Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I hate walnuts. I find them to taste bitter and the texture weird. However, I found this recipe from Michael Chiarello and will eat these by the handful. I love the crunch and the combination of sweet and spicy with a hint of salty. They are great to snack on alone or toss on a salad with some fresh pomegranite and bleu cheese. Try them. Bring them to a holiday get-together--they are easy and quick to make and they just might replace the chips for holiday snacking!

Spiced Candied Walnuts

Peanut or canola oil
4 cups walnut halves
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat about 1-inch of oil to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add walnuts and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and transfer nuts to a medium bowl. While nuts are still hot and slightly wet, add confectioners' sugar and toss to coat nuts. Stir and toss until all the sugar has melted into the nuts; if bits of un-melted sugar remain on the nuts, they will not fry properly.

Stir the nuts again before frying. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer a few nuts to the hot oil, allowing the foam to subside before adding another spoonful. (Otherwise, the oil could foam over and burn you.) Fry in small batches until the nuts are medium brown, about 45 seconds; be careful not to overcook. Scatter on an unlined baking sheet to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, stir together cayenne, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and pepper.

While the nuts are still warm, transfer them to a bowl and sprinkle evenly with about half of the spice mix. Toss well to distribute the spices and then taste a nut. Add more spice mix, to taste, and toss well after each addition. When cool, pack in an airtight jar. They will keep at room temperature for at least 2 weeks.

Just an Update

It's been about a month since my last post and really, I don't know what happened to the time. Christmas is nearly here and I've a lot of recipes to share. So, within the next few days, I hope to have a plethera of yummy treats posted for your holiday extravaganzas. Be sure to check back soon...there's lots more to come!
Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Specialty

I've never liked the canned cranberry glop that is available every Thanksgiving. Won't eat it, won't use it in "something else", won't even smell it. It grosses me out. So, several years ago I started watching the Food Network to get some ideas for cranberry sauce.  I wound up making my own creation with all the parts, pieces, and flavors that I love. This is the result. I have taken it to many events, used it in baked goods, and even poured it over ice cream for a quick, festive dessert. People who tell me they don't like cranberry sauce will ask for the recipe. So, here it is. I hope you enjoy it!

Debbie’s Cranberry-Apple Sauce
6 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 ½ c Sugar
1 ½ c Lite Cranberry Juice (or Cran Raspberry Juice)
½ c Orange Juice
2 Gala or Fuji Apples, peeled & cubed (small bites)
1 generous TBSP Balsamic Vinegar (or to taste)
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Dash Salt
1 TBSP unsalted butter

Cook cranberries, juice, apples, sugar, lemon juice, and vinegar according to package. Let cook until cranberries start to pop and mixture thickens. Add salt and butter. Once sauce begins to cool, add vanilla.

Serve cold as a side dish.

Serving suggestions: side dish, ice cream topping, pie filling, cake filling.
Makes: A lot

French Onion Soup

Sometimes, I need to throw sensibility to the wind and make something that I want as opposed to something the girls want. Last night was one of those nights.  I've been craving French Onion Soup and I know the girls don't like it. For young ones, they have a pretty sophisticated palette, but this surpasses even them. So, with leftover spaghetti in the microwave, I set on the task of making a dinner just for my own pleasure...and it was worth every tasty spoonful.

French Onion Soup

2 large onions
3 TBSP unsalted butter
1 TBSP fresh Oregano
1/2 TBSP fresh Rosemary
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 c red wine
4 cups beef stock

Toasted French Bread slices
Swiss cheese

Slice the onions into thin slices. Cook over medium heat in a medium sized saute pan with butter until carmelized, about 15-20 minutes. During the last few minutes, add garlic and pepper.
Add herbs, beef stock, and wine. Cook until slightly reduced.

To serve:
Ladle soup into an oven proof bowl. Top with toasted bread and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. Enjoy with some of that wine!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Corn Bread

We love cold weather. In our house, it's the perfect excuse for all those yummy comfort foods that are only edible once the thermometer drops into double digits again. After way too many months of scorching heat, we are only too willing to put on long pants, long sleeve shirts, and fire up the oven & stove.  Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend a day baking with my friend Sylwia. We had a great time making pies and cookies, which I'm sure she will post on her blog (see the link to Unsifted). 

Not wanting to dull the momentum, I made an impromptu batch of chili and cornbread for dinner on Sunday. This is my go-to recipe for cornbread since it is easy and quick.  I love the folks at King Arthur Flour Co for their fantastic 200th Anniversary Cookbook as this is one of many recipes I use often.  I've used my cookbook so much that I had to have it re-covered to keep it from falling apart.

3/4 c cornmeal
1 C All purpose flour
1/3 C Sugar
1 TBSP Baking Powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 C milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 TBSP butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 425*
Mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, egg and butter and stir just to blend.
Pour the batter into a greased, 8" square baking pan. Bake about 20 minutes. Remove from pan quickly to preserve the crispy crust.

Halloween Treats

Yes, I know it's now the middle of November. If I had my act together, I would have posted this sometime arount the 29th of October...but, my act is nowhere to be found. It went AWOL on me sometime ago and I've been too busy to look for it.  So, here it is, November, a week and a half before one of the giant food fests of America, and I'm posting a Halloween recipe.  Ok, so it's not specifically for Halloween, but the picture will make you think so.

Our company has an annual party for Halloween and it is THE event of the year. We have fierce competition amongst the departments for best costumes, best group areas, best chili, best desert, etc. There are activities for the kids that go way beyond trick or treating. This year, we had the bounce house (great for working off all that sugar from trick or treating), horse & pony rides, and face painting. There was a couple of photo ops including a "put your face here" for Thing 1 & Thing 2 with the Cat in the Hat. It was great. My girls start asking about sometime in the middle of April--wanting to know what we will be dressing up as, how will we decorate, and can they help.  We all love it.

This year, I decided to enter the new competition category of Best Dessert. I made a haunted pumpkin patch. The pumpkins and ghosts were Cake Pops (thank you, Bakerella) and the patch of dirt was an oreo cheesecake.  The only change I made to Bakerella's cake pops was to drape the pops with a circle of fondant to make the sheet-ghosts. The effect was great.  Happily, I can say I won 1st place!  All I can say, is the competition gets more fierce every year, so I better start thinking about it sometime in January!

Oreo Cheesecake

1 1/2 rows of Oreo Cookies, crushed
2-3 TBSP melted butter

Press the mixture together in a lightly greased 9" springform pan. Bake for about 12-15 minutes at 350*. Set aside to cool.

40 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 c sugar
3 TBSP flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/4 c heavy cream
1 row Oreo Cookies, crushed

Preheat oven to 450*.

In a large mixer bowl, blend cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla at high speed. Beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time on low speed, until smooth, scraping down the sides occassionally. Beat in cream. Fold in cookies.  Pour into  pan.

Bake for 10 minutes. Lower oven to 250*. Bake an additional 1 hr. Center will be a little jiggly, but dull. Do NOT overbake.

Let cool in the refrigerator. At this point, you can store the cheesecake in the refrigerator uncovered for up to 3 days.

Fresh Whipped Cream
Crushed Oreos--The rest of the package
Assorted Chocolate pieces--jimmies, shaved chocolate, etc.

Spread the ganache over cold cheesecak and let set. Spread whipped cream on top of the ganache. Sprinkle the cookies over the top and press lightly. Fill in with assorted chocolate pieces.
Allow to sit out after removing from the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

12 oz. dark chocolate
1 1/2 c heavy cream
3 TBSP Sugar or Corn Syrup
3 TBSP Butter
Dash Vanilla

Bring cream, butter, and sugar to a boil, stirring often. Pour over chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Stir gently until smooth. Add vanilla & stir. Be careful not to incorporate air into ganache. When cool, pour over cake or use cold for truffles.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Violent Cooking

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and all signs point to that stress continuing for the foreseeable future. Now there are many ways that I could choose to deal with said stressors…the usual remedies include getting friendly with my wine supply, exercising, becoming a hermit, becoming delusional, eating more, eating less, retail therapy, yoga—ok, maybe not yoga—that takes a level of patience I seem to lack. So, what is my therapy for stress? Cooking. Baking. Playing in the kitchen. I play A LOT. I do a lot of visualization to go along with it. What kind of visualization? Well, I visualize being a psychopath with violent urges that cannot be released in any other “conventional” ways. If you think about it, cooking is quite violent. Let me explain…

If you read any recipe, you will start to see the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster horror flick. Yes, you read correctly. Let’s take some simple, common, mandatory procedures in example. You need to know how to chop, dice, mince, smash, pulverize, puree, whip, and slice. I have recipes that call for throwing raw meat after squishing it with breadcrumbs and egg—now that is particularly therapeutic! Steam, broil, boil, simmer, sauté, fry, grill, bake, and bar-b-que…When it’s done, plunge it in an ice bath, wrap it tightly removing all air, put it in the freezer …the list goes on.

I enjoy taking my frustrations out on unsuspecting vegetables… and meat. Ripping off the skin and pounding a chicken breast…ahh, now that’s happiness. Chopping onions with abandon…who would’ve imagined that wielding a sharp instrument while crying could be so good for the soul and not have to worry about jail time to go with it? In fact, the better you become at violence directed toward food, the more people want you to be violent…I mean, cook. I imagine chefs to be very happy people even with their stressful and demanding jobs.

It surprises me when some people say they just can’t cook at the end of a very trying day. They are too wound up to focus; too tightly strung to pull anything together. I say, hey, make a pot of soup! It really doesn’t require A LOT of thought (ok, it requires SOME thought, but you have a lot of leeway), and you get to utilize a lot of violent actions. If you make too much, do what they do in the movies…freeze it (insert evil and menacing laugh here).

Baking is an especially good way to relieve stress. Bread is particularly therapeutic. How often do you get to punch something, more than once, and get praised for it? Hey, it says so in the directions “let rise til double in size. Punch down.” Just visualize that person in your life that is an overinflated blowhard and punch him/her down. Wait a couple of hours…and do it again. Then bake ‘em! Happiness. Pure happiness. At the end of it all, slather a big slice of heaven with butter and eat. You might even want to dunk that blowhard, I mean bread slice, in a cup of really hot beverage before the proverbial “bite me” moment. Smile. Smile some more.

Perhaps this is part of the reason I have an insane collection of cookbooks. I start reading them and get caught up in the directions. Sure, the pictures are a huge draw, but I read cookbooks like novels. I can see myself making certain recipes. Sometimes, just reading the directions make me feel better. At the end of the day, no one gets hurt, I feel better, and everybody wins.

I feel better already.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some Past Treats

I do a lot of baking. In fact, it is pretty much a form of therapy. I get lost in the process and the challenge of coming up with something "just right" that can't be found anywhere else. Sure, I get inspiration from many places, but I want each result to be special.

Lately, I've had several people ask for a montage of some of the creations I've produced.  So, without any recipes attached for this post, here is a small photo album of some of my favorites...I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Girls' Night

One of the things I love most is girls night. As often as can be arranged, with everyone's crazy schedule and such, a group of my girlfriends gather up their favorite snack, their foot-soaker, and their gossip and head over to my place to get together and "dish" over a glass or three of wine and an all-out chick flick. We keep it "no icky boys allowed" which gives boyfriends, husbands, or significant others' a night without us as well.

My little girls get into it, too. They invite their friends, eat pizza, have popcorn and a movie in their room and "entertain" each other with silly stories, funny songs, and crazy dancing. Basically, it's a fun night for all.

Our latest girls night was last Saturday. Long overdue, it was the perfect way to let off some steam and just be "girly". Since the goal is to keep it simple, our "nutritious" dinner consisted of veggies, hummus, guacamole, chips, salsa, monkey bread, and pumpkin mousse with white chocolate whipped cream. Ok, not so nutritious...but there WERE veggies involved, so yeah, I'll go with that...

My contribution was the pumpkin mousse which was hard to put down, but, light enough to be filling once we finally stopped eating!

Pumpkin Mousse with White Chocolate Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 1 hours, 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes


• 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
• 1 cup plus 2 cups chilled heavy cream
• ¾ cup granulated sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

• 2 ounces white chocolate, shaved
Sweetened whipped cream


In a medium saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, 1 cup heavy cream, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Chill for at least 1 hour before preparing the mousse.

Whip the remaining 2 cups chilled cream into peaks. Gently stir ½ cup of the chilled pumpkin mixture into the whipped cream. Once the ½ cup of pumpkin is almost fully incorporated into the cream, fold in the remaining pumpkin.

Serve it in baked puff pastry shells. Top with sweetened whipped cream with white chocolate chunks folded in and then sprinkle additional white chocolate over the top.

It is divine!

Makes 8 servings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Cranberry Pumpkin Bread with Almond Topping

"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater"...we all know the rhyme, and this time of year it is ever so true. I love pumpkin and I've been on a quest to make all kinds of comfort foods with it. Two weeks in a row I've made pumpkin bread and this week is clearly the taste winner. The bread is delightfully moist with big chunks of cranberry and apples. The almond crumble topping adds a tender crunch that offsets the cakelike texture of the bread.

I adapted a recipe from The Art and Soul of Baking and am very pleased.  This is a fabulous book for anyone interested in baking. The recipes are direct and most are not too complicated. So far, I've not been disappointed with the resutls. Of course, I can't seem to leave a recipe alone... I made 1 1/2 times the amount (mostly because I didn't want to waste any pumpkin) and fiddled with add-ins and spices.  I got 2 generous loaves out of the recipe...What's here will make one generous loaf.

Apple Cranberry Pumpkin Bread with Almond Crumble

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temp
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 gala apple, peeled and cubed
1 generous handful of dried cranberries

Almond Crumble Topping
1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz)
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 c all purpose flour
1/3 cup almond meal (ground almonds)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat a loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1" beyond the edge of both sides of the pan.

Make the topping: Place the butter and the sugar in the bowl of the mixer and beat on medium speed until very light in color, almost white, about 5 minutes. You may also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, though you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the salt and bled well. Scrape down the bowl. Add the flour and the alond meal all at once and turn the speed to low. Blend for 15 to 20 seconds until the mixture forms small clumps about the size of small peas. Chill the topping in a bowl, covered, while making the bread.

Bread:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. Add fruit and toss to coat.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until blended and smooth. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Drop the almond crumble topping on top of the pumpkin batter, evenly distributing the topping all over. Sprinkle the top with any additional ground almonds (up to a few tablespoons) and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2" thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Dinner in a Pumpkin

This time of year one can't help but think about pumpkins. Most kids look at a pumpkin and see all sorts of fun or scary faces and quickly jump to trick-or-treating. I look at a pumpkin and see possibilities. One of my favorite fall dishes is Dinner in a Pumpkin. Yes, you read that correctly...the dinner is made IN the pumpkin. Besides being a fun serving dish, the pumpkin adds a delicious fall flavor and lots of nutrients. Fortunately for me, my kids LOVE it. In fact, this year when they saw pumpkins at the grocery store, they asked for this dinner instead of "what face are we gonna make?"

Although it takes a bit of a time commitment to make, it is VERY easy. I promise, you won't be disappointed!

Dinner in a Pumpkin

1 small to medium sized pumpkin

1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 zucchini
1 cup carrots cut
1 cup frozen corn

• Preheat oven to 375*

• Wash then remove the top from the pumpkin as if you were going to carve it for Halloween. Clean out all the "goopy stuff" and rinse the inside. Set aside.

• In a medium sauté pan, brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic.

• Chop zucchini into bite size pieces and mix with carrots, corn and soup in a large bowl.

• Add the beef mixture to the vegetable mixture and stir until well blended.

• Add everything to the inside of the pumpkin and replace the lid.

• Place the pumpkin on a jelly roll pan and bake for approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hrs. The pumpkin should be soft on the inside and all the veggies cooked well.

• Stir to incorporate the juices.

• Serve. Be sure to scoop some of the pumpkin with the filling!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fruity Tarts

I've been on a puff pastry kick and decided it was time to make a dessert. What is better for dessert than fruit? Fruit flavors with chocolate!  Of course, we love dessert in our family, so anytime I start to experiment with something new, I have 2 little noses at my side and a plethera of questions as to the readiness of said experiment and whether or not they get to "lick the spoon, the bowl, and the beaters."  This time, they got to sample all the parts and were very excited to jump into the finished product. Banana, stawberry and chocolate topped with whipped cream and served in a tender, flakey, edible bowl--what could be bad about that?!?

Fruity Tarts

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

Roll puff pastry until even and about 18" x 12". Cut into 6 equal squares, 6" x 6". Remove 1/2" edge from each square and apply the strips to the remaining smaller square, adhering with a little water, creating a dam of sorts.  Poke several holes in the center of each  tart so the middle doesn't rise. Place each tart on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.
Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and poke the center of each tart if it has risen. Let cool.

1 1/2 c heavy cream
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 tsp pure vanilla

Bring cream and sugar to just boiling, stirring often. Put the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl and pour hot cream over, let sit for 2 minutes before stirring. Stir gently, being careful not to incorporate too much air, and continue stirring until smooth. Set aside.

Easy Strawberry Filling
1 12 oz pkg frozen strawberries
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 c water
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine strawberries, sugar and water in a medium saucepan and boil until liquid begins to reduce and thicken, stirring often. If needed, add cornstarch while stirring vigorously. Boil an additiona 1-2 minutes until very thick. Remove from heat and cool. When nearly cool, add vanilla and stir to combine.
Set aside.

Banana Custard
1/4 c unsalted butter
2/3 c sugar
2 eggs
2 c milk
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1 tbsp  banana flavoring

In a saucepan over very low heat, mix the butter and sugar and cook for 3 minutes. Beat the eggs into 1 3/4 cups of milk and slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture, stirring all the time.
Blend the flour with 1/4 c of milk and add to the hot mixture and cook until thick. Let cool and add salt and flavorings. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to avoid a skin from forming. When cold, custard will be very thick. Add a little milk, if necessary, to thin.

Whipped Cream
1 c heavy cream
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whip cream in a medium bowl until frothy. Add vanilla and sugar slowly while continuing to whip until medium stiff peaks form. Keep cold.

 Assemble the tarts: Pour a layer of ganache on the bottom of each tart. Add a layer of banana custard and then strawberry. Top with a generous spoonful of whipped cream. Dip a fork in the ganache and drizzle over whipped cream. Serve immediately...as if anyone would be willing to wait!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Onion Tarts

I remembered I had a box of frozen puff pastry in my freezer when my friend asked me to make puff pastry with her over the weekend. I wasn't able to participate in that challenge because purging my crap room, I mean craft room, and my daughter's clothing was much more pressing.  So, I decided to use that box of puff pastry and make something. On Saturday, my girls had seen an episode of 5 Fix on the food channel and one of the featured items was an onion tart. They didn't forget it. So, guess what I made? Yep, Onion Tart. Carmelized onions get sweet and melt-in-your-mouth tender; mixed with the buttery flakiness of puff pastry and you can't help but have a bite of sweet ectasy.

Onion Tart

Makes 4-6 tarts

6 small to medium white onions
2 tbsp olive oil
Course Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
1 roll of Puff Pastry, thawed

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Cut onions into small rings. Heat oil in medium sized saute pan and add onions. Stir occassionally until onions are carmelized, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut pastry with firm and even downward pressure into 6" squares. Slice 1/2" off of each edge and stack on the sides of each square, securing each piece with a little water. Place each tart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or Silpat. Poke holes in the middle of each tart. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tarts are puffed and golden.
Remove from baking sheet and place on a serving plate. Fill each tart with hot carmelized onion mixture.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pasties (Meat Pies)

Pasties are one of my favorite grab-n-go meals. It's like a tiny steak dinner in your hand. As I mentioned before, every time I make them I am reminded of my childhood.
This "recipe" has been handed down from my grandmother. Although she used suet in her pie dough and I never learned to apply that ingredient, the outcome is still fabulous.  These are not the same as the gravy-laden pasties you can find at an English Pub. These are drier, but lend themselves to be eaten hot or cold.  I really don't have a preference!

Since the crust for these should be fairly sturdy, don't panic if you haven't worked much with pie dough. This is a great start as overworking the dough a little will make it tough, but will be just fine to hold up to the handling and weight of the filling.

Pasties (meat pies)

Makes about 15

4 medium baking potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 round steak, fat trimmed and cut into small cubes
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
salt & pepper
1 Egg, slightly beaten

Savory Pie dough, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the cut potatoes, onions, and steak into their own  bowls. Season the meat with garlic, salt and pepper.

Roll pie dough until it is 1/4" thick. Cut large circles, 3 1/2"-4" in diameter, in an even amount.  On one circle, layer potatoes, meat, and onion leaving about 1/4"-1/2" edge. Flatten a second circle so it is just slightly larger than the first. Cover the filling and seal the edges with a fork. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. When baking sheet is full (approx. 6-8 per 1/2 sheet size), brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Make a little vent slice at the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.

Let rest for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
Try not to burn your fingers or tongue when taking the first bite!

Savory Pie Dough
From Julia Child's Baking with Julia

5 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP salt
1 1/2 (6 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 (11 oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

Using a mixer with paddle attachment: Put the flour and salt into the bowl and stir to mix.  Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly.  Ad the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together.

To make dough by hand:  Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender, cut in te shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times. The dough will be soft but will firm up in the refrigerator.

Chilling the dough:  Divide into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 5 days or frozen for 1 month. It's a good idea to diide the dough into quarters for freezing since one quarter of the recipe is generally enough for one pie crust or tart shell. Defrost, wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Cooking Hodge Podge

Saturday was a rough day for me. I spent the afternoon studying for a grueling test that I'll be taking in a couple of weeks and then got sick on the way home from the session...not my idea of a good time!  So, Sunday, when I was feeling normal again, I wanted to cook...a lot.  I wound up narrowing it down to 3 dishes. Two were new and one was an old favorite.

I love "old favorites" since they bring back so many memories.  This one brought back memories as far away as elementary school. My mom use to make Pasties and I would love to take them for lunch. All the kids would look at me like I was crazy--and why wouldn't I be? How many fourth graders bring cold meat pies to school for lunch?  Regardless, I loved the attention and I loved the lunch.  I remember that whenever I make them.

The new dishes I made I found out of a bargain cookbook from Border's: Appetizers Finger Food Buffets & Parties by Bridget Jones. (Not of the Bridget Jones' Diary fame, I'm sure...anyone remember blue soup?) The first was Smoked Salmon and Rice Salad Parcels and the other was Cold Lemon Souffle with Almonds.  Let me tell you they all turned out great!  Other than a little time consuming, they are all easy to make.  Still, 4 hours in the kitchen doesn't seem all that bad when the therapy aspect is considered.  It was the ideal therapy session, indeed.  I made dinner and felt giddy by the time the plates were filled. Seeing the happy faces of my kids trying something new and hearing the comments that follow, well, that just makes my heart soar.

Smoked Salmon and Rice Salad Parcels

Serves 4

1 cup mixed wild rice and basmati rice (I used Near East without the seasoning packet)
8 slices smoked salmon, approx. 12 oz. worth
4 inch piece of cucumber, finely diced
8 oz. feta cheese, cubed
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup diced onion
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. chopped curly leaf parsley
salt & fresh ground pepper
Lime slices & parsley for garnish

1. Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain any excess liquid and transfer to a bowl to cool completely.

2. Line 4 ramekins (or small cereal bowls) with plastic wrap, then line each with smoked salmon, allowing the ends to overlap the edges of the dishes. (I had extra salmon, so I used about 3 slices each.)

3. Add the cucumber, cubes of feta, and tomato quarters to the rice and stir in the mayonnaise, lime juice and parsley. Mix together well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Spoon the rice salad mixture into the salmon-lined bowls. Carefully fold over the overlapping ends of the salmon so that the rice mixture is completely encased.

5. Chill the parcels in the refrigerator 30-60 minutes, then invert each parcel onto a plate, using the plastic wrap to ease them out of the bowls. Carefully peel off the wrap, then garnish with parsley and lime. Serve.

Note: The extra rice mixture can be served as a separate salad.

Cold Lemon Souffle

Cold Lemon Souffle with Almonds

Vegetable oil, for greasing (or cooking spray)
Grated rind and juice of 3 large lemons
5 large eggs, separated
4 oz, generous 1/2 c. superfine sugar
1 1/2 tbsp powdered geletin (2 packets)
3/4 pint, scant 2 cups heavy cream

Almond topping:
3/4 c sliced almonds
3/4 c powdered sugar

  1. To make the souffle collar, cut a strip of baking parchment long enough to fit around a 3 3/4 c souffle dish and wide enough to extend 3" above the rime. Fit the strip around the dish, tape and then tie it arond the top of the dish with string. Lightly coat the inside of the paper collar with oil using a pastry brush, or use cooking spray.
  2. Put the lemon rind and yolks in a bowl. Add 3 tbsp of sugar and whisk until the mixture is creamy.
  3. Place the lemon juice in a small heatproof bowl and sprinkle over the geletin. Set aside for 5 minutes, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occassionally, until the geletin has dissolved. Cool slightly, then stir the gelatin and lemon juice mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, lightly whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold into the egg yolk mixture and set aside.
  5. Whist the whites to stiff peaks. Gradually whisk the remaining sugar until stiff and glossy.  Quickly and lightly fold teh whites into the yolk mix. Pour into prepared dish, smooth the surface, and chill for 4-5 hours.
  6. To make the almond topping, brush a baking tray lightly with oil (or cooking spray). Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the almonds over the baking tray and sift the powdered sugar over. Broil until the nuts turn a rich golden color and the sugar has carmelized.
  7. Leave to cool, then remove the almond mixture from the tray with a palette knife of metal spatula and break it into pieces.
  8. When the souffle has set, carefully peel off the paper. If the paper does not come away easily, hold the blade of a knife against the set souffle to help it hold its shape. Sprinkle the carmalized almonds over the top before serving.
  • This souffle is wonderfully refreshing when served semi-frozen. Place the undecorated, set souffle in the freezer for about an hour. Just before serving, remove from the freezer and decorate with the almonds.
  • Can vary the flavor by using the juice and rind of 5 limes or 3 oranges.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Potato Cheese Soup

When I picked up my youngest today from day care, she was sitting alone in the middle of the floor, crying. All of the other kids around her were busy coloring, playing, or enthralled with the computers. I asked her what was wrong and she thought one of her friends didn't like her anymore... She DID get a Sunshine Report, which would normally make her happy, but not today. Her teacher said she was tired and a little grumpy all afternoon. So, on the way to pick up her sister, I asked if she wanted potato soup for dinner. Since it is one of her favorites, I thought it would help her mood.  It did. Immediately, her outlook shifted.

This is one of the ultimate "comfort foods" in our house. Sick, grumpy, bad day, just a case of the blues...they can all be lifted with a batch of potato cheese soup. In the many years that I've been making it--for myself, friends, potlucks, sick neighbors--I've not had one complaint...and rarely have I had leftovers.  This has prompted me to make the "big batch" that I do now. 30 minutes later, we have enough for dinner and a lunch...

Potato Cheese Soup

8 med baking potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, diced

4 cups milk

4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
4 TBSP roasted red pepper (jar), chopped
2 TBSP flat leaf parsely, chopped
Dash hot sauce

8 ounces shredded cheese (colby-jack, cheddar, pepper jack, etc)
Extra cheese for garnish

Boil the potatoes and onions in the chicken broth until very tender. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add milk and stir. Keep on low heat.

Make Roux. Combine butter and flour and cook until thick. Add peppers, parsley, hot sauce, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add to potato mixture and mix until smooth and well distributed.

Add cheese just before serving and stir until cheese has melted.
Ladle into bowls and top with extra cheese.  Can make "Baked Potato Soup" by adding your favorite toppings: crunchy bacon bits, sour cream, or fresh chives.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

My youngest loves cinnamon rolls. The sweet combination of cinnamon, spices, and sweet frosting will send her into ecstasy...and she's 5. 

I've been making french toast for as long as I can remember. During my early college days, my roommate would ask me to make it at the wee hours of the morning to offset a night of drinking. This version of french toast is sweet and flavorful and if done right will have a soft custard like center.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

5 eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg (approx)

6 slices Texas Toast, thick cut French Bread, OR 8 slices regular bread

Mix first 5 ingredients together until well blended. Soak bread in egg mixture until soggy. Cook on a hot, buttered griddle until lightlty browned. Turn once. The center should "poof" a little while cooking.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and butter. Serve with syrup or Orange Whipped Cream.

Orange Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp orange marmalade

Whip cream with vanilla and sugar until medium stiff peaks form. Fold in marmalde. Serve.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Confetti Macaroni Salad

My girls love pasta. Not as much as potatoes, but mac n cheese is a big hit...and so is spaghetti (which I'll post later!). But, on a hot summer holiday, macaroni salad is a refreshing treat...especially when it's colorful and full of a variety of flavors and textures. Did I mention that we hate boring food? Well, this salad has a lot of flavors and colors. That's how it got it's name. It's best when it's been allowed to develop overnight, but don't worry if you want to dive into it right away.

Confetti Macaroni Salad

1 lb small shell macaroni
2 hard boiled eggs
2 ears roasted corn
2 green onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 small jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded


12 oz. light sour cream
16 oz. light mayonaise
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 TBSP salt
1 1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, diced
Cayenne Pepper-to taste

For the salad, cook macaroni according to package directions. Cook eggs and corn. To roast corn, place corn still in husks in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. You want it to be crisp-tender. When done, peel back the husks and remove silk. Rinse well. Remove the kernals and place in a medium size bowl. Add vegetables to this bowl as they are prepared. Remove macaroni from the water when just tender and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain completely. Peel and dice eggs. All ingredients should be at room temperature when assembled together. Place everything in a large mixing or serving bowl; one with a lid/seal is ideal.

In a seperate bowl, add together all ingredients for dressing. Taste. Make adjustment according to your liking. I like mine a little less salty and with a little "zip". When thoroughly mixed, add to salad and blend well, making sure all pasta is coated and all ingredients have dispersed through the salad. Refrigerate at least 2 hours if possible...overnight is best.

Serve cold.

Getting Started

I'm new to blogging. There, I said it. I read blogs. I follow blogs. I've thought about starting a blog for a long time. So, with inspiration from friends, and, I have to admit a very compelling movie, I took the plunge.

There are millions of blogs out there. I know. Why read mine? Well, why not? I have been cooking and baking for years...mostly successfully, but there was a time when I couldn't get chicken to cook beyond raw...ick...but I'm over that now. Luckily, it was a brief time period and no one died--or even got sick. Whew!

But seriously, cooking and baking are my passion. More baking than cooking, but we all have to eat, right? I can go for days on an emotional high when my daughters exclaim that the latest meal was the best thing they've ever tasted and we HAVE to have it every night. Laughter with friends is always enhanced by good food and drinks, isn't it? So I cook to keep us healthy and bake to keep us happy. Isn't that what life is all about? Healthy and happy? Family time and togetherness?

So, with the encouragement of others, I begin this journey of sharing some of my recipes. Some I have been making for years. Some are brand new to me...and I'll give you my opinions as we go along. Many will have stories to go with them, and that just makes it a little more interesting.