Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lotsa Garlic Pasta or Pasta 4444

It is one of those days-again. I haven’t gotten to the grocery so I’m left with my pantry and a few staples. My staples always include garlic and pasta. I make sure I never run out of these because then I’m guaranteed that I can eat. Actually with pasta there are many ways to go but today I’m sticking with the basics. Aglio olio as the Italians would say. I’m not sure that my recipe is the same as theirs but I can assure you that this really hits my spot and I bet it would hit yours, too.

Pasta is a favorite of mine and I’m sure if you stick with me through my blogging life you will see many varieties come forth. It is simple and quick and this dish is also comfort food for me. (I guess I’m needing a lot of comfort this week.) If you don’t want the garlic you can do this with just cheese which is my daughter’s favorite. And if you don’t have garlic use garlic powder. The point I’m trying to make is that this can be whatever you choose it to be. I like it just the way it is but you could add cream for extra richness. Chicken if you want something more substantial. There is no wrong way to make this. SO—just do it and your tummy will be happy.

And sorry this is so short. Both kids just called and my husband needs something and the dogs are ready to go out. Just one of those days…

Simpler than Pie

Pasta with Lotsa Garlic or Pasta 4444

4T olive oil
4T butter  (or you could use all oil or butter)
4 cloves garlic chopped, sliced, smashed (I don’t care)
4T Parmesan cheese (parmesan reggiano, the good stuff)
½ t red pepper flakes
1 big spoonful of pasta water

1 lb spaghetti cooked al dente (not the mushy stuff)

ALWAYS cook your pasta in well salted water or it will have no flavor. And please do not run it under cold water. Where did that ever come from?

Garlic Butter Goodness
Melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add garlic and cook slowly until golden. Add hot pepper flakes. (At this point you could add some cream or wine or lemon if you want but then it won’t be true aglio olio.) When pasta is finished cooking take a spoonful of the well salted pasta water and add it to your garlic. You should have a good sauce by now though you may want to season with salt.

Toss it well
Now this is my BIG TIP.  After your pasta is drained add the cheese first. This gives a good coating to the pasta which makes all that good garlicky sauce stick to it. Now stir in the sauce and toss well. Garnish with more cheese and parsley if you want. Add a salad and bread for a full meal. Got your fork ready?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups

Thanksgiving is almost here and if you are like me, there are always last minute things to do. This year is a quiet one for us but I still like to try new things. Of course we love all our favorites but it is always fun to try something new. Since it is the day before, I wanted to try a simple appetizer that was quick and delicious and pretty. Something your friends and family might think you spent a lot of time on-but you don’t want to give away the secrets now, do you? And I always seem to have leftover pumpkin or cranberries, so this year I’m sharing some new favorites that I quickly invented.

I love wonton wrappers. Yes, you can make dumplings or wontons, but you can also make these cute little cups. And they are fast and easy. OK, you need to own some of those mini muffin tins, but I promise that if you have them, you will use them. Give these a try, you won’t be disappointed and besides my husband declared them worth printing about!  Then he quickly ate them!

Now I had leftover cranberries from the sauce I made so I used those in this recipe. But don’t think you have to follow that step. I won’t tell if you go buy a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. It works just fine. You can doctor it up if you want with a bit of cinnamon, bourbon and orange zest. And a note about chipotles, since I do use them a lot. They come in a can and are found in the Mexican section of the grocery. They are a smoked jalapeno pepper. There is a sauce with them and that is also good spooned into things for flavor. Since you don’t use very many at a time, I transfer the rest of the can to a jar and they keep indefinitely in the fridge.
Other ideas to put in these cute little cups:

Caramelize some onions and top with Gruyere cheese and you have French Onion cups.

Spoon in some shrimp mango salsa.

Artichoke dip is great as a filler.

And last but not least I used my leftover pumpkin and made a pumpkin sage filling that I topped off with cheese and bacon. Yum.

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups with Blue Cheese and Bacon
18 wonton wrappers (These keep if you want to bake them ahead and save them for another use.
2c berried cranberry sauce
1/3c crumbled Gorgonzola
1 minced chipotle
Bacon for garnish         
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray your mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Press the wonton wrappers into each cup. If you think the corners are too big you can use a scissors to clip them off.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until the corners start to brown.

Stir a finely chopped chipotle and the blue cheese into the sauce. Spoon into your cute little cups. Bake in oven for about another 10 minutes.

Let cool and then top with a few crumbles of crisp crumbled bacon. Now you’ve got yummy in the tummy.

Other cranberries:
Frozen Cranberry Salad (A Family Favorite)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins

I’m lucky I’m alive. Really. I went to the grocery store today. I didn't realize it was such a dangerous place. Just be careful. It is dangerous out there. And be particularly careful of old ladies with carts. Carts can be lethal weapons. It began in the baking aisle. It was packed. Needless to say I only needed sugar so I began to maneuver around everyone congregating by the spices and that is when I spied her. White hair, tennis shoes and wire rimmed glasses. Well, I didn’t know old ladies could move so fast. She came toolin’ up from the other direction with her eyes on her list-talking to herself.  Someone else spied her too. She knew I wouldn’t make it. Yeah, she made a spot for me and my cart while this old lady just wizzed by. And then I looked at my savior and we both burst out laughing. Honestly, it was too funny. I mean this old lady was on a mission. I’m not sure for what but I’m guessing this lady was a track star in her day. But it was a good laugh to those of us in the baking aisle. And that felt good.

Filled halfway
So soon it will be Thanksgiving and the stores will clear out until Christmas. I assume you don’t have to go running back for some last minute item. I assume you will stay home and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and I assume you will want a cup of coffee. I assume you may also want some of these pumpkin brown sugar muffins with it. Yeah, you will. After all, you have to prime the pump and get it ready for the real meal to come.

Out of the oven

Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins (makes 12)

1 ¾ c flour
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1 ½ t cinnamon
a good shaving of  fresh nutmeg or don’t use it
1 1/2c brown sugar
1/2c oil
1/3c water
1c canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2c walnuts or pecans chopped medium fine

Topping and Filling
1c brown sugar
 1/2t cinnamon
1/2c mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and fill muffin cups with liners or oil well.

In large bowl whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together. In another bowl whisk together sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and nuts. Add flour mixture to liquid. Combine well.

Fill muffin tins halfway and sprinkle with a spoonful of filling. Now fill muffin tins all the way and sprinkle with the rest of the filling/topping.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Enjoy the peace while you can.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pecan or Walnut Shortbread Bars

Walnut Shortbread Bars
Just a bite. Make it a sliver. Oh, how I admire those people. I always wonder if they really mean it. I mean usually I really want a giant piece but I try to be polite. After all, I could go back for more. I guess it has to do with self control. Something I’m not particularly good at.  But I try, I promise, I really do try. And of course, some days are better than others.

Which leads me to these cute little, yes little 2 bite bars. I love them. No they don’t have chocolate, but I still love them. Delectable, yes they are really delectable. I like that word. They are rich and sugary and well, you will probably want another one. What can I say?

I cut them for two bites.
I make these when my husband wants a pecan pie and I don’t. It satisfies him and most definitely satisfies me. They can be made with pecans or walnuts or even a combo. Sometimes you don’t want to make another pie for Thanksgiving but this suffices for those who might want something extra with that ubiquitous pumpkin pie.  And of course you could make it into a tart but then there goes the two bite rule.

These are fast, which I guess is good, since they disappear quite fast also. I think they are elegant, but I think nuts in general are elegant and decadent. I’ve never met a nut I didn’t like. So, instead of pecan pie this year, try these. I think, no, I know, you will like them. And don’t tell me if you cut them bigger than two bites.

Pecan or Walnut Shortbread Bars
2/3c confectioners sugar
2c unbleached flour
2 sticks sweet butter

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan.
Stir sugar and flour together. Cut in butter using 2 knives or a pastry blender, until fine crumbs form. Pat crust into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven.

2/3c melted sweet butter
1/4c honey
1/4c maple syrup
3T Greek vanilla yogurt or heavy cream
1/2c brown sugar
3 1/2c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix melted butter, honey, syrup, yogurt and brown sugar together. This will make a carmely syrup. Stir in nuts until well coated.  Spread over prebaked crust.

Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more. Cool before tasting so they don’t burn your mouth.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mushroom Lovers Pastry

Gorgeous Mushrooms

I LOVE mushrooms.  There, I said it.  My dreams are of eating fresh porcinis in Italy and gorging until I can’t take it anymore. “Make me suffer.” I would say.  Did I mention that I was being fed by the muscular, to die for model in the Ralph Lauren Polo ads?  The tall, dark and handsome one? Who I think I read was married and has two children and really plays polo. Well, we all should have dreams, shouldn’t we?  Alas, back to the mushrooms.

Saute the Mushrooms

This dish falls under appetizers or it could be served with a salad in which case it makes a delightful light lunch or supper- since I know not many of us lunch anymore. I used creminis in this recipe but portabellos would work good too. And I did mix in about 1/2c of dried mushrooms consisting of porcinis and shitakes.  (Reconstituted of course!)  Yes, these would also be a great Thanksgiving appetizer for many reasons. Want to hear them? OK-they are quick. And they are hot. And they are flaky and crispy and soothing. And who doesn’t need soothing now and then? Oh, and did I mention buttery?  And easy. And you could make them ahead and reheat them for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven.

My very even 4" squares

I will give you the recipe, but please, first YOU HAVE TO READ THIS. I feel very alone out here in cyberspace. I know many of you are reading what I’m writing because I’ve had over 600 views which I think isn’t bad for my first month. I’ll take it and I’ll try to take better pictures but please, could someone just leave me a comment? It would make me feel like I’m not talking to myself. All you have to do is click comment at the end of this rant and a little comment box should pop up. Please?

Not Perfect, But Scrumptious!

Mushroom Lovers Pastry

1 lb mushrooms sliced and cleaned (See notes above)
½ lb wild mushrooms or a ½ c dried and reconstituted
2T olive oil
2T butter
2 sliced garlic cloves
1/2t dried thyme or 1t fresh
2T cognac
2 T sour cream or heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed and rolled to ½ its thickness

Preheat oven to 400.

Clean and slice mushrooms. Heat oil,  butter and garlic in large frying pan. Add shrooms and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until they start to release a bit of water. Add wild shrooms and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes.

Deglaze pan with Cognac. Lower heat and add cream and simmer for a minute, Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut pastry after rolling into 4 inch squares. (You can see how accurate I am.) Place on parchment paper. Leaving a ½ inch border place about a tablespoon of shrooms in the lower right hand corner of the square. Fold the upper corner over the top and you should have a cute little triangle. Repeat. Crimp edges with a fork.

Bake for 25 minutes until pastry is puffy and golden.

I couldn't leave him out, could I?

Not bad, huh?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Frozen Cranberry Salad

I’m supposed to be cleaning the house today.  Needless to say my day just isn’t working out as planned.  Instead of cleaning I’m thinking about cranberries which makes me think about Thanksgiving and then my brain wanders off to thoughts of the  Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day Parade, and then I remember about how quiet my house will be this year. Yeah, I know some years are like that and it is to be expected, but it just doesn’t make it any easier now does it?

So, back to cranberries.  Our home has been featuring these cranberries since I wandered off to college a long, time ago. I found these in a food processor cookbook but that cookbook fell apart some years back. In fact, I can’t even find the original recipe. I suppose I could if I searched long enough; after all I am supposed to be cleaning house. 

Now I’m just a teensy bit embarrassed about the pictures you will soon see. Yes, I usually cook with very fresh, wholesome ingredients but way back when Cool Whip was cheaper than heavy cream, and still is. (You could whip your own heavy cream and add a touch more sugar to balance out not having the sweet Cool Whip. Of course that would also take more time and an extra appliance.) Yeah, it is hard to change a good thing and this is GOOD. It always seems to counterbalance the heavy starches of a Thanksgiving meal. I suppose you could serve it as dessert but for us it was always considered a salad for our Thanksgiving meal.  I guess we moved up in the world from Jello; though I know my father probably still wishes it would grace his plate.

Secret Ingredients
This is about as easy as it gets, as long as you have a food processor. And it does need to be made ahead of time so that it can freeze-which is a good thing because it means one thing out of the way. I did have the pleasure of making this yesterday for the Thanksgiving dinner for the older CASA kids. They had a great time feasting, though I did notice that cranberries didn’t grace many plates. Mac and cheese seemed to be the star food for them. But that’s OK-because I just took my cranberries home and put them back in the freezer and now there are some for me!

Frozen Cranberry Salad
Serves 12-16
Time to Make: About 15 minutes, not including freezer time
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 1/2 c sugar
8 oz cream cheese
½ c walnuts or pecans, chopped
8 oz can crushed pineapple-drained
½  of a regular sized container Cool Whip or about 3 cups, though this is personal preference. If you want it creamier you can add more.
Chop cranberries finely in food processor.  Empty into a big bowl.  Add sugar to cranberries and stir well.  Chop nuts in processor. Add to cranberries. Cream cream cheese in processor and add to bowl. Stir in pineapple. Add Cool Whip and now look at your beautiful pink concoction.

Freeze in two greased 9 x 5  or 8 x 4 loaf pans. When ready to serve, let thaw for about 10 minutes before unmolding. Slice into pretty slices OR you can also freeze this in cupcake liners in a muffin pan. Then you already have individual portions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bread Your 8 Year Old Can Make or 5 Minute, No Knead Artisan Bread

5 Minute Bread

I don’t know where I’ve been but it has been some time since the book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” has been published. Well, actually it has been, like, from 2007 because I looked it up. I clipped out a recipe from the newspaper about this bread and I don’t know how long it has sat waiting for me to bake it, but my guess is it sat for maybe, oh, about 4 years. OK, I know you can never get back time – and I have missed out on this for that long. I could kick myself! OUCH!

This is so easy your 8 year old could make it. You may have to lift the pot for him but yeah, he could make it. I say, let him go for it. This is like science in action which is more than I can say for any science teacher I ever had. And Thanksgiving is around the corner, let him contribute. Teach him kitchen skills. And he will be soooo proud, but of course, so will you. You may notice I have been saying him, but she can make it, too. And one of the original bakers for this bread was a girl named Zoe. (Check out her great blog at! I am partial to the name Zoe and Alex, too. But they won’t be here for my Thanksgiving so I guess I’ll just have to do it myself (said the little red hen).


Alex Smoking the Bird

I am not joking. This really only takes 5 minutes. It smells like walking into a bread bakery where you want one of everything. The crust on it is to die for and it doesn’t scratch the rooftop of your mouth like a lot of those breads at Whole Foods. Sorry, Whole Foods, but maybe I just have a tender mouth. It tastes as good as it smells and you can use leftovers for sandwiches, not to mention your morning toast. Go ahead. I dare you. Let your kids make the bread. PLEASE!

Bread After 24 Hours

Bread your 8 year old can make or 5 Minute, No Knead Bread

3c flour (I use unbleached)
1/4t instant yeast
1t salt
1 ½ c warm water (I like it where it feels a bit hot to the touch of my finger.)

  1. Stir together the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir to form a rough, shaggy lump of dough. (Yeah, it is ugly right now.) Cover with plastic wrap and leave alone at least 12 hours. (I usually start this about and start baking it about the next day.)

      2.  It should now be puffy and speckled with bubbles and holes. Turn the         
            dough onto a well floured cotton towel (not terry cloth). Fold the ends of   the dough to the middle. Flip it over, make sure you have enough flour on it and fold the towel over it like a little baby. Let your baby rest for at least 2 hours.

Unwrapped and Ready For Plopping

    After 30 Minutes
  1. Thirty minutes before baking the bread put a covered ceramic, glass or metal pot, similar to a Dutch oven, into the oven, lid and all, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.  (I use a cast iron dutch oven. Make sure your pot is at least 4 inches deep. After the pot has heated for 30 minutes, remove it carefully from the oven using pot holders. DUH! Remove the lid. Uncover your baby (dough) and plop her into the pot. Cover. Return pot to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Now remove the lid and bake for 10-15 minutes more. Bread will sound hollow when thumped if it is done. Remove pot from oven and enjoy.

                   NOTES:  Yes, the correct oven temp is 450. No, you do not need to grease  
                                    your pot.  
                   YES- it is strongly advised that you help your 8 year old with step #3!   

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sloppy Jose

Sloppy Jose

When the weekend rolls around I’m ready to chill. I don’t really want to cook-I’d rather try some new restaurant but sometimes that’s just not in the cards. I don’t really want to go to the grocery along with everyone else and so I’m stuck with what is on hand. Sometimes it isn’t much, but sometimes not so bad.  But I also want something easy and soothing and maybe something with leftovers so I don’t have to worry about the rest of the weekend.When I was little, a long, long time ago, when my parents went out, which actually seemed quite often, we kids always looked forward to sloppy joe. In fact I think my mother felt better when she made it for us - maybe so she wouldn’t feel guilty about always going out and leaving us home - but I doubt that was it. Maybe she craved sloppy joe as much as we did. Maybe she wanted leftovers. Maybe not. In any case our other favorite meal she left us was a Swanson TV dinner which was OK as long as we got the one that contained the corn and the brownie. Yes, we were excited when they left us with a babysitter because then we also got to watch Hawaii 50 and some other detective show with a guy in a trench coat. I can’t remember the name of it. Yes, it was that memorable.  And we also got to stay up until AND we got to watch TV in their bed! Man, we knew how to have fun!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sugar Cake

Sugar Cake
 It was one of those days that began with a special surprise from a certain dog that shall remain nameless. I guess she was worried maybe I forgot to wake up. I didn’t...

And then my dear friend Commander Bill from the Disabled American Vets called. He’s been calling now for over 30 years and his voice never changes. I feel like saying, “Bill, if you want to come clean out my crawl space-you can have it-it’s yours.” But Bill is probably too old for that now.

Butter and Sugar (no fair dipping)
It continued with a special survey call from the Republicans, or maybe it was the Democrats. I guess it could have even been the Tea Party, but I hung up. I’m just not ready for that yet.

And so it was that I found myself needing sugar. A quick fix- to take myself from my slump, well, I guess to another slump. A sugar slump. But I did need a cake after all to celebrate the good news about my CASA kiddos. And I am giving it away for them to celebrate with. The problem is---- I made two… Well, I guess that’s another story.

OK-this is not your traditional 3 layer cake. It is made in one bowl, poured into the pan and baked. Truly, 10 minutes to mix. Well, maybe 15 if you are challenged. No frosting needed. It is dense and chewy and sweet. Very sweet. And flavored with a little almond and vanilla extract. You could serve it with berries if you want to make it healthy. You could freeze it for another day. Or you could give it away and make someone’s day. And you could make my day if you subscribe. It is one of the last things you can get for FREE! (Look on the right side bar now under the blog archive and enter your email address.) Thank you.

Notice the pink sprinkles

Sugar Cake

3/4c melted butter
1 1/2c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2t vanilla
1t almond extract
1 1/2c flour
1/2t salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in bowl in micro. Stir in sugar. Stir in eggs until mixed. Add extracts. Add salt and flour.  Spread batter into 9”round greased pan. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes-30 if you like it gooey.

Out of the oven

Just a slice


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Easiest, Most Awesome, Party Chicken in the World or Chicken Marbella

The Easiest, Most Awesome, Party Dish Chicken in the World or Chicken Marbella
(Adapted from Silver Palate)

I’m feeling really generous today. I don’t know why but I guess I can think of a few good reasons. Many of you may not know that I am a CASA volunteer which means I am appointed by the courts to be the eyes, ears and voice of a child during the court process. Often these are foster children, sometimes they are still with their families, but what ever the reason, usually abuse or neglect, the families have been brought to the attention of the courts. There are always social case workers and guardian ad litems involved but the CASA is a volunteer that really is an extra set of eyes and ears for the judge. The CASA is expected to know all facets of the case and to be the voice for the needs of the child. CASA’s try to visit with the kids weekly and write regular court reports that are read by the judge and other parties involved. This can be difficult in many cases but my last case just finished and now my two kiddos are going to be adopted by their absolutely phenomenal care takers. I am so excited-for them and their soon to be real parents. And a happy ending- who doesn’t love a happy, tear jerker ending?

Another reason to be happy is that I actually got to see and speak with my neighbors over the weekend. I know that sounds a little silly, but it really doesn’t happen often enough. We had a great time and pledged to not let time pass so quickly before we see each other again. Hopefully, we can all keep that promise.

Which brings me to this chicken. It really is the perfect party, potluck, easy family dish. You marinate it overnight and bake it the next day. It can be served at room temp, improves over time and can even be used with boneless breasts and thighs for a buffet. You may think the marinade has a lot in it, which it does, but this tastes and smells so good and is so EASY that you will want it in your repertoire forever. I found this recipe many moons ago (1979) in the Silver Palate cookbook, one of my all time favorite cookbooks. (Yes, it will pop up here again over time.) And needless to say when my neighbors walked in all they wanted to know was what smelled so good.  Since I am such a good neighbor I promised them that I would give them this recipe. It is a good thing I’m feeling generous! But I believe in passing the love around so here ya go and if you want to become a volunteer- check this out ( They could really use you.

The Easiest, Most Awesome, Party Dish Chicken in the World or (Chicken Marbella) from The Silver Palate

2 chickens, approx. 2 and 1/2lbs each, cut into pieces
½ head garlic, peeled and smushed
2T oregano
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ c red wine vinegar
¼ c olive oil
½ c pitted prunes or should I say dried plums?
¼ c pitted Spanish (green) olives (I like the ones in the deli with the garlic slivers inside)
¼ c capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
1/2c brown sugar
½ c white wine
2T cilantro or parsley for garnish

The night before in a large bowl combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange chicken in a single layer and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and white wine.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Transfer all to serving platter reserving pan juice to moisten chicken. You could also serve it separately but I think the chicken is delicious without it. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro.

P.S. I serve this with orange mashed potatoes but you could also serve it with couscous or noodles. But who can resist mashed potatoes?

Dinner Table Decor
I love Indian Corn.