Thursday, December 29, 2011

Portabella Mushroom Soup

Mushroom soup is kinda like cole slaw for me....I love 'em all.  Every recipe.  We were having a few people over for Christmas dinner and since we didn't get in until Friday night and they were coming over at Sunday noon, I felt my holiday dinner was a bit slim on the offerings, so I decided I would throw a soup together as an extra offering.  And BOY!  did this one turn out pretty darn good.  Another recipe from my old restaurant in Minnesota.  I think it was the feta and thyme that sent it over the top. 

Very good, very simple, very delicious.  If mushroom soup is something that appeals to you, you need to try this recipe.  P.S.  Fresh thyme is a must.

PORTABELLA MUSHROOM SOUP (makes about 8 small servings/4 large)

1/2 cup feta cheese
1 Tbsp snipped fresh thyme
2 (6 oz) containers Portabella mushrooms (4 large mushrooms)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 large leek, white and light green parts, chopped 
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
hot sauce and cajun seasoning, to taste

Combine cheese and thyme and set aside.

Finely chop 3 of the mushrooms (9 oz).  Chop remaining mushroom into bigger pieces.  In large pot, heat olive oil.  Saute shallots and leeks over medium heat until softened (about 5 minutes), stirring often.  Stir finely chopped mushrooms into shallots and leeks; saute until tender (about 10 minutes).  Reduce heat.  Stir in wine.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in flour until smooth.  Slowly pour in chicken broth; stir in larger mushroom pieces.  Bring to a boil.  Stir constantly; boil 1 minute.  Stir in cream, S&P; heat through.

Garnish with cheese/thmye mixture. 

Tomato and Olive Tapenades

These are two of my favorite appetizers.  I do not have a favorite, I could eat the entire batch of both tapenades.  It's not a seasonal appetizer, they work any time of the year.  I always serve them with crostinis, made from a good baguette (Panera is available just about everywhere), sliced, brushed with olive oil, and baked at 325 until just about completely dried (I like the center to be just a tiny bit chewy).  You can make these ahead of time, they keep wonderfully for at least a week, longer for the olive.  I generally cut this recipe in half, but would make the full batch if you're hosting a houseful.


1 cup green olives , chopped
2 cups black olives, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (in this batch I used smoked sun-dried tomatoes, resulting in a darker batch...the regular SDTs will have a brighter red color)
2 cups marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
3 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 cup EVOO

In a large bowl combine all ingredients.  Keep refrigerated.


10 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup EVOO
1/2 lime, juiced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients.  Keep refrigerated.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Benson's Special Salad

I discovered this recipe years ago in a "Gourmet" magazine.  The first time I made it, we both immediately knew it was a keeper.  The recipe originated at Ben Benson's Steak House in New York City.  Years after I first started making it, I was in NYC and purposely made a point to stop and and try it there to make sure I had been preparing it as intended.  This recipe is right on the button.

In the years since I have been making this salad, it eventually evolved into a Christmas dinner tradition.  Not only is it absolutely delicious, the vibrant green and red helps make a festive table.  I will tell you, while the anchovies are optional, to us (and to Benson's) they are essential.  I know some people's toes will curl at even hearing the word, but it's one touch that makes this salad.  Don't get me wrong, the vegetables by themselves are delicious.  One thing I did discover about the anchovies.  They are delicious the first time around, but on the second day they are definitely different.  Therefore, I put the anchovies on the side and them mix them in each time a have a serving for a fresh salad.

BENSON'S SPECIAL SALAD (makes approximately 8 side salads)

3 pickling cucumbers, or one English cucumber, partially peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced or diced
about 3/4# asparagus, cut into 1" lengths
about 3/4# fresh green beans, cut into 1" lengths
grape tomatoes, cut in half, I add enough to make a pretty color (Benson's uses a mixture of red and orange grape tomatoes)
8 oz can hearts of palm, coarsely diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (essential, don't leave this out and don't use dried dill) 
small tin of anchovies, finely chopped, optional

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp sugar

Have a bowl of iced-water next to stove.  Bring a pan of water to a boil.  Add the green beans and cook for about 5  minutes.  Strain the green beans and put them in the iced-water to stop the cooking.  In the still boiling water, add the asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes, strain, and add these to the iced-water.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together.

Combine all of the vegetables, toss, and add the dressing.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes with Three Cheeses

Post-Christmas Greetings everyone!  We had quite a busy week, spent the week with my mom in Oklahoma.  Unfortunately, I didn't prepare any new recipes while there so I had nothing new to post.  We got back Friday night and planned on having a few people over for Christmas dinner.  I just picked up a ham and made a few of my favorite dishes to go along with it, including our favorite potato recipe.  Now this stuff is good with just about anything, but BOY! does it ever go wonderfully with ham!  Recipe courtesy of Central Market, Texas.

I'll be posting some more of my holiday dishes in the days to come, all of our favorites.  I hope you'll try some of them.


2 oz grated extra-sharp cheddar
2 oz crumbled bleu cheese
3/4 oz grated Parmesan

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4" thick rounds (I use a mandolin slicer)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4  cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly butter (I use Pam spray) 8x8 or so glass baking dish.  Mix cheeses in a small bowl.

Arrange half of the potatoes in prepared dish; overlapping slightly.  Sprinkle with S&P.  Sprinkle onion over, then flour.  Dot with 1Tbsp butter.  Sprinkle half of the cheese mixture over.  Top with the remaining potoatoes, more S&P, and 1 Tbsp butter.  Reserve remaining cheeses.

Bring milk to simmer in medium saucepan (I microwave mine).  Pour milk over potatoes (milk will not completely cover).  Cover tightly with foil, and bake 45 minutes.  Remove foil (liquids in dish may look curdled); sprinkle potatoes with reserved cheese mixture.  Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and cheese is a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes longer.  (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temp.  Cover and rewarm in a 375 degree oven about 20 minutes).  Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Almond Roca

Several years ago I used to make English Toffee to give as Christmas gifts.  I did it for several years.  My friend Donna's husband, Gene, really liked it and inspired me to keep making it.  And then BOOM!!! One year it just didn't come out.  I tried it again.  Same result.  I'm not a big fan of baking and candy making is off-the-chart intimidating for me.  So after a couple of failed attempts, I swore off English Toffee.  And then I ran across a recipe for Almond Roca.

Honestly, these are basically the same thing and I don't know whatever possessed me to try it, but try it I did and guess what?  SUCCESS!!!  I don't know why it turned out this time (I thought the problem might be with my candy thermometer, but I tested it and it was accurate), but now I am ready to try it again!  I was so happy, I have overcome my candy fears!  I can only hope Gene likes it as much as the toffee.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 (3 oz) packages slivered almonds
2 cups chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet, but think I'll try milk chocolate next time)
1 (3 oz) package sliced almonds

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Lightly butter the foil and set aside.

Place the slivered almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300 degrees for about 5-6 minutes, checking often, until the almonds are golden brown and toasted.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and sugar and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula until the butter is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Don't rush this step!  It may take up to five or six minutes for the sugar to dissolve but you don't want the heat too high during this part of the process.  Once the sugar is dissolved and butter melted, turn the heat up to medium and stir gently as the mixture comes to a boil.  Again, this may take a few minutes.  Once it comes to a boil, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue stirring gently as it cooks.  The mixture will gradually turn to darker shades of brown until it reaches the hard crack stage and should register 300 degrees on your candy thermometer.  As your stir during this process, don't scrape the sides of the pan, just gently stir in a figure eight motion.

Immediately take the roca off the stove once it hits 300 degrees and stir in the toasted, slivered almonds.  Pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, taking care not to scrape the bottom of the pot as you pour it out.  Using an offset spatula, quickly spread the toffee into an even layer on the baking sheet-it will cool quickly making it hard to spread.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and tent with foil.  Let the chocolate melt for 2-3 minutes, remove the tented foil and spread the chocolate chips into an even layer.  Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the roca and set the candy aside to let the chocolate set and to let the roca cool completely.

Once cool and the chocolate is set, break into pieces.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Big Bayou Jambalaya (Crock Pot)

What a wonderful surprise this turned out to be!  I was looking for a crock pot recipe to use up some stuff in the freezer and decided to use this one.  And what a great dinner it was.  Personally, I think it was the dijon that added a whole new dimension to this dish.  Whatever it was, this comes together very nicely.  Simply prepare some rice and have a nice crusty bread on hand for a delicious dinner.


1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" chunks
1/4 pound kielbasa or Polish sausage, sliced (I used turkey sausage)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
3 tsp minced garlic
14 oz crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth 
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 pound cooked and peeled frozen shrimp (to add later)
Use a 4 quart slow cooker.  Although there are a lot of ingredients listed, there really aren't any rules to this recipe.  Dump everything except the shrimp into your slow cooker, starting with the meat.  Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours (high about 3-4 hours).  This soup will taste best when cooked low and slow.  Make sure the onions are fully cooked and translucent, then stir in the frozen shrimp 30 minutes before serving.  Replace the lid and flip to high.  When the shrimp are warmed through, ladle into bowls.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chocolate (No Bake) Oat "Cookies"

Do you remember these from your early years?  I thought these were the greatest thing since sliced bread!  Every once in a blue moon, we would get these for our dessert in grade school for lunch.  Funny thing, it's one treat my mom never made.  Weird, since they are just about the easiest, quickest "cookie" treat to make.  Takes about 5 minutes and generally, you'll have everything already on hand to whip up a batch.  Can it get any better?  Fast, easy, ingredients on hand.  You just can't beat 'em.


Bring to a boil:
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 stick butter

Cool slightly.  Add:

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick oats

Drop onto waxed paper.  Cool. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Garlic Orange Shrimp

Oh YUM.  Yum, yum, yum.  How simple is this dish?  As much shrimp as I have prepared and as many recipes as I have gone through over the years, this may be just about the easiest, most flavorable dish around.  It is definitely leap-frogging to the top.  We'll be eating this again and often.  I served it simply over jasmine rice and steamed asparagus.


12-16 oz shrimp (I used 21-25 raw, deveined shrimp)
4 tsp minced garlic
cayenne pepper (I just used a dash....use to taste)
3/4 c orange juice
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

Add minced garlic, cayenne, and Old Bay to OJ.  Melt 2 Tbsp of butter on medium high heat in frying pan.  Add shrimp and cook until pink.  Remove shrimp from pan and add OJ mixture.  Add final Tbsp of butter.  Cook mixture down (approximately 5 minutes).  Add shrimp back and cook 30-60 seconds.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pan-Fried Fresh Salmon Cakes

This is a basic, standard dinner entree we eat around here.  And I always serve these with Macaroni and Cheese (Joy of Cooking recipe) and green beans.  Now, when I first started eating these, back in the 60's, my mom made them from canned salmon.  I had never seen a fresh salmon fillet until I was in my 20's.  Sometime after Jim and I got married, I ran across this "Cook's Illustrated" recipe using fresh salmon.  What a novel concept!  We never looked back.  Oh, and you have to use Panko breadcrumbs.  Makes all the difference.


3/4 pound salmon fillet, skinned
about 2 1/2 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp mayo
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp + 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

Chop  salmon into 1/4" to 1/3" pieces and mix with 2 1/2 Tbsp Panko, mayo, onion, parsley, salt, and lemon juice in small bowl.  Scoop a generous 1/4 cup portion salmon mixture from bowl and use hands to form into a patty measuring approximately 2 1/2" in diameter and 3/4" thick; place on parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining salmon mixture until you have 4 patties.  Place patties in freezer until surface moisture has evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread flour in pie plate or shallow baking dish.  Beat egg with 3/4 tsp vegetable oil and 3/4 tsp water in second pie plate or shallow baking dish, and spread bread crumbs in a third.  Dip chilled salmon patties in flour to cover; shake off excess.  Transfer to beaten egg and, using slotted spatula, turn to coat; let excess drip off.  Transfer to bread crumbs; shake pan to coat patties completely.  Return now-breaded patties to baking sheet.

Heat remaining 1/4 cup vegetable oil in large, heave-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 3 minutes;  add salmon patties and cook until medium golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Flip cakes over and continue cooking until medium golden brown on second side, about 2 minutes longer.  Transfer cakes to plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil surface, if desired, about 30 seconds, and then serve immediately.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Apple and Spinach Salad

What a wonderful autumn salad!  Spinach, apples, blackberries, mushrooms, bacon.......a wonderful blend of tastes and textures.  I served this with my favorite squash soup (served in a pumpkin bowl) and a plain focaccia drizzled with olive oil and freshly chopped rosemary and coarsely ground black pepper.  Couldn't be easier, more delicious, or more elegant.


1 package spinach
1 apple (your choice red or green....I like the red for the color contrast)
some finely sliced red onion
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
3 oz blackberries

1/3 cup mayo
2-3 Tbsp orange juice concentrate

Combine mayo and OJ and mix well.  Toss into salad ingredients just before serving.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chocolate Covered Peanuts (Crock Pot)

Are you looking for an easy recipe to WOW your friends, family, co-workers?  OK.  Here it is.  As long as you have a crock pot, I guarantee you will be a holiday hero.  These are absolutely delicious and addictive, so plan on having plenty of people you can pawn them off on, unless you're looking to gain a few (or more) pounds this month!  Throw 4 ingredients into a large crock pot, set on "LOW" for an hour and a half, stir, pour onto wax paper and VOILA!!!!  Instant happiness!


16 oz white candy coating, coarsely chopped
4 oz bar German sweet chocolate, chopped
16 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
32 oz (4 cups) dry roasted paper

Place the white candy coating, German sweet chocolate, chocolate chips, and peanuts into a slow cooker.  Set the cooker to "LOW," cover, and gently heat the candy for 1 1/2 hours without stirring.  After 1 1/2 hours, stir the mixture, and spoon out by teaspoons onto waxed paper.  Allow to cool and set, about 45 minutes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Salmon Topped with Spinach, Bacon, and Gorgonzola

Bonefish Grill had a flyer in last Sunday's paper featuring some of their new entrees.  This was one of them.  I looked online and found a copycat recipe.  Now, I've not had their dish, but if it's anything like this one, I would definitely give it a try!  I've whittled down the recipe a bit because when I made it as called for, it was just a tad too rich for us.  But even lessening the amount of salmon, gorgonzola, and lemon butter, this is still an indulgent dinner!  Salmon in itself is a richer seafood in my book, so adding butter and cheese sends it over the top.  Absolutely delicious and a wonderful treat now and then.  I served ours with roasted red potatoes and steamed asparagus.


Lemon Butter Sauce Ingredients
2 Tbsp dry white wine
1 Tbsp heavy cream
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Simmer wine and lemon juice for 15 minutes.  Slowly add cream and cook until slightly thick.  Turn heat to low and slowly whisk in chilled butter until the sauce emulsifies.

Salmon with Spinach, Bacon, and Gorgonzola Ingredients
two 4-oz salmon fillets
2 cups fresh spinach
1 oz olive oil
pinch of salt
2 oz gorgonzola cheese
2 Tbsp crumbled bacon

Saute the spinach with olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt.

Season salmon and grill until done.  When almost done, top with sauteed spinach and crumbled Gorgonzola.  Cover and allow cheese to melt.  Remove from grill.  Top with crumbled bacon and drizzle with lemon butter (can also be made on stovetop).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creamy Lasagna

Years ago when I was working in downtown OKC, there was a restaurant across the hall from us that served the absolute BEST lasagna in town.  The secret?  Sour cream.  It added an incredible dimension to this classic dish.  I searched forever for a copycat recipe and lo and behold!  Many years later I ran across the recipe which would result in a dish exactly as I imagined!  Of course, the recipe calls for ground beef, but I tend to always substitute ground turkey breast, resulting in a much lower calorie/fat count, without sacrificing taste or texture.  I used Barilla's flat, no pre-boil noodles for this recipe and I'm telling you, this dish came out wonderfully!  In my quest to load up my freezer with pre-made entrees, I divided this recipe in two.  For tonight's dinner, I made it in a 8x8 dish (using 6 Barilla lasagna noodles) and then made a smaller 1 1/2 quart rectangular glass dish entree, using just three lasagna noodles.  Or if you're serving a large group, use the entire recipe and prepare it in a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Whichever way you go, you won't be disappointed!

CREAMY LASAGNA  (12 servings)

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, turkey, or turkey breast
30 oz tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt
16 oz cream cheese, softened, or Ricotta cheese
8 oz sour cream
1/4 cup milk
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

In a skillet, cook ground meat over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.  Stir in tomato sauce, onion, sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese (or Ricotta), sour cream, and milk until smooth.

In a greased 13x9 baking dish, layer a fourth of the meat sauce, six noodles, and a third of the cream cheese misture.  Repeat layers twice.  Top with remaining meat sauce.  Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Uncover; sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.  Sprinkle with freshly minced parsley.

.Thanksgiving Turkey

OK, so once again, not the best photo.....but in a way it sort of is.....absolute perfection.  Golden brown skin with succulent moist white meat!  The reason?  Brining!   I will never, ever, ever roast a turkey without brining it first.  Makes all the difference.  And I will swear 'til the end, World Market' s Turkey Brine mix (available at World Market from about early November for a month or two) is not only the most convenient, easy brine to use, but just about the most delicious.  Let me know if you'd like a package or need instructions for brining.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I'll have to post a photo of what I know will be my beautiful Thanksgiving turkey later.  Just on the off-chance you have never brined a turkey and choose to do so next time you roast a turkey, I can promise you you will never turn back.  So, so, so moist!!!

But, to last night's wonderful pasta bake.  Oh, my!  This stuff is good.  I wanted to start making a few dishes I could freeze for nights I just don't feel like putting a dinner together.  This dish is delicious.  The flavors come together so beautifully with a bit of a smoky taste.  While you could definitely use frozen spinach in its place, the fresh is just so perfect, I would encourage to go with fresh.  You can either prepare a large pan (9x13) or two (8x8) baking dishes, putting one of them in the freezer.  If you have this dish in the freezer, you can simply toss a Caesar's salad and dinner is easy, peasy!


Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 medium red onino, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic (about 4 tsp)
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed with hands
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
12 oz baby spinach (more if you have it) or 2 (10 oz) frozen bricks, thawed and squeezed dry
12 oz smoked chicken sausage (I used Jennie-O turkey sausage) halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/4" thick
6 oz Italian-blend shredded cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Stir in garlic.  Cook for another minute.  Stir in tomatoes and oregano; cook until tomatoes are falling apart, 10-15 minutes.  Add cream; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Season sauce with S&P.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.  Cook pasta in the boiling water until ad dente, according to package directions.  Add spinach, and cook just until wilted.  Drain, and return contents to pot.

Add tomato sauce, sausage, and 4 oz cheese; toss to coat.  Season with S&P.  Divide evenly between the two 8x8 pans or directly into the 9x13 baking dish.  Top with grated cheese and Parmesan.  Bake until browned and edges are crispy, 20-30 minutes.

If you freeze half, you can put it straight into a 400 degree oven from the freezer for about 45 minutes, or until browned and hot throughout.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Double Chocolate Peppermint Pattie Cookies

OK, here you go Round One for Christmas Cookies!!!!  A definite winner.  This is a chocolate cookie dough wrapped around a York Peppermint Pattie.  And if you're lucky enough, you'll miss a complete seal so some of the peppermint will leak out of the side and you'll get an extra ooey, gooey, minty, chocolate mess that is (in the words of Mr. Food) "oh so good!!!!"  Sprinkle on a bit of colored sugar bits to dress it up a bit, like it needs that at all.  And for me, who really doesn't have a sweet tooth, well, let me just say I could make myself sick on these.  One after another after another.  Not only oh so good but a wonderful chewier texture.  This is one good cookie!!!


2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet if you can't find the Dark Chocolate)
About 30 small York Peppermint Patties (buy them in the bag in the candy's the personal size)
Decorator's sugar

Beat butter and sugar in large mixing bowl; add egg, milk, and vanilla, blending thoroughly.  Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add to butter mixture, blending well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Refrigerate dough about 1 hour (overnight is best) or until firm enough to handle (dough will be a bit soft).

Heat oven to 350.  Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper or Silpat.  Remove wrappers from peppermint patties.

Roll dough into 1 1/4" balls (22-24 grams on a scale).  For each cookie flatten ball slightly; press peppermint pattie into dough.  Mold dough around pattie so that it is completely covered.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.  Using knife edge press star design into surface of each cookie (I omitted this step); sprinkle with decorator's sugar.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until cookie is set; sprinkle with additional sugar, if desired.  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Manhattan Clam Chowder

OK, here's a great basic soup for you.  Manhattan Clam Chowder in the crock pot.  Just a few minutes of prep and dinner is ready by the of the day.  I had some ready-made crab cakes in the freezer which I picked up on sale to have on hand for an easy dinner.    I made some zucchini ribbons and voila!!!  A wonderful dinner ready in just minutes.

This is a classic Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe.  There are many variations, but this is the standard from which all the others spring.  Even better the next day, so make sure there are leftovers!


2 (6.5 oz) cans clams (and juice)
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes (and juice)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 cups finely diced peeled potato
1/4 (less for us) tsp cayenne
1 cup chicken broth

Use a 4-quart slow cooker.  Put the clams and tomatoes in the cooker.  Add the chopped vegetables and red pepper.  Pour in the chicken broth.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the potatoes are quite tender.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rosemary Shrimp Skewers with Lemon Garlic Pesto

Another wonderful, easy, quick dish.  Quite a blessing after an awful dinner I prepared last night (another story for another time!)  After mixing the pesto, this entire dinner came together (cooking time included) in less than 15 minutes.  Now, I did have some leftover plain white rice which speeded the process.  I mixed in some of the pesto with the rice, along with some leftover thyme and rosemary then just zapped it all in the microwave.  I also tossed the asparagus in the pesto and since the asparagus was so thin, it roasted in the oven for just a few minutes after I took the shrimp out and while I was threaded them onto the rosemary skewers.  Everything came together beautifully, each bite complementing the other.  Recipe courtesy of The Fresh Market.


Lemon Garlic Pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
1/4 cup olive oil

Shrimp Skewers:
1/2 lb (16-20 {I used 21-25} count shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
rosemary sprigs, bottom leaves removed

Pulse all pesto ingredients in a food processor until they form a paste.  Remove and set aside.

Place shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes, and thyme; pour over shrimp.  Set aside for 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, broil shrimp in a single layer for 8-12 minutes (what?!!!  Mine took about 3-4 minutes), turning once, until shrimp are pink.  Remove from oven and skewer shrimp with rosemary sprigs.  Arrange on a serving platter and serve with Lemon Garlic Pesto for a dipping sauce.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roasted Beet Salad/Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a salad we made at the restaurant in Minnesota.  It was  particularly favored by the women.  This would be a great entree salad to serve at a ladies' luncheon, maybe with a cup of Potato Tarragon soup or a special homemade soup.  The beets in the market right now are just beautiful and after roasting, simply delicious.  The dressing recipe makes about 2 cups, so cut it in half if you'd like or just save the rest as a versatile vinaigrette on a basic garden salad.


1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/4 tsp sugr
2 1/2 tsp salt

Fresh roasted beets, sliced thinly
Mixed salad green
Ricotta cheese
Italian seasoning
Kalamata olives, pitted (I prefer oil-cured olives)
Roasted red peppers

Cut off tops of beets and wrap in foil.  Roast beets in a 400 degree oven until tender, about an hour.  Cool and slide off the skins.

Blend together all vinaigrette ingredients.

Mix Italian seasoning to taste into some ricotta cheese (I used about 1/4 cup Ricotta per salad, add enough seasoning to the Ricotta to get a good taste, maybe about 1/2 tsp).

Toss salad greens with some vinaigrette, add about a quarter cup of Ricotta mixture and mix in.

Put a thin layer of greens mixture down in the center of the plate.  Top with 3-4 (depending on how large the beets are) beets, more green mixture, another layer of beets, etc. building as high as you would like, ending with sliced beets.  Surround with 5 kalamata olives, put 5 red pepper strips up the sides and sprinkle with a Tbsp of capers over the top.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have been wanting to try making granola for some time but could never find a recipe that sounded good to me.  I wanted the crumbly kind, not the bars.  I ran across this on Sandy Gluck's blog (she hosts a show on Martha Stewart radio) and it included exactly the stuff I wanted in my granola.  And let me tell you, this stuff is addictive.  I could have easily sat down and eaten the entire batch in one sitting.  I did learn from Sandy that if you want a crunchier granola, use the quick oats.   They are more processed and tend to crisp up better than the old-fashioned oats.  This is a wonderful, easy, very tasty snack to keep on hand.


3 cups oats
1 1/2 cups nuts (I used pecans and hulled pumpkin seeds.....use what you like)
1/2 cup Craisins
1/4 cup chia seeds, optional
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300.  On a rimmed nonstick baking sheet, stir together the oats and nuts.  Bake until fragrant, stirring once or twice, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and raise the temp to 350.

Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, stir together the maple syrup, oil, vanilla, and salt.  Add the Craisins and chia seeds (if using) to the oat mixture.  Pour the syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir to coat.  Return to oven and bake, stirring once until the oats are crisp, about 15 minutes.  Remove, cool to room temp, then transfer to an airtight container.  The granola will keep for several weeks at cool room temp.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cole Slaw Vinaigrette

I love cole slaw.  Any kind of cole slaw.  Mayo, mustard, vinaigrette.  Even that yucky grocery store deli cole slaw works for me in a pinch.  This is my favorite vinaigrette recipe.  Make up a batch, keep it in one of those 16 oz containers with a pour-spout and it will keep in your frig until you're ready for a new batch.  And for a two-second cole slaw, pick up a bag of ready-to-go cole slaw mix and you're set.


1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 small onion, finely diced

Blend oil, vinegar, salt, sugar, and celery seed well.  Stir in diced onion. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Panko Crusted Chicken with Mustard Maple Sauce

Oh yum!!!  This is such an easy, absolutely delicious chicken entree for you.  The sauce is incredible.  Fast, easy, serve it simply with a side salad and baked potato if you'd like.  Piece of cake (and that, too, if you'd like!)


4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2" thickness
1 egg
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp plus 2 Tbsp dijon
1 cup Panko
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp coarse-ground mustard
1 Tbsp chilled butter

Whisk egg, parsley, and 2 tsp dijon mustard in large bowl.  Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat.  Season with S&P.  Dip each chicken piece into the panko; turn to coat.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add chicken; cook until brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes a side.

Meanwhile whisk together broth, syrup, coarse-ground mustard and remaining 2 Tbsp dijon in a glass bowl.

Transfer chicken to plates.  Add broth mixture to skillet; boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.  Add butter; whisk until melted.  Spoon sauce alongside chicken.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Potato Tarragon Soup

We are officially into soup weather!!!  Yea!!!!   Cool, gray, slow rainy day and an extraordinarily wonderful classic soup......could it get any better?  Not for me!  Absolutely delicious.  I served this with a wheatberry salad and a warm, crusty, whole-grain bread.  I'm so glad there are leftovers.  (Omit the cream and yogurt for a dairy-free soup.)


1 Tbsp butter
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only) sliced
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp water
1# red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup plain whole yogurt

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat.  Add leeks, onion, garlic, and 2 Tbsp water.  Cook until leeks are just golden, about 10 minutes.  Add potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Puree half of the soup.  Mix in tarragon.  Cool slightly.  Stir in cream and yogurt.  Season with S&P. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tomato Cream Chicken

OK, first let me apologize for this awful photo.  But I absolutely had to share this recipe!  It is fast, easy, and delicious!  This sauce is so smooth you'll just want to drink it!  Again, fast and easy, too.  I served this with roasted red potatoes and artichokes, but just about any side dish would work nicely.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 oz each)
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Salt and pepper chicken breast halves to taste.  Heat olive oil in skillet and brown chicken breasts on both sides.  Remove from skillet and keep warm.  Add tomato paste and tarragon to skillet.  Cook briefly, stirring constantly.  Whisk in chicken broth and balsamic vinegar and cook until thickened.  Stir in cream and reheat to simmering.  Slice chicken breasts and fan out slices on dinner plates.  Drizzle sliced chicken with sauce.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Paper Clip Project

This weekend, Jim and I decided to take a foliage tour.  We live in such a beautiful part of the country and our colors were at their peak.  It was absolutely stunning.   It was a lovely day spent meandering along state highways and through a state park.  We are so lucky to live here.  The last small town we went through before returning home was Whitwell, TN.  Years ago I watched a documentary about this extraordinary project begun by a middle-school teacher and assistant principal trying to make an impression on their students about the impact of the Holocaust.  Trying to help them grasp the magnitude of the murders, they decided to collect paperclips to represent each person killed.  It snow-balled into an incredible project.  They were sent paperclips from all over the world.  Their crowning achievement was to acquire an actual railcar used to transport victims to the concentration camps for which the paperclips are now stored.  To step into this railcar is so moving, so sad, but so important.  What an incredible feat these educators mastered.

To learn more about the project, go to

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Yep, another black bean and corn salad recipe!  Can you tell we eat a lot of this stuff around here?  I will generally just throw the basic ingredients together, but this time I used an official recipe, courtesy of Rachel Ray.  I served this with my Power Enchiladas (a chicken/zucchini mixture) instead of my traditional Spanish Rice and seasoned black beans or refried beans.  And the leftovers make a wonderful, healthy snack.


1 (14 1/2 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped small
1 1/2 tsp cumin (more for me!)
2 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
1 juicy lime, juiced
2 Tbsp EVOO

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Let stand for 115 minutes for corn to fully defrost and flavors to combine, then toss and serve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quicker-Than-Take-Out Orange Chicken

I caught a show featuring a new cookbook, "Eat What You Love" by Marlene Koch.  She likes to take favorite recipes and make them a bit healthier by lowering the fat/calorie contents.  Her favorite makeover is this take on "Panda Express'" Orange Chicken.   This entire recipe serves 4 and each serving (1 cup) contains just 290 calories with just 9 grams of fat.  I served this over steamed brown basmati rice and steamed asparagus.  It was absolutely delicious.  Fantastic make-over meal.


1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light orange juice
1/2 cup Splenda granulated sweetener
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch

1+ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into about 1" cubes, or bite-sized
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute) beaten
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small red pepper, cut into small strips, or chopped
1 small onion, chopped

To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the first nine ingredients (water through pepper flakes).  Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a low simmer.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp of water and the cornstarch to create a slurry and whisk into the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a low boil and cook for 1 minute, or until the sauce thickens and clears.  Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer.

Roll the chicken in the egg and toss with flour to coat.

Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in the large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes, or until well browned on all sides and chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a bowl and cover.  Heat the remaining oil and cook the remaining chicken pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl and set aside.

Add the red pepper and onion to pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add the chicken to the pan and then the orange sauce.  Stir to coat and serve.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bon Bons

Happy Halloween!!!  I love this holiday.  Gorgeous fall colors, crisp air, and a whole new menu.  I hadn't made these little mice in decades and had a bit of trouble remembering how to assemble them.  My original notes said to use mini chocolate chips for the eyes, nose, and ears, but when I did that it looked just like a chocolate ball with a few chips.  So I used peanut butter chips (cut in half) for the ears.  I might try red hots for the eyes next time (you know how mice eyes are pink?).  I used black licorce strings for the tail (not easy to find, I'll tell ya).  Also, this time I used the Hershey's Kisses with Caramel.  Before I used the original Kisses.  Plus during the holidays, Hershey's usually releases several "holiday flavor" Kisses.  I don't think you would go wrong with any of them.  A fun, delicious treat any time of the year.

BON BONS (makes 4-5 dozen)

12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter
2 cups flour
Hershey's Kisses
1/2 cup finely ground nuts, your choice
mini chocolate chips for eyes, ears, and/or nose
other color chips, optional
cinnamon red hots, optional
black string licorce (I found mine at a candy store in the mall or in the bulk section of a health food store)

Heat oven to 350.

In medium saucepan, combine chocolate chips and butter.  Cook and stir over very low heat until chips are melted and smooth.  Add sweetened condensed milk.  Mix well.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring up.  Level off.  In medium bowl, combine flour, nuts, chocolate mixture, and vanilla.  Mix well.

Shape 1 Tbsp (20 grams) of dough around each Kiss, covering completely.  Place 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 6-8 minutes.  Cookies will be soft and shiny, but become firm as they cool.

To decorate as mice:

Cut the licorce into about 3" strands.  Push into dough while still warm.  For the ears, eyes, nose, use whichever chips you choose.  If you use the minis for the eyes, I find it easier and better looking to push the pointy-end into dough.  Place the nose pointy-end out.  Also, don't do this too early.  The dough is still quite warm and will melt the minis if inserted too soon.  Wait about 4-5 minutes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chicken Korma

Oh I wish I had another photo of this!  This one just doesn't do it justice.  And justice it deserves.  I'd heard of Chicken Korma (an Indian dish) but is one I had never made.  Two things:  it is so good and it is so easy.  This is a crock pot dish.  I got everything read the night before (if you cut the potatoes ahead of time, be sure to cover them with water, drain before using) and just popped everything in the crock pot about 2 p.m. and by 7 p.m. it was perfect.  The house smelled so good when I walked through the door.  The recipe (from "More Make if Fast, Cook it Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea) calls for 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken.  I used half breast and half thigh.  Also, I couldn't find my cinnamon sticks so I just sprinkled a bit of ground cinnamon in.  Serve this over white or brown basmati rice.  I served it with seasoned Italian green beans.

CHICKEN KORMA (serves 4)

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken, cut in chunks
1 large potato, peeled and cut in 1/2" chunks
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can stew tomatoes and juice
1 garlic clove, minced (1 tsp)
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (to add later)
cooked white or brown basmati rice for serving

Use a 4-quart slow cooker.  Put the chicken in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Add the potato and onion.  Pour in the stewed tomatoes, and add the garlic and spices.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4 hours.  Discard the cinnamon stick, and stir in the sour cream or yogurt.  Serve over white or brown basmati rice.