woods.

Now, finally a string of nice days in Chicagoland, so I am officially kicking off grill season!  And what better way to usher in the warmer weather than these beautiful and easy pork, pepper and pineapple skewers.  A family favorite at the Dinner Is Served household.Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (4)

This classic combo always makes me think tropics..luau..grab an umbrella drink and sing Don Ho tunes.  With lean pork tenderloin, pineapple and colorful peppers, it also wins in the healthy, low-fat category.Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (6)

Perhaps the best part of these skewers, however is the hoisin glaze which is a ridiculously easy combination of ketchup, hoisin and minced jalapeno peppers.  If you’re a fan of of Moo-Shu pork, you’re already well acquainted with hoisin: a most versatile, thick, soy-based Asian condiment. This serves as both a glaze and a dipping saucePork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (2)

A few notes before I jump right in to the recipe:

  • You can definitely substitute chicken for the pork! My preference would be to use boneless skinless thigh meat. Breast meat works too but will cook more quickly.
  • You’ll note I did not add onions to my skewers. They remain a “no go” with the young adult crowd in my house but by all means feel free add some red onion wedges as you please.
  • Gluten-free hoisin can be used, making this a 100% gluten-free entree

Happy (FINALLY) Spring to one and all from Dinner Is ServedPork, Pepper and Pineapple Skewers with Hoisin Glaze - Dinner Is Served

Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers with Hoisin Glaze*

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2#), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large sweet bell peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • About 1/2 of a fresh pineapple, cored and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion cut into wedges (optional)
  • Canola oil
  • Salt and coarse ground black pepper

Hoisin Glaze and Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 TBS minced jalapeno pepper (or spicy pepper of your choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl.  Set aside about half for dipping and the other half for glazing.  (can be prepared up to two days ahead and refrigerated)

For skewers, toss the pork in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  In a separate bowl, combine peppers with a drizzle of canola oil, tossing to coat.

Thread pork, peppers, pineapple and onion (if using) onto metal or wooden skewers. Sear on a hot grill for a few minutes per side. Then move to medium heat; brush with a little of the glaze and continue to grill (turning and glazing a few more times) until pork is cooked through (about 15-20 minutes in total) and peppers and pineapple are slightly charred.

Serve with jasmine rice and  reserved hoisin sauce for dipping.

Serves 4

* Adapted from Big Flavors of the Hot Sun, Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, 1994.

 

 

 

Holiday Hot Crab Dip

Holiday Hot Crab Dip  2 Dinner Is ServedI wanted to end 2015 with a treasured family recipe and can’t think of a better one than this Hot Crab Dip which was a specialty of my late mother-in-law, Jean.  Christmas was the holiday she pulled out all the stops with a house filled with family and friends. Her appetizer buffet was always a bounty of sweet and savory treats.

We were blessed to have that time with her, and I continue to be blessed this holiday season. Although not as grand in scale, my Christmas Day was filled with the love of family:Christmas 2015 CollageAnd of course great food!Christmas 2015 1Christmas 2015 2 Of all of Jean’s recipes, her hot crab dip remains one of my favorites. So rich and creamy. And always served from the copper chaffing dish she passed down to me (pictured above in upper right hand corner).  And always served with one of my most guilty pleasures in life: Fritos Corn Chips.Christmas 2015 3Really?

Yes, really.  Trust me this is one of those culinary matches made in heaven. And though Fritos may not fall under anyone’s definition of “fine dining” Jean’s hot crab dip will never be served with anything but!

This recipe is pretty straightforward, so I am not going to bother with photos of the ingredients or a lengthy discussion of cooking techniques (mainly because there are none involved!)  My only comment to you is an insistence that you use real crab meat, preferably chilled, fresh lump crab meat. I’ve had crab dip on occasion made with imitation crab meat, which to me is just a cheap, rubbery substitute.

Finally, keep in mind this is very rich, so a little goes a long way. Last night I doubled the recipe for 8 people and we still had some leftover!

And with this, I bid adieu to 2015.  Being able to share my passion for good food is a great gift that is impossible without your support and words of praise.  Hoping that 2016 brings much health and happiness to all of you and of course many many memorable meals and time spent with the ones you love!

Ann Baker

Dinner Is Served

December, 2015

Holiday Hot Crab Dip

  • 1-8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated onion
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Dash seasoned salt (see Note>)
  • 5-6 oz. fresh crab meat
  • 3 TBS white wine or sherry

Melt the cream cheese over low heat until creamy.  Add remaining ingredients, adding wine or sherry one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Stir until just heated through and well combined. Serve hot with corn chips. Can be made ahead of time and reheated over very low heat.

Serves 4

Note> I’m a big fan of Penzey’s 4S Seasoned Salt Blend which has a nice delicate balance of flavor. Available at Penzey’s stores or online.

 

 

Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts

Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts 6 Dinner Is ServedAs we pass the halfway point in the month of wining and dining excesses (which shall heretofore be referred to as “the holidays), I thought it would be nice to take a little break and enjoy a little hummus. Time to step away from the peppermint bark, the fudge and fruitcake, eggnog lattes and gingerbread martinis.  Besides who doesn’t love hummus?  Especially THIS hummus!Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts 8 Dinner Is ServedThis is a recipe I perfected long before hummus and pita chips became mass produced and ultimately, ubiquitous. Back in my personal chef days, I was a virtual one-woman assembly line, quadrupling this recipe and cranking out homemade pita chips like no one’s business. So popular was my hummus that upon introducing myself to another mom at a little league game, she exclaimed “Your name sounds so familiar.  You…you make something don’t you?”  I asked her if she was referring to hummus and she replied with an enthusiastic “YES!!! Yes, you’re the hummus person!”

I guess there are worst things to be famous for, right?

I have been asked what makes my hummus so good.  The parsley infused oil and toasted pine nuts are an obvious. They make it pretty. Different.  But beyond the obvious, there are a few pointers that I can offer from my vast experience of hummus-making:

  1. Use fresh ingredientsHummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts Dinner Is ServedI know this tip sounds beyond obvious, but it deserves mention as we’re often tempted to cut corners. With this recipe, “fresh” means real lemons (not bottled lemon juice, fresh garlic (not from a jar), good quality olive oil, etc.
  1. Smash that garlic! This will bring out the full essence of the garlic and, it is kind of fun watching your going from this:IMAG0166

To this:IMAG0167

  1. Last but not least, process it WELL. Just when you think it’s smooth enough, process it some more. Not creamy enough?  Add a little extra water. Not zingy enough?  Add a little extra lemon juice.  Not rich enough?  Add some extra olive oil.   Process, taste, then process some more.  Your goal is a perfectly smooth, perfectly balanced final product:Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts 2 Dinner Is Served

Everything here can be prepped well in advance then assembled at the last minute, making it perfect for holiday parties and gatherings.  And someday you too can join Hummus “royalty.”

š Hummus with Parsley Infused Oil  ›and Pine Nuts

  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1-lb. 3 oz. cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup well stirred tahini* (See Note>)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts

On a cutting board mince and mash the garlic and salt to a paste using a chef knife.  In a food processor, puree the chick peas with the garlic paste, tahini, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the oil, and 1/2 cup water, scraping down the sides, until the hummus is smooth.  Add salt to taste.  Add additional water, olive oil and/or lemon juice, if necessary, to thin the hummus to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl.

In the food processor, cleaned, puree the remaining 1/4 cup oil with the parsley until the oil is bright green and the parsley is minced; transfer the oil to a small jar. Or alternatively, mince the fresh parsley on a cutting board.  Add to the oil to combine.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until fragrant and lightly browned (keep a close eye on the pine nuts as they can go from lightly browned to burned in a matter of minutes!)

Hummus, oil and pine nuts can be made 3 days in advance.  Cover and chill hummus and oil.  Cover nuts and keep at room temperature.

To serve, let dip and oil come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).  Place dip in a shallow serving dish.  Drizzle with parsley oil and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.  Serve with Toasted Pita Thins, fresh veggies or tortilla chips.

Yield> About 4 cups of hummus

Note> Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It is often located in the ethnic section of most grocery stores, although sometimes locating it can be tricky. Sometimes I’ve located it in the same aisle as peanut butter!  It will separate in the jar, so be sure to give it a good stir before adding to the hummus. You can store an open jar of hummus in your fridge for several weeks.

Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts Dinner Is Served Pinterest

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast | Dinner Is ServedPretty sure I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have a small kitchen, with about 5 ft. of usable but non-continuous counter space. It’s something that to be honest, I use to complain about. A lot.  But as with many struggles in life, you grow to accept the limitations, and these days instead of complaining, I just find creative ways of dealing with it.

That said, Thanksgiving has always proven to be a challenge. Definitely “think outside the box” time. And more than ever the appliance for which I am most thankful is my slow cooker.Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast | Dinner Is Served

In the past, I’ve put mine to use for preparing and serving mashed potatoes. ( Highly recommend this recipe from Cooking Classy! )  I’ve also put my smaller cooker to use to keep gravy warm.

This year with a larger-than-average group assembling at my house and most of them white-meat lovers, I’ve decided to cook an extra turkey breast in..you guessed it: the slow cooker!Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 2 Dinner Is Served

You’ll definitely want to boost the flavor a bit and for that, I love this garlic and rosemary paste.Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 3 Dinner Is Served

Just spread a little underneath the skin and again on top of the breast after browning. It adds just the right amount of savory touch.

Really that’s all there is too it.  Just simmer away in some chicken stock for about 5-6 hours. You can make slice the breast ahead of time and re-heat. Added bonus too: the reserved liquid makes a fantastic gravy (instructions follow recipe).

Of course you can make a slow cooker turkey breast any day of the year! But especially on Thanksgiving, if you are also blessed with a small kitchen, large crowd and need a little extra turkey to serve, this recipe is a lifesaver.

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 4 Dinner Is Served

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

  • 1 bone-in or boneless (rolled and tied) fresh turkey breast (about 5#)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS fresh minced rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 4 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup roughly chopped celery
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 3/4 cups chicken or turkey stock

Puree the garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper & paprika in a mini food processor. Add 2 TBS of the olive oil ad process until a paste forms (this can also be done with a mortar and pestle).

Rinse the breast under cold water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.

Using your fingers, loosen the skin on the turkey breast and spread about half of the paste onto the meat, distributing evenly. Pull skin back over meat (use toothpicks to secure skin if necessary). Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear turkey breast on all sides until golden.

Place celery and onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place turkey on top of vegetables, breast side up. Spread remaining paste over top of breast, distributing evenly.  Pour in chicken broth.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Remove breast from slow cooker and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Serves 6

~~~~~~~~For Gravy~~~~~~~~

Strain the solids from the slow cooker and skim off any fat. You should have about 1-2 cups of stock,  Add additional chicken or turkey stock to bring to 4 cups. Bring to a simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Keep warm.

In a second saucepan, melt 2 TBS unsalted butter over medium heat. Whisk in 2 TBS all-purpose flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until mixture is golden.  Slowly whisk in reserved stock, whisking constantly, until smooth.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gravy, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. If desired, add in a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet® in for a deep rich brown color.  Season to taste, adding additional salt and black pepper if desired.

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing with Lime and Cilantro

Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing with Lime and Cilantro1With one child already starting school, and another starting in a week, I’m beginning to feel the emotional let down of summer’s end.  Then Labor Day up in Wisconsin and the quiet rite of summer passage: swim rafts being towed ashore for their winter storage.

Some years I beg for fall to come. Those years when Chicago bakes under the hot August sun and sucks every last bit of energy out of me.  Then, there are summers like this: a bit of a rocky start in June, but July and August, oh my. Only a handful of days in the 90+ range. Cool nights spent on the patio. Just enough rain to keep my garden lush.

Please can we just make it last a bit longer?

Or perhaps, I’ll just continue to cook like it’s summer. And fresh salads certainly bring summer into the kitchen and are deserving of the most refreshing dressing (SOMETHING NOT IN A BOTTLE!).  Which brings me to this cool buttermilk ranch dressing that I could literally eat with a spoon (not ashamed).

It begins with the simplest of ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand:IMAG1892

What takes this dressing to the next level though, is the lime/cilantro combination. Oh so good:IMAG1895

By the way, if you don’t have one of these fancy lime juicers  ^^, you’re missing out on one of the greatest kitchen gadgets that ever lived! Also note the custom Dinner Is Served cutting board (available online at Personalizationmall.Com  A birthday gift from my sister.

It all comes together so quickly and so easily. Just throw everything into the blender or food processor (my Ninja blender does a fantastic job).  The result is a cool, tangy dressing that can serve as a salad dressing or as a dip for fresh vegetables, chicken tenders or wings, poached shrimp. I know the phrase “the possibilities are endless” is overused but in this case it really does apply!Creamy Buttermilk Dressing with Lime and CilantroSo yes summer, I’m talking to YOU!  Even if you’re heading out of town soon, I can still imagine your presence in my kitchen each and every day.

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing with Lime and Cilantro

3/4 cups mayonnaise (either light or regular)

3/4 cup Greek-style yogurt

2 TBS fresh lime juice

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 TBS olive oil

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

2 TBS coarsely chopped fresh chives

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Yields: About 2 cups of dressing