Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Shack - Podcasts

I have run across some podcasts about The Shack
I suspect there will be more to add so I will announce here when I add new ones and add the links to the bottom of my post about The Shack.
5/13/09 added a link to annother podcast.
8/30/09 added a link to annother podcast.

Dress Up & Reheat Leftover Cream Sauce Pasta

This post is for you, Courtney, it took me awhile to get the photos I needed to illustrate the process, but here you go at last!

Pasta with creamy sauce usually does not reheat very well. An Alfredo that was wonderful last night, turns into a separated, curdled mess when you reheat it in the microwave. Here I'll explain how to reheat it so that it comes out as good (or better) than when it was first made. I usually take the re-heating opportunity to improve or add to a pasta dish. Even when I don't add veggies, I do usually add some garlic to add more flavor, but if you just want to re-heat pick up the instructions at Setp 3.

This morning I was not in the mood for breakfast... all I could think about was the nice creamy Chicken Alfredo leftover from last night. I decided to have pasta for breakfast, but as is often the case, there was not really very much pasta leftover and I love veggies in my pasta. So I determined to stretch my pasta a bit by adding some veggies... once I got to cooking, Robert wanted to know what I was cooking & asked for some (he had surgery yesterday and is currently convalescing in the recliner upstairs) this gave me more pasta to work with (his leftovers from last night too) but I would have used double the amount of veggies if I had known I was cooking for 2 from the get go. I also love garlic, I seldom miss an opportunity to add garlic to a dish, I generally increase the garlic in a recipe by 1 or 2 cloves.
A quick note about green peas. I love them in pasta, but if you're going to add peas... take the chill off 1/2- 1 cup in the microwave, and toss them into the pan right before serving, this will keep them plump & round rather than wrinkly.

What to do with Creamy Pasta Leftovers
Here is what I started with Chicken Alfredo with Penne, cold and leftover from Jason's Deli the night before.
(click photos for larger view)

1) I sauteed diced zucchini and mushrooms in olive oil (use any veggie you like or have on hand.) Salt the veggies when they are soft. I use a 10-inch non-stick skillet, the same one I'd use for a large batch of eggs. The shallow shape & gently sloping sides are great for tossing the pasta around in the pan to get it hot thru.

2) When veggies are cooked, I add 2 cloves of garlic, pressed into the pan with a garlic press. Saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
3) Add cold pasta to the pan. If you are starting with this step, heat the pan with a small amount of olive oil or butter before adding the pasta & saute until the pasta is warm.
4) then add a small amount of cream (yes cream! I experimented with chicken broth but it makes the pasta limp and soggy & the sauce watery. Cream is preferred as it will thicken as it cooks, if you don't have cream use half-and-half, or milk, but very sparingly as they won't thicken as they cook the way cream will. I heated the cream in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup, you don't have to, but taking the chill off will make the dish come together quicker in the pan.
5) Let things bubble in the pan, stirring occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken.
6) Remove from heat, you can mix in some Parmesan or Romano cheese at this point if you have some.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Robert is home and doing well

Robert had a hernia near his bellybutton he had surgery to repair it this morning. The doctor found a 2nd hernia higher up and was able to repair that as well. The surgery went well and Robert is now home and resting. ...And requesting things that require a lot of stair-climbing. He jokes about a bell. I do not laugh.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pineapple Delight Cake

This is a favorite summer dessert recipe. It's cool and refreshing, the recipe has been in my family and a potluck favorite for years. I'm allergic to most fruit, but I can have pineapple so this is one of the few fruit desserts I can eat. I got this recipe from my Mom who got it from Betty Hirshy.

I made this cake for an open house at my Dad's house in California in July and more recently I made 2 of them for a Luau for the 55+ group at our church.

Pineapple Delight Cake

1 yellow cake mix (or 1/2 see note below)
1 large vanilla instant pudding (I prefer the new French Vanilla if you can find it)
1 1/3 cup milk
1 8oz. cream cheese, softened
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 9 oz container of Cool Whip

Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Bake in 9x13 pan; cool.

Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth, slowly add the milk until incorporated, then add the pudding mix and beat until smooth. This will result in smoother, quicker mixing and you may be able to do it quickly enough to be able to pour the pudding on the cake. If you just dump everything into the bowl and beat it (as per the original recipe directions) you can end up with flecks of cream cheese - you can see them in the photo 2nd cake I did as described above and didn't have that problem.

Spread pudding mixture over cake. Top evenly with pineapple. Spread on Cool Whip. I do recommend using Cool Whip for this because it is more stable than real whipped cream.

This cake needs to be refrigerated.

One time I only had pineapple chunks, so I chopped them until they resembled crushed pineapple. I recommend you let them sit for 10 min and drain again if you do this. A lot of juice seeped out after I put it on the cake and made it a lot wetter than I like.

Note: The original recipe called for baking 1/2 of the cake mix. I used the full cake, but as a result it does stick up higher than the top of the dish.
Bake it in a 9x13 dish to make it thin; cool. Do not over bake about 15+ minutes.

Variation: Use Chocolate Cake, substitute bananas instead of pineapple, and sprinkle top with slivered almonds.

Rice Keeper

Since I have recently been talking about rice, I have to tell you about my rice keeper. I love this thing! It keeps the rice contained & fresh, has a pour spout and a meausuring cup cap. I have 2 of them now, one for regular long-grain rice and a 2nd for Basmati rice (I cut the cooking directions off the bag of basmati and keep it in the container because I can never remember the proportions of liquid to rice.) Originally I got this at the supermarket, but I had to go to The Container Store to get the 2nd one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, and Julia Child

I want to tell you about a blog I enjoy it's called Everything Rachael Ray . Madeline, who writes the blog reports on Everything Rachael Ray. I first discovered her blog when she linked to one of my posts where I had prepared a Rachael Ray recipe. Since that time I have been enjoying checking in on her site and seeing what is going on in the world of Rachael Ray. I particularly enjoy the weekly feature Rachael Ray Roundup. In this week's Roundup Madeline says:
"Rachael gives a hint to Newsweek that she doesn't appreciate being lumped in
with Sandra Lee. Gotta say I agree with Rach on this one - her recipes don't
rely on prepared foods like Lee's do. "

I followed Madeline's link and read the Newsweek article Sandra Lee: The Anti Julia & found I had a number of things to say on the subject...

I too agree with Rachael that she doesn't belong in the same category as Sandra Lee.
Yes, they both have recipes for the masses... but Sandra Lee's philosophy is "instant plus" while Rachael's message (in my opinion) is -If I can do this you can too. Which does remind me of Julia Child's anyone can learn to cook attitude. Following Rachael's Recipes has stretched my tastes and those of my family getting us to try new flavors and ingredients.

I make a lot of Rachael's recipes and what I am doing in my kitchen is definitely cooking! It's not the Mix-Mix Toss-Toss* of most of Sandra Lee's recipes.

I'd also like to mention that in The Way To Cook (my introduction to Julia Child recipes) Julia refers to Extra Virgin Olive Oil as EVOO. This book was published in 1989. I remember reading it and being surprised, I'm currently searching to find it again. When I do I'll add the page # here.

*Mix-Mix Toss-Toss is a call back to a delightful scene in The Easter Parade where the waiter, Fran├žois; memorably played by Jules Munshin, describes the making of a special salad. Video clip embedded at the top of this post.

Added 08/27/09
Slice, Dice & Dish ( has added to the conversation. See her post, Here

Julie & Julia - anyone seen it? language?

I was interested in seeing the movie Julie and Julia - but I have since heard that the book is full of f-bombs (aka The-F-Word.) I'm really glad I didn't pick it up to read. Has anyone seen the movie? I read that the movie is based on BOTH the Julie & Julia book and Julia Child's book My Life In France (which I am currently reading.) So what I want to know is, did they clean up the language when the revised it for the movie?!

I'd love to hear what you thought if you saw the film.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Like sitting across a sunny kitchen table and having coffee with Julia.

While killing time in the airport a few weeks ago, I saw an ad for the upcoming movie (released this weekend) Julie & Julia, it mentioned that it was based on a book, so when we were in the airport book shop buying bottles of water I scanned the shelves for a glimpse of the book. There it was, but right next to it was a title that made my heart jump. My Life In France by Julia Child. "THAT Is a book I want to read!" I thought to myself. While sitting in chairs waiting to board the plane I downloaded the book to my Kindle (gotta love technology's instant gratification.) What a pleasure it is proving to be.

Julia reminisces about her life in France, the period when she found herself and fell in love with food and cooking. The stories are in the first person and I love reading her own words, I can hear her speak them in my mind as I read. In the book Julia tells the story in a series of memories about things that happened during that time in her life. It's not like reading a book, it's like sitting across a sunny kitchen table and having coffee with Julia.

In my post Quoting Julia - Remembering Mom I talked about my admiration for Julia Child. The movie Julie & Julia was released this weekend, I'm excited about it, but I am a little afraid to see that movie & read that book. I guess I'm afraid they won't get her right. My life in France certainly, does.

Bits from the book: My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme

This quote about her husband, Paul, reminded me of my own husband. "He was very particular about his car-packing, and very good at it too, like a master jigsaw-puzzler."

"In France, Paul explained, good cooking was regarded as a combination of national sport and high art,"

"I couldn't help noticing that the waiters carried themselves with a quiet joy, as if their entire mission in life was to make their customers feel comfortable and well tended."

"It was a remarkable lesson. No dish, not even the humble scrambled egg, was too much trouble for him. 'You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,' he said. 'Even after you eat it, it stays with you-always." I found myself nodding in deep agreement with Chef Bugnard Julia's first instructor at Le Cordon Bleu as I read this story.

"The best way to describe it is to say that I fell in love with French food-the tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals. I have never taken anything so seriously in my life-husband and cat excepted-and I could hardly bear to be away from the kitchen. What fun! What a revelation! How terrible it would have been had Roo de Loo come with a good cook! How magnificent to find my life's calling, at long last!"

Roo de Loo is Julia's nickname for 81 Rue de l'Universite, where Paul and Julia made their home in France.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tarragon Chicken

I love tarragon, it always makes me feel like a meal is a special occasion. I don't find that many recipes recipes that use tarragon.

This recipe is from Cooking Light 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook. The chicken was delicious, but I'm increasing the ingredients to make 2x's the flavored oil, when you have something that tastes this good, why skimp (because it was in a light magazine I'm sure.) I accidentally bought chicken tenders instead of breasts, I still pounded them so they were uniform thickness (took about 1 hit.) Cook's Note if you pound out chicken breasts you can only fit 2 in a very large sized pan so you'll need to cook them in 2 batches.

Ethan LOVED this dinner, he said it was like something from a restaurant. I served it with Near East Roasted Chicken & Garlic Rice Pilaf (box mix.)

Tarragon Chicken

4 (6-oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4 inch thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle chicken with salt (1/4 teaspoon salt should be enough for all 4.)

Combine olive oil and the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 teaspoons oil mixture to pan, spreading evenly over bottom of pan with a wide spatula. Add chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Drizzle 2 teaspoons (or more) oil mixture over chicken. Turn chicken over; cook 2 minutes. Drizzle remaining oil mixture over chicken; reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 2 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve remaining sauce drippings over chicken.

Rice with Onions and Garlic: By Special Request

This recipe is for Sheila, she is always giving me great feedback & comments, I love it when my blog becomes a 2 way communication. Check out Sheila's blog SHEILA'S STAMPING STUFF at

Sheila said...
This looks really good! Will have to get some pesto and veggies and give it a try. And the rice looks creamy and yummy too. Do you have a recipe for your rice? :)

I sure do Sheila!
I made this rice to go along with Pesto Chicken Grill Packets. Years ago when I was a newlywed I bought a cooking for 2 magazine from bon appetit, there was a rice recipe in it. I have been making it from memory for years, I'm sure I've strayed from the original. I know that condensed chicken broth gets a lot of grief these days, but I think the rice tastes so much better when I use condensed broth instead of chicken stock.

I love rice, I don't think I've mentioned this. I serve everything over rice, even Stroganoff which is traditionally supposed to go with buttered noodles.

Rice with Onions and Garlic

1 Tablespoon Olive oil or butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 or 2 garlic cloves, pressed (don't use that stuff in the jar it smells great but doesn't come thru with the same kind of flavor as fresh garlic)
1 cup of long grain rice (I use Mahatma Extra Long Grain Enriched Rice)
2 cups of chicken broth or stock (if using condensed broth use 1 can and make up the difference with water.)

Place the olive oil or butter in the bottom of a large saucepan and heat to medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they are translucent and begin to soften, they'll cook more with the rice so you don't have to cook them all the way, but soften them up you want sauted onion flavor not boiled onion flavor. When the onions are cooked to your satisfaction add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Over-cooked garlic gets bitter so add the rice as soon as you smell the garlic.
Add rice to the pan & stir it up with the oil and onions. Stir occasionally until the rice begins to look toasty & a little translucent. Coating the rice with oil or butter and toasting adds to the creaminess of the rice, this technique is borrowed from risotto making (risotto uses a different kind of rice.)
When the rice is toasty add your chicken broth or stock, stir and bring up to a boil. Stir once more, place the lid on the pan and turn the burner down to low (on my gas stove I turn it down to the very lowest setting.) Now, this is one of the most important parts of rice making - once that lid goes on... do not lift the lid again until it is done the accumulated steam is important. My husband always comes home from work, wanders into the kitchen and lifts all the pot lids to see what's for dinner. If I am making rice... well I'm trying to teach him not to do that.

Once you put the lid on and turn the heat down set your timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat & set the timer for 5 more minutes. After those last 5 minutes have elapsed it is safe to lift the lid, fluff the rice & serve. I don't lift the lid and fluff until I am ready to serve.

On this night I had a little zucchini & diced tomatoes leftover from the chicken packets, I didn't want it to go to waste, so I threw it into the pan right before I put the lid on. That is why you're seeing some extra stuff in there in the photos.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pesto Chicken Grill Packets

My favorite food magazine right now is Everyday with Rachael Ray, I find that I cook several recipes out of each issue and a large percentage of these become standards that I use again and again.

Last night I tried Pesto Chicken Grill Packets out of the June/July 2009 issue. They were wonderful. This recipe was quick and easy to prepare using all fresh ingredients. Pesto sauce is the only prepared ingredient and you CAN make your own, I just never can find fresh basil in large enough quantities so I buy it. Find pesto sauce in a tub in the section with refrigerated fresh pasta or in jars with the Italian international foods. Here is the pesto recipe if you want to make your own.

This was light, delicious and fresh tasting, basil and tomatoes are the flavors of summer.

When I took the packets outside to put them on the grill, I had run out of propane so I baked them in a 355 F oven for about 35 minutes.I give full instructions on how to set up a grill for indirect heat in my recipe for Beer Can Chicken

Pesto Chicken Grill Packets

Extra virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2 1/4 pounds)
salt & pepper
1 cup basil pesto (I found I needed more than 1 tub to make 3 servings)
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 plum tomatoes (I used 2 Roma tomatoes, they cook well & were on special)
8 green onions, trimmed

Preheat the grill to medium. Cut four 12-inch long sheets of heavy duty foil. I assembled all my ingredients and made up the packets one at a time, then placed them on a cookie sheet for easy transport to and from the grill.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil in the center of a sheet of foil, top with a piece of chicken, salt and pepper then flip and season the 2nd side. Top chicken with 1 tablespoon of the pesto sauce. Mound 1/4 of the zucchini, tomatoes and green onions on top of the chicken and dollop with 3 tablespoons of pesto on top of the veggies. Fold the foil over the chicken and veggies; fold up the ends to seal. (Note: that is a total of 4 tablespoons of pesto sauce per packet.)

Cover and grill the packets over indirect heat for 25 minutes (or bake in a 355 oven for about 35 minutes.) Remove from the grill and open carefully. I give full instructions on how to set up a grill for indirect heat in my recipe for Beer Can Chicken.

Basil Pesto

Pesto sauce is delicious in recipes or as a dip for crusty bread. You can find it at the supermarket near the refrigerated fresh pasta. If you want to make your own, this recipe comes from Every Day with Rachael Ray June/July 2009

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not Kraft that stuff is not cheese!)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Using a food processor, finely chop the basil and garlic. Add the Parmesan and pine nuts and pulse into a coarse paste.

Pesto recipes on The Fragrant Hand:
Grown Up Grilled Cheese Panini - Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
Dinner Experiment Pasta Bake
Pesto Grilled Chicken Packets

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm In the Kitchen: Rolling with the Punches

"Summertime and the living is eaaasy." I'm trying to get back into the everyday routine of life and this week I did my regular meal planning & grocery list, instead of the kind of slap-dash improvisation I've been doing.

Ya know I am so frustrated with my local supermarket, they are always out of stuff and I have to go to at least 2 markets to get everything on my list. Last week they were out of garlic. How can I cook without garlic?! Today they were out of Pesto (I found an expensive import to buy but I wanted to buy the refrigerated one I normally get), the broccoli was black on top, not gonna eat that! The yogurt case was half empty (looked like they had a mishap) and there was no fresh basil anywhere to be found, not even the little blister packs.

So it's summer, I'll roll with the punches & adapt, I'll just have to hit another market tomorrow and switch up the batting order of meals I have planned for the week. Courtney, creamy pasta is on the menu again this week so that I can show you how to re-heat it the next day :D (Pasta is waiting on that fresh basil I couldn't get.)

So tonight I'm making Pesto Chicken Grill Packets out of the June/July 2009 issue of Rachael Ray's Magazine. It was easy to put together and goes on the grill in little foil pouches. Unfortunately when I went to put them on the grill, the flame went out, I was out of propane. So I'll have to bake them in the oven. Not what I would have planned, but oh well.
We have about 20 more minutes of waiting before I can give my verdict. Pesto Chicken Grill Packets Recipe Here.

Menu Planning
I don't menu plan in the conventional way. I don't lay out what we're going to eat on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday... I think about our schedule for the week and what we have going on, then I just select 3 or 4 recipes that I plan to make at some point in the week. I find that a dinner for every night of the week is far too much food for my family of 3. Generally I cook one night and we eat leftovers the following night. I like this, it means I only have to wash pots and pans every other night. Cooking I don't mind, I go into my kitchen, buzz around singing, I go into a happy place in my mind, and then there is delicious food to eat. Dish washing is the opposite of this zen-like experience, and it cuts into family time.

My vague menu planning allows me a certain amount of spontaneity in my cooking as well. Some nights I am just "in the mood" for certain kinds of food. I can switch to one of the other recipes in order to accommodate this, or sometimes I just make something up with ingredients I have that satisfies the craving (I nearly made asparagus risotto, tonight, except that I could already taste the salty tang of the pesto in tonight's new recipe.) I did end up making a simple rice with onions and garlic to go along with the chicken and veggies.