Week 20 Bonus Recipe: Derby Special

Light Rum
Lime Juice
Orange Juice

Directions: Combine to your tastes & enjoy!!!

Results:  Sweet deliciousness this is good!  I had a splash of lime juice, probably could have used a tad more.  About a shot of cointreau, a shot & a half of rum, topped it with orange juice... and my personal fave, finished with grenadine!!!!  This was a delight and with the amount of alcohol I had in it (probably more than I admitted to since I've never measured anything I put into a drink... ever... and I've made a lot of drinks) I'm already feeling quite nice and I've taken just a few sips.  This is probably Jam good virgin, too!  Enjoy!

Week 20, Recipe 2: Bisquick Vanilla Pancakes

  • 2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  1. Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat or electric griddle to 375 degrees F; grease with cooking spray, vegetable oil or shortening. (Surface is ready when a few drops of water sprinkled on it dance and disappear.)
  2. Stir all ingredients until blended. Pour by slightly less than 1/4 cupfuls onto hot griddle.
  3. Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook until golden. 
Results: This recipe is from the Bisquick box.  I figured some of you wanted me to use some regular ingredients!!  You can omit the last 3 ingredients to make regular pancakes but Rashan really liked the extra sweetness to the pancakes.  I used cinnamon infused sugar.  I didn't love these pancakes.  They were a little dense for my taste.  I'm not a big pancake fan anyway.  Whatevs.  Served with thick cut bacon.  Mmmmm.


Week 20, Recipe 1: Roasted Lamb Meatballs with Honey-Rosemary Polenta & Tangy Red Onion & Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

That title is a mouthful, isn't it?  Dang Rach!  Do I really have to know every single ingredient?  Lol.  Recipe from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book.
  • 3 slices whole wheat bread, crusts discarded, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for brushing
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • One 28-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a bowl, moisten the bread with 1/3 cup chicken broth. Add the lamb, egg, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Form the mixture into 8 meatballs. Brush with EVOO and set 2 inches apart on a rimmed nonstick baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook it off, 1 minute. Stir in 2/3 cup chicken broth, then the tomatoes. Bring the sauce just to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups chicken broth and the milk to a boil. Whisk in the polenta, lower the heat and cook, whisking, until the polenta is thick but spoonable, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the honey, butter, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. If it gets too thick, add water or more milk.
  4. Spoon the polenta into bowls; top with the meatballs and sauce.

    Results: SUPER YUMMY!!!!  I served mine with a side of spinach sauteed in garlic.  I also cooked the meatballs 19 minutes because they still looked a little wet after 15 minutes.


Week 19, Recipe 4: Cumin Rub Chicken

Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray's Mag June/July 2010
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Combine 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, ground ancho chile powder and granulated garlic or garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

    Results: I used this on chicken & it was definitely a hit! MMMMM.  Rach is killin me with the grillin this month!!  I'm not sure how I ended up w/o a pic of the chicken by itself but it was quite tasty!  On the other side of the grill are onion, bell peppers & squash.


Week 19, Recipe 3: Black Bean & Couscous Salad

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a 2 quart or larger sauce pan and stir in the couscous. Cover the pot and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar and cumin. Add green onions, red pepper, cilantro, corn and beans and toss to coat.
  3. Fluff the couscous well, breaking up any chunks. Add to the bowl with the vegetables and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve. 
Results: I added a black cardamom pod and onion powder to the chicken broth as it boiled.  I didn't use fresh onion because I didn't feel like chopping.  I used crushed red pepper which added a nice kick.  I also didn't have cilantro.  And yet... this was delicious!!  I though it needed a pretty significant salt addition so I would add this at all stages.


Week 19, Recipe 2: Lemon Ricotta Amaretto Pound Cake Cupcakkes

So I took this Giada recipe to make this Giada recipe for Ricotta Orange Pound Cake
This was definitely a crap shoot.  To the leftover cookie batter (at room temp), I added
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg (at room temp)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered or 3 oranges, cut into supremes
Directions: Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool.  Dust with powdered sugar. 

Meanwhile, place the strawberries (or orange supremes) in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.
To serve, serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.

Results: REALLY REALLY good!!   I used cinnamon infused sugar (a cinnamon stick broken and rolled around in sugar for a few days).  I was excited this worked! :)


Week 19, Recipe 1: Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

Results: This makes like a million cookies.  I would halve this recipe unless you're making this for a group of more than 20.  There's no way you're fitting all that cookie on 2 baking sheets.  I didn't make the glaze because I ran out of time but these were delicious without the glaze.  This was also my first time using ricotta in a dessert!  A huge hit at the party.  They were gone with a quickness.  But I still have a ridiculous amount of batter in my fridge.  Could I turn it into a cake???  What's the difference between a cookie & a cake?  Expect another attempt with the leftover batter later in the week.  Sorry I missed a picture this time!


Week 18, Recipe 5: Blue Cheese Penne

Recipe from the Cuckoo Kitchen

Some blue cheese, crumbled
Some Heavy cream

In a pan heat up heavy cream, salt and pepper, crumble in blue cheese (you'll want the ratio to be so that cheese flavor really comes through the cream, stick your finger in and taste it, until it's how you like it.). Continue heating until the cheese has melted.

Cook penne and drain. Pour cheese concoction over penne, mix, serve.

Results: I promise you that's how the recipe goes!  Lol.  I used garlic salt for the salt & white pepper for the pepper.  Use medium low heat.  This tastes GREAT!!  I seriously looked at this while it was cooking and thought, why do I have to be anything other than fat?  I want to eat like this all the time!!!


Week 18, Recipes 3 & 4: White Wine & Tarragon Chicken with Zucchini Pasta Bake

This month's Rachael Ray magazine is all about grilling.  I couldn't wait for a grill to try this marinade recipe, though!

1 1/2 cups dry white whine
1/2 cup white wine
2 finely chopped shallots
1/3 cup chopped tarragon
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
chicken quarters

Results: This marinade could be used for anything.  Marinade from 1- 8 hours.  I cooked the chicken on 350 uncovered for 35 minutes, then covered it for another 25 minutes.  GORGEOUS and falling off the bone!  I can't say I was too crazy about the flavor.  It definitely needed more salt.  I probably should've done at least 3 hours but I got hungry after 1hr and a half!

Zucchini Pasta Bake  
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 pinch dried celery flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta, cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente, and drain. Lightly grease a medium casserole dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a blender or food processor, thoroughly mix the Parmesan cheese and crackers.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place the onion in the skillet, and cook and stir until tender. Mix in the zucchini, tomato, and garlic, and season with oregano, basil, celery, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook and stir until the zucchini is tender.
  4. In the prepared casserole dish, mix the pasta with the vegetable mixture and mozzarella cheese. Top evenly with the Parmesan cheese mixture.
  5. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the topping is lightly browned. Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving. 
Results: Pretty awesome!  I used only asiago cheese & should've paid attention to the amount of pasta.  BUT that mistake paved the way for tomorrow's deliciousness!  I used breadcrumbs instead of crackers & canned diced tomatoes.  I also added pepper.  How does a recipe not call for black pepper??  I also omitted the celery flakes because I didn't have any in the house. 


Week 18, Recipe 2: Cauliflower & Bacon Gratin

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis
  • Unsalted butter, for dish, plus 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 slices day-old sourdough bread or 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces bacon, cooked until crispy and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the bread until it forms into crumbs.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly until all the butter has been absorbed and the bread crumbs are toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream and flour. Add the capers, bacon and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and toss with the cream mixture. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown.

Results: I mixed gruyere & asiago cheeses.  This was A.MA.ZING!!  Waaaay too many breadcrumbs.  Definitely halve them.  I would also probably make the crumbs the top instead of the cheese for reheating purposes.  It was fine the first day but once it cools it's kind of weird.


Clear Thinking

Hello again! I'm back for an accessory update!

The summer is basically here. Well, from my standpoint as a teacher and a South Floridian, I can safely say, "Bring out the white pants and espadrilles!" I promise I won't look at you funny if you do. And when you do break out these summer staples, a way to update your look is with your accessories!

Don't you read? Don't you know if you can't afford spring and fall lines, just change up your smaller pieces? Get that new satchel in the haute fabric or an affordable dress in the haute color/print. (FYI: it's floral. But buyer beware with that print. Like polka dots, not everyone know how to wear it.)

This spring/summer season, I want you to think, "You so see-thru!". Get out those lucite bangles, cuffs, and bracelets and don that extra long lariat with crystal and glass pieces. For spring & summer, put away your rubies and garnets from winter and wear some diamonds, quartz, and CZ. Anything that is clear to a slight white will work!

The style is totally up to you. I saw what was supposed to look like a pearl necklace with lucite spheres and I LOVED it! I've also seen a long necklace with "stations" (a necklace with charms built on the chain, spaced out evenly along the whole chain) of different shaped crystal; kind of like a Van Cleef & Arpels piece. Cuffs and big geometric bangles or even just a few thin lucite hoops on a wrist (throw a white one in there if you're going thin) will give you a chic and cool look this season. Your jewelry can go from pool to cocktails to dinner in no time flat!

So let's review: clear is good. No dark! And please, (this should go without saying...) no clear shoes/heels


Week 18, Recipe 1: Cardamom Rhubarb Muffins

This recipe also included the tips to making the best muffins ever:
  1. Start with ingredients at room temperature, eggs, milk, etc. (check)
  2. Take care not to over mix the batter; use a flexible spatula to gently fold ingredients together. (probably could've done better on this)
  3. Batter should be stiff enough to hold a spoon upright; if it seems runny, gently fold in a few extra tablespoons of flour. (I added more flour before doing this step...)
  4. Use the freshest spices as possible when they are required. (I'm sure this would've helped...)
  5. Grease the entire muffin tin, not just the holes. More often than not, the muffins expand over the sides, and if those sides have not been properly greased, you’re going to run into trouble when you try to remove the muffins. (I didn't have the overflow issue)
  6. Fill muffin tins three-quarters full; the tops are the best part, so don’t be shy with the batter. (Check)
  7. Slide a baking sheet under the muffin tin to help prevent the bottoms from getting too dark in the oven. This also helps with cleanup in case there is overflow. (Forgot until afterward but they were fine)
  8. Take care not to over-bake the muffins. (Check)
  9. Allow muffins to cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before removing them, especially if they contain soft fresh fruit. (Check-- 15 minutes)
  10. Enjoy them fresh. If you must, freeze them, although I prefer to freeze the batter (without add-ins), then thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake the muffins fresh in the morning. (Check)
Tips Courtesy of Simple Bites (found via Foodgawker.com); recipe is a combo of that one & a bit of allrecipes.com
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, slightly cooled
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
  • add-ins of your choosing*


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Combine milk and oats; let soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Crack the egg into the oat and milk mixture; add brown sugar and mix to combine. Stir in melted butter.
    Sift remaining ingredients into the bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, & spices. Gently fold into batter, taking care not to over mix.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
*Add-in Suggestions
  • 1 cup Raspberries, fresh or frozen & ½ cup Dark Chocolate, chunked or chips
  • ¾ cup Diced Apple (Granny Smith or Russet) and ½ cup toasted Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup Dried Cranberries & ½ cup toasted Pecans, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup White Chocolate, chopped or chips & 1 cup Blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup toasted unsweetened Coconut & ¾ cup Peanut-Butter Chips
  • 1 cup diced Rhubarb, fresh or frozen & ½ teaspoon Green Cardamom, freshly ground
  • ¾ cup Dates, pitted and chopped & ½ cup Pistachios
  • ¾ cup Golden Raisins & ¾ cup grated Carrot
Results: I was thrown off because the original recipe specified 'rolled oats, not quick cooking oats' but I think I'd have been okay regardless.  425 is probably too high to cook these.  They tasted a bit flour-y to me and like they needed a lower cooking time.  One recipe called for 375 so I would go with that in the future.  I might go heavier on the nutmeg as well.  This was my first time cooking with rhubarb.  More tart than I expected.  I'd also add a little sugar to the rhubarb.  I ended up putting a lemon glaze (whisk together powdered sugar & fresh lemon juice) for some extra flavor.  My classmates loved them!


Week 17, Recipe 3: Asian Dumpling Soup

This is another one of those recipes I cobbled together from several on the interweb and added my own ingredients where I saw fit.

1 carton of low-sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 bag of frozen potstickers or Asian dumplings (I used pork & napa cabbage)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
one small bunch of fresh parsley
sriracha to taste (optional for some heat)

Directions: Bring chicken stock, fish sauce, pepper & garlic salt to a boil.  Add potstickers and lower heat to medium high.  Add frozen corn.  Cook 6-8 minutes more until the potstickers are cooked through.  Add parsley and sriracha and adjust seasonings.  I served these with frozen veggie and shitake spring rolls cooked in the toaster oven.

Results: You could also add peas, carrots, garlic, green onion (at the very end), spinach and/or cabbage, fresh or frozen.  Matter of fact, I would add a lot more of those things to put this over the level of broth.  This was not bad.  The sriracha gives it a delightful kick! :)  But it would be better with more veggies.  I was being lazy... I chose the route that required no cutting.


Week 17, Recipe 2: Baked Camembert Pasta

Phew!  Three weeks since I cooked solo!  It's been a crazy month!  Anyway, as soon as I saw this recipe in the November issue of Food Network magazine courtesy of Jamie Oliver I knew I HAD to make it!  Looks impressive but the recipe is also dumb simple!

- a box of Camembert Cheese
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, pick the leaves off the woody stalk (I used dried)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 4 oz. grated parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. dried rigatoni
- 6 oz. fresh spinach (I used one bunch but probably could've used 2 or 1 bag)

(serves 4-6)

1. Open the box of cheese and unwrap it. Place it back to the wooden container
2. Score a circle into the top of the skin, then lift it off and discard.
3. Lay the garlic slices on top of the cheese, sprinkle some pepper and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.
4. Scatter the rosemary leaves over the top and gently pat with your fingers to coat them in the oil.
5. Bake the cheese in a preheated oven at 350 for about 25 minutes, until golden and melted.
6. When the cheese has 10 minutes left to cook, add the pasta to the pan and cook according to packet instructions.
7. When the pasta is cooked, add the spinach to the pan – it only needs cooking for 10 seconds or so.
8. Drain the pasta and spinach to the pan and let it wilt.
9. Drizzle with a couple of good lugs of extra virgin olive oil and add the grated Parmesan. If the sauce is too thick for you, add a splash of reserved cooking water to thin out a bit. Season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir.
10. Remove the cheese from the oven. Divide the pasta between your serving bowls. Either drizzle the melted Camembert on top or pop cheese on the table and let everyone help themselves to a lovely, gooey spoonful.

Results: YUM!  I definitely wanted more spinach but this was very good!  I might add meat &/or serve it with something else next time.  The cheese clumps on you after a while out of the oven so you'll want to get it to the table almost immediately.  It was less gooey than I wanted.


Week 17, Recipe 1: Lamb Burgers w/Feta Sauce

This is a recipe Stace & I teamed up on at her house in West Palm Beach!  We started with a base lamb burger, then So good!

half of a medium onion
1 lb. ground lamb
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground coriander (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
2 shakes of worcestershire sauce
2 large cloves of garlic, minced

Feta Sauce 
4 oz. sour cream
3 oz. garlic & herb feta
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 tsp. italian seasoning paste (mix of basil & parsley)

whole wheat buns
fresh spinach to top burgers

Sauté onions until translucent and fragrant.  Let cool.  You can quick cool them in the freezer for about 5 minutes while you combine the rest of the ingredients for the burgers.  Once the onions have cooled, add them to the lamb & spices.  Mix gently to distribute spices, garlic & onions.  Score with your hand to create four even patties.  Pat down the center of each burger so it doesn't bulge when you cook.  Cook with olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.  While cooking, combine ingredients for feta sauce, taste & adjust seasonings as desired.  Toast buns.  Create burgers with sauce on bottom, burger, then spinach, top with roll top.

Result:  DELICIOUS!!  Stace thought they needed more salt but I loved them!  Great collaboration!  I created the feta sauce based on what Stace had in her fridge plus the feta and was quite pleased!