Parmesan Quinoa

Parmesan Quinoa

For this month’s blog swap I was assigned Jenna’s blog. Wow she has some great recipes-go take a look! Bee sure to check out the other great recipies from the swap-just click the frog link below.

It was tough choosing only one from all of them but in the end I chose Parmesan Quinoa. I’m trying to learn new ways to serve this delicious little grain and, since I put Parmesan on basically everything, this was the natural choice.

In her recipe it calls for a miniscule 2 pinches of Parmesan. Sacrilege darling!! That’s far too little. I upped it quite a bit.


Parmesan Quinoa


  •  1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups fat free low sodium vegetable stock
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan


  1. Add the stock and quinoa to a medium sauce pan and place it over high heat.  Cook for a total of 12 minutes (it will be a little al dente which is how I like it. Cook it longer if you like it softer).
  2.  Remove from heat and drain. Stir in parmesan and serve.

Note: I buy quinoa that I don’t have to rinse so I omitted that step from the recipe.

Use a high-quality parmesan and a micro-plane to grate it.

Thank you Sarah from for hosting the swaps.


Buffalo Chicken-slow cooker

This past Saturday was a very windy chilly day. It was sunny but you could tell that it’s still winter for the most part and hasn’t started the turn to spring. Much to my dismay.

I love buffalo chicken. I found a recipe for it and threw the ingredients in to my slow cooker at noon and was eating a delicious buffalo chicken wrap by 7:30. There is almost no prep-unless you consider twisting the cap off of the buffalo sauce bottle. You can do a lot with the finished product too. I made wraps but you could also wrap it in lettuce to eat or eat it with tortilla chips for a snack, put it on a salad—the list goes on and on.


Buffalo Chicken-slow cooker


  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (not frozen. I used 3-1 lb breast pieces)
  • 12oz bottle of Buffalo Hot Sauce (I used Tobasco brand)
  • 1oz packet of  Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (the dry stuff)
  • 2 tbsp light butter



  1. Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Pour the sauce over it and then sprinkle the dry Ranch Mix over that.
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours.
  3. Remove meat and shred with 2 forks. 
  4. Add the butter to the sauce in the cooker and stir to combine.
  5. Return chicken to the cooker, stir to coat chicken in sauce, and cook for another 30 minutes.

To make the wrap in the photo above I smeared some Ranch dressing on the wrap then piled on some chicken and then some celery.  Then just wrap it up and eat.


Very slightly adapted from

Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce


Yum. Buttery sugary goodness that’s too often imitated so poorly. I’ve  made it a few times now from scratch and I’m hooked. I’ve been looking for variations on caramel candies because, while I love them, I know that I can do a lot more with it.

I had printed a delicious Caramel Budino recipe a year or so ago. I’ve never gotten around to making the Budino (but I will) but I really liked how vanilla salted caramel sauce that went with it sounded.

So this past Saturday I pulled out the recipe and started in. I photographed the process by which the ingredients turn from sugar/corn starch to yummy caramel. So many times I’d read recipes that tell me to look for ‘golden color’. Well-how golden is golden? I’ve burned a few batches standing over the stove, wondering just that. When I look down-poof-it’s a burned, stinking mess that goes in the garbage and stinks up my kitchen for a while; kind of like burned popcorn. So to avoid all confusion:

When sugar first starts to boil.

When sugar first starts to boil.

A little while longer.

A little longer still.

A little longer still.

If this was Star Wars these are the droids you're looking for.

If this was Star Wars these are the droids you’re looking for.

How I’ve lived without this sauce for my 37.5 years is now a mystery. How you’ve lived without it is a mystery as well. You should make this today-but you need to swear to me that you’ll say it ‘caramel’ and not ‘carmUl’ if you do.  There’s no ‘mul’ at the end of the word and there’s an ‘A’ in the middle. That’s one of my pet peeves.

I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘oh it’s hard to make caramel’. Let me reassure you. It’s not. If you pay attention, follow the directions and look at the photos above it’s really almost foolproof.  So put on some good music and get to it.

This recipe makes a fair amount. I’d say about 2 cups or so. The recipe below is a combination of the printed recipe and a generic caramel recipe I’ve used in the past.  Pour some over gelato, dip sliced granny smith apples into it (like I did late on Saturday), drizzle it over a cookie or a brownie.  And give some to someone else-they’ll love it!!


Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and both bean and seeds set aside for use
  • 1&1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes, chilled
  • 1&1/2 tsp fleur de sel


  1. Place the vanilla bean and seeds into a small measuring cup large enough to hold the heavy cream. Add the heavy cream and set aside.
  2.  Measure the butter and salt and set aside for use later.
  3. In a small sauce pan over low heat combine the butter, salt, cream and vanilla bean mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Allow it to simmer gently for a few minutes then remove from heat and set aside.
  4.  In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add the granulated sugar, corn syrup and water and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. (It’s at this point that you should start singing along with Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. The length of that song was how long it took to go from boiling to golden for me.) Allow the liquid to bubble over medium heat until that golden color in photo #4 arrives. It will take anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on your stove and heat.  Gently swirl the pan a lot as it’s bubbling.
  5. While the sugar mixture is bubbling remove the vanilla bean from the cream. Make sure to squeeze all of the beans/cream out of the bean into the butter/cream mixture before you discard.  Do it fast and don’t stop paying attention to the sugar mixture.
  6. When the sugar mixture is the correct color remove the pan from the heat, gradually add the vanilla/butter/cream mixture (Be careful!! It bubbles vigorously!!). Reduce the heat to medium low and whisk the ingredients together until smooth and thick-about 2 minutes.

When the caramel has cooled a bit you may pour it into jars (I had 2 clean jam jars to reuse) to store in the refrigerator or eat it with a spoon right from the pan like I did.


Tim also loved it. How cute is it that he’s holding the bowl down with his foot? He’s making sure to get every last bit.


Sunny Outside Cafe Salad (a/k/a Quinoa Mediterranean Salad)

On Thursday evening I stopped by my grocery store to pick up a few things that I need for the next week.   My Fairway has a great olive section with barrells full of different types-castelvetrano (I’ve visited there!!) , kalamata, pitted, unpitted etc.. but they also have sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes and mushrooms. The list goes on and on. You get your own container and fill up on what you want.  Since they’re all the same price you can mix and match whatever you want in the same container.  I knew I was going to pick up some more quinoa and I felt like having a nice salad for dinner.  A mediterranean salad came to mind.  Sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta and oh yes! I have about 2 cups of baby spinach in the fridge at home (I was supposed to use it earlier in the week but didn’t so I’ll be glad to use it up!!).

This turned out to be a delicious  briny, bright, super tasty concoction of many of my favorite flavors.  In my mind I was back sitting at this cafe in Siragusa, Sicily, where Husband and I visited in October 2010. Is this not the cutest place ever?


I had a huge bowl of it for dinner and I had a large bit left over for lunch the next day.  I did not put the dressing on the left-overs but kept it in a small container until I was ready to eat.

I put some of my favorite ingredients in but if you don’t like kalamata take them out and put in black olives.  Play around with it! Perhaps different cheese (queso fresco would work) or adding artichokes or peppers. The amounts below are really just estimates. I didn’t measure as I was going.  I also made a basic viniagrette which worked really well with the other ingredients. Enjoy!!


Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked as per package instructions, and cooled (yield about 2 cups). I like to use chicken stock instead of water.
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped small
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped small
  • 4 cups baby spinach, stems removed, washed and chopped small
  • 1 peperoncini pepper, chopped small
  • 3ozs feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (or combo of oregano, basil etc..)
  • 1 tsp honey (if needed)

**Note: If you’re omitting the cheese you don’t have to cool the quinoa in the ingredients list above. I cooled it because I didn’t want it to heat the feta. Feel free to eat it warm with everything else**

Instructions (really it can’t be any easier? I feel like I’m insulting you by even writing these):

  1. For the salad: add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  2. For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a small bowl, whisk well to combine. (I generally use a measuring cup and give it a few long whizzes with my immersion blender.) Taste. Add honey if needed. Whizz again.
  3. Pour dressing over the portion of the salad that you intend to eat right away.  Set the rest aside.

Pretty Pink Strawberry Sugar Cookies

I’ve recently joined a great group of girls who take part in a monthly baking challenge.  This month’s theme is ‘sprinkles’.   Jen at hosted the challenge. Check out everyone’s dishes here.  

Recently I had seen a recipe online or in a magazine with sugar cookes that had a few different shades of pink for the cookie and different pink and white sprinkles. I believe they were also strawberry flavored (unless that was a different cookie). At any rate these are now a combination of those cookies. They were so darn cute! So I used what I recalled of those for my inspiration.

Generally I use the drop liquid kind of food coloring but I guess that’s not made in pink because when I went to the craft store the guy told me that I’d have to get the gel and to only use a tiny bit at first. Boy was he right! It also helped me a great deal that Husband had given me some surgical gloves recently. They were fantastic to use as none of the coloring or bits of dough were stuck to my hands after. If you can find some-use them.


Pretty Pink Strawberry Sugar Cookies


  • 2 sticks usalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 3/4 cup super-fine* sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp strawberry flavoring
  • 2&1/2 cups AP flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • assorted sprinkles and pink gel coloring



  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the egg and strawberry flavoring and mix well.  Set aside.
  4. In another bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk well to combine.
  5. Add the flour mixture, a bit at a time and incorporate fully, a little at a time.  If the dough is too moist add a tad more flour and combine. The dough should be soft but able to be rolled easily in the hand and not stick to your fingers when pressed.
  6. On a lightly dusted board roll the dough into a log. Divide into sections. 1 section for each color dough you’re going to make. I ended up with 3 (pic 1 below).
  7. Take the first section of dough and add the coloring, a tiny bit at a time, folding the dough over itself and then rotating to distribute color, until the desired color is achieved.  Repeat for the remaining sections. Wrap each section in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove the first section of dough from the fridge. Pinch off a small amount and roll into a 1.5 inch ball. Roll the ball in the sprinkles you want to use and then place the ball on the prepared baking sheet.  Place about 1.5 inches apart. Repeat until the cookie sheet is full.
  9. Using the bottom of a drinking glass with about a 2 inch diameter, gently press down the cookies until they’re all the same 2 inch diameter.
  10. Bake for 9-11 minutes.  Remove from oven, set aside to cool and then place gently on cooling wracks.




* to make super-fine sugar put granulated sugar in a food processor and process until super fine.

I had this recipe for the cookies in my huge binder of recipies I’ve printed out over the years. I have no idea where it came from.


Double Roasted Potatoes

Typically potatoes are served for St. Patrick’s Day so I wanted to serve them but didn’t want to boil them or cook them with the corned beef.  Another recipe that caught my eye in my new book ‘Return to Tuscany’ is Luciano’s Roast Potatoes. They’re soaked then roasted then cooled then roasted again. An interesting way of cooking them-I usually just cook them once. The sentence in the recipe introduction said ‘…return them to the oven for another 15 minutes until hot and crispy on the outside’. YUM!! The flavor is great, they’re really easy to make.

I served them with these carrots and this great corned beef recipe.


Double Roasted Potatoes


  • 2&1/4 potatoes, peeled and cut into walnut-sized chunks (size of the whole walnut, not the small halves that you eat)
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled and lightly crushed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Soak the potatoes in water for about 30 minutes. Drain then dry with a clean tea towel and put into a baking dish or roasting tin large enough to hold all of the potatoes and mix them around. Add the oil, rosemary and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands. Cook for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are soft in the inside.
  3. Remove the potatoes from the oven and leave them to cool fo about 30 minutes.
  4. Toss again and return them to the oven and cook for another 15 until hot and crispy on the outside.


Sformato of Carrots

Sformato of Carrots

Recently I went to my favorite bookstore armed with a gift certificate that my Grandmother gave me for Christmas. I love that they still give certificates (in the form of a greeting card) instead of impersonal plastic reusable cards. Book Revue is the ivory tower of indy bookstores. They have great guests pretty much every night giving talks or signing books, an amazing staff, an outstanding selection of new and used books all at great prices, and a wonderful coffee shop. They put Barnes and Noble to shame. I’m glad. If you’re in town stop by and support a local icon

Oops-got off the subject there. Anyway I went 2 weeks ago and browsed with a cappuccino 2 Saturday mornings ago and picked up the ‘Return to Tuscany’ cookbook. It accompanied a series on BBC which I wish I could have seen (but I believe it only aired in Britain, not on BBC America-what a shame). It’s full of great recipes. One that stood out to me was the Sformato of Carrots and the description that they author gave of the dish ‘It’s somewhere between a soufflé, a mash and a puree’. It intrigued me. So I decided that I would make the dish on St. Patrick’s Day instead of cooking the carrots with the corned beef.  I made this delicious corned beef and these great potatoes.

The author was right on with the description. It was light. It was fluffy. It was carroty. And it was pretty simple to boot. Give it a new try-it’s a great ‘something different’.


Sformato of Carrots


  • 16ozs carrots, chopped
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1oz freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

For the Bechamel Sauce

  • 1.5ozs unsalted butter, plus an extra knob
  • 4 tbsp AP flour
  • 7fl oz milk
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and cook the carrots until tender.
  3. To make the Bechamel sauce melt the butter in a small pan, then stir in the flour and cook over a low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously to make a thick paste. Gradually add the milk, stirring well all the time, then increase the heat and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
  4. Drain the carrots and mash them finely or puree in a food processor.
  5. Whisk the egg whites until they form very soft peaks.
  6. Stir the sauce and egg whites into the carrots and mix well. Pour into an oven-proof dish and bake for 10 minutes. Dot the top with a little more butter, scatter the cheese around the top and then bake for a further 10 minutes. The top will form a crust and the carrot will be light and delicious.

Stout Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker

I invited my Mom and Grandma over for dinner this past Saturday for a St. Patrick’s Day feast.  We play a mean game of Scrabble and drink a lot of wine at our get togethers-they’re always really fun. Our delicious dinner below. We had the, corned beef,  double roasted potatoes and sformato of carrots along with wine and bread. It was delicious! I will post the recipies for the carrots and potatoes separately.  They will be listed under the ‘holiday’ tab to the right.


All too often corned beef is served after it’s been boiled to death and the fat sticks to it in a most revolting way. Unfortunately the carrots, potatoes and cabbage that people throw in with it rarely stay crispy or retain any of their original flavor-they are merely vegetables that taste like corned beef and are mushy.  Ew. Really. It turns my stomach just thinking about it.  That’s why I made the potatoes and carrots separately.

 Well I say no more!!! Corned beef can be absolutely delicious if prepared properly. The corned beef recipe makes corned beef the way I always wanted it to be-not mushy, not fatty and after being in the oven the tips of the top layer of meat are actually a bit crispy.  And the recipe is really pretty darn easy! The sauce that goes with it has a clean, slightly sweet, tangy, briny taste that allows you to alleviate the need for additional mustard all together if you want to (but I still had a blob on the side-I can’t get enough mustard). It reheats beautifully.


Stout Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker


For the Brisket

  •  2.5-3lb flat cut corned beef brisket with seasoning packet
  • 1 pint Murphy’s stout
  • 1 scallion, sliced thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 pinches fennel seeds
  • Splash of cider vinegar
  • A few peppercorns

 For the Glaze

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1&1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce


  1. Remove brisket from wrapping and rinse. Pat dry and place in slow cooker with the fat side down.
  2. Add everything for the brisket above to the slow cooker on top of the beef, set it on low and cook for 6-7 hours.
  3. When it’s cooked and the meat can be easily separated by pushing through it with a wooden spoon remove the brisket and set it aside. Remove all of the fat that you can and discard.
  4. Preheat oven to 400F.
  5. Strain the liquid in the slow cooker and discard the remnants. Place the strained liquid in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Allow to boil and then simmer a while to reduce slightly.
  6. Place the brisket into a shallow baking dish, pour enough liquid over to cover it half to ¾ of the way and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7.  Serve immediately.

Baileys Cupcakes

St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone again.  For so many years I went to the parade in the city and it was always cold and rainy.   I haven’t been to the parade in ages now and I guess that’s ok-you can’t drink on the street anymore. Where’s the fun in that?

I’d tried to make Bailey’s cupcakes a few times and they always came out awful-either runny, not tasty, never set, hard as a rock or just flat gross. These were the opposite. While the cake is dense (almost like pound cake) the flavor’s there.  These are pretty sweet hence the small schmear of frosting.  Too much frosting irritates me anyway.


Bailey’s Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes


  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temp
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Insert 24 liners into tin(s).
  2. In a the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla to the sugar mixture and beat well.
  4. In a separate smaller bowl combine the Baileys water and milk. Mix well.
  5. In third bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Add the flour and Baileys mixture (alternating as you add) to the sugar mixture. Beat on medium speed for approximately 2 minutes.
  7. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for about 25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.


Makes about 1 cup of frosting.


  • 2/3 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp Baileys
  • 10 drops green food coloring
  • white or clear finishing sugar


  1. Put butter in bowl of stand mixer and, with beater on low, slowly add the powdered sugar until combined.
  2. Add Baileys until desired taste/texture is achieved
  3. Add food coloring until desired shade is reached.
  4. Frost cupcakes. Finish with sugar if desired.

Note: if you put foil under the cupcakes while sprinkling the sugar you won’t lose any that falls off. Just resprinkle. See below.


Cake recipe from

Spicy Honey Chicken (over quinoa) in the Slow Cooker

I really do like spicy and sweet foods-especially when I can let them cook all day and then put them over something delicious when I’m ready to eat with a minimum of effort. Yes-lazy days at their best. That day for me was Sunday this past weekend.  I wanted to catch up on some shows that evening and have a yummy and really easy dinner too so I made this delicious chicken and put it over quinoa which, I’m so happy to say, is easier than rice to cook. I always seem to burn or undercook rice. Anyway this chicken turned out so delicious-moist, flavorful, pretty darn waist-line friendly and enough for left overs the next day or 2. I served it over quinoa for no other reason than I’m bored of (fill in the blank) over rice. And it was yummy!!


Spicy Honey Chicken (over quinoa) in the slow cooker


  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (2 breasts)
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp dried onion
  • 1 tsp sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium scallions, chopped for garnish
  • quinoa, prepared as per package instructions


  • Combine ingredients from soy sauce through (and including) sriracha in a small bowl and whisk to combine well. Set aside.
  • Place chicken breasts on the bottom of the slow cooker, season with pepper and then pour the soy sauce mixture over the chicken.
  • Cover and cook on low for 3.5 hours.
  • After 3.5 hours remove the chicken and set it aside on a plate. Remove any bits of fat from the sauce in the cooker.
  • Mix the cornstarch and water well and then add to the sauce in the slow cooker and and then cook on high for 20 minutes to thicken. While the sauce is thickening shred the chicken with 2 forks.
  • After the 20 minutes add the chicken back into the cooker, stir to combine.
  • Serve over quinoa and garnish with the scallions.

Adapted from

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