Friday, February 27, 2009

Special Treats from the new 3rd St. Deli

So Peg and Mark left the office for lunch. A few moments later, Mary calls me to say Peg called and said there is free food at the new 3rd Street Deli (where Dig's Burgers used to be for those of you familiar with downtown Harrisburg). Skeptical, Natalie and I wandered over. There were people inside and we were reading the menu outside. We were confused because there were no signs about free food or that they were even opened. Peg saw us looking in the window and came out to get us. We entered, and to our surprise we were greeted by very friendly servers/owners and were told they were having an open house and that we can help ourselves to a huge buffet of sandwiches. After a server brought us our soda, we dug into some lovely sandwiches - I had corned beef on rye, Natalie had pulled pork on a Kaiser, Mark had chicken liver sandwich and Peg had about 3 various sandwiches on her plate. The sandwiches were very basic but the ingredients were fresh and tasty. The coleslaw was especially good. Then for the grand finale - homemade desserts. Our table had 2 pieces of cheesecake, 1 piece of Oreo cake and 1 piece of peanut butter cake. I hardly give justice to these cakes through description. The slices of cake were HUGE, filled with moist cake, light mouse fillings and decorated with cookies. Delicious!

A slice of the Oreo cake - I couldn't get a picture before we dug into it! It was the best!!!

The restaurant is to be opened for business next Monday or Tuesday. They have an 'afternoon break' special: from 2:00-3:30, with a purchase of a slice of cake you receive a complimentary coffee or soda.

The cafe also serves breakfast - everything from omelets, pancakes and french toast. During the week, they are opened until 3:30. This is rare for a downtown eatery who depends on weekday luncers, but this cafe is opened for breakfast and lunch on Saturdays.

The servers and owners seem so sweet. I thank them graciously for the lunch and I look forward to eating there again soon (they're a hop, skip and a jump away from the office) so I'll post some pictures of other cakes and sandwiches later.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ginger & Spice

Check out my 2nd post on PAadventure blog.

Greg and I love this place! We dine in but more often get take out. We have the same charming waiter everytime we go. Since I've discovered I like sushi, I feel like I want it all the time! Anyway, visit this place if you can!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Honey Barbecued Chicken

I tried this recipe two nights ago because I needed a main dish recipe. Read on....

This recipe comes from the 2005 Taste of Home Cookbook.

2 broiler/fryer chickens (3 pounds each), cut up
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large onions, chopped
2 cans (8 ounce each) tomato sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Place chicken skin side down in an ungreased 13-in. x9-in x2-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine the remaining ingredients; pour over chicken.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn chicken and bake 20 minutes longer or until chicken juices run clear, basting occasionally with sauce (I did make sure I basted the legs about every 15 minutes). Serves 8.

I thought this sounded delicious and most importantly, easy.

I halved the recipe and used 6 chicken legs. I really enjoyed the sauce because of the contrasting honey and hot sauce (I used more than it called for of each) but Greg was not a big fan of the dish as a whole - because of the legs.

The sauce is really thin; baking it on the chicken thickens it up. Maybe if the sauce simmered for awhile in a saucepan, it would be thick enough to use on grilled chicken. I'll try it when the weather warms up. Or I will just pour it over boneless, skinless breasts and bake.

I just gave a friend this recipe to use on smoked ribs. I don't know if he will try it but it may be good.

As Greg told me, everything can't be a success!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Fastnacht Day!

In celebration of Mardi Gras, I splurged on a lovely box of fastnachts (not to eat all alone but to share with the office)! Yesterday I read an article in the Patriot News about fastnachts, which inspired me to call the PA Bakery and reserve a dozen to pick up in the morning. I am so glad I called ahead because the bakery was packed this morning! There were some disgruntled patrons and the ladies behind the counter were a bit unorganized but the fastnachts were rolling out the door at a good pace. I ordered 6 with granulated sugar and 6 with powdered sugar. Pillowy and fresh, these are a delight!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding

We've been making this for so long. It's the best! It's from Paula Deen. This dessert is a go-to for family parties and church potlucks!
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessman Cookies
6 (or as many as you like - I've done it with as little as 2 but more is better) ripe bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 5-oz. package French vanilla pudding
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups heavy cream, whipped (A 12-oz. container of Cool Whip can be used if desired)

Line a 9x13x2 glass baking dish with cookies. Cut to fit if needed. Evenly top cookies with slices of banana. With a mixer, beat pudding and milk. In a large bowl mix by hand the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk; add whipped cream and mix. Then stir in pudding mixture. Pour over bananas. Top with a layer of cookies. Refrigerate until serving.
I made this last night because we were all hungry for it but didn't have exactly all the ingredients. We used vanilla snaps, which were good but not nearly as good as the Chessman. I also only had 2 bananas to slice up. Because I was running short on the cookies after I lined the bottom on the pan, I put the remainder of them in a food processor and sprinkled the crumbs on the top.

Again, ideally there should be more banana slices and the cookies should be the Chessman.

The cream cheese/whipped cream mixture and the pudding mixture before combined.

The cookie crumbs I used for the top. Ideally, it's covered with Chessman cookies, which looks really neat!

However, even with the alterations to the recipe, it was still very delicious to the point where I had to make myself stop eating it!

Bacon-Wrapped Halibut with Seared Cherry Tomato Sauce and Smashed Peas

I was starving last night but had no desire to go to the grocery store so I had to come up with something using the ingredients around the house. I flipped through Rachel Ray's Express Meals and found this - you all must think I am obsessed with RR but I do have 3 of her cookbooks and I'm almost always pleased with her creations. I did a lot of substitutions with this recipe because I did not have halibut (but had tilapia), a lemon for zesting, cherry tomatoes or fresh parsley. Nevertheless, I went forward with what I had and it was a hit with my mom and sister!

4 6-ounce halibut fillets
salt and pepper
8 center-cut bacon slices
3 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 10-ounce boxes frozen peas
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, a generous handful (I used dried)
zest of one lemon (I used a few splashes of lemon juice)
3 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream (I used heavy cream)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used 14 ounces of crushed tomatoes)
1 large garlis clove, chopped
1/4 cup white wine (I used cooking white wine - not as strong but still tasty)
1/4 cup chicken stock, plus another 1/4 cup to reheat peas if necessary
1/2 cup fresh basil, about 10 leaves, chopped or torn

Season the halibut fillets with the salt and pepper, going easy on the salt. Arrange 2 bacon slices side by side, overlapping slightly. Place one end of a halibut fillet on the edge of the bacon slices. Working a spiral fashion, wrap and roll the bacon around the fish, pulling gently on the bacon to make both ends up on the same side of the fillet. (This is prevent the bacon from unraveling as it cooks.) Reserve the fish in the fridge while you get the smashed peas working.

To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the EVOO, once around the pan, then 1 tablespoon of the butter and the onions. Saute the onions for 2 minutes, then add the frozen peas, and raise the heat a bit. Stir the peas to heat them through and allow the liquid to evaporate. When the peas are heated through, add half of the parsley, the lemon zest, half and half or cream, salt, and pepper to the pan and smash all together using a potato masher or fork. Turn the heat off and cover the peas with a lid or some foil to keep them warm.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the EVOO. Add the bacon-wrapped halibut to the hot skilelt, bacon-end side down first, and cook them for 2 or 3 minutes on each of the 4 sides. Don't turn the fillets until the bacon is crispy looking on each side.

While the halibut cooks, start the seared cherry tomato sauce. Preheat a small skillet over high heat with the remaining tablespoon of EVOO; once it is screaming hot add the cherry tomatoes, season them with the salt and pepper, and sear them for 1 minute without moving them.

Turn the heat down to medium and shake the pan, add the garlic, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Next, add the white wine and cook until it has almost completely evaporated, then add 1/4 cup chicken stock. Bring the sauce to a bubble and remove it from the heat. Add the basil and the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir them to combine and melt the butter.

If the smashed peas need to be reheated, put the pot over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of chicken stock, and stir until the peas are steaming.

To serve, spoon a portion of the smashed peas in the center of a dinner place, arrange a bacon-wrapped halibut fillet on top of the peas, and top it with some of the seared cherry tomato sauce and the remaining parsley.

I must say, this picture isn't too impressive, but it was delicious!

Like I said before, I used tilapia fillets. They varied in size so the larger ones I used 2 pieces of bacon and the smaller, just one. I found that the fish cooked quicker than the bacon so at the end of the cook time, I had to jack up the heat to get the bacon crispy. And the fish was falling apart too!

I had trouble smashing the peas. I couldn't find a potato masher and a fork wasn't working well so I left most of them whole, which worked out fine too. When it came time to serve the peas, they were still very hot but I added some chicken stock just to add more flavor.

Since I didn't have cherry tomatoes, I used about 14 ounces of crushed tomatoes so it turned out to be more of a puree than a chunky sauce like RR intended. But with the stock, butter and basil, it tasted very yummy!

Many flavors come together well in this meal. It hit the spot! Sometime, I will try the recipe again when I have halibut and cherry tomatoes.

From now on, I think I'll prepare peas like this - I love the finely chopped onions, s&p, cream and chicken stock!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Mary has been raving about this recipe so I've been anxious to try it. I was not disappointed! There are a lot of dirty bowls after the process, but this is very easy to make. A very special dessert that I even enjoyed for breakfast this morning.

From Cooks Illustrated:

2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used a Hershey's Special Dark Baking Bar)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I read this wrong and only used 1 tsp!)
1/3 cup whole milk (I used 2% because it's what we had)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg yolk

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Stir instant coffee into water; set aside to dissolve. Stir together 1/3 cup cocoa, brown sugar, and 1/3 cup granulated sugar in small bowl, breaking up large clumps with fingers. Melt butter, remaining 1/3 cup cocoa , and chocolate in small bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water (I didn't do this - I just used a small saucepan and kept my complete attention to it to prevent burning); whisk until smooth and set aside to cool slightly. Whisk flour and baking powder in small bowl to combine; set aside. Whisk remaining 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla, milk and salt in medium bowl unil combined; whisk in yolk. Add chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is evenly moistened.

Pour batter into prepared baking disk and spread evening to all sides and corners. Sprinkle cocoa/sugar mixture evenly over batter (cocoa mixture should cover entire surface of batter); pour coffee mixture gently over cocoa mixture. Bake until cake is puffed and bubbling and just beginning to pull away from sides of baking dish, about 45 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool cake in dish on wire rack about 25 minutes before serving.

Melting the cocoa, chocolate and butter.

All the bowls of mixtures

Mixing the chocolate into the egg mixture. I thought the colors here are intense and would make a nice photo.

The final product right out of the oven.

Served up with vanilla ice cream!

Black Bean Soup for Two

The other night I grabbed two cookbooks from the shelf and began flipping through. Out fell a cute, brand new birthday card for grandpa. A minute after looking at the card, I realized my grandpa's birthday was three days away (Feb. 21). So I quickly had my sister sign (we signed for my brother) and sent it off to him. What perfect timing! Since that was a sign of fate, I thought I'd have luck with a recipe from the same book. Turns out, I did!

This recipe comes from the Taste of Home 2005 Recipe Collection

1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced (I think pressed would be better)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used closer to 1 teaspoon)
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 ounces) vegetable or beef broth (I used beef and recommend it)
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice (I used the juice from 1/2 a lime)
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I did about 5 shakes)
Ground pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in cumin, oregano and chili powder; saute 2 minutes longer. Add tomato sauce, beans, broth and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in lime juice; simmer 10-15 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf. Add pepper sauce and pepper.

To me, this is a different take on black bean soup than I'm used to, which is an almost pureed, thick black mass. This is soupier and the beans remain whole.

There are so many wonderful flavors going on in this soup! I love that you can distinctly taste the beef broth, tomatoes, pepper and lime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smokin' Meat with J

On Monday, after Bec and I were exhausted from our photo shoot, Jesse served up some mean smoked pork butt. He spent quite a long time setting up the smoker, heating it with his fancy wook chips and preparing the pork with a rub of sugar and spices. The smoking of the meat took a few hours.
I have had smoked foods at restaurants and my mom has smoked salmon on cedar boards in the grill, but this was the first time I've seen a smoker and learned about the process. Some people really enjoy the smoked taste and some don't. I know for sure that I do and I can't wait to try more from Jesse's smoker.
For all the details on the process, check out his smoking blog!

The Smokin' Chef enjoying his creation.

Two slices of the pork served with rice and broccoli.

Smoothie Time

I think several people out there have gone through a smoothie phase where you get obsessed with blending yummy fruit drinks (or as Greg calls them, fruit frappés). I was in this phase a few summers ago but just recently I've been thinking about making smoothies more often.

This was my concoction this morning:

  • a container of strawberry yogurt
  • about 1/2 cup apple juice
  • about 5 frozen fresh pineapple chunks
  • a sliced frozen banana
  • a squeeze of light agave nectar (a little goes a long way)

All into a blender and out comes a sweet drink with a large portion of your daily dairy and fruits.

I decided to experiment with the agave and it gave it a surprisingly sweet tinge, similar but distinctly different than honey.

Whenever our bananas over rippen and we don't have time to make banana bread, we throw the entire banana into the freezer. Then just let it sit for a few minutes to thaw a bit before it's peeled and thrown into the blender (frozen banana is always the base to my smoothies).

Have fun playing with whatever fruits you have in your kitchen! The sky is the limit with combinations. I almost always use yogurt, a frozen banana and orange juice (we just didn't have any this morning).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm a PAadventurist!

I am now a contributing blogger for PAadventure, a blog through the PA Tourism Office.

This website celebrates all the treasures of Pennsylvania. From the historic landmarks, to state parks, to unique festivals and eateries, PAadventurists tell their experiences about Pennsylvania.

I will be posting an entry once a week. If you have any ideas on places I should visit, please let me know.

Don't forget to look at the PAadventurists section. At the bottom of the page is my bio and another lovely photo Rebecca took of me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spinach and Goat Cheese Chicken Rolls

Continuing with our eating healthy plan, I looked through Rachel Ray: 365 No Repeats and found this delicious recipe.

4 6-ounce chicken breast halves (I used 3 large breasts)
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
Zest and juice of one lemon (Important - I recommend juice of 1/2 lemon - entire lemon made the sauce too lemony)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
All-purpose flour for dredging, plus 1 tablespoon
4 tablespoons EVOO
3 garlic cloves
1 small yellow onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (from 4 sprigs)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (I didn't use because I didn't have - dried would have been good too)
3 tablespoons diced roasted peppers

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle a little water in food storage bags. Place 1 chicken breast in each bag and seal it up, pushing out excess air. Using a mallet or a small, heavy pot or pan, pound each breast until flat and just shy of busting out of the bag. (Can also be done between plastic wrap)

Wring the spinach dry in a kitchen towel (I didn't want to dirty a towel - squeezing in your hands is fine). Separate it and add it to a bowl. Add the goat cheese and the lemon zest, season with salt and pepper, and mix until combined.

Lay the 4 pounded chicken breasts out on a cutting board. Season them with salt and pepper. Place one-fourth of the spinach-goat cheese filling on each breast, along one side of the cutlet. Roll the chicken breast to enclose the filling, creating a cigar shape, securing with toothpicks.

Season the outside with salt and pepper and then dredge in the sesame seeds and flour.Preheat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Shake the excess flour from chicken and then add to the hot skillet and sauté on all sides for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Transfer to a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the oven to finish cooking through, another 5-7 minutes, until the juices run clear.Place the skillet back over medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO, and add the garlic, onions, thyme, red pepper flakes, and some salt. Cook for about 3 minutes, then sprinkle the mixture with 1 tablespoon flour (I used about 2 T) and continue to cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken stock and thicken the sauce, 3-4 minutes. Finish the sauce with the lemon juice, the parsley, and the diced roasted peppers.

Ladle some sauce onto each dinner plate. Slice the chicken rolls on an angle, and serve atop the sauce.

I added more sauce on top of sliced chicken. I had trouble slicing so this picture isn't too presentable but it was delicious! Just watch the amount of lemon juice!

I served with buttered orzo, as Rachel recommended.

With this meal (and the night before), Greg and I enjoyed a sweet wine that I got in 2006 while studying in France. I was on a school trip in the Loire Valley when we visited a winery that, after the wine is bottled, aging occurs in caves.

This wine is a very sweet dessert/cheese/fruit wine. It is called moelleux and it is from the Montlouis Winery (

Rebecca bought me a set of these handpainted wine glasses while I was in college.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Fractured Prune in Hershey

Sorry I haven't posted in few days. Every day I don't write, please know I am thinking about something interesting to share. This past week I have been really busy and eating on the go so I didn't have time to cook or bake (many people's source of unhealthy eating). Then this weekend we ate out a lot. But tonight, I have a great chicken-spinach-goat cheese recipe I am trying.

Strolling inside for some donuts!

Yesterday, after Greg and I went to choose a vanity for his bathroom, we decided to plurge (dietarily) and visit The Fractured Prune Donut Shoppe in Hershey. The Fractured Prune ( is famous for it's extremely fresh, made to order donuts, topped with as many glazes and sugary toppings you could ever want. When you first approach the counter, you're asked how many donuts you'll be having. Greg and I originally planned to get 2 each but then when it was just a few cents more to get 6, we caved (1/2 dozen for $5.25). We ordered six and the woman waiting on us, turned around, went to the donut making device (Donut Robot) and 'poured' 6 donut doughs into the fryer (can't get fresher than this!). We then told her the toppings we wanted: two Sands (the classic glazed with cinnamon and sugar), one strawberry shortcake (strawberry glaze with graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar), one french toast (maple glaze with cinnamon and sugar), one Beach (Sand with mini chocolate chips) and one Carnival (glazed, topped with Valentine's Day sprinkles). After we paid and found our seats, minutes later our order was called and we got a box of steaming hot donuts. As we opened the box, picked the first one we wanted to try, and bit into the donut, our sugar high began!

The Donut Robot creating the perfect donut while you wait (photo from FP website)

Dipping the hot donuts in glaze and then dipping into the toppings - our servers worse gloves, if that's a concern of yours! (photo from FP website)

The donuts were very warm and the toppings nicely melted together, making the French Toast taste exactly like maple syrup covered French Toast and the strawberry shortcake tasting fresh, sweet and tangy. The donut menu has the classic creations, seasonal specials and whatever combinations you'd like.
After moments of thought, we each eat three (probably equalizing our entire caloric count for the day), but it was a Saturday AND Valentine's Day AND we had just made big decisions on Greg's bathroom project.

We had a lot of cinnamon today... no wait, make that SINnamon!

The Fractured Prune was an extreme delight and I recommend trying their donut creations for a special treat. I'm glad this place is not closer to where I live or I'd be in big trouble! Nevertheless, I can't wait to go back and try some other donut concoctions.

There were no survivors.

If you're wondering about where the name Fractured Prune came from: A man bought property in Maryland and after doing some research on the area, he read about a previous owner, Ms. Prunella Shriek. She was a local legend, known for her fierce and competitive participation in sporting events. Most days after a rough game, she'd be injured and have to go home in a wheel chair or with cruthes. While searching for a name for his new business and amused by Ms. Shriek, he honored her by naming his shoppe The Fractured Prune. Later, franchises of the store started opening up in several locations.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Last evening I was in the mood to bake something sweet. Mary recommended I make these Chewy Chocolate Cookies from Cooks Illustrated. She made chocolate chip cookies from CI and gave me one and I was thorougly impressed with the size (mine usually don't stay thick). I was not disappointed with this recipe! Mary recommended that you use a 1/4 cup to measure out the size of the dough balls. I did and I got 16 cookies from the dough, exactly what the recipe calls for. I baked mine for 10 minutes. Make sure you let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before you move them to the cooling rack, otherwise they will easily fall apart.

Mary and I were just talking about the complexity of CI recipes. CI recommends fancy, expensive chocolate and they give you instructions on how to chop it. If you're a foodie and you have all day and a ton of money to pour into your baking, I can see how it would be appealing to use the best chocolate chunks and spent lots of time on getting them to be the correct size, but for everyday people who have lots of other things to do, there are ways to cut corners in these recipes - like the use of chocolate chips here - and the results are still wonderfully delicious.
I like that these cookies are so big because one will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth If you're making for a crowd, doubling the recipe would be easy and beneficial.

1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for coating
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (here, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips because it is what I had)

1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper - I used a Silpat. Place ½ cup granulated sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk corn syrup, egg white, and vanilla together in small bowl.

Hershey's cocoa powder is always a staple in our house!

CI says that by using the dark corn syrup, it cuts back on the amount of white sugar in the recipe.

2. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, add corn syrup mixture, and beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bowl once with rubber spatula. With mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture and chopped chocolate; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom. Chill dough 30 minutes to firm slightly (do not chill longer than 30 minutes).

The dough is very dense. By refigerating it, it makes forming the balls easier and less sticky.

3. Divide dough into 16 equal portions; roll between hands into balls about 11/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, drop 8 dough balls into baking dish with sugar and toss to coat. Set dough balls on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart; repeat with second batch of 8. Bake, reversing position of the baking sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), 10 to 11 minutes. Do not overbake.

I don't know if the picture does the size of the dough balls justice. They were huge! I don't think I've ever made a single cookie with so much dough. I also got a ruler out to make sure they were 1.5 inches.

4. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature.

The cookies don't end up being huge but they are very heavy. Still chewy though!

Monday, February 9, 2009

UCP Magic Night 2009

Saturday night was the Harrisburg-area United Cerebral Palsay Magic Night Event. The silent auction followed by a live auction, dinner and dancing was held at the Harrisburg Hilton. The Winter Group was a sponsor of the event. Mark bought a table and invited all of us in the office + a date. After an hour of mingling and bidding on auction items, we moved into the dining room to listen to introductions, thank yous and a video of UCP's services.The theme for the evening was Turning Green with Envy - glamorizing the importance of environmental protection.

The dinner tables had a textured black table cloth and the napkins were a bright, lime green.

The tables were set for 12 and below is a photo of the huge centerpiece. The bamboo 'cage' is around a cylindrical vase of water in which white tulips - from the bloom to the bulb - are floating. I loved to see the entire plant - it showcases nature more than cut flowers or a potted plant. Marc Vickery of Blooms by Vickery of Camp Hill designed the centerpieces.

Photo courtesy of Angie

Hope, Lou and The Chatterband in the background!

Once the live auction begins, along came our salad. Beautiful baby spinach leaves, goat cheese, candied walnuts, shaved ham and a berry (we're thinking raspberry) vinaigrette.

The main course of a tender beef filet, 3 grilled shrimp, mashed potatoes and freshly steamed green beans.

Dessert was presented very well. It looks like a creamy square of cheesecake. Well, it was deceiving because the taste was not good at all (our entire table agreed). It was bland, not sweet and the creme de menthe topping didn't help. The few berries and whipped cream were good though. I do give the kitchen crew credit for the green touch to add to the theme of the evening.The food was catered by the Hilton and besides the dessert, dinner was great. It's usually hit or miss with hotel food, but this meal was impressive.

It seemed to me that everyone at the event had a great time. Congratulations to a job well done by the Magic Night Committee! UCP provides assistance to those with disabilities of all kinds across the state. UCP provides therapeutic and developmental services and programs to children and adults.

Oh and the only thing Greg and I managed to win at the auction was a carpet cleaning for his house (we're practical like that... ha!).

Hope & Greg

Photo courtesy of Angie

The Winter Group women: Peg, Angie, Natalie, Mary & Hope

Photo by Jackie

Curry in a Hurry

Last Friday I needed a few produce items at the Broad Street Market so I decided to grab some lunch while I was there. I am a huge fan of Indian food - I haven't experimented in making any myself, but I am going to try very soon. At the Market, there is the Curry in a Hurry vendor, an extension of Passage to India here in Harrisburg ( I once bought a mango lassi from Curry in a Hurry, but never lunch so I thought it was about time. I ordered one of their specials - Tandoori Lamb Wrap.

In addition to the very well seasoned, tender pieces of lamb, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a special spread, made this wrap flavorful and unique. I am not sure what was in the spread... if I would guess, I would say hummus and basil. However I also got a mild mustard taste in the mix. Mustard seems out of place here. I'm not a mustard fan, so the hint of such a flavor was not pleasing to me. I could definitely smell the basil, which was freshing. The naan-like wrap was tasty and supple.

This wrap put me in the mood for an Indian dinner. I got hooked on Indian food in Roanoke at Nawab ( I am planning a trip to Roanoke in March so hopefully, I can visit.

I have a Tandoori Chicken recipe from Cooks Illustrated that I wll be trying soon.

A photo of my lamb wrap.

Healthier Beef Stroganoff

Sadly, here is another post without a picture. I didn't have my camera, but I really enjoyed this simple meal, so I thought I'd add it any way. The multigrain noodles reduce carbs and give the dish a richer taste.

This recipe is from the Real Simple February 2009 magazine. My changes, are in parenthesis or italics.

12 ounces multigrain noodles (Greg's mom suggests serving over rice, which I will try the next time - less struggling to keep on the fork than these noodles)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and pepper
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
4 shallots, sliced (used a white onion)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (used plain sour cream)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (didn't use)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steak with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In 2 batches, cook the steak until browned, about 1 minute per side (I cooked it a lot longer than this - it could have been because my slices were rather large. I cooked it to a medium doneness); transfer to a plate.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the skillet and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. At this point, I stirred in the sour cream and let it simmer for 30 minutes. I think it helped let the flavors mix and made the beef more tender.

As the meat simmers, cook noodles according to package directions. If you're not letting the meat simmer, start boiling the water before you brown the meat.

Serve over the noodles and top with the yogurt (or sour cream if you didn't mix it in) and dill.

If I would make it again, I would use the Greek yogurt (it has less fat). The only reason I didn't this time, is because I had sour cream already in the frige.

This is the photo from the website. If you can picture sour cream mixed in with the beef, that's what mine looked like.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Iceburg Wedge with Bleu Chesse Dressing

My mom made this simple dressing last night and it was delicious and light. The recipe is from the February 2009 Real Simple magazine.

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
1 head iceberg lettuce, quartered
Black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and 3 tablespoons of the blue cheese. Divide the lettuce among plates and spoon the dressing over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of cheese and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (I added a little salt too).

Our dressing was a little runny so I would add less than 1/2 cup buttermilk and keep adding until it's the consistency you want. Also, because there are only 3 ingredients, I think real buttermilk should be used and not subsituted with milk + vinegar. With just a few ingredients in recipes, I try to use the best quality and freshness I can find.

This was a good beginning to a meal. I also think it would be good with cucumbers and tomatoes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

PA Bakery Cupcakes

Of course our party would not be complete without a sweet dessert! Julie and Pat brought lovely cupcakes from the Pennsylvania Bakery (! They had tons of sugary, whipped frosting, some with Steelers colors and others were topped with football rings. There were vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, all moist and delicious! Thanks, you two!

Chicken Wing Dip

This is one of Greg's favorites! Colleen made it for the party and I think she introduced Greg and I to it a few years ago! It's meant to be eaten with tortilla chips but I seem to remember Greg eating it with a spoon once...

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 block softened cream cheese
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 cup bleu cheese dressing
1/4 cup hot sauce

Combine all. Put in greased pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and slightly browned, 30 minutes.

You can always add more or less hot sauce according to your taste.

Thank you, Colleen (and Josh too)!

Shark Attack!

This is Guy Fieri's recipe!

2 cups ice cubes
1/4 cup lemon slices
1/4 cup pineapple chunks
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup high alcohol content rum (recommended: Bacardi 151)
Splash grenadine
1/4 cup maraschino cherries, plus more for garnish

In a pitcher, add all the ingredients and stir to combine. Garnish with maraschino cherries, if using. Pour into rocks glasses, garnish with maraschino cherries and serve.

I used coconut rum in place of Bacardi 151 and the drink was still very strong! And the slight smell of coconut was nice with the pineapple.
Just as I write this, I realize I forgot to add the grenadine! Ooops!
This was a nice tropical treat!

This photo is from the Food Network website. I was so excited to drink and serve these, I forgot to get a good photo! Mine looked just like this though. When I was adding the cherries, I put in some of their juice too which could have taken the place of the grenadine.

Shredded Beef Sandwiches

I made this recipe awhile ago but I wasn't able to get home that evening to try any. My family said it was good so I thought I'd try it because it seemed easy to serve at a party in front of the TV (my goal was to have no silverware involved).

3 lb. beef chuck roast
1 large onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup white vinegar

Place roast in crock pot (may have to cut meat to fit in pot). Add onion and spices; pour vinegar over all. Cook on low for 11-12 hours or high for 5-6 hours. Once done, discard bay leaves & shred meat with fork. Serve in rolls with reserved juice.

Beginning of cook time.

My roast was frozen and the defrosted it for 10 minutes in the microwave but it was still almost completely frozen. I put the meat in at 7am on low and it was done by 5pm (10 hours) or maybe before that. The outside of the roast was nice and dark but the center was a brighter color (but still fully cooked).

Real minced garlic and ground black pepper would be more flavorful with this.

We ate our sandwiches on rolls with Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce.

We got about 8 servings out of this recipe. The day after, we sauted peppers and onions, heated the meat and made fajitas. We added shredded cheddar, the left over guacamole and made a salsa of chopped tomatoes and cilantro. They were tasty and all Greg's idea!