Friday, January 25, 2013


We are a family of pizza lovers in this house. When my children were small, we ate a lot of the kid-friendly cheese and pepperoni pizzas. Now that they are older, we enjoy a wide variety of topping and crust choices. One specialty pizza I had heard about, but never tried, was the Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza. I decided now was the perfect time to give it a go!

I quickly learned there are many recipes for deep dish pizza. After looking at several recipes, I decided on the King Arthur Flour recipe found HERE. In my opinion, King Arthur Flour has the best recipe, hands-down. Ideally, I would make this pizza in a cast iron pizza pan or skillet. I don't have a cast iron skillet, so I used a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. It worked wonderfully. If you don't have a deep dish pizza pan or skillet that's ovenproof, use what you have - a cake pan or even a roasting pan will work just as well.

What makes this pizza so different and so delicious - other than the crust - are the toppings. Most traditional pizzas have a tomato-based sauce, meats, vegetables, and cheese. You can certainly use those toppings on a deep dish pizza. The Chicago-style pizza uses crushed or diced tomatoes (well drained) blended with basil, oregano, garlic, and olive oil instead of a sauce. At first, I was skeptical about not using a sauce, but the tomatoes are fantastic. (I've now come to prefer tomatoes instead of sauce on my pizzas.) The pizza shown below has Italian sausage, mozzarella, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese for toppings. Again, you can use whatever you like for toppings.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

And this is a slightly less traditional Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza made with pepperoni instead of Italian sausage. As you can see, I'm getting better each time I make it!


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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sniffles & Sneezes Mean Avgolemono . . .

. . . otherwise known as Greek Lemon Chicken Soup!

My son has been a little under-the-weather with a head cold this week. I think almost everyone agrees that there's nothing like a bowl of chicken soup when you aren't feeling well and I was feeling a little adventurous. This soup was the perfect meal to help him feel better. The addition of lemon takes ordinary chicken soup up a notch and the eggs provide a silky smooth, almost sauce-like quality to the broth. It's a wonderful culinary experience that I intend to repeat!

Greek Lemon Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

Serves:  4 - 6

6 cups water

4 tbsp. chicken base (or bouillon) 

3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 lemon, juiced (be sure to remove seeds)

1/4 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 bay leaf

1/4 - 1/2 tsp. pepper (use white pepper, if you have it)

2 tbsp. butter, softened

2 tbsp. flour

3 egg yolks

1 cup rice, cooked

lemon slices (for serving)

chopped fresh parsley (for serving)

Add the water, chicken base, and chicken breasts to a large saucepan or stock pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim the foam as it forms on top. Continue simmering for 20 - 30 minutes.

Add the carrots, onion, bay leaf, and pepper. Simmer until 30 - 45  minutes before serving. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and bay leaf from the broth; discard the bay leaf and cut or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. Mash the flour into the butter until thoroughly combined and add to the chicken broth. Stir to be sure all the butter/flour mixture has melted and mixed into the broth.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks until they become a slightly lighter color. Slowly (very slowly) add small amounts (I started out with 2 tbsp.) of the hot broth to the yolks. Be sure to stir the yolks the entire time you are adding the hot liquid (this is known as tempering the yolks) because you don't want to turn the yolks into scrambled eggs. Add about a cup of the broth to the yolks (a little at a time), making sure you are stirring while adding the broth. Pour the yolk/broth mixture back into the soup broth; add the rice and chicken. Continue simmering until the soup is heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. 

To serve, ladle the soup into a serving bowl, sprinkle with chopped parsley (if you like) and place a slice of lemon in the bowl. This soup makes a beautiful presentation at the dinner table.


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Friday, January 18, 2013


This sauce is quick, easy, and versatile. You can enjoy it over rice, pasta or potatoes (like we did). If you prefer, you can also cut the round steak into individual portions and serve the sauce over the individual steaks, along with side dishes.

Beef in Mushroom Sauce

1 lb. round steak

salt & pepper

olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (any variety will work)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup flour

1 - 1/2 cups beef broth

2 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard

1/2 tsp. dried thyme or marjoram

1/4 cup cream or milk

Trim fat from meat and slice. You can make the slices in whatever thickness you prefer. Sprinkle the meat slices with salt and pepper. 

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to the pan (about 2 turns of the pan). Saute the meat slices in the oil until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan (about 1 turn of the pan). Saute the onions in the oil until tender and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms soften and release their liquid (about 7-8 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushroom/onion mixture and stir to cover the vegetables. Cook for 30-60 seconds. Pour the broth over the vegetables and mix well. Stir in the mustard, lower heat to medium-low, and continue cooking until sauce thickens. Add the thyme (or marjoram) and the beef slices, stir, cover and lower heat to simmer.

Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt (add just a little at a time). Stir in the cream and serve.


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Friday, January 11, 2013

What's NOT to Love?

I came across today's recipe some time ago and it is now one of our family favorites. This recipe is fast and easy (two of my favorite features!) and it turns out perfectly every time. I would change NOTHING in this recipe because it's AWESOME!

I have not {yet} had an authentic Philly Cheesesteak, so I don't have a point of comparison, but this sandwich is pretty tasty. To make this delicious recipe, just click HERE!

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

I confess, that IS a hot dog bun and not hoagie or sub rolls or Italian or French bread, like the recipe calls for. While I was making the beef/pepper/onion mixture, I realized I forgot to make some French bread. So, I improvised. The sandwiches were still fantastic, but they're better on a hoagie or sub roll and even better on French or Italian bread.


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Friday, January 4, 2013

One Skillet Dinner

Sometimes I want a filling meal that tastes wonderful  . . . .  and only uses ONE pan. Actually, I want that almost all the time. The recipe I'm sharing with you today fits the bill. In less than an hour, you and your family will be sitting down to a meal of tender boneless pork chops, flavorful roasted potatoes, and crisp-tender apples. This dish gets even tastier when served with the tangy sauce!

Boneless Pork Chops with Potatoes, Apples & Onion

Serves:  4

4 boneless pork chops (1 to 1 - 1/4 lb.)

salt & pepper

olive oil

2 tbsp. butter

1 lb. potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks (I used Yukon Gold, but any variety is fine)

1 small onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick, rings separated

1/4 cup apple juice or apple cider

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. mustard (I used yellow prepared mustard)

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (omit, if you prefer)

2 red apples, sliced into thick wedges (skin on), core removed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously, sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops. Heat olive oil (about 2 turns of the pan or 2 tbsp.) in a large, oven-proof skillet. When the oil shimmers in the pan, carefully add the pork chops to the skillet (you should hear the pork chops sizzle when they are placed in the skillet). Saute for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the pork chops to a platter and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp. butter to the pan. Once the butter melts, add the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice to brown the potatoes evenly. While the potatoes cook, mix the apple juice, apple cider vinegar, ginger, mustard, and red pepper flakes; stir well to combine. When the potatoes have browned (don't be concerned that they aren't cooked all the way through), add the apple juice mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue boiling until the apple juice mixture has reduced by half. Add the pork chops to the pan and sprinkle the onion rings over the pork chops and potatoes. (If your cookware is not ovenproof, put the potatoes, pork chops, and reduced sauce into a roasting pan, cover with foil, and place in the oven.)

Cover and place in the over for 15 minutes.

Carefully, remove the pan from the oven, and add the apple slices. Be sure to watch out for the steam when removing the lid! Cover and return the skillet to the oven for 10-12 minutes more (or until potatoes are tender). Again, be very careful removing the pan from the oven.

Place the pork chops, potatoes, onions, and apples on a serving platter. If you like, return the skillet with the apple juice mixture to the stovetop and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened and serve over pork chops.


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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Snowflake Cupcakes

Happy New Year!

When I was thinking about what to write about in my very first post of the new year, I kept coming back to one thought:  in a world as productive as ours, it's unimaginable to me that there are people who are not only hungry, they die of starvation. If I could have just one wish, I would ask that no one in this world goes hungry. There are many ways to give and many worthy organizations to contribute to. In the coming days, I will be adding links to just a few of these organizations to my site. Please give, in any amount, if you are able. Thank You.

Another thought I had, while thinking about the new year, comes in the form of a challenge:  one random act of kindness. I challenge each of you to commit just one random act of kindness a year, a month, a week, or a day. Whatever best suits you. Just one. One of my resolutions is to do one random act of kindness a day. It doesn't have to be anything expensive or time consuming - just something nice for someone else. And, whenever you're feeling a little blue, just think about something kind that you've done for someone else. I guarantee, it will lift your spirits!

I also have a special treat for you:  Snowflake Cupcakes! Otherwise known as, Lemon-Filled Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting. They're delicious!

Snowflake Cupcakes

6 oz. (3 squares) Vanilla Candy Coating (Almond Bark) for the White Chocolate Snowflakes

Lemon Curd (you can find the recipe I used HERE)

1 lemon-flavored cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist) plus the ingredients called for on the mix package

Cream Cheese/White Chocolate Frosting (recipe below)

My first step was to make the white chocolate snowflakes to decorate the cupcakes. Trace a snowflake template or two on a piece of paper. You'll want the snowflakes to be about 2 inches. Tear or cut pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 3 inch squares. You'll lay the parchment or waxed paper over the templates and pipe your snowflakes on to the paper. Set aside. Next, melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a simmering pan of water (double-boiler), making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water; also be sure to keep an eye on the water level so you don't run out of water in the pan. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove the bowl from the pan of water, and cool slightly. Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a writing tip or a zip-lock baggie (you'll snip the very end of one of the corners to pipe from). Following the templates, pipe the snowflakes on to the small pieces of parchment or waxed paper and place the squares on a baking sheet. Take care, that the snowflakes aren't touching one another. If you like, you can embellish the snowflakes with colored sugar or other sprinkles before they harden. Let the chocolate snowflakes harden at room temperature and then move them into the freezer until you need them. I left mine on the baking sheet. I confess, I don't do much piping, so my snowflakes weren't quite as pretty as the the ones you see in photos online. But I think they came out OK.

Step two is to make the Lemon Curd. I followed the recipe found at Menu by Vicky - in the link above. It's my "go to" recipe for lemon curd because it never fails. I made half of her recipe to fill the cupcakes. Be sure to cover the lemon curd with a layer of plastic wrap - touching the curd - to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until needed.

So, at the end of step two, you should have white chocolate snowflakes in the freezer and lemon curd in the refrigerator. On to making the cupcakes.

Step three is very simple:  make the cupcakes. I mixed up the packaged cake mix (according to package instructions) and made cupcakes out of the batter. Let the cupcakes cool completely before filling them with the lemon curd. You can use two methods to fill the cupcakes:  injecting the filling right into the cupcake or coring the cupcake and filling it. You can find some great tips for filling cupcakes HERE. I chose to core the cupcake using a corer (like the one shown below) and filled it with the lemon curd. You can use the method that works best for you. Refrigerate the filled cupcakes until you are ready to frost them.

And finally . . . step four! Frost the cupcakes using the recipe shown below. I {attempted} to pipe the frosting on to the cupcakes and added a white chocolate snowflake before the frosting set.

Be sure to refrigerate the cupcakes - once frosted - until you are ready to serve.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz. (3 squares) white chocolate 

1 - 1/2 pkgs. (12 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pot of water. Be sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Cool the chocolate.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter. Add the melted white chocolate and mix until well-blended and whipped. 

Using a piping bag or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

I'll confess, my cupcakes weren't as pretty as I had hoped they would be. BUT! They tasted awesome! The White Chocolate-Cream Cheese frosting was a perfect match with the lemon curd filling and lemon-flavored cupcakes. I hope you give them a try!


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