Friday, June 29, 2007

Best $5 I Ever Spent

Well, maybe not the best, but it definitely comes close!

I used to think "why the heck does anyone need that?! Use a potato peeler for goodness sake...!" and then I broke down and bought one because I realized how cheap they were and I was feeling like I needed a new gadget. Well, my goodness! What a revelation! These have to be one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime! I'm really not sure how I managed without it...!

My soon-to-be new apron :)

I am about to order a $40 apron! Not like I need it, I have an apron that works just fine, but this one is just so darn cute. Besides, I had a rough year at work (lots of drama but that is all better now!) so I think I deserve it as my "End-of-the-school-year" present to myself... and, it is a whole lot cheaper than the blue Dooney and Burke purse I've been eying!

Here it is my soon-to-be apron (I'm getting the turquoise one)! Hooray for cute but unnecessary kitchen goodies!

Tortoise Crossing

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bake Space

So I was looking through blogs yesterday and came across an icon for BakeSpace.
I ended up joining and just found out I was the 10,000th person to join! How funny! I logged in today and had some "Brownie Points" - a virtual bouquet of roses to congratulate me :)
Just had to brag a bit ;)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blueberry-Lemon Cobbler

This is another entry into the Second Round of the Platinum Chef Challenge.

***Dessert Recipe #2: Lemon-Blueberry Cobbler Pie***

I was just reading through the recipe I have for the lemon-blueberry cobbler and I do not like it at all! Major changes have been made. :)

I was pretty excited when I found out one of the Platinum Chef ingredients for this round was blueberries - for such a small fruit, they are a power house of nutrients! I actually "dropped" a couple cinnamon-sugar-lemon coated blueberries on the cutting board while I was filling the pie crust... wow! They were good! Can't wait to see what the cooked ones taste like. The cooked ones are even better... this pie is so sweet and fruity - I think all the extra lemon I threw in there really worked!

I would have taken a photo of the "slice" I just devoured but I couldn't get a neat piece out of the pie tin to save my life... maybe when most of it is gone (shouldn't take long!) I'll be able to get a photo of the "interior."

For the filling:
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 pints (4 cups) blueberries
2 tsp. lemon juice

1 pre-baked pie crust (9-inch)

For the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. lemon peel
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
1. In a large bowl, combine 2/3 cup sugar, the lemon peel and cinnamon. Add the blueberries and lemon juice; stir to combine.

2. In another bowl, mix together the dry topping ingredients (1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp. lemon peel, and 1/2 tsp. salt). Add the egg and 1 tsp. lemon juice and toss until crumbly.

3. Spoon the filling into the pre-baked pie crust. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture with the crumbly topping. Drizzle the topping with the melted butter.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the topping is bubbly and browned. Excellent with a scoop of lemon sorbet or, the old stand-by, vanilla ice cream.

Reference: The original recipe came from the August/September 2005 issue of Cooking Pleasures magazine which is published by the Cooking Club of America.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Three-C Pizza (Corn, Chili, Cheddar)

This is entry #1 on the savoury side of the second Platinum Chef Challenge. Ingredients for this round of the challenge were cheese, corn, hot peppers, blueberries, and lemons. Enjoy this vegetarian pizza - excellent as a light lunch or dinner. I served mine with a crispy green salad. I had this for dinner last night since hubby was in class - it was yummy, but I think it was a bit bland. I would mix in some salsa or Tabasco/other hot sauce with the egg mixture to give it a bit more kick.

Enough for 6

2 jalapeno peppers (use more or less depending on how hot you want it!)
Cooking spray
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Fresh salsa or some hot sauce to taste (I'd use about 1/2 cup medium salsa for 6 people)
6 whole wheat pita breads
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Slice the peppers and remove the seeds. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes until they are blackened, turning occasionally. . Let them stand for 10 minutes.

2. Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

3. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the corn, onions, and garlic. Saute the corn mixture for 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in the milk and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until liquid has almost evaporated. Cool slightly.

4. Place the egg whites, egg, salt, and black pepper in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Stir in the jalapenos, corn mixture, salsa or hot sauce, and cheese.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the pita breads on the sheet and spread them with the corn mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until the topping is set. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving. Serve with a side of fresh salsa and a green salad.

***I also think these would make a yummy brunch dish - serve them on English muffins instead of the pita bread bases.***


I used the Roasted Fresh Corn, Poblano, and Cheddar Pizza from the July 2005 issue of Cooking Light for the inspiration for this recipe. As you can see, I tweaked it quite a bit!

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas

I've been trying to come up with something tasty that I can make for the second round of the Platinum Chef Challenge. The ingredients we have to work with are great - corn, hot peppers, and cheese on the savoury side and blueberries and citrus on the sweet side. The sweets were easy and I knew I wanted to do something Mexican for the savoury recipes, I just couldn't think of what! I was going to do an enchilada thing - maybe use my basic chicken enchilada recipe and add some corn to it but that seemed not very challenging. I just found a recipe for some quesadillas which incorporated corn so I tweaked that to my liking and came up with the following... enjoy!

These are really tasty - the jalapeno adds a nice kick - and are relatively healthy since they have several different veggies and plenty of protein from the beans (great for vegetarians).

This recipe could be used as an appetizer or you could pair it with some rice and a crispy salad to be used as a light lunch or dinner. Additionally, you could add some grilled chicken or carne asada for some extra protein. However, rice and beans are complimentary proteins so if you serve this with some rice you really wouldn't need anything else.

Serves 4

1 ear of corn or 4 servings of frozen corn (yes, I cheated and used the frozen corn! I am sure it's amazing with the "real" stuff... I'll try that next time)
1/2 (15-oz.) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup total red and white onion, chopped (you can just use one type of onion or you could sub green onions)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced and seeded

1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey-jack cheese


1. Heat the grill. Remove the silk from the corn but leave the husks intact. Place the corn on a gas grill over medium-high heat and grill for about 12 minutes until the corn is tender. Turn the corn frequently during grilling. Remove the corn from the grill and allow it to cool. If you use frozen corn, just cook the corn according to package directions.

2. Remove the husks from the corn and use a sharp knife to scrape off the kernels. Place the corn kernels in a medium bowl (do this if you use frozen or fresh corn).

3. Add the beans, onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt to the corn. Spread the corn mixture evenly over half of each tortilla and sprinkle each with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling.

I think the filling, without cheese, would make a wonderful salsa!

4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the quesadillas to the skillet and cook for 8 minutes, turning once.

Enjoy with rice. Other options are salsa, low-fat or fat-free sour cream, and guacamole; however, I think these have enough flavour that you don't need a lot of "extras."

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Cooking Club of America's Cooking Pleasures Magazine.


I worked at a Mexican restaurant for a little while during college and remember having chilaquiles for the first time at a brunch we had there... wow! Mexican breakfast food is so wonderful! I recently found this recipe in my lovely "San Diego Restaurant Cookbook" and had to try it. The recipe is from the El Pollo Grill restaurants.

Chilaquiles in Red Sauce
Serves 6

6 medium-sized tomatoes, I seeded mine then cut them into strips
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 serrano chili pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups water
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup oil
1 dozen corn tortillas, each cut into 8 pieces
4 eggs, beaten
Additional diced onions
Grated cotija cheese (or any Mexican cheese - asadero, Monterey jack, queso quesadilla. Good ol' cheddar makes a fine substitute if that's all you have. You could also do a mix of several cheeses).

Prepare Sauce:
1. In a blender, blend the tomatoes, tomato paste, chili, salt, and 1 cup of water.

2. In a medium skillet, saute the onions in some of the oil until the onions become translucent. Add the tomato mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer while you start the chilaquiles.

Prepare Chilaquiles:
1. In a large skillet, heat the rest of the oil for about 10 minutes. Add the tortilla triangles and cook until they are crispy and medium-brown in colour (you want them to be crispy so they don't get too soggy later on). Do not let the tortillas burn. Remove the tortillas from the oil and place them on a paper towel.

2. Add the beaten eggs to the tomato sauce and raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Add the fried tortillas and 2 cups of water. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with a garnish of diced raw onions and cotija cheese, if desired.

I didn't take any photos, because it really does not look all that appetizing! They do taste so good, though, and really that's all that matters! Enjoy!

Croce, Ingrid (2005). The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook: Recipes from America's Finest City. Avalanche Records and Books: San Diego, CA.

Michele Coulon - Bakery Rave

I have had cake from this bakery twice now - it is probably the best cake I have ever eaten (and, believe me, I've had lots of good cake!) I think my favourite thing about this bakery is that they use as much locally-grown and organic produce as they can - something that is very important to me. The cake is quite pricey but, IMO, worth it - there is a piece in my fridge which is calling my name loud and clear!!
I have to start dropping hints to my hubby about my upcoming birthday!! lol

Here's the link:
I've never tried the "food" there, just the cake, but I have a friend coming into town this weekend so I think we might be making a trip to La Jolla!

Minestrone Soup with Basil Pesto

This is a recipe from the book "The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook" which was compiled by Ingrid Croce (yes, Jim's widow)... it's such a great book - probably one of my favourites! This recipe is from the restaurant Arrivederci in the Hillcrest area.

The recipe will ser
ve 6

***This recipe could be made vegetarian if you use the vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. In addition, you could make it vegan by leaving out the pesto (or making pesto without the Parm - can you do that?) and the Parmesan cheese topping.***

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped

2 cups white wine
2 potatoes, diced (I used red potatoes and left the skins on. The original recipe said to peel them)
1 cup tubettini pasta (I didn't have that, so I just used some penne)
5 cups vegetable stock or water (you could use chicken stock, I used vegetable to keep this recipe vegetarian)
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan as a garnish

Prepare pesto:
In a blender or food processor, combine the fresh basil, pine nuts, 2 cloves of garlic, the virgin olive oil, and Parm cheese. Process for 5 minutes.

Prepare the minestrone:

1. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan. Stir in onion, 2 cloves of garlic, celery, and carrots. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the white wine, potatoes, and pasta. Cook for 2 minutes more. Add the water or stock, and stir well. Add bay leaves, oregano, and dried basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Allow the soup to come to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pesto and stir very well for a few minutes. Garnish with grated Parmesan just before serving.

Croce, Ingrid (2005). The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook: Recipes from America's Finest City. Avalanche Records and Books: San Diego, CA.

Dinner at The Barrel Room

Saturday was a friend's bachelorette day (really, it was a whole day!) - for part of it we went to The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo for dinner and some wine. Since we'd had a huge lunch after girling it up at a spa, we just ordered "The Board" which was a perfect compliment to the two wine flights we ordered. For the wine we got the Xamine Your Zinfandel flight and the Filmmaker's Flight (there were only 4 of us and we'd just come from the Orfila Winery in Escondido where we'd also been tasting! The two flights were plenty).
For food/"The Board" we chose the turkey, applewood bacon, and the sopressata for the meats, and dill havarti, smoked gouda, and gorgonzola for the cheeses. Dipping sauces - garlic aioli, honey mustard, and a balsamic vinaigrette. The board also came with crusty bread (they will refill your bread for you). We also ordered the olive plate appetizer as an additional snack.
I highly recommend it if you will be in the north San Diego area!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Wow! These are good. While I was making these, I started thinking about all the cherry desserts I love - Cherry Garcia ice cream (my fave!), cherry cobbler, cherry pie, cherries just by themselves... so many good ones!
I got the inspiration for these from Annie on the nest but then I used my own recipe which I just tweaked a bit. Decided it would be better to use ingredients I already had than to run to the grocery store! If the recipe sounds familiar (!) it's because I used the recipe for my double-chocola
te banana and double-chocolate strawberry breads; used cherries for the fruit and cut the cooking time to suit the muffin-sized pans.
Here they are. I made 12 good-sized muffins with this recipe.

Chocolate Cherry Muffins
1 cup sugar

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil or apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup chopped fresh cherries (the original recipe called for 2/3 cup dried cherries if you'd prefer to use those)
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

1. If you are using fresh cherries, you will want to start by washing and drying them and then chopping them up. It's a bit of a bugger to cut them because of those pesky cherry pits... An easy way to do it is to pretend the cherry is a miniature avocado - take a knife and cut from the top to the bottom of the cherry (cut through to the pit) and all the way around (I would describe it as cutting from the north pole to the south - OK, so I'm an elementary school teacher/I have odd ways of describing things!). Wiggle the two halves of the cherry apart then use your knife (careful!) or a finger to remove the pit. The nice thing about this recipe is that it doesn't matter what the cherries look like since you can't see them amongst all the chocolate! Chop the cherries up into whatever sized pieces you'd like.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake papers or use cooking spray to grease the muffin pan "holes" (can't think of the name of those things!)

3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and oil at medium speed until mixed. Beat in the vanilla.

4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda; beat into the sugar/egg mixture at low speed until it is just combined. Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips. I highly recommend using a wooden spoon or a rubber/silicone spatula to mix in the chips and fruit.

5. Spoon the batter into the lined/greased muffin pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean (I usually test it on the two muffins in the center of the pan). Cool them for 10 minutes in the pan then cool completely on a wire rack.

I'm thinking these would be wonderful with a scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream.. :) I tried it.. they were wonderful with a scoop of Cherry Garcia. Ok, ok, I confess, I used generic "Cherry Garcia" (!) they were still good. RIP Jerry!!

The original recipe can be found at: Annie's Eats.

Where's the Coffee???

Funny story - I've always thought coffee cake would be made with coffee... guess not! I'm making one for a church coffee hour this weekend and had to search for a recipe - can you believe none of my cook books had one?
Here's the recipe I found on no coffee, but it does sound tasty and easy to make!
Just pulled this out of the oven - it looks and smells amazing! Photos coming soon!

1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1 cup plain yogurt (the original recipe called for sour cream but I realized I didn't have any so I subbed yogurt)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar (yes, in addition to the cup above. You need them separated).
2 tsp. ground cinnamon


1. Place a rack on the lowest level of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube or angel-food pan.

2. In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup of sugar and the butter. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture. Finally, stir in the water, vanilla, and sour cream or yogurt. ***If you are using a KA/other stand mixer to mix this cake, I do not recommend using it to mix in the water/vanilla/yogurt mix! I did this and it made a huge mess. Instead, mix it in by hand until it's not so runny, then return it to the stand mixer to work out the

3. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, and cinnamon. I actually split this into two batches - 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon each - this way, I had equal amounts for the center of the cake and the top. Pour half the cake batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the nut mixture over this layer. Top the nut mixture with the remaining cake
batter and sprinkle the top with the remaining nut mixture.

4. Bake for 50-60 minutes on the lowest rack of the oven (50 and it was perfect in my oven) - I checked it with a cake tester for done-ness. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

The cinnamon-sugar and walnut topping was really delicious! I really think it made the whole cake! I wish I had a photo of it after I cut into it... the middle layer "swirled" a bit so it looked almost like a marble cake - very pretty!

The original recipe was Coffee Cake Supreme which was posted on All Recipes by Allison O'Brien.

Ladies... Start Your Coffee Makers!

Sorry, not a coffee recipe...! It is; however, something wonderful to enjoy with a coffee. The first time I made biscotti I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. I had been "scared" of it for years and finally took the plunge. Very tasty. These recipes are from Nick "God of Cookies" Malgieri's book "Cookies Unlimited."

According to the book, the word biscotti means "twice cooked." Just thought I'd throw in a free Italian lesson for you there!

Please by sure to read "Tips for Biscotti" at the bottom of this post.

***Orange and Almond Biscotti***
Just made this today - they are heavenly. So, I hunted high and low (well, 3 grocery stores *including the "ritzy" one near my parents' house, and my mom's cabinets - she has all kinds of weird baking stuff! - I could not find candied orange peel to save my life. :( Oh well, I decided to just get some chunky marmalade and dig the bits of orange peel out of that.. almost the same thing! We'll see how it works... It works! I ended up using a bit less than 2/3 of a cup with the marmalade - really great!
I bet this would be amazing with a nice iced coffee - nothing fancy; just strong brewed coffee with some milk/cream poured over ice. Nice summery coffee break.

**Probably should have taken that broken one out of the photo! lol... these were so delicious - nice and light and quite tender for a biscotti. The marmalade worked wonderfully!**

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup candied orange peel, cut into 1/4 inch diced pieces (see note above - I subbed 1/3 cup plus about another 1/6 of a cup of orange marmalade. I just did my best at pulling out the pieces of orange peel. Worked really well!)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange

1. Prepare pans by covering 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil (or use a silicone baking mat).

2. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

3. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir well to mix.

4. Cut the butter into six or eight pieces and add to the bowl. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Reach down to the bottom of the bowl and make sure no dry ingredients "escape" the butter (what is this? Alcatraz?!) Rub and distribute the butter evenly until there are no longer any large pieces of butter and the mixture is cool and powdery.

5. Add the almonds and orange peel to the flour and butter mixture and toss to combine.

6. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and add the dry ingredients. Use a large rubber spatula to stir the ingredients together until they form a dough.

7. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and press it together. Shape the dough into a 12-inch cylinder and divide it in half. Roll each half under your hands to re-form it as a thinner 12-inch cylinder. Place the logs on one of the prepared pans, not too close to each other or to the sides of the pan. Use the palm of your hand to gently flatten the logs.

8. Bake the logs for 25-30 minutes or until they are well-risen, well-coloured, and firm when pressed with a fingertip. Place the pan on a rack to cool.

9. Reset the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven but leave the temperature at 350 degrees. Place each of the cooled logs on a cutting board and slice them diagonally every 1/3 inch. Arrange the biscotti on the prepared pans, cut side down. You don't need to leave space between them - they will not spread. Bake the biscotti for 15-20 minutes or until they are well toasted. Cool on the pan on a rack.

Store the biscotti between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

***Classic Tuscan Biscotti a.k.a. Cantuccini***
This will make 60 biscotti.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups whole unblanched almonds
3 large eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. Prepare pans by covering 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil (or use a silicone baking mat).

2. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

3. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and cinnamon; stir well to mix it all together. Stir in the almonds.

4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla. Use a rubber spatula to stir the eggs into the dry ingredients. Continue to stir until a stiff dough forms.

5. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Roll each half under the palms of your hands into a cylinder a little shorter than the baking sheet. Place the logs of dough onto the baking sheet, making sure they are not too close to each other or to the sides of the pan. Press down gently with the palm of your hand to flatten the logs.

6. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the logs are well-risen and have also spread to about double their original size. The logs are done if they feel firm when pressed with a fingertip. Place the pan on a rack and let the logs cool completely.

7. Reset the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven but leave the temperature at 350 degrees. Place each of the cooled logs on a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/3 inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti on the prepared pans, cut side down. You don't need to leave space between them - they will not spread any more. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they are well-toasted. Cool the pan on a rack.

8. Store the biscotti between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

***Chocolate Chunk Biscotti***
Makes about 60 bisotti
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted after measuring
2 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6 ounces milk chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare pans by covering 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil (or use a silicone baking mat).

2. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

3. In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; stir well to mix. Stir in the sugar and chocolates.

4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla and using a large rubber spatula stir the eggs into the flour mixture to form a dough.

5. On a lightly floured surface, press the dough together - it will be sticky. Flour your hands and the surface lightly, but do not add any more flour to the dough. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a log the length of your pan. Place the logs on a pan, making sure they are not too close to each other or to the sides of the pan. Press down lightly with the palm of your hand to flatten the logs (use a dry brush to remove excess flour if necessary). Bake for about 30 minutes, until the logs are well-risen and have also spread to about double in size. The logs are done when they feel firm when pressed with a fingertip. Cool the logs on the pan.

6. Reset the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the baked logs diagonally about every 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Return the biscotti to the pans, cut side down, and bake in the 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are dry and crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

Store the biscotti between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

***Tips for Biscotti***
These were some handy hints and tips I read in the "Cookies Unlimited" book. Useful for those trying biscotti for the first time.

*If the dough seems soft, it is correct. Do not add extra flour to the biscotti doughs or your resulting cookies will be cement-like (not exactly the effect we're shooting for here!)

*If you need to flour the work surface to handle the dough more easily, do so. When the dough is safely on the pan just brush off the excess flour with a dry pastry brush.

*Make sure you bake the biscotti enough the first time around. If the centers of the logs are not baked through, they will compress when you slice them (sink like a souffle) and harden during the second baking (there's those cement cookies again!)

*Use a really sharp knife to slice the biscotti. Cutting with a dull knife will make the log shatter.

*The thinner you slice the biscotti, the more pan room you will need for the second baking. Malgieri suggests one cookie sheet per log of biscotti.

*Watch the biscotti carefully during the second baking. Most biscotti have a fairly high sugar content and will burn easily if left unattended.

*Cool biscotti on their pans - the extra bit of drying time will make them even crisper (this is what you want for a "dunking" cookie).

*Biscotti are the perfect "keeping cookie" - just be sure to store them in airtight containers and away from humidity.

Reference for recipes and "Tips for Biscotti" section:
Malgieri, Nick (2000). Cookies Unlimited. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.: New York, NY.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tag! I'm It!

Cara got me!
Here are the rules since I'm tagging you now! :)
Each player starts with seven random facts or habits about himself or herself. A tagged player then writes a blog entry with the seven things, as well as these rules. Then the player tags seven others and lists their names on his or her blog. Remember to leave a comment for your newly tagged players, letting them know they have been tagged and to read your blog!

Seven random facts/habits about me:
1. I was born and grew up in a rural area of Northern England (The Lake District). Moved to San Diego when I was 13 but I'm still a British citizen...

2. I have never tried gnocchi or polenta... but from what I hear, I am seriously missing out! lol

3. I used to be a vegetarian but my hubbers is a total carnivore (boo!) so I slowly started adding meat back into my diet when we got engaged... I felt so wrong about it for the longest time! I still will not eat red meat, most shellfish (I do love shrimp and crab cakes, though! lol), any pork products, and some other types of fish.

4. DH would tell you I'm a bit "crunchy granola" ;) It's ok, I take it as a compliment! :) Yes, I pull cans and paper out of the trash can after he throws them in.. and he gets "the look" for doing it! hee hee ;)

5. As crunchy granola and green as I may be, I have to confess that I LOVE old American muscle cars... God! I would die if an old 60-something Camaro showed up in my garage - one of the ones with the really loud throaty V8 engine... mmm ;) Heaven on wheels! lol

6. I'm a teacher but I don't "teach"... I have a bit of a weird job! I work for a charter school and my students are homeschooled. I have an elementary school (multiple subject) credential, but because their school work is all "self-contained" I can work with kids in grades K-12. I never thought I would like to work with teenagers, but my high school students are my favourites! Their work is so dynamic and you can actually hold a half-decent conversation with them! :) I love what I do - I get to work one-on-one with the kids and their families and you really get to know them (I have a student who's going in to second grade next year, he's been my student since he was in kinder and I can work with him until he graduates if he stays with the school! How cool is that?!) I do miss a lot of things about the classroom setting (I worked in regular teaching settings for 5 years/been at my current job 3), but there are definitely things I don't miss! :)

7. ooh number 6 was a long one! I was painfully shy when I was a kid... (but for whatever reason, I loved to act and was very involved in theater projects! huh..) Now; however, I love to talk and get up and give speeches. I love debating stuff. I'm not sure when it happened (I think it was around 10th grade), but all of a sudden I just totally gave up caring what people think and turned into this outgoing person. It was so liberating to let other people's snarky crap go! ;)

OK, tag! I am now tagging you - One Tiny Pink Kitchen, Jessy, Elizabeth, Jessica, Tara, Rachel, and Carrie :) Have fun ladies!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

I fell in love with jerk seasoned everything when I was in Jamaica! Here's a recipe to duplicate it at home. Great on any kind of meat (I only eat chicken and fish, but hubby says it's good on pork, too!)


1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl. Coat meat with a little olive oil then rub with seasoning. Great on the grill!

Pretty sure I found this on

Monday, June 18, 2007

Angel Food Cake

I made my first angel food cake for our Father's Day BBQ on Saturday. Well, everyone ate so much that the cake was forgotten.. oops! Oh well, hubby and I have been enjoying it ;) Angel food is one of my favourite cakes - it's so light and sweet, and the best part - fat free! woohoo!

This will make 12 servings.

1 1/2 cups egg whites (I think I used 10 large egg whites)
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour or 1 cup minus 2 tbsp. al
l-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar

1. Allow the egg whites to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to starting this recipe.

2. Sift powdered sugar and flour together 3 times; set aside.

3. Add the cream of tartar and vanilla to the egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (the tips will curl at this stage). Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating at medium speed until stiff peaks form (the tips will stand up straight).

4. Sift about 1/4 of the dry mixture (powdered sugar and flour) over the beaten egg whites and fold in gently. To fold in the dry
mixture, use a rubber spatula to "cut through" the mixture. Drag the spatula along the bottom of the bowl then bring it back up and across the top. Repeat, folding in dry mixture 1/4 at a time. Pour into an ungreased bundt pan. Gently cut through the batter to remove any air pockets (use a knife or small metal spatula to do this).

5. Back on the lowest rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. The top of the cake will spring back when lightly touched. Immediately turn the cake upside down (leave it in the pan) and cool thoroughly on a wire rack. After cake is cool, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan.

Angel food cake freezes remarkably well! Just place the cooled cake in a freezer baggie or wrap in freezer-proof plastic wrap. It
can remain in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Another, not so zoomed, photo. It is excellent with red berries and homemade vanilla ice-cream :) Not so fat-free that way, though! lol

The original recipe used came from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook I've had for years. I like to think of it as Old Faithful :) It's a goodie!
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen (1996). Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Meredith Publishing Group: Des Moines, IA.

Fresh Lemonade

I'm not sure you can beat fresh home-made lemonade. It's so refreshing! Here's the recipe I've been using since I was a kid - very quick and easy :) Fat free and a serving has tons of vitamin C. If you prefer, you can exchange the lemons for limes (equal amounts) to make limeade.

**I labeled this as Vegan - if you would like to make this recipe vegan, please use agave nectar as a substitute since white sugar is not considered a vegan ingredient.**

2 1/2 cups + 4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar or about 3/4-1 cup agave nectar
Rind of one lemon, peeled (I use a veggie peeler to get nice big pieces of rind - that way, they don't get into the glasses!)
1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of the water to a boil (I like to use my electric kettle for this. You can do it in a tea kettle or pan on the stove). Meanwhile, pour the sugar into a large glass pitcher. When water has boiled, add to the sugar and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
2. Add the lemon peel and juice to the water and sugar mixture. Add 4 cups cold water to the mixture. Stir well.
You can keep the lemonade refrigerated for up to 3 days. I like to add some slices of lemon to the final product.

I used a couple sources for this recipe and came up with this final one based on those. First, I used a recipe which I learned when I was in 7th grade Home Economics (!)... good thing it's easy so I haven't completely forgotten it! I also used the Fresh Lemonade Base recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen (1996). Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Meredith Publishing Group: Des Moines, IA.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cleaning strawberries

Here's a quick tip I picked up somewhere (sorry, forgot the source!) I just thought about it today as I was cleaning some strawberries for one of my Platinum Chef Challenge recipes (coming to a blog near you, this one!, soon!!) :)

To preserve as much flavour as possible in strawberries, do not rinse them under running water. Since strawberries are very porous, they will absorb all that water and lose some of their fruity goodness. You don't want watery strawberries, right?! :) Instead, dampen a paper towel and use it to gently clean each berry. You will have clean fruit with plenty of flavour!

Here's an extra hint - if you only buy a few organically-grown things, make strawberries (and other fresh berries) one of them! The porous nature of the berries makes them not only absorb water when rinsing them, but also absorb the chemicals and pesticides sprayed on non-organically grown produce.

Hope this helps you enjoy strawberry season!

Taste the Rainbow!

This is the second of my entries for the Platinum Chef Challenge on The Nest. It's a great marinara spaghetti sauce which incorporates tons of different veggies including the zucchini, basil, and tomatoes which were three of the five challenge ingredients. Not the most creative use of the ingredients, but still very tasty! Plus, as the recipe is written, it is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.
This sauce is so colorful - a great w
ay to get lots of different vegetables into your diet! Here's the recipe - I just used a basic marinara sauce recipe which I've been using for years and added a few "extras" to it. Enjoy!

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup total of chopped bell peppers - I used a combination of red, yellow, and green peppers (about a 1/4 cup of red and the second 1/4 cup was a mix of green and yellow)

1 cup zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes (undrained)

2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes (you can just use 2 14 1/2 ounce cans of tomatoes or 4 cups of peeled chopped tomatoes; I just wanted to mix it up a bit)
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine (you can substitute 1/4 cup of water if you don't drink/don't have red wine)
2 tbsp. snipped fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dried parsle
1 tbsp. snipped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. sugar (to make this recipe vegan, please do not use white sugar as this is a non-vegan ingredient - stevia or agave nectar would work)
1/2 cup sliced green olives

1. In a large skillet, cook the onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and garlic in hot olive oil until veggies are tender.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, parsley, marjoram, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Add the wine, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Add in the green olives. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10-15 minutes more or until the sauce is your desired consistency, stir occasionally.

3. Remove bay leaf and serve with hot spaghetti or other pasta.
If desired, you can add meatballs and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the finished dinner.

The inspiration for my marinara base came from the Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. I added a lot to it but here's the publishing information for the cook book.
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen (1996). Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Meredith Publishing Group: Des Moines, IA.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Green Beans Amandine

This is enough for 3 servings.

1/2 pound green beans

2 tbsp. slivered almonds
1 tbsp. Earth Balance spread or butter
1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Cut fresh green beans into thin pieces length
wise. Cook the fresh green beans, covered in a small amount of boiling water for 10-15 minutes or until tender. You can also use a bag of frozen green beans - just cook them according to package directions. Drain the cooked beans and keep them warm.

2. Cook and stir almonds in the melted butter or margarine over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Add beans back into pan with the almonds and stir well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Chocolate-Strawberry Bread

This is a recipe I used for our WC Platinum Chef Challenge (from The Nest). I used a recipe for double-chocolate banana bread (I think the original recipe is on this blog, too) and just changed some things around to make it with strawberries and nuts (two of the challenge ingredients).
Just had a slice of this for "lunch dessert" - wow! It's so worth all the fat and calories ;) I did decide to up the amount of strawberries by just a bit so you get more of the strawberry flavour (especially since that was one of the ingredients in the challenge!)
This was really easy to make and is super-yummy. I'll have to have my fruit-hating husband try it and post about what he thinks. :)

This recipe will make 16 (1 slice) servings

1 cup sugar

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped (one of those 16-ounce containers)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and oil at medium speed until mixed. Beat in the vanilla extract. (I used my KA stand mixer for this part; if you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer).

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda; beat into sugar mixture at low speed until just combined (do not overmix). Use a wooden spoon to stir in the strawberries, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

4. Spoon the batter into a loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a tester inserted in the bread comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack then remove from pan and cool completely. Wrap the bread in foil and leave it overnight before slicing.

This recipe was based on the Double-Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe which can also be found in this blog. The original Chocolate-Banana bread recipe was found in a copy of Cooking Pleasures Magazine which is published by the Cooking Club of America.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Must-Haves - Food Items

Just got the latest issue of Cooking Light (I love that magazine!) and there is this whole section on must-have items! I've been planning on adding this to my blog since I started it but just haven't really had the motivation to get started. I'll put down what CL has for each category then I'll also add my own ideas. Hopefully this will help new cooks as well as seasoned veterans looking for new ideas! :)
Hurray for Cooking Light!

Frequently used cooking staples:
*Oils - olive and canola are the ones you will probably use most. These two are also healthier than things like peanut oil. You will also want cooking spray (Pam - they even have an organic version, now, and one for grilling!), and butter (if you bake, you will want to keep unsalted butter on hand. The regular, salted, stuff if usually called for in savoury recipes).

*Vinegars - I always keep balsamic (I make salad dressings with it on an almost daily basis), white wine, and red wine. In addition, I have just regular old cheap white vinegar (I use it to clean my house and will sub it for white wine vinegar in a pinch!) Vinegar can also be a handy lemon juice substitute in sauces.

*Fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth. I like to get the organic/free range broth. I don't really think it's fat-free, but it is definitely lower-sodium which is the bigger concern in my house.

*Canned tomatoes and beans - you can get the pre-flavoured tomatoes; however, I prefer to just get the plain diced ones. I can then add my own blends of herbs to them depending on whether I'm making a soup, spaghetti sauce, or enchiladas.

*Sauces - soy (lower-sodium), Worcestershire, BBQ (I make my own but it's good to have a bottle if you're in a hurry!), Tabasco or a similar hot sauce.

*Dried pasta and rice. I also like to keep some couscous on hand to change it up a bit.

*Panko - Japanese bread crumbs. I find them so much easier to work with than the breadcrumbs I used to make from a slice of bread! The panko doesn't fall of my food the second I try to flip it! lol

*Wine (red and white) and sherry.

*Spices and herbs - I will come back and add more to this. For now, here are my most used: oregano, cumin, basil, dill, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder/garlic salt (I prefer to just use a clove of garlic, but this is good in a hurry!), thyme, rosemary, parsley flakes, lemon-pepper seasoning, Grill Mates Montreal Steak seasoning (I mix it into burgers for my hubby), Grill Mates Chicken Rub, chili powder.

*For baking - vanilla extract (I like the pure, alcohol-free stuff), ground ginger, ground cinnamon, honey.

*Flour - you can probably get away with just buying all-purpose and always having a stash of that on-hand. See the list of substitutions on this blog to see how you can use this in place of cake flour.

*Sugar - granulated cane sugar is a must. If you bake, you will also want light and dark brown sugar (also handy if you do a lot of BBQ!) and powdered/confectioners' sugar.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Freezing Egg Whites

Aw, my first post of the new month! Happy June everyone... there is only a week of school left (I'm a teacher) so I'm pretty excited! I do have to work until the middle of the month just finishing up paperwork (gotta love that!) and writing up my students' learning record reports but then I'm off until August when I got back limited hours (just for staff development, contacting new students, etc). I have tons of plans for summer projects which include lots of new recipes and lots of blogging! Glad I have a laptop so I can blog by the pool ;)

So, I'm planning on making ice cream this weekend - I've had this KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment for a couple months and I have yet to use it. I was looking through the recipes and decided to be boring and start with French vanilla (so unlike me to be boring with food, but I know my husband will eat it... lol) The recipe calls for, yikes, 8 egg yolks. I have this great lemon-blueberry meringue pie recipe that I'd also like to try but not for a couple weeks. So, I was wondering if I could freeze the egg whites from these eight eggs and use part of that for the meringue. Turns out yes you can freeze the egg whites (yippee!). Here's the procedure which I found by doing an search.

**If you need individual whites (maybe only 1 or 2):
You can freeze them in an ice-cube tray (genius!) so they are frozen individually and don't get all stuck together. They usually freeze overnight. After they are frozen, pop them out of the ice-cube tray and into a freezer-weight zipper bag. Label them with the date and how many whites are in each bag. Keep them in the freezer until ready to use.

**If you need multiple whites (like 6 for a recipe):
Just freeze the necessary number of whites in a container (freezer safe), then pop them out of the container when they are frozen (again, overnight should do it). You could even just freeze as many as you need in the ice-cube tray. You can then either wrap the block in plastic wrap then foil and store them in a freezer-safe container (Rubbermaid or a large zipper baggie). Write the date on the container as well as the number of whites.

The tip I found said you can save them in the freezer for up to 6 months. However; be sure to store long-term frozen goods in the coldest part of the freezer (the back and towards the bottom). I'm not sure I'd ever try to keep them for 6 months, but if you're going to be using them in a couple weeks or a month, I think this is a great option. Much better than wasting food.

To defrost the eggs, just remove from the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight, just like you would with meats.