Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Summer Summertime

Can you believe the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day Weekend, just passed? I honestly can't but I'm super excited about it. I'm really looking forward to this summer. I honestly love living in the Northeast (Philadelphia to be exact). There's nothing better than the change of seasons and we're lucky enough to have all four seasons here. I'm not going to play favorites (yes, Fall, I love you!) because I honestly do love something about each of the seasons.

 Here's what I'm looking forward to this summer. I'm hoping I can share all my 'to dos' with you throughout the summer and I'm hoping you're as excited as I am. =) 

I'm hoping to grill more this year. Summer is the season for grilling and I find myself always saying "we should grill more"! What's not to love? It keeps your house cool and clean up is super easy! Nadya really wants to splurge and get a Weber Grill. I have a feeling her wish will be granted sooner rather than later. Our grill is a couple years old (not quite on it's last leg) and after barbecuing on my dad's Weber and her dad's Weber this past weekend it's pretty much all she can think about. 

There are a lot of summer favorites that I  have on my to do list--barbecue sauce, ice cream, sorbet, homemade s'mores, & specialty summer drinks are just a few. What are you favorite  dishes? What should I add to my list? 

I'm also super pumped for the expanded and better hours of my neighborhood farmer's market! I look forward to seeing what they bring each week and challenge myself to come up with great recipes for the fresh crops.  

Are you a fan of summer? What's your favorite summer dish or in-season fruit/vegetable?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sour Cream Cookies

I was recently watching an episode of The Martha Stewart Show, she and her guest were making these sour cream cookies that came together really quickly. I know here staff has everything already measured out and whatnot but these really were easy to throw together. I had sour cream on hand and needed to use it up. A perfect excuse to make cookies! 

Sour Cream Cookies
The Martha Stewart Show
1/3 cup unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheet
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking sheet and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and butter. Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add enough of the flour mixture to form a soft dough. You may have up to 1/2 cup flour mixture remaining. Transfer dough to refrigerator until chilled.
Place heaping teaspoons dough on baking sheet and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Transfer to oven and bake until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ravioli with Sautéed Asparagus and Walnuts

I'm sure I've mentioned a time or two before that I keep a binder on hand of all recipes I want to make. It's a collection from all my magazines that I subscribe to and some printouts from the 'nets. I was on the hunt for an easy recipe. One that you can throw together when you get home from work and still have time to enjoy your evening. I stumbled upon this one which I have made before just haven't blog about it. 

It's easy, quick, filling AND tastes good too! What more can one ask for! 

Here's a good tip from Woman's Day too!: Transform the asparagus-walnut mixture into an easy hors d’oeuvre by mixing in the Parmesan cheese (or substituting feta) and spooning it on top of crostini, crackers or endive leaves.

Ravioli with Sautéed Asparagus and Walnuts
From Woman's Day
  • 1 package (14 to 16 oz) cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 oz)
Cook the ravioli according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and walnuts and cook, stirring often, until the nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant and the garlic is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the asparagus and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Serve over the ravioli and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Breakfast Quinoa

I've been trying to get to the gym during the day (on my lunch break) so I have some more free time at night. However, I noticed I need a bigger breakfast to get me through a daytime workout. I've been wanting to try quinoa for breakfast for quite sometime. I really enjoy quinoa in a savory dish so thought I'd give it a try in this sweet breakfast dish. 

I'm a huge fan of oatmeal, especially steel cut oats, so I really thought I'd like this dish more than I did. It was really easy to put together (aside from the boiling milk over the pot, my bad!) .  The flavor was really good. I just struggled with the consistency/texture. I was hoping for it to be creamier. What are your thoughts on quinoa for breakfast?  I think I'll give it a try again. Don't let me turn you away from it, Nadya was a fan!

Breakfast Quinoa: Martha Stewart Living, February 2010

2 cups whole or low-fat milk, plus more for serving
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar, plus more for serving
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh blueberries, plus more for serving
Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Stir in sugar and cinnamon. Cook, covered, until almost all the milk has been absorbed, about 8 minutes. Stir in blueberries, and cook for 30 seconds. Serve with additional milk, sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mexican Sweet Potato Skins

Here's another recipe from my Cinco de Mayo celebration. Well it wasn't really a celebration. It was basically me making guacamole and these Mexican sweet potatoes on Seis de Mayo.  I had full intentions of making these Mexican dishes on Cinco de Mayo but had some last minute house guests in town for the Broad Street Run (a very popular 10 mile run down Broad Street, Philadelphia). Needless to say, these runners (cousins) needed to 'carb up' on Cinco de Mayo so these Mexican dishes were pushed a day back which I didn't mind because it meant more for me (stingy much?)!

I found these while browsing the Pinterest (I seem to be finding a lot there these days)! Once I saw it, I knew I had to make it to celebrate Cinco de Mayo! I love sweet potatoes & I love Mexican so this is the perfect combination for me. These sweet potato skins were definitely a winner! Unfortunately, I couldn't get a somewhat appetizing photo to do these sweet potato skins justice! You're just going to have to take my word for it OR hop on over to Pinch of Yum and take a look at her gorgeous photos of these Mexican potato skins! I promise you'll enjoy these!!

Mexican Sweet Potato Skins

3 medium sweet potatoes
1 can corn, rinsed and patted dry
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2-4 canned chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, minced or pureed
1 ounce light cream cheese
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 teaspoon salt (+ more to taste)
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
6 tablespoons shredded cheese (Pepperjack, Cheddar, Colby Jack… anything will work)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes for 45-60 minutes.
While sweet potatoes are baking, place corn in a heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with no butter or oil. Sprinkle with salt and other Mexican seasoning (as much as you want). Do not stir! Let corn roast for several minutes before stirring. Let it roast for a few more minutes before stirring again. Continue this for about 10 minutes, until corn is browned and roasted on the outside. Set aside in a small bowl with the black beans.
Saute the onion in the butter over medium heat until soft and translucent. Set aside.
Remove sweet potatoes from the oven when fork-tender. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Cut the sweet potatoes in half. Scrape the flesh of the sweet potatoes out, leaving the skins intact. Sometimes leaving a thin layer of potato inside of the skins helps them hold together better.
Mix the flesh of the sweet potatoes with the cream cheese, sour cream, chipotle peppers, and salt. You can use a mixer or just a spoon, depending on how soft the potatoes are. When well-mixed, gently stir in the black beans, roasted corn, sauteed onions, and cilantro.
Scoop the filling into the skins and top each with 1 tablespoon shredded cheese. Broil for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Banana Ice Cream

 I've mentioned before I'm not a banana person. I really wish I was. Every now and again, I'll be brave and try something banana. I just can't get myself to like the flavor. Let's keep hoping that will change in the near future. Until then, I'll continue to make banana breads, cakes, and now ice cream for those who love bananas! It's actually somewhat genius to bake things in a flavor you don't like when you're trying to lose some weight but I digress.... 

 Back to the ice cream. Since there's only one person in the house who eats bananas, I have a freezer full of ripe ones. I usually make a bread, bundt cake, etc but this time I wanted to step things up a bit and make banana ice cream! That's right homemade banana ice cream! So I turned to Alton Brown for a recipe that got 5 stars and all positive reviews. It was a crowd- pleaser, just ask my coworkers! Luckily for them, Nadya found it to be too tasty that she wanted it out of the house so she didn't eat it all! I guess it's that good! If you're a banana lover, I think this is just for you! 

Banana Ice Cream from Alton Brown

6 (approximately 2 1/4 pounds) ripe bananas
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Place bananas in freezer and freeze overnight. Remove bananas from freezer and allow to thaw for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Peel bananas and place in bowl of food processor along with the lemon juice. Process for 10 to 15 seconds. Add corn syrup and vanilla bean seeds and turn processor on. Slowly pour in the heavy cream. Process until smooth. Chill mixture in refrigerator until it reaches 40 degrees. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Place mixture in an airtight container and freeze for 3 to 6 hours before serving.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oven Fries

Fries are my weakness, there I said it. I mean seriously they're so hard for me to turn down. Once I start eating them, it's hard for me to stop. I think it's a serious problem. Luckily, for my jeans, I don't eat them all too often. These oven fries from Every Day Food are as close to tasting like fries that are fried but these are a tad bit healthier baked in the oven. I like my fries crispy (As you can see from the pictures, sorry they're a little dark) but you can alter the cook time depending on how crispy you like your fries.

Oven Fries
From January/February 2011 issue of Every Day Food

3 pounds russet potatoes (about 6 large), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
Nonstick cooking spray
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
In a large bowl, cover potatoes with water by 2 inches. Refrigerate at least 3 hours (or up to overnight).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Lightly coat two rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray. Drain potatoes and pat dry; wipe out bowl. Toss potatoes in bowl with oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide potatoes between sheets and arrange in a single layer. Bake until golden and crisp, 45 minutes. Toss potatoes and rotate sheets. Bake 15 minutes more.

Monday, May 7, 2012


What did you do to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Did you forgo Cinco de Mayo and sip on mint juleps whilst watching the Kentucky Derby this year?  

I made guacamole.

Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines, might actually be my favorite! I love love love it! Just talking about it now gets me hungry. Guacamole is amazing! And this recipe is just perfect for Cinco de Mayo or any other day. Covering the avocado pulps with lime juice really helps the avocado from turning brown and looking unappetizing.

Alton Brown

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Easy Peasy Pita Pizza

Every now and again I like to skip a week of grocery shopping and 'shop' at home. You'll be amazed at the stuff you keep in your pantry. Even more amazed if you don't look often! I had three ingredients on hand (all left over ingredients from previous recipes) and threw together these easy peasy pita pizzas!

Whole Wheat Pita
Basil Pesto (Store bought or homemade)
Mozzarella Cheese

Top each pita with basil pesto and mozzarella cheese bake in oven at 350 degrees until cheese is melted! It's that easy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Guest Post: Apple Rhubarb Pie

When Lynn asked me to guest blog, I was beyond ecstatic. I mean, it really was a culmination of life events for me. Lynn is just the coolest and the fact that she asked me to guest blog on her cooking blog means more to me than she can ever imagine.

A little about me, the best-guest-blogger-ever (sorry Sara):
My name is Melissa and I am a real housewife of the suburbs of Philadelphia. With my busy schedule of working and doing tireless tasks such as grocery shopping and getting the mail from the mailbox, I like to make a little magic happen... in the kitchen that is! I recently have been obsessive been trying to get rhubarb, even though it is barely in season (I was trying to seriously wow my future parent in-laws with my awesome baking skills over Easter with a serious rhubarb recipe, but much to my chagrin, none was available! Oh the injustice of life! So we got the next best thing.. an iced vanilla cake in the shape of a bunny that could have sent a diabetic to their grave. But the rhubarb has been a burning desire that I just could not squash. Thus, when Lynnie decided to ask me (ME!!!!) to guest blog, I knew what I had to make! So, all you need to know about me is that I am the best!

BUT, I end this little blurb about the best-guest-blogger-ever with a challenge: Paul, my betrothed, can literally do nothing right, not even load the dishwasher correctly, EXCEPT, he makes the best pizza dough this side of Italy. I say for a bit of fun and good natured fun, Paul and Lynn have a dough-off in Lynn's test kitchen. We make the pizza and a blind taste test will ensue. What do you say there Lynn? Are you chef enough?

YELC (Your Even Loving Chef),
Apple Rhubarb Pie: 
This recipe was  borrowed from Cooking Light Magazine, April 2012 issue.
Hands on time: about 40 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

1 pre-made pie crust (such as Pillsbury)
Cooking Spray
3 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup granulated Sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place pie dough on a lightly floured surface; fit to a 9" pie plate.
Spray your pie plate liberally with cooking spray.
Place the pre-made pie dough into the pie plate. Make sure there is enough 'overhang' so you can flute ( I don't know what 'flute' means, so I folded, into what I thought, was decorative).

Combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, lemon juice and apples; toss.
Sprinkle the mixture with cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 3 tablespoons of flour; toss.
Spoon (I used a slotted spoon since it was super runny) the mixture into the pie plate with prepared crust.

Set the prepared pie aside.

Level 3/4 cup of flour in a medium bowl. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt, brown sugar, and cut up 6 tablespoons of butter and mix (the recipe calls for the use of a pastry blender- whatever that is). I used two knives in a fashion to 'cut' the butter, like one would cut meat. Do this until the mixture resembles a mealy texture, or until your arms get tired (which seriously happened).

Stir in the walnuts (Baker's note: chopped walnuts were a full two dollars more, for less. So being the genius that I am, I purchased the larger, whole walnut, measured out 1/3 cap, placed them in a sandwich bag, placed the bag level on a tea towel and beat the pieces into chopped with my french rolling pin.)

Sprinkle the butter/flour/walnut mixture over top of the entire pie. Make sure that you fill in all the crevices with the mixture.

Bake in the pre-set oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 375 degrees and bake the pie for an additional 30 minutes or until golden brown. I had to bake mine for about 50 minutes, but I have an electric oven. if the crust seems to be browning, you can place some foil around the edges of the pie to protect it from burning.

Let the pie stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Frosted Sugar Cookies

We've all passed these cake-like cookies in the grocery store. Some of us might have a hard time walking by them. They're large, soft, frosted perfectly, & topped with the perfect amount of sprinkles. Nadya stumbled upon a picture of these cookies while browsing the 'nets the other day. Since she saw them, she couldn't stop talking about how badly she wanted soft frosted sugar cookies. She mentioned her craving enough that I finally stepped up and made them! I'm happy I did! I found a winning recipe!

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk together to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed.  Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant quarter cup of dough and roll into a ball.  Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart.  Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set.  (Do not overbake!  The edges should be no more than very lightly browned if at all.)  Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To frost the cookies, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Use an offset spatula or spoon to frost the cooled cookies.  (If the frosting begins to thicken as you decorate, just continue to whisk in small amounts of milk to keep it workable.)  Top with sprinkles if desired.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Polenta with Roasted Vegetables & Red Pepper Sauce

I am a pinning machine these days. I'm all up in my social media and Pinterest is my latest obsession. OK I've been obsessed for a couple months now but that's beside the point. Follow me to see what other recipes are being added to my 'Kitchen' board. I find so many interesting recipes on there. Unfortunately, I end up getting super hungry while I'm pinning away but it does give me inspiration for the heart of the home, the kitchen.

This was a recipe I pinned a while back and recently made. I've always been a huge fan of polenta but for being such a fan I never make it. When I came across this recipe which includes polenta and roasted vegetables, I thought to myself  'WIN WIN'! Then once I made it and tasted it I thought WIN WIN WIN!

This vegetarian dish is one that will even please the meat lovers in your life!

Polenta with Roasted Vegetables & Red Pepper Sauce 
Adapted from Self Magazine

1 cup uncooked instant polenta
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or oregano) or 1 tbsp dried
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed
2 bell bell peppers, sliced
1 medium-large zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices 
1 jar (12 oz) prepared roasted red peppers, drained
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 large clove garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, basil or parsley (plus extra for garnish)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Add polenta in a stream, whisking to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in 1/3 cup Parmesan and season with cayenne and salt. Coat a 9" pie plate with cooking spray. Transfer polenta to pie plate, smooth into an even layer and let cool 15 minutes. Heat broiler. Whisk garlic, thyme, lemon juice and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables with dressing. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange vegetables in 1 layer (or in 1 layer in a grill basket). Broil vegetables about 4 inches from heat until tender and slightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter. Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Sprinkle polenta with remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan. Broil polenta in pie plate until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, then cut polenta into 8 triangles. Divide polenta among 4 plates. Top with vegetables, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serve any remaining sauce on the side. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hungarian Shortbread with Rhubarb Jam

I've been curious about rhubarb for quite sometime. I've also been intimidated by it. I only learned about rhubarb a few years ago. I usually see it paired with strawberries over ice cream or in a pie. Every year when it's in season I tell myself that I'm going to buy it and make something with it and then I usually don't BUT this year I did (thanks to Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia)! This week's recipe for Hungarian shortbread called for rhubarb jam but don't worry if you're not a rhubarb fan or if you're having trouble finding it (there seems to be a shortage this year) you can use your favorite preserves. I'm thinking Nutella might even be a good edition for the next batch I make.

 (Making the rhubarb jam)

Believe it or not this was my first time making shortbread. This was a very unique way to make it too! Once you make the dough, you freeze it until firm and then grate the dough with a cheese grater. While I was grating away, I kept thinking about my friend, Sara, who has a horrible fear of cheese graters! 

(Right out of the oven) 

The shortbread and the rhubarb jam came together very nicely. Some other bloggers were having trouble with the bottom layer baking all the way through, luckily I didn't run into that problem.  The tartness of the rhubarb jam paired so nicely with the sweetness of the shortbread. All in all, I think this recipe turned out to be a success! 

(The finished product)
Thanks to Lynette of 1SmallKitchen  & Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler for hosting this week! Visit their blogs for the Hungarian Shortbread recipe! 

** Tuesdays with Dorie is an online baking group. We're baking our way through Baking with Julia. Visit Tuesdays with Dorie if you'd like to join in the fun! **