Sunday, September 28, 2008


This past weekend, I talked JJ into going apple and pumpkin picking at a local orchard, Anderson Orchards. They were also having their big Fall Apple Festival. We had such a fun time there, the highlight being chestnuts for $4/lb! I usually find them at Kroger for $7/lb later on in October or November, so it was a great surprise!

The first time I ever tried roasting chestnuts at home, I didn't know you need to cut an X on the top. After roasting them for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, I opened the oven and they exploded! Luckily I had glasses on so they didn't burn my eyes, but I had chestnut all over my hair and clothes.... not fun! Now, I know how to do it though - slit an X on top, it makes removing the shell much easier, too. Generally, if a chestnut doesn't open up on it's own when roasting, it's a bad one! Most of mine were good, and tasted delicious!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry Cous Cous

Rigatoni a la Vodka

For dinner last night, I was home alone and I wanted something comforting and warm, a big bowl of pasta sounded perfect. I haven't made penne a la vodka in a while, and I had all of the supplies on hand, so I decided to go for that rather than pesto, and I added in some peas at the end.

Rigatoni a la Vodka with Peas

1/2 lb . Rigatoni
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 c. vodka
1 28 oz can san marzano tomatoes, crushed
1/4 - 1/2 c. fat free 1/2 and 1/2
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 c. frozen peas

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt heavily, cook pasta to al dente.
In a large skillet over medium, sweat out garlic and onions with salt and pepper for 5 minutes. Add vodka, cook off alcohol. Add tomatoes and cream, bring to a simmer.
Toss in pasta and peas, bring back to a bubble. Top with cheese and basil.

Butternut Squash, Apple and Stilton Phyllo Tart

I made a tart similar to this a few months ago that I loved, so I decided to add to it and change it up a bit. I added apples because I had half an apple from the salad left over, and squash and apples are delicious together. I saw a recipe for butternut squash puree with stilton on top, so I chose to top this with stilton. I used phyllo because I don't add butter between the layers (just a bit of nonstick spray) and it still comes out great and is low-fat. The bottom layer stays moist with a thin spread of goat cheese. This is the most perfect accompinament to a bowl of soup or my harvest spinach salad!

Butternut Squash, Apple and Stilton Phyllo Tart

20 sheets of phyllo
Nonstick cooking spray - butter flavor
1/4 log plain goat cheese
1 large butternut squash, peeled, cut into disks
1/2 granny smith apple, sliced
1/4 c. crumbled stilton
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place a steamer over boiling water. Drop in squash disks. Steam for 5-10 minutes, or until fork tender.
Lay out a tart pan, spray with nonstick spray.
Lay 2 sheets of phyllo on tray, spray with nonstick spray, rotate 90 degrees, lay another, and repeat until the bottom is completely covered and phyllo is used up.
Spread goat cheese thinly and carefully on the bottom. Layer on squash, then press apple pieces in between. Top with stilton, salt and pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Harvest Spinach Salad

This is a very simple salad showcasing a few of my favorite fall flavors!

Fall Harvest Salad

4 c. baby spinach leaves

1/2 granny smith apple, diced

1/4 c. dried cranberries and cherries

2 tbsp. shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/4 log crumbled cranberry and cinnamon goat cheese

2 tbsp. Newman's light cranberry walnut dressing

Arrange salad, top with dressing!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Outrageous Brownies

Whenever I need to make brownies, I go to 2 recipes, either Triple chocolate or Outrageous. This time, outrageous won! I iced them with a simple chocolate buttercream. I doubled the recipe and used my sheet pan for giant sheet cakes. They always come out perfectly!

Outrageous Brownies
Ina Garten

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces (omitted in case of allergies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Classic White Cupcakes

When I decided to make vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, Tricia pointed me in the way of Bridget's White cake comparison. It was amazing to read all she had! I chose to make the Classic White Layer Cake from CI. I was not disppointed at all! They were fantastic, first flavor to sell out at the bakesale!

Classic White Layer (Cup)Cakes

2¼ cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter softened

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter evenly between 24 cupcake liners. Fill about half way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Breast Cancer Walk Bake Sale

My mom is participating in the Charlotte Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on October 24-25. To help her raise some more money (she's already raised around $7,100!) we had a bake sale! She asked me to bake for her, so we decided on 3 flavors of cupcakes, brownies, and 3 kinds of cookies. We had a great time, and raised over $500! I will be posting the recipes for each item as the week goes on!

I made everything from scratch in the church's kitchen because it has 2 ovens, which really kept things moving!
My schedule was:
Thursday: Make royal icing ribbons and buckeyes
Friday: Make 10 recipes of cookie dough and all butter cream icing
Saturday: Bake all cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and ice
Sunday morning: Bag up all items

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Memory...

On Sunday morning, my Grandpa passed away. Normally I wouldn't blog about personal matters on my cooking blog, but my Grandpa was a huge influence on me.
He was a professional baker in New York for over 40 years. Because of that, he was my #1 fan and critic! He always told me how proud he was of me when I baked wedding cakes or even a small tray of brownies. And he ALWAYS 'tested' my buttercream to see if it met his expectations. A few years ago, he gave me his recipe cards from the bakery that were over 25 years old, and were in quantities of hundreds of cakes and cookies! I'll always treasure our special baking bond :)
He lived a wonderful, long, and mostly healthy life, gave and recieved more love than I can explain.
So cheers, Gramps! I'll miss you and I love you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Baked Spaghetti with Mini Turkey Sausage Balls

For dinner tonight, I wanted to use up some ingredients on hand. I had some ground turkey, marinara, ricotta, and spaghetti. Rather than make meatballs, I decided to make little turkey sausage balls. I love Penzey's spicy sausage seasoning because it's much cheaper to take ground turkey and season it than buy turkey sausage. I ran out of the mixture, so I looked at the ingredients list and made up my own using their spice blend. I served this with a big Caesar salad.

Baked Spaghetti and Mini Turkey Sausage Balls

1/2 lb. spaghetti (Ronzoni Smart Taste)

2 c. zesty marinara

1/2 lb. 99% fat free ground turkey

2 tbsp. Spicy Sausage Seasoning

1 c. part skim ricotta

10 bail leaves, torn

1/4 c. part skim mozzarella

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in pasta. Cook to al dente.

Heat marinara in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add turkey and seasoning mix in a bowl, toss gently to combine. Form into 1 cm. balls and drop into simmering sauce as they're formed to poach.

Gently toss sausage in the sauce to cook, about 10 minutes.

Turn off skillet.

Add pasta to the sauce and sausage mixture, toss to coat.

Add ricotta and toss to combine. If pasta looks dry, add chicken stock.

Pour pasta and sausage into a casserole dish. Top with Cheeses.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until browned on top and bubbly.

Spicy Sausage Mixture

1 tbsp. salt

2 tsp. ground black pepper

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. whole fennel seeds

2 tsp. ground fennel seeds

Mix all spices and store in a glass spice jar or plastic storage bag.

We like it extra brown and crunchy, but you can take it out sooner if you like it creamier!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pumpkin Risotto

I'm so happy it's September, fall food is acceptable now!!! I am so happy to break out my pumpkin and squash recipes and ideas, as pumpkin is one of my favorite foods and ingredients. It's so easy to incorporate pumpkin into all kinds of dishes. The health benefits of pumpkin are astounding - 300% of the daily recommended Vitamin A intake and 5 g of fiber per serving!

I decided to have someone very special taste test this risotto before we ate it, and she gave it a wagging tail! She even waited for me to take a picture - I think we've got stay covered!

(Pumpkin Spice being patient...)

(...and finally, digging in!)

Pumpkin Risotto

1 tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion, minced
salt and ground black pepper
1 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 c. warmed chicken stock
3/4 c. canned pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar reduction

2 links of Maple Apple Chicken Sausage (Trader Joes)
1 lb. roasted asparagus spears

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper. Toss to begin cooking. Add rice, toast for 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until the liquid is evaporated.
Add 1/3 c. chicken stock, stirring in between additions, about every 3 minutes.
After all of the stock is absorbed, add the canned pumpkin. Turn heat to low and let the rice cook and pumpkin absorb into the rice.
Add parmesan cheese, stir, and plate with balsamic reduction.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Spinach Manicotti

Tonight I was in the mood for stuffed shells, but Kroger didn't have any shells. I settled with manicotti, which is basically the same. I use a basic recipe that my mom uses. They're very easy to fill if you use a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with the end cut off. They're also very healthy when made with part skim cheeses and lots of veggies!

Spinach Manicotti

8 manicotti shells

2 c. zesty marinara

1 egg

1 c. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed

1 c. part skim ricotta

salt and pepper

1 tbsp. parmesan cheese

pinch of red pepper flakes

pinch of oregano

1/4 c. part skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spoon half the marinara into a baking dish.

Boil the manicotti in heavily salted water for 5 minutes, drain.

Mix remaining ingredients except mozzarella in a bowl. Spoon into a pastry bag with a hole cut off that's the size of the manicotti tubes.

Squeeze some of the mixture into the manicotti, place them in the baking dish. Cover with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Baked Egg Rolls and Sesame Chicken Teriyaki

One of my co-workers got Chinese take-out for lunch last week, and as I watched her eat her egg roll, I decided to try out baked egg rolls, as I avoid all things fried, and try to make baked alternatives!

These egg rolls came out great, they were cripsy and delicious. I made Teriyaki Chicken and Snow peas alongside, and served the eggrolls with soy sauce and Chinese Hot Mustard.

It was the perfect make you own takeout for a Friday night!

Baked Egg Rolls

12 wonton wrappers
1 tsp. EVOO
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 " ginger, grated
1/2 c. shredded carrot
1/2 c. sliced scallions
2 c. shredded cabbage
1 red pepper, in julienne strips
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil

In a wok over high heat, add oil, garlic and ginger. Cook for 20 seconds constantly stirring, add carrots, scallions, and cabbage. Contine to toss over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to stir and cook until all of the liquid is out of all the vegetables, about 5-8 minutes. Turn heat down if veggies begin to burn at all.
Lay wonton wrappers out on cutting board. Spoon 1 heaping tbsp. of the mixture into each wrapper, fold over and tuck in sides, use a little water on your finger to seal the last edge.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place egg rolls on a nonstick baking sheet, bake for 12 minutes, remove, baste the tops with a little so sauce on a pastry brush, return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Serve.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Six Bean Chili with Corncake Toppers

For dinner tonight I had to put something in the crock pot since JJ and I would be eating dinner seperately. My best tool for that is a big one-pot meal (or crock pot) on the stove. As I was rummaging through the cubbord this weekend, I found a package of mixed dried beans my mom gave me to make a 6 bean soup. Rather than have a soup though, I decided to make it chili. I added some veggies and spices, and served it with the usual chili side - corncakes! This meal is very easy, spicy, and healthy!

Six Bean Chili

2 c. assorted dried beans, soaked overnight
2 slices pancetta, minced (optional)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. dark beer
1 5 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 chipotles in adobo, minced
2 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
Sour Cream for Garnish

Corn Cake Toppers:
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. minced jalapeno
1/4 cup shredded cheddar

In a large soup pot over medium high, sautee pancetta until fat renders. Drain out most of the fat, add the onions, garlic, and peppers. Season with salt and pepper, cook 3-4 minutes. Add beer to deglaze the pot, turn to medium-low, and add all of the remaining ingredients.
Let the chili simmer on the stove for at least 3 hours, or until the beans reach desired doneness.
Serve with Sour Cream.

For the Corncakes:
Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat.
Gently mix all ingredients in a bowl, drop heaping tablespoons full into skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes per side.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Very Veggie Pizza

My absolute favorite pizza (besides anywhere in New York...) is Donato's Veggie Lovers. There isn't a Donato's here in Bloomington, so I have to re-create it myself. I love a nice thin crust, and the whole wheat mix makes it healthier. I never used canned mushrooms - except on pizza! The mushrooms stay really moist and it's the way they do it at Donato's!

Very Veggie Pizza

1 recipe standard whole wheat pizza dough, recipe below
1 c. part skim mozzarella cheese
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 c. canned sliced mushrooms
1/2 red onion, sliced
10 green olives, chopped
1 tbsp Penzey's Pizza Seasoning

1 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Drizzle of EVOO

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add water, sugar and yeast.
Swirl it around until it's mixed, then set aside for 10 minutes.
Put the dough hook on, and add the flours.
Let dough process for 5 minutes.
Cover with a damp towel, set in a warm place and let it rest for 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450.
Form dough into a circle on pizza pan, top with sauce, cheese, and toppings.
Bake for 12 minutes or so.