April 30, 2012


Homemade bread is one of my absolute favorite things to bake. There is something almost therapeutic about baking bread, the kneading, the smell, the whole process. It hasn't always been that way for me though. I had never even touched a bread machine or attempted to make a loaf of bread until my mother-in-law gave me her old bread machine approximately 5 years ago. I played around with making various breads in it for about a year until it broke. Then I was stuck with the question of whether I should buy another bread machine or start trying to learn to make bread completely from scratch. Ultimately I decided that while I loved the convenience of the bread machine, I wasn't a fan of the limits it put on the types of bread I could make or the fact that if I wanted to make shaped bread I still had to take it out and form it by hand. So I started making bread by hand. The first dozen attempts were mixed at best, some loaves didn't rise as expected, some turned out looking like bricks instead of bread and some were just complete disasters. After many failed attempts I finally found the flow to bread making and haven't looked back, I love it! Last week I decided to try a new recipe for Baguettes from the Holiday Baking edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

This recipe has three ingredients (including water) in the sponge and 4 ingredients in the dough. It takes approximately 10 and a half hours of rising and baking time (most of which is the sponge rising) and makes 2 baguettes. I had all the ingredients already in my pantry cupboard. I let the sponge rise for approximately ten hours and the final rise took 1 1/2 hours total. I forgot to let the baking stone heat for the full 45 minutes, mine was in about 30 minutes early and it still worked perfectly. The baking time was perfect, which was a pleasant surprise since so many bread recipes can be very off for my disco-era oven.
I was very impressed by these baguettes. Using the pizza stone to bake the bread worked perfectly. The bread had a great crust and a delicious soft inside. I will definitely be using this method again in the future. The folding technique for the bread produced a soft inside bread texture, which was delicious served the day it was made as well as toasted the next day. Overall, a great baguette recipe.

This recipe isn't currently available online, but can be found in the Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking 2011 edition. (I wish that is was available on-line to share, it was great!).

April 29, 2012

Rao's Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce

There is something about homemade pasta sauce that brings a smile to my face. It's not hard to make, but it can take a bad day and make it into something warm and memorable. I remember growing-up that my mom kept an herb garden and I would wait impatiently every year for the basil to be ready to eat indicating that pasta sauce was in my future. I loved watching the sauce boil on the stove and the smell of the garlic and herbs simmering, yum! I'll admit that when I moved out on my own in college I became lazy. I am going to share something that I am embarrassed to confess. The last two years of college I would buy a jar of Alfredo sauce and a box of spaghetti, cook them and eat that for diner for the entire week. Now granted I was a marathon runner and could easily burn off the carbs, but as I look back on the memory and cringe. I don't think I have eaten jarred Alfredo sauce since I was 23 and it is probably largely due to this habit. After getting married I decided that I was going to start making pasta sauce from scratch again. It took me some fails, but eventually I learned to make delicious sauce and I rarely if ever buy the jarred variety anymore. However, my husband has fallen in love with the Rao's pasta sauce that he bought at the store last year. I will agree that for a jarred sauce it is pretty delicious, so I was very excited when Saveur Magazine had a recipe for Rao's Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce in a recent issue.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes approximately an hour and 20 minutes of prep and cooking time and makes 4-6 servings. All the ingredients are basic and I had no problems finding them at my local grocery store. For the bacon I chose to use thick-cut bacon. I started using this variety about a year ago and I love it, I cook with it now pretty much exclusively. For the onion I used sweet onions, when they are in season (such as now) I use them frequently. After starting this recipe I discovered that I had ran out of oregano, so I substituted a teaspoon of Italian seasoning instead. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.
My family was very impressed with this recipe. This is more than likely the best magazine recipe for pasta sauce that I have tried. The flavor from the bacon was delicious and the taste of the tomatoes wasn't over powered by too much meat or spice. Best of all it doesn't take all day on the stove to create a great pasta sauce that I would be more than willing to serve to company. The recipe made more than enough for my family of four for dinner plus leftovers for everyone the next day. This will definitely be a recipe that I will be making again (soon).

For the recipe go to Rao's Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce.

April 28, 2012

Roast Chicken with Rosemary, Lemon, and Honey

I used to buy a lot of store bought stock. Literally every couple of weeks I was spending approximately twenty dollars at the grocery store for overly salty not great chicken and beef stock. Then a couple of years ago I decided that there had to be a better way. I opened up my mom's old loved and worn cook book and scoured the pages for a chicken stock recipe. After some searching I came across a great recipe that my mom had hand written in the margins. I bought all the ingredients, roasted the chicken and made the stock. It turned out great and I have never gone back to store-bought again. During my first stock experiment I subsequently discovered that homemade roasted chicken is tasty and very easy to make. So once every couple of weeks I roast a chicken and make chicken stock. It's a great way to save money and the leftovers are great for a variety of recipes. The May issue of Bon Appetit magazine had a recipe for Roast Chicken with Rosemary, Lemon, and Honey, which promised great flavor from the fresh rosemary sprigs.
This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes approximately an hour and fifteen minutes of prep and cooking time and makes 6-8 servings. I did make a few modifications to this recipe. Shallots weren't available at my regular grocery store and rather than go to another store and spend over ten dollars on just shallots, I chose to use an onion and ramps instead. Additionally, the recipe states to cook the chicken for 55 minutes. I found that this length of cooking time was not adequate  to cook the 4.5 pound birds that I bought. The skin on the bird also never fulled crisped up the way that it normally does when I roast chicken. I think that the olive oil, while it kept the bird moist made the skin not as crispy as I like. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The rosemary springs in this recipe made the chicken breast taste delicious and fragrant. I was skeptical when the chicken came out of the oven since the skin wasn't as crisp as my normal roasted chicken. However, once we ate the meat my husband and I were both impressed by how much flavor the fresh rosemary gave to the chicken meat. The leftovers were great for chicken salad and I have frozen the remainder since it will make a great chicken pot pie in a couple of weeks. Overall, while the skin isn't overly crispy the meat is moist and delicious.

For the recipe go to Roast Chicken with Rosemary, Lemon, and Honey.

April 27, 2012

Soft Pretzels

Some of my fondest memories with my dad growing-up involved soft pretzels and baseball games. Since we lived in Seattle, the Mariners were always horrible and the Kingdome was literally (as in ceiling tiles coming off) falling apart, but the soft pretzels were always delicious. Even badly made soft pretzels hold a special place in my heart. They remind me of the afternoons with my dad at baseball games. My mom sold Tupperware to make ends meet growing-up so most evenings and weekends she was gone hosting parties. Now I love my mom, but she had a narcotic system of color coding the food dishes that she left for my dad and I to eat. My dad was good about eating my moms color coded food most of the time, but about once a month we would sneak out and have 'real' food. By 'real' food I mean fast food and soft pretzels. We never spent a lot, and somehow my dad always was able to get us seats at the game without paying. To this day that is one of the best things about my dad, he knows someone that works everywhere. I never knew we didn't have a lot of money because my dad could befriend anyone and get us into any event that I wanted. Pretty much my dad was awesome. So long story short, I love soft pretzels! Given these fond memories, I was excited when I saw a recipe in the February issue of Woman's Day for Soft Pretzels.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes 2 hours of total time, 50 minutes of which is active and makes 8 servings. I had all of the ingredients already in my cupboard and made no ingredient modifications. I would suggest to make sure that your pretzels are much bigger than you think they should be. As you can see by the picture at the top of the post, my pretzels ended up rising more while I was rolling out the rest of the batch and ended up looking more like a fancy bagel. They still tasted great, but visually they didn't look like a typical pretzel. The one thing that I would change with the recipe would be to double the amount of water and baking soda that the pretzels are boiled in. By the time the last batch of pretzels went in the water there was barely enough left for them to be fully boiled. I think doubling amount would remedy the situation. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.
These pretzels turned out delicious! My husband and two boys ate the entire batch in less than two hours. A great thing that my husband discovered was that they made a great bun for a veggie burger. They created a salty bun that would work well with a variety of burger types. I tried a bit of the burger he made using this method and it was yummy! I will definitely try this idea when I make this recipe again. I experimented with the toppings, I did two with kosher salt, one with bacon salt, one with buffalo pretzel salt, one with an Asian spice rub and one with sugar. I love that I could make the toppings however I wanted. Overall, a very easy soft pretzel recipe that's much cheaper than stadium pretzels and can be tailor made to your topping tastes.

For the recipe go to Soft Pretzels.

April 26, 2012

Lentil Soup with Peas and Ham

My husband and two boys have an obsession with meat. I have talked many times about the endless amounts of bacon and bacon flavored products that they seem to be able to consume. Luckily, I have slowly begun to have them realize that there are other foods in the universe which can be healthy and delicious. Beans and lentils have been a pleasant surprise. I thought that when I started adding more beans and lentils into our diets that I would be meet with a lot of resistance and complaining. Instead I was pleased when my oldest son explained to me that he loved beans and ever since gets excited when he learns that beans will be included with dinner. My husband was a little more resistant, but after his stomach accustomed to the increase in legumes, he now likes them to the point that he prefers my lentil burgers to many meat equivalents. Of course he still adds bacon to his veggie burgers, but he's a work in progress. Soup is a major way that I have learned to add more legumes into my family's diet. Both of my sons absolutely love soup and lentil soup is one of my favorite soup varieties. Therefore, I was excited when the May issue of the Food Network Magazine had a recipe for Lentil Soup with Peas and Ham, which looked delicious and full of protein.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 40 minutes of total time, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. Luckily I already had red lentils from a previous recipe. For whatever reason the only store in my area that feels the need to have any type of lentils other than brown is the Lebanese market near my house. That market is great and I have found many hard to find items, plus it's always great to support neighborhood stores! For the onion I used a vidalia sweet onion. I love vidalia onions and I was excited to see that the first shipment was available at my local grocery store. They are great to cook with when they are in season. I was very pleased to find that all the cooking times in this recipe were very accurate. Oftentimes I find that recipes can be off by a very large margin, but I followed this recipe as written and had no problems.

My family really enjoyed this soup. The only thing that I would change would be the peas. I have never actually seen fresh peas in my area, so I had to use frozen. I'm not a big fan of frozen peas, especially in cooking and this soup would be great without them. With the peas the soup almost felt off, so I would suggest omitting them completely. The dill taste is delicious and creates a nice fresh taste to the soup. The best part is that the recipe has 28 grams of protein and only 7 grams of fat per serving. A great way to provide a low-fat flavorful soup recipe to your diet.

For the recipe go to Lentil Soup with Peas and Ham.

April 25, 2012

Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches

My family loves pulled-pork. Currently, my two boys are in picky eating stages, but have no problems eating multiple pulled-pork sandwiches whenever I make them. When I first married my husband I had literally had eaten pulled-pork less times than I can count on one hand. Having grown up in Seattle, pulled-pork was never something that my mom prepared and most restaurants were ethnic or seafood. I especially had no idea until I met my husband that there are completely different types of bbq based on region. He prefers vinegar based bbq sauces, while my boys prefer sweeter varieties. I will pretty much eat it all, it's delicious! Since I didn't grow up knowing how to prepare pulled-pork the first year my husband bought a shiny new charcoal grill with a side smoker (he won't touch gas grills, he can go on a 15 minute rant about why, but no one wants to hear it I promise) I was lost. Thankfully now that we have been married almost ten years I have become quite adept at both the grill and preparing pulled-pork. I love using the grill in the summer, but for most of us using a grill year round isn't an option and the oven is way too hot to turn on all day during the warmer months,  that's where the crockpot comes in handy. You can make great pulled-pork using the crockpot and it is very easy! Recently, the May issue of Family Circle Magazine had a recipe for Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches, which promised to be an easy and crowd-pleasing crockpot recipe.

This recipe has 10 ingredients in the recipe (the sandwich buns and pork aren't shown in the photo) and 6 in the coleslaw (the photo was nicely deleted off my phone by my three-year-old trying to find angry birds). It takes 15 minutes of prep, 22 minutes of cooking time (to brown the pork) and 8 hours on low in the crockpot and makes 8 servings. For the pork shoulder the recipe states to remove the skin and trim the fat, I agree with this to a point. If you remove all the fat from a pork roast it leaves the meat dry during cooking time. I prefer to cook the meat with some fat and place it fat side up in the crockpot. This allows the fat to keep the meat moist and the fat can easily be removed before pulling the pork at the end. For the seasoning salt I used my husband's favorite salt, Bacon Salt. If you haven't tried bacon salt, it really does create a nice almost smoky flavor in recipes. I use it very frequently, since as you know if you read my blog, my house is pretty obsessed with bacon. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

As I stated at the beginning we eat a lot of pulled pork. That also makes my family pretty picky pulled-pork consumers. Both my husband and I thought that the bbq sauce was a little too mild. I make a lot of pulled-pork in the crockpot and almost every recipe places the sauce in at the end. Since this bbq sauce is vinegar based putting the sauce in at the beginning of the cooking time made the sauce taste too unflavorful after eight hours. Instead of following the directions as stated I would suggest putting in a small amount of the sauce, maybe a 1/4 of a cup with a little bit of water (maybe 1/2 cup) to keep the pork moist during cooking. Then after the pork is pulled add the additional sauce to the crockpot and allow it to cook for an another 15 minutes or so. I think the problem was that the fat from the pork runs into the sauce making it too watered down. Removing the fat would make the pork tough, so the modifications would be a better alternative. On the other hand if your family prefers a mild bbq sauce this would be perfect as is. My father-in-law likes milder sauces and he would have thoroughly enjoyed this as written. Finally, I did think that the leftovers worked well when re-heated with additional bbq sauce, it was much better the next day. So if you like mild sauce this is perfect, if you like bolder flavored bbq sauce I recommend adding the additional sauce at the end.

For the recipe go to Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches.

April 24, 2012

Chicken Provencal

As I have talked about before in the last year I have been making attempts to make my husband and two sons eat more chicken breast. They love chicken thighs and will eat them happily, but getting them to eat chicken breasts is a struggle. I am not much better than they are, if given the choice I will pick chicken thighs or another type of meat. Cut-up and cooked in pasta or stir-fry chicken breast can be moist and delicious. However, when it is cooked as a whole breast it often comes out dry and unappetizing. Therefore I have been trying to make a larger variety of chicken breast recipes, hoping that I will find some that are more appealing to my family. The February issue of All You Magazine had a recipe for Chicken Provencal, which looked like a great new chicken breast recipe to try for my family.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes of cooking time and 10 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, except for whatever reason they were out of parsley, so since it was just a topping ingredient I left it out. To save time I purchased pitted olives, I hate having to pit olives myself. Make sure to pound out the chicken breasts very flat in order to ensure even cooking and to keep them moist, especially if your chicken breasts are on the large side. I chose to add the capers as suggested as an option to 'dress up' the recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sauce on this recipe was delicious. It worked well with the chicken breast and even my two sons ate it happily. I do wish that there was more sauce for all the chicken breasts. I think this recipe would be even better if the sauce was doubled. It would allow for the chicken breast to remain moist and the flavors to develop even further. Pan browning the chicken made for a delicious crusty outside with a moist delicate interior. Overall, a chicken breast recipe which is easy to make and has a delicious sauce.

For the recipe go to Chicken Provencal.

April 23, 2012

Spaghetti with Spicy Tuna Marinara Sauce

Growing up I loved tuna melts. I thought they were one of the best foods on earth. To me there was nothing better than my mom's homemade tuna melts. As you can imagine we had a lot of canned tuna growing-up. Both of my parents worked very hard, but living in an expensive city and only having a high-school diploma made money very tight. Luckily for my mom I loved inexpensive food and my mother was a great cook. She could take something from a can and make into something spectacular. It was these early food experiences that made me into the cook that I am today. I learned quickly that just because you have only a handful of ingredients doesn't mean that you can't make something fantastic. My two kids have grown-up in very different circumstances. Both my husband and I have masters degrees and fresh food has always been in abundance. However, I am still my mother's daughter and I am frugal to the core. I love making complex expensive meals, but I leave them to the holidays and special occasions. My kids are growing up understanding that just because you can spend a lot of money on something doesn't mean you should. The same goes for the food we eat and serve. I love cooking from scratch, but I also understand and appreciate that canned food can be both convenient and nutritious when used correctly. Recently, the May issue of the Food Network Magazine had a recipe for Spaghetti with Spicy Tuna Marinara Sauce, which looked like a simple combination of fresh ingredients paired with canned tuna.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I did have to make a  recipe modification due to a lack of available ingredients. Finding plum tomatoes around here can be hit or miss so I bought roma tomatoes instead. I had no problems finding any of the other ingredients at my local grocery store. After the pasta was added to the sauce I felt that it needed to be cooked down more than the recipe suggested. I allowed the pasta sauce to cook until the sauce completely coated the pasta. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved this recipe. I was pleased with how the tuna didn't end up tasting fishy even though it came from a can. The leftovers heated up great the next day and the flavor was even better. I appreciated that the recipe only took thirty minutes start to finish. Plus, with the main meat being canned tuna the total price for the recipe was very low, which always helps my family budget. Overall, a very easy pasta recipe combining both fresh and canned ingredients.

For the recipe go to Spaghetti with Spicy Tuna Marinara Sauce.

April 22, 2012

Bucatini with Red Clam Sauce and Hot Pepper

Pasta is a stable in our house. My two kids could literally eat pasta three times a day and be completely happy. I like that pasta is easy to make and the flavors can easily be changed to make a completely different dish. I haven't always felt that way, in my middle twenties I got very burned out on pasta. During college I pretty much lived on coffee and pasta. I would make a huge pasta recipe on Sunday and eat it for dinner the entire week. You can imagine that I got very tired of pasta by the time I graduated. Due to this burnout I refused to make any pasta dishes the first three years my husband and I were married. Then after my oldest son started eating solid foods I discovered what a great thing pasta is with kids. Suddenly in less than thirty minutes I could get a tasty and nutritious dinner on the table with little effort. Now that my boys are three and six I make pasta approximately once a week and I was intrigued when a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living had a recipe for Bucatini with Red Clam Sauce and Hot Pepper, which looked easy and full of flavor.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of total time and makes 4 servings. I did have to make a few modifications to the ingredient list. I was unable to find bucatini at my local grocery store so I substituted fettuccine instead. Additionally the day that I made this pasta recipe I discovered that I had ran out of dried oregano so I used Italian seasoning instead. I followed the remainder of the ingredients as written. The last step of the recipe I changed significantly. Instead of adding 1 cup of pasta water at the end of the cooking time, I chose not to add the pasta water at all. Instead I let the tomato sauce cook down almost completely letting the pasta be completely coated. Finally, I added a very large pinch of  red-pepper flakes since my family loves spicy foods.

My six-year-old who is normally very picky about any dish with even a hint of spice loved this recipe. He ate his whole serving and then moved on to stealing off his brother's plate. I really enjoyed that this recipe had clams, but didn't taste overly fishy. Both my husband and I found that the clam taste was delicious and added a great flavor to the recipe. Overall, an easy and flavorful new pasta recipe.

For the recipe go to Bucatini with Red Clam Sauce and Hot Pepper.

April 21, 2012

Woman's Day Coconut Beef with Rice Noodles

I absolutely love coconut! I love it in cakes, cookies, curries, you name it, I love it. Growing up I was always the odd one out in the family. While everyone was raving about the great brownies, I was disappointed that my mom hadn't made macaroons. So one of the first things that I learned to bake was macaroons. Then quickly came coconut cake and seven layer bars. To this day, seven layer bars might possible be my favorite dessert food, it combines all the great memories of my mother baking them every Christmas with my love of all things coconut. To me they are the perfect food. As an adult I have tried to tone down my sweet tooth which has been helped by turning thirty. I always thought that everyone was joking when they told me that my thirties would slow down my very fast metabolism. To my dismay I have learned that having two pieces of coconut cake in a day will indeed catch up with me now. So in order to not give up all things coconut I have learned to cook with coconut and coconut milk in various dishes and curries. The May issue of Woman's Day magazine had a recipe for Coconut Beef with Rice Noodles, which looked like an easy crockpot recipe full of flavor.

This recipe has 12 ingredients.. It takes 15 minutes of prep and five hours of cooking time and makes four servings. I did have to make a few recipe modifications. I was unable to find rice noodles, so I substituted the only similar thing at the grocery store, rice sticks. I chose to use fresh cilantro instead of basil and the full 2 tablespoons of red curry paste. I would suggested browning the beef before placing it in the crockpot, it was very dry by the time it was done. Additionally, if I made this recipe again I would add the full can of coconut milk and increase the other ingredients accordingly.

I was a little disappointed by this recipe. The beef turned out dry and the flavor was too subtle. I would suggest making the changes I suggested in the last paragraph. Without the changes this recipe is lacking. I do think that it could be saved, it just needs the beef to be browned before placing it in the crockpot and the liquid to cook the beef in definitely needs to be increased so the beef doesn't become overly dry. What this recipe does have going for it is that it has 39 grams of protein and 11 grams of fat and only costs $3.07 per serving.

For the recipe go to Coconut Beef with Rice Noodles.

April 20, 2012

Family Circle Chinese Hacked Pork

You may have noticed a theme lately, crock-pot recipes. My schedule the last couple of months has been crazy. My youngest son is giving new meaning to being a hard to deal with three-year-old. I love him, but he is a handful to say the least. Plus, the fighting between my two boys has risen to new levels. Needless to say mommy has had a lot less time for meal prep and my crock-pot has made my life much easier. It is normally calmer in the morning, some days I even get a little time to myself to enjoy my coffee before the chaos of the day begins. Since my mornings are easier, I love being able to prep dinner and throw it in the slow-cooker until it's time to eat. So I hope everyone loves crock-pot recipes, since I have been making a lot of them in the last couple of months and there will more than likely be many more to come. The April issue of Family Circle magazine had a delicious looking recipe for Chinese Hacked Pork combining Chinese five spice and pork.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 6 hours of cooking time and makes 6 servings. I had to make a few modifications to the ingredients due to availability and taste preferences. I was unable to find wide lo mein noodles, so I substituted the chow mein noodles which I was able to find at my local grocery store. Additionally, I chose to leave out the steamed snow peas, I found them unnecessary, and I used homemade chicken broth and regular, instead of low-sodium soy sauce. Since I don't salt my chicken stock I thought the salt from the regular soy sauce was necessary. Finally, I forgot to add the scallions at dinner time, so we ate the dish without. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I really liked this recipe. The flavor was great and the leftovers heated up well both with the noodles and on a bun as a sandwich. My husband especially enjoyed this recipe and ate the majority of the leftovers. The Chinese five spice creates a nice flavor to the dish without being overpowering. Best of all the recipe has 39 grams of protein and only 8 grams of fat, so great for someone on a high-protein diet. This will be a crock-pot recipe that I will use again.

For the recipe go to Chinese Hacked Pork.

April 19, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Olive Oil Sauce with Anchovies and Parsley

Fish was always a stable in our house growing up. Since we lived in Seattle fish was inexpensive and easy to find and we ate it at least once a week. I was fortunate that through my friends parents and my mom's friends I was introduced to a wide variety of ethnic dishes involving fish and various ways to prepare it. The only problem I ever encountered was the year that my mom decided that I should gut the fish that I had caught at the indoor pool at the hunting and fishing show. Yuck! I am not so great with gutting fish, I can do chicken easily, but there is something about gutting fish that is far less appealing. Plus you actually have to be careful to get out the bones and at ten that didn't work so well. As an adult I still prepare some form of seafood about once a week. One of the great ways that I have found to add flavor to pasta dishes is to incorporate anchovies, when used in moderation they create a delicious umami flavor. The May/June issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine had a recipe for Olive Oil Sauce with Anchovies and Parsley utilizing anchovies to create a quick and easy pasta sauce.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes less than five minutes to prepare and cook and makes enough for one pound of pasta. All the ingredients are basic and I made no ingredient modifications. I used fresh lemons for the lemon juice since the taste is better. For the parsley I used Italian flat-leaf parsley, when chopped the texture is less gritty to me than regular parsley. I made one major modification to the recipe. The two anchovies suggested by the recipe didn't add enough flavor, so I added five more fillets. After the additional fillets the sauce had a much better overall taste. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I found this sauce to be too oily for my tastes. There seemed to be enough oil for two pounds of pasta not one. I did used fresh linguine from the store, I'm not sure if I had made the pasta from scratch if it would have absorbed more oil. If the oil was cut in half it would be a lot better for my tastes. I did like that the recipe was very easy to make and literally takes only minutes. With the changes that I suggested this recipe would work with a variety of fresh pasta varieties.

This recipe is only available in the May/June issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine or if you have paid for the online subscription you can find it here.

April 18, 2012

All You Classic Carrot Layer Cake

I love cake! Growing up birthdays and holidays were my favorite times of the year because it ensured that I would be enjoying cake. When I was little my mom baked delicious cakes every year until I hit about ten. Then we discovered the bakery that to this day made the best buttercream frosting that I have every tasted. It was an Italian bakery in a not great part of town that made sheet cakes that people raved about. They really were that great. So from that year forward every year our cakes were ordered from that same delicious Italian bakery, and they were the best. When I first started baking in my early teens I never felt the need to learn to bake cakes since the bakery cakes were always so delicious. However, when I moved 2500 miles away from my favorite bakery I quickly learned that making a delicious cake was a major fete. The first 50 cakes I tried from scratch ended up lopsided or lacking taste. Then I discovered homemade carrot cake and fell in love. I absolutely love carrot cake and it is one of my favorite types of cakes to make or buy. The March issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Classic Carrot Layer Cake which looked delicious and perfect for Easter.

This recipe has 12 ingredients in the cake and 6 ingredients in the frosting. It takes 20 minutes of prep and 45 minutes of baking and makes 12 servings. All the ingredients I either already had or were easy to find at my local grocery store. I did make two modifications. First off since I was making the cake for Easter I chose to save time and bought pre-shredded carrots. I was worried at first that they might be too thick and not fully cook, but they worked perfectly. Secondly, I used roasted cinnamon, which creates a nice flavor. The most important change I made to the recipe was to the cooking time. The recipe states to bake the cake for 45 minutes. My cake was fully cooked at 25 minutes and if I had left them in the full 45 minutes they would have been severely overcooked. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Everyone that tried this cake loved it. I served it for Easter and it was gone by the next day it was so popular. The best part of the recipe was the frosting. I loved the taste from the brown sugar and it was my favorite part of the recipe. The combination of the frosting and the cake worked perfectly together. This is definitely a recipe I will keep.

For the recipe go to Classic Carrot Layer Cake.

April 17, 2012

Taste of Home Mediterranean Chicken Bake

Chicken breasts have never been a family favorite. My family loves chicken thighs and will eat them happily, but normally groan and complain when dinner includes chicken breasts. I tend to agree with them for the most part, chicken breast oftentimes turns out dry and unappetizing. It doesn't help that my mother rarely made chicken breast growing up and when she did it had the texture of rubber. Luckily for me she only served it once in a blue moon. She was a great cook, chicken breasts just weren't her forte. When my husband and I first got married I tried making chicken breasts a few times and each time it ended in disaster. Due to this less than stellar history I literally stopped cooking chicken breasts until my kids starting eating solid foods. Once my kids were regulars at the dinner table I slowly started trying new recipes using chicken breasts. Some had the expected dried out taste that I grew-up eating, but other such as the recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Bake from the April/May issue of Taste of Home magazine turned out delicious.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of prep and cook time and makes four servings. I did have to go to multiple stores to find sun-dried tomatoes, but that might be a specific problem in my area. For the herbes de Provence I lucked out and found some on clearance. I found that it took less than the 15-20 minutes for my chicken breasts to fully cook in the oven. I temped my chicken at around 12 minutes and it was done. I did pound out my breast relatively thin and that might be why the cooking time was decreased. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Everyone in my house loved this recipe. My husband in particular thought this was one of the best chicken breast recipes he has ever had and for him to like a chicken breast recipe is a feat. I loved the blend of artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese. This will definitely be a recipe that I would try again.

For the recipe go to Mediterranean Chicken Bake.

April 16, 2012

Taste of Home Satay-Style Pork Stew

With all my posts on slowcooker recipes one would think that I grew up with a mother that constantly used her crock-pot. However, I wasn't. My mom could never get the hang of her slowcooker, but loved her pressure cooker. I'm sorry to admit that I have a pressure cooker/canner which I use to can every year, but the thought of preparing meat or other foods in it scares me! I know that I should learn, my mother-in-law makes the best pasta sauce using her pressure cooker and she assures me that the pressure valve won't actually fly off and kill me. However, all that I can remember is the very old pressure cooker that my mom owned and how I was told to never go in the kitchen when it was on. Doesn't make for a high level of comfort when using one as an adult. Needless to say, while my pressure cooker is rarely used, I love my slowcooker. If you've read my blog for any amount of time you already know that I normally make a slowcooker recipe approximately once a week. One of my favorite things to cook in the crock-pot is pork and I was excited when I saw a new recipe for Satay-Style Pork Stew in the April/May issue of Taste of Home magazine.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of prep and 8 hours of cooking time and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. I did change a few things in regard to the specific type of ingredient. For the teriyaki sauce there were only two types at my local grocery store, neither of which was low-sodium so I used regular. Since I make my own chicken broth and don't add salt I wasn't worried about the dish being overly salty. For the peanut butter I used natural organic peanut butter, I prefer the taste and texture. Finally, I left out the green onions and peanuts for the topping. Honestly, I forget to add them at dinner time and the dish was fine without them added. Make sure to take off most of the fat from the butt roast or you will be left with a lot of fat to skim off the finished dish. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was skeptical about the use of parsnips in this recipe. I bought and added them worried that the taste would be less than appetizing. The finished dish was delicious. I had nothing to worry about with the parsnips, they blended perfectly with the pork and peanut taste. This is one of the better slowcooker recipes I have tried in the last couple of months and the taste was good enough that my two kids didn't notice that I served the dish with brown rice. Overall, a delicious peanut taste that was well received by everyone in my house.

For the recipe go to Satay-Style Pork Stew. (registration required)

April 15, 2012

All You Parmesan Chicken with Bow Ties

In the last six months I have been making an effort to increase the amount of chicken and fish in my family's diet. This might seem like an easy task for most families and it would be except for one major fact, the males in my family love bacon. Not just bacon, but pretty much any type of pork. If my husband was left to feed himself 90 percent of the time he would be eating some form of red meat. This is the exact opposite of me. I grew up in Seattle and we rarely ate red meat in my house. My mother was a great cook and cooked a variety of vegetarian dishes. So much so that I was a vegetarian starting when I was 15 until I was 23. In my mid twenties I slowly added meat back into my diet, but was still mostly chicken and fish. Then in graduate school I met my husband. We were opposites in regards to food. His idea of a great lunch involved pizza or fried fish. Those were and are two of the foods that the grease literally makes me sick to my stomach. Somehow we managed to stay together and now after being married for almost 10 years I have slowly began to change his eating habits. We rarely eat out and when we do it's a treat, not a regular occurrence. Most important of all my husband has transitioned to red meat approximately once a week, which is huge progress I promise. Since chicken breasts have never been one of my husband's favorite foods, I am always looking for new recipes and I was interested when the March issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Parmesan Chicken with Bow Ties.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cook time and makes 6 servings. All the ingredients in this recipe are basic and I had no problems finding any of them at my local grocery store. I chose to use frozen broccoli instead of fresh. The price is much cheaper and it's easier to stick frozen broccoli in the microwave than deal with cutting and prepping fresh broccoli while my two boys scream for dinner. I chose to use a full pound of pasta, instead of the 12 ounces suggested by the recipe. Finally, I bought skinless-boneless chicken breast, instead of the skin-on bone-in used in the recipe. Honestly, I made this the day after Easter when my in-laws were in town and after a long day I wanted to save as much time as possible. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

At a cost of only 91 cents per serving this recipe is very inexpensive. Plus it takes less than twenty minutes to prepare and has 38 grams of protein. My in-laws loved this recipe and asked for seconds. My kids picked out the chicken and ignored the rest of the dish. If you are looking for a flavor-punch this recipe isn't for you. However, if you are looking for a simple pasta dish that can literally be made in minutes this recipe is perfect. Kids that aren't receptive to spiciness or too many flavor combinations would eat this dish happily (or in-laws that have the same tastes). Overall, an easy pasta recipe that's full of protein and takes minutes to prepare.

For the recipe go to Parmesan Chicken with Bow Ties.

April 14, 2012

Martha Stewart Living Fusilli with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms

I have always loved mushrooms. Growing up I was never one of those kids that turned their noses up at mushrooms, I would eat all of my serving and then go around picking off more from my parents plates. I quickly learned that not everyone shared my love of mushrooms. We went to my aunts house for the holidays every year and my cousin hated mushrooms. The stuffing never had any since he had a definite distaste for them. I must say I missed the mushrooms in the stuffing. My cousin and I were the same age and I could never understand why he could hate something that I loved so much. When I had my two boys I was unsure what their reaction would be to one of my favorite foods. I followed the same strategy I have with all foods, I make one meal for everyone and if they eat it great, if they don't no big deal. After about five tries of any food they normally learn to at least tolerate and in some cases like mushrooms, it turns into a food they love. Recently as I was flipping through an issue of Martha Stewart Living I came across a recipe for Fusilli with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms, which looked perfect for my mushroom loving family.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, all of which is active, and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. Normally I cut all my mushrooms by myself, but I noticed that at the grocery store the pre-sliced mushrooms were only five cents more and given the hectic couple of months that I've had, I gave in and bought the mushrooms pre-sliced. I chose to use mint instead of parsley leaves, I prefer the fresh taste of mint, especially in the spring and summer. The recipe calls for 3/4 of a pound of pasta, I chose to increase the amount to a full pound. Finally, I used a sweet yellow onion, when they are available I prefer them in most cooking. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I found that this recipe made more than the four servings suggested by the recipe. There was enough for my family of four for dinner and two servings for lunch the next day. This probably had a lot to do with using a full pound of pasta, which I would do again. Of course my kids went and picked out all the mushrooms off their plates and then commenced to eat the mushrooms off my plate as well. I love how this recipe takes only a half an hour and the flavor from the mushrooms and bacon is delicious. Overall, an easy and quick pasta recipe.

For the recipe go to Fusilli with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms.

April 11, 2012

Parents Magazine BBQ Pulled Pork

Every year for Easter I make a big spread. There is always ham, multiple vegetables, rolls, desserts, you get the point. I cook a lot for the holidays. This year I decided to think outside of the box and make things easier on myself. One of the recipes from my menu plan for the week before Easter didn't get made so I was left with all the ingredients for BBQ pulled pork. So I decided that instead of the big spread this year I would just make pulled pork. My mother-in-law stepped up with her fabulous rolls and macaroni salad, and I made deviled eggs and a delicious carrot cake (recipe to come). All-in-all it was a great non-traditional Easter. The main course of the meal was the recipe for BBQ Pulled Pork from the April issue of Parents magazine, which takes a while in the oven, but worth the wait.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes a total time of 7 to 12 hours, 20 of which is active and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I let the mixture chill overnight for the flavors to fully saturate the meat. For the sauce I made a few modifications. My husband prefers a tangy Carolina type BBQ sauce, so I made a few changes to the sauce ingredients. I added an additional tablespoon of apple-cider vinegar and approximately a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke. For the rolls instead of whole-grain I used Sunny Buns, my family loves these and won't eat BBQ any other way. The sides of my baking dish burnt, so instead of tossing the pork once it was pulled with the cooking juices, I topped it with the sauce. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

As a main dish for Easter this was perfect. Everyone loved it and it made a great impression on a platter on the center of the table. It made more than enough for four adults and two kids with plenty of leftovers. I normally make pulled pork in the crockpot, which I love, but I liked how great this turned out in the oven with a lot less time than the crockpot requires. A very easy oven pulled pork recipe.

For the recipe go to BBQ Pulled Pork. (registration required)

April 9, 2012

Family Circle Indian-Spiced Turkey Breast

When I started this blog approximately a year ago I made a vow to myself to post all the recipes that I try, good or bad. Most weeks the recipes that I try at least come out okay with a few changes. Then there are the weeks like last week, where every recipe that I try turns out bad. Less than just okay, but literally I am the only one that will eat the leftovers. I should know better with new crockpot recipes. They are by far the easiest recipes to have go bad. When I tried a recipe for Indian-Spiced Turkey Breast from the April 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine, I was hopeful that it would be a great new crockpot recipe with 52 grams of protein.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 6 hours of cooking and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. As written this recipe was literally a disaster. The taste was bland and the texture of the onions was not pleasant. So here are my modifications. First off caramelize the onions before adding to the crockpot. This will help the onions to fully cook and greatly improve the texture. The actual curry sauce wasn't bad, but needed more flavor. I would suggest increasing the total amount of curry powder to 1 tablespoon. The worst part was the turkey breast. It was much better after it had sat in the fridge for a few days and soaked up more flavor. The flavor might be better if the turkey breast was marinated before going in the fridge overnight and then in the crockpot.

When I have a week of recipe disasters it almost makes me want to stop trying new recipes. Then I remember that the whole reason that I decided to start this blog was to help other people find new recipes to try. Along with that idea I want my readers to realize that not every recipe turns out perfect and what needs to be changed to make it better. This recipe didn't turn out well. My husband was great and ate his serving and then politely told me he would take something else for his lunch the next day. My two boys ate one bite and refused to have any more. So all-in-all this recipe requires some work.

For the recipe go to Indian-Spiced Turkey Breast. (registration required).

April 5, 2012

Sunflower and Flaxseed Bread

I make a lot of homemade bread! Before having kids I had never tried making a loaf of bread, much less baking a loaf or more a week. Now that I have two very active and growing boys we go through a lot of bread, so both to save money and for the taste (not to mention the health aspects), I bake all my own bread. I always thought that baking homemade bread would be very difficult. Don't get me wrong, I went through a number of bread recipes that didn't rise and I had to throw away or start over from scratch. After learning what recipes work and how to modify recipes to my needs I have found that making bread from scratch can be both relaxing and enjoyable. One of my favorite ingredients to add to bread are seeds. They are a great way to add protein and nutrients to bread and best of all they are great in toast. About a year ago I started using flaxseeds in my bread. Flaxseeds are full of essential fats and fiber and create a delicious nutty flavor to breads. The following is my recipe for Sunflower and Flaxseed and Bread.

  • 1 1/4 cups Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Honey
  • 2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
  • 2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/3 cup Flaxseed
  • 2 Tbsp. Sunflower Seeds
  • 2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
Combine water, honey and canola oil. Stir yeast into flours and then add flour and remaining ingredients to water mixture. Either using a mixer with a dough hook or by hand knead the bread for 6-8 minutes. Grease a large bowl and add dough, turning to coat, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled (approximately one hour). Punch dough down either roll out into a rectangle, roll up jelly roll style and pinch seems or form into a loaf and place into a greased loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until one inch above the top of the pan. Place dough into a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 35-40 minutes. Check after 25 minutes and if browning too quickly tent with foil. To ensure the bread is fully done temp to 200 degrees in the center. Let cool on a wire rack.

That's it! Flaxseeds are great in bread and everyone in my house loves this bread toasted. It's great with jam or melted butter.

Adapted from a recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed package. 

April 3, 2012

Ramps, Bacon, and Fried Potatoes

Early in the month of March means one thing in our house, ramps! With family that live in the mountain counties we are able to get ramps early in the season (when I think they taste the best) and by the end of the month I have normally used them in a variety of recipes. Before I met my husband I had no idea what ramps looked like, much less tasted or used them in recipes. That all changed when I married someone who grow up in the heart of West Virginia ramp country. The first year his mother brought down young ramps to clean I had no idea what to do with the bag of very muddy and ugly looking roots and shoots of what looked like a odd looking green onion.
I quickly learned that each ramp has to be cleaned and cut to be prepared to cook with. To do this I cut off the root and take off the dirt and outside husk of each of the ramps. Before each ramp is cleaned they look like this:
Not very appetizing, but after being cleaned and washed up they look like this:
So your probably asking yourself great, now what do I do with them? The answer is so much! Ramps are a great way to add flavor to a variety of recipes from biscuits to stews, pizza, you name it they work! While a lot of people prefer the later ramps which have a leafier green top, I am partial to the early shoots, I feel that the flavor is better and I prefer them when baking or cooking. So what do I do with the pounds of ramps I receive each year? I love substituting them for green onions in savory biscuits, with eggs, stews, soups and most importantly with fried bacon and potatoes. So here is my recipe for Ramps, Bacon, and Fried Potatoes.

After cleaning and trimming up your ramps, fry enough thick cut bacon (I love the maple cured variety) for the number of servings you are making. I normally make an entire package, if you've read my blog before you know that my family absolutely loves bacon and my husband would use bacon in absolutely everything if I let him.
Next I add the ramps and cook until they are softened and slightly caramelized. If you have an abundance of bacon grease pour off the excess before frying the ramps.
When the ramps are finished cooking, add the potatoes and fry until they are browned and crisp. Since the potatoes takes a lot longer than the ramps or bacon, I will often start them first and add chopped ramps in with the bacon grease while they are frying to ensure that the bacon and ramps don't get cold while the potatoes are frying.

Once everything is done, I plate the bacon, ramps and potatoes and enjoy! If you want an even stronger ramp flavor you can add minced ramps to the potatoes while they are frying. My two boys love their potatoes this way and they taste great! The most important thing to remember when using ramps is that the flavor is much stronger than leeks or green onions so a small amount goes a long way. Additionally, similar to garlic your pours will sweat out the ramps the next day after eating them, so warn everyone around you that's its ramp season. Or better yet make sure that they eat as many as you do!

April 2, 2012

Family Circle White Bean and Ham Soup

I hope you like slow-cooker recipes because I have a lot of them this week! This month has been more hectic than most so my crockpot has been getting a lot of use. I love using my slow-cooker, it's a great way to take less than stellar cuts of meat and make them into something spectacular. Additionally, it's the best way I have found to make beans, even my two boys will devour pinto beans when prepared in the crockpot. As I've talked about previously I am trying to make my family eat more beans. My husband has always been great about eating pinto beans, but every other type of bean has been more of a struggle. The best way that I have found to entice my family to eat beans is to include them in soup recipes. I was interested when the April issue of Family Circle magazine had a recipe for White Bean and Ham Soup, which used the crockpot and promised 21 grams of protein per serving.

This recipe has 9 ingredients (plus two optional). It takes 15 minutes of prep and 6 hours on high in the crockpot and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients, with the exception of one (the dried beans) at my local grocery store and I made no additional ingredient modifications. However, I did not use low sodium ham, I just used the regular ham steaks that I always buy since we would be much more likely to use the extra ham. As you can see from the photo, I was unable to find dried white cannellini beans, so I substituted dried regular white beans. For the crusty bread I made Irish Soda Bread, which worked perfectly as a side. Finally, I didn't slightly mas the beans, I liked the consistency of the soup as it was and I felt it unnecessary to add the chopped fresh parsley. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Soups are the best way that I have found to make my family eat beans. They turn up their nose at plain cooked beans, but love them in soups. This recipe had a nice smoky flavor from the ham and made more than enough for my family of four for dinner, plus leftovers for lunch the next day. With 21 grams of protein this recipe is very healthy and only has 5 grams of fat so great for anyone watching their fat intake. Overall, another easy slow-cooker recipe with lots of flavor and a great way to add more beans to your family's diet.

For the recipe go to White Bean and Ham Soup.
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