Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kid's Meal

I made this meal today for a visit from a friend and her 3 1/2 year old son. I aimed for the meal to be kid friendly and casual so as to go with our plan to watch the Wizard of Oz. The movie pick was the 3 1/2 year olds but it was fun to see again. I made Paula Deen's Chicken Nuggets (crusted in potato chips). I've made this recipe before and really like it. The chips give the chicken a nice crust and a drizzle of butter never hurts! I also made Paula Deen's Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese. So far this is the cheesiest, creamiest recipe I have made. My only complaint is all the prep work before it goes in the crock pot. Finally, for dessert I made the classic Kraft Dirt Pudding. I will shamefully admit I really liked it too! Its just a classic. I also made a Mediterranean Pizza from a Pampered Chef cookbook so we could have a little adult food too. The pizza was really good and so versatile. I can think of tons of things to add or ways to use this recipe for parties.

Chicken Nuggets
2 cups crushed sour-cream-and-onion-flavored potato chips
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
6 chicken breast fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup butter, melted
Honey Mustard, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the crushed potato chips in a shallow dish. Beat together the egg and milk in a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken cubes into the egg mixture and then dredge them in the chips. Place the chicken nuggets on a baking sheet and drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. The chicken nuggets can be frozen after baking. Serve with your favorite sauce, such as honey mustard or ranch dressing.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Recipes Source: Paula Deen

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (an 8-ounce box isn't quite 2 cups)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stuck) butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese ( I followed reviewer's suggestions and grated my own cheddar cheese instead of using the packaged shredded cheddar)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Jello-Dirt Cups

Recipe Source:

2 cups cold milk
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Chocolate Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
15 OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, finely crushed, divided
10 paper or plastic cups (6 to 7 oz.) or dessert dishes
10 worm-shaped chewy fruit snacks

Pour milk into large bowl. Add dry pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir in whipped topping and 1/2 cup of the crumbs.
Spoon pudding mixture into cups; top with remaining crumbs.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with fruit snacks.

Mediterranean Patio Pizza
Pampered Chef Main Dishes Cookbook

1 package refrigerated bread sticks
olive oil
1 garlic clove pressed

Cheese Spread
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts in water, drained, divided
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled, divided
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup pitted ripe olives, sliced
1/3 cup cucumbers, sliced and quartered
1/4 small red onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup red wine vinegar and oil salad dressing

1. Preheat oven to 375. For crust, unroll bread stick dough; separate into strips. In center of pizza stone coil 1 strip dough around itselt in a spiral patter. Add second strip to end of first strip and pinch ends; continue coiling dough. Repeat with remaining dough. Roll dough within 1/2 inch of edge of stone, pressing seams to seal.

2. Lightly spray or brush dough with olive oil. Press garlic clove over dough. Spread evenly. Bake 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.

3. For cheese spread, finely chop artichoke hearts to make 1/4 cup. Combine with cream chsees and half of the feta cheese and oregano. Mix well. Spread evenly over crust.

4. For toppers, quarter remaining artichoke hearts. Seed and chop plum tomatoes, slice olives and cucumbers. Slice red.

5. Arrange vegetables over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with remaining feta cheese and pine nuts. Cut pizza into wedges. Drizzle with salad dressing just before serving.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Short Ribs and Panna Cotta

We had such an amazing meal at Craft a few weeks ago that I was eager to try a few new recipes to see if I could replicate some of our new found favorites. I decided to look for a recipe using short ribs and found myself using another Giada recipe. This recipe is from her Everyday Pasta Cookbook. This was another delicious recipe. The ribs take some time to cook but other than that the recipe is not complicated. The sauce that accompanied the ribs was really good and the ribs were falling off the bone. The dish overall reminded me of Braciole. This would be a great meal for a really cold winter night. I think the recipe would adapt well to a slow cooker. I didn't end up making the pasta to go with it, we just ate the ribs with sauce. Next time, I think I'm going to serve it over polenta. For dessert, I decided to try my hand at Panna Cotta. I found a recipe I really liked on William Sonoma's website. Surprisingly, the beginning preparation was very similar to the creme brulee recipe I usually make. The end result was a delicious dessert that tasted a lot like creme brulee. Instead of serving it with the strawberries and plums as suggested in the recipe, I made Ina' Garten's balsamic strawberries. The strawberries added a really decadent touch and were the perfect match for the Panna Cotta. I wasn't sure how I would like the combination but after trying it I wouldn't change a thing. I'm still looking for a Panna Cotta recipe like what we had a Craft. Their Panna Cotta had more of a cheesecake like flavor to it, but I would definitely make this recipe again. I forgot to take a picture of the short ribs but I'm not sure it would have come out well anyway since they were covered in sauce.

Short Ribs with Tagliatelle
Recipe Source: Everyday Pasta by Giada de Laurentis
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces chopped pancetta (about 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 pounds short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes (whole or diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups beef broth
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle
4 to 6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate
Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and pulse.

Once the short ribs are browned, carefully add the mixture from the food processor to the pot. Return the pancetta to the pot and stir. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, beef broth, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta and 2 to 3 minutes for fresh. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid 1/4 cup at a time, if
needed, to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.

Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Plums

Panna cotta ("cooked cream" in Italian) is like a baked custard without the eggs. Here, plums and strawberries dress up the dessert. You can substitute currants for the strawberries and green plums for the red ones.


2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
5 lemon zest strips, each 3 inches long
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, or 3/4
tsp. vanilla extract
3 3/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin
8 plums, about 1 1/2 lb. total, pitted and thinly
1 pint strawberries, halved


In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream, 2/3 cup of the milk, the confectioners' sugar, lemon zest and vanilla bean, if using. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup milk and the gelatin. Set aside to soften for about 10 minutes.

Bring the cream mixture back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large measuring pitcher. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using.

Pour into six 6-oz. custard cups or ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

To serve, run a small knife around the edge of each cup and unmold onto individual serving plates. Arrange the plum slices and strawberry halves around the molds. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Outdoors Series, Beach House Cooking, by Charles Pierce (Time-Life Books, 1999).

Balsamic Strawberries
Recipe: Courtesy of Ina Garten

2 pints (4 cups) sliced fresh strawberries
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated lemon zest, for serving

Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and pepper 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Set aside at room temperature.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Paula Deen Live

Yesterday I went with a friend to see Paula Deen's Live Show. It was fun to see Paula in person but overall the show was disappointing. Most of the show was an infomercial for the many products Paula is selling. Paula's husband Michael was on stage as was her son Bobby. Apparently, Michael is now going to be selling his own brand of coffee. I will say that Michael was much thinner than in previous television appearances-Paula commented he had lost 40 lbs. He didn't say much during the show. Most of the show was just Paula talking about nothing in particular or her son or assitance's tauting how wonderful she was. The show had no direction or point really. There was a cooking demo at the end but Paula really didn't do much of the cooking and only 8 people who had seats on stage were given food. After, Paula was not available for autographs. I tried to take a picture but the lighting was not good so I don't have any to post.

Last week was super busy for us, as is next week so I haven't had anything exciting cooking wise to post on the blog. I may cook dinner today or tomorrow, if not I will be back to posting next weekend.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dinner at Craft

Last night we decided to try Top Chef Judge Tom Colecchio's restaurant, Craft. In addition to amazing food, the whole dining experience was very enjoyable. The restaurant has a very modern vibe but the intimate booths and tables make it feel like you are in your own little world. Craft serves all of its items family style. Not the norm for an upscale restaurant. It was so fun to be able to try everything. We had dinner with two friends so that gave us the opportunity to try lots of things. I have some new favorites that I would probably never have ordered on my own-short ribs and Panna Cotta. I'm definitely going to try to make Panna Cotta for my next dinner party. I highly recommend Craft and can't wait to go back again.

Here is the menu of what we sampled:

Salad with Gorgonzola and Roasted Figs-I love figs so we were already off to a good start. The lettuce was the freshest most pure tasting lettuce I have ever had.
Heirloom Tomato Salad-Beautifully presented and flavorful.
Baby Shrimp Salad-Simple in concept but the flavors melded beautifully and the shrimp melted in our mouths.

Braised Short Ribs-Another melt in the mouth dish. The meat was so flavorful and tender. Presentation was cute-all entrees were served in miniature Staub pots.
Pork Tenderloin with Soy Dressing and Japanese Peppers-very tender, lots of flavor.
Scottish Salmon-The Salmon was very delicate and mild.
Halibut with Cherry Tomatoes-also very delicate and mild.

Roasted Broccolini, asparagus, carrots and snap peas.
Sauteed mushrooms-really earthy tasting and an interesting hint of nutmeg.
Fingerling Potatoes in garlic butter sauce.

Dessert was phenomenal. Lots of restaurants end a meal with a dessert that is okay but these were above and beyond. We contemplated whether it would be wrong to lick our plates or order another dessert course!

Panna Cotta with currants, fresh berries and lemon cookies-I've never had Panna Cotta before and this one was amazing. It was creamy and had a flavor almost like cheesecake. Hints of vanilla bean were also noticeable. The addition of the fruit and delicious cookies put it over the top. It was definitely a favorite of all of us at the table.

Chocolate Torte with espresso sauce-This dessert was so decadent. It had a deep dark chocolate flavor that was enhanced by the delicious espresso sauce. It was a chocolate lover's dream.

Tri0 of House Made Gelatos-vanilla bean, apricot and blueberry-very good and complimented the other desserts well.

At the end of the meal we also received chocolate covered sunflower seeds and caramel popcorn. It was a cute way to end the meal.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Comfort Food

Last night I decided to try two new recipes, Paula Deen's Northern Italian Stuffed Shells and Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake. Both were hits. I was a little nervous about the stuffed shell recipe because it called for cream cheese, not traditional to a true Italian stuffed shell recipe. However, I have always had success with Paula Deen's recipes and this one was rated five stars on the Food Network site so I decided to give it a shot. I'm going to see Paula Deen's live show next week so I thought it fitting to try another one of her recipes. The shells were delicious. The cream cheese basically melts in the mixture and adds a nice creaminess to the filling. I really liked this recipe and would make it again. I would probably add more herbs and seasoning to the filling though. The Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake is a recipe that keeps popping up on the food board I read. Its very simple to make and the frosting spreads beautifully. We really enjoyed it. Because the recipe uses so much cocoa powder it has a really deep dark chocolate cake. I added some chocolate shavings to the top of mine. Its a good all-purpose chocolate cake recipe to have.

Northern Italian Stuffed Shells
Source: Paula Deen

3 packages frozen, chopped spinach
3 pounds ground round
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 large onions, chopped
Grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
2 jumbo eggs
1 (1-pound) package jumbo pasta shells
2 cups tomato sauce (your own or ready-made) I used Newman's Own Marinara Sauce

Place frozen spinach in a strainer and run under hot water until thawed. Squeeze all of the water out and place in a large bowl. In a large saute pan, cook the ground round until browned. Drain meat, reserving 2 tablespoons fat in the pan, and place meat in the same bowl with the spinach. Stir in the cream cheese until blended with the meat and spinach. Saute the chopped onions in the reserved meat fat until transparent. Transfer onions to the bowl with the other ingredients and stir to combine. Add grated cheese, salt, and pepper, to taste, and combine. Let mixture cool and then add the eggs. The filling can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and cool to the touch. Stuff the shells with the meat mixture. Place shells in a large baking pan and cover with tomato sauce. Cover with foil and bake for approximately 1 hour. Serve.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pasta Carbonara

After cooking up a storm on Monday, I was feeling like taking it easy last night. I wasn't sure what to make and then I watched an episode of Everyday Italian where Giada made Pasta Carbonara. It looked pretty easy and I had all the ingredients on hand. The recipe turned out really well and was a fun take on the traditional carbonara recipes. Its a great recipe for a breakfast for dinner meal. I will admit I let the sauce cook through because I don't like the idea of eating raw egg. Next time I make this I will probably add some bacon or pancetta. Overall, a pretty good recipe.

Giada's Carbonara
Source: Giada de Laurentis

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, rubber band left on (I used leftover asparagus from last night's meal)
1 pound linguini
1 cup Basil Aioli, recipe follows
1 cup shaved pecorino (I used grated Parmesan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 to 6 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water and let sit until cool, about 5 minutes. Remove from the water, remove the rubber band, and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the large pot of salted water used to cook the asparagus and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl. Add the Basil Aioli, cut asparagus, shaved cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and place on a long, rectangular serving dish.

Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the eggs to your liking. Place the eggs on top of the pasta and serve immediately.

Basil Aioli:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large egg yolks*
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes

Combine the garlic, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, basil, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor and run the machine to mix. With the machine running slowly drizzle in the vegetable and olive oil. Basil Aioli can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Garlic and Citrus Roast Chicken Dinner

Tonight we had company for dinner so I decided to finally try Giada's recipe for Garlic and Citrus Roast Chicken. I have heard lots of people rave about this recipe and they were definitely right. The chicken had lots of flavor and was really moist. I think its the best roast chicken I've ever made. I started the meal off with a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, pine nuts and homemade Parmesan crisps. I used Girard's Champagne Salad Dressing. It goes really well with a spinach salad and the flavors match well with the citrus and garlic chicken. I also made Giada's oven roasted potatoes. I didn't use a mix of potatoes but used all baby reds. I've made this recipe before and its so simple and so delicious. The herbs de Provence are the key. I also decided to make one of my new favorite recipes, asparagus with Parmesan butter. I found this recipe on a few months ago and after making it added it to my keeper file. Boiling the asparagus and then broiling them briefly produces perfectly cooked asparagus. The Parmesan compound butter makes the dish. Finally, for dessert I made a berry cookie cobbler from my Semi-Homemade cookbook. I love this recipe! Its simple to make but presents very well. I've yet to serve it to guests who didn't love it. I have to say this was one very delicious meal! Sorry no pictures but my camera card is full!

Garlic and Citrus Roast Chicken

Source: Giada de Laurentis

1 (5 to 6-pound) whole roasting chicken, neck and giblets discarded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 orange, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise, plus 3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
Kitchen string or butcher twine

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the orange, lemon, and garlic halves. Tie the chicken legs together with kitchen string to help hold its shape. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

Place a rack in a large roasting pan. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the rack in the pan. Roast the chicken for 1 hour, basting occasionally and adding some chicken broth to the pan, if necessary, to prevent the pan drippings from burning. Whisk the orange juice, lemon juice, oil, oregano, and chopped garlic in a medium bowl to blend. Brush some of the juice mixture over the chicken, after it has baked 1 hour. Continue roasting the chicken until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the innermost part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F, basting occasionally with the juice mixture and adding broth to the pan, about 45 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Tent with foil while making the sauce (do not clean the pan).

Place the same roasting pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in any remaining broth and simmer until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Strain into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and discard the solids. Spoon the fat from the top of the sauce. Serve the chicken with the pan sauce.

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs
Source: Giada de Laurentis

1/2 pound small red-skinned potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
1/2 pound small white-skinned potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence, plus extra for garnish
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the herbs, garlic, and oil together until blended, and then pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer the potatoes to a heavy large baking dish, spacing them evenly apart.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, about 1 hour. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a decorative platter and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and herbes de Provence, if desired. Serve hot or warm.



Rinse and trim 1 pound of asparagus. (To trim, bend and break off tough, woody bottoms of stalks. There should be a natural spot on the stalk where this easily occurs.) Cook the asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water until just crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Arrange on a broiler-proof platter. Preheat broiler. Meanwhile, beat 3 tablespoons butter at room temperature in a medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in 1/2 cup (packed) grated Parmesan cheese (about 21/2 ounces), 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 large garlic clove (chopped) and 11/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drop butter mixture by teaspoonfuls over asparagus. Broil asparagus until topping browns, watching closely to avoid burning, about 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Berry Cookie Cobbler

Source: Semi-Homemade Cooking

2 bags (12 ounces each) frozen mixed berries, thawed
1 container (21-ounce) apple pie filling
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 roll (18-ounce) prepared sugar cookie dough
Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix berries, apple filling, sugar, and cinnamon. Transfer fruit mixture to an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. Crumble cookie dough over fruit, covering thickly and completely. Bake uncovered until cookie crust is golden and crisp, and juices bubble thickly, about 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Margarita Chicken

Last night we had Margarita Grilled Chicken for dinner. I have been making this recipe since college and it is one of my all time favorites, especially in the summer. This recipe is easy to make and healthy too. I served it with another one of my favorite summer recipes, black bean and corn salad. This salad is great for a pot luck, the original recipe which I halve makes 12 servings. The cucumber is a really nice addition. I omit the poblano chili but if you like heat it probably adds a nice kick. We also had brown rice with this meal. We are not big ice cream eaters in our house. I like ice cream but its not something I generally keep in the house. The other day I was talking to a friend and she mentioned mint chocolate chip ice cream. I've never had it and it sounded good, especially with our current heat wave. So for dessert, I whipped up a batch of Ghiradelli brownies and served with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I must admit mint chocolate chip might be my new favorite flavor!

Margarita Grilled Chicken

1/2 cup Bacardi Frozen Margarita Mix
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 chicken breasts
1 tsp coarse salt

Marinate chicken in margarita mix, lime juice and garlic 1-2 hours . Remove chicken from marinade, sprinkle with salt and grill. Note: Save some mixture not touched by the chicken to brush on when grilling.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This recipe makes 12 servings so I usually halve it.

2 cups frozen corn or canned summer crisp
2 cups chopped tomatoes (4 medium)
2 cups chopped, seeded and peeled cucumbers (2 large)
3/4 cup chopped onions (I usually omit)
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 poblano chiles, seeded and finely chopped ( I usually omit)
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1. If corn is frozen, prepare as directed and drain, otherwise go to step 2
2. In large bowl, combine corn, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, cilantro, chiles, beans and vinegar; mix well. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Just before serving, in small bowl combine oil, sugar and salt, mix well. Add to salad and toss gently.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Progressive Dinner Appetizers

Artichoke Pesto Torta


Mini Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Zesty Appetizer Wheels

Tonight we participated in our first progressive dinner. We planned the dinner with several friends in the neighborhood as part of our celebration of National Night Out. We were the first house on the tour so we did appetizers. We didn't have a main course in the dinner, the next house did appetizers as well and the third had dessert. All in all the food was delicious and everyone had a great time. We were so stuffed it seemed like a very long walk home! For my part of the dinner, I made some of my favorite recipes. This is my second time to make the Sangria recipe and I'm hooked. I substitute cognac for the brandy and use whatever fruit is in season. Today I used apples, plums and blackberries. The appetizer pinwheel recipe is one of my favorite appetizers to make. I found the recipe years ago and I use it all the time. I actually just entered it in a recipe contest. The artichoke pesto torta is one of my new recipe finds. This is the third time I have made it and its always a hit. Its perfect for summer because it has a light and refreshing taste. I added a little cracked pepper on top to finish it off. The bruschetta is my own recipe I configured from several I have seen. I only use Muir Glenn canned tomatoes and they taste just as good as fresh in most recipes. I don't have a recipe for the meatballs. I just eyeball all of my ingredients. We really enjoyed our first progressive dinner and can't wait to do it again!

Red Wine Sangria
Source: Bobby Flay
2 bottles red Spanish table wine
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup simple syrup, or more to taste (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves, cooled)
Orange slices
Apple slices
Pomegranate seeds
Mix all ingredients together and let stand in a tightly sealed container or pitcher for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Artichoke Pesto Torta
Source: Giada De Laurentis

1 (13 to 14-ounce) can whole artichoke hearts, rinsed well, drained, and patted dry
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
Nonstick cooking spray
Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish
Assorted breads and crackers, to serve
Assorted cut-up fresh vegetables, to serve (such as bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, endive leaves, and carrots)
Blend the artichokes, parsley, nuts, lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the artichokes are very finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually pour in 1/4 cup oil. Continue blending until the pesto is creamy. Season the pesto, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Spray a 2 to 3 cup bowl with nonstick spray. Line the bowl with plastic wrap, extending the plastic over the sides. Spread enough cream cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared bowl to form a 1/2-inch layer. Top with enough pesto to form a 1/2-inch layer. Repeat layering the remaining cream cheese mixture and pesto. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

Invert the torta onto a platter and remove the plastic. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve with bread, crackers, and vegetables.

Zesty Appetizer Wheels

12 slices hard salami

1 (8 oz can) reduced fat crescent rolls

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

2 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning (or combo of garlic powder, basil, oregano, freshly ground pepper)

Roll out dough into two rectangles.

Sprinkle each rectangle with 3 Tbsp parmesan cheese. 2 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning.

Lay 6 slices of hard salami on top of each rectangle. Roll up each rectangle tightly creating two logs, pinching together seam. Place on cutting board and cut eight slices in each log. Bake at 350 degrees by about 13 minutes.


Slice French Baguette into thin slices. Drizzle with Olive Oil. Bake in Oven at 350 until golden brown. Immediately after removing from oven rub with garlic clove. Top with Muir Glenn diced tomatoes with basil and parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 5 more minutes.

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops and Blackberry Muffins

I've had Giada's recipe for Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops on my list of recipes to try forever and finally made it last night. The pork chops lived up to all the glowing reviews I read. The meal was simple and delicious. I made them on the stove top last night but they would probably be great and a little less messy if cooked in the oven as well. I served the pork chops with Parmesan and Basil Orzo, a favorite recipe from I also added a side of balsamic marinated green and wax beans. Additionally, I just purchased a Muffins cookbook at Williams Sonoma's annual sale, so I decided to make a batch of blackberry muffins. The muffins had a great crunchy topping and were really moist. This recipe is a great way to take advantage of the wonderful crop of summer blackberries.

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops
Source: Giada de Laurentis

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Parmesan and Basil Orzo

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

  1. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and saute until lightly browned.
  2. Stir in chicken stock and bring to boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 - 20 minutes.
  3. Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to shallow bowl. Garnish with basil sprigs.

Blackberry Muffins
Source: Williams Sonoma Muffins

Blackberry Muffins

For the topping:
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the muffins:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh blackberries or 2 1/2 cups frozen
unsweetened blackberries, unthawed

Unsalted butter for serving

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray.

To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and lemon zest. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add the pecans and stir to combine. Set aside.

To make the muffins, in a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter and buttermilk. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Sprinkle with the blackberries and gently fold in with a large rubber spatula just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Take care not to break up the fruit. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each to a bit above the rim of the cup. Top each muffin with the topping, dividing it evenly (the sugar will melt and produce a glaze effect).

Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature, with butter. Makes 12 muffins.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Spicy-Honey Brushed Chicken Thighs

I saw this recipe for the honey brushed chicken thighs in the March issue of Cooking Light and subsequently read several rave reviews about it on my cooking board. The reviews were right, this recipe was not only really good but very easy. Also, aside from the chicken, the ingredients are things I always have on hand. I would note the thighs took much longer to cook than the times given in the recipe. The only thing I might change next time is to use chicken tenders, as chicken thighs are not my favorite. I also made a slow cooker macaroni and cheese and sauteed spinach with garlic to accompany the dinner. The macaroni and cheese was simple to make and had good flavor. You don't even have to precook the macaroni for this recipe. I've been trying different macaroni and cheese recipes in an attempt to find the perfect one. I really like creamy macaroni and cheese and haven't found a recipe like that yet. I've made recipes from both Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. Both were good but not quite what I was looking for. This slow cooker recipe was also good but more like a baked macaroni and cheese casserole.

Spicy-Honey Braised Chicken Thighs


2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar


Preheat broiler.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.

Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.


4 servings (serving size: 2 chicken thighs)

Extra-Cheesy Macaroni and Cheese
Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook

1 8 oz package shredded Italian three-cheese blend
1 8 oz package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder (this was not original to the recipe, I added it)
8 oz small shell pasta (2 1/4 cups) uncooked

Combine cheeses in a bowl and set aside.

Whisk together eggs and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in pasta and 3 cups cheese mixture. Pour mixture into lightly greased 3 quart slow cooker; sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese mixture.

Cover and cook on LOW 4 hours. Sprinkle servings evenly with remaining cheese mixture. Makes 6-8 servings.

For the wilted spinach, I sauteed 1 clove garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil for about 2 minutes. I then added the fresh spinach and cooked until wilted.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Slow Cooker Thai Ribs

Over the past few years I have been doing lots of experimenting with my crock pot in attempt to learn how to use it. My favorite cookbooks for the slow cooker are the Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbooks. I've made several recipes from both books including, tortilla soup, garlic-rosemary chicken, Italian pot roast, Cranberry pork roast, Asian pork loin, Saucy apples n' pears, maple glazed pears and cheesy spinach artichoke dip. They were all successes and I admit, I have a lot more recipes flagged to try! also has some good recipes, my favorite barbecued brisket recipe is from the site. Yesterday I decided to make ribs in the slow cooker. I didn't feel like traditional barbecue ribs so I decided to make the Thai Style Ribs listed as an editor's favorite recipe. The house smelled so good while they were cooking. The ribs came out very tender and had a really nice flavor. I usually make my barbecued ribs in the oven but now I can't wait to try them in the slow cooker after how well this recipe worked. I served the ribs with Jasmine rice and steamed Asian vegetables. Sorry no picture, but we ate late last night.

Thai-Style Ribs
3 1/2 pounds pork baby back ribs, cut in half (I had small pork ribs from Whole Foods that had already been separated from the rack)
1 11.5 oz can Welches frozen orange-pineapple-apple juice concentrated, thawed and undiluted
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 teaspoons sugar
Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs

Place ribs in large shallow dish or zip-top freezer bag. Combine juice concentrate and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl with wire whisk. Reserve 3/4 cup mixture in refrigerator for dipping. Pour remaining mixture evenly over ribs; cover to seal and chill 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove ribs from marinade, discarding marinade. Place 1 rack of ribs in bottom of slow cooker, stand remaining rib racks on their sides around edges of slow cooker. Cover and cook on High 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 hours.

Microwave reserved 3/4 cup sauce in 1 cup glass measure at High 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring once. Serve with ribs. Garnish, if desired. Makes 2-4 servings.