Mushroom Me This

Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of mushrooms? It’s mostly a texture thing– they are squishy and chewy and rubbery.  Husband loves them, and my standard response is, “They grow out of dead things! Why would you eat that?”  I find them earthy and musty in flavor, most of the time.  But I must admit, Jin puts some kinds of mushrooms in the Korean dishes she makes for me, and I have been able to tolerate them, but I don’t go out of my way to eat them.

After starting culinary school, I realized that as a chef I am going to need to try all kinds of mushrooms and cook with them, since they are a popular ingredient and found in many recipes.  I’ve found that the baby portobellas I find at Costco are not too horrible, so I use them in the place of cremini mushrooms in most recipes.  This recipe is heavy on the mushroom sauce, from Good Housekeeping, December 2014.

Chicken with White Wine and Mushroom Sauce


1 tbsp. olive oil
1¼ lb. chicken cutlets
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
10 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 shallot
½ c. chicken broth
½ c. white wine
2 tbsp. butter
Chopped parsley
Soft polenta
Sautéed broccoli rabe


  1. In 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high. Sprinkle chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook 6 minutes or until cooked through, turning once; transfer to plate and cover. Add mushrooms and minced shallot to skillet. Cook 3 minutes. Add white wine; cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and juices on plate; cook to reduce by half. Off heat, stir in butter, then chopped parsley. Serve on soft polenta with sautéed broccoli rabe, if desired.

I used chicken breasts in this recipe, 4-5 oz portions, and didn’t bother pounding them into cutlets.  For the white wine, I opened some cheap fruit flavored chardonnay (Arbor Mist; if you must know, I had it on hand for sangrias and similar spritzer type drinks).  We didn’t bother with the polenta or the rabe; I whipped up a simple side salad for this dinner (it was originally selected as an entree for client, and she has preferred sides I try to stick to).


Verdict:  For a healthy dish, this meal was very easy to prepare and still very flavorful.  Despite the mushrooms, I thought it turned out quite tasty!  I sliced the mushrooms thinly, which helped with my mushroom issues a lot.  The texture was still a little spongy, but the sweetness of the wine and the onions kept the mushroom flavors at bay.   I added the chives for color, but they didn’t add much else.  You could easily use parsley or oregano as an alternate garnish.  I wish there had been a little more sauce– maybe the mushrooms absorbed a bit between when I cooked it and when we ate it?  I might increase the sauce by 1/2 if I made this again.  And I probably will make it again.  A crusty loaf of bread and a salad and/or steamed broccoli could make this entree a pretty impressive meal.



Clearance Banana Bites

I met my husband for lunch one day last week after spending the morning with his sister and her ADORABLE twins.  I had a charming time with these 15 month old cuties.  After lunch I treated myself with a trip to WOODMAN’S (heavenly music).  The clearance treasures were not super exciting, though I’m kicking myself for bypassing a $5 pork shoulder after leafing through my recipe pile  after I returned home that day.  But I did bring home a brown paper grocery bag filled with at least 6 bunches of bananas.  They were not overly ripe or in any way damaged.  They were $0.99 for the entire bag!

Fate brought this Cooking Light video to my newsfeed yesterday, and it was an easy way to use up 4 bananas very quickly.  Besides the oats, I used 2 tablespoons each of chia and flax seeds.  I didn’t click for the printed recipe, but I used 4 bananas and a cup and a half of oats.  I baked them at 350º for about 16 minutes.

Verdict:  Not sweet at all, and Husband suggested brown sugar as another add-in.  I think the chocolate chips pictured in the video would add the perfect amount of sugar.  I didn’t think the treats were bad, but they also weren’t that great.   There’s no way this will ever be a cookie to me, not without the flour to give it some crispiness.  But if you want a guilt-free snack or treat, or a quick breakfast, this fits the bill.  They are very easy and quick to make which is definitely a plus over cookies or muffins.  I might make them again to experiment with some flavors and different sweeteners (honey, agave nectar, etc.).  Other than that, I don’t think they’d become one of my go-to items.



Adapt a Pie

Husband and I are still trying to catch up with our monthly pies, because cake decorating class has me bringing home baked goods every week.  I’ve also been experimenting with different frostings, cakes and cupcakes, so we are overrun with desserts.  I’d like to get caught up before our wedding anniversary next month, and I want to keep moving forward with the blog, so the other day I went digging through our previously established file folder labeled “pies”. Herein are the recipes clipped from magazines, copied from my mother’s recipe collection, and provided to us for shower and wedding gifts.  I read and reread recipes until I came upon this gem.  It was a pre-Valentine’s day chocolate article in the the Good Eating section of the Chicago Tribune, dated February 2, 2011.  The recipe was adapted from a then-recently published Rozanne Gold cookbook (Radically Simple). I couldn’t locate the published recipe in the Tribune Archives, but it was posted here in August 2014:

Rozanne Gold’s All-Chocolate Velvet Tart (adapted from Radically Simple, 2010)


5 ounces chocolate graham crackers
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces dark chocolate (Valrhona Noir Caraibe, 66%), chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon crème de cassis or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Combine the graham crackers and 4 tablespoons of the butter in a food processor. Pulverize until finely ground. Pack the crumbs into the pan to form an even bottom crust. Bake 10 minutes. Bring the cream just to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add the chocolate and stir constantly over low heat until melted. Stir in the cocoa, cassis or orange zest, and 1 tablespoon butter. Pour into the crumb crust; refrigerate 45 minutes or until just firm. Serve with crème fraiche. Serves 10

This is another decadent recipe.  I know it’s presented here as a tart, but we make exceptions and adapt as necessary.  We pressed the crumb into a 9 inch pie plate (not deep dish) and pre-baked it according to the instructions.  While the crust was baking, we heated the cream and melted the chocolate (we just used Nestlé morsels).  Husband HATES chocolate and orange together, and I think I’ve already mentioned that he is not a drinker (I would have tried this recipe with Chambord or a good port wine in place of the crème de cassis). We happened to have fresh raspberries in the house  from a frosting I had made earlier in the week, as well as some leftover raspberry puree from that frosting.  We used about a tablespoon of the puree in the chocolate mixture and put fresh raspberries around the edge of the pie.  My original recipe said to chill for at least 90 minutes, though the repost I found said just 45 minutes.  We added the raspberries about 45 minutes into the chilling time.  I’m sure the ganache was thick enough to support them from the get go, but we didn’t want them sinking into the filling.  After 45 minutes the center (bottom) of the pie plate was still warm, but we weren’t planning on having dessert for at least another 2 hours, so back into the refrigerator it went.

Verdict: Do you even have to ask?  This pie is rich and silky.  We really did manage to cut 10 slices, and believe me, a sliver is more than enough.  The tartness of the fresh raspberries is imperative to cut the creaminess of the chocolate.  It isn’t overly sweet, and the chocolate intensity is wonderful.  This is a show stopping pie for a party or special occasion.  I wouldn’t make it often, but I would make it again.

Apple Chipotle Slaw

Remember all those apples I peeled and cored for our last pie?  I ended up with quite a few leftover, and while I have been randomly snacking on them, this side dish has been on my radar for a while (the link includes the main dish accompaniment, but Husband has promised to cook tonight, so I’m just highlighting the slaw here). It’s an All You recipe from October 2014.

Apple Chipotle Slaw

2 apples, cored and cut into matchsticks
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 center-cut, skin-on salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest


1. Preheat grill to high. In a medium bowl, combine apples and next six ingredients. Add 1 tsp. olive oil; mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Rinse salmon fillets; pat dry. Brush skins with 2 tsp. oil. Season both sides with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Fold 2 12-by-18-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil in half widthwise. Make 1/2-inch holes in foil about 2 inches apart. Mist with cooking spray; place on grill for 2 minutes.

3. Turn grill to medium and place 2 fillets, skin side down, on each foil rectangle. Cover grill and cook until fish is opaque in center, about 7 minutes. Turn grill off; cook 2 minutes longer with grill covered.

4. Transfer foil with salmon to a board. Remove fish from foil; serve with slaw.

Calories 321      Fat 14 g      Satfat 2 g     Protein 34 g     Carbohydrate 13 g
Fiber 2 g            Cholesterol 94 mg         Sodium 373 mg
I’ve made several recipes from an article in this issue about using up open cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  Currently, I have no chipotles, opened or unopened!  However, I did just buy ground chipotle pepper for a rib rub and chili I’m making next weekend.  I also have a wee bit of chipotle mayo in the fridge, so I’m trying this recipe 2 ways.  In both preparations, all the ingredients are as listed except for the chipotle pepper, green pepper (I used yellow pepper instead) and the olive oil.  In the first preparation, I used 2 tablespoons of chipotle mayonnaise as the chipotle component and omitted the olive oil.  In the second preparation, I used 1/4 teaspoon of ground chipotle and left the olive oil amount the same.
Version #1 (creamy) on the left; Version #2 (oil based) on the right
Version #1 (creamy) on the left; Version #2 (oil based) on the right
Verdict #1:  The creamy version had more heat, a delightfully smoky undertone and fragrance, and a very smooth texture.  I didn’t get a lot of apple or lime flavor; the heat was predominant (but I didn’t think it was a bad thing).
Verdict #2:  The oil based slaw was fruitier and quite limey.  The pepper flavor was there, but the heat didn’t seem as intense.  Though I salted the two versions equally, this one had a noticable salty pop.  The texture seemed crunchier to me.  Neither version was very cilantro dominant, which I know some people would appreciate.  I wouldn’t mind a slightly heavier herb flavor.
Both of these slaws would be a great side to burgers, fish, or any summer grilled entree.  Beyond the apple prep (I see in the original recipe picture that the apples weren’t peeled) this is a super easy dish to prepare.  I also think the flavors will continue to develop and deepen as the slaw sits in the refrigerator, which can only make things better.   I would make both of these variations in the future.  (I might also try the original recipe the next time I have an open can of chipotles lying around.)

Meatballs II

I can’t remember what possessed me to try spaghetti squash for the first time more than 15 years ago, but I do remember the first recipe I made with it (and the only recipe, literally, until about a year ago).  It’s from the Better Homes and Gardens notebook/binder cookbook, and the recipe calls for prepping the squash in the microwave (15 minutes or less), and sauteing a topping of garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and oregano.  Then you drench the strands in butter and Parmesan cheese and toss it all together.  It’s great, and even my picky eater friends have liked it (well, my dad).

Recently, I’ve been trying other preparations for spaghetti squash.  I’ve made “lasagna” in the squash shell, subbing the strands for noodles.  I’ve taken the leftover filling from that recipe and put it in stuffed peppers (Hubby and I liked both of those). Apparently, I had the thought to look for alternative uses some time ago, because this recipe (Good Housekeeping, January 2015) was in the pile.  It was part of an article about carb stars, and I found it on their website dated December 19, 2014.

“Spaghetti” and Meatballs

TOTAL TIME: 0:35 PREP: 0:15 LEVEL: Moderate SERVES: 4

2 medium spaghetti squash (4 lbs. total)
1 lb. ground turkey
2 small zucchini
4 clove garlic
½ tsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium eggplant
1 medium onion
1 can crushed tomatoes (24 oz)
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 bag baby arugula (5 oz)

With a sharp paring knife, pierce squash all over. Place on a microwave-safe platter or baking dish. Microwave on high for 5 minutes per pound, about 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine turkey, zucchini, garlic, smoked paprika, and 0.25 teaspoon each salt, and pepper. Form into 1.5 inch meatballs; place on a large platter. In a deep 12 inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add meatballs to skillet. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until browned on bottom; with this spatula, gently transfer meatballs back to platter. reduce heat to medium.

To same skillet, add eggplant, and onion. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until beginning to soften, stirring and scraping up browned bits. Stir in tomatoes,vinegar, and 0.125 teaspoon salt. Nestle meatballs in sauce. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through, gently stirring occasionally.

While meatballs cook, when squash are cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. With spoon, scrape out and discard seeds. With fork, scrape pulp to separate strands. Toss strands with arugula. Serve meatballs and sauce over squash mixture.

I microwaved a 2 pound squash for 8 minutes and the texture was perfect.  I used a separate platter than the one I used for the raw meatballs in step 2.  I know the meatballs were going back into the skillet later to continue cooking, but why take chances?  I also turned my meatballs throughout the cooking time and browned them on all sides.

I didn’t use the eggplant in step 3.  Husband can barely tolerate it and I’m pretty sure Client wouldn’t be a fan either.   Personally, I love it, so I’ll try using it here when it shows up in the CSA in a few weeks.  I used diced tomatoes instead of crushed; after the meatballs were done cooking I removed them from the pan and used the immersible blender to smooth out the sauce.


Verdict:  Delicious.  The meatballs were moist, tender, and full of an herby flavor (which must have been the zucchini). I would increase the garlic and the paprika next time for a little more punch, but if you like things on the mild side they were fine as is.  The sauce was fresh and pungent (I might add basil and oregano) and paired well with the meatballs.  I loved the firm texture of the squash strands.  I didn’t mind at all that there were no actual noodles in this dish.  It’s a great meal for those avoiding pasta (dieters, gluten intolerance, etc.).  It’s a little heavy on the prep, but the potential for multitasking made it go pretty smoothly for me.  I would definitely make it again.

Fish, Chips, and What?!

A friend of mine periodically gives me her magazines when she’s done with them.  One title I had never heard of is Saveur, a food magazine that is akin to Food & Wine. It’s mostly recipes that are out of my comfort zone, though I have made a couple of loaves of bread and an easy layered dessert from several of their issues.  This recipe from the January 2015 issue caught my eye because Husband and I honeymooned in Ireland, and we loved the food there.  We also have heard the admonition that one should never prepare fish with cheese, so the accompanying article was pretty funny to me. Disclaimer: this is in no way a healthy dish!  It has butter and a load of heavy cream.  Every so often a recipe finds me that is worth the decadence. This is one of those recipes.


3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium white onion, sliced 14″ thick
1 12 lb. finnan haddie (cold-smoked haddock), skin removed
3 cups heavy cream
2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz. aged cheddar, shredded
14 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Roughly chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)


Melt butter in a 12″ skillet over medium. Cook onion until golden, about 18 minutes. Transfer onion to a bowl; set aside. Wipe skillet clean. Add haddock and cream; simmer 10 minutes. Transfer haddock to a plate; set aside. Simmer cream until reduced by two-thirds, about 15 minutes. Transfer half the cream to a bowl; set aside. Stir reserved onions into cream in skillet; set aside.
Bring potatoes to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water; reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pan. Add reserved cream, the cheddar, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; coarsely mash.
Heat oven to broil. Spread potato mixture in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or individual ramekins. Add haddock and spoon onion mixture over the top; broil until browned, 2–3 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if you like.
I didn’t want to try to find smoked haddock, so I prepared some cod with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  I also cut this recipe in half because the 2 of us don’t need a 4 pound casserole on top of all the other cooking I’m doing.
Cod is such a beautiful, buttery fish.  It cooks in no time and has a mild flavor, so it’s a great vehicle for whatever seasonings you add to it.  I pan seared 2 fillets (about 12 oz) for 6 or 7 minutes, then set it off to the side while I cooked the onions.  I used a little more butter (maybe 1.5 times the amount) than the recipes calls for, because, why wouldn’t you?
Onions, about 4 minutes in.
Onions, about 4 minutes in.
I sliced the potatoes so they would cook faster; they were ready before I was finished simmering the cream reduction so I let them sit in the pot (I’m a firm believer in multi-tasking but it doesn’t always coordinate).  The cream hadn’t reduced a lick after 15 minutes, so I put the heat up to medium and watched it carefully for scorching.  It took a good 20 more minutes to get this cream reduced to just under a cup.  The rest of the recipe came together quickly.
Because everything had cooled off a bit while waiting for the lazy cream, I put the casserole into a 275º oven while waiting for Husband to get home from work.  I’ve told you before that my broiler is a jerk, so I literally sat on the floor in front of the oven while I broiled this dish for exactly 3 minutes before we were ready to eat.  I was not about to risk burning it after all that work.
Verdict:  Heavenly.  The caramelized onions brought such tangy flavor, which contrasted beautifully with the creaminess of the potatoes.  I could have gone a little heavier on the paprika– the smokiness wasn’t really apparent.  The fish was delicate but crisp on the edges thanks to the broiler, and the cheese just sort of blended in.  There wasn’t an obvious cheesy flavor, but the texture of the potatoes was definitely thickened because of it.  I might try preparing some fish in our smoker to see how a more pronounced smoke flavor would come across in this casserole.  While the recipe was a bit labor intensive, the end result was worth it.  This one is a keeper!

Pie Day!

For those who may not know the story, my husband and I met online.  During our early email exchange, there was a debate about which was better, cake or pie.  I’m a cake girl, where he was adamant that pie was better.  After meeting and going on a couple of dates, it turned out he had never actually MADE a pie (and he cooks, so there wasn’t really an excuse).  I mocked him heartlessly, and to shut me up, we made a pie together, which happened to be our 1-month dating anniversary.  Someone decided we should make a pie every month (pretty sure I wasn’t the one with the idea), and the rest is history.  We haven’t always made the pie on the actual day, and we have been as many as 5 months behind (intense house hunting one fall and moving a week before Christmas just killed us), but 6 years and 71 pies later (currently we’re three behind), we’re still making pies (and believe me, people ask if we are!).

We receive pie cookbooks and pie paraphernalia as gifts, and plenty of people send us recipes via social media and email.  We’ve never repeated a recipe for a monthly pie, though we have made repeats for other occasions (Husband’s favorite is a bourbon caramel pecan pie that we’ve made for at least one Thanksgiving after we made it for the anniversary pie). They aren’t always a success (it took a while to figure out how to get fruit pies that weren’t pie soup), but we’ve gotten better over the years.  This caramel apple skillet pie is from Good Housekeeping, September 2014.  We’ve had mini-skillet pies in Memphis and they were tasty.  I’m always happy to dust off the cast iron, so this is pie #72.

Rough Puff Pastry and Caramel Apple Skillet Pie

Ingredients (puff pastry)

1½ c. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. cold butter
¼ c. very cold water


  1. In processor, pulse flour and salt until combined.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons butter and pulse 10 to 15 times or until in very small pieces. Add remaining 8 tablespoons butter and pulse 2 to 3 times to just combine. Add water and pulse 3 to 4 times or until dough begins to come together.
  3. Transfer dough to well-floured surface and press into ball. Roll out to 18-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Fold two short ends to meet at center, then roll up from bottom into log. Use rolling pin to gently roll into small square, dusting with flour if needed. Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  4. For Skillet Pie, unwrap pastry and roll out to 12-inch circle on lightly floured surface.

The dough came together nicely, though it took some time (more than 3- 4 pulses) after adding the water in step 2 for the dough to actually form, making the butter pretty uniform, and not in big chunks like the recipe suggests.  I can’t roll a rectangle to save my life, so I rolled the dough into a 16 inch square, folded it into a rectangle, proceeded with the rest of step 3, and chilled it. On to the next recipe:

Ingredients (Pie)

1 c. sugar
¼ c. apple juice
6 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
8 Gala apples
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (or 1 batch rough puff pastry)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet on medium, cook sugar and apple juice 2 minutes or until sugar melts, stirring. Continue to cook, swirling pan occasionally (but not stirring), 6 to 8 minutes or until deep amber. Remove from heat. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, stirring just until melted; stir in vanilla and salt.
  3. Arrange apple quarters in pan, round sides down, in 3 concentric circles. Simmer uncovered on medium-low 40 to 45 minutes or until almost tender, pressing down apples occasionally.
  4. Transfer skillet to foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Top with pastry, tucking in any overhangs. Bake 20 to 25 minutes (30 to 35 minutes if using homemade pastry) or until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack; cool 15 minutes. Wearing oven mitts, invert rimmed serving platter over skillet; carefully flip together. Remove pan. Serve warm.

Husband takes an 8 year-old’s lunch to work every day and we buy 100% juice boxes for his beverage (he used to take capri-suns until I entered the picture).  I assumed there would be apple juice in the house, but there was only apple-berry blend left, and he said it’s definitely heavier on the berry flavor.  Don’t panic!  We bought a Caramel Apple wine a while back, and it’s been languishing here for some time.  Problem solved!


I used Fuji apples instead of Gala.  They are a firm apple with a sweet flavor, and I thought they would hold up well to all the cooking in this pie. Personally, my favorite apple is a MacIntosh, and we have a giant clearance bag of them, but I knew they would turn to pulp after all the heat.  My apples were huge, and 5 would have been plenty.  But the rest that didn’t fit in the pan can go into smoothies or become applesauce.

The caramel took longer than 8 minutes.  I think it ended up being about 14 minutes total.  I don’t know how necessary the swirling was, but after 6 minutes the color had barely changed.


At 13 minutes it was browning exactly where the burner sat underneath the skillet, and I thought it was over because it started to smell burny.  But I snatched it off the heat and got the butter in, and I think I rescued it in time.


The apples were only getting soft in the middle of the pan, so I kept moving the skillet around to try to distribute the heat.  But even though the apples were still firm on the top, into the oven they went after an hour on the stove, because this pie was going to a party with us, and the pastry had to bake before we left.


The puff pastry crust browned beautifully, and I pulled it after about 30 minutes.  We were supposed to give it 15 minutes to cool off (presumably to let the caramel harden up a little).  It was still waaaay too runny to flip after 15 minutes, so we packed the cast iron into a Pyrex Portable bag and carefully transported it to our friends’ house.


We gave the pie another 2 hours to cool, but the caramel was still very runny.  I think that because my skillet was a 12 inch, the heat didn’t distribute evenly enough and the caramel didn’t cook long enough.  I expected the caramel to be thicker, but it’s possible that it was supposed to be saucy.  We took the skillet and the platter out to the backyard for the flipping so we wouldn’t spill caramel all over the kitchen (which turned out to be a brilliant call).  The flavor was great, although the caramel sauce was much too sweet for me.  The pastry stood up beautifully to all that moisture.  It was not soggy. The apples were plenty tender, despite still being quite firm when the skillet went into the oven.  Everyone said it was very good (but Husband thinks I reduced the sugar because he thought it was barely sweet enough).


Verdict:  If I made this again, I would use a smaller skillet and try to cook the caramel more evenly for a longer time.  I’m curious to see if it would set better after baking if it had been a little thicker at the outset.  Personally, I didn’t love this one, but I might be convinced to try a different apple just to eat that puff pastry again.