Friday, December 24, 2010

To a great 2010 - served many

I can't believe it's the end of the year.  On the eve of Christmas, I reflect on what 2010 has given me.  It's given me a new perspective on being home with my kids after not having that option, it's given me time to reflect on what's important, it's given me the wonderful opportunity to pursue my dreams, it's given me better and new relationships, it's provided me with an opportunity to travel to Italy with a wonderful group of women, it's taught me that "through thick and thin" I can still love my husband and it will end on us taking a trip with our family.  And, like the picture above, which I took in Italy, I plan to do.  Not just in the next week, but as my life continues.  Because if you think about it, our life here on earth should be spent reflecting on the many blessings God has given us, whether we think them of blessings or not.  Slow down and take in the things, either good, bad, disappointing, stressful or just plain wonderful.  All of this is only temporary for the vacation that will be ours in the end.

Eat well, cook more meals and laugh more in 2011 and thanks for all your fabulous support!  I hope to feed more of you....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Homemade Marshmallows

One of the BEST things about Christmas is marshmallows.  I'm not talking about the ones you get at the grocery store already made with ingredients you can't pronounce.  I'm talking about homemade marshmallows.  I'm telling you, and I'll bet you all my presents, you'll never taste anything like a homemade marshmallow.  This is what they should taste like.

This recipe has now become a tradition within our household during the holidays.  The kids are so into to making them, that I can't just make them myself.  All have to participate.  Watching the concoction start as a creamy mixture then evolve into a foaming white, heavenly mass before your eyes is quite a sight to see.  It's hard not to eat the final product before you let it sit to form into perfect squares of holiday bliss.  In fact, the creamy mixture is WONDERFUL smashed between gingerbread cookies or even stirred into hot chocolate.  I mean, c'mon, folks!  Even Santa would put on a few extra pounds to eat this.

So, from my house to yours, enjoy this wonderful recipe.  I hope all of you have a Christmas as fantastic a homemade marshmallow, melting in you mouth and a New Year as sweet.


Nonstick vegetable oil spray 
1 cup cold water, divided 
3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin 
2 cups sugar 
2/3 cup light corn syrup 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/2 cup potato starch 
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.
Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240ºF, about 8 minutes. 
With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.
Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.
Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie - serves 6 unless you eat the whole thing yourself

I am a healthy eater.  Almost so much that my husband rolls his eyes at what I eat (umibushi plums), the things I make him try (kale shakes) and the things I make him omit from his diet (meat once or twice a week opposed to 14).  All of which he's catching on quite well.  If he wants to eat in this house, he'll have to endure a healthy eating lifestyle.

Until I make chicken pot pie.  Words can not express the goodness in this dish.  It's one of those meals that as you take a bite, you're immediately taken back to your childhood when you were served it the first time.  As for me, I have fond memories of my parents going out to dinner on Saturday nights, leaving my sister and I with Swanson's Pot Pies.  Then, they were a mystical meal that I would take my time eating, saving the crust around the metal foil pan for last.  I could make a pie last during the entire episode of Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  Saturday night out for the parents was the highlight of my week.  I knew I'd get a pie or a Night Hawk Chopped Steak TV Dinner with tater tots.  (You know who you are and don't be ashamed that you liked it also.)

Now, back to reality.  I wouldn't touch that stuff to save my life (well, maybe).  But, I can damn sure make one to match that's a tad healthier.  If only I could watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island, it'd be, once again, a Friday night favorite. (And what goes better with pie than kale?)


First the creamed chicken or turkey, then the pot pie.  For creamed chicken or turkey:

3½ lbs organic chicken parts, or 1½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breast or turkey breast cutlets or tenders
1¾ to 2 cups organic stock
4 Tbs (½ stick) unsalted organic flour
1/2 cup all purpose
1½ cups organic whole milk, half&half, or light cream (I use cashew cream)
2-3 Tbs sherry (optional)
several drops lemon juice, salt and ground white or black pepper
2-3 pinches freshly grated nutmeg

For Pot Pie:

2 Tbs organic butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled sliced ¼ inch
2 small celery stalks, sliced ¼ inch thick
¾ cup frozen organic peas, thawed
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 beaten egg
1 Immaculate  Baking Company Pie Crust (Central Market or Whole Foods)

Creamed Chicken:
Place the chicken in a dutch oven and add chicken stock and just enough water to cover the pieces. Chicken parts may need as much as 3 cups and boneless skinless pieces may not need any. Bring to simmer over high heat, then reduce to simmer so the poaching liquid barely bubbles. Partially cover and cook until the meat releases clear juices when pierced with a fork, 25-30 minutes for chicken parts, 8-12 minutes for boneless, skinless breasts. Remove the meat from the stock and let stand until cool enough to handle. If using chicken parts, remove and discard skin and bones. Shred or cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Skim the fat from the stock with a spoon.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, and whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and whisk until smooth. Whisk in cream (or half&half etc.)

Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture just to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the inside of the pan with a wooden spoon and whisk vigorously to break up any lumps. Return the pan to heat and, whisking, bring to a simmer and cook for one minute. Stir in the cooked poultry along with sherry and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper, lemon juice and nutmeg.

Pot Pie:

This pot pie has a top crust only using pie pastry. Sauteing the vegetables separately instead of cooking them with the chicken ensures that they will retain their texture and color.

Prepare (using ½ cup flour) creamed chicken.  Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter a 13x9 inch baking pan or other shallow baking dish. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the foam begins to subside. Add onion, carrots, celery and cook, stirring often, until barely tender, about 5 minutes.Stir the veggies into the creamed chicken along with the peas and parsley.  Pour the chicken mixture into the prepared pan. Arrange pre-bought pie dough (you'll need both, trimming excess). For a golden glaze, brush the top with egg. Bake until chicken is bubbly and the topping is nicely browned, 25-35 minutes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli - serves 4 with leftovers (and the guys are going to eat all of it)

We had a few friends over for dinner when we received our first "cold snap" of the season.  Being in the Italian frame of mind and wanting something to warm my husbands belly, now that he's daunting a gray beard and getting ready to wear his Santa suit.  What better way than to cook up an Italian staple such as pasta e fagioli?  And, it's really fun to say over and over again with a Texan/Italian accent, which I know my Italian talking girlfriend just loves.  It's really easy to make and makes the house smell like, well, Italy. A trip to Jimmy's in Dallas not only made me want to make this but had me thinking of Italy all over again and how much I love this cold weather.  Cold weather, red wine and pasta e fagioli.  A great accompaniment to a great meal that can easily serve a crowd.  And, a bearded Santa.


6 ounces dried cannellini beans (1 cup)
1 whole head garlic plus 1 garlic clove
2 sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary or sage
7 ounces thick-cut pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 1/2 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
4 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces ditaloni rigati
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Rinse beans, then place with head of garlic and herb sprigs in a large saucepan and cover with water by 3 inches. Soak for 8 hours, or overnight. 
Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil; reduce to a gentle simmer and cook, adding water as necessary to keep level 2 to 3 inches above beans, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes or more (cooking time varies depending on age of beans). 
Reserving cooking liquid, drain beans through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard garlic and herb sprigs. Separately, set aside beans and their liquid.
Finely chop remaining garlic clove. In a large heavy pot with lid or Dutch oven, combine pancetta and sausage; heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently and breaking up sausage into bits with a wooden spoon, until fat is rendered and sausage is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add onion and oil, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add reserved beans, 2 cups bean cooking liquid, broth and 2 1/4 cups water; bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 25 minutes. 
Increase heat to bring soup to a low boil; add pasta and cook until pasta is just al dente (pasta will continue to cook in soup; do not overcook). Season with salt and pepper to taste (soup can be thinned, if desired, using remaining bean cooking liquid). Ladle soup into serving bowls; sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with oil.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Citrus Marinated Turkey

I did not take this picture.  In fact, I stole it from a tried and true recipe I have used ever since my mother-in-law has allowed me to prepare the turkey for Thanksgiving.  Don't get me wrong, she used to be a fairly good cook back in the day when my husband and I were dating.  I had made the cut to attend his family's Thanksgiving on our first date (duh).  That first Thanksgiving was a show, indeed, and hasn't changed much except for the cooking.  I kid you not when I say it consists of 3 meats, 8 starches, 1 can of green beans, little smokies with BBQ & pineapple, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, 5 desserts...... did you see that there is one veggie?

I have really sweet in-laws, but boy howdy, holidays at the farm are an exact replica of Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family".  I kid you not. ( For those of you who have never heard of the song, I strongly suggest you listen.  It's Texas music at its finest.)  Back to the turkey, my mother-in-law is the only woman alive who can overcook a Butterball turkey.  The little, plastic nob?  It's melted by the time it comes out of the oven. (Just a cooking note, if that little things pops up, your turkey is overdone.)

So, hence the recipe.  I have now been granted to cook the turkey for the 3rd year in a row.  This is the same one I've done again and again and it's always a hit.  Even with farm people.  I don't tell them it's organic, of course, and there isn't a plastic knob to warn you that the bird is beyond dead.  Oh, no.  Just goodness served on her beautiful platter (with snowmen and Christmas trees) and the family farmers kicking back deviled eggs and some champagne punch to wash it down.  I'll just have the turkey, my green beans and brussell sprouts, please.
Happy thanksgiving, from the family.

  • Brined Turkey
    1. 1 gallon water
    2. 2 cups apple cider
    3. 2 cups kosher salt
    4. 2 cups sugar
    5. One 15-pound fresh, organic turkey (giblets and neck reserved)
  • Marinade
    1. 10 roasted garlic cloves (see Note)
    2. 10 raw garlic cloves
    3. 1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    4. 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
    5. 1/4 cup cider vinegar
    6. 1/4 cup kosher salt
    7. 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    8. 3 tablespoons dried oregano
    9. 3 chipotles in adobo
    10. 2 tablespoons annatto paste (see Note)
    11. 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    12. 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Turkey
    1. 9 cups chicken or turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth
    2. 3 tablespoons canola oil
    3. Reserved turkey giblets and neck (liver discarded)
    4. 3 shallots, coarsely chopped
    5. 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
    6. 2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
    7. 1 onion, coarsely chopped
    8. 10 roasted garlic cloves (see Note)
    9. 8 black peppercorns
    10. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    11. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    12. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a very large bowl, stir the water, apple cider, kosher salt and sugar until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Line a stock pot with a large, sturdy doubled plastic bag. Put the turkey in the bag, neck first. Pour in the brine and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Brine the turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  2. Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Pat the turkey dry and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. In a blender, combine the roasted garlic with the 10 raw garlic cloves, the vegetable oil, orange juice, cider vinegar, kosher salt, lime juice, oregano, chipotles, annatto paste, cumin and allspice. Puree until smooth. Slather the turkey inside and out with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325°. Lift the turkey out of the marinade and set on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush the breast with some of the marinade. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the stock into the bottom of the pan and cover the turkey very loosely with foil. Roast the turkey for 2 hours. Remove the foil and add another 1 1/2 cups of the stock to the pan. Continue roasting for about 2 1/2 hours longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 175°.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the canola oil. Add the giblets and neck and cook over moderate heat until browned. Transfer to a plate. Add the shallots, carrots, celery and onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Return the turkey parts to the saucepan. Stir in the roasted garlic and peppercorns, add the remaining 6 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the stock is reduced to 4 cups, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain the enriched stock into a heatproof bowl and discard the solids.
  5. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and remove the rack from the pan. Pour the pan juices into a bowl and skim off the fat, reserving 2 tablespoons. Transfer the reserved fat to a saucepan. Add the butter and flour and cook over high heat, whisking constantly, until golden brown, 2 minutes. Add the enriched stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the gravy is reduced to 3 cups, about 10 minutes.
  6. Place the roasting pan over one burner on high heat. Add the strained, defatted pan drippings (there should be 1 cup) and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Strain the pan drippings into the gravy and season with salt and pepper; keep warm.
  7. Carve the turkey and transfer the slices to a platter. Serve with the gravy.
To roast garlic, place 20 unpeeled cloves in a small baking dish and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Cover and roast at 375° for 40 minutes, until tender and caramelized. Let cool, then squeeze the garlic from the skins.
Annatto Paste
  • 1/2-cup annatto seeds
  • 1 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
In a small medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the annatto seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the oil becomes a rich, orange-red color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Strain the annatto oil into the bowl of a food processor or blender, and add the lime juice, oregano, garlic, salt and cumin. Process the mixture on high to form a smooth paste. Pour into a glass jar and keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

White Bean Soup with Escarole and Homemade Croutons - serves 4

There's a chill in the air and that means it's time to make soups.  This is my favorite time of the year and I love to make soups. During these next few months, I'll make at least one, massive pot a week.  It's super easy to make, especially when you're short on time, like me, particularly when my dog (former sous chef) ate 2 dozen homemade, organic, molasses, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies.  Each had been individually wrapped in cellophane.  Oh, and let's not forget the bag of almonds either.

So, instead of taking advantage of the wonderful cool front Mother Nature brought in for us, I had to take the dog (I can't even call him by name anymore because I'm so disgusted) on a 4 mile+ walk to he could "relieve" himself of his fiber intake.  Serves him right for walking funny.  I mean really.  I was thinking that if the chocolate didn't kill him, surely the fiber would.

So there you have it.  After making his mark throughout the neighborhoods of Lake Highlands, we were off to make soup.  I think he's hungry.  Again.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbs garlice, minced
1 medium to large head organic escarole, trimmed of outer leaves, 2 inches of root end cut off, leaves sliced across  into 3/4 inch wide strips (about 9 - 10 cups), thoroughly washed
Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth (or homemade)
1 cup organic canned navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Homemade croutons (recipe following)

Heat the olive oil in a 4 quart soup pot or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and browned, about 12 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir, and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the escarole and stir thoroughly to coat the leaves (and deglaze the pan slightly with their moisture).  Season with salt and a little pepper.  Add the broth, stir well, and bring to a boil; cover the pot, lower to simmer, and cook 8 to 10 minutes.  Uncover the pot, add the beans, and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and turn off the heat.  Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with cheese and top with croutons.


2 tbs olive oil
2 cups lightly packed 3/4 cubes/strips of rustic wheat bread or ciabatta
Kosher salt

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the bread and stir to coat with the oil.  Season with slat and saute, stirring constantly, until crisp and browned on most sides, 2 to 4 minutes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas - serves 6 with leftovers that can be frozen

Trying to have a decent dinner at home in this day in age has come few and far between with most families that I know.  Hence, my blog, which I sincerely hope helps even just one mom make such an accomplishment.  If you could get your family to sit around the table for 30 minutes, you'd be amazed of the relationship you'd have.  And, I'm not talking about a restaurant table.  Nor, am I talking about fast food either.  Something about a home cooked meal does the trick. Proof in fact, that the family I cook for during the week has testified that I've saved their relationship due to having a home cooked meal at their table twice a week.  Not lying.  Just twice a week will do wonders.

Coming up with a quick Mexican food dinner without going out to eat it is almost like getting my husband to change a lightbulb.  It rarely happens.  So, coming up with a simple recipe that I could whip up easily took some time however proved worth the little effort it takes to prepare.  If you recall, my son challenged me to cooking more meat.  I did so here yet left out the meat for me.  All you need is a pre-prepared rotisserie chicken, shredded, black beans and corn and you're good to go.  An easy topping with a little cheese and you can say "mmmmmm" faster than a flick of a light switch with no lightbulb and the opportunity to sit, at home with your family, with a darn good dinner.


1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tbs cumin
1/2 tbs dried Mexican oregano
1/2 tbs chili powder
1/2 tbs garlic powder
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
12 corn tortillas
1 can Rotel, put in a blender until thickened (turn on blender and count to 3 then turn off)
3/4 cup shredded Monterrey cheese
Pre-bought pico de gallo

Preheat the oven to 475. Shred chicken, removing skin.  In a large skillet, heat some olive oil until shimmering.  Add onions and saute for about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add beans and corn and saute for an additional 5 minutes.  Add spices and chicken and mix until incorporated.  Set aside.
On a large baking sheet, lay out 6 tortillas.  Spray with cooking spray (I use one that's olive oil) and put in oven for about 2-3 minutes.  Remove and repeat with remaining tortillas and reduce temperature to 375.

Spray a casserole pan.  Spoon chicken mixture onto tortillas and  roll tightly, placing it in casserole.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  (Can use remaining mixture for additional enchiladas or save just mixture for later use.  Can be frozen up to 3 months.)  Pour blended Rotel evenly over enchiladas and top with cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes, covered.  Remove from oven and place 2 enchiladas on 4 plates.  Top with pico de gallo and serve.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Risotto with Field Peas and Pancetta - serves 6


Thursday nights have become one of my favorite nights of the week.  My kids leave the house around 5PM with my husband, who takes them to their team rock climbing practice.  I literally have nearly 3 hours of pure silence, a gift from heaven that no doubt allows me to maintain some sort of sanity in this busy life I lead.  In fact, it’s become so precious, that it’s become one of my dear friends and my sacred night of cooking and catching up over a bottle of wine.  Her son is off doing school activities and her daughter accompanies her to investigate my daughters’ room, play with the cat, does a little ballet impromptu dancing all the while her mom and I talk of the weeks events.  It’s become so sacred, in fact, that we have started the idea of cooking from cookbooks… adventurous recipes that we would otherwise not fix.  First Julia Childs pot roast to this past week’s, Heat to Harvest's risotto with field peas and pancetta.

Yes, I love this crazy life.  That's why I have Thursdays.

¼ cup olive oil
½ white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups risotto or Arborio
2 cups dry white wine
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs thymes, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth, brought to a simmer and set aside
2 cups fresh peas or frozen peas, blanched for 3 minutes in boiling salt water and drained
½ cup pancetta, diced
3 tbs chopped parsley, and extra leaves for garnishing
2 tbs butter

Take drained peas and place in blender or food processor.  Puree peas until a somewhat smooth texture evolves.  Add a touch of olive oil to help incorporate.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet, cook pancetta until crisp.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering, over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add garlic, fennel, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.  Add risotto and stir to coat.  Add wine, stirring constantly, until wine is almost absorbed, about  5 - 10 minutes.  Add one cup of hot vegetable broth, stirring until almost absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Continue to add broth, one cup at a time, until absorbed.  (Taste risotto after last cup.  If too “al dente”, add some water and cook until absorbed.)

After the last cup and once broth has been almost been absorbed, add the peas and parsley.  Mix well.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Spoon into bowls and top with remaining parsley and top with pancetta.