Thursday, January 29, 2009

Alfredo Sauce

My husband and I just love Alfredo sauce, so I tend to make it quite a bit! I started with this recipe but over time it has really evolved to suit mine and my husband's tastes. I love the way this Alfredo comes out every time, and I just realized I never made a post dedicated to it! So here is my favorite recipe, I hope you enjoy!

Adapted from Tyler Florence

2 cups milk (I usually use a combo of 1 cup fat free half and half and 1 cup skim)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 shallot, minced
2 small or medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp all purpose flour

Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add butter and whisk occasionally until all of the butter has melted. When the butter has melted, whisk in flour, shallot and garlic and let it sit at a very low simmer (make sure it doesn't really boil) for aprox. 3-5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Whisk in cheese and add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Continue to let the sauce simmer very slightly until it is at the consistency you want. Great with fresh pasta. Garnish pasta with chives or green onions, if desired!

Laughing Cow Stuffed Chicken

I recently "discovered" Laughing Cow cheese and how delicious it is! Perfect for an afternoon snack that won't ruin the diet. This laughing cow stuffed chicken recipe has been floating around the cooking board I frequent quite a bit, so I'm not sure of the original source. I personally found it on the Love Deliciousness blog, but forgot to print out the recipe! So this is how I made it, although I don't think it' s much different then the recipe I forgot to print out. I poured a little leftover homemade Alfredo sauce over my chicken which just added to the delicious cheeseyness of the meal! This dish is a great weeknight meal, but I mean, how can cheese stuffed chicken ever be bad?!

Adapted from Love Deliciousness

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, rinsed and dried
2 wedges Laughing cow cheese
1/2 cup all purpose flour
aprox. 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs (I used Italian style Panko)
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a slit in both breasts and stuff one wedge of cheese in each slit. Using a toothpick, secure slit so cheese doesn't come out. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper, and then dredge both breasts in flour until completely coated. Then spray both breasts with a little non-stick spray (I used olive oil spray), and roll in Panko bread crumbs until completely coated. Place chicken breasts in a medium-large baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and cover with foil. Bake for aprox. 1 hour or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Homemade Pasta

I had sooo much fun making pasta last weekend! think it was the most fun I've ever had making food! Maybe simple things just amuse me, but the way you feed the dough through the roller and have it turn out nice and thin and then put it through the fettuccine cutter....awesome!

This was, however, my second attempt at making pasta. My first attempt failed dough was way too dry (think sawdust) so I had to throw it away. However, I mustered up enough strength to try it again and it turned out perfectly! Just follow your instinct...when the dough looks like it has enough flour it probably does. And when you are rolling it you add more flour anyways.

When searching for a recipe I turned to Good Things Catered because I've yet to be disappointed with a recipe from there! The only thing I did differently was add about a tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil when I was whisking the eggs into the flour.

Source: Good Things Catered - Originally from Williams-Sonoma

2 ¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
(I added 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil in with the eggs)
Semolina flour for dusting (I used all purpose)

-Place the 2 ¼ c. flour in a mound on a work surface.
-Make a well in the center large enough to hold the beaten eggs and pour the eggs into the well.
-Using a fork, begin gradually incorporating some of the flour from the sides, taking care not to break the flour wall.
-When the eggs are no longer runny, you can stop worrying about the wall.
-Continue working in more flour until the dough is no longer wet.
-Begin kneading the dough by hand, adding as much additional all-purpose flour as needed until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, 3 to 5 min.
-After reading other recipes online, I decided to let the dough rest for about 15 minutes at this point.
-Scoop up any remaining flour and pass it through a sieve to remove any large particles.
-Set the sieved flour aside.
-Dust baking sheets with semolina flour.
-Divide the dough in half.
-Keep one half on the work surface, covered with a kitchen towel to prevent it from drying.
-Set up your pasta machine alongside another work surface.
-Lightly flour the work surface with some of the reserved sieved flour.
-Using a rolling pin, flatten the other dough half into a rectangle thin enough to go through the rollers at the widest setting.
-Pass the dough through the rollers once, then lay the resulting ribbon down on the work surface and flour it lightly.
-Fold into thirds lengthwise to make a rectangle and flour both sides lightly.
-Flatten the dough with the rolling pin until it is thin enough to go through the rollers again.
-With one of the two open edges going first, pass the dough through the rollers nine more times at the widest setting; after each time, flour, fold and flatten the dough as described.
-After 10 trips through the wide rollers, the dough should be completely smooth and supple.
-Now you are ready to thin the dough. Starting at the second-to-widest setting, pass the dough through the rollers repeatedly, setting the rollers one notch narrower each time.
-When the pasta ribbon gets unwieldy, cut it in half and continue rolling one part at a time until the dough reaches the desired thinness.
-Arrange the finished pasta sheets on the prepared baking sheets and cover with kitchen towels to prevent drying.
-Repeat the entire process with the second half of dough.
-Cut the pasta by hand or machine as desired.

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

I've been wanting to make this soup for a while now because it's one of my husband's favorites, and I love it too! It was snowy here over the weekend so I put off grocery shopping, but I had all of the ingredients for this on hand so it worked out well! I served the soup with some croutons and freshly baked sourdough bread. The only complaint I had with this recipe is that I felt it wasn't quite cheesy enough even though I think I used more cheese than the recipe called for, and I used extra sharp cheddar! Besides that, the soup was great and the consistency was perfect. I felt a little weird that it didn't call for a roux but it worked out great. This was a perfect meal for a snowy winter's night.

Adapted from

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, cut into medium dice
1/2 small shallot, minced (I added the shallot to the original recipe)
2 teaspoons garlic powder (I used 3 freshly minced garlic cloves and omitted garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk (I used skim)
salt to taste
8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp)

  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a stockpot. Cook onion and shallot in butter until softened. Add garlic and pepper; cook for 1 minute then stir in broccoli, and stir in chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until broccoli is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile whisk flour into milk until dissolved. Stir into soup stirring frequently until thickened. Reduce heat, and stir in cheese until melted and heated through.
  3. Season with salt to taste.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Breakfast Tart

As soon as I saw this recipe in my latest Williams-Sonoma catalog, I knew I had to try it. I for one am not a big fan of breakfast foods, but I am a fan of Puff Pastry and Bacon! Plus my husband was out of town for a week so I wanted to make him a special breakfast Saturday morning.

This tart was absolutely divine. It was really easy to make and just came out perfectly. I will most certainly be making this again on "special" mornings like Christmas, Easter and Birthday mornings! However, the calorie count is something I really don't want to think about. This is, however, an absolutely delicious, special breakfast that I will be making again!



1 sheet puff pastry dough
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
3 oz. crème fraîche
2 oz. shredded Gruyère cheese (I used Danish Fontina cheese)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 bacon slices, cooked until crisp
3 eggs
10 fresh chives, cut on the bias into 1/2-inch lengths


Thaw the puff pastry dough according to the package instructions.
Preheat an oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

On lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and cut into a 10-by-8-inch rectangle. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score a border 1/2 inch in from the edge of the pastry. Using a fork, prick the center of the pastry. Brush the border with the egg wash and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

(Note: I like a really thick crust so I used one sheet of pastry (didn't roll it) and then 1/3 of another sheet and pressed them together. I then cut another 1/3 of a sheet into strips and used that to form my crust. It worked out very well but made much too much for just my husband and I!)

In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche and cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Spread the crème fraîche mixture on the pastry, keeping the border clean. Lay the bacon on top, slightly overlapping the slices. Bake the tart for 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a level heatproof surface. Using a fork, prick any large air pockets in the pastry. Crack the eggs onto the tart, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still soft, 7 to 10 minutes.

(When I put the tart in for the 2nd time, I covered the crust with foil. I really didn't want it to burn so this worked out well!)

Transfer the tart to a platter, garnish with the chives and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Crème fraîche

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Up here in the country where I live, crème fraîche is not readily available to buy in most supermarkets. So when I saw a recipe that I was dying to make that called for crème fraîche, I decided to try and make my own. Through further research online, I found that this homemade version of crème fraîche isn't really the "real" thing but it certainly worked for me. I thought of doing this a little too late so I didn't give it enough time to thicken. However, the slightly loose consistency worked with my recipe and the flavor was definitely there. I definitely want to make it again and next time give it more time to thicken.

Source: Joy of Baking

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbps. Buttermilk


In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm cream to 105 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in buttermilk. Transfer the cream to a large bowl and allow this mixture to stand in a warm place, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until thickened but still of pouring consistency. Stir and taste every 6-8 hours. This process takes from 24-36 hours, depending on room temperature. The crème fraîche is done when it is thickened with a slightly nutty, sour taste. Chill cream in the refrigerator for several hours before using. May be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Baked Walleye with a lemon cream sauce

My husband doesn't like fish unless is breaded, fried and drenched in tarter sauce. So when he was out of town for work last night, my mom came over and brought some fresh Walleye. A friend of my dad's goes out and ice fishes almost every day and gives him many filets. In addition, he is an expert fish-cleaner so there are no bones at all! If you've never had walleye, you definitely should try it. It is SO mild...even more so then Tilapia in my opinion!

I didn't use a recipe to make this dish because I had an idea in mind of how I wanted to make it. It came out SO good. Even today my mom called and said how great dinner was last night. It's definitely an easy weeknight meal that looks like it takes a lot longer to make then it actually does! I served this fish with some pasta tossed with Extra Virgin Olive oil, minced garlic, Italian herbs and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

2 fresh filets of Walleye (or any other mild fish)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs (I used 1/2 plain and 1/2 italian seasoned)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk (I use skim)
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
aprox. 3-4 chives, sliced
juice of half of a lemon
aprox. 1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse off fish and pat dry. Season filets with salt and pepper. On one plate, add flour. On another, add Panko bread crumbs. And in a small bowl, add egg. Dredge both filets in flour, then egg, then Panko. Press fish into bread crumbs to create a generous coating. Place both filets in a baking dish coated with non stick spray, and bake for aprox. 20 minutes or until fish is no longer pink and easily flakes with a fork.

While fish is cooking, make the sauce. In a small-medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is melted, add shallots and garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the garlic and shallots are fragrant and tender. Then whisk in flour and cook for another 1-2 minutes, whisking continuously. Make sure the mixture does not get too brown, it should be a light golden color. Whisk in milk and continue to whisk every few minutes to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. When the mixture comes up to a simmer, whisk in Parmesan, chives, nutmeg, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste...I used 1/2 of a small lemon and I squeezed it very lightly. The mixture should gradually start to thicken. When it reaches your desired consistancy, drizzle over cooked fish.

Note- make sure you taste the sauce a lot at the end to get the seasoning right. If the sauce does not have enough salt, it is very "boring" tasting. You can easily tell when you have reached the perfect amount! This is really a delicious sauce when seasoned correctly!

My very first blog award!!

I was so very honored and happy to find out that my blog was nominated for a "Lemonade Award" by Run, Play, Cook (which is a seriously awesome blog...definitely check it out!)!!! Thank you very, very much!!!

And of course there are some rules that come attached to this great award:

- Add the logo in your blog.
- Add a link to the person who gave you the award.
- Nominate 10 other (refreshing…like lemonade) blogs of your choice.
- Don’t forget to add links to those blogs in yours.
- Also leave a message for your nominees in their blogs, informing them about the award.

So here are my 'nominees':

Cooking This and That
Erin's Food Files
Erica's Kitchen Adventures
Macaroni & Cheesecake
Woman With a Whisk
Confections of a Foodie Bride
Vintage Victuals
Love Deliciousness

These are all my favorite blogs that are so inspiring to me....although I definitely could have named a few more! Definitely check them all out...they are all fabulous food blogs!!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Homemade Pizza Dough

Well, third try's the charm! After 2 failed attempts, I finally conquered making homemade pizza dough! After realizing that my house is just too cold to produce a good rise out of my pizza dough (thus the 2 failed attempts), I decided to utilize a newly acquired tool- my bread maker! It's the perfect environment for dough obviously, and it worked out fabulously. I followed this recipe from the Dinner & Dessert blog and just altered the steps in order for it to match the steps my bread maker came with (ie. put the wet ingredients in first, then the dry, then put it on the "dough" setting, etc.). So I'm going to post the original recipe with the original directions, because all I did was just dump the ingredients in the bread maker and go work on my puzzle. :)

The pizza crust was big and delicious and really it was so easy to make in the bread maker. I will be making pizza crust this way from now on! For me, this recipe made 2 large pizza's. I topped mine with my favorite: Extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, tomato slices and Mozzarella cheese!

Pizza Dough
Source: Dinner & Dessert, originally from Baking Illustrated, pages 153-155

Makes enough for 3 medium pizzas.

We find the food processor is the best tool for making pizza dough. However, only a food processor with a capacity of at least 11 cups can handle this much dough. You can also knead this dough by hand or in a standing mixer (see the variations that follow). Unbleached all-purpose flour can be used in a pinch, but the resulting crust will be less crisp. If you want to make pizza dough in the morning and let it rise on the counter all day, decrease the yeast to 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at cool room temperature (about 68 degrees) until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, which will take 6 to 8 hours.

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.

3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by h and for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.

Pizza Dough Kneaded by Hand
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

Pizza Dough Kneaded in a Standing Mixer
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

Pizza Sauce

2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce or 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon marjoram
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan on medium heat until warm. Spoon over pizza dough.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crispy Coated Ranch Chicken

For dinner last night my husband requested "Chicken with a crispy coating." Don't you love how specific he is?! I didn't have time to find a recipe online, so I just came up with something when I got home. It was a super-simple weeknight meal that was very good. I served it with Creamy Parmesan Orzo. I thought it was lacking a little something but I couldn't figure out what. Maybe I just underseasoned it. Either way, my husband loved it and asked me to make it again so that's definately a good sign! It's certainly not a "refined" dish but it's great for the weeknight!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - pounded to an even thickness
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tbsp milk
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 packet of dry ranch mix (I used hidden valley)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregeno
1/2 tsp dried thyme
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If necessary, dry chicken breasts and then season with salt and pepper. On one plate add flour. On a separate plate, mix together Panko bread crumbs and dried basil, oregeno and thyme. In a shallow bowl beat eggs and milk. Open ranch packet and keep it close so you don't have to open it while your hands are in chicken! Coat chicken breast in flour, then dip in the egg wash, then lighly sprinkle on dry ranch mix (to your tastes), then press into Panko bread crumbs to create a nice, crunchy coating on both sides and place in a 13x9 baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Repreat with remaining chicken breast. Cover dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Then, take off the foil, spray the top of the chicken breasts with non-stick spray, and bake for an additional 15 minutes for a nice, crispy crust.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Braised Chicken with Rosemary and Potatoes

(sorry for my crummy pictures...I was way too excited to eat!)

For years I have been wanting to make braised chicken. Whenever I saw it on Food Network it just looked so appetizing but I never had the appropriate 'cooktop to oven' cooking vessel. So for Christmas this year my husband got me an awesome enameled cast iron dutch oven! My first use of this great present was, of course, braised chicken. I am a huge fan of the Good Things Catered blog so I went there first for a recipe where I found "Chicken Braised in White Wine". It sounded good, and I had most of the ingredients.

I can't even begin to tell you how great this dish was. It is hands down my absolute new favorite way of preparing chicken. It was just so flavorful and the potatoes were cooked so perfectly. Everything in this dish blended perfectly together and it just felt so provincial and comforting. I think that the addition of the fresh rosemary really added a lot to the already great flavors. Honestly, this dish was heavenly and I can't wait for next weekend so I can make it again! I had to a adapt this dish a bit (ie. using boneless chicken breasts...which I was a little worried about using...but they came out sooo good!) to make it fit what I had on hand/make it more to my tastes, but I just loved how it came out!!!

Adapted from Good things Catered, originally from Williams-Sonoma

1/3 c. all-purpose flour plus 2 Tbsp, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 c. white wine
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf
About 5-6 small/medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. On a plate, combine 1/3 cup flour, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat evenly. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil to almost smoking. Add the chicken and brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total and transfer to a plate.

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, to reduce, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and add the garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary, shallot, bay leaf, salt, pepper and potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and place chicken and potatoes on a separate plate. Place Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour thickened braising sauce over chicken and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Note: During the cooking time in the oven, the sauce thickened itself up beautifully, so I omitted the last couple of steps and did not make a separate braising sauce to pour over the chicken.

Christmas in January

My best friend and I both have hectic lives and don't live very close to each other, so every year our Christmas gift exchange has been on a delay! We usually celebrate sometime in January and switch back and forth between her house and mine. This year it was at my house and I really wanted everyone to relax and enjoy the night. I chose to make simple but delicious items, so I could spend more time chatting over a glass of wine and less time cooking! In addition, I left my Christmas Tree/Decorations up one more weekend so it would still feel Christmas-ey!

The Menu

Spinach Artichoke dip served with tortilla chips

Chicken Francese
Penne with Alfredo Sauce, Shallots and green onions
Honey Yeast Rolls

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake

It was a great night where we got to catch up, reminisce about old times and enjoy some great food and company.

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake

When I first saw this recipe on Amber's Delectable Delights, I knew I wanted to try it. I'm honestly not a huge fan of plain cheesecake, because I'm a chocolate lover and if I'm going to have desert, I'm going to have chocolate. But when I saw this I knew it would be something that would be pleasing, nay, heavenly to most palates. So when my good friends came over the other night, I made this and it was a huge hit. Everyone was definitely impressed and loved it. And while it seems like there are a lot of ingredients/steps, it was very simple to follow and relatively easy to make. I will most certainly be making this again!

As seen on Amber's Delectable Delights, originally from Smitten Kitchen
(I halved this part just because I didn't want any brownies left over! It worked great!)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
13/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Grease foil.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix well. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minute or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs (be careful not to over bake). Cool in pan on wire rack. Remove brownies from pan, using foil handles.

Cool brownies, then cut them into 3/4- to 1-inch squares for use in the cheesecake. You will have more than the two cups of cubes, loosely measured, than you will need, and I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to decide for yourself what to do with the extra. Add cubes to cake batter as directed below.

Chocolate Crumb Crust
(I love lots of crust, so I doubled this!!)
1 1/2 cups or 5 ounces finely ground Oreos, or other chocolate cookie
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir together ingredients and press into bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 10″ springform pan. Fill right away or chill for up to 2 hours.


3 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make crumb crust as directed above for 10-inch cheesecake. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Beat together cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

When completely cool, top with following glaze.

Ganache Glaze

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Place finely chopped chocolate in a medium size mixing bowl. Scald the butter and cream together in a saucepan (or in the microwave on high for 1 minute). Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in vanilla and then whisk in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over cheesecake while ganache is still warm.
Chill the cheesecake until ready to serve.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

This has always been a favorite of me and my husband, so for New Years I made it for the girls at work for our little lunch get-together (there's only 3 of us!). I wanted something fast because I had to cook it on a weeknight, so I used Alton Brown's recipe. It was super simple and very good! I have since made a few changes to make it just to my liking and it is always a hit! It also makes just a little more then what my crock pot little dipper will hold, which is the perfect amount for me!

Adapted from Alton Brown

1 can Artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
6 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, chopped finely
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil.
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise (the original recipe called for this and I made it with the mayonnaise the first time and the dip was very good. But the second time I made this dip I totally forgot about the mayo and the dip turned out perfect....if not better! So I figure, why add the extra calories?!)

Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender (about 10 minutes) and drain in a fine meshed strainer. "Push out" as much water as you can with a spoon. Discard liquid. Melt cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute - 1 minute 30 seconds until hot and soft. Stir in the spinach, artichokes, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, mayo (if using), salt and pepper. Then in a small skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and onions and cook until the onions are tender. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Make sure the onions/garlic don't caramelize too much. Add the cooked onion/garlic mixture to the rest of the ingredients and serve hot. Tastes great on crackers or tortilla chips.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Orzo with balsamic caramelized onions

I almost didn't make my orzo this way last night because I was worried that it would be way too much of the same flavors in one dish, since I made it with my Seared pork chops with balsamic caramelized onions. But since I already had everything out I decided to make it this way and boy was it great! I didn't think the balsamic caramelized onions were too overpowering at all, and it paired so nicely with pork chops. I started with my favorite orzo recipe that I found on the excellent blog "cook like a champion" and went on from there!

Adapted from Cook like a Champion

1 tbsp butter
1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cups water
1 small onion, sliced
aprox 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
aprox. 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook stirring constantly about 3 minutes. Add Chicken stock and water to orzo, and bring to a boil while stirring. Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the orzo is simmering, add aprox. 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Once the onions start to caramelize, add about 2 tbsp. balsamic to the hot skillet. Once the onions are sufficiently caramelized to your liking and the orzo has simmered for about 12 minutes, add the balsamic onions to the orzo along with another tbsp. of balsamic vinegar (this last tbsp. can be omitted if you like a weaker balsamic flavor, I personally love lots of balsamic!), salt and pepper to taste. Cook the orzo for another 3 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed and serve hot.

Seared pork chops with balsamic caramelized onions

I absolutely love caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar paired with pork chops. It's one of my favorite flavor combinations. Last night, my husband requested pork chops but I didn't feel like making a recipe that I had to follow with ingredients I may or may not have had on hand. So I just whipped this up without a recipe and it was so great. I've never had such juicy pork chops ever, and while it certainly isn't a complicated recipe it, it was just great, simple, weeknight food that my husband and I both loved.
2 pork chops, butterflied
1/2 cup flour
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
aprox 3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, drizzle a little olive oil so it coats the bottom. Add onions and sautee until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile, dry off your pork chops and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then dust the whole chop (top and bottom) with flour so there is a nice coating. When the onions are tender and beginning to caramelize, raise heat to medium-high and sear the pork chops with the onions, about 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown, on each side. Transfer chops to a medium-large baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Drizzle a little Balsamic over each chop, and then add about 2 tbps. of balsamic to the onions that are still in the skillet. Toss onions with balsamic and when most of the vingear has been absorbed, remove from heat and put onions on top of pork chops. Cook in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until the chops are no longer bright pink (a little pink is ok!)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas Dinner

This year, I had my parents and brother over to my house to celebrate Christmas. It was a small and intimate party where we all had a lot of fun and ate a lot of quality food!

This is what was on the menu:

Brie cheese wrapped in a puff pastry with Apricot preserves

Venison wellington with Gravy (the recipe is for beef wellington, but I used venison since my whole family adores it!)
Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin
Whiskey Glazed Baby Carrots
Homemade Pierogi
Honey Yeast Rolls

An assortment of Christmas Cookies
Bûche de Noël

I wish I had set aside some time to take pictures so I could blog about all of these goodies, but dinner went so fast I barely had time to eat! So if you want the recipe for these, just click the link which will take you back to the original recipe.

And since I didn't get a chance to say it before:

I wish you all wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chicken Parmigiana

This is my husband's favorite meal. I've been making it for him since before we got married, and he always loves it and thinks it's a treat when I make it. It's so easy, but I don't make it very often because it's really not the best for you (calorie-wise). So for our last meal before our New Year's diet, I made this for us. I use store bought marinara sauce because my husband has a weird thing about chunks of tomatoes in his sauce (he doesn't like them) so I get super-smooth sauce at the store. But I personally prefer home made sauce! I've never used a recipe for this meal, so this is my take on a classic! A lot of the measurements are approximate, just because I never measure anything for this dish. You can kind of just tell how much you need and adjust it to how you like it. I served it with my favorite Penne Alfredo recipe. Enjoy!

2 Boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, pounded thin
2 cups AP flour
2 eggs
2-3 tbsp milk
1.5 - 2 cups Italian style Panko Bread crumbs
aprox. 3/4 cup vegetable oil
aprox. 1 1/2 cup Marinara sauce
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, then season them with salt and pepper. On one plate, put flour. On a separate plate, add Panko and in a medium bowl whisk together eggs and milk. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, then egg, then flour, then egg and finally Panko. Press the Panko into the Chicken Breast so it sticks. Set coated Chicken breasts aside. In a medium-large saucepan with high sides, add oil so it completely coats the bottom of the pan. Place on stovetop and turn heat up to medium. When the oil is hot, add Chicken breasts and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until the panko is golden brown.

In a 13x9 baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray, add marinara sauce so it coats the bottom of the dish. Place chicken on top of sauce, and then cover the top of the chicken with a little more sauce. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Then take the chicken out of the oven, remove the foil and cover the chicken with as much parmesan and motzerella as you want. Put back into the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

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