Tuesday, January 24, 2012

bruschetta with sun-dried tomatoes

I guess the title is a bit deceiving. There are definitely sun-dried tomatoes in here. But there are also several other little parts that give this appetizer giant flavor.

This came about because I saw an article about some fantastic little French Bistro that serves a tartine with sun-dried tomatoes. I happened to have some so I started experimenting - and maybe throwing a few other things in that I found in the pantry. This came out beautiful and delicious and has almost NO cooking! Just the toasting of the bread. Very nice. 
For this I prefer the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. 
Both the cheese spread and the tomato mixture can be made a day or two ahead of an event since they keep so well in the fridge. Just be sure to let the cheese spread sit and come to room temperature before trying to spread on your toast.


1 8oz package cream cheese - at room temperature
1 8oz package goat cheese - at room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh chives - chopped fine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
dash of milk

few slices of french baguette

1 cup sun dried tomatoes - packed in oil - chopped
2 teaspoons red bell pepper - chopped fine
1/4 cup green olives
fresh parsley

I realize the ratios in this recipe are a bit off. You will most likely have cheese spread leftover which is okay. Cover tightly and store in the fridge for a couple days if needed (or use as a spread on crackers - that was pretty tasty as well)


oven to 400

cut slices of baguette about 1/2 inch thick.
butter one side.
place onto baking sheet and into oven about 10 minutes.
until golden and toasty.

in a medium bowl mix together both cheeses, lemon juice, chives, pepper and a splash of milk.
mix well.
set aside.

in another bowl mix together the tomatoes and red pepper.
set aside.

generously spread the cheese mixture on a slice of baguette.
spread the tomato mixture on top.
garnish with sliced olives and fresh parsley.
see? nothin to it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

panko crusted tilapia with lemon caper sauce

Here is one of the several dishes I made this week that can be served with the lemon caper sauce.

Few things about this dish. 
After doing a little research I found Panko is supposedly healthier than regular bread crumbs - I'm now on a 'panko everything' kick. 
Tilapia is one of the more inexpensive types of fish therefore perfect for a test - just in case this recipe didn't work I did not want to have wasted some salmon filets.
I do still prefer frying in crisco but for this test I used olive oil and it came out just fine.
And best of all it was very, very quick - four minutes each side and dinner was done! Gotta love that.


2 tilapia filets 
2 cups panko
1 cup milk
1 cup flour

fresh parsley - chopped - for garnish


gather 3 dishes bigger than the filets.
milk in one, panko in another, flour in the last.

set these bowls somewhere nearby.

pat dry the filets.

squeeze some fresh lemon juice on one side.
salt and pepper this same side.
turn them over.

heat a large skillet on medium heat.
working with one filet at a time - dip first in the flour - then milk - then panko.
add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to your skillet then immediately add the filets.

cook around 4 minutes on each side - until brown and crispy.

serve immediately with lemon wedge garnish - some fresh chopped parsley - maybe a few extra capers - and lemon caper sauce.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

lemon caper sauce

These last few days have had me looking for all sorts of meats and vegetables that can be dipped or served with this sauce. So far I can say pork chops, tilapia, cut carrots and celery work really well with this. How did this come about? I was making pork chops for dinner the other night and used to have a recipe for 'pork chops and caper sauce' but of course couldn't find it. I already had the pork chops in the oven and I had already purchased this rather pricey jar of capers so I had to come up with some sort of sauce item! I started putting various ingredients into a bowl along with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and now I have this pretty delicious sauce to serve with everything! (well, maybe not quite everything)

Here's what capers look like out of the jar.

They're tiny, very salty, and according to my daughter they are very smelly!
("but not as smelly as kimchee" is what she said)
You can usually find a little jar of these at the grocery near pickles or dijon mustards, etc.
Because of the brine the capers are packed in - which is necessary for the 'caper' flavor - you should always rinse them before using. Many years ago I made a tuna salad and just dumped the entire jar into the bowl with the tuna and all the other ingredients - needless to say that entire salad went into the garbage! So please rinse the capers before adding to your dishes.


1 4oz jar of capers
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1/2 of that lemon you just zested
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon fresh parsley - chopped


chop some parsley.
set aside.
scoop out a teaspoon of the capers and some of the brine.
place in a small dish and set aside.

rinse the rest of the capers under cold water for just a few seconds.
then carefully place them onto a paper towel.
cover and roll them around for a minute to dry.
place onto a cutting board and give them a rough chop.
set aside.

in a medium bowl add the mayo, sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley.
mix well.
slowly add the olive oil - mixing the entire time.

into this bowl now add the reserved capers and 4 or 5 turns of pepper.

taste for seasoning.
adjust as necessary.

serve with most everything.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Here's how this came about.
Yesterday driving home from school I call my husband.
Me - "I need to stop at the grocery so is there anything in particular you want for dinner?"
Husband - "Calzone!" (not even a moment's hesitation there?)
Me - "ummm......okay"
Husband - "Really? But you said you'd never make pizza at home?"
Me - "Well....are you gonna come home and build me a brick oven in the backyard?"
Husband - (silence..............)
Me - "Okay, I'll give it a go...let's see what happens"
There was some scuffling on the other end so I think he may have been doing a happy dance, but I'm not sure.
Get to the grocery and because my phone is malfunctioning I cannot just Google an ingredients list and finish my shopping. I really am just winging it here. But how hard could this be? Isn't it pretty much a pizza? Folded in half? The first thing I do is grab a package of Boboli - just in case I need a back up plan (yes - I really did) Then I'm thinking about the dough. I've never made pizza dough but I know I have three kinds of flour at home as well as yeast packets and all the other basics. I think we're good there. Toppings? Or in this case, filling? Grab mozzarella, ricotta, italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, olives, fresh basil and a few other things - just in case. My thought is 'husband likes meat pizza' so I buy stuff to make a meat filled calzone (this is a good plan right?)

Get home, make the dough. It seems to be doing what it's supposed to be doing. Need to wait for it to rise so I go finish chores and homework and busy stuff.
Finally it's time to make the mix according to what I know my husband likes on his pizza - this part went pretty quickly.
Then fill and bake and serve and WOW.
I'm proud of my first attempt at calzone. I imagine this recipe will morph into several variations, but for now I will post the one I made last night and again this morning for his office (I needed 10 calzones for his office - I imagine most of you could cut this recipe in half - or make bigger ones)


2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt (+ more for garnish)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
extra flour for work surface

1/2 lb italian sausage
about 4 cups of pepperoni/salami mix - chopped 
1 cup red onion - chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 cups mushrooms - roughly chopped
1 cup black olives - each cut in half
2 tablespoons red wine

ricotta cheese
an entire block of mozzarella cheese - grated

1 can tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup ricotta cheese


make the dough.
I made it this morning before taking Ada to school. It needs to rise at least 2 hours. Then fold 5 or 6 times. Then sit for another half hour or so.

put all the dry ingredients for the dough into a large bowl.
mix well.
then add the olive oil and water.
mix with a fork until the ball starts forming.
flour a work surface then dump the contents of the bowl into the middle of all that flour.
work the dough just until you get most all the little loose bits incorporated.
spray the same bowl with olive oil and rub a little around the dough ball.
dough ball back into the bowl.
cover with plastic wrap.
leave it alone for a couple hours.
should double in size.

after a couple hours dump that dough ball back onto a floured surface and fold it into itself several times.
back into the bowl while you go make the filling and sauce.

oven to 400

basically put all the sauce ingredients into a pot and cook on medium high heat for a few minutes.
taste for seasoning - add a little salt and pepper.
then let it simmer while you are making the filling.

when you are almost done making the filling turn the heat off under the sauce.
let it cool for 5 minutes then add a 1/2 cup of ricotta.
mix well.

heat a skillet on medium heat and brown the sausage.
when it is no longer pink, remove to a plate covered with a paper towel.
in the same pan saute the onions until soft.
add the garlic.
cook about 2 minutes.
add the mushrooms.
cook 2 more minutes then add the 2 tablespoons of wine - mostly to get all the delicious bits of sausage off the bottom

add the chopped pepperoni and salami.
cook 7 or 8 minutes.
add the sausage back in.
cook another 5 minutes.
turn to low and keep warm.

now to assemble.
first grab a couple baking sheets and sprinkle corn meal all over the bottom.
set aside.
the dough needs to be pulled apart into 10 equal size pieces.
(or fairly equal size pieces)

(nevermind the burn mark on my cutting board. who else could accomplish that? just me.....sigh.....)
working with 1 ball at a time - roll it out until it's about an 8 inch circle.

start stacking ingredients on the bottom half of the dough.

what i learned between last night and this morning?
on the bottom should be the meat mixture.
then cheese, ricotta and basil.
then top it off with 3 or 4 spoonfuls of sauce.
this really helped keep the bottom of the calzone from getting too soggy.
i also added a couple extra slices of salami to each pie.
then added a couple dollops of ricotta before adding the mozzarella and basil and sauce.

use water to edge the entire bottom half of the dough.
fold the dough over to cover the mix.
start crimping and rolling all around the edge until the calzone is sealed.

carefully move this to your prepared baking sheet.
assemble the rest.
brush or spray all the calzones with olive oil.

i have one of these now.

thank you John and Tina - not sure what i've been doing for olive oil before this.
sprinkle some sea salt all over the tops.
bake 30 minutes.
until tops are dark golden brown.

let cool for five minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

chocolate meringue tartlets

Yesterday I tried to make those little cookie bowls I saw on Pinterest. Epic fail as my daughter would say. But I did successfully make her birthday banner and these little chocolate meringue bites. Strange because none of the above items are really at all related so I'm not sure what was going on in my head. Nevertheless here are the chocolate meringue bites.

It's puff pastry and warm chocolate and an airy meringue that tastes like toasted marshmallow. How could it be bad? It isn't. And I felt the portion was just enough to satisfy a little chocolate craving (actually maybe two will be enough) I think what I enjoyed most about this little creation is that it seemed to come together so easily. The imperfections are what made it so attractive to me. The pastry baked into all different shapes and sizes. The chocolate melted just enough to fill all the nooks and crannies of the pastry. And the meringue only took a minute to whip up. I had this fantastic dessert in no time!
Now I did do a few experiments. 
First - I left the pastry flat then baked the disks. 
Yes - when I added the chocolate and put it back in the oven there was chocolate everywhere! Using the muffin tin was definitely the way to go.
Second - I piped the meringue for a more polished effect. This was really pretty but didn't work with the rustic look of the pastry. Just using a spoon to place a dollop on top made me much happier with the whole presentation.
Third - the chocolate ganache should ideally be made a day ahead. You really want the chocolate completely chilled and firm otherwise you have another big mess in the oven.
And by the way - I use this chocolate recipe for so many things that I always keep a bowl of it made and in the fridge. It is originally from Cook's Illustrated (of course it is - I love them) and it's the glaze recipe for their Boston Cream Pie. I use bittersweet chocolate instead of the suggested semisweet but you can use whichever you prefer.


1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
dash of vanilla extract

1 package puff pastry
flour for work surface
muffin tin
non-stick spray

3 egg whites - at room temperature
around 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
dash of salt


bring the heavy cream and corn syrup to a full simmer.
off the heat add the chocolate and stir until smooth.
add the vanilla extract.
stir well then cover and chill overnight.

oven to 350

lay your puff pastry on a well floured work surface.
roll this until its about 8 by 10.
using a circle cookie cutter cut out 6 or 9 circles - depending what size cutter you are using.
yesterday i used a 3 1/3 inch cutter and today i used a 4 inch cutter.
not sure i really noticed a difference.
while the circles are still on the work surface - poke holes all over each one especially around the edges.

spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray.
then carefully lay each piece of pastry in a muffin slot.

bake about 12 minutes - until golden brown.
leave them in the pan and let cool completely.

once the pastry is cooled - make your meringue.
using a mixer whip the egg whites on medium high.
when foamy add the cream of tartar and a dash of salt.
slowly incorporate the confectioners sugar.
scrape the sides one time then mix for another minute.

now to assemble the tartlet.
roll a little disk of chocolate - shape it to sort of fit whichever cup you are working with - flatten it a bit then place in the center of the pastry cup.
repeat and fill all of them.

now add a small spoonful of meringue to each chocolate mound.

bake around 8 minutes - just until the tops are toasted and chocolate is beginning to melt.

let cool for a minute.
using a butter knife - carefully remove each tartlet from the tray and just hand them out! with a napkin of course.
not really.  
serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

what i've been doing instead of cooking

Actually I did cook today. Most of the morning and afternoon in fact. But you ever have one of those days when you can't even boil water correctly? Today was one of those days for me. I made three different recipes today - four if you include all the different cookie batters - and only one turned out okay. So I went and made a banner for my daughter's birthday coming up.
Here it is...

Here's another shot because I'm pretty happy with it and I know she'll love it.

Back to what I was cooking. Like I said, her birthday is coming up and I thought it would be really fun to make those little cookie bowls I saw on Pinterest a while back. They seemed easy enough. I have all the ingredients for several batches of cookies so I decided to do a practice run before her birthday weekend. The first batch was good ol fashioned chocolate chip since those are one of her favorites. I followed the tutorial and here's what happened.

I took them out of the oven early since it was apparent this batch was done for.
Second batch of cookie dough was made with a little less butter hoping it wouldn't alter the flavor too much but give the 'bowl' more stability. I also used a muffin pan that seemed to have smaller holes - not quite as deep so maybe the cookie wouldn't have as far to fall? (welcome to my weird little brain)
Here's the second batch.

Ask me how happy I am at this point that I've wasted all these ingredients and made such a mess in the kitchen with nothing to show for it?
I tried one more time with a plain sugar cookie dough.
No luck and no photo since they all turned out the same way.

At this point I did concede defeat to the "Cookie Bowl" (for now anyway) 
I decided to make some chocolate ganache and meringue so I could make these little units.

Little chocolate meringue pie bites. Pretty tasty. I will get that recipe posted soon.

I have now run out of time and need to go collect Ada from school. The kitchen is thrashed and I'm covered in flour and sugar and chocolate and still do not have a single cookie bowl!
This story actually ends here. I haven't had any luck with these but would love to know the trick. If any of you readers can give me the secret PLEASE do so.


Looking forward to hearing from someone who can help me out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

white cheddar and chive souffles

"How to make perfect souffle". This is what I typed into Google then spent the next hour reading. What did I learn? Souffle is all science. Unfortunately I'm pretty not that great at science - but it did turn out to be fairly interesting reading. Most all the articles agreed that manipulating eggs is all about fats and proteins and incorporating air and yada, yada, yada. 
Like I said...lot's and lot's of articles and many, many recipes available.
So I began this little journey of souffle skill.
After several attempts I decided a few things.
- adding cream of tartar to the egg whites is a good thing. 
- opening the oven door to check doneness is a bad thing. 
- slamming the bedroom door upstairs did not make them crash. 
- the phrase "serve immediately" was created specifically for souffles - that way when it begins it's descent back into the ramekin we can say it happened because the beautiful puff was stabbed with a fork.
- and I like the inside a bit creamy so that is the recipe I am sharing here.


8 little ramekins
softened butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
sheet tray

6 eggs - minus 1 yolk - separated
1 1/4 cups sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup milk (I always have the 2 percent so that's what I used)
1/4 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter - melted and cooled
1 heaping tablespoon dried chives
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper - depending how much spice you like
1/4 teaspoon salt


oven to 375

get all your ramekins onto a baking sheet.
rub the insides with butter.
sprinkle the insides with the parmesan cheese.
place into fridge until ready to fill.

melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave - set aside.
separate the eggs - whites into mixer bowl - yolks into other bowl (minus 1)

using a whisk mix those egg yolks until lightened and creamy.
add the melted butter. mix.
add the milk. mix.
add the flour.
mix well.
add the spices as well as a few turns of salt.
finally add the cheese.
mix and set aside.

beat the egg whites on medium high speed.
when foamy add the cream of tartar and salt.
beat until almost stiff peaks.

using a rubber spatula, place about a third of the whites into the yolk mixture.
carefully mix.
then another third of the whites.
then the rest.
be careful not to over-mix at this point.
some white or light colored streaks are fine.
just make sure to try and smooth out any big globs.

fill each ramekin almost to the top.

oven down to 325
place the tray in and leave them alone for 18 to 20 minutes.
(depending how hot your oven runs)
tops need to be nice and toasted.

remove and serve immediately.

as I mentioned above, I like the insides creamy.
if you want them more done you may want to increase the cook time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

limoncello cakes

Why Limoncello Cakes? Because I was cleaning out the freezer the other day and found this bottle of Limoncello in there.

I also found several other unidentifiable items in ziploc baggies that ended up in the trash. My freezer seems to have become the Bermuda Triangle of unknown food stuffs...some very strange items.
Anyway, I had a recipe for Limoncello Tiramisu I wanted to try - yuck! 
Next on the list was a lemon curd with Limoncello - yuck! 
So I moved on to cake. I found this recipe on the internet and after FOUR batches I am finally happy. FOUR!!! I think the family is done with lemon cakes but they are also happy because it is so delicious!

here you go...


11 little ramekins
1 baking sheet tray
non stick food spray 
(don't spray the ramekins until just before you're ready to fill them)

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 eggs
1 cup of sugar plus 1 teaspoon
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
(you're going to need around 10 total so just keep juicing)
3 tablespoons Limoncello
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt

couple cups of heavy whipping cream
2 or 3 tablespoons of confectioners sugar
(i don't like it too sweet so i just add sugar until i'm happy with it)
a mixture of your favorite berries

For the glaze:

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons Limoncello
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
dark chocolate bar for grating over the tops of the cakes

more confectioners sugar for dusting.


oven to 300

zest 1 or 2 lemons
juice 4 or 5 lemons
set aside

cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
add eggs one at a time.
mix well then add the canola oil.
turn mixer up to medium high and mix really well.
turn mixer back down to low and add the yogurt then lemon zest.
slowly add the lemon juice and Limoncello.
add the vanilla extract.
turn mixer to high for about 15 seconds then back to low.
make sure there are no lumps.

in a separate bowl whisk together all the remaining dry ingredients.
slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.
mix only until incorporated then turn mixer off.
continue to mix by hand making sure there are no lumps again.

now spray all the ramekins.
evenly fill each dish with the batter.
smooth out the tops with the back of a spoon.

i know this photo only shows 9 but you really want 11 cups.

into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
tops should be light golden brown.

while the cakes are baking wash the stand mixer bowl because you're going to need it for the whipped cream (unless you have an extra one)
using a spoon or a small whisk mix together the glaze ingredients (confectioners sugar, lemon juice and Limoncello)
make sure this mixture is completely smooth.

now the tricky part.
while the cakes are still hot you need to get them out of the ramekins and onto a cooling rack for glazing.
sorry there is no photo here.
first run a very sharp knife all around the insides of the dishes.
now i'm right handed so i'm wearing an oven mitt on my left hand and have a pair of rubber tongs in my right hand.
using the tongs i get the ramekin into my left hand - hold firmly - over the cooling rack i flip it over - and the cake should just slide right out.
(how's that for the worst tutorial ever?)

glaze - the idea here is to make sure there is glaze running down the sides of each cake.

use all the glaze.
let cakes cool.

make the whipping cream.

FINALLY it is time to put the whole thing together (or you could eat it just like this with a spoonful of whipped cream on top - pretty great either way)
But in case you want to put the whole thing over the edge,
put a dollop of whipped cream on a small plate - this will help to keep your cake from sliding all over the place.
then a cake.
then grate chocolate all over the top.
add a good spoonful of whipping cream.
add some fresh berries.
dust with confectioners sugar.