Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Breakfast Quesadillas

These are a favorite quick breakfast dish of mine.  You can play around with it, adding and subtracting ingredients to your liking.  I love the addition of green peppers and mushrooms.  

Breakfast Quesadilla

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup cooked ham, diced
2 eggs, beaten with 2 teaspoons of milk and a dash of salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese (in this particular quesadilla I used a Mexican Blend)
2 flour tortillas (I love La Torilla Factory's low carb ones- so good and super soft)

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until softened and become translucent.  Add the ham to the pan.   Pour in the beaten eggs and scramble, combining the onions and ham with the eggs.  Remove from the heat.

Since I like these very much, and enjoy having them for breakfast on a regular basis, I found that baking them in the oven results in a nice melty quesadilla minus the extra fat from frying them in a pan with butter.

Lay both tortillas on a cookie sheet and divide the egg mixture on half of each of the tortilla's.  Sprinkle cheese on top and fold the empty half of the tortilla over.  Bake in the oven until the bottom of the tortilla is crisp.  Carefully flip and bake an additional 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and the other side of the tortilla is crispy.  Cut in half and serve with a dollop of salsa or sour cream.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mirepoix Pork Chops

Mirepoix is such a lovely word, isn't it? Pronounced "meer-pwah", is a French word for sautéing carrots, onions and celery together. These aromatics, considered the "Holy Trinity" in French cuisine is the basis for hundreds of French dishes and many others throughout the world. There isn't much that smells better then these three ingredients (except for maybe bacon...mmmm).  I myself use mirepoix as a basic ingredient for tons of stuff; soups, stews, spaghetti sauces, etc.  But this is my favorite way to use and truly have it as the show of the dish, not just hidden in the background.

Mirepoix Pork Chops

Basic Mirepoix Recipe
1 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
When dicing the separate ingredients, try to make the dices as small and uniform as possible, both because it is aesthetically more pleasing and because the small pieces will cook more uniformly.

Sautéed Pork Chops
4 inch thick center-cut pork chops (bone in or boneless)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or vegetable oil

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add pork chops and brown for 1 minute.  Turn and brown for 1 minute more. Reduce the heat to low, cover pan, and cook the pork chops for 5 minutes (4 minutes for boneless). Turn the chops, cover the pan again, and cook for 5 minutes more (4 if boneless). They will be well browned on the outside and slightly pink in the center.

Remove to a platter and top each pork chop with the mirepoix. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Millie's Whole Wheat Challah

In the 3 1/2 months that I have been weekly baking bread from scratch, this has become our all time favorite recipe.  It is super moist, slices wonderfully for sandwiches,  and makes delicious toast.  I have done it as white and whole wheat and we love it both ways equally.  Since whole wheat is better for us, I have been doing that more often.  If you want to substitute the whole wheat for white bread, all you do is use all white flour!  Simple as pie. Or, ermm bread....

Millie's Whole Wheat Challah

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey (I have also used maple syrup when I was out of honey and it worked wonderfully!)
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup water
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in the machine, program for Bread, Basic White Bread, Whole Wheat, Basic Wheat Whole Wheat/Multigrain, White/Whole Grain, or Wheat and press Start or On.  You can bake this in the machine for a high, domed loaf or do it by hand in the traditional braid.  

Out of convenience I always just let it bake in the bread machine, but one of these times I will finish it in the oven so it looks pretty all braided up.  But it always raises to nicely I just haven't bothered yet.  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hasselback (Accordion) Potatoes

The first time I saw these pretty little things I knew I just had to give them a try.  They are incredibly simple, only needing a cutting technique along with olive oil salt and pepper for the basic recipe, but they sure make an impressive statement when placed on the table.  This is a great dish to "wow" your guests with little to no effort.  The other night Scott was my guest, but the first thing he said when I set them down on the table was "Wow, look at those fancy potatoes!"

These potatoes got their name from the Stockholm restaurant they were created back in the 1700's.  As of more recently they have been more commonly referred to as Accordion Potatoes because of the beautiful fanning out the slices do once baked. I think they look like tiny Armadillos.  When they are finished baking they have a very crispy skin and a soft, creamy insides.  It is perfect combination of a baked potato and pan fried ones.

4 potaotes
about 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme (or any other fresh herbs of your choice)
a few garlic cloves, sliced thin
Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Carefully thinly slice the potatoes from end to end, being watchful not to cut all the way through the bottom.  The easiest way to do this is to place a potato into the bowl of a wooden spoon, and let the edges of the spoon work as a guide.  When you hit the side of the spoon you made a perfect cut.  

Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet, gently put the thin garlic slices in between the cuts of the potato.  I didn't put a garlic piece in every single slice, although you certainly could.  I did roughly one slice per every three or four cuts.  Thin slices of onion would also be delicious.  Liberally drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper and 3/4 of the fresh thyme.  Place into the oven for 45-50 minutes or until the outside of the potatoes are crisp and the inside is nice and tender.  10 minutes before potatoes are done, place a few small pats of butter on the top of each potato and put back into the oven to melt and continue cooking.  When finished baking, transfer to a platter and garnish with remaining thyme.  Serve immediately.  

We all really enjoyed this dish.  I served these with turkey burgers and they were a nice alternative to our usual oven fries.  Scott like how each slice pulled right out into little "chips", perfect for dipping.  I loved the crispy bottom.  Yum.  Next time I want to try them with some cajun flavoring, I felt they were 
screaming for some good spice. 

These are definitely going to be a new staple to our dinner table.  They are easy, fun, and completely versatile.  I also think this dish would be completely adorable using young or fingerling potatoes.  The thought of a big platter full of these little guys makes me smile. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Jessica Boone

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”  

~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Jessica Boone
Jessica and her husband, Bill

For today's segment of Friday's, Feasting with Friends I am excited to bring you one of my bestest, dearest and oldest friends (not by age of course, but by longevity!), Jessica Boone.  She is an artist, a teacher, a free spirit and a beautiful soul.  She and I met way back in middle school while attending Roehm.  I was in 8th grade and she was in 7th.  Our friendship steamed from a silly "girl-fight/misunderstanding" between one of her friends and myself.  Didn't these things always seem to happen in middle school?!  Ugh, those were awful years!  Just wait, this story gets better by the second, if this doesn't take you back in time I don't know what will.... Well Jessica passed me a note in the hall explaining how this "other girl" thought I wanted to "beat her up" but she didn't think I could ever hurt a fly so not to worry about me.  (So true!  I wouldn't know how to "beat someone up" if my life depended on it!!)   Rumors are a horrible thing.  This was our first real conversation and from that moment on we were inseparable.  I have no idea what ever happened to that other girl who helped the two of us become friends, but I will always remain grateful.  Thanks to silly 7th grade girl drama I met my sweet Jessica.  We've been through a lot together over the past 18 years or so, boyfriends, college, marriage, babies, and well life.  And I can't imagine mine without her in it.

Jessica is an amazing artist and is currently working at Midpark High School as the Head Ceramics teacher.  How cool is that to actually get your dream job after graduating from college- doesn't always happen.  But you know what, it happens to Jessica because she is strong and has high expectations of herself and others and pushes herself to get where she want to go in life.  What a wonderful quality to possess!  I am so proud of her accomplishments and I look forward to being there to see everything else life holds in store for her.  This girl is going places.  

What is your favorite thing to cook?  Anything that is kind of inventive and forces me to try new ingredients or techniques that I'd normally shy away from on a busy week night. My "Top Chef" cookbook is great because it teaches all sorts of fun stuff the chefs demonstrate on the show!

How about your least favorite thing to cook? Meat - as a vegetarian, I don't really care for the feel of raw meat, and I never know when it's cooked all the way!

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out? "Mike's Bar & Grill" in Berea; We've heard great things about "Melt!"

You are hosting a dinner party, what are your top 5 Dinner Party Songs? Well that would depend on whether or not there's a "theme" to the party (which I like to do from time to time), in which case I might try to find music that fits the mood of the menu. If I were just throwing a fun-filled party with friends, apps, and drinks, however, I would make sure to include an eclectic mix of everything from Sam Cooke, to the Beatles, to Pearl Jam, to Notorious BIG for late night dancing!

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?  This is so silly! I guess I'm pretty simple because I would have to say I'd like my last meal on earth to be an Asiago cheese bagel topped high with tomatoes, Pepper-jack cheese (all melty and gooey), arugula... and maybe a black bean veggie burger if I'm really hungry!

What are you currently reading? "Eat, Pray, Love" (I know... it's about time!)

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? I do really like my lemon/lime combo squeezer, and my garlic press!

Do you have a signature go-to dish? Not sure, but most people seem to like my Fresh tomato/basil vinaigrette pasta - fresh flavors; great warm or cold.

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland? There's so much to experience during a night or weekend downtown - it's right at our fingertips and yet we rarely venture out to experience something different!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you still cook it now as an adult?  While I don't eat many of the meals I had as a child (before becoming vegetarian), I still love my apple slices and Kraft "wrapper" cheese for after-school snacks!

Top 3 Movies of all time?  The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Forest Gump

Where do you do your grocery shopping? Giant Eagle

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?  Any type of cheese, but especially Pepper-jack.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year? Probably just to cook more healthy dinners for my husband and me. With work and after-work committees that we're each involved in it's difficult to find a time that we're both home long enough to have a real meal.

You are such an amazing artist, Jessica.  I am lucky to be the proud owner of quite a few of your pieces.  What type of art do you like doing the most and where do you find your inspirations?  Pottery/clay sculpture is my favorite art to create. Nature is a lot of my inspiration - I like creating objects with natural and organic colors and themes. I also LOVE color, though, and often find myself using every color glaze possible to create unique, whimsical motifs. Friends and family are also a huge inspiration - I just like making nice things for other people to enjoy, so I often cater to others' styles in order to present them with a gift they'll enjoy.
One word what describes you is:  Complex
Jessica and I before the Sophomore Prom, 1995

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce:


2 1-lb red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)

2 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, room temp
1-1/2 oz package wonton wrappers
1 lg egg, beaten to blend (i used egg sub)

fried shallots and sauce:
1 c vegetable oil
4 lg shallots, cut crosswise into thin rounds, separated into rings
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter
8 lg fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/3 c pine nuts, toasted 

for ravioli:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Oil rimmed baking sheet. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise; place cut side down on baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 35 minutes; cool. Scoop potato pulp out of skins into small bowl. Spoon 1-1/3 cups pulp into medium bowl. (Reserve any remaining pulp for another use.) Add brown sugar and butter; mash well. Season filling with salt and pepper.

Line large baking sheet with parchement paper. Place wonton wrappers on work surface. Using pastry brush, brush wrappers with beaten egg. Place 1/2 tbsp sweet potato filling in center of each. Fold each wrapper diagonally over filling, forming triangle. Seal edges. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature while preparing fried shallots and sauce. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead. Freeze, then over and keep frozen. Do not thaw before cooking.)

for fried shallots and sauce:
Heat vegetable oil in heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry shallots until crisp and dark brown, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cook butter in large pot over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add sage and red pepper.

Meanwhile, working in batches, cook ravioli in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Add ravioli to pot with butter sauce; toss to coat. Transfer to plates, drizzling any sauce from pot over ravioli. Top with fried shallots and pine nuts; serve immediately.

Recipe from Epicurious.com
Served with Cheddar, Apple and Walnut Salad-(sub vegetarian bacon!) from     weightwatchers.com

Jessica made this dish for a Girls night In and I fell.in.love.  I have been dying for this recipe ever since.  Now that I am the proud owner I can't wait to make it myself!!  Yummm!  Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time in your super busy day to do this interview for me!  You were wonderful.  Love ya, honey!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Super Simple, Super Crispy Roast Chicken

So I am such a sucker for a good roast chicken. The juiciness of the meat, the way it makes the whole house smell like a home, and the best part- the crispy skin.  Yes I know it isn't the healthiest part of the bird and that you should peal it off the chicken before eating it, but I can't help it.  I love it way too much.  The thought of throwing away that wonderfully seasoned, crispy bit makes me cry a little inside.  If you feel guilty enjoying this wonderful part of the chicken, maybe you could skimp in other ways like have two vegetables instead of a potato or something.... it is worth it.  I promise.

So when my very talented sister, Bonnie raved about this Roasted Chicken recipe last week on facebook I knew I just had to give it a whirl.  The trick is to have no moisture in the pan, no moisture on the chicken, a very hot oven and heavily salted skin.  the result is an incredibly moist chicken with the crispest skin ever. Being that there are hardly any ingredients, this is a perfect dish to make after a busy day at work or after lots of playing outside on the weekend.

Now, as you know I hate to post recipes on here if I don't have a picture to back it up but alas I left my beloved camera at a friends house over the weekend.  Thankfully I will be picking it up today and the pictures will resume.  So instead I will post pictures of who inspired the dish instead.  You can all envision a beautiful roast chicken in your mind, right?!  This is more fun anyways :)  Love you B, and thanks for a great recipe!

Super Simple, Super Crispy Roast Chicken
recipe adapted slightly from epicurious.com
1 2-3 lb farm raised chicken, rinsed and patted completely dry
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme
one lemon sliced and about 5 garlic cloves (more or less depending on personal taste)
butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Rinse and thoroughly pat dry, inside and out.  The less steam you have, the drier the heat will be in the oven resulting in a crispier crust.  Salt and pepper the inside cavity of the bird and stuff with the lemon slices and garlic cloves.  Truss the chicken (a fancy word for tying the drumsticks together to hold the bird in place while cooking).

Next you want to salt the chicken.  You want a very, very good amount of salt (about 1 tablespoon).  Salt and chicken go together wonderfully.  It helps keeps things moist and in this case will also make the skin beautifully browned and crisp.  The best way to do this is to "rain" the salt over the bird to evenly coat.  Season with pepper.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan and place it in the oven once it is fully up to temperature.  Now comes the easy part- leave it alone!  Do not bast it, do not add butter, do not pass go.  Normally I always rub butter on the skin before roasting so this was a very different technique for me.  In this case, the butter creates steam and we don't want that in recipe.  Bake it until done, about 50-60 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with thyme.  Now you get to baste the chicken with the yummy juices. Remove to a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes.  After resting you can rub with a bit of butter if you so choose.

Remove the twine and carve the bird. As the recipe states, you will start off with a knife and fork but you will most definitely end up using your fingers!  This recipe was so easy and sooooo delicious!  A perfect idea for dinner tonight.

Neil (my brother-in-law) Bonnie, Me and Scott in the Outer Banks, NC

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Scott Kanengeiser

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Who inspires you to be your best self?  Who gives you joy, makes you laugh, and gives you the most comfort when maybe things aren't going exactly as they should?  Is there a person in your life who you love so much that when they do something incredible it makes your heart ache because of how proud they just made you; its like your heart is physically stretching because your love just grew larger.  This person for me is my amazing husband Scott.  He is honorable, strong in heart and mind.  He is a wonderful teacher and is always pushing himself to be a better student in whatever it is that has caught his interest at the moment.  He pours his whole self into a project.  Whether it is learning about a movie director and watching every single movie they ever made or were a part of while reading their biographies, and listening to pod casts spoken of them.  Or if it's building a fence, a picnic table and even a swing set- when he had never done a stitch of carpentry before last summer.  (And let me tell you, those are some beautifully made, professional pieces!)

Scott and I have known each other for about 11 years, been dating for just shy of 10 and married for 4 1/2 of those.  Just when you think you couldn't know or love someone more they surprise you.  So now there is a whole new side to this person to respect, love and cherish.  My biggest memory of this happening was when we had our son Jackson.  Seeing Scott as a father made my heart break wide open and I fell in love with him in a way I never knew possible.

What I hope is that each of you reading today has This person in your life.  They truly make life GOOD.  So todays segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I present to you my husband, Scott Kanengeiser.  

Scott in the Botanical Gardens of Glasgow, Scotland

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Definitely eggs. I love breakfast, and I could start everyday with eggs, bacon and toast, although there's not always time in the morning to make all that. A fried Egg sandwich at night is also my favorite go-to for dinner when Amie's working.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Since i don't do a lot of cooking I'd have to say vegetables since they are a side dish i could always do without on a plate.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
My favorite local restaurant used to be Club Isabella, since it was one of the first "nice" restaurants Amie and I would frequent. I'd even meet there with friends for drinks. They always had great food and great live music. Since they have changed names/owner's i haven't been there, so I can't qualify this as my current favorite, although it will always remain important to me. Currently I would say that Bar Cento is a favorite. First of all any place connected to a Beer (Bier) Market gets a lot of points with me, but mainly because of there Duck Confit. It is one of the few dishes I have had where all of the components (duck, risotto, squash, and wine) all blend together so well that they create something special. Usually with a dish the components remain separate and may compliment each other, but it's rare if they combine to create something all new and wonderfully unique. The place I'm dying to try is Michael Symon's B-Spot because one of my biggest weaknesses is a juicy burger, and I've heard they're great.

You are hosting a dinner party, what music would you play?
This depends on the guests or audience, but one that i think i could have on in the background for any audience is Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. No other album for me sets such a great mood. It's soulful, calming, romantic and "cool". It can blend into the background or fill the silence's beautifully.

What makes you laugh?
My son Jackson makes me laugh more than anything. He has such a great sense of humor and loves to be funny. The best is his laugh because it is one of those infectious kinds that makes you laugh when you hear it.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
I alluded to it above. First choice, one of Don's (my step-father) burgers from the grill. Prepared medium/medium rare with bacon and blue cheese. My mouth is watering right now.

What are you currently reading?
I'm currently reading an author named Graham Swift. He is a contemporary British author. I'm reading a collection of his non-fiction writings and interviews that have appeared in magazines over the past 20 years. I would highly recommend his story Last Orders which i just finished. It's a story of four friends, one of which just passed away and he has requested that his ashes be thrown into the Caspian Sea off of a beach in Kent, England. His friends embark on a road trip and each short chapter is a recollection from one of the friends of a memory of the deceased, and it bounces back in forth over different characters and different stories. So you not only learn a lot about the deceased, but you learn more about the other characters and what there lives have been about up to this point. It often funny, occasionally sad, but wonderfully entertaining. I highly recommend it.

What was your happiest moment in life?
With out a question the day Jackson was born. What could be more wonderful than having a miracle brought into your life like that.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
The Bottle Opener.

What is your favorite thing about your beautiful wife? (I had to squeeze that one in there!)
I love her passion. When there is something she really wants to do, she will put all of herself into it. It's truly inspiring.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
See my answer to the first question.

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?
My favorite thing is how diverse the area is, and how you can explore a number of interests. You can go to a museum downtown, and 20 minutes later be fishing on a river in Rocky River. You can be on a boat in Lake Erie and then an hour later be inside Brown's Stadium with thousands of people. You can go to a famous chef's restaurant for lunch downtown then go to the West Side Market and get something to make for dinner. It's rare to be this close to so many wonderful things that can be done both inside and outside and not have to go far to do them.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you still enjoy it now as an adult?
I was just talking about this with my Mom although she still might know how much this dish means to me until now. She would occasionally make a pork chop glazed in mustard baked over stuffing. When I was living at home I would always look forward to this dish, and I remember having a stressful time during college finals and breaking down a little over dinner and what's in my memory is that we were having this dish. So when i think of this dish I don't only think of the comfort qualities that pork chops and stuffing symbolize, but truly being comforted by my Mom and Don while eating this dish. And its delicious!

Top 3 Movies of all time?
High Fidelity would be number one, because i can put it on anytime and it will make me feel good. Second would be Notorious by Alfred Hitchcock. It was the first time I really started to understand that Movies could be art too. Third would be Royal Tenenbaums because I've never seen something so unique and original while being at the same time very accessible.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I've already mentioned burgers, but it's also the grease that comes with them. When I write it it sounds disgusting when i say I like to eat grease. But its true. Sometimes i get such a craving for greasy french fries and a greasy burger. And what is better at 2 in the morning or the day after a night of partying then something greasy. Please don't judge.

What are you most proud of?
My wife Amie and my son Jackson. And I'm not just saying that because this is Amie's blog. When i look at the two of them I know that i would do anything for them and nothing makes me happier. And maybe that is what true pride means to me, that I would lay down my life for it.

One word that describes you is: Lucky

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

So how many of you have gotten this email chain letter?  I have received it more times then I can count, and have always been a little skeptical to actually give it a try.  But what fun is having a cooking blog if you don't try out weird recipes every now and then?!  So here you have it, the No Foolin' 5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake!  

No Foolin’ 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
Adapted from an email recipe
1 large serving or 2 small ones
1 large mug
4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. oil
1/4 cup chocolate chips (plus some extra for sprinkling on top when it comes out of the microwave)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1. Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well.
2. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
3. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
4. Add the 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and vanilla extract, and mix again.
5. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed! Remove from microwave and sprinkle top of cake with chocolate chips.
6. Allow to cool a little, and then dig in!
***OK, so after reading a few of these recipes and adaptations I have a few suggestions.  First, be sure to not over cook.  It will turn rubbery and inedible.  Quite a few people suggest cooking for 2:30 minutes instead of the full 3, because the thickness of the mug can effect cooking time.  Another person suggested layering chocolate chips, batter, chocolate chips, batter, etc. which produced a very creamy, very moist cake.  I LOVE chocolate chips so I opted to try out this suggestion.  

The Verdict:
We loved it!  Jackson and I made this together and he had a blast measuring, stirring and the fact that he got to enjoy it so quickly after mixing was very exciting.  Since we only cooked it for 2:30 minutes, the texture was very creamy and moist.  Almost if you were combine those wonderful gooey brownies everyone tries to achieve, and a nice rich pudding.  I am sure if you were to go the full 3 minutes it would be much more cakey.  I only had one egg in the house I didn't want to take a chance at a rubbery ball of inedible chocolate- Jackson would have been way too disappointed if it tasted yucky.  I figured I could always put it back in if need be.  But we liked it just as it was so I didn't bother going any longer.  This is a super fun snack to make with the kids, and a nice way to make sure you don't over indulged with having an entire sheet cake sitting around the house for a week.  I found it very rich, and even though I am a chocolate lover, I don't think I could eat the whole thing in one sitting.  I definitely think this is more of a sharing dessert.  It would go wonderfully with a scoop of ice-cream!

You can upturn your mug and lightly tap so the cake will slide right out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole

I have gotten so many requests for this particular recipe, so here it finally is!  It is definitely not "gourmet" by any means- but is delicious!  And easy!  And only 5 ingredients!  It is totally kid friendly, and adults love it too.  It is one of those quick, throw together dishes that is perfect for making after a busy day.

Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole

Cheesebuger and Fries Casserole
2 pounds of either lean ground beef or turkey (I used turkey last night)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 10 3/4 oz. can condensed cream of mushroom, or golden mushroom soup
1 10 3/4 oz. can cheddar cheese soup
1 20 oz. package  frozen, french-fried crinkle-cut potatoes
ketchup, mustard, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, pickles or any other hamburger    accompaniments you like

In a large skillet brown your onions and ground meat, drain off grease.  Place cooked meat and onions in a 3-quart rectangular baking dish.  In a bowl stir together the mushroom and cheese soups.  Spread over the meat in baking dish.  Sprinkle potatoes over soup.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until potatoes are golden.  Serve with all the hamburger accompaniments on the side and let everyone add what they would like.

**Check back next Friday for the next segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends

Monday, March 8, 2010

Exciting New Discovery- Almond Milk (plus 2 recipes)

As you can see I changed things up a little here- again!  Maybe it is the Spring fever in me, but the other layout , although I liked it very much, was just too dark for me.  I wanted something a little brighter, fresher and showed off the pictures of food a little better.  So I thought I would try this one on for size for a little while.  We'll see if it sticks.  Still deciding on it....  

I have been on a Almond Milk kick lately.  Have you tried this stuff yet?  I have a sometimes-love-hate relationship with dairy. I used to be Lactose Intolerant, and thankfully I'm not really anymore, but every now and then rich foods or too much milk will send my stomach in knots.  I have tried out all those other non-dairy substitutes and not many of them thrill me too much.  I find Soy milk a bit too chalky, rice milk is all carbs and honestly I don't need more help in that field, and Lactaide= yuck.  Thanks to Hungry Girl's newsletter I discovered the joy of Almond Milk.  It is low fat (same as 1% milk), but there is also no dairy, lactose, cholesterol, peanuts, casein, gluten, eggs or MSG in it.  It only has 2 grams of carbs (yippee!) It is 100% vegan, contains no saturated fat, and can be used cup for cup when cooking or baking to replace cows milk.  You can buy the unsweetened original, unsweetened vanilla or unsweetened chocolate or there is also the Original, which has just a slight faint hint of sweetness, Vanilla and Chocolate.  The first time I bought it I purchased the Original, I wanted to start there and see what I thought before playing around with their other stuff.  Scott was out of town and I thought for sure he would be like "What in the heck is this?!" when he got home.  But guess what, he really liked it!  I was sort of surprised just because he likes his coffee with 2% milk, and isn't always so thrilled when I buy 1%.  And NO sugar or any sweetener of any kind.  I'm not a sugar in my coffee kind of girl either, and this stuff is yummy!  Not sweet, but with wonderful flavor.  It makes your coffee nice and frothy, which I also love.  I know I probably sound like they are paying me to rave about them, but alas that is not the case.  I just love this stuff and feel everyone should know about it!!  It is like on the best hidden secrets out there!  

I have been doing some cooking with it and so far everything has turned out really great.  For dinner tonight I wanted something relatively easy.  Scott was buying our new family car and wouldn't be home until a bit later then usual.  I had some refrigerated Buitoni Pasta in the fridge, Whole Wheat Chicken and Prosciutto filled Ravioli's to be exact that were screaming for a nice rich cream sauce.  I love the Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce at the Macaroni Grill and I wanted to create something similar.  But no heavy cream in this house, just Almond Milk....guess what, It turned out amazing.  And, I didn't have to feel completely terrible about eating it because it was so much lower in fat.  Now remember, you could totally use regular cows milk, cream or half and half in place of the Almond milk in this recipe.  

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

1 whole head of garlic, peeled 
extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut in half and then sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups of Almond Milk (or any milk product of your choice)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
lots of cracked black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg

When I make roasted garlic, I like to peel an entire head, and place it in an oven proof dish and pour in enough olive oil, just to cover the cloves.  Cover with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove cloves and reserve the olive oil for future cooking or for dipping good crusty bread into- do not throw away!  You just made Roasted Garlic Infused Olive Oil at the same time!  Yum!  Mash the garlic up and create a sort of paste.  Set aside. 

Sauté your onions in one tablespoon olive oil for about 20 minutes on low heat, letting them sweeten and caramelize.  Be sure to add a pinch of salt to the onions, it keeps them from burning.  

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour and milk together with a whisk being sure to get  rid of any lumps.  Add it to the saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir continuously until the sauce will thicken.  With the almond milk it took a little bit longer then cows milk, about 10 minutes.   Whisk in your cheese and add the roasted garlic, caramelized onions, salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.  Be sure not to leave the nutmeg out.  You wont notice that it is nutmeg you are tasting, but you will notice a wonderful flavor you can't quite pin point.  Nutmeg is a perfect addition to just about any cream-based sauce.  Top onto your favorite pasta and serve.  

This pasta was sooooooo delicious, so creamy and just as I had hoped, worked perfectly with the ravioli.  This will be a definite Do-Again!

I just received a yummy sounding recipe using Almond Milk so I wanted to post it here for easy access.
*Recipe Submission by Tera Pepper

Peanut Butter, Banana and Almond Milk Smoothy
Almond Milk, to taste
1/4 Cup Natural Peanut Butter
1 Banana
2 teaspoons Honey
lot of ice

Combine ingredients in a blender until smooth and enjoy!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

There is this new(er) show on Food Network called The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  Have any of you ever caught this show?  It is such fun!  The whole premise of it is famous chefs, cooks, restauranteurs, and other famous foodies talk about what the best thing is they ever ate, and then they tell where it was at so then you get to go out and try it out yourself!  How fun!  Last night I watched the Guilty Pleasures episode and guess what- they featured Cleveland!  One of the chefs interviewed was Michael Symon, Food Network Iron Chef to most of the world, owner of local restaurants throughout Cleveland (Lola, Lolita, B Spot, Bar Symon) and native of North Olmsted to us locals.  His Guilty Pleasure are the Gavey Frites from Greenhouse Tavern, owned and operated by Jonathon Sawyer.

Oh goodness I need to have these.  Now.  My biggest guilty pleasure in life is hands down the french fry.  It is impossible for me to not eat them if they are sitting remotely close to me.  I just can't do it.  Thank goodness I am not pregnant otherwise I would have been one of those women waking Scott up at 10:00 PM to run out and get those  for me- they are still open you know- it's a Friday night!  While pregnant with Little Man, I craved two things: Meat and Potatoes.  Particularly Steak and French Fries.  I just knew I had to be having a boy with those sorts of cravings.  Guess what, I was right!  The best french fries I have ever had are also a Jonathon Sawyer creation, but from one of his other restaurants, Bar Cento in Ohio City.  They are his Pommes Frites and they are indeed Heaven on a plate.  I don't know how he could top those.  Oh except for the fact that the Gravy Frites are fried in duck fat.  Ok, well I'm sure that could do it!

So anyways, this show got me thinking.... what is the best thing I EVER ate?!  I could easily tell you the best Pad Thai, the best Indian Buffet, the Best Lobster Roll, the best salsa verde, best roasted chickenbest sandwich (the Parmageddon), best pierogi ... I could go on and on..... but the best thing EVER?  That is a tough one.  Wow.  How do you narrow that down?!  I need to think about that one a bit.  So I'm going to ask all of you..... what is the best thing you ever ate? Help a girl out.  Let's get a discussion going and send each other eating!  Leave me a comment of your Best Ever!  

*P.S  did you know that you could access all of my recipes on here in one simple place?  Yep, that's right!  I mean you could look to the left sidebar at the Links section and find what you are looking for one at a time OR you can look all the way up at the top (above the "My Retro Kitchen" header) where it says "Recipe Index".  I have all of my recipes located there arranged by type.  I will update it each time a new recipe is posted.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Anna, my Amazing Niece

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

I think one of the most important things a parent can do for their child is to cook with them.  Everything is a new experience, and they rely heavily on sight to determine if they "like" something or not.  If they are hands-on, helping out in the kitchen, those odd looking foods no longer look so strange and they will almost always be excited to taste whatever it was they had a part in cooking.  It is a wonderful way to try out new flavors with your family and also grow wonderful memories in the process.  So for this Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am featuring my favorite Big Kid, my niece Anna.  She just turned 7 years old the beginning of February, but has already been a regular in the kitchen since she was just a little peanut.

Anna is the most tenderhearted, thoughtful and loving little girl I have known.  Other people's feelings always come before her own, for she never wants anyone to feel hurt or left out of the fun.  She is an amazing sister and big cousin, always helping out and coming up with the absolute best games for the little one's to play at.  My son adores her with all his heart and even calls her "My Most Special".  We always tease that Jackson is the President of her Fan Club, but truthfully it just proves how wonderful their relationship is.  He will ignore all discipline and instructions coming from anyone else at family gatherings.  But when it comes from Anna it is gold.  He would fly to the moon if she asked him to- or at least try really hard to figure out how!  

Anna is a light in my life and I hardly remember what it was like before she was born.  I will forever remember the first time I held her in my arms when she was born, a dance we shared at my wedding, or her asking me for "snats" (snacks) up at the alter after walking down the aisle as my 2 1/2 year old flower girl.  She has already accomplished so much in her short 7 years of life, she is a beautiful artist, a brave performer, always putting on "shows", and an avid reader.  I am loving watching the beautiful young lady she is turning into.  So for today's segment of Friday's, Feasting with Friends I would like to introduce you to my niece and Goddaughter, Anna.  I love you honey!


  • Do you ever help your Mom with the cooking?  And if so what is your favorite thing to help her make? Yes, I like to help my mom make cupcakes with chocolate chips. My favorite part to making the cupcakes is putting the frosting on them with sprinkles.
  • What is your favorite restaurant? My favorite place to go and eat is McDonalds. I love to eat a cheeseburger dipped in honey mustard, french fries and a chocolate milk. 
  • You are having your best girlfriends over for a super cool sleepover.  What music would you like to play while you are having a good time? Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus & Love Song by Taylor Swift
  • What is your most favorite food in the whole world? Mimi's Soup is the bestest food in the world! I can eat a whole pot of it!
  • What do you like to eat at school for lunch? Pizza dippers is my favorite school lunch. It's sort of like mozzerella sticks only it's pizza dough with cheese in it and you dip it in pizza sauce.
  • What is your favorite thing to do with your family? I love Family Friday Camp Overs. You take a bunch of blankets and pillows and put them on the floor of the living room and watch movies and have a fire in the fire place with lots of snacks. Then you fall asleep there too!
  • What is your Mommy good at? Cooking, I like her sloppy joes that she makes. 
  • What are you good at? I like to write stories that I make up about Harry Potter. I also am really good at drawing pictures.
  • Who is the best cook you know? My Mimi is the best cook ever!
Mimi and Anna enjoying Afternoon Tea at Miss Molly's
  • What are your top 3 Movies of all time? Harry Potter #4, Parent Trap & The Goonies
  • How are you and me the same and how are we different? We like to read stories and draw. What makes us different is that I go to school and you don't. Also you have brown hair and I have yellow hair.
  • What is your favorite snack? Oreos with milk! You have to have a glass big enough to dip your Oreos in and swish around and if the cookie falls in the glass you have to have a spoon to scoop it out. Then drink the milk.
  • Anna, you got a super special birthday present this year for your birthday.  Can you tell me about it.  My cousin Amy was going to L.A. for work so I drew a picture of Harry Potter for her to take to LA to give him. On my birthday, Amy brought the picture back  to me and it had his autograph on it with a Happy Birthday to my #1 fan, from Harry Potter! I was SO happy I cried and couldn't believe my eyes, I fainted and screamed. I wish I could meet him for real!  Yay!!!!!!!
A great recipe I like to make on my own is called 

a Banana Popsicle, here's how to make it.

-You take a whole peeled banana that is not to ripe and put it on a popsicle stick.
-Take peanut butter (crunchy or smooth) & cover the whole banana with it.
-Then you take granola crunched up into little pieces and roll the banana in it until all the peanut butter is covered.
-Then you eat it!
Tip: It Is Yummy!

**Amie's Note: You aren't supposed to freeze these bananas.  They are just called popsicles because they look like them, not because they are cold like them.  But I do assume they would be yummy tried out this way too.

Thank you Auntie Amie for interviewing me, I wish I had more to answer, it was fun. I love you!

Anna, I want to thank YOU for doing this interview for me.  I loooooooved reading it- you did an awesome job!  I just bought banana's at the grocery store yesterday and I am so excited to try your recipe for Banana Popsicles!  That sound super yummy.  I'll be sure to let you know what I think.  Love you too!
4 Generations Baking Babachi Bread (Anna was 2 1/2 here)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Leftover Rice Pudding

Have you ever wondered what to do with all that leftover rice from Chinese take out?  We always have so much left and most times I will make a stir-fry, casserole or something similar.   Today I was inspired to make one of my favorite desserts, rice pudding.  Little Man is feeling a bit under the weather and so I wanted there to be something comforting and all of his favorite flavors in one: raisins, cinnamon, sugar and rice.  

Leftover Rice Pudding
3 cups leftover cooked rice
3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar or Spenda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup raisins
8-10 whole, pitted dates, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Stir often until rice has absorbed most of the milk, about 20 minutes or so.   Spoon into dessert bowls and chill until ready to eat.

It is delicious served chilled or at room temperature.  (I love it both ways.  When it is warm it reminds me of the comfortingness of oatmeal.  But when it is eaten chilled it is a wonderful refreshing dessert.  I enjoy it drizzled with a bit of ice cold milk.  

**Little Man was so excited to have the pudding, he could hardly wait for it to cool off long enough to eat it!  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken, Fried Rice and Steamed Pears

Each month I get together with two of my long time girlfriends, Bonnie and Dawn.  Many times we go out for a nice dinner, but as of lately we have been meeting at one another's house and cooking dinner together.  On Monday night we met at Bonnie's house for some Chinese.  I chose Chicken Friend Rice, Bonnie did Sweet and Sour Chicken and for dessert, Dawn made Steamed Pears.  Each of the dishes turned out wonderful- definite "make again's". 

Sweet and Sour Chicken

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
a small amount of ground pepper, ground ginger, and garlic powder to season flour (not a lot)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
vegetable oil
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed, sliced thinly on a diagonal
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks in juice (no added sweeteners)

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4-6 drops red food coloring
2 rounded tablespoons corn starch mixed in enough cold water to make a slurry

Directions for making Chicken:
Trim chicken of all visible fat and cut into bit-sized pieces.  In a small frying pan heat 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Heat to deep-frying temperature.  In a bowl mix eggs and milk and beat until well blended.  Place flour and seasonings in a shallow bowl and mix.  Dunk pieces of chicken into the egg  allowing excess to drain.  Dredge the chicken in the flour coating thoroughly.  Drop pieces into the hot oil and fry until deep golden brown.  Turn as necessary to cook evenly on all sides.  When golden brown  remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain.  Repeat until all chicken pieces are cooked.  Set aside until assembly. 

Directions for Making the Sauce:
Place pineapple and water in sauce pan and heat over a low flame.  Slowly add sugar while stirring.  When sugar has dissolved, slowly add the vinegar and lemon juice while stirring.  Add corn starch slurry and stir while heating.  Bring to a boil.  Stir constantly until thickened. Add food coloring, a little at a time until you get the coloring you like and stir well to mix.  Continue to heat and stir until almost a syrup.  Remove from heat and set aside.  

Note: You will be judging the thickness of the sauce while it is hot.  It will thicken considerably when it is set aside and cools.  Later, when added to the vegetables, the moisture from the vegetables will thin the sauce quite a bit.  
Directions for Assembling Completed Dish:
Add a little vegetable oil to a large frying pan or wok.  Bring to frying temperature over medium heat.  Add all vegetables but the pineapple and cook, stirring frequently , until onions begin to caramelize.  Add sweet and sour sauce and continue cooking and stirring until vegetables are bite tender and sauce has re-thickened and clings to the vegetables.  Add pineapple and chicken and fold into the vegetables and sauce.  Simmer until heated through.  Serve over rice.

Chicken Fried Rice

4 cups leftover, previously chilled cooked rice
Two large chicken breast cleaned of all visible fat, chopped into small bite sized pieces
1 cup diced ham
3 eggs, beaten
half green pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt 
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, divided
2 green onions (scallions), sliced
2 teaspoons fish sauce or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 cup frozen peas and carrots, defrosted
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Gently seperate the grains of rice with a fork, being careful not to smush them.  

Set a wok or large saute pan on high heat.  When oil is hot enough to make water sizzle, add one tablespoon of the cooking oil and swirl to coat the wok.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the chicken and fry until almost cooked through.  Remove from the wok to a plate, leaving as much oil in the wok as possible.  Saute the pepper and onions, until the start to become translucent but still remain crisp.  Add ham to begin to caramelize.  Remove onions, peppers and ham from the wok and add to plate with chicken.

Turn the heat to medium and let the wok heat up again.  Add the eggs, stirring in a quick motion to scramble the eggs.  When the eggs are almost cooked through (they should still be slightly runny in the middle), dish out of the wok into the same plate as the chicken.  

Use a paper towel to wipe down the same wok clean and return it to high heat  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, swirling to coat.  When the oil is hot, add the green onions and fry until fragrant, about 15-30 seconds.  Add the rice and stir well to mix in the green oinions throughout.  Spread the rice all around the wok surface area and let the rice heat up, untouched until you hear the bottoms of the grains sizzle, about 1 minute.  Use a spatula to toss the rice, again spreading the rice out over the surface of wok and let cook for 1 minute.  

Drizzle the fish sauce (or soy sauce) all around the rice and toss.  Add the peas and carrots, the cooked eggs, mostly cooked chicken, ham, peppers and onions and sesame oil, tossing to mix the rice evenly with all the ingredients.  Repeat the tossing, spreading and 1-minute frying until each and every grain of rice is heated through.  Taste and adjust with additional soy sauce if needed.  

**this recipe is adapted slightly from Jadin Hair's Shrimp Fried Rice recipe in Steamy Kitchen

Steamed Pears

4 Asian pears or if unavailable, bartlett pears
4 teaspoons honey
4 dates, pitted
lemon juice to brush on pears to avoid discoloration, optional

Wash and dry pears, cut off top and core.  Reserve the top of the pear.  This will become the lid.  Fill each pear with a date and fill with honey.  Put the top back on the pear and place in steamer.  Steam for 30 minutes or until tender. 

**The flavor of these we soooooo delicious.  We all agreed that the dates completely made the dish.  The three flavors blended together beautifully.  We steamed the pears for well over 30 minutes and due to our impatience we took them out of the steamer before they were completely tender.  They had more of a crispness to them.  Although this didn't take away from the flavor of the dish, we all agreed that a more tender pear would be nice.  I will most definitely be making these again and will have to play around with the recipe a bit.   But please give them a try- just wonderful!

Stay tuned for our next months' Girls Night In.  We already can't wait!


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