Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Hello Everyone! Many of you have already heard that I was put on strict bed rest last week. That means no more cooking for me for the next three months. It's a good thing I made this recipe and took photos a few weeks ago in anticipation of doing a holiday post!

If any of you are still looking for a good recipe to make for Christmas or New Years, this ham recipe is delicious and it is so unbelievably easy to make!

Maple Cranberry Glazed Spiral Cut Ham

2 cups whole berry cranberry sauce
½ cup real maple syrup
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 spiral cut ham (We typically used Leidy’s® fully cooked, bone-in, spiral cut hams at The Secret Chef- they were actually half of a ham- and they weighed approx. 6-8lbs. each. I have also had good results with Costco and Smithfield hams.)

Note: This meal should serve at least 8-10 people, depending on the size of your ham.

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Place ham in a heavy baking dish or roasting pan. Cover ham with foil and bake until almost heated through, approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours (cooking time will depend on the size of ham that you are using). If you are using a pre-cooked ham, you just need to heat it up, be careful not to over-bake it.

2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix together the cranberry sauce, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the glaze is melted and thickened slightly.

3. Uncover the ham, and baste with the maple cranberry
glaze. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 20-30 min,
basting several more times with the glaze.

If you are making this dish ahead to freeze: Mix the
maple cranberry glaze ingredients in a small freezer
bag instead of cooking it. You can freeze the glaze and
ham for up to 3 months. Thaw thoroughly in the
refrigerator (it will probably take several days for the
ham to thaw completely). Continue at step 1 to bake.

Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cook Book is Done!!

I have great news: The cook book is finally done, just in time for the Holidays! It is called "Savory Secrets: Favorite Recipes from The Secret Chef". It is 176 spiral bound pages, color cover and 5 color photos inside. The cost is $15.99 per book ($16.95 including sales tax). If you purchase 3 or more books, the cost is $14.99 per book ($15.89 including sales tax).

Your first opportunity to purchase the cook book will be at the Central Bucks Family YMCA Holiday Craft Fair, Dec. 4 and 5th. The holiday fair is open to the public and admission is free. Santa will be making a visit by fire truck Friday night. We are offering to free gift wrap for any cook books purchased at the YMCA holiday fair!

The Holiday Fair hours are:
Friday, December 4th: 9am - 8pm
Saturday, December 5th: 9am - 2pm

The address of the Central Bucks Family YMCA is:
2500 Lower State Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

If you are unable to make the fair or live out of the area, you can order your cook book by mail. If I receive your order, with payment, by Monday, December 8, 2009, SHIPPING/DELIVERY IS FREE (anywhere in the continental US)! For orders received after December 8th, please include $4.50 for shipping and handling. Orders must be received by Friday, December 18th for Christmas delivery. The $4.50 shipping and handling fee covers shipment of up to 4 books. For orders greater than 4 books, please email me at: savorysecrets@yahoo.com to discuss shipment options and cost.

You can pay with a credit card via paypal. My paypal account is under savorysecrets@yahoo.com. Please send me an email for my mailing address if you would like to pay by check.

Please include the following with your order (I am not sure if you can note this in paypal, if not, just send me an email at savorysecrets@yahoo.com with the shipping info, etc.):
1. # of books you are purchasing
2. Shipping address
3. Your email address
4. Your telephone number
5. Your payment

1 book ($15.99ea) = $15.99 (0.96 tx)= $16.95
2 books ($15.99ea) = $31.98 (1.92 tx)= $33.90
3 books ($14.99ea) = $44.97 (2.70 tx)= $47.67
4 books ($14.99ea) = $59.96 (3.60 tx)= $63.56
5 books ($14.99ea) = $74.95 (4.50 tx)= $79.45
6 books ($14.99ea) = $89.94 (4.50 tx)= $95.34
and so on...


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good News!

Hi everyone! I have good news: I am expecting TWINS in April! Unfortunately, I have had some nausea and food aversions that have made cooking, writing, and blogging about food a little difficult these past few of months!

I have a little over 100 pages of the cook book done (all of the chicken, turkey, pork, and beef recipes are finished). I still have to complete the fish and vegetarian recipes. I have been feeling a little better lately, so I am still hoping to have the cook book finished and printed by Thanksgiving. I will keep everyone posted.

Thank you for all of your support!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick Homemade Pizza

It’s really fun to make homemade pizza.  This recipe is easy and fast to make, because you don’t have to let the crust rise.  This is thin crust pizza, so don’t go too heavy on the toppings or the crust will get soggy.  You can make a couple of batches of crust and freeze the extra for later.  Enjoy!

Thin Crust Pizza

0.25 oz package active dry yeast
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¾ cup warm (110 degree) water
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Topping ingredients:  I like to use a pesto-tomato sauce (see recipe below), sliced fresh mozzarella, sliced kalamata olives, fresh basil, and arugula.

  1. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water; allow to rest 8 minutes.

  1. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.

  1. Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture.  Add the olive oil.  Mix well.

  1. Empty the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 min.  You DO NOT need to let this dough rise.  Note:  if you are making extra dough to freeze for later, roll the extra dough into a ball.  Place dough in a freezer bag (leave a little extra room when sealing the bag, because the dough may rise a little bit before it freezes).  Freeze.  Thaw in the fridge completely and continue at step 5 when ready to make the pizza.

  1. Press (or roll) the dough into an approx. 12” circle.

  1. Place the dough on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch the dough to the edges. 

  1. Top pizza with your choice of toppings.  I like to spread a light layer of sauce over the pizza, then top with slices of fresh mozzarella, sliced kalamata olives, and sliced fresh basil.

  1. Bake in a 400 degree oven for approx. 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden and cheese is bubbling.

  1. I like to add fresh arugula to the pizza after taking it out of the oven.  The pizza is hot enough that it will wilt the arugula.

For a super easy Pesto-Tomato Pizza Sauce, mix equal parts tomato paste and pesto sauce.  You can use store bought pesto sauce, or make your own using my recipe from this previous post .

Monday, August 31, 2009

I hope everyone is enjoying their last days of summer, and taking advantage of cooking on the grill.  Last week I made one of my favorite steak dishes:  South American Skirt Steak with Chimichuri Sauce.  Skirt steak is a flavorful type of beef steak, often used for fajitas.  It usually comes in long, thin steaks.  This dish is great for an end of summer barbecue.  I usually serve it with a big green salad. 

South American Skirt Steak
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
approx. 1 1/2 lbs skirt steak 

1.  Add the following ingredients to a zip-top freezer bag:  2 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup red wine, 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp salt.  Seal the bag and gently squeeze it to mix the ingredients.  Open the bag, add the steak, and re-seal the bag.  (If you are making this dish to freeze, stop here and freeze the bag of steak/marinade. Continue at step 2 when you are ready to cook the steaks).

2.  Marinate the bag of steak in the refrigerator for approximately 8-12 hours.  Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard unused marinade.

3.  Preheat grill to high heat.  Grill steaks over high heat for approximately 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Important:  cut steaks diagonally, against the grain, into strips to serve.  This step is very important--  skirt steak can be stringy if it is not cut this way!  Serve with Chimichuri Sauce (recipe below).

Chimichuri Sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients.  Serve over skirt steaks.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.  If you are making this dish to freeze, mix the first 4 ingredients in a small freezer bag, and freeze.  Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil when you are ready to serve the dish (it doesn't freeze well if mixed all together before freezing).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Fruit Pie Recipes

As promised, here are my fruit pie recipes.  These are regular size pies (not deep dish).  I made the blackberry pie from the berries I picked at Solebury Orchards.  The secret ingredient is fresh grated ginger.  Don't leave it out because it really "makes" the pie!  The peach pie was made with peaches from a small farm stand on Middle Road in Dublin, PA.  I have also had some excellent peaches from a small stand on E. Creamery Road (between Rickert and Callowhill Roads) in Hilltown Township. 

Blackberry Pie
Recipe for Double Crust Pie Pastry (see this post for recipe)
1 qt. Blackberries
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Optional:  one beaten egg white and sprinkle of sugar for top crust
1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2.  Prepare a double pie crust and line pie plate with half the dough.  Roll top crust out and cut into strips for lattice crust.
3.  In a large bowl, mix together the blackberries, white sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, grated ginger.  Empty the berry mixture into the pie shell.  Sprinkle the berries with the lemon juice and dot with the butter pats.
4.  Weave the lattice top over the top of the berries.  Optional:  Brush the top crust with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar for a nice presentation.
5.  Set the pie on a metal baking sheet (to prevent a messy oven if the pie spills over).  Bake pie for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees F and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until crust turns golden and pie is cooked through.  Cool on a wire rack.
Tip:  Fresh fruit pies tend to be a little runny, even with the use of cornstarch.  After cooling the pie, you can chill it in the refrigerator to help it set, if needed.
Peach Pie
Recipe for Double Crust Pie Pastry (see this post for recipe)
About 10 medium peaches
1/4 cup crushed ginger snaps (about 6 ginger snaps)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 Tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2.  Prepare a double pie crust and line pie plate with half the dough.  Roll top crust out and cut into strips for lattice crust.
3. Cut the peaches in half through the stem end.  Peel the peaches, remove pits, and slice each half into 5 wedges.  Place the peaches in a large bowl, and add white sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, and nutmeg.  Toss to coat.  
4.  Sprinkle the crushed ginger snaps into the bottom of the pie shell.  These will help to absorb the juice from the peaches as the pie bakes, keeping the bottom crust from getting soggy.
5.  Empty the peach mixture into the pie shell.  Sprinkle the peaches with the lemon juice and almond extract and dot with the butter pats.
4.  Weave the lattice top over the top of the peaches.  Optional:  Brush the top crust with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar for a nice presentation.
5.  Set the pie on a metal baking sheet (to prevent a messy oven if the pie spills over).  Bake pie for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees F and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until crust turns golden and pie is cooked through.  Cool on a wire rack.

Tip:  Fresh fruit pies tend to be a little runny, even with the use of cornstarch.  After cooling the pie, you can chill it in the refrigerator to help it set, if needed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Solebury Orchards

Local summer fruits are plentiful here in Bucks County, PA. The peaches and plums are in now, and you can still find local blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Last Friday afternoon my husband and I stopped by Solebury Orchards on Creamery Road in Solebury Township to pick some berries. Solebury Orchards currently has "pick your own" blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherry tomatoes, and flowers. You can also purchase already picked peaches and pears in their market. Check their website for hours and directions: www.soleburyorchards.com . If you do not live in the area, check www.pickyourown.org to locate a farm close to you.

The market at Solebury Orchards. They also sell apple cider and yummy cider doughnuts!

Rows of blackberries at the orchard. They keep the areas inbetween rows mowed, so it is easy to pick and not too buggy.

 Beautiful blackberries!

Some of our harvest!

You can pick your own flowers in the Cutting Garden.  There were many butterflies, moths, and bumble bees flitting around in the rows of flowers.  I didn't cut any flowers this time (husband was getting impatient to leave), but next time I would like to cut a small bouquet.

We had a great time at Solebury Orchards and I recommend them if you are in the area.  I made a blackberry pie with the berries I picked and I also made a peach pie.  I will post the recipes by the end of the week.  Also check back later this month for the recipe for South American Skirt Steak with Chimichuri Sauce.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce

When people would ask if I had a favorite recipe at my business, I always answered "Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce"!  This dish was probably our most famous and it was the recipe that my family and I most enjoyed testing.  Use the best quality jumbo lump crab meat you can get.  If you make jumbo size crab cakes, they make a great summer dinner-- just add fresh local corn on the cob and some coleslaw and you are done.  You can also make these crab cakes appetizer size and serve them at your summer parties or for events through out the year.  These freeze fine, so you can make them ahead of time.  Just thaw them in the fridge for a day or two before cooking. 

Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce

2 large eggs (or approximately 1/3 cup of liquid eggs)
2 Tablespoons regular mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper *USE LESS IF YOU DON'T LIKE SPICY FOODS*
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 can Jumbo Lump Crab Meat (one pound can)
1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1.  Add the eggs, mayo, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, Old Bay seasoning, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl.  Whisk or stir to combine.

2.  Add the crab to the bowl of egg mixture and gently stir, so the crab is well coated.  Add the bread crumbs and cracker crumbs to the bowl and gently stir until the mixture is combined.  I always try to be careful not to break up the crab meat too much.

3.  Form the mixture into either 6 jumbo size crab cakes or 12 appetizer size crab cakes.

4.  There are two ways to cook these crab cakes.  Method A:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Place crab cakes on baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 - 20 minutes, or until crab cakes are golden brown and cooked through.  Method B:  Heat approximately 1/2 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat.  Add crab cakes and cook until golden brown and cooked through, turning once.  Serve with Lemon Dill Sauce (recipe below).  ENJOY!

Lemon Dill Sauce

1/4 cup Buttermilk
2 Tablespoons chopped Fresh Dill
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup Light or Regular Mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir.  (If you are making this to freeze, this portion of the sauce can be frozen.  Wait to add the mayo until you are serving the crab cakes because the mayo will not freeze well).  Add 1 cup of mayo to the mixture and stir.  Ideally, you should refrigerate for an hour or two before serving to let herb mixture fully flavor the mayo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local Treasure: Bolton Farm Market - Silverdale, PA

Many of my former customers have mentioned they miss the meats and poultry that I used at my business, and have asked if they can purchase these products anywhere else.  I do not believe the vendors sell to retail establishments, but I mentioned that if I found any good local sources I would pass them on.  I happen to live close to Bolton Farm Market in Silverdale, PA, and I highly recommend them!

Bolton Farm Market is known for their Thanksgiving turkeys, which are excellent, but they carry so much more than that.  It is worth a stop if you are in the area!  Bolton's also carries other turkey products such as:  turkey breast cutlets, ground turkey, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, and turkey hot dogs.  They now also carry their own whole chickens and whole chicken breasts, and Black Angus beef (various cuts of steaks as well as ground beef).  All of their poultry and beef are raised there on the farm, and are not fed any anti-biotics or growth hormones.  Bolton's also carries in-season local produce and Penn View Dairy bottled milk (also no anti-biotics or growth hormones).  I have personally tried almost all of these items and found them to be of excellent quality.  It also feels good to be supporting a local family business.

I have noticed that they seem to have more of a selection on Fridays (many choices of fresh Black Angus steaks as well as frozen, for example) and there has also been a Mennonite baker there on Fridays this summer, selling many kinds of delicious pies, cookies, whoopie pies, etc.  Visit www.boltonfarmmarket.com for more information and hours of operation.

Check back later this month for a Pick Your Own Blueberries account and for the recipe for my favorite Crab Cakes!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sour Cherries are Here... Yummm!

If you live in Bucks County, PA and you like sour cherries, get to a farmers market right away!  The season is really short, and you don't want to miss it.  Buy extra and freeze them - you can use the frozen berries later in the summer.  Sour cherries are usually too tart to eat raw, but they make excellent pies, preserves, and crisps.

I found sour cherries at a really small road-side stand in Hilltown Township (on Creamery Road between Rickert and Callowhill Roads).  If you live close, it's worth checking.  They were $4 for an overflowing quart-size container- bring exact change because there is just a lock box type of thing to leave your money.  They also had black raspberries and blueberries.  If you don't live close, you can check www.localharvest.org
to find a farm or market near you.  Call first to see if they have sour cherries.
Yes, you will need to pit the cherries before using them.  I will admit, it is a pain, but I figure I only have do it once a year during sour cherry season.  I just use an unfolded large paperclip to take the pits out.  Remove the stem from the cherry, insert the paperclip in the stem end of the cherry, give it a little bit of a turn around the pit, then pop the pit out!
My favorite thing to make with sour cherries is pie.  The almond extract is optional, but I really think it "makes" this pie - almonds and cherries go so well together!

Sour Cherry Pie

Pastry dough for 8 in. 2 crust pie (recipe below)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1 Tbs. butter

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line pie pan with 1/2 of the pastry dough.

2.  Mix together the pitted cherries, flour, and sugar until the cherries are well-coated.  Pour mixture into pie shells.  Sprinkle almond extract over the cherry mixture.  Cut butter into small pieces and dot over the cherry mixture.  Use second half of pastry dough to make lattice top for the pie.  Crimp edges.
Optional:  Brush top crust with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar for a nice presentation.

3.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 30-40 minutes more until crust is browned and pie is done.  Tip:  Bake on the 2nd lowest rack position in the oven.  Set pie on cookie sheet if it starts to spill over in the oven.

Pastry for Double Crust 8 in. Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur brand)
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening (I like to use organic, trans-fat free, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening)
1/3 cup cold water

1.  Mix flour and salt.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives.  Combine until mixture forms small peas-sized clumps.  Use a tablespoon to sprinkle the cold water over the flour mixture, 1 Tablespoon at a time.  Mix lightly with a fork as you add the water; do not overmix.  The mixture should be just moist enough that it will hold together when pressed gently into a ball.  It will still be slightly crumbly.

2.  Divide the dough into two balls.  Roll bottom crust out in a circle two inches larger than the pie pan.  Gently lift the crust into the pie pan and fit it to the pan.  Roll out second ball of pastry.  Cut into lattice strips with pizza cutter or knife.  Fill pie according to recipe.  Cover pie with lattice crust strips.  Bake as indicated in recipe.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mojo Pork

One of my favorite grilling recipes, that we used every summer at my business, is Mojo Pork.  I use pork tenderloin and fresh herbs and citrus juice.  The leftovers make fabulous Cuban sandwiches, so you can grill both tenderloins and make the sandwiches for lunch or dinner the next day.


Mojo Pork
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (approximately 2 and 1/2 limes)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (approximately 1 and 1/2 oranges)
1/2 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried oregano)
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 pork tenderloins (1 package), trimmed of visible fat and silverskin
1.  Add all ingredients except the pork to a large zip top freezer bag.  Seal the bag and squeeze to mix the ingredients.  Add the pork to the bag and reseal.  Place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate over night (or freeze, to make at a later date).  
2.  Clean and oil the grate of your grill.  Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Remove the pork from the marinade and grill, turning approximately every 5 minutes, and basting with the marinade.  It will take approximately 20 minutes to cook through (pork should reach at least 145 degrees F).  Food safety tip:  do not baste during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Discard excess marinade.
3.  Let pork stand for about 10 minutes before serving.  Slice thinly and serve with grilled pineapple (recipe below).  It should serve about 6- 8 people. 

Grilled Pineapple
1 pineapple (cored, skin removed, sliced into rings)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1.  Lightly coat the pineapple slices with brown sugar.  Place the fruit in container in the fridge for approximately 2 hours to let the fruit macerate in the sugar.
2.  Clean and lightly oil the grill grate.  Preheat the grill to medium high heat.  Grill pineapple for a few minutes per side.  Pineapple is done when it starts to caramelize and has grill marks.
Alternate cooking method:  You can put a small amount of vegetable oil in a grill pan and cook the pineapple over medium high heat for a few minutes per side, until it starts to caramelize.

Cuban Sandwich
Cuban Bread (or soft French bread)
softened butter
yellow mustard
left over mojo pork (or roasted pork)
sliced ham
swiss cheese
dill pickles
Spread a thin layer of yellow mustard on the inside of the bread.  Layer slices of pork, ham, swiss cheese, and dill pickles between the bread.  Spread a thin layer of softened butter on the outside of the bread.  Cook the sandwich in a sandwich press.  Or, you can cook in a frying pan on the stove, as you would cook grilled cheese, using a spatula to press the sandwich down as it cooks. 
These Cuban-inspired dishes go really well with homemade Mojitos made with fresh mint!  Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Strawberry Shortcakes and Freezer Jam

Sadly, strawberry season is almost over.  I have been busy making lots of treats to use up all of my berries. Here are some of my favorite strawberry recipes:

Strawberry Shortcakes

6 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 beaten egg
2/3 cup milk
Whipped Cream (see recipe below)

1.  Stir together berries and 1/4 cup of the sugar; set aside.

2.  Stir together the remaining sugar, flour, and baking powder.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Combine egg and milk; add to the dry ingredients.  Stir just to moisten; do not over mix.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet (I use two tablespoons).  You should have enough batter to make approximately nine individual shortcakes.

3.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes.  Split each shortcake into two layers.  Spoon the berries over the bottom half of the short cakes, top with whipped cream, then top with the top layers of short cakes.  Serve immediately.  (Makes approximately 9 shortcakes).

Tip:  You can make the shortcake part ahead of time; cool, place in a zip top freezer bag, and freeze.  Thaw shortcakes at room temperature for approximately 2 hours.  Make the strawberries and whipped cream just before serving.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Add the cream to a medium-size mixing bowl.  Beat the cream, using an electric mixer, starting on low and increasing the speed as the cream begins to froth.

2.  Gradually add the sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat the cream or about 3 minutes, or until it holds soft peaks.  Use immediately.

Strawberry Freezer Jam
I make freezer jams because I am a freak about food safety!  They are also so easy to make. 

Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 quart fresh strawberries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar
3/4 cups water
1 package (1.75 oz) powdered pectin

1.  Cut the tops of the strawberries, then crush berries, one layer at a time.  (You should end up with about 2 cups of crushed berries).  Add lemon juice and sugar to berries.  Mix thoroughly and let stand 10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine water and pectin in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute.  Add cooked pectin to fruit mixture and stir for 3 minutes.

3.  Pour into jars or freezer containers, cover with lids, and let stand until set (but not longer than 24 hours).  Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 year.  (Makes approximately 5  8oz. jars).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pick Your Own Strawberries

The Pick Your Own Strawberry season was a little late this year in my area of Bucks County, PA, but it was definitely worth it! I was able to go to Tabora Farm and Orchard last Friday and pick about 6 or 7 pounds of delicious strawberries. They said the season should continue for another week and a half to two weeks, so you still have time!

If you don't live near Tabora Farms, you can check www.pickyourown.org for a farm close to you.

Tabora Farm and Orchard - Chalfont, PA

The strawberry field at Tabora

Some of our delicious fresh picked strawberries

Part of the beautiful flock of chickens roaming around (my sister says "beautiful chickens" is an oxymoron, but to me they are beautiful!)

It was a fun day! I spent most of Saturday cooking and baking, and of course taking pictures. Later this week I will post some of my strawberry recipes, including Individual Strawberry Shortcakes, Strawberry Freezer Jam, and Strawberry Ice Cream.

It has been so cool out, I haven't been thinking much about grilling. Later this month I will post some of my summer favorites for the grill!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stuffed Pesto Burgers

Since the weather has not been cooperating for strawberry picking, I decided to make some Stuffed Pesto Burgers.  This is one of my favorite burger recipes, and it is really simple!

Stuffed Pesto Burgers
(This recipe makes 4 quarter-pound burgers--  adjust the ingredients accordingly to make more burgers)
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
2 Tablespoons pesto (recipe to follow--  but you can use store bought if needed)
salt and pepper
approximately 2 oz. provolone cheese 
1.  Cut cheese into 4 equal chunks and set aside.
2.  In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, pesto, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Shape the beef mixture into 8 thin patties.  Sandwich a chunk of cheese inbetween two of the burger patties.  Seal the edges, making sure that the cheese is completely enclosed in the middle of the ground beef, so the cheese won't melt and leak out.  Repeat with the remaining cheese and beef patties.  You should end up with 4 burgers.
3.  If you are making these ahead, wrap them in waxed paper, then place in a freezer bag or air-tight container.  Store in the freezer or refrigerator.  Thaw before grilling, if frozen.
4.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Grill burgers until cooked through, turning once.  Serve on rolls.
Homemade Pesto
Following is my recipe for homemade pesto.  It is another easy recipe, and you can use pesto for so many different things.  You can make it in a food processor or blender, but if you use a blender, separate the recipe into two batches, and just be patient.  Pesto freezes really well, so you can make up a bunch this summer.

(Makes approx. 4 cups) 
4 cloves garlic, peeled
6 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (3 ounces) finely grated parmesan cheese
1.  Add the garlic, basil, parsley, and pine nuts (if using) to the food processor or blender and pulse.
2.  Add the olive oil a little bit at a time, pulsing in between each time you add more oil. Keep pulsing until the pesto is smooth, stopping when needed to scrape the side with a rubber spatula.
3.  Transfer the pesto to a medium size bowl and stir in the salt and grated parmesan cheese.  This will keep in the fridge for a month (tip:  it helps to keep the bright green color of the pesto if you pour a thin layer of olive oil over the pesto).  If freezing, transfer into small airtight containers.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Strawberries are Late!

I stopped by Tabora Farm and Orchard the other day hoping to pick some strawberries, but I was told "pick your own" doesn't start until June 12th this year!  I guess the cool, rainy weather may have delayed them a little bit.  Fortunately, my favorite little farm stand down the road in Dublin has had their strawberries in for about a week or so.  So delicious!

Next weekend I hope to make Strawberry Freezer Jam and post the recipe, assuming I am able to pick strawberries.  My basil is coming in well, so I also plan to make Secret Chef "Stuffed Pesto Burgers" and post the recipe here later in June. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Almond Crusted Chicken with Strawberry Glaze

One of my favorite spring or early summer dinners is Almond Crusted Chicken with Strawberry Glaze.  You can use homemade or store bought strawberry preserves, and as always, this meal freezes well!


Almond Crusted Chicken with Strawberry Glaze
Ingredients for Glaze:
1/3 Cup Strawberry Jam or Preserves
1/3 Cup Chicken Broth
1/4 cup Sliced Green Onions
1 teaspoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon Dry Rosemary)
1 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar                                                                                  
Ingredients for Chicken:
3/4 Cup Ground Almonds (use raw, unsalted almonds, and use a blender or food processor to grind them)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper 
1 and 1/2 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (cutlets or tenders work best)
1 or 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil or Vegetable Oil
1.  In a small bowl, mix together the glaze ingredients and set aside.  (If you are making this dish to freeze, mix the ingredients in a small freezer bag, then set aside).
2.  In a medium size bowl, mix together the ground almonds, salt, and black pepper.  Lightly coat each piece of chicken with the ground almond mixture.  (If you are making this dish to freeze, place the chicken in a single layer in an airtight container).
3.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chicken to the skillet (you may need to cook the chicken in two batches).  Cook each side for approximately four minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Boneless, skinless chicken should reach at least 165 degrees F.
4.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.  Empty the strawberry glaze into the skillet and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the glaze starts to bubble and slightly thicken.
5.  Serve the sauce over the chicken.  This dish is great over a bed of baby spinach!  Enjoy.
If you made this dish to freeze, thaw in the refrigerator before cooking, and start at step 3 above.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Farm Stand Asparagus

I have been hitting my two favorite farm stands and enjoying the fresh local asparagus and green onions.  Yumm!  It made me think of two tips I forgot to mention with the Crab Quiche recipe.

If you are looking for a use for some of your fresh asparagus, you can modify the Crab and Swiss Quiche recipe and make an Asparagus and Bacon Quiche instead.  Substitute 1 cup of chopped asparagus (lightly steamed) for the crab, and substitute black pepper for the cayenne pepper.  You can keep the green onions, or you can substitute 1/4 cup diced yellow onions.  Keep the rest of the ingredients and instructions the same.  Enjoy!

My other savory secret to share is that green onions (scallions) actually freeze very well!  If you have more than you need at the moment, go ahead and rinse and drain them.  Slice them thinly.  Lightly pat them dry with a paper towel if they still seem too moist.  Freeze them in small freezer bags.  You can pull them out of the freezer as needed, for use in soups and sauces.

Next up on Savory Secrets...  early June is strawberry season in Bucks County, PA!  Check back for my recipe for Almond Crusted Chicken with Strawberry Glaze.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Spring Brunch Recipes

Thank you all for checking in with me and wishing me well in my new venture. I am starting to settle into my new routine. This past week I had a chance to make a couple of my favorite spring recipes: Crab and Swiss Quiche and Grand Marnier Baked French Toast. Both of these recipes are perfect for a spring brunch. Enjoy!

All photos copyrighted by Savory Secrets

Crab and Swiss Quiche

2 cups Half and Half
5 Large Eggs (or 1 cup liquid eggs)
3 Tablespoons Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced Green Onions
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup shredded Swiss Cheese (or cut into small cubes)
1/3 lb. of jumbo lump Crab Meat (cooked)*
10-inch deep-dish Pie Shell (homemade or store bought; you can use a regular size pie shell, you will probabl just have extra batter)

*The key to this quiche is the quality of the crab you use. Use the best quality canned jumbo lump crab meat you can buy (you could use lump, but I don't use a lesser grade than lump). A one pound can is enough to make three quiches. You can make one quiche for now and two to freeze for later. They freeze wonderfully if you freeze the batter mixture in a large ziplock bag. Thaw in the fridge, pour into a pre-made pie shell, then bake.

1. Add the following ingredients to a large mixing bowl, and whisk: half and half, eggs, flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.

2. Next, gently fold in the following ingredients: green onions, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, and crab meat.

3. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Tip: If you have any extra mixture, you can pour it into muffin pans to make mini crustless quiches. Just make sure to fill the extra muffin holes with water so they cook evenly, and check them for doneness after 30 minutes or so in the oven. These are really cute!

4. Set the quiche on top of a baking sheet in case it overflows in the oven. Bake in the oven (preheated to 350 degrees F), uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes, or until set. If the pie crust starts browning too quickly, cover the edges with foil. Let the quiche sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

All photos copyrighted by Savory Secrets

Grand Marnier Baked French Toast

1 French Baguette or 4 Large Croissants
1/2 cup Butter, melted
1 cup pure Maple Syrup
6 large Eggs (or approximately 1 and 1/4 cup liquid eggs)
3 cups Half and Half
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon Orange Zest
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract
sprinkle of Cinnamon

1. Pour melted butter and syrup into a 9 x 13 baking pan; spread evenly to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. Slice the french bread into approximately 14 slices (if using croissants, slice each croissant horizontally into two thin slices). Arrange the bread or coissants in a single layer in the pan, on top of the butter/syrup mixture (if using croissants, it is okay to layer the slices as needed to fit the pan).

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the following: eggs, half and half, salt, Grand Marnier, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Whisk. Pour mixture over the bread, pressing the slices down to make sure each piece is completely covered by the mixture.

4. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

5. Cover the french toast and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. OR, freeze for up to 6 months to bake at a later date. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the french toast. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until cooked through. If you used croissants they will puff up. If they are browning too quickly, cover the french toast with foil and continue baking.

7. Let set for about 10 minutes before serving. Optional: sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving and/or serve with additional maple syrup.

Note: This french toast comes out more like a custard or bread pudding. We love it, but if you prefer a slightly dryer or crisper version, you can either pour off some of the liquid before baking, or cut the amount of eggs and half and half used by approximately one third.

My favorite combination is the Grand Marnier version listed above using croissants, but these variation are delicious as well:
Hazelnut Flavored Baked French Toast: 1) Substitute Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) for the Grand Marnier, 2) Omit the orange zest, 3) Sprinkle with nutmeg instead of cinnamon.
Traditional Flavored French Toast: 1) Omit all liqueur, 2) Increase vanilla extract to 1 Tablespoon, 3) Omit orange zest.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Welcome to Savory Secrets

Welcome to Savory Secrets, a blog about simple, delicious, home-made food. My specialty is easy, freezer-friendly cooking that tastes good and makes life easier.

This will be my new "home" while I am writing my cookbook, which should be available by fall. I will post updates here about my progress on the book. In the meantime, check back here every few weeks. I will post some of my favorite seasonal recipes from my former business, as well as any other culinary adventures going on in my life.

Savory Secret #1: Check back here by May 15th for the recipe for Crab and Swiss Quiche!