Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chicken Piccata (but I cheated a bit)

I was planning on making Ina Garten's Chicken Piccata the other evening for dinner, a classic Italian recipe from one of her cookbooks that I've been wanting to try for awhile. On my way home from D.C. on Sunday, I drove by a Trader Joe's and decided to stop because we don't have these stores in central Pennsylvania. As I was browsing the aisles and filling my basket, I came across a jar of piccata sauce. Anticipating my high level of tiredness, I stood in front of the jars and thought, should I buy this jar or continue to collect the ingredients to make my own sauce??!! In a few seconds, I grabbed the jar and continued walking along! I did use Ina's recipe to prepare the chicken.

The jar of piccata sauce... oh and you can see the box of my new favorite granola in the background: HempPlus. Yum!!

Here is the recipe for Ina's entire dish. Again, this time only made the chicken. And I served it with pasta.

4 split boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 cup flour
2 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, reserving lemon halves
1/2 cup dry white wine
sliced lemon for serving
chopped parsley for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment papper.
Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap (but I put a single breast in a sandwich bag) and pound it out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper on a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the eggs and 1 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and then the bread crumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium low heat. Add 2 chicken breasts and cook for a few minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the baking sheet while you cook the rest of the chicken. Heat 2 more tablespoons in the saute pan and cook the second 2 chicken breasts. Place them on the same sheet pan and allow them to bake for 10 minutes (or until done) while making the sauce.
For the sauce, wipe out the saute plan with a dry paper towel. On medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, white wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons buttter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves. Serve one chicken breast on each plate, spoon on the sauce and garnish with lemon slices and parsley.
Here's my chicken from Ina's recipe, the Trader Giotto's piccata sauce and pasta. The sauce was quite good and had some capers in it which gave it a nice tart ting so I'm sure you can add some to Ina's sauce too.

If you're ever at a Trader Joe's I recommend picking up a jar of their piccata!

Monday, July 27, 2009


The concert Arielle has been waiting for since I bought the tickets in March finally came last Friday... Dave Matthews in Hershey. Arielle is a huge fan and knows all his songs and everything about him. Luckily a little over a week before the concert Arielle gave me their latest cd to listen to in my car so I was well prepared. They played lots of songs from their new album, several of which I love. But before the concert, Arielle made us some great treats:
Spicy Pretzels:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 package Ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
15 oz. pretzels
Mix all ingredients together. Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees. Let cool completely on baking sheet and store in air-tight container.

Son of a Peach Cookies
These are a great soft, cakey cookie. We had just bought some fresh peaches in Adams County the week before.
Oh and the name... After I had one of these cookies, I had to run out in the pouring down rain in my long flowy skirt and when I got back in the car, I was soaked and yelled 'son of a peach' and the name stuck. ha!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until well mixed. Add egg and mix. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in peaches by hand. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes.

Picnic Loaves

This is a favorite. We make it for church potlucks, parties, picnics, tailgating... It's from a Taste of Home Cookbook.

2 loaves Italian bread
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (we use McCormick brand)
½ lb roast beef
¾ lb provolone cheese
16 basil leaves
3 small tomatoes, sliced (or however much you like)
¼ lb hard salami
10 oz. salad greens
½ lb turkey
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

Cut loaves in half horizontally. Hollow out some of the bread, being careful not to go get too thin against the crust. Mix the oil and garlic together. Brush oil on the cut side of the 4 pieces of bread then sprinkle with Italian seasoning. On the bottom loaves, begin building the sandwich in this order: beef, cheese, basil, tomato, salami, salad greens, turkey & onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper and repeat layer. Place the top of the loaves on the layers. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour before slicing.


The rain was over by the time the show started and we ended up having a great evening!

And I'm loving this song.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center Happy Hour

Feeling the need to wind down after a long day of work, I asked my dear friend Josh if he'd like to get a drink somewhere. He suggested the newly opened Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center. I had never heard of the locale so I wandered down to 3rd and Herr Streets and found a lovely surprise - an eclectically decorated space with high ceilings, a beautiful bar, a huge stage, and several charming mismatched tables and chairs. We arrived for the 5-7 happy hour where we enjoyed a few beer specials. Last evening there were no special entertainments but the day before there was an open mic night and tonight ($5 cover) and tomorrow (no cover) there are bands on stage (see site for band bios). The atmosphere gave off a great, artsy vibe which reminded me of the arts scene back in Roanoke.

Soon, Mangia Qui will be opening a restaurant in the center and bar food will be available from that menu. Right now, if you need a snack with your drink, you're stuck with a hot dog. There are 4 beers on tap (bottles soon to be added), 3 different wines, and a fully stocked bar for mixed drinks.

With other expansions in the works, including a pool and spa, I'm excited to see how the Center evolves. Can't wait to go back for another HH!

The Center is opened 7 days a week: Mon-Fri 4pm-2am; Sat 11am-2am; Sun 2pm-2am.

Their Facebook page is also full of info on events to come.

My beer with the fun statue in the background that I was so enamored with!
The tables behind the bar and in front of the stage. I didn't get a good shot of the stage, but trust me, it's great, and features a neat, old upright piano.

The photo Josh tweeted while we were there.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Apple Salsa

Last Sunday at my cousin Katherine's baptism luncheon, my Aunt B made a delicious apple salsa with cinnamon and sugar chips. So sweet and refreshing, I had quite a bit of this creation. I was raving to Aunt B about the recipe so she sent it to me. I whipped it up last night and it served as a late night snack and for this morning's breakfast.

This would be a hit at a party (where I first tried it) or served with grilled fish.... or a cheesecake topping.... Lots of options!

Apple Salsa:

2 medium tart apples
1 cup strawberries
2 medium kiwis
1 small orange
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple jelly, melted

Cinnamon & Sugar Chips:
8 flour tortillas (7or 8 inches)
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a bowl, chop and combine apples, strawberries, and kiwi. Zest orange peel to measure 1 ½ teaspoons and squeeze juice from orange. Add zest and juice to apple mixture. Stir in brown sugar and melted jelly.

For chips, brush tortillas with water, cinnamon, and sugar mixture. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges. Place in a single layer on un-greased baking sheets. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with salsa. Makes 4 cups.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese & Arugula

Another super tasty dish from Everyday Foods to brighten our cookout! I'm telling you all, if you don't subscribe to this magazine, you are missing out! It's our family's little monthly food bible! We can always find something in here for parties, dinners, snacks, etc.

From June 2009

course salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound gemelli pasta
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (3 oz)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 bunch (8 ounces) arugula
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water. In a large bowl, toss pasta with beans and goat cheese.

Make dressing: In a bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. (To store, refrigerate pasta mixture and dressing seperately, up to one day.) To serve, toss pasta mix with dressing, arugula and onion.

The dressing was kind of off, so at Bec's we added some herbed olive oil which did the trick! You can play around with the dressing. We found we liked more olive oil than called for. Balsamic vinegar may have been nice too. I also added more cheese and beans. I think I really like beans in my pasta salad!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Foto Friday

Here's to a great weekend!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Campfire Story Thru Photos

On Monday night Rebecca had a campfire picnic in honor of her guest Jamie. Jamie and Bec were good friends in college and studied together in Sevilla and student taught together in Pittsburgh. Jamie now lives in Virginia and it's been awhile since I've seen her so I was super excited to spend some time with her! When us girls get together, we can't help but to take photos. Here is a cute photo of Jamie (left) and Rebecca:

Feeling a little silly, I suggested we do some jumping photos:

While the girls were busy taking photos, the men started grilling. On the menu: sliders with a plethora of toppings. We wanted to try different combos of toppings but didn't want to be stuck with a full-sized burger. Mini burgers were a perfect solution! Here, is the full grill over the campfire.

Here are just some of our toppings - bacon, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, mango & avocado salsa. Not pictured is 4 different kinds of cheese including bleu, sliced avocado, grilled pineapple, pickles, ranch dressing, pizza sauce, bbq sauce, ketchup, mustard and mayo.

I made this pasta salad which contains arugula, goat cheese, cannellini beans, red onions and a homemade vinegarette (recipe to follow):

Here is my plate with the pasta and two burgers. Burger on the left contains American cheese, grilled pineapple and mango & avocado salsa. Burger on the right includes Swiss cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onion, tomato and avocado:

You can tell I thought the burgers were super delicious:

And finally, to round out our night, we tried to use the popcorn popper I bought at the Amish Auction. To begin, I butter and oil up the toaster, throw in some kernels and sit it in the fire. In no time, the kernels were burnt. So we tried again and this time put a lot more olive oil in the toaster and Bec took charge. By keeping the contraption at a safe distant above the flames and by shaking constantly, we had some delightful popcorn in about 10 minutes! It was so successful Bec made us another batch! This toaster was the best $2 purchase I've made in quite awhile!

It was completely dark outside so we had to run inside to get good pix!

We had a great time eating our sliders and visiting with friends. Rebecca - let's make this a more regular event! Thanks for the hospitality, Siors!

Photos by Bec.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chipotle Chicken and Rice

This is a very easy and yummy dish! I was craving something filling yet tasty and this hit the spot! From the July/August Food Magazine:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lbs) - I used bone-in thighs and just removed the skin
salt and pepper
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise.
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced - next time I will use only 1; 2 made it very spicy
2 large tomatoes, diced large
1 cup long-grain white rice - I used Basmati because it's what I had
lime wedges, for serving
chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown chicken on both sides, about 6 minutes total; transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot (if necessary, add a bit of water to release browned bits).

Add garlic, cumin, and chiles; cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water and return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook 25 minutes.

Stir in rice, making sure it is completly submerged in liquid. Replace chicken, cover and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes more. Serve with lime wedges and cilantro.
I used this beautiful Dutch oven but things tend to burn quickly in this cookware.

A new goal of mine is to work on the presentation of my food photos. These photos don't look too appetizing but the meal was delicious, if I do say so myself!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chili Lime Peanuts

For this recipe, I was on the search for salt free, dry roasted cashews, as the recipe calls for, but I couldn't find them at the grocery store but I did find salt free peanuts. I decided they would be just as good for this sweet and spicy snack. The recipe is from the June 2009 Everyday Food magazine:

2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest (I used the juice of 1/2 a lime instead)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large egg white
3 cups raw unsalted nuts (peanuts, cashews, a combo)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, using the back of a wooden spoon, grind salt with lime zest (or juice). Add brown sugar, red pepper flakes and egg white. Whisk together until frothy. Add nuts and toss to coat.

Spread cashew mixtures in a single layer onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 - 20 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Before they're tossed in the oven

These are a little well done so I recommend checking them after 15 minutes.

Very tasty... a nice bite but the sugar makes them sweet so you can easily eat handfuls at a time!

Perry County Amish Perochial School Auction

On Saturday, Rebecca and I enjoyed one of my favorite summer activities - going to auctions. I've been to 3 estate auctions in the past few months and got some really great things - chairs, tables, glassware, silver serving pieces, jewelry, etc., but the annual Amish auction is a special treat. With 4 auctions going on at once, it's hard to stay focused on one auction at a time. After we got some homemade donuts and mint tea, we looked at the 30-plus handmade quilts, which are the biggest items of the auction. I truly appreciate the fine workmanship of the quilts but they are simply not my taste. Every year I'm tempted to get one but I don't love them enough to drop $400 on one! Then again, as I continued to remind myself as my biding card flew up in the air for glassware, the proceeds benefit the Amish school!

Here are the fresh donut bites that are made right before your eyes!

Even though it was a super hot day, I needed to try the chicken corn soup. It was worth the burn!

One of my favorite aspects of all the food at the auction is the pony-churned ice cream. Here you see the pony as he is walking in circles, churing the ice cream in a wooden barrel.

Here are bowls of shoe fly pie waiting to be topped with the fresh ice cream.

I had never had elderberry pie before so I bought one. I was super excited to try it because it looked delicious and I knew the Amish ladies would have made it the best it can be.

I get home, slice a piece, take it out by the pool, ready to work on my tan, and I dig in... Eww... Elderberry is just not for me. Bitter and ever-so-slightly sweet with tons of large seeds... not a fan. I hope someone else in my house enjoys the rest!

Stay tuned... at the auction I bought a popcorn popper for the campfire and I'm testing it out at Bec's house tonight!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Herb's Herbed Shrimp

This is the second time in two weeks that I've made this shrimp on the grill! I got the marinade recipe from the Mystic Seaport Seafood Secrets Cookbook: Volume 2. My mom and I picked this book up when we were visiting Mystic, Connecticut back in 2003 during my college search.

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, deveined - with or without shells (I peeled mine but you can also keep them on until done on the grill)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced parsley (I used fresh)
2 teaspoons tarragon leaves (I used dried)
6 cloves garlic, minced
Generous amounts of freshly ground salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. Let marinade for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Cook in grilling baskets on a medium-high heat grill until done, 3-4 minutes per side.

Here, the little guys were just thrown on the grill.

Perfectly done!

Photos by Bec.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grilled Corn With Cilantro Salt

I'm always hesitant to grill corn. I prefer the method of boiling because it's what I'm used to but the July edition of Martha Stewart Living presented me with some inspiration to try corn on the grill. The recipe says to remove the silks of the corn and tie back the husks, placing the corn kernels directly on the grill. We however, misunderstood the directions (must have been that sangria kickin' in) and put the the husks back over the corn. It still worked out very well. The cilantro salt was quite delicious.

For 4 ears of corn:

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 ears corn (in their husks)
Unsalted butter, for serving

Preheat grill to medium. Mix together cilantro and salt in a small bowl.
Pull back each corn husk, leaving it attached to the cob and remove the silk. For each ear, cut off a piece of husk, and tie it around the remaining husk to form a bundle.
Grill corn, turning often, until slightly charred and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve cobs with butter and sprinkle with cilantro salt.

Most often, my dinner guests are put to work. Here, Jesse and I are husking and he apparently said something funny which is very typical of him!

The cilantro salt.
After you generously roll your ear (of corn, that is) in lots of butter, sprinkly with salt, but use sparingly. I think Bec can attest to the fact that it's very easy to oversalt with this stuff!

The corn fresh from the grill!

Photos by Bec

White Sangria

Yesterday, I was very happy to be able to spend the day with my dear friends Rebecca and Jesse. I always want to cook for them and they're so great at wanting to help too. So between getting a little too red by the pool and deveining shrimp (gross!!), we mixed together a scrumptous white sangria from the Paula Dean July/August magazine.

1 bottle dry white wine (but we used a Niagra wine, which is sweet)
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur (Cointreau)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
24 oz. lemon-lime soda
1/2 lemon sliced (we used a whole)
1/2 lime sliced (we used a whole)
1/2 granny smith apple sliced (we used a whole)

In a large pictcher, combine all ingredients except soda. Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour. Add soda right before serving with lots of ice!

A few glasses of this is a perfect afternoon treat!

Photos by Bec

Summer Party Series - Wrap Up!

Well it's been three weeks since Arielle's graduation party and I think I've finally recovered! I just wanted to post a few more photos Bec took and document some of the little things we (my parents and I) did to make the day special.
Here is the beautiful girl of the day! I bought her a cake from Wegmans: white cake with vanilla buttercream icing stuffed with fresh strawberries. It says Congratulations Arielle! Good luck at Franklin & Marshall. Like I've said before, I highly recommend the cakes from Wegmans!
This was a little area where we put out a few photos of Arielle for guests to look at. I also got a large mat for a photo of Arielle and gold pens for all her friends and family to sign and write their well-wishes to her.

My mom and I had these cute napkins printed from the Freckled Frog in Harrisburg.

These are a special treat I was so excited about - personalized fortune cookies! Arielle chose strawberry flavored cookies and we came up with 5 inspirational quotes to put on the fortunes, along with Congrats, Arielle! Fancy Fortune Cookies is a great company to work with - they were delivered promptly and super fresh! Our little cousins really enjoyed opening the little individually wrapped cookies and collecting the fortunes!

This is an idea from Martha Stewart. I collected mismatched glass containers to use as votives and wrapped some ivy from our garden around the top. The ivy leaves were so large and far apart on the vine, so they didn't have the effect I wanted. Next time I will have to buy some fully greenery.
I had a great vision for the buffet centerpiece: A huge vase with a smaller vase inside and sandwiched between the two, limes and lemons with a ton of flowers in the smaller vase. Well it didn't work out that way because my 'huge' vase was just not huge enough. I had to put a few apples on the bottom of the big vase, but the flowers in and then put the limes and lemons around the stems and then fill the entire thing with water. It looked a little less neat than I envisioned but I still think it was a success!
And of course I had to include a photo of my new baby cousin, Katherine. She was the cutest aspect of the party! Here her dad holds her on her 22nd day of life!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

PA Lavendar Festival

Two Saturdays ago I spent a lovely afternoon at the Pennsylvania Lavendar Festival in Fairfield. The skies looked ominous but I have been planning on going to this festival for months after I read a NY Times article about lavendar fields throughout the U.S.

The Willow Pond Farm is the host of an annual lavendar festival where you will find more than 2 acres of beautiful and wonderfully fragrant lavendar plants of over 100 varieties. The festival offered pick-your-own lavendar, workshops on lavendar and other herbs, cooking demonstrations, lavendar-related shopping, a plant shop, and most importantly, lavendar-infused foods such as lavendar blondies and lavendar lemonade. Bruster's Ice Cream was also there offering some delicious dark chocolate lavendar ice cream that was absolutely decadent.. the calming scent of lavendar with the rich flavor of dark chocolate... that's a great Saturday afternoon!

Everyone picking their lavendar.

Perfectly straight rows of lavendar.

After picking a handful of lavendar in a refreshing rain shower and sampling some lemonade, I attended the herbal tea workshop instructed by a master gardener at Penn State. For 90 minutes we talked about growing an herb garden, drying herbs, recipes for teas, and sampled 5 different herbal 'teas'. I put teas in quotes because we call it herbal tea but it actually contains none of the tea plant, camellia sinensis, but simply dried herbs steeped in boiling water so it's not technically tea.

The 5 teas we tried were fennel, ginger, lavendar, lemon verbena and peppermint. I was a big fan of the lavendar and peppermint. The ginger was just too overpowering.

We got samples of the dried herbs each tea was made from to taste and smell before we tried the tea: fennel seeds, ginger root, lavendar flowers, lemon verbena leaves, and peppermint leaves.

The tea was stored in mason jars for our sampling.

A recipe for herbal teas:

Put 1/3 cup dried herb in a big Pyrex measuring cup. Add 1 quart boiling water. Steep for 7 minutes. Put a fine strainer over a mason jar and pour tea through strainer into jar. Add sugar if desired. Let cool and refrigerate.

I bought lots of lavendar so I will definitely be making a lavendar brew soon! I also bought a lavendar plant and a stevia plant, which are both thriving well in their respective pots on the porch. As a side, stevia is a south American plant used as a sweetener. It was just approved by the FDA and is used in the sweetner Truvia. I still have to figure out how I will use my plant.

I will definitely be going back to the festival next year, if not before to visit Willow Pond!