Black Forest "Cake"

Anyone who lives, works, or grew up around Fort Worth is probably familiar with this dessert, which has become the signature creation of Fort Worth's Swiss Pastry Shop. A true cake it is not, but rather a delicious, cloud-like confection. Billowy whipped cream is paired with surprises of crisp, almond-tinged meringue and dressed with luscious chocolate curls. Although the image of a black forest cake conjures up images of deep cocoa and cherries, you will not find any cherries in this dessert.

Last fall, I went on a virtual quest to find a recipe similar to the Swiss Pastry Shop's version. Most everything I found consisted of enough flour to make it cakey, and I knew the SPS's dessert was anything but. Finally, I stumbled upon an archived Star-Telegram article detailing the recipe. It was relatively easy to make and the results were wonderful. My mother's birthday celebration is tomorrow, so I will be making it again today. The recipe states the yield as 10 servings, but it's an incredibly rich cake. I made as written and it easily served the 12 people at a family dinner last year, with a bit leftover.

Serves 10
10 ounces egg whites (about 10 large egg whites)
3 cups minus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 pound blanched almonds, finely grated
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons very hot water
3 cups heavy (whipping) cream
Vanilla extract, to taste
Dark sweet chocolate, shaved
Dark sweet chocolate, finely grated
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Gradually add 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar, beating constantly, until mixture forms a mass that will stand in stiff peaks. Combine 1 cup sugar and cornstarch; carefully fold sugar mixture and almonds into beaten egg whites.
Spread mixture onto baking sheets lined with buttered parchment paper, forming three 10-inch circles. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.
Dissolve gelatin in hot water; cool slightly. Combine heavy cream and vanilla; beat until stiff. Add remaining 1 cup sugar and warm gelatin mixture, mixing carefully. Assemble cake, spreading whipped cream mixture between meringue layers. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining whipped cream mixture. Sprinkle shavings over top of cake. Cover sides of with finely grated chocolate. Sift powdered sugar over top. Keep in cool place.

This was originally printed in the Star-Telegram on September 27, 2006.

Here are a few tips I learned when I made this:
  • Use a 10" springform pan base as a template for you circles. I trace the circles onto the parchment paper with a Sharpie, flip the paper over, butter it, then fill in the circle. Although the ink is on the backside, it will still show through the parchment paper. You can also make a shaped cake relatively easily (a square or heart instead of a circle) using a pastry bag to pipe the shape. It's crucial to use some kind of template to keep consistency in the layers. I'd imagine you could even make mini cakes, but it might be a lot of work.
  • Make sure the gelatin is dissolved well, but still a little warm when you add it to the whipped cream. I think I let mine cool too much one time and ended up with strings of gelatin in the whipped cream. Gross.
  • I've made the meringue layers several days ahead of time, wrapped them well, and frozen them until I was ready to assemble. When you defrost, be sure to leave them wrapped so the condensation occurs on the outside of the wrapping material, instead of on the meringue layers.


Pumkpin Mousse Parfait

I made this for a party this weekend and it served about 12 cups. This is amazingly easy and delicious. It's somehow light and rich at the same time. I layered each cup twice but think I may only do one layer the next time I make it. I think you could omit the rum if you wanted to, but it adds a nice flavor if you like that.

¼ c dark rum
1 packet (2 tsp) unflavored gelatin powder
1 15-oz can pumpkin
½ c granulated sugar
½ c light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
1 tsp orange zest
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp kosher salt
1 c cold heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sweetened whipped cream
Chopped ginger cookies

Place the rum in a heat proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, the sugars, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Set the bowl of gelatin over a pan of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear. Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture. In a medium bowl, whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture.

To assemble, spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into parfait glasses. Add a layer of whipped cream, followed by some chopped cookies. Repeat layers, ending with a pumpkin layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, decorate with whipped cream and cookies.


Roast Chicken with Two Lemons

This is a staple in our house - always moist, simple, easy and delicious. It's self-basting so no oil or butter is required - it will not stick to the pan. Great for chicken salads and anything that requires cooked chicken without extra flavors interfering. This is a shortened version of the recipe from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Whole Chicken (3-5 lbs), giblets removed
2 Small Lemons

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pierce the lemons 5 times with a fork. Pat the chicken dry.

3. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out. I sometimes put s & p inside the skin of the breasts.

4. Stuff the bird with the lemons and close the cavity up with a toothpick to prevent the lemons from falling out (don't do it too tightly or the chicken will burst). Although, honestly sometimes the lemons are just too big so I go with one and a half or I leave the cavity open and hope for the best.

5. Place bird breast side down on roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the bird over and cook for another 30 minutes (or leave it - the turning is just for color on the skin of the breasts which is nice for presentation).

6. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast until the bird is done, about 20 minutes more. Allow for 20-25 minutes of total cooking time for each pound.

The juices from the bird are delicious - I spoon them over pieces of the chicken when serving.


Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp

Another winner from Smitten Kitchen. I am posting this here so you don't have to go digging for it... She tones down the sugar to make this an acceptable breakfast item which I reluctantly accept...I figure Caroline will go for this since apples and applesauce are a daily demand of hers.

3 pounds* of whatever apples, or mix of apples, you like to bake with, peeled, cored and cut into medium chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup flour
2 cups oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, as you wish; I used unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix apple chunks with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a 9×13-inch baking dish until apples are evenly coated. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the honey. Stir in the flour, oats, almonds, coconut and another pinch of salt until clumps form. Sprinkle evenly over the apple mixture and bake in the oven for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are softened and bubbly. Should the granola brown before you wish it to, cover the baking dish carefully with foil for all but the last few minutes of baking time, when removing the foil will help the granola recrisp. Cool to room temperature and then stash in the fridge to eat with your morning yogurt.


Missy Chase Lapine's Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

Aidan loves these and I'm a fan too. The recipe is from The Sneaky Chef, a cookbook dedicated to sneaking fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your child's favorite foods. Basically, she makes purees, juices and flour blends that can be added to everyday foods like mac n cheese and muffins so that your little ones are getting the nutrients they need without the food fight. I strongly recommend her book and thought I would post one recipe (which also includes recipes for her 'Orange Puree' and 'Flour Blend') that I am particularly fond of.

1 Cup Flour Blend (see below)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 Cup canola oil
3/4 Cup Orange Puree (see below)
3/4 Cup smooth peanut butter
8 heaping teaspoons favorite jam
(jelly doesn't work as well as jam - jelly disappears
into the muffins)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners (or spray muffin pan with vegetable oil spray).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the FLour Blend, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined, then whisk in the oil, Orange Puree, and peanut butter. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until flour is just moistened (don't overmix or muffins will be dense).

Scoop about two tablespoons of batter into the large muffin cups until half full. Place a heaping teaspoon of jam in the center of each muffin. Cover the jam with another 2 tablespoons or so of batter, filling the cups just over the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Flour Blend Recipe
1/3 Cup unsweetened wheat germ
1/3 Cup whole wheat flour
1/3 Cup unbleached all-purpose white flour

Mix all ingredients together. Can be stored in the refrigerator for months.

Orange Puree
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
3-4 Tbs water

Steam the carrots and potato for about 20 minutes (or boil for same amount of time) until vegetables are very tender. Puree cooked vegetables in food processor with 2 Tbs water. If necessary, add remaining amounts of water to make a smooth puree. This makes about 2 Cups of puree. N.B. I freeze the remainder in ice-cube trays and defrost one cube to mix with another cube of plain pureed fruit and applesauce. Aidan loves this!


Baked Risotto with Asparagus, Spinach and Parmesan

Another favorite from Trattoria. This is a very easy way to make risotto. It's creamy and delicious with the right amount of green vegetables to balance out the cheese. I usually serve this alone but it pairs nicely as a side dish with chicken. Also great during Lent.

1 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, minced
sea salt to taste
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
4 cups (3 oz) loosely packed fresh spinach, finely chopped (I never chop this and it still works out)
10 thin spears fresh asparagus, cut into diagonal slices
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400
combine oil, onion and salt in saucepan about 4 minutes.
Add the rice, stirring to coat with oil.
Add the stock, spinach, asparagus, nutmeg and salt and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat.
Stir in half the cheese
Transfer to baking dish and smooth over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover dish
Bake until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 35-40 minutes.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side


Homemade Marshmellows!

Many, many thanks to Angela for linking this site on her fabulous blog. I will definitely be trying this out and many others I have been drooling over this morning!


Curried Noodles and Chicken with Coconut Milk

This is the best Asian recipe I have come across since starting my culinary relationship with the cuisine a few months ago. If you like yellow curry dishes, this is for you. It's sweet yet spicy and wonderfully aromatic. It is also sinfully fattening but you could probably use a lower fat coconut milk. Substituting store-bought curry paste will not yield the same delicious results in my experience; the homemade paste is worth the effort. This is slightly altered from the recipe in Basic Asian which calls for tofu, no chicken.

1 piece ginger (3/4 in. section), chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 stalks lemongrass
2 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp ground cumin
8 oz. thin Chinese egg noodles
1 leek, root end and green parts removed
1/4 lb fresh oyster mushrooms (I don't make
the dish with these since Kyle doesn't eat them
so I don't know how they would effect the flavor
but you could probably use button shrooms no problem)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
8 oz. cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
Oil for sauteing
1 2/3 cups canned coconut milk (= 1 can)
2-3 Tbs kecap manis (this is sweetened soy sauce;
heat 2-3 Tbs brown sugar with 2-3 Tbs soy sauce for a few
seconds in microwave to dissolve sugar as substitute)

1. Rinse lemongrass, trim ends, remove outer layer, chop coarsely and process along with ginger and garlic in food processor. Mix this paste with sambal oelek, turmeric, coriander, cumin and a good pinch of salt. You can make this ahead of time same day, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator.

2. Cook noodles in boiling water for 3-5 min or until cooked through. Drain and rinse under cold water.

3. Slit leek open lengthwise and rinse thoroughly. Cut into 2-in lengths, then into narrow strips. Wipe off mushrooms with paper towels, discard stems and slice caps.

4. Place enough oil in the bottom of a hot pan (at med/med-high) to lightly coat bottom - around 1 tbs. - Saute seasoning paste mixture in pan for 2 minutes. Add leek, bell pepper and mushrooms; saute for 3-4 minutes. Pour in coconut milk and bring to a low boil. Stir in noodles and chicken; heat through. Add kecap manis and salt to taste, then serve.

Feeds 4.


Recipe Request

Does anyone out there have any good bread recipes for a beginner? I tried one recipe out of my usually no-fail Essentials of Baking and it was dense and grainy. I can do quick breads with no problem, but somewhere in the rising and kneading process I get lost. Leave your recipes in the comments or email them to me and I will post them! Thanks!


Baked Ziti

The most simple dish to make in the world so long as you have a sauce to use.


16oz of Ziti or Rotini
4-6 cups shredded mozzarella or pre-packaged shredded 5 cheese blend
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

Cook Ziti according ot directions on package. In 9x13 oven safe bake dish layer Sauce, Ziti, Mozzarella/cheese blend, Parmesan. Repeat.

Not at all gourmet but easy and fast and the kids will love it. I usually serve this with green beans for a more well-rounded meal!

Quick Meaty Tomato Sauce

This is a quick and delicious tomato sauce that is great to use in casseroles such as Baked Ziti or Lasagna if you're not into making the really long all day sauce (which is def. better but more time consuming). This is my own recipe.

1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 25oz can tomato sauce
1/2 onion, diced to preferred size
1 lb. ground beef (or turkey or whatever meat)
1 -2 cups button mushrooms (the kind in the blue foam square containers) (optional)
1/2 tsp. oregano (optional....to taste, I dont always feel like oregano so I dont always add it)
1 stick salted butter

In a large pot stir together all tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, plus half a stick of butter. Low Heat. Leave to simmer while you prepare everything else.
In a medium saucepan sautee mushrooms in half a stick of butter.
In large saucepan/frying pan toss meat and onions together. Stir continuously until meat is browned thoroughly.
Dont forget to stir your mushrooms as well! Sautee mushrooms until they are tender, smaller in size and darker in color.
Drain meat and onions of fat.
Throw meat and onions, and mushrooms into the tomato sauce.
Add spices to taste... oregano... I use two or three ground pinches... dont add too much salt and pepper as the butter already has salt and so doe sth esauce from the can.

That's it. If you make this at lunch time and let it simmer covered for the rest of the day it will taste great by dinner time but you can use it right away. Obviously you can add whatever you want to this recipe, like bell peppers or olives, whatever you want.

King Ranch Casserole (Kate D)

This is a pretty popular Tex-Mex recipe that my grandmother taught me. Emily loves it, but it could be a tad spicy for other kids.

1 whole chicken, boiled and deboned
about 20 corn tortillas
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can rotel
1 onion, diced
1-2 pkgs Monterey jack shredded cheese (8oz)

Combine soup and rotel in a bowl.
Cut corn tortillas in half.
Saute onion.

In the casserole dish, spread a thin layer of the soup mixture. The next layer is the tortillas. Dip the tortilla half into the chicken broth (from boiling the chicken, or you can also use store bought broth) for just a second. Layer about 6 halves to cover. Spread half of the onion and chicken. Cover with about a third of the soup mixture. Sprinkle about a third of the cheese. Repeat layer once. The last layer is tortillas, soup, then cheese.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Serves 6-8



Pizza Dough

I don't remember where I originally got this recipe, but I have done some tweeking to get it to be the perfect consistency. I use this for baked pizza as well as grilled, calzones and breadsticks. You can substitute half or all of the all purpose flour for whole wheat if you like, though I think too much whole wheat takes away the crunch of the crust.

2 cups all purpose/whole wheat flour
1/2 cup warm water, plus a few extra tsp. for mixing
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. yeast
3 TBSP olive oil (a basil infused olive oil is also great with this dough)

Preheat oven to 400
add yeast and sugar to the warm water and let activate for approx. 10 minutes
Once risen, add the yeast to the flour, olive oil and salt and mix just until dough pulls away from sides of mixing bowl. Add more water as needed to bring the dough together.
Shape into ball with hands and set in a greased bowl in a warm spot for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

This usually makes 2 medium sized pizzas, perhaps more depending on how thin you like the crust.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until crust is golden.


Tarragon Turkey Burgers

Olivia, I know you don't like tarragon but try this recipe first before swearing off the herb. I have had three men (two unrelated) that asked for seconds on these burgers. Not only are they healthy but flavorful and moist, two characteristics that I never associate with ground turkey. This is from the January 2002 issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 C dry breadcrumbs
1/2 C finely shredded zucchini
1/4 C chopped onion
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
8 (1 1/2-oz) hamburger buns

Preheat broiler.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Divide turkey mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place patties on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray; broil 6 minutes on each side or until thoroughly cooked. Serve on hamburger buns with desired toppings.

N.B. Grilling and pan-frying did not work so well on these - outside was charred, inside hardly done. Broiling is really the best method. I've also found that too many toppings mask the great flavor of these burgers so I usually serve these with dijon mustard, mayo - which go very well with tarragon - and lettuce for a crunchy contrast, nothing else.

Enjoy! -TML

Cheater Puff Pastry

Ordinarily, puff pastry is a pretty fussy thing to make from scratch - folding, turning, etc. With a food processor and 3 ingredients, you can crank some out in the comfort of your own kitchen. It's really important to let the dough rest for several hours, or preferably overnight. If not, it will still taste good, but won't puff as well. The recipe calls for butter. I've never used margarine, so use it at your own risk...

You need:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks of cold, unsalted butter (1 cup), cut into pieces
1/2 cup sour cream

Measure the flour into a food processor. Add the cut up butter. Pulse until the mixture is mealy looking. Add the sour cream and pulse until it begins to come together in a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Shape into a ball and flatten slightly to make a rounded disk shape. Wrap tightly with waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for 6 - 8 hours, or preferably overnight. When ready to use, roll out into the desired shape. Each disk is the equivalent of one puff pastry sheet. The entire recipe is equal to a package of pastry sheets (each package typically contains 2 individually wrapped sheets).

I've used this recipe to make elephant ears, crescent rolls (way better than the canned version), herb twists, crusts for chicken pot pie, and turnovers. It also freezes well.


Very Easy Quesadillas

This recipe was born out of my laziness but actually tastes better this way. One night I spent 3 hours or more making "homemade" quesadillas: fresh jalapenos, onions, grilled chicken, the works. Actually, typing that out makes me wonder why it took so long...ANYWAY, this is how I do it now and it's great. If you have an aversion to canned veggies, opt for lower sodium brands.

1 whole rotisserie chicken or 2-3 grilled or baked chicken breasts, shredded or chopped (great if you have leftover chicken)
1 can mexicorn (drained)
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can rotel (drained)
1-2 small cans green chiles, depending on how spicy you like it
1 clove garlic (this really adds a nice flavor, don't forget it like I always do)
approx. 8 oz. pepper jack cheese or colby for little ones or those who don't love the spice
salt and pepper to taste
However many tortillas you want. I usually buy a pack of 24 for making extras

Preheat oven to 375
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. I usually let them sit in a collander for awhile to drain off all the liquid.
Quickly steam the tortillas over boiling water or pop them in the microwave for about a minute just to make them pliable.
Scoop about 2 tbsp of the mixture in the tortillas and fold in half, you can cut them after they cook.
Put in oven for about 15-20 minutes, turning once to bake evenly. If you were really ambitious you could cook them in a pan over the stove, but that takes way too much time!
I love this recipe because you can add or omit really anything you want depending on your taste.

Herb Cubes

I love using fresh herbs - like cilantro, basil and rosemary - for cooking.
But I really hate going to the store, buying a HUGE bunch of an herb, and then only using a tiny bit for a recipe...and throwing the rest out. And, of course, I always end up tossing the yucky stuff a day before I need it for another recipe. A great way to save the 'extras' is to freeze them in ice cube trays.

Rinse and dry the herb, pulse it in a food processor until finely chopped, then add a tablespoon or so to as many squares as you can fill. Pour water over them, put the tray in the freezer until frozen, then pop the cubes out and put them in a ziploc bag until you need them. (If you freeze basil, instead of adding water use olive oil and you have the beginnings of pesto).

I frequently use 'cilantro cubes' in the chicken tortilla soup.

Braised Onion Burgers

Okay, guys, you aren't going to get super fancy recipies from me. They will be easy and delicious. This is one of my favorite recipies ever. In fact, we ate it last night and I ask for it on my birthday. This recipie makes enough for a big family (6-8) or it is easily halved. Although, I never half (is it halve?) the sauce part because it is so delicious.

Braised Onion Burgers

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped relatively finely
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t ground pepper
1/4 c worcestershire sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 c red wine

Mix ground beef, onions, and spices. Form into 8 thick patties with a well in the center. Place in baking dish. Mix liquids in same bowl used to mix the beef. Pour liquid over patties. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes. Looks beautiful with broccoli as a side. Seriously, your husband will die for this dish. Also, Johnny ate his whole serving last night saying, "Pretty good, mommy! Pretty good!"

Variation: My mother recently started chopping cremini mushrooms for the beef mix. She says that it helps the patties retain moisture and she loves the earthy flavor of mushrooms. I haven't tried it like that yet.

Broccoli kid tip: Johnny does not like the texture of broccoli florets, so I look for broccoli heads with relatively long stalks. Then I cut it up preserving as much of the stalk as possible. Peel the stalk and cut it into sticks or cubes. Johnny will either eat it with no complaint or I let him use "dip" (i.e. ketchup) as incentive.

Happy dinner!

Chicken Nuggets

You can probably find this on every website possible and your mothers must have made a rendition of this many times but I put this together with a slight twist the other night and Aidan loved it. Normally, he will only eat chicken nuggets from Swansons or Wendy's. The measurements are estimations.

1/3-1/2 C Flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into nugget-sized pieces (love those kitchen shears!)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbs milk
1 1/2 C Japanese Panko breadcrumbs (for crunch and flavor - don't substitute - this is the twist! I know, not that exciting.)
Vegetable oil

Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Combine eggs and milk in another shallow dish. Place Panko in yet another. Heat enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a fry/saute pan (I use a 12in pan with 2in sides) over medium to med-high heat. Dredge nuggets in flour combo, shaking off excess, then coat with egg combo and finally coat with Panko. Place as many nuggets in pan as possible without touching. Turn when golden on the bottom. Adjust the heat as needed (I was on med-low about halfway through cooking). Transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Salt to taste.

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing (from Gretchen)

Add this to the “almost embarrassed to serve this since it’s so ridiculously easy” file. I was pretty skeptical of this recipe at first, but gave it a go anyway. It was a big hit at our house. I suppose you could use any kind of apple pie filling – I’ve used the lower-sugar, Splenda-sweetened filling once, but I feel weird about giving my kids artificial sweeteners. That’s just me.

You need:

1 pkg (6 oz.) chicken-flavored stuffing mix

1 can (21 oz.) apple pie filling

6 boneless pork chops (1-1/2 lbs.), ¾” thick

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare stuffing mix as directed on the package (I do this in the microwave).

Spray 13x9 pan with cooking spray. Spread pie filling in the bottom of the pan. Place the pork chops on top of the apple layer. Top with prepared stuffing.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.

The original recipe offers a variation with chicken, but I think I much prefer the pork in this dish.



Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is one of our fav meals. It DOES make a ton of soup, so you might want to plan on sharing some or freezing some (or both!). It looks like a lot of ingredients, but all you really do is dump stuff into a crockpot and let it cook. Also, I often dump 'extra' chicken in to cook it for the week ahead - since it's already been cooked in a "marinade" it tastes GREAT in tacos or enchiladas, etc.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 lb. boneles, skinless chicken (2-3 lbs. if cooking extra)
1 15 oz. can tomatoes (diced/crushed work best)
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes & chilis
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1.5-2 cups chicken broth (or 1 can)
1-2 cups frozen corn (or 10 oz. frozen pkg)
1 can black beans - rinsed & drained (pinto or kidney beans would also work)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1-2 TB cilantro

Tortilla chips
Optional: cheese, sour cream, taco garnishes

1. Dump chicken, tomatoes, ro-tel, veggies and beans into pot.
2. Stir spices into chicken broth until well incorporated, then dump in.
3. Add up to 2 cups water to pot until at least 3/4 way full.
4. Put lid on and cook on low 6-8 hours, or on high around 4 hours.
5. Before serving, remove chicken and shred on a dish, then return to the soup. (If you made extra chicken try to take it out as whole as possible and let it cool while you eat dinner).
6. Top soup with crushed tortilla chips, cheese and other toppings.

Penne with Vodka and Spicy Tomato-Cream Sauce

This is my perennial favorite. I come back to this all the time. It is quick and easy and hearty enough to stand alone, but also good paired with a nice salad. It is from my absolute favorite cookbook, Patricia Wells' Trattoria. The spice is not very strong, but you can cut down the red pepper if you are sensitive to it.

Yields 6-8 servings

1/4 cup olive oil
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
sea salt
One 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes or one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree (I always use the latter)
1 pound dried tubular pasta, such as penne
2 tbsp. vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, lightly chopped

In a large skillet combine oil, garlic, pepper and salt, stirring to coat with oil.
Cook over moderate heat just until garlic turns fragrant and golden, but not brown.
(if using whole tomatoes, blend or crush before adding to skillet) Add tomato puree to skillet.
Stir and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Bring pasta to boil in separate pot.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss. Add vodka and toss again, then and add cream and toss. Cover, reduxe heat to low and let rest for 1-2 min.
Add the parsley and mix in.
Transfer to warm, shallow dishes and serve immediately. Traditionally cheese is not served over this dish.

Wine pairing: good quality red that stands up to the spice: Chianti Classico or California Zinfandel

Welcome Chefs!

I hope you will feel free to post any great recipes that you and your family come back to time and again, as well as new stuff you're just trying out. Bon appetit!