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.

Moroccan Chicken

This chicken dish was so delicious. The chicken was moist and flavorful. The lentils and veggies added another dimension. It will be a repeat it our house.

Moroccan Chicken (


1-1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
4 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/4 cup raisins (I left this out)
salt and pepper


Mix the first 7 ingredients, along with some salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Pat dry the chicken thighs and rub each thigh, on both sides, with a quarter of the mixture. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Remove.

To the pan, add the onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the garlic, celery and carrots and saute for an additional minute. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, lentils, raisins and salt and pepper. Place the chicken thighs on top. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then cover. Simmer for about 35-40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Nutritional Info Per Serving (two thighs, based on SparkRecipes; as I have noted before chicken thigh nutritional information is apparently impossible to keep consistent so this could be off). Calories: 395.4 / Fat: 12.7g / Carbs: 36.4g / Dietary Fiber: 7.4g / Protein: 34.6

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

This appetizer was a huge hit at our Christmas Party. I've made it for 2 other parties since then. Its always a crowd pleaser.

(I promise it tastes better than it looks)

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions (


2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
8 cups sliced onions (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon sugar

1 8-inch-diameter 32- to 36-ounce French Brie, packed in wooden box (reserve box)
2 French bread baguettes, sliced

Melt butter in heavy very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until just tender, about 6 minutes. Add minced thyme, reduce heat to medium and cook until onions are golden, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup wine; stir until almost all liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over onions and sauté until soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup wine; stir just until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool. (Can be prepare 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap Brie, reserving bottom of wooden box. Cut away only top rind of cheese, leaving rind on sides and bottom intact. Return Brie to box, rind side down. Place box on baking sheet. Top Brie evenly with onion mixture. Bake until cheese just melts, about 30 minutes. Transfer Brie in box to platter. Surround with baguette slices.

Pumpkin Pie

This is a great pumpkin pie. I even had a friend who hates pumpkin pie, declare it pretty darn good. Now thats a compliment!

Pumpkin Pie (

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
1 piece pre-made pie dough
Whipped cream, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place 1 piece of pre-made pie dough down into a (9-inch) pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Pinch and crimp the edges together to make a pretty pattern. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the shell completely. Fill the shell up to the edges with pie weights or dried beans (about 2 pounds) and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color.

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated.

Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Pie Crust (

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold
12 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and break it up with your hands as you start to coat it all up with the flour. Add the cold butter cubes and work it into the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter. Work it quickly, so the butter doesn't get too soft, until the mixture is crumbly, like very coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together forming a dough. Bring the dough together into a ball.

When it comes together stop working it otherwise the dough will get over-worked and tough. Divide the dough in half and flatten it slightly to form a disk shape. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. On a floured surface roll each disk out into a 10 to 11-inch circle to make a 9-inch pie.

Veggie Casserole

My family makes this every thanksgiving. Its simple and classic.

Veggie Casserole (by, mom!)

2 packages california style veggies, frozen
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz sour cream
10 oz cheddar cheese (use your judgement..)
1 jar French's fried onions.

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all but the friend onions together and put into a 9x13 casserole dish. You don't need to defrost the veggies. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until bubbly. Remove the foil and cover the casserole with the friend onions. Bake for 10 more minutes.

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

You won't want to make the traditional sweet potato casserole after having this. Enjoy the spice! (Be sure to use a potato ricer!)

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes (

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 whole canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can of peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add butter to potatoes and mash with potato masher. Add peppers, sauce, and salt and continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately.

Mashed Potatoes

Do you have a potato ricer? You MUST get one. You will never have lumpy or gooey mashed potatoes again. These will be the most creamy mashed potatoes you have ever had, but only if you use a potato ricer.

(Excuse the picture, this is what happens when you ask your husband to serve the mashed potatoes)

Mashed Potatoes (

4 pounds golden creamer potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a bowl. Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. Mix together with a spoon and add the chives.

Giblet Gravy

This gravy is easy to make and never turns out bad.

Giblet Gravy (


1 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups turkey giblet stock, including the reserved cooked neck and giblets


Skim fat from pan juices, reserving 1/3 cup fat, and deglaze pan with white wine over moderately high heat, scraping up brown bits. Bring white wine to a boil and remove pan from heat.

In a saucepan whisk together reserved fat and flour and cook roux over moderately low heat, whisking, 3 minutes. Add white wine mixture and stock or broth in a stream, whisking, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Season gravy with salt and pepper and transfer to a hot gravy boat.

Roast Turkey

This was the very first time I had brined a turkey. I did cut back the salt and sugar by 1/3 because I had a turkey that was already injected (as most turkeys are). It turned out well, but maybe it could have been even better? Next time I will be more daring. I brined it in the fridge using a roasting bag. It worked out well.

Alton Brown's Roast Turkey (


1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil
2 to 3 days before roasting:


Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 151 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing

By far my favorite recipe was the Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing. You must love mushrooms to enjoy this!

Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing (

1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 8-ounce French-bread baguettes, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 large egg, beaten to blend


Combine 1 1/2 cups hot water and dried porcini in small bowl. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 30 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to work surface; chop finely. Pour mushroom soaking liquid into small bowl, leaving any sediment behind, and reserve.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shiitake and button mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes. Add leeks and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine, thyme, and porcini mushrooms. Cook until almost all wine evaporates, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover mushroom mixture and porcini soaking liquid separately and chill. Reheat mushroom mixture to lukewarm before continuing.) Transfer mixture to very large bowl.

Mix bread into mushroom mixture. Season with salt and pepper; mix in egg.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add enough reserved mushroom soaking liquid to stuffing to moisten (3/4 cup to 1 1/4 cups). Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until heated through, about 40 minutes.

Thanksgiving Recap (2 months late)

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year and had 3 people over for dinner. It was lots of fun and I think the food turned out really well. I made some recipes that will be making a repeat for sure.

Here was the menu:
Alton Brown's Roast Turkey (first time brining)
Giblet Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Chipolte Sweet Potatoes
Leek & Wild Mushroom Stuffing
Veggie Casserole (family recipe)
Pumpkin Pie (crust)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine

If I manage to take a picture tomorrow, I will post it, but this recipe is delicious and will be a repeat in our house. Its so easy to make and makes leftovers.

Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine

1 teaspoon olive oil
Cooking spray
3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (skipped because my store was out of mushrooms!)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (I used 2 red bell peppers to make up for no mushrooms)
3 cups chopped fresh spinach (I used one package frozen chopped)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) carton 2% low-fat cottage cheese
4 cups hot cooked penne (I used a 16oz package and it worked great and made a lot)
2 cups shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk (I used fat free)
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted
(I also added about 1-2 tablespoons red pepper flake for some heat)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, oregano, and black pepper; sauté 3 minutes or just until spinach wilts.

Place cottage cheese in a food processor; process until very smooth. Combine spinach mixture, cottage cheese, pasta, chicken, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, milk, and soup in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 345 (25% from fat)
Fat: 9.7g (sat 5.1g,mono 3.1g,poly 1g)
Protein: 31.7g
Carbohydrate: 32.9g
Fiber: 2.1g
Cholesterol: 56mg
Iron: 2mg
Sodium: 532mg
Calcium: 275mg