Monday, February 18, 2008

The Most Perfect BROWNIES

Recently I've been on the quest for the perfect brownie. Today someone posted the link to this very unique blog - all (or so I've seen) of her recipes are done by video! So you honestly can't mess anything up! And considering I've messed up a few too many brownie recipes lately, I figured trying one more before giving up altogether couldn't hurt. I'm so glad I didn't give up! This is the recipe I've been searching for all along (to my WC sis, you know I LOVE Aunt J's brownies, as similarly pictured below, but this are a bit cakier and a tad sweeter and I think more along Jim's lines of a really great brownie). So after rewinding this woman's video enough times to catch the ingredients and measurements, here you go!

14 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
Optional: nuts, chocolate chips, etc. (I used 1/4 cups walnuts, 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)
See Source link for Kathy Meister's video directions!

Pasta e Fagioli

Oh Sweet Jesus! I've never tried a copycat recipe before but this one was hands down a success!! I'm not really a soup eater when out at restaurants, but when I worked downtown a co-worker and I would often head to Olive Garden for the unlimited soup and salad lunch special. I prefer soups with substance so I opted for the pasta e fagioli and it was so good! Ever since my first day enjoying that fabulous soup I have longed to make it myself. Thanks to I was able to do so. This has been on my list of things to make for a while now, but the husband was on night work this week so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to make a big pot of soup and enjoy it for lunch and dinner all week. I scaled the recipe down to make 4.5 quarts and it filled my big pot up pretty well and would be plenty even for a small family. So for all those who were ever in search of a no-fail pasta e fagioli recipe, this is the one to try!
1.5 tsp oil
1 lb ground beef
6 ounces onion, chopped
7 ounces carrots, slivered (I chopped)
7 ounces celery, diced
24 ounces tomatoes, canned, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans (I used 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup cooked white kidney beans (I used 1 1/2 cups)
44 ounces beef stock
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 tsp parsley, fresh, chopped (I used dry)
2/4 tsp tabasco sauce
24 ounces spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu)
4 ounces dry small dry pasta (I used ditalini - I recommend cooking this separate and adding at after the soup is cooked)
1. Brown beef in oil in large 10 qt. pot until brown.
2. Add onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot.
4. Add beef stock, oregano, pepper, parsley, tabasco, spaghetti sauce (and noodles if you choose to).
5. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 minutes (I simmered for about an hour and a half).
Notes: my soup turned out thicker because I cooked it longer and the pasta went in dry. It's still wicked good though!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I iced it!

Yeah, I love that colored sugar - I can never get enough of it on my cake. A little difficult to see in my awful kitchen lighting, but I used pink for Valentine's Day :)


I've ruined so many baked goods these last few months. With the demise of so many cookies and cakes I was bound to be successful one of these times - so the desire to succeed never left. Earlier this week, one of the fabulous Nesties on the What's Cooking board posted the recipe for America's Test Kitchen fluffy yellow cake. I was immediately drawn to this recipe for a few reasons. 1. I've become a huge fan of the ATK recipes because they always work out for me. 2. My husband loves plain old yellow cake. 3. I still had to have a little success with my baking this week!!

And so it was meant to be, and I'm so proud to say that this cake did not fall flat on me! Which is what usually happens when I bake cake/cupcakes anymore.

I was so ecstatic that I had to post the pictures of this gorgeous yellow cake before I even iced it. I'm 100% confident that it's going to taste amazing, too!

I baked it in a 9x13 pan for transporting ease as I'll be taking this cake into work with me tomorrow - and it took a perfect 35 minutes to bake up.

Source: America's Test Kitchen

Nonstick cooking spray can be used for greasing the pans (proceed with flouring as directed).
Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning.
Makes two 9-inch cake layers.

2 1/2 cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk , room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks , room temperature
3 large egg whites , room temperature
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.

2. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

3. Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

4. Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

5. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Feta

For Christmas, my girlfriends and I all got together to exchange gifts, and my friend Jess's fiance cooked us a fabulous dinner that I'll never forget. He was so secretive when he was cooking and he wouldn't let us know what anything was until it was served. First up... wilted spinach salad with feta - OH MY GOODNESS, this salad (albeit not very healthy) was so freaking good!

Now here we are, 2 months later, and my other friend, Dana, mentioned having a dinner party and she didn't know what to make. This amazing salad was the first thing that popped into my head because as easy as it is, it's definitely an impressive dish. Then, of course, I started craving it, so I made it for dinner last night!

Source: Epicurious

1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach leaves
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, halved, cut into 1/3-inch thick wedges with some core attached
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
Place spinach in large bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat.
Add onion; sauté until brown and softened, about 7 minutes.
Transfer to bowl with spinach; remove skillet from heat.
Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil and cheese to skillet.
Stir to melt cheese slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach; toss to coat and wilt slightly.

Serves 4 - see source link for nutritional info.
This photo doesn't really do it justice, but TRUST ME, it's beautiful and delicious and you will love this!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia

My friend Dana gave me this recipe. I liked it, my husband didn't, but he only likes his fish breaded/batter dipped and fried. So his opinion doesn't count. So if you're looking for a new, easy, FAST way to cook your tilapia, definitely give this one a try! And just so you really understand, I whipped this dinner together SO FAST, it was done before the sun set! I served it with parmesan couscous and brussel sprouts.

Source: Spark People

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1 pound tilapia fillets
1. Preheat your oven's broiler.
2. Grease a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
4. Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan.
5. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes.
6. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Be careful not to over cook the fish.
Makes 4 servings

See Source Link for Nutrition Information

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monkey Bread

Yesterday I got an email from my mom asking me to make monkey bread. Neither of us had ever had it in our lives, but my mom recently attended a party where it was served and was gone within minutes. My poor mom wanted more! I couldn't deny the chance to bake something so of course I was going to make it for her. For some reason I felt that it would be okay to bake in a loaf pan, and I think it would've been fine if I hadn't stuffed 4 layers of sugar coated cut biscuits into it, but in the end I think it turned out pretty decent. Mom's on her way over tonight :)
All of the recipes I searched for were very similar, but since I used Pillsbury biscuits I'll link you to the Pillsbury recipe.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Taco Chicken

Several of us WC nesties get the Kraft magazines sent to us. When DH and I flipped through the most recent edition, we both saw this recipe and knew we had to try it - one problem: I didn't think potatoes really went with it. So I modified the cooking technique since I had some microwavable brown rice on hand.

The original recipe can be found


2 chicken breasts
1/2 pack of taco seasoning
1/2 - 1 cup of hot salsa
mexican blend shredded cheese
I lined an 8x8 baking dish with foil. I sprayed the bottom with non-stick cooking spray. I sprinkled a coating of taco seasoning into the bottom of the pan. I layed the chicken breasts in the pan and sprinkled taco seasoning on top of the chicken breasts until covered. I spooned about a 1/2 cup to 1 cup salsa on top (I recommend 1 cup so you can get some sauce when it's done baking). I covered with foil and baked for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. I removed the foil covering and sprinkled with cheese, and continued to bake a few extra minutes until melted. Serve with rice and sour cream - it was SO easy to prepare and really satisfying - you should definitely try this one if you haven't already!

Husband's Fave: Lemon Chicken

I got this recipe from a friend like 4 years ago that she got out of an issue of Oprah Magazine. If I remember correctly, it was the recipe of an actual bonified chef, and it called for using parts of a whole chicken. As some of you may have noticed by looking through my blog - I only like to eat chicken breasts. So I adapt the majority of my recipes to account for this. I wish I still had the photocopy of the page from the magazine, but it was so disheveled from the many times I had to use it over these past few years I eventually had to toss the original and transfer the recipe to an index card kept in my recipe box. For the record - I googled and searched Oprah's website to figure out if I could link directly to the original recipe, but I couldn't find it :(


Chicken parts (I use 4 chicken breasts)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil (I've found that you can reduce this by up to half and the results are still delicious)
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic (I always use more, and prefer crushed garlic)
1/4 tsp oregano (I don't recall if this called for fresh or dry - but I always use dried herbs)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley (I always use dried herbs)
Salt & Pepper to taste
The gist of this recipe is to broil the chicken, flipping halfway, whisk together the remaining ingredients, then pour over the chicken. The recipe called for heating the lemon mixture in a saucepan. I've found that pouring the lemon mixture over the chicken and continuing to broil produces good results - and minimizes dishes! I always make this in a 9 x 13 pan, lined heavily with aluminum foil. Serve with rice :)

Sorry I can't be more specific, but if you have any questions, you can always email me at