Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dinner Divas #1

As I become a little more familiar with the WC board on the nest, I felt it was time to join one of the many cooking groups that are available. The Dinner Divas sounded perfect for me, the only rule is there are no rules. Sounds perfect for they way I cook in my kitchen! The first recipe was from Bobby Flay for Chicken Cobb Burgers. I took many liberties with the burger, and ended up outstanding!! There were no complaints anywhere around the table. Well, I guess there was one complaint, no pictures. The camera's battery needed to charged, and while I had it plugged in all day anticipating needing pictures, I had it plugged in incorrectly. Yes, Michael got a good laugh out of that. I served it with fresh corn on the cob and a cold tortellini pasta salad. I have noted the changes I made below in black. Enjoy!

8 strips of bacon
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken, 90 percent lean (I used lean ground beef, Michael refused chicken)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
(2 TB balsalmic mixed in ground beef mixture gave some great tang)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
( I hate Blue cheese so I used goat cheese, loved it!)
4 burger buns, split
(I used whole wheat kaiser rolls, toasted)
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 8 slices (No avocado in our kitchen)

For the vinaigrette:2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used balsalmic)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (had no lemon)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely shredded romaine lettuce

For the burgers:
(First you should know we do not have a grill. Not a challenge though, we made them on out panini maker/open faced grill, it worked perfectly!)
Heat the grill to medium.Place the strips of bacon on the grill (lay them across the grate so they don't fall through) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Increase the heat of the grill to high. ) Form the meat into 4 (8-ounce) burgers, brush with the oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the burgers until golden brown on both sides and cooked completely through, about 5 minutes per side. Top the burgers with the blue cheese, close the cover, and continue cooking until the cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute longer.Place the burgers on the bottom half of each bun and top with a slice of tomato, 2 slices of avocado, 2 slices of bacon and some of the dressed romaine. Cover each burger with the bun tops and serve.

For the vinaigrette:Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to meld. Just before assembling the burgers, place the romaine in a medium bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Favorite Cookies of All Time!!!

These are the cookies that undo my greatest gumption and will power. I could resist the brownies and the chocolate chip cookies, but not these cookies. I can't stop eating these cookies until every last one is gone. They smell amazing, they are the perfect size, and I think they are cute cookies, if there is such a thing! I couldn't really get a good photograph of them, but don't judge, they will knock your socks off! The original recipe is from allrecipes, but I use a modified version (shown below), that someone else has posted in the comments, and I have never once had a problem with it. Every time it makes perfect little chocolaty pillows of decadence. I do cook on silicone mats (not necessary though), and I measure my cookies out with my cookies scoop, I just love the uniformity of them. Get cooking, these ones are worth it!!!

White Chip Chocolate Cookies
Submitted by KATCOLTER
Yields 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cups white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Fold in the white chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are set. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This is another one of those foods that just says comfort food to me, and it did not let me down. Michael's boss came over for dinner, so I served this with sauteed green beans, a green salad, and some of my homemade bread that is posted below. All in all dinner was a success no complaints. And once again, the following is for an 8x8 pan, double it for a 9x13 or two 8x8's. It is always great when you have a good dinner like this already done up in the freezer!

Serves 6-9

Cooking spray
8 no boil lasagna noodles ( I use TJ's brand, they are the perfect size)
16 oz marinara sauce (mines from scratch, and includes a # of ground beef)
1 15oz tub of ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 cups grated mozzarella

Everything waiting to be assembled

Look at those yummy cheesy layers

Finished, just awaiting the oven so it can crisp up

Spray pan well with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350.
In a mixing bowl combine eggs, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, basil, and oregano.
Spread a thin layer of sauce over bottom of pan and then layer with 2 noodles.
On top of each noodle spread 1/6 of ricotta cheese mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cheese and a ladle full of sauce. Put 2 noodles over sauce and repeat layering, until you have filled the pan. (For my 8x8 pan in took 3 layers)
Finish the layering with 2 noodles over the top, the remainder of the sauce, and then the cheese.
Cover in foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes or until center is bubbling and cheese is melted and crispy.

Homemade bread in the crockpot?!?!?!

Yep, it is true. I found this little gem of a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, 101 More Things To Do With A Slow cooker, and it was so interesting that I had to try it. I was not disappointed, next I am going to try a honey wheat recipe that is in that cookbook with some cinnamon and diced apples. Again, so fall inspired! This bread gave the whole house that wonderful homemade bread smell, and it was so hard not to take the cover off of the crock pot and sneak a peek. But my patience prevailed and we ended up with a nice little loaf of white bread. My only problem,which is entirely my fault, is that it got a little brown on the bottom. That is because my slow cooker turns to warm when the time is up though, and I wasn't home, so I think it got direct heat just a little too long. Enjoy, and try this, you will love how easy it is to get homemade bread!

My yeast foaming

My dough in the crock pot just waiting to cook

My finished loaf

All sliced up

Classic White Bread
101 More Things To Do With A Slow cooker
Stephanie Ashcraft and Janet Eyring
10-15 servings

1 envelope (.25 ounce) of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm water
1tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour

In a bowl combine yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water. Allow yeast to foam, about 5 minutes.
Add egg, oil, lukewarm water, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 cups of flour. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on low.
With a wooden spoon, stir i remaining flour.
Place dough in greased 4-5 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours. Remove stoneware from cooker and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Best brownies ever!

So yesterday on the WC board at the nest Stephanie posted her blog update, and as I meandered abound her blog I found this gem of a recipe, which I of course had to make immediately! They smelled amazing cooking, so it was maybe a teeny tiny let down when they came out only because they couldn't possibly taste as good as they had smelled. I sent them to work with Michael today, because I could undoubtedly eat the whole pan if I wasn't thinking. They were really that good. We ate them last night warmed up with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate syrup...decadent!

Milk Chocolate Chunk and Peanut Butter Brownies

Source: Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker
Makes 16 2-inch squares

3 oz (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural-style, chunky peanut butter
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 oz milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the inside of the foil.
Place the butter in a large bowl and beat the butter on medium speed until it's fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the peanut butter and cream together. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
Add the sugar to the mixture and cream together.One at a time, add the eggs to the peanut butter mixture and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and blend completely.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture in two stages and stir together thoroughly.
Add the chocolate chunks to the batter and stir to distribute evenly.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly.
Bake the brownies for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist.Remove pan from the oven and cool completely on a rack.
Lift the brownies from the pan with the aluminum foil and carefully peal the foil away from the sides. Cut into 4 equal-sized rows in each direction.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Feels like home

While Fall is still a very distant thought here in sunny California (come to think of it, do they even have Fall here?), I am in the mood for something very homey and fallish,and very few things make me think more of home and the leaves changing colors and falling off of the tress than a roast cooking in the crock pot all day. I am really longing for a nice cool crisp day, it hasn't really been below 80 since we got married and moved here. I know some of you would kill for this weather, but it just isn't me. Shopping yesterday was so sad because there are so many beautiful coats coming out this year, and it will just never really get cold enough to wear one here. At least I will save myself the money by not having to buy one this year! Alright, enough of my pity party, on with the cooking!

This is such a classic recipe I don't even know where it came from, I only know it is how my mom and I have been making it forever, and it never lets me down. Since there are 2 of us and we never eat all of the roast, leftovers turn into French Dip sandwiches later in the week. Hope you enjoy, we always do!

Everything is in, now it is just time to slow cook

Crock Pot Roast

2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 3-4 pound roast
1 large onion, cut into rings
1 pound of cut carrots
8 red potatoes, washed and quartered
1 packet of onion soup mix dissolved in 1 cup of water

In frying pan heat oil and then brown roast on all sides, covering in a salt and pepper crust. This quick frying helps to seal in some of the juices and adds a nice little flavorful crust to your roast.
After greasing inside of crock pot, add cut carrots, quartered potatoes, and onion rings.
Place roast on top of vegetables and pour onion soup mix water over roast. Place lid on and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. If roast is frozen, add 2-4 more hours to cook time.

Who says dinner can't be easy?

Michael and I got back from the airport late Saturday night, so the kitchen opened back up Sunday. I made french toast with some wonderful chicken sausage for breakfast and got some enchiladas done up for dinner. I am big on convenience and don't believe that everything needs to be made by scratch, I would probably do a lot less cooking if it did!! I guess I fancy myself a bit as Sandra Lee the semi-homemade cook. My enchilada recipe follows, pretty basic and pretty tasty. As a side we had a black bean and corn salad, and we topped off our enchiladas with sour cream. They do not photograph well at all, but the pictures at least give you an idea. And if anyone has a great way to keep my tortillas from cracking when I roll the enchiladas, please share, because I think that I have tried them all!

Tortillas stuffed and rolled, waiting for the sauce.

Ready to go in the oven.

Plated up and ready to be enjoyed!


10 corn tortillas
1 pound ground beef
2 cups shredded cheese
1 20 0z can of enchilada sauce (we are a mild family)
1/2 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 TB olive oil

Brown the oil, onion, and garlic in a large frying pan. Add the ground beef and cook until done, set aside.
Preheat oven to 400.
Grease a 9x13 pan (I use 2 8x8 pans and freeze a batch for another night!) In each tortilla add about 4TB ground beef mixture. Sprinkle a TB cheese on top of meat, roll tortilla sides in, and place seam side down in greased pan. Continue with remaining tortillas.
Once all enchiladas are rolled pour can of enchilada sauce over the top, sprinkle remaining cheese, cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Michael wanted you to all know what it would look like when you were done...I think he just wants to be more involved in my blog!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The kitchen is closed :(

Michael and I are headed out of town for the rest of the week for a funeral, so my kitchen is now shut down for a few days. We are headed to Idaho, his best mans father just passed away, so we really need to be there. It makes me kind of sad to close up my kitchen for a few days though, because I am really starting to get into this cooking and blogging thing. Yuck, restaurant food for the rest of the week, Lori (Michael's mom in Idaho) doesn't cook. I will be back at it on Monday I am sure, hope you all have a great weekend!

Raspberry Muffins

I recieved this recipe from my wedding caterer with a muffin cook book and my muffin tins. She had printed it on an index card and put it in the cookbook, which I thought was the sweetest thing. I have been eager to try them for a while now, as she is a fantastic baker whose goods are in coffee shops around town, so last night was finally the perfect opportunity. The only thing I will chang next time is I will add more berries. The recipe calls for 1 cup, I will throw in at least another half cup. Also, as a side note, I used frozen raspberries, and it worked just fine. All in all they didn't dissapoint, I am working on my second one as breakfast right now! Sorry there is no picture, Michael took the camera and there were no muffins left when the camera got back home! I will make them again soon I am sure so I will post a picture next time!

8/22 Alright, so we are going out of town again this weekend, so I made these muffins to take with us. They are strawberry this time, and I once again am really enjoying them. I also used white whole wheat flour, with no problems or taste complaints. I got a picture this time too...YEAH!

Fresh out of the oven

Don't you think a cream cheese swirl would be amazing in here?

Maxine's Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 regular of 6 texas sized muffins

2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 beaten eggs
1 cup blueberries (or raspberries!)

Preheat oven to 350
Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl
Then add milk, melted butter and the beaten eggs. Mix jut until all is incorporated, be sure notto overmix!!
Gently stir in the berries.
Pour into lined or sprayed muffin tins, sprinkle tops with coarse pearl sugar
Bake for approimately 20 minutes,or unil golden brown and center tests done with a toothpick.

Chocolate Chip Cookies!!

Who can resist perfect chocolate chip cookies? These cookies really lived up to the hype and were enjoyed my many. This recipe is all over the nest, but I got it from Sweet and Savory Southern's blog I followed the recipe to the T except for traying the up. I am a mini cookie kind of girl, so I just used my cookie dough scoop and made 60 cookies. As simple as that, and I was able to skip the difficult step! And as always, with any good cookie, DO NOT OVERBAKE THEM!!! Take them out when they just start to look golden brown, they will continue to cook on the cookie sheet, this is how you can keep them so chewy. Have fun baking!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: Baking Illustrated, page 434)
Makes about 18 large cookies.

These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. Oversized baking sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you’re using smaller baking sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

Monday, August 11, 2008


So Michael loves when I make quiche and was quite pleased with this one tonight, so here is the recipe I followed. I got the basis of it from Allrecipes, but I did deviate from it quite a bit (my deviations are included in the recipe). Don't be afraid to experiment with other fillings, this is a great base, change the cheese, vegetables, and meats as much as you would like. I also doubled the recipe and froze one after I baked them, just add about 10 minutes to cook time if you put them both in th oven. Next time I will use deep dish pie crusts, as I had some filling left over, and I will read the sausage label before I start, because the maple flavor was not quite right. Opps!! Oh yeah, and for the pie crust, I always use a frozen store bought one, I still haven't mastered pastries. Enjoy!

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced

1 shallot diced
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup diced red peppers (I used a frozen medaly)
3 strips of bacon
3 oz sausage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (9 inch) pie crust
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and sausage, cook until crispy and set aside. In same skillet add onion, shallot and peppers and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, cream, basil, oregano, and pepper, add cheese.
Spoon the meat and pepper/onion mixture over bottom of uncooked pie crust. Pour the egg mixture over the onions.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into center of the quiche comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Project #1

This was my first baking project in my kitchen, and it turned out great. This was the TWD groups recipe for the week of 8/6. After reading lots of nesties reviews of this loaf I did some modifications to it. They include no white sugar, 1/3 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups of flour, no rum, and no nutmeg. I also decided to make muffins instead of a traditional loaf, I find them way more fun and easier to eat. To marble them I put about 1/2 cup of the banana mixture with two dobs of the chocolate on top and then swirled them together. I baked them for about 15 minutes, and was very happy with the results!

Black-and-White Banana Loaf
Source: Dorie Greenspan, Baking from my home to yours, pg 232 Makes about 8 servings

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ ripe bananas, peeled
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon dark rum
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with the lemon juice and zest, then stir in the rum.Melt the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the butter together in a microwave oven or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining stick (8 tablespoons) of butter at medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until light and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. The batter will look curdled, and it will continue to look curdled as you add ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the flour mixture, mixing only until it is just incorporated. With the mixer running, pour in the milk, and when it is blended, add the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the mashed bananas. The batter will look even lumpier.

Pour a little less than half the batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate and stir to blend.

Drop alternating spoonfuls of both batters into the prepared pan, then, using a table knife, swirl the batters together, taking care not to overdo it.

Bake for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and if the cake starts to brown too much, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake to room temperature right side up on the rack.

What is happening in the kitchen today?

So I am home for the day and have decided to spend it in the kitchen. We are going down to San Diego to hang out with friends this weekend, so I wanted to make some snacks that would travel well and would be thouroughly enjoyed. I decided to try the banana chocolate marble loaf that the TWD group made this week, as well as the old standby of chocolate chip cookies. I will post recipes and pictures when everything comes out of the oven. Wish me luck!

Here we go...

My name is Jenn and I created this blog to keep up with my fellow nesties in the kitchen on the What's Cooking board.. I got married on July 5, 2008 to my other half Michael, and we are making a little life for ourselves in Southern California right now. This blog will explore my time spent in the kicthen, which seems to be most all of it, as I learn to cook for 2. I grew up in the kitchen helping my mom, but it was all very homestyle cooking, so I look forward to trying all sorts of new things. I am most at peace in the kitchen, there is pretty much nowhere I would rather be! Enjoy my adventures, and know that everything I make has a little piece of my heart in it.