January 31, 2010

January 31: Won Ton Soup


24 uncooked won ton noodles (You can find these in the fruit and vegetable section of your super market)
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 Tbs. oyster sauce (found on the oriental isle)
1 Tsp. cornstarch

Cook pork on medium heat until completely cooked. Add oyster sauce, scallions, and cornstarch and stir to coat. Place a small teaspoon full of meat into the center of the won ton. Fold it in half, creating a triangle. Moisten the edges with water and then press to seal. Pull each side corner of won ton downward. Set won tons aside. You can also make this soup quickly by adding frozen already assembled pot stickers.

8 cups chicken stock
2 cups thinly sliced vegetables (I used carrots, celery, and green onions. You may want to use water chestnuts too.)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
Sliced Chinese style barbecue pork cut into strips (use as much or as little as you want, this ingredient is optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs sliced in rounds

Bring soup stock to a boil. Add vegetables, soy sauce, and pork. Boil until vegetables are tender but still have a snap to them. Toss in won tons and cook for three minutes. Garnish with cooked eggs and serve immediately. (Serves 8)

Conversation Starter: Make up a fortune cookie fortune for the person on your right.

January 30, 2010

January 30: Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

My daughter Julia asks for this soup nearly every day. Patrick and I first tasted tortilla soup in Puerto Vallarta on our honeymoon. For several years, I looked for a recipe, gave up, and finally developed one of my own. If you don’t have time to make the tortilla strips, you can substitute store-bought chips.

1 Tbs. Butter
1 yellow onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 small can green chilies
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained (You may also use red kidney beans)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded chicken
1 Tbs. Taco seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
12 yellow corn tortillas
¼ cup peanut oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups shredded jack cheese
Sour cream, for serving

Sauté onions and garlic in butter in a large soup pot over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add chilies, tomatoes, beans, corn, chicken stock, chicken and taco seasoning. Stir through on high heat until soup boils. Reduce to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer one hour.

With a sharp knife, cut tortillas into ¼ inch strips, stacking them four at a time to save time. Place all tortilla strips on a cookie sheet. Top with oil and salt. Toss the tortillas gently with your hands until they are all coated and the salt is evenly distributed. Spread in an even layer. Place in a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes until slightly brown and crisped. Remove and let cool.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream, a handful of jack cheese. Place a haystack of tortillas on top. Makes eight servings.

Conversation starter: Tell a knock knock joke, the cornier, the better.

January 29, 2010

January 29: Friend Friday!

Today's guest chef is Heidi Main!

Poppy Chicken
  • 4 chicken breasts, lightly pounded to 1/4 inch thick
  • flour to dredge
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped fine or minced
  • 2 cups white wine (Chablis - chicken broth can be substituted for this)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 5 tablespoons butter ; divided
  • fresh mushrooms sliced
  • 4 extra thin slices provolone
  • 4 large pieces of fresh broccoli
  • linguine
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour. In sauté pan, heat oil and add chicken. Sauté until golden brown on both sides. Add shallots and garlic to chicken and cook until sweated. Add white wine and chicken stock. Simmer over medium heat until chicken is done and liquid is reduced by half (about 15 minutes).
While reducing is taking place, prepare broccoli in the microwave (cook until barely tender). Also, melt one tablespoon butter in a small saucepan and sauté the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the sauce.
When chicken is done, remove from pan and place in casserole dish (leave sauce in sauté pan). Swirl 4 tablespoons butter into sauce and keep warm. Place one broccoli spear and one piece of cheese on each piece of chicken. Put into 350 degree preheated oven until cheese melts.
Serve over linguine or penne.

Conversation starter: Who have you lost touch with over the years and what do you miss about that friendship?

January 28, 2010

January 28: Yummy potatoes

I make this a lot. Very yummy and oh-so-easy. Yukon golds work well too.

Parsley Roasted Potatoes

10 red potatoes, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
garlic salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley

Toss potatoes, oil salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes until brown. Toss with parsley, then bake ten minutes more.

Conversation starter: Describe the last time you were crabby. Why were you crabby?

January 27, 2010

January 27: My fave dessert (so easy!)

Since this involves a pre-made pound cake, it's very easy. I keep a few in the freezer for a quick dessert. You can use frozen berries too.

Pound cake layered with raspberries

1 large pound cake (found in frozen food section of grocery store)
1 ½ package Neufchatel cream cheese
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla           
3 Tbs. Butter, softened
½ cup Nutella
2 cups fresh raspberries

Using a serrated knife, cut the pound cake horizontally into four slices (3 cuts). Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and butter in a stand mixer and mix until well combined. On each layer (except top) spread ½ of the Nutella, followed 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture and top with 1/3 of the berries. Do this for the two middle layers. On the top, spread the remaining 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture and top with remaining 1/3 raspberries. To serve, cut the cake vertically and place on dessert plate so the layers show. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings. 

Conversation starter: Complete the sentence. "I wish I had three ______."

January 26, 2010

January 26: Cookie magic

These are inexpensive and yummy, and a great way to add fiber to your diet in a happy way!

Mary’s Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 ½ cup thick cut oatmeal
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp. Baking soda
6 Tbs. Baking cocoa
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. Vanilla

Stir together the first four ingredients, set aside. In bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture. Drop by tablespoon onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for ten minutes.

Conversation starter: When was your most memorable time making cookies?

January 25, 2010

January 25: THE MONDAY MENU Amerasian Chicken and Mushrooms with Bacon Fried Rice

Most overweight people who switch to healthy eating quit within two weeks. This happens for two main reasons: 1) They do not identify with a healthy lifestyle; and 2) They have so radically changed their eating habits they are unable to control their cravings.

In today’s diet-crazed world fat and carbohydrates are looked upon as evil. But for people who are accustomed to the dopamine rush that comes from eating a big steak dinner, or the rush of serotonin that comes from eating a buttery baked potato, suddenly switching to a fat free or carbohydrate free lifestyle is synonymous with kicking cigarettes cold turkey.

The key to switching from a high fat, high carbohydrate diet to eating healthy is to make the move gradually. Start by eating less and preparing meals that are not low fat, but lower in fat. Cut back on the carbohydrates, but don’t eliminate them. The body needs them for energy.

Today’s recipe is an example of how we can cook using this gradual step-down approach, and includes one of my favorite comfort foods – bacon. This recipe is low in calories, provides two full servings of vegetables, and is full of healthy protein. At the same time it is satisfying, full of flavor and lends itself to beautiful plating.

Oh, and did I mention that it contains bacon?

Conversation Starter: What comfort foods would you like to see incorporated into a healthy dish?


2 slices smoked bacon
8 oz raw chicken breast cut into ¾” cubes
¼ Cup dry roasted cashew (salted)
1 Cup cold cooked rice (unsalted)
1 large egg
2 Cups whole button mushrooms (approximately 8 oz)
1 Cup fresh Pea Pods (snow peas)
½ Cup frozen peas and carrots
2 Tbs. light soy sauce
3 large cloves finely diced garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
½ Cup water

Fried Rice

Use only cold cooked rice. Leftover rice from a previous meal is perfect as long as it has not been seasoned with butter or any other flavoring. Unsalted rice is preferred, but not necessary.

Cook bacon in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until crispy. Do not allow the bacon to burn. Remove and allow it to slightly cool. Do not wash the pan as it will be used to fry the rice. Once cool, chop bacon into small pieces (about a quarter of an inch). Pour off the remaining rendered fat into a small cup and save for later use.

Beat egg well. Spray a small non-stick or well-seasoned skillet cook with cooking spray or a teaspoon vegetable oil and cook egg over medium heat without scrambling it. Egg should be round, flat, and cooked thoroughly.

Using the pan the bacon was cooked in add half the garlic and chopped bacon. Simmer for a minute or two over medium heat stirring occasionally to keep garlic from burning. After two minutes turn the burner up to medium high and add rice, soy sauce and egg. Mix well chopping egg into small pieces. Cook rice mixture on one side for four minutes, paying careful attention not to scorch it. After four minutes, stir the rice and cook for an additional four minutes. Rice will turn slightly brown and appear to have crisped up as the soy sauce caramelizes. After four minutes stir again. Add cashews, peas and carrots and cook for two more minutes. Remove and store in an airtight container until ready for use.

Chicken and Vegetables

In the same large non-stick pan over medium high heat add back the rendered fat from the bacon (approximately 1 Tablespoon). Add chicken, the remaining garlic, fresh ginger and soy sauce and cook over medium high heat for five minutes stirring occasionally until the meat is no longer visibly pink.

When the chicken is halfway cooked, add mushrooms and water and cook over medium heat another eight minutes until mushrooms are tender. After eight minutes remove chicken and mushrooms leaving any remaining broth. Add the pea pods to the broth and. cook for one two minutes over medium high heat, stirring often. Pea pods should remain bright green and crisp. After the pea pods have been blanched remove them from the pan.

To serve: Pea pods can be divided into equal amounts and used as an ornate base for the chicken and mushrooms which is also served in equal amounts. One half cup serving of rice is placed beside the chicken and mushrooms. Serve with additional soy sauce if desired.

Nutritional Information**
Total Calories 876
Total Servings 2

Amount Per Serving
Fat 21 g
Sat Fat. 6 g
Sodium 727 mg
Cholesterol 137 mg
Carbs 41 g
Protein 23 g

*It’s a good idea to keep ingredients like ginger, garlic, and soy sauce on hand. When stored properly they can last for up to a month or longer without spoiling or losing their flavor.
**All nutritional data is based on approximations.

Chef Tim Wade is a Personal Chef and owner of Culinaria in Raleigh, NC.

For more information about Chef Tim or Culinaria please visit their website.

January 24, 2010

January 24: Don't be intimidated. You CAN make bread.

French Bread

1 ¼ cup very warm water
1 Tbs. Malt flour (You can find this in the organic aisle, near the flour.)
1 Tbs. High gluten flour (same as above).
2 Tbs. Dry active yeast

Let stand ten minutes until bubbly. Pour into mixing bowl.

To mixing bowl add
1 tsp. Lemon juice
1 Tbs. sugar

¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. Sea salt
4—4-1/2 cups white bread flour

Mix with a dough hook on a kitchenaide until elastic, not sticky, like you can spank it—ten minutes. Remove bread from bowl, spray bowl with cooking spray and return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise one hour. Punch down and shape into loaves. Let rise one hour. Preheat oven to 450. Spray interior with water just before you put bread in. Place bread in oven. Spray again. Turn heat down to 400. Spray bread three times, every two minutes or so. This simulates a steam injected French oven. Total baking time 20-25 minutes. Cool on rack. Makes 2.

Conversation starter: What's the best loaf of bread you've ever had? Where was it?

January 23, 2010

January 23: A surprising favorite: broiled grapefruit

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”
John Gunther

Broiled Grapefruit

We had something similar to this on our first anniversary at a bed and breakfast on Pender Island, part of the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. This is a great starter dish for a formal brunch.

5 grapefruits, cut in half horizontally
1 cup walnuts
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cinnamon

Preheat broiler. Cut around each triangle section of the grapefruit half so your guests won’t have to dig! (There’s nothing worse than squirting yourself or your neighbor in the eye with grapefruit juice!) In food processor, briefly process walnuts, sugar, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Arrange grapefruits on a large jelly roll pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Top each grapefruit with crumbled mixture, pressing down to make sure it stays put. Broil until tops bubble and turn brown. Serve immediately. Makes ten.

Conversation starter: When was the last time you couldn't fall asleep? Why was it hard? What helped? What didn't?


January 22, 2010

Friend Fridays! A New Feature!

Every Friday, we'll feature one of your recipes. If you'd like to submit a recipe for approval, go here. Our inaugural recipe comes from Tosca Lee, an infamous author and chefette!

From Tosca: There’s hardly a recipe I didn’t learn from my mom and even at 40, is there ever anything better than one’s mother’s cooking? (Well, Mary’s comes close in my book!)
My Mother’s Beef and Burgundy 

6 strips bacon, cut in small pieces, browned crisp
3 pounds beef, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
3 T. flour
2 cans condensed beef broth
2 cups red burgundy wine
1 T. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound mushrooms, quartered

In electric skillet, brown meat in bacon fat, remove. In drippings, brown carrots and onions. Remove fat. Return bacon and beef to pan. Season with salt, pepper. Stir in flour. Add 1 1/2 cups broth. Add wine, tomato paste and herbs. Cover and simmer 3 hours. Saute mushrooms in 3 T. butter and 2 T. salad oil for 5 min. Take out. Add last of broth, simmer 10 min., add to beef mixture. Cut together 1/2 cup flour and 2 T. butter, add to beef and burgundy, stir. Bring to bubbling simmer, serve over egg noodles.

Conversation Starter: What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

January 21, 2010

January 21: Apple Pumpkin Soup

A good use for extra pumpkins!

Apple Pumpkin Soup

1 medium-sized pumpkin, seeds removed and cut into 8ths
2 apples, cored and peeled and sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream

Cook pumpkin in 400 degree oven one hour until tender. Saute apples, shallots and garlic in olive oil until shallots and apples begin to brown. Add baked pumpkin (scrape into soup, careful to not let any skin in), chicken stock and wine. Add salt and pepper. Cook 1 hour. Let cool. In batches, puree soup in blender. Return to pan. Add cream and stir until smooth. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, caramelized onions and roasted hazelnuts on top.

Conversation starter: Have you ever stolen anything? If so, what? Why?

January 20, 2010

January 20: Hot Cereal that's nutty and yummy

Ten Grain Hot Cereal

(You can find this in the hot cereal section or the organic sectionof your local grocery store. It looks like ground up grains andoffers ten different grains)

1 1/2 cups boiling water
pinch salt
1/2 cup 10 grain cereal
handful of craisins (I buy mine at Costco)
1-2 tsp. brown sugar (I use Truvia to keep the calories down)
handful of chopped almonds

Boil water in lidded saucepan. Add cereal and stir. Turn to low,cover, and simmer for ten minutes. Once done, add craisins, sugar and almonds. Serves two.

Conversation starter: If you could have any pet (even a lion!) what would it be?

January 19, 2010

January 19: Chicken Corn Chowder

One of our favorite soups, and very easy.

Chicken Corn Chowder

This is one of those cold-weather soups that children love as well as adults. Serve with cornbread sticks and a three-bean salad.

1 cup diced ham
2 Tbs. Butter
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 Tbs. All-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into one-inch dice
1 medium tomato, chopped finely
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups frozen corn kernels (Or cut kernels off three fresh cobs)
1 cup cooked chicken breast, torn
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

Place ham and butter in large soup pot and lightly sauté over medium heat, three minutes. Add onion and cook until onions are just starting to brown. Add flour and stir one minute over low heat, being careful not to burn the mixture. Pour in the stock and potatoes. Cook over medium heat for fifteen minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in tomato, cream, corn and chicken breast. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium low heat for fifteen minutes. Add parsley, stir through, and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Conversation starter: Describe the perfect day.

January 18, 2010

Get your recipe published on this blog!

Every Friday, we'll have Friend Fridays where I'll post one of your recipes. Here are the guidelines:
  1. Send a picture either of YOU or your recipe.
  2. It must be your recipe. (Don't use a published recipe. But do know this: If you change amounts or some ingredients, the published recipe becomes YOURS. So it's okay if you use an existing recipe that you altered.) 
  3. Write a conversation starter
  4. Send picture, recipe (in the body of an email, not in an attachment, please), a link to your blog or website, and the conversation starter to my lovely assistant Carla: CARLA2004S@peoplepc.com. 
We'll start posting recipes starting this Friday!

January 18: An easy, good for you smoothie

I make these at least 3 times a week. An easy, calorie smart breakfast.

Yogurt Smoothie:

1 1/2 cups nonfat plain yogurt (buy the big tubs of this for cheaper)

1 handfull of frozen mixed berries (I buy mine at Costco to save $)
1 frozen banana (When the bananas start turning, put them in the freezer, no peel, in a ziplock)

Throw in a blender and blend. It's filling and yummy!

Conversation starter: Describe a time you won a race.

January 17, 2010

January 17: Crockpot Moroccan Chicken

Our kids love this recipe, even though it's a bit alternative!

Crockpot Moroccan Chicken

2 Tbs olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut up (or more if you have a bigger family), skin off
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbs. ras el hanout spice mix (or you can use really good curry powder)
a few saffron threads
1 cup chicken stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cups dried halved apricots
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup orange juice
salt and pepper

Saute onions and chicken in skillet in olive oil until browned. Add to crockpot. Add everything else, stir and cook on low for the day. Serve with rice or cous cous.

Conversation starter: List five things you'd do if you were president.

January 16, 2010

January 16: Corn bread that's got some whole grain.

What a dream! We saw Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian. Love that lady!

Whole wheat corn bread

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup corn meal
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 Tbs. baking powder

Mix eggs, milk, sugar, oil, and salt in medium bowl. Combine flour, corn meal and baking powder in large mixing cup. Pour into wet mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour in 9x11 greased pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean.

Serve with honey butter:

1/4 cup butter, softened
7 Tbs. honey

Whisk together.

Conversation starter: If you could travel anywhere in space, where would you go? Who would you take with you? What would you pack in one suitcase?

January 15, 2010

January 15: Marinated Love!

Marinated Flank Steak over open flame

I find the simplest things taste the best. This easy marinade works well for all red meat, particularly steaks and kabobs.

1-2 pound flank steak

1 Tbs. Montreal steak seasoning*

5 Tbs. Soy sauce

¼ cup red wine

Place flank steak and marinade in zippered plastic bag. Marinate all day. Heat grill to medium high. Cook 5-8 minutes per side until middle is pink, not red. Slice vertically at a 45-degree angle very thinly. An electric knife slices a flank very nicely. Serve with roasted potatoes and a tossed green salad.

*You can find Montreal steak seasoning at most grocery stores in the spice aisle. This spice is the best thing you can find to season a steak.

Kebab note: If you would like to make kabobs, be sure to marinate the cubed red meat separately from the veggies. I like to marinate zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers and red onions in any store bought Italian dressing. Alternate meat and vegetables on a metal or soaked wooden skewer and place on the grill immediately. These take very little time to cook, so have your turning tongs and your serving platter handy.

Tri tip love: Our favorite cut of steak is tri-tip. Beef tri-tip is a boneless cut of meat from the bottom sirloin. It also is called "triangular" roast because of its shape. Most grocery stores on the west coast have it. If you can’t find it, ask your butcher to cut it for you. This well marbled and very flavorful beef cut has been one of the beef industry's best-kept secrets. It’s cheaper and tenderer than a New York cut. Marinate the tri-tip in the above marinade and grill on high, about 3-5 minutes per side for medium rare.

Conversation starter: Make up a song about tonight's dinner. Winner gets the first slice of dessert.

January 14, 2010

January 14: An easy, amazing dessert using overripe pears

This recipe was born from overripe pears I couldn't bear to throw away. My kids love this dessert!

Pears a la Mary

5 pears, halved, cored and peeled
3 Tbs. butter
5 Tbs. raspberry jam
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup heavy cream

slivered almonds for garnish

Saute pears in butter in non-stick pan until they are browned. In the meantime, spread a dollop of raspberry jam in a 5 inch circle on a dessert plate. Place chocolate, powdered sugar, vanilla, butter and cream in microwavable container. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave 30 more seconds. Stir. Repeat until melted through. Place two pear halves on top of jammed plates. Drizzle chocolate over. Top with nuts.

Conversation starter: What's your favorite pair of shoes right now? What was your favorite pair three years ago? Why?

January 13, 2010

January 13: Tomato Basil Soup. Yum!

Another picture at our dining table in Southern France. We spent many, many nights with friends around this table, and one of our favorite things to serve (in the winter) was soup.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

This soup is especially lovely with homemade garlic-olive oil croutons and a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream.

½ red onion, chopped finely
6 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbs. Olive oil
4 cups fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped (Or you can use two cans of canned, chopped plum
tomatoes . . . just be sure they are uncooked, not stewed.)
1 ½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and garlic over medium heat in soup pot until onions are starting to brown, about five minutes. Add tomatoes, broth and basil. Cook over medium heat until tomatoes are cooked through, fifteen minutes. Add cream. Cool soup to room temperature. In batches, puree soup in blender. (To eliminate the cooling step, puree the hot soup with a hand held blender.) Return soup to pan and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low until ready to serve. Serves four.

Conversation starter: Describe the last time you built a snowman.

January 12, 2010

January 12: Yum! Orange-glazed cinnamon rolls from scratch. YOU CAN DO IT!

This picture is taken in France. Can you tell? My family loved these tasty rolls. On Sundays, we always have a brunch. Seeing this picture reminds me to make these again soon. Don't be intimidated by yeast. It's really not hard if you proof it as the recipe says.

Mary's Orange-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

1 1/4 cup very warm water
1 packet yeast
1 Tbs. sugar

3 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg

In clear container, combine water, yeast and sugar. Stir. Let sit five minutes until the top foams and is bubbly.

In large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add yeast mixture. If you don't have a Kitchenaide, combine with a spoon and then knead five minutes. If you do, hooray!, just attach the dough hook and let it combine and knead the dough for five minutes. Spray bowl with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand one hour until double. Roll out dough into a long rectangle (probably 12 inches by 20 inches).

Pour 1/4 cup melted butter over the surface and spread evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar (you determine the amount) over that. Beginning from the long end, roll up the dough. To cut, use sewing thread. Move the thread under the dough, about an inch in, and then pull each end of the thread together. Place on greased cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and keep cool (in the fridge) over night.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


1 package cream cheese
1/4 cup orange juice
zest from one orange
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine ingredients until smooth. Pour glaze over cinnamon rolls. Enjoy!

Conversation starter:  Make up new words to Row, Row, Row your boat.

January 11, 2010

January 11: An amazing, non-packagy casserole

I first started following this recipe from the Junior League, Creme de Colorado cookbook. I've modified it over the years, making it less fattening.

Chicken Artichoke Heart Casserole

4 whole chicken breasts (boneless)
1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts (either frozen or canned)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth (The best thing, and cheapest, is Chicken Food Base at Costco.)
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbs green onions
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup bread crumbs

Saute chicken in a little olive oil until done. Cut into large chunks. Layer chicken and artichoke in a 9x13 pan. Melt butter in medium sauce pan, add flour to create a roux. Add chicken broth and stir until thickened and combined. Add wine and cheddar and onions over low heat. Stir until melted. Pour sauce over casserole. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle over casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with rice or pasta. 

Conversation starter: Who would you most like to receive a birthday card from? Why?

January 10, 2010

January 10: The Beauty of the Crock

I love the convenience and all-day-aroma of the crockpot.

Crockpot Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

In bottom of crockpot, add:
1/2 chopped onion
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. fresh ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 Tbs. ketchup
1/4 4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. sesame oil

Stir together. Add 4-8 pork chops and toss to coat. Cook all day. Serve with stir fried veggies and rice.
If y

Conversation starter: If you could spend one day in Holland, what would you do?

January 09, 2010

January 9: Myzithra, what?

We first ate this dish at the Spaghetti Factory in Seattle. If you'd like to always be ready for a quick, amazing meal, buy myzithra cheese at your local grocer (They have it at Kroger), then put it in a ziplock and freeze it. You don't need much to make this. One small block makes several meals.

Spaghetti a la Homer

3/4 stick butter
2 garlic cloves smashed
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated myzithra cheese (found in the specialty cheese case; it’s Greek)

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and place on four plates. Melt butter in saucepan. Add pressed garlic and salt and pepper. Stir butter constantly until brown. (It can burn, so make sure it only browns). Sprinkle cheese and parsley over noodles. Drizzle browned butter over the top. Makes four servings.

Conversation starter:  What activity in your life right now brings you the most joy?

January 08, 2010

January 8: Taquitos don't have to come from the freezer section

Homemade Taquitos

The first time I tasted homemade taquitos, I was hooked. It takes a bit of prep time, but everyone will enjoy your effort. Serve alongside homemade salsa, guacamole and Spanish rice. Makes 24 taquitos.

1 ½ cup leftover beef brisket, or chuck roast, shredded

1 can black beans

1 Tbs. Dried cumin

¼ cup salsa

1 small can green mild chilies

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

½ cup chopped onion

24 corn tortillas

2 cups peanut or canola oil

Combine meat, beans, cumin, salsa, chilies, cheese, and onion in food processor until it has the consistency of peanut butter, about one minute. Heat oil in deep frying pan to medium high heat. One by one, drop corn tortillas into oil and remove quickly. (This makes them easier to handle and roll.) Stack on paper towel-laden plate. When cool, press the tortillas down, squeezing extra oil back into frying pan, remembering to turn off the heat.

Spread a heaping tablespoon of bean mixture over the middle half of corn tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down on cookie sheet until all taquitos are rolled. Heat oil to medium high again. Place eight rolled tortillas, seam side down in hot oil. With tongs, turn taquitos over after 2-3 minutes, making sure they have browned. When both sides are finished, place on cookie sheet in a warm oven (325 degrees) and cook next two batches.

Conversation starter: Describe the perfect vacation.

January 07, 2010

January 7: Stew on this awhile

Beef Stew

“Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and
home-made bread—there may be.”
David Grayson, Adventures in Contentment, 1907

This is a particularly wonderful stew to concoct for a crock-pot. That way, the stew warms the house with its aroma. To prepare the stew for company, ladle stew into individual oven proof bowls, top with puff pastry and cook until pastry is browned, 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Call it stew en croute!

1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (See note, page . . . about chopping onions)
1 ½ pounds beef chuck, cubed into 1 ½ inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbs. All purpose flour
1 tsp. Sea salt
1 tsp. Freshly ground pepper
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
5 medium red potatoes, cubed
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley (or 3 Tbs. Dried)
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
3 Tbs. Ketchup
1 cup red wine
1 ¼ cup beef broth
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

In large nonstick skillet, sauté onions over medium heat until caramelized (See note, page … about caramelizing onions) Add beef and brown on all sides. Add garlic, flour, salt and pepper and stir through. Remove from heat. In a large crock- pot or stew pot, add carrots, potatoes, parsley and meat mixture. Combine mustard, ketchup, red wine, broth and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk until well mixed. Pour over stew. Let simmer all day over very low heat. Serves four very hungry people, or an average-sized family.

Conversation starter: Describe a time when you couldn't let go of something someone did to you (in other words, you stewed about it.) What helped you get over it?

January 06, 2010

January 6: Clammed up

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup.”

Clam Chowder

To save time and hassle, this recipe calls for canned clams. If possible, it’s better to buy whole clams instead of chopped clams. Serve this chowder with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread and a tossed green salad. For a special presentation, purchase small sourdough rounds, hollow them out, bake them opened for twenty minutes at 350 and ladle soup into sourdough “bowls.”

8 ounces bacon, fat removed as much as possible

2 Tbs. Butter

1 ½ yellow onions, chopped finely

¼ cup flour

24 ounces canned whole clams (4 tuna-sized cans)

¼ cup water

6 medium red potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes with peel

black pepper and salt to taste

4 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Cut bacon into ½ inch dice. Cook bacon in a deep soup pot over medium heat until crispy and slightly browned. Drain half the fat. Add butter and onions and sauté until onions are just starting to brown. Add flour, stirring constantly over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Drain the clam’s juices into the soup pot and add ¼ cup water. Add potatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer on medium until the potatoes are tender—about ten minutes. Add canned clams and stir through. Pour in milk and heavy cream. Stir over medium heat until soup is warmed through. (Do not boil, or the soup will separate.) Add parsley right before serving. Adjust salt and pepper. Serves six.

Conversation starter: Describe a time when you clammed up. Were you in front of an audience? A teacher? A parent? Why did you clam up?

January 05, 2010

January 5: Stuff that Piggy!

Rolled Stuffed Pork Loin

Guests will think you worked hard on this one. Be sure to throw some flour on your face to accomplish the deception.

1 3-5 pound pork loin roast
¾ cup pitted prunes (or you can substitute ½ cup dried cranberries)
¼ cup red wine
¼ cup walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, or hazelnuts
½ apple, cored and cute into cubes
4 Tbs. Dijon mustard

To prepare roast: With a sharp knife, cut roast into one long, wide strip as if you are uncoiling a cinnamon roll. The initial incision should be one inch thick. The roast will lay flat when you are finished.

Place prunes, wine, nuts and apple in food processor and process until smooth, 30 seconds. (If you don’t have a processor, chop the prunes, nuts and apples by hand, place in a bowl and stir wine through.)

Spread stuffing over roast and roll it back onto itself, securing with butcher’s string (or any non-hairy string . . . Yarn doesn’t work!) Spread Dijon mustard over top and sides of secured roast.

Place roast in a roasting pan that has been slightly greased with olive oil. Bake at 325 degrees for 1-½ hours or until the internal temperature reaches …degrees. A five pound roast will take ½ hour longer. Slice vertically to show the roulade of the meat and fruit.

Conversation starter: Remake the rhyme "This little piggie went to market."

January 04, 2010

January 4: Crepes, the perfect food of JOY!!!

Crepes a la Mary

I’ve been making these crepes nearly twenty years now. Forget the gimmicky crepe makers—all you need to make crepes successfully is a sturdy, non-stick pan and cooking spray. Our favorite way to eat them is Parisian style—rolled up with a smearing of Nutella inside. Raspberry jam and Nutella are also a great combination. Aidan eats them like pancakes, sliced into squares and topped with maple syrup. If you’d like to take this recipe and use it to fill crepes with meat or mushrooms, omit the sugar.

1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. sugar
5 eggs
1 ½ cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbs. Melted butter
cooking spray

In food processor or blender, add ingredients in order. Process 30 seconds until smooth. Pour into large measuring cup with a pouring spout. Heat heavy-bottomed non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Pour a six-inch dollop of batter into the middle of the pan. Tilt the pan in a circular motion until the six-inch dollop spreads, creating a ten-inch crepe. When the sheen is gone and the crepe’s surface bubbles have popped, flip over the crepe in one smooth motion with a non-metal spatula. Let cook 30-40 additional seconds. Place crepe on ovenproof plate and keep in a 250 degree oven. If your pan is heated up, each crepe should take no longer than a minute and a half. Repeat process until batter is spent. Place warmed crepes on table. Serve with fresh berries, whipped cream, Nutella, powdered sugar, maple syrup, or anything else your breakfast crowd desires. Makes 16 ten-inch crepes.

Side note: Did you know that crepes sing? Once you’ve flipped them over, if you press down on them, you should hear a multi-pitched whistle emit from the hundreds of tiny holes. My children love to hear the crepes sing.

Conversation starter: If you could be a character from a children's book, who would you be? Why?

January 03, 2010

Welcome to A Daily Recipe

It hit my while making brownies from scratch. How I love to cook. How I love to feed my family as a labor of culinary love. How my food posts on Facebook get the most response. How badly I want to write a cookbook. As I finished my brownie making (stay tuned for the recipe), I thought about you and your desire to cook for your families.

Why not give you something yummy & easy & different every day? Voila! A Daily Recipe is born. Earmark this blog; subscribe to it; send it to friends. Every day you'll receive an original recipe from yours truly . . . an author, a mommy, a part time gardener, a cook, a wife, a pet owner, a reluctant exerciser. Learn some fun techniques to make leftovers into aha food moments. Eat food you've never tried. Be adventurous. Only stop on by.

An added bonus: Every day, I'll share a conversation starter you can use with your family and friends TONIGHT!

Welcome to my table, to our family, to a slower way of eating food, enjoying conversation, and delighting your taste buds.

January 3: Espresso Brownies, the best of all worlds

Who couldn't resist coffee and chocolate morphed together in a brownie? I developed these several years ago as a use for my hubby's leftover espresso. The brownies have no leavening other than eggs, so they're decadent and rich.

3/4 cup cocoa powder (the baking kind, no sweetening)
1/2 cup old coffee or espresso
3/4 cup butter (yep! so fattening!)

Microwave the above in a glass measuring cup for 30 second intervals (stir between) until butter is melted. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add:

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Conversation starter: What is the best chocolate you ever had? Where? Why was it so exceptional?

January 02, 2010

January 2: Happy, Angry Chicken

(My sincerest apologies to the chicken above. She's actually a laying hen and won't meet her demise.)

This is one of our family favorites. You can substitute a fleshy white fish (like halibut) or pork tenderloin, or even scallops.

Rice hint: the proportion is typically 1 to 2. 1 part rice to two parts water. Bring to a boil, place a lid on the conglomeration, then let it sit on the lowest setting for 20 minutes.

Sweet and Sour Chicken (aka Happy, Angry Chicken)

1 Tbs. Cornstarch

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbs. Soy sauce

3 Tbs. Ketchup

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup chicken broth

Combine above ingredients in a lidded jar and shake until combined. Set aside.

1 red onion, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 tsp. Sesame oil

2 Tsp. Canola oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into one inch cubes

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

¾ cup sugar snap peas

½ cup chopped carrots

In wok, or non stick skillet, sauté onions and garlic on medium high heat in oils until onions are transparent. Add chicken, peppers, peas and carrots and cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Add sauce to mixture and cook through until sauce thickens, about two minutes. Serve with sticky rice. Serves 4.

Conversation Starter: Describe a time when you were "chicken" about something. Did you overcome your fear? How?

January 01, 2010

January 1: An Apple a Day

One of my favorite salads involves apples, and since we're to eat one a day, this is a nice way to accomplish this.

1 head of red leaf lettuce (or butterhead, or whatever kind you like)
1 apple, cut into slices, skin on
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup gorgonzola (fancy name for blue cheese, or you can use feta), crumbled
1/4 cup craisins


1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped green onions
1 Tbs. maple syrup (pure is best, but you can use Mrs. B if you want)
salt and pepper to taste

Conversation starter: Tell us the weirdest/wildest New Year's resolution you've ever made.