Monday, December 31, 2012


My awesome mother in law gave me a beautiful immersion blender.  Of course I immediately thought of ways to use it.  I've been wanting one for some time now.  :)  So, I made this soup.  It was very, very, very good.  You can serve it with some hot rolls or French baguettes.  This soup would also make for a great appetizer for tonight's New Year's Eve feast.  It's easy, quick and delicious.  Vichyssoise is a wonderful soup made from leeks and potatoes.  It is supposed to be served cold, but luke-warm is just as wonderful.  Top it with some chives and bacon bits.  Enjoy!
-2 Tbs butter
-3 medium leeks, well washed and sliced
-3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
-4 cups chicken broth
-2 cups half-and-half
-1/2 tsp salt
-chopped chives, to top
-bacon bits, to top
Melt butter in large saucepan.  Add leeks and cook until tender.  Add potatoes and broth.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
With your immersion blender, process mixture until nice and smooth.  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can simply pour mixture into a normal blender or a food processor.  Return mixture to pot.
Remove pot from stove.  Stir in half-and-half and salt.  Mix well.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Ladle into bowls and top with chives and bacon bits.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

As soon as I saw this on Karen's blog, I knew I had to make it.  Not only was it a great gift for teachers and friends, but it's also an amazing treat.  It's super easy to put together, quick and you can finally use that powdered milk in your food storage. :)  It's also nice because it's in the crockpot, so you can have a cup of hot goodness as soon as you come home from the freezing weather outside.  Enjoy!
-1 1/2 cups powdered milk
-1/2 cup + 1 1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 cup + 1 1/2 Tbs sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
Fill slow cooker with 9 1/2 cups water.  Add all the ingredients.  Stir well.  Turn slow cooker to low and let it get hot.  Ladle into cups and top with some extra marshmallows and crushed candy canes, if desired.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Panfried Tilapia with Caper Sauce

This is a light, yet filling dish.  I just love how good the sauce is: not salty or lemony, but just perfect.  I served ours with some broccoli rice and it was delish.  Enjoy!
-1 Tbs lemon juice
-1 tsp dried dill weed
-1/4 tsp pepper
-4 (6 oz each) tilapia filets
-1/3 cup flour
-4 Tbs butter
For sauce:
-1 Tbs flour
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup milk
-2 Tbs capers, drained
-1 Tbs lemon juice
-2 tsp dried parsley flakes
In a shallow bowl, mix lemon juice, dill weed, salt and pepper.  Dredge fish through mixture, then through flour.  Melt butter in large skillet.  Place fish in hot butter and cook until golden brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side).
Remove fish onto plate and cover to keep warm.
In the same skillet, stir in the 1 Tbs flour and 1/4 tsp salt.  Stir until smooth and bubbly.  Gradually add milk and cook until it thickens and boils, stirring constantly.  Stir in the capers, 1 Tbs lemon juice, and parsley flakes.  Serve over fish.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gourmet Mint Brownies

There's a bit of work involved with these brownies, but every second is so worth it!  Every bite is like heaven in your mouth.  It's the perfect mixture of decadent chocolate and a mint cream cheese filling.  Simply decadent and delicious!  Enjoy!
For filling:
-1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1 tsp mint extract
-4 drops green food color
For brownies:
-1 cup margarine
-4 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
-2 cups sugar
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-4 eggs
-1 cup flour
For frosting:
-2 Tbs margarine
-2 Tbs light corn syrup
-2 Tbs water
-2 oz  unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven 350 F.  Coat a 9x13 pan with the baking spray. 
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar.  Beat until smooth.  Add 1 egg, mint extract and food color.  Mix well and set aside.
In a large sauce pan, melt 1 cup margarine and 4 oz chocolate.  Stir constantly until smooth and melted.  Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes.  Pour into your mixer bowl.
Stir 2 cups sugar and 2 Tbs vanilla into the chocolate mixture.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the flour and mix well.  Spread in prepared pan.  Carefully spoon the reserved filling over brownie mixture.  Lightly swirl filling into brownie mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely.
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 Tbs margarine, corn syrup, and water.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add 2 oz chocolate and stir until melted.  Add 1 tsp vanilla and powdered sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Frost over cooled brownies.  Place in the fridge for 1 hour, then cut into bars.  Store inthe fridge.  Enjoy!
Recipe slightly adapted from a Pillsbury Family Cookbook.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Zacusca (Romanian Vegetable Spread)

I love, love, love this dish!  The flavors are unbelievable, as there's roasting and slow cooking involved.  My awesome sister made this and I truly appreciate all of the effort she put into this.  Zacusca is an excellent dish, but it takes an insane amount of time to make it (it took her 12 hours!).  My sister did this while she cared for her very young family, so this deseves a super extra A plus!  You can eat it warm, but cold, straight out of the fridge is probably the best way of enjoying it. The recipe below makes A LOT of it, but that's OK because it stores nicely in the pantry, at room temperature.  It's a great way of enjoying veggies during the cold months.  Enjoy!
-11 lbs eggplants
-8.5 lbs bell peppers (red, yellow, green, all work just fine)
-6.5 lbs tomatoes
-4.5 lbs onions
-about 2 cups vegetable oil (start with 1 cup as you may need to use less-use your own judgment on this one :)
-salt, black peppercorns, bay leaves, according to your taste
Place eggplants and bell peppers on hot grill.  Roast until done.  As soon as they're done cooking, put the peppers in a large bowl and season generously with salt.  Cover them tightly and set aside for about 30 minutes.
Once the eggplants are done, score the bottom (but don't cut it completely) and place them in a colander-this will allow the bitter juice to come out of them.
Peel the charred skin off the peppers and cut them into chunks (size is up to you).  Peel the eggplants as well and mush them well, but don't turn them into liquid (you may use the blender, if wanted).  Set all of these aside.
Boil the tomatoes, peel them and put them in blender, until you get a nice puree like juice.
Heat up the oil in a large skillet.  Dice the onion and cook in hot oil.  Add the eggplants and stir well.  Let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the pepper chunks and cook for 5 more minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes.  Simmer until the oil reaches the surface and it looks clear.  Season with salt, peppercorns and bay leaves.  Let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
Remove mixture from the stove and divide it between glass jars, as hot as it is.  Cover jars with lids.  Place the jars into a large dish with boiling water.  The water is supposed to cover the top of the lids.  Boil everything for 5-10 minutes.  Remove jars and place on a large towel.  Let them sit for 24 hours.  Remove peppercorns and bay leaves before eating.:)
Recipe courtesy of my awesome sister, Irina.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fried Scones with Cinnamon Honey Butter

These are not your typical baked scones.  They are fried and super extra delicious!  I absolutely love them!  Make sure you eat them hot with the special butter or some powdered sugar.  Yum!  Enjoy!
For scones:
-2 Tbs active yeast
-1/2 cup warm water
-1 Tbs + 1/2 cup sugar, divided
-1 cup boiling water
-1/2 cup margarine
-2 tsp salt
-3 eggs
-4 1/2 cups flour
For butter:
-4 Tbs butter, at room temperature
-2 tsp honey
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
Make the butter by  mixing all the ingredients together.  Store in the fridge.
For the scones: Mix warm water with the yeast and 1 Tbs sugar.  Set aside.
In your mixer bowl, stir boiling water, remaining sugar, margarine and salt.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add yeast mixture and 2 cups of the flour.  Beat until smooth.  Add the rest of the flour.  Mix well.  The dough will be sticky, but that's ok.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour.  After that, place it in the fridge until cold (you could refrigerate it over night). 
Roll out very thin on a floured surface.  Cut into strips or squares.
Fry into hot oil until golden brown and puffy (a couple of minutes per side).
Serve hot with cinnamon honey butter or powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Athenian Orzo and Shrimp

This dish is very comforting and it has a little kick to it, which I love.  It's a wonderful combination of orzo, capers, shrimp, feta cheese, onion, garlic, and other goodies.  Go ahead and try it.  Enjoy!
-1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
-1 small onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup apple juice
-2 (14.5 oz each) cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
-1 tsp dried parsley
-1 Tbs drained capers
-1/2 tsp dried oregano
-salt and pepper, to taste
-a pinch or two of crushed red pepper
-1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails removed
-1 cup orzo
-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 450 F.  Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Put a pot of lightly salted water on to boil.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan, over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Add apple juice and cook 1 more minute.  Stir in tomatoes with their juice, parsley, capers, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes. 
While that's cooking, add the orzo to the boiling water and cook for 9 minutes.  Drain and place in prepared baking dish.
After the tomato mixture has simmered for 5 minutes, drop in the shrimp and cook for only 2 minutes, or until the shrimp is barely pink.  Pour shrimp mixture on top of cooked orzo and mix well.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pumpkin-Apple Bread

I found the original recipe for this in an old Weight Watchers cookbook.  The combination intrigued me and I was anxious to try it.  The aroma was great, so I had high expectations.  However, the bread was quite bland.  It had potential though and I had to redeem it. :)  So, I went to work and added a lot of stuff to it.  The result was great, with an amazing taste, full of yummy flavors.  I'm glad I didn't give up on it! :)  This bread is just perfect for the fall.  Enjoy!
-2 cups flour
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 egg
-1/4 cup sour cream
-1 cup buttermilk
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 apple, cored and grated
-1 cup canned pumpkin puree
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl, combine the flour with sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spice, and cinnamon.
In a smaller bowl, beat the egg.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour egg mixture over flour and mix with wooden spoon until well combined.  Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 65-75 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Italian Chicken Tenders

This recipe is super easy and quick.  The chicken is very tender and juicy, and of course, tasty.  You can serve it as is, with your favorite sides, or you can dip the tenders in your favorite sauce.  Enjoy!
-2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the eggs mixture:
-2 eggs
-1 tsp seasoned salt
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the breading:
-1 cup Italian style bread crumbs (or panko crumbs)
-1 Tbs seasoned salt
-1/2 Tbs garlic powder
-1 tsp pepper
-2 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients.
In another shallow bowl, mix all the breading ingredients.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. 
Cut chicken breasts into thin strips.  Dip in egg mixture, then through breading.  Cook in heated oil until nice and golden brown on both sides.  Drain on paper towels and enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friganele (Romanian Toast)

This is one of my favorite childhood dishes.  It is so tasty and comforting.  I just love it!  It's super simple, easy and very quick to make.  You can eat it plain or topped with your favorite preserves.  Also, it can be served as breakfast, as a snack or as dessert.  Enjoy!
-2 eggs
-1 cup milk
-1 Tbs sugar
-4-5 slices bread (stale is preferable)
Heat a very good nonstick skillet over medium-low heat (don't go higher than that as the egg mixture will not cook thoroughly).
In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the milk and sugar and mix well.  Dip the slices of bread, one at a time in the egg mixture for 3 second per side.
Place into warm skillet and cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
Enjoy them hot!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

White Hot Chocolate

This is such a nice treat, a different version of the classic winter drink.  It's perfect for these cold days.  Enjoy!
-3 1/2 cups milk, divided
-1 cup white chocolate chips
-whipped cream
-blue sprinkles
Heat 1/2 cup milk and chips over meadium heat.  Whisk until chocolate melts.  Stir in remaining milk and heat to warm.  Pour into cups.  Garnish with whipped cream and sprinkles.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Navy Bean Soup

I love, love, love this soup!  It is packed with so much flavor.  It's a very rich soup, so you don't need much of it.  The combination of fresh lemon juice, beans, garlic and herbs is definitely a big winner in this one.  Enjoy!
-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 (15 oz) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
-1 Tbs dried parsley leaves
-the juice of one lemon (about 2 Tbs)
-1 Tbs dried chives
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 cups chicken broth
-salt, to taste
In a large nonstick sauce pan, heat the oil.  Saute the garlic for 1 minute.  Add the beans, parlsey, lemon juice, chived, and pepper.  Give it a good stir.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. 
Pour soup into blender and puree.  Return soup to pan and season with salt, to taste.  Enjoy!


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