Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roasted Corn Salad

I love corn.  I love it when the local corn crops are ready and I can get a dozen ears of corn for $2 at the farmers market.  I wish I could have fresh, off the farm corn year round.  I like it boiled, grilled, roasted, on the cob, off the cob, in salads, as a side dish or I really could just eat it for a meal on it's own.  I can't wait to take a bite and have a kernel bust in my mouth.  Ahhh so simple and delicious.  This salad is wonderful if you fresh or frozen corn available to you.  It can bring a taste of summer to your table all year round.  It goes perfectly with fish, pork or chicken.  You can easily change it up and go a million directions if you want.

Here is what you will need:

For the Salad:

1 bag of frozen corn or 4 ears of fresh corn on the cob
1 pint of Cherry, Grape or Strawberry Tomatoes (your preference or whatever looks good).  Cut in half.
1/2 a Hot House or English  Cumber (peeled, seeded and cut in a medium dice)
2 scallions small cut on the bias, whites and greens
1/3 pint pitted Kalamata Olives cut in half
1 avocado diced
1 red jalapeno seeds and ribs removed and small dice (leave some ribs or seeds if you like it spicier)
1/2 of a Red, Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper Medium dice
3 tablespoons fresh Cilantro, fine chiffonade.
Nice hunk of feta cheese to crumble (I usually figure 1/4 pound or just under.  You can use more or less depending on your preference.
Salt & Pepper
zest of 1 lime and a squeeze of lime juice

For the Dressing (you will only need about 1/2 the dressing for the salad but I always put some on the table for those that want an extra drizzle and it will keep for about 2wks in the fridge so you can use it on another salad or make more corn salad):

1 lime juice and zest plus the remaining juice from the lime you used for the salad.
3 tablespoons of honey
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup light olive oil (not extra virgin) or vegetable or Canola oil
3 tablespoons Fresh Cilantro Leaves (no stems)
1/2 teaspoon of salt


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Spread your corn out on a baking sheet.  If using fresh ears of corn you can roast on or off the cob (your preference) if you roast on the cob,  just allow time for the cobs to cool completely before you cut off the kernels and add to salad.  Put sheet tray in oven for about 15 to 20 mins.  Check as you go.  Corn should have nice browning when done.

While the corn is roasting.  Prep your other salad ingredients and toss in your large mixing bowl.  Once corn is done and cooled add to salad bowl.  Sprinkle with salt, add lime zest and a little squeeze of juice.  Mix gently, cover and refrigerate.  (This can be done up to a day in advance).  Do not add the Feta cheese, this should be added right before serving.

To make the dressing, toss all ingredients except for oil into your blender or food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are pureed together.  Once pureed, slowly drizzle in the oil.  The dressing should become creamy.  Don't blend to much after creamy consistency is achieved or it will thicken too much and become more of an aioli. 

About 30 minutes before serving, drizzle about 1/2 or your dressing over the salad and mix together.  Add your crumbled feta and gently toss. 

Serve family style or plate with your main dish.

I promise this salad will be a hit and is extremely delicious.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Chocoate Chip Cookie Dilema

No matter who you are, you have an opinion on chocolate chip cookies.  Almost everyone I know revels in a moist chewy with crispy edges kind of cookie.  Not my husband.  I love him dearly but the "American" chocolate chip cookie is not something he enjoys.  He likes his cookies "dunkable".  He likes them harder, dryer, crumbly... more like the store bought, dare I utter the words "Chips Ahoy".  I can not stand those cookies.  Not only are they full of junk, they don't taste nice.  So I have been on a mission to find a crispier, more crumbly but not flat, chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Still no such luck! 

Now, head with me in the "Way Back Machine" to my freshman year of college when I had a hypochondriac room-mate named Donna.  To this day I cannot for the life of me remember her last name, and yet I digress.  ANYWAY... Donna's Mom would send her care packages with the most amazing little home made chocolate chip cookies.  They were light little balls filled with chocolate chips, but what I would call dry, crumbly and well, crumb makers!  Delicious.  I have searched the internet high and low with no luck for something like Donna's Mom used to send to us.  So if you have a recipe that fits what I am describing, could you please send it to me????

So in my state of discontent, and because I don't like sickly sweet cookies, I am attempting a chocolate chip shortbread cookie bar recipe today.  We shall see.  The pan is in the oven baking right now.  One half has Easter Colored M&M's on top and the other half walnuts since I love walnuts in my chocolate chips and my kids do not.  I am not sure these will do it for my husband, but I am crossing my fingers. 

As for the recipe, I just made a basic shortbread recipe, added chocolate chips (a full bag of dark chocolate chips) and done.  I pressed it all out on my sheet tray and then chilled it on there before baking.  A lot easier to spread before chilling.  Added the M&M's and nuts on top before baking and pressed them down into the dough slightly.  I had to triple the shortbread recipe to fit my baking tray.  It's great really because if they are good, shortbread cookies freeze really well!  They sometimes taste better after freezing.

Here is my basic shortbread recipe:  P.S. the source on this recipe is from an old Joy of Baking or Betty Crocker cook book.  Had it in my recipe box for years.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Chocolate Chips (I prefer dark chocolate but use what you love)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.   Grease with butter (or use a cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough just comes together then add your chocolate chips if using.  Press onto the bottom of your greased pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until pale golden in color.

Reminder:  I tripled this recipe for my sheet pan.  Otherwise as noted above, the recipe is suitable for a 9x9 square banking pan.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gyros at Home with out the Big Rotating Hunk O'Meat on a Stick

Yum Yum Yum... sometimes there is nothing better than a gyro.  This is not something I traditionally make at home, I would much rather head out and bring home a tasty and authentic gyro but where we currently live, no such love exists.  I was successfully able to make a homemade chicken gyro using a recipe from Annie's Eats (her recipe here) and it was really good.  Then my lovely husband reminded me that we could make real lamb gyros at home using the greek meatball recipe that I adapted from Michael Symon's cookbook.  Let me tell you, those meatballs are so good that you can eat them just as they are, but make them a little bigger and you have got the best gyro filling ever!  The good news is if you really don't like lamb, you could use ground beef or ground turkey.  It really is all about the flavor!  These little meatball gems are PACKED with flavor and if you are not careful they could disappear before your dinner is ready to be served.

Now, I have adapted the recipe for the meatballs from Michael Symon's recipe which can be found here.  It is also in his cookbook Live to Cook.  These on their own are absolutely delicious and you will see a few versions of his recipe floating around the internet.  Do make them on their own at some point, I promise you will adore them.  That being said, you will also enjoy them as they have been adapted to become a homemade gyro!  A little advanced planning is necessary for homemade gyros, especially if you are going to make your own tzatiki, so make so you read all the directions before starting this recipe.


For the Meatballs

1/4 cup grated onion
2 cloves grated garlic
2 slices of day-old bread
1 pound ground lamb (beef or chicken can also be used)
1 egg
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half the lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

16 oz. plain yogurt (not nonfat, if possible)
1/2 hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

For the Gyro's
Pita bread of your choice (I like old world as it doesn't have the pocket)
1 diced tomato 
1/2 a thinly sliced onion

Directions for the Meatballs

Rip by hand or small dice your stale bread and cover with milk in a large bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes to 1 hour.  Once it has soaked for at least 20 minutes,  squeeze the excess milk from the bread. Add the lamb, egg, garlic, onion cilantro, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix by hand until smooth. Form into little meatballs, about 2 ounces each.  Let the meat rest for about 15 minutes after forming meatballs before cooking.  Use a grill pan or large non-stick skillet to cook.  I use a non-stick griddle.  You should not need any cooking oil for this method as lamb is rather fatty so it will render out enough oil.  Don't worry your meatballs will be lovely and moist due to the bread and egg in the mix. 

Directions for the Tzatiki

To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl. Let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible.

Shred the cucumber. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.


3 to 4 meatballs per pita depending on your taste and the size of your pitas.  Add diced tomato, a little onion and a nice dollop of tzatiki... enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Time Pasta (Only 5 Ingredients)

 I love asparagus and am always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals.  With the spring weather here a bit early (love that)... I figured what better to serve than a lovely dinner with fresh spring asparagus!  That being said, I seem to be posting a bit of pasta today, but let me tell you this one is divine on a lovely spring evening!  It is grown up enough to be served at a dinner party, intimate dinner for two and yet whimsical enough your kids will love it too.

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb bundle of fresh asparagus
1 box Pene Pasta
1 8 oz container of Mascarpone Cheese (or make your own)
1 1/2 or 2 Lemons
Olive Oil


In a bowl big enough to hold all your chicken, add the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.  Add a big pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and a big drizzle of olive oil.  Whisk together and drop in your chicken breasts.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but the longer the better.  I like doing it overnight or right after breakfast when everyone is out the door.   In a little prep bowl, zest your other lemon and reserve the zest.  In another bowl squeeze the juice of the lemon you just zested, add a nice pinch of salt and a light drizzle of olive oil and whisk together.  Snap the woody bottoms of your asparagus off, and then cut your asparagus into about 3 nice even size chunks, place cut asparagus into the bowl with lemon juice, salt and olive oil.  Toss to coat and set aside.  This you can also do way ahead if you like.  The longer it sits in that little marinade the better it will be. 

When you are ready to cook.  Get your pasta pot out and fill with water and add a nice big pinch of salt.  When the water is boiling, add your pasta.  Cook one minute less than the directions suggest.

Get out your grill pan or fire up your grill.  Grill your chicken, make sure you sear and brown it well.  I promise it is worth the effort to give it a nice brown crust.  Once your chicken is cooked through, remove from grill and set aside to rest.  
 Then grill your asparagus so it is al dente with some nice grill marks. 

Drain your pasta reserving some of your pasta water.  Return pasta pan to stove top and reduce heat to medium low.  Add Mascarpone cheese, add pasta and start to stir together while cheese melts.  Add a sprinkle of salt and a little cracked black pepper.  Sprinkle in about 1/2 of your reserved lemon zest and mix well.

If it seems a little dry, add a little of your reserved pasta water to loosen up a little.  Sauce should coat pasta nicely but not be saucy.  Reduce heat to low and add your asparagus and toss together.  Slice your chicken breasts and begin to plate.

Put your portion of pasta with asparagus on the plate.  Place sliced chicken on top, garnish with a little lemon zest and a sprig of parsley or mint if you want to be fancy!  BUT mostly, just enjoy!

Freezable, Shareable, Cheesy, Chicken, Broccoli Pasta Bake

There is something comforting about anything with a creamy cheesy sauce.  It makes us feel good after a long day, it fills your belly and your soul.  Short of macaroni and cheese, which is a all time favorite (check out my Best Macaroni and Cheese you will ever make post if you love mac & cheese), there are lots of easy cheesy dishes out there to satisfy that craving.  This dish is freezable (make ahead, freeze and bake when ready to use).  It is also completely sharable.  Great for pot luck dinners, giving as a gift to a friend or just for sharing.  Kids and the young at heart will gobble this up.  Plus it has some things that are good for you too.  It is not all fat and carbs!  :)

 In any event, this is a quick easy meal to make ahead and enjoy any time.  I promise your family will love it!

What you will need:

1 lb. Chicken tenders
1 bag extra wide egg noodles (also works well with penne, rigatoni, fussili, rotini, etc as they all hold together well so whatever you have that way)
1 head of broccoli
1/3 pound shredded/grated Romano cheese (can also use Parmesan or Asiago)
2/3 pound shredded Mozzarella (I bought a 16oz bag and used 2/3 of the bag)
2 cups of milk/cream/half&half depending on your taste
1tbs flour
Kosher Salt or Sea Salt for seasoning
Poultry seasoning (unsalted)
Garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper

Let's get started:

Fill your pasta pot with water and season liberally with salt.  Turn on high to bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, lets get the chicken going.  I love chicken tenders for this as they stay nice and soft in this recipe.  Season both sides of your chicken tenders liberally with salt, a dusting of garlic powder, poultry season and some black pepper.  Cook your chicken tenders.  I prefer to cook mine on my grill pan so they get nice and brown on both sides.  To steal a bit of lingo from Anne Burrell, brown food is Mmmmm Mmmmm good! 

By now your pasta water should be boiling.  Throw in the whole bag or box.  (This is a large recipe, it will feed a family of 4 easily with left-overs).  Cook your pasta just a minute short of what the box says should be al dente.  This is going to bake in the oven later, so you don't want to over cook your pasta now. 

Once your chicken is cooked, set it aside to rest.  This is an important step, otherwise once the whole thing goes in the oven you will have dry chicken.

Drain your pasta once cooked but reserve some of your pasta water.  Maybe a cup... you may or may not need it or want it but reserve just in case.

While your pasta is draining, return your empty pot to the stove.  Add your milk/cream to the pot and turn your burner to medium.  Let your milk/cream start to get warm (do NOT simmer or boil).  Place your shredded cheese in a bowl and dust with your tablespoon of flour... mix well.  It just saves you from making a light rue.  Trust me this makes your sauce making super easy.  A little trick I learned from Martha Stewart back in the early 90's when I actually found her interesting.  Slowly stir in your cheese flour mixture.  Turn your heat down to low and cut your broccoli into bite size florets. 
Toss broccoli florets into the sauce.  Note, do not precook your otherwise it will turn to mush.  The warm sauce mixture will slowly cook the broccoli and the baking later will make it perfect.  Then stir in your pasta.  Then cut up your cooked chicken into bite size pieces and mix into your sauce.  Make sure everything is coated in sauce and it should still seem a little saucy.  If it doesn't seem too saucy, add a little reserved pasta water or a little chicken stock.  Remember you are going to bake this in the oven like a cassarole or at the very least reheat and the slightly under cooked pasta is going to absorb quite a bit of sauce. 

Get out a baking dish at least 9x12, coat with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.  I just use an olive oil spray.  Then pour your mixture of deliciousness into your baking dish.  Sprinkle your shredded mozzarella cheese over top and you are done.

Bake covered at 400 degrees farenheit until warm through out.  Should only take about 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake until cheese is bubbly and has those lovely brown spots.  I don't have any pictures of the one I made today as I took it to a friend who really could use a home cooked meal, but I guarantee she will love it. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

French Onion Soup

So simple and delicious.  I have been making French Onion Soup for years, well at least 12 years anyway.  I have tried all sorts of methods and adding different things from a zillion different herbs to red wine and so on.  What I have discovered, is the most coveted bowl of French Onion Soup is the most simple recipe.  I have now been making this very recipe for 5 years and not one complaint, and it is the go to soup that everyone requests when they visit.  My Sister in Law and my Mum in Law love to have this waiting for them after a long flight.  Even my kids love it.  Really, what is not to love.  A bowl of hot soup with caramelized onions cooked in a steamy hot beef stock with a tasty crusty crouton and melted cheese.  I dare any of you to say you don't pick all the cheese off that has melted down the side of your bowl.  

All that being said.  Forget all the long crazy methods, forget all the herbs and wine... just forget you saw those recipes.  This soup is perfect just as it is.  When you use great ingredients that can stand on their own, they don't need any help.

Here is the recipe!

French Onion Soup

4 Tbs of Butter (unsalted)
A few tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil (your preference)
4 to 6 medium to large onions.  I use a mix of spanish/white/and sweet (Valida or Mayan)
1 quart chicken stock (stock not broth)
1 quart beef stock 
Croutons (recipe follows)
Gruyere, Swiss, or provolone cheese (your choice)

In a large stock or soup pot, melt butter and oil together to coat bottom of pot.  Melt on a medium low heat.  The oil will keep the butter from burning.  Using a mandolin or thinly slice by hand your onions so you get lots of nice rings!  Start adding the onions as you slice to your pot and stir as you go.  Once all the onions are in put in a giant pinch of salt. 

Turn heat up to medium and let the onions slowly caramelize.  You want to have a nice light caramelization... not a super dark one as you don't want your onions to taste like something you would put over ice cream! 

Once lightly caramelized add your stock.  

 Bring it up to a simmer and let it go until reduced by half.  

Add salt and pepper to taste.  If you over reduce, add a little water.

Put the soup in your soup crocks, add your crouton and put your cheese on top.  I often use a mix of swiss and provolone.  Put under the broiler until all bubbly and melted and little brown spots form.  Remove from broiler carefully, serve and enjoy.

I use a nice italian or french loaf, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a little course kosher or sea salt and a pinch of garlic powder dusted all over and put in the broiler.  Let it get lightly toasted and flip and let other side toast.  Let the toast stand for a few minutes before putting on top of the soup.  I often make the croutons early in the day or a few hours before so they get super hard and will keep some texture in the soup.

That is it folks.  Make and enjoy.  Delicious home made french onion soup, can be made in as little as 2 hours but I usually like to give it 4 hours for maximum flavor.  

Bon Appetite! 

Not Too Sweet Frosting

My son Michael loves cupcakes.  Particularly yellow cupcakes.  He loves chocolate cake but not so much in cupcake form.  BUT in our house, we all have a problem with frosting.  I along with my husband and children don't like it too sweet, but we like it fluffy and delicious.  Short of whipped cream which needs to be refrigerated (don't like cold cake) I wanted to find something new... no more butter cream or 7-minute or well, any of that  sickly sweet stuff.  After a successful google search I found a frosting called interestingly enough, "Not Too Sweet Frosting".  When I read the recipe I cringed.  It can't be right.  Milk and flour whisked together on the stove top until thick, 1 cup of softened butter, 1 cup of granulated sugar, some vanilla and if you want chocolate, add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.  Trick is you have to let that milk and flour mixture cool completely and when you beat it all together.... well all I can say is YUM!  Not too sweet, tastes close to a slightly sweetened whipped cream but holds together better. 

Right now my Mum in law likes it as much as I do, considering she is not much of a fan of "American Frosting".  The real test will be when Michael gets home from school in about 15 minutes. 

Here is the recipe:


1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoon cocoa if you want chocolate icing


Cook milk and flour until very thick (so thick you can't stir), COOL.

Cream butter, sugar and cocoa (if using cocoa) until very creamy Add milk and flour mixture and vanilla. Beat until thick and creamy (about 4 or 5 minutes).

Yields: 3.5 Cups


49 calories, 3 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein per tablespoon. This recipe is low in sodium.

I did not alter the recipe and this same recipe can be found here on

BUT I did take pictures and there we no pictures on CD Kitchens site just great reviews.