Monday, February 27, 2012

Potato-Kale Soup with Gruyere

I made this soup for dinner tonight.  It was a quick and easy soup to make.  It hasn't been very cold lately but I've been craving soup anyway.  This recipe could easily be made-over into a vegetarian meal with just a few tweaks.  I would suggest switching to low-sodium vegetable broth.  If you are a vegan then you would have to use a butter substitute and a cheese substitute but if not the switch to veggie broth is about all you need to do.  You could also bring this up to a dinner stew level with the addition of some shredded chicken.  Too bad I thought of that idea after I had already eaten a bowl of soup.  I was also thinking that you could substitute frozen spinach or even Swiss chard if you don't like kale.  The recipe is originally from  I thought the soup was very tasty.  Serve with some crusty french bread for a delish meal.

Potato-Kale Soup with Gruyere
Yield:  6 Servings

2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
7 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
4 cups coarsely chopped peeled Yukon gold potato (about 1-1/2 pounds)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
6 cups chopped fresh Kale (about ¾ pound)
1 teaspoon dried basil
9 tablespoons (about 2 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese


Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in broth, potato, salt, and bay leaf; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender.

Stir in kale and basil.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until kale is tender.  Discard bay leaf.  Partially mash potatoes with a potato masher until thick and chunky.  Top with cheese.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pan-Roasted Chicken With Lemon-Garlic Green Beans

Photo from

This meal came from  It could quite possibly be the best meal I have ever made or eaten in my life.  I am not exaggerating here.  It was absolutely delicious.  Of course, I could be prejudiced because my mom used to make oven roasted lemon chicken and potatoes all the time for us when I was a little girl.  I could be remembering those delicious meals and savoring this one in my memory.  Who cares?!  It was so good.  It filled every need for comfort food that I ever had.  When I make it again (you notice I said "when" not "if"), I will use more potatoes.  I am a huge potato fan. I could eat them all day long but I don't...  And to say it was easy, doesn't make it clear enough.  It was so "Real Simple" that it was a complete no brainer.  I can't imagine why I hadn't thought of this myself a long time ago.  The best part is that I got to use the convection roast feature of my new oven.  Wow!  Just wow!  I am in love this this meal.  Just add a glass of wine and you've got dinner.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Green Beans
Serves 4
Hands-on Time: 15 Mins.


6 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced, 1 juiced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound trimmed green beans
8 small red potatoes, quartered
4 chicken breasts (bones left in, with skin, about 3-1/4 pounds)


1.      Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Coat a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of t he olive oil.  Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer in the bottom of the dish or skillet.
2.      In a large bowl, combine the remaining oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; add the green beans and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the green beans and arrange them on top of the lemon slices.  Add the potatoes to the same olive-oil mixture and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, arrange the potatoes along the inside edge of the dish or skillet on top of the green beans.  Place the chicken in the same bowl with the olive oil mixture and coat thoroughly.  Place the chicken, skin-side up, in the dish or skillet.  Pour any of the remaining olive-oil mixture over the chicken.
3.   Roast for 50 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the dish or skillet.  Place the beans and potatoes back in oven for 10 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender.  Place a chicken breast on each of 4 serving plates; dividing the green beans and potatoes equally.  Serve warm.


The Creative Cook

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chocolate Pound Cake

I made this cake for a friend of mine whose birthday is coming up.  Her birthday is the same day as my dad's. I did way too much baking for everyone else this month and did no baking for myself!  I did a taste-test of this cake because it was one of the first cakes I baked in my new oven.  I wanted to make sure it wasn't overcooked.  I was actually going to make another one but I had to make the cookies and coffee cake for my dad so I talked myself out of it.  It looks like a good cake to make again. Maybe I can do it as a "marble" loaf instead of all chocolate.  I wouldn't have made something so plain except that I was told she would prefer this type of cake to anything with frosting or glaze.  I hope she likes it!

Chocolate Pound Cake
makes one 8 x 4 x 3 inch Loaf

¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
3 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups sifted cake flour (~125 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (175 grams)
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (cut into pieces)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter or spray with vegetable spray, an 8 x 4 x 3 inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and boiling water until thoroughly combined.  Let cool to room temperature.

3. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.  Set aside.

4. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended.  Add the butter and half of the chocolate/egg mixture.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about one minute to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add the remaining egg mixture, in 2 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg and strengthen the cake’s structure.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Bake for about 50-60vminutes total or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  About twenty minutes into baking, cover the cake with a lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning.

6. Remove the cake from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about ten minutes.  Remove the cake from the pan, reinvert, and cool completely on a lightly buttered wire rack.  Top with a light dusting of powdered sugar, if desired.

7.  Will keep, well wrapped, several days at room temperature, about one week when refrigerated, or it can be frozen for two months.


The Creative Cook 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Amazing Pecan Coffee Cake

I can't say much about this cake recipe except that I made it for my dad's birthday and I got good reviews from both him and my mom.  They don't usually tell me that something is good unless they really like it. I didn't even take any pictures of it before I wrapped it up and sent it off to their house.  I'll  have to make it again and taste it myself.  The recipe comes from  I have already gotten a request for it so I will definitely be making it again. It is pretty easy to make.  

Amazing Pecan Coffee Cake
Ready In:  50 Minutes
Servings:  12


2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pecan Topping:

½ cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted


1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease with cooking spray.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
2.      In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in sour cream, and then beat in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.  By hand, fold in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.  Spread batter into prepared pan.
3.      To make the Pecan Topping.  In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon.  Stir in melted butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over cake batter in pan.
4.      Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, and remove foil.


The Creative Cook

Friday, February 17, 2012

Italian Pignoli Cookies

My father is having his 92nd birthday next Tuesday.  It has been really hard to figure out what to get him for his birthday for the last several years.  After much thought, I decided to bake him his favorite sweet treat for his birthday.  It just so happens that he absolutely loves Italian Pignoli Cookies.  I never tried baking them before but it's difficult to find a good (or any) Italian bakery in Maryland that sells Pignoli cookies.  I know there is at least one (Vaccaro's) in Baltimore City but I don't enjoy driving down there unless I absolutely have to.  Since I just got a brand new oven, I decided to seek out a recipe for the cookies.  One of my favorite bloggers, Susan Russo of FoodBlogga did not disappoint me.  She has a recipe on her blog that I have used here.  The only tiny changes that I made are that I used an 8 ounce can of Almond Paste because I couldn't find a 7-ounce tube of the stuff.  She also recommends dusting the cookies with powdered sugar.  I knew that my dad wouldn't want me to do that, so I didn't.  I made my cookies a tiny bit too big which is typical of me which is why I only got 25 cookies instead of 30. Here is something that I will do next time I make them:  I will only put pine nuts on the top of the cookies.  My dad says he doesn't remember the entire cookie being coated in nuts so that will save me from using so many nuts.  I didn't use the entire 2-1/2 cups of nuts for this recipe which is why I'm thinking you could get away with only 2 cups or even a bit less than that.  Pine nuts are quite expensive.  I paid $8.49 for each 5 ounce bag.  I bought 3 packages of them for this project.  The almond paste was around $5.00 for the can of 8 ounces.  I also found a recipe for making your own almond paste but I didn't go to that extreme.  I posted it here just in case you feel inclined to make your own almond paste.  These cookies came out really delicious according to the expert (my dad).  I'm pretty darn sure that my Italian grandmothers would be proud to know that their granddaughter made these cookies and didn't just run to a bakery to buy them at $20.00 a pound.  Of course, my dad is worth his weight in gold but I feel that making the cookies myself shows my love even more than just buying them would.  I also made him another of his favorites (Pecan Coffee Cake). I'll post that recipe tomorrow.  

Italian Pignoli (Pine Nut) Cookies
By Susan Russo from http://Food

2-1/2 cups pine nuts
1 (7-ounce) tube of almond paste
¾ cup white sugar
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, optional

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Take ¼ cup of pine nuts and pulse in a food processor until coarsely ground.  Break the almond paste with your hands; add to the processor; process until just mixed.  Add the sugar; process until mixture is crumbly.  Add the egg whites and vanilla; process until the dough begins to come together.  Add the flour and salt; process until fully blended and smooth.

Pour the remaining pine nuts into a small bowl.  Using a teaspoon and slightly moistened hands, take about 1 teaspoon worth of batter and roll it into a ball.  Gently drop the ball in the pine nuts and turn until completely coated.  Place the cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool on racks.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.  Cookies should be stored in an airtight container.  Makes approximately 30 cookies. 

Almond Paste

3 cups Sicilian Almonds, blanched
3 cups Superfine Sugar
2 tbsp. Orange Blossom Honey (no substitutes)
2 egg whites
2 tbsp. Amaretto Di Saronno (Lazzaroni or Di Saronno)

1- Grind Almonds to a fine flour.
2- Add sugar and Amaretto.
3- Add egg whites and honey.
4- Mix until it comes together in a ball.
5- Let stand in the refrigerator overnight.

Makes approximately 2 lbs.


The Creative Cook

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

This recipe was inspired by Nigella Lawson’s version. But it comes from my favorite cooking blog, Smitten Kitchen.  The spices and sweetener's have been changed from Nigella's version.  You can find the original recipe here.  

2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2-1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts
Drizzle of olive oil
Flaked or coarse sea salt, to finish

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, table salt, sugar, paprika and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag (or lidded container) and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 but preferably 24 and up to 48 hours.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste. Roast for 30 minutes (for legs; approximately 35 to 40 for breasts), until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately. 


The Creative Cook

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

This recipe comes from  It is a delicious winter salad.  I was in the mood for something delicious and easy for Valentine's Day dinner.  I had no idea that my son would tell me that the dressing was the best he had ever eaten.  That is a true compliment.  I will definitely be making this again.  It has a sweet-tangy dressing that is a perfect partner to the green salad with pears and candied pecans.  I added some shredded chicken to make it a meal.  I did not use walnut oil because of my son's nut allergy and I kept the candied pecan as "optional".  I used olive oil instead.

Here is another idea I found on the Chaos in the Kitchen blog.  This one has a slightly different dressing and caramelizing the pear.

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Servings:  6


1 (10 ounce) bag mixed field greens
1/2 cup sliced red onion (optional)
1 Bosc pear, cored and sliced
1/2 cup chopped candied pecans
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese


1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup walnut oil


1.  Place the salad greens in a large bowl.  Add the red onion, pear, pecans, and blue cheese and toss to mix evenly.

2.  To make the dressing, place the maple syrup, vinegar, mayonnaise, brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor and blend thoroughly.  With the motor running, slowly pour in the walnut oil.  Blend until mixture becomes creamy, about 1 minute.  Pour over salad mixture, and toss to coat greens evenly.  Serve immediately.


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Easy Taco Pizza

I know, I know...  we all need to lose weight but it was Superbowl weekend.  I wanted to make something yummy to eat during the game (yadda yadda yadda).  I didn't want Buffalo Chicken Wings or anything of that sort, so I ferreted out a recipe on one of those online recipe sites.  Probably, or something like it.  It is a recipe for Easy Taco Pizza.  After reading the recipe, I decided to make my own taco seasoning for a myriad of reasons.  The first and most important reason was that I hadn't bought any taco seasoning at the grocery store.  I also figured it was more economical to make my own seasoning from what I had in the house rather than buying a packet.  So, there you have it.  A combination of laziness, lack of forethought and cheapness motivated me to make the taco seasoning myself.  Wait... I had another more altruistic reason that turned out to be completely bogus.  I thought that all taco seasoning packets had MSG in them.  I am against MSG for health reasons.  I'm sure I eat enough of it in prepared foods without adding it to foods I make myself.  In this case, I found out that I was wrong.  It seems that now McCormick is advertising that their seasoning mixes do not contain MSG! Are they doing this just for me?  I doubt it, but it is nice to know they care.  Anyway, this recipe is a nice mix of two favorite dishes into one delicious meal.

Easy Taco Pizza
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 20 min

1 pound lean ground beef
1 packet of taco seasoning mix
1 can (4-ounces) diced green chilies
1 store bought pizza crust
1 can refried beans
1 ½  cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced

1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.       Prepare ground beef according to seasoning packet directions. Be sure to drain excess fat after browning meat. Once the taco meat is prepared, stir in the chilies and set aside if still working on the other steps below.
3.       While the meat is cooking, smear the pizza crust with the refried beans.  Spread evenly across the crust leaving a ring of crust (unless you prefer to dress to the edge of the pizza).
4.       Once taco meat is done, pour it over the crust and spread evenly. Top with cheddar and green onions.
5.       Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Allow pizza to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.

Taco Seasoning
Prep Time: 1 Minute
Servings: 10

"This is a mixture of spices that approximates what you would buy in a package of taco seasoning. Depending on how spicy you and your family like your dishes, use as little or as much as you want."


1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.


The Creative Cook

Monday, February 6, 2012

Honey Mustard Glazed Apples with Pork

I did something very out of character for me.  In fact, it was out of character for both me and my husband.  We went grocery shopping together. I can't remember the last time we did that.  It was probably over 20 years ago when we were dating or when we were first married.  No matter.  We did pretty well.  No fights or anything.  Just that my hubby saw a recipe that he tore off one of those pads in the produce section of the grocery store.  He decided that I should make it for dinner one day.  He went off and picked up some pork chops and I gathered the other necessary ingredients.  After reading the recipe more closely at home, I realized that it was telling me to use a grill.  Well, that is something else I do rarely.  I do own a grill but using it is quite another matter.  It may even be out of propane.  I can't be sure if we ever refilled it.  I just decided that I would use a stove top grill instead.  For the rub, I used a recipe for the Dove Chocolate Discoveries cocoa rub I bought from a friend who is a rep for Dove.  The chocolate and spices gave the meat a great flavor.  Try it if you can. If not, just use one of the McCormick rubs that you can buy at the grocery store.  I had never heard of Junami apples before but they are really delicious.  A bit pricey but very yummy.  

Honey Mustard Glazed Apples with Pork
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
4 boneless pork chops (about 4 ounces each)
4 Junami apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Spice rub for pork*
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup dried cranberries, if desired

Season pork chops with spice rub and let stand at room temperature while preparing apples.

Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over low heat.  Add apple slices and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Cook apples 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and fork tender.  Stir in the cranberries.

Combine the honey and mustard in a small bowl.  Stir into the fruit and continue cooking over low heat until the fruit is glazed.

Meanwhile, prepare the grill.  Cook pork over medium high heat 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until cooked through.  Serve with glazed apples. 

*I used Dove Cocoa Rub for these pork chops.   See below.



1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns (red, black, white)
1 tablespoon whole coriander
4-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons DOVE CHOCOLATE DISCOVERIES Cocoa Powder
4 tablespoons sea salt – finely ground

Over medium heat in a small saucepan, toast the peppercorns and coriander seeds for a few minutes until they begin to crackle and pop.  Remove from heat and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill or grinder.  Mix the ground pepper and coriander with remaining spices, cocoa powder and salt.  Rub onto pork, beef or chicken. 


The Creative Cook