Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chicken Prosciutto Bundles

My mom went to Stitch In Time in Millerstown, PA and found the Gooseberry Patch Speedy Supper Cookbook. Gooseberry is a company that collects unique recipes from ameteur chefs across the country and publishes their creations in cookbooks.

The following recipe is from Elizabeth Ciseros in Chino Hills, CA.

Chicken Prosciutto Bundles

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 leaves fresh basil
4 1/4-in thick slices mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 slices prosciutto
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Cut a 3-inch pocket in thick side of each chicken breast. Place 2 basil leaves on each slice of cheese; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff each chicken breast with cheese slice. Wrap 2 slices prosciutto around each chicken breast, securing with toothpicks. Heat oil over med-hi heat in a large oven-proof non-stick skillet. Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes per side or until golden. Transfer skillet with chicken to oven (we put chicken in a Pam sprayed baking dish because we didn't use an oven proof skillet) and bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until juices run clear. Serves 4.

You have to make sure not to over bake the chicken (we did a little because we thought the chicken breasts needed more time because they were so large). The prosciutto can dry out very easily. We baked it uncovered.

We ate this with mashed potatoes (boiled peeled white potatoes smashed with garlic cloves, milk, butter, pepper) and steamed lima beans. I think some good marinara sauce over the chicken bundles would be good too.

It seems like I'm into Italian foods at the moment - lots of mozarella, basil & tomato. I think it comes down to the fact that these ingredients are delicious and easy meals can be created from them. More diversity in posts are on the way!

My next posts will include our Super Bowl feast!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bill's Big Burgers

This picture is a bad angle because it makes the burger look mini - it wasn't! But the fries were huge.

Today Natalie and I went to the new burger place in Strawberry Square, downtown Harrisburg. Bill's Big Burgers has a very diverse menu of cheesesteaks, pork bbq, tuna melts, hot dogs, chicken burgers, veggie burgers; but I went there for one reason and it was for a beef burger and fries! I ordered the bacon cheeseburger and an order of fries. After tax my total was $6.66 which seemed humorous and after my eyes got wide and I looked at Natalie behind me, the woman taking my order says that number has been coming up a lot. Off the bat that made some jokes about how good our lunch was going to be and if we'd survive into the afternoon. So when my number was called, I went back to the counter and told them what I wanted on my burger - they had lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, bbq sauce, hot peppers, raw onions, maybe more. I got lettuce, tomato, ketchup and pickles.

The burger was good - not Dig's or Five Guys or Jackson House - but it was enjoyable. The bun was soft and the bacon was of good crispiness. The 1/3 lb. burger was cooked well but still juicy.

Since they were busy, they got Natalie's burger mixed up with someone else's so she totally did not get what she wanted. And her burger had a pink center. We don't know if the other customer ordered it that way or if it was accidently undercooked. They didn't ask us how we like our burger cooked so we assumed they cook everything well. After she scrapped the onions off, she was able to eat and enjoy.

The fries were a disaster. They looked good: big and well done. However the deep fryer must have been on too high because the outside was very dark but the inside was not cooked thoroughly. And they were soggy - not crispy at all. I added salt but could still only eat a few. We weren't even given ketchup packets.

We were offered a free dessert of either a cookie or a brownie, neither of which were good but we really appreciated the gesture!

Bill's burger wasn't the best but it was the best quick burger you can get in Strawberry Square and the surrounding blocks. They were busy today which was probably due to everyone wanting to try them out. I think they could do well if they would just improve their fries!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Traditional Stromboli

My Aunt B made beautiful and delicious strombolis for a family get-together and I asked her for her recipe. I was going to make these for our Super Bowl party but decided to try them last night instead (Super Bowl party we'll have Shredded Beef Sammies).

2 loaves frozen white bread dough
1/4 lb. sliced salami
1/4 lb. shaved deli ham
1/4 lb. sandwich pepperoni (larger circumference than traditional pepperoni)
1/4 lb. sliced provolone cheese
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. parsley
2 tsp. garlic powder
ground pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 egg yolk
Marinara Sauce (we used Prego)

Let bread thaw and rise according to package instructions. Once bread rises, punch down and with a floured rolling pin and counter, roll a loaf into a 15x12 inch rectangle.
Layer, in a row, half of the salami, ham, pepperoni and provolone. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. each of oregano, parsley, garlic powder and pepper. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.
Roll up lengthwise and fold in ends to seal. Place on a Pam sprayed, foil lined baking sheet, seam side down.
Repeat with the second loaf.
Brush loaves with yolk.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Let sit a few minutes before slicing.
While boli bakes, heat sauce.

The results of a stromboli really depends on what kind of dough you use. The frozen dough I used ended up not rising well. Fresh dough from a bread maker would work well. I am even thinking about going to our favorite pizza shop to ask if we can buy their dough - for this and pizza. I had a lot of trouble rolling the dough out to 15"x12" rectangle. But the dough only needs to be wide enough to make a row of meat and allow enough dough on the ends to seal the roll so this measurement is only a rough guide.

I don't think I would use the yolk wash again. It really didn't do anything exept made the top dark.

The seam did not hold on one of mine because the meat juices and an entire piece of ham made it's way out of the boli when I took it out of the oven.

Overall, this was quite good! My mom, dad, sister and I ate all but 2 pieces of these 2 loaves.

This photo was taken by Bec.

The loaves before the yolk wash and baking.

I forgot to take a photo of the baked loaf. Instead, here is a photo on a plate. Not a clean photo but it's the best I can do when I get hungry and forget about pix!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sour Cream Spice Cake

First, I would like to thank Rebecca for coming over to visit me and take some photos with her SLR. As you can see below, they are great! The last picture, of the frosted cake, comes from my little point and shoot.

On to the cake... an old Amish Cooking cookbook was sitting beside the computer this afternoon so I decided to open it up and look through. When I saw two containers of sour cream in the fridge this morning, I thought using it up in a Sour Cream Spice Cake would be delightful. (Pathway Publishing Corporation, 1977)

1/2 cup cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 3/4 cups flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream shortening and sugar; add egg yolks. Add flour, soda and spices. Add sour cream and beat well. Add vanilla and fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in 2 greased 8-inch layer pans for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Another thank you to Bec's mom, Alice, for this egg separator! It is so cute and it worked great!

The egg yolks just added to the sugar and shortening.

Adding the sour cream.

A cake is cooling on the opened window sill.

I used a butter cream frosting that really didn't turn - a stick of butter, approx. 4 cups powdered sugar, pinch salt, tsp. vanilla and 1/2 cup milk. I think I added too much milk. I would recommend using your favorite fluffy, white frosting.

However, the cake tasted great! It was moist and the frosting tasted better once it was on the cake - it turned out to be more of a glaze than a frosting. My parents said the cake reminded them of gingerbread.

The recipe makes 2 round cakes for a layer cake but I gave the other cake to Bec.

Bec took this photo of Chester so I had to add it!

Pizza Time!

Friday I made pizza for Greg and I. I originally tried to follow a recipe from Sunny on the Food Network but because I couldn't find so many of her ingredient at the store I went to (namely the foccacia bread, Buffalo mozzarella and dried porcinis) I made up my own:

1 large Italian bread, sliced lengthwise
2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 can Hunt's fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic, mostly drained (too much juice makes bread soggy)
1/2 cup Ragu Organic tomato sauce
1 large ball mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup thickly sliced pepperoni
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
A bunch of fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place bread halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, spread on tomato sauce and scatter tomatoes over all. Pull chunks of mozzarella cheese off the ball and scatter over tomatoes. Evenly distribute shredded mozzarella, garlic and pepperoni. Bake 8 minutes or until cheese is melted (edges of bread burn easily).

Remove from oven and immediate sprinkly with parmesan cheese and ripped basil leaves.

Greg got home right as I was putting the basil on the pizza!

Overall, the pizza was a success. In addition to Friday night, Greg ate it throughout the entire day on Saturday. As you can see from the photos, the edges got a little brown. This bread had a really crispy crust.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Beef Patties

Today Natalie and I went to the Broad Street Market ( because I needed some basil (you'll see why in my next post). We found the basil and I grabbed some tangeloes because they looked good - and I was right because I just ate one: not too sweet, with a slight sour bite.

So we decided to continue walking to the Stone Market Building and on our way we ran into Kalin and Luke (maybe you two could comment and tell us about your experience at the market today?!!).

We weren't planning on buying lunch but when we walked by the Carib Soul vendor and I saw a nice tray of beef patties, I had to get one (Natalie held strong)!

Natalie says they look the meat pies made from humans in Sweeney Todd but don't let that gross image keep you from trying one. They are YUMMMMMMMY!

In 2004, I went on a service trip to Lucea, Jamaica with some Hollins students and along with ackee, breadfruit and freshly butchered chicken and goat, patties were a staple of our diet for the 7 days we were there. The flakey, sometimes greasy, crust and the almost pureed spicy beef filling is really addicting! Carib's had mild and hot patties and I got the mild, which still had a nice amount of spice to it. These tasted exactly like the kind I would buy from street vendors in Lucea! Patties are the same as empanadas, which is what they are called in Mexico and South America. Caribbean empanadas sometimes have a softer shell. I don't know exactly what's in the filling, but it's more fun not knowing.

Rebecca - do you have the recipe for empanadas you used to make in high school?

Carib Soul has lots of Caribean dishes which is nice for those who just got back from a vacation but don't want to stop with the island cuisine. The have jerk chicken and goat, rice and beans and fried plantains, just to names some. I will definitely be trying some more things here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chicken and Waffles

Last night my mom made chicken and waffles - a popular Pennsylvania Dutch dish. This is one of the meals I grew up on and is very popular where I live. Churches and other groups will have chicken and waffles suppers as fundraisers because it's a winner with all age groups!

My mom makes up the recipe as she goes, never measuring, but below is a percise recipe from Betty Groff, where my mom got the recipe years ago. My family has gone on trips to the Betty Groff Farm Restaurant, were you eat family-style at long tables. It's in Mount Joy, PA and I'm looking at a cookbook that is copyright 1987 and is signed by Betty herself when my mom met her. I haven't been to the restaurant in many years but I remember someone telling me it's gone downhill in recently. But when I went, I know I had some great comfort food!

It's kind of lacking on presentation here, but it is a meal that really satisfies a hungry belly!

1 (4-pound) roasting chicken
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Pinch of saffron
Waffles (must be crispy to offset the soupiness of the chicken gravy)
1 quart water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
Minced chives and parsley (optional) - she used lots of dried parsley
1/2 cup cream or evaporated milk (optional) - used evap. milk but have used cream or even plain milk in the past - whatever's on hand - cream is best!
Fresh parsley for garnish - we didn't have any

Place chicken in a 3-quart covered saucepot. Add salt, pepper, saffron and 1 quart water. Cover and cook approximately 40 minutes over medium heat til leg meat pulls away from the bone. Do not overcook or the meat will fall apart. Remove from the heat and cool, saving broth. Debone chicken and remove skin. Cut meat into 1" chunks. Remove excess fat from chicken broth and heat to boiling. Add chives and parsley, if desired. Thicken broth by adding cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water and boil for two minutes. If using cream or milk add now. Add chunks of chicken, simmering til chicken is hot. Serve over hot waffles. Serves 6.

This dish can be very bland. I always add lots of salt and pepper before eating. Green beans - or any green vegetable - is a nice side dish.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Couscous... So nice, they named it twice!

Adam tells me this line is from Pineapple Express. When he said it to me today, I cracked up.

Mary gave me her copy of The Best 30-Minute Recipe from the editors of Cooks Illustrated (2006). I was reading it the other day and marked a few dishes. Tonight I decided to make the Salmon and Couscous Skillet Supper.

4 salmon fillets, 1 1/4 inches thick (we try to buy fillets with skin on so Chester can eat the skin - one of his favorite treats!)
Salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 cups water
1/4 cup minced chives
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup frozen peas (I used a full cup)

1. Preheat Oven: Adjust oven rack to middle position, place oven dish on oven rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees (I set it closer to 250).

2. Brown fish on one side: Pat fish dry, with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Gently place fish on skillet (flesh side down if fillets are skin-on) and brown well on first side, about 5 minutes.

3. Transfer fish to oven: Gently transfer fish (skin-side down if fillets are skin-on) to baking dish in oven and continue to cook until fish has turned from translucent to opaque, about 15 minutes.

4. Saute couscous and aromatics: While fish bakes, wipe out skillet with paper towels, add 1 more tablespoon of oil to skillet, and return to medium-high heat. Add couscous and toast until light golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic, shallots and lemon zest and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

5. Simmer couscous: Stir in water and cook over high heat until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 12 minutes (took mine over 20 minutes).

6. Make drizzling oil: Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons oil along with 2 tablespoons of chives and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; set aside.

7. Finish couscous: Off heat, sprinkle peas over couscous, cover, and let warm through, about 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons chives and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle chive oil over salmon and couscous before serving.
I must say, this meal was pretty perfect as is. It requires a lot of salt and pepper once on the plate - the couscous was bland. I like the Israeli couscous because it's larger and more substantial.

Split Pea and Sausage Soup

This is from the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage of America Cookbook. My mom bought this book at Mount Vernon a few years ago. The book is divided into 7 areas of America, highlighting popular dishes from various regions throughout history. This pea soup comes from Utah. The caption with the recipe reads: A typical meal for Mormons traveling westward in the mid-1800s might have included a big kettle of split pea soup, whole wheat bread with comb honey and a lettuce salad with whipped cream dressing.

Greg and I were watching an episode of The Girls Next Door on E! and the girls were on a bus tour and stopped by a restaurant known for their split pea soup. Since then, I've been craving pea soup so when I came across this recipe by flipping through the book, I had to try it. Even though I prefer the traditional ham base with cubed/shredded ham, this recipe sounded just as good.

I picked up some organic slip peas (and couscous for the rest of dinner - the next post, and honey for my tea) from the Newport Natural Foods Store.
1 1/2 cups split peas
6 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic., minced
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oragano or 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed (I used 1/2 tsp. dried)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound bulk pork sausage
1 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup peeled potato, cut in 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 up chopped celery

Rinse peas (I forgot to do this. I'm not used to working with dried beans - even though I know to rinse canned beans). In a large pan, combine peas, broth, garlic, oregano, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, form pork sausage into 25 (I did over 30) 1/2- to 3/4-inch balls; place on a (foil lined) baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until no longer pink. Remove from pan; place on paper towels to drain.

Stir carrot, onion, potato, celery and sausage balls into soup. Return to boiling (can stick to the bottom of the pot easily here); reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover; simmer 10 to 15 minutes more or desired consistency and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf. Makes 5 servings.

I did not like working with the bulk sausage. And I realized that after bitting into the balls in the soup, they are chewy and gummy. I think maybe just beef meatballs - or no meat - would be better. Make sure the meatballs are small, definitely no more than 1/2 inch in diameter.

I used some chopped onion and chopped elephant garlic that I found in the fridge. I also put in more than 3/4 cup of potato - a heaping cup. I should have added a little more. I also used a lot more chopped celery and carrot which is ok with me because I like a lot of vegetables/texture in my soup. The final soup needed some ground sea salt. And there were some pea shells in the soup because I forgot to rinse the peas.

Strawberry Glace Mini Pies

This recipe comes from The New Pilsbury Family Cookbook (published 1973). This book was given to my mom in 1974 (she was a senior in high school) from my dad's parents. This is our go-to book for basic recipes. We have made this strawberry pie several times and each time it turns out different but always good. Because I only had a little over a pound of strawberries, I decided to make 5 little pies because I didn't think I had enough berries to fill a 9-inch pie. Arielle and I did this together.

Pastry Crust
1 cup unsifted Pillsbury flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening, using a pastry blender or two knives (I used the knives - worked well), until mixture is the size of small peas. Sprinkle water over mixture, a tablespoon at a time, while tossing and stirring lightly with a fork Add water until dough is just moist enough to hold together. (too much water causes dough to be sticky and tough; too little water causes edges to crack and pastry to tear easily, making it difficult to roll out.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Divide dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll out each to a 4 to 5-inch round. Turn a muffin pan upside down. Fit pastry circles over cups, pleating sides so pastry fits to cups. Prick generosly with a fork. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Remove from cups.

Strawberry Glace Filling
1 1/2 quarts strawberries, washed and hulled
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Crush enough strawberries to make one cup (we did it in a mini food processor)
In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add crushed strawberries and water; cook over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Blend in lemon juice. Cool. Add whole or slice (we did sliced) strawberries and toss lightly to coat berries. Arrange in shells. Chill until served. Serve with whipped cream.

I pureed about 3/4 cup of strawberries, used 3/4 cup sugar but all of the corn starch (maybe even more) because I like the gel to be really thick around the strawberries.
The pastry shells came out perfectly! I was shocked.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Butternut Squash, Apple & Gorgonzola Gratin

Below is a picture of my friend Rebecca with one of her new favorite dishes: Butternut Squash, Apple and Gorgonzola Gratin. She made it with her friend Juan a few months ago and has been raving about it since. Curious, I decided to make it too!


SERVES 8 ACTIVE TIME: 20 min TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 45 min

2 1/2 Tbsp Wegmans Basting Oil, divided (used olive oil)
1 pkg [20 oz] Food You Feel Good About Cleaned & Cut Butternut Squash, sliced into 1/8-inch thick pieces (see note below)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp nutmeg, divided
1 1/2 cups Wegmans Heavy Cream
2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, thinly sliced [about 2 1/2 cups]
3 oz Dolce Gorgonzola cheese (according to Bec, Dolce is a type of Gorgonzola that is a little sweeter - I used whatever kind I could fine)

You'll Need: 2-quart shallow casserole dish, baking sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub casserole dish with 1 1/2 Tbsp basting oil. Place casserole dish on baking sheet. Cover bottom of dish with layer of squash; season with salt and pepper and half the nutmeg. Repeat with remaining squash; season with salt and pepper and remaining nutmeg. Pour heavy cream over all.
Bake 30 min; remove from oven. Press squash/cream mixture down using spatula; return to oven. Bake 10 min; remove from oven.

Toss apples with 1 Tbsp basting oil in small bowl. Cover top of squash mixture with single layer of apple slices, overlapping slightly and pressing apple slices gently into creamy mixture with a spatula.

Return casserole to oven; bake 45-50 min (I def. baked for less than this) or until squash and apples are tender. Remove from oven. Top with dollops of gorgonzola; allow cheese to melt before serving.

We had a squash from a community supported agriculture from we belong to called Spiral Path Farms in Loysville, PA ( and my mom cut it up while I was driving home from work with the rest of the ingredients. She began to bake the squash with a little milk (made it runny) just to get it in the oven to have it in time for dinner.
The combo of tastes were great. I love squash of all kinds and the apple made it a little sweeter and the cheese gave it a bite. Once the squash bakes, it's like a puree and the apples were just soft, which gave some texture. I will definitely try this again!

The rest of our dinner was crock pot pot roast and of course, Chester got to lick the platter clean!

Below is a picture of Rebecca's gratin. She did not peel her apples, which added to the texture of the dish.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crepes for Breakfast

This morning my mom made crepes with the Barefoot Contessa French Crepe Mix. We ate them with blueberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries and bananas, Nutella, whipped cream and powdered sugar. This crepe mix is a bit on the sweet side. In high school and college, I would make crepes but mix up a homemade batter that was less sweet (still being a dessert crepe). A can of this mix costs about $7 and it contains malted wheat flour, sugar, non-fat milk, sea salt and natural flavors. I am not sure what you have to add to the mix but it is a few ingredients.

We used an electric crepe maker but an omlette pan (or larger if you want big crepes) would work well too. After figuring out we hardly need any oil on the Teflon surface (the batter will slide right off with too much), the crepes turned out beautifully.

Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures of our creations. I was too focused on eating them. I'm sure we will make them again soon, at which time I'll take photos to add to this post.

As this was very good and I ate four, I think I would stick to making a homemade batter. With having to add 2 or 3 ingredients to the mix, why not just make your own? However, this mix would make a great gift!

This is a basic recipe that I'd use for sweet crepe batter:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

(I would add a couple drops of vanilla)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.

[Recipe from - Submitted by: JENNYC819]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My favorite teas (right now anyway!)

I save tea time for my work days. While sitting in front of a computer hours at time, I usually have a hot cup of tea (sometimes coffee) by my side. For me, like many, tea has a very calming and comforting effect for the mind and stomach, not to mention tons of antioxident and other healthful benefits. These are the 5 teas that I am currently enjoying (hot, but iced would be good too):
  • Lavendar Sencha Green Tea from Japan (from the loose tea bins at Wegmans)
  • Mint Chai (also loose tea from Wegmans.. I am currently out so I don't know the exact name)
  • Tazo Om
  • The Republic of Tea get gorgeous - herb tea for clear skin
  • Rishi Tea Organic Peppermint Rooibos

The Lavendar Green Tea is very mild. I do not like green tea by itself but the lavendar blooms make it a little more sweet and less harsh and grassy than plain green tea.

I am into anything mint right now (except Edy's Peppermint Ice Cream... made me ill 3 times). The mint chai is sweet and would be good with some cream and sugar like a true chai. I only have mine with Splenda (what I add to all these teas).

Tazo Om is unique in that it can be compared to cucumber melon. I do not like this scent in body products but it tastes good in tea! The cucumber makes the peach - not melon - less sweet. This is also a combo of black and green tea. I don't care for either alone, but the mix is mild.

The get gorgeous is very sweet and fruity. You can definitely taste hibiscus and berry. It is recommended to drink 3-4 cups a day for the roobis and antioxident to really make a different in your complexion. This tea is a little too sweet to drink that often. I find myself drinking it only a few times a week.

The peppermint roobis has a great peppermint flavor that isn't too overpowering. Roobis is also known as South African red tea and contains many daily vitamins and serves as a sleep aid.

I don't get too technical with the temperature of the water and the brewing times. All of these teas I brew for about 5 minutes and it tastes fine.

For the loose teas, I prefer to use paper tea filters, but when I run out I use a tea stick or basket, which can get messy.

All of these teas were gifts from my siblings. I had no part in picking them out - except for my request for something peppermint - it turns out, I find them all tasty!
One more thing: Greg gave me a coupon for a free Tazo Tea Latte at Starbucks. I tried the nonfat London Fog latte. London Fog is a black tea with bergamot and lavendar so I thought with the steamed milk and the vanilla syrup, it would be sweet enough for me. But by the time I got to my office, it was very strong (they leave the tea bag in the cup), so I add Splenda. To get the same taste, I would imagine you could just add milk and Splenda to a steeped cup of London Fog - and it would be 50% cheaper. However, I really enjoyed this tea latte and I would try it again. They also do vanilla roobis, green and the classic chai.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chili with Bacon and Black Beans

This recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated. My friend Mary and her husband try CI recipes all the time and are almost always pleased with the results. When something is particularly good, she sends me the recipe (they're online but she has the actual cookbooks). I have a nice collection of these recipes so I thought I'd try a chili. I halved (kinda) the recipe because I was only cooking for two. My notes are in parenthesis.

Beef Chili with Bacon and Black Beans

Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10. Published March 1, 2003.

From CI: Good choices for condiments include diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. If you are a fan of spicy food, consider using a little more of the red pepper flakes or cayenne--or both. The flavor of the chili improves with age; if possible, make it a day or up to five days in advance and reheat before serving. Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month.

8 ounces bacon [about 8 strips], cut into 1/2-inch pieces (could have used more! Mary told me this but I forgot until it was too late)
2 medium onions , chopped fine [about 2 cups]
1 red bell pepper , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press [about 2 tablespoons]
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef (I used ground turkey - 1.3 lbs)
2 cans [16 ounces each] black beans , drained and rinsed
1 [28-ounce] can diced tomatoes , with juice
1 can [28 ounces] tomato puree (even though I halved the recipe, I used the entire 28 oz)
table salt
2 limes cut into wedges (I did not use)

Fry bacon in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat, leaving bacon in pot. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired.
My thoughts:

  • Greg does not have a dutch oven so I used a medium/large saucepan. I had to brown the meat in a fry pan because the saucepan was too small.
  • I had half of a jalapeno pepper so I chopped it and browned it with the pepper and onion.
  • Since I used a lot of tomato puree, I wish I would have added more black beans and/or kidney beans.
  • We ate it with shredded cheddar and tortilla chips (Snyder's of Hanover Restaurant Style are very good!)
  • CI is correct about making the chili ahead of time. I simmered it for less than two hours because we were so hungry, but when I packed some for my lunch today, it looked darker and thicker.
  • I think from here on out, I will be using bacon (good with almost everything) and red bell pepper (a little sweetness to offset the spiciness) in my chili.
  • The next CI recipe I have my eye on is a chocolate pudding cake.

Friday, January 9, 2009

RR's Southwestern Pasta Bake

I have the Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats (Clarkson Potter/Publishers; New York; 2005) cookbook and I've made a handfull of recipes from it; most of them have been very tasty. I'm a big fan of RR and I'm rarely disappointed with her creations so I'm anxious to try lots of things in this book.

I was in search of something simple last night and as I was flipping through the book (with hardly any pictures = bad), I came across the Southwestern Pasta Bake. Because there are only 2 of us, I halved the recipe below, which is for four (but I've found when RR says for four, it could usually serve more than that). So below is the recipe from the cookbook. In parenthesis next the ingredients are my notes.

Southwestern Pasta Bake

Course salt
1 lb penne rigate or cavatappi (I used whole wheat penne)
2 T vegetable oil
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground corriander
2 T chile powder
Course black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
2 c Milk (I used skim because it's what I had; would have been better with whole!)
3/4 lb [or 2 1/2 cups] sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded (even by halfing the recipe, I used 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (I omitted because I didn't have any)
1/2 c fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (by halfing the recipe, I used 1 T dried parsley)

Preheat the broiler to high and position rack 8 inches from the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salk the boiling water and cook pasta until slightly undercooked - a little chewy in the center.

While the water is coming to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with cumin, corriander, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet and cook until slightly brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos and continue to cook for 5 minutes. While the chicken is cooking with the onions, make the Cheddar sauce.

In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat, then whisk in milk. When milk comes to a bubble, stir in cheese, cilantro, and parsley with a wooden spoon (I continued with the whisk). Season with a little salt and pepper and remove the cheese sauce from the heat.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it back into the large pot, add the contents of the chicken skillet and all the Cheddar sauce, and stir to combine. Transfer to baking dish and place under the broiler to lightly brown.

My thoughts:

  • It was difficult to tell when the chicken was browning because there was so much seasoning! Below is raw chicken with seasoning.

  • I believe I used too much seasoning on the chicken because as I was biting into the pieces, it was kind of gritty. My fault though because I added more seasoning than called for but I was nervous of it being too bland (and I used only .83 lbs chicken).
  • The little extra cheese I added was delicious!I left if it under the broiler for too long so the top got hard. I think you could almost not do the broiling part and just serve it from the pot after being mixed together.
  • The dish was very flavorful and I very much enjoyed it (except for the grittiness).
  • When Greg walked in the house, he said it smelled like tacos, so I guess it was pretty southwestern!
  • Thank you Rachel... I loved it!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I've been wanting to start a blog for quite some time and after months of brainstorming what the topic would be, I've finally decided: Cooking. I am a big time foodie and always trying new recipes. Many have failed, many have been a success, and many I have altered. I'm not experienced enough to create my own recipes but I will use this site to comment on/review recipes I have tried. I also plan to do postings on restaurant experiences, as well as new cocktails I've come across. I am excited to read about your comments and expertise in the kitchen. So those of you who have ideas to share, please post!

Me enjoying a Glasbern coffee at the Glasbern Country Inn, Fogelsville, PA. I wish I could remember the contents of this lovely drink. Just a good excuse to return to the Inn!