Visit my new blog for updates

Visit my new blog for updates Kosher Kitchen

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My New Blog

Dear readers,

I have moved my blog over to a new web site!  My new blog is called Kosher Kitchen.

Why am I changing my blog?

When I started blogging, I had been married for 4 months and was just starting to get serious about making real meals.  I was afraid that I messed up almost everything that I tried to make.  Most of my cooking sessions ended and I felt frazzled and exhausted and I barely had the energy to eat (and I would go so slow it was usually 10pm by the time we sat down, anyway!).

Well, although less than a year has gone by, I am feeling much more comfortable in the kitchen.  While I'll always be a newlywed at heart (1st anniversary is in less than a month!), I know I won't consider myself a novice chef much longer.  It was because of this that I decided to shake things up a bit and change over my blog.  As someone who keeps a kosher home, I always had to double check the ingredients of any recipe I found on other blogs or websites to see if it could work for me, or if it was easily adjusted.  I wanted to make sure my readers knew that if they kept kosher, they can make anything I post without any adjustments.

But you don't keep kosher, will you like the new blog?

While I happen to keep kosher, I don't think that the recipes I post speak only to kosher households.  I believe that anything I post can be made in whatever kitchen you're in, no matter what your religious beliefs are.  With the exception of maybe a holiday-specific recipe or two.....I will say that I'd love to hear if any non-Jews out there make my grandma's gefilte fish!

I will say that I hope you do come check out my new blog, and keep following my journey as a cook!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Honey Cake

This month's What's Baking theme was Quickbreads.  Of course, as soon as I saw this I thought to myself "what the heck is a quickbread???" but then I found out it's just any type of bread (or cake or muffin, etc) that uses something other than yeast to make it rise (ie baking powder, baking soda, etc).  It just so happened that when this assignment went out, I had begun thinking of what to bake for Rosh Hashannah to bring to my grandparents'.  As soon as I saw what a quickbread was, I immediately told my grandma that I'd be bringing a honey cake.  Hey, if you can kill two birds with one stone....

I looked in my cookbooks and online until I found one that sounded just a bit unusual but not too tricky.  And came upon this one from Epicurious.  It has a chocolate glaze for the cake in the original recipe, but since my cousin was already making a chocolate challah (YUM!) I didn't want to overload my family with chocolate.  In the end, it was sweet enough that it didn't need the glaze.

I did run into a few snafus while making this.  Things I found out while making this:  1) even if you find online that you can use vegetable shorting instead of vegetable oil, the consistency is totally screwy so it's better to just run to the store for more oil.  2) you should read the ingredient list thoroughly first so you don't realize you need brewed coffee after you've started mixing everything.  3) while the coffee may not have been as strong, steeping coffee grinds into hot water using a tea ball then pouring the "coffee" through a filter to get rid of the stray grounds seems to do the trick.  4) when you don't have a bundt pan, you can use a tube pan and it'll still come out nice.  5) I have an amazing husband who will run to the store a 11:30 at night as I have a meltdown that I don't have enough oil and just used up all the honey in the botched mixture that I tried to use shortening as the oil substitute (ok, I knew he was amazing before, but this was a nice reminder).

As it turned out, the cake was so big that we barely finished half at my grandparents', so I brought the other have to my in-laws' the next night.  But it received good reviews at both dinners!  I think this recipe is a keeper!

Honey Cake (from Epicurious)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup pure honey
3/4 cup lukewarm coffee (brewed, or instant dissolved in water)
1 1/2 teaspoons packed grated orange zest


Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Generously spray pan, including center tube, with baking spray.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl.
Whisk eggs well in another large bowl and whisk in sugar, oil, honey, coffee, and zest until well combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the honey mixture, then stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth.
Pour batter into pan (it’s liquid enough to level itself in the pan), and bake in oven until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes.
Loosen cake from the pan with a thin rubber spatula, then invert cake onto the rack and cool completely.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Noodle Kugel

Noodle Kugel is one of those things that every Jewish family has a recipe for, and although they're most likely similar, there are so many different variations. In general, it's a dish made by baking noodles with some sort of dairy mixture. Some recipes add fruits (like raisins or apples), others are just the noodle. When we were talking with my mother-in-law about Rosh Hashanah dinner, I knew I wanted to make something, so I offered to make a noodle kugel, remembering that I had a recipe for it given to me at my bridal shower (in addition to the regular gifts, guests were asked to fill out recipe cards which were then sorted and the cookbook was presented to me at the end of the day). In my head I thought 'I think I remember it was given to me by my Auntie Barbara". Well, I got home and looked in the book, and it wasn't from my Auntie Barbara, but my husband's Aunt Barbara, who was going to be at Rosh Hashanah dinner! I'm sure there are people out there who will make whatever recipe they have and not care if the originator is there, but I always feel awkward about serving someone their own recipe. Thankfully, I pulled out my copy of The Kosher Palette and found a similar-but-not-too-similar recipe to use.

It wasn't hard to make, just make sure you give yourself a day's notice, as it needs to set overnight (or at least 8 hours, so you could also just make it in the morning).  The original recipe called for 2 sticks of butter PLUS 2 more tablespoons for the topping.  That just sounded crazy, so I used a bit less.  Not that this sounds very heart healthy to begin with, but saving that extra bit of butter made my arteries feel a little better...

Noodle Kugel (slightly adapted from The Kosher Palatte)


8oz medium noodles
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
6oz 1/3 les fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup corn flake crumbs
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted


Prepare noodles according to teh package directions; drain.

Beat egg whites and sour cream at medium speed with an electric mixer.  Add sugar, butter, and cream cheese; beat until smooth.  Add egg yolks; beat until blended.  Fold in noodles.

Pour noodle mixture into a lightly greased 13x9 inch baking dish.

Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter; sprinkle on noodles.  Cover and refridgerate 8 hours or overnight.

Remove from refridgerator and let stand 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Bake for 75 minutes.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Salted Caramel Blondies

As I've said before, I love participating in recipe swaps.  It forces you to venture outside of your normal recipes and try something new.  When I saw a posting for a dessert swap, I jumped at the chance to participate.  I sent off a favorite family cookie recipe and anxiously awaited my assignment.  I got the e-mail with a link to Peace, Love and French Fries (a sentiment that I agree with) for Salted Caramel Blondies.  It sounded so delicious, but seemed like something that I wouldn't have picked out of a book to make on my own.  The best kind of assignment!

What was even better - I looked at the list of ingredients and the only things I needed to buy were butter (I had just used up the last of my supply) and caramel sauce.  It cost me less than $10 to make this, using almost everything straight from my pantry.  It probably would have cost me less, but I didn't want to drive across town to the bigger grocery store, so I went to my favorite local place which only seemed to carry organic caramel sauce.

The third great thing about the timing of this - we were invited to a Labor Day weekend barbeque.  So this was the perfect treat to bring!

The blondies were super easy to make.  The only things that I'd do differently next time, is that I'd make sure the caramel doesn't go all the way to the edges, and I'd use a shallower spoon to drop the top layer of batter on.  I used a deep tablespoon and then had to spread out the batter to cover the wholes.

These tasted delicious, and went over very well at the barbeque!

Salted Caramel Blondies (as posted on Peace, Love, and French Fries)

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt, divided
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup caramel sauce (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a glass 9×13 dish with cooking spray.
Pour sugar into a large bowl.  Add melted butter and stir until smooth.  Cool to room temperature. 
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside. 
Beat eggs and vanilla into the sugar/butter mixture.  Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth, thick batter forms. 
Spread half the batter in the bottom of the baking dish.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until batter starts to firm.  Remove from oven.
Drizzle caramel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle other 1/2 tsp of salt over the top.  Carefully drop spoonfuls of remaining batter over the caramel, smoothing it out as best you can.  Top with an additional sprinkle of salt, if desired.  Return to oven, bake an additional 12-14 minutes.
Let cool before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Multigrain Pancakes

My husband and I are runners.  He's run a couple of marathons and I have become an avid half-marathoner.  One of our favorite magazines is Runner's World.  Not only does it have great, inspiring articles about running, but it also has recipes each month for different meal ideas that are beneficial for runners.  After I made the devil's food cupcakes last week, I had some buttermilk left over.  My husband was reading the latest RW issue and spotted a recipe by Pam Anderson for "Multigrain Medallions" (aka buttermilk pancakes).  Always looking to cut out pre-made/processed foods, I decided to give this a try.

It was so easy.  We had everything we needed in our fridge or panty already, so I didn't even need to do any shopping!  We make pancakes every few weeks for a weekend breakfast or even a simple dinner, so we very much looked forward to seeing how this would turn out.  The steps were incredibly simple and easy to follow.

When making pancakes, I like to use my trusty electric skillet, so that you know it's cooking evenly (our stovetop always seems to be a bit slanted or the pan is much larger than the burner and it's hard to get things to cook 100% evenly).  It worked perfectly for this.

In the magazine, she gives the basic recipe then has 10 other variations which are supposed to promote different healthy side effects (one is a "muscle motivator" with dates and raisins, another has guacamole to help regulate blood sugar).  We opted to make the basic recipe and then added a few of our favorite toppings, like chocolate chips and blueberries.  Top with real maple sugar from Vermont, and I think we have a new way to make pancakes.  Sorry, Aunt Jemima!

Pam Anderson's Multigrain Medallions (originally published in Runners World magazine, October 2012)

1 cup white flour
1/3 cup each: cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, and old fashioned rolled oats
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup low-fat milk (or water)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing the griddle
1 tsp vanilla

Heat a large nonstick-skillet or griddle over low heat.
Mix flour, whole grains, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.  (NOTE: white flour is included to provide fluffiness. If you don't have all three whole grains, pick one and use the following ratios: 1:2 whole wheat to white; 1:1 oats/cornmeal to white)
Microwave buttermilk and milk for 30 seconds in a 2-cup measuring cup.
Whisk in eggs, oil, and vanilla.
Pour wet ingredients into dry; whist until just mixed.
Return batter to measuring cup.
Increase heat to medium and brush skillet with oil.
When oil starts to spider, pour batter 1/4 cup at a time.
When pancake bottoms are golden brown and tops start to bubble, after about 2-3 minutes, flip pancakes; cook until golden brown on other side.
Repeat, brushing skillet or griddle with oil.
Serve hot.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What's Baking Roundup: Bake Your Happy Place

I had the privilege of hosting this month's What's Baking.  I had to choose a theme, and I opted for something that left the options wide open, while letting us get a little personal with our creations.  I chose "Bake Your Happy Place".  Whether our happy place was a trip we made to an exotic place or being home with our family at our favorite time of year, whatever reminded us that happiness was what we made this month.  Here are all of our Happy Places:

Heather from Books and Cooks brought us on her honeymoon in Hawaii with her Blue Hawaiian Cupcakes.

I'm thinking of planning a trip to Hawaii as it seems to be a popular "happy place".  Eva of Eva Bakes recalled her own Hawaiian honeymoon with her Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Jaida from Sweet Beginnings loves a good Girls' Night, hanging out with friends, sipping a good wine, so she made Blackberry Merlot Cupcakes.

I personally think s'mores should be everyone's happy place, and Jenna from Jenna's Cooking Journey agreed with her S'mores Brownies.

Stephanie from Brownies and Blondies brought us to dinner with her Italian family with her Pasticiotti

Ange, the Tiny Tyrant, made us all want to hang out in her backyard with her Zucchini Bread.

Yudith recalled her childhood with these Blissfully Delicious Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes

Carrie of Carrie's Sweet Life made us all want to visit Iowa with her Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Kim from Just Baked By Me re-lived a perfect day picking strawberries with her kids in her Strawberry Soda Ice Cream.

Melissa of I was Born to Cook had us all screaming "more Ovaltine, please" with her Ovaltine Brownies.

Ammie from Adventures in My Kitchen made us anxious for fall to get here with her Harvest Muffins.

And you probably saw my post from earlier which brought me back to my wedding with my Devil's Food Cupcakes with Oreo Frosting.

I can't wait to see what everyone makes next month when Jenna from Jenna's Cooking Journey hosts with the theme QuickBreads!

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Oreo Frosting

This month, I had the chance to play host to What's Baking and I had to come up with a theme.  I chose "Bake Your Happy Place".  I chose this over a month ago thinking it would be easy to choose my own happy place.  Boy, was I wrong!  Did I want to make something coconut-y that reminds me of my honeymoon?  Do I want to make something that reminds me of childhood like s'mores or Kentucky Derby Pie (although I grew up in Jersey, there was a restaurant near me that had the BEST derby pie).  Something that reminded me of my summers in Cape Cod growing up?  In my entire 30 years, what makes me the happiest?

(photo credit Matt Rainey)
Here's where I get sappy (I'm a newlywed, I'm allowed!).  My happy place is with my husband.  Whether we're halfway across the world on vacation or in our living room watching TV, he's what makes me the happiest.  When we met we knew within weeks that we were it for each other and were married less than 2 years later.  Never any games, it was always clear that we were meant to be.  But how do I bake this??  Then it hit me - why not re-create our wedding cake?  It was from Palermo's Bakery.  We had two flavors; one was a vanilla cake with raspberry filling, but the other was devil's food cake with oreo cream.  Can we say YUM?!

So I set out to find a way to re-create the cake.  I first went through my cookbooks and found in Craft of Baking the recipe for devil's food cupcakes, but couldn't find anything for the icing.  But then I remembered seeing a post on Tide and Thyme for Oreo cupcakes and decided to use the frosting recipe from there (though the cupcakes themselves also look delish, so I plan to make those at some point, too!).

I had a few speedbumps in my cupcake making, but I turned to The Baking Answer Book by Lauren Chattman which I had picked up on a whim last year.  The first hiccup was when I realized that I forgot to buy cake flour.  I had bread, pastry and all-purpose, but those weren't right.  According to the book, you can use all-purpose flour and cornstarch to substitute for cake flour (1 cup of cake flour = 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch) .  The other problem I had (which I always seem to run into) was that my packed dark sugar was rock hard.  I found out from the book that you should break some off (approximate how much you'll use), put it into a microwave safe bowl, cover it with a damp paper towel and then plastic wrap and cook for 30 sec - 1 min and fluff with a fork, it's good as new! (just use it immediately).  Worked perfectly!

The only snafu I ran into while making the frosting is that I originally made a half batch and the consistency was a bit stiffer than I expected.  After asking Laura from Tide and Thyme what she recommended doing, she said "beating the crap out of it with the mixer helps" and then added that if that didn't work, you could always add a splach of milk or cream to the mixture.  When I did a second try, I took her first suggestion and let the mixer run on medium-high speed (6 on my mixer) for a bit, it came out much fluffier than the first batch!

I think it came out pretty darn close to our wedding cake.  The cake wasn't as fluffy as the original, but all in all I'd say this was a success.  Maybe once we have the year-old frozen/stale top layer of our actual cake for our 1st anniversary this October, I'll start the yearly tradition of making these each year!

Devil's Food Cupcakes (from Craft of Baking)
(makes 12 cupcakes)

3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup cake flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temerature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.   Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water together to form a paste; set it aside.
In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar and the butter on medium speed until they are well combined, with no pieces of butter visible.  Add the cocoa paste, making sure to use a spatula to get all of the cocoa paste into the mixer bowl.  Once this is well combined, add the egg and egg yolk.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  In three additions each, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, alternating with the flour mixture.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating the tin halfway through, until the cupcakes spring back to the touch and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up, and let them cool completely.

Oreo Buttercream Frosting (from Tide and Thyme)
(this makes enough for 20 cupcakes)

8 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups powdered sugar (1 lb)
6 tablespoons Oreo cookies, finely crushed
10 Oreo cookies, cut in half, for garnish

In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) cream the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly mixed. Add the butter flavoring, and Oreo crumbs; mix well. Frost cupcakes as desired. Top cupcakes with half of an Oreo cookie, for garnish

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gnocchi with Spinach and Gorgonzola

As I said in yesterday's post, when I was freshly out of my dad's and living on my own, the first cookbook I bought was Rachael Ray's Just in Time.  Since I had it out to make the flounder, I decided to whip up another old favorite last night - Gnocchi with Spinach and Gorgonzola.  We usually make this as a main course, but we had bought some salmon the other day and wanted to have that, so the gnocchi ended up being a side for that (which meant more leftovers and a yummy lunch today!)

This is very simple to make, though Rachael Ray says it takes 15 minutes and tries to lay it out step by step so you can be doing 5 things at once.  The way it's written, it's a little hard to tell exactly when you're supposed to start the next step, and usually I was still finishing one thing when the timer for the previous component went off.  In all, it took me maybe 30 min to get everything done and cooked.  To make this kosher, I substituted Imagine No-Chicken Broth for the chicken stock.  Additionally, in my market, the gnocchi only comes in 17oz packages, so we ended up using a bit more than she says.  Oh, and I thought that we had chopped walnuts at home and it turned out we barely had any left, so I used sliced almonds this time around.  Tasted delish, though!

Gnocchi with Spinach and Gorgonzola (from Rachael Ray's Just in Time)

2 (10 oz) boxes frozen chopped spinach
2 (14-16oz) packages fresh gnocchi
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 times around the pan
3 to 4 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
Black Pepper
1 cup chicken stock
8 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

 To defrost the spinach, place it on a plate and microwave on high for 5 minutes.  Wring it dry in a clean kitchen towel and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the gnocchi and season it liberally with salt.  Cut open the gnocchi packages and set aside.

Place the walnuts in a small skillet and toss over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until toasted and fragrant.

In a deep skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic to the warm oil, then add the spinach, separating the clumps as you add it to the garlic oil.  Season the spinach with salt and pepper, add the stock, and bring to a bubble over medium heat.  add the gorgonzola to the spinach and stir until it melts.

While the spinach heats, cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until they float to the surface.  Drain, then add to the spinach and toss for 1 minute to coat, then adjust the seasonings.  Serve the gnocchi topped with the toasted walnuts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Poached Flounder

When I was first living on my own, I decided that I should try eating like an actual adult and cook real meals, so I went out and bought Rachael Ray's Just in Time.  One of the first recipes I tried was her recipe for Poached Flounder.  In the past, I would eat flounder a few times a month, but mostly just put lemon juice and paprika on it and throw it under a broiler for a bit, so I was excited to have a new way to cook it.  It was so delicious that I started making it every few months.  A few months into dating my now-husband, I decided to cook for him and made this dish.  I'm convinced it's one of the reasons he married me.  Even at my bridal shower, they played a game where they asked me questions and I had to guess his answer.  They asked what his favorite dish I made was his favorite, and without hesitating I knew it was this one.  He knows that I've been trying to make new stuff and try new recipes, but every so often he'll put in a request for the flounder.

What's interesting about this dish, kosher-wise, is that it can be dairy, parve, or meat with minor adjustments.  I normally make it dairy, using butter and vegetable stock, but this time decided to make it a meat dish, using soy margarine and chicken stock.  To make it parve, I'd use the soy margarine and either vegetable stock, or (the best invention ever for Kosher cooking) Imagine No-Chicken Broth.  The recipe actually calls for chicken or seafood stock, but I haven't yet found a Kosher seafood stock, so I'm not sure how that would change the flavor profile.

I don't know if it was the chicken stock or the fact that my chopping skills have vastly improved recently (thanks to a knife skills class at The Brooklyn Kitchen) but this was the best this dish has ever tasted!  This recipe will be staying in regular rotation for a long time to come....

Cheryl's Poached Fish (from Rachael Ray's Just in Time)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons drained capers
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken or seafood stock
4 (6-8 ox) fillets of flounder or other white fish
Black Pepper
1 lemon, sliced
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Crusty bread for mopping

In a large skillet, melt the butter into the extra virgin olive oil over medium to medium-high heat.
Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the capers, Worchestershire, and wine, and allow the wine to bubble up and reduce for a minute, then stir in the stock.
Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Arrange the fish in the skillet, scatter the lemon slices around the skillet, and poach the fish for 10 to 12 minutes until firm and opaque.
Scatter the parsley over the fish, then transfer the fillets and sauce to shallow bowls or deep plates and serve with bread for mopping.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Balsamic Chicken with White Beans and Wilted Spinach

One of the biggest issues I run into when cooking dinners is usually a lack of time.  Most recipes say that they take a certain amount of prep time, and somehow I end up taking about 5 times as long to get the meal done.  9:00 is the usual dinner time in my home, even when I make super fast meals.  So I've been trying to choose meals that say that they take 30 min or less, knowing that if it takes me an hour, so be it.  This one from Rachael Ray's Express Lane Meals ended up in that category.  I'm sure I could have used pre-chopped garlic or other shortcuts, but I'd rather take the few minutes and chop the clove myself.  One time-saver was that I used my mandolin slicer for the onions.

It felt like a complete meal in one dish and even let me be a little fancy with the presentation; though I will admit I added a little more chicken to the plate after taking the picture.  I wanted to serve a complete chicken breast, not just the half that looked pretty :o)

In all, it took almost an hour, but I was also puttering around at the beginning since I had forgotten to buy chicken stock and had to send my husband to the store while I got started.  I waited til he returned to actually start cooking, so this probably would have taken less than 45 min in total otherwise.

Balsamic Chicken with White Beans and Wilted Spinach (from Rachael Ray's Express Lane Meals)

4 servings


2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp grill seasoning (I used McCormick's Montreal Chicken seasoning)
4 boneless chicken breasts
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
14 oz can cannellini beans
12 oz sack baby spinach
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
juice of 1 lemon


- In a shallow dish, combine the balsamic vinegar, about 2 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil, and the grill seasoning.  Coat the chicken breasts in the mixture and set aside to marinate while you start the white beans and wilted spinach.

- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, twice around the pan.  Add the onions, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are a little brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the white wine and chicken stock, bring up to a bubble, and cook for 5 minutes.

- Heat another large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it is hot, add the chicken breasts and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and let rest a few minutes.

- Add the cannellini beans to the skillet with the onions and stir to combine.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until the beans are heated through.  Turn off the heat and discard bay leaf.  Stir in the spinach, parsley, and lemon juice.  Toss and stir until the spinach wilts.

- To serve, place a portion of the white beans and wilted spinach on each serving plate.  Thickly slice each chicken breast on an angle and arrange over the bean and spinach.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Banana-Fig Bread

For this month's What's Baking challenge we were charged with baking with summer fruits.  July kind of got away from me, and as I've been running around enjoying my summer I didn't realize that I was nearing our deadline.  A few weeks ago I was on a business trip and picked up People magazine (my usual guilty pleasure for travel).  On the last page they had a recipe from Ted Allen for banana-fig bread.  I ripped it out, figuring it was something to add to my pile of recipes I'd get around to making one day, although my husband saw it and started asking me almost daily when I was going to make it.  Then as I started doing research earlier this week into what fruits are in season I noticed that figs were on the list.  Much to my husband's delight, I realized that this recipe fit the bill perfectly!

This ended up being a way to spend today's rainy afternoon.  It takes almost an hour of baking time, so it's great for a day when you have to hang around the house anyway.  And, ironically, we ate it while watching tonight's Chopped.

I'm excited for next month's What's Baking when I get to play host!!

Ted Allen's Banana-Fig Bread (originally published in People magazine, July 23, 2012)


1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-what pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups dried figs, stemmed and diced
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla


- Preheat the oven to 350

- Bake walnuts 5 to 10 minutes or until golden, stirring after 4 minutes; set aside

- Whisk flours and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.  Combine bananas and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir in walnuts.

- Fold banana mixture into flour mixture.  Spoon batter into a buttered and floured 9x5 in loaf pan.  Bake 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean, shielding with foil if necessary.  Cool bread in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes.  Remove from pan, cool completely.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Rosemary Focaccia

This month's What's Baking theme was "Baking with Fresh Herbs".  I considered making a dessert, something with mint, perhaps?  But then I went out to dinner with my husband a few weeks back and in the bread basket was delicious focaccia.  Immediately the wheels started turning in my head and I realized I had found my June dish.  I looked through my many cookbooks and found a recipe for Rosemary Focaccia in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  Sounded perfect to me!

I made this on a Sunday evening.  I came home from a day out and about, made the dough, then let it rest while I went grocery shopping.  Came back, continued to make it.  When stretching to dough it does have to rest several times for a couple minutes at a time, so I would have to go back into the kitchen every few minutes, so you can't get too caught up in doing something else during that time (I was catching up on So You think You Can Dance, so I just paused the DVR, therefore going back and forth was fine by me).  In all, I think it ended up taking about 4 1/2 hour from start to finish.

What's great about focaccia is that you can really top it with anything you want.  Because this was my first time making it, I was unsure of what we'd like on it.  I put a little bit of onion on, then I wanted to do thin slices of tomato, but the only one we had in our fridge had just gone bad, so I used some slices of grape tomato instead.  I also threw on a few sliced kalamata olives.  I definitely held back in my toppings, so next time I'll be a little more generous.  I also had bought some fresh oregano to put on it, but forgot to include it before I started baking, so I threw a little on when it first came out of the oven.  It didn't bake into the dough, obviously, but still gave off a nice flavor.

Dough (excerpt from Pizza Dough recipe by Mark Bittman)

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 - Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor.  Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

2- Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch.  If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds (in the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time)

3- Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball.  Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.

Rosemary Focaccia (by Mark Bittman)

1 recipe Pizza Dough, mixed and risen (steps 1-3, listed above)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus more to taste
Coarse kosher or sea salt
Other toppings of your liking

1 - Lightly knead the dough, form it into a ball, and put it on a lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle with a little more flour, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

2 - Use 1 tablespoon of the oil to grease an 11x17in jelly roll pan.  Press the dough into a small rectangle and put it in the pan; let it relax there for a few minutes.  Press and stretch the dough to the edges of the pan.  If it resists, let it rest for a few minutes, then stretch it some more.  Sometimes this takes a while, because the dough is so elastic.  Don't fight it; just stretch, rest, then stretch again.  Try not to tear the dough.  Cover the dough and let it rise for at least 30 min or until somewhat puffy.

3 - Heat the oven to 425.  Uncover the dough and dimple the surface all over with your fingertips.  Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the rosemary and plenty of salt (and other toppings, if so desired)

4 - Put the focaccia in the oven, lower the temperature to 375 and bake for about 30 min, or until the focaccia is golden.  Remove and cool on a rack before serving.  Cut the focaccia into squares and serve with meals or as a snack.  Or cut squares in half horizontally and use to make sandwiches.  Focaccia, well wrapped (first in plastic, then in foil) freezes fairly well for 2 weeks or so.  Reheat, straight from the freezer (unwrap, remove the plastic, and then rewrap in foil), in a 350f oven for 10 to 15 min.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Panera's Spinach Artichoke Souffle

During the week, breakfast at our home consists of a bowl of cereal or maybe a yogurt, so when the weekend rolls around we try to get a little fancier, making omelets, pancakes, etc.  A few weeks back, we were running errands and stopped in for brunch at Panera Bread.  Not wanting a breakfast sandwich or bagel, the spinach artichoke souffle caught my eye.  It was so delicious that I almost didn't want to give my husband a taste (but, alas, I did, as I could not deny him the yumminess of it).  Last week, on a whim I decided to turn to trusty old Google to see what I could find that was similar, and I came across this article where, back in 2008 Good Morning America did a segment on Top Secret Recipes Revealed!

Now, this isn't the usual fluffy OMG-is-it-going-to-collapse type of souffle, this is a totally cheating method using Pillsbury crescent roll dough to encase the whole thing.  I have to tell you, this was so simple to make and came out tasting absolutely delicious!  Although there's only two of us, I made the full recipe for 4, we stuck the other two in the fridge and ate them for breakfast two days later.  Still tasted just as good as right out of the oven!  The one thing I adjusted was that we had a bag of shredded Mexican blend cheese, so instead of 1/4 cup of cheddar and 1/4 cup Monterey Jack, I just did 1/2 cup of Mexican blend.

I would definitely make this again.  Especially if we were having overnight guests or just friends/family over for breakfast.  Serve with a side of fruit, and you got yourself a whole meal right there!

Panera Bread's Spinach Artichoke Baked Egg Souffle (as published by Good Morning America in 2008)

3 tablespoons frozen spinach, thawed
3 tablespoons minced artichoke hearts
2 teaspoons minced onion
1 teaspoon minced red bell pepper
5 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce tube Pillsbury Crescent butter flake dough
melted butter
¼ cup shredded Asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine spinach, artichoke hearts, onion, and red bell pepper in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover bowl with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the plastic. Microwave on high for 3 minutes.
Beat 4 eggs. Mix in milk, cream, cheddar cheese, Jack cheese, Parmesan, and salt. Stir in spinach, artichoke, onion, and bell pepper.
Microwave egg mixture for 30 seconds on high, and then stir it. Do this 4 to 5 more times or until you have a very runny scrambled egg mixture. This process will tighten up the eggs enough so that the dough won't sink into the eggs when it's folded over.
Unroll and separate the crescent dough into four rectangles. In other words, don't tear the dough along the perforations that make triangles. Instead, pinch the dough together along those diagonal perforations so that you have four rectangles. Use some flour on the dough and roll across the width of the rectangle with a rolling pin so that each piece of dough stretches out into a square that is approximately 6 inches by 6 inches.
Brush melted butter inside four 4-inch baking dishes or ramekins. Line each ramekin with the dough, then spoon equal amounts of egg mixture into each ramekin. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of asiago cheese on top of the egg mixture in each ramekin, and then gently fold the dough over the mixture.
Beat the last egg in a small bowl, then brush beaten egg over the top of the dough in each ramekin.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until dough is brown. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the souffl├ęs from each ramekin and serve hot.