Thursday, July 22, 2010

Krowning Kitchen Kreation

Of course every aspect of building a new home is fresh and exciting. But by far, the most squeal-inducing part for me has been designing and watching my new kitchen come alive. Anyone who cooks as often as I do would naturally feel blessed to be able to create a kitchen with all the details precisely as they desire. When I imagine my husband and me in our new home, I am always in the kitchen in every scenario preparing a meal of some sort. I know that I will spend time in all the other rooms of our house, but I can't help but believe that I have many hours ahead of me in that kitchen.

The kitchen is still bit of a construction zone, but it has reached the point where I can go in and look around and almost hear the sounds of a well orchestrated meal coming to life. I can envision where I will chop, where I will saute and how I will move around in the kitchen from one thing to the next as I bring together my favorite recipes.

I snapped a few pictures of the kitchen as it looks today and will make sure to provide updates as we progress further in the process. Below is the wall of cabinets that will soon contain my shiny new double oven and my professional six burner cooktop - I feel intoxicated just thinking about it!

Next up is our huge (remember we are used to condo living) pantry and the cabinets that will house the dishwasher and the split-level bar that I plan to display my spreads of party food on in the very near future.

Here is the view from the dining room into the kitchen and the breakfast area in the far end of the photo. We already purchased a massive table for the space and I am looking into a seamstress to make cushions for our built-in window seat that I plan on having many a Saturday morning breakfast perched upon.

It is almost too much excitement to contain and I am so excited I have this blog to share the experience through. But it is very important to note that none of this would be possible without my dear old Dad. He owns a construction company and is building this house for us in one of the most loving and time consuming gifts a person can give. I know for him it is a true labor of love. He is a very busy man and our project certainly hasn't helped clear his schedule. I can tell that he has taken so much pride in every detail and I am positive that we will have the best home Forrest and my money can buy. His willingness to take on such an involved project for nothing other than a thank you will not easily be forgotten. Forrest and I are so grateful for the gift he has given us and we will spend a lifetime trying to repay him in any way we can. And if there is anything I do well, it is repayment in the form of food. I plan on making more than my fair share of meals for my father in the beautiful kitchen of my dreams that he made a reality!

This is the perfect recipe to accompany this post since my Daddy eats a slice of Cinnamon Raisin Bread every morning with a glass of juice. It isn't as sweet as this pound cake and no where near as fattening, but the ingredient combination is one that brings him to my mind every time I read it in a recipe.

Cinnamon-Raisin Pound Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living July 2009


Makes 2 cakes


  • 1 pound (3 1/4 cups) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 4 sticks softened unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 9 large, room-temperature eggs
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans. Combine 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and salt in a bowl.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, for 8 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium, and add vanilla extract.

Lightly beat eggs, and add to mixer bowl in 4 additions, mixing thoroughly after each and scraping down sides.

Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 4 additions, mixing until just incorporated.

Toss raisins in remaining 2 tablespoons flour; fold into finished batter.

Divide batter in half. Fold cinnamon into 1 half.

Scoop batters into 2 prepared pans, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating plain and cinnamon.

Swirl with a knife about 8 times.

Tap on counter to distribute; smooth tops.

Bake until a tester inserted into center of each cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Make the glaze: Combine 2 cups confectioners' sugar and 4 to 5 tablespoons milk in a bowl.

Drizzle over cooled cakes.

Let the glaze harden and serve.

My Adapted Printable Recipe

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Grilling Grief

As much as I cook and as much experience I have in the kitchen, surprisingly I have no experience grilling. Normally, every time I am part of a dinner where grilling is involved the men take care of that aspect. Eager to have the tables turned, I never object or offer to help. They are men after all and offering help would be insulting, right?

In addition to the traditional grilling gender stereotypes, another factor that has added to my lack of grilling experience is that we didn't have a grill the entire time we lived in DC. Grills weren't allowed in the condo building we lived in so we didn't have that cooking method as an option.

Well this recipe thrust me into the world of grilling quickly. I knew the recipe required grilled chicken and I knew someone would have to do that step, but I just figured someone else would be around to help out. Unfortunately, I figured wrong. When it was time to grill the chicken I found myself home alone and realized it was now or never. I called Forrest and asked how to light the grill and then I went for it. I threw the seasoned chicken on the grill and hoped for the best. I wish I would have taken pictures of my virgin grilling attempt, but the horror of what I saw was just too much to bare. When I turned my chicken I lost half of the breast as it stuck to the grill in a violent manner. I think this means that I turned the chicken too early (according to Mr. Flay and the few bits of knowledge I learned from watching his show on Saturday mornings). I was able to salvage enough for the recipe, but my grilling still needs a little work. What do you think - Was that my problem? Did I turn the meat too early? Or should I have greased the grill?

Grilled Chicken and Pesto Farfalle
Adapted from Cooking Light September 2008

  • 1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 20 ounces uncooked wheat farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% low-fat milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) jar commercial pesto (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 cups halved grape tomatoes (about 2 pints)

1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

2. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes or until done, turning after 6 minutes. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces; keep warm.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Place pasta in large bowl.

4. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Combine 1/2 cup milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Stir in pesto.

Gradually add remaining 1 cup milk and half-and-half, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Cook 8 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1 cup cheese; stir until cheese melts.

5. Add chicken and sauce to pasta,

tossing well to coat. Add tomatoes; toss gently. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Serve immediately.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cups, Corks and Canvas

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Corks and Canvas with my friend Melanie and a few of her girlfriends. Corks and Canvas is an establishment that provides a night of fun and unique entertainment. The idea is that you get together a group of friends for a relaxing evening of painting and drinking! You are allowed to bring your own alcohol and snacks and Corks and Canvas provides the rest. You are greeted at the door with a fresh canvas and directed to your seat that is complete with an easel, paint brushes, and a rainbow of paint. There is an upbeat and informative instructor that guides you through the masterpiece you are about to create. The instructors are patient, knowledgeable, fun and thorough. They walk you through each step at the snail's pace that is required for a large group of tipsy amateur artists.

I was not very confident in my ability to create art in the latex form. I don't draw, paint or sketch. I even find that my stick figures look deformed. Art in this genre is not my cup of tea and didn't think I would be able to create anything worth looking at for any other purpose than laughter. Our objective that night was to paint a New Orleans streetcar scene. As you can see below, with the instructors very descriptive and broken down instructions I was able to finish and ended up with something that I was proud of and believed resembled a street car.

Until I looked at my neighbor's creation, that is. What can I say? Some people are have it and some people don't! Never the less, we had a great time and I was excited to experience one of the fun things to do in Mandeville before I move to the city of New Orleans and away from the opportunity.

These are the treats I brought for our group of ladies to enjoy as we worked. Everyone liked them, I even shared them with the instructor and few of the ladies we met that night.

Peanut Butter-Fudge Cups

Adapted from Cooking Light
November 2001


  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare crust, place first 4 ingredients in a large bowl;

beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Lightly spoon 1 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour and salt to peanut butter mixture;

cut in flour with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle surface with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time; toss with a fork until combined.

Shape mixture into 24 balls, using 1 tablespoon of the mixture for each. Place 1 ball in each of 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Press dough into bottoms and up sides of muffin cups.

To prepare filling, combine 2/3 cup brown sugar and the next 4 ingredients (2/3 cup brown sugar through milk) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Beat egg is a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of the hot mixture to the egg to temper. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour and egg

until into the chocolate mixture until well blended. Divide chocolate mixture evenly among muffin cups using a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon.

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until the pastry is lightly browned; cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes.

Run a knife around outside edges of cups. Remove cups from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

And Serve.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe