Monday, December 22, 2008

Chili Blanco

It's currently -3 degrees in St. Paul. I think the wind chill is somewhere around -20. Yesterday was worse. That means it's time to bring out the chili. I really love white chili with chicken, but had never made it before. I was a little afraid of trying it, but after searching a bunch of recipes, I decided to give it a shot.

If you like white chili, you must make this recipe now. It's rich, hearty, spicy, and just what you need on a really cold day.

White Chili with Chicken
Recipe from Gourmet, via Epicurious, adapted
Serves 4-6
Cook & Prep Time - about 30 min

1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
two 4-ounce cans whole mild green chilies, drained and chopped
2 lbs shredded rotisserie chicken (I used a mix of dark & white meat)
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup sour cream

In a skillet cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat until softened. (I did this in my dutch oven).

In a 6- to 8-quart heavy kettle melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. (I did this in my dutch oven, too). Cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Stir in onion and gradually add broth and half-and-half, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until thickened.

Stir in Tabasco, chili powder, cumin, salt, and white pepper. Add beans, chilies, chicken, and Monterey Jack and cook mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, 20 minutes. Stir sour cream into chili.

Transfer to serving bowls and garnish as desired.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sugar Cookies

I'm back! No, I actually haven't fallen off the planet. I've been busy making Christmas goodies over the past few days, and today, I made sugar cookies. I don't know anybody who doesn't like basic, frosted sugar cookies. I hope you like these - we sure do. :)

Sugar Cookies
Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens

Yields: 3 dozen cookies

2/3 cup butter, softened (this is about 12 1/2 TBSP)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 TBSP milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
icing, recipe follows

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla. Then, beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer and stir in the rest by hand. Form the dough into a ball cover, and chill for 30 minutes or until the dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until about 1/8 inch thick. With cookie cutters, cut the dough into desired shapes. Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 7-8 minutes or until the edges are firm and the bottoms are barely light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Frost with icing, if desired.

2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 TBSP milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Add additional milk, 1 TBSP at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Annie at Well, that would be telling tagged me. Actually, she tagged me a while ago, but I'm just now responding to my tag. Sorry, Annie. ;)

Here are the rules:

So, I have to tell you 7 secrets or weird facts about myself. Let's see what I can come up with.

1. I am an only child, and I never had any desire for any siblings. Seriously. I can't recall a single time where I ever thought to myself that I wanted a brother or sister.

2. I was an All-State Band clarinetist in high school. Then, in college, I dropped the clarinet and majored in vocal performance. I later resurrected the clarinet my junior year and joined the orchestra.

3. I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with my cats. I did not really like cats when I met my husband, and the cats sort of came with him. Now I can't imagine my life without them. In fact, I'm laughing at them as I write this.

4. Mountain Dew Cake and Brunch Burger indiscretions aside, I love Paula Deen. I think she's adorable, and I wish I was related to her so I could go to her house and have her cook for me. I completely understand the objections to her, but I prefer to think that those with the objections have never actually tried one of her recipes. They're delicious. I think it's all the butter. ;)

5. I do not like fish of any kind.

6. My not-so-secret dream is to operate a cat sanctuary. Yes, I'm aware that probably does make me a crazy cat lady.

7. I love bavarian cream doughnuts. I know they're really bad for me, but they're just so tasty that I don't care.

Now, I have to tag some people. Some of you may not know me... so, for those of you who are wondering who tagged you - hello. I love your blog. I'm sure I have several of your recipes bookmarked right now.

1. Charlie at Comrus
2. Carrie at Carrie's Sweet Life
3. Joelen at Joelen's Culinary Adventures
4. Danielle at Run With Spatulas
5. Amy at Sing for your Supper
6. Michele at My Italian Grandmother
7. Monica at Fickle Foodie

Monday, December 1, 2008

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

I know I've mentioned in this blog before that I think there are certain things everyone should know how to make, regardless of his or her own cooking skills. A basic cream sauce is one of those things. You can use it for so many things - Alfredo sauce, mac & cheese, a cheesy sauce for scalloped potatoes, or you can even eat it plain. One of my favorite ways to use a basic cream sauce is to make it into a roasted garlic cream sauce. Which is nice, because I also happen to love roasting garlic. You can turn any cream sauce into a roasted garlic cream sauce, but I recommend using the recipe below. So let's do it, alright?

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce
Serves 3-4

Prep & Cook Time - about an hour

1 head garlic, roasted (instructions to follow)
Olive oil
1 cup cream or half & half
2 TBSP milk
1-3 TBSP butter
1 clove garlic, minced
dash salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes, optional
Pasta (I like Fetuccini)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (I recommend using a toaster oven. It's super easy and uses a lot less energy than a regular oven).

Cut the garlic head in half (you should have a top and bottom half, not a left and right side). Place each half on a sheet of tin foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit about 5 minutes, and then open the tin foil to let the garlic cool.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.

In a medium skillet, combine cream, milk, butter, minced garlic, and salt & pepper. Thicken by whisking in about 2 tsp flour, if necessary. Bring to just boiling. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese and whisk till smooth. If sauce is too thin, add some stock (chicken or veggie) or some more milk.

Now, squeeze the garlic out of the paper-y skin. The bottom half should take a bit more work than the top. They should just sort of fall out of the top with just a little squeeze from the top. You might have to dig a little on the bottom. Mash with a metal potato masher or the back of a fork. Add to the cream sauce and whisk together. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with more red pepper flakes, to taste.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Project Postcard

I don't like to get too political on my blog (though I'm always up for discussing politics). However, I can't resist posting about this.

A few days ago, I was reading on my favorite gossip blog (Pink Is the New Blog) about Project Postcard. The plan is very simple: they urge people to send President-elect Obama a postcard from your state or city and urge him to work with Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. For those of you who aren't familiar, DOMA is a federal law, enacted in 1996 by President Clinton, that says, basically, two things:
  1. No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) need treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
  2. The Federal Government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.
I urge everyone that values human rights to join me in participating. This link will tell you how: Project Postcard

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I love trying new recipes. There's something oddly satisfying when you find that recipe that makes you smile and nod while making yummy sounds at first bite. It's been awhile since I've made such a recipe. Then, tonight came.

I've made versions of Chicken with 40 Cloves in the past, but all involved copious amounts of cream. Then, one day I found a version on CookingLight that called for absolutely no cream and about 5 ingredients. Don't get me wrong: the creamy versions are great. But sometimes you're just not in the mood for that, right? Ok, I know that most of the time you are. But every once in a while, you're not. Don't try to kid me. I know how you feel. That's where this recipe comes in. You must try it. Seriously. Go out, buy the ingredients, and make it tonight. It's delicious.

Don't be scared by the amount of garlic. The strength mellows while it cooks and they're delicious with the chicken or spread out on some nice crusty french bread.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Inspired by CookingLight,
Serves 4

Cook Time - 40 minutes

1 whole chicken, already butchered
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
40 whole garlic cloves, peeled (about 2-3 heads)
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine

Combine butter and oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Tear the skin off the chicken. Season evenly with salt & pepper. Add chicken pieces to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove chicken from pan to keep warm. Feel free to do the chicken in two batches if you need to.

Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and cook until garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Put chicken back in the pan. Add broth and wine. Cover and cook 25 minutes or until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from pan to keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high and cook 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. If you want a thicker sauce, thicken by whisking in a cornstarch/water slurry. Serve sauce and garlic with chicken and crusty bread.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Basic Spaghetti

Is it just me or does everyone like their own family spaghetti recipe better than all others?

Regardless, I love family recipes. There's just something about passing recipes down that warms my heart. On top of that, I love reading people's family recipes and wondering how on earth anyone came up with the combinations they did. My mother-in-law's spaghetti recipe is no exception. I have no idea how she came up with this combination of ingredients, but it's great.

Serves about 12

Cook & Prep Time - about 1 1/2 hrs

2-3 lbs spaghetti noodles
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion
salt & pepper
1 (26 oz) jar Ragu "Old World Style" spaghetti sauce
1 large can tomato juice
2 (15 oz) cans stew tomatoes
3 packages dry spaghetti sauce mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Brown ground beef with onion & garlic. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Drain & set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Add ground beef and simmer on low for 1 - 1 1/2 hrs.

About 15 minutes before serving, boil noodles to al dente. Drain and serve with the sauce.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fried Pork Chops

I confess - I've never made pork chops before. In fact, I never particularly cared for them. My dad made them fairly often when I was growing up, but they were always so dry and flavor-less that I made myself a grilled cheese or mac & cheese when he made them (sorry, dad).

For some reason, I got a bug in my head a few months ago that really wanted pork chops. I got the smell in my nose of these grilled pork chops that the local Lions club always served at ourdoor festivals and the county fair when I was growing up. They always smelled so great. I was convinced pork chops could be moist and flavorful. Then, when I was watching Paula Deen the day Michelle Obama made an appearance, and Paula's son made his fried pork chops. They looked delicious. I knew I had to make them one day. So, finally, I did.

The flavor of these were great and I loved how crispy they were. I liked them more and more with each bite. I still prefer chicken, but these were a nice change.

Fried Pork Chops
Recipe by The Deen Brothers
Serves 2

Cook Time - 20 min

4 cups vegetable oil (we used peanut oil)
2(8-ounce) bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oil to 350 degrees F.

Arrange the pork chops in a large shallow dish. Season each pork chop, on both sides, with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Pour the buttermilk over the chops and turn to coat.

Place flour into a large shallow dish. Dip each pork chop into the flour mixture and coat well, shaking off the excess.

Using tongs, gently lower the chops into the deep skillet in batches if necessary. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. (We used our deep fryer, so no turning was necessary). Transfer chops to a paper towel-lined pate to drain. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Potato & Sausage Soup

It's freezing here in Minnesota. That means it's time to whip out the soup recipes.

I've had this one in my "to-make" folder for quite some time. I used an Olive Garden copycat as a base and modified it to my liking. Anyway, it's delicious. You should make it. You'll love it.

Potato & Sausage Soup
Serves 4-5

4 spicy Italian sausage links
3/4 cup diced onions (about 1 medium onion)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP chicken stock
1 Quart water
2-3 Russett potatoes, cut into small-ish chunks
2 cups kale, chopped
1/2 cup cream
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Bake the sausage for about 25 minutes, or until done. Cut in half lengthwise, and then into 1/2 inch slices.

Melt butter and olive oil in a stock pot and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for about another minute. Add chicken stock, water, and potatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Add sausage, kale, and cream. Simmer about 5 minutes. Season with salt & lots of pepper. Serve with some nice, crusty bread.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spaghetti Bolognese

Way back when I first started cooking, I relied pretty heavily on Kraft Foods. I like how most of the recipes on their site use relatively few ingredients, and they're usually ingredients I have in my fridge or cupboard anyway. I don't use that site anywhere near as frequently as I used to, but I still get the Kraft Food & Family magazine every quarter. This last magazine, the "1 Bag, 5 Dinners" section caught my eye. I previously had noticed that section, but just sort of blew on past it without giving it much attention. However, for some reason, this time it got me thinking. So, off to the website I went to see if their website had any such suggestions. Well, it did. After careful consideration, my husband and I decided on one to give a try. Our first experiment is what they call "Spaghetti with Zesty Bolognese."

Truth be told, Bolognese this absolutely is not. But, it was really good, and really easy, and came together in about 25 minutes. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who specifically asked me for a great Bolognese sauce recipe (Tyler Florence has a great one), but I would recommend it to someone just looking for some good, relatively healthy pasta.

Spaghetti with Zesty "Bolognese"
Recipe from Kraft Foods, adapted (my changes noted)
Serves 4
Total Cook Time - 25 minutes

12 oz dry spaghetti noodles
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef (I used 1/2 lb)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup Italian dressing
2 TBSP Cream cheese, softened (I used 2 oz)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
dash red pepper flakes
Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Meanwhile, saute onions & garlic in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add ground beef and brown. Season with salt & pepper, to taste.

Add tomatoes, Italian dressing, & Italian seasoning, & parsley. I also added a cube of frozen basil from Trader Joe's. Bring to a low boil. Add red pepper flakes.

Add cream cheese and stir in until melted and well-combined. Toss with pasta. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's election day

It's election day today. Go vote. Please.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

In keeping with the theme of "clean out the fridge," I decided to make us Spaghetti Aglio Olio as a side to tonight's Parmesan Chicken. I love that Aglio Olio is simple, with only a few ingredients, and only about 10 minutes of cooking time, but is packed with flavor. I decided to kick it up a notch by adding red pepper flakes.

Spaghetti Aglio Olio
Serves 4 (0r 8 as a side dish)

Cook Time - 15 minutes

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
coarse salt
1 lb Spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook spaghetti to al dente. Drain & set aside.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add garlic & pepper flakes. Cook until garlic becomes fragrant.

Toss spaghetti with the garlic oil and add the parsley. Season with salt, to taste. I like to top it with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve as a main dish or along side your favorite entree.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes

We're going on vacation in a few days, so it's time to clean out the fridge. I just hate to let the perishables go to waste while I'll be galavanting around with Mickey Mouse. That lead me to Pioneer Woman's Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes.

I wasn't sure how I'd react to these. I mean, I don't like plain tomatoes and I'm just starting to warm up to ricotta. However, I overcame that fear and decided to give them a try.

I'm a little torn on what I thought about these. They were decent - the cheesy filling was great. But overall, I felt like it was missing some pasta; like I was eating the sauce and cheese inside a lasagna. I'd encourage you to try them, possibly improve upon them, and let me know what you think.

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes
Recipe from Pioneer Woman

Serves 8-ish (I cut down to serve 2-3)

1 handful flat-leaf Parsley
1 handful fresh Basil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
8 Roma tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese
*1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I added)
bread crumbs
Olive oil

Preheat oven to to 400 degrees F.

Wash tomatoes and half them. After halving them, gut the insides out with a spoon. Discard the seeds and other gooey parts. Sprinkle a bit of salt inside each tomato half and place them on a cookie sheet.

Chop up herbs & garlic and mix with the Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Fill each tomato half with a heaping spoonful of the cheese mixture.

Sprinkle each tomato half with bread crumbs. Drizzle each with a little bit of olive oil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Banana Bread

I don't really like bananas. It's a texture thing. I'm alright with them when they're almost ripe; still a little tiny bit green. But the second that peel is completely yellow or a tiny bit brown, my banana eating is over.

I do, however, really like a good banana bread. I came across an interesting banana bread recipe in my google reader a few weeks ago, and knew I had to try it. Despite my husband being upset with me that I put chocolate chips in it, I'm very happy with how it turned out and will make it again for sure.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Recipe from Good Things Catered
Makes 1 loaf

3 large extra-ripe bananas
1 3/4 cups flour, plus 2 TBSP
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup chocolate chips (I used about 2/3 cup)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter flavor crisco sticks)
2 eggs
2 TBSP milk
1 TBSP vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mash bananas and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix. Whisk together and set aside.

In a ziplock bag, toss chocolate chips with 2 TBSP flour. Set aside.

Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined.

Add milk, vanilla, and banana to the mixture and combine well.

Turn mixer to low and add the flour/pudding mixture and beat until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes then remove from the pan to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Important Life Experiences (list)

This is yet another list that is floating around in the blog world. Here are some things I’ve done and a lot that I need to do.

If it’s bold, I have…

1. Touched an iceberg
2. Slept under the stars (ugh)
3. Been a part of a hockey fight (well, kind of. It's a rather long, somewhat amusing story)
4. Changed a baby’s diaper
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Swam with wild dolphins
8. Climbed a mountain (I have gone hiking through the Alps, and taken a gondola to the top,, but I don't think that counts)
9. Held a tarantula
10. Said “I love you” and meant it
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long and watched the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
20. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Bet on a winning horse
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Taken an ice cold bath
28. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Ridden a roller coaster
31. hit a home run
32. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
33. Adopted an accent for fun
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (It's on my list)
35. Felt very happy about your life, even for just a moment
36. Loved your job 90% of the time
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Watched wild whales
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Gone on a midnight walk on the beach (hope to do this soon)
41. Gone sky diving
42. Visited Ireland
43. Ever bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited India
45. Bench-pressed your own weight
46. Milked a cow
47. Alphabetized your personal files
48. Ever worn a superhero costume
49. Sung karaoke
50. Lounged around in bed all day
51. Gone scuba diving
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Done something you should regret, but don’t
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Been in a movie
60. Gone without food for 3 days
61. Made cookies from scratch
62. Won first prize in a costume contest
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Been in a combat zone
65. Spoken more than one language fluently
66. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
67. Bounced a check (only because of the wonderful-ness that is overdraft protection)
68. Read - and understood - your credit report
69. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy (I've recently considered this)
70. Found out something significant that your ancestors did (I've searched - they're all not that interesting)
71. Called or written your Congress person
72. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
73. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
74. Helped an animal give birth
75. Been fired or laid off from a job
76. Won money
77. Broken a bone
78. Ridden a motorcycle
79. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100 mph
80. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
81. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
82. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
83. Eaten sushi
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read The Bible cover to cover
86. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about (yes, I actually did once convince someone why abortion shouldn't be a state issue)
87. Gotten someone fired for their actions
88. Gone back to school
89. Changed your name
90. Caught a fly in the air with your bare hands
91. Eaten fried green tomatoes
92. Read The Iliad (I tried...)
93. Taught yourself an art from scratch
94. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
95. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
96. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
97. Been elected to public office
98. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
99. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
100. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
101. Had a booth at a street fair
102. Dyed your hair
103 Been a DJ
104. Rocked a baby to sleep
105. Ever dropped a cat from a high place to see if it really lands on all fours
106. Raked your carpet
107. Brought out the best in people
108. Brought out the worst in people
109. Worn a mood ring (These were the coolest in 4th grade)
110. Ridden a horse111. Carved an animal from a piece of wood or bar of soap
112. Prepared a dish where four people asked for the recipe
113. Buried a child
114. Gone to a Broadway play
115. Been inside the pyramids
116. Shot a basketball into a basket
117. Danced at a disco
118. Played in a band (FFHS Wind Ensemble!! WOO!!!)
119. Shot a bird
120. Gone to an arboretum
121. Tutored someone
122. Ridden a train
123. Brought an old fad back into style
124. Eaten caviar
125. Let a salesman talk you into something you didn’t need
126. Ridden a giraffe or elephant (I blame my parents. It was the circus. I was 5)
127. Published a book
128. Pieced a quilt
129. Lived in an historic place (I'm pretty sure my college dorm was actually a historic building in St. Paul)
130. Acted in a play or performed on a stage
131. Asked for a raise (plan on it soon)
132. Made a hole-in-one (mini golf)
133. Gone deep sea fishing
134. Gone roller skating
135. Run a marathon
136. Learned to surf
137. Invented something (3rd grade - science fair!)
138. Flown first class
139. Spent the night in a 5-star luxury suite
140. Flown in a helicopter
141. Visited Africa
142. Sang a solo
143. Gone spelunking
144. Learned how to take a compliment (???)
145. Written a love-story
146. Seen Michelangelo’s David
147. Had your portrait painted
148. Written a fan letter (NKOTB - 3rd grade, baby)
149. Spent the night in something haunted
150. Owned a St. Bernard or Great Dane
151. Ran away
152. Learned to juggle
153. Been a boss
154. Sat on a jury (really want to)
155. Lied about your weight
156. Gone on a diet
157. Found an arrowhead or a gold nugget
158. Written a poem
159. Carried your lunch in a lunchbox
160. Gotten food poisoning
161. Gone on a service, humanitarian or religious mission
162. Hiked the Grand Canyon
163. Sat on a park bench and fed the ducks
164. Gone to the opera
165. Gotten a letter from someone famous
166. Worn knickers
167. Ridden in a limousine
168. Attended the Olympics
169. Can hula or waltz and polka.
170. Read a half dozen Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books
171. Been stuck in an elevator
172. Had a revelatory dream
173. Thought you might crash in an airplane
174. Had a song dedicated to you on the radio or at a concert
175. Saved someone’s life
176. Eaten raw whale
177. Know how to tat, smock or do needlepoint
178. Laughed till your side hurt
179. Straddled the equator
180. Taken a photograph of something other than people that is worth framing (not to toot my own horn or anything...)
181. Gone to a Shakespeare Festival
182. Sent a message in a bottle
183. Spent the night in a hostel
184. Been a cashier
185. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
186. Joined a union
187. Donated blood or plasma
188. Built a campfire
189. Kept a blog
190. Had hives
191. Worn custom made shoes or boots
192. Made a PowerPoint presentation
193. Taken a Hunter’s Safety Course
194. Served at a soup kitchen
195. Conquered the Rubik’s cube
196. Know CPR
197. Ridden in or owned a convertible
198. Found a long lost friend
199. Helped solve a crime
200. Responded to a NJP newsletter

Thursday, October 2, 2008

PW's Sherried Tomato Soup

There isn't much more comforting on a cold day than a bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, is there? Don't be afraid to admit it. Fall is here, it's getting colder outside... you know you want some tomato soup and a grilled cheese. But wait, before you open that can of Campbell's, think about a nice creamy tomato soup with basil. That sounds better, right? Sure it does. Lucky for you, I've got just the recipe for you. Pioneer Woman's Sherried Tomato Soup will hit the spot, and as an extra bonus, it doesn't use any weird ingredients, so you won't have to go to any specialty shops or wander around your grocery store aimlessly trying to find something.

Sherried Tomato Soup
Recipe by Pioneer Woman

Serves 6-ish

Cook & Prep Time - 25 minutes

6 tablespoons melted butter (I used about 4)
1 medium onion, diced
1 46-ounce bottle or can tomato juice
2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 to 3 TBSP chicken base (I omitted)
3 to 6 TBSP sugar
Pinch of salt
Black Pepper
1 cup cooking sherry
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh basil

Saute diced onions in butter until transluscent. Add canned tomatoes. Stir.

Add tomato juice, sugar, pinch of salt, and black pepper and stir. Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat.

Add in sherry and cream and stir. Add in parsley and basil to taste, adjust other seasoning, and serve with yummy, crusty bread.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Butterscotch Bars

When I have nothing else to do on the weekend, I cook... or bake. This weekend, it was baking. I wanted to get out of the chocolate chip cookie/brownie rut I was in, so I looked through my recipe book and found a recipe for Butterscotch Bars that looked interesting. So, Butterscotch Bars it was. I'll be honest - I don't like butterscotch - but my husband gave these rave reviews. And as a bonus, they're fairly low-fat, considering they're from Cooking Light!

Butterscotch Bars
Recipe from
CookingLight, adapted slightly

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 cup butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat sugars and butter at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add egg whites and vanilla; beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended.

Spread batter evenly into an 9 x 13 inch baking pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with morsels. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MMM... Manicotti

I know I've blogged about manicotti before, but I finally got a good picture, and I've decided to submit the recipe to Presto Pasta Nights, which is started and organized by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, so I've decided to do it again. This week's round-up is hosted by Ulrike at Kuchenlatien. This recipe makes a lot, and I like to make a full batch and freeze half. Thanks for hosting, Ulrike. Enjoy, everyone!

Recipe from my mother-in-law
*Serves about 8*

1 box manicotti shells
2 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend (I use the 5-cheese blend)
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
8 oz Ricotta cheese (whole milk variety)
12 oz cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Marinara sauce (no set amount, but a lot)

Par cook noodles (about 5 min). Drain, but do not rinse.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all cheeses and egg in a bowl. Stuff noodles and place in a 9x13 pan.

Cover with sauce and bake for 1 hour (45 min covered and 15 min covered).
Let sit about 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls

My grandma makes the best cinnamon rolls. When I was growing up, she knew I liked them fresh out of the oven, so she would always make sure they were just done when I woke up. If I wasn't going to be at her house for a while, and on special occasions, she'd bring me a pan to let rise and then bake on my own.

I made them with her many times when I was at her house visiting, but I'd never made them on my own. I put my own twist on them, using the fabulous cream cheese icing recipe on Little Ms. Foodie's blog, but they still use Grandma's basic recipe.

Cinnamon Rolls

Recipe by my grandma, adapted

Makes 12-16 rolls

1 loaf Rhodes frozen bread dough, thawed
6 TBSP butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP cinnamon
Icing, recipe follows

After dough has thawed, but before it starts to rise, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's about a 14 x 6 inch rectangle.

In a small bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Spread the cinnamon mixture on the dough.

Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting with the long side (this would be the bottom of the rectangle, for the instructionally-impaired like myself). Cut the roll into 12-16 slices (about 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices.

Place them into a greased 9 x 13 pan and let rise for about an hour, or until they have doubled in size.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool, and frost with cream cheese frosting.

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Beat together all ingredients until smooth. Use to frost cooled rolls.

Guinness Stew, again

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you've probably figured out that I love Guinness Stew. In fact, I love it so much that I almost feel bad for vegetarians because they'll never be able to eat it - traditional Irish food isn't exactly vegetarian-friendly. Because of that, and because I had so much fun turning the Shepherd's Pie recipe I made a while back into a vegetarian recipe, I've decided to do the same for Guinness Stew.

If you don't like Guinness Stout, don't worry - the final product tastes nothing like the delicious dark brown beverage you would normally drink out of a tulip glass.

Vegetarian Guinness Stew
Adapted by Me

1 TBSP oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
3-4 medium potatoes
large meat-y Mushrooms, cut up (definitely optional - I can't stand mushrooms)
1/2 - 1 cup unsalted cashews (optional, but trust me on this one. Cashews take on a meat-y texture when cooked)
Turnips or Parsnips, chopped (if you want to be extra authentic)
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 pint Guinness (use the cans - have a second can waiting in the wings, just in case)
1/2 - 1 cup vegetable stock
3 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP paprika
salt & pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic powder
Seasoning Salt
1-2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet (found with the gravy seasonings - it IS vegetarian)
2 bay leaves

Cut onion into quarters, then slice thinly. Cut carrots into thin slices (I like to use a bunch of baby carrots). Dice the celery by cutting the stalks in half, lengthwise, and then in half lengthwise again. Chop into small pieces from there. Mince the garlic. Scrub the potatoes and cut into quarters or smaller. Set all aside.

In sauce pan large, enough to hold everything easily, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add remaining ingredients (except potatoes), bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Add potatoes, cover and simmer at least an hour.

If it starts to dry out or if you like a saucier stew, add more Guinness (half a pint or so). If you would like the sauce thicker, stir in 1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved in 2 TBSP water.

Add a lot of salt & pepper to taste. You also probably want to add some cayenne pepper, garlic salt, oregano, and paprika. Use your favorite combination, but I've found the above to give it the best flavor.

When ready to eat, remove bay leaf and serve. I suggest serving it over or with a thick bread or Texas Toast.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Pictures!

I recently made and have now uploaded new, better photos for my Chicken Cacciatore and Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken Pasta. Hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chicken Kiev

Ah, Chicken Kiev. Chicken stuffed with butter. My little heart flutters (and then stops) when thinking about it. Back with my husband and I first moved in together, we ate a lot of those frozen Chicken Kiev things. I know most people reading this will probably scoff at that, but we loved them. To be honest, if we were to buy them and make them now, we probably still would. One day, I decided to try my hand at them. I was intimidated, but with Alton Brown's help, I felt confident. And you know what? It's actually pretty easy. And when you make it, you get to control the amount of salt & butter you put in and whether you bake it or fry it. So it's a win-win. Enjoy!

Chicken Kiev
Recipe by Alton Brown, adapted
Serves 2

Prep Time - about an hour (mostly inactive)
Cook Time - 10 minutes

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning chicken
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large whole egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1 cup bread crumbs, plus 1/8 cup for filling
Vegetable oil, for frying

Combine butter, parsley, chives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place mixture on plastic wrap or waxed paper and roll into small log; place in freezer.

Place chicken breasts, 1 at a time, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Squirt chicken lightly with water and squirt the top of the plastic wrap as well. Pound to no less than 1/8-inch thickness. Season each piece of chicken with salt and pepper.

Lay 1 chicken breast on a new piece of plastic wrap and place 1/2 of the compound butter and 1 tablespoon bread crumbs in the center of each breast. Using the plastic wrap to assist, fold in ends of breast and roll breast into a log, completely enclosing the butter; roll very tightly. Repeat with each breast. Place chicken in refrigerator for 2 hours, or up to overnight.

Place egg and water mixture in 1 pie pan and 2 cups bread crumbs in a different pie pan.

Heat 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until oil reaches 375 degrees F.

Dip each breast in the egg mixture and then roll in the bread crumbs. Gently place each breast in oil, sealed-side down, and cook until golden brown, approximately 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Remove to a cooling rack set in sheet pan and allow to drain for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. (Even though Alton recommends frying only, I recommend pan frying in only a small amount of oil to brown the outside of the chicken, and then finishing off the cooking process in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes to ensure the chicken is cooked through but doesn't get too brown on the outside).

Peanut Butter Brownies

I love brownies. Really love them. Not much can beat a nice, fudgy brownie. Well.... except a peanut butter brownie. I've made a few recipes for peanut butter brownies over the past year and have been generally satisfied with each recipe I've tried. Given my recent desire for peanut butter brownies, but lack of any real desire to bake, I decided to get creative and utilize what was, until about a year ago, my arch nemesis: the boxed brownie mix.

I almost feel like I shouldn't blog about these. However, notice I said almost. In the end, I've decided that these are worthy of a blog post because they're so good and so easy.

Peanut Butter Brownies

1 box brownie mix (we like Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies)
2/3 cup peanut butter

Prepare brownie batter according to directions and pour into a 9 x 13 pan (or 8 x 8 if you like them really thick).

Meanwhile, melt the peanut butter over medium-low heat.

Once peanut butter is melted, pour it on top of the brownie batter and use a knife or rubber scraper to swirl the peanut butter around the top and give it a nice marble look.

A visual, in case my description of the technique was confusing...

Bake for the amount of time indicated on the brownie mix box (mine was about 25 min).

Monday, September 15, 2008


I know I'm not the only one who randomly craves Mexican. Sometimes I just want a chimichanga. I've heard rumor that chimichangas are a Tex-Mex creation, but I'm skeptical. I had the best chimichanga ever at a little seaside cafe in Barra de Navidad, Mexico 13-ish years ago. I still have dreams about it. That chimichanga is the inspiration for this recipe.

Chicken Chimichangas
Serves 2
Prep Time - 20 minutes
Cook time - 15 minutes

2 burrito-size tortillas

2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
garlic powder
onion powder
Chili powder
Cayenne Pepper
1/2 red onion
1 green bell pepper
Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
oil, for frying
Spicy Tomatillo Gravy, recipe follows

Brown chicken over medium heat. Season with any combination of the above-listed spices. I thought my combination gave it a nice smokey Mexican-ish flavor. Set aside.

While chicken is browning, cut the onion and green pepper into thin strips. Cook them in 1 TBSP oil for a few minutes. Add a bit of salt & pepper while sauteeing. When done, they should still be nice and crispy.

To assemble, place a bit of Monterrey Jack in the middle of a tortilla. Place 1/2 of the chicken mixture on top of that, and finish with the onion/green pepper mixture. Fold up like a burrito by tucking in the "short" ends and then securing the "long" ends with toothpicks.

Meanwhile, heat about 1" of oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Once at desired temperature (on my stove, this was after about 4 minutes of heating), drop in the chimichangas. Cook for 2-3 minutes and flip. Cook the other side for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from the oil, drain excess oil, and smother with Tomatillo gravy (if desired). Garnish with your favorite toppings.

Spicy Tomatillo Gravy (optional)
3/4 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 TBSP flour
1 tomatillo
1 jalapeno pepper
handful diced red onion
1 small can diced green chilis
salt & pepper, to taste

Mix all of the above in a food processor. Pour into saucepan and heat on low while cooking chimichangas. If sauce is too thin, bring to a low boil and add 1 TBSP flour. Once finished, use to smother the chimichangas.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


The cooler weather has brought out the soup making at my house. The latest is my husband's brother's recipe for chili.

I didn't know if I could post this recipe for the longest time. I wasn't sure if my brother-in-law kept it under lock and key or if my husband had to take some sort of blood oath to get it from him, but I have now been assured it's safe to post and should be shared with the world (or, my tens of readers... whatever. You've gotta start somewhere, right?). I've taken some small liberties with the original recipe so you don't have to stand at the stove for a whole day cooking, and use every pot, pan, and bowl in your kitchen. You'll thank me later.

I'm not the biggest chili fan in general, but everyone I know goes crazy over this recipe. Be forewarned - it's really spicy.

Scott's Chili
From my Brother-in-Law
Serves 12-18 (yes...)
Cook & Prep Time - 2-3 hrs

*Use a 6-Quart stock pot
*Make this at least a day in advance, let it sit in the fridge overnight before you're going to serve it

1 can spicy baked beans (this is a big can. It should be the only one available)
1 large can Tomato Juice
2 cans hot & spicy chili beans (regular sized cans)
2 cans kidney beans (regular sized cans)
2 packages hot chili seasoning mix
3 lbs stew meat
4 stems celery
2 medium onions
6 jalapeno peppers (cut it in half or de-seed if you don't like spice)
1 bottle Frank's Red Hot Sauce (you'll use about 2/3 of the bottle)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
crushed red pepper
Minced Garlic
Vegetable oil (or canola... or olive - whatever you want)
Tabasco sauce
1 cup red wine (I highly recommend a dry Marsala)

Dice onion and divide into two bowls. Cut celery and put into its own bowl. Dice jalapenos, with seeds, and divide into two bowls. Set aside.

Cut beef into nickel size pieces. Set aside.

Coat stock pot with oil, over medium heat, and add one bowl of onion. Season with salt & pepper. Add 1 tsp crushed red pepper. Simmer until onions are translucent.

Add 1 tsp garlic and stir. Add one bowl of jalapeno peppers.

Add more oil if necessary. Never keep the ingredients dry.

Add 1 tsp crushed red pepper and 2 TBSP Frank's Red Hot. Stir.

Add meat. Right away add half the bottle of Frank's Red Hot. Stir.

Add 2 tsp crushed red pepper. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Add 1 tsp Tabasco sauce.

Continue stirring and simmer until the meat is just browned.

Once the meat has browned, add the remaining onions. Salt & pepper to taste. Add 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper and 1 tsp Frank's Red Hot. If the pot is cry, add a little more oil.

Add one heaping tsp. of garlic and the rest of the jalapenos. Stir.

Add the red wine & celery. Stir. Let simmer until the celery gets soft.

Once the celery is soft, add the tomato juice. Stir to combine.

Add the brown sugar and white sugar. Stir.

Next, add the dry chili seasoning mix and all beans (do not drain kidney beans). Simmer on low for about 2 hrs.

Store overnight and cook for at least 1 hour before serving.

Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, or whatever your favorite chili accompaniment is.

Garlic Soup

I know what you're thinking - garlic soup? Stay with me, though .... this soup will knock your socks off.

I don't have much of a story to tell about it. The husband and I went to an Austrian cooking class almost 3 years ago when our old apartment complex had monthly cooking classes, each featuring a different cuisine. Unfortunately, the classes basically entailed watching the instructor cook and then eating what he cooked, but we ended up with some great recipes. I recommend this one as a side, not a whole meal. It's a perfect accompaniment to Wiener Schnitzel (hint, hint - yes, I'm on a mission to get the rest of the world to love Schnitzel as much as I do).

Old Salzburg Garlic Soup
Serves 4-5
Cook & prep Time - about 40 min

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup chopped garlic (as I said above, stay with me...)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
6 cups stock (I recommend beef stock, but chicken or vegetable stock would be delightful)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
grated nutmeg, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
Croutons (I recommend making your own, but store-bought is just fine)
Minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish


In a large stock pot, cook onions and garlic in the butter over medium heat, or until onions are golden.

Add 1/2 cup flour and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes.

Add the stock, wine, and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into another pot. Stir in sour cream and freshly grated nutmeg, salt, & pepper to taste (I recommend using lots of pepper).

Ladle into bowls and garnish with toasted croutons and parsley.

Homegrown Gourmet 10

It's time for me to pick a winner (yes, I'm aware the deadline for submissions was 3 weeks ago). It has been a very tough choice.

For those of you who haven't been following, I am the host of this round of Homegrown Gourmet. This challenge topic was pizza, which not-so-coincidentally also happens to be one of my favorite foods. I received four delicious entries; you'll understand after reading them why it's taken me so long to pick a winner. So let's get to the good stuff, alright?

First, Megan at Joy Through Cooking submitted this delicious-looking pizza topped with ingredients from her CSA shipment.

Megan says "This pizza featured roasted garlic mashed with olive oil and smeared as the 'sauce,' local heirloom tomatos, sliced, fresh basil chiffonade, super sweet yellow corn sliced off the cob, and two medium balls of local fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced." Are you drooling yet? Cause I sure am.

Next, Erika at Bean's Bistro submitted her Local Pizza Margherita, using ingredients found at her local Farmer's Markets.

Dough from her local pizza company, fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market, and two kinds of cheese? Sign me up.

Next Kate at Paved with Good Intentions submitted this beautiful Four Cheese Pizza with Portobello Mushrooms and Artichokes - a true testament to her California location.

Any pizza with four cheeses (especially my favorites) is OK in my book.

Finally, Megan at Joy Through Cooking submitted a second pizza, this one representative of her husband's hometown of Johnstown, PA, where pierogies reign supreme.

Megan describes her inspiration: "The crust of the pizza would be the pasta. I topped it with lots of carmelized onions, and then mashed potatoes (I used small new potatos, boiled until cooked through, and roughly mashed with some butter and milk added to taste) that I mixed with about a cup of Cabot shredded sharp cheddar ... and a package of that precooked bacon... roughly shredded. When the pizza was almost done, I added even more cheddar on top of it." Yum.

Now you can see why this was such a difficult decision. Before I announce the winner, I just want to thank you all for participating - you're all winners in my book (*cue cheesy music*). You all took this challenge to new heights.

But now, I am pleased to announce the winner is...







Congrats, Erika. Your local twist on Margherita captured my heart and taste buds.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Vegetarian's 100

Not too long ago, I posted the Omnivore's 100. Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries, came up with the Vegetarian Hundred. I'm not a vegetarian, but I think I'm doing better at this list than the other one.

The Vegetarian Hundred

1. Real macaroni and cheese, made from scratch and baked
2. Tabouleh
3. Freshly baked bread, straight from the oven (preferably with homemade strawberry jam)
4. Fresh figs
5. Fresh pomegranate
6. Indian dal of any sort
7. Imam bayildi
8. Pressed spiced Chinese tofu
9. Freshly made hummus (this is on my list to try soon.)
10. Tahini
11. Kimchi (for what it's worth, I hated it)
12. Miso
13. Falafel
14. Potato and pea filled samosas
15. Homemade yogurt
16. Muhammara
17. Brie en croute
18. Spanikopita
19. Fresh, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes
20. Insalata caprese
21. Stir-fried greens (gai lan, bok choi, pea shoots, kale, chard or collards)
22. Freshly made salsa
23. Freshly made guacamole (I'm counting Chipotle because they make it fresh in-store)
24. Creme brulee
25. Fava beans
26. Chinese cold sesame peanut noodles
27. Fattoush
28. New potatoes (yum!)
29. Coleslaw
30. Ratatouille (on my list, once I get up the nerve to try making it).
31. Baba ganoush
32. Winter squash
33. Roasted beets
34. Baked sweet potatoes
35. Plantains
36. Chocolate truffles
37. Garlic mashed potatoes
38. Fresh water chestnuts
39. Steel cut oats
40. Quinoa (though I don't care for it)
41. Grilled portabello mushrooms
42. Chipotle en adobo
43. Stone ground whole grain cornmeal
44. Freshly made corn or wheat tortillas
45. Frittata
46. Basil pesto
47. Roasted garlic
48. Raita of any type
49. Mango lassi
50. Jasmine rice (white or brown)
51. Thai vegetarian coconut milk curry
52. Pumpkin in any form other than pie
53. Fresh apple pear or plum gallette
54. Quince in any form
55. Escarole, endive or arugula
56. Sprouts other than mung bean
57. Naturally brewed soy sauce
58. Dried shiitake mushrooms
59. Unusually colored vegetables (purple cauliflower, blue potatoes, chocolate bell peppers…)
60. Fresh peach ice cream
61. Chevre
62. Medjool dates
63. Kheer
64. Flourless chocolate cake
65. Grilled corn on the cob (see blog - ask me if you'd like the story of when we decided to DIY)
66. Black bean (or any other bean) vegetarian chili
67. Tempeh
68. Seitan or wheat gluten
69. Gorgonzola or any other blue veined cheese
70. Sweet potato fries
71. Homemade au gratin potatoes
72. Cream of asparagus soup
73. Artichoke-Parmesan dip (well, I've had Spinach-Artichoke-Parmesan dip)
74. Mushroom risotto (I've had regular, but not mushroom. Mushrooms are yucky).
75. Fermented black beans
76. Garlic scapes (have been dying to try them since I learned what they are)
77. Fresh new baby peas
78. Kalamata olives
79. Preserved lemons
80. Fried green tomatoes
81. Chinese scallion pancakes
82. Cheese souffle
83. Fried apples
84. Homemade frijoles refritos
85. Pasta fagiole
86. Macadamia nuts in any form
87. Paw paw in any form
88. Grilled cheese sandwich of any kind
89. Paneer cheese
90. Ma Po Tofu (vegetarian style–no pork!)
91. Fresh pasta in any form
92. Grilled leeks, scallions or ramps
93. Green papaya salad
94. Baked grain and vegetable stuffed tomatoes (I'm kinda cheating here because I've done this with peppers... I'm not the biggest baked tomato fan).
95. Pickled ginger
96. Methi greens
97. Aloo paratha
98. Kedgeree (the original Indian version without the smoked fish, not the British version with fish)
99. Okra
100. Roasted brussels sprouts

47/100. I think that's pretty good.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

I ate a lot of Shepherd's pie while studying abroad in London and crave it when it gets cold and rainy. Well, Tuesday was just such a day. Cold? Check. Rainy? Check. Time to make the Shepherd's Pie recipe I've had in the back of my mind for a while. It's not something I'd want to make every day, but it hit the spot on the first real cool day in a while.

Also, I specifically recall one of my faithful readers fairly recently lamenting not being able to eat Shepherd's Pie since becoming a vegetarian, so I have taken the liberty of of noting how I would suggest making this very meat-y recipe vegetarian-friendly without simply substituting fake meat for the real thing. Those notes will follow the regular recipe.

Please forgive the bad photo -
I'm convinced it's impossible to take a good picture of a Shepherd's Pie

Mummy Boome's Traditional Shepherd's Pie
Recipe by Danny Boome, adapted

Serves 4

Cook Time - 1 hr

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb ground beef or turkey
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup beef stock
3/4 cups garden peas (I used corn)
Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows

Preheat oven at 400 degrees F.

Add butter and oil to a large skillet on medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic until tender for about 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables have softened and start to brown a little add the tomato paste and mix evenly. Add the ground beef and cook until beef is no longer pink about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef stock. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook and simmer for another 10 minutes. Mix in peas. Transfer mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly. Place potato on top of ground beef mixture and spread out evenly, once the top surface has been covered, rake through with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. Place the dish into the preheated oven and cook until browned about 20 minutes. Spoon out the shepherd's pie and serve.

Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, quartered
2-3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used milk)
3/4 cup grated mature white Cheddar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a large saucepan with cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Add potatoes to the water and bring to a boil. Let potatoes cook until soft about 20 minutes. Once the potatoes are at a desired density, drain the potatoes and place them back into the saucepan for mashing. Add butter and cream and begin to mash potatoes into a semi smooth consistency. Once at desired texture add cheese and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

***Now, here are my suggestions for a vegetarian friendly Shepherd's Pie - feel free to play around with the veggies and quantities to suit your own tastes**

1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP tomato paste
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1-2 TBSP flour
1 cup corn
1 cup garden peas
1/2 - 3/4 cup green beans
Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, recipe above

Add butter and oil to a large skillet on medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic until tender for about 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables have softened and start to brown a little add the tomato paste and mix evenly. Add the stock. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook and simmer for another 10 minutes. If the mixture needs to thicken, add 1-2 TBSP flour and whisk together. Mix in peas, corn, and green beans. Transfer mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly. Place potato on top of the veggie mixture and spread out evenly, once the top surface has been covered, rake through with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. Place the dish into the preheated oven and cook until browned about 20 minutes. Spoon out the shepherd's pie and serve.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The best apple pie ever

It's not quite apple season yet in Minnesota (speaking of which, when will the grocery store start stocking fresh apples?), but that didn't stop me from making my fabulous apple pie recently. I realize, after re-reading my posts, that I actually have blogged about this pie before, but I figure 1). I didn't include a picture before, and 2). it's just that good. I've also used this recipe with fresh rhubarb instead of apples with great success.

Dutch Apple Pie
recipe from my mom

Bottom Crust
1 stick melted butter
1 TBSP sugar
1 cup flour

4-5 sliced apples (sour-ish ones are better)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Top Crust
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix bottom crust together with a fork and press into pie plate.

Mix sliced apples and cinnamon/sugar; put in pie tin with the bottom crust. When filled, it should look sort of like a dome.

Mix brown sugar, flour, & butter to a crumbly mass (do this with your hands). Top the apples with this mixture.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Minnesota State Fair!

For those of you in the state, you're supposed to read that title as per the theme song that's been playing on the commercials for the past month or so. Anyway, I haven't forgotten about my blog. I haven't been purposely neglecting it, either. We moved, so I haven't been doing much any cooking lately. So... enough with the excuses and onto the good stuff.

Every year, like virtually every other Minnesotan I know, we wade through the crowd to go to the great... no, food fest... no... celebration of deep fried wonderment on a stick that is the Minnesota State Fair. If you add the attendance numbers together from each day of the fair (ignoring that many people go more than once), I think more people attend than actually live in the state.
People don't go to the fair for much other than the food. Sure, there are the animal barns where the outstate folk can show off their prize-winning pigs/cows/chickens/gigantic turkeys, and the city folk can actually see what a pig/cow/chicken/gigantic turkey looks like... but that's really just something you do in between the various food items.

Everyone has their favorites that they repeat over and over (unfortunately for me, mine are so far favorites that I crave them year-round, so once it's fair time, I am so hungry for them that I don't feel like I can cut anything out to try the newest hot dish on a stick or macaroni and cheese on a stick or whatever they manage to fry and put on a stick that particular year). My favorite is, by far, the Pronto Pup.

Cue the angel choir music...

To be completely clear: a pronto pup is not the same thing as a corn dog. I cannot stress this enough. Sure, it's a deep fried, breaded hot dog on a stick, but it's so much better than a corn dog. See, the difference is that the batter on a pronto pup is made from wheat, not cornmeal. In my experience, the coating is quite a bit thinner than a corn dog breading, and much more crispy on the outside. In short, they're the best. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the actual pup because by the time we made it through the line and got ours, we were far too hungry to bother with pictures.

Later, I did take a picture of one of the booths to show you how incredibly popular they are. The line was actually about twice this long, but you get the picture.

Unfortunately (but somewhat amusing-ly), the closest open place to the pronto pup stand to actually sit down and eat said pronto pup faced us directly looking toward this:

In case you can't see, the guy in the middle with the gray hair is Norm himself.

We thought about heckling, but decided against it.

The next major food item on the list is Luigi Fries. My husband loves these. Basically, they're breadsticks topped with melted cheese, dipped in marinara. They're good, but I think you probably get the picture just by description.

Next, the grilled corn on the cob. I know what you're thinking: what's so special about corn on the cob? In truth, nothing. It's just really, really good. It has the perfect charcoal grill flavor, and they give it to you just after being dipped in a huge vat of melted butter. The whole area smells like roasted corn.... it's an event, really.

See, don't we look like we're enjoying ourselves?

Next, there are mini doughnuts. There are two different brands of mini donuts at the fair, and people argue over whether Tom Thumb or Tiny Tim (or whatever that other brand actually is called) is the better mini donut. My in-laws swear that Tom Thumb is better, so for some reason we just sort of gravitate toward one of those stands. They're really yummy, but unfortunately, you can only eat about 5 of them before you start to feel like a mini donut yourself.

In the meantime, you walk around and check out the baby animals, like this super cute baby goat and two-day-old baby pigs, and make coo-ey sounds over them.

Now say it with me - awwwwww....

Next is a Minnesota original (or so I'm told): the deep fried cheese curd.

Again, there probably isn't anything particularly extraordinary about these things. They're just really good. And really, how could they not be? They're just little bits of lightly battered, deep fried cheese. The end result is a glob of cheese, batter, and grease. The first bite is heaven. The second bite is good. Third bite... still pretty good. The fourth bite.... well, let's just say you feel like you're going to die.

But, you can't die. There's still cookies to eat!

Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar has been around for 30 years or so, and everyone goes crazy for these cookies. They're always served hot, right out of the oven delicious.

In case you're worried for our health, we're still working on polishing off the bucket.

And then, you get back on the shuttle bus to your designated park & ride area and collapse.