apple meets pear: apple-pear dessert tart

>> Thursday, October 29, 2009

as you know, this week i've been living out my culinary fantasies and i've always wanted to make a homemade tart of some sort.  i had a dinner party to go to this week, so i whipped up this delicious little gem. i adapated the recipe from so it was incredibly easy and some might even call it beautiful (me).  here's how i did it:

2 tablespoons of flour
2 9-inch ready made pie crusts
1/3 cup apricot jam, plus 2 tablespoons
2 gala apples, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 bartlett pears, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar, plus 2 more teaspoons
1 egg, beaten

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  flour working surface and roll out pie crusts, placing one on top of the other. roll out to 12 inches in diameter.  transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lather with 1/3 cup of apricot jam leaving a 2-inch border.

mix together pears, apples, lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of sugar in large mixing bowl.  carefully lay fruit slices on crust in concentric circles, alternating between pears and apples.  make sure to not place fruit on 2-inch border.  fold up remaining crust over fruit for a rustic look.  brush outer crust with egg and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar on top.

bake for 60 minutes until crust is golden brown and the fruit is tender.  in small sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of water and 2 tablespoons of jam for about 3 minutes.  brush over fruit for that glazed professional bakery look.  enjoy!


this week in the kitchen: lemon and garlic roasted chicken, butternut squash risotto, thyme popovers

>> Wednesday, October 28, 2009

earlier this week i had some of the girls over to accomplish task #2 on my weekly to-do list.  i began looking for recipes that reminded me of autumn.  i knew i wanted to use vegetables that were in season, hence the butternut squash, and i wanted to use earthy flavors like thyme and rosemary.  the meal turned out wonderful and the girls were pleasantly stuffed.  i pretty much followed the recipes exactly, except i also stuffed the chicken with rosemary and i substituted bacon for pancetta in the risotto.  i also didn't have a popover pan so i used a mini muffin pan instead.  hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

here's the menu:

lemon and garlic roasted chicken
butternut squash risotto with bacon and jack cheese
thyme popovers

pictures of the beautiful meal:


food for thought

available here for purchasing, followed by matting, framing, and hanging.

(photo credit -


persian perfection: seasoned steak, garlic roasted potatoes & lemon sugar snap peas

>> Friday, October 23, 2009

last night i whipped up this snazzy meal for the fam as part our our weekly round-up. i was pursuing through the bible (aka cooking light) and found this french delight that called for herbes de provence, which is a fancy name for a mixture of herbs that are predominantly used in southern france. the mixture can vary based on brand, but normally includes basil, fennel seed, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme and its just delicious. i tweaked cooking light's recipe a little bit and paired it with lemon sugar snap peas and garlic roasted potatoes.

2 large ribeye steaks
2 tablespoons dried herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 package frozen sugar snap peas
8 small red potatoes, cubed

preheat oven to 400 degrees. place potatoes on cookie sheet and drizzle with evoo, garlic powder and s&p. cook for 30-35 minutes until crispy on outside and soft in the middle.

preheat grill pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. combine herbes de provence, mustard, and s&p in a small bowl. rub meat evenly with herb mixture, but only on one side. place steak on grill, seasoned side down and cook for 5-7 minutes. season other side with s&p, flip and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes.

meanwhile, cook sugar snap peas according to directions on package. when done, season with lemon rind, lemon juice, evoo and s&p.

this meal was a perfect weeknight staple that i plan to keep in my repertoire. it was simple, quick, elegant and full of flavor! apprécier!


southern comfort: stuffed chicken, cheesy grits, & apple harvest salad

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009

the second installment of this week's delicious treats was stuffed chicken with a side of warm cheesy grits and simple apple harvest salad. i made up this recipe on the fly when i wanted to use up the cream cheese in the fridge. the meal turned out better than i expected and the grits were just the creamy, cheesey delicousness i craved. anddddddd it was a weight watchers recipe.

4 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/3 cup light cream cheese
3 tablespoons of sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of frozen spinach, drained and dried
3 cups of chicken stock
3/4 cup of 5-minute grits
1/4 cup light
alouette cheese

preheat oven to 350 degrees. combine spinach, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes and s&p in mixing bowl. i found it best to mix with my hands. evenly scoop a dallop of mixture on each chicken breast and use knife to spread out over entire chicken. roll up chicken breasts from top to bottom and secure with kitchen twine or these eco-friendly bad boys. cook for 30 to 35 minutes, depending on size of chicken breast.

in another pan bring chicken stock to boil. add grits and cook for 5 minutes. stir in alouette cheese and s&p. it's that easy!

i don't really have an exact recipe for the salad, i just kind of threw together ingredients that reminded me of fall. i added sliced apples, craisins, toasted walnuts, mixed greens, orange peppers and mixed greens. we touched it off with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette. enjoy!


yum for your tum: pasta with cauliflower and turkey sausage

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2009

i promised i'd follow up with this week's cotton top family dinners. so monday night, pasta with cauliflower and turkey sausage was on tap. i adapted this recipe from cooking light. the original version used reserved pasta water to make the sauce. i decided to improvise and make a quick pan sauce to satisfy the picky eaters in the house. i just couldn't see them going for the starchy water sauce.

the picture above doesn't lie. we were all excited to eat that i almost forgot to take a picture - until about halfway through the meal. i'm sure the leftovers will also heat up nicely for lunch later this week. yum-o.
so here's how it goes, foodies.

5 oz. mild turkey sausage, cooked
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons of evoo
4 cups of cooked pasta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk or cream

preheat oven to 450 degrees. place cauliflower on baking sheet and season with s&p and 1 tablespoon of evoo. bake for 20 minutes until toasty. also, boil water for the pasta and get that going.

cut sausage crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. heat medium skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon of evoo and cook the little guys for about 10 minutes. remove from pan and set aside. in same pan melt butter and then whisk in flour to make roux. once roux has turned into a light brown color, whisk in milk or cream. keep stirring until it turns into a cream sauce. remove from heat and add parmesan cheese. season with s&p.

in a large bowl, mix together hot pasta, cauliflower, sausage, cream sauce and s&p. serve immediately and enjoy. yum for your tum?


cotton top's weekly menu

>> Monday, October 19, 2009

here's what's on tap this week, foodies. stay tuned for the pics and recipe details. it's gonna be good.

monday: farfalle with cauliflower and turkey sausage

tuesday: stuffed chicken with a side of warm cheesy grits and simple apple harvest salad

wednesday: leftovers (i'll be at comedy night so the fam will have to do without their personal chef)

thursday: herb de provence steaks with roasted potatoes and sugar snap peas

TGIF: thanks goodness it's fajitas night. ariba, ariba!

(image credit -


dine me. wine me: crostini with ricotta and goat cheese, prosciutto and cheese stuffed lamb, champagne risotto, fried ravioli, & cream polenta

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

my friend, lynn, asked me to help plan a celebratory meal for her main squeeze. she gave me a few must-haves for the night:

1. needed to include lamb (his fav)
2. needed to be elegant
3. needed to be easy

when i think of romance and elegance, i think italian. after all, isn't it the language of love? i immediately knew to turn to my culinary bff - giada de laurentiis. i love the simplicity and rustic aspects to her recipes and i knew sister jones could handle it.

i found the most perfect lamb recipe and i gave sister jones a few options for the sides and appetizers.

appetizer: crostini with ricotta and goat cheese
main course: prosciutto and cheese stuffed lamb tenderloin
side #1: champagne risotto
side #2: fried ravioli with marinara dipping sauce
side #3: creamy polenta with arugula

lynn is a natural in the kitchen that not even a little roadblock could stop her. whole foods didn't have any lamb so she improvised with beef tenderloin. she choose side option #2 because honestly, what guy doesn't love a little fried food? check out lynn's success below:


nuts for salmon: pecan crusted salmon with sauteed spinach and lemon green beans

>> Sunday, October 11, 2009

first off, sorry for the delay in this post. it was my intention to write this post friday afternoon before i left for va tech, but my afternoon turned into shambles when i locked myself out of the house for over 40 minutes. my b. i made this meal as part of my original weekly meal plan. it took no time to whip up and it was a definite crowd pleaser.

1 bag of 10 oz spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups of green beans
1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons of dijon mustard
4 6oz salmon filets
1/2 cup chopped pecans

heat oven to 350 degrees. brush mustard over salmon filets and press chopped pecans down to make sure they are sticking. heat skillet with evoo over medium high heat. place salmon pecan-side down in pan and sear for 3 minutes. transfer salmon to oven and let cook for 5-7 minutes.

steam green beans in vegetable steamer. once done, drizzle with juice of half a lemon, 1 tablespoon of evoo and s&p.

in another pan heat up butter, 1 tablespoon of evoo, garlic and tomatoes. let cook for about 3 minutes and then add bag of spinach. cover pan and let cook for about 3 more minutes. add s&p and you're done.

i tried to take a picture of the delicious meal, but mine and peg's camera batteries died. i've found one that looks pretty similar. enjoy!


passport to greece: chicken souvlaki with greek couscous and toasted chick peas

>> Wednesday, October 7, 2009

as part of my weekly meal plan, i cooked up this bad boy last night. it was such a hit, even brother gave me a know the boy whose diet is a plain as a saltine cracker...yea, he even enjoyed it! i adapted the recipe for chicken souvlaki from cooking light to add a little more hint of lemon and freshness. here's how i do chicken souvlaki with greek couscous and toasted chick peas:

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup plain greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon evoo, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons bottled minced garlic, divided
1 teaspoon dried lemon pepper seasoning
2 cups sliced roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup chopped peeled cucumber
1/2 cup chopped plum tomato
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

combine feta cheese, yogurt, dill, 1 teaspoon evoo, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic in a small bowl, stirring well. heat remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. add remaining 1 teaspoon garlic and lemon pepper seasoning to pan, and sauté for 20 seconds. add chicken, and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. pile pitas up with chicken, lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices and top with dollop of yogurt sauce.

now for the couscous...

i don't really have a real recipe i use, i kind of just throw things in there and see how it goes.

1 cup of whole wheat couscous (when cooked, becomes about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons of evoo
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/3 cup diced cucumber
1/3 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup chickpeas
1/4 feta cheese
1 tablespoon dried dill

cook couscous according to directions. fluff with fork when finished and add remaining 7 ingredients. taste and season with s&p to your likeness.
obviously, you saw what happened with the chickpeas yeah, those got scrapped. i WILL try again.
now close your eyes, eat up, and pretend you're in greece. i am a grecian GODDESS.


is something burning?

i'm not really a competitive person. it doesn't bother me if someone can finish a sudoku puzzle before me. it doesn't bother me if someone is is prettier than me. it doesn't even bother me when someone makes more money than me.

but when it comes to cooking, i somehow turn into spencer pratt - a complete monster.

i have to be the best and always cook the best thing. i like to make everything perfect no matter how long it takes me. if i mess up one little thing, i've been known to start over - completely.

so you can understand my frustration last night when i was making roasted chickpeas and i smelt something burning. i opened the oven to find these burnt little turds smoking up my oven. i still don't understand what went wrong - i followed rachael ray's recipe exactly.

luckily, i'm not one to give up. i have another can of chickpeas at home. stick around for round 2.

chickpeas -1
me - 0


just call me susie...

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2009

....susie homemaker, that is.

i'm only home a few nights this week, so here's what we got cooking:

tuesday: chicken souvlaki with greek couscous and toasted chick peas
wednesday: pecan crusted salmon with sauteed spinach and lemon green beans

stay tuned for pics and recipes tomorrow!

(photo credit -


dinner in 15: blackened salmon with garlic rice and crunchy green beans

>> Friday, October 2, 2009

i don't know about you guys, but lately after getting home from work i have no energy to cook a lavish meal like i used in to my arlington days. (yes, i've already starting call them that because i already miss them dearly.) wednesday's dinner was slated for blackened salmon with garlic rice and crunchy green beans. not only was it really easy, but a real hit with the fam. here's how i did it:

4 four oz. salmon filets
2 tbs. chef paul prudhomme's magic seasoning blends (blackended redfish magic)
12 oz. bag of fresh green beans
3 & 3/4 cups chicken stock
2 cloves of garlic, minced
splash of apple cider vinegar
1 & 1/2 cups of 5 minute rice (any brand, just not the kind that boils in a bag or that you microwave)
2-3 tbs. of green onions, chopped


preheat oven to 400 degrees. heat skillet over medium heat and add evoo. sprinkle both sides of salmon fillets with blackening seasoning. be sure to rub it in. place in skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side, until crispy. transfer to oven to finish cooking for about 5-7 minutes.

meanwhile combine evoo, rice and 1 minced garlic clove in medium pan. cook for about 3-5 minutes. cooking the rice before you add the liquid gives it a different flavor and aroma. add 3 cups of chicken stock to pan and bring to boil. then turn down to simmer. (these directions will differ based on the brand you buy. be sure to read the directions on the box.) once rice is cooked, stir in scallions and s&p.

in another skillet combine evoo, 1 garlic clove, s&p and green beans. cook for about 1-2 minutes and then add 3/4 cup of chicken stock. place lid on pan and let vegetables steam with chicken stock. let cook until green beans are tender, but still crispy - about 7 minutes. right at the end, add splash of vinegar. cooking with chicken stock will add tremendous flavor and give your meal that perfect homemade, warm-in-your belly taste.

and there you have it, dinner in 15. enjoy!


capers are the new olives: chicken with lemon caper sauce, smashed potato cakes, and roasted asparagus

>> Thursday, October 1, 2009

as i mentioned yesterday, the cotton top weekly dinner menu included chicken in a lemon caper sauce with potato cakes and asparagus. and yep, the fam ate good last night.

i actually got the chicken recipe from cooking light. i have recently fell in love with capers and like to think of them as the new olives. they are salty, tangy, vinegary, and just plain delicious. if you're skeptical about them like i was in the beginning- go small first, go big later.

i adapted paula deen's smashed potato cakes recipe towards a healthier version. lets face it - paula's version has a little too much budda for this gal. this is an easy recipe makeover from leftover mashed potatoes. we all know they never taste the same the next day, so why not try to turn into something new altogether? alright, here's how i did it:

4 cups of day-old mashed potatoes (if you don't have these, you could even use the ones they sell in the refrigerated section in grocery stores)
1 egg
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
3/4 to 1 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley
3/4 cup flour

add a couple tablespoons of evoo into a medium high skillet. mix first 6 ingredients together in bowl. quickly form into little patties. dredge patties into flour and place in pan. cook about 4 minutes on each side until crust is crunchy. serve immediately.

as for the asparagus - they couldn't be simpler. heat oven to 400 degrees. coat veggies in evoo and s&p. roast for 5 to 7 minutes and you're done.

and that's it. stay tuned for more recipes later this week. and where were you guys last night? i invited you over, ya know.


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