Giveaway for Cookie Lovers!

In honor of the last Tasty Tools blogging adventure of 2008 where we highlighted Baking Sheets, one lucky person will receive this Cookie Lovers giveaway set which includes:

Wilton 12inch Disposable Decorator Bags – 100 count
Mrs. Fields Cookie Book: 100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields

Some guidelines:
– Giveaway is only for those who live in the United States. My apologies to my international readers!
– Include your email address so that you can be contacted if you win.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment
– Your favorite holiday baking memory involving cookies. Was it a holiday cookie swap? Baking cookie gifts for friends and family? Baking with friends or children? I’d love to hear your stories!

Deadline: December 31, 2008 at 12 midnight CST

Winner will be randomly chosen by Random.Org’s Interger Generator based on the number of your comment and will be announced on January 1, 2009. Good luck!

PS: If you have any recipes made using a baking sheet, you have time to submit your recipe to this month’s Tasty Tools: Baking Sheet Pans. Deadline for blogging adventures is December 31, 2008 at 12 midnight PST.

Spinach & Artichoke Topped Chicken

One of my favorite vegetable combinations is spinach and artichoke. It could be in a dip, on a pizza, in a sandwich or better yet, stuffed in pork or chicken… I love how it tastes especially with some cheese mixed in.

This dish is one that involves a spinach and artichoke sauce that is served over a seasoned and baked chicken breast. I came across this recipe for the sauce and used it to top my baked & seasoned chicken… yum!

Spinach & Artichoke Topped Chicken
recipe inspired by Rachel Ray’s Spinach-Artichoke Cheesy Tortellini
from Express Lane Meals

For Chicken:
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt & pepper to taste or seasoning salt
garlic & onion powder to taste

For Sauce:
1/2 10-oz box frozen spinach
1 tablespoon EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), twice around the pan
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (eyeball it)
1/2 14 ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
1-2 handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
Salt and black pepper

For Topping:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs for topping
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare your chicken by seasoning it to taste with salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic and/or onion powder (however you’d like) Place chicken on baking sheet.

For the sauce, begin by microwaving the spinach on high for 6 minutes to defrost.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat with the EVOO and butter. When the butter melts and is hot, add the garlic. Using a box grater, grate the onion directly into the skillet.

Saute the onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the stock, then the cream, and bring the sauce to a boil. Season the sauce with nutmeg and reduce the heat to low.

Place the defrosted spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring it dry. Separate it as you add it to the sauce. Stir in the chopped artichokes and a couple handfuls of cheese, then season the spinach-artichoke sauce with salt and pepper. Topped the raw chicken breast with spinach artichoke sauce.

Combine the panko breadcrumbs and cheese for the topping and sprinkle on top of the spinach artichoke sauce.

Bake chicken in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until juices run clear and chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Shrimp Scampi

My husband is a big fan of shrimp and it’s been awhile since I made a shrimp scampi for dinner. I chose this recipe from Tyler Florence and the only change I made was to add a little basil for extra brightness in the dish.

Shrimp Scampi
recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

1 pound linguini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined, tail on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3-5 basil leaves, chiffonaded
shredded parmesan for garnish (optional)

For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley, basil and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and garnish with some basil and shredded parmesan. Serve immediately.

Lemon Garlic Knots

These have gotten raves from many fellow food bloggers and now that I’m armed with yeast confidence, I’m ready to tackle these! The recipe originates from King Arthur Flour but because I didn’t have the ingredients called for, I looked to this recipe. The adaptations that many food bloggers have used come from The Repressed Pastry Chef.

I didn’t use bread flour as I didn’t have any on hand so I’m planning on trying this recipe again to see the difference. Although the recipe stated to bake until very lightly browned, I let them cool and baked them again before serving with the lemon herb & roasted garlic butter I made. I thought it added a nice flavor overall and gave it some additional color.

Lemon Garlic Knots
original recipe adaptations of The Repressed Pastry Chef


3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

2 to 4 cloves peeled, crushed garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil or garlic oil


Lemon Zest Butter

1 head roasted garlic

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the dry ingredients together then add the olive oil, milk and water. Using the paddle attachment or dough hook, mix and knead to form a smooth, elastic dough, adding additional water or flour as needed. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s doubled in bulk.

Shaping: (click here to see the great pictorial of how to shape these) Divide the dough into 8 pieces, and roll each into a rope about 10 inches long; tie each rope into a knot. Place the knots on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 45 minutes to about an hour, until very puffy looking.

Glaze: Whisk together the garlic, oil and seasoning OR Lemon Zest Butter and mashed head of roasted garlic. Set it aside.

Baking: Bake the knots in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes. They should be set, but only very lightly browned. Remove the knots from the oven, and brush or drizzle them with the seasoned oil/butter. Eat the knots warm. Yield: 8 garlic knots.

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse

I’ve pretty much had my fill of baked sweets with the many cookies, brownies, fudge, biscotti, etc I either made this holiday season or indulged in at parties or made by friends. For dessert this Christmas I wanted something lighter but still rich. The first thing that came to mind was chocolate mousse.

It was the perfect dessert to end our Christmas meal. I used organic coffee infused chocolate, compliments of my friend Aisha of eSutras. (Check out her site as she offers quite a bit of organic products!) Another special touch I added to the original recipe was the raspberry sauce I used as a garnish. It complimented the chocolate well and added a nice burst of color!

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse
recipe from Simply Recipes

4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons espresso or very strong coffee
1 cup cold heavy cream
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
(Optional) Raspberries or Raspberry sauce and extra whipped cream

Whip the cream to soft peaks, then refrigerate.

Combine the chocolate, butter, and espresso in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not simmering, water, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool until the chocolate is just slightly warmer than body temperature. To test, dab some chocolate on your bottom lip. It should feel warm. If it is too cool, the mixture will seize when the other ingredients are added.

Once the melted chocolate has cooled slightly, whip the egg whites in a medium bowl until they are foamy and beginning to hold a shape. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

When the chocolate has reached the proper temperature, stir in the yolks. Gently stir in about one-third of the whipped cream. Fold in half the whites just until incorporated, then fold in the remaining whites, and finally the remaining whipped cream.

Spoon or pipe the mousse into a serving bowl or individual dishes (I used martini glasses.) If you wish, layer in fresh raspberries or raspberry sauce and top with whipped cream.

Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (The mousse can be refrigerated for up to a day.)

Serves 5-8, depending on the size of the servings.

Crispy Onion Topped Orzo

Rather than doing the usual potato or rice side dish, I wanted to do something a little different. I came across this Baked Orzo dish from several food blogs I read and thought it would compliment my herbed turkey well.

I made quite a few adaptations to Giada’s original recipe to use ingredients I had on hand and it came out wonderfully. The flavors were rich, hearty and perfect with roast turkey. I used turkey stock which provided more flavor, imported Spanish mushrooms (thanks to fellow blogger, Nuria), spinach, roasted garlic, brie cheese and topped with french fried onions.

Crispy Onion Topped Orzo

with Mushrooms, Spinach, Onion & Brie

recipe inspired by
Giada DeLaurentiis

4 cups turkey stock
1 pound orzo pasta
3 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used imported Spanish mushrooms)
1 cup diced brie
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup french fried onions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

Bring the turkey (or chicken) stock to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Dot the top of the baking dish with brie and top the entire dish with french fried onions. Bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Cinnamon French Toast with Cinnamon Syrup

Nothing smells better than cinnamon on Christmas morning! For brunch, I wanted something sweet to add to our menu and decided on a Cinnamon French Toast. Although you could certainly make homemade Cinnamon bread (which would be much better I assume), I opted to go the convenient route by using Cinnabon Cinnamon Bread. The orginal recipe calls for Italian Panettone Bread.

Cinnamon French Toast with Cinnamon Syrup
recipe adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

1 loaf cinnamon bread (homemade or store bought)
6 large eggs
3/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whipped cream
Cinnamon syrup (recipe below)

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
– In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended.
– Add the cream, milk, and sugar and whisk until well mixed.
– Melt 1 tablespoon of butter on a large nonstick griddle over medium heat.
– Dip 3 slices of cinnamon bread into the custard, turning to allow both sides to absorb the custard.
– Grill the soaked bread slices until they are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 4 minutes per side.
– Transfer the French toast to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven.
– Repeat with the remaining butter, bread slices, and custard.

– Transfer the French toast to plates. Dollop the fresh whipped cream atop each. Lightly dust with the powdered sugar (optional). Drizzle the cinnamon syrup over and around the French toast and serve immediately.

Cinnamon Syrup
(which I doubled)

2 cups water
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine water and brown sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil until the syrup reduces to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and cinnamon. Keep the syrup warm. (The syrup can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.)

Stuffed Potato Boats w/Eggs, Spinach, Artichoke, Brie & Ham

One of my favorite breakfast foods is a hearty omelette. Something about lots of vegetables, a touch of cheese and perhaps some salty breakfast meat snuggled inside a blanket of fluffy eggs is so comforting to me. For Christmas brunch I had to include an omelette but wanted to add a twist.

A few weeks ago, I had brunch at a French bistro, Bistrot Margot. From their menu, I ordered a dish that consisted of a crispy potato skin filled with scrambled eggs, chives, and bacon which was garnished with creme fraiche. It was outstanding and ingenious… and I knew I could recreate this at home. So for Christmas brunch, I used that dish as my inspiration.

My version is stuffed with sauteed spinach, artichoke, bits of brie cheese and a little ham tossed with scrambled eggs. It’s a great way to start the morning while using up random ingredients you have on hand!

Stuffed Potato Boats
w/eggs, spinach, artichoke, brie & ham
original Joelen recipe, inspired by Bistrot Margot

2 large russet baking potatoes
cooking spray
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed & drained
1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 cup ham, diced
2-3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste
1 small wedge brie cheese, diced

Optional Garnish:
2 tablespoons sour cream
1-2 teaspoons milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Scrub your potatoes and with a fork, poke holes throughout to allow potato to steam.
Place potatoes in the microwave for 4-6 minutes until cooked through. Cool.
Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, split the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the middles to create a potato shell.
Spray the inside of the potato shell with cooking spray and bake in the preheated oven until golden brown & crispy.

While potatoes are baking, in a saute pan, heat olive oil.
Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
Add spinach, artichoke and ham and cook until heated through.
Place spinach mixture in a large mixing bowl to cool.

In another bowl, scramble the eggs with milk, salt & pepper.
Fry up the eggs in the saute pan until no longer runny.
Place scrambled eggs in the large mixing bowl with the spinach mixture.
Toss spinach mixture and eggs together until fully combined.
Add the brie and toss once again.

When the potato shells are crisp and golden, remove from oven.
Fill the potato shells with the spinach/egg/brie mixture.
Bake in the same oven for 5 – 7 minutes until heated through.

While stuffed potato boats are baking, combine the sour cream and milk in a small bowl
When potato shells are done, serve and garnish with sour cream mixture.

Roasted Asparagus w/Lemon Zest Butter

This is an easy side dish to prepare for any dinner or even brunch. I served this as a side to our Christmas Brunch. It was pretty easy to put together and the star of the dish is the Lemon Zest Butter. I recently purchased dried lemon zest from my favorite spice shop to experiment with. One way I used it was to mix it with butter and herbs to add some flavor to vegetables. It came out wonderful and definitely is a great way to use fresh or dried citrus zest, whether it’s lemon, lime or even orange.

Lemon Zest Butter
original Joelen recipe

1 teaspoon lemon zest (fresh or rehydrated dried zest)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients and store in fridge.
Use to flavor roasted or steamed vegetables.

Chocolate Fondue

The perfect sweet ending to fondue is a chocolate fondue! To finish off our wonderful Christmas Eve fondue dinner, I prepared this chocolate fondue by melting chocolate almond bark and serving it with a few dippers.
Dippers to compliment the chocolate included French butter cookies, fresh banana slices, banana nut biscotti and some peppermint marshmallow trees (which also topped our hot cocoa!).