Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Top 10 Recipes

Today marks the last day of the year, and what a year it has been. It also marks the last day of a full year of food blogging. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started, but it has given me the opportunities to expand my skills in the kitchen.

2009 was a great year to overcome fears and learn new things. It’s funny to see how my tastes have changed. It’s also interesting to see how my food photography has changed over the year.

Here is a list of the top recipes that were viewed (according to Google analytics).


white chocolate orange cranberry cookies 10.
White Chocolate Orange Cranberry Cookies
These cookies were amazing. They had a crisp refreshing taste to them from the orange zest. Even if I didn’t add quite enough zest, this still had a strong orange flavor throughout the cookie.
gingercookies 9.
Chewy Ginger Cookies (revisited)
This post hasn’t been on the blog long, but it still made it to the top 10. There were many searches for these, as well as many printouts of the recipe. You can’t go wrong with ginger cookies for the holidays.
vegan chocolate ice cream 8.
Dairy Free (Vegan) Chocolate Ice Cream
I was surprised this made the list, but I guess there are lots of people with allergies who just miss their ice cream. Since making this, I have used a different recipe for that Gary loves that will be on the blog sometime in 2010.
sesame chicken wings 7.
Sesame Chicken Wings
I made these as one of the chicken wing variations our July 4th BBQ and they were awesome. It’s a nice change from plain BBQ flavor. It’s a must try and would most likely work with different chicken parts as well.
pumpkin pie pecan candy 6.
Pumpkin Pie Pecan Candy
These candies tasted as good as they are cute to look at. They’re a little out of the ordinary, but they were another hit at the office (where I experiment a lot with my guinea…*ahem* coworkers).
dried apple chips 5.
Dried Apple Chips
Although these didn’t come out as planned, they still tasted great and had a different use. These are perfect to add in a batch of granola, energy bar or even added in your morning yogurt parfait.
healthy blueberry orange muffins 4.
Healthy Blueberry Orange Muffins
These came about when I messed up trying to attempt another recipe. This accident allowed me to create this healthy muffin with practically no fat involved! That’s a nice accident if I don’t say so myself.
red velvet twilight cake 3.
Red Velvet Twilight Cake
This is one of the first decorated cakes I’ve made. I usually don’t have the patience for things like this, but when I have a reason and the motivation to do something, things like this get accomplished…and it tastes good too.
white chocolate fudge cups 2.
Mini White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cups
I’m telling you, these were a pain to make, but totally worth it. These has a nice balance between sweet and salty, and they’re pretty darn cute. Although I probably won’t be making it anytime soon, you should try it once.
baked turkey meatballs 1.
Baked Turkey Meatballs
Lots of searches and hits for this one! My top recipe of all time. I’ve made it a few times already, and I usually throw the ingredients together without measuring. This has turned out great each time.

That’s it for this year!

From my family to yours, have a safe and happy new year! I can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for me!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Rolls

I have a problem. Well, I don’t really have a problem. I have a problem with warehouse stores. You know…Costco, BJ’s, those sorts of stores. I had a cream cheese dilemma, and now I had a sweet potato dilemma. Although I didn’t do any of the bulk purchasing, I was given a great amount of sweet potatoes, although I only need a few for sweet potato casserole.

Other than eating them as is, I wanted to make something with them. I ended up making pie, and these rolls. These were pretty simple to make. The only time consuming part was waiting for the rising time. Although some came out great, a few didn’t double in size during the second rise. Not sure why, but I think it’s more of an error on my part since I don’t have much experience making yeast bread.

A few changes I made: instead of using canned sweet potatoes, I used a fresh sweet potato. I also used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast. Before baking, I brushed the top with an egg wash to get a nice and sheen golden color.

These are best served warm. I didn’t try them when they were cooled down, but my sister mentioned they were better warm.

sweet potato rolls
Sweet Potato Rolls
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 TBSP instant yeast
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons margarine, softened
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg (for egg wash), optional

In a large bowl, add yeast, sugar, water, sweet potato, margarine, salt, and eggs. Stir to mix well. Stir in 3 cups of flour.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead 2 to 3 minutes, adding just enough of remaining flour to prevent sticking. Do not knead too heavily; when smooth, shape into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let raise about 1 hour or longer.

Punch down, and allow dough to rest for 2 minutes. Divide into 16 to 20 balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet or in a 9x13 inch pan. Allow to rise until doubled. Brush tops with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 12 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

We sort of had a theme this year with our Christmas cookies. Most of them had a common ingredient. No, not sugar or flour or something like that. Most of the cookies we made this year involved cream cheese in some way. All except for the ginger cookies of course. That would have been weird.

I saw this recipe for chocolate coconut cookies the night before making the cookies and knew it was something I would make. Although coconut isn’t one of my favorite foods, I still like it in cookies and candies. What could go wrong with coconut and chocolate? As I was making this It totally smelled like a mounds bar. At first I didn’t think following the directions about the middle rack and rotating the cookie sheet halfway were necessary, but it should be done as written. Otherwise, you might have burnt coconut and unevenly spread cookies.

I really enjoy the “Ultimate” series cookbooks, but find their writing to be a little difficult to understand. It doesn’t help that their books don’t have images as well. Therefore, I have rewritten the recipe to be more reader friendly.

chocolate coconut cookies

Chocolate Coconut Cookies
adapted from: The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book
printable recipe

6 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup (about 5 oz) unsweetened coconut flakes

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature

Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.

To make coconut filling:
Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Beat in egg yolk, then vanilla, until smooth. Beat in coconut at low speed until evenly distributed. Set aside.

coconut filling

To make cookies:
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter to soften. Add sugar and continue to beat until light and airy but still a little grainy. Beat in egg until smooth.

Add flour mixture, beat at low speed until just combined. Dough should be stiff but still pliable.

Using a small cookie scoop (about 1 TBSP), scoop dough into hand or a dry work surface. Flatten into a circle about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Mound a heaping teaspoon of coconut filling onto the center of the dough. Fold the sides of the dough up, but do not seal the top.

chocolate coconut cookies 1

Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9 minutes, rotate the sheet 180°, then bake for another 9 minutes or until the cookies are just starting to brown along the edges.

Cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Store at room temperature up to 3 days.

Makes about  2 1/2 dozen (although I think I may have gotten more than that)

chocolate coconut cookies 3

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lemon Pepper Salmon

One of our favorite fish to eat is salmon. However, if we bought it all the time, it can get costly. Most of the time, we make with ginger to get the fishy smell and taste out, but I was out of ginger. I’ve also made it with honey and soy sauce and it’s also tasty.

I recently got the Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook in the mail and quickly glanced through it. I quickly glanced through this recipe for a lemon pepper marinated salmon and noticed that I had all the ingredients needed to make it. It also sound super simple and tasty, so I decided to try it.

Gary seemed enjoy it a lot since the marinade  eliminated the fishiness that’s always lurking around. This recipe had options to use other types of fish as well such as swordfish or halibut. It also had the options to use either lemon or lime, or oregano or thyme. The ingredients below show what I used in this recipe. I also didn’t nearly use as much fresh thyme as the recipe called for, but it was enough for me. I also did not serve with the lime wedges as indicated in the original recipe.

lemon pepper salmon

Lemon Pepper Salmon
adapted from: Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook 14th Edition
printable recipe

1 lb fish steak (salmon, swordfish, or halibut) thawed if frozen
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
lime wedges (optional)

Rinse fish and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine ingredients (juice through garlic). Place fish in a zip top bag and add marinade. Turn to coat evenly. Marinate in fridge for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

Drain fish, reserving marinade. In a broiler pan 4 inches from the flame broil fish for 6-8 minutes on each side, brushing with the reserved marinade halfway through. Discard any remaining marinade. Fish is done when it begins to flake when tested with a fork.

Before serving, squeeze lime juice over the fish.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chewy Ginger Cookies - Revisited

One of my all time favorite cookies are ginger cookies. Last year I made these chewy ginger cookies and I loved the way they tasted, but didn’t like the way they came out super thin and flat without any pretty crackles on the top.

I thought it was because I used all butter instead of the shortening  the original recipe called for. This year, while looking for cookie recipes, I went back to this tried and true recipe for the taste I loved. I made the first batch with shortening like the original recipe stated. It definitely didn’t flatten out like when I subbed all butter:

ginger cookies

Although this was good, and a great alternative for a dairy free cookie, to me, it was missing a little something extra.

Now I had to make more than one batch since I work with many people, so I made another double batch with part butter and part shortening.

For this final recipe, I used 2 parts (1/2 cup) butter to 1 part (1/4 cup) shortening. This was definitely THE recipe! This had the perfect crisp outside with a great chewy center. The crackles looked much better than the all shortening cookie, and of course  better than the all butter one where the crackles were nonexistent.

These were brought to work and it was a big hit.


Chewy Ginger Cookies
adapted from: an existing recipe, originally from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Bars 2008
printable recipe

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Roll into 1-in. balls; roll in remaining sugar. Place 1-1/2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. For even cookies use a tablespoon size cookies scoop.

Bake at for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on cookie sheets until it can be easily transferred to wire racks to fully cool. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream

I had cream cheese…a lot of cream cheese! My sister bought a whole 48 oz package of cream cheese from Costco. She opened it, then used a tiny bit. The problem with that is the way this cream cheese was packaged. It was a whole giant brick…a 48 oz brick that had to be used up once it was opened. GREAT! So I had to come up with ideas to use it up.

I was reminded that the Oreo truffles (that everybody and their mom has made) used up some. However, I didn’t have a whole package of Oreos. You see, whenever we get a bag, some of them never make it home. I knew we were going to use some for our cookie baking adventure, but I didn’t think it would be enough. I ended up starting a batch of cheesecake ice cream since I liked it so much last time. Then, while looking at The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, there was a recipe for Oreo cheesecake ice cream. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Basically, the Oreo version was an adaptation of the regular cheesecake ice cream. The only difference was the omission of the lemon zest and replacing the graham crackers with Oreos. Geez, if it was just that easy, I could do that with the other recipe!

So that’s exactly what I did! For this version, I omitted the lemon zest and lemon juice from the original and replace the graham crackers with 8  crumbled Oreo cookies.


Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream
adapted from: America’s Most Wanted Recipes
printable recipe

2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz cream cheese (1 1/2 packages), softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 Oreo cookies, coarsely crumbled

In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese until smooth.

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of cream, sugar and eggs. Cook and stir on medium heat until it comes to a boil.

Slowly beat in the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese until combined. Use a whisk to fully mix everything together if needed.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate until mixture is cool. I left it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

After chilling, add in remaining cream and vanilla extract. Freeze in ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fold in Oreo cookie crumbs. Pour into a freezer safe container and let set for 4 hours before serving.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole

So I made this for Thanksgiving, but my family didn’t really go for it. They’re not from the States, so Thanksgiving is foreign to them. Did I also mention my family is a little unconventional? We had sushi and Japanese food for part of our menu and they were the first to fly off the table, but I digress.

When I told my sister I was thinking about making a sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving, she was a little unsure. She remembered making one with a marshmallow topping a few years ago and it wasn’t such a hit. I looked around and saw this recipe that called for a pecan crusted topping, so I decided to make this.

Keeping my family’s tastes in mind, I decided to reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe. My family was never  fond of sweets, and sweet potatoes are best in it’s natural state too. I made a whole 9x13 pan of this, but only half was eaten. I guess the crust was a bit sweet for them. I thought the crust was a bit sweet even for my tastes as well, but it tasted fine the next day (even while it was still cold).

I prepared the sweet potatoes the night before, covered and added the pecan mixture the next day before baking. To make this dairy free, I used margarine, coconut milk and smart balance; whereas the original used milk and butter.


Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole
adapted from:
printable recipe

4 1/2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (about 7 sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/3 cup coconut milk 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten 
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup smart balance buttery spread
1 cup chopped pecans

To cook sweet potatoes:
Wash and rinse sweet potatoes. In a large saucepan, arrange sweet potatoes in a single layer. Add enough water to cover. Boil potatoes until fork tender. Allow to cool, then peel. Mash with the paddle attachment of your mixer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together mashed sweet potatoes, margarine, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Spread sweet potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and flour. Cut in smart balance until mixture is crumbly (I used my mixer with the paddle attachment for this), then stir in pecans . Sprinkle pecan mixture over the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

While I was contemplating desserts for Thanksgiving, I was thinking of something Gary would be able to eat too. A few weeks earlier, I had seen Alisa from One Frugal Foodie make a dairy free pumpkin pie that looked awesome. I thought it would be a great addition to the menu, since I love pumpkin pie and the ingredients looked pretty good as well. The hint of ginger flavor was a nice addition to this recipe.

I did bake it about 20 minutes longer than the original recipe called for, but it got done eventually.

I did use a different crust recipe than her though. I used to use an all butter crust, but now I’ve started using an all shortening crust. Yes, it’s not that great for you, but what can I do. I’ve never really had a reason to use shortening before, but if it’s a good substitute for butter in some recipes I’m ok with it. To me, everything is ok with moderation anyway.

dfpumpkin pie

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie
adapted from: One Frugal Foodie
printable recipe

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice 
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup regular coconut milk
1 recipe for a single  pie crust, unbaked (recipe below)

For pie crust (from Crisco)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening OR 1/2 stick shortening sticks (butter or all vegetable), chilled in freezer
4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water or milk


At least 30 minutes prior (or overnight) prepare pie crust:
In your food processor using the steel blade attachment or mixer bowl using the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle one tablespoon ice-cold water or milk over part of mixture. Toss gently with a fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat just until mixture is moistened and can be formed into a ball. (The dough should hold together when picked up and pressed, and should not crack).

Flatten ball of dough into a disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.

Remove disk from fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 12 inches in diameter for a 9” pie crust, adding more flour if dough sticks.

Transfer dough to 9-inch, 4 cup capacity pie plate, being careful to avoid stretching pastry. Trim edge of pastry 1/2 to 3/4 inch beyond edge of the pie plate. Fold excess under to build a thick crust and flute with your thumb and forefinger. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to overnight before baking.


To prepare pie:
Preheat your oven to 425ºF.

Combine the sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or allspice, cloves and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar mixture, pumpkin, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the coconut milk.

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350ºF and continue to bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean (I baked for almost  20 minutes more before the knife came out clean).  It may be a bit wobbly still, but it will firm-up as it cools.

Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tiramisu Cheesecake

I’m a bit late, but hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving holiday! I’ve been crazed lately and my time in the kitchen has been limited. You can tell with the lack of posts in my blog, but I’m back (sort of). I’m off on staycation this week, so I will have some time to update. My sister is also coming over sometime next weekend or the following to bake cookies. I’m already looking up recipes.

There hasn’t been many blog worthy recipes made in my kitchen lately, so the next few posts will be all about Thanksgiving.

My sister and I were thinking up desserts to make for Thanksgiving. I knew pumpkin pie would be one of them, but I was still pondering the other. The thought of cheesecake always comes up, but I didn’t want to make a pumpkin cheesecake when there was another pumpkin dessert already. Last year, my sister made tiramisu and I made a New York Cheesecake. Then I thought of combining them together. Hey, why not. I wasn’t sure if it had been done before, but I ended up finding a good one.

My company was also looking for volunteers to bring dishes for our company potluck, so it was a great way to try this out first. Of course also to use up ingredients as well, since my tub of mascarpone cheese was double the amount I needed for 1 cheesecake.


I made this bite sized version for work and it was a big hit. The whole recipe made 72 little bite sized servings.

Right before serving these, I added some unsweetened cocoa powder on top.

For Thanksgiving day, I made it in my 10” springform pan. The recipe called for an 8 or 9” springform, but I only have a 10”. The baking time called for 40-45 minutes, and I checked at 35 minutes, but it still seemed runny. I left it in for the 45 minutes and a giant crack formed on the top of my cake.


I think 40 minutes would have been sufficient. To cover it up, I whipped up a cup of heavy whipping cream for a few seconds in my KA mixer, spread it on top and shaved some chocolate on top.

Tiramisu cheesecake

As for the ingredient alterations, I couldn’t find a 12 oz package of ladyfingers, but the 7 oz package I had was more than enough for the crust. I also used brewed espresso instead of coffee liqueur. I adjusted the amount of coffee needed based on the alterations as well.

Tiramisu Cheesecake
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 (7 ounce) package ladyfingers 
3 tablespoons butter, melted 
7 tablespoons brewed espresso, divided (more or less according to your taste)
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place a pan of water on the bottom of oven.

Crush the package of ladyfingers to fine crumbs (I used my food processor for this). Mix the melted butter into the crumbs. Moisten with 3 tablespoons of the coffee. Press into an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar until very smooth. Add 4 tablespoons coffee, and mix. Add the eggs and the flour; mix SLOWLY until just smooth. The consistency of the mascarpone can vary. If the cheesecake batter is too thick, add a little cream. Do not overmix at this point. Pour batter into crust.

Place pan on middle rack of oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set. Open oven door, and turn off the heat. Leave cake to cool in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let it finish cooling. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Right before serving, grate the semi-sweet chocolate overtop.


To make bite sized versions:

Preheat oven to 325° F. No water bath is needed for this. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.

Prepare crust as directed. Measure 1 tsp of the crust into each cup.

Prepare batter as directed. Using a cookie scoop, measure about 1 TBSP batter into each cup. Lightly tap  the pan on the counter to even out the batter in each cup. I will be filled to the top, but it’s ok.

Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing. Use the back of a spoon to pop them out of the cups.

Makes 72 mini bite sized cheesecakes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crockpot Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew

I love fall colors and flavors. There’s something about the warm colors of the trees and food around this time that is so comforting. One of my favorite foods in the fall is squash. I love all squash, whether it be pumpkin or anything other type. I’m so glad that Gary likes it as well, so it’s not hard to convince him to eat recipes using squash or pumpkin.

When I first showed him this recipe, he thought it would be a winner. While he was eating this, he asked me if I was going to add this to our favorite recipes box.

The original recipe called for using beef stew meat, but neither of us are big red meat eaters, so I used chicken instead. I also omitted the mushrooms because I didn’t have any on hand even though I thought I did.

chicken butternut squash stew

Crockpot Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 small butternut squash
1 large onion, sliced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (I omitted, since I didn’t have it on hand) 
4 ounces baby carrots left whole (about a handful)
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

Peel and halve the butternut squash. Deseed, then cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Add squash, vegetables and chicken into a 4 or 5qt crockpot.

Add tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and oregano.

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.

Serve over rice or eat as is.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Manhattan Clam Chowder

I’ve always been a tomato based soup person. Gary on the other hand has always been a cream based soup person. Needless to say, he loved New England clam chowder, whereas I would favor Manhattan clam chowder.

Well, since Gary no longer eats dairy, it worked in my favor. I get to make my favorite version of clam chowder, and he ends up eating it! He probably still misses the cream based version, but until I find a way to make a dairy free version, this will be the clam chowder I will be making most of the time.

I had a few adaptations based on what I had on hand. I used clams in pouches instead of cans, regular potatoes instead of red, and turkey bacon.

manhattan clam chowder

Manhattan Clam Chowder
adapted from: Better Homes and Garden
printable recipe

3 slices turkey bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil (use if not enough drippings)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped carrot (1 small)
2 (3.53-oz) pouches of whole baby clams, juice reserved plus water to make 1 cup
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice or 1 cup chicken broth
3 large potatoes, cubed
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

Separate clams from juice, add enough water to reserved clam juice to equal 1 cup. Set aside.

In a large saucepan cook bacon until crispy. Remove from oil and reserve drippings. Chop into pieces and set aside. Add celery, onion, and carrot in bacon drippings (or oil) until tender.

Stir in the reserved 1-1/2 cups clam juice and the 8 ounces clam juice. Stir in potatoes, thyme, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Bring to boiling then reduce heat. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, clams, and bacon. Return to a boil then reduce heat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until heated through.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Homemade Bagels

Can I just start off by saying that there is just no excuse for putting off making bagels for this long. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for almost 2 years. Sometime last year in May, I printed it out with hopes to make them. Well, a year and a half later here they are!

Store bought bagels are pretty much a staple in my house. Gary has to have his daily fix of Thomas’s bagels every day. His favorite are the cinnamon raisin ones. I’ve mentioned making bagels before, but never actually did them.

Since I had a few hours before Gary was home from work one day, I decided to make these to surprise him. I started off making plain ones to see what I need to adapt to future recipes. At first taste, they were really good. Nice and crunchy outside with a chewy center. He did notice that there was a bit too much salt in it, so I took note. I thought it was a bit much when I was adding it in the first place.

I slightly adapted the recipe to use instant yeast and made larger bagels instead of the mini snack sized ones the original recipe made.

Next up, cinnamon raisin!


Homemade Bagels
adapted from: Baking Bites
printable recipe

1 tbsp instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar
4 cups bread flour (not all purpose)
1 tbsp salt (I would use less next time)
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 egg, for egg wash

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) combine yeast, sugar, flour and salt. Start mixer and slowly add water. Mix dough thoroughly until it comes together in a large ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add an additional tablespoon of flour or water, if needed.

If kneading by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead dough with the dough hook until elastic, about 8 minutes on a low speed. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil and preheat the oven to 400° F.

When dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a tight ball, pinching the corners together at the bottom of the piece of dough. When all the balls are shaped, let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered with a clean dish towel.


Once dough balls have rested, the bagel shape can be formed. Using your fingers, poke a hole through the center of each dough ball. Stretch out the dough into a ring with your fingers and be sure to make the hole a little larger than you want the finished bagel to have, as it will shrink slightly while the bagel is expanding during the baking process. Let bagels rest for about 10 minutes. (I didn’t do this…I missed this step…I guess that’s why mine were a little wrinkly.)


Working four at a time, drop the bagels carefully into the boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and boil for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer bagels to a clean towel to drain for a moment, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining bagels.

bagels boiling

Brush boiled bagels with lightly beaten egg (a pastry or bbq brush is a good tool for this) and bake for 22-26 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Slice and toast to serve.


Store in a tightly closed plastic bag, up to a week, or slice and freeze.

Makes 8 sandwich sized bagels.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Velvet Vampire Punch

As I mentioned earlier, I was in charge of making the punch for the Halloween Party at work. I guess I impressed them enough the first time I made a punch for a company party.

I found many recipes for Halloween punches, but it was hard to choose just one. There were some extremely gross ones, but since I would have a limited kitchen, I had to find something easier to make. I saw this recipe, but it didn’t include an image. It didn’t sound too gruesome looking but it was the right color and perfect for the occasion.

velvet vampire punch

I left the lychee eyeballs on the side on a plate as an optional garnish for the punch. You can see mine floating in there.

Also, this recipe includes a crazy amount of alcohol, but the taste is masked by the juice. Don’t let the flavor fool you though, it’s some strong stuff!

Velvet Vampire Punch
adapted from: Devine Dinner Party
printable recipe

1 can (12 oz.) frozen cranberry juice concentrate, partially thawed
1 can (6 oz.) frozen orange juice concentrate , partially thawed
1 can (6 oz.) frozen pineapple juice concentrate (I couldn’t find this, so I used orange pineapple juice)
1 C. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used bottled)
2 C. brandy
2 bottles (750 mL each) Champagne, chilled

Prepare (dilute) juice concentrates according to the package directions. Combine.

Add lemon juice and brandy. Chill until cold.

Pour chilled juice mixture into your serving bowl. Pour in the champagne. Serve.

I doubled this to make a little over 3 gallons of punch.

Lychee Blueberry Eyeballs

Need a fun sweet drink garnish? These eyeballs would be perfect! Although they look really gross, they’re rather tasty.

During my company Halloween party, I was in charge of making the punch. I chose a red velvet punch and decided to add these eyeballs as drink garnishes. They taste great even without a drink!

lychee blueberry eyeballs

Some of my coworkers were hesitant to try them because they looked so gross! One of my coworkers added this to a shot of vodka. What a great idea!

lychee eyeball shot

I wasn’t able to get fresh blueberries, so I used frozen. I defrosted them enough so that it wasn’t mushy, but soft enough to pierce a toothpick through. At the end the blueberries got too mushy, so if you can get fresh, that would be better. The mushy blueberries ended up staining my fingers and under my nails.

Lychee Blueberry Eyeballs
adapted: from Squidoo
printable recipe

1 can lychees, drained and patted dry (a 20 oz can yields about 18 lychees)
red fruit preserves (strawberry, raspberry or cherry) I used strawberry

Fill lychees with preserves, enough to fill half way. Add a blueberry.

Pierce with a toothpick to hold everything together.

Use to garnish your favorite sweet punch drink.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cranberry Nut Loaf

When I found out that Wendy from Simply Me was looking for guest bloggers, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me. Wendy is cooking her way through Simply in Season. In one year, she would be cooking her way through the first cookbook which focuses on local and produce in season. I thought this was a fantastic idea.

However with the upcoming fall season, she hit a roadblock. There were several recipes that used cranberries, but the poor girl is allergic! Well, we (fellow bloggers and I) came to the rescue!

I chose to make this cranberry nut loaf because it sounded pretty simple, and something I would eat as well. I looked at the ingredients, and it was definitely something I would normally make!

At first, the recipe didn’t mention what kind of cranberries to use (dried or fresh). I ended up using fresh because I guess that’s the point of the book…use fresh! I didn’t have any trouble making this except for some runaway cranberries while trying to chop them. Have you ever tried to coarsely chop cranberries? I ended up pulsing it a few times in my food processor. I also wasn’t too clear when the directions called for 2 TBSP grated orange peel. I assumed the zest of an orange…so that’s what I did.

cranberry nut loaf

Cranberry Nut Loaf
adapted from: Simply in Season
printable recipe

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup ground flax seed meal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 egg
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup oil
zest of one orange
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (divided) (I used pecans)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients: flour through salt. Set aside

In another bowl, mix together wet ingredients: egg through vanilla, until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet.

Fold in cranberries and half the nuts. Pour batter in the prepared pan. Top with remaining nuts. Bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert and remove from pan, allow to cool completely before slicing.

cranberry nut loaf

Gary was upset when I mentioned I was going to bring this to work…so we ended up eating this ourselves. We ended up eating almost half the loaf ourselves. The flax meal made this very filling, and we ended up spoiling our dinners that way. Needless to say, this was a hit!

I think next time for portion control, I will try making this in muffin form.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Boston Cream Pie

When I was thinking up a dessert for the party, I was originally thinking of a Boston cream pie. Then I changed my mind and went with éclairs. I ended up think it would be too time consuming and went back to the Boston cream pie idea when I saw this recipe at Hershey’s.

boston cream pie

I told Kai I was going to go back to my original plan of making the Boston cream pie instead of the éclairs. He asked me if I can make it “sausage shaped” to keep with the theme. After a second, I said maybe. I only made another one because I knew one cake wouldn’t be enough to serve everybody who would be coming over, so I indulged him.

I present to you, the Boston cream pie LOAF:

boston cream pie loaf

I don’t think the loaf worked as great as the round cake, but it was worth a shot. Since I used soy milk instead of regular milk, the cream filling wasn’t as thick. Next time, I will probably cook it a little longer to thicken or add more cornstarch if making it dairy free.

Boston Cream Pie
adapted from: Hershey’s
printable recipe


cake:cream filling:dark cocoa glaze:
1/3 cup shortening1/3 cup sugar3 TBSP water
1 cup sugar2 TBSP cornstarch2 TBSP butter or margarine
2 eggs 1-1/2 cups milk (I used soy)3 TBSP unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract2 egg yolks, slightly beaten1 cup powdered sugar
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 TBSP butter or margarine1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp baking powder1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk (I used soy)

cream filling, prepare the day before serving, or several hours prior:

Stir together sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan; gradually add milk and egg yolks, stirring until blended. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Cover; refrigerate several hours until cold.

bake cake:
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour one 9-inch round baking pan.

Beat shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl until fluffy. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; add alternately with milk to shortening mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes our clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.

dark cocoa glaze:
Heat water and butter in small saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to boil; remove from heat. Immediately stir in cocoa. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating with whisk until smooth; cool slightly. About 3/4 cup glaze.

Using long serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into two even layers. Place 1 layer on serving plate, cut side up; spread filling over layer. Top with remaining layer, cut side down.

Pour glaze over top of cake, allowing glaze to drizzle down sides. Refrigerate several hours or until cold. Cover; refrigerate leftover dessert. 8 to 10 servings.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sausages and Beer Brats on Italian Bread

The last thing we served before having dessert were these sausages on Italian bread. We served them up 2 ways, Italian sausages and beer brats. Since I don’t eat pork, I didn’t taste it. Gary tasted both and he thought they both tasted the same.

sausage on rolls

I brought the first batch out and it went like hotcakes. I didn’t intend to serve the beer brats the same way, but since it wasn’t getting eaten plain without bread, I decided to make heroes out of them as well. Both seemed like big hits.

Italian Sausages
Add a bit of oil to a hot skillet. Place sausages in pan in a single layer. Pierce each with a fork to let vent. Continue to cook until brown on both sides. Cut in half and let cook until no longer pink inside.

Beer Brats with Onions
Place a dozen brats, a sliced onion, and half a stick of butter in a single layer in a pot. Add enough beer to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked. Transfer to grill or skillet, slice in half and cook until brown. Place back in the beer to serve.

In a separate pan, place sliced peppers and onions. Sauté until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on Italian bread. Slice into sections and serve.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

When Kai added this to the menu, I wasn’t so sure about it. I’ve eaten sauerkraut before, but only with hot dogs…and that’s been a while. I wasn’t so sure it was for me. I saw such good reviews on the recipe, that I thought it would be worth a shot. I tried it, it was alright, but it wasn’t really my thing. The turkey sausage I used tasted too much like pork to me. It tasted a lot like the kielbasa I used to eat when I was younger, when I actually ate pork.

My mistake was making a double batch of this. There was barely a dent in the first batch. I thought one wouldn’t be enough, but I guess I was wrong.

I think some people enjoyed this though. If you like the sweet and sour combo, you’d probably like it.

The original recipe called for cooking in the crockpot for 5 hours on high, but I cooked this in the oven instead.

kielbasa and sauerkraut

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
adapted from:
printable recipe


3 (1 lb) packages kielbasa (2 large sausages in each) (I used turkey kielbasa)
32 ounces sauerkraut
3 cups apple cider
1/4 onion, cut into slivers
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Slice the kielbasa about 1 inch slices on an angle. Combine all ingredients in a baking pan. Cover pan with foil.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Turkey Chili

One of the favorite dishes of the night during the party was this chili. When we were coming up with the menu, my friend Kai insisted he didn’t like chili. He doesn’t like spicy stuff…well neither do I, but I love me some chili. Although we added plenty of spices, it still even seemed mild to me. I don’t think Kai tried it at all though.

I made a double batch (which made about 4-5 quarts) of this and all that was left at the end of the day was one lonely bowlful. It was that good!

I took the leftovers to work for lunch and it tasted even better after the flavors melded together.

turkey chili

Turkey and Turkey Sausage Chili  
inspired from:
printable recipe

olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped cooked onions
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausages, casings removed and crumbled (about 5)
2 cans red kidney beans, undrained 
1 28oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 8oz cans tomato sauce
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
2 TBSP chili powder (more or less to taste)
2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp paprika

In a heavy pot or dutch oven, add a little olive oil and cook onions until clear. Set aside.

In the same pot over medium-high heat cook ground turkey and sausages until turkey is browned. Discard drippings. Add jalapeño and onions back in stirring frequently to combine.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Use a potato masher (or something similar) to break up the tomatoes if desired.

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

leftover chili

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I’ve never had jambalaya before…at least I don’t think I have. I’m not normally a sausage person, since I don’t eat pork. Even some turkey sausages gross me out, but since we were having a “sausage fest” party, I had to come up with ingredients I would eat as well. One of the recipes on the menu was a jambalaya. I was originally going to make a crockpot version, however the recipe I wanted to double did not fit in my 4qt crock. I had to find another recipe, and I think this was a winner.

My challenge was finding good food without MSG or nitrates in them. Luckily, we went to Trader Joe’s and there was a full array of different types of sausages for me to try, all without any MSG or nitrates! I saw they had a chicken andouille sausage that was perfect for this recipe.

I pretty much followed the recipe except I used a 28 oz can of tomatoes, used chicken andouille, and accidently forgot to add the shrimp, parsley and green onions at the end. Otherwise, this was great!

Chicken, Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya
adapted from:
printable recipe


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into pieces
1 lb andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices (I used a 12 oz package of smoked chicken andouille)
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups long grain rice  (I used jasmine)
1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes, chopped,with juice (I used a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes)
2 cups chicken broth or stock (I used bouillon cubes and water)
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pan or Dutch oven, brown chicken in hot oil on both sides; remove and drain.

Add andouille, onion, celery, bell pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper to the pan, cooking and stirring for about 5 minutes until onions are tender.

Add rice, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring to a boil.

Place rice mixture in a baking dish or oven-proof casserole; top with chicken; cover (can use foil) and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until rice and chicken are done and tender.

Stir in shrimp, parsley, and green onions; cover and cook 5-8 minutes longer or until shrimp curl and turn bright pink and serve.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Mmmm…carbs. I love potatoes in any form, shape, or size. Fried, baked, mashed, you name it! This recipe was actually found by Gary. He wanted potatoes one weekend morning (while I was sleeping in), he googled roasted potatoes and he found this. He asked me if we had the ingredients, and it just so happened I do! He ended up trying it and it was awesome.

Since he found it, we’ve had it twice, not including the 10 lbs we made for the birthday party over the weekend. It has also found a permanent spot in the recipe box I’m starting to build. This was the first recipe I added!

roasted potatoes

Oven Roasted Potatoes
adapted from:
printable recipe

1/8 cup olive oil 
2 garlic cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).

In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, basil, marjoram, dill weed, thyme, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir in potatoes until evenly coated. Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.

Roast for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven until potatoes are cooked through.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sausage Fest Birthday Party

Over the weekend, my friends came over to celebrate a few birthday parties. We celebrated a trio of birthdays, Henry, Anna, and myself!

The theme of the party was a sausages, so I made recipes that included sausage, or was “sausage shaped”. Some of the recipes didn’t include sausage, but everything was delicious, so it didn’t matter.

Here are most of the things I made.


pigs in a blanketPigs in a blanket
Using a store bought tube of croissants, cut each triangle of dough in half and wrap each mini dog from the wide side in. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. (the ones pictured are raw)


hoisin five spice chicken wingsHoisin five spice chicken wings
I used this recipe, baked at 425° for 30 minutes.


roasted potatoesOven roasted potatoes
recipe here


sausage fried riceChinese sausage fried rice with shrimp
Using this basic recipe, cook the Chinese sausage before adding rice. Set aside, cook rice and remaining ingredients. Add shrimp and peas at the end.



recipe here

turkey, sausage chiliTurkey Chili
recipe here

kielbasa and sauerkrautKielbasa and sauerkraut
recipe here

italian sausage heroesItalian sausages on a roll
recipe here


sausage heroesBeer brats with onions on a hero
Place dozen brats, a sliced onion, and a little butter in a single layer in a pot. Add enough beer to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked. Transfer to grill or skillet and cook until brown. Place back in the beer to serve. I served these like the Italian sausages on heroes. (the Italian sausage heroes is what is really pictured, but you get the idea)


 boston cream pieboston cream pie loaf
Boston cream pie, 2 ways
recipe here