Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Finally Perfect Chicken!

Lately chicken has not been my friend. I have had some problems with getting tender and juicy chicken in certain recipes. But being the trooper that I am, I tried and tried again until I succeeded. This recipe was just what I needed for an ego boost. It was fantastic!


Recipe by Linda Miranda, a frequent prizewinner in recipe contests

4 whole chicken breasts w/skin, pounded (I used skinless breast halves, butterflied and pounded to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness)
4 thin slices prosciutto ham (I used thin slices low sodium deli ham)
4 thin slices fontina cheese (I used about 4 ounces of gorgonzola)
8 fresh sage leaves (or 1 teaspoon dry sage, I used this)
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used low sodium chicken broth)
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup (1/2 stick butter), cut into small pieces (I only used 2 tablespoons here-4 tablespoons total, see my addition below)
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
My addition: 2 tablespoons of herbed butter (Just mix softened butter with your choice of fresh herbs, I used parsley, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
~Put each breast skin side down and cover with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Place 2 sage leaves or dried sage over each and roll up breasts.
~Place in a lightly buttered or sprayed 8x8x2 baking dish, seam side down. Add 2 tablespoons of the chicken stock. (Since I used skinless chicken breast I spread about 1/2 tablespoon of herbed butter over the top of each breast).
~Bake 35-45 minutes or until cooked through. (Half way through the cooking time, I basted the chicken with the broth and butter in the baking dish.) Remove chicken from dish, cover and keep warm.
~Pour drippings into a saucepan and add remaining chicken stock and the wine. (I added the wine to the dripping in the baking sheet and scraped up the brown bits, then added it to the saucepan.) Cook over medium heat until reduced by half.
~Lower heat and whisk in butter a little at a time. Add cornstarch, salt and pepper. Cook until thickened.
~Serve chicken topped with Marsala sauce. Serves 4.

Even with the reduced butter in the Marsala sauce, this dish was very rich and tasty. It was very easy to make and even easier to eat! I hope you try it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vegetable Soup...Good For You, Right???

Not always. But the Mixed Salad Annie version is!

This recipe is another from my favorite TV chef, Giada DiLaurentiis. I was a little disappointed with her this time though, since the sodium content in this soup is through the roof! The original recipe calls for 10 cups of vegetable broth. Assuming she is using canned broth, the sodium content in one cup is around 950 milligrams. Too much for me or anyone who wants to live another 10 minutes.

All is not lost. I revised the recipe by diluting the broth with water and adding in a few more herbs and flavorings. It was still very good. Very tasty. The trick is to make it a day ahead, so that the flavors have a chance to develop and meld.

By the way, this was my first time using LEEKS. The verdict: I'm a big fan. No nasty onion smell in the house and a sweet mellow flavor!! Two thumbs up!

Healthier Italian Vegetable Soup

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 zucchini, peeled leaving stripes and thinly sliced crosswise
2 (13 3/4-ounce) cans quartered artichoke hearts packed in water, rinsed & drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cans vegetable broth
6 1/4 cups water
6-7 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 ounces dried wide egg noodles
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and artichokes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Saute until the zucchini are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and water. Stir in the thyme and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Cover the pot and bring the soup to a simmer. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the flavors develop, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
At this point I stopped the cooking, let the soup cool, refrigerated right in the same pot until ready to use the next day.
Reheat the soup on medium heat until it reaches a slow simmer then increase the heat to medium-high. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Monday, February 19, 2007

My Second Pot Roast...

A few changes to my first recipe and Yum Again!

My first pot roast was very tasty but I had some troubles. One was with getting the meat, fall apart tender in only three hours. My total cooking time 4 hours the first day and 3 hours the next. The Final Result was delicious but I wanted to cut down the cooking time.

With this goal in mind, I searched the web for the secret to tender pot roast, cooked in only 3 hours or less. I found it!!

The trick is to set your oven to 300º-325º and check the roast after 45 minutes to see if the liquid is slowly bubbling. If not, increase the temperature and check again. The slow bubbling is what breaks down the meat and tenderizes it.

With this new found information and a few different ingredients, including a different cut of beef, I set out to make the perfect roast.

Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms and Potatoes
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

(3-4 pound) boneless beef shoulder roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms (I rinsed mine and rehydrated them in the chicken broth. Bring the broth to a boil and take off the heat, add the mushrooms, cover and let sit for 15 minutes, strain over a coffee filter to catch any grit)
6 large sprigs fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 bay leaf
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-3 inch cubes, keep in cold water until ready to use
1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. 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 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 onion 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 strained broth and mushrooms. Return the beef to the pan. Bring the liquids to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. (I Started out at 300 degrees and checked to see if the liquid was bubbling after 45 minutes- it was very slowly bubbling so I raised the temp to 325).
Braise until the beef is fork-tender, turning the beef over halfway through cooking (1 1/2 hours), about 3 hours total. Add in the potatoes about a 1/2 hour before the roast is done.

(At this point, I let the pot cool and transferred it to the refrigerator.
The next day, I took the pot out of the fridge and while the juice was still cold, I spooned any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. I reheated it on the stove top until boiling then transferred it to the oven for another 45 minutes at 350 degrees.)

Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Tent the beef with foil and let stand 15 minutes. Pick out the thyme stems and bay leaf.

Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and quickly whisk in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of cold water and cook 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 thyme. Spoon the sauce over and serve, passing the remaining sauce in a sauce boat.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Brining Chicken- What a Disaster!

Looks Good- Doesn't It?

Well it was, sort of, if it wasn't so damn salty, that is.
I had heard that brining chicken makes it tender and juicy, so why wouldn't I want to try that?

The only trouble is, I used a recipe that obviously had problems. It was actually for country fried chicken pieces. Since I was using chicken pieces in my recipe I thought it would be OK to start my recipe with some nicely brined chicken. The recipe called for soaking the chicken for 3-4 hours in a solution made up of 1 cup of salt to a quart of water. That's a lot of salt!
But I figured I would try it and boy was it salty. The only thing I can think of is that maybe because my chicken was braised in chicken stock (low sodium) it intensified the salty flavor. Maybe the frying process is different???
Besides the saltiness, the chicken wasn't all that tender or juicy either. I don't know why. I wonder if it is due to the sauting process, because I have a hard time controlling the temperature of my electric stovetop (which I can't say enough that I HATE). All I do know is it was such a disappointment because I think the dish has potential. I will try it again someday with some revisions.

Here's the recipe without brining the chicken:

Skillet Chicken with Mushrooms and Peppers

One 2 1/2 to 3-pound fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 red bell pepper
, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 green pepper
, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 package mushrooms, quartered
Juice of one lemon
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Dredge in flour. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown in the oil, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add the onion, peppers and mushrooms an saute for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chicken broth and lemon juice, return the chicken to the pan, allow the broth to boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the chicken for 45 minutes, adding more broth if necessary to keep the meat from getting dry. (I skimmed off some of the fat from the chicken skin). Stir in the parsley and basil. (Just before serving, I removed the the bones and skin from the chicken).

If you try this recipe with your own modifications and have great results-let me know what your secret is to getting tender and juicy chicken.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cherrio Bars...The possibilities are endless!

I had two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios tucked in the back of my pantry closet and needed to The first recipe I found is from Odense Almond Paste and the original recipe is called Coconut-Almond Crispy Treats. Even though it called for Rice Crispies and the Odense Almond paste, the recipe was great even without them.

Coconut Cheerios Treats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, plus extra for greasing dish and spoon
1/2 Tsp. Almond Extract
1-10.5 oz bag mini marshmallows
6 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips(optional)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips(optional)

1-7"X11" pan or baking dish

1. Butter a 7-inch by 11-inch baking dish. Measure cereal into a large bowl and set aside.
2. Add coconut flakes and peanuts to a large non-stick skillet. Dry roast over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the coconut and peanuts start to turn golden. Immediately pour into bowl with cereal.

3. In the same skillet melt the butter over a low heat. the marshmallows. Stirring constantly, cook until melted and smooth.
4.Immediately pour marshmallow mixture into bowl of cereal. Combine with a buttered spoon until all ingredients are incorporated.

5. Press crispy treats into a buttered dish. Cool until firm enough to cut into 1.5 inch squares.
6. Top with melted chocolate of your choice and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

This next chocolate rice crispy treat recipe is an Australian recipe called Chocolate Crackles . I changed it a bit, again using Honey Nut Cheerios instead of Rice Crispies and I cut out some of the Coconut Oil and added some margerine and peanut butter.

The flavor was awesome but they didn't stay together as well as the recipe above. I spread the mixture in a baking dish just like the last recipe and didn't put them in paper cups as the recipe suggests. I would definately do this next time because I think they would have stayed together better.

Chocolate Cheerio Treats

1/2 cup Coconut oil
1/4 cup Butter/margerine
1/4 cup Peanut butter
3/4 cup Powdered, or confectioner's, sugar
2/3 cup Cocoa
5 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
1 cup Coconut, dried, shredded & unsweetened

1. Melt the coconut oil, peanut butter and margerine in a saucepan over a low flame.
2. Sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. Stir in Honey Nut Cheerios and dried coconut.
3. Stir dry ingredients into coconut oil until well mixed.
4. Scoop small portions into paper muffin cups. Chill in the refrigerator till firm and serve.

* Coconut oil can be found in health food and specialty stores. If you can't find coconut oil, eliminate it and the cocoa powder, and substitute one 12-oz bag of chocolate chips instead. Melt gently over low heat and stir in the rice crispies and shredded coconut. It won't be quite the same though.
* Sometimes sultanas, or golden raisins, are mixed in along
* Chocolate crackles are a favorite of Australian children and are often served at children's parties.

From Appetizer to Delicious Meal..

Chicken Marsala over Polenta

I wasn't too sure about this dish when I was making it, but OH MY- was it good. I altered a recipe from my favorite TV chef Giada DiLaurentiis. It was for an appetizer called Polenta Squares with Mushroom Ragu.

The inspiration for this dish came from the fact that I had some leftover rotisserie chicken
(big surprise, huh?), some fresh mushrooms and a box of quick cooking polenta in my cabinet that I've been thinking about trying. So it all came together and quite well.

Since I wanted to make a dinner and not an appetizer, I added the chicken and I just cut the polenta squares larger.

Polenta Squares with Chicken Marsala Ragu

2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rotisserie chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry Marsala
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Bring the water, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the polenta thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour the polenta into a greased 9 by 9-inch baking pan, spreading so that it is 1/3-inch thick. Cover and let stand at room temperature until set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onion. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and saute until the juices evaporate, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the Marsala. Cover and simmer until the Marsala has reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add in the chicken broth and chicken pieces.

Stir the flour and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl to form a paste, then stir the paste into the chicken & mushroom mixture. Cover and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir the parsley into the ragu. Season the ragu, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Cut the polenta into 6-8 squares. Arrange the polenta squares on a platter. Spoon the warm ragu atop the polenta and serve immediately.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Peanut Butter Trifle

I recently saw a recipe for Decadent Peanut Butter Pie made with Jif Peanut Butter, cream cheese and Cool-Whip and couldn't stop thinking about the delicious photo it showed. Although I did have a pie shell, I decided to make a trifle since I had some of my
Mom's Peanut Butter Fingers (without the frosting) in the freezer.
I also lightened up the recipe a bit and believe me no one knew the difference!

Peanut Butter Trifle

1 recipe for my Mom's Peanut Butter Fingers
1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter (I used Skippy)
8 oz. cream cheese (at room temperature), I used 4 0z. fat-free and 4 oz. low-fat
1/3 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups (12 oz. container) of non-dairy whipped topping, divided (I used Light Cool-Whip)
Chocolate syrup
Chocolate syrup and 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar. Gently fold in 3 cups whipped topping.
Line the bottom of a clear glass bowl or trifle with a layer of the peanut butter fingers and
spoon 1/3 of the mixture on top. Using a spatula, smooth mixture to edges of bowl.

Squeeze chocolate syrup over top to cover the peanut butter layer. Add another layer of peanut butter fingers and then peanut butter mixture and syrup. Repeat.

Just before serving, spread the remaining whipped topping (1 1/2 cups), over chocolate syrup layer, being careful not to mix the two layers.

Drizzle more chocolate syrup over top and sprinkle with the chocolate chips.
Serve and be happy!

Monday, February 05, 2007


It's so cold outside... What a great week for soup!

Ribolitta in Italian means to re-boil or re-cook. This soup is great to make a day ahead and re-heat the next day for the best flavor. I had a small bowl the same day I made it and it was good, but the next day it was delicious!

Again, Ribolitta is a recipe from Giada DiLaurentiis. She served hers with
garlic rubbed and toasted ciabatta rolls. I decided to serve mine with mini gorgonzola pizzas and I just altered a few things in the recipe to my own preferences.
Enjoy it, I know I did.

(with my changes)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 ounces canadian bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, 1 minced and 1 whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 (15-ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained
1/2 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus one whole sprig
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) piece Parmesan rind
Grated Parmesan, for serving

Mini Pizzas
1 bag of bread/pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is golden brown and the pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Add the spinach, beans, herbs, stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F .

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape into small rounds. Flour a work surface and roll out the dough rounds to desired thickness. Press your fingertips into the top to form small indentations. Brush with olive oil and bake at 500º for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Top with gorgonzola cheese and a little more olive oil and re-bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Veggie Calzone!

What a great way to eat your vegetables.

I actually love veggies anyway, but putting them in a calzone just makes them even better. Whenever I have a bowl of leftover vegetables, I love to use them in different ways -omelettes, fritattas, with pasta and in calzones.

It's so easy too. In this case especially, because I bought the dough instead of making it from scratch.
-I just divided the dough into 4 equal balls and rolled them out on a floured surface into small circles. You could make mini pizzas with these as well, which I did and will show you in my next post.
-The veggies need a little more spice when there in a calzone, so I added some garlic powder, Italian seasoning, fresh parsley, grated parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil. Then I added in some feta cheese to top it all off.
-You just spoon the veggies onto on side of the dough round and fold the other side over. Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork, brush the top with olive oil and cut a few slits on the top for the steam to escape.
-Bake on a pizza stone at 500º for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

That's all there is to it. Give it a try, I'm sure you'll be glad you did!!