Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Giada De Laurentiis Smiles...

There's no mistaking it!

Now that's a women excited about food!

A friend of mine found this random gem on the internet. If you don't watch the food channel then you probably wouldn't know who this is. She hosts Everyday Italian and I DVR it everyday. I often feature her recipes and brag about how great they are, so I figured why not post it.

Have a great weekend! =D

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My First Pumpkin Carving!

I know what your thinking, that is the first pumpkin you've ever carved? Well, as far as I can remember. It was long over do and I had fun.

I also roasted the pumpkin seeds. I do know that we did roast the seeds at least once when I was a kid. My dad wanted my mom to make pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin and that is why we had the seeds.

My mom swears she would never do it again with all the mess and not only that but she says that the pie wasn't even good. Ever since, she has stuck to "One-Pie" canned pumpkin. And I have to say, her pie is excellent!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 -2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds (goop removed)
Mazola Pure olive oil spray
Course sea salt
Garlic powder(not garlic salt)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil. Add the seeds to the baking sheet and spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder.

Cook for 15 minutes, stir and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My new favorite snack!

Whew!~ That was close...

To think, I almost sold this baby for $5.00 at my yard sale! I don't know what I was thinking. Well actually I do. When I bought this air popper years ago, I had healthy snacking in mind. But being so used to oil popped corn, the texture and flavor was far from what I imagined. The popcorn came out dry and tasteless!

So you must be wondering why I am raving about it now. Well, I guess I never read the instructions and tips for the popper. The instructions are something I rearly study, but since I decided to use this relic after so many years, I wanted to make sure I had the measurements right and so on.

In my reading, I discovered a section on tips for successful popping! It actually said that if you are used to the flavor of oil popped corn, that you could add oil to the popped corn before salting. Ok, I know this isn't rocket science, but I would have never thought of adding oil to the popped corn. Butter, yes but not oil. This was a revelation for me since I try to avoid butter if at all possible.

Plus by adding fresh raw olive oil to the corn after it is popped and not before, it is much healthier. Raw olive oil is great for your heart you know!

I tried a new popcorn too!
Pop's Tiny Popcorn.
This popcorn is really tasty and has a great benefit for those who find the newer varieties and heavier hulls of popcorn hard to digest. When the tiny corn kernel is popped, the hull discinerates. Pretty cool, huh? There is also an interesting story behind this popcorn which you can read on their website.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mom's Pear Pie

...And I Helped!

Remember that fried chicken commercial from years ago? Well it just popped into my head.

I digress, back to the business of the pie. Mom has a pear tree in her backyard. It had not beared fruit for some years. After a pruning last fall, this year she got some great fruit!
She managed to get just enough pears off the tree at the end of the season to make a pie.

So why did I help? Well, I showed up unannounced at Mom's, in the middle of her making it, threw off her concentration and she put it aside to get back to it later. Well, when later came, she was not in the mood to make it anymore until I insisted I would help. So we both got to it. She finished making her famous crust and I prepared the filling. It was fun, just like old times when I was a kid, trying to help mom.

Mom's Pear Pie

6-8 Pears
Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/3 cup sugar or more depending on sweetness of your pears
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Squeeze lemon juice into a large bowl. Peel, slice and core pears, dropping them into the bowl with the lemon juice. Add corn starch, 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins. Mix well and set aside.

Prepare crust.

Mom's Famous Pie Crust

2 cups flour
2/3 cups Crisco shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar, plus 1/4 teaspoon for top of crust
4-5 tablespoons ice cold water
1 tablespoon milk, set aside in small bowl

In a medium bowl mix all ingredients (except 1/4 tsp. sugar and milk) together with a fork adding additional water if necessary. Form 2 balls, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator until ready to roll out. About 20 minutes.

In between 2 pieces of wax paper roll out each ball of dough, rotating to create a 11-12 inch circle. Remove top piece of wax paper, flip over and place in a greased pie plate. Remove remaining wax paper. With a fork, lightly indent entire crust.

Pour pear mixture into prepared pie crust. Remove wax paper from the top of the second crust and form slits in the center for steam to escape. Flip over crust and cover pear mixture. Carefully remove remaining wax paper. Seal and crimp edges. Brush the top of the pie crust with milk and sprinkle with a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.

Place pie on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown and the juices are slowly bubbling.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Grilled Chicken

Bam! Sort of...

I'm not a huge fan of Emeril; I guess he's ok. I've only tried one of his recipes in the past which was the Chicken Marsala and that was pretty good. Since most of his recipes seem to involve pork fat and heavy spices, I tend to stay away. Not there's anything wrong with pork fat or spicy food, it's just that I can't eat it.
I was recently looking for a marinade for grilled chicken and I came across his Lemon and Rosemary Marinated Chicken with Couscous and Sauted Balsamic Cremini Mushrooms. I decided to give it a try, minus some of the spices and I opted to forgo the balsamic cremini mushrooms because I didn't have any on hand. I used tabouli instead of couscous. It was very tasty. Here's my version:

Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Grilled Chicken

1 package of Near East Tabouli, cooked
4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, and Essence in a re-sealable, 1-gallon plastic bag. Let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature. Preheat a grill pan to high heat. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag, and place on a platter. Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the chicken, smooth side down, on the grill and cook for 4 minutes, rotate 45 degrees and cook an additional 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 4 minutes on the second side, or until cooked through. You can choose to baste the chicken with the marinade but you need to either: baste the chicken and continue cooking the chicken a little bit longer on each side or you need to bring the marinade up to a boil for at least 5 minutes and then you can baste the chicken.(I didn't bother)
Serve over cooked Tabouli.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper(I only used 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (I only used 1 teaspoon, if that)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup

Side note: I recently used this same marinade on chicken cutlets. I broiled them on a foil lined bake sheet for about 5 minutes per side. The trick to cooking it perfectly is to lightly pound the chicken to make sure it is of even thickness. This extra step is worth the time and trouble because there will not be some pieces over cooked and other pieces undercooked. (I've learned my lesson)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Baked Squash Gratin

Another amazing recipe from Giada De Laurentiis!

I loved this recipe and so will you. Since butternut squash is a little bland, this recipe appealed to me. It was just enough pesto and just enough cheese to make it work without over powering the butternut squash. The cheese forms a crust on the top and it is delicious!

Baked Squash Gratin

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes, (mine was not quite this big, but it made just enough for a small casserole)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup purchased basil pesto
(I used homemade pesto that I previously made and froze in an ice cube tray)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly butter an 8-inch baking dish and set aside. Fill a large pot with enough water to come 2 inches up the sides of the pot. Set a steamer rack in the pot, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the squash and steam over medium heat until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.(I used my hand held blender and mixed it right in the pan). Season the squash to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the squash evenly over the prepared baking dish. Dollop half of the pesto all over the squash in the dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the squash. Repeat layering with the remaining squash, pesto, and cheese. Using a skewer, swirl the pesto decoratively into the squash. Dot the top with butter and bake until the gratin is heated through and golden brown around the edges, about 40 minutes.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Yard Sale with A Sweet Side!

If you have been wondering why I haven't been posting a lot lately, it's because I've been busy making baked goods for a yard sale/bake sale. My friends and I have been planing to have a huge yard sale for a month. Since I love to bake, I decided to add a bake sale to the mix!

This weekends cool crisp air was perfect for all the fall favorites: Pumpkin muffins, Carrot muffins, Cranberry and Orange Muffins. Of course I had to make the all time favorites like brownies and funfetti mini cupcakes. It was a lot of fun. I decorated the brownies with frosting and halloween sprinkles. The muffins were in pumpkin decorated bags and the mini muffins in halloween decorated zip lock bags. So Cute! I got the plastic containers from my local grocery store's bake shop.

Some people didn't even know that the stuff was homemade because it was packaged so professionally! I love it!!

Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce


This recipe is an adaptation of two recipes. One is MaryAnn Espisito's (Ciao Italia) Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce and the other is Ellie Krieger's Tuscan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables. I changed both recipes and sort of combined them together. It turned out great.

The fennel tomato sauce is very versatile. As Mary Ann suggests, it can be used as a side vegetable dish, over baked fish, or even as a topping for pizza. And according to Mary Ann the exquisite flavor is due to one key ingredient…sugar. I must say I agree!!

Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce

3/4 pound of penne or short-cut macaroni, cooked al dente
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes (washed) 1 bulb fennel 3 tablespoons oil, divided 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 chicken breast halves skinless, (cut each breast in half to make 2 cutlets)
Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the minced garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Rub the mixture into the chicken and let marinate for 1/2 hour.

Remove the outermost layer of the fennel bulb and discard. Cut the bulb in half so that each half retains part of the stem end. Cut each half into 8 thin wedges so each wedge is held together by a little piece of stem.

Put the fennel, tomatoes and garlic halves into a large baking pan. Toss them with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then give the vegetables a stir and arrange the chicken pieces in the pan with the vegetables.

Cook for about 17 to 20 minutes more until the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown.

Place chicken on a serving platter. Toss the fennel tomato sauce with the cooked pasta and serve along side the chicken.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oatmeal Cranberry Pumpkin Cookies

Fall Is Here and I'm Celebrating with Cookies!

One of the best things about fall is baking all the traditional flavors we all know and love...
The warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger bring out the true essence of autumn. Add pumpkin to the equation and it's a party!!

This is a really easy cookie recipe using Pillsbury Quick Bread and Muffin Mix. With a little doctoring, it really works!

Oatmeal Cranberry Pumpkin Cookies

1 (15.6-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Pumpkin Quick Bread & Muffin Mix
2/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 butter or margerine, melted
1 tablespoon water
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, combine quick bread mix, oats, cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; mix well. Add butter, water and eggs; mix well. Add in white chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mushroom Parmesan

Great Meat Lovers Vegetarian Dinner!

I love portobello mushrooms. They have a great meatiness to them and are very flavorful. Plus they are easier to clean than smaller mushrooms. It makes me laugh when I see the tv chefs cleaning mushrooms. They say cleaning mushrooms is so easy because they are cultivated now and there isn't much dirt on them. They just dust it off and they are done.

Well I don't know where they are getting their mushrooms from but mine are always pretty dirty. It takes me forever to clean a box of them. And of course, they say not to wash them or they will absorb too much water and become soggy and rubbery. I digress.

Anyway portobello mushrooms can be used in any recipe calling for baby bellas or even white in some cases. Just cut them up to the same size as what the smaller mushroom would be.

This recipe is from ("big surprise") Giada DiLaurentiis. What can I say, she makes some good stuff...

Mushroom Parmesan

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the grill pan
4 to 6 portobello mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.(Or preheat your broiler).

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over both sides of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on the grill to prevent the mushrooms from sticking. Grill until the mushrooms are heated through and tender, about 5 minutes per side.(I broiled mine for 5 minutes on each side.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place the grilled mushrooms on top of the marinara sauce and top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the cheeses and top with the butter pieces. Bake until the cheese melts and the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Quick Peach Pie with Crumble Topping

Again the inspiration for this creation was the need to use up pantry items nearing expiration. It's funny how the idea of having to throw out food gets me to come up with some great ideas!

I had a reduced fat prepared graham cracker crust and frozen peaches in dire need of attention. With a little tender loving care, I created a delicious and decadent "semi" homemade pie.

I don't think I've ever made just a plain peach pie before. I've always added blueberries and made my own crust. In this case I figured the prepared graham crust would be a good complement to the peaches and the crumb topping really added an extra richness.

Speaking of richness, this a fairly rich pie. I did however, reduce the fat by using half the amount of butter than in traditional crumbles. I also cut the sugar. Don't worry it was absolutely fabulous! You can cut a lot of extra fat and calories without even noticing the difference in flavor.

Quick Peach Crumble Pie

1 prepared reduced fat graham cracker crust
1 egg white, beaten
1 16 oz. bag frozen peaches or 2 - 2 1/2 cups fresh peaches, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup turbanado sugar, or regular white sugar
1 tablespoon tapioca
1/8 teaspoon sea salt


1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush pie crust with egg white and bake for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

If using frozen sliced peaches, spread them out on a cookie sheet to thaw and cut each slice in half to make them about 1/4" thick.

In a medium bowl, place peaches, 1/4 cup sugar, tapioca and salt. Stir and let stand for 15 minutes.

In the meanwhile prepare the crumble topping. Mix flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and spices with a fork until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Place peaches in the prepared crust and top with the crumb mixture. Place on top of a foil lined bake sheet.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 50-55 minutes or until topping is golden and peaches are bubbling and tender.

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

I think I finally found a coffee substitute that really doesn't seem like a coffee substitute. It's called Teeccino and you make it just like coffee. It brews right in the coffee maker or any other way you can make coffee, even in an espresso machine. The company calls it "herbal coffee". And as you probably noticed the symbol above, it's caffeine free.

When I was looking at this at the supermarket, reading the label, I can tell you that I was very skeptical. But I figured, what the heck, I've spent $7.00 on worse things. So I picked up two flavors- the Vanilla Nut and the Maya Caffe, which is organic.

I tried the Vanilla Nut. The description the company gives it is -" The creaminess of organic Mexican vanilla highlights Teeccino's dark, robust body which is accented with golden roasted almonds and tropical nuts including coconut." Sounds good, right?

Well kids, after on sip, my skepticism turned into belief. The stuff is really good. Plus according to the info on the can, it's also good for you. It has a lot of potassium in it, which is good for your heart. It claims to give you a natural energy boost - from nutrients, not stimulants. It is alkaline, which helps reduce acidity and restore alkaline balance. It is also rich in inulin, a soluble fiber in chicory root, that helps improve digestion and elimination plus increases the absorption of calcium and minerals. Leave it to the Californians to come up with a healthy coffee.

The aroma and the flavor reminds me a little of espresso. It is a very deep flavor, but not bitter or over powering. Actually, I didn't even need sugar! That in itself is amazing!!!