Saturday, February 28, 2009

Palmer House Brownies

I saw this recipe in this month's Bon Appetit and really wanted to try making brownies from scratch (I am typically enjoy an undercooked Betty Crocker Box brownie). The Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago is supposedly known for their brownies. An interesting fact is that this recipe is reported to have been created for the World's Fair in 1893. These are very dense and fudgy— saying that, there is a ton of butter in them and they count a serving size as 1/16 of an 8x8 pan— so make these to enjoy and share :)


9 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup cake flour
1 t baking powder
1 t sea salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Set aside and cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs for one minute. Whisk in melted chocolate/butter mixture. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl and fold. Transfer batter to prepared pan and sprinkle with walnuts.

Bake the brownies until they are raised and a toothpick comes out with some moist batter— about 45 minutes.

Melt apricot preserves in a sauce pan and strain. Spread preserves over hot brownies. Let brownies cool for one hour and then cover and transfer to refrigerator for another hour. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lowfat Chocolate Souffle

Nothing about this tastes lowfat, but with less than one gram of fat each— you can eat two! I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light's April 2007 issue and have made it many times because it makes for a nice chocolatey simple dessert. This recipe makes two, but you can double it if you need more than that.


4 T granulated sugar, divided
1 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 T Dutch process cocoa
2 T fat-free milk
1/4 T vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1 t powdered sugar

Fresh Raspberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2 (6-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray.

Combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, flour, cocoa, and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring until smooth. Spoon chocolate mixture into a medium bowl; cool 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Place egg white in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Add remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently stir 1/4 of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times to level. Place dishes on a baking sheet; bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until puffy and set. Sprinkle each soufflé with 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar. Top with fresh raspberries. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coq Au Vin

French for "chicken in wine," this rustic dish is one of my favorites to make because you get to light things on fire. I paired this with mashed potatoes and a salad of fennel, tomatoes and goat cheese (and a bottle of Pinot Noir). I saw Casey Thompson make Coq Au Vin on Season 3 of Top Chef and wanted to learn how to make it. This recipe is adapted from Williams Sonoma: French.

4 slices of bacon, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup flour
salt and fresh pepper to taste
4 - 6 Assorted cuts of chicken- on the bone with skin
olive oil

1/3 cup brandy

1/2 bottle full-bodied red wine
1 small can tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 box mini portobello mushrooms (or cremini mushrooms)
1/2 bag frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 T finely chopped Italian parsley

In a large stock pot, cook bacon for 4-5 minutes or until crisp.

Put flour in a large zip bag and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken to bag and shake until well-coated. Shake excess flour off of chicken and cook on each side in olive oil in frying pan for 7 minutes.

Put chicken pieces into stock pot and add brandy. Let brandy heat for 30 seconds, turn off heat, and then light on fire with a long kitchen torch. (do this promptly or you could end up with an unexpected fireball in your face) After alcohol burns off, add wine, tomato paste and garlic. Cover and cook chicken over medium-low heat for 50 minutes, turning once.

When chicken is almost done, cook mushrooms and onions in a small fry pan with olive oil and seasoning for 5 - 7 minutes or until tender.

To plate, put down chicken and top with extra sauce. Top with mushrooms and onions and finish with parsley. Serve at once.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stuffed Artichoke with Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise

I usually eat pretty plain artichokes with mayonnaise, but love going to restaurants and seeing them cooked fancy. I thought I would take a stab at making one myself. I think an essential step with this is making the breadcrumbs yourself. Home made ones are just so much better than the store bought kind!

1 artichoke, leaves trimmed and top cut
1/4 loaf old french bread
1 t melted butter
1/8 c shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tomato, diced
salt, pepper, olive oil

1/4 c lowfat mayonnaise
1 garlic clove
juice of half a lemon
1 roasted red pepper


Steam artichoke in a boiling covered pan for 35 minutes or until fork tender. Let cool and then turn upside down and spread leaves out slightly. With a large spoon, scoop out the soft inside of the artichoke, just leaving outer leaves and heart.

While artichoke is steaming, put bread and butter in a food processor to make bread crumbs. When artichoke is prepared, drizzle with olive oil to help the stuffing stick and then alternate adding the Parmesan, breadcrumbs and tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in a baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes.

While artichoke is baking, add remaining ingredients to a food processor to make the red pepper mayo. Serve artichoke warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Penne with Sausage and Peppers

I have the Everyday Pasta book by Giada De Laurentiis and first of all must say that everything I have ever cooked from this book is fantastic. One night I had a bunch of leftover chicken jalapeno sausages from fondue night the evening before so I looked up sausage in the index to see what I could find. I did not have Marsala wine so I used white wine instead and it worked out just fine.

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage (recipe calls for sweet- I used jalapeno)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 t salt
1 t ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
2 T tomato paste
1 cup Marsala wine (I used sauv blanc)
1 large can diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes (I omitted due to the usage of jalapeno sausages)
1 pound rigatoni pasta
fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown (about 1o minutes depending on size). Remove sausages from pan and place on a towel lined plate.

Add bell peppers, onions, salt and pepper and cook until onions are cooked through, about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, oregano, and basil, cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until incorporated, add wine, tomatoes with juice, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, scrape bottom of pan and bring to a simmer.

Cut the sausages into bite sized pieces. Return to sauce pan. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain the pasta and add the sauce, toss to combine. Plate and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese.

This was a great dish and kept really well for leftovers the next day. Unless you like really hot food, I would recommend using sweet Italian sausage. It was really spicy!

Monday, February 16, 2009

VDay My Way

I made pan seared steaks with blackberry Merlot reduction, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, artichokes, and raspberry vanilla bean cream brulee for Love Day. Natalie taught me how to make steaks in a fry pan like this and I prefer them to cooking steaks on the barbecue because they are much more tender and it is easier to control the desired doneness of the meat. The blackberry Merlot sauce has been a family favorite for many years. I remember having it for Valentine's Day when I lived at home. I usually use filet Mignon, but have found that good quality top sirloins are more inexpensive and the added fat actually adds a lot of flavor. It was a hit with the husband!

2 top sirloin filets, about 1/2 pound each
4 sprigs of rosemary, stemmed
1/2 stick of butter
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
salt and pepper

Blackberry Merlot Reduction
2 T minced shallots
2 t minced garlic
2 oz seedless blackberry jam
1 cup good Merlot- I used 05 Meridian
1 cup beef broth

1 bunch of petite asparagus rinsed and ends trimmed off
3 T olive oil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, stemmed
3 T store bought crumbled Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
4-5 small Yukon gold potatoes rinsed and chopped with skin on
1 head of garlic
2 T fresh Italian parsley
1 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the end off a head of garlic and wrap in foil. Place in hot oven for about 20 minutes. Boil medium pan full of water. Add potatoes and cook until you can easily pierce with a fork, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil, spread asparagus over baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, thyme, salt and pepper, set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together chopped shallots, garlic, jam, Merlot, and beef broth. Bring to a rolling boil and let reduce about 2o minutes until sauce will coat a spoon.

In large fry pan that has sides, slowly heat 1/2 stick of butter, rosemary, and chopped garlic together. Do not let butter burn. Dust top sirloin with salt and cracked pepper, press into sides so it sticks to the meat. When garlic is cooked through and begins to sizzle, add the steaks to the fry pan. Cook about 4 minutes on each side, rotating pan so outer layer browns, but does not burn.

Take seared steaks out of the fry pan and place in a glass baking dish. Pour remaining butter garlic and rosemary mixture over the top. Put a meat thermometer in the center of one of the filets. Put filets and asparagus in the oven about 12 minutes. Cook steaks to 150 degrees in the center (for medium rare).

While steaks and asparagus are finishing in the oven, drain the potatoes and bring back to pan on the stove. Squeeze roasted garlic out of the skins into the potato pan along with 1/4 stick of butter. Mash with a potato masher until blended. Heat half and half in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Slowly add heated half and half, salt, pepper, and chopped Italian parsley to pot. Whip with potato masher until desired texture is achieved.

Remove steaks and asparagus from oven and plate, plate potatoes, top steaks with blackberry merlot reduction. We enjoyed our dinner with an excellent bottle of Laetitia Vineyards 2006 Pinot Noir Reserve. It was fantastic!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Braised Leg of Lamb over Marscapone Polenta

I made this last night for the infamous V day. I sort of pieced this recipe together through a variety of Food Network chefs' lamb recipes, except for the polenta. Emeril Lagsse can take credit for the marscapone polenta part (but I lightened it a bit). We searched 7 grocery stores in town to find marscapone cheese— I had no idea it was so hard to come by in SLO! This dish is extremely fragrant and really delicious. I served it with a stuffed artichoke and pistachio creme brulee. I will post those recipes in the near future.


4 garlic cloves
1 small piece peeled fresh gingerroot
olive oil
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb steaks, cut into 2 inch strips
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 onion, diced
1/2 T ground cumin
1/2 T ground coriander seeds
1/4 t cayenne
1 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
juice of half a lemon

4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups lowfat milk
a drizzle of olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup polenta
1/8 cup half and half
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

steamed spinach
toasted pine nuts
diced roasted red peppers
2 T plain yogurt
balsamic reduction- find the recipe here

In a blender, combine the garlic cloves with the ginger and about 1/4 cup water, reserve. In a heavy stock pot, grease with olive oil and cook the lamb pieces until browned on all sides, but not cooked in the center. Remove lamb from pot and set aside. In the same pot, fry the cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf and cook for a minute. Next, add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the cumin through yogurt ingredients as well as the garlic/ginger mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the lamb back into the pot and fill with a little water until the liquid is half way up the meat. Bring mixture to a boil and then cover and turn to simmer and cook for two hours or until meat is fork tender.

When the lamb has about 45 minutes to go, start the polenta. Combine the broth, milk, olive oil and pepper in a pot and bring to almost a boil. Add the polenta into the pot in a slow stream, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. Bring ingredients to a boil and then turn down to low and cover for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. With 15 minutes remaining, add the marscapone and half and half and adjust the seasonings.

When lamb is done, pull out pieces with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. To plate the recipe, put down a little polenta and then top with lamb and remaining toppings.

This version will feed 3 hungry people or 4 lighter eaters (it is very rich). I assume other cuts of lamb could be used (like shanks or shoulder) but this is all I could get fresh and organic in SLO that seemed suitable for braising. With this dish we had Adelaida Cellars 2005 Version wine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Easy Chicken Salad

I'm sorry I don't have a picture of this (I ate it all before I had the chance to take a photo!), but I made this last night and it is fantastic!

1 shredded store bought rotisserie chicken
5-6 celery stocks, chopped finely
3 red apples, chopped finely, with the skin on
10 leaves fresh basil, chopped finely
juice of one large lemon

1 cup rice
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic

1 1/2 cups light mayo
1/2 cup nonfat milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon powdered onion

Add rice, garlic, and almonds to high heat and toast, when it starts to brown, add chicken broth. Cook about 30 minutes until rice is fluffy, let cool.

Meanwhile, shred entire rotisserie chicken, mix with apples, celery, and basil. Squeeze the lemon juice over the bowl to keep apples from turning brown.

In measuring cup, whisk together mayo, milk, and seasonings.

Add rice mixture to chicken mixture when cooled, toss with mayo mixture.

I put this in the fridge over night and put a scoop on top of a ton of chopped romaine and spinach. It makes an excellent 'bring to work in a tupperware' lunch! If you are against mayo, it would probably also be good with nonfat plain yogurt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Asparagus with Provolone

I created this dish the other night with roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. I generally love the "prosciutto wrapped asparagus" appetizer and thought that this might be a nice side dish spin on it. These had a nice woodsy/spicy/salty flavor.


one bunch asparagus
good quality olive oil
sea salt
red pepper flakes
2 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and lay down asparagus side-by-side. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the sea salt, thyme and red pepper flakes. Put into oven for 7 minutes. After asparagus cooks a little, add the cheese and cook for another 4 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Comfort Food: Broccoli Chicken Cheddar Casserole

Our mother used to make this casserole for us kids growing up when her and our father ate grown up food for dinner. I still am quite fond of this dish and love to make it on rainy days. I called my mom to tell her what I was making for dinner and she definitely got nostalgic— and maybe a little jealous.


2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cups chopped steamed broccoli
1 can cream of chicken soup (low salt)
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low fat sour cream (for me it has to be Daisy)
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c prepared bread crumbs
1 c extra sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 baking dish. Combine all ingredients through nutmeg in a bowl. Add about a third of the cheddar and mix well. Sprinkle baking dish with some of the panko bread crumbs (this will help keep casserole from sticking and will make it look nicer when served). Add bowl mixture to the baking dish and pat down with a spatula. Top with remaining cheese, panko and bread crumbs and then sprinkle with cayenne. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crumbs have turned golden.

This recipe can be made with all the full-fat, full-salt ingredients as well (eat your heart out) I just try to be conscious of my family history of heart disease. As tradition goes, serve this with a side of full grain brown rice with soy sauce- kind of weird but delicious!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beautiful Valentine's Day Cupcakes

I'm not super into Valentine's Day— but I usually try to make the effort to bake something chocolatey. I came across these cupcakes today and they definitely make me wish I had some skills in the pastry decorating department! (We have made some pretty "interesting" Christmas cookies in the past.)

Valentine's Day Cupcakes
Stay tuned- they are supposed to post demos later this week!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cheap Eats: Grilled Veggie and Black Bean Tacos

One of my favorite days of the month is when I come home from work to find a cooking magazine in my mailbox. Last month, I tried this recipe from Bon Appetit (which was delicious) and then got onto a taco making kick. I created a version that includes more veggies and less fat and paired it with a side of brown rice. It also served nicely as burrito bowls for lunch the next day. If you have the time, this also is a great chance to make black beans from scratch- I’ll post recipes for that sometime later.


1 can black beans
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
olive oil
1/2 white onion, sliced into chunks
1/2 bunch green onion, trimmed into 2 inch pieces, whites intact
1 red bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 zucchini, cut into large chunks
red wine vinegar
corn tortillas

cojita cheese, sour cream and cilantro


Rinse and drain the beans. Put beans in a sauce pan with broth, cumin and cayenne and let simmer until heated. Mash some of the beans with a potato masher and keep warm.

Cover a grill pan with a little olive oil and add onion, peppers and zucchini. Cook on medium for about 5 minutes and then add green onions. Drizzle veggies with red wine vinegar and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Let them cook another 2 minutes.

Heat corn tortillas in a fry pan until cooked. Assemble tacos to your liking and top with cojita cheese, sour cream and cilantro.