Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mushroom Risotto

I love mushrooms!  This is one of my favorite dishes to order at an italian restaurant.  Last night I wanted to make something new, so I finally decided to give Ina Garten's Mushroom Risotto recipe a try.  Her recipe calls for dried morels that are soaked in water to produce a stock.  I didn't want to deal with this step, so I substituted other mushrooms and vegetable stock.  I followed the rest of the recipe exactly and the results were perfect...creamy and al dente.  Yum!


Mushroom Risotto
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (Clarkson/Potter 2008)

4 oz fresh wild mushrooms (the package at my store contained sliced oyster, baby bella and shitake)
1/2 lb fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups vegetable stock
6 tablespoons  unsalted butter
2 oz pancetta
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated


In a large saucepan, heat the chicken and vegetable stocks and bring to a simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven,  melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Add 2 full ladles of the chicken stock mixture to the rice, plus the saffron, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer over LOW heat until the stock is absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Continue to add the stock mixture, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more of the stock mixture. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 25-30 minutes total.

When done, the risotto should be thick and creamy and not at all dry. Off the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese. Serve hot in bowls with extra cheese.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quick-Fix Skillet Burritos

Nothing fancy here, but it will please almost everyone at the table, is inexpensive, and I always have the ingredients on hand.   I found the original recipe at, but adapted it by cooking onions with the beef and adding frozen corn. 

Quick-Fix Skillet Burritos

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg. Taco Seasoning Mix
1 can (19 oz.) kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup Salsa
1 cup water
4 flour tortillas (6 inch), cut into 1-1/2-inch squares
1 cup mexican style shredded cheese
 lettuce, tomato, sour cream, green onions for serving.


BROWN meat and onions in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat; drain.

ADD seasoning mix, beans, salsa, corn and water; stir. Bring to boil. Simmer on medium-low heat 5 min.

STIR in tortillas; top with cheese. Cover; let stand 5 min. or until cheese is melted.

Serve on a bed of lettuce and tomatos.  Top with sour cream and green onions, if desired.

ready to serve

Cinnamon-Sugar Pretzel Twists with White Chocolate Drizzle

  • Cinnamon-Sugar Pretzel Twists

Last night I made a batch of Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels drizzled with White Chocolate.  I found this delicious recipe over at Tried-and-True Cooking With Heidi.  Thank You!!

These couldn't be easier to make and the combination of salty pretzel with the sweet cinnamon sugar and white chocolate is great!  I sent 1/2 the batch to work with my husband, which made him very happy.  I'm sure I'll be making these again and again.

2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup cinnamon sugar
1 lb  bag mini pretzels 
4 oz white chocolate (or Almond Bark)

Mix oil and cinnamon sugar in large microwavable dish. Add pretzels and toss to coat.   Microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes (stirring every 30 seconds), or until oil's absorbed.  Spread on cookie sheets to air dry.   Melt white chocolate and drizzle over the top.   Store in airtight container.       


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers in September: Vols-au-Vent with Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of a whisk and a spoon.  She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I joined the Daring Bakers in August 2009 and this was my very first challenge.  I've never made puff pastry and was excited and nervous to attempt making this.  Last week, while making the dough, it was extremely warm in my kitchen and the butter started coming out of the dough a few times.  I immediately wrapped and chilled it for a few hours to let it relax.  After 4 "turns", I left the dough in the fridge for a day and a half.   I needed to take a break from rolling dough and getting flour all over my kitchen.   I was worried about how the dough would turn out, but as you can see from the photo, the vols-au-vents puffed up very nicely.  They were flaky, buttery and perfect for serving my Chicken Stew in. 

shaped and ready to bake


Hot out of the oven

I had plenty of dough left over so I shaped it into a rectangle, sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar and rolled it into a log.  I cut 1 in. pieces and sprayed them with some I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.  Bake on a sheet pan lined with parchment at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.   They made the house smell great and tasted even better.  We ate these as a snack before dinner! 

This was a fun challenge and I look forward to the next one! 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chicken Stew

I love Ina Garten,  a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa.  I have all of her books and actually use them at least once a week.  She is probably the one celebrity chef (well, she's not technically a trained chef) that has insipred me the most.  I've watched Food Network for the past ten years, but it wasn't until Ina appeared that I actually started cooking the recipes I saw on t.v.  This Chicken Stew recipe is one of my all time favorites.  I've made a few adjustments to suit my family's tastes, but the basics are still the same.  I did not make her biscuit recipe (although I have before and it's great).  Check back tomorrow for my first Daring Baker's challenge reveal and you'll see how I served this delicious stew. 

I love my green Le Creuset Dutch Oven!

Chicken Stew
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, 2002 Clarkston Potter/Publisher

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock       (I use Kitchen Basics stock in a box)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped   
4 carrots, chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
8 oz canned mushrooms
1/4 cup heavy cream  (I used half-n-half)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with the olive oil.  SPrinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through.  Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin.  Shred the chicken into large bite size pieces.  You will have 4-6 cups of chicken.

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.  

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute' the onions, carrots and celery over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce.  Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.  Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the cream.  Add the shredded chicken, peas and parsley and mix well.  Simmer on low for a few minutes until everything is heated through.  

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Breakfast for dinner is a favorite in my family.  We usually have it once a week because it's inexpensive and everyone eats without complaining.  I wanted to use up some of the left over mashed sweet potatoes I have in the fridge and thought sweet potato biscuits would be interesting.  I found a recipe on the Betty Crocker Bisquick website and decided to give it try.  Using Bisquick made these come together quickly.   The recipe states a yield of 16 biscuits, but I only got 10.   Guess I made them a little too big.   I also made a cinnamon/sugar butter to spread on them and the combo was outstanding.   This is my new favorite way to use up leftover sweet potatoes.    Unfortunately, they were so yummy hot out of the oven, that I forgot to take a picture.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baked Broccoli Mac & Cheese

I spent much of my day yesterday working on my Daring Bakers Challenge (which I'll post next week), so by the time 4:30 pm rolled around, I needed to whip up something quick for dinner.  I quickly grabbed a box of Ronzoni elbows from the pantry, and found a large head of broccoli in the fridge that needed attention, so I decided mac & cheese with broccoli on the side would be good.  Once I finished making the cheese sauce and added the cooked pasta, I was worried that I didn't have enough noodles for the amount of sauce.  I had already cooked the broccoli in the pasta water, so I decided to throw it in with the mac & cheese, instead of serving it on the side.  Boy am I glad I did.  The broccoli soaked up the sauce and was very tasty.   My oldest son loved the dish, but the other two kids only ate the pasta and picked out the broccoli.  Oh well, more broccoli for me!  


Lisa's Baked Broccoli Mac & Cheese

2 cups half-n-half
2 cups 2% milk
1 16ox box of elbow macaroni
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
6 tablespoons  butter
1/2 cup  flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 
1 tsp minced onion
2 dashes ground red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup mexican blend shredded cheese (or whatever you have on hand)

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray.

In large saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-n-half and milk together. 

In another large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to directions on box.  2 minutes before pasta is finished cooking, add the broccoli, finish cooking and drain.

In a dutch oven,  melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and cook for 1-2  minutes.  Add salt & pepper.  Slowly add the warm milk mixture, while stiring with a whisk.  This will thicken up really well.  Turn off the heat and add the cheddar cheese, minced onion and ground red pepper (if using).  Once cheese is melted, add the pasta with the broccoli and mix.   Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup of extra cheese.  Bake at 375 for approximately 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and the top is nicely brown.  Enjoy!   Serves 6-8 people.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tacos, Tortillas, Tostadas, Oh My!

I've never fried my own tortilla chips or taco shells before, until last night!  So easy to do and much better than store bought.  I used a tall sided pot for the frying and still ended up with grease over the stove-top, but that's okay, it was worth it.  The kids loved the homemade taco shells.  They were kind of like a puffy-taco, really crunchy and not overly hard like the boxed kind.  I used store bought corn tortillas and metal tongs to help hold one side of the tortilla up to make the taco shape.  I did this right before serving, but I think they would hold up well enough to be made ahead of time.  I also left some of them flat for tostadas and cut some into chips.  Delicious!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Cider Pan Sauce and Maple Sweet Potatoes

I had a package of pork tenderloins in my fridge that I planned on cooking this past weekend, but I ended up not having to cook at all.  Friday night was my euchre night with the girls, so I got pizza for my husband and kids.  Saturday we had soccer games and ended up getting chinese takeout.  I did prepare a quick batch of chocolate chip pancakes for the kids after church Sunday, but nothing else.  Later that evening, I had a craving for cider and doughnuts.  We are fortunate to live right down the road from Plymouth Orchard and Cider Mill, so we went and picked up a dozen freshly baked cinnamon doughnuts and 1/2 gallon of cider.   Yum!

For dinner tonight, I decided to use some of the cider in mashed sweet potatoes, as well as in a pan sauce to go with the pork tenderloin    The Roasted Red Pepper Mustard I used in my sauce is from a Michigan company called Sansonetti Gourmet Food.  I picked it up at the Canton Farmers Market two weeks ago and have fallen in love with this product.  It's great in this sauce, but also good mixed with some mayo on a sandwich.   

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Cider Pan Sauce
  serves 6

2 tablespoons  Roasted Red Pepper Mustard  (may substitue Dijion)
3 tablespoons  Olive Oil
1 teaspoon  Garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 package Pork Tenderloins (2), trimmed
Reserved pan drippings
1/4 cup Apple Cider
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter

Mix all ingredients and rub over the tenderloins.  May let this marinate for an hour or two, or cook immediately in an oven-safe stainless-steel saute pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until pork is cooked through.   Remove from oven,  transfer tenderloins to a plate.  To the pan drippings, add the apple cider, salt and pepper.  Cook over med-high heat until slightly reduced, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the parsley and butter.  Serve over sliced tenderloin. 

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes  
  serves 6         
3 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes into large chunks, boil until fork tender.  Drain and put back into pot.  Add butter, apple cider, maple syrup, salt and pepper and mash until desired texture is achieved.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Garden Fresh Herbs= Delicious Homemade Sauce

This summer I planted a small herb garden out back next to the patio.  I only planted italian parsley, basil, thyme, garlic chives and a pot of rosemary.  We also planted my son's bean plant and sunflower seedling that he brought home at the end of the school year.  We kept the seedlings in the small plastics cups for a long time before planting, so I didn't expect them to survive, but they did.  Check out the huge sunflower! 

I LOVE being able to walk out the back door and cut my own fresh herbs.  It's very satisfying knowing that you grew something that can help nourish your body.  The green bean plant is small, but produces enough to pick a few beans every few days and enjoy as a snack.  I always forget how well basil grows and planted to much.  I'm thinking a batch of pesto is in my near future.  

I decided a big batch of homemade marinara would be the easiest way to use up some of the parsley and basil.  I picked up a huge 6lb can of crushed tomatoes at Sam's club for only $2.70, and combined elements from a few different recipes to come up with this sauce.  I like some sweetness in my sauce so I used a combination of balsamic and sugar.   After I made the marinara, I used half of it to make a bolognese sauce for our spaghetti dinner.  All of the kids ate without complaining, which makes me very happy!

Finished Marinara, Smells Delicious!!

Lisa's Big Batch of Marinara                         

1/3 cup olive oil
1  large spanish onion, chopped
4  cloves of fresh garlic, minced
2 tsp.  kosher salt
1 tsp.  black pepper
1 6lb 6oz  can crushed tomatoes (102 oz)
1 tsp.   dried italian seasoning
2 tbls.  balsamic vinegar
2 tbls.  sugar
1 handful  fresh parsley and basil, chopped

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onions for a 5 minutes until soft, then add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add entire can of crushed tomatoes, italian seasoning, balsamic vinegar and sugar..  Let this simmer for at least 1 hour.  Add parsley and basil at the end.   Use immediately or cool completely and store in fridge or freezer.

Spaghetti Bolognese

1 box  Ronzoni spaghetti  (in the purple box)

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water as directed on package.  Serve with homemade bolognese sauce below.

Lisa's Bolognese sauce:

3 tbls.  olive oil
1/2   small onion
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs  ground chuck
1/2 cup beef stock (chicken stock works too)
appx. 30oz (or 1/2) of the homemade marinara  (jarred sauce will work with this too)
salt and pepper
1-2 dashes   Cinnamon
1/4 cup  half -n-half or cream
parmesan cheese for serving
fresh parsley to garnish

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Saute onion, carrots, celery and garlic until soft.  Turn heat up to High, add beef and brown until completely cooked.  Turn heat down to medium, add stock and cook until liquid is almost gone.  Add enough of the homemade marinara to get the consistency you like for your sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle a dash or two of cinnamon into the sauce.  Go easy on this because it can overpower everthing.  A dash will give a terrific background note to this sauce.  
Simmer on low for at least 20-30 minutes, or more if you have the time, the beef will get nice and tender.  Just before serving, add the half-n-half, or cream and heat through.    Enjoy with parmesan and fresh chopped parsley sprinkled over top.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My first tiered birthday cake!

My daughter wanted a puppy theme for her 12th birthday last month. She LOVES dogs, but we can't have one in the house due to allergies (plus, I don't want one). I found several great ideas for dog cakes at and combined a few different ideas to make this cake. Everything is from scratch! I used Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe found on the cocoa container and made Wilton's buttercream frosting. I sculpted the dog, puppy, dog bowl and bone out of a 50/50 mix of Marshmallow Fondant (MMF) and gumpaste. This kind of fondant is not only easy to make, but it tastes great. I used Wilton pre-made gumpaste and mixed with the MMF because gumpaste dries out quickly. I made the cake two days before the party, wrapped in plastic and froze overnight. The day before the party I frosted and decorated the cake. This was a labor intensive process but a great learning experience and well worth the effort. My daughter and her friends loved the cake. The smile on her face was pure joy!
Marshmallow Fondant recipe:

2 lb (8 cups) powdered sugar
1 16 oz bag mini marshmallows
2-3 Tablespoons water
cornstarch or crisco
Grease a large microwaveable bowl, put marshmallows in it and place in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat 2-3 times until melted.
Grease the counter. Place 1/2 of powdered sugar on counter, the rest on top of melted marshmallows. Mix. As it comes together, dump onto counter. Knead and add rest of sugar until smooth. The fondant should be dough like, not too dry, not too sticky. When it's time to roll out the fondant, dust your surface with cornstarch or use a little crisco.