December 20, 2010

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I can't believe that a month as gone by with just a blink of an eye since my last post. I wanted to squeeze this recipe in amongst all the cooking, baking, shopping and holiday festivities going on this month. I found this recipe on, which is a blog I visit quite often for some entertaining reads and great ideas with food and wine. Cathy posted this recipe a while back, as as soon as I saw this fabulous recipe, and I knew this sensational treat was in my near future. Don't you love when you stumble across a recipe you want to try, so you forge the pantry to see what is needed and low and behold, you have everything you need? I love when that happens!

This was so quick to throw together and bake up. I used ready made store bought caramel which you can find in the produce or refrigerated section. It worked perfectly! This one is a keeper! Thank you Cathy for your great inspirations!

I love that you can see the grated apples in the batter!!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Noble Pig (Cathy at Noble Pig, adapted this recipe from Everyday)

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup veg or canola oil
2 tsp good vanilla extract
2-3 Granny Smith or Rome apples (about 1 pound), peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups chewy caramel candies
1 tbsp heavy cream
(In place of the caramel candies and heavy cream, you can buy pre-made caramel) I went this route and it was a fabulous shortcut.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with baking liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Grate your apples to ensure you'll get apple with every bite of caramel. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugars until smooth. Whisk in the oil and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined; stir in the apples.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan until almost full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes our dry, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

In a small, microwavable bowl, combine the caramels and cream. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each one until caramel is melted and smooth. dip cupcakes upside down into caramel and let cool.

Enjoy each and every scrumptious bite!!!

November 11, 2010

My Favorite Sausage and Kale Soup

After many requests...I have finally added this oh so yummy soup to my blog.  Of all the soups I have tasted and posted on...this is my favorite.  I can't say for sure why it's just that the combination of the sweet Italian sausage along with the kale (and lots of it) in this decadent velvety broth, just hits the spot all the time.  I could seriously eat this one every day.  You can pretty much always  find this either frozen in my freezer or ready to go in my fridge.  Lately, it seems that a week does not go buy that this soup is not being made in my kitchen.  In fact, it's almost automatic, my list would not be complete if this soup was not made.  On top of the already long list of soups and recipes that I want to create and share with you, which are many!

Seeing as I have made this very often, I  have played around with the ingredients...water versus broth, different flavored sausages (spicy versus not spicy),  milk versus cream....and this version is by far the best!  I mean really... what isn't good with cream added at the end?  

The key players in this soup is the sweet Italian sausage, lots of kale, onions, potatoes, and cream...just enough to add color and a slight viscosity...remember that is not a cream soup, it is more a brothy soup, but that slight added richness makes for a very inviting taste.

So enough talk...lets get started!

Pairing Suggestion:  I love Pinot Noir with this! 

My Favorite Sausage and Kale Soup
serves 6-8


1 tbsp light olive oil
3-4 Links or 1 1/2 pounds of Sweet Italian Sausage (I use chicken sausage quite a bit to cut down on the fat)
1 large or 2  medium potatoes, peeled and diced (you can add 2 cans white or cannellini beans instead)
1 large white or yellow onion chopped
3 garlic cloves (I love garlic, you can use less if you want)
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to your liking)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste 
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper 
2 quarts of chicken stock/broth
2 cups of water
2 bunches of kale, washed, and torn into bite size pieces (stem removed)
1/4 freshly grated nutmeg (I love this addition with any dark leafy green)
1/4 cup cream


Heat olive oil in soup pot with onions,  garlic and potatoes over medium heat.  Saute all until soft, but not mushy, about 10 minutes.  

Add sausage meat squeezed out of its casing.  Cook sausage meat with the vegetables for about 5 minutes till all the meat is crumbled and separated.  

Add the basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook for another 7 minutes then add the broth and water.

Bring to a boil.  Once its at a rolling boil, add all the kale.  Cook for 10 minutes longer, then add your grated nutmeg and cream.  Check for seasoning here and add salt and pepper to your liking. 

Now it's time to enjoy.  Oh, and this soup gets better as it sits and melds together.  


November 10, 2010

Easy Chicken Cacciatore

Cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian. In cuisine, "alla cacciatora" refers to a meal prepared "hunter-style" with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, herbs, often bell pepper, and sometimes wine ( I say always wine). 

Nothing can be more comforting to me than a dish braising away in one pot, where you have meat, veggies, and wine melding together for quite a bit of time.  Your end result is nothing but perfect harmonious bites of goodness.  Add some crusty bread and a great wine, and you've got yourself a magical meal to savor in.  

The Pioneer Woman did just that, with this very easy recipe, and once I tried it, I couldn't wait to share it with you.  

Come on, how can you resist crispy chicken braised in a delicate tomato sauce laden with mushrooms and peppers...all served over buttery egg noodles?   I know I can't.  I look forward to using duck instead of chicken the next time I make this.  

Oh, and the best part... my 3 year old daughter loved this chicken and even she couldn't resist this scrumptious dish.  

Check out Ree's fantastic  is one of my faves.  The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

Pairing Suggestion: A nice earthy Zinfandel would be great here.  If you're in the mood for a lighter red, go for Pinot Noir.  

Chicken Cacciatore
Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 4-6 

1 pound egg noodles or pasta (once cooked, I add a little butter and fresh chopped parsley and chives)
8 whole chicken thighs, skin on (would be great with duck too)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 whole medium onion, halved and sliced
2 whole red bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin)
2 whole green bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin)
5 cloves of garlic, diced (I used 8 cloves...I love garlic...what can I say)
12 ounces mushrooms (white or crimini), sliced
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp kosher salt
crushed red pepper flakes, (to taste and optional) (I used 1/2 tsp
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used 3/4 sherry wine)
1 can (28 ounce) whole or diced tomatoes (with their juice)
chopped flat leaf parsley
parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Do not overcook!  Drain and set aside (this can be done when you are simmering your juices to make your sauce.

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken.  Dredge chicken in flour.  Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Place chicken skin side down in pan, four pieces at a time.  Brown chicken on both sides ( the crispier, the better), then remove to a clean plate.  Repeat with remaining chicken.  Pour off half the fat in the pan and discard.  

Add sliced onions and peppers, as well as the garlic, stir around for 1 minute.  Add mushrooms and stir for another minute.  Add thyme, turmeric and salt.  If you are using crushed red pepper, this is where you would add..go on...give it a little kick!  Add extra black pepper to taste.  Stir, then pour in wine.  Allow to bubble.

Pour in canned tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add chicken back into the pan, skin side up, without totally submerging the chicken.  Place lid on the pot and put it into the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove lid and increase heat to 375 degrees.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven.  Remove chicken from the pot and place it on a plate.  Remove vegetables from pot and place them on a plate.  Return pot to burner and turn heat to medium high.  Cook and reduce sauce for a couple of minutes. 

Pour cooked, drained noodles on a large platter or in a big serving bowl.  Add vegetables all over the top, then place chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.  Spoon juices from the pot over the chicken and egg noodles (amount to taste.)

Before serving, sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

Do nothing but enjoy your meal!!

October 19, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Apples and Bacon

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.
~John Donne

Here's my welcome to Fall.  My favorite season of the year, with it's chilly nights, it makes staying in a pleasure - especially when there are simple, cozy meals to share with cherished family and friends.  

In my home, nothing brings more joy and comfort than a steaming bowl of soup, stew or chowder.  Lately, that seems to be what is keeping me busy in my kitchen.  Lots of soups, and I will be sharing all of them with you in the next few weeks.  When I saw this soup, I couldn't get to the store fast enough for all the ingredients.  
This one is a Mark Bittman winner.  Mark Bittman is an American food journalist and author. He writes a weekly column for The New York Times dining section called The Minimalist.  Bittman has written at least ten books on food and cooking, three of which won IACP/Julia Child awards, James Beard awards, or both.

Tuck into this oh so fantastic chowder, and I promise you nothing short of a delectable bowl of coziness waiting to be savored.  

Thanks Mark...your dishes are inspiring and very tasty!

Pairing Suggestion: A Spanish Sherry would be darling here!

Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Apples and Bacon
Serves 4-6

Adapted from Mark Bittman

1 Butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3-4 bacon slices, or one 1/2-inch-thick strip slab bacon, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dried
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock/broth or water
1/2 cup milk (this was my addition to this already fabulous soup)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the squash, onion, apples, bacon and garlic in a deep roasting pan or on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.  Roast, stirring every now and then, until the squash, onion and apples are tender and browned and the bacon is crisp, which takes about 45 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven.  Stir in the sage and white wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.  (That's where all the goodies are hiding).
If you are using a roasting pan that can be used on the stove top, position the pan over 2 burners and put both on medium heat.  Otherwise, transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or dutch oven and set it over medium heat.  Add the stock or water and cook until the squash, onion and apples break apart and thicken and flavor the broth, which takes about 25 minutes.  You can help the process along by breaking the mixture up a bit with a spoon.  Add the milk (or cream of you so wish) to the last 10 minutes of cooking. 

Serve hot with a little cream or sour cream drizzled over the top...OH MY YUM!


This is most definitely Autumn in bowl!

September 2, 2010

Seriously Good Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies

Folks, we have a hands down winner in the cookie department.  These are simply delish!  

As a subscriber to the brilliant Everyday food magazine, I am always amazed at all the new and exciting recipes Martha Stewart shares every month is this wee little publication.  The last page in this magazine is the Cookie Jar,  which of course is always filled with spectacular cookie recipes and great pictures to showcase them.  This particular chocolate delight was in the April 2010 issue, and I was so excited to give it a go.  

I made them twice...the first time I followed the recipe exactly.  Yummy they were, but I wanted a little more kick from the chili powder, and also wanted a deeper chocolate flavor.  So my second attempt, I added more cocoa powder and chili powder, and increased the sugar slightly to compensate for the additional cocoa powder.  The end results were oh so good.  

Thank you Martha, for yet another great cookie recipe to add to my very own Cookie Jar.  

Suggested Pairing:  A cold glass of milk would be perfect here!

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 32

This recipe has been slightly adapted.  See Martha's Recipe here.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature (I used salted butter, and added only a pinch of salt)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp chili powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (see note below), beat butter and 1 3/4 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape down side of bowl.  Add eggs and beat to combine.  With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.  

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 sugar, cinnamon, and chili powder (if using).  Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place about 3 inches apart, on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.  Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cookies cool down on sheets on wire racks for about 5 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to the wire racks to cool completely.  (Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.)

Note: I used a hand mixer to combine the flour mixture into the butter mixture, as over mixing can result in dense and tough cookies.  


August 30, 2010

Easy Peasy Playdough as Party Favors

Here's a cute idea for a party favor, as well as a fun craft that the kiddies can be involved in making.  Katie loved the idea of making her very own playdough, and I loved how easy it was to make (less than 15 minutes), and the money we saved by not buying the popular little tubs that we all know so well.  

This project brought back some great memories of my childhood, when my very wonderful Nana would whip up some homemade playdough for my sister and I. Squeezing  some dough between our little fingers, was all we needed to keep us happy and busy for quite a long time.    

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 cup salt (I used Kosher salt)
2 tbsp of oil (I used grapeseed)
2 cups of water
food coloring ( I used gel)
clear plastic treat bags
colorful ribbon to seal the bags

Measure all ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and mix thoroughly.  (Mixture will look runny and lumpy.) All will be kneaded in the end, so don't worry about the lumps. 

Place in the microwave for two minutes on medium heat.  Stop and stir then put in for another minute and stop and stir again.  Repeat until you have a solid batter that can be kneaded.  Total microwave time was approx. 4 minutes and 20 seconds.   

Once you have a solid batter, remove batter to counter-top and set aside for a few minutes to cool.  
Once cool enough, knead dough until it comes together smoothly and split dough into as many different sections as you want colors.  

Take each section and push your thumb deep into the middle of the ball.  Add a few drops of food coloring and gently pinch the top of the hole closed, roll on its side and carefully knead until all the color is blended into the dough. (Katie loved seeing this transformation!)  

Place the balls into clear plastic treat bags and seal with the ribbon of your choice.  Now you're ready to share your creation with your family and friends.  

This playdough can last up to 5-6 weeks if kept in an airtight container.  If the edges feel a bit dry, simply knead with wet hands.  


August 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips with Anise and Fennel

Seriously....who doesn't love the combination of a salty potato chip covered in sweet melted chocolate?  I was hooked the first time I tried this yummy treat.  A little candy shoppe in Northern New Jersey made these sweet-salty delights, and it was a rare occasion when they didn't sell out daily.  The swanky packaging made the experience that much better, and how I swoon for cute and over-the-top packaging.

So when i saw this intriguing take on this treat...I simply couldn't wait, and my kitchen was soon filled with the aroma of melted chocolate and lots of little seeds.  

Mark Bittman, an American food journalist and author, traveled to Denmark to check out Noma, the restaurant that earned the title of "The Best Restaurant in the World."  He found this award-winning recipe and re-created it for the simple home cook.  You can find the original recipe at

Potato Chips with Anise and Chocolate
Makes about 5-10 servings

About 1 pound good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bean-size pieces, (I used 1 bag of chocolate chips)
50 nice potato chips, unsalted (I used salted potato chips...I couldn't resist)
1 tsp anise seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds

Melt almost all of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or a clean metal pan set over simmering water) ; use a candy thermometer and remove the chocolate from the heat when it reaches between 110F to 115F.  (I didn't feel the need to use a candy thermometer, I just took it off the heat once it was all melted.)  

Pull the chips through the melted chocolate to cover them, then cool on a parchment covered tray.  Sprinkle the anise and fennel seeds over them before they cool completely.  I placed the tray in the fridge to cool completely.  


August 19, 2010

Sesame-Soy Cod

Lately, my seafood craving has been ever increasing, especially in the hot summer months when I just want a quick,  light and of course tasty meal.  The Sunflower Market in Tucson, AZ recently published in their monthly publication, a great recipe for halibut glazed in this sweet salty marinade.  Seriously, you wouldn't believe how this glaze transforms this fish into a simply succulent, buttery harmonious bite.    I only slightly adapted the original recipe to incorporate some of my fave ingredients.

A pantry staple in my house is the Shoa Hsing Chinese rice cooking wine and is my favorite ingredient for any Asian dish I prepare.  I think it truly adds a nice flavor dimension.  Try may even see a decrease in your Chinese take-out.

Pairing Suggestion:  A buttery, oaky Chardonnay would be superb here.

Sesame-Soy Cod
Serves 6

1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice cooking wine) (I used Shoa Hsing a Chinese rice cooking wine)
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp seeded, minced serrano chile pepper ( I used red pepper flakes)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp orange juice
juice from one lemon
6 4-ounce cod fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Olive oil for brushing
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a food processor, coarsely grind sesame seeds.  Add soy sauce, rice cooking wine, sesame oil, garlic, chile, honey, orange juice, and lemon juice.  Process for another 30 seconds.
Preheat grill to medium.  Brush fish lightly with olive oil.  Apply sesame-soy mixture thickly on each fillet. Grill fish until just opaque in center, about 7 minutes, turning occasionally and basting with additional sesame mixture.  Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with sliced scallions.  

I served with baby bok choy.  Simply slice lengthwise, brush with olive oil and grill for 8-10 minutes until lightly charred. 


July 15, 2010

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp

 For a quick and easy to prepare weeknight dinner...this is one of my favorites.  I always have frozen shrimp hiding away in my freezer, ready to jump into a pool of sizzling garlic and olive oil.  Frozen shrimp can be defrosted in about 15 minutes under some cool running water, so your dinner can be on the table in no time. 

Wine Pairing Suggestion:  Try a light refreshing Pinot Grigio or a crisp Chardonnay.  

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or to your taste) 
1/4 cup of light olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp hot chili flakes
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
fresh lemon juice from half a lemon
Garnish optional:  flaked sea salt and chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil and butter in a 10-12 inch saute pan, over medium-heat.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  The garlic will be golden in color.   Add the shrimp and saute until they are all pink, another 2-3 minutes.  Add sherry and let sizzle for about 2 minutes.  Squeeze some lemon juice over and garnish with some fresh parsley.  

Voila!   This is a classic Tapas dish served with some crusty bread to dip in that heavenly sauce, or you can add over your favorite cooked pasta.  


July 10, 2010

Decadant Stuffed Dates

Here's a little something different to serve at your next get together.  A little sweet...a little savory...I made these for several parties over the long weekend, and they were very well received.  

Dates are opulent in vitamins and minerals, as well as low in fat (one date has 23 calories), cholesterol, and sodium, and are packed with potassium...making these a great quick energy snack.  I could easily go on about the health benefits of the date, but for now...on to this quick easy snack.

Decadent Stuffed Dates

Medjool Dates
Ricotta Cheese (drained if runny)
Cocoa Powder

Cut a lengthwise slit down the center, but not through, each date and remove the seeds.
With a teaspoon, stuff each date with ricotta cheese and sprinkle with cocoa powder.  

It's as easy as that!  Enjoy!

July 3, 2010

Vanilla Angel Cake

This is the perfect light and delicious dessert to serve to your guests this holiday weekend!  Top with some fresh berries, homemade whipped cream and enjoy to your hearts content.  Next time, I will try  slicing the finished cake in half, and spreading on a raspberry jam or homemade lemon curd.  YUM!

After testing with two cakes, I suggest using a light colored baking pan as it produced a lighter (in color) cake. 
Also I would suggest using a mixer to beat the egg whites to a stiff peak and adding the yolks in to the mixer to blend, then fold in the remaining ingredients by hand with a spatula.  It really does make a difference in the cakes density.  Don't get me wrong...they were both delish, but the second produced airier results.  Lauren does everything by hand, including the egg whites.  (She Rocks!)
One other thing...Lauren's recipe bakes at 400 degrees for approx. 1 hour.  I found in my oven, it was beautifully done in 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Maybe my oven is just a lot hotter.  

Pairing Suggestion:  My favorite match would be a Canadian Ice Wine.  I think that you would agree!

Vanilla Angel Cake
Slightly adapted from French Food at Home (Lauren Calder) 

6 eggs, separated (yolks will go in later) 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder (original recipes calls for vanilla extract) 
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour 
Fresh berries for serving
top with homemade whipped cream or creme fraiche

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and line with parchment paper a 9-inch light colored round cake pan.  
Beat the whites to stiff peaks in a mixer.  Beat in the yolks,  one at a time.  Fold in by hand the sugar, vanilla and sifted flour.  You should have a very high, moussy batter.  

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake until golden on top, risen high, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  (My oven runs may need a little longer to cook your cake.)

Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes and transfer to a serving platter.  
Cover with fruit and serve with garnish of your choice (whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.) 


June 29, 2010

Improved Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Here is one of my favorites.  A rich, creamy, luxurious soup with no cream.  I use potatoes and milk for thickening to keep it a bit more lean.   I make this and many versions just about weekly, and my mood dictates what if any new veggie will make it into the pot.  Sometimes I add broccoli and/or spinach for a nice combo (great way to sneak some veggies to your kids).  Garlic and white beans added to the cauliflower is a great starter to a Tapas meal.  Of course, a bit of cheddar cheese added to the soup makes a super yummy treat.  

When it comes to blending it up, I love a totally creamy soup, but you can leave a bit chunky if you so wish.

Now here are my thoughts when it comes to white pepper versus black pepper...Some swear by using the white pepper in a light-colored dish solely because if you use black pepper you will see the black flecks in the finished dish...(aesthetic reasons only).  Black pepper tends to be stronger in flavor than white, which is a bit sweeter.  I prefer the spiciness more in the black pepper and really don't care about the black flecks in my soup.  So there you have it.  

Pairing Suggestion:  A nice compliment would be a spicy berry-flavored Grenach , usually very soft on your palate. 

Creamy Cauliflower Soup 
Serves 4-6

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into florets
4 cups of water or chicken broth 
1 cup of milk ( I used low fat)
1/3 cup of dry sherry
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or white pepper)
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Fresh toasted croutons to garnish (see recipe below)

In a large dutch oven/soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Stir in onions, garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and cauliflower and cook 5 minutes more.  Pour in water or broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  

Puree in batches using a blender/food processor,  (or in pot if using an immersion blender.)  Return to low heat and stir in milk, salt and pepper, nutmeg and sherry.  Heat through and serve.  My favorite garnish for this soup is some freshly toasted croutons and a sprinkle of parsley.

Toasted Croutons
Day old white or French bread/baguette cut into 1 inch pieces (whatever you have on hand will do)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder or salt (omit kosher salt if using garlic salt)
1/2 cup of light olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cut bread into 1 inch cubes.   Toss cubes in salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil.  Spread evenly in one layer on a cookie sheet. Toast gradually in oven until lightly brown on all sides.   About 10-15 minutes.


June 20, 2010

Makes Me Happy

As I was reviewing some past photos in our archive, I stumbled across many of my hometown of Beverly, MA.  Which leads to my happy thoughts of the week.  Here are just a few that make me oh so happy.  

The joys of an apple cider doughnut from my favorite farm Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA

An evening out in Boston is always loads of fun!

Remembering days of strolling through the Back Bay of Boston

The thought of a Hot Fudge Sundae at Richardson's in Middleton, MA

Just looking at these clams brings a huge smile to my face......The one and only Woodman's in Essex, MA

There you have happy thoughts for the week.  You will always have a special place in my heart New England!

June 18, 2010

The Simple Popover

Offer me a popover...and you have a friend for life.  Big jumbo ones, small cute ones, flecked with herbs, laced with cheese, slathered with jam, any kind you can imagine, I assure you that if they are in front of me...they will be savored and devoured.  These are my absolute faves when it comes to rolls and breads.  I can say that I have made a few in my time...and this recipe is my definite go to for a simple quick compliment to any meal.  

My Favorite Popovers 
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 minis

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp course salt
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  
Mix all ingredients together until combined.  The mixture will be lumpy.  Do not over mix.  

Pour mixture into popover pan filling each cup about 3/4 full.  

Place in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.  
Do not open oven until cooking time is complete and your popovers have risen.  
Best served hot right out of the oven.


June 14, 2010

Vanilla Scented Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys

Strawberries seem to be everywhere out here....with the farmers markets practically giving them away, it's not surprising that every week I find myself walking away with three or more pints of the oh-so-lush ruby fruit.  Then comes the thoughts of, "what other sweet treats can come of these beauties?"    
That's when I stumbled upon Deb's recipe at Smitten Kitchen of these little gems.  Of course they were a must try the instant that I saw them.  Even though they were perfect as is, I only slightly adapted them to suit my love of vanilla.  

Wine Pairing:  A superb pairing would be a Canadian Icewine.  YUM!  (look for a blog soon dedicated to this alluring sip) 

Vanilla Scented Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys
Adapted slightly from SmittenKitchen
Makes 6 Bettys

1 stick salted or unsalted butter
1 tsp granulated sugar
6 slices good quality white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 tsp vanilla powder (can use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
vanilla ice cream or creme anglaise to serve

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle.

In a small pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, reduce heat to medium-low.  The butter will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.  Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do.  Don't take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is less than a minute.  Remove from heat. 

Lightly butter muffin cups with some of the brown butter, then sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Roll bread slices with a rolling pin to flatten.  Brush both sides with additional brown butter, then gently fit into muffin cups. 

Stir together brown sugar, zest, salt, vanilla powder and panko, then add strawberries and toss to coat.  Stir in remaining brown butter.  heap strawberry mixture into cups, pressing gently.

Cover pan with foil and bake 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake until strawberries are very tender, about 10 minutes more.  Let stand 5 minutes before removing from pan.  Serve warm or at room temp. 

I served with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream. 


June 7, 2010

What is making Kendra Happy this week?

What makes Kendra happy this week?
Following Jess at Epheriell Designs (which by the way is a great site) this will be a new weekly post to my site.

Putting together a savory panini filled with fruit

Enjoying a great glass of wine 

Watching my family have a jolly in the sea

Enjoying some fabulous Farmers market treats

The beautiful shores of Corona Del Mar

Do a post like this one and leave a comment with a link and make sure to link it at the Epheriell Design blog.

June 4, 2010

Balsamic and Black Pepper Strawberries with Warmed Toasted Mozzarella Flatbread

Here is a great play on contrasts, with some delicate soft mozzarella and a piece of toasted warm flatbread, all smothered in some strawberries which have been macerated in a lusty sweet balsamic reduction.  It is such a great combo with those super-sweet strawberries enhancing the savory mozzarella and flatbread.  Oh my Yumminess is all I can say.  I will add that this is a heavenly match to wine.

This is a super way to impress your guests for a summer alfresco lunch or dinner or a teaser starter.  The flatbreads can be toasted in your oven, or even out on your grill if you are cooking the rest of your meal outdoors.  

Wine Pairing: A dry Rose' will compliment every flavor note in this dish.  

Balsamic and Black Pepper Strawberries with Warm Toasted Mozzarella Flatbread
An Andrea Immer recipe
Serves 6 as a first course or light main course

1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar Reduction* (see recipe below)
Course, freshly ground black pepper for grinding over the flatbreads
Six 6-inch flatbread rounds (whole wheat or white)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Coarse sea salt to taste
5 small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese (about 2-inch in diameter)
5 fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or preheat your grill to medium.  Combine the strawberries, vinegar, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl (non-reactive) and let stand at room temp for at least 5 and up to 30 minutes.

Brush the flatbreads lightly on both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.  Place on a baking sheet and heat in oven for 2 minutes to soften; or, place flatbreads directly on the heated grill for 2 minutes to soften and toast slightly.  Remove, cut in quarters, and return to the baking sheet.  

Slice the mozzarella into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Layer 3-4 mozzarella slices on the toasted flatbread quarters, and return to oven until the cheese is puffy, about 2 minutes; or, place flatbread quarters directly on the grill and close the lid until the cheese is puffy, about 2 minutes.  The cheese may get a few toasty-brown spots, but watch carefully to prevent over-browning.

Meanwhile, finely chop the basil leaves and stir gently into the strawberries.

When the flatbread quarters come out of the oven or off the grill, spoon the strawberry mixture over the cheese and serve immediately. 


*Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Makes 1/2 cup

1 cup balsamic vinegar (not aged)

Place the vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the vinegar is reduced by half.  Pour into a nonreactive container and let cool completely.  
This reduction will keep for up to a month, covered in the refrigerator.

May 29, 2010

Grilled Chicken BLT's

As summer approaches, it's only natural that we crave a light summer meal which would satisfy our hunger as well as our taste buds.  Barefoot Contessa's Chicken BLT looked superb with homemade thousand island dressing.  I made a few changes to my BLT.  Instead of white bread, I used lightly toasted fresh baked garlic bread where the garlic was finely chopped and backed right in. (YUM)!  I switched arugula for the green lettuce leaves and I grilled up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of using a rotisserie chicken.  To top that off, I added some sliced avocados.  

This was delicious!  

Wine Pairing:  You could go white or red here with a light refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.

Grilled Chicken BLT's
adapted from Barefoot Contessa's CBLT's
Makes 4 sandwiches

12 slices smoked bacon
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (I agree with Ina here, that Hellman's is the best)
1/2 cup ketchup
8 slices of good white bakery bread, cut 1/2-inch thick, lightly toasted
a handful of baby arugula, washed and spun very dry
2 large ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 ripe avocados, pitted and sliced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thin chicken breasts, grilled (or rotisserie chicken)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon on the rack in a single layer.  Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Combine the mayonnaise and ketchup in a small bowl and spread each slice of bread with about 1 tbsp of the mixture.  Cover that with arugula leaves.  Place 3 slices of bacon on top of the leaves and then add a layer of tomato slices on top of the bacon. Place the avocado slices on top of tomatoes, then place your chicken breast over that. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Spread each of the remaining 4 slices of bread with 1 tbsp of the mayonnaise/ketchup mixture and place, dressing side down, on the sandwiches.  Cut in half and serve.  

This is also fabulous without the mayo/ketchup (thousand island dressing) mixture and simply using the standard mayonnaise that most BLT's call for.  


May 27, 2010

Easy Roasted Beets

Here's a quick farmers market treat that is very easy to prepare and another healthy side dish to add to your repertoire.  I love how roasting this (and any) root vegetable brings out an incredible depth of sweetness that makes eating your veggies a yummy treat.  Especially for all the children in your life.  
We enjoyed these with Blue Ribbon's Northern Fried Chicken.

Easy Roasted Beets

3 medium fresh beets
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees and place rack in middle of oven.  Rinse the beets and trim off any leafy tops.  Wrap in aluminum foil and place in the oven.  Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and let cool.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel using a paring knife or by pushing the skin with your fingers.
Slice the beets and drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.