Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cajun Pasta

This was supposed to have chicken in it, but I forgot to defrost the chicken I had in the freezer, so it became a meat-free dish. I think it could have really used the chicken though. The flavor is great, but it was needing some more "toothiness", as Jonathan puts it. I will be trying it again, with the chicken next time.

Cajun Pasta
Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman


3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
3 teaspoons Cajun spice mix, divided, more to taste
1 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 whole large red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 whole Roma tomatoes, diced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente; do not overcook!

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add half the chicken in a single layer; do not stir. Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate.

Repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken, leaving pan on high heat.

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on remaining Cajun spice, and add salt if needed. Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring gently and trying to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan.

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste. Sauce should be spicy!

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.

Top with chopped fresh parsley and chow down!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheese Biscuits

Oh my goodness, these are awesome. I ate way too many of them with dinner tonight, but really, biscuits are just not the same the day after, so why not finish the plate of them, right?

They suggest all sorts of variations of these on the webpage. I went with the Parmesan cheese and chives variation. And I added some fleur de sel on top since that's what I had. I'm thinking I may need to pick up some of that pink Himalyan salt from Terrain the next time I'm there. That would add some more fun to these fabulous biscuits.

I also tweaked the wet ingredients a bit since I don't like buying containers of buttermilk. I never seem to use all of it before it goes bad, and it frustrates me. So I went with the Greek yogurt and whole milk that were in my fridge. These were so good, these changes will definitely be used from now on.

Cheese Biscuits
A variation on this recipe from Simply Recipes


2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Dash of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
7 tablespoons butter, cold
2 tablespoons chives
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup whole milk
Kosher, Maldon, Fleur de Sel, or Black salt for topping (optional; not table/iodized salt)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cayenne, black pepper, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Dice the butter into small pieces. If they get too warm then place them in a bowl and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes before continuing. Toss the diced butter with the flour mixture until well coated. (Again, if into tossing the butter gets hot in your hands place the whole mixture in the freezer for a few minutes.) Add the chives and cheese and toss until well coated.

Add the yogurt and milk and mix with a spoon until it just comes together.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice; no more. Form into an 8x8-inch square and cut into 2x2-inch squares and top with a bit of high-quality salt if using. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until golden.

Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew

I was extremely wary of this while it cooked today. I was so afraid it was going to come out tasting super sweet with all of the sweeter veggie elements, plus the raisins and cinnamon. But it ended up being wonderfully balanced, and I loved it! It had a great flavor and felt very filling and healthy. Added some cheese biscuits, and it made for a splendid meal.

The only things I did differently were leave out the parsnips (only because they're not currently in season and are pretty sad) and saffron (didn't have any and always hesitate to buy it since it's so stinking expensive), and I added a bit more chicken stock than what was called for. I wanted it to be a bit more soupish, and since I had some extra stock, I figured why not? I'm sure it added some flavor too, which is always a plus.

Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Stew
A variation on this recipe from


1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, large dice
Kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 large), large dice
1 pound carrots (about 4 to 5 medium), peeled and large dice
1 pound parsnips (about 4 medium), peeled and large dice
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 pounds sugar baby pumpkin or butternut squash (about 1 small), peeled, seeded, and large dice
1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and large dice
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup golden raisins, also known as sultanas
1 bunch spinach, trimmed and washed (about 4 cups loosely packed)
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar, plus more as needed

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and a pinch of pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker, add the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and broth, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the pumpkin or squash, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and raisins, season with salt, and stir to combine. Cover and continue to cook on high until a knife easily pierces the vegetables, about 2 hours more, stirring after 1 hour. Add the spinach and gently mix (do not overmix). Let sit until wilted. Gently stir in the vinegar, taste, and season with more salt, pepper, and vinegar as needed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Slow-Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies

Hurricane Irene is making her way toward us, so what do I do? I decided to use the eggs, milk, and heavy cream in my fridge to make Hurricane Brownie Sundaes. I figured since we may lose power and those things would go bad anyway, I may as well use them in a tasty way that we could enjoy as we wait. I used my go-to vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce recipes, as well as this slow-cooker brownie recipe. I've been very curious to try this brownie recipe, but I have to say I was kind of disappointed. The brownie itself is overwhelmingly rich, so that was a bit tough to begin with. And the edges were definitely overdone, despite following the recipe perfectly. I very much prefer regular brownies and probably won't make them in the slow-cooker again. But in the meantime... Here is my sundae:


Slow-Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies
Courtesy of Martha Stewart


Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)

Lightly coat a 5-quart slow-cooker insert with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and lightly coat with spray. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted. Add sugar; stir to combine. Stir in eggs. Add flour mixture, walnuts, and chocolate chips and stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer to slow cooker and smooth top.

Cover and cook on low, 3 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook 30 minutes. Remove insert from slow cooker and run a knife around edge to loosen brownies. Let cool completely in insert on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Turn out onto a work surface and cut into 14 brownies.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicken Korma

This was tasty and smelled very autumnal. I paired it with some fresh green beans that were given to us by my in-laws from their garden, that I roasted with some salt, pepper and olive oil.

Chicken Korma
Courtesy of


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut in chunks
1 large potato, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch chunks
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes and juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (to add later)
Cooked white or brown long grain rice for serving

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Put the chicken into the bottom of your pot. Add potato and onion. Pour in the tomatoes, and add garlic and all spices. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or HIGH for 3 to 4. Discard the cinnamon stick, and stir in the sour cream or yogurt. Serve over rice.

Creamy Chicken Salad

In an effort to make sure Benjamin doesn't go to school every day with a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I found some fun meal ideas through Cooking Light. This particular recipe is from their suggested "The Pita Pocketeer" menu. I'm thinking I may substitute the pita for some Wheat Thins since I'm fairly certain Benjamin would make a giant mess trying to eat this chicken salad in a pita. But I'll have to make sure to add the Hershey's Kisses to his lunchbox when I pack this chicken salad... I made the mistaken of telling him before I made the chicken salad that the suggested menu included the Kisses and then forgot to get some. You can imagine his disappointment and insistence that they be included next time...

This recipe is indeed very creamy. But the addition of the Greek yogurt helps to make sure you don't feel like you're just drowning in mayo. I didn't change anything about the ingredients in the salad, but I did use a different poaching method. For some reason, thinking about poaching chicken in plastic wrap just gives me the heebie jeebies, so I went with Alton Brown's method.

First more interesting option added to the school lunch menu! Woot!

Creamy Chicken Salad
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, poached and shredded
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
7 tablespoons (about 2 ounces) coarsely chopped smoked almonds
6 cups mixed salad greens

Combine mayonnaise and the next 7 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until combined. Add chicken, 1/3 cup celery, cranberries, and almonds; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over salad greens.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

I don't know if it's because Fall is coming or because I'm highly suggestible, but when I saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine (seriously, the best food magazine I've ever subscribed to), I developed an incredible craving for it and had to try it asap. And I'm so very glad I did. It's the best I've ever had. It's a whole lot more labor-intensive than this one, but it also easily blows it out of the water, no contest. And since it makes two loaves, I'm also looking forward to when it starts to get a bit stale to try using it in this french toast recipe.

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
Courtesy of Ellie Krieger for Food Network Magazine


2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
Cooking spray
2/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

Make the dough: Measure out 1 1/4 cups very warm water and check the temperature; it should be 120°F to 130°F. Combine both flours, the dry milk, egg, canola oil, honey, salt, yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix 3 minutes on the lowest setting, then increase to the next highest setting and mix 5 more minutes. The dough should be soft and sticky.

Let it rise: Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Soak the raisins: Dry raisins will rob moisture from the bread, so soak them first in boiling water until plump, about 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Fold the dough: Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Picture it as a loose square. Lift up one side of the dough and fold about one-third of it across; press down on the dough with spread fingers to remove any air bubbles. Repeat with the remaining 3 sides of the dough.

Add the filling: Mist two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the dough in half; roll out each half into an 8-inch square. Brush each square with canola oil, then sprinkle with the cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins.

Form the loaves: Roll up each square of dough into a tight cylinder; place seam-side down in the prepared pans. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough fills the pans and springs back when touched, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Bake the bread: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with canola oil and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pad Thai with Tofu

Blech. The noodles in this got totally mushy, and it lacked flavor. I don't know if it's because I doubled the recipe (I didn't want to end up with half a container of tofu in the fridge or half a package of rice stick noodles in the pantry), but I'm not sure I'll try it again to find out. Oh well.

Pad Thai with Tofu
Courtesy of Cooking Light


1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 5 ounces)
1 cup grated carrot
1 garlic clove, minced
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup light coconut milk
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onion tops
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts
8 ounces uncooked wide rice stick noodles (Banh Pho), cooked and drained
5 lime wedges

To prepare sauce, combine first 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.

To prepare noodles, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, carrot, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add sauce and tofu; cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk; cook 2 minutes. Stir in lettuce and next 5 ingredients (lettuce through noodles); cook 1 minute. Serve with lime wedges.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blueberry Soda

I love Alton Brown. That is all.

Blueberry Soda
Courtesy of Alton Brown

20 ounces fresh blueberries, approximately 4 cups, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
7 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1 lime, juiced
Carbonated water

Place the blueberries and the water into a medium saucepan, set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth that is set in a large bowl. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the skin and pulp.

Return the blueberry juice to the saucepan along with the sugar and lime juice. Place over medium high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof glass container and place in the refrigerator, uncovered, until completely cooled.

To serve: Combine 1/4 cup of the liquid with 8-ounces of carbonated water and serve over ice.

Summer Fruit Pie

Absolutely delicious. I used my go-to pie crust. And I used cornstarch instead of tapioca. But other than that, the recipe is perfectly splendid as it is. No extra spices or other flavors needed.

Summer Fruit Pie
A variation of this recipe from Real Simple


6 ripe peaches, each cut into 8 wedges
1 pint strawberries, halved
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes

In a medium bowl, gently toss the peaches, strawberries, tapioca, lemon juice, and ½ cup of the sugar. Spoon the fruit mixture into the pie plate and dot with the butter.

Roll out the second disk of dough into a 14-inch circle. Drape it over the pie and trim the edge to a ½-inch overhang. Fold under, pressing to seal. Crimp the edge, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 425°F. Lightly brush the top crust with cold water and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Cut several slashes into the top crust. Bake until golden, 18 to 22 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and continue to bake until the juices bubble, 30 to 40 minutes more.

Transfer to a rack and cool for 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart

This was tasty. Not my favorite, but it was good. I added some Italian seasoning to the tart dough, which was probably my favorite part. I also used a full pound of sausage since I like sausage. And I didn't want to have half a package left over.

Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart
A variation on this recipe from food52


Tart Shell:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3-4 tablespoons ice water

Sausage and Kale Filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound Italian sausage
1 bunch kale (a large bunch), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
1 egg
1/4 cup ricotta (or another soft cheese like feta or goat cheese)
Salt and pepper

Make tart shell:
Cut the butter into small cubes. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until butter is pea-sized. Slowly drizzle water through the top of the food processor while pulsing. You have added enough water when dough sticks together when pressed. Remove dough from processor and press gently into a disc. Wrap disc in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Place disc on a lightly floured board. Roll dough into a circle 12 inches in diameter. Place dough in 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Dock dough with a fork. Lay parchment paper or foil over dough and fill with beans or pie weights.

Blind bake the tart shell (with pie weights) for 20 minutes. Then remove parchment and weights and bake an additional 5 minutes until the crust begins to brown. Remove from oven and set aside on cooling rack.

Make tart filling:
Heat oil and butter in pan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until onions are soft and light brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove onions from pan and set aside.

Increase heat to medium and add sausage to pan. Brown sausage and break into small pieces. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of oil from pan.

Add kale to pan. Pour white wine over kale. Scrape any bits from the pan and cover. Cook 3-5 minutes, until kale is wilted. Season with salt and pepper. If kale is still very wet, cook uncovered for a minute or two. The overall mixture should be fairly dry. Remove kale to a large bowl.

Toss cooked kale with cooked sausage and onions. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Toss mixture with basil, egg, and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon sausage and kale mixture into cooked tart shell. Be sure to evenly cover the bottom of the tart shell. Bake the tart on a baking tray for 10-15 minutes at 400°F. Remove tart from oven when the filling is set and the tart shell is nicely brown. Cool tart slightly on a wire rack. Slice and serve with a big green salad.

Perfect French Toast

I used some leftover challah that I had in the freezer (defrosted in the fridge overnight) to make this french toast. It was very good. Not overly sweet (especially because we used pure maple syrup), and the challah gave it an extra boost of flavor and a great texture. I also felt like putting the toast in the oven after sautéing it made it so that it wasn't floppy like some other french toasts I've had/made. I'm sure slicing the bread thick didn't hurt either.

I think it probably could have used a little more nutmeg or maybe pumpkin pie spice? We'll see for next time. I know I'll be making it again.

Perfect French Toast
A variation of this recipe from Food Network Magazine


4 eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or milk
1/2-3/4 teaspoon nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Thick slices of challah, brioche, or white bread
Maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk eggs, half-and-half or milk, spices, vanilla extract, sugar and salt in a shallow bowl.

Heat butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, dip bread in the egg mixture and cook in the skillet until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side, adding more butter as needed. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until puffed, 8 to 10 minutes. Drizzle the French toast with maple syrup.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara

Easy, delicious. It paired beautifully with this pork tenderloin. And I used this marinara.

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara
A variation of this recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes


16 ounces baby pasta shells
1 large bunch thin asparagus, tough ends removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 cups homemade marinara sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Add asparagus to pot during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

While pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan heat marinara sauce. Drain pasta and asparagus and reserve a cup of the pasta water.

Return pasta and asparagus back to the pot and toss with marinara, grated cheese, salt and pepper and a 1/4 cup of the pasta water or as needed to loosen the sauce. Divide between four bowls and top with fresh pepper and more grated cheese if desired.

Mustard-Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin

I really liked this. The combination of flavors was super tasty.

Mustard-Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light via For the Love of Cooking


1/4 cup Italian seasoned panko crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 ½ tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves only
1 1-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
Sea salt and freshly cracked, pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 clove of garlic, minced
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a baking sheet with tin foil and spray it with cooking spray.

Pour the panko crumbs, parsley, cheese, and thyme onto a plate, mix until well combined. Remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloin. Pat dry then season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Mix the mustard, fennel seeds, and garlic together then rub evenly all over the pork tenderloin. Roll the pork tenderloin in the panko mixture until coated really well. Place the pork tenderloin on the baking sheet.

Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 140°F-145°F. Let the meat rest for 7-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Peach Shortbread

I was very wary of these while I was making them. They just looked like they could end up being super dry, and I was nervous they would feel like consuming dust with a layer of peaches. But they ended up being really yummy! And I totally think it was worth it to brown the butter. I loved the depth of flavor it brought to the shortbread. I'm sure these would be equally good with any other fresh fruit (especially other stone fruit, like plums).

Peach Shortbread
Courtesy of smitten kitchen


1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cups all-purpose flour (or you can measure 3 cups and remove 2 tablespoons flour)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick)

Brown your butter: Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else. Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

[Don't have time for all this brown butter madness? Check the head notes to use regular softened butter instead.]

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Use a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, blend the solidified brown butter and egg into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. Tile peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Strawberry Cornmeal Crumble Bars

I had some strawberries that looked like they weren't going to last much longer, so I thought I'd make a fun snack. And these are fun. And surprisingly filling. I think I could probably cut the output from 9 bars to 12 bars.

The only change I made was that I substituted strawberries for the raspberries the original recipe calls for.

Strawberry Cornmeal Crumble Bars
A variation on this recipe from Martha Stewart


3/4 cup natural almonds
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides.

In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely ground (you should have about 1 cup). In a large bowl, whisk together ground almonds, cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and stir until dry ingredients are evenly moistened.

Press about two-thirds the dough into dish. Scatter strawberries over top and crumble remaining dough over strawberries. Bake until top is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in dish on a wire rack before cutting into 9 (or 12) bars.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Roast Pork and Peaches

I absolutely cannot figure out how one makes a pork chop that isn't dry and about as easy to cut with a regular dinner knife as leather. The dish, overall, tasted quite good, and it smelled absolutely divine, but the pork frustration was probably not worth making it again. Unless I can find some sort of pork chop secret...

Roast Pork and Peaches
Courtesy of Real Simple


1 10-ounce package couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 bone-in pork chops (3/4 inch thick; about 2 pounds total)
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 peaches, cut into wedges
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Heat oven to 400°F. Cook the couscous according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the peaches, onion, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the skillet and cook, tossing, for 1 minute.

Return the pork (and any accumulated juices) to the skillet. Transfer to oven and roast until the pork is cooked through and the peaches are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the pork and peaches with the basil and serve with the couscous.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Plum Kuchen

Scrumptious. Complex in flavors but very simple in execution. I may have tweaked the actual "kuchen"ness of this cake by adding plain yogurt to the cake batter. But the batter was so dry, I was afraid it would come out more like a shortbread than a cake, so I moistened it up a bit with the yogurt. And I'm happy I did. This cake totally rocked.

I highly recommend using a springform pan if you have one. I've had trouble in the past with cakes like this overflowing my regular cake pans, and using a springform pan definitely helped that problem.

Plum Kuchen
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


6 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
7 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds plums, quartered and pitted
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cardamom in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cut in 4 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine milk, vanilla, egg, and yogurt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into a 9-inch round metal cake pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange plums in a circular pattern over batter.

Combine remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, lemon rind, and allspice in a small bowl, stirring well. Place remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 30 seconds or until butter melts. Stir into sugar mixture. Sprinkle plums evenly with sugar mixture. Bake for 35 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Cool in pan 1 hour on a wire rack. Cut into wedges.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Spicy Lentil Soup

I loved the combination of flavors in this soup. And it was beautifully autumnal. I wasn't entirely expecting it, so it was a nice little surprise when it started to give off the gorgeous aroma during the simmering process. Yum.

I have never used anchovies before, and while I liked the depth of flavor it gave the dish, I'm definitely going to be looking for the resealable paste tubes next time. I had no idea what to do with the leftover anchovies in the tin, so I tossed them. Did I panic? Probably. But I wasn't willing to risk stinking up my fridge and kind of knew I was probably never going to use them but would probably end up just buying the paste or another tin.

Oh, and I'm refusing to call this a "stoup" because I think that label is dumb. Sorry, Rachael.

Spicy Lentil Soup
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 canned anchovy fillets
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into cubes
1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika or ground cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and black pepper
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
Two 32-ounce containers (2 quarts) chicken broth
One 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
Crusty bread or rolls, for serving

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Stir in the anchovies until melted, then add the pancetta and cook until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the potato, carrots, onion and garlic. Season with the rosemary sprigs, bay leaf, paprika, crushed red pepper, allspice and salt and black pepper to taste; cook until the vegetables are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, stir in the kale and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and rosemary sprigs. Serve the soup with the crusty bread.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pan-Fried Tofu with Dark Sweet Soy Sauce

Meh. It wasn't bad, but it was also not my favorite tofu dish. The sauce could have used being thinned out a bit in order to be stretched to fit the amount of tofu I had. I also always forget how messy pan-frying is, so I think I prefer browning my tofu under the broiler. And I totally forgot to add the scallion-serrano garnish, so I have no idea if it would have added to the dish. I know it would have added to the heat (of which it already had plenty) since I'm pretty sure my right eye is burning a bit because I accidentally touched it after chopping the serrano pepper. Oof.

Pan-Fried Tofu with Dark Sweet Soy Sauce
Courtesy of


2 tablespoons Chinese dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili garlic hot sauce)
One 14-ounce block firm tofu
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 serrano, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
1 scallion, chopped

Mix together the soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and sambal oelek in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Cut the tofu into ½-inch thick slices, which are approximately 3-inches long. Dry the tofu pieces on paper towels.

Place a large sauté pan or wok over high heat. When smoking, add just enough of the canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add as many of the tofu slices as will fit in one layer. Cook until tofu is browned on the bottom, two to three minutes. Flip the pieces with a pair of tongs, and brown on the other side, about two minutes. When done, drain the tofu pieces on paper towels. Repeat process with remaining tofu pieces, adding more oil if necessary.

Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the canola oil, and turn the heat down to medium. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Pour in the soy sauce mixture, and cook until it thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

Divide the tofu between two plates, and pour half of the sauce over each. Garnish with the chopped serrano and scallion.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Ricotta Scones

These are the most tender, moist scones I've ever had. The original recipe calls for raspberries, but I'm not a fan of the seeds, so I used blueberries instead. I can't wait to try other fruit with this recipe. Yum.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Ricotta Scones
A variation on this recipe from smitten kitchen


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

With a pastry blender:
Add the butter (no need to chop it first) and use the blender to both cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in berries and use the blender again to break them into halves and quarter berry sized chunks.

Without a pastry blender: Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Roughly chop the berries on a cutting board and stir them into the butter-flour mixture.

Both methods: Add the ricotta and heavy cream together and stir them in to form a dough with a flexible spatula.Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl. Don’t fret if the berries get muddled and smudge up the dough. This is a pretty thing.

With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. With a large knife, divide the dough into 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula. Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. It’s best to cool them about halfway before eating them, so they can set a bit more.

Do ahead: Scones are always best the day they are baked. However, if you wish to get a lead on them, you can make them, arrange them on your parchment-lined sheet and freeze them. If you’re prepping just one day in advance, cover the tray with plastic wrap and bake them the day you need them. If you’re preparing them more than one day in advance, once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. Bring them back to a parchment-lined sheet when you’re ready to bake them. No need to defrost the froze, unbaked scones, just add 2 to 3 minutes to your baking time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Corn Tortilla Chips

I've discovered that I don't really care for store-bought corn tortillas. I find them incredibly dry and tasteless. So since I had some in the fridge, I thought I'd try making them into chips. And YUM! I highly suggest following the recipe note about leaving them in the oven with it turned off for a few more minutes to make them crispier. You can see the not as crispy version on my Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad post. They were chewier like that. But just a few more minutes made them nice and crunchy.

The ones I made just had kosher salt sprinkled on them, but I'll definitely try some of the spice suggestions they have in the recipe.

Healthy Baked Corn Tortilla Chips
Courtesy of


Corn tortillas
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Stack tortillas one on top of the other and use kitchen sizzors to cut them into 4 slices like you would cut up a pizza.

Spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (not air-bake), spacing them at least 1/4" apart (they will be chewy instead of crispy if not spaced properly). (NOTE: If you must use an air-bake pan, try 350°F for 20 minutes.).

Shake salt and desired toppings over tortillas.

TOPPING OPTIONS (choose any combo): SPICES: paprika, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder (sparingly), cayenne pepper (sparingly, will add heat!). CHEESES: grated parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, etc. or try SWEET: cinnamon & sugar.

Bake 8-12 mins or until chips are starting to get crispy and slightly golden brown at the edges (check every 1-2 minutes after 8 mins).

Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 mins before serving in order to let them fully crispen. Extra Crispy: put back in turned off oven at least 10 mins or until ready to serve for extra crispy and warm chips (watch them, you may need to leave oven door cracked to prevent over browning).

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Another tasty Summer meal. The only things I did differently was use plain yogurt instead of sour cream in the dressing, I used ground chipotle instead of canned, and I didn't add the avocado because I didn't have a good one. I'll post the original recipe though since all of the short-cuts were, I imagine, just as good as the original ingredients.

I used homemade corn tortilla chips, which were definitely a wonderful crunchy addition to this dish.

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad
Courtesy of Cooking Light


1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2/3 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breasts)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup diced peeled avocado
1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added whole-kernel corn, rinsed and drained

To prepare dressing, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring well.

To prepare salad, combine lettuce and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

I'm so glad I tried this. I'm usually not a huge fan of peanut dressings/sauces, but this one was fresh and light but still had a nice peanut flavor. So many other ones I've tried are so heavy and intense that the peanut flavor just overpowers everything else. This had a great flavor balance. And it's a perfect summer dish because it can be eaten cold. You could also cut down on the cooking time and avoid heating up your kitchen by buying a rotisserie chicken and using the meat from there (I used the leftover meat from the roast chicken I made).

Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing
Courtesy of


For the chicken:
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or 2 cups of cooked shredded meat)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
10 ounces soba noodles (or spaghetti)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
4 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

For the dressing:
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1-1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the chicken breasts on a foil lined sheet pan. Rub the skin with vegetable oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package instructions, stirring occasionally so they don't stick. Drain and rinse well under cold water.

Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small food processor or blender. Blitz until mixture is smooth. (Alternatively, you can whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl; just be sure to mince the garlic and stir until peanut butter is completely dissolved.)

Remove skin from chicken breasts and shred meat into bite-sized pieces. In a large bowl, toss shredded chicken with noodles, dressing, bell peppers, peanuts, scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Banana Whoopie Pies

I found these on my new favorite website: A friend of mine pointed me in its direction, and it has given me nearly daily culinary browsing joy as well as several new recipes to try. Of which this is one. Jonathan loves bananas, and we've enjoyed the other whoopie pies I've made, so when I spied it, it was a no-brainer. The banana flavor is a little overpowered by the cream cheese filling, but when you get a bite with a good balance, it's really wonderful. But really, even when you don't, it's still super tasty.

Banana Whoopie Pies
Courtesy of Martha Stewart


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana)
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Combine banana and sour cream in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed, until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add banana mixture in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Pipe batter into 1 1/4-inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing rounds 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until edges are golden, about 12-15 minutes. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto wire racks. Let cool. (Unfilled cookies can be stored for up to 1 day.)

Beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Pipe or spoon 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture onto the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve immediately.

Pull-Apart Garlic Buns

I really enjoyed making these. There's only one rising, so it doesn't take as long as other homemade breads. They also tasted awesome dipped in the chicken dripping from our gorgeous roast chicken dinner. The only thing I did differently was omit the sesame seeds (just not a huge fan and felt like they wouldn't go well with the other flavors in my meal). But I did sprinkle some kosher salt on top since I love salted rolls (must be my soft pretzel love coming through).

Pull-Apart Garlic Buns
A variation on this recipe from Taste of Home


2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a saucepan, heat the milk, water and shortening to 120°-130°F. Add to dry ingredients; beat until moistened. Add egg; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a bun. Combine paprika and garlic powder. Dip each bun in melted butter, then in paprika mixture.

Place six buns in a greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Top with remaining buns. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 375°F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.