Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring Spinach Salad and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Feel like a fresh and simple salad tonight? This Spring Salad may be just the trick.

1 bag baby spinach
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped
1 large cucumber, sliced
1/2 of a red union, chopped or sliced
1/8 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Salad dressing of choice

Toss all ingredients together! Ta-da! Done! I also would suggest adding half of each a yellow bell pepper and a red bell pepper and a pint of cherry tomatoes.

I prefer to have this with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. However, for a lighter option, consider throwing some lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper on top. You'll be surprised how delicious these simple toppings can be!

If you'd like to try our family favorite, this is our Family Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
2 large cloves garlic, freshly minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Shake me up baby! Also, if the dressing has been sitting in the fridge for a while and has settled, just nuke it in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. Natural dressings that don't contain big scary chemicals will frequently separate. It's all good.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Zesty Spicy Lime Cilantro Shrimp

This dish is delicious, healthy and fast. Win, win, win! I got it out of FOOD Magazine. The only change I'd make is to add more cayenne pepper, but that's just because I like it very spicy.

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (or 1 teaspoon paprika)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
chopped cilantro to taste
lime wedges to taste
plain yogurt (optional)

  1. Combine salt, paprika, cumin, curry powder, cayenne and cinnamon. Sprinkle over shrimp and toss to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high/high heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally,  until opaque throughout. Approximately 3 - 5 minutes.
  3. Serve shrimp with cilantro and lime wedges. If desired, serve with a side of plain yogurt. This dish would also be great with naan. 

Better Late Than Never! (Six-Months-After-)Thanksgiving Pies!

Hello all! I apologize for my complete and total abandonment of this blog. But, you should be happy to know, that I am no longer bored! As of the beginning of this calendar year, I have moved to the wonderful, magical, beautiful, amazing land of Boulder, Colorado. As my way of apologizing, I will now inundate you with the highlights of my cooking adventures of the past few months, beginning with Thanksgiving pies...

These recipes, like many of mine, come with a back story. For as long as I can remember, my family has never cooked our own pies on Thanksgiving, or for any other holiday for that matter. I mean, why would we, when we had "The Pie Lady" in our neighborhood who would cook the most amazing homemade pies and sell them for less than $10 a pie right out of her home?! Alas, as we knew would happen eventually, "The Pie Lady" (okay, her name was Sarah Crook but she will always be "The Pie Lady" to me) retired from commercial pie making at the ripe old age of... man... I have no idea, but at least 85. My mother even took a class with her once, years ago, attempting to learn the "The Pie Lady" ways. For Mom, the result of this class was twofold: (1) a list of recipes with many notes in the margins and (2) a further acknowledgement that "The Pie Lady's" pies were both easier and much more delicious when purchased.

The "before" shot.
Now, since I had recently taken it upon myself to bake my little patootie off at any given opportunity, I decided that this was just the challenge I was looking for. What follows is the result of my first attempt at truly homemade apple and pumpkin pies, with the recipes from Mom and "The Pie Lady."

First, we start with the Pie Crusts (by far, the most difficult part of this entire endeavor.) Note: don't make the mistake that I did. The apple and pumpkin pie recipes I will go through here require an uncooked pie crust. Therefore, if you're going to make my pies, don't pre-bake the crust, just prep it.

The many fantastic ingredients which went into this adventure. The butter is cut up because it was previously in the fridge and I wanted to speed up its warming to room temperature.
Ingredients (For one pie with a bottom and top crust, for an 8" circular pie pan. Feel free to scale per your baking needs. With pie crust, you'd always rather have a little extra than be a little short.):
**Note: As with most baking, all ingredients should be at room temperature, especially the butter.**
2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
1/3 cup shortening (i.e. Crisco)
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water

Special Tools:
8" glass (or metal) pie pan
Large mixing bowl
1 (or more) cup graduated glass measuring cup
Cellophane/Saran wrap
Rolling pin (preferably marble)


  1. Measure flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly and then remove1/3 cup of this mixture and reserve in a medium bowl.
  2. Measure out shortening via the displacement method. Do this by taking the 1+ cup graduated measuring cup and filling it with 2/3 cup of water. Then add shortening (preferably in larger scoops) until the total volume reaches 1 cup. Then you'll know you have 1/3 cup of shortening! Remove this shortening combine it with the butter, mixing to homogenize.
  3. Add the butter-shortening mixture to the large bowl and, using your hands, rub the flour-salt mixture into the butter-shortening mixture until texture is that of cornmeal. 
  4. In the medium bowl, mix the water with the flour to make a paste and immediately add it to the ingredients in the large bowl.
  5. Divide the dough into two parts and roll each out between Saran wrap. Be sure to do this as evenly as possible, and do not attempt to re-roll dough, it will toughen it. (If you're doing a pre-baked crust, preheat the oven to 375 F now.)
  6. Lay the crust loosely over the pie pan. (This sounds simple, but really it takes coordination and, preferably, larger and/or multiple sets of hands. If it tears, no biggie, it'll still be delicious.)
  7. Lift edges of the crust to fit it into the pan.
  8. Trim off excess crust, being sure to leave about 1/2 overhang all around, as crust will shrink a bit when baked. 
  9. If the crust is to be used as a pre-baked single crust, fold over the overhang to the edge of the pan and flute. (Note: fluting is taking the back of your fork and making lots of pretty lined imprints in the edge, like so..
  10. Prick the crust around the sides and over the bottom, bake for 10 to 12 minutes until light brown, at 375 F.
Huzzah! Fluting!
Baked crust (should have had more dough) 


Now, on to filling #1, pumpkin! It's okay to drool, I usually do.

Ingredients (again, at room temperature):
**Note: for all of the spices here, if you can find the whole spice and grind it freshly for the pie, it is truly fantastic.
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 oz can of pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk

  1. Beat the eggs.
  2. Add the pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices and blend well.
  3. Pour into an unbaked 9" pie shell (yes it's for a different size than the dough recipe was for, just make extra dough)
  4. Bake at 400 F for 45 - 50 minutes, pie is done when knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Yup, I burnt my crust because I didn't realize the recipe called for an unbaked pie shell. Oh well, it was still delicious. :)

Last but, most certainly not least, the apple pie filling! This recipe's not-so-secret ingredient is most certainly the lemon. It makes all the difference in the world.

4 cups of sliced apples (You can use any kind you like. I did half Golden Delicious and half Granny Smith. You can also use Stamen, Jonathan, or really any pie apple that's in season.)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 cup milk (optional)
1 large or jumbo egg yolk (optional)

  1. Peel and slice the apples.
  2. Add lemon juice, sugar, salt, flour and cinnamon. Mix slightly and let set until sugar and spices become moist.
  3. Arrange in a 9" deep (yes, again, make extra dough/crust) pie shell.
  4. Dot with margarine. 
  5. Cover with top crust. Seal (by folding back extra dough left on bottom half) flute and, if you wish, pat with mixture of egg yolk and milk to facilitate browning.
  6. Bake in a 400 F oven for 45 minutes. If the top is becoming too brown after 25 minutes, temperature may be reduced to 350 to finish baking.


Fact: a la mode is always best. :)
The "after" shot.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Treat That's a Little Sour and a Little Sweet

Per the combination of a random citrus craving and the desire to purchase more fun baking paraphernalia, (Exhibit A: my new fluted cake pan) this week's tasty treat is a Sour Cream-Lemon Pound Cake, adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light. (I guess Cooking Light was thinking in relative terms compared to other desserts like cheesecake because at  323 calories and 10.5 g fat per serving, and 18 servings per cake, this bad boy ain't exactly about to fly away.)

A special shout-out goes out to my good friend Marissa, who did me the kindness of getting married just so that she could get cool new kitchen appliances and I could inherit her old electric hand mixer! (Yup, that's how I'm telling the story.)

Fact: Most delicious desserts begin with a pile of butter :)
One 9-10" fluted cake pan or tube pan
Cooking spray (canola oil style, not olive oil)
Dry breadcrumbs to coat the inside of the pan (approximately 3 tablespoons, maybe more)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks -- making Julia Child proud) :)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind (It will take about 2 lemons to produce this much)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided in to two sets of 2 tablespoons
1 (8 oz.) tub of low-fat sour cream
1 cup powdered confectioners sugar (a.k.a. loves-to-go-everywhere sugar)

Cake Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. (Actually, I wouldn't do this yet, because for me it just made my apartment hot because I didn't grate the lemon first and my oven only takes 6 minutes to preheat. So, do this at some point, but it doesn't have to be first.) :)
  2. Coat inside of pan with cooking spray and dust with breadcrumbs. (I found it difficult to distribute the breadcrumbs evenly just with my fingers, so after dusting the crumbs on, I picked up the pan and swirled it around to distribute the crumbs more evenly, and gently dumped the excess out of the pan.)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well with a whisk. Set aside for now.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Gradually add the granulated sugar and lemon extract. (I added the sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, to make it easier to mix in. Thus making 5 total additions.) 
  6. Add each egg, one at a time, and blending well in between each addition.
  7. Toss in the grated lemon rind and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and beat for 30 seconds. (This is when it really starts smelling good.)
  8. Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the sugar mixture, alternating with adding the sour cream. When combining, beat at a low speed and begin and end with the dry flour mixture.
  9. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

Icing Directions:
  1. Combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the powdered confectioners sugar.
  2. *Fun Part Alert!* Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. And watch it make the most pretty, delicious mess you've ever seen.

Let the glaze set for a few minutes, and enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Triple Threat: Casserole, Salmon and Chocolate, Oh My!

My sincerest apologies for waiting so long between posts. As retribution, I have whipped up a triple threat of a post, just for you! A delicious, and surprisingly low fat, Sunday supper, a fast and easy salmon dish, and an absolutely delectable chocolate delight.

Last week I again was feeling the pangs of homesickness in this hot and muggy peninsula that I currently call home. I wanted it to be fall and if fall wasn't going to come to me on its own, I was going to make my own. So I whipped out my evergreen scented candle and went to work on a delicious stick-to-your-ribs-but-not-your thighs Tuna Noodle Casserole inspired by a recipe in Cooking Light.

"No Yolks" my new egg  (white) noodle discovery! 
8 oz wide egg noodles (I found these really awesome ones made with egg whites, pictured at right) 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup chopped carrot
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I actually didn't have flour, so I used corn starch as a thickening agent instead. It seemed to work just fine.)
2 3/4 cups fat free/skim milk
1/2 cup (4 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (This plus the onions is where the heart of deliciousness of this particular recipe comes from.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or, if you're me, you just grind pepper over the top until it looks right)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided (I used parmesan, romano and asiago because it was what I had. I figure anything that you find delicious can work.) :)
2 (5 oz) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
Cooking Spray
2 quart baking dish

Side note: I also considered calling this post "Never Stop Stirring" and you'll see why...


  1. Preheat broiler. (If you have an electric oven. If you have a gas oven, you can probably wait on this because a gas oven is significantly more efficient.)
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat, coating pan with the oil. When the pan is hot, add the onions and carrots, cook until carrot is almost tender, approximately 6 mins. (Now begins the "stirring constantly" section of the our program... Get ready!)
  4. Sprinkle the pan with flour, (or corn starch, as it were) cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk, cook for 5 mins, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thick. (If you use a metal whisk on a non-stick pan, you're asking for trouble. I used a spatula because I have yet to invest in one of these bad boys, but I really should. Silicone coated wire whisks are your friends, ladies and gentlemen.)
  5. Stir in cream cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, cook 2 minutes... yup! stirring constantly!
  6. Remove pan from heat. Stir in noodles, peas, 1/4 cup shredded cheese and tuna.
  7. Spoon mixture into a shallow broiler-safe 2 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with last 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
  8. Broil until golden and bubbly. This may take 3 minutes, it may take 5. It will really depend on your oven and how close you have the rack set to the top.
  9. Before serving, let stand for at least 5 minutes. If you used a glass pan you may want to wait a little longer. A metal pan will cool quickly, however.


Done with dish numero uno! Now, for an even lighter, quicker dish! Straight from the Stark-Siegel household comes The Salmon Recipe. That's what we call it, so that's what I'm calling it here. This is a great mid-week dish because it is very fast and, if your fridge and cabinet are stocked as mine are, only requires you to buy salmon!

The world's simplest ingredients list!
Ingredients: (Scale up and down with the appropriate amount of salmon)
6 oz salmon filet
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil. Place salmon (skin side down, if it has skin) on the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I'd suggest a metal baking pan, because a glass one will hold heat longer and make it easier to accidentally over cook the fish.)
  3. In a bowl, make a sauce by combining all the other ingredients.
  4. Top the salmon with the sauce, trying to coat evenly. You may have to spoon some of the sauce over more than once in order to get the delicious mustard grains to stay.
  5. Bake the salmon in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, but watch it carefully as the time this takes  is highly dependent upon the thickness of the fish. Thicker pieces may need more time, thinner pieces may only need about 12 mins.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool for about 5 mins and enjoy!


Now, last and definitely not least... dessert! Coming back to our "stir continuously" theme, we will complete this hat trick with a surprisingly easy Chocolate Raspberry Tart. Yum! We ate healthily, now it's time to reward ourselves!

Note: If you have the option of cooking this on a gas range, please do so. Electric stoves, especially the crappy old school exposed coil ones, are horrible at rapid exact temperature control, which can be extremely necessary when heating heavy cream. I have taught myself this lesson many times... this time the upshot was that I got to learn how my oven comes completely apart so that I may clean every little nook and cranny of its filling of exploded heavy cream... So, don't say I didn't warn you.


32 chocolate wafer cookies (about 8 oz) (They didn't sell these at my grocery store, so I substituted chocolate graham crackers instead. It worked fine. Use about 6-8 graham crackers. I used 6, but the crust never really dried. I'd probably do 7 next time.)
2 tablespoons sugar
coarse salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (buy extra, you may have boil-over issues)
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (6 oz)
9 inch flutted tart pan with removable bottom (Yeah, I didn't have this either, so I just used a disposable 9 inch pie tin so that I could bend the outside edges to reach the pie server down to the crust when serving. It worked just fine.) :)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In a food processor, combine cookies, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until very fine crumbs form. Add butter and pulse until the mixture comes together.
  3. Press the mixture into the bottom of the baking pan, use the flat bottom of a 1-cup measuring cup or a flat bottomed drinking glass to press the cookie mixture firmly into the pan. (Just like with the cheesecake recipe.)
  4. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake until crust is dry and set, about 20 minutes. Turn off oven and let cool.
  5. In a large bowl, combine chocolate and a pinch of salt.
  6. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a bare simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. (Watch it here, with this very small quantity of cream, the simmer can very quickly turn into an overflowing boiling mess... trust me.)
  7. Immediately pour the cram over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, allowing the chocolate to melt a bit. 
  8. Stir gently until chocolate melts and mixture is completely smooth. Pour chocolate into cooled tart shell and refrigerate until set, at least 30 minutes. (I let it set over night.)
  9. If you have the springform pan, remove the tart from the pan and then top with raspberries as you please. If you don't have a springform pan, leave that bad boy in there. :)
  10. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Sorry guys, another non-baking post, but this is important I promise! I am walking in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk this Saturday, October 29th! I still have a long way to go before I reach my fundraising goal, so please help me out by clicking the pink ribbon above and donating to this very worthy cause.  Thanks in advance!

Next weekend will be my first travel-free weekend since the beginning of the month. I promise a real baking post will come soon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


No real post this week. Too busy with thesis.

However, I have discovered one of my new favorite beverages This discovery was inspired by the changing of the seasons, which I was able to embrace in beautiful Atlanta.

Not to sweet. Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust right. :)