The recipes on this blog are a combination of things I've learned over the years and meals inherited through generations of adoration for good food. They are a cherished property, so please be good to them.

You may not copy or otherwise reproduce any of this content without prior written permission.

Monday, December 31, 2007

One Year; New Year

Well my holiday celebrations and dinners are a thing of the past and now and I can think back as I reach one year of documenting my culinary curiosities. This has been a challenge and a great experience. This year, I've had to really focus in on what ingredients I would shop for, and from what source I was getting my food. Shopping farmer's market's in order to get fresh and organic and in-season foods, while supporting local farmers, also became a passion of mine. Trying to apply thought into the entire process, from procuring to preparing and feasting. Documenting my explorations or my memories and challenging myself to try and improve upon each recipe. I've also been exposed to so many other food blogs(gers) who impress me and inspire me to create the food I crave. It's been a huge year of change for me, buying my first house with my husband, working two jobs, taking classes, friends getting married and this food diary. I even had the honors of being nominated and placing 5th (out of 80 entries!) for a food blog competition through .
I'm looking forward to what 2008 might hold..Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to the kitchen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are super easy and perfectly delicious. From this recipe you can create other cookies, adding in different flavors or spices for variation. If you have a well stocked pantry like me, you can probably find all of the ingredients already in your kitchen!

This is a basic recipe and the cookies come out crisp, with just the right amount of sweet sugary goodness!

I use a Silpat which is a liner made of silicone and fiberglass which replaces the need for parchment paper. This liner makes perfectly brown cookie bottoms and keeps them crisp. Added bonus: easy clean up and no cookies stuck to the cookie sheet!

2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl ( I used my Kitchen Aid mixer ), cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto Silpat lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle a pinch (you're familiar with this measurement, right?) of sugar on top of each dough ball. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Traditions

Every year my best friends and I get together and have our annual holiday dinner together. Usually we go to Birches, one of our favorite places to dine in Baltimore but this year we've decided to do something a little different. We're going to do an "around the world" theme. Basically, each person picks a region and a dish and we all feast on foods from various regions/cultures around the world.

What are your favorite holiday foods? Are they regional/cultural in significance? I'd love to know more about the worldly gastroadventures of my blogger community and readers!

Leave your ideas/recipes/comments below!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rosemary For Remembrance

What sparked this blog writing was being selected for the annual Baltimore Sun's holiday cookie contest last year. My first blog post is here:

The really cool thing about this is this year, the Baltimore Sun decided not to have a contest but to review the submissions since 2000 and pick a "best of the best" list.

You can read the article and our submission here:,0,3537041.story

Although my husband and I didn't create the recipe, it's become a part of our lives, our traditions and our memories of our wedding day. These cookies become holiday gifts each year and are loved by anyone who tries them.

This weekend I hope to make them and take some more pictures for the blog. (The cookies are in the picture on the Baltimore Sun's website (bottom tier, left hand side, light colored cookie).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pumpkin Cupcake with Cinnamon Buttercream Icing

For the cupcakes:
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour, sift before measuring
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 c butter, softened
1 1/3 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten until frothy
1 c canned pumpkin
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375* F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a bowl.

Meanwhile, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs. Blend in mashed pumpkin. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the milk, blending until batter is smooth after each addition. Spoon batter into well-greased and floured or paper-lined muffin pan cups. (OR... I use these whenever I make cupcakes or muffins, because they are so easy and require very little clean up. You just place them directly on a cookie sheet and bake as is.) Bake cupcakes for about 20-25 minutes.
For the Cinnamon Buttercream Icing:
1 c butter, soft and room temperature
1 tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 lb confectioners sugar (10x)
3 tbsp milk
Beat butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add vanilla; mix until blended. Stir cinnamon into confectioners' sugar. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended after each addition, frequently scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in milk until light and fluffy. If frosting is to thick to spread, gradually beat in additional milk. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Butternut Squash Risotto

Arborio rice, a pearly white, round, Italian grain of white rice is used for risotto. For any risotto, I recommend using only Arborio rice imported from Italy (you can find this in your grocery store). What differentiates this rice from other white grain rice is the starches released from the rice while preparing the risotto, which gives the dish it's distinct creamy texture.

For this dish, I used my Sicilian influence to bring together butternut squash and sage for this warm and comforting dinner.

1 cup Arborio rice
6 cups good quality chicken stock
2 c butternut squash, diced into 1/4 in pieces
1 small onion, diced fine
1/2 c white wine
1/4 c olive oil
8 tbsp butter
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
10 sage leaves

In a large, heavy bottom pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add onion and squash and salt and saute for about 7-10 minutes or until the squash is softened and the onion is translucent.

Meanwhile, heat the stock with 5 sage leaves added until warm. (The key to keeping the risotto cooking is to ensure your stock is warm so you maintain the temperature as you add the liquid to the pan.) In another small pan, heat 4tbsp butter over med-low heat and fry the remaining sage leaves until crisp (be careful not to burn) and remove to a paper towel for garnishing.

To the squash and onion mixture, add the Arborio rice and stir for about 2-3 minutes making sure all the rice is coated with the olive oil. Add the 1/2 c of wine and stir continually until the wine has been absorbed. Add the stock, one ladle at a time, waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before you add more. Stir continually (you might want to pull up a chair or pour a glass of wine) adding stock, until the rice is creamy and al dente, about 20 minutes. Stir in 4tbsp butter and Parmesan, nutmeg and top with the crispy sage and serve immediately.

Friday, November 16, 2007


The marinade used in ceviche is citrus based, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. This being said, all citrus will work. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured which pickles or "cooks" the fish without heat.

This seems more of a summer dish, but I attended a themed cocktail party and this fit right in with the other Mexican dishes served.

2 each of the following (juice and zest):

1lb bay scallops
1lb shrimp
2 jalapeno
1 small red onion
1 small red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients to a bowl and let marinade for 4-6 hours. Serve cold with tortillas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

When I first started this blog (almost one year ago!) I had a different format and this was one of the first posts I made. Since I've increased in popularity and have many blogger friends out there reading my blog, I thought I'd re-post this simple recipe to ensure you all have tried this method of cooking Brussels Sprouts.

This is the easiest and most delicious (in my opinion) way to enjoy the sprouts. My husband didn't eat these delicious veggies until this method was introduced to him!

I got this idea from Ina Garten as I saw her prepare them this way...although I love just about any vegetable that's been roasted. The flavors caramelize under the high temperature of the oven and the outsides of the sprouts get crisp.

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Serve immediately.
Did you know?
According to a survey in 2002, Brussels sprouts are Britain's most hated vegetable, and it has become a cliche there and in the United States that children dislike the vegetable. Overcooking releases sulphur compounds in the vegetables that give it a distinctive smell commonly found unpleasant. If correctly cooked, the unpleasant smell is avoided and the vegetable possesses a delicate nutty flavor.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lost Blogger, FOUND!

Where or where have my blog posts been? I've been cooking, eating and taking pictures.... to no avail, finding the time to post a blog has been difficult.

I've got a house guest for a few weeks and a new part time job (in addition to the full time job and the house/husband/life responsibilities).

Anywhooo... please know I'm suffering from not posting as much as you are (or are you just checking out the posts on all the other wonderful bloggers out there?).

Stay tuned....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cook For A Cause

Some of my readers know that I am on the Board of Directors for the Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County. The FCC gives women and children who are victims of domestic violence housing, food, counseling and access to legal counsel.

Many months ago we decided to contact local restaurants to see if they would be willing to host cooking classes with proceeds going to benefit the FCC. We recieved word from both The Black Olive and Rumor Mill that they were interested in our first two series for the fall.

Today, The Baltimore Sun posted an article in their "Dining At Large" section online. You can find that here.

The Black Olive is FULL, but there's still room for the second class...Tuesday, Nov. 20 at the Rumor Mill in Ellicott City. The chef is Tim Daugherty.
Tickets are $30 each!
If any of my local readers are interested, please leave me a comment and I will contact you!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vegetable Eggrolls

I was making some of this soup for dinner tonight and since I was already making dumplings, I thought I'd do some egg rolls as well. My husband loves these and I don't make them very often, so tonight, I rolled.

2 c green cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 c bean sprouts
3 cloves garlic minced
4 spring onions, sliced thin
1 carrot, shredded
1 1/2 tbsp ginger, grated
1/3 c oyster mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp hot chili oil
1 tsp fish sauce
1 package store prepare wonton wrappers

For the filling:
In a wok, over medium high heat, add garlic and onions and saute for about 2 minutes or until soft. Add all of the remaining vegetables and cook until cabbage is soft, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, tamari, chili oil and fish sauce and mix well, cooking about 2 more minutes. Set mixture aside and allow to cool.

Egg roll Assembly:

Lay a wonton wrapper in front of you, on the diagonal. Place filling in the center and fold the corner closest to you upward, over the mixture. Roll the wrapper 1/2 of the way and fold in the corners on the left and right. Roll the wrapper once more to seal the egg roll. Seal the corner with a dab of water.
Place in a deep fryer (which I don't own) or in a heavy bottom pot (like a dutch oven) in 350*F vegetable oil and fry, flipping once to brown both sides, about 3-5 minutes.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rub it Down

I've never done this on my blog but I wanted to share with you what I found at the farmer's market (along with my squash) last week.

If you live in Baltimore and have a chance to go to the 32nd Street Waverly Farmer's Market, you should stop by the spices and products at the stand for Whiskey Island. I purchased there espresso rub made from Zeke's Coffee (another fabulous Baltimore vendor) for my husband's birthday dinner and let some rib eye steaks sit in this incredible rub for about 14 hours.

Pure delight.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

When summer begins to turn into fall, I start craving the flavors and food of the season. I consulted my mother on the preparation of this type of squash (as I've never cooked them myself). I found these beautiful squash at the farmer's market and they were perfect and full of flavor.

For the squash:
2 small acorn squash
4 tbsp butter
2/3 c water

Pre-heat oven to 350*F. Prepare the squash by cutting in half and scooping out the seeds from the center of each half. ***Cooks note: Slice a small piece of the bottom off each half to keep squash from moving while cooking.***Place squash in a baking dish, and add water to the bottom of the dish. Add 1 tbsp of butter to each cavity of the squash. Cover pan with dish with aluminium foil and bake for about 1 hour or until squash is tender but still firm.
Meanwhile prepare the stuffing:
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
1/4 c vidalia onion, diced
2 links, sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1/2 c long grain white rice, cooked
1/4 c vegetable broth
Over medium high heat, saute the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula, until browned. Add fennel and onions and cook soft and translucent. Add vegetable broth and spices and cook for about 5 minutes until the broth is absorbed and the sausage is cooked through. Combine with white rice and set aside.

Once squash is has cooked for the hour, remove from oven and drain water from the dish. Fill each cavity with the stuffing, and place back in the oven for 10 minutes. The stuffing should have a crisp feel to it and the squash should be done.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Balsamic Onions and Goat Cheese Quesadilla

This was an easy and tasty lunch last weekend in the middle of cleaning the house up. I could dive, face first into a vat of goat cheese, do a backstroke and float for hours in its lovely tangy creaminess. Can you tell I love it?

2 corn tortillas
1 small onion, sliced thin
3 tbsp (or more to your liking) soft goat cheese
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 springs thyme, leaves removed

Saute the onion slices and thyme leaves in 1 tbsp olive oil, over medium high about 7-10 minutes, or until caramelized and brown. Add the balsamic to the pan and continue to cook on medium heat, until the vinegar has reduced and the mixture is thick and glossy.

Meanwhile, shmeer (you know this method, don't you?) the goat cheese on both sides of the tortillas. Add the balsamic onion mixture to one tortilla and top with the other tortilla.

Cook on a griddle pan over medium heat, flipping once to brown both sides of the quesadilla and to melt the goat cheese.
Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Grilled Citrus Chicken

I got this idea from a William Sonoma cookbook and have used it several times over the summer. This is a great way to use the last of the citrus you might have lying around at the end of a week.

4 chicken breasts
1 orange
2 limes
4 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 c olive oil
For the marinade:
Grate 2 tsp zest from the orange and squeeze 1/3 c juice.
Grate 1 tsp zest from the limes and squeeze 1/4 c juice.
In a shallow dish, stir together the orange and lime zests and juices, parsley, the oregano, thyme, garlic and cumin. Stir in the oil, gradually. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and add to marinade (turn to coat). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

I grilled this over direct heat for about 10-14 minutes, turning once. I also served it with grilled sweet potato wedges, which complimented the chicken very well.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lime Shrimp with Coconut Rice

The flavors of this dish are mild and light. The coconut milk makes the rice creamy but is understated compared to the other flavors in the dish. It's the perfect background for the lime and garlic.
1lb large shrimp
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup large grain white rice
1 1/4 c water
1 1/4 c unsweetened coconut milk
1 lime (1 tsp zest, 2tbsp juice)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
8 spring onions, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
small bunch cilantro

For the rice:
Melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Add the rice and stir constantly, allowing it to cook and the grains are coated in butter, about one minute. Stir in water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.
For the shrimp (prepare about 5 minutes before rice is ready):
Melt 4tbsp butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the lime juice and zest and the garlic and stir for about1 minute. Add shrimp and green onions and saute until the shrimp are opaque about 4 minutes. Stir in half of the cilantro.
Fluff the rice and stir in remaining cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cuban Black Beans

These are a favorite as a side to any Latin flavored dishes I make. It's so simple and so easy. If you want to make it harder, buy the black beans raw, and soak/cook for the duration of a weekend! Black beans are also just a staple in my pantry, and sometimes you just need a little dressing up of an old favorite.
2 cans black beans
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small Spanish onion, chopped
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Salt and Pepper to taste

Over medium heat, saute the onion and bell pepper until softened, about 3 -5 minutes. Add black beans and cook over med-low heat until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Add spices and cilantro and remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sun, Sand and Surf

I'm happy to say that I won't be posting for at least a week. I'll be looking at this view for 6 days.
Here is where I'm going tomorrow. It's got all the charm of the beach without the traffic and hotels and insane crowds, similar to it's neighbor, Ocean City Maryland. Oh and they have a THIS, which is where I will be when I'm not looking at the view above, eating "Marsh Mud" ice cream which is possibly the best ice cream ever made. Complete and total vacation indulgence.
Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Sometimes a girl just needs comfort food and last week in the middle of August, I made this meatloaf, in spite of the heat.

1lb ground beef (turkey is good too)
1 c fresh basil, rough chop
4 cloves garlic minced
1/2 c Italian breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Form a loaf (hence, meatloaf) and place on a cookie sheet. Cover the top of the meatloaf with marinara sauce Bake on 375*F for about 1 hour or until done.

(If you are a true Baltimore hon, this is great the next day...slices of meatloaf on white bread makes a great lunch!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Peach Cake

When I was growing up, on Sundays, my parents might stop at our favorite local bakery for all sorts of treats. One of my favorites is their peach cake. I had some beautiful peaches at home and while this cake is not the same as the version I love, it's got all the same tastes and delights as the original. I still recommend going to the bakery if you are in the neighborhood, because some of their items are a must have!

Prepare the peaches:
2 c sliced, peeled peaches
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 lemon, juice and zest
3 tbsp clarified butter

Combine the first 4 ingredients together in a bowl. In a well greased deep 8 in cake dish or pie plate, line slices of peaces along the bottom of the plate. Pour the clarified butter over the layer of peaches.

Sift together:
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Beat together:
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp clarified butter
1/4 c milk

Combine wet and dry ingredients until blended. Do not over mix the batter. Pour the batter on top of the peaches to cover. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cake is firm and golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes and then invert onto a platter.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Balsamic Chicken with Peppers

This picture doesn't do this dish justice! I tried this because a dear friend bought me a lovely bottle of lemon balsamic vinegar for my birthday, and I thought the flavors would compliment the ingredients in this dish. I served this with some couscous and it came together in under 30 minutes.1 lb chicken breasts
1 each: red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, large onion : sliced thin
3 tbsp thyme leaves
2 tbsp chopped basil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Sprinkle each side of chicken breasts generously, with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large saute pan over med-high heat. Cook chicken breasts until golden brown, flipping once, for about 8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add remaining oil and saute the peppers and onions
for about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the herbs and continue to cook about 4 more minutes. Return chicken to pan, and spoon the mixture over the chicken and cover pan. Simmer on med-low heat for about 4-5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer Fruit Salsa

I am re-posting this recipe (I didn't have a working camera at that time) as it's the perfect time of year for it.
I served this on top of Mahi with a green salad. This is great to have the next day with blue corn chips as a snack.

Summer Fruit Salsa
1 cup each; small diced: Strawberries Pineapple Mangoes
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 Jalapeno , de-seeded and finely chopped
1 good handful of fresh mint
1 lime juice and zest ( I had some leftover key limes, so I used 4 of them)
1 tsp coarse salt

Mix all ingredients together in a reactive safe bowl and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving to let flavors meld.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Grilled Potatoes

Mu husband only likes potatoes that have a crispier texture to them, so I am always looking for new ways to do a potato (since I love them in any form). I consulted my mother, the head chef, and she recommended this method. My husband loved them and I couldn't agree more!
3 large baking potatoes
fresh thyme leaves
olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced

Cut potatoes lengthwise, into 1/4 inch slices. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until just fork tender. Remove slices and place into a bowl of iced water. Allow to cool completely, remove from water and place on paper towels to dry.
Once dry, coat the potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and thyme. Grill over indirect heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and crisp.

Sunday Morning Harvest

I planted my first garden this year, quickly after settling into our first house. I grew up with parents who took lawn care and gardens to a whole new dimension. Gorgeous gardens, dedicated know the type. The whole effort paid off because even though I dreaded lifting a finger when I lived at home with my parents, I have become hooked on a new hobby!

I planted squash late in the planting season (Mid June) and so I am just getting a huge amount of yellow flowers and the beginnings of squash.
You can see a few tomato's are coming through (My plants came back with a vengeance after I thought they had lost the good fight in late June) and I've got a ton more on the way.
The herbs however, have been most rewarding. (I couldn't keep a plant of basil alive the balcony of our apartment last year, but somehow I've got this to look forward to every day of Summer!) Pictured: Mint (2 variations), Basil, Tarragon, Thyme, Oregano and Rosemary.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Five Spice Chicken

All of the five flavors - sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty - are found in five spice powder. A standard recipe calls for fennel, cloves, and cinnamon, along with star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. I used a prepared five spice powder from a specialty store. (**Cooks note: My other fave is to sprinkle the powder on deep fried chicken wings, a true indulgence.)

1/3 c lite soy sauce
1/3 c Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp Chinese five spice

Add all ingredients together and simmer, allowing the liquid to reduce and get thick, about 8-10 minutes.

I slathered this on chicken breasts as they sat over a hot grill. Served with some carrots sauteed in butter, honey and garlic.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


My husband loves lasagna more than any other Italian dish. He asked for it a few weeks ago, and I caved and made some for him this past weekend. This is more of a northern style lasagna as it uses bechamel instead of ricotta cheese and only a sprinkle of cheese on top.

1 package lasagna noodles
(I admit, I've made them quite often, but I wasn't that interested in going the extra mile in 90*F weather)
3 cups bechamel sauce
3 cups marinara sauce
1/2 lb Italian sausage
good handful fresh oregano and basil, chopped
1/2 c mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 c Parmesan cheese

Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside, covering with a damp cloth to keep the noodles from drying out.

Remove sausage from casings and cook over med-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces. Continue to cook the sausage until done, about 6-8 minutes. Drain the pan of any oil or fat and add the 3 cups of basil marinara. Simmer on low for about 3 minutes to let flavors meld.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 * F.

Spread some bechamel on the bottom of a baking pan. Top with a layer of pasta sheets. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce on top of the pasta, top with a layer of bechamel, evenly sprinkle on some grated Parmesan cheese and top with another single layer of pasta. Do this layering process until all of the ingredients have been used and making sure that the final and top layer is bechamel sauce with Parmesan and mozzarella sprinkled on. When the baking dish is completely filled the lasagna is ready to be baked. Place into the oven and bake for 50 minutes until the top has begun to brown and the edges are crispy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bechamel Sauce

There are five basic sauces or "mother sauces" when cooking, and Bechamel is one of the oldest. I love using this sauce in baked pasta dishes like lasagna or baked rigatoni.

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, warmed over low heat
Pinch fresh nutmeg
Sea salt and white pepper

In large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 3 minutes. (**Cooks note: It is important to cook the flour mixture so you don't have a raw flour taste to your sauce.**) Continually stirring, slowly add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Taste the sauce and add additional spices to your taste.

Use within 48 hours. To store in refrigerator, apply a piece of wax paper to the top of the sauce to prevent a film from forming.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Birthday Weekend

Today is my birthday and so I won't be cooking much this weekend! Hopefully I can post before Sunday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beef Picadillo

I've always loved recipes that incorporate sweet and savory in a perfect blend and this picadillo completely satisfies that balance.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 lb ground beef (90% lean)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/34 c beef broth
28 oz canned diced tomato's with juice
1/4 red wine vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 c raisins
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pan. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook down, breaking up clumps until the meat is brown. Stir in garlic and chili, allspice and cinnamon and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice, broth, vinegar and paste. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the raisins. Raise heat to bring entire pot to a simmer and then reduce to medium and cook, uncovered for about 25 minutes or so until the picadillo is thickened.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tarragon Mustard Sauce

This sauce can be used for either/both marinade and basting sauce. I marinated some thick cut, boneless pork chops in this sauce (for about 4 hours). I cooked the chops over the grill and used a reserve batch to brush on while cooking.

3 tbsp coarse ground mustard
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Combine all ingredients together and whisk until well blended. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let flavors meld.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tuna and White Bean Salad

This recipe is quick and easy and incredibly tasty. You must use the tuna canned in olive oil for the salad to have the right texture and flavor. I served it with some pita bread halves, lightly crisped in the oven. (This goes great with a white wine spritzer too.)

1 can cannellini beans
1 can tuna in olive oil
handful of fresh parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
few thin slices of red onion, chopped roughly

Empty and drain thoroughly the can of beans. In a bowl combine the tuna (and its oil), and the rest of the ingredients. Mix together, crumbling the tuna with a form. Add in beans and toss lightly.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chicken with Sweet Onion Marmelatta

This mixture is so divine and so flavored. I love using citrus with savory flavors and the onions and fresh herbs work so wonderfully with the orange marmalade.

The mixture takes some time to cook, but it only requires a few stirs and very little watching over.
For the marmelatta:
1/4 c olive oil
4 large onions, thinly sliced
1-2 c orange marmalade
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar

Place a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the onions. Stir to combine and cook until starting to cook down, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. The onions should be a soft, marmalade-like consistency and have a deep color.

For the chicken:
4 large chicken breasts, pounded thin
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Arrange flattened chicken breast on plate. Place about 1/4 cup of the marmelatta in the center of the chicken breast. Gently roll the chicken breast keeping all of the stuffing inside. Secure the chicken roll up with kitchen twine or toothpicks.

I decided to grill these chicken breasts over charcoal, using direct heat. They caramelized really nicely on the outside and were juicy on the inside.
Next time I might make a glaze to baste the chicken breasts while grilling. They were perfect as is, but prepared on the grill, an orange (and bourbon or brown sugar perhaps? )glaze might be a nice option for this dish.

(**Cooks note: You could also bake these in a 350* oven for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. )

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella salad is a popular bread salad that enhances and celebrates the summer's produce. It's made best with day old bread because you want a really crispy texture to soak up the tangy vinaigrette.

Ingredients and variations for this salad are vast and you really can be creative. This recipe is more traditional.

1 cup each:
roma tomato's, large dice
seedless cucumber
1/4 c fresh mozzarella, large dice
good handful of fresh basil, ripped
1 clove garlic, thin sliced
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and let sit in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

For the bread:
2 cups day old bread, large diced
3 tbsp butter
Heat butter over medium heat and add bread cubes. Lightly fry until crisp and brown, stirring often.

Combine the bread cubes with the vegetable mixture and toss making sure the vinaigrette is well mixed. Serve immediately, making sure the bread cubes don't lose their crisp.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Herb Pasta with Shrimp

This pasta is quite possibly the easiest and freshest way to enjoy pasta on a summer night.
Sicilian cuisine (a gift from my ancestors) is made from simple ingredients like the fresh catch of the sea, and pick of the garden.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 extra large shrimp
4 cloves garlic minced finely
fresh basil and parsley, a good handful of each, chopped roughly
1 lemon, juice and zest
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb spaghetti (or any long pasta)

Heat water for pasta with good amount of salt. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Subtract 2 minutes from package cooking time. Reserve 1/4 c of cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add minced garlic and saute about 2 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add shrimp and add a pinch of salt and pepper to season the shrimp.

Cook for about 3 minutes and then turn over. Add lemon juice and continue to cook until shrimp is almost done. Add prepared pasta and reserved pasta water to saute pan. Add lemon zest and fresh herbs. Toss immediately and cook over low heat for about 1 minute. Serve immediately. Indulge in fresh Parmesan at your own discretion.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Basic Pizza Dough

Pizza is one of the easiest and tastiest foods to make on a whim or when you only have a few ingredients on hand. It's perfect with just a few toppings and I couldn't resist making myself one over the weekend.

For the pizza dough:
1 c warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Combine the water, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the oil, salt, and remaining flour. With large wooden spoon or your hands mix the ingredients together until the dough holds its shape. You may need a bit less flour, so add the last half gradually.Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough becomes sticky, sprinkle a bit more flour over it.Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled 2-quart bowl. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Divide the dough into 4 parts and keep other parts covered until ready for use.
Preheat oven to 400*F. Spread dough out on pizza pan or on a pizza stone and pre-bake for about 8 minutes. (**Cooks note: This is my preferred method to ensure a super crispy crust. You don't have to do this and you can easily top the dough and stick it in the oven from this point!)
For the sauce, I simply diced Roma tomato's and garlic and onion. I sauteed these together for a few minutes on the stove and topped my pizza with the sauce. Fresh basil from the garden and some thin slices of fresh mozzarella and a pizza is born!

Bake on 400*F for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dinosaur Kale with Garlic and Tomato

I found this type of kale at the farmer's market and couldn't wait to try it. I love greens of any sort, but kale is my favorite.

2 good bunches Dinosaur Kale, rough chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 oz canned diced tomato's, drained

Preheat 3 tbsp olive oil over med-high heat in a large pan. Add all of the kale and cook for about 3 minutes, moving the greens around in the pan to encourage wilting. Apply a liberal amount of salt and to the kale and toss the garlic into the pan. Continue cooking kale about 5 minutes or until greens are wilted but still firm and crunchy (**Cooks note: You can cook this to your preferred doneness. I like my kale al dente with a bit of a bite) Add tomato's and stir to combine ingredients. Cook one more minute to heat tomato's and meld flavors.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Risotto Cakes

I had leftover risotto and wanted to make use of it instead of picking at it every time I open the refrigerator over the next few days, per my usual routine.

These are simple and I ate them with a poached egg on top for Sunday breakfast. I also love putting a risotto cake on top of a great green salad with some tomato's and goat cheese.
For the cakes:
1 cup leftover risotto
2 tbsp butter
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
(Cooks note: you could also stick a bit of buffalo mozzarella inside each cake for a cheesy surprise)

Combine egg, salt and pepper and risotto together until mixed well.
Meanwhile, heat butter over medium heat in a frying pan.
Form risotto into cakes and fry for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Basil Risotto

The smell of basil reminds me of my mother's garden, which is by far the prettiest city garden in Baltimore. This risotto was great served under grilled fish.

1 c Arborio rice
2 tbsp pure olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 c dry white wine
3 c chicken stock
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp heavy cream
good size handful fresh basil chiffonade ( cut into long thin strips)

Using a large skillet with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil over low heat and saute until translucent. Add the Arborio rice, stir to coat with the olive oil, and saute with the onions to toast each grain of rice, about 7 minutes.
Once the rice is lightly toasted, add the white wine slowly, stirring. (If you don't use wine, just proceed forward)After the rice has absorbed the white wine and the skillet is nearly dry, add 1 cup stock, stirring occasionally, and cook over very low heat until the stock is absorbed.
Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, until all the stock has been absorbed. Once the rice has been added to the pan, the entire cooking process will take about 20 minutes. After all of the liquid has been added and the rice is chewy yet fully cooked, with a creamy texture, add the butter, Parmesan, basil and heavy cream. Stir to combine all the ingredients and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cran-Raspberry Granita

Granita is frozen dessert of sugar, water, and flavorings from Sicily. My husband and I love ice treats and the granita has really been making a comeback this year as a popular desert. I've seen recipe's that use vodka, but I didn't use any.

4 cups cranberry juice
1 c sugar
1/4 c fresh lime juice

Whisk the cranberry juice and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Pour the cranberry mixture into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Cool completely. Whisk in the syrup and lime juice. Freeze until the granita becomes slushy, about 2 hours. Using fork, stir to blend. Continue freezing the granita until frozen, stirring and scraping the fork across the granita like a rake, every hour or so to form crystals, at least 5 hours or overnight

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oven Roasted Broccoli

My friend Sara made this during a girls weekend last year and it's become my most favorite way to eat broccoli.....and just couldn't be easier.

2 cups broccoli, florets only
good quality olive oil
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay broccoli on sheet, toss with remainder ingredients. Roast on 400*F oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked and a bit crispy. Make sure you shake florets around every 5-7 minutes while cooking.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Beef Tacos

Tacos are a quick meal for a weeknight and can be ready in very little time. Some nights, even I don't feel like devoting a lot of time or energy to cooking.
I made my taco shells out of corn tortillas. I usually use store prepared, but I love these because they aren't as hard and crisp as the store version. These are more crispy and chewy at the same time.
To make your own shells:
Heat an inch of oil over medium heat in a skillet.
Carefully add half of the tortilla (folded into a taco shape) and fry until golden (you will need to hold up the tortilla half the entire time.). Using tongs, carefully flip the tortilla to fry the other side until golden (continue holding the free edge to maintain the shape). Remove from skillet and balance the shell (Tepee style) on a paper towel until set. Repeat until you've got as many as you need.

For the filling:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 small onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp each, cumin, coriander, chili powder and paprika
1 tbsp chili paste
2 cups beef broth

Heat large pan over med-high heat and brown ground beef completely. Drain and return to the pan, adding the onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the powdered spices and paste and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan using the beef broth and simmer on low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Serve in taco shells and top with toppings of your choice. Pictured with iceberg lettuce, fresh tomato's, extra sharp Cheddar and sour cream.

Calling all Food Bloggers!

I am now a proud member of the Foodie Blogroll. If you happen to find your way here, please leave me a comment!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Grilled Zucchini

Welcome to the easiest concept known. Since the grill has arrived in my backyard, I've been cooking everything I possibly can on it.
So, when I make an entree on it, I tend to grill the veggies that I'm serving with dinner.
For the Zucchini:
3 large zucchini (or as much to serve your needs); cut lengthwise
good quality olive oil
sea salt, coarse
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of zest from a lemon
Drizzle olive oil over zucchini and liberally apply salt, pepper and zest. Grill over direct heat for about 5 minutes, turning once. Keep an eye on your zucchini and remove as soon as they are fork tender.


I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Culinate Grill Contest.

It was a complete honor and thrill to be nominated and end up in the Top 5!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Balsamic Barbecue Glaze

I've had a love affair with balsamic vinegar as long as I can remember. I decided to use the balsamic in lieu of another form of vinegar when making an easy barbecue sauce. By reducing the vinegar, the sauce is tangy, sweet and the perfect consistency.

1 c balsamic vinegar
3/4 c ketchup
1/3 c brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients into a sauce pan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow sauce to reduce until it sticks to the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. ***Cooks note: This recipe yields about 1/3rd less the amount of sauce then at the beginning of cooking.***

Pictured and enjoyed painted on chicken breasts cooked on the grill.