Thursday, February 28, 2008

Successful Brownies- Hoorah!

Faithful blog readers, you might be wondering why my subject is so excited about something as commonplace as brownies. Brownies- a classic dessert, simple in its existence and a basic for any cook/ baker.

Well, it was never basic for me, so leave me alone!! I have never made a successful brownie before. They've always been too hard, too bland, too thin- just not good. For the record, [I also suck at making Jell-o, cooked (not instant) pudding, and steak. I know, those aren't complicated either, but I've had bad results multiple times with each.]

My Adam loves brownies. He maintains if it isn't chocolate it isn’t a worthwhile dessert. I personally beg to differ, but that's a completely different topic. I felt bad that I have never made him brownies due to my terrible history with them.

This past weekend I looked that dessert horse in the eye again, got back in the saddle, and amazingly enough I made delicious brownies- hoorah indeed! Many thanks to the Hershey company- I now have an amazing chocolate cake and brownie recipe in my repertoire thanks to them.


  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) Butter, melted
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 C. Flour
  • 1/3 C. Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 C. Chocolate Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8" or 9" square pan.
  2. In a mixer, blend the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add in the eggs and mix again until smooth, using a rubber spatula to clean the sides.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips and mix thoroughly. Again, use the spatula to make sure the creamed mixture on the bottom gets integrated.
  4. Gently stir in the chips and then pour batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the brownies pull away from the side of the pan slightly. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack, or in my case, just on a gas stove burner.
  6. When the pan is cooled, slice the brownies and enjoy!

I ate one warm, and it was delicious and gooey. I probably could have cooked mine another minute as even after they cooled completely, the brownies still were very crumbly. But c'mon, no one will fault a brownie for being a little too moist, right?! You could also add in nuts, more chocolate chips, or other goodies, and the original recipe says to frost these, but I hate frosted brownies- they are plenty good in their pure form to me!

Sun-Dried Tomato & Artichoke Chicken

It’s been a while since I dug into my Google Reader for a dinner recipe and I was looking for something new and exciting to make this week. I perused my starred recipes and found something delicious looking from Lani. It has multiple foods that we love- artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken. How could we go wrong!?

We couldn’t- it was delightful! I modified her recipe just a bit- subbed in heavy cream for butter, reduced the amount of chicken, and didn’t bother with the flour. We served this over egg noodles and loved it. My husband kept saying how much he liked the tomato flavor!

Oh, there was one horrible thing about this meal, and it has nothing to do with the recipe. So I needed canned artichokes- great, I had 2 cans of Reese Artichoke Hearts in the pantry. These are good quality, large artichoke hearts that have a good flavor and seem pretty fresh. I opened up a can and pulled out 5 hearts to include in this recipe. I would slice each one in half, and then cut each half into a few pieces. La dee da, I get to the 4th one and slice it in half. Something catches my eye and I think it is a mini artichoke bud inside the middle- you know, like what green peppers start to grow along the stem when you let them sit too long?

I am so very very sad to say it was not a mini artichoke growing inside, though it was organic. It was a dead green caterpillar!!!!!! EW EW EW EW!!! Hubby was there when I was picking it out with my fingers to see what it was and we both proceeded to do the icky icky gross dance after I dropped the misplaced insect onto the cutting board. EW EW EW!!!!! Thank god I didn’t cut the thing in half- I might have barfed. This thing was folded/ curled in half and was at least an inch long if I had stretched it out. EW. Needless to say, we threw out the bug and the artichoke it came from. We went ahead and ate the other ones from that can, figuring (praying?) any grossness would be cooked off. Still, ew.

Don’t let that dissuade you from trying this recipe though- just check your ‘chokes!

Sun-Dried Tomato & Artichoke Chicken
Modified from Lani’s Pleasure Cooker

  • 1 Large Chicken Breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Olive Oil for sautéing
  • 1/2 C. White Cooking Wine
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 C. Artichoke Hearts, drained, sliced, and de-wormed (EW!)
  • 1/3 C. Julienne-cut Sun-Dried Tomatoes
  • 6-8 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C. Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese, finely grated

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat and cook the chicken. Do not overcook it though, as it will continue to sit in the hot pan while the rest of the ingredients are incorporated.
  2. Add in the white wine and cook over medium-high until it reduces, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs and stir those in with the salt & pepper. To get the leaves off of fresh thyme, hold the leafy end of the sprig in one hand with your thumb and finger. Using the thumb and finger of your other hand, gently and quickly snap the leaves off, moving from the top of the sprig to the bottom. This reverse directional motion with your fingernails should pop off the leaves- and leave your hands smelling lovely!
  4. Stir in the cream to the mixture and let it simmer for a couple of minutes, again to reduce the liquid.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the grated cheese so that it all melts into the recipe. Serve over egg noodles, other pasta, or even rice or bread for a hearty meal!

Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes!

I've been bestowed quite an honor... Kate from Paved from Good Intentions thinks I'm excellent! Not only is it cool that someone really enjoys reading my blog and thinks it qualifies as excellent, it was Kate! I totally think she's excellent! I read her posts out loud to my husband so he can know how cool and funny she is. If I lived on the West Coast near her, I'd want to be her friend.

So I've made Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted "Theodore" Logan proud by being excellent. Now I get to let you folks in cyberspace know about some other folks that I think are equally great.

After some deep thought, here's who I pass this award on to and why:

Kendraspondence is a super fun blog. Kendra is a Boston gal who is nothing if not hilarious. She's a talented wordsmith and I just love her take on life. Not to mention she's got an adorable new baby girl, and who doesn't think a blog with new baby girl's are excellent!

Speaking of adorable baby girls, my next recipient has 2 of them, twins in fact! Nicole of Ginka's Goodies is someone I actually know in real life off the web, and she's a sweetheart. But that's not just why she's excellent, her blog is great. She has lots of great every day stuff, but I love her Indian foods. Some of her hubby's family is still in India, so I know her stuff is good. Now I just need to build up the courage to try some!!!

The last blog I want to recognize as Excellent is Oishii, a blog written by an American, Brianna, living in Japan. Just like Ginka's Goodies, Oishii is an ethnic smorgasbord. Her perspective on trying to cook standard American fare as well as highlighting some of the wonderful cuisines around her. And on top of enjoying all the food, I love hearing about her experiences overseas- very cool!

So that's it! Congrats from little 'ol me gals!

Corn & Sausage Chowder

This week I have made a plethora of comfort foods that all seem to have a ton of leftovers. We had meatloaf & potatoes on Friday, this delicious chowder on Sunday, and lasagna on Monday, and crockpot BBQ pulled pork sandwiches Wednesday. It’s been doing a lot of snowing up here in Maine, so maybe my body is craving these warm, hearty meals. Can someone please tell my body bathing suit season is just around the corner and salads might be a better option?!

Anyways, I tried this soup last year after finding it on I had purchased the Italian Seasoned ground turkey by accident and was looking for a way to use it up. This fit the bill perfectly! I increased the amount of corn from the original and should have cooked it a little longer this time to get it creamier from the potatoes. All in all, it was really tasty. I did make bread bowls to serve it in, but they came out significantly smaller than last time and fit only about 4 spoonfuls in each bowl! Oops! It was still an excellent meal.

Corn & Sausage Chowder
Modified from

  • 1-1.5 lbs. Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 5-6 Medium Potatoes, peeled & cubed (about 3 cups)
  • 2 C. Water
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Dried Marjoram
  • Heavy Dash Black Pepper
  • 2 15 oz. Cans Corn, drained
  • 1 Can Creamed Corn
  • 1 12 oz. Can Evaporated Milk

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the turkey over medium/ med-high heat until it is browned and just about cooked through. You’ll want the meat crumbled into small pieces. My pictures show sausage that is a little too large! If there seems to be an excess of fat, you can drain it, but I find the little bit of grease the turkey produces enhances the soup.
  2. Add in the potatoes, water, and spices. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Stir in the corn, creamed corn, and evaporated milk. Heat through and serve hot.

Classic Cornbread

I’ll admit it, I used to only ever make cornbread from the Jiffy mix box. In my defense, I thought it was hard to make so I never looked into it. Well geez was I wrong! I made my first cornbread from scratch last year and could not believe how simple it is. I’ve tried a couple of versions now, and I think this is my favorite. It is sweet, without being heavy or overwhelming. It is moist, but still has a good dry crumble to it. Not bland, not showy- just nice like a good cornbread should be! Good ol’ Betty Crocker, sometimes she just plain knows her stuff!

We enjoyed this with from scratch baked beans and a fake chicken BBQ I threw together. Yeah, fake BBQ as in I cooked the chicken in a pan and then threw prepared BBQ sauce on it. It was tasty, but the bread and the beans were the stars this evening!

Sorry for the crappy picture, I didn't realize I hadn't blogged about this before, so I didn't really take good pics of the cornbread!

Classic Cornbread
From Betty Crocker

  • 1 C. Milk
  • 1/4 C. Butter, softened
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 1/4 C. Cornmeal
  • 1 C. Flour
  • 1/2 C. Sugar
  • 3 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour a round 9 1/2” or square 8” pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the milk, butter, and egg until well beaten.
  3. Add in remaining dry ingredients and mix until everything is just moist. It will be thick.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake in the oven 20-25 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine only took about 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, allow to cool for just a minute or two, then carefully slice and serve!

Bean’s “Baked” Beans

As someone who cooks dinner at home almost every night, my pantry is well stocked. I try to keep all the standards that we like on hand for whatever I decide to whip up on a given evening. And I usually make things from scratch, but some dishes- especially side dishes- I just can’t be bothered to do all that work. I mean, I do work full time and like to have some free time after work! So things like pasta sauce, Goya red beans & rice, salsa, refried beans, and soups live in the pantry for when I’m lazy or just don’t want to do it all.

Well, I made [link]cornbread and fake BBQ chicken the other night and knew that baked beans would be perfect to round out the meal. [Trit-trot, trit-trot, down to the basement pantry to get a can I go!] What the deuce, I somehow don’t have a can of baked beans waiting for me! Has the world gone wrong?!

Clearly I have forgotten to purchase a replacement can from the last time we ate beans. (Of course, I have 2 unopened jars of sun-dried tomatoes and another 2 giant jars of green olives. Sometimes I think I’m out and buy more of these random things only to find 10 on the shelves already.)

What’s a chef to do!? Nothing else would do for a side dish- certainly not with what I had on hand. I went back upstairs to look at recipes and decided to do it from scratch myself. Lo and behold- they were great! I didn’t bother baking them- a nice simmer on the stovetop did the trick perfectly. They smelled delicious, tasted authentic, and I had everything I needed in the house. Only thing I would have liked to improve the taste would be to add a piece of bacon or bacon fat for some extra depth.

Bean’s Last Minute, From Scratch “Baked” Beans

  • 1 Can Cannelloni Beans, drained
  • 1 Can Light Red Kidney Beans, drained
  • 1/4 C. Chopped Onion
  • 1/2 C. Molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. Ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Ground Mustard

  1. Combine everything in a medium saucepan.
  2. Heat over medium heat, achieving a very low simmer.
  3. Cook uncovered for 15-25 minutes until warmed through and liquid is reduced just a little.

Me Me Meme!!!

I've been tagged! TWICE!!! I have to tell you, I really like being tagged. This may come from my extreme Leo personality- you know, the one that makes me think I'm great and makes me want to be the center of attention all the time. I also have no problem sharing all sorts of ridiculous things about myself, so I think I'm a pretty good tag candidate.

Don't take that too far, readers- I'm not doing a meme every week. It's just nice to feel included.

So I've been tagged twice with the same meme. One came from Jennyfer at Jennyfer's Culinary Creations and the other from Danielle at Make No Little Meals. Here's the view into my little world:

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was finishing up my sophomore year at college. I served as a Resident Assistant that year and got involved in the community service group, Circle K- which is the collegiate Kiwanis/ Key Club group. I didn't like college that much but I met some amazing people through those 2 groups- so that's what I think about from those years!

What were you doing 1 year ago?
We celebrated 1 year in Maine, which was also 1 year in our first home.

Five snacks you enjoy
Ok, well I'll answer this, but it doesn't mean I eat all of these things!
- Doritos
- Nuts- smoked almonds and pistachios in particular
- Dried fruit, especially dried cherries
- Popcorn, popped on the stove and lightly salted
- Cookies

5 Things I would do if I was a millionaire
- Have 3 kids
- Travel Europe, preferably before the 3 kids!
- Invest $250,000 so that I don't have to worry about saving for retirement later
- Buy a wardrobe that maybe is actually fashionable- and maybe hire Stacy London to help me
- Um, I think that would be enough. I mean, if I were pulling in a million a year, then maybe I'd have my architect hubby build our dream house on a big plot of land, but if it's one lump sum, I'd be out after all this other stuff!

5 Bad Habits- Nagging my husband
- Not finishing projects I've started
- Not hanging up my coat when I get home or putting things in an out of the way designated spot
- Jack rabbit starts and slam on the brakes stops
- Oh, here's a weird one... in the shower, I take hair that comes out when I'm shampooing and put it on the wall. I usually wash it down at the end, but sometimes I forget- ick.

5 things you would never wear again
- Neon scrunchies
- A giant wall of bangs
- Stirrup pants
- Oversized lame concert T's
- Black vinyl pants- not because I don't want to, but because I've porked out and my husband doesn't take me clubbing

5 Favourite (kitchen) Toys
- My garlic smasher/ meat pounder (It's a big heavy metal circle with a handle in the middle.)
- Micro grater
- Lime juicer
- Rice cooker
- 9" Chef's knife

Now I tag Martha, Michelle, and Candace. Yeah, I know I'm supposed to tag 5 folks, but I don't want to innundate too many people!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Seriously, it can't be exciting every night

I've received some very kind words about my blog and the high quality of the dishes I proudly display. I'm always so flattered when they arrive! And I've had folks look at the site and say things like, "Oh, I don't know how you make all those fancy things. How do you find the time and inspiration?"

I always tell folks that it helps that a) food is my #1 hobby and b) I have no children yet! But more importantly I tell them that not every night is something new and exciting and "fancy." And just to prove that I'm not just "being modest" or flat our lying, here's what my darling foodie husband and I ate this past Monday night on a day off. Keep in mind, I had all day to prepare this masterpiece...

Yup, it's mac n' cheese from the blue box, guppy shaped fish nuggets I heated in the toaster oven, and a random salad. And we ate and enjoyed every bite with no shame!

(Note that this post is labeled as both "Less than Gourmet" which is obvious, and also "Not Cooking Related" because cooking had nothing to do with this meal! Ha!)

Greek Inspired Orzo

I bought a whole bunch of feta recently for a nice salad, and had a bunch left over. What to do, what to make? Stuffed chicken? Nah. A salad? Too wimpy for this night. Regular pasta with yummy toppings? Boring. Something with lamb or another red meat? I didn't have those things. Hmmmm....

I did a little poking around on the ol' Internet to see what I could find. I borrowed from a whole gaggle of recipes and came up with a Greek inspired smorsgabord that was tasty and filling. It was simple and easy and was a really good leftover dish. Yum!

Greek Inspired Orzo

  • 1/2 Box Orzo pasta
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1/4 C. Chopped Onion
  • 1 Large Tomato, chopped
  • 1 Small Can Sliced Olive
  • 4-5 Artichoke Hearts, quartered
  • 2-3 Small Cooked Mild Italian Sausages, sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 to 1 C. Crumbled Feta Cheese

  1. In a medium pot, cook the orzo according to the package.
  2. In a separate medium saute pan, put in a little olive oil and saute the onions and garlic.
  3. Add in the tomato and cook over medium to reduce it down.
  4. Pour in some water if it is getting too dry in the pan. Add the olives, artichokes, and sausage and heat through.
  5. At the end of cooking, pour in any desired olive oil to moisten the mixture. This is totally subjective to your tastes.
  6. Crumble in the feta and give it a stir to get it a little melty.
  7. At this point, your orzo should be drained and put back into its original sauce pot. Pour in the sausage mixture to the orzo pot and mix well. Serve warm with extra feta on top!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Valentine's Petit Fours

My husband and I are not big Valentine's Day celebrators. There is no way we'll regularly go out to eat on the big day o' love- it's too expensive, too crowded, and not tasty enough. Plus I like to cook, and our schedules are hectic, so we just do our own thing. It's now the 18th and we have yet to have our "fancy" dinner of homemade pasta- it's just too much effort.

I got him a lovely card, and he got me an equally lovely card and the requested heart box of chocolates. It was delightful! Otherwise, it was just another day in our neighborhood. The previous evening however, my handbell choir rehearsal had been cancelled and I suddenly had time on my hands... why not try something new just in time to share with folks for Valentines!

And so I set about to trying my hands at petit fours, those delightful mini cakes with lots of layers and pretty decorations. I used my Betty Crocker cookbook to help me with the sponge cake, however I wish I had used the Paula Deen recipe I had used recently with the jelly roll. Paula's was moister than Betty's. I then used whatever I had around the house to fill and decorate, and made a mediocre looking, very tasty ganache to coat eat cake.

They were easier than I thought, though it still took me hours to complete the whole thing, especially since I had to interupt the works to make hubby dinner. Like I said, the cake could have been moister, and the ganache could have been thicker/ shinier, but all in all they were a success. And they're just so darn CUTE! I ended up with all chocolate (the ones with the mint leaves), peanut butter (the ones with the white chocolate swirls), and raspberry jams (the marachino cherry ones!)

Petit Fours

Sponge Cake
From Betty Crocker's Cookbook

  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1/3 C. Water
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 C. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • Fillings- Chocolate, Jams, Peanut Butter, Pudding, Fruit, Curd, etc
  • Flavored Syrups (optional)- Kahlua, Simply Syrup, Grenadine, Flavored Liquers, etc
  • Chocolate Ganache for coating (see below)
  • Garnishes- Candied fruit, Chocolate shavings, Melted white chocolate, Mint leaves, etc

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a medium sized jelly roll/ high sided cookie sheet pan.
  2. Whip eggs in a mixer bowl until thick and lemon colored. Add in sugar, vanilla, and water and mix on medium until smooth.
  3. Slowly add in flour, baking powder, and salt and blend until batter it is just moist and consistent.
  4. Pour onto the greased sheet and spread to the corners.
  5. Bake in hot oven for 12-15 minutes until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. When cake comes out of the oven, let it sit for just a minute or two. Then carefully remove the sheet of a cake to a cooling rack. When cool to the touch, transfer to a cutting board. Cut off hard edges and discard (or eat!)
  7. Now the hard part... You have to decide if there are sections of your sheet cake that are thick enough to slice in half or more. The fancy part about petit fours are the many thin layer acheived by slicing and stacking cake. I had about a third that was too thin to slice, so I set it aside. I then cut the rest in half using a serrated knife, and a gentle but firm hand. I was even able to cut portions of this sliced section in half again- which made for pretty cakes.
  8. Once you have your layers ready to go, decide how many type of cakes you are going to make (I made 3) and allocate your sheets into layers. For example, I lined up my sheets to decide which sections lined up best for neat little towers. Then I cut those "towers" into 3 sections that I then filled.
  9. If using a syrup to moisten the sponge cake, use a pastry brush to coat the bottom layer with the liquid. Don't be afraid to be generous- everyone likes a moist, flavorful cake. I used Kahlua on the chocolate and PB ones, and Grenadine on the jam ones.
  10. Spread on the first layer of filling. (I used chocolate on them all.) Press the middle/ next cake layer on top.
  11. Repeat the liquid & filling then cake pressing until you have complete towers. I used all chocolate & Kahlua on one type; chocolate, PB, and a little Kahlua on another; and chocolate, black raspberry jam, red raspberry jam, and grenadine on the last.
  12. Once your layers are assembled, use a sharp and serrated knife to cut each individual cake. They should be no more than 2" x 2" wide, regardless of height.
  13. Each cake then needs to be coated with chocolate. I started by pouring the ganache on top, but it was going poorly. I decided to use my fingers and just dunk the entire cake into the bowl of ganache, turning to coat all sides including the bottom. I then placed them on a cooling rack with foil underneath to catch the drips.
  14. Decorate are you see fit, using as much creativity as you'd like, and then let sit to set for at least a half hour. Enjoy with a glass of milk or with good company!

Ganache Frosting
  • 1 C. Heavy Cream
  • 1 C. Chocolate Chips
  • Any flavorings you may want- vanilla, almond, Kahlua, etc

  1. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil.
  2. Place chocolate chips in a heat resistent bowl. When cream boils, pour it over the chocolate.
  3. Let the hot cream sit for a moment to melt the chips, then gently whisk until the mixture is smooth. If you desire to add any flavorings, gently mix is in after the chocolate is whisked.
  4. Let chocolate cool a little, but do not let it harden. Use to dip or pour on cakes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Delicious Cheese Fondue

The Superbowl calls for fun foods that are a little more extravagent than usual- usually involving things like meat, cheese, nachos, and beer! Our Patriots were going in to the big game with a crazy undefeated record and so hubby and I needed something extra special to nosh on.

Rather than pub food like fried mozzarella or greasy nachos, I opted for a great cheese fondue. Yeah, you can't go wrong with tasty foods dipped in molten cheese!

So the Pats played poorly- and lost. It was a major bummer. But you know, we didn't feel that bad because this fondue was especially delicious!

The dipping stars were broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and pumpernickel rye bread. All the veggies were raw, so we upped the healthy factor since we were eating cheese for dinner! We also had cauliflower, granny smith apples, and french bread.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 lbs. Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/4 lbs. Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/2 C. Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2+/- White Cooking Wine
  • 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. Ground Mustard
  • Items for dipping

  1. Mix together the cheeses, cornstarch and mustard.
  2. In the fondue pot, saute the shallots over medium heat until soft. (I didn't bother with oil or butter, I just put them in the hot pot.)
  3. Add in the cheese mixture and a little wine- maybe 2/3 C. Stir until the cheese melts.
  4. Continue to add the wine until the cheese is the liquid consistancy you desire.
  5. Keep fondue over low heat while eating to reduce the cheese burning to the bottom of the pan. Be careful when eating, as the cheese is quite hot and can burn your mouth; dip and blow on it a little before eating!

Giada's Whitefish with Lemon Vinaigrette

I don't watch cooking shows. I find them boring. But for some reason I caught a Giada show a couple of years ago and one of the recipes really caught my eye, even though I spent most of the time making fun of her massive teeth and obnoxious way of saying everything with a stupid sounding Italian style. "Ree-COE-tah" "Mahr-skeh-POE-nay" I found the recipe online, made it, and loved it! It's now in my recipe box as a special treat to pull out.

I've made it without the radicchio and beans, but I prefer it with them- it adds a nice depth to the recipe. Do be careful though- I've burnt the greens before and they are not tasty that way. I've also added way too much broth- also not a good idea! I find that if you prep all the ingredients before starting to cook anything, you'll have a lot better success.

Giada's Whitefish with Lemon Vinaigrette
From the Food Network

  • 2 Shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Radicchio, chopped into strips
  • 1 (15-ounce) Can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 C. Fish Broth (I use clam juice.)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3-4 Whitefish Fillets, such as tilapia
  • Flour for coating
  • Lemon Vinaigrette, see below

  1. In a large skillet, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Saute the shallots until tender.
  2. Add in the radicchio and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the beans and broth, and cook until the beans are heated through, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
  4. At the same time, heat another large skillet with about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium/ medium-high heat.
  5. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper to taste. Pour some flour into a shallow bowl and gently dip the fillets, coating either side. Shake any excess off.
  6. Fry the fillets in a single layer until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Cook in multiple batches if necessary.
  7. Spoon the finished radicchio mixture over the center of the plates. Top with the fillets. Drizzle the vinaigrette over and serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 C. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 C. Italian Parsley
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 tsp. Lemon Zest
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 C. Olive Oil

  1. Blend everything in a food processor until smooth.

Not-Potluck-Worthy Jelly Roll

In honor of Superbowl Friday, my company let folks come in with jeans and sports jerseys, and they encouraged us to have potlucks if we wanted. I always enjoy an opportunity to share my love of cooking with others, so I was ready to volunteer food! My department already had plans to go to lunch, so I offered to make a dessert.

I hadn't made a jelly roll in a while and thought that would be a different and delicious dish for the potluck.

Well, on Thursday night late, I made the jelly roll. The cake came out good from what I could tell and rolled like a champ in the towel. I unrolled it and spread in the raspberry jelly. Then things went awry. First, the jelly made a huge mess. Then, when I rolled it up, the jelly spewed out the open end and it was not rolled up tight enough. I had rolled it on the long end in hopes of having more slices to offer coworkers- bad choice. I cut it in half to see if maybe it looked better once it was sliced- nope.

ARGH! What am I going to do for the potluck in under 12 hours now? I sprinkled it with powdered sugar and decided my poor dessert was not presentable. To me, it looked like a bloody stump. The cake was kind of dry. The roll was poor. And the next morning I saw fingerprints in my powdered sugar.

The taste the next day was in fact good- the jelly soaked in some and moistened it right up. I brought it in and my coworkers thought I was crazy for thinking it was ugly. Oh well- I had already gotten up Friday morning and made a variation on my cream puffs instead!!!

The Good Side

The Bad Side

Jelly Roll
From Paula Deen

  • 4 Eggs, separated
  • 3/4 C. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 C. Flour
  • 3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 C. Jelly (any flavor)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and set aside.
  3. In a Kitchen Aid mixer bowl, beat the egg yolks until light.
  4. Gradually add in the sugar and vanilla, and mix well. Add in the dry ingredients and blend.
  5. Fold in the egg whites into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a 15 by 10 by 1-inch jelly roll pan lined with waxed paper. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cake is done when it is golden or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Loosen edges of cake, invert cake onto a clean towel dusted with confectioners' sugar.
  8. Gently peel wax paper off cake. Cut the hard edges off and either throw out or eat quickly before your husband sees you!
  9. Gently roll the cake and towel up together. I recommend starting at the narrow end so you get more layers of rings. Cool cake on rack, seam side down, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. In a small bowl, whip the jelly with a fork until it is smooth. This makes it easier for spreading.
  11. Once cake has cooled, gently unroll and spread the jelly in a thin layer and re-roll. You will probably get some oozing out the side. Sprinkle the top with confectioners' sugar. It is tasty right away, but even better the next day!

Fondue for the Fun of It

A few weeks ago (that seems to be a common theme with me lately) I decided we should have fondue for dinner on a random Saturday night- just for fun! Adam got me a lovely cast iron fondue set for Christmas and after a successful chocolate run on New Years, I wanted to do a main course in it.

Now the notion of cooking food in plain ol' oil kind of grosses me out. And I've heard it's messy and smokey. Um, no thanks! Instead I opted for a wine and broth combo. It was tasty- the dipping sauces I whipped up might have been the best part! We had fun cooking all the meats and veggies and having a slow dinner together.

We had shrimp, scallops, chicken, marinated beef, mushrooms, broccoli, red potatoes, and yellow squash for cooking. I also made the following dipping sauces: imitation Green Goddess (sour cream, garlic, fresh herbs), BBQ, Mustard (Dijon mustard, mayo, hot sauce), and Spicy Asian (mayo, creamed horseradish, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi).

Broth and Wine Fondue

  • 2-3 C. White Wine
  • 1-2 C. Chicken or Beef Broth
  • 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon (next time I think I'll eliminate this.)
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 Stalks of Green Onions, roughly chopped

  1. In the fondue pot or in a sauce pot on the stove, bring all of the ingredients to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Use a fine colander to strain the dipping sauce. You can also fish out the cloves and green onions.
  3. Transfer to the fondue pot and keep over medium flame.
  4. Use the fondue forks to stab the meat and cook it. When in doubt if it's cooked enough, leave it in a little longer! You also want to remove the cooked foods from the fondue fork before eating- if you eat off the fondue fork you could get sick!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mediterranean Eggplant & Chicken

Do you ever get sick of the same flavors over and over again in your meal rotation? I do. We eat a lot of italian, mexican, and american inspired foods. Out of the ordinary is asian or greek. But even those get old!

I bought an eggplant recently with no real plan for it. When it came to find a recipe for it that wasn't the boring ol' standards, I came across an interesting recipe at It was mediterranean and had lots of great ingredients- so I gave it a whirl with some modifications.

Oh my, yes! This was the change I was looking for! The sauteed eggplant flavor was subtle and really really good. Then with the feta, olives, and chicken- very tasty! I highly recommend this one if you're looking for something to break the cycle.

Mediterranean Eggplant & Chicken
Inspired by

  • 1 Eggplant, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 Tomato & 2 Tbsp. Water, or 2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
  • 1 Small Onion, chipped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 C. Feta Cheese
  • 1 Small Can of Whole Black Olives (or Kalmata olives would be great!)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 C. Water
  • 1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

  1. Lightly salt both sides of the eggplant slices and place them in a colander in the sink. Let them stand for 25-30 minutes so the eggplant will "sweat" out the bitterness.
  2. In the meantime, chop the tomato and saute in a large pan over medium heat with the 2 Tbsp. water until it is reduced. When reduced down, remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Rinse the eggplant slices when they are done sweating. Drizzle some oil in the saute pan and heat on medium. Cook the eggplant slices in a single layer until browned- flipping once to cook the other side. Cook in batches if necessary.
  5. As eggplant finishes cooking, place the slices in a large casserole dish, layering on the bottom.
  6. In the saute pan, cook the onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add in the chicken pieces and continue to cook until the chicken is about half cooked.
  7. Stir in the 1/2 cup of water, oregano, balsamic vinegar, and reduced tomato. If using tomato paste, add it in now. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked and sauce is thickened. Stir in drained black olives.
  8. Sprinkly a generous amount of feta on top of the eggplant layer. Then pour on the chicken and sauce on the top.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot straight from the casserole dish. I served it with green beans and spiced cous cous, seasoned with middle eastern spices and OJ.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Homegrown Gourmet 5- Maple Blueberry Quick Bread

Yippee for Homegrown Gourmet!

Canela Y Cameno, a great blog from Peru, is hosting round 5 with the theme Quick Breads, and I'm getting in just under the wire. In fact, I've only got one hour to spare as I start typing this! (Note to self- type faster!!!)

As soon as Gretchen Noelle announced Quick Breads as the recipe of choice, I knew exactly what to make- Maple Blueberry Bread. But I was lacking the time to actually do the baking. What can I say, I work well under pressure, and waited til the last day to bake.

I used my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook as the base for this bread, using the Zucchini Bread to get the measurements right. From there, I made this into a Maine recipe. So here in Maine, we have lots of wild blueberries. Did you know blueberries are one of only 4 fruit crops native to North America? And boy are they delicious! Good for you too with tons of antioxidants. My husband and I went blueberry picking this past summer and ended up with a ton of them. I froze a few cups and it was such a delight pulling them out to bake with today after we got 5" of fresh snow!

So I had blueberries. That would have been enough, but I wanted to make this something special. Why not add in another very northen New England food- maple syrup! I love maple- maple syrup, maple butter, maple fudge, maple candy... good stuff. With some local Maine maple syrup laying around not being used, I thought it would be a fantastic touch for my quick bread.

The local ingredients were picked, the recipe chosen, and I was off to the races. This recipe came out really moist and delicious in the loaf I made. Perfect crisp crust, tender moist insides with a nice hint of maple and berries bursting through. The batch was enough for 2 loafs, but I could only find one loaf pan. I used the rest of the batter to make mini muffins. Although these are also tasty, they kind of ended up as mostly crust. I miss the sweet soft interior. But gosh are they fun to pop in your mouth. And it's fun to say- Mini Muffin!

And so I submit my entry for this round. Thanks for hosting Gretchen!

Maple Blueberry Bread
Inspired by Betty Crocker
  • 1 C. White Sugar
  • 2/3 C. Brown Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2 C. Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 C. Dark Maple Syrup (I let the 1/2 cup overflow quite a bit!)
  • 3 C. Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1 C. Fresh Blueberries
  • Syrup to glaze, about 1-2 Tbsp.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom only of 2 loaf pans, or as I did, 1 loaf pan and 1 24 count mini muffin pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugars, eggs, oil, and maple syrup and blend until smooth.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients just until it is evenly moist. You do not want to over beat the batter.
  4. Gently stir in the berries.
  5. Pour the batter into your baking pans.
  6. Bake until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. My mini muffins only took about 15 minutes, and I probably could have taken them out at 12. The loaf took just about an hour, maybe a few minutes more. I put foil on the top with 10 minutes to go as it was looking very brown, but the inside was very soggy. 10 minutes later it had set up beautifully and was ready to come out.
  7. About halfway to 3/4 of the way through cooking, remove the breads from the oven and gently brush the tops with the remaining maple syrup. You can also do this at the end while they are hot, but it does not set up as well, and you get sticky surfaces. Return to oven to finish baking.
  8. Remove pans from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
  9. Gently loosen the bread from the sides of the pan and remove to the wire rack. Allow to cool before trying to slice; too hot and it will crumble apart.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Think Spring - Lemon Bars

The girls on the Maine Nest board got together at my house a few weeks ago to have an indoor picnic in the dead of January. (*Side note- Is it bad I refer to us as girls when we are in fact a group of strong, educated, accomplished women? Maybe, but now you know the truth, so I can move on.)

My oh my, what a spread we had! Muffaletta, ice cream sandwich cake, watermelon, very fancy cut pineapple, brownies, soup, wonderfully bad for you munchies, crusted chicken tenders, mini pinwheel sandwiches, iced tea- the works! We camped out on the floor with some blooms surrounding us and had a fun afternoon.

Amongst a couple of other things, my big contribution (besides hosting) was lemon squares. They were just about perfect in my book. They were tangy, but not too sour or sweet. The lemon goo stuff set up perfectly- not too runny or hard. The crust was tender and flavorful. The only complaint was that there was not a distinction between the lemon topping and the crust- they kind of blended together. Maybe my crust needed to cool more.

By the end of the weekend though, with my parents up for a visit, they were pretty much wiped out. So I guess they tasted just fine!

Lemon Bars

  • 1 C. Salted Butter, softened
  • 1/2 C. White Sugar
  • 2 C. Flour

  • 1 1/2 C. White Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Flour
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 C. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Confectioner Sugar for dusting (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl or stand mixer, blend together all the crust ingredients.
  3. Press crust dough into a 9" x 13" oven safe pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden and firm.
  4. Remove crust from oven and let it cool completely.
  5. While the crust bakes, mix together the sugar and flour for the custard, again in a medium bowl or stand mixer.
  6. Beat in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth.
  7. Pour the lemon custard mixture on top of the cooled crust. Bake in the (still hot) oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Let the bars cool before cutting. When cooled off, cut the bars into small squares or rectangles. Using a sifter or a fine mesh strainer, tap a thin layer of confectioner sugar on the top of each bar for a nice presentation and extra sweetness.

Smoked Salmon Fettuccine

Mmmmm, smoked salmon is such a delicious treat to eat now and again! It's something that we can't have in the house too often because it lasts about 2 minutes once opened. And it's not like it's bargain priced either!

But oh how tasty to enjoy! And when I'm going to splurge on smoked salmon, it has to star in the show. I searched around- yeah, my normal neighborhood of and found something that had so many wonderful ingredients.

It was in fact wonderful! And the salmon did shine...

Creamy Smoked Salmon Fettuccine
Based from

  • Box of Fettuccine Pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Flour
  • 2/3 C. Milk
  • 1/3 C. Cream
  • 1/2 C. Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2+ C. Smoked Salmon, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 C. Fresh Spinach, chopped into strips
  • 1 Tbsp. Capers
  • 3+ Tbsp. Sun-dried Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • Heavy hand of pepper

  1. Cook and drain the pasta according to package.
  2. In a separate sauce pot, melt the butter.
  3. Blend in the flour until a smooth paste forms. Whisk in milk to make a thick sauce.
  4. Stir in cream and parmesan cheese until cheese is melted.
  5. Add in the salmon, spinach, capers, tomatoes, and oregano.
  6. Pour in delicious sauce onto the warm, drained pasta and mix until fettuccine is coated.
  7. Serve in a nice big bowl with a solid grating of fresh black pepper on top- yum!

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

My father in law was in town a few weeks ago to help us install our dishwasher- yay! (We had no dishwasher prior to this and my parents gave us a very generous Christmas gift to help with that situation- thanks Mom & Dad!) He came up on a Saturday afternoon and I needed to make something delicious for me and the boys to watch one of the last Patriots games of the season.

Dad is a BBQ fan and I thought this was a great opportunity to try out the new slow cooker for some pulled pork. Wow, so simple and the boys adored it! Did I mention it was sinfully easy with the slow cooker?

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

  • Pork Butt/ Shoulder
  • 1/2 Onion, chopped
  • 2/3 C. Beef Broth
  • 1-2 C. BBQ Sauce
  • Pinch Brown Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Buns for serving

  1. Season the pork cut with salt and pepper and place it in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour in beef broth and about 1/4 C. BBQ sauce. Sprinkle onions and brown sugar over the top of the meat.
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. About 2-3 hours before it is cooked, quickly open the lid and pour in another 1/4 C. of BBQ sauce.
  4. When the meat is ridiculously tender, it is ready for shredding.
  5. Remove the meat and place in a large bowl. Using 2 forks facing, shred the pork. Grasp the forks in either hand and shred by dragging the utensils in opposite directions of each other.
  6. Stir in as much additional BBQ sauce as suits your fancy- you can keep it dry or make it really messy! Serve warm on nice big buns with napkins!

Ultimate Comfort Food

Who doesn't like Macaroni and Cheese? I mean really, it's like a slice of heaven! Warm, gooey, and filling with a crunchy crust. Aaaah...

Sorry, I just don't have anything more to say about Mac N Cheese- it's that good that it needs no commentary!

I will say that I served this comforting dish with a lovely salad of fresh spinach, sliced dried apricots, almond slices, and a dash of olive oil.

Homemade Mac N Cheese
With help from Boss Leslie

  • 1 Box Elbow Macaroni, I think 8 oz, but maybe more
  • 1/2 Stick Butter
  • 2+/- Tbsp. Flour
  • 1 1/2 C. Milk
  • 1/4 C. Cream
  • 1-2 tsp. Dry Mustard
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 2 C. Shredded White Cheddar
  • 1/2 C. Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 C. Grated Romano Cheese
  • Panko breadcrumbs, enough to coat top

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package and drain. Pour into a large casserole dish and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  4. Stir in the flour, adding slowly until mixture is smooth and a little thick.
  5. Slowly whisk in the milk, bringing to a gentle boil, thickening the sauce. When it is smooth and creamy, mix in the cream.
  6. Stir in the mustard and salt and pepper to your tastes.
  7. Stir in the cheeses until melted.
  8. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni in the casserole pan. Sprinkle panko on the top of the mac n cheese until a you get a nice coating.
  9. Bake in oven until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Mustard Glazed Salmon

We love fish here in our household. There is pretty much no fish we won't eat, but you know, like all foods, it can get boring eating it all the time. I mean, shrimp is great with lime or garlic, lemon and butter. Salmon is lovely sauteed with oil and rosemary or glazed with soy sauce. But I need something more now and again!

We had a lovely fillet of salmon and I was on the hunt for something new and exciting to do with it. Off to I went! I found a great little recipe that is really something new and different. Oh, and tasty too! Who would have thought mustard and fish would be such a delightful combo!

Mustard Glazed Salmon
Based off

  • 1 Large Boneless Salmon Fillet
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. White Wine
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • 1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3-4 tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp. Dried Oregano

  1. Put your oven's broiler on low.
  2. Place salmon fillet in a foil lined, over safe dish. If it has skin, place it skin side down.
  3. Blend together the remaining ingredients and allow to sit for a few minutes so the flavor can meld.
  4. Pour marinade over the salmon. Place in oven a few inches from the boiler. Allow to cook until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through in the center. I'm not sure how long that took, but I imagine only around 10-15 minutes. Mine got a little burnt- maybe it was too close.
  5. Serve warm. If the fillet had skin, removed flesh from skin when serving.

Breaking in the Crockpot - Lemon Chicken

I exchanged a second fondue set I got for Christmas for a big ol' slow cooker this year. I was adament about not ever having a slow cooker- it just didn't seem like the thing for me. I'm a stove top cooker, I don't make roasts and chilis and stuff like that. Why do I need one of these things that everyone raves about? And where am I going to store it?!?

Ok, so I store it in the basement since it doesn't get used that often. But I'm impressed with what it's produced. I'll admit, my first attempt at chili- using my regular recipe with no changes- didn't go so well. But this, what I'm calling the real maiden voyage, was in fact quite delicious!

I love roast chicken, but it takes so long to cook and I don't have the energy at the end of my work days. But lo and behold, the crockpot takes all the work out of it. And it is even moister and tastier than from the oven.

I'm a convert!

Slow Cooker Whole Lemon Chicken

  • Whole Chicken, around 4 lbs.
  • Heavy Splash of White Wine/ Chicken Broth
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1-3 Garlic Cloves, partially smashed
  • 1-2 Green Onion Stalks, chopped
  • 1-2 Tbsp Butter, chopped
  • Dried Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper

  1. Place chicken in slow cooker. I believe I placed mine breast down, but I can't even figure out which way is up, let alone remember what I did a month ago!
  2. Pour wine/ broth in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Slice up one of the lemons and place the slices in the cavity. Add the crushed garlic to the cavity as well.
  4. Carefully lift up the skin of the roaster chicken and place pieces of butter under the skin. Try to push it down and all around. Any excess that you don't want to put under the skin should be placed on top.
  5. Zest some of the remaining lemon onto the chicken. Cut in half and squeeze the juice over the chicken and into the bottom of the pot.
  6. Sprinkle chicken with green onion, thyme, salt and pepper.
  7. Cook on low for 8-10 hours until good and moist. The chicken may dry out on top and split, but the meat will be tender and moist!