Friday, April 29, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Bradley Gillette

"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'

Bradley Gillette

In keeping with my local Cleveland Bloggers trend as of late, todays guest for Fridays, Feasting with Friends is Bradley Gillette of the ever popular blogs Cleveland Food and Brews and Cleveland Food and Brews- Craft Beers.  Brad's blogs are so much fun!  Not only does he review and talk about all the wonderful food and restaurants in the Cleveland area, but the beers as well!  I always see sites about wine, but not so often about craftbeers.  Brad has made this a wonderful way to learn more about the drink, but also discover events and news surrounding the beer culture.  These events are always a blast, so I highly recommend paging through Brad's site and finding an Up-and-Coming one to attend.  It will definitely be a night to remember!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
I really enjoy cooking steaks on my outdoor grill. If I had my way I would always use charcoal because I think it gives it a better taste than a gas grill.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I guess I don’t like cooking things I don’t like to eat. I’m not a fan of rice, so I really don’t like cooking it.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Since starting my blog in September 2010 I have had the pleasure to eat at some of Cleveland’s finest restaurants. It would be very hard to narrow it down to just one so I’ll name a few. The Greenhouse Tavern, Lola, Lolita, AMP150 and Washington Place Bistro and Inn are just a few of the restaurants my fiancée and I have really enjoyed. There are many more reviews listed on my site of amazing Cleveland Restaurants. Two that I’m dying to try are Chinato and Flour.

Brad and Chef Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I’m Italian so Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are two of my favorites for a dinner party.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
My Mother’s homemade cavatelli and my Grandmothers homemade ravioli and macaroni! It doesn’t get any better than that!

What are you currently reading?
Between reading educational materials for work, my real job is a school teacher, and reading other fabulous Cleveland blogs I have plenty reading to keep me busy!

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
I love my little magic bullet blender. It really makes doing small tasks quick and easy.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
If I had to make a go to dish that is sure to please I would make my spicy mac and cheese!

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
I love that there are so many great things to do. Sporting events, Metroparks, and of course an amazing culinary scene!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
I’ve try to recreate my grandmothers sauce but I have not quiet perfected it to taste like she does it! I’ll keep trying though.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Wow this is a tough question. Field of Dreams, Rocky 1-4, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

What was your happiest moment in life?
Wow…Seeing my niece be born and meeting my fiancée!

Brad and his beautiful fiancée Michaelene

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Depends…Giant Eagle, Heinen’s, Whole Foods

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I love Doritos!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of the fact that I make a difference in the world every day by teaching the youth of America!

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I plan on taking some cooking classes with my fiancée. I’d like to learn different techniques and how to combine flavors I might not have thought of using together.

One word that best describes you is: Honest

And now please share a favorite recipe:

I love the spicy mac and cheese recipe I use. I originally got it from Food Network’s Sunny Anderson. I did change it up a bit by altering some portions and adding some things like bacon, chorizo, or prosciutto. I recommend you make it her way at first and then experience with it to tweak it how you like it. Here is how I have it as of now. (This won 2nd place in our work Mac and Cheese Throwdown!)

Spicy Mac and Cheese
2 cups elbow pasta
16 ounces Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cubed, 1/2 shredded
16 ounces pepper jack cheese, cubed
¼- ½ lb Bacon, prosciutto, chorizo (really whatever pork or sausage you like and you can add more or less to taste.)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper depending on how much heat you like.
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
2-quart baking dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook Pasta to ALMOST al dente and crisp pork or sausage until cooked, be sure not to overcook!
In a large bowl, toss together cooked pasta with the cheese cubes and pan crisped pork/sausage, and pour into the baking dish. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg and sour cream, egg, heavy cream and half-and-half. Pour over the pasta and cover with shredded Cheddar. Bake uncovered until top is just golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Alicia Hansen

"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'

Alicia Hansen

For today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I would like to introduce you to another local Cleveland blogger, Alicia Hansen.  She writes the very popular blog Poise in Parma and also works with the Ohio Blogging Association.  Poise in Parma is a blog about finding balance in her life in this crazy town: Her non-stop life of family, career, food, fitness and one amazing golden retriever. How She lost 110 pounds in under eight years – and have managed / struggled / survived to keep it off. But most importantly, the discoveries she makes in Believeland along the way.  It is a fun blog, full of wonderful inspiration and of course all things CLE.

If you live in Ohio and have a blog, and haven't done so already, be sure you head over to Ohio Blogging Association and sign up.  It is fantastic place to network with other local bloggers, find out about fun events and help grow your blog.  I only recently discovered OBA, and am so loving the connections I have already made.  I have yet to make it to an event- but already have the next one, Saturday, May 14th: OBA May Meet Up: Cleveland Marathon Pot Luck Pasta Dinner written on my calendar!!  I can't wait!

So as Alicia likes to say: "Run those 3.1 miles then eat some potato & bacon pierogies with me." Cheers!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Savory oats. It’s very therapeutic for me – to stand at the stove, stirring the oats, boiling off the water,getting them to the right consistency. I love cracking the egg in the finished oats, breaking the yolk and evenly distributing it to get everything nice and fluffy. It’s definitely a practice in developing patience. The end result is always worth it.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I HATE pan frying fish/seafood at home. The prep, the cooking, the lingering smell… I would much rather pay for someone else to make it.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of AMP 150. I really appreciate Chef Cooley approach to how he using his ingredients in his cooking. I’m also a huge fan of Zack Bruell, but have never dined at Parallax. It’s on my CLE dining bucket list.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
My John Coltrane Pandora station. Can’t beat solid jazz for background music for a social gathering in my opinion.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
As I’m gluten intolerant, it would be a crazy gluten fest: a grilled turkey, roasted beet & goat cheese panini on a thick pumpernickel. On the side: sweet potato fries and the largest dill pickle you could find. For dessert: a waffle cone from Honey Hut Ice Cream: Honey Graham flavor please.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve been working my way through The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky as a personal project I’m calling How I’ll Find Happiness in 2011. The suggested practices in the book have been a great way to figure out what brings me joy and how I can embrace those things in my every day life.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
I chug coffee like it’s no one’s business. I love mine well mixed with a milk frother I picked up at La Sur Table.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
I am always asked to make pasta salad for family get togethers. Mine is nothing special (bow tie pasta, black olives, green peppers, mozzarella cheese, grape tomatoes, etc.), but my family can’t get enough of it.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
No question, it’s the people. Yes, we have amazing museums, restaurants, parks, companies and
organizations. But it’s the residents of our area that make all those things spectacular.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Elbow macaroni with meat sauce has a soft spot in my heart. I don’t make meat sauce much since my husband isn’t a huge “ground meat” fan. But when I know I’m making dinner for myself, I’ll break out some quinoa macaroni, ground turkey & some quality jarred pasta sauce for dinner for one.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
In no specific order, The Muppet Movie, Singing in the Rain & Office Space.

What was your happiest moment in life?
It’s so cliché, but my wedding day. The entire day was a dream. I practically ran down the aisle because I was so excited to marry my husband. My dad had to hold me back to slow me down! Also, our reception was a PAR-TAY – guests still say to me how much fun they had dancing the night away.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
We do a weekly run to Marc’s Stores. We also it up Giant Eagle, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods as
needed. I’m trying to make it to more farmers’ markets in 2011.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Ice cream. Good, high quality, homemade ice cream. I’m obsessed with Honey Hut. (See previous
question on last meal on earth.)

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
Professionally, coordinating a span of ten events in seven days in the Fall of 2009. The events included from organizing a performance for a Hollywood star, a formal sit-down banquet, a private home strolling dinner with an Iron Chef, a luncheon on a stage at PlayhouseSquare, and opening night cast party, and a backstage tour.

Personally, running the 2011 Walt Disney World Half Marathon this past January. When I was previously a size 22 at 250 pounds, I thought things like that were impossible. Now – much smaller and somewhat older – I know they aren’t.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Make gluten-free pierogies.

One word that best describes you is: Kindhearted.

Now please share a favorite recipe:
Spaetzle is an egg based dumpling that is served with many of my family’s old world recipes. For this recipe, you’ll need a spaetzle maker, but the tool is worth it for this side dish. This is adapted from a recipe found on the Food Network page – I unfortunately can’t find the original link.


2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup whole wheat flour, sifted
1/2 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pam cooking spray
Butter (to taste)

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer. Combine all the
ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Spray your spaetzle maker with Pam, then place it over the pot. Ladle batter into the spaetzle maker, then being creating dumplings by sliding the dough over the holes of the device.

Make sure to stir the water/dumplings for even circulation around the pot. Continue the dumpling making until all batter is gone. When the dumplings float, continue to boil until the dumplings look fluffy.

Remove the spaetzle by draining through a colander. Place dumplings in a serving dish, top with butter and parsley (and probably another sprinkle of salt) and serve.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rapid Italian Onion and Herb Bread- Bread Machine Recipe

Look at all those pretty little herbs and onions speckled all over the loaf!

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Rapid Italian Onion and Herb Bread- Bread Machine Recipe
1 1/3 cups water
3 Tablespoons powdered milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
3 3/4 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons dried onion (I used Tastefully Simple's Onion Onion.  This stuff is amazing!)
2 teaspoons yeast

Add ingredients in the order listed into the baking pan.  Insert baking pan into the oven chamber, twist to secure.  Close lid.  Select: Rapid Bake Setting. Select "regular" or "dark" crust, depending on personal taste. Press Start- There will be a 5-minute preheat delay before mixing begins.

Using oven mitts, remove bread when completion beeps sound.  Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

I baked this bread at 8:00 at night, and goodness it got everyone hungry!  This bread turned out amazing. While it was baking, the house smelled so heavenly, like a pizza shop.  It slices beautifully, with minimal crumb, and it is very soft.  This makes for the perfect butter bread, but it is also great for sandwiches and easy garlic toast.  I am so thrilled with this recipe.  It is a new favorite in our house.

look how tall this baby is!

*recipe for the large Black and Decker machine.  If you need conversions for another machine, please contact me!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reader Recipe Submission- German Sausage Chowder

Today's recipe and photo is a submission from a friend and reader, Bonnie Cork.  She sent it over to me saying that the soup is super yummy and full of flavor.  She and her husband both really enjoyed it and she knew I would to.  I am always looking for new soups to try so I was thrilled she passed this onto me.  Thank Bonnie!

Print this Recipe

German Sausage Chowder

1 pound cooked bratwurst or knackwurst -- cut into chunks
2 medium potatoes -- peeled and coarsely diced
1/2 cup onion -- chopped
4 cups cabbage -- shredded
1 can whole kernel corn (optional)
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 shredded aged Swiss cheese
snipped parsley (if desired)

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven combine sausage, potatoes, onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and dash pepper. Add 2 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are nearly tender. Stir in cabbage (and corn if desired); cook 10 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the milk. Stir remaining 1/2 cup milk into flour; stir into soup. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Stir in cheese till melted. Garnish with parsley.

*If you have a favorite recipe you would like to share with My Retro Kitchen, please contact me {here}

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Mary Johnson

"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'

Mary Johnson

Today's featured guest on Friday's Feasting with Friends is a fellow Cleveland Area Blogger and new friend, Mary Johnson.  Mary writes the wonderfully fun Mommy blog iNeed a Playdate: After Enlightenment, the Laundry.  Amongst musings about her family, she does products reviews, awesome giveaways, and hosts a few Blog Hops for all of you other bloggers out there.  iNeed a Playdate holds something for just about anyone, so please be sure to give her a visit and then add her to your Reader!   Mary also presented me with that pretty great blogging award over there on the right hand side, The Who to Hang With Award. I am showing it off proudly.  Thanks iNeed a Playdate!!  (Oh, and Mary.... I need that lobster recipe!)

So without further ado, I bring you Mary Johnson!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
It is a toss up between Lobster Tails Thermidor (because it sounds hard but it is not) and quesadillias

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Fried chicken - I can never tell when it is fully cooked and I am afraid to over cook it so I end up baking it to be sure... so, now, I am an expert at baked fried chicken lol

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Melt (of course, I live in Lakewood) and Two Dads Dinner and Wine Bar and... oh wait do you really only want one?!?

The place I would really love to try and haven't gotten a chance to is the Clifton Martini & Wine Bar

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I would go with David Gray, Jack Johnson, The Script, Sara Bareilles, Van Morrison, Sheryl Crow and maybe some Train

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?

What are you currently reading?
The Songs of the Seraphim by Anne Rice and Good Omens (for the umpteenth time)

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Tongs. Absolutely tongs. So handy for everything including reaching the top shelf where the Husband likes to put my coffee cup lol

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Lobster Tails Thermidor (I can make it in 30 minuets!)

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
The skyline, the lake, all the great places to take the kids from museums to parks. The people. The restaurants. All the different cultures. I love Cleveland!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Yes, yes I do... canned Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches! Yummy. I sometimes class it up a bit by adding sprouts and/or tomatoes to the sandwich.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Sliding Doors
Shakespeare in Love
Across the Universe

What was your happiest moment in life?
Every time I see one of the kids or the Husband smile an honest smile. The smile that you catch from the corner of your eye and were not expecting it. Just a pure, honest, "I am glad to be with you" smile.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
West Side Market for as much as I can especially... Bacha's Produce (veggies), Calabrese Produce (fruit), Pinzone Meats and Meister Foods (cheese). What I can't get there I go to the big box place a block from my house.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Tiramisu. Nothing tastes better the a good tiramisu. Unless it is a good key lime pie ;)

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
Right now... my little hobby aka iNeed a Playdate. It use to be some of the showings I had in my early twenties when I aspired to be a photographer but now... I am content with my day job and writing is creative.

Besides... These crazy mommy bloggers want to feature me and stuff and do interviews so I must be doing something right.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I am trying to be healthy again and in doing so I am trying to get the Husband to be healthy, too. He is a great cook and he has been helping out with the cooking and grocery shopping since our youngest was born. He has also helped me kept the scales from going down lol. So my resolution is to make us all healthy cooks.

One word that best describes you is: Goddess

And a favorite recipe:
Roasted Veggie Soup... a colleague and friend told me how to do make this but I added my own take to it.

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Take a variety of veggies that are in season, for me, that means: sweet potatoes, leeks, an apple and acorn squash puree them with your favorite stock and add bacon to it for an extra dimension of yumminess.

1. Cut the acorn squash in half, core and cube the apple and cut the ends off the leeks (after cleaning).
2. Toss the cut veggies and the whole sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet or if you were me, I would use my pampered chef stone brownie pan but... you use what you like ;)
3. Drizzle EVOO all over everything and salt and pepper it all to taste.
4. Roast the veggies at 350 for as long as it takes - usually till the skin pulls away from the potatoes.
5. While they are roasting, fry up some bacon - say a half pound of apple smoked bacon and let cool on a paper towel. I use the pot that the pureed veggies will eventually go into since the flavor and, well, grease from the bacon tastes so good.
6. Once the veggies have roasted and cooled a little (enough that you can handle them) peel off the skins of the squash and potatoes and cut them up.
7. Slowly add veggies and stock to the blender and blend in small batches till smooth.
8. Once all blended, crumble the bacon and add it to the soup.

Thank you again for featuring me on your blog and I loovvvee to read it!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Homemade Pasta Day with The Girls

One of my most favorite things in the whole wide world is when I get together with my mom and my sister for an all day cooking/baking adventure.  There is nothing like the bonding that happens with a couple of women in the kitchen. We laugh, we share stories, we bounce each other's babies on our hips while stirring steaming pots with the other hand. We receive beautiful wisdom and cooking techniques from Mom, while sometimes showing her a new little thing or two along the way.  I always leave feeling happy, usually dusted in flour, and completely filled up with joy (and a full belly!)   I have been taking pictures (of course) of our many adventures and am going to start showing you a little glimpse into our mother/daughter/sister/friend days.

Today is our all day Pasta Adventure!  My mom has been making homemade pasta since she was young, but hadn't done it in ages.  She came across her old pasta machine and invited Bonnie and I over for  our first experience.  Oh my goodness- so fun!  I hope you enjoy our day :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fantastic Steak Marinade

Here is a fantastic steak marinade, courtesy of Rachael Ray.  I have used it so many times, for steak sandwiches, quick skillet steaks, and nice big juicy steaks on the grill.  It has become a favorite method in our house if we are looking for something a little more then just olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Steaks, marinating ready to become steak sandwiches.  Look a all that flavor! Yum!!

Fantastic Steak Marinade
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grill seasoning, such as McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix Together the garlic, grill seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the EVOO. Pour into a 9x13-inch glass dish or a sealable plastic bag. Add the steak and coat it evenly in marinade. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Prepare steak as desired!

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mini German Pancakes

Have you ever heard of these things? I hadn't until just recently.  I was playing on and a website popped up with these amazing creations.  I was immediately intrigued.  So off to google I ran for a bit of research.  German Pancakes, Dutch Babies, Pop-Up Pancakes, Hootenannies, High-Rise Pancakes, Pfannekuchen... so many names for such a neat dish.  It only took a few pictures and a little browsing of recipes for me to know I just HAD to make these things!  They pop up crazy huge while they are baking, puffing and rising in all wild directions. They are a hoot to watch baking; I got just as much of a kick watching them as my four year old did.

The traditional way of making them is in a large 9x13 cake pan or a jelly roll pan.  But a few recipes showed making them in muffin cups for individual little popover-like "pancakes".  Since I have a Little Man that LOVES muffins and pancakes, I thought this would be a fun way to make breakfast for him.  Well I gotta tell you- I don't think I could ever eat a regular pancake again.  These are way too good! You can't help but love these guys just looking at them.  German Pancakes rise looking very Soufflé-like.  But the taste and texture is quite different.  They are flakey and lightly crisp on the outside, but very creamy and custardy on the inside. They sort of reminding me of the flavor of a crepe. They are unique, and OH SO FUN!

Just blending 5 ingredients, it honestly couldn't be simpler.  Instead of carefully pouring your batter onto a hot skillet into perfect disks, watching them closely making sure they don't burn, flip, do all over again.... etc. etc. With these, just pour the batter into very well greased muffin pans, bake for 15 minutes and then enjoy!  I can easily see these becoming a Saturday morning tradition.  

The traditional way of serving them is with freshly squeezed lemons and powdered sugar.  Since I didn't have either, we went with fresh bananas, pure maple syrup and mini chocolate chips.  I also had one with bananas and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Both were pure bliss.  I am also picturing a warm strawberry syrup, or cinnamon sugar apples would be beautiful toppings.  Or Nutella.... Mmmmm.  Well, the only way around this dilemma is making them again.  And again.  And again.....

Mini German Pancakes
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 cup melted butter
6 eggs
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a blender (you can also use a whisk or a hand mixer) and mix until completely smooth and liquified. Pour into very well greased muffin cups (or one 9x13 pan) and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and very well puffed. They will deflate some after being removed from the oven, creating little "cups". Top with add-ons of your choice and enjoy.

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check out that lovely, creamy center!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Other People's Pantries- Featured Guest!

Each week Lydia of the blog Other People's Pantries takes a peek into other people's pantries around the world.  It is a fascinating inside look into people's lives.  You gotta admit, it fun to be a voyeur sometimes :)

Today is MY day!  Hop on over and take a look at my pantry.  And while you are there, be sure to look around her blog.  It is full of awesome recipes, useful information and just a whole lot of good stuff!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

I know this recipe is totally out of date, being that St. Patrick's Day has already come and gone.  But I loved this recipe and I don't want it to get lost in the shuffle!   I am going to make this again soon, but I want to try doing a savory version with herbs and cheese.

I'm not Irish, not even close.  But I do look forward to St. Patricks Day dinner at my mom and dad's house every year.  She does the full feast- corned beef and cabbage, rye bread, boiled potatoes- the works.  It makes the whole house smell amazing!  Everyone looks forward to when my dad starts cutting the corned beef so we can casually walk by to take a look.... and snitch a bitzky bite on the way.  This year I wanted to try my hand at baking some Irish Soda Bread to add to the dinner.  It is a favorite of mine, but never made it myself.  I followed a basic recipe and it turned out delicious.  Only slightly sweet from the raisins, and a little bit dense, it made for the perfect accompaniment to sop up all the wonderful juices from dinner.

print this recipe

Irish Soda Bread

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

Using your fingers (or two knives or a pastry cutter), work the butter into the flour mixture until it gets nice and grainy, stir in the raisins.

Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk and egg.  Mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it is too difficult to stir.  Lightly cover your hands in flour, and carefully knead the dough until it forms a ball.  If it is too sticky, add a bit more flour.  Try not to over knead or it will become tough.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and shape into a round ball.  The dough should be sticky and kinda rough looking.  That is ok!  You don't want to add too much flour or work it too much.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased baking sheet.  With a serrated knife, make the traditional "X" in the center of the bread.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.  Insert a cake tester, or toothpick into the center.  If it comes out clean it is done.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool a bit more.  Serve warm with lots of yummy butter!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli and Rice

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Sesame Chicken with Broccoli and Rice
adapted from Miss in the Kitchen

2 cups rice
12 oz. broccoli florets, steamed

for chicken:
3 chicken breasts, cut into 1 to 1/2 chunks
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
Canola or Peanut Oil for frying

for sauce:
1/2 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

for chicken:
Whisk milk and egg in a shallow bowl.  Throughly combine flour, cornstarch and salt in a shallow dish.  Miss in the Kitchen recommends using a pie plate.  I never thought of that, but goodness it is perfect!  Now you are going to dredge the chicken in flour, then dip in the egg/milk dish and then back in flour. This will give you a perfect coating to make these guys nice and crispy.  Heat about 2 inches of oil in a wok, deep skillet or Dutch oven to about 350 degrees. Fry chicken in batches until browned and chicken is cooked through. Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain.

for sauce:
In a medium sauce pan, add water, chicken broth, and vinegar. In a small bowl combine sugar and cornstarch together, stir into liquid. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until it comes to a boil. Lower heat and cook just until thickened. She recommends either pouring the sauce over the chicken (which we like to do, that way nothing gets too soggy) or dip each piece of chicken in the sauce.  Serve it over the broccoli and rice and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

We love, love, loved this dish!!!  If you are a regular reader here you know how much we like our Chinese take out.  With trying to watch our budget and making things a (bit) healthier I have been looking for take out alternatives.  This recipe has easily become a new favorite in this house.  It is sweet, crunchy, and although the chicken is fried, it tastes so fresh and bright.  You could definitely cut back on the fat by using grilled or sautéed chicken.  But please try it the original way first.  The crunch of the chicken is awesome and holds up to the sticky sauce really nicely.  Scott's most beloved dish from a Chinese take-out restaurant is easily Sweet and Sour Chicken.  He orders it without fail just about every single time.  Tonight he told me that he wouldn't ever have to get Chinese from a restaurant again.  This says a lot!  Thank you Miss in the Kitchen!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Shiny Happy People Granola Bars- Chewy AND Healthy!

It seems there are two different people in this world- crunchy granola bar people and chewy granola bar people.  I have satisfied the crunchy folks but I left all you others out in the cold.  Well here is another granola bar recipe to add to your collection.  And these ones are totally chewy.   

It is also super healthy, replacing all the oil and fat with mashed banana and applesauce.  It has extra fiber, thanks to the addition of Benefiber.  It is totally optional if you don't have any on hand.  But a great thing to note is that adding it to your cooking and baking is a perfect way to bump up your fiber intake.  Who doesn't need a little extra fiber now and then?!  These also have an almost instant gratification due to the fact that you have to cut them after five minutes vs. the 3 hours needed in cooling time with my other two recipes.  

Print this Recipe

Shiny Happy People Granola Bars
2 cups rice crispies
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp benefiber (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 egg, beaten
1 ripe banana, mashed*
2/3 cup applesauce*
1/2 cup honey
1/2-1 teaspoon vanilla

*you can mix and match the applesauce and banana's.  Either use both as the recipe states, or use 1 cup applesauce and no bananas, or 2 bananas and no applesauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Very liberally grease a 9x13 baking pan.

In a large bowl combine rice crispies, rolled oats, flour, raisins, almonds, coconut, Benefiber, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar.  Make a well in the center and set aside.

in a small mixing bowl combine throughly the mashed banana, applesauce, egg, honey, and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients.  Combine the two until everything is very well coated.  Pour into your prepared 9x13 pan.  Pat down hard, leaving 1 1/2 inch space at the end of the pan.  This insures a chewy granola bar.  Don't worry, they won't spread out while baking.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown.  Do not overcook.  The center may still appear undercooked.  Cool for 5 minutes in pan and then carefully cut into bars while still warm.  Once cooled all the way, wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.  If you don't eat these guys within a week, move them to the fridge or freezer.  There are no preservatives so they don't last as long in the pantry as store-bought ones.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Anna Kovacs

"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'

Anna Kovacs

Was there anything in life that you did that you feel changed you, helped you grow like nothing else, and had a huge part in making you who you are today?  Mine was taking a job.  A real one.  It was my first "grown up" job and it was in another state.  I left my family, friends, boyfriend and everything I knew to take a position in Cambridge, Massachusetts working for the Harvard University Art Museums.  I was actually going to be directly using my Art History degree!  What an amazing opportunity!  But I can't even begin to explain the fear I had.  I had never lived completely on my own before.  Once my parents went back to Ohio after moving me in- that was it.  No friends, new home, new job in a very intimidating place.  But I quickly learned first hand how God has a perfect plan for all of us.   The job I was working at was a new grant program with 5 other ladies just like me.  We were all pretty recent graduates, most of us moving far away from home for the first time (aside from college life).  And there it was- instant, built in friends!

This is where I met Anna. She is the most perfect breath of fresh air!  I had never known a more genuine, modest, and kind girl before.  She helped me to feel at home in a new, strange place.  With Anna I never felt I had to be anyone but myself.  I know this is how it should be with friends, but unfortunately it isn't always the case.  Not only is Anna kind and real- but goodness is she silly!!  Have you ever seen someone make themselves laugh before- like all the time?  This is Anna!  She would start to tell us a joke or a funny story and inevitably we would all be laughing before the punch-line.  She would crack herself up so much she had a hard time getting the words out.  Her laughter is so contagious, you couldn't help but laugh too at her silliness and innocent joy!  Along with her silliness, quietness follows Anna.  She can be reserved and modest, not at all trying to be the center of the action.  So I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see this amazing side of her.  Anyone who has experienced it will tell you it is one of the great things.  Ever.  Anna has so much to offer life and I miss her so!

I am an enormous homebody and eventually grew very homesick for my family back in Ohio.  I had gotten engaged and the thought of raising a family away from grandparents was too much for me.  So I moved back to Ohio and Anna stayed on at the University.  She is doing amazing!  Goodness, I am so proud of her.  I love hearing about all of her updates and getting a glimpse back at my life in Cambridge.  I will always consider Boston as home, but it never would have become that if it wasn't for the beautiful friendships I had there. Thank you Anna for giving me such a gift. So for todays Fridays, Feasting with Friends I bring you sweet Anna Kovacs.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
This is a hard one! But I've been making several soups and risottos.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
My hands down favorite is Veggie Planet in Harvard Square and I'm dying to try Rendezvous in Central Square.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Dar Williams, Girlyman, mostly folk and indie rock.

Anna, me and another Harvard friend, Sarah at my wedding

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Oooo um probably something pasta based, or sea bass, I love sea bass. I would finish with chocolate mint ice cream :)

What are you currently reading?
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My lemon squeezer and zester.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
I get into kicks and tend to repeat things over and that was sweet potato fries and this amazing peanut sauce for roasted veggies.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Yes! I loved my Mom's braised red cabbage and I finally learned how to cook it well this past year.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
When Harry Met Sally

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Whole Foods
Trader Joe's
and a local CSA

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
So many, but I'm a big fan of sampling so I like to make a cheese, fruit, cracker plate :)

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
I'm proud of any connections I make with people who truly understand and listen.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I would like to try more roasting and perhaps a souffle :)

One word that best describes you is: 


Print this Recipe

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces powdered sugar, sifted, approximately 2 cups

In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter on medium just until blended. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. With the speed on low, add the powdered sugar in 4 batches and beat until smooth between each addition.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes before using.

Yield: approximately 2 cups


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