Monday, December 28, 2009

Color Life Beautiful with Cakes

Here are some decorating ideas, in hopes that they might inspire creativity. I am inspired by all things whimsical and colorful, glamorous and over-the-top. Cooking and baking can be fun, creative, and inspirational. For me, it's time to turn on good music and get lost in the art. It's therapeutic, a time to reflect, and good for the soul.

Strawberry Stackcake Decorated in Fondant
Cutesy Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Head in the Clouds Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Traditions- Hot Wassail

Going to decorate tonight to Christmas music and Hot Wassail wafting through the house. Life is wonderful!

3/4 cup sugar
2 quarts apple juice
1 pint cranberry juice
1 teaspoon aromatic bitters
3 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 small orange -- studded with cloves

Dissolve sugar in juices in crockpot or on the stove, low heat. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 1 hour. Simmer on low for 4 to 8 hours.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spinach Salad with Balsamic-Bacon Dressing

A super easy recipe for a really wonderful salad:

Fresh Spinach, rinsed and dried
2 slices of bacon, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Fry chopped bacon for about 5 minutes on medium high heat. When the bacon begins to crisp, about 5 minutes, add sliced onion to the frying pan and saute until onions are carmelized. (See picture for carmelization)

Drain fat from the pan, as seen in the picture. To drain fat, tilt the pan and push onions and bacon to the top of the pan. Allow fat to puddle in the bottom of the pan and soak up with paper towels, or pour into a glass jar to toss. Put the pan back onto the heat and deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar. Pour the bacon, onion dressing from the pan onto the spinach greens, toss, and serve.

Until next time...Happy Cooking!!!


Until next time...Happy Cooking 8)!!!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Butternut Squash & Shrimp Tamales with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce


24-36 corn husks(soaked in water until soft)

3 cups diced butternut squash
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup chopped scallion, (white and green) about 12 scallions
1 tablespoon canned chipotle en adobo sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups masa harina (flour)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb uncooked, shelled and deveined shrimp (tails removed)
1 small bunch scallions, (white and green) loose chopped, about 1/2 cup
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, loose chop (find on Mexican canned food aisle of most grocery stores)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup Spanish olives with pimentos,
1/2 cup golden raisins
4 tbsp capers + 3 tbsp caper juice
1 cup broth (chicken, vegetable, your choice)
2 cups diced and boiled butternut squash
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

For dough:

Put all cups of butternut squash in a medium pot with broth, scallion, adobo sauce, garlic, salt, and cumin. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove the squash with a slotted spoon, and reserve the broth. Set aside 2 cups of the squash for the filling, then mash the remaining squash in a large bowl. Mix in the masa with a fork. Slowly pour the seasoned broth over the filling, mixing with a fork (or hands) until smooth. Slowly stir in oils, a little at a time until dough is soft and moist. Cover with plastic wrap, set aside.

For filling:
Place all ingredients, except the olive oil, broth and cilantro, in a food processor and process on "chop" for a few turns, until mixture appears chopped and generally mixed.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mixture from the food processor, allowing to heat in oil for 1 minute. Add reserved broth, and cook, stirring gently, until well combined, about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and
stir in cilantro.

To assemble:
Cut 2 husks into 24-inch lengths about 1/2-inch wide; you'll need 32-48 of these little strips, which will become your twist ties. Place other soaked corn husks on cutting board, open side up. Using the remaining softened husks, place about a 1/4 cup dough in the center of each husk, leaving enough corn husk free to enclose tamale. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons filling on top. Then cover filling with about 2 to 3 tablespoons more of dough. Wrap the husks around the filling and twist and tie ends with reserved strips to make party favor shaped tamales. Trim the ends if they are too long for your liking.

Set up a steamer basket. I used my electric steamer, which makes it so easy, but you can make your own using tin foil and a pot. For instructions on a homemade steamer check out:

Lay tamales in steamer, cover and cook until the husks get slightly translucent, about 50 minutes. Remove tamales from steamer, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving with additional hot sauce if desired.

Danielle's Roasted Tomatillo Sauce:

10-15 tomatillos, Skins peeled and cut into fourths
1 large white onion, cut into fourths
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 jalapenos, discard stems
1 cups cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and papper, to taste

Turn on oven to broiler. Put tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapenos on a roasting pan, drizzled with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Drizzle remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil veggies in the pan and toss with salt and pepper. Heat under the broiler for 5 minutes, turn veggies and allow to broil 2 more minutes. Remove once onions, jalepenos, and tomatillos have a bit of char and are soft. Allow ingredients to cool, then put them in a food processor or blender, and blend until pureed. Mix in finely chopped cilantro right before serving. This sauce can be served warm over top of the cooked tamales or as a dip for chips!

Vegetarian Option: Use only vegetable stock and remove shrimp from this recipe for a flavorful vegetarian option

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seriously Good Chowda

In the words of Ishmael, as written by Herman Melville in a little book called Moby Dick, "But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.....we dispatched it with great expedition."
And could the essence of a hot chowder on a cold day be put any better?

Oh, the mystery of my chowder is delightfully explained below:

12 oz Bacon, chopped
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
3 leeks, tops trimmed off, rinse well
(slice leeks into rounds, about 1/4 inch thick)
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock (I use my homemade stock that I keep frozen)
3 bottles clam juice
3 cups water
4 cans minced clams or 1 1/2 lbs fresh minced clam meat
9 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced into a large dice
1 cup half and half

Salt and Pepper TT (to taste)

In a large stockpot fry your bacon to a crisp (over medium heat).
Add in leeks and celery, a pinch of salt, and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in flour and cook flour and vegetables down for 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
Add chicken stock, clam juice, water, clams and diced potatoes. Simmer on low heat until potatoes are tender (about 30 minutes.) Right before serving add the half and half, and low simmer for 5 minutes. Salt to taste and Serve hot!

This recipe is extra good the next day, so have a big party and make it a day ahead. If you make it a day in advanced, reserve the half and half until you reheat. Reheat the soup slowly on low low low heat. Add the half and half before serving, bring to a quick simmer, and serve.

Also, this recipe makes alot! Great for a party, or freeze the extra and you have dinner ready for another night! Win Win

Until next time...Happy Cooking!!!!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crazy Sexy Coleslaw

Watching the documentary "Crazy Sexy Cancer" inspired me...I want to see the world through Kris Carr goggles for a day. Sure, she has incurable tumors, but that's not what defines her. Not even close. She's a breathe of fresh air. She's life, what life should be. A smile, dancing when everyone is watching, jumping-hell... leaping out into the unknown day after day. Fearless. I should hope to learn what that is like.
So, perhaps I was inspired to try to make health really decadent this week. I honestly am not sure I could live on a macrobiotic or raw foods diet like Kris Carr does in her documentary; I mean, my life isn't complete without good cheese and countless other "bad" foods! However, I had a creative visionary moment, if I might say. Maybe it came to me in a dream, or on a whim after watching Kris's not completely raw foods, but it comes pretty darn close and it's oh-so good.

Apple Fennel Slaw scented with Ginger and Lemon

1 apple, shave thin
1/4 cup (approx.) Fennel frond/stalk, chopped
1 Fennel bulb shaved thin
2 Cups purple cabbage, sliced thin
1 cup alfalfa sprouts

Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup red onion, minced
**3/4 cup low fat mayo (use miso mayo if you want to be REALLY fearless 8)
2 tsp ground ginger (I also like using candied ginger, minced, again for the FEARLESS 8)
Pinch kosher salt

Shave the apple. I cut mine into fourths and shaved the wedges with a potato peeler but I'm sure there are many tools and easier ways of shaving an apple.
Remove the fennel frond from the bulb and chop the fronds...fennel fronds are the wispy dill-looking "leaves" (if you will) of the fennel bulb, to be used as a garnish. You can use them however you damn well please; isn't that the beauty of YOUR kitchen where innovation lies, but I use them as a seasoning.
Shave the fennel bulb, similiarly to how I shaved the apple. Or, slice very thinly.
Toss together chopped fennel frond, shaved apple, shaved fennel bulb, sliced cabbage, and sprouts.
Whisk lemon juice, apple juice, mayo, ginger, salt, and minced onion until blended.

Pour dressing over the apples, fennel, cabbage, and sprouts and toss it all together. Let stand in the fridge for atleast a half hour to let the flavors mingle and serve ice cold.

**Strained Yogurt might be a good healthy replacement for the mayo, I might have to try that next time. The mayo adds a creamy depth to the slaw.
Until next time...Happy Cooking !!!
Until next time...Happy Cooking!!!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Colorful Life

Your kitchen is a canvas
Ingredients, your paints
so go on and CREATE

Baked salmon
topped with
shaved carrot
and red bell pepper
Fresh basil for later toppings
for an
out of
this world

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tofu Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

You will fool a meat lover with this dish...the tofu absorbs the flavors of the seasonings, garlic, and tomatoes and you won't even notice a tofu flavor in the final product. Trust me, my meat-lovin' man eats these and even requests them once in a while.
Try my twist on traditional stuffed peppers for a very healthy and hearty Italian meal!

1 pack firm tofu (approx. 1/2 inch cubes)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup onion, loosely chopped
1 Italian squash cubed (1/2 inch cubed)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbsp worchestire sauce
(or soy for vegetarian)
2 tbsp soy sauce
black pepper
2 tbsp+ Italian seasoning or Mrs.Dash original
1 can whole peeled tomatoes loosely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
2 can chicken broth
( or vegetable broth for vegetarian)
3 cups quinoa
1tbsp butter
1 cup parmesan
2 cups mozzerella cheese
( for toppings)
3 bell pepper cleaned out, halved

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Tofu Quinoa Stuffing:
In a medium pan, sauté onions and garlic (reserve a spoon of garlic for the quinoa) in olive oil for about 2 minutes then mix in all of the tofu in a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Cover the tofu with Italian seasoning (Mrs. Dash), pepper, and worchestire sauce (or soy) and let pan fry for 10 minutes, covered, so the tofu can absorb the flavors. Add the chopped peeled tomato and chopped Italian squash to the pan and let simmer 5-10 more minutes. Mix in 1 cup of parmesan cheese and cover and set aside for later.
In a pot, put 1 can of broth with 3 cups of water, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, spoon of garlic from before and 1 tbsp butter. Bring to a boil and let the tomato paste melt into the water/broth. Add 3 cups of dry quinoa and a dash of salt to the boiling water, bring down the heat and cover. Let simmer and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa becomes fluffy and soft. Mix the quinoa and tofu together.

Tomato Sauce:

While the quinoa simmers in another bowl pour tomato paste (small sized can), 1 can chicken broth, and tomato sauce and whisk together until blended. Set aside

Stuffing the Peppers:
Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Lay peppers in a baking dish open side up. Stuff peppers with the quinoa-tofu mixture, then a layer of the tomato sauce and a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. Continue with all peppers, layer any remaining stuffing around the bottom of the dish and cover with remaining tomato sauce and mozzerella; cover the baking dish. Bake in oven at 350 for 1 hour covered.

Makes 6 peppers.

Until next time...Happy Cooking

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quinoa with Carrots and Chives

Quinoa (keen-wah)...what?
I stumbled across quinoa about a year into my kitchen journey when I was tired of pasta and rice.

In fact, I strictly believe weight correlates with consomption of pasta, rice, sugars and processed foods.

So, I was browsing through the barrels at my local health foods store, passing by the varieties of rice, the pastas, lentils and beans when I saw an interesting looking rice like product. They were tiny, with a nutty color and the price was right so I thought I would try it. Besides with a name like quinoa (keen-wah) how could I pass this up? I went home with my little scoop of quinoa excited for adventure and went to the internet for some advice in cooking these strange little south African morsels; I had a difficult time finding practical recipes.

I discovered that quinoa is low in gluten, one of the few foods that comes complete with all the essential amino acids for human needs, and is easily digestible.

I was stumped on what to cook it with. So, I went to my kitchen and decided to chop up carrots and green onions and boil it all together.

I used carrots for their sweetness, and green onions always add great flavor, as well as pairing well with the carrots. I knew at least the flavor would be great, even if the quinoa wasn’t.
Well, viola, it was fantastic, and my new household staple.
The great news is that since my quinoa journey, many new recipes have emerged on the web and quinoa seems to have become a more noted food source:

Stove top Preparation:
1/2 cup Quinoa
3 Bias cut green onions or chives
2 Diced carrots
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

(see homemade version in previous blog) or use vegetable stock for a vegetarian option

Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add quinoa and carrots and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chives or green onion and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and fluff grains with a fork before serving

**Kitchen Tip; Rinse the grains first: Some say the the seeds should be rinsed to remove the bitter resin-like coating, called saponin. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, and I have never experienced this bitter taste.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cinco de Mayo: Baja Pinwheels

My own variation on "Mexican Pinwheels"
You might find these in Baja Mexico


1 bar low fat cream cheese
1 cup salsa
...use your favorite brand
1/2 cup guacamole (I used Fresh and Easy brand pre-made guacamole for this recipe
Juice from 4 key limes

Warm the cream cheese in the microwave for about 30 seconds
Mix the 4 ingredients together and set aside.


2 red bell peppers, roasted and skins removed, then loosely chopped
1 ripe mango, shaved this sliced
4 green onions, chopped
3 cups fresh rinsed spinach, chiffonade
lime juice from 2 key limes

Toss the chopped roasted peppers, chopped sliced mango, chopped green onions, chiffonade spinach, and lime juice.


1 package of wheat tortillas

Spread the cream cheese sauce on a wheat tortilla liberally.

Sprinkle about half a cup to 2/3 cup of the filling mixture evenly over the tortilla.

Roll the wheat tortilla "jelly roll" style and place rolled tortilla in jelly roll dish or similiar size baking dish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Place rolls in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm them up a bit for slicing.

To slice, I use my sharp chef's knife and it works brilliantly, but reagardless of the knife, be sure it is SHARP for ease and less mess.

Slice the ends off of the rolled tortilla and discard.

Slice the roll in half inch increments and lay on sides for the "pinwheel" effect.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Roasted Garlic Pizza Topped with Basil & Fontina

"We're Making Italiano!"

A little Twilight reference to kick things off. Guilty Pleasure!
I tried this pizza for Steve's birthday. Fresh and Easy offers two types of fresh pre-made doughs: white flour and wheat flour dough.

The doughs are actually pretty good and cut down on your prep time; they do still need to be rolled out. For this pizza, I used the wheat flour dough, which I actually prefer over white flour in homemade pizzas.

*Kitchen Tip: Play with your food:
By rolling your own dough, you control the thickness of your pizza crust. I love thick, cheesy pizza but try to stick with a thinner crust for my hips.Be creative, add your own flavor profiles, build on the recipe, and play with cheeses & toppings.


1 Whole Wheat Dough Ball, rolled out
Roasted Garlic Sauce (see below for instructions)
1 to 2 cups Fontina Cheese
1 to 1 & 1/2 cup Fresh Mozzarella, 
cut into large dice (depending on how cheesy you like it)
1 package basil, chiffonade

Visit the following link for instructions on a large dice...again I eyeball it
Roasted Garlic White Pizza Sauce:

1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 heads Roasted Garlic, recipe follows

Roast your garlic first.
You'll Need:
2 heads garlic, upper quarter removed
2 teaspoons olive oil

Roasted Garlic: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and rub 1 teaspoon of oil into the top of each head. Place cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake until the cloves are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Squeeze each head of garlic to release any cloves that you cannot remove individually.

Back to the SAUCE:

In a saucepan, melt butter.

Once melted, add the salt, nutmeg and pepper and heat to simmer. Add flour and stir until smooth, not on too high of heat so as not to burn. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring.

Gradually add the milk, whisking as you go til smooth.

Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until the sauce comes to a boil and is thickened.

Remove from heat and add 1 head of the garlic cloves

Pour the hot mixture into a blender, cover tightly, and process until smooth.

Transfer to a small bowl and cool slightly, placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface.

Assembling the Pizza:

You will need a baking pan sprayed with pam, Trader Joes spray olive oil, buttered or rubbed with olive oil.

Place the rolled out dough in a baking pan; either pizza pan or other baking pan.

Spread with the completed sauce (recipe as seen above) liberally in the middle of the dough. Leave the edges sauce free, pizza style.

Sprinkle with shredded fontina cheese, basil and mozzerella.

Note: Recipe adapted from

What's my favorite pizza?

Pizza Hut! Gross, I know. Again, guilty pleasure!

What's my favorite pizza when travelling? 

My favorite all time traditional pizza in my travels is Gino's Chicago Deep Dish pizza; the real thing is only to be found in Chicago, or so the "Chicagoans" say.

When staying in Westwood, Los Angeles we usually pickup an Enzo's pizza which is HUGE at a whopping 23" (Picture below taken in Los Angeles at Steve's brother's old condo...that's an Enzo's original)

Until next time...Happy Cooking!!!!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner to the Tenth Flavor Power

I made this dinner for family in town, at the last minute we invited them over...luckily I had stocked up on supplies in advanced which makes entertaining in a pinch, very easy and stress free... which leads me to one of my favorite kitchen tip:

*Kitchen Tip; Buy more in advanced: catch the sales that pop up around the holidays...stock up and save! Then, You also have little side dishes waiting in the pantry, just in case. For example, corned beef at St. Patricks time, turkey at Thanksgiving, frozen veggies on sale, boxed pasta, stuffing, etc.. You are prepared for entertaining on the fly, you CAN do this!

This has worked out perfectly for me, today. I thought, "okay, what in the heck am I going to make?" In the pantry I had standard bag of red potatoes, a box of corn bread stuffing and, lucky me, I even have a turkey in the freezer. SO, buying extra and keeping the basics on hand has paid off today. Yay! The menu tomorrow night:

~Roasted turkey
(with an orange glaze using ingredients on hand from last week's dinner of cornish hens) 
Recipe for the glaze can be found here:
~Corn Bread Stuffing
( I will use the box and doctor it up with fresh sage, white french bread that I have a fresh loaf of on hand and fresh veggies)
~Steve's Loaded Mashed potatoes
~Green Beans
( *Kitchen Tip; freeze the extras: I got the idea to use these from my boss Michelle: I keep several bags of Italian cut green beans in the freezer, which keep a firm texture when steamed. They are my favorite fast veggie in a pinch. Thanks Michelle)
~Bercy Small Sauce
(this is a french shallot sauce derived from the mother Velouté sauce. Traditionally, it uses a fish veloute but for this dinner, I will use chicken stock. It can be used on top of all of the dishes, and really adds a wow to this basic American dinner)

Italian Cut Green Beans:

I package frozen italian cut green beans

Tablespoon of butter
Salt TT

I put the green beans in a dish right before dinner is to be served, microwave and doctor them up with butter, salt and stir.
Usually, mine only stay in for about 6 minutes.
I hate overdone vegetables, but these little beans are resilient.
Unless you leave them in for a ridiculous amout of time, they usually keep their firmness.
The Bercy sauce:

First, make the master Veloute sauce, which will include making a roux:
2 cups white stock (veal, chicken, or fish) -
white stock just means the bones were not roasted (if you have done what I suggested in an earlier blog, you will have lots of frozen flavorful homemade stock ready in the freezer)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (don't let it burn) and *clarify the butter.

*Clarifying butter:
Once it has melted, the "scum" which is the fat solids, will rise to the top.
Take a spoon and skim all these solids off, until all you have left is the clear melted fat, yellow in color.

Making the roux:
Add the flour.

Raise the heat to medium and stir the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes.
You are making the roux.
Take a good whiff and it should have a pleasant toasted smell.
Whisk the simmering stock into the roux and keep heating and whisking. When the stock begins to simmer again, turn down the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens. A thin skin may form, just skim it away with your spoon. Depending on your stovetop, the sauce may take 5 - 10 minutes to get to your desired consistency.
Season with salt and pepper
Strain if you have a fine mesh strainer

Now that you have made the master veloute sauce, you will add ingredients to make it the small sauce, Bercy. Of course this version is not a true bercy sace because I replaced the fish veloute with a chicken stock. *Please correct me with the true name of this type of sauce, if any chefs out there know the name

"Bercy" Sauce:

In a sauce pan, reduce down by two-thirds 2 oz. chopped shallots and half cup white wine
add one quart veloute (made above) reduce slightly
finish with 2 tbsp raw butter, chopped parsley and lemon juice to taste

Mashed Potatoes, Loaded:
Steve makes the mashed potatoes and he has a secret recipe that includes
Red Potatoes, boiled
cream cheese,
sour cream
cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
I've come to call them loaded mashed potatoes
I could also call them artery clogging potatoes, because they are just that good.
Let me tell you, Paula Deen would swoon over these potatoes
And there it is, an American dinner with a gourmet twist.
I promise you, that one little sauce will just wow your guests with the flavor it brings to the meat and sides.
It adds such flavor that your friends will think they are dining at a French American Fusion 5 star restaurant.
Try it out sometime for a special night.
Happy Cooking, all

Friday, April 17, 2009

Orange Glazed Cornish Hens & Baked Aspargus with Balsamic

My godparents came to town last week so we invited them over for dinner, since they had not seen the new pad yet. The menu from the night:
Orange Glazed Cornish Hens
Olive Oil Garlic Couscous Quinoa
Baked Asparagus topped with Balsamic Sauce

Herb Salad
Dessert- Coffee Custard Charlotte

Starting with dessert, well don't we all like to do that?:
A couple of years ago I was watching Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee (I love her 70% ready made, 30% fresh theory and her magnificent tablescapes) and she made a seemingly easy and very beautiful looking custard charlotte...let me tell you, it is as good as it looks.

*Kitchen Tip; Don't be afraid to mix it up: I sometimes have trouble finding the ladyfingers and am not ambitious enough to make my own so if you have this problem, replace them with a layer of vanilla wagfers softened in coffee. I think it works similiarly. See the following link for the full recipe
I also had the idea to slice up sponge cake and soften the pieces with coffee and use this instead of the softened lady fingers. I haven't tried that one yet, so if you do let me know how it works out.

Now onto the hens:
I sprayed the thawed hens with Trader Joes spray olive oil (good stuff) and sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I put the 4 hens in a roasting pan, stuffed each hen with an apple wedge and a yellow onion wedge. I scattered large pieces of the rest of the onion around the hens in the pan, for flavor.

While in the oven at 350 degrees for the first 20 minutes, I made the Orange Glaze:

half cup of orange marmalade
couple of splashes of orange juice
pinch of kosher salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp of onion powder
1/4 cup melted butter to be added later

After the first 20 minutes, I brushed the hens liberally with this orange dressing and back in for 20 more minutes.
Take them out, repeat.
Leave them in on 350 degrees for ten more minutes, for a total of 50 minutes, so far.

During this ten minutes, add a fourth cup of melted butter to the remaining orange glaze.
Next, you will crank the oven up to 425 degrees for the asparagus (see below for recipe).
While heating to 425 degrees, take hens out and glaze liberally one last time with remaining glaze/butter mixture.
Once oven is heated to 425 degrees, put hens and asparagus in oven for thirteen to fifteen minutes (until asapargus is done) and viola...hens are done. I pulled mine out and let them sit for about 5 minutes.
I halved them with my handy electric carver, but this is not necessary. Don't forget to discard of the onions and apple wedges before serving.

( I must thank my Mom and Grandma Jean for this recipe. They tried it for Thanksgiving and now I use it all the time.)
As seen above, you will bake in the oven for thirteen to fifteen minutes depending on how well done you like them and how thick they are. Before putting in the oven, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper over the asparagus tops in a baking pan(remember to cut off the bottoms about 2/3 down the stem and discard).

Balsamic sauce:

While asparagus is in the oven, make the following sauce to top the asparagus:
fourth cup of butter
3 tbsp of soy sauce
4 tbsp of balsamic
Heat on the stove until the butter is melted; stir and set aside.
I just eyeball the balsamic and soy sauce...bring the mixture to a boil for just a second before turning off the heat.
Take asparagus out and drizzle with this sauce.

If you like asparagus you will love this; everyone I've made it for does.

Olive Oil Garlic Couscous quinoa:

Vons carries a variety of boxed couscous flavors, my favorite is the olive oil garlic.

*Kitchen Tip; Chicken Stock: Whenever I roast chicken, I reserve the bones to make stock and then freeze little containers of this homemade stock. In the stock, I use one onion, celery (preferably the middle leafy part), and usually 2 to 3 carrots, chicken bones/leftover meat, celery salt, kosher salt and a big pot of water. I boil for an hour to two hours and let it cool. When it first starts boiling the "scum" will rise to the top, so skim the scum off the top and discard. Its then ready to freeze.
*Kitchen Tip; Replace water w/ Stock: So, when I make rice, couscous, etc I always replace the water in the recipe with this homemade stock...definately an easy trick that adds a lot of flavor.

Back to the couscous...
I medium dice one carrot; add to one and half cup of chicken stock and half a cup of quinoa (I find this at the Sunflower Market in the bins).
Simmer the quinoa for 20 minutes while the hens are cooking.
Next, add the amount of chicken stock called for on the back of the couscous box to the cooked quinoa and complete the directions for the couscous.
It will only take about 5 minutes to be done at this point.
Kitchen Tip: Replace Rice w/ quinoa for health: I will post a separate blog about quinoa but this stuff is great. Your body processes it as protein, making it a great substitute for rice. I'm a fan.

Until next time....HAPPY COOKING

Welcome: Fast & Easy Taco Fiesta

So I am cooking, entertaining, and throwing meals together pretty often. Now that we have the house, it seems weekly that we are entertaining...and I love it. I have been keeping my recipes and mental notes of menus for years and decided that its time to start keeping track and share a little of my knowledge from this kitchen diva to another. Hopefully my recipes and menus will give ideas to others on side dishes to pair with main dishes and maybe new and different yummy food. I love to experiment with different things from cornish hens, quinoa, couscous, to seaweed dishes, fondant cake topping, purees, and master sauces. I love to try gourmet dishes, create my own when I have time, but I also enjoy challenging myself to shopping on a budget or doing meals that I can turn into leftovers. Basically, Danielle Dishes will be a little bit of everything, and lots of delish. My hope is to take lots of photos and get recipes up as often as possible...and I promise to only put up those which are successful.

So tonight Steve's cousin, Rocco, is in town from Chicago and he's coming over for taco night. About 3 years ago I met Rocco when We travelled to Chicago to visit and he showed us around the town. We were only there for 48 hours and had a ton to see, being my first trip. We used almost every minute to sight see...and there was the getting drunk in a neighborhood bar, kareokeing until the sun came up, before flying home completely hungover, maybe still drunk, and exhausted. Sorry to whoever sat next to us on the plane ....there are probably pictures online somewhere captioned "hot mess Midway to McCarren."

But, between neighborhood bar binges, we did experience everything great about Chicago food in about 48 hours. Beef Sandwiches, deep dish pizza, and good ole Chicago hot dogs (my favorite).

Does Vegas have a signature food? I thought of shrimp cocktail, of course, and the buffet. Ah yes, I could do buffet style, that counts, right? So I went with it...alright that's a stretch, but whatever. I had to whip this buffet up, and fast, so I went with a Semi Homemade Taco Fiesta:

Chips (fresh and easy has some good flavors of tortilla chips)
Homemade pico de gallo (so refreshing)
diced tomatoes
diced onion
fresh squeezed lime juice
fine chopped cilantro
half jalapeno fine dice
kosher salt to taste

*Kitchen Tip; Put the measuring cups away: I do not measure often, I eyeball and taste. It takes a little intuition to just know when something is done or right, so I will try my best to give exact measurements and timing. However, there will be times when I just say "check it for doneness or "to taste", so I apologize in advance. The good news is practice makes perfect, and you will gain culinary intuition with practice.
*I use kosher salt instead of regular salt, not sure why but I just like it better


Refried beans (canned) I topped these with cheese and onions and baked on 375 for about 15 min
Cilantro Lime scented brown rice (fresh and easy has a good instant brown rice)
Browned Ground Beef flavored with montreal seasoning, taco seasoning, pinch of garlic, and season salt
Minibar of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and sour cream toppings. Taco Shells, white flour tortillas, and wheat flour tortillas

So, it's simple, "semi-homemade" having some homemade elements make it special and pre-made item (instant rice, canned beans, tortillas, and chips) which make it easy.

Until next time...Happy Cooking