Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Updated Chicken and Rice

This post is about savory comfort food, a nice change after all the sweets I've posted over the past few days (told you I baked a lot on Saturday!). Tonight we had Citrus-Roasted Chicken, Risotto, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon. It might sound more complicated that chicken and rice, but it's not. We were eating within 45 minutes (and most of the pans were washed beforehand).

Citrus-Roasted Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried tarragon
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Place chicken in a baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour orange juice into pan, and sprinkle chicken with sage and next 2 ingredients. Place pats of butter on each chicken breast.
2. Bake at 400° for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is done. (Cooking time will vary based on thickness of chicken breasts.) Cut into slices.

2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 (32-oz.) carton chicken stock (Heat in the microwave for 3 minutes or until warm.)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan, and sauté onion until tender. Stir in rice, and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in white wine; cook until wine is absorbed. Gradually add in warm chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring regularly until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon
Even if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, you should try them like this. Bacon is a great accompaniment!
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 package Brussels sprouts, cut into halves or quarters (depending on size of sprouts)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon and Brussels sprouts in an ovenproof skillet until bacon is almost crisp. Stir in lemon zest and juice; sprinkle with pepper to taste.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 to 30 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake

This is probably one of my most requested desserts. Cheesecake is very easy to make (much more so than a layer cake), but it is very impressive to most folks. Once you make one, however, you'll see what a cinch it is. This is a particularly good one because the chocolate ganache covers the cracks that inevitably form in the top.

Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake
20 Oreos, crushed (I use my food processor.)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
4 (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened (I use two regular and two reduced-fat.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
14 Oreos, crushed
1/3 cup whipping cream

1. Combine 20 crushed Oreos and melted butter. Press into bottom and a little bit up the sides of a springform pan.
2. Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until blended and creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla, 1 cup chocolate chips, and 14 crushed Oreos. Pour into prepared crust.
3. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes. Turn off oven, and let cheesecake stand in oven, with door partially open, for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool completely. Chill cheesecake 8 hours. Release sides of pan.
4. Microwave remaining 3/4 cup chocolate chips and whipping cream at HIGH for 1 minute or until chocolate chips are melted. Stir to combine. Spread ganache over top of cheesecake.

Cinnamon-Apple Cake

This is an old Cooking Light recipe that I periodically remember. I use more cream cheese than the original calls for and it's great served with a homemade caramel sauce.

Cinnamon-Apple Cake
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 peeled and chopped Rome apples
Vegetable cooking spray
Caramel Sauce

1. Beat sugar and next 2 ingredients until blended and creamy. Mix in vanilla and eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
2. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add to cream cheese mixture, beating until blended. Stir in apples. Pour batter into a springform pan coated with cooking spray.
3. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until done. Let cool for 30 minutes in pan; release and remove sides of pan, and cool completely. Serve with Caramel Sauce, if desired.

Monday, October 27, 2008

White Chocolate-Cherry Bars

I used the recipe for Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies as the base. The chocolate chips and toffee chips were replaced with 1 package white chocolate chips and 1 package dried cherries. Yummy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cranberry-Orange Muffins

These muffins were inspired by a recipe for cranberry bread in the November issue of Everyday Food. The orange zest is my addition; it's a perfect partner for the tart cranberries. After I made the muffins, I decided some Orange Buttercream would be the perfect topper. This is a keeper!

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. orange zest
1 bag fresh cranberries
Orange Buttercream (optional)

1. Stir together all ingredients. Pour into lightly greased muffin cups.
2. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until done. Cool in muffin cups 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely. Top with Orange Buttercream, if desired.

Orange Buttercream
1/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. orange juice

Mix together all ingredients until spreading consistency.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Persimmon Cakes

This has been a tough week at work, and my response to stress is to bake, so that's what I did all afternoon. I made Persimmon Cakes, Cranberry-Orange Muffins, Cinnamon Apple Cake, White Chocolate-Cherry Bars, and Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake. I'll post the new recipes over the next few days. The Persimmon Cakes came about because last weekend my sister and her family picked persimmons at a local garden center. She gave me a bagful, and I had to find something to do with them.

Persimmon Cakes
I made these in pumpkin-shaped mini Bundt pans. A muffin pan or round cake pan would also work.
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 cups diced persimmons
Vegetable cooking spray

1. Beat sugar and next 2 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Gradually add to cream cheese mixture, beating until blended.
3. Stir in persimmons. Pour batter into pan coated with cooking spray.
4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until done. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans,a nd let cool completely.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brisket Quesadillas

Leftovers as leftovers are unappealing to me. Therefore whenever we have them (which is often), I try to reinvent them a little. Tonight I used what was left of Saturday's Beef Brisket to make quesadillas. Very simple and tasty! Just place leftover brisket and a handful of shredded cheese (Colby-Jack tonight) on a flour tortilla. Top with another tortilla. Place on a hot grill pan or skillet; cook until bottom is crispy and cheese begins to melt. Flip quesadilla to cook the other side. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mini Plum-Raspberry Upside-Down Cakes

I love to make single-serving desserts. It probably has something to do with the fact that I'm cooking for just two and that I don't like having partial-cut cakes on my countertop (there's just not enough room). Here's my latest endeavor from Saturday night. These cakes are based on a 2001 recipe from Martha Stewart Living. It would also be tasty with apples or pears and cranberries, I think. Maybe I'll try that at Thanksgiving. (The pan I used is a jumbo muffin pan that has six muffin cups.)

Mini Plum-Raspberry Upside-Down Cakes

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
Brown sugar
3 plums, halved and pitted
1/2 pint raspberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Melt 1/4 cup butter. Evenly pour butter in lightly greased jumbo muffin cups. Sprinkle 1 to 2 Tbsp. brown sugar over butter. Place 1 plum half, cut side down, in center of each muffin cup. Arrange about 6 raspberries around outside of each plum half.
2. Beat remaining 1/2 cup butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in orange zest and vanilla. Beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
3. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Add half of flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until blended. Beat in sour cream; then add in remaining flour mixture. (Note: Batter will be very thick.) Spread batter evenly over plums in muffin cups.
4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake is done. Use a fork to carefully remove cakes from pan. Place on individual serving dishes, plum sides up. Serve warm.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beef Brisket and Latkes

The cool fall air made me crave something hearty for dinner tonight. My inspiration was some of the traditional dishes served at Hanukkah celebrations: beef brisket and latkes (potato pancakes). Andy grew up eating brisket, so he was glad. Earlier this year, I made my first brisket and have tried a few recipes; I'll definitely make this again. The longer you cook brisket, the better it is. A few years ago at Christmas, my father-in-law and I made latkes, and I've been a fan ever since. What's not to like? For a side dish, we had roasted asparagus. Mom, Mel, Russ, and the girls came over, which means we laughed a lot. Good food, great company, and beautiful fall weather—the recipe for an enjoyable evening. (Because Mel doesn't eat beef, I cooked a chicken breast for her with the brisket.)

Beef Brisket
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (2.5-lb.) beef brisket (Mine cost about $13 at the grocery store.)
Salt and pepper
4 large carrots, cut in chunks
3 celery stalks, cut in chunks
2 red onions, cut in chunks
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 rosemary springs, leaves removed and chopped
2 bay leaves

1. Brown brisket in hot oil on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Line a 13- x 9-inch pan or roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place vegetables in pan. Top with browned brisket. Pour red wine and tomatoes over top. Add in parsley and remaining ingredients. Cover with foil.
3. Bake at 400° for 2 1/2 hours or until meat is done. Remove from oven, and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut into thin slices. (I used my very handy electric knife.) Strain tomato mixture to serve as gravy. Serve sliced brisket with roasted vegetables and tomato gravy, if desired.

The most important thing when making latkes is to make sure you squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the shredded potato and onion mixture. They stick together better when they are pretty dry.
4 russet potatoes, peeled
2 medium-size sweet onions
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil
Sour cream

1. Grate potatoes and onions with food processor (a box grater will also work). Place shredded potato-and-onion mixture in a clean kitchen towel, and squeeze to remove all moisture (this takes muscle). Place in a large bowl. Stir in chives, eggs, and salt and pepper.
2. Pour 1 inch of oil into a Dutch oven. When oil is hot, drop potato mixture in small balls into oil. Cook until golden on one side, flattening with a spatula. Turn and cook until the other side is golden. Drain on paper towels; sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve warm with sour cream.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Bars

Things are pretty hectic at work right now, so my escape is to bake. I decided to vary my Basic Cookie recipe a bit to make it into bars. I reduced the baking powder and added an additional egg so the texture would be more cakelike. All in all, I think they are yummy.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Bars
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 package semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 package toffee chips

1. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee chips.
3. Line a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil; lightly grease foil. Spoon in batter, spreading in an even layer.
4. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until done. Cool and cut into squares.
Note: Any combination of chocolate morsels, nuts, or dried fruit would work in this recipe, as it does for Basic Cookies. For Christmas, white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and pistachios make a nice flavor combination.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chicken Parmesan

I love making meals from the contents of the freezer because it gets dinner on the table fast, fast, fast! Tonight we had Chicken Parmesan With Roasted Tomato Sauce, buttered noodles with parsley, steamed broccoli, and Feta Squares (this recipe is in the November 2008 issue of Southern Living; find it at topped with additional tomato sauce. The best thing about this menu is that the oven-fried chicken (I made a large batch the last time I found chicken cutlets on sale) and Roasted Tomato Sauce were in the freezer (I put them in the fridge last night) because I made them several weeks ago. So tonight, I placed the chicken on a baking pan and reheated it at 400° for about 15 minutes; this also helped crisp the breading. The sauce went into a pan to reheat. At the same time, I cooked the ziti and steamed the broccoli in the microwave.

Chicken Parmesan
2 chicken cutlets (If you haven't tried these timesavers, you need to.)
Salt and pepper
Japanese breadcrumbs (These are sold as panko on the International Food aisle of most grocery stores; they are much crispier than regular breadcrumbs.)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
2 eggs
Cooking spray
Roasted Vegetable Sauce (You can substitute your favorite jar of pasta sauce.)
Grated Parmesan cheese (I combined Parmesan with fontina cheese because I had some. You could also use mozzarella.)
Buttered Pasta

1. Sprinkle cutlets with salt and pepper.
2. Combine panko and next 4 ingredients in a shallow bowl or plate. Light beat eggs in another bowl or plate. Dredge chicken in panko mixture; then dip in egg. Dredge chicken in panko mixture again.
3. Place chicken on a baking sheet, and cook with cooking spray.
4. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until done.
5. While chicken is still on baking sheet, top with tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with pasta.

Buttered Pasta
6 oz. ziti
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook and drain ziti. Toss hot pasta with butter; sprinkle with parsley, salt, and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October Girls' Birthday Dinner

This is the month my mother-in-law-, one of our nieces (she's turning 14!), and I were born. To make it more fun, we celebrate with one family party. Tonight we were in Huntsville to celebrate. I made Pork Dumplings, which my sister had requested for her birthday, and Sesame Noodles. My m-o-l and niece made a yummy chocolate pudding-brownie trifle. The original recipe for the dumplings is from Southern Living, but I've evolved it a bit. These take a good amount of time to make but are totally worth it. Trust me! The recipe makes a ton (about 116) and they freeze well. (Don't be turned off by the length of the ingredients list!) Sesame Noodles are a good accompaniment.

Pork Dumplings
1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
1 (16-oz.) package sausage
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 can water chesnuts, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. teriyaki sauce
2 tsp. chile-garlic sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 (16-oz.) package wonton skins (in the produce section of the grocery store near the tofu)
Peanut oil

1. Combine ground pork and next 11 ingredients. (I use my hands to make sure it's well incorporated.) Spoon 1/2 Tbsp. mixture into center of one wonton skin. Bring up the four corners over meat mixture and squeeze closed. Repeat procedure with remaining meat mixture and wonton skins.
2. Pour peanut oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook dumplings, in batches, in hot oil for 8 minutes on one side; turn over dumplings, and cook 8 more minutes or until wonton skin is crispy and meat mixture is done. Drain dumplings on paper towels. Serve warm with chile-garlic sauce.

Sesame Noodles
2 tsp. peanut oil
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets
1 lb. vermicelli or spaghetti, cooked and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp. chile-garlic sauce
1 1/2 balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes

1. Sauté carrots in hot oil 10 minutes or until carrots begin to caramelize. Add in chopped peppers, and cook 10 more minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and sauté 2 more minutes.
2. Place broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl; add a small amount of water to bowl. Microwave broccoli at HIGH 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Combine hot cooked pasta, broccoli, and carrot mixture in a large bowl. Stir in sesame oil and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Black Bean Nachos

This is my standby meal, the one l I pull out on nights when I have to work late or if we're running low on groceries. The basic recipe was generated not long after we got married and I was trying to stretch our grocery budget by planning meatless meals. Back then, I would cook a can of black beans in orange juice to cover and a 1/2 cup salsa. I would boil this mixture, stirring often, until all the liquid was absorbed. Then I would sprinkle the beans over tortilla chips, and top with cheese. This would bake at 400° until the cheese was melted. Over the years, I've evolved the ingredients a bit, but I still use the original ones sometimes. Following is the recipe I made tonight. I didn't leave work until 6:30, and we were eating by 7:15 (this even included frying our own tortilla chips). Both versions are yummy.—PHH

Beef-and-Black Bean Nachos
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb. ground sirloin
1 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 tsp. dried cilantro or 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10-oz.) package frozen corn
Tortilla chips*
1 (4-oz.) package Cheddar or Colby-Jack cheese, shredded
Toppings: sour cream, salsa, guacamole

1. Sauté first 3 ingredients in hot oil until onion is tender and beef is cooked and crumbled. Stir in cumin and next 6 ingredients. Cook until liquid is absorbed.
2. Cover a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil. Arrange tortilla chips in pan. Spoon beef-and-bean mixture over chips. Sprinkle with cheese.
3. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

* Making homemade tortilla chips is super simple. Purchased ones are fine, but once you make your own, it will be hard to go back. Homemade ones are much sturdier, which is great for this application. To make tortilla chips, cut the desired number of corn tortillas into six triangles per tortilla. (I use kitchen shears.) Pour peanut oil to a depth of 1 inch in the bottom of a Dutch oven; heat oil over medium-high heat. Once oil has come to temperature, drop tortillas into oil in batches, and cook until crispy and golden. Drain on paper towels. After all chips have been cooked, sprinkle lightly with salt. (Note: Corn tortillas are pretty salty on their own, so minimal salt is needed.)

Unexpected Ingredients

This cake marked a milestone for me, so I thought I would post a picture. You are looking at the first gluten-free, dairy-free item I have ever made. A coworker of mine deals with these dietary restrictions and her birthday was Sunday. At work, we make celebrate one another's birthdays with cake. It was important to make a cake she could enjoy, so I asked her for a recipe. This one—Pumpkin Cake With Maple Frosting—came from one of her favorite sites, The recipe called for a baking mix made from brown rice flour, sweet white rice flour, and quinoa flour. It also uses olive oil instead of butter. And as a first in my adult life, I had to buy dairy-free margarine and vegan cream cheese for the frosting. The taste of the cake was pretty good; the pumpkin and cinnamon gave it good flavor. The texture was similar to cookie batter even though it looks like cake. The frosting was okay, but the consistency was a little different. All in all, it was a favorable experiment; my coworker enjoyed it. However, for me, I think I'll stick to real butter. —PHH

Friday, October 3, 2008

Little Food

Several of my girlfriends came over for dinner tonight. They were planning to surprise me with a birthday cake. However my 4-year-old niece told me they had my "polka-dot cake in the car and some ice cream too!" Thanks, girls, for the kind gesture; I loved sharing my birthday with you! I am so blessed to have these women in my life. They challenge me, encourage me, and make me laugh. The weather was beautiful, so we ate on the deck. Everyone brought her favorite appetizer(s) or dessert to share. Over the next few weeks, I hope to post some of their recipes. I made Feta Squares (November 2008 Southern Living,, grits with several toppings, and Creme de Menthe Cake. The grits bar was a brainstorm my friend Sal and I had. It will become a repeat performer, for sure!

Grits for a Crowd
Makes about 15 servings
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart milk
2 cups stone-ground grits
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: shredded white Cheddar, cooked and crumbled bacon, sliced green onions, mushrooms sautéed in butter, Tomato Gravy (March 2008 SL,, shrimp*

1. Bring stock and milk to a boil in a Dutch oven. Once mixture comes to a bowl, stir in a pinch of salt. Gradually whisk in grits and return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer grits, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Stir in butter and salt and pepper to taste, Pour grits into a slow-cooker on WARM. Serve in punch cups with desired toppings.

* For the shrimp, melt 1/2 cup butter in a large skillet. Cook 3 minced garlic cloves in butter for 1 minute. Stir in 1 lb. (26/30 count) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined. Cook until shrimp turn pink (about 3 to 5 minutes).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Halloween Cookies

This recipe is from; I modified it just a bit to reflect the ingredients I had on hand. I decided to call them Halloween cookies because of the color of the Reese's Pieces and because they have so much candy in them. Definitely serve these with milk. They are very rich! —PHH

Halloween Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 package semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 package peanut butter chips
1 package Reese's Miniature Peanut Butter Cups, cut in half (place in freezer for about 15 minutes to make cutting easier)
1 small package Reese's Pieces

1. Beat butter, peanut butter, and sugar with an electric mixer until blended. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next two ingredients. Gradually add to peanut butter mixture until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Spoon dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. (Note: I use a tablespoon-size scoop to perfectly size cookies.)
4. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on pans 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.