Monday, August 31, 2009

Ravioli with Spinach and Tomatoes

Pin It I didn't plan on blogging about this, so I didn't take any prep pictures. But when it was done I thought, "Why not?" Super easy. Super yummy. Super good for you. I guess that'll teach me, huh?

This recipe is an adaptation (since I can rarely leave a recipe alone) of a recipe from a Weight Watchers Magazine cookbook called "Two's Company". The only thing that would have made it better is some lovely Parmesan, but I forgot to buy it at the store. Grrr.

The original recipe calls for cheese ravioli, but I've used a variety of filled pastas: cheese ravioli (like the recipe), cheese tortellini, cheese & chicken tortellini or ravioli. I use whatever I have on hand and it always works.

Ravioli with Spinach and Tomatoes
Printable Recipe

1 cup chicken broth
2 14.5 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
19 oz fresh cheese ravioli, tortellini, or other filled pasta
6 oz fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large pot and bring it all to a boil. Add the ravioli, cover and cook for 5 minutes (7 minutes if the pasta is frozen), stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the ravioli is done.

2. Stir in the spinach and sugar; cover and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Take the pot off the heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4-6 servings

**When this is made with cheese tortellini, 1 cup=148 cal/3.65 fat/3 fiber/3 Weight Watchers points.
**I buy my tortellini, etc. at Costco. 19 oz is one side of a Costco double pack.
**I've noticed the big ravioli (like in these pictures) like to tear open while they cook, so stir them very gently.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sliders and my first giveaway!

Silders are all the rage right now, and they are one of my teenager's favorite things to order when we go out to eat. It never occurred to me to make them at home until I saw Cathy's post on her blog, Noble Pig. What an awesome idea! So easy! And, more important for me (and my Weight Watchers maintenance), I can have one and be done, while others can have more if they want.

My recipe is a little different from the one on Noble Pig; I added some yummy sauteed onions, and didn't put any seasoned salt or minced onion (didn't have any) in the ground beef. I also used a leaner ground beef since that's what I buy and had in the freezer.

"Oo! Sliders!" was the comment I got from my everyone when I passed them out (my brother-in-law, sister, and husband were outside building a new shed). And then, "Oh, these are so good!" Score. Thanks, Cathy!

Printable Recipe
Sauteed Onions

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large white onions sliced in 1/4-inch rings
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Heat a large (12-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes; reduce the heat to medium. Add the oil and heat 10 seconds. Add the onions and salt, and cook and stir until the onions are very soft and nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

The finished onions. Yum.


2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
sliced cheese, if desired
sliced dinner rolls
sauteed onions, if desired

1. Heat your oven to 400, and spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.

3. Pat the ground beef mixture into a rectangle that's about 5/8-inch thick, and bake it for 20-25 minutes. (Don't make the giant patty too thick because the meat will shrink and become thicker when it cooks.)

4. Lay the cheese (looking at the picture, I could have used more) on the cooked meat and put it back in the oven until it's melted, 1-2 minutes.

5. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut your meat into squares that will fit on your dinner rolls, add some of the onions, and enjoy!

My first giveaway!

I'm so excited to do my first giveaway! I have a khaki apron with the Bake-Off Flunkie initials printed on the front in gray (from It's made out of 100% cotton, has three roomy pockets in the front, and an adjustable neck strap. Leave a comment for this post and I'll use to pick a winner on Monday, September 7.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fudgy Brownies

Different people want different things from a brownie. Some people like a more cakey brownie, while others want a fudgy brownie. I'm in the second category; the more fudgy the better.

Several years ago (2003) I was toying with the idea of writing a children's cookbook (haven't given up on the idea), and one of the recipes I wanted to have in the book was for an easy brownie. What kid doesn't like brownies, right? I didn't want to use dry cocoa because the brownies I remembered from my childhood were made with cocoa and they were more like cake. So for the chocolate I used chocolate chips. I thought most people who cook would have some hanging around their cupboard, and I thought melted chocolate would get me closer to fudgy. You can also use regular bar-type baking chocolate if you don't have, or don't want to use, chocolate chips. Of course, my favorite chocolate is Ghirardelli :)

I had a working recipe that was pretty good and then I had to put the project on hold for a while (ended up being 6 years). This spring a friend of mine wanted to know if I had a good scratch brownie recipe. I remembered the recipe I'd been working on, but I wanted to test it before I gave it to her. Good thing I did, too. It was definitely not at the share stage. I made it six more times to get it just right. She and her husband loved them, and like all brownies, these are awesome with vanilla ice cream :)

Fudgy Brownies
Printable Recipe

1/4 cup butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 6 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1. Heat your oven to 325. Spray the bottom of a 8x8 glass pan with non-stick spray.

2. Put the butter and chocolate chips in a medium microwaveable bowl, and heat on high for 1 minute; stir. Heat for 30 seconds more and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

3. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar and chocolate mixture is completely combined.

4. Add the vanilla and eggs, and stir until the mixture is completely combined.

5. In a small bowl, combine the baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and flour; mix well to break up any lumps in the cocoa powder. Add to the chocolate mixture and stir until completely combined.

6. Bake for 26-28 minutes, or until the top of the brownies are flat and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean (you want a few moist crumbs to cling to the toothpick). Cool completely (if you can stand to wait) before cutting to get the best looking pieces.

Tip: Use a plastic knife to cut the brownies; the knife will slide right through.

When I was taking these pictures in my back yard my 2 year-old was sitting next to me on a over-turned bucket. She was so excited about the brown squares on the plate she could hardly keep herself off them. I turned my head at just the moment she leaned over to lick the brownie closest to her. Well, at least she kept her hands off ;)

Foodie Fights #10 results

Battle Peach and Tarragon really made me stretch and use ingredients out of my comfort zone. Tarragon is not an herb I like much or use much, so coming up with a dish that used it was a challenge. Considering this, I was really happy with how my Chicken and Peach Picatta turned out. I could even eat it ;)

The winning dish was Madeline Louise's Baked Peach with Tarragon and Bacon-Goat Cheese Filling. The runner up was Cooking with Michele's Tarragon-Peach Tart with Tarragon Ice Cream.

Congratulations to Madeline and Michele for two dishes well made!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A place for all food photos

If you are a food blogger, you've probably heard of the food photo-posting sites like,, and You have also most likely submitted some of your own photos for the sites to post; there's no doubt it's a great way to increase traffic to your blog. But what about the pictures that aren't accepted? The pictures that are declined with comments like "unflattering composition", "not sharp", "unflattering lighting", "exposure issues", "low contrast", and "not a compelling subject"?

Stings, doesn't it?

I was so excited the first time I saw one of my pictures on TasteSpotting. My picture was out there, on the world wide web, for anyone with an internet connection to see. awesome. Then I got my first rejection. Ouch! Like a personal blow, the rejection comment said, "unflattering composition". More rejected pictures were to come; more, even, than the ones that were accepted. I started to wonder about my ability, I mean, I'm writing a cookbook and I have a food blog. If these popular sites didn't want my pictures...who was I kidding?

Then, one afternoon while I was making a comment on another blog, I saw a comment with a link to a blog called TasteStopping. The comment said TasteStopping was a food photo posting site, but with a surprising difference from TasteSpotting and others in the same catagory: TasteStopping only wanted photos rejected by the other sites.

This I had to see.

Of course, I feel in love with the idea right away. Just because a picture isn't perfect doesn't mean the food isn't great, and the blog doesn't deserve to be visited. Besides, I have my suspicions about the judging criteria by which the big photo posting sites accept or reject submissions. For the massive number of photos they do post, they must have many, many people going through the submissions. And whether or not a person likes something is very subjective, which is how I can almost copy the composition of other photos on a site like TasteSpotting and still get rejected, and how a photo I feel has no redeeming compositional (is that a word) value, or has terrible lighting (doesn't mean it doesn't taste good), smiles at me from the computer screen.

TasteStopping, with it's humorous play-on-words titles, gives all rejected food photos--the good and the ugly--a place to be posted.

Thanks, TasteStopping, for such an awesome idea!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chicken and Peach Picatta

Calling this a "picatta" may or may not be a stretch, depending on how you look at it. A picatta is a dish made by first dredging and pan-searing a cutlet (chicken or veal), and then making a pan sauce with white wine, lemon juice, and herbs of some kind. You can also add capers for extra tang (hate capers). For this dish I dredged the chicken cutlets in flour and made the sauce with white wine and lemon juice. But then I went and added peaches and some cream, which some people may see as new and different, while purists may see as sacrilege. All I ask is that I don't get any hate mail :)

I had to laugh when I saw that tarragon was one of the ingredients for this Foodie Fight. I am not what you would call a fan of tarragon, so I almost never use it in my cooking (I can only think of one thing I use it in). Because I'm not used to the flavor I wasn't sure what it would go with, or even how much to use. In fact, the first time I made this picatta I used way too much, and it felt like it burned my mouth. Apparently (my husband looked it up online) tarragon is much more potent fresh than it is dry because the oils quickly dissipate when it's dried. Tricky herb, going against the rule of most herbs I know: the flavor of dried herbs is more concentrated than their fresh counterparts, so you can safely substitute double the amount of fresh for the amount of dried called for in a recipe. When I made the dish the second time I decreased the amount of tarragon, making it much more subtle and quite lovely--for tarragon.

I don't think I'm a tarragon convert quite yet, but with this dish I may be one step closer :)

Chicken and Peach Picatta

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound total
flour for dredging
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup chopped peaches, about 1/2 large peach

1. To make the cutlets, slice each chicken breast in half lengthwise.

2. Place the chicken pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap and use the smooth side of a meat pounder (I like a rubber mallet) to gently pound them to about 1/4-inch thick cutlets.

3. Spray a not non-stick skillet with non-stick spray, and add 2 teaspoons of the oil. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until hot (about 2 minutes), then reduce the heat to medium.

4. Season each cutlet with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. Dredge the cutlets in flour and add them to the hot pan. Cook the cutlets until they are golden brown and cooked through, about 2 1/2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer them to a plate and cover the plate loosely with foil to keep them warm.

5. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan. Add the onion and saute until it's softened, about 5 minutes.

6. Deglaze the pan by adding the white wine and scraping all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan (flavor, flavor, flavor). Simmer until the wine is almost gone, about 5 minutes.

7. Add the chicken broth and lemon juice, bring it all to a simmer, and reduce it by almost half, about 5 minutes.

8. Add the tarragon and simmer for two more minutes.

9. Add the cream, cook 1 minute more; stir in the peaches, and remove the pan from the heat.

10. Add the cutlets back to the pan and coat them with the sauce. Plate and enjoy!

This makes 2-4 servings, depending on how many cutlets you want (I ate one, my husband ate three).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Alex's Animal Print Cake

My daughter turned 13 this month. I usually start asking my kids what kind of cake they want several weeks in advance so I have time to plan. When I asked Alex what she wanted to do for her birthday party and cake she told me she didn't want a party (though couldn't tell me why), and that she was too old for a themed cake. Wha?? Is there an age when you're too old? I tried to change her mind about the party. No luck. I gave her several ideas for cakes I thought would be really fun. Nope. We finally decided on an animal print cake (she's animal crazy to the core). I actually thought the idea was a little mature for her, but it was all I could get her to agree to.

She doesn't like chocolate cake (how she can be my offspring, I have no idea), so both cakes were yellow, and I filled and frosted them with buttercream frosting before covering them with fondant. I use Satin Ice fondant, because it doesn't taste horrible and it's easier to work with than Wilton. What's amazing to me is the Satin Ice, which tastes like marshmallow, only costs a few dollars more than the awful Wilton fondant, which tastes like rancid oil. My guess is people who make cakes for fun and shop for their supplies in the cake aisle at their local craft store, buy the Wilton because that is what the store has. It's how I started. Then I was asked to make a wedding cake for a friend's brother and they wanted fondant. I knew there had to be something better than Wilton fondant, and after some digging, I found the Satin Ice at a store called Gygi's in Salt Lake City.

For a foodie, Gygi's is a wonderland. They sell every food/kitchen thing you can think of: baking supplies, cake supplies, restaurant supplies, dishes, accessories, giant popcorn makers, even giant grills you could fit my 6 year-old in. It's always a good day when I get out to Gygi's :)

I loved hand-painting the zebra stripes and leopard spots (though looking back I'd do the spots differently--darnit). I used full-strength paste food coloring and was a little worried we'd all end up with black teeth, but it wasn't too bad ;) I made the letter "A" out of dark chocolate I melted and then piped onto waxed paper that was over a pattern. Some black ribbon and we were in business, though it took some time figuring out the bow for the top (looks so innocent, doesn't it?).

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Mark Anthony's. Alex loves their seafood ravioli and she's been deprived of it since I started Weight Watchers and my husband had to start watching his blood sugar a couple years ago. Dinner was as scrumptious (naughty) as I remembered. Alex had her seafood ravioli and I had a dish called Hazelnut Chicken; garlic, shallots, mushrooms, and chicken in a sweet hazelnut cream sauce, all served over fettuccine. Gracious, it was divine...I'm thrilled to have leftovers waiting for me in the fridge.

The best part of dinner (besides the bread-on-a-stick that enticed my 2 year-old to sit in her chair for 5 minutes) was when our table of 13 started singing Happy Birthday, and the table of 10 or so next to us, and our server, joined in. It sounded like the whole restaurant was singing. Of course, she was the color of Crayola Red, enormously embarrassed, and loving every minute. Happy birthday, my sweet girl!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Roasted Beets and Potatoes

If you remember from my post about my first farmer's market, a cute old farmer talked me into buying some of his beets, a veggie I've been able to avoid until now. The beets sat in my fridge for almost two weeks while I decided what I was going to do with them (I may have been waiting for them to go bad so I didn't have to eat them, it's hard to know). I finally decided to roast them. Roasting makes everything delicious, right? I figured I couldn't go wrong.

And I was right.

I roasted them with the yellow potatoes I bought from the same farmer, a red onion, and some garlic, and the mixture was as tasty as it was beautiful. I topped it all off with some feta cheese (my favorite). We were all happy with the result, even my husband, who looked at his first fork full and said, "I'm a little scared." Hee, hee...I was, too, but the beets were yummy! Thanks, cute old farmer!

Roasted Beets and Potatoes

11/4 lbs beets, peeled and cut into wedges
1 1/2 lbs small yellow potatoes, cut into wedges
1 small red onion, halved and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
crumbled feta cheese

1. Heat your oven to 425; line a 10 1/2 x 15 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with non-stick spray.

2. Put all of the ingredients, except feta, in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Seal the bag and gently turn the bag several times to coat the veggies in the oil. Transfer the veggies to the baking sheet, spread them to an even layer, and roast them for45-50 minutes; stir them slightly after the first 15 minutes. Top with feta cheese and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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