Friday, February 28, 2014

Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies
If you are like me, you spend your free time trying new recipes and methods and reading cookbooks.  When ever I am disappointed with a new recipe my husband always asks, "Why didn't you make your old recipe?"   It's a fair question...only us cooks know the answer and I suppose it's different for all of us.  Is it the never ending quest for the most delicious food and new and different amazing recipes?   Is it the possibility of finding something even better?  I think we would all agree, in the end it's the desire to create something delicious and share it with the people we love.  So this recipe was created after one of those moments, trying something new, but disappointing, and making it into something I wanted to make again and again.  These fun cookies will disappear before your eyes with a group of kids in the room.     

2 cups white flour
¼ cup wheat flour
1 ½ cups quick oats
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips or M&Ms

In bowl of electric mixer, cream butter, sugars and peanut butter until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.  Stir flours, oats, salt and baking soda together and add to butter mixture, mix until just combined.  Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips or ½ cup M&Ms.  Roll into golf ball sized dough balls and place on cookie sheet. Decorate tops of dough balls with remaining M&Ms or chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes...( and save some for the kids!)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Browned Tilapia with Avocado Salsa

Browned Tilapia with Avocado Salsa

I just love this super flavorful and healthy family meal.  It's really easy and pretty fast too.  We love making fish tacos out of this fish and salsa for a great variation.  Just fill a favorite soft or hard taco shell with fish, avocado salsa and top with  the lemon dressing.  Yummmmmm.
Avocado Salsa
4 ripe avocados, diced
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 limes juiced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix gently.  Set aside while you prepare the tilapia.  Top prepared tilapia with avocado salsa.

1-2 lb. (depending on how many people you are feeding) tilapia, cod or halibut

Lemon Dressing
salt and fresh ground pepper
flour for dredging
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup Italian parsley, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1/3 cup olive oil

In blender, blend lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper and dry mustard.  Blend in olive oil in a small, slow stream.  Season fish with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper and dredge in flour.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet and cook fish 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and cooked through.  Place piece of tilapia on a plate and top with avocado salsa.  Drizzle lemon sauce over fish and salsa.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.  Serves about 6.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rigatoni with Savory Meat Sauce

Rigatoni with Savory Meat Sauce
 This pasta dish has such a rich flavor, and is pretty quick and easy too.  You can even make the sauce a day in advance which can be really helpful when serving for an evening among friends. This is one of those meat sauces, like a beef bourguinon, whose taste only improves when eaten the following day. It's a favorite of adults and kids alike and is a perfect choice for any day of the week.  If you have fresh herbs on hand be sure to use them in place of the dried herbs in this flavorful dish!

1 lb. ground Italian sausage (can substitute with ground sirloin or chuck)
½ lb. apple wood smoked bacon, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup beef broth
½ cup red wine (can substitute with cranberry, grape or apple juice)
½ teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon each, dried oregano and dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 lb. Rigatoni, cooked according to package directions
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

First, cut bacon across the grain into ¼ inch pieces.  Mince garlic.  Set aside.  In large sauté pan, place olive oil and sauté sausage, bacon, onion, garlic and spices until meat is browned.  Add red wine or juice and deglaze pan by scraping browned bits off bottom of pan with wooden spoon.  Add crushed tomatoes and beef broth.  Sauté until nice and saucy, 10-15 minutes or so. Place drained pasta in large pasta bowl and toss with a large spoonful of sauce. Pour remaining meat sauce over the pasta. Give the dish a few grinds of fresh pepper and garnish with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.  Serve with plenty of crusty bread.  Serves about 6.

Friday, February 21, 2014

31 Double Chocolate Cupcakes

31 Double Chocolate Cupcakes
Wow, are the yummiest things ever, or what?  They are even better when eaten the next day, so go ahead and make them the day before the event.  

2 cups flour
2 ½ cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare 30 muffin cups with paper liners.  In bowl of electric mixer add all of the dry ingredients and whisk together with a hand held whisk.  Add all of the wet ingredients and beat on medium with electric mixer until thoroughly combined, for about 3 minutes.  Pour ¼ cup of batter into each muffin cup.  You may be able to get 31 cupcakes from the batter if you scrape your bowl really well.  Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Remove cupcakes from pans.  Frost with Chocolate Butter Cream frosting.

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

6 cups powdered sugar
heaping 1/3 cup cocoa
¾ cup butter
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In electric mixer, cream together powdered sugar, cocoa, butter, milk and vanilla.  Fit a BIG round or star tip in a pastry bag and fill with frosting.  Pipe one dollop of frosting in center of the cupcake.  Now start winding a big thick strip of frosting around the outside of the cupcake.  Swirl frosting towards the center overlapping as you go, until you reach the center top.  Add some sprinkles if desired and allow set, preferably overnight.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Maryland Crab Cake Salad

Maryland Crab Cake Salad
When I am in a great restaurant, I am always tempted to get the crab cakes.  Every time. So I think it's fair to say I've eaten a lot of crab cakes in my time.  I have been testing recipes and sampling crab cakes in restaurants for years and finally developed this recipe that is my favorite.  Since we are living in Maryland, I try to serve Maryland Crab Cakes to our out of town guests.  I recently served these to our friend George Hamilton, who was visiting us here in Maryland.  George told me he's eaten crab cakes all around the world and that mine were the best he's ever tasted!   I'm sure he was just being polite, but what a nice compliment!   Hope you enjoy these as much as George!     

Crab cakes:

1 lb. fresh lump crab meat (preferably Maryland crab, of course!)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 small head shallots, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper         
pinch paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups fine Italian bread crumbs

In medium bowl gently mix crab meat with mayonnaise, shallots, mustard and salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper.  In another bowl pour the breadcrumbs.   With hands, form crab cakes that are 3-4 inches across and 1 inch thick.  Set in bread crumbs and cover with crumbs. In heavy nonstick skillet, melt some butter and fry crab cakes until golden browned on both sides. Use two small spatulas and carefully turn cakes over to brown both sides.  If one breaks apart, reshape and set in breadcrumbs again and brown in butter. Toss lettuce, spinach or kale and some favorite seasonal vegetables with a little Balsamic Glaze.  Arrange bed of lettuces on a platter and lay crab cakes on top.  Drizzle crab cakes with Avocado Dressing.

Balsamic Glaze:

4 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil until glaze has emulsified.  Divide glaze in half.  Toss vegetables with half of the glaze and reserve the remaining glaze for drizzling over finished entree. 

Avocado Dijon Dressing:

just under 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 avocado
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup canola oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

In food processor, puree all ingredients until smooth.  Add more oil and vinegar if necessary to reach desired consistency. Pour desired amount over crab cakes and lettuces.  Garnish with some chopped red or yellow bell peppers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lemon Bundt Cake

Lemon Bundt Cake
This cake is positively scrumptious.  My mother made this wonderful cake for birthdays and special occasions while I was growing up.  It remains a favorite today.  My 14 year old son Thomas, says “Mom, this is probably my favorite cake,” every time he eats it.  This cake turns out perfect every time and tastes even better served the following day, because the glaze has had a chance to really seep into the cake.  For a Lemon Poppy Seed Cake stir 1/4 cup poppy seeds into the batter.  This cake is a hit with or without ice cream.

2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup orange juice
¾ cup cooking oil
2 teaspoons lemon extract
4 eggs

Grease and flour bundt cake pan.  Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level off.   Stir dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to the dry and beat 3 minutes at medium speed.  Pour into bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until cake is a light golden brown.  Remove from oven and prick cake deeply with a fork, while it's still in the pan.  Make glaze.

Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and pour the glaze over cake, while cake is still in the pan.  Let stand for an hour to allow the cake to absorb the glaze.  Turn cake out onto a cake stand or cake plate.  Serve with or without ice cream.  Serve with fresh berries of desired.   

Optional Lemon Frosting Glaze:
Use this Frosting Glaze if you like the look of a drizzling glaze down the sides of the cake.  Piling up raspberries in the center of the cake makes a beautiful presentation.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 ¾ tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

 You can make this glaze thicker or thinner depending on the look you are going for.  Just add a little more lemon juice to thin and powdered sugar to thicken.  Mix glaze frosting ingredients together and let thicken for 5 minutes.  Spoon frosting glaze on top of cake and give the glaze a few minutes for it to run down the sides.  Garnish with fresh grape or basil leaves and fresh raspberries if desired.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thai Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu

Thai Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu
We love these noodles, yes even the kids!  Thai food is one of our top favorites.  It's always a challenge to make ethnic food at home as delicious as in our favorite restaurants.  But I was up for the challenge!  I've been working on this recipe and method for a while now and finally think I've perfected it.  It's really pretty easy and makes enough for the whole family.  The chili vinegar is a must!  It really adds a great flavor to the noodles.  I like to freeze a whole bunch of fresh Serrano peppers so I have them on hand for this meal. I just remove them form the freezer and slice them while frozen and add them directly to the vinegar.

Chili Vinegar:
1/3 cup white vinegar
Serrano chili (similar to, but skinnier than a jalapeno), stemmed and sliced into rings

12-16 ounces Thai rice noodles

Stir Fry Sauce:
¼ cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
scant ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Stir Fry:
16 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into ¾ inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 eggs
5 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
handful of salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Combine the vinegar and Serrano chili in a condiment bowl and let stand at room temperature until ready to serve.   The spice and heat from the pepper will transfer into the vinegar.  Sprinkle the vinegar only (not the peppers) over the noodles just before serving.   Place dry noodles in a large bowl and pour 10 cups  boiling water over them.  Stir well to separate noodles from each other and soak for 8 minutes, stirring again a few times.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain well and toss with a little oil to prevent sticking.  Whisk sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss broccoli pieces with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Roast for 12-15 minutes, until edges are brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and toss with 4 tablespoons sauce and set aside.  Heat a large non-stick frying pan and add a little oil.   Add garlic and ginger and saute 2 minutes.  Add tofu and 2 tablespoons of sauce and saute for a few minutes on medium high heat until lightly browned.  Remove tofu mixture to a large bowl and cover with foil.   Add a little more oil to frying pan and add eggs.  Saute 1 minute breaking up with a spatula as they cook to a scrambled egg consistency.  Remove to bowl with the tofu.  Heat a little oil in frying pan until smoking and add half of the noodles and 2 tablespoons (plus more if needed) sauce, tossing to coat. Cook until noodles are starting to brown in spots, stirring once through cooking.  This process will turn the white noodles a nice rice brown color, infused with the sauce. Transfer noodles to bowl with tofu mixture.  Repeat with the second batch of noodles and sauce.  Add tofu mixture and broccoli back into frying pan and add remaining sauce. Gently combine and cook without stirring until heated through.  Transfer to platter and garnish with peanuts.  Pass the chili vinegar.  I like to toss the chili vinegar (vinegar only, not the peppers) over the entire dish but you can pass it around if you think it may be too "spicy" for little ones. ( It's really not spicy just flavorful! ) Serve with a slice of lime.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Salted Baked Pretzel
You, and the kids, can take a lot of liberties with the fun toppings on these yummy pretzels.  Top baked pretzels with cinnamon sugar for a sweet treat, sprinkle with coarse salt, or top with grated cheese and pepperoni.

Pretzel Dough:

1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda

In bowl of electric mixer whisk yeast with warm water by hand until dissolved.  Add brown sugar and salt and whisk by hand.  Attach dough hook and mix in flour, adding one cup at a time until a dough forms.  Mix for 5 more minutes.  Cover bowl and rise until double, about an hour.  In a small bowl mix baking soda in hot water.  Prepare two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove dough and divide into about 12 equally sized pieces of dough.  On countertop, using no flour, unless necessary, roll dough out to about as thin as a pencil, if you can.  Wrap into pretzel form and dip in soda water and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, unless you are using the cinnamon and sugar topping.  Let rise a few minutes and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Brush pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt, or top with grated cheese and pepperoni and place back in the oven for a minute until cheese melts.  For a sweet treat, dip hot pretzels in the Cinnamon and Sugar Pretzel Topping.  Serve hot!

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel

Cinnamon and Sugar Pretzel Topping:

½ cup butter
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In small saucepan melt butter and honey and vanilla.  In a medium bowl mix sugar and cinnamon.  While pretzels are still hot from the oven, dip top of pretzels in melted butter mixture and then into cinnamon sugar mixture.  Serve hot!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

French Pastry Tarts

French Pastry Tarts

Ted and I spent a week house hunting in the Washington D.C. area, before we moved to the East coast.  We stayed in a great hotel in Dupont Circle, surrounded by embassies, wonderful architecture, historic row houses, fun places to shop and eat, not to mention all of the museums...the Capitol... the White House... etc. that the capitol city has to offer.  Every morning for breakfast we would pick up some amazing little fruit tarts at this great bakery around the corner, reminiscent of little bakeries in France.  They were my inspiration for creating these tarts.  I love how wholesome and rich the crust tastes with the wheat flour.  Paired with the pastry cream and fresh berries?   It’s just delicious.  Delicious and nutritious enough for breakfast as well as dessert?  In "life according to Andrea"... absolutely yes!   I like to make the pastry cream the day before I want to assemble these tarts.  
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
1½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup cold butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

In bowl of food processor place oats and pulse several times until fine.   Add remaining dry ingredients and pulse to mix.  Add butter and carefully toss.   Pulse a few times and add oil, vanilla and almond extract.  Mix until a dough almost forms.  Gather dough together and press into a 12-15 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  You can also use individual tart tins a few inches in diameter as well.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. For individual tarts, reduce baking time a little.  Cool completely.  Make pastry cream.

Pastry cream:
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in tablespoons

Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl.  In medium pot bring milk, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla to a low boil.  In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, egg yolks and ½ cup sugar.  Beat on medium high speed until pale yellow and thick and creamy.  About 5 minutes.  Sift in cornstarch and beat for a minute until thoroughly combined.  Pour half of the hot milk into egg mixture and whisk until smooth.  Pour the egg mixture back into the pot of hot milk.  Whisk CONTINUOUSLY for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until mixture becomes thick and pudding like.  Do not walk away from the stove even for a minute!   Remove from heat and whisk in butter I tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated.  Transfer pastry cream to a medium large sized bowl that will fit in the ice bath.  Let pastry cream cool in ice bath.   Stir occasionally until completely cooled.  Cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 1 ½ hour before filling crust.
                                            Optional fruits to top the tarts:
Fresh strawberries
Fresh raspberries
Fresh blueberries
Fresh kiwi, sliced
Fresh mandarin oranges, sectioned
Fresh pineapple cut into thin smaller slices

Pile fruit and berries on top of pastry cream and garnish with a little mint or basil leaves if desired.

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