Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dark Chocolate Salty Carmel Candy Bark

Candy Bark has always been one of my favorites candies to make. This year I decided to do a Dark Chocolate Salty Carmel Candy Bark for wonderful combination of sweet and salty. The result is a very rich and chewy Carmel bark!

Dark Chocolate Salty Carmel Candy Bark

6 oz. chocolate-flavored candy coating, chopped
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. shortening
1 pkg.(8 oz) Heath English Toffee Bits, Hershey
1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1 pkg.(11 oz) Caramels, Krafts
2 Tbsp. heavy cream or water

Line a large baking sheet with heavy foil; grease foil. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl combine candy coating, chocolate, and shortening. Microwave, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring every 30 seconds.
Stir 1 cup of the English Toffee Bits and 1/2 cup peanuts into melted chocolate mixture. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Spread mixture into an even layer about 1/4 inch thick. 

Place caramels in medium saucepan. Add cream or water; cook on medium-low heat 3 min. or until caramels are completely melted, stirring constantly. Cool slightly then pour over chocolate peanut candy mixture.
Sprinkle with the remaining English Toffee Bits and 1/2 cup peanuts; lightly press pieces into chocolate.
Chill about 30 minutes or until firm. Use foil to lift candy out of pan. Using a sharp knife, cut candy into pieces.

To Store: Layer between waxed paper in an airtight container. Store in refrigerator for two weeks or freeze for up to three weeks. Let stand at room temperature before serving.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Croissant Breakfast Casserole with Mushrooms and Asparagus

This sinfully rich Croissant Breakfast Casserole is a family favorite. A wonderful brunch star especially perfect for Christmas morning as it is assembled the night before. 

8 plain croissants
2 tablespoon butter
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 cups chopped asparagus
8 eggs
2 cups half and half
2 teaspoon french thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Split croissants in half and place bottoms cut side up in one layer in a rectangular casserole.
Melt butter in a fry pan.
Saute mushrooms, green onion and asparagus until tender and liquid has evaporated.
Set aside.
Beat together eggs and half and half.
Pour half over croissants, layer mushroom mixture and cheeses on top, then pour over remaining liquid.
Position croissant tops over the bottoms, cut side down.
Let stand over night in the refrigerator.
Bake at 350*F for 25 to 30 minutes or until set.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deliciously Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Pineapples and Pecans

    Living in New England cranberry bogs are all around us which means we have the fresh cranberries in the market just in time for Thanksgiving. Fresh cooked Cranberry Sauce is the best. I've embellished the cooked cranberries to bring out the sweetness of the berries. Nothing taste better the next day on a Turkey sandwich than fresh cranberry sauce and stuffing.

    Deliciously Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Pineapples and Pecans

    1 (20 ounce) cans crushed pineapple in juice
    2 (12 ounce) packages cranberries ( fresh or frozen, preferably fresh)
    1 1/4 cups sugar ( can use more)
    1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

    1 tablespoon lemon rind

    1 teaspoon allspice

    1 teaspoon orange liquor (optional) 
      Drain the pineapple thoroughly in a fine sieve set over a large measuring cup (push the pineapple against the sieve to drain out any extra juice). Add enough water to make 2 cups. Place the liquid in a sauce pan adding in cranberries and sugar. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to boil. Add cranberries. Continue to boil until most of the berries pop and the mixture is thick, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Use either a splatter screen or lid over the berries to keep them from exploding on your cook top. Remove from heat. Add drained pineapples, pecans, lemon juice, lemon rind, allspice and liquor mixing well. Transfer to glass serving bowl and cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate over night.  Can be made two days ahead.

        Wednesday, November 12, 2014

        Hot Spicy Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

        If you like 5 alarm hot chili this is the recipe for you. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy when you eat this chili!

        3 (15.5-oz.) cans black beans, I used Goya beans
        1 large sweet onion, chopped
        3 garlic cloves, minced
        2 tablespoons vegetable oil
        4 teaspoons chili powder
        1 teaspoon ground cumin
        1/2 teaspoon pepper
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        2 (14.5-oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes, I used Del Monte
        1 can (7.75 oz) can sliced green jalapeños, I used Chi Chi's Fiesta wheels
        1 (12-oz.) package meatless burger crumbles, I used Morning Star Farms
        1  vegetable bouillon cube
        1 -2 teaspoon hot sauce, I used Franks Hot Sauce
        Toppings: sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, guacamole

         Drain and rinse 2 cans black beans. (Do not drain third can.) Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in chili powder and next 3 ingredients; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, next 2 ingredients, drained and undrained beans, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Serve chili with desired toppings.

        Tuesday, October 28, 2014

        Celebrate Fall with Sweet Potato Cranberry Pound Cake

         Fall is a wonderful baking season filling with all the fruits and veggies that give your bake goods that fall crisp flavor and aroma. I just love this new take on pound cake adding cooked sweet potatoes and cranberries.  Cream cheese make the cake very moist while the pumpkin spice adds the fall flavor.

        Sweet Potato Cranberry Pound Cake
        1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
        1/2 cup butter, softened 
        2 cups sugar 
        4 large eggs 
        2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (I baked, peeled then mashed)
        3 cups all-purpose flour 
        2 teaspoons baking powder 
        1 teaspoon baking soda
        1/4 teaspoon salt 
        2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
        2 cups fresh cranberries, washed and picked over 
        1. Preheat oven to 350º. Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears. Add sweet potatoes, and beat well.
        2. Stir together flour, next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add cranberries folding over until cranberries are evenly distributed in batter. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (12-cup) tube pan.
        3. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

        or try:
        Sweet Potato Pound Cake Loaves: Prepare batter as directed; pour into 2 greased and floured 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Bake and cool as directed.


        Wednesday, October 15, 2014

        Spicy Chicken Sausage Stew with White Beans.

        Cool morning temps always put me in the mood for soups and stews. I love to create a filling, healthy, low calorie soup or stew to fill my craving for cool weather food. I love this Sausage Stew since it is so filling but healthy at the same time. Red pepper flakes and white wine added make this a spicy flavorful stew!

        4 Italian chicken sausages
        2 tablespoon olive oil
        2 garlic cloves, minced
        1 large shallot, chopped
        1 can(14.5 oz) Del Monte diced tomatoes, no salt added
        1 can(15.5 oz) Goya Cannellini beans, premium
        1/2 cup dry white wine
        1/2 cup low fat, low sodium chicken broth
        1/2 teaspoon sea salt
        1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
        grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

        Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a grill pan and cook sausage on stove medium heat for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Set aside to cool.
        In a dutch oven place oil, garlic, and shallots sauteing until tender about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, wine, chicken broth, salt and pepper flakes. Continue to saute on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Put tomato mixture in baking pan and bake cover for 20 minutes.
        Remove from oven, add sausage. Spoon stew into soup bowls, pass the Parmesan cheese.

        So good and easy. Serve with a nice green leafy salad and fresh crusty bread. Oh, don't forget a nice dry white wine!


        Thursday, October 9, 2014

        Colorful Fall Salad with Beets and Apples

        A perfect colorfully tasteful fall salad that will not only taste wonderful but look gorgeous. Beets are just such a good healthy addition to any meal. I make a lot of beet dishes cause they are just so good especially freshly roasted as I prepared them for this fall salad. 

        1 lb red or yellow beets peeled and cut into quarters. You can use half red and half yellow.
        2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
        1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
        1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
        1 Gala apple, thinly sliced
        3 cups baby arugula
        3 cups baby kale
        1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
        1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
        1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
        1 tsp. sea salt
        1 tsp. black pepper
        1 tsp. spicy brown mustard

        In a medium size roasting pan sprayed with cooking oil place beet and roast at 400F for 30 minutes turning once. Remove from over and sprinkle with vinegar. Cool and refrigerate for 4 hours or over night. Place sliced red onions in bowl and cover with 1 tablespoon vinegar for 30 minutes then drain.
        Arrange arugula, kale, apples, onions on plate, top with walnuts. With a wire whisk combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard to make dressing.  Serve with salad dressing on the side.


        Simply the Best Perfect Popovers Everytime!

        I first tasted Popovers a long time ago at the famous Boston restaurant, Pier 4. The waitresses would come to your table offering you mouth watering, freshly baked Popovers. It was wonderful.
        I became a lover of Popovers right after my first bite. Think crusty on the outside, with a hot soft doughy center. And so delicious, with just a little butter that melts immediately on the hot Popover.
        Over the years I have seen the Popover taken to new culinary delights by stuffing them with seasoned scrambled eggs, or using them in entrée recipes. But I am a purest when it comes to Popovers; I just love them plain, with butter.
        I've made this recipe forever and it has never failed me. It is easily doubled and is perfect every time. One thing about baking Popovers; you need to use a special Popover Pan. Originally all the pans were heavy cast iron, but now there are wonderfully light, easy to clean pans that make perfect popovers ever time! I like the William-Sonoma non stick pan found HERE ONLINE.

        3 eggs
        1 cup milk
        3 tablespoon salad oil
        1 cup sifted all purpose flour
        1/2 teaspoon salt

        Heat over to 400F Lightly grease popover pan. In a medium bowl, with a electric mixer, eggs, milk and oil until well combined.  Sift flour with salt over egg mixture, beat until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pans, filling half full. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

        Serve hot.
        Makes 6.


        Thursday, September 18, 2014

        Juicy Oven Baked Fried Chicken

        Every once in a while I get a craving for fried chicken.  Just want to bite into a crispy piece of mouth watering delicious good chicken. But I don't want all that fat from frying so I love to make oven baked fried chicken to cut down on the fat and calories. I leave the skin on my chicken cause I don't eat fried chicken with skin that often but if you want to cut down further on the calories use skinless chicken or just pull off the skin. For me if I am going to indulge I'm going all the way!
        First I always soak my chicken in water and sea salt for thirty minutes to clean the chicken. Drain chicken and pat dry with paper towels. I also soak my chicken over night in buttermilk which makes it extra juicy. You can serve this chicken hot or cold, I just love it either way!

        Chicken pieces, 2 breast, 4 legs, four thighs and 6 wings.
        2 cups buttermilk
        1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce
        1 1/2 cup four
        1/2 cup corn meal
        1teaspoon seal salt
        1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
        2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
        2 teaspoon rubbed sage
        olive oil
        cooking spray

        Soak chicken in cold water with 2 tablespoons of sea salt for 30 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Combine buttermilk and Tabasco sauce. In a large baking pan soak chicken in buttermilk mixture over night.
        Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray two large baking pans with spray cooking spray. Set aside. Combine flour, cornmeal, sea salt, peppers, and sage in a food storage bag. Toss chicken pieces one by one in flour mixture to evenly coat. Place chicken skin side up on baking pan.  When all the chicken is on the baking pans, spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 20-30 minutes until chicken is golden brown but still juice.  Serve warm or chill to serve cold.


        Easy Garlicky Shrimp Scampi

        Want a easy, delicious, quick tasty dinner without much time or effort? Then my garlicky Shrimp Scampi is for you. You can make this fancy dinner to serve for a week night dinner it's so quick and easy.

        1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, cleaned.
        1/4 cup olive oil
        4 cloves garlic, sliced
        1/2 cup dry white wine
        1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
        1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
        1/2 teaspoon pepper
        1 tablespoon butter

        In a medium baking dish add Shrimp, olive oil, garlic,and wine. Top with butter, red pepper, basil, black pepper. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve over pasta or rice with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.


        Saturday, August 23, 2014

        Summertime Moscow Mules!

        The drink Moscow Mule a 1950 throw back is gaining again in popularity. First introduced in the US as a way to sell vodka: this drink is a refreshing cocktail especially for a summer evening. Served in the traditional chilled cooper mug(you need the mugs in my opinion for a true Moscow Mule!) Easy to make by even the most inexperienced mixologist.

        • 1 ounce vodka
        • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
        • 1Tbs, fresh lime juice
        • 1/2 cup ginger beer
        • 1 sprig fresh mint
        • 1 slice of lime
        Chill cooper mug in freezer until cold to the touch. In the chilled copper mug, pour vodka over ice. Add sugar syrup and lime juice. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with mint sprig and lime slice.


        Monday, July 28, 2014

        Sinfully Rich Sour Cream Peach Pie

        Summer fruit pies are so tasty and delicious for a family reunion or a simple summer dinner. Pies are really so easy to make always turning out so good-how could you not make a great pie with fruit fresh from the market! Just toss a few ingredients then fill a store bought or home made pie crust, bake and you are finished with a to die for mouth watering pie served warm or at room temperature with or with out ice cream.
        Peaches which are so fresh in the market right now make wonderful pies. The pie I made today is a very richly sinful different version of a classic peach pie.  This peach pie is made with sour cream and topped with a crumb topping!

        1 3/4 cup flour
        1/4 cup sugar
        1 teaspoon cinnamon
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        2/3 cup butter
        2-3 tablespoons apple cider or water
        1 egg beaten

        1 cup sour cream
        1 cup sugar
        4 tablespoon flour
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        1 egg
        1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or 1 teaspoon vanilla
        2 cups peaches, peeled and sliced

        1 cup brown sugar
        2/3 cup flour
        1/2 cup butter

        Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender cut in butter to consistency of coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle apple cider over top, one tablespoon at a time, mix to moisten pastry mixture evenly. Press dough into ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface into a 11 inch round. Fit pastry into a 9-inch pie plat. Turn extra edge into a rim and flute or crimp a raised edge. Just before placing peach fill in shell, brush pastry with beaten egg white.
        Combine sour cream, sugar, flour, salt egg and vanilla. Add slice peaches stirring until well mixed. Pour into pastry lined pie plate. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes. Mix brown sugar, flour and butter until well combined. When pie is finished baking remove from oven, cover with topping mixture. Return pie to oven, reduce oven temperature to 375 F and bake for additional 20 minutes.

        Tuesday, July 8, 2014

        Southern Living's Sinful Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

        I love Southern Living's magazine recipes not only delicious but very easy to follow for all levels of cooks.  One of my favorite cake's of all time is Southern Livings Chocolate Peanut Butter Mouse Cake which I have perfected over the years.  I am going to share some tips with you to make this cake turn out perfect every time since that was not my first experience making this cake. Actually the first time I made this cake it tasted great but looked like a child put the cake together.  The mousse filling oozed out from the center as soon as I put the layers together.  I was so disappointed!  I've been baking for a long time so I realized the the mousse filling needed to be chilled over night before assembling the cake.  And I'll give you a little tip about frosting the cake the recipe says pour the glaze over the cake.  That just doesn't cut it.  You need to slowly spread the glaze working from the top of the cake down the sides to cover the sides.  I cut strips of wax paper and fit around the base of the cake covering the cake dish so I don't have drips of chocolate glaze on the cake dish, just on the cake. I also like to make my own chocolate cake not a box mix but if you want an easy quick delicious cake use a box mix by all means.
        On the whole Southern Living recipes are pretty complete with the necessary steps for you to be able to make the recipe just as you see it on the pages of the magazine.  This cake recipe just needed a few tips for a novice baker to duplicate the cake as featured in the magazine.

        • 1 (18.25-ounce) package devil's food cake mix without pudding or use your own favorite recipe
        • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream, divided
        • 1 (10-ounce) package peanut butter morsels
        • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
        • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 
        • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
        • Garnish: chopped roasted peanuts  optional


        1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour into 2 lightly greased 8-inch round cakepans. Bake according to package directions. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely.
        2. Combine 2/3 cup whipping cream and peanut butter morsels in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until morsels melt and mixture is smooth; remove saucepan from heat. Stir in vanilla extract, and cool 25 minutes.
        3. Beat 1 1/3 cups whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Stir one-third whipped cream into peanut butter mixture. Fold into remaining whipped cream. Spread between cake layers; cover and chill.
        4. Bring remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add chocolate morsels; remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Stir until morsels melt and mixture is smooth.
        5. Pour glaze over cake; garnish, if desired. Serve warm, or chill and serve at room temperature.

        Tuesday, June 17, 2014

        Dried Apricot, Prune, Cranberry, Almond, Farro Salad

        I love summer time salad of any style.  I combine different flavors to create deliciously tasty salads to eat along or with a summer barbeque.  Farro is a nutty Italian whole grain that is now widely available in all types of grocery stores.  I bought a large bag of organic Farro at Costco.  Farro is a great base for this salad which I added dried fruits, almonds and chick peas, tossed with an orange base dressing loaded with great spices. For a main dish I serve over spring greens.

        Dried Fruit, Almond and Farro Salad

        4 cups vegetable broth
        2 cups Farro
        1 can(15.5 oz) chick peas, drained and rinsed
        1/2 cup orange juice
        2 tablespoon olive oil
        1/2 teaspoon pepper
        1/2 paprika
        1 teaspoon ground cumin
        1 teaspoon tumeric
        1 cup slice almonds
        1/2 cup chopped dried Apricots
        1/2 cup chopped dried prunes
        1/2 cup dried cranberries

        Put 4 cups vegetable broth in large sauce pan bring to a boil. Add Farro lower heat to medium simmering for 30-35 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Place in large bowl to cool. 
        In a bowl combine orange juice, oil, spices poor over Farro tossing to combine.  Add almonds, apricots, prunes and cranberries.  Chill.  Can be made a day ahead.

        Wednesday, June 11, 2014

        Sauteed Soft Shell Crabs

        Soft shell crab season is here! I love soft shell crabs which are so easy to make at home, just as tasting as you find out in restaurants.  The shells of the crabs are so soft that you can eat shell and meat.  This recipe is easy, fun and tasty.

        4 soft shell crabs, cleaned and patty dry

        2  teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning or similar crab seasoning
        1 cup flour
        2 tablespoon olive oil
        4 cloves garlic minced
        2 tablespoon capers
        1/2 cup dry white wine
        1 tablespoon butter
        1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

         Season crabs with Old Bay Seasonings and dredge in flour.  Shake off excess.  Set aside.

        Heat oil in large skilled.  Add crabs sauteing for about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove to serving plate.  Add garlic to pan cooking for 1 minute, then add capers, wine cooking until sauce is reduced to 1/2.  Add butter and parsley stirring until combined. Pour over crabs serve immediately.  Makes two servings.

        Sunday, June 8, 2014

        Healthy Homemade Granola

        I love Granola for breakfast combined with blueberries and Greek yogurt.  Lately I've become concerned with how much sugar store bought granola contains.  So I decided to make my own version with less sugar tasting just as flavorful.

        Homemade Granola

        2 cup regular Oats, not quick
        1 cup sliced almonds
        1/2 cup dried cranberries
        2 tablespoon honey
        2 tablespoon healthy oil, I use olive
        1 teaspoon of vanilla
        pinch of sea salt

        Preheat oven 300 F.  Combine all ingredients in large bowl, tossing until thoroughly combined.  Place in sallow baking pan and bake for 10 minutes.  Cool before pointing in a air tight container.  I like to store in refrigerator to keep fresh.

        You can change up this recipe by adding an assortment of nuts and seeds or use other dried fruits.  If you like cinnamon add a tablespoon for additional flavor


        Friday, June 6, 2014

        Easy sauteed fresh vegetables

        Eat your vegetables your Mom always said and she was right!  Veggies are so good tasting as well as good for you.  Low in calories, fat, no salt, cholesterol or sugar. I love to just saute fresh seasonal veggies for a dinner.  I just serve over greens, polenta, farro or any whole grain.  I wonderful healthy satisfying meal.

        Sauteed Fresh Vegetables over Greens

        2 tablespoons olive oil
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        1 large shallot, chopped
        Two Red peppers, chopped
        8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms,  I like baby portabella
        1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
        1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
        2 teaspoon capers
        1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
        1/4 teaspoon pepper
        2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped 
        Fresh greens, I used a combination of kale and baby spinach

        Heat olive oil in medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic cooking for about 2 minutes. Don't brown garlic as it will become bitter.  Add shallots continuing to cook for another 1 minutes. Next add the red peppers and mushrooms cooking for about 5 minutes. Gently combine tomatoes stirring for another 2 minutes.  Add capers, olives, pepper and basil cooking for a few minutes.  Place veggie mixture on top of greens.




        Sunday, June 1, 2014

        I don't get the Bacon thing!

        I'm just going to put it out there, I don't like bacon! I don't understand the mania over bacon, putting bacon in all kinds of dishes that just don't need bacon.  Restaurants like BarBacon in NYC are all the rage. Again I don't get it!  Why ruin salads, veggie dishes, pasta and more by adding bacon. Bacon overwhelms all that it is paired with so you just miss all the wonderful subtle flavors as bacon bullies it way into the dish, leaving it just tasting like bacon not much else.  When did bacon leave the breakfast table to become such a star?

        Now that I shared that I have no palette for bacon, what about the health aspect of eating all that bacon.  Bacon is full of fat, cholesterol and salt, not to mention that it is a process meat which has been linked to several cancers. Adding bacon to everything is just unhealthy!  I recently read that Americans eat about 18 pounds of bacon a year.  Unbelievable, 18 pounds is 73, 248 calories, 8,160 grams fat, 7,872 grams cholesterol, and 2,208 grams salt per year.  Even if you love the taste of bacon those stats are reason enough to cut back.

        Instead of adding bacon use fresh herbs as a flavorful healthy alternative to bacon.  Also I like to add interesting oils or vinegars as well garlic, scallions or shallots for an extra infusion of taste when I am cooking.  Again I find that bacon overpowering as an added ingredient, at best it is to be served with breakfast, not everything else.

        Monday, May 26, 2014

        More than Seven Layer Mexican Dip

        Everyone has a favorite Mexican Dip that they just love to bring to Family Reunions or large parties.  I made this one for a recent family reunion just starting out layer a few ingredients then I just couldn't stop.  That's how I came up with my More than Seven Layered Mexican Dip.

        Two cans (16 oz.) Old El Paso Refried beans vegetarian
        1/4 cup hot sauce
        2 jars Salsa (16 oz.)  Tostitos Chunky Salsa Hot
        2 tablespoon olive oil
        1 bunch scallions, sliced

        2 can(15.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
        1 tablespoon ground cumin
        1 tub(24 oz.) sour cream
        2 tablespoons lime juice plus zest
        1 can(7.75 oz) Chi-Chi's Fiesta Wheels Green Jalapenos, divided in half
        2 cups guacamole
        1 package(2 cups)  Kraft Mexican Four cheese
        1 cup sliced black olives

        In a non stick pan cook over medium heat cook refried beans, add hot sauce. Put in large casserole dish, covering bottom.  Place salsa on top.  Put olive oil in pan adding sliced scallions.  Cook on medium for a few minutes then add black beans, heating thoroughly. Season with cumin.  Put beans over salsa.  Combine sour cream, lime juice, and zest.  Add sour cream to the dish.  Top with half jalapenos.  Next layer is the guacamole.  Spread cheese on top then finish with remaining jalapenos and black olives.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.   

        Sunday, April 27, 2014

        Golden Baklava


        4 cups chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pistachios are best, or use a combination of them)
        1 lb of phyllo dough
        1 cup of butter, melted
        1/3 cup sugar
        1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
        1/3 teaspoon ground cloves

        For syrup:
        1 cup water
        1 cup of sugar
        2/3 cup honey
        2 tablespoons lemon juice
        1 cinnamon stick
         Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set the oven to 350°F. Thaw the phyllo dough in refrigerator over night. Take phyllo dough out of package. Place on wax paper then place another piece of wax paper on top. Cover with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.   Process the nuts until in small, even sized pieces. Combine with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
        Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 7 more times until it is 8 sheets thick, each sheet being "painted" with the butter.
        Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture. Cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Continue to repeat the nut mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be 8 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered. Do not worry if the sheets crinkle up a bit, it will just add more texture.
         Cut into 24 equal sized squares using a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown, and edges appear slightly crisp.
         While baking, make the syrup. Combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice, honey, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 7 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool.
        Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours.

        Sunday, March 23, 2014

        Mini Lemon Thyme Pound Cakes with Lemon Glaze

        Spring is always synonymous to me with cooking and baking with lemon.  I love little pound cake for  a tea or coffee.  Actually this recipe I normally make with poppy seed, not having any, I substituted fresh thyme which I think make these little cakes even better.

        Mini Lemon Thyme Pound Cakes

        3/4 cup flour
        3/4 cup cake flour
        1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        1/8 teaspoon salt
        1/2 cup whole butter milk
        2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
        1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
        1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
        1 cup unsalted butter, softened  I always use Cabot butter
        1 cup sugar
        2 large eggs
        2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
        Lemon Glaze
        Garnish: fresh thyme springs

        Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour an 8-well mini loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, cake flour baking powder and salt; sift 3 times.  Set aside. 
        In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla.  Set aside.
        In a large mixing bowl and using mixer at high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar continue beating until light and cream about 5 minutes.  Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.
        Add eggs, one at a  time, beating well after each addition and scarping down sides of bowl.  Reduce mixer speed to low, add flour alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in fresh thyme. Divide batter between loaf wells, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near centers come out clean.
        Transfer pan to a wire rack, cool for ten minutes.  Remove mini loafs from pan cool completely.  Drizzle with Lemon Glaze. Decorate with fresh thyme.  Can be stored in air tight container for up to five days.

        Lemon Glaze:

        5 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
        2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

        In a small bowl, whisk together juice and confectioner's sugar until smooth. For thicker glaze, add more sugar. For a thinner glaze, add more lemon juice.


        Wednesday, March 12, 2014

        Delicious, quick, easy, perfect, Scallops

        I am always looking for easy, delicious, and quick meals to make for two.  Scallops are so delicious and easy to make especially for two.  This is a recipe is quick, simple, spotlighting the sweet taste of fresh scallops.  Oh did I mention low in calories!

        Marinated Scallops for two

        1/2 lb. Sea Scallops*
        juice of 1/2 lemon
        1 clove garlic, crushed
        1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

        Rinse Scallops in water and pat dry.  In a medium bowl combine lemon, garlic and pepper.  Add Scallops, gently toss to coat.  Refrigerate for four hours.

        I use a grill pan which I love but you can make the scallops in a frying pan.  Heat pan to high, add scallops and sear quickly on both sides.  Don't over cook or scallops will be tough. The scallops will be golden

        * Sea scallops are large while bay scallops are small.


        Sunday, February 23, 2014

        Sunday Dinner Cioppino with Alexander

        Sunday dinners a Good Dinners Mrs Mellen Tradition in our family.  Today I made a Cioppino with the freshest fish on the market.  Living in New England we are fortunate to have fresh fish in every grocery store not to mention wonderful fish markets or my favorite in the nice weather buying right from the boats as they come into dock with their fresh catch. Sunday dinner is even more special with the addition of our grandson Alexander.  Only six months old, he can't eat my dinner yet but we exposed him to our family tradition early.

        In his honor I've renamed this dish.

        Alexander's Cioppino

        3 tablespoons olive oil
        1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
        1 onion, chopped
         2 large shallots, chopped
         4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
        3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
        1 can(14.5 oz) petite cup diced tomatoes (I used Del Monte, no salt added)
        1/4 cup tomato paste
        1 1/2 cups dry white wine
         2  cups fish stock or clam juice
        1 lemon, juiced
        1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
        1 bay leaf
        1 teaspoon dried oregano
        1 teaspoon dried basil
        1 pound clams, scrubbed
        1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
        1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
        1 pound scallops
        1 pound halibut or salmon fillets, use a firm fish, cut into 2-inch chunks
        1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped


        Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices and the remaining ingredients expect seafood, fish and parsley.  Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

        Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with salt and red pepper flakes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the Italian parsley.


        Tuesday, February 18, 2014

        Bring on Hot Pink clothes to warm up spring fashion!

        Oh I do love to cook, garden and decorate outfitted in the latest fashion.  I just love fashion, always have and always will!  Fashion is a creative expression just like my other hobbies.  I was out shopping and scouting new spring trends discovering that hot pink is all over for spring.  I love pink, especially hot pink which really looks good on woman over thirty.  Save the pale pink for the under thirty crowd. Deep hot pink warms up the skin like no other color.  That's why I am so hot on this wonderfully vibrant color. 

        Designers that are also wild about hot pink; Kate Spade, Diane Von Furstenberg, Alice & Olivia and so many more. 

        How do you add some of this fabulous hot pink to your late winter/early spring wardrobe?  Well this is what I did.  I found the perfect item to add hot pink without buying all new clothes, the beautifully cut Kate Spade Gemma in  Bougainvillea. A fluid silk short shelve top that can be worn over jeans or dressed up with a tight black skirt.  Beautiful and versatile with adding a splash of one of springs hot colors!

        I have chills just thinking about all I can do with this gorgeous top! 

        Thursday, February 13, 2014

        Golden Roasted Turkey Breast perfect for our traditional family Sunday dinner!

        Luscious family dinners are a Sunday stable at my house.  The tradition dates back to my grandparents who gathered the whole clan for a big feast on Sunday.  I have so many fond memories of Sundays when we would all sit around the large dinning room table for a meal that my grandmother started to prepare before she left for church on Sunday morning.  My Mother continued the tradition having a beautifully prepared dinner on Sunday that we could all enjoy together. I knew that when I had a family I would continue family Sunday dinners and I have.  I just love having the time to prepare a delicious meal for my family to enjoy.  Roasted turkey breast is an easy favorite that my family enjoys.

        1 6 lb turkey breast
        1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
        2 cloves garlic, chopped
        2 teaspoons sage
        1 teaspoon rosemary
        1 teaspoon pepper
        4 thin slices lemon
        1 tablespoon olive oil
        juice of 1 lemon
        1 teaspoon salt
        1 teaspoon pepper

        1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
        3 cups turkey or chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium store bought

        I always soak my poultry in salt water for about an hour.  After you soak turkey, rinse and pat dry.  Place in roasting pan. In a small bowl combine butter, garlic, sage rosemary, and pepper.  Mix to form a paste. Gently separate the turkey breast skin from the meat to make a pouch between the skin and meat.  Divide butter mixture in two and stuff in each pouch.  Next place two lemon slices in each pouch.  Rub olive oil on turkey breast. Pour lemon juice over turkey.  Season with salt and pepper.
        Preheat oven 325 F.
        Set the meat breast-side up in the pan. Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 160 degrees F. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil for 30 minutes. (The breast temperature will continue to rise to 170 degrees as it rests.)

        Pour any pan drippings into a degreasing cup or small bowl.* Reserve 3 tablespoons of the fat discarding the rest and add the juices to the stock. Add the reserved fat to the roasting pan and place on a burner over medium high heat. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the stock and continue to stir. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Strain the gravy, discarding the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

        Carve the breast and serve with the gravy.

        * I really like from William Sonoma the "no spill" gravy separator.  This helpful tool really makes preparing gravy so easy!

        Wednesday, February 5, 2014

        Sumptuous Sausage Stew alla Puttanesca for a cold snowy winter's day!

        I don't know about you but when the temperature drops I need delicious stick to your ribs food. Warm filling spicy food to raise the my body temperature.  I make filling stews that are high on taste but low on fats and calories!  No need to pack on the extra pounds during the cold winter months.  I used chicken sausage and Del Monte petite diced tomatoes with no salt added to cut down on fat and salt.

        Served over Italian bread!

        2 tablespoon olive oil
        5 chicken sausage about 1 pound
        4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained

        4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
        1 large onion, thinly sliced
        1 can(14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, I like Del Monte with no salt
        1/2 cup red wine
        2 teaspoons Tuscan Sunset blend from Penzys
        1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
        1/2 cup cut up Parmesan rind
        sea salt
        black pepper
        Italian bread
        grated Parmesan cheese

        In a large Dutch oven over medium heat cook sausage until browned about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove sausage and set aside to use later. You can either slice the sausage into 2 inch pieces or leave whole. I leave the sausage whole, the choice is yours.  Cook anchovies, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and anchovies are dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add onions.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, wine, red pepper flakes, and Tuscan Sunset. Reduce heat to a simmer.

        Add reserved cooked sausage, and Parmesan rind: salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.
        You can serve this over pasta or I like to just top two slices of fresh Italian bread with this warming stew!

        DO AHEAD: Stew can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.


        Tuesday, January 28, 2014

        A Mandarin Orange Pecan Wild Rice and Farro Salad that taste and looks fantastic!

        Who says healthy can't taste and look fantastic!  I knew that I had a winner with my Mandarin, Orange Pecan Wild Rice and Farro Salad the first time I served this for a birthday dinner for my son.  Everyone just raved about the salad and asked for the recipe.  This salad is easy and great to do ahead.  Love the sweetness of the mandarin oranges and crunch of the pecans.

        4 sprigs thyme, divided
        4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
        Kosher salt
        1 cup wild rice, or wild rice blend like Whole Foods
        1 cup farro
        1 can(15 oz.) Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup, drained, reserve syrup, I used Dole
        ¼ cup olive oil
        Freshly ground black pepper
        1 teaspoon garlic powder
        4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
        1 cup chopped pecans

        Bring 2 thyme sprigs, 2 cups broth, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, then rice; reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 40–45 minutes. Remove thyme and let cool. Drain, if needed.
        Meanwhile, cook farro in another medium saucepan, using remaining 2 thyme sprigs, 2 cups broth, and 1½ cups water and cooking 35–40 minutes. Remove thyme and cool.
        Whisk oil into light syrup in small bowl; season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add mandarin oranges, wild rice, farro,  scallions and pecans and toss gently to coat.


        Friday, January 24, 2014

        Red Velvet Heart cookies just in time for Valentine's Day!

        Red Velvet all over lately, even Dunkin Donuts had  Red Velvet lattes and  Red Velvet Drizzle Donuts during the holidays.  I'm  still not tired of this delicious flavor.  What could be more appropriate for Valentine's Day than Red Velvet Heart cookies. These little gems are fun and easy to make just screaming Be Mine!

        Red Velvet Heart Cookies

        1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
        2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        1/3 cup sugar
        1/2 cup butter
        1 tablespoon red food coloring
        3 ounces white baking chocolate with cocoa butter, coarsely chopped
        1 1/2 teaspoon shortening

        1. Preheat oven to 325F.  In medium bowl sift flour, cocoa and salt.  Set aside

        2. Cream butter and sugar in electric mixer until fluffy.  Stir in flour mixture until combined.  Add red food coloring gently hand mixing until dough is red without any chocolate streaks.

        3. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.  On lightly floured surface,  roll dough until 1/2 inch thick.  Using a 1inch scalloped heart cookie cutter, cut out dough.  Place cutouts 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

        4. Bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

        5. In a small heavy saucepan cook and stir white chocolate and shortening over low hear until melted and smooth.  Drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate.  Let stand until white chocolate is set.  Makes about 24 cookies.

        Thursday, January 23, 2014

        French Macarons a special Valentine's Day treat for your Sweetheart!

        I've never met a holiday that I didn't love to celebrate.  Valentine's day happens to be one of my favorites.  I love decorating; pulling out all my dishes, plates, teacups pots and more.  China, silver,  and crystal which I collect and use all the time but especially lend a nice touch to Valentine's Day.

        Today I baked up some treats to share with my family.  I made French Macaron cookies and Red Velvet Heart cookies.  Perfect to say Be My Valentine!

        These delectable little treats are worth the all the work.  I also like to fill with other flavored filling to change it up!

        French Macarons with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

        Makes 24-30 shells or 12-15 macarons

        3 large egg whites, at room temperature for three hours
        1 cup silvered almonds, toasted
        2 cups confectioners' sugar
        2 tablespoon sugar
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        Red food coloring

        Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

        1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a pencil draw 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch circle. (Depending on the size you want the macarons)  Turn parchment paper over; set aside.

        2. Combine almonds and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners' sugar pulsing until finely ground. (Do not over process.) Add remaining confectioners' sugar and process until combined.  Set aside.

        3. Using a mixer or medium-high speed beat egg whites until frothy.  Gradually add sugar, beating at high speed until peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add vanilla extract and desired about of food coloring: mix well.

        4. Add almond mixture to egg whites, folding gently until well combined. Place batter into pastry bag fitted with medium tip.  Pipe batter into drawn circles on prepared baking sheets. Tap baking sheets on counter 5-7 times to release air bubbles.  Let sit at room temperature 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

        5 Preheat oven to 275F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool cool completely on baking sheets until ready to fill.

        6. Place Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream in pastry bag fitted small round tip. Pipe mixture onto flat side of macaron, and top with another macaron, flat sides together, pushing gently down and twisting slightly so that filling will spread to edges.  Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.

        Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

        3 egg whites, at room temperature
        3/4 cup sugar
        1 cup butter
        2 teaspoons vanilla extract

        1. In medium bowl combine egg whites and sugar.  Using a mixture at medium speed, whisk together.  Set pan over over pan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until mixture registers 140 on a instant-read candy thermometer. Remove from heat and beat at high speed with whip attachment for 10 minutes.  Meringue should be tripled in volume.

        2. Reduce mixture speed to low.  Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.


        Monday, January 20, 2014

        Brined Cornish Hens

        Cornish hens like any whole poultry benefit if you brine before cooking.  The overnight brining makes them tender and juicy.  Just look at these golden, browned succulent little birds!

         Roasted Lemon Game Hens

        1/4 cup kosher salt
        1/4 cup sugar
        1 lemon, thinly sliced
        1/2 tsp. freshly ground peppercorns
        1 bay leaf
        2 teaspoon rosemary
        2 teaspoon thyme
        2 teaspoon fennel
        1 qt. ice water
        4 (1 1/2-ib) Cornish hens
        2 Tbs. olive oil
        2 teaspoon rubbed sage
        2 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns

        Bring 1 cup of water and next eight ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in 1 qt. ice water.  Rinse hens; pat dry and add to brine.  Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight.

        Preheat oven to 425F.  Remove hens from brine; pat dry.  Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together with string.  Brush hens with olive oil.  Mix sage and peppercorns together and rub on all sides of the hens.  Arrange hens on rack in roasting pan.  Bake for 50 minutes or until hens are done.  Cover and let sand 15 minutes before serving. 

        I served these on a bed of Israel couscous.


        Thursday, January 16, 2014

        French Bistro Chicken Pot Pie

        I love bistro French cooking.  I'm reminded of aged french farmhouses with the wind gently ruffling fields of lavender on a warm summer day.  The draw of french cooking to me has always been the style of Provence or elegantly simple bistro cooking.  That's the taste that I wanted to capture with my French Bistro chicken Pot Pie.  Elegant but with simple ingredients that speak to my love of casual french cooking.  Serve with a salad of interesting fresh greens dressed, petite tomatoes and blue cheese dressed with a french vinaigrette and a glass of crisp Chablis, simply delicious!  A meal that transports me to the french country side.

        French Bistro Chicken Pot Pie pour deux

        2 whole boneless chicken breast
        1 tablespoon olive oil
        sea salt
        freshly ground pepper
        1/4 cup butter
        1 cup chopped leeks, white only
        1/2 cup chopped shallots
        1/4 cup flour
        1 1/2 cup chicken stock
        1/2 cup white wine
        2 tablespoon heavy cream
        2 teaspoon herbs de provence
        1 teaspoon salt
        1/2 teaspoon freshly grated pepper
        1 cup sliced baby carrots
        1 cup haricot verts, cut into 2 inch pieces

        1/2 package puff pastry, 1 sheet
        1 egg, beaten

        Preheat oven to 350F

        Place the chicken breast on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil.  Generously sprinkle breast with salt and pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.  Set aside to cool.  Cut chicken to 1 inch diced cubed when cool enough to handle.

        In a small saucepan heat chicken stock just to boiling. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute leeks and shallots over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until translucent.  Do not brown.  Add the flour and cook over low heat stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add hot chicken  stock to the sauce.  Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.  Add wine bring to just to boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add cream, herbs, salt, and pepper. Add carrots and haricot verts. Mix well.

        Preheat oven to 425F

        Place a 1 1/2 cup ovenproof dish on pastry on a floured surface.  Cut circle from pastry. 1/2 inch larger than dish; cut vents. Refrigerate on parchment-lined baking sheet.

        Divide chicken mixture between dishes.  top with pastry, press edges to seal, and brush with egg.  Bake on a baking sheet until golden, 25-30 minutes.