Sunday, January 11, 2015

lazy eggs

Dear Mom,

Christmas was an especially lazy holiday for us this year.  For the past 8 years while living in Chicago, John and I would pack up the Honda-sleigh with Christmas gifts and the pup and cross the winter wonderland of Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania towards either Pittsburgh (John's hometown) or Rochester.  This year, between moving to New York and just a generally crazy year, we opted to stay in NY sans parents and siblings.  While at first this sounded great, we would sleep in as late as we wanted, veg in our PJs and eat what ever we wanted, when the day actually came after the presents were opened we found ourselves drumming our fingers and wondering what to do.  There is surprisingly little good TV on on Christmas day.  The day did start out pretty strong for us though, we had the traditional Christmas Breakfast Casserole and then opened presents, which got us to about 11am.  Then, due to a miscalculation of preparing dinner the night before, the boredom set in.  Next year we'll be heading back out for the holidays for sure.

breakfast casserole
(This doesn't have to be made on Christmas of course, but it works out quite well for that particular holiday because you have to prep it the night before and let it sit in the fridge over night.  Then in the morning it has to sit on the counter for an hour and then in the oven for an hour, so you can open presents in the two hours while its resting/cooking.)

1 lb. breakfast sausage
12 pieces of white bread, cubed with crusts removed
1-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (not pre-shredded)
9 eggs
3 cups 2% milk
1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
salt and pepper

Spray a 9x17 glass or ceramic casserole.  Brown the breakfast sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove sausage to a plate to cool.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, dry mustard and salt and pepper together.

In a large bowl toss together bread, cheese and cooled sausage.  Pour egg mixture over bread mixture and fold gently until combined.  Pour mixture into prepared casserole, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. 

In the morning, remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let it sit on the kitchen counter for 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350, and bake the casserole for 1 hour, until browned on top. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

all gussied up

Dear Kristin,

When we were little we used to get brand new outfits for all of the holidays. Easter dresses, Christmas dresses, shoes to match - and oh, yes we even had to wear little white gloves! Why anyone ever thought that putting white gloves on a 4 year old was a good idea, I'll never know. I remember my favorite Christmas dress was one that actually changed color! Somehow, the fabric would appear to be a really pretty forest green if you looked at it one way, and a dark royal blue if you looked at it another way. It had little white satin roses at the collar. The problem was finding shoes to match, I think I ended up with black patent leather Maryjane's. (I wonder how many pairs of those I went through - either wearing them out or out-growing them, I know I must have had at least 3 or 4 pairs by the time I was 5 years old).

Well, those days are long gone. Nowadays, if we get out of our pajamas on Christmas day we have accomplished quite a bit. But, do not fret! Instead of dressing ourselves up, we have evolved and now have taken to dressing up our holiday meals instead. We used to just dress up the holiday ham - putting pineapple rings, maraschino cherries & cloves in a diamond pattern before baking it - but that was as fancy as our food ever got. But there is a whole world of food waiting to join the fashionistas...

Take the lowly cranberry. We usually see it in a gelatinous wobbly mold at Thanksgiving, or studded into various cookies or muffins. I say it's time for cranberries to shine and go for the glory they deserve! So, here is a way to gussy up your cranberries, and make a dessert that is as impressive to look at as it is to eat. Tart, jewel-like cranberries atop a light sweet cake base. This will be sure to earn you a "wow" as you sit back and enjoy your holiday dessert in your Dr. Denton's.

cranberry upside-down cake


5 Tblsp. unsalted butter
2/3 c. light brown sugar
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 c. fresh cranberries (about 8 oz.)


1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 c. milk (room temperature)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Butter a 9" round cake pan (I use a deep-dish 9" pie dish)

Heat the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan until butter is melted and sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking until the mixture starts to caramelize, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and pour this into your prepared cake pan. Sprinkle evenly with the cranberries. Try to use as many cranberries as you can, nestling them all nice and snug.


Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour)

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they hold a firm peak. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter using a large spatula. Pour the batter into the cake pan on top of the cranberries. Smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter to get rid of air bubbles. Bake in a 350 F. oven for 35-40 minutes until top of cake is browned & begins to pull away from the side of the pan and a cake tester tests done.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan. Take your serving plate and invert it on top of the cake. Hold your breath and invert the cake onto the serving plate. Tapping the pan will help loosen the cake if you need to.

This cake is best served warm, with some whipped cream.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

starch, cheese and fat

Dear Mom,

Well fall here in New York has been beautiful.  Nicer than Chicago I think.  We have mountains and hills here that are currently covered in the most lovely colors of fall foilage, unlike Chicago's remarkably flat, wind-swept terrain.  I've actually been able to get out to the park a couple of times for a run, which is truly enjoyable between the cool, refreshing air and the colors.  As you would expect though, the only reason I work-out is to eat, and as the weather turns colder its time for more starch, cheese and fat.  We have to bulk up for the winter you know.  A great way to get these items into your system is of course lasagna, but if you're not feeling up to the task this dish is slightly easier to put together and will still satisfy you in the cold winter months.

baked sausage rigatoni with home-made gravy

1 lb. dried rigatoni (cooked according to package directions)

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. italian sausage, crumbled
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes (no salt added)
salt, to taste

1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzerella

Preheat oven to 350.

Over medium-high heat in a sauce pan brown the sausage in the olive oil.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.  In the same pan (adding extra oil if necessary) add the garlic and onion.  Cook until fragrant and slightly browned.  Add tomato paste and cook until it is a dark red color.  Add white wine scraping the browned bits up from the bottom.  Cook wine until slightly reduced.  Add can of plum tomatoes mashing with a potato masher into the saucepan.  Adjust seasoning and cook over medium to medium-low heat for 1/2 hour.

In a large bowl toss the pasta with 2-3 cups of the sauce.  Layer 1/2 the pasta/sauce mixture into a 9x13 glass dish.  In an even layer sprinkle the sausage, parmesan and dollops of ricotta cheese.  Ladle about 2 cups of sauce on top.  Top with remaining pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle mozzerella over the top and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and brown.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

a break from burgers

Dear Kristin,

Yes, I'm also guilty of just kicking back and taking it easy over the summer. Especially now since your dad has retired & does most of the cooking during the week. (Yes, I did marry the world's most wonderful guy!). We have been doing a lot of grilling this summer - especially after we discovered the sausages at Skip's Meat Market which is only a short drive from us. Their chicken taco sausage is my fave.

After a summer of all-American hamburgers & sausages I thought I'd venture out & try something a little different. I was looking for the chicken dish served in many Chinese restaurants that comes in a brown salty sweet sauce & discovered that what I was probably looking for was called Bourbon Chicken. Evidently, it is a Cajun inspired Chinese dish that originated in New Orleans & is named after the famous Bourbon Street. So, don't be fooled - there is no bourbon to be found in this recipe. (Sorry if I disappointed you!)

Anyways, this is a quick dish to put together & your dad & I both love it served with some fried rice & a couple of spring rolls on the side. I based this recipe on one I found at, but as always, I couldn't leave it alone & had to make some changes.

bourbon chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on your tolerance
1/2 c. apple juice
2/3 c. light brown sugar
4 Tblsp. ketchup
2 Tblsp. cider vinegar
2/3 c. reduced sodium soy sauce
2 Tblsp. corn starch mixed with 1-2 Tblsp. water to make a slurry

Brown chicken pieces in hot oil in a large skillet. Remove chicken to a warm plate & keep it warm while you prepare the sauce.

Add all remaining ingredients except the cornstarch slurry to the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until everything is dissolved. Add the chicken back to the pan and bring mixture back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken tests done. Bring mixture back to boil & slowly add the slurry. Continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce has thickened.

Told you it was easy!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

brown bagging it

Dear Mom,

This is terrible! Its been months since I've posted!  I've been very busy, we've been unpacking since the big move and I got a job!  It all happened surprisingly quickly and I'm still adjusting to the new schedule.  So my new job is at a great firm in midtown Manhattan and is a convenient 10 minute walk from Grand Central.  I love the energy of working in the Big Apple, but the prices are a little expensive, even for lunch.  So I've been brown bagging it.  I've been quite ambitious with it, and I'm trying to make healthy things that I can make in bulk on Sundays so that they last through the week.  My big kick lately is quinoa, which I'm very surprised just came up as a spelling mistake on my machine - my corrective options were Aquino or Joaquin...

Joaquin's Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken (or veggie) stock

4-5 seeded, chopped plum tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped (peel too if you like)
1 can chick peas
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley
3/4 cup feta cheese

2 lemons, juiced
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions, usually its a 1:2 ratio of dried quinoa to stock.  Cool cooked quinoa.  Combine quinoa and tomatoes through feta in a large bowl, toss all ingredients together.  In a separate bowl whisk together lemon juice through garlic.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add to quinoa mixture.  Toss to combine.  Adjust seasoning as required.

This salad has kept in my fridge for 5 days (by then I've usually ate it all).  It will get better if it sits in the fridge overnight.  If it seems a little bland after a night in the fridge add more red wine vinegar and salt and pepper.