Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Baking Challenge!

It's been a REAL long time since I blogged..doesn't mean I haven't been cooking.  Time, life, you name it has gotten the best of me and well not much time to blog.

Anyway..I was on one of my sites and saw a Thanksgiving Day baking challenge and figured I would do it in hopes I would kick start this blog up again.

I submitted a recipe from Ina Garten - Pumpkin Roulade.  It is delicious!! I'm not a fan of anything pumpkin...but this is amazing! I have tweaked it over the years to make it more to my liking. The recipe I got was for a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie from Christine's Kitchen Chronicles!

When I first looked at the recipe I saw two things that raised a red flag 'cloves' and 'maple' - I'm not a fan of either..but again, I'm not a fan of Fall type flavors - pumpkin, cloves, ginger, maple, sweet potato, cranberries, etc... So I immediately thought - do I really need the cloves and what can I use instead of maple? Vanilla..Cinnamon..Brown Sugar???

I decided to follow the recipe as is figuring I'm not the only person who is going to eat them right?  The only difference was that I used a cookie scooper since it was the only thing I had with the quick release mechanism.  So this recipe yielded about 30 'small' whoopie pies and by small I mean a very healthy 'small'.
I thought the clove would be overpowering, but it wasn't.  The combination of the spice from the pumpkin whoopie pie and the sweet maple cinnamon cream was perfect.  The flavors worked very well with each other.  Since I had so many of these little guys I brought some to work and gave some to my neighbors.  They all came back with rave reviews.

They were very easy to make and held up very good.  I made them on Tuesday and put them together on Wednesday. I refrigerated them and they were enjoyed on Thanksgiving Day!!!

Thank you for the recipe..I will be adding it to my Thanksgiving Day recipe files!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Need some Votes from my followers!

It's been a LONG time since I blogged...but I have been cooking, trust me!

I am hoping you would take a second to help me win this contest...simply click on this link & LIKE it

It literally takes 2 seconds.  I am so close to winning..but need a few more votes.  The contest ends tomorrow 9/23/11 at 2pm EST.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce

I was watching Rachel Ray a few weeks ago and she was making her Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes (click for original recipe!) It looked good but with one exception - I don't like chunky tomato sauce - never have...never will.  However, the recipe just looked too good and I thought "I can use my immersion blender and make a nice sauce out of it".  So...that's what I did.  I also modified it just slightly.  Here is my version:

  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2-3 large Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • 1 lb of Spaghetti

  1. Set water to boil for spaghetti 
  2. Heat oven to 350
  3. On a baking sheet add the entire pint of cherry tomatoes and the garlic (do not peel)
  4. Season liberally with salt, pepper and some olive oil
  5. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the tomatoes & garlic have roasted up nicely
  6. Remove from oven and set aside
  7. Once water boils, cook pasta according to package instructions
  8. In the meantime, blend your cherry tomatoes, garlic and a little more olive oil in a blender ( I used my immersion blender because I love any excuse to use it) 
  9. Taste your sauce and add any additional salt or pepper  - At this point I add a pinch of sugar for some sweetness
  10. Once your pasta has cooked, drain and reserve some of the water
  11. Add your sauce to the pasta, if it's a little dry add some of your pasta water
  12. Sprinkle with your fresh basil and cheese if desired
  13. Enjoy!

Marge's Feta Orzo Salad

Hands down, this IS my FAVORITE Pasta Salad.  I can eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, you name it.  It is so easy and so tasty.....if you like feta - which I do, Alot!

I first had this at my friend's tea party a few years ago.  I had to have the recipe and since then I've made it oh several dozen times. Now I don't know who originated the recipe, all I know is that my friend Marge got me hooked so it has become Marge's Feta Orzo Salad!

I recently had some friends over and we decided to keep things simple and grill.  I wanted to add this to our menu, well because it's good...and I was craving it!

If you like feta, do yourself a favor and make this!

  • 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp. Honey
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil 
  • 6 cups Chicken Stock/Broth
  • 1 Box of Orzo (please use Barilla...I did it with Ronzoni once and it wasn't as good. Ronzoni was a bit heavier)
  • 2 cups Cherry/Grape Tomatoes
  • 1 7oz. Container Feta Cheese
  • 1 cup Chopped Green Onion
  • 1/2 cup Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 1 cup Copped Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

  1. Wish the first 4 ingredients together and season with salt & pepper - creating your vinegarette
  2. Boil the chicken stock/broth and add the orzo
  3. Once the orzo has cooked, drain and set aside 
  4. Mix the tomatoes, feta, basil and green onions into the orzo
  5. Add vinegarette and toss
  6. Add toasted pine nuts and toss gently
  7. Let salad stand at room temperature and serve when ready

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let me tell you about my Tea Party.

I have been wanting to host a tea party forever!  While I'm not a big fan of tea, I love all the foods served at tea. I had planned on inviting some of my family friends over to see the new house so I thought I would give this tea party thing a shot.  Here was my menu:

Quiches - from Costco, they are delicious
Cucumber Sandwiches (Cucumber, Dill, Cream Cheese)
Italian style chicken salad in phyllo cups (my own concoction of chicken, roasted red pepper, artichokes and seasonings)
Tomato Sandwiches
Turkey & Muenster Roll-Up Sandwiches (turkey, muenster, with seasoned spread)
Nutella Sandwiches (for the kids)
Strawberry Cream Sandwiches (for the kids) (cream cheese, fresh strawberries & powdered sugar)
Deviled Eggs (my own secret recipe)
Orzo Feta Salad (most delicious salad EVER - I will post this separately)
Prosciutto Wrapped Melon
Brie served w/ crackers and apples
Crudite (veggies and dip/hummus)
Apricot Scones
Pioneer Woman Vanilla Bean Scones
Pioneer Woman Sweet Cinnamon Scones
Pioneer Woman Bacon Cheddar Biscuits
Mock Clotted Cream
Mini Cupcakes (Pillsbury Spring Funfetti)
Coffee Cake (Costco)
Strawberries and Watermelon
Tea (of course)

Ambitious right? Well, I was doing really good..I had all the ingredients.  I made the scones the day before.  I didn't do the Cinnamon  Scones since I couldn't find the cinnamon chips. I made a few other things the day before.  The day of the tea party I was in good shape.  I left the tea sandwiches till last because I wanted them fresh. I had almost everything done.  My guests were to arrive at 2pm.  At around 1pm I go to slice the cucumbers.  I wanted everything 'just so' so I whip out the mandolin.  If you don't know what a mandolin is let me educate you - it's a user-friendly guillotine.

(warning...somewhat gory details ahead!)

Using the handy safety guard I start to slice my cucumbers.  A little too thick so I adjust the setting making them thinner (I didn't know then that this tiny little twist of the dial may have saved my entire finger). I  resume my slicing.  I guess I got a little ambitious and sliced with a little too much force and well...yes you guessed it, I sliced my finger.  Bad.  Real Bad!  I couldn't get the bleeding to stop.  My darling husband took one look at it and said you are going to the ER.

ER??  I have 20 some odd people coming to my house in an hour!  He insisted and told me he'd take care of everything. So, off we go. We load the kids in the car and off we go.  He drops me off at the ER (which is less than 10 minutes from us) and heads back home. I get my finger tended to. No stitches since it was sliced.  Some glue and steri-strips later and I was on my way.

I come back home to a house full of people and no food.  We all chip in and thankfully the tea party was a success. Did I get to make everything 'just so', No.  But that is ok.  This was very good practice and I know that I had it in me to pull something like this off.  There were a few casualties and some dishes that weren't made.

Casualties - Bacon Cheddar Biscuits - they were cooking when 'the incident' happened. We turned off the oven and left..therefore they cooked longer than they needed, Turkey & Muenster Roll-ups - let's say we had turkey for lunch this week, Mock Clotted Cream - no time to make it, Crudités - didn't seem necessary since it already seemed like a lot of food, plus my kids live on carrots and dip, brie - I could have probably set this out..but I love me some brie! and the tomato sandwiches turned into sliced tomatoes drizzled with Olive Oil and Oregano.

The Winners - PW Vanilla Bean Scones, Feta Orzo Salad & Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwiches

All in all a success owed largely in part to my darling husband who rolled up his sleeves, took control and didn't allow me to cancel this and of course to my guests who didn't mind the delay and helped get it all together!

Update on the finger - it's doing ok, still bandaged. It does hurt to type using it (right ring finger) so I have learned to type without using it...takes some time, but I manage!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Easy Peasy Egg Drop Soup

My daughter had her tonsils and adenoids removed about 2 weeks ago. One of the foods on the 'list' was Chinese Egg Drop Soup.  Now I remember my mother making me something similar when we were younger.  But we called it Stracciatella Soup.  Loosely translated Stracciatella means torn or shredded. The threads of cooked egg in the soup are reminiscent of 'torn or shredded' rags.  My mom made it using Campbells Chicken Soup.. remember the ones with the tiny cut up noodles? She would just scramble an egg in it as it boiled - now that is SUPER easy!

This recipe also served double duty since I took part in another cooking challenge.  Christina from the blog "Tales from the Mad Men Kitchen" was looking for people to take part in her Chinese take out challenge.

Anyway, I made this for my daughter in hopes she would eat something to help her feel better. I didn't make it using any thickeners like corn starch.  I made it just like my mom did but using homemade broth.
  • 4 cups of chicken broth (I usually make my own broth then freeze it into smaller portions.  You can also use store bought chicken broth or make some using water and a bouillon cube)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 cup pastina or cut up spaghetti (optional)
  1. Bring the broth to a low boil
  2. Pour in 1 scrambled egg SLOWLY!  You can also use a fork to drop in threads of egg. DO NOT STIR
  3. Once you've poured the egg in wait about a minute then remove from heat - you can give it one good stir
  4. You don't want to over-stir easy is that?  Tasty!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pasta Carbonara

Pasta with Bacon and it's like getting breakfast for dinner. This dish was a staple at my family table.  My mom made this about once a month and my brothers & I would always fight for the bacon. There are a few variations out adding peas to it, using cream or serving it using only egg yolk. It is SO easy - you only need a few ingredients. It's also a quick meal, perfect for a weeknight.
  • 1 lb. Spaghetti
  • 1 package of bacon
  • 3 Eggs
  • Milk or Heavy Cream
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Take bacon out of package and slice it into tiny pieces - I don't separate the pieces..just slice it while it's whole
  2. While water for spaghetti is boiling, fry the bacon pieces - I like them super crispy, but you can cook them to your liking in a heavy saute pan (big enough to add a pound of spaghetti later)
  3. Once the bacon is done, remove from heat and set aside - do not drain the oil
  4. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, add salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and a little bit of milk or heavy cream (I eyeball the cheese and milk or cream..but about 2-3 tablespoons of each) and set aside
  5. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the pan with the bacon in it and return to medium heat - reserve the pasta water
  6. Stir the bacon and pasta and slowly add in your beaten egg mixture
  7. Continue to stir the egg so that it cooks - now how you serve it is up to you.  Some people like it more on the runny side, I do not.  I like my eggs cooked through
  8. Serve with some fresh ground pepper

*If it seems too dry to you, add some of the reserved cooking water, a little at a time.  This also doesn't keep well so serve & enjoy right away!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole

My friend Sara from Yeah, Like I Have Time For This was hinting around asking someone to make this for her.  Since I've had the itch to make arancini or rice balls, I thought I'd give it a shot. Things over here have been a little crazy these past 2 weeks and I thought this was a dish that could go a few days.

The recipe came from Gina's Skinny Recipes - if you have time go check out her site there are some amazing recipes on there!

Here is the recipe directly from her site - Sicilian Rice Casserole, Gina's Skinny Taste

Now I did make one tiny change.  I used 1 lb of  Italian Sausage with the casings removed and nixed the Turkey.  It was good and it did taste like an authentic arancini...almost.  I am used to my mothers arancini and have even had them in Sicily so when I tried this with the sausage meat it didn't hit home.  I will make this recipe again (I am already planning to make it for a few friends later this month) but plan on using a meatloaf mix instead.  I am almost positive using this instead of the sausage and/or turkey will get me the taste that I am familiar with.  Like I said, it was good and we all enjoyed it - my mother included.

And here is a picture ...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Still here!

A lot going on these past few days!  Unfortunately, not much cooking - well at least nothing to write about. I had participated in a food challenge and made a chicken salad which was phenomenal.  I promise to post about it.  It had cucumbers in it..I would have never put cucumber in chicken salad but it was really good!  My little one is set to have surgery on Monday.  My house is stocked full of ice cream, ice pops, jell-o, yogurt and soup.  Can you tell someone is having their tonsils removed?  One of the food items on the "approved" food list are Chinese egg drop soup.  So I am going to give that a go this week.  I am also part of another food challenge and will be making a Mexican Rice side dish.

As for my family table.  I have a pasta dish that I want to make with dried peas.  We are also approaching St. Joseph's Day.  My family always makes Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines) for this holiday.  It's a traditional dish served on the holiday.  It is delicious...I kid you not.  The ride to "Down Neck" is made to get the  Sardines and the sauce that is made from it is out of this world!  Just wait and see ...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Steak, Peppers & Potatoes!!!!

The husband put a request in the other night for steak.  We both love it...but don't eat it that often in the winter that often.  We never brought the grill onto the deck and with all the snow we've had there was no way I was trekking out to bring it on the deck.  So...I figured I'd make the steaks in the grill pan. I had some red and orange peppers that I had picked up at the farmer's market and knew they'd go great along with the steak. I through in some garlic potatoes for good measure!

  • 2 Petite Sirloin Steaks
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Season steaks with salt and pepper on each side
  2. Place on very well heated grill
  3. Cook about 7 minutes on each side for medium/rare steaks
  4. Set them aside to rest before eating
  • 3-4 Red, Orange, Yellow Peppers (I am not a fan of green peppers)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  1. Slice up your peppers and onions
  2. In a large heated fry pan add a few pats of butter and some olive oil
  3. Add your peppers and onions
  4. Season with salt & pepper
  5. Fry them until the onions and peppers have browned up a little bit
  1. Lightly coat the bottom of a baking sheet with olive oil
  2. Place potatoes on baking sheet
  3. Sprinkle with salt and the Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic
  4. Bake in an oven heated to 400 until golden brown

Chicken Cordon 'Azzurro'

I remember reading a cook book my mom had gotten in the mail.  She got 2, a blue one that was French and a red one that was Italian.  These were the only ones she owned but never used.  I remember looking through those books over and over.  In the French cookbook there was a recipe for chicken cordon bleu.  I remember thinking - yum that looks SO good...maybe that is where my cooking bug came from???  Well, years later I made it..but used provolone cheese since I am not a fan of swiss. It's easy and very tasty!  I served it with 2 of my favorite weeknight shortcuts - Uncle Ben's Rice and Steamed Broccoli with some olive oil and lemon drizzled on top (forgot the brand - but the one you steam in the bag). 
  • 4 Thin Sliced Chicken Cutlets
  • 8 pieces of ham
  • 8 pieces of provolone cheese
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Toothpicks
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Pound your chicken cutlets to make them a little thinner
  3. Season the cutlets with a little salt and pepper
  4. Add 2 slices of ham, then 2 slices of cheese on top of each cutlet
  5. Roll the cutlet - if one end is more narrow, start with that end first
  6. Secure the roll with toothpicks - I usually use 4 (try to use the same amount for each roll - so you know how many toothpicks you have to pull out!)
  7. Continue with the remaining cutlets
  8. In a small bowl beat one egg
  9. Dip each roll in the beaten egg and then roll it in the seasoned breadcrumbs
  10. In a large heated saute pan, add olive oil
  11. Once the oil is nice & hot - add the chicken
  12. Brown each side - then remove from heat, you will continue to cook in the oven
  13. Place all 4 rolls in an oven safe dish and cook in the oven for about 25 minutes 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'm famous!

Head over to Lisa's Cooking Blog - She made one of my recipes (Spinach & Feta Stuffed Pork Chops) as part of a cooking challenge!  I am glad that she enjoyed it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Eggplant Parm Stackers

I don't like Eggplant Parmesan....there I said it. I don't like Eggplant and I don't like foods that are mushy - unless it's a food that is suppose to be bananas. husband likes it.  So I thought 1.  I have to find a way to make individual servings and 2.  Find a way to make eggplant parm so that the eggplant wasn't as mushy.  I think I succeeded with my eggplant parm stackers!  I bake them using Panko - I think this helps in keeping them crispy and not as mushy!  Try these for yourselves...SO easy and pretty good - this coming from someone who isn't a fan of eggplant!
  • Eggplant
  • Sauce - I make my own
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 Eggs
  • Panko
  • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped Parsley
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • Cooking Spray
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  1. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices - I keep the skins on, this is a personal can also peel
  2. In a large bowl, soak the eggplant in salted water
  3. Soak for about 5 minutes then remove - this will help remove some of the bitterness
  4. Lay the eggplant down on a tea towel and let them dry
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  6. In a bowl scramble the eggs together - you will now get ready to bread the eggplant
  7. In a separate bowl combine your Panko breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese (they do make Italian Seasoned Panko breadcrumbs...but I like to make my own)
  8. One by one, dip the eggplant into the egg mixture making sure you remove excess egg, then coat in Panko set aside until you have breaded all your eggplant
  9. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray
  10. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes - 10 minutes on each side
  11. When done, place them aside.

Stacking your Eggplant
  1. In a baking dish, aluminum pan, etc..spoon in enough tomato sauce to coat the bottom
  2. Place about 6 slices of eggplant down
  3. Layer with:
    • A spoonful of ricotta cheese
    • A spoonful of sauce
    • 1 slice of mozzarella cheese
  4. Add your next slice of eggplant and then add another layer of ricotta cheese, sauce and top with a slice of mozzarella cheese
  5. This completes your stack - now finish the rest.  I usually get about 10 stacks with a normal size Eggplant
  6. Before placing in the oven - spoon some sauce over the top
  7. Cook for about 20 minutes on 350 degrees or until cheese is nicely melted

Yummiest Meatloaf Ever!

I love meatloaf.  I love my mom's meatloaf.  She makes it with roasted tomatoes, peas, potatoes and it's delicious.  I've tried to re-create hers many times, but like a lot of things my mom makes - I can't get it quite right.  Anyway..I figured I would just give it a shot and make it my way.  So I threw in a little bit of this and a little of that and viola - Yummiest Meatloaf Ever!  I've been making it this way for a long time and have had no complaints - even the kids eat it up (with some ketchup on the side)!
  • 1 lb. Meatloaf Mix (can also use Turkey)
  • 2 eggs
  • Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • Ketchup
  • Lipton Beefy Onion Mix
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • *Tastefully Simple Garlic, Garlic (not necessary, but I like it!)
  1.  In a large bowl, combine Meatloaf, Lipton Beefy Onion Mix, some ground pepper and eggs and mix it by hand until the eggs have been evenly mixed in
  2. Add Ketchup - I would say 3-4 Tbsp. - I usually just squirt it in eyeballing it, mix by hand until ketchup is thoroughly blended in
  3. The meat mixture will be moist 
  4. Now you will add in the breadcrumbs - add small handful at a time until you get to the right consistency.  What is the right consistency? don't want it too moist because it won't hold it's shape and you don't want it too dry since it will be, well dry.  You'll know when you have put in enough breadcrumbs.
  5. In a baking pan pour in enough olive oil to just coat the bottom
  6. Add Meatloaf, shape it into a loaf and cook for about 1 hour on 350
  7. **I like to put a little "glaze" on it.  I mix ketchup, a little bit of olive oil and some Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic in a bowl.  When you have about 10 minutes left to bake, spread this mixture on the top of your meatloaf - DELICIOUS!!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And my husband made me this......

Remember how I said my husband can cook...well he outdid himself the other night.  He has a way with spices and vegetables. He makes them so tasty even I eat them all!  Well the other night he made a nice fish dish.  It was Tilapia with a beautiful mixture of vegetables.  There was celery, red, orange, & yellow peppers, onions, carrots, yellow squash, white beans, zuchinni, and .. well I think that was it.  He sauted these with some olive oil, butter, salt, pepper and lemon.  He said something about a mirepoix - and I just looked at him wondering when he turned into Jacques Pepin.  All I know is that it was delicious!

Shrimp Scampi Pasta!

This is a quick, real quick week night meal.  I love it for a few reasons - my kids love shrimp and I can make it using only two pans -  so clean up is easy! As with alot of my recipes I don't have exact measurements but have done the best to give you an easy to follow recipe!
  • 1 dozen medium size shrimp (cleaned/de-veined)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced, crushed, thin sliced - whatever you desire!
  • Lemons
  • White Wine
  • Angel Hair Pasta
  1. In a large pot, prepare water for the Pasta
  2. While the water is getting to a boil prepare your shrimp
  3. Angel Hair takes about 7 minutes to cook - so as your shrimp starts to turn pink - add the pasta
  1. In a large saute pan add the following:
  2. Add a good coating of olive oil (about 3 Tbsp.)
  3. Add about 4 nice sized pats of butter (I say 4....but I used closer to 6 - I like butter!)
  4. Also add your garlic 
  5. Now turn the pan onto a medium high heat 
  6. For this I like cooking the garlic in the oil gradually so the flavor infuses more
  7. Once the butter melts and the garlic starts to brown - add the wine (anywhere from 1/4 - 1/2 cup)
  8. Add a large pinch of parsley
  9. Bring to a boil, then add your shrimp
  10. Continue to cook until shrimp is cooked through
Combine Pasta & Shrimp
  1. When the pasta is done, remove it from the water - RESERVE SOME OF THE PASTA WATER
  2. Add the pasta right into the saute pan with the shrimp
  3. I usually ladle about 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water into the pan
  4. Combine and serve - I usually spritz some fresh lemon over it

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Deck this week....

I am hoping to go up to mom's and make her famous arancini (rice balls) with her.  She won't come to me because, well you know how it is when you are cooking - you want YOUR kitchen.  Making arancini really is a two person job.  Anyway - I hope it works out and I can get up there to make these this week!

I'm also planning on Roasted Fennel & White Bean Soup with some crusty bread.  A Shrimp dish (I am thinking my Shrimp Pasta Primavera)  and maybe a few more 'tea party' recipes to gear up for my party next month.

I am also VERY close to my 120 fans on facebook!  Once we reach the 120 I will giveaway the $25 Penzey's Gift Card as promised.

I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day! I had a great day with my family and a wonderful dinner hosted by a wonderful friend.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


My daughter came up to me the other day and said "Mommy, can we have Morrrres"  So I asked her more of what and she replied "No, Morrrres, you know when you smoosh it together and eat it?".  Took me a minute but I figured out she was saying S'mores.  Now I don't even remember the last time we made s'mores or how she even knew what it was.  But...I figured hey - lets go with it!

So I looked in the cupboard and I had marshmallows (the kids love the mini ones as a treat) and I had chocolate chips..but no graham crackers.  I did have Ritz Crackers though.  I figured she wouldn't know the difference.

So, I took about 12 Ritz Crackers, topped them with 1 mini-marshmallow and 2 chocolate chips.  I popped them in the toaster oven and set it to toast light.  About a minute later I took them out and placed another Ritz Cracker on top, smooshed it down and Viola instant "Morrrres!".  The kids devoured them up in no time..and to be quite honest - they were yummy!

Valentine's Day Krispie Hearts!

I just had to share these adorable Rice Krispie hearts that my daughter & I made today.  She LOVES to help me in the kitchen and even has her own aprons and kitchen utensils.  I am always finding ways to let her help me make dinner or make a special treat. Well tomorrow the Valentine's Queen is coming to visit our house.  The Queen leaves a little treat for kids on Valentine's Day (just another way for us to bribe them into behaving!). So of course we just had to make a treat for her when she arrived.

I figured I would make the Rice Krispie treats into hearts and then dip them in chocolate.  My daughter could then decorate to her hearts delight!

I doubled the recipe to yield 16 small hearts and lots of left over pieces!

  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 10oz. packages of large marshmallows or 8 cups of mini-marshmallows
  • 12 cups of Rice Krispies
  1. Melt butter over low heat
  2. Once butter is completely melted, add in marshmallows
  3. Stir until marshmallows have completed melted
  4. Add Rice Krispies 
  • I buttered 2 9/12 inch aluminum trays 
  • I then split the mixture into the two pans
  • Grease your hands using butter flavored cooking spray or plan butter and pat the mixture down into the pan so it is even
  • Let it sit and cool for at least a half hour
  • Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut into the rice krispie treats
  • I was able to get 8 hearts out of each tray
  • Lay the hearts on waxed or parchment paper
Chocolate Dip 
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1 Tbsp. shortening (ie crisco)
  1. Over a double broiler on LOW heat (or you can place metal bowl into a small saucepan) combine chocolate and shortening
  2. Stir until completely melted

I covered half of my hearts then let my daughter sprinkle them with various decorations.  Set back on wax paper to cool

Apricot Scones with Mock Clotted Cream

I love Tea...wait, let me clarify, I love the food that is served at Tea.  Those delicate Cucumber Sandwiches, the light and delicious quiches, the Scones, the fragrant teas, the Scones...wait did I say Scones twice?  Yes!   I REALLY love scones.  Or maybe it's the mock clotted cream that I smother my scones in..but either way, I love them.

I had gone to Tea not to long ago with two of my girlfriends and had an apricot scone.  I made a mental note to come home and find a recipe for them.  So I searched and came across one from .  I was lucky enough to have all the ingredients on hand.  Now the problem is that this recipe yields 12....I've already eaten 3 and have tucked the rest away.  I will bring them into the office...I promise I will.

Here is a direct link to the recipe.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots (I put a tiny bit of flour in the bowl I put them in so they wouldn't stick together)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Combine flour & the next 4 ingredients (flour through salt)
  3. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal )I just used my kitchen aid mixer)
  4. Stir in the apricots
  5. Combine the buttermilk and eggs, stirring with a whisk
  6. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist (dough will be sticky)
  7. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 times
  8. Pat dough into a 9-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray
  9. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting into but not through the dough
  10. Combine 2 tsp. sugar and the cinnamon, sprinkle over dough
  11. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden
  12. Serve warm

Mock Clotted Cream

Now this was a little harder to come by...there are a TON of recipes for it online.  From what I've been told true clotted cream is more on the bitter/sour side like sour cream.  The Mock Clotted Cream I've had has always been sweet, like whipped cream.  I really had nothing to go I combined a few different recipes and what I came up with was pretty good.  This uses sour cream although I did see some recipes that called for cream cheese (I assume that would yeild a sweeter cream)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar (I would probably use 1 more Tbsp. next time)
  1. Combine sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl
  2. In a mixing bowl whip the heavy cream until it starts to form peaks
  3. Fold the sour cream mixture into the heavy cream gently
  4. Sprinkle in the confectioner's sugar
  5. Serve alongside kids also loved dipping fresh strawberries in it!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I am taking a break.....

And giving my husband the chance to share some of his great cooking with you!  One of the things I love about my husband is that he can cook...he can really cook.  He loves using vegetables and spices.  Things that used to scare me before!  He has been a little MIA in the kitchen since he's so busy with work or spending time with the kids when he gets home.  But tomorrow he will be cooking up dinner!  He's great with fish so I'm excited to see what he decides to make us!

Chicken Challenge! Creamy Dijon Chicken

I had participated in Lisa's Chicken Cooking Challenge from Lisa's Cooking Adventures a few weeks ago.  I made Coconut Chicken Fingers which were AMAZING! Lisa was still looking for some guest bloggers to make some more of the chicken recipes featured in the Cooking Light article.  I took a look and found a recipe for Creamy Dijon Chicken.  It seemed easy enough and a quick mid-week meal.  I have to say it was easy and tasty.  I served it to my husband , my brother, his wife and my kids. There were no complaints..but no WOW's either. The cream sauce is very light which was good..but I think I would have liked it more if it was a little thicker...but I guess it wouldn't be light then. I would probably make this again, but tweak it a bit adding a few more spices and maybe a little more cream.

Here is the link to the Cooking Light article with recipe.

  • 4 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I use Perdue thin-sliced chicken breast)
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbsp. Chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup lower sodium, fat free chicken broth (I made my own using a bouillon cube)
  • 1 Rosemary spring (I used 1 tsp. dried rosemary)
  • 3 Tbsp. Whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  1. Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness (I had thin sliced so skipped this step)
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper
  3. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat
  4. Add olive oil to pan
  5. Add chicken; saute 3 minutes on each side or until done
  6. Transfer to serving platter
  7. Add shallots to pan; saute for 2 minutes
  8. Stir in chicken broth and rosemary spring
  9. Bring to boil
  10. Cook 2 minutes
  11. Stir in whipping cream; cook 2 minutes
  12. Remove from heat, and discard rosemary
  13. Stir in Dijon mustard
  14. Spoon over chicken
I didn't get a great picture of the chicken (It actually didn't really look like much) can see it in the upper right hand corner.  I served it with glazed carrots, my simple risotto & nonna's seasoned bread)

Aunt Janet's Coffee Cake

I was so excited when Janet said I could make and blog her recipe for Coffee Cake.  Janet married my cousin a little over a year ago. She is not my aunt..but my kids call her Aunt Janet, my aunt - her mother in law, calls her Janetta and my mother calls her Jen or Janetta.  Who knew when Aunt Janet joined the family we would gain a family baker.  Not one family gathering goes by without some homemade dessert, cookie, pie, etc...from Aunt Janet. This coffee cake is phenomenal!  I suggested that Aunt Janet add a banana to this..but she quickly nixed that idea.  I had banana's..but stuck with the original recipe, this time.

Cinnamon Mixture
  • 1/2 cup Mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup Chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 pint sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Cinnamon Mixture and set aside
  3. In medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda - stir to mix
  4. In large bowl or Kitchen Aide mixer, cream butter
  5. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar to the butter
  6. Add eggs, one at a time making sure each is incorporated
  7. Add Vanilla
  8. Add sour cream - alternating with flour mixture (so a little sour cream, a little flour, then some more sour cream, then flour, continue till you have added them both)
  9. Pour half dough in a greased tube pan (I did not have a tube pan so I used a well greased bundt pan)
  10. Sprinkle 1/2 your cinnamon mixture on top
  11. Pour the other half of the dough on top (I did this in smaller spoonfuls and then spread it - the dough is thick and a little sticky)
  12. Top with remaining cinnamon mixture
  13. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean

Recipe Challenge! Parmesan Crusted Chicken

I am taking part in a few cooking 'challenges' one of them was for a quick weeknight dinner idea.  I got to submit my own recipe for the challenge.  I submitted my stuffed pork chops.  For this challenge I got Parmesan Crusted Chicken. When I saw the recipe I thought, wow this looks EASY! Which of course is perfect for a weeknight.  I will say I was a little leery of the mayo/cheese spread that was put on the chicken - but in the end you wouldn't even know that there was mayo in it.  Very tasty, the chicken was juicy and the Parmesan crust was delicious.  My kids and I had it for lunch along with an arugula salad.

Here is the recipe I was given:
  • 1/2 cup Hellmann's Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/4 lbs.) - I used Perdue Thin Sliced
  • 4 tsp. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Combine Mayonnaise with cheese in a medium bowl
  3. Arrange chicken on baking pan
  4. Evenly top with mayonnaise mixture
  5. Sprinkle with bread crumbs
  6. Bake 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through
The only thing I did different was to season the chicken with salt & pepper before adding the mayonnaise mixture.  But I will tell you these are REALLY good and will definitely find their spot on my dinner rotation.  I work so this is the perfect go to dinner!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

106 Likes and only 7 Comments?

First of all - thank you ALL so much for taking time to humor me on this challenge and for spreading the word!  But I still need 120 for this giveaway to happen.... and we need them by tomorrow.  I also want you to WIN!!! So if you liked me on facebook but haven't commented on my blog - do it... NOW :-)  This Penzey's Gift Card is a great way to spruce up your spice cabinet....for Free!


Cooking Challenges!

I have two Cooking Challenges I am participating in!  They both involve chicken and the recipes seem easy and perfect for a busy mom!  The first is Creamy Dijon Chicken and the second is Parmesan Crusted Chicken.  I've had the Parmesan Crusted before..but I will be using a new recipe.  I also have Aunt Janet's Supreme Delicious Coffee Cake up on deck for this week.

Aunt Janet joined the family in 2009 and we couldn't be happier.  She is now our official baker and NOTHING compares to her home cooked delicacies!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Patate Fritte - Fried Potatoes.

This is one of my families go to dishes when we need a quick side dish, or an easy lunch.  My mom still makes this dish for my dad - very simple, very tasty.
  • 1 Potato per person - cut potato in half and then slice into thin pieces
  • 1/2 Large onion (more or less depending on your taste)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Drizzle large frying pan with olive oil (enough to cover the bottom)
  2. Once the oil gets hot, add your potatoes
  3. Season with Salt & Pepper
  4. About half way through, add your onions (you may end up burning them if you add them too early)
  5. When the potatoes are nice and brown, remove from heat and serve
  6. Another variation is to add 1-2 beaten eggs into the pan towards the end making it a very quick frittata!

Friday, February 4, 2011

My First Giveaway!

A Big Thanks to all my facebook fans!  You got me up to 50 fans!  Now...for the big Giveaway announcment...

I am giving away a $25 Gift Certificate to Penzys Spices!  You can view their catalog by clicking here .  I Love their spices and use them almost daily!

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Go to my Facebook Page and LIKE me!
  2. Share me on your Facebook Page
  3. Leave a comment on this page telling me what your favorite Spice is and that you've done steps1&2
Once I reach at least 120 fans on my facebook page a will pick a winner at random using (contest will end on 2/9/11)

Now...go spread the word!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pasta con Ricotta e Piselli

Translated - Pasta with Ricotta & Peas
EXTREMELY SIMPLE yet so tasty! Now I used to hate peas...I would only eat them frozen, right out of the box from the freezer. But once my mom cooked way was I eating them.  Then, one day when I was much older I tied them ..and guess what - yes I liked them!  They were so sweet and delicious.  I couldn't believe what I was missing all this time!  This recipe is so simple and rustic.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
  • 1 Box of Frozen Peas (never ever use canned peas)
  • 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion diced
  • 1 pint Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 lb small pasta such as Ditalini
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. In a heated sauce pan drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan
  2. Add onions, salt and pepper and saute until golden brown
  3. Add peas and a little more pepper
  4. Add approx. 1/2 cup of water and simmer on low for about 20 minutes being careful that you don't  scorch the pan (check on it periodically to see if it needs more water)
  5. Cover and set pan aside
  6. Prepare your pasta according to package instructions, drain reserving 1/2 the liquid
  7. Pour your pasta into a large serving bowl 
  8. Stir in the peas and a little bit of water so as not to dry out the pasta - you will have to eyeball this - you want to have enough liquid to keep everything moist but not so much that it's swimming in water
  9. I usually keep a small bowl of reserved pasta water on the table so you can add more if needed 
  10. Serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another Food Challenge!

Last week I participated in Lisa Cooking Adventures Chicken 25 Ways Challenge. If you missed it, you can find it by clicking here!

Well, there are still a few recipes I asked Lisa if I could pick up one more.  So, this week I will be making Creamy Chicken Dijon!   I am looking forward to trying this dish as I can always use a new way to make chicken!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nonna's Simple Seasoned Bread

My earliest memory of this bread was during one of our trips to visit my nonna in Sicily.  Her neighbor, Vita, had a huge cement oven - in her home.  Yes..this thing is HUGE and in her home - it's purpose was making bread.  The smell of that bread, lets just say heaven.  I remember Vita bringing over some fresh HOT bread.  My mom sliced it open, drizzled some Extra Virgin Olive Oil on it, salted it and sprinkled with oregano.  I cannot begin to give you enough adjectives to describe how AMAZING it tasted.

My mom makes this bread alot..and it gets devoured before dinner is even served. She will usually make it using a long loaf of bakery quality (Calandra's, Anthony & Sons, etc.) French bread. Now, we don't have a big cement oven or homemade olive oil, but I do have some of my grandmother's oregano!  I enjoy making this from time to time - goes perfect with Pasta & Soup!

  • Loaf of bakery quality French bread (can also use individual slices of panella bread)
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Place bread in pre-heated oven
  2. Remove bread once the bread gets nice and toasted - about 5-7 minutes
  3. While bread is still hot, slice the bread down the middle (I usually place a dishtowel over the bread as I slice)
  4. Drizzle Olive Oil on both sides of the bread
  5. Sprinkle with Salt and Oregano (I prefer mine extra salty!)
  6. Bring pieces of bread together and press down
  7. Cut into smaller serving pieces
  8. Enjoy!

If you make this using sliced panella bread, you can just put the bread in your toaster, toast and season

Nonna's Chicken Soup

My mom's chicken soup is the best...hands down! takes a a few hours.  I can't tell you what warm memories this chicken soup brings back.  My mom has one of those huge white enamel stock pots and would make enough to freeze for future use. I've only made her chicken soup one time before and as with almost everything my mom makes - I still can't make it quite like hers. But this time..I got it!

Again, a few steps and some time involved here...but as with good home-cooking, the result is fabulous!

1 Whole Chicken
1 Large tomato or 2 smaller tomato's, cut in half
2 celery stalks, sliced in thirds
2 whole carrots, cleaned and sliced in half
1 medium onion, quartered
1/4 lemon
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube
Bay Leaf

Chicken Preparation

  • Trim excess fat from chicken (usually trim near the open cavity)
  • If your chicken has the innards in the cavity - remove them
  • In a bowl, rinse your chicken off
  • Now, my mom will usually let it sit in little water with lemon in it - she has this thing about lemon removing the 'poultry' taste from it...she does this regardless of how she cooks her chicken it always gets a 'lemon' bath prior to cooking
  • Rinse of your chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put it in a stock pot
  • Cover chicken entirely with water and add about 2 cups more
  • Soup should remain on medium low heat - AT ALL TIMES
  • Do not add anything to your pot at this time - just the chicken
  • Simmer your chicken, you will start to notice a foam collecting at the top, my mother called this 'scumazza' or foam

  • You will periodically skim this off - whatever this is, you don't want it in your soup
  • Once you notice almost no more 'scumazza' you can start adding your vegetables
Soup Preparation
  • Add all remaining ingredients to the pot including a little extra salt and pepper
  • Simmer for at least an hour, closer to 2 would be ideal!! 
  • This is what your pot should look like:

  • The chicken should be coming off the bone at this point
  • You can now start to remove any floating pieces of skin plus the skin that is on the chicken will come off very easy at this point - it's not that bad, really it isn't  :-)
Serving Your Soup
  • Place a colander over a separate stove top pan on medium heat
  • Add your chicken broth into the pan, the colander will catch all the vegetables
  • Add enough broth to serve you, your family, your friends, etc
  • When broth comes to a boil, add your pasta - ditalini, broken spaghetti, orzo, etc..
  • My mom served the chicken and vegetables in a separate bowl along side with the soup - this way you could add however much chicken and/or vegetables you wanted to into your soup
I hope I didn't make this more involved than it really is..because although it may seem like it's complicated - it's not.  If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll be happy to help!

I served this another one of my mom's other favorites - her seasoned bread which I will write about later!

Alex's Perfect Panini

So, I still had some leftover ciabatta bread and figured I would make us some grilled panini for lunch today.  Alex will eat just about anything...except for creamed corn, don't ask.  I looked in the refrigerator and had some proscuitto, cheese and vegetables put it all together and Alex's Perfect Panini was born!
  • 2 slices Ciabatta bread
  • 3-4 thin slices of Proscuitto
  • 2-3 slices of Provolone or fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • Arugula
  • Sliced Tomato
  • Sliced Red Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Grill Pan
  1. Heat Grill Pan on stovetop
  2. Lightly drizzle some Olive Oil on both pieces of bread
  3. Sprinkle bread with salt, pepper and oregano
  4. Layer your sandwich as you like - some like cheese on the bread first, some the meat, others vegetable
  5. I wiped my grill pan down with olive oil
  6. Place finished sandwich on your grill pan - now if you have a panini maker you are GOLDEN - I do no.  So, I took a heavy saucepan and placed it right ontop of my sandwich - Presto!  Instant Panini Press!
  7. Turn the panini over, put your saucepan on it to get grill marks on both sides
  8. Serve with salad, chips, whatever

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nonna's Pastina

As a child my mother used to make us the most delightful, yet SUPER easy pastina.   You ask 50 different people how they make their pastina, and you'll get about 50 different answers.  If I could I would bottle my mom's up and sell it - not that it's THAT amazing..but to me and my kids it is.  When we go visit nonna, my kids will ask for pastina and of course I always make sure she makes enough for me too.  I make her recipe at home...but it never comes out quite like nonna's.
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 Large tomato or 2 smaller tomatoes such as plum tomato
  • 1/2 Sweet onion
  • 1/2 Celery stalk
  • Small handful of parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Pastina
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  1. In a small sauce pan add all the ingredients except pastina and parmesan cheese
  2. Bring the ingredients to a boil
  3. Let boil for at least 25 minutes - all the vegetables should be cooked through and falling apart (I've let it go for almost 45 minutes can't hurt it)
  4. Remove vegetables from sauce pan and add about 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup pastina (I had a little more pastina since my kids love the pastina)
  5. Cook pastina for about 5 minutes and remove from heat
  6. Serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top

Tuna & Artichoke Panini

I own a few Giada De Laurentis cook books - most of which are signed thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law Marie who has spent many hours on line to have a face to face with Giada.  I love her recipes since they are so close to home and all so very simple. I was at the market today and saw the most gorgeous loaf of ciabbata bread.  It just looked so inviting! I had this Tuna Artichoke Panini recipe that I loved which is inspired by Giada's recipe (which you can find by clicking HERE)...mine doesn't use Olives since the husband isn't a fan.  Now, I haven't tried her actual version..but mine is pretty darn good!  You'll be surprised at how easy this is! This recipe serves may get 4 servings but we REALLY liked it :-)

  • 1/2 Can Chick Peas, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove (more if you are a fan!)
  • 1/2 tsp. Lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
  • 1 Can of Italian Tuna, such as Cento
  • 1/2 Can Artichoke Hearts -or- 1/2 jar marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
  • Arugula
  • Plum Tomato, sliced and salted
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. In a small food processor combine chick peas, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest until smooth. If you find it to be too thick, add a little more olive oil
  2. Add mayonnaise and blend until well blended
  3. In a small bowl, combine tuna and artichokes - if you use tuna in water or canned artichoke hearts you may need to add a little olive oil to this so that it isn't too dry
  4. Add juice of half of a lemon, salt and pepper to the tuna artichoke mixture
  5. Cut yourself a nice piece of ciabbata bread and spread your chick pea mixture liberally on both sides
  6. On one slice, place 3 slices of tomato and a few leaves of arugula 
  7. Place a heaping spoonful of the tuna artichoke mixture on top of this, top with the other piece of bread and....ENJOY!!!
I served this with sliced tomato drizzled with a little olive oil and seasonings - such a light and refreshing meal!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Patrizia's Simple Risotto

I will be the first to admit that Risotto scared me.  After watching countless episodes of Gordon Ramsey's Hells Kitchen who wouldn't be? But when you look at it, Risotto is simply rice and a liquid (I mainly use Chicken Broth) with a few little extras. So, I figured I would give a shot and once I started I haven't been able to stop!
Risotto should be firm, but not crunchy - I guess you can say Al-dente.  It also shouldn't stick or clump together.  In my recipe I use bouillon cubes to make my own chicken broth.  I've made it using canned chicken broth and I didn't really care for tasted to chicken-y.  Anyway... It's not as hard as you me!
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 1/2 Chicken flavored bouillon cubes
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Arborio rice
  • 1/2 Vidalia or Sweet Onion finely diced
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 5 Quart Saute Pan
  1. Add bouillon cubes to 6 cups of water to make chicken broth, boil and remove from heat
  2. Heat 3 Tbsps. (or so) of butter and oil in saute pan
  3. Add chopped onion and cook till translucent
  4. Add Arborio rice to the pan and saute until SOME of the rice turns light brown - you don't want to brown all the rice..once you see a few pieces turning light brown move on to step 5
  5. Now the fun part...add 1 cup of your chicken broth to your rice and stir until the broth is absorbed, then add another cup and will repeat this process at least 5 times.  
  6. Risotto cannot be left unattended - if the liquid gets absorbed and you aren't there to add more liquid it can easily scorch
  7. Now that you are about 5 cups in it's time to taste it.  Your risotto should not be to thick or starchy (browning it properly will help alleviate that)
  8. I am usually done after 5 cups of broth - however I make 6 cups just in case it needs a little more liquid
  9. If you taste it and find that it's still a little crunchy and the liquid has been absorbed, add a little more broth - about 1/2 cup at a time
  10. I guess this is where it can get tricky - but once you get the hang of it you can eyeball it and 'just know' when it's done
  11. Remove your risotto from heat - you can now add a little grated Parmesan cheese if you'd like.  In this recipe I do not.  I have a few other variations that I make - Mushroom, Shrimp, and Cheesy Parmesan  to name a few - You'll have to wait for those :-)

Cousin Joey's Chicken Francaise

Cousin Joey is my Zia (aunt) Dina's son.  Zia Dina is an AMAZING cook!  She makes pasta from scratch, makes homemade pizza dough that is phenomenal. So the fact that Joey loves to cook doesn't surprise us - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Joey has a signature dish...his Chicken Francaise.  This is a staple during a family get together.  The challenge with this recipe is that we have no exact measurements.  This is the case with almost all our recipes.  We cook to taste.  He gave me a list of ingredients and directions (a bit time consuming, but the pay off is HUGE) and I took a stab at the measurements.  Well, I have to say my version was a BIG hit.  I served 2 pounds of chicken to 3 guests and there was nothing left.  Without further ado...the recipe:

  • 2lbs of Chicken breast or thin sliced chicken breast
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Cup Seasoned breadcrumbs*
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 Garlic cloves
  • 1 Chicken flavored bouillon cube
  • 1 Lemon - cut in half
  • Butter
  • White wine
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 5 quart saute pan
  1. Rinse off your chicken breast 
  2. If you are using thick chicken breast, you want to slice the chicken breast in half - but if you want to save yourself ALOT of time, buy the thin sliced!
  3. Pound out the chicken breast so that its nice and thin, like a scallopini.  I cut them in half after this point, sometimes in thirds if its a really big piece
  4. Once you've finished, place the chicken in a large bowl and add about 1/2 cup white wine - let this sit for at least a half hour
  5. Now that your chicken is nice and drunk it's time to bread and fry
  6. Layout your chicken on a large flat area lined with paper towels - you want to get rid of any excess moisture
  7. While the chicken is laid it, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  8. Beat two eggs in a medium bowl and add the chicken, make sure you evenly coat all the pieces - I just used my hand to work the egg through
  9. In a shallow dish add your breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. is another little twist - we use homemade breadcrumbs.  They are MUCH lighter than store bought and taste completely different. I'll write more about this later..but for now mix the breadcrumbs and cheese together.
  10. Coat your saute pan with olive oil, once the oil is hot add your chicken about 4 pieces at a time - be careful not to overcrowd your pan
  11. Lightly brown the chicken, about 2 minutes on each side (you will continue to cook the chicken later)
  12. Once you are done cooking the chicken, cool and wipe down your pan
  13. Return your pan to the stovetop and olive oil - enough to coat the bottom of the pan entirely
  14. Add 4 Tbsp. of butter - yes, I know it's alot...but it's going to make your sauce so decadent
  15. Smash your garlic using the flat side of a meat tenderizer or large knife - add this to your pan - INCLUDING the garlic skin (yes, I said to add the skin it takes any bitterness of the garlic away - at least that is what Zia says)
  16. Once the garlic turns a light golden brown, add about 3/4 cup of wine, the bouillon cube and the juice of 1/2 lemon
  17. Bring to a boil, add the chicken and 4 slices of lemon
  18. Reduce the heat to medium low
  19. Cook covered for 20 minutes, turning the chicken over after 10 minutes
  20. When done, place the chicken on a serving platter, pouring the remaining sauce (including lemons & garlic) over the chicken
If you did this right, some of the chicken will have a nice little crust on it!  I know there are alot of steps here but that is partly my fault - I want to make it as detailed and as easy as possible.  I served this with my Simple Risotto and it was a hit!

*Now before I forget, I want to talk to you about breadcrumbs.  I will always have a container of seasoned breadcrumbs in my's a staple.  But there is NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING like homemade breadcrumbs. Just take a look at the chicken in the above can just tell that it's delicate.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

You can do this one of two ways, you can make your way to your local bakery and purchase them there OR do it yourself.  If you use Italian bread at home save any of your leftovers.  My mom keeps leftover bread in the oven in one of those disposable aluminum trays.  Once you get enough to fill the tray it's time to take out your Cuisinart.  Add dried bread to the Cuisinart adding fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.  I don't have measurements for this - you'll need to adjust the parsley and cheese to your taste.  Now chop.  Continue to chop until you get the consistency you like.  Viola, homemade breadcrumbs.  Since this has cheese in it, you will need to refrigerate it.

Sicilian Citrus Salad

This salad brings back so many great memories!  My mother makes this in the summer when the oranges are nice and sweet.  Now, I've had this during my trips to Sicily and well, you just can't compare.  The oranges are sweeter, the oil is tastier and the oregano - well don't get me started.  I still use oregano that we bring over from Sicily.  What I've found in stores cannot compare.  There are a few variations you can using blood oranges or adding lemons.

  • 6-8 Ripe oranges
  • Olive Oil (not extra virgin)*
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Oregano
  1. Peel & Segment Oranges - you can also peel and quarter them if you don't want to segment
  2. In a bowl, add oranges, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, a pinch of sugar and a little bit of water (I'd say about 2 Tbsp.)
  3. Variation - Meyer lemons make a very welcome addition to this.  You would peel and segment the lemon and either add them in their entirety or you could just squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the oranges.

* I suggest using regular Olive Oil since you don't want to over power the taste of the oranges by using Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  The darker/greener the oil..the stronger the taste is.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Coconut Chicken Fingers

I follow Lisa's Cooking Adventures on her blog .  She recently posted a challenge - She has 25 recipes from Cooking Light and was looking for people to pick a recipe, make it and give her a review.  I took a look at the recipes and decided on the Coconut Chicken Fingers.  I thought it was easy and something the kids would like.  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised considering this is a 'light' recipe.

Here is the review I wrote up for Lisa's Blog:

I was excited to see a recipe for Coconut Chicken Fingers as part Lisa's Cooking Adventure's Challenge. I figured it was an easy dish that my kids would like. I have to say I was a little worried that the coconut would burn too fast - but that wasn't the case. I followed the recipe using Perdue Chicken Tenders, I omitted the red pepper since I was serving it to the kids and I used plain flour instead of rice flour. It was a BIG hit. We had them for lunch served with Kikkomann's Plum Sauce. If I wasn't serving them to the kids I would have added a little red pepper since I do think it needed that extra 'punch'. However - this was a very simple recipe to make and it got thumbs up from the family!

And not a moment longer...the recipe:
  • 4 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2 inch-thick strips (I used Perdue Chicken Strips - saved a lot of time!)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (omitted since I was feeding the kids)
  • 1 cup rice flour (I used all purpose flour)
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cup cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • Sweet chili sauce (optional - I used Kikkomann Plum Sauce)
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper
  2. Place flour in shallow dish
  3. Combine buttermilk and egg in shallow dish, stirring well
  4. Place coconut in shallow dish
  5. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess
  6. Dip chicken in egg mixture
  7. Dredge in coconut
  8. Heat large skillet over medium heat
  9. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat
  10. Add chicken to pan
  11. Cook 6 minutes or until done, turning golden brown
  12. Serve with chile sauce, if desired

Spinach & Feta Stuffed Pork Chops

I love making this dish.  It is so easy and full of goodness! I use Greek seasoning sold by Penzys.  I was introduced to Penzys by my husband and I have to say they offer such a great variety of spices / herbs / rubs/ etc.. My pantry is full of dozens of their spices.  If you haven't heard of them, let me be the first to introduce you!

  • 6 Boneless pork chops
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled Feta cheese
  • 2 cups of chopped spinach (well drained)
  • Penzys Brand Greek Seasoning*
  • Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
  • Handful of grape tomato, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata Olives, chopped
  • Toothpicks
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Oven safe serving dish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Layout your pork chops between 2 layers of wax paper and flatten them using the flat side of a meat tenderizer
  3. Once you have flattened them all, place your pork chops in a shallow bowl - drizzle with some olive oil and season using the Greek seasoning
  4. Let the chops sit for about 1/2 hour (this isn't absolutely necessary - but marinating it even this long helps enhance the flavor)
  5. Lay out your seasoned pork chops and top with your well drained spinach and then sprinkle with Feta cheese -  use as little or as much as the size of your chop and your taste allows
  6. Fold both sides up and secure with toothpicks
  7. Drizzle olive oil into your heated frying pan until it is well coated
  8. Place individual chops in frying pan toothpick side up
  9. Continue to cook the chops until all sides are golden brown 
  10. As the chops finish cooking, place them in an oven safe serving dish
  11. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives to the serving dish, drizzle with a little olive oil and place in the oven for about 20 minutes to continue cooking the chops through
*If you can't get your hands on Penzys Greek Seasoning , you can use a blend of Oregano, Lemon Pepper, Salt, Garlic & Marjoram