Monday, November 16, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I wanted to re-post this recipe from last year in case anybody is looking for an awesome Thanksgiving dessert....enjoy!

I know, I know - more cheesecake, you say. I made this today for my in-laws Thanksgiving dinner coming up on Sunday and wanted to share it just in case anyone wanted a holiday dessert idea. Obviously I can't taste it to tell you how it is, but it got rave reviews over at I will update the post on Monday to let you know the results.

1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed gingersnap cookies, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining mixture. Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect. (I piped the white mixture with a ziplock bag into a swirl effect instead)

Bake 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until filling is set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Allow to cool before removing pan rim. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Butternut and Sausage Lasagne

I've been trying some new recipes lately and haven't really had any bombs, which is unusual for me. Some recipes I've tried in the past month are Alphabet & Beef Soup, Mushroom Risotto, Sticky Coconut Chicken, Red Lentil & Kale Soup, and this one: Butternut and Sausage Lasagne. I loved it so much, that I had to take some time to post it up.

I got it from one of my mommy allies (thank you Traci!), and made a few minor adjustments. She mentioned that it was from Rachael Ray, but this is the closest I found from RR, which actually is kind of different. Maybe I will have to try that one next time. I think adding another veggie to bulk it up would be nice too...maybe mushrooms or spinach?

I bought the noodles from Trader Joes, as well as the Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage. And no mozzarella or ricotta makes this much cheaper to make than regular lasagne. It was rich, but not heavy. Subtle unique flavors, but not bland! The creamy sauce will fool your toddlers (and husbands) that it is made from cheese instead of nutrient-rich winter squash. If you have some time to make and freeze it this week, it would be a great to serve any holiday crashers you have coming for Turkey Day weekend.

Butternut and Sausage Lasagna


1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for liberal drizzling
Salt and pepper
Freshy grated nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
10-12 leaves fresh sage, very thinly sliced
1 box no boil, flat edged lasagna sheets
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Drizzle squash with a little EVOO and season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast cut-side down until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool enough to handle, then scoop flesh out of skin and add to food processor. Puree squash with stock and honey, in 2 batches if necessary, and reserve.
Heat a drizzle of EVOO in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage, crumbling it into very small bits as it cooks, about 7-8 minutes.
While the sausage cooks, heat a pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg and the sage. Cook until thickened, about 7-8 minutes, whisking occasionally. Mix in the squash puree to make your base sauce.
Spread a little sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish then add a layer of pasta. Top with 1/3 of the cooked sausage and cover with sauce and Parmigiano. Cover with another layer of pasta, sausage, sauce and Parmigiano. Repeat one more time, and for the last layer do pasta, sauce and remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake lasagna 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes or more to brown the top.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie

Hello out again, finally. Yes, I know - one of the golden rules for maintaining an audience for your blog is to POST OFTEN. But guess what? I actually have an excuse that is more than just "I got busy." I got pregnant! We are a little suprised, but blessed and getting more excited by the day to meet our new little bean in March.

The only thing I could have blogged about in the past 3 months would have been Jamba Juice, grilled cheese or pre-natal vitamins. For some reason, the nausea bug hit hard this time, much worse than my previous two. I could not get enough watermelon, strawberries and lemonade, but handling raw meat gave me the heebies, especially chicken. If I could manage to cook something for the family, the last thing I wanted to do was photograph it and write about it. Ew.

But now I'm feeling better and ready to start cooking again. I got this recipe from the show America's Test Kitchen, which I DVR'd and watched twice. I'm not going to lie, this pie was time consuming and tedious. It seems like it took me a good part of a day. With all the timing and cooling, it is very precise...but that's what the test kitchen is for - they do all the legwork for a perfect recipe every time. And perfect it is! The filling is tart and rich, the meringue fluffy, creamy and stacked to the sky. Instead of baking the pie to cook the meringue, it uses an Italian Meringue which is cooked by hot sugar syrup that you stream in while whipping. This prevents the common "weeping" of water from the egg whites, which makes your meringue slide off and get goopy over time.

So read this a few times before you start. I made my own pie crust, but next time will just buy a pre-made one and save the extra step.

Lemon Filling
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated zest (see note)
½ cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
8 large egg yolks (4 whites reserved for the meringue)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
Note: Zest the lemons before juicing them.

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large nonreactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture becomes translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in egg yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Pour into cooked and cooled pie crust. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

½ cup water
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium to high heat. Once syrup comes to a rolling boil, cook for exactly 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside while beating egg whites. The 4 minute time frame was stressed in the show to get the sugar syrup to the right temperature.

Beat egg whites in stand mixer at medium-low speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and cream of tartar, and beat gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until egg whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into whites. Add vanilla and beat until the meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 7-9 minutes)

Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches the edges of the crust. Use the spatula to create peaks all over the meringue. Bake until peaks turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.

This picture was taken after the pie had been under a piece of plastic wrap and sitting in the fridge overnight. You can see how well the meringue stood up! Yes, I have to admit - this was breakfast today. At least I can blame it on the baby now. (evil grins)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Carrot Fennel Soup

Do most people go to farmer's markets with a list? Or a menu they are trying to shop for? If so, I must be the minority type of patron. While I seek out bargains and stick to a list for pantry items, I am extremely impulsive when it comes to buying fresh produce. Most times I see something that looks particularly fresh or intriguing. Something that would normally cost a fortune at the local supermarket. Take fennel bulbs, for instance. They cost $3+ at the grocery store, but fresh from the fields....$1.50 and !

Anyway, once home with my fennel this week (or okra or pattypan squash) the question always comes up, what am I going to do with that thing? I've made a raw shaved fennel salad on this blog, so now it's time for a soup. This one is actually pretty healthy and dairy free. I really enjoyed the sweet and subtle anise flavor of this soup. Don't leave out the fennel really makes the soup stand out!

Carrots and fennel caramelize when roasted at high heat, then release their sweet essence when blended. A drizzle of fennel-seed oil echoes and intensifies the fennel flavor.

Carrot Fennel Soup

1 medium fennel bulbs with fronds
5 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Special equipment:an electric coffee/spice grinder

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lowest position.

Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve. Discard stalks and remaining fronds. Slice bulb 1/4 inch thick and toss with carrots, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a 4-sided sheet pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Blend vegetables in a blender with broth until very smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Thin to desired consistency with water and simmer 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, finely grind fennel seeds in grinder and stir into remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Serve soup drizzled with fennel oil and sprinkled with reserved fronds.

Soup can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Serves 4.
Fennel oil can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature

Recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008

Coconut Macaroons

I have not really been a fan of coconut until the last couple years, when I learned how to make Thai curry with the milk. And then a few Halloweens ago, I tried an Almond Joy from my son's candy stash - and I was sold! So, now I like coconut, but for health reasons it's only an occasional treat.

I wanted to make an unusual cookie for my afternoon tea, and this easy recipe hit the spot!

Coconut Macaroons
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla using your hands until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garden Goodies

Recently got home from vacation with fresh yummy produce waiting to be picked from my garden! What a wonderful gift....

Okay, so I've been really slacking on my blog updates, but I am working on a few posts as I type, so stay tuned....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Italian Shepherd's Pie

Sauteed fresh zucchini + turkey bolognese sauce + leftover mashed potatoes = My made-up Italian Shepherd's Pie = awesome yumminess.

I've never made an actual Shepherd's Pie, nor have I ordered it from a restaurant. It seems that whenever I see it on a menu, there is a myriad of reasons that prevent me from ordering it......I've had a big lunch that day or it's 100 degrees out or I'm having a hankering instead for some fish n' chips with my Guinness. And because of this, I don't really feel like making it with an Italian flair is altogether blasphemous. I don't know what its supposed to taste like, so it's not confusing to me and my tiny little brain.

Anyway, this is really an attempt to stretch out ingredients from a previous meal....instead of using all 1.25 lbs of the turkey package the night before, I saved about a half pound to whip up this quick bolognese sauce.

Quick Turkey Bolognese
1T. light olive oil
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1/2 diced onion
2 diced carrots
1 diced red bell
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 small jar TJ's marinara sauce

Brown the turkey with the onion, carrots, bell and garlic until done. Add marinara and parm. Simmer for about half hour, stirring occasionally, until thick.

Alright, so throw this bad boy together. Saute those zucchini (I used 5 small ones) on high heat to get some color and add to bottom of large pie pan. Top with the bolognese and then the leftover mashed potatoes. I added a bit of parmesan on top of the pie. Cook at 375 for 45 minutes and if the top is not brown enough, crank up the broiler for a minute.

If your pie pan is loaded to the brim like mine, please put a cookie sheet underneath. Please? Oh, and next time I'm adding mushrooms..mmmmmmmmmm.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Roasted Salsa and Cilantro Lime Chicken

Made this yummy recipe up, based on what was left in my fridge and the fact that the Cuisinart was sprung out from the depths of the garage for the salsa recipe (tiny kitchen=no storage). We really liked the south of the border zingy chicken BBQ'd this way.

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Throw the following in the food processor:

1/2 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro
3 T. light olive oil
1 tsp. pepper
juice from 1 lime plus zest

I did not add salt because the chicken we had was "plumped" (you've seen the commercial) with some kind of saline solution. From now on, I will seek out the all natural chicken whenever I can because it was actually too salty without any added salt in the marinade. Scary.

Anyways, marinade 4 hours, poking the chicken a couple times with a fork violently to inject more flavor. While doing this, as tempting as it might be, avoid yelling "die, die, die" or else your significant other might have you committed.

Grill and eat. Easy Spanish rice recipe coming soon.

While you have the cuisinart out, here is another recipe that is pretty easy. Roasted salsa has a smoky mellow flavor and when you make your own, it's easy to control the heat or lack of it (if you are like me). The recipe I read here called for a whopping 20-25 serranos. Ummmm.....after tasting ONE bite of ONE serrano that was ALREADY ROASTED, I wanted to chug a whole gallon of milk to cool off my mouth, so I adjusted it down to a measly 3 peppers and it was still plenty hot!

Roasted Salsa

16 roma tomatoes, halved
2 onions, quartered
8-10 garlic cloves
3-5 serrano peppers
1 bunch cilantro
1 T. salt
lime juice to taste.

Preheat oven to 375. Lay tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers out on cookie sheets and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 20-25 minutes.

Cool off a bit and pulse in a cuisinart with cilantro and salt. Add lime juice to taste.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green Curry Chicken

Today I did a little demonstration for some friends and made Green Curry Chicken for lunch. I know for me, there is a world of difference between watching someone cook and trying to figure it out from a written recipe. I'm assuming that's the reason that the Food Network is wildly popular - most people prefer visual learning. But even with those shows, the measurements and cook times are vague or glossed over.

Luckily for us, vague is the best way to cook Thai do it by taste, trying to find the right balance between the 4 S's -- salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Once you have the ingredients and understand their strengths, it is easy to do. For blog's sake, I've written out a recipe with precise ingredients for a guideline, but it's up to you what your palate prefers. Some people like spicier and others like sweeter. Make up your own veggie combination beans, sweet potatoes, and summer squash are all fine additions. I've put my favorite brands in there too, in case you were curious.

Thank you to my enthusiastic tasters was a fun afternoon!

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

1 lb. chicken breast tender, cut into bite-sized chunks
2-3 tbs. green curry paste (Mae Ploy brand)
1 can coconut milk (Mae Ploy or Chaokoh brand)
3 kaffir lime leaves, split and thinly sliced
¼ to ½ cup chicken broth (optional)
1 tsp. fish sauce or to taste (Golden Boy or Three Crabs brand)
1 tbs. brown sugar or to taste
1 cup eggplant, cut in bite sized pieces
1 sliced red bell pepper
½ sliced onion
3 sliced carrots
½ lime
½ cup Thai basil leaves

1. Saute the chicken until just done, set aside.*
2. Do not shake the coconut milk before using, so that the cream stays on top. Scoop out ½ cup coconut cream into a pan over medium high heat until bubbly and the oil surfaces (3 mins). Add curry paste and fry it in the cream until fragrant (3 mins)
3. Add the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Add broth until you get a consistency and richness that you like. (If you like it super-rich, skip the broth.) Bring to a boil.
4. Add the veggies and simmer uncovered until they are tender (7-10 mins.)
5. Add the chicken back in and bring back to a simmer. Add the basil. Squeeze the lime juice in. Stir and remove from the heat. Serve over rice.

*You could add the raw chicken in at the end of step 2, but after having a few batches curdle on me, I’ve decided it’s better just to sauté the chicken before.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

I don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden my DVR is recording Barefoot Contessa every day. Probably more like 5 episodes a day. I've always loved the simple and delicious recipes of Ina Garten, but tall guy does not appreciate her New England sensibilities and her trips to the "market" for fresh lobster, caviar and truffle oil. So I have to watch them in secret or deal with the snickering in the background.

Anyways, this sandwich is reproduced from one of those episodes. Most of my prep was done in the morning so I could enjoy my day and then put it together at the last minute. I caramelized the onion when it was still cool in the house and then grilled a flank steak right before serving (yes, this girl can BBQ with the big boys).

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

Saute until brown:
1 large sliced onion
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve

Lightly score flank steak and marinate in: (4 hours+)
2 T. soy
2 T worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp pepper
1 T. brown sugar

Cook on a hot grill until medium rare. Let rest 10 minutes then thinly slice against the grain.

1/4 cup mayo
2 T. brown mustard

4 toasted ciabatta rolls
spread 1 T. sauce on each
add 4 oz. sliced flank steak
then 1/4 of the onions
2 tomato slices (optional)
top with spinach or arugula

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Caribbean Steak Wrap

Stuck at home today, so I have a little time to share my dinner with you. I wish I could have actually shared it because it was quite tasty. My goal over the next couple of weeks is to try out some of the recipes I've been clipping over the years.

I am now trying to stick to a food budget and so I am meal planning on Sunday for weeknight meals in order to shop more efficiently. This is something I have not done in the past and so far it has been really nice to have all the ingredients I need because I have actually planned it that way. Yay for being organized!

Approximate cost for main ingredients (the rest I had on hand):

1 lb. thin sliced steak - $5
1 can black beans - .60
1 mango - $1
1 avocado - $1
lime - .20
cilantro - .50
4 large flour tortillas - $1
$9.30 for 4 servings

This was one of my clippings from the Contra Costa Times called "Steak Wraps with Rum Black Beans and Mango-Avocado Relish" and was tagged as a 30 minute dish. I shortened the title because although descriptive, it's just too much. I also don't consider mango, avocado, cilantro and lime juice to be a "relish." Whatever. On to the recipe - it seems long, but just read over it before you start and it comes together pretty quick.

Caribbean Steak Wraps

3 T. olive oil
3 t. jerk seasoning (purchased, or make it as follows)
1 t. salt plus more to taste
1 lb. thin steak (flank or carne asada cut)
2 cloves garlic
1 can black beans
1/4 cup water
1 ripe mango
1 ripe avocado
1 T. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 T. rum
4 large flour tortillas

Preheat the broiler.
Combine 1 T. of the oil with 2 t. of the jerk seasoning and 1 t. salt in a small bowl. Rub this mixture into both sides of the meat and place the meat on a baking sheet. Broil until medium rare, about 5 minutes per side for flank steak (less for carne asada cut). Let it rest until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T. oil in skillet. Add the garlic and remaining teaspoon of jerk seasoning and saute for a few minutes. Add the beans and and water and simmer gently for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the avocado and mango and place in serving bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and add chopped cilantro. Toss with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the rum to the beans, and increase the heat to cook off the alcohol for a couple minutes. Season the beans with salt and pepper.
Slice the steak into thin strips. Serve fajita style with each component laid out, or roll everything into a burrito for your lucky guests. I also added a dollop of sour cream because I thought it was lacking in sauciness.

Easy Jerk Seasoning
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. ground ginger

Tall guy really enjoyed it and was impressed that it did not taste like your average Mexican burrito. He thought it was like one of those gourmet burritos that cost $8 a pop. He was also happy to have an extra to take to work tomorrow. I just love it when a plan comes together....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Little Einsteins Rocket Cake

Happy 3rd Birthday, Wesley! Yesterday we had a nice little art party where the kids got to create some masterpieces and get messy. We had a fun time, even though I was hoping for a non-rainy day so we could be outside.

The Little Einsteins Rocket was a cake I had envisioned making for a few months because it is his favorite show....and the art theme of the party seemed to go along with it. One who has not worked with cakes or fondant might have tried a less ambitious first project, like a simple round cake. But noooooo....not me. I don't work up to these things, I just dive in and go for it.

You can find the fondant recipe on my previous post. After using almost a whole bottle of red food coloring, I still had a big pink mass of fondant. I ran out to Michaels to find the Wiltons Icing Color, which I added a bit at a time to get the right red. I did not want to knead it out on my table in order to avoid staining it, so here was my solution. Lots of powdered sugar in a baking dish.

For the cake, I used 2 boxed cake mixes. The first one I made was a rectangle for the base. The second batch was split between a round cake pan for the base of the rocket, and a small oven safe mixing bowl, which was used for the top. I realized that it would need a little shaping, so I just used a serrated knife and started carving away. It wasn't pretty, but I think the shape was pretty close. A layer of frosting held each level together.

For the boosters, I used two Twinkies, with one end cut off, separately covered in fondant. The rudders sticking up were pieces of graham crackers covered in fondant and then stuck into the Twinkies. The antenna was a covered cut down straw and a fondant ball stuck into it. The windows were stuck on with royal icing and the lights were cut from banana Laffy Taffy.

I ended up cutting the base cake into a free form because it was falling apart at the edges. I added marshmallows as clouds, but mostly to hide the crumbs and frosting left on the cookie sheet. Sneaky, right?

I had fun making this cake when the kids weren't up in my business and trying to steal pieces of pure sugar fondant to fuel their already crazy behavior or thinking it was fun to "skate" in the powdered sugar that landed on the floor. They also wanted me change the channel or get them a snack while my hands were covered in Crisco or food coloring. It was an adventure and maybe by July's birthday I will have forgotten the challenge of it all....and only remember how excited he was about that rocket cake. Totally worth it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant

I am always impressed by those elegant fondant know, the ones that look all modern and sleek. And after watching Duff and his cakerators use fondant on everything, I really wanted to give it a try. I heard that the pre-made fondant tastes pretty bad, so I found this easy recipe all over the's simple and cheap! It cost about $3 for the whole batch, which should be enough to cover a whole cake and decorate it too. It was a little messy, but not that complicated. The fondant is held in place by frosting underneath.

This is my very first try with fondant. The Easter cupcakes were for the Annual Mom's Club Easter Egg Hunt Party we attended today. Good times!

1 lb. bag mini marshmallow
2 T. water
2 lb. bag of powdered sugar
Crisco to prevent sticking

Dump all marshmallows and water in microwave safe bowl. Put in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, back in microwave for 30 seconds more, stir again, and continue doing this until melted. It usually takes about 2 minutes total. Place 3/4 of the powdered sugar on the top of the melted marshmallow mix.

Now grease your hands generously (palms, backs, and in between fingers), then heavily grease the counter you will be using and dump the bowl of marshmallow/sugar mixture in the middle. Start kneading like you would bread dough. You will immediately see why you have greased your hands. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead some more. Re-grease your hands and counter when the fondant starts sticking. Add water or sugar as needed to get the right consistency. It may take up to 8 minutes to get a firm smooth elastic ball so that it will stretch without tearing when you apply it to the cake.

Cover the ball with a thin layer of Crisco and wrap in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge until you are ready to use. It should last at least a week in the fridge. When you are ready to use, microwave for 10-15 seconds and then add your food coloring, if desired. Knead and roll out on a greased surface (again).

I used a canned frosting to stick mine on, since the tops of my cupcakes were flat. To wrap an entire cake, I would use buttercream underneath the wrap and then if you are decorating the sides, use a Royal Icing that will dry hard, so your pretty little flowers will not slide off (thanks for the tip, Jill!). Most of all, have fun! If you like to play with play-doh with your kids, this will be right up your alley.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thai Turkey Basil

I had ground turkey in the fridge that needed to be used up, so I asked my husband this morning...."Would you like meatloaf or meatballs for dinner?" He was nice about it, but I could tell he was tired of both. And then I thought to myself..."I can do better" and then "OOOOooooh, I have a whole bunch of basil waiting to be used!"

Not sure if this is really a "Thai" dish, but I'm the blogger and I'll name it what I want, dammit. It reminds me of a food demonstration I saw in Santa Barbara from the owner of the Coleman Family Farm, called "Cambodian Style Pork with Chilies and Two Basils", which used a mushroom soy sauce and 2 types of basil. Yum!

I encourage you to add more veggies to this dish...bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms - whatever you have. A little grated ginger would be nice too. The only produce I had left were 3 measly carrots and an onion. I'd better go shopping so I don't have to crack open that frozen bag of peas that's been in the freezer for months. Eek.

I would start the rice right before you begin this takes about 20 minutes total.

1 T. olive oil
1 package ground turkey
2 t. minced garlic
1 T. 1 chopped onion
3 carrots, sliced on diagonal
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. fish sauce
1/3 cup water
1 T. brown sugar
1 -2 tsp. sriracha sauce (or minced thai chiles)
squeeze of lime
cornstarch slurry
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup roughly chopped basil

In a large skillet, brown the turkey in olive oil, adding onion and carrots in after the first couple of minutes. When the turkey seems about done, add the garlic and stir for another minute. Drain off the turkey liquid. Add soy, fish sauce, water, brown sugar, lime juice, hot sauce or chiles. Stir until all mixed up. Taste sauce and adjust the seasonings until you like it. Add a tablespoon or two of the cornstarch slurry and let simmer until thickened. Stir in cilantro and basil until wilted. Serve over hot rice.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Butternut Risotto

I made my first risotto last month and loved it so much, I decided to embellish it a bit with some winter squash this time. Thanks to Monique for steering me to the original recipe at Williams-Sonoma, which I used as inspiration. I love the sage brown butter addition. Absolutely sinful. You must go to confession if you make this.


5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. minced fresh sage


In a saucepan bring the chicken broth to a simmer and maintain over low heat.

In a large saucepan over medium warm the olive oil. Add the onions and butternut cubes, saute until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add rice and stir until the grains are well coated with the oil and are nearly translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Add the simmering stock mixture a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more.

When the rice is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy, after about 30 minutes, stir in the the cheese, salt and pepper. Add more stock if needed so the rice is thick and creamy. Let stand for 2 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs. butter. Add the the sage and heat until the butter browns. Drizzle each serving with about a teaspoon of the sage butter and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mac 'N Cheese

I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I stared curiously at the box of Velveeta giving me sexy little winks and putting out that "come hither" vibe on me. But it was just sitting there all warm on the grocery store shelf....the non-refrigerated shelf! And so sadly, I could not bring myself to put that box of "cheese" in my cart. I know, I know...I've heard all the dirty little secrets about how it makes your mac 'n cheese oh so creamy. Just add a few other gourmet cheeses and nobody will know. And yet, I still could not do it. Does that make me a snob??? I hope not.

Instead, I compromised with a little cream cheese, and kicked it up (sorry, I don't really like Emeril but sometimes you just need to kick things up) with some cayenne and basil. Yum! This is comfort food at it's finest and even when it's 70 degrees in February, you gotta love it.

Mac 'N Cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni or other pasta
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 t. powdered mustard
3 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 T. grated onion
1/8 t. cayenne
1 egg
2 T. chopped basil
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 package cream cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Stir in the milk, onion, and cayenne, whisking so no lumps form. Simmer for about ten minutes until thickened up a bit.

Temper the egg and add back to the mixture. Stir in cheeses and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Pesto Cheesecake

I had this at my friend Cathy's Christmas party and loved it so much that I tracked the baker down for the recipe. I'm not sure that "cheesecake" is the right term for a savory dish like this, but whatever the name, I'm digging it bigtime. I suggest reading the entire recipe before starting.

Pesto Cheesecake courtesy of Rebecca A.

¼ C bread crumbs
2 T grated parmesan cheese

2 – 8oz packages cream cheese
1 C ricotta cheese
½ C grated parmesan cheese
½ t salt
1/8 t cayenne
3 large eggs
½ C pesto sauce
1/3 C pine nuts
2- 3 T. Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. The instructions call for a 9 in springform pan but you can use a pie dish that is about 10 inches in diameter. Rub butter over sides and bottom of the pan and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

Filling - With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, salt and cayenne until well blended then add eggs one at a time, beating well. Transfer half the cheese mixture into a separate bowl and mix the pesto into one of the portions of cheese. Spoon the pesto cheese mixture into the pan, sprinkle with 1 T. bread crumbs, then add the plain cheese mixture on top and smooth gently. (I added too much breadcrumbs in the want the layers distinct, but my sprinkling of bread crumbs was so thick that the layers came apart too easy when cutting into it). Sprinkle pine nuts over the top and add the rest of the bread crumbs.

Bake for about 45 minutes or more until the center doesn't jiggle and it is lightly browned. It will puff up slightly and then fall back when cooled. Garnish with springs of basil.

Cut into small wedges for easy serving. Crackers would be great alongside.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Slow Roasted Roma Tomatoes

This is one of my favorite ways to use tomatoes when they are not at their end of summer sweetest. When I find them on sale, I always buy a several pounds with this in mind. Slow roasting brings out all the sugars and concentrates the flavor into a delicious smoky morsel....use on salads, in pastas or eat them plain with a little chopped basil and balsamic vinegar.

Directions: Wash tomatoes and cut in half, squeezing out the seeds. Lay them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Bake at 275 for 2-3 hours, depending on their size. They should shrink and get a bit carmelized. Yum!

Tomorrow I will post a recipe that incorporates said morsels...stay tuned!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

I'm finding it very hard to type that it's been over a month since my last post. Really? That is just lame. However, no time to make excuses or feel guilty. It's time to get cookin'. I'm just hoping that I can find some inspiration to keep it going in 2009.

I did manage to find the strength to join Weight Watchers in December. It's slow but steady and I'm feeling better about my choices. I've also been getting to the gym more to offset things like Pancake Sunday, our weekly family tradition.

This week, instead of the normal Bisquick variety, I wanted to try something new and happened upon this recipe in last week's Contra Costa Times food section. I'd like to think its a healthier version because of the whole wheat flour....but I kind of doubt it. They tasted great and the lemon flavor gave it a fabulous zing!

Lemon-Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup egg substitute*
2 cups buttermilk*
2 T. canola oil
3 T. light pancake syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups small blueberries

1. In a medium bowl, place the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Blend with a whisk.
2. In a mixing bowl, place the egg, egg substitute, buttermilk, oil, syrup, vanilla and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed until smooth.
3. Add flour mixture and beat on medium-low until just smooth. Do not over mix. Let batter rest for 10 minutes.
4. Preheat nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat until a drop of water skittles across it.
5. Pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the hot griddle. Sprinkle blueberries on top of each pancake. Cook over medium heat for 30 to 60 seconds or until bubbles form on pancakes. Turn over with spatula and cook until the pancakes are golden brown. Serve with whipped topping if desired.

Recipe serves 6.

5 WW points per serving. 285 calories, 4 g. fiber, 6.5 g. fat

*Because I had no buttermilk, I substituted with 2 cups of 1% milk mixed with 2 T. lemon juice (and letting it sit for 5 minutes before using). I also substituted 2 egg whites for the fake egg stuff. I love using the internet to find substitutions - anything to avoid making a trip to the store with two crazy-kids-who-want-every-package-of-cookies-and-candy-they-see in tow.