Thursday, December 15, 2011

Easiest Fudge Ever

What makes this so easy is that it's all done in the microwave.  This is not gourmet fudge but it's a simple one that's easy enough for kids to make and yummy enough to serve with the other holiday candies and cookies:

2c semi-sweet chocolate chips
14oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4c chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
4oz. candied cherries, chopped
1c mini marshmallows

1. In a medium-size glass bowl, combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Microwave 1 min. Stir. If the chips aren't fully melted yet, microwave another 30 seconds and stir again.

2. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

3. Add nuts, cherries, and marshmallows. Stir until well blended.

4. Pour in a parchment-lined 8x8 pan and chill in the refrigerator. (You could just spray the pan but I like the paper because it makes it easy to lift everything out for cutting later.)

I have no idea how long this takes to set because I just set it in the fridge and left it there overnight.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes

Yes, I know Halloween is over but I just had to add a post about the cupcakes I served for dessert that evening.  After assembling the cupcakes, I have to admit I was quite impressed with myself.  The glass looked so real which made for a fantastic presentation.  There was even a conversation in my house that went something like this:

"Is that glass?"
"Is it real?"
"Is it edible?"
"Ummm....sure.....go it."


This is what I did:

1.  Baked the cupcakes (Devil's Food from a mix) and topped with vanilla frosting (from a can).

2.  For the glass:  In a large saucepan, mix:

 2c water
1c corn syrup
3 1/2c white sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Boil, stir continuously, until mizture reaches 300*
on a candy thermometer.
Pour onto a parchment-lined jelly roll pan;
allow to cool completely.
Remove "glass" from pan by lifting it out with the paper.
Cover with another piece of parchment paper
 and hit it with a hammer.  It will shatter like real glass!!               

3.  For the blood:  In a small bowl, mix together:

1/2 cup corn syrup
1 TBSP cornstarch 
15 drops red food coloring
1 drop blue food coloring
4. Top cupcakes with broken glass and drizzle with blood.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beef Stroganoff Over Buttered Noodles

You know the beef stroganoff alot of us grew up with?  The noodles with a big gloppy mess of sour cream sauce.  Hard to tell exactly what was in there.  Anyone else have this experience?  Maybe it was just me.

Anyway, this is so not like that!!  This beef stroganoff is seriously awesome!!  And it hardly has any sour cream in it at all (couple of tablespoons, that's it).  The Dijon mustard is the secret ingredient that just takes it over the top for me.  Takes awhile to make but it is so worth it!

This is a Tyler Florence recipe I got here.  He says to let everything simmer partially covered but I ended up keeping the lid on and I'm glad I did as I think the sauce would have cooked away otherwise.  Follow the instructions on keeping it over a very low flame though.  I think this was the trick that resulted in the amazingly fork tender beef. 

My husband devoured this and requested I double the sauce next time, keeping the beef amount the same.  He likes the idea of having extra to sop up with his bread.  Good idea.

Served with a side of sweet peas and French bread.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

I used to think there was only one way to do stuffed peppers - ground beef, tomato sauce, etc.  My husband and I both have memories of eating them like this when we were kids.  He would probably still eat them that way if it weren't for the fact I won't prepare them that way.  Didn't like ground beef in my pepper then and I don't like it now.  Which brings us to these stuffed peppers that my whole family loves (even my son, the veggie hater):

1c. vegetable broth
1 TBSP butter
1/2c. uncooked Arborio rice
4 red or green peppers, seeded and tops removed
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 lb. veggie sausage
4 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2c. mushrooms, chopped
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. Italian or Greek seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 medium tomatoes, diced
8 oz. garlic & herb feta cheese, crumbled

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In medium saucepan, bring broth and butter to a boil.  Add rice, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer  approximately 20 minutes, or until done.  Set aside.

3.  Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat olive oil and add the sausage.  Cook over medium heat until done.

4.  To the skillet, add green onions, garlic, mushrooms, basil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir about 5 minutes.

5.  Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

6. Add the cooked rice and stir until everything is well blended and heated through.

7.  Remove from heat and add feta.

8.  Spoon everything into peppers and bake 30-40 min. and serve immediately. 
Served with garlic angel hair pasta.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bruschetta Bites

I've noticed some people have really strong opinions on what makes a good, "authentic" bruschetta.  I'm not a big snob about such things.  If it looks good and tastes good, then I'm happy.  I do know a bad bruschetta when I eat it though (had some at a restaurant we like that I will never order again).

However, this recipe is one of our favorites.  It's similar to the other bruschetta I make, here, but one thing hubby liked about this one was the assembly of it all.  The cheese on the bottom helps to grab onto the topping and keep it from falling off so easily.  Yes, you could totally do this with any bruschetta.  I just happened to try it for the first time with this one.

Here's the recipe:

1 French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 (14.5 oz.) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
*(you could sub fresh tomatoes, just make sure they're room temperature)*
1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced ripe olives, drained
2 TBSP Italian parsley, chopped
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
24 small slices provolone cheese

1.  Heat oven to 350*.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, olives, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, and red pepper; set aside.

3.  Place baguette slices on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 5 minutes, or until very lightly toasted.

4.  Top each baguette slice with 1 slice of cheese; return to the oven. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt.

5.  Top each slice with a spoonful of the tomato mixture.
 Serve immediately as an appetizer.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms have become one of my favorite appetizers so I like to play around with different variations.  These are the most recent:

5 slices bacon
1 (10oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
12 large mushrooms
3 TBSP butter
2 TBSP onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/8c heavy cream
1/4c Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 400*.  Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. 
2.  Place bacon in a large, deep skillet.  Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown.  Drain, crumble and set aside.

3.  Remove stems from mushrooms.  Arrange caps in the baking dish.  Finely chop stems and set aside.

4.  Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and mix in onion and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes, or until tender, then mix in bacon, spinach, chopped mushroom stems and heavy cream. 

5.  Bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat and mix in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

6.  Stuff mushroom caps generously with the mixture.

7.  Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes until lightly browned.
Not the most kid-friendly, I know, but they're so good!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Honey Mustard Pork Roast

I have a bad habit of writing blog entries and then procrastinating on actually posting them.  This is one I just came across:  

Instead of going with the traditional ham or lamb for Easter dinner, I opted to try a pork roast and was thrilled with the result.  This is a delicious entree that is so moist and ridiculously easy.  It looks and tastes like you spent way more time on it than is actually required.  ;)

1/4c honey
2 TBSP coarse ground Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBSP + 1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

2-3lb. pork roast
2c water or chicken broth

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl.  Coat roast evenly with the mixture.

3.  Place on rack in a roasting pan and add about 2c water or chicken broth to bottom of pan.

4.  Bake, uncovered for approximately 1 hr - 1 1/2 hrs. or until internal temp. reaches 155*

5.  Remove and allow to stand 10 min. (temp. will continue to rise) before slicing and serving.
This would be fantastic any time of year!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Garlic Parmesan Orzo

We love orzo and this ridiculously easy recipe is one of our favorites:

2c orzo pasta
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2c butter, cubed
1/2c Parmesan cheese
1/4c mil, grated
2TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1.  Cook orzo according to package directions; drain.

2.  In a large skillet, saute garlic in butter until tender.

3.  Add the orzo, Parmesan cheese milk, parsley salt and pepper.
Cook and stir until heated through.
This paired really well with our salmon dinner.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bailey's Creme Brulee

This was last night's dessert and it was fabulous! 

2c heavy cream
1/3c granulated, white sugar
6 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 TBSP Irish cream liqueur (I used Bailey's)
4 tsp. granulated, white sugar, or to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees*.  Place 4 ramekins in an 8"x8" baking dish.

2.  Stir together cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and cook until very hot, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.

3.  In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, vanilla, and Irish cream until combined.

4.  Slowly add heavy cream mixture, whisking it in 2 TBSP at a time until incorporated. Once you have incorporated about 1/3 of the cream, stir in the remaining hot cream.

5.  Pour custard into the ramekins, then fill baking pan with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

6.  Bake 50 to 60 min., or until set.

7.  Remove from oven and place ramekins on a wire rack to cool to room temperature, approximately 1 hour.

8.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

9.  When ready to serve, unwrap and sprinkle with the extra white sugar, shaking off excess.

10.  Using a small hand torch, melt the sugar by making quick passes over top of the custards. Continue melting the sugar until it turns deep brown and forms a crispy crust.  Serve immediately.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Truffle Lover's Popcorn

Reposting this one since I've already decided it will be today's afternoon snack:

The Inn at Little Washington serves a popcorn appetizer with freshy shaved truffles that is absolutely fantastic and today I wanted some of it. Since driving there is not an option today, I decided to experiment a bit and see if I could recreate (even a little bit) that amazing flavor. It's not quite the same since I did not use fresh parsley and subbed truffle oil because I refuse to buy any of the $600/lb. truffles they keep locked in the produce department of my grocery store (especially just for popcorn!) but it did satisfy my craving. Here is what I came up with:


1 bag plain or light butter popcorn
4 tsp. white truffle oil
2 TBSP dried parsley (1/4c fresh, if you have it)
1/4c. grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt, to taste

1. Pop the popcorn in the microwave.

2. In large bowl, toss popcorn with oil, parsley, and parmesan cheese; season to taste.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Amazingly Good Alfredo Sauce

This is my new favorite Alfredo sauce:
4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all-purpose flour
1c. heavy cream
1c. chicken broth
1c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2c. Parmesan and Romano cheese, shredded
3 TBSP Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4c. white wine
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium-size sauce pan, melt butter over low heat.

2. Add flour. Cook and stir with a whisk until well blended. (2-3 min.)

3. Add cream and broth. Stir to blend.

4. Add remaining ingredients and continue stirring over low heat until cheeses are melted and sauce is a smooth consistency.

*If the sauce starts to get too thick, just thin it back out with a splash of wine or broth.

5. Toss with pasta and serve warm.

Served this last night with Roasted Romas and sauteed zucchini.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Bites

Out of all the appetizers I set out on Super Bowl Sunday, this was probably the most popular.  Nothing fancy or complicated; just good, spicy Game Day food: 

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
oil for frying
1 bottle spicy Buffalo wing sauce (we like Frank's)

1.  In a small bowl mix together the flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt.

2.  Place chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle flour mixture over them.  Then toss until they are evenly coated.

3.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for 60 to 90 minutes.

4.  Heat oil in a deep skillet to 375*  The oil should be just enough to cover or almost cover chicken.

5.  Fry coated chicken in hot oil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned.  Remove chicken and place on paper towels.

6.  Place chicken on foil covered (for easy clean-up) baking sheet.

7.  Baste with Buffalo sauce.

8.  Bake approximately 15 min., turning and basting again halfway.
 Serve with celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing. 

Dinner with my Valentine

In celebration of Valentine's Day, we went out for dinner last night and the meal was so good, I am still thinking about it today.  Don't you love it when that happens?  This is what we had:

Shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy,
remoulade sauce

Crab and corn chowder

Beef filet w/lobster tail
Steamed veggies and chickpea salad

Chocolate creme brulee topped with Grand Marnier
and torched to perfection

We came home thinking we would actually be able to try some of the chocolates we had each given each other but we just couldn't do it.  It's now 10am and I am actually still full from last night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tofu Tacos

Last night was Taco Night at our house. 
There was a time when that called for lots of beef, cheese,
chips, and rice but this was not the case last night.  
We're making a conscious effort around here to eat more
high protein, plant based meals so instead, at hubby's request,
we had Tofu Tacos with sauteed zucchini and tomatoes on the side. 

If you haven't tried cooking with tofu,
I highly recommend this recipe as a good start.  
While the texture can be different, the flavor is very
much the same (I think it's better) than ground beef. 
The magic of tofu is that it takes on whatever
flavors you give it.  So if you season it like taco meat,
then it will taste like taco meat!

Here's the recipe with my modifications:

1 (16 oz.) pkg. garden herb or Italian seasoned tofu, crumbled
2 TBSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
10 medium taco shells, heated
2 c. shredded lettuce
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 c. salsa
1.  Over a medium heat fry the tofu, oil, garlic
and onion in a large skillet for 5 minutes.
2.  Add the chili powder, paprika, cayenne, cumin,
salt, lime juice and tomato sauce to the skillet and stir.
Cook for 3 minutes.
3.  Stir in the cilantro.
4.  Spoon the tofu mixture into taco shells.
Top the mixture with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado,
Cheddar cheese and salsa.
  For us, extra firm tofu is the best choice for getting
that familiar ground beef consistency.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cranberry Orange Cookies

I love to be home during a snowstorm.  It's exactly the kind of weather that makes me want to just stay in and bake.  So yesterday I decided to make cranberry orange cookies.

The texture is chewy and flavor is a delicious balance of cranberry, orange, and walnut.

1 c. real butter, softenened
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. grated orange zest
2 TBSP orange juice
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. cranberries, chopped
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

For the glaze:
1/2 tsp.grated orange zest
3 TBSP orange juice
1 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

1.Preheat the oven to 375*

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar
and brown sugar until smooth.

3.  Beat in the egg until well blended.

4.  Mix in 1 teaspoon orange zest and 2 tablespoons orange juice.

5.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt;
stir into the orange mixture.

6.  Mix in cranberries and if using, walnuts, until evenly distributed.

7.  Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie
sheets.  Cookies should be spaced at least 2 inches apart.

8.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges
are golden.  Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

9.  In a small bowl, mix together glaze ingredients and drizzle
over the tops of cooled cookies. Let stand until set.

I almost cut the recipe in half but then decided to go through with the
full four dozen.  This may not have been the best decision because
now I'm not so sure I trust myself alone in the kitchen with them.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old Bay Chicken and Shrimp Pasta

We have one kid who absolutely loves shrimp and would probably eat it every day of his life if I had it readily available all the time.  Then, we have another kid who says he hates seafood of any kind (never mind the fact that he practically inhales my sushi made with smoked salmon and crab - somehow
that's different in his mind).

So, the shrimp lover has been pestering me daily requesting I serve shrimp in the very near future.  Tonight is his lucky night.  Tonight, we are having shrimp but, in the interest of keeping complaints to a
minimum, we are also having chicken.  :)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2-inch strips

4 teaspoons OLD BAY® Seasoning, divided
1 TBSP butter
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 c. heavy cream
8 oz. penne pasta, cooked and drained
3 green onions, sliced
Parmesan cheese, taste
red pepper flakes, to taste

1.  Coat chicken with 2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning.
Melt butter in large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
Add chicken; cook 3 minutes per side, or until done.

2.  Coat shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning, to taste.
 Remove chicken from skillet; add shrimp.
Cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink
and add chicken back to skillet.

3.  Mix remaining Old Bay with cream.
Add cream mixture, cooked pasta and green onion to skillet.
Bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer 5 minutes or until sauce thickens
and pasta is heated through.

4.  Top with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes
and serve immediately.
We love this seasoning!
(I forgot to get a photo of the food before we starting eating!) 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuscan Soup

We love hot and spicy soups on cold nights.  So, yesterday evening, as the snow was falling outside, we were all sitting around the dining table enjoying a wonderful, Tuscan soup with spicy pork sausage, cannellini and garbanzo beans, potatoes, spinach, garlic..... it was all just so very good.

Here's the recipe:

6 c. chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 links spicy Italian sausage
3 large potatoes, cubed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch fresh spinach, rough chopped
1/4 c. evaporated milk
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, shredded

1.  Remove skin from sausage and crumble into large pot. 
Add chopped onion, and cook over medium heat. 
Add garlic when meat is almost done.

2.  Add broth, potatoes.  Boil until potato is cooked.  Stir in beans.

3.  Add spinach. Continue boiling until spinach is lightly wilted.

4.  Remove soup from heat, stir in evaporated milk, and season to taste. 

5.  Top with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. 
 Served with baguette slices and Italian Garlic Butter.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken and Waffles

My kids had never heard of chicken and waffles together before so, when I told them this was what we were having for dinner, they looked a little concerned.  My husband had a different reaction.  He will try anything I make and seemed intrigued, as was I, by the flavor combination.

I wasn't sure if I should serve something on the side or if the chicken and waffles were sufficient.  So I did some searching online and this is what I found out:

Chicken and waffles can be served breakfast style with bacon or grits but you can also serve it more like a dinner with greens.  I decided to serve it for dinner with maple syrup poured over the top and bacon on the side and that turned out to be a good choice for us because everyone cleaned their plates!
I used Emeril's recipe for the chicken, using boneless breasts and adding extra spices. Then, I cheated a little by using a waffle mix (we like Krusteaz). Poured the maple syrup over the top just before serving and the combination of sweet and spicy was amazing!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Really Fresh Seafood

I love it when I find a new place to buy fresh, organic ingredients! 
This place is not exactly local but it sounds pretty amazing!

Did you know you can get fresh seafood online?  Apparently, there is a business in the San Francisco Bay Area called I Love Blue Sea that serves local sushi restaurants but also offers a way for home cooks to order seafood online.   :)

What I'm liking is the fact that they only ship fresh caught, sustainable seafood that is certified by the Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch Program.  This makes me happy because I refuse to buy chemically enhanced seafood.   

It may be time to make my Fabulous Crab Cakes again!

P.S.  Also found out has a large organic selection.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Collard Greens

Last night's dinner was amazing!  We had Emeril's honey brined pork chops with a Creole mustard reduction sauce, spicy black-eyed peas leftover from New Year's Day, Southern-style collard greens, and buttermilk cornbread.  The flavor combination was crazy good!

I've used the same recipe for collard greens for a few years now and the result is always fantastic.  Even my boys who used to turn their noses up at greens now like these so much they actually go back for seconds!   It must be the bacon in there.  Everything's better with bacon, right?  :)

Here's the recipe:

1 TBSP olive oil
3 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 c. chicken broth
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 lb. fresh collard greens, cut into 2-inch pieces

1.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp.
Remove bacon from pan, crumble and return to the pan.

2.  Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, and cook until just fragrant.

3.  Add collard greens, and fry until they start to wilt.

4.  Pour in chicken broth, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

5.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.


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