Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spicy Crockpot Beans

I hadn't used my crockpot in far too long, and since Joe was post-call and asleep, I thought this would be a good meal to let cook while I did some studying. Next time, if I'm using chicken, I might throw in another chipotle en adobo. Both Joe and I could've used a little more heat. I added about a pound of chicken and shredded it at the end since Joe likes his meat, but this is originally a meatless meal. I opted for serving it in bowls with cornbread instead of over rice.

Spicy Crockpot Beans
source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (4-ounce) cans green chile, diced
2 chipotle chiles from adobo sauce, minced
1 (0.85 ounce) package chicken gravy mix
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tomatoes, chopped, or ½ (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked white rice

Add first five ingredients to crockpot and cook on low for 3-5 hours. Stir in tomatoes 30 minutes before serving. Serve over white rice. (If you use chicken pieces as well, add them skin side down on the bottom of the pot and cook for 6-8 hours.)

He Thinks My Cornbread's Sexy

When I asked Joe yesterday if he wanted rice or cornbread with dinner, he immediately sprung for the cornbread. As I was preparing the cornbread and my cast iron frying pan, Joe was on the phone on the other side of the house. Somehow I got the Kenny Chesney song "She thinks my tractor's sexy" stuck in my head, but I changed the words to be "He thinks my cast iron frying pan's sexy" which doesn't scan correctly at all. Sure enough, when I took this gorgeous cornbread out of the oven, Joe walked in the room and said, "Now that is some sexy cornbread."

This cornbread was perfectly moist with that brown crust on the bottom and sides from the frying pan and not too sweet. It was absolutely delicious, so much so that Joe and I ate half the pan between us. I couldn't stop going back for more! I may see if I can reduce the butter a bit next time, as the idea of eating that much of a stick of butter makes me a little nervous. There's also always the option of throwing some cheese, green chiles, or chopped up jalapenos in.

All-Purpose Cornbread
source: Cooks Illustrated via Reading, 'Riting, and Recipes

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (this dish was tested using Quaker yellow cornmeal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Note: To make this in a cast iron skillet, place approx 1 Tbs of butter in the skillet and place it in the oven while preheating. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined; set aside.

2. In food processor or blender, process sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.

3. Using rubber spatula, make well in center of dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well. Begin folding dry ingredients into wet, giving mixture only a few turns to barely combine; add melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened.

4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth surface with rubber spatula. Note: If using cast iron skillet, remove from oven and turn pan to coat all surfaces with the melted butter. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. (I just kept an eye on it until it looked done.) Cool on wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

French Toast Casserole

As I've mentioned before, because Joe's schedule is so crazy, we've developed ways of really cherishing the time that we get to spend together. And when we both have the day off, I let him sleep in, and then we have a nice breakfast. For a long time, this meant breakfast tacos, but I'm trying to branch out a little.

I was flipping through the cookbooks I have, but nothing was catching my eye until I saw this. Not to mention that I had all of the ingredients on hand: I just had to make some bread the day before. You can prep it the night before, then all you have to do is stick it in the oven. I prepped it that morning, and after I put it in the oven, I hopped right back in our warm bed with the cats! We knew it was time to get up when the cinnamon came wafting into our bedroom from the kitchen. What a low-stress breakfast!

Those was just enough for the two of us, and I found myself wishing I had a little bacon or sausage alongside it.

French Toast Casserole
source: The Little Big Book of Comfort Food

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tbsp raisins
1/3 of a 1 lb loaf of French bread, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts.)

  1. Mix together the brown sugar, the melted butter, and 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon. Add the apple slices and raisins; stir to coat. Pour into a greased baking dish. Arrange the bread slices in an even layer over the apple-raisin mixture.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and remaining cinnamon. Pour over the bread, covering it evenly so that all slices are soaking in the liquid. Top with chopped pecans. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dish from the refrigerator while the oven heats. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Poor Joe has been practically begging me to make a pecan pie ever since this summer, but it just didn't feel quite right in the summer heat to be eating pecan pie. And, to be fair, I'm not that big of a fan of regular pecan pie. Because I know how many calories are in it, I've found that it isn't really worth it on most occasions.

But this, this is different. I knew Joe would go for the bourbon flavor, and I liked the addition of the chocolate. I altered the amounts and the method based on the comments and reviews of the recipe, and those changes are reflected below. Joe said he would've liked a stronger bourbon flavor, but since I didn't know how our other guests would feel about it, I reduced it.

This pie will knock your socks off. You will find yourself returning again and again to the pie plate wondering who ate all of the pie until you realize that it was you. The chocolate is marvelously gooey, and the pie has that great caramelized crunchy top. If you make this pie, everyone will love you!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
source: Allrecipes

  • 1 (9 inch) deep-dish pie shell
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp bourbon (If you prefer a stronger bourbon flavor, the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I didn't measure, just covered the bottom.)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees F).
  2. In a small saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter or margarine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter or margarine melts and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl combine eggs, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Slowly pour sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in pecans. Create a layer of chocolate chips on the bottom of the pie shell and pour mixture over the chocolate chips, into pie shell.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set and golden. May be served warm or chilled.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much to be thankful for this year that I hardly know where to begin. First of all, being married to the most wonderful, intelligent, funny man I've ever met is a huge blessing. This year could've been a lot harder for both of us but getting to share the burden makes it easier.

And our wonderful ragdolls, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, are always a blessing and a reminder that life is so fun.
We are so blessed to live in a city that we love, especially since a year ago, we didn't know where we would end up. We've discovered that we like to be outdoors and do things like hike!
I can't believe that I am finally in school to do what I've felt called to do since I was 16, and I love it even more than I thought I would.
It's also been great to live within a half hour of my parents for the first time since I left for boarding school my junior year of high school.
There's so much that we're thankful for: Joe's job, a roof over our heads, a church that truly shows the all-encompassing love of Christ, flexible bishops in Texas and Tennessee, our health and that of our parents.

So after running the Habitrot 5K tomorrow morning, we're having dinner at my parents' house with four guests. Below is our menu!

Thanksgiving Menu

Baked Brie with Carr's Water Crackers
Sausage and Cheese with Triscuits

Turkey breast

Cranberry salad
Vermont Cheddar Mashed Yukon Golds
Turkey Gravy
Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing
Sizzled Green Beans with Crispy Prosciutto and Pine Nuts

Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crispy Apple Turnovers

Apparently there's a first time for everything. Yesterday afternoon, I rolled up my sleeves and set out to make my very first pastry crust. I was nervous, but I persevered. And now I have little apple turnovers as a result. This was pretty time-intensive because there are quite a few parts, but if you're more experienced at making the pastry dough, it shouldn't take that long.

When Joe walked into the kitchen last night, he said, "It smells like the holidays in here." The smell of cinnamon and apples was wonderful. The filling for these was relatively simple, but it had the perfect consistency. I stole the idea of making them mini-turnovers from Stephanie, and they're absolutely adorable.

I had been thinking about making these for a while, but when I got these little things that create perfect little dough pockets for empanadas or turnovers from a gift exchange, I knew exactly how I would use them.

Look how nicely they look all lined up!

I would recommend dipping the tops in the glaze rather than drizzling. You would probably get a more uniform look that way.

Crispy Apple Turnovers
source: Macaroni and Cheesecake

1 ¾ C pared, chopped tart apples
1/3 C water
1/3 C packed brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter or margarine

2 C all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¾ cup shortening, chilled
5 tbsp ice water

½ powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla

For filling:
Combine apples and water in small saucepan. Cook on high heat until mixture comes to boil. Stir frequently.Reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes.Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer 5 minutes. Stir frequently.Combine 1 tablespoon flour and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Stir into apple mixture.Bring to boil. Boil one minute. Stir in butter.

For pastry:
Combine 2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt in medium bowl. Cut in cold all-vegetable shortening using pastry blender (or 2 knives) until all flour is blended in to form pea-size chunks. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons ice-cold water, one tablespoon at a time. Toss lightly with fork until dough forms ball. Flour rolling surface and pin lightly.Divide dough in half. Roll each half to 1/16 inch thickness. Use lid from 3 pound Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening can as pattern. Cut 6 circles (5-1/4 inches) from each half. (Reroll as necessary.) ( I cut them in about 3 in. circles using a cup I had at home)

Place about one tablespoon of apple filling on each dough circle. Moisten edges with water. Fold in half over filling. Press with fork to seal.Place on baking sheet on parchment paper. Prick tops with fork. Bake at 425ºF about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack.

For glaze:
Combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in small bowl. Stir well. Drizzle over turnovers. Serve warm or cool.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Viognier and Spaghetti Carbonara

Last March, Joe and I took a weekend trip to Fredericksburg, TX where we stayed in a wonderful little B&B and spent most of Saturday going to nearby wineries on the Texas Wine Trail. Now, neither Joe nor I are big wine snobs, but I was prepared to be slightly underwhelmed and that was not the case at all. We had a wonderful time and fell in love with several wines, but none could compare to the Becker Vineyards Viognier. This is even more notable because both Joe and I prefer red wines. Above is a picture of the tasting room at Becker Vineyards. They also have a B&B on the property. We sat out on the porch with our glasses of wine, enjoyed the gorgeous weather, and listened to the live music they had.

When we returned to Houston after our trip, we were pleased to discover that the Viognier could be found in our grocery store, and so we took its presence for granted. Then we moved to Tennessee, where the Baptists have instituted arcane liquor laws and "sin taxes" (sign up at Red White and Food to lobby to change this), and discovered that, not only was our marvelous Viognier nowhere to be found, but we couldn't even have any shipped to us. So, when Joe's friend came to visit us last month from Houston, our sole request was to have her bring us some Becker Vineyards Viognier.

We've had it sitting in our hot little hands for over a month, and I wanted to drink it on a special night and make a dinner to go with it so we could really savor all of the flavors. I decided on spaghetti carbonara with steamed broccoli and focaccia. Sure enough, after blessing the food and clinking glasses, the first thing Joe and I did was stick our noses in our wineglasses and then take a big sip of the viognier. Oh, and the pasta was really good too. Joe said, "Why even bother to go out when we can eat like this at home and have wonderful wine?" I'm highly inclined to agree.

Spaghetti Carbonara
(source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

1 lb spaghetti or other thin pasta
4 eggs
1 lb bacon
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese
8-12 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped (Mine were enormous, so I only used 4.)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (I didn't want to cook with our precious viognier, so I used 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup dry vermouth.)
1/2 stick of butter
1 handful of parsley
1-2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper


First, slice up the bacon in to pieces about an inch thick. Then toss them into a heated stainless steel pan (I used my cast iron pan since all the others are non-stick.) Cook until browned and crisp.

While the bacon cooks, put on water to boil for the pasta and add the pasta once the water has reached a rolling boil and cook to al dente. When the bacon is cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the renderings. Cook the chopped onion in the renderings for a few minutes and then add the garlic.

Once the onion and garlic have cooked for a few minutes, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Discard the leftover renderings. Place the pan back on high heat until it starts to smoke a little. Then pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan. Add one cup of chicken stock. Return bacon, onion, and garlic to the pan and let simmer over medium heat.

Crack four eggs into a large bowl. Chop up most of the parsley and add it to the bowl along with most of the parmesan cheese. Mix well with a fork.

Drain the water from the pasta and add the very hot pasta to the egg mixture. The heat from the pasta will partially cook the eggs. Then add the bacon mixture and toss to combine. Finally, throw a 1/2 stick of butter in. Pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies

When I saw the picture of these in Sherri's blog, they looked so fluffy and delicious that I knew I had to try them at some point. They are very cake-like, and the hardened chocolate really takes them over the edge. I'll admit I had a lot of fun swirling the chocolate over the cookies. The spice is very subtle, so you can taste the pumpkin nicely. These also look gorgeous. I currently have them stacked up on a covered cake stand, and they look like I bought them from a bakery!

I used a round tbsp to scoop them out, and the dough yielded 20 cookies.

(If you haven't noticed, I recently discovered the food setting on my point-and-shoot digital camera, so my pictures have gotten SO much better, in my opinion.)

Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
(source: yum.)


2 c. flour
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 c. pumpkin puree
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped


Preheat oven to 375.

Whisk dry ingredients together. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light. Add egg; beat, until smooth. With mixer on low alternately add flour in two parts and pumpkin in one. Beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not overmix.

Bake until puffed and golden- about 15 minutes.

When cookies have cooled, melt chocolate either in microwave at 30 second intervals or over double-boiler. Drizzle over cookies and cool in refrigerator until chocolate is set.

Reference: Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.

No-Fuss Focaccia

When I found this recipe, it looked just like the kind of bread recipe I can get behind: absolutely no kneading required. Since we were going to have pasta for dinner, I decided a nice focaccia bread would be nice. Usually, if we want focaccia, we stop buy the Italian cheese store in our neighborhood and pick up some day-old focaccia for cheap, but I decided to try my hand at this since I was home all day. It didn't rise as much as I would've hoped, so next time I might try letting it rise in a warmer location. It's been chilly here, and our old house is kind of drafty. Joe was so impressed that I made this myself, and he couldn't stop munching on it while we were preparing dinner. Of all the optional ingredients, I mixed about 2 tsp of pizza seasoning into the dough and sprinkled it with another 2 tsp or so before baking. Dried rosemary would be a nice touch as well. We ate it with dinner, dipping it in some olive oil with fresh ground pepper.

No-Fuss Focaccia
source: Amber's Delectable Delights


1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor, optional
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Vermont cheese powder, optional
Pizza Seasoning, optional


1) Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.
2) Combine all of the ingredients, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.
3) Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it's become puffy.
4) While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
5) Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.

6) Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with pizza seasoning, and/or the dried herbs of your choice, if desired.
7) Bake the bread till it's golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

8) Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chicken Tamale Casserole

This was seriously good, definitely a recipe that I will make again. Sometimes it's really nice to have recipes where I can come home, mix stuff together, and then read the mail or talk to Joe while it bakes, and that is exactly what I did last night. Plus, it was pretty chilly yesterday, and neither Joe nor I are quite used to the cold, so this was a good reminder of our time in Texas. And on a chilly day, who doesn't want a casserole or stew or chili?

I chopped up a fresh jalapeno in addition to the green chiles for the cornbread, and next time I might do too. It certainly wasn't bland, but a little more heat would not be unwelcome. I was going to serve this with some sauteed corn and salsa, but I had less corn than I thought. A corn and black bean salad or some pinto beans would go perfectly alongside this.

Chicken Tamale Casserole
(source: Cooking Light via Elizabeth's Edible Experience)
Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute (I used one egg.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn (I used normal corn.)
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Martha White) (Or Jiffy! Joe and I had a long conversation about Jiffy corn muffin mix. It's been around since the '30s!)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Calories: 354 (36% from fat)
Fat: 14.1g (sat 7.1g,mono 3.3g,poly 1.2g)
Protein: 18.9g
Carbohydrate: 36.3g
Fiber: 2.5g
Cholesterol: 58mg
Iron: 1.7mg
Sodium: 620mg
Calcium: 179mg

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mexican Lasagna

I feel like I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Rachael Ray. She's so perky and most of the time, I think her food looks pretty good. But then I make her recipes, and I just don't agree. Part of it is that her recipes are rarely very frugal and include long lists of fairly expensive ingredients. I had scheduled this recipe for Dinner Divas the week that my oven broke, and several weeks later, I still had all of the ingredients, so I went ahead and made it. I changed a lot of the amounts of things, so I'll try to remember what I did. The recipe doesn't specify what kind of pan to use, and I made the mistake of erring on the smaller end. I would recommend going with a 13x9. It did come together rather quickly, so that was nice. Chances are that I probably won't make this again though.

Rachel Ray's Mexican Lasagna
(source: Food Network)

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (There's no need to use this much oil.)
  • 2 pounds ground chicken breast, available in the packaged meats case (I used 1 lb ground chicken and 1 lb ground pork. To me, that's a lot of meat. I would increase the beans/corn and only use 1 lb of meat.)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (My chili powder is ridiculous, so I used 2 tsp, and it was the right amount of heat.)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup medium heat taco sauce or 1 (14-oz) can stewed or fire roasted tomatoes (I used the tomatoes. I am against taco sauce on principal.)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I forgot this.)
  • Salt
  • 8 (8 inch) spinach flour tortillas, available on dairy aisle of market (Um, I used half this number of tortillas, and I used whole wheat. Not as pretty, but definitely cheaper.)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or shredded pepper jack (I maybe used 1 cup of cheese. I would recommend a Mexican three-cheese blend.)
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped (My scallions were bad, so I omitted.)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil - twice around the pan. Add chicken and season with chili powder, cumin, and red onion. Brown the meat, 5 minutes. Add taco sauce or stewed or fire roasted tomatoes. Add black beans and corn. Heat the mixture through, 2 to 3 minutes then season with salt, to your taste.

Coat a shallow baking dish with remaining extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon oil. Cut the tortillas in half or quarters to make them easy to layer with. Build lasagna in layers of meat and beans, then tortillas, then cheese. Repeat: meat, tortilla, cheese again. Bake lasagna 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly. Top with the scallions and serve.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Supper Club Salad

This past weekend was full of church activities. Friday night we had our supper club and then Sunday was our big Celebration of New Ministry service. Joe and I absolutely love our supper club. Everyone is so nice and fun, and there's always plenty of wine and good food. We sit around for a while drinking wine and eating hors d'oeuvres and talking about politics or work or whatever, and then we all join hands around the dinner table and bless the meal. I was asked to bring a green salad, so this is what I chose to bring.

Mixed greens
Toasted walnuts
Sliced green apples
Crumbled goat cheese
Citrus dressing

Citrus Dressing
(source: Big City Cooking)

1 c. Olive oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced

Combine all ingredients and let sit till flavors incorporate.

Molton Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes

After scoring some ramekins for cheap, this was the first thing I knew I wanted to make, and it ended up being the perfect end to a nice meal. I don't normally make dessert at night, so Joe knew this was a special treat! I halved the recipe to only make two cakes. This was deliciously spiced, and I love cooking with wine. It gave me a good excuse to open a bottle for dinner as well.

Molton Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes
(source: Lovestoeat's Weblog)

Yield: 4 cakes

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon or other red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter 4 (6-ounce) custard cups or soufflé dishes. Place on baking sheet.
2. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute or until butter is melted. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in wine, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and yolk. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour batter evenly into prepared custard cups.
3. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute. Carefully loosen edges with small knife. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Blondies

Last night, my church held a Celebration of New Ministry service for our new rector who arrived at the end of August. It was a formalized ritual way of welcoming and installing him as our rector and praying that God will guide him and us in this new partnership. It was an extremely moving and beautiful service. The bishop was there with his miter and crook. A female ordained Methodist minister gave the sermon. The choir sang. And then afterward, like any good church people, we ATE!

A few words about this church: The community itself is very old, dating back to Civil War-era, when our congregation split off from the Cathedral because the people wanted a free-pew church (meaning your yearly pledge would not determine where you sat. You didn't have to "rent" a pew by pledging). Ever since then, the congregation has taken difficult stands, often against the status quo, in order to follow where they felt the Gospel was calling them. For instance, it is not unusual in the congregation for a lesbian couple, with their daughter, to take up the offering. Or to see a man with full-sleeve tattoos sitting next to a lawyer in a suit. Anyway, the old historic building itself was destroyed in the late '90s by a tornado, so for the time being, we worship in a room with an altar that also serves as a multi-purpose room. So once the service finished, the room was transformed into a banquet hall in about five minutes.

By virtue of my last name, I was designated to bring a dessert, and I'm always looking for an excuse to cook. I found these on Cate's blog last week and knew I had to make them. They were delicious, but I was in a bit of a rush and didn't quite let them cool enough, so they ended up a little ugly-looking as I was trying to get them ready to go.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Blondies
(source: Cate's Kitchen)

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 package (12 ounces) white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into squares.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ale-Braised Sausage & Peppers and Easy Cheesy Beer Bread

I had originally planned to make this dinner last Friday, but Joe and I ended up crashing the Rice Alumni party at the musicology/music theory conference downtown and then going to a terrible Thai place in East Nashville (which is another story for another time). So I postponed this until Monday, when I had the afternoon off, and Joe had the whole day off. We prefaced this delicious fall meal with a walk around Radnor Lake to get a glimpse of the leaves before they fell off the trees. We saw multiple deer, two bucks, and one that came within about 10 feet of me!

Joe loved the bread. It was all he could talk about. I played with the ratios of the sausage and peppers and ended up with a little bit too much sauce, probably because I only used half the sausage in the recipe. It still made for a delicious dinner and great leftovers as well.

Both recipes come from Katie over at Good Things Catered who is a domestic goddess if I've ever seen one.

Ale-Braised Sausage and Peppers
(source: Good Things Catered)


2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lb. cooked sausages, such as kielbasa, sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 c. ale
1 1/2 c. low sodium chicken stock
3 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Mashed potatoes for serving


-In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.
-Add the sausages and cook, stirring and turning often, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
-Transfer to a plate.
-Add the onion and bell pepper to the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.
-Add 2 Tbsp flour and cook, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
-Whisk in the ale until the mixture is smooth and bubbly.
-Add the thyme and broth, whisking to blend, and bring to a simmer.
-Return the sausages to the pot.
-Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.
-Uncover and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
-Season with salt and pepper.
-Remove the sausage, peppers, and onions and place on a serving platter.
-With the Dutch oven over medium high heat, whisk in 1 heaping Tbsp of flour, whisking constantly until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
-Pour thickened sauce over sausages and serve immediately with mashed potatoes.
-Serves 4 to 6.

Easy Cheesy Beer Bread
(source: Good Things Catered)


2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar
12 oz. bottle of lager or stout (I used a Michelob Porter, and the bread had a VERY strong beer taste, which we loved.)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan for baking.
-In large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.
-Whisk to combine well.
-Add cheese and whisk to combine.
-Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir lightly until combined.
-Knead dough lightly until it just comes together.
-Place into prepared loaf pan and pour melted butter over top.
-Place in oven to bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gingered Fresh Pear Cake

I love bundt cakes. I really do. There's just something about them that makes me feel all warm and happy inside. Sure, they aren't as elegant as a layer cake, but bundt cakes remind me of church in the South and potluck suppers.

My best friend Abby and her boyfriend John came to town last week for a conference, and they stayed with Joe and me. Abby left behind four pears that were starting to get pretty sad looking. I couldn't bear to throw away good fruit, but I also knew that neither Joe nor I would eat them plain, so I figured baking with pears would be the perfect way to use them up. I started looking up recipes and found this one: a pear bundt cake that used ingredients I already had and with a slight exotic twist. Perfect!

I was a little worried that the batter was so runny, but the cake set perfectly. The crispy outside gives way to an incredibly moist inside, and the ginger flavor is not overpowering but just right. For serving this to guests, the whipped cream or fruit compote suggestion is good, but I think just a sprinkle of powdered sugar would be enough to gussy it up.

Gingered Fresh Pear Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups pureed pears, about 4 to 5 medium ripe pears
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup naturally sweetened applesauce
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°.

Butter and generously flour a Bundt pan. Puree pears in a food processor. In a small bowl mix the pureed pears, vanilla, lemon juice, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Set aside. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted. Sift flour and baking powder.

With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the eggs and brown sugar for 5 minutes, until pale and thick. Add milk and melted butter mixture while beating on low, then add the pear mixture and applesauce. Add the flour and baking powder, beating until just combined.

Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or warm fruit compote.

Dinner Divas: Hurry Up Chicken Pot Pie

Oh, Paula Deen. Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if not for your Bisquick, butter, and Ritz cracker-loving self.

I think this might actually be my first Paula Deen recipe to actually make, but I've read one of her cookbooks and earmarked a few things to try. This has been on my list for months, so I'm really pleased that it was chosen as a Dinner Divas recipe for November.

I had a few problems with it. Someone mentioned that they found it a little watery, so I decreased the broth addition to the cream of chicken soup, but I think the problem might actually come from the Bisquick. Somehow, I did not get a pretty, even biscuit layer on top of my chicken pot pie. It was still good, but I might tinker around with it a little more and perhaps switch up the milk to Bisquick ratio. Other changes are notated below.

Paula Deen's Hurry Up Chicken Pot Pie
(source: Paula Deen)

  • 2 cup chopped cooked chicken breast (I used shredded chicken breasts)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (I omitted. That sounded gross to me.)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • Salt and pepper, optional
  • 1 1/2 cup instant biscuit mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 stick melted butter (I halved the butter and still had pools of it floating on top.)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (I used maybe 1/4 cup.)
  • I also added 1/2 cup frozen corn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a greased 2-quart casserole, layer the chicken, eggs, carrots, and peas. Mix the soup, chicken broth, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Pour over the layers. Stir together the biscuit mix and milk, and pour this over the casserole. Drizzle butter over the topping. Bake until the topping is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rushed for Time

Wednesday nights are hectic. I finish work at 5 pm, get home, and need to be out the door again by 6:40 to head to choir practice, so dinners need to be of the quick variety.

Tonight's dinner is proof that you can be rushed for time and still put good-looking, healthy food on the table.

No recipes per se: baked tilapia rubbed with Penzey's Northwood Fire seasoning, leftover mashed potatoes, Easy Cheesy Beer Bread, and steamed broccoli topped with shredded gouda.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Paglio e Fieno (Straw and Hay)

Although I have never actually made this the proper way with egg fettuccine and spinach fettucine, meriting the title Straw and Hay, this is one of Joe's favorite dishes. It's the kind of dish where the ingredients make all the difference because they bring the flavor. I've tried making this with good-quality bacon to save a little money, but it's just not the same.

This was also the first dish I ever made out of Joy of Cooking. Beware the calories. It's definitely a special splurge dinner.

When I made this the other night, I was shocked at how few ingredients there were in it. I kept thinking I was forgetting something. Just proof that you don't need a million ingredients to make a delicious meal.

Is there a more beautiful sight than prosciutto cooking in butter?

Paglio e Fieno
adapted from Joy of Cooking

1 lb long noodles (I used angel hair spaghetti this time)
1 tbsp butter
3 oz prosciutto, sliced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Boil water for pasta. Brown prosciutto in melted butter in a skillet on medium-high for approximately one minute. Add cream and bring to a simmer for about a minute and reduce temperature. Add peas, stirring for several minutes, and salt and pepper to taste. Once pasta is cooked, toss with sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

White Bean Chicken Chili

My best friend Abby and her boyfriend John arrived in Nashville on Wednesday night for a conference, and I thought this meal would be the perfect balance of welcoming and not requiring too much time in the kitchen. Had my oven been working, I would've made some bread or rolls to sop up some of the broth.

This was much more flavorful than I expected, and the chicken stayed moist and juicy. Topped with paprika and cilantro, it even seemed fancier than it actually was!

White Bean Chicken Chili
source: Annie's Eats


1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ -inch cubes

1 medium onion, chopped

1 ½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. oil

2 (15.5 oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed (I used white kidney beans.)

1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth

2 (4 oz.) cans diced green chiles

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 cup reduced fat sour cream (I opened my sour cream, and it was moldy, so I subbed plain yogurt.)

½ cup whipping cream

fresh cilantro and paprika, for garnish


In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chiles and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and whipping cream. Sprinkle with paprika and top with fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

I had never made risotto for Joe before this dish. We were discussing things in the kitchen while I was stirring the risotto, and he asked, "A year ago, did you ever think that you would be cooking like this?" I said, "Absolutely not. To me, risotto was something you ordered at a restaurant."

Joe was amazed at how much liquid the grains absorb and how little dry risotto makes four meal-size portions once it is cooked. It's these kind of moments that make me glad that I make my food more often. I appreciate it so much more: the moment when the onion turns clear, the slight browning of garlic, the smell of white wine as it hits the hot pot. It makes the meal so much more satisfying when I finally sit down to eat.

This risotto is relatively quick to prepare (or maybe I've just gotten better since my first time) so it makes for a good weeknight meal. I had already cooked the sausage and used half a pound for another meal, so that saved me a little time as well.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
source: Everyday Food via Reservations Not Required
Serves 4

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 1/2 a pound)
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 Cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).

Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Indian-Inspired Chickpeas and Spinach in a Tomato Cream Sauce

All good stories involve some tragedy, just like this dish. As I was working Sunday evening, I began to feel a bit nauseous. I figured once I had something to eat, it would go away. So I got home and started to prepare this dish, all the while feeling worse and worse. After it was done, I felt so bad that I couldn't bear to eat it, so I forced some leftover soup down and went to bed.

The next day, feeling much better, I ate this for lunch and was blown away. Not only did it look just like something I would order at an Indian restaurant, the spice level was much hotter than Indian food I've had in Tennessee, a good thing of course. Really, it isn't hot enough until your nose is running and you've broken out in a sweat. The heat level is customizable, so don't let that stop you from trying this recipe.

The original recipe creator used this as a side dish, but I think it's the perfect vegetarian meal. You might want to double it if you're feeding it to two hungry people as a main course however.

Indian-Inspired Chickpeas and Spinach in a Tomato Cream Sauce
source: Savory Safari

One can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used two cups of prepared dried chickpeas)
4-5 large handfuls baby spinach (about 4 oz.)
1 ½ cups low-sodium plain tomato sauce
1/3 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
½ Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. Asian chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
1/2 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground coriander (I forgot to include this.)
½ tsp. garam masala
½ cup water


1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2-3 minutes. Add chickpeas and toast, stirring frequently, for another 2 minutes or so.
2. Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in all remaining spices and check seasoning, adding more of your favorite spices if desired.
3. Whisk in cream and return to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently.
4. Begin adding spinach in batches, adding small amounts of water as necessary to wilt the spinach and keep sauce at desired thickness.
5. Once all spinach is added and wilted, turn the heat down very low and cover. Simmer 5 minutes covered, and hold warm until ready to serve.

Serve with brown rice and/or garlic naan, and enjoy an Indian feast!

I am also submitting this to Joelen's Indian-Jewish Adventure.
Check it out!

Fancy Egg McMuffin

This past Saturday, I had big plans to bribe my husband with breakfast to get him to help me clean the house. After seeing Mark Bittman's Baked Eggs on Cheap Healthy Good, I knew that they would be perfect: slightly different, very appealing, and easy enough for a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, I also forgot that my oven was broken. Back to the drawing board.

I remembered some prosciutto I had in the refrigerator that I had bought on sale. I knew I wanted to use eggs, English muffins, and prosciutto, and I remembered how my dad would make us homemade Egg McMuffins on holiday mornings. So I fried some eggs, toasted the English muffins, and placed a slice of prosciutto on top of the muffin halves, under the eggs. I meant to use a little basil as well but forgot. All of that was topped with some mozzarella cheese.

Is there anything better than soaking up a little runny yolk with toasted bread?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Curry Lentil Soup

Ahh, November. A new month, no more Daylight Savings Time, and a new rotation for Joe. My oven is still broken (no, I'm not finished griping about it yet), but I had this soup on the meal schedule anyway. I've figured I can sneak things that I like (vegetarian soups! lentils!) by Joe as long as they are strongly flavored. I see a lighter meal. Joe sees Indian food. It all works out.
Lentils are great because they cook quickly unlike some other beans, making this a doable weeknight meal. I found myself wishing for some naan or raita though, either which would make an appropriate companion for this soup.

Curry Lentil Soup
adapted from SparkRecipes

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili (or cayenne) powder (less if you don't like the heat)
1 qt, vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup lentils
1 large carrot, chopped

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky. Reheat soup if necessary.
Optional: stir in 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice and 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.
Yield: 4 servings.

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 201.2
Total Fat: 10.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1,059.5 mg
Total Carbs: 21.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 5.9 g