My Short List from the Bon Appetit 25 for 2013

This week I read Bon Appetit 25, What to Eat, Drink, Cook in 2013.

Here are four things from the list I’m planning to try, buy or make in the upcoming year:

1. The Paloma, a cocktail with mezcal or tequila, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and club soda. I am a junkie for all things citrus but fresh grapefruit and grapefruit juice are my very favorites. This drink looks so good I may give up margaritas and mojitos.
2. Fresh horseradish. I love horseradish but I’ve never bought horseradish root. Apparently you use a Microplane grater and put the fresh shavings on everything from smoked salmon to ribs. I’m thinking fresh horseradish would be great on a bagel too.
3. Get a stovetop smoker to smoke salt for rubs. Smoked anything is another favorite flavor. Can I smoke a brownie? I’ll have to get this smoker and try.
4. Blondies, which BA says are the new brownies

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Healthy Snack for Your New Year Resolution

I’m not one of those all organic vegans who grow their own food so I never expected to try my hand at making granola bars. Why make when there are so many great commercial options out there? And along with that, I never expected to enjoy eating homemade granola bars.

However, Averie Cooks changed all that for me last week. I made her Snickerdoodle Cookie Granola Bars, which totally rocked. They came together, just like she said, in five minutes (note, there’s an hour of chilling in the freezer or two hours in the fridge to set up) and they were so delicious. And the ingredients were things I already had on hand. I didn’t ice mine with white chocolate like she did but I probably will next time. I’m already dreaming up my own versions–I have a serious gingersnap addiction. I may add my gingersnap cookie spice mixture along with the cinnamon Averie has in her recipe. Try these, they are satisfying.

Have you ever made your own granola bars? Why or why not?

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Southwestern Pasta Shells

The cool winds of September have begun blowing through Maine. Once it gets chilly, my interest in cooking hearty meals for my family resumes after a summer of seafood, salads and barbecues.

I’ve seen a several versions of this recipe including a few at the Taste of Home website.
I had thought about leaving out the cream cheese to save fat. However, I would leave it in if I made it again. The creaminess balances the heat from the salsa.

Husband and son loved these. They were very similar to a Mexican lasagna in my meal rotation but a little bit more work due to the individual filling of the shells. But, sometimes, individual little things are more fun to eat than slices of things.

I had a baggie full of pasta shells left over, which I stuck in the freezer for a batch of soup I’m going to make this weekend. I also had quite a bit of vegetable mix left, which I think will go on a weekend southwestern pizza with grilled salsa verde chicken.

Southwestern Pasta Shells

One pound ground beef
Taco seasoning (packet or equivalent)
Four ounces cream cheese

½ package jumbo pasta shells (approximately 20)

Two ears corn, cooked and cut off the cob
½ can black beans rinsed and drained
One small onion, diced
Handful of chopped cilantro

One jar of salsa (mild, medium or hot depending on your taste)
Two cups shredded cheese (I used combination of cheddar and monterey jack for meltability)

Cook and drain ground beef and add taco seasoning. Mix in cream cheese until melted.
Cook pasta shells in boiling water (follow package directions) then set aside until cool enough to handle.
Mix all veggies together in a bowl and set aside
Preheat oven to 375.
Coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Pour half jar of salsa over pan spreading to coat evenly.
Begin stuffing shells with a spoonful of beef. Top with a spoonful of veggie mix. Place carefully on top of salsa in pan. Repeat until you’ve used all the shells or have run out of mix. Save any leftover mix for taco pizza or soup or nacho topping.

Sprinkle cheese over shells. Pour remaining salsa over shells and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Serve as is or with sour cream or crumbled chips.

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Kraft launches seasonal Candy Corn Oreos in US

Hello and Happy Halloween six weeks early. Kraft has produced Oreo cookies with candy corn! This is a must try, with life support nearby to revive me when I slide into a sugar coma…

Kraft launches seasonal Candy Corn Oreos in US.

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Festive Carrots

Olive Oil Braised Carrots with Warm Spices

Olive Oil Braised Carrots with Warm Spices from Fine Cooking Feb/March 2012

Festive is how my husband described the olive oil braised carrots with warm spices, which I made last night to accompany our New Year’s Day roasted turkey. The recipe is from Fine Cooking Feb/March 2012. I’m not a huge carrot fan but I would agree with my better half that the carrots do taste festive.

What you need:

1.5 pounds of carrots, peeled and halfed lengthwise
3 medium garlic cloves sliced thin
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I used beef because that’s what I had on hand)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
kosher salt

What you’ll do:

Heat oven to 375. Fit the carrots in a shallow baking dish, a 9×13, (I used a slightly smaller pan). Place the garlic slices among the carrots.
Whisk all remaining ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over the carrots. Cover with aluminum foil
and bake about 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to braise a few more minutes. Fine Cooking says about 15 minutes more until carrots look shiny. I think I did five or ten more minutes. You can serve warm or at room temperature.

What I liked: the taste, which won compliments from the boys and that the dish came together quickly and was economical but tasted festive. I’ll definitely make again.

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Maine Strawberries

Michael and I spent an hour picking strawberries at a field near our house
Saturday. It was way funner than I expected and it went fast. We picked eight
quarts in an hour, and that was with the child operating at a “mama activity

I’m not quite sure what to do with them all. We gorged ourselves on strawberries
and whipped cream Saturday night and Sunday. I took some berries in to share
with my coworkers on Monday.

Of course, they are delicious, just as they are. Sweet without sugar or cream or
chocolate and juicy and firm from all the rain we had this spring.

But now it’s Wednesday and I’ve got to get the remaining ones in the

However I did pull out several of the biggest ones to dip in chocolate.

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Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

This looks like a must make.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie.

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Explore our Menu | Starbucks Coffee Company


One of Starbuck's new miniature desserts in celebration of the company's 40th anniversary this month: a Salted Caramel Sweet Square

Explore our Menu | Starbucks Coffee Company


Today is Starbuck’s 40th anniversary and they’re launching a new collection of miniature desserts. I tried the Salted Caramel Sweet Square. Really good and salty. If you like caramel and pretzels, you’ll like this. I can’t wait to try the rest, especially the lemon bars and the peanutbutter chocolate cupcakes and the…

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Mexican Lasagna Ole!

Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna from Cooking Up a Storm by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker

I made mexican lasagna last week from a book called Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. The book was written by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker. Bienvenu writes the paper’s Cooking Creole column and Walker is the food editor. It’s not clear whether the column is still in existence but Bienvenu is still writing for the paper. See her page here.

Anyway, I’ll be making this dish again as husband and picky 7-year-old child declared it “really good.”

If you ever need a good recipe, check out a newspaper’s food page or recipe archive. Those recipes tend to work well because they’re often submitted by readers who have made the dish over and over. No one wants to have their name attached to a failure of a recipe in their hometown newspaper.

I found this book in the clearance bin at Border’s. It was a bargain at $5.99. I’ll do a later post about the book specifically.

Mexican Lasagna

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion finely chopped

1 small green pepper finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves minced

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 10-ounce can Ro-tel

1 package taco seasoning

2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

2 tbsp sugar

1 8-oz package lasagna noodles

1 8-oz container sour cream

1 8-oz package softened cream cheese

1/2 cup finely choped green onion (green only)

1 pound pepper jack cheese shredded

1 pound American cheese shredded

1/4 cup black olives

 In a four quart saucepan, heat the oil over high heat.
Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper. Saute until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add the beef and tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, breaking the meat into small pieces and stirring occasionally.
Remove saucepan from heat and skim away fat. Stir in taco seasoning and cook, stirring over low heat, for 5 minutes.
Add tomato sauce and sugar and simmer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325. Coat a 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray. (Note: my oven runs a little cool so I set mine at 350)

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of boiling water al dente.

Combine the cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl. Stir in green onions and set aside.

Shred the cheeses and mix together.

Begin assembling the lasagna:

Spread half the noodles in the bottom of the 9 by 13 pan.

Cover with half the meat mixture then half the sour cream mixture followed half the shredded cheeses. Repeat the layers and sprinkle olives over the top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for one hour or until bubbly.

Notes: I only had a pound and a quarter of ground beef and the dish turned out fine. I also only had one can of tomato sauce so I added a cup of chicken broth in its place. I didn’t miss the second can of tomato sauce.

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