Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Crock Pot Whole Chicken

Yesterday I posted one of my favorite comfort foods which I hope you have a chance to try soon!  Another favorite food of mine is chicken.  Oh I know how borrrrrring!  Well that may be true if you are in a rut.  But if you keep changing your chicken recipes and plan ahead just a tad, you’ll be able to get 2 meals from one chicken, have your own stock and take it easy on chicken dinner night number two!

I'm talking basic whole bird crock pot chicken; so easy and you'll be able to have chicken soup, chicken salad or even chicken tacos the next day!  Seriously, your prep for the crock pot chicken is maybe ten minutes and you don’t have to look at it again for 7-8 hours.  I’ve got to tell you how perfect this is for those days when the kids have after school activities and you are the chauffeur!

I’ve organized a zucchini tomato gratin and oven roasted new potatoes to go along with the crock pot chicken. 
The gratin is double sized so that I can use the veggies in a frittata or country omelet giving me another super quick and easy dinner!

Ingredients for Crock Pot Chicken:

1 3-4 pound chicken

½ lemon

Fresh herbs: rosemary and parsley 2 branches each, fresh thyme and oregano 6 stems each (these amounts are very flexible; sometimes my herbs are abundant and I use more sometimes I need to stretch them a bit)

1 tablespoon salt

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Take the whole chicken and wipe it dry with paper towels.  I do not wash the chicken because of the chance of contaminating your kitchen with small splatters.  Any bacteria will be eliminated in the cooking process.

Stuff the cavity with 1/2 lemon and ½ of your fresh herbs. Rub chicken with olive oil and salt, place in crock pot on low for 7-8 hours.

Remove from crock pot to platter and serve with zucchini/tomato gratin and rosemary roasted potatoes.  Both dishes can be baked at the same time and are super easy to put together.

Ingredients for the gratin:

3 zucchini

1 onion

3 tomatoes

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup grated parmesan

½ cup vegetable or chicken broth

2 cloves garlic

4 T. butter melted


Slice the zucchini, onions and tomatoes

Chop the garlic very fine

Layer a baking pan with the onions, zucchini and tomatoes.

Pour the stock over the veggies

Sprinkle with the garlic, cheese and bread crumbs in that order

Top with the butter

Bake for 45 minutes in preheated 400 degree oven

How to use the bones (leftover carcass) for chicken stock or soup.

After dinner, remove all the meat from the bones (and skin if your family does not eat it) and return the bones (and skin) to the crock pot along with 1 each: onion quartered, carrot peeled and rough chopped and one stalk celery rough chopped, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper plus 5-6 cups water. 

Cook on low overnight and you have a lovely chicken stock ready when you wake up.

Pour the stock through a strainer and discard the veggies. 

Chill in the fridge until you get home from work or the fat has risen to the top and solidified.

Remove fat and discard.

From here you can add finely chopped veggies (carrots, beans, onion, zucchini) uncooked rice or potatoes for the starch and any remaining chicken meat.

Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the veggies are cooked (the smaller you chop your fresh veggies the faster this soup will be ready) and serve with crusty country bread slices topped with grated cheese that has been melted under the broiler.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ligurian Pasta Pesto

Comfort Food; it certainly means something different to every person.  Over the years my comfort foods have changed considerably!  I remember when three Oreo cookies and a glass of milk were exactly what I need to rejuvenate my little kid psyche.  There was a time when I would turn to Campbell’s Tomato Soup with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; now I think ugh I can’t imagine craving that.For a long time now when I am feeling tired or a bit blue there is nothing like a plate of pasta with pesto to re-energize my flagging spirits!  In April I posted here how to make a traditional Italian Pesto: but I thought it’s time to share the way pesto is served in Liguria.

There is a particular type of dried pasta about an inch long and twisted like a cork screw that is boiled with chunks of fresh potatoes and fresh green beans.  These are drained and tossed with pesto and topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

So simple and so delicious!  I have not been able to find the Ligurian dried pasta here, but have found that the dish loses nothing when made with spaghetti!

Here is the basic recipe for four and don’t be surprised if you find your kids eating the green beans without hesitation!  And the combination of the pesto with the potatoes is a wonderful treat!

8 ounces dried spaghetti

1 large potato peeled and cut into small cubes
6 ounces or a couple of handfuls of fresh green beans cleaned and cut into 1 inch lengths

1/3 cup pesto

¼ cup olive oil

Fresh grated Parmesan for the topping

Bring a large pot of water to the boil
Add a small handful of salt to the water
Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan
Add the pasta and green beans to the boiling water with the potatoes and cook until the pasta is al dente
Drain the pasta , potatoes and beans reserving 1/3 cup of the water
Place pasta, potatoes and beans into the warm olive oil along with the reserved water
Toss in the pesto and mix until the pasta, potatoes and beans are lightly coated with the pesto.

Serve with grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top.
Voila, enjoy!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best Ever (And Easiest) Herb Roasted Chicken

If I remember my school history lessons correctly, it was President Franklin Roosevelt who’s campaign slogan was “A chicken in every pot”.  I certainly agree with that philosophy! You can easily feed three or four with one roasted chicken that costs right around $5 so it’s also gentle on the budget!

Cooking a whole chicken is one of the easiest things you can make.  Add a pan of rosemary roasted potatoes and you’ll have your family clamoring to get to the dinner table; I promise!  When my kids were still at home (I’m a brand new empty nester; that’s a hint to feel sorry for me) I’d make two or even three chickens if I found them on sale.  That way I’d have the protein for another meal or two ready to go!

OK let’s get started. 


1 whole roasting chicken about 4-5 pounds

1 Bunch each of fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary and parsley if you have it.  I just grab a handful of each from my fresh herb pots; the measurement doesn’t have to be exact.

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 cup veggie or chicken stock

½ cup white wine


Pre heat oven to 450

While oven is heating

Rough chop half of the herb mixed together.

Separate the chicken skin by sliding your hand between the skin and the breast, all the way down onto the thigh and leg.

Cut the lemon into four pieces and stuff along with the garlic into the cavity.

Slide the chopped herbs between the skin and meat then place the rest of the whole herbs into the cavity with the lemon and garlic.

Rub the bird with the olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes until juices run clear or meat thermometer reads 165.

Remove from oven to a serving platter and let sit for 15 minutes!! That’s important!  If you don’t let the juices settle you’ll have dry chicken!

Pour off the chicken fat and put pan on stove top on high heat.

Deglaze the pan with ½ white wine and 1 cup chicken or veggie stock.

Reduce by half.

Serve stock on the side.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blueberry Gratin

Sadly, blueberry season here on Florida is ending!  But I know that fresh wonderful blueberries are plentiful in other states so here is one of my family's favorites!  I mean FAVORITE!

The top of this oven baked Blueberry Gratin will be a mouth-watering golden brown. The almond powder/meal in combination with the Philadelphia Cream Cheese lends a texture and moistness that are truly unique!  One can also serve this dessert “A la Mode”; with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream for a truly decadent international delight!
Prep time 15 minutes               Bake time 25 min                  Serves 6
1 Pint Fresh Blueberries,           
4 Ounces Butter at room temperature
4 Ounces Philadelphia cream Cheese
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Almond Powder/also called Almond Meal
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Eggs

1.       Preheat oven to 410 degrees
2.       Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
3.       Add the eggs one at a time
4.       Add the Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Vanilla, beat until smooth
5.       Add the Almond Powder/Meal and blend well
6.       Gently fold in the Blueberries
7.       Turn batter into a 9 inch baking dish AT LEAST 2 INCHES DEEP!
8.       Bake for 25 minutes.  Top will be golden brown and the gratin will be moist and yummy!
9.       Serve warm or room temperature

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm needing CHOCOLATE!

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with Marina leaving for university, Giuliano already there and my mom's broken hip!  I need sweet chocolate comfort right now!  So I'm indulging in the most decadent chocolate cake I have ever eaten; nothing like chocolate to make me feel better!

Decadent & Flourless Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Cream
7 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (the best you can get)
1 ¾ sticks butter
5 eggs separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon chili powder
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
Melt butter and chocolate over water
Fold in egg yolks, vanilla, sugar cocoa powder and salt
Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into chocolate mixture
Bake in a 9 inch greased spring form pan at 350 for 35-40 minutes
Let cool and remove to serving platter
Top each serving with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream; dust with a bit of cocoa powder prior to serving

Nutella Merangues filled with Strawberry Whipped Cream

Just a quick post today, sorry but I have lots on my mind right now.  Getting Marina packed to head off to university on Friday and just got a call from my sister with bad news.  Mom fell and broke her hip so I'm waiting to hear when surgery will be so I can figure out when to hop a plane and head to Washington State! 

Whip 4 egg whites until frothy and add 1/2 cup powdered sugar, pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar.  Beat until stiff and gently swirl in 1/3 cup Nutella. 
Do not mix in completely. 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and using a piping bag make 3 inch circles and fill the base and double pipe the outer edge of the circle to form a bowl.
Put into pre heated 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 200 and check after one hour.  If the meringues are dry turn off the oven and let cool in the oven for 2 hours.  If the meringues are not quite dry continue baking for another 15-25 minutes.
Slice one pint strawberries and mix with sweetened whipped cream.  Fill the Nutella Meringues with the strawberry whipped cream mixture and garnish with a fresh strawberry.  I like to add a bit of chocolate sauce to the plate as an additional garnish.
Peaches, nectarines, blueberries also work well for the whipped cream filling!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Amy’s Amazing Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
I’ve been meaning to post these cookies since July when I first made them.  You see, Amy created this recipe and she won a $25,000 contract to host the Real Women of Philadelphia with THESE COOKIES!  See why I wanted to check them out!
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 8 minutes
  • Total time: 18 minutes
  • Servings: 20
  • 4 ounce(s) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 4 tbsp. of Butter, Softened
  • 1 tsp. of Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 (18.25 oz) Chocolate Cake Mix
  • 1/4 cup(s) of All Purpose Flour
  • 4 ounce(s) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 3/4 cup(s) of Cream Peanut Butter
  • 1 tsp. of Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/2 cup(s) of Powdered Sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of Milk
  • 12 Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Chopped

1.     Preheat oven to 375 F.
2.     Cream together 4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese and 4 TBSP butter in a stand mixer or large bowl.
3.     Mix in 1 tsp pure vanilla extract.
4.     Combine in your eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
5.     Add in your chocolate cake mix and combine well.
6.     Add in flour and mix until well incorporated.

7.     Place 1 inch balls onto a cookie sheet, keeping cookies about 2 inches apart.
8.     You should end up with about 40 cookies total, making 20 sandwich cookies.
9.     Bake for 6-8 minutes or until center of the cookie is set.
10.           Remove cookies from the oven and cool completely.
11.           FOR THE FROSTING
12.           Cream together 4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese and peanut butter in a stand mixer or large bowl.
13.           Mix in 1 tsp pure vanilla extract.
14.           Slowly incorporate all of the powdered sugar. Mix until well combined
15.           Thin out frosting using some or all of the milk.
16.           Frost the bottom of 20 cookies.
17.           Sprinkle some chopped peanut butter cups on each of the frosted cookies.
18.           Top each frosted cookie with a non-frosted cookie, making a sandwich.
19.           Make sure that the tops of your cookies are facing out.
20.           Store in an airtight container.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Italian Sausage, Grilled Mushroom, Provolone Cheese and Adobo Slaw Panini.

Italian Sausage, Grilled Mushroom, Provolone Cheese and Adobo Slaw Panini.
Quick; what do you feed a hungry 20 year old and his friends who have just spent 5 hours driving home from summer school?  Whatever it is make it big; I knew that much for sure!
I had some Italian sausages and a few portabella mushrooms in the fridge so first up I tossed them on the BBQ; actually I put Giuliano to work on that task.  That kept him busy while I scrambled to figure out the rest.  Oh yes, I found some hoagie rolls in the pantry which were a couple days old so I figured I’d go the Panini route with them. Cheese drawer had some sliced provolone so things were looking good! 
Went next in search of lettuce but all I had was cabbage!  I kind of panicked at this point but then I saw my container of secret sauce; it’s a mixture of ranch dressing and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce!  You can make it hot or quite mild depending on your families’ preference.  Voila, instant cold slaw to top the sausage, mushroom Panini!
So, when the mushrooms and sausages were done, I sliced them on an angle and loaded them into the hoagie rolls along with slices of Provolone cheese and the cold slaw.  Into the Panini press they went and five minutes later Giuliano and posse were happily munching away!
Score one for the mom!!!
Secret Sauce:
Take equal parts of Ranch Dressing and Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce and blend until smooth.  Taste and add more Ranch Dressing if too spicy.
Thinly slice cabbage, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 15-30 minutes.  Rinse, dry and toss with a small amount of Secret Sauce.
Grilled Mushrooms
Rub mushrooms with damp paper towel to clean then spray with olive oil or garlic olive oil.  Grill over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes per side.
Italian Sausage Panini:
One sausage per Panini until cooked through.  Slice and place on hoagie roll.
2 slices provolone cheese per Panini
1 large portabella mushroom per Panini
¼ cup cold slaw per Panini
1 hoagie roll per Panini
BBQ or grill fresh Italian sausage until cooked through.  Slice and place on hoagie roll.
Top with mushrooms, cheese and cold slaw.
Grill in Panini press or in frying pan until warmed through, bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mamie Lola's Peach Tart

Mamie Lola is my friend Dominique’s mother.  She was kind of my children’s surrogate grandmother when we lived in France.  She’d sit and play with the kids, laugh with them, make them yummy desserts and in her eyes they could do no wrong!  Grandmotherly perfection!  Mamie simply means granny and everyone called her Mamie Lola; in fact that’s how we were introduced to her!
Since I’m just days away from officially being an empty nester I guess I’m spending a lot of time reminiscing about the days when Giuliano and Marina were still little kids.  The vast majority of their childhood was spent in France with Dominique and Mamie Lola living just  down the road. One time Mamie Lola told the funniest story of her husband when they were first married in Paris. She lovingly described how he had had a just a tiny bit too much to drink one evening while out with friends.  When they climbed into the car for their short drive home, Mamie Lola’s husband opened the rear car door and settled in; only to start ranting that hoodlums, scallywags, and thieves had stolen his steering wheel!  My French wasn’t good enough at that time to be able to laugh and listen at the same time so I was never quite clear on whether he eventually found the front seat and drove them home or not.
OK, back to Mamie Lola’s yummy dessert treats.  She would make the simplest of tarts and always with the freshest seasonal fruits.  My mouth water just thinking about them!  With peaches in season and me wishing just for a day or two my kids were little again I figured the next best thing would be Mamie Lola’s Tart. 
Mamie Lola’s Peach Tart
1 pie crust (yes I used one premade from the market)
6 fresh ripe peaches
½ cup sugar
1T. dried lavender
½ t. vanilla
In a large pot bring enough water to cover the peaches to a boil.
Make a cross cut on the bottom of the peaches and drop into boiling water for 45-60 seconds.
Remove peaches from boiling water and drop into ice water to stop cooking process.
Peel and slice peaches.
Mix peaches, sugar, vanilla and lavender.
Line baking dish with pie crust.
Fill crust with peaches and bake in 400 degree oven for about 45-55 minutes.
Serve warm as is or give your family a real treat and serve with ice cream and berry coulis.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I’m No Charlie’s Angel Food Cake with Berry Coulis

I’m No Charlie’s Angel Food Cake with Berry Coulis

Love Angel Food Cake but dread the thought of what to do with 12 or more left over egg yolks?  Yah me too!  I’ve only made one angel food cake ever for that very reason! But, as I passed the egg section at Publix the other day, seeing the cartons of liquid pasteurized egg whites got me thinking; could you make an angel food cake with boxed egg whites?
Specially priced that day at 2 for $5 I thought what the heck, Stella and I should give it a go and see what happens.  Since blueberries and strawberries are in season right now, fresh berries and a coulis seemed the perfect topping.
I turned to my trusty America’s Test Kitchen cook book for an angel food cake recipe.  The only change I made was to substitute 1 ½ cups liquid egg white for the dozen fresh large egg whites that the recipe called for. Oh, one other little change for my original plan; I was going to serve both strawberries and blueberries with the cake but SOMEONE ate the bowl of blueberries designated for the cake. I didn’t see it happen BUT my son is home from university; enough said!
Oh yes Charlie's Angels?  They're back on TV this fall AND since I remember watching the originals...well that alone leaves me out!

Now, I’m not sure that I can say Stella and I made an award winning angel food cake; in fact for sure it didn’t rise to the occasion!  Tasted great, daughter gave it a 10 out of 10 BUT it is only about half as high as an angel food cake should be. BUT, it was certainly easy using the liquid egg whites and since I can’t figure out what to do with 12-15 egg yolks I’ll be making this version of an angel food cake again.  OH YES, one other thing.  While I was getting this posting ready I realized it says right on the egg white carton not to use for meringues or angel food cakes because the egg whites are heated in the pasteurization process!!! Go figure that I didn’t even notice that tidbit at the market.

Here's the Angel food cake recipe from the cook book.  You can find an angel food cake recipe on line at America's Test Kitchen too; it just a tad bit different.

1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup cake flour
1 ½ cups liquid egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

1.     Heat oven to 325 with rack in lower middle. Line tube pan with parchment paper but do not grease.
2.     Whisk ¾ cup sugar and the flour together in a medium bowl.
3.     In a stand mixer whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium low until foamy.
4.     Increase speed to medium high and beat until soft mounds appear then add salt and sugar one tablespoon at a time.  Whip until shiny soft peaks form.
5.     Whisk lemon juice and extracts in by hand.
6.     Sift ¼ cup of flour over the egg whites and gently fold in with wide rubber spatula.  Repeat with remaining flour.
7.     Scrape batter into tube pan and bake 50-60 minutes until golden brown and top springs back.
8.     Invert tube pan and let cool for 2-3 hours.  Run knife around edge to release cake then turn onto counter.  Remove parchment and place on serving plate.

Berry Coulis Ingredients:

1 pint blueberries
1 pound strawberries
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice


1.     Clean berries, remove strawberry stems and place all ingredients in food processor.
2.     Blend until smooth.
3.     Pour into a sieve placed over a large bowl and swirl with the back side of a ladle until you have separated the seeds and blueberry skin from the liquid.
4.     Pour liquid into a pan and bring to a boil stirring constantly. The coulis will bubble up like crazy so do not leave it unwatched or unstirred for even a moment!
5.     Immediately remove from heat and let cool.

1.     Slice cake; serve with fresh sliced berries and coulis.