Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Sunday, April 30, 2006

WDB #32

Mommie's Marilyn Manson puppy =)
Have I mentioned that one of Chloe's nicknames is Marilyn Manson? hehee
It's that time of the week again! Go look at the round up of everyone's adorable (and maybe less up close & personal) pups at Sweetnicks this evening =)


Blog of the Week April 30, 2006

Nicki's Bakingsheet is one of those blogs that I look forward to every morning. She posts often with fabulous photos and descriptions of what's she created that day. You can tell how much she enjoys being in the kitchen, which I find inspiring. Her deserts look so fabulous and you can practically smell the scent of warm, homemade bread when she shares a recipe. My list of "to try recipes" has steadily grown very long due to the additions of her offerings. I've actually dedicated a section in my recipe notebook to Nic! If there's a slim chance that you haven't visited her site yet (and I'm sure there can't be that many out there who haven't) please go visit as soon as you can.. you'll marvel and drool as much as I do, I can guarantee it =)


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Have I ever mentioned my love/hate of Giada De Laurentiis? I love her style of cooking and her easy to follow recipes. But the sight of her freakishly huge mouth, frankly, frightens me. I also don't appreciate her mammories staring me in the face. Okay, she's a pretty gal all in all, but I don't need her boobies winkin' at me to want to keep watching her show. I won't change the channel if she comes on, but I'll look around the room and try to avoid all eye to freakish mouth and semi-obscene boobie contact that I can. I listen intensely and sometimes I'll just stare at her hands and what she's doing.. but I will not let myself look at that grimmace she calls a smile for fear of instantly turning into stone. Okay so maybe? I exaggerate. A little. It's not nice to judge someone by their appearance. I'm a big advocate of getting to know someone before I make my opinions. I don't judge her, I think she's very talented and I'm sure she's a loverly gal once you get to know her. Her and the girls, that is.

I did purchase her book and on one hand I'm glad that I did.. it's nice to be able to flip to a recipe while in my kitchen instead of walking back to my office and looking for the recipe online. But, that's one thing I wish I had known before I bought the book.. I'm noticing that almost every single recipe in the book that I paid money for is accessible online for FREE. AND when I go look up one of those recipes online, I'm not assaulted by a picture of her. Her cookbook holds more pictures of her than of the recipes. That can't be right. Can it?

Well today I decided to take a lil advice from my friend Ali. I decided that since it was still a little too cold out to work in the yard (the ground is still rock hard) I was going to make this a "pamper yourself" day. So after my normal routine in the morning... reading my favorite blogs, drinking a couple cups of coffee and playing online canasta (so addicted to that game)... I drew myself a nice hot bath and poured in some delicious smelling ginger-peach bath salts from Pier One. I lit my bathroom candles and poured myself a glass of peach nectar and club soda, then I relaxed for an hour and read my new
book - which is quite hysterical and written by a very talented blogger who I love, Jen Lancaster. After that, I pampered my house and cleaned from top to bottom while my brother-in-law (love him!) graciously came over to mow my lawn as it was getting higher than Nigel in hubbs' absence. By noon I had a sparkling clean house, a beautiful looking and wonderfully smelling, freshly mowed lawn, 3 loads of laundry done and I was feeling pretty damn good about myself. Now it was time to start to think about what's for dinner? Did I really want to take some kind of meat outta the freezer or did I want pasta? Did I want something I already know how to make or did I want to try something new? I do have all those cookbooks just sitting there.. many never even looked at past their introduction pages. So I grabbed my Giada and my Nigella - passing over my Paula because today was not a day for something with a pound of butter in it. I decided on making a pesto with penne tonight, I just had to choose which one. During my weekly grocery get, I replenished my sun-dried tomatoes and they were calling out to me from the pantry as they always do.. so that's what I picked. Sun-dried tomato pesto with penne. It turned out really good. Really good considering I didn't have any fresh basil. I always have fresh basil, how I did not have any today was a complete surprise to me. So I substituted with fresh baby spinach. Didn't miss the basil at all. The combination of the tomatoes in their oil and the garlic and romano was delish. The penne was al dente and held onto the pesto perfectly. I've got left over pesto and I think I'll be trying it again with my homemade gnocchi that I'm going to attempt tomorrow, courtesy of Ivonne. =)

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto & Penne
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto with Penne

1 (8.5 oz.) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
1 c. (packed) fresh basil leaves (I used spinach)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino Romano)
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste.
Olive oil (my addition)

Blend the tomatoes and their oil with the basil and garlic just until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl, and stir in the cheese and 1/2 tsp. each of salt & pepper. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. I added a wee bit of olive oil because my pesto looked a little dry. After plating, I drizzled with a little more olive oil for a bit of added richness. This pesto will last for 1 week if stored in an airtight container.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A combination of two...

Like I said earlier, Ivonne's Cream Puffs in Venice holds some delish sounding recipes. Two, in particular, caught my fancy in a big way this week. Her Creamy Lemon Fettucini and her Gnocchi alla Bava. *swoon* Last night I couldn't decide which I wanted more, I just knew I wanted them both RIGHT NOW. I didn't have the time or energy after my 8 in the dungeon to attempt the actual gnocchi recipe, but the sauce she used with them sounded so darn good. As did the Creamy Lemon sauce.. which one? which one? Okay well.. let's try combining them.. the best of both worlds?! And that I did. I have to say, at first, I was a little taken aback. I had made the beautiful creamy lemon sauce and added the Fontina cheese from the gnocchi recipe and it looked smashing - all creamy and white with little specks of delish lemon zest throughout (I didn't strain mine as she suggested because I used my microplane and the zest grated so finely that I just left it in), but when I did my first taste test I was immediately alarmed. No no.. this was not a bad recipe, this was my dorkiness coming into play once again. I over salted. *sigh* So with an addition of more cream and more cheese (as if that could be a bad thing, c'mon!) it evened out the salt and I had a delicious sauce for my al dente fettucini to soak up. The tartness of the lemon played beautifully with the sharpness of the cheese. The consistency of the sauce was silky and rich. This was a fabulous combination and I just want to thank Ivonne for two fabulous recipes that I will definitely try on their own as well - I can't wait to make homemade gnocchi!

I'm going to link to the Gnocchi alla Bava instead of typing them out here (just in case you haven't seen the wonderful photos that go with them) and the way I made mine was just adding 6 ounces of Fontina cheese (okay well more than 6 oz. when it was all said and done!) to her Creamy Lemon Fettucini recipe, that's it. =)

Creamy Cheesy Lemon Fettucini
Creamy Lemon Fettucini

Copied verbatim from Ivonne's Creampuffs in Venice
Adapted from Lemon Zest by Lori Longbotham.

1 cup heavy cream (35% cream)
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 pound dried fettuccine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the cream in a small pot until it's just about to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain the cream through a sieve to remove the lemon zest.

Put a large pot of water to boil; once it comes to a boil add the fettuccine and cook according to package directions.

As the fettuccine cook, melt the butter in a large pan (large enough to accommodate the fettuccine). Add the lemon cream and bring to a boil; add a bit of salt and pepper (taste to make sure that it's to your liking; add more salt if necessary).

Lower the heat and let the cream simmer; it will reduce slightly and thicken.
As soon as the fettuccine are cooked add them to the cream mixture. Immediately add the Parmigiano Reggiano and toss gently until all the fettuccine are covered in the sauce. As you toss the pasta, the melting Parmigiano and the starch from the pasta will combine to thicken the sauce further. Serve the pasta immediately with additional Parmigiano.


Note: This recipe will serve 6 to 8 people. You can cut it in half. The original recipe does not include Parmigiano Reggiano, but as I am of the belief that Parmigiano makes everything taste better, I added lots of it!

Gnocchi alla Bava

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pizza Snob

I don't think I mentioned in my 100 list, and I'm shocked that I didn't.. I'm a total pizza snob. There is only one pizza I'll eat, the kind my Aunt Ann taught me to make. Rarely I'll be forced to eat delivery pizza, but believe me, only if I'm starving and sooooooooooooooo tired that I can barely slave over a hot phone - and those times I mostly order Chinese or subs. I grew up on my Auntie's pizza. She is known throughout the land as the Pizza Lady and there are (seriously) dozens of kids that grew up in her neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) that would show up at her house every Friday night for a slice or two of the thinnest, most delectable pizza EVER. Actually my sisters and I were the unfortunate ones. We lived across town and we didn't get to go to my Auntie's house every single Friday because of our restaurant. But my parents did manage to get us there often and even if it wasn't Friday, she'd make us her pizza. I love my Auntie soooooooooooooo much!! She's a wonderful lady that everyone loves upon meeting her once.

Two years ago, we made a date for her to teach me how to make the pizza. I felt especially honored, since she had taught no one else before me and so far, no one after me. And believe me, I take this pizza making stuff seriously. I keep plugging away and will continue to until I have mastered her pizza. The dough keeps getting better and better, but I don't think it's quite there yet - still needs a lil tweaking. My mother says it's there. Hubbs and friends of ours love it (but he nor they have ever had my Aunt's - so they don't count lol) but I'm not satisfied yet. I'm just going to have to keep making pizzas.. yep, it's a dirty job.. but someone's gotta do it. (gladly!)

Twins! before

You might think I've made a typo when you see that we use 3 packets of dry active yeast to 1 cup of water instead of the "normal" 1 packet to 1 cup of water, but I haven't. That extra yeast is what gives my Aunt's pizza it's distinctive flavor. Furthermore, you might be shocked to see that I don't put sugar in with the yeast nor do I put any salt or oil in the dough. I'm trying to stay as authentic to my Aunt's teachings as I can and she never uses any of those ingredients. She did not use fresh vegetables, herbs or garlic in her pizza sauce and she did not use a pizza stone, so this recipe might even sound a bit barbaric to some. But it's still the best pizza I've ever had. Granted, I can't help but want to experiment with ingredients and flavors - I've started a list already - but until I feel I've mastered her way, it's going to stay her way. Yanno? =)

Twins! After
Auntie Ann's Pizzas

For the Dough:
3 (1/4 oz.) packets of dry, active yeast
1 c. lukewarm water

4 to 6 cups of all-purpose flour (6 c. will make 6 thin pizzas, 4 c. will make 3 thin pizzas)
additional water

Dissolve the yeast in the 1 cup of water, let sit for 5 minutes.
If you have a stand alone mixer, use the bread dough hook and mix the flour with the yeast mixture, adding tablespoons of water as needed if your dough looks dry. Continue to mix until dough forms a ball.

Place dough ball onto well floured flat surface and knead for 5 minutes. Form into tight ball and put in a large, oiled bowl covering with a just damp clean kitchen towel (just drape towel over bowl, don't form it around dough). Place bowl in a warm, dry area. Let the dough sit and double in size (roughly 1 hour), punch the dough down and allow it to rise once again.

For the Sauce:
1 (29 oz.) can of tomato sauce
The rest of the ingredients are to taste, but here's what I used my last batch:
1 TBS. parsley
1 TBS. onion powder
1 TBS. garlic powder
1 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. basil

Simmer for an hour or longer, stirring occasionally.

Whatever your lil heart desires =)

Pizza1 after

To prepare the pizzas:
Preheat oven to 400º F.

Grease your pizza pans with shortening. I'm talking the white lard Crisco type stuff. Oil can definitely be used, but I find spreading the dough goes much easier with something not so "slippery". Place a softball sized wad of dough in the middle of your pan and start spreading it out working it so that you are spreading from the middle to the edges. This causes less holes in such a thin crust. If you do encounter holes, either pinch them shut if you've got enough dough or add a little "dough patch" - but make sure you have no holes before you add your sauce.

Once you have the dough spread, place pizza sauce on top and spread it to about 1/2 inch from the edge (or you can be like me and "slip" every once in a while so that you get a lil burnt sauce on your crust :D ) then add your toppings. Always keep in mind, try not to overload your pizza, the thin crust won't get crispy if you do.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check your pies and if they look all golden brown and bubbly, they are done. Another step I take to see if they are done is I carefully slide a wide metal spatula underneath and lift the crust a bit to see if it's brown underneath near the middle. If it is, done - done - done =)

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Monday, April 24, 2006

So bad.. it's actually funny =)

Two disasters in one week.. I'm on a roll! :D

Disaster Exhibit B

Maybe I'm being punished this week? I mean, I've had my fair share of disasters in the kitchen - but not two in a row before. I guess it was the perfect ending to the week from hell. tee heee

On yesterday's agenda were two new recipes to try. This delightful cake is called Meringue Swirled Chocolate Cake and the recipe comes from a not so shabby cookbook, Betty Crocker's Ultimate Cake Mix Cookbook. I've made a couple cakes from this book a very long time ago and remember them being pretty good. I am to blame for the disaster it turned out to be, but even the taste of this cake wasn't so hot. I mean it totally tasted like a cake from a box. That's usually not so bad for me.. up until a few years ago, that was the only kind of cake I'd make, it's the kind of cake my mom always made so it's not like I'm a bake from scratch kinda gal from way back, yanno? Admittedly, I have not had a boxed cake in quite a while, so maybe my taste buds have been spoiled? Maybe they revolted because I dared to expose them to a boxed cake? I have no idea. All I know is that it was a disaster from beginning of baking time to tasting time.

Everything went well in the making.. the eggs turned beautifully glossy and the stiff peaks were perfect. Spreading the meringue onto the springform pan was easy and I even managed to keep an even coating around the sides. The swirls on top turned out oh so pretty! Suggested baking time was 1 hour 30 minutes. I set my timer for 1 hour 20 minutes as my oven tends to get a little too hot. Bringing me to Bad Lisa No. 1 - I tested with a regular toothpick and it came out clean. I noticed the cake peaking from the meringue didn't quite look done but I didn't give it much thought. So I took it out and was happy.. it was a glorious golden color and it smelled really good! About 45 minutes later I took another look at it and thought, "Wait a minute.. I wonder if that pick even made it through the meringue on top into the cake below?" So I searched in one of my gadget drawers and found some longer bamboo spears and poked one in the middle.. well now.. I had myself a completely undone cake! What's a rather experienced home cook to do? Heat the oven up again and put it back in, of course! Lisa Bad No. 2 - apparently, no, that is not what you should do with a meringue topped (or any cake for that matter?) cake. It took another 30 minutes for the bamboo spear to come out clean and by then my meringue was turning BLACK in spots. As Rachael Ray would say.. "Yum-O!" Bleh. This picture shows how the meringue on top is burnt while the sides are still wet and not cooked through, sticking to the springform when I took the ring off. Nice.
Disaster Exhibit A

Being a firm believer in the religion of "Just cuz it looks bad doesn't mean it won't taste good" I waited until it had cooled completely and cut myself a slice. The first thing that hit me was the burnt meringue. So I peeled it off. The cake was not over done, but very moist, a good sign, yes? But it tasted like a slightly flavored chocolate piece of sponge. I used a Devil's Food cake! The chocolate should have been more pronounced, it always is.. why this one didn't I dunno. Anyway.. total bummer. I wish I had a scanner so I could show the picture in the book.. by comparison, mine looks well.. yeah.. uhh different.

Second new recipe of the night.. Chops with Greens and Parmesan Pasta as a side. Fakk no. I was so not in the mood for another disappointment , even though it was a pretty clean cut recipe that I didn't think I could screw up, I wasn't going to take any chances. So I just seared my chops, threw 'em in the oven for a bit and made some hashbrowns to go with.. hahahahaaaa! Done!
Here's to a better week! *ching*

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

WDB #31

Nigel & Jasper
Nigel hosted a sleep over a couple weeks ago and his mentor, Jasper, was the guest of honor.
Nigel had quite a few bad habits before he met Jasper, but Jasper is one of the smartest and most gentle dogs I've ever met and thankfully, he taught Nigel a thing or two about manners =) Check out all the other pups at Sweetnicks tonight!


I made breakfast!

Normally, I'm not a big breakfast eater. Well not traditional breakfast, anyway. I'm one to grab a cup of coffee and croissant or bring yogurt and a banana to work. I have the time each morning to make breakfast as I get up at the crack of dawn (ugh!) but I'm usually not hungry until later in the morning - which is at work and there's no making eggs and bacon there!

Remember those 3 recipes from Cuisine at Home that I wanted to make this week? I didn't think I'd be able to make all 3 because of my pooches and their unfortunate tummy problems, but everyone seems to be on the mend today! Yay! I'm not going to get too excited, as I thought I was done with all the nastiness on Friday night. No nastiness meant cooking sounded good again! But Saturday morning brought more nastiness, with Chloe catching whatever it was Nigel had. *sigh* Luckily, I called the Vet straight away and got her on antibiotics within an hour, so I'm thinking we may have nipped her tummy problems in the bud =) KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED PUH-LEASE!

Okay, so this morning breakfast sounded damn good and since Ali wouldn't send me any of her pancakes. :P I had to make my own. These are not your ordinary pancakes as they are made with ham and cornmeal, but let me just tell ya.. they are divine! The flavors of salty ham and the sweet syrup with pineapple went so well together. The texture of the cornmeal in the pancakes and the flavor of the corn was perfect. My addition to the syrup was right on as well. I definitely knocked one out of the park with this find and I'm so happy my favorite magazine gave me another great recipe to add to my repertoire. =)

Cornmeal Hamcakes2
Cornmeal "Hamcakes" with Pineapple Maple Syrup

2 TBS. unsalted butter, divided
1 c. ham, cubed
1 c. fresh pineapple, chopped *I didn't have fresh, so I used canned
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. pure maple syrup *See note below
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 TBS. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 c. buttermilk *I had it on my shopping list and forgot it! Subbed with 1 c. sour cream *dork*
2 eggs
3 TBS. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Melt 1 TBS. butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ham, saute until lightly browned, then remove.

Add 1 TBS. butter, pineapple and cinnamon to the pan. Saute until fruit is lightly browned. Off heat, stir in syrup; set aside. *Note: I only had 3/4 c. of pure maple syrup, so I added 1/4 c. of the sauce that went with the apple cake I made last week - buttery and cinnamony (word?) it was a perfect addition*

Preheat pancake griddle to 400º F. or a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Lightly coat with nonstick spray. Bleh, I used butter :D

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

Blend buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring until just evenly moistened. Fold sauteed ham into batter.

Pour 1/4 c. batter onto hot griddle for each pancake. Cook until brown on the bottom and bubbles form around the edges, then carefully flip and cook until done, 1-2 minutes.

Serve with pineapple syrup and optional toasted pecans.

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Blog of the Week April 23, 2006

For my 5th week of saluting my favorite blogs to read, I've chosen Ivonne and her Cream Puffs in Venice. I came across Ivonne the same way I came across Ilva's Lucullian delights, searching for that elusive sauce recipe.

I enjoy Ivonne's stories and recipes quite a bit, but what I really love are those that pertain to her family traditions. So much like my own family, yet different as well. Her photos are always beautiful and elegant and she really allows the reader to understand where a particular craving or recipe comes from.

Another nice thing about Cream Puffs in Venice is that Ivonne creates themes each month. April is lemons - and does she find some yummy looking recipes that contain that fruit! Her theme during the 2006 Winter Olympics was food from the region of Piedmont, Italy. I learned so much about Italy through those posts! And the food looked absolutely luscious =)

Ivonne's sense of humor and making the reader feel welcome is truly worth checking out her blog - my guess is that you'll add her to your favorites, if you already haven't. =)


Are you starting to see a theme here?

After Friday night's bomb of Mushroom Ragù with Soft Polenta, I opted for an old standby on Saturday night that I knew would be delish and wouldn't take forever. I also realized.. wow I eat a lot of wings!

There really isn't a "recipe" for this dish.. you simply salt, pepper and paprika your wings and place in frying pan with a teeny amount of oil in it.. just barely enough to cover the bottom. Brown your wings on each side and then add sliced up bell pepppers. The more peppers the better. Usually when I make a whole batch of these wings (a whole family-sized package - 14 to 16 whole wings?), and not just a few for just me, I end up using at least 4 whole peppers if not 5. When I cut it down to 6 wings last night I used 2 whole yellow peppers. The color of the pepper doesn't really matter, but the length of time you cook them does. You really want the peppers to get soft and carmelized. If a few of them look burnt, even better - they have a fantastic taste when they are soft yet almost black looking. The wings take between 25 and 35 minutes to cook all the way through, but if your peppers aren't quite done by then, you can remove the wings and allow the peppers to keep cooking. Sometimes I'll add onions with the peppers, which Hubbs loves. =) I did a simple roasting of zucchini and halved grape tomatoes with olive oil, salt & pepper and some herbs I had left in the fridge.. thyme and sage. But you can use any herbs you like or none at all. I roasted them at 450º F. for about 20 minutes.

Wings w/peppers
Wings with Peppers and Roasted Veggies

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Oh. My. God. Pt. II

Chloe has it now. *sob*


Oh. My. God.

What a week I've had. Nigel has been sick with a lower intestinal bacterial infection. My poor sweet little man. :( My plans to try 3 new recipes by Friday certainly did not pan out as I had hoped. Other than Wednesday night, I have been woken up at 3 am by my dogs to some form of nastiness.

I am not dissing moms of human babies.. not at all, I totally respect all the hard work it takes in raising children. But being a mom of the four legged, furry variety has been an eye opener, to say the least. I've always had dogs, ever since I was 6. But I've always had my parents and sisters to help deal with the bad stuff that occasionally happens. Nigel, Chloe and Kitten are my first "owners" that I've had since having my own family. And yeah, along with Hubbs, those guys are my family.

So a little background here.. those of you who own small dogs probably know that although they are very smart little guys and gals, it's harder and sometimes impossible to train them to go potty outside 100% of the time. Chloe, she'd hold it until the cows came home if she had too - my dear girl learned quick and she learned well. Nig, on the other hand, still can't get it into his cute little head that my walls and my loveseat are not there for him to lift his leg upon on occasion. Since they were puppies, we've crate trained them. When Hubbs is home they both sleep in this giant crate together and all we have to do is open the door and in they go, happily. I'm very pleased about that, as I rarely have to deal with morning messes. Well.. since Hubbs has been away on work, I let the dogs sleep with me - because it makes me feel more safe. In the two months this has been going on, my little angel boy has done so well. I think I've woken up to one mess the whole time - up until this past Tuesday.

Tuesday I woke up to "bombs" all over my living room carpet. At first I was mad.. I thought he had just decided that he had to go so he went. So I put them outside and started cleaning the mess. This Tuesday I had a lunch time appointment with the second of three fence companies to give me a quote on tearing out our old and incredibly ugly chain link fence and replacing it with glorious new 6' wood privacy fence, so when I came home for lunch to let my guys out and meet the fence guy, I was assaulted by a stank the minute I opened the door. I knew then that Nigel wasn't being a lil shit (no pun intended) the night before but that he obviously had an upset tummy, because he couldn't even hold it in the crate - dogs will not do their business where they sleep unless they absolutely can't control it.

Luckily, I came home a little earlier than my meeting, so I started to clean up the mess in the crate. This involved trying to get the blankets out without uhmm.. letting anything drop to the floor from the crate (in living room) to my laundry room (through dining room and kitchen) or getting anything on myself. Mission accomplished. Now I had to get the liner of the crate out and into the laundry room so I could wash it off. Check. Next was to assess the kids.. because you KNOW they were laying it in. Chloe had managed to mostly steer clear other than stepping in it, but Nigel was covered - so emergency bath was in order. Okay, I've got stanky yet adorable little guy in the sink all soaped up and smelling a lil better. Keep in mind, I've kind of got him in a head lock under my arm preventing him from jumping down to the floor while I clean his little heiney, so I'm pretty much very vulnerable to anything else that might occur around me. As I'm trying to rinse his slippery little body off, I hear the screen door of my slider open up and in comes Chloe (a trick she learned early on *grumble*) leaving big, goofy, Aussie shepard paws covered in poop tracks all over the damn place. So I'm yelling at her to get her ass back outside and I start to kind of panic. My slider is wide open and bitch cat notices. She's an inside cat and normally will not go outside when a door is open. Until today. Today when I have NO TIME to chase her back in the house. Today when I have one hour to get this meeting over with and get my ass back to work because a bid is due this afternoon. Today when I have doggie bodily fluids (yes fluids) to deal with.

I wrapped the towel around Nigel, run to the screen door and manage to get a foot in front of the cat before she can go out.. I slam the door shut (not on purpose) just as Chloe decides, "Okay, I'll go back outside now" so she gets crunched by the door (she's fine, it takes more than an aluminum screen door slammed on her arse to hurt her) - which, in turn, knocks the screen off the track. Somehow, I managed to grab it before it fell over and still hold onto Nigel who is dying to get down to "shake it off". Okay.. I position the screen door (one armed) against the house so bitch cat can't get out and Chloe can't nudge it open. Just as I'm taking Nigel into the laundry room to dry him off, the doorbell rings - Oh Yay! Fence guy is 10 minutes early! Perfect! I go to the door, nice fence guy is trying to introduce himself and I'm like.. "nice to meetcha, letcherself in at the gate" and slam the door in his face. I RUN to the laundry room to lock Nigel in until I can get him dry but the lil bugger gets loose from the towel and off he runs straight for the screen door - ramming right into it. Just as fence guy is walking through the gate, the screen door falls flat on my deck with a very loud CLANG. I just stood there. I didn't know what to say. I was soaked at this point, my shirt completely sticking to my rolls. My hair was wet (don't ask) and I knew damn well I smelled of doggie doo stank.

Thank goodness the guy was smart enough to try and ignore my appearance and odor. He helped me round up my little "angels" to the laundry room and then he went about his business of measuring. He made it quick and left, promising to fax me a quote the next day. I went back in to dry Nig, clean Chloe's paws and get myself cleaned up before going back to work.

That was the worst single hour of my life I think I've ever had. Needless to say, the rest of the week has been mostly the same.. cleaning out crate and carpet and washing dogs. The vet gave me an antibiotic to clear up his infection and some other pills to make him able to hold it. But they haven't kicked in yet. Thursday was divine.. I don't believe it was the pills but a good 24 hours of keeping the food away from him that allowed me a poop free day and a solid night of sleep. But it started back up Friday when I came home from work to another offensive odor and then last night (or shall I say this morning?) at 3 am when Chloe started barking and whining again, waking me up to more fun. Needless to say, I will have to keep Nigel's food intake to a minimum until these meds kick in.

Thank God it's Saturday.. I foresee a long bubble bath and a nap in my future!



My first disappointment with a recipe from Cuisine at Home. Normally I wouldn't write about a bad recipe, although I lurve reading comments and am amazed that anyone would even take the time to make a comment, this blog really is a way to organize all my sucessfull attempts at recipes, new and old. So writing about something I will never make again probably doesn't make much sense. BUT - I guess I can not be a true critic to this recipe as there are a couple components of it that I've never had before - so I don't know if the recipe is bad or if it's just my palate. So I'm posting it and if anyone does give it a try, maybe let me know.. is it me or is it a yucky recipe? heehee

I've never had polenta before. I've seen it and I've heard about it, but I've never tried it. The flavor was very good, I'll give it that. But the texture of this soft polenta didn't bode well with me. I've got other recipes where the polenta is more "solid" for total lack of a better word, and I'm definitely going to try them now just for the taste factor. Hopefully one later this week as a matter of fact. I'd also never had shiitake mushrooms before. They are delish, but the recipe did not say to not use the stems and wooo baby are they tough and fibrous. Ick. I'll definitely use them again in other recipes, but will throw the stems out for sure. Another ingredient was dry sherry. I cook with wine all the time and always enjoy the concentrated flavor in the background of the recipes but the sherry paired with the balsamic in this recipe seemed to cancel out every other ingredient. Not so good. But again.. maybe this is just me. =)

mroom ragu

Mushroom Ragù With Soft Polenta

For the Ragù
1/4 c. shallots, sliced
1 lb. assorted mushrooms, sliced or quartered (4 cups) *Recipe suggested a mix of crimini, shiitake and button mushrooms so that's what I used. It also suggested not to use Portobellos as they turn the sauce black.
3/4 c. tomatoes, diced *I used canned fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 c. vegetable broth *I used chicken broth, didn't have vegetable broth.
1/4 c. dry sherry or Madeira
2 TBS. balsamic vinegar
1 TBS. tomato paste
1 TBS. chopped, fresh parsley
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Polenta
1 c. vegetable broth *Again, I used chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of white pepper
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
2 TBS. cream cheese, cubed (1 oz.)
2 TBS. Parmesan cheese, grated

For the Ragù:
Saute shallots in 1 TBS. oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until soft. Increase heat to high, add half the mushrooms, and saute until browned; remove from pan. Add additional TBS. of oil to the pan and saute remaining mushrooms, then return the reserved mushrooms to the pan.
Add tomatoes, broth, sherry, vinegar and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Finish with herbs and seasonings.

For the Polenta:
Bring broth, cream and seasonings to a boil in a sauce pan. Whisk in cornmeal; reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring often. Fold in cheeses before serving.

Serve Ragù over Polenta.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sun-dried Tomato Crusted Chicken

I probably own about 50 cookbooks.. I know, I know.. just the tip of the iceberg for many of you! heehee But what I've realized of late is that when I feel like making something new and delish - I rarely crack one open. Instead I go to my Cruisine at Home magazines. I can't tell you how much I love this cooking magazine. Not only does it contain many yummy looking recipes, but it gives kitchen tips that are actually useful to the home cook and good advice on buying appliances, again that the average home cook uses. The look of the magazine is certainly on the "upscale" side, but the contents are neither pretentious nor are the recipes hard to follow. In fact, they are extremely easy to follow with a lot of ingredients already in my pantry or not hard to find at my local grocery store. I believe I've made 4 recipes now from these magazines and not one has been a loser. I've picked three new ones that I'm going to attempt this week - assuming that my 8 in the dungeon doesn't leave me half dead when I get home at night =)

The first recipe is Sun-dried Tomato Crusted Chicken. I'm a big fan of boneless, skinless chicken breasts - as long as they are marinated. I'm one to get a little nervous about dry chicken breasts even though I know that the boneless, skinless variety is hard to render dry - unless over cooked.. but still, I will not make them unless I find a fabulous marinade. Which brings me to my trepidation of trying this recipe. Although it looked and sounded absolutely yummy (Lurrvvve sun-dried tomatoes!) there was no marinating in the recipe. But I talked myself into giving it a try anyway. Wow! My new favorite recipe for chicken breasts! I'm so throwing out those marinades!! teeeee! The chicken was so incredibly juicy and tender.. and the flavor of the crust was outstanding. Another downer was the bread crumbs in the crust.. not a huge fan of that kind of breading.. but the sun-dried tomatoes worked so well with the crumbs plus it was practically effortless in the making. Their suggestions for sides were steamed asparagus and a feta couscous. I went with the asparagus because I love it but I opted for rice cooked in chicken stock and flavored with butter and parmesan. Delish! I had this all done in about 40 minutes - bonus!

Sun-dried tomato chicken dinner
Sun-Dried Tomato Crusted Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 oz. each)
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 TBS. water
2 TBS. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Prepare breast halves by trimming fat. Slice each breast in half lengthwise; pound to 1/2" thick. Season with pepper and salt.

Pulse bread crumbs, tomatoes and garlic in a food processor. Transfer to a shallow dish.

Place flour in a second shallow dish. Blend eggs and water with a fork in a third shallow dish.

Dredge both sides of chicken in flour, then dip into egg mixture to coat. Transfer chicken to crumb mixture and pat onto both sides; place on a baking sheet or plate.

Heat oil in an ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute chicken 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully flip chicken, then place pan in oven. Roast 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

I did not to make the following sauce that was suggested to go with the chicken - because I'm a dork and didn't notice the recipe on the second page - duh! Next time though, I will try this as it sounds wonderful.

Sunny Butter Sauce
1 c. dry white wine
2 TBS. capers, crushed
2 TBS. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, thinly sliced
1/4 c. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, sliced
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped

Boil wine in a skillet until reduced by half.

Add capers and lemon juice; boil 1 min. Reduce heat to low.

Whisk in butter one piece at a time, stirring constantly. As each melts, add another. Stir in tomatoes and parsley.

My only notes are that I halved the recipe because it's still just me *sigh* and I didn't have the oil packed tomatoes, I had the dry kind - and they worked beautifully. When halving the recipe it still makes way, way too much of the crumb mixture for 1 chicken breast sliced in half. I ended up throwing a lot away.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

WDB #30

He loves his seester
Nigel loves his seester.. especially when she provides a pillow for his naps =)
Check on the rest of the cute puppies at
Sweetnicks tonight for Weekend Dog Blogging!


Blog of the Week April 16, 2006

Ilva is a Swedish woman, married to an Italian living in Tuscany with her two daughters and one son. I was searching italian food blogs one day in a quest to find a recipe for a sauce my father would make every Christmas Eve, that neither my mother nor I learned from him (stupid! stupid!). In my search I found Ilva's Lucullian Delights and I was totally blown away. The photography on this site is absolutely amazing. She has the supreme gift of capturing nature or architecture in a most sublime, almost ethereal way. Her photos are nothing less than breath taking. There are a lot of people who take great photos out there.. but none have made me feel as if I could smell the sweet scent of the flower or feel the misty morning dew on the leaves. And the Tuscan architecture.. something that I've always adored, but I've never felt my heart skip a beat when looking at other pictures before. It sounds corny, I know, but this is my first experience with really being taken by someone's photographs. Just... amazing.

I've also learned so much about the way Italians eat in Italy. I don't know if her creations are the "norm" over there, but I suspect they are. They cook with ingredients that my family doesn't. Although I know my Italian heritage has been "americanized" through the years, I still found it shocking to realize just how much. Her sauces are light and flavored throughout with fresh herbs.. Her deserts are rarely rich and full of sugar. Her entrees combine flavors that I've never thought of combining. Simple and fresh are the two words that come to mind. Earthy is another word. Delicious is yet another =)

I admit, I can't quite yet, get my mind to wrap around creating a dish with the ingredients she uses for myself and Hubbs.. but reading and seeing what she posts on her blog feeds my passion for understanding where I come from.


Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sauce

My taste in deserts are pretty simple. Anything with chocolate and I'm usually happy. I mean, ANYTHING. Coming up a close second is any desert with apples. There is nothing like the smell of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house, regardless if it's spring, summer, winter or fall for me. A friend of mine, Kathy, gave me this recipe last fall and I never got around to making it until yesterday. I'm glad I did.. although the cake is your basic apple cake - very good, the cake is moist and flavorful with a crispy top. The chunks of apple are tender and sweet giving it great texture. But it's the sauce that makes this cake divine. Holy cow.. all I could think of was this sauce, slighly warm, poured over vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. Or hell, sucked through a straw from the saucepan! Give it a try the next time your sweet tooth is craving something with apples. =)

Apple Cake

Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sauce

4 c. peeled, cored, chopped sweet apples, such as Mollies, Delicious, Crispin or Fuji (I used Fuji)
1 c. chopped nuts
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375º F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. Combine apples with nuts in a large bowl and sift dry ingredients over top. Mix eggs, oil and vanilla together. Add to the apples and flour mixture and mix until well blended.

Bake in prepared pan for 35 to 45 minutes, or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Serve with Cinnamon Sauce. Makes 12 servings.

Cinnamon Sauce:

3/4 c. butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. water

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool and pour over individual servings of the cake.

Apple Cake w/Sauce

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Craving Mom's cooking

Sunday already.. Happy Easter everyone!

It was a very uneventful week in my little kitchen. I was so happy for the nice weather that I spent most evenings after work outside with the dogs. By the time we came in, I had about enough energy to open up a bag of seasoned noodles or a package of hotdogs :) Friday it was my linguine & clam sauce again (I really think I could live off that dish). Saturday I woke up with lots of energy.. I had cleaned my house and did my laundry all before 9 am! That doesn't happen often lol

I also woke up with a HUGE craving for some of my mom's cooking. I thought about calling her and asking her if she'd cook for her favorite daughter, but we were having my neices and their parents over, so I knew we'd go out for lunch and she would not feel like cooking later. *sigh* I guess if I wanted to satisfy this craving, I'd have to cook it myself.

My absolute favorite dishes she made me as I was growing up were Linguine and Clam Sauce (imagine that!!) paired with slow cooked BBQ ribs. Quite a combo, eh? But, gawd I loved it and always asked for that on my birthday. Next in line, was her fried chicken wings with macaroni and cheese.. and that's what I was jonesin' for Saturday morning. The wings are super simple.. just flour, salt & pepper. She throws all that with the wings in a big bag, shakes it up and then fries the wings to a goldeny brown perfection. Yum! Hubbs had never had fried wings before I had met him.. he thought wings were only made with buffalo sauce and served with blue cheese dressing and celery. He's now addicted too and asks for these quite often.

Mom's Mac & Cheese

My mom's mac & cheese? Well that's a different story.. she adds tomatoes to it and he just doesn't like that (so he says, but on the rare occasions that I'll make it he ALWAYS goes back for seconds - sometimes thirds, go figure). I don't know where my mom got this recipe or if she was just experimenting one day, but it was a huge hit with the family. Three ingredients is all it takes. One of which is Velveeta processed cheese. This recipe is the only way I'll eat Velveeta.. just not a huge fan of the stuff, but I keep in on hand as Hubbs loves his Velveeta and green pepper sandwiches. (ugh)

Mom's Wings & MC

Mom's Mac and Cheese

1 lb. medium shell shaped pasta (I used Radiatore for something different this time)
3/4 of a "loaf" of Velveeta cheese, diced
2 (14.5 oz.) cans of whole tomatoes broken up in blender - not pureed (I didn't have whole tomatoes so I used crushed tomatoes and they worked fine)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, then season with salt.

Cook the pasta until al dente, you don't want to overcook the pasta as it will go into the oven and continue cooking.

In a 3 quart casserole dish, combine the cooked pasta, Velveeta and tomatoes, then cover.

Place in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes to melt the cheese. Stir before serving.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The end of winter

First off.. YAY!!! It's 70º F here in northeast Ohio - the sun is shining and I have all my windows and doors open letting in the warm air! I'm so happy =) Course I know better than to think winter is FOR SURE over.. after all I am an Ohioan. It would not shock me a bit for another snow storm to hit us and I probably won't really believe winter is over until, say.. July. But for now, am happy!

Just as I will most likely put away my winter clothes this weekend (most of them anyway) and bring out my summer stuff.. it's also time to put away my wintery, warm you up and keep you cozy recipes. But not before I tried one more new recipe! I found this on Alysha's The Savory Notebook, (Thank you!) one of the first blogs I ever found myself addicted to. =)

A couple notes and thoughts before I share the recipe. Firstly, I took Alysha's advice and added a third tablespoon of Dijon mustard instead of the recommended two tablespoons because she said in hers the Dijon didn't come through enough. She thought it was bland, but she was holding her true opinion until she tried it again after a day or so. I never did see if she remarked on it after that. But for me, this was one of the tastiest stews I've ever had and a complete keeper for next winter. But.. I will make a few changes. My stew was extremely thick and it cooked down way before the cooking time suggested. I don't own a dutch oven (dammit all to hell!) so I made this in a rather large stainless sauce pan and I don't know if that was the problem or not. I kept my heat at medium to med.-low so I don't think that was a problem? And my kale stayed tough. After 10 min. of cooking time, as suggested, it was still tough so I slowly simmered it for another 10 min. with the same results. So next winter.. I will double the sauce ingredients and steam my kale before adding it to the stew or substitute spinach. Other than that, I was very pleased. =)

Oh wait.. one more thing.. the next time I make it I will not be dead tired after a long day at the dungeon and actually serve it with something other than a fork. =)

Dijon Chicken Stew

Dijon Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Kale

4 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 c. sliced leek
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (I didn't have these so I omitted them)
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used 1 1/2 lbs. to make up for the missing thighs)
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 c. dry white wine
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided (I used 1 c. chicken stock because I wanted to get rid of it and the rest was the broth)
1 TBS. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. water
2 TBS. Dijon mustard (I used 3 TBS.)
2 c. (1/2-inch) cubed, peeled white potato (about 1 pound) (I used new reds)
8 c. loosely packed, torn kale (I found this to be too much, and probably used about 4 cups)
Crushed red pepper (optional)

Heat 1 tsp. oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leak; saute 6 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Spoon leak mixture into a large bowl.

Place 1/3 c. flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. I added my salt and pepper to the flour before dredging the chicken in it) Heat remaining 1 TBS. oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces; sprinkle with 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add browned chicken to leek mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken pieces, 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper.

Add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine 1 cup broth and 1 TBS. flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add broth mixture, remaining 2 cups of broth, water and mustard to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in chicken/leek mixture, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and remaining 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Stir in potato. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until potato is tender. After 15 minutes my stew had cooked down too much and the potatoes were fork tender - so maybe check yours. Stir in kale; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Garnish with crushed red pepper, if desired

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mom's birthday - the finale

The birthday cake was a no brainer. It had to be carrot cake and it had to be the carrot cake I've been making her for the past 5 years or so. This cake is so incredibly moist and flavorful. If you are a lover of carrot cake, then this recipe is a must have!

*Disclaimer: Do not, by any means, judge this recipe from my crap cam pictures or my sorry excuse for a frosting "technique". It seems that with every year, I manage to get even more crumbs in my frosting than the year before. har!

crumb city!

The Best Carrot Cake You'll Ever Have

6 cups grated carrots
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. raisins
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. crushed pineapple, drained
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes, then stir in raisins.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour two 10 inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, stir into the wet mixture until absorbed. Frinally stir in the carrot mixture and the walnuts. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. sifted confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioner's sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.


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Mom's birthday - delish dinner for three...

For weeks I have been thinking about what to make for her birthday dinner. I wanted it to be something special but different from the norm. I came across a couple things that gave me some ideas but nothing that excited me.. until I saw Marianne's recipes for Mushroom Soup and Tenderloin "in Crosta". I immediately invisioned dunking a crispy, herbed bread paired with a tender and juicy slice of savory pork into a hearty broth then barely making it to my mouth before a single drop could hit my plate. My gawd.. it sounded just way too good.

tenderloin en crosta mushroom soup
roasted reds & zucchini
Tenderloin "in Crosta"
Copied verbatim from Marianne's The Unemployed Chef

serves 3-4

For the herb garlic rub:

small handfull fresh rosemary leaves
slightly larger hadfull fresh sage leaves
zest of one lemon (this is my addition, I recommend it)
4-5 cloves garlic
small handfull sea salt

Chop all ingredients together until very, very fine--I actually grated the zest and garlic on a microplane and combined it with everything else. Spread out on a large dinner plate and leave out until dry--1 or 2 days. Once dry, you can store this for a week or two in a tightly sealed jar. Lebovitz recommends this for any number of purposes, including mixing it with olive oil and using it as a dipping sauce for bread.

For the tenderloin:

one smallish pork tenderloin
1 french batard (like a fatter baguette)
herb garlic rub
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet over high heat and sear the pork quickly on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Slice the batard lengthwise and drizzle each half generously with some olive oil. Sprinkle with the herb garlic rub--be careful to not use too much or the bread will be too salty. Sandwich the browned tenderloin between the two slices and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Cook directly on the oven rack for about an hour and fifteen minutes (the meat should reach 160 degrees and still be pink in the center. Yes, it is done enough). Remove from oven and let sit, wrapped in foil, for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

Mushroom Soup

serves 2

2 Tbsp butter
olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 8-oz. package button mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 6-oz. package cremini (baby Bella) mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 c. homemade chicken stock*
1 c. vegetable stock
.5 c. dry white wine
1 beef bouillion cube
fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

*The chicken stock I made was pretty thick and viscous, so I chose to mix it with some boxed vegetable stock I had on hand. Feel free to use 2 cups of whatever stock you have instead.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat until foamy. Add mushrooms and saute until the excess moisture evaporates and they are golden brown. Mushrooms love to soak up oil, but they do release it, so fight the temptation to add more. Spoon into a bowl and set aside.

I followed Marianne's recipes almost to the T. The only changes I made were cooking the pork until well done, because I know my mother.. she will not put a piece of pink pork near her lips! hehe Then, I couldn't find a french batard, so I chose an artisan roasted garlic bread, which was fabulous and I really think added to the herb/lemon/garlic rub. And finally, just doubling the recipe for the soup because there were 3 of us and I knew I'd want leftovers =)

The tenderloin came out as tender as Marianne promised. The rub for the bread was well worth starting this recipe two nights before the "main event", as my mom and sister can attest to. I had to push them away from my counter where it was resting so that there would actually be some bread to go with the tenderloin. They wouldn't stop tearing off pieces and shoving it into their mouths! And the soup.. it was just so flavorful and EASY and QUICK! I know there are a lot of soups out there that you can whip up in a jiff.. but this soup tasted as if it had been simmering all day long. And wow.. it really did pair well with that tenderloin - dunking the bread along with the meat into the soup was every bit as good as the way I'd imagined it! I added a simple side dish of roasted new red potatoes and zucchini. Slice the veggies then throw 'em onto a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over them along with a good sprinkle of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and snipped chives then toss them with the tips of your fingers before situating them in a single layer. Place the baking sheet on the rack below your tenderloin "in crosta" for the last 40 minutes of baking time, flipping them over once mid-way.

Kids.. run. Do not walk to your kitchen to create these fabulous recipes for yourselves.. your lips will thank you!

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Mom's birthday - the appetizer...

Today is my mom's birthday.. 70 years young - Happy Birthday, Mommie! My sister, Sam, came up for the weekend from her life in Toledo (college student), so it was just us gals. The three of us always have so much fun together and I always look forward to any occasion that brings us together. I wish it could be more often!

Sam got here first and we sat around the dining room table just BS'ing and catching up waiting for my mom to arrive. As per usual, our conversation turned to all things food and I told her I had just discovered another fabulous blog that morning called She Craves. From the first post I was hooked and had to go back to the beginning to read the whole site. Among the many fabulous posts she wrote, I found this one: When You Don't Want to Even Look at Another Piece of Turkey where she describes a carmelized onion tart she made. It sounded perfect to start our night out together and luckily I had all the ingredients on hand.

Onion tart2

The only change I made was the addition of sun-dried tomatoes. It came out of the oven all golden brown and bubbly just as mom walked through the door. By the time she had taken off her coat and got settled in with her delightful daughters *grin* the tart had cooled off a bit and we all dug in.. Yum!

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Blog of the Week April 9, 2006

I don't recall how I stumbled upon Marianne's The Unemployed Cook, I just know I'm so glad I did.

Marianne has this way of describing her culinary adventures in such a way that it inspires me to cook more and to cook things I've never either heard of or thought I could handle (her latest post telling about her brioche success has totally made me want to try making bread - something I never ever wanted to attempt before). Her recipes were the highlight of my mom's birthday this past weekend and my gawd, she's even given me the desire to not only try curry for the first time, but to make it for hubbs when he gets home from this job! A meal with spice? Unheard of! Hubbs is going to lurrvveee me forever! =)

Not only are her choices economical and tasty sounding (and looking!) but they are so creative.. regardless if it's a recipe from one of her friends or an inspiration from something she's seen, she makes an ordinary dish.. well.. extraordinary! You really need to check out her blog if you haven't already.. you truly won't be sorry. =)


WDB #29

This would be Chloe during her mid-morning nappers and looking quite annoyed
that mom has the camera out again. She leads a tough life, eh? =)
Go see the rest of the stressed out pups at Sweetnicks WDB #29!


Thursday, April 06, 2006

French Onion Salisbury Steak

Tuesday night I was really feeling ambitious, so I took out all of my Cuisine at Home magazines and started drooling. What a fabulous home cook's magazine! I eventually settled upon French Onion Salisbury Steak because I had all the ingredients on hand and it looked positively yummy.

And it was! Simple ingredients, short prep and cooking time and I had a fantastic dinner that looked beautiful as well. Best part is, it freezes well, so I've got 3 dinners already made and waiting for me whenever I so desire.. bonus!


French Onion Salisbury Steak courtesy of Cuisine at Home April 2005 edition

Makes 4 Steaks; Total Time: 45 Minutes
1 1/4 lb. ground chuck
1/4 c. fresh minced parsley
2 TBS. scallion, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 TBS. all-purpose flour
2 TBS. olive oil
2 cups onions, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 TBS. garlic, minced
1 TBS. tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
4 tsp. minced, fresh parsley
4 tsp. Parmesan cheese, shredded
Cheese Toasts
4 slices French bread or baguette, cut diagonally (1/2" thick)
2 TBS. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
Pinch of paprika
1/4 cup Swiss cheese, grated (I used 4 italian cheese blend, shredded)
1 TBS. Parmesan cheese, grated

Combine chuck, parsley, scallion, salt and pepper. Divide evenly into 4 portions and shape each into 3/4"-1" thick oval patties. Place 2 TBS. flour in a shallow dish; dredge each patty in flour. Reserve 1 tsp. flour.

Heat 1 TBS. oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add patties and saute 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from pan.

Add onions and sugar to pan; saute 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste; saute 1 minute, or until paste begins to brown. Sprinkle onions with reserved flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth and wine, then add the salt and thyme.

Return meat to pan and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Serve steaks on Cheese Toasts with onion soup ladled over. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan.

For the Cheese Toasts

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Place bread on baking sheet.

Combine butter, garlic and paprika and spread on one side of each slice of bread. Combine cheeses and sprinkle evenly over butter. Bake until bread is crisp and cheese is bubbly, 10-15 minutes.


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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Monday night wings

Trying to figure out new recipes to try when you are only cooking for yourself is kind of hard. But with him being gone now for over a month, I am tired of the same old same old and I miss cooking in my pretty kitchen! So Sunday night I perused the 100's of recipes I've collected from these excellent blogs I've found myself addicted to and decided on Most Excellent Chicken Wings by Sara at I Like to Cook. She found this recipe in a magazine and has been making them ever since she was in college. I cut the recipe in half and even that was way too much for the 6 wings I had taken out of the freezer.. so next time (and there will definitely be a next time!) I'll remember to either use the whole 3 pounds of wings it calls for, or freeze the excess marinade for another time.

These wings were really tasty. I can only describe them as a cross between barbecued and teriyaki wings. I only needed to bake mine for 50 minutes, as opposed to the 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours the recipe calls for. They turned out sweet & tangy and gooey & crisp all at the same time! The marinade didn't just flavor the skin, but gave the meat of the wings a fabulous flavor as well. They are messy though.. so you'll definitely want a wet nap or two close by =)

I paired these wings with my roasted sweet potatoes, which are super easy. Just dice up a sweet potato or two, spread out on a cookie sheet in one layer and drizzle with olive oil and a good sprinkling of kosher salt. Bake at 400º F. for 20 to 25 minutes. Using a metal spatula, turn the potatoes over, keeping them in a single layer, and sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over them generously. Bake another 20 minutes. They end up being so creamy on the inside with a crispy coating on the outside.. delish!

I think my only change next time will be to make a more savory side dish to go with these sweet wings. Although the sweet potatoes were awesome, this dinner was probably too sweet in general.


Most Excellent Chicken Wings

3 pounds chicken wings
1 stick of butter or margarine (I used butter - of course! lol)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Combine all ingredients except wings in a medium saucepan and heat until butter and sugar are melted. Cool, and pour over wings. Cover and marinate overnight, turning 2 or 3 times. Bake at 375º F. for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Wings Sweet Potato2

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Tyler is hot!

I don't know if I've mentioned.. but I'm on a quest for the perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie. After my score of Valrhona chocolate at Miles Farm Market last weekend, I could not wait to try a new recipe with one of the best chocolates in the world. So I searched high and low and found 5 chocolate chip cookie recipes - all promising to be chewy and yummy. But which one to try first? Well.. after much debate, I decided to go for Tyler Florence's Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Why? Because Tyler is hot, of course. The man is a fantastic chef and total eye candy to boot.. how could I go wrong?

I made a damn good choice. =) His cookies are buttery, big, fat AND chewy! yay! I was kinda worried because they do end up pretty huge and although golden brown around the edges after 12 minutes, still looked undone in the middle.. but I figured what the heck - if I cook them any longer they are gonna be crispy and a crispy chocolate chip cookie is bad juju to me. After cooling off (As If. They were still steamin' hot because I couldn't wait to taste them) I found them to be delightful.. are they the BEST chewy chocolate chip cookie EVER? Well.. I've still got 4 more recipes to try and the ultimate test is a day or two after - will they still have their chewy goodness? We'll see. =)

But if these other 4 recipes turn out 1/2 as good or better than Tyler's - well all I can say is it's going to be delicious finding out :D

Tyler's ccc 3

Tyler Florence's Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (8 oz.) block dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the butter, sugar and brown sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer; cream together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the vanilla and eggs.
Gradually ad the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and contine to mix until a smooth batter forms.
Turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate chunks using the spatula.
To form the cookies, scoop about 1/4 c. of the cookie dough into your hands and roll it into a ball; place them about 3 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets - you should get about 4 cookies on each pan. Press down the tops of the dough slightly and bake until the cookies are light brown, 12 minutes for chewy cookies or about 15 minutes for crispy cookies.
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough/cookie sheets.
*Note: I didn't use 1/4 c. balls, instead I scooped them out with 2" scoop - they flatted out to be about 3 inches in diameter. Loverly =)

Tyler's ccc 4

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