This is a great dish for a weeknight dinner or a big dinner party.  Usually I'm not that impressed with basic chicken recipes...but this one is excellent.  If you can't find gruyere cheese, just substitute swiss because it tastes similar and is a heck of a lot cheaper!  I've made this several times, all with rave reviews.  It's pretty simple and quick and I recommend pairing it with a side of green beans and a glass of wine.

Chicken Gruyere with Mushrooms
(serves 4)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 cup butter, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1 onion, sliced into rings
1/2 cup white wine
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Rinse chicken breasts, and pat dry. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Place chicken into the hot buttered skillet, and fry until brown on both sides. Transfer chicken breasts to a 1 quart glass baking dish. Add remaining butter to skillet, and fry the mushrooms and onion until wilted and lightly browned. Stir in the white wine, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 3 minutes to blend flavors. Pour the mushroom mixture over the chicken in the dish.

Cover dish, and bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. After 20 minutes, remove cover, and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Continue baking for 10 more minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. 

 
 

     The first time I tried a Monte Cristo sandwich was at an Irish restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh.  Now it is probably one of my favorite sandwiches ever.  Of course, the Irish pub's version was deep-fried and quite unhealthy, but when I make them at home, I try to lighten them up a bit.  If you've never had one, you're missing out.  They're like a combination of french toast and a turkey/ham & cheese sandwich.  Best served with fruit preserves.  They could honestly be a breakfast sandwich, but since I'm a fan of all things sweet, they're great any time of the day.  Another Irish tribute for the upcoming St. Patrick's Day.


Monte Cristo Sandwich
(serves 4)

2/3 cup water
1 egg
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 8 slices white bread 
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices turkey
4 slices ham
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar for dusting 
fruit preserves (optional)


 In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; whisk into the egg mixture until smooth. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Assemble sandwiches by placing one slice of turkey on one slice of bread, a slice of ham on another, then sandwich them with the Swiss cheese in the middle.

Dip each sandwich quarter in the batter so that all sides are coated.  Coat a skillet or sandwich press with oil and then pan fry sandwiches until golden brown on all sides.  Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.  Best eaten with a side of fruit preserves or marmalade.

 
 

     There's a famous NYC restaurant called "Serendipity 3", featured in the movie, "Serendipity" (go figure) and the place is known for it's extravagant desserts.  I've never been there myself, but I'd heard about there $1,000 dessert made with real gold shavings...which I believe was part of a recent 30 Rock episode.  That said, this recipe is one of Serendipity's most ordered...probably because it's a heck of a lot cheaper than most other items on the menu.  AND it's easily replicated in the home kitchen.  I figured it would be a good one for warmer weather.  All the richness of hot chocolate, but in smoothie form.


Serendipity's Frozen Hot Chocolate

(makes 1 huge serving)

6 half-ounce pieces of a variety of your favorite chocolates
2 teaspoons store-bought hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups ice
Whipped cream
Chocolate shavings


Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Add the cocoa and sugar, stirring constantly until thoroughly blended. Remove from heat and slowly add 1/2 cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In a blender place the remaining cup of milk, the room temperature chocolate mixture, and the ice. Blend on high speed until smooth and the consistency of a frozen daiquiri. Pour into a giant goblet and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Enjoy with a spoon or a straw. . . .or both!


 
 

     No picture on today's recipe, but the title alone should be enticing enough.  These are so good.  The weather was warmer yesterday--sort of a tease, though, since it's only March.  But it made me think of summer and grilling outside and this recipe came to mind.  The nice thing about this one is that you can easily use a grill pan or George Foreman to make the burgers.  And if you're not a lamb fan, substitute beef or turkey and they'll still be awesome.  As I said, I love all things with feta cheese, so this recipe makes me happy.  Practice making it now so you can make it for summer gatherings and pool parties!

Greek Lamb Feta Burgers w/ Cucumber Sauce
(serves 4)
4 large unpeeled garlic cloves
1 1/4 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 large cucumber, peeled and diced
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon red or rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 large, thin tomato slices
4 small (4 inch) pita breads


Set 4 whole garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium-high heat; toast until spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Peel, mince and set aside.

Break up lamb in a medium bowl. Sprinkle roasted garlic, feta, oregano, salt and pepper over meat; stir with a fork to combine. Divide into 4 portions. Toss meat back and forth between cupped hands to form a ball. Pat with fingertips to flatten to about 4 inches wide. Refrigerate.

Mix cucumber, sour cream, mint, vinegar, 1 minced clove of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.

Grill burgers for about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium to medium-well burgers.

Grill pitas until spotty brown and warm, a minute or so per side. Split crosswise. Spread a couple of tablespoons of sauce over 4 pita halves. Top each with an onion slice, a tomato slice and a burger. Spread a portion of the remaining sauce over each burger. Top with remaining pita halves.

 
 

     I know it's quite a few days from St. Patrick's Day, but this bread is so good, I figured you may want the recipe in advance.  This is a must-make.  In college, when I went out with friends to a local brewery, I sometimes would just order soda bread because it was so wonderful!  Now I can make my own!  This bread is great with soup and salad, but could also be a breakfast bread because it is mildly sweet.  I've made this bread several times and always get wonderful results.  The buttermilk is a key and I recommend brushing the loaf with a bit of melted butter as it bakes so it gets a nice and crispy crust.  You can throw in raisins or currants if you have them, but this bread is good plain, too.  I can easily say this is my favorite bread ever.

Irish Soda Bread
(makes 1 HUGE loaf--you can make a smaller one if you just cut this in half)


4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted (you can use less, since this will just be brushed on the bread)
1/4 cup buttermilk (you can also use less of this, too)
optional:  1/2 cup raisins or currants



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.


 
 

     Yet another recipe I found on Allrecipes.com.  This one combines the texture of biscotti with the chocolatey goodness of brownies.  These are probably a bit healthier than straight-up brownies and they're GREAT with coffee.  When I made these the last time, I used almond extract and didn't drizzle them with white and dark chocolate.  They were still very good.  I purposely don't bake mine as long, either, since I like my biscotti a bit softer.  Ok, now go make these!

Brownie Biscotti

(makes 2 dozen)

1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar 2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Dough will be stiff, so mix in the last bit by hand. Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape into 9x2x1 inch loaves. Place onto baking sheet 4 inches apart. Brush with mixture of water and yolk.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm. Cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves diagonally into 1 inch slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet, placing them on their sides. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until dry. Melt some dark or white chocolate and drizzle over biscotti, if preferred.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container.



 
 

     When I was little, I remember my grandmother always making stuffed peppers for my brother and me.  However, we were too young to truly appreciate the recipe and ended up eating the filling and leaving the peppers behind.  Now that I love peppers, I've changed that habit quite a bit!  This recipe has all the flavors of stuffed peppers, only in a soup form.  It's fantastic and very healthy too!  (This one goes out to Rachie, who brought this one to my mind after asking for some good soup recipes.)

Stuffed Pepper Soup

(serves 6)

1lb ground sirloin
2 bell peppers, chopped  (I use 1 green and 1 red)
1 cup finely diced onion
1 (29oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14oz) can chicken broth
pinch of sage
pinch of thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white rice

1. In a large stock pot brown ground meat. Drain fat and add pepper and onion. Cook until onion is translucent, not letting them brown.
2. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, thyme, sage and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 30-45mins until peppers are tender.
3. In another saucepan boil 2 cups water and add rice. Cook until rice is tender and then add to soup. Heat soup through and serve.


 
 

     This is coffee cake at its best.  I didn't know what a "buckle" was in relation to baking until I found this recipe...and it's basically a coffee cake with fruit and a crumb topping.  Even though it's not blueberry season yet, you can still buy average store-brand blueberries and this still tastes great.  I'm posting this recipe because I'm more than ready for warm weather and fresh summer berries!  I found this one on allrecipes.com and it was a hit with my family.  When I make this, I replace the shortening with butter, use EggBeaters and SplendaBlend to lighten it up and I sometimes add some oatmeal to the topping.  You could easily substitute raspberries here too, but I think the blueberries are hard to beat!

Blueberry Buckle
(serves 10)

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup shortening (I use butter instead)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease one 8x8 inch pan.

Cream together 3/4 cup sugar, shortening, and egg.

In a separate bowl mix together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into sugar mixture, alternating with milk. Stir in blueberries. Pour into greased 8x8 inch pan.

To make topping: Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, cinnamon, and butter. Sprinkle over cake batter.

Bake at 375 degree F (190 degrees C) for 25-30 minutes.


 
 

     Take plain old lasagna to the next level with this recipe.  I found this one on allrecipes.com, which is a great source for just about anything.  I love dishes with feta cheese and spinach and this lasagna has both!  It's fairly simple to make and great for a dinner party or to make and have leftovers.  If you use lasagna noodles that require no boiling, just skip that step.  And if you want more protein in this, add some chopped chicken sausage or cooked ground turkey.  But I'd say it's wonderful as is--good for the vegetarian crowd!

Artichoke Spinach Lasagna
(serves 8)

9 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 (14 ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1 (28 ounce) jar tomato pasta sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 (4 ounce) package herb and garlic feta, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes, or until onion is tender-crisp. Stir in broth and rosemary; bring to a boil. Stir in artichoke hearts and spinach; reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce.

Spread 1/4 of the artichoke mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish; top with 3 cooked noodles. Sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese over noodles. Repeat layers 2 more times, ending with artichoke mixture and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle crumbled feta on top.

Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.


 
 

     Those who know me well know my deep passion for cereal...granola, in particular.  Cereal is my breakfast food of choice every day and I've had many different kinds over the years, but in the past few months, I realized that I just prefer making it myself.  It's one of those foods you can play around with and add different fruits and nuts each time you make it.  Thus, I have two granola recipes for you that have become staples in my house.  The first is a Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Granola, the second is a Cinnamon Coconut Granola with Dried Fruit.  The granola I make stays pretty soft, which I like, but if you prefer it crispier, just bake it a little longer.  Both recipes make HUGE batches so you'll be set for a week or two, or you can easily scale them down.  Enjoy these and be creative--use whatever nuts and dried fruit you have on hand.  Let me know if you come up with any other amazing combinations!


Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Granola
(makes about 20 servings or more)


8 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup honey soy nuts (if you can find them)

1 cup blanched peanuts

1 1/2 cups wheat germ (i sometimes use flax seed instead)

1 1/2 cups oat bran

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 to 2 cups dark chocolate chips


1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, mix oats, nuts, wheat germ, and oat bran together.

In a small microwaveable bowl, combine syrup, peanut butter and vanilla.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir and microwave for an additional 20 seconds, or until mixture is smooth and pourable. 

Pour syrup mixture over dry ingredients and mix well until oats are coated.  (Sometimes I add a bit more syrup if it's too dry..)

Spread granola evenly on the two baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes, stirring the mixture halfway through baking time.  Bake longer for a crispier texture.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a large container and add raisins and chocolate chips.  The chocolate will melt a bit, making large granola chunks, which is exactly what you want!  Enjoy!


Cinnamon Coconut Granola with Dried Fruit
(makes about 20+ servings)


8 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup chopped or sliced almonds

1 1/2 cups wheat germ or flax seed meal

1 1/2 cups oat bran

1 cup honey soy nuts (optional)

1 cup flaked coconut

4 to 5 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup almond butter (or you can use more syrup instead)

1 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla extract if you prefer)

1 package Craisins

1 package tropical dried fruit (i used chopped mango)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix oats, wheat germ, oat bran, nuts, coconut together.  Add cinnamon.  (Sounds like a lot of cinnamon, but it's REALLY good.  I add at least 4 teaspoons and sometimes even 6 if I want it strong.)

In a microwaveable bowl, combine syrup, honey, almond butter, and almond extract and microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir, then microwave for 20 more seconds until it's mixed well and pourable.

Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients and stir well to coat.  Add more syrup if necessary.  Spread granola across two baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking time.

Remove pans from oven, let granola cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a large container and mix in dried fruit.  Enjoy!