Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chewy Chocolate Raisin Cookies


Growing up my mom was the cookie queen. You could always find homemade cookies in the kitchen, no matter what day of the week it was. When I got older I used to come home from school, while she was still working, and try out new cookie recipes or try master her baking techniques. I still get giddy with excitement when I find a new cookie recipe to try. This one I found in a Martha Stewart magazine I purchased at the airport last month. I made an unexpected trip back home and literally had to pack in 20 minutes. Once I got to the airport I realized I didn't pack my headphones, so I couldn't listen to my I-pod and I had nothing to read. I knew I would go crazy just sitting on the plane so I was off to find some reading material, in other words, a new food magazine! Given that most food magazines were focusing on Christmas I knew there would be some new and fun baking recipes and of course there were several. This particular cookie recipe stood out to me. Raisins soaked in brandy, white chocolate chips, Dutch-processed all sounded heavenly...and of course it was. You could really taste each ingredient in the cookie. The edges were a little crunchy with a soft, chewy center, just perfect. I typically don't enjoy raisins in my sweets, but for this cookie, it worked and it almost felt healthy!!

Chewy Chocolate Raisin Cookies

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1 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup brandy

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup honey

6 oz white chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Bring raisins and brandy to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, and let stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, cocoa, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the baking soda, and salt.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add honey, and beat until creamy. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and beat until combined. Drain raisins; discard liquid. Add raisins and chocolate to dough. Mix to combine.

Whisk together sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Scoop 2 tablespoons dough. Roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture, and shape into a ball. Roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture again to coat completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart, as you work. Bake until just set and starting to crack, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets.

Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Yield: About 2 dozen

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Italian Baked Pastina


This is another dish that could easily go from a side dish to a main course by adding a little protein. If you are looking for an easy one-dish meal I would recommend using some chopped up chicken to add in with the pasta. I usually serve this pasta as a side dish to compliment the beer butt chicken I told you about yesterday. The pasta has nice, subtle flavors that don't overpower your taste buds. For all the mom's out there it is also a kid friendly meal. The use of breadcrumbs provides a crunchy texture, while the tomatoes add a nice balance without being too saucy.

Italian Baked Pastina

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1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (if using)

1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)

1 clove garlic, minced

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. If using chicken, add to the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken mixture is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Source:, Giada de Laurentis

Monday, December 28, 2009

Beer Butt Chicken


This cooking technique has been around for a while and I wouldn't be surprised if most have already tried it. For those of you that haven't tried cooking a chicken this way, you have just found your go-to recipe that ensures perfectly tender and juicy chicken every time. Having said that, I will also stress to you the importance of a meat thermometer. We use a digital meat thermometer in our house and I don't know what I would do without it. Back to the chicken... I use this recipe quite often. When chicken is on sale you can't beat the price. I find that you can get a lot of meat from roasting a whole chicken, usually close to 6 cups. I like to purchase two at a time, cooking them together, serving one for dinner and saving the other to chop, shred, and separate into freezer bags for use in recipes that call for shredded or chopped chicken such as soups and casseroles. Even after freezing I find the meat to still remain tender and juicy.  If serving as a meal, I like to have my favorite condiments on hand, such as barbeque sauce or honey mustard.

Beer Butt Chicken

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Olive Oil

Whole Chicken (4 to 5 lbs)

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

Can of beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash chicken and pat dry with a towel. Drizzle enough olive oil to cover the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Open can of beer and pour out half (or drink it). Cut a bigger opening on the top of the can using scissors.

Set the chicken over the can. The can should help to support the chicken so that it does not fall over. Place on a baking sheet or other pan that will catch the drippings from the chicken. Insert a thermometer into the thigh of the chicken. Cook until the chicken reaches 180 degrees.

Once the chicken is done, let rest for 10 to 15 minutes in order for the juices to settle. Remove chicken from beer can, being careful not to burn yourself…the can is still very hot. Cut and serve chicken as desired.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers – December 2009


This challenge was honestly one I was dreading. It sounded like fun, but with all the things on my to do list, I had no clue how I would manage to get it done. Last weekend we got snow, which means I stayed in and while I should have been writing my paper, I made this my first priority, after all it sounds like much more fun than reading and writing about economics! After I started assembling, the  inner child in me came out and I had a blast. I didn’t have much to decorate the house with except for more gingerbread, so I managed to find some red sprinkles and did the best I could to add some color! Overall, I was happy with the way it turned out and happy I took the time to make one. Who knows, maybe it will be a yearly tradition now!


Spicy Gingerbread Dough

(recipe can be halved, if only making one gingerbread house)

2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream

1 1/4 cups molasses

9 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

In a very large bowl, with wire whisk ( or an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

Grease and flour large cookie sheets.

Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16 inch thickness. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on
cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimming as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not over bake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Source: Good Housekeeping;

Royal Icing

1 large egg white

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Source for Gingerbread Template:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Red Velvet cake is an anytime of the year cake, but I love to make it during the Christmas holiday or on Valentines day. There is just something about the color red on a cake that just pops! Believe it or not I made red velvet cake for the first time about a year ago, before that I had never had it nor made it. The use of buttermilk and Dutch processed cocoa helps give the cake it's pronounced flavor. I have tried using both a buttercream frosting and a cream cheese frosting and I have to say my favorite combination is the cream cheese frosting. My husband absolutely loves this cake and I have come to love it too.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with laughter, love, family, and good food!!

Merry Christmas!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon red liquid gel color or 3 tablespoons red food coloring (like McCormick’s)

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vinegar

Grease the tops of the mold muffin pans and line them with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and food coloring on medium speed until well creamed.

On a piece of wax paper, sift together cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. At low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar.

Pour the batter into the prepared molds, filling each three quarters full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pans.

Yields: 18 cupcakes

Source: Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse: Cupcakes, Small Cakes, Muffins, and Other Mini Treats by Kaye and Liv Hansen

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened

5 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium high speed. Sift the powdered sugar after measuring. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl in batches, beating on low until just combined and then beating on high until desired consistency is reached. For a stiffer icing, add more powdered sugar.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride, originally adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Breakfast Empanadas


The winter weather is officially upon us which is usually when I start overstocking the fridge and pantry just in case the weather gets bad and I can't make it to the store. Two weeks ago was the first of school delays and closings due to ice and snow. The only good thing I find about this kind of weather is that it gives me an opportunity to make a "Big Breakfast," which I happened to have all ingredients on hand on this particular morning. The empanadas were heavenly. Filled with the creaminess from the cheese mixture, scrambled eggs, and crispy bacon. Oh I need to make these again...and soon! The great thing about this recipe is you can use whatever you have on hand in order to create. Switch out the bacon for sausage or create a vegetable empanada. For those that might not have as much time in the morning, but still want to recreate this dish, try rolling out the biscuits the night before, as this was the most time consuming part. You could also mix up the cheese mixture and cook your bacon the night before, just make sure to store everything accordingly.

Breakfast Empanadas

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6 oz Cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons butter

5 large eggs, beaten

1 (17.3 oz) can refrigerated jumbo flaky biscuits

8 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Cooking spray

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, parsley, salt and pepper until blended; stir in cheese.
Melt butter in a 9 inch skillet over medium heat, add eggs, and cook without stirring, until eggs begin to set on bottom. Draw a spatula across bottom of skillet to form large curds. Continue cooking until eggs are slightly thickened but still moist. (Do not stir constantly.) Remove from heat, and let cool.

Flatten each biscuit into about a 5 inch circle. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over tops of dough circles, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edges. Top evenly with scrambled eggs and bacon.

Fold dough circles in half over mixture, pinching edges to seal; place 2 inches apart on a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet, coated with cooking spray. Brush tops evenly with egg white and press sealed edges with tins of a fork.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Apple-Cranberry Compote


Yesterday I posted about the Pork Tenderloin in an Apple Maple Brine and today I'm sharing with you a wonderful side dish that complimented the pork quite nicely. This dish had so many flavors with the ginger and orange mixed in with the cranberry and apples. Overall, it had the bitter flavor from the cranberry mixture and the sweetness from the apples. I could see this being served as a holiday side dish since it reminded me of an amped up cranberry sauce. I almost left the pecans out, but decided not to upset the pecan lovers in our family and I'm glad I did include them; they added the right amount of texture and also helped with the overall flavor. The original recipe called for six apples, which I found to be too many. I ended up using only three, mainly because I didn't have room to add more to the dish, but feel free to use as many as you can, up to six.

Apple-Cranberry Compote

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12 oz can whole cranberry-orange sauce or whole-berry cranberry sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 to 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

Vegetable cooking spray

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Garnish: orange rind strips

Bring cranberry-orange sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, ginger, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Arrange apple slices in a round baking dish coated with cooking spray, pout cranberry mixture over apples.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until apples are tender. Sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans. Bake 5 more minutes. Garnish with strips of orange rind.

Source adapted from:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pork Tenderloin in an Apple Maple Brine


I am still enjoying new pork tenderloin recipes and try to make a new one every couple of weeks. Most of the ones I have tried have some type of spice rub or sauce to go on top of the tenderloin, but this recipe is different. This is the first recipe that I've tried that uses a brine as a way to flavor the pork. I was interested in how the pork would taste and if the flavors would be present from the brine after cooking. The results of this process was very simple, subtle flavors that did not over power the pork, but let the pork stand out on its own. I thought I would get more of an apple flavor due to the brine, but I didn't seem to taste those flavors as much. I will confess that at some point during the day, my bag that was holding the brine got a hole in it and the brine leaked out into the bowl that it was sitting in. I think the pork was still submerged for the most part. Overall, it was still a great pork tenderloin... sometimes the simpler, the better. Come back tomorrow to see what I served with the tenderloin!

Pork Tenderloin in an Apple Maple Brine

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3 1/2 cups hot water

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 cup apple juice

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

Stir together the hot water and salt until the salt is dissolved. Add the apple juice, maple syrup, sugar and
black pepper. Pour brine into a large zip lock bag and seal. Place bag into a large bowl of ice water to cool down.

Trim any excess fat from the meat and remove the silver skin carefully. Once the brine is cool, submerge the pork in the brine, making sure the meat stays under the surface during curing. Place the bag containing the marinade and pork into a bowl in order to prevent any leaks. Refrigerate the pork in the brine for six to eight hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large ovenproof skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat. Remove pork from brine and rinse then pat dry. Season with freshly cracked pepper. Add pork to the skillet, cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Place pan in the oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until meat thermometer reads between 155 and 160 degrees or until desired doneness. Let stand five minutes before slicing.

Source: For the Love of Cooking, originally from RecipeZaar

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sesame Noodles


I usually don't serve pasta as a side to a meal, but I couldn't resist adding it to our Orange Thai Flank Steak dinner since the two paired well together. This recipe comes from PW, which I starred as soon as I read it on my Google reader. Asian cuisine is something both my husband and I enjoy, but it's not an everyday or even weekly cuisine for us. There are many recipes out there that I want to try, but I find most to have multiple ingredients that I've never heard of much less have in my pantry. I'm always skeptical to go and buy something if I think I'll never use it again, but this recipe is simple to throw together and uses most kitchen staples. Overall, it complimented the steak nicely and satisfied my craving for simple Asian inspired food.

Sesame Noodles

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12 oz thin noodles, cooked and drained

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons pure sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon hot Chile oil

4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons hot water

3 to 4 green onions, diced

Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and green onions) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat. Sprinkle with green onions and toss. Serve in a bowl.

Source: Pioneer Woman

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Orange Thai Flank Steak


You can always tell when it is getting closer to the Holidays by how bare our freezer is! In an attempt to keep grocery costs down this month I have been cleaning out the freezer and using as many things in the pantry as possible. Luckily I had all the ingredients on hand to make this meal. A few weeks ago we had some unseasonable warm temperatures which made me crave something from the grill, so I volunteered my husband to grill us some steak...don't worry he doesn't mind when there's steak involved! I put together the marinade in the morning before leaving for work and let the steak soak up all the goodness of the seasonings. The soy sauce adds a lot of flavor and the hint of orange compliments the steak quite nicely.

Orange Thai Flank Steak

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Zest from 1 orange, chopped finely

Juice from 1 orange

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 to 4 teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce (I used 3)

1 pound flank steak

Green onions, diced for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours.

Grill steak under desired doneness. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing into thin strips against the grain. Boil the remaining marinade for 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Drizzle sauce over the sliced meat.

Source: For the Love of Cooking, originally from Our Best Bites

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snickerdoodle Pie


Snickerdoodles are one of my favorite cookies and I never imagined that I could get the taste of a snickerdoodle cookie in the form of a pie! I saw this recipes over at Baking Bites and I still couldn’t imagine a pie tasting as good as the cookie, but I was wrong. The pie has all the cinnamon and sugar you could ask for plus more! Each layer has its own flavor found in a snickerdoodle cookie that comes together with each bite.  I was hoping to make my own pie crust, but found myself with little time in between all my school work, so I settled for a store bought pie crust. If you are a snickerdoodle lover, this pie is for you!

Snickerdoodle Pie

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1 rolled refrigerated 9 inch unbaked piecrust

2 teaspoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, room temperature and divided

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoon vanilla, divided

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 1/4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pastry and line 9-inch pie plate. In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Brush melted butter over crust. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Set aside.

For syrup, in saucepan combine brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, the water, corn syrup, and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boiling over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together remaining 1/4 cup butter, sugar and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Beat in egg and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, followed by the milk. When mixture is smooth, blend in the flour, mixing only until combined.

Pour flour mixture into prepared pie crust. Pour syrup over the filling in pie plate.  Do not mix. Carefully transfer pie to the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes, until pie is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes on wire rack. Serve warm.

Makes 10 servings.

Source:, originally from Better Homes and Gardens

Monday, December 14, 2009

Salmon en Croute - Daring Cooks December 09


Sometimes I sign myself up for things that sound like fun at the moment, but then become another thing on my "To Do" list that never quite gets done. So last month I had the urge to sign up for the Daring Baker's and Daring Cook's challenges. That's right, not one more thing on the to do list, but two! For those in the non-blogging world, this is a group of individuals that cook a dish picked out by one of our peers and write about the experience. So why did I do this? There are so many dishes out there that would probably never be made in my kitchen otherwise, so this is my attempt to expand my cooking and baking, hopefully learning a thing or two along the way. My first Daring Cook's challenge is the perfect example of things I would not normally cook.


Salmon and I are not really friends. I find it to be a smelly, fishy type  fish that texturally doesn't really work for me. My husband on the other hand enjoys salmon and has asked several times if I would make it for him, so I guess in some way I delivered on his request! This was a fun first challenge as I am always up for puff pastry and enjoyed decorating the outside with some snow flakes! As for the taste of the dish...I only had one bite of it, which confirmed the fact that I still don't like salmon...sorry to disappoint. For those that do enjoy salmon, I encourage you to make this, maybe even have a friend or two for dinner...they'll think you're really big time once they see your puff pastry!!

Salmon en Croute

5.2 oz Mascarpone or cream cheese

4.2 oz Watercress, arugula, and spinach

17.6 oz Puff Pastry

17.6 oz Salmon filet

1 medium egg

Heat the oven to 390 degrees. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and arugula and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.

Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet. Put the salmon in the middle. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel, making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test whether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the spinach puree as a sauce.

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ginger Snap Cookies


Where have these cookies been all my life?!? My husband is a big ginger snap fan so I was in search of a good recipe and curious if homemade ginger cookies tasted as good as the ones from the brown bag at the store. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find that they are in fact better than the store bought snaps, but they were. Crunchy on the outside yet a soft and gingery in the middle. I could not eat enough. I have told you about my love of ginger once before, so to be able to enjoy ginger in a cookie form is oh so yummy.

Ginger Snap Cookies

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4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons ground ginger (I used fresh ginger)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups shortening

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar (place in a small bowl)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening until softened. Gradually add the 2 cups of sugar; beating until fluffy. Add eggs and molasses and beat until combined. Add half of the flour mixture, mixing until fully incorporated. Stir in the remaining flour with a wood spoon. Using a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop, shape dough into 2 inch balls. Roll the dough into the sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are light brown and puffed. Once out of the oven, let cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet. After 1 minute, take spatula and drop cookies from spatula onto counter. When cookies drop they will flatten out and even out the cookies. Let stand for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Source adapted from: Whipped

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creamy Orzo


This was my first time cooking with Orzo. For those not familiar with Orzo, it is actually a pasta and not a rice. I first saw this recipe over at Smells like Home and thought the dish sounded really good. I was happy with the orzo, it’s the star of the show and could easily be a dinner all on its own. I tried using the Herb-rubbed grilled chicken that was recommended with the dish, but I felt the chicken was so-so. Next time I might try making it with the Pork Milanese that Giada used in her episode, but again you don’t need a protein in order to make this dish into a meal. Another plus for those that have kids, is it is a kid-friendly meal that the little guys will enjoy as well!

Creamy Orzo

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1 pound orzo

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, juices drained

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes, stirring often. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream. Add the orzo and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the Parmesan to the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Stir in the pasta mixture until the sauce coasts the pasta thickly, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to maintain a creamy consistency. Season the orzo with salt and pepper, and serve.

Source adapted from: SmellsLikeHome, originally from Italian

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cheese on the Cob


Corn on the Cob is a classic usually topped with some good ‘ol butter. When corn is in season you just can’t beat the taste and freshness. When corn is not in season or I am using frozen corn I like to season it up and bring in new flavors. The use of chili powder brings in a spicy kick, mixed together with freshly ground black pepper and parmesan cheese it takes on a whole new flavor combination. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Cheese on the Cob

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2 to 3 ears corn, husks and silk removed

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan


Chili Powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare grill or grill pan.

Brush a thin layer of mayonnaise on corn, or whatever you want to use in order to make the cheese and spices stick. Sprinkle corn with cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper. Wrap each corn with foil, sprayed with cooking spray, and place on grill, or in my case a grill pan. Turn occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes or until kernels begin to brown. Serve warm.

Source adapted from:’s Home Cooking

Monday, December 7, 2009

Onion-Smothered Italian Burgers


Every now and then I get in the mood to switch things up and find a version of a dish that I haven’t made before. When I found this recipe for an Italian spin on a burger, I knew I had to try it. Michael and I are also a big caramelized onion fans, so I was also happy to see lots of onion for a topping! The Italian seasonings mixed into the beef patty bring in the flavors similar to a meatball. Not to worry though, the overall feel is still that of a burger! I used our grill pan in order to cook the burgers, but a normal pan would work fine as well. Overall, I still prefer the taste of a regular burger, but I will definitely be making this burger again when I want to switch things up.

Onion – Smothered Italian Burgers

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1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups thinly sliced Vidalia onion

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1 pound ground beef, extra lean

Cooking spray

4 hamburger buns

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sugar, salt, and pepper to pan. Cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Combine cheese, tomato paste, oregano, garlic powder, dried basil and ground beef in a medium bowl; shape meat mixture into 4 patties. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan. Cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Place 1 patty on the bottom half of each bun; top each patty with 1/4 cup onion mixture and top half of each bun.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Bars


I have been in a pumpkin mood lately, which is good since I have so many new pumpkin recipes marked to try. This recipe comes from Joy the Baker and it is fabulous. A few weeks ago I posted a cute Pumpkin chocolate chip Bundt cake, I mentioned that the combination of pumpkin and chocolate chips were not my favorite, but I'm happy to report that the chocolate chips paired well with the pumpkin bars! Another combination that I never would have thought to put together is butterscotch with pumpkin, which is actually really good together. Overall, I was really happy with the combinations and flavors and happy to have a quick pumpkin dessert without the fuss of an actual pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

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1 and 1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 and 1/2 sticks cold butter, unsalted

1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

8 oz package cream cheese, softened

3 eggs

15 oz can pumpkin

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)

a handful of butterscotch and/or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil, leaving enough foil to wrap over the edges; grease or spray foil.

Mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and brown sugar in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 forks until mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts. Reserve 1 cup of oat mixture, set to the side.
Press remaining oat mixture onto bottom or prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes. In the meantime, beat cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and bourbon, if using, with mixer until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved oat mixture and a handful of butterscotch and or chocolate chips, if using.

Bake 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack until cooled completely.

Source:, originally from Kraft

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

French Toast Casserole


Who doesn’t love to wake up in the morning and start your day with a piece of French toast? One of my complaints about making French toast is that, in general, you can only make a few slices at a time, so if feeding a crowd you are not all eating at the same time. This recipes allows you to cook and serve each slice all at once. I found this recipe a while back and have made it each time we have company stay overnight. Everyone seems to really enjoy it, and I enjoy being able to prep everything the night before. This is a must try dish for anyone that loves French toast!

French Toast Casserole

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4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 loaf brioche or challah bread, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick (about 1 1/2 pounds)

8 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Confectioners’ sugar

Sorghum, cane, or maple syrup (optional)

In a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, combine melted butter and brown sugar. Arrange bread slices evenly in baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Pour over bread, letting egg mixture soak in. Top evenly with pecans. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let chilled casserole stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Bake until browned and set, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Sift confectioners’ sugar over casserole. Serve hot or warm with sorghum, cane, or maple syrup, if desired.

Source: Bon Appétit, Y’all by Virginia Willis, Ten Speed Press, 2008

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Potato Soup


This is another favorite soup recipe that is both convenient and simple to make, yet so comforting to eat. There are many different potato soup recipes out there, but I keep coming back to this one. The use of frozen hash browns makes prep super simple and as I have said before the crock pot is my best friend so I enjoy not having to labor over the stove. Add in bacon, green onions, and more cheese and I am in potato heaven!

Jane’s Potato Soup

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1 (30 oz) bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

3 (14 oz) cans chicken broth

1 (10.75 oz) can cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

Garnish: cooked and crumbled bacon, minced green onion, shredded cheddar cheese

In a 6 quart electric slow cooker, combine potatoes, chicken broth, soup, onion, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Stir in cream cheese; cook 30 minutes stirring occasionally, until combined.

Garnish with desired toppings.

Source: Cooking with Paula Deen magazine, January/February 2008