Storm the Cassoulet

Calico Beans



1 pound of bacon, diced

1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)

1 cup chopped onion

1 can (21 ounces) pork and beans

1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (16 ounces) butter beans or lima beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

½ cup of white vinegar

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon salt


In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove

to paper towels to drain. Discard drippings.

In the same skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until the

meat is no longer pink; drain. Combine the beef mixture, bacon,

beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, mustard and salt. Spoon into a

greased 2-qt. baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 45-60 minutes or until the beans are

as thick as desired. Recipe can be easily doubled for a larger

group. Yield: 8-10 servings





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Simple Syrup


In a small saucepan, stir together 3 parts water and 2 parts sugar.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is translucent, about 30 seconds.

Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container; chill, up to six months. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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Original Bacardi Mojito



1 part BACARDI Rum
12 fresh spearmint leaves
1/2 lime
3 parts club soda
2 tbsp. simple syrup


Muddle mint leaves and lightly squeeze lime in a cool tall glass. Pour sweet syrup on top to cover and fill glass with ice. Add Bacardi Rum, club soda, and stir your emerging mojito well. Garnish with a lime wedge, a few sprigs of mint, toast, sip, and enjoy Bacardi mojitos with your friends.

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Green Bean Casserole – Healthy Version



3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 medium sweet onion, (half diced, half thinly sliced), divided

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided

1 cup low-fat milk

3 tablespoons dry sherry, (see Ingredient Note)

1 pound frozen French-cut green beans, (about 4 cups)

1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3 tablespoons buttermilk powder, (see Ingredient Note)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the onion topping over the casserole.

Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Savory Bread Pudding with Spinach & Mushrooms



4 large eggs

2 cups low-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided

3 1/2 cups cubed stale whole-wheat country bread

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion, (1 medium)

1 cup chopped red bell pepper, (1 small)

4 cups sliced mushrooms, (12 ounces)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup grated Gruyère, Emmentaler or Manchego cheese (3 ounces), divided


Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add milk, hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; whisk until blended. Add bread and stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8-by-8-inch (or similar 8-cup) ceramic or glass baking dish with cooking spray. Put a kettle of water on to boil for the water bath.

Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain, refresh with cold water and squeeze out excess moisture. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until tender and golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic; stir to blend. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until any excess moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Add the mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup cheese to the egg mixture; stir until blended. Scrape into the prepared baking dish; sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over the top. Place the baking dish in a larger pan, put in the oven and pour boiling water into the larger pan to about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the pudding is set in the center, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool slightly; serve hot or warm.

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Braised Red Cabbage with Chestnuts



2 teaspoons canola oil

2 onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 head red cabbage, (about 3 pounds), halved, cored and thinly sliced

2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 cup cooked peeled chestnuts, halved (see Ingredient note)

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste


Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until light golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, sugar and caraway seeds; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the cabbage is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in chestnuts, vinegar, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chestnuts are hot, 5 to 8 minutes.

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Juice of a Few Flowers



From The Barefoot Contessa


1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)

1 cup good vodka (recommended: Grey Goose or Finlandia), optional

Extra lemon juice

Granulated sugar

Fresh mint sprigs


Combine the orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice, and vodka, if using, in a pitcher. Dip the rim of 6 martini glasses first in a dish with lemon juice and then a dish with sugar. Set aside to dry.

When ready to serve, place ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, add the cocktail mixture to fill the shaker 3/4 full, and shake for about 30 seconds. It’s important to shake for a full 30 seconds to get the drink very cold and dilute it slightly with the ice. Pour into the sugared martini glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint. Continue filling the shaker with ice and cocktail mixture until all the drinks are poured. Serve ice cold.

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Al Forno’s Fried Squash Blossoms



Flowers and Filling

8 ounces fresh ricotta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces (2 small) small diced zucchini

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

½ teaspoon sea salt

12 finely chopped mint leaves

12 zucchini blossoms

sunflower oil as needed for deep frying

Tempura Batter

2 cups flour

¼ cup baking powder

2 cups  soda water

1 egg yolk


Place the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve nested in a bowl.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow the ricotta to drain for 2-3 hours or more in the refrigerator.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan and sauté the zucchini until very soft, drain in a colander.  When the zucchini is cool enough to handle press down on it to remove as much moisture as possible.

Mix the drained ricotta with the Parmigiano, salt, zucchini and mint.

Place the filling in a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) and fill the blossoms by carefully holding the petals back and then slowly squeezing the mixture in.  The petals will adhere to the mixture and stay closed.

For the tempura batter simply whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.

Heat the sunflower oil in a deep heavy skillet until it reaches 350 degrees.

Dip the blossoms into the batter and put them directly into the heated oil.  Fry the blossoms in batches of four.  Fry them for about 4 minutes total, flipping half way through.  The blossoms should be golden brown.

Remove the blossoms to a paper towel and let them drain slightly, sprinkle lightly with salt and serve with your favorite tomato sauce.

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Cake-Baking Tips

When using cake pans, they must be greased and floured to create a thin layer of protection against the oven’s heat. For greater convenience, use a cooking spray that has flour in the mix, such as Pam for Baking, Baker’s Joy or Crisco No-Stick Flour Spray. Whole-wheat pastry flour has less gluten-forming potential than regular whole-wheat flour, making it a better choice for tender baked goods. To properly measure flour when baking, use a spoon to lightly scoop flour from its container into a measuring cup. Once in the measuring cup, use a knife or other straight edge to level the flour with the top of the cup. If the measuring cup is dipped directly into the container, a common mistake, the flour will be packed into the cup and result in extra flour being added to the recipe, yielding tough, dense baked goods.

Room-temperature butter for a batter is one of the biggest culinary missteps. In fact, butter must be below 68 degrees F to trap air molecules and build structure. Otherwise, the fat will be liquefied and the cake will be flat. To get “cool” butter: Cut refrigerated butter into chunks and let them sit in a bowl for 5 minutes before beating.

Eggs must be at room temperature for the proteins to unwind enough to support the cake’s crumb. Either set the eggs out on the counter for 15 minutes or submerge them in their shells in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for 5 minutes.

Make Ahead Tip

Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Assemble and frost when ready to serve.

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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting



3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons cool unsalted butter, cut into chunks (see Cake-Baking Tips)

2 large eggs, at room temperature (see Cake-Baking Tips), separated

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 ounce red food coloring, (see Ingredient note) (optional)

1 cup nonfat buttermilk

12 ounces soft light cream cheese

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 ounce chocolate, grated, for garnish (optional)


To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.

Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, then vanilla and food coloring (if using) until smooth.

Beat in half the buttermilk on low speed until smooth, then half the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture just until combined.

Clean and dry beaters. Beat egg whites in a clean medium bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter until just incorporated, using long, even strokes. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading to the edges. Gently rap the pans against the counter once or twice to settle the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the layers onto the rack, remove the pans and let cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes more.

To prepare frosting & assemble cake: Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Place one cake layer top-side down on a serving plate; cover with half the frosting, spreading just to the edges. Set the second layer on top, top-side down. Spread the remaining frosting on the top only. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if desired.

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