Friday, July 29, 2011

Confetti Cookies

Kids and adults alike will love these Confetti Cookies, which feature everyone's favorite candy coated chocolate, M&Ms. I think these would be the perfect treat for back-to-school lunch boxes. However, I've also served them to my husband's co-workers. Adults need a little candy in their lives, too! As a side bonus, these cookies were probably the easiest I've made. The use of self-rising flour eliminates the need to sift together a dry mix.


1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1 c. candy-coated chocolate candies (like M&Ms)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream together the butter and brown sugar, using an electric mixer. Beat in the corn syrup and vanilla extract. Add self-rising flour in small batches, mixing well between each addition. Batter will be very thick. If it seems unworkable, add about 1/2 tsp water. Stir in the chocolate candies by hand.

3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls and place on sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned along the edges. Let cookies sit on sheet for 2 minutes, and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 45 cookies.

Source: Home Baking, no listed author, Parragon Publishing, 2005, pg 158.

Not a Camera Person

I've never been one for taking photographs. We didn't even have a photographer at our wedding. We thought it would be a swell idea to leave disposable cameras at the tables for guests to take pictures, and, thanks to my then-eight-year-old cousin, we had a lot of precious memories captured of the venue floor.

The kitchen is where my passion lies. Taking pictures and photo editing, not so much. But because I love having a food blog, and pictures go along with the deal, I'm trying to learn. The cheapie camera I've been using decided to die on me. I finally got my new camera this week, and I'm having fun playing around.

Red tomatoes at last! These are the first two I harvested from my garden. They became a delicious tomato sandwich which I devoured for lunch.

My kitchen has florescent lights, only one tiny window and the counter tops are mint green. It's not the easiest place to take pictures. I think my new camera works a little better than the old one.

It's Sundae! She's a difficult subject to capture, because she's always flicking about. Here she is on the stairs, one of her favorite hang out spots.

Pyrex is always one of my favorite subjects. This is a new little casserole I've collected.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ricotta Gnocchi

I first learned about gnocchi from the television show Top Chef, which immediately impressed upon me that it would be too difficult for a home cook like me to ever make. But I'm willing to eat crow, because, as it turns out, gnocchi is very achievable, even for a beginner. This Ricotta Gnocchi is a great "bridge" pasta, perfect for those who are interested in branching out into fresh pastas but intimidated by the prospect of rolling out and drying dough (and I'll admit this is me). No special equipment is needed to make this, just grab a bowl, a wooden spoon and get started!


1 c. whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra

1. In large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add in ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, mixing well. Mix in the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in the cup of flour. The dough will be fairly soft and a bit sticky.

2. Generously flour a board. Grab and handful of dough and start rolling into a rope shape, aiming to get it no thinner than 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut rope into one-inch lengths. Add more flour to the board whenever needed. Repeat this step until all dough has been shaped and cut.

3. Bring a large stockpot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add gnocchi to the water. Gnocchi are done when they float to the surface, 1-3 minutes. Drain. Toss with favorite red sauce and serve.

Source: Allrecipes

Sunday, July 24, 2011

English Muffins

It's embarrassing, but, until fairly recently, I thought english muffins were the creation of Thomas'. Little did I know that these muffins have been around for hundreds of years, and historically made in the home kitchen. Once I discovered this, I became determined to try to make them myself. I was a bit intimidated at first. I am, after all, a professed lover of the bread machine. But I didn't find this recipe difficult to execute in the least. And the results speak for themselves. Sorry, Thomas', but I think I've moved on.


1 c. milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 c. warm water (110 degrees)
1/4 c. melted shortening
5-6 c. bread flour
1 tsp salt

1. In a small saucepan, scald the milk. To do this, heat the milk until it reaches 180 degrees. Remove from heat. Add sugar to milk and stir until dissolved. Allow the milk to cool to lukewarm.

2. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add a pinch of sugar and/or flour to get the yeast started. Let yeast sit for 10 minutes, until frothy.

3. Add lukewarm milk, melted shortening, and 3 cups of the flour to the yeast. Mix well. Mix in salt and 2 more cups of the flour. My dough didn't need more flour than this, but if yours does, add more in 1/4 cup batches. Your dough has enough flour when it comes together as a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl.

4. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead until dough is elastic. If using a KitchenAid mixer, use dough hook on speed 2 for 2 minutes.

5. Place dough ball in a large, greased bowl. Cover with a towel. Allow to double in a warm place (about an hour).

6. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thickness. The less you work the dough, the more air it will retain to create those desired "nooks and crannies." When rolling, press as lightly as possible with roller.

7. Line a two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle parchment paper with cornmeal. Cut rolled dough with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Place rounds on baking sheets. Gather any left over dough, and roll out again. Repeat this step until all dough has been shaped into rounds.

8. Cover muffins and leave out on counter top to rise, for about 45 minutes.

9. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake muffins for 8 minutes on each side. Cool on a rack and then store in an air-tight container. To eat, toast muffins and top with butter, jam, or cream cheese.

Source: Allrecipes

Friday, July 22, 2011

Buttermilk Pecorino Dressing

It's important to me to reduce the amount of pre-packaged food my family eats, and one easy place I've found to make cuts is the salad dressing aisle of the grocery store. Making my own salad dressing is just so easy, and the possibilities are endless. With very few exceptions, I prefer a creamy dressing over a vinaigrette. This recipe for Buttermilk Pecorino Dressing hits all the right notes for a creamy dressing. I love the tang of the pecorino-romano cheese, and the lemon zest freshens it up, while the ample amount of freshly-cracked black pepper gives it bite.


3/4 c. low-fat buttermilk
3/4 c. Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. In medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well combined. Store in refrigerator in air-tight container. Shake container before serving.

Source: Martha Stewart Living Magazine, April 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blueberry Ice Cream

July is National Ice Cream Month, and it's time to celebrate. To start the party, I'm serving up this gorgeous Blueberry Ice Cream. Blueberries have come into season around here, making them plentiful, and, more importantly, affordable. And who could resist that beautiful purple-blue? This ice cream makes an impressive statement, for both the eyes and the mouth.

There are three ways (that I know of) to make ice cream at home. The first is to make a custard base with egg yolks and cream, heating it over the stove top, and then allowing it to cool for hours in the refrigerator before it's ready for churning. Call me crazy, but the very last thing I want to do on a nearly 100 degree day is to cook ice cream.

The second kind of ice cream contains raw egg. Basically, it's an uncooked custard. This is how I make all my ice cream at home. It's the favored technique out in Pennsylvania Dutch country (probably because lack of refrigeration would make cooling a custard base problematic, and farm fresh eggs tend not to have the same risks as their commercial counterparts). So it's something I've been exposed to for decades, and it does not seem strange to me to use raw egg. However, I'm very reluctant to ever recommend this type on my blog. Raw eggs can pose a health risk to some people, including children and pregnant women (and who would want deny ice cream to a child or pregnant woman?-- not me!).

Finally, there's what's often called "Philadelphia style" ice cream. There are no eggs in this style of ice cream. It gets its richness entirely from a high butterfat content. It requires no cooking. It's simple and quick to make.

This recipe for Blueberry Ice Cream is Philadelphia style. It was my first time making this type of ice cream, and I was blown away by how creamy it was. The no-egg base compliments the fresh blueberries perfectly, allowing them to shine without drowning them in heaviness. I hope you'll enjoy this recipe as much as I did.


1 c. (half-pint) blueberries, rinsed and any stems removed
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. half-and-half
scant 1/2 c. sugar

1. In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1/4 c. sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep refrigerated 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.

2. Mash sugared blueberries in the bowl, using a fork. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together heavy cream and scant 1/2 c. sugar. Whisk in half-and-half. Add blueberries (and the syrup they've created) into cream mixture. Whisk for about two minutes.

3. Churn according to ice cream manufacturer's instructions. Enjoy right away, or store in freezer in an air-tight container. This recipe yields about a pint of ice cream.

Source: adapted from Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend Pictures

Lately, I've been really into food preservation. I'm experimenting with drying fruits and herbs. Here are some dried strawberries hanging out in a Pyrex container. Dried strawberries are ridiculously good and ridiculously addictive.

Tomato Watch 2011 is still ongoing. My tomatoes are now plump and juicy, but not the least bit red. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods. I get a bit hungry every time I go to tend the garden. The wait is killing me.

The green peppers have had a tough journey, having to be moved because the tomatoes were strangling it and all. I hope I haven't missed the boat on peppers, but I'm a tad concerned at only having two growing so far. Here's a tiny one, and, let's face it, it looks kind of like a butt. I'm sure it'll be a tasty butt.

More thrifting. I'm glad to keep finding Pyrex and FireKing, but I'm branching out into other kitchen goodies as well.

Hope everyone else is having a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New York Crumb Cake

I grew up eating a cake similar to this one. We called it coffee cake, but the creators of this recipe have decreed that term verboten, so crumb cake it is. The beauty of this cake is the layer of delicious brown sugar crumbs on top, mercifully almost as thick as the cake itself. There's no better way to begin the morning.


1 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 c. sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Note: the first set of ingredients is for the crumb topping and the second is for the cake base

1. Preheat the oven for 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 glass baking pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pour in the melted butter and stir until combined. Fold in flour until incorporated. Set bowl aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

4. Using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter. Gradually add in sugar, beating well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add sour cream and then vanilla, mixing until just combined. Incorporate dry ingredients into batter in three batches, mixing between each addition. Pour batter into prepared baking pan.

5. Crumble brown sugar mixture over the batter, trying to get an even top layer.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool overnight.

Source: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Make a Lower-Sugar Freezer Jam

Strawberries. Blueberries. Raspberries. They are little drops of sunshine in the mouth. Freezer jam is one way to extend this taste of summer into the rest of the year. It's also a great way to take advantage of grocery sales and seasonal pricing.

Freezer jam is much simpler and quicker to make than the traditional kind. There's no need to cook down the fruit or sterilize jars. In fact, you won't need your stove at all. Because there's no cooking involved, this jam has a much fresher taste than any kind you can buy in a store. And, best of all, it can be made with much less sugar.

So have I convinced anyone out there to jump upon the freezer jam train? Well, let's get started then!

Freezer jam isn't so much a recipe as it is a formula. And that formula is completely decided by the brand of pectin you use. I'm using Ball's RealFruit Instant Pectin, because it requires a fraction of the sugar other brands do.

So, while this tutorial will work for other fruits (sans peaches*), it will not work for other brands of pectin. If you'd like to use a different pectin, keep in mind that you'll have to adjust the formula.

Now for the fun part. Let's mash up some berries! Here, I'm crushing some strawberries. In general, I prefer to work manually whenever possible. I'm not a big fan of setting up and then cleaning kitchen gadgets. I will admit, though, I resorted to my food processor when I made a batch of blueberry. The potato masher worked great with the strawberries, but those rolly polly little blueberries kept dancing around it.

You'll need 1-2/3 cups worth of mashed fruit.

Combine 2/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons pectin in a large mixing bowl. Add in the fruit and stir for 3 minutes. You've just made jam! That's all there is to it. Pretty nifty, right?

Time to put our jam into some jars. Freezer jam can remain in the freezer for up to a year but lasts only three weeks in the refrigerator. So it's important to think about how much jam your family can eat in three weeks. Since I'm the sole jam eater in my household, I used tiny 4oz jars (each batch should make about a pint). Whatever jars you select, make sure they are freezer safe.

When spooning your jam into the jars, remember to leave 1/2 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion in the freezer. Put the lids on the jars and leave out at for half an hour. Then put in the freezer to preserve for later use or in the refrigerator to enjoy now.

After pouring into jars, there was always some jam left behind in the bowl, which I shamelessly ate straight-up with a spoon. And it was goooood.

So why not make some freezer jam today?

*note: you can make peach jam with this pectin, but it requires extra steps I've not included here

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Simply Grilled Chicken

I love to use lemon in savory dishes. That's one of the great things about lemon, that it can be used in both sweet and savory foods. Here, lemon brightens up an otherwise ordinary chicken breast and gives it a punch of flavor.

This recipe starts with lemon juice, adds some lemon zest, and then a little more lemon flavor from lemon-pepper seasoning. Are you sensing a theme? All this citrus-y goodness is soaked up by boneless, skinless chicken beasts, which are then grilled to perfection. Grilled chicken is a great dinner to serve during these dog days of summer.

The marinade need not be exact, so this is a great recipe for those who shun measuring spoons and love to experiment. You can really make this your own. And if you hit on any great flavor combinations, please let me know! I'd love to try it.


1 lb package chicken breast
the juice of two lemons (~ 1/2 c.)
the zest of one of the lemons
a splash of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
some lemon pepper seasoning (somewhere around 1/4 tsp is fine)
a couple of leaves of Italian flat leaf parsley, torn

1. In a shallow dish, whisk together all ingredients, minus the chicken breast. Pound out the chicken breasts, using the side of your meat pounder that has the little spikes on it. If you do not own such a device, pound out the breasts with the back of a frying pan and then poke with a fork. We want the marinate to seep into the chicken as much as possible.

2. Place chicken breasts in marinade, coating both sides. Allow to chicken to marinate, covered, in refrigerator, for about 15 minutes. Flip breasts over and marinate another 15 minutes.

3. Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high (since I don't have an outdoor grill, I used my little indoor one and cranked it up full-blast). Place chicken breasts on grill and cook for about 10-15 minutes on each side. Before serving, use a meat thermometer to make sure the thickest part of the breast has reached 160 degrees.

Source: adapted from Allrecipes

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Buttery Shortbread Cookies

These cookies helped change my perception of shortbread. Before, my thoughts of shortbread were of the box of Girl Scout cookies that sat unopened in the pantry months after the thin mints were gone. These shortbreads, however, probably won't make it very long in your pantry at all. That's because it's pretty hard to resist eating them. I polished off my test batch at an embarrassingly quick pace. Rich and buttery, sweet without being overly so, these cookies are what shortbreads should be. I wound up eating a lot of them with my coffee, finding it an unexpected compliment, and imagine they would be good with tea as well.

The original directions for this recipe call for these to be rolled cookies. But I could not get the dough to roll out. I tried both refrigeration and additional flour to no avail. It is pretty humid here, but I also have central air and can't be sure the weather is to blame. I tried rolling the dough into balls and pressing down with a drinking glass, but the dough was too sticky to pull off the glass cleanly. Finally, I decided to press the dough balls with my fingers. Not only did this work, but the dough squished a little around my middle finger, creating an attractive ridged appearance. I am a bit sad I didn't get to use my Hello Kitty cookie cutter but still very happy with how these cookies wound up looking.


1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. superfine sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon (I chose to zest the whole lemon, because I love lemon)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
granulated sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add in the superfine sugar. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture in small batches. The dough should come together and clean the sides of the bowl.

3. Refrigerate dough for about a half an hour (this step can be skipped if it's cold in your kitchen). Roll dough into one-inch balls. Place balls on parchment paper and press down with your first three fingers. Recipe makes about 26 cookies.

4. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes, or until edges turn a very light brown. Do not over bake. Remove cookies from oven and immediately sprinkle with desired amount of granulated sugar (sugar will only stick when cookies are hot). Let cookies rest on their baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in an air-tight container.

Source: Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July Cookbook Chat: The Essential New York Times Cookbook

It took author Amanda Hesser six years to compile the 1400 recipes that make up The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. She scoured the New York Times' food archive, all 150 years of it, tasting and testing thousands of recipes. The resulting compilation is a mesh of throw-back classics and modern twists. As someone who loves old-timey American recipes, I was thrilled to recipes like noodles romanoff and rum balls. But there are also plenty of recipes on-point with modern trends.

This book is a journey through history by way of food. Each section of the book begins with a timeline, highlighting important culinary events. Did you know the first raw-food restaurant opened in 1917, or that pressure cookers were popular in the 1920s? Aside from the timelines, there's a little introduction at the beginning of the book and a paragraph blurb before each recipe. It's the food, the recipes, that tell the historical story. And as someone who is interested in food, it's a very compelling story. I think this book will become a classic in the tradition of Rombauer and Child.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mom's Tortellini Salad

This tortellini salad is perfect for the 4th of July, as well as for other summer picnics and barbeques. I'm not generally a fan of pasta salads. Most I've had over the years have been dressed in globs of mayonnaise (sitting out in the sun, no less) and tossed with things that don't seem to fit, like shredded carrots and hard boiled eggs. Thankfully, this tortellini salad contains none of those things, and instead tastes relatively light and fresh. It's the summer version of heartiness, something that will help fill you up without dragging you down. The balsamic dressing compliments the pasta and vegetables wonderfully. It's a fantastic side dish for a burger, but I've also served it as light dinner on its own.


1 lb tortellini (see note below)
2/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced width wise
8oz block mozzarella cheese, cubed

1. In a large measuring cup, or small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the chopped green pepper and diced onion. Let the vegetables soak in the dressing as you prepare the rest of the components.

2. In a large stock pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions (about 10 minutes for dried tortellini). Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and vegetables, tomatoes and mozzarella. Allow to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight, before serving.

Note: I use Barilla dried tortellini, as it's the only kind I can find in my local market. Specifically, I use an 8oz bag of the three-cheese variety and an 8oz bag of spinach-ricotta. I imagine fresh tortellini could be used as well.

Source: my mom :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Easiest Ever Fudge

When I first came across this recipe, I had my doubts. Four ingredients? No candy thermometer? Done in minutes? It didn't seem possible this fudge could stack up against the kind I'd enjoyed at the boardwalk for years. However, I'm happy to report that this fudge holds its own. I have used this recipe for two years now, and my various taste testers have given it a huge thumbs up. It's now the only fudge I make. If desired, chopped nuts can be added. Personally, I prefer a smooth square I can let melt in my mouth and have written up the recipe accordingly.

  • 3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • dash salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Line an 8 x 8 inch metal pan with aluminum foil.

2. In a medium sauce pan, combine the chocolate chips with the condensed milk and salt. Heat over low until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Fudge mixture should be smooth and gloss. Spread fudge mixture in prepared pan.

3. Allow fudge to cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. To cut, lift foil out of pan and then peel off of fudge. Cut fudge into 64 small squares. Keep refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Source: Eagle Brand Recipes