Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wham, Bam, Thank You Ham!

Cheesy Ham and Veggie Bake
The split pea soup was delicious, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to rid the fridge of all the excess ham. Another solution had to be concocted. I've said before that I'm a fan of one-dish meals and this certainly foots the bill on a chilly New Years Eve Eve. This was easy to throw together and helped purge the fridge of those pesky post-Christmas leftovers. I can add this to my ever-growing list of mac and cheese recipes. Definitely not vegetarian-friendly, but delicious nonetheless.


- 2 c. diced cooked ham
- 1 lb. mixed bag of broccoli and cauliflower, cut into bit-sized pieces
- 1 lb. corkscrew pasta
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 1-2 c. milk
- 2 c. grated extra sharp white cheddar cheese
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- t tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 c. breadcrumbs
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F and butter a 9x13" baking dish. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add flour and whisk together with butter for 1 minute. Slowly add cream and milk, about a half cup at a time, allowing the mixture to thicken over medium-low heat. Add cheese, thyme, and mustard to mixture and stir over medium-low heat, allowing cheese to melt. Remove Dutch oven from stove and add ham, broccoli, and cauliflower, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions to al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and add to ham and cheese mixture. Mix ingredients thoroughly then spread evenly into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with an even layer of breadcrumbs and bake 35-40 minutes until sauce starts to bubble and breadcrumbs become golden brown. Remove from oven and allow 5 minutes to cool before serving. Yum.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Split Pea and Ham Soup for a Cold December Night
Ham from Christmas dinner? There's nothing wrong with that. I glazed an eight pound ham with an orange juice, brown sugar, and honey mixture to create a sweet-and-salty-meaty masterpiece. As delicious as it was, there's only so much ham four people can eat. Thus the creation of a savory cold-weather solution to an abundance of ham became necessary. I love split pea soup. It's simple to throw to together and perfect for post-Christmas dinner . . . a good respite from holiday over-indulgence.


- 2 qts. chicken broth
- 2 c. dried split peas
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 meaty leftover ham bone
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- 3 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
- 2 c. diced leftover ham

Heat olive oil over medium and cook onions and garlic until softened and translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add celery and cook until softened, about 3 minutes longer. Add chicken broth, thyme sprigs, ham bone, and split peas. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for about an hour until peas are softened. Remove Dutch oven from stove and remove ham bone and thyme sprigs. With an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth and thick. Cut excess meat from bone into bite-sized chunks and add to soup with additional diced ham. Discard bone and season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Eat with bread.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy Hanukkah and Latke Love to You

Super Potato Latkes
It was a Hanukkah miracle when the vocally atheistic Jordan became nostalgic for traditional holiday fare. On our monthly outing to Costco he asked if we could stop by the grocery store to pick up some Matzo on the way back so he could make a pot of Matzo ball soup. He then asked if I would be making the delicious latkes I always bragged so much about. Yep. It's true, I make the best latkes ever. I said sure, why not? It's the perfect night for them, right? So cheese grater in hand, I went to work frying up these delicious potato pancakes. This is an incredibly simple recipe and SO good. Traditionally served at Hanukkah, they are really great any time of year for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try them with the traditional condiments of sour cream or applesauce, or my father's favorite (and slightly sacrilegious) topping, ketchup.


- 6-7 large russet potatoes
- 2 small sweet yellow onions
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 c. flour
- vegetable oil for frying (lots of it)

Wash, peel, and grate potatoes with a large cheese grater. Peel and grate onions. In a large bowl, mix grated potatoes, onions, eggs, salt, pepper, and a little flour at a time until well combined. Heat 1/4" on vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Spoon about 1/4 c. of mixture into hot oil to create individual latkes. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove from oil, and let drain on paper towels. While cooking mixture in batches keep finished latkes warm in a low oven. Serve with sour cream or apple sauce!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leftover Makeover: Day 3

Tasty Turkey Nachos to Put In Your Face
I am getting to the end of my Thanksgiving leftovers. There were definitely a fair few sandwiches put in the mix, by the way. With just enough turkey remaining for a final meal, I wanted to go back to one of my favorite things to put in my face: nachos. I ask this question frequently, but what's NOT to like? Nachos may, in fact, be the perfect food protein, dairy, fiber, etc. It's spicy, delicious, filling, and the ingredient permutations are endless. So . . . here's to Thanksgiving! Let's give thanks to the end of leftovers.

- 1 large bag, 8 c. or so of sturdy corn chips
- 3 c. of turkey meat, shredded with a fork into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tsp. of hot sauce, such as Cholula
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 c. grated pepper jack cheese
- 1/2 c. pickled jalapeno peppers, drained
- 1/2 c. sliced black olives
- sour cream
- guacamole
- salsa

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. While oven is heating put shredded turkey meat into a medium bowl and toss with cumin, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Sprinkle a layer of corn chips in a 9x13" baking dish. Layer with olives, jalapenos, and season turkey meat. Sprinkle an even layer of cheese on top. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the layers are heated through. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and guacamole and serve with salsa and extra chips. That's it! Fast and easy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Leftover Makeover: Day 2

Stuffing and Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
Once again, I surveyed the storage containers in the fridge for some inspiration. So what about all of those leftover rolls? The delicious stuffing? Any extra sweet potatoes? Bread puddings are a great and savory way to make use of . . . well . . . bread. It's also a great item for a family brunch- a spin on those leftovers to feed straggling house guests something new and delicious. It's easy to whip up and (as the "Leftover Makeover" theme indicates) a great use of a variety of Thanksgiving leftovers. Enjoy!


- 4 dinner rolls, torn into small pieces
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, cubed into 1 1/2" pieces
- 2 c. leftover stuffing
- 2 bunches rainbow chard, stems removed, torn into small pieces
- 2 large shallots, peeled and minced
- 2 c. half and half
- 2 Tbsp. turkey gravy
- 7 eggs
- 1 c. sherry
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 2 c. grated gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and toss the cubed sweet potatoes with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make sure cubes are completely covered. Roast sweet potatoes for about 20-25 minutes until they become soft and brown slightly.

While sweet potatoes are roasting, whisk together half and half, eggs, gravy, and sherry. Add torn bread pieces and stuffing. Mix together and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for about 15-20 minutes so the egg mixture can soak into the bread.

Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium. Add shallots and saute until they begin to soften and turn translucent. Add torn chard pieces and mix together. Season with salt and pepper and cook until chard begins to wilt and turns brights green. Remove from heat.

Turn oven down to 375˚ F. Spray a 13x9" baking pan with a cooking spray. Using a slotted spoon, cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of egg-soaked bread pieces using half the mixture. Cover mixture with half the cooked chard and sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Make a second layer of bread, potatoes, chard, and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture over everything and cover baking sheet with foil. Bake in oven for about 25-30 minutes until mixture becomes springy and egg is cooked through. Remove foil and cook an additional 5-10 minutes for that cheese on top is brown and bubbly.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Leftover Makeover: Day 1

Cranberry Sauce Cheesecake Tart
The "holiday season" is here and now we look forward to a month and a half of rich dinners, decadent desserts, ugly sweater parties, and food food food. The wonderful thing about holiday cooking is bringing family and friends together to share meals and memories. It's all very warm and fuzzy. The problem, however, is that cooking for large numbers often leads to day after day of turkey sandwiches or cookies for breakfast. The next three blogs will focus on reinventing the leftovers into something new. First things first: cranberries. You can't have a Thanksgiving meal without a gleaming bowl of jewel colored cranberries- the relish of choice over a slice of roast poultry. Year after year, however, no matter how many Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches I make, I always seem to dump a good portion of excess cranberry sauce down the garbage disposal. The solution seemed simple- some sort of dessert. This one also makes use of the leftover gingersnaps I had from my pumpkin pie crust. Enjoy after a plateful of reheated turkey and potatoes!


- 1 c. crushed ginger snaps
- 3/4 c. flour, divided
- 1/2 c. sugar, divided
- 1/3 c. melted butter
- 1 c. cranberry sauce
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. In a medium bowl, combine ginger snaps, melted butter, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1/4 c. flour. Mix ingredients together gently until well combined. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9" fluted tart pan using fingers. make sure mixture is spread evenly on the bottom of the pan. Place pan in the oven and bake about 10 minutes to set crust. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.

Turn oven down to 325˚ F. In a medium bowel combine 1/4 c. sugar and cream cheese and whip together with an electric hand mixer. Add vanilla and egg, blend until well combined. Add cranberries and flour and blend until well incorporated. Pour cranberry mixture into pre-baked crust. Do not overfill. Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes until filling is set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kevin's Famers Market Challenge Recipe

Roasted Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Ravioli for Kevin
Last Saturday I went out for drinks with Kevin to catch up. I hadn't seen him since the closing of Macbeth and was in the mood for a evening of cocktails and nachos. Kevin, it so happens, is super supportive of my cooking obsession. While discussing something . . . probably food . . . he challenged me to go to the farmers market and make up a meal based on what I could purchase there. The rules were basically that I could use my own flour, olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuff, but the main ingredients had to come from what I could purchase from the stalls. I had no idea what I would find, but was pleased at all the lovely produce and (even better) farm-fresh cheese. Homemade ravioli take a little time and effort, but I promise . . . it's worth it. Homemade pasta is actually really easy to make and the taste is worth the time. Challenge accepted, Kevin! And it was a tasty challenge indeed.

- 1 2 lb. butternut squash, sliced crosswise into 1" rounds
- 1 c. chopped hazelnuts
- 2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra
- salt and pepper
- Italian parsley
- dried herbs d' Provence
- 1 head of garlic, top sliced off
- olive oil
- 2 c. flour
- 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange squash rounds in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs d' Provence. Take head of garlic, place in a square of foil, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil, wrap foil around it into a little packet and place on baking sheet with squash. Roast in oven for about 30-40 minutes until squash softens and begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Peel outer layer from squash and scrape orange middle into a large bowl, mix in 1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts, 2 c. grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In the food processor pulse together 2 c. flour with eggs and 1 tsp. salt until dough collects on the blade. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready, cut dough into four equal portions, one at a time, dust with flour and then roll thin with a rolling pin or pasta machine. Use flour liberally! Dust a little flour on both sides of dough sheets with each pass through the pasta roller- I rolled it out to #5 thinness. Place one sheet on work surface, or inside ravioli mold, and fill center of each square with about 1 tsp. of butternut squash filling. Top with a second sheet of dough and cut into individual raviolis.

Allow raviolis to dry out on a wire rack until ready to boil. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and then drop raviolis into water. They will boil up quickly, 1-2 minutes and puff up. Drain water and then place raviolis in a serving bowl. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, extra cheese, hazelnuts, and chopped Italian parsley. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired. Eat! Yum!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hella Nutella!

Chewy Nutty Nutella Brownies
It was a Sunday of laundry, errands, grading. I had a pretty fabulous dinner planned, but no clear-cut dessert idea and then the jar of Nutella sitting in Jordan's cupboard called out to me. I don't know anyone who turns down a chewy brownie . . . and Nutella? The combination seems obvious. I had some extra farmer's market fresh hazelnuts left over from the dinner menu. They added just the right amount of crunch to this surprisingly light, yet chewy brownie. These are a snap to whip up and definitely Jordan approved!


- 1 stick butter
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 c. Nutella
- 3 eggs
- 1 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 13x9" baking dish with foil and then lightly butter the foil to prevent brownies from sticking. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter over medium. Add sugar and stir over heat until ingredients are thoroughly blended and the sugar becomes shiny and smoother. Add Nutella and briefly stir over heat. Remove from stove, whisk in eggs and stir until smooth. Whisk in flour, salt, baking powder, and hazelnuts. Stir until ingredients are thoroughly blended. Spread batter into prepared baking dish and bake in oven for 22-24 minutes until brownies are cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meat That Can't Be Beat

Braised Short Ribs in Sun Dried Tomato Gravy with Cheesy Polenta
It's surprisingly easy to make a meal that looks like something you would get in a restaurant. Short ribs a very deceptive in this manner. They are incredibly rich and fall-from-the-bone tender, but actually inexpensive and easy to prepare. For several weeks I had been craving beef in all its rich and fatty glory. A trip Costco and a bulk package of short ribs fulfilled this desire. The weather has been perfect for the house to fill up with the smells of slow-simmering meat and onions. The meal? Delicious. And yielded plenty of leftovers for paninis, nachos, and whatever other beef-centered meals I felt like throwing together. Mmmm. Meat! It's a little bit time-consuming, but I promise it's easy and well worth the effort!


- 5 lbs. short ribs, cut into 3-4" pieces
- 8 oz. jar of sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 4 c. chopped yellow onion
- 3 stalks chopped celery
- 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 2 c. chopped carrots
- 1 bottle red wine
- 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper
- 4 c.milk
- 1 c. dried polenta
- Italian parsley
- 1 c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Season ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. Set meat aside. Drain the oil from jar of sun dried tomatoes. Set tomatoes aside and pour oil into a large Dutch oven. Heat oil over medium. Brown meat in batches in oil on each side, about 10 minutes per batch. Set browned meat aside and scrape brown bits from the bottom of Dutch oven with a wooden spoon. Add onions to oil, adding a little olive oil if the pot has become a little dry. Stir frequently until the onions begin to become translucent. Add carrots, celery, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until all the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add sun dried tomatoes and stir mixture.

Arrange pieces of beef on top of the vegetables and cover mixture with a bottle of red wine and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil. Remove Dutch oven from stove and cover with lid. Put the covered Dutch oven into the preheated oven and braise for 2 and a half hours until meat becomes very tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before putting Dutch oven into the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to serve, remove Dutch oven from refrigerator and scrape the layer of fat from the top of mixture. The fat will rise to the top and solidify as the mixture cools and should be easy to scrape out with a wooden spoon. Discard fat. Put Dutch oven back on the stove and reheat meat mixture over medium-low heat until everything is warmed through, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, make polenta. After ribs are heated. Remove from Dutch oven and place on a platter, cover with foil to keep warm. Strain liquids from the Dutch oven and discard solids (the mushy cooked vegetables). Return liquid to Dutch oven and simmer over low to thicken slightly into gravy. Season ribs and gravy with additional salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Heat 4 c. of milk over medium heat in a large pot until it just starts to bubble at the edges. Add 1 c. of dried polenta. Simmer over medium, stirring frequently until polenta thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, stir in shredded cheese, and chopped Italian parsley. Put a large dollop of polenta on a plate, arrange several ribs on top and pour a little bit of gravy on top. Yum!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Makin' Whoopie . . . Pies That Is

Richard Bradley's Pumpkin Wookie Pies
Baking is the best therapy. Sometimes I find that it is in the moments where my mind is caught in the tempest of stress that the Divine Muses of Baked Goods visit and offer temporary safe harbor from life's occasional emotional storm clouds. I was just having a weird day. Perhaps it was the whole "Falling Back" time change the night before, but something was off. Everyone seemed weird. There was weird energy in the air all around and I just felt like crawling back into bed and calling "reset" on the entire day. On my drive back from the office, suddenly inspiration struck in the form of a pumpkin and cream cheese combination. I quick pit stop at the ol' Trader Joe's and I found solace in the rituals of creaming together sugar and butter. The house smelled delicious, comforting. Later, I brought some of the fresh Whoopie Pies out to be enjoyed by the public. After sharing a delicious meal with friends, I offered up dessert. "What are those?" Emily asked with excitement, eyes wide with anticipation. When I answered, "Pumpkin Whoopie Pies," Richard Bradley looked at me quizzically and asked, "What's a Wookie Pie?" I liked the name so much I promised to name the recipe for him. So . . . here we go: Richard Bradley's Wookie Pies. They are a super-moist mouthful and definitely met the approval of all who enjoyed them. Emily sat there, smile on her face, half eaten pie in her hand, and sighed, "I don't want it to end." Indeed.


- 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature, divided
- 3 tsp. vanilla, divided
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. corn syrup
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3 c. flour
- 1 1/2 c. almond meal
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 2 c. (or more) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together pumpkin, 1 stick butter, sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and 1 tsp. vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and blend into mixture until batter is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until ingredients are combined thoroughly. Slowly add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture about a cup at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add spices to batter.

Spoon 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto a parchment or silicon pad lined baking sheet, spaced out evenly. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until cookies are a little puffy and cooked through. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Continue baking cookies in batches until batter is used up.

In a large bowl, beat together 1 stick room temperature butter, cream cheese, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar on a low speed until blended and the filling is at the desired consistency. Spread a generous dollop (2-3 Tbsp.) of the filling onto the flat side of a completely cooled cookie. Top with a second cookie and press together slightly to adhere. Store cookies in an airtight container. Eat with friends!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nutella? Yes Please!

Jordan's Dream Cake or Nutella and Banana Butterscotch Chip Snack Cake
One of the reasons Jordan is such a good roommate for me is his unwavering support of any food experiment that pops into my head. He is extremely encouraging of my mad-scientist-like approach to developing new recipes as I play with flavor combinations and Frankenstein together beloved classic recipes into something new. We talk about food around the office. A lot. Frequently either Jordan or I might muse, "What do you think of (fill in unusual ingredient) in a (choose a beloved recipe)?" The idea for this tasty snack cake came from a recent trip to Costco, the purchase of two enormous jars of Nutella, some leftover sour cream, and a couple of overripe bananas sitting on the counter. This rag-tag team of ingredients came together to make a sticky, super moist dessert to satisfy the sweetest of sweet-tooths. Or even Jordan.

- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 c. Nutella (that addictive European chocolate-hazelnut spread)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 c. butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a 13x9" baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl combine mashed bananas, eggs, oil, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and Nutella. Beat together with an electric mixer until ingredients are well combined and smooth. In a separate medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to Nutella mixture a half cup at a time, blending thoroughly with electric mixer after each addition. Stir in butterscotch chips.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake in oven for 45-55 minutes until cake is cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pie in the Sky! Or in Your Mouth!

Rowan's Brown Sugar Pecan Pie
I have a terrier. She's adorable, fuzzy, energetic, but kind of a pain in the ass. What else can I say? She's a terrier- stubborn, willful, etc. The stereotype holds true. When I had to leave town for an evening I needed a trusted dog-sitter to keep little Hermione fed and out a trouble. Knowing Rowan to be a lover of dogs and generally willing to do things for money, I asked him to take on the task. He agreed. To sweeten the deal, as it were, I offered to make him his favorite pie. "Pecan," he responded without hesitation. Being one of the easiest pies to whip up I agreed, but I wanted to do something a little more exciting than the recipe on the back of the corn syrup bottle. In the end, Rowan approved of this tasty treat and I am grateful for his willingness to look after that feisty little beast that sleeps at the end of my bed.

- 1 9 1/2" pie crust (See blog entry for 9/15/10: "Just Peachy" for the perfect crust recipe, halve the recipe because the pecan is a one-crust pie.)
- 1 c. dark corn syrup
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 Tbsp. melted butter
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 2 c. pecan halves
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. dark rum

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Roll out pie dough into a 9 1/2" pie pan and finish the edges as desired. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and rum until well combined. Whisk in eggs until thoroughly incorporated into mixture. Add pecans and mix in. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust and bake in oven for 60-70 minutes until the top of pie becomes slightly crusted over and the crust is turning light golden brown. Let cool completely before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meat and Potatoes: Italian Style!

Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak and Parmesan Garlic Mashed Potatoes
I'm a red-meat loving kind of girl. It's just so tender, delicious, and flavorful. And served alongside potatoes? Well, let's just say that few pairings are more pleasing to the pallet (although chocolate and peanut butter are a close second). Strangely enough, however, my favorite go-to inspiration source of Italian cuisine includes few traditional meat-and-potatoes dishes. What choice had I but to develop my own? Throwing together some of my favorite Italian-themed flavors I put together this delicious hearty dinner that I found particularly satisfying after tonight's seven mile run in the rain. I served it alongside a good helping of sauteed spinach with shallots. Enjoy.

- 1 2 lb. cut flank steak, scored on both sides in a diamond pattern
- 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. little yellow potatoes
- 1 head garlic
- heavy cream
- 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 handful Italian parsley, chopped

Season steak of both sides with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, and thyme. Pour over steak and marinate in refrigerator for at least twenty minutes, overnight is okay too!

Preheat oven to 425˚ F. Slice the top of a head of garlic and place in the center of a foil square. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap into a packed and roast in oven for about 30 minutes until garlic becomes soft and brown. Meanwhile, begin boiling a large pot of water for the potatoes. Remove the roasted garlic from oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven to broil.

After steak has worked, place in an oven-proof dish and broil each side to desired doneness, (4 minutes per side for medium-rare). Remove from oven and allow meat to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing thin crosswise.

To make the potatoes, add potatoes, and to boiling pot of water and cook until very tender and can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Squeeze roasted garlic into the potatoes and mash together with a potato masher. Add pieces of butter and a splash of heavy cream. Sprinkle in Italian parsley, grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper. stir together until thoroughly combined. If potatoes are a little dry, add a little more cream. Serve warm with steak. Good dinner!

Super Spooky Halloween Fun

Pumpkin Spice Sour Cream Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Trick or treat! My announcement to my students that Friday's class would require wearing Halloween costumes to engage in a Fall-term Acting I tradition I have deemed "Super Spooky Halloween Fun" was met with a variety of responses. While several students were less than thrilled at the prospect of donning Halloween-themed attire two days before the actual holiday, their attitudes shifted when I promised a baked "treat" as part of the festivities. Pumpkin-themed baked good abound this time of year . . . and with good reason! The familiar orange gourd-like squash yields a flavorful and moist texture to cakes and cookies. I hope you enjoy this spicy, rum-spiked treat throughout the autumn season.


- 2 c. sugar
- 2 1/2 c. butter, room temperature, divided
- 4 large eggs
- 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
- 2 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 Tbsp. vanilla, divided
- 2 Tbsp. dark rum
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 2 Tbsp. cinnamon, divided
- 2 tsp. fresh nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- Halloween candies for decoration

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line two muffin tins with paper-liners and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream 1 1/2 sticks of butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Blend in pumpkin. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add baking soda, cardamom, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, and nutmeg and blend until thoroughly mixed together. Add eggs, one at a time, alternating with 1/2 c. additions of flour. Blend thoroughly after each addition. Blend in sour cream, rum, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla until combined.

Spoon prepared batter into paper cupcake liners. Fill each cup to about two-thirds full. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes. Test cupcakes for doneness and remove from oven. Let cool on a rack completely before frosting. Bake cupcakes in batches and continue process until all the batter has been baked into tasty treats!

In a large bowl blend together cream cheese, 1 Tbsp. vanilla, 1 Tbsp, cinnamon, and 1 stick butter with an electric hand mixer. Blend until frosting is smooth and creamy. Add more cinnamon to taste, if desired. Frost each baked and cooled cupcake with a generous amount of frosting and decorate with Halloween candies. Enjoy this spooky and tasty seasonal treat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bounty Hunter Brownies

Sarah: Breaker of Translucent Wings Memorial Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
It was just another ordinary day in playwriting class. Clustered together in the basement room, the students shuffled their papers and poised their pencils for another in-class writing assignment. Suddenly, our peaceful haven of creativity was disrupted by the dull buzz of an uninvited intruder: Musca domestica, the common housefly. Incredibly annoying, not to mention unsanitary, this winged, garbage-dwelling insect has no place at my table. After a few of my own feeble attempts at swatting the little bugger away, I realized a hero could emerge from the crowded table of students. "I will bake cookies for whoever kills the fly." The offer of baked-good worked as a motivating bounty and within three seconds the fly's crumpled body fell to the floor. The victor? Sarah, a clever brunette with a sardonic wit and an impressive collection of Woot tee-shirts. When I asked what kind of cookie she was interested in, she requested brownies. No problem. I developed the chocolate and peanut butter combination in honor of Sarah: Breaker of Translucent Wings and to our fallen and worthy foe who gave his life so that we could enjoy an afternoon snack.


- 2 1/2 sticks room temperature butter (plus 1 Tbsp.), divided
- 2 c. sugar
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- 1 c. cocoa powder
- 5 eggs, divided
- 1 c. creamy peanut butter
- 1 1/4 c. flour, divided
- 2 Tbsp. vanilla, divided
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a 13x9" baking pan with foil. Butter lightly with 1 Tbsp. of butter. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350˚ F. In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter over medium heat. When butter is melted, add sugar and cook over medium, stirring frequently, until ingredients are well combined and the surface looks shiny, about 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cocoa powder and 1 Tbsp. vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add three eggs, one at a time, whisking ingredients together after each addition. Whisk in 1 c. flour and baking powder.

Spread brownie batter into prepared baking pan and bake in oven for 15 minutes.While brownie layer in baking place peanut butter, powdered sugar, and remaining stick of butter into a large mixing bowl and cream ingredients thoroughly with an electric mixer. Add 2 eggs, 1 Tbsp. vanilla, and remaining flour and beat thoroughly with mixer. Set aside until brownie layer has baked for fifteen minutes. Remove brownies from oven and carefully spread and even layer of the peanut butter mixture on top. Evenly distribute the chocolate chips on top on the peanut butter layer.

Return to oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes longer until the brownies are baked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into 2" squares. Eat!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vodka: What Can't It Do?

Mascarpone Vodka Sauce with Turkey Meatballs
Maybe it's something floating around the autumn air, but lately Angie and I have been on the same food wave-length when musing over our dinner plans at the office. The other day I mentioned, "Do you know what I've been in the mood for? Spaghetti and meatballs!" Angie exclaimed, "Me too!" And we began comparing notes for potential pasta and ground-meat permutations. Mascarpone cheese is always a good idea and I have recently been gifted a fantastic bottle of vodka- this variation on vodka sauce seemed like a natural fit. Enjoy a heart bowl on a chilly October night. Keep in mind, the delicious herb-laden marinara base to the sauce makes more than enough for leftovers. Whip it up, save all about about 3 cups and freeze the rest for a future lasagna recipe.


- 2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
- 1 c. carrots, finely diced
- 4 stalks celery, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 c. Italian parsley, chopped, divided
- 1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
- 1 c. good quality vodka
- 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 1 tsp. sugar
- salt and pepper
- 3 lengths Italian turkey or chicken sausage, removed from casings
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 2 slices whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp. herbs d' Provence
- 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
- milk
- 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Heat 1/4 c. olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for about 3-4 minutes until they become soft and fragrant. Add carrots and celery, cook until vegetable begin to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add fresh thyme, 1/4 c. Italian parsley, and fresh basil. Stir to combine. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until sauce begins to thicken.

At this point, you have a delicious and complete marinara sauce. Enjoy with pasta, chicken, eggplant, or anything or use as the base for about a thousand other sauces.

To make the vodka sauce, take 3 cups of the Delicious Herby Marinara Sauce in a Dutch oven and add 1 c. good quality vodka. Simmer over medium-low for about 20 minutes for sauce to thicken. Add 1/4 c. mascarpone and 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheeses. Stir warm sauce until cheeses are melted and well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper and pour over cooked pasta to serve.

Preheat oven to 350˚F and spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray, set aside. In a large bowl combine ground turkey, chicken sausage, torn bread pieces, herbs d' Provence, poultry seasoning, 1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley, 1 egg, a splash of milk, and 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese. Mix with hands until ingredients are thoroughly combines. Form meat mixture into 2" balls and arrange in prepared baking dish. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until meatballs begin to brown. Serve over prepared pasta and vodka sauce. It's good stuff!

Further Experiments in Decadence

Almond and Mascarpone Stuffed Brownies
When fearless and awesome team captain Jessi proposed an informal reunion for our amazing Hood to Coast team I couldn't resist the drive all the way up to Southeast Portland. But what to bring to this potluck barbecue? Appropriately enough on a Saturday evening run I cataloged the ingredients available at home in the cupboard. Brownies were certainly an option, but I didn't want to bring just any old brownie. My first instinct was putting together one of my favorite flavor combos: chocolate and peanut butter! Unfortunately, due to my recent experiment (see Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Peanut Butterscotchies) I was out of peanut butter. An unopened jar of almond butter, however, was waiting for me at home. A soft, cakey brownie seemed like the perfect pairing for this under-utilized nut butter. It was a hit! Hope you like it.


- 1 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 1/4 c. cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 6 eggs, divided
- 1/4 c. water
- 2 c. flour, divided
- 1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 c. creamy almond butter
- 2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Lightly grease a sheet of foil and line at 13x9" baking pan. Set aside. In a medium, heavy saucepan melt butter of medium heat. Add sugar and stir over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. When thoroughly combined add 5 eggs, water, and 1 1/2 c. flour. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into prepared pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl blend mascarpone, almond butter, 1 egg, 1/4 c. flour, and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. If mixture is too runny, add more powdered sugar or flour by the tablespoon.

Drop dollops of almond butter mixture into brownie batter-filled baking dish. Try to distribute evenly throughout the baking dish. Place prepared pan into preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and set aside. Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares and serving. Enjoy with milk and friends!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Experiments in Decadance

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Peanut Butterscotchies

I've been on a baking kick lately. Perhaps it's the fall weather that makes me want to fill the house with oven-warmth and the scents of vanilla, chocolate, and sugary goodness. Last week, on a whim, I threw together some chocolate chip cookies. Jordan (always a source of food-inspiration) had the idea of doing something with butterscotch chips as a deviation from the chocolate-chip default. I mused over this and came up with some tasty ideas. Jordan provided the butterscotch chips. I always love the combination of sweet and salty and decided for this tasty treat I would put together a variety of beloved snack flavors. While these cookies are perfectly delicious without the chocolate coating . . . I figured if you're going to do the thing, you should do it right! Feel free to omit the chocolate dip . . . your call. You are the master of your own cookie destiny. Enjoy! (And by the way, the cookie dough was awesome!)


- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 2 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 sticks of butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 c. creamy peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp. corn syrup
- 2 c. butterscotch chips
- 2 c. crumbled pretzels
- 2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and corn syrup with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend ingredients thoroughly. Add flour and baking soda in batches until mixed. Using a wooden spoon, mix in butterscotch chips and broken pretzel pieces. With a cookie scoop or tablespoon scoop equal portions of dough and place on prepared baking sheet, spaced several inches apart (cookies will spread a bit while baking.) Bake in batches for 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a metal rack.

When cookies have cooled completely, place chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt in microwave for 1 minute, stir chips around and return to microwave. Cook for another minute, stir again until chips are melted and smooth. Dip cookies, one at a time, into melted chocolate and then place on a sheet of waxed paper for chocolate to cool and harden. Eat!