Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

My husband had been begging me for months to make him chicken dumplings.  Honestly, I never really had homemade chicken and dumplings before so I had been kind of ignoring the request.  However, since he was so good to me this Christmas and bought me a beautiful Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I decided to finally grant him his request.  I actually was excited to make these, because one of my favorite cooking websites recently published the recipe.  This dish really turned out fabulous.  The dumplings were perfect in flavor and texture and the chicken was moist and flavorful.  My husband said that  was truly everything he hoped it would be and asked that I make it again in the near future.

Source:  Pioneer Woman, adapted from Gourmet Magazine


2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ cups All-purpose Flour
1 whole Chicken, Cut Into Pieces (cut Up Fryer)
Salt And Pepper
½ cups Finely Diced Carrots
½ cups Finely Diced Celery
1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
½ teaspoons Ground Thyme
¼ teaspoons Turmeric
6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ cups Apple Cider
½ cups Heavy Cream

1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
½ cups Yellow Cornmeal
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-½ cup Half-and-half
2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley (optional)
Salt As Needed


Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in flour.

Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. In two batches, brown chicken on both sides and remove to a clean plate.

In the same pot, add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in ground thyme and turmeric, then pour in chicken broth and apple cider. Stir to combine, then add browned chicken. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

While chicken is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.

Remove chicken from pot and set aside on a plate. Use two forks to remove chicken from the bone. Shred, then add chicken to the pot. Pour heavy cream into the pot and stir to combine.

Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add minced parsley if using. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

St Nick's Dove Sticks

This was another recipe I made for my work's cookie exchange.  I found it on the back of a bag of peanut M&M's and it looked so easy to make that I knew I had to try it.  The recipe lived up to its expectations and it made for a very tasty treat at the exchange.

Source:  M&M's


1 bag Holiday Chocolate Peanut M&M's
1 bag Dove Milk or Dark Chocolate miniatures
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs


Combine the butter, confectioner's sugar, peanut butter, and graham cracker crumbs in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased 15 x 10 pan.

Melt unwrapped Dove chocolate miniatures in the microwave for 90 seconds or until smooth.  Pour melted chocolate on top of the mixture and smooth with a spatula.

Place red and green Peanut M&M's over the layer of chocolate. 

Refrigerate to set chocolate for approximately a 1/2 hour.  Cut and serve.

Peppermint Brownies

I recently participated in my work's annual cookie exchange and I was looking into making festive brownies.  When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect and knew I needed to make it.  These brownies were delicious, but extremely rich!  I think I cut the brownies into pieces that were too big to finish in one sitting.  They were so consistent with fudge.  The peppermint flavor was perfect and not strong at all.  The girls at my work loved them and you can too!

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from My Baking Addiction


8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups unsalted butter
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1½ tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 (1.55 oz) milk chocolate bars, broken into segments
1 bag Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, wrappers removed and coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water; heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the chocolate mixture with the sugar and eggs until well blended. Whisk in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and the salt. Whisk in the flour just until incorporated.

Spread half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Layer with the milk chocolate pieces. Spread the remaining batter evenly over the milk chocolate pieces. Bake 30-35 minutes.

Remove the brownies from the oven but maintain the oven temperature. Sprinkle the chopped Candy Cane Kisses over the top of the brownies and return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Chill the brownies until the candy topping has firmed up. Slice and serve.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Taco Pasta Casserole

Brrr!  This weekend's winter storm left me unwilling to leave the warmth of my house.  Weekends like this one are a good time to make comfort food.  Although my husband tolerates casseroles, he doesn't love them nearly as much as I do.  He was out of town this weekend, so I went casserole crazy!  This pasta casserole was delicious, and it led to even more delicious leftovers.  This recipe is a must-make for those cold winter nights!

Source:  Joelen's Culinary Adventures


1 1/2 cups dry penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef (80/20)
2 tablespoons taco seasoning (homemade or packaged)
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup multi-colored bell pepper strips
1 cup salsa (your preference - mild, medium, hot)
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
fresh parsley for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, fill with water and let it come to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente - 10-15 minutes. Drain and place in a baking dish.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, add the oil and saute onions until softened. Crumble in the ground beef and brown. Add the taco seasoning, tomatoes, and bell pepper strips. Saute until vegetables soften. Add salsa then add salt & pepper to taste.

In the baking dish with pasta, pour over the ground beef and vegetable mixture. Toss lightly to incorporate. Top the pasta with shredded cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and lightly browns.

Before serving, top with chopped fresh parsley for garnish. Serve hot and if desired, serve with guacamole and/or sour cream.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dreamy Apple Pie

I know I say this a lot, but this recipe was nothing short of amazing.  I just want to keep making this pie again and again.  It was absolutely incredible and it was devoured by my small family in less than 24 hours.  The texture was perfect and it was soooo creamy.  I was desperately trying to savor every mouthful, I couldn't believe how great it tasted.  This was very similar to Dutch Apple Pie, another recipe that I love.  All I have to say now is....MAKE THIS PIE!!!!

Source:  The Pioneer Woman


1 whole Unbaked Pie Crust (I used a refrigerated crust)

3 whole Large (4 Or 5 Small) Granny Smith Apples, Peeled, Cored, And Sliced Thin
½ cups Brown Sugar
½ cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon All-purpose Flour
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
⅛ teaspoons Cinnamon

7 Tablespoons Butter
¾ cups All-purpose Flour
½ cups Brown Sugar
¼ cups Pecans (more To Taste)
Dash Of Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out pie dough and place it in a pie pan. Decorate the edges as desired.

Add apple slices to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together cream, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over apples. Pour apples into pie shell.

In the bowl of a food processor (or you can mix by hand) combine butter, flour, sugar, pecans (chop if you’re not using a food processor), and salt. Mix until everything comes together in clumps. Pour topping over apples.

Attach foil to the edges and lay a piece of flat foil loosely over the top of the pie. Place pie pan on top of a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for one hour. At the end, remove foil and allow to finish baking and browning. Can bake for up to 15 or 20 minutes more if necessary.

Remove from oven when pie is bubbly and golden brown.

Serve warm with hard sauce, whipped cream, or ice cream.

Pumpkin Pie

This was a really simple pie to make, and perfect for a Thanksgiving dessert.  I must admit, I really don't care for pumpkin pie so I didn't try it, but my Dad and husband said they both liked it and would eat it again.  Therefore, if you're looking for a simple pumpkin pie recipe, this is definitely a good one to try.

Source:  Betty Crocker


Pat-in-the-Pan Pastry:
1 1/3 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cold water

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

Sweetened Whipped Cream
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar


Heat oven to 425°F. In medium bowl, mix flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the oil with fork until all flour is moistened. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all water is absorbed. Shape pastry into a ball. Press in bottom and up side of 9-inch glass pie plate.

In large bowl, beat eggs slightly with wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar, the cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ginger, cloves, pumpkin and milk.

To prevent spilling, place pastry-lined pie plate on oven rack before adding filling. Carefully pour pumpkin filling into pie plate. Bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake about 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Place pie on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.

In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream and 2 tablespoons sugar with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Serve pie with whipped cream. Store in refrigerator.

Strawberry and Banana Mold

Have you ever tried making a Jell-o mold?  It is so easy, but looks like it takes effort so I knew I wanted to make this for Thanksgiving,  But, c'mon,  let's face it.  Everyone loves Jell-o!  The hardest part is unmolding it, but as long as you dip it in warm water for a few seconds, it shouldn't be a problem!

Source:  Kraft Foods


1-1/2 cups boiling water
1 pkg.  (8-serving size) JELL-O Strawberry or Strawberry-Banana Flavor Sugar Free Gelatin
2 cups cold water
1 cup  chopped strawberries
1 banana, sliced
Stir boiling water into gelatin in large bowl at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate about 1-1/2 hours or until thickened (spoon drawn through leaves definite impression).

Stir in strawberries and banana. Pour into 5-cup mold sprayed with cooking spray.

Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Unmold. Store leftover gelatin mold in refrigerator.

How To Unmold Gelatin
Dip mold in warm water for about 15 seconds. Gently pull gelatin from around edges with moist fingers. Place moistened serving plate on top of mold. Invert mold and plate; holding mold and plate together, shake slightly to loosen. Gently remove mold and center gelatin on plate.

Roast Turkey

It seems silly now, but I was so nervous about roasting my first bird.  This was my first time ordering a fresh turkey from the butcher and my first time brining it as well.  The recipe went so well that I don't think I'll ever try a different way to prepare and roast a turkey again.  The meat was so flavorful, the aroma from the oven was incredible, and the turkey was visually stunning once I took it out of the oven.  As soon as it came out of the oven, I felt like I had created a masterpiece!  If you are unsure how to properly roast a turkey, click on the link for Alton Brown's recipe and watch the video clip of how he does it.  After watching the video several times, my mind was at ease and it resulted in a beautiful turkey that myself and my family devoured.

Source:  Alton Brown


1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey  (I used a fresh turkey)
Canola oil

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger (I omitted)
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage


2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Green Bean Casserole

I know that green bean casserole is synonomous with Thanksgiving, but I usually don't eat it because I'm not a big fan of combining green beans with cream of chicken soup and french fried onions.  It's just not my thing.  Then I found this recipe on one of my favorite cooking sites, The Pioneer Woman.  The recipe was so much different than the original recipe that I knew I had to make it.  I first made this recipe for a dinner party a few weeks ago, and it was pretty successful so I made it again for Thanksgiving dinner.  I love this recipe because it's creamy and has a slight kick to it.  I usually can't eat green beans by themselves, but in this casserole, I can't stop eating them!

Source:  The Pioneer Woman


2 pounds Fresh Green Beans, Ends Cut Off
4 slices Bacon, Cut Into 1/4 Inch Pieces
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
½ whole Large Onion, Chopped
4 Tablespoons Butter
4 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
2-½ cups Whole Milk
½ cups Half-and-half
1-½ teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
⅛ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 jar (4 Ounce) Sliced Pimentoes, Drained  (I omitted)
Extra Milk For Thinning If Necessary
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs


Cut green beans in half if you like pieces to be a little smaller.

Blanch the green beans: drop them into lightly salted boiling water and allow green beans to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain beans once they’re cool and set aside.

Add bacon pieces to a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon for two minutes, then add diced onion and garlic and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bacon is done (but not crisp) and onions are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into the pan and whisk immediately to evenly mix it into the butter. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in milk and half and half. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, while sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne then add the grated cheddar. Stir while cheese melts. Turn off heat.

Add pimentos to pan, then add bacon/onion mixture. Stir to combine. Pour over green beans and stir gently to combine. Pour into a baking dish and top with panko crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and panko crumbs are golden.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I love potatoes.  A lot.  I usually like to make my favorite  Red Garlic Mashed Potatoes, but this was a a great recipe to try.  The potatoes came out so smooth and creamy.  They were literally perfect in everyway and my family definitely enjoyed them.  If you're only cooking for a few people, I would definitely cut this recipe in half.  With 5 lbs of potatoes, we'll have mashed potatoes coming out of our ears for weeks!

Source:  The Pioneer Woman


5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
¾ cups Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
½ cup (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
½ teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
½ teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper


Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with delicious food and good times with family and friends.  I know that I did.  This was an extra special Thanksgiving for me because it was the first time I had ever cooked the meal.  I spent a few weeks preparing everything so that everything would go perfectly.  All of the food turned out fantastic and I was even able to plan everything accordingly so that all of the food was ready at the same time!  I tried a lot of new recipes and even brined and roasted my first turkey.  The items that I prepared included:

Corn with butter

The next blog entries will include how to make some of these wonderful dishes as well as how to roast the perfect turkey.  Enjoy!!!

Tres Leches Cake

God, I love Tres Leches cake.  It is so sweet and creamy that I savor each and every single bite as I eat it.  I first tried this cake for the first time in 2004 when I spent a summer in Ecuador.  My host family made this often and it was soooo yummy that I try it on a menu whenever I see it at a restaurant.  Oddly enough, I had never made it on my own before.  I was participating in a baking contest with another girl from work last week and we decided to try making a Tres Leches cake, since neither of us had ever made it before.  We each tried different recipes and they were both outstanding.  We both had problems with using a spring-form pan because the cake kept leaking in the oven.  Eventually, I gave up and made it in a 9 x 13 cake pan and it turned out beautifully.

Source:  Joelen's Culinary Adventures, from Alton Brown


Cooking spray to grease cake pans
6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces sugar
5 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half

2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar
1 lb strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 10-inch metal springform pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Do not remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

For the topping:
Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, chop up the strawberries and place in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Toss to combine and set aside until ready to serve.

To serve:
Place the cake on a serving platter. Carefully remove the ring from the springform pan. Slice the cake to serve and garnish with a spoonful of strawberries.

Boeuf Bourguignon

If you have been following my blog closely, you probably noticed that I took a slight hiatus.  I wasn't planning on it being this long, but I went on a very strict diet with limited food options.  Therefore, it was tough to try new recipes that I wasn't supposed to be eating.  The hiatus turned out to be a positive thing because I lost almost 40 pounds!  I also developed a new appreciation for food and a new attitude in regards to trying new food.  I'm going to try to make more of an effort to post healthy recipes, although I will at times post some ones that are not-so-healthy, but delicious nonetheless. 

For my first comeback recipe, I decided to try Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon!  Although I am not a great cook by any means, I love the movie Julie and Julia and I have been wanting to try the famous Boeuf Bourguignon ever since.  If Julie Powell can do it, I can do it.  I bought a beautiful red Le Creuset 7.25 quart french oven for my birthday so I was finally ready to try the recipe!  It was AH-MAZ-ING!! The hubby and I shared a bottle of wine and enjoyed this wonderful meal.  It was not nearly as time-consuming as I thought it would be and I am so excited to host a dinner party in the near future and serve this!

Source:  Joelen's Culinary Adventures, adapted from Julia Child


6 ounces bacon
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 cup baby carrots
1 sliced large onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white onions (white pearl onions)
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Chopped chives for garnish


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in a dutch oven (no oil) over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. (The bacon will render and give off enough fat to cook with.) Remove the bacon from the pot and place in a bowl; set aside.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels - it will not brown if it is damp. Add the beef, a few pieces at a time, to the dutch oven to cook in the rendered bacon fat. Sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Remove the beef from the pot and add it to the bacon in the bowl; set aside.

If the bacon fat has been absorbed by sauting the beef at this point, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In the pot, brown the carrots and onions.

Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour over the meat in the pot and toss everything in the pot to coat the beef lightly with the flour. On the stovetop, heat the pot for about 2-3 minutes to lightly cook off some of the flour.

To the pot, stir in the wine along with the stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the pot and set in lower third of preheated oven. Allow the pot to braise very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms:

For the onions - place the unpeeled white pearl onions in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring the saucepan up to a boil over the stovetop and allow the onions to boil for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the water and cool. Cut off the ends of each pearl onion and remove the outer layer of skin. Once all pearl onions are peeled, saute the pearl onions in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter. Allow the pearl onions to caramelize. Remove from the skillet and set them aside to cool.

For the mushrooms - add 2 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet used to prepare the onions. Saute the mushrooms in the butter until caramelized. Remove from the skillet and set them aside to cool.

After the meat has braised, remove and strain the beef and vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl; set aside. With the remaining sauce left in the pot, allow it to simmer. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down rapidly to reduce and thicken. If it's too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning.

At this point, return the beef and vegetables to the thickened sauce, along with the caramelized pearl onions and mushrooms. Gently heat everything over a medium low heat and then serve. Garnish with chopped chives.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Grilled Peach BBQ Chicken Wings

I subscribe to several cooking magazines, such as Cooking Light and Taste of Home.  I especially love Taste of Home because most of the recipes are so simple and delicious, a combination that I love!  For this recipe, my husband, who loves to grill, picked out this recipe.  I'll admit, I wasn't sure about pureeing peaches in barbecue sauce, but the end result was great.  It gave the sauce a wonderful sweetness.  I also really enjoyed the dipping sauce, which surprised me.  I'll admit, heating apple cider vinegar over the stove smells terrible, but the smell goes away and when the sauce cools, it produces a fabulous result. 

In other cooking blog news, I have an exciting little announcement to make in the next couple of days.  For the next 40+ days, my blog is going to take an interesting turn...stay tuned!

Source:  Taste of Home magazine, October & November 2010 issue


2 cups store-bought barbecue sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
24 chicken wings, separated at the joint and tips discarded
1 cup peach jam
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot, or to taste
Scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced, for topping (I omitted this)


In a food processor, combine the barbecue sauce and half of the garlic.  Add the peaches and process until finely chopped; season with about 1-1/2 tsp. salt and about 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Reserve 1/2 cup for basting.  In a resealable plastic bag, toss together the chicken wings and remaining peach barbecue sauce; refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the peach jam, vinegar, remaining garlic, hot sauce, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes; let cool.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to low.  Grill the chicken wings with the grill cover down, turning and basting occasionally with the reserved barbecue sauce, until cooked through, about 30 minutes.  Top with the scallions and serve with the peach jam dipping sauce.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Italian Spiced Chicken Bites

This recipe took so little time to make, it almost seems wrong on how amazing it tasted.  The chicken marinade was wonderful with a little extra heat that I always enjoy.  As I was eating these for dinner, all I could do was think about when I was going to make these next.  They can make an excellent appetizer for parties or even Sunday afternoon football games.  This recipe is a must-make!

Source:  Adapted from Jaime Cooks:  Endevours in Eating & Entertaining


1 ½ lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into roughly 1″ cubes
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ cup Panko Italian Bread Crumbs (I used plain)
½ cup Plain Bread Crumbs  (I used Italian)

Rinse and pat dry the chicken breast cubes.

In a bowl combine garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle over the chicken pieces and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

After the chicken pieces have marinated, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix panko and plain dry bread crumbs in a bowl. Press marinated chicken pieces into the bread crumbs to coat completely.

Place on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and bread crumbs are golden brown. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spicy Rotini and Shrimp

I was having dinner by myself one night so I decided to try something I would like probably a little more than my husband would.  I love spicy food, but he doesn't like it as nearly as much as I do so I usually avoid it.  This dish was yummy with a LOT of heat.  I added nearly a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and it was almost a little too much for me.  For a touch of hotness, just stick with adding only a teaspoon!

Source:  Kelly's Kreative Kitchen, adapted from Homemade by Holman


1/4 lb uncooked shrimp, deveined
1/2 box rotini pasta (or similar)
1 cup diced tomatoes w/ liquid
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dry red wine (I used a zinfandel)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes (can add more depending on taste)
salt & pepper, to taste


Heat a pot of water to boiling for pasta. When it comes to a boil, add salt and pasta. Cook until al dente and drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter and add olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook until they turn pink. Don't overcook them, once they are opaque, they are done. Set them aside on a cutting board and cut into thirds.

In the same large skillet saute garlic and onions for 2 minutes on medium-high heat. Add the wine and saute another 3 minutes, or until no longer liquidy. Then add diced tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream, simmer another 5 minutes. Add herbs, cooked shrimp, pasta, and salt & pepper, to taste. Toss and serve warm.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I've been spending a lot of time on The Pioneer Woman website.  If you've never visited it before, it's a great site for cooks of all abilities.  If you're unsure about how she does a recipe, she offers wonderful step-by-step instructions with pictures.  When I found this recipe I knew I needed to try it!  I cooked this with my good friend, Stacy for a Saturday night dinner.  The overall taste was wonderful, and the leftovers were outstanding but next time I will make a few adjustments.  First, if you love heat and spiciness, add more of the Cajun spice.  A few extra teaspoons really kicks this up a notch.  Also, use a little less pasta and simmer the cream and chicken broth until it thickens up a lot more.  We felt that the sauce was a little too liquidy and we were getting it all over our clothes.  All in all, though, a great recipe that I will definitely try again for my husband with some minor adjustments.

Source:  The Pioneer Woman


3 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes
3 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix, More To Taste
1 pound Fettuccine
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
½ whole Large Red Onion, Sliced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Diced
2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ cups White Wine
1 cup Heavy Cream
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
Salt To Taste
Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente; do not overcook!

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add half the chicken in a single layer; do not stir. Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate.

Repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken, leaving pan on high heat.

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on remaining Cajun spice, and add salt if needed. Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring gently and trying to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan.

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste. Sauce should be spicy!

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.

Top with chopped fresh parsley and chow down!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chocolate Cobbler

I love making (and eating!) fruit cobblers, but when I found this chocolate recipe, I knew I needed to try it!  This was pretty tasty and paired with the vanilla ice cream, it was like eating a combination of a fudge brownie and a chocolate lava cake.  Make sure you eat it while it is warm!

Source:  Pioneer Woman, A Tasty Kitchen


1 cup All-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoons Salt
7 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, Divided
1-¼ cup Sugar, Divided
½ cups Milk
⅓ cups Melted Butter
1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1-½ cup Hot Tap Water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, and 3/4 cup of the white sugar. Reserve the remaining cocoa and sugar.

Stir in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8-inch baking dish. I prefer my small oval Corning Ware glass dish.

In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining white sugar (it should be 1/2 cup), the brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter.

Pour the hot tap water over all. DO NOT STIR!

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is set.

Let stand for a few minutes if you can hold yourself back. Serve with homemade ice cream using the gooey sauce to spoon over all.

Chicken and Veggie Tortellini Stew

Crock Pot day!  This was an exhausting weekend full of good times with friends so I wanted to make something that would not take much time out of my only relaxing day.  Although it's still summer, I felt like making a stew since I was only cooking for myself tonight.  My husband is out of town and isn't crazy for stews or casseroles so these next few days are for making those sorts of dishes!  This was a tasty meal and makes wonderful leftovers for later.  A must-try recipe for this upcoming cold season!

Source:  Pillsbury, 2009 Casserole Book


2 medium carrots, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves of garlic finely chipped
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 can (19 ounces) of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 3/4  cups chicken broth
2 cups of water
1 package (9 ounces) of refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
2 medium green onions, sliced (2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon of dried basil leaves
2 tablespoons of shredded parmesan cheese

Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. In cooker, layer carrots, garlic, chicken, and beans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour broth and water over top; stir to combine.

Cover; cook on low heat setting for 6 to 8 hours.

Stir in tortellini, onions and basil. Increase heat setting to hight. Cover; cook 15 to 20 minutes longer or until tortellini are tender. Sprinkle servings with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Raspberry Cream Pie

I have to admit, if I had to choose between a chocolate or fruit dessert, I would most likely choose a fruit one.  Most of my friends would have to disagree with me on that one, but I'm still a sucker for fruit.  When Pioneer Woman posted this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It was so easy!  From start to finish, the recipe took a total of 20 minutes and the results were incredible.  I brought the pie to work and people were cutting pieces before I could even take a picture!

Source:  Pioneer Woman


25 whole Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
1 cup (generous) Raspberries
3 Tablespoons Sugar
2 containers (6 Ounce Each) Raspberry Yogurt
1 package (3.4 Ounch) Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Extra Raspberries For Garnish


To make the crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crust cookies in a food processor (or smash in a Ziploc bag with a rolling pin). Stir in melted butter until all combined. Pour into a regular pie pan and press crumbs all over the pan and up the sides. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes—just long enough for it to set. Cool crust completely.

Place raspberries on a plate or in an empty pan. Smash them with a fork, then sprinkle on 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir together and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine raspberry yogurt with the instant vanilla pudding mix (just the powder itself.) Beat on low until combined, about 1 minute. Pour in heavy cream and whip on low for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn mixer on medium-high speed and beat for two minutes, or until mixture is thick.

Turn off mixer, then fold in raspberries until just combined. Pour into cooled pie pan and spread evenly. Freeze for two hours, or until very firm. Cut into slices and top each slice with cookie crumbs, dollops of whipped cream, and extra raspberries. Keep in freezer, allowing time to thaw before serving.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grilled Herb Shrimp

"Wow!  Just wow!! Amazing!! Wow!!"  These were several phases that I said aloud as soon as I tried these shrimp.  I couldn't believe how wonderful they tasted, it was literally heaven in my mouth.  The marinade was so simple and with my husband's wonderful grilling skills, we had one of the best meals of the summer!

Source:  Pink Parsley, adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!


2 pounds shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, but tails left on
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon sugar


Combine all the ingredients and toss to coat the shrimp. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Prepare grill. Thread the shrimp on skewers, and sprinkle one side with sugar.

Grill the shrimp, sugared side down, for about 2 minutes, then flip skewers and grill until cooked through, an additional 1-2 minutes.

Cornish Hens with Rosemary and Thyme

Since starting this blog, I tend to spend a lot more time browsing at the grocery store while I am shopping.  One of my favorite areas to browse is the meat section.  I discovered the cornish hens a few months ago, but was unable to find a recipe that I wanted to use.  I finally found a recipe that also allowed me to use my new roasting pan.  Both the recipe and my new pan were fabulous because the hens were extremely tender and moist.  If you're unsure about trying Cornish hens, don't be afraid because they tasted like chicken to me!

Source:  Ashley's Little Kitchen


2 Cornish Hens
Sprigs of rosemary
Fresh thyme
¼ cup butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Put fresh rosemary in the cavity of each hen.

Brush butter all over the skin of each Cornish hen (leave some butter for recoating throughout the roasting process).

Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper and any other herbs you would like all over the outside of each hen.

Place the prepared Cornish hens in a roasting pan and roast for 45-50 minutes, or until cooked through, occasionally basting with leftover butter to keep skin from drying out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Individual Meatloaves

This was another recipe that allowed me to come out of the hole that I am apparently living in because I have NEVER made meatloaf, yet I love it and often order it at restaurants.  This recipe was phenomenal, and I loved how my husband and I could have our own smaller loaves instead of cutting pieces off a large hunk of meat.  The glaze was great too and I loved how there was a little heat to it and it wasn't just plain old ketchup.  I highly recommend you try this one today!

Source:  Pink Parsley, adapted from Ina Garten
             Glaze from Cook's Illustrated


1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onion (2 large onions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 1/2 pound ground beef (I used 85/15 ground sirloin)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the glaze

1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander


Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap a wire rack with aluminum foil, and poke holes with a skewer or fork. Set atop a baking sheet.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme, and cook until softened and translucent,but not browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth, and tomato paste.

Crumble the ground beef into a mixing bowl, and add the onion mixture, breadcrumbs, and eggs. Lightly combine using a fork, being careful not to mash the mixture. This will keep the meatloaves from being dense and tough.

Divide the mixture into six 10-11 ounce portions, and shape each into a loaf. Line them on the baking sheet. At this point they can be refrigerated for several hourse, or frozen.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until they reach 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, hot sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and coriander in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook until the glaze is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Using half the glaze, brush the tops and sides of each meatloaf. Allow to cook an additional 5-10 minutes, or until they reach 150-155 degrees. Brush with remaining glaze, and place under broiler. Broil an additional 5-10 minutes, and remove from oven.

Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Our refrigerator always has a large amount of blueberries.  We eat some everyday for on our cereal, or for just a snack every now and then.  I'm a big fan of fruit cakes so as soon as I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  The lemon flavor was divine!!  It matched the sweetness of the blueberries perfectly.  If I can get my husband to make me a cake for my birthday this year, I definitely will have to have him make this!  Also, I had a little kitchen mishap where I dropped one of the three cakes on the floor so this cake turned out to be two layers.  Don't be confused when you see you have enough batter for three cakes.  I am just a little klutzy at times!

Source:  Bakin and Eggs, adapted from Bon Appetit


2 cups plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (double for a more pronounced lemon flavor)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar (I used 3 1/4 c)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (I added 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for more lemon flavor)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8- or 9-inch diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper and butter paper. Dust pans with flour and set aside.

Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon flour mixture to separate bowl and add fresh blueberries. Toss with flour to coat and set and blueberries and remaining flour mixture aside.

Stir together whole milk, vanilla extract and grated lemon peel in small bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using electric mixer, beat butter in until light and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. (Flour, milk, flour, milk, flour.) Gently fold in blueberries with a spatula. Divide batter equally among pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 23-25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks for 10 minutes and then run knife around pan sides to loosen. Turn cakes out onto racks to cool completely. Peel off parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar (tasting as you go – you might not want all four cups of powdered sugar due to sweetness). Beat in lemon peel, juice if using and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until just firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Transfer one cake layer to platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over cake layer. Top with another cake layer; spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. (Cake can be prepared up to one day ahead of time, covered and refrigerated. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.) Decorate cake as desired and serve.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

I love having a little bit (sometimes a lot) of heat in my food.  This casserole was no exception and it was really fun to make as well!  This dish didn't photograph as well, so if the pictures aren't encouraing you to try this recipe, please ignore them!  Just think about the wonderful flavors that await!

Source:  Pink Parsley, adapted from Cook's Illustrated


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 halves total)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp. minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1¾ cups chicken broth
5 cups tortilla chips, broken into large pieces
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro


Pat the chicken breast halves dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a 10-12 inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides (chicken does not need to be fully cooked at this point.) Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic, chipotle, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer.

Stir in half of the tortilla chips. Nestle the chicken into the broth and cook over medium-low heat until cooked through (reading 160° F on an instant-read thermometer), about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces when it is cool enough to handle.

Return the shredded chicken to the skillet with the tomatoes, ½ cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Stir in the other half of the tortilla chips until they are incorporated and moistened.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese is melted and browning, about 2-3 minutes. Top with remaining cilantro and serve, allowing the casserole to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Summer Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons

Do you love tomatoes like I do?  Yes?  Okay, then either go to your garden or nearest produce store to get some beautiful tomatoes and make this dish.  It was so simple and it brought out the wonderful sweetness of the tomatoes.  I also thought this was a great recipe to use to make some quick croutons for a salad. This will make a great side dish for a variety of dishes, so try this soon!

Source:  Smells like Home, adapted from Ina Garten


2-3 tbsp Good olive oil
3 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule or baguette
2 lbs tomatoes, local if you can find them
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

Summer Orzo Salad

Okay, so I decided to be a little adventurous with this recipe.  Perhaps my adventurous side needs to slowly progress.  This salad turned out exactly the way it was supposed to, but I had a hard time liking the flavor of the fresh mint.  So, I think if this is a recipe you want to try out, you have two options.  Either follow the recipe exactly or take out the mint, some of the fresh basil, halve the garbanzo beans, and perhaps use an italian dressing.  Although, I did really enjoy the red wine vinaigrette dressing so I encourage you to use the dressing!

Source:  Giada de Laurentis, Giada's Family Dinners


4 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. orzo
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c. red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 c. finely chopped red onion
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint leaves
3/4 c. Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Pour the broth into a heavy large saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7--9 minutes.

Drain the orzo through a strainer. Transfer the orzo to a large wide bowl and toss until the orzo cools slightly. Set aside to cool completely.

Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat.

Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

Red Wine Vinaigrette


1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil


Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender.

With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.

Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: 1 3/4 cups

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whole Chicken with Spice Rub

Another great crock pot recipe!  I couldn't believe how flavorful the chicken was for a recipe that was so simple and didn't even include chicken broth.  Believe it or not, I had never bought a whole chicken before.  Maybe I have lived a sheltered life, but cooking a large chunk of meat has always intimidated me.  Thanks to one of my favorite kitchen appliances, not anymore! 

Source:  The Cooking Husband


1 whole chicken, 4-5 lbs.
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, chopped


In a small bowl, combine the above minus the onion.

Rub spice rub onto the chicken. Put chopped onion in bottom of the crock pot. Add chicken to the crock pot and add no liquid at all!

The chicken will make it’s own juices. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook for 8 hours on LOW.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

Time to bring out the crock pot!  The crock pot gives me confidence in my cooking knowledge that I never knew I had.  A year ago, I never would have attempted making BBQ ribs.  I wouldn't have even known where to look in the grocery store for pork ribs.  However, since I have had so many successes with my crock pot these last 8 months, I decided to go for it.  These ribs were AMAZING!! They were cooked perfectly and the meat was falling off the bone as I tried to plate it for serving.  My husband said that recipe was definitely a keeper.  I used a homemade BBQ sauce for this recipe, but you can use your favorite bottle instead and it will turn out just as fabulous.

Source:  Joelen's Culinary Adventures


2-3 pounds country pork ribs
2 cups BBQ sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Place the pork, BBQ sauce, garlic and oregano into a crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Wow! Who knew homemade BBQ was easy to make and as delicious as some of the bottles you buy in the stores?  This recipe was extremely cost effective because I always have the necessary ingredients on hand in my kitchen at all times. I'll admit though at first I didn't know if the sauce would work out, because it had such a strong odor as it was cooking.  However, the final product was delicious with a wonderful balance of tangy sweetness.  I definitely recommend trying this recipe before you go out and buy an expensive bottle of sauce.

Source:  Joelen's Culinary Adventures, adapted from The Neelys


2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

This was a really fun dish to make.  One of the reasons that it was so fun was because my good friend Stacy and I made it together for a dinner with our husbands.  We both wanted to try something new and this recipe seemed perfect for us.  The recipe was so large that we had to use two dishes:  one 9x13" and one 8x8". This actually worked really well because we tried a little experiment.  We followed the recipe below for the bigger dish and then used pasta sauce and mozzarella in the smaller dish.  Both dishes turned out really well, except that if you decide to take the pasta sauce/mozzarella route, bake the dish at 350 degrees.  The sauce burned a little bit at the edges on 375.

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from Simply Recipes


1 12-oz. package jumbo pasta shells
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
6-7 oz. fresh spinach, chopped OR 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Cook until the sausage is completely cooked through and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, ricotta, spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, basil, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Stir together to combine. Add the cooked sausage mixture to the bowl and stir until evenly mixed.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of the chopped tomatoes in the baking dishes (either three 8×8″ pans, or one 9×13″ and one 8×8″). Stuff each shell with some of the sausage and cheese mixture, and arrange in the baking dishes, open side up. Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.

Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 10 more minutes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

What is better than warm brownies fresh out of the oven?  It has been a long time since I made brownies so I never had a saved reciped.  It was my husband's birthday and he requested a warm brownie with ice cream as his birthday cake.  I found this fabulous recipe that incorporated a lot of different types of chocolate.  The brownies came out perfectly moist and chewy.  A wonderful treat to make again soon!

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from Baking Illustrated


5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1¼ cups (8¾ oz.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour


Place an oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. (It took me a while to get the flour evenly incorporated and I was worried it would affect the texture of the brownies, but they turned out fabulously – no need to worry.) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares as desired. Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

I have to apologize for the lack of updates this past week.  My time has been occupied with a new kitten named Heidi.  She's extremely playful and needs constant affection and hates it when my husband and I use our laptops. :)  While typing this blog entry, she has jumped on my computer about seven times so far.  Anyways, I've had some free time this weekend and decided to try a new appetizer that I had bookmarked for the last few weeks.  I had a hard time finding some decent tomatoes at the grocery store, but this recipe turned out well and took very little time in preparing.  I cooked the tomatoes in the oven and by the time they were out of the oven, the cheese had melted perfectly and the tomatoes were so juicy with the skin ready to peal off.  Yum!

Source:  The Novice Chef


4 medium tomatoes
1/4 cup of your favorite breadcrumbs
2 tbl butter, melted
8 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Parsley for garnish


Slice off top of tomato, hollow out (leaving 1/2 inch thick shell), and chop pulp and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, butter, basil, salt and pepper. Next stir in cheese and tomato pulp. Fill each tomato shell and then wrap each tomato individually in foil.

Grill, or bake (at 400 degrees) for 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is completely melted. Garnish with parsley and serve hot!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Italian Pasta Salad

I have been on such a pasta salad kick lately.  It's been so hot and muggy lately so a good pasta salad has been really refreshing.  I've been fixing these salads lately for dinner as a test for what I will bring to some upcoming BBQ's.  This salad was so easy to make and reallllly yummy.  If you're a procrastinator like me and need to come up with a quick pasta salad for a party, this recipe will work for sure.

Source:  Stephanie Cooks


2 cups uncooked pasta
1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, diced in 1/2 (I used cherry tomatoes)
3-4 tbsp. parmesan cheese
Kraft Roasted red pepper Italian salad dressing  (I used Kraft Light Zesty Italian)


Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta. In the last 2 minutes, throw in the broccoli.

Drain the pasta/broccoli mixture. Run under cold water.

Allow the mixture to cool completely.

Add the grape tomatoes and a few squirts of dressing. Toss well, store in the fridge to allow the tastes to marinade.

Right before serving add the parmesan cheese, stir well, and serve cold.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cheddar Double Stuffed Potatoes

One of my favorite appetizers to eat at a bar or restaurant are potato skins.  They are so yummy with a little sour cream and extra cheese.  Although this recipe was a little bit different than your basic potato skin recipe, it was so much better with the extra kick.  Definitely great for a party!

Source:  Joelen's Culinary Adventures, adapted from Rachel Ray


2 large Russet potatoes, cleaned and pricked with a fork several times each
Drizzle olive oil or vegetable oil
2 slices center cut bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and coarse black pepper

Preheat a small nonstick pan over medium high heat. Rub potatoes with a drizzle of oil. Place potatoes on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 12 minutes, rotating once.

While potatoes cook, add chopped bacon to hot skillet and brown until bits are crisp. Add scallions and cook scallions together with bacon 1 minute more. Transfer bacon bits and green onions to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Allow potatoes to cool enough to be handled, 5 minutes. Preheat broiler to high.

Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Smash potato flesh together with sour cream until combined using a potato masher. Stir in 1 cup of cheddar cheese, bacon and scallions and season with salt and pepper, to your taste.

Scoop filling back into potato skins, top with additional cheddar cheese and place on a cookie sheet. Place potatoes in oven and brown under broiler, 6 inches from heat for 5 minutes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fruity Italian Ice

This is probably one of the simplest recipes I have put on my blog.  You only need one ingredient!!  This was such a healthy, cool, and refreshing dish that you won't be able to resist making it just once!

Source:  Stephanie Cooks, from Loser for Life


Fresh, chopped, frozen fruit (watermelon or pineapple works best)


Place the frozen fruit pieces in a food processor.

If you want it to be choppy, like slushy ice, hit pulse a few times until the fruit it chopped up and resembles Italian ice.

If you prefer it more smooth, let the food processor run for about 2-3 minutes or until smooth like soft ice cream.

Salad Stuffed Shells

It's summertime!  Time for lots of fun-filled BBQ nights with friends and family.  One thing a BBQ always needs is pasta salad.  There are so many different kinds to make, but as soon as I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It was so different and oh, so good!  I always loved this recipe because the options are limitless.  Add or delete vegetables of your choosing and top it off with your favorite dressing.

Source:  Stephanie Cooks


Lettuce, chopped (I used pre-shredded)
Cucumbers, diced small
Tomatoes, diced small
Shredded cheddar cheese
Carrots, diced  (I used pre-shredded)
Jumbo shells, cooked and cooled
Salad dressing (I used zesty italian)


Take all of your salad ingredients and toss them together in a bowl.  Mix a little salad dressing in to coat lightly.

Stuff each shell with salad until it is full.

Right before serving drizzle dressing over the shells.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Don't let anybody tell you any different because I firmly believe that chocolate chip muffins are a wonderful way to start your day!  I wanted something to eat for breakfast at work and these did the trick quite nicely.  The recipe worked out well, but please follow the directions when cooking because I didn't and overcooked them just a tad.  The ones I did not overcook turned out perfect and moist.  All in all, it was a somewhat success and it's nice to add something new to my database of recipes!

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from Williams Sonoma


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 13-14 muffin wells with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir together with a fork. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Mix in the vanilla until well blended. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Add the milk and mix until combined. Mix in the rest of the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips using a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin liners. Bake for 21-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I love bringing in desserts to my job, whether it be for someone's birthday or just because I feel like baking.  It's also a good thing because then I don't have to eat those delicious, yet fattening desserts by myself.  I recently bought a new stand mixer so I thought I'd try making a delicious cheesecake with plenty of chocolate.  This cheesecake couldn't have turned out any better.  It was so rich and creamy and perfect.  The girls at work raved about it as soon as they had the first bite.  Since the cake turned out so well, I am definitely motivated to try making more cheesecakes in the near future.

Source:  Annie's Eats, originally from Ghirardelli


2 cups chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs
6 tbsp. butter, melted
24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


For the crust, crumble the sandwich cookies into a food processor or blender. Grind into fine crumbs. In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Mix well with a fork. Spoon the mixture into a 10-inch springform pan. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, pat the mixture into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Freeze prepared crust 15-30 minutes while preparing cheesecake filling.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°. Blend cream cheese and sugar 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Turn mixer down to lowest speed; add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each. Scrape sides of bowl. Add whipping cream and vanilla; beat on medium-high for 3 minutes. Pour ¾ of the cream cheese filling into crust. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter, then pour remaining cream cheese filling over chips.

Bake cheesecake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 325°. Turn off oven; leave cake in oven with door closed for 1 ½ hours. Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving.