Thursday, June 26, 2008

Desperately seeking this cookie recipe

I am trying to figure out how to make this cookie, and I'm stumped.

It's from Bernunzio's Deli in Penfield, which is my favorite deli in Penfield. They call it a Lemon Meatball Cookie. This cookie also comes in vanilla and chocolate, but I like lemon the best.

It is lemony and so tender that it almost melts in your mouth. It's not chewy, like a chocolate chip cookie. It's not dry and crumbly, like a buttery almond crescent. It's not caky and spongy either. I guess it's a cross between crumbly and caky.

I've tried Googling "meatball cookies" but all it turns up is a cookie with chocolate chips and nuts. I have plenty of those kinds of recipes. I want lemon!

I have a hunch this recipe could start with some kind of a mix, like perhaps a cake mix, because of its unnatural yellow color.

Anyone have any ideas?


Friday, June 20, 2008

Fathers Day Breakfast: Sherry Yard's Brioche Doughnuts

So for Fathers Day, I was going to give my husband a clean house. A week later, guess what -- it's still not perfectly clean. But I have to resign myself that it's not going to happen for awhile and get back to blogging.

On Fathers Day, my husband slept in. While we were having breakfast, he opened his gifts. My sons proudly gave him a card they had made together. They had worked together on the card with the door closed for at least an hour the day before (it was bliss). It was a booklet of letter-size paper, folded in half, and looked like a series of cartoons. As my husband looked at it, he saw that it really was a coupon book (as you can see, they aren't the world's greatest spellers).

"Clean our rooms," my husband read with surprise. My eyebrows shot up to my hairline, because getting my sons to clean their rooms verges on the impossible. I've tried cajoling, threatening and even bribing. All it took was Fathers Day?

"Clean a bathroom," he read, and my eyes got wider. My sons stood there with huge smiles on their faces.

"Dust the living room," my husband read. I was flabbergasted. It was like I went to bed with my kids and woke up with kids that were straight out of Family Fun magazine. You know -- the ones who ask for money for orphans in Africa instead of presents at their birthday parties. I was always convinced those kids would wind up in therapy ... "my Mom convinced me to have donations sent to the orphans in Africa ... I really wanted baseball cards, but I couldn't admit that to her because she'd think I was selfish ... ever since then I haven't been able to speak up for my own wants and needs..." Well, those children WERE real! And they were MINE! All my lectures about kindness and thoughtfulness -- not to mention my own shining example -- had finally sunk in!

"Wait, what's this small writing ...," my husband said.

"Not valid on days ending in "y," he read, as my sons started to chuckle.

"Expires June 14," he read as they laughed harder.

"Not valid on any state that we're in," he read as they just about rolled on the ground.

Yep, those are my boys ... hey, at least we got an hour without bickering out of them ... and I haven't given up hope that a kind or thoughtful trait will emerge one of these days...

At any rate, I attempted to be thoughtful. I wanted to start the day with a special breakfast, and I was stumped -- until my husband recalled, for the ump-teenth time the wonderful donuts we had been served at a party at one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants. It was 2004 and we were in Hollywood for the Pillsbury Bake-off contest. Sherry Yard made an appearance -- and I missed her! But those were the best dang donuts we had ever had -- warm, sugary spicy, and melt-in-your-mouth. Shortly after that, I bought The Secrets of Baking, and although I've referred to it from time to time, I haven't actually made a recipe out of it. I decided to start with her Brioche Donuts. I used the Food Blog search (on my sidebar) to see if any food blogger had made them. Sure enough, Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups had made them and raved about how delicious they were. That made me confident to try them myself.

I made the dough and let it rise on Saturday evening. I popped it into the fridge, where it had its second rising. On Fathers Day morning, I let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then rolled, cut and fried the dough. It was easier than I expected, and the donuts were tasty. My husband (and the whole family) enjoyed them -- BUT -- they weren't the donuts we remembered from the restaurant! Bummer! I've seen recipes for Sherry Yard's Buttermilk Donuts floating around the internet. Maybe those are the donuts we remembered, so I may have to try those next.

Sherry Yard's Brioche Donuts (she spells them Doughnuts)
Adapted from The Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard

For the sponge:
3/4 ounce fresh yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used 2 teaspoons instant yeast)
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar

For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (I wasn't sure my family would like this so I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten (I used 3 extra large eggs because those are what I had in the fridge)
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 quart safflower or sunflower oil for frying (I used organic sunflower oil from Wegmans. I wasn't sure about springing more than $5 for the bottle, but it was worth it. I agree with her note that the oil didn't give the donuts an oily flavor. )

Cinnamon & sugar topping:
Combine: 1 cup sugar & 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

Glaze (1/2 recipe) - (if you'd rather have glazed donuts instead of cinnamon & sugar - we preferred the cinnamon & sugar)
Combine: 1 cup powdered sugar + 2 Tablespoons milk + 1/ teaspoon vanilla

Sponge: Combine the yeast and milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in the flour and brown sugar, forming a (relatively) thick batter. Cover with plastic film and let rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbles form.

1. Add the flour, salt, cardamom and cinnamon to the sponge, then add the eggs. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, or until the eggs are absorbed. Switch to the dough hook, increase the speed to medium (#4 on my Kitchenaid) and knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until the dough begins to slap around.

2. On medium-low speed, add the butter, 2 Tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Knead until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes. (I needed to turn the mixer to a higher speed in order for the butter to be incorporated into the dough.) Scrape out the dough, wash and dry the, and coat it lightly with oil. (I transferred it to a Pyrex measuring bowl so that I could see when the dough had doubled.)

3. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it so that the top is coated with oil. Cover with plastic film and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (Mine rose in about 45 minutes.)

4. When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down by folding it two or three times. Cover with plastic film and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. (Instead, I popped the dough into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning it had risen by more than double. I let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.)

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin with handles, roll it out to a thickness of 1/2 inch. If the dough is difficult to handle after rolling, place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Cut the dough using a donut cutter or two round cutters of graduated size. Dip the cutters in flour each time to make it easier. Once cut, the dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 week. Defrost in the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before frying.

6. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, wide, heavy saucepan, or deep fryer over medium heat. Insert a candy thermometer. When the oil reaches 350 to 360, carefully place 4 or 5 doughnuts in the oil. Fry for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to flip them over carefully. Fry the other sides for 1 minute, then flip the doughnuts again and fry for 30 seconds more, or until dark golden brown. Remove the doughnuts from the oil and drain them on paper for 30 seconds before coating them with the sugar. (I found the cinnamon & sugar coated the donuts better if they were tossed in the cinnamon & sugar right after frying. If you don't want cinnamon & sugar, put the doughnuts on a rack and drizzle with the glaze.) Repeat with the remaining doughnuts. Serve immediately. Fried doughnuts stay fresh for only about 2 hours.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Fathers Day

To all the dads out there, happy Fathers Day!

What am I going to do for my honey? Well, we have a few gifts for him, but my big surprise is to clean the house! Now you know what gives when a mom is involved in PTA, blogging, singing in a band, working part time ... I can't seem to keep up with the cleaning, and because it's my least favorite thing, it falls to the bottom of the priority list ...

I have a long road ahead of me, so no blogging this weekend! Have a good one!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Top Chef Junior - is it for my kids?

Michele H (presumably my cousin) told me first: there's going to be a Top Chef Junior show. I can't find any reference to it on Bravo's Web site but it's all over the internet -- just Google it.

Will I be a cooking contest stage mom and push my son to try out?

No. Way.

Won't suggest it. Won't ALLOW it.

I love Top Chef, but I can't imagine the format translating to something that would be a positive experience for kids. In fact, I can't recall my kids ever watching Bravo -- I watch Top Chef after they are in bed.

If my kids were in their later years of high-school, gung-ho about cooking, and eying culinary school? Maybe.

And I'll certainly watch it ... as long as I feel like they aren't too hard on those kids. Bravo had better be careful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Chef Chicago - The Finale!

WARNING! Spoilers ahead ... don't read this if you Tivo'd it and you haven't watched it yet ...

YEAH!!!!!!!!! I'm so proud of Stephanie! But dang, that was a close call! I was chewing my nails, thinking this result could be worse than when Ilan won.

I felt sooooo bad for Richard. He just overthought the challenge and tried too hard. I do wish it had been his "A" game against Stephanie's, and then we'd REALLY know who was the Top Chef. I have to admit, though, I thought, "banana scallops for the THIRD TIME!!!???" Wouldn't he want to show them something new? Even though he didn't win, I think being on the show had to be very good for his career. There's no question he's a great chef and was the front runner the whole time. And he's very likable. I hope we see more from him.

Oh, and one more thing. Eric Ripert is the sexiest chef EVER. Even a teensier sexier than Sam. Swoooooonnnnnn......

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Top Chef Chicago - in Puerto Rico

By now I'm almost a full week after the most recent Top Chef episode, so you probably know what happened. Just a few thoughts:

- The first thing I thought about the first episode in Puerto Rico: those chef's coats hide a lot of figure flaws, because the chefs look kinda lumpy! I need to get me a chef's coat! Do you think I could pull it off as a wardrobe gimmick for the band? You've got Kiss in the makeup, one of the guys in AC/DC in the kilt ... and me singing in a chef's coat? Hmmm ... there's got to be someone who can help me rock out that look...

- How much did you want to be there, on the beach of Puerto Rico, tasting those frituras (I'm guessing that's how it's spelled) and having a cold drink? Not a bad job, if you ask me. I haven't had plaintains, but everything looked interesting. I liked Richard's idea of the plaintain chips served with salsa, but evidently it wasn't a success because he was in the bottom two. Hooray and congrats to Stephanie for her first Quick Fire win!

- At the party after the Quickfire, they show the female chefs dancing and they look awkward. Then they show Padma -- she even dances gorgeous. Sheesh. Sometimes it's hard to like her.

- On elimination challenge day, each contestant gets a whole pig to butcher. I'd wince like Antonia did. As my son says, if I had to kill my own dinner, I'd probably be a vegetarian. I'd feel bad cutting into those little piggies. And I know that's totally hypocritical.

- To give the chefs some help, out come the previously eliminated chefs. This should not surprise the contestants. This happens at some point every year. This is why you should not be an a-hole during the competition! Stephanie says she decided to put together people who would work well together. Ummmm ... maybe. The choice of Andrew with Lisa seems to be a particularly bad fit. Was she trying to play the game a bit and get rid of Lisa? Maybe.

- Her pick of Dale was interesting, because some people found him to be a challenging personality. He's clearly talented, though, and they seemed happy to be working together. And by the way, he looked cute in his glasses.

- Lisa and Antonia decided to do Puerto Rican food. Richard doesn't think that's a good idea -- "it's like playing someone else's game." I think Richard is pretty astute.

- Now that Andrew is out of the running, he's actually pretty funny and less obnoxious.

- Richard says he doesn't like Lisa. She has a bad attitude, he says, and is like a gray cloud in the kitchen. I think it's the first time I heard him say anything negative about anyone. This makes her all the more unlikable.

- As the chefs are leaving the kitchen, the camera pans over to Stephanie and Dale's pork belly that hasn't been refrigerated. Did anyone else get an uh-oh feeling in their stomach then? And how much do you admire Stephanie for dumping it and for not completely freaking out?

- I felt sooooo bad for Dale for forgetting the pork. He looked like he was going to cry. And good for him for coming up with a good idea to replace it. He should be in the finals, but he came with his A-game for Stephanie.

- At the party at the governor's residence, Padma wore a dress that looks like a toga, and Gale wore a dress that showed WAY too much of her "girls." At least at judges table, she should have put on a little cardigan or wrap.

- I was a little surprised that Stephanie was doing blinis, because blinis almost got someone sent home earlier in the season. But she was doing them to order, which made a difference. And her description of using the ripe plantains in the blinis made it clear she had incorporated an idea of Dale's, to use the ripe plantains. It sounded like it was a success, as was the salad that incorporated crispy pigs skin.

- Of all the menus, Richard's appealed to me the most, but maybe that's because the dishes were the most familiar to me. I love how Richard talked about the stories behind each of his dishes, and how he gave them a local twist.

- I always watch the episode twice, and on the second time I noticed shots of Antonia and Nikki standing at a table that wasn't getting any traffic. Antonia knew her peas were undercooked, and by her deserted table, I'll bet she knew she was in trouble.

- Richard wins the challenge -- and a Toyota Corolla! How the heck is he going to get that car off of the island of Puerto Rico? Do you think they'll pay for him to ship it? They must. Anyway, his menu was the crowd's favorite and a unanimous choice by the judges -- a home run for Richard. He is going to be hard to beat in the finale.

- Antonia gets eliminated by undercooking beans and putting three dishes on one plate, like the rest of us peasants in the world. What a MAJOR, MAJOR bummer. I know they judge this on a challenge-by-challenge basis, but Lisa keeps avoiding elimination by being the second worst chef. I am surprised that at this point in the competition, they wouldn't consider that a little.

- As Richard and Stephanie are absorbing the shock of Antonia leaving, Lisa gives them a hard time for not congratulating her! She gets less and less likable every episode. If she somehow wins, it will a MAJOR disappointment -- worse than Ilan winning in season two.

Monday, June 09, 2008

An easy beef dinner with an unusual salsa

I haven't had time to write anything about Top Chef this week, but I'll try to jot down a few notes before the finale on Wednesday!

In the meantime, this was a quick, tasty and healthy dinner from a cooking contest buddy. We beat the Ralstons in a cookie contest in 2006, and they beat us in The National Beef Cook-off in 2007. I like the Ralstons so I hope the two families will meet again to break the tie -- although we'd actually have to enter a contest to make that happen! We've been much to busy to do so lately.

I don't have a lot of success broiling beef and this recipe was no exception. I don't know what I do wrong, but it came out a bit chewy. I loved the unusual salsa, though. I would never have thought of putting those ingredients together, but I thought the salsa was not only colorful but also refreshing. It was a nice complement to the beef.

I haven't had a chance to submit anything to the ARF/5-A-Day weekly event at Sweetnicks in awhile, so I'm doing so today. Check out Cate's blog each Tuesday for great recipes that help you get your daily fruits and veggies!

Hoisin Barbecue Steak-0n-a-Stick with Pineapple Salsa
Recipe by Teresa and Catherine Ralston, National Beef Cook-off 2007, Runner-Up in the Kids in the Kitchen Category

1 1/4 pounds boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
salt (optional)

Pineapple salsa
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup hothouse cucumber
2 teaspoons rice vinegar (optional -- I used and liked it)

1. Combine Pineapple Salsa ingredients and set aside.

2. Combine ketchup and hoisin sauce in another small bowl; set aside. Cut beef steak into 1-inch pieces. Thread beef evenly onto four 10- to 12-inch metal skewers. Season evenly with pepper.

3. Place kabobs on rack in broiler pan so surface of beef is 3 to 4 inches from heat. Brush beef generously with some of reserved sauce mixture. Broil 7 to 9 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning once and brushing with remaining sauce mixture. Season beef with salt, if desired. Serve kabobs topped with pineapple salsa. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Ahem ... thanks ...

I'm not good at receiving compliments.

CRB had a gig on Friday night and although the band played well, I wasn't at my personal best. My throat had been bothering me for a few days so I didn't feel like my voice was sounding good. In addition, we had trouble with sound, which made it hard for me to hear myself or the other vocals, so I felt unsure of what I was singing. All of this rattled me, and I made some mistakes that I don't normally make. By the end of the first set, I was feeling down on myself. When we took a break, a man walked up to me.

"You have a nice voice," he said. "You should sing more." (I do sing in just about every song the band does, but I sing harmonies. I enjoy singing harmonies more than I enjoy singing lead.)

Intellectually, I know what to do in these situations. If it were my kids, I would have told them, "say thank you to the nice man."

Instead, the following thoughts ran through my brain: Why are you saying this to me? Do I sound so terrible tonight that you are saying that out of pity? Are you a friend of someone I know, who put you up to saying that? I literally have no recollection of saying anything in reply to his kind words. I HOPE I at least muttered thank you. I WISH I had explained that I prefer singing harmonies. I WORRY that I just gave him a blank stare.

In the same vein, my blog has received some nice compliments over the past few weeks and my usual inability to deal with these things made me procrastinate posting about them. To make up for my lack of graciousness with that man on Friday night, I'm going to put aside my insecurities and say some thanks.

THANK YOU to Julie at Noshtalgia for the "E for Excellent" Rating

Julie is a fellow Rochester blogger. There are a handful of us -- one of these days I'm going to get the Rochester food bloggers together so we can meet (and eat). Julie tends to write about food from "the good old days." I like that about her.

The rules, according to Julie: You have to choose 10 more blogs of any kind which you deem to be excellent. It’s tough to choose since there are so many excellent blogs out there but limit we must. I’m sure over time all of those deserving bloggers will be awarded.

This was a real problem for me, because I don't like to choose favorites. I thought I'd recognize some promising relatively new blogs, not all of which are dedicated to food.

1. Karin from Artful Crafts. Karin is a good friend who used to live in Rochester and now lives in Wisconsin. She is very creative, and is the author of two new craft books, Altered You and Mostly Metals. Her blog is about inspiration and creativity. She's a really good cook, though, and I hope she posts a recipe from time to time! She is actually the person who influenced me to use recipes as a guideline, not an absolute.

2. Michele from No Frigate. Michele is an attorney, lives in New York City, and happens to be my cousin. She and her husband are interesting people who I'd like to know better. They recently spent a year working in India, and she sent home colorful dispatches of her time there. Her blog is mostly about the books she's reading; she recently reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is on my reading list. Michele is the person who convinced me to start a blog!

3. Amy from Baked Alaska. I like a food blogger that will write about her failures and she does so, with good humor. Amy is currently living in a part of Alaska that is without electric power, which I find mind boggling!

4. Elisabeth from Cooking in Cathedral Hill. Like me, she has a regional focus, but she's in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her recipes are not too ordinary, not too fancy -- just right.

5. Shannon from Writing As I Eat. Shannon is a cooking contest buddy who has returned to blogging after a hiatus. The blog captures her personality. I like that she doesn't only write about cooking, and that she's not a food snob!

6. Veronica from Supermarket Serenade. She is another contest buddy who is also doing a great job with her new blog! She focuses on great finds from the supermarket, which is a good twist on the food blog theme.

7. Erin from Prudence Pennywise is yet another contest buddy. Her blog's theme is cooking frugally -- something we could all use with the way gas prices are rising. I can't decide if I love or hate the music she plays on the blog!

8. Julie from My 45th Year. She is a Rochester blogger who decided to set some goals for her 45th year: finishing 45 hand-made objects, completing at least one 45-hour solo retreat, and biking 45 miles in one day -- and blogging her progress toward those goals. Now that she's turned 45, she started a new blog, Hand Crafted Life. I'm sure that blog will be as good as her first one.

9. Tracy from Kitchen Spark. Her name is Tracy, she's the mother of two boys, and she's trying to progress from tater tots and fish sticks. I think she's my soul sister!

10. Laura from The Spiced Life. She is a fellow poster on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board, and some cool out-of-the-ordinary recipes.

WHEW! I'm exhausted! But wait ... there's more!

THANK YOU to Camilla at Enlightened Cooking for the Blog of Distinction award. This one had me back on my heels because I'm a big fan of Camilla. She's won a lot of cooking contests, which is great, but I really admire her because she's won them with recipes that are in another ballpark from the ones I've created. She has also written a bunch of cookbooks. Her blog is about healthy food, which is something I need. Plus she is smart (has a PhD) and skinny. In fact, I'd probably dislike her out of envy if she didn't seem so dang nice. OK, have I gushed enough -- and trust me, I'm not someone who gushes. She didn't post rules for this, but she passed it on to three people. She says she gave it to me because she is cheered by my posts. Huh. OK, I'll pass the award on to bloggers whose posts make me smile:

1. Lis from La Mia Cucina. She's one of the people who initiated the Daring Bakers, which is getting to be an enormous group on the Web. But her writing is hilarious. I feel like I know her.

2. Karyn from Pretty in the City. This is my stepsister's blog and she cracks me up. I don't know where she comes up with some of her stuff. (If you like her writing, read one of her books. I like her first one, Save Karyn the best. It was published a few years ago, so you can find an inexpensive copy.)

3. Catherine from The Dish. Her blog is about food. And it's funny. What more could you want in a blog?

Oh gosh, one more:

Thank you to Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks for the Arte de Pico award! Lisa is a fellow cooking contest hobbyist. She's been blogging for a couple of months and is doing a great job! She recognized five bloggers for this award.

Before I do the same, I'd like to mention that I really do read all of the blogs I have listed in my blogrolls. I deliberately keep the list culled to my favorites. So I'd prefer to honor them all. Instead, I'll pass the award onto my top five "go to" blogs -- mostly because their consistency of posting, good recipes and great photography. I'm too tired to gush about it each one individually. I think their blogs speak for themselves.

1. Anna from Cookie Madness

2. Jaden from Steamy Kitchen

3. Jennifer from Bake or Break

4. Joe from Culinary in the Desert

5. Emiline from Sugar Plum

Whew! Now do you think I have to tell all those people I recognized them? This thanking business is a lot of work. Maybe I should go back to blank stares.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Cooking Light group dinner - one of our best ever

I mentioned awhile back that I belong to a Cooking Light group. We meet every month or so for a relatively healthy meal, and everyone contributes a dish or wine. The hostess picks the theme, and for the most recent dinner I attended, Kara chose to go Italian. Usually I walk away with one or two recipes I'd make again, but with this menu, every recipe was a keeper. It was one of our best dinners ever..

The main course, Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese had the deliciously contrasting flavors of a sweet balsamic syrup and a tangy goat cheese. I've grown to like Brussels sprouts, and especially like the addition of smoky, crispy prosciutto in Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Prosciutto. The Baked Risotto with Asparagus, Spinach and Parmesan was great comfort food -- and baking the risotto makes it easier than traditional risotto. My rosemary bread recipe needed tweaking, but it came together in a flash in the food processor. And the Italian Cream Cake is one of my favorite cakes -- it's moist, buttery, nutty and not too sweet. The only thing I don't like about the recipe is that Cooking Light says it makes 20 servings. As Chrissy would say, yeah, right.

Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese (Kara)
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network (video is here)

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
6 (5 to 6-ounce) filet mignon steaks (each about 1-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. (Note: I made this after this post. This sauce was like caramel  before it got to 1/3 cup, and her video sure shows more than 1/3 cup. I'd say you may want to reduce it by 1/3, to 1 cup.)

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet. Crumble the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.

Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce around the steaks and serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Prosciutto (Jodi)
From Cooking Light, December 2003

3 cups trimmed halved Brussels sprouts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (about 1 1/2 ounces)
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cook Brussels sprouts in boiling water 3 minutes or until crisp- tender; drain. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add prosciutto. Cook 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan; set aside. Heat pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add butter, salt, and pepper, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; drizzle with juice. Add prosciutto; toss to combine.

Note: Pull off any limp outer leaves, and closely trim the stem end- don't cut too much off, or the Brussels sprouts may fall apart. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

Baked Risotto with Asparagus,Spinach and Parmesan (Nancy) Nancy doubled the recipe, and added another 1/2 cup of broth. She also added the cup of white wine before the spinach and broth, then let the liquid be absorbed before adding the next ingredients.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
8 cups spinach leaves (about 4 ounces)
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) diagonally sliced asparagus

Preheat oven to 400°.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add rice; stir well. Stir in spinach, broth, salt, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer; cook 7 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.

Cover and bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Stir in asparagus; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Rosemary Bread

This is supposedly a copycat Macaroni Grill bread recipe. It's quick but it needs some tweaking. My notes are indicated in the recipe

1 Tablespoon dry yeast (I used 2 1/4 teaspoons instant)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 Cup white flour (used half all-purpose and half white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped (do not used dried)
1 Tablespoon canola oil, peanut oil or olive oil
nonstick cooking spray (or parchment)
1 T. butter (I don't think I'd use this again)
kosher salt

Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly. Mix in 2 cups of flour and the salt. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fresh chopped rosemary. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about 30 seconds until smooth and elastic. Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup flour as necessary.

Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel. Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour until doubled.

Punch down dough and divide in half. Let dough rest about 5 – 10 minutes.
Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray (I used parchment). Shape the dough into two small rounded oval loaves. Melt butter. Brush over the top of the loaves. (I'm not sure I'd use butter again -- I think it made the dough brown too quickly. Maybe water?). Sprinkle remaining 1/2 Tablespoon of rosemary over the loaves and press lightly into the surface. Let loaves rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly sprinkle course salt over the loaves. (This didn't stick for me -- I think it should go on with the rosemary before the final rise).

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until lightly browned (mine were done in 15 minutes).

Italian Cream Cake

Vegetable cooking spray
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light butter
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites (at room temperature)

Prepare Cream Cheese Icing (below); cover and chill.

Coat bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray, and dust with flour; set aside.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda; stir well.

Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in pecans and extracts.

Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes. Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake layers from sides of pans using a narrow metal spatula, and turn out onto wire racks. Peel off wax paper, and let cool completely.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread with 2/3 cup Cream Cheese Icing; top with another cake layer. Repeat with 2/3 cup icing and remaining layer, ending with cake. Spread remaining icing over cake.

Cream Cheese Icing
1 tablespoon light butter
1 (8-ounce) package Neufchâtel cheese
1 (1-pound) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and cheese at high speed of a mixer until fluffy. Add sugar; beat at low speed until well-blended. Add vanilla; beat well.
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