Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunken Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes taste
much better than they look!

Sunken Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine are much, much better than their saggy-sounding name and appearance would suggest.
   The cupcakes are indeed sunken in the middle, and cracked like a desert on top, but they are scrumptious.
   Both young and old will like the charming combination of chocolate and orange.
   Underneath the cookie-like top, a moist middle and bottom await. The sinking and moisture results because the cupcakes are flourless.
   As the recipe suggests, the cupcakes make a nice little dinner-party dessert served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipping cream.
   But, truth be told, my husband and I prefer them plain at room temperature or nuked in microwave for about 10 seconds.
   The cupcakes are amazingly easy to make.
   Chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips to speed the process along) are microwaved with butter until melted.
   Egg yolks, sugar, finely-grated orange peel, ground blanched almonds and the chocolate mixture are combined.
   With an electric mixer, egg whites and sugar are beaten until thick and glossy and peaks form. The egg white mixture is folded into the chocolate mixture in three additions.
   The batter is divided among the cups of a paper-lined 12-cup muffin tin, and baked for 16 to 22 minutes.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

TV watching inspires Ginger Rum Shandy-making

As my husband and I watched Chuck’s Day Off on Food Network Canada last Saturday morning, the host of the show made a cocktail I knew I had to try that night.
   Montreal chef Chuck Hughes made a Ginger Rum Shandy (click for the recipe). It looked so bronzy and lovely and sounded so tasty that I printed off the recipe for it right then and there.
   It was well-rewarded random inspiration: The shandies were go-od.
   There was a very slight vanilla taste, nothing disagreeable, that was lent to the drink by Sailor Jerry, a type of spiced rum.
   The rest of the ingredients seemed as if they were always meant to be together. The ginger syrup, apple juice, lime juice and beer were a winning combination.
   Serve these babies as a pre-dinner cocktail with appetizers, and they will score a big hit.
   The recipe called for Hoegaarden beer, but other brands of beer will work fine as a substitute.
   The shandies were easy to make.
   Slices of peeled ginger are combined with sugar and water and simmered over medium heat until the liquid becomes syrupy, about 15 minutes. The syrup is strained and left to cool.
   This is a great step to do ahead, as I did. I made the syrup in the afternoon and put it in the fridge until we were ready to make the drinks at night.
   To make one drink, ice, rum, ginger syrup, lime juice and apple juice are put together in a cocktail shaker. The mixture is shaken well, and is poured over ice in a glass. The cocktail is topped with beer. (We skipped the apple and ginger garnishes.)

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flatbread Lasagna -- easy to
make, amazing results!

Some recipes that are easy and quick to make have such astonishing results you wonder if you’ve cheated the world somehow.
   You feel like looking over your shoulder while you’re eating the recipe’s result, as if someone will catch up with your craftiness and call you on it.
   Flatbread Lasagna (click for the recipe) from Food & Wine magazine is such a recipe. It takes very little time to prepare, but people will think you slaved over it for hours (lasagna is kind of notorious for that.)
   And it’s absolutely scrumptious.
   The secret ingredient is Italian sausage, which is seasoned so nicely to begin with you don’t need to spend any time in that department.
   However, the recipe calls for hot Italian sausages. Unless you like the sensation of your mouth burning out of your head, use sweet or mild Italian sausage instead like my husband and I did. Then you can serve the lasagna to the whole family.
   The recipe says to remove casings from the sausage and break up the meat while browning, but you can make things even easier and buy Italian sausage that has not been put into casings – it looks like ground beef!
   The option of using pocketless pita or naan bread is offered. I used plain naan bread, and it worked wonderfully. In Canada, you can find naan bread at Superstore.
   The recipe says to make the lasagna in a deep-dish pie plate. I didn’t have one of those, so I used a glass casserole dish that was nine inches across at the base and three inches high on the sides.
   I still didn’t have enough room in the dish for everything, though, and so I skipped one layer of naan bread, sauce, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. I finished with the final step of putting on a flatbread and topping with one cup of sauce and 1/2 cup of mozza.
   Although the lasagna is easy to make, it does take a while to bake and then cool before eating – an hour and 20 minutes total. It will give you time to clean up the kitchen and take a breather before supper starts!
   Italian sausage meet is browned in a skillet.
   Jarred marinara sauce is spread on the bottom of the plate, then topped with flatbread, sausage, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. The layering is repeated, finishing with a flatbread topped with sauce and mozzarella cheese on top.
   The lasagna is covered with foil and baked for 30 minutes. The foil is removed, and the lasagna is baked 30 minutes longer. It’s cooled for 20 minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken-and-Sage Sausages:
Serve in the morning or evening!

Chicken-and-Sage Sausages (click for the recipe) from Martha Stewart Living magazine is a recipe I turn to several times each winter.
   They’re so simple to make and yield delicious results. Served with some rice and salad, it’s a great dish for a weeknight, but it also works as a breakfast or brunch item.
   To say these are sausages is a bit of a misnomer – they’re actually patties. You’re not going to need to buy an arsenal of sausage-making supplies to make them.
   The recipe says to serve the patties with chutney, and this is an absolute must – don’t skip it! My husband and I serve peach chutney alongside the patties, and it is truly key to the recipe’s ultimate success.
   We increase the amount of fresh sage used in the recipe, since we like this herb and like to taste more of it in the final product.
   Note the recipe serves eight to 10 people as it was included in a story about a post-skiing party. Be sure to cut back on the ingredients if you don’t want to end up with the yield of 20 patties!
   Ground chicken, finely-chopped shallot, minced garlic, finely-chopped fresh sage, shredded carrot and Dijon mustard are mixed together and formed into patties.
   Working in batches, the patties are cooked in oil in a skillet about two to three minutes per side.
   Serve warm with chutney.

A great recipe that uses ground turkey: Zucchini-Ribbon Lasagna

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

An old-fashioned treat:
Clove-Scented Chocolate & Apricot Loaf

I love cakes or cookies that have an old-fashioned feel, smell and taste to them.
   Baked goods that you could imagine being made in a kitchen in the 1950s are so reassuring.
   Clove-Scented Chocolate & Apricot Loaf (click for the recipe) from the cookbook Cake Keeper Cakes is just this kind of comforting treat.
   The ground cloves supply the old-fashioned air to the loaf – you’ll be reminded of gingerbread biting into it.
   This loaf is absolutely scrumptious, and a snap to make.
   It kept well for about five days at room temperature in a sealed container. Pieces of it would work well packed in a work or school lunch.
   The link above goes to the recipe in an electronic copy of Cake Keeper Cakes on Google books.
   Flour, cocoa powder, cloves, cinnamon, salt and baking powder are combined. Softened butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla are creamed together in a different bowl.
   The flour mixture is added to the butter mixture alternately with milk, and the apricots are stirred in.
   The batter is scraped into a 9” x 5” loaf pan and baked. After being inverted on a wire rack, it is left to cool completely.
   Slice and serve pieces of this homestyle loaf.

Cake Keeper Cakes at

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Italian sausage, grapes and gorgonzola
make a winning panini combination

My husband and I love panini.
   We make panini sandwiches with prosciutto, mozzarella and fresh basil about once a week – it’s quick to make, satisfying and delicious.
   Sometimes we try different filling combinations, usually suggested by a recipe I’ve come across.
   Sausage Panini with Grapes & Gorgonzola Dolce (click for the recipe), from Fine Cooking magazine, is just such a recipe.
   The combination of the three ingredients is perfect – and it goes perfectly with a glass of red wine.
   Gorgonzola dolce is a version of the blue cheese that is creamier, milder and sweeter than regular gorgonzola.
   However, we weren’t able to find gorgonzola dolce, either in a supermarket or a specialty cheese store.
   We opted instead for a mild gorgonzola, crumbled it up, and put it on the bread. A panini or sandwich maker, which we used, will make quick work of melting the cheese.
   The recipe calls for Italian sausage – we use mild or sweet whenever a recipe calls for this type of sausage.
   The recipe also says to use baguettes. We use special panini flatbreads we buy at one local supermarket, as we do with all panini we make.
   However, any type of panini bun, or even a submarine bun, will work if only thin baguettes can be found.
   Note that this recipe makes panini for two – if you have a larger crowd, you’ll need to increase the ingredients!
   An Italian sausage is cut in half and grilled, broiled or pan-fried (follow the cooking directions on the package).
   The baguette or bun is sliced in half, and gorgonzola is spread or sprinkled onto the bottom half. Thin slices of red grapes are pressed into the cheese, and are topped with a sausage half. The other half of the baguette or bun goes on top.
   The panini is cooked in a panini or sandwich maker, then served immediately.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Warm up a winter weeknight
with Asian Beef and Noodle Soup

An Asian noodle dish – it’s my idea of food heaven.
   It’s hard to resist the comforting appeal of rice, ramen, soba or udon noodles. Cooked in a broth, they’re an amazing way to warm up on a winter’s day.
   Asian Beef and Noodle Soup (click for the recipe) from Cook’s Country magazine is just such a warming recipe.
   This soup is great for weeknights. It’s a snap to make, and it’s family-friendly – everyone will be slurping it up.
   Chinese five-spice powder is the secret ingredient that lends great flavor in a short time period.
   Chinese five-spice powder, a blend of ground star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper, can be found in the spice or Asian foods section of many supermarkets. Fish sauce, another key ingredient in the soup, is also in the Asian foods section.
   The recipe calls for one small flank steak, cut into ¼-inch pieces. I have often used pre-sliced stir-fry beef to speed the preparation even more.
   The recipe also calls for cilantro. As with any time my husband and I encounter cilantro in a recipe, we skipped it completely in the soup.
   The recipe I linked to above, which is on a blog, is nearly exactly the same as the one I use from Cook’s Country magazine. (If you have a Cook’s Country website log-in, click here for the recipe.)
   There are just a couple of small differences, and they have to do with the toppings the blogger has suggested. The recipe from Cook’s Country did not call for, and so I have never used, sliced green onions, lime juice, soy sauce or Siracha chili sauce as toppings.
   Chicken broth, grated fresh ginger, minced garlic, fish sauce and Chinese five-spice powder are brought to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven, and are then simmered for 10 minutes.
   Ramen noodles, sliced beef and cabbage are added and soup simmered for a short time longer.
   Then it’s time to ladle out some bowls of comfort!

More warming soups

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For the whole family:
Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Recent comments on Facebook from a long-time friend reminded me once again that people are always on the lookout for good family-friendly recipes.
   The friend, married and the mother of two small children, wrote that she looked to Recipes That Worked for dinner ideas, settled on Not Humdrumsticks, and gave the recipe a try. She wrote it worked well and she served it to her two young sons.
   Thinking of this, I recalled another recipe my husband and I tried recently that was very family-friendly.
   Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Tenders (click for the recipe) from Eating Well magazine are mild-tasting, suitable for the palettes of children (but check it first before serving just in case! You know your child better than I do.)
   “Picky eaters,” both young and older, will likely take to these juicy chicken pieces. I’m sure they’ll get a better reception than fast-food or frozen chicken nuggets.
   My husband and I dipped them in heated, bottled marinara sauce as the recipe suggested, and it was the perfect touch.
   For the required breadcrumbs, we used panko, a type of fine breadcrumb that can be found in the bakery or Asian sections of supermarkets.
   The recipe is easy to prepare.
   Chicken tenders are tossed with a mixture of Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt, coated with flour, dipped in lightly-beaten eggs and then rolled in a mixture of shredded Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
   The tenders are placed on a wire rack placed in a baking sheet and are baked for 10 minutes.
   Serve to your waiting family!

More family-friendly recipes for fall and winter

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caramelized Banana Splits with Hot Chocolate Sauce: A perfect introduction to the classic dessert

Until I was an adult, I had never eaten a banana split.
   This is not a sob story, just a factual reflection on life.
   Banana splits only existed in the universe of Dairy Queen when I was a kid. Mom and Dad sometimes ordered one and shared it, while I opted for a sundae instead.
   I only knew that Dairy Queen banana split dishes made great Barbie doll bathtubs.
   Fast forward to adulthood in November 2007, and I’m flipping through Gourmet magazine.
   There was the recipe: Caramelized Banana Splits with Hot Chocolate Sauce (click for the recipe). And it was in the mag’s Quick Kitchen section, no less.
   For the first time, I was going to try a banana split, and I was going to make it myself.
   It was a fantastic introduction into the world of banana splits: They were warm, gooey and absolutely divine,
   They're a lovely treat on a cozy winter night – the whole family will love them. Get the fire going, turn on a movie and whip up these easy-to-make splits.
   Butter is melted in a skillet, then bananas are added and sprinkled with brown sugar. The bananas are cooked for a few minutes until the sugar is caramelized, and are divided among bowls. Any remaining caramel is left in the skillet.
   Heavy cream (I used whipping cream) is added to the skillet and boiled until the caramel is dissolved. Finely-chopped bittersweet chocolate is added and whisked until melted.
   The bananas are topped with scoops of cinnamon or vanilla ice cream, then drizzled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with toasted chopped walnuts.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Chinese Barbecued Baby Back Ribs:
Delicious ribs with no advance fuss!

Until a few years ago, I thought that really delicious ribs were a burden to make, requiring a lot of advance preparation such as boiling or marinating before they were grilled or baked.
   I avoided making them for that reason.
   Then I happened across a recipe in Gourmet magazine called Chinese Barbecued Baby Back Ribs (click for the recipe) that promised juicy ribs in just one hour with minimum fuss.
   You can bet I was going to try them.
   Although it actually took a bit longer than an hour to both prepare and cook the ribs, the recipe did produce ones that were tender and lip-smackingly delicious.
   The secret, the recipe’s introduction says, is finishing the ribs under the broiler.
   This is now my go-to ribs recipe for winter. I’m still on the prowl for the perfect, easy, grilled rack-of-ribs recipe for summer.
   Chinese Barbecued Baby Back Ribs are perfect for Friday night, when it’s time to kick back after a hard week. It’s family-friendly; young ones will like them as much as adults. Serve the ribs with fries and/or salad for the full effect.
   I have one official this-will-make-it-better tip for these ribs: Let them rest for 10 minutes after they are cooked, before cutting them up and serving. This improves the taste!
   To make the sauce for the ribs, fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce and vegetable oil are puréed in a blender. The mixture is transferred to a bowl, and hoisin sauce and honey are mixed in.
   A half-cup of the sauce is reserved, while the racks of baby back ribs (also called back ribs) are coated with the remainder (use a silicone brush or spoon to put the sauce on the ribs.)
   The racks are placed, meaty sides down, on a baking sheet and are baked for about 40 minutes at 400 F. Halfway through baking time, the racks are turned over, basted with some of the reserved sauce and put back in the oven.
   After this 40-minute baking time, the ribs are brushed, meaty sides up, with the last of the sauce, and are returned to the oven. The ribs are cooked four to five inches from the heat of the broiler until lightly charred, four to eight minutes (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t go from charred to completely burned!)
  Let the racks rest for 10 minutes, cut into pieces and served.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

A valuable lesson is learned from
Graham Cracker-Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake

There was a happy turn of events in my home recently.
   I baked a snack cake that I initially wasn’t sure would amount to anything, but it turned out to be terrific.
   Graham Cracker-Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake (click for the recipe) from the cookbook Cake Keeper Cakes looked a little dicey when it first came out of the oven.
   The cake was about an inch high, making me wonder if I’d put in the right amount of baking powder. The picture in the magazine showed a cake about twice that height.
   The frosting, which looked brilliantly white and fluffy in the magazine picture, looked pale yellow when I made it – and there was no way it could be put on the cake in dollops as the recipe directed.
   But those first appearances were deceiving.
   Once I spread the frosting on the cake, rather than putting it on in dollops as the recipe directs, and I cut it into pieces, we gave it a try.
   It was delicious! My husband absolutely loved it.
   It became an instant favorite that will definitely be made again.
   It’s very family-friendly -- everyone in the house will enjoy it. It’s a perfect treat to put in lunches.
   Making it taught me a lesson: I should not let a recipe’s picture discourage me about the appearance of the final product.
   If I follow the directions correctly, the recipe should work. In this case, it definitely did.
   The cake was easy to make.
   Graham crackers are ground in a food processor, and the resulting crumbs are mixed with flour, baking powder and salt.
   Butter, sugar, egg, egg yolk and vanilla are beaten together, and the flour mixture is then added alternately with milk. Chocolate chips are stirred in.
   The batter is scraped into an eight-inch square baking pan and is baked for about 35 minutes. The cake is cooled completely.
   The frosting is made by combining softened butter, confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar), vanilla and Marshmallow Fluff until smooth.
   Spread the frosting on the cooled cake, cut into squares and enjoy.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Not Humdrumsticks - a delicious dish
from the Podleski sisters

I’m a fan of Janet and Greta Podleski, the Canadian sisters who wrote the bestselling cookbooks Looneyspoons, Crazy Plates and Eat, Shrink & Be Merry!
   The recipes in their books are low in fat, easy to make, reliable and delicious.
   I also love the puns they use in their recipe titles – Kentucky Freud Chicken; La Crème de la Cream Pie; Yes, We Can-nelloni, Name That Tuna Casserole and Wok This Way are just a few.
   My husband and I recently made Not Humdrumsticks (click for the recipe) from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry. (The recipe I linked to above is on a recipe-sharing site, but it is exactly as it appears in the book.)
   The drumsticks were, as I have come to expect from the sisters’ recipes, a cinch to make and absolutely lip-smacking.
   Those who claim they can’t cook could whip this dish up. If you’ve got a teen around, he or she could also easily make this.
   The drumsticks were family-friendly: I could see children from age 8 and up eating them.
   The recipe calls for grainy Dijon mustard. We used a grainy mustard we had purchased before, and it worked beautifully.
   Skinless chicken drumsticks are needed. We bought drumsticks with skin on and skinned them ourselves.
   The recipe also needs dried Herbs de Provence, which isn’t terribly hard to find. If you can’t find it in the dried herbs and spices aisle of one supermarket, try a couple more – one of them is bound to have it.
   The chicken is cooked in a 9” x 13” inch baking pan. We used a glass baking dish that size.
   Here's what a snap it is to make!
   Twelve skinless chicken drumsticks are arranged in a baking pan (or glass baking dish) in a single layer.
   Honey, cider vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar), grainy mustard, minced garlic and Herbs de Provence are whisked together and spooned over the chicken.
   Don’t worry about turning the drumsticks over to coat them – after a cooking time of 20 minutes, the chicken is removed from oven and basted with the sauce (my husband used a turkey baster). The chicken is cooked for another 20 to 25 minutes.
   The drumsticks are served with sauce from the baking dish drizzled over them.

Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! at

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cornmeal-Thyme Cookies:
The ultimate tea companion

While I don’t drink tea (or coffee), I believe I’ve found the ultimate tea companion: Cornmeal-Thyme Cookies (click for the recipe) from Martha Stewart Living magazine.
   It's just something I know deep in my bones – these cookies go wonderfully with tea. (The recipe’s introduction even says so.)
   Of course, they’re also wonderful without a hot beverage accompanying them.
   These cookies have been a long-time favorite around my place.
   Those disturbed by the idea of an herb in a cookie should worry no longer. The fresh thyme is essential to this cookie’s perfect taste, and is mild rather than overpowering.
   In fact, it would be fun to serve the cookies and watch people guess at the source of the lovely flavor. It’s thyme, you can think smugly to yourself. Or you could tell the cookie’s admirers.
   Also key to recipe’s success is the cornmeal, which provides a terrific chewy texture, and the currants, which seem to go hand-in-hand with the thyme.
   The cookies are so easy to make, and one batch is substantial. They keep well at room temperature for at least five days.
   When it comes to fresh thyme, recipes usually say to use it “finely chopped.” I strip the teeny thyme stalks of the teeny thyme leaves by pushing my thumb and forefinger together from one end to the other. Then I use the leaves in the recipe.
   For these cookies, flour, baking soda, cornmeal and salt are combined in bowl.
   Softened butter and sugar are creamed together (the recipe says to use a stand mixer but I used a hand mixer, and it worked fine), then eggs, the flour mixture, currants and fresh thyme are added and incorporated into the mixture.
   The dough is dropped onto parchment-lined baking sheets, and baked until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.
   Serve (with or without tea) and enjoy!

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Lentils go from 'canned to Cannes'
with roasted pork and carrots

I’ve expressed before on this blog my love of any dish that makes me feel like I’m eating in a French bistro. I’ve found another that makes me feel that way: Mustard-Crusted Pork with Carrots and Lentils (click for the recipe) from Gourmet magazine.
   As the recipe description says, the recipe’s creator, Maggie Ruggiero, has taken lentils from “canned to Cannes.”
   In fact, the lentils are actually the highlight of the dish. If you’re trying to add more fiber to your diet, this is a yummy way to get it.
   We’ve even made the delicious lentils on their own as a side with other dishes.
   I also liked this dish because I was able to eat cooked carrots without feeling nauseated.
   I’m a lifelong hater of cooked carrots. I love them raw, but cook them in a way that gets them mushy and I won’t go near them (other than a good cream of carrot soup, of course!)
   In this recipe, the carrots are roasted along with the pork loin so they get a little softer but not mushy – much better.
   This dish does take a little work, but it’s not hard to make.
   Carrot sticks are tossed with oil and roasted in the oven in a shallow baking pan (we used a 13” x 9” baking pan.)
   A pork tenderloin is browned all over in a skillet, then put on a work surface and brushed with Dijon mustard and a mixture of oil and bread crumbs (we used panko, a type of fine Japanese bread crumb.)
   The pork is put in the pan with carrots, and the roasting continues.
   While the pork roasts, garlic and fresh thyme are cooked in oil in a small saucepan, then lentils from a can, chicken broth and mustard are stirred in and the mixture cooked until heated through.
   Though the recipe doesn’t say to do this, my husband sliced the pork tenderloin once it was finished roasting.
   Then we served it with the carrots and lentils.

Another bistro-worthy easy dish: Garlicky Chicken Thighs in Red Pepper Sauce

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

A quick supper to enjoy on the sofa:
Noodles with Turkey, Green Beans & Hoisin

I like the catchline of Noodles with Turkey, Green Beans & Hoisin (click for the recipe) on the BBC GoodFood magazine website: “Long day at work? Whip up this substantial yet low-fat supper and enjoy on the sofa.”
   That’s exactly the right way to enjoy this dish.
   It’s super-easy to make, and fills the stomach with a happy satisfied feeling.
   Those whose only culinary accomplishment is boiling ramen noodles might find the courage to branch out when they find the noodles are the basis of the dish.
   Making it is a good way to get some beans into your diet. The green beans called for in the recipe are definitely must-haves. They add a welcome, crunchy texture.
   Leftovers warm up beautifully in the microwave.
   The recipe makes enough for two people, so if you’re making it for a family, make sure to at least double it.
   The recipe calls for chilli sauce. We used chili-garlic sauce, which most often found in the Asian foods section of the supermarket.
   Ramen noodles are boiled according to package directions, and halved green beans are added to the boiling noodles for the final two minutes. (I also clipped the ends off the green beans).
   Hoisin sauce, fresh lime juice and chili-garlic sauce are combined. Turkey mince (ground turkey) and chopped garlic cloves are browned, and the hoisin mixture added. The combination is cooked.
   The noodles, beans and some sliced spring onions (green onions) are stirred into the turkey mixture. When the dish is served, more sliced spring onions are scattered on top.
   Hit that sofa and enjoy!

Another quick-dinner dish: Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ready-made polenta finds a delicious home
baked with spinach and goat cheese

Although I fully intend to make polenta in my lifetime, I haven’t yet.
   Until this point, I’ve only used tubes of ready-made polenta that can be found in the pasta aisle of well-stocked supermarkets.
   I’ve found a wonderful dish in which to use the ready-made variety: Baked Polenta with Spinach & Goat's Cheese (click for the recipe) from BBC’s GoodFood magazine.
   It’s absolutely delicious, and, better yet, it takes mere minutes to prepare and get to the oven.
   It’s an ideal dish for a weeknight when exhaustion has set in but the desire for a homemade dinner is still alive and kicking.
   Three chopped garlic cloves are mixed with two 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes (a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes is what the recipe wants), and the mixture is spread into the bottom of a large baking dish. I used a glass 13” x 9” inch baking dish.
   Boiling water, then cold water, is poured over fresh spinach, and then excess water is squeezed out. The now-wilted spinach is roughly chopped and scattered on top of the tomatoes.
   Ready-made polenta in a tube is sliced and the pieces overlapped on top of the spinach. Some olive oil is drizzled over, and the dish baked is in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
   The recipe then says to scatter goat’s cheese with rind, broken into chunks, on top of the polenta. I scattered plain soft goat cheese crumbled into small pieces on top.
   The dish is returned to the oven for five minutes more. Don’t worry about the cheese getting golden or bubbling as the recipe directs – the dish will be ready after the last five-minute cooking time.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

A magazine to get you baking
delicious desserts more often

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to bake delicious treats more often, then here’s a magazine that will help you on your way: Easy Desserts from the publisher of Fine Cooking magazine.
   In fact, I urge anyone who is looking for innovative but easy baking recipes to buy it. The front of the magazine-style book says it will be on newsstands until March 1, 2011.

   Added on Jan. 24, 2011: Note - Since I originally wrote this blog entry, I have found that many of the recipes in the Easy Desserts magazine are also in a cookbook called Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman. I now have the cookbook!
Cake Keeper Cakes at

   I’ve only tried one recipe from the magazine so far, but I plan on continuing to pump out desserts from it this year.
   The first recipe I tried, the confection we enjoyed on New Year's Eve, was the easy-to-make Peanut Butter-Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Butterfinger-Ganache Glaze.
   It tastes like a peanut butter cookie in cake form (my husband’s apt observation), with a chocolate glaze topping and crumbled Crispy Crunch bar sprinkled on top (my substitution when I couldn’t find the called-for Butterfinger bar).
   It’s a very family-friendly cake that looks lovely, too.
   The recipe I’ve linked to above is on a blog called The Food Librarian, and is featured in a series of entries called “I Like Big Bundts” – great name.
   However, the Food Librarian quickly passes over the full directions for making the glaze that goes on top of the cake after is baked and left to cool completely.
   To make the glaze, eight ounces of finely-chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate are put together into a heatproof bowl with two tablespoons of unsalted butter.
   Heavy cream, ¾ of a cup, is heated in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil (be careful it doesn’t burn!), and is then poured over the chocolate and butter. The mixture is left to stand for five minutes and then is whisked until smooth.
   The warm glaze is poured and spread over the top and sides of the cake, then is sprinkled with 60 grams of chopped Butterfinger or Crispy Crunch bar. The cake is left to stand until glaze is set, about half and hour.
   The cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.
   Another note – the Food Librarian’s recipe says to “prep a 12-cup Bundt pan.” By that, she means grease (I used butter) and lightly dust a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Click here for a list of recipes I have my eye on to try from Easy Desserts

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Delicious-looking recipes from "Easy Desserts"

Here is a list of the amazingly delicious-looking recipes from the magazine Easy Desserts that I have my eye on to try. The magazine, from the publishers of Fine Cooking magazine, will be displayed on newsstands until March 1, 2011.

Added on Jan. 24, 2011: Note - Since I originally wrote this blog entry, I have found that many of the recipes in the Easy Desserts magazine are also in a cookbook called Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman. I now have the cookbook!
Cake Keeper Cakes at

- Now reviewed: Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake
- Maple Syrup Gingerbread
- Apple and Cheddar Cheese Cake
- Now reviewed: Graham Cracker-Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake
- Pistachio-Polenta Pound Cake
- Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Pound Cake
- Now reviewed: Clove-Scented Chocolate & Apricot Loaf
- Lemon-Cornmeal Madeleines
- Black Pepper and Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze
- Dulce de Leche Coffee Cake
- Cranberry-Walnut Bundt Cake with Maple-Espresso Glaze
- Now reviewed: Peanut Butter-Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Butterfinger-Ganache Glaze
- Chocolate-Raspberry Marble Pound Cake with Chocolate Raspberry Glaze
- Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
- Stout and Chocolate Snacking Cake with Chocolate-Stout Glaze
- Cream of Coconut Cake with Chocolate-Coconut Glaze
- Chocolate Gingerbread
- Red Grape, Polenta and Olive Oil Cake
- Pear Cake with Sea-Salt Caramel Sauce
- Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey
- Spiced Orange and Cranberry Cake
- Apricot Jam Cake

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Celebrate the new year
with Espresso-Hazelnut Sour Cream Cake

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve got a scrumptious cake recipe to celebrate.
   Espresso-Hazelnut Sour Cream Cake (click for the recipe), created by Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade fame, is an absolute snap to prepare.
   Barring any major disaster, the recipe will work beautifully, yielding a lovely, moist cake that would be perfect at coffee or teatime.
   Although the recipe doesn’t suggest it, freshly-whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon would be a winning topping for individual servings of the cake – but it is also delicious without it.
   The cake reminded me a bit of Sticky Toffee Cake (without the sauce).
   Espresso-Hazelnut Sour Cream Cake will keep well at room temperature for about three days. After that, it will start to lose its flavor.
   The recipe I linked to above is from a Fox News website, but is exactly the same as the one I used. (You can also find the recipe in the Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook.)
   On the website, you’ll need to scroll down until you find “Sour Cream Cake” and then the Espresso-Hazelnut variation.
   There are other suggested variations for the cake: Cherry-Almond, Strawberry-Poppyseed, Maple-Pecan, Tropical and Spice. I’m sure all would work well.
   Sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla are beaten together with an electric mixer. In another bowl, flour and baking powder are sifted together, and this mixture added to the sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.
   For the Espresso-Hazelnut variation, ¼ cup ground hazelnuts (filberts) are required. Hazelnuts can easily be ground up in a small food processor.
   The ground hazelnuts (filberts), chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella) and one tablespoon of espresso powder are added (you can find instant espresso powder, most often by Nescafe, in the coffee aisle of well-stocked supermarkets).
   The cake batter is poured in an eight-inch square pan and baked.

Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook on

More great cool-weather recipes

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