Thursday, November 29, 2007


We're getting ready to visit friends in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I had some coffee yogurt to use up, and thought cappuccino muffins would be a great way to use it up. I decided to play with the recipe a bit to reduce the sugar and fat in these muffins and make them a little more healthful. ("Healthful" dessert is an oxymoron,, no?) These came out really, really good. So good, I might just stick to this recipe next time I make them. Cappuccino anything is tops on my list -- the flavors of chocolate, cinnamon and coffee are my favorite. Here's the recipe -- if you try it, please let me know how you liked it.
Reduced Fat, Reduced Sugar Cappuccino Muffins

INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus (or 1/4 cup Splenda, if you prefer)
3-3/4 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips, divided use
6 oz. non-fat coffee yogurt + 6 oz. reduced fat sour cream or milk
3 Tbsp. coffee powder
2 Tbsp. coffee brandy
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
Topping: 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 Tbsp. sugar
DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Prepare muffin tins by spraying lightly with flour-added non-stick cooking spray. (For coated pans, just spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.) Melt the butter in microwave, covered, in a microwaveable medium mixing bowl. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar & sugar substitute, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. (Aerate the flour with a whisk, spoon it lightly into measuring cup, then level off with spatula or knife.) Add half the chocolate chips and whisk again.
Add the wet ingredients and coffee powder to the melted butter and whisk till well combined.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquids all at once. Whisk lightly just till barely combined. Batter can be rough and lumpy. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each muffin well. Top with remaining chocolate chips, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place the muffins in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for 14-17 minutes, or till muffins test done when toothpick is inserted in center.
Notes: I used King Arthur whole-wheat flour, Samosa brand coffee brandy & Ghiradelli
milk chocolate chips mixed with Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips.
Stevia Plus is available online and in health food stores.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


What can be more comforting than chicken noodle soup? I don't make it too much any more, because our local butcher shop has the best chicken rice soup I've ever tasted. It has big chunks of chicken in not-too-salty broth with tender rice for the amazing price of $3.00/pint. Because it's not too brothy, a pint feeds two of us when I add some chicken broth and extra veggies. I made this batch of soup because of the paella I made recently. When I boned the chicken thighs for the paella, I was left with meaty bones that went into the freezer. I added a chicken breast to the thigh bones for this soup.
Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup
INGREDIENTS: 1 quart chicken broth
2 cups water
3 celery stalks cut in bite-sized chunks
2-3 carrots cut in bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 chicken leg quarter, or 2 chicken thighs, or meaty bones from 10 chicken
chicken thighs
1 chicken breast, skin on and bone in
1/2 - 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS: Heat chicken broth and water on high in large (5-6 quart) stockpot. While broth is heating, chop vegetables and add to pot with seasonings. Wash chicken well in salted water and add to pot. Bring almost to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook for 5-6 hours. (It's important that the soup does not boil, not even a low boil.)
Pour soup through a strainer or colander, separating the broth from the chicken and veggies. Pick the meat from the bones, discarding bones, fat and skin. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces.
using all soup at once, return broth to pot, skimming off excess fat. Add the chopped parsley.
Now it's time to cook the noodles. You have two choices: cook them in the broth, then add the chicken and veggies when they're done; or cook them in salted water in a separate pot and add them at the end. I cook the noodles in a separate pot in salted water because I like the taste better and I want as much broth as possible with my soup. If you cook the noodles in the broth, the noodles will use up a good amount of the broth. You also have the choice of discarding the cooked veggies and adding fresh veggies to the pot.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This is an easy and satisfying meal. Roasted garlic, if you've never had it, has the most wonderful flavor. Any cloves that you don't eat during the meal can be saved in the fridge and used as a spread for crackers or breads. And any leftover potatoes can be reheated with eggs the next morning for a delightful breakfast.

Roasted Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

INGREDIENTS: 1 Idaho or Russet potato
1 Sweet Potato
10 - 12 cloves of fresh garlic, unpeeled
2 chicken breasts with skin on and bone in
sea salt
black pepper
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 12 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Wash the potatoes. Peel the sweet potato. Leave the russet unpeeled. Cut both potatoes into chunks and put in the baking pan. Scatter the garlic over the potatoes. Place the chicken breasts in the center, moving any potatoes out of the way so they're not under the chicken. Salt and pepper everything to your liking, lay the sprigs of herbs over the potatoes and chicken, then drizzle olive oil over all. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or till chicken is done. (The herb leaves will fall from the stems as the dish cooks.) To eat the roasted garlic: just squeeze the garlic "paste" from the shell, right into your mouth, or spread it on a baguette slice.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In the November 2002 issue of Food and Wine magazine, Dana Cowin, then food editor, authored an article entitled, "One Person's Quest for the Perfect Apple Pie." It was the chronicle of her search to duplicate the apple pie of her childhood. She was patiently assisted in this quest by author and cook Peggy Cullen, who, after 9 attempts, was successful in recreating a pie that satisfied Dana. I have made this pie three times. The first two times I followed the recipe exactly except for using different apples (her recipe uses Golden Delicious apples). It was outstanding, but then how could it not be with 2 sticks of butter -- one in the filling and one in the crust, in addition to 1/2 cup vegetable shortening? For this pie, , I halved the butter in the filling and used a different pie crust recipe to reduce the fat somewhat. I also reduced the sugar in the filling, used frozen apple juice concentrate and added a bit of brandy. The pie was every bit as good. This is an outstanding recipe, but it does take a little work. I think it's worth the effort for the wonderful deep flavor you get from precooking the apples and reducing the sauce before making the pie. I usually make this pie with a double crust; however, my original plan was to bake an apple crostada and a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I inadvertently used the crostada crust for the pumpkin pie, so decided to make a regular apple pie instead of a crostada. The crostada called for a crumble topping which I had already made, so I used it for this pie. It was absolutely delicious!!
Perfect Apple Pie

INGREDIENTS: Your favorite pie crust
6 cups Rome apples, peeled, seeded, quartered, cut into 3 pieces each quarter
juice of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup sugar & 1 tsp. molasses (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)
1/3 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Crumble Topping: 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup quick oats
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar (or 2 Tbsp. brown sugar + 2 tsp. Stevia Plus
5 Tbsp. butter (or 2 Tbsp. butter + 3 Tbsp. Smart Balance)
DIRECTIONS: Prepare pastry crust of your choice and line a 9" pie plate with it. Trim the overhang. Refrigerate. Prepare the pie filling: Toss the apples with the lemon juice in a large bowl. In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter over low heat and stir in the sugar, molasses, apple juice concentrate and brandy. Add the apples and juice, and turn the apples to coat them. Increase heat to high and cook, turning occasionally, until apples are tender but not mushy or overcooked, about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook. (Note: Although I use mostly Rome apples for pies, I usually add some other apples, such as Granny Smith, Delicious, Cortland, or whatever else looks good in the store. Because I use a mix, they will get done at different times. I stand over the skillet and remove the slices that are done, one by one, onto a cookie sheet. When we lived in the Northeast, Winesap apples were available, and they made the best apple pie; but Winesaps are not available in the Southeast, so I mostly use Rome apples. Rome apples keep their shape better than a MacIntosh or Granny Smith. The Willilamsburg Inn uses Rome Beauty apples for their pies. For this pie, I used 4 cups Rome apples, 1 cup Cortland apples, 1 cup Mountaineer apples) Here's a photo of the apples being cooked, with some of them already removed to the cookie sheet:
Cook the juices that remain in the skillet for a few minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Remove skillet from heat and set aside. Sprinkle the flour and cinnamon over the apples and toss till flour is incorporated. Pour the thickened apple juices over the apples. Cool completely, for at least 1 hour.
While apples are cooling, prepare crumble topping (if using): Combine all ingredients in work bowl of food processor and pulse several times till butter is in tiny pea-sized or smaller pieces. If you don't have a food processor, then cut the butter into the other ingredients as you would for a pie crust. After apples have cooled, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on bottom half of oven. Arrange the apples in the pie shell; drizzle the juices over them. If using top crust, put it on and trim the pie. If using crumble topping, carefully place it on top of pie, distributing it evenly over the top. Place pie on pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for 30-35 minutes longer, or until the filling starts to bubble. (If crust browns too quickly, cover with foil. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into wedges and serving.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Here's a great way to use up some crystallized ginger. It goes really well in this topping. And this topping is also good on apple pie..

Ginger Cream Topping for Pumpkin Pie (and other pies too)

1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold.
1/2 cup Mascarpone (or 6 Tbsp. Mascarpone substitute, see recipe below)
1/4 cup 10 X sugar
1/2 tsp. dried powdered ginger
1-1/2 tsp. brandy (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla powder or vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger

DIRECTIONS: Chill beaters and small deep bowl for about 15 minutes, preferably in the freezer. Whip the cold heavy cream (be sure the carton says heavy whipping cream -- there is a difference in creams) till it's stiff. Set aside in fridge. In medium bowl, whip the Mascarpone (or substitute) till it's smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and powdered ginger and whip again till it's smooth and creamy. Add the brandy, vanilla and crystallized ginger and whip again till ingredients are incorporated. Add the whipped cream and beat till everything is incorporated.
Refrigerate till ready to use.

Mascarpone Substitute: 

8 oz. cream cheese 
3 Tbsp. sour cream
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Beat everything together till it's smooth.  (If you can find and afford mascarpone, please buy it as there is really no substitute that comes close enough to the real thing.)


I am tired of plain old whipped cream with vanilla, whipped cream with rum and even plain old whipped cream with maple syrup and cinnamon. I wanted to do a mascarpone cream for the pumpkin pie this year. But I guess I decided too late. The store was sold out of mascarpone. Not to be deterred, I made a mascarpone substitute. Now, I will say, there is no real substitute for mascarpone. That creamy and mild flavor cannot be duplicated by anything else. Here are the true facts: cream cheese tastes like cream cheese; sour cream tastes like sour cream; and mascarpone tastes like mascarpone. Period. But, in a pinch, you can use this substitute when it's mixed with whipping cream, so long as you don't overdo the substitute amount. There are actually several ways to substitute mascarpone, but this recipe is the closest to the real thing. Again, I want to add, the closeness is about 1 mile away.

Mascarpone Substitute

8 oz. cream cheese
3 Tbsp. sour cream
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Beat everything together till it's smooth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Rose Levy Beranbaum is one of the goddesses of bakedom. Her recipes and techniques are not only legendary, but are accompanied by explanations of why certain processes work and others don't. This is her recipe, and I found it on I chose this over hundreds of others for the following reasons: 1) Instead of prebaking the pie shell, Rose sprinkles a mixture of crushed gingersnaps and ground pecans on the bottom of the raw dough. She calls it a crunchy bottom crust (it's not crunchy; the cookies and pecans absorb excess liquid from the filling.)
2) Rose precooks the pumpkin to intensify the flavors. 3)She purees the cooked pumpkin in a food processor to produce a silky texture. I was a little nervous about using her spices -- Rose calls for 2 tsp. ground ginger and 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon. I changed it to 1 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. cinnamon. I added a pinch of cloves and a pinch of allspice. I also reduced her 1/2 tsp. salt to 1/4 tsp. Instead of the 2/3 cup milk in her recipe, I used 1/2 cup fat-free Half and Half + 3 Tbsp. Jim Beam brandy. She uses canned pumpkin, stating that the texture and flavor are more consistent than fresh, but I always use fresh. I like her method of baking the pie on a stone in a preheated oven at the bottom of the oven to produce a crisp and brown crust. She says to bake the pie for 50-60 minutes, and I checked for doneness at 50 minutes. The pie was done. In fact I thought it was too done. It cracked all around the edges. Next time I bake it, I will check for doneness at 40 minutes, and you should, too. Any cracks in pumpkin pie can easily be covered with whipped cream.

There was one little glitch: I made two pastry doughs: one for the pumpkin pie, and one for the apple crostada. Unfortunately, I got them mixed up, and used the crostada dough for the pumpkin pie. The crostada dough was a puff pastry which is definitely the wrong pastry for a pumpkin pie. It doesn't keep well. By the time I discovered I had the wrong dough, it was too late to change it and too late to make another dough. Remarkably, our hosts raved, not only about the pie (declaring it the best pumpkin pie they ever ate!), but also about the crust. It wasn't my favorite for a pumpkin pie crust but they thought it was great.
This pie is silky and has a wonderful flavor from the ginger and cinnamon. I am now happy that I lost the cookbook with my old standby pumpkin pie recipe. This recipe is definitely better. One thing I never did before was to precook the pumpkin, and it really does make a difference.
Great Pumpkin Pie

INGREDIENTS: 1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie
4 (2-inch) gingersnaps
1/4 cup pecan halves
2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin, or one 15-oz. can unsweetened pumpkin
1/2 cup white sugar + 1 tsp. molasses + 1/2 Tbsp. Stevia Plus
OR just use 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar if you prefer
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground allspice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup Land-of-Lakes fat-free Half and Half
3 Tbsp. brandy
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Roll out pie crust to fit a 9" deep dish pie pan. Process the gingersnaps and
pecans in a food processor or blender till they are fine crumbs. Sprinkle them over the bottom of the pie crust, and, using your fingers and the back of a spoon, press them into the dough to coat the entire bottom, going about 1/2 inch up the sides. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F at least 20 minutes before baking. Plan to bake directly on the floor of the oven, or set an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or cookie sheet on it before preheating. (I used a pizza stone on the lowest shelf.)

Make the pumpkin filling: In a small heavy saucepan (I used a 2-quart), stir together the pumpkin, sugar, molasses, Stevia Plus (or brown sugar), spices and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes, or until thick and shiny. Scrape the mixture into a food processor and process for 1 minute, or till smooth. With the motor on, add the Half and Half, brandy and cream, processing until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, processing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each addition; add the vanilla along with the last egg. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 50-60 minutes or just until a knife inserted between the sides and center comes out almost clean. (Start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.) The filling will have puffed and the surface dulled, except for the center. The filling will shake like jelly when moved. This will happen before it has finished baking, so it cannot be used as a firm indication of doneness; conversely, if it does not have this jell-like consistency, you can be sure that it is not baked adequately. If the crust appears to be darkening too much on the bottom, raise the pie to the next rack. After 30 minutes, you may need to protect the edges with a foil ring.

Place the baked pie on a rack to completely cool before refrigerating. When cool, the surface will be flat. Characteristic star-burst cracking is the result of overbaking. Serve this pie with ginger cream topping (see post under Frostings and Toppings.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This is the pastry I made today for the apple cobbler crostada I will be bringing to our Thanksgiving dinner. I've made this dessert before, and it's very good. The pastry does not keep well, however, so you should plan on eating this the day it's made. Or reheat it if it's from the day before. The dough must be made a day ahead and left to rest in the fridge overnight. I'm letting it rest for 2 nights because I will put this together on Thanksgiving Day. (Note: I halved the recipe since I am only making one crostada.) This recipe is from As with all pastry dough, have all ingredients as cold as possible before starting and work quickly with the dough. Get it in the fridge as fast as you can.

Pate Sucree (Basic Sweet Dough)

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup)
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 - 4 Tbsp. heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: Put the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse quickly until the butter is "cut" and the mixture looks and feels like pebbles. Add the egg yolks and half the cream and pulse to incorporate. Keep adding cream (up to 4 Tbsp. total) and pulsing until the dough starts to come together. Remove from the mixer, form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.


This is the pie crust I made today for our Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie. It's always best to make pie crusts a day or two before you make the pie, so the gluten can relax. The secret to flaky pie crusts is not only the ingredients but also having them at the right temperature. Pie Crusts are the one thing that needs cold ingredients, the colder the better. And they must be mixed as quickly as possible. The idea is to coat the fat rather than mixing it in. A food processor is a really wonderful help in making a good piecrust, because the short pulses coat the fat rather than mixing it in.

Butter Pie Crust for One-Crust Pie

INGREDIENTS: 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk, cold
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ice water

DIRECTIONS: Pulse flour, sugar and salt in food processor (or mix with whisk in large bowl). Add butter and pulse till mixture is like cornmeal, with maybe some of the butter like pea size (or cut in butter with pastry blender). Combine the water, yolk and vinegar in a small cup or bowl and slowly add to the flour mixture. In food processor, pulse till it comes together. By hand, toss with fork as you add the liquid. This is where you have to be attentive. Don't add any more liquid than the flour needs to hold it together, so don't be too quick to add liquid. Once it comes together in a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. I make my dough several days ahead. You can also freeze this; put it in the fridge the night before you need it. This dough has a nice flavor and is tender and a little flaky, but not as flaky as a shortening crust.

Monday, November 19, 2007


This year, we've been invited to a friend's beach house for Thanksgiving dinner, so I don't have a lot to prepare, just the pumpkin pie. But when I looked for my old Jaycee-ette cookbook (from the 60's would you believe) I couldn't find it. It had my tried and true pumpkin pie recipe that I've used forever. Here and there I tried other recipes, but I always went back to this one, because the flavorings and ingredients worked well and everyone (including Guy and me) likes it. I've searched high and low and cannot find the cookbook. And unfortunately I never wrote the recipe down and cannot remember it precisely enough to duplicate it. So-o-o-o, I've spent the last two days searching the internet for a pumpkin pie recipe. I know that I don't like Libby's, and I don't like the sweetened condensed milk recipe. We don't want pumpkin cheesecake and we don't want gingersnap crusts or pumpkin chiffon. We like traditional pumpkin pie -- no nuts, no caramel, no bells and whistles, except for sweetened whipped cream on top. I've printed out about 20 recipes and tomorrow I'll make a decision. I'm hoping to also have time to make an apple pie and wanted to try Tyler Florence's ultimate caramel apple pie, but it's probably going to be more like an apple crostada instead. As soon as I get time, I will post my dessert recipe from our weekend dinner party -- it was Tiramisu.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


(Note: We were having too much fun! I forgot to take a photo of the finished product. I took this photo after all the guests had left. By that time, the rice was still absorbing liquid and got sticky. It looked much better when it came out of the oven, but this is a reminder: keep adding liquid right up to the end, even after you take it out of the oven.)

Last night, we had friends for dinner and I got to use the saffron that I bought at World Market in Knoxville. After researching what seemed like hundreds of paella recipes, I definitely decided since I'm not Spanish I really didn't care much about making authentic paella. Because I had definite ideas in mind for what to put in my paella, I decided to strike out on my own. For one thing, I didn't want white rice. Now I know everyone makes paella with white rice, but I wanted to use brown rice. Brown rice has fiber, vitamins and is more slowly absorbed into your body, so is slightly less glycemic than white rice. A friend gave us a bag of California brown rice, and it's very good so I decided to use it in the paella. (I read all the pros and cons on rices -- don't use arborio rice, don't use American rice, etc., but I really didn't think a Hungarian-German and an Italian would know they weren't eating authentic Spanish short-grain rice in their paella.) I decided to use boned chicken thighs instead of breasts or mixed pieces. I wanted this to be easy to eat and moist, tender chicken. However, if I do it again I might leave the skins on the thighs and the bones in, because, first, the chicken won't stick to the pan, and second, the bone adds additional flavor -- and, really, it's not terribly messy to cut into a chicken thigh.) I didn't want peas; I wanted artichokes. And I wanted to be careful with the seasonings. (The last time I made paella, I didn't have saffron, so I used turmeric. It was a disaster, but everyone was polite and said it was good. To make matters worse, I used too much turmeric, and I could barely eat it myself. I still can't believe anyone else ate it.) I was a nervous wreck over this paella, and became more so when the rice just wouldn't cooperate. After an hour on the stove, it was still crunchy. But when I finished it in the oven, covered, it came together and was very tender and had absorbed all the flavors -- which is what it's supposed to do. Paella is really a rice dish, and the meats and seafood you put in are supposed to be inconsequential. The Spanish focused more on the rice for this dish than anything else. The way to get the rice to absorb the flavors of the broth and seasonings is to first toast it in olive oil and then slowly add the liquid. It needs to be cooked in an open pot over a low heat. The slow open cooking method is what does the trick. But it takes patience. I started it too late, since I've never used this method of cooking it before and wasn't aware of the time difference in cooking the rice. So we ate a little late, but we had a good time while we waited for our dinner. And I know it was good -- not only because I liked it, but also because Guy -- finicky Guy -- liked it, and the other two men had second helpings.

Judy's Brown Rice Paella

INGREDIENTS: 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2-1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided use
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1-1/2 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided use
10 chicken thighs, boned with skins or skinless boneless cut into chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine, drinking quality
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
2 cups Spanish or sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1-1/2 cups brown rice
1 bay leaf
3 pinches of crushed hot red pepper flakes
14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
1 quart chicken broth
13.75 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts in water (or use frozen artichoke hearts, if you prefer)
2 roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped (I used homemade, 1 red and 1 gold, but you can use purchased if you prefer)
1 lb. cooked Italian sausage, hot or sweet, cut into 1" chunks (I used a mixture of hot and sweet)
About 30-35 fresh Littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
1 lb. large fresh shrimp, shucked and deveined
1 doz. or more fresh mussels, scrubbed and rinsed (I couldn't get mussels this time, no one had them)

DIRECTIONS: In 1 gallon resealable plastic bag, mix 2 Tbsp. oil, 1 tsp. sea salt, paprika, chile powder, oregano, black pepper and chicken pieces. Close bag and massage till spices are well distributed over the chicken pieces. Refrigerate for several hours, the longer the better. (After I marinated the chicken in the morning, I cut up all the vegetables, shucked the shrimp, cleaned the clams, and basically got all the ingredients lined up for the paella. I started cooking it at 4:30 pm, so the chicken marinated about 7 hours. Having everything ready made the cooking process much easier. Also, when I boned the thighs, I cut out a lot of the fat pieces, which made nice lean thigh pieces. The reason I used thighs instead of breasts is because the thighs hold up better in a longer cooking process, whereas the breasts tend to dry out.)

Crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle and add it to the wine in a small bowl or cup. Set aside. In a heavy 3-quart saute' pan, heat 3 Tbsp. oil and saute' the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes each side, or till browned and partly cooked. Remove chicken to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan and saute the onions on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, till nice and golden and limp. If they start to burn, turn the heat to low. You don't want them burned, so watch them closely. The bottom of the pan may look burnt to you, especially if you use the boneless chicken, but don't worry, it'll be fine.
Add the garlic and stir for a minute or so, then add the rice and coat it well -- let it "toast" for a few minutes. Add the wine which has now turned yellowish from the saffron, and turn the heat up a tad. Add 1-1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and the bay leaf. Let the wine bubble up, and as it does, scrape the burned bits off the bottom of the pan with a spoon or spatula. You may have to do this for a few minutes before the wine loosens them all up. Be sure you get them all, because there's tons of flavor in those bits! When the rice has absorbed the wine, lower the heat and add the juice from the tomatoes, pressing the lid down on the tomatoes to get as much juice as possible. Let the rice absorb the tomato juice, then add about 1 cup chicken broth and stir and let it absorb. Continue to cook, stir, and add broth as needed without covering the pan, for the next hour. Take your time with this process because this is how the rice gets all the flavor.
After the rice has cooked for an hour, taste the broth and adjust seasonings if necessary. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put the chicken into a 4-quart or larger glass or metal pan (I used an Anchor Hocking 10.5 x 14.75, 4 quart ovenware pan which was the perfect size for this amount; however, if mussels had been available, or if I had used skin-on bone-in thighs, it would have been too small.) Pour rice and broth over chicken, add 1 cup hot water, cover with tinfoil and bake in oven till rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, Add artichokes, red peppers, tomatoes and sausage and more hot water if needed. Cook, covered, for an additional 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, add parsley, clams and shrimp and more hot water if needed. Cook, covered, for an additional 15-20 minutes, or till clams have opened. Serve with garnish of fresh parsley. Yield: 8-10 servings

Saturday, November 17, 2007


For this recipe, I used a Williams-Sonoma base recipe and changed ingredients to get the flavors I wanted. The base recipe is "Almond Lemon and Anise Biscotti." The recipe calls for oil, but I used melted butter instead. I increased the flour slightly to allow for the 2 Tbsp. Kahlua I added; and I increased the sugar slightly to allow for the bitter coffee powder I added. I thought a dip with chocolate would be a nice finishing touch. These biscotti are easy to make and very delicious. They're crisp and crunchy, not hard, and the butter makes then tender at the same time.

Capuccino Walnut Biscotti
INGREDIENTS: 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup unsalted butter (you may substitute oil if you like)
2 Tbsp. coffee brandy, such as Kahlua
3 Tbsp. instant coffee granules (decaf is ok--or use 1-1/2 Tbsp. Espresso if
you like)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, unbleached
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast walnuts in pie plate or small baking pan for about 10 minutes, or till just lightly toasted and starting to give off an aroma. Cool. In small glass bowl, heat butter on medium in microwave for about 1 minute, or til almost melted. It will continue to melt after you remove it from microwave. In small cup, dissolve coffee granules in coffee brandy. In medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large workbowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment combine the eggs, sugar, butter, coffee mixture and vanilla. Beat till fluffy, scraping bottom and sides as needed. Add the flour mixture and stir till a dough forms. Do not overbeat at this point. Stir in the chips and nuts. Take the dough by large spoonfuls and drop it onto the parchment, as shown below:

It looks pretty sloppy, doesn't it? Don't worry. Run your hands under cold water and with wet hands, shape the blobs of dough into a log, as below:
I made three logs. The width of the logs is basically going to be the length of your cookies, so make the logs as wide as you want your cookies long. They will spread a little, so account for that. I wish I had done 2 logs, wider, but what I ended up with is a lot of small cookies -- which is ok, but for dunking, the longer cookies are better.
Bake the biscotti 25-30 minutes at 350, or till firm to the touch and starting to crack on the tops. See the cracks below?
Let the biscotti cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then carefully, very carefully transfer them to a cooling rack where they should completely cool -- at least 1 hour. (Problems with shredding and breaking come from trying to cut warm biscotti.) After they are completely cooled, cut them in slices about 1/2" thick, or to your preference. Arrange the slices, cut side down, onto the same baking sheet, with or without the parchment. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 10 minutes each side, or till crisp and slightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Optional chocolate dip: Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Heat about 8 oz. chocolate chips (I used Hershey's Special Dark) with 1 Tbsp. fat-free Half and Half, or heavy cream, or regular Half and Half) and 2 tsp. butter. You can do this in the microwave, or in a Pyrex cup in a pot of hot water. (I prefer doing it on the stove because I do as little in the microwave as possible. If you research microwaves and the dangers, you will agree with me. Microwaves completely destroy any food value and make molecular changes to whatever you heat in them. In my thinking, they are very scary things that we all seem to overuse.) Any way, you pick your method for heating the chocolate, but be careful because chocolate doesn't like high heat. Stir it to get it smooth. If it's too thick and grainy, just add some more liquid and stir, stir, stir. When you get the chocolate the way you want it, dip your biscotti into it, concentrating more on the one side -- if you put it all around, you'll have trouble with it sticking to everything. Just concentrate on the top and sides and leave the bottom out of it as much as possible. Lay the dipped biscotti onto the wax paper. When sheet is filled up, put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to harden the chocolate quickly. Remove from freezer and store the way you want -- or eat them up. They're pretty darned good.

Friday, November 16, 2007


--- This recipe is from Gourmet Magazine, July 1999. I added the white chocolate dip and reduced the ginger by 1/2 teaspoon. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. It's an easy recipe and quite delicious. The biscotti are low fat, crunchy and tasty. (These are not a tender cookie because there is no fat in the recipe to make them tender. They are a typical crunchy biscotti.) The powdered ginger and the crystallized ginger together make a very flavorful cookie. Here is the crystallized ginger that I used. I bought it at our local Harris Teeter for $2.99, quite a bargain! I only used half the container for this recipe.

A word about the white chocolate (if you decide to use the dip): Buy a good-quality white chocolate, one that lists cocoa butter as a main ingredient.  If you've never liked white chocolate, it could be that you've never tasted white chocolate made with cocoa butter.

Ginger Almond Biscotti
INGREDIENTS: 3/4 cup whole almonds with skins
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 oz. white chocolate chips
2 tsp. fat free half and half, or heavy cream, or milk

DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a shallow baking pan, toast almonds in middle of oven about 10 minutes, or till lightly toasted. (I used the same pan that I baked the biscotti in for this.) Cool nuts and very coarsely chop. Finely chop the crystallized ginger.

My Henckel Santoku knife made short work of these chores. When you chop the nuts, do it carefully. If the knife hits the nut just so, it will fly across the room.

Spray a 1-1/2 quart Pyrex loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the pan with wax paper that hangs over the sides.

Into a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, ground ginger, salt and baking soda. In the workbowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment beat together the whole egg, egg white and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture just till combined. Stir in almonds and crystallized ginger. This mixture will be very very sticky. You don't want to try and knead it or do anything with it except put it into the pan. Just drop it in with your spatula in globs and roughly smooth it out but don't worry about it being perfect, because it will spread when it bakes. Bake in the middle of the oven until pale golden, about 45 minutes. This is what it will look like when it comes out of the oven:
Turn it upside down and pull off the wax paper. Turn it right side up and let it cool on the rack for at least an hour, or till thoroughly cooled.
Remove the loaf to a cutting board and, using a sharp knife (I used by Henckel bread knife), cut slices crosswise about 1/4" thick.

The biscotti is still just a bit moist at this point and needs to be dried out. It tastes quite good as is, but you know biscotti is supposed to be dry. If you like it like this, then don't go any further with it, but I went the second step. Put the cut biscotti on a baking sheet and bake in middle of oven at 325 degrees F. about 10 minutes, then turn biscotti over and bake 10 minutes more or until golden brown and crisp. Cool biscotti on rack. You do not need to dip the biscotti, but the white chocolate is very good with them.

For the white chocolate dip, melt 6 oz. white chocolate chips in pyrex bowl over simmering water till melted and thin enough to dip. I added 2 tsp. fat free half and half and 1 tsp. butter. If the white chocolate looks grainy and thick, just add some more half and half, cream or milk and stir till smooth. Dip the biscotti, one at a time, in the melted chocolate mixture, then lay them on a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper. When all have been dipped, place the sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to quickly harden the chocolate, then remove and store as desired. I freeze all my cookies because they keep better, but you can also store biscotti in an airtight container at cool room temperature for about 2 weeks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The good people at McCormick have developed a salmon recipe that's quite good. It's supposed to be roasted in the oven, but I grilled it outside. And I don't have any smoked paprika, only regular paprika. Since I want to use the regular paprika up before I buy anything else, I subbed with half regular paprika, half chipotle chile pepper, thinking I would get the smokiness and a little heat which I like. Since I have fresh thyme in my herb garden, I used that instead of the dried thyme. Lastly, I had my spinach in a salad, instead of wilted under the salmon. Even with my changes, I liked this. It's a welcome change from the norm. The leftovers made a great sandwich the next day. I'm giving you McCormick's recipe as written, with none of my changes. More recipes are available at their website -- go to this link:

Smoked Paprika Roasted Salmon with Wilted Spinach

INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 tsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Thyme leaves, divided
2 lbs. salmon fillets
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Smoked Paprika
1 tsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Saigon Cinnamon
1 tsp. grated orange peel
1/2 tsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt
1 bag (10 oz.) spinach leaves

DIRECTIONS: Mix orange juice, 2 Tbsp. of the oil and 1 tsp. of the thyme in small bowl. Place salmon in large glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat well. Cover. Refrigerate 30 min. or longer for extra flavor. (I marinated for 1/2 hour and couldn't taste any of the marinade, so I think a longer marinating -- 2-3 hours would give better results. Also, I put everything in a plastic resealable bag instead of a dish.)

Mix sugar, paprika, cinnamon, orange peel, remaining 1 tsp. thyme and sea salt in small bowl. Remove salmon from marinade. Place in greased foil-lined baking pan. Discard any remaining marinade. Rub top of salmon evenly with smoked paprika mixture.

Roast salmon in preheated 400 degree F oven 10-15 minutes, or til fish flakes easily with a fork. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tsp. oil in large skilled on medium heat. Add spinach; cook and stir 2 min., or til wilted. Serve salmon over spinach. Serves 8.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This is my own recipe, but I think I might have used a base recipe to work from, and I don't remember what it was. After yesterday's disaster, I wanted to bake something that I knew would turn out. I've made this recipe before, and it was really good. This time, I subbed half whole wheat flour, and some Stevia Plus for some of the sugar and the results were a little different. The cookies are still very good, but I was disappointed that they didn't puff up and spread like my other cookies. I can't remember what they did last time. Anyway, they're very tender (because of the butter) and the cinnamon and vanilla are nice flavorings with the peanut butter. The Mr. Goodbar is perfect with the peanut butter cookie. All in all, I like this recipe very much, but I am going to try a different one next time just because I like to keep looking. If you don't like whole wheat in your cookies, you can just use all-purpose flour instead. I am adding 2 Tbsp. honey because I think that will compensate for the whole-wheat flour that absorbed moisture.

Cinnamon-Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter + 1/4 cup Smart Balance Buttery Spread (or 1 cup unsalted butter)
1 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus (or 1-1/2 cups sugar)
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. honey
1-1/4 cups peanut butter
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour + 1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour (or 2-2/3 cups AP flour)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large Mr. Goodbar (8 oz.) + 1/3 cup chocolate chips (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
Cinnamon sugar topping: 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Line baking sheets with parchment. Chop Mr. Goodbar in small pieces. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in medium bowl till well combined.

Cream Butter till light. Add sugar gradually, then Stevia (if using), molasses, honey, and peanut butter and beat till fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat. On low speed, stir in flour mixture, vanilla, Mr. Goodbar and chips, just till combined. Drop about 1 rounded tablespoonful of dough onto prepared baking sheet, flatten slightly and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Continue with remaining dough. Bake 12-14 minutes, till set and cookies test done. Insert toothpick in center of a cookie -- if it returns clean, or with just a few crumbs, they are done. Cool in pan 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.
Yield: About 5 dozen cookies

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


There were two warning signs for this recipe that I didn't heed: first, the recipe is not from the Williams Sonoma Kitchen; second, the directions said to flatten the dough if desired when putting it on the cookie sheet. These cookies don't spread and don't raise. There's a lot of oats in the recipe and with the pumpkin butter, these are very dense cookies. To make matters worse, I made them "healthy," substituting applesauce for part of the butter and adding 1/2 cup toasted pecans. My neighbor is taking them to the soup kitchen on Thursday where they hopefully will be appreciated. This is not my kind of cookie. But if it sounds like something you might like, here's the recipe:

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Oatmeal Cookies
INGREDIENTS: 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus (or add another 1/2 cup of sugar, making 1 cup total)
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter (or homemade--see my post)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups quick oats, uncooked
1/2 cup crystallized ginger chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
3/4 cup raisins soaked in hot amaretto liqueur for 1 hour, then drained

DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper. Drain raisins, discarding liquid or reserving for other use. In large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, applesauce and pumpkin butter. Beat well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and add to wet mixture with oats, raisins, nuts and ginger, stirring just till combined. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet and flatten dough if desired. Bake 12-15 minutes or til golden brown. Cool several minutes on cookie sheet and move to wire rack to finish cooling. Makes about 4-1/2 dozen cookies. (For original recipe, go to this link:

On a lighter note, I found a great buy at our local Harris Teeter food store -- crystallized ginger for $2.99. It was a very nice sized box, too.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Here's an easy and quick week night recipe that has great flavor.  Chicken Piccata is usually made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  When you use chicken tenders instead of boneless breasts, you skip the step of slicing the breast in half.  Also, pounding the tender is much easier than pounding the breast flat, because it's (obviously) a more tender piece of chicken.  When you see chicken tenders on sale, definitely buy several packages and freeze what you don't immediately use.

Chicken Tender Piccata

1/2 lb. chicken tenders
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. Smart Balance buttery spread (not the lite version) + 1 Tbsp for sauce
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. capers with juice
optional garnish: 3 slices of lemon, halved; chopped fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS: Place chicken tenders between two sheets of waxed paper and pound thin with mallet.
In paper plate, combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken on both sides. Heat half the olive oil and half the Smart Balance over medium heat in a heavy skillet (if you have non-stick cookware, you can reduce the fats). Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or til golden brown, adding the remaining fat when you flip sides.
Remove chicken to plate, cover with tinfoil and keep warm. Pour wine and lemon juice into pan, increase heat and cook till it boils and slightly thickens. Add capers, 1 Tbsp. Smart Balance, and chicken. Heat again till it boils. Place chicken on serving dish; pour sauce over. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices if desired. (This recipe may be used for veal or thin boneless pork chops, if desired.) Yield: 2 servings

Friday, November 9, 2007


After entering countless recipes in various contests since May of this year, I received a notice today from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine that I have won honorable mention in their March 2008 Prize Tested Recipes Contests. My winning submission was Blueberry Pepper Sauce with Chipotle Chile Chicken, and the category was frozen fruits to the rescue. My prize money was only $50 for honorable mention, but I was so happy to finally have won something. BTW, I have entered 8 muffin recipes in muffin contest which has now ended. All of my recipes have been tested and have been given 5 stars, the highest rating. The winner will be announced at the end of November.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Sorry for the photo above. It's not very good, but the ribs were. I've been making them for more than 30 years this way; the only thing I've changed is the BBQ sauce. Thirty years ago, no one talked about a rub, but that's what I did. I just didn't call it a rub. Now it's the trendy thing to do. I like layers of flavor, and that's what a rub gives you -- a layer of flavor. Add your BBQ sauce and there's another layer. Guy somehow latched on to John Boy and Billie's BBQ Sauce, the spicy version. (They also make regular, not spicy.) I can't seem to get him off it. I like to experiment, even when I've found a good recipe, but if I try to change this recipe, he'll be a very unhappy Italian, so I've been humoring him. Actually, it's not that hard, since the ribs are always great.

Here's what you do: For the rub, sprinkle on the ribs, in this order, according to your taste preferences: sea salt, pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper. (I use whole cumin seed and crush it in a mortar and pestle with the red pepper.) Wrap the ribs in heavy duty tinfoil with about 1/2 cup water. Put on a medium-hot grill (about 400 - 425 degrees F) for an hour, or until ribs are tender and water is almost evaporated.

Remove ribs from grill and slice into serving pieces. Slather with BBQ sauce on both sides. Grill 5 minutes each side. Serve. These are not sweet. They are hot. If you don't like spicy hot things, this is not your recipe.
I've been looking at rib recipes, and there are a few that have caught my eye. One is with coffee BBQ sauce. I'm going to sneak this in on Guy one day and hope he likes it. Then I won't be able to get him off that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


This recipe is Italian soul food. It's what Guy grew up on. I'm Hungarian-German, and my mother was not the world's greatest cook, so I was happy to adopt some great Italian recipes when I married Guy. This soup is easy to make and a great last-minute meal. Have a sandwich or a piece of pizza with it and call it a night. The typical way it's made is with escarole. But on one occasion a few years ago, our local store had no escarole. On a whim, I used Romaine and was pleasantly surprised with the results. If you're looking for a way to use up those outer leaves of Romaine that you usually throw away, this is it.

Italian Ce Ce Bean Soup

INGREDIENTS: 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1 can drained ce ce beans (chick peas)
1 quart chicken broth (or more if needed)
About 8-10 large leaves of Romaine lettuce or 10-12 large leaves
of escarole, washed, dried and rough chopped
Fresh grated black pepper
Fresh grated Locatelli Romano cheese

DIRECTIONS: In a large (3-1/2 quart or larger) stockpot or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic before the oil is hot. Saute the garlic very briefly, as it burns quickly. Add half a can of the ce ce beans that have been drained. Mash them with a potato masher or fork and just stir briefly with the garlic. Add the chicken broth, stir everything well, and bring to a boil. Add the lettuce which has been washed, dried and rough chopped, as below.

Lightly sprinkle with fresh grated black pepper, stir and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the remaining ce ce beans, simmer for about 5 minutes, no more. Serve in bowls with freshly grated Locatelli Romano cheese. BTW, chick peas are the main ingredient in hummus.