Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blueberry Lime Margaritas

No long weekend is complete without some form of libations. For Memorial Day weekend, I decided to try my hand at these Blueberry Lime Margaritas that I found on

One word: Fabulous. Another word: Try. Ok two - Try it!

Blueberry Lime Margaritas


2 cups ice
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup blueberry nectar (**I used blueberry juice. Found it in the organic section.)
1/4 cup seltzer (**I used ginger ale.)
2 tablespoons frozen limeade
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 ounces tequila, optional (**oh yes, I definitely used this.)
1 lime wedge
Coarse salt


Combine ice, blueberries, blueberry nectar, seltzer, limeade, lime juice and tequila, if using, in a blender and blend until smooth. Rub rim of 2 glasses with lime wedge and dip in salt. Divide the margarita between the prepared glasses and serve.

Drink me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another drool-worthy site

I keep forgetting to give a shout-out to some of Ryan's buddies who gave us Penzeys Spices for a wedding gift. I probably am one of the only brides who will ever get excited over whole nutmeg, but I can't wait to go to one of these stores on my own. I will probably never leave.

Crockpot Curried Lentils & Rice

Note to self: If recipe tells you to cook something in the crockpot for 4 to 5 hours, you probably shouldn't fall asleep for the night and expect to wake up in the morning, eight hours later to something glorious. It will likely look like this:

Crockpot Curried Rice & Lentils


1 cup rice
1 tbsp curry powder
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup lentils
2 vegetarian bouillon cubes (*did not have, they were omitted)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 onion, diced

Combine all the ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Makes four servings.

Yeah - eight hours in my handy dandy crockpot dried this out something fierce. Hubby ate some for dinner that night and said it was OK after he had doused it with some Tabasco. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


OK - I hate to be this brief, but I saw this in my blogroll this morning and had to post this link IMMEDIATELY because if I wasn't at work, I would so be drooling right now.

Pasta with Slow Cooked Portobello Mushrooms from Mark Bittman. I've recently started worshiping at the altar of Bittman and this recipe is one of the reasons why I'm an acolyte. I cannot WAIT to try this!

Drool moment over! And out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fear Still Very Relevant: Eggplant!

Eggplants were on sale when I was doing my weekly marketing on Saturday, so I decided to try something that I've never made before.

I found a recipe on for grilling eggplant and tried it for last night's dinner. And I have to be honest - I wasn't very impressed by it and even more surprising? Ryan absolutely loved it. After he ate his portion and some of mine, I decided that I won't totally discount eggplant from my cooking regimen - I just have located some more flavorful dishes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I've been adopted ...

In my quest to build a bigger and better food blog, I have found myself indebted to other cooks and their websites. Kristen from Dine and Dish seems to understand this phenomenon and for the past few years (sorry if I'm fuzzy on the details, Kristen!), she has hosted "Adopt-A-Blogger" which pairs newbies to the food blog world (erm, me), with people who have more experience and have been around the blogosphere more.

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Jessica, my awesome "adopter" and the purveryor of the website My Baking Heart.

Here is a glimpse at what "Adopt-A-Blogger" entails. So go forth and enjoy Jessica's site - there are some FABULOUS recipes to be found. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vegetable Stock

I am notorious for letting celery linger in my refrigerator until it is past its prime. And as part of my "no-spend/clean out the pantry" month, I decided to whip up some vegetable stock and use up some of the vegetables I had lingering in my fridge - including some very limp celery.

This article on Making Vegetable Stock may be found at and includes some pretty useful photos.

But here's how it was done:

Easy Vegetable Stock
adapted from

1 onion, rough chop (**I was watching Bobby Flay the other day and it said that if you threw in a whole onion without peeling it, it would give your stock a lovely golden hue. Just a thought. I peeled and chopped mine.)
4 carrots, peeled and rough chop
3 stalks celery, cleaned and rough chop
1 bulb garlic, broken up and peeled
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Assemble all ingredients in a stock pot, add water (enough to cover vegetables) and bring to a quick simmer. Simmer the vegetables for about an hour (you don't want the veg to get too mushy), let the stock cool and strain after about an hour after you've taken it off the heat. Keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. You can also freeze it.

What do you use vegetable stock for? I used mine for a crockpot lentil dish, but it can be used to cook rice, make soup, etc.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chile Pea Puffs

I ended up buying wonton wrappers before my "no-spend/clean out the pantry" month in total honor of this appetizer on Heidi Swanson's site 101 Cookbooks. One of the reasons why this recipe really appealed to me (other than the fact that peas are probably my favorite vegetable on earth) is that when I was in college and living in Malta, I became addicted to the native pea cakes that you can buy from any mom & pop grocery store, pizza shops and at the college's cafeteria. And the best part? Well, other than the fact that they were flaky and stuffed with mashed peas, they were probably 50 cents a pop and were substantial for a late breakfast and made for a bracing snack.

So readers - if any of you guys happen to have random Maltese recipes in your collections and happen to know how to make pea cakes, please tell me.

Anyway ... I made these Chile pea puffs using the wonton wrappers and what I had in my fridge. So instead of paneer, I was able to substitute some low-fat ricotta. And although this was one of those recipes where I tried the finished product and wasn't sure if I liked it or not, I damn near ate the whole cookie sheet while I was fixing another dish that I was making that night. And they were fabulous the next morning for breakfast.

Pea Puffs
adapted from who adapted this from Monica Bhide's book "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen"

1 cup cooked green peas, lightly mashed
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt to start
1/4 teaspoon red chile powder or red chile flakes (less to reduce heat)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
32 wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a bowl combine the peas, ricotta, salt, chile powder, and garlic. Mix well.

Place one teaspoon of the mixture into a center of a wonton wrapper. To make the package stick, I dipped my finger in a cup of water that I had drawn for the occasion and brushed it on the edges. I ended up shaping mine into little envelopes.

Place the puffs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush them with a bit of olive oil. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until they are crisp and the skin changes to a lovely golden brown.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

An East Coast dinner

Today's guest post is from my friend Lindsey, a native Midwestern girl who is currently living in New York with her husband and gorgeous children. Lindsey has been good at helping me out with recipes for this blog from time to time.

These particular recipes come from Lindsey's Easter feast and she got all of them from Wegmans, a regional supermarket chain on the East Coast. "If you lived on the East Coast, you would LIVE for Wegmans," Lindsey writes.

So here is Lindsey's Easter dinner - in places where they've used Wegmans-specific brands, I've tried to find comprable substitutes.

Grilled Butterflied Half Leg of Lamb

1 pkg (about 1 1/2 lbs) boneless butterflied leg of lamb
3 T. Wegmans Basting Oil (according to the website, this contains grapeseed oil, garlic oil extract, thyme, and parsley.)
Salt and pepper
8 oz Wegmans Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, warmed (**find alternate here)

Add lamb, basting oil, salt, and pepper in zipper-closure type plastic bag; toss. Marinate overnight.

Day you're serving lamb: Preheat grill on HIGH 10 min. Clean grill with wire brush. Using soft cloth, coat grill grate lightly with vegetable oil.

Sear lamb on grill until color changes one-quarter of way up from bottom, 3-4 min. Turn over and sear other side, 2-3 min longer. Reduce heat to MEDIUM; close lid.

Cook 5-10 min, until lamb reaches internal temp that is 5 degrees below final desired internal temp (refer to meat cooking guide for final internal temp). Check by inserting thermometer halfway into thickest part of lamb. Pool sauce on serving platter. Transfer lamb to work surface; let stand 5-10 min. Slice and arrange on serving platter with sauce.

Roasted Asparagus & Artichokes with Lemon Butter Sauce
2 bunches (2 lbs) asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp Wegmans Basting Oil
2 bags (12 oz each) frozen artichoke hearts, halves & quarters, thawed and drained
2 cups (16 oz) Wegmans Lemon Butter Sauce, warmed (**find alternate here)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange asparagus in single layer on baking sheet. Season to taste with salt and pepper; drizzle with basting oil. Roast 6 min. Add artichokes; toss. Roast 4-6 min until softened and caramelized.

Toss with lemon butter sauce; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach

1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 in. cubes
2 large red onions, peeled, chopped (about 4 cups)
3 T Wegmans Basting Oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 pkg (6 oz) fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine squash and onions in large shallow pan; drizzle with basting oil. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper; toss lightly.

Roast 55 min, until tender and brown. Add spinach and dried cranberries; toss.

Caramelized Pineapple with Cinnamon


1 whole pineapple, cut into rings and halved.
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to BROIL with rack 6" from heat source.
1. Arrange pineapple on baking sheet; sprinkle both sides with cinnamon.
2. Broil 7-10 min, watching carefully, until fruit is caramelized and lightly brown.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The luckiest girl in the world

My folks came up for Mother's Day weekend and along with the cookbooks they found for me at garage sales and a tiller, my dad came up to me with his hands behind his back.

"You'll probably like these more than anything else we've brought you," and produced a shoebox full of morel mushrooms. Yes dad, I appreciate the tiller, I love the cookbooks but man - nothing says "I love you" like a box of morels procured from the woods back home.

OK - there is the only one way that I've ever prepared morel mushrooms and that's how my mom taught me how to make them. She dredges them in flour and fries them in butter. Now don't get me wrong - I have tasted different methods of cooking morels and that nutty flavor that seems to be imparted by these precious fungi, but when I think morel mushrooms - I think childhood and I love a plate of fried mushrooms. It is so damn unhealthy.

Drenched in seasoned flour (flour, Tastefully Simple Seasoning Salt, pepper)

Frying 'em up in some butter. My arteries are beginning to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus."

The finished product. Golden, hot, yummy mushrooms.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cornmeal Cookies

Disclaimer - do not eat this after you've ate curry because the delicate flavors of the lemon zest and the cornmeal will be lost on you.

Other than that, this is a damn fine cookie - I think it would be perfect to make for a brunch, wedding shower or baby shower (note to friends: someone get preggo so I can throw you a shower. I think I have a bridal shower to throw in my future ... woo!)

Cornmeal Cookies
from Cooking Books

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon yellow cornmeal

Oven preheated to 475F

In a small stainless steel bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon, placing it over low heat if necessary, until it's smooth, creamy and lightened in color. Sift the sugar over the butter and continue to beat. Next, beat in one yolk, still with the wooden spoon, then the next yolk, this time beating it with a wire whisk. Whisk in the lemon zest. Sift the flour and cornmeal into the batter, and using the wooden spoon, mix them in.

Scoop the batter into a cookie press or just spoon it in small balls onto a baking sheet prepared with a layer of parchment paper. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for about 5 minutes. The bottoms should be browned, but the tops still a light, buttery yellow. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Curried Lentil Stew

I still have some leftover spinach from the wedding that I'm trying to use before it goes bad. This recipe has a lot of items that are typically in my pantry. And it's very good.

Curried Lentil Stew
adapted from Eat Real

Olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
7 cups water
1 pound dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 big glug of red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
8 ounces frozen cut-leaf spinach (no need to thaw) (**I used fresh and gave it a rough chop)

This is the mirepoix after I added the curry powder. Yes, it smells as good as it looks.

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into a dutch oven or stockpot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add chopped carrots, celery, and onion. Saute until the vegetables are just beginning to get tender. Add garlic and sprinkle the curry powder over the vegetables. Continue to saute, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add one cup of water to the pot to deglaze, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom. Then stir in the remaining water, the lentils, and the bouillon. Place a cover on the pot at an angle so that steam can escape, and bring to a boil. Once the stew comes to a boil, stir, reduce heat, and simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Check the lentils for tenderness at about 30 minutes. When they are fairly tender, stir in the tomato puree and the spinach. Let simmer until the desired texture and consistency are reached. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.

A couple of notes: I used French green lentils and they were good, but next time I'd use typical brown lentils or red ones.

Also Eat Real's recipe called for 3 tsp. of beef or vegetable bullion. I didn't have either, but I had red wine. What's a girl to do?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Super Quick Blender Salsa

Man, I'm blurry

Here's the story of a recent taco salad that I cobbled together ... So I described to you the sheer amount of food that was leftover from our wedding. Well, I had to clean out a couple of items from my freezer to make room for other items and came across a couple of bags of corn tortillas that I had used portions of, but froze the rest.

Here's a look at my thought process: "We have some turkey that needs to be finished up, we have about six bags of romaine lettuce and I'm really craving salsa right about now." So I preheated my oven to 400 degrees, threw the tortillas in the oven to thaw and when they were soft enough, I took my pizza cutter and cut the rounds into triangular shapes. I arranged them in a single layer on a baking sheet, gave them a quick spray of cooking spray (I was too lazy to get out my brush and use olive oil ... sue me), sprinkled them with sea salt and a little cayenne and baked them until they were golden and crisp. (I didn't time it - 15 minutes? Don't let them go too long like I did in the unpictured final batch.)

The final product ... not blurry!

I had some smoky peach salsa that I bought at a recent excursion to Trader Joe's, but I was craving the kind of salsa that I get when I go to some of the Mexican restaurants in town. Lots of onion, lots of tomato, a bit of salt and just a hint of cilantro. (Note: Usually I hate cilantro, but I recognize that in this dish, its what gives this salsa authentic flavor. Darn you cilantro.)

I found this recipe over at Real Mom Kitchen. And wow ... it is really good. It is really fast and it's going to be a staple in my future cooking.

Super Fast Blender Salsa
adapated from Real Mom Kitchen

1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 c. canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, with some tender stems
juice of 1 lime (or lemon will work too) (**I didn't have ...)
salt, to taste

Combine ingredients in the blender or food processor. Give it a quick pulse. I added more crushed tomatoes after I had combined the salsa to give it a bit more chunk.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Random photos

These are culinary in nature, right?

This is my "sista" Sharona and I at 300 First, a restaurant in Rochester that specializes in smokin' martinis. The smokin' part comes from the dry ice that they put in the glasses before adding the liquor.

They call me the grill master. Or something like that.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Crockpot Chicken Stock

OK - so for once this photo isn't blurry, but damn is it an ugly representation of the goodness known as this easy crockpot chicken stock.

I was trolling through the blogosphere when I came across this recipe and since I had a frozen chicken carcass in the freezer, needed to make room for about five years worth of cheesy potatoes and have been looking for a better recipe than my half-assed attempt that I've cobbled together, I was intrigued.

I got this from Vintage Victuals who adapted this from "The Joy of Cooking."

Basic Chicken Stock
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 chicken carcass
4 quarts of water
10 pepper corns
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons parsley (**did not have)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium carrot, peeled and diced
3 ribs of celery, roughly chopped

Place the chicken carcass in your crock pot. Pour the water over it and add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours; on high 3-5 hours. I left this batch on low overnight.

Strain well. Refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to use your stock!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Living out of my pantry

Thankfully, I have a few recipes stockpiled in the ShelleyBakes archives that will get me through the next couple of weeks. Why is that? Am I going on some sort of vacation? Am I taking a blogging hiatus? Oh dear friends - my vacations are sadly few and I love blogging too much to give it up for a bit (I was going to Twitter though the wedding but thought that Ryan would kill me).

As some of you are aware, I run another blog called and while I'm usually able to keep my blogging worlds apart, I've made a decision for the month of May that my pantry has gotten out of hand and that I'm not buying more groceries until I've made a dent in my vast amount of dried beans, pasta, cans of soup, frozen deer steaks, frozen leftover pork from wedding, etc. (Of course, I bought some wonton wrappers last night - it was April 30 and Heidi Swanson had a recipe for these awesome looking pea-pastries!) So far, I have recipes that are going out to May 13th, but after that you can look forward to a guest post from my friend Lindsey who shared pictures and recipes from her awesome Easter dinner and maybe I'll actually make something awesome from the hodge podge of food that I have lurking in my kitchen. :)

Wish me luck! My "living out of the pantry" test is part of a larger experiment where I'm giving up frivolous spending for the month of May. I bought coffee this morning - I strive to be a more frugal person, but give me coffee or give me death!