Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cook The Books: Chicken, Apples, and Cream a la Normande and Lemon-Steamed Spinach

So this year I started a challenge called the Cook The Books 2013 Cookbook Challenge (follow the link for a more detailed description.)  The gist of the challenge is to cook something, or several things, from a selected cookbook over the course of the month.  There will be a new cookbook each month and this month's book is Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.

What a GREAT book!  Nothing overly complicated, no weird ingredients, beautiful pictures, and a TON of recipes!  The descriptions with each recipe are comprehensive and also gives serving suggestions for items to go with the recipe.

Tonight was my first foray into the book and I was excited to choose something to make.  I wanted to make something that involved ingredients that I had at home, for the most part.  I chose Chicken, Apples, and Cream a la Normande.  Seemed pretty straight forward and had some great flavors in the ingredients: chicken, butter, olive oil, apples, onion, mushrooms, cream, and Calvados.  Can't miss with that list of ingredients!

I was really hoping it would be an easy recipe because as excited as I was to do this, I wasn't feeling like preparing a big fancy meal.  This did not disappoint.  I love a recipe that comes together quickly and easily!  The longest part of the preparation of this recipe was the prepping of the veggies beforehand and the reduction of the liquids at the end. 

I will say that I was kind of leery about adding the apple but the whole point of the recipe was the Calvados and the pieces of apple in the sauce.  I was actually disappointed that there weren't more apples when all was said and done.

I almost never follow a recipe exactly but wanted to make sure I got the true essence without messing around with ingredients.  The only change I made was to double the sauce at the end because I was serving this with pasta and knew there would not be enough sauce for our family.

The chicken was perfectly cooked and the vegetables/apple were tender and bathed in a delicious cream/apple brandy sauce.

I couldn't have been happier with my first attempt to Cook the Books - except for my second recipe. Greenspan suggested serving this bit of deliciousness with Lemon-Steamed Spinach.  I DETEST cooked spinach and can barely stand raw spinach but she promised that this was delicious and well seasoned and a good match for the richness of the cream.  What the heck!  I figured if it was horrible, we could eat green beans on the side.

Again, the recipe was fast and straight-forward.  Toss spinach with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper and steam for 3 minutes.  I cannot even begin to tell you how delicious it is and I will NEVER make it any other way again!  So great!

I simply cannot wait to try more recipes from this book!  I think next time I'll try a dessert.  Hmmmm...maybe even tomorrow!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mini Breakfast Quiche

Lately Faith has been rummaging through the freezer looking for frozen breakfast items.  Apparently she's not enjoying the home-assembled instant oatmeal I put together. (More on that here.) She's been pulling things out of there that I'd put in there so long ago that I forgot they were there.  In addition to eating the aforementioned oatmeal, I thought I'd throw in a little variation because nobody really likes a forced diet of something the don't enjoy.

Enter the mini breakfast quiche.  I had some egg whites in the fridge left from another recipe where I needed yolks and some bits and pieces of ingredients left over from other recipes that would have fallen into the black hole that is my fridge if I hadn't used them: fresh spinach, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, small pieces from a block of cheddar cheese.

I was in the kitchen and didn't have my phone or computer in there with me so I decided to just wing it with the recipe.  They really turned out great and both of the girls and I love them!

(This isn't my quiche but looks like it.
Photo courtesy of

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray cupcake pan with cooking spray.  (Be sure to spray well or the eggs will stick.)

12 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 oz Canadian bacon
3 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 cup spinach, chopped
5 or 6 sliced mushrooms
Shredded Cheese

Place eggs in bowl with milk and beat.  Mix in spinach.  Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop into muffin tin but don't fill much more than half full.  Add Canadian bacon, onion, mushrooms to each quiche.  Top with cheese and bake for approximately 20 minutes.  They will puff up tall then collapse as they cool.  Store in the fridge.  To serve, warm in microwave.  Two quiches heated up nicely for 1 minute.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thrifty Instant Oatmeal

Another of my favorite Pinterest finds is a thrifty little "recipe" for how to make your own instant oatmeal.  The girls eat A LOT of oatmeal, almost daily at times.  We were blowing through a Costco-sized box of instant oatmeal in a few weeks.  That's a bunch of oatmeal for two little girls to consume.

Since I'm not working, I've been looking for ways to cut corners.  While this isn't a HUGE corner to cut, the cost difference between a box of oatmeal is pretty dramatic.  A box of instant Quaker Oats, 10 packets is approximately $4.00 for about 2.5 cups of oatmeal.  The equivalent amount of oatmeal in homemade packets costs $1.10!

1/2 cup quick oats – $.11
 2 T. brown sugar – $.04
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon – $.05
pinch of salt ~.01

These are so easy and fast to assemble.

1/2 cup of quick cooking oats
2T brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
a tiny pinch of kosher salt

To prepare, dump in a bowl and add 1 cup of  water. Microwave for a minute or so.  This makes a thick oatmeal so the girls usually add some coconut milk to thin it some.

Just LOVE the cost of these!  I put them into snack sized zipper bags and we reuse the bags so there's no plastic waste going into the garbage from this every day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


As I was whiling away some time on Pinterest the other day, I bumped into a recipe for New York Style Bagels.  I'm not normally interested in making yeast raised products due to the fact that I cannot seem to get a recipe to work.  I can't tell you how many loaves of bread I've ruined!  Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the bagels you get at Safeway - crusty outside and chewy and soft inside.  What's not to love with that and why on earth would I want to even bother doing this when I can get perfect bagels at the store?

But for some reason, I felt the need to give this recipe a shot.  Boy am I glad I did, too!  Crusty, chewy, tender, great bread flavor.  This are on the "definitely doing this again" list!

New York Bagels

This recipe makes 12 bagels
1 cup
1 tsp
Bread Flour
3 cups
Active Dry Yeast
2+1/4 tsp
Baker's Note: If an egg bagel is preferred, reduced water to 3/4 cup and add 1 egg at room temperature.
Combine yeast, 1 cup flour, salt and sugar. Heat water to 120º to 130º F.

Standard Mixer Method
Combine dry mixture and water in mixing bowl with paddle or beaters for 4 minutes on medium speed. Gradually add remaining flour and knead with dough hook(s) 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover; let rise until dough tests ripe.
Rising, Shaping, and Baking
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; punch down to remove air bubbles. Divide dough into 4 parts and each part into 3 pieces. On lightly floured surface, shape each piece into a smooth ball. Punch a hole in the center with a finger. Pull dough gently to make a 1 to 2-inch hole. Heat 2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons sugar to boiling. Place a few bagels at a time in boiling water. Simmer 3 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon. Place on a greased cookie sheets. Brush tops with 1 slightly beaten egg white; sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 375º F oven 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets; cool.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Patio Daddio's Orange Chicken

So we stopped at the store the other day to grab some things for the Monster cookies recipe and were haggling over what to make for dinner.  I was so hungry for hamburgers but alas, they were not to be had.  Steve wanted to make his make his Orange Chicken - a delicious recipe but decidedly not what I wanted that night.  Because he said he would cook that night, I decided to capitulate and we could have burgers another night. 

I am so glad I didn't insist on burgers!  The chicken was tender and flavorful and actually pretty darn healthy because he used boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  To quote Steve, "...but how fun is that?"  There really isn't a recipe, per se, but more of a list of ingredients and his written instructions on how to cook it.  Without further ado:

Orange Chicken, Patio Daddio style

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
salt & pepper
Chardonnay (or chicken broth if you don't want to use wine)
half an onion, chopped
couple handfuls of sliced mushrooms
minced garlic - a tablespoon (it's a lot so you can always cut back if you prefer less)
Thin sliced orange (I like mine super thin but you can slice as you'd like)

"OK, for the healthy version use 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.... but how fun is that? I brown them with flour coating in a hot pan with olive oil.... salt and pepper the chicken.... brown them well on each side. After they brown on each side, pour in about a 1/4 of a bottle of chardonnay, add half an onion and a couple handfuls of sliced mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, at least one half of an orange thinly sliced (lay slices over chicken after adding everything else), add teaspoon of course Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover and turn down to simmer for about 45 minutes. I cook fettuccine and pour the sauce in the pan over the pasta. Works out pretty well!"

Everyone LOVES this recipe. I have often thought that maybe once the chicken is done cooking, of removing it from the pan and stirring some orange marmalade into the sauce for some sweetness or, instead of mixing in marmalade, thickening the sauce with a little cornstarch slurry.  I have never tampered with it though as I am perfectly happy to eat this awesomeness as is.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Homemade Smoked Goodness Pizza

I'm not sure what's gotten into us around here but we have decided that we need to make our own pizza.  This just isn't something we usually do as we really enjoy a good Papa Murphy's  Cowboy pizza, but something moved us and away we went.

I headed to Pinterest to drum up a good crust recipe.  An hour of searching led me to this one, a Tarte Flambee. After looking at the recipe and realizing that I had to let it sit overnight, I decided to just run to the store and grab something easy for dinner. 

When I got to the store, I decided to grab some yeast so I could make the dough eventually.  I ran across a package of  Fleischmanns Pizza Crust Yeast with no rising, etc.  Sounded like a good deal to me!  It was back on for dinner!  I grabbed the things the girls wanted (pineapple, Canadian bacon, black olives) and what we wanted (heads of garlic, smoked cheddar cheese, mushrooms) and some sauce and mozzarella. 

The pizza itself is quick to bake and easy to assemble, but the prep work for the Smoked Goodness pizza was pretty darn time-consuming.

On Christmas day, Steve smoked slabs of onions to go with dinner since he had the smoker going to make smoked salmon.  Those bad boys had a date with my pizza!

I used the recipe on the back of the yeast package OR you could just use a Boboli crust if you're a cheater. I par-baked the crust for about 8 minutes because we wanted a little bit crispy crust.**

Grab a whole head of garlic and cut off the top. Place in a small baking dish, top with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or so, until the cloves are soft when squeezed. Let cool. When cooled, squeeze the cloves out of the head into a dish. Mash with a fork and add olive oil, salt and pepper to season.

Cook 5 slices of bacon (that's all I had or it would've been more) and cut into pieces.

Slice up as many mushrooms as you want on your pizza.

Shred up some mozzarella and smoked cheddar.

Pizza sauce. You can make your own or you can pop open a jar of Ragu pizza sauce.

Okay, now you're ready to assemble:
Spread mashed garlic onto par-baked crust. Top with a couple of tablespoons of pizza sauce, or more, depending on what you're hungry for. I thought it was a shame to cover all that amazing garlic goodness with tomato sauce so I just did a little bit of sauce.
Top with a layer of cheese, then bacon, onion, and mushrooms. Top with a thin layer of mozzarella then a layer of smoked cheddar.

Bake for about 10 more minutes. I like my crust crispy and my cheese starting to brown.

The crust on the pack of yeast made at least a 14" pizza for Steve and I and the same for the girls, although it was a pretty rustic looking thing. I baked it on my Pampered Chef pizza stone, too, so it got good and done.

The flavor combinations were AMAZING!  The roasted garlic plus the smoked onion, smoky bacon, and smoked cheddar were SO good. 


I didn't like the quick crust.  It was VERY easy but it was also pretty tasteless and not at all what we were looking for in a crust.  I want some chew and a good bite.  I don't want thick or gummy.  Definitely going with the tarte flambee recipe next time.  (Headed to the kitchen now to make the dough for tomorrow!)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Monster Cookies

I've been baking a ton of cookies because of Christmas and I have been so hungry for these.  I didn't make them because they didn't seem Christmas-y enough to me so I held off until now.  There are a lot of ingredients in here and these babies are chewy and chocolatey and peanut buttery and all kinds of yummy.  

They're quick to mix  (recipe says 20 minutes - took me about 10) but they seemed to take forever to bake!  In looking at the yield on the recipe just now, it says these should yield 5 dozen.  I got just over 3 dozen.  Hmmm...the baking time was longer because my cookies were, apparently, giant!

Baking time/yield aside, these were DELICIOUS!  Even a smaller one is like a complete meal!

Monster Cookies


  • 3 cups quick oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine quick oats, flour, baking soda and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Add peanut butter and mix well.  Mix in eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Stir in oat mixture.  Fold in chocolate chips, candies and raisins.  Drop 1-1/2 inch dough balls onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.  Cool slightly and remove from pans.

Quick Facts

Prep Time
20 minutes
Bake Time
12 minutes

Yields: 5 Dozen