Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa's Naughty Coal - COOKIE CONTEST!

A few weeks back I discovered a cookie contest on one of my favorite blogs Tongue-N-Cheeky - "Mrs. Kringle's Holiday Cookie Bakeoff" and I just couldn't resist. The theme of the contest was "Santa's Cookies." I thought long and hard for weeks about holiday cookies: sugar, chocolate, peppermint, you name it! But finally, I had an A-HA! moment. Santa loves to eat cookies, that's a given, but we can't forget that he always needs something to wash them down with, hence the egg nog frosting. We also know that if you've been naughty and not nice...well, you know the deal, you get COAL. So alas, I landed on my idea:


  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter. softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups (12 oz pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate mini chips


  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup egg nog
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat together butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour until fully incorporated and the batter comes together. Stir in mini chocolate chips with a spoon.

Shape 1 1/4 inch balls. Don't roll the balls in your hands to make smooth but form a chunky shape with your fingers to insure it will look like a piece of coal. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned.

While cookies are baking, melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler or in the microwave but BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERCOOK because chocolate burns very easily. If you're using the microwave, set it for 30 second intervals and stir only until it's just starting to melt (or else you'll have to go to the store again and start all ME!) Melt the butter and warm the cream and stir into the melted chocolate.
After cookies have cooled on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, dip the tops of the cookies into the chocolate and let the excess drizzle on the cooling rack (make sure to put foil or parchment paper underneath the rack so there's not a huge mess).
For the frosting, whisk together the egg nog and powdered sugar and drizzle lacy strands of
frosting over the chocolate-dipped cookies. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate hardens (takes a couple of hours, sorry).

So even if you've been naughty (but hopefully you've been nice), be sure to set these cookies out Christmas Eve and maybe, just maybe, Santa won't leave coal in your stocking!

All you have to do is click on the button below:
Just follow the directions on the site and vote for:
Write a comment at the bottom of the post with your vote. I get extra points too and SO DO YOU! Commentators qualify for prizes too!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Green Eggs and Fish

Tis' the season and even though sugar plum fairies and egg nog is on the mind, I can't get fish out of my head. My sister recently returned from her annual Puerto Vallarta rendezvous (cue jealousy) and brought home the second best thing to personalized key chains...MAHI MAHI.

Nicole and her husband, Brandon, pose below with their trophy fish, soon to be consumed by mwah. (They even caught a shark one year...yeah they're intense)

What to do with a fresh piece of Mahi Mahi...? I pondered this question over and over in my head until I landed upon a recipe that really caught my eye from the quirky Alton Brown himself. I needed a break from butter-laden meals finished with, well, more butter (oh yes, there is such a thing, hence the extra poundage sitting on my waistline these days). My sister opted to cook her fish with a green egg...grooooosssss, right? WRONG! Nicole got Brandon the Big Green Egg for his birthday and they say it has changed their life...literally. Never heard of it you say? It's basically a ceramic kamodo-style cooker that does everything but wash your dishes (I'm still waiting for that one...). It is a unique barbecue that transforms into a grill, smoker, and even an oven. Everything they've cooked with the Green Egg has turned out so good that they don't know what they ever did without it. Too bad I couldn't cook up Mason and Cooper in it because I'm ready to eat-them-up!

Since we aren't all so lucky to possess the egg, try out this recipe next time you're debating how to cook your flaky white fish, any kind will do. It's easy, healthy, and comes together in only 15 minutes. The coconut milk really sets it apart and makes the fish moist and delicious. Check it out!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

Adapted from Alton Brown
  • 1 1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese style bread crumbs, found in the ethnic aisle)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing foil
  • 4 mahi mahi fillets (or any white fish)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • Fresh squeezed lemon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine nuts, panko, flour, and butter. Set aside.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush liberally with vegetable oil. Season the fillets with salt and pepper on both sides and place on the foil. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with coconut milk. Divide the nut mixture among the tops of the fillets, patting the mixture to adhere to the fillets. Return to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, just until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

I drizzled lemon juice over the top to give a little more brightness to the dish. In the words of Racheal was yum-O!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foooooodie Fall

I never really embraced the flavors of fall as much as I have this fall. It's safe to say I've gotten a head start on my winter coat since stuffing my face with every comfort food imaginable. This past weekend I was in a cooking frenzy (unfortunately for Rob, he was cooped up in the kitchen the whole weekend). Try these recipes stat and you'll be ready to catapult yourself into a pile of leaves!

White Bean Chicken Chili

Want an alternative to the red stuff? Try this for a healthier alternative made with chicken but still packed with flava flav and creamy goodness! It's super easy and comes together in a snap!

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 in cubes
1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cans (15.5 oz) great northern beans, rinse and drain
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth or stock (I like to use the carton b/c you can stick the unused in the fridge and it has less sodium)
2 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon salt (kosher, not the iodized stuff)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (can use fat-free half & half)
Monterrey or Pepper Jack cheese to top

In a large skillet, saute chicken, onion, and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. If using cooked chicken, saute onions and garlic powder until onions are almost transparent, then toss in the chicken to warm it. Add the beans, broth, chilies, and seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on LOW, uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and heavy cream and and return to low heat until warm.

Top with Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese...yum!

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

This soup is hearty, healthy, and delicious. A fall staple soup indeed...
From one of my favorite blogs, Recipe courtesy of

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes (seeds scooped out & saved)
1 acorn squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes3
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed w/ back of knife
4 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, pull leaves off woody stalk
salt and pepper

sour cream
sauteed thick cut bacon, sliced thin
butternut squash seeds, sauteed in bacon fat

In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cubed squashed and saute for 2-3 minutes or until they start to slightly carmerlize. Add the garlic and saute one minute, stirring often to prevent it from burning (or it will become bitter). Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered for about 3o minutes or until the squash is tender. With an immersion blender*, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. If using a food processor or blender, let the soup cool a bit before processing. Salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a dollop of sour cream, sauteed squash seeds, and bacon. HEAVEN!

*MY NEW FAVORITE TOY! They're super inexpensive and totally worth every penny. I picked one up for about $25. Whether you want to puree your soup directly in the pot or whip up a smoothie in an actual cup, this kitchen gadget is for you!


So it was too soon for me to go on a blog hiatus, right? Let's be honest, the only person that even noticed I was being a lazy blogger was my mom, but hey, if you missed me, I'm back!

I have to share with you all a new, maybe unhealthy, obsession of mine: FOOD BLOGS. I know I have one of my own but it pales in comparison to the amazing-ness of what else is out there. Whether it be chefs, stay-at-home mamas, or regular old joes, these things are everywhere. Not only do they feature delectable, unique recipes, these foodies take unreal pictures (with super $$$ cameras, mind you). I never realized food was so photogenic! Take a gander for yourself and check out my top 5 favorite food blogs:

1. Smitten Kitchen

2. One Hungry Chef

3. Phoo-d

4. Tartelette

5. Joy the Baker

Not only are they pretty to look at but now you can give a rest and get some wicked new recipes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Deep Breaths...


I am still shaking. I cannot believe what just unfolded tonight. I didn't do good friends....I DID GREAT!

So here's how it went down. Seven sauces, 10 points each. I made them in 2 hours but I was one of the first people finished, believe it or not. I showed up an hour early to chop and prepare all my ingredients before the start of class because this way, you're ready to go when the teacher says GO! Sounds pretty intense but this is what he recommends and it definitely took a lot of weight off my shoulders. Okay, can I brag about my scores a little?

1. Espagnole: 10 pts
2. Veloute: 9 pts
3. Bechamel: 9 pts
4. Beurre Blanc: 10 pts
5. Hollandaise: 10 pts
6. Allemande: 9 pts
7. Chasseur: 10 pts

TOTAL: 67/70 pts

I started off with 2 9's and was more than satisfied and surprised how well I started off. Then I got a 10, and then another 10, and another one...and you got the idea. Excuse me for bragging but I really don't know how I pulled it off...but I did! All I have to say is...


Monday, October 5, 2009


Man your battle stations, it's time for the main event!

Hopefully after tomorrow I will no longer have to whine about all my catastrophes and mishaps with sauces. I feel like we've been making sauces for months and I'm ready just to move on already! Yeesh...give me some meat, fish, vegetables, ANYTHING but freaking Veloute, Espagnole, or Hollandaise!

Tomorrow night we're getting tested on 7 sauces, you heard right...SEVEN! I know, I'm having trouble breathing too but I can do it, right? The chef tells us organization is key but you can only prepare so much in advance for a practical. Here's the plan and the order we have to do it:

1. Espagnole
2. Veloute
3. Bechamel
4. Hollandaise
5. Beurre Blanc
6. Allemande
7. Chasseur

Say a little prayer for me because I'm going to need all the help I can get! Although, I do have to toot my own horn because I've been rocking in the sauce department lately!

Game face is goes nothing!

* Picture courtesy my nephew Mason when he was a baby...killer game face, huh?

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's 5 o'clock Somewhere


Who doesn't love it? Well, there's a select few but there's clearly something not quite right with them. How can you resist the first ice cold, frosty sip of a beer...? There's nothing like it. I'm getting the chills just thinking about it. Whether you're rooting on your favorite team or kicking back on the beach, beer is where it's at. Period.

I've been trying to experiment a little more with my beer pallet instead of always resorting to the basics, but guilty as charged, I ordered a Bud Light at a brewery (I know...bad.)

So next time your instinct is to order one of your good pal's Miller or Bud, make a new friend with someone new! Case and point, I was highly opposed to dark beer before I went to Dublin. But after I tried the malty, dark, exotic, fresh Guinness at the Guinness Brewery, it was love at first sip.

My advice to you: this weekend get crazy and try something new. If you can't wait until your tailgate Saturday morning, there's always 5 o'clock...

Want the perfect accompaniment for your beer this weekend? Try these unreal beer pretzels (courtesy Rob's mama!)

Paulette's Party Pretzels
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 packet Ranch dressing dry mix
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 2 boxes Snyder's sour dough pretzels (the thick kind!)

Mix first three ingredients. Place pretzels in a big ziploc bag and pour in the mixture. Shake the bag to evenly coat the pretzels, pop in the refrigerator, and voile!

Now drink up (responsibly!)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Saucey Night

I have to vent about my "saucey" night last night. I'm in the midst of taking "Culinary Foundations 2" and as you can probably guess, things move a little quicker than "Foundations 1." So, with that said, last night we were expected to make 4 mother sauces (the classic French sauces used to make additional "small sauces") and 5 small sauces.

WELL, the chef made it look pretty darn easy in his demo so I thought it wouldn't be that bad since we've made mother sauces in Foundations 1. I was wrong. My Allemande sauce turned into scrambled eggs. My Supreme cooled down too much before I got to present it to the teacher. My Bechemel only yielded (literally) 4 drops because the chinois (a cone-shaped straining device) I used was so clogged with clunk from previous students. I just had to laugh at this point in my night. Even my Veloute was crappy because I apparently didn't cook the roux long enough. I felt like a complete the time I couldn't get Hollandaise for the life of me!

Phew. Glad that's off my chest. I was pretty relieved when the night came to an end. Usually when I have a crappy night and feel like nothing went my way, it just sticks with me the whole drive home. I'm hoping by next Tuesday, the day of our practical, some magical sauce fairy has sprinkled magical fairy dust on my burnt, non-polished, manly hands (well, these days that's what they're looking like!) so I can whip up something magical.

Or maybe I'll just have to begrudgingly shake my fist at the French for creating so many sauces in the first place.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Get into the Fall Spirit

You don't have to wait for Christmas this year to get into the spirit. Fall has arrived and I can't explain how happy I feel!

So many things come to mind when I think of Fall: pretty leaves, warm colors, apple cider, pumpkins, halloween, sweaters, caramel apples, cinnamon, pumpkin spice lattes, apple pie, cold pillows, and the list goes on. It's without a doubt my favorite season of the year. I've already made my way to the local pumpkin patch with Rob and nothing makes me happier!

So make time this weekend for your local pumpkin patch and pick up some pumpkins and apple cider and officially welcome the best season of the year! When you smell that apple cider brewing on your stove, you'll thank me!

Quick Apple Cider

  • Store bought apple cider

  • Mulling spices

  • Orange Peel

  • Cloves

  • Cinnamon sticks

On the stovetop, warm up the apple cider on low heat. Add mulling spices, the orange peel "spiked" with cloves, and a couple cinnamon sticks.

Enjoy with apple cinnamon muffins (orchards usually have yummy mixes) topped with a little apple butter, yum.

NOW do you feel the Fall spirit? I thought so :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Welcome to my Blog!

Okay, so whoever thought I would be writing a blog! I definitely didn't. But since I've started culinary school, people are always asking me question after question and I finally gave in and thought it would be a lot easier to just write about it. Since I attend school at night, it's hard for me to talk to all my friends, family, etc. SO hopefully you can catch a little glimpse into what the heck I've been doing!

I started school in August at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago and am already into my "second block" of classes. At first, it seemed a little overwhelming, (especially taking public transportation!) but I settled into it pretty easily and am starting to think I've got the hang of it.

I wear full uniform to class everyday, and I mean FULL uniform. I look like the biggest goofball but I've even gotten used to that! My "chef" singled me out the first day of class for wearing make-up so I've become accustom to the whole "un-glamorous" side of the cooking industry (Don't let Giada fool wouldn't be caught dead in the kitchen with a V-neck shirt and painted nails)!

It's definitely been an interesting 6 weeks to say the least but I'm loving every minute of it! Sometimes I can get caught up in the rush-hour Chicago commute or long hours in the kitchen, but I'm so lucky to be doing what I love to do...COOK! Not many people get the chance so I'm one lucky girl. Alright, enough of being sentimental...

So without further ado, I hope you enjoy hearing about my experience and maybe I can even influence YOU to get yourself in the kitchen!

Bon appetit!