Accessorized Roasted Potatoes

I’m a girl. I love a good accessory.  Meals are no exception.

Simple roasted potatoes with the right accessories: roasted peppers, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheese. Add or delete what you like. Serve as a brunch side dish or I ate it as a meal after it came out of the oven….out of a bowl, right over the stove, with a shovel. I’ve also thrown these in to a frittata with some cooked bacon. Serve with a salad. Delicious dinner.

Accessorized Roasted Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. A tip from the fabulous Chef Laura, who runs Tasteful Tours, and has given a few private cooking lessons to our Supper Club. I’ll tell you more about the Tasteful Tours in a later blog…fun!  Chef Laura Tip: Preheat your roasting pan when you preheat your oven. You’ll get a great sizzle when those potatoes hit the pan and begin to roast and crisp on the outside and stay creamy, soft on the inside.

Wash your veggies and cut them up in to chopped pieces.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat with about 1 TBLS of olive oil.  Begin by cooking the onions.  When they start to soften add the peppers and mushrooms. As the mushrooms begin to soften, they will yield a lot of liquid. You want to cook the veggies until they are softened and not a lot of liquid is left in the pan.

While veggies cook. Wash and cut up  whatever kind of potatoes you like. No need to peel them. Didn’t mom always tell you all the vitamins are in the skin. Whether that’s true or not I have no idea but mom’s usually know a lot more than the average man. I used a 5 lb bag of red-skinned to make enough for a brunch for six.

Toss the potatoes with a few tablespoons of olive oil, a few teaspoons of minced garlic and season them with salt and pepper.

Add your softened-up veggies to the potatoes.  Spread out the pototoes/veggies on your pre-heated roasting pan. Bake for about 20 minutes and then use a spatula to turn them over and around the pan. Bake for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are softened.

Potatoes and veggies ready for oven-loving.

When they are all oven-loved, sprinkle some cheese and serve!

Posted in Breakfast & Brunch, Starters & Sides | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee: So good you’ll want to punch someone in the face

Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee

Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee. I only make it about once a year, not because it’s complicated, because it is that good.  I have to really, really love you to make it. If you had it all the time, it wouldn’t be that special right? I’d also weigh 100 pounds more if I did eat this all the time. This batch was part of New Year’s Eve dinner.

The first time I made this, the person across from me (marumodern) put down his spoon, looked up and said quite earnestly, “This is so good. I could punch you in the face right now.” While the imagined violence doesn’t sound like a compliment, if you’ve ever tasted something that caused you to want to lose your mind- this was just that dessert.  Don’t worry friends, I was never in any danger!

Creme Brulee (which is like super delicious pudding, actually a custard, but beyond that) seems very complicated and it must be since it’s only served at fancy restaurants for a bargain dessert price of about $12. Don’t believe the hype!! It’s so easy, even a six-year-old can do it! You may have to break the eggs for said six-year-old and handle the oven portion but beyond that it’s just measure, stir, put it in oven, put in fridge, torch.

The other special piece about this recipe is that it serves two people. Most Creme Brulee recipes make about 8 servings. That’s a lot of Brulee and personally, I think it’s a little tough to serve at a dinner party. When you want to serve it there is fire and torches involved, sometimes that’s not the best solution when there may have been cocktails involved early in the evening. Plus it can take awhile to torch the sugar on 6-8 servings of these, you’d miss half the party. There’s something a little romantic about having just two of these and breaking out the butane.

My recipe is a combination of using some of how Cook’s Illustrated prepares their regular vanilla creme brulee (technique-wise) and the meshing and messing with the ratios and ingredients between that and an Epiqurious recipe.

Logic Tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Cook’s Illustrated suggests placing a towel into the bottom of the baking dish where your filled ramekins will sit during baking. This helps them to not slip around. Like this tip.
  • Pour your boiling water into one corner of the baking dish this helps to not have it land in your creme brulee that is ready to bake. It will make its way to all the sides of the dish.
  • Pour your boiling water into the pan once you have the pan on an oven rack. It’s tough to move the baking dish full of boiling water into the oven.
  • If you use smaller, shallow fluted creme brulee dishes- the typical white ones you always see- check your time early. I found the shallow dishes cooked in only 20 minutes as opposed to the deeper ramekins which took about 30-35 minutes.
  • If you don’t have a torch, you can broil the sugar on the finished custard.  Broil it until the sugar is golden brown. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn- maybe 1-3 minutes.

Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee

Printable Recipe click back there!

So here’s how it all works.

Prep your pan and preheat your oven. Boil your kettle of water.

Put a small towel on the bottom to keep the glass dishes from slipping and sliding around in the water that is to come. I used three dishes so the picky eater could try some. He loved it. The recipe for two made enough to fill the shallow white dishes and the ramekin.

Start the cream and sugar a’ boiling.

Bring 1/2 cup cream, sugar and pinch of salt to a boil. Stir occassionally. Turn heat to low when it comes to a boil.

When the cream bowls, turn the heat to low. Grab your chocolate.

You can use chips or baking chocolate from a bar. You'll need about 3 ounces either way. 4 ounces if you plan to nibble from the bowl before it hits the cream!

Whisk in the chocolate to melt it.

Whisk in the chocolate.

Remove the mixture from the heat to let it begin to cool a little. After it cools a bit, add the remaining 1/2 cup cream to it and stir it up.  You want it to cool a little, otherwise when we introduce the egg yolks you could have custard with scrambled eggs. We have to temper the eggs before adding them in to the heated cream/chocolate.

Now mix up your egg yolks and vanilla together in small bowl.

I really like this brand of vanilla. You can usually find it at Penzey's or Williams-Sonoma. Whatever vanilla extract you have will work fine though. Don't feel the need for $8.00 vanilla.


Mix the egg yolk and vanilla together. You will add some of the cream mixture into this bowl to begin tempering the eggs. You might want to use a slightly bigger bowl so it doesn’t end up all over your counter when you mix the yolk and cream. I should have used a slightly bigger bowl…

Add 1/4 cup of the cream mixture in to the yolk/vanilla bowl and mix together. Once combined, add another 1/4 cup and combine.  Then dump the egg yolk mixture into the original saucepan of cream mixture. Combine it all together and strain it to get rid of any lumpy, clumpy things that may have occurred between the yolk and cream.

This was a tough shot! Straining and trying to hold the camera. I need a photo assistant! Thus a little blurry...

Now take your pitcher-lipped measuring cup and divide that creamy chocolately mixture between your prepped ramekins.  If you don’t have one of these little lipped measuring cups, you can strain the mixture in to a bowl and then just use a ladle to pour the mixture in to the ramekins.

Pour your mixture into your dishes. Give enough to every ramekin. Don't leave anyone out.

So I didn’t quite follow my own directions and added the boiling water before I filled the ramekins AND before I put it on the oven rack. If you feel confident in your moving-boiling-water-in-dish-to-oven skills, you can do it either way. If you are a little nervous-nelly about it, put the prepped baking dish on the oven rack first. Fill the ramekins with the custard mixture. Then fill the baking dish with the boiling water. You will want to add enough water so it reaches about 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekins. The water bath around the custard helps steam the custard keeping it creamy while it bakes.

Pour the boiling water from one corner of the pan. It will reach the rest of the baking dish.

Again, I was reckless and will now move the dish of delicate custard and boiling hot water to the 300 degree oven. No one was injured in this move.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the center of the custards are almost set. If you jiggle them a bit, the centers won’t slosh around much. You can also use an instant-read thermometer and test the centers- should read between 170-175 degrees. Remember you have one of these thermometers because you made the pizza dough right?

If using shallow dishes that measure under an inch, check the Creme Brulee after 20 minutes. I found those finished much faster than the deeper ramekins.

Once cooked, transfer (carefully) to a wire rack to cool at room temperature for about an hour.  A friend, long ago, suggested using one of those grabber-tong things (jar lifter) that you use to get canning jars out of boiling water. I know you all do a lot of canning in your spare time right? I know. I know. Me neither- tried it once. I just end up getting my hot pad all wet but lifting it out that way. The water around them is hot so be careful. I have asbestos hands at this point. Once cool, wrap them in plastic wrap and get them nice and cold in the fridge for 3 hours or more. You can refrigerate them up to three days. The creme brulee with get nice and thick- this is when you realize this is not just chocolate pudding and begin to salivate a little.

When you are ready to finish them, you can use a torch with a butane attachment. Marumodern bought me this one for my birthday a few years ago.

You can also broil the sugar. See the printable recipe above. But who doesn't want to use a torch?! Fun for all, not the picky eater six year old however he will have to wait a few birthdays for that job.

Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of the custard.  Using the torch, start carmelizing the sugar by moving the flame over the sugar. Keep it about 8-10″ above the creme brulee- otherwise you’ll melt your cold custard underneath and burn your sugar on top.  Keep the flame moving over the sugar. Don’t keep it in one spot too long or it will turn the sugar black, meaning you burnt it. 😦  Feel free to practice our torching skills using a pudding pack in a practice ramekin! It’s not hard and it’s fun- you can do it!

The sugar will get nice and golden dark. Keep an eye on the texture. The dark chocolate custard underneath and sometimes make it hard to tell how dark your sugar is getting.

If you can’t wait and must eat it now (I understand completely), let it sit about 3-5 minutes at least to let the sugar harden and set up. You want that crack/crunch when you put your spoon through the sugar to get to the goodness underneath.

If you have more patience, stick them back in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to let the custard get colder again.

Dig in and enjoy! Feel free to make small moaning noises as you take bits and roll your eyes in bliss.

Dig in! Lovely with a few raspberries served on top too and a glass of Cabernet on the side.

This is usually what transpires a few minutes in to digging in. Done.

The end.

Enjoy! Make it for someone special or that person can always just be you:) Makes a sweet Valentine’s Dinner dessert too.

I’m taking requests. What recipe do you want to see explained? I’m just perusing my favorites but what do you want to know more about..? Tell me, I will try to oblige!


Posted in Dessert | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Pizza + Pulled Pork. Genius.

Pizza dough is easy. Say it with me. Homemade pizza dough is easy.

Pulled Pork Pizza

Dough makes people nervous unless it’s in the form of $10’s, $20’s or better yet $100’s.  Is it the yeast? The rising? The kneading?  Making bread is not instantaneous but it is easy and way tastier than the stuff in the freezer section. Baking bread is one of my favorite cooking tasks. It’s low maintenance. You mix up some stuff leave it alone. Go back pay it a little attention then leave it alone again. You aren’t sweating over a stove stirring for hours.

Here’s our cast of characters for this story.

Yeast. Flour. Salt. Honey. Cornmeal. Olive Oil. A thermometer. A pizza stone. That’s it. And a mixer.

Pizza Dough Printable Recipe (click right back there)


I love my mixer.

Attach the Captain (Dough) Hook.


Hook attachment that you probably took out of the box, looked at and said "huh?" and stuck it in the cupboard. You get to use it!!

If you don’t have a mixer, you can knead the dough by hand. No big deal.

For this recipe, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks. The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet. I don’t make a ton from it but as a cooking weirdo, it’s one of my favorites to sit and read. Really. I would not divulge such a geeky trait if it weren’t true. I read cookbooks like novels. Amazing (sounding) recipes. Great explanations of how baking works. Beautiful pictures.

The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

Yeast is a living organism. You won’t see it move but it does need to prove it’s working for you. To get the yeast all excited about its job, you have to get it activated.

It's alive!!!

Warm water (between 100-115 degrees) is the first trick. Cold water won’t activate it. Water too hot will kill it. Don’t murder your yeast.

Make sure the water is between 100-115 degrees.

Yeast loves a little sugar too. I add about a teaspoon of honey in with the yeast and water. We know the yeast is happy when it starts making bubbles (carbon dioxide) within about 5 minutes. No bubbles? Scrap it and start again- you have dead yeast 😦

Off to perform its first trick.

Yeast. Water. Honey.

Whisk it together and then leave it alone for a bit. Go fold some laundry.

Starting to bubble. Yippee. It will smell all "yeasty" too if you stick your nose in the bowl.

This is IT! Hopefully you can see that it's thicker in substance. Creamy looking. We're ready!

So now we have active, happy yeast ready to go to work. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 cup water. Whisk! Whisk!

I also love these little shot glass measuring things. Makes measuring small amounts, like teaspoons and tablespoons, of liquid easier.

Whisk olive oil and water into yeast mixture.

Add the flour and salt and using the mixer, knead the dough on low speed (number 2 on your Kitchenaid) for about 2 minutes. It will come together in to a ball.

I need a Mixer-Cam. It's tough to get in there to show you all the action.

Now our yeast is exhausted, it has worked really hard up to this point. Give the little guys a break. Cover the bowl (plastic wrap or lint-free towel works) and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. This allows it to fully hydrate before we beat it up all over again. Now you can go feed your kids lunch. Take a power nap. Making dough/bread is very multi-task allowing.

Here's our cohesive ball of dough after kneading for a few minutes. It's the blurry blob at the bottom of the picture...

I used my 20 minutes to play with Maggie who was waiting patiently find out if there was bacon eventually involved in this recipe. Yes, Maggie bacon is later. Patience.

Certified Bacon Inspector.

Now that everyone is rested, knead the dough on medium-low (about number 3 or 4 on your Kitchenaid) until it is firm, elastic and smooth. About 3-6 minutes. I found it was still quite sticky so I tossed in a few more pinches of flour and it came together.

Kneading: Part Two.

Done (with this part.)

Now the dough has to rise (proof), the yeast really wants to impress you and show you what it can do. If you leave it alone for awhile, it will prove its worth and double your dough in size.

Great tip from the cookbook: Mark with a piece of tape where your dough started, that way you will know whether it is rising and doubling. Given the size of my container, it's not the most accurate tape placing.

The container is greasy looking because you want to coat it with some cooking spray or olive oil. Scrape the dough from your mixer bowl in to a container and cover tightly with plastic wrap or your lint-free towel again.  This time you get about 45 to 60 minutes. I probably did some thing like wrote a dissertation on world peace or re-insulated my attic. No, in actuality I probably watched an episode of Real Housewives or played Uno with my son.

Oh, good job yeast! We are so proud of you! A+

Ohhhh, lookie lookie. It’s doubled! We are ready to make pizza!! Or at this step you could divide the dough in half (use a little flour- it will be sort of sticky.) and freeze half of it or all of it.

The dough will keep in the refrigerator for about a day so you can make the dough when you have time and then use it tomorrow. Beautiful.

We brought out the bacon and some pulled pork. Memphis style pizza. HoooWeee.  I made some pulled pork last month and froze it (of course) so that was the catalyst for our dinner. I do a Barbeque Chicken pizza that is similar to this ingredient list.

Applewood Smoked Thick Bacon. My new favorite friend.

I bake my bacon at 425 degrees for about 8 minutes- flip it over- bake for another 4-5 minutes. I hate the grease mess of cooking bacon on the stove.

Wait a minute. Half of that piece of bacon is missing? Hmm.

Dice up the bacon. Prep your pizza dough.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, just use a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. The key to good pizza at home without a $100,000 wood fire pizza oven is to get your oven as hot as it will go. Most home ovens will go to about 500 without exploding. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as every recipe recommends. I will be honest, I don’t do that. I don’t think I am coordinated enough to slide the pizza from some source (like a pizza peel or parchment paper) on to the 500 degree pre-heated stone. The thought of cleaning up pizza that flopped off the paper on to the bottom of my stove gives me hives. One day, I promise I will try it and tell you all about it..when I am braver. Or have a housekeeper.

I prep my pizza on a cold stone and then bake it. Seems to work just fine. Sometimes I precook the prepped dough for about 7 minutes, pull it out and then finish topping the crust with my other ingredients.

Sprinkle the stone with a little cornmeal and then shape your dough. We used barbeque sauce as the base because we're going Memphis style with this pizza. The white flakes are parmesan. Marumodern had a hard time taking direction as my sous chef. Cheese comes later.

My turn-to store bought barbeque sauce…Sweet Baby Ray’s.  Delicious.


So here’s how easy Memphis Pulled Pork Pizza is. Dough. (I salt and pepper the dough a little. Olive oil the crust and season that with a little garlic powder.) Sauce. Meat (pulled pork.) Cheese (Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack). Minced fresh jalapeno. Diced, seeded tomato. Diced bacon. Grated Parmesan. Bake it. Sprinkle with some fresh, chopped cilantro. Eat.

A member of the Blue Man Group came to lend a hand mincing up jalapeno.

I’m a wimp and really don’t enjoy jalapeno oil in my eye when I forget later that I was dicing them. Wear a glove if you are a wimp like me so the jalapeno oil doesn’t get you later. Even hand washing doesn’t seem to wash it all off.

Voila. Meat. We are easily amused at my house. The blue glove was too much for this photographer.

And now the blue hand will sprinkle the cheese.

More cheese. Cheese Good. Laughter. Camera Shake. My apologies.

Topped with jalapeno, bacon, some diced (seeded) tomatoes and now some fresh grated parm.

And now bake for about 14 minutes. Watch for your crust to golden up.

Yeast this is your big final moment! Get baking.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, brush the crust with some olive oil.Sprinkle with some fresh, chopped cilantro. Cut it up. Take 20 more pictures and then Enjoy!

Love up the puppy while the pizza cooks.

Puppy Love.

We are teaching the puppy modeling poses so she can start to earn her keep. She hasn't quite got it licked yet.

Brush crust with olive oil out of the oven. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro. Maybe some fresh ground pepper.

I have no words.

Enjoy.  Sadly, my winter break is now over unless someone has an “in” with Mother Nature and can order up a good Midwestern (school-closing) blizzard in the next 24 hours. I hope to be able to keep up with a regular posting schedule. I appreciate all the great feedback and referrals. Thank you lovely folks!

Check back soon: Up next the dessert that almost caused violence. Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee.


Posted in Bread & Baking, Freezer Friendly, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Rustic, earthy, warm that’s Lentil Soup.  A good warmer on some serious cold Midwestern days. Mostly used in middle eastern and indian cooking, they are not the most coveted food but, somehow when cooked with all the good stuff like carrots, spinach, tomatoes and spices loaded in this soup, they turn in to a lovely little soup companion.

High in protein, fiber, folate/iron, and vitamin B , this legume is quite the superfood. Varieties of yellow, green, red and even black lentils are available. I usually turn to the easy to find green lentils. Cheap and easy to find. This cook likes that.

This soup could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using vegetable stock instead of chicken. Another great make a ton and freeze-it recipe. This makes about 12 cups of soup.

So here we go…

Lentil Soup

Click here for the Printable Recipe.

First off the bacon…it’s going to create not only some salt in the soup but some smoky bacon fat to cook the vegetables. mmmmmm.

Bacon. Bacon. Bacon.

Once your bacon is browned, remove it from the pan (leave the oil/fat behind- isn’t that where it always ends up anyways?) and set aside. You’ll add it back later.

Next, your veggies. You’re doing about equal portions of the mirepoix trifecta- ohh, fancy french cooking term (mirepoix) for celery, carrots and onion used together.  You see this combo used a lot for the base of soups and stews in french and cajun cooking. Keep them diced all about the same size so they all cook at the same rate.

Celery. Carrot. Onion.

The trick I find works with particularly strong onions is to rinse them under cold water once you’ve made your half cut and are peeling them. It washes away some of the sulfide that makes your eyes water. Storing them in the refrigerator for a few hours before you’re going to use them sometimes helps too.  No one wants to look puffy and forlorn eating lentil soup.

Mirepoix Trifecta cut all about the same size for even cooking.

Saute those veggies and add the garlic in too. Season with salt and pepper lightly. Get them nice and soft and happy in the oil- about 7-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once they are softened add that bacon back in.

We're cooking. We're sauteing. We're mirepoixing.

As they soften, add the bacon back in.

While you’re veggies are cooking, prep everything else. You will need to rinse and drain and pick over your dried green lentils.  I know it seems cumbersome but nothing ruins a good bowl of soup like a broken tooth.  There are, sometimes, little bits and stones in those dried bags of legumes.  Just sift through after you’ve rinsed them.

Rinse, Drain, Pick Over. No broken teeth over a bowl of soup, please.

You will need your spices and tomato paste at hand. Get those ready! Now! Go! Run! Really, relax it’s just lentil soup it doesn’t get too fussy if it takes you a little longer.

I fiddled with lots of combinations of spices and like this the best: white pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, bay leaf, brown sugar, thyme.

Opps, forgot to put the brown sugar in the bowl. The rest are all there.

Once the veggies are tender, stir in the spices and tomato paste. Stir for about a minute to coat the vegetables and release some of the aromatics of the spices. Next stir in the water, chicken broth, lentils, and diced tomatoes. I use lots of water instead of lots of chicken broth because otherwise this soup ends up really salty.

Stir in water, chicken broth, lentils and tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer until lentils are tender about 35-45 minutes.

Stir the soup occasionally. When the lentils are tender, stir in the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

The lemon juice and vinegar pull out a lot of flavor in the soup in the end.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender. Puree half the soup. If you like all smooth soup, puree the whole thing (add the spinach first if you want it all smooth.)

Stir in the spinach after you puree, I find it’s easier to blend the soup without the spinach in there first. It will wilt quickly from the heat of the soup.  Ladle in to bowls. Garnish with a little grated parmesan or asiago cheese and a swirl of olive oil.


Up next on the blog front, pizza  with a little memphis-style (pulled pork) attitude.  Super easy pizza dough deconstructed. So easy why would you buy frozen??

Til later forks,


Posted in Freezer Friendly, Soups, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Tomato Sauce

I have to say I’m a little glad to take a break from cooking for a few days. I cooked a ton this past week between holiday cookies, Christmas eve dinner, Christmas day brunch and Christmas day dinner but unfortunately didn’t take too many pictures of any of it! But here, my friends, is one that made it in to the Canon.

I get a little nervous when I make food for a lot of people. Will it turn out? Will guests like it? Is it only me that thinks this is any good? Nerves were settled when this batch of appetizers were devoured on Christmas Day and some were even hidden in the bottom of the pot to be smuggled home by a guest later. Make them for a tailgate party, New Year’s Eve or Day or just to eat all by yourself.  This recipe was adapted from an Allrecipes recipe, I’ve tweaked along the way both in ingredients and preparation. They are a little spicy so tame guests should be warned.

Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Tomato Sauce– click back there for your printable recipe.

Tips and recommendations:

1.Prep all your ingredients 1st for both the meatballs and the sauce. You want to cook the sauce in the same pan you browned the meatballs to get all that goodness that will be stuck in the bottom of the pan. You don’t want the meatballs hanging out to long on dry land while you are putting your sauce together (and you don’t want to kill anyone later because their internal temperature got all faloozalled.) If you are really a procrastinator and prep the sauce when you get to it. After browning the meatballs, maybe stick them in the fridge, if it seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time getting your sauce on- I’ve been there, some days we can’t find the blender and the brown sugar.

2. These are great made one or two days in advance then heat them up on low in a slow cooker the day of your 50 meatball party.  I cook them all up sauce and such and then put the whole mess in the slow cooker insert and let it chill out in the fridge for a few days. The sauce gets better, the meatballs get all loved up by the sauce. It’s very touching.

3. Could you skip the homemade meatballs and throw in some frozen pre-made deals? Of course! They won’t have the zing but we have to do what we have to do. The sauce is still half the flavor.

My first mishap. I only had a little over a cup of bread crumbs in the pantry.

Easy problem to solve. I just made up enough breadcrumbs to fill that last 1/2 cup.

For the 1/2 cup, I just used whatever bread I had, in this case hamburger buns. Rip up one and add about a tablespoon of butter cut in to small pieces and hit the on button on your food processor.

And now you have….


And now we have our full 1/2 cup to add to the 1 cup. Magic.You could make the entire 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs this way if you are feeling really domestic.

In a large bowl, mix together all your ingredients except the olive oil. You will use that later to brown the meatballs.

If raw meat makes you a little queasy, use a spoon to mix it all up. It’s  much easier to just get in there and use your hands.

Now start rolling…get a little helper. Little hands make little meatballs.

Meatball roller helper.

Now wash your hands and heat up the olive oil in a pan. Brown the meatballs carefully on all sides, you’ll need to do several batches so they aren’t crowded in the pan.  You are just browning them so they don’t fall apart in the sauce, not cooking them through. They will cook through when they go in the sauce later. Use a pot or pan big enough to hold all the sauce later. You won’t have to wash the pot between the browning and saucing- bonus.

Turn them carefully to brown all sides.
Now take them out and place on a plate to wait. Brown remaining meatballs.

Now this is the reason we are using the same pan to make the sauce. DON’T wash the pan! This is your magic goodness ingredient.

DON'T wash the pan. You want these bits and browning in the sauce. I think it's called fond and you want it. Don't wash it down the drain.

Now start your sauce. Heat up some olive oil in the same pan and add the onion. Cook until tender and translucent.

Now as the onions get juicy, that good stuff in the pan will soften up and flavor those onions.

While the onions are sautéing, blend the tomatoes and chipotle peppers.

These are spicy! They are essentially dried jalapenos. Most recipes only call for one or so of them so there is a lot left from the can. I put them in a little container and use them up in chili, eggs, salsa, mac and cheese, anything you want a little smoky spice added in. A little goes a long way when you are using these up. They'll keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

You need three whole peppers from the can for the sauce.

Add the peppers and diced tomatoes to a blender and blend up.

Amazingly the ingredients just fit. If you need to process in two batches, don't feel bad.

Once the onions have softened up, add the garlic and cumin and stir for about a minute just until you start to smell the spices.  Then add the tomato mixture, chicken broth, water and brown sugar. Stir up and add the meatballs carefully back in to the pan.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Tomato Sauce

After they cook for about 30 minutes, then are ready to serve. Sprinkle with some fresh, chopped cilantro.

This is when I moved the whole concoction to the slow cooker insert and stuck it in the fridge for a few days. Reheat on low in a slow cooker for a few hours.

Over the course of a few hours and a few hungry guests waiting patiently for a ham to cook, the slow cooker emptied itself.

This man, he will remain nameless and identified only by his plaid shirt, hid some in the bottom of the sauce to later smuggle home in a Ziploc bag for later.

Enjoy! Have a great New Year everyone!


Posted in Starters & Sides, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cranberry Orange Almond Cookies

Cranberry Orange Almond Cookies (recipe from BiteClub Eats Holiday Cookie Contest

It seems to happen every school break. You survive until those last couple of days and then “POW” your body gives up. I am sick with a cold.  So this will be short and sweet but we are off for 17 days for winter break (it’s not PC to call it Christmas break anymore) so I hope to post lots of recipes.

Years ago I had a cake somewhere, maybe even in another state (of mind) that was a cranberry/orange combo. Haunting. Delicious. I still peruse my giant (Type A) binder, of tab divider organized recipes I’ve ripped from uptine magazines over the past 15 years, looking for something similar. When I ran across this cookie recipe, I stopped… paused…. and thought, “Hmph, sounds pretty good.” I know you were waiting for something life changing. So these I baked a few weeks back, while perfectly healthly, and gave them out at my cookie exchange along  with the Magic Bars.

These were truly delicious. The recipe is super simple, the most strenuous part is cutting the cranberries in half.  Took like a whole 15 minutes!! Eh Gads!! Sorry cold-induced sarcasm. We will proceed.

I was a little worried that the cranberries wouldn’t soften up in the 12 minute baking time and they’d have an awful raw crunch taste. Oh no my friends,  these cookies were soft, warm, lovely with a little crunch of almond and the sweet glaze over top finished it off perfectly. They are delicate and light. Sweet with a bit of crunch.

So on to the recipe and some pretty pictures.

Cranberry Orange Almond Cookies via BiteClub (I love that blog name by the way. I think a picture of Brad Pitt with a buttercream cupcake would be the perfect visual right now or a giant burger.)

Makes about 4 dozen smaller (2 inch) cookies.

Printable Recipe click there, right back there, in blue.


1 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups (12 oz bag) fresh cranberries, cut in half

1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Orange Glaze: (optional but why would you opt out. This Is It!)

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

How To:

1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth.  Beat in the egg until well blended.

3. Mix in 1 tsp orange zest, 2 tbls fresh squeezed orange juice and almond extract.

4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in to the orange mixture. Mix in cranberries and slivered almonds, until evenly distributed.

5. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons. (The recipe said Tablespoons but I needed to get maximum cookie numbers out of this recipe. I ended up with about 4 dozen smaller, 2″ cookies. I think this cookie is so packed full of flavor that a giant 3-4″ gargantuan cookie would be a little much.) onto ungreased cookie sheets. Cookies should be spaced at least 2 inches apart.
6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges are lightly golden. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks (I cooled them on a big, ole’ sheet of parchment paper.)

7. While the cookies cool, make your glaze. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Take a spoon and channel your inner Jackson Pollock and drizzle over the tops of cooled cookies. Let stand until set.

These freeze beautifully also. Bonus!

Now my panicked task of the week- figuring out a menu to make for 15 people on Christmas Day. Panic! Sweat! Anxiety! When you’ve been toted as a great cook for years, it’s a task to pull off dinner for 15 with that sort of preempted reputation to uphold.  Any suggestions for a stress free entree that will make me look like a genius and I won’t be having a panic attack?

Off to finish my breakfast of cupcakes- Hey, I’m sick. Are you gonna stop me?!

Stay Warm and Happy!


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3.7 lbs of Sweet. Magic Bars.

A heavy load of sweet.

A workout in a pan. 3.7 lbs of sweetness.

If all things today can be retro or vintage, I would say that Magic Bars (aka: Seven Layer Bars, Dream Bars, Hello Dolly Bars, The Recipe On The Condensed Milk Can Bars) are a very retro cookie. A classic. There are 3.7 pounds of toothaching goodness in a slab.  A childhood memory at Christmas and we’re talking about the ’70’s so that’s totally vintage.

These are a classic like having Al Green or Van Morrison in your iTunes.  A holiday cookie platter would be very sad and lonely without its super rich chocolate, coconut laden friend: Magic Bar.

I baked these little workout beauties (3.7 lbs before baking…You could do some serious bicep curls with this sheet pan) for my Supper Club’s Annual Cookie Exchange Brunch.  Yes, a Supper Club. Fun for foodies.  We’ve been meeting for about 10 years although only two of us are from the original band.  As people have moved out of state over the years, we’ve happily invited in new eaters in to our little hub-bub. Meeting once a month with a food theme in mind, we’ve covered the gamut from Indian to French to Comfort Food. You name it we’ve created a menu around it and happily indulged in the results.

So on to some magic. Wait no more. There are a hundred versions of out there and I used a Kraft Foods recipe with the exception of a few small tweaks.

Chocolate Magic Cookie Bars

Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I didn’t have a box of crumbs so I stole a wrapped pack from my son’s box of grahams and bashed them with a rolling pin in a sandwich bag. Very therapeutic.  To make 1 1/2 cups I used one of the three wrapped packages of crackers that come in the box.)

1/2 cup (1 stick, oh yeahh) butter, melted

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1 bag of milk chocolate chips (Kraft wanted you to use a package of baking chocolate, semi-sweet and coarsely chop. Go for it- I like to nibble on a few of the chips that fall by the wayside and thought the chips would actually distribute better over the bars. I like milk chocolate and decided to abandon the rules, again.)

1 1/3 cups shredded coconut

1 cup chopped pecans (this ingredient made me realize how cheap I am. Who knew a bag of  chopped pecans was $6.00? GEEEZ, not this cheapo.)

Sea Salt, sprinkle over the top after baking. See the linked article about other opinions of the salty-sweet recommendations. Helps cut some of the super-toothache sweet these bars have, I think.

How To:

Melted butter and bashed graham crackers.

Melted butter and bashed graham crackers.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press onto the bottom of a 13×9 inch pay sprayed with cookie spray.

Building the foundation.

Building the foundation. Graham Cracker Crust. Ignore the Skeletor hand.

Pour condensed milk over crust. The birthday gods bestowed upon me a fun new Lowel Ego light, so needless to say, I overused it on this recipe. I think I took 60 photos of these bars in the making.

Pouring photo #1 of 458

Lordy that's a dirty pyrex cup. Used it to melt the butter, why wash it? It's all ending up in the same pan.

Pour condensed milk over graham cracker crust.

Why did I bother pouring the milk from the can into the Pyrex? Photo happy. Indulge me.

The final covering. You might want to use a rubber spatula to spread around the milk so every nook and cranny gets some.

Top with layers of remaining ingredients. I chose chocolate first, coconut second, pecans last.

Ze Chocolat. Grab a few, nibble. They don't All have to go on the pan.

The chips and coconut

The coconut layer politely blanketing the chips.

Don’t nibble the pecans. These suckers were expensive- use ’em all on your bars. Unless you have a pecan trust fund, then go wild.

The final layer

And now…I weighed them.  I picked up this pan and couldn’t believe how heavy they were. I had to know.

Compact little bars.

Press the pecans lightly into the coconut layer to make sure they don’t fly out of the pan in the oven. Really? No, but Kraft makes a note of this pressing business. I do, mostly, what I’m told.

Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. When you pull them out of the oven, run a knife around the edge of the pan so the sticky baked ingredients don’t adhere to the pan and fall apart when you take them out later.  Sprinkle lightly with some sea salt if you’re feeling very gourmet. Cool completely before cutting into bars. I cut them in to smaller bars, yielding about 32 or so. They are so sweet they don’t need to be huge.

Cut 'em up. Hand 'em out.

Up next in cookie making: Cranberry Orange Almond Cookies (recipe via BiteClub Eats submitted by Celeste) Come back and look for it soon- delicious!

Enjoy! Happy Holidays! Off to shovel snow:(


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Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes

Declarations of Breakfast Love

Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes

I adore breakfast.  You get to eat in your jammies with no make up. Warm, cozy. There’s usually butter and syrup and always coffee.  I love to get up early on a weekend and sneak off to breakfast quite honestly. All by myself with a book or the newspaper. Less dishes that way. Don’t get me wrong, I love company too especially since the six-year-old crowned victor of Pickiest Eater has breakfast on his list of “Will eat!” just the carb-based entrees (pancakes, french toast, that’s it.) I will wait in line for over an hour for the best pumpkin pancakes (only available for a limited time) at The Original Pancake House not IHOP, oh no it’s not IHOP. Click here for a location near you! Since I do love to cook (but not do dishes), the necessity of dirtying some dishes arrived one Saturday morning.

Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes: Recipe at end of blog. Shaking it up, trying a new format. Hope you were sitting down. This is a Cooking Light recipe, from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook, that I adapted because I found the original too dense.  They are flavorful and filling but much more heavy than a regular buttermilk pancake.  The oatmeal flavor lends a sweetness.

Combine the buttermilk, oats and vanilla. Give them 10 minutes to get to know each other. Turn your attention elsewhere. Feed the children. Walk the dog. Hey, measure out the rest of your ingredients? Preheat the griddle or pan? There is so much to be done in 10 minutes. Work on your taxes? Do 40 squats in your kitchen? Why does WordPress want to center these captions? I end up typing more just to fill up the caption box because it bugs me that there is a loner 1/2 sentence unevenly spaced. Anyone know?

Dry Ingredients waiting impatiently for the 10 minutes of oat soaking that must occur.

The moment they've been waiting for. Dry Ingredients meet Wet Ingredients. Play nice.

Love the center-griddle insert on my GE stove. Not a product plug. It's one of the few redeeming qualities about it. See how puffed up they get, don't be fooled it's not light airy puffy. These are heavy-duty fill-you-up pancakes.


We topped them with maple syrup And apple butter.

Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes

Printable Recipe

1 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 TBL vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup milk (helps thin out the really thick batter.)

2 TBL brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine the buttermilk, oats, and vanilla; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This is when I take the opportunity to start some sausage in another pan. After 10 minutes, stir in oil and egg.

2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture to flour mixture, stirring until smooth. This is where I add in some milk (2%, fat-free, whole-fat whatever you have.) to thin out the batter. It’s really, really thick otherwise.

3. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.

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Mouse and Mac Woes

The breakfast is yet to come.

I was really, really trying to get a blog up this morning but my computer that I have a huge Mac crush on is not cooperating. My mouse keeps freezing. I realized I’ve been not so regular on the posting. Blame it on the day job- we just finished final exams and in the state requirement of keeping my certification I’m also engulfed in a grad class. Go Spartans! So in the spirit of blogging I will give you (yes, all 23 of you;) a preview picture. Perhaps I will get more cybercontrol later? Til then…some oranges.  Orange you glad, echkh can’t do it.

Much like (love is a very strong word to be throwin’ around here so casually, maybe when we know each other better) and Vitamin C




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Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil

This one is not my own. I wish I could claim the rights for simple genius! Once again, magic ingredient…butter.  From Steamy Kitchen Blog: Click here for recipe from Steamy Kitchen Blog. Short on time today or I would insert the recipe text right in.

This is a short entry today. Have to help MaruModern paint his new house.  Painters quit, something to do with INS, I don’t ask questions. I just rally when asked. Oh, how I love to paint over purple, bright pink, bright yellow, several coats. heavy sarcasm. I don’t like to paint at all but I’m good at it (good enough), I’m free labor, and I don’t have to be micromanaged. See his blog in my blogroll and you’ll understand the horror I am about it embark on. I’m too nice. I should stay home and make brownies.

Try the recipe- delicious! It takes a little time but it’s worth it. Even microwaved the next day it’s spectacular- gets better maybe even?  It will give you a few new tricks in your bag too: boiling the tomatoes to peel the skins- works like a charm! If tomatoes are not at peak, use canned. I won’t tell.  Don’t rush the Basil Garlic Oil, start it when you start the whole recipe and let it just sit on low and get warm- it doesn’t need to simmer or boil.

Last two tips and then I’ll just let the photos roll…1. Don’t cook your pasta all the way. Really, drain it when you can tell it’s about 1 minute away from being done. It will finish cooking when you are tossing it in the pan with the sauce. Honest, I swear it will. Don’t overcook your noodle.  2. I don’t mess around with dividing up the oil amongst each serving. Just drizzle it over the whole mess in the pan. Why waste time, it will all end up there anyways right?

Enjoy! Time to find my painter pants.

Basil and Butter await their delicious fate.

Genius in the making.

Tomatos in a pan. Does it really need a caption?The melding process.

The melding process.

Pour it over. Mix it up. Gastronomic Happiness Awaits.

Ta Dahhh! Thanks Steamy Kitchen for the greatness!

Have a great Saturday!


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