June 30, 2008

Cook's Illustrated: Raspberry Streusal Bars

I love picking up copies of Cook’s Illustrated on occasion, and it’s even better when they print one of their special edition magazines. I recently found their Summer Grilling and Entertaining magazine when I was out browsing at the bookstore. What I love about reading their magazines is the detail that they share about testing new recipes - what went wrong, and how they corrected it. It’s not flashy and there’s no advertising, so it’s simply about getting to the absolute best way to prepare the recipe.

We had a get-together to go to this weekend and I wanted to bring along something that would be sweet, but not so sweet it would be overpowering. I read the recipe for the Raspberry Streusel Bars and thought that it would be a nice bar recipe to try.  I also opted to use Trader Joe’s Organic Raspberry Jam since that was what I had on hand. Now, if you want to try this using the brand that was CI’s favorite, pick up a jar of Smucker’s Red Raspberry Preserves. They liked this one due to its flavor and just the right number of seeds in it.
raspberry bars-3

These bars were definitely simple to make and a nice contrast to the other desserts that we had to choose from that afternoon. They were sweet, but not to the point you need a glass of water to wash them down; although a glass of milk would complement them very nicely. A couple of friends thought they were similar to fruit cereal or granola bars. Overall, they were enjoyed by everyone who tried them and only a few were left to have as snacks the next day.

Raspberry Streusal Bars

Recipe by Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Summer Grilling & Entertaining - Summer 2008

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
  • 1/4 cup  dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raspberry preserves
  • 3/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cooking Directions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Line 9x13 baking dish with aluminum foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.

  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, sugar, and salt at low speed until combined. With machine on low, add the butter 1 piece at a time; then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

  4. Measure 1 1/4 cups flour mixture into medium bowl and set aside; sprinkle remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking dish. Press mixture into an even layer to form bottom crust. Bake until edges begin to brown, 14-18 minutes.

  5. While crust is baking, add brown sugar and oats to the reserved flour mixture; toss to combine. Work in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated throughout the flour mixture. Pinch mixture with fingers to create small lumps; set streusel aside.

  6. Combine preserves, raspberries and lemon juice in a small bowl; mash with fork until combined, leaving some berry pieces.

  7. Spread filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping evenly over filling. Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 22-25 minutes. Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 1-2 hours. Once cool, chill in the refrigerator and then remove from baking pan by lifting out of the pan using the aluminum foil. Using a chef's knife, cut into squares and serve.
With the raspberries in this recipe, I'm submitting this to Sweetnick's ARF 5 a Day Round-up for this week. Be sure to check out the round-up on Tuesday evening as there are sure to be some healthy and delicious recipes made by some fantastic food bloggers!

June 28, 2008

Blueberry Smoothie

Something sweet, but not too sweet, that's cool and refreshing - oh yes, a blueberry smoothie is just the thing. I've mentioned on several occasions how much I love Ellie Krieger's cookbook, The Food You Crave. It truly is a fantastic book and you can use her ideas as a jumping off point. Tonight, I wanted something sweet after dinner, but also didn't want a ton of calories which would make me feel like I overate. I started with her recipe for a blueberry smoothie, but had to sub orange juice for the non-fat milk since we didn't have any left (gotta do food shopping tomorrow morning!).

So simple, and honestly, you can just use whatever frozen fruit you have on hand. I used 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of vanilla non-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup orange juice and about 1 teaspoon of honey. Blend it all together and serve. It made about 3 servings, and my Oldest really enjoyed it as well.

I just love something so simple and satisfying! I have a huge sweet tooth, so giving up my sweets is really not an option when I am trying to watch what I eat. I think smoothies are going to be my summer dessert option.

June 25, 2008

Finally... a New Post!

Sorry, for the lack of posting lately. Between a weekend filled with pre-school graduation, end of Little League season party, birthday party and a play date... I got hit with a virus that had me sidelined for a few days. So, no cooking or really anything was going on... when the person who does a lot of the cooking goes down for the count things do tend to slow down a bit. Luckily, I have a Husband who will cook for me in these cases and he did come through and made sure we were well fed the last few days.

Besides getting sick, I also had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday yesterday. I have to say, I got some of the BEST BEST BEST gifts EVER! I've got some new cooking toys!!! The first one I'll introduce you to is my DeBuyer Stainless Steel Swing Mandoline! He actually got me the red one, which is really cool looking. I can't wait to start slicing and dicing - so to speak. I'll share my other goodies later, can't give it all away in one shot, right?

He also made me a fantastic meal, which I didn't manage to take pictures of before digging in... after a few days of no appetite it, it came back and I needed some serious nourishment. We had grilled steaks SMOTHERED in garlic, fried pasta and corn on the cob. Oh, yes, absolute comfort food and one of my favorite meals ever made by My Husband.

Thank you to everyone who managed to visit my blog during the last few days looking for new posts. I promise I'll be back to regular posting now that I'm healthy again!

June 19, 2008

What to do with Leftover Orzo

When I made the Orzo with Toasted Corn and Scallions the other night, I made a bit too much orzo and just set it aside to deal with another night. So, now I had about 1 cup of cooked orzo with a little bit of EVOO on it and needed to make something out of it. After going through my vegetable bins, I came up with 2 medium zucchini, 1 Vidalia onion and an 8 ounce package of white button mushrooms. Since we were grilling that night, I figured I'd just cut up all those veggies and toss with some EVOO and grill them up. Once they were grilled, I tossed with the orzo to warm it up and then added about 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan to it. Now, by the time dinner was ready - My Husband was making the wraps that were warmed on the grill - the orzo and veggies were a bit more like room temperature. I think it would have been better hot. I also ended up adding a bit of Pasta Sprinkle from Penzey's when I took it for lunch the next day.

While I was not in love with this dish, I think I can improve on it. I think next time, I would saute the veggies rather than grilling them. I would also add more seasonings to it while cooking them. And, once the tomato scare is over, I think perhaps toss in some halved cherry tomatoes at the end to lightly saute with the veggies. I'm just happy I didn't end up throwing out perfectly good orzo and I managed to get a side dish and a lunch out of it as well. Not bad in the end.


I'm submitting this to Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast - Every Kitchen Tells it's Stories for Presto Pasta Nights. The round-up is posted every Friday, so there's plenty of time to share your pasta creation this week. Be sure to check in to see what other Food Bloggers made and you might just find a new favorite as well.

June 17, 2008

Strawberry Moon Festival

When I came across a new blog, Cooking in Cleveland, I noticed that OhioMom was hosting a Strawberry Moon Festival blogging event. I'm happy I found out about it as the deadline for submissions is tomorrow, June 18th! If you have some strawberries hanging around, get creative and you may just make it under the wire!

For my entry, I went searching for something to make that would not require me to run to the store and buy more ingredients. I found Fresh Strawberry Jam on the Cooking Light website. Boy, do I love finding new light recipes over there! This is so simple it's almost ridiculous that I needed a recipe to make it. But, having never made homemade jam before I did need some guidance.

strawberry jam-1

If you have very sweet strawberries you won't need to add as much sugar, so let your tastebuds be your guide. My Oldest loves strawberry jam sandwiches, so for his last few days of school he's getting a sandwich made with even more love than usual. If you have some strawberries just hanging around and you are itching to give something new a try, this is worth the little bit of effort. In about 1 hour you'll have jam! Let it chill in the fridge until you are ready to add some to your toast, bagel or English muffin!
strawberry jam-2

June 16, 2008

Orzo with Toasted Corn and Scallions (Summer Gatherings Cookbook)

Then, I have the dish for you! Tonight, I wanted to make something more interesting that the usual pasta to go with baked chicken. My boys love corn, so when I found a recipe for Orzo with Toasted Corn and Scallions in Summer Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends I was sure I had the perfect solution.

Now, the recipe calls for fresh corn on the cob but I opted to use part of a package of a frozen corn I have from Trader Joe's. I imagine that fresh corn would make this dish even better. The combination of corn, orzo, scallions and parmesan created the tastiest side dish. It's hard to describe the exact flavor as there was the sweetness of the corn with the bit of the sharpness from the Parmesan that was simply addicting. EVERYONE loved it! There was maybe 1 tablespoon of it left after everyone had gone back for more and more. This is the second recipe I have made from this cookbook and I know I'll be making more. This is also a perfect recipe to submit to Sweetnicks for the weekly ARF 5 a Day round-up!

orzo with toasted corn and scallions

Our main dish tonight was baked chicken seasoned with Penzey's Northwoods Seasoning. This seasoning is a blend of paprika, thyme, rosemary and chipotle. The smokiness of the chipotle really comes through. We had some left over and will be using it to top salads for lunch tomorrow. Overall, tonight's dinner was a hit with everyone, and I really can't ask for more!

Orzo with Toasted Corn and Scallions

Recipe by Adapted from: Summer Gatherings, Rick Rodgers
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (I used a little less - probably 2 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernals, cut from 2 large ears corn (I subbed frozen organic corn from Trader Joe's)
  • 2 small scallions, white & green parts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package instructions. Drain in a wire sieve, rinse under cold water. Then, toss with the extra virgin olive oil and set aside.

  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook until the corn is lightly toasted - about 5-6 minutes (taste to make sure it's heated if using frozen corn).

  3. Stir in the scallions and cook about 1 minute, then add the orzo and remaining butter. Cook, stirring all together for about 1 minute.

  4. Transfer to a serving dish, then stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day - and a MEME

First things first... I want to send out a Happy Father's Day wish not only to My Husband, but to My Brothers, My Father-in-Law, Uncles, Brother-in-Law and good friends. My Dad passed away nearly 7 years ago, and I do miss getting to wish him a Happy Father's Day each year. He so would have enjoyed my 2 boys, but I figure they need someone watching over them as they grow older and he's the perfect one to do it.

To celebrate this day, I made My Husband one of his favorites, BBQ Baby Back Ribs. There's really not an actual recipe for this one - other than patience and looooow heat on the grill. They take just under 2 hours to grill this way, and they really are worth the wait. I do something most of the grill masters will tell you never to do... I do a light basting of bbq sauce on them before they go on the grill. I know, you aren't supposed to do that, but I find that the flavor of the sauce has more time to get into the meat this way. So, I ignore the rules on this one. Then, I go and baste them a couple more times when they have been cooking 1 hour, then at 1 hour and 30 minutes. I used KC Masterpiece Original BBQ Sauce this time around, I really love the flavor and didn't want to mess with them since it was for My Husband's special day. I'm not the biggest fan of ribs - too messy and not enough meat for all the work. This time, however, I lucked out and the baby back ribs I bought had to be the meatiest I've ever gotten from my butcher! I even enjoyed them! My Oldest is now a big fan of this "eat with your hands food", and he got a kick out of trying to eat everything off the bones until they were cleaned... I'll have to make them more often this summer so he can perfect his technique!

Now, I have a bit of catching up to do today. I've been tagged with a MEME by 3 different food bloggers: Megan of Megan's Cooking, Cara at Cara's Cravings, and Jaime at My Burnt Toast. Sorry for the delay, Ladies, but I'm sure you all understand how things get busy!

The rules: Each participant answers questions about himself. At the end of the post the participant tags 5 people. Their names are posted letting them know they’ve been tagged. They then have to read the participant’s blog. The tagged let’s the tagger know when he’s posted his answers. Here we go!

What was I doing ten years ago?
Let's see... we were still living in an apartment, and soon as summer hits we always start heading for the shore... so, my guess is that if it was a weekend we were either hanging at the boardwalk or the beach. Weekdays... just working.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:
1. Food shopping
2. Return videos
3. Make dinner to celebrate Father's Day
4. Catch up on ironing (scary how much there was!)
5. Watch The Next Food Network Star so I can post my round-up for Edible TV tomorrow.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Make sure we put enough aside to cover college tuition for both boys, take some incredible vacations, spend lots of time with all of my loved ones.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
1. chocolate
2. vanilla yogurt with granola mixed in
3. graham cracker sandwiches with icing in the middle (haven't had them in years, but boy are they delicious!)
4. Special K Protein bars
5. fruit

Places I have lived:
Various locations in Kansas City, MO
Northern NJ

I tag:
Ruth @ Once Upon a Feast: Every Kitchen Tells it's Stories
Cate @ Sweetnicks
Deborah @ Taste and Tell
Stacey @ Simply Tasty
Katie @ Good Things Catered

Have fun!

June 14, 2008

Deep Dark Chocolate - mmmmmmmm

It's taken me awhile to post about this, but I've been savoring each decadent bite ever so slowly. I was a lucky recipient of Amano Artisan Chocolate bars about a month ago. Over at Blake Makes they had one of their give aways and I was a lucky winner!

Now, when I received the 3 precious bars of dark chocolate I tried to find some way to incorporate it into a recipe but just couldn't find the right way to showcase this chocolate. I only had 2 ounces each of their Madagascar, Cuyagua and Ocumare bars. Each bar has it's own personality based on where the cocoa beans originated.

The Madagascar had a slightly bitter flavor upon my first tasting of it. If you allow it to slowly melt on your tongue, you'll taste the slightest hint of citrus flavors.

When I tasted the Cuyagua bar, it had a much more intense flavor and seemed richer and smoother to me.

Lastly, I opened the Ocumare and it seems I saved the best for last (at least in my opinion). It is a really smooth, decadent piece of chocolate. It has a background flavor of berries which is absolutely delightful!

All three are truly amazing artisan chocolates that I would recommend trying. It is obvious in tasting these chocolates that they take a lot of care in making it in the traditional way - small batches. Amano has created a dark chocolate worthy of special occasions, that happens to be rich and satisfying enough to have just a small taste at a time. For me that is huge as I can finish off the Hershey's Special Dark bar in no time at all. Now, that I've had truly special dark chocolate from Amano I'm not sure I can go back!

Thank you, Amano and Blake Makes, for giving me the chance to try this fantastic dark chocolate!
Photo courtesy Amano Artisan Chocolate.

June 11, 2008

Girl's Day Out in the City

On Sunday, it was a girl's day out in NYC. I was lucky enough to go into the city with two of my closest friends - and we were celebrating a birthday as well. So, a great day was in store! A huge bonus is that it was just us girl's and we left the kids with the husbands for the day. This post will be a bit of a diversion from my normal recipe sharing.

Our first destination was La Rivage, a lovely French restaurant on "restaurant row" near the theater district. It is a quaint restaurant and a nice bonus is that it is very reasonably priced for NYC. They have a prix fixe menu for $22 per person, not easy to find a bargain like that in NYC. In spite of the heat, we all decided to go for the Lobster Bisque with Saffron and Sherry. What I think we all liked best (due to the scorching heat outside) was that it was not a really creamy soup - that would have been too heavy on a day like that. For my entree, I indulged in Coquille, Bay Scallops, Shrimp, Mushrooms and Onions baked in a Cream Sauce. This was served with a rather ordinary (but still tasty) rice and honey flavored carrots. It was really wonderful, and worth every calorie for a splurge. For dessert, I chose the Peach Melba which was served with vanilla ice cream and a raspberry sauce. It was not an overly sweet dessert and was cool enough to make going back out into the heat a bit easier.

Our next destination was to surprise our birthday girl with a matinee of Legally Blonde - The Musical. If you have seen the movie and enjoyed it, you'll love the musical. It follows the movie closely, but the music is certainly a nice surprise and the choreography is fantastic! It's a shame that Laura Bell Bundy will be leaving the show because she really embodies Elle Woods perfectly! Now, I am not sure I'll be able to watch the new reality show The Search for Elle Woods after seeing Laura Bell Bundy in it. I got a glimpse of the show before going in to see the musical, and what I saw was not very impressive. Perhaps they were still in the elimination phase and hopefully, it will get better because the lucky winner will be starring on Broadway.

I'll be back to posting recipes and sharing my attempt at healthy cooking in another day or so, our Youngest was home today so while he's doing fine we took it easy together today. No real cooking tonight, basically whatever he wanted for dinner he got... and that was a grilled cheese sandwich.

Photo courtesy of Legally Blonde on Broadway.

June 10, 2008

Salmon and Grilled Asparagus

First, I must apologize for the lack of posting recently. With summer comes more social commitments and lately... less cooking. I hope to get back into the swing of cooking more and really focusing on some lighter recipes. With all the gatherings throughout the summer, it's easy to indulge so I want to start focusing on being healthier during the summer.

To get started with the healthy weeknight eating, I found the Brown Sugar and Mustard Salmon in the June 2008 Cooking Light. I love Dijon mustard, and the combination of it with brown sugar created this spicy-sweet sauce on the salmon. The recipe said to cook it skin side up directly on the grill, but I opted to put it on a piece of foil (skin side down) and grill using indirect heat. It cooked perfectly in 30 minutes. Now, I've had bad experiences with glazes and such on salmon, so I decided to do "salmon 2 ways" (typical of what the Top Chef cheftestants do... I watch too much food reality TV!). I chose to just drizzle a little EVOO on one half of the salmon for the less adventurous members of my family. This worked out well as the boys had no interest in trying the glazed half. My pictures of the salmon came out a bit fuzzy since they were taken while it was cooking on the grill.

Next, I decided to grill up some asparagus. I was able to find some good looking spears at the grocery (which is always a nice surprise since their selection can often be less than appetizing). I simply tossed them with some EVOO and grilled until they looked "about right" to me - just softened up a little and some had nice grill marks. To finish them off, I added just about a teaspoon of champagne wine vinegar. I loved the addition of the vinegar to offset the sweetness of the grilled asparagus. A perfect side dish to go with salmon.


I had the opportunity to go into NYC on Sunday for a day out with a couple of my girlfriends, and I'll post about our lunch out tomorrow.

June 6, 2008

Zucchini, Goat Cheese and Basil appetizers

Ok, take a look at this picture. Don't those grilled veggies look incredible? I wish I could take credit for making them, but I can't. Not too long ago we had friends over for an impromptu meal and they brought some grilled veggies over to accompany the meal. The cute little rolled up zuchinni in the middle is what I want to share with you today.

My friend found a recipe for these somewhere (once I get the "official" one I will definitely post it!) and the ingredients just appealed to all of us immediately. The zucchini rolls could be served as an appetizer or as an additional vegetable with dinner.

The basic idea is that you thinly slice zucchini and grill it (I think there may have been some oil involved). Once it has cooled enough to handle, put a small piece of goat cheese and 3 small basil leaves at one end, then roll them up. The original recipe mentioned using toothpicks to keep them together, but my friend used wooden skewers instead which I think looked wonderful! The presentation was so nice and I couldn't wait to give these a try.

They were a big hit, and only 2 or 3 were left over when dinner was finished. The creaminess of the goat cheese combined with the grilled zucchini was a nice match, then you get this hit of basil with each bite... yum! Do give these a try, perfect if you need something simple to bring along to your next outdoor get together or picnic!

June 5, 2008

Simple Summer Suppers

I mentioned recently that I have been revisiting some old issues of Cooking Light. Periodically, they put out a special edition magazine geared toward the season or a specific type of cooking. Back in the summer of 2005, it was Simple Summer Suppers. There are a ton of great looking recipes - with lots of pictures! For tonight's dinner, I made Penne with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers.

This was a really simple dinner to put together and hit the table within 25 minutes. I love meals like that! With summer upon us, fresh tomatoes will be in abundance before we know it and I was able to score some pretty decent plum tomatoes at the store this past week. I think using fresh in this recipe is the way to go. The flavors worked well together and reminded me of My Husband's Penne Arrabiatta. I really like the bit of saltiness from the capers and olives. I am not a fan of kalamata olives so I subbed black olives instead. I stirred in the freshly grated Parmesan right before serving and it added just the right extra touch of flavor to finish the dish. My Oldest was ok with it, My Youngest couldn't be bothered with the olives or tomatoes. He made a meal out of green beans tonight. At least a veggie go into his body. I'll take what I can get sometimes.

I thought it was a great meat-free dinner, which was what I wanted. I have Bunko tonight and didn't want to go on an empty stomach. I hope to get some more posts up over the weekend, as I have some fun things going on... but, bear with me as it's a busy one and they may not get done as fast as I want them to!

June 2, 2008

Something for Everyone

I've been trying to eat more salads to offset some of my indulgences lately. I've been looking through some older Cooking Light magazines for inspiration. Some people might think keeping magazines for years is a little crazy, but sometimes I do go back and look through them. I've actually tried to go through and just pull out the recipes that I think I'll want to try to sort of reduce the amount of "stuff" I am saving. Anyway, I still have all the 2007 magazines and pulled the June and July issues. In the July issue there was a spinach salad that had grilled red onions with a bit of sesame oil drizzled over them. I loved that idea and wanted to give the sesame oil a try this time. I made the salad very simply and with the little bit of oil on the onions, I didn't need to add any dressing.

sesame grilled onions-1

I also sliced up some chicken and used a teriyaki marinade that had soy sauce, apple juice, and brown sugar in it. It was really simple and added just a bit of flavor. My Husband wasn't in the mood for salad, so he decided to make some grilled wraps using the chicken, grilled onions, spinach and provolone cheese. He grilled the wraps on both sides to warm then then sliced them so that everyone could enjoy small slices of wraps. Other than the provolone, it was my salad in a wrap. The boys gobbled them up as if they hadn't eaten all day. Everyone was happy at dinner tonight!
sesame grilled onions-2

June 1, 2008

A Simple Cucumber Salad

Recently I was reading a post by Kristen at Dine and Dish about a Cucumber Salad that she took to a potluck BBQ. She said initially, it didn't get chosen by many but the few who took a chance on it enjoyed it. I love cucumbers and the flavors in this salad sounded like they would be a nice side to meal with grilled chicken.

cucumber salad

I made this salad in a matter of minutes. I think that it is enhanced when left to sit in the fridge for longer than I was able to the day I served it. I did leave out the peanuts as that was the only part of the recipe that I thought might get a raised eyebrow at my table. The vinegar adds just the right amount of tang to the dressing. I would agree with Kristen in that this is a nice side, but probably not great for a potluck. Of course, that depends on the group of people you are serving, if they are used to mayo based potato and macaroni type salads this won't go over so well. This worked well for us as we were trying to keep our meal light and filled with more veggies.

I also recently tried another Penzey's spice blend, BBQ 3000. It's their newest addition to their long list of spice blends. I used some thin-cut boneless skinless chicken breasts and brushed them with EVOO. Then liberally sprinkled the BBQ 3000 over both sides. I let them sit all day in the fridge so that they could absorb the flavors. I grilled it up and really loved the flavor of the chicken. I read that this is also amazing on baby back ribs, which I'll be giving a try very soon!

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