Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chicken a la Mom

I got this recipe from my mom (and she got it from some other lady), and my mom is the type that likes to use measurements such as "handful" or "a glass full" or "un poquito." So, I kind of played around with the measurements. You can use boneless chicken if you wish, however with the prices of food right now, the bone-in chicken seems to be a lot cheaper at the grocery store. I also realized that in some ways, this is sort of a chicken stroganoff recipe but without sour cream, and it goes excellent with either white rice or egg noodles. Since I totally played around with the measurements, you can probably do the same and perhaps make it better. I'm thinking of leaving out the cream of mushroom soup next time...but we'll see.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 Hillarys or 2 Obamas)

  • 4 Chicken pieces, such as 2 thighs and 2 breasts, with skin on and bone-in
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sliced Baby Bella or white mushrooms
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (you can use low-sodium)
  • 1 (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Two big handfuls of baby spinach

First, clean chicken pieces with cold running water and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a blender, add the cream of mushroom soup and softened cream cheese and a little water. Blend for 1 minute until it reaches a smooth consistency. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium high. Add the chicken pieces and sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are a nice brown all over. Remove with tongs and set aside. Do not clean pan.

In the same pan, add the onion and saute for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and saute and additional minute. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth or water to pan to deglaze and scrape the brown bits from bottom of pan. Add the blended mixture of cream cheese and cream of mushroom soup, then add the heavy cream and stir to combine.

Place the sauteed chicken pieces in sauce and bring to a bubble. Lower to a simmer and cover pan. Let this simmer about 30 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. About 10 minutes before serving, add the spinach and let it wilt. Serve over steamed white rice, or with egg noodles.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food Diary: New Jersey and Philadelphia

The perfect Philly Steak Cheese
I don't know who coined the word, "foodie," but whoever did was genius. The first time I heard that term used in a sentence, I was intrigued. I wondered, am I a foodie?
Chocolate World in Hershey, PA I remembered when I was about 8 or 9 years old and my Pop's and Elaine had us look at the humongous Sears catalog and circle the toys or clothes we wanted for Christmas. And I always, always circled the Easy Bake Oven and I never got one. Come to think of it, I don't think any of us ever got anything we circled from that damn catalog. Was I a foodie then? I remember I would dream of getting that Easy Bake Oven and make the chocolate cake that the girl made in the commercial (if you're as old as me, you know what I'm talking about). Of course, my second pick from the catalog was the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. And I never got that one either!

Our Italian meal at Lucheno's in Freehold, NJ

Fast forward to the late 90's when I moved to Boston and that is when I heard the word, foodie. Someone mentioned it to me because I was describing how incredible the sweet potatoes fries at Bartley's Burger Cottage were. Then I went on to describe the steak salad at the now defunct Grafton Street Cafe on Mass Ave. Perhaps, yes, I think I was, and am, a foodie. But I realized that I really was one when my friends from college and I formed a cooking club, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So why am I telling you this? Just last week I traveled over 3000 miles to be with my husband (in New Jersey, no less!) and what did we do? We found remote wineries in New Jersey...YES, New Jersey, and bought more wine than we needed; we drove to Hershey, PA to get our chocolate fix, then moseyed on over to Philadelphia just to have a Philly steak cheese at Pat's, the Kind of Steaks; Pat's King of Steaks in Philly, PA the hardworking cooks @ Pat's and we found probably one of the best Italian restaurants in Freehold, NJ...the town The Boss is from. So, yes, I totally I am a foodie (and so is my husband), and I think many of us are in one way or another, although not many are as crazy as us and drive to Philly just to eat and authentic cheese steak wit cheese whiz...but then again, if you're reading this, you probably are. Happy eating!

How to order a steak cheese My hubby

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Maxi Snacks!

Max Baggs is my brother and sister-in-law's dog. He's a pretty good dog that loves the company of people. But he is so big, that smelling humans butts is his favorite past-time. He is quite obedient when there's snacks or treats involved. I made these treats with whole wheat flour and just a bit of peanut butter. The treats contain a lot of protein and fiber, and are especially great for big dogs that have a ton of energy. The best part is that you only need one bowl to make the dough and the bake up in less than 20 minutes.

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 dozen Maxi snacks)

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup soy flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • small pinch of sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • About 1/4 beef broth or chicken broth or stock
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine whole wheat flour, soy flour, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and sugar. Mix.
  3. Make a well in the middle and add egg and peanut butter and half of broth. With your hands, combine all ingredients until it comes together to a ball, adding more beef broth, if needed.
  4. Roll out dough to 1/4" on a floured surface and cut out shapes or circles with cookie cutters or a small glass.
  5. Place cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 7 minutes, then turn over and bake 5 to 7 more minutes until lightly browned (it will be hard to see they are browned because whole wheat flour is a light brown color, so keep an eye on them).
  7. Cool completely before feeding a cookie to your dog. Scooby Doo would be proud!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amaretto Sour Cocktail

In my family, the siblings each have their own favorite cocktail. My brother, Tom, fancies bloody Mary’s; I, of course, love champagne and champagne cocktails; and my sister, Nathalie, is an amaretto sour kind of girl. She showed me last night how to make this pretty good and sweet, yet slightly sour, cocktail. The maraschino cherry is paramount, so don't forget it!

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 fabulous cocktail)

  • 1 1/2 oz. DiSaronno Amaretto Liqueur
  • 2 splashes Sweet and Sour Mix
  • maraschino cherries
  • slices of orange (optional)

Pour the amaretto liqueur into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Add a splash or two of sweet and sour mix, and shake well. Strain or pour into an old-fashioned glass, garnish with a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange, and serve.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Semi-homemade Pierogies

Last Wednesday I got home after working for 10 hours straight without a lunch break and I was starving and too lazy to go to Jack in the Box to buy a Jumbo Jack with cheese. I opened my fridge and saw a package of large won ton wrappers, left over mashed potatoes and sour cream. My creative juices suddenly started running through my head and I came up with these semi-homemade potato pierogies. Of course, they do not compare to authentic Polish pierogies, but when you're hungry, and tired and lazy, these totally hit the spot.

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 pierogies)

  • 1 package of large won ton wrappers
  • 1 1/2 cups left over mashed potatoes
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • A big handful of grated cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • Lots of butter
  • Sour cream, for topping
  • Equipment: A large cookie cutter or a wide-mouth glass, about 3 1/2"

Add 1 teaspoon oil + 1 teaspoon butter to a skillet on medium heat. When butter melts, add the onion and saute for 6 to 8 minutes until translucent. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl combine the mashed potatoes, sauteed onions and grated cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper, if needed.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil.


  1. Cut out large circles from each wrapper until you get a dozen.
  2. Place a tablespoon of filling on each won ton round. Do not over-fill otherwise filling will spill out.
  3. Moisten inner edges of won ton circle so they will stick together and fold over forming a semi-circle.
  4. Press edges together making sure they are secure.
  5. Boil a few pierogies at a time in a large pot of water. They are done when they float to the top.
  6. Move pierogies to a baking sheet lined with parchment or plastic wrap to dry out a little.
  7. Meanwhile, in same skillet you used earlier, add 1 tablespoon butter (or more if you prefer) on medium-high. Add 3 to 4 pierogies at a time and pan fry until lightly crispy.
  8. Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream.
Note: If you want to freeze pierogies, follow up to step 4. Freeze in a tray lined with parchment or wax paper. Once frozen, place pierogies into a large zip-loc bag and store in freezer, up to two months. When ready to cook, follow steps 5 - 8!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Bean Diaries

Name: Bean "Chirruris" Owens
Breed: Crazy Teacup Chihuahua
Hometown: Oahu, Hawaii and Chula Vista, CA
Hobbies: running, jumping, humping, running away, bothering Princess, playing with Lilu, eating grass, snuggling with Lilu at night.



  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup tepid water
  • Equipment: cookie cutters, preferably dog shapes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour and cheese and mix well. Add the olive oil and garlic powder.

Slowly add the water to the flour mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, until you get a workable, yet slightly stiff dough. Don't be afraid if there are some crumbs left behind.

Knead the dough for two minutes.

Roll out on floured surface to 1/2" thick, cut into shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate in airtight container.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Restaurant Review: Island Prime

Island Prime
Island Prime Restaurant
880 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619-298-6802

Just before my boo left for Virginia to do his Military Sealift Command training, we visited Island Prime restaurant. Thankfully, I had won a $100 gift card at work so we were prepared to indulge!

First of all, Island Prime is located on Harbor Drive, overlooking the bay and all of Downtown San Diego. If you’re there for a romantic evening or special occasion, I suggest you go just before sunset and sit by the window so you can take in all the charm and beauty of our beautiful sunsets here in Southern California.

Island Prime’s wine list is huge! We didn’t know where to begin. Matthew had an Australian shiraz and I, of course, started with champagne. Their menu is not big at all, but kind of tricky since their beef entrees are served a la carte. In other words, any side dishes are extra. One thing I particularly liked about the restaurant was the service. It was quite impressive and all the servers were very attentive. Also, instead of bread, everyone gets popovers. I mean, when was the last time you had a popover? And they were quite delish.

Crab and Avocado Stack

As you can imagine, this place is quite pricey. We shared their crab and avocado stacked salad with taro chips (so good!); Matt ordered a steak and I ordered their seared scallops with hazelnuts and parmesan risotto (the risotto was amazing!). We each had two glasses of wine or champagne and the bill came out to just under $140. Thank goodness I had the gift card! This place is great for a date, anniversary, or special birthday and I highly recommend their crab and avocado stack. Island Prime also has a lounge called C Lounge, and you can get the appetizers and drinks for a more reasonable price--especially if you go during happy hour.

Seared Scallops with Hazelnuts and Parmesan Risotto

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ahi Poke Sushi

Out of desperation, I went to Bristol Farms in La Jolla (probably the most expensive grocery store in San Diego) because they're the only store that I know of that sells fresh ahi poke by the pound! I only purchased a quarter pound since it runs @ $12.99 a pound. Yikes! Anyhoo, I created this ahi sushi roll with soy wraps instead of regular nori (seaweed). It was quite yummy. I used leftover jasmine rice since it tends to get stickier the next day. I'm no Masuhara Morimoto, but I did feel like an Iron Chef.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 rolls)

  • 1/4 lb. Ahi poke, divided
  • About 2/3 to 1 cup sushi or jasmine rice, cooked
  • Soy Wraps or Nori
  • About 4 to 6 julienned strips of cucumber
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Equipment: sushi mat, plastic wrap
  1. Take one half of the poke and finely chop it with your chef's knife and get your aggression out.
  2. Cover your sushi mat with plastic wrap.
  3. Place a sheet of soy wrap (or nori if you prefer) on the plastic wrap and spread 1/2 cup of sushi rice on top.
  4. Wet your fingers with water and spread the rice over the wrap with your hands, leaving a ½ inch strip of soy wrap uncovered at the bottom.
  5. Place your desired fillings along this strip of uncovered soy sheet on the edge closest to you. I placed strips of cucumber, avocado, and some of the minced ahi poke.
  6. Using the rolling mat, begin to tightly roll the sushi. Start at the side nearest to you, and roll away from you. Make sure you don’t roll the rolling mat into your sushi!
  7. When the sushi is completely rolled, use the rolling mat to squeeze the sushi so it does not unroll when you are trying to cut it.
  8. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces. Place sushi, rice side up on a platter and top with remaining ahi poke.
If you're a visual person like I am, you can view the step-by-step pictures here: Sushi Day.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Princess Diaries, Part Deux

Name: Princess Diaz
Breed: Short hair Chihuahua
Hometown: Chula Vista, CA
Hobbies: Sleeping, tanning, eating chicken, barking at Elvis (the evil dog that lives next door), did I mention sleeping?

Dear Diary:

La pinche Bean doesn't leave me alone. I don't know how poor Lilu can stand her. Sometimes I just want to slap Bean...if only these paws would let me. Today was sunny (finally) and I tanned a little. Then Lilu and I went up the side of the hill and pooped and peed, and then the ridiculous Bean followed us. Then I took a nap. Ate a bit more. Cleaned myself. Took another nap and my so-called owners fed me chicken, which is my favorite. After that big meal, I tanned some more then took a 4 hour nap. Oh, I think it's bedtime now. Buenas noches!

SOFT DOGGIE TREATS (for older dogs with sensitive teeth)


  • 3 (2 1/2 oz. each) jars of baby food; either beef or chicken
  • 1/4 cup Dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup Wheat germ or cream of wheat

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. Roll into small balls and place on well-greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake in preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes until brown. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate to keep fresh or freeze. Great for older dogs with teeth problems.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Ned Diaries

Ned Blaha

Name: Ned Blaha
Breed: lhasa apso Irish
Hometown: Northfield, MN
Hobbies: Fighting squirrels, peeing on Armida, long walks on the dirt road...

Dear Diary,

Today was a good day. I was able to escape the Blaha household and immediately ran towards Mike's moon unit in the back yard. I peed everywhere and I also tracked a squirrel. The squirrel and I got into a fight, but the little turd ran up the tree. I then walked towards Matthew's vineyard and generously fertilized the ground. *wink* *wink* Then I did a recon of the neighborhood and eventually Jim and Kay (they still think they are my owners) called me and fed me dinner. Yes, it was a good day.



  • 2 cups cooked turkey, chopped*
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 teaspoons grated cheese
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, freshly chopped
  • 2 egg
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons brewer's yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine turkey, garlic, cheese, parsley and mix well. Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour over turkey mixture. Add the flour, yeast, and oil. Stir until thoroughly mixed and all ingredients are coated. Drop into small lumps onto ungreased cookie sheet. Cook in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until brown and firm. Store in refrigerator or freeze for up to 2 months.

*Note: you can use 2 cups of cooked and chopped chicken livers if you prefer.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Summer Borscht

Borscht, like gazpacho, is one of those soups you either love or you hate. I tend to love them because it's refreshing and so unexpected. As you may have guessed, borscht is a cold soup, although there's a warm version as well. But the sour cream and the creaminess of the avocado give this cold soup another dimension beyond the Kremlin. Anyhoo, I had two bowls with a glass of pinot gris and I didn't wake up until the next morning!!!Da, it was that good!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 3 medium fresh beets (about 1 pound without tops)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup medium-diced English cucumber, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup medium-diced avocado
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus extra for serving

Place the beets in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook uncovered until the beets are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the beets to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and also set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the beet cooking liquid, the chicken stock, sour cream, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.

Peel the cooled beets with a small paring knife or rub the skins off with your hands. Cut the beets in small dice or grate them. Add the beets, cucumber, scallions, and dill to the soup. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving add the diced avocado. Season, to taste, and serve cold with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprig of fresh dill.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs

I came home a little early yesterday and caught and episode of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. She made this dish for Jeffrey, her husband, who is always conveniently away during the week. Anyhoo, I halved the recipe because I'm cooking for one right now, and I used smoked Gouda instead of Parmesan, but that's just my preference. This was perfect for me and the eggs came out perfect. I forgot how delish it is to eat eggs for dinner. Yum.

INGREDIENTS (serves 1)

  • 8 spears fresh asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan or smoked Gouda
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon half-and-half
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 slice of 7-grain bread or 1 bagel slice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 10 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Sprinkle with the Parmesan or smoked Gouda and return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

While the asparagus is roasting, whisk the eggs in a bowl with the half-and-half, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Melt 1/4 tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick skillet. Cook the eggs on the lowest heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to the desired doneness. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1/4 tablespoon of butter, and stir until it melts (you can omit this if you're watching your fat intake).

Meanwhile, toast your bread. Serve scrambled eggs with the roasted asparagus and 7-grain bread (I placed the egg on top of my toasted bagel).