Monday, July 30, 2012


Some of my recipes are just that: recipes.  Most of my recipes have a story, simply because food is tied to an event.  Or a person.  Or a place.  And very few of my recipes involve drama.  Drama just ain't me, y'all.

But this recipe is an exception to the drama rule.  Get ready.  And go chop some tomatoes because you're going to want to make this bruschetta faster than you can say white water rafting.

Once upon a time, I went white water rafting.  For seven days.  I slept in a tent.  I didn't shower.  (It was a for-real camping trip.)  Middle Fork of the Salmon River (that's in Idaho, y'all).

The first night, our guides put out a big bowl of this bruschetta for us to nosh on while they prepped our gourmet meal.  (You would not believe what river guides can prepare for dinner from a raft.  Amazing.)

The vinaigrette: sun-dried tomato pesto, garlic, white wine vinegar and olive oil.
It was one of the best things I had eaten to date.  Ever.

The bruschetta is the sole reason I bought this cookbook:

The first six days of our no-showers, sleep-in-a-tent, ride down a very large, cold, rushing river in a not-so-large raft were fun.  The river was an adventure.  

And then I almost died on the seventh day of the trip.

I have never forgotten this bruschetta and I make it every summer to pay homage to the trip where my raft flipped over in the middle of a class-five rapid and I swam to the next raft where I was yanked in by my life jacket only for that raft to flip in another class-five rapid in 45-degree water before swimming towards and clinging to a sheer rock wall by my fingertips while I prayed for my life and hoped the last company raft down the river might look over and spot my desperate soul.

That really happened.

And obviously I was rescued by another boat or I wouldn't be writing this.  And obviously I was reunited with my husband, who I lost in the middle of a rapid, because we're married and have made three babies since that trip down the Salmon River.

I'm not sure I could have fared so well on the river had my brother not given me a crash-course in swimming ridiculous rapids while in an itsy bitsy little yellow raft called a "duckie" (which is actually just an inflatable kayak) while he (my brother, in his real kayak, paddling next to me) kayaked the Arkansas River (that's in Colorado, y'all).

Thanks to my brother, my life was never dull.  Or safe.

But that was years ago.  Pre-children.  I hardly remember anything from that part of my life.  Strange, since I've only had children for four years.

I'm glad that I can make this bruschetta at home.  And that I don't have to swim any rapids to get it.

Oh, and somewhere in the Salmon River is my right river sandal.  I'd like it back now.

Adapted from Rapid Gourmet Cookbook

4-5 heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced (I like to use garden-fresh tomatoes; nothing compares to their flavor)
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

2 T olive oil
1 T sundried tomato pesto
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 T white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Pita chips or baguette, for serving

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a bowl.  Add the tomatoes, basil and feta.  Toss to coat.  Serve immediately with pita chips or sliced baguette.

If using the baguette, slice it thinly on an angle, brush with either olive oil or butter and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Put it under the broiler for just a couple minutes until golden brown.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Cake

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm being weird.

Not just today, but for several days in a row now.

I can hardly hold my eyes open all morning.  But then, as soon as I put my children down (one for a nap; one for "rest time"), I have boundless energy and ideas of things that I must get done before Baby Bear comes.

So today?

I baked a cake.

Yes, that absolutely needed to happen before the baby comes.

I know.

I'm sure there's a name somewhere for this type of behavior.  Oh, that's right!  There sure is.  It's called the final weeks of pregnancy.

Yes, that's definitely it.

I explained my blueberry excess here.  This is merely Installment #2 of said blueberry excess.

If there's one thing better than blueberry muffins, it's blueberry cake!

This is not my original recipe (I know you're shocked).  I found it on the internet (somewhere, somehow...I don't even know) and adapted it (very slightly) to suit my purpose.

All that to say...I'm not taking credit for its invention.  Only that I made it, took pictures of myself making it, and then I ate it.

I would love to tell you how good and moist this cake is, but my mouth is full.

And it's just not polite to talk with your mouth full.

You'll have to excuse me now.  My children just woke up/finished with their nap/rest time.  And now I need a nap.

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Cake
Adapted from a recipe I found on the internet

18.25 oz. yellow cake mix
4 eggs
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 lemon juice (I used 1 1/2 lemons)
3 oz. box instant lemon pudding mix
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Place all ingredients except for the blueberries into a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Stop mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl well.  Turn the mixer on medium-high and beat for 1 1/2 minutes.  Fold the blueberries in carefully with a spatula.

Pour batter into a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 38-40 minutes.  Please don't overbake, or the cake will be dry instead of moist.  Cake should always be moist.  Cool completely before slicing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Roasted Broccoli

I really like broccoli.

And I really love it roasted.

When you roast veggies, they shrink to nothing.  So you'll need to make more than you think you need!

When it comes out of the oven, hit it with lemon, Parmesan and pine nuts.

You'll be glad you did.

Roasted Broccoli
Inspired by Barefoot Contessa

2 heads broccoli, about 1 1/2 lbs
2 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 T pine nuts, toasted

Trim the florets from the broccoli stalk, discarding the stalk.  In a baking dish (I use a 9x13), toss the florets with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until the broccoli is tender.

Squeeze the lemon over the roasted broccoli as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Top with the Parmesan and pine nuts.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pesto-Stuffed Grilled Chicken Breasts

We finally got a Trader Joe's!

I was excited.  I'm not sure why I was so happy, knowing virtually nothing about TJ's except the stir it created here in Lexington.

So I followed the masses and went!  It was fun.

My husband went with me and he was totally (not) into TJ's.  But he was sweet to go with me.  So he checked Twitter on his smart phone.  Just in case there was some update on UK basketball since the last time he checked.  90 seconds ago.

I don't have a smart phone.  I'm good with that, since my children break most nice things that I (used to) own anyway.  I don't need to check Twitter, anyway.  My husband does that for me and updates me on anything I need to know.

It works for us.

I bought some honey-sesame-covered almonds that my husband and I devoured.

And I bought some whole milk, since we (translate: our two little girls) drink about 3 gallons/week.  (I can't bring myself to drink whole milk.  It tastes like heavy cream to me.  In that case, you'd think I would like it.)

On that note, I guess we'll have to buy a second fridge to house our milk once Baby Bear drinks from a cow instead of his mama.

Or maybe we'll just buy the cow.

Wonder what the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government would have to say about that.

Anyway, I did notice that TJ's price on pine nuts was far better than the grocery's.  Not quite as good as Sam's, but good nonetheless.

And that brings me to this recipe.  Rough transition?  I know.  I'm having a contraction.


So here's what you do.

Make a mixture of pesto, feta and pine nuts.

Make a pocket in your chicken - but don't slice them all the way through.

Stuff chicken.

Grill chicken.


Anyone have any suggestions for what to get at TJ's besides milk and almonds?

Pesto-Stuffed Grilled Chicken Breasts

4 T crumbled feta cheese
2 T pesto
2 T pine nuts
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Stir together the feta, pesto and pine nuts in a bowl.

Using a serrated knife, slice the side of the chicken to make a pocket.  Be sure not to slice all the way through the chicken.  Stuff the feta mixture into the pockets.  You will have about 2 tablespoons of filling for each chicken breast.

Rub the outsides of the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.  Grill for about 5 minutes on each side, until reached the desired doneness.  Flip these only once, because you will lose filling if you flip them too often.  These can also be easily roasted in the oven if you choose not to grill.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Chicken Tetrazzini

I have a confession.  I wrote this recipe in church.  I trying to listen to the sermon, but I was incredibly distracted by the flashing numbers.  You know what to what I'm referring - the ones that silently scream "COME GET YOUR SCREAMING KID FROM THE NURSERY!"

That's what the number says to me, anyway.

When the same number comes up more than twice, I get tense.  I make my (poor) husband check (and re-check) our number just to be sure that isn't our kid falling apart in their Sunday school class.

I can't stand the thought of my babies (read: toddler and preschooler) crying for mama in the nursery and me not knowing it.

I'm totally the parent I always swore I wouldn't be.  You know the type.  The kind that cries when their kid goes to kindergarten.  I can tear up just thinking about it, and it's over a year away.  Speaking of, let's change the subject before I can't go on any longer.

I used to roll my eyes at parents like me.  I used to scoff at parents like me.

I've had to eat a lot of words since I became a parent.  And I'm okay with that.

ANYHOO, since I was already having a hard time concentrating, I jotted down this recipe on the back of the bulletin.  And then I came home and tested it.  And we pretty much demolished it then and there.

So it's no secret that we love Chicken Tetrazzini in this house.  I mean love.  Like, almost as much as we love our kids.  I've already shown you my usual go-to recipe, but I wanted to make one with a homemade sauce.

Not that I have one thing against a can of condensed-anything soup.  Because I totally don't.  I just wanted something different, that's all.

And the truth is...our kids' numbers have never flashed in church.  Apparently, despite my sentimental neuroses, we have managed to raise independent, self-sufficient kids (so far, anyway).  Who knew.

Homemade Chicken Tetrazzini

1 lb. vermicelli, cooked according to al dente package directions (I cooked mine for exactly 5 minutes)
4 T (1/2 stick) butter
1 onion, diced
3/4 cup finely diced celery (about 2 large ribs)
8 oz. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 T flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups whole milk
8 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 T black pepper
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup Parmesan cheese
4 cups (1 lb) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a large skillet.  Saute the onion, celery and mushrooms until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Add the salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Incorporate the chicken stock and milk.  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Add the cream cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate.  (You may need to use a whisk to get the lumps out of the cream cheese.)  

Add the cooked pasta and chicken to the sauce.  Stir to incorporate, but stir gently so that the pasta does not break.

Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  (You can also use two 8x8 pans.  I did this and froze one.  Worked great.)  Spread the mixture evenly in the dish.  Top with the cheddar cheese.  Bake on 350 for about 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Where is my maid when I need her?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

Blueberries were practically free at the grocery this week.  Have I mentioned lately that I love summer?

So I bought my two-year-old's weight in them.

She's a solid two-year-old, too.

And since one family can only eat so many handfuls of blueberries, I needed something else to do with them.

Enter Pioneer Woman's blueberry muffins.

Now, I make blueberry muffins.  They are little gems.  Treasures.  Perfect little bites.

But this time I needed a normal muffin.  A sturdy one.  I'm growing a sturdy boy, after all.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

So I came up with my version of Pioneer Woman's blueberry muffins.

The yogurt makes these muffins insanely good, and totally different from my baby blueberry muffins.  The texture is just wonderful (think cake), and the yogurt adds a yummy tang.

Which is exactly what I was going for.

The only thing that's the same as my baby blues is the sugar topping:

Here's the turbinado sugar.  I think "turbinado" is code for "raw," which just means that the sugar is brownish instead of white and the crystals are much larger and rustic-looking.

I just love rustic sugar.

I lost this bag of turbinado sugar in our move last year.

Precisely how does one lose a bag of sugar in a move, you may ask.  I don't know either.

But the good news is that I found it!

This ice cream scoop makes my life complete.

Whew.  It was right in my pantry.  Where I apparently put it.

I know you're as relieved as I was.  That's what friends are for.

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Makes about 12-14 muffins

2 3/4 cups plus 2 T flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (not fat-free)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 T turbinado sugar

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, soda, powder, salt and sugar.  In another bowl, whisk together the oil, egg, vanilla and yogurt.  Add the wet ingredients and the blueberries and lemon zest to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to stir until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into greased muffin tins.  Sprinkle turbinado sugar on the top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 18-20 minutes until just done.  I will hurt you if you overbake these muffins.  And serve with butter, of course.