Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chocolate-Filled Biscotti

I ran across this recipe for Chocolate-Filled Biscotti a couple of years ago in Better Homes and Gardens, and it turned out so well that it is one of the few recipes which Jenni and I absolutely must make every year on Christmas Baking Day.

To be honest, this cookie has only one thing in common with the biscotti which I am familiar with, and that is its general shape. Otherwise, it is not "twice baked", as biscotti should be. I'm not complaining about its misnomer, though, because this is truly one delicious little treat. The dough is tender with cream cheese, the filling a delectible mixture of bittersweet chocolate and walnuts. Each recipe makes 4 "logs". I keep them all in the freezer, then thaw, dust with powdered sugar, and slice as needed.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Cherry Almond Brownies, Toasted Coconut Marshmallows, Chocolate Baklava

Brownies and Marshmallows and Baklava—oh my!!!

Christmas Baking is in full swing here (in those hours in which I am not spending decking the halls) and I have found some wonderful, delightful treats for this holiday season. My friend Jenni arrived last Friday for an 8+-hour baking session and the results were spectacular. Here are three of the goodies which we made, and I hope to get the rest posted soon.

First, the Brownies. But not any ordinary brownies, no sir, but brownies which not only contain amaretto-soaked dried cherries and almonds but, after being cut into small squares, are dipped in chocolate. Oh, be still my heart!

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour and these super-chocolatey little treats defies description (and also defies your eating just one…).

My notes for this recipe:

Line the pan with foil. Absolutely. Then the brownies are super-easy to remove from the pan when cool, and cut into nice little squares which are perfect for dipping and gift-giving.

The chocolate for dipping the brownie squares into is not mentioned in the ingredient list, and we used only half of the amount that was called for.

Also note that you have to decorate with sprinkles within seconds of dipping the brownies because the coating sets very quickly. I was able to dip about 5 at a time, decorate, the go on to the next set.

Cherry Almond Brownies

The candied cherries in these fudgy brownies evoke the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers "cocktails" of childhood holidays.

  • 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur, brandy, or apple juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (Baker's Special superfine preferred)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup diced almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied red cherries
  • 1/2 cup Peter's Burgundy Semisweet Chocolate Chunks


1) Place dried chopped cherries in a microwave-safe container, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon liquid, cover, and microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to soften and cool.

2) Melt together the chocolate and butter over low heat, or in the microwave. Stir in the sugar and salt. Whisk well. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

3) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8" x 8" square pan or 9" round pan.

4) Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder, then the soaked cherries, almonds, candied cherries, and chocolate chunks.

5) Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, until set. Remove from the oven, and cool before cutting.

6) To dip brownies in coating chocolate: Cut into 1 1/4" squares, patting crumbs into sides of brownies. Wrap and place in the freezer.

7) Melt 1 1/2 pounds coating chocolate by microwaving it in 15-second bursts, and stirring between bursts until most of it is melted. To make a dark, shiny glaze, mix ½ cup + 1 tablespoon hot milk with the melted coating chocolate. Stir vigorously, until the grainy mess smoothes itself into a dark, shiny glaze. The glaze will be firm but not hard, like the chocolate glaze on your favorite snack cakes.

8) Using a chocolate dipping fork, plop a brownie into the glaze, and pull it out. Allow excess chocolate to drip, sliding the tines of the fork against the edges of the dipping bowl to remove excess coating. Place on parchment to set.

Yield: 3 dozen dipped brownies.

Next up, marshmallows. This is a recipe from Gourmet and the second year I have made them (they’re that good—I only make the absolute best two years in a row!). I love making marshmallows—they look impressive (“you’ve made me marshmallows???”), are absolutely delicious, and super-easy.

I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out beautifully.

Toasted-Coconut Marshmallow Squares

Gourmet | December 2007

Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez and Lillian Chou

We often relegate marshmallows to a hot-chocolate topper, but these coconut treats definitely deserve to be offered up solo. Each pillowy square is surrounded by a flurry of toasted coconut. And since they keep for a month, they can be made well in advance of the holiday rush.

Yield: Makes about 4 dozen candies
Active Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 3 1/4 hr (includes setting time)

2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
3 (1/4-ounces) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Equipment: a 9-inch square metal baking pan; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment; a candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes.

Oil 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften while making syrup.

Heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.

With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more.

Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.

Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares.

Put remaining toasted coconut in a small bowl and dredge marshmallows in it to coat completely.

Cook's notes:

· Marshmallow squares keep, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container, in a dry place at cool room temperature 1 month. · To avoid stickiness, try to make marshmallows on a dry day.

And, saved for last, the coup de grace—chocolate baklava from Cooking Light.

Words cannot explain. Delectable, perhaps? Decadent, definitely, even though it is a supposedly “light” recipe. Although we were quite judicious with the amount of butter brushed on the phyllo layers. We still needed almost twice as much more. Too late, we discovered that brushing on one layer, then spraying cooking spray on the next, and repeating, probably would have been the way to go.

No matter, it is delicious and a very holiday-worthy treat. Chocolate, Nutella, nuts, crispy phyllo, honey, cinnamon—why wouldn’t this be good???

And because there weren’t enough calories and fat in what we created, I melted additional bittersweet chocolate, puddled a little on the plate, topped with two “servings” (HA!) of baklava, and drizzled more over the top. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Chocolate Baklava

From Cooking Light

December 2009

Yield: 24 servings (serving size: 1 piece)

3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup blanched toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
24 (14 x 9–inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat; stir until honey dissolves. Increase heat to medium; cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 230° (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds or until melted. Combine hazelnuts and next 5 ingredients (through salt). Lightly coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing ends of sheet to extend over edges of dish; lightly brush with butter. Repeat procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and butter. Drizzle about 1/3 cup melted hazelnut -chocolate spread over phyllo. Sprinkle evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 1/2 cup). Repeat procedure twice with phyllo, butter, hazelnut-chocolate spread, and nut mixture. Top last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each lightly brushed with butter. Press gently into pan.

Make 3 lengthwise cuts and 5 crosswise cuts to form 24 portions using a sharp knife. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until phyllo is golden. Remove from oven. Drizzle honey mixture over baklava. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover; store at room temperature.

Calories: 238, Fat: 13.4g (sat 4.3g,mono 5.6g,poly 2g), Protein: 4g, Carbohydrate: 27.8g

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Leftover Turkey- Hot Brown Casserole

I finally have a minute to sit and breathe (and write). The days really are packed now, and flying by so quickly. This probably has as much to do with the shorter period of daylight as it does my ever-growing "to do" list, but I do not feel much in control lately. And I really do not like not being in control!

Before I start posting my holiday baking, one last recipe using leftover turkey. While most of us have either disposed of (somehow) or frozen whatever leftovers we had from Thanksgiving, there is Christmas coming up with the opportunity to roast yet another bird. And who can have too many leftover turkey recipes?

This recipe is for a variation of a Hot Brown Sandwich. Named after a hotel restaurant in Louisville, KY earlier in the last century (I'm thinking the 1930's?), it is a perfect turkey-leftover dish. Warm turkey slices are placed over toast, then a creamy, cheesy sauce poured over. It is then broiled until the (more) cheese sprinkled on top browns, and served with bacon and tomato. It really is quite delicious.

But it is fussy. I don't have broiler-proof dishes, so I have to make each serving on a baking tray, then transfer (invariably, dripping sauce all the way) to plates.

I found this recipe for a Hot Brown Casserole and gave it a try. Delicious, and so much easier to get it together!

Hot Brown Casserole

3/4 C butter
3/4 C flour
2 eggs
6 C milk

2 C grated extra sharp cheddar (like Cabots)
1/4 C heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste
16 slices bread (white or whole wheat)

16 thin slices roast turkey
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 bacon slices
1 C tomato, seeded & diced

Heat oven to 350.

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add flour,(med heat) stirring to make a roux. Cook 2 to 3 min. Beat eggs well and beat into milk. While stirring, very slowly add milk mixture into butter mixture. Use whisk to keep flour from lumping. If it lumps keep stirring in milk--it will loosen. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Remove from heat and add cheddar cheese. Stir to melt cheese, then add cream,
salt & pepper to taste.

Toast bread until golden. Line the bottom of a 9-13-2 inch casserole (6 slices), and an 8 by 8 by 2 inch (2 slices) with toast trimmed to fit. Cut remaining slices of toast into triangles with crust
removed and set aside. Top toast with slices of turkey. Cover turkey with sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and paprika. Place in oven for 15 min or until golden brown. While casserole is baking fry bacon, cut in half , until crisp. Drain. Dice tomatoes into small bits.

Remove from oven, cover with bacon strips, sprinkle with tomato, and cover with toast points. Serves 8 with a salad.

Modified from Sarah Fritsghner's Derby 101.

Okay, you all know that I am going to make a few tweaks to make it healthier, and here goes.

I used, instead of a roux (flour and butter base for a cream sauce), a very acceptable substitute of a sauce made with skim milk and thickened with cornstarch. And you do not need all of that cheese! The sauce has a lovely, delicate, cheesy flavor, and that's all that is necessary, plus sprinkling the Parm on top before broiling adds another nice, salty cheese flavor to each bite. And adding an egg yolk makes the flavor a little richer.

Subbing skim milk and lowfat half-and-half is a no-brainer. Also, I subbed turkey bacon (chopped to make it easier to eat a piece with each bite). And I added the sherry because the Brown Hotel's original recipe used it and it adds a nice flavor.

And no salad, we think that the taste of good ol' green peas is wonderful with the other flavors.

MY Hot Brown Casserole

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lightened Hot Brown Casserole

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

4 slices whole wheat bread
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 cups skim milk
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 large egg
2 ounces lowfat cheddar cheese -- shredded (I used Cabot's 50% light)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lowfat half & half
1 tablespoon dry sherry
5 ounces turkey breast slices
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
2 slices turkey bacon, Kutztown brand
1 cup chopped tomato
2 teaspoons chopped parsley -- optional

Preheat oven to 350F

Toast the bread. Place the toast in the bottom of an 8"x8" baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and remove from heat. Pour in the milk and whisk (the butter may solidify a bit, but that's okay). Turn the heat to medium and, while whisking vigorously, sprinkle in the flour. Whisk very frequently as the mixture warms up then, as it begins to thicken, whisk continuously to prevent lumps until it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit and cook, still whisking, for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and, still whisking vigorously, slowly dribble in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to warm the beaten egg. Turn the heat under the milk mixture to medium and slowly pour in the egg, whisking to keep the mixture smooth. Return to barely a boil, still whisking. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese. After cheese melts, stir in the cayenne, lowfat half & half, and sherry. Season with white pepper and salt to taste.

Top the toast slices with the turkey. Cover with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and paprika and bake for about 10 minutes, or until bubbly.

While the casserole is in the oven, cook the bacon and chop coarsely.

After the casserole is ready, if desired, place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown.

Divide mixture between two plates. Sprinkle with bacon and chopped tomato. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with additional toast points, if desired.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 509 Calories (kcal); 16g Total Fat (7g Saturated); (28% calories from fat); 44g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 174mg Cholesterol; 1904mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Original recipe, per serving- 778 calories, 44g total fat, 25g saturated, 2539 sodium, 2g fiber.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Tetrazzini

I know that I am not the only one to admit that I enjoy the leftovers after Thanksgiving more than the Big Dinner itself.

After all of these years, Jack and I have a pretty definite list of what we absolutely must have in the days following Thanksgiving. This is #1 on Jack's list. Turkey tetrazzini, which is what we had for dinner tonight, is a casserole of spaghetti, turkey, and vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce. It is delicious, warming, and uses some of that cooked turkey which is taking up so much room in the refrigerator!

(sorry for the dark, slightly out-of-focus photo-- it was late and I was hungry!!!)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey Tetrazzini

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 3

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces chopped red bell pepper -- about 3/4 cup
3 ounces chopped sweet onion -- about 3/4 cup
4 ounces mushrooms -- sliced, about 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup frozen peas -- thawed
1 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce -- optional
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning -- crumbled
1/2 cup lowfat cheddar cheese -- shredded
6 ounces chopped cooked turkey
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook spaghetti until al dente, drain and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute red peppers for 2 minutes, then add onions and saute for 2 minutes, then mushrooms and garlic and continue to saute, stirring soften, until vegetables are just softened. Add peas and stir. Remove from heat.

In a saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until no lumps remain. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until it comes to a boil Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the (optional) hot sauce, seasoning, and cheddar cheese. Stir until it comes to a simmer. Add the turkey and vegetables. Remove from heat.

Transfer the spaghetti to the baking dish and pour the turkey and sauce over. Mix well. Sprinkle with Parmesan, spray the top with cooking spray to prevent drying out, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 512 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat; (20% calories from fat); 40g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 53mg Cholesterol; 506mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, November 23, 2009

Emeril's Spiced Nuts

I spent the better part of today in the kitchen. I am tired, my back and my feet hurt, and I feel bit jumpy from the amount of sugar I have consumed (I must test my baking results, right?), but I am happy. Very happy.

I am compiling a basket to be given as a thank-you gift, and one of the recipes I made today was for spiced nuts. I was certain that I had a tried-and-true recipe, in fact I even remember who gave it to me and that it was printed on a piece of paper which had the recipe title in red. But I looked, in my binders and in both computers, to no avail. So, because it was late afternoon and I needed to be done with it all and start dinner, I logged onto the internet and printed out the first one which looked good. An Emeril Lagasse recipe. :) I usually don't head for the recipes of celebrity chefs, but this turned out to be a good choice on my part.

There were a few negative reviews on the Food Network site, but mostly positive ones, so I gave it a try. These turned out very well, and I will definitely make them again closer to the holidays. I used a mix of cashews, almonds, and pecans, and toasted them in the oven instead of in a skillet. The other changes are indicated in the recipe in bold.

This recipe was quick and easy and perfect for a gift basket (and for Jack, who insisted on several "taste-tests").

Emeril's Spiced Nuts


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water (I used 1-1/2 tablespoons, based on the suggestions of a couple of reviewers)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mixed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds


Mix spices and reserve.

Heat nuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Add the butter, sugar, water and spices to the hot skillet and cook, stirring, until a glaze forms, about 1 minute. Return the nuts to the skillet and toss to combine with the glaze. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until the nuts are glazed and golden brown.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (parchment), separating with a fork. Let rest until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Peeling a Butternut Squash

When I was planting my garden this past spring, I found a packet of butternut squash seeds in the supply cupboard. They looked old but I planted the whole lot in 2 areas of the garden and was surprised when almost every one of them germinated! And they thrived. It was difficult to pull all but 2 of the largest plants to thin them out.

This is my dinner preparation still life from the other night. No, I didn't grow the sprouts (tried once a few years ago, the deer enjoyed them immensely).

Okay, tilt your head to the right to view this. I have downloaded it four times and it will not come up as a horizontal photo!

I harvested about a dozen very nice-sized butternut squash from the garden a few weeks ago(and a half dozen buttercup, the seeds of which I had also “discovered”).

Butternut squash are notoriously difficult to peel, and since they must be peeled if you are to chop them into pieces, I have worked out a rather easy way to get the job done.

Look at the shape of the squash. There is a long, straight neck and a bulbous bottom. What I did was to cut the squash into manageable pieces according to its shape. First, using a sharp knife, and being very careful because when it is laid on its side, obviously the squash wants to roll, cut it where the straight part begins to flare. Then cut off the top (stem) and the bottom (blossom end).

First the more difficult section. Using a Y-peeler, remove a strip around both the top and bottom off the piece, as much as you can (sometimes it will seem to curl on forever!). After that, peel the remaining in short, top-to-bottom strokes.

Next, the straight piece. As you did with the other, a strip around both the top and bottom should be removed.

Then, holding it in your hand and using nice long strokes, peel the easiest section of this squash.

Stand the bulbous peeled piece on its bottom (blossom end) and cut in half. Scrape out the seeds and chop or slice into smaller pieces.

Cut the straight piece into two shorter pieces, stand them on end on a flat, sturdy surface, and slice down in half. Then chop however you want.

Really, the most important parts of this technique are to use a sharp knife and a sharpY-peeler, use a flat work surface, keep the pieces as sturdy as possible, and for heavens’ sake don’t try to cut anything that is showing a tendency to roll. Trim if you must, to create a flat area. Keep the pieces manageable, ones that you can easily hold in your hand while you peel with the other hand.

Now, you can avoid all of this if you are going to scoop the butternut squash flesh from the shell to mash it. There are recipes online which instruct to slice the squash in half lengthwise (the best way, again, is to slice off enough of the stem and blossom ends to that it doesn’t roll), scoop out the seeds, lay cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and roast. I haven’t yet tried this method.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Butternut Squash Bisque; No-Knead Foccacia Tiles

During the past few weeks we’ve been very busy, and I haven’t had the opportunity to cook nearly as much as I would like. Plans to get together with friends this past weekend gave me a perfect, much needed, “excuse” to plan and cook a special fall menu at the lake house. Unfortunately they cancelled, but since I had already packed and lugged everything down from the farm, I went ahead and made it all just for Jack and me. Good thing, though, because we enjoyed the leftovers very much!

Both the soup and the bread recipe came from the October issue of Better Homes & Gardens. I’ve been enjoying their recipes in the past several months, and they seem to be publishing ones which are more to my taste than any other magazine does at this point.

On the menu was butternut squash bisque, no-knead foccacia tiles, mixed green salad, and apple crumb pie.

I prepared everything but the dessert. I gave up on the pie since I don’t want to make a whole one when it’s only the two of us to eat it! However, I didn’t want to carry all of the apples back home, so I made a quick apple crisp for dessert and some applesauce for the freezer. And now I have a pie crust in the freezer, all ready for Thanksgiving and a pumpkin filling.

First, the Butternut Squash Bisque. Since my garden produced such a bumper crop of butternut squash this past summer, I have become particularly adept at peeling the little buggers. The soup was, otherwise, very simple. Basically I sautéed chunks of squash and onion along with celery and carrot (I used only one half of the amount of butter and added some mild olive oil as well), added vegetable broth, chunks of apple, apple cider, and chopped chipotle pepper. These were cooked until the veggies were very tender, then I ran my hand-blender through it to make smooth. Light sour cream was whisked in and the result was a satin-y smooth, thick soup with an incredibly delicious flavor. The apple added an undertone to the taste of the butternut squash which was quite pleasant. Adding the chipotle was a stroke of genius on the part of the person who developed this recipe, because an underlying hint of smoky fire was nice as well. The only addition I would make next time is to add some thyme. Or maybe sprinkle some chopped fresh sage with the garnishes.

Of course, a soup is naked until the garnishes are added. I thinned a little sour cream with skim milk, drizzled that on top of the bisque then sprinkled smoked Gouda, minced parsley, and chopped turkey bacon. The smokiness of the Gouda and bacon complimented the butternut squash perfectly, and added a nice texture.

Next, the No-Knead Foccacia Tiles. I was intrigued by the name “foccacia tiles”, a no-knead dough that is stretched out to fit in a large baking pan, the dough scored into 6 sections, and each section topped with a variety of items. In the recipe, they suggested a pretty odd topping (thin slices of lime) but also sun-dried tomato, thinly sliced Roma tomato, and pumpkin seeds. I decided on chopped Kalamata olives, roasted red and yellow bell pepper, and thinly-sliced garlic and herbs for on the different sections of my foccacia. Sun-dried tomatoes would have been wonderful, but I couldn’t find the package which I was certain was in the pantry. That happens way too often.

Because it is a no-knead bread, you have to start it a day ahead (in order for the yeast to do its thing), but this is just such an easy method. And although I am a huge fan of carbs, especially in the form of thick, chewy bread, I think that next time I will reduce the dough recipe by 1/3. It seemed to both Jack and me that there was too much bread for the amount of toppings. Although I could certainly have increased the topping quantity, it would have still been a large ratio of bread-to-toppings. But, oh, what a flavor! We ate way too much of this, probably more than twice what we should have, but you just can’t beat fresh-from-the-oven bread. And we both love the no-knead breads since the flavor is so much more developed and complex that those that are done with a quick rise, or even a regular-length rise.

Next up, the salad. This is hands-down Jack’s favorite type of salad—greens, fruit, nuts. I could have added cheese and made him even happier, but there was smoked Gouda on the soup. :)

I have been buying Tanimura & Antle brand of artesian lettuces at Sam’s Club. 25 ounces for about $3.50, which beats the cost of plain bagged spinach in the grocery store. And these are so flavorful and pretty, a mixture of dark red and dark green baby Oak Leaf, Tango, and Gem. I added sliced carrots, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts, and then a simple Italian vinaigrette. I know that it’s a good salad when Jack eats it without a single “ew, we’re having salad” remark!

As for the apple crisp, I’m not going to post the recipe since I made it on the fly and there are recipes galore for this type of dessert. I did reduce the butter in the topping by half, and added a little canola oil to make it crumbly, because we all know that liquid fats are so much healthier than solid fats, don’t we?!?!

The final gold star on our dinner was, the next day, Jack said (totally out of the blue, as he was supposed to be working on his bank statements): “There was not one part of that meal that was not super-excellent.”

Super-excellent! Even after of 26+ years of cooking for him, I still bask in that kind of praise. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chicken Blue Cheese Sandwich

It is mid-November and we are experiencing weather that I would like to have stick around until… next May. The sun is not as high in the sky as it has been for previous months and it isn’t nearly as warm, either, but just having the bright yellow orb in the sky is enough to make me happy.

There is still arugula growing in the cold frame and as I was picking some for a lunch salad, I thought of a sandwich that my friend Nancy had made when she visited the lake house a few months ago. I mentally clicked through the ingredients which I would need—blue cheese, chicken, fresh tomato…yes, I had them all. In fact, I only have a couple of tomatoes left from the garden and this would be a wonderful way to use one. Jack was out of town and I could make a sandwich with blue cheese and arugula without having to make him something else. I found an 8” piece of a baguette in the freezer and went to work.

I had a lot to do that day, and decided not to look up the Cooking Light recipe but to just “wing it”.

First I thawed a chicken breast, heated the grill, and cooked it. After it cooled a little, I sliced it diagonally.

In a small bowl, I mashed blue cheese, cream cheese, salt and pepper, and enough skim milk to make it


After splitting the baguette in half horizontally, I scooped some of the excess bread from the center of both halves (and yes, I ate it the "excess"—never waste good bread!). The blue cheese mixture was spread on both cut sides; on the bottom half I layered arugula, then the chicken slices, then the tomatoes.

Because it was such a gorgeous sunny day, and we hadn’t yet put away the tables on the patio, I ate outside. For 20 minutes or so I pretended that it was still summer.

The grilled chicken, blue cheese, bitter arugula, and sweet ripe tomato all combined to make an absolutely delicious sandwich.

A praying mantis sauntered across the table to see what I was doing. I offered him (her?) a bit of arugula but, perhaps like Jack, he doesn’t care for it.

(this happy little guy looks kind of cute when viewed as a small photo, but is slightly terrifying when placed on full-screen!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Turkey Bacon

The trouble with photographing a lot of "autumn dishes" is that they have a tendency to look very dull. And, in the case of this particular recipe, using whole grain penne didn't help much.

Please don't let the photo make your decision, read the description: hearty penne pasta mixed with sweet, roasted butternut squash, smoky turkey bacon, and steamed spinach; cloaked in a light, yet creamy, sauce spiked with smoked gouda and fresh sage.

It takes a while to put together, but well worth the effort (like, for example, with a lasagna!). And if you make it for only 4 or 6 people, there will be leftovers. :)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Turkey Bacon

Recipe By : Vicci
Servings : 10


1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 3/4 pounds butternut squash -- (approximately 36 ounces after peeling and removing seeds)

16 ounces whole wheat pasta

10 slices turkey bacon
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 3/4 cups sweet onion -- (thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 ounces spinach -- coarsely chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups skim milk
14 ounces low-sodium chicken broth

5 ounces smoked Gouda cheese -- shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons fresh sage -- (minced)
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper -- or hot pepper sauce

2 ounces Parmesan cheese -- grated

Preheat oven to 425F. Coat a large baking dish (about 5 quart capacity) with cooking spray and set aside.

Peel and seed squash, chop into 3/4" pieces. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and add squash; sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and set adise, but do not turn the oven off.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne until al dente. When done, drain, toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.

While squash bakes and pasta cooks, fry turkey bacon in a large nonstick skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels, chop, and set aside.

In the same skillet, drizzle about 1 teaspoon olive oil and saute onions over medium heat until golden and soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, stir, add spinach, and stir for a minute or two, until the spinach wilts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place flour in a large saucepot. Slowly add the milk to the flour, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Place over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for one minute, whisking constantly. Slowly add the chicken broth, still whisking constantly, and keep it up until your arm falls off or the mixture returns to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the smoked gouda, salt, pepper, sage, and chipotle pepper (or hot sauce).

Depending on the size of the skillet or saucepot, or using a very large bowl if necessary, mix together the cooked penne, cheese sauce, and spinach mixture until combined. Gently fold in the roasted squash, and pour the mixture into the large baking pan. Spray the surface of the penne mixture with cooking spray and cover with foil.

Bake at 425F for about 15 minutes, remove foil, and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Per serving: 391 Calories (kcal); 11g Total Fat; (24% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 33mg Cholesterol; 642mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turkey-Stuffed Peppers

I had a crisper-drawer full of bell peppers. Nice problem to have, isn't it?! :) I harvested these from the garden a couple of weeks ago, before our first "hard frost", and there were so many that I needed to do something with them before they started to get soft.

My Mom mentioned that she also had a lot of bell peppers and was making a large batch of stuffed peppers to freeze. I decided to emulate her and do the same.

This is basically her recipe (I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, and brown rice instead of white). She has made these for so many years that she didn't have exact measurements, but she did tell me what ingredients to use and they turned out great.

Stuffed peppers are a comfort food from when I was a kid, perfect for fall and winter. For some reason, neither me nor my brothers and sister ever ate the pepper itself. We would eat the meat stuffing, then toss the pepper in the trash. Yet another instance of my wanting to transport myself back in time to give my younger self a smart little slap and say "you idiot! Try it!". They are gooooood!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey-Stuffed Peppers

Recipe By : My Mom
Serving Size : 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

3/4 cup brown rice -- cooked (will yield about 2-1/2 cups of cooked rice)
3 pounds bell peppers -- about 8 large
6 ounces sweet onion -- cut into chunks
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Italian herbs
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 pounds lean ground turkey
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
28 ounces tomato sauce
1/4 cup water -- or dry red wine
1 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper -- (or more, adjust to taste)

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. When done, remove lid, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.

Slice peppers in half, lengthwise, and remove stem, core, and seeds. Place about 4" of water in a large pot (that can hold all of the peppers), bring to a boil, add the peppers, cover, lower heat, and steam for 5 minutes or until barely tender. Drain into a colander and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large baking pan (large enough to hold the peppers in a single layer) and set aside.

In a food processor, chop the onion. Add the garlic, Italian herbs, egg and egg white and process.

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl, add cooked rice, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix lightly. Pour the egg mixture over all and mix well (using your just-washed hands is the best way).

Mix the tomato sauce, water or wine, oregano, basil, and pepper in a small bowl. Season with ground black pepper to taste. Pour about 3/4 cup into the bottom of the baking sheet and spread around a little. Set aside the remaining sauce.

Divide mixture between each pepper half, rounding the tops. Place in the baking sheet, and cover with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes, remove foi and baste with saucel, then continue to bake for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven, cool slightly, spoon additional sauce over, and serve.

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Per serving: 333 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat (2 g Saturated); (25% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 97mg Cholesterol; 754mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Homemade Cough Syrup

I am taking a brief break from food-blogging to announce a great discovery.

It is 8am and I am awake, bright-eyed and busy-tailed as it were, because for the first time in almost a week I have had a good nights' sleep. When Jack finally starts communicating in sentences, I am sure that he will tell me the same thing.

He had a short cold which, due to rest, vitamin C, echinacea, and lots of fluids, he has managed to be rid of. However, he had a nagging cough that would not go away. It wasn't too bad in the day, but all night he coughed and tossed and coughed and tossed... He insisted that he had it under control with throat lozenges, but he lied. For the past 3 mornings I woke tired.

Yesterday I was searching for a way to soothe that throat of his so we could both get some sleep and I came across a posting by a college nurse which gave directions for a homemade cough syrup. Having the ingredients handy, I decided to make some. I mean, what could it hurt?

Jack was skeptical, to say the least. Containing honey, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, and ginger, it was not the tastiest thing he would ever ingest, but I urged him to give it a try.

He reluctantly took the syrup, grimaced, brushed his teeth, and we went to bed. Six uninterrupted hours later I woke, and not to his coughing but, rather, to Spooky who decided to give me nice face-cleaning at 5:30am).

Sleep, glorious uninterrupted sleep!

I want to share my happiness... :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Linguine with Creamy White Clam Sauce

Gold and red leaves are falling from the trees in our yard in droves, it's cool and rainy, and I am suddenly craving warming, hearty meals.

I had a recipe for linguine with white clam sauce that I have made for a couple of years, but it uses cream of mushroom soup and is a little heavy and pasty for my taste, so I wanted to find another. I posted a request on the Cuisine at Home website and now have two recipes to try! The first I made tonight for dinner and it was very, very good.

Linguine with white clam sauce can be high in fat and calories because of the amount of butter and cheese usually added. This really isn't necessary because using a good olive oil and being judicious with the cheese can still make a quite delicious dish, as this recipe proves.

The original recipe made enough for 4 servings, so I needed to cut the ingredients in half. Easy enough, but since Jack refuses to believe that a "serving" of pasta is a mere 2 ounces, so I needed to adjust the recipe a little to accommodate more than half of the amount of pasta. This was done with a simple addition of lowfat half and half and a little cornstarch to thicken it.

As always when I post a recipe using lowfat (or fat-free) half and half, I have to warn that if you boil this it will separate and the result will be little clumps of congealed white stuff in the sauce. Not at all pretty, but it doesn't affect the flavor. I know. I've forgotten my own warning and done this several times!

Anyway, a meal couldn't be quicker to pull together. Add a salad and some good wine and you have an easy, absolutely delicious meal which is perfect for a cool fall evening.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Linguine with Creamy White Clam Sauce

Servings: 2 Preparation Time :0:25

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

6 ounces whole wheat linguine
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 1/2 ounces chopped clams -- do not drain
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lowfat half & half (can also use milk, if doing so increase cornstarch to 1tsp)
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt, then the pasta and stir. Cook until al dente, and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a nonstick skillet over a medium flame and add olive oil. Swirl to distribute the oil then add the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds, then add crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute, add the entire can of clams (undrained) and cook for 3 minutes.

Add half of the Parmesan and half of the parsley. Mix the lowfat half and half and cornstarch and stir into the clam sauce. Stirring constantly, bring to almost a boil (when lowfat or fat-free half and half boils, it will separate). Turn the heat off and add the cooked, drained linguine.

Divide between 2 plates, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and parsley, and serve.

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Per serving: 491 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat (2g Saturated); (17% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 68mg Cholesterol; 512mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

We have a lot of different varieties of trees in our yard, and this
combo looks so nice in the fall- a silver maple in the background
with a purple flowering plum in front of it.

The small wooden building is an old corn crib.