Friday, December 31, 2010

The 10 best recipes I reviewed in 2010

I bravely issued the challenge to myself: Decide on the 10 absolute best recipes you reviewed in 2010 and present them on Recipes That Worked.
   After agonizing over the dozens and dozens of recipes I have reviewed from major cooking magazines and cookbooks in 2010, I managed to do it.
   All the recipes I write about are very good, but these are the cream of the crop, the top of the heap. They're my favorites, my secret weapons, the ones that get raved about when I make them.
   Here they are:

Tunnel of Fudge Cake: A crowd-pleasing treat from America's Test Kitchen that will score on special occasions.

Sticky Chicken Wings: For a casual party or weeknight dinner, these yummy fix-it-and-forget-it-wings from Everyday Food can be prepared in one dish.

Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage and Tomatoes: This is the best pasta dish I've ever had, at home or in restaurants. It comes from Fine Cooking magazine.

Fast Chicken Fajitas: Have a delicious dinner on the table in a jiffy in this winner from Everyday Food.

Cincinnati Chili: A savory mild chili made with cinnamon and allspice that's served over spaghetti, this family-pleaser is an America's Test Kitchen creation.

Chocolate Mint Cream Pie: The dessert recipe that got me an offer of marriage, from the cookbook 375 Sensational Splenda Recipes by Marlene Koch.

Rum Punch with Passion Fruit and Lime: An easy-to-make, no-fail pitcher drink from Bon Appetit magazine that will bring a summer backyard party to roaring life.

Ray's Cafe Salmon Burger with Basil Mayonnaise: The best burger I've ever tasted or made -- they're good for weeknights or even a casual dinner party.

15-Minute Chocolate-Walnut Fudge: Delicious fudge that takes just 15 minutes to make? Who knew? This time- and sanity-saver is from America's Test Kitchen.

Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze: I made this for the first time this December, and it instantly became a favorite. Knock their socks off with this confection from Fine Cooking magazine.

Please join me in 2011 as I embark on a new year of letting you know about which recipes I tried that worked.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Garlic and Cheese Crostini - a cocktail's best friend

Sometimes I’ll see a recipe and file it away in the “must try” area of my brain.
   There it lurks until one day it springs forward, wanting to be made, sometimes jogged from its place in storage by a fitting occasion to make it.
   In the case of Garlic and Cheese Crostini (click for the recipe) from Gourmet magazine, it was a Saturday night with my husband and a bottle of red wine that seemed like a good time it. I’m very glad I did.
   Just as the recipe’s description on says, this appetizer is garlicky and salty – a great accompaniment to cocktails.
   They’re so easy to make.
   Slices of baguette are arranged in a layer on a baking sheet and brushed with olive oil.
   More olive oil, finely-grated Pecorino Romano cheese, minced garlic cloves, salt and pepper are stirred together in a small bowl.
   The baguette slices are sprinkled with the cheese mixture, and baked until the topping just starts to melt.
   The crostini are sprinkled with parsley and served.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A killer cocktail: The Champagne Cosmo

I’ve got a recipe for a cocktail that guarantees merriment and exclamations of “oooh” and “aaah” – Champagne Cosmo (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   It’s a delicious, refreshing, fizzy concoction that’s very easy to make.
   The recipe makes enough for eight people, but it can easily be halved, doubled or tripled if necessary!
   I’ve never bothered with the business of holding a strip of lime zest over each glass and squeezing it to release the essential oils. The drinks are still amazing without this step, but if you want to do it, go for it!
   Chilled cranberry juice cocktail, Grand Marnier and fresh lime juice are combined in a pitcher.
   The juice mixture is divided among champagne flutes (or any other glass you have!) and topped with chilled brut sparkling wine or Champagne.
   You may want to make one cocktail and do a taste test – lucky you – playing around with the ratio of juice mixture to Champagne. After you’ve got the combination right, serve it to others and enjoy!

Serve Champagne Cosmos with Garlic and Cheese Crostini for a full cocktail and appetizer combination.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

What am I going to feed them while they're in my house?

It's the week after Christmas, and you still have a house full of guests. How are you going to feed them all without going insane?

I have a few suggestions for recipes that will keep the crowds, and you, happy. The dishes are quick to make and are easily doubled or tripled. Many are family-friendly as well.

Fast Chicken Fajitas

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Sticky Chicken Wings

Cincinnati Chili

Zucchini-Ribbon Lasagna

Perfect Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Chile and Cheese Tart

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Friday, December 24, 2010

What I'm making for Christmas Day

I'd like to wish all Recipes That Worked readers a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for taking the time in your day to check out this blog.

These are the dishes I wrote about on Recipes That Worked that I will be making for our holiday feast on Christmas Day. Click here for the whole list of recipes I recommended for the holidays.

Pomegranate Punch
Orange and Cumin Pork Loin
Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Smoked Gouda and Chives
Warm Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Salad
Toffee Millionaires - My sister is a Skor bar addict, and this treat uses them to their most gratifying potential.

In the next week, I'll be suggesting some dishes that will be good for feeding a house full of guests, recommending a cocktail and appetizer that are perfect for a New Year's bash, and listing the absolute best recipes I reviewed this year.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Amazing fudge in just 15 minutes -- it's true!

Wait a minute, you might be thinking to yourself. Fifteen minutes for fudge? Doesn’t that go against the laws of physics or something?
   The recipe’s physics-fighting secret ingredient is baking soda.
   I’ve long ago forgotten how Cook’s Illustrated magazine, published by America’s Test Kitchen, explains why the baking soda approximates the same action as the “soft-ball stage” technique usually used for making fudge.
   But let me assure you, it works like a charm for 15-Minute Chocolate-Walnut Fudge (click for the recipe).
   An extra bonus about this fudge: It is not sickeningly sweet as some fudge can be. It’s simply delicious, and it’s family-friendly.
   I always get requests for this recipe when people taste the product. "It's much better than any fudge I've ever made," is usually the comment.
   It will keep well in the fridge for up to five days.
   The recipe I linked to above is on, and is exactly the same as the one I use.
   One pound of semisweet chocolate and two ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine, baking soda, and salt are tossed together in a medium heat-proof bowl.
   Sweetened condensed milk and vanilla are added, and the bowl is set over a saucepan containing simmering water. The mixture is stirred until the chocolate is almost fully melted, and is stirred some more off heat until it is completely smooth. Coarsely-chopped walnuts are added.
   The fudge is transferred to an eight-inch square pan and refrigerated until set, about two hours.
   The recipe I linked to doesn’t have this awesome variation listed: 15-Minute Peanut Butter Fudge. To make it, 18 ounces of peanut-butter chips are substituted for the chopped chocolate, and the walnuts are omitted.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Comforting and party-starting
Golden Onion & Thyme Dip

A good dip (the food kind) possesses remarkable powers.
   It’s comforting: You can cozy up on the couch with it and enjoy it with your favorite veggies, crackers or chips.
   It’s a party-starter: It can attract a crowd and get some conversation going.
   I’ve got a dip recipe that can do both of these things: Golden Onion & Thyme Dip (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   It’s easy to make, family-friendly, and will suit any type of dipping material. The recipe suggests pita chips, and that’s definitely a good choice, but anything you associate with dipping will do.
   The dip will keep well for about three to five days in the fridge.
   One large Spanish onion or two large yellow onions, finely diced, are seasoned with salt and sautéd.
   The browned onions are transferred to a food processor and pulsed with cream cheese, sour cream, fresh thyme leaves and a pinch of cayenne until well-combined.
   Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Gratifying Gingerbread Cake

When I was a kid, I thought gingerbread existed in just one form: As cookies.
   When my mom made gingerbread in cake form and served it as dessert after supper one day, it kind of rocked my little world.
   Mom explained she used to make gingerbread for her Dad and brothers as a treat for when they came home after a long day of farm work.
   She served it the same way to us as she did to them: With a dollop of whipped cream on top.
   In my adult years, I started to look for a gingerbread recipe that I could put in my own collection, and I found one: Gingerbread from Cook's Illustrated, a magazine published by America’s Test Kitchen.
   The recipe I’ve linked to is a comment on a post about gingerbread on a blog. You’ll need to scroll down until you see the comment from Mary, posted on Dec. 5, 2007, that opens with “I adore gingerbread . . .”
   The recipe Mary provides is exactly the same as the one I use.
   It’s so amazingly easy to make, and produces delicious results.
   The whole family will love a piece of this gingerbread.
   I found it didn’t even need whipped cream on the side – it’s just perfect as it is. And you don’t even need a plate and fork – you can pick up and piece and enjoy it that way!
   It will keep well for about five days if stored in the fridge.
   Flour, ginger, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda and salt are mixed together.
   In a different bowl, melted butter, molasses, sugar, egg, buttermilk and milk are beaten together. The dry ingredients are added and the batter is beaten until smooth, then poured into an 11” by 7” pan.
   The gingerbread is baked for about 40 minutes, then cooled for at least 10 minutes.

More terrific dessert recipes

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crowd-friendly Pomegranate Punch

Pomegranate Punch (click for the recipe) from the December 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine is smooth, with just the right amount of sweetness.
   Children and adults will like it (although there is a carbonated beverage added, possibly making it inappropriate for younger children). It would work at any type of gathering, from brunch to a dinner party.
   You can spike it with vodka or keep it non-alcoholic – both ways are delicious.
    It could be served in a punch bowl or individually in tall glasses. If you choose to add vodka, I recommend using individual glasses, and adding about ½ ounce of vodka to each drink.
   A couple of tips and tricks I learned from making the recipe:
   1. It calls for apricot nectar. I substituted a peach/apple/orange juice blend in the same amount – ¾ cup. It worked like a charm.
   2. You’ll get a better hint of mint – highly recommended – if you stir the mint syrup, pomegranate juice and apricot nectar (or juice!) together and let it chill for a few hours in advance of serving with seltzer (or club soda). This is also a good thing to do if you don’t want to serve all the punch at once – you can add seltzer or club soda when you’re ready to serve more.
   3. As noted in point 2 above, we used club soda instead of seltzer! It was chilled in the fridge before being added to the syrup-pomegranate juice blend.

   The punch is very easy to make. The recipe is for 12 servings, an amount that can easily be halved or even doubled.
   Sugar (I substituted an equal amount of Splenda), water, and pieces of sliced, peeled ginger are brought to a simmer in a small saucepan. The pan is removed from heat and fresh mint is added.
   The mixture is left to stand for 30 minutes, and is then strained. I recommend refrigerating the mint syrup until it is cold. It will keep well in the fridge, covered, for at least week.
   The syrup, pomegranate juice, apricot nectar (or substitution such peach/apple/orange juice) are stirred together. I recommend refrigerating it for a few hours.
   Pour the pomegranate mixture in a punch bowl with ice, or into individual ice-filled glasses. Add vodka if desired, then seltzer or club soda, and stir.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Charming Chocolate Dulce De Leche Bars

Though the recipe for Chocolate Dulce De Leche Bars (click for the recipe) was first published in the July issue of Gourmet magazine, these babies are suitable for satisfying treat cravings all year long.
   They will appeal to folks both young and old. I chose to make them for a party I threw for my parents for that very reason.
   In essence, the bars are pieces of shortbread with a caramel-chocolate topping.
   The recipe calls for dulce de leche, which means "milk caramel" in Spanish.
   I have found jarred dulce de leche in a couple of places in the supermarket: With the jams and jellies, and with the ice-cream sundae making supplies alongside other chocolate and caramel sauces.
   Although the recipe says the bars can keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one day, I find they can be refrigerated up to a week and still taste delicious.
   This recipe is easy to make. You don’t even need to haul out a stand or hand mixer for it. However, it does require a shallow 9 to 9½ inch square baking pan and an instant-read thermometer.
   Butter, light brown sugar, vanilla, salt and flour are sifted together in a bowl until a soft dough forms.
   The dough is pressed evenly in the baking pan, pricked all over with a fork, baked, then cooled completely.
   Heavy cream (I used whipping cream) and dulce de leche are brought to a simmer until the dulce de leche has dissolved. Egg yolks are slowly whisked into the hot cream mixture until it registers 170 F on an instant-read thermometer.
   Finely-chopped bittersweet chocolate is whisked in, the mixture is poured over the cooled shortbread and the bars are chilled, uncovered, for at least two hours before serving.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Orange and Cumin Pork Loin - absolutely fabulous!

Orange and Cumin Pork Loin (click for the recipe), from the December 2010 issue of Everyday Food, is simply fabulous.
   It’s absolutely delicious, easy to make and family-friendly.
   The dish, a creation of chef Emeril Lagasse, tastes citrusy and just a tiny bit spicy, thanks to the cumin.
   Make sure you serve the pan juices with the pork loin, so people can pour the juices over the loin just as they would gravy on potatoes.
   As we always do, my husband and I substituted parsley for the cilantro, and if you’re serving this to a family, you’ll want to do the same.
   I took the time to get a tied boneless pork loin at the butcher I frequent.
   The recipe I linked to above is on, but it is exactly the same one I used from Everyday Food.
   A three-pound boneless pork loin, tied at two-inch intervals with kitchen string, is rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with cumin, salt and pepper.
   In a large skillet, the pork is browned, and is then transferred to a baking dish.
   The recipe says to make sure the pork fits snugly in the dish. This is a good instruction – using a baking dish that is too big will send the orange juice topping out thinly and far away from the loin, possibly contributing to lost flavor. The loin needs to be basted frequently too, and a baking dish that’s too big will make this task a pain.
   Orange juice, white-wine vinegar and marmalade are whisked together. The recipe says to use a small bowl for this, but I whisked everything together in a glass measuring cup to make easier work of the next step: Drizzling the orange juice mixture over the pork.
   The pork is roasted at 400 F for 45 to 50 minutes (the Everyday Food recipe says to use an instant-read thermometer, stick it in the thickest part of the pork, and make sure it reads 140 F). Frequent basting is required; my husband did it about every seven minutes.
   The pork is taken out of the oven, sprinkled with parsley, and let to rest for 10 minutes.
   After slicing, the pork is served. Put the pan juices into a glass measuring cup or gravy bowl so people can drizzle it on top of the juicy, tasty slices.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Trying out Tourtière

My husband and I attempted making Tourtière (click for the recipe) the last week of December 2009 after spotting a recipe for it in Cook’s Country magazine.
   It looked like a simple enough recipe, and making it would be a way to use up some of the leftover mashed potatoes my mother sent home with us after Christmas dinner.
   We were glad we tried it. It was delicious, warming comfort food, perfect for a cold winter night. It’s even worth making mashed potatoes just to prepare it for Christmas!
   Tourtière is a meat pie made with ground pork, beef or veal that originated in Quebec. It’s traditionally served on Christmas Eve.
   The recipe I linked to above is on the Cook’s Country magazine website, and a log-in is required to access it completely (there is a free 14-day website trial.)
   Here’s the closest free recipe to the one I used that I could find online: The Ultimate Tourtière on It uses ground pork and mashed potatoes like the one my husband and I made.
   However, there are so many other differences between the two recipes it’s not worth going through them all! The main one is that The Ultimate Tourtière recipe doesn’t have a step for simmering ground pork in beef broth, which I believe is key to the Cook’s Country’s version’s fantastic taste.
   For the Cook’s Country recipe I used, there are a couple of important things to note.
   First: Two nine-inch pie dough rounds are needed. We bought pre-made deep-dish pie crusts to use in the recipe, and were glad we did. Regular-size pie crusts are too small to hold the filling and to stretch over the top.
   Because we used pre-made pie crusts, I was sure to let them thaw as directed on the package so they were pliable enough to work with as needed – you’ll need to straighten out the crust to put it on top of the meat, for example.
   Second, the recipe doesn’t specify what size of pie plate to use. Because there was far too much pork filling for a nine-inch pie plate, we used a round glass casserole dish with a nine-inch base and slanting sides that were four inches high.
   The tourtière is quite easy to make.
   Ground pork, chopped onion, minced garlic, dried thyme, dried sage and ground nutmeg are cooked in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.
   Purchased beef broth is added, and the mixture simmered. Off heat, mashed potatoes are stirred in, and the pork mixture left to cool for at least 30 minutes.
   The casserole dish is lined with one pie dough round, filled with the pork mixture and topped with the second round. Four vent holds are cut in the top, and the tourtière is baked until the crust is golden brown.
   Let cool for 15 minutes and serve.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Chocolate & Peppermint Brownies:
A wintery landscape on a plate!

Serve up a plate of little windswept winter landscapes with White Chocolate & Peppermint Brownies (click for the recipe).
   The swirling white chocolate frosting on the brownies reminded me of snow drifts – the pleasant, lovely type of snowdrift that’s perfect for making snow angels, not the kind of drift that makes you get stuck with your vehicle.
   With the topping of chopped peppermint candies or candy canes, the Christmasy feel is complete.
   It’s a delicious, family-friendly treat. (Make sure if you are serving this to children, though, that the peppermint candies sprinkled on top are chopped very finely).
   The free version of the recipe I linked to above is on a blog. The original recipe I used is White Chocolate & Peppermint Brownies from Cook's Country, which can be accessed by members of the magazine’s recipe website.
   The blog recipe differs slightly from the one I used from Cook’s Country magazine.
   The main, and most key difference, is the fact the blogger breaks up the recipe into two sections. First, he presents the recipe for the brownies, then adds the White Chocolate and Peppermint part as a variation on the basic brownie.
   Make sure you don’t cool the brownies to room temperature after baking as his “basic brownies” section directs. Go instead to his “White Chocolate and Peppermint Brownies section,” where he correctly directs to sprinkle white chocolate chips on top of the brownies right after they come out of the oven. The chips are left to soften, about five minutes, and are then smoothed evenly on top of the brownies for a frosting.
   The blogger says to melt the chocolate and butter for the brownies in a “small bowl (micro. or stove.)” The enlarged version of this is “melt chocolate and butter in a small bowl in microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally to combine.”

Another good recipe: Peppermint Brownies

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Friday, December 10, 2010

A holiday treat that stuns:
Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze

If you’re looking for a treat that will absolutely stun people with its deliciousness, look no further.
   I’ve found one: Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   I may be hyperbolizing when I say these cookies make you ponder the wonders of the universe when you eat them, but you will be very thankful that oranges grace our lovely planet and that someone invented Grand Marnier liqueur.
   Everyone to whom I have served these cookies has raved about them.
   The cookies are soft and almost creamy, with a comforting citrus tang.
   Thank goodness these magical cookies of such good taste and beauty are easy to make.
   The recipe says it makes about three dozen cookies, but I was able to comfortably make two dozen.
   Buy about four large oranges for this recipe – you’ll need that many for the required orange zest.
   Flour, salt and baking powder are whisked together.
   Butter, sugar, and finely-grated orange zest (orange peel), egg yolks and vanilla are beaten together (the recipe said to use a stand mixer but a hand mixer works just fine). The flour mixture is added and mixed in.
   The resulting dough is turned out onto sheets of plastic wrap in two equal piles, shaped into flat five-inch disks, wrapped in the plastic and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. (The dough can also be frozen for up to one month).
   The dough is rolled out, and with a 2 ½-inch cookie cutter (I used a glass with a mouth that wide), is cut into circles.
   The cookies are baked, and cooled completely.
   To make the glaze, confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar), Grand Marnier, heavy cream and orange zest are combined.
   Use the recipe’s direction to put 1/2 teaspoon of glaze on top of each cookie – it’s the perfect amount.
   The cookies are left at room temperature until the glaze is set, about two hours.
   Serve and stun.

Another delicious treat: Toffee Millionaires

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

A savoury and sweet side dish: Noodle Kugel

The ingredients immediately grabbed my attention when I first saw the recipe for Noodle Kugel (click for the recipe) in Martha Stewart Living magazine a couple of years ago.
   Egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg and apples were present.
   I predicted it would be sweet and savoury all at once – and my expectation was correct.
   It was also absolutely delicious.
   This recipe is a version of the classic Jewish kugel, a dish made with egg noodles or potatoes that is often served as a dessert or side dish.
   Noodle Kugel definitely works as a side dish. The recipe makes a lot, and it’s family-friendly.
   The recipe also suggests serving Noodle Kugel for breakfast, and that makes sense to me. A brunch table would a terrific home for the dish, alongside some sausages. It reminds one a bit of crepes and whipped cream.
   Unfortunately, Noodle Kugel is not the leanest dish around – carbs, fat and cholesterol do a delicious little dance within it.
   I found it quite easy to make.
   One pound of egg noodles are boiled, drained and returned to the pot.
   Six eggs, sour cream, sugar, melted butter and cream cheese are mixed together.
   Sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg are tossed occasionally in a skillet with butter until soft and caramelized.
   The apples are stirred into the egg mixture, and this is in turn poured into the noodles and the whole mixture is tossed.
   The noodles are poured into a prepared dish, drizzled with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar, and baked until the top is golden, about 30 minutes.

More great recipes for side dishes

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An unfussy-to-make rack of lamb

Rack of lamb. It sounds so elegant, so fancy – and fussy to prepare.
   I've found a recipe, though, that I didn’t find at all difficult to make, and it worked beautifully.
   Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine is delicious. It would be a tremendous main dish for a dinner party.
   I envision it sitting grandly in the table’s center, surrounded by glasses of bubbly and happy faces.
   Racks of lamb can be a bit skimpy, though, so if you’re making this recipe for more than four people, you may want to increase the recipe accordingly, or make sure you have side dishes in abundance.
   I could only find small racks of lamb at the supermarket, and so prepared two small to equal the one large (2 ¼ lbs) referenced in the recipe. I found frozen racks of lamb at Superstore in Canada, and defrosted them according to the package directions.
   The recipe calls for unsalted pistaschio nuts. This means shelled pistachios without salt. I could only find salted shelled pistachios and so I used those, and the recipe didn’t taste salty.
   Here’s how the rack of lamb is prepared:
   Pomegranate juice, dried currants and garlic are boiled in a skillet until the liquid is syrupy. The liquid is transferred to a processor, and chilled butter, cinnamon and cumin are added and the mixture chopped until a coarse purée forms. The processor bowl is put in the freezer for 10 minutes to slightly firm the butter.
   The rack(s) of lamb are placed bone side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. The pomegranate butter is spread on the racks, and chopped pistachio nuts and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs – look for it in the bakery or the Asian foods section of the supermarket) is pressed into the rack(s) to adhere.
   The rack(s) are roasted in the oven at 400 F for 30 minutes, then left to rest for 10 minutes. The lamb is cut between the bones, and served drizzled with any juices from the foil.

More great dinner party recipes

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Yo ho ho and a plate of Anna's Walnut-Rum Wafers!

Anna's Walnut-Rum Wafers (click for the recipe) taste ever so slightly with the dark rum from their name. The rum taste, in turn, blends perfectly with the walnuts within.
   They’re a little bit sophisticated and a whole lot sassy, and the smaller size lends itself perfectly for scooping up a few at a time for munching.
   The wafers will keep well for a week at room temperature in an airtight container. They are amazingly easy to make.
   Butter, sugar, egg, rum, flour, salt and chopped walnuts are mixed together.
   The resulting dough is dropped by two-teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets, and then the sheet is put into the oven for about four minutes. The sheet is taken out, more walnut pieces are sprinkled on top of the cookies, and the sheet is returned to the oven for eight minutes more.
   After a short cooling time, these dandies are ready to eat.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Good wintery greens: Warm Spinach,
Mushroom and Goat Cheese Salad

It’s not the easiest task finding a good “wintery” salad, one that goes well with the richer dishes and red wine of cold weather as opposed to the hamburgers and margaritas of summer.
   I’ve found one that I really like, though – Warm Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Salad (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine. It’s rich-dish and red-wine ready.
   When goat cheese is featured in a salad, it often steals the spotlight because of its soft, creamy texture and pleasing taste.
   But that’s not the case here – goat cheese just blends in nicely with the rest of the ingredients.
   My husband and I tinkered with the recipe just a bit.
   It calls for six bacon slices, chopped, to be cooked in a skillet, removed, set aside, and the drippings to be used for cooking the rest of the ingredients.
   The bacon is sadly never heard from again in the recipe, and my husband and I didn’t think that was fair. We sprinkled the bacon on top of our salad servings, and found it was a perfect addition.
   Also, the recipe calls for half of a medium-size red onion cut into paper-thin slices. My husband and I did this, but ended up taking out the red onion pieces out of our salad servings anyway – we’re really not fans of it raw (we love it cooked, though!)
   I think you can easily skip the red onion and still get delicious results.
   After the bacon is cooked and removed from the skillet, a large red bell pepper, chopped, is added to the drippings and cooked. The mushrooms follow suit.
   The bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach and red onion (skip it if you want!) are tossed together in a large bowl.
   Olive oil, white wine vinegar and sugar are added to the now-empty skillet and are brought to a boil. The resulting dressing is poured over the salad ingredients, enough to coat them well (you may not use all of the dressing.)
   The salad is put onto plates, and sprinkled with goat cheese.

More great salads and sides

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Strike it rich with Toffee Millionaires

One does feel like they've hit the jackpot when biting into a Toffee Millionaire (click for the recipe) from Martha Stewart Living magazine.
   It’s a delicious, family-friendly square that does nothing but please the taste buds.
   People who love Skor or Heath bars will feel like they won the lottery, as either of these two bars are chopped up and melted into cream to comprise a Toffee Millionaires layer.
   That sounds so good, and tastes so good, that I have to repeat it again: Skor or Heath bars, chopped up and melted into cream.
   And that’s not all – pieces of the bars are scattered overtop the cream mixture to provide the perfect crown to a perfect treat.
   I deviated from the recipe in one aspect: The shortbread layer baking time. The recipe says to bake it until it is golden brown and the center is firm, about 70 minutes.
   That length of time kind of freaked me out, so I checked the shortbread at 50 minutes and took it out then, as the golden brown and firm center requirements were filled. The Millionaires tasted terrific, so it didn’t suffer from a shorter baking time.
   Make sure to heed the recipe’s advice, though, when it comes to finely chopping the bars that are melted into the cream. Smaller pieces of bar will make the melting process much faster.
   Toffee Millionaires are quite easy to make.
   Butter and brown sugar are mixed together and combined with flour and salt. The resulting dough is pressed into an 8-inch square baking pan and chilled for 45 minutes.
   The dough is pierced all over with a wooden skewer, then baked (I baked it for 50 minutes instead of 70), and left to cool for a few minutes.
   Meanwhile, finely-chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars are heated with cream in a saucepan (I used whipping cream) until the bars are melted and the mixture is smooth.
   The mixture is poured over the shortbread, and sprinkled with coarsely-chopped toffee bars (don’t worry if they melt slightly). The shortbread is cut into squares and left to cool completely.

More delectable desserts

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: The America's Test
Kitchen Family Cookbook

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook has a reassuring look about it, as if all the cooking advice contained within will be as sound as if Grandma herself was passing it on to you.
   This is a good all-around general cookery book. Want to make brownies? There’s a recipe for brownies. Mac and cheese? Check. Need some advice on how to grill a steak? It’s there. Want to make gravy without pan drippings? There’s one that uses soup broth instead.
   Recipes for common family-friendly food abound, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, sloppy joes, hamburgers, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fingers, meatloaf, beef stroganoff and chili.
   Some pages contain several different varieties of a popular food item. Potato salad, for example, is represented with recipes for American, German and French versions.
   There are chapters for appetizers, salads, sandwiches, soups and stews, vegetables, rice, grains and beans, pasta, eggs and breakfast, fish and shellfish, poultry, meat, grilling, slow cooker and pressure cooker, bread and pizza, quick breads, cookies, cakes, pies and tarts, fruit desserts, pudding and custards, frozen desserts, sauces and condiments and light recipes.
   Because the cookbook is from America’s Test Kitchen, there’s a very good chance that many of the recipes have reliable methods that will yield delicious results.
   Recipes that take less than 30 minutes to make are labelled “fast” – great help when you are looking for a speedy weeknight meal.
   I’ve written about Banana BreadCreamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese and Curried Singapore Noodles on Recipes That Worked, all of which are contained in the ATK Family Cookbook.
   There are others I'd like to try. Ones that are catching my eye include:
- Creamy Polenta with Butter and Parmesan
- Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon, Shallots and Capers, or Orange and Thyme
- Weeknight Skillet Fajitas
- Cream Scones with Currants
- Ultimate Fudgy Brownies
- Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook at

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review - Ready for Dessert:
My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz

When I tried a couple of David Lebovitz’s recipes earlier this year for the first time, I became an instant fan.
   After making and absolutely loving his Red Wine-Raspberry Sorbet recipe, which appeared in Bon Appetit magazine, I felt compelled to buy the renowned pastry chef’s latest cookbook: Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes.
   While I’ve only had time to try one other recipe from this book, No-Machine Banana Ice Cream (to die for), I will no doubt be trying more.
   This cookbook is full of just the kind of recipes you’d expect from a chef who took his baking training and France and Belgium and now lives in Paris: Desserts that are culinary classics, but have a lovely twist to them.
   As a fellow food blogger once said: “All of David’s desserts are magical.”
   David writes that the book was 30 years in the making: It’s a culmination of years of baking professionally and at home.
   The recipes range in difficulty. Some look easy to make, while others are harder mostly due to many ingredients and steps of preparation.
   I would recommend this cookbook for people who currently bake and are looking for some interesting recipes to try.
   They will certainly find them Ready for Dessert: There are more than 170 recipes for cakes, pies, tarts, crisps, cobblers, custards, soufflés, puddings, ice cream, sherbets, sorbets, cookies, candies, dessert sauces and fruit preserves.
   The book has baking basics, such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies and gingersnaps, to recipes with names such as Chocolate Pave, Marjolaine, Gateau Victoire, Cherry Gateau Basque, Sesame-Orange Almond Tuiles, Chocolate-Port Truffles and Frozen Caramel Mousse with Sherry-Glazed Pears.
   At the beginning of each recipe, David has an often-amusing story about how its creation came about.
   Here are some recipes I have my eye on to try:
- Irish Coffee Cupcakes
- Nectarine-Raspberry Upside-Down Gingerbread
- Bahamian Rum Cake
- Banana Butterscotch Cream Pie
- Champagne Gelee with Kumquats, Grapefruits and Blood Oranges
- Watermelon-Sake Sorbet
- Simple Cherry Sorbet

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes

Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes is a cookbook that comes from behind the scenes.
   It’s a compilation of best recipes chosen by the people that work in the TV network’s test kitchens: Chefs, testers, food stylists, bakers and recipe developers.
   The cooking professionals in the kitchens have tested recipes for thousands of episodes of Food Network shows.
   I trust that they know what they’re talking about when they say these are the best recipes that have passed through the kitchens.
   Actually, I know for sure myself the recipes are the best because I’ve tried a few of them and they have been absolutely terrific (and easy).
   Nothing in the book looks too crazy to make. There are many recipes for relatively common dishes such as gazpacho, crab cakes, pork satay, bruschetta, lobster rolls and quesadillas.
   One of the recipes my husband and I absolutely love is Miso Soup. It’s killer delicious, amazingly simple to make, and better than any miso soup I’ve ever had in a restaurant.
   Other favorites of ours from this cookbook are Thai Shrimp & Rice Soup, Thai Rice Noodles, Little Tomato Salad with Fresh Herbs and Heirloom Tomato & Mint Salad.
   Recipes I’ve got my eye on to try are Blue Cheese Steak Sandwiches; Grilled Halloumi, Scallion & Mint Flatbread; Celery & Soppressata Salad with Lemon; Blueberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake; Little Cheesecakes with Strawberry Sauce, and Tiramisu Rapido.

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