Monday, March 30, 2009


If you want an easy chicken parmesan recipe, just bread your chicken, fry it, and top it with jarred spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese. I've taken that easy road. But not this time.

First, I added Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley to seasoned breadcrumbs. Next, I dipped the chicken cutlets in a mixture of egg, white wine, salt and pepper before breading them. This treatment gives flavor to the chicken even before it's bathed in sauce.

And the sauce for this dish is what's really spectacular. Two whole roasted peppers are cut into long strips. Half of them are cooked with the sauce which is then pureed. The remainder are put on top of the sauce before the chicken is added to the pan and before it goes into the oven. There aren't many ingredients in this sauce, because the peppers are on center stage, and let me assure you they perform well. This is one of my favorite tomato sauces, and it is perfect with chicken parmesan. Take the long road next time you make chicken parmesan -- make this sauce. It won't disappoint you.

Chicken Parmesan with Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce
Source: Chicken Breading: Judy's Kitchen
Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce: Adapted from The Romagnolis' Table Cookbook
Rating: 10 out of 10

Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce:
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, grated or minced
1 hot red pepper pod, seeded (or 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper)
28-oz. can good-quality crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 tsp. sea salt (or more, if desired)
2 roasted red peppers, cut in long strips (jarred are ok)
1 can (14.5 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth

In large heavy pot, saute the onion and pepper pod in the oil over medium heat till transparent, about 5 minutes. Briefly add the garlic (and ground pepper if you didn't use the pepper pod) and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove the pepper pod if you used it. Pour in the tomatoes, add salt and half of the roasted peppers. Stir in as much of the broth as you need to get the sauce to desired consistency. (We like ours thin, so I added the whole can.) Cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes; taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed. Puree the sauce, if desired. (My husband has to have smooth sauce, so I always puree.) Reserve remaining half of roasted peppers for roasting pan.

Breading: 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
2 Tbsp. white wine, drinking quality
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half, pounded to even thickness (4 cutlets total)

In a disposable plate or plastic bag, combine the parsley, cheese and bread crumbs; set aside. In a flat bowl, whisk egg with wine, salt and pepper till frothy. Dip cutlets, first in egg mixture, then in breadcrumb mixture. Lay on wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

1. Heat oven to 375F. Set out a 9x12 baking pan and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Start a big pot of salted water on high heat for the pasta.
3. When oven is ready, pour 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil into baking pan, and spread it evenly to coat bottom. Place chicken breasts in pan, bake for 15 minutes.
4. Turn chicken over. Bake additional 5 minutes. Place pasta in pot to cook; don't forget to stir.
5. Transfer chicken to paper towels. Wipe any excess oil from pan. Ladle hot tomato sauce into pan; top with remaining pepper strips. Place chicken on top. Spoon some sauce over chicken. Bake 10 minutes. Drain pasta; return to pot; keep warm.
6. Top chicken with cheese of choice. (I used Italian 5-cheese blend, shredded). Bake till cheese melts, about 4-5 minutes.
7. Mix some of the sauce with the pasta. Serve pasta with chicken; spoon extra sauce over top.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, March 27, 2009


New Bern, NC, has been our home since fall of 1993. We do love this beautiful and historic coastal community. There are boaters and artists, but no beach bums, because you have to drive 45 minutes to get to a beach. And that's the way we like it. But, from the beginning, we missed our local butcher. He aged his beef for 3 weeks and it was to die for.
So, after 15 years of moaning about steaks with no flavor, Guy decided we would age our own beef. After all, you can find instructions for anything on the internet.

The first step was to purchase a dedicated refrigerator. Since we had decided to start with a rib of beef (because it's the easiest to age), we measured the rib at Sam's Club (where we intended to purchase a whole rib, USDA Choice, for $4.97/lb.), then hunted for a refrigerator that would accommodate it. Problem #1: We had no room anywhere for the fridge. Our garage is full to the brim and so is the rest of our small house. Solution: We put the fridge on top of our garage fridge. (What a hoot! We are two people and we have 4 fridges: 1 in the kitchen, 1 in the garage, plus the dedicated aging fridge and a wine fridge. Do you think we are food-obsessed?)
Next, Guy purchased a refrigerator thermometer and a humidity thermometer, both needed. The temperature of the fridge needs to be about 36F, right above freezing, and the humidity should be between 70 - 85F. We also purchased a package of 100% cotton cloths at Sam's Club, in which to wrap the meat. Since the cloths have to be changed once a day, we needed enough to get us through a couple of weeks. We put the cloths in the washer, with no detergent, to rinse them well, then dried them in the dryer.

Finally, the beef.

We brought the beef home and Guy rinsed it in clear, cold water, then patted it dry with clean paper towels. Then he wrapped it in one of the cotton cloths. Into the fridge it went.

I'll be reporting more on this experiment as it progresses. In the meantime, we're both dreaming about a delicious aged steak cooked on the grill medium rare.

And here's a little postscript: After our trip to Sam's Club in Greenville, NC, we had lunch at the Red Lobster, then planned to go across the street to Kohl's. But my eyes caught a glimpse of a brand-new building: The Fresh Market. So we took a little detour. And bought some of their aged beef -- a filet mignon. I guess we didn't have to age our own beef after all. If only we had known The Fresh Market was coming. It's okay -- Guy says he needs a project to keep him busy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Thanks to all my lovely bags of frozen butternut squash, purchased at low prices when it was in abundance last fall, I am enjoying muffins, soups and veggie mashes with some of the prep work already done.
These muffins are light, tender, moist and delicious with a mild spicy background for the roasted squash, white chocolate chips and toasted walnuts. If you make this recipe as is, you'll get 6 standard-size muffins and 12 mini muffins, which will freeze beautifully and keep you in muffins for a while. Of course, they're only going to be as good as the ingredients you use. Remember to get chocolate chips with no hydrogenated anything in the list of ingredients. I used Ghiradelli, which have absolutely no cocoa butter in them, but they're not too bad and have no hydrogenated oils. Anyway, they taste pretty good in these muffins. But on my next shopping trip, I am going to look for better chips. (I'm still crying that Wal-Mart discontinued Sam's Choice white chocolate chips made with pure cocoa butter.)
Pumpkin-White Chocolate Chip Muffins
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick (not instant) oats
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar (OR 1/4 cup brown sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. stevia)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/8 tsp. allspice or cloves
1/2 cup good-quality white chocolate chips
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, broken or chopped
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned, fresh roasted or frozen/thawed)
1 large egg + 1 large egg white
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
Topping: 2 Tbsp. sugar + 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Heat oven to 400F. Spray a 6-cup standard-size muffin tin and a 12-cup mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, spices, chips and nuts.
In medium bowl, whisk pumpkin and eggs together till smooth. Stir in vanilla, buttermilk and oil and whisk again till smooth and well combined. Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir with a spoon till barely mixed.
Fill muffin cups to tops. In a small cup or bowl, combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle muffin tops with topping. Bake about 11 minutes for minis, about 13 minutes for standards. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Monday, March 23, 2009


This is comfort food -- the way to a man's heart. Actually, this could be the way to a woman's heart also. If you want to use exotic mushrooms, this dish could be even better. I used cremini, which have a bit more flavor than plain white mushrooms. Guy thinks he doesn't like cremini mushrooms, but in a dish like this, he can't tell, so I just keep mum and smile while he raves about how good it is. This dish easily serves 4. Don't even think about halving it, because you'll want the leftovers for another meal. This is so so good.

Chicken & Mushrooms Over Parslied Noodles
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

1 Tbsp. sea salt, divided use
1 lb. curly noodles, with or without egg
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) Smart Balance buttery spread, divided use
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (or cayenne)
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided use
1/4 cup cold water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half and pounded to make 8 cutlets
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cremini mushrooms (or other mushroom of choice), sliced
1 large shallot, diced
1 large garlic clove, grated
1-1/4 cups dry white wine, drinking quality
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth + more if needed to thin gravy
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Fill a large stock pot with water and 1-1/2 tsp. sea salt, and place over high heat. When water boils, add noodles and cook per package directions. Drain noodles and toss with 3 Tbsp. SB and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Cover and keep warm.

While pasta water is heating,combine 1 tsp. salt, pepper, ground red pepper, paprika and 1/2 cup flour in a paper plate. In a medium bowl, add water. Wet chicken in water and then dredge in the flour mixture.

In large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt 3 Tbsp. SB and saute chicken breasts, about 4 minutes on each side; remove to a plate; keep warm. Reduce heat; add 2 Tbsp. SB, mushrooms and shallots to pan and saute about 5 minutes, till veggies are beginning to brown; add garlic, saute for an additional 30 seconds; stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and mix till pasty. Add wine, raise heat, let it bubble up while you continue to stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add chicken stock and lemon juice and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, till mixture is of desired gravy consistency (add more stock if needed). Put chicken back in pan, reduce heat, cover and simmer while pasta cooks. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve chicken breasts over noodles, accompanied by a fresh green salad. Yield: 4-6 servings

Friday, March 20, 2009


Eastern North Carolina is pig country, and the pork is great. Beef, on the other hand, takes a back seat. It's not aged here, unless you're lucky enough to be near a butcher who carries Sterling Silver Beef that's been aged 21 days or more.
We don't eat as much beef as we used to. It's just not that good for you. We both really like beef and like to have it occasionally. And when we have it we want it to be good. Usually, I marinate a London Broil, but it doesn't really change the fact that the meat, without proper aging, is bland. This time, I decided to try a dry rub, without salt. Salt pulls the juices out of meat. So I concentrated on other flavors in the marinade that would keep the juices in and bring out the flavor of the beef. I was actually surprised when it worked! This was the best tasting piece of beef we've had in a long time. Granted, the beef was still not aged, but the rub covered a lot of sins, keeping the meat juicy and providing just the right flavors for a tasty meal. This is definitely one recipe to keep.
Dry-Rubbed Grilled London Broil
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. California-style garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Top Round London Broil, about 1-1/2 lbs.
Combine all ingredients except meat in small bowl. Wipe meat with damp paper towel and pat dry with a clean paper towel. Cover meat on both sides with rub; place on dish or other container and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to one day.
When ready to cook, remove meat from fridge 1/2 hour - 1 hour beforehand, to bring it to room temperature. Preheat gas grill to medium hot, about 400-425F. Grill meat (preferably covered, on a turned-off burner with the other burner(s) providing indirect heat) about 7 minutes each side, or till meat is cooked the way you like it. Try not to keep flipping the meat. Instead, try to only turn once. This means you will have to gauge the cooking time beforehand.
When meat is done, transfer to a platter and let it rest 10-15 minutes before slicing it on an angle. Leftovers make great sandwiches, sliced as thinly as possible.

Donna, of My Tasty Treasures is having a giveaway from now to Tuesday. Click on the link to get the details. And enjoy her naughty but nice blog at the same time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Recently, Elyse, of Elyse's Confectionary Creations, posted a
delicious-looking coffee cake
that she adapted from Baked. I wanted to try it, but coffee cakes are too big for a family of two where one person doesn't eat desserts. So I adapted the recipe for muffins.

My first adaptation including reducing the fat content by subbing banana for part of the fat. The muffins were good, but not great. I decided to try again. This time, I subbed applesauce for part of the fat and used fat-free yogurt for part of the sour cream, with a little cream added.

I also added "coffee essence," a flavoring I use a lot of. It's coffee brandy with instant coffee granules added. I store it in the fridge in a little jar. And, since I won a bag of Ultragrain flour recently, I decided to try it. (Ultragrain flour is 30% whole wheat and bakes up just like all-purpose flour.) These muffins were the bomb! Not only is the flavor divine, the texture of these muffins is tender and soft and the crumb topping is nicely clumped for a soft crunch. There's plenty of chocolate in these babies, too. I highly recommend these muffins. Thanks, Elyse, for a great recipe.

Crumb-Topped Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Muffins
Adapted from Elyse's Confectionary Creations and Baked
Rating: 10 out of 10

1/4 cup Ultragrain flour (or all-purpose, if preferred)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup pecans
1/3 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. butter

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor and pulse till mixed. Add pecans and chocolate chips. Pulse till fully ground. Add butter and pulse until combined. Refrigerate.

1/2 tsp. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa (or natural unsweetened, if preferred)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients in small bowl; set aside.

1-3/4 cup Ultragrain or all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick)butter, melted and partially cooled
1-1/8 cups sugar
1 large egg
6 oz. fat-free vanilla yogurt + 2 oz. heavy cream OR 8 oz. fat-free vanilla yogurt
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coffee essence*
1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In small bowl, whisk butter and sugar together; add egg, yogurt, cream, vanilla, coffee essence and applesauce and whisk till well combined and smooth. Pour over dry ingredients and stir with spoon or spatula till barely combined. Place a rounded Tbsp. in each muffin cup. Divide chocolate cinnamon swirl ingredients evenly among cups, using about 2 tsp. for each. Top with remaining muffin batter. Divide crumb topping among muffins, pressing in slightly. Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 325F. Bake 18-20 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in muffin returns with just a few crumbs. If you hit chocolate, reinsert toothpick carefully and don't go all the way down -- remember there's a pocket of melting chocolate down there. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

*Coffee essence: In small container, place 1/4 cup coffee brandy or creme de cocoa. Add 4 Tbsp. instant coffee. Seal; shake; refrigerate till needed.


Recipes from B&B's are usually good, and this one from the White Lace Inn, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, makes the grade. These muffins are very moist with a tender crumb and rich flavor. There's just enough cinnamon to provide a backdrop to the main ingredients: zucchini and chocolate. As good as these are, though, they fall short of my favorite chocolate zucchini muffin recipe, from Penzey's Spices.

The original recipe called for a lot of oil, but I subbed low-fat buttermilk for most of it. The buttermilk added moistness, tenderness and flavor. I also used white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, and stevia for the white sugar.
You can fix a chocolate craving with these delicious muffins without doing major damage to your diet, so long as you only eat one. And, remember, you'll be eating your veggies at the same time!

Bonnie's Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Adapted 1/3 Recipe
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

DRY INGREDIENTS: 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar (I used 1-3/4 tsp. stevia)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. sea salt
1/3 tsp. cinnamon
1 oz. grated Hershey Bar (I used Nestle's Chocolatier bittersweet chocolate bar, 60% cacao)
1/3 cup chocolate chips (I used Hershey milk chocolate chips)
3/4 cup finely grated zucchini, pressed dry between two paper towels
optional: 3 Tbsp. toasted broken walnuts
WET INGREDIENTS: 1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. low-fat buttermilk

TOPPING: 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cocoa, 1 tsp. sugar + 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Heat oven to 400F. Spray a 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a small bowl, then add all at once to dry ingredients. Divide batter evenly among the 6 muffin cups. Combine topping ingredients in small bowl and sprinkle over tops of muffins, pressing chips in slightly. Bake 14-17 minutes, or till muffins test done when a toothpick is inserted in centers. (Mine took 15 minutes.) Yield: 6 standard size muffins

Monday, March 16, 2009


In my book, you can never have too much butternut squash (pumpkin) soup. No matter how many recipes I try, there's always room for one more.
This recipe is a little bit different. First off, there's a good amount of cilantro in it; and there's coconut milk. It was different enough for me to give it a try. The recipe called for 4 cups of squash. I decided to quarter the recipe and use 1 cup of squash. I wound up with 2 moderate servings.
I tasted the soup when it was done, and was disappointed in the bland taste. I increased the salt slightly, added more red curry paste and ginger and threw in some mild Indian curry as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the soup with my additions, but the cilantro and seasonings pretty much covered up the taste of the squash. There was some nice heat from the ginger and curries which lingered after eating the soup.
You're going to have to like cilantro and curry if you make this soup. I like both and liked the heat, but if you don't like spicy hot foods, then find another recipe or cut back on the curries. Or you could try one of my two faves, Pumpkin Soup, a James Beard recipe using curry, very simple, very easy; or Fantastic Fennel Pumpkin Soup, delicious without any cream or milk added. Both are rated 10 out of 10, and both are excellent recipes.

Prize Tested Recipes Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted 1/4 Recipe
Rating: 8 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 2 tsp. Smart Balance buttery spread or olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1/2 tsp. mild Indian curry powder
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1 cup butternut squash puree (or 1 cup peeled, seeded cubes)
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp. fat-free half and half
1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro + additional for garnish
In 2-quart heavy pot, heat the SB over medium heat and saute the onion till transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the curries, ginger and salt. Stir in broth and water and bring to a boil. Add the squash puree, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes to blend flavors. (If you use cubes, you'll have to simmer the broth longer, until the squash is very tender, at least 25 minutes.)
If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to take it out and puree the soup. If you don't have one, be sure to put it on your Christmas list, because they are the best thing since sliced bread. In any event, puree the soup the easiest way you can.
Stir the coconut milk, half and half and cilantro into the pureed soup and heat, but do not boil. Serve with additional cilantro as garnish. Yield: 2 servings

Friday, March 13, 2009


I've got you a muffin recipe that you can feel good about eating. First off, it's whole grain. Secondly, it's loaded with high-antioxidant sweet potatoes. Next, it's low in fat, with only 2 Tbsp. of oil, low-fat buttermilk, and no butter. (OK, OK, the egg yolk has fat, and so do the nuts. But they are supposed to be good fats. ) Finally, these muffins are delicious! They're wonderfully light and moist with spicy Chai flavor. What's not to like?
Chai-Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8.0 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup water or orange juice
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat)
1/2 cup quick (not instant) oats
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar + 1/4 cup white sugar (I used 1-1/2 tsp. stevia for the white sugar)
1 Tbsp. Chai spice blend
1/4 cup toasted broken pecans or walnuts
1 large egg + 1 large egg white
1 cup canned or fresh-cooked sweet potatoes, drained, mashed
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
Topping: 1/2 tsp. Chai spice blend + 1 Tbsp. sugar
In medium sized microwaveable bowl, heat water or orange juice till it comes to a boil, about 1 minute. Add raisins. Let steep in microwave while you collect and measure the other ingredients. (If you have the time, do the raisins earlier in the day and let them steep several hours. The longer you steep them, the plumper they will be.)

Heat oven to 400F. Spray a 6-cup standard-size muffin tin and a 12-cup mini-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, chai spice blend and nuts; set aside.

Drain raisins, discarding juice or reserving for another time. Put drained raisins in a paper towel to drain them a little more. Toss them in the flour mixture. Using the same bowl that the raisins were in (no need to wash it), whisk the egg and white till frothy. Add the remaining ingredients (except topping) and whisk till smooth. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and stir with spoon just till it comes together. Lumps are ok. Don't overmix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle with topping. Bake 12-15 minutes, or till a wooden pick inserted in centers returns clean. Yield: 6 standard-size muffins, 12 mini muffins

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


My usual way of cooking pork tenderloin is on the grill.

Truth be told, it's the only way I've every cooked it. We have a gas grill hooked up to a gas line, so I never have to worry that the tank is empty. I can grill all year round, even in the winter. But I decided to try something new; and, since I couldn't find a recipe that turned me on, I thought I'd wing it.

I'll admit my photo doesn't look great; but the pork was. Here's what surprised me: it tasted more like beef done this way. This was a very tasty meal, and we both enjoyed it. But it was considerably more work than just throwing the tenderloin in a bag with a marinade and grilling it for 20 minutes. And I love, love, love the fresh taste of grilled tenderloin. But for those of you who might want to try this, at least once, here are the instructions:

Baked Stuffed Pork Tenderloin over Sauteed Spinach
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 6 Tbsp. Smart Balance or olive oil, divided use
1/4 cup chopped fennel
1/2 cup quartered, then sliced, onion
1/3 cup chopped mushrooms
1 pork tenderloin
2 big pinches fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, divided use
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, grated or minced
4 cups spinach
2 tsp. lemon juice

In medium sized heavy skillet, saute the fennel and onion in 1 Tbsp. SB for about 3 minutes, using medium heat. Cover skillet, turn heat to low setting and let veggies continue to saute for about 20 minutes, or till they begin to caramelize, stirring if needed. Remove cover and cook for a few more minutes if needed, then transfer veggies to a small dish or bowl to cool. Heat another Tbsp. SB in the skillet; when it's sizzling, add the 1/3 cup chopped mushrooms and quickly saute them over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, or till mushrooms begin to brown. Transfer to the bowl with the other veggies.

Prepare the pork tenderloin. You will need to make two slits to open up the tenderloin. You want to kind of butterfly it. With a sharp knife, cut down one third and open it up.

Now cut down the other third and open it up. It's a good idea to pound it with a meat mallet now to even it out and make it a little thinner.

Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper -- not too much though -- and a few pinches of fresh chopped thyme leaves. Then spread the filling over the meat. Now roll the meat up and tie it with kitchen string to keep it together. Sprinkle the outside of the meat very lightly with salt and pepper and some thyme.

Put 1 Tbsp. of SB in the skillet, heat it to sizzling over medium-high heat, and add the meat. Brown it on all sides, about 10 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup chicken broth over the meat, then transfer to a hot (400F) oven in another pan, or use the same skillet. Cook tenderloin till the center reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Then transfer it to a cutting board and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. It should take 15-20 minutes in the oven to reach the correct temp.

While the roast is in the oven, heat 1 Tbsp. of SB in the same skillet or (if you put that skillet in the oven), in a new skillet. When it is sizzling, add the mushrooms. Saute for several minutes, till the mushrooms begin to brown, then add any of the veggies that wouldn't fit in the meat, 1 tsp. of Balsamic vinegar, about 1/4 tsp. of salt and a big pinch of pepper, and the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Stir up any bits as the mixture bubbles. You can add some white wine now if you want. And if you like your sauces thicker, add a little cornstarch. I left out cornstarch and wine this time. Lower the heat, cover and keep warm.

Right before serving, in another skillet, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. SB over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute quickly, about 30 seconds, then add the spinach and stir quickly till it starts to go limp. Sprinkle it lightly with salt, pepper and lemon juice and put it onto the serving plates. Slice the tenderloin and lay it over the spinach. Pour the mushroom sauce over the tenderloin slices. Yield: 4 servings

One other thing: I was able to pull this meal off using 1 skillet and 1 baking dish. I just kept using the same skillet to cook everything. I transferred the roast to a baking dish for the oven; and I transferred the mushroom sauce to a bowl and kept it warm in the microwave.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Cake-like cookies have never appealed to me. A crispy edge and soft, chewy middle is what turns me on.

These cookies, however, are cake-like and I'm in love with them! It must be the ricotta. Or maybe it's the pronounced citrus flavor. Or could it be the Limoncello I subbed for the lemon juice? Whatever, these are tops on my list.

One word of caution: don't make the lemon glaze until the cookies are out of the oven and you are ready to frost them. I made the glaze too soon and it set up and got stiff by the time I was ready to frost the cookies. Putting it back into the microwave to soften it only dulled it and made it more like candy. The flavor was not affected, though. The glaze takes these cookies over the top.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze
Adapted 1/4 recipe from
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 egg (1-1/2 Tbsp.), room temperature
3 oz. part-skim ricotta (use your kitchen scale to weigh) room temperature
1/2 Tbsp. Limoncello or lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest

Heat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In small bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, whisk the SB and sugar together till well combined. Add egg, ricotta, limoncello (or lemon juice) and lemon zest, whisking till well combined and smooth. Stir in dry ingredients with spoon. Spoon the dough (about 1 rounded tablespoonful for each cookie) onto the baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes, or till slightly golden at the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies rest on baking sheet 20 minutes. Spoon about 1/2 tsp. of glaze onto each cookie and use back of spoon to gently spread. Let glaze harden for about 2 hours. Yield: 9 cookies

6 Tbsp. confectioner's (10X) sugar
1 Tbsp. Limoncello (or lemon juice)
1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in small bowl till smooth, adding more liquid if needed to make a thin glaze.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Hungry for a chocolate chip cookie, but tired of the same old vanilla chocolate chippers? You might just want to try this new concoction of mine. Slightly crisp exteriors with soft centers, these cookies are loaded with a mix of dark and milk chocolates and accented with dried cherries, salted almonds and a delightful orange flavor. A touch of coriander works in the background to bring more depth of flavor.

Instead of mixing the batter by hand (my usual method), I used my Cuisinart. The cookies still came out plump without falling after baking, because the Cuisinart doesn't overheat the dough the way a mixer can.

I used a mix of chocolates, not just because I was cleaning out the pantry -- it's also a great way to add complex flavors to a confection. I chopped up some Hershey Blisses -- even they were mixed (part milk chocolate, part dark), and added Hershey's Special Dark chips along with Hershey's milk chocolate chips. The almonds are a nice change from walnuts or pecans and fit in nicely with the cherries and chocolate; but, if you don't particularly like nuts in your chocolate chip cookies, leave them out. Either way, this is one cookie that won't bore you!
Chocolate Chip-Cherry-Almond-Oatmeal Cookies
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup quick (not instant) oats
1/4 cup salted almonds (from a can of mixed salted nuts)
5 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend, unsalted
1/4 cup sugar (or 1-1/2 tsp. stevia)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 large egg (1-1/2 Tbsp.)
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips of choice
1/4 cup dried sweetened cherries

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, coriander, salt, oats, and almonds, stirring well to mix ingredients; set aside. In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse together SB, sugars and zest several times till smooth. Add egg and extracts, pulsing again till smooth and well mixed. Add dry ingredients and pulse with quick, short motions, just till nuts are chopped and everything is combined. Add chips and cherries and again pulse briefly to combine. Refrigerate dough for 1/2 hour if you have time.
Heat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet and bake 11-13 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pan a few minutes, then transfer to baking sheets to finish cooling. Yield: 10 (2-3/4") cookies

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Eddie Browning, who writes the food column for the New Bern Sun Journal, recently had a recipe for corn bread with smoked cheese and chilies. I loved the idea of chilies and cheese, but I prefer muffins, because I like to freeze the leftovers. Cornbread works better when you have a crowd and it will be eaten up the day you make it.
I halved the recipe, and played with it a little. I wanted some fresh corn in it, and I wanted to try evaporated milk for a flavor change. Instead of smoked cheese, which I didn't have, I used Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, which I did have. I also wanted bacon in the muffins. I had a can of chilies in the pantry, but didn't want to open it for the little bit this recipe would use. So instead, I used some of the pickled peppers that Guy bought at the olive bar recently and chopped them.
First off, let me say that these muffins were delicious -- moist, tender, full of flavor. But not corn flavor. There wasn't a strong corn muffin flavor, and I'm blaming the evaporated milk. Since I bit into the muffin expecting a corn taste, I was a little let down. I also didn't taste any heat from the jalapeno peppers or the pickled peppers. Maybe the chilies would have been a better way to go. I was really wanting a kick from these muffins, so there was the second letdown. I'm going to give you the recipe, because I think it could be a good one. You can make it as is, or you can play with it and make it better. If you want to look at some other really good corn muffin recipes, try my other three higher-rated recipes.

Before I give you the recipe, let me share with you how I cook bacon. I line a cookie sheet with tinfoil, then place a wire rack over the foil, and lay the bacon strips on the rack. Into the oven (400F) for about 20-25 minutes, or till very crispy. I turn the strips over and spread them better, half way through, after they've shrunk. When they're done, I lay them on several thicknesses of papers towels to drain off any excess fat. When the fat that drains into the foil hardens, I fold up the tinfoil and discard it, fat and all. The rack washes easily.

Cheese, Corn & Bacon Corn Muffins
Adapted from Eddie Browning's Corn Bread with Smoked Cheese and Chilies
Rating: 7 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 4-1/2 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend
1 ear fresh corn, shaved and husk scraped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 small can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (or regular milk)
1 Tbsp. honey
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated cheese of choice
1 Tbsp. chilies, chopped
1/4 cup crisp cooked and crumbled bacon
Preheat oven to 450F. Spray 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
In small skillet, saute the corn and scrapings in 1/2 Tbsp. SB over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In large bowl, combine salt, peppers, flour, cornmeal, baking powder and sugar, whisking well. In small saucepan, combine remaining SB, milk and honey and heat till SB melts. Cool slightly.
Add egg to cooled milk mixture, whisking till frothy. Stir into flour mixture with spoon just till barely combined. Stir in cheese, chilies and bacon and cooled corn. Spoon into a 6-cup muffin tin, distributing batter evenly among the cups.

Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375F. Bake about 18 minutes, or till muffins test done when a toothpick is inserted near center. Transfer to wire rack to cool or serve immediately. Yield: 6 muffins

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I guess everyone has their favorite version of this American classic. This is mine. I make it whenever we buy a rotisserie chicken, which is pretty often.
Favorite Chicken Salad
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8 out of 10
1/4 cup sliced or chopped tart apple
1/4 cup sliced celery
1 Tbsp. dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. chopped avocado
big pinch of sea salt
big pinch of black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed dried basil
1 tsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 Tbsp. lite mayonnaise
1/4 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken
In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken and stir well to distribute everything evenly. Stir in chicken. Refrigerate. Serve on bed of lettuce, spinach or other greens of choice. Yield: 1 serving

Monday, March 2, 2009


A friend of ours is an avid fisherman. He occasionally bestows upon us the benefits of his labor. This time it was trout. If you've never tasted trout, don't hesitate to buy some if it's available fresh in your area. Trout is a delicious white fish, meatier than flounder or sole. I like to think of it as a cross between salmon and flounder, since it's technically a cousin to salmon but has whitish flesh like flounder.
The key to enjoying fish, no matter what species, is to get it fresh. Nothing is worse than 3-day old (or older) fish that has an odor starting to develop. I guess that's why they say overnight guests are like fish: they both start to stink after 3 days. If someone gives you fish they caught, don't save it. Cook it right away for best flavor.
This recipe was perfect for trout; the honey, lime, ginger and cilantro blended beautifully to accent, without overpowering, the mild yet hearty taste and texture of this wonderful fish. And it didn't hurt that it was easy.
Although I baked it in the oven, the original recipe called for grilling. I subbed olive oil for the vegetable oil in the marinade, and reduced the amount. The only other change I made was to bake, rather than grill, the fish.
Honey-Lime Baked Trout
Source: Adapted from
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 2 Tbsp. olive oil
juice from 1/2 lime
3/4 tsp. grated lime zest
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1-1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 skinned and boned trout fillets, about 1/4 to 1/3 lb. each.
In medium plastic resealable bag, combine all marinade ingredients except trout. Close bag and massage to distribute ingredients. Rinse and dry the fillets; add to marinade. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour, or up to 2 hours. Heat oven to 400F. Spray a glass baking pan or pie dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place the fish in the pan and pour the marinade over. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or till fish flakes easily when pierced with a knife or fork. Yield: 2-3 servinigs

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Why did God make key limes so small? I bought a bag of Melissa's key limes on clearance at my local Harris Teeter store. For $.89, they were a bargain, and they were full of juice -- 2/3 cup to be exact. But juicing them wasn't fun.

I thought it would be fairly easy. After all, I'm an experienced kitchen person. I know that citrus fruits should be at room temperature before squeezing, so the juice releases. No need to nuke them then. And I had the perfect kitchen tool: a juicer.

But my first attempt failed miserably. The juicer works great for regular-sized lemons and limes. But not for these little key limes. The little limes are too little for the regular-sized juicer.

So I pulled out my $2.67 Wal-Mart special lime juicer. The juice came out easily, but some of the seeds got clogged in the holes -- I had to clear the holes out before continuing. The juicer was just the right size for the limes to fit in and be crushed.

How to Squeeze a Key Lime
1. Have limes at room temperature.
2. Do your zesting first; it's easier when they are whole.
3. Use the right tool for the job. Wal-Mart has an inexpensive lime juicer that works great.
4. Have patience; there are a lot of little limes to juice; it takes time.
5. Watch the seeds -- they tend to clog holes. Pick them out so the juice can go through.