Pita Bread

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Years ago I bought a cookbook called Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno and I love this book.

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I’ve made several of the breads recipes; it would be great fun to try them all.  I’ve given this book as a gift more than once. If you see it on the shelf at your local book store I’d recommend buying it.  Today I decided to take a stab at the Pita bread. Several years ago a friend was staying with us and I decided to attempt an authentic Mexican meal including homemade tortillas. Well, our friend was kind and said the tortillas were great, but in reality they were awful!  Like plastic frisbees. Here’s hoping my pita bread will be better than my tortillas.  If they are a success my plan is to make lamb meatballs and yogurt cucumber sauce to serve with them.

Ingredients:

2 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/4 cup water

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 tsp salt

2 T olive oil

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Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water and leave for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.

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Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast and olive oil into the well.

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Stir the flour into the liquid. Add the remaining water as needed to form a firm, soft dough.

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. About 15 minutes. Kneading bread can be very therapeutic.

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Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel and put in a draft free place to rise until doubled in size. About 1 1/2 hour.

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Once dough has risen punch it down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425.

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Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll each into a smooth ball.  On a lightly floured surface roll each into a 9″ oval about 1/4″ thick.

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Cover the discs with the towel and proof until slightly risen, about 20 minutes. While the dough is proofing lightly dust two baking sheets with flour and preheat them in the oven for 5 minutes. Place the dough ovals on the hot baking sheets and return immediately to the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes until puffy.

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Wrap the pitas in a clean, dry cloth to keep the crusts soft and to prevent drying out.

Sample.

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Not perfect, but pretty close.

We we ate them for dinner with the lamb meatballs, yogurt cucumber sauce, chopped tomatoes with mint and lemon, feta cheese and homemade pickled beets and pepperoncini.

Leftover pitas can be cut into wedges, sprinkled with a little olive oil and the seasoning of your choice and dried in the oven. Great with some hummus or a soft cheese.

 

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German Red Cabbage

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This is a recipe that was published in our local newspaper many many years ago. I love cooked cabbage and this makes a great side. For some reason I almost always serve this with a beef roast but it would be great with a pork roast or pork chops. It’s very simple to put together and makes the kitchen smell wonderful while it’s cooking.

Ingredients:

1 medium head red cabbage, cored and sliced

1 medium sweet red onion sliced

2 apples peeled, cored and sliced

1 T butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 tsp whole allspice

1 tsp whole cloves

1 T black peppercorns

2 T cornstarch

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Core and slice the cabbage.

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Slice the onion.

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Peel, core and slice the apples.

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Combine all of the ingredients except the corn starch in a large, heavy kettle. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 1 hour and 40 minutes stirring occasionally.

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Once the cabbage has cooked whisk together corn starch and a little water and stir into the cabbage. Simmer until thickened.

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Ready to serve. Roast beef, baked potato and German cabbage. It’s what was for dinner.

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Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Poblano Peppers

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On subzero days nothing is more comforting than a pot of soup. And it seems this is a winter that will require many pots of soup. Potato leek soup is one of my favorites.  And leeks remind me of some of the shenanigans my 87 year old father has recounted from his childhood. Apparently he and his friends would go out into the woods behind school on their lunch hour and pull up all the wild leeks they could find. Wild leeks that resembled little green onions. They would eat enough of them to get breath so bad the teacher would send them home for the afternoon. Eventually the teachers got wise to the pranking and forbade them eating leeks during school hours. This summer I’m going to look in the woods by my house for wild leeks. For now I’ll buy the leeks my grocery carries and sells by the pound when only a third of the leek is actually edible.

Soup Ingredients:

3-4 leeks, white and light green portion sliced

2 pounds or so of golden potatoes peeled and cubed

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

4 T butter

2 poblano peppers roasted, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken broth

2 tsp dried thyme

1 T franks hot sauce

1 cup half-n-half (optional)

fresh parsley rough chopped

salt and pepper to taste

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Slice the leeks and wash them well. Leeks have lots of sand and grit.

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Melt the butter in your favorite soup kettle, add the leeks and salt and pepper, cover the pot and cook over low heat for about ten minutes. Be careful not to brown the leeks.

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While the leeks are cooking roast the poblanos over a flame or in the oven until they have a nice char. Put them into a covered bowl to steam. Once the peppers have cooled peel and chop them.

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Add the chopped peppers and the garlic to the leeks and stir for a minute or so until the garlic is fragrant.

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Add the potatoes and broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are fork tender; about 20 minutes.

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Once the potatoes are done use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Or you can use a standard blender and purée the soup in batches.

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Stir in the thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and the Franks. If you choose, a cup of half-n-half will make the soup a little richer and creamier.

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Garnish the soup with parsley and some shredded sharp cheddar. Potato, leek and roasted poblano soup. It’s what was for dinner.

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NOTE:  I’m not a soup and crackers person but I do like croutons in my soup. I had leftover garlic bread from a pasta dinner a couple nights ago. I cubed the bread and dried it in the oven and it made perfect croutons.

 

Eggplant for Breakfast

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I rarely watch Rachael Ray but on a cold, stay at home, afternoon last week we were watching. And Rachael made her husband an eggplant breakfast. Eggplant, wilted kale and spinach, pancetta, and poached eggs topped with a bechamel sauce. This is my own interpretation of Rachael’s eggplant breakfast which was our breakfast Monday and our dinner tonight. It’s our new favorite.

Ingredients:  (Breakfast for two)

Eggplant slices

1/4 cup of flour

2 eggs beaten

1 cup panko crumbs

1 cup asiago grated cheese (divided)

4 T olive oil

oven roasted tomatoes (see my October 27, 2014 post)

Bacon fried crisp

4 eggs

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Slice your egg plant rounds about 1 inch thick. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Dip rounds in flour, then egg, then in panko crumbs mixed with 1/4 cup grated asiago cheese.

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Fry until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towel and keep warm in the oven until assembly.

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Fry your bacon until it’s crispy, unless you like it more flexible. Once it’s cooked to your liking put it on a plate lined with pepper towel and keep it warm in the oven until assembly.

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Cook the eggs to your liking. Poached, over easy. Whatever you prefer.

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Now you’re ready for assembling. First the eggplant, then the tomatoes, then the bacon, then the egg, and finally a generous sprinkle of the asiago cheese.

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And there you have it. Simple. Delicious. Even a tad bit elegant.

I have always liked eggs Benedict but ask for my hollansaise on the side. Some of you may prefer this dish with the bechamel. You’re welcome to make whatever modifications suit your taste.   To me the key is building on the eggplant.

Serve this with some toasted sourdough, a dish of fresh fruit and maybe a mimosa.

 

Cream Puffs

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Cream puffs are one of my favorite desserts to make for guests. They look like a little fancy or, as my dad would say, “store bought.”  The puffs only requires 4 ingredients that most everyone has on hand and are very simple to make. The filling I always use is one of my mom’s recipes; a recipe I think my mom got from her mother because my cousins remember it from their childhood as well. I grew up enjoying this filling in a pie. Graham cracker crust, sugar custard filling topped with a beautiful meringue. It’s a great memory. It was a great pie. And it tastes awesome in a cream puff.

Puff Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

1 cup water

4 eggs

1/4 tsp salt

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In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil and melt the butter in the boiling water.

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Once the butter has melted add the flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture forms a ball that won’t separate. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

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Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.

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Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet.

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Bake at 450 for 15 minutes.

Bake at 325 for 25 minutes

Turn the oven off, split the puffs, and put them back in the oven to dry for 20 minutes.  Put dried puffs on a rack to cool.

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Now you’re ready to prepare the filling.

Filling ingredients:

2 cups whole milk

1 cup sugar

3 T flour

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

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Whisk together the flour and sugar in a heavy saucepan.

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Whisk egg yolks.

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Add milk and egg yolks to the sugar, flour mixture. Cook over medium heat whisking constantly until mixture comes to a full boil.

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Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Allow the filling to cool. Assemble the cream puffs.

Serve with some fresh berries or drizzle with a little chocolate, caramel or hot fudge. Add a dollop or two of whipped cream if you’d like.

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Cream Puffs. It’s what was for dessert tonight. And probably again tomorrow.

NOTE:  Add coconut or bananas to the vanilla filling for a cream pie or pudding. Or, if you don’t have time to make cream puffs, serve the cream filling on its own with fruit of your choosing.

 

Honey Mustard Dressing

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I am part of a small group of the very awesome women who get together once a week for lunch and knitting and we call ourselves the Knit Wits. We have the most incredible pot lucks and parties. Sometimes our pot lucks are out of control because we never just each make one thing.  Everyone brings along Rubbermaid containers so we can take leftovers home!  We all love to cook and bake and share recipes.  One of my Knit Wit friends served us a gorgeous salad with honey mustard dressing and the dressing recipe has become one of my favorites. Easy to make.

Ingredients:

6 T mayonnaise

3 T Dijon mustard

3 T honey

3 T white wine vinegar

1 T grated onion

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I combine all of the ingredients in my mini food processor and pulse a couple of times.

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Voila!  Awesome honey mustard dressing.

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It’s what was for dinner last night along with smashed cauliflower and herb crusted pork loin.

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Enjoy!

 

Pork Steaks and Onion Gravy

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One of my favorite memories of dinner at my Grandparents involved pork chops fried in a cast iron skillet with the darkest, richest onion gravy and mashed potatoes. I’m sure the pork chops were organic and locally raised before that even became a thing. My grandfather was a real meat and potatoes guy and this was one of his favorite meals as well. I don’t think the carrots would have made his plate. I remember my grandpa (and my uncle when he visited) eating the fat from all our chops. The fat was fried crispy and I’m sure it was very tasty but the rest of us trimmed it off and passed it down.

Tonight I used pork steaks rather than chops and I marinated them which my grandma would not have done. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate her chops and gravy but to me our dinner had a little taste of nostalgia.

Ingredients:

4 bone-in pork chops or pork steaks

1 cup strong, black coffee

1/4 cup molasses

2 T cider vinegar

2 T Dijon mustard

2-3 garlic cloves sliced

salt and pepper to taste

2 T canola oil

2 T butter

1 large onion rough chopped

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 cups mushroom or vegetable broth (my grandmother would have used the water from boiling the potatoes)

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Combine coffee, molasses, vinegar, and Dijon in a bowl and whisk together.

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Slice the garlic cloves and add to the marinade.

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Set aside 1/2 cup of the marinade. Season the chops or steaks with salt and pepper, put them in a gallon zip lock bag along with the rest of the marinade and seal. Allow the meat to marinate for 1-2 hours occasionally turning the bag.

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Once the meat has marinaded, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and sear the meat on both sides.

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Once the meat has been seared on both sides remove it to a platter and add the onion to the drippings in the skillet. Cook the onions over medium heat until they are tender and beginning to brown.

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Add the butter and the flour to the onions and continue stirring.  Slowly add the broth and the 1/2 cup of marinade continuing to stir until it thickens and you have a nice dark rich gravy.

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Put the chops back in the gravy, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Serve with smashed potatoes and a vegetable side and enjoy this simple, old fashioned dinner.

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NOTE:  I cooked my potatoes with the skins on and added a couple whole cloves of garlic to the cooking water. I smashed the potatoes and garlic along with a tablespoon of horseradish for a little extra zip.

Even though, to my knowledge, my grandmother did not marinade meat she would have approved of my use of strong black coffee.  Coffee was almost always the beverage of choice at their house.

Jambalaya

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Mardi Gras a little early. We should have worn our beads at dinner.

The organic farm I get my meat from makes a great andouille and I had some in my freezer. While I’m not a huge fan of highly spiced foods my husband loves the heat. I decided to use my andouille and some shrimp I also had in the freezer and make a jambalaya.   Cooking for me is almost always about improvising…putting my own spin on things. Improvising also becomes a necessity when you don’t have all the ingredients a recipe calls for and the grocery is a 30 minute drive.

Ingredients:

3 T olive or canola oil (divided)

4 links of andouille sausage

2 doz shrimp with tails

1 large onion rough chopped

1 orange sweet pepper rough chopped

3 stalks of celery rough chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic sliced

1 pint stewed tomatoes

8 oz bottle clam juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup flour

2 T franks hot sauce

1 14 oz can red beans

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Spice Mix:

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

salt to taste

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In a large heavy skillet heat 1 T of the oil over medium high heat.  Slice the sausage and sear both sides.

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Once the sausage has been seared on both sides put on a plate and set aside.  Put broth, clam juice and tomatoes in a saucepan and heat.  Add remaining oil to the skillet with the pan drippings and heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Continue whisking over medium heat until the roux turns a golden brown taking care not to burn. Whisk about 10 minutes.

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Add the celery, onion and pepper to the roux and continue stirring over medium heat.

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Slowly pour in the sauce pan of clam juice, tomatoes and broth continually stirring until gravy begins to thicken. Stir in the spice mixture and salt to taste. Add the andouille and red beans and simmer uncovered over low heat for about 15 minutes.

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Add the shrimp and simmer for a couple of minutes until the shrimp is heated through.  I used pre-cooked shrimp. Uncooked shrimp will require a couple more minutes to cook through.

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Ladle your jambalaya into bowls and top with rice. Garnish with fresh parsley or sliced green onions and enjoy!

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For those that want additional heat put the Franks or Tabasco on the table. But this had plenty of kick for me.  Tasted really great with a nice cold beer.

NOTE:  I used long grain rice and cooked it in chicken broth for a little extra flavor.

 

Seared Tuna with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Sweet Red Peppers

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My absolute favorite ocean fish is tuna. The only kind of tuna I was exposed to growing up came in a can and was packed in oil. We ate it with miracle whip, chopped onion and maybe a little pickle relish on Bunny bread…Bunny bread was the UP Wonder bread. We also ate it mixed with egg noodles, cream of mushroom soup and peas.  The infamous tuna noodle casserole. In the early 1970s I was following a Weight Watcher’s diet which required 5 fish meals a week (shell fish for only one meal a week) and tuna in a can was my best friend. I wish I still had my Weight Watcher’s recipe cards because there were some truly bizarre concoctions using tuna!

This recipe is pure awesomeness and involves neither a can nor Weight Watchers.

Ingredients:

8-10 oz tuna steak

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

4 scallions sliced thin

2 cloves garlic grated

1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger grated

2 T peanut or canola oil for searing

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With a microplane grate both the garlic and ginger.

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Whisk together all of the ingredients.

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Place the tuna in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the tuna.

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Allow the tuna to marinate for 30-60 minutes. While the tuna marinates prepare the vegetables.

Ingredients:

2 T canola oil

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups snow peas

1 sweet red pepper sliced thin

1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated

2 cloves of garlic sliced thin

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 T hoisin sauce

1 T pickled ginger

1/2 cup ginger ale or fresh squeezed orange juice

green onions thin sliced for garnish

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Heat canola oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and peppers and cook until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes.

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Add the garlic and snow peas and cook until the peas are lightly charred.

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Add soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and stir to combine. Deglaze the pan with the ginger ale or orange juice. Keep warm while searing the tuna.

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Heat 2 T peanut oil or canola oil in a heavy skillet like cast iron. Remove tuna from the marinade and pat dry. Season both sides with fresh cracked pepper. When the oil is very hot sear the tuna, one minute per side.

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Remove the tuna from the skillet and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the tuna.

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Serve with rice. Spoon the vegetables over the rice along with some of the sauce. Put the tuna on the plate and garnish with the green onions.

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One of my favorite meals!

NOTE:  When I buy a piece of ginger I peel it, cut it into pieces and put it in zip lock bags in the freezer. Ginger is easy to grate when it’s frozen.

 

Rice Pudding

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For years we regularly went to a little diner called the Virginia. Their specialty was coney islands and whenever you went there you left smelling a little like onions and coney sauce. The Virginia made great steak and eggs for breakfast and waffles shaped like the state of Michigan. Their French fries had just the perfect amount of grease and they made a tasty liver and onion dish. Part of the charm of the Virginia was the regulars…some real characters, and the waitresses who had all worked there for years and years. But one of the best memories of the Virginia was their amazing rice pudding. No matter what you ate there was always room for rice pudding!!  This recipe is good but does not quite replicate the Virginia’s rice pudding.  This rice pudding was made in a pressure cooker.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

2 cups whole milk

1 14oz can coconut milk

1 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup golden raisins (or dried tart cherries)

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Put the rice in a colander. Rinse and drain.

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Place the rice, milk, water, sugar, salt and cinnamon in the cooking pot.

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Select sauté and bring mixture to a low boil stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, cover and lock the lid in place. Select low pressure and set the timer for 15 minutes. After the beep use the quick pressure release to release pressure. When the float drops remove the lid away from you and stir in the vanilla and raisins.

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Place the cover back on the pot but do not turn on. Let stand 15 minutes while the raisins plump up. Stir and serve. Garnish with a little cinnamon and whipped cream. If we were at the Virginia the waitress would bring a handful of the little half n half containers to pour on our rice pudding.

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I will definitely make this again in my pressure cooker because it was fast and very tasty. But I would make a few modifications. Today I added about a half cup of half n half  at the very end to make it a little creamier. Also I would wait and stir the cinnamon in at the very end.

Rice pudding, it’s what’s for dessert.

But I still kind of miss the Virginia.

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