Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last Minute Brownies

What do you do when you're invited to a dinner party a couple of hours before it starts and you don't have a dessert to bring? Brownies, of course. It probably would have been just as easy to go buy already baked brownies or desserts, but I had all these ingredients and why waste my gas and money when I could make perfectly awesome brownies at home. I found this recipe from the Hershey.com website. These brownies are more cakey than fudgey and although I didn't frost them (I didn't have powdered sugar) I'm sure they would have been even better.

INGREDIENTS (makes 16 brownies)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING (recipe follows; I didn't put any frosting on my brownies because I didn't have any powdered sugar, but they are just as good!)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.

Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. In another bowl stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, if using. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies.



  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 tablespoons HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shrimp Risotto

Once you've mastered a basic risotto recipe, you can start making up your kind of risotto flavors, which is what I did with this shrimp risotto. I was craving shrimp and I had 5 jumbo shrimps in the fridge so I came up with this recipe. I also used tomatoes from my garden and all the herbs were from the garden, too. If you have a garden and have a lot of herbs or veggies, risotto is a great way to use them up and flavor your stocks, too!

INGREDIENTS (serves 1 pregnant lady or 2 non-pregos)

  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced (I used tomatoes from my garden)
  • 1/4 cup white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, warmed
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped and divided
  • 1 small sprig of fresh thyme
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 5 Jumbo shrimp, with shell on and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Coarse salt and black pepper

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the shallots and saute for 4 minutes. Add the rice and keep sauteing 2 more minutes, until all granules are coated and lightly toasted. Add a small pinch of coarse salt and some fresh ground black pepper.

Add the wine and stir from time to time, with a wooden spoon, until almost all of wine is absorbed. Next lower heat to medium and add one ladle full of the warmed chicken stock (you want enough stock to just barely cover the rice). Then add the chopped tomatoes, sage, 1 tablespoon of parsley, the thyme sprig and the red pepper flakes, if using. Keep stirring from time to time until stock gets absorbed. Repeat the process of adding a ladle full of stock and keep stirring (I find that after 3 ladle fulls, your rice is al dente and pretty much done--this may take 20 to 30 minutes). Taste the rice for seasoning and add salt, if needed.

While your rice is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Remove immediately and shock in cold water. Peel off the shells and remove tails and roughly chop the shrimp. Set aside. In a small sauce pan melt the 2 tablespoons of butter on low heat. Add the shrimp to the butter once it's melted and remove from heat.

By now you should have added that third ladle of stock and your rice should be al dente and quite creamy. Add 1/4 teaspoon zest of lemon and the cheese and stir in. Lastly add the shrimp with the melted butter and the remaining tablespoon of parsley. Remove risotto from heat and let stand for a couple of minutes before serving.

Serve in a large bowl with more grated Parmesan and parsley. Dont' forget to serve along with the white wine you used.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tomato Jam

My hubby got us The Encyclopedia of Country Living and it's a wonderful and useful book, even if you don't live out in the country. It has great gardening tips, advise on how to gut livestock and really interesting country recipes. I was looking for an idea of what to do with all the tomatoes our plants are producing. I've been eating them and using them in savory recipes, but it was getting to be too many tomatoes. I figured perhaps the country living encyclopedia may have suggestions on what to do with an abundance of tomatoes, and that's where I got the idea of tomato jam or preserves. The jam came out really, really good. I kind of made it up as I went along, but the encyclopedia gave me a good idea on how to get my jam started.


  • 3 1/2 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup stemed and quartered strawberries
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded + the juice of the other half of the lemon
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
DIRECTIONS (makes about 26 ounces of jam)

Put peeled and cut tomatoes, strawberries, sugar, sliced lemon, cinnamon and nutmeg in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes to an hour and a half (mine took about 90 minutes because the tomatoes were very juicy). Add the juice from the lemon and stir. To test, stick a fork into preserves. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can.

Pour preserves into sterilized jars (I used a 1 pound 10oz jar, but 3 half pint jars will work, too), seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Homemade Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties

I'm blaming my father-in-law, Jim, for my love of making sausage. I just find it really cool that I can make all sorts of sausages, use different spices and come up with my own combination. These turkey patties were completely something I made up and I have to tell you, they were a success at the Mother's Day brunch I had. Every single patty was gone! I went back and forth with how much salt to use, but finally decided to use the ratio of 1 tablespoon per every 2.5 of ground turkey. I also used water to try to make the patties juicier since turkey is a pretty lean meat. Next time, I may use apple sauce instead.

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 patties)

  • 2.5 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 3 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on how how you want it
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (I used Minnesota maple syrup)
  • 1/2 cup water

In a small skillet, add the fennel and caraway seeds. Heat on med-low and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Then place seeds in grinder or mortar and pestle, and give it a grind. It's OK if you still have a few whole seeds.

In a large bowl add the turkey, ground fennel and caraway seeds, salt, black pepper, parsley flakes, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and maple syrup. Using your hands, mix the sausage mixture pretty well until well combined. Let it sit 15 minutes. Then add the water and using your hands again, mix to combine. Place sausage mixture in a container with a tightly fitting lid or in a freezer bag and let it rest in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, form 24 balls and flatten each into 3" patties in diameter. Make a small impression in the middle of each patty. Fry in a large skillet with a bit of oil over medium high heat for 3 to 4 minutes aside, or until done.

If you're not going to use up all the sausage mixture, you can form the patties and freeze them flat. After they are frozen, put them in a freezer bag and can be frozen up to 2 months.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs

Ina Garten has done it again! This was everyone's favorite dish at my Mother's Day brunch and I, of course, got the recipe from Ina's cookbook, Parties! I was amazed how delicious these eggs were and how well the roasted asparagus complemented them. If you're not an asparagus fan, you can totally omit them, but I have to tell you these were the greatest scrambled eggs ever....and I think it has to do with the half and half. The key to these perfect eggs is gentle cooking, and use a large, non-stick pan with high sides.

INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 16 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil then toss to coat. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

While the asparagus are roasting, whisk the eggs in a large bowl with the half-and-half, salt and pepper to taste. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Cook the eggs on the lowest heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to the desired doneness. Remove from the heat, add 2 more tablespoons of butter, and still until it melts. Check for salt and pepper and serve with the roasted asparagus.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tilapia with Tomato and Chickpeas

I have a suspicion that this baby I'm carrying is a vegetarian. Meats and some poultry makes me gag, and if I could, I would probably live off fruit or veggie salads. The only other foods I can handle are non-fishy smelling seafood, and fresh Tilapia is a good example of this. I bought a pound and brought it home and had no idea what to do with it. So I came up with this somewhat Mediterranean inspired recipe. It was pretty good and the chickpeas gave it a very nice texture to the dish...and the baby like it, too!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 to 3)

  • 1 lb. Fresh Tilapia fillets
  • Flour
  • Olive oil and butter
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. pitted olives, preferably Greek, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 4 leaves fresh mint
  • 1/8 tsp. cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. coriander
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup garbanzo bean (chickpeas)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Run fillets over cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle a little salt only on one side of each fillet then lightly dredge in flour.

Heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Working in batches, fry the fillets one minute per side and set aside on a plate. You may need to add more olive oil on the second batch. Fish will not be complete cooked through yet.

In the same skillet (don't clean it), add 1 tablespoon butter. When melted add the halved tomatoes, chopped shallots, olives, mint leaves, sprig of oregano, all the spices, garbanzo beans and 2/3 cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Place fish fillets on top of garbanzo-tomato sauce and cover. Simmer on very low for 10 minutes.

Before serving, remove the oregano sprig and mint leaves. Serve fillets over some rice and pour some the garbanzo-tomato over that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Date Nut Spice Bread

I was all Ina'd out this Mother's Day. Not only did I host a brunch at Chateau Blaha, but I also made all the food...and three of my recipes were directly from the Barefoot Contessa herself. I find that Ina Garten's recipes are quite exact and they usually turn out very good. On the menu I had scrabbled eggs with roasted asparagus, turkey breakfast patties, a lovely platter of bagels and lox, fruit salad that my sister-in-law made, and this date nut bread with orange zest cream cheese. I'll post the rest of the recipes throughout the week, but below is Ina's date nut bread, which was delish, indulgent and I only have a small slice left at the house.

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 loaf)

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)
  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I forgot to buy ground cloves, so I used Allspice instead)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces)
For the cream cheese spread:
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed until just combined.

Slice the bread and serve with the orange cream cheese on the side for spreading. Yummers!

This is all that was left for me!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Wine Making at Home, Part I: Primary Fermentation

On Sunday, May 3rd, I began my wine making journey. Since my husband and I both dream of one day owning a winery and make our own wine, I figured I better learn the process. I've decided to start by using a wine making kit that came with the juice and additives. Eventually I will move on to using my own grape juice that I crushed, but before I get ahead of myself I wanted to start at the very beginning.

I bought this kit from Midwest Homebrewing and Wine Making Supplies in St. Louis Park, MN. They had the best price for the kit that came with everything: primary fermenter, carboy, hydrometer, floor corker, wine kit and 24 wine bottles and a few other necessary items. Additionally, the Vintner's Reserve Merlot wine kit that came with my purchase only takes 14 days to ferment and the wine can be ready to drink by 28 days (but they recommend aging for 3 to 6 months). So I figured, in 5 months my baby will be born so what a great way to celebrate by giving out wine instead of cigars!

The steps below are directly from the Vintner's Reserve instructions. One of the main things that they keep telling any novice or expert wine maker is sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. By making sure all your equipment is sanitized, your wine will come out great and there is less chance of your wine spoiling.

After I cleaned and sanitized the primary fermenter, the lid, spoon, hydrometer and test jar, thermometer and wine thief, I added 2 liters of hot water (all the water used is spring water) to the bottom of the primary fermenter along with a packet of bentonite and stirred well so that there were no clumps.

Then I added the grape juice that came with the kit. I added 2 additional liters of warm water to the empty wine juice bag to rinse it out and poured that into the fermenter. Then I topped the fermenter with additional cool, spring water to reach the 23 liter mark (6 gallons).

I took a sample of the juice and used my hydrometer and test jar to test the specific gravity. The gravity measures the sugar level and it's a way to figure out when your wine is fermented and ready to bottle. Mine read 1.070, which I is good because I was looking for 1.070 to 1.085.

Then I sprinkled the oak chips and stirred them to just under the surface of the liquid.

By now, the wine juice cooled down a little and I needed it to be between 18 to 24 Celsius. I had to wait about an hour to let it cool a little because mine was at 25 Celsius.

Lastly, I sprinkled the package of yeast that also came with the kit, but I didn't stir. I just let it float on the surface. I tightly covered the primary fermenter with the lid and fermentation should begin within 24 to 48 hours. I will start my secondary fermentation in 5 to 7 days! Wish me luck.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Pan Fried Chilean Sea Bass with Seared Tomatoes

I picked up a nice fresh fillet of Chilean sea bass at the farmer's market on Sunday and I wanted to cook it simply...and also use up some of the tomatoes from our garden. I came up with this recipe and the best part is you only need a few ingredients! I served up the sea bass with some leftover gnocchi I had in the freezer and a simple salad. If I was drinking vino, I would have paired this with a non-oaky Chardonnay or a floral, dry Riesling.

INGREDIENTS (serves 1)

  • .5 to .75 lb. Chilean sea bass fillet, skinless, bones removed and about 1/4" thick
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon flour
  • Olive oil and butter
  • 6 to 8 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (preferably from your garden)
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced green onion (white and light green part)
  • Lemon wedge, for serving

Lightly salt and pepper both sides of fillet. Sprinkle flour on both sides of fish to dredge and remove any excess flour. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pat of butter in a skillet on medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add the fillet. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn fish over and cook another 3 to 5 minutes or until the fish feels firm to the touch. Remove from pan set aside; cover with foil.

To the same pan add the halved tomatoes and the minced green onion and a pinch of salt. And quickly sear for a minute or two over medium-high heat. Some juices from the tomatoes will release and it will make a sauce. To serve, place sea bass on plate and pour the seared tomatoes and the sauce in the pan all over the fish. Serve with a wedge of lemon and enjoy!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Simple Organic Salad

This was my lunch today, and I have to tell you, it was awesome. I went to the Hillcrest farmer's market today and I bought organic, farm fresh mesclun mix (the lettuces that Matt planted are not ready yet) and I made this simple salad today. I guess I was also inspired by Chef Alice Waters because she is a strong advocate for farmer's markets and for sound and sustainable agriculture and I just LOVED her food at Chez Panisse when I was lucky enough to visit last November. The tomatoes are from our garden and they were vine-ripe, and I used one of my fav cheeses, Winey Goat, because this cheese has a rich but smooth goat flavor and an aromatic nose of wine. Wow, I never knew sustainable agriculture would be so good.

INGREDIENTS (1 serving)

  • 1 teaspoon red vine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil
  • A nice handful of organic mesclun mix or your favorite lettuces
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, preferably from your garden
  • a few shavings of Winey Goat cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl add the vinegar and a pinch of salt and whisk a little. Add the olive oil and keep whisking to combine. Add the mesclun mix, the tomatoes and a few grinds of fresh ground pepper (I added another tiny pinch of salt, too) and gently toss to coat the salad with the vinaigrette. Place on serving plate then top with cheese shavings and enjoy. This tastes great with a lightly grilled (or toasted) piece of crusty French bread.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Southern Egg Salad

Although I'm in my second trimester, my morning sickness came back. I was hoping that it would be over and done with, but I've been reading that some women can have the nausea throughout their entire pregnancy. So why am I telling you this? Because almost every type of protein makes me sick to look at, smell or even think about. Mainly chicken and beef right now, but I can tolerate mild, non-smelly white fish or shrimp. The only protein I'm able to handle right now are soy and eggs. So, at least my baby is getting some good nutrition.

I was craving an egg salad sandwich and I realized that I had never made one. I always buy them at the deli or my mom makes them for me. I don't like egg (or tuna or chicken) salad sandwiches to be too complicated. I like them simple and with just enough mayo. I saw this recipe on PBS and it was quite good. Very simple, very easy, and I bet you have everything in your pantry and fridge right now. I served them with a couple of fresh sherry tomatoes from our garden and it was just the perfect lunch. And the baby liked it very much, too!

INGREDIENTS (serves 1 pregnant lady)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish, or chopped pickle
  • 1/8 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (I used paprika)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 slices dark bread, such as multi-grain or pumpernickel
  1. Place eggs in a small saucepan, and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat, and cover. Let stand 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, shallot, relish, and Old Bay Seasoning or paprika. Peel eggs; coarsely chop, and fold into mayonnaise mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes up to 1 day.
  3. Top one slice of bread with egg salad and remaining slice of bread and serve with a side of sliced tomatoes or more pickles. YUMMY!