Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Orzo with Lemon, Basil, and Parmesan

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I was getting so tired of making potatoes as a side dish for dinner that I thought I would try something new. I gave this recipe a try for the first time and it won’t be the last. We are having an unusually mild and Spring like day on this end of January day and so I thought this would be a nice change of pace and taste a bit more like spring with the freshness of the lemon zest called for in the recipe. I used dried basil but believe me when I say I’ll be making it again with fresh basil from the garden or Farmer’s market later this summer! Use freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano if you have it. And if not, the stuff in the tall green can works just fine! :)


1 cup uncooked orzo ( 8oz. or half of a package)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

1-2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used a Microplane Grater and used the zest of 1 whole lemon.)

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I used about 1 tsp. dried basil.)

2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Basil sprigs (optional)


Cook the orzo according to package directions.  Drain and leave in the colander.  In the same pot that you boiled the orzo in, sauté  over medium heat, the garlic, lemon zest, and basil in the olive oil and butter.  Sauté just enough to take the “rawness” out of the garlic and the flavors have a chance to mingle.   Remove from heat.   Add the  orzo and mix well.  Add the Parmesan and stir together.  Add more to taste.     Taste and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.   Garnish with fresh basil leaves and thin slices of lemon if you like. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Cookbook Shelf in the Laundry Room

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Today is a re-visit to my laundry room.  It was completed a few years ago but it continues to be one of my most popular posts.  Since then my cookbook collection has grown, I have a new and improved camera, and it continues to be one of my most favorite rooms in the house.  I know!  The laundry room .  Really! 

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The main reason I like this room so much is my cookbook shelf.  When my husband and I updated the laundry room, we knew that the laminate builder grade cabinets would be expensive to replace.  So, we decided to dress them up a bit and we were delighted with the result and it cost very little money.  We invested less than $10.00 in a small miter box that came with it’s own saw and we cut narrow pieces of stock wood molding from Lowes’s, painted them white,  and framed out each of the cabinet door by gluing the molding to the laminate doors with Liquid Nails.  We replaced the door knobs too.

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My favorite part of this project was creating the cookbook shelves.  We took the center set of cabinet doors off and sawed off the vertical piece of wood in the center of the cabinet space that the doors rested on.  We filled in the holes where the hinges used to be with putty and quickly hand sanded them along with the spots where we removed the center bar and touched them up with white paint. 

Then we once again used the miter box and cut out a frame for the shelf area with a wide decorative molding that we painted black and attached the pieces with Liquid Nails.  (Get the one that dries clear in case any oozes out the sides and you miss it cleaning it off.)


This is not a new project but it is one that is one of my favorites because it was quick, easy, and very inexpensive to do.  I actually was inspired when I first started blogging by an amazing post I saw by Rhoda at Southern Hospitality.  She wrote a wonderful post on how she updated her laundry room and I was so inspired I contacted her to see if she could give me the name of the color of paint that she used.  She was so nice about it and told me it was called “Grasscloth”  by Behr from Home Depot. 

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I think the Before and After shots say it all.  The laundry room used to be the “catch all” room with soccer, lacrosse, and tennis schedules taped haphazardly to the fronts of the cabinets.  It was a depressing place to be and I usually kept the door closed.  Now, that door is wide open and I LOVE going in there.  Laundry is unavoidable, why not have a beautiful space to do it in?

And as for my cookbook shelf.  I couldn’t be happier.  I keep all my favorites in it.   How about you?  Any cookbook collectors out there?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps

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I found something new to put into the dinner rotation.  It’s a recipe for Korean Beef and it’s delicious.  My husband and son ate it with jasmine rice and I had mine on lettuce leaves to save a few carbs and calories and it’s a keeper! 

I found this awesome recipe on the blog Lizzy Writes.   It is also pinned about a million times on Pinterest so that should tell you something.  :)

Korean Beef


1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (I used 1 tsp. of dry, powdered ginger.)

1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red peppers

salt and pepper

1 bunch green onions, diced

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and brown hamburger with garlic in the sesame oil. Drain off the fat and add brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, salt and pepper and red peppers. Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Serve over steamed rice or in lettuce leaves.  Top with green onions.


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It looks like this is going to be a recipe month on my blog.  With all of the crafting and the hectic-ness (new word) of the holidays, I ‘m a wee bit burned out!  I am also  starting to think about starting a new rag quilt.  Picking out the fabric is the majority of the fun and if this rain ever ends, I hope to hit a couple of fabric stores over the next few days.  I hope you all have a good week and if you have some extra ground beef that you don’t know what to do with….give this Korean Beef a whirl.  It’s soooo good!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pasta with Sausage

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I am a huge fan of the Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks by Ina Garten and I have slowly been dipping into the recipes of her new book called Foolproof.  Her recipes almost never disappoint me and this one was very good.  I  modified it a bit for my family from the recipe she called Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage on page 152 of her book.  (I once heard that Orecchiette means “little ears”.  They kind of do look like “little ears” don’t they?)

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Today was the second time I made it.  The first time I made it  I followed the recipe to the letter including the broccoli rabe.   Although I served it on the side.  She mixes it into the finished dish.   Well, the broccoli rabe didn’t go over so well with the family.  I personally loved it.  It is a bit on the more bitter side as far as vegetables go but since regular broccoli is probably my favorite vegetable, I loved the broccoli rabe too.    If you have picky vegetable eaters at your house you might want to keep it on the side too.  But give it a try, it’s a delicious and very nutritious vegetable.

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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

or as it is known is our house:

Pasta with Sausage

Serves 6

1/2 pound sweet Italian pork sausage (2 links)

1/2 pound hot Italian pork sausage (2 links)

1/3 cup olive oil  ( I only used about 1/4 cup.)

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced.  (I used my garlic press.)

2 (14.5 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano.  (I used one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.)

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup tomato paste ( I left this ingredient out.)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 pound dried orecchiette pasta

2 bunches broccoli rabe (2 to 2 1/2 pounds total)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prick the sausages with a fork and place them on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  (Makes clean up much easier.)  Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.  (I roasted mine for a full 30 minutes.)  Let cool and slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces.    Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add the sausage slices and saute for 5 minutes.  ( I did not do this because my sausages were fully cooked from extending their time in the oven to 30 minutes.  If you do not cook yours for the extended time, then do not skip this step.)  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and their juices, the red wine, (tomato paste, remember I skipped this ingredient), 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper and let the mixture simmer over low heat while you prepare the pasta and broccoli rabe. 

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package.  The orecchiette  that I made took 12 minutes.   Cook your broccoli rabe in a separate pot.  I steamed mine in a couple inches of water till tender. 


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If you want to prepare the recipe as the Barefoot Contessa intended with the broccoli rabe mixed into the finished dish, then you can cook the broccoli rabe  with the pasta.  Her is how she did it:

Bring a very large pot half filled with water and add 1 Tbsp. of salt.  Add the pasta and cook for 9 minutes exactly.  While the pasta is cooking, trim the broccoli rabe to just below the leaves and discard the stems,  Cut the leafy part of the broccoli rabe crosswise in 2 inch pieces.  When the pasta has cooked for 9 minutes, add the broccoli rabe to the pasta and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the past is al dente and broccoli is crisp-tender.  Drain in a large colander reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.  Add the pasta and broccoli to the pot with the tomato and sausage mixture.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon salt.  If the pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.  Taste for seasonings, and serve hot with extra Parmesan on the side. 


This is a man pleasing and hearty dish!! Enjoy!


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And before I go, do you write in your cookbooks?  As you can see I do.  I write down how everyone liked it, the date of when I made it, and also any changes that I might have made to the recipe.  This helps me out a lot.  And it’s kind of fun when you pull out an old cookbook and see the notes you made about something you might have forgot even making! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Easy Way to Make Your Own Bread


This has got to be one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to make bread!  It’s made using a cast iron enameled pot with a lid and that’s the key to why it turns out so great.  The lid allows steam to build up and it’s that steam which gives the bread that professional bakery crust.     Le Creuset makes a beautiful cast iron enameled pot and someday I will own one!  They are quite expensive and if you have one already, lucky you!  But if not, you can find  a much less expensive alternative like I did.  Most people use a round pot for this bread but my enameled pot is oval in shape and it works just fine.   

I first saw this method explained in a post on the Simply So Good blog.  There you will find an excellent tutorial on how to make bread this quick and easy way.  She also gets very creative with the recipe and adds different ingredients.  The recipe that first caught my eye was her recipe for Rosemary, Lemon, and Gruyere Bread.  That is the next one I am going to try now that I have mastered the original flavored recipe. 


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Crusty Bread


3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I highly recommend that you use Unbleached All Purpose Flour for this recipe.  I like Gold Medal brand.)

1 3/4 teaspoons  Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast ( I can usually get about 3 loaves of bread from each yeast packet.)

1 1/2 cups water


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In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.   Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

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(Sometimes I will add an extra tablespoon or two of water if the dough seems excessively dry.)

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. Overnight works great.  

I love that there is no kneading or “punching down” the dough with this method.

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Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot with the lid for 30 minutes.   The pot needs to be nice and hot before you add your bread dough.    While the pot is heating up, you can remove your dough from it’s bowl and shape it.   Pour the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a ball.  I like to use a piece of parchment paper that is lightly floured and I gently transfer the dough from the bowl to the parchment paper. I sprinkle a tiny bit of flour over the bowl of dough to help with the stickiness as I move it from the bowl to the parchment paper. 

When your pot has finished pre-heating for the 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and gently drop in the parchment paper with your dough.   The dough will bake on the parchment paper inside your covered pot.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  Be VERY CAREFUL…The pot and lid are VERY HOT!!

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 After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until your bread has the right color.

Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.  Beautiful!!

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It’s delicious hot out of the oven but it is best to let it cool a bit before you try to cut into it.  I would also suggest you turn the bread on it’s side and use a bread knife and cut it with a sawing motion to get the best slices and prevent yourself from smashing down the bread.

I have been mixing up a batch before I go to bed at night and then baking it off the next day in time for dinner on the days I know I know we will want some bread. This bread is great with dinner, makes a great sandwich, grilled sandwiches on this bread are especially good and leftovers if you have any make great homemade croutons for a salad.  My favorite way to use the leftovers is to make a piece of toast  to enjoy with my morning coffee. 

Never made bread before?  Give this one a try.  It’s amazing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Orange Flavored Whipped Cream

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It’s New Year’s Day and it’s rather gloomy and raining outside but here inside it’s nice and toasty warm.  Especially since I have spent most of my day puttering around in the kitchen.  I baked a loaf of bread that I will be posting about in the near future.  It’s an awesome method where you don’t have to knead the dough and it cooks in an enamel pot in the oven and it comes out looking and tasting like the fanciest bread you can find at a bakery.  I also made a big pot of Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs from Giacomo’s  here in Greensboro, and a Chocolate Pie for dessert with Orange Flavored Whipped Cream.  Mmmm!  Today’s post is all about the pie.  :)

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We don’t drink much milk around here now that the kids are older and if we do have it in the house, it usually goes bad before we finish it.  But today I found a half gallon in the fridge ready to go out of date tomorrow that I purchased last week because I knew my daughter would be here home from school.  She never touched.  It was still sealed up like a drum.    Well, you can’t beat a little package of Chocolate Cook and Serve Jello Pudding mix to help you get your money’s worth out of a jug of milk.  And I have already admitted many times in the past that pie crust is not my forte.  I am more than happy and proud to avail myself of the pie crusts of the Pillsbury Dough Boy.    And there you have it, Chocolate Pie for dessert made with a box of Jello Pudding Mix, some close to the edge milk, and a boxed pie crust.

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Now, to elevate this humble pie just a tad, I decided to make some real whipped cream.  I flavored it with some orange extract.  You could also use an orange flavored liqueur like Grand Marnier or Cointreau. 

Orange Flavored Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream, ( I like to use Horizon brand Organic Whipping Cream when I can find it.)

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar or confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp. orange flavored extract or liqueur

Add all the ingredients in a bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high till stiff peaks are formed.  (approximately 3 to 4 minutes).  Refrigerate until ready to serve.


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I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

And, THANKS to all of you who read my blog and for the kind comments you leave.  I appreciate each and every one of you!!

Bonne année!