Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pride & Joy

Ok, so I'm kind of a dork about kitchen stuff.

I don't get really excited about fancy gadgety things. I do, however, get VERY excited about workhorse-type tools. I love to cook - but I'm not very speedy & I make a serious mess. So items that improve my efficiency in the kitchen are a big deal.

And if they happen to have the added bonus of looking good...? SOLD!

With that in Kitchen Aid stand mixer has gotten a bit of an upgrade. While it was simply lovely on its own - powerful, efficient & easy to clean - now, it is also a thing of


I may not cook quite like my hero, Alton Brown - but there's no reason I can't be just as sassy while making the attempt.

P.S. I just added a new link to Fridgewatcher. I think it's absolutely fascinating, your mileage may vary...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chapter Three - You say tomato & I say...Roasted Tomato!

Finally, here is the last chapter. I know you all (hi mom!) have been hanging on my every word.

My mom used to roast tomatoes a lot when we were kids. She'd take a regular tomato & slice it up - add a pinch of this & that (in her house, "this & that" also equals garlic salt & basil) & throw them in the oven. Being on the receiving end of some plum tomatoes (also from Aunt Phyllis & Uncle Jeff) I thought I'd do the same.

But someone I know does not like tomatoes. He eats them as sauce or ketchup - but on his sandwich, no way. And my fresh salsa...*sigh* I notice he lets his chip get some juice on it, but steers away from most of the bits & pieces.

Because I knew I could not keep all these tomatoes in a decent raw state for very long, I asked this someone how he'd feel if I cooked them. "They taste like pizza!" I say enthusiastically. He looks at me suspiciously & says he'll try. That's all I can hope for I guess.

And away we go...

Plum tomatoes - halved
olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic salt (or granulated garlic), dried basil
grated cheese

Pretty simple stuff here.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the tomato halves cut side up in a pyrex baking dish (on a sheet, they'll roll around a lot).
Sprinkle the halves with a bit of olive oil, then salt & pepper, garlic salt (or granulated) & basil.
Then cover each half with grated cheese.

Pop these little devils in the oven & hope for the best! Honestly, there isn't much need for hope because this isn't exactly difficult. But if you take a few good ingredients & do something you hadn't thought of before - with delicious results - well, that's as close to magic as I can get you!

Anyway, my little to-mah-toes were in for around 20 minutes - give or take 5. They were just as lovely as I remembered & they really do taste like pizza.

And yes, Will did eat a couple. I don't think he's going to be begging for me to make them again - but they were soooo tasty, I'm going to do it anyway. ;)

P.S. Please don't make my tomatoes suffer because of my awful pictures. I am not good at this part! You simply would not believe how many pictures I take just to come up with 3 that actually have SOMETHING in focus. It's not always what I want in focus, but I can't really be too picky at that point.
Pretend it's art.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chapter Two – And then there were BEETS!

The beets came from Will’s Aunt & Uncle’s really big garden just outside of Albany.

As excited as I was, I had no idea what to do with them until his cousin told me to roast them like potatoes. Roasted beets!?!? How very sophisticated that sounded! Especially to someone like me who is easily impressed.

(And just so you all know – I keep typing beAts. Ummm…yeah.)

I’ve had plenty of beets in my day. Just open the can! We always ate them dressed with oil & vinegar. Tasty, but now…it seemed mundane. If it doesn’t to you, by all means, give it a try – just a little olive oil, red wine vinegar & a pinch of this & that. (In my world, “this & that” equals garlic salt & basil.)

But this time there would be no can. This time? This time there would be roasting.

After a good soaking (beets are dirty!), I trimmed off the greens. Aunt Phyllis did tell me that I could cook the greens but they were looking a bit wilty. So I nixed that for now – there was plenty of excitement already!

While the oven was getting itself up to 400, I got to the peeling & cubing. (Look how pretty they are!)

Olive oil, salt & pepper were added & then because I can’t leave well enough alone…a few shakes of a bouquet garni herb blend. Why? Well, I really don’t know. For some reason, I was feeling very European about the beets. DON’T LAUGH.

Then I covered the dish tightly with foil & stuffed them in the oven. After 45 minutes or so, I uncovered them but they stayed in for about another half hour.

The verdict…Will loved the beets. Loved them! He kept telling me how good they were. I desperately wanted to love the beets. I kept eating them & thinking “this will be the bite where I love the beets.” That didn’t so much happen.

The beets were just Ok. I think that I may have overstepped with herb sprinkling – but it seemed so harmless at the time. They had a bit of a bitterness that I couldn’t account for otherwise.

On the other hand, they did have a great deal of sweetness – kind of like sweet potatoes - which I am going to try to play off of next time. Yes, there will be a next time. I didn’t hate the beets – I just don’t think I did them any justice. I am going to look for some recipes – or I may treat them more like sweet potatoes rather than regular ones. I promise I will keep you all posted.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Roasted Veggies – An Adventure in Three Chapters

Hi everyone! (Or just Mom!) I’m back!

I haven’t been here in awhile. I am always cooking something new or good (or both new AND good!) but it seemed like I would take a bunch of pictures & then not feel like posting anything. The process here is a bit tedious – but I think I’ve figured a way around that so hopefully I’ll make this all regular or something.

Anyway, this roasting of was done on different nights with different vegetables. As far as cooking goes, they are all pretty similar but I am excited about them for different reasons.

Soooo...there will be 3 different posts - kind of like a mini-series! I really know how to turn up the excitement - don't I??? Wheeeeee!

First up – String Beans…

This has become my new favorite way to eat string beans. The fabulous thing about it is that the beans don’t have to be the freshest to come out tasting wonderful.

Does anyone else leave produce in their refrigerator a little too long? Can't be just me...can it? Noooooooo! I refuse to believe that.

So let's just pretend then, that you are rummaging around, looking for something else to go with your teriyaki pork loin when suddenly...GASP! THERE IS A BAG OF STRING BEANS!

You vaguely remember purchasing this bag of string beans & you are sure when you made that purchase, they were lovely. But you have since forgotten about them & they are looking a bit…well…peak’ed.

Well, I can save your string beans. YES I CAN. Now that may seem like a fantastic claim - but it is true. Or mostly true.

Actually, Cooks Illustrated can save your string beans. Just like they saved roasting. Sounds unconventional, doesn't it? It is. And we like that around here.

So here you go...

1 lb. of string beans - cleaned
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with foil (this is really just to help with cleanup).
Cook the beans for 10 minutes - then flip the beans and cook for another 10.

Ummm...that's it. I SWEAR THIS IS REALLY GOOD!

They are going to look kind of shrivelly - but they are supposed to. And they are going to taste quite different than you are used to. Sweeter & a bit nutty. Very interesting.

I have noticed that sometimes they come out a bit on the crunchy side & others they are just, well cooked. And sometimes – you get them both ways in the same batch.

I would imagine it will vary a bit depending on the state of your beans to begin with. Either way, they are quite lovely.

The other thing that's pretty cool is that you can still make string beans this way even when it is no longer string bean season! The roasting brings out their natural sweetness. I'm even going to attempt this later in the season with frozen ones. I promise to let you know how that goes.

The magazine gave a few different options for topping these if you want to be all fancy. And they did sound me. But there is another member of my household & oftentimes, as tasty as something may sound TO ME, this other person (who shall remain nameless) will make squidgey faces.

So my beans remain plain. :) They are still fabulous! But if anyone is interested - leave me a comment & I'll post the fanciness just for you!

Stay tuned for Chapter 2! BEETS! (Oh yeah, NOW you are excited! Hee!)

Saturday, August 11, 2007


So I finally made some banana muffins. And I'm glad I waited to blog about this batch because the recipe involves mini chocolate chips! How fun!

This is another goodie from Taste of Home - but specifically the Taste of Home Baking edition. (Fabulous stuff in there - someday I'll tell you about my lemon blueberry biscuits...)

Anyway, the bananas were ready to roll, extra-ordinarily ripe even & while sometimes that makes the baked good taste a little bitter it didn't have that affect this time. This time...there were chocolate chips. :)

So here's the recipe...

You will need:
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 medium ripe bananas (mashed)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (I've used quick-cooking too!)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg, oil & sugar until smooth.
(Action shot!!!)

Stir in the bananas.

In another bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder & salt.

Stir dry ingredients into wet until just moistened.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill greased muffin cups three-quarters full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

(If you use a bigger muffin pan like I did, they may need another minute or 2.)

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a rack.

Yields 1 dozen regular muffins or 6 large ones

Now look how wonderful they are! They taste just as wonderful! This recipe is definitely going into the repetoire. I left the house for a bit after they were done & when I got back, Will said "you know, those muffins are good." HA!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

As promised...

This is seriously a fantastic dessert. People go simply batty & it's probably one of the easiest things I have ever made.

It's an ice cream cake...made out of ice cream sandwiches. Yes, another recipe that is not really a recipe - but you will thank me!

Of course, credit must be given to someone and this time it is the Taste of Home cookbook. Taste of Home is one of those magazines that relies mostly on home cooks to submit their own recipes. Sometimes the stuff sounds absolutely ghastly...other times, you get ice cream cake.

You will need...

Ice cream sandwiches
Cool Whip (approx. 12 oz)
fudge sauce
& something crunchy for in between.

Ready for the tough stuff?

Put a layer of sandwiches on the bottom of the dish. Cut whatever you need to make them fit without any big gaps.

Next, spread half of the Cool Whip over the sandwiches.

Sprinkle your crunchy stuff.

Spread fudge sauce over crunchy stuff.

Make another layer of ice cream sandwiches.

Cover with last of Cool Whip.

Decorate & stick in the freezer. Overnight is perfect - if that's not possible, at least try to give yourself 4 hours for it to set up.

Now, the recipe says to use 19 sandwiches for a 13x9 pan - this particular time, I made a smaller version soooo....I'm not sure how many you'll need - but if you have some leftover, is that really a problem?

Also, you have to work fast. The sandwiches melt very quickly & getting them out of their paper wrappers isn't as easy as you might think. It's a sticky process. Keep extra sandwiches in the freezer until you need them or you will have a real problem - especially when you are trying to cut them to fit.

For crunchy stuff, I've used many different things - nuts, praline topping, toffee bits & mini M&Ms - basically, whatever makes you happy. Have at it!

Now, I will confess that because I was documenting this for y'all, I followed the directions from the recipe for the order of the layers. The recipe wants your crunchies on top of the fudge layer.

I won't be doing THAT again because the cake split in half right between the crunchies & the top layer of sandwiches - there was nothing sticky in between! Follow my sequence as written here & your layers will stick together nicely.

Oh & I'm only telling you this because my pictures don't follow my written instructions.

Also, there aren't nearly enough pictures of this one. Sorry!

I got home from the grocery store & knew I had to move fast in order to give the cake time to set before I had to bring it somewhere. By the time I realized that I had promised to tell y'all about this, I had nearly the whole cake done.

But this isn't exactly a complicated gourmet construction. It's ice cream sandwiches. Now I want to say that this is a fantastic cake for a kiddie party. It would be. But I've only ever made it for adults & you would not believe the reactions I get. People love this damn cake.

Oh & don't be afraid to ad lib! If you prefer carmel sauce, use carmel. If you want to smash up cookies for your crunchy layer, smash away! Just make it. I'm telling you! Nothing could be easier!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Absent no longer!

I'm not even sure how many of you noticed but I haven't posted in several weeks! I took pictures of 2 different recipes - but then, I wasn't really happy with either one. So fajitas & banana muffins will have to wait. (Probably not long because there are some seriously ready bananas on my counter as we speak!)

But I have something new & wonderful instead! It's a recipe that I have made several times & they are always fantastic - plus, I get to show you the most favorite thing in my kitchen! My Kitchen Aid's the big'un...The Professional 6. Doesn't that sound ominous? hee!

Look! There she is!!!
Anyway...the food! Sun-dried Tomato Biscotti...How fantastic does that sound? So fantastic that you simply cannot wait for me to tell you more? Yay!

First, credit where it is due - Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray. What a cookbook! These are more of an appetizer - but most of the book is traditional Italian cookies. I have made quite a few of them for my own holiday trays. Once I figure out how to be an Amazon affiliate (as well if it's even worthwhile), I will post links for you to buy your very own copy - which you really should have if you like to bake.

Now here we go with the recipe...

Sun-dried Tomato Biscotti
(yields about 25 cookies)

1 stick of butter (softened)
1 Tablespoon of sugar
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups of flour
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (chopped)
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)
(if you only have dried herbs, simply substitute TEASPOON for tablespoon)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup dried sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)
(not the ones packed in oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter & sugar until blended.
Add eggs & mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cheese, garlic, herbs, salt, baking powder & tomatoes.
Mix with a wooden spoon until well blended.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture & mix on low speed until just blended.


Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface & knead just enough to blend ingredients.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces & shape each into a loaf about 12 inches long.

Place loaves on a (she says parchment-lined - I lightly grease instead) cookie sheet about 3-inches apart.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

When you remove them from the oven, transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool.

Now here's the key to biscotti - the 2nd baking...

When the loaves are cool, transfer them to a cutting board & slice on a diagonal (sort of!) into 1/2-inch slices.

Place the slices in a single layer back on the cookie sheet & return them to the oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

That's it! I cannot properly explain to you how phenomenal your kitchen smells when you are making these. And you can see how gorgeous they look!

That would be Will's cue to laugh at me as he does whenever I get excited about how good the food looks. I do get a little excited...but you have to admit...they do look damn good. hee!

Serve these little lovelies with wine, cheese, olives etc. as a nice little antipasto & your dinner guests will be impressed!

So that's what I've got for today! I think it was a very good recipe to break the dry spell with so I am rather pleased with myself right now.

Also, check back soon because I am going to make something today that isn't quite a recipe but you simply will not believe! Easy, delicious & I promise you - if you make it, everyone you serve it to will ask how you did it. ;)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Warning! No recipe ahead!

It's more like a tip or an idea.
You know how when you make grilled vegetables, & it's just the two of you eating - but you want a nice variety- make too much? (Can't be just me? Can it?)

ANYWAY...that's a favorite meal here. Some rice, a marinated, grilled meat of some sort & grilled veggies. I generally cook an onion, a zucchini, a couple of peppers (1 red, 1 green) & an eggplant (which is really just for me...hee!).

Inevitably, there are leftover veggies. Since I don't like to throw away food, I would pack them up nicey-nice in a little container...& then throw them out a few days later.

Well, it happened one week that this marinated, grilled dinner of ours was on a Friday. The next afternoon as I was rummaging for a tasty lunch hit me. Those grilled veggies, with just a bit of assistance would make a tasty wrap! Just like the kind you might find on the lunch menu of a sassy little deli! (You know, the kind where you can eat outside & have a real brewed iced tea & they always have the good kind of pickles.)

Now, I do keep quite a lot of stuff in the house...just in case. But I think that these are things that a few people might also have in their cupboards as well - flour tortillas or wraps, salad dressing & crumbled or shredded cheese. I prefer gorgonzola or goat cheese - but I have used shredded mozzarella so you don't have to be all fancy.

Select enough veggies to fill your wrap - I like variety so I usually take a little of everything. Then take it to the microwave for 20-30 seconds (it really depends on your machine)

If you are using a shredded cheese like cheddar or mozzarella, you should add it before warming the veggies so that it can get all nice & melty. But a softer cheese can be added afterwards. The warm veggies should soften it enough.

I will warn you - the veggies will not be as firm as they were when you had them for dinner. But, I don't know, they still taste fantastic - so that doesn't bother me.

Warm your wrap or tortilla via package instructions. Plop everything in, drizzle the dressing on top & TA DA! Fancy sandwich!

Ok, I will confess - my picture-taking for this entry was not the best. I should have added more veggies for show but I am always guilty of overfilling wraps & then not being able to close or eat them properly. So for once, I erred on the side of caution & now my sandwich looks a little skimpy. (I assure you, it was not. hee!)

Also, I should have dressed the plate up a little better. I thought of adding chips or something on the side - but I didn't want chips. Sooooo...yeah...plate's a little empty too. I will get the hang of this...I promise.

Anyway, I've found that I like goat cheese A LOT - but the gorgonzola worked really nicely too - & both of those match up well with a vinaigrette. The veggies are such a great base, you can really add in whatever you like & still end up with a great sandwich.
And if you happen to have some cooked chicken or maybe even some of the grilled meat leftover - you can make some thin slices & add it in. Don't be afraid to experiment!
This is a ridiculously simple idea - but anyone I've ever mentioned it to was amazed. IT'S YOUR LEFTOVERS! You did all the work already! I actually get excited when I grill veggies for dinner in anticipation of having this for lunch the next day.

Yeah, I'm a dork. But I really do like to eat & this is sooooo yummy. I hope you try it!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Good morning!

Hello all! Since it's Father's Day, we had a little breakfasty-brunchy event here at the homestead & I decided that buttermilk pancakes with blueberries would be a nice way to start the day.

Now I've tried some pancake mixes but mixing them up from scratch really doesn't take much more time or effort. They cook up thick & fluffy & the flavor...let me just say that once you've done pancakes like this - it will be hard to go back.

Buttermilk is key as well. I've experimented with a few different recipes (both with & without) from the biggie cookbooks that everyone has on their shelf but the one I love best is from my most favorite celebrity chef, Alton Brown. (Blueberries are our own addition.)

AB's approach to food is truly unique. I'm a regular watcher of Good Eats and Alton has taught me how to clean a melon without losing a digit as well as how to avoid brown guacamole. As far as I'm concerned, AB rocks.

So here we go!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 T sugar

2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
4 T unsalted butter (melted & slightly cooled)

blueberries (fresh or frozen)
extra butter for the griddle

Combine the dry ingredients & either sift or pulse in your food processor for 5 seconds.

Whisk together the wet ingredients.

Mix together wet & dry combinations just until they are moistened. Do not mix until smooth! That's just too much & will result in tough pancakes.

Let the batter sit for about 5 minutes which should be just enough time for the griddle to heat up. Go to 350 degrees if you've got an electric one, otherwise, medium-low for a non-stick skillet. Flick some water on to test it then butter it up!

Ladle a scoop of batter onto the griddle.

Now is the time to throw in your additions! Today we used frozen blueberries but in the past we've done slices of ripe banana. And if we're feeling really sassy...chocolate chips. (Bananas AND chocolate chips are a personal favorite!)

Cook until bubbles form & the bottom is a lovely golden color. Then flip!

The first side should take about 3 minutes then approximately 2 more minutes after the flip. Don't be afraid to adjust the heat if you're browning too quickly - you want to be sure the cakes cook through without burning.

That's IT! These will be thicker than you might be used to - which is definitely not a bad thing. And the flavor is simply divine. Warm up some maple syrup & go nuts!

Oh! I nearly forgot - but for some folks who recently mentioned they've ditched all white flours - in his book, Alton does give the option of using 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose. I'm not sure how you'd substitute brown sugar for the white...I'll leave that to you guys to figure out! Good luck!

As I look at this picture, I can't help but think how messy & uneven the pancakes look. It's the sort of image that would make me not want to show this recipe to the world...but wow, they are delicious. The batter is thick so the shapes are a little odd, the blueberries burst making their own sort of mess...

Let me assure you, they may not make a pretty picture but I bet you haven't had pancakes as good as these. Try it! And let me know! The comments are open & waiting for ya!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

And away we go!

So here is the much awaited FIRST ENTRY! (It's not actually first now because of that lovely introduction. But we will pretend so that it doesn't feel bad.)

This is a meal that I come back to time & again. It isn't so much a recipe really, as it is cooking a bunch of stuff & throwing it together with rather yummy results. It's a good weeknight dinner because it's simple but very tasty & you can pretty much add in whatever else you want without screwing it up.

Oh, as a word of warning...I come from a long line of cooks who don't measure things.
I look, I taste, I add. That's all I've got.

Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli

Stuff you need:
1 lb of pasta
2 heads of broccoli
grated cheese
fresh parsley
various herbs & spices

A note about the ingredients - to make this dish, I usually use a chicken sausage. Will prefers it and it's a bit lighter than the traditional pork. On this particular occasion, it was a lovely chicken & spinach (so that's what the green bits are!).

We grill pretty much year round, so I took the sausage to the flames. But this works just as well if you throw it in the oven to bake - just keep a close eye that you don't dry it out.

While that's happening, breakdown your broccoli, coarsely chop the parsley and get the water going for the pasta.

DON'T FORGET TO SALT THE WATER!!! In my opinion, no amount of salting the food later will make up for this. Something always

Check that sausage! Ohhhh...lovely color...mmmmm...

Do not, however, add oil to the water. While this will keep your pasta from forming a solid land mass, it will also keep your sauce from clinging later on. Stirring the pot until it regains a rolling boil does the same thing with out making things too slippery.

Now, I generally like to cook the broccoli by throwing it in for the pasta's last couple of minutes. But with the picture-taking & all, I got a little distracted. Sooooo...I had to get another pot of water going. :(

Sausage is ready!

This particular sausage is thinner than the traditional italian version - so slicing it into small chunks is easily done. I don't like the pieces too large because I think it should be part of the dish - not THE dish.

Pasta's done too! Drain it & NOW add some olive oil to keep it from sticking together. The olive oil works here only because it is the basis of the "sauce". If I were going to put any other type of sauce on this macaroni, I would use that instead.
Now dump in the sausage, parsley, grated cheese & broccoli. It's almost done! Now, here's where it's more art than science...seasoning. I used salt, pepper, granulated garlic & an italian herb blend (Penzey's!) that contains basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme & rosemary.

Add a little...mix it up. Peer into the pot...taste...add a little more...repeat. Seriously. My only advice here is to go easy because you can always add more seasoning - you can't take it away. can add more food to the mix. (I've done that! We ate pasta salad for an entire week.)

So here it is! My lovely pasta!
There are sooooo many things you can add to this. I keep it simple because Will prefers it but some ideas are: black olives, sundried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, artichoke hearts, scallions (I do add these if I have them).

You can even substitute something else for the sausage - grilled chicken or shrimp would be just fine - I would imagine you would then have to up your seasoning a bit.

So that’s it! My first (real) entry! I know this is a very simple dish – I feel funny even calling it a recipe. But I think that the focus here is going to be more about sharing ideas about food & this may be an idea you’ve never had before!