Sunday, October 31, 2010

A new twist on an old
favorite: Zucchini-Ribbon Lasagna

Lasagna -- so few dishes can claim the same iconic comfort food status that it has (mac and cheese and chicken noodle soup also come to mind).
   Many have experienced the pleasure of eating a slice of the dish usually made with noodles with ridged edges, tomato sauce and ground beef.
   When I came across the recipe for Zucchini-Ribbon 'Lasagna' (click for the recipe) in an issue of Martha Stewart Living earlier this year, I was excited to try this twist on the old comfort classic, with thinly-sliced zucchini sitting in for the noodles.
   My curiosity was rewarded, as the resulting dish was amazing. My husband and I really liked the combination of zucchini strips and the slightly sweet, slightly spicy tomato sauce studded with ground turkey and dotted with ricotta cheese.
   It also made for great leftover lunches -- it microwaved beautifully and tasted just as delicious as the night it was first baked.
   Although it takes a bit of time to assemble the “lasagna,” it is still easy to make.
   An onion and red pepper flakes are cooked in oil, then ground turkey added and cooked. A can of whole tomatoes that has been blended in a food processor is added, then the sauce is boiled and simmered. Fresh oregano and salt is stirred in.
   In an eight-inch square baking dish, thinly-sliced zucchini is alternated in layers with the sauce and dollops of ricotta cheese.
   After a 50- to 60-minute stint in the oven and 10 minutes of cooling, this yummy dish is ready to be served.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Peppermint Brownies:
No mouthwash-worthy flavor here!

When you think of mint brownies, visions of blocks of brown with bright-green filling and a mouthwash-worthy mint flavor may jump into your head.
    Recently I came across a recipe that turns this image on its head: Peppermint Brownies (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   Peppermint tea leaves are a primary ingredient, resulting in brownies with a wonderfully understated mint flavor.
   And there’s no bright green here, just a lovely brown cakey layer covered with a chocolate glaze and drizzled with white chocolate.
   My husband took a container of these to his workplace one day and they vanished.
   Although the directions seem long, these brownies were not hard to make. And you don’t need to haul out a hand mixer or stand mixer.
   Butter and unsweetened chocolate are melted together in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.
   In a food processor, peppermint tea leaves are finely ground with sugar. The resulting peppermint sugar is whisked with eggs, peppermint extract, salt, the chocolate mixture, and flour.
   The batter is spread in a 13 x 9 inch pan and baked for 35 to 40 minutes.
   After the brownies are cooled for about two hours, the glaze is made by melting semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, corn syrup and butter together in the bowl over simmering water. The white chocolate is then melted in the same manner.
   The chocolate glaze is spread over the cooled brownies, and the white chocolate is drizzled over.
   Refrigerate until the glaze is set, at least 20 minutes.

More great treats for fall and winter

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peperoncini + pasta = delicious

My husband and I got hooked on the wonders of peperoncini peppers over the summer when I tried a recipe for hot dogs that used them as a topping.
   We loved the pickled version of this small yellow pepper. They weren’t at all hot.
   Recently I spotted a pasta recipe from Fine Cooking magazine that used peperoncini, and knew immediately I wanted to try it.
  Spicy Capellini (click for the recipe) is a recipe developed by cookbook author and TV host Lidia Bastianich.
   The recipe was a delicious and quick and easy to make – terrific for a weeknight.
   But there was something about the resulting dish that was curious.
   Although my husband and I didn’t find the peperoncini to be too spicy on the hot dogs, they definitely packed a spicy punch once cooked.
   Whatever the science is behind this curiosity is really no matter, though. The heat was at a deliciously tolerable level in the pasta, and my husband and I are wimps when it comes to overly hot or spicy dishes. However, I wouldn’t serve this dish to children or tweens.
   There was another part of the recipe that puzzled us.
   The recipe calls for three cups of crushed peeled Italian tomatoes.
   I scribbled this ingredient down on my grocery shopping list, and so we came home with cans of crushed tomatoes – as in, tomato mush.
   I’m not sure this is what the recipe needs, though. Although the crushed tomatoes worked fine and coated the capellini strands in a lovely oily tomato sauce, my gut feeling is that the recipe really wants is a can of peeled tomatoes.
   You can find pickled peperoncini in the aisle of the supermarket that has pickles and relishes.
   Working together, my husband and I had this dish together in about 40 minutes.
   Eight slices of chopped bacon and thinly sliced onions are cooked. The peperoncini and tomatoes are added and the sauce simmered.
   Meanwhile, capellini or angel hair pasta (we used whole wheat spaghetti instead) is cooked, drained, and tossed with olive oil and the sauce.
   Grated Parmigianio-Reggiano cheese and optional parsley is stirred in.

Another terrific pasta dish for fall: Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage and Tomatoes

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bistro-worthy Garlicky Chicken
Thighs in Red Pepper Sauce

Once in a while, I’ll try a recipe that will make me feel like I’m cooking in a small bistro in France – the recipe usually involves chicken or beef.
   And sometimes that recipe will turn out as delicious as something that may be served at a bistro in France, such as Garlicky Chicken Thighs in Red Pepper Sauce (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   Serving this chicken-in-gravy-style-dish with a baguette to sop up the juices, as the recipe suggested, just added to the whole bistro illusion.
   It’s a mouth-smackingly delicious, likely due to the fact the chicken is cooked in the oven in chicken broth, causing a lovely exchange of salty tastes.
   An oven-proof pan is a necessity here, as the chicken does some time on the stovetop and is then transferred to the oven in the same skillet.
   The dish is extremely easy to make, and the leftovers warm up beautifully in the microwave the next day.
   Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are cooked briefly in oil, then taken out of the pan.
   Smashed garlic cloves, fresh thyme, chicken broth, jarred roasted red peppers, sliced potato and sherry vinegar (we used red-wine vinegar as a substitute) are put in the pan and brought to a boil.
   The pan is removed from the heat on the stovetop, the chicken is put back in and the pan transferred to the oven.
   The chicken is cooked, uncovered, at 425 F for 30 minutes. (The recipe says to “braise” the chicken – all this means is to cook it in the oven.)
   Bon appetit!

Great recipes for soups and stews

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's spaghetti with meat sauce
-- wait, no, it's squash!

Come fall, supermarkets start to fill up with piles of squash.
   Butternut, spaghetti and acorn squashes and pumpkins await use in soups, casseroles and desserts.
   I’ve been a fan of spaghetti squash ever since I witnessed the funky origin of its name: After cooking, the flesh can be scraped out with a fork into long strands that indeed look like pasta.
   Beef Ragu over Spaghetti Squash (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine is a delicious example of how to use spaghetti squash to its fullest stringy potential.
   If you’re really sneaky, you may try serving it to a family and tell them it’s spaghetti, the pasta. Some may pick up on your deception, but those that dig in will be rewarded for believing you.
   I have never tried the garlic bread portion of the recipe above.
   It’s quite easy to make.
   The first step is to halve a spaghetti squash lengthwise. My husband takes on this task, whacking the squash with a butcher’s knife to create a deep fault line, then splitting it in half.
   The squash halves are put in a pot with a little water and boiled, then simmered.
   While the squash cooks, a ragu or meat sauce is created with ground beef, onion, crushed tomatoes and fresh basil.
   Once the halves are cool enough to handle, the magic happens: The squash will release into the spaghetti-like strands when shredded with a fork.
   Put the strands on plates, ladle the ragu over and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Another great recipe using ground beef: Cincinnati Chili

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Hold the cilantro and peppers
in this terrific chicken noodle soup!

While it may seem logical that the writer of a blog about great recipes would be an adventurous eater, that’s not always the case.
   While my husband and I do love to try all sorts of new recipes and tastes, there are some things we find gross.
   My husband hates bourbon, and I have aversions to cottage cheese and beef jerky.
   We also established long ago that there are two things we would cut back or substitute in a recipe if we came across them: Fresh chiles or peppers and fresh cilantro.
   We don’t like dishes that burn the mouth with spice, and cilantro is something we both find displeasing.
   So when we tried Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup with Ginger, Chile and Cilantro (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine recently, we substituted parsley for the cilantro and used one jalapeno pepper instead of two. (Actually, the recipe called for serrano chiles, but since we couldn’t find them, we used a jalapeno pepper.)
   We loved the fantastic final product, and agreed that we wouldn’t have enjoyed it if we had used two peppers and cilantro. As it was, we could feel some heat from the pepper.
   This soup, while it has a homestyle appeal because it is chicken noodle, also has a bit of kick and a hot-and-sour effect.
   Fresh Chinese egg noodles, a crucial component, can be found in the produce section of the supermarket. They won’t necessarily be labelled “egg noodles” -- just check the ingredients on the back to see if eggs are a major component.
   After a mixture of lemon zest, cilantro (or parsley) and ginger is made, six cups of chicken broth are brought to a boil. Fresh egg noodles, lemon juice, fish sauce and half of a serrano chile or jalapeno pepper are added and the soup simmered. The chile or pepper half is removed.
   One sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast half is stirred in, along with a half of a chile or pepper, sliced, and the soup boiled for a bit longer.
   The recipe directs to serve the soup and portion out the lemon zest/ginger/cilantro mixture into the bowls.
   We added it directly to the soup in the pot instead, then ladled out its lemony, noodley goodness.

Another great soup: Black Bean Soup with Sherry

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

No-bragging-here Banana Bread

When I bit into Banana Bread (click for the recipe) that I made from a recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and proclaimed it the best banana bread I’ve ever tasted, my husband gave me a withering look as if to say, “You braggart.”
   But when he ate three pieces in quick succession after he tried it, I knew he agreed with my assessment.
   This is a soft, lovely banana bread that the whole family will like.
   I preferred the texture the day I made it and the day after, though it will keep for longer.
   The recipe I linked to above is from a blog (so you could have a free version of it!) and it has several slight differences from the one I used from the ATK cookbook, mostly regarding ingredients.
   First, I used white all-purpose flour, not unbleached (though there will be no difference in quality if unbleached is used).
   Second, the recipe I used specifies that the bananas used should be very ripe, peeled, and mashed well.
   Third, and I think this is quite important, the six tablespoons of butter are melted and slightly cooled.
   Fourth, the recipe I used didn’t specify that the yogurt needed to be non-fat plain, just plain.
   Lastly, the recipe I used called for 1 ¼ cups of chopped walnuts, not pecans, and said the nuts were optional. And it said to toast the walnuts in the recipe I used, and so I toasted them for about three minutes in a skillet.
   I made the chocolate variety of the Banana Bread that’s offered in the cookbook. To do so, cut back the sugar by two teaspoons and add ¼ cup of grated bittersweet chocolate (I used bittersweet chocolate chips!)
   The banana bread is easy to make.
   Flour, sugar, baking soda and salt are whisked together. In a different bowl, mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs, yogurt and vanilla are mixed together.
   The banana mixture is blended into the flour mixture until just combined, and the nuts are added, if using (if you make the chocolate variety, this is when the bittersweet chocolate is added, too.)
   The batter is scraped into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and baked for 55 minutes.

Another great homestyle treat: Chocolate Chewies

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boursin cheese meatballs - a most heavenly idea!

When I came across the recipe for Skillet Meatballs and Noodles in Creamy Herb Sauce (click for the recipe) while paging through the November issue of Cook’s Country magazine, I stopped dead in my reading tracks.
   I stopped not so much because of the recipe's title (although it does sound good!), but because of an ingredient I saw listed in it: Boursin cheese.
   This trademarked soft, creamy cheese can be found in the fancy cheeses/deli section of many supermarkets.
   And man, is it ever good. Spread over crackers, it is a dream.
   In this recipe, the garlic and herb variety of Boursin cheese is mixed with ground beef to make meatballs – an idea that had me salivating. I used the lower-fat variety of Boursin cheese for the recipe.
   The meatballs are served in a gravy-like sauce and egg noodles. It’s a cozy, homestyle dish that reminded me a bit of beef bourguignon.
   It’s very easy to make. The recipe I linked to above is on a blog but it is the same one I used from Cook's Country.
   Ground beef and garlic and herb Boursin cheese are combined gently, then formed into small meatballs that are browned in a skillet.
   The meatballs are removed from the skillet, and chopped onion, chicken broth, uncooked egg noodles (we used whole wheat) and white wine are added and cooked until the pasta softens.
   The meatballs are put back into the sauce and noodles. Off heat, more Boursin cheese and chopped fresh chives are stirred in.

Another good fall comfort food recipe: Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Putting a cartload of carrots
to good use with Cream of Carrot Soup

My mother recently gave me two freezer bags full of carrots she grew in her backyard vegetable garden over the summer.
   I knew immediately how I was going to put them to work: In a batch of Cream of Carrot Soup from Company’s Coming.
   We've been making this soup every fall for about the past five years.
   It’s hearty and filling, with a taste that will be loved by root vegetable admirers.
   The soup uses very little cream, just three tablespoons, yet is nice and thick.
   The secret? Uncooked long grain white rice, which is simmered with the carrots.
   When the soup is blended, the rice creates a thick texture.
   Since we use a hand blender to puree the soup, we don’t let it cool slightly after the 30-minute simmering time as the recipe directs. This is for safety, if you are processing the soup with a regular blender or food processor.
   The recipe requires one-and-a-half pounds of carrots. Grating the carrots for the soup is a good job for a teen or resident “non-cook” to do to help with supper preparation.
   Chopped onions are sautéd, and the grated carrots, tomato paste, uncooked rice and chicken broth are added and the mixture is simmered for 30 minutes. The soup is blended.
   Whipping cream, salt and pepper are added, and the soup is served. If you’d like, drizzle with more whipping cream and garnish with carrot curls, fresh cilantro and croutons.

More great fall soups and chilis

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Celebrate apple season with Buttery Apple Cake

Autumn is the time for apples.
   And it’s time for cake every season of the year.
   Here’s a recipe that combines both timelines in one lovely product: Buttery Apple Cake from Martha Stewart Living.
   This soft cake is served with cream drizzled over top of the pieces. Not whipped cream, just liquid cream, poured in a beautiful thin drizzle. You’ll feel like you’re plating a dessert to be served in a fancy restaurant.
   There are no harsh flavors to be had, making this cake quite family-friendly. It would be a lovely snack on a fall afternoon.
   And it’s incredibly easy to make.
   Note that the recipe requires an 8-inch springform pan, not the more common 9-inch. However, 8-inch springform pans aren’t hard to find, particularly in a kitchen wares store.
   One pound of Granny Smith apples are peeled, shredded with a box grater, and spread in the bottom of the pan.
   Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, whole milk, eggs, vegetable oil and eggs are whisked together and poured over the apples.    The pan is put in the oven and the cake baked about 40 minutes.
   To make the topping, butter, sugar, an egg and vanilla are mixed together. The topping is poured over the top of the cake, and the cake is baked another 25 minutes.
   After the cake is cooled completely, the sides of the pan are removed.
   Cut, serve the pieces drizzled with cream and celebrate apple season in grand style.

More great recipe ideas for fall

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yes, you can make crackers at home!

A couple of years ago, a former co-worker asked me, as co-workers often do, what I did on the weekend.
   I mentioned I made Thyme Crackers, a recipe from Martha Stewart Living.
   “You made your own crackers?” was the incredulous answer/question.
   It is a little hard to believe, as most people head to the supermarket if they have a craving for crackers.
   But they can be made at home – particularly with this incredibly easy recipe.
   These crackers are delicious. Although they are family-friendly and will work as a daily snack, they also have an adult appeal that makes them work as an appetizer with before-dinner cocktails.
   You’ll need fresh thyme. If you can’t find the herb, don’t bother making the crackers! Thyme is that essential to the final product’s taste. However, I do skip garnishing each cracker with a fresh spring of the herb as the recipe directs.
   Flour, fresh thyme, salt, sugar and cold unsalted butter are pulsed in a food processor. With the machine running, one cup of cream is added and the mixture is processed until a dough forms.
   The dough is shaped into four rectangles and refrigerated until firm, about 30 minutes.
   Each piece of dough is rolled out into a very thin rectangle, transferred to a baking sheet and scored (lightly marked with a knife) into four-by-two inch diamonds. The dough is brushed with an egg white and sprinkled with salt (I skip the thyme garnish.)
   While one piece of dough is baking in the oven, I start working on rolling out, scoring and brushing the next one.
   It takes 15 to 20 minutes to bake each piece of dough.
   After the baking sheet cools, the dough is broken into individual crackers along the scored lines.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Get a dose of wonder beans
in Black Bean Soup with Sherry

They say beans are good for you.
   That’s partly why I wanted to try Black Bean Soup with Sherry when I saw it in the October/November 2010 issue of Fine Cooking magazine.
   I also wanted to try it because I love, love, love a good bowl of homemade soup, and Fine Cooking recipes usually work like a charm.
   I wasn’t disappointed: This soup was delicious and warming, and gave me a good dose of the wonder that is beans.
   It tasted somewhat like potato soup – nice and earthy.
   The soup warmed up beautifully in the microwave the next day, making it a welcome treat for lunch at work.
   And it’s so incredibly easy to make. One person will be able to whip it up in no time.
   Serve it with some warm bread.
   Onion, green bell pepper, garlic, cumin, dried oregano and tomato paste are cooked in a pot.
   Two cups of chicken broth are pulsed with one 15 ½ oz. can of black beans in a blender, and the resulting purée and another 15 ½ oz can of beans are added to the pot and simmered.
   Stir in dry sherry and serve.

Another great soup: Zucchini-Basil Soup

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mom's Apple Squares: For pie fraidy-cats like me!

I have a confession to make: I’ve always been terrified to make a pastry pie crust.
   Graham cracker or Oreo crusts, no problem – but anything in the realm of crusts used for many fruit pies scares the heck out of me.
   Although I was taught early on in life to tackle problems head-on, I’ve happily stuck my head in the sand when it comes to pastry pie crusts.
   However, last fall I came across a recipe with a pastry-like crust that I thought I could tackle: Mom's Apple Squares from Eating Well magazine.
   Not a pie, but squares – sliced cinnamon apples are baked between two pastry layers and cut. I also liked the idea of being able to use whole wheat flour in the crust.
   I tried the recipe, and it turned out extremely well – the squares were flaky and full of apple flavor.
   My husband and my father absolutely loved them.
   It’s a bit labor intensive, but not difficult.
   Whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt and baking powder are mixed together. Pieces of cold unsalted butter are rubbed into flour mixture, and canola oil added and tossed.
   Ice water and an egg yolk are added to the flour mixture, and stirred until a dough starts to come together. The dough is kneaded until it forms a ball, divided in half and refrigerated for at least an hour.
   The dough portions are rolled out between parchment or wax paper. A mixture of apples, sugar and cinnamon is spread on one half, with the other dough half placed on top.
   An egg white is brushed over the crust, and sugar sprinkled over if desired.
   Bake, then let cool for at least an hour.
   Serve Mom’s Apple Squares to pie lovers – they’ll be happy!

Another great fall dessert: Cappuccino Cheesecake Bars

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and
Cheese: When you want to DIY

Once in a while, a person wants to go beyond the box of KD and make his or her own mac and cheese.
   It’s like wanting to do a home renovation project by yourself.
   My husband and I recently tried a recipe that’s nearly as quick to make as a purchased box of macaroni and cheese, and satisfies that hankering to do-it-yourself.
   While I wouldn’t call Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese the be-all-and-end-all of mac and cheese recipes (my Baba’s baked mac and cheese is amazing, for example), it certainly is very good for the little time and effort involved in making it.
   The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen, and I found it in its entirety on a blog I linked to above.
   My husband and I used skim evaporated milk and whole wheat macaroni, and it worked very well.
   The recipe calls for shredded cheddar cheese. To make even quicker work of this recipe, we bought a bag of pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
   Two cups of macaroni are boiled and drained, then returned to the pot. Butter is added and stirred until it is melted.
   Two eggs, half of the evaporated milk, dry mustard, and Tabasco sauce are mixed together, and stirred into the macaroni with half the cheese.
   The remaining evaporated milk and cheese are stirred in gradually until the mixture is creamy, about five minutes.
   I alternated milk with cheese about three times each for this last step.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Curried Singapore Noodles: An after-work delight!

My husband and I eagerly slurped up Curried Singapore Noodles when we tried them for the first time this week.
   We felt satisfied after eating it – it’s perfect for two hungry adults after a long day at work.
   This America’s Test Kitchen recipe produces a dish that’s better than any takeout I’ve ever had.
   Even though there is curry in it, it’s not at all hot to eat, especially since we used mild curry powder.
   The recipe says it takes 30 minutes to make. I would say that’s true if two people work away at it together – there is some chopping involved, which always takes up time.
   However, the dish is quite simple to prepare.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a blog. It’s the only one I could find online that approximated the recipe I used.
   In fact, there is only one small difference between the blog recipe and the one I used from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: The way the noodles are prepared.
   The blog recipe says to soak the vermicelli rice noodles in hot tap water for 15 minutes until pliable.
   The ATK cookbook method, which I used, says to boil water, add one tablespoon of salt and the noodles and boil for about two minutes. The noodles are drained and rinsed in cold water.
   The ATK cookbook also supplied a substitute for mirin, which can be hard to find in supermarkets. For every one tablespoon of mirin, use one tablespoon of white wine and half a teaspoon of sugar. Mix together until the sugar dissolves. (So for this recipe, use two tablespoons of white wine and one teaspoon of sugar.)
   Be sure to use a large skillet or pan, preferably one with high sides, as all the ingredients for this dish end up together in it.
   One pound of peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp is cooked in a skillet, then removed.
   Chopped shallots, garlic, red pepper and curry powder are cooked in the skillet, then the drained noodles, shrimp, bean sprouts, chicken broth, soy sauce, mirin and scallions (green onions) are added and all the ingredients tossed together and cooked.
   Put up your feet and enjoy!

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook at

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ingredient conversions for
Cappuccino Cheesecake Bars

A Recipes That Worked reader recently asked that I post the ingredient measurements I used when converting Cappuccino Cheesecake Bars from an 11 x 7 inch pan to a 13 x 9 inch pan. (Click here for original blog post and recipe.)
   Instead of simply relisting the recipe ingredients with their new measurements, I will refer to specific paragraphs. This is because some of the ingredients are used twice in different places in the recipe.
   - Used 14 graham crackers, and ground them up with 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter and 2 1/3 tsp. instant espresso powder
   - set aside ¾ cup crumb mixture to be baked in the pie dish.
   - dissolved 7 ½ tsp of espresso powder with 1 ½ tbsp cream and 1 ½ tsp vanilla
   - beat 24 oz of cream cheese with 1 cup sugar and 1 ½ eggs (try your best!)
   - beat 1 ½ cups cream for topping.

   I hope this helps for those of you having trouble finding an 11 x 7 inch pan.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quick Chicken Parmesan - Your
family will thank you!

Man, this dish is family-friendly.
   Even the most stubborn eaters among us will give Quick Chicken Parmesan from the Oct./Nov 2010 issue of Fine Cooking magazine a try – and I think they’ll stay to finish it up.
   My husband and I were really impressed with how good this dish was – it’s many, many times better than anything similar you could order in the average restaurant.
   And the leftovers warmed up beautifully the next day!
   We ate the cutlets with a side of whole wheat egg noodles for a very satisfying dinner.
   The recipe calls for panko breadcrumbs. These fine crumbs can be found in the bakery or Asian food section of the supermarket.
   Quick Chicken Parmesan is quite simple to make, but with two people, the work will go even faster.
   Boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets are dipped in egg and panko, then cooked in a skillet. The cutlets are sprinkled with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and thinly-sliced mozzarella, then baked in the oven.
   Meanwhile, the skillet is wiped clean, and onion and garlic browned in it. A can of crushed tomatoes is added and simmered. Off heat, fresh basil is stirred in.
   The sauce is served over the chicken.
   Your family will thank you!

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Made by me for my birthday: Chocolate cupcakes

It’s my birthday today.
   In honor of the occasion, I made myself some awesome chocolate cupcakes on the weekend.
   I didn’t do so because I’m a cupcake fan – it was purely out of necessity (or, more accurately, laziness.)
   The recipe I made is for chocolate cake, but I used the cupcake option because I didn’t have exactly the right size of cake pans and didn’t feel like chasing around looking for them.
   But cake or cupcake, it really did not matter in the end.
   The resulting cupcakes were absolutely terrific – very hard to resist. My husband loved them.
   I’m sure the cake would be equally as successful. I could easily imagine the double-layer cake on a plate, frosted and waiting for a family to enjoy. It would work very well for an occasion such as a birthday.
   The recipe is called One-Bowl Chocolate Cake, and it’s from Martha Stewart Living.
   Because I didn’t have eight-inch cake pans with two-inch high sides (mine are 1.5 inches high), I used the cupcake option, which was listed in the magazine but not on
   Two standard muffin pans are used instead, with paper liners in the cups. The cups are filled 2/3 of the way with batter.
   The cupcakes are baked for 20 minutes at 350 F, with the pans being rotated halfway through the cooking time.
   The frosting recipe makes an absolute ton. It’s probably just the right amount for a two-layer cake, but not a batch of cupcakes.
   If you’re making the cupcakes, either halve the frosting recipe, or plan to make another batch of cupcakes later on to use up the rest (that’s what I’m going to do later this week!)
   The cupcake/cake batter is truly “one bowl.” Cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, eggs, buttermilk, warm water, safflower oil (I used sunflower oil) and vanilla are mixed together, poured in the cupcake or cake pans and baked.
   The frosting is more labor-intensive than the cake.
   Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar), cocoa powder and salt are mixed together.
   Cream cheese and butter are beaten together, and the cocoa powder mixture added and beaten in. Melted bittersweet chocolate, then crème fraiche or sour cream, are poured in and mixed.
   Frost those cooled cupcakes or cake, and watch “One-Bowl Chocolate Cake” become “Gone in Five Minutes Chocolate Cake or Cupcakes.”

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Perfect Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce
is pretty darn good

Martha Stewart Living calls the spaghetti recipe I’m writing about “perfect.”
   I don’t know about perfect, simply because the possibility of a better recipe for any dish always exists somewhere else in the world.
   But there’s no denying Perfect Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce is pretty darn good.
   Very good, in fact, and that’s why my husband and I have made it many, many times.
   The recipe’s ingredient list is simple, another thing I like about it. No frills, no fuss, just a good dish of pasta.
   No fuss, that is, if you skip the step of blanching fresh tomatoes for the sauce.
   The recipe says you can use a 28-ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes for the sauce instead, and this is what my husband and I have always done. The tomatoes are passed through a food mill (or put ‘em in the blender!) before being added to browned garlic and red pepper flakes for the sauce.
   Though the recipe calls for fresh basil or parsley, we find parsley creates the best taste.
   The recipe directs to cook the boiled spaghetti and sauce together for about three to four minutes in a sauté pan.
   Be warned: You need a big pan! We have a large pan with high sides, and this works well.
   While the spaghetti is boiling, sliced garlic and crushed red-pepper flakes are cooked in the pan. The tomatoes are added and the sauce thickened.
   The drained spaghetti is added and tossed with the sauce. The two are cooked together for a few minutes, and the basil or parsley stirred in.
   The spaghetti is served with optional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top – I recommend it.
   The result is (nearly) perfection.

The best pasta dish I've ever made is Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage & Tomatoes

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