Stuffed Mushrooms for New Years

December 27th, 2009

Somehow stuffed mushrooms sounds like how I am feeling about now; totally stuffed. But these sausage stuffed mushrooms are totally worth the extra calories. This is the second Barefoot Blogger recipe of the month and it was chosen by Michelle of Welcome to the Club. She chose wisely because appetizers are always welcome at this time of year. The Barefoot Bloggers are a group of food bloggers who love Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and as a group post about her recipes twice a month. Each member takes a turn choosing what recipe we will blog about. Feel free to join us. It is a lot of fun.

The sausage stuffed mushrooms would be great for any party you may be giving or attending. I actually made the stuffing ahead of time which cut down considerably on last minute time in the kitchen. The only problem I encountered was that I ended up with twice as much stuffing as I had mushrooms. The recipe calls for extra-large white mushrooms and I guess mine were too small. But for an appetizer, I don’t think you would want them any bigger as they would be too hard to eat while standing and juggling a drink and a napkin. I made a quiche with the leftover sausage mixture and it was very good. This was another fabulous recipe from The Barefoot Contessa.


Serves:6 to 8 servings

16 extra-large white mushrooms
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala wine or medium sherry
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it’s completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.

Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

Simple Holiday Appetizers

December 16th, 2009

When you have your hands full with shopping, baking, and entertaining during the holidays it is nice to have a few easy appetizers tucked away in the cupboard for guests to munch on while dinner is being prepared. I love both cheese straws and spiced pecans. In the past I have made cheese straws using puff pastry and although they are good, they tend to be kind of airy and do not hold up well. I have tried many spiced pecans also, but find the ones made with whipped egg whites retain a powdery film that is not appealing to me. So I was pleased to find these two wonderful recipes in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. The cheese straws are substantial and crunchy. They can be made ahead of time and stored in a sealed container. The spiced pecans are full of flavor and roasted slowly with a coating of butter, honey and spices. The batch I have just made will be stored in the freezer and served at Christmas. I feel like I have just crossed two more things off of my never ending list and the larder is full. Now I just have to figure out how to transport all of this to North Carolina.
1 1/2 cups (about 4 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter flour, salt, and red pepper and process in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-x-10-inch rectangle that is 1/8 inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into long, thin strips, 1/4 to 1/3 inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/4 inch between them. The dough will sag and may break occasionally in the transfer, but don’t be concerned – just do your best. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.
4. Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.
5. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for at least 2 days.
Makes 3 cups; enough for snacking for 8 to 10 people
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups shelled raw pecan halves (about 3/4 pound)
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Combine the spices, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and shisk to blend. Set aside 1 teaspoon of the blended mixture.
3. Melt the butter slowly over low heat in a small saucepan. After the foam subsides, turn off the heat and skim the white milk solids from the butter. Whisk the spice mixture into the butter in a slow stream. Whisk the honey into the spiced butter in a slow stream.
4. Put the pecans in a medium mixing bowl and pour the warm spiced syrup mixture over them. Toss the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.
5. Spread the pecans evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake on the top rack for 45 minutes. The syrup should look dry (it will still be slightly sticky) and the pecans will have darkened to the color of mahogany. Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the reserved 1 teaspoon spice mixture over the pecans.
6. Serve the nuts as soon as they have cooled, or store them. Stored in an airtight container, roasted pecans will keep 2 weeks.

Easy Appetizers – Part 2

November 9th, 2009

We are back in Sunny Florida and I am excited about all of the food possibilities. We will go to the Farmer’s Market in Flagler Beach this Friday to see what the local farmers have to offer. There seems to be a difference in our bathroom scales here and I was shocked to see that I had gained seven pounds since leaving North Carolina yesterday. How can that be? Even if the scales are off it has given me pause and a determination to eat more fruits and vegetables.

This appetizer for Crab Cake Bites with Fruit Salsa is a good way to add healthier lettuce and fruit to the buffet table. The recipe came from my favorite supermarket, Publix. Publix publishes a weekly recipe in their Apron’s Simple Meals program with printed cards that fit nicely in a ring binder. I have been collecting them for a while. They utilize products that Publix would like you to buy, so it is a brilliant promotion on their part. The advantage in using this recipe is that it cuts down on the preparations needed if you are hosting a get together with multiple hors d’oeuvres.

In the produce section of the store you can find a tropical fruit salad which includes pineapple, strawberries and kiwi. This is what I used for the fruit salsa. If you prefer you can just buy the individual fruits. The crab cakes are purchased from the Seafood section and divided into smaller portions. You could make your own crab cakes if you have the time. There is a sauce called for which I could not find (Sun-dried tomato aioli). I substitued Classico’s Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce. This was an easy dish to assemble. The lettuce cups can be prepped ahead and chilled on the serving platter in the fridge. The salsa can be made ahead of time and the crab cakes can be divided and sauteed and kept warm in the oven. We made this our Sunday Supper last night. I would recommend using small plates when serving this. It was fairly easy to eat, but you may need a plate to catch any drips. The flavors were great.


3/4 lb Produce tropical fruit salad (pineapple, strawberries, kiwi)
3 – 5 sprigs fresh cilantro (rinsed)
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons honey
1 lime
1 to 2 heads Bibb lettuce, washed
6 ( 3 ounce ) fresh premium crab cakes
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato aioli sauce ( I used Classico’s sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce)

1. Cut fruit into 1/4 inch pieces; place in medium bowl. Chop cilantro finely; mince shallot finely. Stir both into fruit with honey and juice of one-half lime (1 tablespoon). Chill salsa until ready to assemble.
2. Separate 24 lettuce leaves (then chill). Divide each crab cake into four equal portions. Gently form int 24 balls (wet hands to prevent sticking); flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Chill until ready to prepare.
3. Preheat large saute pan on medium high heat. Place 1 tablespoon of the butter in pan; swirl to coat. Gently add crab cakes and cook until brown on bottom. Turn crab cakes, lower the heat and cook for about 4 more minutes until cooked through.
4. Arrange lettuce leaves on serving platter; Add a small dollop if sauce to each cup. Add crab cakes and top with salsa and serve. Makes 24 bites.

Printable recipe

Easy Appetizers – Part 1

November 3rd, 2009

I recently hosted a meet the candidates function at my house and sent out a request for appetizer recipes on this blog. I received some really good recipes and wanted to share some of them with you. This recipe for Mushroom Croustades has now become one of my favorites. The recipe came from my friend Lyla in Michigan. I wrote about her here. What I love about the mushroom croustades is that you can do everything ahead of time and just assemble and bake at the last minute. The shells are made from bread which is cut into rounds and fitted into 2″ muffin cups and baked until browned. They are then frozen until you are ready to use them. The mushroom filling can also be done ahead of time. What’s not to like about that? (I think I am channeling Ina. ) And they taste great and do not fall apart when you bite into them. There is nothing worse then standing around at a cocktail party balancing a drink and trying to eat crumbly food. Food needs to be easy to handle and be eaten in one or two bites. This is a definite winner. Thank you Lyla.


2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
24 slices white bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Sandwich Bread)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of 24 (2 inch) muffin cups generously with the butter. Using a 2 1/2 inch plain round cutter, cut out a circle from each bread slice. Using fingertips, press a circle of bread gently but firmly into each muffin cup so that it fits snugy. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until bread is golden brown. Remove from oven and place each bread basket on a cooling rack. When cool place in zip lock bag and freeze. Without defrosting them, fill them with the mushroom mixture and bake following the directions to follow.

Mushroom Filling:
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely snipped fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablepoon butter, cut into tiny pieces (I skipped this)
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves

In a large frying pan, melt the 4 tablespoons butter. Add shallots and cook three minutes stirring frequently. Add mushrooms, increase heat to moderately high and cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until some water cooks out of mushrooms and is evaporated.

Remove skillet from heat. Sprinkle flour over mushrooms and stir in. Put skillet over moderate heat, gradually stir in cream and then cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and simmers for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in salt, cayenne, parsley, chives, and lemon juice. Allow to cool before filling croustades.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place frozen croustades on baking sheets. Fill each with a heaping tablespoon of the mushroom filling. Mound the filling slightly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and dot with butter. Bake approximately 10 minutes or until heated and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with minced parsley leaves. Makes 24 Mushroom Croustades.

A Dinner Party From the Past

October 27th, 2009

The above picture appeared in our newspaper back in 1975. It is so funny to look at this again. I was so skinny and David had lots of hair! That is the kitchen in the first house that we bought. It was this sunny kitchen that sold me on the beautiful old house. Our friends Jim and Janice were the first people that we met in Greensboro. They lived next door to us in our first apartment and Janice and I took cooking classes together. They later moved away from Greensboro, raised a family and we lost touch. Recently we have reconnected and Jim and Janice just moved to Black Mountain, just over the ridge from us. We decided that it would be fun to get together and cook again. Janice and I recreated the menu from 1975. The recipes all came from our cooking instructor Irena ( Kirshman ) Chalmer’s cookbooks published by Potpourri Press.

Here we all are, a little older but still having lots of fun, the girls taking their positions behind the counter and the guys pouring wine and setting the table. Since Jim was pouring in the old picture he is doing the honors again.

The first course for our dinner party is Coquilles Saint-Jacques Nantaise or Scallops with shallots, butter and breadcrumbs. I have to warn you, this is rich with lots of butter even though I cut back some, but it was delicious. Click on the name for the recipe.

The entree was Tournedos Henry IV with Artichoke Bottoms and Sauce Bearnaise. There is more butter in this, but the bearnaise sauce is worth it. It took the two of us to make the bearnaise. The filets are flattened, cooked in clarified butter and then flamed in brandy. They are topped with the artichoke bottom holding the bearnaise sauce. This dish was sublime.

We served simple roasted potatoes and asparagus with this. We roasted the halved potatoes drizzled with olive oil and rosemary skin side down for about 20 minutes. We then added the asparagus tossed in oil to the pan and continued roasting until done.

After all that decadence we decided that we wanted something light and easy for dessert. We made a Raspberry Whip. This is nothing more than whipped egg whites to which you add a little sugar, raspberry preserves and framboise or raspberry liqueur. What is so great about this dessert is that you can adapt it to many flavors; perhaps orange marmalade with Grand Marnier.

We had such a good time doing this meal. It is not often that we eat like this anymore but it was well worth it to bring back some of these classic recipes. Cooking together with friends is one of the joys of life.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.