Thursday, December 31, 2009


Happy New Year to All of You!! We just got home last night from all of our holiday traveling. It sure is nice to be home again, recover from the holidays, and get everything back to normal. Due to the travel and lack of time in the kitchen, I have decided to post some of the worst and some of the best recipes from 2009. Posting the worst recipes was easy, but posting the best is very hard.

I decided to pick the top ten favorites based on which recipes were repeated over and over in my kitchen. I figured that if I liked them well enough to make them several times then they MUST BE my favorite?? Therefore, any recipe you see below was probably repeated at least four times in my kitchen this year, if not more. The older I get, the more trouble I have making decisions such as these, so they are in no particular order. (Click on purple links for any of the original posts and the recipes)


I think my favorite cookbook of the year was my Carmine's Family-Style Cookbook. I wanted to buy it for months and months based on it's great reviews and it was totally worth it. I only wished I had bought it sooner. This may sound funny, but their recipe for garlic butter is awesome. Sure, you can whip up any old garlic bread, but this garlic butter is intense. It's something to whip up and store in your refrigerator. You will find yourself making excuses to have garlic bread with everything! The garlic butter is a mixture of 1 cup butter at room temperature, 12 fresh oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons of garlic, 2 tablespoons of Romano cheese, 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley, and 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
Another recipe that sounds funny in the top ten is Paula Deen's squash casserole. I chose this recipe based on the abundance of squash at the farmer's markets towards the end of the summer. I cooked and baked a long with the My Girl Paula girls for about 13 weeks and this was by far my favorite Paula Deen recipe. I loved this recipe so much that I added it to our Thanksgiving menu. It is a mixture of mashed yellow squash, onion, cheese, egg, and Ritz crackers. Definitely one to try if you can find great yellow summer squash.Tyler didn't fare too well in my worst of 2009 post, but he was able to redeem himself for the best of 2009. In all fairness to Tyler, I did try over 69 of his recipes in 2009. Therefore, it makes sense that a lot of his recipes would find their way into both the worst and best categories. In fact, it's actually pretty great that out of 69 recipes, only 3 were bad. And, to be honest, out of the 3 that were bad, two of them were my fault. That's pretty good news for Tyler! One of our favorite Tyler recipes for the year was his recipe for The Ultimate Lasagna Bolognese from his Dinner At My Place cookbook. The picture totally stinks, but I have made this lasagna about 7 times since the end of June! It begins with a a rich, meaty bolognese sauce that is paired with a garlicky bechamel, layered with lasagna noodles. The fact that it takes at least four hours to make does not deter me at all. I took this dish to my Dad's house for Christmas and it was a hit. Don't let the awful picture keep you from trying it.
My husband and I used to love going to Damon's for baby back ribs. Unfortunately, Damon's closed down. While searching Recipezaar this summer, I found this recipe for The Best Baby Back Ribs in Town. This is the first time I have successfully cooked ribs of any kind and loved them. The hickory flavored sauce was delicious and the ribs were fall apart tender. We really enjoyed them on Memorial Day and I have been making them ever since. (Especially if baby backs are on sale). Great for picnics and great for serving to crowds!!
One of my greatest achievements this year has been in bread making. Prior to this year I was very unsuccessful in my bread making endeavors. Several attempts at bread making had discouraged me from trying again. However, I had to take on the bread challenge again when I declared I would cook my way through Stirring the Pot. A HUGE thank you to Tyler for his Parker House Rolls. This was such an easy recipe that worked! Everyone loved Tyler's parker house rolls and I bet I have made them ten times this year.
In an effort to explore more of Tyler's yeast breads, I tried his Wonderful White Bread. It turns out perfectly every time. It is my go to recipe for homemade bread. I have made this recipe with several variations and we love it each and every time. A great way to send sandwiches with my husband and daughter.
There could never (NEVER) be a top ten without a pasta dish! My favorite Nigella recipe is by far her Sesame Peanut Noodles. The combination of flavors and textures is one of my favorites. A quick and easy go to recipe that lends itself well to leftovers. A real favorite of mine that I will make solely for myself to eat during the week.
As far as complete entrees go, this one is the hands down winner! If I was going to pick a favorite meal, complete with protein, starch and vegetable then this Chicken Alla Romana from my Carmine's cookbook would be the one! It also takes a super long time to make, but it is oh so worth it! Potatoes are roasted with onions, cheese, melted butter, rosemary, oregano, and parsley. Breadcrumbs are made from scratch and the chicken is pounded thin and tossed in the flavored breadcrumbs, then sauteed on the stovetop. A sauce is made from white wine (I use marsala), chicken stock, capers, butter, roasted red peppers, and lemon juice which is poured over a crispy chicken breast with melted mozzarella cheese. It is delicious with Spinach in garlic and oil. One of my favorite meals, ever! I will be posting the recipe later today or tomorrow!!
It might be an understatement to say that I LOVE Tyler Florence's recipe for Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies! Dare I say that I never really cared for chocolate chip cookies until I came across this recipe. This recipe has been repeated more than any other recipe in my kitchen this year. The whole family loves it. Tyler's cookies are huge, chewy and chocolaty. The recipe calls for you to measure out a 1/4 cup ball of dough and bake it. Trust me when I tell you to make these cookies big! I sub out the dark chocolate with semisweet and it is the perfect chocolate chip recipe for me and my family! It yields a perfectly chewy cookie with a slightly crispy edge. Apologies to my followers who have heard me talk about this cookie all year. I know I have mentioned it more than I should have, but it is so worth it!
Last but not least, is this recipe for Mexican Rice. This is a terrific recipe if you love Mexican Rice. It is even better leftover the next day as the flavors develop. This recipe was a major discovery for me this year. The recipe calls for you to rinse 2 cups of long grain rice under water for 2 full minutes to remove the starch. This "rinsing the rice" method ensures that your rice is fluffy and not "gloppy and wet". The rice is then sauteed in an oven-safe pan until translucent and then brought to a boil with chicken broth, onions, jalapenos, garlic, tomatoes, and tomato paste. It is baked in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350F. I've made this rice at least ten times and it is always a hit. I even served it at a dinner party alongside enchiladas and fried corn! Everyone raves about it. To save time I use a jar of salsa to replace the tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, and tomato and just add garlic and chicken broth. A quick, tasty and impressive side dish!


Pastel Vasco with Blackberry Compote and Poured Cream from Sunday Suppers at Lucques - a Spanish pound cake with a blackberry swirl inside, served with homemade blackberry compote and poured cream. I think I ate the whole loaf myself!
Tyler's Frisee with Pears, Goat Cheese and Salted Pecans Salad from Stirring the Pot. A salty, sweet, savory, crunchy, and creamy salad that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Peanut butter lover that I am, I cannot leave out Paula Deen's Peanut Butter Pie, which I made at naptime because my son is allergic to peanuts. I can't even tell you what I would do for a slice of this right now ;D
A recipe that caught my attention for it's strange mix of ingredients was Tyler's Grilled Flat Bread with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola, Mascarpone, and Crunchy Red Grapes. I was a little skeptical at first, but it was love at first bite! A great combination that I would've never otherwise paired together!Can you believe that it is going to be 2010? Wow! A whole new year, and decade for that matter! In the next year, I plan on trying to eat healthier. I also plan improving my photography skills, furthering my bread baking skills, finishing my endeavor to cook through Stirring the Pot, and making cheese at home.

A huge thank you to everyone who has followed me in the kitchen this year! It has been a great year of delicious recipes and great friends. I have really enjoyed meeting everyone and reading all your recipes throughout the year. I am looking forward to another delicious year!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Before I think about listing the year's top ten recipes, I must make mention of some of the flops along the way. Here they are in no particular order:

First up from Tyler's Stirring the Pot, is his California Bacon and Eggs. The recipe begins by making a celery walnut pesto, which I had to make in my blender. Oh yeah, celery and walnuts blended into a pesto in a blender - not a lot of fun! Then I scrubbed some yukon gold potatoes, let them soak to remove the starch and shredded them for hashbrowns. While I was doing that, I was frying up bacon and eggs. It wasn't that it tasted bad, it was just way, way, way too many steps and a real pain, not to mention mess in the kitchen! A definite never make again recipe!
Next up are these ridiculous Caramel Apple Cupcakes that I found in the Taste of Home Winning Recipes cookbook. Oh, I thought they were so cute in the cookbook with their little popsicle sticks sticking out of the top. A combination of boxed spice cake mix and melted caramels for frosting.......what in the world was I thinking? They were a horrible sticky mess and even the kids threw them away!!
Lamb Shank Stew with a Russet Potato Top is another of my worst recipes in 2009. I do like lamb, but this lamb was tough. Red wine was added to the stew which made the barley purple and non appetizing, and the russet potato top was pretty hard. This was the only Tyler Florence recipe from Stirring the Pot that found it's way into the trashcan. Sorry Tyler, this one just wasn't a winner for us!
And the final recipe to make the worst recipe list is this Chicken Spiedini Salad, also from Stirring the Pot. Now, to be fair, no fault can be placed on Tyler Florence for this one! It was all my fault. I tried to grill skewers of chicken and sausage on a dying indoor kitchen grill and it was a real nightmare. My indoor kitchen grill died that night, right in the middle of this recipes, and found it's way into the trashcan.

There you have it. My top four worst recipes of 2009!! Did you have any recipes that didn't work out this year?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Product Review: Breville Blender (BBL600XL Ikon 750-Watt 51-Ounce)

I'm still on the road visiting family and friends for the holidays so I thought I would post this product review that has been on my mind for awhile. My goal is to hopefully recieve comments about how you perceive your experience with the blender. I've decided that the blender qualifies as "The most frustrating kitchen tool known to man". Make no bones about it, the blender really frustrates me and I kinda want to know if I'm the only one. Maybe it's all operator error and I can rectify this situation with practice.

For years I have put up with inferior blenders that wouldn't chop ice, blend smoothies, make margaritas, etc. I've dealt with every inconvenience, such as blenders that break, leak, and my favorite of all....spew smoke when their little motors can't keep up with the task. I would say as an adult I've went through at least six blenders all in the $50 price range. In fact, if I come across a recipe that says "get out your blender" then I just start rolling my eyes. Why? Because I know I'm going to have a fight with the darn blender and it's probably going to win.

Let's make a long story short. About six months ago I decided that I would no longer buy $50 blenders. Obviously these inferior blenders were the problem, right? After all, an expensive blender carrying the "Breville" brand name would be like the King of All Blenders. So, I splurged and got a pretty good deal on the Breville blender pictured above. It was real pretty and I was real impressed with the design. My hopes were set real high.

I made a smoothie from Ellie Krieger's new book and the blender whizzed it up with no problem. Ice cubes, no problem. Frozen fruit, no problem. Nuts, no problem. Awesome power, sleek design, but wait a minute....what is that stuff coming out from the bottom of the blender? Oh, how nice! My brand new blender sure does whip it up good, but it leaks like mad. The only way to avoid the leaking is to tighten the bottom with the force of two grown men. If you tighten it too much, then it leaks even more! If the seal is wet it leaks! Good grief, it's like rocket science!
Best of all, the pitcher is made out of glass and if you drop it, it breaks! Good news is that you can order a new glass pitcher for the low price of $40, fun stuff, right?

Brand new Breville blender (bought on sale, using employee discount $119.99)
Replacement glass pitcher (mailed from factory) $40.00
Total blender price for six month's use $159.99

Notes/Results: FRUSTRATING!! As far as blending goes this blender really blends it up. I have complete confidence in it's blending abilities. I would give it five stars based on it's blending ablities and swear by it's ability to blend almost anything. However, tightening up the bottom to the glass pitcher is like guesswork. Is it tight enough or is it too tight? Is the seal wet, did I wipe it off? Is it going to leak? Should I get out the towels? Should I test the blender with water first or should I risk losing my recipe all over the counter? Ugh! I really dislike guessing games like that. Another thing I can't take is hassle. I have no patience. I don't even know how to rate this one. Yes, it blends well, but it's still a hassle to mess with which makes it comparable to every other blender out there on the market.

I've decided that blenders deserve to be coined the worst kitchen appliance on the market. Do you agree?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Traditions: Big Breakfasts

My Mom always cooked up a big breakfast on Christmas morning, usually consisting of eggs, toast, and corned beef hash. My parents and I enjoyed those intimate big breakfasts in our cozy little breakfast nook, all the while talking and laughing about what shenanigans Santa was up to and what our favorite presents were. This tradition is something that I like to carry on with my own family now.

Speaking of tradition.......anyone remember these bowls from the 70's? My Mom had the whole collection, along with matching measuring cups, and a matching pitcher. In fact, we used to have the matching green refrigerator and stove. A special shade of green made popular only in the 70's :D
My Mom used these bowls for everything, heck, she even baked casseroles in them. I inherited these bowls in my early twenties and have loved them dearly since. They remind me of my Mom working in the kitchen and I love thinking about all the times my family held them and ate from them. There is no telling how many thousands of meals have been mixed and served from these old worn out bowls. If I'm in the kitchen, odds are that I'm holding one of these mixing bowls. They are the only set of mixing bowls I own and are some of my most treasured items. I baby them, handle them with care and get very cranky if anyone else fondles them!!
This week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is all about the holidays and traditions. Seems fitting as I took out my Mom's old bowls and set to work on Nigella's Homemade Instant Pancake Mix as part of our big Christmas breakfast.

Now, I must say that I am not known for my pancakes. In fact, I'm really not good at them. I have tried over and over to produce the light and fluffy pancakes that my family adores, but to no avail. I bet I've tried at least six recipes over the past few years only to turn out pale, dense, and heavy pancakes........ until now. I'm happy to say that it seems Nigella's homemade mix is the right recipe for me! In fact, they turned out so well that I forgot to take a picture. They just started disappearing from the serving plate!!

HOMEMADE INSTANT PANCAKE MIX - adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson
For the Pancake Mix:

4 cups flour *I used half white whole wheat and half a/p*
3 tablespoons baking powder **wow - this is a lot of baking powder, but it works well**
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar

Mix the above ingredients together and store in a jar.

To Make the Batter and The Pancakes:
**For every 1 cup of pancake mix, add and whisk together:
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat a dry flat griddle or pan- no need to oil it. Spoon 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons of batter onto the hot griddle and when bubbles appear on the surface of the little pancakes, flip them over to make them golden brown on both sides. A minute or so a side should do it.

**Makes 15 pancakes of about 3 inches in diameter

NOTES/RESULTS: This is the first time I've produced a great pancake! I'm so happy that I tried this recipe. I noticed that Nigella's recipe has a lot of baking powder and I'm not sure if this is what sets it apart or not. Another difference is that I have always buttered or oiled my skillet before adding the pancake batter. I'm thinking that was a big mistake. I followed Nigella's tip and didn't oil or butter the pan and the pancakes turned a lovely shade of golden brown and puffed up nicely. They bubbled when they were supposed to and were so easy to flip. I'm gonna have to say that I love this mix. Too bad I don't have a final picture to share.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I'll be headed up to Ohio tomorrow morning to visit with some of my very favorite people: my Dad and my old childhood friends. I'm taking tons of cookies and Tyler's Ultimate Lasagna Bolognese (now frozen and set to defrost in my car on the drive). I'm wishing you all a wonderful Holiday weekend and I'll see you next week for a recap of my favorite top ten recipes from 2009!!

Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to check out everyone's special post about the holidays and traditions!!

Oh, and I can't publish this post without sharing my favorite presents of the day. I finally got a springform pan and I'm really excited about that. I also got a couple of little crocks for individual casseroles, perfect for french onion soup, little mac n cheeses, etc. I also got a grill pan for the stovetop. I have been pretty busy thinking of things to cook and bake in my new gadgets!! Sweet dreams to me :D

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Southern Lights and Christmas Cookies

Every year at Christmastime, we pile in the car and head for the Kentucky Horse Park. The Kentucky Horse Park is a beautiful 1224 acre park dedicated to horses. The park is gorgeous with it's white fences, tall swaying bluegrass, and over 100 horses of various colors and sizes. Inside the park are riding stables, museums, playgrounds, stadiums, and a campground.

We enjoy the horse park all year round for it's pony rides, but we enjoy the park best of all when it hosts the Southern Lights festival for Christmas. At Christmas, the huge park is turned into a true winter wonderland decked out in every imaginable Christmas light. Once you drive though the display of lights, you can go inside the park for for pony rides, a visit with Santa, train rides, a petting zoo, craft booths, hot chocolate, funnel cakes, kettle corn and all kinds of other goodies. I always feel thankful that we have such a festival of lights to attend each Christmas.

Of course, it's always nice to come home to some home baked cookies! I'm way behind on my cookie baking this year and wanted to submit these three cookies to finish off my Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies.
One of my personal favorites were these lemon sandwich cookies, found on Martha Stewart's website here. A lemony cookie dough sandwiched with a lemony cream cheese filling. A wonderful light and mildly flavored lemon cookie that is just the right size to pop in your mouth! If you prefer a stronger flavored lemon cookie, just add a little more lemon zest to the dough and the filling.

Megan from My Baking Adventures sent me some delicious sugar crusted chocolate sables for our Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies cookie swap. They were so chocolaty and delicious that I had to try and recreate them in my kitchen. I had a hard time getting the dough to come together and might have rolled them in a little too much sugar, but there were still delicious (just not as good as Megan's). They are a lot like a chocolate shortbread, but with an extra little bonus of sugar around the edge. You can find the recipe by clicking on Megan's link above.
The third cookie is a traditional cookie that my mom, my daughter and I make every year, the peanut butter blossom! This year I tried a new recipe on the Hershey website, found here. This is by far the best recipe I've tried so far. They turned out perfectly browned and crisp on the bottom, while chewy all the way through. I may just have to make another batch before Christmas arrives!!

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


In her newest cookbook, Ellie Krieger delivers 150 quick and easy recipes complete with nutritional information, as well as health benefits. The cookbook begins with a quick introduction on nutritional facts and reveals staple pantry and kitchen ingredients which are helpful to keep on hand. The recipes are broken down into six chapters: Breakfast at the ready, Breakfast at leisure, Lunch to go, Lunch at home, Dinner rush hour, Dinner kickin' back, Desserts in a flash, and Desserts extra special. There are various health articles scattered throughout the book, as well as a recipe nutritional data index in the back, in case you want to make any recipe "a la carte". There is not a picture of every recipe, but there are many pictures throughout the book that are very inviting.

I have really enjoyed leafing through this book, night after night, knowing that whatever recipe I choose is going to be healthful. All in all, I have made nine recipes from the book and each one has been delicious and filling. The recipes are well-written and appear to be tested and fool-proof. Each recipe truly is "SO EASY". I would recommend this book to anyone interested in quick, easy and healthful recipes.

The first recipe I made was the Peach Pie Smoothie, a mixture of nonfat milk, nonfat vanilla yogurt, frozen sliced peaches, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and ice. The end result was creamy and delicious, almost like a dessert. The recipe makes two servings coming in at 260 calories, 12g protein and 3g of fiber each. That is one pie you can feel good about eating at breakfast!
Intrigued by the marriage of thinly sliced apple and sharp cheddar cheese, I made Ellie's Cheddar-Apple Quesadillas. A whole-wheat tortilla is filled with thin, sweet slices of Granny Smith apple and sharp cheddar cheese until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crisp. A wonderful breakfast created in mere minutes. This is one that has been repeated in my kitchen over and over.
To satisfy the kid in me, I made the peanut butter and fruit wrap. Ellie spreads 2 tablespoons natural-style peanut butter on a whole-wheat wrap, adding 1/2 sliced banana, and one large pitted, chopped date. Cinnamon is sprinkled over the filling and the wrap is rolled up and sealed in aluminum foil for easy "on the go" eating. Needless to say, I wasn't going anywhere and my wrap was consumed greedily and happily on the spot. I enjoyed the bite of the banana and date and the flavor of the cinnamon really kicked it up a notch. Eat this wrap with an apple and you are well on your way to racking up some serious fiber.
Feeling adventurous, I opened up my package of quinoa for the first time to try the Honey Harvest Quinoa. This ancient seed is a powerhouse of nutrition that can be served as a hot breakfast cereal. A complete protein, with all essential amino acids, quinoa cooks up in about 15 minutes. This version is flavored with chunks of apple and cranberries and is topped with pecans, cinnamon, and honey. This is one seriously filling breakfast. I couldn't come close to finishing my bowl and found myself perfectly satisfied until lunch.
In need of cooked chicken, I tried Ellie's recipe for Basic Poached Chicken Breast. Can you believe that I've never poached chicken before? I've really been missing out! This is a fantastic and fat-free way to prepare fresh cooked chicken for various recipes. The poaching liquid consisted of 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Easy as pie! The end result was perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breast, begging to be used in a recipe. This poached chicken later made a starring role in one of my favorite new recipes, Nigella Lawson's sesame noodles.A big fan of taco salad, I jumped at the chance to try Ellie's healthier version. Lean ground beef, black beans, garlic, chili and cayenne pepper are combined together and allowed to cool slightly. Tomatoes, EVOO, and lime juice are blended to make a "chunky tomato dressing". This wonderful combination sets atop crunchy romaine lettuce and is topped with grated cheddar and baked corn tortilla chips. Hugely flavorful, wonderfully colorful, and extremely delicious. Coming in at 430 calories, 29g protein, 9g fiber how can you not make this one over and over again? It's addictive, in a naughty kind of way!
Feeling lucky to have all the ingredients on hand, I made Pork Piccata with Spinach and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Pork tenderloin is sliced thin, coated in a small amount of flour, and sauteed. A wonderfully zingy and zesty piccata sauce is made from dry white wine (I used Marsala), chicken broth, lemon juice, capers, and garlic and poured over the pork. The pork is served next to garlic mashed potatoes, that have been steamed and smashed with chicken broth, steamed garlic, and one tablespoon of olive oil. A delicious alternative to traditionally fat-laden mashed potatoes. This meal is visually stunning, hearty and delicious. My husband says it's one of the best things I've cooked in awhile. It is my favorite recipe from the book so far!My love for fresh pineapple had me excited to try the pineapple with spicy sugar dip. The combination of sweet pineapple paired with a mixture of sugar, chili powder, and salt is the perfect palate cleanser after a meal. The warmth of the spices and the sweet juiciness of the fruit is like a flavor explosion in your mouth.I have enjoyed each of the eight recipes shown here. Normally if I test eight recipes there will be one or two that were just so-so, but I can honestly say that all eight have been a hit. In fact, several of the recipes have already been repeated in my kitchen. You can count on several more recipes being posted from this book.

In summary, this is a pretty and inviting cookbook with easy to follow recipes using common ingredients. The nutritional information is a treasure trove for anyone who wants to embrace healthy eating. My cookbook is quickly showing the signs of a much-loved favorite with it's wrinkled cover, splattered pages, and hand-written notes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries and Orange Zest

It's time again for Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day! This month our optional challenge was to bake a whole grain Challah with cranberries and orange zest. I was excited to get started for several reasons. I have never made Challah before, I have never braided bread before, I can never find Challah at any nearby market, and I loved the idea of cranberries and orange zest. I had visions of making some wonderful french toast with this bread, but I thought of my waistline and didn't indulge for once!

Next month we will begin baking directly from the book and I am hoping to improve my skills at bread baking with lots of practice! We are asked not to post the recipes, but this recipe can be found by clicking here.

Head on over to Michelle's site, our host, at Big Black Dog. There are some wonderful creations that were made with this gorgeous and festive holiday bread.
I hope you are enjoying the holidays!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nigella's High Speed Hamburger with Fast Fries

What kind of foods did you grow up eating? For me, there were several staples that my Mom cooked often: spaghetti and meatballs, pork chops, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, stuffed peppers, fried chicken, various casseroles, and of course burgers and fries.

Burgers and fries was always a family favorite. I would sit in the kitchen and watch my Mom cut up long sticks of potatoes to fry while she lectured me about the perils of cooking with hot oil. Every couple minutes my Dad would pop in and tell her to cut more potatoes and make more fries. He was always worried that there wouldn't be enough, and he had good reason because they always went fast.

It's really no wonder that Nigella's high-speed hamburger with fast fries has always caught my attention. To me, burgers and fries at home is one of life's simplest pleasures. It reminds me of times when burgers and fries were something you ate at home and not at a fast food restaurant.

Nowadays, burgers and fries are still a family affair. Everyone sits in the kitchen knowing that dinner is only minutes away. Toppings are gathered and buns are toasted and naturally someone is screamed at for getting near the hot oil, only it isn't me for once!

High-Speed Hamburger with Fast Fries- adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson
8 oz extra lean ground beef **I used 95% lean Hereford Beef which is excellent**
1 tablespoon caramelized onions from a jar **couldn't find them in a jar, used my own**
1-1/2 teaspoons buttermilk or plain yogurt
1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
good grinding of pepper
vegetable oil for brushing

Mix the ground beef with the onions, buttermilk, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with pepper, then divide in two and form into two patties, either using a press or by hand. Heat a ridge griddle and lightly brush the burgers with oil. Cook the burgers for 2 minutes on the first side, and then flip them and cook them for another minute. Remove and let stand for a minute or two; this will give you medium-rare burgers. Serve with the fast fries and sandwich in a toasted bun, if you wish, and add lettuce, melted blue cheese, and bacon or a fried, poached, or squished soft-boiled egg, as you like.

Fast Fries:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
9 oz new potatoes, cleaned and scrubbed

Place the potatoes in a freezer bag and hit them with a rolling pin until they are broken into pieces. Heat a frying pan with the oil until hot, then add the potatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes a side with the pan partially covered. Remove the potatoes to a plate lined with paper towels.

Notes/Results: I bought the 95% lean Hereford beef and really loved it. The burger was extremely juicy and you would never know you were eating lean beef. I will be replacing all my ground beef with the Hereford beef from now on. I have never thought to put soy sauce in my burger, but both my husband and I loved the flavor of it. I decided to top my burger with blue cheese and bacon and it was delicious. If you haven't tried blue cheese on your burger, you are missing out. You only need the slightest bit of cheese to add immense flavor. The fries were a lot of fun to make. I smashed up some new potatoes with a heavy bottomed pan and shallow fried them on the stove while I lectured my kids about staying away from the hot oil - LOL! They were the cutest little fries. A real blast from the past!

This week is potluck week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, which means that any recipe is game. Head on over there this week to check out all the different recipes that will be shared. Better yet, pick any Nigella recipe and cook along with us!

What are some of your favorite childhood foods?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homemade Chocolate Milk Mix, Pioneer Style

Thanks again to everyone for your well wishes regarding my back. I am pretty much back to my regular self now and it feels great! Having good health is something that I tend to take advantage of until something drastic happens. Sometimes it seems like life is so hectic and busy that you forget to take care of yourself. Before you know it you come down with a virus or you throw your back out. When my back went out a week or more ago, it really made me think. I decided that it was high time I started paying better attention to myself.

Awhile ago I posted about the glorious five pounds I gained, blaming it on Paula Deen's recipes. The truth is, that five pounds turned into ten pounds. Some of you know how this works. There are the ten or twenty pounds that you already wanted to lose and then there are the five to ten pounds that you somehow managed to gain. Losing and maintaining weight as a foodie is a very hard thing to do. However, here at Stirring the Pot I am determined to do something about it. After all, carrying around any extra weight is not good for your back. I'm proud to say that I've lost five pounds since my back went out. Christmas time is not the best time to try losing weight, but I'm hoping to stick with it :D

Now you're probably wondering "Why is she posting about homemade chocolate milk mix if she's trying to lose weight?" I have to confess that I didn't really make this for myself. I made this for my husband who is an avid chocolate milk fan. Almost every morning he drinks a chocolate milk and eats a banana for breakfast. I decided to try this homemade chocolate milk mix for a new cooking club, Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman. The current theme is breakfast/brunch recipes and this mix was the perfect breakfast treat for us.

All you need are these two ingredients for the mix:
This is really easy to whip up and the mix lasts for two weeks in the refrigerator. While I was making this I was thinking that it would be tasty to grate in some fresh orange zest. Doesn't everyone love the flavor of chocolate and orange? You could also add some peppermint extract, which would be great at the holidays.

Homemade Chocolate Milk Mix - adapted from the Pioneer Woman, find her link here.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces, semi-sweet chocolate pieces (preferably a good chocolate)

Heat cream over medium-high heat until slightly boiling. Add chocolate pieces and turn off heat. Whisk slowly until chocolate is melted and mixture is very smooth. Pour into a container and keep in the fridge up to two weeks. Mix with cold or warm milk, depending on how frightful the weather outside is.

Notes/Results: My husband really enjoyed it! He really liked the fact that there was a whole carafe of liquid chocolate to store in the fridge for two weeks. I don't think it will last that long! After all, it is really like a homemade chocolate sauce and is definitely good for topping ice cream or any other tasty treat.

Head on over to the Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman site, by clicking here. There is going to be a roundup of Ree's Breakfast/Brunch recipes on December 12th and let me tell you, there will be some fabulous recipes! I really wanted to make Ree's bacon, onion and cheddar biscuits, but thankfully I was able to reason with myself :D

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alton Brown's Roast Turkey, Questions, and Awards

Okay, Thanksgiving is long gone and Christmas is in full swing, but let's talk turkey for a minute. Awhile back, I found Alton Brown's recipe for his Good Eats Roast Turkey while searching the recipes at Food Network. I am very big on searching recipes according to their ratings and was surprised to find that Alton's turkey recipe had been reviewed 2709 times and carried a five star rating!! Never in all of my recipe searches have I seen anything reviewed so many times and given such a high rating. I knew that I was going to have to try this recipe for my Thanksgiving turkey.

Here is a quick summary of how the recipes goes. First the turkey is brined. I had brined my turkey last year, using a Martha Stewart recipe and had good results, so I was all for brining another turkey. I prepared the brine, stuffed the turkey in a newly purchased tub large enough to hold it all, and crammed it into the refrigerator in the garage to "brine" for several hours. On Thanksgiving morning, the turkey was rubbed down with Canola oil and stuffed with a red apple, an onion and some other miscellaneous aromatics. It was roasted, uncovered, at a high temperature , 500F, for 30 minutes. After that first 30 minutes, the turkey had a very nice caramel color to it and the oven was reduced to 350 for the remainder of the roasting time, 2 hours.

Alton Brown's recipe for roast turkey can be found here on the Food Network. You can also find a review about this recipe on Teresa's blog, A Blog About Food. Teresa gave the recipe four out of five stars.

Notes/Results: When the turkey was removed from the oven it had an absolutely breathtaking color. It was the most beautiful turkey I've ever cooked. (Too bad I didn't have a chance to take a proper picture of it). My husband carved it up and plated it and we sat down to eat. I was expecting the turkey to really stand out and it didn't. It looked beautiful on the platter, but it tasted just like any other turkey I've ever had. It was moist, but it wasn't anything special. In fact, my mom had brought a small baked ham and everyone seemed to enjoy the ham more. Most of the turkey was left on the platter when the dinner was over. I have to say that I might give the recipe 3 or 3.5 stars out of 5. Pretty on the plate, but nothing great.

This leads to me to the burning question -- DO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY LIKE TURKEY? DO YOU PREFER TURKEY OVER HAM OR DO YOU PREFER HAM OVER TURKEY? For example, my family told me they wanted turkey for Thanksgiving, so I prepared it and they ended up eating mostly the ham. I think people have to have the turkey setting on the table for Thanksgiving, but don't always want to eat it given the choice between ham and turkey. What do you think?


The week of Thanksgiving I was given some awards and I am terribly late in saying thank you! Thank you to everyone who shared these awards with me. I feel terrible it has taken me so long to post them, but it has been crazy here lately.

From Chaya of Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog, I received the Honest Scrap Award! Thanks Chaya!

From Nat of Nat's Baking in New York City, I recieved the Happy Mama Award! Thanks Nat!

From Lissaloo at One Step at a Time I received this Sugar Doll Blogger Award. Thanks Lissaloo!

From Rhandi at Straight up Good Food, I received the Kreativ Blogger award. Thanks Rhandi!

I would love to pass and share these awards with everyone. A couple of these awards ask that you share ten things about yourself. I decided to share ten things I'm wanting to cook and/or bake:
  1. Alex Guarneschilli's Cheese Fondue Hash Browns, found here. Toasty hash brown potatoes cooked in a cast iron skilled and topped with an entire wheel of Camembert - Hello...does that sound delicious or what?'
  2. I'm on a roll here...Alex Guarneschilli's Spice-Rubbed Bacon with Fried Eggs and Toast Soldiers, found here. Alex takes thick hand cut slices of slab bacon, slathers them in spices and fries them. Fries her eggs in the bacon drippings, basting her eggs with bacon drippings while frying. Basting fried eggs with bacon drippings....hmm...
  3. On a roll with breakfast foods, I'd also like to try Pioneer Woman's Bacon, Onion & Cheddar Biscuits, found here. Drool-worthy!
  4. On my Christmas cookie list are our favorite traditional cookie we make each Christmas, the peanut butter blossom (a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss in the middle).
  5. We have really enjoyed the Cheeseburger Soup recipe that I made last month and have made it twice since then. It is one of our new favorites.
  6. In love with Ellie Krieger's new book, So Easy, I've been wanting to make her Emerald Stir-Fry with Beef. A tasty sounding stir fry with all kinds of green veggies.
  7. Tamales. I have always wanted to make them, but I never get around to it.
  8. Jamie Oliver's Pasta with Camembert Cheese, found here.
  9. Baklava, never made it before, but it is one of my favorite things to eat.
  10. Chicken Fajitas - anyone have a great recipe?
Hence, the next question: with the exception of Ellie's Emerald Stir-Fry with Beef, none of the other recipes are very healthy at all. I can't make them all back to back, but which ones should I start with? Which ones sound the best to you?

After all, I think the holidays deserve some decadence, don't you?