Friday, June 29, 2012

Cheddar-Parmesan Puffs

Another fun and fast recipe using the Progresso Recipe Starters cooking sauce I got at BlogHer Food '12.  I tweaked Progresso's recipe slightly, using Bisquick Heart Smart, instead of Original Bisquick, and adding shredded cheddar cheese along with the parm.  The extra cheddar really bumps up the cheesiness and color. 

Progresso suggests serving these with a couple of dipping sauces, but Mike and I loved them plain or with just a little bit of butter.

  • 1 18-ounce can Progresso Recipe Starters creamy three cheese cooking sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups Bisquick Heart Smart
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Spritz cookie sheets with non-stick buttery spray.
  • In a medium bowl, beat 1 cup of the cooking sauce and the egg with a whisk until well blended.
  • Stir in Bisquick mix and both cheese, stirring until just moistened.
  • Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden.
 Adapted from


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chubby Hubby Bars

With a name like "Chubby Hubby", you'd think I'd remember when I first heard about these bars. Nope. I can't for the life of me recall what prompted me to do a Google search for recipes.  It's really immaterial, though, because the important thing is that I found a terrific recipe, made the bars for my office peeps, and am now sharing this extraordinary recipe with you.  Yes, you can thank me as profusely as you'd like.  I'd especially welcome lots of adoring comments on this post.

There are actually quite a few recipes out there for these treats.  The best by far is on the Cookies & Cups blog.  Shelly's pictures are, simply put, stunning.  I could feel the caramel dripping down my chin just looking at the screen.  Regrettably, my photos aren't as mouth-watering, but hopefully they are enticing enough to get you bake a batch of these goodies yourself.  You will not regret it!

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour  
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
  • 1 cup organic coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed pretzels
  • 1 8-ounce bag of Reese’s Mini cups (or 2 cups coarsely chopped full sized Reese’s)
  • 14 ounces caramel bits (found in the baking aisle - will take a one full bag and a small part of a second bag) 
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips, melted

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9×13 pan lightly with non-stick buttery spray.
  • Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, for about a minute.
  • Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  • On low speed, add in your salt, baking soda and flour, mixing until just combined.
  • Slowly add in your Reese's and pretzels, mixing until evenly distributed.
  • Spread in your prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Let cool completely, for approximately 30 minutes to an hour.
  • When cooled, melt the caramels and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe bowl stirring every minute until thoroughly melted.
  • Pour over the bars.
  • Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to set caramel.
  • Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and spread over caramel.
  • Put back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until the chocolate is set.
  • Cut into squares when ready to serve.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Local Flavor, Cedar City Edition: The Grind Coffeehouse

Skinny Violet White Chocolate Iced Mocha
Praline Smoothie
Looking at the pictures, it's hard to see much of a difference between these two drinks, except for the pile of whipped cream.  Will someone please invent taste-o-net??  

Since there's currently no such thing, it's incumbent upon me to make sure you have a sense (get it? "taste", "sense"? HA!) of the flavors of these summery libations from The Grind Coffeehouse in lovely downtown Cedar City, Utah.

After a hot and bumpy flight in the four-seater DA40, my pilot husband and I dropped our stuff in the hotel and headed out for some refreshment, dragging our Boston Terrier rescue, Sadie, along with us.  We were there for a weekend getaway and for me to do the Groovefest Run for the Music quarter marathon.

A trip to Cedar City is not complete without a visit to The Grind Coffeehouse on Main Street.  It's a picturesque and artsy cafe, with treats ranging from decadent to healthy and everything in between.  Scanning the chalkboard menu, I was intrigued by the Violet White Mocha.  I asked the server her thoughts on the beverage.  Interestingly, she was not a fan.  She said, for her, the violet flavor was discordant, and she found people were polarized on the drink: either loving it or hating it.  Aren't we all drawn to a little controversy? I know I am, so I ordered one.  Would I love it or hate it?  Either way, I wanted it have less calories, so I made it a 'skinny' by requesting non-fat milk and sugar-free white chocolate syrup.

As the server described, the flavor was odd at first, sharp and almost vinegary.  Sounds awful, doesn't it?!  Well, it got better.  The more I sipped, the more I liked it.  In the end, I really liked it.  The violet was a nice counterpoint to the extreme sweetness of the white chocolate.  That, along with having it iced, resulted in a refreshing brew I'd gladly have again.

My husband wanted to be surprised, so while I was getting my violet on, I unveiled a Praline Smoothie for him to imbibe.  It was thick and icy, topped with fluffly whipped cream, turning it into dessert before dinner.  My husband was thrown off by the hard bits in the bottom of the cup until he realized they were praline pieces.  He found the drink to be super sweet, almost too much so, but he managed to finish it off in a short amount of time. 

Don't know when we'll drop into Cedar City again, but when we do, I know we'll be back at The Grind Coffeehouse to try out their latest creative and refreshing offerings.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crispy Baked Tilapia

Looking for a light but very flavorful entree?  You've found it with this tilapia.  Cook's Country did all the research in terms of the best techniques to achieve a great tasting, crispy-coated, flaky fillet. I modified their recipe slightly, lowering the fat and calories with light mayo and using pre-seasoned panko crumbs.  Even my   non-fish-loving husband Mike said, "I'd eat that for dinner."  Serve it with a side of asparagus, and you're good to go!

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 4 6-to-8-ounce tilapia fillets
  • Black pepper
  • Heat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Coat a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and spritz with olive oil non-stick spray.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook for about half a minute.
  • Add panko and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
  • Stir constantly for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, transfer to shallow dish and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk mayonnaise, egg yolk, lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a bowl.
  • Pat fish dry with paper towel.
  • Coat tops of fillets evenly with mayo mixture.
  • Dredge each fillet individually, coated side, in panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere.
  • Place fish crumb side up on prepared wire rack.
  • Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until centers are opaque and the fish registers 135 degrees.
  • Rotate pan halfway through baking.
Adapted from Cook's Country's "Baked Fish with Crispy Crumbs" recipe in the June/July 2012 issue.

I'm linking up this recipe with It's a Blog Party and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spar for the Spurtle Recipe Contest and Giveaway first recipe contest and giveaway!

I know you're waiting with baited breath to get the scoop. So...

The contest invites you to submit videos demonstrating a unique recipe that uses Bob's Red Mill's Steel Cut Oats, aka "The World's Best Oatmeal".  There's a unique back story to this contest.  A Scottish village, by the name of Carrbridge, is the home of the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. They've been hosting it 19 years, and until 2009, no American had even entered, never mind won, the championship.  Bob's Red Mill entered that year and rocked it, bringing home the Golden Spurtle trophy and earning the title of "World's Best Oats".

In 2011, Bob's invited their their fans and customers to share in the fun with the inaugural Spar for the Spurtle contest.  That year's winning entry was Black Bean Porridge Patties, with pico de gallo, created by Merry Graham.  Yum-o-licious and unexpected. 

The contest was such a hit that it's back again for a second year - so now you can see if your best recipe is a winner.

Home cooks and professional chefs alike can participate.  The recipe used in video has to be an original creation that uses two stovetop burners as the only powered appliances. The video cannot be longer than three minutes, and it has to be posted to YouTube via the submission tool at SparForTheSpurtle.comBob's Red Mill Steel Cuts Oats must be an indispensible element of the recipe. Get the full details here and the entry form here. Don't wait; entries will only be accepted until July 20, 2012.

Three finalists will be chosen from all the entries and flown to Portland, Oregon, to compete in a live cook-off.  The winner gets an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Scotland to compete in the 19th Annual Golden Spurtle World Championship in October! Plus, $2,500 in cash!

If that's not enough incentive, Bob's Red Mill is also sponsoring a giveaway for my blog readers.

The first five readers who enter the competition AND comment on my blog, with a link to their YouTube videos, will receive a fantabulous prize pack from Bob's Red Mill, which will include Honey Oat Granola, Cinnamon Raisin Granola, Scottish Oats and 7 Grain Pancake Mix.

Even if you don't win the contest, it's still a sweet deal. Create, video, and comment soon - I can't wait to see what you come up with!

This post is linked up at Homework Giveaway Link Party.

Disclaimer: Bob's Red Mill is sponsoring this giveway.  However, I only promote products I believe in and use.  All views and opinions expressed on this blog are my own.

Mac-n-Cheese with Sausage Crumbles

Here's my second recipe using the Progresso Recipe Starters cooking sauces I got from BlogHer Food 2012 earlier this month.  You can read about these great sauces and get my recipe for Creamy Parmesan Basil Spaghetti with Pepperoni here.

This time, I used the Creamy Three Cheese sauce.  I made a variation of one of the dishes they served at BlogHer Food, Easy Weeknight Bacon Mac 'n Cheese.  Mac-n-Cheese is one my most favorite meals, and the sample I tasted at the conference was delicious.  They even gave us a handy recipe booklet to take home with our supply of sauces.

I made this on a Sunday evening when my brother-in-law Patrick was over visiting.  I used sausage, rather than bacon, but otherwise, I stayed pretty true to the recipe.  Patrick liked it a lot, particularly the sausage.  My husband Mike, who is a strict Kraft devotee, proclaimed it "very good", which made me so happy.  He's a hard man to please when it comes to cheese and pasta!

  • 3 cups cooked penne pasta (I used Barilla Plus.)
  • 1 18-ounce can Progresso Recipe Starters Creamy Three Cheese cooking sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (The recipe calls for just generic "milk", but I generally only keep almond milk in the house.  In most cases, it's a great substitute for dairy.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
  • 1/2 cup Velveeta, cubed
  • 1 cup cooked sausage crumbles (I used Jimmy Dean's Hearty Sausage Crumbles.)
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spritz a casserole dish with non-stick olive oil spray.
  • Cook and drain pasta according to package instructions.
  • In a large saucepan, heat cooking sauce, milk and garlic to boiling.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cheeses until melted.
  • Stir in pasta and sausage.
  • Spoon into a casserole dish.
  • Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with additional 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar.
  • Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted.
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle with breadcrumbs or shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.
I'm linking up this recipe with It's a Blog Party.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fiery Find at Groovefest

How can anyone resist a sweetly packaged, sunset-colored jam disconcertingly named "Triple X"?

Well, my husband shook his head in a vigorous no, but I couldn't help but stop to inquire when I passed by the Jams-n-Things booth at Groovefest 2012 in Cedar City, Utah.

Triple X is made with habanero peppers, so saying it packs a punch is an understatement. I requested a sample, and the proprietors, after repeatedly asking if I was sure, pointed out the closest water fountain.

I took a deep breath and went for it, quickly popping tiny tasting spoon into my mouth before I could change my mind.

Yowsa!! This is hot stuff, baby! My mouth was on fire for a good 15 minutes, until a cool and fruity Texas twister doused the flames.

Even though I'm not a fan of extreme spiciness or heat, I had to buy a jar. I want to develop a recipe using Triple X. I want to see if I can make a dish that's adventurous but palatable.

I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Creamy Parmesan Basil Spaghetti with Pepperoni

I just got back from BlogHer Food 2012 in Seattle.  What a fantastic conference!  The information was terrific, the food was amazing, and the swag was epic, thanks to an array of generous sponsors.

One of those sponsors was Progresso, and they were launching an exciting new product: Progresso Recipe Starters cooking sauces.  They're based on the five "mother" sauces that are the foundation of classical cooking:
  • Bechamel - a smooth, white, creamy sauce made from milk thickened with roux
  • Veloute - a mild, velvety smooth sauce made from stock and thickened with roux
  • Tomato - a red sauce with no thickening beyond tomato solids
  • Espagnole - a dark, rich sauce, based on meat stock
  • Hollandaise - a sauce made with egg yolk and butter, accented with lemon juice
I had the good fortune of packing home two of the five Progresso sauces: creamy Parmesan basil and creamy three cheese.

This was my first recipe using the sauces, and it's a variation on the Creamy Chicken Alfredo recipe provided on the label of the Parmesan basil can.  Instead of using fettucine, I went with leftover spaghetti, and rather than chicken, which my husband doesn't like, I used turkey pepperoni. I also subbed evaporated fat-free milk for the cream or half-and-half that the Progresso recipe calls for.  Cutting down those dairy calories allowed me to add an extra 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

It smelled heavenly while the pepperoni and garlic were cooking in the butter. Because I made this for Mike's lunch tomorrow, the flavors will have plenty of time to blend overnight.  It's going to be lip-smacking good!

  • 1 1/2 cups leftover spaghetti (or approximately 8 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 package turkey pepperoni, torn in halves and quarters
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 18-ounce can Progresso Recipe Starters cream Parmesan basil cooking sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • Remove leftover spaghetti from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
  • In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken and minced garlic, stirring gently until pepperoni begins to crisp.
  • Stir in cooking sauce, Parmesan cheese and evaporated milk.
  • Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens.
  • Pour sauce over spaghetti and toss well.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pain au Chocolat: a Father's Day Treat

I belong to two book clubs in Vegas: Destinations Book & Dinner Club and the Las Vegas Non-Fiction Book Group.  I love book clubs because they introduce me to books I might never read - and people I might never meet - otherwise.  However, I have had a lot of trouble finishing the assigned books.  Not sure why; I'm a reasonably fast reader.  Maybe I have too much going on; maybe I just don't focus as well as I used to.  Regardless, it's become a trend for me not to finish the book, and it's been bumming me out.

I have been determined to turn things around, and I've succeeded! Oddly enough, it's with a Destinations book that we're not due to discuss until August.  Nutty!  The book is "Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France" by Brit Karen Wheeler.  I'll share more about the book, and our corresponding restaurant outing to Marché Bacchus, later.  For now, though, reading about la anglaise's experiences with French cuisine inspired me to make something French for my husband Mike for Father's Day.  Problem was, I didn't have too many appropriate ingredients in the house, or so I thought.

I remembered the leftover chocolate chips I had from the day before's Flower Power Fudge and thought a chocolate pastry would be ideal.  A quick scan of online pain au chocolat recipes revealed that I didn't have the time - or the inclination - to make a proper dough, but I gleaned a tip that proved helpful in my semi-homemade version.  I rolled out a tube of refrigerated pizza dough and slathered it with butter before folding it over, re-rolling it, and repeating the process.  This little step resulted in a rich, somewhat flaky crust that tasted fantastic.

  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • Butter, softened
  • Chocolate Chips (I used 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips, to better mimic an authentic French pain au chocolat, which is generally less sweet than an American pastry.)
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Roll out pizza dough.
  • Spread a thin layer of softened butter on the dough.
  • Fold in thirds, turn and roll out flat.
  • Spread another thin layer of softened butter on the dough.
  • Fold in thirds again, turn and roll out flat.
  • Using a serrated knife, cut dough down the middle and then in thirds.  You'll have six pieces of dough.
  • Spoon some chocolate chips into the center of each piece of dough.
  • Fold over, carefully pressing the edges to seal them.
  • Sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for 11-15 minutes until golden brown.
I'm linking up this recipe with It's a Blog Party.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beads & Brunch


I have very stylish girlfriends.  They know how to accessorize and make an outfit stand out.  Me, not so much.  I'm not horrible at it; I'm just a little too safe, too conservative.  Yeah, I know; conservative and me don't seem to go together, especially considering my penchant for adventure.    

I was lamenting my lack of bodacious bling to my colleague Christina, after having told her for the hundredth time that I loved her long and chunky necklace and wished I could wear something like that.  Apparently, she'd had enough of my whining because she told me she was arranging a party for me and her other jewelry-challenged pals.

Christina knows people, and one of those people is a Paparazzi consultant.  If you aren't familiar with Paparazzi, it's a direct sales jewelry and accessories company where every item is just $5.  Turns out, many of the pieces I'd admired of Christina's were from Paparazzi.  So, it was on: we were having a Beads & Brunch party with pretty little things and, of course, good food and drink.

Along with my wallet, I brought three dishes: Bloody Mary Salad, Cheese Pizza, and Flower Power Fudge.  Christina supplied the Sangria and Mimosas, and the other ladies brought delectables like Monkey Bread and Chicken Salad in Phyllo Cups.

What's more perfect for brunch than a Bloody Mary? I hear you shouldn't drink your calories, and so I turned it into a salad, inspired by Smitten Kitchen's Skirt Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad.

The pizza was kind of an accident.  Well, actually, it was totally an accident.  I had bought some refrigerated pizza dough just to have on hand, and it fell on the counter and opened up.  Use it or lose it, right?!  The key to a great basic pizza is the sauce.  I used Victoria Trading Company Tomato Basil, which is well seasoned with onions, garlic, basil, sea salt and other spices.  There are chunks of tomatoes, and NO funky ingredients (like high fructose corn syrup, blech!). 

Sweets are a must at a brunch, or any event or riding in the car or bedtime or in the tub or...  I found a sinfully simple recipe for fudge that I jazzed up with edible decorating flowers with a chocolate chip center.  

Bloody Mary Salad

  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons vodka (I only had Whipped Cream vodka.  I was worried it'd be too sweet, but it worked just fine.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 pints grape or cherry tomatoes (I used a mix of red and golden tomatoes.)
  • 5 stalks celery, cut into small slices
  • 1 bag fajita steak strips
  • In a large bowl, whisk together horseradish, oil, vodka, lemon juice, pepper sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.
  • Add tomatoes, celery and steak strips, tossing to combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate for two hours or until ready to serve.

Cheese Pizza

  • 1 tube of thin crust refrigerated pizza dough
  • 3/4 cup pasta sauce
  • 1 cup reduced fat shredded Mexican cheese
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Roll pizza dough out on baking sheet.
  • Pre-bake for 5 minutes.
  • Spoon sauce over pre-baked crust.
  • Spread shredded cheese on top of sauce.
  • Bake for 6-10 minutes or until crust is browned and cheese is bubbly.
  • Cut into squares and serve.

Flower Power Fudge

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • edible decorating flowers
  • extra chocolate chips for the center of the flowers and for melting (to use as glue on the flowers)
  • Melt chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Stir until thoroughly blended.
  • Spread onto baking sheet and chill.
  • Using a round cookie cutter, cut fudge into small circles.
  • Place an edible flower on top of each fudge circle. (Because they are designed to be used with frosting on cakes, they will not stick on the top of the fudge.  That's okay, though, because it allows people to easily remove the flowers, if they want to, before eating the fudge.)
  • Put a tiny drop of melted chocolate on to a chocolate chip and place in the center of each flower.
  • Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
I'm linking up this recipe at It's a Blog Party and Whatcha Whipped Up Wednesday.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Indulge your dark side at the Sin City chocolate festival

It may not be Christmas in July, but it's sure gonna seem like it when the Las Vegas Chocolate Festival & Pastry Show arrives on Saturday, July 7, at the Venetian & the Palazzo.

The event will feature the best chocolate and pastry chefs in Las Vegas, including Jean Marie Auboine, Alicia Boada, Michael Gillet, and "Cupcake Wars" winner Annette Starbuck.  I'm especially excited to meet Taryn Mumpower of Pick Your Poison Bake Shop, since I've been wanting to sample her cocktail cupcakes for a while now.

As if the chocolate and other carb-laden goodies aren't enough, the edibles will be paired with champagne, wine and other spirits.

If you're inclined to feel guilty about such a hedonistic evening, the fact that the event benefits St. Jude Children's Hospital should ease your concerns.  The charity will receive the net proceeds from this amazing show.

General admission tix are only $25 per person.  If you want to start noshing an hour earlier, you can spring $75 each to go VIP.  We don't mind starting at 9 p.m., instead of 8, so it'll be a budget-friendly - if not waist-friendly! - outing for me and Mike.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Feeling the "Kitchen Love"

A proper place setting
Coconut Shrimp with Mango Dipping Sauce
Pear, Toasted Walnut & Mixed Green Salad with Champagne-Cranberry Vinaigrette
Mediterranean Kale & White Bean Soup with Sausage
Dry-Rubbed New York Strip with Mushroom Sauce, Creamy  Mashed Potatoes & Glazed Baby Carrots
Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream

Gayle & Katie (and me doing some cooking)
My good friend Kimberly shares my love of cooking, and cooking classes in particular.  My brother-in-law Patrick, a close pal of Kimberly's as well, also loves cooking, although for some reason, his brother, my husband Mike, does not.  Too bad, because Patrick is a really good cook, and I'd be a lucky lady if Mike was into it like Pat.  Thankfully, Mike has oodles of other wonderful attributes that make up for any of his culinary deficits. ;)

So, anyway, back to Kimberly.  For Christmas, she gave me and Patrick a fabulous gift: Living Social vouchers for something called Kitchen Love.  Among other things, Kitchen Love offers private cooking classes in the comfort of your own home. Gayle and Katie take over your kitchen and teach you had to make five delicious courses with your utensils and equipment.  In early June, the stars governing Kimberly's, Patrick's and my schedules finally aligned for our gastronomic get-together.

Katie, a smiley brunette with a twinkle in her eye, began the class by showing us to set a proper place.  I learned a few things I didn't know and will now feel much more confident when dining at a high-brow eatery.  Gayle was delightful in her red and white apron, answering our multiple questions with soft-spoken patience. Come to find out, our constant queries and sharing of our own cooking stories were much appreciated by the ladies.  Apparently, their usual students are not nearly as interactive.  Gayle and Katie told us how much they enjoyed it.  Good thing because we are not a timid trio, especially when food and wine are involved!

I was amazed how simple it was to prepare the Coconut Shrimp and how quickly the crustaceans went from preparation to oven to table.  They've always seemed super fancy and slightly unapproachable to me, so this was an exciting discovery.  Another surprise was the Kale & White Bean Soup.  I was under the impression that soup, especially one with beans in it, needs to be the consistency of paste, kind of like split pea or bean dip at a Mexican restaurant.  This soup was made up of chunky, un-blended elements in a thin broth base, and it was outstanding.  Just as warming and comforting as a thicker soup, but also crisp.  Another revelation was how easy it was to make a vinaigrette.  As Gayle said, why would you ever buy it pre-packaged?  Watching the ingredients transform in the saucepan was fun and reminded me that good things come to those who wait...just as few minutes, in this case.

Every course of our Kitchen Love dinner was delicious, although my faves remain the the shrimp and the soup.  Gayle and Katie make learning fun and accessible. They're well organized and clean up as they go so the whole experience flows seamlessly and on time.  Kimberly, Patrick and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, learned a lot, and came away with detailed recipes for each dish.  I highly recommend Kitchen Love to anyone who wants to have a fun night with friends and up their cooking game in the process.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Basic Blondies

I wanted to bring a treat into work for my colleagues.  Being short on time and money, I was looking for something that I could whip up using stuff I already had in my pantry.  These little goodies were on the Whipped blog.  Super simple and easy and super yummy, according to my work peeps.

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Liberally spritz an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick buttery spray.
  • Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  • Stir brown sugar into butter.
  • Whisk in the egg and vanilla.
  • Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
  • Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan.
  • Bake until they are just set in the center, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Let cool completely. Turn out onto cutting board and cut into slices.
Adapted from

Monday, June 4, 2012

Whole Wheat Biscuits

After another action-packed week, Mike and I enjoyed sleeping in on Sunday morning.  We woke up happy but hungry, and I realized I didn't have much in the house for breakfast.  Not wanting to leave the bed, I visualized what I had in the pantry and fridge and then Googled recipes for whole wheat biscuits.  That, combined with eggs and leftover steak, would make a hearty breakfast any man would appreciate. I found a great, super simple recipe for the biscuits, and voila, I had a well-rested AND well-fed man at my disposal.

Although Mike was happy with them, I felt the biscuits were lacking in flakiness.  In doing some reading, I've learned that I could have handled the dough too much, or perhaps my baking powder was past its prime, or perhaps I should have used cake flour, which has less protein.  I'm going to BlogHer Food 2012 in a few days, and I intend to ask the experts there.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
  • 1 cup evaporated fat free milk (or any milk you'd like to use)
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Mix the butter pieces into the flour mixture, mashing it together with a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Pour in the milk and mix together.
  • Knead the dough 8 to 10 times.
  • Turn out onto lightly floured cutting board.
  • Pat it flat to about 3/4 of an inch thick.
  • Using a biscuit cutter or glass, cut out rounds.
  • Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.