Sunday, November 21, 2010

Apple Pie that is that much better!

Everyone knows or has access to an apple pie recipe. However, try this twist on the classic and you may not go back to your original recipe...I know I won't!

Prepare (or buy dough) and cut apple as your normally would. Before filling the pie, make a caramel sauce to cover the apples. You can do this by simply melting butter in a pan and adding brown sugar, vanilla, and a little baking soda. Toss apples with cinnamon and then with caramel sauce. Fill pie crust and seal as usual. Back using same temperature and timing. Pair with fresh vanilla whipped cream and ice cream and even top with leftover caramel!

Slice your apples
Make the caramel sauce

Coat apples with the caramel sauce

Fill the pie!

Oktoberfest Pretzels with Beer and Chedder Fondue

I went to a great Oktoberfest dinner at a close friends and although I would like to make every all over again, this is the only recipe I have made from this night! Soft pretzels dipped in a savory cheese sauce....what can beat it? Not sure where he got the recipe but I got the pretzel recipe from my friend Bill and then we googled the fondue recipe!

Soft Pretzels

2 tbsp.Butter
3 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 package Rapid Action Dry Active Yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (110-degrees)

Additional Ingredients:
3 tbsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. melted butter
course salt to taste (sea salt works best)
parchment paper or silpat

Using a counter top mixer, mix the butter and flour until evenly mixed (2-3 minutes).
Add sugar, salt, yeast and water. Make sure the dough hook is installed. Mix on high for
an additional 2-3 minutes. Knead the dough until it is thoroughly mixed and it loses it's
stickiness. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces and roll into ropes about 15-20 inches long on a lightly
floured surface. Leave the middle part of the rope thicker than the rest of the rope. Twist
into a pretzel shape, tucking the end under the bottom of the pretzel and pinching it
together. Make sure both ends of the rope of dough are connected in a continuous pattern.
Let the twisted dough rise on the parchment paper for about ten minutes.

While the dough rises, heat 1 litre of water in a pan just to the boiling point - it should
NOT come to a boil - then add the baking soda and reduce the heat just a smidgen.
Gently place the uncooked pretzels into the water with a slotted spoon or spatula, one at a
time. Cook for exactly 20 seconds, dunking the pretzel as it sits in the water. Lift from the
water, drain and place on a baking sheet lined with the same parchment paper. Brush with
beaten egg white (this will give a shine to your pretzel). Sprinkle with sea salt (you do not
need a lot of salt) and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 13 minutes. The pretzels
should be a beautiful golden brown. Cool on baking rack.

Beer Fondue

1 bottle Lager beer
2 cups shredded sharp chedder cheese
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
Few drops of hot sauce
Few drops of Worcestershire sauce

In a medium saucepan, empty beer and heat until it just begins to boil. Sprinkle flour over cheese and the slowly add cheese to beer, constantly stirring in a figure eight pattern, until all cheese is incorporated. Bring to a boil then add last three ingredients. Let cook for 1 minute and remove from heat. Serve immediately in a fondue pot.

NOTES on this dish: There is not much to add to this. The pretzels can be egg washed after buttering them to create a shiny appearance but is not necessary! Also, if you want to double the recipe, I would do so in separate batches to assure your dough rises appropriately. Also, yeast should be kept out for a bit before using. If it is fresh out the fridge, it takes longer to rise. For the fondue, if you can't or don't want to use Gruyere, you may use Swiss cheese and add a little ground nutmeg to give the nutty flavor that the Gruyere has. Also, you may leave out the hot sauce or add as much as you like but keep in mind it will give a vinegar hint to the fondue. I served the fondue with apples as well and it was a delicious sweet and savory pair. DO NOT omit the mustard when pairing this fondue with pretzels as it makes the connection like none other! Enjoy!

Kim's Chicken and Artichokes with Sundried Tomatoes

After having dinner at my friend Kim's house, I was looking forward to making this delicious recipe on my own. Add anything in that you would see fit as I did by adding some capers or leave out anything that doesn't suit your taste.


1 package chicken tenders, pounded
1 can artichokes, quatered
3-4 sundried tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
olive oil

Heat a deep saute pan and add oil and butter to coat bottom of pan. After pounded chicken, coat in flour and brown in pan until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once all chicken is cooked, set it aside. Add garlic to pan and slightly brown. Add broth and deglaze the pan removing all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add artichokes, wine, and tomatoes. Let sauce come to a boil and start to thicken. If the sauce does not thicken, you may add some extra flour by whisking it into the broth. Once thickened, add capers and lemon juice and return chicken to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let chicken cook in sauce on low heat for about 6-8 minutes to make sure chicken is cooked through. Serve over pasta or rice. Enjoy!

NOTES on this dish: I used soy butter and needed to add extra salt. Any white wine will work for this dish.

Autumnal treat....

Quick Tip: Add pumpkin puree to any pancake mix for a delicious twist on a breakfast favorite! According to Gordon, my pumpkin pancakes were "very good"!

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

A creamy savory soup that will speak for itself. I first had this soup from Stew Leonards called the Autumn Harvest soup. My mom found a recipe and we tried to change it. Turns out the recipe we found, when followed directly from Rachel Ray, produces the same delicious soup we had a few weeks back.

And the best part about only takes about 20 minutes!


2 tablesppons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped to your liking

2 cans (15 oz) pumpkin puree
4 cups veggie stock (store bought will do!)
1 can (15 oz) petite diced (salt free) tomatoes with the juice
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 cup light cream (optional but recommended)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
course salt

Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven on medium heat. Add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add onions and cook for 5 minutes until they are translucent. Make sure not to burn or even brown them. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans, and pumpkin. Stir until fully incorporated. Bring to a boil on med-high heat. Add cream and remaining spices. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

NOTES on this dish: This soup is amazing. We tried to not add the tomatoes and it completely changed the taste. If you are a bean lover, add two cans. If you are not into spice, leave out the cayenne but adding more would ruin the rest of the flavors. I'm assuming you you can leave out the cream and you would still get a good result but the creaminess it adds is worth it in my book! Serve with fresh baked bread for an added treat (thanks mom!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Yankees are on and I needed a no fuss dinner.

Sooo I was dying for sushi tonight. However, being $ conscious and lazy, I didn't order any. I have been watching the Yankee game and didn't want to go far so I set a few things up and all of a sudden I had a tasty dish in front of me :)

This isn't so much a recipe but more of a idea of things you can throw together. If you are sans (without) a rice will have to use your imagination! I steamed some brown rice but did it in my yummy organic low sodium chicken broth with a splash of hot sauce. On the top of the cooker, I used my veggie steamer basket and threw in a few loose things I had in the fridge. I find that carrots don't steam as well in there when cooking brown rice because it does not take as long as white rice.
Anyways...I had a package of some chicken sausage that are by Al Fresco. Now chicken sausage is not the BEST thing to eat but it is by far better then regular sausage and this brand has some delicious flavors. Of course, any kind with cheese will have more fat content and calories. Tonight I used buffalo flavored and they have the great taste without a tremendous amount of heat. I sliced 1 link up and heated it up via the microwave. Tossed it in a bowl with some fresh salsa, veggies, and rice. It was like using a crock pot. I set the rice cooker and about 15-20 minutes later I was eating a tasty slightly spicy meal :) I real point of this is that creativity sometimes creates great meals. If you build you cabinets fridge and freezer up with ingredients and get over some laziness, then a meal can be made easily without spending the money on take-out!

On a side note about them chicken sausage. I learned my lesson in label reading which I am usually obsessed with doing because of Gordon. However, a few weeks ago while at the food store, I was browsing the chicken sausage display and found a yummy flavor that I hadn't tried (don't remember what it was). However, it was also a brand I had never tried. I just assumed that they were all comparable in nutrition info. I was wrong. Three times the fat, double the calories, and more sodium then I wanted to take in. Oh and btw, I realized this AFTER I ate it. Uggg. Oh well, you live and learn!

Next week, I will be trying two new crock pot recipes in my new Designer Crock Pot! One is a Moroccan Short Ribs with tons of unique flavors over toasted Israeli couscous and the other is a Thai Peanut Chicken dish over "noodles".....Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies: I've died and gone to heaven!

Nothing says fall like my obsession with pumpkin. I never go the season without trying as many pumpkin recipes as possible. This weekend while at my parents for our weekly dinner together, we made a batch of delicious pumpkin whoopie pies for dessert with plenty of leftovers for the week!
These treats can be made mini as well by just decreasing the size of the cake and decreasing the cooking time. And of couse, any treat made without milk products is worth a try to be able to watch Gordon enjoy them along with us!

 Ingredients for the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (one 15-ounce can) pumpkin
  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a silpat. Beat together the butter, oil, sugar, molasses, cake enhancer, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, until fluffy. Stir in pumpkin. Add the flour in two additions, mixing well after each addition. Use a muffin scoop to deposit the thick batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2" around each mound. Bake until the cookies feel firm; a slight indentation will remain when you gently press them in the middle, about 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then move to a rack to cool completely.
Leave room for cakes to settle and bake!

Ingredients for filling:

  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature (tofutti brand for non-dairy)

  • 4 tablespoons soft butter (soy butter for non-dairy)

  • 2 cups glazing sugar or confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the sugar in two additions. Add the vanilla. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until very fluffy.

    To assemble: Sandwich two cookies around 2 tablespoons of filling. For best storage, wrap each pie in plastic wrap.
    Fall Heaven on a pretty plate!
    Notes on this dish: You can use regular cream cheese in butter if you don't have dairy concerns. You can also opt for vanilla frosting instead as your filling. You can use white wheat flour as well. King Arthur has a great all-purpose white wheat flour. There are also some other ingredients such as crystalized ginger that you can fold into the filling or rolling the edges in nuts or brown sugar, but we kept it simple and I would not change a thing!! I have also made a red velvet version of these around christmas time and they were a hit at a holiday party. I will post the recipe when the seasons change and christmas baking begins :)

    Tasty and Quick Fish Dish: Semi Homemade like I'm Sandra Lee

    I bought some fish and was being very indecisive about how I wanted to cook it, season it, etc.

    I threw it under the broiler with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Now what? I didn't feel like rice because the fish would be done quick and I skimped on how much produce I purchased this week at the grocery store so I resorted to my cabinet and found some couscous and black olives. And the rest is in the recipe.....


    white fish of any kind and any amount
    sliced black olives
    fresh salsa (homeemade or store bought)
    lemon juice
    olive juice
    salt/pepper to taste

    Set your oven broiler to low. Prepare fish by coating lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cook until top starts to slightly brown about 12-15 minutes. Make couscous according to package. Drain olives and mix with fresh salsa and cumin. Once couscous is cooked, fluff with fork. Top with fish and salsa mixture.
    Light and healthy!
    Notes on this dish: I used roasted garlic and olive oil couscous, but any flavor will do. You can do without the cumin flavor if you would like. I buy the plastic container of fresh salsa in the produce section of the grocery store which is great over any fish or chicken dish besides being a tasty chip topper! If you are without fresh salsa but have tomatoes to dice up you can whip up some fresh salsa with some cumin, cilantro, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and lime juice if you would like. I chose to use haddock but this dish would be great with tilapia, cod, sea bass, or any thicker white flaky fish.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Chocolate Hazelnut Flourless Cake

    Rich Chocolate Bliss with a slight crunch and sweetened freshly whipped cream to top it off. What could be better? This is a must try! I guarantee that you will not discard the recipe anytime soon!


  • 12 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

  • 6 large eggs

  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (pure is best)

  • 1 cup finely ground hazelnuts (ground in processor; about 5 ounces)

  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

  • 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

  • Chopped toasted hazelnuts

  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean

  • parchment or wax paper

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round, (wax paper will do the job as well!). Wrap outside of pan tightly with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Combine chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until mixture is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Whisk eggs, golden brown sugar, and 2 T vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Add chocolate mixture slowly to avoid cooking eggs (this is called tempering) and whisk until smooth. Stir in ground hazelnuts and 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Place in oven and tent springform pan loosely with foil. Bake until cake is set in center and top is dry to touch, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours (top of cake will remain shiny). Remove cake from roasting pan; remove foil from top and outside of pan. Cool cake in pan on rack. Chill cake until cold, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.
    Using electric mixer, beat whipping cream, remaining vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Cut cake into wedges. Transfer to plates. Top with whipped cream; sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts.
    Ain't never had a cake like this!

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Its crock pot season.....

    I <3 my crock pot. I just purchased a new one yesterday. But what better way to come home on a cold fall day then to a pot of already cooked warm food? You can put virtually anything in there and it is cooked to perfection and stays warm until you are ready to eat it!

    Today I made beef tips and onion over egg noodles. Here's how easy it was.....


    Beef chunks (any cut you want but I usually buy whatever is looking good in the stew meat section)
    1 medium onion, cut into chunks
    1 package Lipton Beefy Onion soup
    Beef Broth
    No Yolks egg noodles (extra wide)

    Put the first 4 ingredients in the pot. You want just enough broth to cover beef and onion. Stir and cook for 8-10 hours on low. Boil egg noodles and serve in a bowl with beef over the top.

    Optional: If you like a thicker sauce, you can remove the beef and onions from the crockpot and pour juice/sauce into a pan. Whisk in some corn starch or flour to pan. Let thicken for about 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, on medium heat. Return beef and onion to sauce and serve over noodles!

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Tasty Twist to Foccacia

    My mother and I spent the entire day last week cooking for a family dinner. From appetizers to dessert, it was an absolute success. Instead of making brushetta with my foccacia as I normally do, I decided to top the bread before baking and it presented a whole new perspective on a basic flatbread!

    Follow the foccacia recipe that I posted back on Aug 19th. Let it do its rising and then follow the recipe below.


    Foccacia, prepared through rising
    1-2 cups fontina cheese, shredded
    2 Bosc Pears, ripe but firm
    2 Shallots, chopped finely
    1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
    1 cup gorgonzola or blue cheese
    2 cups arugula, rinsed and dried
    1 tablespoon + an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 tablespoons butter (I used soy butter)
    1/2 fresh squeezed lemon

    Prepare foccacia recipe. While rising, slice pears thinly. In a saute pan, heat olive oil and butter. Add shallots and cook until transparent but NOT brown (this is called "sweating" and is referred to when cooking onions and other vegetables). Add pears and cook until pears are just starting to soften. DO NOT overcook or they will get mushy. In a separate pan, toast walnuts lightly. Again, do not overcook or they will turn bitter.
    Once dough has risen twice, remove from oven and cover evenly with fontina cheese. Distribute pears evenly over cheese. I did this in a lined pattern, but you can choose to be chaotic while spreading them. Make sure shallots get evenly spread as well. Add walnuts next, followed by gorgonzola. You can use as much or as little of this cheese and can also use regular blue cheese if you prefer. Place bread back in oven and bake according to foccacia recipe, about 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until top is golden brown. While baking, blend the juice from 1/2 a lemon, olive oil and salt/pepper in a medium bowl. Add arugula to bowl and toss gently.
    Remove bread from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes on a cooling rack. Top with arugula and use a pizza cutter to slice into squares. Enjoy!
    Pear Gorgonzola and Walnut Foccacia

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Sausage Pepper and Onion Rice...well sort of :)

    I don't know where I originally got my first version of this recipe using pork sausage and pasta. But tonight I made a healthier version of a yummy meal I like to sausage and pepper pasta making it with rice instead. Its easy, quick and has few ingredients!


    1 package chicken sausage, meat removed from casing
    1 small or half medium onion, diced
    1 small jar pimentos
    2 cups chicken broth
    2 cups brown rice cooked in chicken broth
    Black or red pepper to taste (optional)

    After removing sausage from casing, place meat and onions in a saute pan (non stick does not work as well here!!). Let brown and stir frequently. Once sausage starts to firm up, start to break it up with a spoon. The meat will stick to the pan once it starts to really brown. THIS IS GOOD! Once the meat is cooked through, add 1 cup of the chicken broth. Use the liquid to release the browning on the pan. It will turn the broth a golden brown color and that carmalization creates a delicious flavor. Next add the remaining cup of broth and pimentos. Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes or until rice is ready. Add some black or red pepper if you would like. Make rice using the broth for added flavor, although water will do if you are short on broth. Add cooked rice to the pan and remove from heat. Let the rice soak in the flavor for about 5 minutes. Serve with some grated parm or on its own!!
    Brown Sausage and Onion together
    Add broth and pimentos
    Sausage and Pepper with Brown Rice
    Notes on this dish: I usually make this with regular sausage and put it over pasta but I am trying to eat allittle better now. However, if you choose to put it over pasta, you may want to add some cornstarch to the broth before adding it to the sausage. This will thicken your sauce and make it stick to the pasta! I prefer Goya brand pimentos because I think they add great flavor and I also use Nature's Promise Organic Culinary Stock that is low in sodium but has a ton of added flavor as well!

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Fall Treat Idea to make with the kids: Apple Pocket Pies

    So everyone loves a good apple pie. However, its not the easiest thing to make with the kids because there are not many things for them to do. However, this weekend Gordon and I, along with Grandma Pic, made pocket pies. They are fun, easy and the perfect size for our kiddos!! Go pick your apples and then come home to make this tasty dessert/snack! Pies can be deep fried but I think we all agree that baking is just as tasty and much healthier!

    4 apples (hand picked of course, peeled and cut into mini diced pieces)
    Pie crust (you can buy it or make it!)
    brown sugar
    white sugar
    lemon juice
    1 egg, beaten with a splash of water

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie tray with Pam and set aside.

    After preparing your apples, toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add about 1/4 cup of brown and white sugar or all brown or all white as long as it is about 1/2 cup. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix well so that apples are coated. I had Gordon help me dump ingredients and stir!!

    If you bought your crust, keep it cold until you are ready for it. If you made your dough then you are advanced and know that you must keep it cold for ease of rolling. Lay out one of the round layers on a floured surface and put second layer back into fridge until you cut into three equal pieces. Use egg wash to brush edges of dough, another good job for the kids depending on age! Have child spoon some apples onto middle of dough.  Fold dough over to form a pocket. You have to seal the edges which can be tricky and is very important so that juices do not leak. Crimp folded edges with your fingers or a fork. Poke a few wholes on the top for steam release. Place finished pockets on greased cookie tray.

    Once all pies are assembled, have child brush egg wash on top of pies and sprinkle with some sugar (if desired). Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Cool for atleast 5  minutes before serving. Enjoy...I know your kids will!!

    Notes on this dish: You can make any filling for your pies. I just used apples because it is apple picking season and we went to a farm yesterday. I also read that you can follow this recipe but puree your apples or use another fruit jelly to fill a thinner pastry for a pop-tart like treat. I did not try this yet but will keep you posted when I do!! What is nice about this activity is that there is little room for error except for sealing the pie. The kids don't have to be too neat about the egg wash and the ingredients do not have to be exact to taste good. You can also eliminate the sugar and use an artificial sweetener (blah) or even honey to sweeten. The type of apple you use will also determine flavor. I used cortland but any baking apple will work!

    Apple Filling
    So he likes to bake in his underoos!?!?
    Baking in his football jersey!
    The finished product does not look nearly as good as it tastes!

    Dinner#5: Coconut Mango Lime Shrimp over rice

    OMG. I know I have been missing in action and I have a lot of recipes to catch up on posting but the dinner I just ate was sooo simple and soooo delicious!!


    Uncooked Shrimp
    1 Mango, diced
    I can coconut milk
    Brown or white rice
    1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
    Salt and Pepper
    Coconut Flakes

    I have said it before and I will say it again. A rice cooker makes everything so much easier!

    Make rice following directions on package but using 1/2 can of coconut milk to replace SOME of the water. You need to use some water or your rice will come out a bit chewy. I used jasmine rice in the rice cooker, poured in the 1.2 can of coco milk and then filled to the line with water.

    In a saute pan, drizzle some olive oil on the bottom. Cook shrimp until they turn pink on both sides. Add diced mango and lime juice. Cook for about two minutes until mango starts to soften. Add coconut milk and salt/pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes until the milk gets a tint of yellow and the mango is pretty mushy. Add the coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened) and mix into pan.

    Serve shrimp and mango over rice!

    Notes on dish: I did not tell you how much shrimp or rice to cook because you can determine that based on how many people you are serving. I get the frozen bag of large size shrimp (21-25 per pound) and only need to cook about 12 for Gordon and I. Also, you do not want to change the amount of mango, but may need additional coconut milk if you are serving a lot more people. Only increase the coconut milk you use to make the sauce, I would NOT add more that 1/2 cup of it to the rice or you will get a somewhat greasy product. I made 2 cups of rice so I would have leftovers and 1/2 can was just right :) This is a sweet dish so unless you like sweet tasting fish dishes, this would not be for you!

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Dinner # 4: Roaster and Rice

    It was my second night at home with Gordon and I wanted to make a nice dinner. While food shopping, I realized that I need to coordinate ingredients so that half of the food I buy for the week will not go to waste. Or I need to make meals that I can use the leftovers for other things.

    I decided to make a roast chicken with brown rice pilaf and maple glazed carrots. I have always liked the little roast chickens that you can buy in packs of two. However, sometimes they were so small that they barely fed the whole family. Now they are perfect!! Anyone can roast a chicken. Its pretty hard to mess up unless you fall asleep for the night and even then your meat may just turn to jerky!

    I love to use fresh herbs and roasting a chicken stuffed with them is no exception. My mother has a ridiculously plentiful herb garden, but if you are not lucky enough to have that resource, you can buy several types of herbs and use them in several recipes throughout the week to cut the cost of only utilizing them in one dish. You can use any kinds you want. I usually tie a bunch up with some kitchen twine and throw it right inside. I also like to cut a lemon in half and put both pieces in the chicken cavity as well! The flavors and moisture that the lemon produces in the meat is wonderful! You can use the leftover meat to make chicken salad sandwiches or top a caesar salad with chunks for a nice lunch or dinner.

    I am going to promote a rice cooker again! Get one!!! Last night, I steamed brown rice in chicken broth and steaned carrots at the same time with my veggie insert. I then seasoned the rice with almonds and soy butter and glazed the carrots with a touch of soy butter and maple syrup. Gordie could not get enough of it!!

    Although freshly made anything is better then pre-made or boxed items, I have to say that the whole wheat version of stove top will give you your stuffing fix if need be before thanksgiving time!!

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Gordon's Pirate Cake

    This was by far the most detailed cake that I have decorated. I found a pirate ship cake pan that I used as a mold and bought frosting to save some time. I am glad I did because dying all the different colors and piping this cake took close to three hours. All worth the time though, because my little man loved it!

    To decorate the cake, I needed to create black, brown, red, yellow, light blue, dark blue, and "sail" colored frosting with a total of 10 different gel dye colors. I went through about twelve 12 inch. piping bags and used #3,5,16, and 21 for my tips. I also used a few techniques that were helpful. The first was to thin out your background color, add a few teaspoons of corn syrup to the already dyed frosting (light blue in this case). A second technique is to cover your finger in cornstartch to smooth out piped frosting. At first you will see the white powder, but it quickly disolves.

    Always remember to cover your surface underneath the cake with wax or parchment paper to make sure that you will have a clean slate after decorating!!

    Here are the pics:

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010


    Tonight, I mad some ribs. Its not a crazy special recipe. However, if I can impress my dad with my grilling skills, I think its blogworthy!

    So, many of you eat ribs, but don't cook them. Therefore, you may not realize that there are several different types of ribs. First you must pick the animal. Do you prefer cow or pig? Personally, I like swine. Once you choose the animal you must also choose the cut. Do you like bigger or smaller ribs? Do you like fattier or leaner ribs? Normally, you will see baby back ribs (most popular and comes in packs of three racks at Costco and BJs) for grilling and spareribs for braising in your food store. However, in recent years country ribs have become popular and may come in the boneless variety (they are basically a thin cut of pork chops. Although this last options seems less labor intensive for eating, you must watch out because the meatier and leaner the rib, the easier it is to dry them out!!!

    Now you may do I cook my ribs so that the meat just falls right off the bone. I don't know the answer to that so you will have to google it. As discussed at the dinner table tonight, the Piccirillo clan likes tender juicy ribs that still hang to the bone...a little sturdy. Therefore, that is the result you will get by following the steps below. Its a slow cook process but TOTALLY worth it.


    Baby Back Ribs (pork)
    1 bottle of BBQ sauce of your choice
    salt and pepper

    1. Set your oven to a low broil. YOU WILL BURN YOUR RIBS IF YOU DO HI BROIL!!!! If you don't have a low broil setting, google an alternative!
    2. Place rib racks on a cookie sheet. I actually cut my ribs into pieces with three ribs for easier cooking and serving, but that is completely optional. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. However, you want the meaty side up to start the cooking process.
    3. Place in oven and allow the first side to cook for 20 minutes until they look like they are just cooked on the outside. Flip over for 10 minutes. Flip again for an additional 20 minutes. At this point, the ribs should have released some fat but look golden brown on the outside.
    4. Turn on your grill and set to lowest temperature setting.
    5. Remove from the oven and use a brush to coat the meaty side with lots of BBQ sauce. I used Trader Joe's BBQ sauce tonight but whatever your favorite is or whatever is on sale that week will do!!
    6. Once the grill is warmed up, place the ribs meaty side DOWN on the grill and cook for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them as grills differ and I don't want you burning dinner!
    7. As the ribs are cooking, coat the bone side of the ribs with bbq sauce and then flip. Cook on that side for 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they don't burn.
    8. Repeat steps 6 and 7, re-coating the ribs before each flip.
    9. Remove from grill and tent with foil for atleast 10 minutes. And then.....Enjoy!!!!

    Cooking times will vary depending on your oven and your grill. The nice thing is that the temps are so low that its hard to mess this up. The worst thing that can happen is that your ribs will taste good but you will just have to gnaw at them a bit!! I'm not a huge teriyaki fan, but im sure you could use that or any other think brushable but sticky sauce you want!!

    want s'more?

    got a sweet tooth that needs to be satisfied?

    2 graham cracker squares
    1 marshmallow
    2 squares of Hersheys chocolate

    Place one graham square topped with the marshmallow in microwave for 12 seconds (less for large microwave and more for small microwave. You will want more then one, so the first can be your trial!). Remove from microwave, top with chocolate and another graham square, smoosh, and let sit for 30 seconds. Enjoy.

    Get saucy and try a double-decker like the future mr and mrs vince did below!!!
    Twice the treat!

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    A Healthy Alternative

    Although I owe you all a cake post from Gordon's Birthday this weekend, I am waaaaay too tired to upload the pics tonight. Soooooo, I figured I would just give a quick tip for those of you who want to cook healthier but have a picky eater that prevents you from doing so.

    Many of you know that using ground turkey or chicken is a great alternative to using ground beef. For those of you who want to eat better, don't mind the difference in taste. However, many of our family members do taste the difference and aren't willing to change their meat preference.

    Try this: whenever using an alternative to beef, add a beef bouillon cube diluted with water. An example of when I do this is when making tacos. Turkey tacos can be slightly bland for the true red meat eater. However, add beef bouillon to the "seasoning" after meat is browned and you will have your loved one fooled! If you are watching salt intake, you may get low sodium beef broth and use that instead of water to make the taco sauce for your turkey meat.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Frying vs. Baking: Can you cut the fat and keep the taste?

    There are many different foods that people have grown up eating fried. Some examples are french fries, perogies, and chicken cutlets.

    To cut down on the fat, try spraying these items with olive oil cooking spray and bake them instead. A favorite in our house is "oven fries". Using a knife or a mandolin, slice a potato into thin circles or half circles. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes in a single layer, spray tops and season again with pepper (no need for more salt). Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, depending on how crispy you like them. They taste like homemade potato chips, but with enough character that they can serve as a side dish with steak or chicken.

    Another idea is to prepare chicken cutlets as you would to do the normal italian seasoned fry, but place in an oven instead. You can top them with things like low sodium ham and lowfat swiss to make a cordon bleu. Serve with a side of lowfat honey mustard sauce made by combining light mayo, honey, spicy brown mustard and tarragon (preferably fresh). Delicious and not as guilt ridden as the fried variety!

    Perogies and kielbasa with sauerkraut is a meal I grew up eating. These days, this does not have to be the fatty meal is used to be. The new variety of turkey kielbasa made by Hillshire Farms has 5 grams of fat per serving and 90 calories compared to the beef variety that has 16 grams of far and 190 calories per serving. Choosing a perogie variety does not matter much as they all have around the same amount of fat and calories per serving. However, by preparing them in the oven, you get a crunchy outside with a smooth potato inside, rather then a greasy pocket inside and out by frying or sauteing them in butter and onions. Not the healthiest meal all around but if you need your polish fix there are healthier ways to enjoy this traditional meal!

    Most of the time, anything fried if full of fat and many like that flavor. But if you are looking to cut some fat and cholesterol out, these few ideas may help!

    Cupcake Idea: Mini Pirate Ships

    For Gordon's 3rd Bday we having are doing a pirate theme. So I ran with this theme for his school cupcake celebration as well and used pirate flag toothpicks with half of a strawberry and here you have pirate ships!!

    Strawberry Pirate Ship
    Simple but cute!

    Appetizer #3: Foccacia for the Soul

    How many different types of bruschetta, tapenade, or other antipasto type foods have you eaten where you thought to yourself...this would be even better with a piece of tasty foccacia!?!  Never?? Oh well. I have. The other night, while entertaining, my mother and I had made some delicious bruschetta from what was left of the tomato crop after the deers attacked. Now anyone can buy some bread to go with it, but here at the Piccirillo House we like fresh homemade foods. Therefore we did what we like to do. Found a few recipes, combined them and made a delicious but easy to make foccacia that got rave reviews from our guests. It has a few stages but overall, its easier then many recipes I have seen.


    • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
    • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 tablespoon white sugar
    • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
    • 1 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
    • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
    Rosemary Parm Foccacia

    1. In a large stoneware bowl, stir together the flours and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Sprinkle the sugar and yeast into that well. Carefully pour the water into the well. Let stand until the yeast begins to act, about 5 minutes. Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the well. With a wooden spoon stir the mixture in the center of the bowl. Gradually widen the circle of stirring to take in all of the flour at the sides of the well.
    2. Turn out on a floured surface, and knead just until smooth. Keep the dough soft. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of the oil into a clean bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once to oil the top. Cover. Let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.
    3. Punch the dough down. Use 1 teaspoon of the oil to coat a baking sheet, and place the dough on the baking sheet. Gently press the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over the top of the dough. Use the handle end of a wooden spoon to dimple the dough at 1 1/2 inch intervals. Sprinkle with the rosemary and the cheese. Place in a cold oven on the center shelf. Place a flat pan of hot water on the shelf below the bread. Let rise until doubled, 20 to 25 minutes.
    4. Turn on the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake the focaccia for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned on top. Remove from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Enjoy!

      Monday, August 16, 2010

      Appetizer #2: Salsa Fresca

      Oldie, but a goodie! If I have come to a party of yours in the last 5 years, I have probably made this yummy healthy salsa served with tortilla chips. Its easy and again, never gets left uneaten!


      1 large tomato, diced
      1 small yellow onion, diced
      1-2 ripe avocados, diced
      1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
      1 can black beans
      1 can sliced olives, drained
      1 can shoepeg or mexicorn (can use fresh corn if you prefer)
      handful of fresh cilanto, chopped
      olive oil
      lime juice
      salt and pepper to taste

      Put all chopped and canned ingredients together. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least an hour or so before serving and always serve at room temperature with tortilla chips of any kind, although scoops help people enjoy the chunkiness!

      Notes on this dish: don't get too down if you can't use fresh cilantro or any other fresh ingredients. It will still taste okay...what salsa doesn't taste good? However, fresh ingredients do give best results. If you don't like olives or something else, leave them out!! Enjoy!

      Dessert #2: Fresh Fruit Salsa

      Although the summer's end is fast approaching, fresh produce is still great and this recipe is will make everyone happy from kids to adults. The flexibility of ingredients can accommodate fruit allergies and dietary needs.


      Lots of fruit, any or all of the following: pineapple, peach, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, mango, kiwi, apple, etc.
      1/2 jar of seedless raspberry jam (sugar-free if you choose)
      1/4-1/2 cup sugar (splenda if you choose)
       Cinnamon and sugar pita chips (store bought or homemade)

      Dice your fruit into small pieces (you will want to fit a few pieces on a chip). In a large bowl, toss fruit with the sugar. This helps the fruit to release its juices. Stir jam into fruit mixture. Let sit for at least 2-3 hours on the counter before serving, the longer the better. You may want to chill before serving but its personal preference.

      I used to always make homemade chips using flour tortillas. However, Stacey's pita chips come in a cinnamon and sugar variety which works well. You can also buy Stacey's naked chips, spray them with cooking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. If you prefer to make your own, cut flour tortillas into small triangles. Place them on a cookie sheet, coat lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown about 5-7 minutes. Enjoy!

      Appetizer #1: Spanikopita Meatballs

      This is a great low fat recipe I got from the food network and made a few changes for myself. I have never had leftovers. You can make a big batch and freeze some for later as well!

      • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for liberal drizzling
      • 1 small onion, finely chopped
      • 4 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
      • 1 boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted.
      • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
      • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
      • 1 tablespoons grill seasoning (recommended: McCormick Montreal Seasoning)
      • 1 small container low or no fat plain Greek yogurt
      • 1/3 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
      • 1/2 lemon, juiced
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons, 1/2 a palm full, cumin
      • Salt
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

      In a bowl combine onion and 3 cloves of garlic. Squeeze the water out of the spinach until completely dry. Separate the spinach as you add it to garlic and onion. Add feta, chicken and grill seasoning to the bowl and a liberal drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix the meat with veggies and feta and form mini meatballs (1 1/2-inch). Place the meatballs on a nonstick cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes until they are golden and juices run clear.

      Place yogurt, garlic, cucumber, dill, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and a little salt in food processor and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve meatballs alongside sauce with toothpicks.

      Notes on this dish: I can't tell you how easy and delicious these are. Although I have not done it yet, I am thinking that this recipe would be great to make burgers out of and serve them in a pita!

      Friday, August 13, 2010

      Dinner #3; Chicken and Broccoli over Rice

      I love Chinese food. However, we all know that you can only indulge every once in awhile. Therefore, I made up my own beef and broccoli recipe some time ago and decided to do Chicken version tonight.


      Chicken Breast
      1 head of broccoli
      1 cup baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
      1 small onion diced
      2 cups + 2 cups chicken broth
      2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons soy sauce
      2 tablespoons corn starch
      1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sugar (or sweetener of choice)
      1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
      1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
      2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
      Rice of choice
      1 tablespoon oil of choice

      At least 30 minutes ahead of time, cut chicken breast into strips. I used pre-cut tenders because they were on sale :). Pound them out so they are about 1/4 inch thick. Place chicken in a big ziplock or bowl with 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit in fridge for 30 minutes or until ready to cook.

      About 30 minutes before you want to eat.....

      As usual, I cooked my rice in a rice cooker using about 2 cups chicken broth for my liquid. Cook rice as you do, but use the chicken makes a difference.

      In a large skillet, heat oil. Saute marinated chicken until cooked through. Make a well in the middle of the pan and put onions in. Cook until translucent using the juice from the chicken. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine corn starch, soy sauce, and about 1/2 cup of chicken broth using a whisk. Once mixed, add remaining 1 1/2 cups of broth, salt, sugar and pepper. Pour over chicken and continuously stir so that the corn starch does not clump. Your sauce will thicken very quickly. As soon as it is to your desired consistency, put broccoli and carrots in pan. Stir to coat veggies, cover, and simmer on lowest heat until broccoli is cooked to your liking. Right before serving, add toasted sesame seeds to pan. Serve over rice.
      Thickened sauce
      Plated dish in bad lighting!

      Notes on the dish:

      In the ingredients, you may have noticed that I split measurements into two for example the soy sauce is 2 T + 2 T. The reason for this is that you need it at two different points, first to marinate and then for the sauce.
      The beef variation is prepared the same way, but using beef (I get the think sliced sandwich steaks and slice into strips) and beef broth. I really suggest you invest in the rice cooker. It just makes life so much easier. I tend to use low-sodium soy sauce. If you don't, then I suggest omitting the salt from the recipe. If you would rather not use regular sugar, you can substitute your sweetener of choice (splenda (yuck), agave syrup, etc). The reason I add the sweet is to make it taste less like a plain stir fry and more like a chicken broccoli dish from House of Chao in New Haven or other traditional chinese restaurant. Tip: when toasting your sesame seeds, they will go from not toasted to toasted too much VERY quickly, as will most seeds or nuts when dry toasting in a pan. Don't take your eyes off of them or you will waste a few batches (take it from experience!). Enjoy!

      Cakes and Treats

      So you may be wondering why I titled my blog cooking and cakes if I have only talked about cooking.
      I have decorated a few cakes and hope to really improve and increase my cake decorating. Many of you have seen these pics but for those who haven't, I figured I would share. I hope to one day take a class in using fondant to make more elegant cakes...all for fun :)

      John Deere
      Yankee cake 1
      Plain BDay
      Finished Elmo - Gordon Bday #2
      Cake for a Co-Worker
      Steelers Cake
      Never worked with fondant and wanted it to look tie-dyish!

      I also make cute favors for parties that are very easy for you to do yourself! Make or buy treats, and then personalize a goodie bag with scrapbook paper and ribbon!

      Caramel Chocolate Popcorn
      Finished Product!

      Thursday, August 12, 2010

      Dessert #1: Nutella makes everything better!

      I cannot take credit for coming up with this (Thanks KM and HG). However, I will take credit for sharing it with you!!

      Berry Crunchy Goodness


      Quaker Oats Chocolate Crunch Rice Cake
      Whipped Cream
      Berries (raspberries or sliced strawberries)
      Chocolate Chips

      Layer Rice cake with toppings in that order and enjoy.
      Its a rice cake so its healthy :)
      Notes: None...just make it.

      Side dish #1: Fresh Peas

      I never cooked with fresh peas until recently. Tonight I made a side and it was tasty. Even Gordie ate it!!


      Fresh Peas, podded
      diced red onion
      Toasted pine nuts
      Asiago cheese
      oil or butter
      salt and pepper

      Steam fresh peas for 3 minutes until tender but not shriveled, like mine :(  Remove from pan. Empty water and then use pan to heat oil or melt butter (I used soy butter). Sweat onions until translucent. In a side pan, toast pine nuts until light golden brown. DO NOT OVER TOAST! Nothing is good over-toasted, think about it!
      Once onions are cooked, add peas and pine nuts, then season with salt and pepper. Once you have plated your peas, add a sprinkle of asiago cheese.

      A side dish that your kids may eat!
      Notes on this dish: Make sure not to overcook peas or pine nuts or it will ruin the dish! Also, a friend of mine introduced me to adding pesto to peas and it was delish!! Try it!

      Dinner #2: Coconut Fish with coconut mango rice

      This is a quick dinner. Easy to make for one or ten! Somewhat of a unique flavor, but if you like fish cooked like they do in other countries, you will like this.


      Any white fish from snapper (hard to find) to tilapia (easy to get)
      1-2 cans coconut milk
      Fresh tomatoes sliced
      1 Sliced lemon
      1 small Sliced onion (red or white)
      Bay leaves
      2 chicken boullion cubes, crushed
      1 julienned mango
      Jasmine white rice
      Olive oil
      Salt and pepper

      Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

      Cook your rice how you normally would, but substitute 1/2 of the water for coconut milk . I used a rice cooker, which is so easy and can be purchased for about ten bucks at walmart. DEF worth the investment if you are a rice eater!

      In a pyrex or ceramic baking pan, drizzle some olive oil and place fish in pan. Flip it over once so it gets a coat of the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place one layer each of tomato, onion, and lemon in that order. In a bowl, crush boullion cubes and then add remainder of coconut milk and a few bay leaves and mix. Pour over fish and cover with foil. Cook for about 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Fish is done when you can flake fish apart with a fork.

      Serve by putting a scoop of rice on a plate, add a piece of fish with layers intact and garnish with fresh mango. Enjoy!

      Coconut Fish
      Notes on this dish: This is best with snapper and does not work great with cod because it does not soak in the flavor. You will have to adjust your cooking time according to the fish you choose. Also, if you know how to make sticky rice and have the time, it would compliment the dish. If you are not familiar with coconut milk, you can find it in the Goya section or the Thai section of your food store. It comes in a lowfat version as well.

      Dinner #1: Stuffed Eight Ball Squash

      I am starting my blog with a meal from a few nights ago because it was so tasty! As you will see from the pictures, I cooked for a few extra people. But that's part of the reason I am doing this, to get used to cutting down how much I make. So here you go!

      Eight Ball Squash. They are weird. Round like a pumpkin, but green like zucchini. I have never seen them in the store, but my parents grow them. You could make this recipe using regular zucchini, but you won't have as cute of a serving dish!


      Eight ball or regular zucchini (1 squash = 2 people),
      1 package chicken sausage, decased and browned (I used stew leonards)
      1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
      1 cup diced fresh tomato
      1/4 cup diced red onion
      4 cloves minced fresh garlic
      A handful of fresh basil.
      2 cups cooked orzo
      Parm Reggiano cheese (optional)

      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

      Scoop out pulp from squash, diced it and put to the side. You have to parboil the squash for about 4 minutes in boiling salt water then let sit while you make the stuffing. Brown sausage in a large skillet. Remove and drain. Follow the directions on a box of orzo to cook about 2 cups of pasta til al dente. In a tablespoon of olive oil, sweat out the onions and garlic until translucent. Add diced squash pulp. Let saute until squash is cooked through. Add sausage and pine nuts. Cook or about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add fresh tomato, basil and cook orzo. Toss til mixed through and then add the parm cheese. Stuff into squash halves and put onto a cookie sheet or into a roasting pan. Bake in the oven for 20-40 minutes until the squash is fork tender.

      My notes about this dish:
      I did stuffed 3 eight ball squash so you will have to adjust ingredients if you are not cooking for an army. Also, if you do all your prep ahead of time like cooking the orzo, toasting the pine nuts and cutting the other ingredients, it makes this this dish easier to cook. The results were fabulous and I wrote this recipe with some changes that I thought would help. You will have adjust cooking time in oven depending on size of your squash. Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions!

      Prep the ingredients.

      Saute the squash pulp with onion, garlic and pre-cooked sausage.
      Ready for the oven!