Friday, February 27, 2009


Sometimes I get in ruts where I start to make the same side dishes over and over. I like to keep variety in my main courses for dinner, but sometimes my side dishes get overlooked. I have heard about Quinoa lately and decided to try it. My husband and I are making a very conscious effort to eat healthy lately, and these little guys pack a major protein punch! So after about a week of looking for the stuff in my grocery store with no luck, I finally found it in my local health food store in the bulk section and was anxious to try it.

I thought it was really easy to make, cooked up quickly and tasted great! You do have to make sure you rinse the Quinoa thoroughly though! I put mine in a big bowl of cold water and then ran it through a fine mesh sieve which worked perfect. I read that it takes on a funky taste/texture if you do not rinse it well.

I will definitely be making this as a side dish again. It tastes great, is easy to make, and is good for you. What more could you ask for from a little grain?!

Adapted from

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of dried parsley
A pinch of dried thyme
1 small onion, finely chopped

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa, and toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.

After about 10 minutes when the quinoa has absorbed much of the water, add your onions, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for remaining 5 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed and the quinoa and onions are very tender. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Country French Bread

And my 100th blog post! I can't believe I've blogged 100 recipes since last October. In fact, it came up on me so fast I didn't really plan a "special" recipe per se for this post, but this bread was so good, it sure worked out to be pretty special! I also want to give a big THANK YOU to everyone who reads my little blog! I really love to cook, I'm learning to love baking a lot more and I really have a great time blogging about my recipes. I can't wait to post the next hundred, and the next hundred after that, and the next hundred after get the idea!

So about this special bread. I've actually made it twice now. First time I let the sponge sit for 2 hours, the second time I let it sit for 16 hours. Definitely let it sit as long as you can! The bread gets these great holes in it and has a lovely texture. The crust is perfect, as is the inside. I have made 1 large loaf both times which works out great. Also, I used my bread maker for the sponge and to mix the dough itself, but then took it out to let it rise and bake. A great tip I recently learned: if you have a cold kitchen (like me) and things don't rise that well in it, put the dough in the oven (while the oven is off!) with a pot of boiling water. It makes for the perfect temperature to rise the dough, and keeps it moist.

Anyways this is a great bread that you should definitely try! And the appearance makes it look so artisan, so it's perfect to serve to company! They will be very impressed that you made it yourself!

Source: King Arthur Flour

Sponge Starter (Begin 2 to 16 hours ahead)
1 cup (8 ounces) cool to lukewarm water, preferably spring water (90 to 100°F)
1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) King Arthur White Whole Wheat or Traditional Whole Wheat Flour

All of the sponge starter (above)
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water, preferably spring water (l00 to 115°F)
3/4 teaspoon active dry or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 3/4 to 4 cups (1 pound to 1 pound 1 ounce) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To Make The Sponge: Stir all of the sponge ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on a counter overnight or for at least 2 to 4 hours. If you're making this in a bread machine, place the sponge ingredients inside, and turn the machine on for just a few seconds to mix the ingredients together. Turn the machine off and close the cover. Let the sponge rest for 4 hours or overnight (anywhere between 2 and 16 hours is fine, the longer the better).

To Make The Dough: Stir down the sponge with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, most of the flour (hold back about 1/2 cup to use if required), and salt. Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary, to make a soft dough, 10 to 12 minutes.

Note: You may also do this in your bread machine, using the Dough or Manual setting. After the dough has finished kneading, place it in a lightly greased bowl, and continue as directed below.

Big Tip: Mix ingredients together using up to 80% of the flour called for: it will be a loose, messy mass. Let the dough rest for 12 minutes, and you'll see it change in texture, to be come much smoother. Continue, kneading and adding additional flour as required. Overall, the dough handles better once its had time for the flour to absorb the water while resting and relaxing. By using this method, you'll tend to add less flour, and have much bigger holes in your finished bread.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or plastic container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and a damp towel, and let it rise until almost doubled (depending on the weather, this could be l to 2 hours). If you're going out, or if you prefer, let the dough rise slowly in the fridge. If your dough has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature; it'll warm up and rise at the same time. After its first rise, deflate the dough gently, but don't knock out all the air; this will create those "holes" so important to French bread. Form the dough into a round ball. Place two cookie sheets atop one another, and place a semolina- or cornmeal-dusted piece of parchment paper on top. Gently place the ball of dough on the cookie sheets, seam-side down. Cover it lightly with a tea towel, and let it rise the second time until it's puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes (depending on the weather, luck, and magic). Slash or cross-hatch the bread with a sharp knife or lame. Dust it with a little flour.

Preheat your grill to High. Place the bread (on the doubled-up cookie sheets) on the grill, and close the cover. Immediately reduce the heat to Medium (400°F), and allow the bread to bake for 25 minutes, or until it's well-browned. Reduce the heat to Low, and carefully place the bread directly on the grill. Continue to bake until completely done, about 5 minutes.

For Regular (Oven) Baking: Preheat the oven to 475°F. Slash the bread, spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister, and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425°F and spritz with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. Bake the bread for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it tests done. Yield: 1 large round bread or two medium breads, 10 to 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (1 hearty slice, 1/12 of recipe, 97g): 180 cal, .5g fat, 6g protein, 38g complex carbohydrates, 1g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 534mg sodium, 74mg potassium, 2mg iron, 89mg calcium, 56mg phosphorus.


Usually on Friday I make a pizza, but last weekend I was in the mood for calzones. So my husband and I each made our own and they came out great! I have no clue if I made them correctly because I had no recipe, but it worked for us! I hate toppings on my pizza, so I also hate different things in my calzones. I personally made myself a cheese calzone with a bit of minced garlic, but my husband added ham and onion to his as well. Overall, this is a great friday night meal and are fun to make because you can customize individual calzones! Just be careful how big you make them, ours were huge so we only ate half!

1 recipe Pizza Dough
Ricotta Cheese
Motzerella Cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
2 eggs
1 tbps milk

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl stir together ricotta cheese (as much as you want...I used about a half of a container of fat free ricotta), one egg and salt and pepper to taste. Seperate your dough into as many portions as calzones you want. Based on the dough recipe I used, I made 2 really big calzones and garlic knots. You could easily get 3-4 normal calzones out of that recipe. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough into a circle, and on one half of that spread the ricotta and motzerella (no quantity because you can put in as much as you want!) Sprinkle the garlic on the cheeses and lightly season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat together remaining egg and milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the edge of the half circle where the cheese is, and fold over the other side of the dough. Press the dough together forming a seal, and then tuck the edges under. Brush the top of the calzone with more of the egg wash. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and melty on the inside! Serve with some warm marinara sauce and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Venison Stew

This is one of the few things I make with my Crockpot. I rarely use my crockpot at all, but it's perfect for stew! My husband and I make this a lot during hunting season, but on Sunday we both really had a taste for it. It fills your house with such a heavenly aroma, that by dinner time your mouth is watering! So this is "our" recipe, we've been making it for years now and never really had an actual recipe, but I think it's pretty darn great! And again, you can sub beef for venison but we personally love the flavor the venison brings. And because we don't have a "real" recipe for this, all measurements are aproximate. We usually just throw in "a little of this" and "a little of that" and it works well!

Aprox. 1-2 lb. venison stew meat
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots chopped, or a few handfuls of baby carrots
2-3 potatoes, roughly chopped
1 Beef Stew seasoning packet (we usually use McCormick)
1 32 oz. carton of beef broth (we use Swanson)
Aprox. 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Put first 7 ingredients in Crockpot on low heat and stir until well combined. Cook for about 8 hours. I have never made this stew and have left for the day (I make it on weekends because I refuse to keep my crockpot on during the day while I'm at work), so I stir it every so often during the day. About an hour before you are ready to eat, whisk together the flour and a bit of water until it forms a thick but pourable paste. Pour into stew and mix until thoroughly combined. If you prefer a thicker gravy, you can keep adding more flour/water mixture but keep in mind that the stew thickens the longer it cooks. So we usually pour in the initial flour/water mixture, wait about 5 minutes, and then add more until the stew reaches your desired consistancy. Serve with some crusty french bread or homemade biscuits.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Last week I got this HUGE craving for soft pretzels. I have no clue why, but I needed to have them! So over the weekend I decided to make some! I heard fabulous things about Alton Brown's recipe and now I know why! They were absolutely delicious and the perfect soft pretzel. These were also really easy and fun to make. I enjoyed twisting them into their fun little pretzel shape...I think they came out really cute! I made 3 kinds - Traditional salt pretzels which is what the recipe makes, and then I "made up" Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels and Garlic Parmesan Pretzels. I think everyone's favorite were the cinnamon sugar pretzels, although I loved them all! Even my husband who "doesn't like pretzels" gobbled the cinnamon sugar ones up. My personal favorite is a traditional pretzel dunked in some yellow mustard....what a treat!

Source: Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (I used kosher)

Optional: Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

2 tbsp butter, melted
Sugar and cinnamon, combined in a small bowl

Optional: Garlic Parmesan

garlic powder
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt for the traditional pretzels. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. (For Garlic Parmesan pretzels, also brush the top of the pretzel with the egg yolk and water mixture, then sprinkle on some garlic powder and grate Parmesan cheese over the top of the pretzel. Bake as directed. For cinnamon sugar pretzels, brush the top of each pretzel with butter, then sprinkle a generous amount of a cinnamon sugar mixture over the pretzel and bake as directed.) Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cheesy Venison Casserole

My husband and I still have a lot of venison in the freezer from the deer he got this past fall. We actually butchered it together and I had fun doing it! I found it really interesting to see where the meat comes from and how you can break it down. Anyways, he said he was in the mood for hamburger helper the other day and asked me to use venison in it instead. I said I would, but I was going to make my "own" version of hamburger helper and not make it from out of the box (obviously). I didn't use a recipe but kind of came up with it as I went along and it came out really great! I love when I make things without a recipe and they actually come out good since I don't do it very often! This is perfect comfort food, and the perfect recipe for when your husband wants hamburger helper but you don't want to make it from a box! You can obviously substitute beef for venison, but I personally loved the flavor the venison gave the dish. I served this meal with some crusty french bread that I topped with Olive Oil and minced garlic, and toasted in the oven for a few minutes.

1 lb ground venison (or beef)
1 box of Large Shell Pasta (I used Barilla)
1 medium-large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 block (4 oz) reduced fat or fat free cream cheese
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups skim milk
1 bay leaf
1 egg
1/2 tsp paprika
1 8 oz. bag shredded 'Mexican' blend cheese (I think this equals about 2 cups)
panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray. Set aside. In a large pot of boiling, salted water add shells and cook for about 12 minutes or until cooked through. Drain, and set pasta aside.

In a large skillet with high sides, cook ground venison over medium-high heat, crumbling/stirring meat every few minutes. When ground beef is almost cooked through and has very little pink left, add onion and garlic. Stir to combine, cover and cook, stirring every few minutes for about 5-7 minutes or until onions are translucent and meat is cooked completely through. Reduce heat to medium-low, add cream cheese and cover. Stir every so often until cream cheese is completely incorporated with meat mixture and has melted. Remove mixture from heat and, keeping it covered, set aside.

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. When melted, whisk in flour and continue whisking until the mixture becomes a very light golden color, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in milk and paprika, add the bay leaf and turn up the heat to medium-high. When the mixture has been brought up to a simmer, lower heat to medium or medium don't want the milk to boil over!!! Make sure you are whisking constantly during this whole process. Let the milk simmer for about 10-12 minutes, or until it has thickened considerably. Remove the bay leaf, and temper in the egg*. Whisk in all of your cheese and continue to whisk until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture is nice and thick.

Now, put your cooked shell noodles in the same pot as the beef mixture, and pour the cheese sauce over everything. I used most of the sauce, but not all of it. Add as much as you want, to your particular cheese liking! Mix everything together thoroughly, season with salt and pepper to taste, and pour in your greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs, and bake for about 20-30 minutes. Serve, and enjoy!

*Tempering in an egg: If you're not a food network junkie like me, you might not know what tempering in an egg means! Basically you don't want your egg to scramble when you put it in a hot mixture, so you have to bring it up to temperature gradually. Crack your egg into a very small bowl or measuring cup, then add a few spoonfuls of your hot milk mixture to it and whisk it in with the egg. Do this 2 or 3 times, adding more of your hot milk mixture each time. Then pour the whole thing back into the thickened hot milk and whisk to combine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I've seen this recipe all over the internet/food blogs, so I'm really not sure where I first saw it. Either way, I've been wanting to make it for a while now (chicken and garlic - what's not to love?) so I found a recipe on Williams-Sonoma.

This was absolutely fantastic. The garlic mellows right out and the chicken is just so moist, flavorful and tender. I served this with some classic mashed potatoes and freshly baked French Bread. (And let me just say, dipping the bread into this gravy was like heaven) And, with this dish I overcame my fear of making bone-in chicken!

I did make a few adjustments to make it work for just my husband and I, which I'll note in the recipe.

Overall this dish was fantastic and I highly recommend trying it if you haven't already!

Adapted from: Williams-Sonoma

2 chickens, each 4 lb., cut into 8 serving pieces (I used 1 Chicken)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
40 garlic cloves, peeled (I used about 25 cloves, since I only used 1 chicken instead of 2)
1 Shallot, Minced (I added this to the original recipe)
1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary (I used dried)
1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme (I used dried)
Zest of 2 lemons (I used 1 lemon)
1/4 cup white wine (I used 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup chicken stock (I used 1/2 cup)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room
temperature, cut into pieces


Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the chicken, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the garlic and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chicken, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with the accumulated juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a platter; leave the garlic in the pan. Cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil.

Set the pan over medium heat and mash the garlic with the back of a spoon. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a sauceboat. Serve the chicken immediately and pass the sauce alongside. Serves 8. (I used the one chicken for my husband and I and we had tons of leftovers...our dogs were very, very happy)!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Smothered Pork Chops

Boy were these delicious!!! I was sick of making pork chops the same old way and found this recipe from Tyler Florence and I'm hooked! My husband and I both loved these and I really look forward to making them again.

Source: Tyler Florence

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick, bone-in
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup buttermilk
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


Put the flour in a shallow platter and add the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels to remove any moisture and then dredge them in the seasoned flour; shaking off the excess.

Heat a large saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the pork chops from the pan and add a little sprinkle of seasoned flour to the pan drippings. Mix the flour into the fat to dissolve and then pour in the chicken broth in. Let the liquid cook down for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Stir in the buttermilk to make a creamy gravy and return the pork chops to the pan, covering them with the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until the pork is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes with Raspberry Chambord Buttercream Frosting

I was really excited about making these because these are the first cupcakes I've ever made! I really want to start baking more, and I thought that cupcakes would be the perfect treat for Valentines Day. When I saw these cupcakes in my Martha Stewart Living magazine, I thought they would be perfect to make because I'm such a huge brownie fan. I added raspberry extract and Chambord to the buttercream to give it a little extra something for Valentines Day! I thought that these turned out great! My husband, me and my co workers just loved about them and I will definitely be making them again!

For the Brownies

Source: Martha Stewart

Vegetable oil cooking spray
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
15 ounces (3 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray, line bottom with parchment, then spray parchment.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring until chocolate melts.
  3. Attach bowl to mixer, add sugar, and whisk on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Spread remaining batter in square pan. Bake until set but still soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins and pan on wire racks.
  5. Frost cupcakes with buttercream. Cut out 24 hearts from brownie in pan using a 1 1/2-inch heart-shaped cutter. Top each cupcake with a heart.

For the Buttercream

Adapted from Martha Stewart

12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon Raspberry Extract
1 teaspoon Chambord
3-4 Drops Red Food Coloring


Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition, about 5 minutes. (After every 2 additions, increase speed to high, and beat for 10 seconds, then reduce speed to medium-high). Add Raspberry extract, red food coloring and Chambord, and beat until buttercream is smooth. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Tea Party

A few years ago I had the pleasure of spending 2 weeks in London on vacation with my family. It was truly the most amazing city I've ever been to (and I don't even like cities!) and my heart aches to go back. The history, the architecture, the museums, the culture, the people, the FOOD everything about that city is amazing.

One of the traditions that my family and I really embraced while in London was tea time. Every afternoon at 4pm or so, we'd go have tea at our hotel or a neighboring one. What a beautiful tradition that is steeped in history. I am a *huge* Jane Austen fan, and to read in her novels about such a historic tradition that is still present in today's society is so amazingly wonderful to me.

So my mom and aunt were saying how they'd like us all to get together and for Christmas my best friend got me the Williams-Sonoma London cookbook with many tempting tea-time recipes. I was anxious to try out some of the recipes so I offered to have a tea party at my house! There were 6 guests total, and it was the perfect number. Small and intimate, a tea party is the perfect party to have for your best friends and family.

The Menu:

Earl Grey
Green Jasmine
Indian Chai

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
Egg and Sprout Tea Sandwiches

Cream Scones with Lemon Curd
Ham and Cheese scones with Butter

Chocolate Fairy Cakes
Strawberries dipped in semi-sweet chocolate

Ham and Cheese Scones

These flaky scones were buttery and savory. With the perfect amount of cheese and ham, these scones are ideal for an afternoon tea party. Be careful though, these scones leave the plate very quickly so be sure to snag one for yourself!!!

Source: Williams-Sonoma: London cookbook, page 76

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup finely grated mature English Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup finely diced ham
2/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs. Using a fork, stire in the cheese and ham. In a small bowl, beat the milk into the egg and add to the flour mixture. Stir just until a rough, soft dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and lightly knead until it clings together and is very soft, about 1 minute. Roll the dough until it is aprox. 3/4 inch thick. Dust a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter with flour and cut out biscuit. It is best to cut into the dough sharply with the biscuit cutter, twist cutter 1/4 turn once and then pull up. Cut scones out as close together as possible and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With the leftover scraps of dough, bring them together into a ball, knead lightly, roll and continue to cut out biscuits until there is no more dough left. If desired, you can freeze the scones here and bake them at a later date. Or, immediately bake the scones until they are golden brown, about 10 minutes and serve them hot. If you chose to freeze your scones, add a few minutes extra to your baking time. It is fine to bake them from frozen. Makes aprox. 12 - 13 scones.

Cream Scones

These scones were so soft, buttery and flaky...they were the perfect addition to my tea party. I served them with fresh lemon curd and they were a huge hit. Yet again, it was another perfect recipe from Good Things Catered. I actually froze these scones after I cut them out and they kept perfectly. I baked them from frozen, and just added a few minutes extra to my baking time. Keep this one in the archives, it's the perfect classic scone.

Source: Good Things Catered

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, plus 1 Tbsp, chilled
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 c. heavy cream, chilled

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment.
-In a small bowl, combine cream and vanilla, stir to combine, and place back into fridge.
-In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and whisk to combine well.
-Touching butter as little as possible with your fingers, cut 6 Tbsp into small pieces and add to flour mixture.
-Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry blender (or two knives) until all pieces are the size of a small pea or less.
-Remove cream mixture from fridge and pour into dry ingredients.
-Stir until just combined (this should be relatively sticky.)
-Turn dough out onto floured work surface, lightly roll 1 inch thick.
-Using 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out disks and place onto prepared baking sheet.
-Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and place one on top of each scone.
-Place baking sheet into oven and bake until just barely beginning to brown; about 12 minutes.
-Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet and serve warm.
- Makes aprox. 12-13 scones.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chocolate Fairy Cakes

I sort of have a love-hate relationship with this recipe. My first try resulted in a cake with the consistency of a hockey puck...someone was sure to chip a tooth. So I tossed that batch and tried the recipe again with MUCH better results. They were very good although they sort of fell in the middle. However, I have to admit that my baking powder is FAR past it's expiration date (so shameful) I think that was my issue. In the end, though, the cakes turned out pretty great and after I tweaked the frosting that came out well too. My best friend loved them...she described them as being fudgy in the middle and soft and chewy on the outside.

Source: Williams-Sonoma: London Cookbook, page 71

2 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. very finely ground espresso (I omitted)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. dutch-process cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
Powdered sugar

Directions Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 24 mini-muffin cups with paper liners or grease with butter.

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate, milk, and half of the brown sugar. Set over low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the ground espresso, if using. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and remaining brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. In a spearate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Add to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. Divide the batter among the mini-muffin cups. (I found it easiest to pipe the mixture into the cups). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the ceter of a cake comes out clean, 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing, combine the butter, chocolate and corn syrup in a bowl over a double boiler. Stir constantly until the mixture forms a smooth paste, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Using an electric mixture set on high speed with the whisk attachment, beat until the mixture forms a thick, fluffy icing. I had to add powdered sugar to this because the chocolate would just not get thick. This worked out well though. Just keep adding the sugar by the spoonful until it reaches your desired consistency.

Spread the top of each cake with a thick layer of icing. Let set for one hour before serving. If desired, garnish with finely grated white chocolate or powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Lemon Curd

I've actually never had lemon curd before, but I thought it would make a very nice addition to my tea party. I'm SO glad I made it, it was delicate, mildly sweet and perfect for my cream scones. I'm actually not certain how I've lived without it for so long. My guests ate it right up. And the great thing is, is it's easy to make and keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Source: Joy of Baking

3 large eggs
Juice of 3 lemons
1 tbsp lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature

Whisk together eggs, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl over a double boiler. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick and is the consistency of sour cream (160 degrees F), about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour through a fine meshed strainer into a medium bowl. Immediately whisk in butter until all of it is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Add zest and let cool. Serve immediately or pour into an air-tight container. If you decide to store the curd, make sure to put plastic wrap directly on the curd itself to prevent a skin from forming. Then cover with the lid of the container and refrigerate for up to a week. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Egg and Sprout Tea Sandwich

So this was originally supposed to be an "egg and cress" sandwich, however there was no watercress and my grocery store. I even had my mom go to her store, and she had no luck as well. So it turned into an egg and sprout sandwich. It was definitely the most popular sandwich at my tea party! But who doesn't love an egg sandwich?

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma "London" cookbook, page 75

6 eggs
3 tbsp mayonaise
10 slices of freshly baked white bread, sliced thinly

Bring a small saucepan 2/3 full of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Carefully lower the eggs into the water with a slotted spoon, return the water to a boil and boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Immediately plunge the eggs into an ice bath. After about 5 minutes or so, or when the eggs are cool enough to touch, peel each egg unter cold running water, being sure to remove every speck of shell. Let eggs dry.

Place the eggs in a bowl and finely mash with a potato masher. Add the mayonnaise and mash again. Season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika.

Spread 5 slices of bread with the egg mixture, dividing it evenly. Arrange the sprouts on top of the egg mixture, and top each sandwich with the remaining bread slices. Using a very sharp knife, cut crust off of bread. Then cut the sandwich on the diagonal twice, which results in 4 triangle tea sandwiches. Serve sandwiches immediately.

Cucumber Tea Sandwich

I know I'm committing a major food blog faux-pas, however I forgot to take a picture of these sandwiches and they were too good not to share! They are the quintessential tea party sandwich, and they are very delicious. If you've never had a cucumber sandwich, you definitely should try it. They are delicate and very tasty. I found the recipe here and it worked out fabulously. I love the addition of minced garlic.

Source: Great Party Recipes

1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly (I used 3 English Cucumbers...they are smaller then normal cucmbers and seedless)
3/4 cup soft butter
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
20 slices bread (I used about 8 slices of freshly baked bread)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pepper to taste


Lightly salt the cucumber slices and place them in a colander to drain for 1 to 2 hours. Then combine the butter and garlic and apply to 1 side of each slice of bread. In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Add the cucumber slices, coating them well. Arrange the cucumber on 10 of the bread slices, top with the other 10 slices, remove the crusts, and quarter. Serve immediately. Makes 40 tea sandwiches. (I made 16 small sandwiches)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Apricot & Honey Glazed Pork Chops

I was inspired to make this when I saw this recipe on the amazing blog "Joelen's Culinary Adventures". I thought the combination of honey and apricots would work well with pork chops and it turns out I was right! My husband loves this meal and requests it almost every week! It's a great, easy way to prepare pork chops on a busy weeknight. I apologize for not having exact measurements, but this recipe is one where not everything has to be exact. Just make enough for the amount of pork chops your making, and adjust it to your tastes.

2-3 Pork chops, rinsed and dried
aprox. 1/2 - 3/4 cup Apricot preserves
aprox. 2 tbsp honey
aprox. 1/2 cup plain Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides and then dredge them in flour until coated on all sides. Spray a large skillet with non stick spray and put over medium-high heat. Put pork chops in skillet for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until pork chops are a light golden brown on both sides. Remove skillet from heat and put pork chops in a 13x9 baking dish that has been sprayed with non stick spray. Let rest while you make the apricot sauce.

In a small bowl, add Apricot Preserves and Honey. Cook in microwave on high for 30 seconds, remove and stir. The sauce should be warm enough to pour. Using a spoon, pour sauce on all pork chops until completely covered. A little can drizzle down the sides. On top of apricot sauce, sprinkle some Panko bread crumbs and lightly "push" them into the preserves. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for aprox. 20-25 minutes or until the inside of the chop is a very light pink.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Apple and Cheese

Before I made these I have never had Brussels Sprouts! I have heard that you either love them or hate them, so I wanted to give them a try! My husband said "I never thought I'd have to eat Brussels Sprouts after I left my moms house 10 years ago" so needless to say he was none too thrilled with the notion of eating them.

I chose Alton Brown's recipe because it called for bacon and blue cheese-two of my husband's favorite things. This recipe was really good! I had no clue how much 1 oz. of blue cheese was and I think I put too much husband gobbled this up AND ate seconds...while I thought it was a bit too "blue-cheesey" for my taste! I also used turkey bacon instead of the real stuff which was fine but it obviously didn't render much fat so I had to add a half tbsp. of butter after I took the bacon out.

Overall this was a great meal and I will be serving it again!


Source: Alton Brown

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used 4 slices of turkey bacon)
1 small onion, julienned
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
(I used half of a Pink Lady was all I had!)
1 recipe Basic Brussels Sprouts, recipe follows
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1-ounce blue cheese, crumbled

Pinch freshly ground nutmeg


Place the bacon into a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan and set over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until crisp and brown. Remove bacon and all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan using a slotted spoon. Decrease the heat to low. Add the onion and cook just until they turn semi-translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add the salt and apple and continue to cook for another minute. Add the Brussels sprouts, heavy cream and mustard and cook just until the Brussels sprouts are heated through, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon, blue cheese and nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Basic Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, rinsed (I used 10 Brussels Sprouts)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Cut off the stem end of the Brussels sprouts and remove any yellowing outer leaves. Cut each Brussels sprout in half from top to bottom. Place the Brussels sprouts, water and salt into a 3 to 4-quart saucier and cover. Place over high heat and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

I was really debating as to whether or not I wanted to do Sugar Cookies for Valentines day. They are so time consuming and like I said before, I don't even like sugar cookies. However, they always look SO cute and I thought my friends, family and coworkers would enjoy them. I also read this fabulous tutorial on how to ice a sugar cookie on the Hyper Homemaker blog, and I was anxious to try this method out. I have never worked with royal icing before and was excited to try. So I made the cookies this past weekend am freezing them until Valentines Day. I'll post the recipe for Royal Icing here, but for more detailed instructions definitely check out the Hyper Homemaker's tutorial.

Overall I was quite pleased with how they turned out. I still need a lot of practice in order to get the consistencies right, but I had fun working with the royal icing. In addition, I now feel like icing a sugar cookie is just a bit less daunting.

Source: Good Things Catered / The Hyper Homemaker

1 batch of sugar cookies, baked and cooled

Royal Icing
1 lb (4 c.), powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp meringue powder
4-6 Tbsp water *

* There is a star here because the amount of water you will need to add to the icing is very much dependent on temperature and humidity of the place you are and the day you make it.

Note: All tools (mixer, bowl, spatula, paddle) must be completely free of any grease/fat or the icing will turn to water and you will have to start over.

-In bowl of large stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, add powdered sugar, meringue powder, and 4 Tbsp water.
-Turn mixer on medium speed and slowly add more water as necessary for icing to just come together (about 1 more).
-Turn mixer on high and beat for 7-10 minutes, or until the sheen comes off of the icing.
-Use immediately and place a damp towel over any remaining icing as this stuff dries quickly!

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