2011, Recipes 114 & 115: Streusel Pear Tart and Three-Way Ginger Snaps

 Streusel Pear Tart
Recipe courtesy of Wendy Kalen and Lori Longbotham at Every Day with Rachael Ray
  • 1/2 recipe Perfect Pie Crust or 1/2 pkg. (14.1-oz.) refrigerated piecrust (1 crust)
  • 6 firm-ripe anjou or bartlett pears (about 3 lbs.)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. apple pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
  1. Unroll the piecrust into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the crust against the bottom and sides of the pan, trimming the top as needed so it is even with the rim. Refrigerate.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°. Peel, core and cut the pears into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp. flour, the apple pie spice and salt. Toss the brown sugar mixture with the pears to coat, then spoon into the prepared piecrust.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel over the pears.
  4. Place the tart on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the top is browned and the pears are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm.

    Results: Meh. The pears were a little firm for my taste. I've also found I don't like loose streusel very much. It's just a bunch of sugar on top. The crust also tasted a bit salty for some reason. I like Martha Stewart's pate brisee better. Other people liked it. I thought it was just okay. I did like the impressive look of the tart, though so I will definitely be making a tart again!

Three-Way Ginger Snaps
Recipe courtesy of Nick Maligeri in "The Modern Baker"

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies before baking
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil
1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. If you only have one oven rack like me, set it in the middle of your oven.
2. Mix the flour with the ground ginger, baking soda, and salt.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and continue beating until smooth.
4. Decrease the mixer speed to low and beat in half the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and paddle.
5. Beat in the grated ginger, crystallized ginger and the honey. After they are incorporated, beat in the remaining flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the dough.
6. Roll 1/2 tablespoon of the dough between the palms of your hands to make a little sphere, then roll it in a shallow bowl of raw sugar. Place it on one of the prepared pans. Continue with the remaining dough, keeping the subsequent cookies about 2 inches apart on all sides. Make sure these are small and spaced. They spread a lot.
7. Bake the gingersnaps until they spread and become deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans from back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives off strong bottom heat, stack the pan on the lower rack on top of a second one for insulation. If you're working with only one rack, just turn your pan from back to front after the first 10 minutes.
8. Slide the papers off the pans to cool the cookies. If you have only one more pan of gingersnaps to bake, readjust one of the racks to the middle level for baking.
Results: Y'all. These are some of the best ginger snaps I've ever had in my whole life!!! They're so gingery and delicious! I LOVE the crystallized ginger. Everybody went nuts over them. If you store them in the freezer, you can eat them straight out of the freezer and they stay fresher longer.


2011, Recipe 113: Sausage Brioche Dressing

Recipe courtesy of Claire Robinson
  • 1 brioche loaf, cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound pork breakfast sausage (no casings)
  • 4 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cross cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 cups stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped sage leaves
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread the brioche on a baking sheet and put it in the oven until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the sausage and break it into pieces with a spoon. Cook until browned, then transfer it to the bowl with the brioche. Add the celery to the sausage drippings and cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Put the sausage into the brioche bowl. Stir in the stock and sage and mix until the brioche absorbs most of the liquid. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the dressing to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover with foil and bake until golden brown on top, another 20 to 25 minutes.

Results:  I made this for Thanksgiving and it was AMAZING!! Use brioche!! It's egg-y and fattening and delicious!!! Simple but amazing!! Did I say it was amazing?? It was amazing!! The next morning, it inspired me to create my new favorite post-holiday breakfast: dressing with a fried egg. I'm drooling right now!!


2011, Recipes 110-112: Casseroles and Such: Cabbage Casserole, Stuffed Shells and Stuffed Mexican Peppers

 Cabbage Casserole
*Combination of several recipes
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced  
  • 1.5 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 (16 oz.) can tomatoes
Cook the cabbage in boiling salted water until crisp-tender. DO NOT OVERCOOK. It will continue to cook in the oven and you want your cabbage to be a little firm. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add ground beef and spices and brown. Drain. Drain cabbage and place half in a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish. Top with half of the ground beef, add half of the tomatoes. Repeat layers. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. 

Results: Quite yummy! Rashan is alternately scared of cabbage because of bad experiences as a kid but he liked this, too.

Stuffed Shells
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 (16 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
  • 4 cups large curd cottage cheese
  • 12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook shells according to package directions. Place in cold water to stop cooking. Drain.
  2. Blend cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, mushrooms and garlic powder in a food processer. Rub the dried herbs in the palms of your hands to pulverize them, and stir into the cheese mixture. Stuff mixture into the shells using a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.
  3. Spread 1/3 of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 15 x 10 inch pan. Place shells open side up, and close together in pan. Spread remaining sauce over top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. 
Results: I made this recipe because Rashan requested it and hated every minute. I found it overly time consuming for the result. Some of my shells broke so I ended up just mixing it all together like a casserole. I think this also needed another flavor. Maybe spinach or meat. 

Stuffed Mexican Shells
Recipe courtesy of Jasgirl at Allrecipes.com with a few modifications
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, divided
  •  4 large poblano peppers
  •  2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Brown ground beef over medium heat with spices, breaking it apart into crumbles as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Drain excess fat. Stir in the cooked rice and 1/2 of the tomatoes; mix until thoroughly combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. Mix in half of the cheese.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the poblanos in half lengthwise. Remove stems, membranes, cores, and seeds. Place a steamer insert into a large saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the peppers into the steamer insert, cover the pan, and steam until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Place the steamed peppers into the prepared baking dish, and fill lightly with the meat filling. Spoon the remaining tomatoes over the peppers and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot, 25 to 30 minutes. 
Result: Delicious! I might make a casserole-type version of this one again tonight!


2011, Recipe 107-109: Vegan Black & White Bean Soup, Black Salt Asparagus, Chipotle-Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Since I'm quite behind, I'll do a bunch of sides in one post. You could use these for a weeknight meal or holiday meals. I think you'll like them!

Vegan Black and White Bean Soup
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 8 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can white beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Cook the onion, celery, garlic, and thyme together in the hot oil until the celery is soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the black beans, 4 cups vegetable broth, and the cumin to the pot; mix to combine. Stir the white beans, the remaining vegetable broth, and the sage into the mixture; bring to a gentle boil and simmer 30 minutes. 

Results: Very yummy! I would suggest adding a teaspoon of celery salt. Here's a secret... my version wasn't vegan... ore even vegetarian. I don't like vegetable broth (barely glorified water) so I used chicken broth.
 Black Salt Asparagus
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, rinsed and trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon black sea salt, or to taste
Preheat the oven broiler. Set the oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler.
Place the asparagus spears on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with black sea salt.
Broil the asparagus until tender and starting to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. 
Results: I got some black lava salt for our wedding. Loooooooved this recipe! So yummy! Rashan said the black salt tastes exactly like regular salt. I think it's saltier so there!

Chipotle-Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 whole canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can of peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add butter to potatoes and mash with potato masher. Add peppers, sauce, and salt and continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately. 

Results: I now know if I didn't like this recipe, there's no hope for me and sweet potatoes as a side dish. Rashan loved it. I did not. Blech. But that's no fault of the recipe.


2011, Recipe 106: Sausage and Potato Casserole

Recipe courtesy of Cooks.com

1 lb. pork sausage meat
3 c. cubed raw potatoes
3 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 c. milk
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
Fry sausage in a large skillet, use a large spoon or fork to break up and stir the meat while it cooks.

As soon as all pink color is gone, push meat to one side and brown potato cubes slightly in the sausage drippings. Stir potatoes and sausage together, sprinkle flour over mixture. Stir until flour is absorbed by the fat. Add milk to cook and stir until thickened slightly.

Pour mixture into a 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle cheese and paprika over the top, cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until potatoes are tender.

Results: I drained the sausage and reserved a little of the fat to fry the potatoes in. I wanted something simple but I thought this was just okay. I've become more accustomed to more complex flavors. This fell quite flat. Typical of recipes from this site.


Thanksgiving Menu 2011

It's that time again!  As a confident cook, this is one of my favorite times of year!  I get to try at least 5 of the recipes I've been hoarding for the rest of the year!  Who am I kidding?  At least 7.  Last year (that list didn't include the shrimp bisque I ended up making) I made one of the best turkeys I've EVER had.  And I don't even like turkey!  This year we'll be at my mother-in-law's house so I won't need to do the meat.  They have some favorites and I have free reign to make whatever I want.

Rashan & I had fried oysters our first Thanksgiving together at his mom's house & now we require them at all holiday gatherings!!!
Turkey, ham, fried oysters

Soup & Appetizers
My family didn't eat soup for holiday meals traditionally but with in subscribing to food magazines for years, I now consider them a staple!  For meals at my mother-in-law's, Tyler's ultimate french onion soup is required! 

French onion soup, chicken liver paté (me/Tyler Florence), marinated chickpeas (me/Tyler Florence), olives with rosemary & orange (me/Tyler Florence)

The most important thing about Thanksgiving?? Maybe... Meat is required, but Thanksgiving would be worthless without a plethora of sides.  I knew I wanted to try a dressing even though they use stuffing.  My sister-in-law makes a fabulous mac & cheese so she'll be doing that.  And grandma's mac & cheese is a staple at their holiday suppers.  Without it, there would be mass revolt!
Stuffing, sausage brioche dressing (me), french-style green beans, squash casserole (sis-in-law), cranberry sauce, goose fat smashed potatoes (me/Rachael Ray), mac & cheese (grandma), sweet potatoes (mom-in-law)


I'm not a bread person unless it's in dressing or laden with butter (brioche or croissants)... I doubt I'll even touch these.  No one requested cornbread.
Crescent rolls

I'm making a tart mostly because I've had a tart pan for almost a year and never used it!  I'm also considering a pumpkin custard and a chocolate mousse since they love all things chocolate!
Triple the Ginger snaps (me), streusel pear tart (me), sweet potato pie (sister-in-law)


Slow Cooker Chicken with Brown Rice & Tomatoes and Sauteed Broccolini

I've started doing a lot of riffs on existing recipes.  Here are a few of those takes.

Slow Cooker Chicken with Thyme & Rosemary
Based on this recipe from Emeril Lagasse
  • 3 chicken leg quarters, cut into thighs and legs
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked white pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, juiced 
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon flour
Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook well until well-browned on all sides.  Place in a slow cooker. Scatter the onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon juice and broth over top of the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and set the temperature to high. Cook for 4 hours, undisturbed.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker, and pour the juices into a 2-cup heatproof container. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Whisk in flour.  Cook until lightly browned. Add broth. Cook until thickened, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Serve chicken with the thickened pan juices ladled over the top.

Results: Wonderful!  Fall off the bone chicken!

Brown Rice, Tomatoes & Thyme
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
  • 1 cup Texmati brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup Champagne or rice wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (I just used 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, large-diced (I found 1 lb. to be way too much tomato)
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves (1 large bunch), chopped (I subbed thyme)
Bring 2 1/4 cups water to a boil and add the rice and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Return to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed. Transfer the rice to a bowl.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, remaining teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Pour over the rice. Add the tomatoes and basil. Mix well and check the seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Results: Delicious!

Sauteed Broccolini
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the broccolini in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.
Melt the butter in a large saute pan. Add the lemon zest and garlic and stir. Drain the broccolini and add it to the garlic mixture and heat for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, and toss well before serving.

Results: Very good!  Bizarrely it was my first time blanching anything?? What's wrong w/me? IDK.


Buffalo Blue Cheese Chicken Sausage Burgers with Cilantro Raita

This recipe, like most of the recipes I create, started with a sale.  Fresh Market had its chicken sausage half off with some pretty amazing-sounding flavors so I took advantage!  I knew the buffalo chicken would need something cooling.  A regular blue cheese dressing was out because it was already in the burger.  I LOVE raita and had all of the ingredients for it on hand.  Match made in heaven!


  • 1/2 medium cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, dry toasted
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Burger

    • 1 1/2 lbs. buffalo blue cheese chicken sausage, removed from casing
    • 1/2 small onion, diced
    • 2 tbsp. Frank's Red Hot Sauce (optional)
    • One tomato, sliced
    • 4 buns, toasted
    Yields: 4 burgers

    1. Combine raita ingredients.  Cover and set in the refrigerator.
    2. Combine chicken sausage, onion and if using, hot sauce.  Score with the side of your hand to make four evenly-sized burgers.  Make them a little flatter than you would for a beef burger because they will plump a bit.
    3. Cook in a skillet between medium and medium high heat for about 4 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
    4. Drain burger.  Place on bottom bun, top with raita, tomato and top bun.  If you have lettuce, add that, too.
    Results: This burger had just the right amount of spice for me.  I like medium spicy... hot enough to make your nose run a little but not enough to make your eyes water.  But Rashan could have had it much spicier.  We both loved it!  I served it with a side of blue corn tortilla chips that we dipped into the excess raita.  This is a quick and easy meal that would also be great for cookouts with people avoiding beef or pork.


    2011, Recipe 105: Pepper Crusted Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Vinaigrette

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence
    • 1 lb. salmon fillet
    • 2 T. ground coriander
    • 1 T. ground black pepper
    • 2 T. olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, with liquid
    • 1/4 c. olive oil
    • juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 T. cumin
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • Salt and pepper
    • Spinach, dill and mint
    • lemon wedges for garnishing
    Mix together the coriander and ground pepper, and spread it in an even layer on a plate. Dredge both sides of the salmon in the pepper mixture, so it’s nice and well coated, and then sprinkle a bit with salt and pepper.

    Dump the can of chickpeas, with their liquid, into a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and a bit of salt and pepper, and mix it all up together. Put about half of the chickpea mixture into a food processor or blender, and blend it until it’s nice and creamy, then add it back with the rest of the chickpeas and stir together.

    Combine spinach, dill & mint and pile on the side of plate.  Plate chickpeas and vinaigrette.  Top with salmon.

    Results: So good!  This was definitely one of my favorite recent recipes.  It's very quick, very easy and very delicious.  That crust impressed both of us!  The dumping the chickpeas w/their liquid stumped me.  I mean I guess.  It didn't harm the flavor but I'm so used to rinsing my canned beans that I was confused.  And this actually makes a delicious salad as well.  Y'all know I don't like mint so I didn't use that.


    2011, Recipe 104: Sky High Cranberry Apple Pie

    Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

    Aerial pie view

    This recipe came from the November 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living (and isn't online yet).  It's an apple pie that calls for FIVE POUNDS of apples.  Whoa.  I used four pounds and I really can't see how an additional pound would make my pie as high as hers.  Her pie was crazy.  I made her basic pie crustIt wasn't my first crust but it was my first in a food processor and that makes the process (tee hee) even easier!  I loved it!  I was told this was the best crust one of my people had ever tasted.  I like sweeter crusts so I'd probably add more than a tablespoon of sugar.

    Side pie view
    My biggest issue with this pie is it takes almost three and a half hours what with resting the crust twice, the pie once and cooking the pie for over an hour and a half.  It's ridiculous and smells torturously delicious.  But the combo of cranberries and apples in a pie was a hit at the October party!  Plus it's beautiful!  I was supposed to use sanding sugar but I used turbinado which created the black speckles.


    2011, Recipe 103: Bulgur and Kale Casserole with Yogurt Topping

    Recipe courtesy of the New York Times

    For the tomato sauce:
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
    2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
    2 pounds fresh tomatoes, quartered if you have a food mill, peeled, seeded and chopped if you don’t, or  1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice, or crushed tomatoes in purée
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

    For the gratin:
    1 pound kale, stemmed and washed, or a 10-ounce bag of stemmed, washed kale
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 garlic clove, minced
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 cup coarse bulgur (No. 3), cooked
    1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
    2 ounces (approximately 1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
    3 eggs
    1 cup thick plain low-fat yogurt
    Salt, pepper and paprika to taste

    1. Make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute, and add the tomatoes, salt to taste, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, paprika and allspice. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the tomatoes are bubbling. Stir together, turn the heat back to medium-low, partly cover and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sauce is thick and fragrant, 25 to 30  minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat. If your sauce is chunky, put through a food mill or pulse in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Set aside.
    2. Meanwhile, blanch the kale in salted boiling water for 4 minutes or steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender. Rinse with cold water and squeeze dry. Chop fine (you can do this by pulsing in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.)
    3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. When it begins to smell fragrant, in about 30 seconds, stir in the chopped kale. Toss together and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the bulgur and dill, combine well and remove from the heat.
    4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a 3-quart baking or gratin dish. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, and spoon in the bulgur and kale. Spread in an even layer. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan on top and cover with the remaining tomato sauce, spread in an even layer.
    5. Beat together the eggs, yogurt and 2 tablespoons of the remaining Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Spoon over the tomato sauce and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. Place in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes or longer before serving.
    Yield: Serves 6 to 8
    Advance preparation: All of the elements of this casserole will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, as will the assembled casserole, without the egg-yogurt topping. Make the topping right before baking. The casserole can be baked ahead and reheated.
    To cook the bulgur, bring 2 cups water with salt to taste to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the bulgur, and when the water comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, place a clean dish towel over the pan and cover with the lid. Let sit 10 minutes.

    Results: This was my first time cooking with bulgur and we were both pleased with the outcome.  It's pretty similar in texture to couscous.  The yogurt topping made me a little nervous but it gave the dish a tang that made it sing!  I was amazed that we both really liked this.  And with a side of naan, it was a great entree for vegetarians.


    2011, Recipe 102: Indian Fish Curry

    Recipe courtesy of Mantu at Allrecipes.com 

    • For the marinade:
    • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 white fish fillets
    • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
    • 5 cashew halves
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon white sugar
    • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
    • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    1. Mix the mustard, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a shallow bowl. Add the fish fillets, turning to coat. Marinate the fish in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
    2. Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, and cashews in a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a paste.
    3. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    4. Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the prepared paste; cook and stir for a minute or two. Add the cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and sugar. Cook and stir for an additional five minutes. Stir in the chopped tomato and vegetable broth.
    5. Arrange the fish fillets in a baking dish, discarding any extra marinade. Top the fish with the sauce, cover the baking dish, and bake in the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 30 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
     Results: I'm always looking for fish dishes and Indian dishes so combining them?  I was on it!  If you aren't down with spiciness, you will want to cut down on the cayenne.  It's quite delicious!  I would definitely make this again!  I served it with basmati rice and sauteed spinach.


    2011, Recipe 101: Hasselback Potatoes

    Recipe courtesy of Seasaltwithfood

    • 6 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
    • 2 - 3 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
    • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
    • 30 g Butter
    • Maldon Sea Salt
    • Freshly Ground Black Pepper

    Preheat the oven to 220˚C (425˚F). Put the potato on a chopping board, flat side down. Start from one end of the potato, cut almost all the way through, at about 3 to 4 mm intervals.

    Arrange the potatoes in a baking tray and insert the garlic in between the slits. Scatter some butter on top of each potato. Then drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    Bake the potatoes for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes turn crispy and the flesh is soft.

    Results: So impressive! And easy!  When you cut them, put chopsticks on either side to keep you from cutting through.  You can see a few of my cuts are a tad deeper than I'd like because I didn't have chopsticks (strangely).  The crevices spread apart as you cook them.  The modification allows for using all olive oil, no butter.  I can see how butter would've made them even better.  The garlic pretty much disappeared.  I think next time I'll use garlic powder.  Very yummy!


    2011, Recipe 100: Smoky Chipotle Meatloaf

    Recipe courtesy of Serenebeader on Allrecipes.com
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 cup hickory flavored barbeque sauce
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced, or to taste
    • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, minced, or to taste
    • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1/2 cup dry oatmeal
    • 2 pounds lean ground beef
    • 2 tablespoons hickory flavored barbeque sauce
    1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
    2. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl until smooth, then whisk in 1/3 cup barbeque sauce, garlic, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, kosher salt, black pepper, celery salt, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce until evenly smooth. Mix in the onion, oatmeal, and ground beef with your hands until evenly blended. Pack the mixture into the prepared pan. Brush the top of the meatloaf with 2 more tablespoons of barbeque sauce.
    3. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 1 hour. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). 
    Results: AMAZING!!!! You should definitely use the entire 2 lbs. of meat this recipe calls for because you will want it!!  I halved it and greedily, we ate the whole pan the same night.  I KNOW!!  Just shameful.  But it's truly that good!  I added diced onion & diced green peppers because I had them and needed to use them but the recipe really doesn't need it.


    2011, Recipe 99: Potato, Sage & Rosemary Pizza

    Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.com
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 12 ounces unpeeled small Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into very thin rounds
    • 1 (13.8-ounce) tube refrigerated pizza dough
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (I used dried)
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
    • 1 cup (packed) grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
    • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
     Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add potato slices in single layer. sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Cool briefly. Unroll dough on rimmed baking sheet. Scatter potato slices over dough, leaving 3/4-inch plain border. Sprinkle with rosemary, sage, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with cheeses to cover.

    Bake pizza until crust is crisp and cheeses melt, about 20 minutes. Using metal spatula, loosen crust from sheet. Slide out onto platter or board and serve. 

    Results: We both agreed... strange.  Not bad... just strange.  I always roll my pizza out on cornmeal so that was awesome but the potatoes were soft against the crunchy crust.  I don't think I need to eat a pizza with potatoes anymore though.


    2011, Recipe 98: Chai-Spiced Pancakes

    Results: I loved them!  And I can only eat pancakes about three times per year.  I don't like sweet breakfasts too much so it's usually night when I eat them.  Rashan was less enthused.  I did think they needed about 1.5xs the spices the recipe requested to elevate these pancakes but I still definitely enjoyed them as is.


    2011, Recipes 96 & 97: Wild Mushroom-Cheddar Burger and Cole Slaw with Spicy Dressing

     Burger Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 12 ounces assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, lobster, chanterelles, and stemmed shiitakes), chopped
    • 1 small shallot, finely diced
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean) or ground turkey (90 percent lean)
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
    • 4 hamburger buns, split; toasted, if desired (see below)
    • Chipotle Ketchup (optional, recipe follows)
    Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme and parsley and transfer to a bowl.
    Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.

    Results: Just okay.  It turns out I don't really like shiitake mushrooms.  Kind of chewy.  I used those and creminis.  The chipotle ketchup was AWESOME!! I should make it all the time!

    Slaw Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence
    • 1 head napa or savoy cabbage, shredded
    • 4 carrots, shredded
    • 2 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
    • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
    • Leaves from 1 bunch fresh mint, for garnish


    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle
    • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Combine the cabbage, carrots, apples, onion, and pecans in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands and set aside.

    In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, sugar, mayonnaise, ground chipotle, and lemon juice until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss well to coat. Taste again for seasoning, then mound onto a platter and garnish with mint leaves.

    Results: Surprisingly delicious!  I definitely did not expect to like a slaw with apples in it but this was amazing!  Both of us really liked it.  Oh and you know I don't like mint or pecans so I didn't use either in this recipe.  Shame on me but I just can't stomach buying mint anymore knowing I'll ONLY use it for this recipe.


    2011, Recipe 95: Dairy-Free Green Pea Soup

    Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger

    I made some changes to this recipe to give it another layer of flavor.  First, I grated two carrots and added them after the onion, cooking for a very short amount of time.  That didn't do anything flavor-wise but added some extra vitamin A.  Of course you can easily make this a vegetarian recipe by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.  I used half chicken and half veg stock.

    Now on the flavor side of things, I remembered seeing a cumin-spiced pea something or other so I added a tablespoon of cumin to this and a little extra salt.  It was delicious!  Before cumin?  A bit flat.  After cumin?  Fantastic!  Rashan had seconds.  I served it with sandwiches.  YUM!


    2011, Recipe 94: Spaghetti Squash

    Recipe courtesy of James at Allrecipes.com
    • 1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
    • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
    • 3 tablespoons sliced black olives
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
    2. Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.
    3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.
    4. Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with the sauteed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm. 
    Results: This was yummy & quite easy.  My mom had never had spaghetti squash before and LOVED this!  I subbed dried basil and it was still good.  You could easily make this vegetarian dish your entree and be satisfied.  You could also add sauteed ground turkey to it like my mom did.  Both are great.


    2011, Recipe 93: Pear Cobbler with Cranberry Streusel

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

    Rashan & I both LOVED this!  It was so delicious!  The "streusel" needed more flour to be more like a traditional streusel.  It was really more like a butter topping.  LOL  That did NOT in any way diminish the amazingness of this!  I also think you could probably cut the sugar by at least 1/4 and still enjoy this immensely.


    2011, Recipe 92: Indian-Style Salmon Fry

    Recipe courtesy of Fran on Allrecipes.com
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
    • 1 small onion, sliced into thin half-circles
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
    • 1 green chile pepper, chopped
    • 10 fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional)
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • 2 (14.75 ounce) cans salmon, drained and bones removed
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; place the cumin and mustard seeds in the hot oil and cook until the seeds begin to pop. Cook and stir the onions in the spice mixture until they brown. Mix in the garlic, ginger, chile pepper, and curry leaves; cook and stir until the garlic becomes golden. Add the tomatoes and stir for a few seconds before adding the salmon, using the back of your stirring spoon to break the salmon into small pieces in the pan; cook until the salmon is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes; remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

    Results: Yummy! Rashan didn't like it but I love Indian spices so I was all over it. No matter how gross it may look in the picture. LOL I used curry powder and ground mustard. If using ground mustard, just add with the onion and stir. I halved the recipe and there was plenty for 2 people with some leftover for one the next day. I didn't have cilantro so I didn't use that but it was still great!


    2011, Recipe 91: Tyler's Ultimate Ribs

    Results: The barbecue sauce in this recipe was DELICIOUS! I figured out I don't really like pork anymore, though unless it's bacon or sausage.  Sad turn of events, huh?  It just far too often smells disgusting to me and it's just as easy to find beef ribs and delicious chicken sausage.  So long, pork ribs!

    Note: The online recipe is clearer than the one in the book.  I diced the onion & garlic finely and it was actually delicious to get little bites of onion inside.


    2011, Recipe 90: Coconut Shrimp with Apricot Lime Basmati Rice

    This Tyler Florence Thai curry-style recipe did not send any shivers through Rashan.  He hates coconut and therefore coconut milk.  Actually, the more I cook, the more things I find out he doesn't like.  Sometimes they're things he had cooked poorly as a child (greens, cabbage) or that just sounds gross to him (my husband's five) and sometimes he just genuinely doesn't like them.

    If I think this hate is theoretical, I cook around it.  Turns out his dislike of coconut milk is actual.  But the recipe is tasty with 2 adjustments.  If I made this again I would just beat up the lemongrass with a knife and put it in in large pieces instead of cutting it.  Lemongrass does not soften upon cooking.  I would also quarter or dice the apricots so they wouldn't be SO obtrusive in the rice.   Very interesting dish from Tyler's Ultimate Cookbook.


    2011, Recipe 89: Tyler's Ultimate Spaghetti & Meatballs

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

    Results: The meatballs were definitely a success.  Rashan loved them and I thought they were delightful.  However... I didn't like the huge chunks of wet bread on the outside of the meatballs.  He didn't notice but I did.  I think I'll stick with bread crumbs, use smaller bread or less bread.  The pasta sauce also cooked waaay down so I would probably halve the pasta since there are only 2 of us and pasta lasts around here forever.


    2011, Recipe 88: Nutella Banana Muffins

    Recipe courtesy of Miss in the Kitchen

    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup Nutella
    1 banana mashed (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
    1/4 cup butter, softened
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine Nutella, banana, butter, buttermilk, egg and vanilla.  Stir wet ingredients into dry just until combined.  Spoon into greased muffin tins.  Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean.  Remove from pan to wire rack to cool.

    Results: This actually took only about 15 minutes to cook.  The muffins were so yummy!  For a pre-run snack, I split them in half and toasted them, then spread with peanut butter. MMM!


    2011, Recipe 87: The Ultimate Greek Salad with Grilled Calamari

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

    10 small whole calamari, bodies only (3/4 to 1 pound)
    ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    ¼ cup red wine vinegar
    4 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, plus extra for garnish
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, or one large tomato, cut into wedges
    1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
    ½ pound feta cheese, crumbled
    1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
    1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
    Lemon wedges, for garnish

    The vinaigrette serves as a marinade for the calamari and dressing for the salad.

    Start by rinsing the calamari tubes and patting them dry. Place the calamari in a medium bowl.

    To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, dried and fresh oregano, thyme, and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Pour half the vinaigrette over the calamari and set the rest aside while you make the salad.

    Put a large grill on the stove over medium-high heat, or preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill and get it very hot.

    Combine the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, cheese, olives, and romaine in a large bowl. Pour the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine.

    Lightly oil the grill pan or grates of the grill with canola oil (take a few paper towels and fold them over several times to make a thick square. Put a small amount of oil on the paper towels, then carefully and quickly wipe the hot grates of the grill to make a nonstick grilling surface). Put the calamari in the grill pan or on the grill and cook for 2 minutes per side. Cut the grilled tubes into rings.

    To serve, arrange the salad on a large platter and scatter the calamari on top. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and lemon wedges.

    Results: Delicious!  Photographed horribly but tasted great!  Butchering the calamari was... overwhelming.  I had no idea what I was supposed to keep and what I was supposed to discard.  And they just look sort of scary.  But it came out great!  I was pleased that I followed the cooking times precisely and it wasn't at all rubbery!


    2011, Recipe 86: Venison Chili

    Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
    • 4 strips bacon, diced
    • 2 1/2 pounds leg or shoulder of venison, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 1 cup chopped onions
    • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
    • 2 garlic cloves crushed
    • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
    • 1 cup beef stock
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 cup grated Sonoma Jack cheese
    In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and transfer to paper-lined plate to drain. Add the venison to the hot oil in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally and in batches if necessary, until well seared. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and saute over medium-low heat until tender. Stir in the wine and the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the dry spices, chopped tomatoes and the beef stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is very thick and flavorful. Add the venison to the pot and cook, stirring, until just cooked through and hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve with the grated cheese.

    Results: My moose source provided me with venison!  I had some very sinewy pieces which made eating this a bit of a chore.  I should've trimmed the meat better.  I was unsure about what would cook down and what wouldn't.  I thought this needed AT LEAST twice the non-meat portion.  By the time it thickened and I added the meat, there was not nearly enough base left for my taste.  It was yummy, though.  Very nice flavors.


    2011, Recipes 84 & 85: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork & Pulled Pork Panini

    Pulled Pork recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
    • 1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin
    • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle root beer
    • 1 (18 ounce) bottle your favorite barbecue sauce
    • 8 hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted
    Place the pork tenderloin in a slow cooker; pour the root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours. Note: the actual length of time may vary according to individual slow cooker. Drain well. Stir in barbecue sauce.  Serve over hamburger buns.  

    Results: I topped mine with slaw and Rashan had slaw and pickles.  So yummy!  I was skeptical at first because it just smells like pig meat and root beer after it cooks.  So unappetizing.  Then I drained it, sliced some for the next recipe, chopped the rest & added the bbq sauce and let it go for another hour on high.  YUMMY!!

    Pulled Pork Panini recipe courtesy of The Neelys
    (I sliced off some pork before adding the bbq sauce in the previous recipe so I started at that point)
    • sliced pork
    • 4 tablespoon butter, room temperature
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 4 French style sandwich rolls, sliced horizontally
    • Dill pickle slices
    • 1/4 pound sliced colby Cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
    Preheat your panini press.
    In a small bowl mix the butter and the garlic. Butter the sandwich bread.
    Divide the pork, pickles, cheese and barbecue sauce evenly between the bread.
    Place the sandwiches in the panini press and close the lid. Grill the sandwich until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted. Slice on a diagonal and serve warm.

    Results: Soooo good!  I used English toasting bread and smoked gouda in place of
    French bread and cheddar.  Loved it!  Next time I'll use 2 slices of gouda so I can REALLY taste it!


    2011, Recipe 83: Baked Penne with Eggplant and Sausage

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence
    • Kosher Salt
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • 6 links fennel pork sausage (about 3/4 pound)
    • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 large can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
    • Leaves from 1 small bunch basil
    • 1 pound rigatoni
    • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. Get yourself a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
    Heat a 2 count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and toss in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, you want them nicely browned on the outside but still rare on the inside. Put the sausages in the baking dish.

    Turn the heat down to medium. Add a generous 1/3 cup of oil to the skillet and get it hot. Add as many eggplant pieces as you can comfortably fit in a single layer and sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant is nice and browned, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Use a spatula to put the eggplant into the baking dish with the sausage. Cook the rest of the eggplant pieces, adding more oil to the pan, as needed, and putting the finished eggplant into the baking dish.

    Add another 2 count of oil to the skillet, then your onion and garlic, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the whole can of tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up; add that to the pan with the basil and cook it down until pulpy and relatively thick. This will take about 15 minutes.
    By this time your pasta water will be boiling. Add the rigatoni, give it a stir, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, it should be slightly firm as it will cook further in the oven. Ladle out 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve; the drain the rigatoni.

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Chop the sausages into nice big, bite-size chunky pieces and return the pieces to the baking dish. Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni, and the reserved pasta water. Break up half the mozzarella over the mixture, season with salt and pepper, and gently mix with your hands or a spatula. Dust with the Parmigiano and drizzle with more olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining mozzarella in an even layer over the top and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

    Results: Good.  Not my favorite ever but mixing GENTLY (because the container is overflowing) helped make it cheesy throughout which was delightful!  I had to use some dried basil because I didn't have enough fresh.  BUMMER, I KNOW!!  But still really good.  It could've used a bit more salt but Rashan really liked it.   Oh!  And this recipe says to put the water on at the beginning but only cook it for 6-7 minutes... Um... no.  You can really start it around the time you start your sauce.  I would use less pasta, too.


    2011, Recipe 82: Creamy Chicken & Rice Casserole

    Recipe courtesy of Denise's Kitchen (I put my modifications in italics)

    1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
    1 large onion, diced
    2 cups rotisserie chicken plus drippings
    2 Tbsp butter
    1 Tbsp flour
    1 tsp dried thyme
    1 tsp paprika
    salt and pepper to taste 
    1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken broth
    1 cup chopped mushrooms
    1/2 cup sour cream
    2 cups cooked white or brown rice
    1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Shred leftover chicken and set aside in a bowl.
    3. Add oil to a hot pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat for two minutes.
    4. Add the shredded chicken along with the pan drippings from the previous night’s baking of said chicken (including about a tablespoon of that glorious chicken fat if you have some).
    5. When drippings are incorporated into the chicken and onions, add the butter, flour, thyme, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
    6. Add chicken stock and mushrooms and mix thoroughly.
    7. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat with the cover on.
    8. Incorporate sour cream and then add the rice, mixing fully. If the mixture seems thick, add in another 1/2 cup chicken stock.
    9. If baking in a separate dish, this is the time to butter the inside and then set the mixture inside, topping with the breadcrumbs. If baking in the same pan you used to cook the ingredients, (which is my preference) then just top with the bread crumbs and set in the oven.
    10. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve with a nice salad or steamed vegetable.

    Results:  I loved the idea of using rotisserie chicken and SOUR CREAM! The sour cream really excited me!  It did creamy wonderfully!  My biggest annoyance was that this recipe's ingredients weren't listed in the order they were used.  Me fail: I didn't have mushrooms.  Boooo.  But beyond that, this recipe seemed to be missing something... like one more spice or more of one used would have made this better.  Maybe more of the thyme and more paprika?  Maybe rosemary instead of thyme?  This recipe had good bones.  It just could've used a little boost.

    *Also... HAPPY 350TH POST TO US AT THE RECORD DISH!!  It was the brainchild of our friend, Ashli, who promptly stopped blogging.  LOL  Thanks for the idea, anyway!  What started as a music, fashion & food blog has become mostly a food blog with a splash of fashion.  No matter!  Happy, happy!


    2011, Recipe 80: Bacon, Mushroom, Carmelized Onion & Garlic Confit Pizza

    I based this recipe on one from Epicurious.com.   
    • 3 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
    • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped slightly larger than minced
    • 8 ounces assorted fresh wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    •  1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1 ball of pizza dough
    • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
    • 1 cup mixed shredded Italian cheeses

    Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Add onion to the pan.  Cook gently until onions are soft and brown.  Remove from pan.  Add oil and garlic to skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until garlic is golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and rosemary; cover and cook over high heat until mushrooms are tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 8 hours ahead; chill bacon and vegetables.) 

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle cornmeal on your rolling surface.  Roll out pizza dough.  Place rolled out pizza crust on baking sheet. Sprinkle cheeses, spread sauce, then top with vegetable mixture and bacon. Bake until cheese melts, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven.  Sprinkle with a little more chopped fresh rosemary. Let stand 2 minutes. Cut and serve. 

    Results: YUMMMMYYYYY!!! We loved this!  Ol delicious fancy pizza!  The garlic confit made it!!!  And you know what?  Didn't even really need the bacon.  Next time I'll use barbeque sauce instead of spaghetti sauce to change it up. 


    2011, Recipe 81: Nutella & Nanner "Ice Cream"

    Recipe based on this one from Claire Robinson
    • 2 to 3 ripe bananas
    • 1 tablespoon Nutella
    • 2 crumbled Nilla wafers
    Cut the bananas into 1-inch pieces and freeze.  (PEEL, THEN FREEZE.  If you freeze first, they're much harder to peel.)  Put the frozen bananas in a food processor and puree, scraping down sides periodically, until smooth. Add the nutella and puree. Serve immediately or refreeze until ready to enjoy.  When ready to enjoy, top with crumbled wafers.

    Results:  The original recipe is banana, peanut butter & honey.  I didn't have peanut butter so I switched it up.  So good!  So creamy!!  I used a blender and added a splash of milk because frozen bananas do not like to blend.  But most reviewers say they'll eventually blend w/o it.  Delightful!