19 December 2008

Red Gold

If you're still looking for last minute gifts for those hard to shop for people on your list, may I suggest Red Gold? This powerful film can be appreciated by anyone who loves and respects Mother Earth. An amazing documentary on the Bristol Bay area of Alaska and the proposed Pebble Mine project that threatens to destroy the way of life of thousands of Alaskan natives, you will never regret the money you put toward this cause.

Click here and buy a movie that will touch the hearts of all your favorite people at this most festive time of year.

12 December 2008

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

My sister carved a hilarious pumpkin for Halloween, and we were all happy to indulge in eating the seeds from it. My mom toasted them two different ways - some were just salted, and some were seasoned with a Cajun spice blend and garlic. I really enjoyed the spicy ones!

Because Jenna is a procrastinator, I'm just getting the photo now! So, we're out of season, but I thought it still merited a post.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the drunk pumpkin:

06 December 2008

Honey Mustard Curry Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I received a Crock Pot as a wedding gift, but had yet to use it. Andrew loves slow-cooked meals, but I have no experience cooking them. My friend Samantha gave me yet another fabulous chicken recipe - Honey Mustard Curry Chicken.


7 chicken thighs - skin removed
4 tbsp. honey
4 tsp. mustard
4 tsp. yellow curry
3 tbsp. melted butter

Whisk together all ingredients except chicken. Place chicken in slow cooker and pour sauce over the top. Cook on low 6-7 hours.
The chicken was so moist, with wonderful flavor from the sauce. I served it with mashed sweet potatoes and crescent rolls. I would have added something green if I had it on hand...oh well, maybe next time!
Sweet potatoes are so much better for you than white potatoes - so many more nutrients! We don't eat them often, as I was never sure whether Andrew would like them, but all that will change now that I've broken the ice with this recipe.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
maple syrup
skim milk
salt & pepper to taste
Boil the cubed potatoes until you can break them with a fork.

Drain them and return to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients and blend with an electric mixer until smooth. Taste and reseason accordingly. So easy, yet so good.

Christmas Cookies - Gingerbread

I am on a mission to save money and spread cheer this holiday season, and one of the things I want to do is bake lots and lots of cookies! I have been making time at night during the week and on the weekends to get some baking done. Everything I make is getting frozen, so that just before Christmas I can put together cookie gifts for our friends and family.

Cookie #1 - Gingerbread

I was lazy with my first cookie, and I used a store-bought mix (shh!) Andrew loves gingerbread, and I have tried several different "from scratch" recipes, but they always turn out awful. This year, I decided to hedge my bets and use a mix.

I cut the gingerbreads into stars and gingerbread men. I got about 3 dozen shapes, rolling the dough to about a quarter inch thick. I hate waste, so I rolled out the bits of leftover dough and used a mini cookie cutter to cut small flower shapes. I got a dozen little flowers out of that little bit of dough! You can see the flowers on the rack below the men in this photo.

I let Andrew have two of the first batch - the star-shaped cookies - as a snack, then as I was taking the men off the tray, I broke two of them! So he got to bring those to work the next day.

Baking is already starting to put me in the holiday spirit!

Quiche Lorraine & Other Variations

My mom's side of the family holds a Holly Brunch each year, typically the first weekend of December. About 20 years ago, my Nonnie realized that stockings were taking up a huge chunk of time during our Christmas Eve celebration, so she split stocking presents into a different holiday...Holly Brunch! This year, the family held brunch the Saturday after Thanksgiving so that Andrew and I could be there.

My mom and I made quiches for the brunch - two were typical Quiche Lorraine, per Betty Crocker, and two were Quiche Lorraine, but with spinach subbed for the bacon.
You can find Betty's original recipe here. We usually don't mess with Betty's instructions too much, but this time we swapped white cheddar for the recommended swiss, and increased the amount of cheese, onion, and bacon that we used.

For the spinach quiche, we used one pound of fresh spinach, steamed in a couple tablespoons of water in the microwave. Regardless of whether you use fresh or frozen spinach, make sure you squeeze all the water out, or you will have a very soggy quiche!

In order to transport the food to my Nonnie's house, we used our traditional carrying method: the tops of copy-paper boxes my mom brings home from work. Hey, they get the job done!

Quiche is such an easy thing to make, and it's a filling breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. You can put anything you want in it, making it as comforting or gourmet as you like.

01 December 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Mr and I traveled to Connecticut for Thanksgiving this year - the first time we've spent the holiday on the East Coast in four years. A wonderful feast was enjoyed, and then came hubby's favorite part: the Thanksgiving leftover sandwich!

I am assured that part of what makes the leftover sandwich so good is the slapdash assembly. As an ::ahem:: "picky" eater, all this mixing together isn't my cup of tea, but here's how to do it:

Fresh rye bread (preferably baked by little old Polish ladies)
2 slices American cheese (or your favorite)

cranberry sauce

Toast two slices of rye bread (Andrew says he would have grilled it in a pan if he wasn't so hungry, and that this is how you should do it!) Smear cranberry sauce on one slice of rye bread - this is your base. Top with turkey, then a pile of stuffing. Add the cheese, top with more stuffing. Put the entire concoction in the microwave for about 30 seconds to ensure full melting of the cheese. Drizzle warmed gravy over the sandwich, and add your top slice of bread.

While it's not exactly heart-healthy, you really only have all the ingredients for this sandwich once a year. So don't feel guilty about indulging in a fantastic Thanksgiving leftover sandwich! It gets the seal of approval from husbands everywhere.

11 November 2008

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

"It may seem like a lot of garlic, but I promise it is not overpowering. " Samantha was right - her recipe rocks! Try this chicken recipe for a deliciously comforting meal.

Below is her recipe, word for word:

6-8 chicken thighs, bone in with skin
2-3 heads of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup diced onion
1 1/3 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup of dry vermouth
2 tbsp of butter
hot egg noodles or rice.

Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Sear all sides in olive oil in a dutch oven type pot. Don't cook all the way, just brown it well on high heat. Remove chicken and set aside. When chicken cools, remove and toss out the skin. Add 1/3 cup chicken stock to pot and heat it, scraping up the browned bits. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is clear and garlic is a little browned. (I've put in carrots, celery and mushrooms at this point sometimes if I want some heartier.) Then add rest of chicken broth and vermouth. Return chicken to pot.

You're supposed to add rosemary and thyme but I never have any so I use basil, oregano, tarragon and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil then lower heat and allow to cook on low for at least 35 minutes. I usually cook it for about an hour and 15 minutes. If you haven't added the hodgepodge of other veggies, remove the chicken, the puree what's left along with the butter. Pull the chicken off the bones, shred it and add the sauce back to it. Serve over rice or noodles.

Here's a photo of my chicken in the pot - I used chicken breast instead of thighs, and I would definitely follow the recipe more closely next time.

I served this with golden smashed potatoes and green beans with breadcrumbs - two super simple side dishes.

Golden Smashed Potatoes

2 yukon gold potatoes, washed and fork-pricked
2 tsp. butter
coarse salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Microwave potatoes until softened - 5 to 7 minutes. Remove potatoes from microwave and place on a cookie sheet. Allow to cool slightly. Using a chef's knife, slightly score tops of potatoes with an "X". Using the flat of the knife, press the potatoes flat - "smashing" them. Place a pat of butter in the center of the "X", salt & pepper potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crispy.

Green Beans with Buttery Breadcrumbs

1 lb. fresh green beans, cut and washed
2-3 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. Italian breadcrumbs
Steam green beans until cooked but still crisp. Add butter to hot beans, stir to melt. Pour breadcrumbs into bowl and stir to combine. This is Andrew's mother Linda's recipe, and it's a winner. Granted, it's not the healthiest way to eat your beans, so I only make it on special occasions. And Tuesdays. :)

Purple Macaroni & Cheese

We went out to dinner with Andrew's dad and stepmom to ML in Chagrin Falls. We absolutely adore the restaurant, and this meal was no exception. Ann and I decided to eat a bunch of appetizers for dinner, which turned out to be a great idea. One of our leftovers was an amazing habanero goat cheese topped with blueberry preserves. Ann insisted I take it home, so I decided I had to figure out a great way to use it.

Here is the goat cheese:

My purple macaroni and cheese was easy to make, and beautiful too! Of course, you could use any cheese you have on hand. Because of the habanero, this mac & cheese was a bit spicy, and yet a bit sweet from the blueberry preserves. It definitely made an interesting combination.

1/2 lb. rotini or pasta of your choice
6 oz. habanero goat cheese
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 big handful fresh spinach

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to directions on box - until slightly al dente.

In the meantime, melt butter in saucepan and add flour. Whisk to combine flour & butter, creating a roux. Add heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Slowly whisk in goat cheese a little at a time, melting and whisking to combine. When all goat cheese has been incorporated, allow to come back to a simmer - do not boil.

Add spinach to pasta water, allow to wilt. Drain pasta and spinach and add to sauce. Toss all ingredients to combine. Garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, if available.

03 November 2008

Happy Halloween!

An adorable little monkey...my friend Heather's sweet son Connor.

31 October 2008

Halloween Fun

Click the title of this post for a great website with recipes for all sorts of Halloween party foods. There are lots of creepy treats to try! The eyeballs are my favorite.

Cheater's Chicken Pot Pie

Well, we ate the chicken pot pie too quickly to take pictures of it! It's my mom's recipe, and even though I usually try to cook with fresh produce, this is such a quick and easy meal that I have to pass it on.

2 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 can white potatoes, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 premade refrigerated piecrust

It's this easy:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the first four ingredients and pour into a pie plate. Top with the premade piecrust. Cut off hanging edges of crust, and press edges onto the pie plate with a fork. Cut air holes into the crust. I use the cutoffs of the crust to make little shapes or designs on the crust. Bake the pie for 20-45 minutes. If your ingredients are room temperature, you will need to bake for less time than if the pie has been in the refrigerator.

If the crust starts to brown before the ingredients inside are heated, make a tinfoil ring to put around the edges of the crust.

*Optional: Scramble one egg and brush it over the crust prior to baking for a golden shine!

This chicken pot pie recipe is so simple - I think it took me 15 minutes to complete the recipe from start to finish. It can be made a day in advance and refrigerated until you're ready to bake it. It also freezes well.

22 October 2008

Bristol Bay Info

You may have heard about Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It's a proposed project that would tap into a supposed $300 billion reserve of ore that is buried near the delta that feeds Bristol Bay. I've posted links in the past, but wanted to give some more information as we get closer to the presidential election.

Sarah Palin on Bristol Bay

Pebble Pedalers - An amazing group of people about to embark on a truly incredible journey

Red Gold - A film that can make a difference

Take the time to do the research on Pebble Mine and what it would mean to our ecosystem, the Alaskan way of life, and the salmon population.

08 October 2008

It's Been a While...

...Since I blogged last. Things have been crazy at work, but now that it's all settling down, I have so much to share. Even though I haven't been posting, I've definitely been cooking! So check back soon for more updates.

13 September 2008

Sausage and Spinach Soup

With fall around the corner, I'm definitely in the mood for soups! I just made the clam chowder last week, so I was hoping for something totally different. My mom actually gave me the idea to put together a sausage and potato soup. She likes to add whatever veggies she has on hand, so that's what I did.

2 small yellow onions, chopped

3 spicy Italian sausages, casings removed

7 small red potatoes, chopped

chicken broth

1 bag fresh pre-washed spinach

I used the scraps left over from a rotisserie chicken to make my own chicken broth. Place everything that's left of your rotisserie chicken into a soup pot, cover with water, and simmer. Mine simmered for maybe five hours over the course of two days, but I'm sure you could do less.

In a soup pot, saute the onions in a small amount of olive oil. Salt them right away so that they release their juices and soften, rather than browning. Move the onions off to the sides of the pot and add the sausage to the pot. Cook it through.

I found that my sausage was a little more fatty than I planned on. I dealt with it by continuing on making the soup the way I planned - when it was simmering later, I simply skimmed the fat off the top. Next time, I might have cooked the sausage first, drained it, and added it back to the pan at this step.

Add the potatoes to the pot. Stir to coat the potatoes in the oil, onions, etc. Pour the chicken broth into the pot and bring contents to a boil.

Simmer on your stove until the potatoes are fork tender. I garnished mine with green onions and fresh basil. Simple and delicious!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Risotto

I love risotto, but Andrew is not a fan. An evening when he is out fishing is the perfect time for me to eat whatever I want, and tonight, I was in the mood for risotto! People think it takes a lot of work, effort, or skill, but this couldn't be any further from the truth. Of course, you can tweak my recipe to include whatever vegetables, herbs, cheeses, or other flavors you can think of.

You'll need:

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2-4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

In a medium sized saucepan, saute garlic in about 1 tbsp olive oil until it begins to soften. Add the onion. Salt the contents of the pot lightly and cook until onions are translucent. You do not want to brown the onions or the garlic. In a separate, small saucepan, heat the chicken broth. You just want to warm it - you do not need it to boil or even simmer.

Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a 1/4 of the broth to the rice mixture. Allow the rice to absorb all the liquid, stirring occasionally, before adding more liquid. Continue to add liquid, allowing the rice to absorb it each time.

When you have added all the liquid to the rice, stir in the spinach. I did not use the entire box, more like 3/4.

Finally, add the goat cheese and stir to melt it into the risotto. The goat cheese I had on hand was purchased at the West Side Market down in Cleveland. It was a spectacular chevre goat's milk cheese...and I'm not gonna lie, I definitely ate some off my fingers!

This recipe takes 15-20 minutes from start to finish. If you wanted to stir in cooked chicken, that would be good too! I preferred it this way, but chicken, sausage, bacon, etc. would all be nice add-ins.

Risotto is so simple and delicious. Once you start making it, you will be amazed at the combinations that pop into your head - butternut squash and pancetta, poached pears and carmelized onions, and any other delicious flavor melds you can come up with.

07 September 2008

Chicken Summer Rolls

I found a recipe for an easy lunch for kids on Food Network's website. The Chicken Summer Rolls are touted as a Vietnamese-style meal that's light but filling. I decided not to use the rice paper, mostly because I couldn't find it in either of the two stores I looked. Instead, I laid the lettuce leaves on plastic wrap and packed them into a plastic tub to keep in the fridge.

It seemed easiest to chop everything first and set up an assembly line, so I prepped all the parts and then put the rolls together.

There were extra carrots, cucumbers, scallions, and leaves of Boston lettuce, so I added some romaine lettuce, croutons, and goat cheese for a big salad later in the week.

If you click the title of this post, you will be directed to Food Network's website to view the full recipe. In the meantime, here is what the insides look like:

I thought this recipe came out nicely, but I don't know that I would make it again, for several reasons. First, my goal was to have this be an easy to grab lunch during the week. Too bad for me, Andrew did NOT like these rolls, so the easy lunch option was out for him. Second, this recipe is extremely labor intensive. Last, it turns out I don't really like rice vinegar, so there was an underlying flavor that I didn't love.

Sometimes, it has to be about what works best for you and your family, and these rolls, while pretty and relatively tasty, don't work well for mine.

25 August 2008

New Englad Clam Chowder

I am a soup lover, and clam chowder is probably one of my top 5 favorite soups. I love all cream-based soups, but I feel guilty about how bad they are for me. So, I was thrilled when I got the October 2008 issue of Eating Well in the mail today. This month, the mag published an easy clam chowder recipe that subs out most of the cream, as a 'makeover' for the traditional fat-laden chowder.

I made this delicious clam chowder tonight, and it did not disappoint. See my pictures and comments in the recipe below.

Makes 6 servings, generous 1 cup each
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 slices bacon, chopped (I used six slices!)
1 medium onion, chopped (I had two small on hand, so that’s what I used)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried (I went with dried)
1 medium red potato, diced (I used 4 small)
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
1 bay leaf (I omitted this)
3 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces fresh clam strips chopped, or 3 6-ounce cans chopped baby clams, rinsed (I used canned clams)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (I subbed fresh parsley)

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer half of the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add onion, celery and thyme to the pan; cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.

Add potato, clam juice and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Whisk milk, cream, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the pan and return to a simmer, stirring, over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add clams and cook, stirring occasionally, until the clams are just cooked through, about 3 minutes more.
3. To serve, discard bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with some of the reserved bacon and scallions.

As you can see, I made plenty of substitutions based on what I had on hand and what I like best. I used the salt called for in the recipe but found that my bowl needed more. Just do what works for you - use the recipe as a guide and add or subtract ingredients based on what makes you happy.

You can view the recipe on Eating Well's website here.

Ciao Italia - The Feast of the Assumption

One of my very best friends came to visit me the weekend of August 14-17. Erin and I have been close since high school, and she is the first of my Connecticut friends to make the trek out since I moved to Ohio. Erin’s visit coincided with the Feast of the Assumption – always a time for celebration in Little Italy’s all over the country, and Cleveland is no exception. During the four day “Feast”, over 100,000 people travel to Cleveland’s Little Italy to pray, shop, and EAT. They close Murray Hill for the duration of the four days, and all the local restaurants set up tables lining the avenue.

We went to the Feast on Friday night, and feast we did. Before we met up with the rest of our party, I had devoured a bowl of penne pesto and Erin had eaten a bowl of cavatelli marinara. We met up with Ann, Vern, Jimmy, and Katelynn, and proceeded to Feast! While Erin and I took a breather, Jimmy chowed down on a lamb wrap, Katelynn balanced a huge bowl of pasta with meatballs, and Andrew and Vern went in search of sausage sandwiches, but changed their mind when they saw the stromboli tent. Andrew, Ann, and Vern opted for the strombolis – by far the longest line at the Feast – beautiful “stuffed sandwiches” made from dough wrapped around various toppings. The guys took a break to smoke cigars while us girls ventured into some of the galleries and little shops lining the street.

I am a huge fan of corn on the cob, as anyone who knows me can attest, so I jumped at the chance to wolf down an ear of roasted corn. It was perfectly buttered and salted by a man who, when I apologized for having to break a $20 on a $3 ear of corn, told me “Being beautiful means never having to say you’re sorry”.

Ann and Erin were thrilled with their waffle ice cream sandwiches – two Belgian waffles stuffed with a brick of delicious vanilla ice cream – and Jimmy and Katelynn opted for a gigantic elephant ear. On the way out, we indulged in gelato – I chose lemon, Erin picked raspberry, and Katelynn opted for the watermelon. Homemade gelato is getting easier to come by as it gains popularity in the US, but this was some of the best gelato I've come across.

It was great fun to show Erin around Little Italy...all in all, the Feast was a fab time, as usual. It’s always a crazy crush of people, difficult parking, and scary toilets, but the food makes it worth the trip!

Restaurant Review: Goat

This weekend we spent two days on Put-In-Bay, also known as South Bass Island. Our party consisted of Andrew and I, his brother Jimmy, and his dad & stepmom (Vern and Ann). We had been to PIB a couple times before, but Andrew and I had never spent a night on the island. We had a fantastic time shopping, eating, and of course drinking! The boys rented bikes and rode all over the island, but Ann and I spent our time tooling around in a golf cart. Check out Put-In-Bay on their official website.

One of the highlights of the trip was Goat, a restaurant that advertises its "soup and whiskey". While we had neither during our meal, it was an excellent dinner and a definite must visit. Goat is in the location of Dailey's Tavern, a bar that was previously owned by Pat Dailey, an entertainer famous in the Great Lakes area for his Jimmy Buffett-esque music.

The evening was warm, but we opted to sit outside on the covered patio. Goat also boasts an indoor open air bar, dining room, and downstairs coffee house and ice cream parlor. We started our meal with a plate of nachos, a caprese salad, and a 1/2 lb of boiled shrimp. The nachos were loaded with house special green chicken chili and all manner of toppings. The caprese salad was made with fresh mozzarella and island-grown red and yellow tomatoes, that were perfectly ripe. Goat grows their own herbs, and the basil chiffonade decorating the plate was verdant and fresh. The shrimp were huge, fresh, and delicious – which foreshadowed good things to come, as both Jimmy and I had ordered entrees with shrimp.

We were all pleased when our entrees arrived – Vern had a fish basket of fried walleye and Andrew had a philly steak sandwich. Jimmy ordered the blackened shrimp alfredo - the seasoning on the shrimp infused the mild alfredo sauce, which is made to order, giving it a spicy kick that wasn't overpowering. I had a beautiful grilled shrimp Caesar salad, and Ann ordered the “beer plate”. This was the most original of the meals we ordered – it was listed on the appetizer menu, but was more than enough to feed one person for dinner. The plate consisted of salami, two different cheeses, a variety of olives and peppers, and club crackers and was meant to accompany beer drinkers as a snack. Also on the menu was a “wine plate” which included soft cheeses, hummus, pitas, grapes, and prosciutto.

We all agreed that Goat was somewhere we would head to on our next trip to Put-In-Bay, and we recommended it to everyone we ran into on the island. Their ingredients are local, every sauce and dressing is homemade, and the atmosphere is light and fun - very fitting of the island's lifestyle. If you have ever have the opportunity to visit PIB, make sure you head over to Goat.

09 August 2008

Gratuitous Puppy Photo

Thought I'd post a few shots of our sweet pup, Finn. Enjoy!

And one old puppy photo of Finn and I, just for good measure:

Sangria! Part II

I created my own sangria recipe this weekend, and it is (in my opinion) much easier than the previous recipe I posted. It could be made with red or white wine, though we used red both times we made it. A fruity Cabernet worked well in this recipe - if you wanted a white sangria, I would recommend a sweet Riesling or a fruity Pinot Grigio.

1 bottle red or white wine
1/2 c. brandy
1 c. simple syrup
1 green apple, cut into chunks
1 nectarine, cut into chunks
1 pint blackberries

To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup each of plain white granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. When sugar is completely dissolved, remove pan from heat.

In a pitcher, combine wine, brandy, and simple syrup. Add 12-16 cubes of ice, stir. I like to float the fruit in the individual glasses, but you can add it straight to the pitcher if you prefer.

This recipe was so easy and tasted so good! The simple syrup makes a big difference, so don't skip that step. All the spiciness of the brandy is highlighted by the sweet acidity of the wine and the delicious crunch of the fruit.

Super Sides: Homemade Mashed Potatos and Parsley Peas with Onions

Tonight's dinner was all about comfort food: roast chicken, mashed potatos, and peas. We were feeling lazy and did not want to turn on the oven, so we bought the roast chicken from the grocery store. Though it's not the same as roasting one at home, I don't like to bake chicken at home during the summer because it requires my oven to be on for so long!

So, the stars of the meal were the homemade sides. Here are my simple recipes:

Mashed Potatos

5 medium Idaho potatos, peeled
about 1 cup skim milk
4 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Chop the potatos into small chunks and place cut potatos into saucepan filled with cold water (water should be at least 3" below top of pot) and cover. Bring water to a boil, remove lid. Let potatos boil for 10-15 minutes or until very fork tender. Drain potatos and return them to the hot pot. Add all remaining ingredients and beat to desired consistency. You may need to tweak the amount of milk, salt, and pepper to your liking.

We prefer our potatos creamy, so I added more milk at the end and stirred it into the already whipped potatos. This is such an easy recipe, it's a cinch to make any night of the week.

Parsley Peas with Onions

2 small yellow or white onions
1 bag frozen peas
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Slice onions into thin half moons. Saute in 1 tbsp. olive oil until translucent and slightly carmelized. Lightly salt the onions to "sweat them out" - that is, get them to release their juices and soften.

In the meantime, defrost peas by placing in a colander and running under cool water. You may want to break them up with your hands so there are no chunks of ice in the peas.

Add the peas to the saute pan and heat through. When peas and onions are fully heated and combined, add parsley, salt, and pepper.

I like to saute frozen veggies rather than boiling them. It prevents them from getting soggy, and at the same time, prevents the nutrients from being sapped out into the cooking water.

Our lovely meal:

And the hungry little mongers trying to steal some chicken:

I did feed them some scraps, but further efforts to mooch off our dinner were thwarted.

03 August 2008

Chipotle Pretzel Chicken with Southwest Corn Saute

One thing I will say for myself is that I am inventive! When it comes to pulling together dinner with very little direction, I can usually come up with something delicious. All I knew I wanted for dinner tonight was chicken, so I thawed two boneless skinless breasts. I didn't want to do another herb rub, so I thought I'd bread them, but I wasn't too keen on typical bread crumbs. I spied a bag of pretzel rods in the cabinet, and my recipe developed from there.

Chipotle Pretzel Chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 pretzel rods, crushed
1 tbsp. chipotle seasoning
1 tbsp. Adobo seasoning
2 tbsp. dried minced onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients (excluding the chicken breasts) on a small plate. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towel. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and dip in the pretzel "breading" mixture. Press the pretzel crumbs into the chicken if they do not properly adhere. Place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

This was an experiment that turned out very well. The pretzels created a great crunchy texture, and the chipotle gave the chicken a big kick. If you don't care for the spice, you could easily reduce or eliminate the chipotle.

Southwest Corn Saute

crushed red pepper flakes
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Adobo seasoning
1 bag frozen corn
olive oil

Lightly coat the bottom of a medium saute pan with olive oil over medium high heat. Add red pepper flakes and let simmer for 2-3 minutes to infuse the oil with pepper. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic and Adobo seasoning and cook until garlic is soft. Without defrosting, add corn to pan and cook until fully heated through.

The lingering heat from the chipotle was enhanced by the salty crunch of the pretzel coating. The spice was unexpected, but delicious. The corn saute is a favorite of mine - I love to use frozen vegetables in creative ways. I served the chicken on a bed of wild rice pilaf, framed by the corn saute. The mild rice was a nice backdrop to the spiciness of the other foods. The low heat from the chicken and the spicy heat of the corn were well balanced by this simple rice side. This was easy to put together, impressive in looks and flavor, and definitely something different to do with chicken!

31 July 2008

Summer Pasta Salad

I made an amazing pasta salad for a family gathering on Saturday. My goal was to incorporate as many colors as possible. You can easily adjust the amounts for the number of people. The recipe below is for 35 people, and you will definitely have some leftovers!

2 lbs. rotini, cooked al dente and cooled

2 small orange bell peppers, diced
8 oz. kalamata olives, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, roasted** and cut into 1" chunks
1 pint grape tomatos, halved
7 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
8 oz. colby jack cheese, cubed
8 oz. dill havarti cheese, cubed
1 stick turkey summer sausage, cubed
8 oz. sliced pepperoni, chopped

Italian salad dressing
fresh basil
fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. The salad dressing is strictly by eye and by taste for me - it may vary depending on when you add it to the pasta, how dry your other ingredients are, etc. I think next time I would also add julienned carrots for color and include red or yellow bell peppers in addition to the orange.

This pasta salad was colorful and delicious. The majority of the work is the prep, so I cooked my pasta and chopped my veggies and cheeses two nights before the party, chopped my meats and put the salad together the night before, and was ready to go in the morning.

**To roast asparagus: Toss clean, trimmed asparagus spears in olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cooked through but not soft.


There are few drinks I adore as much as a good Sangria. Chow in New Haven, CT makes the most amazing sangrias (red & white) that I've ever had. Here's a recipe from MSN - make sure you garnish with lots of fruit...and if the fruit sits in the pitcher for a while before you serve it, all the better!

Recipe courtesy of NYC's Rosa Mexicano restaurants.

9 oz. red or white wine
3 oz. Triple Sec
3 oz. apricot brandy
6 oz. orange juice
3 oz. Sprite
3 heaping Tbsp. chopped green and red grapes, apples, and cucumbers

To Do:
Mix all ingredients together in a clear 50 oz. pitcher. Fill remainder of pitcher with ice and stir with a wooden spoon. Garnish each glass with fresh fruit slices, such as green apples for red sangria or peaches for white sangria. Serves four.

19 July 2008

Keepsake Brownies

For the wedding shower that Andrew's family hosted for me here in Ohio, there was a kitchen theme, and each guest was asked to bring recipes for me. My grandmother gave me this recipe for Keepsake Brownies. She cut it out of Parade magazine over forty years ago, and it's her favorite brownie recipe to this day. I love my Nonnie, and I surely trust her judgment when it comes to dessert!

I was craving chocolate this afternoon, and when I got home from work at 9:30 tonight, I decided to make these brownies.

Keepsake Brownies

4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 c. unsalted butter or margarine
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. If you are lazy like me, melt it in the microwave one minute at a time, stirring between each minute. When fully melted, add sugar, eggs, and vanilla. I was concerned about the heat from the chocolate/butter mixture scrambling the eggs, so I tempered them by mixing a bit of the melted chocolate into the eggs to increase their temperature before adding all the eggs to the sugar/chocolate/butter bowl.

Sift together the flour and the salt. Trust me, you want to sift the flour. Sifting gets rid of all the lumps and helps you smoothly combine all the ingredients. Stir the flour into the chocolate in batches until completely combined.

Here is what your batter should look like:

Pour brownie mix into a square pan - Nonnie's recipe says 9x9, but I have an 8x8, so that's what I used. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until mostly cooked through. I say mostly because I like to leave brownies a bit undercooked so they are super moist.

Can't wait to have a brownie for breakfast tomorrow morning!

18 July 2008

Berry Smoothies

One of my favorite drinks to make (sans alcohol, of course) is a berry smoothie. It's such an easy recipe - I know you'll love it. I keep frozen berry puree in my freezer, and when I'm in the mood for a smoothie, I can either chop off a chunk of the frozen brick or thaw the whole bag.

1/4 c. berry puree
2/3 c. (6 oz.) vanilla yogurt - I use Dannon Light n' Fit
6 ice cubes
1/2 packet Sweet n' Low (optional)

Whip all ingredients in a blender. I add the Sweet n' Low if the berries weren't super sweet and ripe when I pureed them.