Wanting to Cool Down

It was hot here yesterday. Really hot! I wanted to get some yard work done, so I went out in the morning, knowing that it was going to be a hot day, but an hour into it, I was already dripping with sweat. I lasted about 2 hours before I called it quit and decided to go inside for the day. You would think that with the heat (reaching 100 degrees F) I would park myself in front of the television with a cold beverage, but no, I get ambitious and want to cook all day. So, with the air conditioner on and all of the ceiling fans running, I set to work.

The main part of my baking day went to making a tart that I will post about tomorrow. I knew that I didn't want something really hot for dinner, so I went looking through some salad recipes. I found this Herb Chicken Tortellini Salad that was not only a cold salad, but looked really fast and easy, since I already knew what I wanted to make for dinner. It is a pasta salad that would work well as a side, but I decided to serve it as our main dish, but I knew we needed something else. Knowing I was stuck in the house the rest of the day, I got ambitious and made some breadsticks. Making any sort of bread is ambitious because I don't have a stand mixer. But I went for it anyway....

The salad was great. The only thing I did differently is that I didn't add in the whole 10 oz bag of spinach. I had put about 2/3 in, and it looked like enough, so I stopped there. It worked really well as a main dish, and the best part was that I was able to finish it a little before hand and put it in the fridge until it was time to eat.

I wanted some nice, soft, tender breadsticks to go along with the salad. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and decided to try it out. It was very easy, even without a mixer,
but I did have to add at least an extra cup of flour. I don't know what I was thinking when I cut them, though. The recipe says that it makes 36 breadsticks, but I only ended up with 20-something. They were very LARGE breadsticks!! It would have been better if I would have cut them smaller, though, because the bottoms on some of them were still a bit underdone. But I would have to say, not a bad job for my first time! They were just what I was looking for - very light and tender. The only problem with this recipe is that it is not easy to cut down because it only requires one egg for the whole recipe. This is a lot of breadsticks for 2 people!!

Herb Chicken Tortellini Salad
From meals.com (the recipe is no longer listed there)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves 6

1 (9-oz) package Buitoni Refrigerated Herb Chicken Tortellini - prepared according to package directions and chilled
1 (10 oz) bag ready to use spinach torn into bite size pieces
1 cup diced mozzarella cheese (4 oz)
1 (6 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 c Caesar salad dressing
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine pasta, spinach, mozzarella cheese, artichokes, olives and roasted peppers in a medium bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese.

Breadsticks with Parmesan Butter
adapted from allrecipes.com

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Yields: 36 servings


  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees), divided
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup warm water. Add the oil, egg, salt, 2 cups flour, and remaining sugar and water. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.
  2. Punch the dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; divide into 36 pieces. Shape each piece into a 6-in. rope. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, cream the butter, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Brush over breadsticks as soon as they come out of the oven.

Mixer Dillema

I know I have complained before about not having a stand mixer. I don't make bread very often at all (maybe that's why I'm not very good at it) because I am too lazy to do it by hand. I also think about how much easier ice cream and frosting and cupcakes and cookies (the list goes on and on) would be with a mixer. When I made buttercream frosting, I was really wishing for a mixer after all of that time holding the hand mixer!!

So here's the dilemma, and I am looking for some feedback. I really am not planning on buying a mixer in the near future, but I have a friend coming into town that can get me a good deal on one if I choose to put down the cash. I just don't know what I want anymore.

Growing up - it was always about the Bosch. My mom has had hers for as long as I can remember. It even has a part that is broken and missing when it fell off the counter once, but it keeps on ticking. My sister has one, and I think that is even what my mother-in-law has. It is what I have always wanted. But then I start watching cooking shows, and reading blogs, and it seems like the KitchenAid is the mixer of choice right now - or maybe it is just the popular one because it seems to be more available than the Bosch. Or maybe it's better - I don't know. And then I see today that Cuisinart now has a stand mixer that seems really impressive. It has a timer and also a "gentle fold" function that seems really cool and cutting edge.

So, if I did have $400, $500, or more right now to put down on a mixer, I don't even know what I would buy. If I take advantage of my friend's deal, I can get a KitchenAid discounted, but is that what I really want??

So I am asking you - what do you have and what do you like/dislike about it? If you could trade it in, would you? Or are you loyal? If you don't have a mixer, is there one that you have your sights set on? I guess I just really need to know what I need to save up for.......

Two Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm and Blue Cheese

A long name for what I will just call good......

I actually made this salad last weekend, but haven't gotten around to posting it until today. I have some unsaid rule that I try to stay away from the computer as much as possible on the weekends. I think I just get too much during the week - sitting in front of a computer for 8+ hours every day.

This is my first recipe
from Cat Cora's Cooking From the Hip. I was feeling a little ambitious, I guess, because I have never tried hearts of palm before, so I had no idea of what to expect. I was a little hesitant to make this, because I knew I would have to make the whole recipe because cutting it down would be a little difficult. I would end up with half a can of chickpeas, kidney beans, and hearts of palm left, and instead of just letting them go to waste, I made the whole salad. I also wanted to get the whole layered look.

I get so frustrated shopping for ingredients sometimes. I cann
ot find arugula anywhere. I also have never been able to find shallots anywhere until yesterday, so I substituted some baby greens for the baby arugula and an onion for the shallot. I also didn't have any sherry vinegar, so I decided to use red wine vinegar. But I only had about a quarter cup of that, so I did a mixture of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. Even with the substitutions, this salad exceeded my expectations. I made it as a side dish for dinner on Friday, and my husband didn't want any. I ended up eating the rest myself over the next couple days (taking out the greens because they got a bit soggy). This is very flavorful, and a very pretty salad as well. This will definitely be an option next time I need to bring a salad to a family gathering.

I have decided to enter this into Lis and Kelly's Excellent Salad 'Stravaganza. Even thou
gh this isn't a regular green salad, this is definitely healthy. Just what my body has been begging for as the weather really heats up!!

Another apology for a bad photo - I realized Friday evening that I had forgotten my camera at work, so I resorted to my old camera. Horrible picture, but hopefully you get the idea!

Two Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm and Blue Cheese
from Cooking From the Hip

1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c sherry vinegar (I used 1/4 c red wine vinegar and 1/4 c balsamic vinegar)
1 t sea salt
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c chopped shallots (I used an onion)

1 8-oz can hearts of palm, drained
1 c drained kidney beans (I just realized that I used the whole can!!)
1 c diced cucumber
1 c halved cherry tomatoes or sliced regular tomatoes (I did diced regular tomatoes)
1 c drained chickpeas (again, realizing I used the whole can)
1 c baby arugula leaves (I used baby greens)
1 c crumbled blue cheese

For the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Set aside.

Slice the hearts of palm into rings and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the kidney beans and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss quickly to flavor the beans, then spoon the beans into a large serving bowl to form the salad's bottom layer. Using the same small bowl, toss the cucumber with a little vinaigrette, and add to the serving bowl to form the next layer. Follow the same steps with the tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula, and the hearts of palm. Finish by sprinkling the cheese over the salad. Chill, preferably for 1 hour, and serve.

Shrimp Pasta in White Sauce

One of my sisters sent me this recipe back in 2004 - I can't believe I have only made it once before last night. Josh is a huge Fettuccine Alfredo lover. I seriously think that he would eat it weekly if I made it that often. I am usually a huge cheater with my Alfredo sauce, though. They sell these sauce packets at a nearby grocery store, and they taste so good when prepared that I usually use them. But after making this pasta last night, I realized that it is just as easy to make your own sauce. I don't know why I don't do it more often!!

This recipe is extremely versatile. You can change the cheese - the recipe calls for Parmesan and I used Pecorino Romano. My sister's original recipe calls for scallops, but I used shrimp, but it would also be delish with chicken, bacon or cra
b. Ohh, or even salmon would be great. (I have actually never prepared scallops before, so maybe I will try that next time!) The asparagus could also easily be substituted - broccoli, peas....the possibilities are endless! I used the evaporated milk instead of cream, and it did not compromise the flavor or texture at all. I did overcook my asparagus, though. I just got my steamer for Christmas, and don't have the times down for different veggies, so I need to work on that. But this was yummy! Josh was extremely pleased - I got tons of compliments!!

Shrimp Pasta in White Sauce

1/2 c butter
1 c sliced mushrooms
1/4 onion, diced
1 lb shrimp, peeled & amp; deveined
1/4 c flour
1 c chicken broth
1 c cream or evaporated milk
1/2 c fresh Parmesan cheese
dash of nutmeg
1/4 t garlic powder
3/4 c steamed asparagus, but on a diagonal in 1/2 in. pieces
12 oz pasta noodles

Boil water in a large saucepan. Add noodles and cook until al dente.

In the meantime, melt 1/4 c butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly cook the onions and then add mushrooms and cook until both are tender. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp have changed color and are cooked through.

In another large saucepan, melt the other 1/4 c butter. Add flour and stir until combined. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Then stir in chicken broth, cream, and pepper to taste. Add garlic powder and nutmeg to taste as well. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Simmer 5-10 minutes or until it thickens. Stir the mushroom-shrimp mixture and asparagus into the sauce and combine. Serve over hot pasta.

Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies

I have been looking for the perfect brownie recipe to enter into the browniebabe-of-the-month over at Once Upon a Tart. I didn't want to do just plain, fudge brownies, but I wanted to explore something different. I came across this recipe for Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies on allrecipes and although it's not a true "brownie" (it's a blondie!) I thought I would give it a try. I don't know if this will be my entry, but we will see. I wasn't sure if this was called "disappearing" because the marshmallows disappeared in the brownies, or if they brownies disappeared after you make them because they are so good - I decided that it is a little bit of both! I like my brownies on the chewy side, not cakey, so this was a perfect recipe for me. I also like to under-bake them a little bit, so these made an ooey, gooey, wonderful brownie. The smell while they were cooking was so amazing - I could hardly wait for them to come out. Beware - these are super rich - you might need a glass of milk to go along with them! I would also like to try to swap out the butterscotch chips with chocolate chips, or caramel - yum!

Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies
from allrecipes

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. Using a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butterscotch chips and butter together in the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in the melted butterscotch chips, then the flour, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Stir in the marshmallows and chocolate chips last. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in preheated oven. Cool, and cut into squares.

New England Baked Bean Stew

I think something is wrong with me. Instead of wanting something light and Spring-like, I have been drawn towards heavier, comforting food for the last week. The tamale pie, the mac and cheese, and now tonight's bean stew. This is my last recipe for now from Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook. When I came across the recipe, the picture got me (I am way more likely to cook a recipe if it has a picture!) Even though it's more of a fall/winter dish, I thought I'd give it a try. I basically followed the recipe exactly as written. I was a little worried, because my sister came over while I was cooking, looked at the recipe and said "that's something I would never make." So, I admit, I was a little worried after that, but both Josh and I really liked it. It will be especially great for leftovers for Josh later this week when he works the swing shift - something a little warmer on a chilly Spring night. This was super fast and easy. It didn't really turn out to be much of a "stew" because there was not very much liquid, but good nonetheless. I served some homemade cornbread muffins on the side.

New England Baked Bean Stew
from Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook
4 Servings

1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/2 pound fully cooked Polish sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and spices, undrained
1 T packed brown sugar
4 medium green onions, sliced

1. Spray 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium high heat. Cook chicken in skillet 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients except onions. Cook uncovered over medium low heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in center.
3. Stir in onions. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are crisp-tender.

Soy Ginger Salmon and Sesame Green Beans

This is my all time favorite go-to salmon recipe. Whenever I crave salmon, this is what I crave. When I go to a restaurant and order salmon, I am always disappointed because it doesn't taste like this. The only bad thing about this recipe is that I think it is really the best when you marinate it 24 hours. So, if I ever have a craving hit me, I can't just go home and make this. I think that if you do not have the 24 hours to marinate, it would be good to take the leftover marinade and cook it donw on the stove as a sauce to serve on the fish. If you marinate for 24 hours, though, believe me - nothing else is needed. This is one of the very few recipes that I have that I make over and over again. I decided to add a side dish of fresh green beans. I have had this recipe saved for a long time, but have never tried it until last night. I was afraid that there wouldn't be a ton of flavor to them, so I added garlic. A LOT of garlic! I halved the recipe, but added about 3 cloves of garlic chopped fine. At first I was afraid that the garlic would overpower the sesame seeds, and I think I was right. If I make these again, I would still add that amount of garlic, but I would double the sesame seeds as well. In fact, even if I didn't add the garlic, I would double the amount of sesame seeds. This was the perfect dinner, though. After I ate, I felt very satisfied, but not stuffed. Perfect for a hot evening.
Soy Ginger Salmon
from Allreicpes.com


  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons lemon pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1/3 cup orange juice


  1. Rub salmon with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Lightly sprinkle with lemon pepper and garlic powder; rub seasoning into fish.
  2. Into a small saucepan set over medium heat, pour soy sauce and olive oil. Stir in ginger and remaining brown sugar, lemon pepper, and garlic powder. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in orange juice.
  3. Place fish and marinade into a resealable plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 3 hours.
  4. Preheat broiler. Place fish in a foil-lined baking pan. Reserve marinade.
  5. Broil fish skin-side up, 2 minutes. Remove from oven, pull skin off with tongs. Baste with marinade, return to oven, and broil 2 minutes more. Turn fish, and broil until fish flakes easily, about 4 minutes. Remove from oven, and let sit 5 minutes before serving.
Sesame Green Beans Adapted from Allrecipes.com


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and garlic. When seeds start to darken, stir in green beans. Cook, stirring, until the beans turn bright green.
  2. Pour in chicken broth, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until beans are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid evaporates.

BBQ Chicken Wraps

If you are looking for a quick, easy recipe, look no further!! This was inspired by a Donna Hay recipe I saw in one of her cookbooks I checked out from the library. She used a chili sauce, I decided to go with barbecue. I was busy making cookies for the second time in 2 days, so I threw these together for dinner quickly. Not even a recipe for this one. I just took 2 chicken breasts and poached them until they were cooked through. After cooling, I shredded them, added barbecue sauce, and reheated it on the stove. My original plan was to add just lettuce and red onion with the chicken in a tortilla, but my husband wanted cheese as well, so we added a little colby-jack and it was a great addition. I used some sun-dried tomato tortillas that I had, but plain would work equally well! This is a great lunch as well, and is wonderful served warm or cold.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Another Peabody recipe (or maybe I should say Peabody's mom). I may not ask her to refund my money for the ingredients, but I might have to ask her to pay for my trips to Weight Watchers after having eaten too many sweet treats!!!

I thought these cookies sounde
d very refreshing. I didn't have pistachios - in fact, I have been having a hard time finding unsalted pistachios anywhere. I should have gone with the macadamia nuts, but I had some slivered almonds on hand, so I used those. They didn't take away from the cookie, but they didn't add anything either. In fact, I could barely tell that they were in the cookie. The only thing that went wrong for me was that I couldn't get the cookies moist enough to roll into dough. I had to add a couple of tablespoons of water, and that seemed to solve the problem. Mine didn't turn out as pretty as Peabody's, but they still tasted really good! Her mom said that they taste even better the next day, so I am excited to try one at lunch today to see if that is true for me.

Again, I won't repost the recipe, but please go to Peabody's site and give these a try!!!

Burgundy Pork Tenderloin

Please excuse the poor photography - it was too dark in my kitchen, so I went outside, but then I got lots of shadows.....

I am not a food snob - I swear, I'm not. Just because the last time my husband and I went out to eat and I complained that I could have made my meal better than the restaurant doesn't make me a food snob. And just because I laugh to myself at people that think they can substitute cooking wine for the real deal in recipes does not make me a food snob. You want proof? Last night's dinner was made with gravy packets. Yep, I'm sure that many people will stop reading right now and I will be shunned, but I made gravy out of a packet. And I have to say, the gravy was the best part of the meal (besides the potatoes.)

I have really been wanting to make a pork tenderloin, so I put it on the menu for this week. I was going to make Janet's Chili Cumin Pork Tenderloin, but I didn't want to have to get the grill out. I remembered a pork tenderloin recipe that I had used awhile ago. I remembered that it did not look pretty at all, but the flavor surprised me and I liked it. So I decided to give it a go again so I could blog about it and actually remember it. (I have a horrible memory!!)

This is a super easy recipe - it took all of 7 minutes to prepare. I decided to do some roasted red potatoes as well, so I quartered some red potatoes, threw some olive oil and random spices (salt, pepper, rosemary, and some fresh thyme and oregano) and threw those into the oven at the same time as the pork. 60 minutes later, dinner was ready. As I was eating, I wasn't as impressed with the recipe as I remembered the first time around. I didn't have quite 2 cups of red wine, so I substituted chicken broth for the remaining, and maybe that made the difference?? It just didn't have a whole lot of flavor to me. The gravy is made by mixing the remaining pan juices and and gravy mix. I'll be honest and admit that I don't make gravy very often. I do make it from scratch when I make chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes (a true comfort meal!!) But I don't make gravy much besides that. I might try it next time, but this was just so easy!! I don't think that I would make this tenderloin recipe again, but I will post it because my husband really liked it. I was going to eat the leftovers in a sandwich at lunch today, but ate something else instead. I will have to try it out tomorrow and see if the pork redeems itself in sandwich form. The original recipe calls for only one package of gravy, but I used 2 so we could have it on the potatoes as well.

Burgundy Pork Tenderloin
adapted from allreicpes.com


  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 (.75 ounce) packages dry brown gravy mix


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Place pork in a 9x13 inch baking dish, and sprinkle meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Top with onion and pour wine over all.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
  4. When done baking, remove meat from baking dish, and place on a serving platter. Remove onions and measure remaining pan juices and wine. Add enough chicken stock to equal 2 cups. Put liquid in a small saucepan, add gravy mix, and stir until thickened. Slice meat, and cover with the gravy.

Snickerdoodle Muffins

I have been wanting to try these muffins that I found at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody since I saw them. Then they created a little bit of a stir when she had a reader write in asking for a refund for the money he spent on the ingredients because he didn't like them. First of all, that is completely absurd. Second of all, it made me want to make them that much more!!

I used to make muffins quite often on Sunday mornings back when I had roommates. They are easy to make, and easy for everyone to eat as they got ready for church. But now since there is just the two of us, muffins don't grace our table very often. I had some time this Sunday morning, and I had all of the ingredients, so I thought I would give these a try.

Let me warn you - the process of making these is quite different than any other muffin I have ever made. It makes a thick dough/batter that is then rolled in cinnamon/sugar. They took me a little longer than my regular muffins, and were a bit messy, but worth all of it!! Josh has completely fallen in love with these. I was planning on taking the left overs to work, but I know these won't go to waste here at our house. I didn't change a thing in the recipe. The only thing I would change next time is to half (or even quarter) the amount of cinnamon/sugar mixture. I have a lot left over, but I will gladly store it until the next time I make these - and believe me, there WILL be a next time!!

I won't list the recipe on my blog, but you can find it here. Thanks for the recipe Peabody!!

Chocolate Strawberry Tart

I was going to post this yesterday, but never got around to it. I have felt especially busy the last few days. Plus, my husband, who is a baseball fanatic, has been watching the College World Series and has gotten me into it as well.....so, too much time watching baseball and not enough time doing other things!!

This tart was made from 3 recipes in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. This is quickly becoming my baking bible. I knew I wanted to make something with strawberries, and I thought about doing a cheesecake, but I wanted to use a tart pan that I had purchased awhile back and have never used. So I thought about doing a lemon tart topped with strawberries (that I still want to do sometime) but I didn't have the 4 hours that the lemon filling needed to be refrigerated for. What else goes better with strawberries??? Chocolate, of course!!

These strawberries are from my in-laws garden. They are the sweetest, juiciest strawberries that I have ever eaten. We had already gone through 2 batches of them, and this was the third. They weren't quite as ripe as the previous ones were, but they were still wonderful!! They are a lot smaller than the berries that I usually purchase, but the size worked very well for the tart.

I usually try to give away a lot of our desserts when I make them. We'll each have a piece, save one for later, and give the rest away. That didn't happen with this tart!! My husband and I finished the whole thing (minus one piece given to my brother in law.) Maybe that's why my pants feel tighter this week!!

All recipes are from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Chocolate Shortbread Tart Dough

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 T) very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, cocoa powder confectioners sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Press the dough into the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

2 c. whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 T. unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk - this will temper the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder or the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold, or if you want to cool it quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

4 ounces chocolate, chopped finely (I used semi-sweet)
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. sugar
2 T. water

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream, sugar and water to a full boil, then pour the liquid over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Working with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles.


I won't include how I put everything together - I think it's pretty self explanatory from the picture. Let me know if you have any questions.

I don't have a food processor, so I was a little worried about the making the tart dough. But it came together nicely with some elbow grease and a pastry cutter. It took a little longer than a food processor would have, but it tasted great!!

The chocolate ganache glaze makes a lot more than you will need to just drizzle on the top of the tart - but believe me, you won't have a hard time finding other uses for it!! My original plan was not even to use the ganache, but the tart looked like it was missing something, so I threw it on last minute. I'm really glad I did - it really adds a lot to the look and the taste!

If you don't already own a copy of Dorie's book, I highly recommend getting it if you like to bake sweets. Her recipes are so easy to follow and she makes everything very easy to do. It's not overwhelming like some cookbooks are. I think both beginner and expert bakers would equally love this book!

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

I took a break from the kitchen this past weekend. Besides a salad and some breakfast for dinner, I didn't do any cooking. Although I love to cook, it is sometimes nice to take a break from the ordinary. Today was a rough day as well, so I was looking for something easy to make for dinner. I have been talking about making Monte Cristos for Josh for a long time now, so I decided that tonight would be the night.

I have to admit - I actually have no idea what goes into a real Monte Cristo. All I know is that one day, my brother came home after living away from the
house and made these wonderful sandwiches. At first, I thought - powdered sugar and raspberry jam on a sandwich with meat?? But I fell in love at first bite. I have since had them at a few restaurants where they were deep fried, but it seems to me like the constant ingredients (and most important, in my opinion) are the powdered sugar and raspberry jam. Most that I have eaten have had ham, turkey and swiss, but since Josh is not a fan of swiss, I did ham, turkey, provolone and some gouda. They turned out quite nicely!! No recipe for this one - I just dip the bread in an egg/milk mixture, pile in the fillings, and grill until brown and toasty. Then serve with powdered sugar and raspberry jam. An easy, filling, and easy dinner!!

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

I decided to make something bit lighter for dinner because we have been eating such heavy dishes lately. I usually start searching the internet when I am looking for something to make, but I decided this time to try one of the recipes that I have bookmarked from other food blogs. It was a tough decision, but I decided on the Ham and Asparagus Quiche recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes. I love her blog. I loved the pictures for this quiche - how each of the steps are lined out so nicely. I actually had everything on hand (except for a few substitutions) so it saved me a trip to the grocery store as well. I won't post the recipe here - you can go to her blog via the link above if you would like to see it and give it a try. I would highly recommend it!! The changes I made - I had a pre-made crust at home, so I totally cheated there. Not as good as homemade, but fast and easy. I also used Colby jack cheese instead, because that was what I had at home.

Just for a bit of humor (I thought it was funny, although I probably should have been offended!!) My husband is not known to just eat what I make. He loves my cooking, but
he also loves condiments. I always ask him how he can even taste the food when it is smothered in ketchup or ranch dressing, but he likes it that way. I don't share the same opinion - I like to be able to taste the food - not the condiments!! I thought I would include a picture of what happened to my quiche once Josh got a hold of it. This photo shows the addition of sour cream, ketchup, and salsa. After the photo he also added bacon bits and some crunchy salad topping. I thought it looked disgusting, but he ate it and said he liked it!!

Real Italian Calzones

Let me preface this by saying that I am not Italian, and I do not really know if this is the "real" way that Italians do their calzones. That is just what my recipe said - and I am a trusting person, so naturally, I believed the recipe. It states that a true calzone does not have the marinara sauce in the calzone, but instead it is served alongside the calzone for dipping. If anyone out there reading this blog is a true Italian and knows if this is true, I would really like to know!!

Authentic or not, this was a great way to serve a calzone. This came as a request from my husband, and he rarely requests things to eat - he usually just goes along with what I make (or pours a bowl of cereal if he doesn't want what I make!!) The dough was very straightforward and simple to make. I basically followed the fillings, except I did part pepperoni and part sausage. I just used mozzarella and some sharp cheddar that I had in the fridge instead of using all cheddar. The original recipe says that it makes 2 larg
e calzones - feeding 8, but I made 4 smaller calzones, and one calzone a person seemed just about perfect. The one thing I would do differently next time would be to saute the mushrooms first. I filled the calzones full, but once they baked and the mushrooms cooked down, there wasn't a whole lot of filling in each. If I would have sauteed the mushrooms first, I think they would have stayed full - like a calzone should be!! I had a lot of extra filling, but I just put it in the freezer for next time we want to do calzones or pizza. This would be a good recipe to have fun with - the fillings could be endless!

Real Italian Calzones

adapted from allrecipes.com


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup diced pepperoni
  • 1/4 cup sausage
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Marinara or spaghetti sauce


  1. To Make Dough: In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the oil, sugar and salt; mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, until dough is smooth and workable. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until it is elastic. Lay dough in a bowl containing 1 teaspoon olive oil, then flip the dough, cover and let rise for 40 minutes, or until almost doubled.
  2. To Make Filling: While dough is rising, combine the ricotta cheese, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and basil leaves in a large bowl. Mix well, cover bowl and refrigerate to chill.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. When dough is ready, punch it down and separate it into 4 equal parts. Roll parts out into thin circles on a lightly floured surface. Fill each circle with 1/4 of the cheese/meat filling and fold over, securing edges by folding in and pressing with a fork. Brush the top of each calzone with egg and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 minutes. Serve hot.