Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Here is a free-form savory pie, or a crostata, to go along with my free-form lasagna. I must be feeling really free-spirited these days. Let's hope I don't take this new laissez-faire attitude oustide of my kitchen. Things could really start to get crazy!

Crostata with Mushrooms and Pancetta
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups sauteed cremini mushrooms
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

In a food processor combine the flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice and mascarpone.

Add the mascarpone mixture to the food processor and pulse a few times. Add the ice water

and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not over mix. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a disk, cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Saute shallot in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Once the shallots are tender, add the cremini mushrooms and saute until all liquid is evaporated - about 8 minutes. Remove from the skillet and place in a bowl to cool. Add the rosemary and stir.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cook the pancetta in a small saute pan over medium heat until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove the pancetta using a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Add the grated cheese and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.

Toss to combine and set aside.

Place the chilled dough on parchment paper. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch wide circle about 1/4-inch thick.

Spread the vegetables out in the center of the dough leaving a 2-inch border.

Sprinkle the vegetable mixture with Parmesan.

Fold the border up and over the vegetables forming a crust.

Using a pastry brush, brush some of the egg over the crust.

Transfer the parchment paper and crostata to a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Slice and serve.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fright Night

As a child, I loathed Halloween. I know that sounds completely out of line with most children's feelings about All Hallow's Eve, but I was nowhere near the norm in regards to the spooky holiday. I have always been a person that scares easily and still am to this day. I didn't even Trick-or-Treat for several years when I was younger. Although I was always easily frightened and hated the idea of scary movies, monsters and ghost; I think I know the exact moment that turned me off of Halloween during my childhood.

One year, my Daddy took my litter brother and I Trick-or-Treating in the neighborhood. Our trip started out pretty much like every other year: knock knock, "Triiiick or Treeeat", open door, drop candy in pumpkin, "Thank You", on to the next house. My brother Kent and I progressed with the monotonous routine for the next several houses. Then, at the next house the family had a nice jovial little set up on their front porch with a folding table loaded with huge bowls of candy. Behind the table sat a very friendly couple dressed in street clothes. Their front lawn was decorated with several Halloween decorations that faded into the background as we approached the friendly smiling faces of the candy distributors. As we walked closer to the couple, the gorilla suit that was laying on the lawn jumped up and chased us down the sidewalk. They had an adult lying perfectly still in the suit waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting victims at the precise time. I think I nearly jumped out of my skin and truly understood for the first time what the term "scared to death" meant. I had never been so frightened. I was done with Trick-or-Treating and most Halloween activities after that "Gorilla Attack". I was traumatized. I spent the next several years at my Grannie's house while my brothers, sister and their friends Trick-or-Treated and visited haunted houses. I couldn't take the chance of ever being so frightened again and it didn't help that I wasn't jazzed about the scary aspect of the holiday to begin with.

It is really ironic that I spent so many years not participating in Halloween, because now I love it! Not because I would ever consider scaring young children on my lawn, but because I love the idea of finding the perfect costume for our family Halloween party and I love planning the holiday themed menu for the party. I think these cookies would be a great addition to any Halloween party!

Peanut Butter-Cup Cookies
Real Simple Magazine
October 2009

48 cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 12-ounce package small peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

1.) Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Coarsely chop peanut butter cups.

2.) Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.

Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the peanut butter cups.

3.) Drop tablespoon-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until light brown around the edges 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lazy Lasagna

Once while dining out I remember ordering something on the menu called "free form lasagna". I didn't know when I was making this dish that this is where I was headed, but my finished product was very similar in appearance to that dish. I haven't used no-cook lasagna noodles before and was very impressed with the results. The only characteristic the no-cook lasagna noodles are lacking is the pretty ruffled edge of the traditional lasagna noodle. The absence of this ruffled edge turned out to be a good thing and the loose nature of the noodle assembly lent to the creation of a very casual yet elegant dish.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Free-Form Lasagna
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2006


8 servings

  • 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (Emeril's Essence)
  • 1 pound thin cut skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 3 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 no-cook lasagna noodles (8 ounces), divided
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced 96% fat-free deli ham, chopped, divided
  • Parsley Flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place broth, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Add chicken; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from pan with tongs; set aside. Once chicken has cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Take three lasagna noodles and soak them in the broth for 2 minutes. Remove the noodles and place in a single layer on a plate coated with cookie spray. Save these three noodles for the top noodles of the lasagna. The other noodles will not need to be cooked.

Combine milk, flour, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; stir well with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to broth in pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.

Cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup cheese and parsley, stirring until cheese melts.

Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over sauce. Spoon 3/4 cup sauce evenly over noodles.

Top evenly with one-third ham and one-third chicken.

Sprinkle the layer with one third of mozzarella cheese.

Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Be sure to end with the three noodles that soaked earlier in the broth. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesean cheese.

Cover with foil very lightly coated with cooking spray; bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove and discard foil; bake 10 minutes or until the cheese lightly browns. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Forrest went to the New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles game last weekend in Philly. He was staying with his Aunt who had secured him the tickets. I wanted to do a little something to show my appreciation for her NFL kindness, so I decided to bake some oatmeal raisin cookies to send to her. I read a couple of recipes that I had found on the Internet and wasn't enamored by any of them. Then I decided that the best oatmeal raisin cookie recipe would probably be found on the box of the key ingredient. I grabbed my container of oats and scanned the packaging for the winning recipe and found nothing. Then just before I was about to head back to the computer and start my search again I decided to pop the top of the Old Fashioned Oats. There, under the lid was the extremely easy and proven recipe I had been searching for!

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Quaker Oatmeal Recipe


  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1 cup raisins


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.

3. Add eggs and vanilla to the butter mixture, beat well.

4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.

5. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.

6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

7. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

8. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; then remove to wire rack.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chop Chop Chowder

This was an awesome twist on the classic baked potato soup. It had several of the same ingredients, but with a spicy kick - which I love! If you can get past all the chopping required in the beginning of this recipe, it was really a snap to throw together. Fortunately, my favorite part about cooking is all of the chopping, slicing and dicing. I find it to be very therapeutic and this recipe was perfect for working any stress out on the chopping board.

Chile-Cheese Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2000


10 servings (serving size: 1 cup soup, about 1 tablespoon green onions, and about 1 teaspoon bacon)

  • 3 bacon slices
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped seeded poblano chiles (about 3 large)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 5 cups diced peeled baking potato (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup sliced green onions

Clean all vegetables and chop.

Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp.

Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside.

Add carrot and the next 4 ingredients (carrot through garlic) to the drippings in pan; sauté 10 minutes or until browned.

Stir in the broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add potato and salt. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until potato is tender.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and milk in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Add to pan.

Cook over medium heat until thick (about 12 minutes), stirring frequently.

Remove from heat. Add cheeses, stirring until cheeses melt.

Ladle into soup bowls; top with green onions and crumbled bacon.

Note: This soup will freeze well for up to two months. Pour into an airtight container, leaving enough room for expansion (usually an inch or two at the top). To reheat, thaw completely in the refrigerator; then place contents in a saucepan over low heat, adding some liquid if necessary.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Generous Garden Gifts

One of my coworkers brought me a ton of fresh herbs from her garden. I love getting complimentary fresh herbs! They are so pricey when purchased in the supermarket, but they are so amazing in recipes that is hard to justify using anything but fresh. Getting them sans cost makes this rationalization unnecessary. I can't wait until we have a backyard and we can grow our own herb garden.

I wanted to make something with the fresh herbs to bring into work as a way to show my appreciation. Most of my recipes requiring fresh herbs are savory and hot and not exactly transportable. When I found this sweet use of the rosemary I knew it was a perfect fit. I would be able to make this cake and cut it into squares for my Fresh Herb Santa to enjoy the next day.

I highly recommend doubling the recipe below and baking two cake pans worth. This cake is sooooo yummy. The hint of rosemary paired with the fresh flavor of lemon was divine!

Lemon-Rosemary Crumb Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light May 1998


8 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of minced rosemary
  • Rosemary sprigs (optional)
  • Lemon slices (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl; cut in margarine with a pastry blender or 2 knives or a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Reserve 1/2 cup flour mixture for topping; set aside.

Combine remaining flour mixture, rosemary, baking powder, and baking soda; add buttermilk, lemon juice, and egg.

Beat at medium speed of a mixer until blended. Spoon batter into an 8-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.

Combine reserved 1/2 cup flour mixture, lemon rind, and water; stir with a fork.

Sprinkle crumb mixture over batter. Sprinkle with minced 1/4 teaspoon of minced Rosemary.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices, if desired.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Savoring Seattle Series #2

Another one of our stops in Pike's Place Market during our trip to Seattle was Market Spice. Market Spice is a spice and tea company and they had it all! As you can see below, they had hundreds of glass jars filled with every spice, seasoning, tea, coffee and sugar you could possibly imagine.

I was in heaven! You could buy the spices by the ounce and so I went wild. I purchased four different types of salt and several variations of sugar. One in particular that I found very interesting was the green chile sugar. I had never heard of of such a thing and was immediately intrigued. They let me have a taste and I was hooked. The green chili sugar had the smoky heat of a jalapeno but was perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the sugar. I was instantly sold. I didn't have the slightest idea of what to do with this spicy sugar, but I knew I needed to have it. After returning home and dedicating a little thought to uses I figured this was a great recipe that was screaming for a little sprinkling of my new spice rack resident.

Fresh Corn and Pepper Scones
Adapted from September 2007 Cooking Light


12 servings (serving size: 1 scone)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 7 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear)
  • 2 finely chopped seeded serrano pepper
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon green chile sugar
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk or pulse twice in a food processor.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender or food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Stir in corn and pepper.

Add buttermilk, stirring just until moist (dough will be slightly sticky).Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 2 or 3 times with lightly floured hands.

Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting to, but not through, dough.

Sprinkle with green chile sugar.

Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.