Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 10 Recipes of 2009

Here are my top 10 recipes (in no particular order):

Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini

Chicken Tiki Masala

Grilled Pepper Poppers

Grilled Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce and Basmati Rice

Mascarpone Brownies

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce

Veggie Sliders

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Caprese Salad Bites

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche


When you have an abundance of basil in your garden, the best thing to do is make pesto. Lots and lots of pesto. It freezes so well that you can enjoy it for several months after your basil plants have stopped producing. I love to use it for pasta, pizza, and even just to dip bread into. Its super simple to make too.

Basil Pesto (Joelen's Culinary Adventures)

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor; pulse a few times, then process until fairly smooth, or to the desired consistency, scraping down the sides occasionally.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini

This is one my favorite appetizers! With the New Years approaching, I highly recommend this appetizer for your cocktail party. Of course, anything with goat cheese is usually good, right?

Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini (Pinch My Salt)

Cherry, grape or pear tomatoes (or whatever tiny tomatoes you prefer)
Garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Combination of dried Italian herbs (such as fennel, oregano, basil, or thyme)*
1 baguette
1 garlic clove for crostini
8 oz goat cheese

1. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and heat oven to 225 degrees.

2. Cut enough tomatoes to fill the sheet pan (about 2 small baskets should do the trick) and place them cut-side up on the parchment paper. Scatter a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves throughout the tomatoes.

3. Drizzle olive oil all over the tomatoes, then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

4. Mix together some of your favorite dried Italian herbs (or just use a commercial blend) and measure out about 2 teaspoons of the mixture. Grind the herbs into a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle then sprinkle evenly over the tomatoes.

5. Bake tomatoes at 225 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until they have shriveled but still contain a bit of moisture inside. The time will depend on the size of your tomatoes, so start checking early.

6. Let cool

7. Cut baguette into slices. Brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until toasted. Rub with a cut garlic clove.

8. Spread a layer of goat cheese on each crostini and top with slow roasted tomatoes.

Dinner Party - Part 4

Part 4 covers the dessert course of my dinner party.

  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil

  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette

  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce

  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf

  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

  • This tart was wonderful and tasted delicious. It was a great end to a wonderful meal!

    Strawberry Mascarpone Tart (Gastronomer's Guide)

    2 pounds strawberries
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon lemon zest
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    12 ounces mascarpone cheese
    1/3 cup confectioners sugar
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

    Remove stems, hull, and halve or quarter strawberries depending on size. In a large bowl, combine strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to macerate.

    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mascarpone, vanilla extract, and confectioners sugar. Mix thoroughly until silky smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    To make the glaze, strain the macerated strawberries over a small saucepan. Add balsamic vinegar and heat over medium-high until liquid is reduced by more than half. It should foam and thicken to a syrup. Let cool to room temperature.

    Spread chilled mascarpone mixture in tart shell. Arrange strawberries on top. Brush with glaze. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 slices.

    Tart Shell

    Tip: A small portion of whole-wheat pastry flour in the dough makes the tart shell extra crispy. If not at hand, use all-purpose flour.

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (I used APF)
    3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
    1 large egg yolk
    3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

    In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, and salt. Mix together with a whisk to aerate

    Add butter and work with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal.

    In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and 3 tablespoons ice water. Drizzle liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until dough comes together. If too dry, 1 tablespoon ice water can be added.

    Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

    Roll out tart dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to fit a 10-inch fluted tart pan. Carefully lay dough over pan. Press dough up into the sides. Remove excess dough by running rolling pin over pan. Fill any holes or cracks with excess dough.

    Chill shell for 10 minutes. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pan all over. Line the inside of the pan with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove pie weights with foil. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Where am I???

    Wow.. this blog has gone silent. The last 2 months have been crazy busy between going to Egypt for vacation and I've been training for a marathon which takes a TON of time.

    But now, my marathon is done! I plan to get back into cooking up a storm for the holiday season and get back to normal. I have missed being able to cook new things, but when you run 36 miles a week.. that doesn't leave time for anything else.

    So my few readers out there, you should see a new post soon!

    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Dinner Party - Part 3

    Part 3 covers the main course of my dinner party.

  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil

  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette

  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce

  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf

  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

  • The goat cheese and tomato sauce is really good and easy to make. However, its the saffron rice that really steals the show. I have made this countless times since and it always turns out amazing.

    Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce (Elly Says Opa)

    2 chicken breast halves, about 5 oz. each
    1/2 tbsp olive oil
    1/4 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
    1/2 cup chicken broth
    2 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped and drained, if they are oil-packed
    2 ounces herbed goat cheese
    salt and pepper

    Sprinkle chicken breast halves with salt and pepper.

    Heat skillet over medium heat and add oil.

    When oil is hot, add chicken breasts. Cook through, about 3-6 minutes per side depending on how thin they are. Set aside and keep warm. Drain the pan if there is a lot of excess oil.

    In the same skillet, add wine and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and cook liquids down until reduced by half, being sure to scrape up the browned bits from the chicken.

    Add in sundried tomatoes and heat through. Take skillet off the heat and stir in goat cheese.

    Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf (

    5 tablespoons butter
    1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
    3/4 cup chopped onion
    1 1/2 cups basmati rice or other long-grain white rice
    3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon (generous) crushed saffron threads
    6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
    Parmesan cheese shavings

    Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add peppers and onion. Sauté until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups broth, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and saffron. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 6 tablespoons grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. (Pilaf can be made 30 minutes ahead. Keep covered. Rewarm over low heat, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary.) Stir 1 1/2 tablespoons chives into pilaf. Mound in serving bowl. Top with cheese shavings and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons chives.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Dinner Party - Part 2

  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil

  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette

  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce

  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf

  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

  • Moving on to the first course. I served a simple spinach, feta, raspberry, and candied pecan salad. This is really simple to make and doesn't require any cooking at all.

    Spinach, Raspberry, and Feta Salad (by me)

    1 package pre-washed spinach (12 oz)
    4 oz feta (reduced fat is fine)
    1 small container raspberries, washed and dried.
    handful of candied pecans or walnuts

    1/3 part raspberry vinegar
    2/3 part olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste

    I probably made about 3/4 of a cup of dressing, but you can play around with this a bit. If you like your salad more acidic, then put a bit more vinegar, and less oil. Its not an exact science and you can't really mess it up.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Dinner Party

    A couple months ago I invited another couple over for dinner. I thought the evening turned out pretty well overall. Here is what I ended up making:

  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil

  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette

  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce

  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf

  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

  • Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of most of the meal. Starting with the appetizer, I loved the flavor of this dish and it had a hint of spice.

    Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil (

    1 -2 cloves garlic sliced thin
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 teaspoons Chili flakes
    2 tablespoons Basil leaves (8-10 pieces)
    1/3 cup Sundried tomatoes, julienned
    Lemon juice to taste
    Kosher salt & fresh black pepper to taste
    3/4 cup canned white beans (Great Northern)
    1/4 cup chicken broth
    2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
    Thick slices of Italian bread
    Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
    Italian Parsley for garnish, chopped

    In a saute pan on medium heat, toast the sliced garlic in the pure olive oil. When it is light golden, add the chili flakes, cook for 10 seconds and then add the basil leaves. Do this carefully, as the basil may spatter some oil. When the leaves are wilted and crispy, add the sundried tomatoes. Toss for a minute or so and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

    Add the beans to the pan. Add the chicken broth and mix all together and mash to your preferred texture - smooth or chunky. Hold warm. Adjust consistency as necessary with the bean liquid, a little at a time.
    Grill or toast the bread on both sides until crispy. Be careful on high heat as bread burns easily. Lightly swipe the remaining garlic clove on one side of the bread. Arrange the toasted bruschetta on a serving platter. Top each piece with some of the tomato-bean mixture, then sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the mixture. Drizzle the remaining extra virgin olive oil on the bruschetta and finish with the parsley. Serve warm.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Blueberry Muffins

    Wow, its been so long since I last updated. My apologies! Between marathon training, family visiting, and a new job, I have not had much time to try lots of new recipes. However, I did try a few new things, and I hope to be posting on a more regular basis again.

    These muffins were easy to make and tasty. The streusel topping really makes them taste more like mini coffee cakes.

    Blueberry Muffins (

    yield: 8 muffins

    1 ½ c. flour
    ¾ c. sugar
    ½ t. salt
    2 t. baking powder
    1/3 c. vegetable oil
    1 egg
    ~1/3 c. milk
    1 cup blueberries (or more)
    streusel topping:
    ¼ c. sugar
    2 T. and 2 t. flour
    2 T. butter, cubed
    ¾ t. cinnamon

    Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease or line 8 muffin wells with muffin liners.
    Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Pour into lined muffin cups; fill to the top.
    To make streusel topping, combine listed ingredients and mix well with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over tops of muffins.
    Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes.

    Friday, July 31, 2009

    Brown Sugar Pancakes

    These pancakes were good, but nothing amazing. They were easy though, so I would make them again. I've been searching for a good brown sugar recipe ever since we went to New Zealand and had the most amazing brown sugar pancakes there.

    Brown Sugar Pancakes (

    1/2 cup brown sugar (pref dark.)
    3 tbsp butter, softened
    2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 large eggs
    2 cups milk, any kind
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt together brown sugar and butter. Stir well, then set aside to cool slightly.
    in a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking power and salt. Pour in eggs, milk and vanilla extract, along with brown sugar mixture and stir until well combined. No streaks of dry ingredients should remain.
    Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, until a drop of water skitters around when dropped on the surface. Lightly grease with butter or oil, and drop pancake batter by 1/4-cup measures on the pan. Cook until pancake is slightly dry around the edges and small bubbles form in the batter (bottom will be browned). Flip and cook for another minute or so on other side, until bottom is browned.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Chicken Tikka Masala

    I've tried quite a few recipes for Chicken Tikka Masala and none of them ever tasted right. A friend gave me a new cookbook for my birthday and I gave this recipe a try. I found it to be really delicious and much closer to what you would find in an Indian restaurant. Its also really simple to make (no toasting of spices or grinding) and thats always a plus.

    Chicken Tikka Masala (America's Test Kitchen Cookbook)

    This dish tastes best when prepared with whole-milk yogurt, but low-fat yogurt can be substituted; do not use fat-free yogurt. For a spicer dish, do not remove the ribs and seeds from the chile. The sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 4 days in advance; gently reheat the sauce before adding the hot chicken. Serve with basmati rice.


    Chicken Tikka
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, trimmed
    1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2 garlic cloves
    1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

    Masala Sauce
    3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
    1 serrano chile (I kept the ribs and seeds), minced
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1 tablespoon garam masala
    1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
    2 teaspoons sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1. Combine the cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the spice mixture, pressing gently so it adheres. Place the chicken on the plate, cover with saran warp and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger. Set aside.

    2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering (hot). Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden (8-10 minutes). Add the garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala. Cook while stirring frequently until fragrant (3 minutes). Add the tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cream and return to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

    3. As the sauce simmers, heat up the grill (medium high). Spray the grill with some nonstick spray if you wish. Using tongs, dip the chicken into the yogurt mixture and place on the grill. Grill until chicken reaches 160 degree; flipping halfway through.

    4. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir the chicken pieces into the warm sauce (do not simmer the chicken in the sauce). Stir in the cilantro, season with salt to taste, and serve.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Caprese Salad Bites

    This is a simple, healthy, and delicious appetizer to make for parties.

    Caprese Salad Bites (by ME!, ok.. so Caprese salad has been around for decades, this is just a miniature version of it)

    1 log fresh mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces (or balls), approx +8oz, no positive on the amount
    bunch of basil leaves (20-30 small leaves or break up bigger ones)
    1 package grape tomatoes (20-30 tomatoes?)
    3 T balsamic vinegar
    1/4 cup olive oil
    salt, pepper to taste
    20-30 toothpicks

    Take a toothpick and spear the piece of mozzarella, basil, and 1 tomato. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. Place on a platter.

    In a bowl mix together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Drizzle dressing over the caprese bites. If you need more dressing, just make more. Each bite should have a taste of dressing.

    Sorry its not more precise, but I promise its easy!

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Grilled Pepper Poppers

    These are amazing. I've had people who don't like spicy food tell me how much they love them. The cheese offsets the spice from the pepper.

    Grilled Pepper Poppers (

    1/2 cup (4 ounces) soft goat cheese
    1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened
    1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
    1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
    2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    16 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded (about 1 1/2 pounds)
    Cooking spray
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

    2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Spoon about 2 teaspoons cheese mixture into each pepper half. Place pepper halves, cheese side up, on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill peppers 5 minutes or until bottoms of peppers are charred and cheese mixture is lightly browned. Carefully place peppers on a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro.

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009

    White and Red Sangria

    I love sangria. It is the perfect summer time refreshment. I serve it frequently for BBQs and its very easy to make. Here are two of my favorite recipes for both white and red sangria.

    Traditional Sangria (Adapted from food network)

    2 bottles chilled dry red wine, like Rioja (I used Charles Shaw Merlot)
    1 cup brandy
    1 cup orange juice
    1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar (I dissolved normal sugar in some water)
    1 cup strawberries (cut into quarters unless really small, add us much as you like really)
    1 orange, cut into sliced or you can peel it and cut into bite sized pieces
    1 apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    2 cups cold club soda

    In a large pot or bowl, combine the wine, brandy, orange juice, and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the fruit and refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and add the soda.

    White Sangria (Adapted from the food network)

    2 (750-ml) bottles white Spanish wine, such as Albarino (Galacia), Viura (Rioja), Verdejo (Rueda), or Sauvignon Blanc (I used Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc)
    1/2 cup Spanish brandy
    1/4 cup Spanish orange liqueur (I added triple sec)
    1 cup pear juice (I used apricot juice)
    1/2 cup superfine sugar (used dissolved normal sugar)
    1 diced pear
    2 peaches, pit removed and sliced into thin wedges
    1/2 pound seedless white grapes
    1 (750-ml) bottle Prosecco, chilled

    Combine the wine, brandy, orange liqueur, pear juice, and sugar in a large pitcher and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fruit and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours. Stir in the Prosecco and serve the sangria in large wine glasses, over ice if desired.

    Sunday, July 5, 2009

    Chewy Molasses Cookies

    These are really tasty. I think they improve with age too, so keep them in an air tight container!

    Chewy Molasses Cookies (Martha Stewart)

    2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    1 large egg
    1/4 cup molasses

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.

    With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.

    Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat.

    Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days.

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Buttermilk Waffles

    I'm getting closer to the perfect waffle recipe. I love that this recipe uses brown sugar and I think that makes the difference. They could have been a bit sweeter, but otherwise they are really tasty.

    Buttermilk Waffles (Sister' Cafe)

    1 stick butter, melted
    2 cups flour
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp salt
    3 large eggs
    2 cups buttermilk
    1 tsp vanilla

    Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs until fluffy. Beat in everything else just until smooth. Cook in waffle iron.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Buttermilk Blueberry Scones

    These scones were pretty good, but I'd recommend eating them right away. They didn't taste as great later in the day. I also think that I should have cooked them a bit longer to get a more golden glow.

    Buttermilk BlueBerry Scones (Average Betty)

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    6 tbsp salted butter
    1/3 cup sugar
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 egg
    2/3 cup buttermilk
    1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

    For the tops:
    2-3 tbsp buttermilk
    1 tsp sugar

    Preheat oven 400(F).
    In a bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together.

    Cut stick of butter into pieces. Add butter pieces to dry mixture.Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, incorporate butter pieces until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl combine egg, 2/3 cup buttermilk and vanilla.

    Carefully coat blueberries with dry mixture. This will also prevent blue “bleed.”

    Create a well in the center of mixture. Add buttermilk mixture all at once to the well. Carefully combine, just until moistened.

    Pour onto lightly floured countertop and shape into a circle. Cut into 8 pieces.

    Brush tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.

    Bake in a preheated 400(F) oven for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Spicy Shrimp & Bell Pepper Pasta

    This pasta is delicious and very easy to make on a weeknight. You can control the level of heat by adjusted the amount of cayenne pepper you add.

    Spicy Shrimp & Bell Pepper Pasta (Joelen's Culinary Adventures)

    1 cup syrah wine
    1 1/2 lbs frozen raw shrimp, de-shelled with tails on
    2-3 cloves minced garlic
    dried rosemary, oregano, thyme to taste
    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1.5 teaspoons to give it more of a kick)
    2 cups homemade or prepared tomato sauce
    1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, green)
    1-2 tablespoons butter
    1/2 box dried bow tie pasta, cooked

    In a saute pan, pour in wine and allow it to reduce by half over medium heat.
    Once reduced, add your tomato sauce and garlic and stir to combine.
    Season with dried rosemary, oregano, thyme to taste.
    Add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and stir.
    Add the shrimp and bell peppers and cook until shrimp turns pink and absorbs the wine sauce.
    Add the cream and butter; stir.
    Add the pasta, toss to combine and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Mascarpone Brownies

    Wow.. these brownies are amazing. They are super rich though, so be prepared to get some help to eat them all. I've made lots of brownies from scratch and have always preferred the box kind. Not anymore. These are the best brownies I have ever had.

    Mascarpone Brownies (Kerri's Recipe Blog)

    - 1/2 cup quality unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey's)
    - 3 oz finest dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Trader Joes brand)
    - 2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 lb) butter
    - 1/2 cup flour
    - 1 cup sugar
    - 2 tsp vanilla extract
    - 1/4 tsp salt
    - 3 eggs
    - 4 oz mascarpone (softened to room temp)

    Ganache Ingredients
    - 6 oz finely chopped finest dark chocolate
    - 3 T butter
    - 6 T heavy cream

    Preheat oven to 325. Butter 8 inch square glass baking pan. Put 3 oz chocolate in large glass mixing bowl. Melt butter in saucepan, bring to boil (I used the microwave to melt the butter). Immediately pour butter over chocolate, allow to stand for 30 seconds before mixing to combine melted chocolate and butter. Add mascarpone, sift in sugar and cocoa, combine thoroughly. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Carefully fold in salt and flour until completely incorporated. Pour mix into prepared pan, bake in oven for 35-40 minutes until inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes.

    Then make ganache. Put 6 oz chocolate into a medium glass mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring 3T butter and 6T cream barely to a boil (heated in the micro too). Pour immediately over chocolate. Allow to sit 30 seconds, then mix well to combine. Spread ganache on top of brownies, allow another 15 min to set before eating.

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

    I love quiche. Its really easy to make and you can put pretty much anything into it and it tastes good. One of my favorites is a simple spinach and mushroom quiche.

    Spinach and Mushroom Quiche (Adapted from Paula Deen's Spinach and Bacon Quiche)

    6 large eggs, beaten
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    Salt and pepper
    2 packages chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and press the water out
    1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (I used Gruyere)
    1 8oz package mushrooms
    1 small onion chopped
    dash red pepper flakes
    1 9inch pie crust (see below)

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    Mix the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add spinach, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and onion. Mix until combined. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the egg mixture is set (My oven took 65 minutes). Cut into 8 wedges.

    Pie Crust (Martha Stewart)

    Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
    1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

    In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

    With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

    Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Spicy Tofu

    This was simple and delicious. Tofu is pretty easy to work with, just make sure that you drain/press it well.

    Spicy Tofu with Peppers (Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations)


    1 block tofu, pressed (to get the extra liquid out) and cut into bite-sized pieces
    Thinly sliced onion - about 3 slices off 1 small onion.
    Sliced peppers - I used about 2 red and yellow peppers
    2 cloves garlic
    1 tbsp chili-garlic paste
    2 tbsp soy sauce
    1 c chicken broth
    Optional: chopped green onions

    Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat
    Add tofu and cook about 5 minutes until starting to lightly brown
    Add onions, garlic, and peppers. Saute 2-3 minutes.
    Add chili-garlic paste, soy sauce, and chicken broth. Stir everything together and bring to a simmer. Let simmer 10 minutes - sauce will slightly thicken
    Serve over rice or noodles and top with green onions

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Couscous Salad

    I get sick of sandwiches for lunch, so this salad was a welcome treat for lunch. Its very filling and quite healthy. I just save the dressing until just before I'm going to eat it.

    Couscous Salad (Recipe based off a suggestion from Cocina de Doyle)

    Salad Ingredients:
    1 cup whole wheat couscous (cooked according to box directions)
    1 cup fresh spinach (or as much as you like)
    1/3 cup garbanzo beans
    1 tea garlic
    1/4 cup feta cheese w/ mediterraean herbs

    1.5 tablespoons olive oil
    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    Layer salad ingredients into a container. Mix dressing in a separate container. Right before eating, toss the salad with the dressing. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    French Toast

    French toast is really easy to make and a great way to use up leftover french bread. This recipe is pretty much foolproof.

    French Toast (

    6 thick slices bread (I used french bread)
    2 eggs
    2/3 cup milk
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
    salt to taste

    Beat together egg, milk, salt, desired spices and vanilla.
    Heat a lightly oiled griddle of skillet over medium-high flame.
    Dunk each slice of bread in egg mixture, soaking both sides. Place in pan, and cook on both sides until golden. Serve hot.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Sun-dried Tomato and Fontina Risotto

    Have you ever tried to photograph risotto? Yeah, not so easy. This is the best I could do. This risotto was not very amazing in my opinion. Not every recipe I try turns out as I would hope, so I think its important to post those as well. Maybe it was because I used vegetable broth instead?

    Sun-dried Tomato and Fontina Risotto (

    4 cups (1 box) chicken broth (I used vegetable broth for both to make this vegetarian)
    1 cup beef broth (used vegetable broth)
    1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry (used white wine)
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon oil from sun-dried tomatoes
    1/3 cup finely minced onion
    1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
    1/3 cup coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (that were packed in oil)
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    4 ounces Fontina cheese, rind removed, cut into small pieces
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

    Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.

    Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-quart casserole over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.

    Next add rice and stir for 1 minute using a wooden spoon, making sure all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin to add the simmering broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste after the rice has been cooking for 10 minutes. Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time stirring frequently, reserving about 1/4 cup to add at the end. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.

    After approximately 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the reserved 1/4 cup broth, Fontina, parsley, and Parmesan and stir vigorously until the cheeses are melted and combined with the rice. Serve immediately.

    Yield: 4 servings.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce

    I have never cooked with fresh tomatillos before, so this was fun. I loved this chicken and the sauce was very flavorful (with a touch of spice). I served it over Chipotle rice.

    Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce (Cooking Light)

    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
    1/2 pound tomatillos
    1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves
    1/4 cup chopped green onions
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 garlic clove, chopped
    1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Cooking spray

    1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

    2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal and let stand for 15 minutes.

    3. Discard husks and stems from tomatillos. Combine tomatillos and broth in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cover and cook 8 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Combine tomatillos, cilantro, and next 6 ingredients (through jalapeño) in a food processor; process until smooth.

    4. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Serve with tomatillo sauce.

    Chipotle rice: Combine 1 cup long-grain rice and 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions and 1/2 teaspoon minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce.

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins

    These were very tasty and a great morning treat!

    Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins (Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings)

    For the muffins:
    7 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

    For the topping:
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

    Directions:Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tin and fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until pale and smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. (Note: the batter will be slightly lumpy.)

    Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

    Meanwhile, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the melted butter in another small bowl. Brush the top of a muffins with melted butter; coating evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

    Well, one could have hoped for a better picture, but I swear it was delicious!

    I love to make pizza at home but I rarely make my own pizza dough. However, this time, I decided to give it a shot and I was really impressed with the results. It was even better than my Trader Joes pizza dough, but it did take a couple hours to make, so while it tasted better, time is not always on my side.

    Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (MRS SAC'S PURPLE KITCHEN)

    1 teaspoon white sugar
    1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
    1 tablespoon active dry yeast
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 cups whole wheat flour
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    I added 1/2 tbsp of dried Italian herbs & 1 tsp garlic powder


    In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.

    Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes (I just kneaded it with the dough hook in my stand mixer). Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

    When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan. (I'm sorry, but this is next to impossible for me to do, so I just roll it out with a rolling pin and transfer to the baking stone).

    Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables. (I used mushroom, red peppers, onions, and salami).

    Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    Irish Soda Bread

    I made this along with the stew. Soda bread is an acquired taste and can be quite bland. My husband found it not very interesting, but I enjoyed dipping it in the stew.

    Irish Soda Bread (

    3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I did half whole wheat!)
    2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, I skipped)
    1 teaspoon baking-soda
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups (about) buttermilk

    Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly flour baking sheet. Mix flour, caraway seeds (skipped), if using, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Turn out onto lightly flour surfaced and knead just until dough holds together, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 6-inch-diameter by 2-inch-high round. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cut 1-inch-deep X across top of bread, extending almost to edges. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

    Irish Stout Stew

    I'm posting this a bit late, but to celebrate St. Patricks Day, I made an Irish Stout Stew and Soda bread. Both turned out pretty good, but were not that authentic in my opinion (having had lots of stew in Ireland).

    Irish Beef Stew (

    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 1/4 pounds well-marbled chuck beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (NOT extra-lean)
    6 large garlic cloves, minced
    6 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
    I cup of Guinness beer
    1 cup of fine red wine
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 tablespoon dried thyme
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    2 bay leaves
    2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
    3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
    Salt and Pepper
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

    You can follow the directions below if you want, but I just threw everything in a crockpot and cooked it on low for 8 hours. I added mushrooms at the end for about 15 minutes.

    1 Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt the beef pieces. Working in batches if necessary, add the beef (do not crowd the pan, or the meat will steam and not brown) and cook, without stirring, until nicely browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over. Continue to cook in this manner until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

    2 While the meat and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside until the beef stew in step one has simmered for one hour.

    3 Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)

    Cajun Style Snapper

    Looking for an easy way to make red snapper? This dish only takes minutes and adds lots of flavor to an very mild fish.

    Cajun Style Blackened Snapper (Modified from

    2 tablespoons paprika
    2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon salt
    2 teaspoons onion powder
    2 teaspoons garlic powder
    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    4 (6 ounce) fillets red snapper
    2-3 tablespoons olive oil

    1. In a small bowl, mix together paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano.
    2. Put olive oil in skillet and heat over medium high heat. The oil should be nice and hot.
    3. Generously coat each fillet with the seasoning mixture. Place the fish fillets in the hot skillet. Cook until the coating on the underside of the fillet turns black, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the fish over. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Buttermilk Coffee Cake

    We loved this coffee cake. Its really moist and delicious. You can easily double the recipe and make for a crowd.

    Buttermilk Coffee Cake (

    2 cups all-purpose flour, sift before measuring
    2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
    1/2 cup butter
    1/3 cup sifted flour
    1 egg, slightly beaten
    1 cup buttermilk (I used low fat)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

    Stir together 2 cups flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Measure 3/4 cup of mixture and set aside for topping. To remaining flour mixture add 1/3 cup flour; blend well. Add egg, buttermilk, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough into a buttered 9-inch square pan (I used a 8 inch round). Mix together the reserved flour sugar mixture and the chopped walnuts or pecans; sprinkle over the top of the batter. Bake coffee cake in a 350° oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Let coffee cake cool in pan then cut into serving-size pieces.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Grilled Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce and Basmati Rice

    Wow. This is SO GOOD. Seriously.. its the best salmon dish I have ever made. Its slightly time consuming, but the end product was so delicious. Its great to make for company.

    Grilled Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce and Basmati Rice (


    For rice
    1 cup basmati rice
    1 1/2 cups water

    For sauce
    1 1/8 teaspoons minced peeled fresh gingerroot
    1 1/8 teaspoons minced garlic
    2 1/4 teaspoons peanut oil
    3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
    1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (I used panang curry paste)
    1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
    3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 1/4 cups well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk
    3 tablespoons tomato purée
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

    For vegetables
    3 cups finely shredded green cabbage
    3/4 cup julienne strips of seeded peeled cucumber (I used carrots because I dislike cucumber)
    3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
    3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    3 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
    four 6-ounce pieces salmon fillet
    olive oil for brushing salmon
    1/4 cup roasted peanuts (skipped as well.. but feel free to add)


    Make rice in rice maker.

    Make sauce:
    In a heavy saucepan sauté gingerroot and garlic in oil over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden. Add coriander, curry powder, curry paste, paprika, and cumin and sauté, stirring, 1 minute, or until fragrant. Whisk in coconut milk, tomato purée, soy sauce, and brown sugar and bring just to a boil. Remove pan from heat and keep warm.

    Prepare vegetables:
    In a bowl toss together all vegetable ingredients.

    Prepare grill.

    Brush salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill salmon on an oiled rack (I used foil) set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals (I used a gas grill) until just cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side (no need to flip.. just cook normally if using foil).

    Put each in center of 4 plates and arrange salmon on top. Top salmon with vegetables and spoon sauce around it. Sprinkle vegetables with peanuts.

    Balsamic Honey Pecan Chicken

    I had this chicken marinating overnight and made it the next day. It was very flavorful, but be very careful not to overcook your chicken or it will be dry dry dry!

    (sorry for the blurry picture)

    Balsamic Honey Pecan Chicken (

    2 chicken breast halves (I cut mine into smaller pieces)
    1 Tbsp. honey
    2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    2 cloves smashed garlic
    1/4 cup breadcrumbs
    1/4 cup chopped pecans
    salt and pepper

    Mix the honey, balsamic vinegar and garlic together. Add the chicken, and rub in the marinade. Allow to marinate for about 20-30 minutes (I marinated overnight).

    Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the bread crumbs and pecans. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and then dredge in the breadcrumb/pecan mixture.

    Place a wire rack on a cooking sheet and spray with oil. Place the chicken on top and spray the top with a little cooking oil. Bake for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

    Corn and Pepper Bisque

    This soup is on the spicy side, but its filling and delicious.

    Corn and Pepper Bisque (

    1.5 Tbsp butter
    1 small onion, diced
    3 large anaheim peppers (poblanos or other green chilies would work). diced
    1 jalapeno (remove the seeds and ribs if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 12 oz. can tomatillos, cored and coarsely chopped (of course you can use fresh but my store rarely carries decent garlic, let alone tomatillos)
    1 tsp. ground cumin
    1/2 tsp. oregano
    1/2 tsp. chili powder
    salt and pepper
    2 cups corn (bought from trader joes!)
    4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
    1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour) (skipped because I could not find it)
    3/4 cup half and half or cream

    In a stockpot or dutch oven, melt the butter. Cook the onions and all the peppers over medium-low heat until they become tender. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.

    Add the tomatillos, cumin, oregano, chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, to combine the flavors and cook the tomatillos.

    Put the pepper/onion/tomato mixture and 1 cup of the roasted corn in a food processor. Process the mixture into a puree (there will still be pieces of the veggies since there is not much liquid at this point).

    Put the pureed mixture back into the dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Mix the masa harina with the chicken broth until it’s dissolved. Add the broth/masa mixture to the dutch oven, as well as the rest of the corn. Simmer for a few minutes and season to taste, if necessary. Add the half and half or cream, and heat through.

    Molten Lava Cakes

    I've wanted to make these for years and years and I finally did. They are super easy and so delicious! You will find a ton of different recipes out there for them. This one worked really well for me and I will definitely make them again for a special occasion.

    Molten Lava Cakes (

    4 tbsp butter
    1/3 cup sugar
    3 large eggs
    1/3 cup flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    8 oz bittersweet chocolate*, melted
    *8 ounces is about 1 1/3 C of bittersweet chocolate chips. Make the 1/3 cup a little over-full and you should be good
    powdered sugar for dusting
    sweetened whipped cream for serving
    butter and sugar for preparing pans

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare pans, spray ramekins with nonstick spray or coat with melted butter. Sprinkle in some granulated sugar to coat the entire inner surface and tap out any extra discard.

    In a bowl with a mixer beat the 4 tbsp butter and 1/3 cup sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour and salt and slowly add it into the butter mixture just until combined. Stir in melted chocolate by hand, just until combined. Don't over mix.

    Divide batter evenly among ramekins and then place them on a baking sheet. (If using ramekins you'll want them not quite 3/4 full).

    Bake just until tops of cakes no longer jiggle when pan is lightly shaken, about 10-12 for ramekins. Remove from oven and let stand 10 min.

    I topped mine with kahlua flavored whipped cream.

    Cornish Game Hens

    I've never made cornish game hens before, but when they went on sale at my local grocery store, I thought I would give them a try. With little effort, I had a delicious dinner.

    Singaporean Style Cornish Game Hens (by: me!)

    2 cornish game hens
    olive oil (~2 tablespoons)
    4 tablespoons Singapore Seasoning
    2/3 cup white wine
    2/3 cup chicken broth
    salt to taste

    - Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    - Rub olive oil on each hen to coat.
    - Season each hen w/ 2 tablespoons Singapore seasoning (give them a good dusting.. press to get the seasonings to stick).
    - Bake in 450 degree oven for 25 minutes (shorten if skin begins to burn). Remove from oven.
    - Lower heat to 350 degrees.
    - Combine wine and broth in a bowl and pour on top of both game hens.
    - Put back into oven for another 25 minutes or longer (until broth runs clear and hen is fully cooked)

    I found that one cornish game hen was enough for two people. Serve with your choice of sides. Enjoy!

    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    Pesto Pinwheels

    They are delicious and super simple to make for a party.

    Pesto Pinwheels (Joelen's Culinary Adventures)

    Basil Pesto
    makes about 1 cup
    2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches)
    1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
    1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 large clove garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

    Place all the ingredients in a food processor; pulse a few times, then process until fairly smooth, or to the desired consistency, scraping down the sides occasionally.


    1 cup prepared pesto (above)
    1 tube package of croissant dough
    1 egg, scrambled (for egg wash)

    Preheat your oven to 350.

    Line your baking sheet with parchment. If you don't have parchment, an ungreased baking sheet will do.

    Remove the croissant dough from the packaging and unroll. Separate the dough into 4 rectangles (made up of 2 preforated triangles). Press the dough on the preforated edges to seal.

    On each rectangle of dough, spread 1/4 cup of your prepared pesto. Taking the short side of the rectangle, roll the dough to create a log. Cut the log into 1/2" slices and place on the prepared baking sheet.

    Repeat with the remaining rectangles of dough.

    Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, rotating your pan after 5 minutes for even baking.

    Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving warm.

    Chipotle Sliders

    These are super easy and a big hit. Next time I will make them I will try to make the burger patty a bit thinner and wider.

    First, the bun recipe that I used for ALL the sliders.

    Hamburger Buns (King Arthur Flour)

    3/4 to 1 cup (6 to 8 ounces) lukewarm water
    2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter
    1 large egg
    3 1/2 (14 3/4 ounces) cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (or whatever)
    1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1 tablespoon instant yeast

    Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.

    Gently deflate the dough. Shape each bun my taking a golf ball sized amount of dough and make into a ball. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy.

    If desired, brush buns lightly with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, till golden.

    Now onto the sliders:

    Chipotle Sliders (Food Network)


    Chipotle Mayonnaise:
    1 cup mayonnaise
    2 chipotles in adobo sauce
    1 tablespoon adobo sauce
    1/2 lime, juice
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck, 80/20
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Cheese slices, your choice
    Mini burger buns

    Burger Bar (if desired):
    Chipotle Mayonnaise
    Red onion slices

    Chipotle Mayonnaise:
    Add all the ingredients to a food processor and puree. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    Preheat grill over medium-high heat.

    Form the meat into 2 to 3-ounce portions, packed tightly. Season with salt and pepper.

    Place the sliders on the grill. Wait until they are nice and crusty on the first side, about 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and cook another 4 minutes. When the sliders are about done, top with desired cheese and close the grill, allowing the cheese to melt.

    Place the slider on mini burger buns and top with chipotle mayonnaise and any other desired toppings.

    I also made BBQ Bacon Sliders by using the same meat patty and adding bbq sauce, cheddar cheese, and bacon.

    Veggie Sliders (Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise)

    I made sliders for our annual Super Bowl Party and decided to try some veggie sliders. I took a veggie burger recipe and just made them into mini burgers. They were so good! I will make these again for sure.

    Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise (Cooking Light)

    1/2 cup diced onion
    1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
    2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
    1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
    1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained

    1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
    1 teaspoon canned minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

    To prepare burgers, combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Add pinto beans and corn; partially mash with a fork. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 3 1/2-inch patty, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

    To prepare chipotle mayonnaise, combine mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon chipotle in a small bowl; set aside.

    Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top each patty with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 lettuce leaf, and top half of bun.

    I made these into sliders and used mini buns. You can make regular burgers too.

    Thumbprint Cookies (Trios)

    I love thumbprint cookies, so I thought I would try to make them myself. I followed the recipe exactly, but next time I would not use apricot jam (not a fan) and would not join them into trios as it calls (cookies were way too big!).

    Trios (

    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    About 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
    About 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
    About 2 tablespoons strawberry preserves


    Make dough:
    Whisk together flour and salt. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in egg and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

    Assemble and bake cookies:
    Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Roll 3 separate level teaspoons of dough each into a ball, then flatten each ball slightly (to 1 inch wide and less than 1/2 inch thick). Arrange them in a triangle on baking sheet with edges touching in center, then make a deep indentation in center of each round with wooden spoon handle. Make more cookies, arranging them 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Note: You can make them as individual cookies

    Fill indentations in each cookie with about 1/88 teaspoon jam (each cookie should have 3 different fillings), avoiding any large pieces of fruit.

    Bake until cookies are baked through and golden-brown on edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

    Bake more batches on cooled baking sheets lined with fresh parchment.

    Pumpkin Pancakes

    I love pumpkin and pancakes, so this combo is excellent. The pancakes puffed up a lot so if you like thinner pancakes you might want to thin the batter out a bit.

    Pumpkin Pancakes (The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

    Serves 2-3

    1 cup (5 ounces) flour
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    ¼ teaspoon allspice
    ¼ nutmeg
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
    ½ cup pumpkin
    1 cup buttermilk
    vegetable oil for the pan

    1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the butter, pumpkin, and buttermilk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently until batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps. Let batter rest while pan heats, at least 5 minutes.

    2. Heat non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour pancake batter onto hot griddle. When pancake is golden brown, flip to cook other side. Keep warm in oven heated to 275 degrees.

    Monday, January 26, 2009


    Need a good budget wine under 10? Here is what I just ordered from Bevmo and my thoughts on the ones I have drank so far (will update again later):

    La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux '06 ): Table wine with screw top.. nothing exciting.
    Pepperwood Grove Merlot '05: Pretty decent merlot.
    Francis Coppola Rosso Classic '05: A really interesting blend of different grapes. I enjoyed it.
    Palo Alto Reserve Red '07: A new favorite. Bold and strong flavors.
    Renwood Zinfandel Lodi '05
    Tormaresca Neprica '07: Not a stand out due to lack of flavor.

    Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

    I love scones that are traditional and not sweet. I took a classic buttermilk scone recipe and just added blueberries.

    Blueberry Buttermilk Scones (


    3 cups flour
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup currants (I used blueberries)
    1 tablespoon heavy cream, for brushing

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Add butter and mix with your fingertips to a coarse meal. Add buttermilk and mix just until combined.

    Transfer dough to a floured board and divide into 2 parts. Roll each to 3/4 inch thick rounds. I would then put the blueberries in the middle and combine the two rounds. Then cut into 8 wedges. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

    Macaroni and Cheese

    Can you believe I have never made home made macaroni and cheese? I found this recipe and decided to give it a shot. It was very simple and tasty, but too cheesy for my husband. I guess thats kind the point of mac and cheese though, right? If you like comfort food, you'll enjoy this.

    Macaroni and Cheese (

    I did not make the bread crumb topping, but just sprinkled more cheddar on top and broiled as directed. Thats just a personal preference of mine.

    Bread Crumb Topping:
    6 slices white sandwich bread (good-quality, about 6 ounces), torn into rough pieces
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces

    Pasta and Cheese:
    1 pound elbow macaroni
    1 tablespoon table salt
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1½ teaspoons powdered mustard
    ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
    5 cups milk
    8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , shredded (2 cups)
    8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (2 cups)
    1 teaspoon table salt


    1. For the bread crumbs: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.

    2. For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

    3. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

    4. Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9 by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.