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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cooking Show: Quick Meals Before Rushing Out The Door!

The theme of our recent cooking show was a timely subject for me.

I thought that my days of rushing out the door to get to a ball field were over, but now that I'm coaching softball again I find myself trying to throw together a last-minute dinner almost every night.

I made a list of dishes that I had made over the previous few days, figuring that anything I had made while in the throes of softball season would be a good fit for this show!

(Click on the titles to be taken to the recipes.)

We started with Mango Margaritas.

Toss some frozen mango chunks, tequila, triple sec and simple syrup into a blender, mix it up and add a lime wedge.  Done.

Next, we prepared Marinated Grilled Chicken and Pasta Salad.

To be taken to a blogpost with step-by-step instructions for the pasta salad, click here.

Each of these recipes can be prepared in advance and pulled out of the fridge when it's dinner time.  I like to prepare a large batch of the chicken and use it throughout the week in salads, sandwiches, wraps and quesadillas.  Which brings us to ...

Rice Tortilla Quesadillas.  Which aren't really traditional quesadillas, because I don't follow any quesadilla recipe that I've ever seen.  I use leftovers!  It's a great way to pull together a quick meal while emptying out your fridge at the same time.

Since I didn't want to feature my fridge full of leftovers on the cooking show, I made these quesadillas with ingredients that I might typically have on hand.  The only sure thing that I use every time I make them is

1. Olive Oil spray, so they don't stick to the pan.

2. Rice Tortillas.  You can find them in the frozen food department at your supermarket.  They're
    really crispy, which is a huge hit with my family.  No soggy quesadillas in this house!

3.  Cheese.  It holds everything together.

We made a variety of quesadillas.  Roast Beef and Cheese. Ham, Avocado, Tomato and Cheese (my
favorite). And Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas with Spinach.

And finally, Caramel Coconut Chocolate Bark.  No baking involved!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cooking Show: Copycat Recipes!

We whipped up a few copycat recipes on our most recent episode of the cooking show.

We started with an attempt at The Cheesecake Factory's Georgia Peach

What's not to love about a frozen, slushy peach concoction swirled with raspberry puree?

We then moved onto Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.

I've been making this soup for 20+ years.  It's soooo good.  It's so good that it makes me forget my aversion to sausage!  To be taken directly to the printable recipe, click here.

If you're not in the mood for soup, we've got a another recipe for you!  Do you like the Sonoma Chicken Salad at Whole Foods?   Stuff it into a half pita like we did, or serve it over a bed of fresh greens.

Click here for the printable recipe!

And finally...

We whipped up a batch of our own version of MacDonald's Shamrock Shake.

Okay, we whipped up more than one batch.  The blender was going non-stop until we ran out of ice cream.  They were a big hit!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cooking Show: Spring Fever...or What to Cook When You're Wishing for Summer!

On our recent episode of the cooking show, we tried to come up with a menu that tastes like summer.

Chase those winter blahs away with grilled beef and tropical fruit!

We started with Pineapple Sangria.  
Actually, this picture was taken just as we finished.  Finished the second pitcher, that is.  

 Then it was time for Watermelon Salad with Seared Halloumi.

Have you ever had Halloumi cheese?  It has a very high melting point, so you can sear it until it's golden and crunchy. It makes a great salad topping! That is, if you and your friends (ahem--Kerry, Amy, Kelly and Christine--I'm talking to you!) can keep your hands off of it long enough to have any left to use for said topping.

When you're trying to chase away the winter blahs, the only thing better than grilled steak would be summer itself.

Click here for the printable recipe.

With a little bit of cream cheese, for creaminess and fluffiness.  And Oreos®, because Oreos®.

 Chocolate Strawberry Oreos®, because we were trying to stick to the summer theme.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cooking Show: Recipes to Beat the Winter Blahs

Do you like winter weather?

The wind is howling and the snow is falling fast and furious as I type this. Depending on the source, we are expected to get anywhere from nine to eighteen inches of snow by the time this blizzard ends.

I've been cooking my share of soups, stews and crock pot meals throughout this winter...and I think it's about time to switch it up a bit. Recipes to end the February doldrums!  

And since Valentine's Day is coming up, there's a teensy bit of chocolate.  

Camera-hogging chocolate.

Okay, that's better.  We'll start at the beginning and work our way toward the chocolate finale.

Filled with chicken, mushrooms and spinach.  

Flavored with rosemary, nutmeg and lemon...the béchamel, that is.  Did I mention that the reason it's white is because of the glorious béchamel?  

Here's the printable recipe.

Because sometimes you just can't wait until dessert to get a chocolate fix!

(Click on the title to be taken to the printable recipe.)

I'm not exaggerating, it took me 3 minutes to throw this together.  

This has been part of our dinner menu at least twice a week for the past couple of months and I have been eating it for lunch at least three times a week.  I had it for lunch today.  I will have it for lunch tomorrow.

Click on the title to be taken to the printable recipe.  Greens, cheese, nuts and a simple dressing.  Make it today!

And then you can enjoy that teensy bit of chocolate that we were talking about...

Thanks to a brownie recipe that I found on the back of a package of Baker's chocolate, I have been making these brownies, using this recipe, for decades.  

Spreading raspberry jam onto the brownies and pouring a heavenly ganache on top takes them over the top!

Here's the printable recipe.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cooking Show: Crock Pot Favorites, and Baileys® Irish Creme Parfaits

Last week's cooking show featured an eclectic assortment of recipes.

I started planning a theme featuring favorite recipes for the slow cooker.

This is my personal favorite, as far as slow cooker recipes go.  The only prep is chopping a few ingredients and opening a few cans, then mixing it all in your crock pot and forgetting about it for 8 hours.  No additional steps, just add a few toppings at the end.  Truly a one-pot meal! 

And it's not a grease-laden chili, as you will use steak instead of traditional hamburger.  Here's the printable recipe.

With over 800,000 page views and 30K+ pins on Pinterest, this is by far the most popular recipe on this blog.

 Here is the printable recipe.

Green Beans with toasted slivered almonds and chopped bacon, because I thought it was important to prepare a vegetable on the side! Click here for the printable recipe.

 And finally, Baileys® Irish Creme Parfaits.

Seriously good.

So good that everybody licked their spoon clean.

Really incredible, as in so incredible that they deserve their own blogpost with step-by-step instructions...but until I create that future blogpost, I won't leave you hanging.  Here's the printable recipe!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cooking Show: Party-Worthy Recipes

I would describe the recipes we prepared on our latest episode of the cooking show as party-worthy dishes to fill in your menu during this busy season.

If you're looking to add another cocktail, appetizer, salad or sweet treat to your soirée, we've got you covered.

Click on the titles to be taken to the printable recipes!


Creamy, chocolatey, pepperminty...just shake it and serve it.  Everyone who tasted this exclaimed YUM!!

Another recipe that is so easy to make!   Two minutes to melt ingredients in your microwave, then stir and spread into a baking pan and chill.

Another quick and easy recipe.  Buy already-made frozen phyllo tarts, fill them with pesto, chopped tomato and mozzarella and bake until the cheese melts.

Very easy to prepare!  

Okay, up until this point all of the recipes have been of the easy, throw-all-of-the-ingredients-together type of recipes.

These mini-croissants are still easy to make!  They just take a bit more prep...but they are so worth it!!

And finally...

Because.  Just because this is so good!   

Not sure how close it is to the real recipe, but these shrimp are addicting. The first time I made them, my husband remarked, "These are really good! I don't care for seafood, but I've already eaten five of them and there are more to follow..."

We skewered the shrimp with cocktail toothpicks to serve as an appetizer, but they would be fabulous in tacos or quesadillas. Or make a double batch of the sauce, thin it down a bit and serve with pasta!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cooking Show: Deep-Frying vs. Air Frying!

On our latest cooking show, we decided to prepare a few recipes and compare cooking methods.  Deep-fried versus air fried?  Which tastes better?  Is there truly a difference?

My friend, Trish, has an unabashed love of deep-fried food so it only seemed fair that she be the judge!  We decided on a menu of onion strings, chicken tenderloins, and apple pie egg rolls.

(Click on the following titles to be taken to the printable recipes.)

As we were waiting for the oil to heat up, we made a pitcher of Cranberry-Apple Sangria.

Once we got the oil in the deep fryer at our desired temperature we were ready to go.

First course: Onion Strings.  

The air-fried onion strings are on the left and the oil-fried ones are on the right.  

The air friend ones were crispy, but retained a powdery coating of flour. They tasted okay, but the flour residue was not a pleasant effect.  

The oil-fried onion strings only took 2 minutes per batch, the air-fried ones took about 4 1/2 minutes. Due to the longer cooking time required (and not being able to place as many onion strings per batch) in the air fryer, we were able to deep fry about triple the amount in the same amount of time.

Trish and I agreed that the oil-fried onion strings were the best, hands-down.

 Next: Crispy Chicken Tenderloins with honey mustard dip.

Similar to the onion strings, the air-fried chicken took about twice as long to cook as the deep-fried chicken (14 minutes for the air-fried versus 6 to 7 minutes for the deep-fried).

However, Trish and I both agreed that they both tasted fabulous!  Both were crispy and very flavorful.  The only drawback was the time difference...we were able to prepare two batches of the deep-fried tenderloins in less time than it took for one batch in the air fryer, AND the air fryer does not hold as many per batch.  If I were preparing these for my family of five, I would need to make three batches in the air fryer, or two batches in the deep fryer--45 minutes vs. 15 minutes.

Trish and I both concluded that if we were preparing one batch, for two servings, the air fryer wins.  The additional half-hour needed for three batches, while keeping the early batches warm in the oven (and hope that they don't dry out!) makes the air fryer a very inconvenient choice for more than two servings.

The deep-fried egg rolls are on the left in the above photo, the air-fried ones are on the right.

Can you guess which ones were the winner of the taste test?  I will tell you this...the winner was so good that I'm not even going to bother you with the boring analysis details.  

I'll just say that we cut one of each type of egg roll in half, and our plan was that I would try the air-fried egg roll as Trish tried the deep-fried one, and then we would switch and try the remaining half of the other egg roll which we hadn't yet sampled.  As I was attempting to switch halves, my sweet, lovely, mild-mannered friend showed a bit of food aggression!  She wanted it all to herself.  

The deep-fried one was absolutely delicious, with a perfect, flaky-yet-chewy crust...the air-fried one had a dry, tasteless, crackly crust reminiscent of a saltine.  Trish and I both agreed: when it comes to egg roll apple pies, air frying is a waste of time!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Cooking Show Featuring Donna's Cakes!

We recently filmed a special episode of the cooking show.

The fabulous Donna Grandy, from Donna's Cakes joined me in the studio (a first!  All previous shows were filmed in my kitchen).  We had a very enthusiastic studio audience, all fans of Donna's Cakes!

During the past two weeks, I have edited/rewritten/deleted dozens of attempts to write this blogpost. How can I possibly convey through words how spectacular these cakes are?

I decided to blitz you with photos!

Part One--

Donna opened her shop in 1990, which happens to be the same year that my husband and I bought our first home.  Since then, her cakes have always been a part of our family celebrations.  I chose three cakes (one for each of my children!) to represent my own family's Donna's Cakes Archives.  (Yes, that's a thing in this house.)

Donna made this cake in 1995 when my daughter, Erin, was christened.

This cake is a perfect example of why someone who has no idea what they want their cake to look like should go to Donna's Cakes!  I just wanted a christening cake for my daughter.  When I phoned in the order and was asked what I wanted the cake to look like, I think I said something like, "I trust that you could design a better cake than I ever could!" Yes, they could and they did, as this cake proves.

I responded the same way when I ordered this cake in 1999 when Caitie made her first communion.  What do I know about decorating a cake?  Not as much as Donna does, that's for sure.

However, there were times that I ordered cakes when I did have a theme in mind.  Usually, it was for a birthday party, in which case I would bring in a plate or a napkin and ask if a cake could be made to match the theme.

I went to Donna's shop last month to film a short segment for the show, and when we entered her back room I noticed several large boxes full of file folders, alphabetized by subject.  She explained that they have graphics that they use when they decorate cakes, or sometimes a customer will bring in a picture of their own, and they save them all for future reference.

It took me all of 30 seconds to locate the "dinosaur" file and pull out the plate that I brought her TWENTY years ago when I requested a dinosaur cake for my son's birthday!  I doubt that even the latest digital state-of-the-art filing system could have located this plate any quicker.

Here's a picture from 1996 of three-year-old Sean with his dinosaur cake!  Oh, my heart.

Part Two--

Photos of cakes from Donna's Archives.  She sent me dozens of photos to look at.  Here are a few that I think you will enjoy!  You can also head over to Donna's Cakes on Facebook to check out more photos!

Whether you need a cake for an expectant mom,

 someone who loves buffalo wings (yes, they're all made out of frosting),

a Strawberry Shortcake-themed birthday,

the birth of a child,

an elegant wedding,

 (or two!)

 someone who likes a cake as finger-licking-good as their chicken,

or a good-natured, good-tasting poke at longevity---you will find the perfect cake at Donna's.

Part Three--

Filming the show.  Decorating with Donna!

Donna brought all of her own supplies to the studio.  A rainbow assortment of frosting.

Royal icing flowers that she had made in advance.  

She gave a quick demonstration of how to make flowers using different piping tubes.

I told her that I consider it a success if I can frost a cake without getting crumbs into the frosting.  She  instructed me that the key to avoiding that problem is to use a "crumb coat," which is simply a thin layer of frosting to completely cover the cake.  It doesn't matter if you get crumbs into the crumb coat, because you will then frost over it and cover all of the blemishes.

She then demonstrated how to get the frosting to look flat and smooth, by lightly patting it with a paper towel.  The key is to use a flat paper towel, one without an embossed pattern.

And then she proceeded to decorate the cake, making roses out of frosting to complement the royal icing flowers and finishing with a swirly border around the flowers and curlicues around the sides.

 It only took her a few minutes to decorate this cake!

Next, she instructed us how to transfer an image onto a a cake.  She started with this Hello Kitty graphic.

She outlined the borders of the graphic with icing, using a plain pastry tube with a fine tip.  She then flipped the image upside-down onto the cake (or in this case, a board for demonstration purposes), and lightly pressed on it to transfer the image.

She then filled in the image with frosting, using the original graphic as a decorating guide.

Finally, she decorated a cake with a jungle theme.

Before we knew it, a tiger, lion, monkey, elephant, giraffe and alligator were all relaxing on top of this cake!

A few palm trees complete the scene.

The members of the studio audience were all fans of Donna and her cakes, and I think they really enjoyed watching how she creates her designs.

When we finished, everyone in the studio was given a piece of her cake.  One person told me that her family has been ordering Donna's cakes for over 20 years, they love the cakes because they're beautiful but especially because they taste homemade--which is probably the highest compliment that you can give a baker!