Monthly Archives: November 2014

Silky Mushroom Bisque

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While pretty simple in appearance, this is one of the most flavorful soups we’ve ever had! And to think you start the process by microwaving mushrooms… Find the the recipe under the “Soups” tab…

Double-Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

This incredibly chocolaty and creamy quick-bake peanut butter pie is Vitaly Paley’s grown-up version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Often the non-traditional aspects of my personality surface, and while knowing Russ loves to have his pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I felt the urge to also make a decadent chocolate dessert. About a week prior to the big day, I started googling for a sinfully delicious sweet course for the meal’s end. And voila, the perfect dessert, Double-Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie appeared on the website. Throw your diet out the window folks, because there is nothing lo-cal about this baby…

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Friends think it’s strange that even though I don’t eat dessert, I still love to bake. I guess the process helps fulfill my inner need to create something visual. So in that vane, not content with Vitaly’s topping, I took it to another level and rimmed the edge with 12. oz of coarsely chopped mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a drizzle of melted semisweet (or white) chocolate.



  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (from a 9-ounce package), finely ground (2 cups)



  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (1 cup)
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped
  • Kosher salt


  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz. bag of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, coarsely chopped
  • about 3 more ounces of either semisweet chocolate or white chocolate pieces, melted in microwave and drizzled over topping.



  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Stir well, then stir in the cookie crumbs. Press the cookie crumbs over the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and 1 1/2 inches up the side. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until set; the crust will continue to firm up as it cools.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla extract until blended. In another large bowl, using the same beaters, whip the chilled cream until firm. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream and 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts. Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle lightly with salt and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  3. In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is melted and the cream is hot. Stir the chocolate topping until blended, then let cool to barely warm, stirring occasionally.
  4. Spread the chocolate topping over the peanut butter filling and refrigerate until just firm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chopped peanuts around the edge of the pie. Carefully run a thin knife around the pie crust to loosen it, then remove the springform ring. Using a sharp knife, cut the pie into wedges. Run the knife under hot water and dry it between each cut.


MAKE AHEAD: The pie can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Garnish with the chopped peanuts before serving (which is what I did.) Serve the pie chilled or slightly cooler than room temperature.

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And don’t blame me if your scale reads a bit higher than usual!


Pappardelle with Creamy Smoked Salmon, Caper, and Dill Sauce


This stunning dish is easy enough to make on a weeknight yet tastes so good that you’ll want to flaunt it for company, either as a side dish or as the main attraction. It feels fancy but is super easy to make with minimal prep time; and the sauce compliments the smoked salmon extremely well.

Dill has held the status of least favorite herb with me for decades. However, after using it numerous times over the last few months, it’s starting to grow on me. And in this recipe you just can’t omit it because it’s an integral part of the overall flavor. Plus it adds a pleasant dash of color!


  • Kosher salt
  • 8 to 9 oz. egg pappardelle (dried)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
  • 8 oz. cold-smoked salmon, torn into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 2 Tbs. dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs. drained capers
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper


packaged salmon




  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and transfer to a large bowl. Since the brand of pasta we cooked, Cipriani, only took four minutes, it was done too soon, so be sure to coordinate the pasta and step number 3 to finish at the same time.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the shallot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the salmon and cook, gently stirring, until opaque, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring gently, until fragrant, about 20 seconds (the salmon will begin to break up). Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and then the cream and cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the capers, 1 Tbs. of the chopped dill, and the lemon zest. Add the pasta and toss to coat.
  4. Serve garnished with the remaining dill and a few grinds of black pepper.

by Ronne Day from Fine Cooking


OUR TIP: Often recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of tomato paste (or other condiments like lemongrass), so instead of opening a can and probably wasting the rest, buy a tube and squeeze out only what you need. The remainder will keep in the frig for months.

Knob Creek Sour Ginger

It is very rare that I ever drink bourbon, but Russ came across this drink last Fall and I have to say it is the perfect Autumn/Winter cocktail to be enjoyed beside a roaring fire—either inside or out!


Here’s the recipe for 6 servings:

  • 1 1/2 cups red grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/3 cups bourbon
  • 4.5 oz. ginger liqueur
  • 3 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Cut a fresh lime into 6 wedges. Insert a piece of candied ginger into each wedge. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. Squeeze a lime wedge to disperse the candied ginger into the drink. Sip and enjoy!
We used Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.

More Than OK at KO


We’ve been wanting to try one of the newest restaurants in Newtown, PA since it opened in mid-July. KO exudes a cool vibe with a minimalist, modern decor serving Korean cuisine, and is situated in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center (the old location for OISHI, which moved to another spot within the center.) Initially it was a BYO but they got their liquor license in October and now have a full-scale bar complete with top-shelf brands, saki, beer and wine offerings.


Our maiden excursion to KO happened early on a Sunday, a day usually reserved for cooking at home. But Russ had been away all weekend, not getting back until late in the afternoon, and our last meal had been breakfast, so we were both quite hungry. Arriving at 5:30—we never go out this early—there was only one other couple dining at the time. Once seated, along with their regular extensive menu, we also received a Happy Hour Specials list—one benefit of going early. While much of it pertained only for Tuesday through Thursday (they are closed on Monday,) Bento Boxes were an option on Sundays.

What is Bento? A meal usually served in a lacquered or elaborately decorated box
that is divided into sections for holding individual portions of food, common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables. Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquerware.

I’ll tell you, we were hard pressed to make decisions about what to order because the many selections included soups, salads, stews, sides, small plates, dumplings, rice and noodles, meat platters, and grilled items. We finally culled it down to a soup each, splitting a dumpling platter and ordering two Bento Boxes which also come with side salads.



One of the most satisfyingly tasty soups, my order of Oishi Spicy Soupcellophane noodles, sprouts, scallions, and beef, was out-of-this-world good! Russ ordered the Oxtail Soupcellophane noodles, scallion & braised beef, and enjoyed the flavorful ingredients, although we both agreed that my soup was the best. Before we could finish our soup, the Sampler A Dumplings platter—a combination of four steamed vegetable, three steamed Shumai, and three fried beef/pork dumplings—arrived with a side of dipping sauce. We had plenty of time to enjoy these at a leisurely pace before our entrees came.


While Russ has been known to order Bento Boxes on many occasions, I never had. But on special at only $18, I thought this might be a good time to try one. The choices were many. You choose options in each category to personalize your entree:  A. Choose One—Beef Bulgogi : Chicken Bulgogi : Spicy Pork Bulgogi : Steak Teriyaki : Salmon Teriyaki : Chicken Teriyaki : Shrimp Teriyaki : Spicy Calamari. B. Choose Any Two—Avacado with Miso Dressing : Wok Fried Brussel Sprouts : Vegetable Tempura : Tuna & Salmon Sashimi : Dynamite Chicken or Shrimp : Edamame Dumplings : Meat Dumplings.

Lynn’s box consisted of brown rice, Wok-fried Brussels Sprouts, Salmon Teriyaki and Dynamite Chicken. Those incredible sprouts “wowed” us! Now I am on a mission to get the recipe. The salmon was also very gratifying, but the Dynamite Chicken was a bit too sweet and therefore not my favorite (with plenty of everything left over for take-home.)

Russ’ box: white rice, Spicy Pork Bulgogi, Tuna & Salmon Sashimi and Dynamite Shrimp. Whereas I was not thrilled with my Dynamite Chicken, he really enjoyed the shrimp version; and had only compliments for the remainder of the meal.

As we dined, patrons were quickly filing in, including many of Korean descent, which usually lends an authentic stamp to the establishment. And for those of you so inclined, we also noted they managed a successful take-out business from the front desk. But I think it’s worth the trip to physically enjoy the well-appointed interior first-hand.

Pumpkin Bread with Candied Ginger

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Perfect autumn recipe. Some surprising ingredients produce a moist, sweet/savory pumpkin bread that really impressed! It calls for chopped walnuts but since we know hubby Russ’s distain for those, I made one loaf with, and one without.


Canned pumpkin puree often lends a raw, metallic flavor to pumpkin bread. Cook’s Illustrated cooked down the puree to eliminate those off-putting flavors. Instead of dirtying more dishes, mix the quick bread right in the pot, adding cream cheese and buttermilk for their smooth consistency. A quick-to-assemble topping adds texture and keeps the loaf from getting soggy the next day.

Pumpkin Bread with Candied Ginger

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print



  • 5 tablespoons packed (2 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  1. FOR THE TOPPING: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside while preparing bread.
  2. FOR THE BREAD: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.
  3. Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.
  5. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.
  6. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK). Fold walnuts and ginger into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf.
  7. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  8. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.


The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches; if using a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes early. Although we used the larger loaf pans and it took every bit of 55 minutes to fully bake.

OR, check out the updated recipe that includes dark chocolate chips and makes mini loaves!

Published September 1, 2012 from Cook’s Illustrated.

Dining in Style—at Work
Colleagues seated from left: Wendy Humphrey, Jim Gardner, Brad Kent, Lori Diecidue and Kay Eaton.

—A nice perk here at the college, our Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (HRIM) program offers several dining experiences for faculty, staff and the community each Fall and Spring semester. One of the offerings this Fall was the aptly named “Autumn Blend.” For only $10, each Wednesday, this lunch class—which had also designed the menu selections—prepared and served the meals. Having attended many of these in the past, six of us from the College Advancement department wasted no time in procuring tickets for another delicious meal.

The Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management program prepares students for employment in various entry-level management careers in the food service and lodging industries. Areas of employment include assistant manager in hotel/motel operations; club, restaurant or banquet manager of commercial eating establishments; and assistant food service management positions in hospitals, schools and other institutions. Upon completion of the program, the successful graduate will be awarded an Associate in Applied Science degree.


When first seated, we were presented with an “Amuse Bouche,” of Fried Pumpkin Ravioli which was a sweet creamy mixture of fresh pumpkin, parmigiano reggiano cheese, brown sugar wrapped in homemade ravioli, fried to a golden brown and topped with a fried sage leaf. Most at our table agreed the exterior was a bit too tough requiring a knife to cut, but the interior was pleasantly spiced and creamy, albeit a bit sweet.



What was not so smooth? In a nut shell, service. Four out of six were practically done eating our appetizers when we had to nudge a waiter to question the whereabouts of two orders of Smoked Corn & Bacon Chowder. (We have to keep in mind, these are students who are just learning the ropes, not seasoned professionals!) Within moments the chowder arrived and to the delight of the recipients, it was a total success! Three staff ordered the Pear Apple Salad consisting of mixed leafy greens topped with local autumn apples, Asian pears and walnuts served with a delicious balsamic vinaigrette, which they all liked.

I alone ordered the Tuna Tartare, and was blown away both in presentation and in flavor. It was presented as a small circular tower of sashimi grade tuna and avocado with micro greens. The plate also contained a mini container with a savory sauce to pour over the tower. Two tiny wedges of lime completed the dish. Perfecto! Duck Quesadillas, tender pieces of duck confit with caramelized onion, mango, poblano chili’s, fresh cilantro and jack cheese in a crispy tortilla, sounded extraordinary, but no one in our party ordered it.




Next up, the entrees. Of five choices, two people ordered the Turkey Sheperd’s Pie topped with a mash of Yukon Gold potatoes. Another three (myself included) opted for the Lobster Risotto, with pieces of lobster atop Arborio rice and brown butter served with grilled asparagus. While nicely plated and tasty, it didn’t pack as much of a flavor punch as my Tuna Tartare. Another guest chose the Grilled Vegetable Wrap with grilled yellow and red bell peppers, diced tomatoes, sliced cabbage and minced ginger wrapped in a flour tortilla served with truffle fries. In name, truffle fries sound decadent and delicious, but this order came with limp fries and underwhelmed the dining patron.

Two other offerings none of us chose this time around were Beef Stew, seasoned diced sirloin browned and cooked with potatoes, carrots, peas, onion and anchovies in a full-flavored brown sauce; and the final option of Prosciutto Wrapped Pork, roasted pork tenderloins wrapped in prosciutto and served with truffle fries… perhaps another time.



The menu does not list dessert choices, only “Daily Dessert Selection.” But our waitress described the options as Pumpkin Pie, Fresh Fruit Cup with or without whipped cream, and a Chocolate Mousse Pie that five out of six of us ordered. So beautifully plated, one diner claimed it was the best part of her meal! Of course, not being a dessert eater, I took mine to go knowing that husband Russ would be the lucky recipient.

Thanks to my colleagues for being so very patient and indulging me as I photographed their meals!

Digna’s Roast Lamb and Potatoes

Cordero estilo san vicente de Digna Prieto

By now you know we just love lamb — cooked any which way. In this fabulous recipe, the lamb is first marinated, then roasted with potatoes. Prepared in an earthenware casserole, a cazuela, the lamb dish was once made in village wood-burning bakery ovens in Galicia Spain on festive occasions. Our cazuela, found at Home Goods for a VERY reasonable price, was ready to take its maiden voyage.

Cazuela is the common name given to a variety of dishes, specially from South America. It receives its name from the cazuela (Spanish for cooking pot, generally sold without lids) in which it is cooked. The ingredients and preparation vary from region to region, but it is usually a mid-thick flavored stock obtained from cooking several kinds of meats and vegetables mixed.

Browning the lamb in batches in the cazuela.
Browning the lamb in batches in the cazuela.

Recipe from “La Cocina de Mama” by Penelope Casas


  • 14 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 8 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. dry white whine (we used dry sherry)
  • 2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/8 tsp. crumbled thread saffron
wonderfully aromatic Digna's roasted lamb with potatoes.
Wonderfully aromatic Digna’s roasted lamb with potatoes.


  1. In a mortar, mash to a paste one-quarter of the minced garlic cloves with the bay leaves, parsley and a 1/4 tsp. salt.
  2. Stir in 4 Tbsp. of the oil and 2 Tbsp. of the wine.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl, add the meat and stir to coat well. (Or put in a ziploc bag)
  4. Marinate overnight or longer in the refrigerator.
  5. NEXT DAY: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large shallow casserole, preferably earthenware (like our cazuela.)
  7. Add the meat with marinade and brown over high heat.
  8. Remove casserole from heat and add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, 4 Tbsp. wine, the broth, rest of garlic, the cloves, and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes, uncovered.
  10. Add the potatoes, sprinkle them with salt and saffron, and continue cooking another 30 minutes more, until potatoes are tender.
Sautéed green beans, cáceres style.
Sautéed green beans, cáceres style.

We served the lamb entree with a green bean dish, also from Penelope Casas book, “Sautéed Green Beans, Cáceres Style.” The veggies gain flavor from the additions of pancetta (or prosciutto as we used), paprika and vinegar.

Penelope Casas' La Cocina de Mamá book open to the roasted lamb recipe.
Penelope Casas’ La Cocina de Mamá book open to the roasted lamb recipe.

A snippet about the author:
Penelope Casas was a Greek-American writer from Queens who was an authority on the foods of Spain, and helped introduce Americans in the 1980s to a continental Spanish cuisine distinctly different from its Mexican and South American counterparts. In interviews, Mrs. Casas said she hoped to clarify the identity of Spanish food for Americans, who generally confused it with Mexican and South American cuisines. “People thought of Spanish cuisine as spicy, full of rice dishes,” her daughter said. “They had no real sense of what Spanish food was. She would talk about tapas bars, and they would think she was saying ‘topless.’ ”