Tag Archives: recipe reviews

Pumpkin & Cranberry for the win!

Peanut Butter & Jelly

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Chips & Salsa

Cheese & Burger

All are great combinations, but near the top of my list is pumpkin & cranberry. Luscious spiced pumpkin paired with tart dried cranberries makes me furiously happy. So when I saw these muffins on Kirsten’s Comfortably Domestic blog, I knew they would be mine. Mine! mwuhahahaha {that’s my evil laugh}

Photo used with permission; copyright Comfortably Domestic Blog

How do I describe these adequately? I don’t think I can. You really have to bite into one to fully appreciate it. They’re soft and delicate with a warm, robust pumpkin flavor. There’s a subtle scent of spice that leaps forward when you raise it to your lips, then the aroma of orange from the glaze leaps for joy just as you sink your teeth into this fall gem. I mean really. They are that good.

Pumpkin & Dried Cranberry Muffins

Can you smell that? It’s spice and pumpkin and cranberry and orange.

I take it back. These are not good, they’re glorious. And flavorful. And confirmation of why I love the pumpkin & cranberry combo and all things fall.

Speaking of fall, I’ve been on a canning kick. Earlier this week, I put up my second batch of cranberry goodness. It’s thick and loaded with fresh cranberries, dark sweet cherries and raspberries. I’m not sure whether to call it jam, preserves, or cranberry sauce on steroids. Whatever it is, it’s tasty.

While I was mixing up these muffins, it suddenly hit me that if dried cranberries are good, more cranberries are better. In the spirit of “more is more” I spooned a heaping teaspoon onto the top of half the muffins just before I popped them in the oven. Here’s what happened – and I hadn’t even glazed it yet!

Holy smokes, y’all. I’m in love with this muffin.

I’m sending Kirsten a jar of cranberry goodness as part of our Great Jelly Swap this fall. It’s not just that I need her approval for messing with her recipe a little. It’s that I NEED her to experience it firsthand. Because friends & food go together like Cake & Ice Cream. Fritos & Chili. Cheese & Crackers. Eggs & Bacon. Butter & Popcorn. Spaghetti & Meatballs. Mashed Potatoes & Gravy.

What are your favorite food combos? Any weird ones? I’d love to hear!
Should I go first? I like salt & vinegar chips on bologna sandwiches.

Kirsten’s muffins paired with my cranberry whateveritis; yum!

Note: I solemnly promise not to swipe other blogger’s recipes and publish them on my blog, so CLICK HERE to see Kirsten’s Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins in the master’s own words (and with color photos to boot). She also shares tips on baking these as loaves instead of muffins, which would make fantastic gifts for family & friends during the holidays. Thanks for sharing, Kirsten! Solid A+

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Salad Week Tribute: Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing from The Pioneer Woman

In honor of Salad Week, I’m re-running my review of “Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing” from The Pioneer Woman website. It’s my favorite, and when paired with a crisp salad and grilled halloumi cheese, it is simply divine. Enjoy!

Aunt Trish's salad dressing over a green salad & grilled halloumi cheese - YUM!

It’s not often that I make my own salad dressing, as evidenced by the row of salad dressing bottles on the top shelf of my fridge. Just last week, The Complete Package found a bottle of French that expired in 2008. Oopsie. And there is ALWAYS a jar of Marzetti’s Ultimate Blue Cheese Dressing in our fridge. Always. Someone whose name I shall not mention would lose his ever-loving mind if he didn’t have his favorite creamy blue cheese dressing to put on his wedge salads or fried potatoes (hint: not Ziggy). But this past week, I was craving something new. Something light. Something lemony. And The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing looked perfect. It’s light, it’s lemony, and it also has garlic and parmesan cheese. Duh, winning!

Here’s the cast of characters:
3/4 cup of olive oil or canola oil
the juice of 2 lemons
1 clove of garlic, peeled (leave it whole)
4 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. sugar
a dash of paprika
salt & pepper to taste

It couldn’t be easier. You put everything in a jar, shake it up, and let it stew in the fridge for 24 hours, then shake it again before using. I made a tossed green salad of romaine, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, cucumber, quartered Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced purple onion, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers and feta cheese. Then we shook up our jar of Aunt Trish’s and poured it over the top. To say that we both loved this salad dressing would be an understatement. It was so good, we were tempted to put our faces into our bowls and lick them clean. Or grab a straw and suck up all the remnants. But instead, we used some toasted garlic bread to sop it all up. No drop was wasted. We enjoyed it so whole heartedly that we could have put our salad bowls back into the cupboard without washing them first. We didn’t, of course, but we probably could have.

Besides being knocked out by how great this was on a salad, my mind was racing through all the other things I could use it on. It would be a great marinade for grilled meats. It would be fantastic drizzled over a sandwich in place of boring old mayonnaise or mustard. This would knock your socks off as a dressing for a pasta salad. You could cube up salami, mozzarella cheese, olives and Italian peppers and make a fabulous antipasto tray for parties. Don’t get me started on using it on a cold seafood salad. This is not a salad dressing, it’s an obsession.

As always, I’m going to refer you to the source so you can see the recipe the way Ree intended – with fabulous photos and an engaging back story. Click here to be transported to salad dressing heaven at The Pioneer Woman.

Also posted for Salad Week today:
Lauren’s Parmesan Salad Cups at Climbing Grier Mountain. Click the link to see how she crafted melted parmesan cheese into crispy edible salad bowls. No more licking your salad bowl clean. This time, you can actually eat the bowl!

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Recipe Review: ATK’s Chicken Marsala


I am locked in a perpetual search for new main dish recipes. This weekend, I decided to take on Chicken Marsala from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. There’s a lot of good stuff in that cookbook, and I’m a big fan of their work. I’m also a big fan of mushrooms stewed in wine, so it was a no-brainer. This recipe makes 4 servings. Here’s how it all went down.

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt & pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 ounces of pancetta, finely minced
8 ounces of button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of sweet Marsala wine (see note below)
1 1/2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into 3 pieces
2 tablespoons of minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
Spaghetti, linguine or other pasta, cooked

Start by pre-heating your oven to 300F. You’ll want to keep your chicken cutlets warm while you’re making the sauce.

To prepare the chicken, slice each breast in half horizontally to make two thinner cutlets. If one end is thicker, pound the thick end to make chicken cutlet uniformly thin. Once the chicken is halved and pounded, season each cutlet with salt and pepper and dredge it in flour to coat. In a hot skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil and cook the chicken until golden brown on each side. Place the cooked cutlets in an oven-proof pan, cover lightly with foil and place them in the hot oven to stay warm.

Using the same oil that is already in the skillet, cook the pancetta and sliced mushrooms until they are a deep, gorgeous brown and the pancetta is crispy. Note: I did not mince my pancetta, and I came to regret it. The larger pieces really distracted from the desired texture of the sauce. Don’t be like me. Mince your pancetta into tiny little tidbits. You’ll thank me for it later.


When the pancetta and mushrooms are a gorgeous golden brown, make a well in the center and throw in the garlic and tomato paste. Brown for a few seconds, or until you really start to smell the garlic. Stir together with the mushrooms and pancetta and add the Marsala wine (as soon as you read the following note).


NOTE ON SWEET MARSALA VERSUS DRY MARSALA WINE: The ATK Cookbook clearly says to use sweet Marsala wine. The little Italian man at the liquor store said to use dry Marsala wine. I bought both, thinking I might blend the two. Instead, I convinced myself to use the sweet Marsala, as stated in the cookbook. Big mistake, in my opinion. The final sauce was… well, too sweet. Not at all like the savory Marsala sauce I order in restaurants. Next time, I’m sticking with the little Italian man and using the dry Marsala. As he so wisely stated, “You use the sweet Marsala for tiramisu; you use the dry for marsala in sauces for meat.” Lesson learned? Never argue with an authentic Italian when you’re making Italian food. That seems so clear to me now.

Okay, so once you’ve decided to skip the sweet for the dry Marsala, pour the wine into the pan with the mushrooms. Keeping the heat at medium-high, allow the sauce to cook down until it is reduced by at least half and the wine takes on a syrupy texture. This will take a few minutes, so stir it occasionally and keep an eye on it. Once it’s reduced, add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the cold butter, one piece at a time, whisking it in before adding the next piece. Add the minced parsley and stir it in; add salt and pepper to taste.


Serve over the cooked pasta of your choice. I also recommend a nice salad and a warm, crusty baguette. And if you have a lovely bottle of Italian red on hand, well that’s just frosting on the cupcake.

Final Thoughts: this recipe is worth making, with a few minor adjustments. I feel strongly that dry Marsala is the better choice here. And because I like the smooth texture of a Marsala sauce that really showcases the mushrooms, I think I will fry the pancetta and remove it from the pan next time so it will flavor the mushrooms, but not be incorporated in the final sauce. I’m looking forward to trying this again with the dry Marsala, possibly on a grilled sirloin. If you love mushrooms in wine, this one is worthy of a shot at your dinner table. Mangia!

NanaBread's Chicken Marsala courtesy of America's Test Kitchen

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Recipe Review: The Pioneer Woman’s Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

I’ve never eaten a lemon pancake. I know, it’s not a dark confession, but it is a confession none the less. I love all things lemon, but somehow lemon pancakes have eluded me. Until this week, when I saw the most gorgeous photos of lemon blueberry pancakes on The Pioneer Woman’s website. Have mercy.

Luckily, I had 2 lemons in my fruit bowl who were screaming, “C’mon! Go get the blueberries already! We’re dying to jump in some pancakes here!” Taunted by fruit – that’s my life. Since I can’t stand to disappoint anyone, much less a couple of mouthy lemons, I went to buy blueberries. Big, fat, juicy Texas blueberries. Thank God I did, because these pancakes did not disappoint.

Here’s what I loved about this recipe:
1. the batter was fragrant, light and bubbly
2. it took only minutes to whip up
3. except for blueberries, I had everything I needed in my pantry
4. the texture of the warm pancakes was soft & fluffy perfection

Here’s what I would do differently:
a. I would use two lemons instead of one, to boost the lemon flavor
b. I would use sweeter blueberries; mine were a little tart
c. if I had company, I would definitely double the recipe
d. if I didn’t have company, I would definitely eat every single one myself

If you love lemon more than you love blueberries, consider using 2 lemons (juice & zest) to kick up the lemon flavor. If you love blueberries more than you love lemon, make the recipe exactly as it’s written. Personally, I’m all for more lemon in just about every single situation. Except around a paper cut.

As is my custom, I’m not going to re-publish a Pioneer Woman recipe on my blog. It’s much more practical to provide you with the link so you can see Ree’s Lemon-Blueberry Pancakes for yourself, along with the gorgeous photos she provides in her step-by-step instructions. If you don’t fall in love, then you are definitely not a pancake person. Maybe a muffin man, but not a pancake person. PS – Do you know the Muffin Man? The Muffin Man. The Muffin Man?

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A Recipe Review: A Sweet Pea Chef’s Easy Crème Brulée

Food bloggers amaze me. Their dedication to cooking, staging and documenting recipes knocks me out. How do they do it day after day after day? My fellow blogger Lacey at A Sweet Pea Chef is one of those amazing people. Browsing her recipes and photos is like browsing through food porn. It is a glorious, guilty pleasure. But my favorite thing about Lacey’s blog is that her recipes are not just pretty. They are easy to understand, easy to prepare, and unbelievably tasty. She’s the real deal. She loves to cook and she happily shares that love with her readers. It’s just one of the many reasons I love her beautiful blog.

Every once in a while, Lacey will post a food poll, letting her readers choose recipes or topics that will be covered at a future date. One such poll featured possible dessert recipes. Choices included crème brulée, carrot cake cheesecake, lemon bars, oatmeal raisin cookies and cranberry sorbet. I was intrigued by the carrot cake cheesecake, but I voted for crème brulée. Several times {wink}. Why? Because I love simple foods with tremendous flavor, and crème brulée is one of those foods. Four ingredients. Full of flavor. Out of this world texture. I’m in.

The recipe says “easy” and by golly, she wasn’t kidding. You combine 4 ingredients, pour them into ramekins and bake them in a water bath. The cast of characters include 5 egg yolks, 2 cups of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. For this recipe, I broke out the good stuff – the pure vanilla bean paste. If you’ve never tried this stuff, you have to. This recipe is perfect for it. If I were making a chocolate cake, I would most definitely use the regular vanilla extract. But for this dish, the good stuff really shines.

Once your little pots of creme are baked and cooled, it’s decision time. You can stop here and just enjoy this as an incredible custard, or you can pour some sugar on it and brulée those puppies. I’m going whole hog. Conveniently, TCP just happens to have one of those baby blow torches. “Break out the blow torch, honey! I’m gonna’ burn some sugar, Sugar!” Fingers crossed that I don’t burn the house down. Oven mitt? Check. Fire extinguisher? Check. Let’s roll!

The verdict: this stuff is almost too good to be true. It’s so easy and inexpensive to make, it makes me a little angry at all those hoity-toity restaurants that charge $12.50 a serving for it. Shame on them. Deep, money-grubbing shame. Thanks to Lacey, I can now make fabulous crème brulée at home. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Good because this recipe is really fantastic. Bad because I really shouldn’t have the power to make this all the time. I’m having a vision of “Good Nana” and “Bad Nana” sitting on each shoulder screaming at each other. (Secretly, I’m rooting for Bad Nana. Go, Bad Nana! You go with your bad self!)

To see this recipe with all of the glorious step-by-step photos, visit Lacey’s blog at: http://www.asweetpeachef.com/sweets/easy-creme-brulee/

PS – A very special thank you to Katie at Lucky Girl Sweets ‘n Stuff. She selected my name for her first giveaway last week, which happened to be those super cute red ramekins. They look just like miniature Le Crueset Dutch ovens. They are too stinkin’ cute, and perfect for crème brulée. Thanks, Katie! I love them. You should click on the link above and drop in on her. She’s a feisty Texan like me. And tell her I said “howdy!”

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Recipe Review: The Pioneer Woman’s “Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing”

Aunt Trish's salad dressing over a green salad & grilled haloumi cheese - YUM!

It’s not often that I make my own salad dressing, as evidenced by the row of salad dressing bottles on the top shelf of my fridge. Just last week, The Complete Package found a bottle of French that expired in 2008. Oopsie. And there is ALWAYS a jar of Marzetti’s Ultimate Blue Cheese Dressing in our fridge. Always. Someone whose name I shall not mention would lose his ever-loving mind if he didn’t have his favorite creamy blue cheese dressing to put on his wedge salads or fried potatoes (hint: not Ziggy). But this past week, I was craving something new. Something light. Something lemony. And The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing looked perfect. It’s light, it’s lemony, and it also has garlic and parmesan cheese. Duh, winning!

Here’s the cast of characters:
3/4 cup of olive oil or canola oil
the juice of 2 lemons
1 clove of garlic, peeled (leave it whole)
4 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. sugar
a dash of paprika
salt & pepper to taste

It couldn’t be easier. You put everything in a jar, shake it up, and let it stew in the fridge for 24 hours, then shake it again before using. I made a tossed green salad of romaine, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, cucumber, quartered Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced purple onion, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers and feta cheese. Then we shook up our jar of Aunt Trish’s and poured it over the top. To say that we both loved this salad dressing would be an understatement. It was so good, we were tempted to put our faces into our bowls and lick them clean. Or grab a straw and suck up all the remnants. But instead, we used some toasted garlic bread to sop it all up. No drop was wasted. We enjoyed it so whole heartedly that we could have put our salad bowls back into the cupboard without washing them first. We didn’t, of course, but we probably could have.

Besides being knocked out by how great this was on a salad, my mind was racing through all the other things I could use it on. It would be a great marinade for grilled meats. It would be fantastic drizzled over a sandwich in place of boring old mayonnaise or mustard. This would knock your socks off as a dressing for a pasta salad. You could cube up salami, mozzarella cheese, olives and Italian peppers and make a fabulous antipasto tray for parties. Don’t get me started on using it on a cold seafood salad. This is not a salad dressing, it’s an obsession.

As always, I’m going to refer you to the source so you can see the recipe the way Ree intended – with fabulous photos and an engaging back story. Click here to be transported to salad dressing heaven at The Pioneer Woman.com.

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Recipe Review: The Pioneer Woman’s Beef with Snow Peas

Mmmmm….beef with snow peas. Where’s smell-a-vision when you need it? I can still smell the heavenly aroma wafting through my kitchen. How do I describe this dish and do it justice? I can’t, but I’ll try. How about tender, thin-sliced flank steak marinated in soy, sherry, brown sugar and ginger seared over high heat with snow peas and scallions, creating its own sweet and spicy, gooey soy and ginger sauce? Or even better – let’s call it heaven on a plate. If you love Chinese food like I love Chinese food, you MUST add this recipe to your collection immediately. And if you love ginger like I love ginger, you may just want to run to your kitchen and make this dish right now. It’s that good. Pinkie swear.

Here’s what I did right:
1. I read the recipe in advance so I was prepared
2. I bought a beautiful piece of flank steak
3. I picked out a superb hand of fresh ginger
4. I made a perfect batch of toasted Texmati basmati rice (such good stuff)
5. I added a little garlic with the ginger, and a little water to make more sauce

Here’s what I did wrong:
Nothing. I followed the directions (except for #5 above). I was a good girl, for the most part, which was not easy for me. I love to mess with recipes!

Be warned: this dish has a very strong flavor of fresh ginger. If you’re adverse, or you like it in small doses, cut the ginger back to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon and add a clove or two of garlic to compensate. It’s also a pretty dry final dish, since the marinade carmelizes on the beef. I like my Chinese dishes with sauce so I can spoon it over my rice, so I added about 1/4 cup of water at the end and stirred it to thicken into a lovely sauce. It was perfect. Another word of caution: please don’t overcook the meat. It’s sliced thin and cooks within seconds, so please, please if you love me, don’t cook this too long and ruin your beautiful flank steak. Remember: quick stir-fry = tender, wonderful beef.

As is my custom, I’m not going to print the recipe here. I could never do justice to the original recipe, the funny stories, or the gorgeous step-by-step photographs of Ree Drummond over at The Pioneer Woman. She is the queen, and why listen to the jester when you can get it straight from the queen? So, is your mouth watering yet? Are you ready to jump in and try this? Good. Then click on the link and be transported to heaven. Go on…you know you want to.
http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/10/beef-with-snow-peas/

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