Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Mom’s Amped Up Pesto

pestoWith the new year, I’ve been trying to think of easy ways to get more veggies into our diet. I’m sure many moms out there have employed tricks of the trade to hide vegetables in their children’s favorite dishes. This was by far my most successful experiment. It was fast and I was able to use it in two different dishes this past week. It has a fresh lemony taste that my daughter loved!

  • 2 cups frozen broccoli (feel free to use fresh, I used frozen to save time)
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • zest of one large lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/2 cup store bought prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil the broccoli until no longer frozen, approximately 2 minutes. Combine broccoli, spinach, parmesan,  lemon zest and prepared pesto in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Add salt and pepper and stream in olive oil until the paste thins a bit. Add in the lemon juice and blend some more. The pesto should now be a bit thinner than the store bought pesto. Test to see if more salt or pepper is needed.

I tossed the pesto with fusilli noodles one night (with zuchinni and tomatoes for the adults) and then used the pesto as the sauce for our home made pizzas another night. My finicky 8 year old loved it both ways!


2013: Reading, Writing, and Cooking Again

I wasn’t much for resolutions in 2012, but I’m back in 2013! I’ve decided upon a number of new goals. I’ve signed up for two reading challenges (Cannonball Read V and a Genre Challenge for the UK book club on Goodreads) and created a cooking challenge of my own based on the Fresh 20 and my own desire to try new cuisines in 2013.

I am in the process of updating this blog as I haven’t posted in over a year, so bear with me. I’ve blocked time on my calendar dedicated to keeping this up to date. Here we go!

Cannonball Read V (
The full Cannonball Read V is a challenge to read 52 books in the span of a year. The awesome and touching history of the challenge and more details can be found here: As this is my first year, I’m looking to complete the half Cannonball (26) in 2013.

Goodreads UK Book Club – Genre Challenge 2013
New genre each month is voted on by participants. January is historical and I’m going to read The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd when I’ve finished with The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. Review to follow soon.

Writing is what I do in my professional life—technical writing, marketing writing, and documentation project management—but yet I maintain a number of writing projects on the side. My goal here is to dedicated some of my free time to these projects each week. Also, this blog qualifies as part of my personal writing goal as well.

I signed up for an online cooking subscription called The Fresh 20. Each week, they provide a menu with an accompanying shopping list for 5 quick and healthy meals. My goal is to use at least 2 menus from the site each month. I’ll be posting notes and reviews from my experience and my family’s reaction to the meals.

Also, I’ve decide to assign each month of 2013 with a different type of cuisine and then prepare at least 4 meals that month based on that cuisine. January is Asian cuisine month.

I’m looking forward to keeping up with my 2013 goals and to sharing my experiences with all of you.


Sticky Toffee Pudding

I made Sticky Toffee Pudding for our dinner club this weekend. I was a little nervous because I am not a very good baker, but this was incredible easy! And it was phenomenal 🙂 I used a recipe from  Bon Appetite, but made a few minor adjustment based on various reviews. Reminded me of my time in London…

Sticky Toffee Pudding


  • 8 oz Medjool Dates – cut in half lengthwise, take out the pit
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Caramel Sauce (see below) & Vanilla Ice Cream


Preheat over to 350

  1. Butter 8 individual souffle ramekins (line bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper as well)
  2. Place dates in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let the water and date mixture cool. Place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and blend until smooth but still a little lumpy.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until blended
  4. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time until incorporated. Add half of the flour, blend. Add the final two eggs, 1 at a time, then add the remaining flour. Beat until blended.
  5. Mix the coffee granules and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to the dates and mix together.
  6. Add the date mixture to the batter and beat to blend.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the 8 ramekins and bake for 25 – 28 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and unmold while still a little warm. Poke holes in the puddings with a bamboo skewer. Top with caramel sauce and server with vanilla ice cream.

NOTE: Puddings can be made a day ahead. Cool completely and then rewarm for approximately 10-15 minutes in a 250 degree oven.

Caramel Sauce


  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Bring cream, sugar, butter, molasses, and vanilla to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce until thickened slightly. (about 15 minutes) Serve warm with Sticky Toffee Puddings.

French delicacies

I’ve been gone for a while because we were out-of-town for spring break. We went to Paris for five days and had some amazing food! I think the room service burger I ordered may be the best burger I’ve ever had. I had oysters twice! And they were awesome. Fois gras and croissants. French macaroons (the best cookies ever!)

My 5-year-old daughter was very adventurous as well. She tried a whole slew of new foods. Some she liked (creme brulee) and others she didn’t (snails). It was a great culinary trip!


My sister came to visit last weekend. We had a wonderful time and splurged a little on dinner. We love to cook together so it was great fun to spend some quality time in the kitchen. Our menu:

Filet steaks with King Crab and Bernaise Sauce
Porcini mushroom and Gorgonzola risotto
Green beans

This was a phenomenal meal! One thing to note is that Giada’s recipe doesn’t call for enough chicken stock. My sister has made this risotto twice and had to double the amount of liquid both times.

We had some bubbles as well and I found these great new wine charms. They are little aliens that suction to the side of your glass!

Sunday supper…

After a fun-filled and busy weekend of eating out and at friends, I was in the mood to spend some time in the kitchen come Sunday. Not knowing what I felt like having, my husband asked for salmon. At the market, the Sockeye looked good, but so did the Dungeness crabs, so i got one of those as well. I knew I had a bag of spinach at home, but I picked up a few other veggies and this is what I came up with…

Baked Salmon w/ Crab and Spinach

1.5 lb salmon filet cut into 4-6 oz pieces
1 Dungeness crab – remove the meat from the shell, keep large pieces as intact as possible
1 lbs baby spinach (I used a full salad mix bag)
1 half a small shallot sliced thin
olive oil
Bread crumbs
Grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Old bay seasoning
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
Juice of one lemon
salt & pepper (S&P)

Preheat oven to 375
First mix the last 5 ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with S&P. Set aside.

Next put a 2 count drizzle of olive oil in a large sauté pan. On medium low heat, add the shallot. Saute the shallot until soft. Add all the spinach and toss to wilt for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover. Cook spinach for another minute until wilted, but still bright green. Set aside.

To assemble the individual dishes, use 4 medium size oven safe ramekins or soup crocks. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture in the bottom of each dish. Place a salmon piece on top. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with S&P. Gently fold the crab meat with the sauce and place 1/4 on top of salmon filet. Continue with remaining 3 ramekins. Top each ramekin with 1 Tbsp bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

Place all ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until salmon is medium rare or to desired doneness.

I served these with orzo with zuchinni, mushrooms, and pinenuts.

Dinner with Friends

Our original plans fell through on Saturday night but we were lucky enough to throw together a quick get together with some friends and their kids. I didn’t have a ton of time to decide what I wanted to make for dinner but there was butternut squash recipe that I had wanted to try and I hadn’t made lamb is ages. Viola! Dijon crusted rack of lamb with butternut squash risotto!

I love this Ina Garten Rack of Lamb recipe! It is so easy and I’ve made it several times. I chose to also make a butternut squash risotto and found it very nice and the flavors were subtle enough to not conflict with the lamb. (I used the Ina’ recipe as a base but did not have saffron so I amended it a bit to my own tastes.)

I think i may start making risotto more often, it is so simple and the possibilities are endless! Very fun and tasty Saturday night!

read, write, and cook blog

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Cannonball Read V

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.