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Posts from — October 2009

jack-o-lantern pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

One of my favorite things about Halloween is toasting and eating the pumpkin seeds once the family is done carving their Jack-O-Lanterns. Each year, I try a different seasoning, this year it’s southwest.  I used the Mexican Lime Olive Oil from our wonderful Queen Creek Olive Mill, but regular extra virgin olive oil is fine too.  And instead of the chili powder you find the grocery store, I love the Ground Ancho Chili Pepper from Penzey’s Spices, but again regular will work as well. One of the important steps is to be sure the seeds are well dried after they are rinsed and cleaned. If they are not dry, the oil will not coat them as well and they will not crisp up. I find it easiest to just toast them in a dry skillet for a couple minutes before seasoning and placing in the oven.

Hope you saved your seeds!  P.S. Happy Halloween Marissa and Connor, miss and love you both!
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October 31, 2009   No Comments

stress free Halloween hord’oeuvres

Have you been so busy worrying about, shopping for, or (gasp!) making your Halloween costume that you don’t think you have time to make an hor d’oeuvres to bring to the Halloween Party?  I have just the thing for you, Ghost Toast Bites.  These could not be easier: a few slices of bread, a cookie cutter, the broiler, raisins, Boursin cheese spread and about 15 minutes and you’re ready to go! [Read more →]


October 30, 2009   No Comments

summer in a glass

Summer in a Glass

Peggy and I went to lunch today at our amazing mall, Scottsdale Fashion Square.  We ate at the new Fox Restaurant Concepts place called Modern Steak. Lunch was perfectly delish but what really stayed with me was a cocktail Peggy ordered called “Retail Therapy” (that name is just too cute!)  Once I tasted it, I wished I had ordered it too!  So, I came home, worked on it for awhile, and believe I have come close to duplicating it.  I’m calling my version, “Summer in a Glass” for obvious reasons.  It calls for simple syrup and for muddling, just as my Cucumber Martini did, so click here to go to that previous post if you need help with either the muddling technique or the simple syrup recipe. Thank you dear Peggy for lunch and my beautiful gift, but most of all, thank you for the gift of your friendship! xoxo
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October 29, 2009   4 Comments

grown-up spiderweb cake

web cake

I had a lovely birthday, thank-you for all your sweet birthday wishes.  My wonderful friends, Ronnie, Amy and Lori took me to the Queen Creek Olive Mill for lunch; it was a gorgeous afternoon that we spend under the olive trees enjoying wine, antipasto, and sandwiches. Afterwards, we headed off to the Pork Shop and unfortunately, we discovered that they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so no amazing bacon, sausages or chorizo for us to take home…next time we’ll remember that!

For my birthday dinner, Dave took me to Prado at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort and Spa where we shared a bottle of wine and Paella with mussels, clams and scallops. It was tasty, but I have to say my paella is really much better; I include sausage, chicken, and shrimp plus peas.  I’ll have to make it next time the kids come home and post the recipe.  Until then, we have Halloween to contend with, so here is a fun Spider-Web cake that is fun for kids but has an adult taste, with the addition of Espresso in the frosting.

You will find the Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso powder at any Italian Deli or locally at A.J.’s or on the web at this link. (I’ve even seen it recently at Target) I use it often in baking and once you try it you will too, so invest in a jar now and I promise I’ll be posting more recipes using it in the future.  I am working tonight, and certainly don’t need to have a whole cake around the house, so I’ll be dropping it off at our monthly neighborhood Bunko night for the ladies to enjoy.

For the 7-minute frosting, or anytime you are beating egg whites, be sure the bowl and the beaters are completely clean and free of any grease.  The egg whites will not beat up and increase in volume with even a trace amount of fat, such as from the egg yolk, present.  Also, eggs separate much easier when the are cold, straight from the refrigerator, but they whip up best when they are at room temperature, so separate them a little bit ahead of time. Finally, ever wonder what my kitchen looks like after I’m done cooking and taking all these pictures and ready to put up a new post? You’ll see at the bottom of this recipe – scary indeed!
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October 28, 2009   5 Comments

new 16-cup Cuisinart Elite!

regular Cuisinart, KitchenAid mixer, Brand New Big and Shiny Cuisinart!

old Cuisinart, KitchenAid mixer, Brand New Big and Shiny Cuisinart!

Today is my birthday, I won’t be posting a recipe since I will not be cooking all day.  Lunch with friends at the Queen Creek Olive Mill and then out to dinner with Dave at ???  I don’t know where yet because we have a tradition of surprising each other on our birthdays, always going to a place we haven’t tried before.

Happily, I did already open my gifts! I received some very yummy peppermint hot chocolate mix from Connor, a set of eight Riedel wine glasses and the super-duper new Cuisinart food processor!

When Dave asked me what I wanted, I really couldn’t think of anything, because honestly, if I need something, I buy it. But the one thing I couldn’t bring myself to purchase was this new wonder I’ve been craving. It’s the new Elite Cuisinart.  I’ve seen it in the last few Williams-Sonoma catalogs. I could barely resist, so I would toss the catalogs the second after perusing them, just to keep the temptation away!  I mean, I already own 3 Cuisinarts (for the cooking school, you know!) So to spend all this money on another one did not make sense, but as a gift… that’s OK, right?
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October 27, 2009   7 Comments

dessert panini

Continuing on the panini theme, how about a couple dessert panini? Since I have leftover panettone, brie, and pears – it sounds like a plan to me! Raisin bread, sourdough, challah, or brioche are other great bread choices.

dessert panini

Nutella on top, brie on the bottom.

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October 26, 2009   No Comments

panettone and panini


Panini are the perfect weekend late lunch or dinner while watching my Arizona Cardinals in Sunday Night Football.  The word “panino” is Italian for small bread roll; its plural form is panini. Many Americans use the word paninis, which is incorrect.  I’m using panettone as the bread for my panini. Panettone is a sweet bread of Milan, it is usually prepared for Christmas and New Year all around Italy and is one of the symbols of Milan.  It is readily available in markets now and throughout the holidays.  I found two flavors at Cost Plus World Market, the traditional which is studded with candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins. The other is a Cranberry Panettone and has dried cranberries in place of the raisins.


To make panini, you can use an electric panini press, a cast-iron stove-top press, a waffle iron, or even a George Forman grill.  Just be sure to preheat whatever you use. I have a well seasoned stove top cast-iron press, so I do not butter my bread first, but you certainly can if you so chose.

I was drinking a chai tea latte while I was making these and just before I was going to caramelize the apple slices, I decided to use the chai tea concentrate instead of water to caramelize the sugar… turned out great!  I love the TAZO brand, but you can easily use 1/4 cup water in it’s place.

chai and pan
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October 25, 2009   2 Comments

“fond” of chowder

clam-scallop chowder

Connor is home this weekend from NAU and requested Clam Chowder for dinner tonight.  OK, the high today is supposed to be 87 degrees, but if my boy wants chowder, chowder it will be!

Traditionally, bacon is used to start the chowder, but I have a boatload of pancetta in my freezer, I will begin with that. Once the pancetta has rendered its fat and is crisp, most of the fat is discarded, only 1 tablespoon will be used to sear the scallops. The scallops are removed and what remains in the pan is called the “fond”. In French, fond means “base”. Fond refers to the browned and caramelized bits of meat or vegetables stuck to the bottom of a pan after sautéing. Traditional cookware is best for developing a decent fond. Non-stick coatings tend to inhibit its development. After the meat is browned, it is removed from the pan and excess fat is discarded. Generally, aromatics such as onion, garlic, or shallots are sautéed, then a liquid such as stock, alcohol, fruit juice, or even water (or as world-famous Chef Jacques Pépin calls it ” l’eau du sink “) is used to deglaze the pan and loosen the fond from the pan to become “one” with the dish. The fond is the base for a great sauce, or in this case, a great chowder. Since I mentioned Jacques Pépin, I’m adding one of my favorite pictures of the two of us at the end of this post, as a bonus.

Sherry being added to fond to deglaze the pan

Sherry being added to the fond, deglazing the pan

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October 24, 2009   2 Comments

candied almonds and a sweet and savory sherry vinaigrette

Almonds being "candied"

Almonds being "candied"

Today I have a spin on another recipe from Chef Tim McGrath of Cook’s Gathering. Tim made a lovely Mixed Greens and Stilton salad with candied pecans and a citrus-sherry vinegar dressing.  What made the dressing remarkable was the fact that the dressing’s base was made from the syrupy liquid the pecans were candied in, ingenious!  The moment I tasted the dressing I imagined how wonderful it would be on fresh, hot green beans or sugar snap peas.  The next day in class, Tim suggested using the dressing on freshly steamed asparagus – great minds think alike!

What makes this dressing special besides the syrup base from the candied nuts, is the sherry vinegar. Sherry vinegar is from Spain. It has an assertive yet smooth taste, and is perfect for deglazing pans to create flavorful sauces, especially those for meats such as beef, lamb or duck. You will have a hard time finding sherry vinegar in most regular grocery stores, but it is readily available at gourmet grocers, Cost Plus World Market, Sur la Table, Willliams-Sonoma and other food specialty stores.

I’ve changed up Tim’s original recipe a little by candying almonds instead of pecans for this version, which I think will compliment steamed or blanched vegetables a bit better. I am again using sugar snap peas, since I have a pound left over from the 2-pound package I purchased at Costco for the post a couple days ago, but mix it up and feel free to use green beans, asparagus, snow peas, broccoli or cauliflower.
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October 23, 2009   1 Comment

Chef Tim McGrath’s phenomenal green olive “pesto”

Goat Cheese and Green Olive-Toasted Almond Pesto Crostini

Goat Cheese and Green Olive-Almond Pesto Crostini

The guest chef-instructor at Barbara Fenzl’s Les Gourmettes Cooking School this week was Chef Tim McGrath of Cook’s Gathering Catering in Long Beach, California. Tim is one of the most creative, sharing, and knowledgeable chefs I’ve ever met.  I am constantly being asked for a recommendation for a caterer here in town and each time, I wish that Tim was in Phoenix, because he would always be my very first choice, hands down!  When I told Tim that, he let me know that he would be willing to fly to Phoenix to cater a party, so if you ever have a need for something really special, he’s your man!  For class he served Mini Ahi Tuna Kabobs with this outstanding “pesto”.  One of the best things about Tim’s classes is that he’ll be teaching you a dish and then give you a dozen other ideas of what to do with that recipe.  When he suggested using this olive pesto on a crostini with goat cheese… well, that is right up my alley!  A great bonus… it’s “Easy – Breezy” and the colors lend themselves perfectly to the upcoming holiday season.

What is it that makes this recipe so “Easy – Breezy”?  Well, besides using the food processor to make the pesto and that fact that it is a quick and delicious appetizer, every single ingredient can be found at Trader Joe’s!  The roasted piquillo peppers are sold in a 10.4-ounce jar, and you can’t find a better price on the almonds, goat cheese, or olive oil anywhere in town.  You will notice this recipe does not call for salt, that is because the olives and their brine are salty enough.  The brine is used to thin out the pesto.  Unlike traditional pesto that uses basil, the olives and almonds do not have a high water content, thus the brine is needed to create the perfect consistency.
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October 22, 2009   No Comments