Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Garden Tuesday–White Tailed Squirrel

It’s been a while since I posted some pictures of our white-tailed squirrel.  He is pretty noticeable all year long, but in the fall, when the leaves are off the trees and he is busy gathering his nuts for winter, his bright white tail is visible all over the place!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pot Roast with Porcini Mushrooms

Pot Roast with Porcini Mushrooms

This week’s theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is comfort foods.  When I think of comfort foods from my childhood, two come to mind.  First, my grandma’s homemade mac and cheese and second pot roast.  The aroma of pot roast wafting through the house on a Sunday afternoon is one of life’s simplest and best pleasures. 

So, I turned to Giada for some classic comfort food.  And as usual, she did not disappoint.  My only complaint, this was too good.  Let’s pause here, while I make a confession.  I like ketchup with my pot roast.  It’s the way I ate it as a child.  This was too good for ketchup.  The gravy was fantastic.  The words rich and creamy were invented for this gravy.  I served it with polenta, and while it may not be the most photogenic dish (comfort foods rarely are), it made up for it in it’s tasty goodness.  I found the recipe in Giada's Family Dinners but you can also find it online.

Pot Roast with Porcini Mushrooms

  • 1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 6 garlic  cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 3/4 cups canned beef broth
  • 1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat the beef dry, season it generously with salt and pepper.  In a large dutch oven, brown the beef in the oil over a medium-high heat, until well browned, about 12 minutes.  Transfer the beef to a bowl.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions to pan, scraping up the brown bits, sautéing for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, and after about another minute, add the wine.  Boil for a minute, stir in the broth and mushrooms, add the beef back to the pan and bring to a boil.  Cover and transfer the pot to the oven, braising for about 3 hours, turning the meat at the halfway point.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.   Meanwhile, spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. Transfer the pan juices and vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth (or just use an immersion blender) . Combine the sauce and rosemary sprig in heavy medium saucepan (or use your same roasting pan, if you used the immersion blender). Bring to a boil. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Cut the beef across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the sliced beef on a platter and garnish with rosemary. Spoon the sauce over and serve, passing the remaining sauce in a sauce boat.

This will be my entry for I Heart Cooking Clubs!

This will be my entry for Heart ‘n Soul Blog Hop

Cookbook Used:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Wine Reviews #41


Lagranja Tempranillo, Spain, 2008, $4.99.  They say:  An everyday drinking wine, soft, rounded, juicy red wine, with rich ripe raspberry flavors.  We say:  berry aroma, plummy, light and drinkable, not over sweet.  Buy again:  Yes!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekend Cat Blogging #286


Smudge feels that he looks good in leather.



This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Othello at Paulchens FoodBlog?!.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cranberry Liqueur

Cranberry Liqueur

Please place this recipe in the better-late-than-never category.  Why?  Because I first came across this recipe in the Cooking Light Recipes Annual from 2004.  It was the very last recipe of the book. I remember showing it to my husband and insisting that he run out and buy some vodka.  Then, I’m not quite sure what happened.  Fast forward five years, I’m glancing through the book again, and there it is.  I insist my husband run out and buy some vodka and this time, I stand in the kitchen waiting for him, cranberries in hand. 

Now I can’t tell you if this is good or not, because it will not be ready to December 4th.  But how could it not be?? 

Cranberry Liqueur

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries (or one of the 8 or so you have in your freezer)
  • 3 cups vodka

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and over medium heat cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Place cranberries in food processor and process for about 2 minutes or until finely chopped. Combine the sugar mixture, cranberries, and vodka in a large bowl.  Pour into clean jars with lids and let sit in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks, shaking every other day (or whenever you remember).

Strain through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a bowl and discard solids.  Pour into clean jars or bottles, and sit back and admire!

Note: Liqueur can be stored refrigerated or at room temperature for a year.

SERVING SUGGESTION – Cranberry Cosmopolitan – Place crushed ice in a cocktail shaker.  Add 1/2 cup cranberry liqueur, 1/4 cup Cointreau, and 2 tablespoons lime juice; strain into martini glasses.  Yields 2 cocktails.



This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and Welcome Baby Madeline!!


I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!



I thought I would show you why I haven’t been visiting your blogs so much lately!!  Meet Madeline, my lovely granddaughter born, November 23!! 


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesdays


Creamy Caramel Sauce



March 23, 2009.  Creamy Caramel Sauce from The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz.  I have no idea why I didn’t post this, because I can still, a year and half later, remember how good this was.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Bacon

Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Bacon

Let’s pause for a moment, shall we, and be amazed that a mere one day after posting a review of The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living from Mark Bittman, I am already posting a recipe!  Yes, I know, some bloggers actually manage to try two or three recipes before they post a review cough*Natashya*cough, but I am not some food bloggers.  First of all I don’t have the patience to methodically try an assortment of recipes before I review the book, and second of all, I think I can pretty much tell by looking through the book whether it’s going to be good or not.

Like for example, this recipe.  I had it listed in yesterday’s review to try, because I thought it sounded good.  And I was right.  It was good.  It was lunchroom-envy good.  Yep, it makes people come sniffing around your lunch asking what your eating.  The combo of the bacon and the sweet potatoes just can’t be beat.  I don’t have to tell you how easy this was:  one roasting pan + one pot for pasta = one happy camper.

Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Bacon

  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 bacon slices or 4 ounces of pancetta, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces any cut pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (I subbed parsley)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 400.  Put the sweet potatoes, bacon and oil in a large roasting pan (I used a braising pan), sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.  Roast, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, dust with the paprika, add the onion to the pan, stir and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water.  Drain and reserve some of the cooking water.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven and stir in a bout 1/2 cup of the cooking water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add  pasta, chives and cheese to the pan and toss to combine.  Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Serves 4

This will be my entry for Heart ‘n Soul Blog Hop



for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Denise of Oh Taste n See .


for Tackling Bittman at A Moderate Life.

Tackling Bittman Recipe Hop at A Moderate Life


Cookbook Used: 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Food Matters Cookbook–Mark Bittman



When I saw that Mark Bittman had a new cookbook out, I hesitated.  I already have 5 of his books, did I really need another 500 recipes from him? The answer to that is a resounding yes!

This book is for anyone who is trying to eat healthier.  And really, who isn’t?  I don’t know anyone who goes around saying, “I’m going to eat more processed foods and slurp canned soda!”  This book is exactly how I would like to eat more often…more grains and beans, less meat, more fruits and veggies. 

The book opens up a section on why food matters.  If you have already read his Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes , you can skip this part, in fact he tells you that you can skip it, but I read it again, to remind myself of how and why I want to eat better.  Then he goes into stocking your pantry and finishes the intro by explaining his icon rating of recipes:  fast, make-ahead, and pantry staple.  In typical Bittman fashion, he has the recipes in the back also listed by their icon.  So, if you were looking to make a fast recipe, there they are all. 

The recipe chapters are:  Appetizers and Snacks, Soups, Salads and Dressings, Pasta Noodles and Dumplings, Rice and Grains, Beans, Vegetables, Bread Pizza Sandwiches and Wraps, Desserts and Sweet Snacks.

I have been poring over this book, making lists of recipes that I want to try, finally giving up, because there are just too many!

Here are a few, I have marked to try soon:

  • Raw Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry Dressing
  • Roasted Pork Shoulder with Potatoes, Apples and Onions
  • Baked Pumpkin Orange Custard
  • Chipotle Glazed Squash Skewers
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
  • Mushroom and Pasta Frittata
  • Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Bacon

As a confirmed carb lover, the pasta section alone is worth the price of the book.  Every single recipe sounds great. 

I haven’t made anything out of the book yet, (I’ll be making the Sweet Potato and Bacon Pasta next week), but I don’t have to.  I’ve cooked enough, read enough cookbooks and cooked enough Bittman recipes to tell that these are winners.  They are easy.  They are healthy.  

5/5 stars!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Cat Blogging #285


Smudge wanted you to see his dark, mysterious side.



This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Nikita Cat.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quail with Bacon and Honey

Quail with Bacon and Honey

Stop.  Please.  Go back up and read the title of this post again.  That, my dear blog friend, are words that you should commit to memory.  Because they belong together forever and ever. 

Every once in a while I like to pull out a cookbook that I have never cooked from.  What??  Don’t tell me that you don’t have cookbooks sitting languishing on your shelves??  Wait..is that a double negative, and does it totally negate itself and turn the sentence weird.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I pulled out the gorgeous Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking.  This was a cookbook that I bought on a whim at a used bookstore.  Since I didn’t actually set out to buy this book, for some reason, I never cooked from it. 

Oh my.  What have been missing?!  This recipe was fantastic.  Seriously amazing.  Stupendous.  And all kinds of other words that I would throw at you if I had a thesaurus handy.   I thought it was going to be difficult, because it just looks difficult doesn’t it?  But it wasn’t, it was easy and the payoff was huge.  The combination of the honey and bacon, fabulous.  My only issue was that the bacon didn’t get as crisp as I would have liked.  Next time, I might zap it a bit in the microwave before wrapping the quail.  And don’t fret if you don’t have quail, I think this would be good with chicken thighs too! 

Quail with Bacon and Honey

  • 1/3 cup honey
    1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
    1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
    Gray Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    8 semi-boneless quail
    8 thin slices of bacon
    8 wooden skewers
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup dry white wine 8 sprigs of fresh rosemary
    1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the marinade: Mix together the honey, vinegar, sage, and salt and pepper to taste.

Season the quail with salt and pepper. Tuck legs and wing tips under the body of each quail and wrap the outside of each bird with a slice of bacon. Lay 2 of the quail side by side. Run a skewer through one side of both pieces. Run a second skewer through the opposite side of the pieces. Repeat with the remaining quail. Drizzle with oil. Trim the skewers to fit into an ovenproof skillet.

Generously brush the birds with the marinade.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet and saute the quail pieces for 2 minutes on each side. Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes,  to finish cooking the quail.  Transfer to a platter and keep warm.

Pour the fat from the pan. Add the wine and rosemary to the pan.  simmer, scraping the bottom of the skillet to get all the caramelized bits, until it thickens slightly. Whisk the butter into the sauce to finish. Strain (I didn’t).

Place 2 quail on each plate. Spoon the sauce over the top. Garnish with the rosemary sprigs from the sauce. Serve immediately.



This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!


Cookbook Used: 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chicken, Chili, and Feta Pasta

Two things.  First, let’s all stop for a moment and admire the steam coming off my pasta!!  Yes, I was so quick on the old-camera-draw that I actually captured steam.  Second, is there some kind of kitchen gadget that slices green beans in half?  Because if there is, I want one.  This is the second Donna Hay recipe that I’ve made that has asked for green beans to be sliced in half lengthwise.  This is not an easy task.  The whole time I’m doing it, I’m questioning it, the necessity of it.  But then when I’m all done and I have that gorgeous pile of delicate sliced green beans, I forget the agony, kind of like childbirth, or so I’ve been told. 

The recipe came from my outrageously expensive, but I-am-so-worth-it, magazine subscription to Donna Hay, issue #43 to be exact.  And you know how much I like to learn a new technique or idea from a recipe, well, this has one.  At the end, when you normally just add the pasta and stuff to the skillet and toss, she has you add  1 1/2 cups chicken stock.  It was brilliant.  It thickened up from the starch of the pasta and made a creamy flavorful sauce.  A great idea that I plan on using frequently!

Chicken, Chili, and Feta Pasta

  • 14oz fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts fillets trimmed (I just used shredded, cooked chicken)
  • .70 ounce of butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 long red chili, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 1/2 ounces butter beans, trimmed and sliced (I used wax beans, which I think may be the same thing)
  • 3 1/2 ounces snow peas, trimmed and sliced (I didn’t have any so I used more wax beans)
  • 3 1/2 ounces feta, crumbled

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water, drain and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat and cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side or until cook through.  Remove from the pan and shred.  (or just use cooked like I did)  Melt the butter in the frying pan and cook the garlic and the chili until fragrant about 1-2 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil, add the beans and cook for about a minute, then add the chicken, pasta, and feta and toss. 

Serves 4


This will be my entry for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Was it Wednesday

You’re looking at March 22, 2009. It was Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Fresh Cheese from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.  My notes read…”pretty good, don’t use crockpot!”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Herb Roasted Root Vegetables

In the summer, I love nothing more than to toss some vegetables with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss them on the grill.   Even with our relatively mild winters, grilling is not a winter activity for me.  I get cold when it drops below 70 degrees.  So, the next best thing…the oven.  Seriously, is there anything better than roasted vegetables?  They are so good, so sweet, so easy. 

I know what you’re thinking, “But Pam, you don’t even need a recipe for roasted vegetables!”  And you’re right, you don’t.  But when I was paging through Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes and came upon Giada’s Herb Roasted Root Vegetables, I paused.  I know how to roast vegetables.  Everyone knows how to roast vegetables.  But  I rarely do anything to the veggies more than olive oil, salt and pepper.  So, I was intrigued, with the mix of dried herbs.  And while veggies, simply roasted in olive oil and salt and pepper is enough, every once in awhile, it’s good to change things up a bit, add a bit of spice. 

Herb Roasted Root Vegetables

  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch thick circles
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, outer skins removed, and halved
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut crosswise into 1  1/2 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, add the carrots, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, parsnips and sweet potatoes.

Toss well with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.

Spread the vegetables evenly on a large baking sheet. Place on medium rack in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.


This will be my entry for Heart ‘n Soul Blog Hop


This will be my entry for I Heart Cooking Clubs!


Cookbook Used:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend Wine Reviews #40

Coyote Creek Zinfandel

Coyote Creek Zinfandel, 2008, California, $6.99.  We say:  deep and meaty, soft and smooth, hints of caramel.  (It almost sounds like we know what we are talking about, doesn’t it!?)  Buy again:  Yes!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Cat Blogging #284


Sometimes Smudge feels it’s good to not look at the camera.  A slight looking off to the side gives him a casual, yet poised look.  He spends lots of time thinking about these things.



This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Salome at Paulchens FoodBlog?!.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Better late then never, right?! 

I try to participate in food blogging events that sound interesting to me.  The problem arises when there are fixed schedules.  Lots of time school and life get in the way.  Like this.  I really wanted to make this cake back in October when I was supposed to for French Fridays with Dorie, but I didn’t.  As a matter of fact, even though there have been 4 spotlighted recipes so far (and even more new ones for November), this is the first one I’ve made.

I just have to accept my limitations.  And one of those is that, yes, I will work my way through this book, and hopefully get a few recipes right when they are supposed to happen, but if not, I’m not going to fuss at myself too much.  I’m just going to post them when I make them (on a Friday at least!) and hope they don’t kick me out!!

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Anyway, some people love this cake and some don’t.  You can put me in the former!  I agree with what a lot of people said, it is more custardy and almost like a bread pudding.  Well, I love bread puddings, so I love this.  I will be making this lots and lots. 

Look at me…I’m a baker!  Who’d have thought!



This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Cookbook Used: