Archive for July, 2008

Difficulty: Easy

Phil’s grandma makes the best raisin cookies and she shared her recipe with me. I have made it twice now and have added my own touches. The first time I made them with dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, almonds and coconut. So good! The recipe below is the same combination but with raisins and chocolate chips instead, since I used all of my cranberries the first time around! This recipe also makes a lot of cookies-about 4 dozen! Freeze half or give them away.

2 cups raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
4 cups flour
2 cups quick oats
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
1 cup nuts, chopped (your choice!)
1 1/2 cups chocolate or white chocolate chips
1 TBS vanilla

Directions: Microwave dried fruit and water for 1-2 minutes, let cool. Cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and cooled raisin/cranberry mixture (Very important to have your dried fruit mixture be room temperature!). Blend well, the mixture will be loose. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients, nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut. Add to wet ingredients. Drop by tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet or I used my silpat. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let rest on pan for 3 minutes. Remove to wire rack and let cool. Center of cookie will appear underdone but will continue to set as it cools. Store in air tight container.


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Shrimp Mango Quesadillas

Difficulty: Easy

If you have ever been to Gecko Grill in Gilbert, chances are you have tried this yummy creation. I love this dish and figured I could give it a whirl at home. Fresh, sweet mango, light shrimp tossed in a honey-butter lime sauce with ooey-gooey cheese, what could be better? Serves 6 and can easily be adapted to serve more.

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, tails removed and chopped into 1/4″ pieces
1 large, ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups monterey jack cheese, grated
6 10″ flour tortillas
2 TBS honey
3 TBS butter
1 lime
S & P
Sour cream

Directions: In large skillet, melt 1 TBS butter. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Add to melted butter and cook until bright pink, 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and drain any juices that were released. In same skillet, melt remaining 2 TBS butter and honey together, cook 2 minutes until thickened. Add shrimp back to pan, squeeze lime over shrimp, toss together and remove from heat.

In a clean preheated skillet, sprinkle one side of the tortilla with 1/4 cup cheese, 1/6 of mango chunks and 1/6 shrimp mixture. Fold over and cook until golden brown on both sides. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut into wedges and serve with additional lime wedges and sour cream.

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Coconut Macaroon Brownies

Difficulty: Moderate

Oh my! Do you love coconut? Do you LOVE chocolate? This decadent brownie is a perfect marriage of both. A moist, chocolately, fudgy brownie with mounds of coconut browned to perfection. This is a rich and satisfying treat and calls for a tall glass of ice cold milk. This divine concoction is adapted from Chris Kimball’s Dessert Bible.

For the Brownie Batter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks butter
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup flour
2 TBS cocoa
1/4 tsp salt

For the Coconut Macaroon Mixture
5 egg whites
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
3 TBS butter, melted, slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups coconut
1/4 tsp salt

Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees, grease 9×13-inch pan generously. Or line pan with foil and spray with cooking spray so you can just lift the brownies out of the pan and save yourself a dish to wash.

For the brownies: Melt chocolate and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat, stir frequently. Do not let boil and when it is melted, set aside. Whisk eggs and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Add melted chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and add chocolate mixture, stir until combined and pour into pan and set aside.

For the coconut mixture: Whisk egg whites in medium bowl until frothy. Add corn syrup, butter and vanilla. Stir in sugar. Add coconut and salt and stir until well combined.

With a spoon, space blobs of coconut all over chocolate batter. Using a butter knife gently swirl into brownie batter, careful not to break it up too much, the trick is to have the coconut in nice big mouthfuls and not too mixed into the chocolate.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until coconut is golden brown and the brownies are puffed and feel firm in the center. Remove pan to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into pieces and serve.

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Difficulty: Easy

Dinner on the fly inspired this yummy dish. Pasta is the easiest thing to whip up and so comforting. I had some leftover grilled chicken and just went from there pulling ingredients out of the fridge until this beauty was born. Onions, garlic, fresh basil and delicious feta star in this dish, serve with a salad and bread or another veggie for a complete meal. Choose a pasta with lots of nooks and crannies to catch the sauce. Serves 4.

1 onion, halved and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS olive oil
S & P
3 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced thin
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 pound pasta, (reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water)
3 TBS fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons

Directions: Bring large pot of water to boil, salt it and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup water and set aside. Drain pasta. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat, add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and beginning to caramelized, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add half-and-half and feta cheese. Stir until thickened and cheese begins to melt, add sliced chicken breast to heat through. Adjust seasonings to taste and remove from heat. Toss pasta with chicken and sauce. Add reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to thin sauce out, you may not need it at all. Sprinkle fresh basil on top and any additional feta if desired and serve.

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Chicken Fajita Tostadas

Difficulty: Easy

Want a new take on tostadas? These are so good and easy and will become a family favorite. Classic fajita ingredients with a fresh take. Use a rotisserie chicken for a speedy dinner and the fresh lime and cilantro kicks it up a notch. This makes enough for 8 healthy tostadas or enough for 4 people (2 each).

2 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped
3 TBS olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
1 cup frozen corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
S & P
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Sour Cream

Directions: Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper. Let cook without stirring for 3 minutes, stir occasionally after that until veggies are softened and caramelized 8 minutes longer. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder stirring to combine and add chicken. Remove from heat and toss with lime juice and cilantro. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, in separate skillet, heat 1/2″ vegetable oil over medium heat and fry tortillas one at a time until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. To serve place tostada shell on plate, sprinkle cheese on shell and top with a generous serving of fajita mix. Top with sour cream and additional garnishes if you wish.

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Stars & Stripes Fruit Trifle

Difficulty: Moderate

This tasty festive dish is perfect for the Fourth of July, sorry it is a bit late! Berries are abundant and nothing says summer like cool creamy vanilla custard with fresh berries and soft sweet pound cake. With a bit of forethought and preparation and a bunch of berries you can have a knock-out dessert. See the custard recipe below or substitute a box, but really, why would you want to do that? This recipe comes from Cooks Country and I modified it to use what we had on hand. Learn from me and make sure your custard/pudding is nice and firm so it stays where you want it. I made a homemade vanilla pudding instead of the custard and it was too thin and filled the bottom of the dish. It still tasted good though!

Makes enough for a 3-quart trifle dish

2 store-bought pound cakes (16 ounces each), thawed and edges trimmed
3 tablespoons strawberry jelly (the smooth kind)
6 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon water
3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
4 cups vanilla custard, refrigerated until firm
1 cup whipped cream (lightly sweetened)

For the stars: Slice each cake lengthwise into 6 equal pieces. Spread 2 teaspoons jam each on 6 cake slices and top with remaining slices to create jam sandwiches. Using 2-inch star cookie cutter, cut out 3 stars from each sandwich. Chop remaining sandwich scraps into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

For the berries: Toss blueberries, 1 tablespoon sugar, and water in bowl. In separate bowl, toss raspberries with remaining sugar. Let sit until sugar dissolves and berries are glossy, about 5 minutes.

To assemble: Arrange 7 star sandwiches upright around bottom of 3-quart trifle dish. Place 2 cups sandwich scraps in center of dish. Arrange 3 cups blueberries around stars, piling up blueberries so that they surround all edges of stars. Spread 2 cups custard in even layer on top of blueberry and cake layer. Place 1 cup sandwich scraps on center of custard layer. Arrange 3 cups raspberries around perimeter of dish. Spread remaining custard in even layer on top of raspberries. Arrange 9 star sandwiches upright around perimeter of dish. Arrange remaining blueberries around stars and pile remaining raspberries in center of dish. Spoon whipped cream on top of raspberries and top with remaining 2 stars.


 Easy Custard

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch table salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions: Heat cream, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in heavy saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until sugar begins to dissolve. Whisk in cornstarch until mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When cream mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

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Difficulty: Easy

Quick and easy! A healthy, well-balanced dinner in 30 minutes? You got it! Broccolini is a yummy milder alternative to regular broccoli, but if you can’t find it (got mine at Sprouts) just substitute broccoli.

4 chicken breasts
All purpose seasoning (Lawry’s, Midwestern Meats Seasoning, etc or S &P)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 TBS Olive oil

12 oz. broccolini, ends trimmed
1 TBS butter
1 TBS oil
2 TBS water
4 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt & Pepper

Directions: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Make sure chicken breasts are even (pound otherwise), season to taste and place in skillet. Cook 5 minutes on one side, turn and place lemon slices (2 each breast) over chicken, cover with lid and cook an additional 4 minutes. Remove from pan, place on plate and tent with foil. Leave lemon slices on.

In the same large skillet over medium heat melt butter in oil. Add broccolini (can use broccoli instead) and sauté, stirring to coat. Add water and place lid on pan to steam for 4-5 minutes. Remove lid, add garlic, sauté for 1 minute, stirring to cat broccolini. Season with salt and pepper to taste and squeeze lemon juice over veggies. Serve.

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