Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paris here we come! Eggplant Gratin

We are headed to Paris this spring... ahhh.. Paris in springtime! I'm sooooo excited!! I will write a travel log again (as I have done for all of our trips) and IF you would like to receive the daily log, send me an e-mail. I will not post it on my blog or Facebook, so please communicate with me via e-mail. You can reach me at

Meanwhile, here is one of mine and Ina Garten's favorite recipes similiar to a dish she had at a restaurant in Paris, Le Coupe-Chou. I hope we get to eat there...maybe for lunch as I'm sure it is pricey!!! Think I should drop Ina's name???

Eggplant Gratin
2 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs), unpeeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
2 eggs
1/2 cup half- and- half
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Helen's notes: To begin with, Ina fries her eggplant in olive oil. I prefer to brush mine with olive oil then place it on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Makes cleanup MUCH easier and saves a few calories!

Combine ricotta, eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a smal bowl.

Ina places a layer of eggplant slices in 4 individual gratin dishes; I place mine in a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle eggplant with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Add a second layer eggplant, more salt and pepper, marinara sauce,then the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle more Parmesan cheese over the top. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes then lower the temp to 375 and bake for another 20 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

Serve this tasty chicken recipe with smashed potatoes (Yukon Gold, if you can get them) and crisp green beans (or oven roasted broccoli) for a quick and healthy supper! Special enough for company any time. You can sub red wine vinegar for balsamic. This calls for some unusual spices, but they contribute to the Mediterranean taste. Leave them out, if you must and sub 2 teaspoons Greek Seasoning.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 (6-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups thinly sliced red bell peppers
1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell peppers
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (or sweet onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes, just until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute longer. Arrange chicken in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a sharp fork.

Heat remaining oil in skillet. Add peppers, onion and rosemary; saute for 3 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve pepper mixture over chicken. Yield: 4 servings.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I had the nicest surprise in the mail today! My young adult friend, Mary (aka Reilly's Mom) sent me not one, but TWO beautiful citrus juicers! When I posted my "wish list" I swear it was NOT a hint! But, what a thoughtful and sweet thing for Mary to do!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I absolutely LOVE them!

This blog is my "baby". For years, I wanted to be a food editor and even applied for the job many years ago in Jacksonville, FL. Needless to say, I didn't get the job, but now I have my very own "newspaper"! And even better, I can publish whatever I want! And I have the sweetest readers!
What more could I ask for? Especially now that I have my new citrus juicers!! ;) So, in honor of my new toy, we have to make this recipe.... and it is sooooo good!!! It has to be, its from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa!

Lemon Yogurt Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or wax paper. Grease and flour the paper.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure its all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a cooling rack over a baking sheet. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over and allow it to soak in. Cool completely. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice; pour over the cooled cake. YUUUMMMMMMM!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Easy Beef Stroganoff

A Cooking Light recipe and a great old stand-by that has been updated and lightened! This can be made in 30 minutes! Add a green salad or green veggies, bread and you've got a yummmy meal!

Easy Beef Stroganoff
1 pound boneless sirloin steak
3 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1/4 cup dry sherry (or red wine or neither!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup low fat sour cream
4 cups hot cooked egg noodles (8 ounces)

Slice beef across the grain into 1/4-inch thick strips, cut each strip into 2-inch pieces.
(Beef will slice easier if it is partially frozen.)
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with Pam. Add beef to pan; saute 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Place beef in a large bowl and cover to keep warm. Add mushrooms and onions to skillet and cook for 4 minutes. Place mushrooms in bowl with beef.
Melt butter in skillet. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wire whisk. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until thickened and bubbly.
Add beef mixture, sherry, salt, and pepper to skillet, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream. Serve over hot cooked egg noodles.
Serves 4.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pan-seared Chicken Breasts with Mustard, Rosemary and Capers

This is from Joanne Weir's website. She teaches cooking classes at her home in San Francisco. This is definitely on my "bucket list"! One day I'm going to San Fran..... meanwhile, check out her website and sign up for her newsletter... or just stay with me and I'll post more of her recipes!

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Mustard, Rosemary and Capers
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 chicken breasts, skin and bone attached, about 8 ounces each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard
1/3 cup capers
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary

Preheat an oven to 425°F. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down, until light golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the chicken, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Place the pan in the oven and continue to cook until the skin of the chicken is golden and the meat is cooked, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a warm platter, cover with foil and keep warm.

Pour off any excess fat from the frying pan. Place the pan back on high heat, (be careful, the handle is very hot after being in the oven). Add the white wine and bring to a boil and using a flat bottom spatula or wooden spoon, scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the mustard, capers and rosemary and continue to simmer until the stock is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, place one chicken breast on each plate and spoon the sauce over the chicken breasts.

Serves 6

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Chip Meringues

Oh My! These will absolutely melt in your mouth! Make them on a sunny day; they do NOT like humidty.

Chocolate Chip Meringues
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 225°
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed of electric mixer until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat until stiff and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop mounds of the meringue mixture ( 2 tablespoons) onto parchment-lined baking sheets 1- inch apart. Bake until firm and dry, 75 to 90 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Do Nothing Cake

This recipe is by special request. I tested this recipe for the GA Ag Dept several years ago and continue to make it occasionally at home. Several folks have asked for it, so here it is! It is SO easy that it is embarrassing! I have no idea how the name came about... but you really have to "do nothing" in order to make it delicious! Yes, the recipe is correct; the cake has no shortening/butter in it!

Do Nothing Cake
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (20-oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until well blended. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Pour hot topping over hot cake.

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

Mix butter, sugar and evaporated milk in large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils. Stir in coconut and pecans. Pour hot mixture over hot cake in pan.

Helen's Notes: If you do not have self-rising flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to each cup of all-purpose flour.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chocolate- Filled Crescents

Chocolate-Filled Crescents

1 (8 oz) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips
Powdered sugar, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Separate dough into 8 triangles.
Place tablespoon of chocolate chips on wide end of each triangle. Roll up, starting at shortest side of triangle, rolling to opposite point. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350°F. for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Helen's Notes: Spread the large end of the triangle with Nutella for a real treat! Roll up and bake as above. Or spread with peanut butter and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Or spread with soft cream cheese, roll and bake as above.... let you imagination be your guide!

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

If you're thinking chocolate for Valentine's Day, these are THE cupcake for you! Ina Garten never fails me when it comes to the ultimate recipe. Do NOT over mix these and do NOT refrigerate! Trust me, after eating these, you'll never want a cake mix cupcake again!

Ina Garten's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs,room temperature
1 (11-oz.) can chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Line muffin pans with 12 paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly in the pan.

For the ganache, cook heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache. Do not refrigerate.

Helen's Notes: There is absolutely nothing I can add, except a warning that these are addictive!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Healthy Carrot Muffins

For my "friend" who complained that this blog is adding pounds to her petite body, here is a healthy carrot muffin recipe. It really is one of my favorites, is good for breakfast as well as snacks and can be jazzed up (see note at end of recipe).

Healthy Carrot Muffins
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or 3/4 cup all-purpose plus 1/2 cup whole wheat)
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons wheat germ (if you don't have it, leave it out!)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk flour, brown sugar,wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. In another bowl lightly whisk the egg, then whisk in vegetable oil and vanilla. Quickly and lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Stir in the carrots and pineapple just until evenly moist; the batter will be thick. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin pans. Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Turn out of the muffin pans and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 12 muffins.

Helen's Notes: While these are wonderful as is, they could be iced with cream cheese frosting when cool. Or you could cut a 3-oz. package cream cheese into 12 cubes and press a cube into the batter in each muffin pan before baking. Whenever you bake muffins, turn them out of the pan as soon as you remove them from the oven to prevent soggy bottoms from sweating.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hot Artichoke - Cheese Dip

Getting ready for the Super Bowl? Add this lower fat dip to your menu and enjoy the fresh flavors.

Hot Artichoke - Cheese Dip
2 cloves garlic
1 green onion, cut into pieces
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
1/3 reduced fat mayonnaise
2 ounces low fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (12-oz.) pkg frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
Pam cooking spray
24 (1/2-inch) slices baguette, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine garlic and onion in food processor; process until finely chopped. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, lemon juice and red pepper; process until smooth. Add artichoke hearts; pulse until artichokes are coarsely chopped. Spoon mixture into a greased 3 cup shallow baking dish; sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated and bubbly. Serve hot with baguettes.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mrs. Carlton's Caramel Brownies

This recipe comes from a friend's 7th grade math teacher. You do the math on this one... double the recipe and make a 9x13-inch pan of Caramel Brownies. I find 8x8 or 9x9 recipes a complete waste of time... not enough bar cookies to justify the kitchen clean up!! Plus, my dear husband could eat an entire pan in one sitting!!! But, I've left the recipe up to you to decide your preference! Happy baking!!

Mrs. Carlton's Caramel Brownies
1 stick butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until butter and sugar melt, stirring continually. Stir in remaing ingredients. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Pour into a greased 8x8-inch baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm to the touch and lightly browned around the edges. Cool in pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.