Monday, February 27, 2012

French Toast

I never liked French toast until my husband made his for me.I me. There is something about eggs and syrup together that makes me gag. Everyone who eats french toast acts like it is the best thing they ever ate so I tried it over and over and without a doubt the egg taste was there. But the way my husband makes it you don't taste the egg and it is sweet with a slight crunchy crust. Ben is not much of a cook but the few things he does make are VERY good and this is one of them. I'm not exactly sure how he came up with this recipe but I remember when he decided he could make this just right and to this day if we are out of vanilla extract he wont even bother making it.  

Ingredients
3 eggs
6 pieces of Italian bread
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs butter

Directions
Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk together until well combined. Once the griddle is piping hot spread 1 tablespoon of butter all over. This is a essential to getting that nice butter crust on top. Dip each piece of bread in the mixture on both sides but don't over soak. What makes his french toast so special is the egg is minimal. Place the each piece on the griddle and cook both sides until golden brown.

He cooks the bacon on the griddle first which I think adds another great flavor to each piece of bread. Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you have any french toast tips I would love to know them. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Banana Bread (Muffins)



I first made these when I was a new nanny in New Jersey on Halloween. I completely felt like I was out of place with nothing to do because both parents were home so I decided to open Martha Stewart's cook book and make her banana bread. It turned out better than any banana bread I have ever had and I have yet in 15 years found one that is better. I have made them in one large loaf, 4 mini loafs, muffins and now this time mini muffins. I this is not exactly her recipe because I use less salt now and I don't like nuts in my banana bread so if you want her exact recipe go to her site.

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
I stick butter room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 bananas smashed or 1 cup very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
Directions

Pre heat oven 350 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.
Cream butter, sugar, and eggs with whisk. Combine dry ingredients with butter mixture until all incorporated.
Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla. stir together well. Using ice cream scoop add a small scoop into each cup. Bake for 15 minutes.


Try these and tell me if you have a better recipe because I would love to try it out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stuffed Shells

I started making stuffed shells because I LOVE Lasagna but not the work. My stuffed shells are always a little different depending on what I have in my fridge. Last night I had pesto left over from another dinner so I added it to the filling. I make my shells with my basic meat sauce. 

Basic Meat Sauce
My Basic meat sauce is simple and full of flavor. 

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (ground turkey if you prefer)
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp all spice
3 cans tomato sauce
2 tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper
5 fresh basil leaves chopped



Directions
In a large pot add ground beef and season with 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp oregano. Brown for 1 minute and then add chopped onion. Continue to cook for 2 minutes then add minced garlic. Mix this around and cook 1 minute then add allspice. Once the meat is cooked all the way through add 3 cans tomato sauce. Add 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Let this simmer for an 1/2 hour to an 1hour or cook all day if you like. The all spice is a trick I learned from Rachel Ray that makes the sauce taste like it has been cooking all day so you don't have to unless you would like. About 10 minutes before you are going to use the sauce add the chopped fresh basil. If you don't have fresh basil don't worry just added either 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning or dried basil or just more oregano. 
For this I use Ronzoni jumbo shells. I use whatever brand makes them but I've only seen Ronzoni  and Barilla. I cook these shells a minute less than they say on the box because you bake them for 20 minutes and I hate mushy pasta, so I boil mine for 9 minutes. 
Filling
Ingredients
1 container (15 ounces) of whole milk ricotta
3 tbs pesto 
2 tbs sour cream
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
1 c. shredded Mozzarella for the top

Directions
Add all ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Set aside in fridge until shells are cooked. Once shells are ready take small spoon and fill each shell with about 1 tbs of ricotta mixture. Depending on how much much you fill each one you may or may not use every shell. I've actually never used every shell.



In a 9 x 13 inch pan put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom so the shells don't stick. Fill each shell and making one layer in the pan. Add sauce over the shells but don't use it all and don't drowned them. I like to leave the remainder sauce on the side simmer and add it to my dish of shells. Add a good layer of shredded mozzarella on the top and Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes

Try it and let me know what you think. Me and my guests just loved them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cilantro Slaw

I love cole slaw but I hate buying it already made because I need the cabbage to be crisp or it makes me gag. I found this recipe from one of my favorite blogs The Pioneer Woman. I tried it out at my super bowl party and everyone loved it. I was intrigued to make this because of the cilantro and Cayenne pepper. It is not spicy and the cilantro give it a nice fresh tang to it. The pepper just gives it a slight kick so don't worry if you don't like spicy food. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced thin
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk, plus more for thinning
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, barely chopped
Directions

Combine the shredded cabbage in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Add more milk if you like the dressing a little thinner. Pour over the cabbage. Toss to combine.
Just before serving, toss in the cilantro. Can mix the slaw up to 2 hours before serving.

The only thing I would do different next time is to add dressing and let sit and then add more if needed because I felt it was a little to much dressing. I don't like soggy cole slaw. I will definitely make this again and again. Try it and let me know what you think. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Basic Tomato Sauce

I find that a basic Tomato sauce was one of the hardest recipes I learned and one of the easiest. I attempted to make this a few times and it was always so bland that I just bought the jar stuff for many years. I watched Martha Stewart many years ago when she did a 101 on Tomato sauce. She started the show explaining that if you stick with these basic ingredients making tomato sauce is very simple and delicious. It changed my way of cooking from then on. I am not against buying jar sauce. Here in NYC there are some very good choices. I just find homemade sauce taste fresher, you control the salt, it is almost as easy, and much cheaper.

Ingredients

2 cans of Hunts tomato sauce
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of dried basil
1/2 of small onion diced 
1 tbs olive oil
1tsp of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs of Parmesan cheese.

Directions

In large saute pan on medium high heat add olive oil and onion to pan. once onions are translucent add garlic and cook for about one minute. You don't want to burn garlic but you do want to be cooked before adding tomato sauce. 

Add Tomato sauce dried oregano and basil. If you have fresh herbs then go ahead and add them but don't add until almost finished cooking because they keep their fresh flavor. I always have dried herbs so this recipe calls for dried but sometimes I will have fresh parsley or basil and I add a little bit at the end. Add 1 tsp of salt and pepper, and sugar. The sugar helps cut the acidity. Let this simmer while you boil your water and then cook your pasta. While pasta is cooking add about 1 tbs of grated Parmesan. It gives it a nice extra flavor. 

Taste your sauce and add more salt if needed. 

You can use any pasta you want. My family loves penne so we use it the most. Try this recipe and let me know what you think. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Salsa

I made 3 new recipes for the super bowl. This salsa was one of them. I have to say I was a little worried it wouldn't turn out very good. I have never seen salsa made with canned tomatoes and my brother in law makes the best salsa I have ever had and it is made of all fresh tomatoes. However, this recipe comes from a blog that I am always checking out and dying to try her stuff. Ree Drummond has a blog called The Pioneer Woman and a new show on the Food Network. I have a list of recipes I want to make that I've either seen on her show or blog. This is the first of many that you will see on my blog. Just so you know I never post the recipes I didn't like. I do have to say that when I made this I wasn't impressed. Being the busy mom who decided to make 3 new recipes I didn't completely read instructions to the recipe and made this right when  my guests arrived. When I tasted it I found it was a little bland and was missing something that I couldn't pin point. I was bummed that it didn't remind me of the Restaurant Style Salsa that she had named it. However, I served it to my guests and they all liked it. I stored the rest in the refrigerator and tried it the next day and wow it was dramatically different. It was now full of flavor and had a nice little kick. So I do recommend you give this delish recipe a try but just make sure to make it ahead of time so all the flavors seep into the tomatoes. 

Ingredients

1 (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes
2 (10 ounce) can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chillies
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
1 whole jalapeno quartered and sliced
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c. Cilantro (more to taste!)
1/2 whole lime juice

Directions

Note: this is a very large batch. Recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.
Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you'd like---I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.
Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips or cheese nachos.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies



I have made countless chocolate chip cookies since I was a kid. I remember making cookie dough with my sister and never actually baking a single cookie because we liked the dough better. I also remember have a big belly ache after we were done. Every cookie I made was only really good right out of the oven and hard as a rock about 30 minutes later. 


I found City Bakery here in NYC from the Martha Stewart show. I traveled all the way down to Chelsea just to try this tart that they featured on her show. The tarts were expensive and amazing. I also discovered the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. It was exactly was a chocolate chip cookie should be crispy on the outside and chewy in the inside. After that cookie I decided I was on a mission to figure out how to make mine the same way. 


I watched the food Network where Alton Brown broke down why a cookie is cakey, crispy, flat and chewy. I tried applying what I learned and still couldn't get it right. I googled how to make City Bakery chocolate chip cookie and found an article where the baker, Maury Rubin revealed some tips on how he makes his cookies. Oh boy was I excited and this is the recipe that came to be.

Tips: Use cold butter instead of room temperature, Have dough sit in the refrigerate for at least 24 hours (I can never make it that long but noticed the longer they sit the better they are), and DON'T OVER COOK. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter cold and cut into pieces
1/2 c. sugar plus 2 tbs
1/2 c. brown sugar plus 2 tbs (tightly packed)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 c. chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter on medium speed until pale yellow. Add sugars and vanilla. Cream together until smooth. 

Add egg on low and stop once incorporated. You don't want to over mix

On low speed, add flour mixture until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and using a wooden spoon combine chocolate chips. 

Scoop dough into balls with small ice cream scoop into a container and refrigerate for the day. Bake at 375 degree about 2 inches apart for 10 to 14 minutes. I like to turn the pan after 10 minutes of cooking and cook another 2 to 4 minutes. 

Give these a try and I promise you will see a difference. You can also freeze them just like this and bake right out of the freezer. You will have to bake a little longer but still same result. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Olive Garden's Dressing.

I am not a big fan of Olive garden's pasta dishes however, I like going there just for the salad and soup. There dressing is just fabulous. I was on Pinterest and found a blog that copied this dressing. This is not the first blog I have found that attempted to copy it but, it is the first to get REAL close. I made it few nights ago and I am in heaven. Thank you Country Cook for making me oh so happy. I didn't tell my husband that I made this dressing I just waited to see if he noticed a difference. He was oohing and aahing and asking what is different with this salad. If you too like Olive Garden's dressing or just want to try a new one here is how simple it is to make. 

You start with one of my favorite store bought dressing mixes. Follow the directions on the back and then you will add. 

1tsp dried Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp mayo
1/4 C. Olive oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp water

Mix it all together well and add it to your basic dinner salad. I guarantee you will be very happy. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lemon Drop

Lemon drops are one of my favorite cocktails to order and make. They are easy and simply delish. This is a recipe to make two cocktails. You could double and triple this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, pour some in a shaker with ice when you are ready to serve.

Ingredients
3 ounces Vodka
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces simple syrup
3 tbs fine white sugar (for glasses)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water

Directions


You should make simple syrup ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. In a sauce pan heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. Once the sugar has completely evaporated it is done. Let it cool pour into a container and chill in refrigerator.

First chill two martini glasses in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. In shaker pour in 3 ounces of vodka, 2 ounces of lemon juice, 2 ounces of simple syrup and 1/2 cup of ice. Rim the glasses with lemon juice and then dip in super fine sugar. Shake the cocktail rigorously and then pour into each glass evenly. Make one of these for you and your friend or loved one this valentines day. I guarantee you will love them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Turkey Burger

I started making turkey burgers about 3 years ago to help cut back on eating so much ground beef. I saw a photo in one of my food magazines that looked so delish and decided to give it a try. I think the trick to making turkey burgers taste better than beef burgers is what you add to the meat. When you cook a hamburger you don't have to add anything. I think the more you add to a hamburger the more it taste like a meat loaf burger. However turkey can be very dry so you need to add a little something to make it juicy.

Ingredients
1 package of ground turkey
1/4 of an onion finely grated
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
dash of salt and pepper
2tbs olive oil divided
1 onion sliced
Sharp cheddar cheese
5 Brioche Rolls

Directions

Put Turkey, finely grated onion, cumin, chili powder and a dash of salt and pepper in a bowl. Using your hands mix it all together well because there is nothing worse then to bite into a big bite of cumin or chili powder. Then form them into 1inch patties that are a little larger then the bun.  The ground turkey has a little bit of fat in it so it will shrink a little. Lightly salt and pepper each patty. Place on a piping hot non stick pan with a little bit of olive oil. Cook for at least 5 min on each side. While you are cooking the burgers in a medium sized skillet brown onion slices in 1 tbs of olive oil. Cook them until brown and tender. Once you flip the burger add enough slices of cheddar cheese to give it a good covering. Cook 5 minutes on this side and then it is ready to serve. I like mine on a toasted brioche roll. I add the onions on top and mayo and mustard on my bun. That is it. Very simple and absolutely delish. I make THE best hamburgers but for some reason my husband loves these even better. Try them and let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Salad

I LOVE Salads. If I was told I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life I would choose SALADS. I Love the very complex salads to the very simple ones. When I moved to NYC I was appalled that most restaurants only served Greek or Caesar. In Seattle their salad spot on the menu is always very creative. For quite some time I've toyed with the idea of opening my own cafe that would serve food that represented the Seattle girl who loves that NYC influence. So it would have Sandwiches like a French dip, Rubens that you could actually get your mouth around, salads with and Asian American flair and others that had fresh buffalo mozzarella. Salads are great because you can put anything in them. I am a mom and wife and very busy so I don't make salads that are elaborate very often. This salad you see here in my basic go to for every night. 

Once I started Weight Watchers about 2 years ago I made sure to have a salad with almost every dinner. It is always a basic salad mix of leaf lettuce and romaine with whatever I have on hand. Most of the time it is just tomato and red onion but in this salad I had some green pepper that I added. Sometimes I have cucumber and add feta. The reason I eat salad with every dinner is because I love it, it is a great filler which keeps me from eating too much pasta, bread or rice, and it helps keep me regular. I hope that wasn't too much information :) 


I usually have a little vinaigrette dressing. The zesty Italian is one I grew up using and still love very much. I also love Stew Leonard's Balsamic. Don't get me wrong I do make my own vinaigrette but often I am so busy and the store bought in the fridge taste almost as good. I also love Ranch, Blue cheese, and Caesar,  but my gut says no, no, no. As you read my future blogs you will begin to see more salad and sandwich choices because they are what I am really good at and love to eat. Try to add more salads to your dinners and I guarantee you will feel lighter and more regular over time. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pork Chops


One of my favorite easy dinners that the whole family likes are pork chops. I like to buy the thin pork chops so they cook fast and stay moist with a yummy crust on the outside. I grew up with two kinds of pork chops, shake and bake and smothered in cream of mushroom soup. We used to eat that so often that I can't even think of eating it that way now. My husband likes food simple and tangy so this is a dish he asks me to make often.

Ingredients

5 thin pork chops
2 tbs fresh cilantro or basil chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
juice of a lemon
salt and pepper

Directions

Salt and pepper each side of the pork chop. Add olive oil to large piping hot saute pan. Once it is very hot add the chops. Don't touch them and cook for about 2 minutes. The best part is the crust so it is very necessary to get it very hot and not move the pork. Flip the each chop and add lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. Cook for another 2 minutes and then done. I usually serve with rice and salad. This is a meal that is cheap easy, takes very little prep time and always devoured each time I make it. Try it and let me know what you think.