Monday, December 31, 2007

French Onion Soup - The Easy Way

I love french onion soup... so when I got my little individual soup crocks, I knew exactly what I wanted to make first! I was feeling a bit lazy, though, so I wanted an easy recipe. Living Insanity's Crockpot French Onion Soup (courtesy of Sandra Lee from the Food Network) definitely fit the bill!

I was only making soup for two, so I cut the recipe in half. (Though we still had some leftover.)

French Onion Soup (with living insanity's suggestions and my own interpretations)

1 1/2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 can (14 ounces) low sodium beef broth (recommended: Swanson's)
1 can (10 ounces) beef consomme (recommended: Campbell's)
1 packet onion soup mix (recommended: Lipton's) (the full recipe calls for 1 packet, I didn't feel like trying to figure out what half of a packet was, so I just used it all!)
French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere

Combine onions, broth, consomme, and soup mix in a slow cooker. Cook on HIGH setting for 4 hours, or LOW setting for 8 hours. Ladle soup into serving bowls.

Top with cubes of French bread.

Sprinkle cheese over each bowl.

Put soup bowls under broiler until cheese is melted. (Alternatively, place the bread on a baking sheet and top with cheese; broil until cheese has melted,about 30 to 40 seconds, and set on top just before serving.)

Voila! My fiance and I both thought this was great, and perfect for a cold, snowy, New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Comfort food: Pasta and Garlic Bread!

My fiancĂ© had the night off from work (a rare occasion) so I decided to cook up something nice. His request was something we’ve had a number of times… Pasta with puttanesca sauce with chicken, zucchini and yellow squash. Typically I just buy jarred puttanesca sauce, but I thought this time I’d try to make it from scratch. I found a recipe from AllRecipes and it turned out great!

8 ounces pasta
1/2 cup olive oil (I followed the recipe reviews and used a lot less. I didn’t measure, just drizzled it in the saucepan)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes, pushed through a sieve (I skipped the sieve part)
4 anchovy filets, rinsed and chopped (I skipped these)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons capers
20 Greek olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Heat oil in a skillet over low heat; cook garlic in oil until golden. Add sieved tomatoes, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in anchovies, tomato paste, capers, olives, and red pepper flakes. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I let the sauce simmer while I cooked up some chicken breast (chopped to bite size pieces) and then some sliced zucchini and yellow squash, then added the sauce to the cooked chicken and veggies.

We served it with Barilla PLUS pasta.

I also was in search of a new garlic bread recipe. We’ve made it a few times and I’ve never really liked it (partially due to my tendency to burn it under the broiler :-) ). I posted on What’s Cooking for some help, and nestie tandd offered this recipe. We loved it, but I will probably cut down on the butter next time, it made a lot for the size of the italian loaf.

Garlic Bread (From nestie tandd)

1 cup butter, softened (I used ½ regular and ½ light butter)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
1 loaf of sourdough bread, halved lengthwise (I couldn’t find sourdough, so I just used Italian)

Preheat oven broiler and put rack on top setting.
In a small bowl, combine softened butter, minced garlic and parmesan cheese. Season with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and paprika. Mix until smooth.
Spread the mixture on the cut sides of the bread, distributing evenly.
Place on cookie sheet, cut side up, and broil until brown.
You have to keep an eye on this because it will burn quickly if you are not paying attention.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

(Mashed) Potato Pancakes

Like a lot of people this time of year, I had some leftover mashed potatoes (ok, a LOT leftover... who knew 3 potatoes would make that much!). I decided to try my hand at potato pancakes this morning. Wow! I've never had potato pancakes before, so maybe that was part of the infatuation, but I loved these! I started with a recipe from, and doctored it up a bit (shown in italics).

2 cups mashed garlic potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
few dashes Frank's hot sauce
1 tablespoon butter (I used canola oil for cooking... somewhere between the computer and the stove I forgot it said to use butter!)
Sour cream (for serving)

In a medium bowl, mix together potatoes, beaten egg, salt, cayenne, black pepper, onion powder, flour, Frank's, and cheese. Heat oil on a large griddle at medium heat. Drop potato mixture onto griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Flatten with a spatula to 1/2 inch thick. Fry approximately 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Serve hot with sour cream.

I was afraid to go to far with the heat (spice) on these, but next time they could stand a little more, so I'll kick it up a bit. Overall... these had me wishing for more leftover mashed potatoes!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Finally! Some success!

After a string of not-so-awesome results in cooking/baking (and hence little blogging), I finally made something tonight that I am very happy with! Baked Chicken Parmesan from Good Things Catered (Katie102006 on thenest) was a huge success! I made it even though my fiance isn't home for dinner, knowing he can take it for leftovers, but now I wish he was here to see it fresh out of the oven! I made a few changes, as described below.
Baked Chicken Parmesean

~3 large chicken breasts
~1 egg
~1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
~2 cups bread crumbs (I used panko)
~1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (I used dried)
~1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (I used dried)
~1 tsp garlic powder
~1/4 tsp paprika
~pinch of salt
~3 Tbsp olive oil
~3 cups pomodoro sauce (I made my own and added zuchinni to sneak more veggies in!) (I just used jarred pasta sauce (garlic and onion) and added zucchini/summer squash as she did!)
~3 large slices fresh mozzerella (I ended up putting two slices on each because after pounding the chicken out, they were really large!)
~ I also used about 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a shallow dish mix together egg and milk.
3. In seperate shallow dish mix together panko, parmesan, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, and salt.
4. Pound to tenderize chicken breasts to about 1/2 inch thickness.
5. Preheat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
6. Dip chicken breastss into egg/milk mixture and then cover in breadcrumb mixture.
7. Place coated chicken breast in hot oil and saute each side until lightly browned (about 30 seconds per side).
8. Place browned chicken breasts on foil-lined pan.
9. Bake in oven until internal temperate reaches 170 degrees (about 15 minutes), taking out to add 1/4 sauce and sloce of mozzerella on top half way through cooking time.

Serve on top of pasta and additional sauce.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Family Recipes

Recently, I was gracious to receive a collection of family recipes. One in particular stood out and looked not only good but fairly simple to make. This came out really good, but I didn't make enough 'sauce' (note to self: add more wine!!), so next time I'll step that part up a little. My fiance thought it was 'exceptional', which means a LOT coming from someone who can't taste it if it doesn't burn your tongue off. This recipe is from a 'cook' type person, so there are only a few measurements given for ingredients, you kind of have to make it up yourself!

Chicken Piccata over Capellini (which I have never even heard of so I just used thin linguini :-) )

~Olive oil
~1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast (I make 3 individual breasts)
~Cherry tomatoes (halved)
~White wine (I used.. about a cup? it wasn't enough)
~Butter (I used 1/2 a stick of light butter)
~Kalamata olives (pitted and cut into pieces)

Saute chicken in olive oil, capers, and a little butter until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan. Add olives and tomatoes to pan with salt and pepper. Saute until tomatoes soften, about 5-7 minutes. De-glaze pan with white wine. Reduce wine 5 minutes, then finish with pieces of butter coated with flour, until sauce thickens. Add chicken back to pan to heat through, then serve over capellini or other pasta.


I have never cooked with pumpkin. The girls over at What's Cooking were making some really delicious sounding things, so I decided I had to try it!

First up, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (care of Musing of a Mommy).

These were really good and made the kitchen smell GREAT! I think I like them better without the cream cheese, though.

Almost-Like-Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins... on a diet

~3 cups flour (I intended to use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose, but grabbed the wrong bag at the store)
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1 tsp nutmeg
~1 tsp ground cloves
~4 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice (I used a substitution of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves in a 4:2:1:1 ratio)
~1 tsp salt
~1 tsp baking soda
~4 eggs
~2 cups sugar
~2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
~1 ¼ cups vegetable oil (I used 1 ¼ cups unsweetened applesauce)
~8 oz package cream cheese (I used 4 oz fat free and 4 oz of the 1/3 less fat variety)
~Chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans) (optional, and I didn't use them)

Place cream cheese on tinfoil, roll into a log and freeze for up to an hour. Mix ingredients together except cream cheese and nuts. Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) half full. Remove cream cheese and slice. Put 1-2 tsp cream cheese in the middle, pressing down. Sprinkle with 1 tsp chopped nuts. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin part (do not touch the cream cheese!). Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. Makes 24 muffins.

As I made them, the nutrional information per muffin is as follows:
Calories: 130
Fat: 2.3 g
Sat. Fat: 1.0 g
Cholesterol: 45 mg
Sodium: 216 mg
Potassium: 77 mg
Carbohydrates: 23 g
Fiber: 1.5 g
Sugar: 10 g
Protien: 4.2 g

Long over-due....

I'm back! I've been busy, wedding planning got in the way again.

My quest to find additional fun-things-to-bake-with-ripe-bananas lead me to a Sour Cream Banana Cake recipe from Recipezaar. I made this for work... and it was really yummy! Very moist and dense... delicious!

Sour Cream Banana Cake

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4-1/3 cup crushed chocolate-covered english toffee bars
1/3 cup flour

3 small very ripe mashed bananas
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, salted
3 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream

Set oven to 350 degrees. Set oven rack to second-lowest position. Grease a
13 x 9-inch baking pan.

To make topping: in a small bowl, mix together the confectioners sugar and 1/3 cup flour. Rub the butter in the flour mix with your fingertips to make a crumb mixture. Stir in the caramel chips, set aside.

In a small bowl, mash (do not mix with a mixer) the bananas; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In another bowl, with an electric mixer (if you have a heavy-duty stand mixer attach the paddle attachment) and cream the butter and sugar very well until soft (about 6 minutes). Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and the vanilla. Add in banana, sour cream, and all dry ingredients, mix on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Transfer to prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the cake batter. Bake for about 45-50 minutes.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Platinum Chef Challenge #5, Part II

So my second entry to Platinum Chef Challenge, Round 5 is a simple chicken salad with an avocado spread. The ingredients for this challenge are basil, avocado, grapes, black beans, and rice. I already posted my Black Bean and Rice "Burgers", which used three of the ingredients and left me with grapes and basil as a requirement in this dish.

2 chicken breasts: boiled, cooled and shredded
about 10 seedless red grapes, quartered
avocado spread, added to your preferred consistency

Avocado Spread
1/2 an avocado, peeled/diced
1/8 cup mayo (i use Miracle Whip)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 cup fresh basil

To make spread, combine avocado, mayo, lemon juice, and basil in a food processor, blend until smooth. Add to chicken and grapes and mix until combined. (The amount of spread made by this recipe was the perfect amount for me to combine the chicken and grapes). Sandwich between bread or in a wrap, and enjoy!

(I know it looks funny, but it really tastes good!)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Platinum Chef Challenge, Round 5

So I missed a few of the last challenges. Wedding planning had me pretty busy, and creatively, I was tapped out. This round certainly looked like something I could handle, and I was ready to get back in the swing of being creative in the kitchen. So, grapes, avocado, basil, black beans, and rice, here we go!

Today, I present my first entry: Black Bean and Rice "Burgers"
Yield: 4 burgers


  • 1 cup mexican rice (recipe follows)
  • 1 (15 0z) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 tsp Franks hot sauce
  • 2-3 tsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 2-3 oz Monterey Jack with Jalapeno cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 an avocado, peeled and thinly sliced


Mash the beans with a potato masher or instrument of your choice (I used an immersion blender, which purees most of it and leaves some chunks). Add remaining ingredients except cheese and avocado. Mix with hands or spoon, just until blended. Score with hand or spoon to mark off 4 even portions. Divide one portion in half, making two thin patties. Place a thin slice (or slices, depending on the shape of your cheese) over one patty, then top with the other. Press around the edges to join the two patties (and hopefully keep the cheese IN the burger and not all over the grill :-) ). Repeat with 3 remaining portions to make 4 burgers. Grill over 'medium' heat (our grill doesn't have a numeric temperature gauge) for 5 or so minutes per side, until browned and cheese is melted (and possibly oozing out the sides).

Top with slices of avocado, toss on a bun and enjoy! These are a tad spicy, so if you'd prefer them more on the tame side, reduce/eliminate the Franks and/or cayenne. In this respect, the avocado is a perfect accompaniment to cool your taste buds a bit! :-)
Mexican Rice



Heat vegetable oil in saucepan. Add onion, over low-medium heat, 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add rice, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes until rice is browned. Add water (watch out, it will sizzle!) and bouillion, bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer, until water is absorbed and rice is cooked, about 30 minutes. This makes just over 1 cup of rice.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Pineapple Banana Bread

My fiance eats a lot of bananas, so I try to keep a constant rotating supply in the house. Some weeks, he just doesn't eat them all, and I take that as an excuse to bake. The last few times, I've scoured out some pretty yummy non-banana-bread recipes. This week, I decided to stick with traditional banana bread. Then that can of crushed pineapple in the pantry started calling my name....

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg. Add sugar, butter, applesauce, bananas, and pineapple, beat on medium until well-blended. Sift together flour, baking sode, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then slowly add to the banana mixture. Beat on low until well-blended, but be sure not to overbeat. Grease and flour (or use Pam for Baking spray, or parchement paper) a loaf pan and pour in mixture. The original recipe calls for baking 50-60 minutes. I divided this batter into 4 mini loaf pans, so I watched them and checked with toothpicks until done, which was about 40 minutes.

Pineapple Banana Bread

(Original Banana Bread recipe from
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 small or 2 large bananas, very ripe, mashed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg. Add sugar, butter, applesauce, bananas, and pineapple, beat on medium until well-blended. Sift together flour, baking sode, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then slowly add to the banana mixture. Beat on low until well-blended, but be sure not to overbeat. Add nuts and mix until evenly distributed. Grease and flour (or use Pam for Baking spray, or parchement paper) a loaf pan and pour in mixture. The original recipe calls for baking 50-60 minutes. I divided this batter into 4 mini loaf pans, so I watched them and check with toothpicks until done, which was about 40 minutes.

They aren't terribly "pineapple-y", but very moist! The pineapple acts to balance out the banana flavor a bit, without imparting too much distinct pineapple flavor.

A Little Japanese Inspiration...

My fiance's aunt is from Japan, so I am interested in anything and everything that she can teach me to cook. She introduced us to Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese market. I am fascinated with the place, even though I can't read the writing on 90% of the packages in the store (a few of them, thankfully, have description/directions in English!). The sake, of course, needs no translation ;-)

With her help, we've figured out what's "good" and my shopping stays pretty limited to those items. One of her recommendations is fresh ramen noodles. I don't really like it as a soup, so I've worked with it a little each time I make it, and finally have come to something I like. Inside the package is three individual servings of noodles, with three soup base packets.
Here's my rough recipe (I was not paying attention to measurements!):

  • Vegetable oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion powder
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chili powder (my fiance likes spicey!)
  • Vegetables of your choice (I used snow peas, broccoli, carrots, 1/2 to 1 cup of each)
  • Chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes (I used 2)
  • Ramen noodles (I used all three servings from the package)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Corn starch, if desired for thickening
Heat a little vegetable oil and garlic in a pan. Add the veggies and season with onion powder and chili powder, to your taste. Towards the end, I toss in some sesame seeds. Stir fry until the are cooked to your preferred level of 'done-ness'. Remove from the pan when done. Heat some more vegetable oil and garlic in the same pan. Add the chicken and season with onion powder, chili powder, salt and pepper. Again, when nearly done, I add sesame seeds.

I cooked the ramen according to the package directions (in English!), which is 1 1/2 minutes in boiling water. The soup base calls for mixing with 1 1/4 cups boiling water, but I think that is just for one serving. I was making all three, but since I wanted more of a sauce than a soup, I added about 2 cups of water to the 3 combined packets of soup base.

When the chicken is almost done, add the soup base to the pan. Add some corn starch and allow to thicken for a few minutes. Combine drained noodles, veggies, chicken and sauce, and...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Platinum Chef 4 Inspired Recipe

I don't know that I'll officially enter Platinum Chef Challenge 4, although mole would have been a perfect way to use the remaining ingredients after this creation I am presenting here today. I just never got around to figuring out how to make it (though a call to my future mother-in-law would have probably done the trick). I will, however, present my PCC4 inspired recipes over the next few days (provided they turn out good!).

I start with an original recipe, which is a huge leap for me. It was an even bigger leap because I have never cooked with sweet potatoes before, and have maybe only eaten them once in my life. This took about three batches to get it where I wanted it. I tend to be my own worst food critic, so I still feel like I should be improving on it somewhere, but I presented it to my fiance this morning. He said it was "Good", but then went back for a second one, which is a more telling sign than saying it's good. :-)

Cheesy Spicey Sweet Potato Muffins
  • 1 egg, beaten

  • ¼ cup milk (I used 2%)

  • 2 tbsp nonfat plain yogurt

  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

  • 2 tbsp sugar

  • 1 cup flour

  • ¾ cup cornmeal

  • 1 1/3 tbsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 1 ½ tsp chili powder

  • 1 cup sweet potato, shredded

  • ¼ cup cheddar cheese, shredded (I used low fat cheddar made with 2% milk)

  • ½ cup Monterey jack with jalapeno cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425F. Combine first four ingredients in medium sized bowl. Add sugar, mix. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and chili powder, mixing to combine. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing just until fully incorporated. Add the sweet potatoes and cheese, mixing just until evenly distributed through batter. I use foil muffin liners because I don’t have a muffin pan, and filled them approximately ¾ full, which made about 10 muffins. Bake for 20 minutes.

Servings Per Recipe: 10
Calories: 170 Fat: 5.5g Saturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 34mg Sodium: 435mg Potassium: 93mg Total Carbs: 24g Fiber: 1.5g Protein: 6.7g

Requested Each Weekend....

While my fiance claims not to have that much of a sweet tooth, I stumbled across a brownie recipe that he just can't get enough of. Literally. Each weekend, I ask, "What do you want me to bake for you?" The answer is always "Brownies." I found the recipe on the Nestle site, after he made a request for caramel brownies one weekend. Through his preferences, I've tweaked the recipe a bit, so I'll post it here, along with my advice on dealing with this batter.

Chocolate... no, Butterscotch Caramel Brownies
  • 1 pkg. (18.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix (I use German Chocolate cake mix)

  • 1 cup chopped nuts

  • 1 cup evaporated milk, divided (I find one 5 oz can is the perfect amount)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

  • 35 (10-oz. pkg.) caramels, unwrapped

  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I use one 11 oz bag of butterscotch morsels)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine cake mix and nuts in large bowl. Stir in 2/3 cup evaporated milk and butter (batter will be thick). Spread half of batter into ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. (I use my 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper. I try to place portions of batter around the pan, then use my hands to even it out and cover the bottom.) Bake for 15 minutes. Heat caramels and remaining evaporated milk in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted. Sprinkle morsels over brownie; drizzle with caramel mixture. Drop remaining batter by heaping teaspoon over caramel mixture. (I take portions of it in my hand, flatten it out as if I am making a burger, then place them around the pan, covering as much of the surface as I can). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into 24 squares. (Since I am working with 8x8, I cut it into 16 squares).

After making them so many times, I am starting to think the top of the brownies needs something, so I think I'll start experimenting with some sort of topping. :-)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Nutella Cupcakes

W-o-w. I'd heard people talking about Nutella before, and how amazing it is, but when faced with such fanaticism for something, I tend to be turned off to it (HP included!). Well, The Nest/What's Cooking also has its legions of Nutella fans, but after actually seeing things made with this stuff, I decided it was time to give in and just try it.

My first adventure in Nutella Land (aside from, of course, eating it off a spoon) was Nutella Cupcakes, from ladymcbth on What's Cooking.

Nutella Frosted Cupcakes
  • 10 tbsp(140 grams) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups (200 grams) sifted ap flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Nutella, approx. 1/3 cup
Preheat oven to 325F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Cream together butter and sugar until light, 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Don't worry if the batter doesn't look smooth. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin liner with batter. They should be 3/4 full, if you're not using a scoop. Top each cake with 1 1/2 tsp Nutella. Swirl Nutella in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the nutella. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Another Nestie Legend: Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie piqued my interest yesterday. My mom's chocolate chip cookies are famous in my family, and I have always wondered about how other people make them, and if any of those recipes would compare. This one gives her a run for her money. These cookies are awesome!

I decided to make the recipe as is, but before adding the chips, divide the dough in half to make a BBFCCCC cousin...

Let me present to you, the BBFC-PBOCMM-C (or Best Big, Fat, Chewy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Coconut M&M Cookie). :-)

I wasn't measuring (gasp!) when I added those extras, but for about 1/2 the dough, I added somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup of chunky peanut butter, coconut and oatmeal, and maybe 1/3 cup mini M&M's. The peanut butter and M&M's were just right, but next time I'll add more coconut and oatmeal. Yes, my kitchen will definitely be graced with their presence again!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I LOVE blondies. I'm not so big on chocolate, and typical brownies have no allure for me, but give me a blondie and I'm set. I decided to make this recipe from Baking Blonde, as it was recommended by many. I was hesitant when removing them from the oven (the recipe stresses not to overbake them) because they seemed too gooey to be "done", but I wanted them to be right because I planned on sharing them with friends. I was assured that 'gooey' is just what they are supposed to be. mmmmmmm :-)

Basic Blondies
Source: Baking Blonde

  • 8 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • Add ins: ½ to 1 cup of: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, chopped up candy bars, etc. (I used about 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup white chocolate morsels, 1/3 cup butterscotch morsels)
Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8x8" pan. Mix melted butter with brown sugar-beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Add salt, Stir in flour. Mix in any additions. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes (err on the side of caution, do NOT over bake these babies) or until set in the middle. Cool on rack before cutting.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken

This recipe is becoming legendary on What's Cooking, and given my fiance's enjoyment for anything spicy, garlicy, or limey, I knew it would be a hit at our house. I was right. :-)

I think the only thing I changed from her recipe was to also add a little crushed red pepper to the sauce (since he loves it and thinks it belongs in everything).

This was SO good. I was worried that there wouldn't enough sauce, but it just clings to the pasta like nothing else. SO GOOD!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Tonight I made something I know my fiance enjoys: Giada's Cheesy Baked Tortellini.  It's a gooey comfort dish that always hits the spot for us.  I have found that we like to use a little more cheese and add in some ground turkey or chicken, whatever we have on hand, to add some extra protein.  

Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
  • Olive oil or cooking spray
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, we like to use Puttanesca sauce
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 8 ounces purchased cheese tortellini
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella 
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8x8x2-inch baking dish.  Brown the ground turkey or chicken in a skillet over medium heat, until no longer pink. Meanwhile, whisk the sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme in a large bowl to blend. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain. Add the tortellini and browned meat to the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top the mixture with the smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.

Here is mine, ready for the oven:

And fresh out of the oven....

aaaaand on the plate:

YUM :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What to do with Bananas, Week 2

Ok, so AGAIN I ended up with nearly-over-ripe bananas. This week I had another recipe in the queue - Amber's Banana Roll with Blueberry Lemon Cream Cheese Filling. I didn't change anything except adding a little extra banana (I used two bananas). Oh, I also used half fat free and half 'regular' cream cheese. This was REALLY good. I shared this with friends - and got a recipe request!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

What to do with Bananas, Week 1

So this weekend I had the inevitable nearly-over-ripe banana situation. I did a little perusing and decided to make Deborah's White Chocolate Banana Cake. The only modification I did was to use 1/2 Butterscotch morsels and 1/2 White Chocolate morsels. It was delicious! This one will certainly remain in the "ripe banana" recipe rotation.

I must have been on a Deborah 'kick' because I was also intrigued by her Toffee Coconut Cookies. There were a few changes to this, I used half 'light' butter and half regular butter, as I have been experimenting with lately. (So far so good). I had Heath bar to break up for the toffee part, so with the chocolate there I decided to substitute the chocolate chips with (again) butterscotch morsels.

These were also a hit! Both desserts were shared with friends and devoured in short order. Both will be made again!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

New Love for Butternut Squash

Growing up, I HATED butternut squash. There wasn't enough cinnamon (or mashed potatoes for that matter) in the world to get me to eat mine. It was torture for my mother trying to me to "finish my vegetables" when squash was involved.

I haven't had butternut in years, but I was drawn to Cara's fries-made-from-sqaush. Today, I bought a butternut squash for the first time ever. I never saw my mom prepare it, so I didn't even know what it looked like inside (and I was, for some reason, surprised!). Well, as Cara suggests, I parboiled first. Then I dabbed with evoo and sprinkled with some homemade Essence. (Looking at Cara's blog, I now realized I didn't put them in the ice bath after parboiling.... no worries, they were no worse for wear). I fired up non-other than my toaster oven (just lazy, really) and put them at about 375 degrees F for maybe 20 minutes.

These are SERIOUSLY good. I don't know if it's just because essence may quite effectively void all other flavors, but it did NOT taste like my mother's butternut squash. There is a new squash lover out there, all thanks to Cara.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th!

The 4th was a low-key day for us this year. I made my favorite for the 4th: my mom's chicken kabobs. I paired it with some rosemary potatoes, roasted on the grill.

Chicken (or beef!) Kabobs:
2 lbs chicken or beef, cut to 'kabob' size :-)
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp salad oil
1 tsp garlic (about 1 clove)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
few dashes of worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients and marinate overnight, refigerated. Skewer kabobs, grill til cooked through.

For the potatoes, I cut red potatoes down about about 1" cubes. I tossed with some extra-virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I wrapped them in a foil packet and placed on the grill. After about 30 minutes, I added some chopped zucchini that also had been rubbed with evoo, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I let them finish cooking about 20 more minutes.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

WC Platinum Chef Challenge, Round 2!

So it's time for round 2 of the What's Cooking Platinum Chef Challenge (currently hosted by Bensbabe823 at Cara's Cravings). The ingredients this time around are corn, cheese, pepper, blueberries, and citrus. I had lots of ideas on how to use them spread across two dishes, but ultimately ended up putting them all in one: an appetizer. In the spirit of Aunt Sandy, I also am presenting a cocktail.

So, first things first: Blueberry Martini. This wonderful martini mix is courtesy of Stirrings. Initially, my local liquor store did not carry the blueberry mix, but I asked for it and a week later they had a shelf stocked. :-)

  • 2 parts Stirrings Wild Blueberry Martini mix
  • 1 part citrus vodka (I used Skyy Limon)
  • 3-4 blueberries (frozen ones sink, fresh ones float....I like sinking better)

Combine mix and vodka on ice; shake. Pour over blueberries in chilled martini glass.

Ok, onto the food! I've been wanting to make something with wontons, so I decided to make a mexican style filling and include the blueberries to give a sweetness that would balance the onion and pepper.

Sweet and Spicy Wontons
  • one can (11oz) corn
  • 2/3 cup blueberries (I used fresh and halved them)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1-2 cups 4 cheese mexican blend (I wanted them to be cheesy, so I mixed some in the filling, then added some on top just before closing the wontons.)
  • approx 30 wonton wraps

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients (except wonton wraps) in bowl. Drop spoonfuls of mixture in center of wonton wrap. Sprinkle extra cheese if desired. Dot edge of wrap with water, fold up to seal into a pocket. Place on baking sheet lined with non-stick foil (or parchment or cooking spray).

Here are mine, ready for the oven:
Bake wontons at 400 degrees F for approx. 10 -12 minutes, until wontons are crisp.
Here is the finished product! My fiance actually was brave enough to try my creation after I made a small first batch. His response was that I should make more :-)