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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sausage & Mushroom Puff Pie

As I said in my last post, I planned on using my second piece of puff pastry for something savory. After making and tasting this today, I decided to do a second entry in the Pepperidge Farm 1,2,3 Puff! contest in the Main Dish category.

I think this recipe would work well as a main dish for any meal. I would pair it with fresh fruit for breakfast, a light salad for lunch, or maybe steamed veggies for dinner. Also, I ate my serving today at room temperature. I think that helped some of the flavors, especially the thyme and Dijon mustard, come through a little more.

This recipe definitely has a longer ingredient list than my Salted Chocolate Orange Croissants, but it was almost as easy to prepare.

Stay tuned to find out if I placed in the contest! The winner will be announced January 15 and will receive an all expenses paid trip for two to NYC, including a tour of NYC’s acclaimed pastry shops. Wouldn’t that be exciting?

Sausage & Mushroom Puff Pie
* a Rachel ♥s Food creation*
serves 8

- 2 sheets Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
- 2 t. olive oil
- 8 oz. white mushrooms, roughly chopped
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 8 oz. mild bulk pork or turkey sausage
- ½ t. salt
- ½ t. black pepper
- ¼ t. red pepper flakes
- ½ t. dried thyme
- 2 T. Dijon mustard
- 1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 T. water)
- coarse salt and black pepper

To make filling:
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic and cook until browned. Add the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces, and cook until sausage is browned and cooked through. Drain off any fat, and then stir in salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and thyme.
Set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush on Dijon mustard, leaving a 1 inch border all around the pastry. Top with sausage mixture and shredded cheese. Brush the border with egg wash.
Lightly roll out the 2nd piece of puff pastry (so it will cover the filling and meet the 1 in. border) and lay over the sausage and cheese filling. Lightly press so the edges will stick together. Trim any uneven edges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
Brush the entire pie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Use a sharp knife to cut three small slits in the top of the pastry to vent steam.

To bake and serve:
Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Let the pie sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Cut into squares or strips and serve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Salted Chocolate Orange Croissants


Hi everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas. I was very excited and happy to receive a new laptop from my parents and hope to have more regular posts from now on! It was very difficult to have both my laptop and desktop crash in the last two months.

A few weeks ago, I received a coupon for a free package of puff pastry through the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program and Pepperidge Farm. These coupons were sent out so members could enter the 1,2,3, Puff! recipe contest, and here is my entry.

I absolutely love croissants, especially chocolate ones, but don’t buy packages of them that often because they go stale quickly. I also love combinations of chocolate and orange (the only fruit/chocolate combination I do enjoy, oddly enough) and thought it would be a nice surprise inside a pastry. The “salted” part of it was inspired by one of my favorite chocolate bars, Lindt’s A Touch of Sea Salt, and the idea of a sweet/salty balance within the dish.

These were quite simple to prepare. Now the hard part is not eating them all tonight!

Also, I only made half of a recipe of these for us, but wrote the recipe to use an entire box of puff pastry. I plan on using the remaining sheet on a savory dish later in the week.

Salted Chocolate Orange Croissants
*a Rachel ♥s Food creation*
makes 24 small croissants

- 2 sheets Pepperidge Farms puff pastry
- 2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
- zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 t. flaky sea salt, divided
- 2 T. butter, melted

1. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions and unfold onto a cutting board.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Cut each pastry sheet into 12 triangles, like so:

croissant grid

4. Brush the pastry triangles with 1/2 of the melted butter.

5. Mix the chocolate, orange zest, and 1/4 t. salt in a small bowl, then place 1/2 t, of the mixture into the center of each triangle.

6. Roll the croissants, starting with the wide end and seal edges around the chocolate.

7. Place croissants onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

8. Brush the tops of the croissants with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the remaining salt.

9. Bake for 10 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

10. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mint Chocolate Eggnog

I created this recipe a couple weeks ago to enter the Eggland's Best Holiday Recipe contest hosted by Tina at Carrots n' Cake. Sadly I did not win anything, but Scott really enjoyed it and has requested more! Eggnog is one of his favorite treats, and he has already had two whole quarts of it this holiday season. Add this to his love of ANYTHING chocolate and mint, and I think we have a winner in our house.

Mint Chocolate Eggnog
makes 14 - ½ c. servings

4 large eggs
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder + extra for garnish
¼ t. salt
1 quart + 1 c. reduced fat milk
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. pure peppermint extract
1 c. heavy whipping cream
Soft peppermint sticks (optional)

1. Whisk eggs, sugar, cocoa, salt, 1 c. milk, and both extracts in a small pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for approximately 5 minutes until thick and foamy. Set aside and let cool.

2. Strain egg mixture (to remove all solids) into a pitcher and stir in 1 quart milk.

3. Whip heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the eggnog mixture and serve.

Optional: Dust with cocoa powder and serve with soft peppermint sticks, if desired.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quick Baked Potato Soup

After making the stuffed potato skins last week, I found myself with a Tupperware container full of baked potatoes in the refrigerator and nothing to do with them. Since I am making a conscious effort not to throw food away, I knew I needed to create something.

The weekend ended up being very cold and rainy, and what is better to eat during bad weather than a hot bowl of soup? After checking what was available in my pantry, this is what I used:

Quick Baked Potato Soup

1 quart fat-free & low sodium chicken broth
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. half and half
1 t. black pepper
1 t. paprika
2 c. chopped baked potatoes (approximately)

Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped scallions and crumbled bacon (I used the pre-cooked microwaveable kind to keep it simple.)

- Whisk the cornstarch, sour cream, and half and half with a small amount of chicken broth.

- Stir the cornstarch mixture and the remaining chicken broth into a large pot and heat to boiling (it must boil briefly for the cornstarch to thicken the liquid).

- Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the potatoes, and let simmer until the potatoes are heated through and the soup is thickened.

- Top with the cheese, scallions, and bacon.

This recipe was quick, satisfying, and filling for a very small amount of work. The only downside is that the leftovers become extremely thick after refrigeration. If you try this recipe and have leftovers, make sure you have some extra stock on hand to thin it back out when reheating.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

CEiMB: Broccoli & Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins with Avocado Cream


Hi everyone! It’s been awhile. I know I haven’t posted in several weeks, and I’ll keep the sob story short: basically, my laptop crashed and my job is killing me. Just kidding! I love my job, but it does take a lot out of me. However, I have been cooking and photographing, just not posting. Hopefully I will come back from the upcoming Christmas break (yay, two weeks off) refreshed and ready to do some more consistent blogging!

I wanted to come back with this CEiMB pick because I remember seeing it on the list awhile back and thinking that it sounded great! This week we made Broccoli & Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins with Avocado Cream, and this recipe was hosted by Anne at Rainforest Recipes.

One of the reasons I was looking forward to this recipe is that is incorporates broccoli, something that Scott and I eat 3-4 times a week. In fact, I think it has made several appearances in the background of other recipe pictures in my posts. We enjoy broccoli, but eating it steamed with a light sprinkling of salt every time gets old.

Like several of the Ellie Krieger recipes we have made in the past, I found this one to have a lot of steps and resulted in a large pile of dirty dishes. It was worth it, though, because these potato skins were quite tasty! The only changes I made were to use real bacon instead of Canadian bacon and to add the lime zest to the avocado cream in addition to the juice.

Isn’t my prep board for the avocado cream lovely? I thought all of those beautiful shades of green deserved their own picture.

The avocado cream was very good, and I would like to use it as a substitute for traditional guacamole in the future. I also want to make the cream again with a ripe avocado – I waited until today to purchase one and all of the ones at the grocery store were quite under ripe – because my version today never really came together in the food processor.

Thanks to Anne for a great pick! I plan on adding this one to my regular rotation for some variety with my vegetable side dishes.

On another note, Miss Shelby has proven herself to be the perfect dog for a foodie owner. We have not been giving her human food at all, but when I dropped a piece of cilantro on the floor today, she snapped it right up and looked for more!

Isn’t she growing quickly? She’s so cute!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

CEiMB: Chicken Chop Suey


It’s Thursday again, so here is the latest CEiMB offering! This week we made Chicken Chop Suey, and this recipe was hosted by Ali of The Healthy Hostess. I think one of my favorite parts of participating in this group is exploring the other members’ blogs as they host. Check out Ali’s blog – she has a lot of great recipes and tips for entertaining and green cleaning!

As for the Chicken Chop Suey, I have to admit that I didn’t think chop suey was a real dish. I had heard the term before, but had never had it. Maybe I didn’t think it was real because I had only heard of it on TV? Who knows.

This recipe included another of Ellie’s extremely long ingredient lists, but that didn’t bother me as I had most of the ingredients on hand…or so I thought. As I was making the dish, I almost felt like it was a comedy of errors – so many things went wrong!

As you can see in the picture, my chop suey included broccoli instead of cabbage. When I cut open the cabbage to prep it for the recipe, I discovered it had succumbed to dry rot. It was mottled all throughout the cabbage, not just on a few leaves, so into the trash can it went.

You may also notice white rice on my platter instead of brown. I was SO sure I had a big bag of brown rice in my pantry, but when I went to get it I couldn’t find it anywhere! I was thinking “Where is my brown rice? I KNOW I have some!” Oh wait, I used it a few weeks ago to try to soak water out of my cell phone after it took a trip through the washing machine. Silly me.

Finally, my wonton skins almost burned while I was distracted with the above problems and my desperate search to find a substitute for cooking sherry (guess what – water works just fine).

Even with all of the problems, this recipe was a winner. I did not use the amount of oil called for in the recipe because it seemed excessive, so I used cooking spray on the wontons, only two teaspoons of vegetable oil and only one tablespoon of sesame oil instead of two. I did really enjoy the combination of chicken broth, soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch to make a stir fry sauce, though, and I’ll probably use it again in the future and just mix and match the other ingredients according to what I have in the refrigerator and pantry. The sesame seeds and wonton skins added a nice crunch, and I also sliced a few extra green onions to garnish as well.

Thanks Ali, it was fun cooking with you this week!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

White Bean Burgers

This recipe was an experiment, one of those where you throw things in a bowl and hope that it all comes out. Fortunately, I think this recipe for bean burgers was fantastic!

According to my weekly meal plan, we were scheduled to have hamburgers on Wednesday night. When it came time to cook dinner, though, the idea of eating beef did not appeal to me at all. I decided to go ahead and make the burgers for Scott and find something else for myself. Unfortunately, I could not find any thing that could be prepared as quickly as the burgers and I wanted to eat dinner at the same time as Scott.

Finally, I dug around to the back of my cabinet and found a can of butter beans that I had planned to marinate and use in salads. I decided to try my hand at a bean burger. How hard could it be? I thought it should be pretty simple, as long as I stuck to the formula for regular burgers or meatloaf: protein, seasonings, and a binder. This is what I came up with:

1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 T. olive oil
3 T. panko breadcrumbs
seasoning salt
hot sauce

I mashed the beans slightly with a potato masher, then threw in the rest of the ingredients and stirred it all together. Finally, I formed the mixture into two patties and cooked them in a skillet with cooking spray for approximately 3 minutes on each side, until browned. Then I topped them with cheddar cheese slices and placed them in the oven (which was on to bake fries) just long enough for the cheese to melt.

I think this was a nice combination of flavors – the oil kept the mixture moist, and the Worcestershire lended a slight meaty flavor. I tasted the mixture before forming the patties and ended up adding more hot sauce for a total of approximately 1 teaspoon for the whole mixture.

I am also proud to say that I convinced Scott, a.k.a. Hater of Beans, to try burger. His official review? “Not for me.” At least he tried!

If you are looking for an alternative to regular beef or turkey burgers, I suggest you give this recipe a try!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

CEiMB: New York Breakfast


Two CEiMB posts in one day? I’m finally getting caught up! This week’s recipe was New York Breakfast, chosen by Sara of imafoodblog. Sara is a native New Yorker and also the person who makes CEiMB possible.

I couldn’t decide how I felt about this recipe after reading it, since 1) I have never tried real smoked salmon, and 2) my only experience with bagels and lox was an unfortunate one involving the salmon cream cheese at Bruegger’s Bagels. Enough said about that.

I wanted to try this New York Breakfast, however, since the rest of the sandwich reminded me of a wrap I used to get at my favorite coffee shop back home (which contained cream cheese, cucumber, tomato, onion, almonds, and sprouts).

While I was at the grocery store, I debated for a long time over which smoked salmon to purchase. Hot or cold smoked? Lox? Nova lox? AHHH! I ended up with the cold smoked salmon, mainly due to the price and the fact that the recipe calls exactly for “smoked salmon,” but the vibrant color of it also attracted me over the other items.

One interesting thing I learned upon opening the salmon package is that is was one solid filet rather than slices. It wasn’t a problem – I just took out my sharpest knife and easily cut a thin slice. I guess it just wasn’t what I expected. I also sampled a small piece before assembling the sandwich, and it was very good. I think I now have a project for the next time my father breaks out his smoker. :)

I noticed that most of the other CEiMB bloggers served their sandwiches open-faced as pictured on the Food Network site, but I decided to make a regular sandwich. I wanted something a little more filling but I also didn’t want two whole open-faced sandwiches.

I think this is one of my favorite Ellie Krieger recipes so far, and I actually plan on making it again over the weekend. I made this for my lunch today while Scott was at work and I want him to have an opportunity to try it, plus I want another one!

Thanks to Sara for another fun choice!

CEiMB: Sweet & Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


This one is only one week late – that’s not so bad, right?

Sorry for my lack of posting lately. You would think that six weeks at my new job and two weeks with the new puppy would be enough time to get settled, yet I come home every afternoon completely exhausted. I have regularly been taking pictures of my recipes and editing them; I just haven’t set aside time for actual blogging.

Anyway, last Thursday Leslie of Lethally Delicious was the host for CEiMB, and her choice was Sweet & Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. I was so excited because Rachel ♥s grilled cheese!

This recipe is actually very similar to my regular grilled cheese sandwich – I always use two types of cheese, add tomato, and use cooking spray instead of butter. The only real difference this time was the addition of sautéed red onion, which I found gave the sandwiches a really nice flavor. I also enjoyed the spicy kick from the pepper jack cheese.

I served this for dinner with tomato soup for myself and salad for Scott. We both enjoyed this meal, however Scott requested that next time we have these sandwiches for lunch instead of dinner.

Thanks to Leslie for choosing a great twist on a classic. Also, congratulations to her for her recent one year blogiversary!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


the newest member of the Rachel ♥s Food team:


Scott and I decided last week that it was time to open our home to a new puppy. We found her on the website for Red Dog Farm, a rescue facility here in Greensboro. We applied Thursday, spoke to the director that night and picked her up on Saturday.

Shelby’s story is sad – she and her litter mates were found wandering near the road after their mother was hit by a car and killed. Luckily someone out there was nice enough to pick them up and take them to the adoption facility! All seven of the puppies were eventually adopted, but Shelby was returned because the owner’s older dog did not get along with her. I’m sorry the previous owner had to give her up, but happy at the same time because we got her!

So far she is adjusting well. Shelby was very shy at first but really opened up today. She is very smart – she learned how to sit very quickly and is trying hard to let us know when she wants to go outside. We’re still working on housetraining, but for the most part she has it.

And of course, since this is a food blog after all, Shelby enjoys Purina One Puppy and an occasional Milkbone or Snausage.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CEiMB: Mexican Tortilla Pizza


This week’s CEiMB recipe was Mexican Tortilla Pizzas, hosted by Joanne of Apple Crumbles (who has a beautiful new site, check it out!).

I wasn’t sure how this one would go over with Scott, who cringes when he hears the words Mexican or beans. However, he eats at Taco Bell like it’s his job. He’s weird.

After I read the recipe, though, I realized how similar the toppings are to the ones I use on my fish tacos. For the first time, I decided to modify the weekly CEiMB recipe completely in order to satisfy both myself and Scott. Instead of baking them as pizzas in the oven, I turned them into soft tacos and added some grilled tilapia for extra protein.

I made the bean dip with only two modifications (left out the cumin and mashed it with a potato masher instead of using the food processor). I grilled the tilapia with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and chopped the toppings. It was very easy and very good!

Bean dip:

The toppings (onion, tomato, red cabbage, and cilantro):

My favorite tortillas:

Even though I have tried them several times, I just do not like corn tortillas. I think they have a raw flavor or something – I can’t pinpoint it but I just don’t enjoy them. These flour tortillas are great, however, clocking in at only 80 calories with 2 grams of fiber each. Pair that with an ingredient list with nothing suspicious, and I think they can’t be beat.

Thanks to Joanne for another great CEiMB pick!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

CEiMB: Waldorf Chicken Wraps


This is actually the CEiMB recipe from September 3, but as I said in my last post I got a little behind with my posting. This recipe is for Waldorf Chicken Wraps and was hosted by Jessica of Johnstone’s Vin Blanc (who is also my “neighbor” since she is another North Carolina blogger. Hi Jessica!).

I had a hard time getting together on this recipe. I had all of the ingredients on hand, I just couldn’t get motivated to actually make it. I finally finished up around 8:00 on the night of September 3, then discovered my computer would not read my camera’s memory card. I ended up going to bed frustrated because I finished the recipe just in time to post, then I couldn’t do it!

My thoughts on this recipe:

- I liked the dressing very much, although I found there was too much of it. I don’t like chicken salad that is really wet – I prefer just enough dressing to hold the other ingredients together.

- I loved the addition of grapes and apples. I always put grapes in my chicken salad but I’ve never tried other fruit before, but the apples added a very nice crunch.

- Chicken salad is not photogenic AT ALL.

- I was disappointed to find the next day that the dressing had separated and it was very difficult to mix back together.

I am not sure if I will try this exact recipe again, but I will probably continue adding extra fruit to my normal chicken salad mixture. Also, since I like only a small amount of dressing, I will keep the amount of mayonnaise the same but omit the Greek yogurt – I think the mayonnaise is such a small amount it doesn’t make the dish completely unhealthy, and it will be thick enough to hold the salad together without separating.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know I am still around!  It’s been awhile since I posted, but I have had some computer issues and haven’t been feeling well for several days.  Hopefully the computer will be fixed this weekend so I can put up a real post!

I did participate in CEiMB last week and made the Waldorf Chicken Wraps, and I will post about that this weekend even though it will be late.  I decided to sit out this week, however, partially due to the computer reasons but also because Scott and I ate ribs earlier in the week.  I thought having the Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches only two days later would be overkill!  I will probably make it later, though, because I have enjoyed most of the Ellie Krieger recipes so far and want to keep trying them.

On a side note, if you are looking for a new twist on chicken and rice, I recommend this recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food:  Chipotle Chicken and Rice.  I made it Tuesday night and it was fabulous!

I hope everyone is doing well, and I’ll be back soon.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Stuffed Summer Squash

I have seen many variations of stuffed squash and zucchini popping up around the blog world so I thought I would share my version as well. This is one of my favorite summertime recipes and often make it as a side dish or even as an entree served with a salad. One of the best things about it is that you change easily change the quantity based on the number of squash you have or the number of servings you need to make.

For my stuffing, I start by sweating diced onions, carrots and mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil and butter. Then I toss the vegetables into dried stuffing mix, then add heated chicken or vegetable broth in very small increments until it just comes together without becoming soggy. My favorite stuffing mix is Pepperidge Farms herb stuffing, but I think this would also be nice with a whole grain such as bulgur or quinoa as well. Panko, however, does not work as the pieces are small and become soggy very quickly with the addition of the broth.

To prepare the squash, I cut off the stem end, slice in half, and remove the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. Then, I parboil them for approximately three minutes. I think this is the most important step to ensure the squash and stuffing are both finished baking at the same time without overcooking. Just drain the squash well before stuffing, and use a paper towel to soak up the water if necessary.

Before stuffing, salt and pepper the inside of the squash. This is another important step and guarantees that you have a well-seasoned dish. Sometimes I add pepper to the stuffing, but rarely salt – I don’t think it needs it since it has broth. Finally, stuff the squash and place in a baking dish. Then bake at 375 until the stuffing is heated through and golden brown and crispy on top.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CEiMB: Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Sauce

It’s Thursday again, which means it’s time for CEiMB! This week was hosted by Cathy of The Tortefeasor, and she chose Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce. It seems like we are continuing with the Thai theme from last week, which is fine with me because I love Thai food but don’t eat it all that often.

Once I read over the recipe and got over the initial shock of the lengthy ingredient list, I rummaged around my pantry and realized I only had to buy three things to complete this meal: coconut milk, chicken stock, and bamboo skewers. Yes, that’s correct – I have fish sauce in my pantry but not chicken stock. Crazy, right?

When I mixed the marinade for the chicken, I have to say that I wasn’t that fond of the smell and was afraid I would not like the finished product. However, I think the ingredients really came together in the grilling process, just like last week’s Thai salad dressing/marinade. The chicken was very moist, slightly salty from the soy and fish sauces, and had a little bit of brightness from the lime zest.

I also really enjoyed the peanut sauce. The only change I made was to substitute sriracha for the red curry paste – I don’t like curry very much, but I love chili sauce. I used a generous amount, probably close to 1 1/2 tablespoons, and found that the sauce was perfectly spicy for my taste. I noticed that some other CEiMB members commented that the sauce was too thick, but I didn’t think so. It may be because I used a no-stir natural peanut butter than regular, but I also blended it for a long time. Maybe that made a difference, maybe not.

As you can see in the picture, I also stir-fried some broccoli and straw mushrooms to go along with the chicken. It was very simple. I used vegetable oil, broccoli, and one can of drained mushrooms then finished it off with a drizzle of sesame oil for extra flavor. This was my first experience with straw mushrooms, and they were just okay – next time I’ll use sliced fresh instead.

To round out the meal, I wanted some kind of starch. Since I love spicy things and Scott loves pasta in any way, shape, or form, I picked up these Simply Asia Chili Garlic noodles at the grocery store for a quick addition to the meal. I’m not sure what kind of noodles these were, but before cooking they looked similar to soba noodles. The spiciness level was labeled “medium,” but I found the noodles rather mild. They were good, but next time I would probably add some sriracha to spice the dish up even more. The best part was definitely the chili flakes sprinkled on top!

I’ll mark this one as a success. Thanks to Cathy for another great recipe choice!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chocolate Banana Bread

…with fresh raspberries.

One week ago, Ree at The Pioneer Woman posted a recipe in her cooking section for banana bread. I was interested because this recipe was just plain banana bread with no nuts, plus it incorporated sour cream. At this point, let me state that I LOVE sour cream cake. I’ve also been known to eat walnuts by the handful, but I have never liked them inside baked goods like quick breads or brownies. So, when I had three very ripe bananas staring me down from their space on the kitchen counter, I knew I had to try this recipe.

Yes, I realize I could just omit the nuts from any old banana bread recipe, but I think this is the first time I have seen one that did not call for them.

I also had to give in to my chocoholism (Is that a word? It is now.) so I kicked this recipe up by substituting 1/2 c. of flour with cocoa powder.

This bread was very light with a slightly crispy outer crust, and the banana flavor was nice but not overwhelming. It is good on its own, served on a paper towel (Scott’s breakfast Saturday morning) or plated with some fresh raspberries (dessert when my mother-in-law came to visit).

Click here to view the original recipe on Ree’s recipe site, Tasty Kitchen!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

CEiMB: Grilled Thai Beef Salad

This week’s CEiMB recipe was Grilled Thai Beef Salad and was hosted by Jen of Jen B’s Cooking Carveout.

My husband and I just ate a steak salad last week with balsamic vinaigrette and bleu cheese, so I considered skipping this week in favor of trying something new. We both enjoyed the first salad, however, and I don’t want to get into the habit of skipping weeks in the cooking club since I’m enjoying it so much. So, I decided to make it anyway, hoping that Scott wouldn’t ask “Didn’t we just eat this a few days ago?” (Which he did, by the way.)

I think the best thing about a steak salad is that they provide a great way to incorporate beef into a dinner that is otherwise light and low in fat. We had our salad served with a baked potato (one that Scott and I split in half) and it made a very filling meal.

I also love Thai food and this was a good way to recreate and enjoy the flavors at home while still having a healthful meal. I have to admit, though, that I usually steer away from Thai dishes that are extremely heavy on basil, so the amount called for in this recipe (1 cup) seemed like too much to me. I cut it down to less than half and still found the flavor a little overwhelming.

This recipe requires you to make a dressing (using lime juice, oil, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar and garlic) that is divided to both marinate the meat and dress the salad. I thought the marinade was quite good on the beef, but I did not enjoy it uncooked as a salad dressing – I think the flavors needed to be heated on the grill to really come together. I also believe this would be a good marinade for other protein as well and I will probably try it on chicken or shrimp in the future.

I did make two changes to the dressing – first, I used crushed garlic and grated ginger rather than mincing the two ingredients. I personally hate biting down on a piece of either of these items raw, and I found that crushing them helped to emulsify the dressing rather than having these ingredients sink to the bottom. I also used sriracha instead of curry paste just because I enjoy the flavor more.

Finally, I used thinly sliced onions on top of the salad instead of shallots. Unfortunately my grocery budget for the week did not allow me to pay $4.00 for three shallots when I already had an onion at home.

Overall, I enjoyed the flavors of this recipe but not the final product. If I make this again, I will marinate and grill the meat and possibly serve it with a side salad, but I do not plan on combining all of these ingredients into one composed dish again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rachel’s Girl Scout Cooking School

One of my best friends, Karen, has three children and two of them are Girl Scouts. They have been working hard to earn their various badges, and Karen’s older daughter decided she wanted to get her cooking badge. Unfortunately, the group leader did not want to conduct a cooking class for the whole group, so Karen asked me if I would help out. Since I love to cook and firmly believe that children should be welcomed in the kitchen, of course I said yes!

After a conversation or two with Karen about her children’s eating preferences, we decided to have Pizza Day at my house. What kid wouldn’t be happy with that? I gathered recipes for homemade crust and sauce and Karen brought over all of the supplies.

I set up two stations at my dining room table so both girls would have a place to work. We also allowed them to each make a full recipe – that way we could all have an individual sized pizza for lunch and they would still have leftovers to take home. I think their father and brother were happy with that part!

Measuring the flour:

Stirring all of the dry ingredients:

After mixing the dough, giving it time to rise, and playing several rounds of Guitar Hero, we made the sauce. Then we shaped our pizzas on parchment paper and baked them off just in time to enjoy a delicious lunch.

Traditional cheese pizza:

and heart-shaped for special occasions (or just because you’re a little girl):

The aftermath - obviously making pizzas is hard work. Or maybe we were all suffering from carb overload. I think it was a little of both.

Overall, this was a successful day. The girls got to make something that they really enjoy completely from scratch, and they learned not only how easy it is, but how much better it tastes. Plus, they were very proud of their efforts and earned a new Girl Scout badge! The adults learned not only how easy it is, but how budget friendly and healthful it is as well.

Parents, it is uncomplicated and FUN to get your children involved in the kitchen and make your favorite meals!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Through My Lens: End of the Search Chocolate Chip Cookies

This post is part of “Through My Lens: An Experiment in Interpretation,” hosted by Kristen of Culinary Snapshot and Dine & Dish.

I’ve been reading Culinary Snapshot since it started a few weeks ago, and I have really enjoyed learning more about food photography through the various posts. I think it has been helpful to me to see different photos and have the specific camera settings for each actually listed out. I think the best part, though, is seeing that other food bloggers CAN take beautiful pictures with a point and shoot camera. It has inspired me to think about my pictures and explore my camera settings to get the best possible photograph, even though I have a compact camera and a very dark apartment.

At first I was apprehensive about submitting a photograph for the Through My Lens project, but now I am actually getting a little more confident with my food photography. I have also started experimenting with Photoshop Elements, which my parents graciously purchased for me for Christmas last year.

Here are the details of my picture:

Equipment: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 (point and shoot)

Technical Details:
Setting: Program Auto with Adjustable Settings
ISO Speed: 100
Flash: No flash
White Balance: Incandescent
Color Mode: Vivid

Photo Editing: Photoshop Elements
I created a duplicate layer, set it to Soft Light and adjusted the opacity. Then I flattened the image, removed the yellow color cast, slightly adjusted the levels and increased the saturation to +5 for a slight boost in color.

Setup Details: I took this picture in my kitchen on the stove, covering the controls and stovetop with white foam board.

Props: Black placemat, small square plate.

With all of that said, the recipe for this Through My Lens was End of the Search Chocolate Chip Cookies. This recipe is excellent – the cookies are perfectly chewy and buttery. I also took Kristen’s suggestion to try swirled chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet for something different. In my opinion, they didn’t taste that much different than semi-sweet, but they are definitely creamier and pretty, too! Both Scott and I enjoyed two cookies tonight with a tall glass of milk.

Fortunately, I have some family visiting tomorrow as the full recipe made a huge batch – I baked three full cookie sheets AND froze one dozen cookie dough balls for later baking. I see the treat bags coming out tomorrow!

End of the Search Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Mix butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs in large bowl.

3. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.

4. Stir in one half of the chocolate chips.

5. Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoons, about 2-inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.

6. Place several of the reserved chocolate chips on top of each cookie (This step is not necessary…you can mix them all in, but the presentation of the cookie is better with this step in place).

7. Bake 9-12 minutes or until light brown.

8. Cool slightly.

9. Remove from cookie sheet, cool on wire rack.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CEiMB: Stuffed Turkey Burgers


This week’s CEiMB recipe was Stuffed Turkey Burgers, hosted by Peggy of Pantry Revisited.

At first I planned on making the burgers substituting beef for the turkey, but I changed my mind during a last minute trip to the grocery store for supplies. My husband and I ate a lot of turkey burgers last year, almost once a week for the majority of the summer months, and I just got so tired of them! I thought I never wanted to eat another turkey burger again but decided to give them another shot.

The recipe was very simple, only using ground turkey, roasted red peppers, mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper. I got a little creative, though, and added a few crushed red pepper flakes and some Worcestershire to the meat for extra flavor. I also mixed the salt and pepper into the meat rather than sprinkling the outside of the patties to ensure the meat was flavored throughout.

While I was mixing the red peppers and mozzarella cheese to stuff the burgers, all I could think was pimento cheese. I guess it was pimento cheese in its most basic form, but the smell of it was fantastic and got me a little more excited about the recipe.

(topped with Dijon mustard, romaine, tomato and onion and
surrounded by one of my Light Brioche Sandwich Buns)

I noticed in some of the comments for the recipe that other people noted these burgers are very messy, but I didn’t think so at all. I had no problems with the filling leaking out while I was grilling the burgers or running out when I cut mine in half.

Here are my tips for a mess-free stuffed burger:

- Rather than forming two thin patties of equal size, I made the bottom patty a little larger than I wanted the final burger to be and added the stuffing. Then I made the top patty just large enough to cover the stuffing and overlapped the bottom patty and sealed it instead of just pinching the edges together.

- I also let the burgers rest for a few moments after grilling, not only to redistribute the juices in the meat but to allow the cheese stuffing to set up a little. That prevented the stuffing from running out.

My husband and I both enjoyed these burgers. His official review: “You could make these again…,” and let me tell you that’s the same as two thumbs up. I, however, enjoyed the stuffing more than the actual burger and will probably go back to my original idea of using beef instead of turkey. Either way, I know Scott will enjoy them because he has never met a burger he wouldn’t eat!

Thanks to Peggy for choosing another great Ellie recipe!

Light Brioche Sandwich Buns

I’ve mentioned it before, but before this summer I really didn’t have a lot of time to cook due to graduate school, when I was working full time and taking full time classes at night. I have truly enjoyed getting back to my love of cooking, not only being in the kitchen but thinking about the quality of what I am cooking and baking. Lately I have been on a kick to see what I can make at home rather than buying at the grocery store for convenience, saving both money and preventing a lot of processed foods and preservatives from entering my diet. Through these experiments I have come up with homemade bread, pizzas, jams, and cereal – and I am looking forward to making more items.

I found this recipe for Light Brioche Buns from The New York Times via the Smitten Kitchen and decided to try my hand at making sandwich buns. This was also my first attempt at making homemade bread in my small apartment kitchen. I have to say, it was quite easy and these are the best hamburger buns I have tried (and least expensive – I made a batch of 10 buns for approximately $1.25). They are light in texture and taste, but sturdy enough to stand up to juicy hamburgers with condiments and toppings. I like to lightly toast the cut side of the buns under the broiler after slicing and before adding toppings.

The recipe says it will make 8 buns, but I have actually started cutting the dough into 10 pieces instead and find that they are still slightly larger than most store-bought buns. The dough also freezes very well – after the first rise and shaping the buns, freeze in a single layer on parchment paper. Once they are frozen store in a freezer bag and take them out as needed. I just place them on parchment on a baking sheet and bake them off two hours later (one hour to thaw, one hour to rise).

Light brioche dough after shaping and 2nd rise:

With egg wash and a sprinkling of sesame seeds:

And finally, after baking 13-15 minutes at 400 degrees (rotating the pan halfway):

Light Brioche Buns
from The New York Times

Time: 1 hour, plus 2 to 4 hours’ rising *

  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 1 egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 8 (or 10!) buns.

*If you are a novice bread baker, don’t let the amount of time listed scare you away. It only takes 20-30 minutes of actual work to make these buns (and most breads), and the remaining time is for rising. You can get a lot of other things accomplished during the rise time! Also, I let my trusty KitchenAid do all of the mixing and knead work, making the recipe that much easier.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Hi everyone! I hope you are having a great Sunday.

This was my guest post that ran last week on RhodeyGirl Tests, but I decided to post it again on my blog so I can archive it. This is one of my favorite recipes and I hope you enjoy it!

A few years ago, I took a short cooking course with a personal chef who specialized in Mediterranean and Cajun cuisine, and one of my favorite recipes from the course was Jambalaya. This is definitely a favorite in my house and is requested often!

Over the years, I have made a few healthful substitutes that lighten the dish but, in my opinion, retain most of its integrity. For example, I have omitted the ham and substituted turkey smoked sausage for regular, halved the total amount of mean, upped the amount of veggies, and used low sodium beef broth instead of double strength.

I would also like to say that this recipe is obviously not for vegetarians, but I think it could be turned into one! Just substitute vegetable broth for the liquid and omit the meat, and possibly add cubed tofu as a substitute. I would definitely let it get nice and brown before adding any other ingredients.



serves 5-6

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • ½ lb. turkey smoked sausage, cut into small chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 c. uncooked Jasmine rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 t. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 14 oz. can low sodium beef broth
  • ¼ c. water
  • 1 14. oz. can diced tomatoes
  • ½ lb. cooked chicken OR raw, peeled and deveined shrimp

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium high heat, and then cook sausage until browned, about 5-6 minutes.

Stir in onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook for two minutes to soften.

Add rice, salt, pepper, and thyme and stir until rice is golden.

Add the broth and water, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and chicken/shrimp. Stir to combine, and cook until tomatoes and chicken are heated through or the shrimp are cooked.


- Add two celery stalks for a true trinity (celery, onion, bell pepper). I personally hate it!

- Chop the vegetables into large pieces so they do not overcook during the long simmer.

- Although I love whole grain brown rice, I always use Jasmine for this recipe because it is more flavorful and I prefer the texture. You can substitute brown with great results.

- I think the best tomatoes to use are diced with green chilies.

- This is delicious with a little (or a lot) of hot sauce!

- For a slightly different but still delicious taste, garnish with chopped fresh mint leaves.

Friday, August 7, 2009



I have to send out a big thanks to FoodBlogs for adding Rachel ♥s Food to their blog directory.

If you haven’t been to FoodBlogs, you should check it out!

CEiMB: Carrot Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting

This week’s CEiMB recipe, Carrot Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting, was chosen by Enjoying My Favorite Things. I have to admit, this one had me at the words “Cream Cheese Frosting.” It doesn’t really matter what stands as a base for cream cheese frosting, whether it is red velvet cake, cupcakes, or brownies - I will probably enjoy it just because I love cream cheese! The fact that this base is a healthy carrot cupcake just makes it that much better.

There were several reviews on the Food Network site for this recipe that claimed these cupcakes are more like muffins, and I can see why. These cupcakes are dense from the whole wheat flour, but still wonderfully moist from the applesauce and freshly grated carrots. Even though there is some debate on the cupcake/muffin issue, this recipe still has a five star average and I will admit they are quite delicious.

I did make a few substitutions based on what was readily available in my kitchen, but nothing drastic:

  • white whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour
  • regular pastry flour instead of all purpose
  • allspice instead of nutmeg
  • cinnamon applesauce instead of regular
  • no nuts (the husband doesn’t like them)

I also really enjoyed the frosting with its addition of lemon zest. At first I wondered if the lemon flavor would take away from the carrot cake, but in the end I think the flavors complimented each other well. I also think the little yellow flecks are very attractive!

My husband and I both enjoyed these cupcakes, and I am looking forward to sharing with my parents who are going to visit this weekend. I don’t know if I would make this recipe again on a regular basis since it is just my husband and I in the house, since we certainly don’t need a dozen cupcakes sitting around for our convenience. However, I will add this recipe to my special occasion collection and make it for future family gatherings.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CEiMB: Cobb Salad

So I decided to join Craving Ellie in My Belly, as I mentioned in an earlier post, but immediately got behind. I did make last week’s recipe, Cobb Salad, at the right time. However, life got in the way and I didn’t get the opportunity to post until today. Sorry to the other CEiMB members, I promise the next one will be on time!

This Cobb Salad recipe was chosen by The Feast Within, and I was very excited to try it. I love Cobb salad but rarely order it in a restaurant to avoid the heavy toppings and typically creamy dressings, and I have never make one at home before. I was also a little concerned that my husband wouldn’t play along, but he actually enjoyed it. Note to self: serving salad as a main entree will go over well as long as there is plenty of protein as a topping!

I was also determined to make this recipe exactly as written since it was my first post for CEiMB, but I was not able to find watercress at either of the two grocery stores where I shop and substituted arugula instead. I also made a half recipe since it was just me and my husband and we found that it made three servings total instead of two.

Some other notes on the recipe:

  • I really enjoyed the dressing and will make it again for other salads. It is a little tangy, however, so I would include something with fat to cut the tartness rather than serve it over plain greens.
  • I also enjoyed subbing Black Forest ham for bacon, but found the amount called for in the recipe to be way too much. I would cut the amount in half for the future.
  • While the salad was beautiful with the ingredients all lined up, it seemed almost to be a waste of time since they all mixed together upon serving. In the future, I will probably spread all of the toppings evenly over the salad greens.

Here is the recipe:

Cobb Salad

source: Food Network, Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger


For the Dressing:

    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 small clove garlic, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    For the salad:

      • Cooking spray
      • 1/4 pound sliced Black Forest or other smoked ham
      • 2 hard-boiled eggs
      • 6 cups romaine lettuce (about 6 ounces) coarsely chopped
      • 2 cups watercress, thick stems removed
      • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
      • 1/2 avocado, diced (about 3/4 cup)
      • 1 cup cooked diced chicken breast 1 (6-ounce) breast
      • 1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort or Blue cheese (about 2 ounces)


      In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.

      Slice the ham into 1/2-inch strips. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and preheat over a medium-high heat. Add the ham to the skillet and cook over stirring frequently, until the ham is warmed through and crisped, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

      Remove and discard the yolk from 1 of the hard boiled eggs. Chop the remaining egg white and whole egg and set aside.

      In a large bowl toss the romaine and watercress with 2/3 of the dressing. Put the dressed greens onto a large serving dish. Place the tomatoes on top forming a row down the middle. In strips on either side of the tomatoes place the avocado, chicken, cheese, diced egg, and the crisped ham on top of the greens. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve.

      Per Serving:

      Calories 360; Total Fat 24 g; (Sat Fat 7 g, Mono Fat 13 g, Poly Fat 3 g) ; Protein 28 g; Carb 11 g; Fiber 4 g; Cholesterol 115 mg; Sodium 770 mg

      Monday, August 3, 2009

      Guest Post Today!

      Hi everyone! Just wanted to let you know that I am a guest poster on RhodeyGirl Tests today, so you should check it out! My guest post talks about one of my favorite recipes, another from my cooking class series from a few years ago.

      If you are visiting from RhodeyGirl Tests, welcome to Rachel ♥s Food – I hope you will stick around!

      Congrats again to Sabrina and PhillyBoy on your wedding, and I hope you are enjoying your honeymoon! Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to guest post.

      Monday, July 27, 2009

      Mini Goat Cheese & Honey Tarts

      For the past few months, I have been a member of a book club started by some of my coworkers, and it is always one of the highlights of my week. (Hi ladies!) To be completely honest, though, we like to eat as much as we like to read. We started out with early morning meetings at Starbucks, discussing the books over coffee and pastries. Then we moved to afternoon meetings at Panera or the Barnes & Noble cafe. Now, we still have our regular weekly meetings with snacks, but the final meeting for each book is held at a member’s house where we watch the book’s corresponding movie and enjoy a pot luck dinner. To make it even better, we have themed dinners to celebrate the latest book.

      So far, I have contributed to these meals with a different course each time, covering salad, main entree and dessert (red velvet cake for our all-red Dracula party). For our latest party – honey themed for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – I claimed appetizers for something new.

      So, I took it upon myself to create an appetizer that incorporated honey but was still a savory bite to begin the meal. I looked at what I already had at home to add and found walnuts and various herbs. Enter goat cheese and pre-made phyllo cups and you have a tasty appetizer than uses a lot of my favorite ingredients!

      Mini Goat Cheese and Honey Tarts
      makes 20 appetizers

      • 4 oz. goat cheese
      • 1/2 t. dried basil
      • 1/4 t. dried thyme
      • pinch coarsely ground black pepper
      • 2 T. honey
      • 2 packages phyllo cups (from the freezer section)
      • chopped walnuts

      Preheat oven to 350.

      Mix the first five ingredients until combined and creamy.

      Use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to spoon the filling into the cups, being careful not to crack the phyllo.

      Sprinkle each with the chopped walnuts and lightly press down into the filling.

      Bake for 8-10 minutes until filling is slightly melted and the walnuts are lightly toasted.

      At first I was afraid these would be too much like a dessert from the sweetness of the honey, but the herbs and pepper add a nice savory contrast. Overall, I think they were a big hit at the party – at least the platter was empty when I left for home!

      What are some of your favorite, easily prepared appetizers?