Sunday, May 31, 2009

Basic Shortcakes

I really like to make shortcakes, especially in the spring and summer because I love using fresh fruit with them, especially strawberries or any other kind of berry. This recipe is another great one from Catherine, one of my teachers at cooking class.

I managed to figure out the amount of ingredients needed to only make 1/3 of the recipe, but I gave you the original below. I did slightly adapt how to form the shortcakes, since I like them more free-form and Catherine's way was very precise (or you could read: I couldn't manage to roll the dough out into a nice rectangle so this is what I did). Slice each shortcake in half, like a sandwich roll, and fill with whipped cream and berries.

Basic Shortcakes
from Catherine Titus Felix at Classic Thyme
makes 12 shortcakes

2 1/4 cups bleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in food processor and pulse. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal with a few split pea size crumbs of butter. Add buttermilk and pulse to distribute. Only pulse until mixture is very crumbly and sticky, not until a cohesive dough forms.

Transfer dough out onto a floured surface. Pat into a rough 9" x 12" rectangle. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake in center of the oven about 10-12 minutes or until nicely browned.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tortellini Salad, but not

This pasta salad comes from Brooke, who makes it with tortellini. But tortellini can be filling, as well as more expensive than a regular box of pasta, so when I needed to make this in a large quantity I chose to use campanelle.

It was really delicious and the great thing with this recipe is that you can switch out ingredients for ones you like more, use a different dressing, or change the pasta shape to your liking!

Tortellini Salad, but not
slightly adapted from ...and a cookie for dessert
Makes 8-10 side dish servings

2 bags frozen cheese tortellini or 1 pound pasta (campanelle)
1 small can sliced black olives, coarsely chopped
7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
8 ounces sun-dried tomato vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Toss pasta in a large bowl with olives, peppers, and artichokes. Toss with dressing and Parmesan cheese. Cover and chill for 1-4 hours. Add mozzarella, gently combine, and add more dressing if necessary. Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Smoky Grilled Red Potato Salad

The only reason I ever hesitate to make potato salad is because of the time it takes to boil the potatoes. I feel like I sit there forever to wait for the water to boil, then wait the 15-20 minutes they take to cook, constantly testing if they are finished, then wait to cool and chop, etc. etc. So when I was thinking up a potato salad to bring to my parents' house this past weekend, I decided to go with grilled potatoes.

I spoke with my trusty grill expert (Chuck) and he said grilling potatoes was a snap and he would be happy to help me out. I am happy I did this because it gave the salad great flavor. The pictures don't really do it justice but combined with the barbeque sauce I used in the dressing, this was a delicious twist on the regular potato salad I usually make. Kind of like a delicious variation of a loaded baked potato - enjoy!

Smoky Grilled Red Potato Salad
from Colleen's Kitchen
Makes about 8 side dish servings

about 2 pounds red potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
1 cup low fat mayo
1 tablespoon barbeque sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray's)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
2 ounces REAL Bacon Bits (1/2 of a 4-ounce bag)
1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese

Thickly slice scrubbed potatoes and quarter each slice. Toss in a bowl and lightly coat with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and gently mix to combine.

Combine mayo, barbecue sauce, and salt and pepper in a large bowl; set aside.

Heat the grill to medium-high. Lay potatoes on a piece of non-stick foil and place directly on the grill. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning potatoes so that they cook evenly on both sides. You will know they are finished when they look golden-brown and crispy.

Transfer potatoes to the large bowl with mayo mixture. Gently toss until combined. Once the potatoes have cooled a little bit (so that cheese doesn't melt), add green onions, bacon bits, and cheese; mix again.

Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Welcome to Summer Menu

While I think that I do an OK job in the kitchen, one thing that I still haven't tried is the grill. Chuck does a fabulous job at everything on the grill, and I love parties in the warm weather where he handles the outside and I just take care of everything inside (usually salads pulled right from the fridge!). But I decided this weekend that it was time to take the plunge - I wanted Chuck to show me how to grill. Well, at least how to turn it on!

This menu has a few add-ons that work if you are cooking for a bigger crowd. I love that almost everything can be prepped in advance, and the hard work is done by the grillmaster, who can also have an enjoyable time with a glass of beer (Chuck) or lemonade (me, for now!) in his or her hand. Stay tuned for the recipes!

  • Hummus with pita chips
  • Tomato and garlic bruschetta with crostini
  • Option: Chicken poppers with honey mustard sauce



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mexican Pizza

If you look over at the side tab, you can see that I make a lot of mexican/southwestern foods. To me, they are super-easy to prepare and I personally have really grown to love the flavors of cumin, chili powder, and beans that I never liked before.

Both Chuck and I loved this pizza. Between the crispy tortillas and the homemade taco seasoning, and the fresh tomatoes and green onions on the top, this is a complete and satisfying meal. It really was delicious, and half of a pizza was plenty for me with a salad for dinner!

Mexican Pizza
slightly adapted from Good Eat 'n Sweet Treats
Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/3 pound package ground turkey (or ground beef)
1 batch taco seasoning, recipe below
scant 1/3 cup water
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
cooking spray
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
8 ounces refried beans
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup taco sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican would work well)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the ground turkey until brown, drain. Return to the heat and add the taco seasoning and water. Continue to cook for several minutes, until cooked through, stirring often.

Spray both sides of each tortilla with cooking spray and place directly on the middle rack of your oven (I could fit 3 at a time). Bake for about 6 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crispy. Watch carefully so they do not burn. Remove to a baking sheet and turn the oven to 400 degrees F.

Microwave the refried beans for 30-60 seconds, or until spreadable.

Lay 3 tortillas out on baking sheets; top each with 1/3 of the beans, 1/3 of the turkey mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese. Top with another tortilla and lightly press down.

Top the second tortillas each with 1/4 cup taco sauce. Layer with 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup cheese, and 1 tablespoon green onions.

Bake for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and top with sour cream and/or salsa if desired.

Taco Seasoning
Makes 1 batch

1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients.

I love the idea of cooking the tortillas directly on the oven rack - it makes them so crispy!


Finished product!

Girls' Lunch

This past weekend I had another lovely get-together with my friends Lauren, Brooke, and Sarah. It was originally supposed to be at my house but then Brooke, pregnant with triplets, was put on bed rest a few weeks ago and we all decided to go to her instead! It was another great afternoon, filled with lots of talking and eating (well, why not, with 4 pregnant women!). I hope to see them all again very soon.

And if you can spare any thoughts and prayers for Brooke, her husband Joe, and the babies, please do. Her pregnancy thus far has not been pleasant, but she has faced it all with a tremendously positive attitude and a smile. You can follow along with her story here:

Three Cheers for Babies

Girls' Lunch

Can't wait for the next one, ladies!

**Note: My camera was horribly out of focus the whole day, so this is the one shot that actually looked halfway decent. Just head to Sarah's and Lauren's blogs to see pics of their dishes!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad

My friend Jenny makes this wonderful salad and as soon as I had some at her house, I needed the recipe! I really like it because you can use any kind of corn you would like. I used frozen, since I was making it quickly, but you can also boil or grill some fresh ears of corn and use the kernels from that. Canned corn will work also.

I love the lime taste in the dressing and I used olive oil instead of the vegetable oil that Jenny suggested since I prefer that taste in a dressing. If you are making this ahead of time, add the avocado right before serving or else it may turn brown. Enjoy this summer salad!

Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad
from Jenny :)
Makes about 4 side dish servings

10 ounces frozen corn, thawed completely
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Combine corn, tomatoes, scallions in large bowl. Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour over vegetables. Chill for 1-4 hours.

When ready to serve, add gently fold in avocado and allow salad to come to room temperature. Season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Warm Bacon Cheese Dip

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably can tell by now that I love appetizers. Any and all kinds. But my favorite might have to be the warm, cheesy dip. It's usually easy to prepare, hard to mess it up, and serves a lot of people!

This dip was delicious, and although I made some changes to the original, I really recommend you check out the original site. Priscilla bakes hers in a bread bowl, which I think is a great idea; I just didn't get to the store to buy one. Even if you make it in a regular dish like I did though, it is very good, with lots of nice cheesey, bacon-y flavor!

Warm Bacon Cheese Dip
adapted from Priscilla Bakes
Makes about 6-8 servings

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) sour cream
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 (4 ounce) package REAL Bacon Bits
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand-held mixer until fluffy. Add the sour cream, shredded cheese, and Worcestershire sauce and stir until combined. Stir in the bacon and green onions.

Spread into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until dip is bubbly and turning golden brown on the edges. Serve with crackers, bread, and/or veggies.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dry Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

This post is for my dad since this past weekend he asked me about the lack of meat dishes on my blog lately, like pork and beef. Well, between my aversion to certain types of food in the first trimester to Chuck's high cholesterol, I guess I haven't really been basing my meals around meat lately. But I remembered I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer and asked around on my cooking board for a yummy way to prepare it.

CLStar at Cook Like a Champion suggested her dish to me and it looked quick enough for a weeknight and delicious enough to give it a whirl, so I did! Chuck and I were pleased with this. It actually ended up being a little dry but I think that's because I need to cook meat until well done because of the babette and we all know certain meats are better when they taste a little less like shoe leather. The crust was delicious and it was simple enough to make.

I did change some herbs in the dry rub from the original recipe but I really think the ones CLStar suggests would be better so I will link you right to her recipe:

Dry Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

Alright, so I debated even posting this since the end result turned out to be a partial disaster. But then I decided to post because the cake itSELF was delicious, it was just my own mistakes that made this an ugly end product.

I think the major problem I had was that the cake was too heavy for itself. I did use a 9.5 inch bundt cake pan rather than a 10 inch one, so maybe the batter wasn't spread out enough; but essentially, I think it was just too much CAKE for a bundt pan. Between cooling it on the wire rack, glazing it with the powdered sugar, and moving it onto the cake plate, it broke in several places:

There was just no way to move it all at once so that one part of the cake wasn't lagging behind the rest. So if I make this again, I may try mini bundt pans, or reduce the amount of ingredients so that it results in a smaller cake.

All in all though, the cake got rave reviews (but how can you not with three sticks of butter?!). The moist chocolatey cake paired with the raspberry jam and the chocolate chips made an excellent, rich dessert that pairs well with a tall glass of cold milk!

**Note: I have had this recipe saved in my file for quite some time, pre-blog, so I have no clue where it came from. Please email me at if this is yours!

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake
from source unknown
Makes one 10-inch bundt cake

3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter, softened
3 cups sugar
4 extra large eggs (I used 4 large)
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup raspberry preserves

Mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk until it forms a pourable glaze. Add more sugar or milk to reach desired consistency.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add vanilla and mix.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternating batches (1/3 flour, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour). Mix just until combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips with rubber spatula.

Spread 1/2 of the batter in the prepared pan. Heat raspberry preserves for 15 seconds in the microwave. Spoon over top of the batter in the pan. Spread the remaining batter over the preserves.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from over and let cool in pan for 15 -20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake and turn on to a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then drizzle glaze over top.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bruschetta with Artichoke Tapenade

I was looking for an easy little appetizer to make for Mother's Day and these popped up in my Google Reader. This is the perfect little app - a nice mix of flavorful ingredients with not too much prep time! The different cheeses blend together nicely with the marinated artichokes.

I would suggest serving these hot from the oven, because after they sat around for a little bit they got chewy rather than crunchy, and the topping is best piping hot. I didn't change anything from the original recipe so I will just link you over to Big City Cooking to see it!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Tomato Sauce, and Feta

This is a very tasty little weeknight dinner to whip up in less than a half hour (plus cooking time). Even Chuck, who doesn't like feta, enjoyed this, because the feta melts while baking so his whole "texture" thing doesn't apply here. That makes me very happy since I LOVE feta! It accents a very nice shrimp and tomato mixture highlighted by the onions, garlic and different herbs and spices that are added.

Changes I have made from the original recipe include reducing the amounts so I didn't make too much for us, as well as omitting the Kalamata olives since Chuck doesn't like those either (I really need to work on his tastebuds, huh?). But it's all there in the link - enjoy!

Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Tomato Sauce, and Feta
amounts adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 4 servings

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes (or more to your taste!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/2 can (28- to 32-oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound large shrimp (about 18), shelled and deveined
8 ounces orzo
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound feta, patted dry and crumbled (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and salt, then reduce heat and simmer briskly, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir shrimp into sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain orzo VERY carefully (a fine-mesh sieve helps). Return orzo to pot and toss with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.

Add orzo into sauce with shrimp and mix gently. Add reserved cooking water as needed (I only use about 2 tablespoons). Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Spoon half of pasta into prepared baking dish, then sprinkle with half of feta. Top with remaining pasta and feta, then bake in middle of oven, uncovered, until cheese is slightly melted and pasta is heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Texas Chicken Quesadillas

These quesadillas have been flying around the cooking message board I often post on. I have had the recipe saved for awhile and once I made them this week I was sorry I didn't make them sooner! The sweet caramelized onions combined with the BBQ sauce on the chicken and the cheddar cheese was an amazing combination. And the whole recipe made enough for Chuck and I to eat dinner AND have enough so that both of us could take lunch the next day!

A few notes about the amounts of certain ingredients: When I saw that this called for 1 1/2 onions for only 4 servings, I did a double take and only bought one. How could you possibly eat that many onions in one serving?! Well, I was wrong - the caramelization process combined with the honey makes them so sweet and delicious you hardly know you are eating an onion. When I assembled the quesadillas, I definitely wished I had more.

On the other hand, if you use approximately a pound of chicken as the recipe suggests, you may think that there is not enough chicken to go around, it is so sparse-looking on the tortilla. But it all worked out in the end, because there was more than enough chicken flavor in each bite, so don't worry!'re going to make these tonight, right? I served them with Sauteed Corn and Black Bean Salad and a green salad.

Texas Chicken Quesadillas
slightly adapted from Jenn and Food, Perfect Together
Makes 4 large servings

2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)
1 1/2 sweet onions (vidalia is preferred), sliced into rings
1 tablespoon honey
2 cooked chicken breasts (about 1 pound), diced
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (my fave is Sweet Baby Ray's)
1-2 cups shredded mexican or cheddar cheese
8 ten-inch flour tortillas (medium-size)

Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until they just become golden and begin to get soft. Turn heat to medium and continue cooking until they caramelize (about 20-30 minutes). Mix in the honey and stir until it is golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Place the remaining oil (if necessary)in the same skillet and add the chicken and BBQ sauce. Cook until heated through.

Lay out 4 tortillas. Divide the chicken, onions and cheese evenly onto each tortilla, top with another tortilla and cook in your quesadilla maker about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Ready to be covered and baked!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Banana Butterscotch Cake

When I saw Maria's post for this cake on her blog, Two Peas and Their Pod, I thought it was an interesting idea. No butter or oil added? Brilliant! And healthy! But how would it taste? Well, it is safe to say that it is DELICIOUS. I brought a few pieces to work to share with some friends and I have been *cough* harassed *cough* by certain people at work to post right away!

So here it is. Maria uses cinnamon chips in hers but I couldn't find them in my sub-par grocery store so I decided to use butterscotch chips instead. They added a nice touch to the already moist, dense banana cake that resulted from this great recipe. The cinnamon-sugar topping really adds a nice touch too, so don't skip that!

Banana Butterscotch Cake
slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Makes an 8 x 8 cake

3 very ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cinnamon or butterscotch chips

For topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray (preferably with flour in it).

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the bananas well with a fork or potato masher. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Gently fold in the sugar.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl. Add to the banana mixture and mix until combined. Add 3/4 cup of the cinnamon chips, and stir briefly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter in the pan, and top with the remaining 1/4 cup chips.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Penne with Shrimp, Zucchini, and Tomatoes in Vodka Sauce

This dish kind of came about from what I had left in the freezer and refrigerator, and also changed direction as I was making it! Originally I thought I had enough vodka sauce left over to properly cover all of the pasta, but I was sorely mistaken. Luckily I had a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry to add to the mix.

We ended up liking this a lot though. Lots of great flavors, and don't be shy with the garlic and onion because that really adds a lot to the dish. If you don't like ricotta cheese, you can leave it out, but even Chuck, who doesn't like ricotta, agreed that it was quite tasty in here.

As usual when I am making my own creation, all ingredient amounts are approximate, so feel free to add more or less of any ingredient. Enjoy!

Penne with Shrimp, Zucchini, and Tomatoes in Vodka Sauce
from Colleen's Kitchen
Makes 3-4 servings

olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, quartered vertically and cut into thick slices
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
1 cup vodka sauce
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces penne pasta
8 ounces (about 16-20) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion, saute until just beginning to turn golden, 2-3 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add zucchini, season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute until onion and zucchini are cooked through, 3-5 minutes more. Add vodka sauce and diced tomatoes with juices, heat through.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add penne, cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add shrimp to pasta pot. Drain pasta and shrimp.

Add pasta and shrimp to zucchini and sauce mixture. Add ricotta and gently mix all until combined. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste.