Spring is here and with this season comes Easter. For many people, this time of the year calls for some celebration and when there’s celebration, there’s bound to be food.

EasterCookies

When it comes to Easter treats, pastels and sweets abound. Easter is often associated with pastels because of their sweet color. But besides the sweet ingredients, the egg also takes the limelight during this season.

If you wish to prepare something sweet and tasty for everybody, here are some ideas you can follow.
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As Thanksgiving in the U.S. approaches, for sure couples and families are now thinking of what dishes to prepare for this very special occasion. There’s no question that the turkey will continue to be the highlight of the menu.

Unless you have a big family who are turkey lovers, it is expected that many will have leftovers after the Thanksgiving celebration. But don’t throw them away yet because you can still make use of them in your meal for a few days more.

One way of using turkey leftovers is to make burgers. Here’s one recipe from Guy Fieri of Guy’s Big Bite called Jewels turkey-jasmine burgers.

To make the burgers, cut into tiny bits or ground the turkey leftover. Then mix with steamed jasmine rice (or any rice that’s available), thinly sliced spring onions, bread crumbs, one-half teaspoon sesame oil, one tablespoon soy sauce, one large egg, one Thai chilli or serrano chilli that’s minced, one teaspoon sugar and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well until all ingredients are blended.
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Corn ChowderThis delicious recipe (said to be Oprah‘s favourite) from the cookbook “Taste Pure and Simple“, Nischan interestingly uses fresh vanilla bean. Not something you would expect from a corn chowder but Michel Nischan explains quite endearingly why he thought of the unlikely combination:

This recipe proves a belief of mine. When you cook with ingredients that sound good in your head, they will taste good, too. I feel this way about vanilla and corn, which may seem like a strange pair, but once you try this combination, you’ll like it.”

Sweet Corn and Vegetable Chowder

Serves 4

About 2-4 fresh ears corn, shucked
1 Yukon Gold Potato
split vanilla bean, or pure vanilla extract
2 pounds fresh or frozen edamame, fava, or lima beans (about 1 cup shelled)
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded spinach, sorrel, or arugula
1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat over to 450 degrees F. Place 2 ears of corn directly on the over rack and roast, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. When cool, cut the roasted corn kernels off the cob. You should have about 1 1/2 cups.

Meanwhile, cook the potato in salted boiling water until tender in the center when pierced, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and let cool to the touch, Slip off the skin and cut the potato into 1/4-inch dice.

With a large, sharp knife, cut the kernels off the remaining ears of corn. Run the kernels through a vegetable juicer. You should have about 4 cups of juice. Combine the corn juice and the vanilla bean in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly so the liquid doesn’t curdle. The natural starch in the juice will thicken it to a sauce consistency. The degree of thickness will depend on the amount of starch in the corn. If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little water or lemon juice. Remove from the heat.

Fish out the vanilla bean and, with the tip of a small knife, scrape the seeds from the bean into the soup; discard the pod. If the soup appears a little broken, don’t worry. Blend the soup in a blender at medium speed for a silky-smooth consistency. Return the soup to the pot.

Put the roasted corn kernels, beans, and potato in a medium saute pan or skillet with the water. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables are hot. Pour off the water and add the vegetables to the soup. Stir in the shredded spinach or other greens, the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Note: If the corn milk curdles during cooking, don’t worry. Beat the curdled milk with an electric mixer set on medium speed until it returns to its perfect smoothness before you add the rest of the vegetables.

Photo via laurat

Good vegetarian recipes aren’t that easy to come by, but this recipe by Ainsley Harriott combines fantastic flavours with ease and best of all, speed. I’m a fan of couscous and a good meatless recipes, so I highly recommend this dish, so aptly named.

Serve it on its own as a good vegetarian meal, or throw in some of Ainsley’s lamb cutlets, to please the meat eaters in your life. This recipe uses one of Ainsley’s products, the Premium Couscous, which offers superb flavour with versatility. If you can’t get it where you live, any good quality couscous will do fine.

Mixed Vegetable Couscous

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS

* 15g butter
* 150g (6oz) favourite mixed vegetables, chopped (eg peppers, courgettes, green beans, peas, carrots, sweetcorn)
* a vegetable stock cube
* 175ml (1 small teacup boiling water)
* 1 x 125g sachet Ainsley Harriott Premium Cous Cous
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

* Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan then add the chopped vegetables, saute for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

* Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water.

* Add Cous Cous to the vegetables then add vegetable stock. Bring to the boil; remove from heat, cover and leave to stand for 5 – 7 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.

* Fluff with a fork; if required piping hot, re-heat over a low heat for 1-2 minutes, separating the grains with a fork.

* Season to taste before serving.

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I shouldn’t really bag on a show (Ready Steady Cook), which actually has a lot of attributes to it. It has some pretty decent and creative recipes using affordable, simple ingredients, not to mention the time-saving and entertainment factors.

Also, come to think of it, its rather nice to have a show that in unabashedly entertaining in a game-show way, without the usual jazzy music and media-whore chef types you get on the Food Network these days.

So here, from Ready Steady Cook, is the simplest of recipes by chef Phil Vickery, quintessentially English and delicious for quick late night snacking:

Mushrooms On Toast

Preparation time less than 30 mins

Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients
4 slices bread
2 tbsp olive oil
For the mushrooms
300g/10oz mixed mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
Greek-style yoghurt and paprika, to serve

Method
1. Heat a grill pan. Brush the bread with oil and grill for 1-2 minutes per side.
2. For the mushrooms, heat the butter in a pan and add the mushrooms and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the parsley at the end and serve on the toast with a dollop of Greek-style yoghurt and a sprinkling of paprika.

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Forget the gingerbread house. Your holiday dessert should be simple to prepare, so you can spend more time with your family (that is what Christmas is about, right?). Here’s a quick chocoalte mousse recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast.

Nigella says that most mousses need to be made the day before, to allow the egg yolk to set. Here’s her “instant” alternative. She does away with eggs, which not only saves time but allows you to safely feed it to young children.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) soft butter
9 oz best-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup hot water from a recently boiled kettle
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Pour the marshmallows, butter, chocolate, and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2. Melt over gentle heat, stirring occassionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
3 Whip the cream with the vanilla until it’s got a thick consistency. Fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture.
4. Pour into individual dishes or cups and chill until ready to serve.

Watch Nigella’s regular TV show, Nigella Express on the BBC Channel for more recipes and tips.

Jeff SmithWith a dozen best-selling cookbooks tucked under his belt, Jeff Smith, is best known for hosting the popular American cooking show that began in Washington. The show was aired in PBS from 1988 to 1997.

Smith was a United Methodist who graduated at the University of Puget Sound in 1962 and Drew University in 1965. His first run at food ventures was the Chaplain’s Pantry where he held cooking classes to the public and stored deli and kitchen supplies as well.

Being in the celebrity status that he is in the world of cooking, Smith has had his share of controversies as well. Legal issues concerning sexual harassment in the 70s were just some of the trials that Smith had to go through.

Known to be the food genius that he is, Smith has authored several books under his wing including The Frugal Gourmet (1984), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine (1986), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (1987) and The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome (1989).

Here’s one more yummy recipe worth trying out, fresh from one of last week’s episodes of Ready Steady Cook, by one of the show’s regular chefs, James Martin.

Perfect for a quick weekday supper and easy enough to whip up when unexpected guests arrive, this is one dish that will please the entire family (just omit the salsa for the little ones and serve it as in the photo above, with greens and pasta).

Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients

1 chicken breast
30g/1oz Emmental cheese, grated
sprig fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil

For the basil oil
1 tbsp olive oil
small bunch fresh basil leaves

For the salsa
avocado, peeled and stone removed
red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 lime, juice only

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket lengthways into the thickest part of the breast. Stuff the pocket with the cheese and fresh thyme and season the breast with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the crushed garlic. Fry for one minute then add the chicken breast and fry until golden-brown. Turn the breast over and transfer to the oven to roast for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.
3. For the basil oil, place the olive oil and fresh basil leaves into a food processor and blend until smooth.
4. For the salsa, finely chop the avocado into small cubes and place into a bowl. Sprinkle over the chopped chilli and squeeze over the lime juice.
5. To serve, place the chicken onto a warmed plate. Add a spoonful of the salsa and drizzle the fresh basil oil around the edge of the plate.

A celebrity chef is called a celebrity chef often because they cook and have great personality on camera. They are able to draw people to the kitchens. They give people confidence to try cooking for themselves. This is why though they are not true chefs, people like Rachael Ray have their spot in front of the camera.

TV has a hundred and one tricks to make cooking look really fast and easy. This includes making some of the dishes before the show starts or having the make up of the celebrity chefs constantly retouched so that they don’t look like they sweat while they cook – like the cooks truly do.

This is why the shows of Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray are so popular. Almost all the dishes that they feature on their shows really are prepared within the time allotted by the network. Add that the food really comes out delicious, as well as beautiful to look at, is it any wonder that their fan base keep growing?

Here’s an easy recipe from Chef Bobby Flay (Throwdown With Bobby Flay) that is really great. Try this Philly Cheese Steak for yourself:

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Ingredients:

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pound strip loin, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Soft hoagie rolls, split 3/4 open
  • Provolone Sauce, recipe follows
  • Sauteed Mushrooms, recipe follows
  • Caramelized Onions, recipe follows
  • Sauteed Peppers, recipe follows

Directions:

Place steak in freezer for 30 to 45 minutes; this makes it easier to slice the meat. Remove the meat from the freezer and slice very thinly.

Heat griddle or grill pan over high heat. Brush steak slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds per side.

Place several slices of the meat on the bottom half of the roll, spoon some of the cheese sauce over the meat, and top with the mushrooms, onions, and peppers.

Provolone Sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, heated
1 cup grated aged provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, and cook, whisking constantly until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the provolone and Parmesan until combined; season with the salt and pepper.

Sauteed Mushrooms:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (cremini and shiitake), coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Caramelized Onions:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons canola oil
3 large Spanish onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook slowly until golden brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Sauteed Peppers:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, thinly sliced
2 Cubano peppers, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in medium saute pan over high heat. Add the peppers and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

I haven’t met a person who hasn’t said this recipe produced fabulous results. Its mindlessly easy too, so I urge you to try it for yourself.

*note: my sister and I like to temper the acidity by adding a little cream or milk during the last whisk at the end. Also, it is well worth the effort to pound the breasts as much as possible before cooking.

Giada’s Chicken Piccata

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and give it a shake to remove excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.

Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner.

Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.