Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's go to the beach!

Chuck and I are headed down the shore with my family and family friends for the week and of course I had to think of several hundred things I wanted to make. I volunteered to make dinner for the whole clan one night as well as a few things to snack on for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour!

Stay tuned for new recipes and the next post the week of August 3rd!



  • Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
  • Beach Bread
  • Tossed green salad

Baked goods

See you in a week!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Orzo with Grilled Summer Vegetables and Pesto Vinaigrette

I don't think I even need to tell you again how much I love pasta salads, especially those made with orzo! My cousin Michael invited Chuck and me over for dinner and asked us to bring a side dish. So when I saw this recipe for an orzo salad, I printed it out right away and changed it a bit for what I needed.

As you can see here, I did not grill the zucchini (or the peppers for that matter) on the actual grill, since I was home by myself and didn't really want to turn it on. My grill pan did a very nice job, and you could use a Foreman grill or panini press as well if that's what you have.

This salad is nice at room temperature but you should definitely leave some time to chill it beforehand so that the flavors meld together. Enjoy this summery, fresh-tasting pasta salad!

Orzo with Grilled Summer Vegetables and Pesto Vinaigrette
adapted from
Makes 6-8 side dish servings

8 ounces orzo
4 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
1 large zucchini, halved and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices (just cut it so that it's easy to grill)
1 red bell pepper, quartered
2 1/2 tablespoons pesto
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
4-6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-sized cubes

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.

Heat grill to medium-high heat, or heat a grill pan to medium-high. (If you use the grill pan, add a little olive oil to the pan.) Whisk 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar in small bowl. Brush zucchini and bell pepper on both sides with oil mixture, season with salt and pepper. Grill 3-4 minutes per side for zucchini and 4-5 minutes per side for pepper. Remove from heat and coarsely chop. Add to orzo.

Whisk together pesto, lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl. Add to orzo mixture along with tomato, cheese, and basil. Toss to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chill for 4-24 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Open-Faced Turkey Patty Melt

Ok, so if you are looking at my pictures for this, you will see that I did not make this open-faced. I actually made a lot of changes to the original recipe, but after tasting it (and hearing from my cousin that the original was quite tasty), I want to try these again as written. The only change I would actually make next time is to spread some Russian dressing to the bread to make it more of a "sloppy joe" taste. I would also suggest grilling these as well.

My favorite part of this was the sauteed onions, I may use them as a topping on other burgers in the future. They added such a nice, sweet flavor to the burger! This is delicious paired with cole slaw, roasted zucchini or some oven-roasted chili fries.

Since I am recommending the original recipe I will just link you to it here:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Roasted Garlic Tomato and Sausage Pasta

Chuck and I are currently loving the flavor of roasted garlic (I made a roasted garlic mayo about a month ago and I swear he fell in love with me all over again!) - something about the sweet, mild flavor is just delicious. So when I saw this recipe I saved it right away.

I made several changes to the original recipe, which I am very happy with, mainly adding some crumbled Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella cheese. This pasta is full of flavor and the roasted garlic flavor is just right paired with the tomatoes, onions, and two cheeses. Another yummy addition would be some sundried tomatoes (and basil, which I forgot).

Roasted Garlic Tomato and Sausage Pasta
adapted from Stephanie Cooks, originally from The Crepes of Wrath
Makes 3-4 servings

1/2 pound tubular pasta (I used rotini but I would suggest penne)
1 large head garlic, top sliced off
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large red onion, quartered and layers separated
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
large pinches of kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
8 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
good quality extra virgin olive oil
large handful of grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
basil, to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Place the garlic, tomatoes, and onion on the baking sheet. Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to spread over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until garlic is browned and mushy and other vegetables are slightly charred.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage and cook thoroughly; remove to a paper towel to drain. Wipe out skillet with paper towel.

Once vegetables are done, remove from oven and transfer to skillet the sausage was cooked in. Remove the garlic cloves from the skin. (You may need to wait a little bit for the garlic to cool enough to handle.) Mash the garlic and tomatoes if desired with a fork.

Add pasta, sausage, and Parmesan cheese to skillet. Mix until pasta is coated, adding extra olive oil as needed. Gently mix in the mozzarella and garnish with basil. Transfer to a large bowl and serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Caramel Oatmeal Chewies

Hello all! Did you miss me? I hope not too much because in another week I will be going away again! My cooking is severely suffering these days because somehow we are so busy, even though it's summer break for me. I had all these grandiose ideas of cooking elaborate meals while Chuck was at work and blogging to my heart's content about them but unfortunately that hasn't happened yet. Maybe in August!

Anyway, I baked these to bring to a party and they were a big hit! An ooey, gooey, caramel and chocolate delight that everyone loved. These are super-easy and very delicious so make some today and save yourself a piece!

Note: If you click on the blog link below, you will see that the blogger has not posted since sometime in early 2008; but I always like to give credit where credit is due, so I am linking both to her blog as well as the Toll House site, where I found the original recipe.

Caramel Oatmeal Chewies
recipe adapted from, ingredient amounts from Kyla's Cookies
Makes 24-32 bars, depending on how you cut them

2 1/3 cups flour, divided
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup butter, melted
12-ounce jar caramel sauce
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 baking dish.

Combine 2 cups of the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and oats in a large bowl. Stir in the butter. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture and press the rest into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven.

Heat caramel sauce (with lid OFF) in microwave for 15 seconds or until slightly warmed. Mix in a small bowl with remaining 1/3 cup flour. Spread over hot crust.

Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the caramel layer. Crumble the reserved cup of oat mixture over top. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until top is golden brown and caramel is bubbling.

Cool completely and cut unto squares. (These are very rich so the bars can be small.)

Half of the chocolate chip layer...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mini Black-Bottom Cheesecakes

When my cousin Katie asked me to bring a dessert for their annual Fourth of July party, I thought of this recipe I have had saved for awhile. I wanted something bite-sized but also chilled since I knew it would be a hot day.

The original recipe only makes 12 cheesecakes, which is not enough when bringing to a party, so I doubled the amounts for you below. It also calls for fromage blanc, which can be hard to find as well as expensive, so I substituted sour cream with no problems.

Definitely give these little guys enough time to chill, and don't take them out of the fridge too long before you serve them. The jam topping that you see here also spreads out the longer you wait to serve them, but they are still delicious!

Mini Black-Bottom Cheesecakes
slightly adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 24 cheesecakes

1 package Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies (about 48 wafers)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups sour cream
4 eggs
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with foil or paper baking cups. Spray each cup with cooking spray.

Crush the chocolate wafer cookies in a food processor. Add the butter and process until fine crumbs form. Spoon the chocolate cookie crumbs into the prepared muffin cups (about 1 tablespoon cookies each). Press cookies into bottom of cups with bottom of a juice glass (picture below). Bake for 5 minutes, or until almost set. Remove from oven and leave oven at same temperature.

Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed in large bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in sour cream, then add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the muffin cups, filling about three-quarters full. Bake the cheesecakes for 15 minutes, or until slightly jiggly in the center. Remove from oven.

Warm the raspberry preserves 15-20 seconds in microwave. Spread one teaspoon onto each cheesecake. Place muffin tins in the freezer and chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Remove cheesecakes to serving plate and chill in refrigerator 4-24 hours. Remove from refrigerator right before serving.

And with that Chuck and I are off on our "babymoon" for a long weekend. I'll be back next week!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bite-Sized Ricotta Coffee Cakes

Whenever I have ricotta cheese leftover I never know what to do with it because Chuck doesn't like the texture of it. So I either have to let it go to waste or find a way to trick him into eating it. These little guys seemed perfect - I have heard of ricotta in sweet cakes before, and I figured that once it was baked in he would never know the difference!

Going into the oven - as you can see by the finished product above, the streusel topping spreads out the top of the muffins, so be careful.

I am so glad that I made these - they are the perfect little bite-sized coffee cake. The ricotta cheese adds a nice dimension to the cake and the streusel is delicious with the oats. I didn't change anything from Cara's original recipe so I will just link you to it here:

Since I don't have two mini-muffin tins and wanted to bake these in a timely fashion, I decided to make a few regular-sized muffins as well. Watch these carefully and add about 10 minutes to the baking time of the mini-muffins. Delicious!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Zucchini Bread

My mom has been making this bread for as long as I can remember. Some people may turn up their noses at zucchini being in a sweet quick bread, but it really adds a nice flavor and you can't really taste it as "zucchini". See, it's not even green ;)

When I make this I leave one loaf out for us to snack on and freeze the other loaf so that we can enjoy it again! I like to eat this warmed up with a little butter or cream cheese on it.

Zucchini Bread
from Jo's Kitchen
Makes 2 loaves

3 eggs
1 cup oil (vegetable or canola)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups raw, peeled, grated zucchini (2 small zucchini)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 loaf pans. (9 x 5 pans are fine too, your loaves will just be a little shorter.)

Beat eggs in a large bowl with electric mixer until foamy. Add oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in zucchini.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add into zucchini mixture and beat on low until combined.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Run a butter knife around the edge of the loaves, cool for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Garlic Lemon Shrimp and Orzo with Broccoli

Since I love pasta and orzo is my current summer obsession, this dish looked delicious and easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. I love the lemony, garlicky sauce with a hint of butter along with the shrimp and bright green pieces of broccoli. This will definitely be made again in the Cooking This and That household!

Garlic Lemon Shrimp and Orzo with Broccoli
slightly adapted from Dinners for a Year and Beyond
Makes 2-3 servings

1 cup orzo
1 broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
scant tablespoon butter
about 1 pound of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes. During last 2 minutes of cooking, add broccoli to the pasta water. Drain orzo and broccoli, set aside.

In large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Add lemon juice, zest, and wine/broth to saute pan. Bring to boil and then reduce heat; simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in butter and stir until melted.

Add shrimp to saute pan, cook until pink and cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Add orzo and broccoli, parsley, and Parmesan cheese to shrimp mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.