Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sugo Bugiardo or "Fake" Sauce

This recipe comes from a restaurant in Italy called Fattoria il Colle via a Tuscan food blog by Emiko Davies.  The sauce name Sugo Bugiardo indicates that the sauce itself is a fake or liar.   It contains a cheaper cut of meat such as sausage rather than beef.  These “fake” sauces came about when times were hard.  These are traditional peasant meals that “stretch” the food dollar to make an excellent, tasty meal with little money.  The Tuscan peasants used mostly leftovers to make these meals.  Traditionally, this meal is served with Pappardelle but I used Campanelle pasta which is shaped like a flower or  bell because I could not find any Pappardelle.  I liked the way this sauce tasted with the Campanelle even though it wasn’t what was recommended.  A good substitute that is recommended on some blogs is fettuccine.    

Sugo Bugiardo
Serves 6-8
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
Italian parsley
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
½ pound pancetta
4 Tuscan style sausages, taken out of their skin casings
1 glass of red wine
2 lbs canned whole tomatoes (plum)
Salt and pepper , to taste

1.       Prepare the soffrito (sauce base) by chopping the onions, carrot and celery finely and sautéing them gently in some olive oil.  When they are golden, add the pancetta and sausage meat, crumbled. 
2.       Brown the meat slightly.
3.       Add the glass of wine, tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. 
4.       Bring it all to a simmer on low heat to reduce slightly.  Cook for 1 hour.
5.       Meanwhile, put on a pot of water to cook the pasta (this goes well with ribbon pasta like  Pappardelle or any long pasta). Even a bag of "noodle" type pasta would work.
6.       Serve with your pasta of choice, a sprinkle of parsley and some Parmesano Reggiano.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Marbled Gingerbread

This recipe is an interesting spin on classic gingerbread.  This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens website.

Marbled Gingerbread
Prep Time:  25 Min's
Total Time: 1 hr. 30 Min's.
Servings:  9


1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup full-flavor unsulphured molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk*


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside.  For filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium  heat until smooth.  Beat in granulated sugar and 1 egg until combined.  Set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and baking powder.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar, beat until combined.  Beat in molasses and 1 egg.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.

4.  Pour about 2 cups of the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Pour filling over batter in pan, spreading evenly.  Spoon the remaining batter in mounds on top of filling.  Using a table knife or narrow metal spatula, gently swirl the batter into the filling to marble.

5.  Bake about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Cut into squares.  Serve warm.  Makes 9 servings.

Test Kitchen Tip:  To make 1/2 cup sour milk, place 1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice in a glass measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1/2 cup total liquid; stir.  Let stand for 5 minutes before using.


Favorite Old Fashioned Gingerbread

This is a wonderful easy holiday favorite.  It can be served with whipped cream topping.  I got the recipe from

Favorite Old Fashioned Gingerbread


1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter.  Beat in the egg and mix in the molasses.

3.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.  Blend into the creamed mixture.  Stir in the hot water.  Pour into the prepared pan.

4.  Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pan before serving.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Meatballs

This is a wonderful recipe that I made for my cookie exchange.  I admit that I cheated and used premade meatballs but I will definitely make it again using the actual meatball recipe.  The recipe was sent to me by a FB friend.  Thank you, Miss C!

Cranberry Meatballs


½ cup cream (or beer)
1 1/2 cups fine breadcrumbs
1 lb. each lean ground beef and ground pork
1 medium onions finely chopped
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls.  Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 20 mins., then turn pan (not the meatballs) and cook for 10 more.  When cool, meatballs can be frozen.


1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 large bottle chili sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard

In a crock pot mix all ingredients together, turn on low heat and add meatballs.  Cook all day on low.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lemon Butter Cookies

These cookies were a big hit at my house.  I am in favor of making "icebox" or "refrigerator" cookies for the simple reason that making them seems like less work.  You make the batter on one day and the next day or even several days later (if you freeze the dough) you bake them.  It is such a great plan.  I made three different kinds of cookies and it hardly seemed like any work at all.  The lemon butter flavor doesn't seem very Christmasy but they can add a unique dimension to your holiday cookie tray. I did not make any changes to this recipe.  It was perfect.  Just be careful about cutting them exactly 1/4 inches thick to get enough cookies, if you are making them for a cookie exchange.

Lemon Butter Cookies
These lemon cookies are icebox or refrigerator cookies.


* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* dash of salt
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 3/4 cup (6 ounces) butter, room temperature
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel


In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together 1 cup of the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and zest, then gradually blend in the flour mixture.

Form the dough into 2 rolls about 2 inches wide and 7 inches long. Wrap the rolls in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°.
Unwrap the cookie dough and cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle slices lightly with remaining sugar and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on a rack and store in an airtight container.
Makes about 5 to 6 dozen lemon icebox cookies.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sweet Potato Bisque

I got this recipe from my neighbor.  I don't think she would mind if I share it since she had put in in my son's middle school fundraiser cookbook.  It is very easy to make and super tasty.  It is a good way for me to use sweet potatoes that I can enjoy.  I don't particularly like sweet potatoes even though I know how much healthier they are than white potatoes.  That subject comes up a lot on this blog.

Sweet Potato Bisque

This soup is simple, rich and easy to make.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup celery (chopped)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a 4 quart saucepan.  Add the onions and celery.  Saute for 10 minutes.  Add the diced sweet potato and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium, cover and cook for 25 minutes until the potatoes are very tender.  Puree the potatoes in a blender (in small batches) or with a hand-held immersion blender.  Stir in the milk.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Reheat and serve.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Baked Ziti

This is another traditional Italian dish that I rarely if ever make.  My sister used to make Baked Ziti all the time when her kids were little.  I decided that it was time for me to make some.  This gets the "thumbs up" from my husband and my son.

Servings:  12


1 pound dry ziti pasta
1-1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary  (1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork sausage
1-1/2 (26 ounces) jars spaghetti sauce
Salt to taste
1 (6 ounce) package of provolone cheese sliced
1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 (6 ounce) package mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1.       Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.
2.       Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  Cook onion in oil until tender.  Stir in rosemary and garlic.  Transfer to a small bowl.
3.       Place ground beef and sausage in the skillet.  Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown.  Stir in the onion mixture and the spaghetti sauce.  Season with salt.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
4.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  In the prepared dish, layer half of the cooked pasta, provolone cheese, ricotta and a little less than half the meat mixture.  Then layer the rest of the pasta, mozzarella cheese, remaining meat mixture, and Parmesan cheese.
5.       Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until heated through and cheeses are melted.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Easy Pork Chops

I found this recipe in an article which really should be called "Pork Chops for Dummies" in a Cook's Illustrated Magazine.  I haven't read many Cook's Illustrated issues so I have no idea how to identify which issue I found it in.  This magazine doesn't seem to use a date or a number.  Regardless, I have been searching for pork chop methods and recipes for a while now.  I was lucky to find this excellent method while flipping through the Cook's Illustrated.  It works great even if you are making the pork chops with a special sauce or glaze.  It really helps to make the chops juicy rather than dry like pork chops can often be.  Pork chops have so little fat that it is very hard to keep them from drying out.  Please give this method a try.  Cook's Illustrated does lots of research.  This method was a success for me.  The boys loved these chops.  Towards the end of cooking these, I used a prepared glaze rather than make the gravy suggested in the recipe.  

Easy Pork Chops
Serves 4

4 bone-in or center-cut chops, about 7 ounces each and ½ to ¾ inch thick
Patted dry with paper towels and prepared according to instructions below
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Salt and ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar

1.        If using electric stove, turn burner to medium heat, Rub both sides of each chop with 1/8 teaspoon oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle one side of each chop evenly with 1/8 teaspoon sugar, avoiding the bone.
2.       Place chops, sugared side down, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, positioning the chops as noted below.  Using hands, press meat of each chop into pan.  Set skillet with chops over medium heat; cook until lightly browned, 4 to 9 minutes (chops should be sizzling after 2 minutes, if not, raise the heat to medium-high).  Using tongs, flip chops, positioning them in same manner.  Cover skillet, reduce heat to low, and cook until center of each chop registers 140 degrees on instant read thermometer, 3 to 6 minutes (begin checking temperature after 2 minutes); chops will barely brown on second side.  Transfer chops to platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes; do not discard liquid in skillet.
3.       Add any juices accumulated on platter to skillet.  Set skillet over high heat and simmer vigorously until reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 30 seconds to 90 seconds, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.  Off heat, return pork chops to skillet, turning chops to coat with reduced juices.  Serve chops immediately, browned side up, pouring any remaining juices over.

Cooks Illustrated

Step-By-Step: Cooking the Chops

1.        Cut two slits about 2 inches apart through fat and connective tissue.
2.       Place pork chops in cold pan with bony ribs facing center.
3.       Rely on temperature, not timing, to judge when chops are done.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Scalloped Russet and Sweet Potatoes

This was another one of my attempts at making something "different" with potatoes.  I liked it, my husband liked it, my son's friend liked it but my son did not like it at all.  It is a rare event when my son leaves the potatoes on his plate but he did that last night.  I couldn't get him to tell me what he didn't like about them.  I would still recommend giving them a try.  Your kids might like them.   They are not boring potatoes.  This casserole looks pretty with the white and orange potatoes mixed together.  It isn't a particularly difficult recipe.  I was able to make this dish along with the Brussels Sprouts from yesterday and pork chops in a little over an hour.  

Scalloped Russet and Sweet Potatoes
Makes: 8 Servings

1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 large onion, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
2 cups milk
½ cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 medium russet potatoes
1 medium sweet potato
Whole nutmeg

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Aggressively rub the inside of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with garlic clove.  Generously butter the dish; set aside.
2.       Using a mandolin or knife, slice the onion halves very thinly, approximately 1/16 inch thick.  Warm the olive oil in a large skillet.  Cook onions gently, until tender and translucent, seasoning well with salt and pepper.  Stir in thyme at the end.  Set aside.
3.       In a medium saucepan, heat milk and cream just until simmered.   In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Remove from heat and gradually whisk in hot milk and cream.  Return to heat and bring to boiling, whisking or stirring constantly.  Boil gently for 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened and the consistency of buttermilk.
4.       Peel russet and sweet potatoes.  Very thinly slice potatoes on a mandolin to approximately 1/16-inch thick or slice thinly with a sharp knife.  Layer one-third the potatoes in baking dish.  Season generously with salt and pepper; sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.  Top with one-third the onions and some of the sauce.  Repeat layering in thirds, finishing with sauce (cream may not totally cover top).
5.       Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.  Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more or until bubbly, golden crusty brown, and potatoes are tender when pierced with a wooden pick.  Remove from oven.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Lemon

These sprouts were surprisingly great.  I was amazed that my son asked for seconds and my husband (who does not like lemon) enjoyed them, too!  We had delicious Brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving but they were made with lots of bacon.  I think these are much healthier.  Even if I added one piece of bacon crumbled over them, this recipe would still be healthier.  

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Lemon
Makes: 6 Servings
Prep: 15 Minutes


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups Brussels sprouts, rinsed, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 Tablespoons, water
Juice of half a lemon, about 1 Tablespoon


1.       In a 12-inch nonstick skillet heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.  Arrange the sprouts in a single layer, cut sides down.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and a grind or two of black pepper.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove lid and sprinkle sprouts with water.  Cover and cook for 2 minutes more.  Sprouts should just be beginning to caramelize and, when pierced with a fork, slightly tender.
2.       Remove cover and increase heat slightly.  When cut sides are well-caramelized, toss Brussels sprouts in pan, drizzle with lemon juice, and sprinkle with more salt and pepper to taste.

Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Buttermilk Bundt Cakes

These little cakes are delicious.  My guests loved them.  They did not last very long at all.  I used the larger 6 cup bundt pan.  

Total Time:  55 Minutes
Yield:  18 Mini Bundt Cakes
Or 10-12 6 cup Bundt Cakes


Baking Spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)
13.5 oz. all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons butter, softened
3 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon grated lemon
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup powdered sugar


1.        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.       Coat 18 mini Bundt cups with baking spray.
3.       Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
4.       Place granulated sugar and 12 tablespoons butter in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla and rind.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
5.       Spoon batter evenly into prepared pans.  Fill about ¾ full.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out with moist crumbs clinging.  Cool 5 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans.
6.       Dust tops of cakes with powdered sugar.


Cranberry-Orange Bundt Cakes
1.       Prepare Buttermilk Bundt Cake Batter, reducing vanilla to 1 teaspoon, omitting lemon rind, and decreasing buttermilk to ¾ cup.
2.       Combine 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries and ½ cup fresh orange juice in a microwave safe dish.  Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, let stand for 10 minutes.
3.       Fold cranberry mixture into batter.
4.       Omit 1/3 cup powdered sugar.
5.       Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 2 teaspoons grated orange rind, stirring until smooth.
6.       Dip tops of cooled cakes in glaze; let stand until set.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce

I am still trying to catch up with posting recipes of side dishes I made for Thanksgiving.  This one is a "keeper."  Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  It was a very easy recipe to put together.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce
Prep Time: 2 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Servings:  12


1 bag (about 12 to 16 oz.) fresh cranberries
16 ounces, fluid pomegranate juice
3/4 cup sugar, more or less to taste

Preparation Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Mixture will thicken as it cooks, and will thicken more as it cools.  Cool in a jar or bowl in the refrigerator.  Serve with Thanksgiving turkey.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vermont Cheddar Soup

This is another recipe that I made to mimic a recipe from our local restaurant that changes its menu weekly.  This soup was not exactly right but it was still very delicious.  This recipe is from  If I make it again, I will leave out the apples.

Vermont Cheddar Soup


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 small leeks, light green and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half (or light cream)
1/2 lb. Vermont sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 Pippin or Machintosh apple, peeled, cored and finely diced


1.  Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the leeks, carrot and celery.  Saute until tender or about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for 3 minutes, making sure to cook the flour evenly.

2.  Add the chicken stock slowly, whisking to evenly combine.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes or until slightly thickened.

3.  Puree the soup in a blender, food processor or with a handheld mixer.  Strain into a clean saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.

4.  Add the half-and-half, cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir until the cheese is melted.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

5.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet.  Saute the apple pieces until they start to turn brown, about 3 minutes.  Ladle the soup into bowls.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Vermont Maple Syrup Pork Chops

In early November, we went to a local restaurant that changes its menu weekly to recipes that highlight a different state.  They cycle through all 50 states over the course of the year.  The week we went, the featured state was Vermont.  My husband and my son both got the Vermont Maple Syrup Pork Chops.   I thought that I would look for a recipe that was similar to the recipe the boys had tried at the restaurant.  I found this recipe on  It made some yummy pork chops.  I have to say that I enjoyed these very much.  In fact, my husband said he liked mine better than the ones served at the restaurant except that those chops were much thicker.

Vermont Maple Syrup Pork Chops

Cooking time will vary widely, depending on how thick your pork chops are.


4 pork chops (bone-in or center cut)
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced onion, plus 1 medium onion sliced (sliced onion optional)
1 tablespoon apple cider or white vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
About 1 tablespoon flour to thicken the gravy


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Heat the butter or oil in a large saute pan on medium high heat  Pat dry the chops with paper towels.  Lightly salt the pork chops then brown each side in the saute pan.  Cook just enough to brown, then remove from pan and place into a high-sided baking dish or roasting pan.  (If your pork chops are very thin and have cooked through at this point, skip the oven step and tent them loosely with aluminum foil while making the sauce.)

2.  Add the minced onion to the saute pan in which you browned the pork, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until the onion begins to brown.  Add the vinegar, chili powder, pepper, maple syrup, water, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan and bring to a boil.  Pour this sauce over the pork chops in the baking dish.  Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes for thick (1-inch thick) chops, 5-10 minutes for thin (1/2-inch thick) chops, or until the interior of the pork reaches 145 degrees F.

3.  Optional:  In the same saute pan that you used to make the sauce, add a little oil and heat to medium heat.  Cook the sliced onions in the pan, allowing the onions to pick up any sauce remaining in the pan.  Cook until lightly browned, while the pork chops are baking.

4.  Place the pork chops on a serving platter and loosely tent with foil.  Pour the sauce into the saucepan you seared the chops in and whisk in 1 tablespoon flour to thicken the gravy.  Salt to taste, and serve the gravy over the chops and (optional) onions.

Yield:  Serves 4.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

I made these mashed potatoes when we had friends over a few weeks ago.  They were easy to make and I made them in advance.  The advantage of that, of course, is being able to spend time with your guests and not cooking while they are visiting.  I wasn't overly impressed with these but my guests loved them.  I just prefer regular old mashed potatoes.  In the future, I am going to try the mashed cauliflower which is, at least supposed to be healthier than mashed potatoes.  Try them if you don't mind something different going on with your mashed potatoes.  

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
By Linda Larsen, Guide

Make these mashed potatoes ahead of time, refrigerate for up to 2 days, then reheat and keep hot in the crockpot.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 55 minutes

5 lbs. potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened (Greek yogurt)
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 beaten egg
4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup chopped chives (optional)

Cook the potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until they are tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain well and return to dry pot.  Shake over low heat for about 1 minute.

Then mash until there are no lumps. Beat in the cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper and egg.  Place potatoes in a greased 9x13" baking dish. Melt butter and drizzle over the potatoes. Cool for 20 minutes, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.

Take potatoes out of refrigerator about 3-1/2 hours before serving time.  Place in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours, stirring once or twice.  They can be held an additional 30 minutes or more.
Makes 12-15 servings.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Brisket in Sweet and Sour Sauce

No, I am not Jewish but I sure do love some good Jewish food!  I really miss the knishes I used to get in NYC.  In fact, I ate one every Friday for lunch at my Catholic High School in Queens, New York.  I can't get them here in Maryland.  The ones I have eaten since I moved here twenty years ago have been poor examples of the knish.  For instance, they are round not square.  They aren't deep fried which is probably much better for you but they taste awful. Since I can't do anything about my knish problem short of taking a weekend trip to NYC, I decided to find the best brisket recipe I could.  This one rated number one on a local television station's search for the best brisket recipe.   I made this for a group of 10 people and everyone loved it except for one of my son's friends.  

Brisket in Sweet and Sour Sauce
Prep Time:  15 Mins.
Cook Time:  3 hrs. 30 Mins.
Total Time:  3 hrs. 45 Mins.

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 two-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
6 large cloves garlic
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup dry red wine
1-1/2 cups Coca-Cola or ginger ale
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup honey
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Tablespoon coarsely ground pepper or to taste
1 six to seven pound first-cut brisket, rinsed and patted thoroughly dry


Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place onion, ginger, garlic, Dijon mustard, red wine, cola or ginger ale, ketchup, cider vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, cloves, and pepper into a food processor or blender , and process with steel blade until smooth.

Place brisket, fat side up, into a heavy baking pan just large enough to hold it, and pour sauce over it.  Cover tightly and bake for 2 hours.  Turn brisket over and bake uncovered for one more hour or until fork-tender.  Cool, cover brisket and refrigerate overnight in cooking pan.

The next day, transfer brisket to a cutting board, cut off fat and cut with a sharp knife against grain, to desired thickness.  Remove any congealed fat from sauce and bring to a boil on top of stove.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Taste sauce to see if it needs reducing.  If so, boil down for a few minutes or as needed.  Return meat to sauce and warm in oven for 20 minutes.  Serve Warm.

Yield:  12 Servings

Recipe Source:  Levana’s Table: Kosher Cooking for Everyone by Levana Kirschenbaum


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mashed Potato Casserole

I made this as a side for Thanksgiving last week.  I really prefer plain old mashed white potatoes but these were pretty good and could be made in advance rather than on the day of an event.  The recipe came from Cooking Light Magazine.

Mashed Potato Casserole
Serves 8

1-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1-1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
4 green onions, thinly sliced

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Place potatoes, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan, and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.  Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
3.  Place a food mill over a large bowl, and place potato mixture in food mill.  Press mixture through food mill into bowl.  Stir in reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and cream cheese.
4.  Spoon potato mixture into an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
5.  Preheat broiler.
6.  Combine Parmigiano-Reggiano and panko; sprinkle evenly over top of potatoes.  Broil 4 minutes or until golden brown.  Sprinkle with onions.


The Creative Cook

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blueberry Bran Muffins

This has been an interesting week.  My nephew's girl friend went into the hospital for an emergency appendectomy and then my dad went into the hospital for breathing problems.  I coped by doing the usual - baking.  I was asked to make some muffins that had lots of fiber in them for my nephew's girlfriend as she was having some problems in that area after the surgery.  I did not want to make bland, dry muffins so I searched through many recipes and found this one.  It looked perfect.  It turned out excellent.  I even tried one and liked it.  I am not a fan of bran muffins.  Who is?  Anyway, if you want or need to make some muffins that are filled with fiber and taste, try these.  The recipe comes from  They are touted as being low fat but that was not my reason for making them.  They are moist and tasty bran muffins which is almost an oxymoron.  Oh, they are also quick and easy to make!

Yummy Blueberry Bran Muffins
Prep Time:  15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Yield:  12 muffins


1-1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (180 degrees C).  Grease muffin cups or use paper muffin liners.  Mix together wheat bran and milk.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Beat in bran mixture.  Sift together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir into bran mixture until just blended.  Fold in blueberries.  Scoop into muffin cups.

3.  Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or  until tops spring back when lightly tapped.


The Creative Cook

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Olive Garden Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Yes, I know that I posted this recipe before but this is a newer better recipe than the one I posted back in January of 2009.  Where that recipe came from, I don't know but this one comes from  It is excellent.  Try it!  You won't be disappointed.  It has the taste and mouth-feel of the soup from Olive Garden.  The last time I ordered it at the restaurant, I got very little gnocchi but when you make this version, you can have as many gnocchi as you want.

Olive Garden Chicken Gnocchi Soup
Serves 8

1 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons flour
1 quart half-and-half
1 pound potato gnocchi (from gourmet section of supermarket)
1 cup carrots, finely diced
1 cup chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 cup fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1/2 teaspoon parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste (optional)


1.  Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the flour and make it a roux.  Let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.

2.  Cook gnocchi according to package directions.

3.  Into the roux, add in the carrots and chicken.  Once the mixture becomes thick, add the chicken broth.  Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasoning, simmer until soup is heated through.


The Creative Cook

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic and Moroccan Couscous

Last week, I saw the episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina Garten makes this meal and it looked really good.  I wish I had seen another blog post with this recipe reviewed.  I didn't read the ingredients correctly.  I thought it said that you should use 3-1/2 pounds of chicken instead of two whole chickens that weight 3-1/2 pounds each!  I wound up with a lot less chicken but it is still really good.  The other thing that I found out about the recipe while making it, is that you better make sure you pay close attention to the sauce when you are boiling it because it mostly likely will burn.  I had to open all my windows and put on the fan over my stove for about half an hour in order to get rid of the burnt smell in my house.  I thought I would have an intense smell of garlic in the house, not the smell of burnt garlic. The couscous is a cinch if you use store-bought low sodium chicken broth.  

Cook Time:  1 hr. 5 mins.
Servings: 6

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2 whole (3-1/2 pound) chickens, cut into eighths
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon good olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds.  Drain the garlic and peel.   Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  In batches, sauté the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.   Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don’t want to pierce the skin with a fork.  If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium.  When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to sauté all the chicken in batches.  Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned.  Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves.  Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.  In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot.  Raise the heat, add the remaining teaspoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 2-3 minutes.  {I recommend watching the sauce very carefully because at this point it may burn.}  Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland.  Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot. 

From Ina Garten’s 2004 cookbook, Barefoot in Paris.

Moroccan Couscous
Cook Time:  5 mins.
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
¾ cup chopped shallots
3 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 cups couscous
½ cup pignoli nuts, toasted
1/3 cup currants (or golden raisins)

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper, raise the heat to high and bring the stock to a boil.  Off the heat, add the couscous.  Cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Add the pignoli nuts and currents (or raisins) to the couscous, stir and serve.

From Ina Garten’s 2004 cookbook, Barefoot in Paris.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day Discounts for Members of the Military

FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, Nov. 7, 2011) -- More than a dozen restaurant chains are offering free meals or specials to veterans and service members over the Veterans Day weekend and many other businesses are giving discounts in honor of military service.

Applebees -- All veterans and active-duty military eat free from a limited menu on Veterans Day.

Chili's -- Veterans and service members can dine for free from a special six-item menu on Veterans Day.

Golden Corral -- Military Appreciation Monday includes a free dinner, Nov. 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for military retirees, veterans, and current service members.

Famous Dave's -- Offers for free or discounted meals on Veterans Day vary by location.

Hooters -- All veterans and service members get 10 free wings with the purchase of a drink.

Krispy Kreme -- A free donut is available for all service members, retirees and veterans.

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants -- This Sunday, participating McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants are offering a complimentary entree to vets from a special menu on a space-available basis. Online reservations are highly recommended.

Outback Steakhouse -- Nov. 7-15, Outback will offer veterans and military a free Bloomin' Onion and beverage.

Subway Restaurants -- Free six-inch sub or flatbread available to military vets on Veterans Day.

Texas Roadhouse -- Free meals available to veterans from opening until 4 p.m. on Veterans Day.

T.G.I. Friday's -- Veterans and service members can buy one meal and get another free, Nov. 11-13.

UNO Chicago Grill -- Nov. 7-15, UNO is offering a 19.43 percent discount on food and non-alcoholic beverage beverages to vets and military. The chain explains that 1943 was the year UNO invented the deep dish pizza.

Abuelo's Mexican Food -- Offers vary by region.

Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurants -- Special offers for vets on Veterans Day.

RETAIL DEALS -- A free downloadable MP3 album includes 12 songs performed by military bands and ensembles from now through Veterans Day.

The Dollar General -- Veterans, service members and their immediate families can receive a 10-percent discount with a Veterans Day coupon.

Home Depot -- Offers a 10 percent discount to all veterans on Veterans Day. Home Depot offers a 10 percent discount year-round to active duty military and retirees.

Lowe's -- All veterans receive the 10 percent discount for purchases of up to $5,000. A 10 percent discount is available year-round to active-duty military and retirees.

Sam's Club -- Nov. 9-11, Sam's Club will give away collapsible Hugo Canes on Veterans Day to military veterans who need them.

Seven-Eleven -- On Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., veterans can get a free small Slurpee.

Cabela's Outdoor Store -- Employee discounts are being offered to all veterans, active-duty military and reserve-component troops, along with law-enforcement, fire and emergency-management personnel Nov.11-12. Discounts vary from 5 percent to 50 percent, depending on item.

Build-a-Bear Workshop -- Members of the armed services, including the Coast Guard and ROTC, receive a 20 percent discount Nov. 11-15 on any one transaction at the workshop.

Fashion Bug -- Offering 20 percent off all plus-size and misses clothing purchases with a copy of military ID or spouse's military ID.

Sports Clips Haircuts -- Offering free haircuts to active-military and veterans on Nov. 11.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lemon Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake

This is a recipe that has been posted on at least 7 or 8 other cooking blogs that I found.  It was not always reviewed positively but for the most-part, people liked it.  Actually, there was only one blog post that said this cake was too sweet. It is really more like a sweet or dessert bread than a coffee cake.  I am thinking that this recipe would be perfect with cinnamon-sugar for the holidays.  I am not very experienced at baking with yeast so I found some ideas on how to help the dough rise.  One of the other bloggers put her dough on top of a heating pad which was an interesting idea.  I also saw one that said she heats her oven up a tiny bit (like set to 150 and then turn off 15 minutes before she is done making the dough so it's just warm) and let the dough rise in there.  The oven becomes a draft free, warm place.  Don't be scared off of making this recipe because it has a lot of steps.  Please don't be scared of using the yeast.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Really!  

I am amazed to say that my son absolutely loves this cake.  I have a feeling that I will be making it again and again and again.  

Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake
From Flo Brake
Baking for All Occasions

Makes a 9x5 pan

Sweet Yeast Dough:
About 2-3/4 cups (12-1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1-3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2-1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lemon Sugar Filling:
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1-1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1.    In the microwave heat the butter and the milk together until the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly. While it is cooling Mix two cups of the flour with the yeast and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Then add the water to the milk mixture and stir in the vanilla extract.
2.    Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixer and stir until combined. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg until it is combined. Add another ½ cup of the flour and the salt and mix till combined.
3.    Sprinkle the dough with 2 tbsp of flour and knead it with the dough hook for 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky but should become soft and smooth from the kneading.  Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
4.    Make Ahead Tip: If you want to make the dough the night before you bake it just gently deflate the dough after its first rise, place back in the bowl and cover it with plastic. Stick it in the fridge overnight (it will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate. Plus you get added flavor in the bread from the benefit of a slow, cold rise) The next day take the dough out and bring it to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps. I like to cover my dough with a damp piece of paper towel and stick it in my oven at the lowest temperature until it is room temp.
5.    Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. It will draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.
6.    Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or spray it will baking spray
7.    Forming the loaf:  Deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle.  This part is a lot easier with a ruler on hand!  Use a pastry brush to thickly coat the dough with the melted butter.
8.    Use a pizza cutter, pastry cutter, or a sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″ (it might not be this exact size, but try to make the five strips be equal sizes). Sprinkle 1-1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle and gently press the sugar in. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1-1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.  
9.    Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes.
10. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes and then check to make sure that top isn't browning too quickly. If it is, just cover the top of the loaf with tinfoil and continue baking. My loaf took a little over 40 minutes to bake completely. When done, transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
11. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth. Spread over the warm bread (you might want to put some plastic wrap or parchment paper under the bread to catch the drips).
12. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature. To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Salted Triple Chocolate Cookies

This is a difficult blog post for me to write.  I have a problem with these cookies but I can't figure out how to fix it.  I got this recipe from one of D's cooking classes.  The kids made the cookies for dessert in class.  The cookie I tried that day tasted great.  I thought they would be nice "brownieish" cookie for D to bring to a bonfire that he was invited to on Friday night.  I baked a double batch. The first batch of cookies went flat.  As soon as I took them out of the oven and they began to cool, they spread and got that weird consistency that I hate.  I did a little research and wracked my brain trying to remember any tips I had been given to resolve this problem.  I found something on the internet that said you should freeze the batter before baking it.  So, that is what I did. I put all the cookies on the cookie sheet (atop parchment paper) as the recipe suggested then I put the entire cookie sheet into my freezer for about 1 hour.  I then popped the tray into the oven for the 15 minutes at 325 degrees.  Again, the cookies spread.  I can't be sure if this is due to my oven which has never really been at the correct temperature or if I am doing something to the dough that I shouldn't.  Against my better judgement, I sent the cookies with D.  Nearly all of them came back.  The odd thing is that D said he liked them and ate a few  himself.  I am not sure if the cookies were the problem or the flake salt I put on top of them.  D asked me to leave off the flake salt next time I bake them.   Maybe by then, I'll have figured out my "spreading" problem.  I can only hope.  Try making these cookies and let me know if you have better luck than I did.

Salted Triple Chocolate Cookies
Servings: 36
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened (Dutch processed)
½ teaspoon salt, sea or flake
4 ounces chocolate, semi sweet
4 ounces butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces chocolate chips (2 oz milk chocolate; 2 oz dark chocolate or 4 oz semisweet)
Additional Flake Salt to sprinkle on top of cookies (optional) 


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, while stirring gently.  After the butter and chocolate have combined, blend (off heat) with the sugar, eggs and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in parts until it is mixed well, but do not over-mix.  Stop when everything is blended.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a cookie scoop (about 3-4 tablespoons), scoop cookies onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with flake salt (optional).  Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the baking sheet.

Adapted from


The Creative Cook

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Red Quinoa and Vegetables

This recipe definitely exceeded my expectations.  I made very few changes to the recipe.  The only thing I changed was the red bell pepper.  Instead of a red bell pepper, I used an orange bell pepper.  I like the taste of the orange and yellow peppers better than the red.  I don't know why exactly, but I do.  I was not familiar with lemongrass until I started reading this recipe.  I found the lemongrass that I bought at Wegmans (of course) in the produce section.  But weeks later, I also found it at Martin's in the herb section.  You know, where they have the small containers of fresh herbs.  The stalks of lemongrass were cut up and put into a plastic clamshell.  Now I know where to find it!  I have never eaten red quinoa before.  I've heard that it is even better than the regular quinoa, so I was looking forward to trying it.  I agree that it is better than the regular.  It has a "nuttier" flavor.  I like both, though.  You can sometimes find Red Quinoa in the organic section of your grocery store.  It is a grain that is very high in protein.  The other ingredient that you may not be familiar with is fresh ginger.  If you want to buy fresh ginger in advance, just cut it into 1 inch sections and freeze it.  I also read that you can peel it before you freeze it.  I peeled it afterwards.  It is a little easier to peel when it is slightly frozen.  This recipe has a bunch of really rich deep flavors going on that are just delicious. 

SELF | July 2009
Chef Akasha Richmond

Chef and owner Akasha Richmond creates local, seasonal, organic dishs for green-chic celebs. This high-protein favorite fuels stars in need of mega energy on-set.
Yield: Serves 4
3 medium shallots, roughly chopped
2 stalks fresh lemongrass (tough outer leaves removed)
1 piece ginger (about 1 1/2 inches), peeled
1/4 cup plus 5 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts (about 5 ounces each)
3/4 cup red quinoa
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or stock)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas, strings removed
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Marinade: Puree shallots, lemongrass, ginger, 1/4 cup oil, lime juice, tamari, sugar, sea salt, pepper, and coriander in a blender until smooth. Place chicken in a baking dish and spoon on marinade, rubbing it on all sides. Cover; chill 1/2 to 2 hours. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook quinoa until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until quinoa absorbs liquid, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat; let sit, covered, until ready to serve. Heat a grill pan or skillet over high heat; coat with cooking spray. Cook chicken, turning once, for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove chicken; let rest two minutes. Slice each breast on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook sugar peas and peppers until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add mint and toss. Divide quinoa among 4 plates. Top each with 1 sliced chicken breast and 1/4 of the vegetables.

The Creative Cook