January 30, 2013

Stuffed French Toast

Before I talk about this dish, I have to say how excited I am for my dear cousin Abby!  She's 28, lives in Maine, and got engaged yesterday.  I just found out and I am sooooo happy and excited for her - she finally found the man of her dreams and they are going to have an amazing life together!  CAN NOT WAIT FOR THE WEDDING!  I love weddings, don't you?  My step-daughter is also getting married this year.  Bring on the weddings - I'm ready!

OK, sorry.....but I'm so excited!  ANYWAY, this recipe came to me as I was looking through my cabinet and trying to think of something different to make my son for breakfast.  I spotted the jar of Nutella and remembered how much he liked the banana Nutella egg rolls I make (click here & scroll down for recipe), so I thought I'd try a variation of that but as stuffed french toast instead.  Sometimes you get an idea but it just doesn't pan out, so I wasn't sure if this would go the way I planned.  Fortunately, the only close call was when I flipped it while cooking....when heated, the bananas and Nutella got a little slippery and I almost had a disaster in the pan! 

I placed the plate in front of my son and eagerly waited for his response.  The first bite got a "Mmmmm", then the second bite got "Oh my god, this is amazing!"  Wooo hooo - he loved it!  It makes me happy when what I imagine to be good actually turns out to be good!  I'll be making this many more times for sure.  I bet substituting some strawberries in there would be yummy too......

Banana Nutella Stuffed French Toast (serves 2)

1egg, beaten
1 tbs milk, 1/2 & 1/2 or water
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
4 slices of bread (French or Italian is best, but regular sandwich bread like I used here works too)
1 large banana 
Maple Syrup (VT is best of course)
1 tbsp butter

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, nutmeg & milk (or whichever liquid you prefer).  Spread the Nutella on one side of each piece of bread (all 4 pieces).  Peel and slice the banana, about 1/4" thick and distribute them evenly onto two of the pieces of bread.  Take the other 2 pieces (the 2 without the banana) and place on top (you will have to sandwiches stuffed with the Nutella & bananas).  Heat the butter in a large skillet on medium heat until melted.

Place each "sandwich" into the egg mixture and make sure it's evenly coated before turning it over and doing the same thing on the other side.  Place into hot skillet and cook on each side until it's a nice deep golden brown.  Remove from heat and serve hot with maple syrup (since the Nutella & banana are sweet, just a little drizzle of syrup was enough for us). 

January 27, 2013

Steak & Cheese Stuffed Peppers

If you are a regular here, you already know that I try on most days to limit my carbs and to eat healthy.  I do not completely deprive myself though.  Once a week (usually on Friday nights) I eat anything I want for one meal AND I also indulge in dessert.  I think it's important to do that, even if you are trying to loose weight.  Deprivation can totally derail your efforts because when you are feeling deprived you tend to "cheat" on your diet.  I've found (at least for me) that the one "bad" meal a week doesn't undo all my hard work from the rest of the week and prevent the number on the scale from decreasing.  

So earlier this week I was craving a steak and cheese sandwich, and then I remembered that I saw somewhere a picture of a steak and cheese stuffed pepper (might have been on Pinterest).  I didn't go seeking to find it though.  Since steak and cheese is pretty self-explanatory, I just did it my way.  This was a great low-carb meal that satisfied my steak and cheese craving.  Both my husband and son liked it too.  I was worried my son would say "I prefer the actual sandwich" but he didn't!  He still may have been thinking that, but what he actually said was that it was good - much better than he thought it would be.  I'll take it ☺ 

Steak & Cheese Stuffed Peppers

4 large green peppers
1.5 lbs of sirloin
1 small onion, sliced
1 package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4 slices of provolone, more if you want extra cheese
Teriyaki Sauce (optional)

Cut the sirloin as thin as you can into strips.  Place into a ziplock bag and pour a little (about 1/4 cup) teriyaki sauce into bag and let it marinade in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.  You can of course skip marinading the beef in the sauce - I did it because it flavors the beef just a little so it's not bland, but I only use a little because I don't want it to taste like teriyaki beef.  

In a large saucepan, fill it about half full with water and bring it to a boil.  Cut tops off the peppers and remove the seeds and ribs from inside.  If your peppers are very large you can cut them lengthwise instead.  Place in boiling water for about 4-6 minutes - you just want to soften them, but don't cook them to the point that they will break apart when you try to remove them from the water.  Meanwhile, in a medium sized saute pan melt about 1 tbsp of butter, then add the sliced onion and mushrooms.  Saute on med-low heat until onions are translucent and soft - about 20 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 350, and spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray,  Add the beef to the onions and mushrooms and cook until no longer pink, but be careful to not overcook the beef (you want it to be tender, not dried and rubbery).  Spoon the beef mixture into each pepper evenly, then top with a piece of provolone cheese and place them into the baking dish.  Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned.

January 25, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper & Mushroom Egg Casserole

We have chickens....seven of them.  In the winter the amount of eggs we get everyday drops off, so right now we get anywhere from 2-5 eggs a day.  For a family of three, that's a lot of eggs.  Whenever I accumulate too many I give them away to my step-daughter, friends, or co-workers.  Needless to say, sometimes I STILL have too many eggs!  That's when I make egg casseroles for breakfast or crust-less quiches for dinner. 

Here is my latest concoction.  I used apple chicken sausage because I love the sweet & savory combination, however if you are at all iffy about it, just use regular sausage.  Easy, filling and hits the spot on a cold winter morning....like today, it was -8 degrees when I left for work!  Luckily, or maybe not so luckily, my car still started.  Brrrr!!!  My husband, who is not the biggest fan when it comes to liking sweet & savory combinations, tried this and surprised me by saying he really liked it!  Go figure....give it a try and maybe it'll surprise you too!

Roasted Red Pepper & Mushroom Egg Casserole 
1 cup Montery Jack cheese 
1 tbsp flour    
6 links of apple chicken sausage, cut into small bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced or chopped

1/2 small onion, chopped
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1 cup Cheddar cheese
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Cook sausage, drain and set aside.   Mean-while, in another small pan, saute the onions and mushrooms in 1 tbsp of butter until onions are translucent, about 20 minutes.  In a medium bowl mix eggs with milk until well blended.  Spread Montery Jack cheese in bottom of greased 9 x 11 (or an 8x8 dish) casserole dish.  Sprinkle the flour over cheese.  Layer sausage, onion & mushroom mixture and roasted red peppers,
then pour in the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese.  Cover and let set overnight in the fridge for at least 12 hours, longer is fine.  Cook at 350 for about 45 minutes or until eggs are set in the middle.

January 23, 2013

Pizza Bites

My son and his friend spent the day snowboarding the other day.  Honestly, I don't know how they do it....all day outside in the freezing cold - no thank you!!  I totally live in the wrong state.  I would be much better suited to a warmer climate...but alas, here I am in beautiful Vermont.  Funny how things work out in life, huh?

I knew after a long day on the slopes they'd be hungry, so I figured it was a good time to try this recipe for these cute little pizza bites I've been holding onto for a while now.  I love to try out new recipes on my son and his friends.  Teenagers are worthy judges when it comes to food!  

They gobbled these right up in about 5 minutes.  Since I wasn't positive if that meant they loved them or they were just starving, I had to ask how they liked them.  My son said they were really good, but that they needed more pepperoni.  The next day he asked if I made some more.....I'll take that to mean he liked them!  I like this recipe - it's quick, simple and a crowd pleasure....well, a teenage crowd anyway!  Make them for the kids to snack on, or they'd be a perfect appetizer for a potluck.  The possibilities for these are endless when it comes to what "toppings" to add.  The ones I made here are pepperoni and mushroom, but really you could add whatever your heart desires.  

Pizza Bites (adapted from www.plainchicken.com)

3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 & 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup pepperoni, cut into fourths (or you could use mini pepperoni pieces)

1/3 cup mushrooms, chopped 1/2 cup pizza sauce
Preheat the oven to 375° & spray 24-cup mini-muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder and baking powder.  Add the milk and egg, and whisk to combine. Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella, the mushrooms & pepperoni and let set for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, divide the batter into the mini-muffin tins. Take the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and sprinkle a little on each one.  Pop in the oven and bake until puffed and golden, 20 minutes.

While that's cooking, heat the pizza sauce until warmed through (by microwave or stove-top). Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce on the side for dipping.

January 21, 2013

Hawaiian Lettuce Wraps

Don't you love three day weekends?  Ahhh, I've been in heaven all day.  Both my husband and son are working today, which has given me time to tackle my long "to-do list".  I will admit I haven't gotten much done though....oh well, enjoying the time to myself sometimes has to take priority.  

I have been craving Hawaiian pizza big time for the last couple of days.  However, I am trying not to eat junk food, so I pondered how I could get that Hawaiian pizza flavor in a healthy way.  The best I could come up with were these wraps, and I thought they were pretty darn tasty.  They totally satisfied that urge for Hawaiian pizza I was having, so to me this recipe is a winner.  The pineapple really offset the tang of the Dijon, and all the flavors blended together so nicely.  Perfect healthy lunch...one I will be making more often for sure!

Hawaiian Lettuce Wraps

Romain Lettuce Leaves, rinsed and dried
6 slices of thin deli ham
2 slices of provolone cheese
Dijon mustard
Pineapple, chunks cut in half

Lay out the lettuce so it's nice and flat.  Spread a small amount of Dijon all over the lettuce.  Layer on the ham, cheese and pineapple.  Roll up tight & enjoy!

January 18, 2013

Braised Cabbage & Apples

Well, the taste of mud season we've had for the last few days has moved out as fast as it moved in.  Back to blistering temps....blah.  For those not familiar with Vermont, we have a fifth season called "Mud Season" up here.  I wasn't born and raised here so I don't know for 100% certainty why, but after living here I tend to think that it's because there are a lot of dirt roads here and when the temperatures rise (which is usually at the start of spring) and the ground begins to thaw, those dirt roads turn into a mess!!!  Your car is covered in it no matter how many times a day you wash it.  You mine as well wear boots all the time because it seems like no matter what you always end up somewhere where you have to walk around in it.  HUGE ruts form in the roads that make driving extremely difficult, especially if you don't have an adequate vehicle and/or tires.  You get used to it though, and for the most part I don't mind it because it usually means spring and summer are on the way.  However, when it happens at an "unseasonal" time it's weird and slightly depressing because you know it won't last, and you will soon be freezing once again....and that's where we are at now.

The spike in temps and then the sudden drop in temps has made me craving fall-like comfort food.  Cabbage always comes to mind in the fall for me.  I love it and it's so healthy for you, which is an added bonus.  This recipe is a wonderful side dish that pairs nicely with pork.  Or, if you are like me, a bowl of it for lunch is yummy and satisfying as well.  Enjoy!

Braised Cabbage (serves 4)

2 tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced
1 apple, cored & sliced
1/2 medium sized cabbage, cored & chopped
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add the apples and cook another couple of minutes.  Add the cabbage, stir to combine and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the cider and cider vinegar.  Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until everything is softened and the liquid is mostly evaporated.  Add the balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.  Stir and cook for another 5 minutes before serving.

January 16, 2013

Orange Marmalade Roasted Pork Loin

For some reason fruit just seems to go with pork.  I don't know why, but I know that I myself have cooked pork with apples, figs, cranberry and orange flavors.  All work so nicely with pork.  However, I really enjoy using orange marmalade on pork because it gives it such a lovely light and refreshing flavor.  

This recipe is super simple, yet turns out stunning enough to serve when you have company.  Use a bone-in pork loin for an even more impressive presentation.  Pair this dish with a green veggie and roasted potatoes, or maybe with a salad and good crusty bread (click here for an easy artisan bread recipe).  Or if you are like me and you tend to make a nice big Sunday dinner every week, this recipe is perfect for that as well.  Enjoy!

Orange Marmalade Roasted Pork Loin

4 lb pork loin
Garlic salt & pepper seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed

1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp stone ground mustard

Preheat oven to 375.  In a small bowl add the marmalade and both types of mustard, mix to combine and set aside.  Add the olive oil to a large oven safe cast iron skillet and heat on medium-high.  Rinse and pat dry the pork loin, and seasoning generously with the garlic salt & pepper seasoning on all sides.  Place loin in hot pan and sear on all sides, couple minutes each side, then remove from heat.  Add the garlic and rosemary to the pan, brush a little of the marmalade mixture on the pork, then place pan in oven.  Roast for about an hour, or until a meat thermometer reads 140.  During the last 15 minutes of the roasting time baste the pork with the marmalade mixture every 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, tent the pan with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 

January 14, 2013


On Christmas morning, as I was making dinner rolls, my KitchenAid stand mixer died.  I couldn't believe my luck, however I managed to get the rolls done (even though they didn't come out quite the same).  The following weekend my husband suggested we go to Costco to get a new KitchenAid because they had the one with the drop down bowl on sale, and it could be my early birthday present (which is in February).  I think I was in the car before he even finished his sentence!  So now, thanks to my wonderful husband (whom I am sure had a few ulterior motives going of his own), I have a brand new fancy KitchenAid!  Ah, isn't it funny how certain things, like a new KitchenAid, excite us as we get older???  At 21 if someone suggested buying me a KitchenAid stand mixer I would have suggested a much better way to spend that kind of money!  But now at....well, now that I'm older, I couldn't be happier with this gift :)

This past weekend I asked my husband what he wanted me to make for dessert.  He suggested chocolate chip cookies.  However, I was craving something with caramel.  That's when the little light bulb went off in my head - combine the two and you've got carmelitas!  Such a classic dessert, and oh so perfect.  What is better than caramel and chocolate chip cookies???  Heat it up for a few seconds in the microwave and top it with vanilla ice cream....oh man, soooo amazing!!  This is my version.  It didn't require the use of my new mixer, but that's OK.....there's always next weekend ;)


1 1/4 caramel sauce (Click here and scroll down to find recipe)
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 pecans, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Make the caramel sauce and set aside to cool.  In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, both types of oats, pecans, vanilla and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8x8" pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust, and pour the caramel sauce over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. Stored and serve at room temperature.

January 12, 2013

Balsamic Pot Roast (in the Crock Pot)

A couple of months ago I was reading a Taste Of Home magazine while in the waiting room at my son's orthodontics appointment, and I came across a recipe for Balsamic Braised Pot Roast.  I made a mental note of it and filed it away in my brain for later use.  

This week, as I was struggling for dinner ideas, that recipe popped into my head.  I prefer to cook my pot roasts in the slow cooker, and I knew Tuesday would be perfect since I had lots of errands to do after work that day.  Ah, the smell was amazing when I walked in the door that night.  

The balsamic made a huge difference in flavor AND I do believe it helped to tenderize the meat as well.  This was the best pot roast I've ever made, if I do say so myself.  My son couldn't stop raving about it.......yup, I've raised a meat & potatoes type of young man.  After dinner he asked if he could have the left overs for dinner another night this week.  I know pot roast isn't exciting, but give this version a try - you won't be disappointed!

  Balsamic Pot Roast

3 lbs beef chuck roast, boneless 
Garlic salt & pepper seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 fresh sage leaves (or a sprinkle of powdered sage)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup red wine
1/3 cup GOOD balsamic vinegar
1, 14.5oz can beef broth
3 tbsp corn starch
Salt & Pepper
Baby carrots, about a bag
2 medium potatoes, cut into mouth sized pieces

While I prefer to cook my pot roast in a crock pot, I do think it's essential to sear the meat first.  I usually to do this part the night before.  Sprinkle garlic salt & pepper seasoning all over the meat.  Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet.  When nice and hot, sear the roast on all sides - couple of minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and place in the bowl of your slow cooker.  Top with the sliced onion, chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar. I took a piece of cheesecloth and placed all the herbs in it, tied it up with kitchen string and placed it into the pot - this way you don't need to fish all the herbs out later.  Cover pot and put in fridge overnight.  

In the morning, add the red wine and beef broth.  Cover and turn slow cooker on low and cook for 6 hours.  Add the carrots & potatoes, turn the slow cooker up to high heat and cook for another 3-4 hours.  Once everything is done to your desired tenderness, pour the liquid into a large measuring cup.  Let it settle, then skim off the fat.  Add about half of it to a bowl and mix in the corn starch until it's nice and smooth.  Add the other half of the liquid to a medium saucepan and turn it on medium-high heat and bring to a slow boil.  Add the cornstarch liquid to the saucepan and stir to combine.  Heat until it gets hot and thickens up a bit.  Once you've got the thickness you prefer, turn off heat and pour the gravy/sauce back into the crock pot over the top of meat and veggies.  Serve hot.  

*If you want to shorten the cook time for this, cook it on high for 6-7 hours.  Steam the carrots until tender, and microwave your potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces and add them and the carrots to the pot.  While the veggies are cooking you can work on the sauce.*

January 10, 2013

Chicken & Kale Soup

January is in full swing, and so I've gone back to eating healthy / being good.  I think one of the reasons I fell off the wagon (besides the usual "it's the Holidays" excuse) was because I got a little bored with the usual healthy meals in my rotation.  Breakfast and lunch are no-brainers for me.  Dinner is where I get stuck.  I don't want to "deprive" my teenage son of potatoes and bread and desserts, but I personally need to stay away from them as much as possible.  I also don't want to make separate meals, so finding healthy meals that meets everyone's needs isn't always easy.   

Therefore, I do believe the quest for finding new and healthy dinner options has begun!  When I serve something like soup, chowder or stew, I always give my son a roll or piece of garlic bread to go with it.  I refrain, but he's a teenager with quite an appetite, so bread is OK for him.  I always have homemade rolls stashed in my freezer for occasions like that.  

This soup is the simplest soup in the world to make.  Just a few ingredients and not a lot of time to put together = the perfect weeknight meal.  Or make a batch and have it for lunch during the week.  We are a family of 3 so the quantities are based on that. You may want to double the recipe if you have a bigger family.  My husband surprised me by saying he loved this soup - I totally thought it wouldn't be his thing, but instead he couldn't stop raving about what a great flavor it had!  Go figure....   

Chicken & Kale Soup (adapted from Eating Well)

2 boneless & skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
8 cups kale, chopped or sliced thin
20 oz chicken stock
1 cup of a dry white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Add olive oil to a medium saucepan heat on medium low.  Add onion, garlic and rosemary and cook for about 2 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the wine, cover and bring to a boil.  Uncover and cook for about 5 minutes or until the wine is almost evaporated.  Add the chicken broth, chicken and kale and simmer for about 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the water, cornstarch and Dijon together until smooth.  Add it to the soup and stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then turn off heat.  Season with salt & pepper.  Makes 3 servings.

January 8, 2013

Butterscotch Cheesecake Bars

Oh my word.  These things are amazing.  

Since I need to get back to "being good" when it comes to eating, I decided to make this dessert as one last over-indulgent thing to stuff my face with before getting back on track.  Actually I've spent the last 2 weeks eating anything and everything I want - that was my way of gearing up for the deprivation that was to come.  Unfortunately, doing this only added to the lbs I'm ultimately trying to get rid of.  But whatever....I enjoyed every single bite of every single bad thing I ate and I have no regrets!  I think it's indulging is just necessary sometimes. 

This is yet another recipe I've had in my pile, and I've been meaning to make it for quite some time.  I wasn't sure if it would be too sweet, so I guess that's why I held off making it for so long.  It's probably just as well because these things were addicting and I couldn't get enough of them!  So, so good.  That's really all I can say.  My husband absolutely LOVED these, as they encompass all of his favorites - oatmeal, butterscotch and cheesecake.  I'm telling you, you gotta try these things!

Butterscotch Cheesecake Bars (adapted from Anne Burrell

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 ½ cups butterscotch chips
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp salt
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9x13 baking dish liberally with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor add the brown sugar, flour, oats and pulse to combine. Add the 2 sticks of butter, cinnamon, salt and the butterscotch chips. Pulse until mixture forms clumps. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer and set aside the other half. Bake until slightly golden and set, about 12-14 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon zest and vanilla until it's nice and smooth. Spread evenly over the baked & cooled oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle the remaining half of the oatmeal mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Bake until the top is golden and set - about 40 minutes.

Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours before cutting and serving.

January 6, 2013

Greek Dressing

Once upon a time I lived in Massachusetts, and worked in Waltham.  There was this little Greek place in Belmont, just a couple of blocks from our office, called Andros Diner.  They had THE BEST salad dressing I've ever had in my entire life.....like, EVER.  It was a Greek dressing, but it wasn't the usual Greek dressing.  This one was slightly orange in color, and had crumbles of Feta cheese in it.  They also used it as a marinade for their chicken.  I often ordered a salad with grilled chicken and it was soooooo delicious - the chicken was so juicy and tasted amazing from marinading in their dressing.  Lucky for me they knew it was good, and they had bottles for sale at the counter.  For the two years that I worked in that area, it was the only salad dressing I ever used.  After I left, my former boss would mail me a couple of bottles every now and then because she knew how much I loved it.

Ever since then I have researched and tried to come up with something close to the Andros Greek dressing.  Recently I looked them up because I wanted to see if I could have a couple bottles shipped to my house here in Vermont, and I was saddened to learn that they had shut down!  Such a tragedy.  I will never understand why they didn't try selling their dressing on a larger scale because I'm positive it would have been a huge it!  So this dressing is an ode to Andros Diner - thank you for many years of fabulous food & for sharing your amazing Greek dressing with everyone in your community.

Greek Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ketchup 
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp spicy brown mustard (or Dijon is fine)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 tsp minced garlic

Add all ingredients to a mason jar (one that has a lid) or another airtight container with a lid.  Put the lid on and shake until it is well blended.  Store in refrigerator, but take out 15-30 prior to use so it has time to warm up a little.  

January 3, 2013

Sandwich Bread I

There are a few food items that are on my list "to perfect", and one of them is sandwich bread.  I've blogged a white bread recipe once or twice before, each one just a little bit closer to the perfect white sandwich bread.  The last recipe I tried produced a perfect fluffy texture on the inside, and in a lot of ways was one of the best recipes I had tried to date.  The only flaw (if you want to call it that) is that it was difficult to cut into thin slices.  Thin slices are what you want when making a sandwich or toast.  Thick slices are perfect for french toast, but not always what you want when making a sandwich.

So, the search continued.  Then I stumbled upon this recipe from the King Aurthur website for classic white sandwich bread.  It claimed to cut nicely into perfectly thin slices, so of course I knew it would be the next bread recipe for me to try.  Well, this bread did not disappoint and most definitely lived up to the claims.   It cut so easily into wonderfully thin slices - I was very impressed!  Not only impressed, but very excited (do you get like that??), and I couldn't wait for my husband to try it.  He knows white bread, and I consider him to be an expert.  I've been trying to find a bread similar to the one his mom made every day when he was growing up.  

While he wasn't as excited as I was, he liked the bread very much.  I didn't get "This is just like my mom's bread!" reaction I was hoping for, however this recipe has moved up the ranks for me.  Being able to slice it easily into normal size slices scores big in my book, so for now this will probably be my new favorite white bread recipe....until the next one anyway!

Sandwich Bread I (adapted from a King Arthur recipe)

1 1/3 cups warm milk
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp instant / rapid rise yeast
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, softened
4 cups all-purpose flour

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on medium low for about 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.  Place in a lightly greased large bowl, cover it and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour.

Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.  Gently punch down the dough and shape it into a 9" log and place it into the loaf pan.  Cover loosely and let the dough rise for about another hour, or until it's risen to a good inch higher than the top of the pan.  Preheat oven to 350.  Place loaf pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Check it at this point and if it's getting too brown, then you can cover it with aluminum foil.  Bake another 15-20 minutes, or until it's golden brown.  Remove from bread from oven and from the pan, and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

January 1, 2013

Chocolate Silk Pie

Happy New Year everyone!  Did you make any resolutions for the coming year?  I didn't.  However, it's a new year so it's always a chance to do better, so that's my "resolution" if you want to call it that.  Cheers!

The dessert I decided on for Christmas dinner this year was this chocolate silk pie.  Even though I'm not big on chocolate, I knew that everyone who was joining us loves it.  So I dug out that mile high pile of recipes I've been collecting for the last 12 years, and pulled this one out.  I have never made it before, but knew that I wanted to try it some day since chocolate cream pie is my husband's favorite.  Even though making something I've never made before the day we are having company is a big no no for me, I decided to brave the unknown and give it a try.  I was hopeful that this wouldn't be a disaster.  Besides, I've made lots of chocolate cream pies over the years, so how hard could it be?

I didn't realize that it really isn't like chocolate cream pie at all.  However, I preferred this pie to regular chocolate cream pie.  Even though it looks more dense, it actually tastes lighter.  The texture is more like a mouse than a pudding.  Very smooth and delicious.  I surprised myself with how much I liked it.  I wish I knew where I got the recipe from, but since the printout I had didn't site the author all I can do is send out a big thank you to whom it may concern for putting this recipe out there.  My family enjoyed it very much, and I know I'll be keeping this one forever.  If you are a chocolate lover - this one is for you!

Chocolate Silk Pie

Dough for 1 9" pie crust
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp water
8 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled (original recipe called for bittersweet)
1 tbsp vanilla
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened & cut into 8 pieces
Fresh whipped cream for serving

For the crust:  Line a 9" pie plate with the dough, and crimp the edges.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375, and line the chilled pie shell with parchment paper, letting it hang over the edges.  Fill the pie plate with pie weights, the place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and return to oven to bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool completely before filling (sometimes I will even cook it the day before I want to make the entire pie).

For the filling:  Add the cream to the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on medium speed until it forms stiff peaks.  Transfer to another bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Combine the sugar, eggs and water in the bowl of a double boiler (or you can place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn't touch the bowl).  With a hand mixer on medium, beat until the egg mixture is thickened and reads 160 F - the original recipe said it would take 7-10 minutes but it was more like 20 for me and it only got to 150 F on my thermometer and it still came out perfect.  Remove bowl from heat and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled to room temp, about 8 minutes.  

Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla to the egg mixture and beat until combined.  Add the butter 1 tbsp at a time until fully incorporated.  Fold in the whipped cream gently  until no white streaks remain.  Transfer to the baked pie shell, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Serve with whipped cream.