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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cooking Show: January Soirée for the Downton Abbey Premiere!

I'm still trying to extend Christmas through this week.  I'm not ready to take down my trees, lights and decorations!

Smack dab in the middle of all of our holiday preparations, my friends and I still managed to find time to plan our upcoming soirée to watch the Downton Abbey premiere!

Counting down the days now (FIVE!!) until the premiere.

Here's a shot from last year's get-together.  Canapés, tarts, scones and tea.

And here's a shot from the cooking show that we filmed earlier this month.  My friend, Trish, cooked with me and we attempted some new recipes as well as a few tried-and-true favorites.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Cranberry/Pistachio Cake Bars

Isn't December the best?  I love everything about Christmas--starting the decorating frenzy the day after Thanksgiving, making lists, wrapping gifts, addressing Christmas cards, 

baking up a storm, wishing for snow (not as much as we had last winter, hopefully!),

decking the halls (and the dogs!), and taking the time to just enjoy everything that is so special and wonderful about this time of year.

I've mostly been baking all of our favorite almond cookies and chocolate raspberry truffles and pistachio/cranberry cookies.  

And so far, I've made two batches of these Cranberry Pistachio Cake Bars! They're a favorite around here because they aren't overly sweet.  The tartness of the cranberries is offset by a sprinkling of sugar on top, while the red and green from the cranberries and pistachios give them a festive look.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cooking Show: Thanksgiving and Leftovers!!

Last week's episode of our cooking show had a Thanksgiving-ish theme.  I describe it as -ish because two of the dishes are made with leftover if you're wondering what you're going to do with leftover turkey, look no further!

I don't know what I like best about this recipe.  The sherry cream sauce? The buttery, cheesy crumb topping?  Why don't you make this and let me know what you like best?  Here's the printable recipe.

The best way I can describe this would be to call it Thanksgiving Comfort Food.  Thick and creamy bowl of YUM.  Here's the printable recipe.

Okay, this has nothing to do with turkey, nor does it have anything to do with leftovers.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Turkey & Quinoa Soup

If you anticipate having lots of leftover turkey this Thanksgiving and are already trying to plan ahead, you may want to add this recipe to your list!

It's really easy to prepare!  It only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and since the turkey has already been cooked, you're basically just throwing a bunch of ingredients together and heating them up!  You can prep the rest of the ingredients while you're waiting for the quinoa to cook, and in no time you'll be digging in to a hearty, thick and creamy bowl of this yummy soup.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cooking Show...Being Prepared for Unexpected Holiday Guests!

Last week we filmed an episode of the cooking show.  Donna, the producer of the show, suggested coming up with recipes that could be prepared in advance and then reheated when unexpected guests drop by during the holiday season.

For the record, let me state that I love having unexpected (or short-notice) guests drop by, any time of year.  Consider that your invitation, friends.

My friend, Kelly, cooked with me.  Within 90 minutes, we had cooked all that you see in these pictures.

You can mix up this dough in no time.  Roll it into a cylinder shape, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it into your fridge for slice-and-bake cookies on a moment's notice.

Here's the printable recipe.

These mushrooms are easy to stuff in advance, then place into your freezer to be baked at a later date.  Here's the printable recipe.

Using the same dough as a base, you can make these soft, puffy, fluffy appetizers with bacon & cheddar or with shrimp.  Did I mention that the soft and fluffy on the inside (yet crunchy on the outside) dough is to die for?  Serve them warm from the oven, or let them cool completely and freeze in a zip lock freezer bag.  When frozen, they reheat in a matter of minutes.  Here's the printable recipe.

Okay, these are not something that you can prep in advance and freeze...but this recipe is so easy to make and so good I just had to include it.  Simply melt the cheeses (takes about 3 minutes in your microwave) and sauté some chopped mushrooms and lobster, stir it together and voila!  Serve as a dip, with pita chips or tortilla chips for dipping, or spoon it into phyllo cups and bake for a couple of minutes.  Here's the printable recipe.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Shrimp Puffs

In the 1980's, these appetizer puffs used to be one of my go-to recipes.

I don't know why they fell out of favor, maybe it's because as the years went by I preferred Stuffed Mushrooms and Mr. Terrific has more of an affinity for Lobster Phyllo Cups.

We were filming a cooking show recently (future post alert!) and someone suggested a theme of recipes that can be prepared in advance, frozen, and then reheated quickly when unexpected holiday visitors drop by.

The first recipe that popped into my head was these puff appetizers!

You can make them with shrimp or with bacon and cheddar.  The dough is light and fluffy and inside and slightly crunchy on the outside.  Whether you serve them right out of the oven or freeze them for a later date, you will love these appetizer puffs!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pistachio/Cranberry Cookies

These cookies are fabulous whenever you make them, but they're especially festive in the fall and through the holiday season!

I resisted making them forever.  My mom makes these cookies and several times a year she brings us a batch.  They're so GOOD.  They disappear in no time.

I asked her for the recipe a few years ago, and to my horror there is packaged pudding in them.  The snob in me simply refused to make them.

I didn't refuse to eat them, however.  Every time my mom brings us a batch, I definitely eat my fair share.

Perhaps more than my fair share.

Don't be like me, stubbornly refusing to make these cookies.  Make them today!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cooking Show...Tailgating, Part III !

I can't believe we just filmed our third annual tailgating show!

I was once again joined by Maureen, the tailgating maven.  I don't know anyone who is more of a tailgating expert than she is.

Last month, it was my good luck to join in on one of her legendary tailgates, and I snapped a few photos.

Here they are:
Here's a photo of her table with appetizers and main dishes.

I think the two people that you see in the photo may be having a spirited discussion regarding whether the buffalo chicken dip tastes better with nachos or veggie sticks.

It's hard to see what was way down the other end of the table, so here's a picture of Maureen's fabulous tortellini/pasta salad and pulled pork sandwiches with vinegar slaw.

And we can't forget the dessert & drink table, featuring pomegranate mojitos and pumpkin whoopie pies, both of which we replicated for the show.

Here's what we made on the show:

Maureen thought it would be nice to have a signature cocktail for her tailgate.  

I decided that it should feature pomegranate juice, to match the colors of her alma mater.  Hence, Pomegranate Mojitos were born!  

Here's the printable recipe.

Then we moved on to Fall Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette.  Click here for the printable recipe.

In the upper left corner of the above photo, you can partially see the Brie & Jam Phyllo tarts that we made.  I wish I took a picture of them; I promise to update this post as soon as possible with a picture!  

In the meantime, if you want to make them, you will need a package of frozen phyllo tarts, a wedge of brie and a jar of jam.  Place a small (3/4-inch) piece of brie and 1/2 teaspoon of jam in each tart.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

For the record, I used roasted garlic & onion jam which lent the perfect amount of savory sweetness to these tarts!

Our menu would not be complete without Slow Cooker Pulled Pork sandwiches!  Here's the printable recipe.

And for a sweet finish to our show, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.  If you want to see a plate of treats disappear, make these.

During the show, someone asked me how long these will keep.  I had to answer that I didn't know, they are always gone by the next day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pomegranate Mojitos

I've been taking a lot of liberties with mojitos recently.

If there are mojito purists out there, I'm sure that my attempts at creating fun & fruity mojitos are a form of blasphemy in their eyes.

A friend of mine asked me to create a signature cocktail for her tailgate.  The school color is maroon, which made me think of pomegranate juice.  Before I could stop myself I was traveling down the fruity mojito road.
And there you go.  By the time we were finished, we had ourselves a menu for the next cooking show! (More tailgate pics & cooking show info in the next post.  Stay tuned!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I can't help it.

Now that autumn has arrived I want to make pumpkin everything!

We're barely two weeks into the fall season and I've already made five batches of pumpkin whoopie pies.  Seven batches, if you take into consideration that two of those batches were double!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

It just doesn't get any easier than this.

Three ingredients!

Throw it into your crock pot, forget about it for 12 hours while you go about your day.

As usual, I had to dress it up a bit by adding some spice; but if you want to keep it simple and omit that step I promise you that your pulled pork will still be out-of-this-world yummy!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fall Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

I've received a few emails recently, asking about my dogs and why I haven't been posting much about them.

I guess I've been too focused on recipes!

Last week was Clyde's birthday, however, so I guess this is a good time for a Clyde-pic.

Here he is, November 2012, the day I brought him home.

And here he is last week on his birthday!  I snapped this photo right after he chased a squirrel under the fence.  That's the look he gives whenever the animal he's chasing disappears under the fence.

I don't know whether that look means "Did you SEE that?!" or "Aren't you going to HELP me?" --but I'm always relieved that he's so slow and dopey when he gives chase, because I don't ever want to deal with a look of victory on his face!

Temperatures have dipped recently; I'm not really in that fall-comfort-food mode yet, but I'm ready to embrace the fruits of the season!  When I was at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and I saw fresh cranberries, I think I might have exclaimed, "YES!!" out loud.  With a little fist pump.

What did I do with them?  I made a vinaigrette.

Isn't it pretty?!

You can prepare it in less than 10 minutes.  Make it in advance because it needs time to chill.  Then throw together this very simple salad (greens, a sliced pear or two, glazed pecans, dried cranberries and crumbled feta)!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Our Latest Cooking Show: Cocktails & Tapas!

We filmed another episode of the cooking show last week.

My friend, Trish, cooked with me.  Trish and I went out to dinner last month along with another friend, Gayle.  We ordered our usual Lemon Drop Martini, and as we were toasting our friendship Trish suggested that I should do a cocktail-themed cooking show.

I gave her my standard reply, "only if you'll cook with me!"

Ply Trish with lemon drop martinis and she will agree to anything.  We decided on a theme of Cocktails & Tapas, because Trish has a love of deep-fried food. I knew I would need to use the deep fryer to keep her happy, and since there is no deep-fried cocktail in my recipe repertoire it only seemed fitting to mix a few tapas into our cocktail show.

We started off with Blueberry-Peach Sangria.  This is my go-to sangria recipe.  And as you can tell by the nearly-empty pitcher in the background, it was a hit with everyone at the taping.

Click here to be taken to the printable recipe.

Then we mixed up a few Blackberry-Ginger Mojitos, inspired by my friend, Gayle, who confided that her recent trip to Puerto Rico sparked a love of mojitos.

Here's the printable recipe.

After we had the drinks prepared, we moved onto the tapas.

First up were the Stuffed Cucumbers with Feta.  

They're so quick and easy to prepare, and can be kept in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve them.    Here's the printable recipe.

Slow-roasting the tomatoes helps to concentrate their flavor, and they're especially good this time of year when you can still get your hands on tomatoes at the Farmers Market!  Or better yet, pick them from your garden (lucky you).

Next on the menu: Baked Chicken Taquitos.  Yummy, cheesy, fast & easy to prepare if you use a store-bought rotisserie chicken.  

Here's the printable recipe.

Then it was time to drag out the deep fryer, for our Fingerling Papas Fritas with Lemon Garlic Aioli.

Out of all of the dishes that we prepared, these were Trish's favorite.  I think they may have been the favorite of a few of the people at the taping, because at the end of the night, this was the dish that disappeared in a snap.  Here's the printable recipe.

While the first batch of potatoes was frying, we quickly prepared our Shrimp, Scallops & Arugula with Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette.

Click here for the printable recipe.

And finally, while the second batch of potatoes was frying, we made Shisito Peppers and Prosciutto.

Shisito peppers are not hot peppers.  Not usually. About one in ten shisito peppers will be hot.  On the Scoville pepper scale, they range from 100 to 1000 heat units.  By comparison, jalapeño peppers range from 2500 to 8000 heat units.

This is my favorite dish that we prepared.  It did not disappear as quickly as the potatoes did, so I had leftovers the next day!

Here is the printable recipe.

We spent about two hours preparing eight recipes...and then proceeded to demolish just about everything you see here!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Stuffed Cucumber with Feta

When you're making appetizers, do you try to strike a balance between decadent (fried and cheesy) and relatively healthy?

Unfortunately, ho-hum crudités make me feel deprived, which only increases the chance that I'm going to put too many high-calorie appetizers on my plate!

These little cucumber bites are a nice balance between healthy and indulgent, and they're quick and easy to prepare!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bruschetta with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Imagine a sliced baguette, the slices rubbed with garlic and lightly brushed with olive oil, toasted for a minute under the broiler and then topped with roasted tomatoes.  Tomatoes that have been slow roasted.  Slow roasted so that they are slightly dehydrated, the better to concentrate the sweet flavor of fresh-off-the-vine summer tomatoes.

You have been looking for something to do with the abundance of tomatoes from your garden, right?

Or the abundance of tomatoes that your neighbor (who is a gardening fiend) is begging you to take off her hands, PLEASE?  

You need to make this bruschetta.  Crunchy, yet chewy.  Savory, yet sweet--thanks to the garden tomatoes.

I hope that I've convinced you to make this.

Okay, there is a tiny caveat:  it takes two hours to roast the tomatoes.

But it's mostly hands-off time!

You can prep the tomatoes in 5 minutes, then stick them in your oven for two hours. The only moment that requires your attention is at the halfway-mark when you lower your oven temp from 250 degrees to 200 degrees.  You don't even need to open the door to do that.

After you've roasted the tomatoes you can either immediately assemble and broil the bruschetta (another 5 minute ordeal), or you can refrigerate the roasted tomatoes and wait until you're ready to spend 5 minutes assembling and broiling!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Blackberry-Ginger Mojitos

It all started with these blackberries that I bought last week at the farmers market.  They were so fresh and plump and juicy and sweet and I just had to come up with a plan for them.

I didn't want to spend too much time thinking about what to do with them, I just wanted to do something uncomplicated.  Something that we could all enjoy in a matter of minutes.

I recently went out to dinner with some friends. My friend, Gayle, was telling us about her recent trip to Puerto Rico, and how she got so used to drinking mojitos that now her husband has been making them for her.  

I don't know why Gayle's description of muddling mint leaves popped into my head when I was trying to figure out what to do with my blackberries, but muddling blackberries suddenly became my mission.

I don't know if this is truly a mojito-- the only classic mojito ingredients I used are mint leaves and rum.  And lots of ice.  I decided to skip the soda water and sugar and just use ginger ale.  And then instead of lime I added a little bit of fresh ginger to give some zing...but the incredibly sweet, juicy blackberries still shone through!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cooking Show....Chinese Food!

We filmed an episode of the cooking show this week.

Dan, the awesome camera man, went to China for a couple of weeks in late June/early July.  Donna, the producer of the show, had called me while he was away.  Our conversation went something like this:

Donna: When Dan gets back from China, you should cook Chinese food
              with him for the show.
Me:       REAL Chinese food?  I've heard that the food in China doesn't
              resemble American Chinese takeout...
Donna:  No, just cook Chinese food Fran-style!
Me:       Okay, I'll cook some Asian-inspired dishes and he can talk about
              the actual food that he ate in China.
Donna:  I'm going to ask him to bring back some hats and Chinese-style
              clothes for you to wear.
Me:       Frannie don't do that!  NO. WAY.

So I put together a menu, and decided that we needed a beverage.

A meal at a Chinese restaurant just isn't complete without a fun beverage!  Especially if it has a little umbrella in it.

I usually order a Mai-Tai when we go out for Chinese food.  

I've never made actually made one.  Not a problem, though.  Thanks to Google we can pretty much get any info we need, right?

Not so fast.  I googled "Classic Mai Tai Recipe," and "Traditional Mai Tai Recipe." As it turns out, the typical fruity Mai Tai that is served in Chinese restaurants bears very little resemblance to a classic or traditional Mai Tai.  Much like the food served in Chinese restaurants bears little resemblance to the food they serve in China.

After reading through a couple of the recipes (no fruit juice!  no grenadine!), I thought I would have to just keep looking until I found one that I liked.  

As I clicked on the next recipe, the first sentence of that recipe effectively ended my search:  
The Mai Tai is an original tiki classic that is neither neon-colored nor overly sweet.

Oh, well.  Continuing with the theme, I will just have to make them Fran-style, like Donna said at the beginning.

Here they are, in all their fruity, neon-colored glory.

I kept it simple.  2 parts pineapple juice, one part orange juice, one part rum and 1/4 part grenadine.  Served over ice, garnished with fruit and an umbrella.

Fortified with a Mai Tai, Dan and I went right into preparing our next dish.  Here's the printable recipe.

Dan informed me that this beef dish bore no resemblance to the food he tried in China.  He then went on to talk about a snake dish that he tried, which he declared, "I felt as if I were chewing on a pencil eraser!"  

 Here's the printable recipe.

Again, Dan informed me that this did not at all resemble the food he ate in China.  Or rather, it did not resemble the food that he didn't eat.  He couldn't bring himself to eat the large horned beetles.  And other creatures that I will not mention...

Dan did a great job helping me to prepare these dishes, though he did emphatically state when we were through, "And from now on, I shall remain behind the camera!"

Whichever side of the camera he's on, he still gets to enjoy the fruits of our labor at the end of the shoot!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Asian-Inspired Beef & Broccoli

Our upcoming episode will feature Asian-themed cuisine!

Here's a sneak peak at one of the recipes!  

Ginger & garlic & soy sauce--what's not to like?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sonoma Chicken Salad (Whole Foods Knockoff)

Considering that it's summer, and we're all looking for shortcuts at dinner time, and it's been a really long time (about six months!) since I've posted a recipe that requires a rotisserie chicken, ---here you go!
This salad is a riff on Whole Foods' Sonoma Chicken Salad.  Nuts and celery for crunch, grapes and honey for sweetness...I hope you enjoy this as much my family does!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Orange Chicken with Stir-Fried Veggies

This is one of those recipes that I make when I don't know what to make for dinner.  

I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. The veggies I make will vary depending upon what is in the fridge, I may make white rice instead of brown, or use beef instead of chicken, but the prep method and the sauce ingredients work well no matter what!  
Think of this as preparing your own take-out! You could make this in the same amount of time that you would spend discussing where you should order from, calling in your order, and picking it up.  And I think you'll like this more!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Peppermint Ice Cream

One of my kids (who shall remain nameless) is absolutely crazy about ice cream. Her friends are also obsessed with ice cream and it seems that they can't get together without ending up at an ice cream shop (oops, I said HER.  So now you know that Sean is not the child I am talking about).

My daughter's favorite ice cream flavor is peppermint.  Yesterday, I had time to make a batch of ice cream.  There was no doubt which flavor I would make!