Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter Wreath

I can't believe Easter is only a week away! I've started having wreaths of some sort for every holiday on my apartment door, and enjoy trying to make something new. I got the idea for this from other blogs online. It's very easy to make (took me less than an hour, while watching TV). Even better than the time spent is the price - less than $5! I got 3 bags of 18 eggs at the dollar store. The ribbon was also from the dollar store, but it was priced 2 for $1. The grass was $0.29 at Target, and I the ring was cut from poster board also bought at the dollar store - but large enough to make 2 separate wreaths.

45-55 plastic eggs, depending on the size (I used 52)
Hot glue gun, and lots of extra glue sticks (I used at least 6)
Wired ribbon for the bow
Easter Grass
Cardboard for wreath form

Cut form for wreath. Mine was about 13-14 inches at the outer edge, and about 2.5 inches wide. If you use regular cardboard, you may want to make it double thickness for strength

Glue eggs onto outer edge of the ring - with the fat side of the egg being glued to the cardboard. Don't be afraid to use plenty of glue - glue onto the cardboard, as well as in between the eggs. (The strings from the hot glue will be hidden in the grass, so you don't have to be extremely tidy).

Glue eggs onto the inner edge of the ring - again with the fat side of the egg being glued to the cardboard. Make sure that any surface of the egg that is touching cardboard or another egg is glued. (It's OK if there is a small gap on the top - you'll place your bow there to cover it!)

Glue an additional 6-8 eggs on top of the other two rows. Not all gaps need to be filled.

Glue grass into all of the visible gaps (all spaced between eggs on the outer ring, and anywhere else the cardboard shows). The original directions said to use a pen/pencil to push the grass into the area, after you've placed the hot glue. However, I found that the grass wanted to stick to the pen too much. So, I placed the glue down - waited just a second or two, then pushed a clump of grass onto the glue with my fingers. Just be careful if you are going to use this approach - it is HOT glue. :)

Trim off any stray grass, so that it forms a nice shaped wreath

Add bow. I used some glue to help it stay in place.

Your quick & easy Easter Wreath should now be done!

My table for the Easter season.

You'll notice a stuffed bunny on the table - a Cadbury Bunny, to be exact. I've had this bunny for probably 10 years. If you press one of the feet, it says "Bok, bok, bok" like the old Cadbury commercials used to. One of my Dad's favorite stories to tell is at one of my first Easters, he would always ask me, "What does the bunny say?" And I'd always answer "Bok, bok, bok."

What can I say, I guess I have loved Easter from the start! Some of my fondest family memories take place at Easter - ALWAYS seeing the Easter bunny in my Grandparent's back yard (I never could figure out how the little gray/brown bunnies could get our huge baskets up into the apple trees). And huge Easter Egg Hunts with all of the cousins on my dad's side of the family.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This is one of our favorite "go to" meals when we have guests on a week night. It takes less than 30 minutes to make, and I never get complaints. It's easy to adjust the amount of "heat" to your personal preference. While it may be healthier to use half & half, it may be difficult to get this to a nice thick sauce. I personally recommend splurging :)

Serves 4-6

3-4 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 14-16oz bag of frozen bell peppers
Minced Garlic
1.5 pints whipping cream
Cayenne pepper
Cajun seasoning (We use Emeril's Bayou Blast)
Olive Oil
1 16 oz box of pasta, cooked

Saute chicken pieces in small amount of olive oil, with approximately 1-2 teaspoons garlic (adjust amount to taste). Sprinkle with Cajun Seasoning. When fully cooked, add bell peppers. When warm, baste off all of the juices, which can be discarded. Add whipping cream, and seasonings to taste. (We add quite a bit, but we like things spicy). Bring sauce to a simmer, and cook until desired thickness.

Serve over pasta. Great with some breadsticks or garlic bread to enjoy with the sauce.

(See, I told you it was easy! I never measure the spices, I start by dusting the entire top of the pan with the cajun seasoning, and usually do this a few times until I get the desired amount of heat.)


Monday, March 22, 2010

Easy Caramel Rolls

These have got to be one of the easiest caramel roll recipes that exists. This has been an all time favorite recipe of my family for years, and is often requested by guests. As children, some of my cousins could easily eat 4++ rolls, so make sure you make enough! They reheat wonderfully, so if you have extras, just keep them in a tupperware, and heat them up in the microwave for a few seconds - just as good as when they first came out of the oven.

Makes 18 small rolls

1 pkg cook'n'serve butterscotch pudding
1 1/2 dozen Rhodes frozen dinner rolls
1/2 cup butter or margarine (I always use butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar
nuts (optional)

Arrange frozen rolls in a 9x13 pan sprayed with a non-stick spray. Sprinkle with dry butterscotch pudding and cinnamon. Melt butter and brown sugar in small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Pour over rolls. Sprinkle with nuts.

Allow to sit overnight (on the counter) for at least 8-9 hours to rise, longer if your home is on the cooler side.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, invert onto plate or cookie sheet with an edge.

Serve by pulling apart the rolls.

(One of my favorite parts is cleaning out the caramel from the pan & off the cookie sheet!)

NOTE: Here in New England, the Rhode's Dinner Rolls - or any other frozen dough dinner roll - don't seem to exist (we called and visited multiple store before giving up). So, buy a bag of 3 loaves of bread & let them thaw just enough that you are able to cut up the dough (about 2 hours on the counter). I cut each loaf into 12 pieces - 6 slices, each cut in half. One bag then made 2 batches of caramel rolls. I double the recipe right away - I don't know that I'd try to refreeze dough that has started to thaw. Proceed with the recipe as stated above.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Grilled Pizza Dough

My husband & I fell in love with grilled pizza last summer. My dad bought us a HUGE gas grill for our housewarming present after he helped us with our cross-country move. (This thing is big - 4 or 5 burners, plus a stove top on the side - it takes up most of our deck). However, it's large burner size is great for pizzas!

I don't know what made me decide to try grilling pizza last summer. I think it was the fact that it was hot out, our 3rd floor apartment was steaming, and I didn't want to start the oven to make pizza.

Well, it's finally grilling weather again (55 degrees in early March - I am NOT used to this!), so we decided it's time to grill pizzas! The dough is extremely easy to make & tastes delicious. It complements any type of topping (we've done everything - BBQ Chicken, buffalo chicken, shrimp scampi, margarita, pepperoni, chicken pesto, etc). The recipe makes 4 nice sized pizzas (10-12 inches). If I'm very hungry, I can finish one off on my own, but 1/2 - 2/3 makes a nice meal size.


2 cups warm water
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbls sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbls olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl

Place water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment, sprinkle yeast on top, and let rest until mixture is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Oil a second large bowl and set aside.

When yeast mixture is ready, add flour mixture and olive oil and mix on low until flour is moistened and dough starts to come together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium low and mix until dough starts to get smooth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and stretches 3 to 4 inches without breaking, about 6 to 10 minutes more.

Transfer dough to the oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Once dough has risen, punch down, shape, and grill as desired.

Helpful Hints:

While I make the dough, and the hubby is in charge of the grilling, it is really a 2 person job. We actually grill the dough on one half of the grill, usually on a medium-low setting. We keep the other half of the grill on high to keep the grill nice & hot, otherwise the crust burns and the cheese isn't melted.

We usually only cook one at a time, but each only takes about 5 minutes total. Make sure all toppings are very easily accessible (all in bowls) to be able move quickly. My hubby oils the grill with olive oil & a silicone brush, and I quickly place the dough on. He quickly oils the top of the crust & we shut the lid to the grill. It cooks for 1-2 minutes (will start to bubble).

The hubs quickly flips, while I have the sauce in hand ready to pour in spread. Just as I'm finishing the sauce, hubs is putting the cheese down, and I grab the toppings. Remember, work quickly!

Close the lid, and let it cook for an additional 3-4 minutes (check to be sure the crust isn't burning & the cheese is melting). Try to keep the lid down as much as possible to keep the heat enclosed.

While this may seem complicated, it's actually quite fun and easy! (And, very affordable!) We rarely order or buy pizza anymore!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carbomb Cupcakes

Before anyone comments, I realize that the name is not politically correct. However, my husband, my IRISH husband, has no problem with their name. They are named after the drink (the very tasty drink), not the actual car-bombs.

Now that we are beyond the name, we can discuss the cupcakes. These are amazing. I first made them last Memorial Day. The word of these cupcakes spread quickly - as soon as a new guest arrived, the were instructed to eat a cupcake. If they insisted on eating their meal first, they were told to at least take a cupcake and carry it with them until they were ready to eat it. People were eating 2 or 3 cupcakes, even before they grilled their meat. Thankfully, I tried one before sharing, or I wouldn't have had one to eat that night.

Of course, I had to make them for Saint Patrick's Day. We had our good friends from Minneapolis in town to celebrate the holiday with us in Boston, and I knew they would appreciate the treat. These are some of the most moist cupcakes I've ever made - it may become my standard chocolate cake recipe.

CARBOMB CUPCAKES (From Smitten Kitchen)
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness (or any stout)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chocolate flavoring/extract

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.

Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs, flavoring and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Ganache Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey or 1 to 2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream(optional)

Make the filling:
Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey/Baileys (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes:
Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped or spooned into the cupcakes. Meanwhile, cut cones out of the cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

4-8 tablespoons Baileys

Make the frosting:
Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Shrimp, Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

I've been wanting to try jambalaya for awhile now, and figured my vacation week was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. The original recipe called for Andouille Sausage - which I could not find at our local grocery store. Instead, I used a spicy Portuguese Sausage, which was wonderful! Probably one of the more spicy sausages I've had, and a flavorful addition to dish.

The jambalaya tasted wonderful the first night, but the hubby & I actually like it better reheated. The flavors have some time to meld, and the texture is unchanged. It's good that the left overs taste great - we have a lot! My husband eats A LOT (I wish I had his metabolism), and we easily have 4 meals worth of food for the two of us. You'll need a (very) large pan to make the full recipe - ours was 12 inches in diameter & 3 inches deep, and it was full to the brim.

SHRIMP, CHICKEN & SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA (adapted from Annie's Eats)

1 medium onion, trimmed and quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into quarters
1 large, red bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
8 oz. sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch chunks
1½ cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (¼ cup of juice reserved)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb. shrimp (31-40 per lb.), peeled and deveined

Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped fine, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Be careful not to over-process. (I prepared this mixture a day ahead of time while I had my food processor out to chop onions for another recipe)

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pot, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken and cook until golden brown on the opposite side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and add the sausage. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the fat, about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and cooked sausage to the pot. Stir to combine.

Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place the chicken on the rice so that the side the skin was just removed from is now facing down. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir once, keeping the chicken in the same general position, and continue to simmer until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and set aside.

Scatter the shrimp over the rice, cover, and continue to cook until the rice is fully tender and the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

While the shrimp are cooking, shred the chicken into thin strands. Once the shrimp are finished cooking, stir in the chicken, and serve immediately.

NOTE: We've also decided we could probably add more veggies to the dish. Because the food processor chopped them so finely, you didn't even realize there were any in there. Great way to add some veggies to a diet!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Overnight Waffles

This waffle recipe has been sitting in my folder for 5 years, and I'm just now trying it out. A co-worker of mine, back when I was working on my undergraduate honor's thesis, recommended this recipe to me. He said it was one of the best recipes he's tried, and was his "go-to" recipe when guests were over. At the time, I had 4 roommates, and to be completely honest, I didn't trust a bowl full of batter sitting out on the counter when they (and all the people they had around) were in the house. So, my recipe got tucked away until now.

My husband & I finally exchanged a Christmas gift for a new Belgium waffle maker. It's one of those fancy hotel style machines that flips over. I can kind of pretend I'm on vacation while making them (except for knowing that I'm the one who has to clean up the mess). The waffle maker worked wonderfully - I would fully recommend it to anyone, and the recipe produced beautiful, light waffles. We made a double batch, and froze some of the waffles. They taste just as good after reheated in the oven for a few minutes.

(See my pretty new waffle maker in the background?)

OVERNIGHT WAFFLES ("How to Cook Everything" p745)
Makes 6-8 large round Belgium waffles

1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbls sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted & cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla (I always add more than called for)
Canola oil for brushing on waffle iron
2 eggs

Before going to bed, combine the dry ingredients and stir in the milk, then the butter and vanilla. The mixture will be loose. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight at room temperature.

In the morning, brush the waffle iron lightly with oil & preheat it. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the batter. Beat the whites until they hold soft peaks, then gently stir them into the batter.

Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, usually 3-5 minutes, depending on your iron. Serve immediately or keep warm for a few minutes in a low oven.

Note: The book I got this recipe from highly recommends immediately serving the waffles as they are "delicate creatures" - keep them in a 200 degree oven for no more than 5 minutes prior to serving.

They do start to get soggy if not eaten within a few minutes. To keep them crisp prior to freezing, I put them onto cooling racks immediately until completely cool.


Sunday, March 7, 2010


Mmmmm... These are one of my all time favorite cookies. And, while I may be a bit partial as I've grown up with this recipe, this is probably the best recipe for snickerdoodles I've run across. They are always light & fluffy - almost cake-like, and perfectly domed in shape. They are just sweet enough to (almost) satisfy my sweet-tooth, but not so sweet that my healthy husband won't eat them. They are a great with my morning coffee. And, yes, as a physician, I am admitting that I DO occasionally eat cookies for breakfast - they are so easy to eat on the T while I'm sipping my morning coffee from my spill free mug.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

4 tbsp sugar
4 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla and eggs. Mix in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into creamed mixture.

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in topping mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until set.

Remove from cookie sheets immediately.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Easy Indian Style Chicken

I've been wanting to try my hand at Indian food for awhile. While this is in no way an authentic Indian dish, its flavors are similar to those in Indian meals. It's excellent served with Basmati Rice (we found a brown Basmati rice variety) and naan. I hope to make homemade naan next time I make this dish - there wasn't anything exceptional about the store bought stuff, and I've seen some recipes that make it seem pretty easy.

The spice measurements are approximate - I ended up changing the original recipe quite a bit, and kept on adding spices until it tasted right. Don't be afraid to dip a spoon into the sauce while you're making it!

Easy Indian Style Chicken (Adapted from AllRecipes)
Feeds 4 with rice & naan

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped (I used my food processor)
2/3 (6 ounce) can of tomato paste
1/3 cup water
3 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1-1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
1 heavy dash chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in chopped onion, and cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir together tomato paste and water, and pour into skillet. Stir in chicken, and cook until it has firmed and turned white, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, brown sugar, curry paste, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and continue to simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

(We let ours simmer for closer to 30 minutes, until the rice was finished).