Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring Veggie and Rice Bowl

I decided to tweak/vegetarianize a Rachael Ray recipe (#122 of her 365: No Repeats book). It came out pretty well. It's not terribly fancy, but it's simple and tastes very fresh and healthy.

Spring Veggie and Rice Bowl

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, trimmed of tough tops and roots
1 bay leaf
1 cup shredded carrots
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (5 or 6 sprigs), chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 cup frozen peas
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup slivered almonds

Place almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant and starting to brown. Set aside.

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2-inch half-moons. Place the leeks in a colander and wash under cold running water, separating the layers and releasing all the grit. You can also place the sliced leeks in a large bowl of cold water and swish them around like a washing machine. The grit will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Drain the leeks well.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the leeks, bay leaf, carrots, celery, and thyme. Cook until leeks wilt and other vegetables start to soften a bit. Add chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is just tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in peas, parsley, salt and pepper. Heat through. Serve in bowls and top with toasted almonds.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Renaissance of Tuna Casserole

Yes, that is really what this recipe is called. And it may have a "fancy" name, but it's a simple and really tasty meal. Definitely not your typical tuna casserole with the layer of breadcrumbs on top. And at least according to Jonathan, so much better. Though I do occasionally want that crunchy-topped casserole, I think I agree.

Renaissance of Tuna Casserole
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


1 pound fettuccine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 (6-ounce) cans Italian tuna in water or oil, drained
1/2 cup tender sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine (try not to substitute with broth, it really makes a difference)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
Couple handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves, shredded

Place pasta water on to boil. Salt water then add pasta and cook to al dente.

While pasta cooks, heat a deep skillet over medium heat with extra-virgin olive oil. Sauté garlic and onions until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tuna and sun-dried tomatoes and stir to heat through, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and cook it down a minute then add cream and season sauce with salt and pepper. Toss hot pasta and peas with sauce and cheese. Serve on dinner plates and top with shredded basil.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

We have a family friend who is like an aunt to me and another grandmother to my children. She is particularly fond of the scones I've made in the past, so for Mother's Day, I thought I would show her my appreciation for how generous she's always been to my family and make her a new variety of scones.

I fiddled a bit with the lemon zest ratio in the original recipe since I had found that my previous citrus scone experience had definitely needed that extra kick. But I'm not sure it was better with more. So I'm just putting what I think would work best here. You'll have even tastier scones than we did.

I also noticed that this dough was a lot dryer and didn't need to be refrigerated before I could work with it.

I'm including a variation of the glaze I've used before since the original recipe's glaze is more complicated and, I think, not as tasty.

Edited to add: I just tried the Ina Garten Cranberry Orange scone recipe with modifications to make them Blueberry Lemon scones. And we liked them SO much better than the recipe below. You can find recipe variation on the Cranberry Orange entry. And here they are in all their glory:


Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze
A variation on this recipe by Tyler Florence

2 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 lemon, zest finely grated
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 4 tablespoons
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, more if it's too thick

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Sift together the dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in lemon zest. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Toss together blueberries and remaining 1/4 cup flour, then fold into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and carefully form dough into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. And try to keep the blueberries as intact as possible. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice, and drizzle over the scones.

Cupcakes for Benjamin

It was my son's 4th birthday on May 6th. And it was quite a fun week of celebrations. One of the celebrations was at preschool, and, of course, I sent in cupcakes. Benjamin requested blue icing and sprinkles, and that's what he got. And all it took was an entire small bottle of blue food coloring to get there.

As for the cupcakes, I found a highly-rated vanilla cupcake recipe on I already had a good vanilla cream cheese icing recipe that I had used before, so I went with that instead of the icing recipe that accompanies the cupcake recipe. The combination was quite delicious. And the kids all seemed to like it at school. We also had a ton leftover since the recipe actually made 36 rather than 24 cupcakes. It's no wonder my jeans are a bit tight these days...

Happy birthday to my sweet boy! I can't believe it's been 4 years since you entered my life. Thank you for teaching me so much about myself and about life. I love you so much.


Old-Fashioned Cupcakes
Courtesy of Cheryl Day


1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.

Combine in a bowl both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until combined for about 3 minutes. Add in cubed butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

Add eggs 1 at a time until combined. Slowly add milk and vanilla to batter until completely mixed scraping down the bowl as you mix.

Scoop batter into baking cups filling about 2/3 full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool and then decorate.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Courtesy of McCormick®

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread on cooled cupcakes and enjoy!