Bon Appetit!

Yes, this is me in front of Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian

Last weekend we journeyed to Washington D.C. for my cousin's wedding. The wedding was fabulous and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

It was especially fun to get out for the evening after being horribly sick for an entire week. The previous weekend, I woke up with a horrible headache, chills, body pain, and a high fever. I was also coughing like crazy and ended up tearing a muscle between my ribs because of it. What a truly awful week. I went to the doctor twice and missed 5 days of work. I have never missed more than 2 days in a row and I felt so overwhelmed at how much work was waiting for me upon my return. Slowly, but surely, I'm recovering and beginning to catch up on everything I missed.

Seeing the Julia Child exhibit was such a great experience for me. As we all know, I'm a big Julia Child fan. There were a lot of people there because of the movie, Julie and Julia. I was a Julia Child fan long before the movie came out, but it doesn't bother me that there's a sudden surge of interest in her because of the movie. I think it's great that a whole new generation of people can experience the fun of watching The French Chef. In the exhibit there is a TV with a constant loop of clips of Julia doing her various shows and television appearances. People of all ages, from little tiny kids to elderly men and women, were all standing around the TV laughing at Julia's antics. It takes a pretty special person to appeal to such a wide range of people.

After coming back from eating soup for a week straight, I scrambled up some Turkey Chili and then some Spinach and Cheese Lasagna from the leftover chili this week. I'm anxious to try some new recipes in the coming weeks. I feel like I've been pretty disconnected from my kitchen due to sickness and a very hectic schedule.

It's time to channel some Julia Child and get back into the kitchen. Bon Appetit!


Cheddar is Better

I love cheese. I especially love some good sharp cheddar cheese. I used to only like mild cheeses...I didn't know what I was missing. Sharp cheeses have so much flavor and can enhance recipes in ways you wouldn't expect.

A couple weeks ago, we made recipes out of Cabot Vermont Cheddar Cheese in cooking class. Art wanted to test some of the Cabot recipes before using them in a future class. Here's a couple that I just loved. The recipes and pictures are straight from the Cabot website.

Creamy Cheddar Spread
~Wonderful with pears and apples~

  • 8 ounces Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar*, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup Cabot Sour Cream (could substitute Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or apple juice
  • Large pinch ground mace or nutmeg
  • Pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)
  1. In food processor, combine all ingredients; process until smooth. (Alternatively, use electric mixer to blend ingredients; spread will have coarser texture.) Serve with whole-grain crackers, rounds of French bread or slices of fresh apple and pear.
*Try Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar a tasty variation.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
~One of my favorite comfor
t foods!~

  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter
  • 2 cups peeled and diced boiling potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups broccoli (chopped florets and thinly sliced stems)
  • 8 ounces Cabot Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes and onion and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer.
  3. Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer and cook until potatoes are nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook until broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Winter Squash Gratin
~This has a really nice and unusual flavor~

  • 1 1/2 cups Cabot Sharp Cheddar*, grated (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (about 3 slices firm white bread)
  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds dry-fleshed winter squash, such as Buttercup, Hubbard or Kabocha, peeled and seeded
  • 3/4-1 cup chicken broth
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine cheese and bread crumbs in bowl and set aside.
  2. In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and sugar. Stir often until onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt, thyme and pepper, then transfer mixture to 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
  3. Cut squash into smaller chunks and cut these chunks into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add to onions and stir together well.
  4. Pour 3/4 cup of chicken broth evenly over squash. Cover dish tightly with lid or foil and bake for about 70 minutes, or until squash is tender and broth is nearly all absorbed. If squash appears dry, add remaining 1/4 cup broth.
  5. Sprinkle squash with reserved bread crumb mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 20 minutes longer.
*Or use Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar.

Cranberry Apple Cheese Strudel
~This was my absolute favorite recipe of the day~

  • 6 cups sliced tart apples
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds or filberts (hazelnuts)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup trans-fat-free margarine, melted
  • 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) package frozen fillo dough, thawed
  • 8 ounces Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar, very thinly sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In large bowl, combine apples, cranberry sauce, almonds or filberts, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest; set aside.
  3. In medium skillet over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup of melted margarine and breadcrumbs; cook, stirring, until breadcrumbs are lightly browned; transfer to plate to cool.
  4. To make first strudel, place sheet of fillo on kitchen towel and brush with some of remaining melted margarine. Top with 4 more sheets of fillo, brushing each with more margarine.
  5. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of breadcrumbs evenly over layered fillo. Top with one-fourth of cheese slices.
  6. Top cheese with 5 more layers of margarine-brushed fillo.
  7. Two inches in from short edge of fillo, spoon half of apple mixture in 3-inch-wide strip. Top with another one-fourth of cheese slices.
  8. Using towel to help, roll fillo tightly up around filling (jelly-roll style), brushing exposed bare surface of dough with additional margarine as you roll.
  9. Use towel again to transfer strudel to prepared baking sheet. Brush top of strudel with more margarine and sprinkle with 2 more tablespoons breadcrumbs.
  10. Repeat entire procedure to make second strudel. Transfer seam-side-down to prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve warm.
I'm excited to try these recipes out at home and I think I'll search the website for even more recipes...because I'm pretty much obsessed with cheese.


Girls Only Getaway to the Mountains

For my Aunt Kathy's 50th birthday, we went on a Girls Only trip to the Poconos. It was my Mom, my sister, and my Aunts (Aunt Kathy and Aunt Lori). My Mom's other sister, Aunt Diana couldn't be with us and we missed her terribly. She always brings such joy and laughter to the people around her. She also is a phenomenal cook and baker and would have loved all the things my sister and I created. We will do the trip again, Aunt Diana, and you'll be with us next time!

We had a wonderful time. My Aunts live in Florida and North Carolina, so I don't get to see them that often. It was so much fun to talk until the wee hours of the morning and just hang out with one another. My sister and I decided that we would cook the entire weekend because we don't often get to cook together. She's been cooking long before I started and it was such a special time for us to be in the kitchen side-by-side.

We took pictures of most of the food we made, but they weren't on my camera and I need everybody to email them to me (hint, hint). The house that my Mom's good friend graciously let us use was absolutely unbelievable! I wish I had snapped a picture of the kitchen, because it was divine. But here's what the dining room looked like:

And here's what the view from the main balcony looked like (every bedroom also had it's own balcony):

And without further ado, here was our Menu (some are links and the many can be found in the recipes below)

Friday Evening
Shrimp and Zucchini Tostadas
Spinach and Strawberry Salad
Pear Cardamom Bread

Saturday Morning
Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
Herbed Scrambled Eggs

Saturday Evening
Zesty Ravioli Skillet
Herbed Garlic Bread
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Plum Galette

Sunday Morning
Crab and Roasted Red Pepper Strata
Pecan Praline Bacon
Cranberry Lemon Scones
(I used lemon instead of orange)

Fresh Corn Salad
Puppy Chow
Banana Bread

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
~These have a really unique flavor~

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • unsalted butter
  • 2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.
  3. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium low heat until it bubbles. Ladles the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes.
  4. Distribute a rounded tbsp of bananas on each pancake.
  5. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until bubble appear on the top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned.
  6. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used.
  7. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.
Recipe taken from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Herbed Scrambled Eggs
~These went nicely with the pancakes~

Crack 1 dozen eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Cook over medium and allow to set a little bit before "scrambling". This gives the eggs a nice texture that is more like folds of eggs instead of lumps. Then add shredded provolone and/or Parmesan cheese while the eggs cook and then sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs such as chives and Italian parsley when they are done cooking.

Zesty Ravioli Skillet
~Fresh and flavorful!~

  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 6 oz. provolone cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with onions, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 package small frozen cheese ravioli
  • Halved grape tomatoes (optional)
  1. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Finely chop the jalapeno and add to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute or until crisp tender. Add garlic to the skillet and cook for 15-20 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes until simmering. Add ravioli, stir to coat. Cook, uncovered, 4-5 minutes or until tender.
  3. Stir cream into skillet. Cook, uncovered, 1-2 minutes or until simmering.
  4. Sprinkle spinach over ravioli and cook, covered, 1 minute or until spinach starts to wilt.
  5. Remove from heat and top with cheese. Cover the hot skillet and let stand 1-2 minutes so that the cheese can melt. Garnish with grape tomatoes, if desired.
Recipe taken from The Pampered Chef

Herbed Garlic Bread
~I ate what seemed like 500 pieces of this~

  • 1 loaf of nice crusty Italian bread
  • 1 stick( or maybe a little less depending on how big the loaf is)of butter
  • 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • dash of garlic salt (optional)
  • a couple tbsp chopped fresh herbs like Italian Parsley and Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of shredded provolone or Parmesan cheese.
Soften some butter and mix some minced garlic in it, you could add some sprinkles of garlic salt as well to add flavor. Spread that on the bread. Then add the chopped herbs. Drizzle with olive oil on top and added shredded provolone and Parmesan cheese. Put it in the broiler and WATCH IT until it gets golden on edges and cheese melts.

Plum Galette
~This recipe was so easy and very impressive~
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling (skip 2 1/2 cups of flour if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (skip if using ready made pie crust)
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar (only need 5 tbsp if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (skip if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1/2 cup ice water (skip if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds, toasted
  • 5 to 6 plums, halved, pitted, and sliced inch thick (keep slices together)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
*I used a Pillsbury ready made pie crust from the refrigerated section and it worked wonderfully*
  1. If you choose to make your own pie crust, follow these directions. In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/4 cup remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Don't overmix. Remove dough from processor and shape into a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Here is where I began. Wipe bowl of food processor clean and add almonds, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; pulse until ground to a coarse meal.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness (I didn't have to do this...I just unrolled the ready made crust). Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet (I made it on a stoneware pizza stone); sprinkle almond mixture over dough.
  4. With a spatula, transfer plums to dough; press lightly to fan out, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edge of dough over fruit. Refrigerate 20 minutes.
  5. Brush crust with cream; sprinkle galette with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until crust is golden and underside is cooked through, about 70 minutes.
We had such an amazing time as a family. There is nothing in the world that makes me happier then sitting down to a table of delicious food with the ones that I love.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Kathy!


Remember me?

I have been absent from this blog of mine because my life has been filled with many many many other things lately. As much as I love blogging, my family and job need to come first.

I've been doing some cooking, but not as much as I would like. I've been mostly throwing convenient meals together before running off to do something or after getting home from an impossibly long day. Sometimes you just go through times like this and then they pass. Let's hope this hectic lifestyle settles down so that I can find time to do the things that relax me once again.

I have several posts in mind with various recipes I've made recently, so I will post them this week. I've been holding off on some of them because I don't have pictures, but I guess that doesn't really matter all that much. I just love posting recipes with pictures so that you can see the wonderfulness!

Here is a simple recipe to hold you over until I get those other posts together (I'm sure you've been waiting with bated breath). This past week, Sonny and I went over to his sister's house and enjoyed a delicious meal with some lovely people.

She asked me to bring a salad and I discussed with my cooking teacher, Art, what I should make. I've never been a huge salad maker, not because I don't like salads, but because I don't really feel I have a knack for putting things together in a salad. I need to get over it and try some new salads because the one I made on Tuesday was awesome. Art gave me wonderful guidance and here is what we came up with:

Spinach Salad with Cheddar, Sauteed Pears, and Pecans
~This is ridiculously simple~

  • 1 8 oz. bag of baby spinach
  • 2 or 3 red pears, cored and sliced thinly (unpeeled)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (use the real stuff)
  • 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • handful of chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of golden raisins
  1. Here is what you can do ahead of time: Place the spinach in a large salad bowl and sprinkle with the cheese, pecans, cranberries, and raisins.
  2. Right before serving, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pear slices to the hot butter and saute for a just a few minutes (about 5) so that the pears become softened, but not mushy.
  3. Remove the pears from the pan and add to the salad. Then pour the remaining butter in the pan over the salad (it acts as a dressing).
You may be thinking that butter-dressing is gross, but it's not. It's awesome. And you may be thinking that butter-dressing will make you fat, but it won't. It's only 6 tbsp for a whole big salad that serves at least 4 people.

This salad was a wonderful thing to make in the fall when the pears are particularly delicious and in season. It also went so nicely with the lovely meal that my sister-in-law made that included chicken cutlets drizzled with a creamy pan sauce and served with roasted potatoes and baked apples.

I absolutely love this time of year because the food is so memory provoking. I can remember eating and smelling apples, pumpkin muffins, soup, and cinnamon throughout the autumns of my childhood.

And let's be honest...the main reason I love fall is because my birthday is in October and when it's my birthday I get to eat cake and open presents.

Happy October!