Owl Snack

I got this idea from one of Henry's children magazines.  He requested it for breakfast and I gladly obliged.  I love snacks that are healthy and it is cute too!

Owl Snack:
click here for printable version
1/2 of an english muffin

peanut butter
2 slices banana
2 raisins
1 piece of cheddar cheese, cut into a triangle
6 cheerios

Toast the english muffin, spread peanut butter on top and decorate your owl!

Chicken Pot Pie

I decided to try and make this from scratch last year, and am so glad that I discovered it.  It is a great Sunday dinner.  I do take the time to make my own crust because I think it is much better than store bought.  I wish my kids had liked this more, after I slaved away in the kitchen, I hope they will appreciate it more when they are older!

Chicken Pot Pie:
adapted from Joy of Cooking
click here for printable version

1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken stock
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sherry (optional)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
several drops lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
dash nutmeg
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
3/4 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, or 3 teaspoons dried

Flaky Pastry Dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening 
1 stick butter

Place the chicken breasts in a large pot and add the chicken stock.
Bring to a boil and cook on medium high for 10-12 minutes, covered.
Remove the chicken and, when cooled, shred into pieces.  Pour the chicken broth into a glass measuring cup, save 2 cups.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  
Add 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth.
Whisk in the whole milk.
Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking until it is thick and coats a spoon.
Add the shredded chicken and sherry.
Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and nutmeg.  
Remove from heat.

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the shortening and butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture.  Cut the fat into the dry ingredients, until the fat is in pea-sized amounts.  The mixture should seem dry and powdery and not pasty or greasy.  Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water plus 1 tablespoon over the mixture.
Mix using a rubber spatula.  Press dough together until it is combined and form into a disc.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3o minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter, or spray with non-stick spray, a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add the onion, carrots and celery.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Stir the vegetables along with the peas and parsley into the creamed chicken mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to fit your baking pan.  Place dough on top of mixture and brush with a beaten egg.

Bake for 35 minutes, until browned and bubbly.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken with Red Wine and Tarragon with Herb Noodles

We really like this meal.  I don't know why tarragon isn't used in more recipes because it is a very tasty herb!  I usually chop the mushrooms because then my kids don't know they are there, but it tastes great either way.
Chicken with Red Wine and Tarragon with Herb Noodles:
adapted from Rachael Ray
click here to print

1 1/2-2 # boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, sliced or chopped
4 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves chopped, about 2 tablespoons
1 1/3 cups red wine, we usually use Merlot
1-15 ounce can crushed tomatoes

3/4 pound egg noodles
2 tablespoons butter
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves chopped, about 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, for the noodles.
Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown the chicken in the oil for about 3 minutes per side.  Remove chicken to a plate.
Return the pan to the stove and reduce heat to medium.  Add the butter, shallots, carrots and mushrooms. Saute 7 minutes until the mushrooms darken and the carrots are fork tender.
Add the sugar, tarragon and parsley, stir.
Add the wine and reduce liquid for 6 minutes.  

Add the tomatoes and stir.  Add the chicken back into the pan and simmer in sauce for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles until just tender.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Toss with butter, tarragon, parsely and salt and pepper.
Serve the chicken with the egg noodles.

Ciabatta Bread

I have to admit, I am proud of my results in making this bread.  I have mentioned before my lack of confidence in breadmaking.  Nothing is better on a cold day than a bowl of homemade soup and freshly baked bread.  That is why I am going to try to make much more of it this winter.   I have always wanted to make ciabatta, but was intimidated.  I figured homemade had to be better than Kroger's version!  I couldn't believe it actually worked, not to mention it was really good.  It does not involve a lot of labor, but does take a lot of time.  If you have a free day you should try it!

Ciabatta Bread:
borrowed from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
click here for printable version

2 1/4 pounds (about 7 cups) flour
3 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons coarse salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or just a bowl if you don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer) mix together flour, water and yeast.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until the  mixture is tripled in size, about 2 hours.
Add the salt.  Attach the bowl to a mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on low speed for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed.  When the dough begins to climb the sides raise the speed to medium and beat for 15 seconds.  The dough will be very wet, slack and sticky.
Using a bowl scraper, turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface.

The dough will be really hard to handle but resist the urge to flour the top.  Fold the dough in the following manner:  With the bowl scraper, gather and fold the bottom edge of the dough about one-third of the way toward the center.  Pat down lightly to deflate.  Fold the top edge down one-third of the way toward the center; the two folds should overlap slightly.    Repeat with the left and right sides, until all the edges meet and overlap in the center.  Tap off excess flour.  Gently scoop up the dough and flip it over, seam side down in a well-floured bowl, smooth side up.  I found this difficult to do and my dough just ended up in a pile in the bowl, but it didn't seem to hurt anything.  
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Turn out the dough onto a well-floured counter and pat it out into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle.  Divide the dough into two 16 by 6 inch rectangles.  Sprinkle a wooden cutting board with cornmeal.  Transfer the dough to the cutting board.  Lightly dust the tops with flour and drape with plastic wrap.  Let dough rest until slightly puffed, 20-25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Put loaves on a baking sheet and bake until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped, about 40 minutes.   

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

This is not my recipe, BUT it is, hands down, the best tomato soup I have ever had. I have made it twice and am regretting buying six cans of condensed tomato soup.  I wish I had had more time to plate it in a nicer way.  I literally got home from soccer practice put my soup in a bowl, took a picture, ate it and ran to a meeting.  I think the next time I make it, I will get a better picture and replace this one.  This recipe calls for heavy cream, I found that after blending the soup you really didn't need the cream.  You could still add the it though, to make it even better.   I strongly encourage you to try this one, you'll never buy Campbell's again!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup:
borrowed from Wives with Knives
click here for printable version

3 # fresh tomatoes, cut in half 
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put tomatoes, olive, garlic and salt in a bowl and mix.  Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet, bake for 45 minutes.

In a large stockpot heat two tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onions and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes.  Add the bay leaves, thyme, basil and chicken stock.  Add the tomatoes, and any liquid from roasting. 
Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves.  Blend with an immersion blender or let the soup cool a little and blend in a food processor or blender.  
Add the cream, if desired.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

I had grand plans for these little cupcakes.  The boys and I were going to decorate them together and make cute spiders, ghosts, skeletons and Frankenstein's.  Let's just say it didn't quite work out like I had hoped.  This was the best we did!  But these cupcakes do taste really good, which is the most important thing in my book!  They are a yummy combination of chocolate and pumpkin with buttercream frosting.  I did make some chocolate buttercream frosting, to show off the ghosts, but I think they taste better with white.  

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes:
adapted from verybestbaking.com
click here for printable version

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
Microwave 1 cup of chocolate chips, for 1 minute.  Stir and, if necessary, microwave an additional 10 seconds.
Combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, milk, and eggs, beat until smooth.  Add melted chocolate, flour, baking soda and salt.  When mixed thoroughly add additional 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Mix well.
Spoon into muffin cups.
Bake for 22-27 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  

Buttercream Frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
milk (if needed)

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until combined.  Add milk if needed to thin out frosting.
Frost cupcakes when cooled.

Beef Stew

This one of my favorite dishes to make when it gets cold outside.  I only seem to make it once a year, due to the time involved and the calories!  It is worth it though!

Beef Stew:
adapted from Something Old & Something New
click here for printable version

3# beef chuck, cubed
1/3 cup flour
1/4 vegetable oil
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup celery leaves
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons Worcestershire 
1 quart hot water
1 pound sliced carrots
2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper
hot sauce

Place cubed chuck in a large bowl and season well with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
Sprinkle flour to coat the meat.  In a 7 quart pot (cast iron Dutch oven, if you have one), heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and brown on all sides until caramelized.  
Remove the meat and keep warm.
Add the onions, celery, celery leaves, and garlic.  Saute 3-5 minutes.
Return the meat to the pot, blend with veggies, add bay leaf and Worcestershire.  Add hot water, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any drippings.
Add carrots and potatoes, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.
Cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.
Add mushrooms, green onions and parsley, and adjust seasonings ( I usually add a little salt and pepper.)
Cook 5-10 minutes longer.

Pecan Pumpkin Pancakes

Here is another great fall recipe that uses pumpkin!  I love trying it in different recipes; bread, muffins, pancakes, cookies, cupcakes etc.  The pancakes were really good and super simple.  

Pecan Pumpkin Pancakes:
click here for printable version

2 cups Bisquick pancake mix
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg 
dash cloves
1/2 cup chopped or whole pecans

Combine all dry ingredients.  Add the pumpkin,milk, vanilla, eggs and pecans.
Mix well.  Heat butter over medium high heat in a skillet.  Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup and scoop batter out and put in pan.  

Cook until the pancake bubbles and the bottom is browned.

Under Construction

We are trying to change some things on our blog.  It will hopefully be back up tomorrow sometime.  

Grilled Asparagus Spears

This is the only picture I took of the asparagus that Thomas decided to grill.  They were so good!  We have never tried grilling them, but they were excellent and easy.

Grilled Asparagus:
click here for printable version

1 pound asparagus
olive oil
coarse salt
black pepper

Coat asparagus in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for about 2-4 minutes per side or until asparagus begin to look limp.


Pissaladiere is a classic olive, anchovy and caramelized onion Provencal pizza.  We saw this recipe in Cook's Illustrated and decided to be adventurous for our Sunday dinner.  This dish can be served as an appetizer or as the main course.  We really enjoyed it, but we may omit the anchovies next time.  Nicoise olives are recommended for this pizza to be authentic but we used an acceptable substitute, the Kalamata olive.  The crust turned out perfectly even though we don't have a pizza stone.

adapted from Cook's Illustrated
click here for printable version

2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting surface
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
Caramelized Onions:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup nicoise olives, pitted and chopped coarse
8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and chopped coarse
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

In a food processor pulse flour, yeast and salt to combine.  With the machine running, add the oil, then the water, through the feed tube; continue to process until the dough forms a ball, about 15 seconds.  Generously dust the surface with flour, using floured hands transfer the dough (it will be VERY sticky) and knead lightly.  Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Caramelized Onions:
While the dough is rising, heat oil in a skillet on high heat, until shimmering.  Sir in onions, salt and brown sugar and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the water and put in a bowl.

Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
When the dough has doubled, remove and divide into 2 pieces.  Gently pull the dough until it is about 12 inches long.  Put on a piece of parchment paper and gently dimple the surface with your fingers.  Using oiled hands push and flatten until it is a 14 by 8 inch oval.  Brush dough with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup olives, 1 tablespoon chopped anchovies, and 1 teaspoon thyme evenly on dough.  Then evenly scatter half the onions on the top.  

Put tart on parchment paper in a baking sheet and bake for 19 minutes.
While baking, shape and top second tart.  Lift parchment paper and set on cutting board.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers

This is by far my favorite shrimp recipe.  It comes from one our beloved cookbooks and chefs; Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.  The ingredient list is short and we were hesitant the first time we made it.  We thought it couldn't be that great with only a few basic ingredients, we were WRONG!  If you don't have 2 pounds of shrimp you can adjust the ingredients accordingly, I usually eyeball the oil and breadcrumbs anyway.  You can also broil the skewers in the oven, but the charcoal grill is the preferred method of cooking them.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers:
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
click here for printable version

2 pounds medium shrimp (unshelled weight)
3 1 /2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons parsley

Shell and devein the shrimp.  Pat dry and put in a bowl.  Add the oils and the bread crumbs until the shrimp are coated lightly.   Add the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and toss. 

 Let the shrimp steep in their coating for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat the broiler at least 15 minutes before you are ready to cook, or prepare your grill.
Skewer the shrimp tightly and cook briefly, close to the source of heat. 

 Depending on their size and the intensity of the fire, about 2 minutes on one side and 1 1/2 minutes on the other.

Cajun Oven Fries

This is an easy side dish that is a great alternative to french fries.  The seasoning has just the right amount of spiciness without being too much for the kids.  

Cajun Oven Fries:
adapted from Rachael Ray
click here for printable version

4 medium thin-skinned white potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut potatoes in wedges.  In a large bowl, combine oil, hot sauce, thyme, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.  Toss potatoes with the sauce and spread out in a single layer on a non-stick cookie sheet.

Bake for 13 minutes, stir then 13 minutes more.

Panko Chicken Nuggets

This was an idea I saw at Aggie's Kitchen.  The technique she uses to bake the nuggets makes them moist and crunchy.  I did change the recipe a little bit though.  My kids love these because they are chicken nuggets, but I love them because they are much healthier than your typical nugget.  I serve mine with whatever dipping sauce everyone wants i.e. ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, ketchup and even honey.

Panko Chicken Nuggets:
adapted from Aggie's Kitchen
click here for printable version

1.5-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup dijon mustard (can substitute one beaten egg)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place a cooling rack in a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray.
Season the bread crumbs and place in a bowl.  Put mustard (or egg if using) in a bowl.
Dip chicken pieces into mustard then bread crumbs.  I find that if you put the mustard in a large bowl and put all of the chicken in and mix it with your hands it works better than if you individually dip them.  If you dip them they seem to be a little too mustardy.  Place chicken on rack in baking sheet.

Gently spray each nugget with non-stick spray or an olive oil spritzer.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Dip in your favorite sauce.

Work in Progress

I have to apologize for the quality of my pictures.  That last post really showed how bad my camera is.  I would love to get a new one but it will be awhile.  That, along with my presentation, are things I need to work on to improve this blog.  I also plan on getting things organized so that my recipes will be printable.  This will require a little bit of time but it is in the works!  Maybe Santa will help me out and leave this under the tree this year?

Marinade Seche

This marinade comes from one our favorite chefs, Julia Child.  We have been using this recipe for a couple of years and it is foolproof.  This is a basic salt and herb marinade that we use on a pork loin.  Julia Child is very particular in her cooking, therefore she calls for an 1/8 of a teaspoon of ground bay leaf.  I don't take the time to grind one and measure it, I usually break up one leaf and add it to the other spices.  As with all Julia recipes, there are many additional steps to follow if you want to make Roti De Porc Poele.  We save that recipe for a Sunday dinner when we have lots of time and lots of calories to eat!  The marinade alone is easy and makes for a wonderfully juicy, flavorful roast on a weeknight.  Bon Appetit!

Marinade Seche:
adapted from Julia Child
click here for printable version

per pound of pork
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaf
pinch of allspice
1/2 clove minced garlic
pork loin roast

Mix all ingredients together and rub them into the surface of the pork.  Cover and put in refrigerator.  Marinate meat at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.  Turn the meat 2-3 times.

Scrape off the marinade before cooking and dry the meat with paper towels.  You can pan sear the roast in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven.  When finished searing add any veggies (potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, etc) and put in oven, preheated to 350 degrees.  Roast until a meat thermometer reaches 160 degrees (I usually take it out at about 155 and let it come to temperature out of the oven.)

Pumpkin Bread

This bread was so good.  This was the first time I made it, but it is definitely being added to my traditional fall desserts recipes!  It only took about 10 minutes to assemble and was delicious!  It makes a great after-school snack or breakfast. 

Pumpkin Bread:
adapted from Danielle Bean
click here for printable version

3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 beaten eggs
1-15 ounce can pumpkin
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2/3 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin.  Add dry ingredients.  Add 2/3 cup water and mix.  Spray 2 bread pans with non-stick spray and pour batter into pans.

  Bake for 1 hour  or until knife inserted is removed cleanly.