Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Chews

Another hit from Rose's Christmas Cookies.

These little squares are rich with a deep caramel flavor. The cookie base has oatmeal and brown sugar in it and the topping has toasted walnuts. Indulgent! Just right for the holidays.

Caramel Topping:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (use a greased liquid measuring cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Cookie Base:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 (3-ounce) bars semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Caramel Topping:
In a heavy, medium-sized saucepan combine the sugar and corn syrup over medium heat, stirring constantly, until boiling. Stop stirring and continue boiling until the mixture caramelizes to a deep amber (candy thermometer will read 370 degrees) (Twice I cooked the caramel to 370 – using a different candy thermometer each time – and twice I burned the caramel. Mine was plenty amber-looking by 355 to 360 degrees.). Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and cream, using a long-handled ladle to pour the cream gradually to avoid spattering. Lumps will form but they will dissolve with further cooking.

Return the caramel to the range and continue boiling on medium-high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees.

Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared cup and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour (caramel should still be pourable). Stir in the vanilla extract after 10 minutes

Cookie Base:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides only of a 9x13” pan. (I lined a 9x13” metal baking pan with parchment paper and lightly greased it. That way, after they baked, I could just lift the whole batch from the pan. Much easier.)

Beat together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl at medium speed until well mixed. At low speed add the melted butter.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan and pat it in to coat the bottom evenly. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle on the chocolate pieces and walnuts. Drizzle the caramel mixture evenly on the top and return the pan to the oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling.

Allow the chews to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Use a small metal spatula or pancake turner to dislodge the sides and invert the chews onto a plastic-wrap covered cookie sheet. Reinvert it onto a cutting surface and cut it lengthwise into 4 strips (each about 2 inches wide). Place on paper towels for at least 15 minutes to absorb the excess butter.

I had to read that twice and both times, I thought, “Huh?”

Or do what I did: I lifted the batch from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. I used two cutting boards to do the inverting and reinverting.

These little suckers are rich and I cut them in much smaller pieces; mine were more like 1 ½ inches by 1 ½ inches and that was just right.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature, each layer separated by wax paper.

Keeps about 3 weeks at room temperature or several months refrigerated or frozen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Icebox Cookie: Orange Sable Cookies

From Martha Stewart. Hers are much prettier than mine. That's okay; they all taste good.

1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds
1 cup confectioners' sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (2 to 3 oranges)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sanding or granulated sugar, for rolling

Place almonds and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; set aside.

Place butter and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. On low, add almond mixture; beat until combined, 10 to 15 seconds. Add egg and orange juice; combine. Add flour; combine.

Place two 12-by-16-inch pieces of parchment on a clean work surface. Divide dough in half. Form a rough log with each half; place on parchment. Fold parchment over dough; use a ruler to roll and press dough into 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours.

If desired, finely chop candied ginger and put in a wide, shallow container. Place chilled cookie dough roll in the ginger and roll, pressing ginger into the dough. I also added a sprinkle of crunchy raw sugar, too.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Spread sanding sugar in a baking pan. Unwrap logs; roll in sugar to coat. Cut into scant 1/4-inch-thick rounds; place on sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake until edges turn golden, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Bake or freeze remaining dough.

Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rose's Crescents

These cookies may not be the showiest cookies on the table. No sparkles or glittering red and green sugar. But one bite...

They are delicate and melt in the mouth. I wish I had one right now.

After baking they do a little roll in a bowl of superfine sugar with a hint of cinnamon is perfect. I had thought about adding a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to the mixture but didn't; the first time I make a recipe I like to go exactly by the directions before I add my own touches and twists. I'm glad I didn't add anything else - it was just right.

Recipe from Rose's Christmas Cookies, a fabulous cookbook.

2/3 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/3 cup sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) softened unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups of flour

1/2 cup superfine sugar*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

*Make your own superfine sugar by whirling granulated sugar in the food processor a bit.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Soften the butter. Grind the almonds very finely. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almonds, butter, and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour and salt and beat them into the mixture on low speed until incorporated.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide the dough into 8 portions. Work with 1 section at a time, keeping the remainder of the dough refrigerated. Knead the dough between floured hands until malleable. Pinch off a portion and roll it into a 3/4-inch round ball. On a lightly floured surface roll each ball into a cylinder with tapered ends, about 3 inches long by 1/2-inch thick. Form each cylinder into a crescent shape and place on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Cool the cookies on sheets for 10 minutes. While still warm, lift cookies from the baking sheet and dip them, one at a time, in the cinnamon mixture, turning gently to coat all over. Finish cooling the cookies on wire racks.

Cookies keep 1 month at room temperature, 1 month refrigerated, or several months frozen.

Makes 5 dozen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


You may have seen this toffee recipe before, like last year at Christmas.

It's a classic.

1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped blanched almonds (or coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts)
1 cup unsalted butter (do not substitute)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup coarsely chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

Butter a 9x13” pan. Sprinkle half of nuts in greased pan and set aside.

Melt butter, sugar, and water together over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often until temperature reaches 300°. Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and let harden. Sprinkle chocolate over the top and let stand for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate over the top and sprinkle with additional chopped nuts while chocolate is still warm.

Let cool completely and break into pieces.

Keeps well in an airtight container. Can also be frozen; wrap well and place in airtight container.

Chocolate Mocha Cookies

I make these year 'round although Christmas seems especially appropriate for cookies.

What I like about these is that you can mix up the dough, shape into a log and slice and bake the cookies or you can roll out the dough and use cookie cutters. This cookie dough works with you. You can pinch off a bit, shape it into a ball, and roll it in sugar before placing it on the baking pan and gently smooshing it down.

2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa
4 tablespoons instant coffee
heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

If you’d like to make your own slice and bake cookies, after dough is well chilled, shape into a log shape, about two inches or so in diameter. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in aluminum foil and place in a freezer zip-top bag.

When ready to bake, slice off rounds about 1/4-inch thick and place on ungreased baking sheet. No need to thaw first.

Dough can also be rolled out on a lightly floured surface and cut out with cookie cutters.)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until set. Cool slightly on baking sheet; remove and cool completely on wire rack.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Praline Pumpkin Torte

Between October and December, if my mother needs a dessert suggestion she knows she will hear this from me. I love this cake.

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped pecans

4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, which I never have so I use a combination of cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, cream. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into three well-greased 9-inch round baking pans. Sprinkle with pecans; cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and oil. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to pumpkin mixture and beat just until blended. Carefully spoon the batter over the brown sugar mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cakes for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Place one cake layer, praline side up, on a serving plate. In a mixing bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Spread one-third of whipped cream over cake. Top with second cake layer and spread with one-third of whipped cream, and repeat with the third layer. Sprinkle with additional pecans if desired. Store in the refrigerator. Serves 12 to 14.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bourbon Pecan Pie

From Ezra Poundcake, this pie is deep and rich and went perfectly with coffee after the holiday meal.

Toasting pecans with cinnamon - that is genuis!

I made one change in the recipe; there was not a bottle of dark Karo syrup to be found anywhere in town so I used 1/2 cup molasses for the 1/2 cup dark corn syrup instead. It complimented the bourbon nicely.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Spiced Sugar Glaze

I made this cake a couple of years ago and likely vowed not to ever make it again. I killed my garbage disposal by stuffing sweet potato peel in it.

This time the process went much more smoothly. I love this cake: the glaze is toffee-like and the cake is moist with a great texture and tastes of the holidays.

Recipe from the novel Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray.

3/4 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark rum, plus more if needed
3 cups flour, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for salting the water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 large sweet potatoes
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup toasted nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon reserved rum from cake recipe

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch fluted Bundt pan.

2. In a nonreactive bowl, soak raisins in the rum for at least 30 minutes. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.

3. Peel sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks, place in salted water, bring to a simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and let dry for a few minutes, then mash coarsely. Measure 2 cups of sweet potatoes and reserve.

4. In a mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs to break them up, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vegetable oil and vanilla. Drain the raisins, reserving the liquid. Add 1/4 cup of the rum to the batter. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.

5. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk (start and finish with the flour). Fold in raisins and nuts, if using. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake for 80 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack.

6. While the cake is cooling, make the glaze: Mix the sugar, butter and cream in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil until the mixture thickens somewhat, 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add about 1 tablespoon of reserved rum (add fresh rum, if needed).

7. Set the cake and cooling rack over a baking sheet. With a toothpick, punch holes all over the cake. Pour 1/3 of the glaze over the cake. Wait 15 minutes, then pour the remaining glaze on top. You must glaze the cake while it's hot. Allow cake to cool completely.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roasted Asparagus and Onion Risotto

We tweaked a recipe for Asparagus Risotto and came up with this one, where we roast the onions and asparagus together. I think roasted or caramelized onions are one of the best things under the sun and this risotto has become our go-to side dish recipe. It tastes rich without being heavy and is the perfect side for roasted chicken and makes a great Sunday night meal.

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
7 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (We often use closer to 1/2 cup cheese.)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put asparagus and onion pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and maintain at a simmer. Spray large heavy skillet with cooking spray and add rice. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, then add the wine and cook until absorbed.

Stir in 1 cup simmering broth. Cook until broth is almost completely absorbed, stirring frequently, then add another cup of simmering broth. Repeat until only about 1/4 cup of broth remains (discard remaining broth)*, which should take about 20 minutes.

Add roasted asparagus and onion; heat through. Remove from the heat; add the butter, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and serve to appreciative eaters.

*This note is from the original recipe. It's odd, isn't it? One time we made it and didn't need that last bit of chicken broth. One time we used it all. Just do what feels right.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tie-Dyed Cupcakes

The Child's birthday is today and we took cupcakes to school for the class snack. I saw this rainbow-cupcake idea at the Cupcake Queen blog a few weeks ago. It's genuis - so easy and so effective.

Start with a box of white cake mix and divide it into how many colors you want, remembering to reserve some white. Next time I'll probably let more cake batter remain plain white for more contrast.

Plop a bit of each color into the cupcake liners.

Swirl around a bit using a spoon.


Frost and top with sprinkles.

For the frosting, I mixed 1 stick of softened unsalted butter with about 3 cups of sifted confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and enough milk (probably 4 tablespoons) to make it smooth and spreadable. Good yet very sweet.

I'm sure The Child's teachers will be thrilled with all that sugar the kids ingest!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salmon with Maple-Lemon Glaze

This recipe was in a spring issue of Cooking Light. That particular issue is still in my cookbook holder. The cover is bright and cheery and the magazine has a number of dishes I kept meaning to make, like this one. We tried it one night last night and it is delicious. Easy and tasty.

Fresh: Finish the fish under the broiler to caramelize the glaze into a tasty browned crust. Serve with roasted potato wedges and peas.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Refrigerate 10 minutes, turning bag once.

3. Remove fish from bag, reserving marinade. Place marinade in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute.

4. Heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Brush marinade evenly over fish. Broil 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fried Peach Pies

The pastry recipe my mother swears by, the one her mother also used, is the one in the classic red-and-white checked Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook:
• 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup shortening
• 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until pieces are pea-size, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until all the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball, again, not kneading the dough. Messing with the dough too much causes gluten to form, which is good in bread but not so much in pie pastry.

At this point, you can refrigerate the dough while preparing the filling.

Peach Pie Filling

Place the dried peaches (2 6-ounce packages) in a medium saucepan and add enough water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let cook until most of the water is evaporated and the peaches are tender. Use a potato masher to mash.

Drain off the remaining water and taste. Depending on how sweet you like your peaches, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar. I'd add just a dash of cinnamon here but that's just me.

(My grandmother also makes a mean fried apple pie that she puts apricots in the filling. Talk about good.)

Make the fried pies:

On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough. Roll dough from center to edges until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out circles about 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each and fold over dough to make a half-moon shape. Use a fork to crimp the edges together.

In a black skillet (or other heavy pan) heat 1 inch of canola or vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Cook pies for about 2 minutes per side. Let drain on paper towels.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Apple, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Crostata

From an episode of Giada at Home:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons ice water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/8 cup dark brown and 1/8 cup white sugar. Dark brown sugar has such a caramely flavor.)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the crust: In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the mascarpone cheese and lemon juice and pulse a few times. Add the ice water and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not over mix. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a disc, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling: Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the apple slices, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are softened, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, walnuts, and Gorgonzola.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet and place on a work surface. Place the chilled dough on the parchment paper. Roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Lift the parchment paper and transfer to the baking sheet. Spoon the apple filling into the center of the dough. Spread the filling evenly, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round. Pleat the edge of the pastry and pinch to seal any cracks in the dough.

Using a pastry brush, brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This was right tasty but when I make it again I'll do a few things different:
* Use a different apple. Granny Smiths are tart. Tart, tart. I'd use a combination of Golden Delicious and Red Rome.

* Dust the pastry with a sprinkling of raw sugar before baking. It'd give the crust a nice, sugary crunch.

* Still with the apples...I'd up the sugar to about 1/3 to 1/2 cup even using a sweeter apple.

* I'd add just a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paula Deen's Caramel Nut Pound Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly toast pecans in preheated oven on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Thoroughly grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan. I used to use a paper towel to spread the shortening on. Now? I just dig in with my fingers. It seems faster that way.

Cream butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed on
mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in vanilla and pecans. Pour batter prepared pan.

Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 10
minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if you like.

I mixed up a glaze of sifted confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla, and the cake so didn't need it. It's plenty sweet on its own.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Candy Corn Bark

All sweet, all sugar -- perfect for Halloween.

16 Halloween-colored chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
1 1/2 cups broken small pretzels
1 1/2 pounds white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 cups candy corn

(If I were making this for me, I'd add chopped peanuts since I think nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts) enhance pretty much any sweet dish. Since it's for kids who may or may not have peanut allergies I didn't add any. If I were making this for me, I'd also use semi-sweet chocolate instead of white chocolate since white chocolate is not chocolate at all. It's candy and that's great but it's not chocolate.)

Line a medium-ish sized baking sheet with parchment paper, waxed paper, or a silpat.

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Or melt it in your microwave if you know your microwave really well and you're on good terms with it. I put the chopped white chocolate in a bowl and microwaved it for about 20 seconds, then stirred, then another 20 seconds, then stirred, repeat, repeat. White chocolate can burn - it gets all clumpy and gray looking - in a second so watch it closely. Take it out before it's completely melted and stir it for a bit and it should be fine.

While you're negotiating with the microwave, spread the pretzels and cookie pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the pretzel and cookie pieces. Spread with a spatula (don't worry about getting it smooth) and top with candy corn. Let sit until it hardens and and break or cut into pieces.

I filled clear cellophane bags with a few pieces and tied them with orange and black raffia, which I then failed to take a photo of. The kids seemed to like them at the Trunk or Treat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups dark brown sugar*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash each of nutmeg, ground cloves, and ginger**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (I ended up using most of the entire can.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apple, chopped in a fairly small dice (I almost grated the apple instead. I wonder how that would have turned out?)

* The original recipe called for white sugar but I live on the edge and I substituted brown sugar and dark brown sugar at that. I think it gives a deep, rich flavor to this type of autumnal baked goods.

** Pumpkin pie spice was what the original recipe called for but I don't have a tin of Pumpkin Pie Spice in my cupboard. I don't see the point of buying a container of something I'll use maybe three times a year. So I used a combination of cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, and nutmeg. I have no idea how much of each. Just toss in some of your favorite seasonal spices.

Streusel topping:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Line 18 or so*** cupcake cups with paper lines.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring just to moisten. Fold in apples. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffin batter.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes.

I used Granny Smith apple, which was pretty tart. Next time I'll try another baking apple.

Also, next time I'd add some toasted walnuts or pecans to both the batter and the streusel topping.

*** This recipe made 24 muffins, although the original recipe said it would yield 18.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday Supper: Soup and Cornbread

Winter Soup

1 1/2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
28 ounce can tomatoes
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce
1 large potato chopped in small dice
2 16-oz packages frozen mixed vegetables
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon salt (That seems like a lot of salt but it seems to need it. You can cut back on the amount, of course, and add other seasonings.)
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or water)

Brown meat in large pot. Add onion, bell pepper and celery – cook until soft. Add other ingredients and simmer 3 or 4 hours. Freezes well.

If the recipe sounds familiar, it's a reprint from last season. It's easy and tasty and makes a big pot full of soup. Three of us ate it for dinner last night and we put up five containers in the freezer for other Sunday night suppers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

We saw an episode of Giada at Home over the weekend and decided to give this one a try at our home.

I don’t like meatloaf and haven’t since I was about four years old. But I loved this: flavorful and easy and so good. We filed it away under “keeper.”

Vegetable cooking spray
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped garlic- and herb-marinated sun dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk (I used skim because that’s what I had.)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat (We used a mixture of ground white and dark meat.)

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, if using, eggs, milk, feta, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.

Carefully pack the meat mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Put on a serving platter and serve.

Make-ahead dishes are the bomb. This one we could mix up a day ahead and the next day when we got home, all we’d have to do is pop it in the oven.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maybe the blue next time

A few weeks ago I was at a Fresh Market to get some tuna steaks.

And to smile at the display of flowers, to flinch at the prices of produce, to ogle the bread display, and mostly to wander around and daydream.

The customer in front of me asked the seafood counter lady if they had redfish.

She looked in the display case and there was no redfish.

"No red fish but we do have salmon," she said helpfully.

Because salmon is you know, salmon-colored, which is kind of close to red.


I glanced at the customer, who looked confused.

She said, "What about grouper or catfish?"

I'm thinking the seafood counter lady was thinking, "Hell, that fish is white."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tailgate Dip

Classic Cheese Spread
Refrigerated, this spread keeps well for several days. Serve with crackers or crisp apple and pear slices, dipped first in lemon juice, pineapple juice, Sprite, or 7Up to prevent browning.

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 jar dried beef, sliced into small pieces
1/2 small can chopped black olives (about 2 ounces), drained
half bunch green onions, thinly sliced
chopped pecans, minced parsley, or paprika

Combine all ingredient except pecans, parsley, or paprika. Mix well, cover, and chill for several hours or overnight. Shape into a ball, log, or even a football shape if you’re really into the game.

Coat with chopped pecans, parsley, paprika, or a combination of all three.

Tailgate Time

Southeastern Conference football is steeped in tradition: boisterous cheers, annual campus pilgrimages, the pageantry of Homecoming, and hyped-up ESPN coverage.

I remember as a child traveling to Starkville to watch the Mississippi State Bulldogs play. The air seemed electric and it was so exciting Lan and I could hardly contain ourselves. The feeling was contagious, I think. My mother was a majorette at State and loves being there so much she can hardly stand it, either.

The campus seemed full of good-natured people ready to have a good time and the marching band warming up somewhere in the distance added to the invigorating feel in the air. And if it was Homecoming, big sandwich board signs lined the way to the Union, urging students to vote for this candidate for Homecoming court. Girls were dressed up and wore corsages and all in all, it just seemed like a wonderful place to be. I decided right then and there that this college business was going to be fun.

When I think of those game days, the sun was always brightly shining, the sky always crisp and blue with a sharp sweet taste of fall in the air, and the Bulldogs always won. Obviously, the golden patina of time has made my memory quite selective.

The next time you go to a college football game, try to get there early in time to watch the tailgaters set up. It’s fun to watch different families pull up and get out their supplies. For some it’s intricate and elaborate, and I do mean elaborate – linen tablecloths, crystal pitchers, candelabras, floral arrangements, and a lavish spread of gourmet food. Others go to the opposite extreme – a red and white checked oilcloth tablecloth, a bucket of fried chicken, and a cooler of canned soft drinks. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of tailgaters fall somewhere in between, although the school colors are almost always seen at every spot in some form or another – from disposable napkins to pompons to other color-coordinated accessories.

For some families, tailgating is a big tradition that dictates certain foods be served. The menu almost becomes a good luck charm for the game.

At many schools, the social aspect of tailgating is as big a reason for attending as the game itself. Often, the grassy areas are still filled with fans -- visiting, chatting, and exchanging stories -- long after the game has begun.

Whether you’re driving to your alma mater or watching the game on TV, this is a great spread to snack on.

Excerpted from Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Make-Ahead Weeknight Meal - Pizza

I have a long and enduring love affair with pizza. I've recently learned how to make homemade pizza work with my schedule.

It's all here!

Monday, August 24, 2009

(Edited for clarification) Grilled Filet with Pimento Cheese, Asiago Cheese Grits with Caramlized Onion

Last Saturday night we and another couple had a dinner party - it was for friends who are expecting a baby. We're all six friends and the guys practically grew up together - they've been friends for more than 20 years.

This party was kind of a big deal - an excuse to get together with friends, a chance to try out some over the top recipes, and also...a baby to celebrate!

We had filet mignon topped with pimento cheese (seriously), Asiago cheese grits with caramlized onion, salad with feta, walnuts, and dried cranberries, green beans tossed with butter and slivered almonds, and chocolate cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

It was a light dinner, obviously.

We must have spent two hours around the dining room table, talking, laughing, and, you know, eating. Good times.

Asiago Cheese Grits

• 4 cups water
• 4 cups milk
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon white pepper
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 1 1/4 cups stoneground grits
• 1/2 pound asiago (or fontina) cheese, grated

In a large pot, over medium heat, combine the water, milk, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.

In the meantime, chop up a yellow onion. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Add the onions and let cook until they get a bit soft. At that point salt and pepper the onions, turn the heat to low, cover, and let them cook, stirring occasionally. Smells so good.

Stir in the grits to the big pot with the water and the milk.

Cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring often. (note: do not scrape the bottom of the pan.)

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cheese.

Stir in the caramlized onions and serve.

We had leftovers and while I didn't try it, I bet you could spread the grits into a small baking sheet, chill thoroughly, cut out pieces and pan fry them for a side dish the next day.

Pimento-Cheese-Topped Steak

I wish I could take the credit for this recipe. It's genuis. I'd love to know who thought of this. We first had it at a restaurant in Charleston last year and it was out of this world.

Mix up pimento cheese the night before or several nights before.

Prepare filets, as in get the butcher to cut some beauties for you, let them come to room temperature, rub them with worcestershire sauce, and sprinkle with Montreal steak seasoning.

Grill! You know, light it, let it burn, get hot, all that.

About three, four minutes before the steaks come off the grill, top with a bit of pimento cheese.

For the green beans, we steamed them in the rice cooker and then put a bit of butter on them while they were good and hot and topped them with some toasted slivered almonds just before serving.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Roasted Shrimp with Peppers and Lemon

Real Simple magazine did a story about weeknight meals with pantry staples - or something like that - and this was one of them.

I love shrimp and this makes enough for leftovers, and that makes me happy.

• 1 cup long-grain white rice
• 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 lemon, thinly sliced
• 6 sprigs fresh thyme
• 4 scallions, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1-inch pieces
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• kosher salt and black pepper
• 1 pound frozen large peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cook the rice according to the package directions.

The recipe doesn't mind being tinkered with - when I made it the other day, I used a yellow pepper instead of red. When I realized we didn't have any scallions I and chopped up a pearl onion instead.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the bell pepper, lemon, thyme, scallions, crushed red pepper, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Spread on a rimmed baking sheet (reserving the bowl).

Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss with the paprika, the remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Nestle the shrimp in the bell peppers on the baking sheet. Roast until the shrimp are cooked through and the bell peppers are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

(My two cents: The shrimp take no time to cook - like 8 minutes. The strips of bell pepper are nowhere close to being done by then. Next time, I'm going to saute the bell pepper strips first, just a bit, in olive oil. I like them to still have a nice satisfying crunch but I want them cooked, not raw.)

Serve over the rice.

To freeze: No need to thaw the shrimp. Just divide all the ingredients among 4 freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
To cook: Transfer the frozen ingredients to a baking sheet and roast at 450° F for 30 to 35 minutes. Serve with cooked long-grain white rice.

The next day, I got to have this wonderful grilled shrimp salad. I chopped the shrimp and a few roasted bell peppers, added them to spinach, and topped it with a vinaigrette. So good!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself."

Fascinating article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan. It's about how the popularity of cooking shows and shows about food and eating are rising - skyrocketing - in popularity while people are actually cooking much less.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Maybe I'll Just Stick To Watching It On the Tee Vee

During the first episode of The Next Food Network Star, I picked Jeffrey, Zen Jeffrey, not to be confused with my Jeffrey, to win. He didn’t but he made it to the final round.

Melissa won. Melissa is perky and happy and some people already dislike her as much as they do Rachel Ray. I like Melissa and when she made prepared this chicken dish with onions and lemon juice as part of the final competition, Jeffrey and I both liked the way it looked and the ease of preparation and we made plans to cook it for Sunday dinner.

When I’m cooking, I like to get out all the ingredients and measure them out before starting on the recipe. That’s part of the fun, and it makes everything go smoothly.

Plus I get to use these bowls.

We got them at a gourmet shop in Charleston. I love them.

I measured out 1/4 cup white wine in one and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in another. I flattened the chicken breasts, poured the oil in the pan, and heated it. When I put the chicken in the pan, it didn’t sizzle. I picked up the red bowl and smelled the liquid in it. Olive oil. The olive oil that was supposed to be in the skillet cooking the chicken.

“What, please tell me, did I put in that pan?”

Jeffrey peered in the pan and said, “That would be white wine.”

I added the olive oil but by then the chicken was beginning to cook/boil/steam in white wine. When the chicken got done, which seemed to take forever, it stuck to the pan, probably because it had been bizarrely cooked in white wine rather than sautéed in olive oil. Then it was time for the red onions to go in the same pan, cook up nice and slow, then you deglaze the pan with chicken stock.

Jeffrey poured in the bowl of red onions. The skillet was dry so I poured in a few tablespoons of chicken stock.

Jeffrey said, “I think the onions were supposed to cook down first.”

I looked at the recipe and sure ‘nough.

“Oh, well!” I said because, what else could you say? The dish was already far too gone by that point.

The onions cooked down some and I added the rest of the chicken stock and the lemon juice. They cooked and cooked.

It was hot in the kitchen. From April to September, we plan a lot of meals around not heating up the kitchen. It’s too hot. This particular meal was an especially bad idea on my part as it was mostly sautéing with a big pan over a big eye on medium heat. The oven was going, too, with the potatoes au gratin.

The spinach that the chicken was supposed to lay on could have gone in the microwave, but I like to sauté some onion and garlic first before adding in the spinach so I cooked the spinach on the stovetop, too. Because it wasn’t quite hot enough in there, you know.

I went to chop an onion to find we didn’t any more onions. Screw it. A shallot and two cloves of garlic will have to do.

Then once all that mess finally got done we pulled the potatoes au gratin out to find they weren’t quite done. I couldn’t get a fork through them. Jeffrey thought they were close enough; they’d been in there the 40 minutes the recipe I called for. I kept trying to stab one with a fork and the potatoes valiantly resisted the fork so we threw them back in the oven and closed the door. Hot, it was hot in that kitchen.

Ten minutes or so later we called it done. Whatever, is what we were at that point. I’d already thought about the hot dogs that I knew were in the fridge. If worse came to worse, I wouldn’t be above heating one up for dinner.

We turned an au gratin out onto a plate. Funny. On the pilot, Melissa’s were golden brown and crusty with cream and butter and cheese. Ours looked pale and wan, like someone who needed to spend more time outdoors.

We placed a chicken breast atop the spinach bed and topped the chicken with some of the stupid red onion mess and sat down to eat. It was edible.

The chicken didn’t have much flavor. I’d seasoned it as directed, with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. The recipe called for dredging the chicken in flour – plain old white flour. I couldn’t have that. I seasoned that naked white flour with creole spice and pepper. Still, no flavor.

After a few bites one of us said, “Well. It’s not awful.”

Contrast that with the night before when we did a trial run of a menu we’re having for a dinner party this coming weekend: I took one bite and put down my fork to clap my hands. I was so happy everything tasted so good.

With this meal I shrugged after each bite.

Massive fail.

I would say that I’ve learned to read the directions from start to finish before beginning but I already know that all too well. I did it, too, then got distracted and busy and went off course. It’s not really Melissa’s fault that I didn’t follow the recipe. We’ll try it again, probably in November when it’s cooler.

Rustic Chicken with Onions and Lemons

· 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced in half crossways (butterflied, cut all the way through)
· 1 teaspoon dried thyme, plus 1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves chopped
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 4 tablespoons olive oil
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 1 red onion, thinly sliced
· 1/4 cup white wine, optional
· 1 cup chicken broth
· 3 lemons, juiced
· 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
· Spinach "bed", recipe follows

Season chicken with dried thyme and salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Dredge the chicken in flour, add to the hot oil and saute until cooked through. Set chicken aside to rest on plate tented with foil.

In same saute pan, over low heat, add onions and fresh thyme and cook until aromatic.

In a measuring cup, measure out wine, if using, and broth, and add the lemon juice.

Turn the heat up to high, and deglaze the pan with the broth mixture until starting to reduce.

Remove the pan from the heat and finish the sauce by whisking in butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place a bed of cooked spinach on a serving platter, top with the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Spinach "bed":
· 1 bag pre-washed fresh spinach
· 3 tablespoons water
· 1 tablespoon butter
· 1 lemon, juiced
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Microwave spinach in a microwave-proof dish with a few tablespoons of water on high for 5 to 6 minutes, or until hot. Drain, and toss with butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Individual Potato Au Gratins


· Vegetable spray
· 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
· 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
· 2 green onions, finely chopped
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Citrus Shrimp

That was an extended, unintentional break! We've been cooking lots, it's just... You know how you mean to do something and you keep saying, "I need to do that!" and you keep saying it and then you need to do this, too, and then that, and before you know it all the photos and posts and recipes and funny stories become a towering stack of procrastination at its finest?

That's kind of what happened.

We're back on track now.

Jeffrey came up with this. It is summer on a plate - citrusy and light.

Summer Citrus Shrimp

2 pounds of jumbo shrimp (16-20 count)
2 lemons
1 lime
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 bunch green onions, with a few inches of green, thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt

Peel and devein shrimp. Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons and 1 lime into a medium bowl - enough to make about 3 tablespoons citrus juice. Add remaining ingredients - all except the shrimp - and mix well. Add shrimp and stir well once more. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

If you're using wooden skewers, about now would be the time to soak them in water.

Thread shrimp onto skewers.

Grill over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes being careful not to overcook. Serves 4.

Or serves 2 and you can save the leftover shrimp and enjoy over a spinach salad the next day for lunch. Or diced up and folded inside a flour tortilla as a shrimp quesadilla.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies

It's hard to go wrong when you start with a pound of butter and over two pounds of chocolate.

· 1 pound unsalted butter
· 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
· 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
· 6 extra-large eggs
· 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
· 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
· 2 1/4 cups sugar
· 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
· 1 tablespoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 3 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of the chocolate chips, and the bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven self to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Flouring the chips and walnuts keeps them for sinking to the bottom.

It is important to allow the batter to cool well before adding the chocolate chips, or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.

This recipe can be baked up to a week in advance, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated.

Also, you'll be in the kitchen a while, what with the slow melting and coming to room temperature and the jillion mixing bowls to wash. It's worth it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I think it was Coco Chanel who said that anything you really love never goes out of style. I really love red velvet cake and red velvet cupcakes, with anything from cream cheese icing, like here, to seven minute icing, like my grandmother made.

Here's to timeless cakes.

And to decorating with sprinkles.

To make cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with papers or to make a cake, grease and flour 2 8- or 9-inch cake pans.

3 tablespoons cocoa
2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring

Mix together and set aside.

Cream together:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Add 3 whole eggs and the paste of cocoa and food coloring. Beat for 10 minutes.


1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups cake flour that has been sifted three times with 1 teaspoon salt.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon baking
soda. Add that to the mixture.

Whew. Pour all that in the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes.

Cool on wire racks for a few minutes before removing from pan to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 box (16 ounces) powdered sugar
teaspoon or two of vanilla

Beat together until smooth. Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's What's For Dinner

Oh, wait, that makes it sound like Sam Elliott will be here talking about beef.

Instead we're talking about healthy 400-calorie Flat Belly Diet Four Day Jumpstart meals! Can you hear the enthusiasm?

Dinner on Day One called for grilled tilapia filets, green beans, and roasted new potatoes.

Jeffrey is a wonder and he cooked all this for us. He seasoned the fish with lemon juice, cracked black pepper, and dill. He tossed the potatoes with a bit of olive oil and pepper. Using the stovetop smoker we got for Christmas, he smoked the fish and the potatoes. We steamed the green beans and it was all really good. Not like, "Sigh. I'm being healthy and, fine, this is edible." It was really tasty.

Thumbs up, which is more than I can say for that blueberry smoothie.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Parma Rosa Pasta With Grilled Chicken

We made this one night last week. It was a weeknight and it'd been a long day. This is the perfect meal for one of those days.

I boiled whole wheat penne. While that was cooking, I mixed up the pasta sauce.

It's in a packet, it's a sauce mix; JUDGE ME, that is fine. I'll be over here enjoying this pasta.

I sliced up some grilled chicken. It was chicken left over from the other night and do you know how happy that makes me? To be able to use leftovers to make another yummy dish? VERY HAPPY INDEED. I love being efficient and frugal. Throwing food away makes me feel bad.

When the pasta was done, I poured the sauce over it and added the sliced chicken. I served it up and topped it with some grated Parmesan. Good stuff.

Leftover steamed asparagus or green beans would have good in there, too. Not pictured was the side salad we had with the pasta.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Raspberry Chipotle Chicken and Grilled Asparagus

Saturday I brined a few bone-in chicken breasts for several hours. Late that afternoon I brushed them with sauce and Jeffrey grilled them.

During dinner, pretty much every other bite one of us mentioned how good it was. We're looking forward to making chicken salad with the leftovers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day One: Flat Belly Diet

I’ve been under a rock, apparently, as I hadn’t heard of Prevention Magazine’s Flat Belly Diet until last week.

I’ve ordered the book, which has recipes and tips and probably lots of gung-ho rah-rah type affirmations, which I’m thinking I’ll need.

The 32-day diet plan begins with a 4-day jumpstart. From what I understand you have a 1,200-calorie per day plan and you drink lots of Sassy Water during those four days.

Sassy Water is named after Cynthia Sass, one of the developers of the diet. Every time I say Sassy Water I say it with jazz hands: *sassy water*. I can’t help it. Every time I write it with the astericks on either side those are jazz hands.

The 4-day jumpstart includes lots of *sassy water*. Lots. As in, 2 liters a day. Two liters a day is also known as 8 glasses of water a day, which is what doctors recommend we have every day. I’ve always heard that but seeing that much water in one pitcher looks like an awful lot.

2 liters (3 1/2 pints) water
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
12 mint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large jug, chill in the refrigerator and let the flavors blend overnight.

Sunday afternoon I mixed up a double batch of the *Sassy Water*. I put the cucumber, lemon slices, mint, and ginger in cheesecloth, tied it up, and placed it in the pitcher. That seems to make more sense than having all those pieces parts floating around.

View into the gallon pitcher with cheesecloth bag of cucumber, lemon slices, mint, and ginger.

The next morning I filled my 2.2 liter pitcher of *sassy water*. I looked at it doubtfully. That’s a lot of water to ingest in one day.

The container on the left is 2.2 liters of *sassy water*. See what I mean?

By ten a.m. I had drunk almost half of the 2.2 liter pitcher and wasn’t feeling very *sassy*. I went easy on the sassy water for the next several hours but still finished drinking it all by dinnertime.

The premise of the diet is you drink a lot of water and eat four four-hundred calorie meals a day. The meals must include MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids), which are known to be the “good” fats: oils, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, and chocolate.

I don’t like olives or avocado, so this should be fun.

Generally I don’t pay attention to diet plans that promise quick results with no effort. The only “diets” that work are those that are lifestyle changes. This? I will not be doing forever. I may do it for 32 days, particularly those 32 days preceding the wedding on May 30th.

At the same time, I may well adopt some of the book’s recommendations into every day life. The power of positive thinking, right?

Sesame Seared Tuna

We had a pretty good sized tuna steak that Jeffrey cut in half and marinated for about 10 to 15 minutes in sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce. Next time we’ll let it soak a little longer, closer to 30 minutes or more.

He heated olive oil and a bit of butter in a skillet and in the meantime, patted down both sides of the tuna with sesame seeds.

He seared the tuna, cooking mine a bit longer than his. I like rare tuna but I don’t like it when it’s cold in the center. Letting it come to room temperature helps.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Tasty and healthy. The sesame oil complimented the tuna nicely.

We had brussel sprouts with the tuna. I love brussel sprouts. Following the package directions, we microwaved them – perfect since tuna takes, literally, less than two minutes to cook – and made a “sauce” of melted butter and dark brown sugar. I sprinkled some lightly toasted pecans on top.

Next time, we may try some sauteed bok choy as a side dish.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stir Fry Non Recipe

I promise we've cooked and eaten in the last several weeks. I am not altogether sure where the last several weeks have gone, but I'm quite sure we cooked and ate during them.

There were crab cakes and pork tenderloin and grilled chicken and all kinds of stuff that I did not even photograph. Sorry.

We've made stir fry a couple of times. It is the ideal Monday night dish; spend a little time in the kitchen and eat healthy, meaning you get to feel virtuous and smug the rest of the night. NOT BAD for a Monday.

If I think about it in the morning before I leave for work, I marinate some chicken. I really like Taste of Gourmet's Great Grilling Marinade. Most of the time, it's after work before I do that and sometimes I use a combination of soy sauce and sesame oil.

I heat sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet (I don't own a wok - the skillet works fine) and cook the chicken.

(Why is that picture sideways?)

When the chicken is cooked through, I wrap it in aluminum foil and slide it into a slightly warm (200 degrees) oven to stay warm.

I add more sesame oil and some soy sauce, maybe a bit of chicken stock or white wine, and add chopped red, yellow, and/or green peppers and onion and saute.

I really really like sugar snap peas and snow peas. Jeffrey is more partial to green beans. Whichever we use - we've tried different combinations and they're all good - add them toward the end.

When the veggies are almost done I toss some peanuts in there with them. I don't know why peanuts; that seems more Thai. When I do the tossing I guess it should be cashews. Whatever. I like both.

Add the nice warm chicken back to the mix and stir together.

Oh and in the meantime, the rice is cooking.

We always have leftovers and they're pretty good re-heated. Just cook some fresh rice.

Now I'm kind of craving it all over again.