Monday, July 4, 2011

Vegetable Garden Update 7/4/11

I can't believe it's July already, but it is and the garden is really starting to fill out.  I was very lucky after a tornado hit about 1 1/2 miles away and the garden remained almost unscathed.  The corn was bent for a couple days, but it picked back up.  Since the last update, I have added about 30 onion and 5 kale plants.  These plants were more of an experiment and the plants were on sale, so if they don't pull through, I won't be too upset.  I am still battling cucumber beetles and squash bugs with my squash and cucumbers, but I am hoping they will pull through and produce some yummy veggies.  I am also having a few problems with fungus on a few tomato plants that is spreading to some of the other tomatos.  I have been applying fungicide weekly to the plants and I am starting to see them pick back up.  Between the 17 tomato plants, there are at least 100 tiny fruits beginning to form.  I admit, I was beginning to become overwhelmed once I realized how much of a harvest I am going to have by early August.  I purchased a canning kit and some canning books that will hopefully help!  I also plan on giving tons away to anyone that will take it.  I'm excited to share future updates of my harvests soon.  Stay tuned!

Sweet corn (almost 4 ft tall)

Bush Green Beans

Jalapenos and Garden Salsa peppers

Jalapenos almost ready to pick

Bell pepper getting bigger!


Cucumbers climbing up the trellis

Cucumbers beginning to form

Butternut Squash

Yellow Long Neck Summer Squash

Squash forming (hopefully it will survive)

Black Krim tomato

First harvest!  Hot peppers, cat grass, and cilantro

Fresh Basil Pesto

My garden is really starting to pick up and before I knew it, it was time to harvest some of my sweet basil.  This sauce turned out really well and once I spooned it over some fresh cheese tortellini, it really was perfect.  The basil from my garden gave it that extra special flavor.  If you're looking for something different to serve with your pasta, I highly recommend this recipe.

Source:  Simply Recipes


2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese (I used Romano)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Layer Cake

This cake was probably one of the most complex cakes that I had ever made, but the end results were fantastic.  It was my boss' birthday and I wanted to make a cake that utilized lots of chocolate and raspberries, her two favorite foods.  This cake definitely requires several hours of work and I really enjoyed every bit of it.  The end result was a beautiful 3 layer cake that impressed all that tried it!

Source:  Annie's Eats, cake adapted from Baking Illustrated, raspberry filling from Wilton, frosting adapted from Martha Stewart, glaze adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather


For the cake:
1½ cups (4½ oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. espresso powder (I omitted)
1½ cups boiling water
¾ cup sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (18¼ oz.) sugar
3 large eggs
1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. (9¼ oz.) all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt

For the raspberry filling:
16 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice

For the ganache filling:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the raspberry frosting:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
21 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup strained raspberry puree
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Pink gel icing color (optional)

For the chocolate glaze:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For garnish:
Additional fresh raspberries


To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour the edges of three 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Combine the cocoa and espresso powder in a small bowl. Add in the boiling water and whisk together until smooth. Let cool slightly. Whisk in the sour cream.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; stir together to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in three additions, alternating with the cocoa-sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the raspberry filling, drain the thawed berries, reserving the juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough water so that the total liquid equals 1¼ cups. Add the liquid to a medium saucepan with the sugar and cornstarch. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Continue whisking so no lumps form. Once thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice. Fold in the drained berries with a spatula. Cover and chill until ready to use. (The filling will continue to thicken as it chills.)

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let stand 1-2 minutes, then whisk together until a smooth, thick ganache is formed. Whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Let the ganache sit to thicken a bit so that it is suitable for spreading and piping. (To speed thickening, place the bowl in the fridge or freezer and whisk every 10 minutes to ensure even cooling until the desired consistency is reached.) Transfer about ½ cup of the thickened ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip about ½-inch in diameter. Reserve another ½ cup of ganache in a small bowl or container. (This can be used later for decorative detailing, if desired.)

To assemble the cake, place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake board or serving platter. Spread ½ cup of the ganache in an even layer over the cake. Using the reserved ganache in the pastry bag, pipe a border around the perimeter of the cake layer. This will act as a well to help hold in the raspberry filling. Spoon some of the raspberry filling inside the ganache border in an even layer. Top with another layer of cake and repeat this process, layering with another ½ cup of ganache and additional raspberry filling. Top with the remaining cake layer.

To make the raspberry frosting, combine the sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. (I use my mixer bowl here to dirty one less dish.) Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch.) Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!) Blend in the raspberry puree and vanilla until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. If desired, tint with pink icing gel to achieve your desired shade.

Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the raspberry buttercream, smoothing the surface as much as possible. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes. (Do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake.) Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides. Let the glaze set about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the remaining reserved ganache to a consistency for piping. (You can microwave in 5 second intervals on low power – it won’t take long to rewarm. If you overshoot and the ganache becomes too thin, simply chill again in the fridge or freezer until it is thick enough to pipe.) Transfer the ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe swirls of ganache around the edge of the top of the cake and top each swirl with a fresh raspberry. Chill the cake until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vegetable Garden Update 6/5/2011

The vegetable garden is in full swing!!  After battling bugs and heavy rainfall, my garden is finally at a point where I can just work on upkeep, watering, pruning, and fertilizing.  Almost immediately upon planting my zucchini, squash, and cucumbers, the cucumber beetles devoured all of the plants.  I replanted almost all except for a couple squash.  This time they devoured my zucchini.  Exasperated, I ripped out the zucchini, and planted 9 more different varieties of tomatoes instead.  I like tomatoes better anyways!  Currently, my garden is almost beetle free, so I am hoping my cucumbers and squashes will be able to thrive.  Aside from the zucchini, my garden is really starting to take off,  Flowers are appearing on my tomato and pepper plants and the corn is already over a foot tall.  Here are some updated pics!  You can really see the difference after only 2 1/2 weeks. I'm excited to compare the growth in another couple of weeks.

Tomatoes (with flowers!)


Long Neck Summer Squash

Jalapeno Hot Peppers (with flowers!)

Bell Peppers (with flowers!)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Vegetable Garden

I'd like to start a new segment of my vegetable garden!  I love fresh produce!  Growing up, my mother taught me there is nothing better than a home grown tomato!  She passed away several years ago, but she did give me a few small lessons in vegetable gardens so hopefully the knowledge will be useful this summer!  I live in a condominium complex, but I am renting a 20' x 20' community garden plot.  Because of this cold and rainy weather, I was finally able to plant this weekend and I hope that this garden will yield great results!  As the weeks go by, I will post some updated pictures of the garden, and I'm hoping pictures of my harvest, as well as many delicious recipes utilizing my harvest!  Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Various Herbs 




Butternut Squash

Long Neck Summer Squash

Sweet Corn


Garden Salsa Hot Peppers

Bell Peppers

Boston Cream Whoopie Pies

This was another dessert that I had made for my work baking contest.  We had never tried whoopie pies before, but I have a feeling that will change.  These were very yummy and there are so many different types of whoopie pie recipes out there and I can't wait to try more!  The cookies came out beautifully although I had a few issues with the pastry cream because I didn't cook it long enough.  In order to save it, I tried reheating it and although the consistency wasn't how I wanted it, the cream was able to set so that I could pipe it on the cookies.  The outcome of the contest?  I lost to my opponent by quite a large margin. Her cookies were delicious and the cream turned out much better than mine did!

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from Cate's World Kitchen, originally from King Arthur Flour and The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard; pastry cream from Baking Illustrated


For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup sugar, divided
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the cookies:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup milk

For the ganache:
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream


To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Fit a pastry bag with a wide round tip (I used Ateco 809). Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the bowl, alternating with with the milk, and beating each addition just until incorporated.

Transfer the batter to the piping bag. Pipe 1½-2 inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing an inch or two apart. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are set (they should not brown.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with any remaining batter as necessary.

Once all the cookies have cooled, match them up in pairs by size. To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate into a small heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circular motions until the chocolate is completely blended and the ganache is smooth. Dip the rounded side of one cookie of each pair into the ganache and coat with an even layer. Return to the cooling rack, flat side down, and let the ganache set before proceeding.

Transfer the pastry cream another piping bag fitted with a smaller plain round tip. Pipe a dollop of pastry cream onto the flat side of the plain cookie of each pair. Press the flat side of the other cookie to the pastry cream, sandwiching the two together.

Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Blueberry Scones

I can't believe I had never tried making a scone before I tried this recipe.  They are really easy to make and are so light and fluffy for a wonderful breakfast treat.  I made these for a friendly baking contest against a friend at work.  I am happy to report that I won the scone contest by a landslide victory, but I have to admit her scones were pretty yummy, too.

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from Entertaining from Cook's Illustrated, Spring 2009


8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
1½ cups (7½ oz.) fresh blueberries
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
½ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425˚ F. Grate the frozen butter on the holes of a large box grater. (I like to use my food processor for this – fast and easy.) Place the blueberries in the freezer until needed.

Whisk together the milk and sour cream in a medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Combine the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined. Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball. Add small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter (a dough scraper really helps with these steps). Fold the short ends of the dough into the center in thirds, to form an approximate 4-inch square. Transfer the dough to a plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square again. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface. Using a dough scraper, roll the dough up to form a tight log. Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar. (If freezing ahead of time, flash freeze on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then wrap individually and store in a freezer bag until needed.) Bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Pesto Lasagna

I love making my usual lasagna with sausage and ground beef.  It's made in our household at least once a month and the leftovers are gone within days!  I decided to press my good luck with lasagna and try something a little different.  This recipe really was delicious, but if you're looking for something healthy to make, this probably isn't the recipe to use.  The pesto and provolone cheese really made this dish stand out and the leftovers were just as fabulous.


1/2 package dried lasagna pasta sheets
2 cups cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/2 cup pesto sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded provolone cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook the pasta sheets as directed on the package and allow to cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, pesto, cream cheese, and spices until fully incorporated.

Place a layer of cooked and cooled pasta on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with a light sprinkling of cheeses enough to coat.

Layer half of the chicken mixture over the cheese and top with a layer of more pasta.

Repeat layering with a sprinkling of cheese, chicken mixture and pasta.

Cover the top of the pasta with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until cheese is melted and browned. Since everything is already cooked, baking will just meld the flavors and warm everything up. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Restaurant Style Salsa

I am officially never buying store-bought salsa again!  This was absolutely the easiest and most delicious salsa recipe I have ever tried!  It reminded me of the salsa that some of my favorite Mexican restaurants serve.  Definitely try this recipe today!  Serve it at a dinner party and listen to everyone remark how fantastic it is!


1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies)
¼ cups Chopped Onion
1 clove Garlic, Minced
1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin
¼ teaspoons Sugar
¼ teaspoons Salt
¼ teaspoons Ground Cumin
½ cups Cilantro (more To Taste!)
½ whole Lime Juice

Note: this is a very large batch. Recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips or cheese nachos.

Roasted Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Yes, I know it's almost the middle of May, but if you're from the Chicago area, you know how freezing cold it has been!  I decided it was the perfect time to make a soup.  Looking at the ingredient list, there really is a lot of ingredients, but you practically just throw it all together and there isn't much else to do.  This was really yummy with some bread and beef manicotti!  Try it this summer! (If you're from Chicago)

Source:  Pioneer Woman


2 whole Zucchini, Halved, Cut Into Strips, Then Cubed
2 whole Summer Squash, Halved, Cut Into Strips, Then Cubed
8 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Stems Removed And Quartered
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Kosher Salt To Taste
2 Tablespoons (additional) Olive Oil
2 whole Carrots, Washed And Sliced (not Peeled)
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 stalks Celery, Sliced (leaves Included)
8 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 cans Cannelini Beans, Rinsed
1 cup (heaping) Cut Green Beans, Fresh Or Frozen
1-½ cup Medium Or Small Pasta Shells, Uncooked
1 can (14.5) Diced Tomatoes With Juice
Salt And Pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoons Turmeric (optional)
Parmesan Cheese, Shaved

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Toss cubed zucchini, squash, and mushrooms in a bowl with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Arrange onto two sheet pans (to avoid crowding) and roast in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until brown and black parts begin to show. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and celery and stir to cook for 3 minutes. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.

Add cannelini beans and green beans. Cook on low for five minutes. Add pasta and cook for an additional five minutes. Add canned tomatoes, stir, and cook for an additional five minutes on low heat. Check for seasonings, adding salt, pepper, and turmeric.

Add roasted vegetables at the very end. Stir and allow to simmer and heat for a few minutes before serving. Be sure to check seasoning! Add more broth if necessary to increase liquid amount.

Serve with Parmesan shavings and crusty Italian bread.

White Fish Tacos

For my first time ever trying fish tacos, these were really good!  I made these in celebration for Cinco de Mayo.  I loved the cilantro cream sauce that I made with Greek yogurt.  I think next time I will try making it with sour cream to see which one I like best. 

Source:  Annie's Eats, adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles


For the fish:
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 tbsp. minced cilantro
¼ tsp. cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 lb. white fish (halibut, cod, tilapia, etc.)

For the cilantro cream sauce:
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. cilantro, minced
6 oz. nonfat greek yogurt (sour cream is fine too)
1 clove garlic, minced
Pepper, to taste

For serving:
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Green onions, chopped
Red cabbage, shredded
(Or whatever sounds good to you!)

6-inch flour tortillas


Combine the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, cilantro, cumin, and garlic in a pie plate or shallow dish. Whisk together until well blended. Place the fish in the mixture, turning to coat. Let marinate 15-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the cilantro cream sauce. Combine the lime juice, cilantro, greek yogurt, garlic and pepper in a small bowl. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the fish in the pan and cook without disturbing, 3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook on the second side 2-3 minutes more. Remove to a plate, season with salt as desired, and let rest for a few minutes. Shred the fish into bite-sized pieces with two forks.

Assemble tacos on flour tortillas with shredded fish, cilantro cream sauce and toppings as desired.

Beef Stew with Potato Dumplings

I have to admit, I didn't try this recipe, but my husband loved it!  I was on a diet and not supposed to eat the potato so I stayed strong even though this smelled amazing as it cooked.  Considering I had never tried making potato dumplings before, I thought they turned out really well!  I actually shredded the potatoes myself with my food processor, but if you don't have that capability, shredded hashbrown mix will do just fine.  

Source:  The Taste of Home Cookbook 2007


1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 lbs beef stew meat
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cans (10 1/2 oz each) beef broth, undiluted
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 medium carrots, cut into 2 in. chunks
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 egg
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp minced onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups fine shredded raw potatoes

Additional all-purpose flour


In a plastic bag, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.  Add meat; toss to coat.  In a Dutch oven, cook meat along with onions in oil until the meat is browned on all sides and onions are tender.

Stir in the broth, water, vinegar, carrots and seasonings; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours or until meat is almost tender.  Discard bay leaves.

In a large bowl, beat egg; add the crumbs, flour, parsley, onion, and seasonings.  Stir in potatoes; mix well.  With floured hands, shape into 1-1/2 in. balls.  Dust with flour.

Bring stew to a boil; drop dumplings onto stew.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes (do not lift cover while simmering).  Serve immediately.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Beef Burgundy over Noodles

Looking for some yummy comfort food for Sunday night dinner?  This was a great choice.  It's a bit similar to a few beef/wine recipes that I have made in the past, but I never pass up a chance to cook with red wine.  Or beef.  Or egg noodles.  This was a very tasty meal and is great for a meal for two.  My only issue with the recipe is that there wasn't enough of it!

Source:  The Taste of Home Cookbook 2007


1/2 lb. boneless sirloin steak, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 tbsp diced onion
2 tsp butter
1 1/2 cups quartered fresh mushrooms
3/4 cup dry red wine or beef broth
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water, divided
3 tbsp minced fresh parley, divided
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp browning sauce, optional (I omitted)
1 1/2 cups hot cooked egg noodles


In a Dutch oven or nonstick skillet, brown beef and onions in butter over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, wine or broth, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons parsley, bay leaf, clove, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour or until beef is tender.

Combine flour and remaining water until smooth; stir into beef mixture.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Discard bay leaf and clove.  Stir in browning sauce if desired.  Serve over noodles.  Sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Weeknight Bolognese

The title of this post is definitely the truth.  This dish came together very quickly and tasted great!  We'll eat anything that is cooked in red wine, so choosing this meal was definitely an easy decision.  If you're looking for a quick, easy pasta dish, but want something a little bit different, give this a try!

Source:  Annie's Eats, from How Easy is That? by Ina Garten


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. lean ground sirloin (or ground turkey)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1¼ cups dry red wine, divided
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. dried pasta, such as shells
Pinch of ground nutmeg
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground meat into the pan. Cook until no longer pink and starting to brown, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the wine to the pan and stir, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, finish the sauce. Stir in the nutmeg, basil, cream, and remaining ¼ cup wine. Simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked and drained, toss with the warm sauce and grated Parmesan until well coated. Serve with additional Parmesan if desired.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Creme Brulee

Once I tried this recipe, I had forgotten how much I loved creme brulee.  I was expecting this recipe to be difficult, but Pioneer Woman makes anything seem like a piece of cake.  I was hosting an Oscar party this year so I really wanted to make a "sophisticated" dessert.  However, I have to admit that I also made this so I could try out my new creme brulee set and kitchen torch.  In the end, it was worth it!

Source:  The Pioneer Woman


4 cups Heavy Cream
1 whole Vanilla Bean OR 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract OR 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Paste
10 whole Egg Yolks
¾ cups Sugar
6 Tablespoons Superfine (Baker's) Sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pour the cream into the saucepan. Add vanilla (whichever product you’re using) and simmer over medium-low heat.

Whip egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and thick.

Strain cream using a fine mesh strainer.

Whip yolks while you very slowly drizzle in 1 cup of warm cream. Go slowly so as not to cook the eggs! Once the first cup is added, you can add the rest of the cream slowly.

Place ramekins onto a rimmed baking sheet. Pour custard mixture into ramekins. Pour water in bottom of baking sheet until it comes halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes, or until just set. Do not allow to get brown.

Cool ramekins on countertop, then chill for at least 2-3 hours, covered in plastic wrap.

To serve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon over each ramekin of custard. Use a kitchen torch to quickly (but carefully) brown the sugar. There should be a thin, crisp surface of burned sugar on the top.

Serve immediately!

Dreamy Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream

This recipe was the first time I had ever made ice cream so I was super pumped for this.  I had just purchased the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer so I was really itching to make some ice cream as soon as possible.  I'm a little strange, but I love fruit ice cream better than chocolate so I decided to try this strawberry ice cream recipe.  It calls for quite a bit of sour cream, but once I tried the finished product, I never would have known there was sour cream in it.  This was very tasty and really tasted like anything you'd buy in a carton at the grocery store.

Source:  Annie's Eats, barely adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz


1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp. vodka or kirsch (optional)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice


Combine the sliced strawberries in a medium bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a blender or food processor and add the sour cream, heavy cream and lemon juice. Pulse briefly until almost smooth but still slightly chunky. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sour Dough Bread

I'm starting to get more comfortable in my bread making abilities so I decided to try making bread that didn't involve my bread machine.  Sour dough is probably my favorite kind of bread so I knew that I had to make it.  I had no idea how much effort goes into making sour dough.  If you plan on making this, you'll have to give yourself about a week to prep before the dough actually goes in the oven.  It takes a little effort to make and maintain the sourdough starter, but once you finish the bread, the end result is wonderful.  You'll end up making several loafs at a time because this bread will disappear quickly in your household!

Source:  Annie's Eats, starter and sourdough basics from King Arthur Flour, bread from Williams Sonoma

Sour Dough Starter

2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


Pour the water into a 2-quart glass or ceramic jar or bowl. Stir in the sugar or honey to dissolve. Stir in the yeast. Gradually whisk in the flour. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel or dishcloth (not plastic wrap) and place it in a warm area. Let it develop 2-5 days, stirring once a day due to the separation that will occur. When bubbling has subsided and a sour aroma has developed, stir once more and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sour Dough Bread

1½ cups lukewarm water (100˚ F)
4 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup sourdough starter
5½-6 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. bread flour mixed with 1 tbsp. yellow cornmeal


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted, whisk together the water, yeast, honey, and sourdough starter just until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until slightly increased in bulk and bubbly, about 1 hour.

With the flat beater attached to the mixer and the mixer on low speed, mix in 3 cups of the flour, the butter, eggs and salt. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Add in 2 more cups of the flour and beat for 2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time, until a very soft dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on low speed, adding a tablespoon of flour if the dough begins to stick, until the dough is smooth and elastic, tacky but not sticky, about 6 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1½-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle generously with the flour-cornmeal mixture. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal portions and form each into a tight, oval loaf. Place the loaves on the prepared baking sheet, several inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with flour and gently rub in. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator, 8-12 hours.

Place a baking stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat the oven to 450˚ F. (If you don't have a baking stone, use an overturned baking sheet.) Using a thin sharp knife, make three slash marks over the top of each loaf. Place the baking sheet on the heated baking stone and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400˚ F and continue to bake until the loaves are golden brown, 25-30 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Molten Chocolate Cakes

I don't eat a lot of chocolate, but as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew this would be a great dessert for Valentine's Day. I ended up using Ghiradelli chocolate and turned out to be a great decision.  I'm not sure what was happening with my camera that day, but please take my word for it that this dessert is incredible and needs to be made right away! 

Source:  Confections of a Foodie Bride, adapted from Everyday Food


8 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp butter, room temp
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 400. Spray 6 wells (and the surrounding tops) of your muffin tin with baking spray.

Melt the chocolate and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high together for ~3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and add 1 egg at a time, waiting until the egg is incorporated fully before adding the next one. Add vanilla. Switch mixer to lowest setting. Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix on low until thoroughly combined.

Fill each muffin tin almost to the top (the cakes will rise, but only very slightly; I left less than 1/4 inch space). Bake for ~10 minutes. The cakes will look done on top and will jiggle if you give the pan a light shake. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes. Place a plate on top of the muffin tin and invert to remove the cakes. Serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream, confectioner’s sugar… or just a fork!