Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quick Dinners

I haven't had many blog updates for dinner lately as I've been on a salad kick. I thought I would share my two recent favorites. I can't say I had any planning in making these, I just threw them together based on what I had on hand. I should have photographed them, because they had very nice presentation!

Deviled Egg Salad-a perfect way to make a complete meal in a hurry. This is great for easy yet elegant entertaining at lunch time, especially in the summer. I use my vegetable steamer to steam my eggs. Takes 15 minutes and they come out perfect every time. My deviled egg recipe is simple, mix yolks with mayo and Dijon mustard. My special touch is smoked Spanish paprika. A must have ingredient for the pantry. Prepare the salad as usual and add deviled eggs to finish.

Baby Arugula
Cherry Tomatoes
Chopped Green Onion
Deviled Eggs
Annie's Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Chicken-I absolutely love strawberries in my salad. I could eat this salad every day. This is a great recipe to use up leftover grilled or roast chicken. I roasted an extra chicken breast while cooking this week so I used that. This salad couldn't get any simpler. Its so versatile. You could add goat cheese, blue cheese or whatever cheese you had on hand. Avocado would also be a nice addition.

Mixed Salad Greens with Herbs
Roast Chicken
Asiago Cheese
Honey Roasted Sunflower Seeds (These are the best addition to a salad. I picked these up at a Wild Flower Farm while on vacation in the Texas Hill Country. I'm hoping I can order more, because I'm almost out!)
Caesar Salad Dressing or my other favorite Annie's Papaya Poppy seed

Banana Flaxseed Bread

I was reading the newspaper yesterday and came across this banana bread recipe in the healthy living section of the paper. I had not planned on baking, but realized I had some bananas that needed to be used so I decided to give this recipe a shot. I've made several banana bread recipes over the years and thought they all pretty much tasted the same. No real stand outs among the bunch. I wasn't sure what to expect with this recipe but was very pleasantly surprised. The flax seed and whole wheat flour add a nice nutty flavor to the bread. This is not an overly sweet banana bread but we really liked it that way. I was really craving a chocolate dessert when I made this so I threw in a 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. The chocolate balanced the dish nicely. This is great for breakfast, an afternoon snack or dessert. The best part about this recipe is its whole grain and packs a nice punch of flax seed which is naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of fiber. I only had ground flax seed so I didn't add the additional whole flax seeds to the top but I think they would be a nice addition if you have them. When buying flaxseed be sure to take care in storing it. It will go rancid rather quickly. Ground seeds can be refrigerated for up to 90 days or kept in the freezer. I like to keep mine in the freezer since it takes me a while to use a whole package. Another tip, whenever I have bananas that are past the point of eating, I mash them and freeze in a ziplock bag so I always have some ready for baking.

Banana Flaxseed Bread
Recipe as Adapted from the Dallas Morning News

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milled flaxseed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup fat-free skim milk (I used whole milk)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 egg whites
1 whole egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (I omitted)
4 tsp flaxseed (divided use) (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all purpose-flour, milled flaxseed, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg whites, egg and vanilla. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in bananas, walnuts and 3 tsp flaxseed, blending until moistened.

Spoon into greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle top of bread with remaining 1 tsp flaxseed. Bake 55-60 minutes or until browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to stand in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf. (9-12 servings)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Honorable Mention!

Thanks to Stacey at D Magazine for the mention of my blog on D's SideDish Blog. Here's a link to the post: SideDish

I have long been a subscriber to D Magazine and recently found the D blogging community. SideDish does a great job of reporting on area restaurant trends and items of interest to the local foodie community.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quinoa Muffins

Today I used quinoa for the first time. I have seen several recipes using quinoa lately and have been intrigued. Quinoa, pronounced "Keen-wah" is being referred to as "the supergrain of the future." According to our local newspaper, quinoa packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, calcium, protein and fiber. Just a 1/4 cup serving of quinoa has 6.5 grams of dietary fiber. Quinoa is now becoming mainstream and appearing in more grocery stores. I saw this muffin recipe in the February 2008 issue of Everyday Food. I was intrigued by the use of quinoa in a muffin. These were easy to make and I must say delicious. I've really had good luck on my muffin of the week quest! These are surprisingly sweet. The vanilla flavor is very prominent. Adding the quinoa to the batter produces a very light and fluffy muffin. This recipe is also gluten-free. Definitely one to make again. Per some of the suggestions on Martha Stewart's site I may try this recipe with chocolate chips instead of raisins. I also liked the idea of substituting apple juice for part of the water when boiling the quinoa. Look for the pre-rinsed quinoa to save a step in rinsing. I recently clipped a recipe for a quinoa vegetable salad that I'm hoping to make very soon.

Quinoa Muffins
Source: Everyday Food Feb. 2008

Makes 12

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.

WS Technique Classes

I received an email from Williams Sonoma regarding their monthly class schedule. Apparently, they have technique classes that are free. My Mom and I attended a class this weekend on Pasta Making using the Kitchen Aid mixer attachments. The class was free and more of a demo than a class. The instructor was a Kitchen Aid rep. We found the class to be really informative. I've only used my pasta attachment once and I had quite a few issues. Now that I have been to the class, I know precisely where my errors were. I can't wait to get into the kitchen and try making pasta again. I've been craving homemade pasta since the class! So, if you get a chance, I highly recommend checking out the Williams Sonoma classes. Great learning opportunity and better yet, free!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tuna Patties

I originally intended these to be salmon patties, but unfortunately I accidentally bought the canned salmon with the skin, cartilage, and bones. I'm embarrassed to say it repulsed me so much I threw the can away. Luckily, I had some tuna in the pantry so all was not lost. I don't really have an exact recipe, I just throw them together and eyeball the ingredients. Here is what I put in mine tonight:

Corn Flake Crumbs
Fresh Parsley
Simply Organic All Season Salt
Ground Flax seed
Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper

Mix to combine. Mixture should be just wet enough to hold patties together but not too moist. Heat olive oil in skillet and brown on both sides.

Broccoli Mac and Cheese Au Gratin

I clipped this recipe from the July 2007 issue of Cooking Light. It takes a bit of time to prepare this recipe since the cheese sauce is made from scratch. This recipe turned out really well. I would compare it to a pasta Alfredo versus an actual macaroni and cheese. We liked the addition of the broccoli. You could add chicken and easily have a complete meal. The garlic bread crumbs on top add a nice flavor. Usually when I am going to make a Cooking Light recipe, I check the reviews for the recipe ahead of time. I had some difficulty locating this recipe on their site. I ended up finding it after I had finished preparing the dish. I was surprised to see the recipe only got three stars with several reviewers stating it was bland. We disagreed with those reviews. It would be bland if you were expecting a tangy macaroni and cheese, but like I said this was more like an Alfredo. I would make this again. I served this with some homemade tuna patties.

Broccoli Mac and Cheese Au Gratin

4 cups uncooked medium seashell pasta (about 12 ounces)
6 cups broccoli florets (about 1 pound)-I used organic frozen broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3 3/4 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Dash of ground nutmeg
Cooking spray
2 (1-ounce) slices white bread


Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes; add broccoli. Since I used frozen, I added the broccoli and put a lid on the pot of boiling water and allowed it to steam. Cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done. Drain.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 45 seconds. Transfer garlic mixture to a small bowl; set aside.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; stir in onion. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3 cups milk. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to onion mixture. Return pan to medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat; stir in the cheeses, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and nutmeg. Add pasta mixture to milk mixture, tossing gently to coat. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine garlic mixture and bread in a food processor; pulse 15 times or until fine crumbs measure 1 cup. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta mixture. Bake at 400° for 18 minutes or until the top is brown.


8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups pasta)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 360(26% from fat); FAT 10.4g (sat 5.2g,mono 3.4g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 19g; CHOLESTEROL 27mg; CALCIUM 341mg; SODIUM 708mg; FIBER 3.2g; IRON 2.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.7g

Maureen Callahan , Cooking Light, JULY 2007

Easy Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

As I was putting together my dinner this evening, I really wanted some good rolls to go with it. We have been focusing on eating more whole grains lately so I set out to find a recipe for rolls that used whole wheat flour. I found this one on the Whole Foods website. I have found some great recipes on their website as well as in their monthly fliers. This recipe certainly lived up to its name as it was really easy in that no kneading is required. The rolls are done in a muffin tin so they are more muffin like in appearance . The result was a tender, delicious roll with the bonus of it being whole wheat. We will be having these on our menu again.

Easy Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
Source: Whole Foods
Serves 6 (12 rolls)
  • 1 1/4 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar (I used regular granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (.28 ounce)
  • 1 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour

Have all ingredients at room temperature to start. In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat flour with the cane sugar, sea salt and yeast. Add the warmed milk, melted butter and lightly beaten egg. Beat until smooth. Add the unbleached white flour, mixing until fully incorporated. The batter should be smooth. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Meanwhile, lightly spray 12 muffin tins with extra virgin olive oil spray. Set aside.

Once raised, stir the batter down. Spoon even amounts of the dough into prepared muffin tins. Allow this to rise until the dough comes just over the top of the muffin tins, about another 45 minutes to one hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake the rolls for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Nutrition Info

Per Serving (112g-wt.): 280 calories (70 from fat), 8g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 4g dietary fiber, 9g protein, 43g carbohydrate, 50mg cholesterol, 230mg sodium

Monday, April 14, 2008

Simple yet Sublime-Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon and Asparagus

I know I've said it before but I just love Martha Stewart's Every Day Food Magazine. I've found more than a few of my favorite recipes in this magazine. I would put tonight's recipe in my top ten favorite recipes. This recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner but would dress up just as well for easy entertaining. I think Martha Stewart accurately summed it up in her description of this dish as a "one pan wonder." The cooking method produces a wonderful crispy skin on the chicken and the lemon pan gravy is outstanding. I would never have believed such a perfect dish could arise out of so few ingredients. For another one of my favorite Every Day Food recipes, check out my link for Chicken with Mushrooms and Tomatoes. That was another favorite that produced surprisingly wonderful results with only a few ingredients.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon and Asparagus
Recipe as Adapted from Every Day Food April 2007

Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 package cut-up whole chicken (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (1 pound), trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place potatoes and half the butter in a roasting pan; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until potatoes are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Place chicken, skin side up, on top of potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Roast until chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes.
  3. Scatter asparagus, lemon, remaining butter, and thyme around chicken. Roast until asparagus is tender and chicken is opaque throughout, 5 to 15 minutes. Serve chicken, vegetables, and lemon drizzled with pan juices.

Morning Glory Muffins

I decided to make another batch of muffins this week, since last week's went so quickly! I chose another Cooking Light five star recipe. This recipe did not disappoint. I've had it on my cookbook stand to make for a few weeks and I can only say I'm sorry I didn't make it sooner. My husband loved the apple muffins from last week, but these are definitely my favorite. I feel like I put everything but the kitchen sink in these muffins. The end result was a moist, delicious and healthy muffin. The banana flavor is definitely the most prominent of all the ingredients. The inclusion of the dried dates and pineapple adds wonderful texture and flavor. I'm certain I will be making these on a regular basis. I'm also submitting this recipe to the Tasty Tools blogging event hosted by Joelens Culinary Adventures. I made a few slight changes to the recipe as noted below:

Morning Glory Muffins
Recipe as Adapted from Cooking Light July 2007

Cooking spray
1 cup whole wheat flour (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon wheat bran (I omitted)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used 6 oz Brown Cow Blueberry Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt and add 2 more oz of cream of coconut)
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed (about 2 tablespoons whole)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in dates, walnuts, and pineapple. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with flaxseed. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

18 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)

CALORIES 186(21% from fat); FAT 4.4g (sat 0.5g,mono 0.7g,poly 2.8g); PROTEIN 4.2g; CHOLESTEROL 12mg; CALCIUM 42mg; SODIUM 190mg; FIBER 3.4g; IRON 1.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 35.2g

Tropical Carrot Cake

Okay, I have to admit in making this carrot cake I was cheating on my all-time favorite recipe, Martha Stewart's Carrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting. I never liked carrot cake before I tried Martha's recipe. That carrot cake is so superb, I didn't see the need to try another carrot cake recipe, ever! I've previously blogged about my love of the Pastry Queen Cookbook. Through the years, I have passed the Tropical Carrot Cake recipe but couldn't bring myself to try it as I already had a perfect recipe. Yesterday, I finally gave in and decided to make it. I was persuaded by the 5 1lb bag of organic carrots in my refrigerator! My husband and our dinner guest really loved the carrot cake. I thought it was really good too. It was moist and delicious and the macadamia nuts added a nice crunch and opposing saltiness. I was a little disappointed that despite the addition of cream of coconut in the frosting and cake, the coconut taste was not very prominent. Would I make this again? Absolutely, it was a beautiful cake and would make a wonderful addition to any table. I can't really fault it in anyway. Does it replace my Martha Stewart recipe? No. The Tropical Carrot Cake was very good and would be my go to recipe if I wasn't already in love with the Martha Stewart recipe. For me, the Martha Stewart recipe takes it over the top. You can't beat the orange cream cheese frosting. Its certainly not a bad thing to have two great carrot cake recipes in your file!

Tropical Carrot Cake
Source: The Pastry Queen by Rebecca RatherTo make the cake:

List of Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (I really like Let's Do Organic's Finely Shredded Coconut, sold at Whole Foods)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded peeled carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple or drained crushed canned pineapple
  • 1/2 cup sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)

  • -- Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting --
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Arrange the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

  2. Place one oven rack one-third from the bottom of the oven and the second two-thirds from the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350� F. Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper rounds, grease with butter, and dust with flour. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut and nuts in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, oil, carrots, pineapple, and cream of coconut. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined.

  3. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another. Set two layers on one rack and the third on the other. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cakes are done when they are golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert them onto the racks and cool completely, about 15 to 20 minutes.

  4. To make the frosting:
    Using a mixter fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed about 1 minute. Add the whipping cream, cream of coconut and salt; beat until combined.

  5. Place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread a thick blanket of frosting on top. Add the second layer, spread thickly with frosting, and top with the third layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with an even layer of frosting. If you're feeling energetic and there is frosting left over, use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to pipe a decoration around the top rim of the cake. (The cake can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 4 days. Let it cool in the refrigerator about 1 hour before covering, to ensure the frosting has hardened and will not stick to the plastic wrap.)

    Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Braised Short Ribs

I previously made these short ribs which were fabulous. This time, I wanted to try a more traditional recipe. I recently stocked up on short ribs at Whole Foods and had them in the freezer. I was waiting for the right opportunity to make them. I have long had this braised short rib recipe in my recipe file, so when we invited a friend for dinner I knew this would be perfect one to try. The preparation was very similar to beef Burgundy. This recipe and the accompanying sides came from Martha Stewart Every Day Food. The short ribs were delicious. I would definitely make them again. The sides were good but I would probably make some changes next time. I have never made broccoli rabe before. It was a very bitter green reminiscent of escarole. I didn't so much care for the texture, it was a little tough. I would probably make wilted spinach or escarole next time. I also made a creamy polenta with thyme. I liked the polenta with the short ribs I just thought this could use a little more flavor. I imagine there will be more short ribs appearing in this blog. I'm currently eyeing a recipe for short rib ravioli. Looks like it might be time to pull out the pasta maker again!

Braised Short Ribs
Recipe as Adapted from Martha Stewart Every Day Food
Serves 8

1/4 cup all purpose flour
coarse salt and pepper
16 pieces bone in beef short ribs (about 4 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 onions, quartered
1 bottle dry red wine, such as Merlot
1 can 14.5 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can (28) oz whole peeled tomatoes in puree

1. Preheat oven to 400. Place flour in a medium bowl; season wtih salt and pepper. Toss ribs in flour mixture until well coated; shake off excess.

2. In a 5-8 quart Dutch oven or heavy ovenproof pot, heat oil over medium high. Cook ribs in two batches, turning until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch; transfer to plate.

3. Add carrots and onions to pot. Cook stirring and scraping up browned bits until vegetables are lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine, broth, thyme and tomatoes (breaking them up). Arrange ribs in pot; bring liquid to a boil. Cover, transfer to oven and cook 1 hour. Reduce heat to 350, cook until fork-tender (but not falling apart), about 1 hour more.

4. Use tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer ribs to a plate. Moisten with cooking liquid; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Strain remaining liquid through a fine-mesh sieve (discard solids); return to pot. Bring to a boil and cook until sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve ribs with sauce.

Creamy Polenta with Thyme
Recipe as Adapted from Martha Stewart Every Day Food
Serves 8

coarse salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

1. In a large saucepan, combine 7 cups water, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Whisking constantly, gradually add cornmeal. Reduce heat to medium low, simmer polenta, whisking frequently, until thickened and creamy, 10-15 minutes.

2. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Garnish with thyme and serve. If polenta thickens upon serving , stir in a little hot water.

Sauteed Brccoli Rabe
Recipe as Adapted from Martha Stewart Every Day Food
Serves 8

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves smashed
2 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe (about 3 bunches), trimmed and sliced cross-wise into 1 inch pieces
coarse salt and ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant about 1 minute.

2. Place as much broccoli rabe in the skillet as will fit, cook, tossing frequently. Add remainder to skillet as room becomes available; season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook tossing frequently, until broccoli rabe is tender, 5-7 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chicken Andouille Gumbo

This is one of my favorite recipe finds from I've been making this gumbo for several years now. I love pairing it with a bowl of rice and garlic bread. The recipe does take some time to cook but it is in no way difficult to prepare. This is definitely comfort food at its best. Also, this recipe freezes very well.

Chicken Andouille Gumbo
  • 12 cups water
  • 3 pounds chicken parts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds okra
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can Italian-style whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon file powder
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add okra and cook until no longer sticky, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes; set aside.
  2. Stir flour and remaining 1/2 cup oil in heavy large Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until deep golden brown, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Add 4 cups reserved chicken cooking broth, okra, andouille sausage, tomatoes with their juices, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaf, salt, thyme, basil, cayenne, and pepper. Cover partially and simmer until thickened, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Spoon off any fat from surface of gumbo. Add chicken and file powder to gumbo and simmer gently 15 minutes. (If preparing ahead, cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.) Mound rice in shallow bowls if desired. Ladle gumbo over and serve.
Combine water and chicken in large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Using tongs, transfer chicken to strainer and cool, saving cooking liquid. Remove meat from bones in pieces.


File powder is a seasoning made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It's an integral part of Creole cooking, and is used to thicken and flavor Gumbos and other Creole dishes. File should be stirred into a dish after it's removed from the heat because undue cooking makes file tough and stringy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

I made this Cooking Light recipe after seeing it on Sensible Suppers and Decadent Desserts. My husband thought these muffins were absolutely delicious. I'm not sure how many he ate last night, but I do know a significant number of them were gone this morning. I also saw him grabbing one on the way out the door today! I chose this recipe in large part because I had leftover buttermilk from Ina's Chocolate Cake and leftover ricotta from the Beef and Cheese Manicotti. The muffins were very light and fluffy and had a great apple/cinnamon flavor. The inside reminded me of an apple turnover with all the bite size pieces of apples. An added bonus, the house smelled wonderful while they were cooking!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bittersweet Brownies

I have made these brownies numerous times since finding this recipe in the June 2007 issue of Cooking Light. I love the intense chocolate flavor these brownies get from the combination of the bittersweet chocolate and espresso powder. These brownies have a really rich chocolate flavor without being overly sweet. Best described as, a more sophisticated brownie with a cake like texture. I highly recommend them.

Bittersweet Brownies
Recipe as Adapted from Cooking Light June 2007

1/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules or 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I use chopped bittersweet baking chocolate)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1/4 cup boiling water and espresso in a medium bowl. Add chocolate chips, stirring until chocolate melts; cool slightly. Stir in butter, vanilla, egg, and egg white.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Add coffee mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 brownie)

CALORIES 171 (31% from fat); FAT 5.8g (sat 3.4g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 2.5g; CHOLESTEROL 25mg; CALCIUM 26mg; SODIUM 107mg; FIBER 1.2g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 29.3g

Beef and Cheese Manicotti

What can I say? This is another wonderful recipe by Giada. I've had this recipe in my file to try for quite some time. I'm glad I finally took the time to make it. My husband who is not a manicotti fan, really liked the combination of flavors and definitely wants me to make this one again. This recipe makes quite a large portion. I froze half so now on a day I don't feel like cooking, dinner is already made. I love those kind of recipes!

Beef and Cheese Manicotti
Recipe as Adapted from Giada de Laurentis
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 (8-ounce package) manicotti
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups marinara sauce
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Heat a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, onion and ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the meat browns and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cool.

Brush 1 teaspoon of oil over a large baking sheet. Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still very firm to the bite, about 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the oiled baking sheet and cool.

Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, 1 1/2 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and parsley. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix. Stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture. Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, then the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Dot entire dish with the butter pieces. Bake the manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chocolate Frosting Emergency

I volunteered to make a birthday cake for a friend's surprise party. Based on the rave reviews I got last time I made Ina's Chocolate Cake, I decided that was definitely the recipe to make. The recipe for that cake is located here: Ina's Chocolate Cake. I set out to make the cake and had my first realization, I loaned my friend who was having the birthday the last of my canola oil the day before. I then realized I only had 3 oz of semi-sweet baking chocolate. It started to look like disaster for this cake. Another friend rescued me and loaned me the oil and a package of chocolate chips. Okay, ready to bake. I prepared the cakes and then started on the frosting. I was half way through prepping the frosting when I realize the recipe says you can use any kind of chocolate except chocolate chips because they have stabilizers. I'm not sure what disaster would have befallen the cake but I didn't want to find out. So, on to Plan B (or C) for this cake. I pulled out my trusted Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and found a recipe for Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting that used chocolate chips. The cake was saved and the frosted complemented the cake perfectly. I may even like it better than Ina's recipe. I will definitely use this frosting recipe again. I would also love to try the Chocolatel-Mint Sour Cream variation in the book. The only change I made to the recipe was to add the instant coffee powder that Ina adds to hers.

Again, I forgot to take a picture. We've had a lot going on this week and I have been cooking in a hurry. I will note I garnished the cake with crushed Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and it was great match. I'm only sorry that I didn't have any cake leftover for breakfast this morning!

Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting
As Adapted from the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1 12 oz package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup butter
1 8 oz carton sour cream
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder (I used instant espresso powder)

1. In a large saucepan melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring frequently. Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Gradually, add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Dissolve coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of very hot water and mix in to frosting. This frosts the tops and sides of two 8 or 9 inch cake layers. (Halve the recipe to frost at 13x9x2 inch cake). Cover and store frosted cake in the refrigerator

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Italian Style Pot Roast

I'm still searching for the perfect pot roast recipe. I made this recipe last night and it was delicious, although not a traditional roast. So my search for a traditional pot roast continues but this one as a variation was stellar. I definitely will be making it again. I think I will try it in my slow cooker next time. In making this pot roast, I started out with Tyler Florence's recipe but ended up making it Italian style when I realized my can of crushed tomatoes had basil in it. I had the other fresh herbs but didn't think they would go as well with the basil so I left them out. Sorry, I don't have a picture. I actually went out for dinner with friends last night and left this for my husband. I managed to sneak a taste but didn't get a picture. Below is the recipe with my adaptations.

Pot Roast with Vegetables
Recipe as Adapted from Tyler Florence

1 (3 to 4 pound) piece beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes (I used a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil)
1 cup water
2 yellow onion, halved
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch baby carrots
I added 4 Russet Potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
I also added about a tsp of dried oregano
2 celery stalks, sliced (I omitted)
1 cup button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced in half (I omitted)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (I omitted)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (I omitted)
2 bay leaves

Season all sides of the beef with a fair amount of salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot that has a tight cover; heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, taking the time to get a nice crust on the outside. Pour in the tomatoes and the water. Scatter the vegetables and herbs around the pot roast, season with salt and pepper; and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Braise for about 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices, until the beef is fork tender.

Slice the pot roast and arrange on platter surrounded by the vegetables. Serve with the pot juices.