Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs

It seems like every summer I have one go-to recipe that seems to be a dish that I want to make over and over and over again. This summer's dish? Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs. Found this recipe at

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste
5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves -
cut into 1 inch cubes

First and foremost, if you're using wooden skewers make sure you soak 'em in water before you grill them. Otherwise you'll have nice burnt sticks. And now for the rest of the recipe:

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place chicken in the bowl, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade.
3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill skewers for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

I also tried this marinade on steak ... Ryan thought it was good, me not so much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Italian Wedding Soup

I made this for my birthday dinner. I couldn't figure out what would be better than ringing in my 31st birthday with food from Ina Garten. :) This soup is delicate, yet hearty - makes excellent leftovers and would be good for a regular dinner or for company.

Italian Wedding Soup
adapted from Ina Garten

For the meatballs (just a note **I used ground turkey and turkey sausage ...):
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:
2 T good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta (**I used acini de pepe)
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. For the meatballs, place the ground meat, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

A note - at first, I wasn't too thrilled with the dill in the soup. The second day, I thought the taste had mellowed and it was good. Third day, I still wasn't thrilled with the dill. So I'm going to omit that in the future.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hearty Beef Bolognese

I got this recipe from my dear friend at Dragon's Kitchen. The first time I made this, I knew it was going to be good so I doubled the recipe - one batch for hubby and I (plus the guaranteed leftovers) and one batch for company that was arriving the next evening ... as with all recipes like this bolognese, I knew that it would be better the second day and I wasn't wrong ...

Hearty Beef Bolognese
from Dragon's Kitchen

1 pound lean ground beef
4 T. olive oil
1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped (I actually used more because I'm a freak for carrots)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 T. garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, crush the tomatoes, keep liquid
3 T tomato paste
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional - I did use and it gave a greater depth of flavor)
1 tsp. dried rosemary (**I accidentally used dried fennel - it was really good.)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried hot pepper flakes
1 tsp. Worchester sauce
1 1/2 cups beef stock
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped for a garnish (optional)

Sauté beef in olive oil over medium until evenly browned. Season with some salt and pepper. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside, keep warm. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook until the onions are softened. Deglaze with the red wine, stirring to bring up the little beef bits. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add tomatoes, paste, sugar, dried herbs, cinnamon, pepper flakes, Worchester sauce and beef stock. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Add the reserved beef and stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours. Check the seasoning and stir occasionally so the sauce won't burn. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. If using, stir in the parsley at the last minute as a garnish.

Because Dragon's awesome, she used this to top some homemade pasta. I just used regular fettucine noodles. This was just incredible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

How good are these cookies? So good that I've made them twice since I found this recipe ...

Again - this recipe comes from my abundance of zucchini. And although I had one person who refused to eat this cookie on principle (you know who you are ... ;-p), most people raved about how cake-like these cookies are. This is a definite keeper.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 small zucchini, grated (you want it to measure approximately 2 cups of grated zucchini)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (**I threw caution to the wind and ignored any constraints from my pocketbook and spent the $3.50 on a bag of Ghiardelli semi-sweet chips. I am now ruined from Hersheys, Nestles or any generic forever. DAMN ME!)
1 1/2-2 cups walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Cream your butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, add eggs and incorporate until fluffy. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the butter mixture, gradually; mix well. Stir in the zucchini. Add chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls with two (2) inches between each cookie onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Let stand to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and place on wire racks to allow to cook completely.

A couple of notes - I omitted the walnuts, although I think that would elevate this recipe from awesome to droolworthy. (Alas, hubby does not like walnuts in baked goods ... it's one of his only flaws.) Another thing I found and fretted over was that before I put the zucchini in the recipe, my dough was really dry and crumbly. The zucchini is what really made this moist and delicious.

Also - the second time I made this recipe, I halved it (still a ton of cookies) and I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract because it baffled me to make a chocolate chip cookie without vanilla. I don't think it really added anything to it, so ... meh.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

One of my current favorite food blogs is Gina's Weight Watchers Recipes. She takes a whole host of different recipes and posts them with nutritional information and, if you're on the Weight Watchers program, how many points her dishes are worth. It's a great site and a great resource.

I've recently received an abundance of zucchini and this was one of the recipes that I used. Very, very good - very good for breakfast.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Gina's Weight Watchers Recipes

Servings: Makes 16 slices • Serving Size: 1 slice • Calories: 215 • Points: 4 pts each
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, (I used cocoa from Penzey's Spice)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted (**see note)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (1 3/4 ounces) (I omitted)
2 cups grated zucchini (1 medium)
Baking spray

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans with cooking spray. Whisk flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate in another large bowl until blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in zucchini and walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake the loaves 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool completely.

A couple of notes ... **in reference to the melted unsweetened chocolate - in the future, I'm probably going to skip this step - I don't know that this really added anything to the dish and just caused one more bowl to get dirty IMHO.

Also, I made one mini loaf and a dozen cupcakes from this recipe. Like I said - this makes good breakfast food.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles

My buddy Anne's mom has a bounty of good things in her garden like zucchini and green peppers. So imagine my happiness the other day when Anne also brought me some cucumbers. I love cucumbers - I love them with sugar and vinegar, I love them plain and I love me some bread and butter pickles.

This was my first foray into canning pickles and I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by the prospect. So much so that I had to call my mother twice for reassurance.

These pickles were worth a little fear ...

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles
Adapted from Mommy's Kitchen and conversations with my ma

2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1-1/2 Tbsp mixed pickling spice (cinnamon stick, ginger, mustard seeds, cloves, peppercorns, chilies, etc.)
3-1/2 pounds cucumbers, cut into 1/4″ slices

Slice your cucumbers and place them in a large bowl with ice and pickling salt. I let mine sit out while I was measuring out the ingredients for brine. My mom says that this makes 'em crunchier. After your done soaking, rinse the pickles in a couple of changes of water to get the salt off of them.

In a 5-quart pot (non-aluminum), combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cucumber slices. Return to a boil, stirring gently and trying to submerge slices as they cook. When the pot returns to a boil, boil for 90 seconds, then remove from heat. The slices should have changed from a bright cucumber green to a darker pickle green. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, fill hot jars with pickles slices, then fill each with pickling liquid, leaving 1/8″ head space. (You may have extra brine; you can refrigerate this up to a week if you are making another batch soon.) Wipe rims clean with a damp paper cloth and add lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath — 20 minutes for quarts, 10 minutes for pints. Begin timing when the water has returned to a boil after you submerge your jars.

A couple of notes - I used half-pint jars for my pickles (so five minutes processing time in the boiling water bath). My reasoning was this ... smaller jars in case my finished product tasted like ass; smaller jars so I could share my pickles with friends if finished product DIDN'T taste like ass (this was the case ...) and smaller jars because it takes me forever to finish a jar of pickles/olives, etc. Also - I didn't have a lot of cucumbers, so my 9 half pints would have translated to 4.5 pint jars. Nine jars sounds way cooler than four jars. Also, in my maiden canning voyage I think I could have packed more pickles into my jars - my friends and I have already tore through two of my nine jars. Also - I might experiment with cooking time because although the finished product is pretty damn tasty, I'd like crunchier pickles.

Another note - hot jars and hot lids ... I keep my lids in simmering water until right before I'm ready to can - then I take them out and put them on a clean towel. For hot jars, I usually put them in one of my cake pans, submerge in hot water and place in a 200-degree oven. It's important to keep the jars hot because if you don't, you risk breaking/cracking the jars when you put the hot veg/product in the jars.

It's kind of funny - there are a lot of people who are intimidated by canning and pickling. If you're one of those people, this is a darn good recipe to start off with.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Storing zucchini

Whenever I think of zucchini, I think of my buddy Gretchen and how we were at her parents' house one time and her mother offered us both a piece of chocolate cake. I happily accepted a slice - it was frosted beautifully, it was homemade and hell - who can say no to chocolate cake? Well, apparently Gretchen can say "no" to her mother's chocolate cake - especially when she found out that her mom had put zucchini in said offering.

I gave her hell about it later. "How can you refuse your mom's cake? You can't taste the zucchini in it!"

I don't remember precisely what Gretchen said in response, but it boiled down to this. Every summer without fail, her mom would harvest BUSHELS of zucchini which she would shred and freeze. Then Jackie would proceed to put zucchini in everything - spaghetti sauce, chocolate cake, cookies, etc.

"I don't care if it tastes good, I can't stand the thought of zucchini in everything."

I wonder if when I have kids they'll feel the same way, because since I've started eating zucchini, I think that I could put it in everything - just like Jackie.

So far, I've not grown my own zucchini - I've been lucky to find good-sized squash at the Farmer's Market and been gifted zucchini, so my freezer isn't nuts with it quite yet, but I can see where if I grow my own, I'll need more room.

So far, I've just been shredding my zucchini and freezing it in 2-cup increments because that seems to be what baking recipes call for. When it comes time to use it, I thaw it and squeeze out a bit of the wet like I'm handling frozen spinach. (I admit - I could be totally wrong here ...)

And since I think I could be wrong in my process - I've made it a bit easier for the rest of you - these are a couple of articles I've found regarding the proper storage of zucchini.

This is from To freeze, slice zucchini into rounds, blanch for two minutes, plunge into cold water, drain, and seal in airtight containers or baggies. Frozen zucchini can be kept for ten to twelve months.

This is an AWESOME article from the University of Minnesota Extension Office regarding the storage of various harvested vegetables. The only problem is it doesn't tell me jack about freezing my lovely zucchini.

This is from To freeze a zucchini, wash it, slice it into 1/2-inch slices and then boil for three minutes. Remove from boiling water and place into ice cold water for five minutes, adding ice to keep the water chilled if you are processing several zucchini, according to Remove from water and place in freezer devices such as freezer bags or vacuum-sealed containers. Frozen zucchini will last between nine and 14 months frozen.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chocolate Yogurt Bites of Love

Smitten Kitchen got this from David Leibovitz's "The Sweet Life in Paris" and Ryan's co-workers got a little bite of sweet chocolate from my kitchen to his office.

I'm sure that you can make these chocolate bites into larger cupcakes, but one of the things that strikes me as genius about this recipe is that they are small, bite-sized cakes that are rich and in a miniature package. And after eating a couple, I found myself thinking that a giant cupcake would almost be too much. (I know - too much chocolate? Maybe that is possible.)

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and David Leibovitz's "The Sweet Life in Paris"

Makes 12 cupcake-sized snack cakes or 16 mini-springform ones

7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (**I used a combo since I was running out of chocolate in my humble pantry)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt (**I use and lurve the Greek stuff)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. I used my mini cupcake tin and sprayed the hell out of it with non-stick spray.

2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of the oil. Once melted and smooth, remove from the heat. (Alternately, you can do this in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, then in 15 second increments, stirring well between each until smooth.)

3. In another bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup oil with yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla and almond extracts.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yogurt mixture. Stir lightly a couple times, then add the melted chocolate and stir until just smooth.

5. Divide the batter among the muffin or springform cups and bake for 10 to 15 minutes (less for mini-muffins, more for muffins, though your oven may vary) or until they feel barely set in the middle and a tester or toothpick comes out clean.

6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving. I gave it a light dusting with some powdered sugar.

Do ahead: These cakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for four days.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Big Sur Hide Bread

First up - a confession. I am scared of baking with yeast, hence I have yet to master baking bread. So when I see something that looks like bread but doesn't have yeast, I get very excited because of my fear of yeast. Yes, I know I'm ridiculous - yes, I will eventually overcome this fear, but in the meantime - I like it when I find recipes that indulge my desire to someday be a master baker without challenging my fear.

Hence - this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. Heidi Swanson recently posted this recipe for Big Sur Hide Bread, which comes from the Big Sur Bakery. And although this recipe with its multi-grained goodness trips my trigger, I could also chuck one of these buns at an intruder and give him a concussion. Definitely not for kids and only for very brave adults who possess good teeth.

Big Sur Bakery Hide Bread
from 101 Cookbooks

5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra flour for dusting
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 cups oat bran
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup amaranth, quinoa, millet, or poppy seeds (or any combo of these - I used quinoa and poppy seeds)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons beer
2 1/2 cups buttermilk, half-and-half, milk, or water
unsalted butter, softened for serving

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper if desired.

Place all the dry ingredients in an (extra-large) bowl, stir them together, and make a well in the center. Add the beer and the buttermilk. Mix with the handle of a wooden spoon until a thick, wet batter forms. Sprinkle a layer of flour over the top. Turn the batter onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a loose log about 2 inches in diameter. Cut it into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices and par them down with your hands to form patties. Place the patties on the baking sheet and bake them for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Let them cook completely.

To serve, slice each patty in half, toast it well, and smear with butter. Make sure to toast it otherwise the grains will taste raw.

Makes about fifteen 4-inch patties.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blueberry Boy Bait

Have you ever made something so good that you had to get it out of your house before you absolutely inhaled it? Yeah – this recipe is called “Blueberry Boy Bait” but I think it should be called “Blueberry Bombs Shelley’s Diet.” Because this cake is to die for.

I’ve been obsessed lately with Smitten Kitchen’s blog and this is yet another recipe that I found from her site that I made almost as soon as I read about it.

Smitten Kitchen got it from Cook’s Country who got it from a 1954 Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe.

Blueberry Boy Bait

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour (**don’t do what I do and think … oh – the 2 c. + 1 tsp. Needs to go into the bowl all at once, you’ll use the 1 tsp later! Really!)
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup milk (recipe calls for whole, SmitKit used buttermilk, I used 2%)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

So … what’s with mixing the blueberries with flour? Supposedly if you do that, it will keep the blueberries from sinking down to the bottom of the cake. Really didn’t work for me. Not that it mattered, this cake was pure buttery sin.