Thursday, September 28, 2006

Still Emptying Out My Freezer!

From Freezer Leftovers to Pizza Extraordinaire!

I didn't feel like cooking a big meal this weekend and knowing how much food I had in the freezer, I decided to create something from freezer stragglers.

What I found:
Homemade pre-baked focaccio
Homemade pesto
Shredded mozzarella
Store bought cooked rotisserie half chicken breast

What does it all add up to? White Pizza with Chicken! What more would I need? I know. Fresh tomato and basil from the garden and olive oil.

White Pizza with Chicken

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Spread pesto on the foccacia and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with shredded mozzarella. Shred chicken and add the pieces on top. Thinly slice the tomato and arrange on top along with a few basil leaves. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt & pepper, a little more olive oil and bake for 10-12 minutes.

This pizza was really tasty and satisfying. I don't normally have chicken on my pizza, but in this case it was a great addition. It gave the pizza more substance and it worked really well with the pesto.

How full is your freezer? Sadly desolate or busting at the seams?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Weeknight Whip-up!

Quick, Easy, Healthy and Cheap Stuffed Peppers

I think we all appreciate recipes that are quick and easy for weeknight dinners. I do. But I also like to make dinners that are healthy, nutritious and inexpensive as well. I made these Stuffed Peppers in about 20 minutes and I used items that are usually in everyone's kitchen.

Stuffed Peppers
Makes 4 Medium Peppers

4 Medium Peppers (I used Green Peppers, but you can use whatever color you like or even tomatoes*)
2 T Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
1 Shallot (You can substitute 1 small onion if you prefer)
2 Cloves of Garlic (I used 1 tsp. of the pre-chopped)
1/4 lb. Ground Turkey (I used breast which is 99% fat free, but you can the dark meat if you prefer)
1 package of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice (I used brown rice because it is more nutritious than white)
1/4 cup Chopped Fresh Parsley (You can substitute dried, just use alot less)
1 T Chopped Fresh Basil (You can substitute dried, just use alot less)
1 T Garlic Powder
2 T Pesto (If you don't have pesto on hand, you can just add more Basil )
1 8 oz. can of Tomato Sauce, Divided (I used Hunt's Roasted Garlic)
Pinch of Cheyanne Pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse peppers, cut of tops and remove seeds and ribs. Fill a baking dish with a little water, place peppers inside, cover and microwave on high for about 7 minutes or until peppers are tender but still holding their shape.

Dry out baking dish and peppers. Add a small amount of tomato sauce to the bottom of the baking dish, place peppers ontop and set aside.

Cook the rice package according to directions, but for only 75 seconds. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, add 2 T oil and saute the shallot and garlic until fragrant. Add the ground turkey and break it up into small pieces while it cooks. Add in the parsley, basil, salt, pepper, cheyanne, garlic powder, pesto and mix well.

Mix in the rice. Add in the tomato sauce, reserving a small amount in the can and mix until well blended. Mix in the cheese.

Stuff the peppers with the mixture and top with the remaining sauce. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Drizzle the top of the peppers with olive oil and serve immediately.

*For Stuffed Tomato ...Just cut off the top, core and hollow out most of the pulp and seeds, leaving enough to keep the tomato firm. There is no need to pre-cook the tomato, just add in the turkey mixture and bake!

What is your favorite quick and easy weeknight dinner?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Breakfast for Dinner!

French Toast Always Hits The Spot!

It's just you tonight and you can't think of what to have for dinner. No problem, just make a classic- French Toast. It's easy and cheap to make. All you need is 5 minutes, a few eggs, bread, milk, butter and for me a little bit of Cinnamon, Sugar and Maple Syrup are a must!

This is not really a recipe-just a way to a means:
Serves One

A couple slices of Bread, (I used 2 slices of Italian loaf, but you can use whatever you have in the house)
1 Egg and 1 Egg White (I usually use this ratio for 2 slices of bread, plus eliminating the egg yolk cuts alot of the extra fat out)
About a tablespoon of Milk
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
1 Tablespoon of Butter or Margarine, Plus more for topping
Maple Syrup

Heat the butter in a skillet until foamy. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl wide enough to fit the bread slice. Add in all remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Place the bread inside the bowl and allow the bread to absorb the egg mixture. Flip the bread to soak the other side.

Place in the skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides, or until middle is set.
Serve with Maple syrup and extra butter or margarine.

What is your favorite breakfast for dinner food?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tuesday Trivia

Did You KnowI recently read something interesting in the Parade Magazine. There is a column called AskMarilyn. According to Parade Magazine, Marilyn is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame for "Higest IQ". Pretty impressive!

People write to her with various and sometimes unusual questions. A few weeks ago someone asked why food tastes a little different when eaten with the opposite hand than the one usually used.

This was her answer:
Taste receptors are arrayed symmetrically, with certain areas sensitive to sweet and salty flavors while others are tuned to sour and bitter flavors. When you use your favored hand to place food inside your mouth-especially with a utensil such as a fork or spoon- you do it the same way again and again. But if you use your other hand, the food arrives from an unfamiliar angle and traverses a somewhat different path of taste buds. The change is unimportant but noticeable.

Of course I had to try it myself and Yup it is true. I usually eat with my right hand and when I tried eating cereal with my left hand, the cereal tasted a little saltier. Pretty cool.

Give it a try and let me know if you notice a difference!

Product Review...the good, the bad and the ugly!

They're GOOD!

I had never even heard of Caribou Coffee before, but I was cutting coupons one day and came across one for these. They sounded good to me; "RICH, CHEWY GRANOLA BARS DIPPED IN A CREAMY COATING MADE WITH CARIBOU COFFEE"- I WAS SOLD!

I love granola bars. I often eat them for a snack or dessert. Some of my favorites are: Nature Valley Fruit & Nut, Sweet & Salty Nut(Peanut) and the Peanut Butter and Oats'N Honey Crunchy Bars. Now that I have tried the Caribou Coffee bars they will definately be in the mix.

If you like chewy granola bars and you like coffee, you'll love these babies! Geez, I sound like one of those 'knock off' perfume commercials. But seriously, try them, I give 'em 2 thumbs up!!

How often do you eat granola bars?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pot Roast- Italian Style!

My Very First Pot Roast!

Since this was the first time I ever attempted to make pot roast, I was realy nervous about it! I have to be truthful and tell you I did screw up a little, but in the end it was fabulous!

Part of the screw up has to do with my electric stovetop, which I loathe. OK, now that I got that off my chest, let me tell you what happened.

We all know that when searing a piece of meat, the pan must be very hot in order to create that golden brown crust. Well, my pan was hot alright, so hot that it blackened the meat and smoked my whole house out. I tried to turn the heat down, but it took too long for it to cool down, the damage was done.

The second mistake I made was to follow the recipe to closely. It said to sear the meat on all sides for a total cooking time of about 15 minutes. Well, knowing how hot the pan was, I should have turned the meat much quicker on each side to avoid burning it.

The third mistake I made was to scrape up the brown bits (in my case burnt bits) as I added the liquid. I should have realized that the blackened bits would not melt into the liquid, but just make it taste burnt.

Even after all of these blunders, I continued on with the recipe and hoped for the best. I had reservations about the temperature and cooking time in this recipe after reading several others which recommended lower temps and longer cooking times. My good judgement told me to compromise and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees to start and cooked the meat for around 3 hours. Being such a novice, I decided to break off a piece to taste. I wasn't impressed. The meat was stringy and tasted burned. I was so disappointed. I decided I could live with the burned flavor, since it reminded me of a charcoaled steak, but it had to be more tender. So back into the oven it went. I lowered the oven temp to 225 and left it in for another hour.

Once the meat cooled, I refrigerated it and tried to forget about the disaster. The next day I reheated the roast at 225 degrees for another 3 hours. That did the trick! I also strained the liquid through a sive to get rid of all the burnt bits. What a difference. The meat just fell apart as I tried to cut slices. It was delicious!!!!!!

Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 25 minutes (My total cooking time was around 7 hours)
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
User Rating:5 Stars

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast (I used bottom round roast)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced (I used 2 shallots)
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (I just crushed mine)
1 cup dry red wine
1 3/4 cups canned beef broth
1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms (I rinsed mine and rehydrated them in the beef broth. Bring the broth to a boil and take off the heat, add the mushrooms, cover and let sit for 15 minutes)
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish (I used 5 sprigs of tyme, plus extra for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (I Started out at 300 degrees and lowered the temp to 225 after 3 hours) Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy 6-quart roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total cooking time. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Add remaining tablespoon oil to the pan, add the onions and saute until tender, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the wine and boil 1 minute. Stir in the broth and mushrooms. Return the beef to the pan. Bring the liquids to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Braise until the beef is fork-tender, turning the beef over halfway through cooking, about 3 hours. (The first day I cooked it for a total of about 4 hours. The next day I reheated it for another 3 hours at 225 degrees.)
Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Tent the beef with foil and let stand 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. Transfer the pan juices and vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. (I didn't do this step. I picked out the tyme stems and took out the mushrooms, then strained the liquid.) Combine the sauce and rosemary sprig in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. (At this point, I added 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of cold water and cooked for another 2 minutes to thicken the gravy.) Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper. Cut the beef across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the sliced beef on a platter and garnish with rosemary. Spoon the sauce over and serve, passing the remaining sauce in a sauce boat.
Well, I did it. I survived my first pot roast and ended up loving it! I've been eating it everynight and it heats up nicely in the microwave, in the gravy on low, low heat!!

What was the worst cooking disater you ever survived?

It's Apple Pie time!!

My Inspiration For Making This Pie?
Macintosh Apples for 25 cents/lb.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it was true. The grocery store was celebrating it's 25th Anniversary and was offering things all weeklong for 25 cents. It was a deal I just couldn't pass up. So I bought almost 4 lbs. of apples and set off on a mission to make the best apple pie.

Actually, it is officially my first apple pie. I have made apple crisp and apple cobbler many times, but never a pie with a crust. One of the reasons is due to time and the other is due to fat. Everyone knows that a good crust is made with either butter, crisco or lard. So I have always hestitated to make one, because I figured it would never come out as good if I substitued with low-fat margarine.

I decided to try a crust that was a little different from the norm, by Cook's Illustrated. It is really not meant to be a crust for an Apple Pie. It is supposed to be a pie shell that is pre-baked and ready to fill, but it sounded easy to make so I went for it. I made some changes and ran into some potential disaters along the way, but in the end with a little surgery it turned out great. Actually someone who tried the pie, said it was the BEST CRUST they ever tasted. Not bad for my first try!

Apple Pie

8-10 Macintoch Apples
Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons Tapioca
1/3 cup Sugar or more depending on sweetness of your apples, plus 1 tablespoon for top of crust
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 tablespoon Milk, set aside in small bowl
Double recipe of "No Fear Pie Crust"

Squeeze lemon juice into a large bowl. Peel, slice and core apples, dropping them into the bowl with the lemon juice. Add tapioca, 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg. Mix well and let stand 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour apple mixture into prepared pie crust and cover with top crust. Seal and crimp edges. Brush the top of the pie crust with milk and sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar.

Place pie on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown and the juices are slowly bubbling.

Cook's Illustrated "No-Fear Pie Crust"
Makes one 9-inch Pie Shell
*Double the recipe for pie shell and pie top crust

The pastry can be pressed into the pie plate and refrigerated for up to 2 days or double-wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. Once baked and cooled, the shell can be wrapped tightly in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

1 1/4 Flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4 teaspooon Table Salt
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (1 stick), softened but still cool (I used Smart Balance Buttery Spread which has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon compared to 7 grams for butter)
2 ounces Cream Cheese, softened but still cool ( I used low-fat Neufchatel-which has 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese)

1. Lightly coat 9-inch Pyrex pie plate with cooking spray. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl.

2. With electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl, stopping once or twice to scrape down beater and sides of bowl, until completely homogenous, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and combine on medium-low until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 20 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until dough begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Reserve 3 tablespoons of dough. Turn remaining dough onto lightly floured surface, gather into ball, and flatten into 6-inch disk. Transfer disk to greased pie plate.*

3. Press dough evenly over bottom of pie plate toward sides, using heel of your hand. Hold plate up to light to ensure that dough is evenly distributed. With your fingertips, continue to work dough over bottom of plate and up sides until evenly distributed.

4. On floured surface, roll reserved dough into 12-inch rope. Divide into three pieces, roll each piece into 8-inch rope, and form fluted edge** (see website for photos 1 through 4). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly prick bottom of crust with fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes*. Cool on wire rack. (If large bubbles form, wait until crust is fully baked, then gently press on bubbles with kitchen towel. Bubbles will settle as crust cools.)

* If making pie shell and top crust, split the dough into 2 equal portions. Continue directions for shell and pre-bake for about 25 minutes, until very light brown. For top crust- refrigerate crust and after at least one hour, roll dough out in between two pieces of waxed paper to at least 12" in diameter. Peel off top piece of waxed paper and cut 5 slits in center of crust. Carefully place on top of apples in prepared pie shell.

** This step is fine if you are using this crust just as a shell for another type of filling, but for this apple pie just flatten sides all the way to the top of the pie plate. I followed the directions and the crust shrank. The fluted edge was way to low down for the pie. I would suggest putting some weights, such as dried beans in foil in the crust as it cooks to keep it from shrinking and bubbling up in the center.

What is Your Favorite Type of Apple Dessert? Apple Crisp, Apple Cobbler, Apple Pie, or Other?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Product Review...the good, the bad and the ugly!

Campbell's® Healthy Request® Quick Chicken & Pasta Primavera
The Verdict: Not bad.

I am a big fan of quick and easy to prepare meals on weeknights. I normally wouldn't buy campbell's condensed soups to make a meal because the high amount of sodium in them. So when I heard about the Healthy Request line, I was curious but a little sceptical. I finally broke down and bought some Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup.

My first reaction upon opening the can was ewwwww!
It smelled kind of weird, like chemicals. I thought it was going to be really bad, but in the end it turned out O.K. I would however, suggest topping it off with some fresh chopped parsley to add a little bit of freshness. Plus, a fresh salad on the side to balance everything out.
I used the recipe on the back of the can.

Campbell's® Healthy Request® Chicken & Pasta Primavera
From: Campbell's Kitchen
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

1 can Campbell's® Healthy Request® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk (I used Simply Smart Fat-Free
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen vegetable combination; broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (I used leftover roasted veggies)
2 cups cubed cooked chicken (I used leftover rotisserie chicken breast)
4 cups hot cooked spaghetti, cooked without salt (I used whole wheat penne)

MIX soup, milk, cheese, garlic powder and vegetables in saucepan. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 10 min. or until tender-crisp.
ADD chicken and heat through. Serve over spaghetti.

Nutrition Information
Calories 461, Total Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 3g, Cholesterol 68mg, Sodium 474mg, Total Carbohydrate 63g, Dietary Fiber 8g, Protein 35g, Vitamin A 117%DV, Vitamin C 20%DV, Calcium 20%DV, Iron 21%DV

So, yes there is still quite a bit of sodium in each serving, but much less than the original cream of mushroom condensed soup. Once in a while, I think it's fine, but I would'nt eat this too often. I'm going to try to stick to the fresh stuff unless I have no time!

How often do you use condensed soup in your recipes?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More Cup Cakes...If At First You Don't Succeed...

Try, Try Again!

If you read my post on the Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting and Lemon Glaze, than you know how disappointed I was in the final product-(due to the funky canola oil). Well, in the spirit of determination and still trying to clean out my pantry closet, I made more cup cakes using another boxed cake mix.

I haven't been to the grocery store to purchase more oil yet, so I ended up using applesauce in place of the oil. What a difference! These Cupcakes were absolutely delicious (if I do say so myself).

I used Duncan Hines Marble Cake Mix.
In my recipe, I replaced 1/3 cup of oil with 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. Instead of 3 eggs, I used one egg and two egg whites. I also added a little more than a Tablespoon of fat-free buttermilk and a 1/2 cup of Butterscotch Chips to the mix.

The Cupcakes seemed to be going a low-fat direction, that is until I added the Butterscotch Chips and the frosting.

I don't normally use Butterscotch Chips too often, but I had a bag and figured I would try something a little different. I am so glad I did. What a great combination. I never thought I liked Butterscotch Chips too much, but I guess I was wrong because they made the difference in these Cupcakes. They went from ordinary to extraordinary.

Once the Cupakes were baked and cooled I had to decide on a frosting. So I tasted a plain cup cake and immediately knew I had to make a frosting with the Butterscotch Chips.

This what I came up with:

Butterscotch Frosting

1/2 cup of Butterscotch Chips
1/4 cup of Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1 Tablespoon of Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/2 cups Powered Sugar, plus more if needed

Melt the Butterscotch Chips in the microwave in a medium microwave safe bowl on 70% for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the spread, and 1/3 of the sugar. Add 1 teaspoon of milk and more sugar. Mix in the rest of the milk and sugar and stir in the vanilla. Stir until you get the perfect consistency, adding more sugar if necessary.

Spread over the Cupcakes and sprinkle the top with Chocolate Shavings.

Do You Use Butterscotch Chips often in baking cakes, cookies, brownies, etc.?

Lactose-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Just as yummy as the original!

I made these cookies about a month ago and forgot to post them. They are pretty much a basic cookie recipe just altered a bit to cater to people with a sensitivity to lactose and/or whey.

It was my sister's birthday in August and I made a large batch of Dark Chocolate M & M Cookies for her. I found the recipe at Culinary in the Country. I reserved about a third of the dough, (excluding the Dark Chocolate M & M's) to make these for my brother-in-law who is lactose intolerant.

The reason I forgot to post is that I froze them after baking and forgot all about taking them out on the day of her birthday. So I guess you can say I found a nice treat for myself in the freezer!
I love it when that happens :)

Here is the recipe with the changes I made:

Lactose-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup Fleischmann's unsalted margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Sam's Club Chocolate Chips (they contain no milk derivitives)

In a small saucepan, melt margarine over medium-low until it smells very nutty and gets a light golden color. Let cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together melted margarine and sugars. Beat in vanilla, egg and egg yolk until the color lightens and is thoroughly mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Pour dry mixture into the wet and use a large wooden spoon to stir together just until combined. Fold in the Chocolate Chips. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 325

Scoop out dough using a 1/4 cup measure and place on parchment lined baking sheets. These spread a little so I only placed 6 per baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through. The edges should be slightly golden with the center being puffy and a little undercooked. Remove and let cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes. Carefully place each cookie on a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 18-20 large cookies

How Often Do You Make Cookies From Scratch?

Monday, September 11, 2006

So Close But Yet So Far...

These Cupcakes Could Have Been Great!

I decided to clean out my pantry closet and use some of the boxed cake and muffin mixes that have been accumulating. This one was Betty Crocker Lemon Cake.

For some reason it triggered a memory of Chocolate Lemonaire Doughnuts. I used to eat them every now and then at Dunkin Donuts and they were one of my favorites. It is a doughnut filled with lemon custard and frosted with chocolate glaze. I immediately knew this would be my inspiration for the Lemon Cake mix.

Since I had buttermilk in the fridge, I wanted to try using it in the cake mix for something a little different. I looked on the Betty Crocker website for a recipe using buttermilk and found one for Lemon Cake With Raspberry Mouse. It sounded great but I wanted to go with the Chocolate Lemon combo, so I adapted it to what I had on hand.

So I know your wondering why the cupcakes "COULD" HAVE BEEN GREAT. Well, I think the canola oil I used was starting to go bad. It had a strong smell when I was measuring it, but I just thought I was imagining it. The final product was perfect other than the funky after taste of oil. The cake came out very moist and rose to perfection. The frosting was awesome. Doesn't it figure?

I will make this recipe again when I get some new oil! So try it, it will be awesome if you use fresh oil.

Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting and Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Betty Crocker Lemon Cake with Rapsberry Mouse

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® lemon cake mix
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 eggs

1 . Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans with shortening or cooking spray.
2 . In large bowl, beat cake mix, buttermilk, oil, lemon peel and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pans.
3 . Bake Cupcakes 16 to 21 minutes, 8-inch rounds 33 to 38 minutes, 9-inch rounds 28 to 33 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around side of pans to loosen cakes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
4. Frost with "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting and drizzle with Lemon Glaze.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft):
Heat oven to 375°F. Use 9-inch pans. Stir 1 tablespoon Gold Medal® all-purpose flour into dry cake mix. Decrease oil to 2 tablespoons. Bake 27 to 32 minutes.


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread)
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter (I just let the spread come to room temperature). Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Lemon Glaze

Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
Confectioners Sugar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, adding small amounts of confectioners sugar until desired consistency.

Have you ever heard of Chocolate Lemonaire Donuts? Do you like Chocolate and Lemon together?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Five Foods You Should Eat Before You Die!

I was recently tagged by Teddy from Fun With Your Food and Sara from i like to cook to participate in the Foodbloggers Guide to the Globe started by Melissa at The Traveler's Lunchbox.

It is to list 5 Things You've Eaten and Think that Everyone Should Eat
at least Once Before They Die.
I have actually been thinking about my response for days.

So here it goes:

1. Pizza. I think most of us have already tried pizza at least once in our lives but if there is anyone out there who has'nt, what are you waiting for? Start with the basic tomato sauce base, and top with cheese. Or my favorite: White Pizza with Spinach and Olives. The simplier, the better. And oh yeah, get it well done!

2. Dark chocolate. I can't live without it. I love all chocolate, but dark is my favorite and now that we know about the health benefits, I think everyone should be eating it daily!

3. Italian Antipasto. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down with family and/or friends picking at an assortment of some of the best appetizers around. I'm talking about CHEESE-Parmigiano Reggiano, Fontina, Asiago, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, Mozzarella...I could go on but I'll stop here. Plus all types of Italian Cold Cuts-Prosciutto, Mortadella, Cappicola, Salami, Pepperoni, Soppresetta and more. Marianted Vegetables Galore-from all kinds of Olives, Peppers, Eggplant, Artichokes, Stuffed Tomatoes, and more.

4. Fresh Crusty Bread. You can't have an Antipasto or any respectable dinner for that matter without it. Whether it's a fresh Italian Loaf cut into thick slices, or even a French Baguette, either one will do. I could eat them just as they are, just tear off a piece and enjoy! The possibilies are endless...Must haves are: Crostini and Bruschetta with an array of different toppings or Garlic Bread(yum).

5. Cookies. This was a tough decision. I could have went with so many other choices: Ice Cream, Eggs, Belgian Waffles, Grilled Cheese, Chicken Parmigiano, just to name a few of my fav's. But I had to go with cookies because I'm a big fan of the crunch and the chew. Cookies always satisfy those two requirements. I go with Biscotti when I'm looking for a crunchy snack, and nothing goes better with Coffee, especially Cappuccino or even Tea better than Biscotti. When I'm craving something with a little bit of chewiness, I go with either Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. But I have to say, I have'nt met a cookie I did'nt like!

Now it's your turn...

Jen at Casual Slack
Paula from The Cookbook Junkie
Doodles from Peanut Butter Etouffee
Cate from Sweetnicks
Kim from Artfully Yours

Monday, September 04, 2006

Layered Peach & Ricotta Squares

A Peachy Spin on Tiramisu!

What inspired me to create this dessert? I had peaches and ricotta in the fridge and wanted to use them up before they went bad. What can I say, my frugal side often prompts me to come up with great ideas.

I searched the internet for desserts using these two ingredients and did'nt find many. I found some great recipes for one or the other that I saved, but nothing great using both together.
Layered Peach Sqares
from the Magazine of La Cucina Italiana was the recipe that finally inspired me. It did'nt use any cheese, just layers of peaches, chocolate and lady fingers brushed with Maraschino Liqueur. Since I love Amaretto, I used that, instead.

The original recipe also had an interesting sauce that I did'nt make, but I would have, if I had the ingredients on hand. I will include it in case you would like to try it.

Layered Peach & Ricotta Squares
Adapted from the Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, July/Aug. 2004

2 T butter, plus extra
4 Peaches, ripe but still firm, pitted and thinly sliced
2 T sugar
2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
28 Lady Fingers
3 T Amaretto, divided
16 ounces Part-skim Ricotta
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Zest of one Lemon

In a skillet over medium heat, add the butter and peaches, and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar and 1 tablespoon of Amaretto, saute for another 2 minutes, and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl mix the ricotta, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Set aside.

Line an 8 inch square baking dish with a piece of buttered parchment paper. Layer the bottom with half of the peaches and sprinkle with a third of the chocolate. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the peaches. Arrange 14 Lady Fingers on top, trimming the ends of the cookies if necessary to fill up any space.

In a bowl, dilute 2 tablespoons of Amaretto with 1 tablespoon of water and brush onto the cookie layer.

Add another layer of peaches, sprinkle with half of the remaining chocolate and the rest of the ricotta mixture. Finish with a layer of remaining Lady Fingers and moisten with the Amaretto. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Tip the cake onto a serving plate, peel off parchment paper, sprinkle with remaining chocolate or and slice the cake into equal parts using a serated knife. Serves 12.

Amaretto Caramel Sauce
Original Topping in recipe

3 Amaretto cookies
2 T rum
4 T pre-made caramel, divided

In a food processor combine the cookies, rum and caramel. Process to the consistency of a smooth sauce. Spoon on the side of each slice of cake.

My peaches were still a little crunchy after sauting them. I think I would cook them a little longer if I made it again. Of course it depends on the ripeness of the fruit too. Lately the peaches and nectarines that I've bought have'nt been all that ripe. I hate it when that happens.

How has the fruit in your area been this summer?
What is the best way to ripen a peach?


I got a new knife!

I know what you're thinking. PINK? I know, but I did'nt buy it for the color. And don't let the color fool you. It's very sharp.

I can finally cut raw meat (in my case, mostly chicken) with ease. I don't know what took me so long to buy a sharp knife. I have been struggling for years, trying to trim fat, cut thin slices of meat, filet and butterfly. I guess I just thought it was supposed to be difficult. But now it's so easy. Actually almost too easy. The first time I used it, I nearly cut my finger off. The knife just cut so easily through my skin, I did'nt even feel it.

It is a Pure-Komachi... It's high carbon stainless steel and made in Japan. I paid $24.99
at a specialty cutlery shop. You can also order online from their website. So why did I choose this one? I just asked the shop owner for the cheapest, but sharpest knife available.

All I can say is I'm happy with it. So what if it's pink. Actually, it's kind of growing on me.