Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween- Spider Cupcakes

Enjoy making these Halloween themed treats with friends and children.

Spider Cupcakes
Prep Time: 15 min Total Time: 40 min
Makes: 2 doz.

Nutrition InformationKraft Kitchens TipsRatings and commentsYou may also enjoy

1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Chocolate Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1/3 cup KOOL-AID Orange Flavor Sugar-Sweetened Soft Drink Mix
2 Tbsp. hot water
1 can (16 oz.) ready-to-spread white frosting
24 OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
12 pieces black string licorice (32 inch each)
48 miniature candy-coated chocolate pieces

PREPARE cake batter as directed on package; blend in dry pudding mix. Spoon evenly into 24 paper-lined medium muffin cups. Bake as directed on package for cupcakes. Cool completely.

DISSOLVE drink mix in hot water. Stir into frosting until blended. Frost cupcakes, reserving some frosting for attaching candies.

CUT each licorice piece into sixteen 2-inch pieces; set aside. Place 1 cookie on top of each cupcake. Insert 4 licorice pieces into each side of each cookie for the "spider's legs." (Eight licorice pieces for each cookie.) Add 2 candy-coated chocolate pieces to top of each cookie using some of the reserved frosting for the "spider's eyes."


Monday, October 29, 2007

Chili Por J.I. Gardner

With cooler weather approaching, this authentic Southwestern chili from the First Edition of the Arizona Cook Book is my favorite and has received may compliments over the years. The cook book is a little pamphlet with 350 authentic Arizona recipes from several pioneer sources in Arizona such as the Navajo Tribal Museum, Senator Goldwater, Arizona Beef Industry Council, Rosarita Mexican Foods, Sunkist Growers, Inc., and, in the case of this recipe, a Mr. J. I. Gardner. The pure meat blend that has been cooked until it fell apart and is very tender along with the chili gravy sauce are served with many sides such as red beans, rice, spaghetti (For any Cincinnati Style Lovers), grated cheese, chopped onions, fresh chili peppers, and bread or tortillas so everyone can customize their chili serving. Notice that there are no beans or tomatoes included in this recipe. It also freezes well.

2 pounds Beef Chuck
2 pounds Elk, Moose or Venison (If no game is available, I just use about 3 pounds Beef Chuck and 3 pounds of Pork Shoulder for the meat portion of the recipe.)
2 pounds Pork Shoulder
1 large Onion
6 medium Cloves Garlic
6 Red Chilis (dried)
6 Ancho Chilis (dried)
1 tablespoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
Salt to taste.

Trim all fat, gristle and bone from meat and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Cut all usable fat into small cubes and render until fat is brown. Lift out rendered fat pieces, discard them, and save the grease for frying the cubed meat. Saute the meat until it has just left the red stage. (Do not over-fry.)

Wash all dried chili pods, and remove stems and seeds. Soak chilis in boiling hot water (Initially) for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, pour some water from the reconstituted chilis into a blender and add the chilis a few at a time. Blend until creamy then pour contents of the blender back into the rest of the liquid used to reconstitute the dried chilis.

Peel the onion and garlic cloves. Cut into small pieces and put into blender with enough oil to start onion and garlic to blend. Blend until creamy. Place in a fry pan and saute on medium high heat until lemon colored (3 to 5 minutes).

Put all ingredients in a pot large enough to hold them, plus 6 to 8 cups of hot water. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the meat falls apart and is tender (2 or 3 hours) . Add water if needed to keep the meat covered as it simmers.

Skim off any excess oil on the surface and thicken with a thickening of flour or corn starch to the desired consistency. (A little goes a long way.)

To add more "bite" you can add a small amount of cayenne or other hot chili. Be very careful about the amount you add; you want a zippy taste, not a burn. Lately, I don't add any more chili pepper most of the time. Instead, I like to serve fresh, canned, and/or pickled chopped chilis and a choice of chili sauces as sides for guests to suit their own taste preferences. As I mentioned, this freezes well, and one night of making chili can produce several very tasty winter meals of Chili Por J. I. Gardner.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Cashew Chicken

Cashew chicken. Yum, yum. This is a great tasting dish and one that I make quite often. I suggest adding julienned red bell pepper.
Cashew Chicken
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbs. corn or peanut oil
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup salted roasted cashews
Steamed rice for servingMarinate the chickenIn a large bowl, stir together 2 Tbs. of the soy sauce, the wine and ginger. Stir in the chicken to coat evenly and set aside for 15 minutes. Make the sauceIn a small bowl, combine 2 Tbs. water, the remaining 1 Tbs. soy sauce, the Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch, and stir to dissolve the sugar and cornstarch. Stir-fry the chickenHeat a wok or large fry pan over high heat until very hot and add 2 Tbs. of the corn oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, draining it well, and discard the marinade. Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until opaque, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Return the wok to medium heat and add the remaining 1 Tbs. corn oil. Add the green onions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Return the chicken to the wok and add the cashews. Give the sauce a quick stir, add to the pan and stir until the sauce thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately with the steamed rice. Serves 4. Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Asian, by Farina Wong Kingsley (Oxmoor House, 2007).


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

My boyfriend and I carved a pumpkin for Halloween last weekend for the first time since our youth. We did a good job, eh?

Not only can you get creative when you carve a pumpkin and have fun while you do it, you can roast the yummy seeds inside. It's real easy.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread fresh seeds on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 45 minutes mixing them up and turning them occasionally so they don't burn.

They are a great fall snack!

Butternut Squash Soup

Here is a really simple butternut squash recipe that you can use as a base. You can add a lot of different things to this or just keep it plain and simple. Things I add sometimes are:
  • Swish Chard
  • Bacon
  • White beans
  • Parsnips
  • And more!

Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe Courtesy of Cathy Lowe

1 butternut squash, peeled Nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
6 cups chicken stock

Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add squash and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and place in a blender and puree. Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Serve.


Lazy Person Pumpkin Muffins

These are from Gourmet, too, (actually adapted from the American Club in Kohler, which Jamie has been dreaming about golfing at but never makes it up there) but they're for lazy people like me :) I made a batch yesterday and brought them to work and I think they got eaten in about 12 seconds, flat. Like pigeons to a breadcrumb, i tell you.

Oh, and I ran out of flour, so I only used 1 cup instead of 1 1/2, but they tasted fine nonetheless.

Pumpkin Muffins
Letters, Gourmet, November 2006
Adapted from the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners in muffin cups.
Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1¼ cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.
Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

** if you don't have pumpkin pie spice, it's just just 1/2 t. cinammon, 1/4 t. ginger, 1/8 t. nutmeg, 1/8 t. allspice, so you don't have to buy it if you have those things.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Super Sloppy Joes

I have been REALLY in the mood for a sloppy joe lately. So, I dug up this recipe from the Rachael Ray show cause it sounded yummy when I did my Internet search. For a short cut (even though sloppy joes are pretty dang easy in the first place), I just buy the seasoning packets that they sell in grocery store and if you really want to be a little kid again, go ahead and throw a Kraft single or slice of cheddar on there and let it melt. Some people just use ketchup instead of tomato paste and tomato sauce. I actually prefer the sauce and paste more. Enjoy!

Super Sloppy Joes
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray Show
Back in the Day

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 1/4 pounds ground beef sirloin
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon steak seasoning blend, such as McCormick brand Montreal Seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 crusty rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around the pan and begin to break it up. Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning. Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet and combine. When the meat has browned, add onion and red peppers to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, peppers, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce with meat for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile sloppy meat onto toasted, buttered bun bottoms and cover with bun tops.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins

Nothin' says the month of October better than ginger-pumpkin muffins.

Ginger-pumpkin muffins
Bon Appétit November 1995

Servings: Makes 16.

5 1/2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
2 cups sifted unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cooked pumpkin puree or canned solid pack pumpkin
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured (light) molasses
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line sixteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Mix 2 1/2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, currants and brandy in small bowl.
Sift flour, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Whisk pumpkin puree, buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and egg in large bowl until foamy. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar; beat until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in molasses and oil. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture in 3 additions each. Stir in currant mixture.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Mix 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over muffins.
Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool on rack.

Monday, October 22, 2007

And for dessert...

I made her pumpkin bread pudding to take to book club, and between the five of us, we ate the entire pan full. It was so delicious. Pumpkiny without being overwhelming, spicy, savory and sweet. Perfect for fall. Here's the link, and here's the recipe!

By the way, this recipe takes about 30 seconds to make. BIG plus.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1½ cups whole milk (Or 1 cup heavy cream plus ½ cup whole milk)

¾ cup canned solid-pack pumpkin

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 yolk

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread

¾ stick unsalted butter, melted* (can skip this step if using the second set of instructions)

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Gourmet’s Instructions: Whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon, if using, in a bowl. Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.

I don't have a dishwasher instructions: While preheating oven to 350°F with rack in middle, melt butter in bottom of a 8-inch square baking dish. Once it is melted, take it out of the oven and toss bread cubes with butter, coating thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients. Pour them over buttered bread cubes in baking dish, stirring to make sure all pieces are evenly coated. Bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.


Another Gallette

I can't stop with the Smitten Kitchen. Her recipes are so easy and SO tasty!

I made this wild mushroom and stilton galette along with the butternut squash one I wrote about earlier for the Bears game yesterday... I personally thought it was a bit TOO blue cheese-y, I think I'd alter the proportions of mushrooms to cheese, but seeing as how everyone there inhaled it, apparently no one minded.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vosges Chocolate Bacon Exotic Candy Bar

For you "Everything is Better with Bacon" fanatics, here is the ultimate treat!? I guess the good news is that it is Gluten Free.

Bacon Exotic Candy Bar - New
Applewood smoked bacon + Alder smoked salt + deep milk chocolate
Deep milk chocolate coats your mouth and leads to the crunch of smoked bacon pieces. Surprise your mouth with the smoked salt and sweet milk chocolate combination.Crisp, buttery, compulsively irresistible bacon and milk chocolate combination has long been a favorite of mine. I started playing with this combination at the tender age of six while eating chocolate chip pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Beside my chocolate-laden cakes laid three strips of fried bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup. Just a bite of the bacon was too salty and yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate syrup. In retrospect, perhaps this was a turning point, for on that plate something magical happened: the beginnings of a combination so ethereal and delicious that it would haunt my thoughts until I found the medium to express it--chocolate.--Katrina
Shelf Life: 3 months
Gluten free
41% cacao, 3oz.


Steak Salad

Last night, I made the potato and leek soup that I posted and I wanted to follow that up with something light. I decided to make a steak salad and it really hit the spot. I took a look in my fridge and found that I had some perfect ingredients for a salad so I went with those. For the dressing, I just whipped up a red wine vinegar dressing with stone mustard, olive oil and lemon juice to toss it with.

Shaw's Steak Salad
Mixed greens
1 shallot
1 boneless rib eye steak
soy sauce
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Asparagus tips
Artichoke hearts
Pancetta, cubed
Gorgonzola cheese

I marinated the steak in soy sauce for about an hour. Then I patted it dry and coated it with a layer of fresh ground pepper. I fried up some cubed pancetta and set aside. Quickly blanch the asparagus spears and put in the fridge. In a large bowl, add art hearts, minced shallot, cherry tomatoes and asparagus tips. Add greens and toss with vinaigrette. Using the same pan with pancetta grease, pan fry steak about 4 minutes a side. Plate salad from bowl and top with sliced steak, pancetta bits and Gorgonzola cheese.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Leek and Potato Soup

I suggest serving this with a wedge of brie on the bottom of the bowl and some cubed pancetta bits on top as a garnish.

Leek and Potato Soup
3 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 large russet potatoes (about 18 ounces total), peeled, diced
4 1/2 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks; stir to coat with butter. Cover saucepan; cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes begin to soften but do not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in processor until smooth. Return to saucepan. Thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bring soup to simmer. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with chives and serve.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chocolate Souffles

I add a little Dark rum and Mexican vanilla to the recipe and top it with whipped cream, walnuts and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Chocolate Souffles

10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

5 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large eggs, separated


Combine first 7 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm. (Chocolate base can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Stir over low heat just until lukewarm before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter eight 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups and coat insides with sugar. Whisk egg yolks into lukewarm chocolate base. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl until soft peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate base in 3 additions. Divide soufflé mixture among prepared ramekins; place on baking sheet. Bake soufflés until puffed but still moist in center, about 15 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over soufflés and serve immediately.


Cabernet-braised short ribs with gorgonzola polenta

This recipe was on the cover of September's Bon Appetit magazine and I knew when I saw it that I had to make it. I am a sucker for short ribs. My girlfriend came over and we enjoyed these on Saturday night. I suggest using a little less gorgonzola than the recipe calls for because it is such a strong cheese and you don't want it to over power the dish. I always let them braise longer than the recipe says so I let mine go for another 45 minutes or so.

Cabernet-braised short ribs with gorgonzola polenta
8 to 9 pounds meaty beef short ribs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (about) vegetable oil2 750-ml bottles
Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all purpose flour

Arrange ribs in single layer in 15x10x2- inch glass baking dish. Mix rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper in small bowl; sprinkle all over ribs. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy wide ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch, adding more oil to pot by tablespoonfuls as needed. Transfer ribs to large bowl. Pour off drippings from pot; discard. Add wine to pot and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Return ribs and any accumulated juices to pot; bring to boil. Cover; transfer to oven and braise until meat is very tender and almost falling off bones, about 2 hours.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.Bring to simmer before continuing. Using slotted spoon, transfer ribs to large bowl; cover tightly to keep warm. Skim any fat from top of braising liquid. Boil liquid until reduced to 2 generous cups, about 20 minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour with fork in small bowl until well blended. Whisk butter mixture into reduced braising liquid. Whisk over medium-high heat until sauce thickens very slightly, about 2 minutes.Divide Gorgonzola Polenta among plates. Top with ribs and sauce.


Salad Layonnaise in Parmesan Cups

I love Salad Layonnaise. The only problem is that I can't make the real deal at home because I can't find frissee anywhere in Chicago. I just find it in parts in those mixed bags that you buy at the store. So, that's what I roll with. When I read Becomming a Chef by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page when I lived in NYC, I found this recipe for parmesan cups. They are very easy to make and provide some dramatic presentation to help spice up this classic french recipe. Give it a shot.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take a cookie sheet and spray it with non stick spray. sprinkle a thin layer of parmesan on the cookie sheet in about a 6 inch square. Make sure it is even. Pop it in the oven. Take it out when cheese is melted an lightly browned. About 2 minutes. Take measuring cup and flip upside down. Take the cookie sheet and flip it upside down on the measuring cup. Take spatula and make sure all cheese is removed from sheet and is evenly coating the cup. Lightly press the cheese to give it stronger form. Quickly put the measuring cup in the freezer and flash it for about 2 minutes. Take out. Use within next two hours.


chuck, what happened to our friend the new jersey sized cabbage?

My Cooking Essentials

The other day I was thinking about staples. What do I have to have in my kitchen at all times? So, I went through my cabinets and my fridge and laid it all out for a picture. See if you can guess what cuisine my staples are heavily rooted in.

Mayo, butter, shallots, lemon, garlic, broth, capers, truffle salt, egg, artichoke hearts, pesto, basil, olive oil, balsamic, parmeasan cheese, sea salt, pepper and cooking magazines.


Instead of studying

... I decided to cook last night. Sometimes, when I'm stressed, and busy, and getting really, really bitchy to my significant other (sorry, jamie) it's time to just let the homework pile up a little bit and destress with lots of chopping and sauteeing. I didn't realize that till I read a recent "Smitten Kitchen" post and knew I had to make it THAT NIGHT.

So last night I ripped off this recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen and damn, was it so tasty! I'm using her photos because she's an amazing photographer but for once in my life mine looked just like the photos!!
Now, considering this requires a. dough making, b. dough chilling, c. butternut squash peeling and dicing, and d. onion caramelizing, it's not at all quick. Jamie had to go to the store and get a snack while I was making it, it took so long. But it turned out amazingly well. I imagine you could make the dough and the filling the day before and refrigerate them and bake the gallettes the next day and they'd be just as good. I can't wait to try her wild mushroom and stilton variety!

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

For the pastry:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice water
For the filling:
1 small butternut squash (about one pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter (if you have only non-stick, the smaller amount will do)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
¾ cup fontina cheese (about 2½ ounces), grated or cut into small bits
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1. Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a ½-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

4. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

5. Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the mushrooms and cheese, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

6. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread

I suggest eating a slice with a fresh cup of coffee in the morning before you head off to work.

Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread
Bon Appétit November 2007
Makes 1 loaf
Susan Reid

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour*
1 cup medium-grind whole grain cornmeal or regular cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans plus 10 pecan halves for garnish
3/4 cup dried cranberries (about 4 ounces)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with nonstick spray. Whisk both flours, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, melted butter, maple syrup, eggs, and extract in medium bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans and cranberries. Spoon batter into pan. Arrange pecan halves in row down center of batter.Bake bread until top is golden brown and paring knife inserted into center of bread comes out clean, tenting bread loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Turn out onto rack; cool.
A LITTLE AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap bread in foil and store at room temperature.FURTHER AHEAD: Can be made and then frozen up to 2 weeks ahead. Wrap in foil, then place in resealable plastic bag.*White whole wheat flour is milled from 100 percent hard white wheat. It contains all of the germ and bran (and nutritional value) of regular whole wheat, but has a naturally lighter color and milder flavor. It's available at some supermarkets and specialty foods stores and from


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Courtney's Zucchini Boats


Hello- E and I were talking tonight and she suggested I send out this recipe for everyone on Zucchini Boats...

One Zucchini will serve 2 people.

Take a Zucchini and cut it in half, cut off the stem end, but do not cut off the rounded end.

Hollow out the Zucchini and cut the pieces up.

Dice a med. size onion.

Put the onion and zucchini and a little olive oil into a saute pan.
Take the hollowed zucchini and put them on a cookie sheet layered with alumnimunm foil face down and bake on 350 for 10-15 minutes, until brown.

While the zucchini is in the oven, sautee the cut up zucchini, onions, and olive oil in a frying pan, salt and pepper to your liking.

Once they are tender remove them from the burner.
Remove the zucchini from the oven and stuff the sauteed mixture into the zucchini, top with feta cheese and roman tomatoes cut in half. Bake on 350 for 5-7 minutes until the cheese and tomatoes are warm.

Let cool for about 3-5 mintues and serve warm.

Goat Cheese and Herb Souffles

Now that bathing suit season is over, I get to eat all the stuff that I really like. Braised short ribs, risotto, fresh pasta, potatoes and lots and lots of cheese.

Souffles really impress. A lot of people are too scared to even try to make these. But, just like when baking anything, you just need to follow directions to a tee and it will come out A-OK. Well, better than A-Ok but you get my point.

The two souffles I make the most are goat cheese and chocolate. I serve goat cheese souffles in the spring with roasted spring vegetables (I lifted that idea from a great restaurant in NYC called Raoul's in SoHo). The way I serve them in the fall and winter is next to a small salad with walnuts, pears, dried cranberries and my family's balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Goat cheese and herb souffles
Servings: Makes 6 servings

7 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
4 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter six 3/4-cup soufflé dishes. Place 1 tablespoon Parmesan in each dish; rotate dishes to coat with cheese, leaving excess in dishes. Place dishes on baking sheet. Whisk milk and yolks in bowl to blend.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme, and rosemary; sauté 3 minutes. Add flour; whisk 1 minute. Whisk in milk mixture. Whisk soufflé base until thick and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add 1/2 cup goat cheese, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper; whisk until cheese melts. Beat whites in bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into base in pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup goat cheese and 1 tablespoon Parmesan over. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Divide mixture among dishes.

Bake soufflés until puffed and beginning to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 12, 2007

TV has altered my reality

So I was walking through Macy's today at lunch with my new shoe purchase, and I saw a gentleman in a white coat that I knew I knew. He was walking right at me, so I smiled and gave him a little wave and kept walking. He smiled back and sorta nodded at me. I'm walking out the doors thinking, 'how do i know him?'

Um, it was Rick Tramonto, from Tru. I certainly don't know him, and he now probably thinks I'm a stalker.

Sadly, last summer, I did the same thing to Conan O'Brien. I think I take T.V. too seriously.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Royster of the Oyster 2007!

Hey Chicago! It's that time of year. Royster of the Oyster is in full swing starting this Friday, October 12-19. Forget about those Cubs and visit Shaw's Crab House on Hubbard and State for drink specials, seafood specials, live entertainment and more! Be sure not to miss the AWESOME street party that on Friday night, the 19th, to see the oyster slurping competition and some rockin' live bands. Learn more about the Royster line-up here Take advantage and enjoy oyster's high season. See you there!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Iberico Cafe Insulada Rusa

Why didn't I think of this? Last weekend, I stopped by the Iberico Cafe & Bar at 737 N. LaSalle Drive in Chicago for a glass of Fino Sherry and a couple Tapas washed down with Sangria for dinner. One of the Tapas I selected was "Insulada Rusa" which was a potato salad with tuna fish, carrots, peas, and mayonnaise. I may be a picky eater, but I certainly finished this dish.

Tonight, I made a "quick" version for dinner using only canned ingredients, and it was a pretty accurate mild rendition of the original.

Potato Salad with Tuna and Mayonnaise (Makes two generous servings)

15 Ounces Canned Potatoes
4 Ounces Canned Carrots and Peas
4 Ounces Canned Albacore Tuna
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise

Drain the canned ingredients. Chop the canned potatoes to a fine dice in a bowl so that no piece is greater in size than a quarter inch cube. Next, shred the Tuna fish with a fork and add to the potatoes. Mix in the mayonnaise and blend the potatoes, tuna and mayonnaise. Make sure to leave the mixture slightly lumpy so that several cubes of potatoes remain in the mixture. The tuna should be completely shredded and blended into the mixture. Add the carrots and peas and gently blend or fold them into the mixture so they are not broken. Add salt and cracked pepper to taste and cool in the refrigerator until served.

I filled a fresh avocado half garnished with Italian parsley leaves with the potato salad, and it was terrific. Quick and easy Iberico Cafe Insulada Rusa at home!

Charleston Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits. Yumm. This is a hearty dish that is great for brunch or dinner during the fall and winter seasons.

Charleston Shrimp and Grits

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups hot stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup of parmesan, grated
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup stone-ground grits (These are REALLY hard to find in Yankee territory so get whatever grits you can but try to avoid instant. I always pick up a pack of grits when I am in the south to take back to Chicago so look for them when you travel)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
6 bacon slices
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper

If using quick-cooking grits (not instant), reduce cream to 3/4 cup and reduce stock to 3/4 cup.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream water, and hot stock; bring to a gentle boil. Add butter salt, and pepper. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch), until all are added; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (be careful not to scorch mixture), or until the grits are tender. Add grated cheeses and mix.

NOTE: Grits should have absorbed all of the liquid and become soft and should have the same consistency as oatmeal (moist, not dry). If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin. remove from heat.

Sprinkle shrimp with lemon juice, salt, and pepper; set aside. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until brown but not crisp. Remove from heat and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Coarsely chop bacon when cool. Reserve 4 tablespoons bacon grease in the frying pan. Add green onion, garlic, and red bell pepper; saute 10 minutes or until the onion is transparent. Add shrimp mixture and bacon; saute 5 to 7 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in center (cut to test). Remove from heat.

To serve, spoon hot grits onto individual serving plates and top with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with a little left over grated cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, October 8, 2007

How to Sharpen your Knife

There are a lot of people out there that own gorgeous knife sets and have no idea how to actually sharpen their cutlery. A dull knife can be dangerous. Take a moment to check out this video to learn how you can be safe in the kitchen and take better care of your knives.


Recipe of the Week: Carrie's Stuffed Acorn Squash with Apple Couscous

Last night, I made a variation of a dish that my friend made for me a couple weeks ago that is seasonal and tasty. I am sorry that I don't have a picture because the presentation is quite fantastic. Acorn squash is in season and this recipe is a great way to take a advantage of it. And, they are cheap. I got two of them for a little over 2 bucks. Not bad. The truffle salt adds an earthy flavor to this sweet dish and the pecans add some textural contrast.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Apple Couscous
Makes 4 servings

2 med acorn squash
3/4 cup of chicken broth
1/4 apple juice
1 box of plain couscous
2 shallots
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup of dried cranberries
1 red apple
3/4 cup of dried nectarines
1/2 cup of crushed pecans
Truffle salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the squash in half. This requires a very sharp knife. (Getting a boy to help with this can be good, too) Gut out the squash with a large spoon. In a large pot, steam the squash for 12 minutes. You may have to do in batches. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the whole box of couscous using the directions on the box. Sub water with broth and apple juice. Set aside. Mince garlic and shallots and saute for about 3 minutes and then add to couscous. Add truffle salt. Chop up the apple and the dried nectarines and add with cranberries into couscous. Add pecans and cinnamon.

Line squash with butter and brown sugar and put in the oven alone for 15 minutes. Take them out and stuff them with couscous. Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 10 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Roasted Gorgonzola Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

Here's a great hors' dourve that is in season, delicious and oh so simple to assemble. I recommend drizzling honey on top before you serve. Also, I doubled this recipe because they go fast!

Roasted Gorgonzola Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

8 large firm ripe Brown Turkey or other large figs, stems trimmed
8 cubes (about 1/2 inch each) gorgonzola cheese
8 thin slices prosciutto

1. Preheat oven to 500˚F.
2. Cut a cross in the top of each fig cutting about 1/2 inch deep. Pull the four corners open and insert the cube of cheese into each fig. Place the figs in a large baking dish.
3. Wrap prosciutto around the sides of the figs, overlapping edges. Roast until prosciutto is crisped on edges and fig is warmed through, about 12 minutes. Arrange a radicchio leaf on each salad plate and place the fig in the center of each leaf. Serve hot.

*Recipe by Marie Simmons


Thursday, October 4, 2007

First Timer Pad Thai

For as much as I order pad thai and love Thai food in general, I cannot believe that I have never made the dish at home. Plus, I love breaking out my wok. Last night I gave it a shot and it came out great. It all comes together very quickly so it's a fairly easy recipe to execute. It does require some prep work but it's all prep with your knife and I actually think that knife prepping is fun. Shucking corn or peeling potatoes is another story.

Now, the only bummer about last night is that I didn't have any delicious peanut sauce to dump on top of my pad thai. This is not how this dish is served but if I order this in a restaurant I always ask for a side to dump on top. A tip: make sure to taste the peanut sauce before you take the plunge. The difference between fresh and bottled peanut sauce is HUGE and every restaurant is different. Don't go for the bottled stuff at home. Just trust me. You might as well melt Jif in your microwave and pour on top.
I morphed a couple recipes that I found online together and this is what I came up with:

First Timer Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thai
8 ounces dried pad thai noodles
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 pound peeled and de-veined raw shrimp, halved lengthwise
1/4 chicken breast, cubed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 large eggs
2 cups bean sprouts
2 cups sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (I used extra but that's just cause I love cilantro)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

In a large bowl, combine the noodles with lukewarm water to cover. Soak until just tender, about 16-20 minutes, then drain. They should not be soft. Just limp. They will cook in the wok.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. Season the shrimp and chicken with cayenne.

In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and shallots, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and chicken and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through and the pork is brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the eggs and cook, stirring, until just set, about 45 seconds. Add the sprouts, onions, fish sauce mixture, and noodles, and cook, stirring, until warmed through. Add the shrimp and chicken, and peanuts, and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving platter and toss with the cilantro and lime juice. Serve immediately


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Weeknight Chicken with flavor?

Other than when it's roasted on the bone, I generally feel like chicken doesn't have much flavor and therefore is just a vehicle for sauce. Now, most nights, i just pan fry or bake it, and choke it down anyway. But last night, all we had was chicken, and i felt like cooking, so I scrounged around Epicurious and found a recipe from Bon Appetit 2002 that we had (most of) the ingredients for and came up with something that was actually quite tasty! It's a pretty robust flavored sauce, too, considering it's basically white wine based. Word to the wise, though, I used boullion for chicken broth and ooo eee! It was mighty salty. All in all, it took less than a half hour, too. Served it with some steamed asparagus in lemon and some crusty bread, it was quite a hit.

Theirs was an adaptation of a classic Northern Italian dish, spezzatini di pollo al pomodoro e vino bianco (chicken sautéed with tomato and white wine). Mine was an adaptation of that with whatever was in my pantry. Still tasted damn good. I don't have a photo cause it was dark, and I was hungry. But it looked pretty, too.

Chicken with Proscuitto, Rosemary, and White Wine
Makes 6 servings.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large chicken breast halves with ribs and skin, cut crosswise in half (i just used boneless breasts, and not legs or thighs)
3 chicken drumsticks with skin
3 chicken thighs with skin
1 cup 1/4-inch cubes prosciutto (about 5 ounces) (I used some thick cut applewood bacon cause it's what I had. Prosciutto would have no doubt lent a milder flavor, but it was damn good with bacon, too. I just sliced a little bit up and proceeded like it was prosciutto.)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or dried...)
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree (ok, so i didn't have this either so i just took a container of cherry tomatoes and squished them up, and added a smidge of tomato paste)
Fresh rosemary sprigs (yeah, right.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, sauté chicken until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to platter. Add prosciutto, sliced garlic, and chopped rosemary to same pot. Stir 1 minute. Add dry white wine, chicken broth, and crushed tomatoes with puree. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Boil 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot, arranging in single layer. Return to boil. Cover pot and place in oven. Bake until chicken breasts are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken breasts. Continue baking until drumsticks and thighs are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Remove pot from oven. Return chicken breasts to pot. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)
Bring chicken mixture to simmer. Transfer chicken to platter; tent with foil. Boil until sauce is reduced to 2 cups and coats back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.

Top Chef Finale Tonight!!!

Don't miss the Top Chef finale tonight on Bravo TV! The show starts at 10/9C and they are announcing the winner LIVE!

If you haven't been watching the show, there is a marathon today that you can tee up on your Tivo and catch up. Otherwise, these are really talented chefs and are very exciting to watch in the kitchen. Check them out. Good luck to Dale, Casey and Hung. P.S. Tom Colicchio, I have a crush on you...


Shawsome Breakfast Skillet

In honor of my sister's birthday (Happy Birthday Lyd!), I am going to share a little concoction that I made up in college that has since become my most requested dish. She has always loved it and she is not the only one. When I visit my friends and family, I am asked to make this at least once. And it's always a crowd pleaser. It was designed to cure a hangover and, most often, requires a nap afterward.

Shawsome Breakfast Skillet

This is a hearty dish so don't skimp on portions or ingrediants. Your diners will be disappointed.

Baby red potatoes (About 4 per person)
Large Eggs (2 per person)
Mexican Chorizo (If you don't like chorizo you can (suprise!) sub with bacon
White onion, diced
Red pepper, julienne or cubed
Green pepper, julienne or cubed
Lots of chedder cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Bring a pot of water with a pinch of salt to boil. Add potatoes. Boil for about 7 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, add some butter and add the peppers in a skillet. Saute for about 3 minutes and then add the onions. Saute for another 5 minutes.

Take the boiled potatoes and cut them into large cubes. I cut mine in angles so they are almost like little wedges or triangles. Spread potatoes on a cookie sheet. Add a couple tablespoons of butter and toss the potatoes until they are all coated (Still with me? Even dieters and health nuts can splurge every once and awhile...) Pop the cookie sheet in the oven and roast the potatoes. Toss them every 5 minutes or so and they will brown evenly.

Add Chorizo to peppers and onion and cook thoroughly. Should be about 4-5 minutes. I suggest that you tip your skillet into a can and get rid of some of the oil. Chorizo produces a lot of oil. But make sure to keep some because it's got some dang good flavor!

Once potatoes are looking browned, take out cookie sheet and spread chorizo, onion, pepper mixture all over the top. Add grated cheese on top of that (DO NOT, and I mean DO NOT, skimp on the cheese) and put back in the oven. Fire up the skillet and fry 2 eggs per person to go on top of each portion. Should only take a couple minutes and cheese should be good and gooey and ready to serve.


*If you don't like chorizo, fry up some bacon. And if you don't like fried eggs you can scramble them.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Somerset Club Corn Dodgers

The Somerset Club at 42 Beacon Street on the Boston Common is an elegant private club that is a pleasure to visit. Every morning at breakfast, each table is served a basket of remarkably delicious Corn Dodgers that are an Old Boston tradition. Recently, I contacted the club manager, and he sent me the Somerset Club Corn Dodger recipe. I tried it last week, and it is like a trip to the club for breakfast only you save the airfare. This is a classic Yankee winter breakfast bread treat served warm with butter.

Yield: About one dozen

5 cups water
2 cups corn meal
1/4 pound butter (1 stick)
1/2 tablespoon salt

Combine water, butter and salt and bring to a rolling boil.
Remove from heat and add cornmeal all at once, whisking constantly.
Whisk until a thick mixture forms.
Spoon mixture onto greased cookie sheets. (A heaping tablespoon works well and results in an elliptical corn dodger about 4 to 5 inches long, 2 to 3 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick)
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Turn each Corn Dodger and cook for an additional 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool slightly.
Serve warm with butter.

Cornmeal and Parmesan Crusted Eggplant

*Picture and Recipe from Lucy via email*

1 eggplant
1/2c cornmeal
1/4 c Parmesan shredded
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
olive oil and butter
italian parsley

Peel eggplant. Slice into 1/2 thick rounds. Sprinkle them w/ salt on both sides and place them between paper towels for 1/2 hour. DREDGE FIRMLY in cornmeal/Parmesan mix. Saute in 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 butter at pretty high heat until golden on both sides. Serve immediately. Sprinkle w/ chopped parsley. Serves 4.

Recipe of the Week: Dreamz B-day Carrot Cake

Recipe of the week is awarded hands-down to my best friend Carrie's killer Carrot Cake she made on Saturday night. This was a request from my boyfriend for his birthday and she hit the ball outta the park. It was to die for!

Carrie got this recipe off of an adaptation of the "Best Carrot Cake Ever" recipe. She read all of the reviews of the recipe before starting and changed some things based on the suggestions. Apparently that worked out pretty well!

She thinks since there were changes we can rename the carrot cake....

Dreamz B-day Carrot Cake
(Dreamz is short for Dreamy which is short for Drew...)


3-3/4 cups grated carrots
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup golden raisins
2 full eggs and 1 egg white
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1-1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup crushed pineapple (drained)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 lb stick butter (softened)
1 8oz package of regular cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb confectioner's sugar


1. In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Meanwhile, place raisins in a glass of warm water to hydrate. Set aside for 60 minutes, then drain raisins and stir into carrot mixture.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans.

3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Press pineapple through a fine strainer and pat dry to remove most of the liquid, then stir into egg mixture. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, stir into the wet mixture until absorbed. Finally, strain the carrot mixture and remove the majority of the liquid and stir into batter. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Note: Although straining the pineapple and carrot mixture seems cumbersome, the negative reviews I read on the original recipe mostly said that the cake was too moist, soggy and pudding like. Removing most of the liquid from the pineapple and carrots still leaves you with a moist cake but with a much more appealing texture. I highly recommend including this step.

Bake for 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

For frosting, simply combine ingredients and mix at a high speed until fluffy.
*Adapted from "The Best Cheese Cake

Butternut Sqaush and Creamed-Spinach Gratin

This weekend, I hosted a small dinner party with some close friends. I made a lot of recipes from the blog, including the popovers and the cauliflower soup with scallops. For the main course, I made a roast leg of lamb. I searched on Epicurious for a good seasonal side and found this gratin. It ended up being a perfect compliment to the lamb and not too heavy like a potato would have been. I used a can to cut out individual and better-looking servings. My only warning is to be very careful when handling butternut squash. Make sure your knife and mandolin slicer are very sharp. The squash is tough to cut thru just like cantaloupe and watermelon.

Butternut squash and creamed-spinach gratin
Gourmet November 2006 Parmigiano-Reggiano and a generous dose of heavy cream transform butternut squash and spinach into a rich, bubbling gratin.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

3 lb fresh spinach, stems discarded, or 3 (10-oz) packages frozen leaf spinach, thawed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter plus additional for greasing pan
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
4 lb butternut squash (2 large), peeled, quartered, and seeded
1/2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup)

Special equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer
If using fresh spinach, bring 1 inch water to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart pot over high heat. Add spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and cook, turning with tongs, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.

Thoroughly squeeze cooked fresh or thawed frozen spinach in small handfuls to remove excess moisture, then coarsely chop and transfer to a bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in an 8-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion mixture to spinach along with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream and stir to combine.

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish (13 by 9 inches; not glass).

Cut squash to separate bulb section from solid neck section, then cut pieces lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices with slicer.

Layer squash and spinach mixture in baking dish, using about one fifth of squash and one fourth of spinach for each layer, beginning and ending with squash. Sprinkle top layer of squash evenly with cheese and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then cover directly with a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Bake until squash is tender and filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove paper and bake gratin until browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes, or broil 3 inches from heat, 2 to 3 minutes.

Cook's note: Gratin can be assembled, but not baked, 1 day ahead and kept, surface covered with parchment or wax paper and then covered with plastic wrap, chilled. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before baking.