What I do while I figure out what to do next . . .

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger

I have very warm thoughts about this cookbook. Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Chicken.  And it’s not so much about the recipes, although I have had great success with many of them.  It is because once, a very long time ago, my non-cooking husband went to Williams-Sonoma in NYC, on purpose and not being dragged by any woman.  He bought this cookbook and the special tools he needed for his recipe and came home to his heavily pregnant, stuck on bedrest for 12 weeks wife, and cooked her “real food” from a cookbook, with special tools and multiple ingredients.  And if I didn’t know it before, I did then, he was a keeper.

Picture from book

I have included both pictures from the real cookbook and my own and I want to point out a couple of notable differences.  In my defense, I was on the phone the entire time I was making this recipe with a survey taker, so was not as focused as I usually try to be.  That said – it really does speak to the ease of this recipe that you can make it and be distracted at the same time.  So in the real picture the green onions are sliced lengthwise and they are much prettier than my small rounds — I wasn’t paying enough attention when I was cutting.  Also, the real picture has  a lovely brown color to the sauce and chicken that I do not have either.  I’m not sure why.  I used a dark sesame oil, so perhaps it was the store-bought chicken stock.  The cookbook suggests that you make your own — I beg to differ on a weeknight.  Plus I’m not someone who just has that lying around.  Perhaps I should; I also know I never will.


  • 2 whole chicken breasts (that means 4 individual)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 green (spring) onions, including tender green tops, thinly sliced (here is where I stopped reading) lengthwise and then cut crosswide into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger for garnish


They say to halve, skin, and bone the chicken breasts as directed on page 10-11.  I say buy boneless skinless chicken breasts – duh!  Place the breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, flatten them slightly and evenly.  I used a kitchen mallet and pounded them with great satisfaction whenever the survey taker paused for a breath.

Place chicken between 2 pieces of waxed paper.

Place chicken between 2 pieces of waxed paper

Cut the halves lengthwise into strips 1 inch wide.

Cut the halves lengthwise into strips

Warm the oil in a large saute pan or wok over medium heat.

Warm sesame oil and garlic over medium heat

Add the garlic and chicken and saute the chicken, turning the pieces as them become golden, about 1 mintue on each side.

Saute chicken 1-2 minutes per side until golden

Stir in the green onions, fresh ginger and pepper flakes and saute for 1-2 minutes.

Stir in onions, ginger and red pepper flakes

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Deglaze the pan by stirring to dislodge any browned bits, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic and discard.  (Maybe I wasn’t paying attention again, but my garlic had been minced through a garlic press (my fabulous and awesome Pampered Chef garlic press that is totally worth going to a party for) and not left whole – so therefore could not be removed – seems silly anyway)

Transfer the chicken and onions to a warmed platter. Pour sauce over the top.  Garnish with the crystalized ginger.

Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger

Serves 3-4


I served this over a Jasmine rice and it was a huge success with everyone!  However, since everyone really liked it, it was not remotely enough food.  So next time I will definitely double the recipe.  The boy child (who is arguably my pickiest eater) found the crystalized ginger “too spicy” and requested that next time I add the garnish after I serve his plate. Easy fix and he did eat his entire serving and look around for more.  The other kids were sneaking in the pantry and shot-gunning the ginger – so there is no accounting for taste bud differences.  I think this might be good with some Nan and a green salad and carrot ginger dressing – unless it becomes ginger overload — something to try next time – not that I have that recipe, but something to look for.   Hubby got home late and ate it cold, thought it would have been better hot, but was afraid to nuke it in case it messed up the flavors -which he liked.






It’s all about Balance

I’ll be the first to admit it.  This cake was a struggle.  I had very clear ideas of how I wanted it to come out in my head and IT WAS HARD!!!  I made some compromises along the way.  There was no way to make the balance beam elevated and still have the girl on top.  It was hard enough getting her to stand at all.  But I do think that the low beam fit the age group – and also works with the other elements in the cake. I also had to sacrifice some form for function with the legs to get them to “hold her” which meant the leotard didn’t look as “real” as the gymnast wearing purple.  She was just way way too tippy and that frustrated me to no end.  But there are other things that really make me smile.  I LOVE how the foam pit came out.  I hollowed out the center of the cake and cut the foam bits out of fondant that I dusted with powdered sugar to resemble chalk.  And I like the chalk stand near the uneven bars.  I also like how I thought to work Charlotte’s age into the leotard of the gymnast.  She liked that!  And as caught up as “I” get in the details — I have to remind myself that I am making a cake for a child’s party and if the child it happy – it’s a winner!

Lemon Butter Shrimp with Angel Hair Pasta

Lemon Butter Shrimp

I hadn’t decided to start blogging about dinner ideas when I grabbed this fabulous picture from Pinterest.  The original pin was for a fabulous shrimp appetizer.  But I decided to tweek it a bit and make a delicious and super easy weeknight dinner.  Hubby was out so I cannot guarantee that I batted 1000 with this one.  But the kids were IN LOVE.  They gobbled it up and were putting dibs on who got to have it for lunch the next day before we were even done with dinner. 


  • 1 lb large peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 package Italian seasoning
  • 1 lb Angel Hair pasta


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cook Pasta according to package directions.
  • Melt butter in jelly roll pan or rimmed cookie dish – I used my awesome stone jelly roll pan from Pampered Chef.
  • Slice lemon very thin and lay in pan.
  • Cover with shrimp.
  • Shake Italian Seasonings over top of shrimp.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Top pasta with shrimp and butter mixture.
  • Serve immediately with crusty bread.


As mentioned above this was a huge success.  Do be aware that the picture from Pinterest and the original recipe were for an appetizer shrimp.  Buy deveined shrimp or do it yourself.  Do not use shrimp with tails!  This is not supposed to a crunchy meal :-).

It also bothered me to no end to put an entire stick of butter in this.  I didn’t want to deviate the first time, but next time I am playing around with ratios and cutting some of the butter out in favor of EVOO.

I had also planned to just shake my own idea of Italian Seasonings on but happened to see a package (that said “All Natural”) as I was walking down the dressing aisle so grabbed it instead.  Probably a good thing I did.  I would never have added as much seasoning as was in the package.  And the reviews speak for themselves.

This is a definite winner.  And coincided so nicely with all the nice weather we have been having recently.  Just the kind of dinner you want on a gorgeous night!






Chicken & Black Bean Mexican Casserole

Chicken and Black Bean Mexican Casserole

I apparently have an issue with focus.  And while I LOVE CAKE and I have baked and decorated my fair share; I HAVE TO cook dinner every night and so decided to write about our hits and misses.  So check out the new What’s For Dinner page for more ideas. . .  I chose to blog about this recipe first because an ungodly number of people repinned it after I pinned it a couple of days ago.  I have to say the picture really sold me, plus I can assemble it ahead of time and pop it in the oven later and that makes it hugely convenient in my life.

RECIPE: adapted from All Recipes 

Chicken and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

  • 2 cups diced or shredded chicken breast meat I didn’t measure just diced up 2 large uncooked chicken breasts
  • 3/4  teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (4.5 oz) can diced green chili peppers, drained
  • 1 (10 oz) can red medium enchilada sauce
  • 8-10 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 (8 oz) container sour cream

Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Sauté chicken with cumin, coriander and garlic powder until chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the cilantro, black beans and green chili peppers.

Spread half of the enchilada sauce over the bottom of an 11×7 inch baking dish (this seems like an odd sized dish – and I have a ridiculous amount of random baking dishes at my disposal.  So I used 9×13 and it was fine – I think it would have been fine with smaller too – just taller)  that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Place 4-5 tortillas over the sauce, cutting in half and overlapping overlapping if necessary. Spoon half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas, and sprinkle with half of the cheese and half of the sour cream.

Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the cheese, and make another layer of tortillas. Layer the remaining chicken mixture over the tortillas. STOP/

Cover dish with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven.

Remove the cover, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and dot with sour cream. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese melts. (I must have misread these directions because I put back in for another 15 – and it worked well)


So this recipe could not be simpler.  And, as I expected, it comes together in advance and you can pop it right in the oven.  A lot of times what kills me trying to pull a dinner together is not the actual cooking time, but the prep that sends me over the edge.  I used to think I was a process person.  And if I’m not under the gun to GET DINNER ON THE TABLE BECAUSE WE HAVE TO EAT IN A 15 MINUTE WINDOW BEFORE SOMEONE HAS TO LEAVE FOR BALLET, BASEBALL, SOCCER, RIDING . . . you get the idea, then I might enjoy the process again.  But right now the process I enjoy is simple.

I have 4 kids.  Ages 13, 13, 9 and 7.  They all like Mexican food.  Hubby is fine with Mexican food – well he likes Margaritas anyway.  He’s not a huge fan of beans – the short child doesn’t eat re-fried beans but I “thought” she was not opposed to beans out of hand – she happily eats chili.  ANYWAY.  I managed to get it on the table hot for hubby, 13 and 7.  Other 13 year old had dance and had to eat it reheated afterwards, 9 year old spiked a fever and needed to go to urgent care.  And I ate A LOT of the peanut butter cake we made this weekend and am therefore fasting for the next 2 weeks :-).

Both 13 year olds thought that it was awesome and want it again.  9 year old who was supposed to have only chicken noodle soup requested to try it and thought it was “not too bad” and I got “a verbal” that he would eat it again.  Hubby thought it was too bland and mushy (he does have texture issues though . . .) and he reported that the 7 year old said “it’s not her style”. (EDIT – I remade tonight and the now 8 year old ate it happily.  I also altered the original amounts of spices to kick up the flavor for DH – changes are now in the ingredients.)

We have a rule in this family.  I will not purposefully cook something I don’t think you will like.  You do have to try it. You don’t have to like it, but please refrain from going into excessive detail about how disgusting you find it. And most importantly of all – Don’t make the cook cry!  “It’s not my style replaced the ubiquitous “it’s spicy” as the euphemism of choice for, “I don’t like it – but I don’t want you to feel bad and cry”.  It works.

So, with a success rate of 2/3rds – because I actually did taste it and liked the beans – it’s a keeper.  I do have 100% hit rate on some things – but I can’t have that be my benchmark because then we would never eat anything except spaghetti and meatballs (and not even homemade ones – they like the ones from the bag . . . gasp!)

Lights, Camera, Action

Thankfully, boy child has come over to the dark side of fondant, because there is no way this cake would have looked as good without it.  Plus, I have done black icing before, and while it might have been wildly fun for the 4 year-old boys involved;  I was not exactly the most popular Mom with the other parents when they picked up their little darlings and realized that black icing doesn’t really wash off.  Kind of ever . . .

This cake was super simple.  Absolutely no structure what-so-ever involved.  The only really really important part is the lining up of the angles of the clapper.  If they are off, the whole cake suffers.  It’s the only non negotiable part.  Also do the math.  Measure well and then measure again before you do the word boxes.  I took a ruler and a skewer and lightly marked the surface and then followed with the piped icing to get it right.  I think my hand must have cramped up a bit, because the words at the top make me much happier than the words at the bottom.


Perfectly Smooth Icing Tutorial

Perfectly Frosted Buttercream!!

Upside Down Icing Technique for Perfectly Smooth Icing Tutorial on Cake Central on

So, I haven’t tried this.  But I saw it on and thought hey. . . that’s an idea!  I am more than a little concerned about the FLIP.  But there is something oh so appealing about a perfectly smooth buttercream cake that makes me want to give it a go.  Especially since I have now seen two separate tutorials in the last 2 days about how to go about it.

The first one that I saw involved  VIVA paper towels and I just have a sinking suspicion that I would end up licking an awful lot of stuck buttercream off of a paper towel, and still have a crappy looking cake at the end of the day.

What does make me feel hopeful is that both methods involve a very hot spatula of some sort and I think I may be able to distill all the techniques down to that one simple element.

So, I’ll give it a go.  You give it a go.  And let’s meet back here to compare notes!





Not a Pie!

My husband felt that today’s post needed a recipe.  So as I sat here eating diet Jello Boston Cream Pie pudding (actually, quite good), I decided Boston Cream Pie recipe it is for the day.  I had never made one before his birthday last March.  I’m pretty sure that before I started my google search I thought he wanted me to make him a pie for his birthday.  My husband doesn’t make too many birthday requests so I tend to want to jump all over them when he does.  And if he wanted a pie, a pie it was.  After all, I had honored his request for years to make the same Angel Food cake from the box (just add water) that his mother made.  Whenever I’m in search of a no fail recipe (and have no time for testing) I tend to head either to Ina Garten or Martha Stewart.  I feel like they both vet their recipes quite thoroughly.  I don’t know if I couldn’t find a Contessa one — but Martha’s was SPECTACULAR!

So I thank you Martha!  You have come through for me again.

Boston Cream Pie

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  •  1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  •  3/4 teaspoon salt
  •  2 large eggs
  •  2 large egg yolks
  •  3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 7 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Pastry Cream Filling for Boston Cream Pie (recipe follows)


  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Lightly butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan, and line with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and sprinkle with sugar, tapping out excess; set aside.
  2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk eggs and egg yolks on medium speed for 1 minute. Gradually add sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat milk and butter until hot in a small saucepan over medium heat; being careful not to boil the milk. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. With mixer still running, slowly add hot milk to egg mixture. Gradually add flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until incorporated. Transfer to prepared pan.
  4. Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pan, leaving the cake bottom-side up. Let cool completely.
  5. Make the glaze: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring heavy cream to a boil. Place chocolate in a medium bowl, and pour cream over chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted and well combined. Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  6. To assemble cake: Remove pastry cream from refrigerator. Beat with a stiff whisk until cream is smooth. Split cake in two even layers; spread bottom half with the pastry cream filling. Top with remaining layer. Pour glaze over center of cake, allowing it to spread, covering top and dripping down the sides. Chill cake for 20 minutes before serving.

Pastry Cream Filling

  •  2 cups milk
  •  1/2 cup sugar
  •  4 large egg yolks
  •  2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar until well combined. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Whisk in cornstarch, 1 tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. While whisking egg mixture constantly, slowly add 1 cup of the heated milk to the egg mixture. Strain this mixture into milk remaining in saucepan. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap against the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until at least 3 hours and up to overnight.




A theme a theme. My country for a theme

I’m pretty much all about the theme.  I learned it from my mother.  You don’t just clean your house before a party.  You change all the light bulbs from 100w to 25w because it really is all about creating the illusion.  And with a theme it just looks like you are so much more pulled together than you necessarily are. When you have twins born the day before Halloween, I figure you have a built in theme every year.  So, whatever they chose to be for Halloween – poof we had a cake.  This year was one of my personal favorites.  They were supposed to be Grumpy and Happy from the Seven Dwarfs (I was the magic mirror – and I felt I was going to be seriously cool 🙂

Happy to be a pumpkin!

But then Eleanor derailed me and decided to be a pumpkin.  I don’t know why.  I’m not sure she felt a need to justify her reasoning to me.  Threw my theme for a loop.  But then it made me feel like a good mother when I let her out of the theme obligation and into the cutest pumpkin costume ever!  I feel like this birthday was well in advance of my experiments with fondant (therefore I cannot guarantee that the stem and leaves are not in fact play doh – actually looking carefully, that is definitely a play doh rolling pin to the right :-)).  It was also the first time I tried free hand drawing of a character.  I still love it!

Only downer of the whole event was that everyone kept telling Grace what a cute Santa Claus she was!  Hello . . . her hat SAYS GRUMPY!  She will actually get quite up in arms about the whole things still today.






Not a “yes, dear” sort of wife

When my husband told his dad he wanted to marry me, his dad wanted to make sure that he understood that I was never going to be a “yes, dear” sort of wife. I took it as a complement. At least he didn’t call me a b*tch :-). That said, I have found it to be rather annoying over the years when my daughters demonstrate their inheritance of that particular trait. Witness their 11th birthday sleep-over cake.  I don’t remember what the original sketch looked like, but I liked it and showed it to them expecting all sorts of oohs and awes.  (This is when my husband likes to point out that I don’t actually want anyone else’s opinion, I just want a rubber stamp of my good taste . . . duh?!)  Not what I got; I think Eleanor suggested I might want to check out a book she had on drawing faces and Grace decided that I needed to make each face representative of the actual child invited to the party.  SO MUCH HARDER . . .   And it was more than a little disconcerting seeing said children gleefully devouring their own heads a couple of hours later.  But, to give credit where credit is due – my girls’ ideas were right on the money.  That’s Eleanor in the pink sleeping bag on the left and Grace with the short hair and purple bag on the right.


Post Navigation