Friday, March 28, 2008

Best Blueberry Muffins

Hands down...the best. Just ask my sister (the one who licked the banana cream pie plate). I've seen her eating two at a time--one in each hand! Yes, I'm very proud of her ladylike manners :-)

Blueberry Muffins
Williams-Sonoma, Savoring America

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. sugar, plus 2 tsp. for topping

1 TBSP baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. milk
1 egg, at room temperature
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/2 pt. fresh blueberries


1. Preheat oven to 375. Line 12 muffin-pan cups with liners.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 c. sugar, baking powder and salt until well blended.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla until well blended.

4. Add the milk mixture, melted butter, and blueberries to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.

5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing evenly. They should be no more than 3/4 full. If desired, sprinkle tops with extra sugar (I like to use brown turbinado if I do this.)

6. Bake until muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approx. 18--20 minutes.

7. Let muffins cool in the pan on a rack for five minutes, then remove and continue to cool on the rack.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recipe Exchange--Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

In March the wind blows down the door and spill my soup upon the floor.
It laps it up and roars for more.

Blowing once, blowing twice, blowing chicken soup with rice.

Any time I hear even the slightest mention of chicken and rice, my mind immediately reverts to that poem, which I had to memorize back in third grade. Even hearing "arroz con pollo" will do the trick! So of course, when I received this recipe for the March/April Nestie recipe exchange, I couldn't help but say the poem once more.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
from the Midwest
6 TBSP. butter

1 TBSP. minced onion

1/2 c. flour

2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans chicken broth

2 c. ooked wild rice

1/2 c. finely grated carrots

1/2 c. cooked chicken

1 1/2 TBSP. chopped silvered almonds

1 c. half and half

1/2 tsp. salt

Snipped parsley or chives for garnish


1. In a large saucepan, melt butter and saute onion until tender.

2. Blend in flour and then gradually add broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

3. Stir in wild rice, carrots, chicken, almonds, and salt. Simmer about 5 minutes.

4. Blend in half and half and heat to serving temperature. If too thick, you may thin with chicken broth.

5. Garnish with snipped parsley or chives.

Easy, Healthy Taco Dinner

I love watching "Healthy Appetite" hosted by Ellie Krieger on Food Network. She is one of the few chefs I've ever seen than makes healthy food that truly looks just as wonderful as its full fat, full calorie companions. When I saw her make these tacos, I was sure they'd be a healthy hit...and they were. They were also very quick and easy to prepare, which is always a fantastic bonus! I hope you'll try them. I know you'll love them, too!

Chile-Rubbed Steak Tacos with Avocado Lime Salsa
Served with Vegetarian Ranch Beans
adapted from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave


1 TBSP chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
A pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/4 lb. top sirloin steaks cut 1-inch thick
12 small corn tortillas (5 to 6 inches in diameter)
3 c. shredded red cabbage
1/2 c. chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 cups Avocado Lime Salsa, recipe follows


In a small bowl stir together chili powder, garlic, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper.

2. Rub spice mixture on both sides of steaks.

3. Grill steak for 5 to 6 minutes on each side for medium rare, turning once. (I did 7 minutes on each side for medium.)

4. Remove from grill and let meat sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Carve into thin slices.

5. Warm tortillas by placing them on the grill, for about 30 seconds, turning once. Or place 6 tortillas at a time between 2 moist paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds. Wrap in cloth napkin or place in a tortilla warmer to keep warm.

Avocado Lime Salsa

1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 2 c.)
2 avocados, cut into chunks
1/2 red onion, diced
2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 c.)
Salt, to taste
1/4 c. chopped cilantro leaves
2 jalapeno chiles, chopped, plus more to taste (I used three)


1. Place cucumber, avocado and onion in a large bowl and add lime juice and salt. Add cilantro and chiles and toss gently.

Vegetarian Ranch Beans

1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste
1/4 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 TBSP chopped cilantro

1. Place a pot on the stove at medium-high heat. Add in olive oil and bring to temperature.

2. Add onion and bell pepper. Saute until slightly softened, about three minutes.

3. Add chili powder, cumin, and salt. Saute about one minute more
4. Add broth and beans. Let them warm up until the beans begin to break down a bit, about five minutes.

5. Add cilantro and lightly mash the beans to desired consistency.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tasty Tools--Another Blog Event!

Am I blog event crazy lately, or what?!? I attribute it all to Elly. If it wasn't for her "Eat to the Beat" event, I never would've become addicted to blog events. Thanks, Elly! And thank you Emiline and Joelen, as well, for your fantatic events. I'm sure my family thanks you too. They've really enjoyed the yummy treats I've been making!

This yummy dessert is for Joelen's "Tasy Tools" blog event. It's a really fun concept and she'll be hosting it monthly. This month, we are to create a delicious dish utilizing the grater or microplane. Lucky me! My microplane graters are among my favorite kitchen tools, mostly because they help me use one of my favorite ingredients--lemon. This recipe calls for Meyer lemons, which are virutally impossible to find here. So, like many a home cook before me, I used a combo of lemon and orange.

Without further ado, here it addition to "Tasty Tools".

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream
Williams-Sonoma, Savoring America

3/4 c. sugar
2 TBSP Meyer lemon zest (I used half lemon, half orange)
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. half-and-half
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
pinch of salt
3 TBSP fresh Meyer lemon juice (I used only lemon juice)


1. In a food processor, combine the sugar and zest. Process until the sugar becomes very moist and and the zest becomes very fine.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the processed sugar until the mixture is pale and thick and forms a ribbon when the whisk is lifted.

3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the half-and-half and 1/2 cu of the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer.  Pour the hot liquid into the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Return mixture to the pan.

4. Add the salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, about three minutes. Do not allow to simmer or it will curdle. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in remaining cup of heavy cream and lemon juice.

5. Pour the mixture through a sieve or strainer, then cover and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly. (I let mine cool over night)

6.  Freeze per ice cream maker directions.  Put in a container and freeze at least four hours before serving.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Traditional Irish Stew

I love Irish stew, but hardly ever eat in on St. Patrick's Day because it's usually too warm in Phoenix by mid-March. Well this year, I was eating Irish stew, come hell, high water, or 85 degree temps. Luckily, we had a cool front and it was only 63 here today. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

Traditional Irish Stew the Bailey
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

3 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (original calls for lamb shoulder)
1 1/2 TBSP minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
6 c. reduced-sodium beef broth (original calls for chicken broth)
3 lbs. boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/4 c. vegetable oil


1. In a 7 to 8-quart kettle simmer beef, parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste in 4 cups broth, covered, 1 1/2 hours.

2. To beef mixture add potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and remaining 2 cups broth and simmer, covered, 1 hour.

3. In a small bowl whisk together flour and oil until smooth and stir into simmering stew until well incorporated.
4. Simmer stew, uncovered, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes, and season with salt and pepper.

Irish Soda Bread

Note to the home baker: When making Irish soda bread, don't forget the soda.

Because I did. And the loaf of bread, of course, was a rock. A complete and total lump of gross. So much for my attempt to post a beautiful picture of my first-ever loaf of homemade bread. That's okay, though, because the first loaf did appear a little dry to me. Luckily, I planned for failure and bought enough buttermilk for two loaves.

So, as soon as it cooled, I chucked the first loaf and made another. This time I remembered the baking soda and I increased the wet ingredients to accommodate the arid desert climate here in Phoenix. Success! So here it is, my beautiful second-ever loaf of homemade bread.

Classic Irish Soda Bread
seen at Good Things Catered
adapted from Cook's Illustrated


3 c. bleached all-purpose flour , plus more for work surface
1 c. cake flour
2 TBSP granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp table salt
4 TBSP unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons softened + 1 tablespoon melted (original called for 2 softened)
1 3/4 c. buttermilk (original called from 1 1/2 c.)


1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in large bowl.

3. Work softened butter into dry ingredients with fingertips until texture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork just until dough begins to come together.

5. Turn out onto flour-coated work surface; knead until dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until dough is smooth, or bread will be tough.)

6. Pat dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet or in cast-iron pot, if using.

7. Place the loaf on a cookie sheet and cut a cross shape into the top.

8. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes.

9. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.

Chocolate Pecan Pie with Chocolate-Jack Daniels Ice Cream

Emiline from Sugar Plum hosted a blog event I loved from the moment I heard about it. The "St. Paddy's Day Pub Crawl" had one requirement and one requirement only--your food had to have alcohol in it. Perfect!

I knew I wanted to use whiskey; it's one of my favorites. So I got down to work finding the perfect, delicious, blog-event-worthy recipe. This delivered like I hoped it would. It takes some planning ahead and it has a lot of steps, but it is sooooo worth it!

Chocolate Pecan Pie with Semisweet Chocolate and Jack Ice Cream
adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 recipe chocolate pie crust, recipe follows
12 TBSP dark brown sugar
3 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. dark corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups pecan halves
Semisweet Chocolate and Jack Ice Cream, recipe follows
Jack Chocolate Ganache, recipe follows

1. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out 1/8-inch thick and gently fit the dough into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, easing the pastry gently into the bottom and sides. Trim the edges of the dough so that they overhang slightly over the edge of the tart pan, then fold this excess dough over the sides so that the outer edges are almost twice as thick as the bottom of the crust. Press so that the edges are flush with the top of the pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Line the tart shell with lightly buttered parchment paper and pie weights, beans, or rice and bake until set and the edges just begin to firm up, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

5. To prepare the tart filling, combine the brown sugar, butter and salt in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, cream together.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Add the dark corn syrup, and vanilla extract, and whisk well to blend.  Stir in chocolate chips.

7. Place the pecan halves evenly over the bottom of the prepared tart shell and pour the filling over the pecans. Bake until the tart is set, about 50 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve the pie at room temperature, each slice garnished with a small scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of Jack Chocolate Ganache.

Chocolate Pie Crust:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
6 TBSP confectioners' sugar
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
8 TBSP (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 TBSP cold water

1. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt into a large bowl.

2. With your fingers, incorporate the butter pieces into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mix in the egg yolk and water to make a soft dough.

3. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 1 hour before using.

Yield: 1 (9 or 10-inch) tart crust

Semisweet Chocolate and Jack Ice Cream:
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut and scraped or 1 tsp. pure vanilla
4 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, about 1/2 c.
1/4 c. whiskey (recommended: Jack Daniel's)

1. Combine the heavy cream, milk and vanilla bean and scraped seeds in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring just to a simmer.

2. While the cream and milk are heating, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow and thick.

3. When the cream mixture reaches a simmer, ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Add another 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk again to combine. Slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot cream mixture in the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium-low.

4. Cook the custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.  Remove from the heat and immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl containing the chocolate chips. Allow to sit undisturbed for 1 minute before whisking to incorporate.

5. Add the whiskey to the custard, stir to blend, then set aside to cool completely.

6.  Transfer to a refrigerator and chill thoroughly.  Once the custard is chilled, follow the manufacturer's instructions for churning in an electric ice cream maker.

9. Once set, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm before serving, 4 to 8 hours.

Jack Chocolate Ganache:
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 TBSP whiskey (recommended: Jack Daniel's)

1. Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add chocolate and whisk to combine.  Stir in whiskey and keep warm.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

In my quest to clear the pantry before Spring, I found a can of pumpkin puree. I made the pumpkin pie muffins, which were really good, but didn't use the entire can of pumpkin. Not that I'm complaining...pumpkin is probably one of my most favorite foods. I remembered many of my Nesties raving about these cookies back in October and November, so I thought I'd take a crack at them. Oh. My. Goodness. These are my new favorite non-chocolate cookie.

Don't wait until fall to make them.

Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Icing
adapted from "What's Cooking in the Orange Kitchen"
originally from Betty Crocker's Fall Baking

For the cookies:
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

For the icing:
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 to 4 TBSP milk
1/3 c. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg


1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, 3/4 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended.

3. Beat in pumpkin and eggs until well mixed.

4. Turn mixer down to low speed and beat in flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

5. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 45 minutes.

6. In medium bowl, place powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk. In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until light brown.

7. Pour browned butter over powdered sugar mixture. Beat on low speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Gradually add just enough of the remaining 1 tablespoon milk to make frosting creamy and spreadable.

8. Generously ice cooled cookies.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Roasted Salmon with Shallot-Grapefruit Sauce

This dish was definitely out of the ordinary for me. I don't cook fish all that often and I think I can count, on one hand, the number of times I've eaten grapefruit. But WOW! This turned out fantastically! I will definitely make it for myself again and I wouldn't hesitate to serve it to dinner guests. After all, it's one of my favorite color combinations--pink and green! And who doesn't love pretty food that tastes great?

Roasted Salmon with Shallot-Grapefruit Sauce
adapted from Elie Krieger, The Food You Crave
4 skinless salmon fillets, 5 to 6 oz. each
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
2 ruby red grapefruits
2 tsp. olive oil
1 TBSP minced shallot
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 1/2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. red pepper flakes, adjust to taste
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. thinly sliced basil leaves, plus more for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Season the salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt, place in a baking dish and roast until cooked through, about 18 minutes.

3. While the salmon is cooking prepare the sauce. Cut 1 of the grapefruits into sections by cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit, then standing it on one end, cut down the skin to remove the pith and peel. Then, with a paring knife, remove each segment of fruit from its casing and cut the segments in half. Set the segment pieces aside. Juice the other grapefruit and set the juice aside.

4. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the ginger, grapefruit juice, honey, and cayenne pepper and bring to simmer. Cook until sauce is reduced by about half about, 10 minutes.

5. Add lemon juice and season with salt, to taste. Right before serving, toss the grapefruit pieces and basil into the sauce.

6. Put the salmon onto a serving dish. Spoon sauce over the salmon and serve.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Berry Yummy Bargain

I had one of those great trips to the grocery store today. Before you ask "what do you mean a great trip to the grocery store?" hear me out. Ever since last Saturday, when I saw my friend sipping on a martini garnished with fresh strawberries, I've been craving berries. Strawberries are probably one of my least favorite berries, but just seeing those gorgeous, bright red guys floating around in the martini glass was enough to make me want one.

Fast forward to today. I was meandering through the produce aisle at Fresh & Easy checking out all their yummies. I stopped at the berries hoping they would look decent enough to take home. Not only did they look great, but blackberries were on special! And not just any special...half off! Needless to say I scooped up a couple of cartons on the spot. Who cared if they were on special because they were nearing the end of their shelf life? I was pretty sure they weren't going to make it to the next day.

Before dashing off to the check out line, I grabbed some bananas, knowing that berries and bananas are one of my favorite combinations. While I waited patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently) in line, my mind was reeling with all the fantastic things I could make. Cobbler? Sorbet? Or should I just eat them plain or with yogurt? I couldn't decide.

As soon as I got home, I hit the Internet and every cookbook I have. Finally, I found a recipe that fit exactly what I wanted--blackberries, bananas, and warm comfort. I hope you'll like it, too.

Blackberry Banana Muffins
adapted from Joy of Baking

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 c. light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 c.)
1 c. fresh blackberries
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position rack in center of oven. Line the muffin pan with paper liners or grease with butter or a baking spray. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan melt the butter. Set aside.
3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and mashed banana. Add the melted butter to the brown sugar mixture and stir to combine.
4. In another large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Gently fold in the berries, making sure they are coated with flour. This helps to prevent the berries from sinking during baking. Do not over mix or the berries will turn the batter purple.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined. Do not overmix.
6. Fill each muffin cup about two thirds full of batter. Fill any unused muffin cups halfway with water to prevent warping of the pan and/or over browning of the muffins. Place in the oven and bake until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Yields 12 muffins

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Sorry. No cutesy title this time. Just a really good, really easy recipe. Enjoy!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, Everyday Italian


1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
3 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 c. dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
chopped fresh basil, for garnish
fresh parmesan, for garnish


1. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 tsp. of salt and red pepper flakes.

2. In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the shrimp and saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large plate and set aside.

3. Add the onion to the same skillet and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

5. Return the shrimp and accumulated juices to the tomato mixture and toss to coat.

6. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sort-of Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta

The push to clean out the pantry continues. I've found that I have a whole lot of dried pasta, just not in any of the right shapes. Too bad. When you have the urge to use up the hodgepodge of ingredients you've accumulated over the past year, such small details suddenly don't matter so much.

I really only made one substitution that could've changed the taste much. Unfortunately, I'd have to say I probably won't make this recipe again. It's not that it was bad at all, it just didn't have much taste, which is strange given some of the ingredients. I added an extra splash of vinegar after I took my first taste, but it didn't seem to do too much to pump up the taste. Oh well. At least I got closer to a cleaned-out pantry.

Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese
Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave


1/2 lb. whole-wheat fusilli or other spiral pasta (I had penne)
1/2 c. walnut pieces (I had hazelnuts)
1/2 c. crumbled feta

1/2 c. diced red onion

1 1/2 c. chopped baby spinach

2 TBSP walnut or olive oil (I had olive oil)

2 TBSP red wine vinegar (I used close to 3 TBSP)

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste


1. Cook the pasta to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and put in the refrigerator to cool.

2. In a small dry skillet, toast the nuts over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely.

3. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, walnuts, feta, onion, and spinach.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, and mustard.

5. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for about one day.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pumpkin Pie for Breakfast?

I love when each new season rolls around. I love the change in weather, I love bringing out the clothes and home decor that have been packed away, and I love enjoying the seasonal foods. To make room in my pantry for all the yummy spring foods, I decided I needed to use up all the fall and winter goodies. I had a can of pumpkin still hanging around. It had to go.

These muffins are very tasty. You can definitely tell that they are made with whole-wheat flour, but I like that texture. A can of pumpkin well used.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins
Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave


baking spray
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-grain pastry or whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 TBSP unsulfured molasses
1/4 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
1 c. canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. lowfat buttermilk
1/4 c. unsalted raw pumpkin seeds (for garnish)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat twelve-cup muffin pan with baking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, molasses, oil, and one egg until combined. Add the second egg and whisk well.  Whisk in pumpkin and vanilla.

4. Stir in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with buttermilk, until just combined.

5. Pour batter into prepared muffin tin, filling about 2/3 full, and sprinkle the tops with pumpkin seeds. Tap on the counter to release any air bubbles.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, approx. 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Will keep in refrigerator for three days or frozen for three months.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Raspberry-Balsamic Chicken

This recipe is definitely a winner, for many reasons. First of all, the taste is fantastic. Secondly, it was really easy to make. This is definitely one of those "secret recipes" we all like to have. (You know the kind--everyone thinks they took all day. Shhhh! I won't tell if you won't!) Third, it's healthy. Finally, it plates beautifully. Hmmmm...I'll have to keep this one in my back pocket for when I need to impress a date...

Raspberry-Balsamic Chicken
adapted from Cooking Light

2 TBSP olive oil, divided
3/4 c. chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
3/4 tsp. salt
4 chicken breasts
1/2 c. seedless raspberry preserves
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar (adjust to taste)
black pepper, to taste

1. Heat 1 TBSP of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add onion and sauté for five minutes, until slightly softened.

2. Sprinkle salt, pepper, thyme, and sage over chicken. Add chicken to pan and saute for six minutes on each side, or until done. (I like to put the lid on the pan when I flip the chicken to keep everything more moist.) Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

3. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 tsp. salt, preserves, vinegar, and pepper. Stir constantly, until preserves melt.  Add chicken back in for two-three minutes. Flip after one minute to make sure chicken is fully coated.

4. Place chicken on a platter or on individual plates. Pour sauce over chicken or put in a small pitcher or gravy boat.