Garden Salad

August 17, 2010

This was one of the best salads I’ve had in a long, long time. It’s pretty hardy. Egg, red onion, mushrooms, bacon, raisins, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cheese, and ranch dressing. (I just used a Hidden Valley Ranch packet, but it would be worth a trip to Mazzio’s to pick up some of their mind-blowing tasty dressing! They know how to mix up some ranch, baby!) Just adjust the salad ingredients to your liking and serving size.

Hearty Garden Salad

There is no photo. Who knew a ‘clean out the fridge’ salad was gonna be so great?!?

Spring greens

hard boiled egg

red onion

sliced, fresh mushrooms

cheddar cheese, shredded

feta cheese


sunflower seeds

cherry tomatoes

grilled chicken

crispy crumbled bacon

For the ranch dressing,  I used a packet of Hidden Valley, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup buttermilk, and about a cup of mayonnaise.


Sugar Cream Pie

August 17, 2010

If you are planning to wear a bikini ever again in your future, just skip this post.

This pie is so yummy. It’s a sweet and creamy filling like a custard with a buttery top layer of crunchy, toasted cinnamon sugar. It’s great pie for family get-togethers (mostly so it gets gobbled up and you don’t have leftovers to torture you the next morning). And it’s one of the easiest little pies in the world to make. Just dump everything in a bowl, give it a whisk, and pour it into a pie crust.  Piece of cake. Er, pie.

Sugar Cream Pie

2 cups cream

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 (9 inch) pie crust

1 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. cinnamon-sugar

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine heavy cream, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

Fit crust into a pie plate and dot bottom with butter. Pour filling into crust, over butter. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar in a light layer over the top of filling.

Bake pie until set and center is firm, about 1 hour.

Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes (with blue vanilla buttercream)

August 9, 2010

A couple of weeks ago my husband, Jasper, and I were convinced there was a rosy-cheeked baby girl in my tummy.

So convinced that we had slowly accumulated a closet brimming full of frilly, cutesy, little girl things.

We went for our 20-week sonogram to confirm our little pink suspicions. And there on the screen were, well, let’s just politely call them  ‘little boy parts’. The full anatomy was completely visible and wholly in-tact. There was no mistaking.

Summoning every ounce of self-control I had not to burst into a river of tears, I laughed nervously (and loudly) through the remainder of the appointment. I spent the rest of the day attempting to keep it together and repeating the mantra “We are just happy it’s healthy” with a fake smile plastered to my face.

It’s not that I don’t like little boys. I was just so sure we were dealing with sugar and spice and everything nice. How could I be wrong about a living being growing in my womb? How could my body betray me this way? I know nothing about tractors or trucks or bugs or ‘frogs and snails and puppy dog’s tails’. And I’m really not a fan of dirt.

So, I made it through the day. And finally got home. And to bed. And my husband went to sleep. And I quietly pulled the quilt over my head and cried until morning.

And, then surprisingly, I woke up totally, fully, utterly over it. Excited even… A boy.

A sweet, fresh-faced, innocent, giggly, little baby boy that is soon to be the center of our life. His name is to be Graham. To say I can’t wait to meet him is a gross understatement.

A few nights later, we were driving home from a friend’s house and Jasper and I were singing in the car and Graham started fluttering. Fluttering a lot. I stopped singing and he stopped his moving. I began singing again and he fluttered around wildly again. Jasper and I laughed and continued this ‘sing-song-stop’ with little Graham playing along all the way home. We took the long way.  This amazing first interaction made for the most marvelous drive of our life.

So I decided to celebrate this exciting new gift in the way that makes the most sense to me.



Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes stuffed with Vanilla Cheesecake Mousse and Vanilla Buttercream icing, tinted blue, with jade colored sparkly sprinkles, to be exact.

If this baby is half as sweet as these cupcakes… I’m a goner.

Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes

18 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 (8oz.) block cream cheese, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 (8 oz.) container sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and cream cheese until creamy. Beat in sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to creamed butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beating until well blended. Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin tins.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Vanilla Cheesecake Mousse

2 cups heavy cream

8 Tbs. powdered sugar

8 oz. block cream cheese, softened

8 oz. white chocolate candy melts, melted

1/2 tsp. shortening

1 vanilla bean scraped, or 1 tsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

Beat cream until soft peaks form. Stir in powdered sugar.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add melted white chocolate candy, vanilla, and salt. Beat again.

Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.

To fill cupcake: Cut an inverted cone shape out of the top of the cupcake. Pull out cone and saw off the cone shape, leaving only the top circle. Fill hollowed cupcake with mousse mixture. Top with circle.

Vanilla Buttercream

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 small (3 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

2 tsp. vanilla

1 (16oz.) package powdered sugar

3-4 Tbs. milk

Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until creamy.

Add powdered sugar and milk (to desired thickness and consistency) until smooth.

I read this recipe from Joy the Baker recently and decided I’ll give this buttercream recipe a try next time…

Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting with Rose Water

makes enough to fill and frost one 8-inch layer cake or frost 24 cupcakes

from Organic and Chic

2 sticks (1 cup) organic unsalted butter, softened

1 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup organic whole milk

1/4 cup sifted organic all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons organic vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rosewater

Cream the butter on medium speed, 3 to 5 minutes, in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer until soft, adout 30 seconds.  Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.

In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup mil with the flour and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until there are no lumps.  Over medium heat, slowly add the remaining 3/4 cups milk, whisking constantly and cook until the mixture comes to a low boil.

Reduce the heat to low and continue mixing until the mixture starts to thicken slightly.

When the mixture starts to thicken, immediately remove the pan from the heat but keep stirring.  After you have removed the pan from the heat, the mixture will continue to cook for a minute or two on its own.

If you overheat the mixture and find that you have some lumps, try to whisk them out with a little elbow grease, or pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Place the mixture in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the milk mixture into the butter and sugar mixture.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the rose water during this final mixing.

Coffee Smoothie

August 9, 2010

My husband, Jasper, has been so busy with work and projects around the house lately, I feel like I’ve barely seen him. He made a promise to do “nothing” last Saturday so that we could just lounge around and have a long overdue lazy-day weekend together. I believe the only task accomplished all day was making a yummy breakfast, and that was fine by the two of us! I toasted up some breakfast sandwiches (I’ll share that ‘recipe’ at the end of this post) and whipped up some tasty little coffee smoothies. If you’ve been digging deep for five bucks to purchase a frappy at the coffee shop, maybe you should throw this in the blender next time you get the cravin’… you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry anyway!

Coffee Smoothie

serves 2

1/2 cup coffee, brewed strong or 1 Tbs. instant espresso

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

2 heaping tsp. instant vanilla pudding

1-2 tsp. sugar, to taste

1 cup ice cubes

Add all ingredients to the blender and pulse until thick.

Optional Add-ins:

I used caramel and whipped cream!

1/2 banana

2 tsp. chocolate syrup

2 tsp. caramel sauce

whipped cream


any extract: mint, almond, coconut, banana

Breakfast Sandwich

Again, for two. Easily multiply for your serving size.

2 eggs

4 slices bacon

2 whole wheat english muffins


2 slices colby-jack cheese

fresh green spiniach

2 slices tomato

Cook bacon until crisp. (I like to bake bacon. It’s easier for me. I always seem to get splattered by hot grease in the eye when frying it in a pan. And that’s no fun.So I just bake it – 400° for about 20 minutes until crispy.)

Heat a little butter in a skillet. Split and toast english muffins until golden brown.

Fry egg to your liking (We like the yolk a little runny).

Assemble sandwich. Layer spinach and tomato over bottom of muffin, then bacon, egg, and cheese. Top with other half of muffin. Dig in.

Grilled Chicken & Pineapple Quesadilla

August 2, 2010

I’ve not wanted to step foot in the kitchen lately. I’ve got plenty of good reasons if you’re willing to listen to me whine.

#1:  I’m pregnant.

#2:  It’s really, really hot outside and any additional exposure to heat sounds like torture.

#3:  Lately, when I get hungry, I’m HUNGRY right then, and all the thawing, prepping, and lengthy cooking times just make me grumpy. (See: ‘good excuse #1’).

I remember the days (about 5 1/2 months ago) when I would go grocery shopping and think; ‘Why on earth would anyone buy all these packaged, just-add-water type dinners when slow-cooked, homemade meals are so much better?’. Well, I get it. Folks are hot. Folks are tired.  Folks are even with child. But, folks still gotta eat.

So, when I do venture to cook, it has to be quick & easy.

Pioneer Woman posted this recipe on her blog recently and it sounded pretty painless. Mrs. Ree added barbeque sauce to her grilled chicken. I’m not a big barbeque fan, but go for it if it tickles your taste buds! With or without, it is so, so good. We had these spicy, sweet, and cheesy quesadillas twice last week!

Grilled Chicken & Pineapple Quesadillas

photo: Ree Drummond

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin

fajita or creole seasoning

pineapple rings


1 small can chopped green chilies

1 small onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled (optional)

2 large (burrito size) tortillas (or 4 small taco size)

Heat grill. Season chicken (pounded very thin) with fajita or creole seasoning. Place chicken and pineapple rings on the grill and cook until heated through and pineapple has gentle char marks.

Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a large skillet (save yourself some dish duty and use a skillet large enough to toast the tortilla after you saute). Saute onion, jalapenos, and green chilies until onions are translucent. Transfer to small plate.

Arrange chicken, cheese, onion/pepper/jalapeno saute, bacon and grilled pineapple on the bottom half of a large tortilla. Fold the top half over and place in the skillet over medium-low heat. When toasted, turn the quesadilla to toast opposite side.

Serve with sour cream & salsa.

Get Your Churn On…

August 1, 2010

It’s a sweltering 102° today. I’m not being dramatic. It was literally 102°.

We all screamed for ice cream.

I prefer a rich, thick, homemade custard ice cream. It is usually an egg, sugar, and cream mixture cooked over low heat to thicken. But, because of the heat, I am trying to avoid the evil heat of the stove. My mom makes a no-cook, no-nonsense custard ice cream that is very, very good! I decided to take my chances with raw eggs and make this ‘no-heat required’ version!

GiGi’s Homemade Ice Cream

If making plain vanilla ice cream, the addition of a small box of instant vanilla pudding ups the ante a bit.

6 whole fresh eggs

2 cups sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup cream

half & half or whole milk (or both)

optional additions: strawberries, crushed Butterfinger candy bars, chocolate chips, or whatever tickles your fancy

Beat eggs, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, cream, and sugar in a 6 Qt. ice cream maker.

Pour in half & half or whole milk (or a mixture of both) to about 3/4 full in the ice cream canister.

Stir in any optional add-ins.

Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to make a yummy, rich & creamy batch of homemade ice cream!

Chicken Parmingiana

July 9, 2010

This was my first attempt to make Chicken Parmesan (Parmigiana) at home. I started with a Tyler Florence recipe that ‘looked’ good and tweaked it a little to fit what I like in a Chicken Parmesan dish. (No olives or pepperonis).

I want to pass something interesting I learned about this popular dish. I assumed the chicken had a parmesan breading, hence the name. Nay, friends. It was given the name ‘Parmigiana’ after of the region of Italy that the dish is made (the word “Parmigiana” literally translates: “from Parma”) Apparently it was originally found in Sicilian cookbooks, but always as Eggplant Parmigiana. The Italians adopted it, added to the Parmigiana repertoire to include chicken and veal,  and brought the dishes with them to America; Let’s take a moment to thank God for Italian immigrants (especially the one’s that can cook)!

So this was how I made the dish last night. It was pretty quick and easy. But more importantly… delicious! (And, only one pan and one baking dish were dirtied up in the process! Yippee!) Crispy, cheesy, and filling. What more do you want from dinner?

Chicken Parmingiana

  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs, italian seasoned
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 bottle of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 4 servings spaghetti
  • salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat about 1″ of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet.

Set up dredging station with three shallow bowls. Flour in the 1st (season with salt & pepper), beaten eggs & buttermilk in the 2nd, and breadcrumbs in the 3rd. Pound chicken breasts with a mallet until they are about 1/2″ thick. Lightly season chicken breasts with salt & pepper, then dredge both sides of chicken in flour, egg, then breadcrumbs. Fry in hot oil about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Boil water. Add enough pasta for 4 servings. Boil until tender. Drain.

Cover bottom of a baking dish with drained pasta. Pour ample amount marinara sauce over spaghetti. Place browned chicken breasts over pasta. Cover with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Bake until sauce is heated through and the cheese is bubbly and melted. Serve with a salad and toasty italian bread.

New Cookbook

July 8, 2010

I bought this wonderful new cookbook. It’s titled Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways Are The Best- Over 700 Recipes To Show You Why by Darina Allen.

There are, as the title states, over 700 recipes in this cookbook, but the real value is not in the recipes at all, but the ‘forgotten skills’ she writes about. From making your own butter, yogurt, and simple cheese to preparing pig intestines to stuff sausages; She writes about a slower, and in some ways, simpler life.

She owns a self-sufficient farm in Ireland where she runs Ballymaloe Cookery School and keeps dairy cows for milk, chickens for eggs, organically fed and free ranging pigs, cows, lambs, and chickens for meat, and an extensive kitchen garden. She devotes an entire chapter to keeping hens: which chickens are friendliest, which produce the most eggs, how to hatch chicks (hint: you need a rooster!), hen’s illnesses and cures, and how to deal with a broody hen. The next chapter named Pig, explains how to cook a pig, snout to tail. (Watch out gag reflex, watch out!) She makes her own salami, sausages, cured meats, and pates. The chapters continue in this manner and go on to explain true seasonal cooking with fresh-grown vegetables & herbs, foraging for food in the wild (including berries & mushrooms but not leaving out how to skin and roast a rabbit over a fire), preserving and canning, and bread making. Did you know that unpasteurized, fresh cow’s milk is higher in melatonin, the natural hormone that helps us to relax and sleep, so having a glass of fresh milk before bed does, in fact, help you sleep? Well, Darina knows.

I find myself picking up the book everyday and flipping through it’s precious pages, even though I read the thing front-to-back the first day I got it. I daydream about adapting to this kind of wholesome life (hold the blood sausages and stuffed beef heart, please). I yearn to have the time to allow yeasty bread dough to rise not once, but twice as Darina suggests, and crave to have the practical sense to see farm animals as respectful meat sources, and not an expansive yard of pets roaming with their sweet-heart little names etched on their collars. (I totally get Fern’s point of view from Charlotte’s Web… “Oh, Wilbur!”) I want to embrace a ‘slow food’ & ‘waste not, want not’ ethic. I’m jonsing to be the starter of the starter bread!!

Hey, will you hold that thought while I go grab a Ding Dong and a can of Coke?

Just kidding.

I think.

Corn and Shrimp Chowder with Bacon

July 7, 2010

I realize summer isn’t exactly the time to be thinking about soups, stews, or chowders. But trust me – this corn & shrimp chowder is the perfect light summer supper! Seafood & shrimp always strikes me as a summer-type food. And the fresh-shucked sweet corn is the epitome the season. This easy recipe calls for whole milk instead of heavy cream which keeps the chowder less heavy than most. I made it last night after a long, tiring evening and it really hits the spot, without weighing you down.  Toast up some garlic bread and ladle it up!

Corn & Shrimp Chowder with Bacon

4-6 (depending on size) ears sweet corn, husks & silks removed

6 slices bacon

1 bunch (about 8 ) green onions, thinly sliced

1 small onion, diced

2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & cut into 1″ cubes

3 heaping Tbs. flour

3 cups whole milk

1 cup half & half

1 cup water

2 tsp. Old Bay seafood seasoning

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 lb. peeled & deveined large shrimp

salt & pepper

Stand corn in a wide, shallow bowl and slice downward to release kernels. Scrape the length of each cob with a spoon to remove pulp (it helps to slightly thicken chowder).

In a large soup pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove, allow to cool, and break into bits.

Add diced onion and potatoes to bacon drippings and saute until softened (about 3-5 minutes). Add flour and cook, stirring, an additional 1 minute.

Add milk, half & half, water, Old Bay, and thyme. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Toss in corn, shrimp, and sliced green onions. Cook until shrimp are pink (about 3 minutes). Season chowder with salt & pepper to taste. Serve topped with bacon.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

June 23, 2010

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

  • 5-6 large baking potatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 400°. Pierce the scrubbed potatoes with a fork; brush with oil. Bake until tender, 1 hour. Let cool, then cut into bite-size pieces.

Lay out bacon on a shallow rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned & crispy. Allow to cool & crumble into small bits.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sour cream; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the potatoes, bacon, scallions and cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Rachael Ray recipe