Tuesday, September 30, 2008

French Pastry Class

Last night I took a French Pastry Class at a local cooking school. It was a very informative class and I learned how to make several items that were on my list of things to try. During the course we learned how to make, croissants, pain chocolate and almond croissants, cheese puffs, apricot almond tart, and chocolate moelleux. The cheese puffs are definitely going to be on my holiday menu. I also plan on trying my hand at a batch of croissants soon, although it will need to be a day I don't mind flouring the entire kitchen. These were very messy to make! We learned a traditional French method taught at the Cordon Bleu that included using French butter. I also love the quiche with the puff pastry crust. I've made many quiches but never thought of using puff pastry for the crust. Not only is it delicious, but it looks pretty too. We also learned an interesting French method to making the quiche. They sprinkle the dry ingredients, ham, cheese, etc. into the quiche individually and then pour the egg mix over. This ensures each quiche has the same amount of meat, etc. I thought that was a really good tip.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

I'll admit the title of this recipe does not sound like anything exciting, but this was one really good meal! It reminds me a lot of my other favorite easy and delicious meal. This not unexpectedly is another winner from the Everyday Food collection. This is a perfect fall meal with the inclusion of one of my favorites, acorn squash. You could add any other vegetables or mix and match depending on what you liked. I'm thinking new potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, butternut squash. This recipe only takes 10 minutes to prep and makes a beautiful presentation with all of the pretty fall vegetables! I would say this one is a keeper.

Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Source: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

1 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound cremini mushooms, trimmed and halved
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
4 bone-in chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon dried rosemary crumbled (I substituted herbs de provence)

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the squash, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and oil in a roasting pan; season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast until the squash is beginning to soften and all the vegetables are heated through, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, lift up the skin from the chicken breasts; rub the flesh with the rosemary and some salt and pepper. Replace the skin and season the chicken all over with more salt.

3. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and place the chicken, skin sides up on top of the vegetables. Return to the oven; continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes. (my chicken took about 45-55 minutes to be cooked through)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping

Yesterday I got a craving for banana bread. I think my mind has decided fall is here, since temperatures have dropped into the 80s! I wanted a banana bread that was more cake like and had lots of flavor. This one featured in the September issue of Bon Appetit is a recipe from the Bake Sale Betty Bakery in Oakland, California. This banana bread really hit the spot. This cake was moist and delicious. The description that accompanies the recipe is perfect, a cross between a banana bread and a coffee cake. The honey and cinnamon flavor were quite prominent. I don't even know where to begin with the cinnamon crumble topping, it was truly the icing on the cake! Everyone in our family, toddler included, loved this banana bread. Its the perfect compliment to a cup of apple cider tea (my new favorite) and a breezy fall afternoon! If your family likes it as much as mine, you should probably make two loaves, because it will go fast! Sorry, the picture doesn't do it justice, but we were hungry!

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping
Source: Bon Appetit, September 2008
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch metal baking pan. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk next 5 ingredients in large bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients; stir to blend. Transfer batter to pan. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and brown sugar; sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool bread in pan 30 minutes. Turn pan on its side; slide out bread, being careful not to dislodge topping. Turn bread right side up and cool completely.

Barefoot Bloggers-Grown Up Macaroni and Cheese

Another day, another Barefoot Blogger recipe! This is one I am a little late in posting. This dish was chosen by Heather at Randomosity and the Girl. I thought this dish was good. The bacon added a nice flavor. Really though, doesn't bacon make anything taste better? I was surprised the cheeses didn't add as much flavor as I thought they would, given that they are all really pungent cheeses. My husband said it was delicious, and he ate two servings. I like my macaroni and cheese really creamy and this one wasn't as creamy as I hoped. I cooked the macaroni in my creme brulee dishes in place of the gratin dishes and I'm wondering if using a dish that was a bit more shallow than a gratin caused it to dry out more. I liked the whole concept though. If I made it again, I would probably double the sauce and add a bit more of the cheeses and fresh herbs.

Grown Up Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Ina Garten/Food Network

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 (I used bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves (I used dried basil)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers-Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

This week's Barefoot Blogger's pick is one of those recipes I wouldn't necessarily have picked on my own. I like mushrooms in certain dishes but am not a huge fan of mushroom soup by itself. My husband, however, really likes mushrooms so this soup was perfect for him. I thought it was good for a mushroom soup. As always Ina's techniques and recipes turn out beautifully. This soup tasted like something you would get in a restaurant. This recipe, however, was a lot of work and considering I'm not that big of a mushroom soup fan, I probably wouldn't make it again. If you do like mushroom soup, you should definitely indulge in this recipe, you won't be disappointed. Of note, this soup is very rich and filling so it can serve as a meal all in itself. Thanks to Chelle over at the Brown Eyed Baker for picking this recipe.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Have a Blog? Martha Stewart wants to know!

Martha Stewart is hosting a blogging concert and will pick a few featured bloggers to be featured on the Martha Blog. Click here for the details.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers-Apple Turnovers

I was really excited about this month's Barefoot Blogger's bonus recipe. These apple turnovers looked good but I have to say they exceeded my expectations. I love the combination of the apples, dried cherries, and oranges. It reminds me of the wonderful pairing of flavors in Ina's Apple and Pear Crisp. I can't even describe how ridiculously easy these were to make. I'm imagining serving them warm out of the oven for a dinner party with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Thanks to Anne Strawberry for choosing such a wonderful recipe. The recipe makes more apple pie filling than will fit in the turnovers. I tossed mine into a small casserole dish and baked the filling alongside the turnovers. My toddler absolutely loved it! I've been a bit behind of my Barefoot Blogger recipes this month but am almost caught up. Check back tomorrow for Ina's Grown Up Macaroni and Cheese and Thursday for Wild Mushroom Soup. Quite a cooking marathon in one week!

Apple Turnovers
Source: Ina Garten/Foodnetwork.com

1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Empire or Granny Smith (3 apples)
3 tablespoons dried cherries
3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch kosher salt
1 package (17.3 ounces, 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the orange zest and orange juice in a bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples and then cut them in 3/4-inch dice. Immediately toss the apples with the zest and juice to prevent them from turning brown. Add the cherries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Flour a board and lightly roll each sheet of puff pastry to a 12 by 12-inch square. Cut each sheet into 4 smaller squares and keep chilled until ready to use.

Brush the edges of each square with the egg wash and neatly place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture on half of the square. Fold the pastry diagonally over the apple mixture and seal by pressing the edges with a fork. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, make 2 small slits, and bake for 20 minutes, until browned and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

I saw this recipe last week on the Everyday Food blog and I immediately starred it. I've been wanting to try risotto for a while and the simplicity of this recipe as well as the combination of ingredients appealed to me. This really was not hard to make, the pot just required a bit of babysitting to stir as is common to any risotto recipe. This was a hit at our house and definitely something to make again. The dish was rich and creamy and the tomato, sausage and spinach melded well together. This recipe is also a bit different than traditional recipes in that it uses a tomato mixture rather than a broth mix. This would be perfect comfort food for a chilly fall evening. I served this with Garlic Bread and P.J. Madison's Mint Julep Gelato.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Serves 4

  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 Cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  4. Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
  5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Memphis Style Ribs

Admittedly, I grew up in North Carolina and I am a Carolina style barbecue girl through and through. I like my barbecue sweet. My husband is also a big fan. I was intrigued when I received this month's issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray and saw Memphis Style Ribs. I thought it would be fun to try something different. After making this recipe, I learned I should stick with my favorite sauce, as no other sauce will live up to it. I wasn't overly impressed with this recipe, other than the wonderful cooking technique I picked up. I usually par boil my ribs and then bake them. This recipe called to apply a dry rub and roast them low and slow. The ribs were extremely tender and succulent. I plan to cook them this way from now on. I will change up some of the seasonings in the dry rub because I thought it was a little bland and I will serve them with my signature sauce.

Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs
Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray October 2008

2 teaspoons sweet paprika (I mixed mine half sweet and half smoked paprika)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 racks pork baby back ribs (about 5 lb total)
Two 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 onion finely chopped
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 275. In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Run a paring knife down the length of the bone side of each rack to split the skin, then season all over with the rub.

2. Arrange the ribs, meaty side down, in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast, turning halfway through, until very tender, about 3 hours.

3. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, bring the tomato sauce, onion, vinegar, brown sugar and hot sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the racks into individual ribs and serve with the sauce on the side.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Maple Roasted Bacon

This was the best bacon we have ever had. A simple and easy trick with delicious results. I also love that you don't have to get bacon grease all over the stove top! I don't think I will ever make bacon any other way. This is also a perfect recipe when making bacon for a crowd.

Maple Roasted Bacon
Source: Barefoot Contessa At Home

3/4 pound thick-cut smoked bacon (16 slices) (I used Applegate Farms Bacon)
1 to 2 tablespoons good maple syrup (I used Grade A dark amber maple syrup)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in one layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon begins to brown. Remove the pan carefully from the oven-there will be hot greats in the pan! Brush the bacon slices with maple syrup and bake for another 3-5 minutes, until the bacon is a warm golden brown. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and serve warm.

Plain and Easy Breakfast Quickies!

The name of these waffles says it all! These were another great pick for a Sunday breakfast from Waffles Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan. I have previously made Dorie's pumpkin pie waffles and banana oatmeal waffles all with perfect results. As described in the book, these were "light, crisp-crusted, and not too sweet." The perfect compliment for maple syrup. A great recipe to keep on hand because all of the ingredients are pantry staples.

Plain and Easy Breakfast Quickies
Source: Waffles Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
1 large egg

1. Preheat your waffle iron. If you want to hold finished waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200F.

2. Melt the butter, reserve. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs to blend thoroughly. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with the whisk stopping when the ingredients are just combined. Stir in melted butter.

3. Spoon out 1/2 cup of batter (or the amount recommended by your waffler's manufacturer) onto the hot iron. Using a metal spatula or wooden spoon, smooth the batter within 1/4 inch of the edge. Close the lid and bake until browned and crisp. Serve the waffles immediately or keep in a single layer on a rack in the preheated oven while you bake the rest.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yan Can Cook!

Last night my Dad and I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class by the famed Martin Yan. For those who don't remember Yan, he hosted Yan Can Cook on PBS many many years ago. He has had quite an influence on Chinese cooking in the United States and is a wonderful showman. Yan did not disappoint in his cooking class. He put on a wonderful demonstration of cooking techniques, including chopping skills that seemed like magic. I have never seen someone get as many slices out of a tomato as Yan did. It was incredible to watch. In addition to the wonderful instruction and demonstration, we also got to sample several of the the dishes. All of the recipes come from Yan's new cookbook, Martin Yan's China. The book is beautifully illustrated and has lots of recipes that are friendly to a home cook. I need to go purchase a wok so I can try to recreate some of these at home. Also, Yan noted that he had a new class coming out on PBS which corresponds to the cookbook. Its wonderful he will be entertaining a whole new generation and I'm looking forward to learning new techniques.

We sampled the following at the demonstration:

Crystal Wrapped Chicken (Minced Chicken in a Lettuce Cup)-These tasted pretty close to the lettuce wraps at P.F. Changs. Really good with a slight kick from the chile garlic sauce.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp-This was one of my favorites although the kick was quite potent. I'm thinking of making it at home with chicken but adjusting the heat just a little.

Corn Crunch Stir-Fry-My other favorite of the evening. The sweet corn mixed with the veggies and tofu provided a nice mix. I definitely want to make this one soon.

Shangri-La Beef-Good flavor, I'm just not a fan of beef in Chinese dishes.

Grandma Yan's Signature Fried Rice-This was good but not like the traditional fried rice you expect. It had preserved duck leg and mint in addition to shrimp, peas and scrambled egg.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dinner at Craft

Last night was my second opportunity to have dinner at Craft. The previous time was at Restaurant week. I have to say the food was as good as I remembered. The only mistake we made was three of us ordering the same entree. We should have each ordered something different so we could share family style as intended by the Craft concept.


Amuse Bouche: Pork Rillette on Toast Point with Tomato Jam.

rillette is very similar to pate. According to my research, a rillette is a "highly spiced spread made of meat or poultry (traditionally pork, goose or duck, but also fish and rabbit) that has been cooked in seasoned fat and then shredded or pounded into a paste to be served cold. To season the rillette after it is made, it is commonly placed in ramekins and a thin layer of fat is spread over the top to seal it during a storage and aging period. This meat paste can be served as an appetizer that is spread over crackers or bread." This was really good. The tomato jam added a nice depth to it.

Beef Short Rib & Root Vegetable

I previously blogged about my love of this dish from my last visit. It did not disappoint again. I loved the roasted baby onions served with it. I love the depth of the beef flavor in this dish. Many other short ribs are braised in red wine and that flavor tends to take over the dish. I'm not sure if any wine is used in this dish. I'm guessing they may braise them in an homemade beef stock.


Roasted Baby Carrots-Had a lovely caramelized flavor from the roasting.
Yukon Gold Puree-These were heavenly. They were very rich and had a perfect smooth and creamy texture.
Stone Ground Polenta and White Cheddar. This was also a hit at our table. It complimented the short ribs well.
Sweet Corn-The corn was creamed and had roasted cherry tomatoes on top. I'm not a big corn fan but I found this one really enjoyable. The corn was deliciously sweet.


Fresh Currants-I wasn't a fan of these. They were very tart.


Chocolate Spoon Bread with Espresso Chip Ice Cream. I couldn't resist trying my husband's dessert. This was really good. A very rich chocolate flavor. It was served warm with the homemade ice cream on the side. Definitely the perfect pick for any chocolate lover.

Creamsicle Panna Cotta with Oranges. I so loved the Panna Cotta last time, I had to get it again. This version was a little different than the last but still had that beautiful cream cheese like flavor. This one was infused with vanilla bean and also had an orange syrup. It was accompanied by two beautiful tuile cookies.

Post Dessert

Caramel Popcorn
Mini Tarts with Chocolate Ganache

Both were really good. We couldn't even finish, because we were absolutely stuffed!

Monday, September 15, 2008

We miss you Allie

Today marks the one year anniversary since the passing of the very best dog I have ever had. We rescued Allie (Alice Gertrude) from a local basset hound rescue and enjoyed four wonderful years with her. Allie was a healthy active dog when she was suddenly stricken with canine meningitis. Allie died approximately one and a half weeks after the onset of symptoms. It was a devastating blow. I think a piece of my heart will always be missing. I wrote the following the day Allie died:

Sure all houses have their nosies, but there are some "noises" that bring a house to life in an indescribable way. Its the gentle cry urging all to get up and play-even if its only 5:30 a.m. The exciting thumping of a tail against the crate-heard well before my footsteps reached the laundry room door. The sounds that accompany a race to the back door-tags happily jingling all the way. The persistence of the tapping at the back door just waiting to greet your family again. The thud of fifty-pounds of love hitting the bed. The buzzing of a content friend sleeping/snoring the day away from whatever would be the most comfortable spot in the house and nearest to keep a watch on the family. The pitter patter of the paws always following, always near. The impatient groan accompanied by the infamous Allie pout. The tapping of a nose against my hand asking for just a little more petting and ear rubbing. The flapping of those long beautiful brown velvet ears. The cacophonous echo of your dish being tossed to and fro. The sounds of anxious excitement as dinner neared-even it was only 3:00 p.m. and you knew dinner wasn't until 5:00 p.m.-nothing wrong with asking! The loud, deep welcoming bark heard well before I could enter the laundry room upon a return home. The mischievous sound of a basset on the run with a prohibited item-such as a stuffed animal or other item to irresistible to leave behind. The "silence" of a basset who had decided to sit quietly and nap on the couch just as the other members of her family did. The tapping of a leash which brought on such excitement, shaking, squeals and cries of a basset ready to "smell" the neighborhood. The quiet lull of a basset lounging in the living room listening to Etta James. The sound of the race for the media room couch, the booming of those paws bounding up and down the stairs full speed ahead. The barking that sounded like a German Shepard but was all bark and no bite. The grunting and groaning that accompanied a good carpet roll. The soulful stare of those big beautiful brown eyes at every turn. The gentle sound of trotting off to bed at 10:00 on the dot. Goodnight my Alice Gertrude. . . We love you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork

I love my regular barbecue beef recipe for the crock pot and have successfully used the same recipe for pulled pork. I've seen this recipe for root beer pulled pork in quite a few blogs along with rave reviews. I decided to give it a try and it was delicious. I won't retire my other recipe because its still my favorite and nothing beats the homemade barbecue sauce that accompanies it. The other recipe is better for brisket and I think this one is a better one for pork. I also like that this one is faster to throw together. I used Hansen's Creamy Root Beer Natural Cane Soda. Their products do not contain any preservatives, caffeine, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors. They have quite an interesting assortment of flavors too. I configured the recipe I used from several I have seen. I served mine over toasted garlic bread with steamed corn. I have to say we must have gotten corn that was perfectly in season because it was the sweetest most delicious corn I have ever had. It was also fun to watch our toddler eat his first corn on the cob. He loved it! Here is my version:

Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork

1 Pork Loin Roast
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Salt and Pepper
1 Can Hansen's Root Beer
1 Jar Hickory BBQ Sauce (I used one from a local grocer)

I sprinkled the pork roast with the salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. I then poured the root beer over the roast and cooked on low for 7 hours. When the roast was done I shredded the meat and mixed in the barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mexican Chicken Soup

This was the perfect lunch for a rainy cloudy day. I thought it was going to be like a tortilla soup, but it was much thicker. I would say it is closer to a Mexican vegetable soup. The boiled tortillas that are added at the end thicken the soup a lot and taste like dumplings. The chicken works well in the dish, but you could just as easily leave it out and still have a great meal. Using the meat from a rotisserie would also cut down the cooking/prep time. I think corn or beans would also be a nice addition. If you like your soup to have a little kick, I would recommend leaving some of the seeds in or adding more peppers. This recipe makes a good pot full so I have several servings frozen for some good chilly rainy day weather.

I'm submitting this recipe to Joelen's Food Network Chef's Blogging event. Joelen has an amazing blog and she makes me wish I lived in Chicago so I could attend one of her many cooking classes, tastings or culinary tours. She is a true foodie!

Mexican Chicken Soup
Source: Barefoot Contessa at Home

4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pumpkin Granola Grabbers

I have been wanting to try a recipe out of Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours since I purchased the book. I've seen rave reviews for so many recipes it was hard to choose where to start. It doesn't help that all of the recipes look amazing. Ever since I saw this variation of Dorie's Granola Grabbers using pumpkin granola and cinnamon chips on My Baking Heart, I knew this was the first recipe I had to try. I love anything pumpkin and I was ready to enjoy some fall baking. I made a few changes to this recipe and I have to say, these are the BEST cookies I have ever made. They baked perfectly and they taste spectacular. The best thing about this recipe is all the combinations and variations you can use by changing up the granola, adding different dried fruits, chips and spices. I'm already thinking of new variations including adding pureed pumpkin to the mix next time. These are great recipe if you need to clean out your pantry! A must try cookie and my new favorite!

Granola Grabbers
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups granola without fruit (I used Nature's Path Pumpkin Granola that I mixed with pumpkin pie spice)
3/4 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) (I used dried cranberries)
1/2 cup salted peanuts (omitted)
1/2 cup slivered almonds (omitted)-I added pine nuts
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut (I used superfine unsweetened)
I added cinnamon chips
1/3 cup wheat germ
1-3/4 sticks (14 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup AP flour


Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

Put cereal in a large bowl and break up any clumps with your fingers. Add in craisins, peanuts, coconut. Mix together. Cream butter at medium speed for about 1-2 minutes. Add sugars and beat until creamy. Add in egg and salt. Reduce speed to low and slowly add in flour a little at a time until just blended.
Slowly add the cereal mixture and use a spatula to fold it into the cookie batter. Scoop out the cookie dough in 1/2-1oz balls (depending on how big you want the cookies) and arrange on baking sheet about 1-2 inches between each ball. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Repeat with remaining dough.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fall Salad

I wanted a different twist on my regular salad combinations. After looking at several recipes, I combined the ingredients below to make a salad that was both delicious and captured the wonderful fall colors.

Fall Salad

1 thinly sliced Fuji apple
Organic red grapes, halved
A handful of walnuts
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Newman's Own Raspberry and Walnut Dressing

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

I absolutely love mashed potatoes. I often pass them up on a weeknight dinner in the interest of saving time. For the holidays, I love to make Julia Child's garlic mashed potatoes. They are made from potatoes mixed with a garlic infused cream. Absolutely heavenly. After finding this wonderful recipe in the Everyday Food Cookbook, we will now be enjoying homemade mashed potatoes more often. These were easy to make and definitely the show stopper of my chicken marsala dinner. They are definitely an everyday mashed potato!

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Source: Everyday Food Cookbook

Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes (4 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Snipped chives for garnish, optional
  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt, and cook until potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Drain; place in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher, then add buttermilk and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until smooth and combined. If desired, garnish with snipped chives.

Marsala Chicken wtih Sage and Cremini

I finally remembered to buy a bottle of Marsala wine when I was out grocery shopping the other day. I knew the first thing I wanted to use it to make was a chicken marsala dish. I found this recipe on the Martha Stewart site and loved that it was quick and easy. This came together very well. My only complaint is that the sauce cooked up really quickly. Next time, I would probably double the sauce. I served this meal with buttermilk mashed potatoes and a fall salad with apples, grapes, mixed greens and walnuts.

Marsala Chicken with Sage and Cremini
Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Place flour in a shallow bowl; season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, shaking off excess.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add chicken, and cook until golden on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm (reserve skillet).
  3. Add mushrooms, shallot, sage, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and cream; simmer over medium-high until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Top chicken with mushroom sauce, and garnish with sage.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Skillet Lasagna

I made this a few nights ago and debated whether or not to post it. I finally decided to post it because I think this recipe has potential and I liked that its family friendly and a great healthy replacement to a hamburger helper. Its not that this recipe was bad or inedible, just not memorable. The only change I made was to use ground beef since I could not find the meatloaf mix at my grocery store. I think with more seasonings and/or a combination of diced tomatoes/tomato sauce it could be one of those great recipes. In other words, it has good bones but needs some work. I'd love to hear your ideas on how to make this a really great recipe.

Skillet Lasagna
Source: America's Test Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes



tablespoon olive oil


medium onion , minced

Table salt


medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)


teaspoon red pepper flakes


pound meatloaf mix


curly-edged lasagna noodles , broken into 2-inch lengths

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce


cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 2 additional tablespoons

Ground black pepper


cup ricotta cheese


tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Pour tomatoes with their juices into 1-quart liquid measuring cup. Add water until mixture measures 1 quart.

2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground meat and cook, breaking apart meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

3. Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta, cover, and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.

Maple Vanilla Carrots

Last night I decided to throw one of my cheater dinners together. I purchased a rotisserie chicken and then I made the sides to go with it. I am lucky to have found a local market that makes a rotisserie chicken that has no artificial or unnatural ingredients in it. For the sides, I roasted some new potatoes with herbs de provence and made these maple vanilla carrots. The carrots were delicious. The vanilla really adds a distinct flavor. I varied the recipe a little by steaming baby carrots in my steamer and then tossing them with the maple vanilla syrup. I also used vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla bean. These were definitely a hit. I can imagine this mix would be equally delicious on sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Fall is coming!!! Sorry, no picture, but I made this meal in a mad dash on my way out the door to see Mama Mia. If you haven't see it, its hysterical. Cheesy, but in a good way. Who could resist Pierce Brosnan breaking into song and dance!

Maple Vanilla Carrots

Source: Martha Stewart Living October 2007

Serves 4

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  1. Combine carrots and water in a large skillet. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into skillet; add pod. Bring to a simmer, and cook until carrots are tender and most of the water has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add syrup, butter, salt, and pepper, and toss.