Welcome to my Food Blog!

Welcome! My name is Anne, aka ThePharmGirl. In 2010, I successfully made 100 recipes as a New Year's Resolution to expand my culinary repertoire and cooking skills beyond the frozen microwave dinner. This blog is a continuation of my culinary journey and serves as my personal virtual recipe box. Sometimes I like to have fun-- Check out my Muppet Mania Menu, The 12 Days of Christmas, and my Musical-themed recipes.

My current mission for 2014:
Spin 50 times from The Wheel of Meals
Complete a month of Freezer Meals - done!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chinese Five-Spice Steak with Rice Noodles

My friend Rachel came over for a cooking session to make some healthy make-ahead meals.  After grocery shopping and preparing a few freezer meals, we made this for dinner.  I was super excited because I finally got the chance to break out my Chinese Five Spice that I had purchased from Penzeys awhile back.  Those chefs on Food Network shows are always using Chinese Five Spice so I wanted to see what the fuss was about.  When I opened the jar, it smelled like Christmas cookies which is never a bad thing.   I really loved the flavor of the marinade on the steak.  I'd definitely make this again, although I'd remember to buy the green onions and I'd throw in a veggie like broccoli.

Chinese Five-Spice Steak with Rice Noodles
from a Cooking Light cookbook
Makes 4 servings:  1&1/2 cups beef mixture and 1 cup noodles
374 calories/serving

1 pound flank steak, trimmed and cut into thin strips
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
4 ounces uncooked wide rice sticks
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced green onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 medium tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
2 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and steak in large bowl or resealable plastic bag.  Allow to marinate in fridge at least 30 minutes.

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Rinse with cold water and drain.

While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add minced green onions and garlic; saute 30 seconds.  Add beef mixture and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in tomato wedges, green onions, and basil; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over cooked noodles.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Raspberry Pie

Raspberries were on sale at the store for $1.50 (wow!), so I picked up a couple trays and then I decided to make a pie with them because I had a single pie crust in the fridge leftover from a previous recipe.  I wish I had gotten one more tray of raspberries because I didn't quite have enough to make 4 cups.  Luckily, I did have some blueberries, so I added some blueberries to the raspberries to make this pie.  It was quite delicious, especially with the whipped cream topping.  Yummmmm.

Raspberry Pie
Recipe from Pillsbury
8 servings

1 crust from Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust box
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
4 cups fresh raspberries (or any combination of berries)
1 tablespoon butter
Cool Whip or ice cream

Heat oven to 450ºF.  Make pie crust as directed on box for One-Crust Baked Shell using a 9-inch glass pie pan.  Bake 9-11 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water.  Stir in 2 cups of the berries.  Heat to boiling and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in butter.  Cool completely.

Stir remaining 2 cups berries into the cooled raspberry mixture.  Spoon into the cooled baked shell.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.   Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Kielbasa

The Wheel of Meals landed on Comfort Food

Mac and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food plus we had some kielbasa on hand, so I found this recipe online that combined both.  It was good even if it wasn't the healthiest.  We did have a spinach salad to accompany it so at least that's something.  I split the casserole into different baking dishes and made half and froze the other half for another time.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Kielbasa
Makes 8 servings

1 package (12-16oz) cooked kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz elbow macaroni
1/3 cup butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and ground black pepper
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Cook and stir the cut-up kielbasa in a large skillet over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until heated through and beginning to brown.  Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.

Fill a pan with slightly salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook until the pasta is slightly underdone, about 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º

Meanwhile, melt the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat and add the chopped onion, cooking and stirring until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes to make a roux.  Whisk in the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook over low heat for 2 minutes to finish cooking the flour, stirring constantly.  Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, a little at a time, until all the cheese has been incorporated and the sauce is hot and smooth.

Pour the macaroni into the skillet with the cheese and stir to combine.  Stir in the cooked kielbasa.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon the macaroni into a lightly sprayed large casserole baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top.  Bake at 350º for 20 minutes until crumbs are brown and casserole is bubbling.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stuffed Zucchini

I saw this recipe in my cookbook and thought it looked good.  It can be served as a side or as a vegetarian main dish or cut into smaller slices for appetizer bites.  It was pretty good.  I liked the crunch of the panko topping.  The zucchini squeaked as we ate it which was funny.

Stuffed Zucchini
from America's Test Kitchen Best-Ever Cooking for Two

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and seeded
salt and pepper
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or whatever cheese you want)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Brush 1 tablespoon oil over cut sides of zucchini and season with salt and pepper.  Place zucchini halves, cut side down, on baking sheet and bake at 400º for 10 minutes or until slightly softened and skins are wrinkled. Flip zucchini over and let cool on sheet.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add panko and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring frequently until panko is golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer panko to a bowl and wipe out skillet with paper towels.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.   Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add beans and tomatoes and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in cheese and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Divide filling evenly between zucchini halves.  Sprinkle panko evenly over the mixture.  Bake until heated through, about 6 minutes.  Serve.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Moroccan Fish and Couscous Packets

The Wheel of Meals landed on Seafood and International

Jeremy spun and landed on Seafood and then he let Wesley spin and it landed on International.  So we had to make an International Seafood dish and this recipe fit the request.   I really, really loved the punch of the Chermoula sauce with the haddock.  Very flavorful!  The fish stayed moist and flaky in the packets.  I will definitely make this again.

Moroccan Fish and Couscous Packets
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen: Best Ever Cooking for Two

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
brown sugar
3/4 cup couscous  (I used Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil-flavored couscous)
1 cup boiling water
2 (6-8oz) skinless white fish fillets, 3/4-1" thick (I used haddock)

To make Chermoula sauce, in a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons cilantro, oil, ginger, paprika, garlic, 1&1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt, pepper, and brown sugar to taste.

Place couscous in a medium bowl.  Pour boiling water over couscous and immediately cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit for about 5 minutes until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

Pat fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Place two 14-inch lengths of aluminum foil on counter.  Divide couscous and mound in center of each foil piece.  Place fish on top of couscous.  Spread 1 tablespoon of Chermoula sauce over top of each fish.  Fold foil up and over fish and crimp edges to seal.

Arrange packets on rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until fish registers 140º and easily flakes, about 14-18 minutes.  Transfer fish and couscous to plate and sprinkle with remaining cilantro.  Serve with remaining Chermoula sauce and lemon wedges.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Glazed Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes

The Wheel of Meals landed on Chef's Choice.

And this chef chose to grill while the weather is so nice.  The grocery store had a sale on bone-in pork rib chops, so I found this recipe and rolled with it.  I liked both the glazed pork chops and the sweet potatoes.  Jeremy thought the tarragon-balsamic vinaigrette on the potatoes was weird, but I liked the combination and really liked the flavor the grill imparted. Our chops weren't that thick, so they didn't take very long to cook.  The recipe made way too much glaze and I ended up wasting a lot, so next time I'd cut that part in half or even quarter.

Glazed Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen: Best-Ever Cooking for Two


For Sweet Potatoes:
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
salt and pepper
pinch sugar
2 small sweet potatoes, unpeeled, halved lengthwise

For Pork Chops:
2 (12-14oz) bone-in rib or center cut pork chops, about 1&1/2" thick
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
pinch cayenne pepper


For Sweet Potatoes:
Whisk together 3 tablespoons oil, tarragon, vinegar, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and sugar together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Place potato halves on a large microwave-safe plate and poke several times with a fork.  Brush with remaining tablespoon of oiil and season with salt to taste.  Microwave until soft, about 6 minutes, flipping halfway through microwaving.

Place potatoes cut side down on grill over medium-low heat.  Cook until well browned, 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking.  Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Add potatoes to bowl with vinaigrette and toss to combine.

For Pork Chops:
In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, mustards, oil, cayenne, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Measure out 1/4 cup of glaze and set aside for serving.

Pat pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper.  Place chops on grill over medium-high heat.  Cook until well browned, about 6-10 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking.  Turn down heat and brush with glaze.  Continue to cook another 3-5 minutes on each side, glazing after turning.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with the reserved glaze.

Exotic Grilled Chicken

I was in the mood to grill, so I found this grilled chicken recipe.  I probably should have flipped the chicken a little sooner before it got black on one side, but it still tasted great.   The skin was crisp and the meat was nice and juicy and the marinade tasted great.

Exotic Grilled Chicken
from Taste of Home Grill It!
4-6 servings

1 whole chicken, cut up (3-4 pounds)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1&1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all the marinade ingredients.  Reserve 1/4 cup for basting in a small bowl.  Add chicken to the bag and turn to coat.  Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and discard marinade from bag.  Grill chicken, skin side down, uncovered, over medium heat for 15 minutes on each side (wings will take less; breasts will take longer).  Brush with reserved marinade and cook 5 minutes.  Turn and baste again; grill 5 minutes longer or until chicken is cooked through.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blueberry Buckle

The Wheel of Meals landed on Local Ingredients

I bought some really yummy-looking blueberries at the local farmer's market and I also needed to a bring a dessert to my tennis league, so this recipe seemed like a perfect fit.  I found the recipe online and chose it because it used a LOT of blueberries plus it had a nice crumb streusel.   This was simply spectacular.  A++

Blueberry Buckle
Recipe adapted from www.browneyedbaker.com


For Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

For the Cake:
1&1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 cups fresh blueberries


To make Topping:  With an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt on low speed until well combined, about 45 seconds.  Add the butter and continue to mix on low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To make Cake:  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9" round cake pan or a 10" springform pan (that's what I used) and grease the bottom and inside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside.   Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.  Reduce mixer speed to medium and add eggs one at a time; beat for 5-10 seconds, scrape sides, and continue to beat until fully incorporated.  Reduce mixer speed to low, then gradually add flour mixture and beat until flour is almost completely mixed in, about 20 seconds.  Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing (the batter will be very thick).   Gently fold blueberries into the batter.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan.   Squeeze a handful of streusel in your hand to form a large clump; break up the clump and sprinkle evenly over batter.  Repeat with remaining streusel.

Bake 50-55 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown and a thin knife inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Place on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.    Run a knife around edges.  Invert cake and then turn right-side-up onto serving dish.  Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cedar-Planked Salmon with Cucumber-Dill Sauce

Ever since I tried a planked salmon at a restaurant last summer (the BEST salmon I've ever had), I've been wanting to try it at home.  They were out of planks at the store, but Jeremy found an untreated cedar board in the basement and cut and sanded a piece to use.   I soaked it in water plus a little apple cider vinegar for about 90 minutes (weighed it down with a large pot).  We put the smooth side down on the grill first (over medium heat), waited for it to smoke a little, then flipped it over and turned off the heat on that side of the grill so that the salmon would cook over indirect heat.  The salmon went skin-side down on the smooth side.  I thought it tasted really, really good.  Jeremy said he didn't notice the cedar board adding extra flavor, but I enjoyed it regardless.   The bottom of our board got a little charred so we probably should have soaked it even longer.

Cedar-Planked Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce
from Better Homes and Gardens Grill It! Cookbook
Serves 4

4 salmon fillets, 1" thick
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh snipped dill
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the cucumber, yogurt, mayo, dill, and horseradish.  Cover and chill until serving time up to 4 hours.

In a small bowl, make rub by combining brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Pat salmon fillets dry.  Place fish skin side down in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle rub evenly over fish and rub in using your fingers.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 8-24 hours.  (Or substitute your own rub or herb blend)

For a gas grill, preheat grill, then reduce to medium.  Adjust heat for indirect cooking.  Place a pre-soaked cedar plank on the grill rack over the burner that is turned off.  Place salmon, skin side down, on plank.  Cover and grill for ~20 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork (time will depend on thickness of fillets.  Ours took 30 minutes).    Slide a spatula between fish and skin to release fish from plank.  Serve with the Cucumber-Dill sauce.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Kale-Stuffed Chicken Roll-ups

I had half a jar of pasta sauce to use up and some kale in the fridge (instead of spinach), so I made my own little version of Kale-Chicken Parmesan, roll-up style.  It was delicious.

Anne's Kale-Stuffed Chicken Roll-ups
Serves 6

6 thin-sliced chicken breasts (pounded to 1/4" thickness if needed)
~2 cups chopped kale leaves (spinach will work too)
~1/4-1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 jar Ragu Veggie-Smart pasta sauce
~1/4-1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

In one shallow container, beat an egg with a fork with some salt and pepper.   In another shallow container, combine the Panko and Parmesan.   In a square 8x8" baking pan, pour half the pasta sauce.

Divide kale and Mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken breasts.  Roll each chicken breast up tightly (no need for toothpick).   Dip chicken in the beaten egg, then the Panko mixture.  Place seam side down over the sauce in the baking pan.   Bake, covered, at 425º for 25 minutes.

Uncover pan and pour remaining pasta sauce over chicken.  Top with remaining Mozzarella cheese.  Continue to bake, uncovered, another 5 minutes until cheese is melted.