Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking

September 30, 2009

Easy Appetizer: Goat Cheese with Marinara Sauce

Filed under: Uncategorized — Emily @ 8:49 am

My mom always has great ideas for quick and easy appetizers. At my parents cabin in Michigan, they usually have appetizers and drinks down by the lake at sunset. After spending some time in Michigan with my parents over Labor Day, I picked up some great ideas for new appetizers. None of these are real “recipes”, but I thought I’d share the ideas with you all.  This appetizer is the easiest thing to make–but it is still sophisticated.

Goat Cheese with Marinara Sauce

1 log of plain (not herbed) goat cheese

1 jar of good quality marinara sauce

Pour some of the marinara sauce in a shallow microwavable baking dish. Place the log of goat cheese on top and heat in microwave or oven until goat cheese/sauce is warmed–but don’t let it melt!

Serve with bite size crostinis or crackers.


September 28, 2009

Sour Cream Rice

Filed under: mexican, rice, side dish — Emily @ 8:30 am

I am often guilty of spending too much time focusing on the main dish that I tend to neglect the sides. I never make side dishes with more than 1 or 2 ingredients. However, this is a side dish that I generally have all the ingredients on hand and it is easy to throw together. This rice was so delicious with the creamy salsa chicken that I made. I will definitely be making this one again.

Sour Cream Rice

  • 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.

In the pot with the cooked rice, mix the sour cream, green chile peppers, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Source: Carrie’s Sweet Life

September 26, 2009

Creamy Salsa Chicken

Filed under: chicken, main dish, mexican — Emily @ 8:03 pm

Earlier this week I was trying to find a dinner that would be quick, easy and satisfying. I posted an inquiry on one of the cooking message boards that I frequent and one of the girls posted this recipe for me to try. It was delicious! I will definitely be adding this into my repertoire of regular meals. The original recipe comes from Rick Bayless–a chef I happen to adore. Not only does he cook one of my favorite cuisines (Mexican), but he is also from Chicago! You are definitely going to want to try out this dish.

Creamy Salsa Chicken

6 large boned, skinless chicken breast halves

1 16-oz. jar of chunky salsa

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro and queso fresco, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brown in a skillet for 30-45 seconds per side. Brush the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with a little oil;  place the chicken breasts in one layer in the pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cream and salsa; spoon salsa mixture over the chicken (I cut the chicken into pieces, but you don’t have to do this.)

Bake on the bottom shelf for 30 minutes.

Top with cilantro and crumbled queso fresco, if desired.

Source: Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations

I served this with some delicious sour cream rice–will share that recipe soon!

September 15, 2009

Beer Baked Beans

Filed under: bacon, make ahead, pork, side dish — Emily @ 8:30 am

These are some of the greatest baked beans I have ever tasted. The beer adds such a great flavor! And they are really easy to throw together. A perfect addition to a barbecue or pot luck. They are easily reheated as well so they can be made ahead.

Beer Baked Beans

6 bacon slices

1 1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

3/4 cup dark beer (this *makes* the dish–don’t leave it out!)

1/4 cup molasses

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

4-6 teaspoons chipotles

6 15-16 oz. cans beans (Great Northern or cannellini beans)

Cook bacon to your liking and drain off fat. Cut bacon into pieces and set aside. Cook onion in a little of the bacon grease until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients (including the cooked bacon and onion) in an ovenproof dish and cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Source: Epicurious

September 14, 2009

Mel’s Peanut Butter Layered Dessert

Filed under: dessert, peanut butter — Emily @ 8:13 am

I had this dessert a few weeks ago at a reunion for our team that went to the Dominican Republic in July. My friend and co-worker Melissa made this dessert and it was so delicious! And incredibly easy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t photograph well, but you get the idea. I’ve made desserts similar to this before, but never exactly the same combo. It definitely works. I served this at a picnic recently and there were probably 20 different dessert choices—this was the only one that was gone at the end of the night.

Mel’s Peanut Butter Layered Dessert

1st layer:

1 package oreo cookies (crushed)–I used the food processor

3/4 stick butter (melted)

Mix together and press into a 9×13 inch pan

2nd layer:

3/4 cup peanut butter

1 cup powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese

8 oz. cool whip

Mix all these ingredients together (I used a stand mixer and made sure they were all softened) and put on top of the oreo crust.

3rd layer:

1 large package instant chocolate pudding mix

2 cups milk

Mix together and let sit for a minute to harden. Put this layer on top of the last one.

4th layer:

8 oz. cool whip

Top with this and then add crushed candy bars. I used Butterfingers in this recipe but you can also use Reese’s, Snickers, Heath bars—anything that sounds good to you!

Source: my friend Melissa

September 11, 2009

Polynesian Volcanoes

Filed under: chicken, main dish — Emily @ 8:30 am

This is a really interesting dish. I was a little skeptical when my friend told me about this recipe—but I promise, it is really fantastic! It is a fun meal to make with kids and is relatively inexpensive. You can tailor the ingredients to your liking, but do the chicken broth! I promise it is worth it!

Polynesian Volcanoes

Chicken grilled with teriyaki sauce

White rice

Diced pineapple

Chow Mein noodles

Diced green onions

Toasted coconut flakes

Sliced almonds

Shredded cheddar cheese

Pile all the toppings together like this:

Then, take the heated chicken broth and pour over the top–which will melt the cheese.

Very tasty and quick!

Source: my friend Autumn

September 10, 2009

Lobster Pot Pie

Filed under: main dish, seafood — Emily @ 10:00 am

My family has a tradition of making lobster for Christmas Eve dinner. Pretty non-traditional, but it’s a nice change from the meat and potatoes Christmas dinner that we eat the next day. We turned to this recipe one year after having some lobster leftovers. This recipe is decadent–and totally to die for! It is SO unbelievable good. Excuse this picture—it’s not the best, I had to take it quickly with my crappy camera.

Lobster Pot Pie

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fennel (1 fennel bulb)
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups fish stock or clam juice
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3/4 pound cooked fresh lobster meat
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas (not “baby” peas)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons cold fresh lard, diced (1/4 pound)
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or heavy cream, for egg wash


Saute the onions and fennel with the butter in a large saute pan on medium heat until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour and cook on low heat for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, salt, and pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the heavy cream.

Cut the lobster meat into medium-sized cubes. Place the lobster, frozen peas, frozen onions, and parsley in a bowl (there is no need to defrost the vegetables). Pour the sauce over the mixture and check the seasonings. Set aside.

For the crust, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the lard and butter and pulse 10 times, until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out on a floured surface and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the dough in half and roll out each half to fit a 9 or 9 1/2-inch round by 2-inch high ovenproof glass or ceramic baking dish. Place 1 crust in the dish, fill with the lobster mixture, and top with the second crust. Crimp the crusts together and brush with the egg wash. Make 4 or 5 slashes in the top crust and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Source: Ina Garten

September 9, 2009

Moist Banana Cake

Filed under: cake, dessert — Emily @ 8:15 am

My parents have a lake house in Michigan (about 2 hours from Chicago, where they live). There are only 22 homes in the gated community, so everyone is very close. My mom has a little 8-year-old boy, J.P, and his little brothers who just adore her. They actually cook together frequently. Once he and his little brother were invited to have dinner and a movie at my mom’s house. They showed up with collared shirts, slicked back hair and flowers for her. How cute is that? This cake is a recipe from their grandmother. The only modification that I made was to add cream cheese to the frosting–which was definitely a delicious addition! Excuse the picture–I had to take it in a hurry before the hoards descended on it!

Moist Banana Cake

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup banana pulp

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups cake flour (or 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour)

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time. Add banana pulp and mix until combined. Dissolve baking soda in water and add to sour cream. Sift baking powder with flour and add alternatively with sour cream mixture.

Bake in a 9×13-inch pan for 35 minutes or until dark.


1 cup milk

1/4 cup flour

1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 ounces cream cheese

Combine milk and flour and cook until it boils. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool.

Cream butter with sifted powdered sugar. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Finally, add cooked milk mixture with the cream cheese and beat until smooth.

Source: a family friend

Mom and 4-year-old Kellen

September 7, 2009

Basic Risotto

Filed under: main dish, side dish, vegetarian — Emily @ 8:35 am

A few months ago I had the privilege of seeing Giada De Laurentiis speak at UCLA at the L.A Times Festival of Books. She was just as cute and bubbly in person as she is on TV! She brought her daughter and husband up on stage as well—what a cute family! I went home and opened up her cookbook that had been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I decided to try this risotto recipe and this led to a week-long kick of making tons of different types of risotto! While risotto does require you to be attentive and stand by the stove for awhile, it is very easy and really versatile. You can add just about anything to it! This is a basic risotto recipe which serves as a building block. I added thawed frozen peas and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Basic Risotto

Serves 6 (as a side dish)

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup finely chopped onion (from 1 onion)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and the salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Add-in Ideas:

prosciutto, vegetables such as peas, seafood such as shrimp, or herbs and other seasonings such as saffron. Don’t cook these items with the rice or they will overcook with the long cooking time. Instead, cook them separately and add them in at the end.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

And here are a few pictures of Giada at her talk. She even walked past me and said hello before she went on stage. The moderator for the event was Barbara Fairchild, who is the editor of Bon Appetit Magazine—and was also a friend of Julia Childs.

September 4, 2009

Asparagus with Hollandaise

Filed under: sauce, side dish, vegetables — Emily @ 8:25 am

Hollandaise sauce was one of the “top secret” recipes that Julia Child’s sent to her American friends. It is a quintessential French sauce. Traditionally, it must be made at the last minute.  However, utilizing the blender, this Hollandaise may be made up to an hour in advance, which gives you plenty of time to polish your pearls before your guests arrive! This sauce will also be great with broccoli or brussel sprouts

Asparagus with Hollandaise

Serves 6 to 8

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pinches of cayenne pepper

3 pounds fresh asparagus

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and cayenne in the jar of a blender. Blend for 15 seconds. With the blender on, slowly pour the hot butter into the blender and blend for 30 seconds, until the sauce is thick. (You can leave it in the blender at room temperature for up to 1 hour. If it is made in advance, add 1 tablespoon of hot tap water and blend for a few seconds before serving.)

Remove the tough bottoms of the asparagus stalks (thick asparagus have much more flavor than the thin asparagus). Peel the stems halfway up the stalk if the asparagus is thick. Blanch the asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on their thickness, until cooked through but still al dente. Remove to a platter with tongs or a wire skimmer and sprinkle with salt.

Pour the hollandaise sauce over the warm asparagus and serve.

Source: Ina Garten

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at