Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yellow Cake

This is my Aunt Mary's recipe that has been passed down for generations.  It is a dense, very moist cake with a nice crumb.  Holds up great for decorating!  Excellent with chocolate frosting or fresh strawberries!

from the family of my Aunt Mary

  • 2/3 cup margarine (I used butter)
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large or extra large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 pan. (If turning out grease and lightly flour or use baking spray)
In a small bowl whisk together, flour, salt and baking powder.
Working with a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat margarine or butter well.  Add sugar and beat well.  Adds egg one at a time while mixing on low.  Add vanilla. Add flour while mixing on low.  Add milk slowly.  Turn speed to med. high and beat for 2 and half minutes.
Pour into pan and bake for 20 min. at 350 and reduce temp. to 325 and bake additional 15-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  (I almost always have to add time)

Strawberry Nutella Muffins

So I originally saw these on  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/strawberry-nutella-muffins/ and thought they looked great.  Then my friend Cristine, who also has an amazing blog, http://cristinecooks.blogspot.com/  made them, too.  That convinced me!  So for Father's day, I had to whip some up.  They are delicious!  A dense muffin, full of flavor!  The strawberries make them refreshing, and the nutella makes them rich.  Wonderful.  I made an adjustment because my batter was a little too stiff, but very good muffins.

adapted from Two Peas
yield: 9 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk plus 2 TBSP
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup Nutella
  •   Coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top of muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease.
 In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.
 In a medium bowl, combine canola oil, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla together. Use a fork or whisk and mix until well combined.
Mix the dry ingredients into wet mixture, slowly and gently stir, you don’t want to over mix. The batter will be thick. Gently fold in the strawberries. Fill each muffin cup half way with batter.  Then, add about a TBSP of Nutella to each muffin cup. Cover the Nutella filling with the remaining batter. Sprinkle each muffin with sugar.  Bake muffins for 17-20 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool on a cooling rack.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Grapes

This may sound like a crazy combo, but this is so delicious.  Forever ago, I used to go a restaurant in NYC called Il Cortile in Little Italy anytime we went into NYC.    I always got the same thing.  Roasted chicken with grapes in a champagne cream sauce.  They topped it with deep fried parsley which was divine.  They no longer serve it, but it was a favorite of mine.  I made my own version many years ago and was having a hankering for it again, so I whipped it up.  The sauce is so delicious.  Delicate, slightly sweet and so great with the chicken and grapes. The grapes break down and my kids did not really like them, but my husband and I both loved one with each bite of chicken. A burst of sweetness.  This is a wonderful chicken dish that we all loved!


  • 2-3 large chicken breasts (bone in, skin on)
  • good drizzle of olive oil
  • 1.5- 2 cups grapes (skin must be tender on grapes)
  • 1 1/2 cups white Lambrusco 
  • 1 shallot, diced fine
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup cream of half and half
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • 1 TBSP cognac
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.  Give good drizzle of olive oil in skillet over med high heat.  Season chicken well will salt and pepper and the thyme.  Put skin side down in pan and let cook for 3-5 minutes until it has a good golden brown crust on skin.  Remove to baking dish and put in oven.  Meanwhile, place chopped shallots in same skillet and cook until beginning to brown.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add the flour and butter and make roux.  Whisk in the Lambrusco or Champagne and whisk until flour is incorporated. Add grapes and cognac (or brandy) and cook another 2 minutes. Add cream or half and half (it will curdle, but don't worry, it will incorporate) whisk well.  Remove chicken from oven and pour sauce and grapes over chicken and put back into oven to bake.  Bake 45 minutes-1 hour (depends on how big your chicken breasts are).  Let chicken rest for 10 minutes after removing from oven.  Slice and serve with grapes and lots of sauce over each piece.

Beet Risotto

Okay, may sound strange, but this is just delicious!  My kids were very hesitant to try it, but they all ate it heartily, even my picky eater.   My 6 year old tried it and said, "Yum, I am saving that for last!  That is good!"  It is a beautiful color.  Would be great for Valentine's Day.  I am not a rice eater and not necessarily a beet lover, but the beets in this are delicious! Subtle and nutty in flavor.  This is my first real risotto.  I was afraid it would be hard, but it was super easy.  You do have to stand around and mix, but it is easy.  This is a keeper and will be made again and again.

adapted from Rachael Ray

  • bunch of beets (mine had 3 beets)
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 quart (box) of chicken STOCK
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup wine  (red or white)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3-1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 6 TBSP heavy cream
  • fresh parsley

Wash beets.  Preheat oven to 375.  Cut off stem and bottom.  Reserve tops and slice for a garnish for finished risotto.  Place in a bit of foil and drizzle with EVOO and some salt and pepper.  Bake for 1-1/4 hr until tender.  When cooked, reserve juices that come out and peel beets and place in food processor or blender with juices and a bit of the 2 cups of water if needed.  Puree and set aside.

Place stock and water in a saucepan and get hot, then turn down to low.
In a  skillet, place about a TBSP of olive oil and 1 TBSP butter and saute onion on med high heat.  Cook for about 3 minutes until beginning to be translucent and add garlic.  Let cook another minute and add rice.  Add a bit more oil if needed (if pan is dry) and cook the rice for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to get browned and crackle.  Add the wine (I eyeballed it, may have done a bit more than 1/2 cup.  Never hurt anyone!) and cook until wine disappears. Reduce heat to medium. Add a few ladles of broth and simmer, stirring continuously.  When you scrap the bottom and it remains "dry" or  the liquid no longer rushes in, it is time to add a few more ladles.  I did this about 6-8 times, cooking for 3-5 minutes each time or until more liquid was needed.

Near the end, add the beet puree and the last of the broth.  Cook until still creamy.  Stir in cream and parmesan cheese.  Taste and season accordingly.  If still not done, cover and let sit for a few minutes.  Meant to be served al dente. Garnish with the beet greens and some fresh parsley, if desired.

*I have heard it is insanely good with a few dollops of soft goat cheese.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Apple Buttermilk Pancakes with Streusel Topping

    I saw Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes on this website http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/cinnamon-streusel-pancakes/  and had to try them.  Excellent, but very sweet. A little too sweet for me.   I decided to put a spin on that recipe and this was sooo  good.  Maybe my favorite pancake ever.  I could not cook them fast enough for my family and I will be making these time and time again!



    This is the apple side, or bottom.
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3 apples- peeled, sliced very thin and sprinkled with cinnamon

    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 4 TBSP butter (1/2 stick)

    Prepare streusel topping first.  Mix dry ingredients with a whisk and add butter and mix with fingers until coarse crumb.  Set aside.

    Mix dry ingredients for pancakes.  Add wet and whisk until combined and no more.  Heat griddle over med low heat.  Meanwhile, peel and slice apple very thin.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.
    Lightly butter surface and ladle spoonful of batter.  Use back of ladle to spread batter evenly into nice circle.  Carefully arrange the apple slices in a sunburst onto batter.

    Flip and sprinkle a few TBSP's of topping on top of cooked portion of pancake.  Give time for apples to cook some.  The batter will ooze around apples some to lock them in the pancake.  Flip back over briefly (about 30 seconds) to let all butter melt and give a little crunch to the streusel.  Top with more butter if desired and maple syrup.

    Buttercream Icing (the best ever)

    I love icing...  When I was little I used to eat the cake first and save my icing for last (delayed gratification).  Now, I have figured out, who needs the cake? Eat a little cake with icing and throw the cake away.  That is because most cakes are dry.  The older and wiser I have gotten I realized that not all icing is created equal.
    I do not like most stores frosting.  They are way too sweet, or too crisco laden and have no flavor.  It took me awhile to find a buttercream recipe worth repeating, but since I made this one, I have not looked back.  This is the best icing.  But don't take my word for it.  Try it!


    • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
    • 1 cup crisco
    • 2 lb. confectioners' sugar
    • 1/2 tsp clear butter flavor
    • 1 tsp clear vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp almond extract
    • scant 1/2 cup milk
    • dash salt

    Working with a mixer whisk attachment, beat butter and crisco until well combined.  Add  extracts and 10x sugar beating on low.  Add  a bit of milk slowly and increase mixer speed.  Add milk a bit at a time until it is the consistency you desire (I used little less than 1/2 cup for soft icing).   Beat until fluffy.

    Strawberry Pie

    This is a wonderful summer pie and is my husbands most requested pie.  He has me make it every year for his birthday instead of cake.  It is a light and wonderful dessert!


    • 1 1/2 lbs. strawberries cleaned and quartered or whole
    • 2 TBSP strawberry jello
    • 3 TBSP cornstarch
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 baked pie shell


    Bake pie shell and let cool.  Arrange berries in pie shell. Mix jello, cornstarch, tepid water and sugar in a saucepan.  Mix until cornstarch is dissolved.  Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes until thickened, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  Remove from heat and let sit for 2-3 minutes.  Pour glaze over pie shell and chill for several hours, until firm, before serving.  Serve with whipped cream.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Bars

    This may be my new favorite dessert,(candy).  I saw on a friends blog, Millionaires Grey Salt Shortbread,  which looked amazing and I bookmarked it awhile ago.  I just didn't have the grey salt.  Turns out grey salt is just a variation of sea salt.  But I got it anyway. 

    I went to make it today and say that in the shortbread alone there was 3/4 lb of butter.  Yes, 3 sticks.  I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Plus, as I have said before, I am not a huge shortbread fan. 
    So, I did some research and found Espresso Caramel Bars from Giada De Laurentiis, and printed it off.  I have made some changes.  First, I did pure chocolate on top.  The ganache might be nice to cut the sweetness.  Will try next time. (posted recipe below)  Second, I made the caramel salted caramel!  Anyway, this has a few steps, but is really easy.  Just follow the directions!  No stirring the caramel!
    These are SUPER SWEET!  Really a candy.  They are wonderful frozen.  An inch square will do you.  Seriously, one pan will serve at least 30 people.  Cut them small and have some milk standing by!



    For the crust:
    • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    For the Caramel :
    • 1/2 cup whipping cream
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
    • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
    • 1 TBSP water
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used my grey)
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla
    For the Chocolate: *
    • 2 cups good chocolate (semi-sweet)
    • 1/2 TBSP butter
    • (can add 1 tsp of espresso powder if desired)
    Sea salt for top.


    For the crust:  Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9' pan with foil or spring form with parchment.  Spray with cooking spray.  Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon.  Pour in melted butter and mix well.  Put into prepared pan and use the bottom of measuring cup to press into pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven, until golden.

    For the caramel:  Put all ingredients, except vanilla, into saucepan over med high heat.  Stir until butter is melted and mix is smooth.  Put in candy thermometer and DO NOT STIR ANY MORE!  Bring to 240 degrees (5-7 minutes).  When reaches 240, pour in vanilla and give fast stir and pour hot caramel over graham cracker crust.  Leave for 20 minutes to cool, then freeze for 10 minutes.

    For chocolate:

    Melt chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in double boiler or microwave in 30 second intervals with cream, until smooth.  Carefully spread over caramel topping.  Sprinkle top with sea salt.  Chill for an hour.  This will possibly be the longest hour of your life.  Cut and serve (with milk).

    *Giada's recipe calls for 1/2 cup cream with chocolate chips and 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder, over double boiler. Mix until smooth.*

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Chicken Parmesan

    I love chicken parmesan!  I realized I had not posted my recipe, so here it is.  You may find it strange that I add lemon zest and juice to the chicken, but it is so subtle and just brightens the flavor.  It is a background taste that would make you say, "what is that?"  Anyway, pretty easy, involves some pots and pans, but that prep clean up is done by the time the chicken is out of the oven, so it is minimal clean-up after dinner.  Enjoy!


    • 3 large chicken breast (about 2 lbs.), halved and pounded thin
    • 2 eggs beaten well
    • 2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
    • 1/3 cup pecorino romano (parm) cheese (the real stuff, no green can!)
    • zest of half a lemon
    • juice half lemon
    • couple TBSP white wine for deglazing
    • 1 TBSP good olive oil
    • 1 TBSp butter
    • 1 cup prepared spaghetti sauce (homemade or jarred)
    • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
    • 1/2 cup coarsely shredded parmesan

    Preheat oven to 350. In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs.  In another shallow bowl, mix 1/3 cup pecorino cheese, bread crumbs and zest of lemon.  Cut chicken in half, by thickness (should be about same size, just thinner).  Put in between plastic wrap and take out some aggression, pounding it thin.  Dredge in eggs, then in bread crumb mixture.  Place on plate. 
    Place large nonstick skillet on stove over med.-high heat and drizzle live oil and about 1 TBSP butter.  Place chicken in skillet and let sit for about 5-7 minutes.  You want a nice crust, don't pick at it too much.  Turn chicken over when browned and cook on other side until browned (It does not need to be cooked through, it will finish cooking in the oven.)  Squeeze half of a lemon over chicken and deglaze pan with a little wine to loosen the chicken.
    You want that nice brown color.  The bread crumbs will be crisp.

    Spray large baking pan with cooking spray or grease with olive oil and place chicken on pan.  Spread sauce over each piece of chicken then top with about a TBSP of parmesan and some mozzarella. Bake for about 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and chicken cooked through.  Serve with pasta.

    Banana Crumb Muffins

    These muffins are wonderful and will be my new go to banana muffin!  They are so full of banana flavor and moist and just so good.  My kids had barely finished one before asking for another.  They will be gone by this afternoon no doubt.  Got this recipe off Allrecipes.com- 5 star recipe for sure!  I did make a few minor changes, like adding vanilla, but not much!  Enjoy!


    • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour (I sub. 1/2 c. whole wheat)
    • 1 tsp. baking soda   
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten
    • 1/3 cup melted butter (some people sub. canola oil)
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    •  1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 2 TBSP. flour
    • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 TBSP butter

    Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare muffins tins with liners or cooking spray.  Whisk dry ingredients together.  In a separate large bowl, mash bananas, and mix in all wet ingredients.  Whisk dry ingredients into wet.  In a small bowl, mix crumb topping together with fingers until a course crumb.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.   Enjoy!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Chicken Divan

    Simple dish.  A little time consuming, with preparing the broccoli and rice, but easy as far as complexity.  And it was a meal I had to stop myself from gorging myself.  The kids all chowed it down, even my picky eater, and it was just plain yummy.   Sorry about the poor photo's.   No good way to photograph casseroles. 

    I had some leftover chicken and lots of broccoli, and realized when we move that I have an abundance of grains/rice.  So, it screamed Chicken Divan!  Seriously, I did not want to stop eating it.  But I did. ;-) This served our family of 6 with enough leftovers for tomorrow.  Maybe 6-8 adults.


    • 1/2-3/4 roaster chicken cut up
    • 1 cup dry rice, cooked (I used brown jasmine)
    • 2.5 cups broccoli, steamed al dente
    • 1 can healthy request cream soup (chicken or mushroom)
    • 1/3 cup light sour cream
    • 1/2 cup light mayo
    • juice half a lemon
    • 1.5 tsp curry powder
    • 1/2 cup white wine or broth to thin
    • milk to thin more if needed
    • 1 cup(ish) shredded cheese (cheddar or swiss)
    • handful of bread crumbs or crushed croutons

    Preheat oven to 350. Cut up chicken, cook rice and steam broccoli.  Spray 9x13 with cooking spray.  Put rice evenly in the bottom.  Top evenly with cut up chicken.  Top with steamed broccoli.  Mix soup, sour cream, mayo, lemon juice and curry powder.  Whisk in wine or broth and some milk until still thick, but spreadable (not gloppy).  Pour over broccoli.  Sprinkle cheese over top and bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until bubbling.