Happy Holidays!

This season has brought many surprises and little time for cooking. With an upcoming vacation and some much needed rest and relaxation, I am signing off for a couple of weeks. I will be thinking of you all season and what you might be making.

 I would love to see some of those holiday spreads, fantastic new recipes or a favorite family dish by emailing me at

You can also email me if you need some inspiration, help or entertaining tips. I am happy to help! Cheers to a delicious holiday with friends and family.



Chicken with Mushrooms and Roasted Baby Artichokes

Just writing this post makes my mouth water for this dinner. The sauce has so much flavor, the chicken is ridiculously moist for a bone-less, skin-less breast and the earthy mushrooms are divine. This is a great dinner that takes very little time and can make anyone feel like they have culinary chops. The roasted artichokes that I did with this are my new favorite side dish. It is quite time consuming to trim the baby artichokes as you need so many to make a few servings, but it is worth it if you have the time. I served this with some brown rice and the sauce from the chicken was great on it. I read a ton of recipes for chicken with mushrooms and have cut the calories considerably using a few variations on the endless butter and cream I saw in my research. If you are not a mushroom fan, simply leave them out. 

Chicken with Mushrooms
forks & amusement 2010
serves 4

1 oz dried mushrooms (I like morels, but choose what you like or what you can find. If you want to use fresh, just slice them, skip the first step of the recipe and cook with the onions)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, chopped (you could substitute for 1 onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup half and half
lemon juice
chopped parsley or thyme for garnish (optional)

Soak the dried mushrooms for 30 minutes in very hot water. Rinse them and pat dry. 

Heat the butter and oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until beginning to become translucent, then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, until garlic becomes fragrant. 

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Leave the chicken to brown on both sides for 2 minutes or until it has a rich brown color. Add the white wine to the pan to deglaze and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and mushrooms and bring to a boil. Cover, set heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (I like to use a quick time thermometer). 

Remove chicken from the pan onto a plate or platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Raise heat to high to bring to a boil. Sprinkle the flour all over the sauce, stir and cook for 2 minutes to thicken the sauce. Add the half and half and allow to sauce to reduce and thicken, about 3 minutes. Once thickened, spritz with the juice of half a lemon and pour sauce over chicken. Serve immediately adding some garnish of herbs if you have it. 

Roasted Baby Artichokes

baby artichokes (8-10 per person)
2 lemons
olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare a large bowl with cool water. Juice the lemons into the water and throw them into the bowl as well. (artichokes oxidize very easily, so this keeps them from turning really brown, really fast)

Working one-by-one, with a sharp paring knife, cut the stem off of the artichoke and dip the cut end into the lemon water. Quickly pull off all of the leaves, peeling down towards the heart until just the tender yellow leaves are exposed. Using your knife, trim any dark green from the bottom. Cut off the very top, cut in half and submerge in the lemon water. 

Once all of the artichokes are done. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and dry off the artichokes and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well so it gets all over the artichokes. Roast for 30 minutes, turning each over once half way through. They should be tender, but crisp on the outside. 

Serve warm or at room temperature. 



Roasted Cod with Caponata and Roasted Truffled Potatoes

Caponata is one of my favorite recipe finds this year. I discovered it when doing this post about making picnic fare. Caponata has such great flavors, tons of vegetables and a wonderful saucy consistency. It was great on a sandwich, works great as a crostini topper for an appetizer and can be tossed into pasta for a quick dinner. I wanted to see how far I could take this rich, bright sauce and decided to try it with fish. I know many people are wary about making fish at home. There are a few things you should know about making fish that will make it successful. One is you need to find the freshest fish you can find. Go to a local fish market or a market counter you know has quality product. Second smell the fish before you buy it. Really, get your nose up in there. If the fish smells fishy at all, it is not fresh and do not buy it. It should smell like the ocean. Lastly is that fish is super easy to make, very healthful and can be prepared simply by roasting it in the oven with salt, pepper, some fresh herbs than spritz with fresh lemon juice. If your fish is fresh, this will be fantastic. This recipe is just as easy, but brings a whole spectrum of flavor to the table. I made some roasted fingerling potatoes tossed in a bit of truffle butter and a salad to accompany the fish. For those of you who are first-time fish cooks, no need to fear, this recipe is fool proof and delicious. 

PS: This is a great recipe for those in your house that may not be too keen on fish. The flavors are pretty bold, so it can be a great gateway dish to get your loved ones eating some of those outstanding nutrients only fish can provide. 

Roasted Cod with Caponata
forks & amusement 2010
serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large celery stalks, large chop
2 baby eggplant, large chop
2 red bell peppers, large chop
1 onion, large chop
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons capers
salt & pepper
1 large cod filet (about 1.25-1.5 lb), you can use an firm white fish that you love as well, halibut would be great too

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the eggplant to the pan and cook for 2 minutes with the celery. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and add the peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, adding the garlic for the last minute. Pour in the tomatoes with their juices and the oregano. Bring to a boil and add salt and pepper to taste. Change heat to medium low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and vegetables have softened. Add the vinegar, sugar and capers. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. 

Place fish on a roasting pan or jelly roll pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the caponata over the fish and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until fish is cooked through and firm to the touch. 

Serve in pieces, topped with caponata. 

Roasted Truffled Potatoes 
forks & amusement 2010
serves as much as you want! 

Potatoes, I like fingerling or yukon gold for this, cut in half
salt & pepper 
olive oil
truffle butter (can be found by the butter in some markets and all specialty food stores, it is life changing!)

Toss potatoes in enough olive oil to coat, salt and pepper. Roast potatoes in 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Remove from the oven.  Toss hot potatoes with some truffle butter (you do not need a lot, for 2 people you can use a teaspoon) and serve. If you have parsley or tyme, you could top it off with a little chopped herbs. 



Pasta with Shrimp and Crispy Proscuitto

Cooking for one can be hard. I have heard it from many people that they just don't know how to cook for one person, they cook too much and then in turn eat too much, or it is not worth their time. I agree to all of this a smidge, but reality is that cooking for one can be great. You can cook one portion by calculating the recipe for one or make the whole lot and have a few dinners waiting for you at home. My husband has to work at night sometimes and I find myself just snacking, heating something up or making a salad. Which, let's face it, is super boring. But I decided that from now on I will cook for myself and enjoy every second. And last night I did! My advice for those cooking for one is to mind portions. If a recipe serves 4, just divide all the ingredients by 4. Cooking and baking time will probably be just a hair shorter than what it calls for, so use your best judgement. Also, this is a great time to try out a recipe that you have had stocked away and were wary to make for a crowd. You are your own best taste tester! This pasta was quick, full of flavor and I used a bunch of ingredients already in my home. Keeping frozen shrimp around is a great hands-on ingredient. Defrosts in minutes, cooks in seconds and add great protein to any dish. I hope that your solo cooking goes great. Believe me, it will be the most satisfying part of your day.

Pasta with Shrimp and Crispy Prosciutto
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 1 (you can double, triple, etc. to make for a crowd as well!)

1 serving of pasta, according to package (I like spaghetti for this, but use what you have in your pantry)
3 thin slices of Prosciutto, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large shallot or 1 small, minced
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
red pepper flakes to taste (a dash for those that don't like as much heat, 2 dashes for spice lovers)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
7 uncooked good-sized shrimp
juice of 1/2 a lemon
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
4 basil leaves, chopped

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Reserving cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, place a saute pan on the stove over medium heat. Once hot, add the prosciutto. Cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until crisp (this happens fast, and can burn easy). Remove pan from heat and place prosciutto on paper towel lined plate.

Return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, add the shallot and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook an additional 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the wine to the pan to deglaze and scrape up any bits on the bottom. Bring to a boil and let reduce for two minutes. Add the stock and allow sauce to reduce  again for a couple minutes. Add the shrimp and cook on both sides until pink and cooked through. Add Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine. Allow the pasta to soak up some of the sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
If sauce seems a bit thin, add a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add the cheese and stir to combine. Serve immediately topped with the crispy prosciutto, lemon juice, basil and extra grated cheese.



Smokey Lentil Soup with Turkey Sausage

After a super sized Holiday weekend, nothing is better than a week of healthy food to make you feel a little less plump. Given that I am going to a warm place for Christmas in 3 weeks, this girl needs to lay off the dessert and start eating her veggies. I made this soup last week and froze it and it was a great lunch today. It is hearty, full of vegetables, fiber filling lentils and satisfying turkey sausage. The chipotle in it gives it a nice spice and extra smoke. The broth is so flavorful, you will forget that this is even healthy. I like to serve this with a warm bread, preferably from your favorite bakery. Since I am trying to be good, I went with a nine grain, but a french baguette or sourdough would be perfect. Here's to healthy eating so we can indulge yet again guiltlessly this holiday season.

Smokey Lentil Soup with Turkey Sausage
forks & amusement 2010
serves 8-10

1 1/2 cups lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 leeks, rinsed well, chopped, whites only
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large turkey sausage links, casings removed
4 carrots, small dice
4 celery stalks, small dice
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 canned chipotle peppers, deseeded, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce (what chipotles are canned in)
8 cups chicken stock
grated Parmesan cheese

Place lentils in a large bowl, pour in enough boiling water  to cover them and wrap top with plastic wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes. Repeat. Then drain.

Meanwhile, in a large pot heat up 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and add in the onion and leek. Saute until they are beginning to become translucent, then add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add in the sausage. Brown the sausage with the vegetables, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Continue to cook and break it up until cooked through. Remove pot from heat and pour meat mixture into a bowl.

Return pot to the stove over medium heat and add the other tablespoon of oil. Once it is hot, add the carrot and celery. Cook the vegetables until they are just beginning to soften, stirring often. Add in the salt and pepper (to taste), cumin, thyme, chipotle and adobo sauce. Stir well and add the meat mixture back in the pot. Add the lentils and combine well, cooking for just a couple of minutes. Add the stock and bring soup to a boil.

Lower heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are softened and cooked through. Taste soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve in bowls with grated Parmesan on top.



Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas

Leftovers are absolutely imminent come Friday this week and I wanted to throw out a few ideas to do with some of those leftovers you have. Sometimes the best meals come from leftovers and it can absolutely go beyond the sandwich.

  • Turkey Shepard's Pie: Shred leftover turkey. In a oven proof casserole dish, spread stuffing in bottom of dish, sprinkle turkey over it in another layer, add in any vegetables that are leftover (ie: peas, spinach, cut up asparagus), then spread with leftover mash potatoes. Sprinkle with any cheese you might have leftover from your meal and bake in a 375 degree oven until bubbling and heated through. Serve with gravy on the side. 
  • Turkey Tacos: Shred leftover turkey wrap leftovers in tortillas. It could be just a spread of cranberry sauce, turkey, a little stuffing and season with salt and pepper. Heat up and enjoy! 
  • Turkey Pizza: Click here for a great pizza dough recipe. Top pizzas with leftover turkey,  mozzarella and any leftover vegetables. 
  • Have leftover asparagus? Use this risotto recipe for a base, just skip the step that you cook the asparagus and add in at the end. 
  • Mexican Lasagna: This fan favorite could easily be done with your leftover turkey. For the meat filling, just follow the instructions except cooking the turkey. Add in shredded turkey at the end just to heat up and mix with the vegetables. 
  • Tortilla Soup: Just substitute shredded turkey for chicken in this yummy recipe. 
I hope this gives you a few ideas or at least a starting off point. Get creative and come up with something of your own. Use a favorite chili or soup recipe and just use what you have. Or think outside the box and make a stir fry, an omelet or anything that sounds good! 



Homemade Hummus

Hummus has really climbed the social ladder over the last ten years. Known to many as an exotic food before, hummus can now be found in the refrigerators of almost every woman you know and half the men. Opening a container of hummus and serving it with crackers and crudite is something every host has done and thus helping non-cooks everywhere include something delicious in their repertoire. The quality of store-bought hummus is actually quite good, but includes at least a couple unnatural ingredients. I took a crack at making this centuries old, healthy and delicious dip with a rather amazing outcome. The best thing about something like hummus is that you can add whatever flavors you would like to it. This variation below could very easily be switched by taking out the rosemary and adding anything from spicy red pepper flakes to artichokes to roasted red peppers. This takes about 5 minutes to make and will last about a week in the fridge. Since this version is 100% homemade, filled with protein and bursting with flavor, I think many of you out there will be forgoing the container and keeping these simple ingredients in your pantry and fridge for the next time you need a quick snack for guests or just for yourself! 

Lemon & Rosemary Hummus
Forks & Amusement 2010
makes 1 1/4 cup
50 calories for 2 tablespoons

1 15oz can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini paste (sesame seed paste, can be found in the ethnic food aisle or condiments)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 lemon zest
juice of 1 juicy lemon
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
salt & pepper to taste

For serving: Paprika & olive oil

Combine all top ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. If hummus is too thick, add a little bit of water to help it along until it is the desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with paprika and drizzled with just a touch of olive oil. 



Thanksgiving for Novices

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and some of you out there might have decided to host this year and now are starting to feel the panic of putting this dinner on the table. The key to any party is to keep it as simple as you can, while not trying to do too much or anything above your skill level. I mean we all think we are Martha Stewart when we start planning a party, but the reality is a party is only fun if you are not stressing and can enjoy every minute. I took a dry run on the Thanksgiving meal and have some great ideas and a way for you to get around having to deal with a whole turkey, which, if you have not made one before, requires some icky steps. I found a great alternative that also cooks up much quicker. Quick tip: tools you might need for this or any Thanksgiving feast are a quick time meat thermometer, kitchen twine and lots of wine. 

I started the dinner with this great salad. A great way to make a salad in advance is to make the dressing in the bottom of your serving bowl and add the ingreidents first that will not wilt in the dressing. In this case the pears will turn brown if left cut up, so soaking them in the dressing allows them to stay white. Pile the lettuce on top of the other ingredients and refrigerate until ready to toss and serve. 

Pear & Walnut Salad
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4 

Dressing: heaping tablespoon of dijon, minced shallot, juice of one lemon, a couple good chugs of white wine vinegar, drizzle olive oil in while you whisk until it is double in size. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Ingredients: 2 chopped pears, handful of chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese, 2 heads torn butter lettuce

Combine ingredients in salad bowl and toss to coat in the dressing. Serve with a little extra parmesan on top. 

This was the main course, which was Roasted Turkey Roulade with Roasted Green Beans and Asparagus. 

Roasted Green Beans & Asparagus
Forks & Amusement 2010
make as much as you need! 

Cut and trim green beans and place in roasting pan or baking sheet. Trim asparagus and cut in thirds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until crisp and just cooked. Serve immediately. 

Roasted Turkey Roulade
Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics
serves 6 to 7

3/4 cups large diced dried figs, stems removed
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Calvados or Brandy
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions (2 onions)
1 cup (1/2 inch dice) celery (3 stalks)
3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed (sweet and hot mixed)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (place in a pan over high heat, shake and toast until fragrant, cool)
3 cups Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 extra large egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 whole (2 halves) turkey breast, boned and butterflied (ask your butcher to do this for you) and skin on (5 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place the dried figs and cranberries in a small saucepan and pour in the Calvados or brandy and 1/2 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small bits with a fork, and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until cooked and browned. Add the figs and cranberries with the liquid, the chopped rosemary, and pine nuts, and cook for 2 more minutes. Scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. 

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well. (The stuffing may be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. place a baking rack on a sheet pan. 

Lay the butterflied turkey breast skin down on a cutting board. Sprinkle the meat with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Spread the stuffing in a 1/2 inch thick layer over the meat, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Don't mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. (Place leftover stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for the last 45 minutes of roasting alongside the turkey) Starting at one end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder. 

place the stuffed turkey breast seam side down on the rack on the sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until thermometer reads 150 degrees in the center. (I test in a few places) Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve 1/2 inch thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing. 


I also made a quick sauce on the stock to act as a gravy. You can make any gravy you would like and this may be the great opportunity to use your grandmother's recipe. Here is what I did: 

In a small saucepan, cook minced onions in a little oil and butter until soft. Sprinkle the onions with a good amount of flour to coat and cook for 2 minutes, until flour is cooked. Whisk in some white wine and reduce by half. Whisk in a couple of cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to reduce until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and skim any fat off the top. Serve warm in a gravy boat with the meal. 


I kept it simple and served good quality vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. It was enjoyed by all and a snap! 

This gives you some examples of how you can make your Thanksgiving a time for family and fun, and not a time for stress and headaches. Some other time saving tips are to set your table and bar up the day before. Ask guests to bring appetizers, side dish or dessert, everyone always asks to bring something so let them! And write down your timeline for the day up until you sit down for dinner, it helps organize your time and your thoughts. 



Soupe A L'Oignon by Julia Child

Onion Soup is one of those comfort foods that I tend to start ordering when fall starts creeping up. I wanted to make this beautifully rich, yet light bowl of goodness at home and turned to the Queen of French Cooking, Julia Child. I can just see Julia screaming with delight as she cracked through that first layer of warm, bubbling cheese to reveal the dark rich broth that steamed underneath. When you visit Paris, this soup is on every menu and whether you are in a posh cafe or a run-down bistro it will always be delicious. Julia's recipe was amazing and took me right back to Paris, my favorite place on the planet, and got me thinking that this soup must have comforted her as well. Below is her exact recipe which is worth following to a T. It does take some time, but the results are fantastic. Don't forget to eat the cheese that crisps up on the side of your bowl. It's the best part! 

Soupe A L'Oignon
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, 1961
for 6 to 8 servings, cooking time about 3 hours

1 1/2 lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
a heavy bottomed, 4 quart covered saucepan
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, I used beef
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion slowly on low with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. 

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes. Off heat, blend in the boiling stock. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.  Set aside uncovered until read to serve, then reheat to a simmer. 

12 to 16 slices of French bread cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
olive oil
A cut clove of garlic

Place bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned. Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic. 

A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
2 oz Swiss Cheese cit into very thin slivers
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven 325 degrees. Bring soup to a boil and pour into the tureen or soup pots. Stir in the slivered cheese and grated onion. Float the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it. Sprinkle with the oil. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately. 




I am working on some new designs for the blog, so if it looks different that is why. Let me know what you think! I have added a search function on the left hand side, the archives have an easier view and I added a keywords area so you can scan through ingredients and dishes faster. I am going to be cleaning that up over the next few weeks to streamline. Here's to hoping I can figure it all out!


DIY Dumplings

In an effort to switch up more normal stir-fry routine this week, I made my first attempt at steamed pot stickers. Always a favorite of mine and never left off the the take out order, pot stickers are Asian dumplings filled with meat or vegetables that are steamed and sometimes finished off pan-fried. I decided to forgo the extra pan-frying calories and just steam them. This first attempt turned out fantastic and with how easy they were to make, I might be making these when I am waiting for the rest of my take out to come to the door. You can buy wonton wrappers in the produce section of your market, usually they are by the herbs. They keep well and you can fill them with anything you would like. I have even filled them with sweet Nutella and fried them to make a fried ravioli dessert. You could easily also fill the wrappers with ricotta and herbs, fold over in a triangle and cook just like fresh pasta. The possibilities are really endless, so I hope you try this recipe and then experiment in your own kitchen with your extra wrappers!

Steamed Asian Dumplings
Forks & Amusement 2010
makes about 12 dumplings

For dipping sauce:
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 scallions, diced
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of garlic chili paste or other hot sauce

Whisk ingredients together and set aside

For dumplings:
vegetable oil for brushing the steamer
1/2 lb ground pork
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 scallions, diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
salt & pepper
1 egg lightly beaten in a small bowl
12 wonton wrappers

Turn on a steamer, or place a pot with a steamer basket on the stove with water. Brush the metal steamer with vegetable oil so dumplings will not stick. Bring water to a boil, then turn heat down to medium-low.

Place the pork, garlic, sesame oil, scallion, ginger, soy sauce, pinch of salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Combine the ingredients well, but lightly, using a fork.

Place a wonton wrapper on a cutting board, brush the edges with the egg. Place a heaping teaspoon (almost double) of the meat mixture in the center of the wrapper. Bring all four corners of the wrapper up and seal each side together forming a little pillow. Repeat until you have used all of the meat mixture.
Place the dumplings in the steamer and cook for 10 minutes, or until the meat mixture is firm and cooked through. do not crowd the dumplings as they will stick to each other. I had to make it in two batches.

To serve, pour a little of the dipping sauce into a small serving bowl for each plate along with the hot dumplings.



Just like Mom Used to Make...

My obsession with pasta this last month has gone a little overboard. I have eaten pasta every day now for almost a month in some form or another. Not sure how it happened, but I guess with the change of season my tummy is just into the comfort of this Italian treat. I made this meatball recipe to see if I could go beyond my normal sauce routine and add a little Italian grandmother (not Italian, but I think I was in a former life!) to my daily plate of one of Italy's many culinary treasures. I wanted to keep it simple, but make sure to add a few extra ingredients to make it special. You can make the meatballs whatever size you would like and adjust the cooking time. Kids love mini ones and I have to say I do too.

Pasta & Meatballs
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4

3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 1/2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped; plus a little extra garnish
2 eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese; plus a little extra for garnish and passing
salt and pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like more heat)
1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 1/2 lbs. ground meat - beef, veal, pork - any combination or just one of them; turkey for a lighter take
1 - 26oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 lb. box of your favorite dried pasta shape

Place a dry saute pan over high heat on the stove and add the pine nuts to it. Toast the pine nuts and shake the pan occasionally until they are slightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop

Place water on the stove to boil for the pasta.

Combine in a large bowl the pine nuts, parsley, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and bread crumbs. Add the meat to the bowl and GENTLY combine the meat into the mixture, you can use a fork or your hands, but try to not overwork, otherwise you will end up with tough meatballs.

Using your hands, gently roll the mixture into golf ball sized meatballs and place on a platter or plate. You should have 10-12 meatballs. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add some olive oil to just coat. Place the meatballs in the pan and brown, turning them so that the entire meatball gets browned on each side, about 10 minutes.

Pour the sauce into the pan, roll the meatballs in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 10 more minutes so meat balls are cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and add to the sauce and meatballs. Stir to combine everything. Turn off heat and serve with extra cheese and parsley to garnish.



Chocolate Chip Chili

When I first saw this recipe was was very skeptical that it was going to be great AND stay somewhat true to what I think is tasty chili. When I did a bit more research I found that chocolate is actually an ingredient added to many meat dishes to give it a richness that you can not put your finger on, but appreciate. This chili was super easy to make and certainly was a great recipe that switches up my normal turkey chili recipe. This version is much meatier, bolder and has some unexpected flavors. It is much more rich, so serving this with a slaw of some sort would be perfect. It would also be spectacular with some tortillas or even in a burrito as leftovers. I make a lot of chili this time of year and this is a great one to keep in the arsenal to switch things up.

Choc Chip Chili
Nigella Lawson - The More the Merrier
serves 12

10 or 5 linked pairs chorizo sausage (not the salami sort), about 1 1/4 lb
3 1/4 lb boneless beef shank, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (stew meat could also be used, but will not be as tender)
3 onions, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 fresh long chili, seeded (could not find this, so I subbed in 2 teaspoons chili powder and a serrano chili)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
seeds from 3 cardamom pods (not a fan of this spice and I left out)
2 teaspoons ground cumin (I added a bit more to great results)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
4 - 15 oz cans red kidney beans, drained
3 - 14oz cans diced tomatoes
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup water (swished out in one of the diced tomato cans

Preheat oven 300 degrees (You could also use a slow cooker)

Finely chop, or process the onion, garlic and chili.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan (with a lid) or cast iron or enameled dutch oven and fry the onion, garlic and chile until soft, on low for about 10 minutes, then add the cardamom seeds (if using), cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes.

Stir the oniony spiced mixture together and then add the chorizo, sliced into 1/4 inch coins, letting them ooze their paprika-orange oil.

Drop in the cubes of beef, turning them n the pan with the chorizo and onion mix, to brown the meat.

Stir in the tomato paste, ketchup, drained kidney beans, diced tomatoes and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the water and bring the chili to a boil.

Once it is started bubbling, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the chili and give it a good stir. Put on the lid and transfer to the oven.

Cook a this low heat for 3 hours. Once cooked it is best left overnight to improve the flavor.



Dressed up Pot Roast?

I just have to start this post by saying that I got a fabulous new camera so I no longer need to be embarrassed by my pictures anymore! With this new camera I just had to cook something wonderful last night and this dish was the perfect fit. I found this recipe in the October issue of Food & Wine and liked that the ingredient list was not over the top and that it took very minimal work. Short ribs are all about the sauce and I would describe this dish as pot roast in evening wear wearing a velvety sheath of yumminess. It is elegant, but comforting and would be absolutely perfect for company. Although, I just made it as a Sunday night dinner that paired great with football. I included a super easy smashed potato recipe with this that you can make ahead of time, but you could also serve it with noodles. Enjoy this dish and I hope to dazzle you with my photography now and let's hope that I can figure out all the bells and whistles of my new gadget as fast and easy as these short ribs.

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine
adapted from Food & Wine, October 2010
serves 4
Cooking time: 40 min Active; 3 hours Total

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
one 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
2 whole sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 cups veal, beef or chicken stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Four 2-inch-thick, flanken cut, short ribs with the bone (I could not find this exact match, so just get about 2 3/4 lbs of the best short ribs you can find)
Salt and pepper
buttered egg noodles or smashed potatoes (recipe to follow), for serving

1. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, stir to coat with the butter, cover and cook over moderate heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the wine, stock, rosemary and bay and bring to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet until simmering. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, add them to the pan and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until they are well browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Transfer the short ribs to the casserole. Partially cover and cook over moderately low heat until very tender, about 2.5 to 3 hours.

4. Transfer the ribs to a plate and remove the bones. Strain the sauce into a heatproof measuring cup and skim the fat (I did this right in the casserole as there was not that much). Return the sauce to the casserole and boil until reduced to 2 cups, 10 minutes. Return the meat to the sauce and simmer over low heat until heated through. Serve the ribs with the egg noodles or potatoes with extra sauce. (Make Ahead: Short ribs can be refrigerated in the sauce for up to 5 days, just reheat on the stove top over medium heat)

Smashed Potatoes
serves 4

5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed, cut in half length wise, then in thirds
1/4 cup half and half
1 1/2 tablespoon butter (I like to use a flavored butter like truffle or garlic if you can find it, if not add in whatever you would like; roasted garlic, horseradish, chives, sauteed onions, wasabi, Parmesan, etc.)
salt and pepper

Boil a large pot of water and drop the cut potatoes in. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place back into the pot over low heat to rid the excess moisture from them, about a minute or so. Smash the potatoes with a masher or large fork. Add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste the potatoes for seasoning and add more of what you think might be missing. Keep warm in the oven or serve right away with the short ribs.



Mini Soft Center Chocolate Cakes

I don't post a lot of desserts as I find baking complicated and a bit too precise for my overstimulated brain. But I do have the opportunities to make something that can dazzle whoever is at my dinner table and always take advantage. When I entertain I use a lot of recipes that can be done ahead of time and this recipe fits that description. My mother is a fantastic baker and pastry master. She describes so many desserts she has made as "easy" yet I find myself in awe of the precision and skill that goes into it. She has shared a few gems with me that she knows I will use and are super easy to make. Like me, she likes to pull out all the stops, or at least make your guests feel that way. I made these beautiful, warm mini chocolate cakes for my anniversary and my husband loved it. I made it in less than 15 minutes earlier in the day, popped them in the oven while we were eating dinner and they were warm, delicious and oozing with chocolate goodness when we were done. These cakes have a soft center that is luscious and pairs fantastically with some good vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (as my mom would say, always make your own! heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, stabilizer, which can be found in the baking section in little packets; beat until stiff peaks form with a hand or standing mixer). Enjoy this dessert and know that it make you look like such a pastry all-star with little work to do!

Mini Soft Center Chocolate Cakes
Forks & Amusement 2010
makes 4 servings

1 stick (4 oz) butter, plus a little extra for buttering the molds
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. flour, plus a little extra for dusting molds
4 - 4oz ramekins, molds or custard cups (this size is kind of odd, I used 3 oz ramekins and you could for sure use 5oz as well, anywhere in this ball park)

Butter and lightly flour the ramekins, tapping out the excess flour and set aside.

Use a double boiler to heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. If you do not have a double boiler, you can simmer a few cups of water in a saucepan and place a mixing bowl over it.

While that is heating, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar together with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.

Beat melted chocolate and butter together ; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined. Divide batter among the molds.

At this point, you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat for up to several hours; bring them back to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake cakes on a baking sheet for 7 to 10 minutes until the sides are all set, but the center is quite soft. Invert molds onto a plate, let sit for 10 seconds, unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold, then lift the entire mold off the cake. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.



BBQ Asian Sea Bass

I have been experimenting with grilling fish all summer and it is not easy. You need to pick the right type of fish, marinade, cooking temperature and vessel. This Asian sea bass turned out fantastic and finally came off the grill perfectly cooked. I made some spaghetti squash and a simple Asian slaw, which I included prep for below. I have to give a shout out to my grill master, my husband, for continuing to try these recipes! I usually just throw some protein at him and tell him to write down what he did. He nailed this one and it was so yummy. This is also a great week day meal if you are looking for a little detox from a heavy weekend. With football season here, this is perfect to make after a weekend of beer and wings.

BBQ Asian Sea Bass
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 tablespoon chili garlic paste or hot sauce
2 scallions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
4 sea bass fillets, about 24 oz total (you could also use salmon or halibut for this as well)

Combine all of the ingredients, except the fish, in a bowl and whisk to combine well. Place fish fillets in a plastic resealable bag, pour marinade over the fish and seal up the bag. Massage the marinade into the fish gently, making sure to get it all over the fish. Refrigerate the fish for up to 2 hours and at least 30 minutes.

Heat grill to medium heat. Place a small saucepan over high heat. Take the fish out of the bag and pour the marinade into the pan. Bring to a boil and let reduce by half.

Meanwhile, place some aluminum foil over the grill and brush with oil. Place fillets skin side down on top of the foil and cook for 7 minutes or until you can see the sides of the fish begin to cook through. Flip the fillets and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

To serve, place a fillet on each plate and spoon the sauce over each fillet.

Serve with:

Spaghetti Squash:
Ingredients: spaghetti squash, olive oil, salt, pepper, ground cumin

Cut squash in half, spoon out the seeds. Place cut side up on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. With a fork, rake the squash strands away from the skin and place in a bowl. Toss with butter, ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Simple Asian Slaw
Ingredients: napa cabbage, carrots, red onion, cilantro, rice wine vinegar, light mayo or sour cream, lime, hot sauce, honey, sesame oil

Toss shredded napa cabbage, thinly sliced carrots, thinly sliced red onion and chopped cilantro in a bowl. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup light mayo or sour cream, juice of half a lime, hot sauce to taste, a little honey and splash of sesame seed oil. Combine dressing with slaw and serve cold.



Classy Quesadilla

Here is an easy appetizer everyone knows how to make, but classed up a bit. I got the inspiration from this in Cabo at the One & Only. Amazing restaurant and so many ideas to try at home, I am still trying them out months after my trip. This is such a simple idea, bringing a cheese course to the loveliness that is a quesadilla. This is perfect for an appetizer for a party or even a yummy lunch for yourself. I would make my apple slices a bit thicker next time, but other than that the assembly in the picture is exactly how I would repeat it. The picture is how I arranged everything before I placed the top tortilla on.

Brie & Apple Quesadilla with Chipolte Cream
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4 appetizers

1/4 c light sour cream

2 canned chipotle peppers, seeded, minced
tablespoon of adobo sauce from can of chipotle peppers
2 large flour tortillas
6 oz brie cheese, sliced
1/2 granny smith apple, sliced
1/2 handful of arugula

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, peppers and adobo sauce. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place one of the tortillas on the hot skillet. Arrange the cheese all over the tortilla, top the cheese with the apple slices and scatter the arugula over the apple. Apply the second tortilla on top. When cheese starts to melt and tortilla begins to toast, flip quesadilla and toast the other side. When done, all the cheese should be melted.

Remove quesadilla from pan. Cut in wedges and serve immediately with the chipolte cream.



Beet It

I made this simple beet and arugula salad last night that I would like to share. Now you might thinking "beets?" but, I swear you will love them. My Dad is visiting and has always been a fan, which has rubbed off on me. This is the kind of salad that you see on restaurant menus and that chefs love to make. I am telling you here that you can make it too in about 5 minutes. Beets are also super good for you and have a sweet taste that pairs great with a tart dressing and creamy feta. Give beets a chance! I promise you will like this! And let's not forget to point out what a pretty salad this is that could wow your family or guests with little effort.

Beet & Arugula Salad
Forks & Amusement 2010
Make as much as you need for your table!


sliced beets (you can use canned beets that are drained, I found bags of cooked beets in the produce section, or you can roast whole beets that have been peeled and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper until tender)

slivered red onion

crumbled feta (you can also use goat cheese)

vinaigrette (big spoonful of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, 5 tablespoons of olive oil all whisked together)

Scatter the arugula on a plate or platter. Gently place the slices of beets all around the plate and do the same with the onion. Sprinkle the feta on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette.



Super Simple Saucy Ribs

  • Hello everyone! I am back from a long stretch of being out of town and am excited to be back and cooking. I have not had too much time at home yet to plot out amazing recipes and complicated ingredients, but I was able to catch a rerun of the Martha show at the gym last week and saw this easy recipe for ribs. Most recipes for BBQ are long and have so many steps your head spins around, which can be intimidating. I have tried these recipes and while they are amazing, they are for those that have lots of extra time and patience on hand. I have not had either this week. I served the ribs with steamed artichokes and a Caprese salad (heirloom tomatoes chopped, diced fresh mozzarella, chopped basil, slivered red onions, drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper), which are not traditional BBQ fare, but I thought I would class the place up a bit.

  • EJ's Simple Oven-Barbecue Ribs
  • adapted from 2010
  • 4 servings

  • 2 racks baby back ribs
  • 6 tablespoons Emeril's Rib Rub spice blend (I used my own: 2 tbls sugar, 3 tbls salt, 1 tbls pepper, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tea onion powder, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp celery salt; you could use any variety of rib rub as well)
  • Emeril's Bam! B-Q Original Sweet Barbecue Sauce or other favorite barbecue sauce (I used the Bone Suckin' Sauce brand)
  • Preheat oven 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the pan twice. Line the aluminum foil with an equal sized piece of parchment paper. (You will be folding this over the ribs and sealing it.) Place ribs, meat side up, in an even layer on prepared baking sheet; set aside. Divide seasoning evenly between both slabs of ribs, coating well on each side. Fold the extra length of parchment paper-lined aluminum foil over ribs and seal tightly on all sides. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake until ribs are very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove baking sheet from oven. Peel back parchment paper-lined foil so that ribs are exposed. Using a basting brush or the back of a spoon, coat meat side of ribs lightly with barbecue sauce. Return ribs to oven, and bake, uncovered, until sauce is thickened and lightly browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove ribs from oven and let cool briefly. Cut between each rib and serve with additional barbecue sauce, if desired.

  • Enjoy!
  • xoxo
  • Erin
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