Sunday, October 31, 2010

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Source: The Pioneer Woman

Oh, sadly neglected food blog! It's been a pretty crazy couple of months, and I've been turning to my favorites instead of looking for new recipes. But I made this last night for dinner and it is SO GOOD I had to share it immediately!

I LOVE ranch dressing, but the pre-made bottles have just not been doing it for me. My husband loves salad and I make it with almost every meal on the weekends, but I barely eat any of it.

Except for this weekend. My parents were out, and I made my beloved beef bourguignon, one of my favorite all-time recipes. I barely touched the stew, though, because I was too busy gorging myself on my second helping of salad. My goodness is this DIVINE! It's also pretty simple. I don't think I will ever buy a pre-made bottle of ranch again!

I used just one clove of garlic and it was perfect. Of the optional items, I used one teaspoon of dill, and then added white pepper to taste for a little kick. I would recommend using buttermilk instead of regular milk.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

1 clove (to 2 Cloves) Garlic
Salt To Taste
¼ cups Italian Flat-leaf Parsley
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives
1 cup (Real) Mayonnaise
½ cups Sour Cream
Buttermilk (as Needed To Desired Consistency)
White Vinegar (optional, To Taste)
Worcestershire Sauce (optional, To Taste)
Fresh Dill (optional, To Taste)
Cayenne Pepper (optional, To Taste)
Paprika (optional, To Taste)
Fresh Oregano (optional, To Taste)
Tabasco (optional, To Taste)

1. Mince the garlic with a knife and then sprinkle about an 1/8 to ¼ teaspoons of salt on it and mash it into a paste with a fork. Chop the parsley, chives and any of the optional herbs very finely and add to the garlic.

2. In a bowl combine all ingredients, adding other optional ingredients as you wish, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before serving, thin with milk or buttermilk if desired.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lettuce Wraps

Source: Group Recipes

If you've never had PF Chang's Soothing Lettuce Wraps, you are really missing out. They are SO GOOD and probably my favorite appetizer of all-time!

These aren't EXACTLY the same - I Googled "PF Chang's Lettuce Wraps" and got quite a few versions, and the lazy side in me won. This version was really easy. My only suggestion would be to halve the ginger and hot sauce - my changes are below. Enjoy!

Lettuce Wraps


16 Boston, bibb or butter lettuce leaves (or head of lettuce, rinsed, using large leaves)
1 pound ground chicken breast
1 large onion -- chopped
1/2 Cup pine nuts, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Asian chili pepper sauce (see Note)
1 can (8 ounce size) sliced water chestnuts -- drained, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions -- thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil


Rinse lettuce leaves, keeping them whole. Set aside to drain.

Cook chicken in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often to break up the meat. Add onion, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar and chili sauce. Cook until the meat is crumbled and brown. Add water chestnuts, pine nuts and green onions. Cook until onions begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Stir in sesame oil. Arrange lettuce leaves on the outer edge of a platter. Spoon meat mixture in center. Allow diners to spoon meat mixture into lettuce leaves and eat like a taco.

Note: Asian chili pepper sauce can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets. Some brands contain garlic, which is fine. You can use 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes instead.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Apple Dumplings

Source: Tasty Kitchen

I've been eying this for awhile. What's not to love - the 2 sticks of butter, or the can of Mountain Dew? This was EXTREMELY well-received at a party recently and I'll definitely be making this again! Just make sure you have some vanilla ice cream on hand - it's not complete without it!

Apple Dumplings

2 whole Granny Smith Apples
2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls
2 sticks Butter
1-½ cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Cinnamon, To Taste
1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda

Preparation Instructions

Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll.

Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.

Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Source: Ina Garten

I'm all about no-fuss side dishes. I love potatoes. I love garlic. I love everything I've made from Ina. I love this recipe! I've made Pioneer Woman's version of garlic roasted potatoes, and they're really good, but I hate roasting whole garlic heads and then waiting for them to cool so you can squeeze out the garlic. This recipe was perfect - toss everything together, pop it in the oven, and serve! The only change I made was to also add 1/4 cup of white wine. Enjoy!

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

3 pounds small red or white potatoes
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan and spread out into 1 layer. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, toss with parsley, season to taste, and serve hot.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Source: Cooking for Two

One of my favorite cookbooks has a grilling section, and I've been happily trying out the recipes. Each time I get kind of a "look" from Kevin - as in, you don't need recipes for grilling! Maybe not, but I always feel better with them, and the chicken would not have been as flavorful without the marinade! I've tried a few different fajita recipes, and this one will go in the regular rotation!

As a note, do not marinate the chicken for longer the 15 minutes. The acid in the lime will turn the meat mushy!

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice from 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Salt and pepper
2 (6 to 8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 small red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rings (keep the rings together)
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
6 6-inch flour tortillas

1. Combine 1/4 cup of the oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeño, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Measure out and reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade for serving. Add 1/2 teaspoon more salt to the remaining marinade and pour in a large zipper-lock bag. Add the chicken breasts and turn to coat. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

2. For a gas grill: turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn the other burner(s) to medium.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, place on the hotter part of the grill, and cook covered until well browned on both sides, about 8 - 12 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer the chicken to a carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest.

4. While the chicken cooks, brush the onion rings and bell pepper with remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the onion rings and bell pepper with on the cooler part of the grill and cook covered, until spottily charred on both sides, 8 - 12 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking. Transfer the vegetables to the carving board and tent loosely with foil.

5. If you wish to pre-warm the tortillas, place directly on cooler part of grill and cook about 20 seconds per side.

6. Separate the onion rings and slice the bell pepper into 1/4 inch strips. Toss the vegetables in half of the remaining marinade. Slice chicken and toss with the remaining marinade in a separte bowl. Serve with sour cream, lime wedges, and shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or queso fresco (my favorite!) if desired.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ham and Cheese Sliders

Source: Recipe Club

I saw these on Annie's Eats and they were PERFECT for a gathering I was hosting. I wanted to make something warm that was also easy. These could not have been easier and were so tasty! I think the topping makes all the difference!

Ham and Cheese Sliders


For the sandwiches:
24 slider rolls
24 slices honey ham (or regular ham)
24 small slices Swiss cheese

For the sauce:
1½ tbsp. yellow mustard
8 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. finely minced onion (or 2 tsp. dried minced onion)
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Split the slider rolls and spread the insides lightly with mayonnaise. Fold a slice of ham to fit on each slider bun, and top with a slice of Swiss cheese. Replace the top bun to assemble the sandwiches. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients except the poppy seeds in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle the sauce over the tops of the slider buns. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Remove the foil and bake 2 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chicken Caesar Salad

When I told my husband we were having salad for dinner, he gave me a face and said, "I guess I'll have to have ANOTHER dinner." Put your pouting face away - after this dinner was done, he was fully stuffed and actually enjoyed it! He even said he usually doesn't like Caesar salad, but this was really good. I enjoyed it immensely as well. I have been on a real Caesar salad kick, and this fit the bill nicely!

Brining the chicken is key to flavorful, moist chicken. We used tenderloins and brined them for 15 minutes, then cooked about 3 minutes each side. The chicken was so good we've made it that way a few times just to have leftover chicken in the fridge.

Chicken Caesar Salad


Garlic Croutons
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups 3/4-inch bread cubes from baguette

Broiled Chicken Breasts
3 tablespoons table salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 inches each), trimmed of excess fat
Ground black pepper

Caesar Dressing
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus 2 more teaspoons
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced fine
4 anchovy filets (flat), minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium heats romaine lettuce, large outer leaves removed; washed, dried, and torn into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the croutons: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350 degrees. Mix garlic, salt, and oil in a small bowl; let stand 20 minutes to infuse flavors, then pour through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Spread cubes in even layer on rimmed baking sheet; bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool croutons on baking sheet to room temperature. (Can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours.)

2. For the chicken: dissolve sugar and salt in 1 1/2 quarts cold water in gallon-sized zipper-lock bag or plastic container. Add chicken and seal bag, pressing out as much as as possible; refrigerate 30 minutes until fully seasoned. Remove chicken from brine, dry thoroughly with paper towels, and season with pepper.

3. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (should be about 6 inches away from heating element) and heat broiler. Spray broiler pan top lightly with nonstick cooking spray and position over pan bottom. Place chicken on pan; broil until spotty brown and firm to the touch, about 8 minutes, turning chicken halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to plate and set aside.

4. For the dressing: Bring 2 inches water to boil in a saucepan over high heat. Lower eggs into water and cook 45 seconds; remove with slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, crack eggs open; reserve yolks in small bowl and discard whites. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, garlic, and anchovies to yolks; whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, add oil in slow, steady stream. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. (Dressing can be refrigerated in airtight container up to 1 day; shake before using.)

5. To finish salad: In large bowl, toss lettuce, Parmesan, and about two-thirds of the dressing to coat; divide evenly among individual plates. Remove tenderloins from chicken breasts; place in bowl used to dress lettuce, along with remaining dressing. Cut chicken breasts crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, add to bowl, and toss to coat. Divide dressed chicken evenly among plates, arranging slices on lettuce. Sprinkle each plate with a portion of the croutons and serve immediately.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

You're probably thinking chocolate-dipped strawberries is WAY to easy of a recipe to post, but really, this is more about melting chocolate on the stovetop without ruining it! You can easily ruin a delicious batch of Ghirardelli chocolate (cry) if you overheat the chocolate. Once the chocolate gets too hot, it seizes up and stiffens, and you have to kiss it goodbye!

You can melt chocolate in the microwave, but I prefer stovetop since it heats more evenly and stays melted longer. If you don't have a double broiler, just stack two saucepans on top of each other, smaller one on top.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 16-ounce bag of milk chocolate chips
1 quart of strawberries, washed

1. In the larger saucepan, add a couple of inches of water. Ensure when the smaller saucepan is placed on top, the bottom will NOT touch the water. Pour out any excess water if necessary. Bring the water to boiling, then reduce heat until water is gently simmering.

2. Pour chips in the smaller saucepan, and set over water. When the chips start to melt, start stirring. When about half the chips are melted, remove from heat and stir constantly until all the chips are melted.

3. Holding on to strawberry hull or by using a toothpick inserted in strawberry, dip each strawberry in chocolate and set aside on parchment. Refrigerate until needed. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Creamy Taco Mac

Source: Delish

I've seen this recipe making the rounds on different blogs, so I finally had to break down and try it. It's a healthier version of Hamburger Helper, and frankly, it's not that much harder to make! This came together quickly. The only change I'd make for the future is adding a little spice, whether through a pinch of crushed red pepper, or using canned tomatoes with jalapenos. Enjoy!

Creamy Taco Mac

1.25 lbs ground turkey
8 oz dry pasta + 1 cup reserved pasta water
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
4 Tbsp mild taco seasoning
3 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta per directions. Reserve one cup of pasta water.

2. Over medium heat, brown ground turkey until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta, reserved water, cream cheese and sour cream. Give it a good stir until cheeses are melty and incorporated. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, as desired. Top off with cheddar cheese if desired.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My new summer drink!

Adapted from: Bon Appetit

Rarely do I make something and blog it IMMEDIATELY (I am drinking the pictured as I type), but this is such a delicious, refreshing drink I HAD to! When Kevin and I were in Arizona over Memorial Day weekend, I ordered a "berry thyme" drink from one of the restaurants there and LOVED it. If you've never tried herbs in your drink before, give it a shot! They give it such an interesting and fresh flavor, although you'd never think to add thyme. This Bon Appetit version is almost a perfect match - I used less lime juice and added some club soda for carbonation. My changes are as below. Absolutely addictive!

Raspberry Thyme Smash

2 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
7 fresh raspberries, divided
ice cubes
1/4 cup Hendrick's Gin (or vodka)
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup (see below)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Club soda


Remove leaves from 1 thyme sprig; place in cocktail shaker. Add 6 berries; mash with muddler or wooden spoon. Fill cocktail shaker with ice; add gin, Simple Syrup, and lime juice. Cover; shake vigorously until cold. Strain into highball glass filled with ice, and add club soda to taste. Thread 1 raspberry onto remaining thyme sprig; place on rim of glass.

For the simple syrup:
Stir 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil; cool. Cover and chill.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stir-Fried Beef with Snap Peas and Red Pepper

Source: Cooking for Two

Holy crap. This cookbook can do NO WRONG. I originally saw this on Life as a Wife in the City, a blog written by my cousin Christine, who is the very person who sent me this cookbook last year :) I had some leftover flank steak in my freezer, so this was perfect for the weekend.

Like most stir-fries, this comes together quickly. While marinating the beef in the soy/sugar mixture, I prepared the rest of the ingredients. I served this over brown rice, and due to how quickly this cooks on the stovetop, I put the rice in the boiling water at the same time I started cooking the beef, and both finished up at the same time.

This was SOOOOOOOOOOO good! I don't even eat beef much, and I cleaned my plate! Note that this makes a true 2 servings - if you're feeding more people, make sure to double it! I ended up using slightly more beef, around 9 ounces.

Stir-Fried Beef with Snap Peas and Red Pepper

6 ounces flank steak, cut into 2-inch-wide strips with the grain, then cut across the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoons oyster sauce (found in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 ounces sugar snap peas (about 2 cups), ends trimmed and strings removed
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced in 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon water

1. Toss the beef with soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar in a medium bowl and let marinate for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, broth, oyster sauce, sherry, and cornstarch together. In another bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of the oil.

2. Drain the beef, discarding the marinade. Heat 1 teaspoon more oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the beef in a single layer, breaking up any clumps. Cook without stirring for 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook until the meat is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the beef to a clean bowl.

3. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to the skillet and heat over high heat until just smoking. Add the snap peas and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the water, cover the skillet, and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 1 minute longer.

4. Uncover and clear the center of the skillet. Add the garlic mixture to the clearing and cook, mashing the mixture into the pan, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Stir the garlic mixture into the vegetables.

5. Return the beef, along with any accumulated juice, to the skillet and stir to combine. Whisk the broth mixture to recombine, and add it to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 30 seconds, and serve.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Source: The Food You Crave

Shrimp has to be one of my all-time favorite meats to cook. First of all, because it's delicious, and secondly, because I'm terrible at putting things in the fridge to properly defrost. With shrimp, all you have to do is throw the shrimp in a strainer and run some water on it for 5 minutes. Yay!

I love feta, but the dill in this recipe intrigued me. I've only used dill for fish recipes. I thought it added such a great flavor of freshness to the dish. If you love shrimp, you'll love this recipe!

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Two 14.5-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with their juices
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced dill
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomato juices thicken.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley, dill, and shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle feta over the top. Bake in the oven until the shrimp are cooked through and the cheese melts, about 12 minutes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Garlic Fries

Source: The Food You Crave

Please ignore the crappy photo above. I was starving as I was taking the picture. Those fries don't look all that great, but trust me in that they ARE!!! I served these with the chicken fingers and couldn't get enough. I see myself making these frequently as a snack. If you love fries, these are a delicious and easy alternative!

The only word of caution is to keep an eye on them when they're cooking. I attempted a batch of these last week, and maybe I sliced them too thin, but most of them burned after 20 minutes in the oven. The recipe recommends 35, so just check every so often until they're done.

Garlic Fries

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 large baking potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Heat the garlic and oil together in a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Strain the garlic from the oil with a small mesh strainer. Set both garlic and oil aside.

3. Cut the potatoes in 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks. In a large bowl, combine the oil, potatoes, and salt. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the potatoes on it in a single layer. Bake until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes.

3. Remove the potatoes from the baking sheet with a metal spatula. In a serving bowl, toss them with the parsley, reserved garlic, and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Crispy Chicken Fingers

Source: The Food You Crave

I hate overly-fried chicken fingers. Like when there's a visible layer of grease in between the chicken and the breading, or the breading is thicker than the chicken. I've all but given up ordering chicken fingers because it's a little overly picky to say, "Can you describe the breading? Maybe you have a plate of chicken fingers you're about to deliver you can show me?"

This is a very healthy way to make chicken fingers, and it's also very easy! I don't typically have buttermilk around, so here's a little trick: measure a tablespoon of white vinegar into a measuring glass, and then add enough milk to bring it up to one cup. Let sit and you have buttermilk! It won't be quite as thick, especially if you drink skim like we do, but it'll do in a pinch.

This is a great weeknight recipe! You probably already have everything on-hand.

Crispy Chicken Fingers

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breats halves, cut across into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
Cooking spray
4 cups whole-grain corn cereal such as Corn Chex or corn flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine the chicken and buttermilk in a shallow dish, turning the chicken to coat it with the buttermilk. Cover and chill for 15 minutes. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

3. Put the cereal in a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of chicken in the cereal to fully coat and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Leave the chicken on the baking sheets to cool slightly. The pieces will become crispier.

If you'd like homemade honey mustard sauce, simply mix 1/3 cup Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of honey together. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Spinach and Cheese Strata

Source: Gourmet / Epicurious

A couple of weeks ago, we had guests in town. This picture pretty much sums up our Friday night:

There may or may not have been...12 or so hours of libations involved. What can I say, when you pick up some of your favorite out-of-towners in the afternoon, the celebrations begin early!

I knew going into that weekend we'd be having some fun, and I wanted a nice brunch the next morning, but I didn't want to slave in the kitchen in the wee hours in a...compromised state. This make-ahead strata is PERFECT for such an occasion. I was able to make this a day in advance, and then pull it out of the refrigerator in the morning and pop it in the oven. Then my husband made pancakes, I made toast and bacon, and voila! you have a meal that puts out the impression you've been up with the birds, preparing a gourmet brunch!

Besides the convenience, this strata was DELICIOUS. You had me at Gruyere, strata. You had me at Gruyere.

Spinach and Cheese Strata

1 (10-oz) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed (1 inch) French or Italian bread (1/2 lb)
6 oz coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1. Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then finely chop.

2. Cook onion in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in spinach, then remove from heat.

3. Spread one third of bread cubes in a buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow ceramic baking dish and top evenly with one third of spinach mixture. Sprinkle with one third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice (ending with cheeses).

4. Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Chill strata, covered with plastic wrap, at least 8 hours (for bread to absorb custard), or up to 1 day.

5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Let strata stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms

Source: Cooking for Two

There was a time I haaaaaated mushrooms. I'm still not a fan of them raw (like on pizza - yuck), but I've become quite fond of them in a sauce. I saw this recipe in my beloved "Cooking for Two" and was intrigued, since mushrooms are pretty much the main event here. As I found out when I went shopping, there's a reason shiitake mushrooms are $14 a pound. They're packed with flavor and a far cry from button mushrooms! This was a very tasty dish, and one I'll make again!

Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound campanelle
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a 10-inch skillet until the butter is melted. Add the shallots and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, stir in the shiitake mushrooms, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cremini mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

2. Stir the broth into the skillet and bring to a boil. scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoons salt, and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

4. Add the cooked mushrooms, sauce, Parmesan, parsley, and lemon juice to the pasta and toss to combine, adjust the sauce consistency with the reserved cooking water as desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Herb Herb Herb, Herb Herb's the Word

For the longest time, whenever a recipe called for fresh herbs, I always used dried (1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried). The more I've used fresh herbs, the more I've realized they add so much more FLAVOR than dried. Actually, dried herbs are best in dishes like soups and stews, where they are simmering in a sauce. That's how they add the best flavor. If a recipe calls for fresh herbs thrown in at the end, the best results are ALWAYS with fresh herbs! I remember I made a recipe with dried basil because I was out of fresh one time, and I couldn't believe the difference compared to previous times. Since then I've always tried to use fresh herbs when a recipe calls for it.

The problem, of course, is herbs are EXPENSIVE. In fact, most of the time, you can buy a potted basil plant for LESS than you can buy a tiny package of basil. And since I don't cook on a daily basis, I always end up throwing the packages away.

The solution: grow your own herbs!

It's easier than it sounds. I don't have a backyard, so I can't plant them in a yard. Instead, I have two large pots where I plant 3 herbs each. This pot has oregano, thyme, and cilantro.

Oddly enough, I used to HATE cilantro. I thought it tasted like soap. Now I can't get enough!

And below I have rosemary, basil, and parsley.

And I also have mint, in its own separate pot. Mama's got have her mojitos.

Herbs are really easy to grow. I'd recommend getting a Miracle Grow potting soil or liquid fertilizer. I actually had to cut down my herbs last year because they were growing so fast! They need lots of sunshine and LOTS of water. Living in a place where it rarely rains, I have to water the plants every day. But it's SO worth it - I've definitely saved money, plus it's super convenient to just go out to our deck and snip off a few leaves when making dinner!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

Source: Cooking for Two

First of all, I continue to be THRILLED with every recipe from this cookbook. I've bought 3 cookbooks this year, and I keep turning to this one when looking for new recipes on the weekend. It hasn't disappointed me so far. I have LOVED everything I've made!

It's been a LONG time since I've made pork chops. At one point, I mentioned them and I remember my husband saying that he hated them. But, there have been a few things he has CLAIMED he hated, until I made my, rather, some cookbook or online source's version. No matter! I love pork chops and the combination of ingredients seemed like they'd be really good. Plus, I've never had pork chops with any sort of breading before.

The only thing I might change for next time is to increase the egg white/mustard/flour combo by one third. I thought there wasn't enough coating for the chops. Part of that may have been the size of my egg whites - if using normal sized eggs, add an extra egg white. Then again, I lack reading comprehension and bought bone-in pork chops.

A note about pork chops: most pork chops now, because they're very lean, are injected with a solution which is meant to increase flavor and juiciness. I prefer to buy "natural" pork, which means there are NO added ingredients. To ensure the pork is juicy, dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in one quart of cold water and let the pork chops sit in the mixture, refrigerated, for a half an hour. The result is somewhat similar to enhanced pork, but the true pork flavor is a little better. Okay, how many freaking times have I said pork in this paragraph? Porky pork pork.

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch dried thyme
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 (6 to 8-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, sides slit (slits prevent pork from curling, cut 2 slits, 2 inches apart, on one side of the chop)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 8 pulses. Toss the crumbs with the shallot, garlic, oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, then spread them on on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the crumbs, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes. Let the crumbs cool to room temperature and toss with Parmesan, parsley, and thyme.

2. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. In a second shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and mustard together until combined, then whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons flour until almost smooth, with just a few pea-sized lumps. Spread the prepared bread crumbs in a third shallow dish.

3. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray a wire rack with vegetable oil spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the chops dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. (If you have previously brined the chops, season with pepper only.)

4. Using tongs, dredge the pork chops in the flour and shake off the excess. Coat the chops with the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off. Coat all sides of the chops with a thick layer of bread crumbs, pressing to help them adhere. Lay the breaded chops on the wire rack.

5. Bake the chops until the centers register 140 to 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chops from the oven, and let rest on the rack until the centers register 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sesame Chicken

Source: Good Things Catered

I love chicken, but it's easy to get bored with it. It had been awhile since I'd made anything with Asian flavors, so I browsed through my Reader and this recipe caught my eye.

I LOVED the chicken! Garlic chili sauce (in the Asian section at your grocery store) has great flavor and kick! That, combined with the bread crumbs and sesame seeds, made for a very flavorful chicken. The noodles were flavorful, too...but just not my bag, baby. I like tahini in hummus, but I'm really not a huge fan of peanut butter in general. I think if you like those flavors, though, go for it! Next time I think I will make the noodles with the veggies and sesame seeds, and then splash on some soy sauce for flavor. Yum!

Sesame Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp sesame oil
1 heaping tablespoon Chinese garlic chili sauce
1 c. bread crumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp olive oil

-In medium bowl, combine chicken, sesame oil and garlic chili sauce.
-Toss to combine well and place in fridge.
-Marinate chicken for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.
-Remove from fridge when ready to cook and place a nonstick pan on stove over medium heat.
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Place olive oil into pan and heat until almost smoking.
-Meanwhile another shallow bowl, add bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sesame seeds and toss to combine.
-Using tongs, place chicken breast into bread crumb mixture and coat well.
-Place into hot pan and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
-Cook until golden in color on one side, about 2-3 minutes and flip.
-Cook an additional 2-3 minutes and place pan into preheated oven.
-Bake until internal temperature of 160 is achieved (do not over cook) and remove, about 10-15 minutes.
-Place chicken on warm serving plate, let rest for at least 10 minutes and serve.

Sesame Noodles

1 (8oz) package whole wheat thin spaghetti
1 large carrot, ends removed and sliced into thin matchsticks
1 heaping Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp good quality sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
6 green onions, sliced thinly, dark green ends removed
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 c. reserved pasta water

-Cook pasta according to package directions.
-Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine tahini, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and green onions.
-Stir to combine well and set aside.
-In last 2 minutes of cooking time, add matchstick pieces to boiling water.
-Remove 1 c. pasta water from pan and set aside.
-Drain pasta and carrots and place into large bowl along with other ingredients.
-Add 1/2 of reserved pasta water and toss to combine all ingredients.
-Add sesame seeds, let sit for 1 minute and add additional pasta water to obtain desired consistency.
-Serve warm or cold.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Garlic Cheese Bread

Source: The Pioneer Woman

When we go back to Michigan, there are 2 places I absolutely HAVE to eat: Bravo Cucina Italiana, which is a chain, but makes the most A-MA-ZING chopped salmon salad (blackened salmon, field greens, tomatoes, asparagus, feta, Parmesan, and balsamic vinagrette). I also have to get pizza and three-cheese bread from Hungry Howie's. It's funny, there really aren't that many good pizza places that I've found in California, whereas Michigan is nothing BUT pizza. I love Hungry Howie's pizza, but even more I LOVE their three-cheese bread. In a line up of my favorite indulgences, it would come out number one, every time. I've tried other versions, like Domino's, but they're just not the same.

I saw this recipe and thought, "I have my dupe!" It was pretty close, but no dupe. First off, it's made on French bread, which is good, but just not the same as pizza dough. Secondly, though I typically love the taste of green onions, I did not like them in this recipe. As we've learned, I'm a carbs and cheese purist. Do NOT get in the way of my cheese flavor!

Another suggestion is do NOT refrigerate the cheese mixture. Or, refrigerate it, and then take out awhile before you're making the recipe. Similar to spreading cold butter on just doesn't work. Soften up that mixture first!

Garlic Cheese Bread


3-½ cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
¾ cups Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated (mozzarella would be a good substitution)
½ cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ cups (real) Mayonnaise
4 whole Green Onions, White And Light Green Parts Minced
1 dash Salt
1 loaf Crusty French Bread
1 stick Butter
4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced

Preparation Instructions

1. Mix cheeses with the mayonnaise and the green onions. Add dash of salt to taste and set aside or keep in fridge until you need it.

2. Cut loaf of bread in half, then each half into half again.

3. Working 1/4 loaf at a time, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet and add 1/4 of the minced garlic. Place 1 of the 1/4 loaves face down in the skillet, swirling it to soak up the butter and garlic. Allow bread to toast in the skillet, removing garlic if it starts to get too brown.

4. Repeat with remaining butter, garlic, and bread.

5. Spread cheese mixture on warm loaves and bake in a 425 degree oven until cheese is hot and bubbly, about 10 minutes.

6. Slice and serve. And then get on the Stairmaster. Pronto!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tortilla Casserole

Source: Cooking for Two

I continue to LOVE this cookbook by America's Test Kitchen. Everything I've tried from it has been stellar, and although I always like to have leftovers for lunches, it's nice to have a cookbook with portions for two! This recipe intrigued me since it was a casserole, but it was made and finished in one skillet. It also lacked any cream-of-anything soup, which is certainly rare! Casserole + one dish to clean = win! This was such a satisfying meal. I've never cooked with chipotle chile in adobo sauce (canned, in the Mexican section of your grocery store), and there's a reason you should only add one to two teaspoons. I stuck my finger in the can as soon as I opened it to get a taste, and immediately started choking and my eyes started burning. It's got some kick! We used one teaspoon, which was enough spice for us. If you REALLY love spicy food, add the additional teaspoon!

If you have more to serve, this could easily be doubled. Simply make the increased ingredients in a larger 12-inch skillet, and then transfer to a glass baking dish to broil.

This is great served right from the skillet, or topped with sour cream...yum!

Tortilla Casserole

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 ounces tortilla chips, broken into one-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
1 tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped medium
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Adjust an oven rack to about 6 inches below the broiler unit, and heat the broiler. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, shallot, garlic, chipotle, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.

3. Stir in half of the tortilla chips. Nestle the chicken into the broth and chips, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a carving board. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces using two forks.

4. Return the shredded chicken to the skillet along with the tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Stir in the remaining tortilla chips until moistened.

5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place and skillet in the oven. Broil until golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Using potholders, remove the skillet from the oven. Let the casserole cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve.

Pizza Dough

I love me some pizza, so why have I never attempted pizza dough? You got me. I turned to my trusty New Best Recipe and I wasn't disappointed! This recipe is supposed to make 3 pizza doughs, but I think I didn't let it rise long enough. I'll definitely make this again!

If only making one pizza, make the full recipe and divide into three once the dough is done rising. Place the extra dough in separate airtight containers and freeze them for up to several weeks. Defrost and stretch the dough when desired.

I used to be intimidated by yeast recipes before I bought a candy thermometer. Now, for a recipe like this, I'll keep filling up a measuring cup and checking the temperature of the water until it's at 110 degrees. It takes all the guesswork out of it!

The best way to cook the dough once you add all your toppings is on a pre-heated pizza stone. Heat the oven to 500 degrees and place the stone into the oven for at least 30 minutes. Bake in the oven for 8 - 12 minutes, until the crust edge browns and the cheese is golden brown in spots.

Pizza Dough

If you want to make the pizza dough in the morning and let rise on the counter all day, decrease the yeast to 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at room temperature (about 68 degrees) until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours, and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, about 6 to 8 hours.

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting (all-purpose flour can be used, but it won't be as crisp)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

2. Process the flour and salt in a standing mixer (or 11 cup food processor) to combine. Continue to mix ingredients while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a couple of tablespoons) in with the dry ingredients. If the dough does not readily form a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse or mix until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic.

3. Turn out the flour and knead by hand to form a smooth round ball - or replace your paddle with a dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate - it is now ready to use!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon, Shallots, and Capers

Source: The New Best Recipe

I've never had scallops before, but wanted to try these since scallops are incredibly easy to cook. Basically, get a pan hot, cook for a couple of minutes, turn over for another 30 seconds or so, and you're done! You never want to overcook scallops.

I really enjoyed these, and the sauce was a perfect accompaniment. You can't go wrong when lemon, white wine, and capers come together! If you're looking for an impressive but easy dish, this fits the bill!

Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon, Shallots, and Capers

1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
Salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest and 1 tablespoon juice from lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced capers
Salt and ground black pepper

1. Sprinkle the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat until hot, about 1 minute. Add half the butter and swirl to coat the pan bottom. Continue to heat the pan until the butter beings to turn golden brown.

2. Add half the scallops, one at a time, flat-side down. Cook, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the fat from burning, until the scallops are well browned 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the scallops, one at a time. Cook until medium-rare (the sides have firmed up and all but the middle third of the scallop is opaque), 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes longer, depending on size. Remove to a platter and cover.

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet and saute the shallot in the fat until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and lemon zest and simmer until reduced to about 1/3 cup, 6 to 7 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the butter, parsley, lemon juice, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the scallops and serve at once.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

Source: Giada de Laurentis

Oh, Giada. You never let me down! I picked this recipe because I'd been purchasing Healthy Choice microwaveable bowls, and while convenient, they are pretty flavorless. I love the little meatballs, though, so I wondered if I could make a better version myself.

Well, it turns out I can (copy Giada). I was a little concerned the broth would be somewhat flavorless since it's just chicken broth, some endive, and the egg/Parmesan mixture. But I thought it was VERY flavorful! I typically use ground turkey for any recipe that calls for ground meat, but I made these as stated in the recipe, and they were SO good! Make sure you use fresh parsley! I've been taking it to work for lunch all week, and I daresay it gets better as the week goes on! I may make another batch this week!

Italian Wedding Soup



1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper


12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

2. To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with parmesan cheese if desired.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ganache Truffles

Source: Good Things Catered

These are wonderfully rich, delicious treats. Until I saw this on Katie's blog, I had no idea I could make these at home! They take a fair amount of work and time, but they are absolutely incredible when done!

As Katie said, use a quality chocolate when making these. I used Ghiradelli, and I just don't know if I can go back to Hershey now!

The hardest part of making these was dipping them. You want enough chocolate to fully submerge the truffles, because they start to melt if you're turning them over with a knife or such. I would use more chocolate for melting, or remove the melted chocolate to a smaller glass bowl or the like before dipping.

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (this ended up being 2 and 1/2 3-ounce Ghiradelli bars)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of chocolate of choice, for dipping

1. Bring cream to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan and remove from heat. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until completely smooth. Let rest for 15 minutes.

2. Prepare a jelly roll pan with plastic wrap. Pour the melted chocolate on the pan and spread out slightly (mixture does not have to spread out over entire pan). Place in fridge and cool overnight or up to 2 days.

3. Remove ganache from fridge. Mixture will be hardened but still pliable. Using a spoon, remove small pieces and roll into balls. (This is VERY messy as the ganache will start to melt by the heat of your hands. I would recommend surgical gloves.) Place balls on a baking sheet and put back in the fridge to cool. (I left mine in for a few days before melting the chocolate.)

4. Using a double boiler, add water to the bottom pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low so water is simmering. Add top saucepan to broiler, ensuring simmering water is NOT touching the top saucepan. (I burned my first batch of chocolate by boiling the water directly on the top pan. Whoops.) Using a fork, submerge truffle in chocolate. Remove, tapping fork on edge of saucepan and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Decorate if desired, and place in fridge to set chocolate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grown Up Macaroni & Cheese

Source: Ina Garten

There's one dish I refuse to do low-fat and that's macaroni and cheese. Oh, how I love mac and cheese! It brings together two of my very favorite things: cheese and carbs. Yum yum yum!

This version was very good, but eating made me realize I am a mac and cheese purist. That's all I want. Macaroni and cheese. I like a nice crunchy topping, but didn't care too much for the basil or bacon. I was a little nervous about the blue cheese, since I don't typically partake (it has a metallic taste to me). However, I think it added a nice bite to the sauce. The next time I make it, I'll omit the bacon and basil, and replace one ounce of Gruyere with more extra-sharp Cheddar. Yum!

Grown Up Mac and Cheese


4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (or 1/2 cup Panko)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

3. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

5. Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Linguine with Shrimp and Vegetables

Source: The Food You Crave

I bought this book a few weeks back as part of my "healthy eating" initiative. I just started randomly flipping through it and this caught my eye. It's kind of a spring/summer dish, but really, I looked through the ingredients and picked it when I saw I only had one item to buy from the grocery store. I don't go by "the lazy housewife" for nothing.

Simply, this was amazing. I ate this until my stomach hurt. I licked the serving spoon before I put it in the dishwasher. This was SO GOOD, and asparagus and tomatoes aren't even in season! I think the key is all the fresh ingredients. Fresh parsley and real grated Parmesan are a MUST.

As always, I make way too many noodles. In this case, I mixed in what I thought was a reasonable amount, and put the rest in a Ziplock bag to serve with tomorrow's spaghetti. All the pasta dishes I make now are with whole-grain noodles. I really can't tell the difference, and since I tend to gorge myself on carbs, I feel a little better knowing they're good for me.

Now if I could only make myself like whole-grain bread. Blech.

Linguine with Shrimp and Vegetables


3/4 box (12 ounces) linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, woody bottoms removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Cook the linguine according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and the asparagus is tender but firm, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp mixture from the pan and set aside.

3. Combine the lemon juice, wine, and reserved pasta water in the skillet over medium-high heat. Let simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Return the shrimp and asparagus to the pan and stir in the parsley. Add the drained linguine, tossing to combine. Add the tomatoes and toss. Sprinkle with cheese, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Top 10 Favorites of 2009

Better late than never! What I love about this blog is it's really forced me expand my repertoire in the kitchen. Pre-blog, I had some good recipes, but having to post made me try new things and learn new techniques. I know so much more now and am looking forward to continuing to learn!

Beef Bourguignon

Although I normally don't think of stew as "decadent," this was so tender and flavorful. A definite treat!

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

This was our part of our Thanksgiving dinner, but it was so tender I'll make this throughout the year!

Pan-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

This was zesty, delicious, and perfect for two!

This was a total surprise to me. I knew it would be good, but I had no idea HOW good when making it! This is a must-try.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I've made a few different versions of shrimp scampi. This is my favorite!

Chicken Scallopine

Be still my heart. This combination of heavy cream, white wine, mushrooms and capers is TO DIE FOR.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Please try this. You won't regret it.

Seven Layer Taco Dip

This is my go-to dish to bring to parties. People LOVE it! It's pretty easy to put together and always a crowd-pleaser.

Roasted Garlic Bread

This garlic bread version takes a little longer due to roasting the garlic cloves, but it's SO worth it.

Sauteed Mushrooms

On special occasions I like to cook filets, and these mushrooms are the perfect side dish.

Thanks for following!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Miso Soup and Edamame

I've grown to love sushi. Back when I was living in the midwest, I never really had a hankering to try it. Of course, I didn't really know anything about it, but my thoughts ran along the line of, "Raw fish? People eat it? And enjoy it? Okay, keep on keepin' on, crazies."

In any case, that changed when we visited some sushi-loving friends in Toronto. They convinced us to try a bento box, a combination of salad, rice, teriyaki chicken, and a few California rolls. It was then I discovered I LOVE rolls. I still can't quite get myself to like sashimi, but I guess you can't win them all.

A sushi dinner is not complete without a helping of delicious miso soup and edamame. I need something warm to eat at dinner to really feel full, and edamame is a healthy and filling appetizer. I like to make this combination for lunch.

Fun fact: in Japan, miso soup and white rice are a traditional breakfast!

If you're going to make miso soup, though, you absolutely need two things: miso paste and dashi granules. I've never found these at my regular supermarket. I'm fortunate enough to live close to several Asian markets, which I would highly suggest visiting! Not only can you get the ingredients you need, but I just love strolling down the aisles and checking out the different Asian fare.

I prefer to use "firm" tofu, instead of silken tofu.

Yummy salted seaweed. Miso soup is salty enough, so I rinsed the seaweed and chopped it up.

Edamame is fun to eat. You lightly bite down on the pod until the beans squeeze out in your mouth, and then discard the pod. I've always purchased frozen packages, and then boiled the beans for 5-6 minutes. Let cool and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Miso soup can easily be altered to your taste. I've seen other recipes that had shiitake mushrooms, or used vegetable or chicken broth. Before I found this recipe, I used to eat a pre-made version that had udon noodles in it.

Miso Soup and Edamame

Source: All Recipes

2 teaspoons dashi granules
4 cups water
3 tablespoons miso paste
1 (8 ounce) package silken tofu, diced
2 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Stir in tofu. Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

To make the edamame:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil (6 for an entire package). Add 1/4 to 1/2 salt if desired. Add edamame and cook for 5-6 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Sprinkle with salt and serve.