Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ice Cream Sandwiches

We had some friends over for a casual cookout this past weekend. For our menu, we served: chips and salsa cruda, guacamole, cowboy burgers (purchased from our local natural grocer), steamed corn on the cob, cantaloupe and these ice cream sandwiches. The menu was fairly simple which meant I had more time to spend visiting with friends. The easy menu also left me time to make these ice cream sandwiches. These were really great. The only thing I would recommend is to allow them a little thaw time before serving. The cookies were really hard right out of the freezer. This recipe is great because there are so many possibilities and variations. This is the perfect recipe to enjoy for the summer.

Frozen Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • 1 pound chocolate chip cookie dough (recommended: Nestle Toll House)
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 1 1/2 ounces) chocolate-toffee candy bars, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (recommended: Skor) (I used a Heath bar)
  • 2 medium bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 pint vanilla or banana ice cream, softened (I used organic mint chocolate chip)

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Form the cookie dough into 12 equal-sized balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, toss together the chocolate chips and oil. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Spread the melted chocolate on top of 6 of the cooled cookies. Place on a parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the chocolate-toffee candy pieces on top of the melted chocolate. Place the remaining cookies, flat-side-up, on the same baking sheet. Arrange the banana slices in a single layer on the flat side of the remaining cookies. Freeze all the cookies for 45 to 60 minutes until the chocolate has set and the banana slices are frozen.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop about 1/3 cup softened ice cream on top of the frozen bananas. Place a chocolate covered cookie on top and gently press to form a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and cookies. Freeze for 3 to 4 hours until firm.

Source: Giada de Laurentis,

Salsa Cruda

I've been making this recipe since I was in college. Its really easy to make and so much fresher tasting than a jarred salsa. This salsa doesn't have any jalapenos in it so there is no heat in this recipe. You could easily add a jalapeno if you want some heat. This is the perfect recipe to enjoy on a warm summer evening with friends.

Salsa Cruda

4 large tomatoes, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 small bunch cilantro, minced

juice of 2-3 limes

salt and pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Stir in lime juice, season with salt and pepper. Tastes best the day made.

Source: Martha Stewart's Healthy Quick Cook, Clarkson Potter, 1997.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

This was the first recipe I saw when I was flipping through the June issue of Everyday Food. I immediately knew I was going to try this one and I'm glad I did. This took me less than 30 minutes to make start to finish. The sauce is really not made of complex ingredients but has a great depth of flavor that makes it seem like you really went out of your way to make a homemade sauce. I loved the fresh vegetables in this. I will definitely be making this again.

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 zucchini or summer squash, or one of each (about 2 pounds total), quartered and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
coarse salt and pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 package (15-16 ounces) frozen gnocchi (I couldn't find frozen, I used a regular package from the grocery store shelf)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add squash and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until squash is crisp tender, 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until juicy, about 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook gnocchi according to package instructions. Reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid, drain gnocchi and transfer to skillet. Toss gnocchi adding enough cooking liquid to create a sauce. Remove from heat and stir in basil, cheese, butter and lemon juice.

Source: Everyday Food, June 2008.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rice Pudding with the Quickest Strawberry Jam

I saw Jaime Oliver make this dessert on his show several months back and immediately saved it. Jaime is a really fun chef to watch cook. I think his kitchen and set up is one of the most interesting on the food network. Seems like he is cooking in a shack in his backyard! I loved the idea of elevating rice pudding to an elegant dessert and thought the presentation was very pretty. Unfortunately because its white, it doesn't lend to photographing all that well. This was really good. The contrast of textures of the soft pudding, strawberries and crispy meringues went very well together. I think next time I would add some chopped strawberries to the top as well. This recipe could easily be made with blueberries or raspberries. I also would make a couple flavor changes to bump it up a notch. I would add vanilla bean paste to the rice pudding while cooking and possibly some orange or lemon zest. Overall, a great recipe to put your own spin on.

Creamy Rice Pudding with the Quickest Strawberry Jam

For the jam:

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled, washed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sugar

For the rice pudding:

  • 5 cups organic whole milk
  • 7 ounces medium-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 2 ounces store-bought meringues, crumbled( I used lemon meringues)
  • Optional: a few wild strawberries, to serve

Place the strawberries in a wide, stainless steel pan and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Scrunch the strawberries up with your hands, really pushing them between your fingers to pulp them up - the mixture will start to look like jam at this point. You want all the sugar to dissolve in the strawberry juice before you put the pan on the heat and bring it to the boil. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on a medium heat, and every 5 minutes or so come back to your jam to skim off the foam. Don't worry if it's still a bit liquid - it needs to be so you can swirl it into your rice pudding. Remove the pan from the heat and put aside. There you have it - beautiful, quintessential strawberry jam!

Meanwhile, place the milk, rice and vanilla sugar in a deep saucepan. Bring to a medium simmer and put on the lid. Cook for half an hour, stirring occasionally, until the rice pudding is thick, creamy, oozy and moist. If it ends up being a bit too thick, you can thin it down by adding a little more milk.

To serve, divide the rice pudding between your bowls. Spoon over a big dollop of your beautiful strawberry jam, then slowly swirl it in so it marbles and ripples through the rice pudding. Sprinkle over the meringue pieces and scatter with a few wild strawberries, if you like.

Source: Jaime Oliver, Jaime at Home.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Best Whole Baked Carrots

This is another Jaime Oliver recipe. This one couldn't have been any easier to prepare and had a great presentation. This is a perfect side dish for roast chicken. The only thing I would do differently next time is peel the carrots. I would prefer my carrots be just a tad softer and thought leaving the skin on gave them a slightly tough exterior. Otherwise, these carrots caramelize beautifully which brings out the wonderful natural sweetness of the carrot.

The Best Whole Baked Carrots

• 750g/1lb 10oz young bunched carrots, different colours if possible, washed and scrubbed
• olive oil
• herb or red wine vinegar
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• a few sprigs of fresh thyme
• 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Toss your carrots with a good glug of olive oil, a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper, the thyme sprigs and the garlic cloves. Place in a roasting tray or earthenware dish, cover tightly with tinfoil and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until just tender. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the carrots have browned and caramelized nicely.

Source: Jaime Oliver, Cook with Jaime, Hyperion 2007.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vegetable Tian

I served this dish as part of my menu of Chicken in Milk, The Best Whole Baked Carrots, and Rice Pudding with Quick Strawberry Jam. The whole menu was delicious and well liked but his recipe was the show stopper. When I say show stopper, I mean there was NONE left! My husband ate several servings. This says a lot for an adamant squash hater. This is one of Ina's stunning recipes that is so simple in its ingredients and preparation but delivers with amazing complexity of flavor and perfection of cooking technique. We liked this recipe so much I made it again this week!

Vegetable Tian
  • Good olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound medium round potatoes, unpeeled
  • 3/4 pound zucchini
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
  • 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris, Clarkson Potter, 2004.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chicken in Milk

We had my in-laws over this past week for a belated Mother's Day celebration. My in-laws are very willing subjects and are always up to try whatever I'm making. Having them over is the perfect opportunity to try out new recipes! Jaime Oliver's chicken in milk recipe has been popping up all over the web in the last few weeks. The recipe was touted by many as the only chicken recipe you need. I was a bit hesitant about pouring milk over my chicken, fearing a curdled chicken mess! I decided to conquer my fear and forge ahead. This chicken was very easy to prepare, making this ideal for weeknight entertaining. The chicken was perfectly moist and delicious and had a very nice flavor. The cinnamon, sage, milk combination was very reminiscent of Asian dishes I have had. Everyone really liked the chicken. I'm more of a traditionalist so this doesn't replace my two favorite roast chicken recipes (see links below). I would definitely make this again. I think it would be absolutely fabulous to prepare the chicken this way to use the meat in Asian dishes or a chicken salad. To round out the meal I served this with Jaime Oliver's recipe for the best whole baked carrots, Ina's vegetable tian and Jaime's rice pudding with quick strawberry jam.

My Favorite Traditional Roast Chicken Recipes:
Garlic and Citrus Roast Chicken
Lemon Chicken with Croutons

Chicken in Milk

• 1 x 1.5k/ 3½lb organic chicken
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 115g/4oz or ½ a pack of butter
• olive oil
• 1/2 cinnamon stick
• 1 good handful of fresh sage, leaves picked
• zest of 2 lemons
• 10 cloves of garlic, skin left on
• 565ml/1 pint milk

A slightly odd, but really fantastic combination that must be tried.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5, and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken. Season it generously all over, and fry it in the butter and a little olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even colour all over, until golden. Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the oil and butter left in the pot. This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan which will give you a lovely caramelly flavour later on.

Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the preheated oven for 1½ hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce which is absolutely fantastic.

To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it on to your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.

Source: Jaime Oliver, Happy Days with the Naked Chef, Hyperion 2002.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers-"Salmon" Salad

This month's first Barefoot Blogger pick dealt me a little bit of a challenge. I like tuna , but I don't eat it because of the high mercury content. Also, if I were going to prepare it, it would have to be cooked all the way through which was not the intent of the original recipe. I eat sushi occasionally but only in very high end restaurants where I now the safety and quality is assured. I thought of taking the option of making a previously missed recipe. However, that didn't seem fair to Kate who picked this recipe and defeated the purpose of joining the group to branch out and try new and unfamiliar recipes. So, I decided to participate and make this recipe with grilled salmon. I'm really glad I did because it was a wonderful beginning of summer meal. The dressing would work just as well on other salads or even as a marinade. I could easily see making this same salad with chicken, shrimp or even tofu. I omitted the avocado because my husband doesn't eat it but next time I make it I will add it for me! Instead I served this over a bed of organic mixed greens with herbs. My husband said he definitely would want to have this one again. I have a feeling this is going to be a regular for us through the summer. What better way to spend a breezy evening eating dining al fresco and watching our favorite toddler run around the back yard! Thanks again to Kate of Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails, this was a great pick and exposed me to a recipe I probably would have passed on my own. Also, for those looking, I found the wasabi powder at Whole Foods.

Grilled Tuna Salad
  • 2 pounds very fresh tuna steak, cut 1-inch thick (I used 1 lb salmon that I grilled until cooked through)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 limes, zest grated
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi powder (found at Whole Foods)
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 10 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
  • 1 to 2 ripe Hass avocados, medium diced (I omitted)
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, small diced
  • I served mine over organic mixed greens with herbs

Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks in a very hot saute pan and cook for only 1 minute on each side. Set aside on a platter.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, lime zest, wasabi, lime juice, soy sauce and hot sauce. Add the avocados to the vinaigrette.

Cut the tuna in chunks and place it in a large bowl. Add the scallions and red onion and mix well. Pour the vinaigrette mixture over the tuna and carefully mix.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home, Clarkson Potter, 2006.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lemon Yogurt Cake

This cake is my new favorite lemon cake recipe. It is really an exceptional cake. It is moist, delicious and really flavorful. This recipe would be perfect for a Mother's day brunch, a picnic or just to drop to a friend. This recipe is extremely versatile, you could take the base recipe and use different flavors of yogurt such as coconut, blueberry or lime. You could also switch up the citrus and use lime, grapefruit, or even tangerine zest and juice to change the flavors of the cake. I made two changes to the recipe. I used vanilla yogurt and I substituted coconut oil for the vegetable oil. The coconut oil really added a nice hint of coconut to the cake. Sorry no picture. I had one on my computer and now I can't find it. I'll add it if I can locate it! This was too awesome of a recipe not to share, even without a picture.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farms vanilla yogurt)
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa At Home, Clarkson Potter, 2006.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oven Fried Chicken

I've seen many oven baked fried chicken recipes floating around and was skeptical that any would be more than breaded baked chicken. Good? Yes. Exciting? No. In any way comparable to real fried chicken? Highly unlikely. I'm very biased when it comes to fried chicken. My Mom makes the very best. So last night I attempted this recipe but did not hold high expectations. Oh how very wrong I was! The chicken was moist and flavorful and the coating was crunchy enough to evoke memories of real fried chicken. This one is a keeper and its low fat!

Oven Baked Fried Chicken

Serves 4

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces, wings reserved for another use (I just used breasts)
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 6 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Using a paper towel to grip, remove skin from chicken. In a large bowl, toss chicken with buttermilk, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and teaspoon pepper. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes (or refrigerate up to overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, pulse bread until coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and toss with oil. Bake crumbs until golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes, tossing twice. Transfer to a large bowl. Set a wire rack over sheet.
  3. Working with one piece at a time, lift chicken from buttermilk mixture (letting excess drip off) and dredge in breadcrumbs, pressing firmly to adhere. Transfer chicken to rack.
  4. Bake, without turning, until cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too quickly.

Helpful Hint: Baking the chicken on a wire rack keeps the bottom of the pieces from becoming soggy. For spicier chicken, add a few shakes of hot sauce to the buttermilk.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, May 2009.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Chocolate Covered Oreo Cookie Cake

I absolutely love this cake. I could eat the filling all by itself but the goodness is only compounded when you add chocolate cake! If you don't want to use cake mix, I highly recommend this chocolate cake recipe for the base. As much as I love this recipe, I made several ingredient changes in order to make it a less processed end product. To take the processed ingredients out of this recipe I recommend using an organic cake mix or making the chocolate cake. I substituted Tru Whip for the Cool Whip. Tru Whip is an all natural whipped topping. Tru Whip can be found at Whole Foods or any natural grocer. I find it comparable in taste to Cool Whip, if not better because it does not have a weird artificial taste to it. I also substituted Country Choice Organic Sandwich Cremes. If you can't find those Newman-O's are another good choice. The only other change I would make next time is to use a chocolate ganache recipe or chocolate frosting on top as opposed to the melted chocolate. The melted chocolate hardened on top of the cake once refrigerated, making it difficult to serve/eat without leaving it at room temperature. Now I think I need this cake pan just for this recipe!

Chocolate Covered Oreo Cookie Cake

1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil's food chocolate cake mix
4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping (I used TruWhip)
12 OREO Cookies, coarsely crushed (I used Country Choice Organic Sandwich Cremes)

HEAT oven to 350ยบF.

PREPARE cake batter and bake in 2 (9-inch) round pans as directed on package. Cool cakes in pans 10 min. Invert cakes onto wire racks; gently remove pans. Cool cakes completely.

MICROWAVE chocolate and butter in small microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 min.

MEANWHILE, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Gently stir in COOL WHIP and crushed cookies. Stack cake layers on plate, spreading cream cheese mixture between layers. Spread top with chocolate glaze; let stand until firm. Keep refrigerated.

Source: Adapted from

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sparkling Cranberry Raspberry Lemonade

I hosted a luncheon for our weekly play date this week. I chose to start things off with this pretty pink lemonade recipe. This recipe straddles the line between lemonade and punch. I really liked the mix of flavors and the little bit of sparkle it gets from the lemon lime soda. I could not find frozen raspberry juice but did find frozen cranberry raspberry juice. The combination worked great and I think I liked it better than I would have the plain raspberry. Sorry for the slightly blurry picture. I was rushing to take pictures before everyone arrived.

Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade

1 package (10 oz) frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed
1 can (12 oz) frozen pink lemonade concentrated, thawed
1 can (11 1/2 oz) frozen raspberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed (I used Langer's frozen cranberry raspberry juice concentrate)
6 cups water
2 cans (12 oz each) lemon lime carbonated beverage
1/2 lemon thinly sliced

Into 1 ice-cube tray, carefully spoon raspberries with syrup. Add enough water to just cover raspberries. Freeze about 3 hours or until firm.

In a large glass or plastic container, mix lemonade concentrate, raspberry juice concentrate and water. Refrigerate until serving.

Just before serving, stir carbonated beverage into lemonade mixture. Serve over ice, garnish with lemon slices.

Source: Betty Crocker, Summer Favorites, Summer 2007.