Tag Archives: recipes

Cooking Light’s Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party

Kat is back in the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been MIA is in the blogosphere for a while. I’ll get into the reasons why on another post but suffice it to say, I’m back.

What prompted my return to the kitchen (actually it was my friend Vickie’s kitchen) was her request that I assist with a birthday dinner for our friend Brigitte (of the Kahlua making).

As it happens, last year I picked up an issue of Cooking Light magazine in the check out line after the cover story, Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party, caught my eye. I love dinner parties, especially when there are themes involved. My first ever elegent dinner party took two days of cooking so I wasn’t about to pass up a menu that could be ready in one hour. The timing of this dinner couldn’t really be more appropriate in case any of my readers are trolling the net for last minute ways to impress their Valentine.

The dinner went off perfectly and was fairly amazing, if I do say so myself. Vickie and I had everything for the salad, main course and dessert prepped and ready to go according to the directions in the article. The only one change we made was roasting the potatoes before putting the tenderloin in the oven. Otherwise, unless you have two ovens, I don’t see how both the potatoes and roast were going to cook in one hour. For the record, we roasted fresh red potato wedges on 450° for 15 minutes. We covered them to keep them warm and then popped them back in the oven when the roast was resting.

Another change we would make in the future would be to add a small amount of sugar to the whipped cream. We opted to follow the directions because of the agave nectar that the fruit was marinaded in. In hind sight, one-half to one teaspoon of sugar would be a nice addition.

There were a few things that surprised me:

  1. There was no shopping list in the magazine. I created one here.
  2. Two pounds of beef tenderloin didn’t seem like it would be enough to feed 8 people. Vickie got a 4 pound roast. We fed six ladies and there was plenty left over so maybe I was wrong.
  3. The potatoes call for the addition of truffle oil. At $16.99 a bottle, I now know why I’ve never cooked with it before. I did purchase a bottle from a local olive oil producer for this dinner. Based on the cost, rest assured I will find all kinds of new ways to use truffle oil. In the end, though, I didn’t feel like the flavor profile delivered $16.99 worth of value to the potatoes. Perhaps I’m just a heathen, who knows?

I haven’t blogged about wine tasting here but I am an avid wino…hence the number of bottles I brought for the party. It seems like overkill but at the end of the night, they were all gone. I may have splurged a bit on the number of bottles but cost-wise this dinner came in at about what I would have spent had I taken the birthday girl out for a nice dinner.

My wine budget is typically in the range of $10 to $15 a bottle. Here is what I brought to match up with the courses:

Champagne toast: Titziano Italian Prosecco $10.99 with raspberries dropped in the glass.

Champagne cocktail: We substituted vodka for the gin at the birthday girl’s request. I found a lovely bottle of Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling for $12.99 and used this as the base.

Salad course: Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This was one of the specific wines suggested for the menu. I was able to find it at AJs for $12.99. It was crisp for a Riesling but balanced well with the flavors of the salad.

Main course: The Pinot Project Pinot Noir. For $14.99 this is a great medium bodied/soft tannin red that paired well with the red meat.

Dessert: Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Riesling ($8.99). Sweeter wines pair well with sweet desserts. This Riesling is a little softer than the Kung Fu girl and matched well with the berries and cream.


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Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

I’ve never been a huge fan of raisins in food. I like them OK right out of the little boxes. I’m pretty sure I was scarred when I bit into what I thought was a chocolate chip cookie only to find out there were raisins in it instead. Oh the shock and disappointment! That incident sealed my prejudice over raisins for at least a decade or two. I’m about ready to get over myself, though. I’m ready to forgive raisins for their innocent charade only because I may have developed a teeny addiction to breakfast muffins. Said addiction started with the pumpkin quinoa muffins but gained traction with these oatmeal raisin muffins.

I love dense, chewy food and these muffins totally fit the bill. This recipe also helps me stay true to my kitchen/food goals. Since I baked these using whole wheat flour (which I recently purchased for the first time *ever*), these muffins are less processed, low-fat and healthy, too. Plus, they’re portable and can be eaten anywhere…even in the car on the way to work.

I can’t say I’m ready to declare my love for raisins but it’s not their fault they resemble chocolate chips, now is it?


  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raisins


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients; mix well.
  3. Crack the egg into a two-cup measuring cup and beat the egg with a fork. Add the milk and beat again. Add the water and oil.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients in the dry ones and stir until loosely mixed. Add the raisins and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon the batter equally into prepared muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Immediately remove from tin. Cool completely and store in a gallon size plastic bag.
Yields 12 muffins
Nutritional value:

Calories 170.9  Total Fat 5.8 g  Cholesterol 17.7 mg  Sodium 271.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 26.9 g  Protein 4.2 g


Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Breakfast, Grains, Low fat, Scratch cooking


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Happy New Year (and Migas)

Kat's favorite breakfast ever!

Thanks to some responsible drinking and good pacing on my part during the New Year’s Eve festivities (and four Advil before going to bed), I am starting 2012 without a hangover. Hooray!!

After having a great time last night and sleeping in this morning, I woke up starving. I decided to start 2012 with my number one favorite breakfast, migas. Ever since my former roommate turned me on to this easy-to-prepare breakfast, I’ve been hooked. I did splurge a bit and fry up some bacon. I then used a small amount of the bacon grease to cook up the dish.

I know that with the new year and with everyone’s ubiquitous resolutions I should be focusing on healthy food and not basking in bacon. Fear not, readers. Come Tuesday (tomorrow is a Federal holiday so I will be using it to get motivated and do some much needed grocery shopping) I’ll have a meal plan and some easy dishes posted to get us all started on better balanced eating.

I hope 2012 started off with a bang for you. My wish is that this is the best year ever for all of us!


  • one tablespoon vegetable oil (or bacon grease if you’re feeling festive)
  • two or three corn tortillas cut into strips (I usually use kitchen shears)
  • two or three eggs, beaten
  • Garnishes


In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the tortilla strips and fry until golden on both sides. Pour the eggs in swirling them around until they make an omelet type layer in the pan. Gently flip the eggs so they fully cook.

Garnish with any combination of cheese, black olives, scallions, refried beans or crumbled bacon.



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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Scratch cooking


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Kat’s Fantasy Elegant New Year’s Eve Dinner

individual beef wellington

Individual Beef Wellington

Alas, there will be no New Year’s Eve dinner for me this year. Things have been quiet in Kat’s kitchen, mainly because I’m still battling a cold and then have had a headache for four days on top of it. When I’m not feeling good I lose the desire to eat anything good for me (except, maybe soup) and gravitate to Christmas cookies and microwave popcorn. This may be a portent of things to come; I’ve heard that the sweet and salty taste buds are the last to go and that’s why elderly folk prefer sweet and salty food. It’s not a pretty thought, sigh!

Back to blogging and the dinner I wish I was cooking…actually I did cook this dinner a few years ago and it was then the culinary highlight of my cooking experience. As background, I joined a local group called Table for Six. The moderator cooked a five course meal for herself and five carefully chosen guests…but she only did this four times a year. I was blown away by the experience and offered to cook a dinner the following month. I’m flattered to say that this was the only time that her group dined outside her home. I still feel all warm and gushy when I think about it. However, after hosting a six course meal I can see why she only did this four times a year. I cooked all six courses from scratch and spent two full days in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I was still whisking the gravy as the guests were pulling up. I also had to purchase and borrow extra dishes so that I could individually plate each course. Oh, but what a night!

In actuality if I were going to do it again, I would change a few things. Even though I spent weeks researching the perfect pairings, I’ve expanded my culinary repertoire so a few changes might be in order.

Champagne cocktail – I chose a dry champage which, ironically, tends to be slightly sweeter that Brut or Extra Brut. I dropped a raspberry in the bottom of each class for color instead of the lemon wedge.

Appetizer – Shrimp ceviche (served in martini glasses)

Soup – Cream of broccoli soup (served in Grandma’s crystal fruit cocktail bowls)

Salad – Tossed salad with artichoke-Parmesan crostini (served on salad plates)

Main course – Individual Beef Wellingtons, garlic mashed potatoes with green beans amandine to which I added a small amount of diced pimento for Christmas color (served on dinner plates) garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs

Dessert – Chocolate Cavity Maker cake with mint-infused whipped cream (served on dessert plates) garnished with fresh raspberry and mint leaves

Coffee with homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream and port. I had never been a huge fan of port until I had it alongside the coffee and chocolate cake.

It was a great night. Even though I won’t be cooking this year I enjoy reminiscing. Don’t feel too sorry for me though. I am going out tonight with friends where someone else will be serving me.

I hope your New Year’s Eve is filled with good food and good friends.







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Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

One would think I should have posted this recipe after Thanksgiving. Sadly, Santa left an unwanted gift for me this year in the form of a stubborn cold. I could eat soup all year long but I especially crave it when I’m not feeling good. I decided to recreate this tasty “soup du jour” from a recent dining-out experience I had while said cold was just starting to incubate. This recipe could easily be made with chicken and chicken stock. However, because I did cook two birds on Thanksgiving and have packages of leftovers and gallons of broth in the freezer, I used turkey instead. Being lactose intolerant, I’m not normally a huge fan of cream soups because they are usually laden with lots of dairy (duh), extra fat and questionable thickeners. In this case, the soup is thickened a bit with flour and then finished off with a touch of sour cream to give it a creamy texture.

The original recipe called for instant rice. I had a bag of Lundberg brand wild and whole grain brown rice blend in my cupboard (purchased at Sprouts) so I opted to cook it separately in a rice cooker. I started the rice first, estimating that by the time I chopped the veggies and sauteed them, the rice would be ready to add to the pot. I wasn’t that far off, actually.

I also subbed dried, and reconstituted, porcini mushrooms only because I was fresh out of fresh mushrooms and didn’t want to make a trip to the store. On a side note, I purchased a huge bag of dried mushrooms at one of those membership-only big box stores years ago. The bag lasts forever (I actually had one bag for an entire decade…but I didn’t cook as much then) in the pantry and allows me to keep a supply on hand for any mushroom-related emergencies that may come up, like today.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions or shallots
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 3 cups (roughly 12 ounces) shredded chicken or turkey
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream


  1. If using wild rice blend, begin cooking it separately according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stock pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Saute on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt and pepper. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly until the flour is entirely incorporated.
  3. SLOWLY add the broth one quarter cup at a time. Thoroughly mix each quarter cup of broth into the veggies until a paste forms. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any bits that might have stuck. Once you have a nice consistency in the bottom of the pan, pour in the remaining broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about five minutes.
  4. Add rice, meat and sour cream. Stir to combine. Adjust cooking time based on what kind of rice you are using (5 to 7 minutes for instant; 15 to 20 minutes for white rice). If rice has been pre-cooked, just gently heat through.

Serves four

Nutrition per serving (approximate)

354 calories; 9 g fat; 87 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrates; 36 g protein;3 g fiber; 378 mg sodium; 577 mg potassium.

Adapted from: Eating Well

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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Brown rice, Chicken, Low fat, One pot cooking, Soup, Turkey


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Grandpa’s Christmas Eve Spaghetti Sauce

Grandpa Joe

For as long as I can remember my family has happily eaten the same dinner on Christmas Eve; a meatless marinara sauce that lists Italian tuna fish packed in olive oil as the star ingredient. Because we grew up on it, my siblings and I never found the combination of marinara sauce and tuna fish odd. As a matter of fact, we would beg for the “Christmas sauce” on other special occasions as it was a rare treat for us. Over the years as we have added family members through either marriage or birth, some may have initially been reluctant to try the dish, but one-by-one they’ve been won over.

The ritual of a meatless Christmas Eve is popular in many parts of Italy and is certainly where the tradition of this dish originated. My mother’s grandparents immigrated from Italy through Canada. Mom recalls her grandfather, Bill, making the sauce. My Grandpa Joe (pictured) continued the ritual until his death in 1995. Mom made it every year I was growing up and continues to do so to this day. Now that my siblings and cousin are of sauce-making age, the recipe has truly been handed down through at least 4 generations.

I’ve made the sauce myself on a few occasions. There has only been one Christmas I haven’t been able to spend with my parents. Based on the splattered fax of the recipe my Dad sent me in December of 1996 that I just pulled out of my pantry, I’m guessing this was the year. I may have been in New Orleans, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the sauce!

I’m not certain that the sauce really needs to cook for so many hours. However, to honor the tradition I am posting the recipe true to the way it has been cooked in my family from time immemorial.

I would love to hear about any Christmas Eve traditions you have. Please post a comment for me!


  • one small onion, finely chopped
  • three cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one 6 oz can tomato paste
  • two 28 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • one tablespoon Italian herbs (basil or oregano or both)
  • 1/2 cup sturdy red wine (Chianti or burgundy)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • High quality grated cheese (Asiago, Parmesan or Romano)
  • One 6 oz can Tonno (tuna packed in olive oil), drained well


  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or dutch oven until fragrant. Add onions and garlic; saute on medium heat for about five minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Saute over low heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently so the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn.
  2. Add the tomato sauce and stir well. Cook over low heat for about 2 hours. Watch closely so that the sauce doesn’t burn.
  3. Add the wine, butter and a handful of the grated cheese. Stir often and continue cooking another hour or so.
  4. Add the tuna to the sauce and cook one more hour.
  5. Serve over a sturdy pasta like gemelli, fusilli or penne. Garnish amply with freshly grated cheese.

Serves four.

Kat’s tip: Double or triple the recipe for larger quantities and for leftovers. Seriously if you’re going to cook something for several hours you may as well. Freezes well.


Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Holiday, One pot cooking, Scratch cooking


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Classic Tiramisu

We had an Italian-theme party last weekend for La Mama’s milestone birthday. Although we had the appetizers and main course catered by a family friend, my sister and I elected to do the desserts. My sister makes my mom cheesecake every year. This year she changed it up a bit and did mini cheesecake cupcakes with a strawberry topping. They were quite yummy and I’ll be posting them later this week when I get my hands on her recipe.

In an impulse moment I announced was going to make tiramisu from scratch. Once the commitment was out in the open, there was no turning back. I’d never made tiramisu before and I was a little nervous. I followed the directions on the back of the lady finger package (that took four clerks in my local grocery store to find) and immediately relaxed. I had a mild amount of anxiety over the whipping cream; I’m always nervous that it’s not actually going to whip. Someone told me that the trick is refrigerate the bowl and the beaters which seems to work.

Tiramisu and white russian

Tiramisu, as it turns out, is not really all that hard to make. I elected to build mine in a spring form pan. The good news is that the end result tasted great, my mom was thrilled The pictures honestly don’t do the dessert justice. In the midst of serving 40 people it was really hard to get good photos. Plus using lady fingers meant that the layers were not nice and crisp like they would have been had I used something akin to sponge cake.

I’ve already decided there will be a next time and that I am going to try using a sponge cake cut in half for more even layers. I may even double the amount of coffee liqeure.


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (divided)
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfingers
  • 1/3 cup coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate
  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar; whip until thick and lemon colored, about one minute. Place in top of double boiler over boiling water. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring frequently.
  2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip *1-3/4 cup* cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
  3. Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl or spring-form pan. Brush with coffee liqueur. Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and filling layers. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  4. Top with sweetened whipped cream. Combine 1/2 whipping cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip until stiff peaks form.
  5. Garnish with cocoa. Use a microplane grater or zester to get nice chocolate crumbles. You can also use a vegetable peeler or garlic slicer to shave the chocolate into curls.

Kat’s tip: Make the Tiramisu a day in advance so that it has time to set. I made mine the morning of the party and it 9 hours later it seemed a bit jiggly (although everyone loved it). Dust with cocoa immediately prior to serving for the prettiest presentation.

Kat’s second tip: Mascapone cheese is über expensive. As a substitute you can combine 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons of whipping cream and then mix until blended and fluffy.


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