Tag Archive: sarah baker blog


Hey kids! It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything..and actually posted it.

I was moved by the spirit (of awesome food) to share with you an accidental discovery.

But first, a little background: I love roasted tomatoes. Specifically, cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes. They are so sweet and flavorful I routinely use them as a side-dish with fish, chicken, or even a grilled panini sandwich.

I usually pick up a pint at Giant and after a wash, slice them down the middle, throw them in a pie pan with olive oil, salt, and maybe some turmeric and bake them at 400’/425′ until they bubble with deliciousness (about 10-12 minutes)

Well, last night, I forgot about them. I really did. I’d eaten my supper of roasted rosemary garlic chicken and was relaxing…until I smelled tomatoes. Uh oh!

I ran back into the kitchen to “check” them and behold, they were reduced, wrinkly, black in places, and smelled like tomato pesto.

I was intrigued.

When they cooled, I tried one. They had the best, most intense flavor ever, and I immediately ate far too  many of them.

I did the exact same thing I always had except using butter for olive oil, omitting the turmeric, and letting them cook possibly twice as long (to be honest, I’m not certain, it could have been up to 30 minutes).

Applications for this lovely accidental delight include: cherry tomato pizza sauce (puree in blender and voila!), a topping for bruschetta, pasta sauce, or even a tomato soup base (though you’ll want to dilute a bit, the flavor is strong).

Happy Monday!

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Tortellini Soup
(Courtesy of Mom)

Since folks are asking, I’m passing along my mom’s excellent Tortellini Soup recipe. 🙂
This makes a lot of soup (which is fantastic). It makes great leftovers and you can freeze and gently heat for later, but you can half the recipe if you don’t need all three-plus quarts. A bonus is that the recipe is easy to make remember, I can usually have it on the table in an hour or less.

Olive oil for pot (2-3 tablespoons as needed)
8-10 ounces Italian sausage rolled into 1-inch meatballs (hot or mild…I’ve even used Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage with great results—very aromatic)
1 large onion, chopped to about ½ inch pieces
2-3 med-large green bell peppers, chopped to approx ¾ inch pieces
(Mom uses chopped carrots as well, but I don’t. Sorry Mom! 🙂 )
2-4 gloves garlic, pressed
12-14 cups beef broth (I use reduced sodium.)
8-12 ounces tomato sauce
Italian seasonings, to taste (approx 1-2 tablespoons)
Cayenne, to taste (approx ¼ teaspoon)
Salt, Pepper
1 “Family size” package of 3 cheese tortellini (Buitoni is good).
1-2 small or medium zucchini, cut into half-moon slices (maybe 3 cups?)

The Extras:
Parmesan cheese for garnish (grated is great, but shaved is even better—it melts more smoothly).
Hearty, crusty bread for dipping

Heat olive oil in large (3.5-4 qt.) soup pot over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add meatballs. Saute, stirring gently to brown evenly. When halfway done, add onions and more oil if needed (this depends on your sausage fat content—I usually need to add a bit more). Add bell peppers, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.

Add garlic, tomato sauce, beef broth, and Italian seasonings. Stir to combine evenly. Bring to a simmer and maintain for five to ten minutes. Add cayenne, more Italian seasonings, salt and pepper as desired.

Cook for another five minutes. Add tortellini and zucchini. Bring to a low boil and cover. Cook, stirring to cook pasta and zucchini evenly. When tortellini is floats, is soft, and zucchini is soft, remove from heat and taste. If needed, simmer a bit longer until flavors meld.

Cook time: Maybe 40 minutes, give or take.
Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Recipe of the Week: Asparagus Lasagna

Don’t be frightened by the title. It sounds weird, and possibly gross to some of you, but this is possibly the best non-original (to me) recipe I’ve ever used. When finished, this tastes like the best parts of lasagna, alfredo, chicken pot pie, and asparagus all at once.

I discovered this several years ago from Sarah Moulton’s (I believe, top chef at Gourmet Magazine) “Sara’s Secrets” show on, yep, The Food Network (I really was not kidding when I said they taught me how to cook). But I made a few changes: instead of goat cheese, I use a hard cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, add chicken, and I flavor my cream with garlic powder.

This recipe may sound complex at first blush, but I just made it again yesterday from memory, and had it in the oven in less than an hour. It really is easy to do.

To begin with, you’ll need:
1.5 – 2lbs fresh, preferrably young/thin asparagus. Ends trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces (if thick, 3/4 inch pieces, if thin, 1-1 1/4 inch). Keep tops divided from stalks.
Olive oil.
4-5 cups of chicken broth (preferably homemade, but box is fine)
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 – 1/3 cup white flour
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1, 8-oz box Barilla no-boil lasagna
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6-8 oz grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese (really a matter of personal taste)

Hardware:
2-3 quart sauce pan
1 or 2 cookie sheets
9 x 13 baking dish
Wisk
Mixing bowl
Spray grease, such as Pam.

Pre-heat your oven to 450*. Place all asparagus pieces on cookie sheet (you may need 2). Remember, tops are in a separate pile. Season and toss with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil. Place into oven and cook for 5 minutes. Stir, and cook for another 5 minutes, until asparagus is somewhat wilted, but still has a slight crisp (I like to keep an eye on this to make sure it does not over cook. Also, personal taste rules, here.). Remove asparagus from oven and set aside. Reduce oven heat to 400*.

Next, melt butter (and a drizzle of olive oil–helps prevent burning) in sauce pan. When butter bubbles and melts, add 1/4 cup flour. Wisking to prevent clumping (I sometimes use a small mesh strainer here). If needed, add more flour to make a paste. Stir roux, cooking it for a few minute, until it turns a light brown, and bubbles. Add chicken broth, wisking to blend well. Raise heat to high and wisk at intervals. Bring mixture to a boil. Chicken broth should resemble a gravy of medium thickness. If it looks too thick, add a bit of water or broth. If not thick enough, make a slurry to thicken further. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Next, take your 2 cups of whipping cream in mixing bowl, add 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or, as much as you’d like), and begin to wisk. Wisk until mixture stiffens into whipped cream. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.

Assembly:
Spray 9 x 13 dish lightly with spray grease. Add 1-2 ladles of chicken sauce into bottom of dish, spreading around (this helps to prevent sticking).

Make a layer of no-boil noodles, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle 1/3 or 1/4 of shredded chicken, then asparagus (reserving tips for top layer), then grated cheese. Top with 1-2 ladles of sauce.
Repeat for a total of 3 layers (if you can make four, that’s great). Use asparagus tips for the very top layer, and use all the sauce (you’ll need this for no boil noodles to turn out right). Sprinkle on remaining cheese, as desired. Finally, spread whipped cream on the top. (This helps to insulate during cooking, and melts into the sauce).

Cook for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until cream has dissolved and noodles are tender. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve.

Creme brulee has recently become one of my favorite desserts. It’s easy, inexpensive, and classic; though it’s still considered somewhat “fancy” in my crowd.

So I’d seen this recipe on the defunct Food Network show, Calling All Cooks, maybe 5 years ago. I’ve always wanted to try it, but never had. Until this week…

It’s no more difficult than regular creme brulee (maybe easier since you don’t need to boil the cream), and the apples are a fantastic addition.
I substituted apple cider for the water, which may make it too rich for you, but everyone enjoyed it.
I may serve this for Thanksgiving. 🙂

So here’s the link. If you try it, let me know!
Calling All Cooks: Apple Cinnamon Creme Brulee

Pesto Roast Chicken

I decided to roast a chicken this week. As I placed it into the pan, considering my options, “Do I make the always-loved rosemary-lemon garlic chicken?” Or do I make something new and different?

In a moment of what I believe to be divine intervention, a stroke of heavenly genius, an idea came into my head: Pesto Chicken.

But I had both sun-dried tomato pesto and basil pesto. So I got a little crazy: I did half and half.

The important thing is to put the goo under the chicken skin. It really saturates the meat and keeps it moist. I also kept the dividing membrane between the two breasts intact, so the seasonings stayed on their own side. 😉

Aside from the pesto, I only added a little pepper and a hint of cayenne. The pesto has enough salt by itself.

My husband raved, saying it was the “best chicken ever.” And the secret is, it’s so much easier than the hand-made rosemary goop I’d have usually labored over.

I cooked it on 375′ for a little over two hours, and turned the pan halfway through cooking so it would brown evenly.  Pretty much your average package directions.

If you try this, let me know what you think!

 

 

Recipe of the week: Chocolate Croissants

Remember I said I dislike baking? I really hate to measure while creating “edible art,” so whenever I bake, it’s usually from: 1) a mix, or 2) something I’ve memorized so well it no longer feels like work to make (such as cheesecake).

So, when I became addicted to Panera Bread’s chocolate pastry (aka, pain au chocolate), I knew I had to find a worthy substitute to have at home that didn’t have to spend 3 hours making.

Therefore, I went to the grocery store and bought, yep, Pillsbury crescent rolls.  Not the buttered kind, and not the BIG ones. I used the smaller can of 6.

Then for the chocolate. I just happened to have in my possession Scharffen Berger’s 62% semi-sweet baking chocolate.
Once whittled into smaller chunks, this made for the perfect filling in my croissants.

Just roll them out and space them on your baking sheet, fill with about a tablespoon of chocolate pieces, and trail a little “dust” down the tip, and roll. When finished, roll it down onto the point so it doesn’t fall apart when it bakes.

Bake per the package directions (10-12 minutes), until lightly golden. After a minute or two of cooling, you can enjoy a warm and gooey treat that doesn’t take all day.

Hi Everybody! Happy Friday!

I thought it’d be fun to post one of my favorite recipes each week.  This week, I chose my skillet chicken alfredo.

It’s pretty easy, taking less than an hour from start-to-finish, even less if your chicken is already defrosted.

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

8 oz. medium-sized pasta such as penne, med/large shells, or rotini.
Salt, to taste.
2 Tbsp.  olive oil
1 Tbsp.  butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped.
3 cloves garlic (about 1 Tbsp.), minced.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about a pound), defrosted and cut into 1-2 inch cubes.
Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper (if desired), and poultry seasoning mix, such as Chef Paul Prudhomme’s (my personal fav.) all to taste.
1 jar alfredo sauce, such as Classico or Bertolli.
1.5-2 cups broccoli florets (I use Hanover’s Gold, frozen).

Begin by boiling 3-4 cups water in your preferred sauce pan. Add salt to taste, 1Tbsp. oil,  and choice of pasta. Stir to avoid clumping.

In a deep, wide saute pan, add butter and remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat. When oil and butter sizzle and shimmer, add chicken and season with salt, cayenne (if desired), Italian and poultry seasonings (and any other you like). When chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink, reduce heat and add onion and garlic. If needed, add more oil or butter (but it’ll probably be fine).

When onion and garlic are soft and translucent, add the jar of alfredo sauce. I like to add 1/2 cup of milk into the jar and shake to get the remaining sauce out (it also thins the sauce a bit, which is good here).

Add broccoli and stir to combine, covering the pan with the lid to help steam broccoli.

Add more seasonings as may be desired and cook over medium low until pasta is done (according to package directions).

Toss pasta with sauce and serve! Just don’t burn your mouth…:)