Friday, May 30, 2008

Has anyone ever heard of this before???

I kinda feel like this is a cheater post but in my defense I spent the whole morning in a Dr's appt and then ran errands right up until now. I get to pick the girls up in about an hour so my day is pretty much done!

Anyway, my Mother-in-law sent me an email last week asking me to try out something that she was sent. I have to say I was skeptical at first. Like come on who would make and omelet in a Ziploc bag??? We gave this a test run the day that we left to go to the Keys...

just making sure you remembered...anyway they worked. And really, really well. We all had our omelets ready at the same time and exactly the way we each wanted them. T. even had jalapeños in his! This is great for a weekday morning or a rushed weekend one as well!

Breakfast Ziploc Omelets

Good for when you're alone or when all or when all of your family is together. The best feature is that no one has to wait for their special omelet. Have the guests write their name on a quart size Ziploc freezer bag with a permanent marker. (These are not my pictures. They came with the email. I am sorry to have "borrowed" someone else's pics but that morning was very rushed and I took no pictures!)

  • Crack 2 eggs into the quart size bag (not more than 2) and shake well.
  • Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, salsa etc. Pretty much anything that you would put in a regular omelet.
  • Everybody adds the prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shakes the bag to mix them well.
  • Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.
  • Place the bags into rolling boiling water for EXACTLY 13 MINUTES. You can cook 6 - 8 omelets in a large pot. If you have more omelets, make another pot of boiling water.
  • Cut the bags and the omelet will roll out easily (yep - it really does!!!)
  • This is nice to serve with fresh fruit and coffee cake. Everyone gets involved in the process.
  • You can even get these ready the night before andjust plop the bags in boiling water while you get ready!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tomato and Green Bean Salad

Looks like summer huh?

Last night for dinner we were just going to have burgers and a tomato salad but as I was cleaning out my fridge yesterday I found some green beans that I had forgotten about in the crisper. I had bought them over the weekend so they were still in great shape. I decided to make a simple salad using my garden fresh tomatoes. This salad turned out great. I had seen it years ago in one of the food magazines but can not for the life of me remember which one! Seeing as I didn't have a recipe to follow I just went by memory and taste. Everyone loved this and it tasted just like summer to me!

Tomato and Green Bean Salad

1 box or bag of green beans (however you get them at the market), trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
3 lg tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1/3 cup olive oil (I think I would use less next time)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 garlic clove, chopped fine (use more or less depending on taste)
1 Tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
  • Cook the beans in boiling water for 3 - 5 minutes or until tender crisp. Drain and transfer to an ice bath. Once shilled drain them well and place in a large bowl.
  • Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir into the beans.
  • This can be served immediately or chilled in the fridge until ready to serve.

Fresh tomatoes for the salad

Basil is getting a little leggy so I think it is just about done! It is getting way too hot and dry here to grow anything!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Daring Bakers Challenge and how I keep screwing up the date...

Opera Cake

It was a wonderful relaxing long weekend. Monday night after I had gotten the girls into bed I decided to check the computer see what some of my fellow bloggers had been up to. I also needed to check on the recipe for my Daring Baker challenge which I needed to do during the week. Now I knew this was a pretty complex recipe. 5 separate elements to it. I knew I needed to give myself time during the week to work on it nice and leisurely. I had already planned the presentation and bought the almond flour that was called for. All I really needed to do was to pick up some odds and ends at the grocery store and I would start in on it.

HOLY CRAP!!! THEY WANT ME TO POST THIS ON WEDNESDAY?????? How the H*** am I going to pull this off. Printed out the recipe. Raced to the fridge...I have one egg. It is already 10:00. There is no way I can do this tonight. So off to bed I went with visions of Opera Cakes dancing in my head!

This months challenge was a great one and it is being hosted by the Daring Bakers co-founders, Lis (La Mia Cucina) and Ivonne ( Creampuffs in Venice), and co-hosted by Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful.

Faced with the challenge of only having one day to do this and I really mean about 5 1/2 hrs before I need to pick the girls up from school and get them to their skating lessons I thought I was screwed. But I am a very determined person though so I shut my eyes and dove right in feet first after all isn't that what a Daring Baker should do???

This cake was wonderful and really not complex or hard just time consuming...unfortunately that was the only thing I didn't have for this challenge! I decided throw presentation right out the window. I would be very happy if I could get a slice out of this cake to take a picture and have a taste. My whole cake was great. The elements all came together perfectly: the joconde, the syrup, the buttercream and the glaze. I had decided to skip the mousse, there just wasn't the time. I altered mine to be more lemony. Due to the fact the I have only one person on my house who likes white chocolate I even did a lemon glaze on the top. The sourness of that I think is what really made the cake. Otherwise it may have been too sweet for me.

See the perfect glaze?

Would I make this again? I am not sure. I don;t think anyone in the house was crazy about it. They loved the Party Cake. Maybe this one is just a bit too formal for the kids? Who knows. I am really glad I did it though!

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.) I bought almond flour
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. p.s. I love making merigue in Florida???!!!

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.) I used 2 Tbsp lemon extract

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!) I used vanilla extract-time issue remember
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.) I used 1 Tbsp lemon extract

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below) I did not do this step

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

I used a lemon glaze
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch

cook over medium heat whisking constantly until clear.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A little bit of everything!

Nothing like lounging by the pool and watching your kids and dog swim for a whole day!!

Yesterday was just a really nice day. Usually we have a huge Memorial Day BBQ but this year we decided that T. needed a break. I don't think that I have mentioned this but a couple of weeks ago T. was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus which is just horrible. It actually stays with you for up to 1 1/2 years. He doesn't always feel bad but when he does all he wants to do is sleep and I just couldn't risk him getting too run down by having a big party here! We made the most of it anyway and it was really nice just hanging out with the family. We are all usually running in so many directions that we very rarely take the time we need together just hanging out.

T. made margaritas using fresh key lime, lemon and orange juice

See how nicely he crushed to you think maybe he's done this before?

Our theme this weekend was zucchini and how many we could use up before I had to start freezing them. One thing about zucchini is a little goes a long way. I barely made a dent in the box and I made Zucchini Double Chocolate Cake and Grilled Zucchini Gratin. Needless to say I have started freezing them already.

See the chunks of zucchini? This was a very light and moist cake. Even if I didn't have a case of zucchini I would love to make this again!

Zucchini Double Chocolate Cake


2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 medium zucchini, shredded (about 2 cups)
1 cup Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips

  • Grease and flour a 13 X 9 baking pan.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the oil, milk, butter and vanilla. Beat on low speed until combined.
  • Add the eggs and zucchini and beat on medium high speed for 2 minutes
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes and cake tester comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with fresh whipped cream.

Sticking closely with the theme...

Grilled Zucchini Gratin

I didn't follow a recipe for this but here goes...I sliced enough zucchini, lengthwise, to fill a 13 X 9 casserole dish with 2 layers. Approximately 6. I seasoned them and had T. grill them. I assembled them in the pan with one layer of zucchini which I sprinkled with seasoned bread crumbs. I topped that layer with some sliced tomatoes. I sprinkled all of this with goat cheese and topped it with mozzarella. For the final layer I covered all that with some more zucchini and mozzarella cheese and cooked for about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbling.

Save these recipes just in case you somehow end up with a case of zucchini or those plants that you plant now are huge producers!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Monday, May 26, 2008

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes for Breakfast and Islamorada for Dinner!

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes

I am going to do this backwards. For breakfast this morning we had Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes and dinner last night was in Islamorada, one of the Florida Keys. How cool is my life?

The breakfast this morning was a treat for the girls and a treat for us in another way. I always make a double batch of these yummy pancakes because they refrigerate well and can be reheated or eaten cold for the next couple of days. Makes for a nice stream lined breakfast for a busy weekday morning. Oh and did you know, blueberries are in season here!!!

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes


1 cup Whole Wheat flour
1 Tbs sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 T vegetable or canola oil
1 cup fresh blueberry (any berry will work)


  • Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a seperate bowl whisk all wet ingredients together.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. You may have to add additional milk to make the mixture thinner.
  • Lightly oil a pre-heated griddle or pan.
  • Pour using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.
  • Cook on first side until you see bubbles on the surface. Flip and cook until the other side is browned.
***This recipe can be doubled to make additional pancakes which can be refrigerated and heated up the next day for a quick breakfast during the week.

***You can add 1/2 cup of berries to this mixture to have berry pancakes.

Note the beautiful color of the water!

Trying to catch some spray!

Onto yesterday...we got up early in the morning and fed the girls a quick breakfast (I will post this really cool simple breakfast later this week) and pointed the car due South. We wanted to be in Key Largo before lunch. I had made reservations for us to go out on Spirit Of Pennekamp which is a glass bottom boat that takes you out over the coral reefs off of the Florida Keys. We are lucky enough to have the 3rd largest coral reef in the world. Unfortunately we decided that our youngest daughter was just too young for snorkeling so at least they offered this other amazing option. The boat ride alone is worth the price of admission. If any of you are anywhere near the Keys this is truly a must see! The guides were incredible and the boat captain was amazing. Just hovering over the reef while being told which way to go. We were able to see scores and scores of fish. Puffer fish, nurse shark, sea turtles, coral and the list goes on and on!

We then headed to Islamorada which is more southernly and had a wonderful dinner at a beautiful gulf side restaurant. Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant , located at mile marker 81.5 (how cool to be on a mile marker???!!!). We both had a couple of tropical cocktails and for dinner we had locally caught yellow tail snapper! The kids had alligator and clam strips but then back to reality...

and alas, all good things must come to an end and for us instead of hanging around for the night we opted on traveling home and not fighting the exodus on Memorial Day For us the drive is about 3 1/2 hrs but completely worth it!!! With Webkinz as our co-pilots we crossed our fingers (saw many, many, many drunken drivers) and once again headed North!

This is really hard to see but if you click on the picture it will appear better. See all of those things out there? Those are boats...hundreds of boats all anchored up by a sand bar in the Atlantic Ocean at Holiday Isle. It's a tradition that is carried on virtually every weekend with the holidays and race week being the most congested.

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stuffed Green Pepper's Our Way

Stuffed Green Pepper's Our Way

I have a lot of zucchini...I mean a whole lot of zucchini...I went to the Farmer's Market today at Cape Harbor. The same one that I went to last week and got a ton of peppers. This week he sold me a ton of zucchini. This is just too good to pass up. A whole case of the things, organic no less for $15!!! I guess we'll be eating a lot of zucchini in the next couple of weeks!

See...Lots and lots of zucchini!!!

Last nights dinner was pretty great. We held a bunch of the green peppers back from last weekend and decided that we would stuff them one night during the week. Well you all know how that goes. Time just gets away from you and before you know it the week is done and you still have the green peppers that need to be stuffed and eaten. By now you all know that one of my children is a true tomato hater. This is the only pass that either of them get. She has to eat everything else...try stuffing a pepper without using tomatoes!!! This what I came up with...

Stuffed Green Peppers Our Way

4 green peppers, halved lengthwise with seeds removed
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (we used Romano and Garlic)
1/2 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic (use more or less depending on your taste), chopped
2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups of cooked bulgar
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 (12 oz) pkg of Queso Fresco (crumbling cheese not frying), crumbled
2 chopped tomatoes, seeds removed

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Brown sausage and add garlic and onion and cook until tender. Mix in the seasonings. When well mixed add the can of beans and the cooked bulgar. Add the tomato last and cook until heated through.
  • Place prepared peppers on a foil lined baking sheet and fill with about 1 Tbsp of the cheese. Top with enough of the bulgar mixture to fill the pepper. Top with more cheese.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes. Brown the cheese under the broiler.
  • Serve with a side of fresh pico de gallo
This was lunch yesterday! I make the BEST pico de gallo!!!

We removed enough of the stuffing mixture for one pepper before adding the tomato for my daughter to eat. This was a nice, quick, fresh tasting meal. The reason I used the bulgar was because it was faster cooking (about 15 minutes) than brown rice and more neutral flavored.

Now what to do with all of those zucchini??? Looks like zucchini fritters for tonight!!!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Chocolaty Banana Cookies

They do look like muffin tops don't they?

Do you ever have those days when you just really don't know what to do with yourself? Tons of energy to be worked off or is it just nervous energy seeking an outlet. Nothing really going on but still just at odds with yourself. Maybe it's coming down from such a wonderfully, exciting day yesterday or too much coffee at Starbuck's this morning??? I really can't put my finger on cleaner's are here today so I am sort of sequestered to my office with the 2 dogs. Could that be it? I went to Barnes & Noble and wandered around there for a while. Nothing really caught my eye there either. Very weird feeling this is! Oh well as soon as my house is cleaned I plan on starting dinner maybe that will fix the restlessness!

Yesterday I wanted to make a nice little treat for the girls and I had seen a picture on Tastespotting that I really wanted to try and seeing as I always have banana close to rotting or in the freezer, it is really one of my favorite things to bake with. It was Banana Bread Muffin Top Cookies on The Hungry House Wife's Blog. Now of course I didn't follow the recipe perfectly because I wanted something a bit chocolaty and also a bit nutty.

Here is the recipe as written and the changes that I have made to it are in italics. The kids loved these and they were really good. Sort of a cake like texture but full of banana flavor. Next time I think I would add more cocoa powder or maybe just chocolate chips (oh...I like that one!!!). But they were very easy and almost fun to make...yep I love to bake!

Want a bite?

Chocolate Banana Bread Muffin Top Cookies

1 cup butter softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 banana, peeled and mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I think pecans would have been better but I had none!)
Powdered Sugar if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper
  • In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in eggs, vanilla extract, and banana. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon; blend thoroughly into the butter mixture to make batter. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature on cooling rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jamie Oliver's chicken thighs and a huge brag about my daughter!

My oldest daughter on TV during her schools morning news show!

First I want to start with my big Mommy moment. My oldest daughter is very bright. The reason that I moved her from private school to public school is that the public schools have more resources available to them to handle a child that is so bright. Yeah...I know we all think that our kids are brilliant but now I have some proof.

The school that they attend does an Accelerated Reading Program which basically means that the books they read have grade and point values attached to them. They are tested on comprehension for all of the books that they finish and are given a point value up to about 6 points (I think). The average amount of points is 3 or 4.

Well in the 4 weeks that my oldest daughter has been there she has accumulated a total of 62 points and has reach STAR Reader Certification after being certified in 5 other Reader groups. This is unprecedented at the school. Needless to say we are very proud of her. The school acknowledges major accomplishments like this on their school produced morning news program. Once again I forgot my camera and took this with my iPhone but you get the point!!!

Now for dinner last night. My sister had made one of Jamie Oliver's recipe and she was dying for me to try it. I made it last night and it was very good. I did make a couple of substitutions because I never have everything just right for a recipe unless I am baking. My changes are in italics beside the real thing. I also added garlic powder and fresh garlic for a bit more flavor.

Would I make this again?: It was delicious and I really loved it. During the week though I only have a limited amount of time to make dinner between homework X 2, cleaning up dog crap, answering incessant and inane questions, and just generally living so I think this used too many pots and steps for a week night meal. Great though for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday when things are not so hectic.

Crispy and sticky chicken thighs with squashed new potatoes and tomatoes by Jamie Oliver's Jamie at home "Cook your way to the good life"

1 3/4 lb new potatoes, scrubbed (white potatoes, I picked out the smallest ones in the bag)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder
12 boned chicken thighs, skin on, preferably free-range or organic (I only had 7 skinless thighs)
olive oil
splash of red wine
1 1/4 lb cherry tomatoes, different shapes and colors if you can find them (frozen,skinned tomatoes quartered)
7 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
a bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked (some fresh some dried)
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar

  • Put the potatoes into a large saucepan of salted boiling water and boil until cooked.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Cut each chicken thigh into three strips and place in a bowl. Rub the meat all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then toss. Heat a large frying pan, big enough to hold all the chicken pieces snugly in one layer, and put the chicken into the pan, skin side down. If you don't have a pan that's big enough, feel free to cook the chicken in two batches. Toss and fry over a high heat for 10 minutes or so, until almost cooked, then remove with a slotted spoon to an oven proof pan of dish. I deglazed the pan with red wine and poured it over the cooked chicken.
  • Prick the tomatoes with a sharp knife. Place them in a bowl cover with boiling water and leave for a minute of so. Drain and when cool enough to handle, pinch off their skins. You don't have to, but by doing this they will become lovely and sweet when cooked and their intense flavor will infuse the potatoes. By now the potatoes will be cooked. Drain them in a colander, then lightly crush them by pushing down on them with your thumb.
  • Bash up most of the oregano leaves with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar, or a flavor shaker if you have one. Add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a good splash of red wine vinegar and some pepper and give everything another bash. Add to the chicken with the potatoes, the tomatoes and the rest of the oregano leaves. Add the garlic cloves. Toss everything together carefully. Spread out in a single layer in an appropriately sized roasting tray, and bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven until golden.

Lovely served with a rocket salad dressed with some lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and a nice glass of white wine. We served it with a tossed salad and s a bottle of Pinot Grigio!This recipe came from Jamie at home "Cook your way to the good life"

This was my sister's version fresh from the oven!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When life hands you rotting peaches...make a crisp!

Peach and Blackberry Crisp

I hate for food to go to waste. I think it is something to do with the time and effort that it takes to come up with the very best ingredients to feed my family. I guess sometimes you will lose a bit but I do anything I can to figure out something to make with it!!!

The other day I happened upon a very tiny produce stand. I knew that they would have noting local this time of year but I needed a couple of things and I would much rather shop at a produce stand than a grocery store any day!!

This was the same place that I got my Key Limes for the Key Lime Pie I made for this month's Royal Foodie Joust. They also had some early season GA. peaches. I bought a small basket thinking the girls would just gobble them up. Wrong. They just sat there until yesterday when I went to throw them out. I changed my mind about tossing them or feeding them to Enorma (our composter) and instead decided to make a crisp with them.

A Crisp recipe is one of the easiest and most versatile recipes that exist. You can use virtually any fruit or a combination of several. I happened to have some - seen better days - blackberries that I decided to add to. This ended up turning out great. I served it with some fresh whipped cream on the side. Was the perfect ending to our grilled vegetable meal!!!

Click here for recipe!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Freezing Peppers

Beautiful organic green peppers!

On Saturday before T. and I went away I had him make a pit stop for me to a new Farmer's Market that I had just heard about at Cape Harbour. I am really getting tired of the same old thing that I see at all of the markets around here right now, produce from anywhere but here. Asparagus from Peru, potatoes from Argentina, tomatoes from who knows where. I guess you get my point.

But this one was different!!! I was able to talk to the man who owned the stand and he had a ton of organic produce. We started talking and I was able to find out that he has a friend who has a farm in Labelle, which is north of here, and another friend who has an organic farm in Georgia that he meets up with weekly to get his produce. This was really great info for me seeing as I have been struggling trying to get some fresh produce. Granted this isn't the perfect situation as it really screws up the "local factor" but you know what...sometimes you just have got to bite the big one and look out for yourself.

Here is where it gets really cool. It was getting late and the market closed at 1 so he asked me what I was really looking for. I told him the herbs and stuff that I wanted and then I mentioned that I would like to get a bunch of bulk things that I can freeze for summer use. Get this...he sold be a WHOLE FRICKIN' CASE OF ORGANIC BELL PEPPERS FOR $18.00!!!!

That's a ton of peppers huh?

So last night T. and I cleaned them all up and cut them in half and ripped out the membrane and the seeds and plopped them in the freezer. Peppers freeze great and we can use them a million different ways. So be prepared for many recipes with pepper as a main ingredient!!!

Ignore my rusted out pans. These are only used for freezing things and on top of that EVERYTHING rusts in Florida!!!
These trays get places in my chest freezer and then bagged in freezer bags all ready to be used!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Monday, May 19, 2008

My lovely, amazingly, incredible weekend!

All I had with me was my i Phone so the pics aren't great but this was the view from our suite. I was too lazy to even stand up and take it, so this is from my lounge chair!!!

Have I mentioned lately how awesome the man I married is??? On Mother's Day I got many, many great gifts from my girls and one really incredible awesome gift from my hubby! He got us a night away at the beautiful Sanibel Harbor Resort and Spa. Now, we all know that I could have called and made the hotel reservations myself right? That isn't really all that big of a deal. I plan all of our vacations but he went a huge step beyond. T. made arrangements for people to look after the girls while we were gone!!! To me this was huge. I am always the one who is arranging sitters and play dates etc., but this time he was definitely driving the bus.

Anyway, we could really only do one night but we made the most out of it. We dropped the kids off at their sleep over spots at about 2 on Saturday and we were on our way. Get this...about 30 minutes later we were at our destination!!! By 3:00 we were checked in and loving our beautiful suite with an incredible view of the Sanibel Causeway! 3:30 we were poolside with cocktail in hand. We had 7:30 reservations for dinner at the Courtside Steakhouse where T. had a big honkin steak and I had Black Grouper with a provencal sauce with added crab and shrimp. YUmmmmm!

Late afternoon view from the balcony!

Room service was on tap for breakfast. We figured with the view and all why go stand in line somewhere else. Event the room service menu is huge. I decided on an omelet with cheddar, tomatoes and spinach and T. went with Parma ham, brie and forest mushrooms. Oh and the incredible view...we watched dolphin and osprey while we were having our breakfast. It was truly and incredible place and a badly needed weekend away. We hung out around the pool until late afternoon and then went and picked up the girls (who each had so much fun that I don't think they even missed us!!).

Breakfast with a view!!!

Pretty cool hubby huh???

On another note: I won a drawing that my blog friend Pam from Life on A Southern Farm, held over the weekend!!! I Won, I Won!!! She makes these very cute stuffed creatures and she raffled 2 of them off. I am the proud winner of the GA. Bullfrog. Thanks a million Pam!!! If you haven't taken a peek at her blog head on over. I visit often because of the sense of peace I get from watching a much calmer and more peaceful life than the one I am living now!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Royal Foodie Joust - With plenty of time to spare for a change!

T's birthday pie!

As soon as I heard the ingredients for this months Royal Foodie Joust (hosted by Jenn-The Leftover Queen)I was excited. How could I not be with Lime, Raspberry and Almonds as the ingredients???!!! I new that these would be easy ones to work with. T.'s birthday is today and Key Lime Pie is one of his faves so I knew that would be the base but I was kind of confused as to how to work in the rest.

On Mother's Day we were hanging out by the pool and I posed the problem to T. thinking I would get my solution from him but up chirps my oldest daughter (who reads cookbooks because she has devoured every other age appropriate book in the house) that I needed to do an almond crust and a raspberry glaze on top. she good or what???!!! So guess what I did all day Friday?

Key Lime Pie with an Almond/Graham Crust and a Raspberry Glaze with Fresh Whipped Cream

Almond Crust:

1 Cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 Cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

In a food processor blend together the almonds, graham cracker crumbs and sugar until well mixed. Add the melted butter and blend until a moist crumb is formed. Press into a tart or pie tin (if using a tart pan use two pieces of foil to cover the outside of your pan) and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until the crust is browned.
2 Bags of Key Limes for $.99. The joys of living in Florida!

Key Lime Pie:

4 eggs
1 (14 oz.) can condensed milk
4 oz. fresh squeezed key lime juice

Blend eggs and the condensed mile. Add the key lime juice and blend thoroughly.

Pour the filling into your prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Raspberry Glaze:

1 pkg of frozen raspberries ( I had 1/2 bag frozen and about a cup fresh)
1/3 Cup sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch

Using a food processor puree the raspberries. Strain using any means you have. I tried to use a small strainer but it was a pain in the butt so I finally ended up using a small piece of cheese cloth and forcing the juice through.

In a small saucepan mix the raspberry juice with the sugar and the cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until clear and thickened. Allow to cool.

Pour cooled glaze over cooled key lime pie.

Fresh Whipped Cream:

1 pint whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip using the whisk attachment on you mixer until it form stiff peaks. Using a spatula fill a piping bag and pipe the edges of you pie.

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Friday, May 16, 2008

It works...It really, really works!


Last night was the new William-Sonoma grill pan's inaugural run. We filled that puppy so full of fresh veggies that I thought there was no way that they would all last in there! This pan was really great. Crammed full of stuff and still able to stir without anything falling out. All of the begetables cooked evenly and trust me it was full.

The vegetables are not local (big sigh)...virtually nothing is growing here anymore at all. Even the tomatoes are small and blemished. So sad. I am having to eat organic's from California. Better than nothing I guess!

We had chopped up eggplant, zucchini, onion, summer squash, red pepper, banana pepper, garlic cloves and mushrooms. They were lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, some paprika, and garlic powder. This pan is a keeper!!!

Doesn't that look great over rice with some soy sauce on top???

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Did I just buy the stupidest thing ever or is it really cool????

This picture is "stolen" from the William-Sonoma website.

I have this little problem sometimes when I go shopping. Shiny things just tempt and tease me. This is a good case in point...I went into Williams-Sonoma yesterday to by a baking sheet. I really love their baking sheets and for the price you pay I find them very worth the extra bit of money. The other ones I seem to constantly be replacing but I have never had to replace the Williams-Sonoma ones.

Anyway I went in there with a purpose in mind. I ended up buying a tart pan but that's okay too. Neither of these things are the ones that showcase my problem. I had cashed out and was safely on my way out of the store when I saw a really shiny, odd looking frying pan. It is a pan made especially for grilling vegetables. It is all metal mesh and shaped just like a frying pan! When I saw it I immediately envisioned all of the great vegetables I would now be able to grill because now NOTHING will fall between the cracks!!! I had to have it, but I still didn't know if it was the best thing ever or did I just get suckered out of $30???!!! I guess time will tell. I plan on using it tonight and will give a full report.

Do you see how this shiny thing attraction has gotten me in trouble before???

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yummy Frittata!

Pretty huh? Delicious too!

Frittata is just a fun thing to say and I had found that this word had been bouncing around in my head lately as I have been coming across some really great recipes for frittata's using spring veggies. I am not really getting spring veggies so I was really looking for something different. I grabbed my "Homegrown Pure and Simple: Great Healthy Food from Garden to Table)" by Michel Nischan and started searching.

I came up with the recipe for a Garden Vegetable Frittata and as luck would have it I had a couple of eggplants sitting on my counter just begging to be used (um-starting to rot) so this would work out perfect.

Now the only problem was that I would be at the skating rink from 5 PM until 7:30 PM. How the h*** was I going to get this made. Not too much of it could be done ahead which is what I usually do. T. to the rescue. I left him the recipe and instructions and he followed through wonderfully. You see he is not really one to ever cook from a recipe and I personally think that they tend to stress him out a little but he did this for me and I was so glad he did. This meal was great. I had made a salad earlier in the day and some dressing so we had that while the frittata was resting. My youngest one ate a PB & J and went to bed (skating nights tucker her out!) but my oldest one loved it. She is the one who doesn't like tomatoes hence the frittata with only one half with tomatoes!

See how nice and fluffy this was?

Garden Vegetable Frittata (adapted from Homegrown Pure and Simple: Great Healthy Food from Garden to Table)

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
2 small potatoes, thinly sliced
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cubed
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 onion, chopped
12 eggs
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (we used oregano, basil, chives)
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Heat a well-seasoned 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and the butter and heat until the butter sizzles. Add the potatoes in a single layer and cook on one side until browned. Turn them over and move them to the side of the pan.
  • Meanwhile season the eggplant with salt and pepper. Add the eggplant to the skillet and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes or until the eggplant cubes are browned at least on 2 sides. Add more oil if you need to.
  • Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Move the vegetables around in the pan until they are evenly distributed.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, herbs and half of the cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Slowly pour the eggs into the skillet so as not to dislodge the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes without stirring until the frittata is partially set.
  • Sprinkle the goat cheese over the top and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nearly set but not yet brown. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese. and return to the oven until just melted. Remove and top with tomatoes and some fresh herbs and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and browned.
  • Serve directly form the skillet, cut into wedges.
T. says that he would add some more seasoning (garlic, more salt, onion powder) the next time but all in all it was good.

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!