Individual Chocolate Chip Cookie

My daughter has been home for a month now, while she was in Japan she and a few of her expat friends started a weekly meal from another country. One of the first things she did when she got home was declared she wanted to continue this tradition here at home. I personally thought it was a great idea. I will admit that my initial thought was one night off from cooking dinner sounded pretty cool to me but I knew the adventure would be so much fun! I knew the guys would be cool with it, I just didn’t expect how cool they thought the idea was.

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After the first week my son decided that he wanted to invite his girlfriend over for this AND he was going to make the native cocktail from the country/region. My husband on the third week invited one of his buddies over for Hawaiian night and his buddy made a traditional Hawaiian cake for dessert. That night; after a cocktail or two; my husband dubbed the weekly event Worldwide Wednesday BRILLIANT!!! Oh and he wanted to make the appetizer; which really meant that either Abbi or I was to also make an app.

So far we have been to Cambodia, Hawaii, Chile and Iraq which she made Sabih which was a pita pocket with fried eggplant, pickled mango and a couple of sauces. It was tasty and we all liked it except for my son he really was not a fan. Ab was a little crushed since this was the first dish she made that someone didn’t like. Welcome home Abbi did you miss your “little” brother? She ended up giving the rest of it to my in-laws and they LOVED it.

This last Wednesday I tried to make the dessert can you say epic fail! We again invited friends over and we were going to Chile so I asked them to bring some Chilean wine and I would make the dessert. My Tres Leches cake let’s just say I should have brought the wine. I figured out what I did wrong, and I will try making it again, just to show that I can. But I really need to score myself a kitchen scale, don’t tell my son Alex this, he thinks I have WAY too many kitchen gadgets already.

I am probably not going to share her recipes here as I really would like her to maybe start her own blog someday, for now I will just be enjoying the journey first hand instead of hearing about it over the phone.

Love in a cup 007

So when you have an epic dessert failure I pulled out what I have dubbed love in a cup. A warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream; it takes so little time to make and EVERYONE loved it. Use your go to chocolate chip cookie recipe and instead of making individual cookies, put some dough in a ramekin and bake just till barely cooked through, top with some cold vanilla ice cream, zero to hero in what maybe 30 minutes max!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

 2 ¼C flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

¾C sugar

¾C brown sugar

½C softened butter – if too dry add another ½ stick softened butter

2-3 handfuls of chocolate chips (I don’t like a lot of chips in mine, I’ve even left them out on purpose)

Cream the butter in a stand mixer or by hand add the sugars and mix well. Add the eggs mix until combined add the vanilla and dry ingredients to incorporate. Stir in the chips and done.

Pre-heat oven at 350’ spray your ramekin with nonstick cooking spray, fill the ramekin about ½ to ¾ of the way full and bake for about 20 minutes just till barely cooked through. Place on a small plate as the ramekin is super-hot and top with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

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Dough freezes well so you can make yourself one any night you want!

15 Minute Doughnut Holes

If you are anything like me and I can only assume you might be slightly since you are reading this? I see a recipe that sounds delicious so I either end up printing it or ripping it out of whatever I am looking at. However I do tend to steer clear of ones that look difficult; you know the ones that have the never ending list of ingredients and pages of steps.  I just don’t have the time or the energy to even attempt them.

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I am however not afraid to pick up an ingredient or two that is generally not on my shopping list. I purchased a jicama to try to make deviled eggs that I had at Coastal Flats in VA. I bought a Chinese cabbage to make dumplings. Just this week I bought some buttermilk to make a Texas Sheet cake (recipe 3/31/2014) The good news is I was able to make what I wanted; the bad news is what to do with the leftover ingredient? I hate to waste anything so I will either come up with or look for something I can make with it before it goes bad. I‘m pretty sure I passed the waste not thinking onto my husband; or maybe he came like that? He saw one lonely ripe banana on the counter this morning and made banana pancakes for us for breakfast.

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I am currently soaking some chicken thighs in some of the buttermilk, and I have a little left, OK I made sure I had enough left over to make some doughnut holes. I found a 15 minute doughnut-hole recipe online quite a while ago. They are easy and pretty damn good. I cut up the rest of the jicama added  some diced carrots and broccoli for a vegetable medley for dinner one night and the Chinese cabbage stays really well in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks in the veggie drawer. Cut off what you need at a time, it adds great crunch to a salad.

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15 Minute Doughnut Holes – it makes a couple dozen

1¼ cup AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

Whisk the above in a medium bowl

¼ cup milk

¼ cup buttermilk

¼ cup sugar

3 tbs melted butter

Whisk the above in a small bowl

Add wet to dry mixture just till combined

½ tbs – shape into a ball (try not to handle too much)

Place in the hot oil; fry to golden brown, turning over once – about 3-4 minutes

Vegetable oil for frying at 350’

Cinnamon and sugar for shaking

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken

6 Bone in skin on chicken thighs

Buttermilk to marinate

½ cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

Soak chicken in buttermilk for several hours or overnight. Heat oil to 350’ dredge chicken in flour fry for 15-20 minutes turning once

Tomatillo Chili w/Pork and Hominy – or as I referred to it as running with scissors

I am definitely open to trying new things; I actually encourage everyone to at least try something before you decide “I don’t like it”. Which is a far cry from how I grew up; I had a strict rule I would not eat anything that was green; except iceberg lettuce. Thankfully I have changed my ways or life would certainly be pretty boring and I would not have a damn thing to write about.

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This week I totally went out on a limb; at least for me.  I have never bought tomatillos, hominy or Poblanos before.  I will also confess I have never heard of hominy before until I heard Guy Fieri say he LOVED them. So I at the very least I wanted to try them. I think that is HUGE growth for me and I won’t say love just yet; but I definitely liked them.

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Poblano Pepper

This recipe is another with some prep up front you can let the slow cooker finish the job.  If you don’t have a free night during the week than try this on the weekend!

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Tomatillos 15-20 medium, husks and stems removed, rinsed well, dried and halved

1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp cumin

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground cinnamon

3 tbs vegetable oil

2 cans white or yellow hominy, drained and rinsed

2 ½ cups chicken broth

2-3 poblano chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced

3 tbs minute tapioca – I found mine in the baking isle of my local grocery store

2 tsp sugar

2 bay leaves

1 4lb boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks

Salt and pepper

½ cup minced fresh cilantro

Position oven rack 6 inches from broiler, toss tomatillos, onion, garlic, cumin, cloves and cinnamon with oil and spread onto aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until vegetables are blackened and begin to soften. 8-12 minutes rotating pan halfway through.

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Let vegetables cool slightly, pulse vegetables along with juices in a food processor until almost smooth. About 10-15 pulses; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir hominy, broth, poblanos, tapioca, sugar, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until pork is tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 on high.

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Let chili settle for 5-10 minutes, then remove the fat from the surface, discard bay leaves, stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with your favorite chili toppings.  Shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa it’s all good!!!

Signing off to watch the super bowl – GO PATS!!!!

Eggplant Parmesan – that will convert you

All through high school I worked at a local Pizza place, there were a few items that I swore that I would never try; they looked and smelled WAY too funky for me.  Here is yet another example of never say never.  Feta cheese came in a metal vat filled with what I believe was oil or a vinegar maybe.  We had to take a chunk out at a time and crumble it; the smell was horrid. Another was breaded eggplant, it just looked and felt wrong on all levels and then there was the dreaded anchovy the smell and look was just plain rancid; we used to flip to see who had to make the anchovy pizza when someone ordered it.

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Now as an adult I love feta cheese, it adds so much tart briny flavor to anything you put it on.  I love adding it to pasta salad it makes it pop. I still would not order an anchovy pizza but I do appreciate a true Caesar salad made with them and I understand why and when they are needed; I even have a can of them in my pantry as I write this.  The recipe I am going to share now for Eggplant Parmesan has completely changed my mind about the veggie and I am now open to and have used eggplant so much so, that I am thinking of planting it in next year’s garden. With age comes wisdom – or as I explain it; you have to try new food as you get older your taste buds change.

I have also used the sauce for a quick pasta sauce during the week; it has a great taste and a little kick. My mother and a friend were here visiting the last few weeks and I made this; they both loved it and wanted the recipe. My mom even said and I quote “I thought mine was really good but this one I want the recipe” I hope she is reading this and smiling…

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2 tbs. good olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 ½ tsp sugar

2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes

Kosher salt


2 medium eggplants sliced ½ inch thick rounds

½ cup flour

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

3 large eggs

1½ tbs milk

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

1½ tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp thyme

Vegetable oil for frying – about 1 inch in the pan you are using

12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups sliced provolone

Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and let sit while you make the sauce.  Place on paper towels on a sheet pan.

In a large skillet add the olive oil heat over medium. Add the onions saute for 1-2 minutes; add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes.  Saute till the onion are translucent about 6-7 minutes.  Add the sugar and tomatoes, while you are pouring them out of the can squeeze to break them up a bit. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring occasionally about 15-20 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant under water and dry off thoroughly with some paper towels. The reason we do this step draws out some of the liquid and removes some of the bitterness.

Get out 3 pie plates or whatever you use when you batter and fry.  Flour goes in one, eggs and milk in another and the third combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme.  Make sure to salt and pepper each pie plate. Dredge each eggplant round in the flour, shake off excess. Dip in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Lay each round on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380’ and 400’) Use tongs to add and flip the eggplant, making sure to each piece is golden brown, I like them a little extra crispy so they are not mushy.  Transfer to a sheet pan covered with paper towels.  Repeat until all pieces are fried.

Preheat oven to 350’ using an 11 x 13 baking dish

Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant over sauce slightly overlapping, top with some mozzarella and the some provolone; repeat with remaining sauce, eggplant and cheeses.  Press the layers firmly into the dish. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 35-40 minutes.

Grilled Skirt & Flank Steak

If you haven’t ever purchase or tried a skirt or flank steak I really think you ought to check them out. I know they look pretty funky and not very appealing to the eye being all rolled up. And they are not as wildly available in stores as all the other yummy looking steaks; but if you do come across one or both of them give them a chance. They are fairly inexpensive, burn up fast and seasoning them is pretty endless.

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Sometimes you can find them in a cryovac bag which is even better. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had taken something out of the freezer for dinner. When I see any of them I tend to throw one or more in my cart they are great to have on hand and I like that I can get to it when I want versus having to cook up whatever I wasn’t able to get to and is going to spoil. Life happens and plans change all the time in my crazy world.

If you do have time to plan a dinner ahead it is a perfect time to make a marinade so it can soak up all the yumminess and then you can burn it up the next night. If you decide last minute to make it tonight it is very easy to throw together a quick dry rub and burn it up now. Either way I don’t think you will be disappointed. Serve with a side salad or your one or more of favorite sides.

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There are a few tricks to these types of meat though. They are pretty fibrous and they really need to be seasoned well and they are best served medium rare and thin sliced. You also need to let them rest, but every meat is better if you give them time to rest to let the juice stay inside the meat instead of all over your cutting board. Once they have rested; slice them thin at an angle and against the grain for a tender bite. If you slice with the grain you will definitely know it as your jaw will be getting an incredible work out; and I fear you will never buy another one.

Dry Rub – enough for 2 or more Steaks

½ cup sweet Paprika

4 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp kosher salt

2 ½ tsp onion powder

2 tsp chili powder

¼ – ½ cup peanut oil

2 lb Skirt Steak

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

1-2 limes

Preheat grill to 450-500’ – cook meat about 2-3 minutes per side

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together; rub steak with peanut oil, sprinkle steak with salt and pepper and 4+/- tsp of rub on both sides; place on hot grill turning once. Remove from heat; squeeze fresh lime over meat, let rest for 3-5 minutes. Slice meat diagonally against the grain.

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Marinade – enough for 1 Steak

1½ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped scallions

½ cup peeled chopped pear

1½ tbs sesame oil

1½ tbs grated orange zest

2 ½ tbs chopped fresh ginger

8-10 cloves garlic

2 lb Flank Steak

Place first 10 ingredients in a blender. Blend into a smooth sauce. Pour the sauce into a heavy duty Ziploc bag; add steak and marinate for up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Preheat grill 450-500’ brush grill with oil; place steak on hot grill 2-3 minutes per side turning once. Remove steak to a platter, cover with foil and let rest 3-5 minutes before serving. Slice meat diagonally against the grain.

Soups on – Yummy Tomato Soup from my garden

I have had a garden every year for the last 25+ years.  Every year there is a crop or two that just does not do well; my tomatoes have never been one of them.  Though they seem to all come at the same time which is not ideal as who could possibly eat 30+ tomatoes before they go bad. I do give some away; I also freeze several bags. I tried making spaghetti sauce and canning it, it wasn’t my favorite and was quite time consuming.  This year I finally purchased a food mill; what a great invention; should have bought one years ago.

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The weather lately has been very cold and that screams a hot pot of soup.  I used my new purchase and made some pretty damn yummy tomato soup. Add some chives, thyme, basil or dill, sour cream, cheddar cheese, or goat cheese whatever your taste buds fancy.  Make some grilled cheese sandwiches and you have a wonderful meal.

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Tomato Soup

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 large white onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed

2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

3 cups lower-salt chicken broth

5-6 large tomatoes peeled and seeded – a food mill accomplishes this best

Or use a 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, pureed include the juice

1 ½ tsp. sugar

1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the onion a cook till soft, add garlic cook another minute. Add the flour and stir to coat the onion and garlic.

Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring, making sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmer 40 minutes.  If using sprig of thyme, remove.  Let it cool slightly and then puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Rinse the pot and return the soup; season with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Garnish as desired.

If you ever wondered what to do with the rind of your parmesan reggiano save them up in a plastic baggy in the fridge and you can add them to your soup while it is simmering. Remove before you puree.

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Problem sweet bread – make bread pudding

For as many zucchini breads I make I messed up a batch a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe it was karma for me forgetting an ingredient on my initial post and a friend’s bread did not work out for him. SF sorry this post is too late for your sugarless bread. My error was I forgot to add baking soda; it is edible but pretty dense. I being a true frugal New Englander can’t just throw out the bad loaves but I can transform them into something pretty yummy!

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I will admit I have never made bread pudding before; I did have the most amazing one for dessert at my favorite local restaurant a couple of years ago. They made banana bread pudding that was just incredible; in talking with our waitress she said they made it a pudding because of a failed attempt at banana bread. I have always wanted to try making one but just never pulled the trigger till this morning.

I took a couple of the smaller loaves out of the freezer chopped them up and made my first bread pudding.  I am calling them a success.  It definitely transformed the dense bread into something warm and yummy.  I think I will try to make the same with my next loaves of banana bread. I will try not to mess up the banana bread recipe so I HAVE to make pudding but I feel pretty confident if I do mess it up I can transform it into something pretty good.

You could have it with your morning Tea or Joe or dress it up with some homemade whipped cream or even Vanilla Ice Cream.  My mouth is watering!

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3-4 eggs

1 cup of milk – or similar volume to the eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sugar – you can omit it your bread is already to sweet OR add a little more if it is not sweet enough

Zucchini or similar bread chopped into cubes – dry bread works best – if you need to you can grill or pop the bread into the oven for a couple of minutes to dry out.

Greased/spray whatever vessel you are using, add cubed bread, mix first 4 ingredients, pour over bread set aside while the oven is pre-heating to 350’. Once pre-heated bake bread for 30+ minutes. My ramekins took about 35 minutes in my oven.

Whipped Cream

Carton whipping cream or heavy cream

Tsp vanilla

2 Tbs sugar

You can do this by hand; if you are looking for a workout but I add all ingredients to my Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment.  I do place a kitchen towel over my mixer because it can be messy when it first starts out.  Start out on 2 and then increase to 3 for about 2 minutes.  lift the towel to not over whisk, you want stiff peaks.