Friday, December 23, 2011

Fruit Slaw

I was looking for a light side for burgers and sandwiches and found a recipe for Stone Fruit Slaw on Epicurious. This time of year it's not easy to find peaches and apricots, so I used black plums,
apples, and pears. The result was a refreshing dish that I'll make again - and look forward to trying when stone fruits are back in season.

The only unusual technique in this recipe is how you cut the fruit; the recipe asks for matchsticks. I held the fruit right side up and sliced off the four sides. Then I put each piece cut side down and made a horizontal cut through the middle. Holding the two pieces together, cut 1/4 inch slices vertically.

Fruit Slaw

1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pound assorted firm fruit (about 5; such as plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots, pears, or apples), julienned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add fruit; toss gently to coat. Season lightly to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Special Sandwich

This yummy sandwich requires a trip to Publix or somewhere else that sells Boar's Head. It has all the comfort of a grilled cheese, with spiciness and flavor from the turkey and cheese.

Special Sandwich

butterBoar's Head Jerk Turkey
Boar's Head Three-Pepper Colby Jack Cheese
sliced Marble Rye
spicy brown mustard
Boar's Head submarine dressing
Butter 2 slices of marble rye. On the other side of one buttered slice, spread mustard. Heat a frying pan to medium low. Layer three slices of turkey and two slices of cheese between the rye bread. Grill on both sides until cheese melts. Removing one slice of bread, sprinkle submarine dressing on the turkey and replace bread.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roasted Red and Sweet Potatoes

Roasted potatoes in olive oil is nothing new, but I've been enjoying this technique passed on by a friend recently. The key is to not layer or crowd the potatoes: you want them to roast, not steam. I love the combination of the caramelized sweet potatoes and the savory red potatoes.

Roasted Reds and Sweets

2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
2-4 medium/large red potatoes, scrubbed
3-4 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 t. thyme

Cube potatoes into one-inch squares. Spread out on a rimmed cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme over the potatoes.

Roast at 425 for 50-60 minutes, tasting to check tenderness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peppermint Cheesecake

Here's a cheesecake I came up with to take to our faculty Christmas party. The peppermint is quite subtle: I wanted to use Peppermint Oreos, but couldn't find them, so I substituted red Oreos with peppermint extract. It's delicious, creamy, and very festive for this time of year!

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

1 package peppermint Oreos (can substitute regular or red with 1/2 t. peppermint extract added)
3 T. butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar

Process the Oreos into crumbs in a food processor or with a rolling pin and a plastic bag. Mix the crumbs withe melted butter and sugar, as well as the peppermint extract if using. Press into a 9-inch springform pan, on the bottom and up the sides. Set aside.

1 package Candy Cane Hershey's kisses, unwrapped
1/4 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup half and half
3 packages cream cheese
3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2-1 teaspoon peppermint extract, depending on how peppermint-y you want it
red food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 325.

You'll want 2 cups of white chocolate, so measure the Hershey's kisses and add some white chocolate chips to make up the difference. Put in a microwave safe bowl with half and half and melt at 50% power. Stir after each minute - it will take about three minutes. Stir until smooth and set aside.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. Mix in melted white chocolate , vanilla, peppermint extract, and a few drops of red food coloring if desired.

Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from pan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankgiving 2011

It's time for the Super Bowl of cooking! We'll have a smaller group than usual this year - ten people - and the guests are bringing several components of the meal. Here's my plan; you can click on the links for recipes.


Chex Mix - Grandma
Fruit Dip - Grandma/Great Grandma
Baked Brie

Main Course

Turkey (Cook's Illustrated brining technique)
White Bread Stuffing
Make-Ahead Gravy
Cranberry Sauce (from the back of the Ocean Spray bag, with orange zest added)
Mashed Potatoes
Crescent Rolls - Grandma
Sweet Potatoes - Grandma
Creamy Leek Gratin - a new one this year
Sweet Corn Pudding
Macaroni and Cheese
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Prosciutto
Waldorf Salad - Great Grandma
Jello Salad - Grandma

Apple Pie - Mom's recipe
S'more Pie
Pumpkin Pie/Cheesecake - Aunt
Another possible dessert from Grandma

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Treats

Need a last-minute treat for Halloween? Here are some easy and yummy ideas.

Chocolate Spiders
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup peanut butter candy melts, peanut butter chips, or peanut butter
2 cups chow mein noodles
1/2 cup rice krispies
large red sprinkles (optional)

Melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter candy melts in the microwave at 50% power for 2-3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Add rice krispies. Stir in chow mein noodles until mixture starts to hold together, adding more if necessary. Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper. Add eight long chocolate-covered chow mein noodles for legs. Add large red sprinkles for eyes if desired. To speed drying, put in refrigerator.

Monster Toes

1 package hot dogs
1 package flour tortillas
mustard, ketchup, and relish

Cut hot dogs into 3 pieces. About 1/2 inch from the end, cut a small square for a toe.

Cut tortillas into 1/2 inch strips about 5-6 inches long. Wind them around the hot dog, leaving the "toe" uncovered. Secure with a toothpick.

Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes. Using a small brush or spoon, paint the toe with mustard, ketchup, or relish. Serve.

Dem Bones (photo courtesy Jack Carnes)

Mini marshmallows
Pretzel sticks
White candy melts

Melt candy melts according to package instructions. Dip pretzel sticks in the melted candy - it's okay if the end you are holding is not covered. Dry on waxed paper. Stick mini marshmallows on ends of pretzel sticks to make bones. These are way better than they have any right to be.

Ghoooul Aid

1 package orange Kool-Aid
1 package purple Kool-Aid
2 cups sugar
4 cups 7-Up

In a gallon container, mix orange and purple Kool-Aid, sugar, and 3 quarts of water and ice until sugar dissolves. Stir in 7-Up and serve. The picture makes it look brown, but it's really more of an unappetizing black color!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rainbow Ruffle Cake

My niece asked me to make her birthday cake, and she was interested in either a Wicked cake or a tropical fish cake. I sent her a few pictures of cakes I found online, along with this rainbow cake that I've always wanted to make. She chose the rainbow cake. It was so much fun to make, and it's a real "Wow!" cake - a showstopper. It's fairly time consuming but not difficult.

First, take two white cake mixes (quelle horreur!). Prepare them according to the package instructions, and divide the batter among six bowls. I weighed the batter to make sure they were even. Follow the Roy G. Biv rules of rainbows and tint the batter the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. For most vivid colors, use gel food colors. You can get some neon colors at the grocery store made by Betty Crocker that would work nicely for this cake. I used my Wilton colors.

Next, prepare two nine-inch cake pans by spraying with Pam, lining with a circle of parchment, and spraying the parchment with Pam. Bake two colors at a time, for 15 minutes. You can bake more at once if you have two ovens or more than two nine-inch pans.

Let the cakes cool and remove parchment.

Now, make the buttercream frosting in this post, but triple it. Layer and frost the cake in the Roy G. Biv pattern. Use a crumb coat to the outside of the cake. If your frosting is too thick for a thin crumb coat, add a small amount of milk to about 1/3 of the remaining frosting. Put the cake in the refrigerator until it crusts over - about 30-60 minutes.

Finally, put the remaining frosting in six bowls. Color the frosting with the six colors you used before. Put frosting into six decorating bags. Using the 103 or 104 petal tip, pipe frosting in a ruffle form. The thin end of the tip should be up. Squeeze a short line of frosting, then go back and forth to create a ruffled effect - think zig-zag. This is actually very easy and forgiving.

Here's a (slightly messy) picture of the cake once you cut into it.

And here's a slice. We had to cut them very thinly because the cake was really tall, with six layers!


1. If you don't want to use the cake decorating tools, you can just frost the outside with white frosting. Here's a rainbow cake done that way. Think of the surprise once you cut into a pure white cake and find a rainbow!

2. I never use cake mixes, but for this cake I wanted the colors to be undiluted, and I was afraid a homemade cake wouldn't be white enough.

3. I actually used a swiss meringue buttercream for the outside. It was fun to make and less sweet than the powdered sugar buttercream I usually use. I'd like work with it a bit more, but for now I'll stick with my usual recipe.

4. The cake shifted a bit in transit, as you can see below.

Happy birthday, Kelsey!

Olive Garden for Mom

I usually cook dinner for my mom on her birthday, but this year she said she didn't want to put me out, so we could go to Olive Garden for soup, salad, and breadsticks. Instead, I decided to make her Olive Garden favorites at home, as well as her favorite Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake. I was happy with how well everything turned out!

Olive Garden Salad

Recreating Olive Garden's salad was the most difficult knock-off. Most recipes online include raw egg (which I'm sure OG does not use) or pectin, which sounds kind of gross for salad dressing. The recipe I went with was outstanding, but not that close to Olive Garden's dressing. However, I put the bowl and all ingredients except for lettuce and the croutons in the freezer before adding the dressing and serving, and the chilled salad captured a lot of the OG experience.

Olive Garden Salad

Dressing Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/3 cup white vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
    • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
    • 2 tablespoons romano cheese
    • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
    • 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender until well mixed.
  2. If this is a little to tart for your own personal tastes please add a little extra sugar - mine did need sugar.
Salad Ingredients

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 Romaine heart, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 sliced cucumber
1 cup whole pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup kalamata olives
3 roma tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 cup croutons
Romano cheese

Toss lettuces, onion, cucumbers, peppers, olives, and tomatoes in a chilled glass bowl with dressing. Top with croutons and cheese.

Zuppa Toscana

Here's another very close Olive Garden knock-off. This soup is my mom's favorite. Though it has cream, it doesn't have any flour to thicken it, so it's still very brothy. I like to add about 1/4 t. of crushed red pepper for a little heat.

Zuppa Toscana


1 lb Italian sausage (mild or hot)
2 large russet baking potatoes, sliced in half, and then in 1/4 inch slices
1 large onions, chopped
1/4 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional, but really good)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups kale or 2 cups swiss chard, chopped
2 (8 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 quart water
1 cup heavy whipping cream


1. Remove uncooked sausage from casings and break into small pieces.
2. Brown sausage in your soup pot. Remove with a slotted spoon.
3. Add onions and garlic to remaining fat and cook for five minutes.
4. Place chicken broth, water, onions, and potatoes in pot.
5. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are done.
6. Add sausage and bacon.
7. Salt and pepper to taste.
8. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
9. Turn to low heat.
10. Add kale and cream.
11. Heat through and serve.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli

This recipe is extremely close to Olive Garden's version of Pasta e Fagioli, and it's very healthy! What's more, both boys loved it. Ben says it's his second favorite soup after homemade chicken noodle.

It is a very thick - more like an Italian chili. You can add more V8 juice to make it brothier, especially when reheating leftovers. Serve with OG breadsticks.

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
1 large carrot, julienned (1 cup)
3 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can great northern beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can V-8 juice (add more if soup is too thick)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 pound (1/2 pkg.) ditali pasta

1. Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Drain off most of the fat.

2. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute for 10 minutes.

3. Add remaining ingredients, except pasta, and simmer for 1 hour.

4. About 50 minutes into the simmering, cook the pasta in 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of boiling water over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or just until pasta is al dente, or slightly tough. Drain.

5. Add the pasta to the large pot of soup. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 8.

Olive Garden Breadsticks

Olive Garden's breadsticks are soft, buttery, and slightly garlicky. You can find a lot of copycat recipes online, but this one is pretty good. I've made some changes after making them twice. In this picture the breadsticks are golden-brown, which is good but not like OG's version. The next time I made them I baked them for eight minutes instead of ten, and they were closer.

Jack and Ben love Olive Garden's breadsticks, but they pronounced this version "way better."

Olive Garden Breadsticks


2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (about half a packet)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
16 ounces bread flour (3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened

On top:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water in a small bowl or measuring cup and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy on top.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer to mix the softened butter into the flour. If you don't have a stand mixer, use a mixing spoon or hand mixer to combine the butter with the flour. When the yeast mixture is foamy, pour it into the flour mixture and use a dough hook on your mixture to combine the ingredients and knead the
dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you don't have a stand mixer, combine the ingredients and then knead the dough by hand on a countertop for 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a covered container and let it sit for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it doubles in size. When the dough has doubled, measure out 2-ounce portions and roll the dough between your hands to form sticks that are 7 inches long. Place the dough on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, cover and set aside for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size once
again. You can fit them all on one sheet, but they will grow into each other. You can also put them on two sheets and rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake the breadsticks for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. When the breadsticks come out of the oven, immediately brush each one with melted butter and sprinkle with a little garlic salt.

Makes 12-13 breadsticks

Salsa Cheese Dip

I don't have a picture of this dip, because it is honestly not very pretty. It's kind of pink and chunky. I originally had it in a blue casserole, but I switched it to a red crock to make it more appetizing.

Although it's not a looker, this appetizer is worth your attention! It's easy and addictive and a good change from the usual Mexican appetizers I serve. The red crock I put it in has a plug-in base which kept it piping hot.

Salsa Cheese Dip

1 cup salsa (I used hot salsa from the produce section)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes at 350. Uncover, stir or whisk, and bake for 45 minutes more. After you take it out of the oven, stir or whisk again and serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pioneer Woman Potluck

My book club just read Pioneer Woman's memoir, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, and we decided to have a potluck and each bring one of her recipes. Everything was delicious! Here's what we had.

Homemade Ricotta and a Birthday Dinner

Catherine came over for her birthday dinner on Friday night, and I decided to go with a late-summer-bounty theme. Here was our menu:

Crostini with Homemade Ricotta, Caramelized Onions, Basil Oil, and Sea Salt
Grilled Red, Yellow, and Orange Peppers with Grilled Tomatoes and Onions
Summer Fruit Crostata with Vanilla Ice Cream

I was happy with everything, though the crostata cooked unevenly - burnt on the edges (I knocked them off) and a little underdone in the middle. I loved the combination of plums, peaches, and blueberries at their peak, though!

I've been wanting to try to make ricotta for a while, so I incorporated it into the appetizer. I put out a platter of toasted crostini (slice a very thin baguette into 1/2 inch rounds; bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes) and bowls of ricotta, basil oil (1/2 cup of oil; 1 cup of basil leaves, packed; and a pinch of salt whirred in a processor), caramelized onions, and sea salt. Guests could make whatever combination suited them.

Making ricotta was incredibly easy, and it tastes so much better than store-bought. It's creamy rather than gritty.

Homemade Ricotta

1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup cream
1 t. salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cook milk, cream, and salt on medium low to just under a boil. Add lemon juice and turn heat to low. Stir mixture until curds form - about 2 minutes.

Pour ricotta into a pasta strainer lined with a clean cloth napkin or cheesecake. If you want to save the whey, put a bowl under the strainer. Drain the ricotta for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Ridiculousness

Here's a great Pioneer Woman recipe - unbelievably good jalapeno poppers. They are a much-loved appetizer for a crowd, and you can make them ahead of time. If you have any left over, chop them up and add them to scrambled eggs for your breakfast. I love that and I don't even like eggs.

Keep these tips in mind when making the poppers:

1. Seed the jalapenos while wearing plastic gloves or plastic bags on your hands.
2. If you are serving guests who can't handle spicy food, carefully remove all the seeds and membranes. The end result will not be very hot.
3. If you have guests who like to travel up the Scoville heat scale, leave a few seeds and/or membranes. Leaving all the seeds will be too much.
4. You can make them ahead of time and refrigerate overnight, uncooked. You can also cook them and freeze them until later - just reheat in a warm oven.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalape
  • ño

  • Poppers

  • 18 fresh jalapeños
  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 18 slices thin bacon, cut into halves
  • Bottled barbecue sauce
  • Toothpicks
  • Rubber gloves (or plastic bags) for working with jalapeños

  • Preheat the oven to 275ºF.

    Begin by cutting jalapeños in half lengthwise. Try to keep the stems intact.

  • With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and light-colored membranes. Remember: The heat comes from the seeds and membranes, so if you can handle the sizzle, leave some of them intact.

  • Now, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chopped green onion. Mix the ingredients together gently.

  • Next, stuff each hollowed jalapeño half with the cheese mixture.

  • Wrap bacon slices around each half, covering as much of the surface as you can. Be careful not to stretch the bacon too tightly around the jalapeño, as the bacon will contract as it cooks.

  • Brush the surface of the bacon with your favorite barbecue sauce.

  • Secure the jalapeños with toothpicks and pop them in the oven for 1 hour, or until the bacon is sizzling.

  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

  • Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Italian Buffet for 40

    I had the opportunity to cook for the wonderful teachers of First Baptist Church Preschool again recently. I decided to do an Italian buffet. Here are the recipes. Most are links to recipes on my blog, but some are links to other websites.

    Caesar Salad

    Focaccia Bread
    I didn't make the onion/olive topping; instead, I drizzled the bread with olive oil and topped with rosemary, salt, pepper, and parmesan.

    I made my spaghetti sauce to make a very traditional lasagna. I put sauce in the bottom of the 9x13 pan, layered four cooked lasagna noodles, then a mixture of ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper. I topped this with more sauce and mozzarella cheese. I repeated the noodles/ricotta/sauce mozzarella layer. Finally, I ended with noodles, sauce, mozzarella, and more parmesan. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350.

    Gnocchi with Ricotta and Spinach

    Spaghettini with Pesto

    Chicken Caprese
    I didn't serve this over pasta. If you cook it closer to 30-40 minutes in the oven, the sauce will thicken up. I sliced the chicken breasts in half length-wise. Today's thick chicken breasts take forever to cook through, so I like to cut them thinner and cook them faster. Because I was catering, I brined the chicken breasts for about 1/2 an hour in salty water. This gives you a margin of cooking error - it's much harder to dry them out.

    Mud Pie
    This recipe was requested by the wonderful preschool director - it fit the retreat's theme of a coffee shop. I made it in springform pans, but you can easily make it in a 9x13 pan.

    1 package Oreos, ground into crumbs in a food processor
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    1 jar hot fudge
    1 half-gallon coffee ice cream
    1 8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
    chocolate bar shavings for garnish (optional)

    Mix together ground Oreos and melted butter and press into bottom of pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool.

    Slightly soften ice cream and spread in pan. Refreeze.

    Slightly warm hot fudge and spread over ice cream. Freeze.

    Spread Cool Whip on top and shave a chocolate bar over the Cool Whip, if using.

    Freeze until ready to serve.

    The. Bread.

    This is another Pioneer Woman technique. She says that anytime she goes to a family get-together, everyone asks, "Are you going to bring The Bread?". It's just bread and butter, but the technique of baking then broiling browns the butter and makes the bread unbelievably flavorful and irresistible. People usually think there is something else in the bread, like garlic, but it's just bread and butter.

    The. Bread.

    One loaf of French bread, split
    2 sticks of salted butter, softened (you won't need to use all of it unless your bread is huge)

    Spread about 3/4 of a stick of butter on each piece of bread. Place side by side on a baking sheet.

    Bake for 10 minutes on 350. Turn the oven off and the broiler on. Watch the bread as it browns and slightly blackens. Don't be afraid of the blackening; just a little bit won't make it taste burned. Steel your nerves and remove from oven when golden, brown, and spotty black.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad

    This Barefoot Contessa recipe is one of my favorite things in the whole world, so I can't believe I haven't posted it already. I've changed it up a bit with the vegetables and proportions, but the main idea is the same. It's great with grilled Italian sausage for a summer meal or by itself for lunch. Sometimes I add grilled or roasted chicken to the salad itself. It's a great combination of tart lemon, salty feta, and fresh vegetables. I think it's especially clever that she adds pine nuts - they are almost identical to the cooked orzo, so they are a delicious surprise.

    A note about pine nuts: try to avoid buying them from China. Chinese pine nuts can cause "pine nut mouth" in some people: an unpleasant, metallic taste in the mouth that is harmless but can last for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, pine nuts are really expensive right now, but you don't need to use a lot in this recipe.

    You can change the amounts or types of vegetables in this recipe - it's very flexible.

    2-4 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    2-4 yellow squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    1-2 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
    1-2 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
    1 red or white onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    olive oil
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    16 oz. orzo

    For the dressing:
    1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
    1/3 cup good olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    To assemble:
    4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
    1/4-1/2 cup pine nuts
    1 cup feta (use more or less to taste
    15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne or ripped

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

    Toss the zucchini, squash, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until tender and lightly browned, turning once with a spatula.

    Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water according to package directions, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

    For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature or chilled.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi)

    I first had bulgogi in Chicago's Koreatown with my college roommate. The tender, flavorful beef, grilled tableside and accompanied by panchan (side dishes) and rice and lettuce for wrapping, was delicious and memorable. I've made it a few times recently on the grill, and I love it, in spite of the messy production it is to eat it.

    If you have a Korean grocery store near you (like Super HMart), you can buy bulgogi beef. Otherwise, use sirloin or flank steak (my choice). Slice the steak thinly - no more than 1/4 inch thick. Cut it against the grain and marinate it overnight or all day if possible. It will cook in a few minutes on the grill.

    Serve the meat with steamed white rice, red or green leaf lettuce, and hot sauce (chili-garlic sauce like Sriracha).


    1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced
    5 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
    1/4 cup chopped green onion
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    2 tablespoons sesame seeds
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1. Place the beef in a shallow dish. Combine soy sauce, sugar, green onion, garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and ground black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over beef. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
    2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil the grate.
    3. Quickly grill beef on hot grill until slightly charred and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Jersey Mike's #13 Sub

    The Jersey Mike's sandwich shop in our town closed years ago, but I remember it fondly, mostly for their #13 sub. It's an Italian sub with five kinds of meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato with lots of oil and vinegar. Sometimes I make it at home with Boar's Head meat from Publix. It's a great thing to have with friends when you don't have time to cook. The following is not really a recipe so much as it is a list of ingredients - set out the meat and cheese and let your guests make their own.

    #13 Sub

    deli ham, thinly sliced
    deli pepperoni, thinly sliced
    deli capicola, thinly sliced
    deli prosciutto, thinly sliced
    deli hard salami, thinly sliced
    deli provolone, thinly sliced
    shredded lettuce
    sliced tomato
    diced onions
    olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano (or Boar's Head Deli Dressing)
    crusty sandwich roll

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Teacher Appreciation Menu

    Here are the recipes I made for the teacher appreciation lunch at Ben's school. Enjoy!

    (scroll down through this post to find the recipe)

    Green Enchiladas with Chicken and Sour Cream

    I've become a big fan of green enchilada sauce. You can certainly buy your own, but I've come up with a pretty easy and delicious homemade version. I guess it's more of a salsa verde enchilada sauce, because it gets its green color and flavor from diced green chiles rather than tomatillos.

    This recipe has a lot of steps, but the enchiladas are so good!

    2 cups sour cream
    1 cup sliced/chopped green onions
    ½ teaspoons ground cumin
    ¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 cups shredded Monterey Jack
    1 rotisserie chicken, or 3 cups of shredded roasted chicken

    12 corn tortillas
    Vegetable oil

    Enchilada Sauce

    3/4 cup diced onion
    1/4 cup butter
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups chicken broth
    1 7-oz. can chopped green chiles
    1/2 cup chopped green onions (for garnish)
    1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)


    1. Mix all filling ingredients together in a large bowl.
    2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry tortillas (one at a time) for 5 seconds on each side to soften and make them pliable. Add more oil to pan as needed. Drain between layers of paper towel and keep warm.
    3.Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until mixture begins to boil. Slowly add the broth, stirring with a whisk until thickened. Mix in the chiles, and heat thoroughly but do not boil, stirring occasionally.
    4. Dip each tortilla in the warm enchilada sauce. Lay tortilla on a plate, then spoon a good two or three tablespoons of the sour cream/chicken mixture in the middle. Roll tortilla, then place face down in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas and sour cream mixture.
    5. Cover the dish with the remaining cheese, then bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees until bubbly. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

    This is the cheesecake I made for the teacher appreciation luncheon at Ben's school. I had a hard time choosing a dessert, but I thought that cheesecake and chocolate would be a safe bet. Several people said this was an all-time favorite, so I highly recommend it for when you want a dessert to impress.

    The original recipe from Epicurious had a gingersnap crust, but I replaced it with a chocolate graham cracker crust. The caramel sauce from the original recipe looked awfully fussy, so I used a fantastic one from Kittencal, a prolific poster on - I only changed it by adding a pinch of salt. The caramel sauce would be excellent on ice cream or apple crisp. It does get a little grainy when chilled, so let the cheesecake come to room temperature or heat the sauce if you are using it separately.

    The cheesecake itself is not very sweet - I wouldn't serve it alone - but it's a good foil for the very sweet topping. The instructions call for a water bath, but I didn't use one. I just put a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.

    Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

    Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    1 1/2 cups ground chocolate graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies (about 7 1/4 ounces)
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

    Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Combine ground chocolate graham crackers in a bowl with melted butter and brown sugar. Combine until crumbs are moistened. Press into the bottom of springform pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, until crust is slightly darkened. Cool.

    4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
    1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
    5 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in butter, then eggs, 1 at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla.

    Wrap outside of pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pour batter over crust in pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cake uncovered until filling is puffed around edges and moves slightly in center when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water; remove foil. Place hot cheesecake uncovered in refrigerator overnight.


    4 1.4 oz. Heath bars chopped

    For caramel:
    1/2 cup butter
    1 cup brown sugar
    2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
    Pinch of salt


    1. In a small saucepan melt butter.
    2. Add the brown sugar; whisk until combined and thickened (about 2 minutes).
    3. Whisk in the whipping cream, until thoroughly blended (2 more minutes).
    4. Mix in vanilla (if using) until combined.
    5. NOTE: this sauce will thicken up more when refrigerated.

    Let caramel come to room temperature. Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped Heath bars. Chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

    Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.

    Sweet Corn Cake

    This is not the same as Sweet Corn Pudding; it's a great accompaniment to a Mexican meal. ChiChi's used to serve it, and you can still buy a mix, but this is much better. It doesn't make a huge amount - you serve it almost like a garnish on the plate. But if you think you'll like it, you can double it easily.

    Sweet Corn Cake

    1/2 cup butter, softened
    1/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)
    1/4 cup water
    1 1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
    1/4 cup cornmeal
    1/3 cup white sugar
    2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (can use milk)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    1. In a medium bowl beat butter until it is creamy. Add the Mexican corn flour and water and beat until well mixed.
    2. Using a food processor, process thawed corn, but leave chunky. Stir into the butter mixture.
    3. In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt, and baking powder. Add to corn flour mixture and stir to combine. Pour batter into an ungreased 8x8 inch baking pan. Smooth batter and cover with aluminum foil. Place pan into a 9x13 inch baking dish that is filled a third of the way with water. (You can skip the water bath if you like.)
    4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven F (175 degrees C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Use an ice cream scoop for easy removal from pan.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Cincinnati Chili

    Cincinnati chili is unique for its lack of beans, fine ground beef, and use of spices like cinnamon and cloves. It's served over spaghetti and topped with raw onions, beans, shredded cheese, and oyster crackers. It will never replace our favorite "regular" chili, but it is a nice change. You can make it in the crock pot for convenience.

    Cincinnati Chili

    2 pounds ground beef
    2 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth
    1/4 cup chili powder
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 bay leaf
    1/2 (1 ounce) square unsweetened chocolate OR 1 1/2 T. cocoa powder
    1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
    2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

    shredded Cheddar cheese
    chopped raw onions
    oyster crackers


    1. Add beef and beef broth to a dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is cooked through.
    2. Add chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, chocolate, beef broth, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and red pepper. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    3. Remove the bay leaf. Reheat gently over medium heat. Serve over hot, drained spaghetti. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, onions, and crackers.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Chocolate Mint Cookies

    I found a new, great recipe for St. Patrick's Day - but I'll be making them throughout the year. These cookies are fantastic - rich and brownie-like, with a melted Andes mint in the middle. I brought some in to Ben's school, and the teachers seemed to really like them.

    I also tried some with Rolos which were delicious. I think a mini Reese's peanut butter cup would also be good.

    I adapted the recipe from

    Chocolate Mint Cookies

    3/4 cup butter
    1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
    2 tablespoons water
    2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    2 eggs
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    36 chocolate mint wafer candies (Andes)
    1. In a large pan over low heat, cook butter, sugar and water until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes to cool off slightly.
    2. At high speed, beat in eggs, one at a time into chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Chill dough about 4 hours or overnight.
    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    4. Roll dough into one-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. While cookies are baking, unwrap mints. When cookies are brought out of the oven, put one mint on top of each cookie. Let the mint sit for up to 5 minutes until melted, then spread the mint on top of the cookie. Eat and enjoy!

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad

    Pioneer Woman is famous for down-home recipes that use meat, butter, and cheese plentifully. But this recipe is from her "Cowgirl Food" section, meaning that her husband Marlboro Man and the other ranch hands wouldn't touch it. I love it! Chock full of vegetables, the flavorful, Asian-inspired salad is delicious. And it has cashews!

    You can mix and match the vegetables - leave out what you don't like and add more of what you do. The original recipe called for bean sprouts, but I left those out due to food safety issues and general dislike. Other than that, I made it as is. I cooked the pasta and chopped the vegetables the day before, but I kept the dressing separate from the salad until I was ready to serve it.

    Asian Noodle Salad


    1 16 oz. package linguine, cooked, rinsed, and cooled (can add a little oil to keep them from sticking)
    ½ head sliced napa cabbage, or more to taste
    ½ head sliced purple cabbage, or more to taste
    ½ bags baby spinach, or more to taste
    1 whole red bell pepper, sliced thin
    1 whole yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
    1 whole orange bell pepper, sliced thin
    chopped cilantro, up to 1 bunch, to taste
    3 whole scallions, sliced
    3 whole cucumbers peeled and sliced
    1 can (about 10 oz.) whole cashews, lightly toasted in skillet (watch so they don't burn!)

    1 whole lime, juiced
    8 tablespoons olive oil
    8 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    ⅓ cup brown sugar
    3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 whole jalapenos, chopped (remove seeds and ribs unless you want dressing to be spicy)
    chopped cilantro to top salad (optional)

    Mix salad ingredients in a large bowl or platter. Whisk dressing ingredients in a separate bowl, then toss with salad. Top with cilantro if desired.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cake

    I made this cake for Ben's former preschool teacher's birthday. It's a lot like the chocolate peanut butter cake I've made before, but I used a different chocolate cake recipe from Dorie Greenspan. It was very easy to work with and came out of the pans beautifully.

    This cake is very rich - you'll get a lot of servings out of it!

    Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cake

    For the cake:
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    ½ tsp. baking powder
    ½ tsp. baking soda
    ½ tsp. salt
    2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 ½ cups sugar
    2 large eggs
    2 large egg yolks
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 cup buttermilk
    4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

    For frosting:
    4-5 cups confectioner's sugar
    2 c. smooth peanut butter
    2 t. vanilla
    2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) butter, room temperature
    1/2 t. salt
    2/3 c. milk or cream

    Beat together peanut butter, butter, and salt until smooth. Add confectioner's sugar and mix well. Add vanilla and milk. Add more milk if it's too thick and more sugar if it's too soft.

    For decorating:miniature Reese’s cups, halved and/or chopped

    For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9×2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

    In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, folding it in with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

    Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Don't overbake. Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

    To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard circle covered in foil. Spread peanut butter frosting on top of the cake layer. Sprinkle with chopped Reese’s cups. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Frost the top and outside of the cake with remaining peanut butter frosting. Decorate with halved and chopped Reese’s cups as desired.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Juicy Lucy Burger

    Disclaimer: this recipe has nothing to do with our dog, Lucy!

    Juicy Lucy burgers are native to Minneapolis - they're burgers with a molten core of cheesy goodness. Be careful, because the first bite is messy and potentially super-hot! They are fairly easy to make, as long as you tightly seal the burgers around the cheese. You can see a bit of cheese escaping from the burger above, but that's not a big deal. I like to serve burgers on slider buns - it always seems like there is too much bread in the standard buns. A great accompaniment are these five-star oven fries.

    To make the burgers, form eight very thin burgers; put the cheese, folded into fourths, on top of one burger; then top with the other burger. Pinch the edges and form into patties. They should look like this when you start cooking:

    Juicy Lucy Burgers

    1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used 1 1/4)
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    4 slices American cheese
    4 hamburger buns, split
    1.Combine ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper in a large bowl; mix well. Form 8, thin patties from the beef. Each patty should be slightly larger than a slice of cheese.
    2.Cut each slice of American cheese into 4 equal pieces; stack the pieces. Sandwich one stack of cheese between 2 ground beef patties. Tightly pinch edges together tightly seal the cheese within the meat. Repeat with the remaining cheese and patties.
    3.Preheat a cast-iron or other heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Cook burgers until well browned, about 4 minutes. It is common for burgers to puff up due to steam from the melting cheese. Turn burgers and prick the top of each to allow steam to escape; cook until browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside; about 4 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

    I don't use my crock pot a lot, but I wanted something that would be ready when we came home from church on Sunday. I made several changes based on what I had in the house, and it turned out great! If you don't have a crock pot, you could certainly make this on the stove - just bring it to a boil and simmer for at least 3o minutes.

    When we walked in the house, Ben said, "What smells so delicious?". That's a great way to start lunch!

    Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

    1 pound shredded, cooked chicken (or you can cook a couple of chicken breasts in the soup and shred)
    1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
    1 can or jar taco sauce, salsa, or enchilada sauce (up to 16 oz.)
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers or one can drained Rotel tomatoes
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 qt. chicken broth
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
    2 T. lime juice
    1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    tortilla chips

    Toppings: cheese, avocado, sour cream, extra tortilla chips

    1. Place chicken, tomatoes, sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in corn and cilantro and lime juice. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
    2. 15 minutes before serving, crunch a few handfuls of tortilla chips into the soup and let them break down. Stir.
    3. Serve with toppings.