Wednesday, April 29, 2009

White Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies

My oldest daughter and I are kindred souls when it comes to cookies. We like cookies with white chocolate in them, My youngest daughter and my husband will pretty much eat any kind of cookie, simply because it's a cookie.

This is a basic cookie dough recipe and so very simple. This dough can be used to make drop cookies immediately, OR it can be refrigerated or frozen in logs of dough, ready to slice and bake whenever you have the craving for something sweet.

2 sticks melted butter
1 Cup sugar
¾ Cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand or electric mixer, beat melted butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Slowly beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Place dry ingredients into a large bowl; stir to combine then add slowly to wet ingredients. Fold in the chips and the nuts. With a cookie scoop or teaspoon, spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Who wouldn't think you're sweet for making these sweets?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Summertime Pasta Salad and Awards

Isn't this a beautiful pasta salad? I started making this way before I ever married A.J. Well, not way before, but right after we became engaged.

This salad is fantastic for picnics and outdoor entertaining. It hardly takes anytime to make and is best made the day before you plan on serving it.
Your family and your guests will gorge themselves on this.
1 16 oz. package of tri-color rotini
1 medium size red onion, diced
1 small can of sliced black olives
1 package of pepperoni
1 small bottle (approx 6 oz.) Wishbone Italian Salad Dressing
Cook pasta for approximately 12 minutes and drain. While pasta is cooking chop onion and drain black olives. (Note: You can also add raw broccoli or cauliflower florets) Add all ingredients excpet salad dressing into a large bowl. Pour salad dressing over pasta and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate over night.
Now on to the awards...

The Renee Award is one of the most meaningful awards in blog world because it honors someone who is incredibly inspirational in her intelligent and witty writing. And by doing so, this award celebrates women's smart, strong and inspirational spirit! It honors women who spread joy and love like an Acorn......a small package growing into a tall and sturdy oak tree which gives more acorns..............

Carol from The Writer's Porch gave me this award and I am very honored that she thought of me. I am passing this award on the following friends who fit the bill for receiving it also!

Debbie from Suburb Sanity who I had the privilege of having lunch with last Friday.
The Blond Duck from a Duck in Her Pond
Gigi from Afterthoughts
Sophia from Burp and Slurp
Gladys from Gladys Tells All

Ladies you all make blogging for me a funny, enjoyable and delightful learning experience! Enjoy and pass her on!

Bytes from Texas: One Long Horns Adventures , awarded me the Premio Meme Award. I'm supposed to list seven things about me and pass it on to seven other bloggers who will share seven thoings about themselves. This is probably more than you will ever want to know about me, so here goes.

1. I am passionate. Doesn't that sound so much better the obsessive compulsive? When I start something, like this blog, I throw my heart and soul into it.

2. Happy - I am generally an even keel type of person and try to keep everything as upbeat as possible. I love to laugh and kid around.

3. Love to read. Generally i am fond of Southern authors but i'll read just about anything is someone tells me it's a must read.

4. I don't like to be kept waiting and I get really aggravated with myself when I'm late which has happened a lot since we moved here because I am always lost.

5. I love to talk and just hang out with my girls. I don't have a sister so I live vicariously through them sometimes, I think.

6. Outside, I just love to be outside when the weather is nice. Although we don't get to do it very often, I love to go exploring in the Smoky Mountain National Park. There's so much history there. So many settlements where people were forced to leave by the government, but the history and the stories are still there.

7. Learning about other cultures fascinates me.

This meme is being passed on to

Mary from My New 30

Annette from Netts Nook

Mary from One Perfect Bite

Kathy from Three on Food

Cheryl from Cooking, Dunkin Style

Ginger from Once Upon A Gourmet Gin

Pearl from A Sweet Pearl

Monday, April 27, 2009

Banana Pudding

Aren't blooming dogwood trees just beautiful?
Original recipe adapted from Paula Deen.
I’ve never been a big a huge banana pudding fan. It wasn’t in my mother’s rotation of recipes growing up, so the only other exposure I’d had to the dish was the occasional trip to a cafeteria-style restaurant or at a friend's home.
I pretty much didn't even think of banana pudding. This is one of those retro dishes that is back in vogue and just kind of taken up a few more notches to top shelf.

One day a co-worker brought this banana pudding to the office, one she’d seen Paula Deen make on her television show; once I took my first bite, I knew just what I’d been missing. Suddenly, everything made sense.

Line a 9x13 pan with Nilla Wafers.

Slice up 3 or 4 bananas and layer the banana slices over the Nilla Wafers.

In a large bowl, prepare one large box or two small boxes of French Vanilla instant pudding per package directions. Using a hand mixer combine into the pudding one 8 oz. package of softened cream cheese and one 14 ounce can of condensed milk. Then fold in one 12 ounce container of whipped topping.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours so pudding can set.

And serve. I know you'll love this recipe, because you’ve just made the best banana pudding. Ever.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Barbecue Shrimp Deaux

Please don't think of lots of butter and oil and a big greasy mess baked on a pan in the oven when you think of real New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp.
When I first began this blog, I posted a traditional New Orleans and my favorite BBQ Shrimp recipe. Try it, you won't be able to get enough of it!
I came across this recipe from a restaurant in New Orleans called Michaud's. The method for this recipe was a completely different I was intrigued.
A.J. and I can handle a lot of heat but Michaud's recipe was ridiculous. Neither one of us really enjoyed it much. We both love shrimp and couldn't enjoy the taste of the shrimp because of the large amount of cayenne. Not to mention, I had chopped a lot of vegetables and herbs and we couldn't taste them either.
This was typical of touristy restaurants or restaurants outside of Southeast Louisiana; their dishes have no flavor other than cayenne and olive oil. This isn't what REAL Cajun or Creole cooking is about. Cajun and Creole cooking is about loads of flavor hitting your palette in different spots at different times with a little bit of heat in the background. It's about food being so good you want to get up and sing and dance about it. It's also about not having heart burn after you eat it.
We went back to the test kitchens, tweaked and tasted, now it's right.
Barbecue Shrimp Deaux -

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups diced onion
2 cups diced bell pepper
2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
4 teaspoons fresh basil leaves
4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. medium size peeled shrimp
2 cups white wine
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 teaspoons sugar
2 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, parsley, garlic, basil, thyme, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. Saute until onions have wilted and mushrooms begin to brown. Add shrimp. Take a whiff, close your eyes and know you are gonna have some good dinner tonight!
Cook until shrimp are cooked about halfway, and then add wine, lemon juice, salt, and sugar; cook until shrimp turn opaque and are cooked through. Lower heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes so all of the flavors can combine.
Add scallions, stir to combine, and serve immediately over fluffy white rice. Close your eyes and sigh, Barbecue Shrimp accepts all people.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Buitoni Pasta

Friday afternoon I was very excited to find a box on my front porch from Foodbuzz.
The box contained a package of Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti pasta filled with, are you ready for this, imported Grana Padano and Parmesan cheese and Portabello and Crimini mushrooms....drool! All pastas are not created equal. Did you know this? This Wild Mushroom Agnolotti has such an unfair advantage. There are just some types of pasta that I prefer over others. Who wouldn't love little pasta pillows stuffed with mushrooms? I’ve decided that I LOVE this pasta. The edges are soft and tender, while the center is creamy and full of flavor and retains a nice bite.

Anyway, I came up with this cheesy, creamy pasta side dish and it complimented the pasta so well. Even A.J. was groaning as he was eating. I love it when that happens.

Saute 2 finely chopped shallots over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for about 2 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup of dry white wine and 1 teaspoon of Herbs de Provence, stir to combine.
Add 1/2 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and continue stirring.
Add a dash of white pepper to taste. The sauce didn't seem to need any salt, but taste and adjust salt and pepper to your taste. Lower heat to medium-low.
While sauce is warming, cook pasta per package directions.
Toss cooked and drained pasta in sauce and serve.
And, oh! Don’t forget to top it off with a little more grated Pecorino Romano cheese and to eat every last bite in the bowl. And go ahead and groan…I love when that happens!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grilled Salmon

When it comes to cooking, most often, simple is best. This is simple and it’s the best. I used to be so intimidated when it came to cooking fish. That probably seems pretty strange coming from a girl raised on the Gulf Coast. Although we didn't cook a lot of salmon, I loved to order it in restaurants. I could only imagine myself preparing this delicious fish in my own kitchen or grill. Salmon just seemed so mysterious…so complicated…so easy to mess up.

And then I got brave and cooked this. Not only was I pleasantly surprised to find the salmon easy, I found I could get the same great taste or even a better taste at home.

I started out with these two salmon steaks.

Season with McCormick's Montreal Grill Seasoning. I love the taste of the fennel seed in this seasoning. It compliments the salmon as well as the great flavoring from the grill. Then give them a little squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Place the salmon on a grilling sheet or foil pan and place on a screaming hot grill. The grill sheet/ foil pan prevents the fish from sticking and tearing on the grates even if you sprayed them with non-stick cooking/grill spray. Cook approximately 3 minutes per side.

This mouthwatering treat will melt in your mouth. Try it yourself, I dare you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

POM Wonderful Pork Tenderloin

Oh my goodness am I ever in love with pork tenderloin! I was a lucky recipient of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice. We are officially hooked! A few of my blogging buddies have received the POM Wonderful juice too and have posted some very clever and tasty dishes, desserts and beverages incorporating POM Wonderful. Just goes to show that not only is this juice a real thirst quencher, it's a tasty addition to so many meals.
A pomegranate reduction sauce was made using the POM wonderful juice. The reduction sauce was used as part of a delicious marinade for pork tenderloin.
In a small sauce pan add one 8 ounce bottle of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup of water, 1-1.2 teaspoons of orange zest and 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice. Bring liquid to a boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes to reduce. Remove pan from burner and allow to come to room temperature.
In a medium size bowl, blend together 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and POM reduction. One thoroughly blended, whisk in 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and set aside. Place two pork tenderloins into a one gallon re-sealable bag and pour marinade over pork. Seal bag and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning the bag every hour or so.

Place pork tenderloins in a roasting pan (or grill) and cook in a pre-heated 425 degree oven until meat has reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees F (approximately 30 minutes). Baste meat every 10 minutes or so.

Allow meat to resat for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Before long you'll be in love with pork tenderloin too. This is the stuff that makes parents proud!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

This Chicken Cacciatore recipe was originally adapted from Giada DeLaurentis and has been morphed so many times. Each time it just gets better and better, it's one of my favorites. It is very easy to prepare, the chicken is cooked quickly in olive oil, then removed from the pan. Then a simple sauce is prepared in the same pan, the chicken simmers in this delectable sauce, and eventually ladled over al dente penne. I am continually amazed that such a simple combination of ingredients can result in a dish that tastes so special. The best thing about it? A.J. and the homegirlz love this dish, I love this dish. The smiles, happiness and harmony is almost too much to take.

Let’s make it and we’ll see if the same thing happens to your house!

Remember our discussion a while back about why do the grocery stores put only 3 boneless,skinless chicken breasts in a pack? I took your advice and sliced them in half to make a thinner piece if meat. This works out well, since none of us can eat a whole chicken breast.
Seasons the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. You will probably have to do this in batches and possible add a little more olive oil. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add 1/2 of a chopped bell pepper, 1 medium onion, chopped and saute for about 2 minutes, then add 5 cloves of finely chopped garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat for another 3 minutes, until the onion is tender. the smell is indescribably amazing! Season with salt and pepper.
Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
Meet my little friend, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto! It's on the spaghetti sauce aisle.
Add the whole jar of Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, 1 - 8 ounce can of tomato sauce, 3/4 cup of chicken broth, 3 tablespoons of drained capers and 1-1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano.
Return the chicken to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with freshly chopped basil and grated Percorino Romano.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

White Chocolate Mousse

My eldest child turned 15 on Easter Sunday. Yes, I know I don't look like I could possibly have a child THAT old. Ha! She's a beautiful girl, very spiritual, a honor student, a natural athlete and I think most of you know the pickiest eater I have ever seen.

When she was three, she told the Easter Bunny in no uncertain terms, she wanted a white chocolate bunny and not a brown one. How many small children ask for white chocolate? This child just loves white chocolate and who am I to argue, I prefer it over milk chocolate hands down.

Since I couldn't make her a cake, I made her one of her favorite desserts. Oh baby, she will clean the bathroom AND fold laundry if I make this for her. It was her birthday, what's a Mom to do?

Chop up 6 ounces of white chocolate and put it in a large heat-safe bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together 2 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar, until the color has slightly lightened. Warning, this is a workout. You won't want to dirty up the Kitchenaid just yet for this.
Heat 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream on medium-high heat, in a small pot just until it started to scald and remove it from the heat. SLOWLY pour cream into egg/sugar mixture and whisk/temper. Pour this mixture back into the pot and stir until mixture has thickened and coats the spoon.

Pour the cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer over the chocolate. Stir the chocolate and the cream mixture until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth.

Whip one cup of heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks are formed. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate; you will feel the texture lighten quite a bit. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream.

Spoon into four bowls and chill for a couple of hours so mousse will set.

Let them eat cake, I'm eating this!