Friday, November 6, 2009

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

This morning, in celebration of not having anything to do (well, if you don't count the three papers due before December 1), I woke up and felt that something special needed to happen for breakfast. It was cold in the apartment because it actually got cold last night outside. So this something would need to fill me up with delicious goodness and the apartment with residual heat.
My mom loaned me one of my favorite cook books of hers: Muffins and More. The banana muffin recipes that I posted are from this book- and honestly, I have yet to go wrong with any of the recipes. Here is what I made this morning:

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake
*the original recipe is for muffins, but I didn't feel like cleaning up muffin tins afterwards

1 1/2 cups - all-purpose flour
1/2 cup - white sugar
3 tsp - Baking POWDER
1/2 tsp - Salt

*Mix together and make a "well" in a medium-sized bowl

1 - Egg
1/4 cup - Milk
1/4 cup - cooking oil
1 apple - peeled, cut into small pieces or shredded

*Mix together and add to the flour mixture

Grease a 9x9 pan (or 12 muffin tins) and set oven at 400F
*Scoop batter into pan, or fill muffin tins 3/4 full

1/2 cup - Packed BROWN sugar
1/4 cup - flour
1/4 cup - butter at room temperature

*Using a fork, pastry mixer, or hands, mix all together until crumbly.
*Sprinkle on top of coffee cake/muffin batter

*Bake for 20-25 min or until slightly browned on top

I'm not going to lie: when first mixing this up, it did not seem like enough liquid. The batter initially felt really dry. However, the apples release a fair amount of liquid once they start baking, so just trust the proportions. Because the batter was so thick, I think it is easier to make a coffee cake out of the batter, but that is just my opinion!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wheat Bread

This is the whole wheat bread recipe I have used for years. I very carefully paid attention to what I do and how much of everything I use, so I hope this works. Let me know how successful or unsuccessful the adventure unfolds for you. Scott's first attempt was not as he wished. I hope I have cleaned up the problems with recipe.

Here it is:

Mix together and let proof:

2 cups warm milk or water

2 TBL sugar

1 TBL yeast


4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup dried milk if using water

1/3 cup honey

Mix well until dough becomes sticky and develops some gloss.

Let set 20 minutes (or longer if you become busy--it really doesn't mind. Bread was invited by God to accommodate the unpredictable needs of small children--or large children)

Mix in:

2 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1 TBL salt

2 - 2 1/2 cups white flour—dough should be slightly sticky

Turn out onto a well floured counter—let set 10 minutes

Knead until smooth – working in no more that 1/4 cup flour

Let rise until double – 45 minutes and form into 2 loaves or

2 doz large rolls

Let rise and bake at 370°F


I have started adding about 1 1/2 cup cooked 10 grain cereal—it adds a

wonderfully nutty flavor. The dough will require about 1/2 cup additional flour

and will be a little more difficult to knead as it will be stickier. Do not add too much flour, or the bread will be really heavy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

Here are the pumpkin muffins that should be made each fall. It makes 5 dozen, so there is plenty to share :) or maybe not.

Pumpkin Muffins
Stir together in a large bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp soda
1 tea salt
1 tea baking powder
1 tea cinnamon
1/2 tea nutmeg
1/2 tea ginger
Add the following—stirring well:
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 – 15 oz can of pumpkin
5 eggs
Mix in—stirring well:
2 pkgs of vanilla instant pudding mix
Lightly grease muffin tins
Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes
This makes 5 doz mini muffins – I have not used regular sized muffin tins.
Frost with cream cheese frosting after cooled.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Orange Rolls

As I made these for a church activity, I wrote the recipe--it has slight changes from the original recipe in Bake in Style, Duncan Style. I used buttermilk and it really softened the dough. You can use the same dough for kolaches.

Orange Rolls

Mix in a large mixing bowl and let set until bubbly:

2 pkg yeast

1 cup warm water (105°F)

1/2 cup white sugar


1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mashed potatoes (I put both in a blender and blend until smooth)

1 TBL orange zest

Add: 4 cups flour and beat until smooth. Let rest 5 minutes


2 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1 TBL salt - beat until smooth

Add: approx 3 cups flour (dough will be soft and somewhat sticky)

Let rest 5 minutes and the knead gently—the dough is to be softer than bread

Let rise 45 minutes.

After rising – punch down and let rest 5 minutes while you melt 1/3 cup butter (don’t cheat and use margarine)

Roll the dough out in a rectangle that is 8 inches wide and however long. Spread the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/3 cup orange juice concentrate, 1/4 cup white corn syrup, and 1 TBL orange zest.

Roll up the dough and cut (quickly so you don’t lose too much of the filling) and place slices in a 10/15 brownie pan that has been well greased with shortening—do not use spray oil stuff.

Let rise about 30 minutes and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes—rolls should just be taking color. Frost while warm so frosting melts into the rolls.

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

This recipe is almost as good as the chocolate chip one that Stacy posted--almost meaning it does not contain chocolate :) It is wonderfully spicy and moist.

Zucchini Pineapple Bread

3 eggs Mix together in a bowl

1 cup Crisco oil

2 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup pineapple tidbits

3 cups flour Mix in a separate bowl and add to other

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon mixture

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 cup walnuts

Grease and flour the pans Bake at 350 45 – 50 minutes for a loaf pan

Chocolate Sauce that will permanently change your life

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

¼ cup cocoa

1-cup sugar

½ cup whipping cream (I use the whole Half pint)

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp vanilla

Measure cocoa, sugar, cream, syrup, butter and salt into a heavy saucepan, about 1 ½ quart size. Stir until blended. Bring to a boil over moderate high heat. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Nut Bread (Mom's)

I've been waiting for Mom to jump on here and put this one up herself but she's a little computer challenged ;) so I'm just going to add this before we forget. It really is a great one. The zucchini/chocolate may sound like an odd combination, but really what you end up with is a very moist and delicious quick bread. Or muffin! The loaves make great gifts, the mini muffins make for a lazy and quick snack(no inconvenient cutting involved, just pop in your mouth!). My kids love these.

Mom's Choc Chip Zuke Nut Bread


3 eggs - beaten until light
Add: 1 1/2 cup sugar(I do more like 2)
3 tea vanilla
1 cup oil (I cut the oil to 2/3 cup and added another cup of zucchini)
Mix well

Add: 2 cups grated zucchini (I add almost 3 cups)

Add: 3 cups flour
1 tea salt
1 tea soda
1 tea baking powder
3 tea cinnamon (I also add some allspice and nutmeg)

Add: 3oz pkg instant chocolate pudding mix (I never have this on hand so I don't put it in personally)
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup choc chips (I add almost 1 cup )

Grease and flour the muffin tins or mini loaf pans(I find it doesn't work to try to make a larger loaf than the minis). Bake at 325 or 350 for 20min and check to see if done. I find the mini muffins are done at 325 and 20ish mins, the loaves take around 10min more. To check to see if they're done, take a toothpick and insert into center. If there's batter on it when you pull it out, isn't done! Also you'll notice the edges brown. Most times the entire top of my loaf is brown. Don't worry, it probably isn't burning.

Spinach Cheese Pasta

This is a tame pasta, good for kids(16g protein!). I'd think easily dressed up for adults, as well, if you were to use a ricotta cheese or something. Scott chime in with recommendations if you think of any. Personally I enjoyed it just as is; it is comforting. Quick to fix and doesn't have a ton in it. Good with a simple salad and crusty bread on a cool fall night.

Spinach Cheese Pasta, serves 8


1 (16 ounce) package extra wide egg noodles
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed (I did more like 5)
1 1/2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach (I used both packages)
1 (8 ounce) container cottage cheese
1 (3 ounce) package finely grated Parmesan cheese (Didn't end up putting this on top as I thought might be too much for the kids)


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente(took me more like 16min). Drain, and return to the pot.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and cook the garlic and spinach 3 to 5 minutes, until well coated(have spinach thawed prior and I prefer to saute the garlic first, then throw the spinach on top). Transfer to the pot with the drained pasta. Toss in the cottage cheese(everything is hot enough it'll warm up and melt the cheese). Top with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Gotta give credit where credit is due:

Apple Red Onion Chutney

We're 'bout to get crazy in 'har. I'm posting up 2 recipes, maybe 3. Maybe 4. Who knows just when the craziness will stop? First up is the chutney- I love this stuff and I don't usually like a chutney that well. Delicious on hotdogs or ham sandwiches. Pretty much you can sub this on whatever you're putting mustard on. Makes whatever you're putting it on taste like a million bucks!(slight exaggeration, I've never actually seen, held nor tasted a million bucks).

Apple Red Onion Chutney

Makes 1 lb

4 tbsp extra virigin olive oil
2lb red oinions thinly slices
6 tbsp sugar
2 apples
6 tbsp cider vinegar

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan and add onions. Stir in sugar and let cook uncovered over medium heat for 40min, stirring occaisionally until onions have softened.

Peel, core and grate apples. Add them to the pan with the vinegar and continue to cook for 20min or until the chutney is thick and sticky.

Spoon into sterilized jars and cover when cool. Label and store in fridge up to 1 month.

**Variation, add a cinnamon stick to the pan during cooking. Remove the stick before bottling.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cherry Garcia Cookies

I was craving ice cream and cookies one night. Instead, I ate some dried cherries (a little more healthy). The idea to make cookies with them came to mind and this is what I found. I tweaked it a bit, adding more semisweet chocolate chips and reducing the white chocolate ones. They came out really well.

Cherry Garcia Cookies

• 1 cup dried cherries
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1-1/2 cups flour
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
• 1/2 cup light brown sugar, (packed)
• 1 egg
• 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place dried cherries in a bowl soak in cherry liqueur overnight. Or, you can cover them with boiling water. Let sit 30 minutes to plump up. Drain well, pat dry, and coarsely chop.

Whisk together salt, baking soda, and flour in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add flour mixture to butter mixture half at a time and mix until combined. Fold in cherries, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts. Refrigerate cookie dough 30 to 45 minutes to firm up.

Drop dough by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets, placing cookies about 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to racks to cool completely. Store in a covered container.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stacy's Brazilian Soup

(as Blogspot hates me this evening, this is freakin take 2 in writing this all down!)

I am so proud! I did this myself! Ok, so I used one recipe and it's mismatched photo as a base but made up the rest based on what I had. Here is the base: and you can see in the pic, not so much the same thing according to the directions below the picture!

This is what I came up with using the base plus stuff in my kitchen that needed used or I thought sounded good:

8cu water
1 can black beans drained/rinsed
1 can pinto beans drained/rinsed
3-4 med. tomatoes chopped to desired size
1 sm-med. onion white or yellow(I had yellow)
3 green onions diced
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 bell pepper whatever size and color(I had a small green one from the garden)
1 pint corn(frozen from our garden!)
2-3 cu chopped zucchini(of course, from our garden LOL)
1 cu leftover cooked rice from an earlier meal
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp chili powder(used Penzey's medium hot, yum!)
1/2 tsp cumin ground or seed
salt and pepper to taste(sppose I ended up doing 1/2 tsp each)
1 tbsp lemon, lime or orange juice

*served with
tortilla chips
shredded cheddar cheese

Pretty much threw it all in the stock pot, save for the already cooked rice and green onions which I did the last 10 or so. Let it boil/simmer for 45min til it cooked down some. Then let each person add cheese and chips. The new thing for us? I put chunked avocado, mango and oranges on top of each person's served bowl. Sounds weird, was totally delicious(and thanks to that mismatched photo to the above recipe link!) This made quite a bit. We ate it for dinner and now have 2 meals in the freezer plus 2 servings for Isaac to take to work AND still more to share for the roommate and her boyfriend tomorrow. Pretty much you can take the base and do whatever you want with it, I imagine. A side note, this was so filling I have no idea what else you'd eat with it or why you'd even want to try!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Someone's in the Kitchen with Dina making Pepper Jelly, Someone's in the Kitchen I know, I know...

Anyone know just who was in the kitchen with Dina? I know who's not in the kitchen. Me. That's right. You know who is? My husband. That's right! I'm sitting on the couch writing to you while my loving husband seeds peppers for pepper jelly this evening. But don't feel too poorly for him, he didn't get to experience the *joys* of being an at home parent this week and all the shining moments that come with it. Like, a potty training toddler and corn and bean fed infants. Need I say more. Ah, but there is more! Because I am also a portable oven. How so? I am the Constant Baker, the 24/7 maker of one Bun to Be called Sam, somewhere around New Year's. Are you feeling sympathetic, yet? Say 'Yes' or I shall go into detail just what it means when I say corn and bean fed...

Back to the kitchen! Yesterday we made 11 pints of salsa using peppers and tomatoes from our garden. I'm not even positive what some of the peppers are, but we used them regardless. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, it's all about balance and creativity. Any taste-testing volunteers in a week or two? In truth, I find it difficult to eat my own fare as I am far too critical to actually enjoy it! Unfortunately we are to the end of the tomatoes and won't be making more salsa, but we do have peppers by the bushel. Say, 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers' seven times fast! Hence this evening's foray into Creative Pepper Jelly Making. This will be our second year making pepper jelly. Last year's (which I just got up the courage to try literally a week ago) was lacking in flavor and peppers. Plus a little too sweet due to the apple cider vinegar. I most enjoy a jelly with lots of peppers in it. It must have some bite, or by the time it's put over cream cheese it becomes too sickly sweet.

Pepper Jelly take #01 for this year has: 1 1/4 cu jalapenos, 1/2 chili pepper, 2 bananas(we think) and a 1/2 large red bell. All seeded and diced, currently looking lovely in my pot. Like a Christmas present, which this will most likely become. Add to this 2 cu white vinegar and 6 cu sugar. My thought on white versus apple is that it will hold it's color better and look pretty. If I had apple on hand I might do a batch of each just to taste test the difference. But we don't, so here's to hoping! Lastly, 1 pkg liquid pectin. We went on a limb here and picked up a box of Ball brand seeing as the Certo I bought a year ago was apparently to be used by 2006. I'm not sure if I'm more upset that in 2008, there was still a box of 2006 sitting there meaning no one else was canning or, now I can't use it because I checked the blasted date.

As far as the rest of the nitty gritty:

Fill a water bath canner about half full; add the empty canning jars (6 half-pint size) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and leave jars in the hot water. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add the lids; keep hot.
In a large stainless steel stockpot or kettle, combine vinegar, chopped/processed jalapeno peppers, and sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in the liquid pectin and return to a full rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off any foam. Ladle into the hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace and wipe jar rims with a wet paper towel. Fit with lids and screw on the bands firmly. Place the jars in the canner on a rack and add more boiling water to at least 1 inch above the jars.
Bring to a boil, cover, and keep boiling for 10 minutes. Note: 1-pint jars should be processed for 15 minutes. Makes about 6 half-pint (8 ounce) jars.

Cross your spatulas, throw some salt over your shoulder and dance the kitchen jig that this turns out! Before I forget- Just what does one do with pepper jelly? Put it on toast, meats, bagels. Most commonly you take a brick of softened cream cheese, throw it on a plate, pour a jar of jelly over it and serve with crackers. For anyone that's not tried it before, this might sound like a really strange combination but it is very, very addictive. Great for parties!

Be on the lookout for apple/red onion chutney in the next few weeks!

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia

Easy. Delicious. And I don't even like fish as a rule of thumb. Need I say more? This one's courtesy of and 'chef' Pheobe.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (not your cheapy kraft kind! get the good stuff- 100% better)
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I never have lemons on hand, it's always from the concentrate and works as well)
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder (I subb'd a clove of minced garlic. Can't go wrong with fresh garlic!)
1/8 teaspoon celery salt (Also didn't have on hand, used celery seed)
2 pounds tilapia fillets (Should be enough for 4 fillets)
bread crumbs to dust on top

Preheat your oven's broiler. Grease a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil. (Do the alum foil! So easy!)
In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes. (I flipped once more and did for 1 more min since it seemed to need it) Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. (Here's where I dusted the tops with the bread crumbs) Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to over cook the fish.

Served with diced, sauteed zucchini in olive oil seasoned with ground pepper and salt(just a little). Would be great with a salad and crusty bread, too! The first time I made this I don't know what I did but it wasn't as good(one big change was probably using real parm). Of course here the second time I made this for the kids and it came out perfectly I managed not to make enough for myself. For the love of Pete. Thankfully, I only briefly singed the pot holder on the element and managed a nickel sized burn on my hand from the baking dish.

Eat your fish! Mama says!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Italian Lasagna- by a Little Greek Grandma

Meat Filling:

2 T. Olive Oil

1 lb Italian sausage

½ lb ground beef

½ cup finely chopped onion

2-4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 T. sugar

1 T. salt

2 T. basil (fresh) (at end of sauce)

1 T. rosemary

1 t. dried oregano

1 t. thyme

½ t. fennel seed

¼ c. Parsley

¼ t. pepper

1 big can (2 lb 3 oz) 4 cups canned whole tomatoes (puree) , un-drained

12 oz tomato paste

½ cup water


1 T, salt

12 curly lasagna noodles (3/4 of 1 lb pack)

Ricotta Cheese layer:

16 oz ricotta

1 egg

½ t. salt

1 T. chopped Parsley


1 lb mozzarella cheese grated

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese


1) In a large, heavy pot (Dutch oven), add onion, garlic and meat. Mix together, breaking meat apart. Cook until meat is well browned. Remove excess fat.

2) Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs (not basil), sugar, salt and pepper and ½ cup water. Mash tomatoes with wooden spoon. Simmer covered for approximately 1 ½ hr until thick. Add basil.

3) Boil water for noodles, add salt when water comes to a boil, add noodles. Cook for 8-10 min (al dente). Drain and allow to cool.

4) In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, parsley, salt and mix.

5) Preheat oven to 375˚F

6) In a 13X9X2 baking dish layer the following:


Lasagna Noodles

Ricotta Cheese Layer


Repeat, adding Parmesan after the sauce layer. Finish with Mozzarella and Parmesan

7) Cover with foil and Bake 25 min, remove foil and bake 25 more minutes until fluffy. Cool 15 min before serving

Recipe: Pilafi - Greek Lemon Rice

Prounounced: "Pee-la-fee"

½ lb butter- yes you can do less, but why bother?
2 c uncooked long grain rice (Uncle Ben’s)
¾ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups hot water
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
Pepper to taste

Put everything in a pot, bring to a slight boil. Place lid on pot and allow to simmer for 17 min, taste to check the texture for doneness. Keep in mind that the rice cooks slightly after it’s off the stove.

This is a family favorite that my grandmother used to make for us whenever we needed a bit of "summer" in our bellies. It's especially delicious with Spanakopitakia!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Banana Muffins... that will change your life

Ten or so years ago, I came across a recipe book in my mom's cupboard titled Muffins and More. Some of the recipes are a little odd- but there are definitely delicious things to be found. Here are two recipes for banana muffins- one regular and one bran- that I've made SO many times. They always please. Now that I think of it, I should post the recipe for the pumpkin muffins sometime soon. But that is for another time.

Banana Muffins (regular)
1 3/4 cups - flour
1 tsp - baking soda
1/4 tsp- salt

1/2 cup- butter
1 1/4 cups- white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup- sour cream
1 cup- mashed bananas (about 3)

How to:
It is pretty easy to whip up. Combine wet ingredients in one bowl, dry in the other. Make a "well" in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet (don't over-stir or you end up with large air pockets in your crumb).

Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full.

Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes. Will make about 16 muffins.

Banana Bran Muffins
1 cup- flour
1 cup- bran cereal
1 tsp- baking powder
1 tsp- baking soda
1/2 tsp- salt
2 tbsp- cocoa

1/4 cup- butter
1/2 cup- sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup- sour milk (1 tsp vinegar in 1/4 cup milk)
1 cup- mashed bananas (about 3)

How to make:
same story as the muffins above

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake In The World


1 Coffee Mug (Large works best)
4 tablespoons flour(that's plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
(Double as needed for "fix")
Small splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well . Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to share, but WHY BOTHER?!) And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night! I used a soup mug to make this, and it doesn't get up over the rim.....a large coffee mug works great! Also we have a half pint microwave, so I cooked ours at 8 minutes and it worked great! Kool Whip or whipped cream or ice cream on top works great! What a treat! The next one I do will have chopped nuts in it. This is so tasty!

-Stacy (I haven't personally tried this, yet, it was passed to me by a friend)

Lemon Baked Pasta- PW

I stumbled across this delicious dish the other day while perusing the Pioneer Woman's website. This dish is a delightful citrus twist on the traditional; very light, very lemony. Next time I will reduce the amount of noodles(recipe calls for 1lb) to half so there is more cream to noodles. Also, be careful not to overbake. In my effort to achieve the golden brown noddles on top, I did managed not only NOT to get golden brown noodles at all but baked too much of the moisture out. It is still edible and good, but not the desired texture that I know would be much better. Without further ado, the recipe!

Baked Lemon Pasta

1 pound thin spaghetti
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups sour cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste if desired
Plenty of grated Parmesan cheese
Flat leaf parsley, chopped
Extra lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook spaghetti until al dente.
In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Squeeze lemon juice into the pan. Turn off heat. Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste, then add more salt if necessary.
Pour mixture over drained spaghetti and stir together, then pour spaghetti into an oven safe dish. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.)When you remove it from the oven, squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top.Top generously with Parmesan cheese, then chopped parsley. Give it a final squeeze of lemon juice at the end.
Serve with crusty French bread and a simple green salad.

If you are a sucker for delicious pictures, follow this:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thoughts on Cookbooks

So I have a couple of followers now and a number of people who are able to publish on here. I was wanting thoughts on various cook books. I really love having them around- even with so many recipes at my fingertips via the Internet. However, there is something about having a physical book or magazine in your hands that makes me feel better. I suppose that means I hate trees or something.

Anyway. I already have two books considered staples for French cooking (Art of French Cooking and Escoffier Cookbook). I've spent time in Italy, so I feel comfortable with Italian food but wouldn't mind having a book with really great traditional recipes. I found one call Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan that I have heard is a really great resource. I also found a really cool book of traditional German recipes that I thought would be fun to have around; it is called The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking by Mimi Sheraton. The last book I think I want to purchase is The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer.

If you have any other suggestions of books to have, I'd love to hear. I have a subscription to Cooks Illustrated right now that I like to have handy. It includes a lot of really great and interesting recipes- though not all of them are what they tout them to be. For example, I had the simple project of making scones blow up in my face as I followed their incredibly terrible recipe and suggested techniques. However, other ideas they give have been very useful and they have great equipment reviews included in every issue (considering the magazine has no advertisements or sponsors, this is VERY helpful before making any purchases)!

Reading List and a first fall recipe

The past week or so, time has been in short supply. As a result, complicated meals just were not in order. Also the weather in Chicago feels like full-blown Autumn already: low humidity, cloudy and cool days, brisk winds, low temperatures all around. It makes me nervous about the idea of an early frost- not just for my beautiful potted plants outside, but the effect it would have on the millions of acres of farmland in the upper Midwest. I don't think people understand how a bad harvest one year will affect the price of everything from flour to vegetables to meat and dairy. So keep your fingers crossed that frost won't show it's face until the early part of October.

Anyway. In my free-time, which is often most abundant while taking public transit to and from work, I have been reading a really fantastic book (especially for somebody like me who would rather be spending that time in a kitchen). Heat by Bill Buford is extremely entertaining so far. It follows the experience of the author as an amateur cook in the kitchen of a very famous New York chef. The story also slowly explains the background of the famous and eccentric boss. I've found it not only very informative about the life of restaurant workers behind the house, but cooking and prep techniques. It is pretty straight-forward and comes off as stream-of-conscious writing, though it is very well-written. The diction is not at all elevated, so I feel it is pretty accessible to most people.
While reading it, I was reminded to mention it in this blog as well as my all-time favorite cooking-fiction book Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck. That book, which I have read probably 5 or 6 times now, never ceases to entertain and inspire my personal cooking adventures. Though I love to cook and have a good time doing it, his life upon a private yacht for a summer on the Mediterranean is just a wee bit more fun. I'll keep imagining though! Check it out though. I seem to keep giving away the book and have bought it now at least three times...

Anyway. Quickly before I have to go. The other night I made Lentil Soup and Wheat Bread. Delicious.

Lentil Soup
3 pieces of bacon
1 Onion chopped into small-ish pieces
2 medium carrots peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 Tb minced garlic (or 4-5 cloves minced)
1 can of diced tomatoes (14.5 oz usually)
2 bay leaves
2 Tb paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup green lentils (dry)
4 1/2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup dry white wine OR generous splash of vermouth
3 Tb balsamic vinegar

1. In a large stock pot, fry up bacon until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is pretty crispy. Remove the bacon. Use the remaining grease to cook (on medium heat) the onions until they are soft and fairly transparent. Add the carrots and continue cooking until they are softened slightly. Add garlic and tomatoes, continue cooking for a few minutes until very aromatic.
2. Add lentils and cook covered for about 8-10 minutes until the lentils have been browned slightly. Put in the paprika, salt, and pepper (more can be added at the end if flavors aren't right balance for you). Add in the broth and water- bring to rolling boil.
3. Once boiling, add the vermouth. Cook for 5 minutes or so before turning down to low heat.
4. Add bay leaves and continue cooking covered for about 30 minutes
5. Remove bay leaves. Ladle about 3 cups of soup into blender and puree for a few minutes. Add back into remaining soup.
6. Add balsamic vinegar and any salt/pepper that you feel it needs.

The lentils have an interesting texture to me. It took a little bit to get used to them, honestly. They are close to feeling like baked beans, but a little more dense. Maybe a little closer to black beans but smaller. Anyway. Some recipes add in thyme instead of paprika. The one I made did, but then I added paprika in my own bowl. It was much better- though I was wishing that the thyme was not a part of the recipe. I also thought that maybe instead of paprika, ground cloves might be kind of delicious in it as well. I used a spanish onion (yellow) and kind of thought that maybe next time I'd use a white onion that would have a little sharper taste to it after all that cooking down. I also never waste perfectly delicious and crispy bacon and added crumbled bits on top of mine. Yum.
And in case you are wondering, Lentils are an clean and plentiful source of protein. So you don't need to worry about adding chicken or anything to your meal for the night. Hooray for a balanced meal in a pot!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cooking Frenzy Continues

Yes, this would be the third entry for today. Though when I have the day off, I tend to just cook all my meals at home. After today's breakfast adventure, I went on a few errands with Nik including one to World Market.

Now, if you knew the part of town that I lived in, you'd be asking why I went to World Market when the half-a-dozen different markets just within a few blocks representing an equal number of nationalities would be necessary. Well, I certainly do appreciate the wide variety of foods available to me in this neighborhood; however the typical ingredients found in Italian foods are often in short supply- especially when certain ingredients do not over-lap with other cuisines. On my list of things to make before school starts and I begin finding time available to me to cook dwindle, quality risotto requires arborio rice. I also recently ran out of balsamic vinegar (gasp!) and decent extra-virgin olive oil (double gasp). Thankfully all three are readily available at the World Market in Evanston and are much cheaper there than if I were to venture out to the Whole Foods in the same area and better quality that the kinds offered at Trader Joe's down by my work.

So tonight's dinner was one dish and light after the ultra-rich hollandaise sauce of this morning.

3 1/2 cups chicken broth (stock base substitute is entirely fine and unnoticed)
a few splashes of Vermouth (gives much better taste than white wine unless using a very good and usually fairly expensive wine)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

Heat the chicken broth and vermouth over medium heat in large sauce pan. Add arborio rice. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.

3 Tb Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic chopped to medium sized bits
4 medium-sized shallots chopped
Cremini mushrooms cut into moderate-sized pieces (as many as you like)

Sautee the garlic and shallots for 5 minutes or so over medium-low heat (too much heat will risk burning your garlic; you want it hot enough to soften them and flavor the oil). Once the shallots and garlic pieces are soft, add the mushrooms and stir together. Cover and let cook for another 5 mintues or until mushrooms have darkened slightly.

Add mushroom mixture (including oil) to rice. Stir in chopped fresh chives. Cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and rice is soft.

*I like to add finely grated Parmasean cheese once I've turned off the heat. I just like a hint of the flavor, so it isn't much. And if you try to add that kind of cheese when it isn't finely grated, you'll end up chunks of it instead of it melting into the rice. It also gives pops of cheesy flavor- but not in a good way like chunks of mozarella in a marinara sauce.

Dessert for us was simple. Nik made ginger snaps; I, a peach and blueberry sherbert.

Ice Cream:
6 ripe peaches, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup blueberries
1 Tb ginger
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

Put into blender for a few minutes.
Make per your ice cream machine's instructions!

*I'll let Nik post up the ginger snap recipe!

Breakfast with Julia Child

This morning, with a day off for both Nik and myself, we took the time to make ourselves a delicious brunch instead of going out. Sounds romantic, I know- which it is always nice cooking together. But it also definitely helps staying at home to make food rather than go out. Especially for brunch- the foods are never all the complicated!

Today was started out with Eggs Benedict, green grapes, big cups of coffee, and bacon. I'm not the biggest fan of most hollandaise sauces I've had at most restaurants. They are usually far too citrus-y for my taste. I had just been reading in The Art of French Cooking how to make it, though. In the book, after explaining the old-fashioned way of making it, there is a short section on how to make it quickly in the blender. Julia Child's note is that is very convenient and easy- though the flavor is slightly "lacking" to those who are very familiar with the taste of the classic method of completely homogenizing the ingredients. For myself, I said "whatever" to that. I personally don't have the time or focus in the morning to spend 30 minutes whisking and watching carefully a sauce. Sorry die-hard French cuisine people!

Anyway, the result was divine. So I felt it would was imperitive to share the recipe:

3 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2- 2 TB Lemon Juice
1 stick of butter melted

In blender WITH lid on, mix the yolks, salt and lemon juice. Then, with the blender still on (hopefully yours has a lid with a removable portion of the top that allows you to add ingredients without worrying about spattering), add the butter slowly in a thin stream. As the butter cools and mixes with the other ingredients, it will become a thick cream. If the mixture doesn't thicken on its own, pour out the ingredients and then add again with the blender on. I didn't have to do that personally, but apparently it is the way to save the sauce!

Probably took me a little under 5 minutes including my personal search for the right amount of lemon juice to have.

Easiest bit of French cooking I have ever done!

Amish (?) Bread

When it comes to the kitchen, I am a little bit stunted in my understanding and talent for making yeast breads. I have no idea why- something in the proportions of liquids to yeast, rising times, proofing, etc. Earlier this summer, I was determined not to have to start buying breads with Nik being away- so I set out to find recipes that were fool-proof. The first few attempts usually ended in a "squatty loaf" that I would force myself to eat. However, the last thing I wanted was a bread that looked more like a pound cake loaf for my sandwiches. Finally, Nik found a recipe that was both easy and has yielded nothing but tasty loaves of white bread!

*My mom was telling me how to alter this to make wheat bread, but she should just publish her recipe up here. While I think I came make a pretty killer white bread, her wheat is still the best.*

When it is just me, I cut the loaves in half and freeze them. It is easy to thaw them as needed, which then usually means that none of the bread is lost to mold or becoming stale. In the end, everybody wins: no preservatives, no waste, no extra plastic packaging to worry about!

2 cups warm water
2 Tbs yeast
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs vegatable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
6 cups of flour

Dissolve honey and sugar into hot water, let cool slightly (I found the yeast doesn't bloom as well if the water is too hot, but the sugars don't dissolve as well if it isn't hot enough) before adding yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Beat egg and oil together. Add to yeast mixture with salt.

Stir in flour. I usually use the stand mixer for the whole process using the dough hook. It is easiest with that amount of flour (in my opinion). I turn the mixer on medium for this first part until things are mixed together well. Then turn it on medium-high for about five minutes to "knead" it all together. I suppose you could take the dough out and knead it on a lightly floured surface as well! Then I put it into a large bowl that has been sprayed down to keep the dough from sticking, put the dough in covered with plastic wrap. Let double in size (about 45 minutes).

Punch down the dough to redistribute the yeast and then separate into two equal amounts. form into a small loaf and place each in greased bread pans. Slice the top length-wise of each with a knife. Cover each and let rise again for 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Turn loaves out of pan onto wire cooling rack on their sides (leaving in pan will continue "baking" them).

Monday, August 17, 2009

The taste of summer

A few years ago, I spent the bulk of a summer in Italy singing in this opera program. While the singing experiences were more chaotic than anything, the cultural experience of living in Italy was truly unforgettable. Since then, I still have a hard time thinking of summer tastes and smells that don't have some kind of Italian influence. Some people may think of freshly-mowed lawns as the official scent of summer; mine would be freshly-cut sweet basil or rosemary.

Last night I was asked to bring a side dish to a dinner. At the time of our planning, the menu had not been planned out- so I immediately fell back on my Italian-inspired list of foods. Originally, I was considering making a batch of risotto. However, my host was lactose-intolerant (I enjoy mixing in finely shredded Parmesan cheese), and I was fresh out of the correct kind of rice and white wine. I've done a risotto without white wine before, but it was just ok; and I would only make risotto with regular white rice if it was just for me. Then I thought of my mom and how she seems to make bread any time there is a gathering of people- and everybody loves fresh bread.

So an Italian bread... oh duh, Focaccia.
I went to work and came up with this recipes (the one I used was slightly different, so here are my alterations):

1/2 cup warm water with 1 tsp of sugar dissolved into it
2 1/2 tsp yeast

*let stand for 5 minutes or so
*mix together and slightly warm:
5-6 Tbsp Olive oil
1 1/2 cups milk

*add mix/oil mixture to yeast
*in separate bowl, mix together 5 cups of flour with any kind of herbs you would like to use. I chopped up some fresh rosemary, dried oregano, and ground garlic.
*Add to flour mix 2 tsp of salt

*combine flour mixture with wet ingredients
*knead dough on lightly floured surface; it will be fairly elastic-y after a few minutes
*spray a large bowl with non-stick and place dough into it
*cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour or until doubled

*preheat oven to 350F
*take dough out and punch down/knead to re-distribute yeast
*in a jelly-roll pan (or cookie sheet with 4 sides), drizzle a little bit of olive oil to lightly coat the bottom and sides
*put dough into pan and spread out into a flat piece that should cover most of the pan
*with fingers, make indentations about 1/2-1 inch deep every few inches or so
*drizzle olive oil on top of douch and lightly brush over
*sprinkle minced garlic cloves over top and/or add some more chopped rosemary
*sprinkle COARSE salt on top

*place pan into oven with rack towards bottom
*bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned
*move rack towards top near element or flame and bake for another 5 minutes or so. this will brown the top a little more and turn whatever chunks of garlic you have on top brown.

*take out and let cool
*cut into squares and serve with anything from a tomato sauce or pesto to shavings of Parmesan cheese and bits of prosciutto.

Packed together like...

So I was recently reading yet another article listing off the newest version of "super foods" that we should all be eating. Almonds, salmon, and blueberries are all staples in each of these lists it seems, while the remaining seven (why is it that there are just 10 in a list?) seem to vary greatly from beets to honey to some random kind of walnut from the ice shelves of Antarctica. The latter they then seem to talk about as if it is the most readily available item in your local grocery store.


Well, in this recent article, sardines popped up in the magical list of things I should have started eating yesterday. Like many varieties of fish, it is a good source of protein, omega-3 fats, and EPA/DHAs. While it may not be quite up to the levels of salmon, it is a better source of all three than tuna (especially the canned kind). Unlike most fish, though, sardines are not entirely boned before consumption; their bone structure so soft and small that it is impossible to take it out (it is also entirely un-noticed when eating). So there is a considerable amount of calcium consumed by way of their small skeletal system. Quick run-down on nutritional facts:
1 cup of sardines:
310 calories, 17 grams of fat, 37 grams of protein, 57% of daily calcium, 25% of daily iron

Not too shabby for such a small fish.

Well, I was curious about the differences between anchovies- which are nearly impossible to find at my local grocery stores for some strange reason- and sardines. The former I enjoy throwing into a number of Italian dishes to bring a little bit more depth to other-wise acidic sauces and whatnot. At the glorious Devon Market, there is a fairly substantial number of varieties of sardines, so I grabbed two packages. One was packed in olive oil; the other, just water. Googling recipes for sardines, it seemed like most people use it in a way that is similar to canned tuna: paired with mayonaisse and put on sandwiches. Here is what I did:

Package of sardines (in water)
a few scoops of mayonaisse (same amount I would use when making tuna salad)
a few shakes of paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
diced up green olives
little bit of balsamic vinegar

Mix all together and serve on some kind of white bread (I happened to have a loaf of French bread that needed to be consumed).

Honestly, it was insanely delicious. I'm not a huge fan of tuna from a can, even in a well-made tuna salad sandwich. At best, I'm just kind of indifferent to that. This, however, had such a unique flavor and was suprisingly delicious. I'm sure if you are reading this far, you are probably shaking your head or even wrinkling your nose at the thought of sardines. Just try it sometime. A package of them will set you back maybe $1.50- $1.75. If you try it and hate it, that is entirely fine. I'm personally always excited to seek out new (or in this case, old-fashioned) things to incorporate into my cooking. Sardines may not be what I crave on a daily basis, but they will certainly be added to my rotation of sandwich fixings.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Delicious Squash

Quickly this morning, I wanted to jot down a vegetable recipe I've fallen in love with this summer. While squash is usually something that you make more often in the fall and winter, I actually do like it almost all-year-round. Just not Spring. I have no idea why.

Glazed Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into bit-sized pieces
2 Tbs butter - melted
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
course salt to taste

Mix butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and paprika together and coat the squash. Let sit in a bowl for 10 minutes or so. Line 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil (easy clean-up) and pour squash into. Roast in over for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and the sugars are starting to brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Yum.

I also have cooked these in a skillet in the same way that you would fried potatoes, just without the entire stick of butter. I actually melt the butter in the skillet and then add all the ingredients. Cook it for a little bit with a lid on, so it will soften the squash- not too long or the squash will get mushy. Once you see the sugars starting to caramelize, put the mixture into a pan (again, aluminum foil helps keep the sugar from making clean-up a pain) and broil it on high for a little bit to brown it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Italian Sauces and Blogging 101

Good Evening!
Welcome to the very first blog in what will hopefully grow to be a large collection of recipes by myself and my family. For those contributing to the blog, make sure to give not just proportions of ingredients and directions, but any special insight you may have found as you work out the various dishes. I also ask that you tag the blog with whatever keyword(s) you may seem appropriate (i.e. Italian, Pork, Salad).

That being said, here we go!

The very first blog from me should most certainly be one about the Italian sauces I have grown to love and use continuously. The first will be a basic alfredo sauce that never fails; the second, a marinara sauce that you will have to trust me on.


4 Tbs Butter (European if you are wanting a richer taste)
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter completely. Add cream in and whisk together. Mixture will froth a little while still over high heat, which is good; this ensures that the butter and cream combine entirely. If not, the butter will separate from the sauce once cooled and on the noodles. After whisking a little bit during the minute or two that the cream/butter is bubbling and frothing, turn the heat down to medium-low (Sometimes I turn it down just barely to make sure the cheese melts well). Slowly add in the cheese making sure that it melts entirely before adding any more. The 1 1/2 cups is a general idea of how much, but it will depend on how thick you would like the sauce to be. Too little, it is a bit watery and doesn't stick to the noodles well. Too much, and it looses the smooth-ness while becoming paste-like.

This usually makes enough sauce for 4 servings. For a different spin on the taste, add some finely grated nutmeg after plating.


1 can Tomato Sauce
3 or 4 Roma Tomatoes chopped into small pieces
1/2 onion cut up into small bits
4 garlic cloves diced
1-2 Tbs chili pepper
2 tsp anchovy paste or two anchovies diced up
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
also can add: chopped basil leaves, oregano, mushrooms, bell peppers, ground sausage, fennel

In large sauce pan, sautee onions in olive oil until soft. Add diced garlic and roma tomatoes once slightly browned. Cook covered for a few minutes. Then, add tomato sauce, chili pepper, and anchovies. Stir in and cook covered again for a few more minutes. Add a little bit of balsamic vinegar to the sauce and taste. From here, I add more vinegar- it adds a nice sweetness to the sauce. I also sometimes will add more garlic (is there ever enough?!), basil and possibly whatever protein I had in mind to have along with the pasta. For mushrooms, I personally like sauteeing them with the onions at the beginning, but not started immediately with the onions as they will not take as long to cook. Ground fennel is delicious to add along with the garlic and roma tomatoes at the beginning as well. I usually let the sauce simmer (covered) over low heat while my pasta is cooking. It lets the flavors come together a little more before serving. I usually use this for a pizza sauce as well if I'm doing a vegetarian pizza- it is a little much when there is a featured protein though.

If Roma tomatoes are out of season and therefore either expensive or unavailable, using a large can of crushed or diced tomatoes works very well.