Monday, August 30, 2010

Ginger Coconut Shrimp

Here is a quick recipe to start the week off the right way.  Ginger Coconut Shrimp is a quick stir-fry for the family.  I found the recipe in the ‘Pillsbury Pasta Cookbook”, volume #232, June 2000.  I started buying these cookbooks back in 1995.  So far, I haven’t been disappointed! 

A couple notes about the recipe…. In order to for this to be “ginger” coconut shrimp, you have to buy the fresh ginger.  I forgot…. I substituted a 1tsp ground ginger.  It could have used a little bit more.  Or, just simply remember to buy the real thing.  I also tossed the pasta in with the sauce at the end, so the pasta could be flavored as well.  The recipe suggests serving the stir fry spooned over pasta.  You can do what ever you like!  My family fights over shrimp, so I purchased a 16oz bag of it.  You can never have too much shrimp.  The carrots are really yummy in this recipe.  They add a delicious crunch!  Enjoy! 

Ginger Coconut Shrimp


2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 (14oz) can light coconut milk
½ teaspoon grated lime peel
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced


8 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta


1 tablespoon oil
1 (9oz) pkg. frozen sugar snap peas, thawed
2 cups julienne-cut carrots
12oz shelled, deveined uncooked medium shrimp
3 green onions cut diagonally into ¼-inch slices
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (totally optional)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cornstarch and ¼ cup of the coconut milk; mix until smooth.
  2. Stir in remaining coconut milk and all remaining sauce ingredients; mix well.  Set aside.
  3. Cook pasta to desired doneness.  Drain; cover to keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add sugar snap peas and carrots; cook and stir 3 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp and green onions; cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes or until the shrimp is not longer pink and the vegetables are crisp-tender.
  6. Add sauce to skillet.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. 
  7. Serve shrimp mixture over pasta.
  8. Sprinkle with cilantro. (If you really want to)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cauliflower Gratin

I am just getting spoiled all over!  My mom just bought me a beautiful gratin dish!  I have always wanted one of those!  I have never made a gratin before.  Seeing pictures, they always look creamy and rich and delicious.  Well, now I have found my chance!

I found a recipe for a cauliflower gratin in “French Women Don’t Get Fat, The Secret of Eating for Pleasure”, by Mireille Guiliano.  I actually came across this recipe while I was in the car.  I shop for groceries everyday, you see.  I only shop for the ingredients I need that day.  I have found that if I shop all at once I waste more food.  I always have a cookbook in the car just in case I didn’t plan ahead. (I do that all of the time).  The lucky cookbook just happed to be this one.  Mirielle does have delicious recipes.  (See previous post) and this one is no exception!

Just a side note…. Isabelle and I like this dish.  Alex tried it and didn’t like it.  Ted and Gabe wouldn’t give it a shot. 

Cauliflower Gratin

1 medium-size head of cauliflower
2 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ cup grated cheese, (Gruyere, Swiss, Jarlsberg, Comte, Parmesan, or Pecorino, or a mix of 2)
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Trim the cauliflower, separate the flowerets, and cook in the milk and the ½ teaspoon of salt until tender (10 to 15 minutes).  Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the milk.
  2. Arrange the cooked flowerets in a lightly buttered baking dish.  Beat together the egg and reserved milk.  Add the cheese to the milk and egg and spread over the flowerets.  Add the salt and pepper.  Dot with the butter.
  3. Broil the gratin until browned and bubbly.
  4. Serve hot.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tarte Au Chocolat

I can cross two things off of my wish list.  A tart shell pan with a removable bottom and twelve mini-tart shell pans.  The first was a present I bought for myself and the second, my mother surprised me with the mini-tart shell pans.  Yay!  My mom said she was so proud of me for my blog, she thought she would treat me.  With just one tiny string attached.  I have to bake something for her in the tart shell pans.  No problem there!  I have so many thing s I want to use them for!
So I have been on a chocolate kick for a while.  While going through my cookbooks I find beautiful pictures of tarts filled with shiny dark chocolate.  The pictures just make my mouth water.   I found a delicious and easy recipe in Mireille Guilliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, cookbook.  I have all of her books and I love the way she writes.  Mirielle gives insightful and healthy ideas on how to lose weight and how to feel good about you.   The recipe, Tarte au Chocolat was right up my alley.  Yes, I know, eating it all by myself isn’t a great way to lose weight, so I decided to share. 

Tarte au Chocolate starts with a crust recipe.  In Mirielle’s recipe, she suggests purchasing a store bought pie crust or making your own.  She didn’t include a recipe for it in the cookbook, so I went on a hunt to find a simple pate brisee crust.  I found the recipe in “The Martha Stewart Cookbook”, by Martha Stewart. The pie crust recipe was simple and it worked really well with the chocolate tart filling.

All I can say is yum! 

Pate Brisee

Makes two 8-to-10 inch tarts.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ to ½ cup ice water

  1. Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resemble coarse meal.  (To mix by hand, combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender or two table knives, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal).
  2. Add ice water, drop by drop, through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds.  Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together.  If it is crumbly, add a bit more water.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press the dough into a flat circle.  This makes rolling easier that if the pastry is chilled as a ball.  Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.
  4. I only used half of the dough for this recipe.  I still have the other half in the freezer ready to use at a moments notice.

Tarte Au Chocolat

1 recipe pate brisee or pie dough (store-bought or homemade) for a 9-inch pie
6 ounces dark chocolate (70 to 80% cacao preferred), chopped
1/3 cup 2% or whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar
4 egg yolks
  1. Line a 9-inch tart with the pastry dough.  Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and cover the dough with foil, crimping the foil over the edge of the mold.  Add dry beans or pellets and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the beans or pellets and foil and cook for another 5 minutes or until the tart shell is lightly golden.  Remove from the oven and cool.
  2. Lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees.  Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and melt in 45 second increments.
  3. Meanwhile, place the milk, cream, and sugar in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from the heat and add to the melted chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Set aside and allow to cool a bit before whisking in the egg yolks.  (This last step is a must!  If you don’t allow the mixture to cool, the eggs will scramble)
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart shell and bake for 20 minutes or until the filling is just set.  Remove from the oven and cool before unmolding and serving.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two-Cheese and Ham French Loaf

Well, summer is winding down, and our time to be creative at lunch is coming to a close.  Soon it will be time to get up at an ungodly hour and pack the lunches.  I am so not looking forward to that one.  In the meantime, here is a good recipe for a summer lunch.  

It was Alex’s turn to pick out the lunch recipe and he picked out a yummy one.  He found the recipe in “Pillsbury Quick Comfort Food”, January 2006-volume #299.  Two-Cheese and Ham French Loaf is exactly what its title says it is.  A giant loaf of French bread filled with cheese and ham and pretty much whatever you’d like.  Please feel free to vary the ingredients to your liking.

I added freshly sliced tomatoes and I hollowed out the loaf of bread.  The sandwich once baked gets pretty messy and the top and bottom bread doesn’t really keep in the guts of the sandwich.  It tastes really good, but be prepared to have plenty of napkins on hand.  Isabelle loved every bite and she wouldn’t change a thing.  Mom would have changed the bread and Alex would have added more stuff to it.  All-in-all it was a deliciously messy lunch.

Two-Cheese and Ham French Loaf

1 loaf (1lb) French bread
¼ cup honey mustard
8 slices (3/4 to 1 ounce each) Swiss cheese
8 slices (3/4 to 1 ounce each) Cheddar cheese
¼ lb thinly sliced cooked ham
¾ cup strawberry or raspberry preserves* (see note)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Cut 2 large pieces of aluminum foil.  Preferably longer than the bread.  Place on a baking sheet.
  3. Cut French bread in half horizontally.
  4. Spread cut sides of bread with honey mustard.
  5. Place bottom half of bread on foil.
  6. Layer Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, and ham evenly on bottom half of bread.  Cover with the top half.
  7. Wrap tightly in foil.
  8. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cheeses are melted and loaf is thoroughly heated.
  9. Carefully unwrap the loaf to allow steam to escape.
  10. Cut loaf into 6 pieces; serve with preserves for dipping.

*we opted not use the preserves.  If you decide make this let me know how

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Let’s call it a comeback.  Due to issues beyond my control; my link to cyber-space was briefly interrupted.  Well world, guess what!  I am back and ready to take over.  Are you ready for me?!  

We are going to start the week with a chocolate punch in the face!  I promise you it doesn’t hurt, but that is how I would describe this chocolate, chocolate cake.  Everyone knows you don’t need a reason the make chocolate cake, but I did this time.  My father-in-law celebrated his 64th birthday this week.  This man loves chocolate more than anyone I know!  So my goal was to make him the best, most, chocolatiest, ( I think I made that word up) cake ever! 

We all know, from previous posts that I am a huge fan of Nigella Lawson.  Anyone who is a huge fan of hers knows that she is absolutely fanatic about chocolate.  Nigella has chapters in her cookbooks devoted to all things chocolate.  So finding the fudgiest chocolate cake recipe in her cookbooks was a no-brainer!

Chocolate Fudge Cake comes from the “Nigella Bites” cookbook.  This cookbook was the first cookbook I bought of hers.  I discovered her while her show, “Nigella Bites” was on the Style Network.  Each recipe has a story and there are note pages at the ends of each chapter for the home cook to write down changes for recipes.  Nigella’s books are funny and informative and full of beautiful pictures.

This chocolate cake recipe is a cinch to make.  My father-in-law was surprised!  He loved it!  The rest of the family did too.  The key to this recipe is the dark chocolate.  The darker the chocolate, the more intense the chocolate flavor.  The cake itself has a nice mellow chocolate taste and the frosting hits the richness out of the park.  It was all agreed that this was the best chocolate cake ever!  Please try it!

Chocolate Fudge Cake

For the cake:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup best-quality cocoa powder (I use Dutch-processed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ cup corn oil (I use vegetable oil)
1 1/3 cups chilled water

For the Fudge Icing:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter and flour the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended.
  5. In a larger bowl and with a hand blender, or your brute arm strength, mix together the melted butter and vegetable oil until blended.  When it is well blended, add the chilled water and continue to mix.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the butter, water, and oil and mix on low spend until combined.
  7. Add the sour cream, egg mixture and combine.
  8. Pour evenly into the two baking pans and bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  9. Completely cool before frosting.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 1 minute intervals stirring so it melts evenly.  Let cool slightly. 

In another bowl beat the butter until it is soft and creamy.  Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar and beat again until everything is light and fluffy.  Sifting the confectioner’s sugar is important because it will ensure that the frosting has no lumps in it.  Then gently add that vanilla and the chocolate and mix together until everything is glossy and smooth.

Use about ¼ of the icing for the middle of the cake.  Top with second cake and ice the sides and the top.   Keep little fingers out of the frosting bowl for as long as you can. 


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bubble Salad

I think I will call it “Bubble Salad”.

That’s what the kids think it looks like.  I came across these sweet little potatoes at the farmer’s market this morning.  What perfect little bite-sized gems!  I have never seen potatoes so small before!  I had to buy them for the pure novelty of it.  But what do I do with them?  

I didn’t want to mash them… There was no purpose in that.  That would just wreck the potato’s cuteness.  I know I think these potatoes are cute.   The farmer suggested I roast them in a pan with olive oil and rosemary.  That sounded fantastic, but my family doesn’t like it when I do that to potatoes.  So an inspiration struck me.  Why not potato salad?

I know everybody in my house likes potato salad.  When I presented it to the family, the kids thought it looked like bubbles floating in the dressing.  This potato salad recipe is based loosely on a version of Marc Bittman.  Having never made potato salad before, I needed a base to start with.  (The potato salad in the blog “Insalata di Potate” was made by my grandma).  I added yogurt and eggs and mixed up the seasonings a little bit.  I hope it will be the talk of the town.  (Just let me think that) 

Bubble Salad

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup yogurt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 scallions, chopped, use only the white part and barely the green
3 good-sized tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 pints of Butterball potatoes, red or white
4 eggs, hardboiled and chopped
Kosher Salt
Pepper, freshly ground.

  1. Start with the eggs.  Hard boil them like your mom or grandma taught you how to.  My mom taught me one way and my mother-in-law taught me another way.  I didn’t tell either one who was right.  Just go with it.
  2. While the eggs are cooling, start boiling the potatoes.  Because the potatoes are so small they only need a few moments in the water once it has come up to a boil. I would say 5 or 7 minutes.  To test for doneness, squeeze a potato with a pair of kitchen tongs.  If it flatten slightly the potatoes are done.  If it crumbles in your tongs they are way past done.  You want these potatoes to keep their shape.
  3. Drain the potatoes in the sink and let them cool for 10 minutes. 
  4. While the potatoes are draining, mix your dressing ingredients.  The mayo, yogurt, mustard, scallions, parsley and salt and pepper go in the bottom of a large bowl.
  5.  Add the potatoes to the bowl with the dressing and toss gently. 
  6. Add the eggs and toss to coat again.  Season with salt and pepper to you liking.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors come together.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spicy Picnic Chicken and Texas Two-Step Coleslaw

Ok, so I promise I will never go that long again.  It has been almost a week and it drove me crazy not to get in the kitchen and cook for you.  It has been one hectic week.  The kids have been going everywhere.  I have been working odd hours (and lots of them).  We just never got our schedules to gel.  Well, the planets aligned and here we are.  Thank-you for coming… I made dinner for you.

Tonight’s dinner comes to us from “The Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook”, volume #291, May 2005.  I have two recipes that I have prepared for your enjoyment this evening or morning, or lunch, whenever you read this.  The first is an easy Spicy Picnic Chicken.  It has buttermilk in the batter to help tenderize the meat and bread crumbs and taco seasoning to give the crust a real kick.   The second?  Sensational, tongue tingling coleslaw: Texas Two-Step Coleslaw had everybody dancing in their seats.  It was a perfect end to a great day.  The coleslaw was a big hit and it made a ton!  It would be perfect for a backyard barbeque or the next church potluck. 

I have used the Pillsbury cookbooks before and trust me; you will see them again in the future.   The only changes I would have made to the meal were the temperature, a sweltering 87 degrees and I would have added a little bit more spice to the chicken.  Perhaps you can add a dash of cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce if you like it spicier.

Spicy Picnic Chicken

1 cup buttermilk
1 package taco seasoning
1 cup bread crumbs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1-2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
8 bone-in pieces of chicken (I used a 14 pack of drumsticks, because that is what my family likes)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. 
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix the buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon of the taco seasoning mix.
  3. In another shallow bowl, mix remaining taco seasoning mix, the bread crumbs, flour, salt and pepper.
  4. Dip the chicken pieces into the buttermilk mixture.
  5. Coat with breadcrumbs mixture.
  6. Place on baking sheet.
  7. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  8. Drizzle chicken with butter
  9. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the chicken is fork tender and the juices run clear.

Texas Two-Step Slaw

4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded red cabbage
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 jalapeno chilies, seeded, and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
1 can whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


¾ cup ranch dressing
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin

  1. In a large bowl, mix salad ingredients
  2. In a small bowl mix dressing ingredients.
  3. Toss the dressing with the salad and cover. 
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to let the flavors come together.  The recipe suggest two hour or over night.  I made it before I made the chicken and it tasted perfect.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quinoa, Goat Cheese and Scallion Fritters

I woke up this morning with an ambitious feeling to make something.  One problem, I haven’t been to the grocery store in awhile, so I didn’t really have ingredients on hand to make complete recipes out of my cookbooks.  What I did have, was plenty of leftovers.  I had leftover quinoa from Monday night’s dinner.  I had leftover goat cheese from the sun-dried tomato goat cheese tarts.  I also had leftover scallions from the Jalapeno Chicken bites.  The wheels started turning in my brain. Hmmm, what could I make?  AHA!  How about quinoa, goat cheese and scallion fritters!

I don’t have exact measurements, because I just threw everything into a bowl.  One thing I didn’t do was add egg.  The quinoa, when it is cooled gets very sticky and thick (especially if you over cook it like I did) and when I added the goat cheese it bound it together nicely.  You do have to be careful turning the fritters in the pan, but once they are browned on all sides they become stable.

Quinoa, Goat Cheese, and Scallion Fritters, from my kitchen

2 cups cooked and cold quinoa
2 oz goat cheese
3 scallions
Freshly cracked pepper
Flour to coat
Vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of a pan about ½ -inch

Mix the quinoa, goat cheese, scallions, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the oil to the pan and get it hot, about 350 degrees.  Form the quinoa mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in the flour.  When the oil is just right, the fritters will start sizzling, the instant they touch the oil.  Lightly fry the fritters on all sides and drain on a paper towel.  Sprinkle a little salt on them while they are still hot and enjoy! 

Kids rating…

“A” says, “Good with a 7 out of 10”
“I” says, “Good with a 6 out of 10”
“G” says, Good with an 8 out of 10 and I liked the crust.  Plus they go really great with bologna”