Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peppermint Bark Cookies

It's only two days left until Christmas, and my son is beside himself with excitement.  He is hoping for an Ipad for Christmas (unfortunately, Santa is going to disappoint him in that regard).  I am excited for Christmas, but I love the preparations leading up Christmas too.  I love baking Christmas cookies.  This year, I’ve tried some new cookie recipes.  The Clove Snaps were a hit at my  dinner party on Sunday.  I baked these Peppermint Bark Cookies last night to serve on Christmas Eve. 

I am excited about these cookies.  I love the toffee-like cookie bar paired with the semi-sweet chocolate and the peppermint.  These cookies are perfect Christmas cookies, and the recipe makes enough to share!

Peppermint Bark Cookies
Printable Recipe
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
12 peppermint candy canes, coarsely crushed

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Butter the foil generously, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until well combined.  Add the flour all at once, and beat at low speed until just combined.

Spread dough on prepared baking sheet.  Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until the edges are brown and the top is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Spread chocolate chips over the cookie while it is still hot.  Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top.  Sprinkle coarsely crushed candy canes over the melted chocolate.  Let the cookie stand until the chocolate has firmed up, and cut into bars.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cranberry Salsa

I am writing this blog post between shopping, baking and car repair (just my seat heater, luckily), so I have to be quick, but I wanted to share this recipe for Cranberry Salsa with you.  A co-worker brought Cranberry Salsa for our holiday potluck, and I couldn’t get enough.   I made it for a dinner party I had on Sunday night, and my guests couldn't get enough, so I knew I needed to share it with you. 

The Cranberry Salsa is tangy, sweet and spicy.  The combination of green onion and cilantro works great with the cranberries giving the tart cranberries a surprising freshness that is missing in traditional sauce.  Cranberry Salsa will make a great appetizer for your holiday get together.

If you are interested:  I served  Simply Recipes' Chili Verdi (great recipe!) with rice and beans and cilantro slaw for my dinner party on Sunday. 

Cranberry Salsa

Printable Recipe
 Adapted from
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through for soft or bruised fruit.
¼ cup minced green onions
2 small jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

Place cranberries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (stop before the cranberries turn mushy.)  In a large bowl mix together the cranberries, green onions, jalapeno, sugar, cilantro, ginger and lemon juice.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 

Arrange the cream cheese on a serving platter and cover with the salsa.  Serve with crackers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clove Snaps

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  Lynn outdid herself this year with her Thanksgiving dinner, so I couldn’t help but stuff myself.  On Friday, I woke up determined to make Christmas cookies, and I succeeded in making the dough.  I was sluggish from the big meal the night before, so I didn’t manage to actually bake any cookies (that’s my story anyway).  My son and I managed to bake cookies on Sunday afternoon.  That’s my kind of afternoon!

I know I’ve told you I’m a cookbook collector, but have I told you I have to buy any magazine with a Christmas theme?  Well, I do, and I’m not content to read the magazines and throw them away.  No, I have to keep them (which entails finding somewhere to store them).  I pulled last year’s Fine Cooking Cookies magazine from the top of my pile.  It has my favorite rolled cookie recipe, and I found this recipe for Clove Snaps while I was flipping through and drooling over all the pictures of cookies.  These Clove Snaps intrigued me. 

I’m a sucker for spice cookies, and Clove Snaps looked like a recipe I would enjoy. When you bake these cookies, don’t let the smell emanating from your oven fool you into thinking these cookies are overly spiced.   The kitchen smelled like I was cooking my Easter ham, but when I tasted the cookies, the clove and pepper was a spicy aftertaste, and not over powering at all especially with the orange rounding out the flavors! I’m not sure this recipe replaces ginger snaps or these cookies, but the Clove Snaps are nicely sweet with a subtle flavor of orange and spice, and they are a fun addition to your Christmas cookie line-up.

Clove Snaps
Adapted from Fine Cooking Cookies 2009
Printable Recipe
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
 2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time and blend well.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed just until the flour is absorbed.  Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth.  Split the dough in half and flatten the halves into disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut out shapes with a two inch round cutter (re-rolling scraps as needed).  Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges and on the bottoms, about 12 minutes (rotate the baking sheets half way through for even baking).  Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets on wire racks.  Makes about six dozen cookies.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I know I am a little late with my favorite mashed potato recipe for Thanksgiving, but if you will be making mashed potatoes again anytime soon, this recipe is great.  I found this recipe in Everyday Food last November, and I tried it for Thanksgiving last year.  These potatoes were a big hit.  They are velvety and smooth with great flavor. But, my favorite part of this recipe?  You can make the potatoes ahead of time and heat them in the oven later!

Luxurious Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Everyday Food
Printable Recipe
5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ to 1 cup heavy cream, warmed
ground black pepper

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with 2 inches of cold water, and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer potatoes until they are tender.  Drain the potatoes  thoroughly and pass through a food mill back into the cooking pot.

Over low heat, add the butter and stir into the potatoes until the butter is melted and the potatoes have stiffened up slightly.  Slowly add the cream, stirring constantly until the potatoes have reached the desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you make the potatoes ahead, reheat at 350°F in a covered baking dish for about 20-30 minutes.  Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Tikka with Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds

I’ve been craving Mediterranean food lately.  This is a new craving for me, because while I have craved Mediterranean food in the past, it was always French, Italian or maybe Greek food.  I didn’t realize there was another whole section of the Mediterranean food I’d been overlooking.   I’ve been missing out on a more eastern Mediterranean culinary experience (Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese).  Well, that changed a few months ago when I met some girl friends for a good-bye dinner for our friend Barb at a local Mediterranean restaurant.  I loved every bite of my dinner!  We ordered the appetizer platter with flat bread and more toppings than I can remember.  For dinner, I ordered a chicken dish with aged yogurt and saffron rice, and I was in heaven.  My dinner was full of exotic spices and tangy yogurt.  I couldn’t wait to have eastern Mediterranean food again. 

Les and I went out to another Mediterranean restaurant on another night, and we enjoyed it, so I knew I needed to try my hand at Mediterranean food myself.  I bought a few Mediterranean cookbooks and drooled over the recipes (I will be testing other recipes from my new Mediterranean cookbooks, so stay tuned).  But, I played it “safe” and tried a kabob recipe from Food Network Magazine.   My family loved the kabobs, and I knew this would be a great recipe for entertaining.

A few weeks ago, I served Chicken Tikka and Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds for dinner to some of my friends who were at Barb’s good-bye dinner.  The dinner was on a Friday night, so I needed an easy menu I could throw together quickly (with the help of my husband who grilled the chicken).  Chicken Tikka, Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds and a simple green salad was the perfect menu for dinner, and this menu satisfies my craving for Mediterranean food. 

The chicken was moist and tender and perfectly spiced.  Be sure to serve it with the yogurt sauce as the sauce adds great flavor.  Food Network Magazine had the recipe in their 50 Kabob booklet, but I like the whole pieces of chicken as they stay moister, but you can kabob the chicken with some green onions if you would like.  The cranberries in the pilaf added a touch of sweetness to the rice while the slivered almonds add a great crunch.
Chicken Tikka
Adapted from Food Network Magazine 50 Kabob booklet
Printable Recipe
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups Greek yogurt, separated
2 tablespoons garam masala
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, separated
1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger
1 ½ teaspoons grated garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice, separated
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup Greek yogurt, garam masala, ½ cups chopped cilantro, ginger, garlic 1 tablespoon lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.  Take out 2 tablespoons of yogurt mixture and set aside.  Add the chicken to the large bowl with the remaining marinade, and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

In a small bowl, add 1 cup Greek yogurt, the 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and 1 tablespoon lime juice.  Set aside.

Take the chicken out of the marinade, and grill over medium heat until done, about 3-5 minutes per side.  Serve with yogurt sauce.
Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds
Printable Recipe
1½  cups basmati rice
2¼  cups chicken broth
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add vegetable oil and butter.  When the butter is melted, add the onion, and cook until softened.  Add the dry rice, and mix until the rice is coated with the butter and vegetable oil.  Cook the rice until it becomes opaque.  Add the chicken and cook until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Add the slivered almonds and cranberries, stirring to combine.  Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beef and Bean Chili

My friend Barb moved to Nashville over the summer, and she recently sent a picture of the trees in her backyard with their vibrant hues of red and yellow. My backyard is full of trees that don’t turn color in the fall, so I have to look for other signs of the changing of the season.  Well, we have turned our clocks back and turned the house heater on, so I know it’s fall. 

During the first week of the time change, I’m always in a panic to get dinner on the table when I get home from work.  I guess I get into a rush thinking it is almost time for bed.  I rushed dinner so much on Monday night, we were finished and the dishes were done by 6:15pm!  I hardly knew what to do with myself for the rest of the evening! 

Once we change the clocks, I know I have to change what I plan for dinner.  I can no longer ask Les to barbeque on a weeknight (our backyard is too dark to barbeque in the winter), so I have to have some other dinner standbys.  And, nothing says fall to me like a pot of chili. 

I love to have a pot of this chili ready for a weeknight meal.  This recipe is easy to put together.  I will cook this chili on a weeknight if I have some time, but I am more likely to make it on the weekend and heat it up for a quick weeknight meal.  I usually serve this tasty chili with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and chopped onions, but I will also whip up a batch of cornbread to go with it.  This chili is low fat with lots of fiber, so I love to have leftovers to take with me for lunch during the week.

Beef and Bean Chili
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine March 1990
Printable Recipe
1 pound lean ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 14 ½ oz cans low sodium dark red kidney beans (do not drain the beans)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 ½ oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 8 oz can diced green chili peppers

In a large pot, brown the ground beef and onion until the meat is tender and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the chili powder, oregano, salt, red pepper and black pepper, and heat for another minute.  Add the undrained kidney beans, tomatoes, and green chili peppers, and bring to a boil.  Cook uncovered for 1½ hours, or until the chili is dark in color and the desired consistency.  Makes 12 1-cup servings.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chinese Chicken Salad

As I’m sitting here looking out my window at the rainy weather, I’m having a hard time believing what a beautiful day it was yesterday.

Les and I were invited to a wine tour and tasting at a local winery.  We have some lovely wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but I often forget about them, and think we need to travel to Napa or Sonoma for wine tasting and tours.

Our hosts, Beth and Scott rented a van for the ten of us who were going on the tour, so we could taste the wine without worrying about driving home on the winding roads.

We all brought a contribution for lunch, and we purchased wine and gourmet mustards from the winery to enjoy with our lunch. The weather was sunny and warm with a light breeze, and we spent most of the day laughing and enjoying our friends.
Lunch was delicious.  I am always amazed at the potlucks this group of friends puts together.  Everything always goes together beautifully.  For lunch, we had cheese, fruit and crackers, sandwiches and delicious desserts.  My contribution to lunch was a Chinese Chicken Salad.  I’m not sure the salad was a perfect match for the Pinot Noir, but no one complained. 

Chinese Chicken Salad
Adapted from Ellie Krieger Food Network
Printable Recipe

1 cup rice wine vinegar
6 Tablespoons soy sauce (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil

½ head of green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 large carrots, shredded (about 2 cups)
¼ head of red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into chunks

I package ramen noodles, broken into small pieces

In a small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, canola oil, brown sugar, sesame seeds, chili garlic sauce, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. 

In a large bowl mix together the green cabbage, carrots, red cabbage, onions cilantro and chicken.   Toss the chicken and vegetable mixture with the dressing (you might have a little extra dressing, so you might not want to put the dressing all on at once). Top with the crumbled ramen noodles, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Black Bean Soup

Here is the recipe for my black bean soup, as promised.  I have been searching high and low for a good black bean soup recipe.  I had a delicious bowl in a restaurant, and have been searching ever since.  A friend of mine served me her recipe, and I liked it, but it didn’t have quite the flavors I was looking for.  I’ve tried other recipes that were just too smoky with the amount of bacon they used.   I didn’t think I would ever find a recipe for my “perfect” black bean soup.  

I was craving soup on Saturday, and decided to make my own version of black bean soup.  This one is a keeper (if I do say so myself).  My black bean soup is slightly spicy with a subtle smoky flavor imparted by both the chipotle powder and the bacon fat.  Now, if you don’t drain your bacon fat into a small mason jar and keep it in the refrigerator, you can use olive oil, but you might want to add a little more chipotle powder or try some smoked paprika to add some smoky flavor (I didn’t test the recipe that way, so no promises).

Both the kids loved this soup, and wanted seconds, so I consider this a soup success.

Black Bean Soup
Printable Recipe
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or olive oil)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
½ sweet red pepper, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
4 14oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken broth
½ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
Salt to taste

Heat the bacon fat or olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and red pepper and cook until softened.   Add the cumin and chipotle powder, and heat for a minute, or until the spices are fragrant.  Add the black beans and the chicken both and bring to a boil.  Add the cilantro.  In a blender or using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until it’s smooth.  Add the lime-juice and salt (I added a ½ teaspoon of salt).  Serve garnished with sour cream, minced sweet red pepper, and cilantro sprigs.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Sorry it's been so long since I blogged last.  I've been busy...blah, blah, blah...I've been lazy...blah, blah, blah...I've been unmotivated....blah, blah, blah.  Now that I've explained myself, I can show you the hostess gifts I made for the Halloween parties we were invited to.  I got the idea for these cute little ghosts from an old copy of Taste of Home magazine.  I also used the same technique for snowmen last Christmas.  It's not really a recipe, but I can tell you, you need two bags of 14oz. white candy melts to one package of Nutter Butters.  And, when I melted the candy coating, I added a teaspoon of vegetable oil to keep the candy smooth.  My son added the mini chocolate chips for the ghosts' eyes.  I wrapped the bowl up with some clear cellophane and tied it up with some orange curling ribbon.

I will be back soon.  I made some yummy black bean soup yesterday that I have to share with you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lemon Thyme Cream Scones

I can’t say that I’ve made scones very often in my life, so I don’t know why I was craving lemon thyme scones.  As I’ve told you before I love anything with lemon.  What I didn’t mention was my new favorite herb is thyme.  I love thyme.  I don’t know if I can explain why (not very convenient for a food blogger), but I think it’s because thyme imparts a complex woodsy flavor to anything.  Lemon and thyme go together especially well too.  Thyme even tastes good in recipes that are slightly sweet like my Lemon Thyme Cream Scones.  Since thyme is my new favorite herb, I have a pot of it growing in my backyard.  I love going into my backyard and picking just the amount of thyme I need for any particular recipe.  I was able to use a lemon from my backyard for these Lemon Thyme Cream Scones too.  I love getting use out of my garden!

These scones are soft and delicate with the thyme adding a lightly herbal flavor, and the lemon adding a tart sweetness.  My daughter loved these scones, and so did I.  I have a few hidden away in the freezer, and I can’t wait to have them again.

Lemon Thyme Cream Scones
Adapted from Baking At Home from The Culinary Institute of America(Printable Recipe)
½ cup sugar
3 ¾ cups bread flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
2 ½ cups chilled heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons
1 large egg
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and mix until combined, about 1 minute.  Add the lemon zest and the thyme and blend until combined.  Mix in the 2 ½ cups of cream at medium speed until just combined.  Don’t over mix. 

Divide the mixture into two equal portions, and pat out on a lightly floured surface into two 12x2 rectangles.  Cut the dough into triangles, and wrap in plastic and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.  Can be frozen up to 4 weeks.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Arrange the frozen scones on a baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. 

Whisk the egg and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, and brush the mixture on the frozen scones.  Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let the scones cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, and them remove them to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.  Let the scones cool for about 5 minutes and mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice, and drizzle over the warm scones.  Serve.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sizzling Ginger Tri-Tip and Pineapple Rice

What are you going to make for the 4th of July?  We are having a barbeque pool party, and I’m still trying to decide what to serve.  I have been testing a couple of recipes.  If you are coming to my house on Sunday, you might not want to read further.  Spoiler Alert…

Morton’s used to sell a Sizzling Ginger marinated tri-tip that we would buy at Costco.  We liked to take it camping with us because it was easy to pack and tasted great.  I loved the slightly spicy ginger flavor, but it was a bit salty when we weren’t camping.  They stopped selling the Sizzling Ginger flavor at Costco, and I never found it anywhere else. 

I’ve been looking for a recipe to replicate the flavor, but I’ve always come up short.  I decided to try concocting my own marinade, and I think I did a pretty good job.  My Garlic Ginger marinade is not as salty as the Morton’s Sizzling Ginger marinate, so it will be good even if you’re not camping.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to serve Garlic Ginger marinated tri-tip for 4th of July. 

Garlic Ginger Marinade
(Printable Recipe)
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons vodka (I used vodka since it was what I had on hand.  You can use rice wine if you have it)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
¼ cup minced ginger
4 scallions, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together, and pour over meat (I used a 1-pound tri-tip, but it would also be delicious on a London broil) and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.   Cook the meat to desired doneness (Grill Times and Temps). 

I served my friend Melissa’s Pineapple Rice when I tested the Garlic Ginger Marinade and it tasted great with the steak.

I adapted her recipe just a bit, so I am sharing it below.
Pineapple Rice
Adapted from Liss's Hot Mess
(Printable Recipe)
6 cups cooked and cooled long grain white rice
¼ cup of vegetable oil (use an unflavored oil for best results)
¼ cup minced ginger
½ cup minced red onion
4 scallions finely chopped, separate the white and green portions
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 14oz can crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime

Heat oil in a large pan.  Add the ginger, red onion, white portion of the scallions and jalapeno and cook until softened slightly, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the pineapple, salt, sesame oil and fish sauce and stir until combined.  Mix in the rice and cook until the rice is coated with oil and heated through.  Stir in the cilantro and limejuice.  Garnish with green tops from the scallions and serve.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mixed Berry Shortcakes

I've eaten strawberry shortcake many times in my life, but it never occurred to me I wasn't eating traditional strawberry shortcake.   I thought what I was eating was true strawberry shortcake, but now I know I was wrong.  Strawberries with angel food cake and whipped cream do not make strawberry shortcake.  I’m sure some of you are shaking your head at me and my deluded strawberry shortcake past, like my dad’s wife Lynn did on Sunday.  I made these mixed berry shortcakes for dessert on Sunday, and I admitted to Lynn that I'd never had strawberry shortcake with, well um, shortcake before.  Lynn looked at my like I had a third eye, and told me then that I never had strawberry shortcake.  To her angel food cake with strawberries is a delicious dessert, but it's not strawberry shortcake.

I’m glad if I had to wait to try real strawberry shortcake, I waited for this recipe. These shortcakes are delicious.  The biscuits are light and fluffy and slightly sweet.  The berries are delicious, of course, and the sour cream enriched whipped cream tasted almost like cheesecake topping.  I have to admit, I am not a big fan of angel food cake “strawberry shortcake.”  The cake always seemed too sweet to me, but when pushed, my dad admitted though he liked these Mixed Berry Shortcakes, he still prefers angel food cake with his strawberries.  Do you like your strawberry shortcake with angel food cake or shortcakes?  I know I will be making these Mixed Berry Shortcakes from now on.
Mixed Berry Shortcakes
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated Summer Entertaining
Printable Recipe

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces and chilled, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 cups mixed berries (I used hulled, quartered strawberries and whole blueberries)
2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Whipped Topping

1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

Place an oven rack in the upper middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F (I preheat my convection oven to 350°).  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. 

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times, or until no lumps of sugar remain.  Add the chilled butter and pulse 6 to 7 times or until the mixture looks like course meal, and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. 

Whisk the egg and sour cream together in a small bowl.  Stir the egg mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture.  Stir together with a spatula until large clumps form, and then mix with your hands until the mixture form comes together and no dry flour remains. 

Using a ice cream scoop,  scoop 6 dough balls onto the baking sheet (I used a smaller ice scoop to get 12 biscuit out of the mixture.   Brush the dough balls with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar. 

Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes (15 to 20 minutes for smaller biscuits).

Mix the fruit with the 2-3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, and refrigerate until ready to use, or at least 30 minutes.

Whipped Topping
In a medium bowl, beat the cream, sour cream and brown sugar until stiff peaks form. 
Prepare Short Cakes

Split the biscuits with a serrated knife, and place fruit mixture on the bottom half of the biscuit.  Add the whipped topping and the top of the biscuit.  Serves 6.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Three-Bean Salad

Hello!  I’m back!  Wow it has been a crazy couple of weeks (fun, but crazy).  We’ve had Mother’s day, my wedding anniversary, and my birthday in the last couple of weeks.  Throw in my daughter performing in a youth theater production and my son’s school’s Festival, and I’ve hardly had time to eat much less cook.  We’ve had too much take-out, and when I have cooked, it’s been simple pasta dishes.  I did make dinner a few times this week, so I’m hoping to change the trend.

Oh, and along with everything else, I’ve recently acquired a stalker.  I know.  Nice, huh?  My friends warned me this might happen once I started blogging, but I pooh-poohed them.  Who would stalk me?   Beach Ball Bill, that’s who. 

My daughter brought home Beach Ball Bill from the Festival, and almost immediately he became my stalker.  He peers around the corner when I’m cooking.  He will suddenly appear on my dresser when I’m in my room folding laundry.   Every time I turn around he is there.  The kids think it’s funny, but when he peers at me with his beady eyes, I’m a little freaked out.  I can only hope he will spring a leak soon!

What are you doing for Memorial Day?  If you are having a barbeque, you should make this simple Three-Bean Salad.  I know what you’re thinking, “Three-Bean Salad?  Really?”  This Three-Bean Salad is fresh and refreshing.  The tarragon is a great addition to an old recipe, and using haricot vert instead of canned green beans really makes this salad special.  I loved the tarragon in the salad, but not everyone likes tarragon (including my daughter and son), so if you or someone you’re cooking for doesn’t like tarragon, then I recommend you use thyme instead.

Three-Bean Salad
Printable Recipe
3 tablespoons olive oil
The juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1 14 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb haricot vert (French green beans)

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.  Stir in the shallots and tarragon.  In another small bowl mix together the garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and the vinaigrette, set aside.

In a large steamer set over boiling water, steam the haricot vert until crisp tender, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Immediately immerse the cooked beans into ice water to cool.  Drain the beans and pat dry with a paper towel.  Layer the haricot vert on a platter and top with the kidney bean mixture.  Serve.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pork Tinga Tostadas

I couldn’t let Cinco de Mayo go by with out posting a Mexican food recipe.  We are big fans of Mexican food in my family.  We are also big fans of carnitas, so I had reservations while I was making Pork Tinga from Cook’s Illustrated.  Would Les and I like it?  Would the kids eat it?  I was especially worried while I was pouring the tomato sauce into the pork mixture.  I was worried it would taste like pasta sauce or chili.  I had misgivings up until the time I tasted the pork mixture.  I love the flavor of Pork Tinga.  The tomato sauce doesn’t make the pork taste like pasta sauce.  No, the flavor is rich and spicy.  The filling would be fantastic in enchiladas and tamales as well as the tostadas.   Pork Tinga will probably replace carnitas in this family.

I unintentionally adapted the recipe by adding 2 tablespoons of chipotle powder instead of one.  Les and I loved the spiciness of the 2 tablespoons of chipotle powder.  The kids even liked the spicy pork even though they went through a half-gallon of milk!  You can decide the amount of spice you would like in your Pork Tinga by decreasing the chipotle powder.

Pork Tinga Tostadas
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Printable Recipe
2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium onions, cut one into quarters, and chop one fine
5 medium garlic cloves, 3 cloves peeled and smashed, and 2 minced
4 sprigs of thyme
Table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoe sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons ground chipotle powder
2 bay leaves (optional)

Tostada shells
Refried beans
Queso fresco
Fresh cilantro
Chopped avocado

Place the pork, quartered onion, the 3 smashed garlic cloves, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt in 6 cups of water.  Bring the pork to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam that accumulates on the top.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover, leaving a gap to let off steam, and simmer for 70 to 90 minutes, or until the pork is fork tender.  (The next time I make this, I will be placing the pork, onion etc. into a crockpot and cooking it for 8 to 10 hours).  Drain the pork, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and discard the onion, garlic and thyme.  Shred the pork by mashing it with a potato masher.  Cook’s Illustrated recommends this technique, and it works great!

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or 12-inch skillet, and add the shredded pork, chopped onion and dried oregano.  Cook, stirring often, until the pork is browned and crispy, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the chipotle powder to taste, reserved cooking liquid, tomato sauce and bay leaves.  Simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and discard the bay leaves, and add salt to taste.

Serve the pork tinga on the tostada shells with the refried beans, queso fresco, cilantro and avocado.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pork Tenderloin

I love the smoky heat of chipotle peppers.  I love chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and I love dried chipotle powder.  I can’t seem to get enough of them, and I will soon be sharing more recipes to prove it!  I’m afraid you’ll be sick of hearing about chipotle peppers before I’m finished. 

I’m not sure I can say I love pork tenderloins, but they are convenient for weeknight meals. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy pork tenderloins, but like chicken breasts I got tired of how I fixed them.   This rub was just what I needed to enjoy pork tenderloin again.   The rub was delicious on its own, but I added the apple jelly glaze to intensify the sweet and spicy combination of the rub.  My family enjoyed this pork tenderloin for dinner too.  Always a plus!

I had forgotten how easy and quick pork tenderloin is to make for a weeknight dinner.  Do you have a good pork tenderloin recipe?  Let me know.  I’d like to expand my pork tenderloin repertoire

Sweet and Spicy Pork Tenderloin
click here for a printable version of the recipe.

2 pork tenderloins.

2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons chipotle powder, separated
1 teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup apple jelly

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high.

Mix together the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, paprika, coriander, garlic salt and kosher salt.  Rub the spice mixture evenly over the pork tenderloins. 

Heat the apple jelly until it becomes smooth, and add ½ teaspoon chipotle powder.

Place the pork tenderloins on the grill.  Grill the pork for 15-18 minutes or until you get a temperature of 155°F, turning the pork often.  In the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking, brush on the apple jelly mixture.  Take off the heat and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  Slice and serve.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Baked Oatmeal with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

My baby turned 10 last week, and he wanted a sleepover birthday party.  At first I was reluctant, but my daughter had a slumber party for her 10th birthday, so I could hardly refuse to let my son have one.  I don’t know what I was worried about.  Actually, I know exactly what I was worried about.  My daughter’s sleepover was fraught with crafts and drama, and I just didn’t know how a boy’s party would shake out.  Boy’s parties are much easier than girl’s parties!  The boys came over ate pizza, played hide-and-seek and watched Avatar.  They did stay up too late, but that’s what a sleepover is for, after all.   In the morning they ate breakfast, and went back to playing hide-and-seek.  This was my son’s best party yet…

I know what you’re thinking.  Did she actually serve Baked Oatmeal with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote to a bunch of 10-year-old boys?  No, I made waffles, but I wanted to serve this, if only so I could have it again.  I love strawberries and rhubarb together, and the compote with its sweet tart flavors, was absolutely delicious.  The oatmeal was no slouch in the flavor department either.  The cinnamon and vanilla add a sweetness that enabled me to keep the sugar to a minimum.  I added a tablespoon of maple syrup to a cup of Greek yogurt to top the oatmeal and fruit.  I loved this breakfast, and I want this again now!

Baked Oatmeal with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Click Here for a Printable Recipe
2 cups steel cut oats
2 quarts water
2 cups milk (I used fat free, but you could use whatever you have on hand)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
pinch kosher salt

Soak the oats overnight in the 2 quarts of water. 

Preheat the oven to 375°F, and grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Drain the oats and pour them into a large bowl.  In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks, and mix into the oats.  Add the milk, brown sugar, canola oil, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and salt.  Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.

Serve with strawberry rhubarb compote and top with yogurt.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
1 lb Rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch slices
1 lb Strawberries, hulled and quartered
¼ to ½ cup vanilla sugar (I store some sugar with vanilla pods to give the sugar a vanilla flavor.)
juice from 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix together the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and orange zest, and place in a non-reactive baking dish and cover.  Bake for 10 minutes, and then add the strawberries.  Cook uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and the syrup is bubbling.  Serve with ice cream or over baked oatmeal.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grilled Herb Chicken with Vinaigrette

With all the rain we’ve been having this year, the garden is looking especially green and beautiful, and my herb garden is no exception.  I have a plethora of oregano, thyme and rosemary.  I suppose I could dry the herbs or freeze them, but their fragrant leaves call to me to use them fresh.  I think I’ve hit on a good way to use my fresh herbs.   Grilled Herbed Chicken with Vinaigrette is fresh and flavorful, and tastes like spring. 

I used a mixture of thighs and breasts since that is what I had on hand.  My husband was late coming home from work on Sunday, so I had to grill these babies myself.  I think I did a good job, but don’t tell Les I said so.  He is the “grill master” in this family!

Grilled Herb Chicken with Vinaigrette

6 Boneless skinless chicken breasts or 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or a mixture)
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano
Juice from 2 lemons, separated
4 Tablespoons olive oil, separated
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon, tequila or dry white wine
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt, separated

In a small bowl, combine the oregano, juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, rosemary, tequila or wine, garlic, lemon zest, and ½ teaspoon salt.

Remove 2 tablespoons of the marinade mixture, and place it in a small bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of the remaining lemon and ½ teaspoon salt.  Set the vinaigrette aside.

Place chicken in a non-reactive baking dish, and poke the chicken all over with a fork.   Pour the marinade over the chicken and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes.  Preheat the grill to medium high heat.  Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and serve whole or sliced with the vinaigrette spooned over the top.

Click here for a printable version of Grilled Herb Chicken with Vinaigrette

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Olives

I’ve been branching out in the world of vegetables lately.  I have always eaten and enjoyed my veggies (with the exception of brussel sprouts), but I am uninspired when it comes to cooking vegetables.  My instinct is to smoother vegetables in cheese sauce or mayonnaise (Thanks, Mom!).  My health conscience mind shies away from these treatments.  So, I struggle to get tasty vegetables on the table.  I usually resort to serving salad.

I want my kids to grow up loving vegetables.  I have high hopes for my daughter.  She tried brussel sprouts at a recent dinner party we attended, and she liked them!  Les and I shook our heads in awe and confusion (he feels the same way about brussel sprouts as I do).  I have also been able to get my son to eat cabbage and swiss chard, but I still need to offer more variety.

When I saw this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Olives in Cooking Light, I thought I had it made!  My son loves anything with olives, and I thought my daughter would enjoy the flavors.  I couldn’t wait to try this vegetable recipe.

I love the tart and spicy flavors of the red pepper, olives and lemon juice.  The flavors paired well with the cauliflower adding a brightness that was delicious.  I didn’t love the chickpeas in this dish.  After roasting in the oven for 20 minutes, the chickpeas were rubbery and dry.  I love chickpeas for their plump texture and nutty flavor, but that was lost in the roasting.  That being said, I will still make Roasted Cauliflower again, but I will wait to add the chickpeas until the end, so they can heat up without drying out.

Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Olives
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
24 Spanish olive, sliced in half
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Juice from one lemon
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Combine the cauliflower, olives and garlic on a sheet pan.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and salt, and drizzle with the olive oil.  Toss well to coat.  Bake the cauliflower mixture for 18 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.  Add the chickpeas and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is browned and crisp tender and the chickpeas are warm.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley and serve.  Serves 6.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

I'm sorry I haven’t posted in over a week, but we took a quick trip to Lake Tahoe.  My son has been begging us for a snowboarding trip for months, but with all of our busy schedules, this was the first opportunity we had to get away.  It was a beautiful spring weekend in the snow, but I’m a little behind this week.  I have piles of laundry waiting to be folded, and I had to make a quick trip to the store after work since my cupboards were bare.  I needed something easy and quick to make for dinner, so I chose Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Slaw.  

I don’t usually re-post recipes, but Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Slaw has become a family favorite, and I’ve tweaked the cilantro slaw enough, I wanted to share my new recipe.   This is one of my go-to dinner recipes when I know I’m going to be busy.  But, the best thing about these tacos is the kids love them.  When the kids find out we are having Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Slaw they are thrilled, and I’m thrilled my son is eating cabbage and enjoying it!  

Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Slaw
Adapted from Bon Appétit  
2 14-ounce cans black beans
½ teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons canola oil
12 6-inch corn tortillas

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Place the black beans and cumin in a bowl and partially mash. Brush oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Place two or three tortillas in skillet. Add ¼ cup of bean mixture in the middle of the tortilla, and cook one minute. Fold in half and cook about one minute on each side or until golden brown. Fill tacos with feta cheese and Cilantro Slaw.

Cilantro Slaw
1 16-ounce bag of coleslaw mix (I use the ready made coleslaw mix for convenience, but you could thinly slice a head of cabbage)
6 green onions, chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes (about ¼ cup)
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon salt

Place coleslaw mix, onions and cilantro in a large bowl, set aside.  In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, limejuice, jalapeño and salt until smooth and creamy.  Pour the mayonnaise mixture into the coleslaw and mix well.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Popcorn Balls

My son has been bringing home cookbooks from his school’s library lately.  He isn’t much into reading. (I’m sure this is fairly normal for a 9-year-old boy, though the rest of the family doesn’t understand since we are all voracious readers.  Maybe he will grow to love reading.)  He brings home the cookbooks, and wants to cook with me.  I love this!  I promised to make candy with him last weekend. 

It was a beautiful weekend in northern California, so we spent most of Saturday gardening.  On Sunday we squeezed in some time to make popcorn balls.  Les and my son popped the popcorn, and then my son and I made the candy syrup to coat the popcorn.  This is a really simple recipe.  Just make sure the candy is cool enough before you handle the coated popcorn.  The candy stays hot on the bottom of the pan (don’t ask how I know!).

The popcorn balls are sweet and delicious, and the kids loved taking them to school for a snack.

Popcorn Balls

Adapted from Candy (I forgot to write down the authors before my son took the book back to the library.)
(For a printable version of this recipe click here.)
12 cups popped popcorn
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup dark corn syrup
½ cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter for your hands

Pop the popcorn ahead of time place on a baking sheet, and keep it warm in a low oven.   I popped the popcorn in our popcorn popper, and didn’t add salt.

Combine the sugars, corn syrups, butter, water, vinegar and salt in a large saucepan, and cook covered over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Cook the mixture over medium high heat to 250°F using a candy thermometer to determine the temperature.  Take the pan off the heat, and add the vanilla.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and pour the candy mixture evenly over the popcorn.  Stir until the popcorn is coated. 

When the popcorn is cool enough to handle (The candy is very hot, make sure you cool it enough before you handle it!) coat your hands with butter, and shape the popcorn into balls.  Store the popcorn balls wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature.  Makes 12 to 15 popcorn balls.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chipotle Deviled Eggs

I don’t know about you, but in a couple of days I’m going to have more hardboiled eggs than I’ll know what to do with.    In past years, I’ve made deviled eggs and egg salad sandwiches.  This year I decided to be proactive and try a different deviled egg recipe. 

I had a couple of chipotle peppers leftover from my Orange Chipotle Glaze, and I love the smoky spicy flavors of the pepper, so I decided to experiment with them in deviled eggs.  I added the cumin to add a little complexity to the pepper and egg mixture.   The chipotle adds a little heat right at the end, but the eggs weren’t too spicy.

I loved these deviled eggs, but Les and my daughter were ambivalent.  They are both more traditionalists when it comes to deviled eggs.  If you are looking for something different to try with your hardboiled eggs, try Chipotle Deviled Eggs.  

If you have ideas for hardboiled eggs, please let me know.

Chipotle Deviled Eggs
6 eggs, hardboiled
3 to 4 tablespoons of Mayonnaise
½ chipotle pepper in adobe, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt

Peel the eggs.  Cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the yolks into a small bowl.  Break up the yolks with a fork.   Mix in the mayonnaise until the yolks are creamy, and add the chipotle pepper, cumin and salt.  Spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg whites.  I spooned the yolk mixture into a zipper bag, and then I cut a small hole in one of the corners, so I could squeeze the yolk mixture into the egg whites.  Makes 12 deviled eggs.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Orange Chipotle Glaze

For the last couple of years, I’ve been in a slump when it comes to chicken breasts.  I used to eat chicken breasts all the time.  I enjoyed the mild flavor of the white meat with a teriyaki marinade, barbeque sauce or a spice rub.  Then I stopped enjoying my go-to choice of meat.  I began to find chicken breasts, okay I’ll just say it, boring!  I switched to chicken thighs, and I appreciated the succulent flavor and texture of the thighs.   But thighs aren’t as low in fat and calories as I would like, so I have been experimenting with new ways to serve my old favorite.

The orange tree in my backyard is bursting with fruit, and the oranges are full of juice from all the rain we got this year, so I am trying to use up my harvest (I’ll have to tell you about the orange marmalade in another post).  I used the oranges as my inspiration for the glaze below.  And I love sweet and spicy together, so I added the chipotle pepper.

I few months ago, I made a Beer Can Chicken, and I had some of the rub leftover.  I sprinkled the rub on the chicken, and then Les grilled it.  I added the glaze to the cooked chicken after Les took it off the grill, and I passed the rest at the table.

My family loved Grilled Chicken Breasts with Orange Chipotle Glaze.  And when dinner was over, my thoughtful husband started to do the dishes, or I at least I thought he started to do the dishes, but no he was just looking for something else to dip into the glaze that was still on the stove!

 Grilled Chicken Breasts with Orange Chipotle Glaze
4 chicken breasts
¼ to ½ cup Beer Can Chicken Rub
Orange Chipotle Glaze

Coat the chicken breasts with the Beer Can Chicken Rub, and grill over a medium fire for 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Brush the glaze over the cooked chicken.  Slice the chicken and pour more glaze over the top.

Beer Can Chicken Rub
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
¼ cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon celery salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Store any extra rub in an airtight container.  Makes about a ½ cup.

Orange Chipotle Glaze
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp olive oil
Juice from two oranges
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (omit zest if using orange marmalade)
½ cup jelly (I used homemade pepper jelly that was tangy but not spicy, you could use apple jelly or orange marmalade)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft.  In a small bowl mix together the orange juice, orange zest, jelly, thyme, chipotle, cornstarch and salt.  Add the orange juice mixture to the onions in the saucepan and simmer until the sauce thickens.  Pour over the cooked chicken.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Banana Wheat Waffles

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve made waffles.  My kids usually ask for pancakes, so the waffle iron hasn’t gotten much use recently.  But, I woke up Saturday morning, and like Donkey  I said, “I’m making waffles.” 

I don’t know why I decided to make waffles.  I had different plans for my morning, but my waffle craving won out.  These Banana Wheat Waffles hit the spot, and the kids loved them.  They both gave Banana Wheat Waffles their approval.  My son even had the leftover waffles for breakfast on Sunday morning.  Of course, I didn’t tell them I used whole-wheat pastry flour, and they didn’t notice.  I love when I can sneak healthy into their food!

I loved these waffles too.  I love the flavor of banana and maple syrup together.  I usually slice a banana over my pancakes and French toast, but these waffles have the bananas baked right in.  I still couldn’t resist slicing a banana on top of my Banana Wheat Waffles!

Banana Wheat Waffles
Adpated from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
4 egg yolks
3 cups milk
¼ cup canola oil**
1 ½ cup mashed banana
2 egg whites

**Update:  I've changed the amount of oil from ½ cup to ¼ because I made the waffles again with the smaller amount of oil, and I thought they were better with only ¼ cup.

Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl.  In another bowl, beat egg yolks slightly, and beat in milk and oil.  Add mashed bananas.  Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into the batter being careful not to over-mix.

Pour ½ to 1 cup of batter into lightly greased waffle iron.  Bake according to the directions of your waffle iron.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Makes 12 4-inch waffles.  Serve with maple syrup and sliced bananas.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

Who doesn’t love the flavor of peanut butter and jelly?  My mom says I would only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch when I was in first and second grade.  And, it remained my lunch of choice during much of my elementary school years.  I wish my son’s lunches were so easy!  I’ve outgrown my love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, but I haven’t outgrown my love of peanut butter and jelly.  I now love the same flavors in my cookies.  I added raspberry jam to my favorite peanut butter cookie, and I was transported back to first grade!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies
½ cup butter
½ cup chunky-style peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1 egg
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped peanuts
granulated sugar
½ cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, combine butter, ½ cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and chopped peanuts, and mix thoroughly.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and mix until combined.   Chill dough about 3 hours or overnight.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls, and roll the balls into granulated sugar.  Place 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Press the top of a wooden spoon gently into the dough to create a small indentation.   Bake the cookies for 9 minutes.  Remove the baking sheets from the oven and place ½ teaspoon of jam in the small indentation.  Bake the cookies for another 1 to 2 more minutes or until the cookies are slightly brown and the jam is set.  Makes 36 cookies.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

I had such high hopes for dinner tonight, or I should say I had high hopes for blogging dinner tonight.  Since we moved on Sunday from standard time to daylight savings time, I couldn’t wait to blog about dinner this week.  I could cook and I would have plenty of light to take pictures.  Well, that was how it was supposed to work, but I had to pick up my son from practice, so dinner was delayed a bit.  By the time my delicious oregano chicken was finished, I missed the light, and I didn’t get any good pictures.  I’ll have to make the chicken again (my family loved the chicken, so it won’t be a hardship).  So, I’ll tell you about a snack I made with the kids instead.

The kids were helping me make these Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites, and by the time we finished, they could shape the pretzels better than I could.   We had a blast making them, and the kids enjoyed these snacks.   The pretzels are good, but I didn’t love them.  Once I drizzled chocolate on them, my taste buds needed the base to be sweeter.  I liked the pretzels better plain. My son packed them for snacks the week we made them, so he liked them.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 1990 Best Recipes Yearbook
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
Chopped peanuts

In a small saucepan heat the milk, peanut butter, sugar, butter and salt until just warm (110° - 120°F) and the butter is almost melted.  Pour the milk mixture into the bread machine.  Add the flour and yeast, and turn the bread machine to the dough setting.  Once the bread machine has completed its cycle, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, and place in a warm draft free place (I use my microwave) until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.  Divide dough into 4 portions.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  Divide each portion into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 16 inches long. 

Shape each pretzel by twisting the two ends together about one inch down from the ends. Place the twist inside the circle and wrap the ends on the outside of the circle.  Moisten the ends and press to seal.  Place the pretzels about ½ inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the water and egg.  Brush the pretzels with the egg mixture.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.   Cool on the parchment paper on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave over low heat.  Stir in sifted powdered sugar and water until a smooth glaze forms.  Drizzle over the pretzels, and top with chopped peanuts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

For years I had a problem—more of a fear, really.  A fear I refused to acknowledge, but a fear that would regularly freeze me in my tracks.  A fear of…yeast!  Every time I got a new baking cookbook, I would flip through it, skipping over the yeast bread section with trembling hands.  I would move straight to the quick bread section.  I felt at home with quick breads.  I knew how to treat them.  How mix the ingredients, but not to over mix the quick bread batter.  I was in my comfort zone.  Despite my fear, yeast breads called to me.   I was drawn to the cranberry cinnamon rolls in a home-style baking book so heavy with yeast breads recipes I had to get rid of it. 

Then one day, my dad gave me a bread machine for my birthday.  With this gift I began to conquer my fear of yeast bread.  I started with an actual loaf of bread baked in the bread machine itself.  It wasn’t so hard to make, but it wasn’t very good either.  I didn’t like the crust, and what was the big hole in the bottom of the bread? We didn’t normally eat bread with dinner, so the bread was just contributing extra calories we didn’t need.  I gave up making yeast bread again. 

The bread machine sat lonely and sad, until I came across a bread machine pizza dough recipe.  Now, pizza is something we ate often, and creating pizza from scratch was something we enjoyed.  So I began making pizza dough with my bread machine.  Pizza night was fun and exciting, and slowly I began to see yeast not as something to fear, but simply as an ingredient!

The cranberry cinnamon rolls still haunted me.  Why did I get rid of that cookbook?  Could I try the recipe on my own?  Did the recipe use fresh cranberries or dried.  Should I use bread flour or all-purpose?  I needed answers!  Lucky for me, has a recipe for cranberry cinnamon rolls.  I could finely satisfy my craving!  And, I didn’t even use my bread machine!

If you have a fear of yeast, these rolls are a great way to conquer your fear.  Rolls fresh from the oven are worth the effort.  These delicate, tart and sweet rolls are a new family favorite.  The kids have requested them for Easter, and since I don’t fear yeast, I will make them.

Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from


½ cup warm water (105°-115°F)
2 (¼-oz) packages active dry yeast (5 teaspoons)
½ cup granulated sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup warm milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), softened

¼ cup water
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, separated
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 stick unsalted butter, very soft
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 ¼ cups powered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

To make the dough:
  In a small bowl, stir together warm water, yeast and a pinch of sugar, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over)

Put 5 cups of flour, salt, and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix the dough with the dough hook at low speed until combined.  In a small bowl, mix together the eggs and milk.  Add the egg mixture and the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients.  Beat on low until the flour is incorporated.  Change the speed to medium and beat until a very soft dough forms, about 7 minutes.  Add the butter and continue beating at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes.  The dough will be sticky.

Rinse a large bowl with hot water, and add the dough to the wet bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. (I use my microwave.  It is the warmest place in my kitchen)

To make the filling:
  Bring water and 1 cup of granulated sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the cranberries and simmer until they begin to burst, about 2 minutes.  Pour though a large strainer.  Reserve the juice for another use, and cool the berries.

To form and bake buns:  Turn out dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Dust with flour and roll out into a 16-inch square.  Brush off excess flour, then spread the softened butter evenly over the dough.  Stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  Sprinkle evenly over dough, and dot with the cooled and drained cranberries.

Roll the dough, starting with the side nearest you, firmly but not tightly.  Once you have a log, pinch together the seam.  Trim off about 1 inch of each end, discard.  Cut the log crosswise into 12 slices.

Butter two 9-inch cake pans, and place 6 slices into each pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F while the buns are rising.  Bake buns in the lower third of the oven until golden brown and puffed, 30 to 35 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans.

To make the glaze:
  Stir together the powdered sugar, milk, orange juice, and zest with a fork until smooth.  Drizzle over the rolls while they are still hot.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

Both of my children like to have hot lunches, and I’ll admit I like hot lunches too.  My daughter and I will eat a sandwich or a salad in a pinch, but we are happier if there is soup involved.  (My husband is another story.  He will eat anything for lunch, including cold food that should be warm. Yuck!)  My son’s hot lunch preference works fine most of the time, since his school serves healthy hot lunches, but when my son needs me to pack him a lunch, then I’m in a quandary.  If he is going to eat at school,  I can pack him soup or chili in a thermos, but if he needs a sack lunch for a fieldtrip,  I have few options.  And, when I finally find something he will eat, he will turn up his nose at same lunch the next time!

At least I can make my family a hot lunch when we are home on the weekends.  Sunday was cold and blustery, so I was happy to make a hot lunch for my family.  And, not only were Chicken Parmesan Burgers healthy (and hot), but they were from my March issue of Bon Appétit.  So, not only was I making my family happy, I was making something from this month’s magazine collection!

Chicken Parmesan Burgers weren’t an unqualified success for the kids. (Les was working and didn’t get to sample the burgers, and I took the fourth burger to work today.  Shh!)  My son loved the burger, and he ate the whole thing, but I had to pull the cheese off, and then he ate it plain on the bread.  My daughter said the burger was “okay,” but I’m used to her proclaiming, “That was amazing!”  So, I was a little disappointed.  She couldn’t tell me exactly what was wrong with it, but she, like my sister, is a dark meat lover, so the burgers might not have been to her taste.  As for me, I loved the burgers!  I wasn’t sure how the bitter radicchio, the peppery basil and the chicken would play together, but all the flavors got along like best friends.  I will definitely make Chicken Parmesan Burgers again.

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

Adapted from Bon Appétit
10 ½-inch-thick French bread slices, toast 8 slices, remove the crust and dice the 2 remaining slices
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, plus 12 large leaves
¾ cup purchased refrigerated marinara sauce
16 ounces ground chicken
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated onion
¼ teaspoon salt
4 slices whole mild mozzarella
4 large radicchio leaves

Place the Parmesan cheese and diced bread into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture is in fine crumbs.  Reserve ½ cup of the Parmesan mixture and transfer the remaining mixture to a pie plate.
Mix the marinara and the chopped basil in a small saucepan.  Remove 2 tablespoons of the marinara and place in a large bowl.  Heat the marinara in the saucepan on low, stirring occasionally.   Add the ground chicken to the bowl with the 2 tablespoons of marinara, and mix in the ½ cup of reserved Parmesan mixture, the onion, salt and the ½ tablespoon of olive oil.  Mix until just combined and form into patties.  Dredge the patties in the Parmesan mixture.

Heat the 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the patties.  Cook the patties until the bottoms are golden brown and have developed a crust, about 4 minutes.  Turn the patties over, top with cheese and cook for another 3 minutes.  Cover and cook for 1 minute or until the cheese is melted.

To assemble the sandwiches, place 1 slice of radicchio and 3 slices of basil on a slice of toasted bread.  Add a chicken patty and top with marinara and the second slice of bread.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Parmesan Thyme Crackers

I originally made Parmesan Thyme Crackers to go with the tapenade I made a couple of weeks ago.  But, once I tasted the crackers, I realized the flavors of the two would not pair well.  The sour salty combination of the tapenade needed a neutral base for its flavors to shine.

Parmesan Thyme Crackers don’t need a tapenade, cheese, or any other spread to complete them.  No, they are delicious on their own.  You only need to serve a glass of wine or champagne with these crackers to set off their rich buttery flavor and delicate texture, making them a perfect before dinner nibble to whet your guest’s appetites without filling them up.

Parmesan Thyme Crackers
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
½ pound (1 stick) of butter
4 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese, about 1 cup
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute.   Turn the mixter to low, and add the Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper.  Mix until combined.  Add the flour and mix until the mixture combines in large crumbles, about 1 minute.  If the dough is dry add water 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together. (I had to use about 5 teaspoons)

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and press it into a ball, and then roll into a 9-inch log.  Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 4-days. 

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 3/8-inch-thick rounds, and place them on the prepared sheet pan.  Bake for 22 minutes, or until very light browned.  Rotate the pan once during baking.  Cool and serve at room temperature.


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