Friday, June 25, 2010

Anytime Fritatta

In keeping with breakfast recipes (see last weeks delicious 'big pancake')... I introduce you to Martha Stewart's Anytime Fritatta.

(noticing the cayenne sprinkled on top? whoops! forgot to add it. tasted fine on top, i thought)

Big pancake wasn't your thing last week? Too sweet? (if you answered 'yes' to that, I can't help you) No matter, this is EVERYONE'S thing. Unless you're vegan.

This is easy, it's quick (prep your potatoes the night before) and it's delicious. Great meal for guests, or to keep all to yourselves on a lovely Sunday morning. (Mmm, monday morning leftovers!)

Anytime Fritatta
from Martha Stewart Living

Serves 8

1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water
4 leeks (about 1 pound), white and pale-green parts only, rinsed well and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Coarse salt
8 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, drained
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush a 9-inch square baking dish with oil. Bring water to a simmer in a medium skillet over high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and potatoes; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until potatoes are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk together eggs, whites, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the cayenne. Fold in potato mixture and ricotta. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Pour mixture into dish, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake until edges are set, about 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake until set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes. Cut into 8 squares.

Guten appetit!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Recipe Rewind: Big Pancake

Do you eat 'Brinner'? (Breakfast for dinner)

We do, occasionally. When I have a craving or am feeling lazy, or maybe I just need a sugar fix that only syrup can fulfill. Whatever the reason, when I make Brinner, it usually turns out to be my favorite dinner of the week. Maybe because it feels a bit devious, I'm cheating and scoffing at the dinnertime hour by eating breakfast. Or again, maybe it's just because my pregnant belly needs the sweet sugary syrup.

This past Wednesday, I HAD to have big pancake (aka: dutch babies). And let's be honest here, I'd already made it as a legitimate breakfast on Monday morning. However, my craving had not been fulfilled.

Tim's also decided that he likes big pancake better than regular pancakes. He says they're more 'eggy'. I concur. I lather mine in not just syrup, but do more of a french toast style with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and then syrup. Mmmm.

This weekend is definitely calling for big pancake! If you haven't already, click HERE for the recipe.

Make it happen, folks.

Guten appetit!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chocolate Cobbler

I may start exclusively cooking from the Pioneer Woman's website. And her spin-off, Tasty Kitchen... um yeah, tasty in my kitchen (thanks to all the wonderful cooks and contributors)!

Yee-haw cow-pokes. Starve yourself for a week, if you must. Ride a few broncos, or bucks, or steers (whatever they do on the range), or if you're a city slicker, hit the gym. You want these calories. Your body neeeeeeds these calories. After I ate my serving and our guest left, I was eating spoonfuls out of the pan. Shameless pregnant woman on the loose, with chocolate cobbler. Beware.

I can't tell you how sad I was to realize I missed the Pioneer Woman's book signing in Seattle! But chocolate cobbler made me feel better. A little bit. I'm still bummed.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you... there's IS a recipe coming. And guess what, it's the EASIEST, happiest, most delicious, crowd pleasingest dessert recipe I will ever give you. By far. Hands down. I love this recipe. I love this dessert. Yum.

(sorry, couldn't get a very good shot - but look at the chocolate cakey part mixed with some gooey!)

Thank you, Pioneer Woman. For making it all possible.

Chocolate Cobbler
submitted by S.H. on Tasty Kitchen

1 cup All-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoons Salt
7 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, Divided
1-¼ cup Sugar, Divided
½ cups Milk
⅓ cups Melted Butter
1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1-½ cup Hot Tap Water

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, and 3/4 cup of the white sugar. Reserve the remaining cocoa and sugar.

Stir in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8-inch baking dish.

In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining white sugar (it should be 1/2 cup), the brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter.

Pour the hot tap water over all. DO NOT STIR!

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is set.

Let stand for a few minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Guten appetit!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Healthy Snacks for Kids

Kids are bouncing off the walls, all hyped up for summer!

What does that mean for us moms? Well, nothing for me really, as our son isn't in school yet. But for those of you with school-aged children, it means they'll be home most days. In addition to having a good time with activities, outings and at-home leisure, you'll have to step up the meal offerings. Not only will they want lunch, but probably snacks too. Summertime is hard work for our little monsters, I mean 'darlings'. They need to refuel.

While my Chef's Helper isn't in school, that only means I'm always preparing his food! I needed new ideas (help! if you have any that your kids love). I found this great list of healthy kid snacks, and decided to share it.

I hope it helps give you some ideas and quick go-to snacks for your family. Happy summertime!

NOTE: Some of the suggestions below include meat. Omit or adjust to your family's diet preferences.

From both Fun & Food Cafe and

1. A Banana by itself. Or dip it in yogurt, then coat with crushed cereal and freeze.
2. Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese and apple slices, and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon.
3. A bag of ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit and nuts, all tossed together (great for on-the-go).
4. A bowl of low-fat vanilla yogurt topped with crunchy granola and berries (blueberries would be excellent).
5. Microwave a small baked potato. Top with reduced-fat cheddar cheese and salsa.
6. Kebabs, made with fruit and cheese on toothpicks (or try grapes and cheese on pretzel sticks!).
7. A whole grain waffle topped with fruit and honey, or low-fat yogurt and peaches
8. Spread peanut butter on apple slices.
9. A sandwich on wholegrain bread with cilantro, cheese and tomatoes.
10. Sprinkle grated monterey jack cheese over a corn tortilla; fold in half and microwave for 20 seconds. Top with salsa.
11. Instant oatmeal topped with craisins and chopped walnuts.
12. A cup of tomato or vegetable soup with whole-grain or cheese crackers.
13. Fill a waffle cone with cut-up fruit and top with low-fat vanilla yogurt.
14. Toast an English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.
15. Rocky Road - Break a graham cracker into bite-size pieces. Add
to low-fat chocolate pudding along with a few miniature marshmallows.
16. Banana Split - Top a banana with low-fat vanilla and strawberry
frozen yogurt, topped with your favorite whole-grain cereal or walnuts/pecans.
17. Spread mustard on a flour tortilla. Top with a slice of turkey or ham, low-fat cheese and lettuce. Then roll it up.
18. Homemade Granola Bars. Try these.
19. A simple cheese sandwich - cheese and bread, or cheese mustard and bread.
20. Celery sticks and cherry tomatoes with cheese cubes.
21. Smear a scoop of frozen yogurt on two graham crackers and sliced banana to make a yummy sandwich.
22. Blend low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana for 30 seconds to make a smoothie.
23. Make a mini-sandwich of tuna or egg salad on a dinner roll.
24. Mix together corn flakes and peanut butter in a bowl. Shape into balls and roll in crushed graham crackers.
25. Spread mustard on a deli slice of turkey. Wrap around a sesame bread stick.
26. Parfait - Layer low-fat vanilla yogurt and mandarine orange slices or blueberrie, in a tall glass. Sprinkle the top with granola.
27. Make a sandwich on whole grain bread. Using a large cookie cutter, cut the sandwich into fun shapes.

Guten appetit!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spaghetti with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Another winning recipe from the Vegetarian Times magazine. I saw the picture (recipes should ALWAYS come with a picture, in my opinion) and had to make it.

There were many reasons the recipe grabbed my attention... I got to make my own sauce (I dream of having some fantastic marinara sauce recipe that comes from old world italy, simmers for hours, and people rave about - that recipe has yet to be found), the title is 'chunky' and I'm feeling a bit chunky myself these days, and it was spaghetti, which seems like such an excellent spring, transition type food.

The recipe is easy, and it's light but filling. You could even prep the veggies the night before, for faster cook time. And I love the fact that the recipe tells you to chop your veggies in the food processor! How often do you see a recipe telling you to take the easy way out?! Helping you prep faster and get food on the table sooner. Kudos to the Veg Times cooks.

My only comment would be that it makes a lot of sauce. 1/2 package of spaghetti was just about the perfect amount for 2 adult dinners, but we have tons of extra sauce (I love leftovers!). The sauce makes enough for 4-5 adults (6, if you are serving the pasta with a couple of side dishes). In the future, I can also imagine playing with the veggies - for example, adding zucchini when it's growing like gangbusters in your garden!

It was a perfect blend of flavors - nothing was too much. A delicious dinner in 30 minutes or less! I definitely urge you to make this one soon.

Spaghetti with Chunky Tomato Sauce
from The Vegetarian Times, April 2010

8 oz. (2 cups) sliced white mushrooms (I think I used more like 1.5 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 large leek, white part cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tablespoon)
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes (muir glen is my new favorite brand)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup red wine
8 cups baby spinach leaves (I only used about 5 cups)
8 ounces spaghetti (1/2 of a 1 pound package)

Place mushrooms, bell pepper, and leek in bowl of food processor. Pulse until ingredients are coarsely chopped.

Heat oil in large saucepan or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add mushroom mixture and garlic, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cook 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are softened and most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and wine, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Cover, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach, and cook 3-5 minutes more, or until spinach has wilted.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Serve spaghetti topped with sauce.

Guten appetit!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Holy Toledo

A couple of things today...

There will be no recipe. I have news.

We're having another one of these, in September:

Yay, yay, yay! But - oh, goodness! What is going to happen to my cooking?! Having a baby is well worth my lax, barely lift a spoon (except to eat) attitude for the year following birth. But, I just got back into cooking, and posting and reading my favorite food blogs. Oh, dear.

I fear what this will do to the Vegetarian Hausfrau. I will try, I promise, to post. And maybe I can wrangle some of my fantastic foodie friends into a few guest posts.

Second, I WANT TO EAT THESE TACOS SOOOO BADLY, it's killing me:

Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onion Tacos
picture and recipe
from Tasty Kitchen

I can't do it, though. I stick to the rule of no soft cheeses during pregnancy, even if it's 'probably' OK. These tacos would not taste nearly as good without the cheese, I just know it. Sigh. They will be mine. Oh yes, they will. Come end of September, you can bet your bottom dollar what I'll be eating.

Wishing happy (taco eating) days to you and your family.

The VH

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lemon Cake

Happy Easter weekend! It's hard not to love this time of year... tulips and other bright flowers, hints of warm sunny days ahead, and cooking light fresh dishes again.

I'm sharing a mother-in-law recipe today because it seems like a good start to spring. It's a moist, spongy (is that a word?) and zesty (this should be a word, if it isn't!) cake. Kind of retro too, calls for jello. Anytime I use jello, I think of my parents generation. It was like crack for the suburban housewife... 'what?! I can mix water with this packet, refrigerate and give my kids a treat they will eat?!'. However, what was with all those jello molds that included cottage cheese?? Gross. This is NOTHING like that though, nothing. Forget I said that.

This past visit, my MIL made this cake for her special 70th birthday. I think we ate this cake for an entire week (there were only 4 of us, and it makes a fairly large cake). It was good. Remember: moist, spongy, and zesty. Yum.

With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I was in heaven!

This was a secret lunch portion I snuck on the side, so no ice cream. Shhh.

If you're looking for a spring weekend treat, or maybe you have a special birthday coming up for someone that doesn't like icing cakes, I recommend giving this one a go.

p.s. I'm making Pesto, Pasta and Peas again tonight - sooooo good! Want to come over?

Lemon Cake Squares
from my Mother-in-law

1 package Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 package lemon jello
3/4 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1 cup water
2 lemons - juiced and rind grated
2 cups confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Empty cake mix into a large bowl and make a hole (think volcano crater) in the center. Add the next 4 ingredients (through water) and mix.

Bake in an 8x10 or 9x12 size pan - you want to be able to cut the cake into squares.

Make a glaze by stirring the lemon juice, rind and powdered sugar together. Spread on cake as soon as it's taken out of the oven.

At this point, you can freeze the cake (reheat in the oven) or cool to room temperature and serve.

Guten appetit!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spinach Salad with Toasted Almonds, Apple and Vermouth Vinaigrette

I've mentioned before that I have a hard time with salads. I have no idea why. A little lettuce, some mix-ins and it should be that simple. When I need to make one, I freeze. I must have a recipe. I'm not the type that follows recipes to the T, but I need a framework and the general idea of the salad.

In this case though, I followed her recipe to the T. I was a giant copycat because we had back-to-back parties and my brain power was nil. I needed a lunch salad, something fast and easy, to go with both a meat pasta and vegetarian red sauce pasta. This salad worked out great.

Buy pre-washed, bagged spinach greens and you're practically home free. I have summer dreams of making this salad with fresh garden spinach, but we'll see if I can make that into reality. My garden space isn't very big, yet I have some grandios plans.

The salad dressing mixes well and you probably have all the ingredients, minus the vermouth, in your pantry. I found vermouth next to the vinegars at my grocery store. The hint of curry powder was a nice twist and I thought it elevated the salad to party material.

A go-to easy salad that's very guest-worthy. Two thumbs up!

Spinach Salad with Toasted Almonds, Apple and Vermouth Vinaigrette
from White on Rice Couple

Bag of fresh spinach leaves (1-1 1/4 lb)
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vermouth
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup salad oil

Combine all dressing ingredients into a jar and shake well. Pour into the bottom of a salad bowl.

Wash and dry spinach. Remove any tough stems. Tear leaves into bite sized pieces and put in salad bowl on top of dressing, do not toss. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Toss well, just before serving, including any garnishes (apple and almonds).

Additional garnishes to consider: 1/4 cup golden raisins, 1 bunch scallions (thinly sliced), 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (toasted), 1/3 cup dry-roasted spanish peanuts

Guten appetit!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pesto, Pasta & Peas

Did you have a nice St. Patrick's Day? I really like the holiday, although I can't say I do much for it these days. There were years I went out and reveled in green beer, but those have long since passed. Especially when St. Patty's Day falls on a Wednesday. Go out on a weeknight?! Are you kidding?!

However, I have an extra special reason to love the green day - it's my brother's birthday. He's 33 this year. I love him, and even loved him and told friends how lucky I was to have him through the tough teenage 'annoy your sibling' years. He's smart, funny, genuine and a friend to all.

In honor of him and his birthday, here's a scrumptious green dinner that will have you and your whole family begging to celebrate St. Patrick's day all over again!

Just look at that green deliciousness...

Unfortunately, my batch was eaten before I remembered to take a picture.
So this picture is compliments of my sister and her blog post of the recipe.
I love the recipes you introduce me to, C!

If you need some more convincing to make this recipe, here are a few reasons:
1. I served this at a party and it was raved about and most people had second helpings.
2. One runner at our party said she had the best run/time ever the morning after eating it and asked me for the recipe. It's going to be her night before a race meal!
3. Makes EXCELLENT leftovers.
4. It includes spinach, which you can't taste. So if you need to slip some of the green veggie to non-spinach lovers (like my husband), they will never know. Wa, ha, ha (evil laughs are so fun).
5. This makes an excellent party dish, as you can make the pesto dressing hours before and the pasta a half hour before guests arrive. Since it's served at room temperature, toss everything together and have it ready to go before you start to greet your guests. Leaves you free to have fun!
6. Because I said so.

It's a new family favorite for us, so I hope you have the chance to serve it soon. Let me know what you and your family have to say!

Pesto, Pasta and Peas
from Ina Garten, via my sister's blog

Note: I made 1.5x the recipe to have enough for 12 adults. I served it with a tomato salad and bread. We had about 5 servings left, which made excellent leftover lunches.

3/4 pound Fusilli Pasta
3/4 pound Bow Tie Pasta
1/4 cup EVOO
1 1/2 cups Pesto (see below for a home-made Pesto recipe)
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup Pine Nuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and toss into a bowl with the Olive Oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree.

Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Serve.

Guten appetit!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Disaster: Rolls

Hmm, note to self: Follow ones gut

Do you follow the Pioneer Woman's blog? I do. I probably read it a couple times a week, mostly the cooking section.

She's highlighted some rosemary rolls on her blog multiple times that looked divine! They were posted and talked about so often (she must like them, and they really, really look good) that I couldn't help but want them.

Pioneer Woman's Rosemary Rolls - Photo by Ree Drummond

However, I ran into a snafu. My regular grocery store only had refrigerated 'biscuit' dough OR 'crescent roll' dough. Needing dinner rolls, I went with the crescent roll dough. A roll is a roll, right? A roll is definitely NOT a biscuit.

Per the recipe, I greased my new cast iron skillet (love it! just imagine the corn bread I'll be making - yum!), rolled my dough into balls and left them to rise over a few hours. A few hours later, nothing. Crescent rolls do not rise. They are not dinner rolls. I knew this, I saw the picture on the package, but yet... they were the only 'rolls' at the market. So I caved and bought them.

I'll be off to check another store this week and let you know how attempt #2 goes. Meanwhile, we'll be eating crescent rolls this week until they're coming out our ears since I bought 4 packages (it was for a party).

Trust your gut.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies... don't they sound delicious? Kind of simple, but you get an occasional craving for one. Then you eat one and think, "hmm, that wasn't anything fantastic". But by the time you're done with the first one, you've already started to reach for a second, because hey, why eat just one cookie? And, they're actually quite good. As you are close to finishing off your second cookie, you realize it's actually your fourth and you absentmindedly kept reaching for another, unable to stop yourself from eating more, more, more!

They should rename these 'sugar crack'. The addiction sneaks up on you and then you're hooked until they are all gone.

Thank goodness these were for the Chef's Helper's birthday party and I had a worthy cause to champion my hand away from the cookies.

Here's one bundled up to take home. I forgot to snap a pre-bagging picture - it was a busy day!

Even without frosting, these are quite tasty. In the future, I'll even feel pretty good about feeding them to the Chef's Helper and his friends (occasionally). They have sugar of course, but they don't taste overly sweet... Until you get to the frosting - there's no way to get around that one. But how fun is it to decorate cookies with little kids?! You can't leave out the frosting. I can't wait.

If you're looking for a sugar cookie, this is definitely a quality recipe. Try them plain with sprinkles too!

Sugar Cookies
from Dine & Dish

¾ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Icing (recipe follows)

In a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375.

On a generously floured surface, roll a 1/3 of dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter. Place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Laura's notes: Work quickly! Once the dough warms up, it's a mess trying to maintain your shape while you transfer to the cookie sheet. If you're only using one cookie sheet at a time, I also recommend you keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to work with it.

Repeat with remaining dough. Frost.

Yield: 2 dozen large cookies.

from Allrecipes

Because the icing associated with the above cookies needed to be refrigerated AND was soft (i.e. smoosh in the gift bags), I had to go with something a little sturdier. This icing was great with the coloring, dried FAST and glossy, and there was no sticky-smooshing to the bag. Perfect.

1 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
assorted food coloring

In a small bowl, mix together all wet ingredients. Add powdered sugar incrementally while stirring. Only add enough sugar to get the consistency you are looking for. It should be smooth and glossy.

Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush (I used one of my food basting brushes - I wasn't going for detail).

Guten appetit!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Millie's White Wedding Cake

I wish I knew Millie, and I wish I'd taken her baking class with Kristen (from Dine & Dish) where Kristen learned how to make Millie's White Wedding Cake because if this is any example of Millie's baking skills, the woman had a lot to teach! It was light, sweet but not too sweet, and moist. Just as a cake should be. It's a great go-to white cake.

Our cup-cakes, pre-frosting

I felt like the Chefs Helper's 1st birthday party was a big success, and this cake helped add even more sweetness to the day. It's hard to believe he's a year old. On one hand, he's grown and changed so much and it feels like the year has flown by. On the other, it seems like he's always been with us. He is such a sweet, happy baby. We couldn't have asked for a better son or legacy.

His 'cake' was a cupcake design mimicking Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar book cover (not my idea! see below).

Our little man is a book lover, so it seemed like a fun and appropriate theme. Fingers crossed that his love for books continues. (He must get it from his daddy, since when his mama was younger, she refused to read books in lieu of watching TV - even when bribed with money! yikes)

The green color was MUCH darker than the photo looks

My final design couldn't hold a candle to the original, but no one but me knew that. I couldn't find the right candy for the eyes, and ran out of time, so our caterpillar had no eyes. He was meant to be eaten, not see the world, so I was OK with it.

I thought this was really fun to create AND easy! I simply spread the cupcake icing with a knife and sort of swirled it around using two different green tones - bonus points for super easy. Came together in a snap. Here was my attack plan:

Day before the party: Bake cupcakes, then pre-measure anything I could for the icing and put all non-perishable ingredients on the counter next to the measuring cups/spoons I would need.

Day-of the party, which was at 3pm: Make icing, ice cupcakes, assemble on cake board with extra pieces (feet, eyes, etc). Done!

This was probably the most prepared I have ever been for a party. Kudos to my awesome husband for cleaning, running out for the balloons, and all the other things he does (party days and everyday).

Happy birthday, sweet sweet boy. We hope you enjoyed your party, and cake!

* Here's where the cake design came from.

Millie’s White Wedding Cake
from Dine & Dish

2 (18 ounce) boxes white cake mix (Betty Crocker or Pillsbury)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sour cream
8 large egg whites

Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until fully incorporated.

Pour into greased and floured cake pans or cupcake liners, filling each slightly over half full.

Lightly tap cake pans on counter to bring air bubbles to top.

Bake in preheated 325° F oven until cake tests done.

Baking time varies according to the size and depth of pans being used.

For cupcakes, Kristen says she bakes them approximately 18 minutes. Mine took between 28-30 minutes. I waited until the cupcakes started to turn light brown on top. My cakes were done in less time and I knew to check them when the sides started to turn brown. Test with a toothpick to know when yours are done.

Guten appetit!

Friday, February 12, 2010

White Frosting and a Sneak Peak

Here's a sneak peak at the Chefs Helper's 1st birthday party cake:

We all had a great time celebrating a whole year of wonderful.

Unfortunately, I can not recommend this icing. Ick. I should have known though. Any icing that only uses crisco can't be good.

A couple years ago, I made a very tasty icing for a friends son's birthday party, and I will return to that icing next time. It was so good, we were eating the icing out of the mixer with graham crackers.

Why did I deviate? Hmmm, I like to try new things and... I don't know. My bad.

Stay tuned for the full cake picture and review (great cake) next Friday.

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Linguine with Torn Fresh Basil

This is my first recipe attempt from my Vegetarian Times subscription - yay! I always read the magazine (think I've received it 4 times since ordering it), and have big dreams of the delicious food I will make.

For my first recipe, I couldn't have picked better. The roasted vegetables made the house smell divine! This recipe is listed in their Valentines Dinner article for specific reasons... apparently asparagus spears have a lot of vitamin E, which boosts fertility and stamina (Hmm, never heard that. Myth?). They also say basil is known by the Italians as "kiss-me Nicholas". What I would like to know is, who's Nicholas?! The Italian Romeo? Wait, wasn't Romeo Italian? Forget it.

This dish is delicious, with or without it's sex boosting skills, or the basil (which I had washed, set aside for later, and then forgot to add! Drats). Although, I also think the basil would have been delicious.

Both Tim and I gave it two thumbs up. The sauce is really light but with deep flavors from the reduction. Will be great to make with fresh tomatoes in summer, for just ourselves or when we have friends over. Definitely guest worthy.

Roasted Vegetable Linguine with Torn Fresh Basil
from Vegetarian Times, Feb 2010

* I roughly halved the recipe (meaning, I halved most of the ingredients, but added a bit more of the things I knew I would really like - such as the sauce and tomatoes) which made enough for 2 people.

2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (Laura's note: I used button mushrooms, which were great)
1/2 lb. fresh or frozen asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped (approx. 1 cup)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 13.25 oz. package whole-wheat or white linguine (Laura's note: I used a half package and it only fed 2 hungry adults as a main course)
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss together mushrooms, asparagus, onion, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large roasting pan (I did this first in a bowl, then spread them out on my pan). Roast 20 minutes (only took me 14 minutes!), or until mushrooms and onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Start your pasta water, if you haven't already.

Add tomatoes to pan, and roast 7-10 minutes more, or until tomatoes shrivel and soften. Transfer vegetables to bowl.

Add wine to roasting pan, stirring to scrape off any stuck-on bits from bottom of pan. Place roasting pan on burner over medium heat, and simmer 2-3 minutes, or until wine has evaporated by half; OR return roasting pan to oven 5 minutes, and let wine cook off (this is what I did, very easy!).

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Stir reserved cooking water into reduced wine in roasting pan.

Return pasta to pot. Add wine mixture and vegetables, and toss over medium-low heat until heated through. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in torn fresh basil leaves, and serve immediately.

Cooking note: I don't have a roasting pan, so I used a cookie sheet with a lip. I plan to buy a roasting pan, as it wasn't the best idea, but it worked. The wine reduction, which I did in the oven for 5 minutes, helped take off a lot of the burned bits. Just took a bit of elbow grease to get the rest off.

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Perfect Baked Potato

Yes, I said 'baked potato'. You may be asking yourself, does someone really NEED a recipe for 'baked potato'? And again, the answer is 'yes'. But thank you for asking.

It may be simple, but that's the beauty of it. And frankly, for all other recipes requiring a baked potato (such as twice baked potato), you simply wash and throw the potato in the oven to cook. That's all I'd ever done.

Well, if you want to eat a plain potato with a few toppings, that simply wont do. There is a way to make a potato pop with flavor.

Skeptical? You'll have to make this super simple recipe and tell me what you think.

I made it for Tim and I when we caught the flu a couple weeks ago. It was the perfect lunch for people whose tummy's couldn't handle anything heavy, spicy or rich. I loved it so much, I've made it a couple times since. I can't believe I forgot how delicious baked potatoes are - especially loaded with broccoli and cheese, or cottage cheese and butter. Mmmm.

Enjoy my friends. The flu and colds are among us. I hope you're all staying healthy!

The Perfect Baked Potato
from FoodNetwork

Heat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in top and bottom thirds.

Wash potato (or potatoes) thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking.

Here is the key: Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil (there was nothing light about my oil coating, but it wasn't dripping oil). Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potato directly on rack in middle of oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.

Bake 1 hour or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft. Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open. But watch out, there will be some steam.

NOTE: If you're cooking more than 4 potatoes, you'll need to extend the cooking time by up to 15 minutes.

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Parmesan Pasta

Since I mentioned one of my current favorite dishes in a post last week, thought I should follow-up with the recipe. It's not difficult, it's not exact, it's simply delicious!

The best part about this dinner? When you have nothing else planned, it can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes - flat. And I can almost *guarantee* you have all the ingredients in your kitchen.

When you are still trying to get your footing after having a baby (we're talking about almost 1 year later), menu planning just doesn't happen. When I don't menu plan, with at least a rough idea in my head, grocery store trips are disastrous. I buy food I don't end up eating. I don't end up with all the right ingredients for any dish, but a lot of 'close calls'. And we never eat side dishes anymore (even when I have a zucchini to make spears, I usually forget to start the process before our main dish is already done - ha).

But, amidst the chaos, I wouldn't have it any other way. I know things will settle down. And I have YEARS to menu plan. Stella got her groove back, I'm sure I will too. In the meantime, when I have nothing to make for dinner, I know I can still get an excited smile from my husband when I say we're having Parmesan Pasta. (and it only takes me 10 minutes!)

This is not the most flattering picture, but it still makes my mouth water to look at it

Believe it or not, I got this recipe from Costco. Not off a box, not in their mailing, but from the sample lady who was making it to try and sell some pasta. We doctored it up a bit, and so can you. Add some steamed broccoli, shaved carrot strips, or fresh diced tomatoes in summer. The possibilities are endless! Hope you enjoy.

Parmesan Pasta
adapted from the Costco lady

1/2 package of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (we love the Garofalo brand at Costco)
1/4 cup olive oil (not EVOO)
1/4-1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan (again, we like Costco's brand, it has a bit more 'bite')
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of garlic salt

Boil the noodles, drain and return to pan.

Pour the olive oil over your noodles, and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the pasta and toss again to combine. Serve warm.

Makes enough for 2 adult dinners.

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fall Salad

Yes, it's winter. We've long since passed fall. But, fall and winter foods are pretty much the same. Comfort food.

However, amidst the casseroles, soups and cookies, there are a few recipes that stand out from the crowd of 'comfort food'. Salads (as a category) would count as one of the stand outs, since they're not in demand as much during this time. To brave the season, a salad needs to be pretty unique to pair well with the heavier winter dishes.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

We have a winner, Pat... 'Fall Salad', come on down!

Served at our very large family Christmas Eve dinner, this salad received rave reviews. I ate it with mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and some grilled winter vegetables. The meat eaters also had what I ate, plus prime rib. Everyone was happy with this salad. And although salads don't strike you as 'fall' or 'winter' food, it seemed like a comfort dish. The balsamic dressing, with candied walnuts - yum!

I hope you enjoyed your holiday dinners as much as we did.

Fall Salad
adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network

Candied pecans:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup raw pecans

Maple-balsamic dressing (this makes enough for a large salad, or keep the leftover refrigerated and use within the week):
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce - approximately 3 heads, or 3 packages pre-washed lettuce (the recipe calls for: 1 head endive, 2 hearts frisee, 1 large radicchio)
1 pear, sliced
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan

To make the candied pecans, set a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the butter and sugar and once it has melted, toss in the pecans and continue to toss to coat and cook evenly, about 1 minute. Transfer to a sheet tray lined with waxed paper (use 2 forks to separate pecans) while you prepare the salad.

Make the dressing by combining the Dijon and balsamic vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk to emulsify. Add the maple syrup and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Assemble salad by tossing greens and pear slices in a large mixing bowl with maple-balsamic dressing. Top with shaved Parmesan and candied pecans.

Guten appetit!

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Years Resolutions

1. Start cooking new recipes again! I do sometimes, but not nearly as much as I used to. Tim has made a couple comments and I'm surprised that's all it's been! I've been bad, and boring in the kitchen. I'm a broken record lately... pizza, lemongrass tofu, parmesan pasta, quesadillas, take out/go out - repeat. Although, Tim could probably eat quesadillas every night for the rest of his life! But seriously, new recipes. Coming soon.

2. Only post once a week. Sorry '2x/week', it just isn't working out between us. It's me, not you.

3. I will no longer apologize for tardy posts. See #1.

Remember last years new years resolution? A half-hearted 'use my slow cooker'. I never did, but I knew I wouldn't (does that make it better or worse?). We'll see how well this years resolutions hold up.

(p.s. #4, Use my slow cooker more. I WANT to, I really do. But will I? Anyone's guess.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year - A Classic Bellini Cocktail

When we were in Venice a few years ago (one of our first trips after moving to Munich), we stopped in at Harry's bar and I tasted my very first Bellini. Yum.

While the recipe calls for 'white peach puree' and on the blog, they are rather snobby about not using anything else, I would have no problems substituting another peach. Whatever sweet delicious peaches you have at the market, go with it. Seriously, peach and prosecco?! You can NOT go wrong.

Champagne or prosecco alone are fun, but if you're looking to make an extra special night of it (new years or any other event), try a Bellini. And invite me to your party. xo

This recipe comes from Rob Chirico's Hair of the Dog.

1 ounce white peach puree
3 ounces Prosecco

Peach puree:
1 pound white peaches
Simple syrup (1 part sugar dissolved in one part water), as needed

Peel, pit and puree peaches through a food mill; then strain through a fine sieve or China cap into a pitcher. Add simple syrup to taste if peaches are too tart, and refrigerate until cold.

To make the Bellini:
Make sure the white peach puree and Prosecco are both very cold. Following a ratio of 3 parts Prosecco to 1 part white peach puree, serve in a well-chilled highball glass or Champagne flute.

Guten appetit, and happy new year!