Lime Zest Cooler

This Agua Preparada de Limon Rallado is from the Rick Bayless book Authentic Mexican
8 large dark-green limes (the color is important)
¾ to 1 cup sugar

Using a fine, rasp-like grater (not a citrus grater) remove the lime’s green zest (no white). Add 1 quart water, using a little of it to rinse into the bowl any zest that has clung to the grater. Let stand 1 hour. (Wrap up the fruit for another use.)
Strain the zest mixture through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing firmly on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add enough sugar to sweeten the drink to your taste, stirring until dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Serve over ice.
Makes about 1 quart.

Results: Yummy!  Interestingly lime-y, though mine was a little too sweet.  It was a cool color, too with the bright green.  I forgot to photograph it but I'll definitely make this again.


Week 3, Recipe 2: Egg Nog Cupcakes

Mrs. Smithville directed me to this recipe!

¼ cup dark rum or bourbon
1 cup low-fat eggnog
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

for the frosting
¼ cup butter (½ stick), softened
3 tbsp. lowfat eggnog
1 tbsp. rum or bourbon
generous pinch of nutmeg
2 (or more) cups confectioners’ sugar

cinnamon sticks, for garnish (optional)
ground cinnamon, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, mix together the rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. In a large bowl, mix together the nutmeg, sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Divide evenly between prepared muffin wells.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, cream together the butter, eggnog, rum, nutmeg and confectioners’ sugar. Add in more confectioners’ sugar if needed to make the frosting stiff, but spreadable. Frost the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Results: I forgot the sprinkle with cinnamon step.  Oops.  Anyway.  These were soooo sweet.  A little too sweet for my taste but they were a hit with my classmates and very easy to make!


Week 4, Recipe 1: Strip Steaks with Blue Cheese and Bacon Spaghetti

Rachael Ray recipe from 30 Minute Meals

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces 
  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 (8-ounce) NY strip steaks
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup cream or half-and-half, eyeball it
  • 8 ounces blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped, a palm full
  • 2 cups arugula, a small bunch, cleaned, trimmed and shredded
Put a large pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil for pasta.
Preheat broiler to high with rack on top shelf.
Preheat medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped bacon and cook until crisp.
Salt water for pasta and add spaghetti to the pot. Cook to al dente, with a bite to it.
Season the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides and arrange on slotted broiler pan.
Remove bacon to paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon and drain off most of the fat, return pan to heat and reduce heat to medium. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter melts into extra-virgin olive oil, add in 2 cloves garlic and the shallots, saute for 3 minutes.
Arrange steaks on the broiler pan. Place under broiler - leave door to oven cracked ajar to limit flare ups and smoke. Cook 4 minutes on each side for medium rare, up to 5 to 6 minutes on each side for medium well doneness.
To the garlic and shallots, add in flour and cook a minute more. Whisk in stock, bring to a bubble, about 30 seconds then stir in the cream. When cream comes to a bubble, add in blue cheese and sage and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir until cheese melts. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
Soften 4 tablespoons butter in microwave on high for 15 seconds. Mix in chives and 2 cloves minced garlic and reserve.
Remove steaks from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Place 1/4 of the chive and garlic butter mixture on each steak to melt down over the meat as they rest.
Drain pasta and toss with sauce to coat and combine evenly. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Serve steaks with pasta alongside. Scatter the arugula and bacon bits across the top of the pasta.

Results:  DELICIOUS!!!  Easily the fattest meal I've ever cooked.  I didn't have chives or arugula so I skipped that part.  I didn't love the steak but that's because I never do.  The spaghetti, though?  AWESOME!!  I used angel hair pasta.  Rashan and I both loved it.


Week 3, Recipe 1: Peach Cobbler with Cranberry Strusel

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence (in the 'Tyler's Ultimate' cookbook)
  • 4 Bartlett pears
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks
  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature, granulated and sugar, for the baking dish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel the pears and cut them in 1/2 through the stem end. Use a melon baller to scoop out the cores. Put the pear halves in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the vanilla; toss. Then sprinkle over the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and toss to coat the pears with the flavorings. Line the pears up in a buttered, sugared baking dish, rounded sides up.
In the same bowl, mash together the butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt with your hands for the topping. Toss in the cranberries. Crumble the topping mixture over the pears in the baking dish and bake until the topping is crunchy and browned and the pears are very tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

Results: I subbed peaches for pears since I had those on hand (frozen but I defrosted them before use).  Use only one hand to mash together the topping.  UGH!!!  I may never make this recipe again because I hate having dirty hands!!  It was impressive-looking but that was really appalling to me.  I thought the topping would be more crumbly.  This was also extremely sweet so I might cut down on the sugar next time I make this if there's a next time.  On the plus side, it tasted really good!  The tartness of the cran worked as a nice balance to the sugaryness of everything else.


Week 2, Recipes 2 & 3: Winter Veggie Curry in a Hurry w/Raita

Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray from her magazine

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1½ cups basmati rice
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and chopped (I leave on half the skin—I like the color and texture it gives the dish)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • One 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons mild or hot curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons mango chutney
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • Cilantro or parsley, chopped (a generous handful)
  • Slivered almonds or chopped cashews, toasted, for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium heat. Add the rice and toast for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 3 cups chicken broth, the bay leaf, lemon zest, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cardamom. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 18 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and discard the bay leaf. Add the butter and toss to evenly coat the rice; set aside.
  2. While the rice cooks, in a large, deep nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower, eggplant, bell pepper, onion and garlic; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Uncover and stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, curry paste and chutney; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining 1 cup chicken broth and simmer for 6 to 7 minutes. Serve the vegetable curry with scoops of rice on top. Top with the scallions, cilantro and almonds.

     Raita (recipe courtesy of my friend Saman)
    plain yogurt
    pinch of red chili pepper

    1) Toast cumin in a small pan over low heat until fragrant.  Add to yogurt.  Add water a little at a time.  You want the consistency to remain pretty thick.  Mince cilantro in the food processor.  Mix into the yogurt mixture.  Add chili pepper and salt to taste.

    Results: MMMMM!!  With the raita I know you're like what???  That is the recipe she gave me.  But I'd had hers a few months ago and it was AWESOME!  She calls it foolproof.  It was yummy with this recipe, too!  I left out mango salsa and cauliflower because I didn't have them.  This was really good!  And the garbanzo beans made me not miss meat at all!  I didn't do the nuts either b/c I don't like nuts in my food.  I also used curry powder instead of paste.  And I used regular rice instead of basmati.  It'd probably be better with basmati but I didn't want to spend the money on it if I didn't like it.  Turns out, I really really liked this!


Week 2, Recipe 1: Chicken Burgers with Barbecue Onion Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray (from her mag)

  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino romano cheese (a couple generous handfuls)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Grated peel and juice of 1 orange
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more drizzling
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 crusty rolls, split
  • 1 cup arugula leaves, shredded
  • 1/2 head endive, chopped
  • 1/2 head radicchio, chopped
  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cheese, garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, allspice, orange peel and 1/4 teaspoon salt; season with black pepper. Form the mixture into 4 patties, pressing your thumb into the center of each to keep it from bulging as it cooks. Set the patties aside.
  2. In a medium skillet set on the grill, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes, then add the onions and season with salt and lots of black pepper. Add the bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in the vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce and orange juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 6 to 7 minutes (if the sauce begins to dry out, stir in a little water).
  3. Drizzle the patties liberally with EVOO. Grill until firm to the touch but still juicy, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to rest for 5 minutes. Toast the rolls on the grill and drizzle with EVOO. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss together the lettuces; pile onto the roll bottoms. Top each with a patty, onion sauce and a roll top.

    Results: Not a fan.  I didn't enjoy the barbecue onion sauce at all.  That's partly because I don't really like balsamic vinegar.  It smells like feet to me.  It smelled good before the balsamic.  Even when I cooked it down I didn't really enjoy it.  I also didn't like the fennel seed that much.  I like it in sausage ordinarily but this time I wasn't really floored.   I don't see any reason to even try to tweak this recipe for me since there are so many more out there waiting for me.  I used spinach instead of those different lettuces.  I also halved the recipe.  I look happy in the pic because it was before I tasted it.  Lol.  At least it LOOKED good!


Week 1, Recipes 4 & 5: Spaghetti w/Zucchini & Garlic, Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Spaghetti w/zucchini from Rachael Ray
  • 2 small to medium zucchini
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 4 turns of the pan
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano
Pile up 2 or 3 layers of paper towels on a work surface. Working on the paper towels, shred zucchinis using a box grater holding the zucchini at an angle.
Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan Add chopped garlic to the oil. When garlic speaks by sizzling in oil, add shredded zucchini. Season zucchini with salt and pepper. Saute shredded zucchini 7 to 10 minutes. Add hot, drained pasta to the pan. Toss spaghetti with zucchini and garlic oil. Add a couple of handfuls of grated cheese to the pan. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Results: YUMMY!!  You definitely need the paper towels because zucchini has a LOT of moisture.  Next time I'll use even more zucchini (3 or 4 instead of 2).  This is quick and easy & delicious!  I added sriracha to the leftovers and it rocked my world!  MMMM!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 6 ounces
  • Large plastic food storage bags or waxed paper
  • 1 package, 10 ounces, frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 12 small mushroom caps, crimini or button
  • 2 cloves garlic, cracked
  • 1 small shallot, quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano, a couple of handfuls
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated or ground nutmeg
  • Toothpicks
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
Place breasts in the center of a plastic food storage bag or 2 large sheets of waxed paper. Pound out the chicken from the center of the bag outward using a heavy-bottomed skillet or mallet. Be firm but controlled with your strokes.
Defrost spinach in the microwave. Transfer spinach to a kitchen towel. Twist towel around spinach and wring it out until very dry. Transfer to a medium-mixing bowl.
Place a nonstick skillet over moderate heat. When skillet is hot, add butter, mushrooms, garlic and shallot. Season with salt and pepper and saute 5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms, garlic and shallot to the food processor. Pulse to grind the mushrooms and transfer to the mixing bowl, adding the processed mushrooms to the spinach. Add ricotta and grated cheese to the bowl and the nutmeg. Stir to combine the stuffing. Return your skillet to the stove over medium high heat.

Place a mound of stuffing on each breast and wrap and roll breast over the stuffing. Secure breasts with toothpicks. Add 3 tablespoons oil to the pan, 3 turns of the pan. Add breasts to the pan and brown on all sides, cooking chicken 10 to 12 minutes. The meat will cook quickly because it is thin. Remove breasts; add butter to the pan and flour. Cook butter and flour for a minute, whisk in wine and reduce another minute. Whisk in broth and return breasts to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer until ready to serve. Remove toothpicks. Serve breasts whole or, remove from pan, slice on an angle and fan out on dinner plates. Top stuffed chicken breasts or sliced stuffed breasts with generous spoonfuls of the sauce.

Results: SO IMPRESSIVE!  And delicious!  I wasn't able to get the chicken breasts as thin as she usually does so I had to kind of fold the chicken breasts around the filling and pin it together.  I also browned it on the stove, then put it in the oven on 350 for about 10 minutes to make sure the chicken was cooked through.  I used fresh mushrooms and spinach.  First I sauteed the mushrooms with garlic & shallots, then added the spinach in a little at a time.  I also just chopped everything with my knife rather than using a food processor.  Rashan & I loved this one!  For the leftover stuffing (since I made 3 instead of 4), I made scrambles later in the week.  MMMM!


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

(From allrecipes.com's Darlene)

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until fluffy. Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually beat into butter mixture. Stir in oats and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, remove from sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. 
Results: These are Rashan's favorite kind of cookie and he loved them!  I softened my butter by leaving it out overnight.  I added extra seasonings per recommendations from reviewers of this recipe-- about 3/4 tsp. each of ground allspice, ground nutmeg and ground cloves.  I just eyeballed it.  Apparently w/o extra spices some people find the cookies bland.  I can see that b/c I was still looking for some additional flavor so I might use more nutmeg next time since it's my fave of those spices.  Still, a good recipe!  Oh yeah, I also made 18 large-ish cookies instead of the 4 doz. (microscopic cookies????) this recipe allegedly yields.  I put the pans in the oven at the same time but I'd probably put them in individually so I didn't have to babysit so much.  Another tip was to add an additional minute at a time if they're not brown enough after 8 minutes so as not to overcook.  Enjoy!


Week 1, Recipes 1 & 2, 2010: Ham and Fontina Frittata & Potatoes and Green Chiles

Since I brought multiple cookbooks with me and got a new one for Christmas from Rashan, I decided to use them to make breakfast.

Ham & Fontina Frittata (Rachael Ray recipe)
  • 1 pound ham steak, from packaged meats case of market
  • 1 tablespoon (1 turn around the pan) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 12 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups (8 to 10 ounces) Danish Fontina cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim any connective tissue and all fat off ham steak. Mince the meat into very small bits and set aside.
Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet with oven safe handle over moderate heat. Add oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet and coat sides and bottom of pan evenly with melted butter and oil mixture. Add ham bits to the pan and saute 3 minutes to brown them a bit and render some of the moisture in the meat.
Whisk together eggs and milk or half-and-half. Break off tiny pieces of remaining 1 tablespoon butter and drop them into beaten eggs. Season eggs with a little salt and pepper and whisk again to combine. Pour eggs into skillet over ham. Stir eggs gently to evenly distribute bits of ham throughout the eggs.
As eggs set, lift up bottom skin that has formed and allow uncooked eggs to settle. Keep doing this as eggs brown until the eggs begin to set. Transfer the pan to the oven, and allow the frittata to cook 10 minutes, or until golden on top. Add a generous layer of shredded fontina to the frittata and leave in oven another 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and begins to bubble and brown. Serve frittata wedges directly from the skillet with a pie server.

Results: I used Christmas ham and Colby cheese I had leftover to make this.   I also used 1/2 of the eggs and eyeballed the milk since there were just two of us eating.  DELISH!  Loved it!  And it was even good lukewarm!  Glad to have leftovers to eat another day! 


2 small (about 6 ounces total) boiling potatoes like the red-skinned ones, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
3 medium, fresh chiles poblanos, roasted and peeled
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like mild domestic goat or farmer's cheese.

1.   The potatoes.   Simmer the potatoes in salted water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool under running water, peel and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
2.    Fry the mixture.   Heat the lard or oil in a heavy medium-size skillet over medium. Add the onion and potato, and fry, stirring regularly to ensure that nothing sticks to the pan, until the mixture is nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are browning, seed the chiles and slice them into 1/8-inch strips. Stir them into the potato mixture, season with salt, remove from the fire and stir in the cheese. Scrape into a small dish and cool before using.

Results: I made this without the cheese because we had it in the frittata.  I also used a mix of butter and olive oil to fry the potatoes.  I make potatoes similar to this-- the boil then fry method is AWESOME.  I got it from my friend Morgan's mom.  Best breakfast potatoes I'd ever had.  Since I used raw jalapeno, I just stirred it in with the potatoes and onions in the skillet.  I also used 5 or 6 potatoes because I knew we'd like this one... and we did!  Yum!!