Pumpkinpalooza PDF Print E-mail
Monday, November 1, 2010



It's that time of year!

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

These cookies were baking in the oven when the boys walked in the door from school. Above the clamor of shoes being kicked across the room, backpacks slammed to the ground, and jackets tossed in the general direction of the corner, I could hear: "WHAT is that smell?" "Oh my gosh! That smells awesome!" "Is it cookies?" If there's a better way to be reunited with your children after a long school day, I'd like to know what it is. I doubt the pumpkin cookie welcoming can be topped.

I found this recipe on Annie's Eats. I'm sure they are delicious with the raisins originally included in the recipe, but I thought my crew would prefer them without.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

For the cookies:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon  salt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla 
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar

For the glaze:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 teaspoons milk, plus more if needed

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add both sugars, increase the speed to medium and beat until slightly fluffy, about 1 minute, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half the pumpkin mixture, beating well to combine, scrape the sides of the bowl and add the remaining pumpkin mixture. Mix to combine.

Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared pans, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, about 11-13 minutes. Cool on sheet pans for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Save the parchment from the baking sheets.

To make the glaze, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-low speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until smooth and thick but pourable.

Set the wire racks over a the parchment paper. Put the glaze in a ziploc and cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. Squeeze glaze in a zigzag over cookies. (Alternatively, use a spoon to drizzle glaze over.) Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Makes 28 cookies.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Truffle Brownies PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, October 2, 2010



These divine chocolate treats may be misnamed. Ultra rich and creamy, they are really more truffle than brownie.  Make sure they are all the way to room temperature before you take a bite. It will be torture to wait, but it's worth it. They'll melt in your mouth!


Truffle Brownies

For the brownies:
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon instant coffee
1 stick butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
For the ganache:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
Special equipment:
one 9-inch round foil cake pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a mixer, beat the eggs and salt together in a large mixing bowl until frothy. Add the sugar and beat until the eggs thicken and turn pale yellow, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir the instant coffee into the vanilla extract until dissolved. Add the vanilla extract to the egg mixture and beat an additional 30 seconds.

Put the butter and chocolate in a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir to insure that the chocolate has melted. If necessary, microwave at 15 to 20 second additional intervals and stir until smooth.

With the mixer running, pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and beat 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix an additional 30 seconds.

Spray the cake pan with a cooking spray and pour in the batter. Place the pan on the top rack of the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes until the center is barely set. (Toothpick test will not work because center will remain gooey.) Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Place the chocolate chips and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove the bowl and stir with a whisk or fork until well smooth.

Top the brownie with the ganache and place in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

To serve, remove from freezer and slice immediately into triangles (see below). Allow to come to room temperature before serving.


Truffle_Brownies_Whole_publish Truffle_Brownies_Triangles_publish

Cut the circle into 8 triangles. Cut the round edge off each of the 8 pieces. Cut each large triangle into 4 small triangles. (Put those leftover round edges in your freezer. Next time you are sitting on the couch at 10 p.m. and craving chocolate, you'll be glad you stashed those away!)


Makes 32 small brownies
Adapted from Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh

Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, October 2, 2010



Something so easy shouldn’t taste so fantastic. Make these today!

Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies

1 box family size (makes 9 X 13 pan) brownie mix with chocolate syrup added
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao)*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place brownie mix, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer on low speed about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the chocolate chips, and beat on low for 30 more seconds. Chill batter for 15 minutes.

Using a large cookie scoop (approximately 2-3 tablespoon size), drop batter in mounds on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges just begin to crisp but centers are still slightly soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on racks for 5 minutes.

*Of course you can use whatever kind of chocolate chip you like, but these will knock your socks off.




Makes 22 large cookies
Adapted from The Dinner Doctor

Bonus Recipes: Endless Summer Edition PDF Print E-mail
Friday, October 1, 2010

I love summer and relish the homework-free, pool-filled days with the kids. I love grilling out, big fat red tomatoes and strawberries, and late night trips for ice cream, driving with all the windows down and the radio blaring.

But I’m an autumn girl at heart. When the first nip is in the air, I’m already at the head of the hayride queue and I’ve got mums on the front stoop. And the cooking!  Apple pie and apple crisp, chicken chili, hearty soups and stews, pumpkin everything.

So let me be the first to say, “What gives, Mother Nature?!?” It’s 93 stinkin’ degrees today--a record breaker for this first day of fall. I’m over it.

But what are you going to do? Make lemonade out of lemons, I guess. Here are a few final summer dishes.


Grilled Pizza



If you haven’t grilled pizza, you haven’t lived. Don’t be intimidated--just practice.

Use the recipe for Homemade Pizza already posted on this site.

Preheat your grill (about 500 degrees works well, if your grill has a thermometer). Clean the grates and oil them using the paper towel and tongs method.

When rolling out the dough, make several small crusts rather than two medium ones. Smaller crusts are easier to work with on the grill. Place each crust on its own small piece of parchment paper and place on baking sheets . Take out to the grill.

Also assemble on a tray:
a small bowl of olive oil
a basting brush
a spoon
pizza sauce

and take this tray out to the grill.

Now you are ready to start! Grilling takes very little time so be ready to move fast.
    1. Brush one side of two crusts lightly with olive oil.
    2. Flip crusts, oiled side down, on grill grate. Tip: place your hand under the parchment, flip the crust and parchment onto the grill grate, then gently peel the parchment off the crust.
    3. Grill for a few minutes, peeking at the underside to see when it has nice grill marks and is starting to turn crisp.
    4. Brush the top side of the crusts with oil. Flip crust over with tongs. Top crust with a scant amount of sauce, cheese and toppings. Grill until underside of crust is cooked and cheese is melted. Tip: Think of this as a flatbread-type pizza and use less sauce and cheese than you would on a traditional pizza. The crust will cook quickly so if you overload it with toppings the crust will burn while you are waiting for the cheese to melt. To speed cheese melting, you can close the lid of the grill while the second side cooks.
    5. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining crusts.


      Frozen Margaritas

      Sometimes it’s good to be a grown-up.


      1 (6 ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, somewhat thawed (briefly run under hot water)
      6 ounces tequila
      2 ounces triple sec
      splash of orange juice
      2 limes

      Fill blender with crushed ice. Pour in limeade concentrate, tequila, triple sec and orange juice. Slice one lime in half and squeeze its juice into blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses. Slice remaining lime, garnish glasses and serve.

      Make Ahead Tip: You can pre-make these margaritas, pour into a plastic pitcher or other container and place in the freezer. Remove from freezer and let thaw, shaking occasionally for even consistency. When it’s nice and slushy, it’s ready to serve. On a hot day this will not take very long--maybe less than an hour.

      Makes approximately 7 cups
      Adapted from All Recipes


      Blueberry Pie



      For the crust:
      2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      1 teaspoon salt
      2 Tablespoons sugar
      12 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
      1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
      1/4 cup cold vodka*
      1/4 cup cold water

      For the pie:
      1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
      4 Tablespoons cornstarch
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      4 cups fresh blueberries
      1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
      1 egg

      Make the pie crust:

      Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, just 2-3 pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just begins to clump, about 15 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl and redistribute dough around blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse 4 to 6 times. Dump mixture into large mixing bowl.


      Sprinkle vodka and water over dough. With rubber spatula, fold and press on dough until it comes together. It will be fairly tacky. Divide in half and form into 4-inch disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days.

      Make the pie:

      Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

      Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over blueberries in a large bowl.

      Roll out one disk of pie dough and line pie dish with it. Pour blueberry mixture into crust and dot with butter. Top with other crust and seal edges or make a lattice top (see below). Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush top crust with it. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over crust.


      Blueberry_Pie_process_A Blueberry_Pie_process_B

      If you have a fancy pastry-cutting wheel, use it to
      cut the dough into strips. Otherwise, just use a

      Lay four strips across the top of the pie.
      Blueberry_Pie_process_C Blueberry_Pie_process_D
      Pull two strips back as shown and lay one strip of
      across the pie, perpendicular to strips already in place.
      Flip back the two strips you didn't pull back yet.
      Lay a new strip perpendicular across the pie.
      Blueberry_Pie_process_E Blueberry_Pie_process_F
      Pull back first two strips. Lay third perpendicular
      Continue until all strips are used and pie surface
      is covered
      Crimp edges and flute using thumb and fingers.


      Place pie dish on a baking sheet. Bake pie on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown. (You may want to cover crust with foil after 20 minutes or so if it starts to get very brown. Just gently lay foil over the top of the pie. No need to crimp it around the edges. If you own a pie shield, even better!

      Eat. Die. Go to heaven.




      Makes 1 pie
      Adapted from All Recipes and Cook’s Illustrated via Serious Eats

      *Note: there’s some science-y reason for the vodka. Something to do with gluten formation. All I know is it’s delicious and the texture is fantastic.h

      Italian Sausage Subs PDF Print E-mail
      Friday, August 27, 2010



      While preparing this dinner, Trio wandered through the kitchen and asked what was on the menu. I told him “subs,” and I knew when he yelled “Yes!” and did a fist pump that he was picturing subs a la Subway.  I called after him, “Not the subs you’ve had, but you’ll like them anyway!” and I heard him mutter a dejected “Oh man...” from the other room.

      I didn’t even put the onions and peppers on his--just bun, cheese and sausage. Nonetheless, he took one bite and said, “This is the best sandwich I’ve EVER had!”** You have to love it when such a low-maintenance meal produces such high praise. He and his brothers liked these subs so much they asked their aunt to make them when they went to her house for a sleepover recently.

      **To be fair, I should note that we’ve nicknamed the kid “Mr. Superlative.” He is prone to grand, sweeping statements and visits to both the dentist and Disneyland are rated “Awesome!”


      Italian Sausage Subs

      1-2 onions, halved and sliced

      1-2 red or green peppers, sliced into strips

      salt and pepper

      1 pound fresh Italian sausage in casings

      6 slices provolone cheese

      6 sub rolls

      2 Tablespoons butter


      Slice sausage in half lengthwise. (Freezing sausage slightly before cutting makes this easier.) Turn on broiler.


      Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in skillet and add onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until tender. Transfer to a plate.


      Add sausages to pan and sauté on both sides until cooked through and browned. (If center of sausage is not cooked through but outside is browned, cover the pan with the lid for a few minutes.)


      Meanwhile, open rolls and place on a sheet pan. Place 1 slice provolone on one side of each open-faced roll. Spread other half of roll with a scant amount of butter. Place sheet pan under broiler until cheese is melted and rolls just begin to brown. Remove from oven.


      Add cooked sausages, peppers and onion to sub rolls and serve.


      Adapted from How to Cook Everything

      Makes 6 subs

      Omelets PDF Print E-mail
      Wednesday, August 25, 2010


      My pal Dennis taught me how to make an omelet. I subscribe to the “thin, not overfilled” omelet school of thought. Dennis showed me that two eggs are sufficient when creating this type of omelet. I like spinach, tomato and mozzarella for myself; the kids love ham and cheddar. And yes, you can have omelets for dinner. Pour yourself a glass of chardonnay to go with. This is what the French do, oui?







      2 eggs per omelet


      desired fillings (such as spinach, mozzarella and swiss or ham and cheese)

      cooking spray



      For one spinach, tomato and mozzarella omelet:


      Heat a large (mine is 12 inches) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Sauté a handful of baby spinach until just beginning to wilt. Move to one side of the skillet. Add chopped tomatoes to the skillet and sauté for a minute or so. Transfer spinach and tomatoes to a plate. Spray pan with cooking spray again and melt 1 Tablespoon butter in skillet.


      Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and add a “blip” of milk and a little salt and pepper. Beat vigorously with a fork until mixed.


      (See photos below for how to make and fold the omelet. These instructions assume you are right-handed. Reverse if you are a south paw.)


      Pour egg mixture into skillet and tilt skillet around so eggs are evenly distributed in pan. When bottom of egg mixture begins to set, drop spinach and tomato mixture along with shredded cheese (or other toppings) in a line just to the right of the center of the pan. (If top of eggs is still too runny, cover with a lid for 30-60 seconds but be careful not to overcook or omelet will break when folded.)


      Holding pan handle in left hand, tilt left side of pan up while using a spatula to flip the right third of the omelet toward the center. Slide spatula under the center of the omelet and flip toward the right again while sliding the omelet onto a plate. Sprinkle with a bit of shredded cheese and serve.




      Shrimp with Ham and Grits PDF Print E-mail
      Tuesday, August 24, 2010


      I married a Texan and I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s taken me thirteen years to cook grits for my groom. If I had known how delicious they were going to be, I would have done it a long time ago!

      As written, this dish packs plenty of heat. You may want to cut back on the cayenne and Tabasco. Having endured years of mockery for my bland midwestern palate, I wasn’t about to let The Rock think I couldn’t hack it. I blamed the tears on the Gilmore Girls rerun.


      Shrimp with Ham and Grits


      2 cups whole milk

      2 cups water

      1 cup old-fashioned grits

      salt and pepper

      1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

      1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

      ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

      2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

      8 ounces ham steak, cut into ¼-inch cubes

      4 scallions, thinly sliced

      dash of Tabasco sauce


      Whisk milk, water, grits, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until grits are thick and creamy, approximately 15 to 22 minutes, whisking halfway through cooking. Stir cheese into grits.


      While grits are cooking in microwave, pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook ham for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in scallions and Tabasco. Serve over grits.


      Adapted from The Best Simple Recipes

      Serves 4

      Grilled Chicken Kebabs PDF Print E-mail
      Monday, August 23, 2010




      This recipe come from Annie’s Eats.  I’ll cut to the chase: simple, delicious and perfect for late summer.


      Grilled Chicken Kebabs


      3 Tablespoons olive oil

      Zest of 1 lemon

      3 cloves garlic, pressed

      1 Tablespoon minced parsley

      1 teaspoon salt

      ½ teaspoon black pepper

      1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch cubes

      tools: wooden skewers, soaked for 30 minutes prior to grilling


      Whisk together oil, zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.


      Oil grill grates. Heat grill to medium. Thread chicken pieces onto skewers and discard remaining marinade. Grill kebabs, covered, until cooked through (about 8-10 minutes), turning once or twice.

      August Week 1 Menu Plan PDF Print E-mail
      Sunday, August 22, 2010

      Grilled Chicken Kebabs

      Shrimp with Ham and Grits


      Italian Sausage Subs


      Recipe PDF

      Shopping List PDF

      Bonus Recipe: S’mores Bars PDF Print E-mail
      Monday, August 16, 2010



      Ah, summer. Pool, vacation, campfires, s’mores. What’s better than the gooey mess of a perfectly melted marshmallow married with chocolate and sandwiched between crispy graham crackers?

      Sometimes you’re just too lazy to build the fire though. Or you’re afraid that, with all those little hands wielding pointy sticks, the picturesque marshmallow roasting will devolve into a scene right out of Gladiator. Enter the S’mores Bar. All the marshmallow chocolate flavor, none of the fire hazard or eye-gouging potential. (Nothing kills a good campfire like an eye-gouging.)

      If you are a campfire lover or Michigan vacationer, check out Michigan Nightlife, a Facebook forum where you’ll find other s’mores fans and great tshirts.



      S’mores Bars

      3/4 cup of butter (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature
      1/2 cup brown sugar
      1 cup sugar
      2 large eggs
      2 tsp vanilla extract
      2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
      2 cups graham cracker crumbs
      2 tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp salt
      6 giant-sized Hershey chocolate bars or 9 (1.55 oz) bars that come 6 per pack
      1 (13 oz) jar of marshmallow fluff

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

      In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix.

      In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix on low. Divide mixture in half.

      Press half of mixture into the bottom of prepared baking pan. Arrange chocolate bars over graham cracker mixture to form a single layer. Spread marshmallow fluff over chocolate bars. (You may want to microwave fluff in a bowl for 10-15 seconds to make it more spreadable.) Spread second half of graham cracker mixture over fluff. (Tip: Take balls of dough in your hands and flatten them between your palms to form "plates" or "shingles." Lay shingles across fluff and then use fingers to press edges together to make a continuous layer of graham cracker mixture.)

      Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

      Adapted from Nosh and Tell

      Veggie Wrap PDF Print E-mail
      Sunday, August 8, 2010



      It’s August. How many peanut butter and jellies have you packed for the pool? I think I’ve packed about 327 of them. That means I’ve made myself approximately 82 turkey sandwiches this summer.  Though my kids could eat pb & j for every meal for six months straight, I’m ready for a change.


      This isn’t a recipe, just an idea for a sandwich to add a little variety to your lunches. My friend Amy shared it when we were poolside with our rugrats a few summers ago. I use Flat-Out brand wraps. Add hummus, veggies, feta cheese…..delicious and healthy.


      Here’s how I do it, but it can infinitely customized:

      1. Flat Out Wrap
      2. Spread a layer of hummus in the center section of the wrap
      3. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over hummus
      4. Shredded carrots
      5. Thinly sliced cucumber
      6. Sliced tomato
      7. Sliced red pepper
      8. Baby spinach
      9. Roll up and slice in half
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