Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies

This is one of my tried and true recipes. It uses shortening, so it's a good one to make when you're low on butter. These come out perfect on my Silpats and are chewy and delicious. This recipe was found in my grandma's church cookbook from many years ago.

2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine shortening, brown sugar, water and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Beat in eggs as well. Combine flour, cocoa, soda and salt; add into creamed mixture at low speed until just blended. Fold in chips and nuts.

Drop rounded dough onto greased cookie sheet (or use a Silpat). Bake 10 minutes. Do not over-bake. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 3 dozen

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quinoa with Roasted Veggies and Feta

I jumped onto the quinoa bandwagon and so far have enjoyed the ride.  It's pronouced "kin-wah," by the way, and it not easy to find in the grocery store.  Look for it by the specialty rice and couscous.  This recipe is from Taste of Home and was delicious. Quinoa reminds me a lot of couscous. It is basically seeds and is cooked a lot like rice. It is high in protein and fiber and other healthy stuff.


3 medium carrots
2 small zucchini
2 medium sweet red peppers, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (15-1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


  • Cut carrots and zucchini in half and into 1/2-in. slices; place in a large bowl. Add the peppers, onion, oil, garlic, oregano, pepper and salt; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Stir in corn; bake 25-30 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Set aside to cool.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add quinoa. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat; fluff with a fork.
  • Transfer quinoa to a large bowl; stir in the vegetables, parsley and basil. Sprinkle with cheese; serve with lemon. 

Yield: 6 servings.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Pear Butter

My friend Kristi mentioned that she attempted some pear butter for her kids, as they are starting the elimination diet. Doesn't that sound fabulous? (the pear butter, NOT the elimination diet...) When I found pears 10 for $10 at Kroger, it was game time. It came out pretty much the same consistency of my apple butter recipe - very spreadable and delicious.

5 lbs pears (about 10 pears)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon (*I used Cinnamon Plus)

Wash pears, then quarter and remove seeds and skins.  Put into dutch oven with 3/4 water and boil for 30 minutes or until very soft. Remove from heat, drain and mash with whatever you have that mashes well. (I used a slotted spoon).  Return to pot and add sugar, OJ and cinnamon.  Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat, stirring every hour or so for about three hours or until reduced to a spreadable consistency.

This made about 36 oz of pear butter. I put half in a container to freeze and half in the fridge to enjoy!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Chicken Marsala Rigatoni

This is a copycat recipe for Maggiano's Rigatoni "D." I've actually never had this at Maggiano's, but I sure liked the sound of the ingredients. It's been in my recipe hopper for awhile now, but with the rosemary focaccia rising, we needed an Italian meal worthy of it. This was quite good, but could have used even more garlic and a bit more salt. Will definitely make again.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces button mushrooms
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced (*Or more, if you like garlic!)
Salt and pepper
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 quart chicken stock
2 - 4 ounces Marsala wine (* I found some in the cooking wine section)
2 ounces white wine
1/2 quart heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni pasta
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
2 ounces garlic butter (* I used regular butter)
parmesan cheese, shavings (garnish)
chopped fresh parsley (garnish)


  • Heat oil and caramelize onions over medium high heat. Cook them until them until they brown.
  • In a separate skillet, saute mushrooms with balsamic vinegar. The vinegar will reduce down considerably.
  • Add onions to the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. 
  • Add garlic and heat just until you smell it - about 30 seconds.
  • Add chicken and stir to incorporate. Then add chicken stock, Marsala, and white wine. Cook until reduced by half.
  • Add cream and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer to thicken the sauce further. (* I sprinkled some flour in a few times to help thicken the sauce a bit. It is a fairly thin sauce.)
  • Cook rigatoni al dente.
  • Add drained rigatoni to chicken mixture in pan and finish with basil-parsley mix, parmesan cheese, garlic butter, and salt and pepper. Add more Marsala (*Or salt/pepper) for flavor, if desired.  
  • Place in pasta bowl and garnish with parmesan shavings and chopped parsley/basil.
Serves: 6

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The BEST Rosemary Focaccia

I've been wanting to try the Cook's Illustrated version of Rosemary Focaccia for some time now, but it is a bit time-intensive. This past weekend we were home with no plans, so I gave it a whirl. This bread is not a beginner's bread, although it was not difficult. It uses a biga (starter) which you need to do the night before and has FIVE, yes, FIVE rises.  That said, it was out of this world good. Crispy crust, soft, airy insides. Perfect amount of rosemary and salt on top. Wow.  Not something I'd make a lot, but it's a show-stopper.


1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for shaping
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary


1. FOR THE BIGA: Combine flour, water, and yeast in large bowl and stir with
wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1
minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature
(about 70 degrees) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.) Use
immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 3 days (allow to stand at room
temperature 30 minutes before proceeding with recipe.)
2. FOR THE DOUGH: Stir flour, water, and yeast into biga with wooden spoon
until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover with
plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt over dough; stir into dough until thoroughly
incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room
temperature 30 minutes. Spray rubber spatula or bowl scraper with nonstick
cooking spray; fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding
edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and
fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise
for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, turning, and rising 2 more times, for total of
three 30-minute rises. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position,
place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees at least 30 minutes
before baking.
4. Gently transfer dough to lightly floured counter . Lightly dust top of dough
with flour and div ide in half. Shape each piece of dough into 5-inch round by
gently tucking under edges. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons
olive oil each. Sprinkle each pan with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Place round of
dough in pan, top side down; slide dough around pan to coat bottom and sides,
then flip over. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover pans with plastic wrap
and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Using fingertips, press dough out toward edges of pan. (If dough resists
stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.) Using dinner
fork, poke surface of dough 25 to 30 times, popping any large bubbles. Sprinkle
rosemary evenly over top of dough. Let dough rest until slightly bubbly, 5 to 10
6. Place pans on baking stone and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake
until tops are golden brown, 25 to 28 minutes, switching placement of pans
halfway through baking. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes.
Remove loaves from pan and return to wire rack. Brush tops with any oil
remaining in pan. Let cool 30 minutes before serving.

Blueberry Syrup

I had some blueberries that were starting to go bad. You know, too mushy to eat but not yet moldy. How better to use them up than to make a delicious blueberry syrup for dinner? We have waffles/pancakes for dinner at least twice a month. It's a good, quick dinner to make when the fridge is empty (and so is the pocketbook!).  This syrup/sauce was A-MAZ-ING! I stored it in the fridge and heated up for a second meal a couple days later. It was a little more jelly-like, but still very tasty.  This recipe was found on


2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cold water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, 1/4 cup of water, orange juice, and sugar. 
  • Stir gently, and bring to a boil.
  • In a cup or small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. 
  • Gently stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries so as not to mash the berries. 
  • Simmer gently until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract and cinnamon. 
  • Thin sauce with water if it is too thick for your liking.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

I had harvested the last zucchini of the year, so we had to do something special with it.  A recipe featured on Lick the Bowl Good caught my eye- Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake. I had purchased a Pampered Chef stone bundt pan from a garage sale for a mere $2. It had never been used! The time was right to break it in. I added a chocolate glaze for a finishing touch and oh my heavens, if you have a bundt pan you MUST try this cake. MUST.


1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (* I left this out and it was still amazing)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For Chocolate Glaze:
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
2 -3 tablespoons hot water


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder or spray liberally with nonstick spray.

Whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.

With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the sour cream mixture. Repeat alternating flour and sour cream mixtures and end with the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary between additions.

Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. (Mine took 65 minutes to bake). Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine ingredients for glaze and spoon over top of bundt cake, allowing to drizzle down the sides.

Slice and serve.

Store the uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Ok - one more Mexican dish from and I need to go! These were super-duper good. Doug ate about 10 of them in one sitting. No joke.


1/3 C (3 oz) cream cheese
1/4 C green salsa (* I used green enchilada sauce)
1 T fresh lime juice
1/2 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t granulated garlic (* I used powdered garlic - I think that is what they meant?)
3 T chopped cilantro
2 T sliced green onions

2 C shredded cooked chicken
1 C grated pepperjack cheese (*I used Monterey Jack)

small corn tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray


Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. (* Or use a Silpat!)

Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it's soft and easy to stir. Add green salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and granulated garlic. Stir to combine and then add cilantro and green onions. Add chicken and cheese and combine well.

You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.

Work with a few tortillas at a time and heat in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It helps to place them between damp paper towels. Usually 20-30 seconds will do it. If you find yours are cracking when you roll them or come unrolled right away, just try heating them longer and try the paper towel thing.

(* This was time consuming. I could only do 2 at a time without them cracking. A second pair of hands would have kept the assembly line moving).

Place 2-3 T of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges.

Then roll it up as tight as you can.

Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or an oil mister and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Quick and Easy Black Beans

I wanted a nice side-dish to go with these Mexican meals I've been making lately. These were quite good! I am becoming a huge fan of Our Best Bites. This is another one of their fabulous recipes.


2 Cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 T olive oil
2/3 C diced onion
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
2/3 C chicken broth (or water, I use broth for extra flavor)
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t oregano
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 lime


In a saucepan on the stove, heat the olive oil to med-high heat. Saute onions for about 3 minutes or until they just start to become translucent. Add garlic and saute abut 30 seconds more. Add beans, broth, and remaining seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. When they are done cooking, remove from heat and add in a few squeezes of fresh lime juice. Then use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula so smoosh (yes, that’s a technical culinary term) some of the beans. (* I found that a beater from my hand mixer was quite effective). You don’t want to pulverize them, but you want to take a bunch of good smooshes so that some of the beans are smashed, which will thicken the sauce. I like mine on the thicker side so I smoosh quite a bit. They will thicken more upon standing.

If you want a more soupy consistency, just add a little more broth.

Yield: Six 1/3 cup servings

Carnita-Style Beef Tacos

I found this recipe on the Pioneer Woman, courtesy of Pam Anderson. It looked SO delicious, I knew I had to try it. I am so thankful that God "fixed" me and I miraculously now love peppers! I altered the recipe a bit to make it in my slow-cooker.  I was excited to use a lot of my garden produce in this recipe!


1 boneless chuck roast, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds (* I used two chuck steaks 1 1/5 lbs each)
3 tablespoons pure olive oil, divided
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper
1 can (4.5 ounces each) chopped green chiles (* I used 3 fresh jalapenos from my garden)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 medium-large onions, ends left in tact, peeled and each onion cut into 8 wedges
2  medium multi-colored peppers, each cut into 8 wedges
(* Next time I will double the onions and peppers because they were SO yummy!)
1 dozen medium flour tortillas
1 container (8 ounces) light or regular sour cream
1 bunch cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges


Heat a 5 to 6-quart heavy oven-safe Dutch oven or large cast iron skillet over low heat.

Meanwhile, place roast in a large bowl; coat with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with 1 tablespoon of the cumin and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Mix chiles, chili powder, remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin, and oregano in a small bowl.

A few minutes before searing, increase heat to a strong medium-high until wisps of smoke start to rise from the pan. Add roast; sear, turning only once, until both sides form an impressive brown crust, about 8 minutes total. Transfer roast to a plate; set aside. Add garlic to the now empty pot; sauté until fragrant and golden, about 30 seconds. Add chili mixture; sauté to intensify flavor, another 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, bring to a simmer.

Transfer roasts to crockpot and pour broth over it.  Cover and turn on high for 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Return roasts to pot. Using 2 potholders to protect hands, place a sheet of heavy-duty foil over the pot, pressing on the foil so that it touches the stew. Seal foil around the edges; repeat with a second sheet of foil to completely seal. Turn burner on medium-high until you hear juices bubble. Set pot on middle oven rack; cook for a total of 1 1/2 hours.

Remove roast from oven/crockpot, cool to room temperature, and shred into bite size pieces. About 30 minutes before roast is done, toss onions and peppers with remaining 2 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on a baking sheet large enough for vegetables to fit in a single layer. Place pan on bottom oven rack; cook until tender-crisp, about 30 minutes. (* If you double the peppers and onions you will need two pans. I used my Silpat for this - worked like a charm.)

When ready to serve, gently warm meat and peppers and onions over low heat. Serve with warm tortillas*, bowls of sour cream, cilantro sprigs, and lime wedges.

*We have taken to heating our tortillas over the gas flames on our range and flipping with tongs. It really gives it more of a homemade taste.


Rosemary Focaccia Bread

With all my wonderful rosemary growing out in the garden, I had a hankering to make some bread with it.  I had to search to find a recipe that didn't require a biga (since I wanted to make and eat it within the same day). This one from was pretty good! Next time I'll have to plan ahead and try the CooksIllustrated version.


1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (regular table salt)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Coarse salt (*I used sea salt)


Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, and let sit 10 minutes until bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, table salt, yeast mixture and remaining water. *I added half the chopped rosemary into the dough at this point.

Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon and then your hands.

Transfer to a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes or until smooth.

Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down and place on an oiled baking sheet, forming into an oval or circle.

Dimple the top surface with your finger tips, and then drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and remaining rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature.