26 March 2010

Berry Pie

 As spring approaches, berries can be found at the market for decent prices, and boy have I been taking advantage!  Next week, I'll share my Blackberry Lime Sorbet, a delicious icy treat that is currently occupying space in my freezer.  For now, let me share with you my adorable Berry Pies, made all the more fun by baking them in ramekins instead of a large pie plate.  Of course, if you don't have ramekins or you'd prefer one large pie, this recipe will translate perfectly. 

This was a complete experiment - I made up the recipe as I went along, and it turned out great!  

Berry Pie
makes 1 large pie or 8 ramekin pies

2-1/2 c. strawberries
2-1/2 c. blackberries 
scant 1/2 c. sugar 
1-1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. flour
1 tbsp. lemon juice
zest 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade

As I've said before, I don't believe in bottom crusts for a lot of pies.  If you want to make this as one large pie, a bottom crust would work, but in ramekins, I wouldn't recommend it. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Wash the berries.  Remove the tops of the strawberries and cut into quarters (you may have to cut them further if they are particularly large).  Slice large blackberries in half, leave smaller ones whole.

In a large bowl, toss the berries with the flour.  Add the sugar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and zest, and salt, and stir to combine.  Portion into ramekins (or dump into your pie plate).  I used a fluted biscuit cutter to cut out and shape the tops, then slit a star shape into each one before pressing onto the ramekins.  Sprinkle each pie with raw turbinado sugar. 

Store pie(s) in refrigerator until ready to bake.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes, just until tops brown.

24 March 2010

Meatballs Stroganoff & Notes on Freezer Meals

It's been a very busy week, as I've been trying to put together some freezer meals to bring to family.  What's been saving my sanity is that I've been making a double recipe of each meal - we eat one for dinner and then I freeze the other portion.  I've done two chicken pot pies (one for dinner tonight), and tomorrow will be a double batch of homemade macaroni and cheese

I also made a lasagne this afternoon as a bonus freezer meal.  Yum!

In the midst of all these classic comfort foods that I've made a million times, I wanted to try a new one.  Something I'd never made, but that I couldn't mess up too badly, since I wanted to eat it for dinner and then give it away to other people.  Man, did I hit the jackpot with this recipe! 

Meatballs Stroganoff is an easy and delicious meal you can put together any night of the week.  Make the meatballs in advance so you can pull them out of the freezer the day you're ready to make them - I made 3 pounds of meatballs, rolled them very small, and ended up with about 110 meatballs.  If you don't have a tried and true meatball recipe, click here to borrow mine!  The recipe below is NOT doubled - it's for a single batch of Stroganoff.

Meatballs Stroganoff
adapted from SparkPeople

1.5 lb. meatballs - about 50

2 tbsp. butter
2 small onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. beef broth
1 tbs. lemon juice
3 tbs. AP flour
8 oz. low-fat sour cream
16 oz. "no yolks" egg noodles - cooked and set aside

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add onions and garlic, cook until translucent. 

To the pan, add all but 3 tbsp. of the beef broth and the lemon juice and bring to a boil.

 In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the reserved broth until smooth.

Turn the heat down to low.  Whisking vigorously, stream in the flour/broth mixture.  Raise the heat back up and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. 

Add the meatballs to the pan to heat them through.  Cover saucepan and cook on medium heat for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn the heat off and let stand for a few minutes, then stir in the sour cream.  Serve over the cooked egg noodles.

Look at all this creamy sauce!

Hello little meatballs!

All right, I'm done now. 

This is a delicious, comforting meal that your family will thank you for.  To give it as a freezer meal, I packed about 50 small meatballs into a plastic container, smothered them in the sauce, and froze it.  The plastic container will be joined by a bag of egg noodles when I give it to someone else.

Snacks for Dinner - A Kid Friendly Version

I love making snacks for dinner.  Or appetizers for dinner.  Basically you make a bunch of "picky" dishes and then eat a little of this, a little of that...until you're stuffed!  Andrew and I were baby-sitting his cousins for a weekend, and we decided to do our own version of "snacks for dinner".  I had to make things that were kid friendly and that I could find in their house, so that narrowed down my choices big time.  But you know me, I love to sort through a fridge and pantry and see what I can come up with.  I have to say, this time wasn't particularly inspired, and it certainly wasn't culinary genius, but it made the kids happy and was relatively well-balanced, so...that's good enough for me!

The photo above is Andrew's cousin Luke, waiting patiently for me to take a picture so he can dig in.

Luke told me he loves to cook, so I had him help me was and then carefully cut the vegetables for our little crudite platter.  In the fridge, we found carrots, celery, half a red pepper, and two halves of cucumbers.

In the freezer, I found chicken tenders, cheesy garlic bread, and in the fridge, hot dogs.  We cut everything up into pieces we could grab with our hands, though we did end up using forks.

Here's our spread!  I added a bowl of pretzels and colorful bowls for the condiments.  We also made a frozen pizza for the boys, since they eat like horses.  :)

It may not have been the healthiest meal, but we worked with what we had to put it together, and everyone was happy with the results! 

21 March 2010

Caramelized Onion & Gorgonzola Risotto

The original plan was gorgonzola polenta.  That plan went out the window when we got home from grocery shopping and I realized I was out of polenta...oops!  I had bought some fantastic cheese and was craving more, so I decided my carb-y side would have to include it.  Hence this new risotto recipe was born.  The caramelized onions add major flavor and their sweetness offsets the strong cheese beautifully.

At The Cheese Shop in West Side Market, I spent some time talking to Lisa, a veteran of the Cleveland food scene who started her career at Piccolo Mundo, working alongside many well-known Cleveland foodies, including Chef Michael Symon.  Lisa told my sister and I some great stories about the restaurant scene in Cleveland over the past quarter century while she fed us samples of fantastic cheeses.  We ended up choosing Buttermilk Blue.  Though Lisa helped us choose it as the perfect complement to our polenta, it also worked beautifully in the risotto we ended up with.

Caramelized Onion & Gorgonzola Risotto
serves 4 as a side dish

1 tbsp. butter
2 medium or 1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. arborio rice
up to 1 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. white wine
3-4 c. chicken stock
1/3 c. gorgonzola (heap it in there!) plus more for the table
salt & pepper

You've seen my risotto technique a ton of times - I'll give you the basics here, but for step by step instructions and many other risotto recipes, click the "rice" tag. 

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a simmer.  Turn heat to medium-low and allow to stay warm on a back burner.

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat.  Add onions and stir to coat.  Cook the onions until they are caramelized to a nice dark brown color - don't worry about black/brown bits sticking to the pan, we'll take care of those later.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes or so, then add the rice to the skillet.

Stir the rice, lightly toasting it in the pan.  If it is sticking, add a bit of olive oil to keep it moving.  Add the wine first, stirring to help the rice absorb the liquid.  Continue adding liquid and stirring until rice is creamy and slightly al dente in the center.

Add gorgonzola to the pan, stirring to melt throughout the risotto.  Plate and top with additional gorgonzola crumbles.

20 March 2010

Top 10 Dinners

As I learn how to program my website (and trust me, it's a slow process!), I'm attempting to bring you more recipes, better pictures, and tabs that help you navigate this blog.

Please click on my newly renovated tab, "Top 10 Dinners", and let me know what you think!

16 March 2010


It's been quite a while since I did a post where I share step-by-step photo instructions.  Tiramisu seemed like the perfect opportunity to remedy that fact.  My sister Jenna is in town for a few days, and she wanted to cook together, so I planned several fun recipes for us to try.  We spent a couple hours at West Side Market yesterday choosing the perfect ingredients, then got to work in the kitchen.

This tiramisu is absolutely delicious.  Light and airy, it's neither soggy nor heavy as other versions can be.  I skipped the brandy/liqueur, so there's no alcoholic bite either.  I would recommend increasing the amount of espresso syrup used so that the tiramisu isn't dry - the recipe below reflects my changes.

adapted from Heavenly Tiramisu

espresso syrup
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. strong espresso

mascarpone cream
1 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
16 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened

1/2 lb. savoiardi (ladyfingers) - about 28 cookies

cocoa powder

for the syrup

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and stir in espresso.  Pour into a shallow dish and set aside to cool.

for the mascarpone cream

Whip the cream until soft peaks begin to form, then with the mixer running, slowly add in the vanilla and sugar.  Scrape whipped cream into a separate bowl, set aside.

Place the mascarpone cheese into the mixer and whip until light and fluffy.  This will make it much easier to fold into the whipped cream. 

See how light and fluffy it is?  Much easier to work with than the original consistency, which is similar to cream cheese.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the whipped cheese.  I like to add the cream in two batches so I can get it as fully incorporated as possible without losing all the air.

I love a good assembly line, and this is a great excuse to set one up.  Set out a shallow 2-quart baking dish.  Next to it, set your shallow container of espresso syrup, and next to that, a pile of ladyfingers.

Dip each ladyfinger in the espresso syrup, flip to coat the other side, then arrange in the baking dish.

Top the layer of ladyfingers with half the mascarpone cream.

Repeat the process of dunking the ladyfingers and arranging them.  Top with the remaining half of the mascarpone cream.

Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the top mascarpone layer.

Spoon the remaining espresso syrup into the holes so it can soak down into the dessert.  Yum!

Smooth the top of the tiramisu so the holes no longer show.  Look how pretty!

I was afraid that plastic wrap would destroy the smoothness of the top layer, so I used a larger baking dish as a cover.  Refrigerate the tiramisu up to 24 hours before serving.

When you're ready to serve. slice into squares and sprinkle with cocoa powder.  This is a fabulous dessert that comes together relatively easily.  Though there are several steps, two people can put this together in no time with impressive (and delicious!) results.

15 March 2010

Turkey Pot Pie

I've presented several versions of pot pie before.  In the past, they've always been a "cheater" version that uses canned/frozen ingredients, which is a departure from my usual style of fresh produce and "from scratch" sauces.  The notion of a truly homemade pot pie has been on my mind for a while, and though this one is a step closer, I did still take some help from the store in the form of a refrigerated pie crust.

I don't believe in a bottom crust on pot pies.  Maybe you like it - if so, more power to you.  But in my opinion, the bottom crust is just a soggy, floppy mess.  That's no way to treat good pastry!  Plus, omitting the bottom crust makes me feel better about the fact that there's half a stick of butter in this pot pie.  (Although, on second thought, half a stick of butter spread out over 6-8 servings of pie barely counts, right?)

Turkey Pot Pie
adapted from All Recipes

4 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 c. chicken stock
3 tbsp. dried parsley
1 scant tsp. oregano
1-1/2 c. cubed turkey
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. skim milk
salt & pepper
1 refrigerated pie crust

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Cook until onions are translucent and carrots are slightly softened.  Stir in the chicken stock and bring mixture to a boil.  Add the potatoes and cook until they are just fork tender.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter.  Add the turkey and the flour.  Pour in the milk and heat the mixture.  Combine the turkey mixture with the vegetables in the large skillet.  Cook until the sauce has thickened a bit.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart oven-safe dish.

Top with the piecrust.  Slit holes in the top for ventilation.  Place on a cookie sheet in case of spillover.  This also makes moving the pie in and out of the oven much easier.

Place pie in the oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes.  Slice and serve.  We used bowls to catch all the delicious sauce!

I'm tagging this post for turkey and chicken because you could easily sub the latter into this recipe!

11 March 2010

Baked Salmon with Roasted Peppers

Hot on the heels of my "Fishing Fair" post, here's a recipe using a fish that is readily available from sustainable fisheries.  Using this guide from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, it's easy to look up the fish you're interested in and find out what the best choices are.  For example, here's the salmon info.

Salmon Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.Coho, Sockeye, King, Pink, Red, Sake Alaska Wild-caught
Salmon Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.Coho, Silver Salmon U.S. Farmed in Tank Systems
Salmon Good Alternative: These are good alternatives to the best choices column. There are some concerns with how they are fished or farmed – or with the health of their habitats due to other human impacts.Coho, Sockeye, King, Pink, Red, Sake Washington Wild-caught
Salmon Avoid: Avoid these products for now. These fish come from sources that are overfished or fished or farmed in ways that harm the environment.Farmed Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, Sake Worldwide Farmed
Salmon Roe Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.Ikura, Roe Alaska Wild-caught

They also have an app you can download, which will come in handy when dining out or shopping at fish markets.  My favorite fishmonger is Kate's Fish.  They operate a stand at the West Side Market in Cleveland.  I buy from them 3-4 times a month, and I'm always happy with my purchases.  To me, the mark of a good fish market (besides cleanliness, fresh product, good prices, and decent service) is their willingness to talk to you about the food.  Each item is displayed in the glass with a card next to it telling you what it is, where it's from, and whether it has been frozen already.  I like to ask questions, and they are always willing to give me advice on storage and preparation, plus more information on how things were caught and transported.

On to the recipe!  This meal is simple to put together, with delicious flavors that allow the salmon to shine.  I opted to serve it alongside rice - I took all the little bags of leftover rice in my pantry (all long grain varieties) and cooked them all together.  An interesting experiment, it also turned out pretty delicious. 

Baked Salmon with Roasted Peppers

3 skin-on salmon fillets, 1/2 lb. each
olive oil
salt & pepper
Old Bay or other seafood seasoning of your choice
3 Bell peppers - I chose one each of red, yellow, and green

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Wash, halve, and core the peppers.  Slice them into strips.  Lay them on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Put on the bottom rack of the oven.

On a smaller pan, lay out the salmon fillets.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.  I sprinkled on enough Old Bay to give a light dusting.  Put the salmon on the top rack of the oven.  Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness.  The best way (for me) to tell when salmon is done is to break a corner off with a fork.  If it's flaky but moist, it's perfect.

Remove the salmon from the oven and tent with foil.  Move the peppers to the top rack and increase the oven heat to 400 degrees.  Roast another 5-10 minutes, or until the edges start to blacken and peppers are softened but not limp.

08 March 2010

Fishing Fair

So my husband is a brilliant fisherman and a fantastic person.  He also happens to be The Mad Trouter.  He found The End of the Line, a film that reveals "the impact of overfishing on our oceans".  They also have a website that will give you a ton of information on sustainable fisheries, including a restaurant guide and information on how you can help.

Here's a clip from the film, which Andrew and I ordered today:

I've mentioned Rick Moonen and his commitment to sustainable fisheries in the past.  We've always ben supporters of the Bristol Bay conservation efforts, and now we're turning our attention to this greater issue.  Andrew and I are in the process of making plans to give whatever aid we can to this cause.  It's an issue that's not going anywhere, and it will affect all of us.

Please see End of the Line, check out Rick Moonen's website, and read up on Bristol Bay.

Throw Together Pasta: Version 3

We do love our pasta around here, and I'm all about putting together meals with food we've already got on hand, even when we have house guests.  My mom and aunt were visiting again, and last time, I made butternut squash risotto.  To please my carb-loving relatives without being repetitive, I opted for a pasta dinner one night.  I had pesto left over from the panini, so I opted to turn it into a sauce.  I needed to use up some random veggies in my fridge, so I paired those with some frozen shrimp and the pesto cream, and TTP #3 was born.

Throw Together Pasta: Version 3
The Farmer's Market Version

1 lb. pasta (I used rigatoni) 
1 bunch spinach, washed and trimmed
1 bunch asparagus, washed
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned and deveined
4-6 slices bacon
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chicken stock
2/3 c. pesto, leftover
1/2 c. fat-free half & half
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Salt the water liberally, then add the pasta and cook al dente (according to package directions).

In the meantime, chop the bacon into 1" pieces.  Cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove to a paper towel-covered plate using a slotted spoon.  If you have an excessive amount of bacon grease, pour it out.  I had less than a tablespoon, so I left it in the pan.  Add the olive oil to the skillet.  Once the oil is hot, in goes the diced onion and garlic.  Cook until onion is translucent, being careful not to let the garlic brown.

Chop the asparagus into pieces about 2" long and add to the pan.  Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Cook two minutes, then add shrimp and spinach to the pan and cover.  Once spinach has wilted, stir in cooked pasta.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together pesto and half & half.  Pour over the pasta and toss to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with grated cheese - we like asiago!

05 March 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes


I really wanted to title this post "Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes"...but then I read it out loud and realized it sounds silly.  (EDIT: I decided to name it that anyway)  That's what these are though - delicious chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, topped with peanut butter cups!

It starts out with these cupcakes.  Any chocolate cake or cupcakes will work, but I had half a batch of the chocolate cupcakes from World Nutella Day in my freezer.  To thaw frozen cupcakes, just remove from freezer, take out of the gallon-size zip bag, and allow to thaw in the plastic wrap.  (You did wrap them the way I taught you, right?  Good.)  These will thaw on the counter in less than half an hour.

While they thaw (or bake, if you're starting there), you can whip together this delicious Peanut Butter frosting!

Peanut Butter Frosting
from AllRecipes 

1/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter
1 tbsp. + 1-1/2 tsp. milk
1 c. confectioner's sugar

I opted for crunchy peanut butter because that's what I had on hand, and I ended up loving the texture!  If you are planning to frost a cake with this, you'd probably want to use creamy to make spreading it easier.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and peanut butter.  Slowly mix in the sugar, and as the mixture thickens, add the milk a little at a time.  Beat in between additions of milk - you may find you need more or less, depending on your peanut butter.  It will take about three minutes with the beater for this frosting to get nice and fluffy.

This will generously frost eight cupcakes.

To serve, I frosted the cupcakes, then sprinkled with chopped peanut butter cups.  I took one peanut butter cup and cut it into quarters with a sharp knife.  I stuck the quarters into the "back" of each cupcake.  As you can see, I also had some mini cupcakes to decorate!  This frosting is fantastic, and when combined with chocolate cupcakes and peanut butter cups, well...what's not to love?


04 March 2010

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast


I had never made a roasted turkey breast before.  Sure, I've cooked plenty of whole turkeys and chickens, but I'd never had the desire to make a turkey breast.  That changed when I saw them on a BOGO sale at my local grocery store, and $18 later, I was the proud owner of two gigantic turkey breasts.  I promptly stuck them in my chest freezer and told myself I'd make one "next weekend".  

Three weeks later, I finally defrosted one and made it for Sunday dinner.  I used Ina's recipe as a guide for temperature and timing.  The leftovers from one turkey breast were easily enough to make a turkey pot pie plus a pot of turkey soup, with extra for Andrew's lunches. 

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
adapted from Ina Garten

1 whole bone-in turkey breast (mine was about 8 pounds)
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/3 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. white wine

Preheat the oven to 325.  Place the turkey breast skin side up on a rack over a roasting pan (see photo).  Combine everything but the wine in a small bowl.  Use your fingers to loosed the skin from the meat, then spread about half of the mixture under the skin.  Dump the cup of wine into the bottom of the roasting pan and stick it in the oven.

Roast for about 2 hours - Ina says the internal temp should be 165 degrees.  Remove from the oven and tent with foil.  Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.


I make a simple gravy by pouring a little water over the contents of the bottom of the roasting pan, then using a whisk to loosen it up.  Simmer a few minutes, then pour through a strainer.  Return to the pan and thicken with cornstarch or flour, whisking vigorously, until the gravy is the consistency you desire.  Serve with the turkey (and hopefully some mashies!) and everyone will be happy.

03 March 2010

Buttermilk Invasion

I am working on a post about roasting a turkey breast, but in the meantime, I wanted to fill you in on the current events in my kitchen.  I found myself blessed with an abundance of buttermilk this week.  Ann (my husband's wonderful stepmom) gave me almost a whole half gallon of the stuff on Sunday.  So it was my job to find amazing ways to use it.

As it stands, here's the lineup:

Buttermilk Bathed Pork Chops
Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting
Buttermilk Scones (possibly with chocolate chips and/or chocolate glaze)

That's a whole lotta buttermilk kids.  The only other time I can remember doing anything with the stuff was when I made that fabulous Buttermilk Quick Bread and when I made The Best Pancakes with Grandma.

Here's the quick bread for you to drool over while I get buttermilk-happy tonight!

02 March 2010

Beef with Broccoli

 I've been in the mood for Asian food lately, and in the town where we live, there aren't a ton of choices.  There are some great restaurants closer to Cleveland, but on a weeknight, that's not an option.  Andrew and I adore Chinese takeout, but that's not particularly healthy or cost-effective.  I found a great recipe for takeout-inspired Beef with Broccoli, and it was a huge hit with both Andrew and I.

Beef with Broccoli
adapted from Epicurious

1-1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. beef tips
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. frozen broccoli
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1/3 c. water
2 c. cooked white rice

Place broccoli into a bowl and defrost in the microwave 2-4 minutes.  Set aside.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil until hot (but not smoking).

Meanwhile, put beef in a bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch, salt, and pepper over it.  Toss to coat throughly.

 Stir fry the beef, in batches if necessary, until cooked medium-well, about two minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet.  Add the broccoli and garlic, tossing over medium-high heat until broccoli is heated and garlic is golden brown.

Add the soy sauce and garlic to the pan and bring to a boil.  Add the meat and any juices back to the pan and cook until sauce has thickened.  I left mine over low with a cover on for about five minutes while I waited for the rice to finish cooking.

Serve over white rice.  As a salt junkie, I used additional soy sauce as a condiment, and my spice-loving husband opted for sriracha.


If you're a fan of takeout Beef with Broccoli, I think you'll love this recipe. It's quick, easy, and doesn't use any crazy ingredients you may not have on hand.  This is a great pick for a busy weeknight - you can make it in less time than it would take to order and wait for Chinese delivery.