Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits

2015-07-20 12.27.02

I love these biscuits and I have a short cut that will make you want to make these as often as you make regular drop biscuits. You know how you have to bake off the sweet potato first, then mash it. Next, process it into a puree form. Well, not any more!  What’s just as healthy than the real thing, yet ready to use, has no artificial preservatives, and is organic?

2015-07-20 10.59.05

That’s right, organic sweet potato baby food. Watch for my recipe for homemade sweet potato drop biscuits coming really soon. They are sweet, tender, and delicious!

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Fruit Pizza

2015-06-05 17.38.22

It was a dear friend’s birthday at work,and I wanted to make something special. It had to be something sweet but not overly sweet. Then it had to be enough to feed the whole staff. They are so thoughtful of every ones birthday, by going a picking up a cake. They get that card that everybody signs, and when you least expect it, it happens. The whole crew sings you happy birthday as loud as they can. Well it was Micheal’s birthday, and I wanted to do something a little different. I made fruit pizzas. They were a big hit. I don’t think anyone expected a dessert like this. It’s super easy. Let me show you how I did it.

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The first thing I did was to line 2- 1/4 sheet pans with parchment paper. Next, I bought some sugar cookie dough, and while it was still cold, I spread it out with my fingers to cover the bottom of the sheet pans. Following the directions on the back of the sugar cookie package I bake them off. that’s what you see in the last picture above. Let the sheet pans with the baked sugar cookie cool completely.

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In this bowl I mixed 2- 8 ounce room temperature containers of Mascarpone cheese, along with powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract, a baker’s cream cheese emulsion ( similar to an extract that you can find in any store that has a baking section), and the zest of 1 lemon. I wanted the cream base to be a little sweet but not over baring because, I’m going to put all kinds of good things on the top. So while the cookie dough was cooling, I placed this delicious cream into the frig to chill for about 30 minutes. I want to tell you this does not have the texture of frosting, it’s more of a soft sweet cream.

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Once the cookie dough has cooled completely. I spread this sweet Mascarpone cream over the top of each of the sheet pans of baked sugar cookie dough. Now it’s time for the fun part.

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I bought all types of berries along with some kiwi, and laid them out all over the sugar cookies covered in  Mascarpone cream. Place the sheet pans back into the frig to stay cold until I was ready to take them to work. I don’t live far from my job so it was no problem to travel with them wrapped in plastic wrap for the short distance that I had to travel. Remember, this is a sweet cream that lies under the fruit and not what you would consider a frosting that sets once it’s been applied.

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And there’s the “birthday boy” ready for his slice of heaven.

Yields: 16 squares per pan
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: Follow instructions on cookie package
Equipment: 2- 1/4 sheet pans and parchment paper
2 packages of sugar cookie dough
2- 8 ounce containers of Mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of baker’s cream cheese emulsion ( extract)
8 ounces of powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 pint of blueberries
1 pint of strawberries ( sliced)
6 kiwis peeled and sliced
2-1/2 pints of raspberries
Powdered sugar, as garnish, to sprinkle over the top before serving

Directions: Line parchment paper on two 1/4 sheet pans. Then spread cold sugar cookie dough out on each one. Bake in the oven according to the package and let cool completely. While this is happening make the Mascarpone cream and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While your waiting on the cooking dough to cool and the cream is chilling, slice the fruit. Next, spread the Mascarpone cream all over the cookie dough. Lay the fruit out in whatever pattern you like, then dust the top with some powdered sugar and serve.

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2015-05-28 18.13.362015-05-28 17.48.51 2015-05-28 17.48.54

Lately, I’ve been testing a couple Greek recipes out. Pastitsio, a Greek style lasagna is so delicious, you just have to share it with friends. So that’s what I’ve done today. Instead of just making one pan, I’ve made three. This dish is definitely is a labor of love but so well worth it. There are three components to this dish, first the pasta, then the meat sauce, and finally the Bechamel. The one thing I find that different in the making of Pastitsio is the type of pasta that’s used. I have some very dear friends that are Greek and traditionally their parents and grandparents used Bucatini. That’s a thicker style of spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center, so that’s what I’m using today. I’m going to start with the tender and flavorful meat sauce.

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In a deep sided pot that been heating up on med heat I’ve added 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. To the oil, I’m adding some spices. I have oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and ground cumin that I’m adding in to flavor the meat. I let the spices bloom in the hot oil and this is going to flavor the meat. To the pot, I’m adding in a diced yellow onion that I’m going to saute until soft and translucent. Next,  I’m sprinkling in a pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper, and just stirring the diced onion so it gets really good and coated in the spices. I have some lean ground beef and lamb that I’m adding to the pot to start browning and getting a hold of those delicious spices. I turn the heat up to med high, and using a wooden utensil I break up the meat. This is when I add in the minced garlic and let that cook for about 10 minutes or until all the meat is nice and brown. Once the meat is nice and brown I like to drain any excess fat off the meat before returning it to the pot. Next, I’m adding in a good red wine. I’m using a Merlot, 1 cup. I let this come back up to a boil still on med high heat, then reduce the heat to med low, to a simmer, until all the wine has been absorbed. Once that’s happened I add in the whole can of crushed tomatoes. I go ahead now and turn the heat back up to med, and let this cook for about 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Right before the sauce is done I add in some fresh thyme leaves and oregano. I stir the fresh herbs through and set the meat sauce aside before starting on the next phase of the Pastitsio. Next, the pasta.

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The first thing I’ve done is to cook the pasta to almost the al dente stage. I have drained the pasta really well, Next, I have some Pecorino Romano cheese, that I’ve processed in the food processor. I placed the pasta into a large plastic container where I have added some softened unsalted butter, that I’ve tossed through really well. This will ensure the pasta doesn’t stick together while it sits to the side until I’m ready for it. I’m also adding some of the ground up Percorino cheese and tossing that through the Bucatini. Now the second component to this dish is finished. Now for the Bechamel sauce.

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To start the Bechamel sauce for the Pastitsio, I have a pot that I have on med heat with some unsalted butter melting in the bottom. To that I’m adding in some flour that I’ve whisked until the flour and butter has made a smooth paste. Next, I’m adding in some milk and heavy cream that have been heated on the back burner right below the boiling point. To the heated milk and cream mixture I add in some Kosher salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. I stir that though before I slowly add the milk and cream mixture to the roux, whisking continuously until everything starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. This is when I add in some grated Pecorino cheese. Next, I ladle in some of the flavorful meat sauce into the Bechamel. Allow the mixute to cool before adding in the beaten eggs, and the room temperature Greek yogurt.  Well, that’ the last of the components for this dish. Now it’s time to put this bad boy together.

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First, I toss the prepared Bucatini in with the meat sauce.

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I have 3- 9 x 9 disposable pans that I’ve lightly butter. Remember I’m sharing with some really good friends of mine who happen to be Greek and to get their opinion on my take on this delicious recipe.

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I take a third of the Bucatini in meat sauce and divide that equally between the three pans. Next, I spread some of that delicious and creamy Bechamel sauce, equally, over the top so that it covers the pasta with meat sauce completely. Sprinkle a good helping of the grated Pecorino cheese over the top of each pan. Place them into a 350 degree oven and bake them for 1 hour. The top should have a bubbly golden brown crust. While it’s still hot, I chop up, very finely some Italian flat leaf parsley to sprinkle over the top for color. Let this rest for at least 15 minutes to set before cutting into. I wanted to say, that this dish freezes beautifully. After they have cooled completely, wrap them in foil, then again in plastic wrap really tightly. Then label and date them so you can have Pastitsio any time you like. When you ready to heat them up, place a pan into the frig to thaw over night. Next unwrap them. Get a new piece of foil and light spray the dull side with non- stick cooking spray before covering the pan and placing it into the oven. This will prevent the cheese topping from sticking to the foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat for about 30-35 minutes or until hot all the way through.

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2015-05-28 18.13.36

Yields: 18 servings
Equipment: 3- 9 x 9 disposable pans
Ingredients For Meat sauce
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large diced yellow onion
1 pound of lean ground beef
2 pounds of ground lamb
1 cup of Merlot
5 cloves of minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with their juice

Ingredients For Bechamel Sauce:
2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 a stick of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of all- purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
3 cups of grated Pecorino cheese (1-1/2 cups for the Bechamel, 1 cup to toss with the pasta, 1/2 a cup for the topping)
2 extra large beaten eggs
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 pound of Bucatini
Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions: Making the sauce. Heat the olive oil over med heat in a large pot. Add in the oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper to bloom in the oil first. Then add the diced onion seasoning with Kosher salt and pepper. Stir the onion until well coated with the spices and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the meat in and break up with a wooden utensil, and also add in the minced garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes. After the meat minture has browned nicely drain off the excess fat and return the meat mixture back into the pot. Turn the pot up to med high heat and add in the wine. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to med low and let the wine reduce completely. This takes a couple of minutes. Next, add in the crushed tomatoes. Turn the heat back up to med and let the meat sauce simmer for about 45 minutes. About half way through taste for seasoning. This is the perfect time to add a light sprinkling of Kosher salt and pepper and stir that through.Be sure to stir the sauce occasionally through this process. Once finished set aside

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the pasta. Cook just under the al dente stage because it still has to bake. Once drained really well, add the unsalted butter. Toss the butter through. Then add in  Pecorino cheese and toss that through to coat the pasta. Set aside

Next for the Bechamel. Heat the milk and cram together in a sauce pan. Once just under the boiling point, 2-3 minutes, add in the Kosher salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg and stir through. In another pan melt the butter add in the flour whisking continuously Once the flour and butter are smooth and thick,add in the milk mixture and continue whisking for about 5 minutes or until the thicken white sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Now off the heat add in the grated Percorino cheese, 1 cup of the meat sauce. Stir this though and allow to cool before adding in the beaten eggs and Greek yogurt. Set aside.

Now add the pasta to the meat sauce and toss through so everything is mixed well  Place the pasta and meat sauce mixture divided evenly in the bottom of the pans, To that pour the Bechamel sauce evenly and equally over the three pans covering the pasta completely. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of each pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Sprinkle some fresh finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish over the top of each one. Let rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves Served With An Egg and Lemon Sauce

2015-07-02 17.54.54

After visiting the International Food Club, and coming home with grape leaves, I knew right then that I would be making stuffed grape leaves that night. Before making this dish, I did speak to a few people of Greek decent. I asked them about the filling, and in their families, what was traditional. They were all pretty much the same on the specifics of the filling. Next I did a little research of the web. Because it was my first time making this dish, I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. What I found was, there was one difference from those I spoke to. The on line recipes, called for adding some type of nuts to the filling, whether it be chopped almonds or pine nuts, I’ve decided to make my version as close to an authentic recipe with the option of adding nuts. With this being said, this dish is definitely a labor of love.

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The very fist step, was to rinse the long grain rice of any excess starch. I placed 1 cup of Jasmine rice into a large bowl and filled it with 3 cups of water. Enough to cover the rice completely. I let the rice sit in the water until the water turned cloudy. I then repeated this process.  It took about four times of rinsing the rice for the water to remain clear. Once that was completed, I completely drained the water from the rice and let that sit to the side while I worked on the grape leaves.

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The next step is what I mean by this dish being a labor of love. As you can see, the grape leaves are in a brine to preserve them. What you need to do is to remove the leaves from the jar, separating them carefully and removing the hard stem from each leaf. Rinsing each one off really well to remove any brine that may be on them. I lined a large plate with paper towel, and after rinsing each leaf, I let the excess water drain onto the paper towel, patting dry the top of each leaf, before moving them to this bowl. The imperfect leaves, I used to line the bottom of the pot. This will stop the grape leaves from having direct contact with the bottom of the pot and ensure they will not burn. Next, the filling.

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In a Dutch oven style pot, I’ve sauteed some diced onion and green onions in a little olive oil on med heat, just until they’ve soften. I’ve shown the pine nuts above as an ingredient, but that is optional. I’ve also added ground beef to the pot that I have broken up with the back of a wooden spoon. Still on med heat, I continued to cook the beef until brown, about 10 minutes, before adding in the raw rice. At this point I seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper. Next for the pine nuts and herbs. I used three different types of herbs. Mint, dill, and flat leaf Italian parsley. I mixed all the ingredients together before adding the water to the pot. Once the water has been added, bring up to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook, for about another 10 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat, turn the filling out into a bowl and let cool for about 30 minutes. Now because I started with the grape leaves, once the filling has cooled, I can go ahead and start stuffing the leaves.

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One important thing that I want to mention here is, that you want to stuff the leaves pretty tightly but not too tight. See the rice is still going to continue to cook in the next step, and with that said, the rice may expand a bit more and you don’t want the grape leaves to break, or to come apart while cooking. I laid a plastic baggie down on my cutting board, placed a leaf, shiny side down, then I added a heaping teaspoon of filling to the bottom portion of each leaf.  Next, I brought the bottom of the leaf up over the filling then folded in each side and continued to roll the rest of the leaf. Similar to a mini burrito. I placed the stuffed grape leaves in a circular pattern into the pot. I ended up with two layers of stuffed grape leaves when I was finished. At this point, in a measuring cup, I have the fresh lemon juice, olive oil and water that I’m adding in as I pour this liquid over the grape leaves.

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Before placing the lid onto the pot, I placed a heavy plate, upside down on top of the stuffed grape leaves to prevent the leaves from unrolling. Bring to a boil, on med heat, while covered, then reduce to a simmer and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. This should take 25-30 minutes. I put my ear close to the pot to hear the liquid boiling so as not to remove the cover. That’s when I turn down the heat and let it simmer. After 30 minutes remove the pot from the heat and set aside while you make the egg lemon sauce.

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Instructions and Ingredients For Avolemono ( Egg and Lemon Sauce)

To make this sauce, I would have to say the whole process takes about 15 minutes. I have in a sauce pan, 2 tablespoons of butter melting. To that I’m adding in 3 tablespoons of flour. Whisk the butter and flour together until the raw flour and combined with the butter. Then I add in, 1- 10-3/4 ounce can of low sodium chicken broth , 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and the juice of three lemons whisking continuously. Once the mixture reaches a boil the lemon chicken broth will have thickened.  Remove the broth from the heat for just a minute. The thickened broth should be warm but not boiling hot when proceeding with the next step. Next, whisk the 4 room temperature egg yolks in a bowl. Then ladle some of the warm liquid slowly to the bowl of beaten egg yolks, whisking them together. This process is called tempering the eggs. You want to bring the eggs up to the same temperature as the broth. Now add the yolk mixture to the pot with the chicken broth. Place the pot back onto the heat, (on med low), still whisking. In a few minutes the sauce will start to thicken once it comes back up to just under the boiling point, remove from the heat and it’s ready. Now I found if the sauce is not as thick as I’d like it. In another small bowl I’ll take 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 1 tablespoon of water, whisk those together really well, then add the corn starch mixture to the pot of sauce while it’s still being whisked continuously on very low heat. This will help thicken the sauce to the consistency similar to a Hollandaise. That’s what your looking for. The name of this traditional egg lemon sauce is called Avgolemono.

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Now when removing the stuffed grape leaves from the pot, be careful because the plate under the cover is still very hot. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leaves in case of any liquid that may be in the pot. Place on a serving platter along side the egg lemon sauce and serve.

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Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 1 -1-1/2 hours
Cooking Time For Stuffed Grape Leaves: 30 minutes
Equipment: Pot with a tight fitting lid
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup of chopped green onions
1 pound of lean ground beef
1/2 cup of raw long grain rice
2 tablespoons of pine nuts (optional)
2 tablespoons of fresh dill ( 1/2 the amount if dried herbs)
2 tablespoons of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley ( 1/2  the amount if dried)
1 tablespoon of fresh mint ( 1/2 the amount if dried))
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
1 16 ounce jar of drained and rinsed grape leaves.
7 whole lemons ( for both grape leaves, egg- lemon sauce, and 1-2 lemons for garnish)

Ingredients after leaves are stuffed and in the pot:
3/4 cup of water
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon of olive oil

Directions: Start with prepping the grape leaves and rinsing the starch off the rice as explained above. Next make the filling and stuff the leaves. Prepare the pot lined with the imperfect leaves and then place the stuffed leaves into the pot carefully. Add the liquid then set a plate upside down to keep the stuffed leaves from unrolling. Place a tight fitting lid on the pot and cook for 25-30 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Take off the heat leaving the lid on to stay warm while making the egg- lemon sauce. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the stuffed leaves and set them onto a serving plate along side the sauce. Garnish with lemon slices.

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