cartoon by marc johns.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Aged Cheddar & Apple Grilled Cheese on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This is the most comforting, most delicious grilled cheese I have made thus far.  It's a great flavor combination.  It really is.  If you like these flavors, here is my recipe for apple cheddar cheese cake. I really say to all of you: MAKE THIS.  It's super easy, but feels fancy because of the ingredients.  As you may be able to tell from the above photo, I made mine on my panini press, but you can always make your sandwich in a pan the old school way.  I prefer Granny Smith apples, because their tartness mixes well with the cheese, but you can go with whatever apple you have on hand.  The secret is this: saute the apples until they are soft BEFORE you make the sandwich.  I always wondered, because I tried one time to put pear in a sandwich with brie (another classic pairing) but the pear was still hard when the rest of the sandwich was ready to go.  Anyway, try this out one time.  We had these on a rainy day for dinner, paired with my heirloom tomato soup (recipe coming soon) and it was a wonderful pairing and made you feel nice and cozy while eating it.


4 slices of raisin bread
1 medium Granny Smith apple
about 4-5 slices aged cheddar

1.  Slice the apple thinly and cook over medium heat in a small skillet with a little bit of butter.

Apples cooking.
Remove the apple slices from the heat when they are to your liking.  I like them soft but not mushy.  I cooked them for about 5 minutes, flipping the slices over every so often.

2.  Butter one side of each of the 4 pieces of bread and flip (gently) two of them over so that the buttered sides are down.  

3.  Slice the cheese and layer it on two the slices of bread that have the buttered sides down.

4.  Take the apple slices and put them on top of the cheese. Put another thin layer of cheese on top of the apples.

5.  Top each apple-cheese mixture with the remaining pieces of bread, butter side up.

Ready to go.
6.  Put the two sandwiches on a panini press, grill, or in a frying pan.

Panini press.
7.  Cook until the bread is brown and crusty and the cheese is good and melty.  Makes two sandwiches.  Enjoy!


With the heirloom tomato soup.
Recipe inspired by She Eats Bears.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts

Pile of Nuts
Close Up
These nuts are crazy good.  Flavorful - sweet with a little kick - and so addictive that if you don't move the bowl away you will find that you finished them all without realizing it.  They are also very easy to make.  I made these this year as holiday gifts and we served them at my family's thanksgiving.  Everyone who has encountered them has loved them, so don't just take my word for it.  If you follow this recipe, it makes about 8-10 servings, but I doubled the recipe for thanksgiving, and we had 14 people, and all the nuts were gone within 2 hours, so beware - they go fast!  Feel free to replace any of the nuts I used with nuts you prefer; just keep the amount of nuts the same ratio as the amount of spice.


3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews
2 cups whole pecan halves
2 1/2 cups whole raw unsalted almonds
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
4 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus some to brush the sheet pan with
kosher salt, to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.  Mix the nuts together in a large bowl.  

Nut mixture.
3.  Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil.

Oil on sheet pan.
4.  Put the nut mixture on the sheet pan.  You don't need to worry about spreading the nuts out yet.

Ready to go.
5.  Top the nuts with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Then the maple syrup and orange juice.  Top with the brown sugar.

Brown sugar.
6.  Top the brown sugar with the chipotle powder.

7.  Toss the nuts to make sure the mixture coats everything evenly.  I use a spatula to really flip the nuts over and get them covered.

8.  Top the nuts with half of the rosemary and some salt.  I used about 2 teaspoons of kosher salt on my nuts and it was perfect.  Toss and mix again to combine.

9.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the nuts are a nice golden brown.  Be sure to stir often because nuts burn easily.  I stirred twice - about every 8 minutes.

Nice brown color.
10.  Once the nuts are done, top with the remaining rosemary and a little more salt.  Be sure to stir constantly as the nuts cool or they stick together, forming one big nut brittle.  Enjoy!

SO good.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Favorite Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie.
Pumpkin-flavored anything is delicious.  Let's just put that out there, since it's the truth.  Pumpkin-spiced latte - delicious.  Pumpkin bread - delicious.  Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies - delicious.  But there is something special about the pumpkin pie.  It has this lovely blend of creaminess and the crunch from the crust.  Served warm with a dollop of whipped cream - there is nothing better than a pumpkin pie, and that is coming from a die-hard chocolate fan.  I have found, through the years of experimenting with recipes, that it all comes down to the spice-blend you put into the pumpkin pie.  It turns out, ironically, that "pumpkin pie spice" is not the best thing to use to make pumpkin pie.  Instead, make your own blend, based on what you like.  For example, I am a big fan of cinnamon, so I put extra cinnamon into my pumpkin pies.  The best base-recipe for pumpkin pie I have found is the traditional pumpkin pie recipe on the side of a can of Libby's Pumpkin.  This recipe has been around for more than 50 years, and is tried and true.  Feel free to just follow that recipe, if you like, or you can try mine, which just has a few small tweaks from Libby's Original recipe. This recipe makes 2 pies, by the way, so don't forget to halve it if you only want 1 pie.


1 can (30 oz.) Libby's Pumpkin
2 cans (12 fl. oz. each) Evaporated Milk
2 deep dish pie crusts, uncooked (either frozen or homemade)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I use the finer-grained baker's sugar to prevent any graininess in the pie)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.

Spice Mix.
3.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs.

4.  Mix the pumpkin into the frothy eggs.

Pumpkin Added. 
Pumpkin Blended.
5.  Stir the spice mixture into the pumpkin and eggs.

Spices Added.
6.  Gradually stir in the cans of evaporated milk.

Evaporated Milk.
7.  Pour mixture into the two deep-dish pie shells.

Ready to bake.
8.  Bake the pies, on cookie sheets, at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes.  Pies are done when a knife stuck in the center comes out clean.  Serve warm with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

The final product.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Favorite Pecan Pie & Bourbon-Spiked Whipped Cream

Pecan Pie.
I have made many a pecan pie over the years, seeking that perfect one.  This is that one.  It is the right consistency, and has a great maple flavor.  I made it the easy way this year, but I encourage you to try making it with fresh pie crust instead of frozen.  But if you use the frozen, like I did, this pie takes 5 minutes to make and then cooks for 50 minutes in the oven.  It could not be easier.  I also highly recommend the bourbon-spiked whipped cream to serve with the pie.


1 frozen pie crust or homemade pie crust
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 tablespoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
3/4 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the spiked whipped topping:
2/3 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
1 tablespoon bourbon

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.  Put the dark corn syrup, maple syrup, flour, salt, eggs, and egg whites into a large bowl.  

In the bowl.
3.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended and a little frothy.

4.  Stir in the pecan halves and the vanilla.  

All in.
5.  Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.  

Ready to go.
6.  Bake on a cookie sheet for about 50 minutes, or until the edges puff and the center of the pie is set.
7.  For the whipped topping, combine bourbon and whipped topping until blended.  Serve with pie.  Enjoy!  Makes one pie.  

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light's Recipe Hall of Fame, November 2009.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Honey, Lemon, and Rosemary Chicken Bake (with Potatoes)

This recipe makes for some moist, flavorful chicken and some juicy, lemony potatoes.  It is delicious.  And, it looks impressive for guests, but takes hardly any time or effort to make.  Most of the cook time is hands-off.  This is a perfect dinner party meal.  You guys who know me know that anything with lemon is a hit.  Anything that is easy is a hit.  Anything that tastes good is a hit.  This recipe fires on all those cylinders, plus looks beautiful and impressive when put on the dinner table.  What's not to love?  This is one recipe that is definitely going to be put into heavy rotation at my house.


About 2-2.5 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken, such as thighs or drumsticks
3 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons butter
Leaves from 6 rosemary sprigs
3 juicy lemons (if they aren't that large or juicy, use 4-5 lemons)
1-1.5 pounds fingerling potatoes
Salt and Pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  

2.  Set the chicken (skin side up) and potatoes out in a roasting pan.  Try to keep the chicken from touching other chicken so the meat cooks more evenly.  Put the small potatoes into the spaces between the chicken.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  (If you are using unsalted butter, sprinkle some extra salt to compensate).

All laid out.
3.  Take one of the lemons and slice it into small slices.  (I typically cut the lemon in half several times, and end up with about 15-20 small slices of lemon.)  Place the lemon in the roasting pan with the chicken and potatoes.  The potatoes get lemony on their own as the chicken cooks, because the chicken juices get absorbed by the potatoes, so I try to get the lemon pieces to touch the chicken more.

With the lemons.
4.  Pull the leaves off of the rosemary sprigs and put them in a sauce pot.

5.  Squeeze the juices of the remaining two lemons into the pot with the rosemary leaves.

6.  Add the minced garlic to the pot with the rosemary and lemon juice.

Garlic added.
7.  Add the honey to the pot.

Adding honey.
8.  Add the butter to the pot.

9.  Heat the rosemary, garlic, lemon, honey, and butter mixture over medium low heat.  Allow the butter to melt and gently stir so all ingredients are combined.  Make sure the honey isn't just stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Let the sauce reach a gentle boil.  Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes, until it smells very fragrant.

Simmering sauce.
10.  Drizzle the sauce over the chicken, potatoes, and lemon slices in the roasting pan.

Ready to go.
11.  Cook the chicken for about 50 minutes, or until skin is brown and chicken is cooked through.  If you want to, I often baste the chicken with the juices about halfway through the cook-time, but this isn't necessary.  This meal serves about 4.  I often make with rice, asparagus, and a green salad.  Enjoy!
The final roasting pan.
Ready to eat.
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food.