Thursday, April 23, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers Challenge - Croque Monsieur

The second Barefoot Bloggers Recipe Challenge came from Kathy of All Food Considered. Kathy has chosen Ina's Croque Monsieur.

As one of six kids we had our share of grilled cheese sandwiches, but nothing this decadent. I thought this was a very rich but tasty sandwich. I ended up making this sandwich today (talk about waiting til the last minute) for lunch and had to cut it down to a smaller size, since I was alone for lunch.

Croque Monsieur


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes.

Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Raspberry Marzipan Coffee Cake

When thumbing through my cookbook I thought this sounded yummy. This is my husbands breakfast food for a few days this week.

Raspberry Marzipan Coffee Cake
(Betty Crocker 40th Anniversary Edition Cookbook)

Buttery Streusel

1/3 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firm butter or margarine
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Coffee Cake

2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 package (7- or 8-oz size) almond paste, finely chopped
1 cup fresh or unsweetened frozen (thawed) raspberries


1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Prepare Streusel. Grease square pan, 9x9x2 inches.

2. In large bowl, beat all coffee cake ingredients except almond paste and raspberries with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.

3. Spread half of batter in pan. Sprinkle with half each of the almond paste, raspberries and streusel. Repeat with remaining batter, almond paste, raspberries and streusel.

4. Bake about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm or cool.

* If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt.

Raspberry-chocolate coffee cake variation: substitute 1 package (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips for the almond paste.

*** I used white chocolate chips since my husband isn't a very keen on chocolate in his breakfast.

I really liked the sweetness from the raspberries. It took longer to bake since I used an 8x8x2 pan instead of my 9x9x2.

Honey Almond Apple Puffs

I came across this recipe while I was at my boy's lacrosse practice (I took four cookbooks with me to plan my menu for the week. Am I a nut or what???).

Last night I made these very easy dessert/breakfast nibbles. We each had one for dessert and then my husband took two this morning for his ride into work.

Honey Almond Apple Puffs
(Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Edition Cookbook)

1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large pared cooking apple, cut into 6 wedges
Ground nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sliced almonds


Heat oven to 425 degrees. Unfold pastry and cut into 9 squares. cut apples wedges crosswise in half (only 9 apple pieces are needed). Place 1 apple piece on each pastry square and sprinkle with nutmeg. Moisten corners of pastry with water. Gather corners over apple and pinch to seal well. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes or until deep golden brown and puffed. Heat honey until thin. Brush over warm puffs. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve warm.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Anniversary Cornish Hens

It seems as though we have been celebrating our anniversay all week long. It started with the Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts. Then the Cheese Platter. I had planned Cornish Hens for the night of our anniversary until I realized they were still frozen. So we decided to pack up the boys and go out for dinner, nothing fancy. Friday night I cooked the hens and tonight (saturday) the two of us will go out to the fancier restaurant we love.

Anyway for the Cornish Hens I drizzled with a little Olive Oil since I didn't have enough butter and had to save it for the rice. Then I sprinkled the hens with salt and pepper. That's it. Next I threw them in the oven at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours. They came out very moist.

I served the hens with a Mushroom and Wild Rice Pilaf. I wanted to make Mushroom Risotto but didn't have enough time.

Mushroom and Wild Rice Pilaf (

4 teaspoons butter
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 cups chopped shiitake, oyster or white mushrooms
2/3 cup wild rice
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cups chicken or beef broth


Melt butter in saucepan. Add shallots and mushrooms. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add wild rice, rosemary and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about an hour or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Season to taste.

This recipe from CDKitchen for Mushroom And Wild Rice Pilaf serves/makes 4

BB BRC - Cheese Platter

Barefoot Bloggers has a Bonus Recipe Challenge (BRC) once every four months. Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake was the winner for January 2009 Bonus Recipe Challenge. Rebecca has picked Ina's cheese platter!!

My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversay this past week. I even made a trip to the Wine Steward store and bought a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, which was suggested by the gentleman at the store. Glad I went with that type of wine.

I had served Danish Blue Cheese, Smoked Gouda and Sharp Cheddar on the platter. Along side of the cheese I placed fruit and crackers.

We had a lovely time enjoying the cheese, fruit and wine.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lemon Curd and Fruit Tarts

Every week when I go grocery shopping I have to buy something for my husband for breakfast break at work. Well I'm getting tired of buying the same old things. I can not even imagine how tired he is of eating the same old things.
I decided to try my hand at Lemon Curd (the recipe is from Curtis Stone of Take Home Chef). I have never made Lemon Curd and was a bit worried how it would come out. My first mistake was using a double "lined" metal mixing bowl. Due to the double thinkness of the bottom of the mixing bowl it didn't heat up the eggs enough at first. So I transferred the eggs to a regular metal bowl and increased the heat a little. Viola it worked. I also mixed together some cream cheese and sugar to make a "cheesecake" mix.

Lemon Curd Recipe (Curtis Stone recipe from Take Home Chef)

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 stick salted butter, diced

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to low. Whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a medium stainless steel or glass bowl to blend. Place the bowl over the hot water and whisk in the butter.

Continue to whisk for about 3 minutes or until the curd has become thick and creamy and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk until most of the heat from the curd dissipates. Set the curd aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

***After I prepped the puff pastry like in the Tomato and Goat Cheese recipe, I smeared a layer of cream cheese on the puff pastry and threw it in the oven at 400 for a few minutes. Once the cheesecake tart was cooled enough I placed a dollip of Lemon Curd onto and smeared. In the morning I placed the fresh fruit ontop.

Barefoot Bloggers Challenge - Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

I took a look at the past Barefoot Bloggers Recipes and came across this one. It was chosen by Anne of Anne Strawberry . I have never tried Goat Cheese and wanted to give it a chance. This past Saturday, I decided to make them. They were pretty easy to prepare. I think the part that took the most time was the onions but man they were worth it. My husband had just gotten home from school and I surprised with the tarts for a late lunch. I can not find the words to even describe how these tasted. I think the flavors hit all parts of your taste buds. The goat cheese was so creamy and delicious. The tomato gave it a bit of a "tart" taste. The onions were nicely carmelized. The whole time my husband and I sat there eating the tarts all I could say is "wow!", "holey moley", "mmmmmmmm" and "I'm definitely making these again!"

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dinner menu Week of April 12

Week of 4/12/09

Sunday - Ham, potatoes & carrots

Monday - Burgers & cole slaw

Tuesday - Pasta

Wednesday - Steak Tips & rice

Thursday - Cornish hens, stuffing

Friday - salmon

Saturday - chicken cordon bleu & rice

Friday, April 10, 2009

Penne Pasta with Asparagus Cream Sauce

Many years ago I watched Ciao Italia with Marianne Esposito on Saturday mornings. I was just amazed how easy she made cooking look. One morning she was making a penne pasta with fresh asparagus in a cream sauce. It looked delicious. Years later, I subscribed to the Cuisine At Home magazine and she was featured in it making this recipe. Sure enough I had to give it a shot.

I really enjoy making this recipe and the family loves it.

Penne with Asparagus and Cream
Penne con Asparagi e Crema

1/3 cup whole shelled natural pistachio nuts
2 cups water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 pound thin asparagus, washed, woody ends removed, and stalks cut into thirds
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup Half & Half
¼ cup heavy cream
1 pound penne
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Spread the nuts on an aluminum pie plate and toast them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, watching carefully so they do not burn. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board, mince them, and set aside.

Bring the water to boil in a pot. Add ½ half teaspoon of the salt and the asparagus. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat just until a knife tip is easily inserted into the asparagus, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and press on it with a wooden spoon to release its flavor. When the garlic starts to brown around the edges, remove and discard it. Add the asparagus and white pepper, raise the heat to high, and pour in the wine. Stir the mixture carefully for about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium.

Mix the half and half and heavy cream together and pour it over the asparagus mixture. Cook for 2 minutes; the sauce should be thick and velvety like heavy cream. Stir in the remaining 1½ teaspoons salt. Keep the mixture warm while the penne cooks.

Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain and return to the cooking pot. Pour the asparagus sauce over the penne and stir carefully over low heat. Add the cheese and continue to stir until the cheese melts. Transfer the penne to a serving platter, sprinkle the nuts over the top, and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers Challenge - Chinese Chicken Salad

Barefoot Bloggers challenge - Chinese Chicken Salad

Our first recipe for the month of April was chosen by McKenzie of Kenzie’s Kitchen. The chosen recipe was Ina Garten's Chinese Chicken Salad.

I did not use the bone-in skin-on chicken breast. I used boneless chicken breast for two reasons, 1 - I had already done my grocery shopping when I decided to join the group and 2 - I had extra boneless chicken thawed already (extra large pack). I cooked the chicken the same as in the recipe and chopped into chunks. The same goes for the red peppers. I had orange and yellow on hand but no red.

I have never had a Peanut Salad Dressing before. I thought the salad was delicious and rich in flavor. I loved the nuttiness from the sesame seeds and the peanut butter, although I did question the peanut butter. I thought the dressing would be overkill if i poured it all over the chicken and veggies so I decided to drizzle it onto the salad after plating.

I decided to serve the chicken salad in Romaine lettuce leaf "boats."

Chinese Chicken Salad


4 split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed, and cut in thirds diagonally
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
2 scallions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup good apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub with the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred the chicken in large bite-sized pieces.

Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Cut the peppers in strips about the size of the asparagus pieces. Combine the cut chicken, asparagus, and peppers in a large bowl.

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken and vegetables.

Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A change in the menu

There has been a change in the menu for tonight. I have decided to make the steak tonight instead of the Penne Pasta & Asparagus. (we had pasta last night with the chicken piccata). I try not to have pasta back to back or rice back to back. Don't ask me why, it's just a quirk I have.

Menu for the Week of April 5th

Every Saturday night or Sunday morning (before my early morning grocery shopping) I make up a menu for the coming week's dinners. This is a typical menu:

Menu ~ Week of April 5, 2009

Sunday ~ Grilled shrimp with couscus
Ina Garten

Monday ~ Pork with baked potatoe

Tuesday ~ chicken piccata

Wednesday ~ Penne Pasta with Asparagus
Cuisine @ Home magazine

Thursday ~ Steak

Friday ~ Stromboli
Internet recipe

Saturday ~ Southwest Egg Rolls

Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri

I just love Pork Tenderloin. I'm not a big fan of pork chops with the bone still in. Monday night I made two small Pork Tenderloins with Chimichurri by Tyler Florence. I would like to say the Chimichurri marinade was refreshing. The flavors just perked up the tastebuds. We really enjoyed this meal. I served the Pork Tenderloins with Tyler's Crispy Twice Cooked New Potatoes with Garlic Aioli. Oh my goodness how yummy is that Garlic Aioli.

Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri



6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
3 limes, juiced
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), trimmed of excess fat, patted dry
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lime juice, for drizzling
Parsley sprigs, for garnish


Combine the garlic, jalapeno and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the parsley, oregano, and lime juice.

Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to marry.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the chimichurri to serve and marinate the pork in the rest. Put the pork and marinade in a sealable plastic bag and set aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill or oven broiler to high.

Remove the pork from the marinade, wiping off any excess. Season both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill the pork on the hottest part of the barbecue for 4 minutes per side, until well charred. Allow the tenderloin to rest for about 5 minutes prior to slicing. Spoon some chimichurri over the meat, drizzle with lime juice, garnish with parsley, and serve with the remaining sauce at the table.

Crispy Twice Cooked New Potatoes with Garlic Aioli

Ingredients - Potatoes
20 to 30 small new potatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Ingredients for Garlic Aioli:

2 heads garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig thyme
1 tablespoon water
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
*1 jumbo egg yolk
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Lay potatoes out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes around so they are evenly coated and pop in the oven to roast for 35 to 40 minutes until tender.

Cut a heads of garlic through the middle, horizontally, and put in a foil pouch with olive oil, thyme, water, and salt and pepper. Seal the pouch around the edges and roast in the oven with the potatoes - this will be used for the aioli.

When the potatoes are done and warm enough to handle make an X cut on 1 side of the potato and then squeeze gently from the bottom to form a flower-like shape. Heat a pot of oil for deep frying to 350 degrees F and fry the potatoes until crispy and golden. Drain on paper towels and season with kosher salt.

Remove the garlic from the pouch and squeeze out the flesh. Add the roasted garlic, egg, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender and process. Pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the aioli emulsifies. Fold in sour cream and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives.

Grilled Shrimp with Couscous

When I decided I was going to join the Barefoot Bloggers challenge, I thought I would try a couple of Ina Garten's recipes. I was making up my menu for the week and came across Ina's Grilled Shrimp recipe. Sunday was a beautiful day outside and one of the only ones for the rest of the week. So what better than to grill outside. I wasn't too sure of what to serve with the Grilled Chicken so I figured I would give Couscous a chance. (last time we made it we didn't care for it). I think I accompanied the Grilled Chicken very nicely.


2 pounds large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 lemon, juiced


Combine all the ingredients and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Skewer the shrimp. I use 3 or 4 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer for dinner. Heat a grill with coals and brush the grill with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Grill the shrimp for only 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

Grilled Chicken and Avocado Napoleons

This past Sunday I was watching Giada At Home on the Food Network and she was making some great looking "sandwiches." The "bread" for the sandwich was actually Puff Pastry from the store, except you prick holes with a fork in the pastry so it doesn't puff up too much.

After I watched the show I remembered I had some Puff Pastry in the freezer. I took the box out and got started on making the sandwiches.

This was a very easy process and my family loved them.

Grilled Chicken and Avocado Napoleons Recipe:


2 (9 by 10-inch) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 12 (3 by 5-inch) rectangles
4 (4-ounce) boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt
Olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 large avocado, thinly sliced into 8 pieces
2 cups baby spinach leaves


Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, prick the top of the pastry all over. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and place another baking sheet on top.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Remove the top baking sheets and parchment paper. Set aside to cool.

Preheat a grill pan or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Season the chicken with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Grill until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and cayenne pepper.

To assemble the Napoleons: Place 4 pieces pastry on a work surface. Slice each chicken breast diagonally into 6 (1/4-inch thick) slices. Place 3 chicken breast slices on each piece of pastry.

Place 1/4 cup of spinach and 1 avocado slice on top. Spread 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise mixture on the underside of another 4 pieces of pastry to create the middle layer of each Napoleon. Place on top. Repeat the layering. Each Napoleon should be completed with a piece of pastry as its top.

Arrange the Napoleons on a platter and serve.
***I did make one change. I mashed up the avocado in the mayo. I just starting eating avocados in the past year so I didn't want a large chunk at once.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Started

One of the things that I love to do is cook and bake. Well atleast try to.

I enjoy watching the Food Network Channel and trying some of their recipes. Recently, very recent today infact, I joined my first food group - the Barefoot Bloggers. Twice a month a recipe is chosen for all of us to cook. I am excited since Ina Garten is one of my favorite from the Food Network.

So my blog is about me trying new recipes from any magazine, food channel or maybe something I grew up eating. Each week I make a dinner menu of what I will be making for my family and I will be writing about the recipe.

I hope you enjoy my blog.