Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A morning at Williams Sonoma

For our anniversary, Pat's parents gave us a gift card to Williams Sonoma and I got to go use it today!

Some of the things I bought were practical items that I've been keeping my eye on, such as the salad spinner, extra spatula, silpat baking mats, and cake keeper. The train sandwich-shaper and little cupcake containers were little splurges. ;)

Thank you again!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

My second encounter with the ice cream maker didn't go quite as smoothly as my first, but it wasn't too bad.

I am not having luck finding Ben & Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream, so I figured I'd make my own!

I couldn't find a recipe, so I combined one for cheesecake ice cream that I found on the Food Network along with the one for pumpkin ice cream that came with the machine.

I did use light cream and whole milk in place of the heavy cream and light cream, but the consistency was by far icier than when I made it last time. I actually had to let the container sit out for a good half hour before I could even scoop it out.

The taste, however, was freaken fantastic!!

  • 1 1/2 cups light cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 8oz cream cheese (low fat is okay, but avoid fat-free), softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
1. Freeze bowl of machine for 24 hours.
2. Scald light cream in heavy saucepan. Whisk yolks, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream; add the spice. Return to saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes; do not boil. Remove from heat. Whisk in the heavy cream and the pumpkin. Strain into bowl; refrigerate until well chilled.
3. Assemble ice cream maker according to manufacturer. Turn to the proper setting ("stir" for a KA Mixer attachment). Using a container with a spout, pour mixture into freeze bowl. Continue on "stir" for 15 to 20 minutes or until desired consistency. Immediately transfer ice cream to serving dishes, or freeze in airtight container.

Those of you with kiddies...

(Forgive the non-cook-ness of this post...)

If you are interested in some free things for your wee one, check out this blog!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Crispy Parmesan Ranch Crusted Green Beans

These Green Beans from Picky Palate were so awesome and easy to make!

I don't even know what to say about these, really; simple and delicious.

Ryan went absolute bonkers over these. He ate about a billion! I asked him I could take a picture of him eating his beans, and he actually paused and POSED for me. He even said, "Cheese!"

(Yes. He's in his pajamas. Yes, he'd been in them all day. Yes, I was too. Your point??)

  • ¾ Cup prepared Ranch Dressing
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ Cups panko bread crumbs
  • ½ Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • A shake or two of Italian Seasoning
  • ½ lb washed and trimmed fresh green beans

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine ranch dressing and egg together in a shallow dish. Combine panko, parmesan, salt and pepper in a separate shallow dish. Lightly dip beans into ranch dressing. Press into crumb mixture then place onto a parchment lined baking sheet (they’ll stick to the pan if not, even if sprayed with cooking spray). Do this process until all beans have been coated. Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is crispy and golden. Let cool for 3 minutes then serve.

Worst. Dinner. Ever.

Tonight was, by far, the absolute most disastrous dinner attempt. I am only blogging about this in the hope that someday, I will look back on this and laugh.

I tried my hand at home-made gnocchi once, and I was relatively successful. So I felt somewhat ready to brave this recipe for Spinach Gnocchi with Blush Sauce.

Two hours later, I found myself near tears, cooking Ronzoni pasta while staring at potato play-doh and sauce the consistency of pudding.

I have NO idea what happened to the gnocchi, but after cooking/draining, this is what was left behind, oozing out of the holes of the colander:


I followed the recipe for the sauce to the letter. The letter!! And yet it was this absolute disgusting blob in a pot. I actually tried to thin it out by adding some crushed tomatoes and another cup of milk; nope. It didn't taste too bad, actually, but the consistency was just too weird.

I'm not even going to bother posting the recipe. Don't try it. It was awful. If you are that interested, click on the link above, but consider yourself properly warned.

Chicken with New Potatoes and Spinach

I found this Sandra Lee recipe on Brooke's blog and couldn't wait to use it. I feel like this has been Brooke Week... although, rarely does a week go by that I DON'T pilfer one of her recipes...! (I actually decided to give her her own tag!)

Anyway, my mom was watching Ryan for the day since I had Back-to-School-Night at work. I was just going to stay at school all evening and not bother coming home in between, so I set up the crockpot so that they'd have dinner.

This was really easy to assemble. I used thighs instead of breasts, so the 10 minutes wasn't quite enough in the broiler, but it didn't matter. To save time in the morning, I chopped the potatoes the night before. I stashed them in a giant ziploc in the fridge over night, drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with some Italian seasoning.
I didn't get around to trying it myself until a day or so later, but it was pretty good. The chicken was tender - no knife required. I did pay attention to Brooke's suggestion about more soup; I only had the one can, so I also poured in about 3/4 cup of broth.

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb small red potatoes, quartered
2 bags (6 ounces each) baby spinach
1 cup frozen chopped onion
1 can (10.75 ounces) condensed cream of celery soup
Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim fat from chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and arrange chicken on baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat 10 minutes or until chicken is golden*. In a 4-quart slow cooker, arrange potato quarters. Top with spinach and onion. Spoon half of the soup on top of spinach; add chicken. Spread with remaining soup. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
*This step may be omitted but it produces a better flavored dish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Excellent!

In the last few days, several people have tagged me with this "Excellent" award. I am absolutely astounded that so many people read my dinky little blog, and that so many people actually ENJOY it! It really makes my day. I know it sounds corny, but it's true.

Part of the "strings" attached to such an award is to pass it along. While I would love to spread the joy, the majority of the blogs I'd award have already received it. Instead, I thought I'd spread a little love to the awesome ladies who gave it to ME.

The Milkman's Wife Her recipes look so comforting and delicious... and she has a photo of the famous Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kiss. That alone should make her win a TON of awards! ;)

Daily Deliciousness Shawna's blog is so fabulous - I have a ton of her things starred in my reader. She's getting married in a couple of months, and I think that is one lucky dude. Check out the post with her shower pictures - how FUN!!

Delicious Meliscious Look at those AMAZING cakes. Though I never had the desire before, her cakes make me really want to take a Wilton class - especially that garden one. WOW! And I am SO making that pumpkin mousse soon...
Jenn and Food, Perfect Together Not only do I get excited when she posts new dishes, but I'm thrilled that I'll finally be meeting her for dinner in a few weeks! Several of us Central-Jerseyians on our cooking board have a dinner planned, and I can't wait.

Thank you, ladies - not even for the award (although that was awesome, hee hee!) but for YOUR blogs and their impact on my kitchen!

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

My search for a yummy beef stew on Cooking Light's website led to this yummy dinner from the OCtober 2005 issue of Southern Living.

Perhaps the best part of this meal was that there was NO work involved. I mean, you literally just dumped it all in the pot and that was it. Awesome. Totally awesome.

I really enjoyed the flavor and tenderness of this stew. I wasn't a huge fan of the frozen veggies I used (yep, totally went that route), but that was no fault of the recipe. Oh, I also totally forgot about the tomato paste, but it didn't seem to make a difference.

I served this over campanelle.


  • 2 pounds round steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces*
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, quartered*
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced**
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes**
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker, and cook, covered, on LOW 7 hours and 30 minutes.

*2 (1-pound) packages frozen stew vegetables may be substituted for carrots and potatoes.
**1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green peppers and onions may be substituted for red bell pepper and diced tomatoes.

Yield: Makes 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

CALORIES 293 (23% from fat); FAT 7g (sat 2.6g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.4g); IRON 4.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 65mg; CALCIUM 42mg; CARBOHYDRATE 26g; SODIUM 702mg; PROTEIN 31g; FIBER 4g

Southern Living, OCTOBER 2005

Martha Stewart

Hi everyone,

Martha Stewart is scouring blogs and could pick any one of us to feature on her very own blog!

Interested? Check out the details here.

And Martha? If you're here? Hi!! *waves and shares cookies*

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cookies

I don't usually like to make too many things that involve peanut butter since my son is allergic, but when I saw this recipe on Picky Palate, I knew I had to try these.

My friend Denise is a fellow Picky Palate fan, and we often will notify each other when a new yummy-looking dessert has been posted. Denise was due with her first child this month and said she simply didn't have the energy to make them. I promised her that when the baby came, I'd visit in the hospital with these little delectable treats.

Well, that day was yesterday - on Sunday, September 21, Abigail Rose entered the world! True to my word, I immediately ran to the grocery store upon hearing the news.

Well, leave it to me to screw up such an easy recipe.

After baking, my husband was begging for a sample. However, the first words out of his mouth were not words of worship like you would think. His exact reaction was: "These don't taste done."

I checked the oven which was still on, and sure enough - I set the oven to 250 rather than 350. I threw them back in for another 5 minutes, but it was too late. They were irreconcilable.

They still taste amazing - I just couldn't bear to bring them to the new mom. Rest assured, Denise - I'm going to try these again for you!


  • 1 Cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 12 mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped
  • 36 mini marshmallows
  • 1 Cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 Cup mini M&M's

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place peanut butter, sugar and egg into a large bowl and mix until well combined. Scoop dough evenly into a 12 count mini cheesecake pan or mini muffin pan. Cook for 13-15 minutes until almost done. Remove from oven and press a peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie until flush with cookie top. Top each cookie with 3 mini marshmallows and return to oven for 2-3 more minutes or until marshmallows are puffed. Remove and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Place chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until melted smooth. Stir in 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream until silky and smooth. You can return back to microwave for 15 seconds to get a thinner consistency. Spoon chocolate over top of puffed marshmallows and sprinkle with mini M&M's.

12 cookie cups

Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

Oh, lordy. Jenn's submission for Rachael Ray's Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli for Dinner Divas was so ridiculously good. I'm not even going to tell you how much of this I ate tonight; suffice it to say that I am very, very full.

I struggle a bit with the whole melt-butter-and-add-flour concept; try as I might, I continuously have a grainy-ish consistency. After some discussion on my cooking message board, I realized that I should a) not use skim milk, b) throw in a slice or two of American, and c) not let the milk get too hot before I add in the cheese. I can't make any promises regarding (a), but we'll see how well the other two options pan out.

I don't have any cayenne pepper, so on a whim I grabbed allspice. Not too shabby!

Similar to the cookie incident, Ryan decided he couldn't wait for me to finish taking pictures before diving in:


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 pound macaroni elbows or cavatapi corkscrew shaped pasta twists
  • 2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets, available packaged in produce department
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Place a pot of water on to boil for macaroni.

Heat a medium pan over medium to medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute a couple of minutes then add onion and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve.
To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender.

While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour, cayenne and paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and stock and raise heat a little to bring sauce to a quick boil. Simmer sauce to thicken about 5 minutes.

Drain macaroni or pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli.

Add cheese to milk sauce and stir to melt it in, about a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings, transfer to a large serving platter and serve.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Okay, don't mind the pictures. They were dark, and these are my feeble attempts with the editing software I didn't know I had.

Anyway, these cookies are SO YUMMY! They taste like little bits of pumpkin bread... Even my husband, the self-proclaimed "anti-pumpkin-ist" keeps eating them.

I got this awesome recipe from Living Insanity, who picked it up from allrecipes.com. I followed her suggestions and they are reflected below. Definitely a keeper!

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. Add milk and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt.
Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well; add chips.
Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 365 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 12 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Chicken Brushetta Bake

Brooke, if I lived closer to you, I would a) Come to your house nightly for dinner, and b) Kiss you. Seriously.

Brooke posted this Brushetta Chicken Bake a few days ago, and I starred it right away. It was so unbelievably easy and fast to prepare... and it really tasted great! I'm excited to have leftovers for later this week... just imagining the yummy tomato-and-stuffing-goodness is making me happy...

  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
  • 1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese
HEAT oven to 400°F. Mix tomatoes, stuffing mix, water and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened.

LAYER chicken, basil, cheese and stuffing in 3-qt. or 13x9-inch baking dish.

BAKE 30 min. or until chicken is cooked through.

Pumpkin Risotto

Two of my current culinary obsessions together in one bowl! What could be better!!

This side from Ashlee was really good, and pretty easy to make. I served it alongside of the Pioneer Woman's Crispy Yogurt Chicken, and it was quite a nice compliment.

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 2 c. warmed chicken stock
  • 3/4 c. canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper. Toss to begin cooking. Add rice, toast for 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until the liquid is evaporated.

Add 1/3 c. chicken stock, stirring in between additions, about every 3 minutes.

After all of the stock is absorbed, add the canned pumpkin. Turn heat to low and let the rice cook and pumpkin absorb into the rice.

Add parmesan cheese, stir, and plate.

Friday, September 19, 2008

White-Bean and Apple Crockpot Chili

Oh, how GLORIOUS it was to prep this puppy last night, dump it in this morning, and come home to a ready-made MEAL! WOW!

Forgive my excitement. See, in the past, I could never use the crockpot unless I was home... which kind of defeats the purpose. I was gone too long to use it on low, but not home long enough to use it on high. So the crockpot became a weekend-appliance, and really, the weekends are when I like to cook things that I don't have time for during the week!

But like I said a few days ago, I recently purchased one with a few automatic settings, so I have joined the ranks of those who crockpot while at work.

And where to continue my crockpotting journey than with the CrockPot Lady!

This White-Bean and Apple Crockpot Chili was pretty good. Mine came out less liquidy than hers did, but I'm okay with that. I didn't listen to her warning about it being kind of bland, because I really don't enjoy spicy foods, but I should have - it was a bit too bland even for me. I will definitely crank up the spices a bit next time!

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
Any crockpot over 4 quarts would work well with this dish.
Put the butter into the bottom of your crockpot. Dump in the drained and rinsed beans. Add the onion, garlic, and the apple. Add the spices, and pour in the broth. Stir in the yogurt.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4-5. This is done when the onion has reached desired tenderness and the flavors have melded. Stir in the cheddar cheese before serving.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oreo Mint Ice Cream

I cannot even tell how unbelievably giddy I was when Pat's sister and brother gave me (US! I mean US!) the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.

I immediately started scouring blogs for recipes and landed, of course, at my friend Brooke's blog. I have recently fallen in mad, passionate love with the Thin Mint Blizzard at Dairy Queen, and I thought this might satisfy that craving.

Well, it didn't, but it's okay - there is a brand new place in my heart for this recipe. So good! I must confess that I kept sticking my finger in the bowl as it was churning, and I didn't even freeze it before helping myself to a bowl. Of course, it's at a much better consistency when frozen all the way, but really? No such thing as BAD ice cream.

I know you agree.

Anyway, part of me wants to keep making this over and over, and the other part of me can't wait for it to be gone so I can try a new flavor.

(Don't tell my husband, but I think next up on my list is a pumpkin pie ice cream...!)

Oh, and I just learned how to edit photos, so forgive me while I experiment and play around.

  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped Oreo cookies
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream (I replaced half a cup with skim milk.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp peppermint extract

Place the cookies in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the peppermint extract and blend again. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. After the ice cream stiffens (and about 2 minutes before it is done) add the chopped cookies and continue freezing until ice cream is ready.

Like Brooke, I also added a few drops of food coloring, since I like my mint ice cream green!

Meat"loaf" Parmesan

Another hit from Brooke!

She said it was her husband's favorite, and I can see why - it DOES taste like a giant meatball!! Mine sort of didn't keep its "loaf" shape, but that's okay. Delicious nonetheless!

I wanted to throw some shredded mozzarella inside and/or on top, but realized I had none. So... I chopped up a couple of things of string cheese. ;)

I served the meatloaf with this.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup prepared spaghetti sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Heat oven to 375°F. Using your hands, mix together beef, half the spaghetti sauce, bread crumbs, half the Parmesan cheese, onion, egg and Italian seasoning in a medium mixing bowl. Shape into loaf and place in an 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce and cheese. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or to desired doneness. During baking time, if desired, use a baster to remove excess grease from pan.

Recipe Exchange: Fettucini with Basil, Ricotta, and Tomatoes

The cooking board I hang out on has a bi-monthly recipe exchange, and this time around, I got to host it! Our theme was "Keepin' It Real," meaning that the dishes had to be quick and easy to prepare and/or have few ingredients.

The recipe that was "assigned" to me (wink wink) is an awesome Fettucini with Basil, Ricotta, and Tomatoes. I absolutely loved everything about this, from how fast it was, to how good it tastes, to the fact that even my son ate it.

1-9oz pkg refrigerated fettuccine (I used spinach.)
3T butter or margarine, melted
3/4c ricotta cheese
1/4c grated Parmesan
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (I halved a bunch of grape tomatoes.)
2T coarsely chopped fresh basil (FRESH is important here!)
1. Cook and drain fettuccine as directed on package. Return to saucepan.
2. Stir together butter, ricotta, and 1/3c Parmesan. Toss with hot pasta.
3. Top pasta with tomato and remaining Parmesan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chicken Marsala

I've made chicken marsala before, but never, ever has it turned out as delicious as this one from A Taste of Home Cooking. I believe she adapted it from America's Test Kitchen, and even though their whole blog drama kind of turned me off, I guess they do know what they're talking about.

I really can't say enough about this dish. It was so unbelievably awesome. Part of this may have been from, however, the fact that I cooked it the night before I intended to eat it... so it kind of hung out in the fridge for 24 hours, marinating in its own yumminess.

(Oh, I didn't add the pancetta because I forgot to buy it.)

Even Ryan, the meat-hater, ate a bunch of this!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 ½ oz. (about 3 slices) pancetta, cut into 1 by 1/8 in. pieces
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups Marsala
  • 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Pat the chicken breasts dry. Place flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Coat both side of each piece of chicken with flour. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the floured chicken in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom, until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste begins to brown. Off the heat, add the Marsala.
Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the lemon juice. Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken back to the pan and coat with the sauce.

Dinner Divas: New Coq au Vin

First of all, I gotta confess - I've avoided making this meal for a really long time, simply because I have no idea how to pronounce it. In my head, I say, "Coke-ahh-veeen," but I have no idea if that's correct.

Anyway, luckily, pronounciation is not a requirement for actually cooking this awesome meal, chosen for the Dinner Divas group by Jenn.

I threw in some carrots for fun, but didn't really alter the recipe. I do wish, however, that I had purchased boneless/skinless thighs, but what can you do.

Oh, and did you notice how runny my mashed potatoes are?? Holy milk, Batman!


  • 6 chicken thighs with skin and bone (2 pounds)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 10 garlic cloves, halved

  • 3 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Pat chicken dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sear chicken, skin side down, in 2 batches until golden brown (do not turn), 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet. Cook garlic and celery in skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add wine and boil, uncovered, until reduced by about half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer.

Return chicken, skin side up, to skillet and simmer, partially covered, until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

I absolutely love tomato soup, but I've never tried it before. Not sure why, really... although come to think of it, I've really only tried a handful of soups before. I'll have to change that...

Anyway, I made this one yesterday as well in my plot to stock my freezer with individual lunch-size portions of soup. I saw this one on Brianna's blog and really didn't waste much time before attempting it myself.

The verdict? SCORE!! This was EVERYTHING I've EVER wanted in a tomato sauce. Creamy, tangy, herby... just absolutely the perfect bowl. I know I'm going to be making this one again and again.


3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 (28-ounce) canned italian tomatoes, with their juice
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 quart vegetable stock or water (I used 2 cups of each.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions, carrot and garlic with 1 tablespoons of olive oil, for 7-8 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, bay leaf, beans and vegetable stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Using a hand blender or *stand blender puree until mixture is smooth. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6-8

* If using a stand blender make sure you allow the soup to cool a few minutes before blending the soup in batching. Place a towel over the top just in case of any accidents and remember the soup will expand while it is hot.

Lentil Soup with Beef

When I saw Giada's Lentil Soup with Beef on Amy's blog, I knew it'd be a perfect soup to make and freeze for lunches or quick dinners.

I hovered over my cutting boards and stove over the weekend making a couple of pots of soup, and this one did not disappoint! Everything just melds together to create this amazing bowl of yumminess... perfect for fall. And it makes a TON - I think I ended up stashing 8 2-cup servings in the freezer...

Next time, I think I'd also like to throw some corn and/or peas and/or beans in there... mmm...

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.
Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Add the lentils.
Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Crockpot Apple Oatmeal

First off all, I'd like to introduce the newest member of our family:

For our 5th anniversary, my grandmother gave us some money and we used it to buy this beauty. I am so excited to be able to use the digital-ness (that is SO a word), plus be able to make larger portions. YAY!

(Any crockpot cookbook recommendations??)

The crock's maiden dish was a Creamy Apple Oatmeal from the expert herself - the Crockpot Lady.

I intended to use this for grab-and-go breakfasts for me and Ryan this week. It's pretty good, except that I had to add a TON more milk at the end because it was crazy dry.

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 chopped apple

Add oats, chopped apple and milk to stoneware, and then put in brown sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt; stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours or low for 2-3. Check consistency of oatmeal and add milk as needed; garnish with cinnamon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Brooke for making this bread and blogging about it, thus bringing it into my life.

I love pumpkin, and though it's available in canned form year-round, something seems a bit "off" when you try to use it outside of autumn!

Funny, unrelated pumpkin story: I looove pumpkin. Love it. So every year I am so excited when Starbucks brings back their pumpkin spice latte. And every year I giddlily skip into the store and order a venti, nonfat. And...

Every year I remember that I hate the pumpkin latte.

Oh well.

Anyway, this bread was SO easy to make, and it smelled amazing in the oven. And the taste? To die for. Even my pumpkin-hating husband ate two slices!

I brought one of the loaves to my in-laws' house and kept the other one here; I am sure it won't last very long, though!

Oh, and Brooke was right about the 32-servings-is-a-crock thing. Who slices their loaves into sixteen slices? Crazy.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Yield32 servings (serving size: 1 slice)Nutritional InformationCALORIES 152(30% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 1.2g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 2g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 10mg; SODIUM 137mg; FIBER 1.1g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 26.5g

Barefoot Bloggers: Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

This month's Barefoot Blogger recipe was not really a hit in our house.

I usually make a really simple mac & cheese dish that I got from my dad, and it's just really, really good... and some of the more sophisticated versions just don't bring that same comfort-food-level to the table, you know?

Anyway, Ina's Grown-Up Mac and Cheese wasn't bad; it just likely won't be a repeat dinner.

4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.
Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
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