Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gift Card Give Away: Choose My New Brownie Flavor!

Hi readers! I haven't gotten a chance to blog any new recipes lately since I have been so busy with work and some new business opportunities. Now, back to my favorite topic......brownies! Have you ever had a brownie that blew your mind? While bored at work, do you daydream what would make the perfect brownie? If so, do tell! Share, and if I pick your idea for my next brownie, you will win a $10 I -Tunes gift card. Send your ideas to me at mrspage@optonline.net - DO NOT post them on here. I will choose my top three and let the readers vote for their fave.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apple Crostata

It was my usual routine: need to bake, what's left in the kitchen? What else would there be at this time of the year? If you guessed apples, you're correct. I wanted something new so I began my quest for the perfect recipe on the great wide web. Much to the dismay of my hubby, I do not like pie, so that wasn't going to be on the menu.  I searched McIntosh Apples and pulled the perfect recipe from cooks.com.  I have to admit I had no idea what a crostata was, but it sounded like a good choice. 
This particular recipe required making dough.  I still fall into the novice category when it comes to making dough and I get a little too happy with the rolling pin.  The crostata dough was no exception. I don't know what I was thinking, but I started on this cooking project after the kids woke up from their nap.  So as I was rolling out the disk, I was yelling, "Stop hitting each other!" "Get down off that table!". Each irritable reprimand was punctuated with a hard slap of the rolling pin.  As a result, my dough was too thinned out. It burned on the bottom sides, which had to be removed after cooking (see picture for the evidence).
Now, on to the positives. Hands down, this is one of the best apple desserts I have ever tasted. It was the perfect combination of fruity and crumbly. It was sheer heaven. I had none in the house, but this would great paired with vanilla ice cream or some fresh whipped cream. My husband liked it so much he ate it for dinner. So round up your left over McIntoshes and get baking!

1 c. all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp. ice water

Dough Prep:
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

1 1/2 lb. McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)

1/4 tsp. grated orange zest (I subbed McCormick Valencia Orange Peel here)
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 450. Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.Peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.  Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender.Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Asian Inspired Chicken Burgers

While we're on the topic of pineapples, here's a yummy recipe I gave my own twist.  A few of the Asian inspired recipes I came across called for ground beef.   The main inspiration for this recipe came from thenest.com, but I saved it to a Word document, and do not know its origins. I decided to make this a lower fat dish and started by subbing ground chicken in place of the beef.  I also swapped the onions for Alexia brand onion rings, which I baked.  It was a bit of a brisk day, so I decided to forgo using the outdoor grill and used my oven and grill pan instead.  The result was a yummy, lower fat, deliciously seasoned burger. The kids will love this one, even if they dissect it like mine did (eating the chicken, pineapple and rings separately - with no bun).

Asian Inspired Chicken Burgers (Serves 4)
1 pound ground chicken

3 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 Tbsp ginger (powdered/grated - I used Penzey Spices brand)
2 tsp minced garlic
4 slices of pineapple, four 1/2-inch-thick rings
4 Alexia Foods Onion Rings (in your freezer section) (Left over rings can be served on the side)
4 whole grain hamburger buns (lightly toasted)
1-2 TBSP olive oil to coat pan for pineapples
Cooking spray (about 4 sprays)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ground chicken, teriyaki sauce,garlic and cooking spray.  Make 4 individual patties. Turn on broiler.  In an oven safe dish, add olive oil to coat, then add pineapples.  Keep pineapples in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, checking in five minute intervals. I flipped the pineapples over every time I checked on them.  You want them to be golden & soft - not charred. While the pineapples are beginning to cook,  place burgers in grill pan.  Cook throughly.  Follow the directions on the onion rings, which take about 10 minutes to bake.When burgers, pineapples and onion rings are done, add to lightly toasted buns. Enjoy!

PS- Can you tell I have a thing for pineapples?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pineapples, PLEASE!

Pineapples are most certainly my favorite fruit. I like them in entrees, desserts and drinks(usually accompanied by a cute drink umbrella and some rum).  I had been asking my mother in law, Mimi, for a carrot cake recipe for awhile.  She is an amazing baker and I knew she would have a knock out recipe.  She did not disappoint. I couldn't be any happier than when I discovered there were pineapples in this recipe. Instead of making the recipe into an actual round cake or pan loaf, I decided making muffins would be the way to go.  Why you ask? My reasoning is simple: portion control.  Muffins are portioned. A slice of cake can be as big as you want it to be, BUT it is still ONE slice, right?

Before I share the recipe, I wanted to address my previous post about changes to this blog. I am still trying to hunt down the perfect, simple template.  I just feel as though my blog is a bit busy and I would like the fringe and frou frou to be less distracting.  I have been working on my photography skills as well.  Let's just say, it's coming along, but not nearly as quickly as I'd planned. It's a lot of practice and reading. One day at a time, right? So, without further ado, here's an amazing carrot cake recipe, featuring pineapple.

Mimi's Carrot Cake
3 whole eggs
2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cup of  vegetable oil (I used olive)
2 cups of grated carrots
1 TSP salt
1 TSP baking soda
2 TSPS cinnamon
1 small can of crushed pineapple (include the juice)
1 cup pecans - chopped (I used walnuts)
1 TSP of vanilla

Beat the eggs and add the sugar, oil and beat until smooth.  Sift the flour and dry ingredients. Add pineapple,carrots, pecans and vanilla. Bake 1 hour at 350 in loaf pan.  (I made 18 cupcakes and they were done is less than 15 minutes. Use caution and just monitor the cake if you make a loaf or round). Top with cream cheese icing or whipped cream after cake has cooled.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Changes, They Are A Comin'!

Hello, readers! Thank you so much for taking the time to vote for me in foodbuzz.com Project Food Blog. I didn't advance, but I am ever greatful for all the support I received. I took some time to review the other entrants' blogs and I was blown away. These bloggers are dedicated to the blog, the recipes and photography. I am completely inspired by and in awe of their beautiful creations!

As for changes, the design of my blog will be undergoing some 'upgrades'. I am also working harder on learning how to photograph food. I always had the attitude of, "How hard could it be to photograph food? It's not like it moves....".Wrong. So wrong. I have always openly admitted that photography is my weak point, so I am working on tightening the bolts. I have a great recipe, courtesy of my mother in law, for carrot cake, that I plan on posting this week. The secret ingredient is pineapple, which gives the cake major zing.

Thanks again for your support, keep it coming, and I will keep posting!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chicken Chili with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Cannelini Beans

Fall is here (not that you can tell from the run of 90 degree days we just had) and it is time for some heartier meals. I decided to go with a healthier version of my normal favorite, full fat beef chili. I wanted to make it tasty and interesting, so I decided to top it with some spiced up avocado. This summer, I went on an avocado craze, so I always pick some up when I go to the store. Not only are they yummy, but they are a good, healthy fat. Add one can of cannelini beans, fire roasted tomatoes, and spices to ground chicken and dinner is ready.  I also paired it with one of my family's favorite 'sides' - garlic bread from Alexia foods. The chili also freezes very well, so you can make batches and put it away for the nights you don't feel like cooking. Enjoy!

Chicken Chili with Cannelini Beans and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

1.25 LBS of ground chicken
1 14 oz can of Hunt's Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 14 oz can of Cannelini Beans
1 TBSP Smoked Paprika (optional)
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 TBSP chili powder
1/2 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 TBSP onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive Oil - 2 -3 TBSP to coat pan

Coat a medium pan with olive oil. Set heat to high and add garlic. Saute until browned. Add ground chicken and season with onion powder. Use a wooden spoon to stir and break up chicken. Once chicken is fully browned, add chili powder and taco seasoning, with the water.  Please note the taco seasoning instructions add more water, so follow those instructions as well.  Allow to cook until chili powder and taco seasoning are coated into the meat and a nice amount of juice remains in the pan. Add tomatoes and stir.  Drain beans and add. Add this point, add salt and pepper to taste. You can add more paprika and chili powder if you need to.

Avocado - Smash a ripe avocado with a fork.  Add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste. Use to top the chili.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jeanne's Special Pasta With Sausage and Spinach

Picky,Picky,Picky.  These are the three words that describe my struggle of getting my family to eat new foods.  Spinach has been on the "NO-NO" list for as long as I can remember.  My son has recently discovered the old Popeye cartoons and he is touted as the man who is "so strong, his muscles have muscles".  How did he get those muscles? By eating spinach, of course! My son is obsessed with getting big and strong, so I saw this as a selling point for getting him to eat spinach.  My husband went along for the ride and didn't give me any trouble about trying it.  My daughter, who is my best eater, didn't seem to mind what I was making.
This recipe is something my friend Jeanne whipped up for dinner one night when I went for a visit.  It is an easy dish and so yummy! I have tried my best to copy the recipe, but I may have changed a few things.  Anyhow, my husband, daughter and I LOVED it.  My son was a little fussier.  He kept picking out some of the spinach, saying he was not eating the "lettuce'".  I used my line about Popeye and he did take a few apprehensive bites. So, the jury is still out on whether or not he will eat spinach again, but we shall see. Also, I apologize for the blurry picture. I had to use my iPhone to take the picture since my camera was on the fritz.

Jeanne's Special Pasta With Sausage and Spinach (serves 4)
8 oz (1/2 box) of pasta, such as orechiette or fusilli (I actually did a mix of the two)
14 oz of crushed tomatoes with basil (Use enough to coat pasta and sausage to your liking)
3 large sweet Italian sausage (half the pack)
3 large hot Italian sausage (half the pack)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small white onion or half of a large onion, diced
1 bag of pre-washed baby spinach ( I used about half to 3/4 of the bag), shredded by hand
2-3 TBSP of olive oil, to coat saute pan

Boil water for pasta. Add sausage to heated pan and cook fully. In a saute pan, add shredded baby spinach,garlic and onion. Carefully stir the veggies in the saute pan until garlic and onions are nicely browned and spinach is cooked. Remove from heat and add to large serving bowl.  Strain cooked pasta and add to veggies. Mix thoroughly. When sausage is fully cooked, removed from pan and cut into bite sized pieces.  Add to veggie/pasta combination and mix.  Finally, add crushed tomatoes to pasta mix. Stir completely and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You've Come A Long Way, Baby!

It started innocently enough with a Microbake Oven in 1978. Now, before you think this is going to be an adorable post about how I made precious concoctions in my mini-micro, think again. The beginning, at least, is about how my cooking dreams went up in smoke, literally, before they even began. I find it important for my readers to hear this part of the story so they can appreciate just how much I have grown as a cook and how this blog is proof of that fact.

I was two and a half years old when I got this microwave. My mom, being overly cautious, carefully hid the plug for the microwave behind it with electrical tape. In other words, I had no idea that I could actually use this  microwave for anything other than pretend.  That all changed the day my older and wiser cousin came for a visit.  After several months of 'fake baking', the power of the microwave was unveiled. The machine was plugged in and ready to go, but what to make? The possibilities were endless. We settled on some dirt, twigs and berries (from the famous 'dingle berry' tree in my yard) to make a pie.  After lots of sparks and setting off the smoke detector, the plug was cut off the microwave by mom and it was back to pretend confections.  This was my first and last cooking experience for almost 26 years.

That brings me to a time where I was no longer a kid or banned from the stove. I had a husband to feed and in the future, children to feed as well.  I had to get on the ball. My family could not eat peanut butter and jelly every night, even if it is one of my favorites. To bring us up to the present, I've learned a lot. I've burned myself. I've ruined many pots and pans. I've cursed and thrown things when meals did not come out as planned. Throughout the process of learning and burning, I realized ,"Hey! I actually enjoy cooking!". I also love to write, so voila! The blog was born.

Cappuccino Brownies
My style of cooking, at times, can be a bit unconventional.  When a recipe calls for crushed cookies, WHACK! Out come the Ziploc bag and the hammer. I end up with perfect cookie crumbs and toss the baggie in the garbage.  I am a rare breed of Italian, as in, I am not a cheese fan.  With that said, far be it from me to deprive anyone else who likes cheese. So, I do cook with it.  It's not uncommon to see a meatloaf or casserole in my oven only half drenched in cheddar or mozzarella.

My blog has captured a pretty diverse audience. Our college age babysitter has called me to talk her through making my lasagna and baked ziti for her dorm friends. I still have this image in my head of her trying to melt the cheese over macaroni on a hot plate.  It brings back memories of my Microbake incident.  I heard from a friend that my blog and my Confetti Meatloaf was discussed at one of her club meetings.  The thought that I have 'fans' gives me warm fuzzies in my belly.

I always ask my self the same questions when creating or choosing a recipe, such as, "Will I pull the hair out of my head trying to make this recipe?" or "Can this meal be put on the table in under an hour?"  If the recipe is not for a special occasion or treat, I want to keep it fairly simple and appealing for a picky palate. I think that is part of my appeal to college students, busy families and people with little time to whip up a decent meal. I want to spread the message: If I can do this, anyone can do this....and enjoy it too!

Eye-Watering Spitfire Shrimp
I make my blog posts as down to earth as possible, never hesitating to poke fun at myself when I make a mistake.  Humor, in my opinion, plays a huge role in my blogging.   I especially love to humorously capture my picky family's responses to a meal, whether the reaction is a gag or a grin. My husband is often the target of my jokes, as I often call him my third child. He can be more difficult to feed than my two or four year- old kids. That also puts him in the role of guinea pig. As much as I have burned or cut myself and destroyed cooking ware, I have made his eyes water and his face turn red.  Without my husband to test my recipes, this blog would be so much harder to write.

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce
My blog tells of my journey from nightly take out to a cooking-happy mama. I choose simple, yet delicious recipes that can draw the reader into my cooking experience and perhaps influence them to get into the kitchen. It's all about learning, growing and experiencing new foods.  It thrills me to be able to share all of my triumphs and disasters in the kitchen. I feel it's a privilege to be able to share these experiences through my writing, to inspire others and have my readers learn with me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Giada's Roman Style Chicken

Summer is winding down and I finally have a moment to share a tasty recipe with you all. This was a part of my "3 Days of Food Network" series but I never quite made it to this recipe. Anyhow, this dish is delicious and healthy. We eat alot of chicken in our house and I am always searching for ways to spruce it up and make it more interesting(spices, oils and the occasional chicken sculpture are avenues I travel). My philosophy is this: Food should be delicious, healthy and fun. The more colorful a dish is, the better I like making it and eating it. Giada's chicken is a great way to take chicken and give it a kick in the pants. The peppers give it color and spice, not to mention how yummy they are. So, if you're bored making your traditional chicken cutlet meals, give this one a try!

Giada's Roman-style Chicken from foodnetwork.com

4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs

2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped ( I subbed 3 slices of turkey bacon, cooked and chopped)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I noticed my readership escalates when I make desserts. To be perfectly honest, the holiday season of '09 wiped me out, baking-wise. Anyhow, I decided it was a great time to put my mixer back to work. These brownies can be a bit of work since they are layered, but I assure you, they are well worth the effort. My son, who is four, told me, "Mommy, I like you ALOT," when I let him sample a brownie. I brought them to the salon while I got my hair highlighted and the owner told me (jokingly), "I HATE YOU!" because I was breaking her diet. If you want to save sometime, the brownie bottom can be made the night before and the frosting and toppping can be added the following morning. It does take at least an hour for the frosting and topping to set, so bare that in mind. Enjoy!
Ingredients for the Brownies
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips( I used to packages of Ghiardelli's semi-sweet baking squares)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp instant espresso coffee powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Ghiardelli's powder)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Peanut Butter Frosting
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of smooth peanut butter
3 TBSP of whole milk
Peanut Butter Cup Topping
25-30 minature Peanut Butter Cups, sliced into 4 pieces each
1/4 cup of chocolate and peanut butter chips, melted
Directions for Brownies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of an 8 x 8 square baking pan (or line with parchment paper).In a medium bowl combine flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Put the chocolate chips and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and whisk in sugars and vanilla until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature. Add in the eggs one, one at a time, whisking lightly after each addition. Using a spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just combined. Do not over beat! Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack.
Directions for Frosting
Add peanut butter and softened butter to mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar and continue to mix. Add milk, 1 TBSP at a time, and continue to mix until frosting is the desired consistency. Spread on cooled brownies.
Directions for Topping
Slice 25-30 minature cups into 4 slices. As you slice, add the cups on top of the frosting. The candy can overlap slightly, just be sure to cover the entire surface of the frosting. In a microwave safe bowl, add 1/4 cup of peanut butter and chocolate chips. Microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat this step for another 30-45 seconds, until completely melted and creamy. Let it cool, then add mixture to a Ziploc bag. Snip one corner of the bag with a scissor and decoratively drizzle the mixture in any uncovered spots of frosting. Let the brownies set for at least ONE HOUR in the refrigerator before serving.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bobby Flay's Grilled Beef Braciole - A Must MAKE!

I do my best to make things pretty,especially food. Sometimes, I hit a bump in the road. For example, this grilled braciole recipe. By far and away, it is one of the best meals I have ever made. Did it look like the picture on Bobby Flay's website? Um, that would be a huge NO. It didn't matter though, because it was sinfully delicious. I wish I had known this recipe existed back in my low carb dieting days because it seems to fill the bill perfectly.  I happen to know where I went wrong and why my braciole looked like the two pieces of Princess Leia's cinnamon roll hairdo..or a cannoli, as opposed to...well...braciole. I was nervous to use the butcher's twine on the grill, so I used my 'chicken nails' to keep the braciole in place. The steak was specifically for braciole, but may be could have used a bit more thinning out. In any case, this recipe is awesome.  It's paired with grilled tomato relish, which is amazing and healthy. Also, if you have any experiences, good or bad, with using butcher's twine on a grill, leave me a post. On another note, Real Housewives of New Jersey's Teresa Giudice released her cookbook, Skinny Italian, this month. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Check out her website for reviews and information.
Bobby Flay's Grilled Beef Braciole with Grilled Tomato Relish from foodnetwork.com
8 plum tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

For the beef:
1 (2-pound) round steak, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup of olive oil

3 (8-inch) pieces butcher's twine, soaked in cold water

Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

For the grilled tomato-basil relish:
Heat the grill to high.Cut the tomatoes half, then brush with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the tomatoes on all sides until slightly charred and soft. Remove the tomatoes from the grill, chop and place in a bowl. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, onion, vinegar, basil and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the beef:
Heat the grill to high.Place the steak on a flat surface. Combine the cheese, parsley, oregano and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the steak on the side facing up with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly over the steak, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides. Starting with the long end, tightly roll the meat up like a jelly roll and tightly tie with the butcher's twine on the ends and in the center. Brush the entire outside of the steak with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, seam-side up and grill until golden brown on all sides, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve several slices per person topped with some of the relish.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Some Like It Hot...Some Don't - 3 Days of Food Network Recipes

Last week, I was on a Food Network kick. Nothing fuels my passion for cooking more than watching an episode of Giada or Paula, or perusing the network's website for the top rated recipes. I tried to mix it up a little, choosing one shrimp dish, one beef dish and one chicken dish to prepare for the week. Since I made R.R's Spit Fire Shrimp first, I will start with that recipe. I made it last Monday, which was a day completely filled with chaos. I spent the morning running errands, bringing my son back and forth to pre-school, peeling my daughter off of chairs and chandeliers and tending to mountains of laundry. In short, my attention span was very limited.
I completely rushed to get dinner on the table. It took some time because I was intermittently cooking and prying my kids apart as they fought over Thomas the Train.
My kitchen smelled divine and the shrimp looked mouth watering. My husband can not wait for anyone else to start eating, so he dove in immediately. I noticed he wasn't commenting, just chewing slowly and thoughtfully. Then I noticed something funny. My husband is normally pasty white. I watched as his neck turned crimson and the heat moved up to his cheeks, then his forehead. Sweat dripped from his brow. He took a giant gulp of orange soda and said, "Wow! Spicy!" Now, I knew it would have a kick, I just didn't know how much of a kick. I took a bite. My eyes teared. My nose started to run. I breathed fire and nearly singed the dog's tail. In my case, I loved it. It is the kind of spicy I truly appreciate. As we finished dinner, I had a a moment of clarity. I had forgotten that I only made a half batch of shrimp for the recipe, so the sauce was a double dose of fire breathing hotness. OOPS! Up next: Bobby Flay's Grilled Bracciole

Rachael Ray's Spitfire Shrimp from foodnetwork.com
1 lime, juiced

2 ounces (1/4 cup) hot cayenne pepper sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon crab boil seasoning
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

2 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 pounds jumbo shrimp peeled and de-veined* (I used frozen)
12 to 15 blades fresh chives, chopped, for garnish
Preheat large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Combine lime juice, hot sauce, cumin, red pepper flakes and seafood seasoning blend.
Quickly saute garlic and shallots in oil and butter for 1 minute, add shrimp and cook 3 minutes, tossing and turning frequently. Dump pink, firm, cooked shrimp from hot pan into hot seasoning blend and toss in seasoning mixture to coat shrimp evenly. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve warm or chilled.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beef and Snap Pea Stir Fry

As usual, I was combing the fridge and the cubbard for food to eat before it went bad. I had some fresh stew beef and some snap peas begging for my attention. I dusted off my wok(OK, I gave it a good washing with Palmolive) and set to work. If you look closely at the photo, you will notice not only snap peas, but good 'ole Green Giant Peas in the mix. Why, you ask? My kiddos like them a lot more. This is an easy dish to prepare, providing you have the right ingredients laying around your house.

Beef & Snap Pea Stir Fry (Serves 2 and 2 small kids)
1 LB Cubed Beef (think stew meat or shish kabobs.)
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Cup of water
2 Beef boullion cubes or 2 TSPS of beef boullion powder
1 TSP of Soy Sauce
1 TBSP of Teriyaki Sauce
1 Cup of cleaned Snap Peas
1 TSP of Powdered Ginger
1 TSP of Powdered Mustard
1 TBSP of  Minced Garlic
1 TSP of Pepper
1 Medium Can of Green Giant Peas(optional)
1-2 bags of Boil In Bag White or Brown Rice

Heat oil in the bottom of the wok. Add Snap Peas and saute until slightly tender. Add beef, boullion, water and spices. Add wok top, check and stir after 4-5 minutes. Add more water if needed. When beef is fully cooked and veggies are tender, add cooked rice(and optional peas) to the stir fry. Mix until rice is saturated with mixture.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Side Dishes as Main Meals:Orechiette with Toasted Bread Crumbs

I get bored with food easily. I am always in search of new sides, and the more unique a side is, the better I like it. I came across this recipe on a recipe blog the I belong to it. It's Giada D.'s recipe and it was generously provided for the blog by Elisha D. I was skeptical at first because the recipe sounded a little strange, but I pushed my fears aside and prepared it. I paired it with some grilled chicken. In short, the side dish was ravenously devoured with nothing left over, while the chicken sat untouched. From that point on, I made this dish solo. It is both yummy and filling. So, give this a shot and let me know what you think.
Orechiette with Toasted Bread Crumbs
1 pound dried orechiette or other small shaped pasta

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup finely chopped prosciutto (I subbed cooked and chopped turkey bacon here)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Cook pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saute pan, heat the oil until warm. Since the bread crumbs will cook quickly, you don't want to add them into a hot pan, otherwise they can burn. Add the breadcrumbs and stir constantly. Season lightly with salt and pepper since flavored bread crumbs may already have seasoning. Saute for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Drain pasta in a colander. Working quickly, add pasta to the saute pan and stir to combine. Add Parmesan and the chopped prosciutto. Mix thoroughly. Pour into large serving bowl and garnish with chopped parsley.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Alexia Party:Burgers,Fries,Beers & Wine...Oh My!

It's been awhile, ladies and gents! Due to a huge storm, we lost power, internet, cable and phone for several days. It took me awhile to get up and running and my Alexia Dinner Party certainly seems like a good post to write to get back into the swing of things. I applied on houseparty.com to host a dinner party for Alexia products. In case you're not 'in the know', Alexia makes tasty, but healthy side dishes to compliment any meal. In case you're still not clued in, click here  visit the Alexia web site, view their side dishes and read their story. Shockingly, I was chosen to host a party.

     This was all well and good, however, I have never actually hosted a dinner party where I didn't serve bulk foods. For example, I can whip up a nice roast chicken, lasagna, or a pot of sauce and meatballs for a crowd, but I have never made singular individual courses for a small group. Based on the side dishes offered from Alexia, I decided to have a 'burger throwdown', using my favorite burger recipe from this blog. The two burgers which competed in the showdown were the famous Guinness Burgers and Rachael Ray's Grilled Lime Cilantro Burgers.  These were two huge hits in my house, so they were easy to choose. Which one was victorious amongst my small, but choosey dinner crowd?I will get to that shortly. I hit some bumps along the way between the shopping and the cooking. I had issues finding the Alexia side dishes. It wasn't that the stores didn't carry them, but they are such hot items, they sell quickly. I finally tracked down the Yukon Gold Fries, Sweet Potato Fries and Oven Roasted Potato Wedges. I was relieved to finally find them the day of the party. All should have been smooth sailing from that point on, right? Wrong. Big Wrong. Earlier in the week, I had done a Kate Gosselin style cleaning on my fridge - every pore, every ridge, crack or crevice in that fridge was wiped down, cleaned out out, tooth picked over and disinfected. For added measure, I added my little baking soda sachet to absorb anything malodorous. Then, a foul a mysterious odor began to arise from the fridge. I assumed it was the crumbled blue cheese I had purchased for the salad, but alas, this was not the case. The meat that I had purchased not even 24 hours before was rotting like a mouthful of teeth that had never met a toothbrush. The meat that I had specifically chosen and purchased at a high end grocery store. Needless to say, I will not be making a return visit to that store. In a panic, I sent my husband straight out to Foodtown to pick up new meat. I was late prepping the burgers, so dinner was a lot later than expected. My Guinness sauce was lacking something; thanks to Brenda and Patrizia, we experimented until we got it just right.  Brenda came to the rescue again, frying my shallots to the perfect degree of crispness. The mad rush to get the burgers,salad and sides to the table definitely caused some chaos (AKA - cold food and soggy fries), but all turned out well. A great time was had by all, capped off with a triple layer chocolate cake. Who was the winner of the burger shodown you ask? Chicken took first prize. I will sign off with a unique and tasty salad recipe I borrowed from Food and Wine magazine.

Vegetable oil, for frying

7 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar(I subbed Balsamic Vinegar here)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound mesclun
1/4 pound blue cheese, such as Valdeon, crumbled

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add half of the sliced shallots and fry over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until they are browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried shallots to paper towels to drain. Fry the remaining sliced shallots. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add the mesclun and blue cheese to the bowl and toss. Sprinkle the fried shallots over the mesclun salad and serve right away.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Shrimp Po' Boys & Hurricanes

If anyone asks me "What is the best trip you've ever taken?", I know immediately what to answer. In case you hadn't guessed from the title of my post, my best trip ever was to New Orleans. It was a fantastic trip with awesome friends, food, drinks and culture. It would be hard to walk along Bourbon Street and not get caught up in the party atmosphere. We indulged in jambalaya, po' boys and hurricanes a plenty. My favorite meal was at one of the hotels - I had a cornish hen stuffed with potatoes and wild rice. It was amazing! And for dessert......Bananas Foster. Hands down, the most delicious concoction ever! I was a little nervous when the waiter fired up the rum and bananas table side, but it was well worth it. I ate every bite and left the restaurant with my eyebrows in tact. So do yourself a favor, get to New Orleans at some point in your life. It's quite an experience, both food and fun wise. This particular meal was something I whipped up to reminisce about my trip. I can't compare what I have made to New Orleans' cuisine, but it turned out pretty great!
Shrimp Po' Boys(Serves 2)
20 medium cooked, cleaned shrimp, tails removed
1/2 -3/4 cup of bread crumbs
1/8 TSP of white pepper
1/4 TSP ground mustard
1/4 TSP Salt
2 TBSP  Frank's Hot Sauce
3 TBSP olive oil( for frying)
2  Italian or French Bread  Hoagie stye rolls ( I made a french loaf in the bread maker)
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced 
4 TBSP  Horseradish Sauce
4 TBSP  Spicy Mustard
1 TSP Frank's Hot Sauce 
Mix bread crumbs,pepper,ground mustard, salt and hot sauce in a Ziploc and add shrimp. Shake bag until shrimp is completely coated. Heat oil in a medium pan and shrimp. Remove shrimp when golden brown. To make sauce, mix horseradish sauce, spicy mustard and hot sauce. Spread on rolls, then add lettuce, tomato and shrimp.

How to Make a Hurricane
4  oz Pineapple Juice
4 oz Orange Juice
1 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum
1 splash of Grenadine for color
1 splash of Rose's Sweet Lime juice
( You can always add more alcohol if you like them stronger)  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guinness Makes the Burger

My taste in alcoholic beverages has changed a great deal over the years. In my early twenties, I enjoyed light, watered down beers and whatever was pink and fruity. In my mid to late twenties, I enjoyed my share of Merlot and Pinot Grigio. I have never included dark, brooding beers in my drinking repertoire. Ever. Just watching someone take a sip of that dark sludge in a pint glass was enough to make me gag. My husband, on the other hand, is a dark beer man. So, what was I to do with four of the six left over bottles of Guinness from our Superbowl get together? I sure as hell couldn't fathom drinking it. I cooked with it. I made the most delicious burgers I have ever made and a sauce that was so tasty I wanted to take a bath in it.
Guinness Burgers from Inspiredtaste.com
Guinness BBQ Sauce (makes about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/4 cup molasses( I subbed brown sugar here - Google the equivalents)
1 12 ounce can stout beer (Guinness)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 can tomato puree
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
In a medium saucepan over medium heat add the olive oil and saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the molasses, beer, vinegar and tomato puree then stir to combine.  Add all of the spices and allow the sauce to simmer on the stove for about 20-25 minutes until it has reduced into a thick glossy BBQ sauce.  While simmering, keep an eye on the sauce and stir occasionally.
Guinness Burgers (4 burgers)
1 pound minced beef (80% lean, 20% fat)
1 egg, whisked
¼ cup Stout beer (Guinness)
1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing the grill
2 teaspoons mustard (Coleman’s Mustard)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 burger buns
Top with Guinness BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, arugula, tomatoes and red onion
Preheat the grill or pan to medium.
Add beer, olive oil, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper to the beef then lightly mix with a fork.  Do not over mix.  Separate the mixture into four portions, then lightly roll each portion into a ball and press down to make a burger patty.
Once preheated, lightly brush the grill with olive oil and place each burger patty down onto the oiled grill.  Leave the patties for 4 minutes then flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes or desired doneness (4-5 minutes on each side should be cooked to medium).
Remove the patties from the grill and assemble each burger with desired toppings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Confetti Meatloaf

I am not going to lie. My kids are not the greatest eaters. With the exception of broccoli, and the occasional pea, I stand on my head trying to get them to eat veggies. Meat is not easy either. So, for at least 3 years, I have been wracking my brain to put together a no fail, meat and veggie combo. A big thanks to Sharon S., one of the moms I chat with online, I put together a meatloaf that was divine. Sharon had mentioned several times how she would sneak veggies into her daughter's meals and she had a kick butt recipe for meatloaf. Of course, I never copied the recipe, so I used some of this things she mentioned and winged the rest of it. My kids hoovered the meatloaf. I was afraid my hands would get caught in the crossfire if I got too close when giving them seconds and thirds. As usual, this was an easy prep, bake and clean up recipe. Did I forget to mention healthy?

Confetti Meatloaf (feeds 4)
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/2 large green pepper
1/2 large red pepper
1/4 large onion
1 TSP Lawry's Seasoned salt
1/4 TSP pepper
1/2-3/4 cup of Progresso Garlic and Herb Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.
Roughly cut onion and peppers. Add to food processor and pulse until the consistency is between a dice and a puree. Add peppers and onion mixture to ground beef or turkey. Add other ingredients to meat until evenly combined. Form a loaf and add to meatloaf pan. Place meatloaf in oven. Set timer to 20 minutes and check the loaf to see its progress. It should take between 30 to 40 minutes total.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chocolate Cream Pies

When I was dieting, I had an old stand by for something sweet: Two graham crackers, low fat whipped cream, sandwich together and freeze. Last night, I was planning on making the chocolate mousse mix I had in the house. I filled the cups with the mousse and whipped cream, but still had some mousse left over. Then, a brilliant idea hit me. Why not make my favorite frozen snack and add the mousse into the filling? How did it come out? Three letters: O.M.G. They were delicious. Delicious and easy. If you don't believe me, give it a try.

Chocolate Cream Pies
1 box of instant chocolate mousse (You will use about a TBSP per graham cracker, the mix will make plenty of mousse)
2 graham crackers per sandwich
Cool Whip (you can use any variety you like - again, it is 1 TBSP per cracker)

Prepare mousse according to instructions. On one graham cracker, put 1 TBSP of chocolate mousse and top with 1 TBSP of whipped creme. Top with a graham cracker. Freeze for at least two hours in a container.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crunchy Cheerios Chicken Biscuits

I guess I can't ever get bored of making due with what food I have on hand in the house. Can you tell by this recipe? Traditionally, people have used corn flakes or even Capn' Crunch as chicken coating. Well, we had none of those, so I used Honey Nut Cheerios. It was totally tasty! I whipped out my trusty hammer and Ziploc bag, then smashed those little bits of honey nut goodness into smithereens!!! If they ever make a reality show where you use tools instead of kitchen appliances, I could totally be the star. Plus, since I didn't use a food processor, I have less clean up. Less clean up and a quick meal. I like it!

Crunchy Cheerios Chicken Biscuits
1 package of Bisquick Complete Biscuits(ready in 15 minutes- I used the honey flavor)
2 6-8 oz thin chicken cutlets
1/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup of smashed Honey Nut Cheerios
1/4 TSP ground mustard(optional)
2 TBSP of olive oil

Prepare biscuits according to directions.Toss the chicken in flour to coat. Place Cheerios in a sealed Ziploc and crush with a hammer or meat tenderizer(on its side) or pulse Cheerios in a food processor until finely ground. Add ground mustard to mix, then chicken cutlets. Shake,shake, shake until fully coated. Heat olive oil in medium pan. Add chicken and cook for about 10-12 minutes, turning every 2-3 minutes. Cut into small tenders so they fit on the biscuits and serve.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fettuccine Alfredo

I will spare you the "I hate cheese" speech that usually accompanies my posts about meals with cheese. What I can say about this dish, in particular, is that it really did smell good enough to eat. Alas, I was not brave enough to try it. But everyone else chowed down and loved it. The sauce is really quick to make and simple; my short cut for the pasta was to use the ready made Buitoni Fettuccine. The pasta took 2-3 minutes to cook after the water finished boiling. The sauce took about ten minutes with tons of stirring. So Alfredo lovers, you are certainly in for a treat with this recipe.
Alfredo Sauce from All Recipes.com
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese 
1/4 cup of parsley 
1 package of ready made Fettuccine(such as Buitoni)

Melt the butter. Add the cream, garlic and cheese and stir continuously.  Boil water and add pasta. When pasta is done, drain and separate with fork. Add sauce and serve. Top with parsley for garnish.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Let's face it. Crock pot cooking is the simplest way to get a great, home-cooked meal without much effort. Sometimes we don't have time in the morning to toss everything in the pot, so what can we do? You can still use the crock pot, just take some short cuts. This Monday was an example of how my day became so crazy, I totally forgot to set up the crock pot in the morning to get our meal going. Fortunately, this particular recipe from cooks.com was able to be made on low or high. I also found this recipe in a search for my friend Jen R., who loves cacciatore but wanted to avoid making it with a whole chicken. So here's the secret to my short cut: Perdue Perfect Portions. They sell them in the meat/poultry aisle, by the chicken cutlets and come individually sealed and marinated (I used the white wine garlic).  The cutlets are pretty thin, so cooking time is faster. The dish was done with in two hours, cooked alternately on high and low.

Crock Pot Cacciatore from Cooks.com
3-4 lbs. boneless/skinless thighs and breasts ( I used about 4 portions of White Wine Garlic Perdue Perfect Portions)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 large red or green bell peppers, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon each basil and oregano
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 (8 oz.) can stewed tomatoes with chiles
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups burgundy wine( I used about 1 cup of Merlot and the wine did not clash with the 'white wine' taste of the cutlets)
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling before serving

Place sliced onions on bottom of crock pot. Add chicken.
Stir together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
Cook on low 7-9 hours or high 3-4 hours.(I alternated between high and low for 2 hours, checking the consistency/doneness of the chicken) Serve over pasta, with a salad on the side.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quick Bites: Salsa Chicken and Mexican Rice

I have decided to dedicate my upcoming posts to the busy individual.  Anyone with a busy schedule should be able to appreciate these short cut meals.  Here's one to satisfy your craving for Mexican food without getting takeout and it only takes 20 minutes to make. The recipe is a combination of ready made items (salsa, quick rice) and items that require preparation(grilled chicken). Regarding the grilled chicken, you can purchase the chicken already grilled and portioned at the grocery story.  This will also help cut the time involved in making the entire dish.  You can also add a side of beans, green salad or tortilla chips to complete the meal.

Chicken Salsa with Mexican Rice (Serves 2 - multiply as needed)

2 8-10 oz skinless,boneless chicken cutlets
1/2 cup of salsa ( I used Jack's Special Medium Salsa)
1 bag of El Paso microwaveable Mexican Rice ( done in 60 seconds and comparable to restaurant style)

Thin out chicken breasts with a tenderizing mallet. Cook in heated grill pan, turning every 2-3 minutes. Cook instant rice in microwave; remove and vent to cool. Heat salsa in microwave for about 45 seconds or warm in small sauce pan. When chicken is done, top each breast evenly with salsa. Place on top of rice and enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Roma Tomatoes

Welcome to 2010! After a few week absence, I am back and ready to roll. Tops on my resolution list? Finding new and healthy recipes to make.  This particular recipe was something I threw together on one of those evenings when I had to make due with whatever I had in the house. Once in awhile, I stock up on packet marinades at the supermarket since I find they are a great fix to break up meal boredom. In my shopping travels, I came across a pesto sauce packet and decided to add it to my meal repertoire. I also had some left over Roma tomatoes in the fridge, defrosted chicken, and pasta, on hand. This all gelled together to make one of the best and healthiest meals we have had in awhile. It's particularly easy to make for someone who is always on the run and makes awesome leftovers -cold! Happy New Year and Good Eating to all!!!

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Roma Tomatoes(Serves 2 adults and two tiny kids)
1 packet of pesto sauce (I used Lawry's or McCormick)
2 8-10 oz boneless chicken cutlets
2-3 Roma tomatoes, roughly cut
3 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 box(8oz) of Penne pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pesto and pasta as directed on package and combine. Add oil to medium pan and heat. Once heated, add tomatoes. Cook until soft. Add cutlets to pan and cook until done. Slice cutlets into strips. Combine pasta, chicken and tomatoes and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.