Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I was really looking forward to cooking on Christmas this year. We decided on turkey, but since we just made turkey on Thanksgiving, I had planned on making different sides and getting creative with my potatoes. However by Christmas I was feeling so worn out from the pneumonia that I had to let everyone else do the work. THANK YOU so much mom, dad, Jim, Stacy, and Jon for all of your help prepping, cooking, and cleaning up!!

Our menu - turkey fresh from Haring Brothers Farm, Jon's stuffing - a family recipe, roasted asparagus, my dad's mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, and creamed onions.

The creamed onions were the one thing that I made from start to finish. My father-in-law has to have them with a turkey dinner -

  • I boiled frozen mini white onions for 5 minutes, drained them, and put them in a serving dish.
  • In the meantime I made a cream sauce by melting 2 tbsp butter in a pan, then adding 1 tbsp white flour to make a roux. Once thickened, I added 1 cup of heavy cream, a pinch of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of parsley for color. I whisked everything until it came to a heavy simmer, then poured the sauce over the onions.

Dessert is my dad's domain. He is THE baker in the family. On Christmas Eve he made a fabulous pumpkin cheesecake, and on Christmas he brought Jon's favorite, an apple pie. How beautiful is this?

Here is his recipe:


  • 8 cups of Granny Smith Apples (sliced or chunks) -- he uses a Pampered Chef Apple slicer to make uniform slices
  • 3/4 Cups of granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp tapioca
  • 1 Tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 Tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Package of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (2) or make your own


  • Mix the apples, tapioca, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl until all the fruit is coated
  • Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the bottom of your pie plate; place 1 crust in the plate (the flour prevents sticking)
  • Pour all of the ingredients into the shell.
  • Place 4-6 pats of butter on top of the apples (about 1/4 inch thick).
  • Place the second pie crust over the apples and crimp the edges. With a fork, poke holes in the crust.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.
    Tip: Use a pie shield for the entire baking time to protect the rim of the crust from burning OR cover the perimeter of the shell with aluminum foil removing after 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

This pie is SOOOO good! It doesn't even need ice cream on top!

Since I didn't even get around to taking any other food pictures, here are a few random Christmas pictures -

My sister and I made a few flower arrangements for our table

Daisy Mae sitting by the tree

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Eve Appetizers

Christmas Eve is a great night for a lot of appetizers and different foods - nothing fancy, just good, home cooking!

Unfortunately this year I couldn't do as much as I wanted since I had pneumonia. We ended up taking food over to my parents' house so they could do all of the work..thank goodness! We contributed two appetizers - my spinach artichoke dip and Jon's boiled shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce.

My Spinach Artichoke Dip

I tried a few different recipes and finally created my own. Believe me, if you make this one, it will be the best you have ever tried.

  • ½ sweet yellow onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 10 oz box frozen spinach
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup mozzarella cheese
  • Few pinches of red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and set aside
  • Cook spinach according to package directions; drain.
  • Mix spinach, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
  • Add cream cheese; mix
  • Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheeses, red pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well.
  • Add artichoke hearts; mix; transfer to a baking dish
  • Top with some cheese.
  • Either store in fridge until ready to bake or bake on 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
  • Serve with tortilla chips and/or raw vegetables such as carrots and celery.

Jon's Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce

It is a tradition in Jon's family to have lots of shrimp on Christmas Eve. Jon loves this tradition - it's another excuse to make shrimp!

Here is what he does -

  • Add 3 tbsp white vinegar and 1/3 cup of Old Bay seasoning to a pot of water; bring to a fast boil
  • Add 2 lbs of shrimp to the boiling water. Cook until firm, approximately 7 minutes.
  • Remove from the water and toss under cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Clean and de-vein the shrimp (unless you bought them clean)
  • Chill in the fridge

Cocktail sauce: Jon mixes ketchup, horseradish, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce to make his cocktail sauce. Whew is it spicy!!

Lobster Rolls...fresh from Maine!

My husband is from Maine and my father-in-law still lives there. Whenever he comes to visit we ask him to bring some fresh lobster meat. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I made some lobster salad for lobster rolls. Of course for lobster rolls you have to have the special white-bread rolls only found in New England, so my father-in-law also brought them from Maine.


  • 1.5 pounds fresh lobster meat
  • 1 stalk celery finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise


  • Combine all ingredients and mix - that's it! You don't need much mayo at all so add it slowly. I let everyone add their own salt and pepper

I served the rolls with my corn chowder, my new favorite soup. My recipe can be found here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Meatballs in Homemade Sauce

Jon loves to cook and he can't wait until he can get back into the kitchen. Since his second and final wrist surgery was on Monday, he wanted something really hearty for dinner Sunday night. He requested meatballs - one of his own specialties - so I decided I'd try to make a homemade sauce to go along with it.

I have only made homemade sauce once but that was back in high school so I don't even remember what I did. I decided to give it a try tonight. I found this recipe for sauce that looked pretty good. I tweaked a few things, noted below.

Tomato Sauce


  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt (I used Kosher)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used a bit more, maybe 4 large cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • I added basil, Parmesan cheese, a pinch of sugar, 1 tbsp tomato paste, and I cooked the meatballs in the sauce near the end.


  • Open the can of tomatoes and pour the juice into a bowl. Use the lid to press against the tomatoes to extract as much juice as possible.
  • In the can, avoiding cutting yourself with the rim, use your hand to squeeze the tomatoes to a pulp. Re-strain out the new juices, and reserve the juice and pulp separately. Fill the empty can half full with water and set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and cook with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook until golden.
  • Add the tomato juices and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer rapidly until the juice thickens, then add the crushed tomato pulp, oregano, the half can of water, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture thickens and reduces to about 3 1/2 cups, about 30 to 45 minutes. (I let it cook for 90 minutes, added the meatballs, and let it go for another hour or was still watery)
  • Discard the bay leaf.

The Outcome....I was not terribly happy with this recipe. The flavor was ok, but it never thickened up. However, it was really good on Monday night! I don't understand how the directions called for 30-45 minutes of cooking to thicken it. I didn't even use as much water as the recipe called for, I added tomato paste, and it still wasn't thick.

I will try sauce again, but I may just wing it..things seem to work better for me when I experiment rather than follow a recipe.

The Meatballs...Let's just say I'll let Jon stick to making the meatballs. They were fine, and I followed his recipe, but they just weren't the same as his.

I mixed 1-1/3 pound of ground beef with about 1 cup of breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp oregano, 1/2 tbsp garlic powder, salt, pepper, and an egg. I cooked them in a frying pan before adding them to the sauce.


Jon loves to make garlic bread. I've always heard him call it his "10-clove surprise" as he'd be making it. Of course I always thought he meant 10 cloves for just the bread. So since I was making this special pre-surgery dinner for him, I also made the bread.

I melted 4 tbs of butter and then cooked 8 cloves of garlic in it (pressed garlic). I poured the garlic-butter mixture over 6 slices of bread, wrapped it up in foil, and put it in the oven for about 12 minutes.

HOLY Garlic! We both love garlic, but wow. It was only after I made the bread that Jon told me that 10-clove surprise refers to the entire dinner - the sauce AND the bread. Oops! It was yummy but next time I'll stick to about 4 cloves.

Cold Night Comfort Food - Soup and Paninis

With a nor'easter on its way, we decided to stay in tonight and make some comfort food.

Tonight's menu: Cauliflower Soup and Turkey-Bacon Paninis

I had recently made my two favorite soups - corn chowder and roasted potato-onion-garlic soup - so I wanted to try something new. I came across
this recipe for Cauliflower Soup. I made a few small changes, noted below.

Cauliflower Soup


  • Coarse salt and coarse black pepper (I used about 1/2 tsp each)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, separated
  • 2 small heads cauliflower, or 1 large, cut into small bunches of florets
  • 3 ribs celery and leafy tops from the heart of stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 tsp dried thyme and it was more than enough)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used whole milk; I think light or heavy cream would have been better)
  • Hot sauce, optional 3 tablespoons (I didn't do this - I used 4 dashes cayenne during the cooking process instead)
  • chopped fresh parsley leaves or chives, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, for passing at the table (I didn't add cheese - we both don't think it would go with the soup at all!)


  • In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter, over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the cauliflower florets and stir with a wooden spoon.
  • Add celery, onion and thyme and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Push the vegetables to 1 side of the pot. Melt 1 more tablespoon of butter on empty side of pot and add flour to the butter. Cook for 1 minute, stirring the flour in the butter.
  • Mix in chicken broth and half-and-half.
  • Bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Puree soup using an emersion blender, food processor or blender and return to pot.
  • Check seasoning and add a dash of hot sauce, if desired. (I really can't see the hot sauce working with this soup)

We both liked this soup, but agreed that we could make some changes next time. I think I'd add garlic, maybe a clove or two. I'd also use less thyme. The flavor of the thyme was a bit over-powering.


We used our panini maker to make turkey-bacon paninis.

Jon's sandwich: Marble rye bread, Swiss cheese, shaved turkey breast, bacon, and some mayo (we added the mayo after it cooked)

My sandwich: Marble rye bread, spreadable Laughing Cow cheese, shaved turkey breast, bacon, and tomatoes

Using the panini press was easy, but the sandwiches were SO flat. Jon said he would have just preferred a cold sandwich. I liked mine but think next time I'll use a different bread. I would also like to try spreading some of my homemade spinach-artichoke dip onto the bread with the turkey and bacon. I'll be making the dip for Christmas Eve so I'll post the recipe then.

I hope all my fellow North Easterners are keeping warm in this lovely storm we are having! It's a perfect weekend for some soup :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Homemade Fish Sticks with Creamy Mac-n-Cheese and Garlic Brussels Sprouts

I have tried every type of fish, and just a few months ago I discovered that I liked catfish. I think I like it because it is a fresh water fish and is very sweet. Jon loves seafood so I decided to get some catfish today. I didn't want to just bake the filets like I did last time, so I made fish sticks out of them.

Catfish Sticks


  • 3/4 pound catfish (this was 2 filets today)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 c milk


  • Slice catfish filets into 3-4 inch long, 1 inch wide pieces
  • In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the parsley, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and cheese.
  • Dip each piece of fish in the flour, then milk, then breadcrumb mixture and place on a baking dish/cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  • When you are done with all the sticks, cover them and put them in the fridge for 20-30 minutes
  • Bake on 375 for 15-20 minutes, flipping once
I liked these. Since I'm not a huge fish fan, the spices in the breadcrumb mixture added nice flavor and disguised the fish a bit!

My creamy mac-n-cheese recipe can be found here. Warning - it's not healthy, but it is oh-so-yummy!

I introduced Jon to Brussels sprouts a few months ago and now he loves them. I cannot remember where I found this recipe for garlic Brussels sprouts, but when I do I will post the link/source.


  • 20 (or so) fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I don't add salt since the chicken broth is a bit salty)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper


  • Trim the end of each Brussels sprout; set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, saute garlic in 1 teaspoon butter and oil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown
  • Add sprouts; toss to coat.
  • Add the broth, salt and pepper;cover and cook for 12-14 minutes or until sprouts are tender.
  • Serve with a slotted spoon; I like pouring some of the garlic broth over them on my plate
Look at these beauties!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Roasted Potato-Onion-Garlic Soup

This soup evolved from a basic potato soup - I don't even know where the original recipe came from or where it might be now! Over the past 2 years I have added ingredients and changed how it is cooked, so now this is my own recipe for Roasted Potato-Onion-Garlic soup.


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped (big pieces are fine)
  • 1/2 bulb roasted garlic
  • 2 cloves raw garlic
  • 28 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy or light cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/8 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Chopped fresh parsley as a garnish


  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat
  • Add onions and raw garlic; cook 4-5 minutes
  • Add potatoes, cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes
  • Add roasted garlic, then add broth and bring to a boil; lower heat, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender
  • Remove from heat. Puree soup either by transferring to a blender or by using a handheld immersion blender.
  • Add spices
  • Add cream and gently reheat soup
  • Garnish with parsley

I love to make this soup on a cold Sunday afternoon - the house smells great, it's a nice afternoon treat, and I love having lunch made for the entire week!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fettuccine Alfredo

Tonight's dinner: Fettuccine Alfredo with some hot Italian sausage on the side for Jon

I make a lot of different cream sauces, but wanted something closer to an Alfredo. I browsed several copycat recipes for Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo, including
this one. Below is the recipe I came up with.


  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or a thick linguine
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley


  • Boil water, cook pasta to al dente; drain
  • In the meantime, heat butter and oil in a large pan. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.
  • Add the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and cream. Whisk together until creamy.
  • Add the parsley, nutmeg, and black pepper
  • Add the pasta and toss until coated
  • Serve immediately

I loved this dish! No, it wasn't healthy, but I only ate a small amount and also had some sauteed spinach on the side. I think adding garlic to the sauce gave it great flavor. I'd make it again and may try light cream cheese and light cream next time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My take on soup-and-sandwich night

Yesterday the temperature was in the low 30s with 50mph wind gusts...what a perfect night for soup! Jon suggested that I make my corn chowder, a recipe I developed myself. It has a bit of a southwestern kick with the peppers, spices, and jalapeno cream. So what to pair with it? I had some chicken so I decided to make some chicken soft tacos with a creamy pepper sauce.

I first made this corn chowder for my dad's birthday a few months ago. I didn't mix crab in this time, but I did make the jalapeno cream.
Here are the recipes for both the soup and the jalapeno cream.


For the tacos, I took thin sliced boneless breasts of chicken, covered them in chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and onion powder before cooking them.

Once cooked, I shredded the chicken with 2 forks.

I then made a creamy pepper sauce. I sauteed chopped red and green peppers in just a touch of olive oil. I then added about 1/3 of a block of cream cheese and let it melt in the pan. I added just a pinch of shredded cheddar.

When assembling our tacos, I put a layer of the sauce directly onto the tortilla and topped it with the chicken, some cheese, and some of the Jalapeno cream. Jon put the sauce on top of his chicken, along with some cheese and jalapeno cream. The sauce kept everything creamy and the jalapeno cream was the perfect flavor addition to these tacos!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Beef Stew

This was my first try at beef stew and it was pretty good! (EDIT: Click here for my new favorite beef stew recipe).

To come up with the recipe, I thought about the flavors, talked to my mom about her beef stew, and read a bunch of recipes. I also got some advice on the cut of beef from a friend who is an amazing cook. I came up with my own recipe and was quite pleased. The only change I'd make next time is to use less of the tomato juice and more of the beef gravy.

The picture doesn't look that good, but believe me, it tasted great!!


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef; I used 3/4 lb chuck and 3/4 lb sirloin
  • 2 large potatoes chopped into big chunks
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 parsnip, chopped
  • 1 large (35 oz) can whole tomatoes; run your knife through the can to chop them up a bit
  • 2 packages dry gravy mix (beef mushroom gravy); enough to make 2 cups gravy
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 cup dry dry red wine (for marinating)
  • A few cloves of garlic or some garlic powder (for marinating)


  • Marinate the beef in the wine and garlic.
  • Sear the beef in a large pan; transfer to a stew pot.
  • Add carrots, potatoes, and parsnips, stir.
  • Add spices, stir.
  • Add tomatoes and gravy, stir.
  • Bring to a steady simmer and then reduce to low for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Adjust seasonings if necessary and serve.

Yesterday was our first snowfall so this beef stew along with some fresh crusty bread was perfect!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Penne Vodka

Penne Vodka is something I love to order in restaurants, but I've never made it myself. Last night Jenny and Stacey came over so I decided to try out a new recipe on them. Luckily it was fabulous!! Isn't it so pretty?

I used a recipe I found on as inspiration. This recipe didn't have any meat, so I made a few changes to add pancetta and prosciutto. Here is the recipe I came up with:


  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 large (32 oz) can whole tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 slices pancetta, chopped
  • 2 slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • A few pinches of salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (I only had dried last night)


  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta; set aside
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and meats; cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
  • Pour the whole tomatoes with their juices into a food processor. Using the pulse button, chop them. You want to be sure not to continuously chop them as this will aerate them and turn them pink. You learn something new everyday!
  • Add the tomatoes to the pan with the garlic and meat. Season with salt and red pepper and bring to a boil for 2 minutes.
  • Lower the heat and pour in the vodka. Allow this to come to a lively simmer, then reduce to a simmer until the pasta is almost done.
  • Before adding the pasta, slowly stir in the cream.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce, add the cheese, and top with parsley.

I wouldn't make any changes to this recipe at all. I cannot wait to dig into the leftovers for lunch today!

Shiitake Pasta with Broccoli and Red Peppers

I love the earthy, woody flavor of mushrooms. I don't necessarily like eating big pieces of them, but I love the flavor they bring to dishes.

This pasta is something I came up with on my own and it was delicious! Cooking the pasta in the same water the mushrooms cooked in gave it so much flavor.


  • 1/2 pound pasta; I used rigatoni
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow squash, chopped (I could have done without this but I bought it and didn't want it to go to waste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • Small handful of dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Grape tomatoes
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  • Start to bring a large pot to a boil. Just as it starts to slightly bubble, add the dried mushrooms. Remove them once they are tender, about 3-4 minutes. Chop the mushrooms and set them aside.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water to cook; drain, set aside
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan.
  • Add the garlic and shallots, saute 1-2 minutes
  • Add the broccoli, peppers, squash, and mushrooms
  • After 1 minute, add the can of chicken broth. Cover and let simmer until the pasta is done.
  • Add the tomatoes a few minutes before adding the pasta.
  • Once the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the veggies. Mix everything together and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of the food! Everything on your plate is comfort favorite kind of food.

We keep the food simple and traditional, using recipes passed down through both my family and Jon's. This year's menu consisted of contributions from everyone:

- I made my first turkey! Well, I've made one before, but this time I took care of cleaning and prepping it as well. I rubbed it with butter, salt, and pepper, stuffed it with stuffing, and put it in a roasting bag with onions, carrots, and celery.

- Jon and I made stuffing following a recipe Jon's mom's always made, a very traditional stuffing of bread, celery, onions, and lots of good spices. We cooked half of it inside the bird and baked the other half in a dish.

- My mom brought cole slaw made exactly how her mother always made it. When I was little my grandmother would make a bowl of cole slaw for me without the mayonnaise. That was the only way I'd eat it! Now I love it the traditional way.

- My dad made the mashed potatoes (he's the master of the mashed potato!) and a sweet potato casserole. Of course he gave one beater to me and one to my sister, just like we used to do when we were younger.

- Jon whisked up some turkey gravy - his mom taught him how to do it several years ago and now he's a gravy expert.

- I added one new recipe - green beans with bacon and shallots. I made it once before and thought it would be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.

- And of course we had your traditional rolls, corn, and cranberry sauce (yikes, yes, that's the canned variety!).

- My sister's contribution was cleaning everything up - thank you!!!! That's the part I hate the most.

Look at all this food - and this is only some of it!

Since most of the recipes are family recipes, I feel funny posting their secrets. I will however post the green been recipe. I found the original on and have since made some changes.

Green Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Shallots


  • 1/5 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
  • 3 oz coarsely chopped pancetta (I used 3 slices of chopped bacon)
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper (I didn't use any - it didn't need it at all)


  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and boil 3 to 4 minutes until just tender. Drain beans and immediately plunge into ice water. Allow to sit in ice water until cold, then drain well, and set aside.
  • Cook pancetta (bacon) in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, then set aside. Reduce heat to medium, stir shallots into the pancetta (bacon) fat, and cook gently until the shallots have turned dark golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Place pancetta (bacon) and green beans in skillet; toss and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. (I didn't do this)

The desserts were fabulous and if you know anything about me, you know I didn't make them! My mom made pumpkin pie and my dad brought Jon's favorite, Jewish Apple Cake. Both desserts were also specialties of my mom's mom.

Thanksgiving Decor

When we moved into our house a few years ago, all I wanted was my red dining room. I searched for the perfect red for months, and finally settled on a red that has a touch of orange in it when the sun hits it the right way.

We also found the perfect table, however every holiday it gets covered up with the table pad and place mat. This Thanksgiving I decided to go with place mats instead so you could see the beautiful wood of our table. I don't think I'll ever cover it with a cloth again!

Decorating this room for the holidays is always fun. This time I kept it simple with lots of fresh flowers. Here are some pictures of the table and buffet -

My sister added some candles to the table as everyone was at the buffet in the kitchen - it looked so pretty!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Boursin Chicken with Cauliflower Leek Risotto; Bruschetta App

Another date night in our kitchen, but I'm still doing all the work since Jon is still in his cast. Only 5 or 6 more weeks until he goes back to cleaning up after me!

I felt like making risotto tonight. I love making risotto and am always looking for new flavors to add. After browsing through recipes, I decided on Cauliflower and Leek Risotto. I didn't follow this recipe, but I did use it for inspiration. I served it with Boursin Chicken, a recipe I adapted several years ago. I need to do some research on where I found the original recipe so I can post it here. I also tried a new appetizer tonight - Arugula Bruschetta.

Arugula Bruschetta

Ingredients (see original recipe for full recipe amounts)

  • 6 ounces arugula, stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella; I also added a few pinches of shredded Parmesan
  • Crusty bread


  • Make toasts: slice bread, spread olive oil on one side, rub with garlic clove, heat in a 400 degree oven until crispy.
  • Heat olive oil in a large pan. Saute garlic 1 min.
  • Add arugula and saute until wilted, approximately 2 minutes. Drain off any excess water.
  • Allow to cool to warm. Add cheeses, salt, and pepper.
  • Top each toast with some of the arugula mixture.

This was good but I think it was missing something. Next time I may use a creamier cheese in the mixture. I also may add chopped roasted red peppers or chopped tomatoes.


Cauliflower-Leek Risotto

Ingredients (adapted from recipe in above link)

  • 1 head cauliflower chopped into small pieces
  • 1 leek chopped (white and light green pieces only)
  • 28 oz chicken broth, warmed in a pot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (not in original recipe)
  • 1 1/4 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (not in original recipe)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (not in original recipe)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan and asiago cheeses (not in original recipe)


  • Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add cauliflower and leeks. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic.
  • Add rice and toss until fully coated, approximately 1-2 minutes.
  • Add white wine and stir until fully absorbed.
  • Add warm chicken broth one ladle at a time, letting it absorb fully before adding more. Repeat until you have used all but one ladle of the broth and rice is tender.
  • When you add the final ladle of the broth, also add the cheese. This is my trick for creamy risotto. Also add the spices at this time.
  • Serve immediately

This risotto was so delicious! My additions of garlic, cheese, and red pepper flakes were perfect. I would definitely make this again!


Boursin Chicken

Boursin Chicken


  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded flat
  • 1/2 package Boursin herbed cheese
  • 1-2 baby carrots, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter


  • Mix the boursin cheese with the grated carrots. You want this mixture to be creamy, so slowly add olive oil and stir.
  • Spread a thin layer of the boursin mixture on each chicken breast. Roll them up and close with a toothpick or twine.
  • You can prepare the breasts up to this step and then refrigerate them.
  • When you are ready to bread and bake the chicken, mix the breadcrumbs with the parsley.
  • Dip each breast in the melted butter and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Bake on 400 for 25-40 minutes, until chicken is done.

I absolutely love the flavor of this chicken! The cheese oozes out of the crispy chicken and makes a great sauce. I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken went perfectly with the risotto as well.


We enjoyed tonight's dinner with a 2002 Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Jon had this at the Capital Grille once and finally found it at a wine store in New Jersey for $49. It was very full but not too heavy or strong at all like some full wines can be. We loved it and will give it a great review in our wine journal.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween - Jon's Famous Chili

I love Halloween night! Handing out candy and seeing all the little ones in cute costumes is fun, but the best part is sitting outside with drinks and catching up with neighbors. We usually cook comfort food too. This year we invited a few friends over for Jon's famous chili. Since Jon is still in an arm cast, I was his hands for cooking! He directed, but I did the work (and the prep, and the cleanup...).

Before I get into the recipe, look how cute our Daisy Mae looked as she waited for our guests to arrive:


Jon's Famous Chili

Ingredients (for about 10-12 large servings)
  • 4 pounds ground beef
  • 2 chili kits (or you can use your own spices; the kit has chili powder, cayenne, paprika, salt, onion/garlic, cumin, and masa)
  • Additional cumin, chili powder, salt, and cayenne
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped (seeds as well)
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes; 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes; with juice
  • 1 16 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 3 cans beans; we used 2 cans of dark red and 1 can of light red


  • Brown meat; add some of the garlic; drain fat. We did this in batches in a pan, and then put the meat into a pot.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. We kept adjusting the spices until it was just right. Even when we use the chili kits, we always end up using more cumin, chili powder, salt, and sometimes cayenne.
  • Let is simmer on the stove for an hour or two. The chili is best the next day! Warm sourdough bread goes perfectly. I also like to mix some sour cream and shredded cheddar into my bowl.



I heated some apple cider in a pot. Instead of spiking it, I let everyone add however much spiced rum they wanted. We garnished our mugs with a cinnamon stick.


Here are Danielle, Stacey, and Jenny finishing up their chili and cider -


Fall Flowers

I picked up a few bouquets of flowers at the market and made this cute fishbowl arrangements for our dining room. I had some gold "rocks" from Christmas last year that I added to the bottom of each vase. The center vase was a little fuller and taller than the other two. Aren't they pretty?

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dad's Birthday Dinner - Lots of Delicious Food!

My sister came home this weekend so we could celebrate our dad's birthday. We decided to cook and celebrate at my house.


To start: Corn Chowder, With or Without Crab, and With or Without Jalapeno Cream

Dinner: Filet Mignon with a Garlic-Shallot-Red Wine Sauce, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with a Parmesan Crisp, and Roasted Asparagus

Dessert: Homemade Chocolate Cake

Corn Chowder
My dad loves soup so I decided to start with soup instead of salad. I read through several corn chowder recipes just to get ideas, and then made up my own. It was the BEST soup I have ever made. Everyone loved it and my mom even commented that it was restaurant quality. I got some crab meat to stir into each bowl (instead of cooking it in the soup since we all don't like crab). I also made a jalapeno cream that a few of us drizzled on top for some heat and extra flavor. I had a hard time getting a clear picture, but you can still see how colorful it was.

Ingredients (for six servings)

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 stick butter plus 2 tbsp butter mixed with 1 tbsp flour
  • Cumin and cayenne, about 1/4-1/2 tsp each
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn and 1 14-oz can creamed corn
  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • Heat 1/2 stick butter in a soup pot. Add onions, green and red peppers, and celery. Saute about 7-8 minutes.
  • Add corn, creamed corn, broth, cream, and spices. Bring to a boil
  • Whisk in the butter-flour mixture and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • When ready to serve, mix crab into each bowl if desired. Top with some jalapeno cream.

Jalapeno Cream

I found this recipe on as part of a roasted pepper soup recipe. I thought the cream would go nicely with the corn chowder and it did!


  • 3 fresh serrano chilies or jalapeños, seeded and chopped fine (I used 2 jalapenos)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt (I didn't use the salt)
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream (I used a little less than 1/2 cup sour cream)


  • In a blender blend together the chilies, the garlic paste, and the créme fraîche until the mixture is combined well.
  • Force the mixture through a fine sieve set over a small bowl (to remove the seeds)
  • The serrano cream may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and brought to room temperature before serving.
I have some cream leftover and I may mix it into my cream cheese chicken sauce tonight.



Jon cooked the filet the same way we did several weeks ago. We used Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine sauce.

Potatoes...I love potatoes. I never cook them because Jon doesn't like them! How can you not like potatoes? Anyway, tonight my sister and I made roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

  • Roast garlic by chopping off the top, drizzling with olive oil, wrapping in tin foil, and cooking in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. When done, mash each clove with a knife or spoon.
  • Cook potatoes in water until tender; we made about 3 pounds. Drain and move to a large mixing bowl or keep in the pot.
  • Start to mash the potatoes with your hand mixer; turn speed up and slowly add in 1/2 stick of butter, 1 cup of whole milk, 1-2 tbsp salt, and the roasted garlic. For creamier potatoes, use more milk or add in some heavy cream.

Parmesan Crisps

I topped each serving of potatoes with a parmesan crisp.

  • Mix 1 cup of parmesan cheese with 1 tsp flour.
  • Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray, and then cover with parchment paper.
  • Spoon some of the flour-cheese mixture on the paper, leaving about 2 inches between each spoonful. Press into a flat shape.
  • Bake on 400 for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely on the sheet.
  • These can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container using wax paper to separate the layers.

These little crisps looked nice on the plate and tasted great too. I'd make them for a salad as well.

Asparagus - we tossed the asparagus in a baking pan with olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper. About 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven is perfect.


I made a centerpiece for the table with branches and leaves I found in our front yard. Um...actually I cut a few branches off Jon's favorite shrub. It was so pretty with the floating candles and low lighting -


About an hour after dinner we enjoyed a chocolate cake that my sister made from scratch. Good thing she likes to bake because I probably would have bought a dessert :) As I've said before, I'm not a baker!! I hate measuring everything so precisely and not being able to play with the recipes. My sister made a delicious cake that was the perfect ending to a great birthday dinner for our dad. And after dinner we all sat down to watch the Red Sox-Cleveland game. Unfortunately the Red Sox ended up losing, but watching baseball with our dad is something we always enjoy!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lemon-Dill Chicken - My Creation

I had some leftover fresh dill from the yogurt-dill dip I made last weekend so I decided to use it with chicken for dinner tonight. The results were great and Jon really loved this one. I'll be putting it on the list of things to make again.


  • 1 pound thinly sliced chicken breasts, or regular breasts pounded thin
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Cooking it..

  • Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 3 tbsp butter and the olive oil in a large saute pan.
  • Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess, and put in the hot pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown (longer for thicker breasts). Remove to a dish and keep covered.
  • Add garlic and shallots to the pan and stir, scraping up the brown bits from the chicken.
  • Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and dill. Bring to a simmer.
  • Return chicken to the pan and cook on medium for 5 minutes.
  • Remove chicken again and keep warm.
  • Add butter to the pan and whisk until creamy. Pour sauce over the chicken.

I think I may try adding just a touch of light cream at the end next time for a different texture, but even with just the butter this sauce was very creamy.

I served the chicken with rice and roasted asparagus. Tonight I used salt, pepper, 3 cloves minced garlic, and olive oil on the asparagus.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

We haven't had these in a while because Jon isn't crazy about the canned enchilada sauce. So what's a girl to do? Make her own, of course!

I used a recipe for sauce by Emeril with just a few changes, noted below.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I used 14.5 oz)
  • 10 ounces tomato paste (I used 6 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (I used dried Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used a bit more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used just a touch more)
  • I also added about 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and smooth out. Adjust the seasonings.


My Chicken Enchiladas

This is my own recipe.


  • 1 pound chicken breasts, trimmed
  • Chili powder and cumin
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped (forgot these this time!)
  • 1-2 jalapenos, chopped with seeds
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels (didn't use them tonight)
  • 1/2 block cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or a mix of shredded cheeses
  • Enchilada sauce
  • 6 flour tortilla shells


  • Cook chicken in pan with the spices. Once done, shred with 2 forks. Sometimes I just throw it in the food processor quickly if I'm in a rush.
  • When you are ready to cook, heat a large pan. Add onions, green onions, and all peppers. Saute for a few minutes.
  • Add the chicken and stir.
  • Add the cream cheese slowly, blending everything together.
  • Add the salsa and corn. Tonight I only used a bit of enchilada sauce instead of the salsa.
  • Stir over medium heat until you have a creamy mixture.
  • Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a casserole dish.
  • Spoon some of the mixture into the middle of a tortilla shell. Roll up, place in a casserole dish seam side down. Continue until you are done with the mixture. I usually get six nice sized enchiladas.
  • Top with some of the sauce and cheese. Bake on 375 for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

I love having these with Mexican rice. They are great the next day, too!

Fried Pickles with a Yogurt-Dill Dip

When we first saw fried pickles on the menu of our local Mexican restaurant, Poco's, we thought they sounded disgusting. But about a year later we finally decided to just try them and WOW, were we glad we did! They are the most unusual things, but surprisingly very tasty. They are a bit addictive too.. we'd find ourselves talking about going to Poco's just to get the pickles.

We decided to stay in tonight so that gave me some extra time to cook. I found a recipe for fried pickles on the Food Network Website and then found this recipe for a yogurt-dill dip which is what Poco's serves them with.

I followed the dip recipe almost exactly:
  • 1 cup yogurt, low-fat strained (Greek-style) I used plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic (small, minced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel (finely grated)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Chill.

I did make some changes to the pickle recipe noted below:

  • 1 pint sliced dill pickles, undrained (I used fresh pickles from the deli)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I didn't use this)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Vegetable oil
  • Drain pickles, reserving 2/3-cup pickle juice. Press pickles between paper towels. (I didn't need to do this)
  • Combine 2/3 cup pickle juice, egg, 1 tablespoon flour, and hot sauce. Stir well and set aside. (I only used egg and flour)
  • Combine 1 1/2 cups flour with ground red pepper, garlic powder, salt, and paprika. Blend well.
  • Dip pickles in egg mixture, then dredge in flour mixture.
  • Fry coated pickles in 375-degree oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
The Result....The dip was excellent and the pickles were pretty good. The flour mixture didn't stick to the pickles all that well, so next time I'll use bread crumbs and spices instead of flour.