Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Peanut Butter Cookies

Yep, it's Halloween. My husband's not home. No candy in the house. No trick-or-treaters.

Soooooo...I whipped up a batch of PB cookies. I found the recipe on Peabody's blog and halved it.

My halved recipe is below. It made approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F.

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugars in a mixer on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Beat for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs and vanilla, then add the peanut butter and mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix just until the dough is smooth.

Using a small ice cream scoop(or a tablespoon) form the dough into ½ inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Flatten cookies with a fork. Bake just until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cookies cool about 5 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Chicken with Wild Mushroom and Balsamic Cream Sauce

This is a recipe my friend Kristin found and made. After her rave reviews, I decided to give it a try. Kristin is such a great cook and always gives me great recommendations and tips.

This is a Rachael Ray recipe. For whatever reason, I don't usually make too many RR recipes. This recipe, however, is a keeper. It's so easy and has such great flavor. It's one of those recipe that tastes like it has been simmering on the stove all day!

Below is my adaptation of the recipe.

1/2 pound orzo pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
2 tablespoons butter
1 package of white mushrooms, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, a couple of sprigs, chopped
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, eyeball it
3 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half, a couple turns of the pan

Heat a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add orzo pasta. Cook to al dente.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet. Cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the heat, turn heat back a bit, and add the butter. Once the butter melts add the mushrooms and brown stirring occasionally for about 4 to 5 minutes. Once the mushrooms are brown season with salt and pepper then add the garlic, thyme and shallots. Cook stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes or until the shallots are wilted. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook 2 minutes more. Whisk in the stock, balsamic vinegar and the cream. Turn the heat up to high and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice the chicken on an angle. Add the chicken back to the skillet to heat up, about 1 minute.

To serve, pile orzo on dinner plates and top with the sliced chicken and sauce.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pumpkin Seeds

Darn you people!!! I made a mad dash to the fruit market and picked up a pumpkin this evening.

For whatever reason, Matt didn't think that his batch needed anything but salt. So, for my batch, I tossed the seeds in olive oil, kosher salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

As soon as they came out of the oven, Matt realized that mine were better than his, so we mixed them all together! Men!!!

After getting the guts off of the seeds, it was very easy. After I coated the seeds with our toppings, I baked them at 300 degrees for 45 mins. The house smelled great and now I feel like a baby pumpkin is growing in my stomach! Wah-Lah!

Here's a Halloween joke for ya:

Why did Mrs. Jack-o-Lantern leave Mr. Jack-o-Lantern?

Because he had a HALLOWEENIE (hollow weenie) :-)

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This was such an easy meal to whip up. I found this recipe on Food Network. The flavors came together so nicely. My recipe below is halved and was just enough for Matt and I. So, if you make the original recipe, it will likely serve 3-4. Enjoy!


1/2 pound spaghetti
1 cup cubed pancetta rind removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.

In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.

When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon cubes back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Lemon Cake

Well, lemon is not something I typically crave. However, 2 large lemons were staring at me in the fridge, so I decided to search for a recipe to use them up. I love lemon chicken, but I wanted something sweet instead.

This cake-like loaf came out great! The texture is great and the flavor from the lemon-sugar glaze is so satisfying. Can't wait until Matt gets home to try this one!

I found a variety of recipes online, and took a little something from each one.
Enjoy, because I know I did!


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sour cream
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 1 1/2 - 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup of sugar, sour cream, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.

Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it is mixed together well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking in the oven, cook 1/3 cup lemon juice and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Cover a baking rack with wax paper and carefully place the loaf on the rack. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow for it to soak in.

Cool and serve.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rice Pilaf

This is soooo much better than any rice pilaf you can buy in a box. It's so flavorful and goes with so many dishes. I used the allspice and cumin in this recipe, because I served it with Lubia. You can omit these spices to have more of a traditional rice pilaf!

Rice Pilaf

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups Minute Rice (white)
2-3 ounces Vermicelli pasta (or thin spaghetti)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Add butter to medium sauce pan and melt over medium/medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, break the Vermicelli (in small batches over the sauce pan) into 1/2 inch pieces and add to sauce pan. Cook the Vermicelli until golden brown, stirring often.

Once the Vermicelli is browned, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook until the Vermicelli is tender (4-6 mins). Once Vermicelli is tender, remove from heat.

Add the Minute Rice, stir and cover for 10 mins. Once the liquid is absorbed, add the salt, pepper, cumin and allspice. Stir to combine.

Fluff with a fork and serve.

Lubia (green beans with meat - beef or lamb)

Katie gave me the idea to whip up some of this good stuff. Forgive me if my spelling is wrong! Google shows so many versions!

This turned out FABULOUS! I used Beef Stew Chunks, as I didn't have any Lamb handy. I also used canned green beans, which makes this recipe super easy. Matt's dad (100% Lebanese) gave me the thumbs up on my recipe. So if it's good enough for him, then it's good enough to share with all of you.

The recipe below is my twist on Matt's family recipe! Enjoy!

Lubia (Lebanese - green beans with meat - beef stew or lamb)
Erin's Recipe!

1 1/2 lb Beef Stew Chunks (or you can use Lamb Meat)
2 28oz cans of Cut Green Beans (drained)
2 29oz cans Tomato Sauce
1 14.5oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon of butter
2 large onions
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Melt butter in large pot. Add beef to pot and turn to cook all sides. Once the beef is cooked on all sides, add the onion and cook until the onions are soft and golden.

Add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, allspice, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium/medium low. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until meat is tender and the sauce has thickened/reduced. Be sure to stir the mixure every 30 mins or so.

Add the green beans during the last 20 mins of cooking.

Serve over rice pilaf (recipe above).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Katie's Apple Bran Muffins

These were sooooo easy and good. I didn't have rasin bran on hand, so I used bran flakes. Nice healthy treat!

Oh, so good . . Pasta e Fagioli

OMG! What a FABULOUS dish. It was so easy and had such wonderful flavor. I followed the receipe closely, but my changes are in bold...

Pasta e Fagioli (Giada De Laurentiis)

4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic (I used 3 big garlic cloves and pressed them)
5 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can of kidney beans and 1 can of garbanzo beans)
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional (I used 1TB for extra heat)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine (I didn't have cheesecloth, so I used a coffee filter). Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the sachet. Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth* (I pureed 2 cups). Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Season the soup with ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cheesy au Gratin Potatoes

These potatoes were so yummy! I've never made scalloped potatoes, outside of the kind in a box. They were a big hit and didn't leave much in the way over leftovers. I will definitely make these again!


6 medium boiling or baking potatoes (2 lb)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded natural sharp Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (any flavor)

Heat oven to 375ºF.

Scrub potatoes but do not peel. Cut into 1/8-inch slices to measure about 4 cups.

Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat.

Stir in milk and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Spread potatoes in ungreased 1 1/2-quart casserole. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes.

Bake uncovered 1 hour. Mix remaining cheese and the bread crumbs; sprinkle over potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes longer or until top is brown and bubbly.

Parmesan-Dijon Chicken

This was the best chicken I've made so far. It was so flavorful and juicy. Matt loves mustard, so I knew this would be a hit with him. I was a little leery about it at first, but I'm hooked! This will be a chicken dish we make often!


1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs (any flavor)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 3/4 pounds)

Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix butter and mustard in shallow dish until well mixed. Mix bread crumbs and cheese in large plastic bag.

Dip one piece of chicken at a time into butter mixture, coating all sides. Then place in bag of bread crumbs, seal bag and shake to coat with crumb mixture. Place chicken in single layer in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.

Bake uncovered 20 to 30 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut.

Smothered Pork Chops

I've seen raves about this receipe on WC. I would definitely have to agree. It was very simple, yet flavorful. The only change I made, was that I added sour cream to the sauce. It made it more creamy.

I think, next time, I may bake them for 45 mins to an hour to tenderize the chops a little bit. Other than that, it's a great dish!


1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick, bone-in
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Put the flour in a shallow platter and add the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels to remove any moisture and then dredge them in the seasoned flour; shaking off the excess.

Heat a large saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the pork chops from the pan and add a little sprinkle of seasoned flour to the pan drippings. Mix the flour into the fat to dissolve and then pour in the chicken broth in. Let the liquid cook down for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Stir in the buttermilk and sour cream to make a creamy gravy and return the pork chops to the pan, covering them with the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until the pork is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.