March 31, 2011

Grilled Chicken with an Indonesian Peanut Sauce

I must admit that I started making this grilled chicken umpteen years ago and it still remains one of my absolute favorites. This peanut sauce is very easy to make and extremely versatile. It has such a wonderfully unique flavor and packs just the right amount of heat. I grilled these beauties up for dinner tonight...the best part about this recipe aside from the incredible that it is so super easy to make! You can also toss it with a pasta for a great side dish, or as my daughter Gracie likes to do, eat it right out of the bowl!


1/2 c. olive oil
1/3c. peanut butter
1/4 c. lemon
1/4 c. soy sauce
1-2 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes


In blender or food processor, add all ingredients and blend well. To use the peanut sauce as a marinade, simply pour it over your meat and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then grill.


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And then there were two...One Dog's Crime

I am convinced that God makes children and dogs cute as a way of ensuring their survival here in their earthly lives. How many times has either of them driven you to the point where you actually think you are completely capable of murder? Flash back 24 hours to yesterday morning…
 I had spent Wednesday night making the loveliest banana cupcakes for my family to enjoy. It was getting late and I wanted to catch that night’s airing of American Idol so I decided to put off the frosting of the cupcakes until the next day. So yesterday after my husband Chris and I had returned from my daughter Grace’s 2nd grade concert, I made and decorated my little cakes with a chocolate-peanut butter frosting, a toffee dusting and then I topped them all off with a single chocolate chunk. If you don’t believe me take a look for yourself!

Beautiful right?
Well my husband Chris had decided to take the remainder of the day off and go to the Home Depot to pick up mulch that was on sale along with grass seed and such. He then spent most of the afternoon outside working on preparing our summer garden, aerating and seeding the lawn and all the time with our dog Buster by his side. At 3:15 I made the announcement to him that I was going to run down to the local grocery store to pick up a few things I still needed to make dinner, and that my girlfriend was stopping by with her son to play with Michael after he gets off the school bus at 3:30. At about 4:00 pm I pulled into my driveway and I have to admit I was a bit annoyed. When I came out of the store and opened the back of the van to put my groceries in, I realized that Chris had pulled the back seats down and had loaded 12 20lb bags of mulch in the back of the van therefore displacing all the stuff I had in the back  to the middle seats of the van. Ugh…I knew if I didn’t move them out at that point I would probably be driving around with my vehicle looking like that of a vagabond’s until at least the weekend. So instead of pushing the issue of moving the bags with him, I decided to just take the time at that point and do it myself, thus putting into motion a series of events which ultimately lead up to Buster’s most sinister and criminal act of his short life.
As I was unloading the bags of mulch the kids came running around to the driveway each asking if they could help. Now I had the house windows open because we actually lucked into a beautiful day yesterday, however unknown to me both my friend and Chris were in the kitchen…and so was Buster!
When they heard the kids and me conversing they very admirably decided to come out to help with the groceries, leaving Buster behind. We played around a bit with moving stuff to the back of the car and I took advantage of the fact that the seats were down and could actually collect some of the crap my kids had stuffed under them. Honestly I think we were outside for all of possibly 8 or 9 minutes and that was exactly all the time it took for Buster to commit his crime of passion and then vamoose. Upon entering the kitchen with my friend I looked at the counter top where I had left my prized cupcakes and they were gone! So was the cupcake holder they were sitting in. At first I thought…”Maybe Chris moved them to keep them out of Buster’s reach”…but unfortunately that was not the case. I said in a panic…”We are the cupcakes?” which was followed by my friend’s response …”They were there before we went outside!” And as I came around the kitchen island I saw something that literally brought my eyes to tears. There on the floor was my cupcake stand, chocolate all over the front of my cabinets and two, only two poor cupcakes with all of the frosting licked off! “BUSTER!!!!!!” I screamed and then I saw the villainous four legged canine cowering in the laundry room trying to look all innocent!
Buster did not polish off just a few cupcakes, he did not polish off a dozen cupcakes…this dog, this monstrous big giant mixed up 95 pound lab, labro-doodle/bouvier or whatever the hell he is, ate 16, SIXTEEN CUPCAKES, paper and all, completely gone in the matter of only a few minutes. And I have no one to blame but myself…if I just come into the house with my groceries Buster would not have had the opportunity to devour my pretty little cakes.
The two surviving cupcakes were picked up from the floor and brushed off. The kids then came running into the house wanting to see the cupcakes and possibly eat one, but unfortunately there we stood, 3 adults and 3 children with only 2 cakes left, standing at the scene of a virtual chocolate blood bath. I went to the frig and opened it up to retrieve the small amount of extra frosting I had leftover and then after pulling a butter knife from one of the draws, I frosted the last two cakes. I handed one to my friend’s son to take home and placed the other one back in the cupcake stand to await the final decision as to who was going to get to eat it.
So in retrospect I have learned 2 valuable lessons as a result of this disaster. Number one, my dog is capable of consuming 16 cupcakes in roughly 8 minutes time and could probably take on any one of Adam Richman's food eating challenges on the show Man vs. Food with little to no stress at all on his digestive tract. The second, and most important of the two lessons, is that I do possess the strength of restraint and the inner resolve to be able to hold back and not to kill no matter how provoked I may become…and that my friends is a good thing know about one's self!

March 30, 2011

Chicken Margarita

This is a new take on the whole tequila and chicken combination. It actually was my husband's idea because the other night I wanted to make my chicken Picatta but was out of wine, so he suggested I use tequila. To be honest the whole idea of chicken plus tequila in a dish totally peaked my interest so I began to research chicken and tequila recipes. While I found a few recipes I liked, for some reason the combos I found were not completely working for me. In my head I had the notion of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for this dish. So I created a new recipe to reflect my taste.

This was well received by both husband and kids. It is pretty easy...most of the work is in the preparation of the vegetables with regards to all the chopping and that can be done well ahead of time.


1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 T butter
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
3/4 c. chicken broth
4 T tequila
3 T lime juice
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, un-drained
1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cubed
cumin, onion and garlic powder for seasoning
1/2 cup half-n-half
dash of black pepper
10 oz. fettuccine
Fresh mozzarella sliced or
cubed into small pieces


Place a pot on the stove with salted water and heat to a boil for pasta. In a deep saucepan saute the cilantro, garlic and jalapeno in 2 T of melted butter for about 3 minutes. Add the broth, tequila and lime juice and cook for another 5-8 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by half. Then you can go ahead and add the bell peppers and onion and saute until the vegetables become soft. In the meantime add the fettuccine to boiling water and cook according to package directions for pasta to be done al dante.

To prepare the chicken just rinse and pat it dry, then pound it down flat. Season the meat with a little cumin, onion and garlic powder, plus salt and pepper. I like my meat grilled so I cooked the breast on my Foreman grill, but you can also grill it on a conventional grill, just don't overcook or you will loose too much of the meat's juice. When the chicken has cooled some, cut it into bite size cube pieces.

Once vegetables are soft add the cubed chicken and cook through. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes and then stir in the half-n-half and heat through. When the sauce thickens toss with the pasta and mozzarella, season with pepper and then serve immediately. Garnish with more cilantro and enjoy!

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Michael's Monkey Boy Cupcakes

What better combination than banana, chocolate and peanut butter? Mmmmmm Good!
The cupcakes are banana and the frosting is made with both chocolate and peanut butter . Then I topped them off with some toffee dust and a single chunk of semi-sweet chocolate.

I named them after my son Michael who I've nicknamed "Monkey Boy" because of the way he can climb!


1/2 c. shortening, softened
 (I used the butter flavor)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
(If you don't have buttermilk just add
1/4 tsp. of lemon juice to 1/4 c. of milk)


Prepare the muffing tins by lining them with your paper muffin cups.
In a large bowl, cream the shortening and then add the eggs beating well after the addition of each egg. Beat in the banana and the vanilla until blended.

 In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then place the flour mixture into a sifter and begin to sift it into the banana mixture. Blend and then add a little buttermilk and keep alternating the wet and dry ingredients until they are all gone.

Spoon into your muffin cups until they are 2/3 full. Place cupcakes into a preheated oven of 350F degrees and bake for 16-18 minutes. remove from oven and let cool before frosting.


1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
3 rounded T. peanut butter
3 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 c. milk
Heath English toffee bits
Semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Cream the butter and then add the cocoa, vanilla and peanut butter and blend. Then alternating the sugar and the milk begin to add until all ingredients are gone.

Take the Heath bits and place in plastic bag and with a rolling pin crush the bits into much smaller pieces. Sprinkle Heath dust over the frosted cupcakes and top with a chocolate chunk.

Makes 18 regular size cupcakes!

March 29, 2011

Restaurant Review

Toscanas Pizzaria and Restaurant
474 New Jersey 28,
Bridgewater Township, NJ 08807
 (908) 595-2000

Last Saturday evening Chris and I had the chance for a little one on one time with our son Michael. We had dropped Grace off at an evening birthday party and decided to take Michael out to dinner. We had to pick a kid friendly place for Michael, reasonable cost for Chris and good food for me. Toscanas is a participating establishment with so Chris purchased a $25 coupon and we were on our way.

This was my first time at Toscanas and I was pleasantly surprised. The restaurant is located in a fairly new strip mall on route 28 in Bridgewater. The interior is decorated in a Tuscan style. The sit down part of the restaurant with menus and waiters was located on the right, and a traditional pizzeria style format on the left. This did lend itself to being a bit on the loud on the restaurant side, but afterall it was a Saturday evening. We didn't have to wait very long to be seated but I have to say that we were lucky because every table was taken but one, ours. Immediately, we received water and our menus. Oh yeah, the place is a BYOB and so our wine was promptly opened and poured.

The menu was typical of what most Italian eateries have to offer so I decided to go with the Bolognaise. Chris on the other hand selected a swordfish in a lemon sauce with vegetables and Michael had the chicken parmesan off of the children's menu. We also decided to try the portabella mushroom appetizer. I have to say that the appetizer was my favorite dish of the evening! It was portabella with spinach and mozzarella cheese in sweet balsamic vinegar… delicious. My Bolognaise could have stood a little bit more in the way of meat and the flavor was just OK for me, but the lemon sauce on Chris's fish was excellent and the vegetables were cooked perfectly. Even Chris ate the cooked carrots which is something he will usually leave on his plate.

The service was good and the staff was very pleasant and attentive...something you normally would expect in a restaurant of finer dining. And the best part was the prices were spot on! They totally reflected the quality and quantity of food presented. And then we had the $25 coupon in hand which reduced our bill to roughly $40.00.including tax and tip.

I would recommend Toscanas to anyone who wants a nice dining experience without the high cost, a kid friendly environment and fairly good quality of food and service.

My Rating *** 1/2 out of 5

Travel - Greece


The Greek Isles have to be one of the most beautiful places in the world and Santorini was probably our favorite spot we visited during our travels through Greece. Santorini is actually the caldera of a still active volcano with the last small eruption occurring in 1950, and, as you can see many of the homes are situated on the collar of the caldera. Once you arrive in Santorini, usually by ferry, you are immediately greeted by an on slot of Santorinians offering potential villas for accommodations. And when you have made your decision as to where to stay there are a slew of taxis waiting to zip you off to your new Grecian abode. We loved our villa and Santorini so much we extended our stay there by 2 days.

Sunset from our villa in Santorini


Another favorite spot that we enjoyed a lot was a region in Athens called Plaka. This is a small historical neighborhood of neoclassical architecture and is situated right below the Acropolis. If you walk down the cobbled streets in this quaint section of Athens; you can hear music and laughter, the sound of classes clinking and the smell of extraordinary foods being prepared! And oh the food in Greece is something truly special!

The Acropolis Architecture

The fresh vegetables, garlics, red sauces, fish and meats are both beautiful to the eye and a festival of flavors for the mouth! One of my favorite things to eat while in Greece where Dolmades which are grape leaves wrapped around a filling of rice or grain and a mince meat, usually lamb. They can be serve warm or cold but I prefer them warm with a light egg and lemon sauce...simply wonderful! 

Being serenaded by my then fiancée Chris in a restaurant in Plaka

March 28, 2011

Moussaka made with a Yogurt Sauce

I started making this dish long before I ever went to Greece and it is honestly one of my favorite recipes. Moussaka is claimed by the Greeks as their dish, but the Turks were the ones who adopted it and spread it throughout the Islamic world.

This moussaka is made with the ground meat of your choice (I used turkey) and a yogurt and egg topping which replaces the white sauce of the more traditional moussaka recipe..

I did try the moussaka while I was in Santorini and the version I had there was a little thicker and sweeter than this one. I think it may have been sweeter because cinnamon was the spice used instead of the nutmeg as in this dish.

This recipe is executed in stages so make sure you read through the recipe before tackling this dish.


2 eggplants sliced thin
olive oil for sauteing
*1 1/2 lb ground meat
3 large onions sliced thin
3 large garlic cloves chopped
3 T Italian parsley chopped
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 eggs
2 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
2 T lemon juice
pinch of nutmeg
S & P to taste

Place sliced eggplant in to a colander and sprinkle with salt, set aside and prepare the meat.

In a large skillet heat 2 T. of olive oil and saute the ground meat until cooked through. Remove the meat and add the onions to the pan and saute for 3-4 minutes, then go ahead and add the garlic and the parsley and cook for one more minute. Add the meat back to the pan along with the tomatoes and the paste. Blend everything together and lest simmer while you begin to prepare the eggplant.

In another skillet add olive to cover the bottom of the pan and heat. Once oil begins to heat add the sliced eggplant. Be careful that the oil is not too hot or it will spatter when you add the cooler eggplant. Cook eggplant until it begins to will be doing this in several batches adding more olive oil as you go along. Let eggplant drain on paper towel.

another option to prepare the eggplant.

Place eggplant on jelly roll sheet coasted with olive oil flavored cooking spray.  Spry eggplant as well and then place in broiler. Keep a close eye on the eggplant and watch for it to turn a golden brown, and then flip the slices to broil the other side. remove from pan and let cool.

Once the eggplant is drained, layer the bottom of an 8 x 13 inch baking dish with 1/3 of the eggplant. On top of that add 1/2 of the meat mixture, then add another 1/3 of the eggplant, top with the other half of the meat mixture, and then top off with the last third of the eggplant.

In bowl, whisk together the eggs and add yogurt, whisk again. Then add the Parmesan  lemon juice, nutmeg and salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Top off the eggplant with the yogurt mixture and then sprinkle a little more Parmesan cheese on top.

Place in oven set at 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes. the dish will be bubbling upon removal from the oven. let set for ten minutes and then cut and serve.

*You can also make this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the meat and adding layers of sauteed mushrooms or zucchini  spinach and possibly slices of Gruyere cheese.


Spices and Herbs - Corriander


It is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area, and in southwest Europe. It is also the native to southwestern Asia to north Africa. Coriander is probably one of the first spices used by mankind, having been known as early as 5000 BC. Sanskrit writings dating from about 1500 BC also spoke of it. The Romans spread it throughout Europe and it was one of the first spices to arrive in America. The parts used are the fruit, and the leaves

Culinary Uses
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the most commonly used in cooking.
The leaves have a very different taste from the seeds, similar to parsley but "juicier" and with citrus-like overtones.
The small, woody root is used as a vegetable in some parts of China.
Chopped coriander leaves are also used as a garnish on cooked dishes such as curries, but should never themselves be cooked as heat destroys their delicate flavor quickly.
The fruits are also used (both whole and ground) in baking, sausages, pickles, candies, sauces and soups.
Coriander seeds are also used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers.
They are usually dried but can be eaten green. Ground coriander is a major ingredient in curry powder

Medicinal Purposes
Coriander is used to treat digestive ailments. .
One pharmaceutical use of coriander is to mask the tastes of other medicinal compounds or to calm the irritating effects on the stomach that some medicines cause.
Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine.
If used too freely the seeds become narcotic.

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