Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

My family loves meat – I am very fortunate that both my daughters love their meat, as well as my carnivorous husband.  Even though when my husband goes away – I am happy as a clam to eat just a big salad with lots of fresh veges, I also love meat, and pretty much any kind.  I love going to the meat counter and looking at all the different cuts, thinking about all the different ways I can cook it up for dinner.  It is not very often though that I come home feeling like a meat department – until I decided to make the Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya that was printed in Bon Appetit.  Jambalaya is usually made with shrimp, which is why I pretty much stayed away from it all my life.  Things were about to change though – this recipe had no shrimp – just LOTS and LOTS of meat.

It didn’t really sink in as to how much meat the recipe had until I added it all up, and realized I was about to cook over 4 1/2  pounds worth.  I immediately went to the phone and started calling our neighbors – I was about to make enough Jambalaya to feed a small army.

Well – that’s exactly what I did.  I decided to use my favorite Le Crueset pot – one that I have never come close to filling – but I have also never cooked 4 1/2 pounds of meat in one casserole dish.  Everything seemed fine until I added the rice, and boy was it looking like it was going to overflow.  It ended up being just the perfect sized pot – the rice came nicely to the top, but did not cook out.  The final product?  Amazing!!  Lots of flavor – lots of meat – a nice kick, and a one pot meal that the whole family enjoyed.  It was a little spicy for the girls, but the rice mellowed it out a bit (and I also didn’t add all the cayenne pepper).  I highly recommend this if you are cooking for a crowd – and if not, prepare for a lot of leftovers…but even leftover, it is awesome.


  • 12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
  • 1  1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles
  • 1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 8- to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 8- to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
  • 3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice
  • 8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley


Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 8-10

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

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Baked Pasta with Spinach and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is definitely a fan favorite in our house, although my kids prefer the kind made out of a box that sits on the shelf in the pantry.  Ok, yes, I have to admit, in a pinch it is not bad – but definitely not something I would choose to eat.  Mac-n-cheese is not just for kids though – you can definitely find it on the menu of trendy restaurants, but usually they have some fancy type of ingredient mixed in to make it “different” – like truffles – and yes, who wouldn’t fall in love with truffled macaroni and cheese?  Believe me, I have – and it is incredible.  The crazy thing, my daughter was the one that ordered it, and she couldn’t get enough – this was after she complained that she didn’t want truffles in her macaroni and cheese – she just wanted it plain.  I was actually hoping she didn’t like it – more for me!

Whenever I find a mac-n-cheese recipe in one of my many food magazines I read, unless it has seafood in it (because of my allergy), it automatically goes into the “make me” pile in the pantry.  I would say that I am batting at least a 500 when it comes to the “adult” versions with my kids.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and even with the spinach, I decided I might have a chance.  The final product was not a home run with the kids – but after I ate their spinach – they at least ate the noodles, and loved the topping.  As for me – I loved it, the fresh lemon zest gave it a real unique flavor, and the spinach made it colorful as well as giving it a little extra nutritional value. It was a mild cheese sauce, which is probably why the kids did so well with it.  So, if you are not into mild sauces, make sure you use a fresh and potent parmesan.  But, if you are looking for a substitute for the box on the shelf, this is definitely a great option…


  • 10 ounce casarecce pasta or fusilli (short twisted spaghetti)
  • 1 (5-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided


Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Let stand for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain pasta mixture well.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add milk and wine; cook 8 minutes or until sauce boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and rind. Remove from heat; stir in pepper. Add pasta mixture to onion mixture, and toss gently to coat.

Spoon the pasta mixture into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle half of panko breadcrumbs over pasta, and top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Sprinkle the remaining half of panko breadcrumbs over cheese. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Serves 6

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Baked Pasta with Spinach and Cheese

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Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling

My husband’s birthday is always celebrated with a big chocolate cake.  This year though I convinced him that cupcakes would be even better – I am not sure how I managed that one, but I did.  I saw this chocolate cupcake recipe in Cook’s Illustrated that looked so amazing, I just had to make them.  They were filled cupcakes, and filled with ganache – but the best thing about this recipe is that all you did was put a dollop of ganache on top of the cupcake batter, and magically the batter bakes around it – forming a filling. Well, I just had to give it a try – and use my husband’s birthday as the excuse.

I have to say, this ganache was something else – I wanted to just eat it plain…it was so rich and creamy – and incredibly smooth – it just melted in your mouth immediately.  I was getting very excited to try the finished product.  Ok, my husband likes his food, but he does have a discerning palate – he doesn’t just settle for anything.  He took and bite and told me they were the best cupcakes he has ever eaten in his life.  From him, that is huge.  We have had some pretty incredible cupcakes in our lives – but these were just ridiculously moist – the ganache didn’t stay in one piece, it basically melted all over the center of the cake to make an even more intense moist chocolately center.  Oh my.  The frosting was pretty incredible as well – not too sweet, but nice and rich – and oh so smooth.

Well, at least I beat last year, but how am I going to top this one?


Ganache Filling:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • ¾ cup hot coffee
  • ¾ cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
  • ¾ cup (5¼ ounces) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Pinch table salt
  • 12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Ganache Filling:

Place-chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium -microwave-safe bowl. Heat
in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds.
Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just
chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

Chocolate Cupcakes:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan
(cups have ½-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.


Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined. Increase
speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.

To frost, mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on center of each cupcake. Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread frosting to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling

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Green Chile Tamale Pie

I love Tamales – in fact, I love them so much – that I selfishly took my team at work to learn how to make Tamales one afternoon as a morale event.  It was great fun – everyone pitched in and cooked, and afterwards we got to sit down and eat the
fruit of our labor.  The tamales were so incredibly fresh – along with the homemade salsa and guacamole that we made – they couldn’t have been better.  I swear I would make them at home all the time, except that I don’t have a tortilla press yet – so instead, I look for recipes that are just as good, just shaped differently.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and I immediately cut it out to make.  I have a favorite tamale pie recipe, but this one was different – instead of using Polenta for the topping, you make the topping with Masa Harina – exactly what we used to make
the tamales.  I was so excited, although at the same time slightly disappointed that I didn’t come up with this idea myself!  This was even better than my old standby tamale pie – this really tasted like the tamales I made that day with my team.  My kids even shocked me and both LOVED the topping (even before I put sour cream on it!).  I couldn’t believe it – it was a success all the way around.  If you are a tamale fan, this is not to be missed – now I can’t promise your kids will like it – but at least there is hope…


  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces ground sirloin
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces tomatillos (about 8 small), chopped
  • 1 cup frozen baby lima beans
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled queso fresco or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine the masa harina, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and ground red pepper, stirring well with a whisk. Add 1 cup boiling water to masa mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Cover until ready to use.

Heat a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion, garlic, poblano chile, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add tomatillos and lima beans to pan, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add butter and baking powder to masa mixture, stirring until smooth. Dollop batter over filling, and spread into an even layer. Cover pan with foil; bake at 400° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned around edges. Remove from oven; let stand 3 minutes. Sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco or sour cream and cilantro.

Serves 4-6

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Green Chile Tamale Pie

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Pistachio Baklava with Cinnamon Honey Syrup

I have always wanted to make Baklava.   I remember my first taste of Baklava, it was amazing – all of those layers of luscious honey and nuts – I couldn’t believe I had been missing out on this secret treat.  That was about 10 years ago – and ever since then I have been thinking about how I was going to make it myself.

Fast forward 10 years – here I am, with my blog, always looking for the next challenge to post.  I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit that Molly Wizenberg posted and I felt like she was writing about me.  The thought of making Baklava just scared me!  I had to face my fears…but not with that recipe.  I needed something with cinnamon and honey – and her recipe was orange cardamom.  Not my thing.  But, I decided I was going to do it anyway.  I bought the phyllo – and better than that – I bought pounds of pistachios.  My husband and I spent an hour shelling those pistachios – and they were all ready for me.  And then they sat in the pantry…for weeks.  He kept asking me when I was going to make it?  There was something just not right.  I even took the phyllo out of the freezer all prepared to make it one day – and chickened out.  Back to the freezer it went.

Then I saw it – another recipe in Bon Appetit – this one with cinnamon honey syrup – that was it – I was going to combine both recipes and come up with a winner.  One that would taste ridiculous.  So I did it – and it was not easy, and I had to work very quickly – so quickly, that by the time my daughter came downstairs to help me – I was practically done.  The one trick I learned?  Don’t worry about the phyllo staying in one piece – it’s no big deal it if breaks, you will never know!

The final result was INCREDIBLE!!!!  I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders – I DID IT!!!  I just wanted to shout to the world – I CAN MAKE A BAKLAVA – and it was sick.  It was the most amazing dessert I have ever made.  I brought it into work – and everyone loved it, I was so proud.  Who ever thought that making a dessert could be so rewarding?  But it was…it was the best feeling ever.


  • 2 cups plus 8 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 18 14×9-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (from one 16-ounce package)


Simmer 2 cups sugar, honey, water and cinnamon sticks in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to approximately 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Cool syrup.

Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet folded over on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet (folded over) over nuts; brush lightly with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts folded in half; brush with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Recut baklava along lines all the way through layers.

For a printer-friendly verison of this recipe, please click here:  Pistachio Baklava with Cinnamon Honey Syrup

DO AHEAD Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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Cucumber Yum Yum Cocktail

I have yet another obsession to confess…cocktails made with cucumber.  I am not sure what it is about them that make me go nuts, but they do.  If I see one on a menu, I can’t resist.  More often than not, they are not sweet, but just extremely fresh and clean tasting.  I especially love a good cucumber drink made with Hendrick’s Gin – which is also made with cucumber.

We had some friends over for a drink the other night before going to dinner, and I decided I wanted to have one “special” cocktail.  I went to epicurious and searched on cucumber and cocktail – and this is what came up – published in Bon Appetit.  The title sold me right away.  Yum Yum did the trick – and boy was the title correct.  I did adapt it slightly below – it was a little too sweet for me at first – but once I cut down on the honey, it was perfect.  It was slightly sweet, had a slight citrus flavor – and it sang of spring.  Just putting it up to my nose, I knew it would be the perfect cocktail.  Go ahead, it is time to toast spring – if not for the weather, at least for this terrific cocktail.


  • 12 1/8-inch-thick slices English hothouse cucumber, divided
  • 10 fresh raspberries, divided
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • 1 tablespoon acacia honey
  • 2 tablespoons (scant) aquavit*
  • 2 tablespoons (scant) fresh lime juice
  • Crushed ice


Using muddler or handle of wooden spoon, mash 10 cucumber slices and 8 raspberries in cocktail shaker. Add gin, honey, aquavit, and lime juice. Shake vigorously 20 times. Fill 2 old-fashioned glasses with crushed ice. Strain cucumber mixture into glasses, dividing equally. Garnish each drink with 1 cucumber slice and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Cucumber Yum Yum Cocktail

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Potato Crisps

I am not sure how, but at some point my children decided they didn’t like potatoes.  Who doesn’t like potatoes, especially children?  Ok – well, they don’t consider French Fries to be potatoes.  Certain French Fries are – those are the thick ones where you can actually taste some potato – the thin fries that are extremely crispy and delicious – those are fair game.

What got me the most was the night I made mashed potatoes – my younger daughter told me that she ate them at school and loved them.  I made some delicious creamy ones – and she wouldn’t eat them.  I guess she prefers powdered ones – which will not be made in my home, sorry.  My older daughter is starting to eat mashed potatoes, but I wouldn’t say she loves them.

I looked at the 2 sad potatoes I had sitting in the pantry – and the word challenge was written all over them.  This was it – I was going to make potatoes in the oven that my girls loved.  I have tried roasting potatoes in every which way, and none have been successful…but this time I had an idea.  I thought if I slice the potatoes thin enough, brush them with oil, then salt them, they would probably get crispy – and maybe, just maybe, they would love them without the potatoes ever touching a deep fat fryer.

Well – I nailed it.  They LOVED these potato crisps (as we named them) – they were fighting over them – I loved it.  It was music to my ears.  And let me tell you – I thought they were pretty amazing myself…we have a new potato recipe in the house, and I have a feeling I will be making these quite a bit from now on.


  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or maybe more)
  • salt and pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with some aluminum foil  Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/8th of an inch thick.  Pour the olive oil in a small bowl and brush on the aluminum foil so there is thin coating covering the entire sheet.  Place the sliced potatoes side by side – without overlapping.  Brush more olive oil on top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven until they turn brown and crisp – around 10-15 minutes.  Keep checking them to make sure they don’t get too brown.  Remove from the oven, and serve!

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Potato Crisps

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