Monday, July 16, 2018

Concerts on the Square, Madison WI 

I don't do much baking these days but when I do, it's usually these cookies.  I have to have people to share them with because I'm not able to stay out of the cookie jar, they're that good!   Today's my opportunity as we're having a picnic with family and friends.  In the summer every Wednesday evening is an outdoor concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra held on the lawn of the Wisconsin State Capitol.  It has been called "The Biggest Picnic of Summer."  It's really a sight to see all the families and friends gathering around the Capitol lawn, having a fun summer evening.

I've posted this recipe a long time ago but thought I'd post again as it's really one of my all-time favorite cookies.  The combination of dark chocolate and dried cherries are amazing.  I got this recipe from Cooks Illustrated.  One thing I've learned from making recipes from Cooks illustrated is that if you follow the recipe that they worked very hard to get just right it will turn out for you too.  Their little tricks like measuring the ingredients, toasting the pecans for more nut flavor, or using cool butter so that the cookies hold their shape and don't spread too thin.  Also the timing on the mixing, one minute here and 30 seconds there, not to add to much air to the batter.  So, if you follow the directions they'll turn out perfect every time.  Crispy, chewy, chocolate and cherry in every bite.  They are worth every calorie!


1 1/4 (6 1/4 oz) cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon  salt
1 1/4 (3 1/2 oz) cups rolled oats, old-fashioned (not instant)
1 cup toasted pecans (4 ounces), chopped (*see note)
1 cup (5 oz) dried tart cherries (chop coarse *I leave them whole)
3/4 cup (4 oz) dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons)  butter, softened but still cool 
1 1/2 (10 1/2 oz) cups packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In a second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries, and chocolate.
3. In a standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.
4. Roll between palms into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet,  flatten slightly spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake 14-16 minutes until cookies are light brown. Do not over bake.
5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Makes 2 Dozen large cookies

*  To toast pecans place on cookie sheet and place in oven while preheating.  When the oven reaches 350 pecans are toasted.   Every oven heats up differently so keep a close eye not to burn nuts.  Make sure they are cool before adding to cookie batter!

*  If chopping dried cherries, it works better if you freeze them slightly before. 


Friday, June 29, 2018

Lemon Basil Grilled Salmon

I made this for lunch today and I'm so happy right now.  It was so good!  So fresh and bright, summer on a plate.  I got the recipe from the blog, I Wash You Dry.  I'm sure I'll be making this again soon as it was so easy.  While the salmon and corn were on the grill, I made the tomato salad and lunch was ready in less than 30 minutes.   I did make one change, the recipe called for Land O Lakes® Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt but I used regular salted butter.  Check out I Wash You Dry for the recipe.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Spinach

This is a one-pot dinner.  That is if you start out with a large skillet.  The first time I made it I didn't use a big enough skillet and had to dirty another.   There's a lot of spinach that has to fit into the skillet so keep that in mind.  It does cook down fast but you have to have the room so just start out with a big enough skillet and you're good to go. 

I got this recipe from Kent over at Cooking 4 One.  Tonight I'm cooking for two so I doubled and made a few slight changes.  This recipe is so tasty, quick and easy cleanup.  Win, Win & Win!!


2 tsp olive oil 
6 oz Italian sausage 
2 tbsp shallot, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced 
6 oz orecchiette
1 3/4 cup beef broth
5 oz spinach, washed and roughly chopped 
1/3 cup cream 
14 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes


1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, heat until simmering.  
2. Add the sausage, crumble and brown until almost no pink is left, about 5 mins.
3. Add the shallots and cook for about 3 minutes until softened. 4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. 5. Add the orecchiette and stir it into the olive oil and sausage renderings, 
spreading the mixture into an even layer in the pan. 
6. Add the beef broth and bring to a heavy simmer. 
7. Cover and reduce the heat to medium­ low, cooking for approximately 11 mins. until the pasta is nearly done and the liquid is well reduced.
8. Add the spinach and cover for 3 minutes. 
9. Stir in the wilted spinach before adding the cream and the cheese.

10. Stir the cream, cheese, and red pepper flakes to create the sauce.  Remove from the heat.

Serve with extra parmesan cheese. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Coconut Lemon Scones

I love coconut so when I saw this recipe, Toasted Coconut Lemon Scones from Two Peas & Their Pod I had to make them.  These scones are so tender, loaded with coconut and a hint of lemon.  Delicious!
I did make a change to the recipe.  When making scones I like the shortcut of using a food processor.  I don't enjoy cutting the butter in the flour with a pastry blender, just takes too long.  Using the food processor helps get the butter evenly distributed in just seconds and when the butter melts while baking, it produces the air pockets that make scones so tender.  The trick is to use really cold butter.  These scones will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days but they are best the day they're made.  They also freeze well.  

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • zest of one large lemon (should yield 1 Tablespoon for scones and 1/2 teaspoon for glaze)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

  • 6 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (If your lemon didn't give you enough juice you can use some water)
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes or coconut chips
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  2. In a large food processor, add flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pulse a few times until mixed.  Add lemon zest, and coconut and pulse a couple times to incorporate. Add cubed butter and pulse (about 15-20 times) just until the butter resembles coarse meal, with a feel of larger butter lumps.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of heavy cream, lemon juice, coconut extract, and vanilla extract. Using a spatula pour mixture over the ingredients in the food processor and pulse just until dough begins to form. Don’t over mix.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently knead the dough to form two balls.  Form each ball into a 6" round circle.  Cut each circle into 6 triangles, 12 scones total.
  5. Place scones on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush scones lightly with the additional heavy cream. Bake scones for 13-15 minutes, or until scones are light brown. Cool scones on a wire cooling rack.
  6. While the scones are cooling, make the lemon glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth. While the scones are still warm drizzle or frost the glaze over the scones and top with toasted coconut. 

12 Scones - Can store in airtight container for 2 days or freeze to enjoy later.

adapted recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mushroom Soup

Here's another recipe that comes from Chrissy Teigen's Cookbook, Cravings:  Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat.  As you can probably tell, I loved her cookbook!  She had me laughing with each page, she's hilarious and I was drooling over every one of her recipes.  I've made a few of her recipes, Chicken Lettuce Wraps , Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and Perfect Seared Scallops with Warm Corn Salad.  We've loved it all!   
Now, about this Mushroom Soup, I have to start out by saying this soup is UGLY.  You know the saying, "you eat with your eyes" and if that's the case you might not try this soup.  But, look past the ugliness and take a bite.  It's really good!  It's also healthy, there's no cream added.  The texture is creamy and chunky at the same time.  In the photo that's a pat of butter on top of the soup. At first, I didn't think it needed it but Chrissy says to add it so I did and it did add that perfect something.  I'm just saying, that girl knows what she's doing in the kitchen.  If you like mushrooms, you'll love this soup!
*I should mention that you really need a food processor to chop the mushrooms as 3lbs is A LOT of mushrooms!

3 lbs of assorted mushrooms (roughly chopped)*see note
4 tbsp unsalted butter (plus 6 pats for serving)
1 small onion (chopped)
6 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 tbsp fresh thyme (plus more for garnish)
2 cups chicken broth (I used beef broth)*see note
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 tsp salt and 1/4 freshly ground pepper)

  1. In a large soup pot (starts out big and once the mushrooms cook it will shrink down) melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir one more minute.
  2. Add your mushrooms, thyme, a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, stir until the mushrooms shrink down to about half of what you started with about 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth, and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The mushrooms should be tender and the soup thickened slightly.
  4. Use a blender or an immersion blender to puree about half the soup. Once smooth stir it back into the pot.  
  5. If needed, add additional broth and salt and pepper to taste and stir.
  6. Serve in bowls and top each with a pat of butter and some thyme.
  • If you have a food processor, use it to chop your mushrooms in batches.  Make sure you pulse so not to puree. You can chop by hand but there are a LOT of mushrooms!
  • I used white button, (baby bella) crimini and shiitake mushrooms.
  • I used beef broth instead of chicken broth, only because I forgot to get chicken broth at the store.  I'm not sure I'll make it with the chicken broth as the beef broth was so good.

Adapted from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Avocado Chicken Salad

 I've had this recipe from Natasha's Kitchen tucked away to make this summer, once corn is in season.  The other day I was shopping at Aldi's and they have sweet corn (on the cob) and thought why wait for summer.  The corn was actually good and combined with so many other great flavors and textures, this salad was delicious.   I'll be making this again soon because it's too good to wait until corn season!

Slightly adapted from Natasha's Kitchen 
Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup corn from 2 cooked corn on the cobs
  • 2  boiled eggs, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 4 strips bacon cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onion, diced
Lemon Dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

1.  In a large bowl place (cooled) cooked chopped chicken breasts. 
2.  Peel and pit avocados, slice into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl.
3.  Add (cooled) corn, boiled eggs, chopped bacon and green onions.
4.  Add dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle over your salad and lightly toss to combine. * If making ahead, Cover the bowl with plastic wrap directly over the surface of the salad (keeping the air out will prevent the avocados from browning) and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Serves 6 side salads or 4 main dish salads
*Easily halved to make 2 servings as the salad doesn't store well for leftovers.

This is another favorite avocado recipe from Natasha's Kitchen