The Trials and Tribulations of a Baker-Turned-Cook

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sage Brown-Butter Balsamic Ravioli

There hasn't been much noteworthy cooking going on in my house lately, with the end-of-the-semester grind as well as the craziness associated with our first IVF cycle (see my other blog). I finally made something blogworthy today.

It is interesting that this is a recipe from the Rachael Ray show, since I am not really a huge Rachael Ray fan (I know -- I'm like the ONE person in America!). After tasting this, however, my husband told me I have to take back anything mean I've ever said about her. ;) This meal was so quick and easy -- came together in about 20 minutes, which includes boiling water for the ravioli. Perfect weeknight meal.

Sage Brown-Butter Balsamic Ravioli

  • 1 package (about 24 to 30 small ravioli) fresh wild mushroom ravioli (I used four-cheese, as my husband hates mushrooms)
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. sliced fresh sage
  • 2 Tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 C (about a palmful) chopped parsley
  • A dash freshly grated nutmeg
  • Grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • Salt & freshly-grated black pepper, to taste

    1. Bring water for ravioli to a boil. Once water comes up to a boil, add some salt and drop in the ravioli. Cook according to package directions.
    2. While the ravioli are boiling, melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sage and cook until browned but not burnt.
    3. Drain the ravioli and toss them in the brown butter mixture along with the balsamic vinegar, parsley, and nutmeg. Season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and sprinkle with cheese.

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Island Chicken, Couscous, & Roasted Asparagus

    Tonight I made Island Chicken (courtesy of *doctorannie* from the What's Cooking board on the Nest) with couscous and roasted asparagus. The chicken was wonderful! It was so moist, and the marinade was delicious. This recipe is definitely a keeper. The pan juices made the couscous very flavorful. The asparagus recipe is just one that I made up -- it's a very easy weeknight side dish, especially if you already have something in the oven. Enjoy! :)

    Island Chicken

    Courtesy of doctorannie

    • 1/2 C vegetable oil
    • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp. oregano
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • pepper
    • 4-6 chicken breast halves
    1. Combine everything but chicken in a large bowl. Mix well. Place chicken breasts in bowl and marinate 2-8 hours.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and drizzle with leftover marinade. Bake at 350 for one hour.

    Roasted Asparagus

    • 1 bunch asparagus
    • salt & pepper, to taste
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Snap bottoms off asparagus stalks. Spread asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish. Sprinkle with minced garlic as well as salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with olive oil. Use tongs to evenly coat asparagus.
    3. Roast at 350 for 30 minutes, or until tender.

    Fruited Curry Chicken Salad

    I had a ton of cooked chicken breast leftover from a weekend recipe. I decided to make some chicken salad, using ingredients I had around the house. I adapted this recipe from I thought it was excellent! I would make a few changes next time, though. First, I was out of pecans and raisins, so I left them out, but I bet it would have been even better with them. Next time I will also double the amount of curry -- I couldn't really taste it. I also used half the amount of mayo (because I don't like mayo), so it didn't hold together like it should (but it tasted great!). I might also try it with some mandarin oranges and slivered almonds next time...yum!

    Fruited Curry Chicken Salad

    Adapted from AllRecipes
    • 3/4 C light mayonnaise
    • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
    • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves -- cooked and diced or shredded
    • 1 stalk celery, chopped
    • 1/2 small onion, chopped
    • 1 small apple (I used Fuji) -- peeled, cored, and chopped
    • 1/3 C golden raisins
    • 1/3 C seedless grapes (I used red), halved
    • 1/2 C chopped toasted pecans
    1. Combine mayo, curry powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
    2. In a large salad bowl, combine mayo mixture and all remaining ingredients. Mix together, tossing to coat. Salad is ready to serve!

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

    This was seriously the easiest dinner ever, and I threw out all my other pot roast recipes after I tasted this one. I very loosely used a recipe from AllRecipes -- I adapted it quite a bit and really only used the recipe for the gravy. The pot roast smelled fantastic, was incredibly tender, and yielded TONS of gravy -- my favorite part. Don't worry if you don't like mushrooms -- my husband hates them, and he said he couldn't taste them in the gravy at all. I like my potatoes and carrots very soft, but if you like yours a little firmer, put them in about an hour before the end of the cooking time. You can also use a smaller roast if you prefer; there are only two of us, so I used a 2# roast.

    Slow Cooker Pot Roast

    • 1 pound red potatoes, quartered

    • 1/2 bag baby carrots

    • 5 1/2 pound pot roast

    • salt & pepper to taste

    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

    • 2 (10.75 oz) cans low-sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup

    • 1 (14 oz) can low-sodium beef broth

    • 1 (1 oz) package dry onion soup mix

    • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

    • 2 Tbsp. cold water

    1. Quarter red potatoes. Place red potatoes and carrots in the bottom of a slow cooker.

    2. Season pot roast with salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown pot roast on all sides. Place roast in slow cooker on top of vegetables.

    3. In a small bowl, mix together cream of mushroom soup, beef broth, and dry onion soup mix. Pour over roast and vegetables in slow cooker. Cook roast on LOW for 8 hours.

    4. When roast is done, remove roast and vegetables from slow cooker (leaving gravy in slow cooker) -- keep roast and vegetables warm. In a small dish, mix together cornstarch and water until combined. Whisk cornstarch mixture into gravy, stirring constantly until thickened (about 2 minutes).

    Easy French Toast Casserole

    Another recipe from the new issue of Cooking Light. I'll post a link to the original recipe as soon as it is available online. I am a HUGE french toast fan, and this was simply amazing. I will be making this every time I have overnight visitors from now on! I was shocked that my husband (who normally drenches pancakes and french toast in syrup) did not add a thing to these -- they were perfect, and so easy to make. I used whipped cream on top because I had it in my fridge, but I bet the whipped topping with Grand Marnier would be amazing as well. My only suggestion is that you plan on two slices per person -- one was simply NOT enough! :)

    Easy French Toast Casserole

    From Cooking Light, December 2007
    • 2/3 C packed dark brown sugar
    • 2 Tbsp. butter
    • 2 Tbsp. dark corn syrup
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 1/2 C 1% low-fat milk
    • 1/2 C egg substitute
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/8 tsp. grated orange rind
    • 2 large eggs
    • 6 (1 1/2-inch-thick) slices French bread
    • 6 Tbsp. frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
    • 1 to 2 tsp. Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
    • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped pecans, toasted
    1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes or until bubbly and sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Pour sugar mixture into bottom of a 13 X 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread mixture evenly over bottom of pan. Set aside; cool completely.
    2. Combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through eggs) in a large, shallow bowl; stir with a whisk. Dip 1 bread slice in milk mixture; arrange bread slice over sugar mixture in dish. Repeat procedure with remaining 5 bread slices. pour any remaining egg mixture over bread slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
    5. While casserole bakes, combine whipped topping and Grand Marnier. Place 1 bread slice, caramel side up, on each of 6 plates; top each serving with 1 tablespoon topping and 1 teaspoon pecans. Yield: 6 servings.

    CALORIES 352 (23% from fat); FAT 8.8g (sat 3.5g, mono 2.8g, poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 11.1g; CARB 58.1g; FIBER 1.2g; CHOL 83mg; IRON 2.6mg; SODIUM 466mg; CALC 191mg

    Double Chocolate Cupcakes

    My new issue of Cooking Light arrived over the weekend, and this recipe graced the cover. I knew I had to make these cupcakes IMMEDIATELY. Luckily I had all the ingredients on hand. These cupcakes were very good, especially considering they are relatively low in fat and were not frosted. The only change I made was to use semisweet chocolate in place of the dark chocolate because (a) I had semisweet on hand and (b) I prefer sweeter chocolate. I will post the link to the original recipe once it is put on the site (should be next week).

    Double Chocolate Cupcakes

    From Cooking Light, December 2007

    • 1 C all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 oz)
    • 1/3 C unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • 2/3 C granulated sugar
    • 1/4 C butter, softened
    • 1/2 C egg substitute
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 C 1% low-fat buttermilk
    • 1 1/4 oz dark (70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
    • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
    3. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 3 minutes). Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in chocolate. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with muffin cup liners. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 cupcake).

    CALORIES 150 (31% from fat); FAT 5.2g (sat 3.2g, mono 1.2g, poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 3.1g; CARB 24g; FIBER 1.1g; CHOL 11mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 125mg; CALC 42mg

    A little about me...

    I have been baking since I was a little girl. There is just something amazing about perfecting a cake or cookie recipe and knowing that it will turn out perfectly every single time.... However, baking is quite different from cooking. Baking, of course, is for the most part an exact science; your measuring cups and spoons are never far from you. Cooking is a whole different ballgame. When I started cooking, my biggest problem (besides the obvious problem of having NO clue how to cook) was being able to improvise recipes. I feel I've come a long way, and I'd love to share my successes (and spectacular failures) in both cooking and baking with all of you. :)

    And, because I don't have a particular picture for this post, here's a pic of my Thanksgiving turkey. :)