Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dark-Chocolate Cupcakes

I found this cupcake recipe in the Wall Street Journal just after Hostess closed down. I'm not a fan of Twinkies, but those cupcakes are another story. My daughter likes them too, and requested them for her birthday--without the filling.

Below is the recipe as I made it. The original is linked above, if you want to know how to make the white-chocolate mousse filling. We thought these were rich enough all on their own.

The original recipe called for preparing "a 12-cup muffin pan." That made me think that the recipe would yield 12 cupcakes. The amounts of ingredients seemed awfully high for only a dozen cupcakes, so I wasn't too surprised when I had to pull out extra muffins pans--not once, but twice. I got 3 dozen cupcakes from this recipe, and since I'd accidentally overfilled some of the muffin cups, the yield would probably be closer to 3 1/2 dozen.

(makes about 3 dozen cupcakes)

3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBL baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, warm
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 TBL butter, melted

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp butter

Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & cocoa into a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs & egg yolks, buttermilk, coffee and vanilla. Slowly add egg mixture to dry ingredients, whisking together. Add butter and stir until just combined.

Prepare muffin tins with liners or grease muffin cups. Fill each cup halfway with batter. Do not fill more than halfway or things will get messy. Bake until cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes. (Mine took 22.)

Allow to cool to room temperature before glazing.

In a small pot, bring cream to a simmer. Place chocolate, salt and butter in a bowl. Pour in simmering cream and allow to sit 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. (I had to microwave the mixture for 20 seconds to melt the last of the chocolate bits.)

Dip tops of cupcakes in glaze and place on tray. Top as desired.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Corn Chowder

I'm a big fan of soup, though most of my family could take or leave it. That's why I don't have too many soup recipes here. But corn chowder is definitely one of my favorites; I often order it at restaurants and I figured there's really no good reason that I can't make it at home. There was a recipe at Sarcastic Cooking that I used as the basis for this soup. The changes I made reflected what was available in my pantry at the time; I was also using up some leftover cooked (boiled) potatoes and roasted chicken. Here's the recipe as I made it today:

CORN CHOWDER (printable version)
Serves 6

3 TBL butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
2 ribs celery, sliced
12 baby carrots, sliced
1 heaping TBL minced garlic
4 TBL flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
2 TBL dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup cooked shrimp, diced
4 boiled potatoes, cooled, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Saute onion in melted butter until translucent. Add celery, carrots and garlic and cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in flour until all liquid has been absorbed. Pour in chicken stock and add corn and seasonings. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in chicken, shrimp and potatoes and simmer 5 more minutes. Slowly stir in milk and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

You could substitute more shrimp or other seafood for the chicken for a delicious meatless meal!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Coffee-Cup Spice

I love how a little spice makes a cup of coffee that much sweeter and mellower, but without the "fake" flavor of artifically-flavored coffee blends or creamers. Those always have a strange chemical taste, I think. So I mix up my own "coffee-cup spice." Cinnamon by itself is delicious in coffee. Just sprinkle some on top of the coffee grounds before brewing (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp for a 10-cup pot of coffee). I put together a spice blend, cinnamon-based, that is great in coffee or as a spice for coffee cake or muffins. To use it in baking, add up the amounts of spice you'd usually use in the recipe and use the same measurement of this spice blend.

I store it in an old jar from any one of the spices used in the blend. If you do this, don't even wash the jar first; whatever's left in the jar will just mix in.

Depending on the size of your jar, you can adjust the quantity of each, as long as you keep in mind that some are measured in TBL and some in tsp.

TBL:  cinnamon
tsp:  nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, ginger

Place in the jar, cover tightly and shake until well blended.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Iron-Skillet Chicken Caroline

I tweaked my Chicken Caroline recipe so I could cook it in my cast-iron skillet. I thought it was even better this way--but if you want to cook more than 4 pieces you'll need more than one skillet. This would be delicious on a sandwich; I served it with oven-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes.


olive oil for the pan
1 onion, sliced very thin
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 TBL minced garlic
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Italian seasoning
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (I used a combination of mozzarella and provolone)

In cast-iron skillet, slowly saute onion in olive oil until it begins to caramelize. Push onion to sides of the pan. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Stir in minced garlic and cook 2 minutes. Remove all vegetables to a dish and add chicken to pan. Drizzle top of chicken with a little more olive oil, then season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.

Bake at 400 about 20 minutes. Top chicken with the cooked onion, mushrooms and garlic, then sprinkle cheese over it all. Return to oven for 5 more minutes until cheese melts.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sesame Semolina Dinner Rolls

A large-capacity bread machine is needed to make this dough.  This batch makes between 24 and 30 rolls, depending on size. The dough was soft and pliable but not wet, and the oven-spring was impressive.

You'll find this recipe at my new website, Cook and Count!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not: Potato-Chip Chicken

One of my neighbors works for a potato-chip company, and every so often he brings samples of new brands or new product lines to us for a taste-test. Yesterday he handed us a couple of bags of no-salt-added potato chips. 

If I'm going to eat chips straight out of the bag, they need to have a little flavor, like salt & vinegar or Honey BBQ. Not wanting these to go to waste, I figured out another way to enjoy them.

First I opened the bag, let out the air, then held the bag closed and crushed the chips. Then I poured some Old Bay seasoning into the bag, closed it tightly, and shook until the potato-chip crumbs were spicy. This became a delicious, crispy coating for oven-baked chicken drumsticks.

Here's the recipe for POTATO-CHIP CHICKEN

10 large chicken drumsticks
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 5-ounce bag unsalted potato chips, crushed
1 TBL Old Bay (or more to taste)

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and brush with olive oil. Preheat oven to 375.
Add Old Bay to the crushed potato chips. Close the bag tightly and shake until the crumbs and spice are well mixed. Pour into a shallow bowl (I used a pie plate).
Beat egg and milk together and pour into another shallow bowl.
Dip chicken drumsticks in egg mixture, then roll in chip crumbs until coated.
Place on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes.

You can use any spice you like with this, and you get to control the salt. This is also a good way to use up the broken chips in the bottom of the bag. (You can freeze the chips until you get enough to use for one batch of chicken.)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Dessert Time: Cookies & Cream Brownies

Dress up a boxed brownie mix with crushed Oreo cookies and mini chocolate chips! This is an easy recipe to make with the kids; even little ones can help crush the cookies and then sprinkle on the toppings before baking. And it's never too early for kids to learn that even broken cookies are good for something.

Here's the recipe for Cookies & Cream Brownies:

1 box brownie mix, prepared as directed (I used a Dark Chocolate brownie mix for this recipe)
1 cup crushed Oreos or mini Oreos
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Prepare brownie mix as directed on box and pour into foil-lined 9x13 baking pan.
Top with crushed cookies.
Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top.
Bake as directed.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Soccer-Mom Friendly Dinner: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

Sometimes it pays to procrastinate JUST a bit. I was working on my meal plan over the weekend and browsing Twitter instead of focusing on the task at hand. Fortunately, I follow Jeff Young, the Catholic Foodie, and he tweeted a link to a recipe for Creamy Chicken Caesar Sandwiches.

My kids are fans of Caesar salad, especially when there's chicken involved. (Little Brother will eat just about anything if it includes croutons; in his world, croutons should have their own food group). With Little Brother and his crouton obsession in mind, I decided to serve these sandwiches on garlic bread instead of just plain rolls. (If you're local, I got the rolls from DeLuca's in Riverside.)

The original recipe is linked above; I'm writing it here as I made it.

Get the recipe at Cook and Count!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Dutch Oven Macaroni & Cheese

With an eye to planned leftovers that can be used for a quick lunch or dinner this week, I put together some baked macaroni & cheese.

3/4 pound small macaroni (mini penne, mini shells, elbows or cavatappi all work), cooked al dente
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
10 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (3+ cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
salt, to taste
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Cook pasta as directed on the package.

Heat milk in a small saucepan, making sure not to boil it, or heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. Meanwhile, melt butter in a Dutch oven. Whisk in flour and then the hot milk and cook until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat. Add cheese, pepper, salt and mustard. Stir until combined. Fold in cooked pasta. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Cover and bake 20 minutes at 350, then remove the cover and bake 10 minutes at 300 until the sauce is bubbly and the casserole is browned on top.
This is great with a salad and crusty bread!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Singapore Street Noodles

This is one of those "kitchen sink" recipes; there is a ton of ingredients but I'm sure that some substitution wouldn't turn out badly. I thought the sauce in this recipe would work well with just about any combination of stir-fry vegetables.

I taste-tested this recipe with just my 10-year-old. I thought he might back away from the spice in it, but he never complained about it. He loved, loved, loved the rice noodles and asked me to make it again. I served mine on top of the noodles, but he wanted his noodles separate from the meat and vegetables.


1 TBL rice wine vinegar
2 TBL curry powder
1 pinch turmeric
2 TBL soy sauce or Ponzu
1/2 cup oyster sauce
2 TBL sriracha (sweet chili) sauce
2 TBL ketchup

1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and tails removed
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in thin strips
2 TBL vegetable or peanut oil for the pan
1 cup cole slaw mix
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
2 cups baby carrots, julienned
1 TBL minced garlic
1 medium tomato, cut in chunks

1 pound Asian rice noodles, uncooked
1 tsp sesame oil
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut in quarters

1.  Mix vinegar, curry powder and turmeric until well blended. Add remaining sauce ingredients and stir. Set aside.

2.  Boil water in large pot for noodles.

3.  Stir-fry shrimp and chicken in oil until cooked through. Push to edges of pan and add all vegetables except tomato. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in tomato and sauce. Cook until everything is heated through.

4.  Cook noodles 2 to 3 minutes (according to package directions), stirring occasionally. Drain and toss with cilantro and sesame oil.

5.  Serve noodles with meat and vegetables and 1/4 lime to squeeze over the dish just before eating.

I plan to make a big batch of this (just the meat, vegetables and sauce), then divide and freeze it. The rice noodles take no time at all to cook, so this would be an amazingly quick meal for those really busy days. But I'm probably going to leave out the tomatoes next time and use some other vegetables instead. Also, some chopped dry-roasted peanuts or cashews would add to this dish.

Source for original recipe: (I changed some ingredients and re-worked the directions so the steps were actually in order. In the original recipe, also, there were some ingredients in the list that never were accounted for in the steps of the recipe.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Big Send-Off

Four more days until Big Brother goes back to school! This time he won't be living in the dorms, but in an on-campus apartment complete with (tiny) kitchen. He's excited about his upcoming Freedom From Dining-Hall Food.

It occurred to him the other day that if he's going to be cooking his food, he'll need to buy the groceries and have time to cook the food. I took it as a huge compliment that he asked me to help him make a grocery list.

And here's where it got interesting, and I realized something. Most of the groceries I buy are ingredients. Since he plans to use my recipes (he AND his girlfriend have both bookmarked this blog) he is going to have to keep ingredients in the house.

So I asked him to list 8 to 10 meals as a starting point, figuring that we'd stock him up on the nonperishable ingredients (and frozen meat and pasta sauce) for those. From that list, I made him a shopping list. I've already been collecting spices like assorted pepper grinders, bay leaves and a few staples such as chicken soup base.

I hope his mini-kitchen is big enough to hold his stash of ingredients as well as his roommates' food.

And I'm happy to say that my son is heading off to college with grocery bags containing Old Bay, ginger, and sesame seeds--and he knows how to use them.

Sure beats dining-hall food.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Original Recipe: Pasta with Beef and Fennel Sauce

Much as I may claim that "laziness is the mother of invention," there are times when I agree that necessity deserves that title. It's certainly true in cooking. This recipe was born out of a moment of panic when I realized that somehow I had run out of spaghetti sauce with meatballs without realizing it--and I'd planned that very thing for dinner (and had no time to start up a big batch).

I did have some sauce without meatballs, though, and some ground beef. So I thought I'd make a baked ziti with meat and cheese...but that's not really what I wanted for dinner. That's when I got busy inventing. The result was a big hit; it has the flavor of Italian sausage without all the grease.

The whole thing cooks in the time it takes to boil a big pot of water and cook pasta, so it's a quick and easy meal.

Serves 6

3 to 4 cups spaghetti sauce without meat
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1 TBL olive oil
1 TBL fennel seed
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

Brown ground beef and onion in the olive oil.  Drain, add fennel and pepper, and cook 2 minutes more until spices are fragrant.  Stir into spaghetti sauce. Heat until warmed through and serve over your choice of pasta.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Skillet Chicken Parm

My husband's favorite dinner is Chicken Parmesan. But while I am a big fan of pasta with red sauce, Chicken Parmesan is not high on my list of best-loved dishes--either to make or to eat. Breading, frying, then baking the chicken is a mess and a chore. Today I bought a new cookbook: The Cook's Country Cookbook (from the America's Test Kitchen editors) and found a Skillet Chicken Parmesan recipe in there.

I know that the America's Test Kitchen people are all kinds of scientific and they think they have found the One Best Way to make anything. Honestly, though, I didn't buy this cookbook for the recipes but for the information on technique (like shaping rolls and boning chicken) that had lots of useful photographs. So while the recipe below was "inspired by" the ATK one in the cookbook, there were a lot of changes that I made to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand.

This version of Skillet Chicken Parm cooks in about the same time as a big pot of linguine, so it's great when you want to have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes!

This was way easier to make than conventional Chicken Parm, and there was plenty of sauce to go around (that's my favorite part!) I used my own homemade pizza sauce, but you can use your favorite thick spaghetti sauce.


Get the full recipe plus nutrition information at Cook and Count!

My Kitchen Bucket List

Every cook has one:  the things she would like to learn to make someday.
In no particular order, here are some of mine:
apple-cider donuts
sandwich bread
shaped round rolls
corn muffins
Irish brown bread like the kind we had in Ireland when I was 15, and which is probably so mythologized in my mind that NOTHING will come close to it
General Tso's Chicken

And I'd like to start a sourdough starter and NOT kill it off after only a couple of weeks! (I'm a little lacking in the follow-through in the sourdough department).

In view of the kitchen goals I have, I requested a couple of baking pans for my birthday (hey, the kids asked...and these are not things I'd go out and buy for myself.)

My baking-pan cabinet is going to get out of control if I add anything more to it, but I have had these on my wish list for so long--and as soon as it gets a little cooler I'm going to be baking!  I asked for (and received) a donut pan and a Pullman loaf pan. This heavy-duty covered bread pan makes those square "sandwich" loaves. I've got 4 weeks to get that right before school starts.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

FINALLY! Sweet Corn Casserole

Every cook has one of those dishes that they want to make, and they try, try, try every recipe they can find (and some they make up).  They waste batch after batch of ingredients on not-quite-right results, but chances are they never completely give up.  And sometimes they happen upon just the right recipe.

I think I've been trying for about 20 years to make the sweet corn casserole like what was served at the Chi-Chi's restaurant my husband and I used to visit.  It was so good...whenever I was offered two sides, I'd just get double the corn casserole.  But no matter how many recipes I tried (and there were many--very many, which is why Big Brother is no fan of corn to this day) I couldn't get it right.

Today I followed a link in a tweet by CatholicFoodie to this recipe for Easy Corn Casserole.  I almost didn't try it, figuring I'd once again be disappointed.  Then I decided that if I had all the ingredients on hand, I'd make it with dinner tonight.

I used a Corning-ware baking dish, and I found that 45 minutes were needed to bake it all the way through.  5 more minutes probably wouldn't have hurt either, and it's a good idea to let it set for 5 or 10 minutes after removing it from the oven.  But oh, my, this is good--and just exactly what I was after (I knew that all those recipes calling for sour cream weren't going to lead me to the right result!)

Thanks, FamilyFoodie, for sharing your friend Charlie's recipe for my favorite corn dish!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cinnamon-Almond Bread

I have this recipe clipping from a 1998 issue of Better Homes & Gardens for "Spectacular Cinnamon-Almond Ring."  Honestly, there are very few recipes of mine that I'd include an adjective like "spectacular" for, but BH&G apparently thought this was pretty special.  It's a cinnamon-swirl yeast bread that is baked in a fluted tube pan, and is designed to be refrigerator-raised overnight.  I've made it several times, and the results are delicious, but it is pretty work-intensive.  Recently I'd been thinking about making this recipe in regular loaf pans, so that's what I tried today.  Instead of a refrigerator rise, I mixed the dough in my trusty dough machine (I'd call it a bread machine, but I never actually bake any bread in it.  I prefer baking it in the oven in a pan that is not tall and square and does not leave a big hole in the bottom of the loaf.)

The original recipe did not call for bread flour, but all-purpose.  I didn't add any gluten, either--wanted to see what would happen if I left it alone.  As it turned out, no gluten was needed, and AP flour worked fine.

Cinnamon-Almond Bread

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter, cut up (1 stick butter)
2 eggs, beaten
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp salt
3 TBL sugar
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBL yeast

Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  Select dough cycle.

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon (I used Penzey's Indonesian Cinnamon)
1 cup sliced almonds

Divide the dough in two pieces on a floured surface and roll thin.  Mix butter, sugar and cinnamon and spread on dough, leaving a 1-inch margin.  Sprinkle with almonds.  Roll tightly and place in greased loaf pans.

Allow to rise 1 hour, then bake 35 minutes at 350.  Remove to wire rack to cool.

MAKE SURE you roll this very tightly, as otherwise there will be huge air pockets inside the bread.  This makes slicing and toasting a little difficult, though there's no impact on flavor.

NEXT TIME I will divide this recipe into 3 loaves instead of 2.  That might have kept things more manageable!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spicy Oatmeal Cookies

We enjoy spicy cookies around here (these Molasses cookies are a particular favorite, and I always add some cinnamon to chocolate-chips).  That's why I wanted to try out this recipe from Cooking Light:  Spicy Oatmeal Crisps.  I made a change in the baking time because I didn't want crispy cookies; I prefer them to be soft and chewy.  The "secret ingredient" here is black pepper!


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Stir in flour mixture and oats.
Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets (I use a silicone baking-sheet liner). Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.  Makes about 24 cookies.

2 dozen cookies is not usually enough around here; I'll double this next time.  Also, I think they'd be great with the addition of some chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, and maybe a bit of ginger as well.  These cookies were a crowd-pleaser, and they made the kitchen smell terrific, too!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Trinity Rice with Almonds

There's a whole bunch of things you can make with leftover rice:  rice pudding, fried rice, and breakfast rice to name just a few.  Today, though, I didn't want to make any of these.  I was looking for a way to use up about 2 cups of cooked white rice.  I found a recipe here that looked good, changed a few ingredients (wasn't in the mood to put raisins in it) and everyone was happy with the result.  This recipe would be just as good with brown rice as it was with white.

I called it "Trinity Rice" because it uses the vegetables that, in French cooking, are called the "trinity"--carrots, celery and onion, all chopped the same size.


Get the recipe and nutrition facts at Cook and Count!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Making Space and Sharing Space

An occupational hazard of letting the Big Kids use your kitchen is that on the (rare) occasions when they do clean up and put things away, things are not necessarily put away where you usually keep them.

Last night I practically tore this drawer apart looking for the meat fork.

I never did find it.  This drawer was getting so bad that it wasn't always easy to open or close.  Something had to give.

So I dumped the contents of the entire drawer on my kitchen table, cleaned out the inside of the drawer and the baskets, and started fresh.

I found a few items that were duplicates (and who needs two "push-me-pull-yous" for oven racks?) so I put those aside for Big Brother to take to his college apartment in the fall.

Some other items, like the pancake turner, are used so frequently around here (grilled cheese and tomato, anyone?) that I didn't want them back in the drawer.  But they didn't fit in the oatmeal canister that I use for a utensil crock.

Then I remembered the coffee can from Cafe du Monde that I'd saved.  It brings back memories of my trip to Louisiana during my own college days, when I was my school's delegate to a campus ministry event.  I sanded down the open end with some coarse-grit sandpaper, cleaned the can, and tossed some ladles and pancake turners in there, as well as a few other things.

The kids will be able to find things easily, and they might even put them away in the right place when they clean up.

I have coffee-can lids on the bottom of both of those cans to prevent rust.

I'm still working on the arrangement of the rest of the drawer, but at least it's cleared out enough now that it can be opened and closed without things getting stuck.

Like my fancy paper-tower-tube holder for my cooking tongs?  Yes, it looks junky, but it takes a lot of abuse.  Eventually I will use up the last paper towel on the current roll, and then I'll have a whole new holder.

It's a little change, but it should make a big difference in a kitchen that is no longer a one-mom operation.

Now the issues involved in sharing a 10 x 10 kitchen with 3 kids (2 of whom are taller than me) and 1 husband are a different story.  We trip over each other a lot.  It's a traffic nightmare, but that's a project for another day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sally's Magic Chicken

When I was in the hospital after surgery last month, a good friend showed up at our house with dinner for my family--twice during my 5-day stay. One of the meals included chicken drumsticks with a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. After returning home, I thanked her for the meals and asked for the recipe for the "Magically Delicious" chicken, because all my kids had been raving about it. That's when she looked embarrassed and told me that her husband had picked up the chicken all prepared and ready to bake at a local grocery store. Then she decided to figure out how to make it herself.

A few weeks later she showed up at choir practice with a half-full jar of the Secret Ingredient: Frank's Red Hot Sweet Chili Sauce.  That's pretty much all it is:  just this sauce, poured over chicken drumsticks and baked until done.

This is a simple, can't-miss, 3-ingredient chicken dish.

Get the recipe with nutrition information at Cook and Count!

We served it with sauteed broccoli rabe and red potatoes with parsley.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Beef Paysanne

This is a dinner I've been making for years.  It's a great way to re-invent leftover pot roast; I always make enough pot roast for two meals and freeze half of it so we can have this dish sometime down the road.  Freezing hint:  add some beef broth or some of the pan juices to the freezer container along with the meat to help keep it moist.

Get this recipe with nutrition facts at Cook and Count!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vietnamese Tacos and an OXO Good Grips Giveaway

This recipe has all the necessary qualities for a fun family meal:  it's easy to make, it tastes great, everyone can customize his own meal, it's super-healthy, and what's more fun than dinner rolled up in a nice warm tortilla?  My whole family (and two dinner guests) loved these Vietnamese Tacos!  I found the original recipe in the April 2012 issue of Southern Living and modified it slightly.


2 1/2 pounds sirloin steak (London Broil)
6-inch flour tortillas
1 bag Cole Slaw mix or 3 cups shredded cabbage and carrots
2 scallions, sliced
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin


Get this recipe (with nutrition facts) at Cook and Count!

Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 TBL sugar
juice of one lime
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper

Marinate steak for 8 to 24 hours.  Mix dipping sauce and chill until ready to serve.  Grill steak until done, discarding remaining marinade.  Allow meat to rest 10 minutes before slicing.  Slice into thin strips and serve in warmed tortillas with dipping sauce and vegetables.

This made a great and easy meal with a side of salad, steamed rice and a raw vegetable platter.  Everyone used the extra dipping sauce on the raw vegetables (it was particularly delicious with cucumbers.)

Slicing those cucumbers was really easy thanks to a cool kitchen tool from OXO Good Grips!  I used the Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer to make short work of that job.  This slicer was easy to hook over the top of a bowl, and the cucumbers were sliced in no time at all.  With a carefully-designed finger guard, I never had to worry that I'd slice off a fingertip or knuckle on the mandoline blade.

It was easy to adjust the thickness of the slices with a nonslip knob located on the side.  The thinnest slices were practically transparent--there's no way I could have done that with a knife.

I've also tried this slicer with onions and it made that chore quick and easy.  There's no better way to get paper-thin onion slices to top burgers or sandwiches.

This mandoline is dishwasher-safe (top rack) and the finger guard fits over the blade for safe storage of this handy kitchen tool.  It's going to be well-used in my kitchen this summer!

Thanks to OXO, I have a Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer to give away to one reader!  It's easy to enter this giveaway.  Simply leave a comment on this post, making sure there's an email address where you can be reached.  For one extra entry, "like" Mom's Fridge on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you did that.  The contest will close at 11:59 PM EDT on Thursday, May 24 and the winner will be chosen and notified on Friday, May 25.  Because of the holiday, the winner will have until 11:59 PM EDT on Tuesday, May 29 to respond.

I received a Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer to try out for the purposes of this review and giveaway. The winner of the giveaway will receive an identical product. I did not receive any other compensation from OXO or any other source. All opinions are mine. UPDATE: And the winner is...comment #5, Jamie! The winner will be contacted via email as described above. Congratulations and thanks to everyone for participating!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Time to Make a Plan

I'm always comforted by having a weekly dinner-menu plan in my back pocket.  Even if I change my mind about what we're eating, or the order in which we eat it, it's good to know what's in the plan and that we have the ingredients in the house to make those dishes.

That said, I haven't had a menu plan in four weeks.  Four weeks ago today, I was in the hospital for major surgery.  Thanks to my hardworking family and many wonderful friends and relatives, I haven't had to worry too much about dinner.  I can cook it again, as long as someone else retrieves ingredients or equipment that is stored below waist level (it's also easier if someone else does the oven work.  I'm not bending too comfortably just yet.)  But it's lovely to be able to cook again.

Yesterday, Middle Sister asked if her friend could come over for dinner tonight.  Not a problem.  This morning I texted her while she was on the school bus to ask if her friend was, indeed, coming--just so I could get a head count for dinner.  When she answered "yes," I replied, "Any requests?"


Maybe that's a compliment to my cooking (does it all really taste so good that you're happy for whatever I serve you?)--but in some ways, it's frustrating.  Food is a big part of how I love my family.  I enjoy making dinners that they like to eat.  And sometimes I'd like to know what they'd like to eat.

Remember, you have ONE MORE DAY to enter the Sweet Eats cookbook giveaway!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Variation on a Theme: Spanish Garlic Shrimp with Vegetables

One of the best things you can keep in your freezer is a bag of frozen, deveined shrimp.  I buy them when they go on sale.  It's easy to take out as many as you need for a particular meal.  Spanish Garlic Shrimp is a longtime family favorite.  

Spanish Garlic Shrimp with Vegetables

Get the full recipe and nutrition information at Cook and Count!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Sweet Eats

Not every family has to worry about a loved one who has food allergies or sensitivities.  For those who do, cooking, dining and shopping can be a huge challenge.

Marcia Slawson has experienced firsthand what it's like to try to tempt a young child on a wheat-free diet.  Her extensive trial and error with recipes and ingredients led her to write two versions of her dessert cookbook, Sweet Eats.

Sweet Eats is full of recipes with familiar names--but with a "healthy twist."   If you, a family member, or friend must eat gluten-free or if you wish to incorporate more whole grains into your diet without sacrificing delicious and familiar desserts, Slawson's cookbooks will show you how.  Each and every recipe has been modified to include gluten-free flours or whole grains (depending on the edition), natural low-glycemic-index sweeteners and healthy fats.

Whole-grain and gluten-free ingredients can be pricey and sometimes hard to find.  The last thing you want to do is experiment on your own with expensive ingredients--or waste your time and gas running to several stores in search of a single item.  Slawson has done the legwork here as well.  Sweet Eats lists brand names and sources for many of these ingredients, even recommending certain brands that work best in particular recipes.  You'll also find cooking, preparation and storage tips for these foods and ingredients.

For more information on this book or to order your own copy of either the Spelt & Whole Grain or Gluten-Free edition of Sweet Eats, visit Mom's Healthy Eats.  These cookbooks are available as e-books only.  You can even preview 3 free recipes from the book!  And don't miss the blog, where you can learn about healthy habits and ingredients.

I've been offered a copy of Sweet Eats to give away to a lucky reader!  To enter the contest, simply leave a comment on this post answering the question:
What do you think is the biggest challenge in dealing with a food allergy or sensitivity?
You can get a second entry by tweeting about this contest!  Make sure to leave a link to your tweet and your Twitter username in the comments.

One entry set per person, please.

This contest will run through midnight EDT on Tuesday, May 15.  A winner will be chosen and announced by Friday, May 18 and will have 72 hours to respond to an email announcement.  The winner will get to choose either the Spelt & Whole Grain OR Gluten-Free edition of this handy cookbook!

I was provided with an e-book copy of Sweet Eats for the purposes of this review. I received no other compensation. All opinions are mine. UPDATE: This contest is now closed and we have our winner! It is commenter #1, Mary Ellen! She has been contacted via email and has chosen the Gluten Free edition of Sweet Eats.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Missing in Action

Hey, I've been missing everybody these past couple of weeks.  That's what being out of the kitchen will do to you.  Last Monday I had surgery and while I'm finally home from the hospital after a 5-day stay, I have a couple of weeks to recover before I can cook, do household chores and lift anything bigger than 5 pounds (that leaves out my cast-iron Dutch oven...)
With the help of some very wonderful friends and only one pizza delivery, my 16-year-old daughter has quite admirably managed in the kitchen for a whole week already.  She's quite a good cook, though she has some skills to refine.
I left her a detailed inventory of the meat in the freezer along with a "cookbook" of about 10 recipes that she could make from what was in there.  This "cookbook" came with directions for making the whole meal and having it all come out done at the same time.  I have discovered that there are two things I have neglected to include in this "cookbook":

  1. Mise en place.
  2. Defrost at breakfast what you want to eat for dinner.
She'll get there.  She is a bright and determined girl, and I have no doubt as to her ability.  Experience is the best teacher, and it's better that I'm out of the room and not hovering over her as she discovers how to get the meals on the table.
She even grilled!  (I don't do that.  And I fully intend to take advantage of her ability to do so!)
Meanwhile, I'm making a list of recipes I find that I want to try once I'm back in the kitchen.  (Cooking is the part of homemaking that I miss the most.)  I'm drooling over the Penzeys catalog that arrived yesterday and planning a field trip to their Philly store in a month or so.
And coming up--as soon as I can get it done--a product review and giveaway of a cool cooking tool from OXO Good Grips!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Burrito Bowls: a Secret Recipe Club Reveal

I'm a big fan of the Burrito Bowls at Chipotle Mexican Grill, and in the past I've enjoyed making these at home.  But these bowls rely on fresh ingredients, and you can really only get good tomatoes in the summer and early fall.  The rest of the year, the pico de gallo falls short and I shy away from making this family favorite.

Thanks to the Secret Recipe Club, I've found a way to have my Burrito Bowls any time of year.  How did that happen?  My assignment for April was The Cookaholic Wife's blog.  What a great name--I instantly relate, since I'm a cookaholic myself.  There were plenty of tempting recipes from which to choose (I still want to try the Asian Chicken Noodle Soup) but I settled on the Red Bean, Rice and Meat Burritos.  They looked like a great alternative to the Burrito Bowl recipe I'd worked out last summer.  Here's how I made them:

Burrito Bowls
Printable Recipe

2 cups rice, cooked
1/2 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 TBL homemade taco seasoning
3 TBL water
1 small onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can petite diced tomatoes, UNdrained
1 can pink beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder
olive oil for the pan
Cheddar-Jack blend cheese
1 lime
sour cream

After you start the rice, season the browned ground beef with the taco seasoning and water and keep warm.  Warm a little olive oil in a skillet and add onions and peppers.  Cook 5 minutes, then add tomatoes, corn, beans, chili, cumin, garlic and chipotle chili.  Continue cooking until most of the liquid has cooked off and everything is hot.
Serve in bowls or warmed tortillas.  Top with a squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of sour cream (optional).

Things I changed:  In the original recipe, the rice, vegetables, and meat were all mingled before adding them to burritos.  I doubled the rice (we like rice) and cut the meat in half.  I kept the three separate (putting all the vegetables together) to make it easier for family members to customize their own burrito or bowl.  Because I didn't mix the vegetables with the meat, I seasoned them as well.  I only had a red pepper, but red and green would be great.  I used pink beans instead of red, because that's what I had in the pantry.  I'd like to make this again using red beans, and again using black beans--I think it would be amazing with black beans.  And I added a fresh lime on the side so we could flavor the rice with a little lime juice.

Survey SAYS!  This was delicious!  It was easy to customize the meal to personal tastes and to accommodate the vegetarian in our midst.  I ate a big bowlful and was ready for more.  It's a healthy, great-tasting, easy high-protein meal.  Everyone enjoyed it and will be happy to eat it again!  Next time, I'm going to top it off with some fresh cilantro.  Best of all, this was much easier to make (and clean up) than the Chipotle-clone recipe I'd been using.  Since I love the cooking part but not the cleaning part, that was a most welcome development.

This one's a keeper!  And I'll be back to visit Nichole's blog again very soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Macaroni Salad, Ranch Style

Here's a macaroni salad with a little extra twist.  It's great for lunch, all by itself!  The original recipe (source unknown) called for ranch salad dressing, but I was trying to go for something significantly lower in sodium so I adapted it as you see here.

Macaroni Salad, Ranch Style

Get this recipe and nutrition facts at Cook and Count!

Linked up at Try a New Recipe Tuesday! Check out all the other great recipe links there.

Come join The Salad Social at TidyMom sponsored by The International Olive Council’s Add Some Life!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Space Available

How big is your kitchen?  Mine is 10 x 10, which, for the record, is not large enough to hold appliances and seat a family of 5 for dinner.

There are more appliances in my possession than there is space to store them in this tiny room.  Current inventory of the kitchen includes (besides the stove, refrigerator and dishwasher):

  • coffeemaker
  • toaster oven
  • toaster
  • stand mixer
  • bread machine
  • slow cooker
  • immersion blender
  • rice cooker
  • 4-quart Nesco roaster
The dining room houses some of the overflow:  3 larger Nesco roasters (6, 12 and 18 quarts), one of which doubles as a breadbox.

And hanging out down in the basement are my infrequently-used but not inessential other items:
  • blender
  • food processor
  • round Crock-Pot
  • electric skillet
  • combination slow-cooker/small electric griddle
  • waffle iron
  • coffee urn
  • tomato mill
What I really need is a walk-in equipment room, preferably on the same level as the kitchen.  I'll put that on my wish list for my next house, if we ever move again.  But I'd probably need a whole moving truck just for the cookbooks and small appliances.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Taco Pizza

It's the March Madness Edition of the Secret Recipe Club!  In this group, each member is secretly assigned the recipe blog of another member.  The recipe is then prepared and taste-tested, photographed for cyber-posterity and posted.  It's fun to try new recipes, and I'm lucky to have a family that's generally good-natured about such experiments.

Of course, if I left the choosing to the kids, they'd pick cookies every time.  While cookies are fun, I like finding new main-dish recipes too.  So even though my assigned blog for March is really heavy on cookies, I focused on the non-dessert offerings at Sweetie Pettiti.  But that doesn't mean I didn't find a "fun" recipe!

Susie worked hard to duplicate her childhood favorite, Happy Joe's Taco Pizza.  She had to find a recipe that lived up to her high nostalgic expectations.  I had no such expectations, since I never ate at Happy Joe's.  The idea of Taco Pizza was appealing, though--and I figured my family would love it.  And salad on a pizza sounded fun, different, and even (imagine that) good for you!

Changes I made:
Instead of one huge pizza, I made individual ones.  This allowed each family member to customize their Taco Pizza.  If your kids like to help in the kitchen, this is an ideal recipe.  Once the ingredients are all assembled, kids can spread their favorite toppings on their pizza, then the grownups can bake it until done.
I also added sauteed onions as a topping.  (YUM!)
I had no tomatoes in the house, so I skipped those.  This is not the time of year for tomatoes.  In the summer, though, I'd have to add them!
I made my own pizza dough based on the recipe at Once a Month Mom rather than using premade dough.
Finally, I made a meatless pizza for my daughter, at her request.

Survey Says:
This is a yummy dish!  It would be a fun meal to have while you're watching a little March Madness--just be sure to have plenty of napkins handy, because (as Susie pointed out in the original recipe) the toppings fall all over the place.  It was easy to customize to individual tastes.  My daughter had a meatless pizza.  My husband ate his salad separately and spread sour cream on top.  It's also frugal:  I used up some pizza sauce and refried beans that were already in the refrigerator, so it's a good way to reinvent some leftovers.  I found that it was easier to "fold" this pizza like a huge taco and eat it that way rather than slicing and lifting little pieces of it.

Here's how to make this at home:

Taco Pizza
Makes 8 individual pizzas

1 batch pizza dough, divided in 8 portions, rolled and par-baked for 5 minutes at 425
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 onion, finely chopped and cooked until onions are soft
2 TBL taco seasoning
1/4 cup water
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup taco sauce
1/4 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups cheddar-jack cheese, shredded
Lettuce, shredded
Tortilla chips, broken into small pieces 
Additional taco sauce, optional
Sour cream, optional

Season cooked ground beef with taco seasoning.  Add water and simmer until water cooks off.  Meanwhile, mix refried beans, taco sauce and pizza sauce.  (I found that heating the beans in the microwave for about a minute made them easier to mix up with the other ingredients).  Spread bean mixture on your par-baked pizza crusts.  

Top with mozzarella cheese, then with seasoned taco meat.

Add onions, then cheddar-jack.  Bake at 450 for 8 to 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown on the edges.

Allow pizza to sit a few minutes before you try to slice or eat it.  Then top with salad and chips.

Grab a napkin or three, and dig in!

Don't miss the other recipes in today's Secret Recipe Club big reveal.  I always find a whole bunch that I want to taste-test!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Dinner Tonight

Because it feels like spring, we're cooking chicken on the grill!  Here's the whole lineup:

Appetizer:  Pepperoni Bread (one with pepperoni, one with sauteed onions, peppers, cheese and sauce)

Best Barbecued Chicken

Orzo with Garlic and Onions

Sauteed Asparagus

Honey Butter Dinner Rolls

and cupcakes for dessert!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blue and Gold Dinner 2012

Last night our Cub Scout pack hosted its annual Blue and Gold Dinner.  Officially we were feeding 108 guests, and that number was climbing as late as noon yesterday--but I'm pretty sure some extra Boy Scouts showed up.  It wasn't a problem; they were most welcome and we had plenty of ziti and meatballs to go around.  People must have been on a health kick this year, though, because we completely ran out of salad before the last 15 people got through the line.  (What can I say--I make a mean salad.  Open bag of salad, dump in a bowl, add sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes.  It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.)

I made 225 meatballs this year, with just under 14 pounds of meat.  22 were left, so I'm happy with that; it means my estimate was right on the money.

Here's the staging area before I started making the sauce.  I just love our parish kitchen:  12 stove burners on 2 industrial stoves, a HUGE stainless-steel prep table, triple sink, 2 smaller sinks, and an equipment room that is nearly as big as my entire home kitchen.

Spaghetti sauce for 225:  use 3 18-quart roaster ovens and split ingredients among them.
1 111-oz can of tomato paste
9 28-oz cans tomato puree
9 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/3 to 1/2 can of water for each can of anything
seasoning:  3 bay leaves
3 handfuls parsley flakes
3 handfuls basil
3 handfuls oregano
3 handfuls garlic powder
3 smaller handfuls onion powder
drizzle of olive oil
6 tsp sugar
6 tsp salt
3 tsp crushed red pepper

I wasn't speeding along, and everything got done in plenty of time.  I set up to make the sauce at 1:30 and the roasters were all cooking by 2:30 (there were 19 cans to open...)

And here's what I call the Roaster Parade.  I placed each one on a huge baking tray.  This way the heat didn't melt the plastic tablecloth, and we had a place to set the serving spoons down.

There's nothing like a roaster oven to get a job like this done.  You can set them at 350 to get them good and hot when you first fill them, then turn the temperature down to 200 or so and let the sauce simmer all afternoon.  They cooked the sauce right there at the serving table, so there was no moving hot pots of sauce around.  There was also no mess of spaghetti-sauce spatters all over the stove (so much less to clean up later!)

When it was time to serve dinner, we just opened one roaster at a time and served meatballs and sauce until it was empty; then we moved on to the next one.  Each roaster held 75 meatballs but I have fit up to 100 in roasters that size.

We cooked 18 pounds of pasta (and had 4 more boxes at the ready) but only needed 16.  2 pounds of pasta went into each of the big pots shown here.  We cooked 3 pots at a time.  Each 2 pounds of cooked pasta went into a shallow steam-table dish.  After drizzling it with olive oil and stirring to coat the pasta (so it wouldn't stick together) we covered the dish with foil and placed in a warm oven until it was time to serve the food.

I started that a little earlier yesterday and probably shouldn't have.  1 hour and 15 minutes before serving is plenty.  The first pan or 2 of pasta that was cooked got a little mushy from sitting around so long.  Also, it's important to remember to serve the pasta in the same order that it's cooked so that it doesn't sit around too long!

If I were a little taller (OK, a lot taller) I could have used this pot. It holds 58 quarts, according to the etching on the inside.  But I'm too short to see over the rim.

Behind the stove they have the most fabulous thing ever:  a special hose with hot and cold water taps so you can fill the pots right there at the stove!  I love this.  The hose stretches far enough that I could roll up a cart with the coffeepots and 5-gallon drink jugs and fill them as well (did that before we turned on the stove to cook the pasta).

Here's last year's shopping and equipment list.  This year I used the quantities of pasta and sauce listed above, 1 gallon of Boost, 1 can decaf coffee (11 oz), 1 1/2 cans regular coffee (11 oz), 3 quarts half and half, enough iced-tea mix to make 4 gallons (16 quarts), 10 bags of salad (and they're less than a pound now, which is probably where I went wrong), 3 cucumbers, 3 boxes grape tomatoes, 4 pints salad dressing, 4 regular-size bags croutons.  I got 4 flavors of dressing:  Ranch, Italian, Caesar and Catalina.  All had a little left; only the Catalina had more than 1/4 of a bottle left.

I cannot say enough good about 3 of the Boy Scouts.  They're Middle Sister's friends and I've known these guys for years.  Yesterday they showed me that they are growing up into wonderful young men.  Before dinner, they sought me out to ask how they could help.  They agreed that they'd help with scrubbing the pots after dinner.  Those guys showed up as soon as the Scout ceremony was over and got right to work.  All I had to do was put the clean items where they belonged.  They wiped down the sink and the work table after the dishes were done, without being reminded.  They left that kitchen much cleaner than I found it when I walked in yesterday afternoon (I had to scrub the 3 pasta pots before I could use them.)  All the while, they chatted with one of their leaders about ideas for their Eagle Scout projects and other personal ambitions they have.  They were friendly, respectful, amazingly helpful and kind.  I made sure to praise them, in front of them, to more than one Scout leader.  Because of their hard work, the Cub Scout parents had the chance to enjoy family time with their children and social time with other Scout families after dinner.

This morning, my shoulders and upper back are really feeling it from all that lifting, but it was a good day and a good dinner and I was proud to be able to do this for our Cub Scouts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rustic Lemon-Onion Chicken with Spinach

When I heard about this recipe over the weekend, I knew it was something that my whole family would like.  After all, it's not TOO different from our favorite Chicken Piccata--except for the seasonings, the onions and the bed of spinach.  I love spinach and so does my daughter.  And it's so good for you!

I had no fresh thyme, and I used a different method for cooking the spinach than the original Food Network recipe for this dish.  Also, I cut the chicken into small pieces (as we do with the Chicken Piccata) so that even more of the chicken is coated in the delicious sauce.  This recipe served four, but there was easily enough sauce for twice the amount of servings (I'll probably cut the sauce in half next time).

Visit Cook and Count to get the recipe and nutrition facts for this dish!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is something I've been wanting to try for a while.  I used my favorite chocolate-chip cookie recipe and the "stuffing" technique used in the Oreo-stuffed cookies, but put in caramels instead.

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened (Do not melt or heat the butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I've been known to add up to 2 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 package chocolate chips, whatever kind you like best (I like mini chips in these, but any kind works)
caramels, unwrapped

Cream butter, sugars, vanilla and egg with electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add dry ingredients, excluding chips.  Stir in chips by hand or use the mixer on very low speed.

Refrigerate your cookie dough for at least an hour before starting.

Use a teaspoon to remove balls of dough. Flatten on a sheet of waxed paper.

Place a caramel on half the flattened disks of dough.

Place another disk on top of the disk with the caramel, then carefully mold the dough around the cookie so no caramel is showing.

Place on baking sheet (I like to line my baking sheets with a silicone liner).  Bake about 1 minute longer than you usually would for chocolate-chip cookies.  Your mileage may vary, but this timing worked for me.  For this recipe, I baked the cookies at 375 for 9 minutes.

Two great tastes that taste great together!  Just add a tall glass of ice-cold milk.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Fiesta Chicken Tacos: Secret Recipe Club

I was afraid I wouldn't have time to find and prepare a new-to-me recipe from a new-to-me blog for this month's Secret Recipe Club. You see, I've been wearing an extra hat these days. In addition to being the Head Chef and Chief Multitasker for my family, with responsibilities including laundry, homemaking, chauffeuring, homework-related nagging and making sure the kids (and their friends) don't play ball in the house, I have also become a Stage Mother.

My younger son, age 9, has been performing in a not-local-enough production of Pippin. Since he's 9, I'm with him at each and every rehearsal and performance, and there have been a lot of rehearsals. It's all worth it, I keep telling myself, as I look at my filthy kitchen floor and wipe my bleary eyes (late-night rehearsals don't sit too well with this early bird.)

I was happy to find this 3-ingredient recipe for Fiesta Salsa Shredded Chicken at my assigned blog, The Yummy Life. When I've got more time, there are a lot more recipes I want to try at this blog, like the Everyday Vinaigrette, Tortilla Cups, and Dulce De Leche Brownie Bites (oh, who am I kidding--I wanted to try almost every recipe on this blog!) But I didn't have a lot of time, so I stuck with this simple--and simply delicious--slow-cooker taco filling recipe.

This reviewer gives the recipe's performance 5 stars!  It's definitely Stage-Mother-Approved, taking only 5 minutes to assemble and about the same amount of time to shred the chicken before serving.  Since it's a slow-cooker recipe, it's perfect for Matinee days.  And it would make a can't-miss Cast Party hit, since my slow cooker has a "warm" setting that would keep this chicken nice and hot until the performance is over and everyone's ready to eat.

Here's how to make it! The full recipe is at Cook and Count.

Don't miss this and all of Monica's other appetizing recipes at The Yummy Life!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Super Simple Side Dish: Broccoli Rabe with Lemon

I've been on a dark-green vegetable kick lately.  And while my kids would gladly eat steamed broccoli several times a week, I like a little something different every now and then.  I love Brussels sprouts, and they're easier to make than you think!

When I saw a recipe for Garlicky Broccoli Rabe in Melissa Clark's cookbook Cook This Now, I decided to try a vegetable I'd never eaten before.  It's delicious!  I chose a different way of seasoning it, substituting crushed red pepper flakes with lemon zest.  This side dish is really simple and super-nutritious.

Broccoli Rabe with Lemon
serves 4

1 large bunch broccoli rabe, washed and drained
2 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL minced garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
zest of one lemon

Trim the tough stems from the washed broccoli rabe.  Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic.  Cook about a minute, then add the broccoli rabe and toss well.  Cook another minute.  Stir in 2 TBL water and cover the pan.  Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tender.  Top with lemon zest and serve.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sweet Scones

This is an adaptation of Granma's Irish Biscuits.  The technique is the same, but I've made these a little sweeter with spice and richer due to the use of cream instead of milk.


2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick (1/4 lb. or 1/2 cup) butter or margarine, at room temperature (not melted)
raisins, to taste (about 1/2 cup is good)
1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream*
1 tsp baking spice mix**

Mix all ingredients. Batter shouldn't stick to fingers (add more flour if necessary).
Drop about 1/2-cup size balls onto floured cookie sheet, or pat into a rectangle on a floured surface, then cut into triangles. Makes about 8 round biscuits or a baker's dozen triangles, depending on how large you cut them.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350.

*The quantity of cream is variable. Granma never used a measuring cup. If you accidentally put in too much liquid, just add a little more flour. This is a "go by the feel of it" kind of recipe.

**The Baking Spice is a mix that I got at Penzeys.  It contains cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, mace and anise.  Use a teaspoon (total) of any combination of these that you might have, and you may substitute nutmeg for mace.


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