Saturday, October 19, 2013

Melaney's French Dip

What cookin'?
My friend Melaney sent me this recipe last week.  I was already prepped for making BBQ short ribs in the slow cooker, so I set the recipe aside for this weekend.  I just got home from Wegmans and it's simmering now.  Within an hour my house is gonna smell soooo goood.
Here it is, exactly as she sent it to me.  I used top steak instead of chuck roast. 

2 cups water

½ cup soy sauce

4 whole peppercorns

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. garlic powder or one minced garlic clove

3 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of all fat.

Combine water, soy sauce, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and garlic in a slow cooker, stirring until well blended. Place roast in crockpot and cover.

Cook on high for 5-6 hours or until beef is tender. Remove meat from broth and shred with a fork. Serve beef on rolls. Pour broth in small bowls for dipping. Good topped with Swiss cheese or sautéed onions, peppers or both.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Another dinner party!


Late 2012

pork tenderloin dish

Crockpot Bean soup a la Mark Bittman

Whoops, this is still empty.  Come back later... 

Perfect Pot Roast


1 onion, sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 (2 1/2 pound) boneless beef chuck roast
1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 package dry beef gravy mix
1 package ranch dressing mix

1 package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1/2 cup water, or as needed

5 whole peeled carrots (optional)


1.Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray. Spread the onion slices out into the bottom of the cooker.

2.Spread the flour out onto a work surface. Sprinkle the chuck roast with salt and black pepper, and roll the roast in the flour to coat all sides. Using the edge of a small, sturdy plate, pound the flour into the meat. Place the floured roast into the cooker on top of the onions. Whisk together beef gravy mix, ranch dressing mix, and Italian dressing mix in a bowl, and whisk the mixes with water until smooth. Pour over the chuck roast. Distribute carrots around the meat.

3.Cover the cooker, set to Low, and cook until the roast is tender and the gravy has thickened, about 8 hours.

Peanut Butter Noodles

This came from 


8 ounces spaghetti (next time I will use udon noodles)
1 bunch green onions, sliced (white parts only)

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root (I used ginger paste)

1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1.Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until done. Drain.

2. Combine oil and onions in a small skillet. Saute over low heat until tender. Add ginger; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes.

3.Toss noodles with sauce.
I threw some lightly salted peanuts on top of the pasta.
Another recipe I found used chicken broth, chile paste, honey and garlic in the sauce mixture.  I will add those the next time, they seem like a good addition.

Peach Blueberry Crisp

I made the below using a combination of two recipes.  One of them had a really good peach filling/mixture (I added the blueberries, you don't need to have them) and the other had a much easier rendition of the topping.  I made a few tiny changes and voila.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the filling:   Toss the peaches in a large bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
4-5 fresh peaches, pitted and cut into chunks

1 lemon, zested and juiced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh blueberries to taste (1/2 cup or more)

Pinch kosher salt

For the topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl using a pastry cutter or fork until evenly crumbled. Fold the rolled oats into flour mixture; sprinkle and press topping into peaches.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup cold butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

1.Arrange peach mixture evenly in an baking dish (I used a 12 inch oval).

2.  Sprinkle and press topping into peaches.

3.Bake in the preheated oven until topping is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

International Potluck Day - more Mac and Cheese (baked)

When was the last time you made mac and cheese from scratch twice in one week?  This is a first for me.  I rarely make it, ever.  The crockpot mac and cheese was fantastic and I would have made it again for the potluck lunch but my crockpot still had mac and cheese in it. 

In reference to the title, at work, we have an annual International Potluck Day in which each person makes something from their country and shares it.  Everyone looks forward to this day each year.  The food is amazing.  Inevitably one wag brings in a platter of McDonald's hamburgers.  I opted to make the mac and cheese this year. 

Here is the recipe which I cobbled together from two recipes:

Mac and cheese:

·         16 oz (one box) uncooked elbow macaroni

·         4 tablespoons butter

·         About 12-14 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese

·         2 eggs, beaten

·         1/2 cup sour cream

·         1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cheddar cheese soup

·         1 cup whole milk

·         One tablespoon dry mustard

·         1/2 teaspoon black pepper

·         1/2 teaspoon salt


·         3 tablespoons butter

·         1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


·         Boil the macaroni until al dente, drain.

·         In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and mix in the grated cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. 

·         Add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well.

·         Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a large casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.  I forgot to set aside some grated cheddar cheese to put on the mixture but I had leftover grated gruyere cheese. 

·         Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chicken Salad with cherries and almonds (AKA the lightbulb came on about organization)

Good morning

In the quest to become more organized while cooking, and, not waste as much food, I had the brilliant idea this weekend that when I bought foods that lent themselves to the sous-chef treatment, I would pre-prep them the minute I got home and put them in containers. 

I have been so much better in the past year about buying non-processed foods.  I wasn't all that bad before.  For instance, I almost never would buy frozen packaged foods, but, I did buy more boxed food than I do these days.  I still buy canned foods but I figure those have minimal processing especially if you label read. 

However, buying fresh means you gotta start eating them right away.  And not lose interest in them.  My theory is that I'd buy all this good stuff, but since my food planning is non-existent - primarily "last minute" ideas, I'd open the fridge, see everything still in wrapping (like celery, cauliflower, rotisserie chicken) and pass it over in favor of something easy.

So, tada.  My Sunday afternoon, after a lovely brunch with friends, consisted of food shopping and when I got home, a glass of chardonnay and some food prep.  In addition to making my crock pot mac and cheese (posted yesterday) I also chopped and bagged the celery, chopped and stored the fresh mango, and shredded the rotisserie chicken.  All in containers, waiting to be used.

And just now, moments ago, I decided to make easy chicken salad for a sandwich at lunch.  Pulled out the chicken, ready to go.  Pulled out the celery, ready to go.  I buy dried cherries like they are going out of style, and I always have almonds and walnuts handy.  The almonds are toasting. 

A little fresh lemon, some mayonnaise (not from scratch, that will be another time), and it's all tossed together.  I'm hoping this organization will pay off - I hate wasting food. 


Rotisserie chicken, shredded
Chopped celery (as much or little as you like)
Handful of dried cherries
Toasted Almonds
Lemon juice

Toss it all together.  I imagine some onion would have been good, too.

For contrast, here was one item from the fantastic Sunday brunch at Orso:

Bacon Sticky Buns!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Warning - this is not low fat.  It is however sinfully good.

2 cups uncooked macaroni
4 tablespoonsbutter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheese (I used gruyere, which probably isn't all that sharp)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard  (what's with all the mac and cheese recipes that use dried mustard?)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan until tender. Drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts.  Gruyere will be very goopy. 
In a crock pot, combine the cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well.

After all the above is combined, add drained macaroni and stir again.

Cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.  I cooked it on low - second to highest setting.
 Soooo good but soooo bad for you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Marinara sauce

Today was a big cooking day. 

Yesterday I went to the farmer's market and picked up a haul -and not just produce, either. After lunch with a friend, I bought some gourmet olive oil - from a store called "Ah Love Oil". It was blood orange infused and I was sold as soon as the assistant mentioned that she makes almond coffee cake using it.

So this morning I made blueberry muffins from scratch using the blood orange olive oil and almond extract. They have a sugar/cinnamon/flour/butter crumb topping.  I already posted this recipe.

Lunch was:
Salmon with a generous helping of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. In a baking pan, 30 minutes at 375.
Corn on the cob, in tin foil, olive oil/salt/pepper and wrapped up. In oven next to baking pan.
Lotta fresh squeezed lemon on the salmon when it came out.

Now,  I am making marinara sauce from those gorgeous tomatoes I bought yesterday.

I cut them up while olive oil and a whole lotta garlic was simmering.  A whole lotta means almost an entire small jar of the minced garlic in olive oil. 

I also threw in a handful of the sweet cherries I bought yesterday, also cut up, instead of any sugar.    Douse it good with white wine.  I think I used almost 3/4 of a cup.  I just poured.


Olive oil, a whole lotta garlic, white wine, tomatoes, and the sweet cherries and it's all simmering down. I should have bought some bread, I forgot. That would be great on crusty bread.


Blueberry muffins made with blood orange olive oil

Trying to play catch up on this blog.  It's futile, but I try.

I made blueberry muffins this morning and used blood orange olive oil (instead of regular) and also almond extract.  This recipe was fantastic.  The crumb topping mix could almost be halved, though.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

I used Blood Orange Olive Oil, and, added almost a teaspoon of almond extract.


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).     Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners. 

2.  Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder.   Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup.   Mix this with flour mixture.   Fold in blueberries.   Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture. 

3.  To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.   Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking. 

4.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done. 

He-man Chili

So, I got this recipe from an internet forum and I can't name the person who posted it because he'd probably kill me. Especially since when I cooked it, I changed it.  First, his recipe, next, what I did with it.


2 lbs Ground Venison
2 15 oz cans Diced Tomatoes
2 medium Onions, chopped
1 medium Green Pepper, chopped
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon ground Cumin
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
1 tablespoon Pepper Sauce (I likeTabasco Chipolte)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 bayleaf
1 finely minced Habanero
I'll usually use beef stock as my liquid, but water with a bit of bullion in it will suffice
Saute onions and garlic in a pan over medium heat. Add ground venison and brown. Add spices to mixture and transfer to crockpot. Place remaining ingredients in crockpot. Stir. Cook on low 8-10 hours, or high 4-6 hours. Enjoy!

Hamburger not venison
Fire-roasted tomatoes
RED pepper.  I hate green pepper.  Blech.
No pepper sauce
No habanero
I didn't need any liquid at all.  I didn't drain the burger after I sauteed it all, though, and there was a lot of grease in it.
Crockpot was maybe 3 hours, tops.

It could have used some beans.  Heh.  It was very good and one of the few times I actually did freeze some leftovers - and ate them the following week, too.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Santa Fe Chicken Chili (Gluten Free Goddess)

Good morning!  Long time no post. 

I don't have gluten issues, to my knowledge, but a coworker does and she raved about this to me.  So, last week I decided to give it a try.  It's very easy, and I wonder if it would be even easier if you baked the yam ahead of time - easier cutting.  I liked it a lot and the yam is a nice touch.  Don't forget to get FIRE ROASTED tomatoes, not regular diced tomatoes.

I have to wonder though - isn't chili pretty much gluten free anyway?

Copied directly:
You can easily make this recipe in your favorite slow cooker or Crock Pot, following manufacturer's instructions for chili or soup using cooked (canned) beans. Add the cooked chicken and lime juice near the end of cooking time, to keep it tender and fresh tasting. Vegans take note: make this vegan with your favorite veggie "sausage" or crumbled "burger" instead of chicken.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cumin, to taste
1/4-1 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle pepper, to taste
1 sweet potato, peeled, diced
2 15-oz. cans pinto or white beans, rinsed, drained
1 28-oz. can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes, with juice
8-oz. (1 cup) chopped roasted green chilies- mild or hot
2 cups chicken broth, more if needed
1 tablespoon balsamic or apple cider vinegar
A small drizzle of agave
2 heaping cups cooked chicken pieces- hand torn looks nice
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and warm the olive oil; cook the onions until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and spices and stir for a minute.

Add the diced sweet potato, beans, tomatoes, green chiles, broth, balsamic vinegar, and agave. Stir gently to combine it all.

Bring it to a simmer and lower the heat; cover and cook the chili for 30 minutes or so until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add a touch more liquid if you need to. Add the cooked chicken and some lime juice.

Taste test and adjust the seasonings - more heat? More lime? A tad more sweetness? Good chili has a balance of these flavors.

Warm through and serve when you are ready.

If the chili thickens too much thin it with broth; if the chili becomes too thin cook it longer with the lid off to reduce the liquid.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peach Curry Glazed Pork Chops

Happy Thanksgiving!

I did not make these for today, I made them last weekend.  I'm only just now getting around to putting it online.

In truth, once I made this dish, I was much more interested in the peach curry sauce than the pork chops.  I plan to make this sauce/dressing a lot.  It's amazing. 

1/2 cup sliced syrup-packed peaches,
drained, syrup reserved
3 tablespoons peach jam
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 boneless pork chops
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a bowl, mix the reserved peach syrup, peach jam, Dijon mustard, curry powder, and honey.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the pork chops 8 minutes, or to desired doneness.
Mix the green onions into the skillet, and cook 1 minute, until tender. Spoon the syrup mixture and peaches over the pork chops. Continue cooking until heated through. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.

What I did:

I left out the green onions, and while I had bought cilantro I completely forgot about it when it came time to eat.  I used olive oil to get the pork chops started.  I let them cook for 30 minutes on medium-low heat, covered.

The sauce was absolutely the star of the show and I used it all week for salads. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kinda Sorta Tom Ka Gai

My friend Mellen emailed me this recipe and I made it last night.  Sooo easy - hardly any chopping at all.  Her recipe is first and I included my changes below it.  It turned out really well and seems more like soup than a thick sauce. 

1 poached chicken breast, shredded
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small onion, sliced thin
1.5 cups chicken broth
1 can (or a bit less) coconut milk (NOT the sweetened kind - made that mistake once!)
1 stalk lemon grass, tender, chopped fine
1 can Thai red curry (could use any kind)
1Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Cilantro for garnish. Chopped peanuts if you like, too.

Sautée the onion and pepper, then dump everything in and stir it well and simmer for 1/2 hour or so. Serve over rice or rice noodles.

What I changed:

I put three chicken breasts in a huge skillet with a fair bit of olive oil and steamed it in there for 30 minutes.  I took them out and put them in a covered container. 

I used an entire red bell pepper.
I used maybe 2 cups of chicken broth.
I used half a small jar of Thai red curry paste.
I forgot to buy cilantro.
I remembered to buy peanuts but forgot to use them as a garnish.
I cut one breast into tiny pieces and threw it back in the soup mixture for the 30 minute simmer.  It was lost in all that liquid, I could easily have used two or three breasts.

Excellent soup over rice.  The only thing missing to make it actual Tom Ka Gai appears to be ginger. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cuban Black Bean Stew (Martha Stewart)

Martha Stewart helped me cook tonight - and bonus, this qualifies as vegan.

This is fantastic!  Do not forget the cider vinegar, it's vital.  You can smell it a mile away.  I didn't use oregano.  I squeezed lime into my bowl of "stew", and crumbled lime tortilla chips on top.  I intended to use avocados but the one I bought was too hard.  There were no squishy ones, alas.  Maybe by this wkd it will be ready to slice on top. 


  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), chopped
  • 2 cans (19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Garnishes (optional): lime wedges, fresh cilantro, and sliced radishes


  1. Prepare rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add beans, broth, vinegar, and oregano. Cook, mashing some beans with the back of a spoon, until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Fluff rice with a fork. Serve beans over rice, with garnishes, if desired.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Easy PEAsy Risotto (Barefoot Contessa)

I saw this on the Barefoot Contessa last week and had to make it.  I haven't had risotto in ages.  This recipe is as easy as it looks and it's just fantastic.  You don't stand and stir it, you bake it in the oven.  The final touch is a bag of frozen peas - yes, frozen.  Not thawed.


* 1.5 cups Arborio rice
* 5 cups simmering chicken stock, divided into four cups and one cup.
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
* 2 teaspoons kosher salt (I only put in one teaspoon and felt it was pretty salty, so try using only one)
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven.  I used my Le Creuset.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt and pepper, and stir vigorously for two to three minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy.

Add the peas and stir until heated through.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala


Barefoot Contessa - my first recipe

This was sooooo easy, and so good.  I'm now hooked on her show. 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 French Baguette, cut into cubes (I just used my fingers and pulled them apart)
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced (I used tomatoes on the vine)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (I always use the pre-minced ones, in olive oil)
  • large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped (I bought an entire plant.  Which died in my fridge afterwards).
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, grated (I forgot this)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and grease an oven dish. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet, on medium high heat, and place in the cubed baguette pieces. Coat each cubed baguette with the oil and let it brown on all sides, season with salt and pepper.
2. Stir in the diced roma tomatoes and the minced garlic. Let the tomatoes cook down for a good 3 minutes or so. Quickly add in the handful of roughly chopped fresh basil and stir in the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Take the tomato and bread mixture off the heat and pour it into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the fresh mozzarella cheese and bake it in the oven for a good 20 minutes or until golden brown.

I put the parm on just before it went into the oven, and no mozz.

It was great out of the oven, reheating it not so much.

This is more or less like lazy bruschetta.

Split Pea Soup, from scratch


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Blueberry yam casserole

You read it here first.  Talk about an anti-oxidant, Vit A punch!

It is still in the oven so I cannot say if it is a success.

I found the recipe on the can of yams I bought around Thanksgiving.  Very easy:

Two cans of blueberry pie filling
Can of yams
Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes
Top with brown sugar and walnuts.

However, I used "fresh frozen" blueberries, thawed, with 3/4 c of sugar, 3 T of cornstarch, 3 T of water, half T of lemon juice, 1/2 t each of cinnamon and nutmeg for the blueberries.

Also, my two bags of brown sugar (unopened!) were rocks so I threw them out and luckily had tiny marshmallows in the pantry.  Along with lots of walnuts.

So, we shall see....

Sauteed spinach or kale

Well hello there everyone

I'm still alive, and still eating, but really, really lazy.

I don't think 2012 will be the year for success (especially if the Mayans are correct) but I feel I should at least post some occasional new things here.

I've recently started eating bagged greens, sauteed, once a week.

Lots of olive oil, minced garlic, and an entire bag of either spinach or kale.  It cooks wayyyyyy down and it's quite tasty and filling.  However you will wake up at 6 AM totally ravenous!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaack! (Chicken Tagine with Apricots)

I cooked a new recipe tonight!  In fact, I had another bright idea that I hesitate to say out loud because of the debacle this "52 meals in one year" idea has turned out to be.  What is this, three (four??) years in a row I've tried to actually cook 52 new things?  The heck with a schedule of cooking once a week, I just wanna do this once, no matter what it takes - even if I have to cook 52 meals during the month of December!

I really don't understand how Julie (of Julie and Julia fame) managed to cook EVERY THING in Julia Child's cookbook in one year.  That was, what, over 500 recipes?  She cooked something new every bloody night?  Actually it would be roughly ten new things a week.  Do the math!  Three nights a week she made two new things?  How much money did she spend on ingredients not to mention utensils?  If she really did this, and wasn't fudging it, a hat tip to her.  Not just any old hat, either. 

So, my new idea (loosely based on Julie and Julia):

I am going to TRY (cough cough) to cook every recipe in David Lebovitz's book "The Sweet Life in Paris".  I just finished reading it today (fantastic book), and while reading the stories I skimmed each recipe in the book.  Many of them seem quite easy - a lot of ingredients, and in some cases perhaps time consuming, but easy nonetheless.

The one I made tonight was Chicken Tagine with Apricots (and blanched almonds, and a whole lotta spices).

The question remains:  who will play David, and who will play me, in the movie?  hahaha

I will post the actual recipe here shortly.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vanilla. Roasted. Pears.

This recipe came from Smitten Kitchen!  I only used one pear and I didn't have any vanilla beans handy so I used bottled vanilla.  I eyeballed her recipe and cut down the amounts, but not very precisely.  Even if you don't like pears, this is sure to please. Drizzle the sauce over whipped cream.

Here is her recipe:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds slightly-under-ripe, fragrant, medium pears, peeled if desired, halved though the stem and cored
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar.

Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut-side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle with the sugar. Nestle the vanilla pod among the fruit. Pour the water into the dish. Dot each pear with some butter.

Roast the pears 30 minutes brushing them occasionally with the pan juices. Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer (if the pears are small, test for doneness after 35 or 40 minutes of cooking; a paring knife poked into the thickest part of one should meet with no resistance).

Sunday, December 12, 2010


To anyone who may be reading...  I am calling defeat for 2010.  Conceding.  Giving it up.

As the name of my blog might hint, I am trying to cook 52 brand new meals in one year.  One year - not every year, just one bloody year.  Is that too hard?  Apparently it is.  I started this little endeavor in 2008 if memory serves, and each year I bump up against 20 and that is it.  This year, I will hit twenty-six.  So I guess that is progress. 

Please don't think that because I cannot do this, that I am a sylph-like rail, or that I have a whirlwind social life.  Neither is the case.  My excuse runs along the lines of "I don't plan very well, and I work just late enough that a grocery store run gets me home too late to actually feel like being creative."  I think planning is the more important part because if I just planned something easy I'd be able to do it.  Or maybe I am just lazy.  That is probably it, actually. 

I started the year so well!  I was just about on track until late April (suspiciously, the season when it's lighter later and things warm up...) and then I fell behind.  And more behind.  And then eye surgery.  Then some travel.  And more travel.  Wah wah wah. 

So here it is, December.  I have to write my Xmas cards, and go shopping, and do all those Xmasy things.  And the page will turn, and it will be January 1, again, and I will try yet again to hit 52.  Lest you think all is lost, there are some positives here.  I eat better than I did 3 years ago - this entire year I have had Kraft Mac and Cheese TWICE only.  Fresher foods, fewer searches for the can opener.  Oh wait, did you think I didn't cook at all?  No no no no no.  I just gravitate to the same things - easy things I've picked up over the past few years...  ah.  Maybe this was worth it after all. 

Here are some photos of what I DID do this year.  Enjoy.

January:  Nags Head

February: SNOW!

March:  Florida with family (parents, brother, niece/nephew)

April:  Meadowlark Gardens

May:  Learning how to sail using the old screwdriver/card/wine glass technique.  First and only lesson!

June:  They call him the Rap, Rap, Rap, Rap, Raptor!

July:  Swiss Bliss (also Italy).  AKA Dad hikes hard-core trails in Switzerland 4 months after a broken hip.  Mom poses at one of her favorite places on earth...

August:  I got a really bad jellyfish sting, and it turned into cellulitis.  It's too gross to show here, so, I will show you a photo of my new shoes instead.

September:  Visitied Mom and Dad over Labor Day weekend.  Kiddos are running across lawn.

October:  Visited Big Sur/Monterey Peninsula, also, hiked Machu Picchu (two photos here).

November:  Vienna

December:  Nothing online yet!  So here is a photo of us toasting Venice.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And tonight's meal is...

Spanish Fried Rice.  This came from All Recipes dot com.

As usual, I varied from the actual recipe.  Here goes:

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper (NO BLECH)
1 (14.5 ounce) can canned tomatoes
1 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/2 cup chile sauce (I just sprinkled a bunch of chile powder on top)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar (the stuff I had was hard as a brick - no go)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (out of date - tossed)
1 pinch ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I have gruyere...)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (didn't buy)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain excess fat and transfer beef to a large pot over medium low heat.. Stir in the onion, green bell pepper, tomatoes, water, rice, chile sauce, salt, brown sugar, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and ground black pepper.

Let this simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then transport this to a 2-quart casserole dish. Press down firmly and sprinkle with the shredded Cheddar cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

(NUMBER TWENTY-THREE in 2010)  Yes I realize I am behind.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

French Onion Soup

I last made this well over a year ago.  Fall is coming in, and this is so hearty and so good.  You might need scissors to cut the cheese as you spoon it out, though!

In my blog-goal news:  I am so very far behind I'm worried I may not catch up.  Only three months left in the year and I have three vacations planned before the end of November (short ones, mind you, but even being away for a week takes a toll on meeting the goal).  Out of 52 meals I should have cooked this year, I may only be at about 20 or so.  32 totally new meals have to be cooked in the next three months.  For me, this is a dizzying pace.  Those of you who are chortling as you read this, have a heart please. 

The recipe:
6 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups of beef stock or chicken stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
Salt and pepper
8 slices of toasted French bread
1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, saut the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30 minutes. Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

Add garlic and saut for 1 minute. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprink with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "will I ever catch up" posting

I just realized I am making something new tonight.  It doesn't feel new, but I haven't blogged about it yet so it must be new.

This recipe comes from my Savannah cookbook.  One of my many Savannah cookbooks.  It is called Honey Lime Chicken.

You may be surprised to find out that it contains Honey, Lime, and Chicken.  Also soy sauce.  You put all the ingredients into a gallon ziplock baggie and shake it, then refrigerate it for 45 minutes (while you watch the Daily Show that you had Tivo'd the night before) and when it comes out stick the chicken in a cake pan and squirt more honey on top, then stick it in the oven at 425.

Technically I am winging this recipe because it is supposed to be grilled chicken, and, I didn't measure any ingredients out.  I just threw it together.  I'm not even sure how long chicken should bake at 425 so this will be an experiment. 

Happy eating!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peachy Keen

I recently made a blueberry/peach cobbler that is posted on Smitten Kitchen. 

Peach Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler

For the fruit
1 1/2 (about 4 cups) pounds peaches, pitted and cut into slices*
1 pint (about 2 cups) blueberries, rinsed and dried
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the biscuit topping
3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C).Toss peaches with blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in the bottom of a 2-quart ovenproof dish.

Make the biscuit dough: Stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture with your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender. Stir in buttermilk with a rubber spatula until a wet, tacky dough comes together.

Plop spoonfuls of the biscuit dough over the filling; don’t worry about covering entire surface. Bake until the cobbler’s syrup is bubbly and the biscuit tops are browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and scoop it into bowls. Top with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, of if you’re having an accidental run-in with this cobbler before noon, plain yogurt.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Plum Crazy

AKA let's make a tart. 

I found a really interesting recipe in the Washington Post food section last week.  Tomatoes.  Peaches.  Plums.  A farmer's market bounty.  All in a deep dish pie dish.  Off we go!  From Betsy Garside of Washington.


1 pound (about 3 medium) ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 pounds (2 of each) mixed peaches and red plums, peaches peeled and both fruits thinly sliced (about 3 cups
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
7 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup pecan halves
5 tablespoons chilled salted butter, cut into half-inch pieces


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a deep-dish pie plate at hand.

Combine the tomatoes and stone fruit in a large bowl. Add the sugar and cornstarch; toss to coat evenly. Pour the mixture into the pie plate.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 or 4 times, until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the chilled butter, and pulse about 5 times, just until the butter is chopped. (If you start to see clumps, stop. You're headed for cookie dough.)

Spread the topping evenly over the fruit. Transfer the pie plate to a baking sheet wide enough to catch drips.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the topping is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Would an Aubergine by any other name taste as sweet?

Eggplant...  aubergine...  melanzane...  I prefer aubergine.  It's a beautiful word and it rolls off the tongue.  Aubergine sounds sophisticated.  Colorful.  Stylish.  The word eggplant is a harsh thud - earthy and farm-fresh - and does not hint of vivid colors. 

This blog post has a dual purpose.  One:  I have conquered yet another recipe.  Two (and I hope will improve my posts from now on):  I have learned a little bit about food styling thanks to an old friend Kavey and a delightful new blog I found through Kavey's site called Culinary Travels, written by Georgina.  You can find Kavey and Georgina's links in my "food and wine porn" link list.

As luck would have it, Kavey's latest blog post was about a seminar she attended on food styling and photography.  Georgina had a similar recent post with detailed tips about food photography as well.  Armed with some ideas, I took some photos this evening with my Canon 30D and 35mm F1.4L lens.  A lens with a max aperture of F1.4 can have some really tight DOF shots which makes for some interesting effects.  You can also hand hold a shot with that size of aperture - no flash!

After all that, I could not decide which shot I preferred to highlight for this post.  I narrowed it down to two shots on different plates.  If you are so inclined, feel free to vote on which you like better.  Muchas Gracias!


Here is the recipe I made tonight.  Incredibly easy, delicious, and yes, crispy.  I found it here:,1750,144190-254206,00.html


2 small eggplants  (I only used one)
1/2 c. fine dry bread crumbs
2 eggs
4 tablespoons freshly minced parsley  (omitted)
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning (I used a McCormick's spice blend of garlic, onion, and a few other herbs in place of all spices listed here)
1/4 tsp. ea. celery seed, paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp. ea. garlic and onion powder
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, whole  (I used the pre-chopped-and-steeping-in-olive-oil garlic in a glass bottle).
3 tablespoons olive oil (you need more than this!)

Wash and slice eggplant and sprinkle generously with salt. Allow to sit out for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
Set out 2 shallow dishes or trays.

Into the first tray, measure bread crumbs, parsley, celery seed, 1/2 of the cheese, paprika, garlic and onion powder.
In the second tray, beat the 2 eggs well with a fork. Add the chopped parsley and the other half of the cheese.
Heat a pan with 1/4 inch olive oil. Add the garlic in whole pieces; as the oil toasts the garlic, mash it into the oil with the tines of a fork to flavor the oil; remove before browning. Meanwhile, dip the eggplant into the egg mixture, turn to coat both sides; dip and coat both sides in the bread crumb mixtures. Fry in hot olive oil over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes or until golden on both sides and eggplant is tender in center. If eggplant is later to be baked in a casserole, fry only until edges are browned as cooking will be finished in the oven.

Serve as is, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, or bake in a casserole dish for 30 minutes at 375°F topped with grated Parmesan, mozzarella and pasta sauce.  (I left out the pasta sauce for this last step).

Here is the other photo:


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Diane's Divine Ginger Cake

I am off to a party.  A big party.  With good friends and lots of food and a pool and everything.  A pig roast (smoked first - and Adam has his own smoker) with all the summer finger-licking sides you can imagine.  Home made Sangria.  Goodies Galore.  It's good to be friends with foodies!  Adam and Colleen's parties are becoming famous - word is getting out.  This time 70 people accepted.  I hope Adam starts his own catering business one day. 

So for this party I'm making a dessert.  There were many good options when I queried my friends about their favorites.  In fact I made one last night (Lime Posset - and you can bet that is going to grace one of my dinner parties this fall - see post below). 

The ginger cake tickled my fancy because of the unique ingredients.  There is even black pepper in the batter and of course fresh chopped ginger.  I think lemon curd would be fabulous on top.  I understand from Diane any fresh fruit with real whipped cream does the trick.

Below is Diane's recipe.  I am waiting for it to come out of the oven as I type.  It will still be warm when I arrive.  Which might mean digging into it sooner rather than later!

* 2 cups all-purpose flour

* 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup molasses
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar
* 3/4 cup vegetable oil
* 3/4 cup water
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled, grated, and finely chopped (from a 4-inch piece)
* 2 large eggs, at room temperature


1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with butter and flour; set aside.

2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper in a medium bowl to break up any lumps and aerate; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together molasses, sugar, and oil. (I find it's best to measure in the oil, then use the same measuring cup for the molasses -- it will slide right out because of the slight residue left by the oil)

3. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, stir in baking soda, and remove from heat and add ginger, then mix into molasses mixture.

4. Gradually stir dry ingredients into batter. Add eggs and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing the cake from the pan.

Here are some photos.  To see the whole photo, please click on them. 



Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lime Posset - and I now own ramekins!

Has it really been 3 months since I last cooked something new?  Or just since I sat my sorry lazy butt down to add to my impoverished food blog?  May 8, and here it's practically August.  Wow. 

May was interesting, to say the least.  We were supposed to leave for Italy and Switzerland on May 21.  Instead, just days beforehand, I was told I was to have emergency eye surgery (Ahmed Valve - implant) and so there went the trip.  We postponed until early July.  Not only was I out of commission for a little while, I wasn't exactly in the mood for being disciplined or creative.  Once I recuperated it was yet again with all the trip preparations for the early July trip.  We spent two delightful (but very hot, in Italy) weeks abroad - and I'm still pining for Switzerland...  Now I'm back and this weekend I'll have two new things. 

Today was a productive day, food wise.  I hit up the famer's market in Leesburg and dropped 85 bucks just like that (50 was on 3 bottles of wine - but still, ouch).  The raspberries are thus very local.  Various baked goods, some more fruit, and heavenly honey-yogurt from a local dairy.  Additionally I later bought ramekins, a spring form round cake pan, and a whisk.  I have never had a whisk nor ramekins before.  I'm moving up in the world. 

Lime Posset isn't exactly a meal?  Well sod it all, I don't care.  It has heavy cream (dairy), it has lime juice and raspberries (fruit).  I would say this dessert is well on its way to covering the food triangle.  The lime juice will prevent scurvy, too, so that's good. 

Many thanks to Mym for introducing this new word to my vocabulary.  I had never heard of this before.  She gave me the recipe but I also found it online and adapted it a little bit because her recipe uses the metric system.


1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
.5 cups sugar
3 T lime juice
Raspberries for garnish.

Bring cream and cup sugar to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly, adjusting heat as needed to prevent mixture from boiling over. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice and cool 10 minutes. Stir mixture again and divide among four ramekins. Cover and chill possets until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.  Garnish with raspberries.  A sprig of mint is a nice touch as well. 

Verdict:  sinful.  I may have used a little more sugar than is needed so the next time I will be a little less liberal with the sugar. 

Even the ramekins are lime green!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Easy Peasy Carrot Fennel Soup

I did a little bit of searching before I settled on this recipe.  The primary reason for my selection was because once I bought the fennel, I already had all of the other ingredients.  I was inspired to try this interesting combo by an old Books for Cooks recipe (book bought in London, in a little book shop in Notting Hill across the street from the travel book shop in The Movie) and then did some searching on the internet.  During that search I did in fact find another really interesting food blog, "My Man's Belly", which is now in my hall of fame to the right, too.  I plan to try Pamela's soup as well.  As always, if I vary the recipe, I write that far below. 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced; fronds reserved
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1.  In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy. Add the fennel slices and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the carrots and garlic and cook another minute. Pour in 6 cups of water and season with salt. Simmer, covered, until the carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

2.  Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the orange juice, sour cream and reserved fennel fronds. Use the back of a spoon to mash some of the carrots and fennel, but leave the soup chunky. Season with salt and pepper.

My changes:

Less water (4 cups) and in fact I was sorely tempted to use chicken stock but thought I'd give the actual recipe a shot first. 
Pre-cut thinly sliced carrots. 
Pre-minced garlic in a glass bottle (you know the kind).  In fact I also forgot to stir the darn stuff in the fennel/butter mixture which would have been better - I literally added it about 20 minutes into the last stage - the water reduction stage.
TIME:  I bet I had this simmering for an hour and a half.  I think the writer was nuts - 20 minutes would do nothing to those carrots, even the thin ones.  Let it simmer on down!
Probably closer to half a cup of sour cream.

I was skeptical, thinking it would be bland (water?) but it was actually very tasty.  This was even without settling overnight.  I am sure it will be even better tomorrow!

Let me know if you try it, I think you will like it.


Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm keen for Quinoa

Which must be like saying "I'm Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" but in a more mature way.

That is the theory, at least.  It's bubbling downstairs, I'll soon take a bite.  This is a slight break from Five Easy Pieces - to resume later this week.

Here is the recipe:

Baked Quinoa With Spinach and Cheese


1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cooked quinoa, (1 cup uncooked)
2 large eggs
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.
2. Heat a medium frying pan or a wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Wash the spinach and without spinning dry, add to the pan and wilt in the liquid left on the leaves after washing. You may have to do this in 2 batches. As soon as the spinach wilts, remove from the heat and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry and chop. Set aside.
3. Wipe the pan dry and heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir with the onion until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the quinoa, the onion and spinach mixture, the Gruyère, and the sage. Add freshly ground pepper and stir the mixture together. Scrape into the gratin dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake until nicely browned on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for about 5 minutes, and serve.

Advance preparation: The cooked quinoa will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. The recipe can be made through Step 3 several hours or even a day ahead. The gratin can be assembled several hours ahead.

The verdict?  On paper, it looks like it should be amazing.  It's not bad, but something is missing.  It's a little bland.  Maybe the spinach makes it taste too healthy (or the quinoa). 

The recipe called for salt and I didn't use it (I figured I could do that afterwards if I wanted it) and perhaps cooking with salt (instead of sprinkling it on after) is important... also, I forgot until the last second that I needed to rinse the quinoa and I don't think I managed to strain it adequately afterwards and as a result I think there was too much water - I may have overcooked it a little. I ended up straining the result! I know you are supposed to cook it until it's fluffy like rice. Next time I am buying a sieve - colanders have big holes.

It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I expected. I already doled out my portion for lunch so we'll see if settling overnight helped to set the flavors in.  Also, I work with a number of Peruvians, I'll inquire with the experts.

Next day:  leftovers were much, much better.

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