Friday, December 31, 2010

Bacon Taste Test

There has been a debate at our house about the top tasting bacon.

It's been Nueske's versus Usinger's around here...both fine Wisconsin products. I buy Usinger's in bulk (3-1 lb packages) at the warehouse club, and Paul is certain that Nueske's is a better product, so he bought some Nueske bacon at Sendik's before Christmas.

I cooked both and gave them to Paul and Eleanor. They both chose the Usinger's! It's the less expensive product, and it won our taste test.

Usinger's is on the right in the picture listed above.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mulligatawny Soup

One of our favorites. I lost the recipe I had copied from a friend's Joy of Cooking book years ago. I had a version of it on a recipe card...but if you follow the link that's about what I do BUT I cut the fat down to 1 T of butter. I do still like the flavor of the butter rather than changing this to olive oil, but a bit less than 1 T. seems to lose the fat but not the flavor. I have used cooked chicken if I have it. If not, it works to put the chopped chicken in the broth and cook it in the soup.

I use 1/2 c of coconut milk if I have it. If not, skim milk works just as well also. I added a handful of peas as well.

Eleanor took a bit of heat over the color of this soup at lunch the other day. Interesting comments about the color from kids who will eat colored candy and drink sports drinks. I told her to tell them about turmeric and all the healthy properties traced to it. Regardless of the truth of these health claims, the soup sure is good!

Also, check out the new blog link I added. Looks like there are some good recipes and ideas on this one. I'm excited to get a chance to go through some of her older posts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Spritz Cookies

Every year, Meghan and I make Christmas Spritz cookies. Last year they didn't get made because Meghan was away at a swim meet in Oklahoma the weekend before Christmas, so this year I planned ahead.  I made the dough on the 23rd and planned to make the cookies after swim practice on Christmas Eve and before we had to leave to go to my Sister in law's. The dough was separated and colored red, white and green and we were ready to go! Out came the spritz was broken!.  A quick trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond and we were home with a deluxe electric model from Cuisinart in a mere 30 minutes!

Well, despite the solid reputation of Cuisinart, this particular product or the one we bought was not worth it. Sometimes the plunger went down, sometimes it went up and sometimes it just refused to move at all! After about 30 minutes of utter frustration, I boxed the thing up and raced back to Bed, Bath and Beyond...remember, this was Christmas Eve! Luckily there was no line and I grabbed the manual version made by Whilton, explained my experience and quickly raced home again!

Needless to say, we had burned our cookie making window :(. I am happy to report that Christmas morning we SUCCESSFULLY made the spritz is my recipe which is a blend of two different recipes I found on the internet.

Spritz Cookies

1 c butter, softened
3 oz. light or low fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla
1 T lemon juice
1-2 t grated lemon peel
21/2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon peel. Mix well. Mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly add to butter mixture. Using cookie press, make cookies. Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. If you want colored cookies, add food coloring to the dough.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Deep-Dish Pecan Pie

 Over the years, I have been responsible for bringing pies for all the holidays. This year, my brother in law requested Pecan Pie. One thing I can say, Pecan Pie is one of the easiest pies to make, especially if you are like me and rely on Pillsbury Pie Crusts! You simply mix the filling, pour and bake! I have made Pecan Pie before, but I wouldn't say I have a regular recipe for it. had this recipe that I adapted to fit pie pans, Deep-Dish Pecan Pie.
Pie before it is baked

I wasn't interested in using a spring pan for the pie, so I simply adapted.  First, I skipped making the dough and went straight for the box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts. Second, I needed two pies, so I doubled the recipe. A double recipe of this filling makes three pies using 9" pyrex pie pans! Luckily I had an extra pie crust, so three it was!

This pie was awesome...not too sweet and loaded with brother in law loved it and with all the Christmas cookies and other treats there is plenty left for leftovers!

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mustard and Apricot Pork Tenderloin

RUO (recipe of unknown origin):
Marinate 2-1 lb pork tenderloins in:
1/2 c apricot preserves1/2 c balsamic vinegar
6 T grainy mustard

Grill until done...about 35 minutes or so(165 degrees)
Heat leftover marinade (after removing the pork for the grill) for 5 or more minutes or so killing anything nasty in it from the meat and serve pork with it.

I'm not a huge fan of sweet entrees but the vinegar and mustard must have cut the sugary taste, I thought it was just right. I had purchased one tenderloin thinking that would be enough for 5 of us; however, Paul and Eleanor gave me the best gift ever by going to Sendik's grocery store on 12/24 and getting another one. I'm glad that they did because we had 1/2 loin left.

I served this Christmas Day along with some potatoes, sweet potatoes, and a salad with baby greens (and bleu cheese and beets, and balsamic vinegar and oil dressing).

Paul made the potatoes, so he'll have to be a guest blogger in the future and tell us more about them. The sweet potatoes are the twice baked sweet potatoes I made for Thanksgiving. We all liked them, so a repeat was in order.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Moroccan Cornish Game Hens

 Merry Christmas!

Recently my mother in law gave me a copy of a cookbook her church had published as a fundraiser. As is typical of this type of cookbook, many of the recipes had at least one can of soup as an ingredient! As I paged through it, I came across this recipe for Cornish Game Hens.  This Christmas I was not preparing any meals as we went to family both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It happened to be December 23rd when I found the recipe, so I decided to make a nice meal for Christmas Eve, Eve! I had everything on hand except the couscous(thanks Sendik's meat sale for the hens in the freezer), so I braved a trip to Sendik's at 5 PM on the 23rd of December!

Moroccan Cornish Hen (God's Ingredients Mixed with Love at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church)

4 Cornish game hens
10 T butter/oleo
2 t cinnamon
1 t cardamom
1 t turmeric
1/2 t curry powder
1 c couscous
3/4 c chopped dates
1/2 c raisins
2 c chicken broth
1/2 c chopped carrots
1 small onion, chopped
5 T lemon juice
3 T ground almonds
1/2 c minced parsley
2 T pine nuts

Bring to boil 1/2 c raspberry jelly, 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c brandy, 1/2 c lemon juice, 1 t tarragon

Heat stock with 2 T butter, nuts and spices, bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous and cook until liquid is absorbed, about a minute. Remove from heat and stir in raisins and dates, cover and let stand 15 minutes. Stir in carrots, onion, lemon juice and 4 T butter. Season to taste, cool and stuff birds. Roast at 375° for 1-1 1/2 hours, basting every 20 minutes with glaze.

I did make some changes to this recipe...I used 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 t cardamom and about 1/2 c raisins and omitted the dates.  I also cut back on the butter! I omitted the 4T butter added with the carrots and for the glaze I only used about 2 T.

These were fabulous! In the future I would omit the raisins completely, they are just not a family favorite.  I would also consider making the couscous as a side dish, everyone loved it.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Dirty Snowballs

See the link above for the recipe for these. I hadn't heard of these until Eleanor's friend invited her over to make these last year. The friend's mom, Amy, sure had this figured it out. The girls had a blast doing this together and got a lot done. That's just the kind of mom Amy is...organized and efficient!

We made them this year but had to make them exactly the way they did at MJ's house. That is, 4 cookies at a time in the small food processor to make the crumbs and mixing the crumbs with the cream cheese with your hands.

The great thing (or bad thing) about these is that they are bite size. So good and they can just be popped into your mouth.

Oh...and Amy has some other good recipes we'll have to post later.

And, the new best thing about Amy is that she brought a diet coke to me for a Christmas present on the day I was craving one (today) and the swim soda machines were empty. I told you, she's awesome!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chorizo, Potato and Mushroom Tacos

I don't think I have ever eaten a recipe from Rick Bayless that I haven't liked. Many of them are a bit more involved than what I can make on a weeknight which is about the only negative thing I can say about the recipes. I do have a couple of his cookbooks and love to spend a day cooking from the recipes in the book; however, this recipe is a practical version for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner. A couple months ago we spent the weekend in Chicago and tried his newest restaurant, XOCO. No was excellent!

I did not use Yukon Gold potatoes...using whatever type I had in the pantry. I did bake them the day before so they would shred a bit easier. I have shredded them raw and added them, it's a bit more work to shred but doesn't change the taste of the final dish. I was baking squash for another recipe, so I thought I would put the potatoes in the oven to bake as well. Also, I use plain ol' button mushrooms instead of the shiitake mushrooms called for in this link. I do bet that shiitakes are delicious in this recipe's just that I had my version on a recipe card and my version calls for any kind of mushroom. Although on the evening of the picture I didn't use any mushrooms. I didn't have the cilantro to add this evening either, and it really does taste best with it added.

I served it with some Wholly Guacamole from the warehouse club. Luckily I have a couple more packages of the guacamole in the freezer because it's really good! I just can't pull together making my own on a weeknight.

Tomatillo salsa and corn tortillas seem to go the best with this, besides the guacamole. We topped the tacos with feta cheese and sour cream as well.

Trader Joe's soy chorizo is my option for a lower fat, vegetarian version of this. That is what is pictured; however, regular chorizo works well too. Just take it out of the casing and use as the recipe directs. The first time I used this Paul was a bit disappointed that it wasn't "real" chorizo; however, he has fully converted to this version and actually said that he likes the soy version better!!! I think that is because it is a lot less greasy and not as gristly.

Quick, hearty, and delicious!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


As we have mentioned in the past, Karen's and my daughter swim and swim and did I mention swim? One of the swimmers on the US Olympic Team, Garrett Weber-Gale, trained at the Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center as a teenager, the same pool our daughters currently call their swimming home. Garrett is a bit of a foodie (he just spent several weeks traveling in France and  cooking with French chefs) and he has his own blog dedicated to both food and athleticism,

I have been in a blogging rut, mainly because I have had difficulty coming up with new I decided to start looking "outside of the box" for recipes. I saw a post on facebook from athletic foodie(they are on facebook and you can join the group) for Garrett's Freestyle Granola.  I decided I would just make it! Something new and different in the kitchen for breakfast or snacks especially with Christmas break starting.

I had all the ingredients on hand( including a box of oatmeal from Costco that will last me until 2012) so I decided to take Garrett's advice and double the recipe.  I did make a few changes, I used half craisins and half golden raisins simply because I had golden raisins that needed to be used up and I didn't have the pepitas so I just omitted them.  After drizzling the sauce over the dry ingredients I realized I had also accidentally omitted the vanilla.  Even with the changes and omissions, the finished product is great!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Checkerboard Pizza

We're fans of roasted red peppers and olives, so we love this pizza.
The recipe is from the book, Pizza by James McNair. I know that I have talked about this book before, especially because it's the dough recipe I often use. The credit for this pizza goes to him; however, I greatly reduced the cheese quantities mentioned in the original.

This time I used some fresh sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the crust before topping the pizza in the cool checkerboard pattern. The toppings were roasted red peppers (from a jar this time) and black olives, both roughly chopped. I put some minced garlic on it and a small amount of shredded Parmesan over the other toppings(that is the picture below). The mozzarella was easy to slice because my parents gave us the very cool cheese knife last year for Christmas. I don't really understand how this knife can work so well to cut hard cheese or soft cheese, but it does work really well.

I put the crust in a round pan before I thought about it. I like how it looks a bit better if the pizza is a rectangle, but after the crust was in the pan I decided to go with colored wedges instead.

This would be a very fun thing to serve at a poker party:)
Not that I have poker parties, but I just think it would be a good idea. Maybe if my friend, Carol, who went to the World Series of Poker on a sweepstakes entry has another poker party I'll take this.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cookie Flops

I'm not a huge fan of baking..which may be surprising when you look through some of the posts. I like to bake a little bit but am really not a fan of baking cookies since the fun wears off before I run out of cookie dough. But, it's Christmas, so I felt like I should make a few cookies.

I have memories of my grandmas and my mom making many varieties of cookies. The Italian cookies...not much of a fan of those. I loved wintergreen candy when I was a kid....sweetness, really almost pure sugar rolled in sugar with some red food coloring (so the candy was PINK) and wintergreen extract topped with a pecan half just begging to be eaten around the pecan half saving the nut to pop in the mouth as the last flavor blast. My mom's sugar cookies were always a to decorate and eat. But, now I just don't want a lot of cookies around since I don't need any extra calories in the form of cookies. Since Eleanor has a nut allergy she has never been a cookie fan, even if I make the cookies.

Despite all this, we decided to try a couple new recipes on a recent Saturday. We sure didn't come out of the day with any recipes to keep.

The first ones we made because I had gotten the recipe at work years ago when working at Red Cross and the staff would bring in cookie plates for the office staff. I must have liked these since I still had the recipe even though I have never made them. I decided to make these because they call for a large amount of cornstarch...and due to a Forensics demonstration speech last year I found myself with a lifetime supply of cornstarch. It's much like the chocolate syrup Elizabeth had for fake blood but she ended up with yummy cupcakes out of the deal.

Anyway, they sure weren't good and the recipe will need to be tossed after this adventure. I was ready to throw away the cookies but Paul assured me that people at work will eat anything. The cycle continues...maybe that's how I ended up with this recipe in the first place.

Melting Moments
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c butter
3/4 c cornstarch
1 c flour

Mix all ingredients until blended. Chill dough. Roll into balls and bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Frost while the cookies are still hot with 1 c powdered sugar, 2 T butter and a bit of milk until it is spreadable consistency. Sprinkle with Christmas sugar while you frost.

The second cookie we made was from a cookbook that my friend Carol gave me when I was visiting her in Albuquerque a few years ago, Simply Simpatico. She does not like to cook but had gotten this local cookbook so when I was copying a recipe out of it she told me to take the book. This dessert wasn't bad...just a lot of work for a mediocre result. Maybe if these were made in a pan instead of miniature muffin tins I would like them a bit better. It was too much work for the end results. I may try putting them in a pan and then sharing the recipe depending on the outcome of that.

New Cookie Recipes: 2
Karen: 0
I'm behind...I'll have to either catch up with some old favorites or find something new that we like.

Oh...and there is still a cornstarch glut in my pantry.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Heinemann's. For those of us who have lived in the Milwaukee area awhile just the name makes me think of good food. Sadly, in the last couple years all the Heinemann's restaurants in the area closed. They featured good homemade food and awesome breakfasts. I love a restaurant that serves real maple syrup with its breakfast items, and Heinemann's did just that.

One of my favorite things on the menu was the baked oatmeal. I found this recipe somewhere online and usually cut it in half for the three of us. It is good leftover and reheated, so it does work if you want to make more. I don't know if this is their original Heinemann's recipe or not, but we like this whatever the origins.

Baked Oatmeal:
2 1/2 c rolled oats
1 1/4 c milk (skim is fine)
1/4 c honey or sugar or maple syrup
1/2 T bkg powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients until mixed. Pour into ungreased 8 by 8 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so, until golden brown. Serve topped with extra milk, raisins/craisins, chopped apples, maple syrup, etc.
This picture was taken before the toppings were added, but this is what the square of oatmeal looks like.
Nice and warm on a cold winter day!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

This is delicious but sure doesn't fall into the healthy category. At school the other week the students had to write a procedure making macaroni and cheese from a box and my daughter didn't know how to do that! We don't make it from a box at our house, but I think I will have to get some Annie's macaroni and cheese to have her try it and learn how to make it. Macaroni and cheese to her means this dish.

I think that the original recipe came from Cooks Illustrated, but I have changed it over the years to keep the creaminess and deliciousness yet decrease a bit of the fat. I had a bit of trouble with the link to Cooks Illustrated, so if you really feel the need to see the original recipe it may be necessary to search the recipe...pasta with 4 cheeses. It looks to me like you need to get a trial membership to see the original recipe..but there are a lot of good recipes from that site, in case you're interested. If you just want my version (3 cheese), then you're set.

So, here's my version:

Cook 1 lb noodles. I buy the 6 pack of pasta at the warehouse club, so some version of tinier noodles such as elbow macaroni or penne. For the picture I used farfalle.

Grate: 1 c. sharp cheddar and put in large bowl with 3/4c. bleu cheese, and 1/2c Pecorino romano.

In small pan melt 1 T. butter and then add 1 T. flour. Stir the flour in and then whisk in 1 1/2 c skim milk. Stir that until the sauce comes to a boil and then continue to cook for a minute or so until it has thickened. The original recipe had cream. I cut it to half and half and am now down to all skim and it seems to work fine.

Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the cheeses. Add the cream sauce into the bowl and cover the bowl (I usually use a plate) and let it sit for 3 minutes. Uncover and stir.

Transfer to a 13X 9 inch baking dish and bake about 7 minutes at 500 degrees.

Variation: If you want to add even more fat to the dish, melt some butter and mix with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Top the noodle mixture with that before putting it in the oven.

For the last step, I would recommend finding a low fat dish for the next day...because you have just eaten a big portion of the week's worth of fat!!!!

There are some recipes that are just worth the fat and calorie content. This is one of those recipes. Maybe I score some points for the broccoli?

It's creamy and tasty and so so comforting on a cool night.
A favorite!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crockpot Beef Bourguignon

 Recently I spent a good part of an afternoon searching for new recipes...with both kids in High School, I am finding it more and more difficult to maintain "family dinner hour", so I am trying to maintain a cooked meal each night. The crockpot is a great solution to this so that everyone can eat a great meal when they get home.

The recipe I used for this is Beef with Red Wine Sauce. I followed the recipe almost perfectly except that I added a bit more wine(end of the bottle, not worth saving) and I decided to thicken the finished product by adding about 1 1/2 T of flour to the recipe at the end. I mixed the flour with water to form a thin paste, added some of the liquid from the crock pot to it to bring it closer to temperature and then slowly whisked the mixture into the crockpot.

I was pleasantly surprised at the results! This is a dump everything in, cover and serve 6-7 hours later and it was delicious! As you can see, I served it over egg noodles with spinach on the side.  It was another swim meet weekend, so we had this for dinner Friday and it was lunch leftovers for Jack and Brian Saturday and Sunday!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Puppy Chow and Pasta

Puppy Chow and must be a swim meet!
It's a meet weekend which means two things...puppy chow and pasta (OK...more than means timing and swimming, and friendship too). Club meets usually start on Friday night and continue on Saturday and on Sunday. This meet doesn't have a prelim/finals format, so when the meet is over for the's over until the next day. Our club hosts the meet which means that a few donations go a long way. So, I bought a big box of crispix and made some puppy chow to be sold at the meet. It's good for us (being a food allergy household) to have something we made as a food option since we know that it is safe.

We heard a nutritionist talk to the swim team last week and she did tell us that carbs the night before the event are not so important as carbs after the usual training. BUT, I think that the psychological boost from a meal of carbs is good too. So, pasta many times over the weekend. I'll post about that later.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peasant Soup

 Another winner from! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did a lot of cooking last weekend...this the final meal I made and we enjoyed it on a Monday Night after swim practice...a cold monday night when soup and fresh bread was just the ticket!

Once again, I didn't really like the directions for this recipe. When I make soup, I always sauté the vegetables and seasonings before I add any liquids.  I think this adds depth of flavor to the dish.  I also made a few changes to the ingredients!  Here is what I did...

In place of the angel hair coleslaw, I used some frozen cabbage I had and some of the red cabbage that I used to make the cabbage slaw I posted yesterday.
In place of the kidney beans, I used black beans.
I only used about 12 ounces of sausage...I needed some sausage for another recipe! 12 ounces was plenty...

I sautéed the onion, carrots and celery with the parsley and salt and pepper until the vegies were tender and the onions transluscent. Then I added the sausage and cooked it for about 5 minutes. I then added all the broth and cooked it for about 30 minutes. I added the remaining ingredients and simmered the soup for 30 minutes or until the vegetables were tender.

This soup is hearty and delicious...I highly recommend it!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Cabbage, Cranberry and Apple Slaw

 Believe it or not, I am still using vegetables I received from my CSA and my last delivery was in mid-october! For this recipe I used the last red cabbage I had received. I haven't ever found any recipe for cooked red cabbage that my family would enjoy, so I was thrilled when I came across this slaw recipe at, you guessed it,!

Once again, I didn't follow the recipe exactly, mainly due to the fact that I didn't have the right ingredients! I substituted apple cider vinegar for the  rice vinegar and I substituted red wine vinegar for the white wine vinegar...otherwise I followed the recipe.  I served the pecans on the side for two reasons...first, I knew we would have leftovers and I didn't want the pecans to get mushuy and second, I didn't think everyone would want the pecans...half the family added them, the other half didn't.

This is a winner, I will make it again and again...

If anyone does have a good recipe for cooked red cabbage, let me know, I would love to try it!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fiesta Chicken Salad with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

For Christmas we were having a potluck lunch at work. Since I work at a Catholic hospital I feel pretty comfortable in calling it a Christmas party rather than a holiday party. Regardless, I'm new to this department (not a new job, just a transfer of labor) and wanted to make something good but still festive. Since I'm part-time I missed the first day of sign up and many categories were taken, and I did want to take something that wasn't in a filled category, is tasty, and not too fat/sugar laden. I love this salad and am always looking for an excuse to make it.

The link above will take you to the original recipe, which is a great dinner salad option. Since I was making this as part of a potluck I did not use the chicken or the avocado. I have used black beans in it to make it a bit more substantial.

In fact, it is so good I am thinking I'll make it again for the coaches' room at the swim meet next weekend.

I'm remembering that this is from a long ago BonAppetit and the entire meal was good; however, I think this is the only recipe we decided was card-worthy.

And, I LOVE my new department for the fun people, the great white elephant gifts, and the yummy potluck. This is a group that should have more potluck lunches....'cause these are good cooks!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One Dish Chicken and Kielbasa Rice

 Once again, a recipe from! If you haven't noticed already, I love this website! Anyway, I was doing a bunch of cooking this past weekend and this was one of the dishes I made...the actual recipe, One Dish Chicken and Kielbasa Rice was just an "outline" for what I actually created, but here are the changes I made.

I used about 5 ounces of Kielbasa(left over from Peasant Soup recipe, that will post soon)
I used about 12 ounces of Chicken breast
I used regular long grain rice, not parboiled
I omitted the olives and the green pepper
1 used fresh garlic
1 used 1/4 t turmeric
I used about 2 1/2 cups chicken broth

As I read the recipe, I didn't like the way it was put together, so I did my own thing! First I sautéed the chicken in the olive oil with plenty of kosher salt and pepper for a few minutes and then added the onion and sausage. When the onion was translucent, I added the minced garlic. Then I added the rice and continued cooking until the rice was coated with the juices in the pan. I then added the chicken broth and turmeric, brought it to a boil and then reduced the heat to a low simmer and covered the pot. Since I used regular rice, the total cooking time took about 20 minutes. You need to watch the rice, making sure you have enough liquid to cook the rice, but not too much or the rice will get gluey. At the end, I added the peas.

This was a winner with my family and it is definitely a budget stretcher...I used 2 chicken breasts and a little sausage and created at least 6 the future I would probably use all the sausage called for in the recipe and cut back on the chicken...the sausage is an important element in the dish...

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Herb Roasted Pork Loin

A quick thanks to Karen for being on top of the blog! As you might have noticed, I haven't posted anything is a while and Karen has filled in the gaps!

Sunday dinner this week was roasted pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potato with apples and brussell sprouts...The 2 lb. tenderloin had been in the freezer, a recent Sendik's meat sale purchase. I often prepare pork tenderloin with a plum butter glaze, but this week I tried something different...I covered the tenderloin with a rub of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and fine herbs. Fine Herbs is a blend you can find in any grocery store, but if you don't have it, you can use a blend of Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Marjoram and Basil.

I made sure the tenderloin was covered in the rub, placed it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400°F, then I added the cubed sweet potatoes(one very large sweet potato) around the roast, poured about 1/2 cup apple juice over the meat and potatoes and reduced the heat to 350°F and continued cooking the roast for 45 minutes-1 hour. About 15 minutes after I reduced the heat, I added 2 peeled and cubed apples, added about 1/2 cup more apple juice and continued cooking until the roast reached a temperature of 165°F.

The finished roast had a lovely crust on it, full of flavor and the apple/potato mixture was tasty...a great complement to the pork...

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Burgundy Mushroom Stew

It snowed!
We had beautiful big fluffy snowflakes come down last weekend and ended up with a few inches of snow. It's so refreshing to see it (I'll be sick of it by March but love it in December). We were able to cross country ski for a short time (the snow was a bit sticky), so we wanted something hearty and warming for dinner. I had been thinking about this stew for awhile, since it's perfect for a cool winter evening.

One of my favorite restaurants in Minneapolis at the time we lived there was Cafe Brenda; however, it closed about a year ago, if you're trying to find it. I have great memories of sitting there and watching snowflakes floating past the big windows and stepping out into the cold air and the festive atmosphere of the Christmas parade. It was a vegetarian/seafood restaurant...fortunately I have The Cafe Brenda Cookbook. Some of the recipes are a bit fussy for the home cook with limited time, and I wouldn't say that this is a great purchase unless you want to get some time consuming vegetarian recipes. In fact, this recipe calls for homemade stock, something I don't do too often at this point in my life. So, it isn't a must have, but I will give you the version I make of the burgundy stew because that is hearty and delicious and does give you a large dose of vegetables.

1T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
4 c vegetable stock/broth
1 c red wine
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 t dried thyme
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t marjoram
1 t salt
4 T butter or vegetable oil
4 T flour
3 T tomato paste
1 T butter or olive oil
1 1/2 -2 lb mushrooms, quartered.

Saute mushrooms in stockpot and remove from pan.

Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and bell pepper and continue to saute until the vegetables are tender. Combine stock, wine, sauteed vegetables, potatoes, herbs. Cover and simmer over low heat.

Make roux by melting 4 T butter or oil in small saucepan. Add 4 T four, mixing well. Cook mixture for 3 minutes stirring to keep it from sticking. Whisk 2 c stock into this and add tomato paste and stir well. Pour this mixture into the stew. Simmer, covered, until thick (5 minutes or so).

Saute mushrooms then add to the stew. Simmer until the potatoes are done (15 minutes or so).

I did (believe it or not) cut down on the butter/oil a bit in this recipe but it tastes fine to us. It does pack in a lot of vegetables though so at least the fat is accompanied by something good. I had some artisan bread I had made earlier in the day in anticipation of stew, so it was a bit of a Twin Cities kind of meal. I guess that really makes sense with the snow.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fig and Bleu Cheese Pizza

What a great combination of flavors!
I made thin crust dough (double recipe) because I have learned my lesson on the three of us and quantity. See blog post from 9/23/10 for that recipe.

I carmelized some red onions (2..because that is what I had). That is, I sliced them and cooked them in olive oil very slowly over low heat for an hour or so stirring occasionally. It really went like this...stir onions, put in a load of laundry, stir onions, pay bills, stir onions, clean bathrooms, etc. Then, I put some salt and pepper on them and stirred. When I thought that they were just about done I put a tablespoon or so of water in the pan and deglazed it. I turned off the heat and held them until I was ready to assemble the pizza after sprinkling it with some balsamic vinegar. They can be made a few days in advance, if that works better schedule-wise.

For the pizza:
carmelized onions
bleu cheese
fresh figs, quartered

I baked it until the cheese was starting to melt. Then, I topped it with the figs and onions and baked it a couple minutes more, until it was warmed through. Sprinkled it with balsamic vinegar (the good 18 year old stuff) and served it.

Yum...simple and delicious.
Next time, maybe bacon? maybe some arugula?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake

This was on our table on Thanksgiving.

I have a cheesecake cookbook from long ago, Philadelphia Cheese Cheesecakes, that my mom gave me for a gift at a bridal shower for me along with a springform pan. I have made many many of the recipes over the years but was thinking about this one for Thanksgiving.

One of the swim coaches was talking about pumpkin pie...and the conversation turned to cheesecake. I guess he asked the kids if they like pumpkin cheesecake and Eleanor told him that she had never had it. Hmmm...maybe I haven't made it in a few years. I used to have a recipe that used oreos for the crust and remember that being a good recipe also.

I omitted the pecans due to an allergy, so this is what I made:
1 1/2 c gingersnap crumbs
1/4 c butter (probably used a bit less...maybe 2-3 T)

Combine and press into bottom of 9" springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

2-8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
Add 3 eggs mixing well after adding each one. Reserve 1 c batter.
Add 2 T sugar (original recipe said 1/4 c), 1 c pumpkin, 3/4 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg to remaining batter. I think I did it the opposite this time and added the pumpkin and spices to the reserved batter....oh was still good.

Alternate layers over crust and cut through batters with a knife for the marble effect.
Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan, cool, remove rim..then chill.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recipe Slumps

100 POSTS!!!!

We celebrated that milestone!

It's hard to believe that Elizabeth and I really have that many dinner ideas without repetition!

It is fun to share recipes since it is so easy to get into a rut....and then not even able to get out of the rut and figure out what is for dinner. No matter how organized and adventurous I am I still get into a slump on occasion. Either I get so tired of being creative with dinner food....or I don't feel like I have 10 minutes or so to think ahead.

I would love to hear what other people do when they find themselves in a slump. I periodically go through these phases where I just don't know what to make for dinner. It's been inspirational to blog about recipes and food, so I have to dig a little deeper in my recipe box or be a bit more adventurous when these hit.

I have found friends are a great source of recipes and have gotten my through recipe slumps. Elizabeth has gotten me out of a few recipe funks with some recipes and ideas.

The internet has been helpful.

Getting the CSA box helps my creativity as well.

Library cookbooks often can provide inspiration for me.

Friends have recipes to share,

What do you do?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grandma Fiorenza's soup

I have seen a version of this called Italian Wedding our house...this is known as Grandma Fiorenza's soup. Even after she was a great grandma and was called GG the name of the soup remained. My grandma didn't have much variety in what she cooked...and she really didn't like vegetables too much. In fact, when she would come to visit me she would bring a can of spam and a couple slices of white bread in her purse so she wouldn't have to eat something like...hmmmm....vegetable and shrimp pasta with fresh dill from the New Basics Cookbook. There wasn't much a person could say to her about this...she was healthy into her 90s, so her diet worked for her, obviously. BUT, something she enjoyed eating and making was this soup. I remember going to her house and having sugo one night with her homemade meatballs (the large meatballs were served with that) and Italian sausage and this soup (with the small meatballs) the other night. Both nights were good meals!!

I make this soup exactly as I'm blogging about it. There may be some shortcuts, like I'm not really sure why the meatballs aren't cooked directly in the soup. I can't vary it...but you may want to try. I just need to make this so it tastes exactly like my Grandma (and my mom) make it. I don't think that anyone should substitute any other kind of cheese for the imported Pecorino Romano.

I'm not a big beef eater, but there are a handful of recipes I don't think I could ever give up that contain beef. This is one of them!

My mom would make this for us if we were getting colds. I guess it was the Italian version of chicken soup.

Our Sendik's store didn't have acini de pepe pasta, the really tiny pearls of pasta. I got stars instead. But, I will have to run to an Italian grocery store, like Glorioso's, and get a stash of the really tiny pasta. For me, tiny pasta is part of this soup.

Here it is:
1 or 2 meaty beef shanks
1 large (28 oz) undrained whole tomatoes
carrots/celery (amount varies....I used 4 large carrots and 4 stalks celery), cut into 4 inch to 6 inch long pieces
onions, small preferred (I used 4)
potatoes, quartered or halved (I used 4)
Cover beef shanks with water in soup kettle. Let it simmer until the meat is tender (about an hour). Skim off foam if necessary.
Add 1 can undrained tomatoes. Add potatoes, celery, carrots (as many as you want). Cook (not boiling) until potatoes are almost cooked through.

Then add onions and cook until tender.
I used a couple cans of beef broth as well.

You can mix meatballs at any time during this process.
1 lb grd chuck
Italian seasonings, especially parsley(dried)
2 eggs
bread crumbs...about 1/4 c or as needed to form balls
Pecorino romano cheese (about 1/4 c)
Mix and form meatballs. Add meatballs to a pot of boiling water. After the meatballs are cooked, add them to the soup broth.
acini de pepe pasta (tiny pasta)
Cook in boiling water in another pan for approx. 5 minutes. Drain. Add soup broth to pasta through a strainer to keep it from sticking together.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Add some pasta and top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Pull some vegetables and meatballs out of the soup in put in large serving bowl and let everyone take the vegetables they want. Top each serving bowl with additional Pecorino Romano and some salt and pepper. I don't usually use much salt and pepper at the table but this soup needs it.

Eleanor is not a very big tomato fan, but she doesn't like this if I omit the tomatoes. I tried making the meatballs with ground turkey one time (since that's what I had in the freezer), and that got a thumbs down. Maybe your family will work with substitutions on this recipe, we don't!

There really isn't too much time involved in making this soup. The time it takes to prepare is while it is on the stove, so you do have to be home but can be doing other things for most of the time. I will make this (including the meatballs) before swim practice and come home and just cook the pasta and warm the broth and vegetables.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving...what's on the menu?

This year I got to cook Thanksgiving dinner. For a family that usually ends up driving on the holiday, this was really exciting. My parents came and the three of us were here, so it was a small group, but very nice.

I found it a bit disappointing to cook since tradition dictates most of the menu. I did find a few places to be creative though. I will post the pumpkin cheesecake I made and the smoked turkey that Paul made, but I'll give you some other ideas from the menu as well.

I had to have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, so neither offered too much originality. I just baked the sweet potatoes, scooped the meat out of them and combined with a couple tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper, baked the skins for a bit, and put the mixture back in the skins. I had this done early and just held the sweet potatoes that way and baked them 1/2 hour or so before dinner. Topped them with some craisins and served.

I did find a new recipe for roasted vegetables since I got the last CSA box of the season the night before. It came with two very large rutabagas, so I had to find a way to incorporate at least one of them in a way other than my usual idea (which is to boil it with the potatoes and mash all together). I found the recipe on epicurious for roasted vegetables, so follow the link; however, I made this with rutabaga and carrots since I didn't have the other vegetables and added a bit of leeks since they came in the box also.

I made up a recipe for cranberry chutney. I sauteed some onion and garlic and added some ginger root and cranberries. I added a cup or so of sugar and some orange zest and orange juice. It really needed some sugar at this point, so I added some craisins and 1/4 c or so of sugar. Then another 1/4 c of sugar. Then another 1/4 c sugar. I also added some coriander seeds and a cup or so of vinegar. I think it will be a good addition to sandwiches this week and was good on the Thanksgiving table.

Sweet potato biscuits seemed like a good addition; however, I made them with canned pumpkin since I didn't use the entire can for the pumpkin marble cheesecake.

We had a green salad with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. We got a beautiful head of lettuce in the last box. So nice to have something so green and fresh with the meal.

Stuffing....ahem...dressing (since it didn't stuff the turkey) that was a recipe that I found on the internet. I made the bread for the bread cubes from the artisan bread recipe. I could have used bread from the store, but it is so easy to make I went this route instead.

Our family's traditional cranberry and apple salad was brought by my mom.

So many things to be thankful addition to a beautiful harvest meal.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

 On this Thanksgiving morning, I thought it appropriate to blog about one of the dishes most of us will eat later on today. This recipe for pumpkin pie is from my mother...growing up we had it at Thanksgiving and Christmas and we fought over the leftovers. My father usually made everything else on the holidays, but the pie was always made by mom. She didn't go to the trouble of making a crust, she used a Pet-Ritz frozen crust. Today, I follow the same tradition, but use a Pillsbury or store brand rolled crust, I find them tastier and more tender than Pet-Ritz.

1 16 ounce can pumpkin(not pumpkin pie filling)
1 13 ounce can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt
1 9 inch pie crust

Mix all the ingredients and pour into prepared pie crust. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The pie is cooked when just the center(about a 3 inch circle in the center) is still a little jiggly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aunt Liz's Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

This casserole is commonly called "gray chicken" at my house. While this title is not very appealing, I have to admit, the first time I made this, it did look very gray, and thus the name. I found this in a cooking light magazine, but is is available at, here is the link.

I have made changes to this over the years. I found that using all cream of mushroom soup made the chicken unappealingly gray and the flavors were dull. I now use one can of regular cream of mushroom soup and one can of cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic. I also use whole wheat pasta which is hard to detect with the sauce. The final note is that this says you can make 2 casseroles, about 4 servings each. I usually make one casserole and have some leftovers...I have never been able to get 2 full meals out of this recipe.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fiesta Taco Lasagna

Is it a dip or is it a main dish?
It's hard to tell when eating's just a bit too good.

My friend, Meghan, made this when we were visiting her. The only changes I have made is that I use ground turkey and cut back a tiny bit on the Monterey Jack cheese by instead using 1 c. or so of cheddar. Oh, and I used about 8 oz frozen corn instead of the can of corn. I think that's's good.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Mac and Cheese

 Through the years I have tried to make homemade mac and cheese but my kids always found the sauce too grainy. After the success of Ina Garten's chocolate ganache cupcakes(see post on 10/19/2010 ) I decided I would try her recipe since she claimed it always comes out creamy!

I have made this twice, the last time was for a Friday night of a swim meet weekend. Carbs were needed as was a meal that could be eaten at any time in the evening. My daughter actually took her dinner to the meet and ate it before a big race...she swam well so maybe it helped :)

Anyway, here is the recipe...Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese

Please note, for my version, I didn't use the tomatoes or the bread crumb topping. Also, it is important to use good quality cheeses, but you can vary them. The first time I used the recommended amount of Gruyere but the cheddar portion was actually part cheddar and part colby/jack. The second time I tried to bury some low-fat cheese in the recipe and the sauce did come out a bit grainy...

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Greek Pizza

Recently I made this the night before an athletic event...for that extra boost of carbs.

I cut potatoes into cubes and put them in a pan with some olive oil (a couple tablespoons) and some Penzeys Greek seasoning. I roasted them at 450 degrees for an hour or so (OK, I took the dog for a walk while they were in the oven) and stirred them occasionally. It took about an hour to get nicely browned.

I made pizza crust (but purchased crust could be used) using the recipe out of the book mentioned in the post from 8/1.

I topped the crust with the potatoes, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and some sun dried tomatoes. The jar of tomatoes I used was a huge one from the warehouse club...they are delicious.

The idea for potato pizza came from my friend, Nora. Usually I par boil the potatoes and then saute chopped onions and the cubed potatoes. I'll often throw in some fresh herbs too or some bell peppers. Really, just about anything that goes together and sounds good. The mixture could be topped with bleu cheese, cooked bacon, Canadian bacon, cheddar, chipotle peppers etc.

Thanks to Nora for a good idea!

Friday, November 19, 2010


 When we were living in France, we had quiche frequently. Meat is extremely expensive in Europe and the cuts are different as well, so we rarely ate red meat. The one Christmas we stayed in France and family visited us, I paid close to $100 for a roast for Christmas dinner, and that was in 1994! Quiche can be made with just about anything and it is often made with "remnants" from the refrigerator. It is also packed with inexpensive protein from the eggs. Today I have about 1/2 lb of bacon that needs to be eaten, so I will build my quiche around that. I also have some cooked greens(I think it is kale) in the freezer, so I will use that as well. I always use a rolled, ready made pie crust, such as Pillsbury, for my quiche.  I also find the store brands are just as good and less expensive. They store well in the freezer, so I always have them on hand.

1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1 small onion (about 1/2 cup diced)
1 cup cooked spinach or other green(frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry works well)
1 cup shredded cheese, I usually use swiss or cheddar
6-8 eggs (depends on the depth of your pie plate)
1/2-1 cup milk
1/2 t nutmeg
Salt and Pepper

Cook bacon...drain on paper towel and drain off most of the fat. Add onion to the remaining bacon fat and sauté until transluscent. Place pie crust in the pie plate and add bacon, onion and greens. Sprinkle with grated cheese. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the ingredients in the pie plate. Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown and set.

I usually serve this with a green salad and fresh the summer it is usually a fruit salad. This is also a great leftover for the lunchbox.

One final note...I accidentally bought low-fat cheddar cheese slices...I used this cheese in the quiche. Just as I buried the squash in the "pumpkin" pancakes, I used up some less desirable cheese in the quiche and I avoided wasting it!

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