Thursday, November 30, 2006


Isn't that a nice word? Vindication. Loyal readers may remember last year and my insane candy-making experiences. Specifically, Anna's Almond Roca. My beloved almond toffee gave me headache after headache last year, leading to a complete reliance on chocolate to round out my goodie platters. You can read about the adventures starting here, and then here, and here again. Not anymore. Today I am the proud owner of a delightful batch of Almond Roca.

What did I do differently? Nothing. I used a new thermometer that I know is accurate, and it worked like a charm, along with keeping the stove at a medium heat instead of creeping it up higher. I also halved the recipe, and I really think I like it better that way. It allows me to use the same half-sheet pan and get a thinner toffee. I also lined my pan with Reynold's Release Foil, and once again, I cannot praise that product enough. The roca comes right off the foil-without needing to use added butter or spray to the foil. This Christmas Goodie Season brought to you by Reynold's Release Foil. If you haven't tried it- you're missing out.

Here is the recipe I used, created by Anna from Cookie Madness.

Anna's Almond Roca

2 Cups Sugar
1 Pound Butter -- (4 sticks)
1 Cup Water
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 Cups Almonds -- the "shaved" kind
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 bag milk chocolate chips

Reserve 1 cup of the almonds and set aside. Mix sugar, butter, water, and salt in large, heavy saucepan and heat to boiling over medium to medium high heat. Make sure there's room in the saucepan for the mixture to foam up and boil. Heat mixture over medium to medium high until it foams and reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (don't stir).

When temp reaches 240, stir in 2 cups of almonds. Stir mixture constantly and watch temp carefully until temp reaches 290.

Remove from heat, stir in soda and QUICKLY pour onto a cookie sheet covered with Reynold's Release Aluminum Foil.

Mixture should start to harden immediately. As mixture hardens, sprinkle chocolate chunks over hardening mixture and spread the chocolate chunks around until they melt. Sprinkle melted chocolate with reserved almonds. Let sit until toffee hardens and chocolate sets.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not much

I still don't have much to post about.

Yesterday I did successfully make a truffle variation, but I'm not quite ready to share the method I used yet- it may need some tweaking. However, I can say that this year I bought some chocolate molds- and it makes a fantastic truffle shell! It is so much easier to fill a piping bag and fill small little shells than it is to hand-dip these particular soft truffles. I will be using the hand-dipping for the fondant centers, mints, and coconut bites, but for the truffles- wow! I'll be sure and show some pictures of that process soon.

I also decided that I needed to make some sugar cookies yesterday. I thought Abigail would enjoy cutting out some cookies after school, and I was right on with that one. Both kids had a blast cutting out cookies, and of course sampling some afterwards. We were going to ice and sprinkle them too, but I ran out of time and since we have ballet tonight, the icing will have to wait until after school on Thursday. You can find the recipe for Sugar Cookie Cutouts in the Recipe Trove, and here are some pictures of my little cookie monsters busy at work.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Things that make you go...


I have to confess. I don't have much to blog about today. I've been in such a streak with blogging, updating almost every day. And I've spent the last two days putting up Christmas decorations, and haven't been cooking or creating. I'm officially sick of leftovers- although in the back of my head I'm thinking that I need to make that turkey again very soon. We went through the leftovers in no time, and there are a whole slew of post-Thanksgiving recipes that I never got around to trying. However, I thought I'd post a few suggestions for your turkey leftovers- should you still have some. (Although if you haven't used it up by today- may I suggest the freezer for long-term storage?)

First on my list of leftover favorites is my Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie. Make it with leftover turkey, and any stray veggies you want to throw in. This would be an excellent place to use up those vegetables that are languishing from your crudite plate. Need a sandwich idea? This panini from Rachael Ray would be most excellent with some turkey added to the mix. A family favorite around here, White Chicken Chili is always fantastic made with turkey leftovers. Another favorite recipe came from my brother and sister in law years ago. I've changed it up a little, and it does contain that infamous can of cream of mushroom soup, but I wouldn't have White Chicken Enchiladas any other way. And finally, a Cooking Light favorite is Cheddar Chicken Chowder. It won't quite be the same using pre-cooked turkey, but I promise that this soup is excellent, and one of our favorites.

Well, I guess that's it. Today we are going to put up Christmas decorations at church. I had been hoping to find some time to make another flavor of fondant or attempt a unique variation on a truffle. We'll see. Hopefully tomorrow I can figure out something a little more exciting to post about.

**Editing to add that if you're looking for more entertaining reading, I have an article up this morning on Kids Cuisine about kid-friendly fudge. If you're looking for an easy gift idea, this is the solution for you!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Revisiting India

Back in September, Andy and I- along with some guests- sampled some Indian cuisine. It was amazing, to say the least. Andy had been leery about Indian food up to that point, and let me just say that he is now hooked. His parents have been visiting us this week, and when we were planning what I was going to cook, Andy suggested Indian. Hey- when my husband suggests Indian food, I'd better notice and do what he says. I planned to re-make the Butter Chicken from the last time, but I wanted a different vegetable dish. The Biryani I'd made last time was quite time consuming, so I needed something more simple. I have a gorgeous British Indian cookbook, so I flipped through and settled on some Punjabi Cabbage. We were not disappointed. It was incredibly easy to put together, and it was a fantastic compliment to the Butter Chicken, Raita, and Naan.

We're really going to have to put Indian food into a regular rotation. It is just a fascinating cuisine to me and it is so full of wonderful flavors. Of course, any cuisine that allows you to eat with your fingers and sop up drippings and sauces with a flatbread can't be bad in my book anyways. I'm looking forward to doing more, and I'm looking forward to discovering more in my Indian cookbook.
As to the next week or so ahead...? Hard to say what you will find here at Tummy Treasure. It's definitely going to be a pantry week for cooking. I want to get started on my Christmas goodies, but since this week is a budget week, I will have to plan carefully. Tonight for sure is a leftover night/clean out the fridge sort of night. However, we are going to be putting up some Christmas decorations inside today, so there may be a batch of sugar cookies making their way out of my oven. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Little Re-Cap

Hey all.

Thanksgiving was fantastic. A wonderful day and a wonderful dinner was had by all. And even though the food was (ahem) quite good, it really was the company that made the day special. So thanks all for coming!

I wasn't going to post food pictures this morning because by now I assume most people still have this full feeling in their stomachs that I am experiencing this fine morning. But then I thought, hey, maybe someone wants to see my turkey.

But first, I have to tell the family in attendance that I cannot figure out how to get a poll on here. If I figure it out, it will be here, but I designed the darn thing, and it doesn't show up. So, sorry! But if you'd like to leave a comment about what your favorite thing was... and maybe what your least favorite was, that will help me prepare for the years to come, since I was officially passed "the wooden spoon" last night.

Here at the left you see my Gorgonzola-Walnut Spread in the form of a cheese ball. My sister Lizzie artfully arranged the red pears and crackers around the ball. Looks good huh? Yeah, it turned out pretty well, I would say. I would love a tip from anyone though on how to keep tiered platters from sliding around on each other. It made the cheese ball a little hard to get at.

Here at the right is the Cider-Brined and Glazed Turkey waiting to be carved. It was hard to get a good pictured that really captured how caramelized and gorgeous the skin got. It started darkening up within the first hour, so after two hours had passed, I needed to cover with foil, but the overall result was moist and juicy. Mmm. Can we say turkey sandwiches anyone?

And then here to the left you can sort of see most of the rest of the meal. Right at the front is Mom's stuffing, followed by the sesame brussels sprouts, then the fennel and orange salad. Behind that is the group of pickles/olives/spreads, and way back there are some beans and carrots with lemon chive butter and the mashed potatoes.

Not everything fit on the table exactly, so it needed to be placed on the counter and transported one at a time. It was definitely way too much food.

Again, a huge thank you to the family who came and made the day so special for my family. The kids were just thrilled to see everyone who was here, and I have no doubt they fell asleep with smiles on their faces. Although Zander wsa a little confused when I tucked him in. "But Mommy! We didn't do Thanksgiving yet!" And now I am off to experience the madness known as Black Friday. It wasn't in my plans for this weekend, but my baby sister talked me into it, so off I go.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thankgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my wonderful blog-readers. I hope your holiday today is filled with joy and delicious food.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Last Minute Addition.

The other day Abigail was getting excited about Thanksgiving. Most of all, she's excited about her Grandparents from Buffalo visiting, but then she started talking about the food, and she got really excited about pumpkin pie. Uh-Oh. Right there my internal alarm started going off. My decadent streuseled pumpkin pie is not what she is thinking of...Houston, we have a problem. To further compound my problem, Andy had taken Abigail to Sam's last week where she sampled a pumpkin pie cheesecake (or something similar) and she loved it. She wanted that one. Andy didn't try it, so he couldn't tell me what it was like, and the only thing I really got out of Abigail was that she liked the frozen whipped cream on top.

So, my good friends at Recipezaar to the rescue. Autumn Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie is what I settled on. I thought it should produce a pie somewhere between a cheese pie and a custardy pumpkin pie, and I was spot on. I had too much filling for the pie shell, so I was able to bake up a bit in a ramekin for tasting purposes. It is very light and fluffy in texture. The cheese flavor was really mild, but I suspect that after chilling it should taste more like cheesecake. And the pumpkin pie flavor was there as well. All around, a nice lighter-textured pie. Abigail enjoyed the taste she had, and topped with whipped cream it will make a delightful late-minute addition to my Thanksgiving feast.

Autumn Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice ( I used a combination of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg)
1 9- inch unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine cream cheese& condensed milk until smooth.
Stir in pureed pumpkin,spice& eggs,mix until well combined.
Pour into pie shell.
Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted 1" from the edge comes out clean.
Serve warm and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Turkey and Gravy

Before I get to my recipe today, I have just a few things to share. The first being that my second article is up today on Kids Cuisine, so check that out if you need some ideas on getting your kids involved in Thanksgiving. If you'll scroll down there, you will also see a really cute idea for kids cooking with puff pastry shells, so check that out too. Secondly, just in case anyone is looking for it, (not likely though) I have eliminated my Cheese Blog from my blog-dom. Cheese sampling just hasn't been a priority for us lately, and the blog has been neglected. Part of blogging to me is to have frequent updates, and since cheese is a food anyway, I feel that should an exceptional cheese come my way, I can successfully integrate it here on my main blog.

So on to today's Turkey Day recipe.

I would hope that by now, most people have an idea as to how they are going to prepare their turkey. If not, I can safely say that the folks over at Epicurious have you covered. Whether you want to inject, rub, fry, roast, or brine your turkey, they know what's going on. I have successfully made a turkey from Bon Appetit for the past several years, you just can't beat their recipes. Today I am going to share their recipe for Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy. This is a brined turkey, and it really is wonderful. But I have to admit, it's the gravy that's the star here. If you already have a turkey preparation planned, but are looking for something different in terms of gravy, this is your chance. The herbs in the gravy star here and those plain ole' mashed potatoes will become the main attraction bathed in this herb gravy.

Herb Roasted Turkey With Apple Cider Gravy
from Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2003

Brining the turkey in the refrigerator for two days ensures an incredibly moist result. We do not recommend stuffing brined turkeys because the brine can make the stuffing too salty. A do-ahead gravy base eliminates last-minute stirring and thickening. Look for fresh bay leaves in the produce section.

8 quarts cold water
2 cups coarse kosher salt
8 large fresh or dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole allspice
1 16- to 17-pound turkey; giblets removed, neck reserved
Herb butter and gravy
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy) or other brandy
2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored
2 large onions, quartered
1 cup apple cider

To brine the turkey: Line extra-large pot or bowl with two 13-gallon (or larger) plastic bags, 1 inside the other. Combine 1 quart water, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat. Add 1 quart cold water and cool to lukewarm. Pour into plastic bags; mix in remaining 6 quarts water. Wrap turkey neck and refrigerate. Submerge turkey in brine to cover completely, gathering bags tightly to eliminate any air; tie bags closed. Refrigerate turkey in brine in pot at least 18 hours and up to 20 hours.

Line large roasting pan with 4 layers of paper towels. Remove turkey from brine and drain well; discard brine. Place turkey in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For herb butter and gravy: Mix parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, and nutmeg in small bowl. Transfer 1/4 cup herb mixture to small bowl; mix in 1/2 cup butter.

Combine broth and apple cider in heavy large saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Pour broth reduction into bowl. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in same saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Whisk in broth reduction, then cream, Calvados, and remaining herb mixture. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until gravy base is thickened and reduced to 2 3/4 cups, whisking often, about 20 minutes. Cool gravy base slightly. (Gravy base and herb butter can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

To roast the turkey: Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Remove turkey from roasting pan; drain any accumulated juices from main cavity. Discard paper towels from roasting pan. Melt herb butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush bottom of roasting pan with some of herb butter. Return turkey to prepared pan. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Place some apple quarters and onion quarters in main cavity. Brush remaining herb butter over turkey; sprinkle with pepper. Scatter remaining apples and onions around turkey in pan. Add reserved turkey neck to pan.

Roast turkey 1 hour. Baste with 1/2 cup apple cider. Roast turkey 30 minutes. Baste with remaining 1/2 cup cider. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting turkey every 30 minutes with pan juices and covering breast loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 2 hours longer (3 1/2 hours total). Transfer turkey to platter; let stand at least 30 minutes before carving (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).

Discard apples, onions, and turkey neck from pan. Pour pan juices into large glass measuring cup; spoon off fat from surface. Pour degreased juices into gravy base and bring to boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon and is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Season gravy to taste with pepper.
Serve turkey with gravy.

Makes10 servings.

Bon AppétitNovember 2003

Monday, November 20, 2006

Quick Post

A quick post this morning before I head out to finish my Thanksgiving grocery shopping. I'll apologize now for the potential sporadic posts this week... but I will try and continue with my posting this week. This morning I wanted to share another salad that I have determined must be a part of my Thanksgiving feast. Beet Salad with Lemon and Olives looks stunning! It's simple, and sounds delicious, and a great counterpoint to the richness of the rest of the feast. That salad is a part of A Veggie Venture's Collection of Thanksgiving Vegetables. If you are still looking for a side dish or two, check out her site. There is bound to be something for everyone- including a stunning makeover for green bean casserole. Check it out!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Other Pie

In addition to the pumpkin pie I already mentioned, I will also be making a Cherry-Red Raspberry Pie, and a Cranberry-Pecan Pie. I love pecan pie. Love it. It's so rich though that after a slice or two, I've had enough. I've experimented over the years with trying to cut the richness a bit. The most decadent pie I made was a pecan pie with dark chocolate chips in it. The best variation though is the cranberry version. The cranberries manage to cut right through the sweetness of a pecan pie. The contribute tartness and really make a spectacular pie. I don't have a picture to share, but I do have the recipe here that I use. I found it on Recipezaar a few years ago, and have loved it ever since.

This year I plan on using the new brown sugar corn syrup instead of the dark, and I tend to use chopped pecans instead of whole. Otherwise, this is the pie.

Cranberry Pecan Pie Recipe

pie pastry
1 cup cranberries, fresh
3 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon mace
pinch salt
3/4-1 cup pecan halves

Roll out the pie crust until it 1/8" thick and press into a 9" pie pan. Flute the edges and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350*. (325* if using glass pan).
Process the cranberries until finely chopped; arrange over the bottom of pie shell and set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, beat the eggs till frothy.
Mix in the sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, mace and salt.
Pour the egg mixture over the cranberries.
Arrange the pecan halves on top of pie in circles, beginning with the outer edge and working your way to middle, covering completely.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and almost set. it will still be a little shaky but will firm up as it cools.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Something Exciting!

Earlier in the week I mentioned that I had some news to share this week. Today I am proud to share that I have become a writer for a site called Kids Cuisine. Kids Cuisine is part of The Well Fed Network, and I am thrilled to be a part of the new site. Today my first article is up and I couldn't be more excited. If you haven't checked out Well Fed recently, you really should. There has been a wonderful site redesign recently and many new sites have been added to the network. Check it out when you have a chance.

In honor of my celebration today, I thought I would quickly share a cocktail we will be having during the Thanksgiving weekend. I was in the juice aisle yesterday when I spied a Blueberry-Pomegranite Juice, and immediately the wheels started turning. I was drawn to it, and immediately thought it would be excellent in a champagne glass topped off with sparkling wine. I picked up a bottle of Spumanti to give it a try before the weekend. All in all, it's quite addicting. For the coming weekend I intend to pick up a package of individually frozen blueberries to put in the glass as "ice", and for a bit of interest. There's not really a recipe, but here are my vague directions.

"Drop two or three frozen blueberries in the bottom of a tall fluted glass. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of blueberry pomegranite juice over the blueberries. Fill the rest of the glass with the sparkling wine of your choice. Enjoy!"

I really, really want to try this juice mixed with the new Stoli Blueberi, but premium vodka is hardly on our "approved frivolities" while we're budgeting, so it will have to wait. In the meantime, the sparkling wine and juice makes a fun little drink to celebrate family and friends with, and perfect for Thanksgiving weekend.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Obligatory Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie. When I close my eyes and think on Thanksgiving dinner, there are three musts. Turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Those items are not optional to me. Today I want to share the recipe I use for pumpkin pie. Hands down, this is truly the most decadent pumpkin pie I have ever had. It is rich and full of pumpkin flavor. However, I will add that even though this is my favorite, I am hardly one to sneer at lesser pumpkin pies. Previously to this one, Libby's pumpkin pie recipe was the apple of my eye. It still is an excellent pie. And yes, I am talking about the recipe on the can of pumpkin (not pie filling, plain pumpkin). That recipe produces a wonderful custard-like pie. I've had pumpkin flan that really resembles that pie without the crust. The overall flavoring is good, and to be honest, I still make that pie from time to time too- it's so easy, Abigail can make it, and pumpkin pie is her favorite.

This one is Andy's favorite though, so this is the one we will be making this year. I apologize for the lack of a "homemade" photo- this one is from Epicurious. The pie on the bottom is the one I am discussing today. The only thing I don't have here is a pie crust recipe for you. Pie crust is a very personal thing. I use the same one over and over, and never stray from that recipe. I am sure for the crust-phobic, a standard frozen or refrigerated crust would work just fine as well. You can also follow the link here for Bon Appetit's Butter Pie Crust Dough- which looks excellent, by the way. The changes I make are to elminate the crystallized ginger, instead I use a pinch of powdered ginger in the filling. I also add a few tiny drops of rum extract to the pie filling. Trust me on that one. It adds a fantastic butterscoth flavor to the pie that is not to be missed.

Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Walnut Streusel

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Pumpkin filling
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetened whipped cream

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch deep-dish glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang under; crimp edges decoratively. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until edges begin to brown and crust is set, about 17 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until golden brown, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to rack. Maintain oven temperature.

For streusel: Mix flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Stir in nuts.

For pumpkin filling: Whisk pumpkin, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in medium bowl. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Whisk in melted butter and vanilla. Pour into prepared crust.

Sprinkle streusel over filling. Bake pie until streusel is golden and filling is set, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack at least 2 hours. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Makes 10 servings.

Bon AppétitNovember 2003

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Worthy Salad

I've been thinking on salad for Thanksgiving. As a family, we tend to enjoy salads- the kids especially. But when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I confess that I don't remember that many meals where there was a salad on the table. My thought is that when there is salad on the table everyone feel obligated to eat a little rabbit food. At Thanksgiving time, that valuable tummy space could be better serviced by an extra helping of stuffing or marshmallow-laden sweet potatoes. Lately I've been plagued though by the thought of adding a salad to my feast. It just sounds like a good idea. Once again, Everyday Food has come to my rescue.

Fennel and Orange Salad is exactly what the turkey ordered. With a meal loaded with flavor and richness, there could be nothing better to cut into that decadence and provide a palate cleanser. I decided I needed to try this salad ahead of time- could it be so good with so few ingredients? I was skeptical, but I really wanted it to work out. One of the things that drew me to this particular recipe was how the orange was prepared. Usually in salads, you see the peel cut away, and then you use a knife to cut into each individual segment, and I usually end up with a mess. Not this salad. The recommended treatment is to cut off the peels and pith and then cut the whole orange in half while standing on end. Then you simply slice each half into slices. The fennel is just as easy to work with. I cut the bulb in half, removed the core, and then cut thin slices until I got to the top of the bulb. The two were combined in a super simple vinaigrette, and the whole salad was delightful. It really was delicious and needs nothing else to make it shine. It will be a perfect addition to my Thanksgiving feast, and can be made several hours ahead of time. Fennel and Orange Salad
from Everyday Food, November 2006

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper (I used grey salt)
5 navel oranges
3 to 4 fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds total) ends trimmed and cored, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped fennel fronds

1. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with salt and pepper.

2, Using a sharp knife, slice off both ends of each orange. Following the curve of the fruit, cut away the peel and the pith. Halve orange from top to bottom; thinly slice crosswise. Transfer oranges, along with any juices that have accumulated on the work surface, to bowl with dressing. Add fennel and, if desired, fronds. Toss to combine.

Serves 8.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Appetizer Up!

Last year for Thanksgiving I went overboard on appetizers. I had a cheese and cracker plate with three kinds of cheeses, fruit, veggies and dip, and nuts. All served about an hour before dinner. It was too much and too close to the actual meal to be filling up on fluff. So this year I thought I would come up with something simple and less filling. I found just the thing. There is a Blue Cheese-Walnut dip in the November issue of Everyday Food magazine that fits the bill perfectly. It puts a favorite cheese in the spotlight while being slightly different. The bonus was in its simplicity. Mix a few ingredients together and serve with crackers. I decided that (for research purposes) I needed to try this in advance to see if it needed anything.

Last night I made a micro-version of the dip. My choice for blue cheese though was my favorite- Gorgonzola. I made a couple of other minor changes as wll that I think only made the dip better. I toasted the walnuts called for- which was an excellent move, and I also added a little bit of fennel fronds to the mix. It was perfect, and it will be a fantastic appetizer for Thanksgiving Day. I will be serving it with whole-grain crackers and pear slices, and everyone will enjoy it. Here is the recipe below for you for quick reference. I will be doubling it myself, and yesterday as I was mixing it up, I thought that if you upped the gorgonzola quite a bit, you could actually form this into a ball and roll it in the chopped walnuts...if you're into the cheese-ball type of thing.

Gorgonzola-Walnut Dip

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a skillet
pinch of grey salt
black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Serve on garlic crostini or with crackers. An excellent accompaniement would be pear or apple slices. This dip can be prepared a day in advance.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Wonderful Day!

Today is a fantastic day! And why is that you ask? Because today one our best friends is officially home from his tour of duty in Iraq! It is wonderful to have him home again safe and in one piece. We're looking forward to spending time together and becoming reacquainted. Thank you dear friend for your service and the time away from your family.

Anyway, in honor of his arrival home, I decided I needed to make the lucky family dinner today. After driving back and forth and becoming re-acclimated as a family, the last thing they needed to worry about was what was for dinner. Today I had the perfect recipe in mind to welcome the whole family home.

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells is a recipe that I've been playing with on and off. It first appeared in an issue of Cooking Light magazine, accompanied by a "smoky marinara." I did not like the marinara, and the filling needed perking, but I liked the combination of cheese and spinach. So I used that recipe as a springboard for my own version of stuffed shells. The best part of this recipe is that it makes two casserole dishes of shells. You can keep one and give one to a neighbor or friend, or toss the second one into the freezer for another time. Cook once, and you get two meals out of this recipe. Here is a picture of my little shell soldiers lined up awaiting their bath of sausage-laden marinara.

My modified recipe for Four Cheese Stuffed Shells can be found in the recipe trove.

Coming up this week, I've decided to preview the recipes on the menu for Thanksgiving. I'll tackle a recipe or two a day to help you plan your Thanksgiving feast. Unfortunately, there will likely not be any pictures, as I won't be making them this far in advance, but I may do a trial run of one or two recipes.

Also this week, I have a rather fun announcement to make about another little project I've been working on, stay tuned!

Are You Sick of Eggs Yet?

As I mentioned before, it's an obsession. How many ways can one cook a humble egg? The possibilities are literally endless. Lately my egg dreams have turned to more exotic applications, an egg curry may be in my near future here. Just this past Friday I had an egg dish that borders on egg utopia. After picking up Andy's car, we took Zander out for lunch to Perkins, because we wanted breakfast, but figured Zander would want lunch. And while not exactly highbrow, Perkins knows their breakfast- and their muffins!

When we walked in the door we were confronted by a large sign advertising their new "Eggs Benedict Special." Right there I was in trouble. Eggs Benedict is probably my favorite way to eat eggs. As I looked over the menu, I had decided on the classic version, when I read the fine print under another. It started with an English muffin, topped with a sausage patty, a slice of cheese, egg, and smothered in country style sausage gravy. A second runner up to my eggs benedict is the Southern classic, sausage-n-biscuits. I had to order that. And it was, in short, spectacular. While I consciously knew that this was not a healthy breakfast in the least, it was insanely delicious and perfectly fine for a rare treat.

So in the spirit of the egg, I have another treatment that I did a little while ago, but failed to share. I got it into my head that I could cook an egg in something other than a pan or a dish, and decided that a garden-fresh tomato would be my vessel. I used a paring knife to cut a hollow into the top of a tomato, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and placed the tomato into a 350ºF oven to get hot. After aabout10 minutes, I pulled the tomato out and gently cracked an egg into the hollow. It just fit. The egg also got a sprinkle of salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese, and some snipped chives. I baked the whole thing for another 10 minutes or so- basically trying to ensure that the white was cooked through. The resulting egg was pretty good with some toast on the side. It was a little uunder seasoned but overall I was thrilled with this egg, the only improvement I could see making would be to somehow incorporate some bacon. A perfect breakfast with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea, this one goes on the radar for those days when I have some tomatoes lying around, waiting to be used up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Breakfast for dinner

Last night was supposed to be our weekly Company Dinner. It seems that in recent weeks, we've made just about everything, so last night we decided that we should try and do something a little different, and make breakfast for dinner. The cool thing about breakfast is that one usually has the ingredients on hand for dozens of different breakfast items. I decided that it had been a long while since I made an Overnight French Toast- so that was the chosen main course. Accompanied by fruit, sausages, juice, and coffee, it was a perfect choice for a company meal.
I assembled the french toast in the morning before heading to church. It's ridiculously easy. I cubed bread and placed it in a baking dish. I topped that with two blocks of cream cheese- which I cubed this time, but I've also let it soften, added some milk, and poured it over to make it even. I decided to do an apple-cinnamon version, so apple slices went over the cream cheese, topped by more bread cubes. Finally, a mixture of eggs, milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon was poured slowly over the whole thing. The dish went into the fridge to wait several hours for dinner.

Well, all our company cancelled on us. I was looking at this huge pan of french toast, and wondering if the kids would actually eat it. They've never been huge fans of french toast. In fact, Zander doesn't seem to care much for breakfast food in general that's not cereal. But I figured they would eat sausage and fruit, if nothing else. So I baked it up and it was perfect accompanied with a drizzle of maple syrup instead of the fruit topping I usually have. And the surprise of the night? The kids inhaled it! And I mean inhale! Abigail didn't leave a bit on her plate, and kept saying "MMMM" the whole while. Zander needed some encouragement to try it (and I had to tell him the cream cheese was frosting) but once he did, several bites quickly followed. So we found a rare winning recipe that the whole family loves. It also keeps well for several days, so Andy can have a hot breakfast for a few mornings before work. You can find the recipe for Overnight French Toast in the recipe trove.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Countdown begins...

It's coming, it's coming! Thanksgiving, that is. I have pored through magazines, last years menus, and online to determine The Great Feast. Andy's parents are coming out from Buffalo this year, and we'll have various members of my family here, and potentially some friends, so it will be quite the full house. I am trying to come up with two plans... one for if our friends come, and one for if they aren't coming (I should find out today for sure though). Last year I learned a thing or two about dinner- one being that I should cut back on the appetizers, and they should be served well in advance of dinner. If you want to check it out, here is last year's Thanksgiving menu.

And here is the preliminary thoughts for this years menu:


Gorgonzola and Walnut spread with crackers, breadsticks, and pear slices


Cider Brined Turkey
Mom's Stuffing
Garlic Roasted Mashed Potatoes
Make-ahead gravy
Roasted Broccoli and Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts and Baby Carrots with Lemon-Chive Butter
Fennel and Orange Salad
Pineapple-Cranberry Sauce
Brown Butter Sweet Potatoes


Cranberry-Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie with Walnut Streusel and Cinnamon cream
Cherry-Red Raspberry Pie
Mom's Apple Pie

There will be the usual assortment of beer/wine/cider. My Dad is also bringing a batch of mulled wine, and my sister Lizzie will once again be providing coffee drinks to accompany dessert. The only thing I am on the fence about is the sweet potatoes. I adore sweet potatoes, but I am thinking that they aren't really necessary to dinner. And with regular mashed potatoes, stuffing, and croissants, I think another starch may be a bit too much.

he beauty of this menu is that everything except the turkey and roasted veggies can really be done ahead of time and simply reheated, so that I can spend the afternoon visiting, instead of slaving away in the kitchen. In the next day or two, I will work out an actual timeline of when everything will need to be done, as well as doing my first shopping trip for the non-perishables. Hopefully this year's Thanksgiving will be seamless and wonderful.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pantry Dinner

Today was a nice lazy Saturday. We got up late, the kids asked for donuts, and we spent the morning doing whatever. I manged to finish a book, Andy read up on his new car, and the kids just had fun playing together. Later on we had to run into town for some new car accessories for Andy and we had to stop at Sam's Club to pick up a few things. When we walked in the door, I asked Andy "what do you want for dinner." His response "I dunno, I hadn't thought of it yet." I told him to start thinking while we picked up what we needed. It wasn't until we were in the parking lot pulling away that I realized we hadn't picked anything up for dinner. We lamely discussed it, neither of us interested in dinner plans- like I said, it was a lazy day.

As the dinner hour crept closer and closer, I realized I had to do something, or it would be broasted chicken from the grocery store- and they really don't have great broasted chicken. I headed to the freezer and pulled out a pork loin roast and then headed to the computer. A quick search of Cooking Light and Recipezaar led me to a recipe for Pork Medallions with Cranberries and Apples. Having everything on hand, including some brown rice to serve it over, and some pureed pumpkin for the side dish, I got to work, and it came together in no time.

The result? It was quite good actually! I swear I've made a variation of this before from Cooking Light, but a search of their website doesn't bring anything up. The only thing was the cranberries. They just didn't seem to quite meld with the pork and apples. Andy suggested leaving them out next time, but I'm actually thinking that Dried Cranberries would shine in this recipe. I had a hard time getting a good picture, but I think you kind of get the idea. Had the pork been thawed already, this could have easily been a 30- minute or less meal. Well, except for the brown rice anyway. Zander made quick work of his pork, and like anything else meat-based, not so much for Abigail. But overall it was family friendly and a definite repeat.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Christmas came early!

I knew there was a reason I was in the mood to make candy. Today we picked up a new car for Andy, and he is just thrilled. Admittedly this was our first experience buying a car from a dealer, and it certainly won't be our last. They were so accomodating and helped us find the perfect vehicle, and then helped lower the price into our approved price range.
It's a Pontiac Aztec, and it is gorgeous. He should have many years of happy driving ahead of him. And by the way, those are snowflakes, they are coming down as I type this in. This morning when I dropped off Abigail for school, she stepped out of the van, stopped and smelled the air, then smiled at me. "Mmmm... Smells like it's gonna snow!" So this snow is for her today. It's too soon to say if it's going to stick though.

I Want Candy!

Something I've always wanted to try to do is to make hard candy. But I've always had a fear of the hot sugar. I decided to order some sucker molds recently, as well as some flavorings, and last night I decided to give it a whirl.

Sugar, corn syrup, and water. That's it. Boiled over high heat to 300ºF. Flavorings and color get added, and the hot syrup gets poured into molds. It was ridiculously easy. The recipe I followed said it made about 10 suckers. I had a lot more syrup than that. I used a spoon to transport the syrup from the pan to the molds and filled all of them up, and added the sticks. It was kind of fun to watch the syrup thread as the spoon made it's way from pan to mold. And those threads cooled rather quickly, so it wasn't long before I got to give it a taste, and I was pleasantly surprised. Here are the sucker molds setting up:

The lesson learned last night? Spray the molds with a nonstick spray before filling with hard-candy sugar syrup. I managed to pop out the larger snowflakes so the kids will be able to sample them after school today, but I doubt I'll be able to get the smaller ones out, so they may just get rinsed down the drain. We'll see though, I have a couple tricks in mind for sucker removal.

After my molds were filled, I had quite a bit of syrup left, so I poured that onto a cookie sheet lined with Reynolds Non-Stick Foil. I was worried about the kids walking up and touching it, so I kind of hovered over it while it cooled. It just kept calling to me, and I kept thinking of those Food Network challenges with the sugar sculptures. I wanted to play with it! So when I thought it had cooled enough, I threw on my rubber gloves for dishes and very carefully, picked at the candy. With the gloves on, I was able to handle it and pull it, and the kids had fun watching Mommy make little candy curly-q's. It didn't take long for it to harden completely, but I did tell Andy last night that I want some good rubber gloves and a heat lamp... I think that playing with that candy was pretty fun, and considering how easy it was to actually make the syrup... there may very well be more candy in my future.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

A change in the air

This week we've had fantastic weather. It's been in the 50's and 60's and certainly doesn't feel like November. I keep trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and I have to tell you, the weather is totally messing with me. Two weeks! I think I need to firm up my menu and start on my timeline. I could be hosting dinner for anywhere from 10-17 people. (But for sure 12 for dessert.) So I really better get moving with that.

Despite the warm temperatures (and no, I'm not complaining about those God! Keep them going please!) and my grasping of Thanksgiving, I am so rady for Christmas. I've begun thinking about my candy and chocolate making, and thinking about my cookie platters. Yesterday I caught a glimpse of a bag of cranberries in my fridge, and they're looking a little sad, so something needed to be done. I immediately thought of bars. I've been trying different cranberry bars for a few years now, looking for the perfect one for my cookie platters, and have yet to find "The One." I thought I'd re-try one that I had thought okay, but in need of tweaking. And it turned out, that I'd tweaked it the first time, and by sticking to the recipe, I created a delightful cranberry bar.

The original recipe was called Cranberry-Macadamia Bars, and I found it in the 1999 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookie Issue. And although I adore macadamia nuts, this recipe called for a cup of them chopped, and that would cost me around 7 or 8 bucks just for the nuts. I would purchase them if I thought they would star, but looking at the recipe, I knew the cranberries and coconut would take over, so I opted for pecans instead. Other than that, I made two minor changes. I left out the orange zest called for, and I added a drizzle of white chocolate ganache to the top (hey, I'm all about the gilding). They are wonderful! I used my food processor to chop the cranberries, and that worked so well- I was able to get them nice and fine, so there weren't big bites of cranberry overwhelming anything. The coconut got nicely browned and toasty on the top, and I love the shortbread bottom with the pecans. All around, these are a great bar, and they may very well make the cut this year. The red from the cranberries and white from the coconut give them a festive look as well.
Cranberry Macadamia Bars may very well star on my next holiday cookie platter... too soon to tell for sure though.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Better Than Take-out!!

I love Chinese take-out. Love it. For us though, we really have to be committed to take-out to order it. For us, Chinese take-out means at least a 30 minute drive, plus the cost of the food. And since I can never make up my mind, we always order a ton of food so I can have a little bit of everything. What I don't excel at is cooking Chinese food. I know part of that is that I don't have a wok for things like a stir-fry, but I really think part of my problem is a lack of good recipes.

Well, last week I was making this week's menu plan, and I decided that I needed to make some old favorites. So I was flipping through an old Cooking Light annual when I stumbled on this recipe that I'd always wanted to try, but never got around to. So it went on the menu. Honey-Ginger Chicken Bites were billed as an appetizer, but I decided it would be okay to serve it over rice with some veggies on the side. Oh. My. God. This chicken is mouth-watering good. It is very similar to the sesame chicken that we order- only this one is actually better. The recipe called for chicken thighs, and I could not find boneless, skinless thighs anywhere, so I settled for some bone in which I had to de-bone myself, and then some chicken breasts as well. Next time I will make it with only chicken thighs. The thigh bites were tender, juicy, and perfectly caramelized with honey-ginger sauce. The breast bites kind of dried out a little, and while still tasty, the thighs were much more flavorful. Next time I will also eliminate the orange peel, it really didn't add to the dish, and it was a slightly off flavor. The only other change I would make would be to double the sauce when serving over rice.

This was an excellent dinner served with some basmati rice and some sesame oil roasted broccoli and mushrooms on the side. Zander scarfed his down, Abigail not so much, although I'm hoping she'll try again next time because this was an instant hit and will be repeated when I'm in the mood for a take-out night. Now I just need to figure out how to make awesome pot-stickers, and I'll be in Chinese hog heaven.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Kay... All Clear

I had to wait until lil' sis posted about it first... but I'm very excited to say that I'm going to be an auntie again!!!!! My sweet sister Rachel and her hubby Cody are expecting a little sprout next July!!! Remember this wedding that I catered? A humongo congratulations to the soon-to-be parents!!!! And let me tell you, the cousins are sooo excited too. Abigail says "It's not that long until July!" Take care of Little Sprout you two!

Baked Potato Soup

When this soup debuted in Cooking Light magazine a few years ago, it caused quite a commotion. People couldn't decide if it really was good. And with the commonality of low-carb diets, a loaded baked potato soup can't really be considered healthy. I was one of the first to make this soup, and I remember reading through the ingredients the first time around and wondering why they used 6 cups of milk as the base to this soup. Surely there was something more flavorful that could be used? Maybe a little chicken broth or even some buttermilk to perk it up. I've played with it on and off over the last several years, and this is easily one of our favorite soups.

Although this time I made it with plain old russet potatoes, my favorite potatoes to use are red skinned potatoes- and then I leave the skins on half of them, and leave that in the soup. That adds so much more character, plus a little more texture. I have successfully made this soup without the bacon even as a meatless alternative, and it's just as good then. I consistently use half buttermilk/half milk when making this, and an absolute must for me here is Penzey's Fox Point Seasoning. If I don't have Fox Point, I can't make this soup. The recipe in my Recipe Trove is my modified version of Baked Potato Soup. This soup cooks up quickly, and I found that it keeps quite nicely in a crock-pot set to low for a few hours, so you can make it ahead of time if you need to. Leftovers (if there are any) do not freeze very well though, so you're better off planning to eat up the leftovers in a few days.


Please remember to do your Patriotic duty today and vote. It's important that we remember what makes this country so great- our opinions do matter, and this is the time to show that. Go vote.

Monday, November 6, 2006

It's an obsession.

I have become obsessed with eggs. Seriously obsessed! Especially my new fondness for the soft-boiled egg. I wonder if some of that comes from my sincere love for Eggs Benedict,and the fact that A) I cannot poach eggs and B) I've never attempted a hollandaise. And that soft boiled egg with it's decadently creamy interior is just heaven!! Today I needed to experiment a bit. I wanted to figure out the perfect timing for an egg- so the white was fully cooked, and the yolk warmed through, but still runny and golden.

First egg up I brought the water nearly to a boil, dropped in an egg fresh out of the fridge, and brought the whole thing up to a boil. Once it started boiling rapidly, I set the timer for 3 minutes. When it was done, I eagerly hacked into this egg, only to discover runny egg whites. That one went in the disposal. Attempt two was much more successful. My water was already at a hard boil, so I just dropped in another cold egg. I gave this one 4 1/2 minutes. When it was done, I took it out and set it in a bowl to continue internally cooking for a minute. This egg was perfect. The white cooked through, and the yolk... just the way I like it. I was very careful with this egg though, I had planned a special treatment for it. So I very delicately peeled this egg which was not an easy feat, considering the egg was soft and squishy, and I didn't want it to break open in the least.

I started with a portobello mushroom cap (stem removed). I placed this under the broiler with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. After about 3 minutes I pulled the mushroom out. I carefully slid my peeled soft-boiled whole egg onto the mushroom cap. Onto this I sprinkled a tiny bit of cheddar cheese, green onions, and some leftover cooked bacon pieces. The whole assembly carefully slid under the broiler until the cheese was bubbly- maybe a minute or so. And finally, I placed my mushroom/egg stack on top of a slice of buttered toast. The second I cut into that egg with my fork, I knew I had a winner. The egg yolk slowly oozed out and smothered the mushroom cap, pulling along a few crumbs of bacon with it. Every single bit of this egg tower was delightful, and I am contemplating repeating tomorrow- only an English Muffin as the base would be the ultimate breakfast indulgence.

9 Wierd Things Meme

Okay, I lied. I actually will have 3 posts today. I was reminded of the meme which I was tagged for by Cooking Is Medicine. I will try and put the foodie twist on this meme.

9 Weird Things about me.

1. I don't like ice cream with my cake. I hate it when the ice cream gets all melty and gets into the cake. Separate vessels for me please.

2. My absolute favorite sandwich is banana, peanut butter, and marshmallow. (Sometimes with chocolate for good measure)

3. I love, love, love chopping garlic. Give me a knife and a cutting board and garlic, and I will be a happy person. I will never own a garlic press or chop my garlic in a processor.

4. I don't like sourdough bread. I wish I did, but I keep trying it, and I just don't like that tang in my bread. I don't like white sourdough- or rye breads made with a starter. Ack. Just not for me, I guess.

5. I also don't like butter on my bread unless the bread is warm. I love it when the butter can melt into the bread, but I can't stand cold butter smeared on a slice of cold bread.

6. I love Kool-Aid. Plain old fruity Kool-Aid is my favorite summer-time drink. Give me a choice between a great Iced Tea and Kool-Aid, and I will most often choose the Kool-Aid.

7. Oven-roasted vegetables are the Holy Grail to me. I adore roasting any vegetable with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I'm even contemplating trying roasting lettuce... I just love it when the vegetables get all caramelized and sweet... and watch out if there are mushrooms added!

8. I love tequila. Straight up, in a margarita, or a tequila sunrise... I am a tequila girl.

9. I dream of someday running a Chocolaterie- just like the one in the movie Chocolat. I would love to spend my days making candy and chocolate and other pastries and confections. I love the feel of chocolate tempering with my bare hands. This year I'm hoping to experiment with some savory flavors in my chocolates...

Would you like to do this meme? Consider yourself tagged. You don't have to limit it to foodie choices if you don't want. 9 Weird Things About You.

Slow Weekend

I guess I ignored my blog this weekend. Sorry about that! I apologize to anyone checking in here for something new. There wasn't anything special about this weekend, just busy with the kids, I guess. But lucky for you! I have two posts today, so make sure you come back later for the second post.

On Saturday I was cleaning up the kitchen when I spied a fruit fly. I was busy wondering where he came from when I lifted a piece of paper and spotted three very brown and perfect for baking bananas. Something needed to be done right then and there. My initial thought was banana bread or muffins, but then I thought that it's been a few weeks since I've brought something to church on Sunday, so I should make something for that. My search led to the good folks at Recipezaar, a recipe site that I really like to visit. The sheer volume of recipes there is amazing! What I really love about Recipezaar though is the review system. When you make a recipe from there, you can rate the recipe for others. That always helps me choose one item over another, reading the reviews. Saturday, I decided to see if there was such a thing as Banana Bars, and I was not disappointed. There were about 8 recipes, and I very quickly found one that had 14 mostly positive reviews- and it made a 15 x 10 sheet pan- a necessary for me.

These came together extremely quickly- my additions to the recipe were mini chocolate chips and walnuts, and I also played with the sugar a bit. I knew I was going to frost these, and many of the reviewers said they were sweet, so instead of 2 cups of plain sugar, I used 1 cup of plain sugar, and 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar. The sweetness was right on with the frosting. For the frosting I opted to not go with a cream cheese frosting, since that's not universally friendly. Instead I made a vanilla butter cream and then added about 1/4 cup of caramel ice cream topping. So it actually was a caramel frosting- and that was really good too. The Frosted Banana Bars turned out excellent, and were a huge hit. Later today I will be thanking the original poster on Recipezaar with a favorable review.

Friday, November 3, 2006

A Quest

Yesterday I received the December issue of Eating Well magazine. I've really grown to love this magazine. I like their approach to food and the recipes I've tried from them have all been winners. Last night I was paging through the issue when a familiar face crossed my vision. It was none other than Cookie Madness author Anna! When I saw that she was a finalist in a cookie contest, I knew it would be a good one. And I ask you, how could Blueberry and White Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookies really be bad? So today I took Zander grocery shopping and we were on a quest. I needed wheat germ and crystallized ginger to make this cookie. And I needed to make this cookie.

I found the wheat germ easily, but I was back and forth at this grocery store looking for the crystallized ginger. I decided it was no where to be found, and needed to go to a reliable source for the off-beaten ingredient. I headed to a local store, Cathy's Country Store, and easily found the ginger, as well as a basket-full of other things I've been meaning to pick up. I'm going to put in a little plug for Cathy, because they have great stuff at reasonable prices. They have bulk flours, sugars, spices, seeds, as well as special dietary things like sugar substitutes and lots of natural foods. And their prices are fantastic. Do check out their website, as they have a lot of hard-to find ingredients like nutritional yeast and sucanat among many many others.

Back to the cookies. The dough came together extremely quick. It took longer to get the ingredients out than it took to mix them together. At the last minute I decided to leave out the crystallized ginger. I just couldn't convince myself that the kids would enjoy getting a bite of that. They baked up quickly, and really couldn't cool fast enough. And the result? These are a great cookie! The crystallized ginger I'm sure perfectly compliments the blueberries and white chocolate, so I will be adding it next time. If I need to, I'll just make two batches, one with the ginger, and one without. These are kind of like a hearty oatmeal cookie- but the blueberries and white chocolate play off each other perfectly. These cookies get an enthusiastic thumbs up from Andy, who wants me to add some slivered almonds next time. They will be repeated here very soon. With the addition of wheat germ, and using canola oil for the fat, if you close your eyes, you can pretend your eating something healthy and good for you.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

A Classic

This past Sunday for company dinner I chose an old reliable. There is nothing more classic or more homey than a pan of lasagne. Sauce, meat, cheeses, and sheets of noodles all layered together in the ultimate Italian inspired casserole. Lasagne can seem daunting to some people, but really, once you have the ingredients, it's easier than it seems. And one of these ingredients has gotten easier over time. The noodles.

I used to hate assembling lasagne specifically because of the noodles. I hated working with those long skinny curly-edged noodles. They never came out of the pot cooked and in one piece, and they would get sticky in-between layering. Just plain annoying to work with, and for me, they were a deterrent to making lasagne very often. Then one day I discovered that Barilla lasagne noodles needed no precooking. Ah! A savior to lasagne cooks everywhere!

These noodles are a different shape than the standard lasagne noodle. These are smaller and wider rectangles- and fit perfectly in a 9 x 13 pan. I mean, perfectly. And they don't' require pre-cooking. The only trick to them is to make sure that the edges overlap the tiniest bit. Otherwise, they make lasagne assembly a snap. It's so much easier to spread a creamy cheese blend on hard noodles, and the lasagne turns out perfectly every time. This time around, I actually followed the recipe on the back of the Barilla box, using Mario Batali's simple tomato sauce as amy sauce. I actually wouldn't use that sauce again for lasagne. It was a nice sauce, nice and light, and full of fresh flavor, but I think I like my lasage sauce to be more robust and hearty. Overall the lasagne was wonderful.

Another benefit to these noodles is that they are freezable. (No, I promise, there are no kickbacks from Barilla here.) You can assemble your lasagne and pop it into the freezer unbaked. The lasagne then needs to thaw for 24 hours in the fridge before baking, but what a thing to have on hand! A delicious homemade lasagne at the ready. This would make an excellent dish to prepare ahead of time for when you know company is coming. You can have it all prepared as far in advance as you want, and dinner is ready for your guests, while you spend time visiting with them. Gotta love that. Lasagne also has endless variations. You can change up the cheeses, add vegetables, change the meats from beef to turkey to sausage, there are endless possibilities to lasagne. A family favorite around here. And a big thank you to Barilla for sensing my endless frustration with the lasagne noodle.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Thanks to Nigella

The other day I actually caught a bit of Nigella Lawson's new show on the Food Network. She is a reason alone to watch that channel. I just love her. She has such a casual way of cooking, yet she presents it in such a classy manner. The other day she made a simple egg dish, and I realized that I had never had it. Please don't laugh, but I've never eaten a soft-boiled egg. And as I watched her slice off the top of the egg and dunk the toast into this gloriously gooey egg yolk, I knew I had to have it. There was no discussing it and going back and forth, I had to have that egg.

So I followed her directions. Nigella suggested using room temperature eggs, and dropping them into boiling water for 4 minutes. She also said that if your eggs are chilled, you can drop them in the water before it comes to a boil, and that will work as well. So I put a pot of water on to boil and got out an egg. I waited until it was almost boiling before dropping it in and setting a timer. While the egg cooked, I popped a slice of bread into the toaster for dunking in the egg. It seemed like that 4 minutes took forever! When the timer went off I realized I had a problem. I don't have an egg cup. I've never seen a need for an egg cup, to be honest. So I quickly grabbed an espresso cup and put a little foil in the bottom to make a makeshift cup for my egg. It worked okay.

I sliced the top off the egg, which revealed a wonderfully golden center- slightly more cooked than I had hoped for, but still slightly runny, so that was okay. I gave it a sprinkle of good Fleur de Sel and eagerly dunked a toast point. Heaven. Pure heaven. I don't know why it took me so long to try this absolutely simple breakfast. It was fantastic. I think I need to work on my timing just a tad, because I want my egg yolk to be gooey, but overall, I was simply amazed. I had a nice cup of Irish Breakfast tea to accompany, and I had breakfast fit for the queen. If you haven't tried a soft boiled egg, you're really missing out. And now I am on the prowl for some egg cups.