Apricot Cornmeal Cookies

Apricot Cornmeal Cookies

I tested these cookies on my colleagues of the New York Metro Chapter of the US Personal Chef Association last night and they were a hit so now I am ready to share the recipe with you!

These cookies are deliciously light, not too sweet, and really beautiful.  These are an “icebox” cookie so once you’ve made a batch of dough (you may even want to double the recipe) you can have freshly baked cookies any time you please.

Apricot Cornmeal Cookies

Yield:  About 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature (use a high-quality butter such as Plugra)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heaping 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth.  Add the sugar and continue to beat for about 2-3 minutes until the mixture is light and pale.

Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or 2 until the egg and yolk are incorporated.  Beat in the vanilla.

Reduce the mixer to low speed and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated.  Turn off mixer and add chopped apricots.  Finish mixing the dough with a rubber spatula.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide in half.  Shape each half into a log, about 2-inches in diameter, and wrap in plastic.  The dough must be chilled for at least 2 hours before use.  (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 months).

When ready to bake, center the rack in the oven and preheat to 375F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Use a sharp, thin knife to slice cookie dough into 1/4-inch thick rounds and place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each cookie.

Apricot Cornmeal Cookies

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint.  The cookies should feel semi-soft/semi-firm and they should not color much, if at all.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the cookies rest 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.  Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.


Peanuts, Peanuts Everywhere…

… But are they safe to eat???

I’ve noticed that since the peanut/salmonella scare started, every recipe that looks appealing to me has peanuts or peanut butter in it.  I am craving peanut butter like never before (yes, I am pregnant, but still).  Since I am eating for two and salmonella poisoning would be catastrophic for me and my growing family, I am steering clear.  But once the dust has settled, these are the recipes I’m planning to make.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

This is one of my husband’s all-time favorite desserts.

1 (14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (8 oz.) container frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
1 (6oz.) Oreo pie crust

In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder; mix well.
Add peanut butter and mix well.
Fold in whipped topping.
Spoon mixture into crust.
Cover pie and freeze 6 hours.
Garnish as desired and serve.
Freeze leftovers.

Puppy Chow for People

A yummy sweet treat to snack on.

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
7 cups Kellogg’s Crispix cereal
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup powdered milk

Melt the first 3 ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine.
Pour mixture over the cereal in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the powdered sugar and powdered milk in a clean paper grocery bag and shake to mix.
Put the coated cereal in the paper bag and shake very well to coat the cereal.
Put Puppy Chow for People in a large serving bowl and watch it disappear!
*** Do not feed this recipe to puppies! ***

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Bread Pudding

I wrote this recipe for my friend, Jordan, who is a chocolate/peanut butter fiend.

1 1-pound brioche, crust trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
8 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, melted
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.  Position rack in center of oven.
Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking dish.
Place bread cubes and chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in buttered baking dish in an even layer.
Whisk eggs, heavy cream, milk, sugar, melted chocolate and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl.
Pour custard mixture evenly over bread cubes and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Let stand for at least 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard mixture.
Bake until pudding is set in the center, about 40 minutes.
Cool slightly; serve warm.


Cilantro UWS

Last night my husband and I went to Cilantro on the Upper West Side for $10 Fajita Night.  We’ve been to this location many times and we are familiar with the food and service.  We’ve always known that both the food and the service are inconsistent.  For example, the vegetable fajitas one night might be just a bunch of onions and green bell peppers and another night, there might be a cornucopia of grilled zucchini, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, yellow squash and a smattering of onions and green bell peppers.  The service one night might bend over backwards to make sure you are enjoying yourself and another night, you may have to ask 4 different individuals for more tortillas (like last night).

So, we have established the fact that this location is inconsistent, yes?  Why do we keep going back?  Well, $10 fajitas is a pretty good deal and 50% of the time, the service and food are good.  Sometimes they are even good on the same night!  Haha!  Now, the reason I write this post today is that last night was the worst ever.  I need to vent about it.

Last night as we sat down, we were brought our basket of chips and salsa and our glasses of water.  We placed our order quickly as we knew why we were there and what we wanted.  I ordered my usual vegetable fajita and my husband ordered his usual steak fajita.  The food was unusually slow to come out last night to the point where we actually polished off the basket of chips and salsa and were about to ask for more when the fajitas finally arrived.  We immediately noticed problem #1: the restaurant had run out of onions.  I asked the server, “No onions?” and he said “What? Oh yeah, we ran out of onions.”  This was not a huge deal but my husband’s dinner looked more like Chinese pepper steak than steak fajita.  Before that server left, my husband asked for more tortillas as this restaurant never gives us enough.  Problem #2:  the waiter said “There should be enough there.”  My husband said “Trust me, we’ll need more.  Can we have 4 or 5 more?”.  The server, with his shrewd bargaining skills, said “How about 3?”.  Fine.  Except, they never came.  So, we asked another server for some tortillas.  She brought 2.  We ate those in about 2 minutes.  We asked the same woman again, “Can we have some more tortillas, please?”  They never came.  So we asked the man who appeared to be the manager for some tortillas.  He brought 2 tortillas.  We gave up our fight for tortillas.  After having to ask for extra tortillas 4 different times only to have them rationed out to us on every other request, I told my husband to go ahead and enjoy those last 2 tortillas and I ate my veggies plain, with a knife and fork.  We finished our meal and we paid the check, asking for the change.  Enter Problem #3: they only brought the paper part of our change and kept the coin part!  What the hell is that?!?  Did they run out of onions, tortillas AND coin change???  Needless to say, we were quite frustrated with the evening as a whole.

You may be wondering, “Will you be going back?”.  The answer:  Probably.  “Why?”  Because, I haven’t found a better fajita deal in town and this one happens to be in our own neighborhood.  No subway ride necessary.

I do appreciate you letting me vent to you.  Feel free to vent to me anytime.

Iowa Corn Pancakes

Iowa Corn Pancakes

One of my favorite breakfast foods is pancakes.  While my husband makes awesome chocolate chip pancakes for me every weekend, occasionally I like to treat him to one of my specialties… Iowa Corn Pancakes.  I found this recipe 10 years ago in one of my favorite cookbooks, Best of the Best from Iowa.  These pancakes taste like a cross between corn muffins and buttermilk pancakes.  As such, I like to top these pancakes the same way I top my corn muffins… with sweet cream butter and honey.

I encourage you to try this easy recipe; I believe it will become one of your favorites too.

Iowa Corn Pancakes

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk, approximately
2 Tbsp melted butter

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together well.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs and 1 cup buttermilk, mixing well.  Add the egg/buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the melted butter to the mixture and mix.  Little by little, add the remaining buttermilk to the mixture until it is the proper thickness for cooking.  I find it takes almost the whole second cup of buttermilk to get the right consistency.

Iowa Corn Pancakes

Heat skillet over medium heat.  Add a small amount of butter (or other preferred fat used to prevent sticking) to the skillet.  Add enough batter to make the size pancakes you prefer.  Cook first side approximately 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip pancake and cook another 1-2 minutes or until second side is golden brown.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

Iowa Corn Pancakes

Iowa Corn Pancakes

Serve pancakes with your favorite toppings (butter, honey, maple syrup, apple butter, berry compote, what-have-you).

Iowa Corn Pancakes


Truly Delighted

Quaker True Delights

As you may have noticed, I am a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher.  As such, I have the distinct honor of also being a Foodbuzz Tastemaker.  This means that I receive samples of all kinds of goodies, often before they even reach the market shelves.

Recently, I was the very happy recipient of Quaker’s True Delights Granola Bars.  The awesome folks at Foodbuzz sent me 2 bars of each flavor to enjoy.  And enjoy I did!  Each variety is full of real fruit, nuts and whole grain goodness.  They taste super-indulgent but each bar is only 140 calories, has ZERO grams of trans fat, is cholesterol-free and packs a whopping 3 grams of fiber.

The flavors available are: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond, Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry and Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut.  I loved all of them but if I was forced to pick a favorite, I would choose Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut.  It tastes like chewy banana nut bread and makes for a great breakfast snack.  My husband’s favorite was the  Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry.  He said it tastes like a much more delicious version of trail mix, full of sweet and tangy fruit and lots of nice crunch from the cashews.  The Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond is just luscious.  I simply love raspberries and dark chocolate together and the almonds just put this bar over the edge.

I encourage you to look for these granola bars in your local market.  But check out Quaker’s website first for a $1.00 coupon.  Deliciousness tastes even better when it costs $1.00 less!

Roman Holiday

My husband and I have just returned from our “babymoon” in Italy.  We stayed in Rome for 8 nights and took a day trip to Florence.  We chose Italy for our babymoon destination as it was our #2 pick for our honeymoon.  This was my first trip to Italy but my husband actually lived in Rome while studying abroad in college.  How nice to have my own personal tour guide!

The weather in Rome and Florence was as expected for January… cool and wet.  Our transportation to and from Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome was expertly handled by Rome Cabs.  We stayed at Hotel Giardino in the center of ancient Rome.  For the price, location and hospitality of the staff, this place can not be beat.

Now, for the food.  My husband and I easily ate our weight in pizza, pasta, gelato and bread.  We did not take any photos of the food we ate as we did not want to stick out like sore thumbs.  A few places that I can recommend to you are:

Virginiae, located at 41 Via di Parione – we ate here twice we loved it so much.  We recommend the osso bucco (braised veal shank), the coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail), the coniglio (rabbit) cacciatore and the rigatoni all’Amatriciana.

Pizza Ciro, located at 43/45 Via della Mercede – we ate here twice as well.  The pizza here is so delicious I swear I am starting to drool right now just thinking about it.  The crust is flavorful and the perfect balance of crispy/soft and chewy.  The toppings are fresh and simple.

Il Gelato di San Crispino, located at 42 Via della Paneterria – this gelateria is the most sterile eatery I have ever seen and the gelato is fresh, all-natural and heavenly.  The flavors are pure and uncomplicated.  I enjoyed the pistachio and date while my husband liked the hazelnut and chocolate chip.

We both refrained from partaking of any vino as I am expecting and my husband doesn’t like to drink alone.  He did, however, enjoy some espresso (I abstained from this as well but it sure did smell good!).

We truly enjoyed our Roman holiday.  Now we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our little bundle of joy!

If you find yourself in Rome in the near future, I hope these recommendations are helpful to you.

6-Week Raisin Bran Muffins

My mother makes this recipe in the winter although I think it is great all year round.  I guess she makes these muffins in winter time because they are so hearty and soul-warming.  They are a yummy grab-and-go breakfast, perfect for eating at your office desk while checking your overflowing email inbox.

One of my favorite food bloggers, Diva at Beach Eats, once asked me why these muffins are called “6-Week” Raisin Bran Muffins.  A very good question, Diva.  Here is the answer: this recipe makes such a large amount of batter and the batter stays fresh for up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator.  Of course, I’ve never managed to keep the batter around that long as I bake a small batch of muffins every night so that my and my husband’s breakfast is fresh and ready to go to work with us every day.

6-Week Raisin Bran Muffins

1 (15oz.) box Raisin Bran cereal
3 cups granulated sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, beaten
1 quart buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix cereal, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt in an extra large bowl.  In a separate large bowl, combine oil, eggs and buttermilk; mix well.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well.  Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove muffins from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Store unused muffin batter in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Batter will last up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator.


6 Week Raisin Bran Muffins

6 Week Raisin Bran Muffins

6 Week Raisin Bran Muffins

6 Week Raisin Bran Muffins

6 Week Raisin Bran Muffins

‘Tis Potluck Season!

One of my favorite dishes to make for a potluck supper is a rice casserole that my Grandmother Alexander used to make for large get-togethers.  I don’t really know the name of it, I just always refer to it as “my rice casserole”.  The name (or lack thereof) does not really do it justice, though…

This delicious side dish is a real crowd pleaser.  I’m always especially amazed at how much the men-folk enjoy it.  This recipe is extraordinarily easy to make and can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled as necessary.  The recipe may seem to require a lot of butter but keep this in mind — I’ve actually reduced the amount of butter by half; my grandmother used to use a whole stick!  If you make sure to always have the ingredients in your pantry, you can whip up this dish anytime you please.

Rice Casserole

Serves 4

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup long grain white rice
1 10.5 oz can condensed French Onion soup
1 10.5 oz can condensed beef consomme (not broth)
1 4 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained

Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart casserole dish.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Enjoy.

Happy Holidays!

Rice Casserole

Rice Casserole

Tracy’s Homemade Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

I was not able to enjoy my favorite cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving as my in-laws were in town and they took my husband and I on a Chinese food bender for the entire weekend.  So, this MSG-free weekend, I made my favorite condiment of all time:

Tracy’s Homemade Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

1 (12 oz.) bag of cranberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
Zest of 1 medium navel orange, finely grated

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan; stir to combine and loosely cover.  Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid starts to boil and the skins of the cranberries start to pop.  Stir, loosely cover and lower heat to medium and allow mixture to bubble for about 10 minutes.  Stir yet again, and turn heat to low.  Simmer 10 more minutes or until mixture has thickened.

Cool, cover and store in the refrigerator.

Cranberry Sauce

Note: I make this sauce the day before I want to start using it as it seems to be one of those dishes that tastes better the next day.

This sauce is delicious with pork, poultry, brunch and dessert.  I even sneak a spoonful of it and enjoy it all by itself.  I love the ruby-red color, the chunky texture and the way it smells and tastes like the holidays.