Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Product Review/Gift Idea: Custom Cookbooks from Tastebook

Are you still looking for the perfect gift for your mom, grandma, sister, friend, or just someone that plain loves to cook?  If so, I have to highly recommend a custom cookbook company called Tastebook.

I ordered this product for my mom and mother-in-law for Mother's Day this past year.  They aren't the most computer literate people but wanted copies of the recipes I was sharing online.  This was the perfect way to capture some of my favorites from this blog as well as to organize family recipes.  If you don't want to enter your own recipes, Tastebook also has pre-made themed books or you can select individual recipes from favorite sources like Food Network, Epicurious, and Food and Wine.

The books start at $19.99 (up to $34.99) and come in a very attractive hardcover binder that can include up to 100 vibrant colored pages and has dividers. The price is very reasonable given the quality (far exceeded my expectations!) and that a regular cookbook will run this much anyway.  You can add/move around the pages to your hearts content. You can also buy a book with 100 pages and create it with say 50 recipes. The recipient would then get 50 page credits to add their own recipes later.

Checkout my book here as an example to get your creative juices flowing and making your own (or, flatter me and actually buy my book!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Linguine with Clam Sauce

This steamy bowl of pasta will comfort you on the coldest of winter days.  It's easy AND elegant.  I almost have to laugh at myself for being intimidated by making a clam sauce at home.  There was nothing hard about this.  And canned clams?  A bit pricey but surely easier and cheaper than fresh and I couldn't tell a difference.  I guess if you wanted to make the presentation more impressive you could put a few fresh steamed clams in the dish.  It took minutes to cook and was restaurant quality.  Watchout, Maggiano's and Bravo, you may be my favorite Italian restaurants now but I might not need you anymore soon ;).

I personally added a touch of white wine to my sauce because I feel like that's a standard ingredient in most white clam sauces?  If you'd rather you can leave it out and I'm sure it will still taste fantastic.  I also added some dried basil because what Italian dish doesn't need some basil??  Oh, and I used spaghetti because my store was out of linguine.  How that's possible I don't know...

By the way, I thought this dish tasted EVEN BETTER the next day when I reheated it in the microwave for lunch.  Crazy, I know.

One Year Ago: Cincinnati Style Chili, Chinese Chicken Corn Soup, and Spicy Rapid Roast Chicken

Linguine with Clam Sauce
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  • 12 oz. linguine pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams, juices reserved
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan and fresh parsley, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved clam juice and if desired, dry white wine to the pan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by about half. With the heat on medium-low, stir in the clams, heavy cream, and basil. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Portion the pasta into serving bowls. Spoon some of the sauce over the pasta and top with grated Parmesan and parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.
Source: Very slightly modified from Annie's Eats originally from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine by Jeff Smith

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Cincinnati Nest/Bump Cookie Exchange

You know what the beauty of cookie exchanges are?  You make a big batch of one type of cookie and then you come home with the same size batch of a bunch of DIFFERENT types of cookies!  They're perfect for when you want to set out a holiday platter for guests or the office but don't want to slave in the kitchen all day making many types of treats.

This year I finally made it out to meet some of the ladies from the local Nest and Bump boards.  I've been a member of the online community and chatting with some of these ladies since my wedding planning days on The Knot like 4 years ago.  So, it was nice to finally meet some of them IRL (in real life...for those that don't know the lingo!).  They were as awesome as can be and it wasn't nearly as awkward meeting "strangers" as you'd think.  Then again, since Chris and I met online, the whole meeting people from online concept is not at all foreign to me!

I brought Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles to the exchange.  Believe me, Chris had a hard time letting me take those away from him since he loves them so much.  Thankfully, the ladies loved them just as much.  My personal favorite so far is the White Chocolate Macademia Nut.  It's not at all Holiday but what can I say?  It's just my favorite cookie of all time and therefore good anytime of the year!  In all, there were probably 30+ different cookies that were exchanged.  You better believe that these cookies are being shared with others because we certainly don't need them all for ourselves!  The recipes from all the cookies are being compiled by one of our awesome coordinators this week but for now, I'll post a picture for you to salivate over.  Mmmm...cookies!

PS:  Did I mention that we're doing a Dinner Club cookie exchange this weekend, too?!  Yeah.  Hello lardy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Island Spice Pork (Tender)loin

Stop the presses!  This might be one of the most succulent meats I have ever eaten.  The combination of sweet, savory, and spicy makes my taste buds go wild.  Yes it's snowing and fricking cold outside but this dish takes you to the Caribbean has a jerk type of flavor.  Previously the only way I had ever had pork loin was the way my mom served it - marinated overnight in pickling spice.  While that is also delicious, it didn't have the flavor complexity that this dish offers.  I have found a new "serve to company" entree...and it's simple (no marinating needed!) yet can make a beautiful presentation.  You can do it too - it's that simple.  Your guests will think you're a culinary genius!

I put the (Tender) in my title because the original recipe calls for tenderloin.  However, I made it with a regular old pork loin that I had stored in my freezer and wanted to use up.

Do you know what the difference between pork tenderloin and pork loin is?  I didn't until recently.  Most pork recipes that I bookmark call for tenderloin and thus have very short cooking times.  I remember once I made a recipe and used a loin instead of tenderloin and wondered why it took three times as long as the recipe called for.  Apparently, pork tenderloin is much thinner and thus can cook much more quickly.  Once I figured out the difference, I simply adjusted the cooking time.  Personally, I like the pork loin because you can serve so many people out of a single cut of meat.  Oh and did I mention the leftovers as sandwiches also taste delicious?

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Island Spice Pork (Tender)loin
Printer-Friendly Version


For the spice rub:
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (about 2-2½ lbs. total) - Note: Used 2.5 pound pork loin
2 tbsp. olive oil

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. (2-3 cloves) finely minced garlic
  • 1½ tsp. Tabasco sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir together with a fork to blend. Pat the mixture over the pork tenderloins or pork loin.
  2. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tenderloins in the skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total. Remove from the heat, leaving the pork in the skillet.
  3. Stir together the brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl until blended. Spread the mixture evenly over the tops of the tenderloins.
  4. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 20 minutes (increase to approximately 1 hour if using pork loin), until an instant-read themometer inserted in the center of each tenderloin registers 140˚ F. Loosely tent the skillet with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Source: Adapted by Annie's Eats from Pennies on a Platter, originally from The Gourmet Cookbook

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Peanut Butter-Fudge Cheesecake

Are you ready for something truly decadent? 

Chocolate and peanut butter have long been a favorite combination of peanut butter lovers everywhere.  Some argue that this sinful combination even came before PB&J.  Don't be hatin, Jelly.  It's just that the silky smoothness of chocolate...or in this case a combination of fudge AND ganache, is just infinitely better with peanut butter than jelly is.  I mean c'mon.  Jelly is a FRUIT for crying out loud!

I made this cake for Chris' 28th birthday.  (Yes, this recipe is from August.  I already told you I'm behind so cut me some slack, will ya?!).  As I state I think in pretty much any post that involves the ingredient peanut butter, it is his absolutely favorite.  So, when I was looking to make him a special treat it's no surprise that I picked this one.

To make it a little less labor intensive and not seem as time consuming, I made this cheesecake in phases.  One night after dinner I baked the crust then let it cool and did the fudge.  The following Saturday morning I baked the cheesecake then let it cool in the fridge during the day while we were out running errands.  Finally, I added the ganache and let it set up before putting the finishing decorating touches on it just before we went out to dinner to celebrate.  Voila!

Peanut butter.  Fudge (and unspoken Ganache).  Cheesecake (with surprise crumbly oreo crust!).  Yes, you just may get a coronary from reading these words but WOW is it worth it.  Chris told me it tasted as good as or better than his favorite peanut butter cheesecakes at the Cheesecake Factory.  How's that for a compliment?  And heck, I'm sure it also matches those cheesecakes in caloric content too.  So good and practically mind blowing!

One Year Ago: Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Manicotti, Corn Casserole, and Sweet Potato Souffle (a standard at my family Thanksgiving!)

Peanut-Butter-Fudge Cheesecake

Peanut-Butter-Fudge Cheesecake

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour
Cooling/Chill Time: 5 hours
Yield: 12 to 16 servings (depending on how generous you are with your cuts)


For the Crust:
  • 32 Oreo cookies, finely crushed or ground in a food processor
  • 5½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Pinch of salt
For the Fudge:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 20 miniature peanut butter cup candies, unwrapped and roughly chopped
For the Cheesecake:

  • 24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
For the Ganache Topping:
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (300 degrees F if you are using a dark or non-stick pan). Butter a 9″ springform pan and set aside.
  2. To make the crust, stir the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl with a fork until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. (I like to use the bottom a measuring cup to press the crumbs around the pan. I’ve found that they get evenly distributed that way and end up looking neater around the sides.) Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
  3. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let cool.
  4. To make the fudge, put the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately pour the simmering cream over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then add the vanilla extract and stir with a whisk or rubber spatula until smooth and combined. Pour the fudge into the cooled crust and spread evenly over the bottom. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and sprinkle surface with the chopped peanut butter cups. Return to freezer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the cheesecake filling. Beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Scrape the bowl and mix on low for another 20 seconds.
  6. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the cheesecake filling over the fudge and peanut butter cups. Bake until the sides of the cheesecake are set and the middle just slightly jiggles, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour). Refrigerate the cheesecake at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled. To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a warm towel around the outside of the springform pan to loosen the crust from the sides. Carefully remove the sides from the springform pan.
  7. Before serving, prepare the ganache topping. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately pour the simmering cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1-2 minutes and then stir with a whisk or rubber spatula until smooth. Pour the ganache on the top of the cheese and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Return to the refrigerator to set the ganache, about 20 minutes. Garnish as desired using additional Reese cups and/or by piping peanut butter frosting (I used a half batch of this).
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

We're still getting over the sugar rush of Halloween and the turkeys haven't even gone out for slaughter yet for Thanksgiving but by golly it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! 

I am amazed year after year how the Christmas season seems to extend itself to be earlier and earlier.  I think I saw Christmas goods for sale at the beginning of OCTOBER and some radio stations have already switched over to 24/7 Christmas music.  Don't get me wrong.  I *love* Christmas music and all things Christmas but I also love paying each holiday its due respect, first.

Anyway, it may not exactly be Christmas time yet but I bet you ARE starting to think about mailing out your holiday cards soon, right?  Well you're in luck because this year, Shutterfly is offering bloggers 50 FREE photocards from their 2010 Holiday Card Collection!  It doesn't matter what kind of blog you have, you just need to have one (or sign up for one now using a site such as blogger or my old original blogspace, livejournal).  It's free to sign up for a blog and free to get beautiful photocards so you get to show off how fantastic you look :).

It's not clear yet to me what type of cards you get (folded or flat) but either way Edit: Duh, read the fine print!  There's always fine print!  This one says "Bloggers are eligible to receive 50 holiday cards. Free cards are for 5×7 folded or flat stationery cards. Offer ends December 31, 2010. Taxes, shipping and handling will apply". 

I like to send out photocards to our friends and family when we have a major life change. In the past this has been getting married and buying our first house together. This year, I want our card to feature our new family addition. No, not a baby...we're not there yet...unless you count FUR babies :). That's right, our cutie beagle Toby is going to be gracing our Christmas cards with us this year and all thanks to this promotion.  I've had great success using Shutterfly to share photos online but I also really like their wall calendars and photo books.  I've used their photobooks for everything from graduation guestbooks to wedding albums for our parents.  They're so versatile and very easy to create your own storybooks.  Since I'm a sucker for art (and have TONS of pictures I still need to print!), I might even try their canvas wall art sometime, too.

Now back to the cards.  They have some pretty photocard designs and the possibilities are endless!

I think I like this one best!  Very sophistacated and pretty.

This one is bold and modern.
And I like the use of traditional colors and fun heading text in this one.

So there's a few ideas to get you started.  Time to get your own because bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly, follow the arrow! -->

Now to find the perfect picture and design for ours...

Enjoy and shout out to Jes at Bleu Dress for blogging about this so that I could share it with you!

Disclosure: I am being compensated with 50 free photocards from Shutterfly by participating in this program.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicken and Cheddar Dog Treats

Tell me.  How can you say "no" to such a sweet face?

I know I can' good thing that these are dog biscuits and designed with his dietary needs in mind :).

I made these biscuits as a special treat for Toby and his "cousin" (aka my cousin's dog) Achilles for Fourth of July.  Achilles didn't like Toby very much at first.  In fact, he got quite territorial and his fur stood on end at first sight of Toby.  Once thesese beagle boys got to play around a bit...

Bark!  Want to play?


Mercy!  I give up - you are indeed top beagle!

They became good friends once Achilles reconfirmed and asserted his dominance.

It's hard to imagine life without a dog now that he's a part of our lives.  Toby and I take a morning walk together (though, very cold and dark now!) and then he gets a mini-walk/bio-break after work.  At meal times, he waits ever so patiently for us to finish eating at the table without so much as a bark or whimper (most days, anyway).  Sometimes, he even drools a little bit while he's waiting.  After dinner, we go for an evening family walk.  It's great because Chris and I get off our lazy butts to exercise and it allows for some quiet time for us to talk and enjoy the company of our boy together.

Chris thought I was crazy for making food for our dog but if you think about it, Toby's a part of our family!  If you have a special furry someone in your life (and no...I'm not talking about your husbands, ladies), go show him or her how much you love them by making some doggy treats of their own :).

One Year Ago: Turkey Bean Pumpkin Chili, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, and Buttermilk Cornbread

Chicken and Cheddar Dog Treats
Printer-Friendly Version

  • 1 1/3 c wheat flour
  • 1 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 c + 1 Tbsp low sodium chicken broth*
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • Fresh parsley (optional - supposed to be good for their breath and adds some pretty color!)
* Note: You want to use homemade chicken broth or a store bought variety that does not include onion to be safe. It can be toxic to dogs. Garlic can also be toxic however larger quantities are required to be toxic.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Mix until ingredients combined. Add additional Tablespoons of broth if dough is too dry. Flour work surface. Roll dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut into desired shape (I used 1.5" stars for Fourth of July).
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (depending upon size). You want them firm but still a little chewy when you take them out of the oven. Cool and store in airtight container.
Source: Delish

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who Loves Ya Baby Back?

Do you love me?  Because I love you, readers.  And, I love these baby back ribs from the one and only Alton Brown. 

I am dedicating this post to my co-worker Brenda F. who told me that "going on a vacation to Hawaii is no excuse to not blog".  Well, Brenda, I do believe you're correct. 

As I looked back in my archive of food photos I realized I am backlogged through June and to be honest, some of the photos I'm not sure a) what they are and b) what recipe they're from.  Kind of a problem.  Let's also keep in mind that I'm so back-logged that the season has officially changed.  And let's face it, nobody is going to want to cook that delicious berry salad with poppy citrus dressing as the weather turns cooler.  No, it's officially comfort food season, now.  So, I'll do my best to niggle in some of those older recipes where I can but otherwise maybe some of those will make an appearance when it gets warm again...unless someone is just dying to see them all now?  If so, speak now or forever hold your peace.

This is one of those recipes that I think should still apply because 1) it's football season.  And football season = tailgating = copious amounts of MEAT.  2) It's also a recipe that you can cook indoors.  Hey, the long oven cooktime could help add heat to your home at the same time...double duty!  If you're like me, you've problem turned off your A/C by now and also not yet switched on your heat (unless you live in a colder climate).  This means that your house is probably getting just cold enough that you wouldn't mind a little latent heat helping to take off a bit of that chill.

I made 3 slabs of Alton's ribs for my tailgating themed dinner party back in September.  This was my first attempt at ribs and so I was quite nervous given they'd be the main course.  I watched the video episode for this recipe online and that certainly helped.  I'm pleased to announce that they were a hit!  All 3 slabs were devoured even though these little babies are so meaty you only need a few to fill you up. 

Fair warning: if you're expecting your typical BBQ ribs you ought to try a different recipe.  This sauce is different...and in a good way!  Oh and the dry rub?  That stuff is good on all meats and one batch will cover about 4 slabs of ribs (or whatever other meat your heart desires).

Now, because I love you, here's the recipe to some finger lickin' good ribs.

One Year Ago: Chili and Chicken Pot Pie

Who Loves Ya Baby Back?
Printer Friendly Version


Prep Time: 1 hr 10 min
Cook Time: 3 hr 25 min
Yields: 2 slabs of ribs


2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs

Dry Rub*:
  • 8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt**
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning (omitted - couldn't find)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Braising Liquid:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
*Rub makes multiple batches (for me, covered 3 slabs plus probably enough for 1 more).  Either scale it down to meet your needs or save the rub for other uses.  The rub can be extended/reduced by any amount, as long as the ratio of 8:3:1:1 remains the same.

**Make sure you are using KOSHER salt.  If you are using tablesalt, this should be scaled down to about 1 tablespoon due to different granule size of the salts.  And, if you're like me and are sensitive to salt, you might want to cut down to 2 tablespoons of kosher salt instead of 3.

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side generously with the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat. Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 1 hour. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for 1 minute.
  3. Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.
  4. After 2 1/2 hours, check ribs for doneness by gently opening foil packet and twisting a bone.  If the bone turns slightly in the socket, it is done.  Otherwise, continue cooking until done.
  5. Place foil packet on top of a medium saucepan.  Cut slits in the middle of the foil packet so that the braising liquid drains into the pan.  Skim out the oil layer.  Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency (this took me about 30 minutes). Brush the glaze onto the ribs.
  6. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly or finish on the grill. Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions. Place the remaining hot glaze into a bowl and toss the rib portions in the glaze.
Source: Alton Brown

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nakalele Blowhole

Hi friends!  I admit I've been a bad blogger but I do have a somewhat legit excuse...I've been in PARADISE the past couple weeks.  No cooking, no cleaning, no nothing except relaxing and working on my tan :D. 

It's not food but here's a video of one of our adventures...

I'll be back with more delicious food once life settles back down.  Promise!

Click here to view this video

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken

Summer is almost over but if you were going to break out the grill for one last hurrah, this would be one that I'd recommend trying.  Ironically I made this one wayyyy back sometime in the beginning of the summer.  Some day I really do vow to catch up on blogging.  Honest.

Teriyaki chicken is one of those meals that I always thought would be harder to make so I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe.  It's easy, it's healthy, and it's delicious...despite a pretty poor looking photo which was my fault!  I like mine over rice.  Yum!

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Pineapply Teriyaki Chicken
Printer-Friendly Version


Yields: 4 Servings
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

  • 1/3 cup dry sherry, (NOT cooking sherry)
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 20-ounce can pineapple rings, plus 1/3 cup juice from the can
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs, (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Whisk sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar and the 1/3 cup pineapple juice in a large bowl. Add pineapple rings and chicken and gently stir to coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium-high.
  3. Remove the chicken and pineapple from the marinade and pat dry; reserve the marinade. Oil the grill rack. Grill the chicken and pineapple until the chicken is cooked through and the pineapple is marked, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  4. Whisk the reserved marinade and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking, until reduced and thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in butter. Serve the chicken and pineapple drizzled with the sauce over rice, if desired.
Nutrition: Per serving: 360 calories; 11 g fat (4 g sat, 3 g mono); 83 mg cholesterol; 39 g carbohydrates; 22 g protein; 1 g fiber; 467 mg sodium; 238 mg potassium.

Source: Eating Well

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blueberry Almond Cake with Lemon Drizzle

This cake is the epitome of summer.  Blueberries, lemon, and almonds?  Oh and let's not forget to mention that this cake even has a hidden layer of cheesecake goodness inside and not called out in the name.  It's like a secret weapon.  But with all these deliciously fresh flavors, what more can you really ask for?

I made this cake to bring up to my husband's mini-family reunion earlier this month.  It was well received but in my personal opinon a bit too lemony.  I guess that's what you get when you just squeeze in a whole big juicy lemon without regard for the size and how much juice is contained versus actually measuring it.  Whoops!  Note to self, not all lemons are created equal and baking really is a science, not an art.

Speaking of lemons, for whatever reason, my lemond just DID NOT want to zest.  Maybe it's the fact that I don't own a microplane (sad face!) so I use the fine side of my grater.  It probably also doesn't help that said grater is also beginning to break.  Yeah, time to invest in that microplane.

I also kind of read the instructions wrong and accidentally mixed the blueberries into the cream cheese mixture instead of scattering them on top.  Thankfully I had just a few extra berries to scatter on top after I realized my mistake.  Same taste but I think it caused me to need to bake it longer before the cheesecake part set and didn't quite look as pretty as it really should have.  (Check out Beantown Baker's post on this recipe...hers looks so great!)

I think I'll leave this post relatively simple and sweet.  The picture kind of speaks for itself.  Delicious.

One Year Ago: Here's a few of them since I've sucked so bad at blogging lately!  Then again, as I look at the history August must be historically bad for me since there actually is only ONE recipe posted last August, too!  Honey Lime Grilled Chicken, Chicken Lo Mein, and Grands! Taco Melts (AKA Homemade Hot Pockets)

Blueberry Almond Cake with Lemon Drizzle
Printer-Friendly Version

Yields: 1 9-inch cake with 12 Servings


  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • A pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch round cake or spring form pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add 1 cup brown sugar and beat for approximately one minute until light and well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for approximately two minutes after each addition. Alternately, add one-half of the flour mixture and one-half of the yogurt, beating briefly on low after each addition. Repeat. Stir in the lemon juice and almond extract. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, 1 egg, and the lemon zest for approximately two minutes until very smooth and creamy. Spoon this cheese mixture over the cake batter and spread, leaving a one-inch margin of cake batter exposed around the perimeter of the cake. Sprinkle the blueberries over the cream cheese mixture and the sliced almonds around the perimeter of the cake.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake to room temperature and serve.
  6. For the glaze, whisk together the lemon juice with the powdered sugar and drizzle the mixture over the top of the cake.
Source: Originally from Modern Comfort Food as adapted by and seen on Beantown Baker

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

Look ma, no canning needed!

That's right, you too can turn your overflowing cucumber crop into delicious homemade pickles without the fuss of canning.  And the best only takes a few minutes to mix together and then about a day to soak in the flavor before you can enjoy crisp, sweet/sour/spicy pickles straight out of the container.

See, you can turn something like this (my cucumbers from my Bergefurd's Farm 1/2 CSA Share)....

Into This!

The recipe that inspired me called for the vinegar and sugar mixture (which I'll call the "juice") to be boiled in order to dissolve everything in.  It was 10:40PM when I made these pickles and I was too lazy to dirty another dish and heat up the stove.  So, I winged it.  I just put the sugar straight into the vinegar and then stirred it vigorously with a spoon.  Low and behold, it worked just fine and dissolved without much work.  I imagine that the amount of sugar you want to put in would also affect the solubility and whether you'd need the heat to help you out.  The original recipe had quite a bit of sugar in the juice but I cut it in half based on recipe reviews so that probably helped on the non-heated solubility front.  The carrots, banana peppers, and dill...those I added because I had them.  I think they were a nice flavor addition :).

Okay now let me let you in on an odd secret of mine.  I don't even like pickles.  No...that's an understatement.  I generally DESPISE pickles.  They're so salty and sour and not that fresh tasting and blech just overwhelming!  (How's that for a run-on sentence?).  Oddly enough, I DO have an affinity for sweet relish though.   And now, I have a new found respect for these pickles.  Yes, all very strange, I know.

Go make these pickles you (non-)pickle lovers, you!

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles
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Prep Time: 10 Min
Chill Time: At least 1 day
Ready In: 1 day

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar (or you can substitute/mix in some cider vinegar if you like it a little sweeter)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 cups sliced cucumbers, cut into slices or spears as you prefer
  • 1 cup sliced peppers of your choice
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots, matchstick-style
  • Fresh dill (optional)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. In a glass jar or plastic tupperware container, stir together vinegar, sugar, salt, and onion powder until well dissolved.  If using dill and crushed red pepper, add them to the container, too.
  2. Place the cucumbers, onions, peppers and carrots in container.  Ensure that the liquid covers all of the solid contents.
  3. Store in the refrigerator at least 1 day before enjoying.
Source: Inspired by All Recipes

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is REALLY REALLY GOOD!  I mean, it definitely is in contention for my favorite coffee cake ever.  The sour cream makes the cake moist and fluffy while the cinnamon sugar topping gives it a great crunch.  Mix in some gooey chocolate chips (or in my case, a combination of chocolate chips AND peanut butter chips!) and you've got yourself a mighty fine cake.

Whoever invented coffee cake is a genius.  I mean, you basically get to eat dessert for breakfast!  I repeat.  Genius!  This is the perfect accompaniment to your morning cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  It's also enough to satisfy my husband's sweet tooth as dessert. 

Please try this one...and be prepared to be blown away!

One Year Ago: Jamie's Minestrone

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
*Note: Halve the ingredients and bake in a 9" round pan to get a smaller cake for 2-4.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar, then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together into a separate bowl. Alternately add sour cream and then dry ingredients into butter mixture. Beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter. Mix last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.
  3. In a greased 9″x13″ pan (or 9" round pan for half recipe), pour in half of the cake batter. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
Source: Originally from Smitten Kitchen as seen on Sing for Your Supper

Friday, July 16, 2010

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream

Did you know that this Sunday, July 18th is National Ice Cream Day?  Hooray! 

Now, there are directions all over the internet about how you can make ice cream without an ice cream maker but I felt like it would be too much work or not yield a creamy enough ice cream.  So, if you're lazy and apprehensive like me you have 2 choices: 1) buy pre-made ice cream from a local parlor or grocery store or 2) buy a standalone or attachment ice cream maker.  I recently opted for the second and bought a Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment from Amazon for a meer $24 after I used the free giftcards I received. How timely and appropriate!

I then scoured the internet for the perfect ice cream recipe to use as my first test batch.  Many of the blogs that I follow had lots of great ones and pretty much everybody agreed that the 2 undisputed ice cream recipe books are David Lebowitz's The Perfect Scoop and the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Book.  I thought about buying myself one or both books but then I realized with every other blog posting the recipes for free, why bother?  That's generally how I find most of my recipes anyway is through blogs so why start buying cookbooks now, right?

Back to making my first batch of ice cream.  I decided to be ambitious and chose this White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream that Christine from Christine's Cuisine had creatively put together using 3 different Perfect Scoop recipes.  I was drawn to the pretty swirls and I'm a sucker for white chocolate and raspberries.  *drool*. 

I was surprised at how much the ingredients cost.  This is the last time I complain about the cost of store bought ice cream...they have every right to charge that much!  I was also surprised at how many steps were involved.  I had to prep the raspberry sauce (which apparently the liquor is the secret to preventing your fruit from freezing rock hard), heat and thicken the custard, cool the custard, churn the ice cream, melt the chocolate, layer it all together, and then let it mellow and freeze nice and hard in the freezer.  Phew.  To be honest, this ended up being a 2 day project for me....

But in the end, it was worth it.  Symphony of fresh berries, smooth cream, and decadent chocolate.  It melted smoothly in my mouth and cooled me in the sweltering Summer heat.  Churning ice cream at home feels good knowing everything going in is natural...the way ice cream SHOULD be made.  Now, my ice cream didn't swirl as beautifully as Christine's did but it tasted just as bit as good I bet.  To see how it should really look, I suggest you hop on by her blog to see what drew me to make this as my first homemade ice cream batch :).

I've had my ice cream maker about 3 weeks now and I just finished churning my 3rd batch about an hour ago.  Look out in the near future for posts about Blackberry Ice Cream and Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream!

One Year Ago: Chicken Parmesan Meatball Subs

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream
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white chocolate ice cream
  • 8 oz. white chocolate
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
raspberry swirl
  • 1 1/2 cups of raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vodka
chocolate stracciatella
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  1. Combine raspberries, sugar and vodka in a bowl and mash with a fork to combine. Refrigerate an hour or overnight before churning the ice cream.
  2. Put the white chocolate in a large bowl with a mesh strainer on top.
  3. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape back into the saucepan.  Stir mixture constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spatula.
  5. Pour custard through a strainer over the white chocolate and stir until chocolate completely melts.
  6. Chill mixture in the refrigerator then churn according to the manufacturers instructions.
  7. Just before the mixture is done churning – melt the bittersweet chocolate in a bowl in the microwave.
  8. Into the container you are going to freeze, layer the ice cream, half the raspberry sauce and drizzle half of the melted chocolate on top. Then repeat. Freeze until firm.
Source: Adapted by and as seen on Christine's Cuisine from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Nothing says Summer more than good grilling!  I am a sucker for good Mexican food and this recipe surely didn't disappoint.  The marinade was out of this world!  The orange zest adds the perfect zing and overall it's extremely flavorful.  I made it with beef this time but it'd also be wonderful using chicken.  The tequila is optional and sadly, this fiesta had none but I'm sure it would add a nice depth to the flavor.  The colors from the fresh grilled veggies are pretty, too!

Fajitas are one of my favorite Mexican dishes.  The thing that I hate most about restaurant versions though is that generally the meat and veggies are swimming in oil.  I guess you need that though to make them sizzle on that cast iron pan they bring it out on.  This homemade version is different though.  It's not greasy and so the flavor of the fresh veggies and tender meat come through.  It's slightly less guilty this way.

Why I waited so long to try to make fajitas at home I just don't know.  Next time I'll have to try to tackle homemade flour tortillas, too!

Printer-Friendly Version

Yields: 3-4 Servings


For the Fajitas
  • 1 lb marinated flank steak (recipe follows)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 assorted colored bell peppers
  • olive oil
  • 6-8 Flour tortillas (small, fajita size)
  • Sour cream, salsa, and/or gaucamole, for serving
For the Marinade

  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 shot tequila (optional)
  • Juice and zest from one orange
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Large handful fresh cilantro, chopped

For the marinade:
  1. Put the steak in a shallow glass dish or a large freezer bag. Whisk remaining ingredients together and pour over steak. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator one hour before cooking.
To cook:
  1. Slice onion into 1/3-inch rounds, keeping the rounds intact.  You may desire to soak some toothpicks in water for 15-20 minutes and then push them through the sides of your onion rings to help hold them together.    Brush both sides with oil.   Slice bell pepper into 1/3-inch rounds and toss with oil.
  2. Place on a grill heated to med-high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Take care when flipping the onion rounds so they stay in tact.
  3. Place the steak on the grill and cook 5-6 minutes each side. Remove from heat, tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing against the grain.
  4. Serve on flour tortillas topped with desired toppings.
Source: Slightly modified from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Sauceless Garden Lasagna

Do you have an abundance of garden vegetables?  Are you looking for a light and healthy vegetarian meal?  If so, this recipe is the one for you.

Sadly, Chris (the carnivorous "each meal must have at least some meat" hubby), isn't a huge fan of this meal because 1) it's vegetarian and 2) it has feta cheese.  This means that 1) I don't get to make it often and 2) I have to make his half special and omit the feta.  But if I were you, I would make it more than just when you have an overflowing garden and I definitely would not skip the feta!  The feta is what helps hold this lasagna together.

See, the beauty of this lasagna is that it's different from your traditional meat and/or veggie tomato based lasagna and from your heavy cream sauce lasagna.  All you do is layer everything together and the juices of the veggies along with a tad bit of oil and balsamic vinegar is all you need to create a really delicious "sauce".  Like many recipes, you can adapt it to suit your veggie preferences and/or whatever your garden and Mother Nature yields for you to use.  But definitely make sure you keep the tomatoes since that's the majority of the juice bearer.  And make sure you cover the top noodle well unless you want crunchy noodles.  Blech.  Who wants crunchy noodles??

I've only made this with grocery store vegetables and it was so fresh and flavorful.  I can only imagine how fabulous this would be from home grown garden or CSA fresh veggies!

Sauceless Garden Lasagna
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Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 5 Minutes

  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (8 ounce) package no-cook lasagna noodles
  • 9 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, red onion, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and stir in basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir the mixture until evenly blended.
  3. Place a layer of lasagna noodles into the bottom of the prepared pan. Make a layer of tomato slices over the noodles. Spread a generous amount of the spinach mixture over the tomatoes. (Don't worry, it shrinks a lot while cooking.)  Lay slices of tomatoes over the spinach mixture, then another layer of noodles. Start with another layer of tomatoes on top of the noodles, and repeat layering until the dish is heaped with lasagna, ending with the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese on the top.
  4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until noodles, and vegetables are tender. Let stand for a few minutes to set, then slice and serve
Source: All Recipes

Monday, July 5, 2010

White Chocolate Strawberry Parfaits

This is an extremely easy dessert that's light and refreshing.  Chris and I put this together assembly line style and were done in no time!  When it was time to serve, we just dalloped each glass with some cool whip and topped it with a fresh strawberry.

It was the perfect ending to the Prom dinner that I made for my sister and her friends.  The other dishes served were Olive Garden Copycat Salad (recipe to come), Garlic Bread, Pizza Bites, Baked Sausage Ziti, and Chicken Alfredo

I was honored that they wanted me to cook for their special night.  It was extremely satisifying to see them clear their plates and go back for seconds.  They said it was better than a restaurant and even asked if they could come back for dinner again in the future!  If that's not a compliment, I don't know what is.  I was amazed by how much those boys ate but I guess teenage boys do eat quite a bit.  Every single one of them must have overate though because Chris had to hand out the Tums afterwards haha.  (I probably should have supported my brand and made them take Pepto instead, huh?)

Anyway, did you know that a traditional parfait of this sort would have 490 calories and 40 g of fat per serving?!  Thankfully this version is lightened up with a slim 198 calories and 3 g of fat per serving.  So, now you have room for dessert!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Treats

White Chocolate Strawberry Parfaits
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Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Yields: 4 Servings

  • 1/2 cup low-sugar strawberry preserves
  • 1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 package (1 oz) sugar-free, fat-free white chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat 1% milk
  • 1 1/4 cups thawed fat-free whipped topping
  • 24 mini vanilla wafer cookies
  • Whole strawberries (optional)
  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave strawberry preserves on high in 15 second intervals until melted.  Add sliced strawberries and toss to coat.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk pudding mix and milk until well blended, about 1 minute.  Let stand until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of whipped topping.
  3. In each (8 oz) dessert glass (I used a wine glass), layer 1/3 cup pudding mixture, 2 Tbsp sliced strawberry mixture, 6 cookies, and 1/4 cup pudding mixture.  Top with remaining sliced strawberry mixture.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.  Just before serving, top with remaining whipped topping and if desired, garnish with whole strawberries.
Nutritional Information
Calories: 198
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 3 g (1 g saturated)
Trans fat: 0 g
Cholestrol: 6 mg
Carbs: 39 g
Sodium: 365 mg
Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 22 g

Source: Woman's World, March 2010 p. 33

Monday, June 21, 2010

Firecracker Shrimp

Quick.  Run!  Make this for your graduation party, your Fourth of July party, your random summer grill-out parties, and (*sniff*) your end of summer Labor Day party, too.  But wait, why am I talking about the END of Summer when today it has officially just begun?!  They're sure to be the hit of the party.  This recipe is SO AWESOME that even though I am backlogged on posting recipes from May (finally got through April with that last Orange Berry Muffin recipe!) I just had to share this one with you.

Watch out, they're fiery little guys.  A mini explosion of fire inside of your mouth!  The beauty of this recipe is it is ridiculously easy to make.  Very few ingredients involved and fast cooking.  Watch the shrimp carefully so that they're not overdone.  You want them pink, opaque, and slightly charred but a couple of minutes on the grill is all it takes.  Good thing, too, because you'll be downing these shrimps like snacks.  Oh, and don't forget the water to quench your thirst!

Oh, and another thing.  Use the Sriracha hot sauce.  It really is THE BEST hot sauce in the world.  It's commonly used in Asian cooking and so you can usually find it in the Asian section of your local grocery store.  It's a clear bottle with red chili sauce inside and a green cap.  The easiest identifier is the rooster depicted on the front.  If you don't already have some, go buy some!  You won't regret it and it's totally versatile.  I put that s*** on everything!  Oh wait...that's supposed to be Frank's Red Hot.  But really, this is better...and I do put it on pretty much everything (lo mein, pizza, chili, etc.!).  It's sweet AND spicy.  Winning combination!

I served this one as a side dish for our Father's Day meal.  Kudos to Chris for grilling this one up all nice and yummy!  All I did was marinate them :).  Lots more delicious recipes on that one to come.  I was excited that there wasn't a single bad dish in that meal.  But this one, this is a keeper for sure.  Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce and Pasta Salad

Firecracker Shrimp

Firecracker Shrimp

  • 1 pound large (16 to 20 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined.
  • 2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (Sriracha is the best!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag, then add shrimp and marinate for 20 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Skewer shrimp and grill until opaque and with black bits (couple minutes ought to do it!).
  3. Serve hot with lots of cold drinks handy!
Source: The Pioneer Woman

Orange Berry Muffins

Hi again.  Sorry I've been so sporadic in posting.  Toby keeps me very busy and even though I wake up at like 6AM daily now because of him I've been spending my extra hours cooking and uploading vacation photos rather than blogging.  There are so many great things I still need to blog about but I've been struggling to sit down and make myself write...err...type. 

Posting recipes is surprisingly a lot of work!  There's witty commentary to be made, photo editing, finding the recipe again months after you made the dish (I was about to give up on finding this one again!), recipe copy/pasting/modifying, and then making a printer-friendly link (another project left unfinished...I was supposed to back convert older recipes and am probably only halfway through.  Mental note to self to finish that up...).  Now add to the mix a dog that you have to watch to make sure he's behaving and you've got yourself some blogging difficulty.  It's a wonder I can even *cook* anymore.  But, I wouldn't trade my beagle Toby for the world.  He's awesome and so loving!

Back to the story on this recipe.  I made this one wayyyy back on EASTER WEEKEND!  Whoa that's a long time ago.  I had made these to eat as a snack in the car and for quick and inexpensive breakfasts while we were spending time with our friends Sig and Kristen on a couples road trip to Washington DC to see the Cherry Blossoms.  They were beautiful albeit I had expected it to be more enchanting.  Guess that's what happens when you go in peak season.  I was so mad when I saw people picking the blossoms and/or whole branches off the trees.  Way to ruin it for everyone!  The city itself was soooo much more awesome than I remember.  The last time I had gone was probably elementary school.  I definitely would like to visit again someday.  We *almost* saw President Obama on the way to Easter Sunday service but got tired of waiting for (at the time) what we thought might actually be nothing.

I'd have to say that Sig and Chris probably had more than their fair share of these muffins.  And I can't blame them.  They're TASTY!  The orange zest (use organic oranges to avoid the pesticides!) gives it a great morning wake-up zing while the berries burst with flavor.  The zest also smelled so fragrant and citrusy when I was rubbing it in the sugar...I'll admit I kind of wanted to stop right there and just eat the orange flavored sugar haha!  They are relatively healthy because I substituted some whole wheat flour for the white and there's relatively little sugar for a sweet bread type recipe.  I must have added strawberries to my muffins because I had some leftover.  The original recipe was just for blueberries but why not do a berry mix for some gorgeous color :).  I definitely plan on making this one again.  Especially with berries being in season now.  Yum!

One Year Ago: Exquisite Pizza Sauce

Orange Berry Muffins
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Yields: 12 Muffins

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • About ¾ cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
  • 2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour (I substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose white flour)
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries and/or strawberries – fresh, preferably, or frozen (not thawed)
  • Decorating sugar, for topping (optional)
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the pan with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups.
  2. Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.
  3. In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the berries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
  4. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. If you want to top the muffins with decorating sugar, sprinkle on the sugar after the muffins have baked for 10 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
Source: Slightly modified from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours, as seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Hello readers!  Have you missed me?

I'm sorry I've been so bad a blogging lately but a lot has been going on in our lives lately.  Chris and I went to Europe for a couple weeks and had a FABULOUS time in Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, and Greece.  I was blown away by the things we saw...

The Eiffel Tower (and no, I'm not talking about the one at the local theme park King's Island, either!)
Beautifully unique Venentian canals (AND St. Mark's Square's so heartbreaking!)
 The Parthenon in Athens...I am bewildered at how old some of these ruins are!
And let's not forget the quintessential white house on blue water look of the Greek Islands such as Mykonos...
My stomach was also delighted by all the delicious things we ate.  I came back refreshed and ready to cook.  In fact, our travels home took us nearly a full 24 hours of being awake but once we got home, the first thing I said was "Oh kitchen, I love you and miss you!".  Imagine that...I MISSED COOKING!  Now, most normal people would probably dread the end of the vacation because that would mean back to cooking.  But me?  I was so inspired by all the foods that we ate that I just couldn't wait to get started.

Now, we got back two weeks ago as you'll see, I haven't posted in well over a month.  I also can't say I've done any real good big meals yet (thank goodness for my frozen stash of homemade meals!) because week 1 was spent re-adjusting to the Eastern time zone and week 2...well, that's the other part of our busy lives.  We are now unexpected first-time dog owners!

My sister's friend had found a little stray beagle at her work and decided to take him in.  They did everything they could to reunite the poor lost doggy with his owners but sadly, none could be found and her mom had had enough of him.  Enter my husband and me.  My sister knows that I love dogs and have wanted one for years now.  She also knows that we LOVE beagles.  Somehow, I convinced my husband to go visit the beagle, who was temporarily named by his foster family as "Richard".  We went and played with him for about an hour or hour and half and honestly, I did my best to stay distanced because I had a feeling my husband would just say no.  We slept on it and after some convincing from his mom and what I felt was a miracle, Chris agreed the next day that we could keep the dog!  So, we made arrangements to pick him up this past Friday and brought him home with us.  Needless to say he's kept us busy trying to acclimate him to us and our house.  Though, we're very fortunate because he is already house broken and quite a mellow little fella.  We have renamed him Toby and he's a happy little 24lb, ~2 year old beagle boy :).

Oh man...who could resist this sweet little guy's cute face with his big brown eyes, floppy ears, and wagging white tipped tail.  *Sigh* I'm a sucker for cute animals!
Anyway.  I do hope to get some recipes on here EVENTUALLY about my European traveling inspirations but given that I'm backlogged on recipes still in March and haven't gotten much cooking in lately it may be awhile.  Add to that our new furbaby Toby and cooking...and even more so, blogging about cooking...may be less frequent than in the past.  Bare with me though, I promise it will be worth it!!
For now, I leave you with a recipe that comes to you from my homestate of Ohio: The Buckeye State.  Buckeyes are nuts that come from the Buckeye tree.  The buckeye is named as such because it looks like the eye of a buck deer, from what I read.  I have no idea what a buckeye nut tastes like but apparently you roast them before you eat them.  The recipe that I am sharing with you is for a Buckeye Candy which mimics the look (though I highly doubt the taste) of a Buckeye nut. 
If you like peanut butter and chocolate, this recipe is for you!
Prep Time: 15 Min
Cook Time: 5 Min
Ready In: 50 Min
Yields: 30 Buckeyes
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.
  2. Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.
  4. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. If desired, use finger to cover the toothpick hole and smooth out the surface of the peanut butter.  Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.
Source: Modified from All Recipes