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 2015: Continue to spin from the Wheel of Meals for recipe inspiration

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Salmon en Croûte with Roasted Purple Cauliflower

I saw this Salmon recipe in the free Walgreens WebMD Diabetes magazine and decided to give it a try.  I thought it was excellent.  The salmon was juicy and had a nice lemon flavor, the spinach was good, the basil-cream cheese mixture added delicious creaminess, and the phyllo contributed an interesting crunch factor.  I baked some purple cauliflower along with it for vibrant color and a healthy side dish.  Note: My salmon from the meat department was only 1 pound and it just barely fit wrapped in the phyllo, but I also had a lot more spinach mixture because I didn't pare down the rest of the recipe.

Salmon en Croûte
Recipe from Walgreens WebMD Diabetes Magazine
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
10 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons basil pesto
6 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted
1 large skinless fillet wild salmon (~1&1/2 lbs)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add spinach and cook until heated through.  Remove from heat and add in lemon juice.  Set aside to cook.  Set oven to 400º.

Mix together the cream cheese, pesto, and lemon zest.  Set aside.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil.  Place a sheet of phyllo on the sheet and brush with olive oil.  Place another sheet of phyllo on top of the first and brush with oil.  Continue layering with the remaining phyllo sheets.

Spread the cream cheese mixture on the phyllo, leaving a one-inch border.  Place the salmon across the width of the phyllo, about 1/3 from the bottom.  Spread the cooled spinach mixture on top of the salmon.

Wrap the salmon in phyllo, folding the bottom edge up and top edge down.  Fold edges to seal.  Brush with remaining olive oil.  (At this point you could chill the salmon for 3-4 hours until ready to bake it).

Bake at 400º for 25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

For the cauliflower:  I just tossed it in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, and put in on the same pan as the salmon.  It was a nice crisp-tender at the same time and temperature.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I decided to make something a little non-traditional for my Thanksgiving potluck item.  I thought they tasted great, kind of similar to a bite of pumpkin cake roll.  I especially loved the cream cheese filling.  And I like that they are a nice small bite which is needed after the big Thanksgiving meal.  Gobble, gobble 'em up!

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Makes 36 pies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1&1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
1&3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1&1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350º and line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and pumpkin and beat until smooth.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined.   Drop by tablespoon onto the baking sheets  (18 per pan) or using a piping bag for a rounder, smoother cookie.

Bake at 350º for 11-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire racks.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until fluffy. Add the vanilla and maple syrup, and then gradually beat in the powdered sugar.

To assemble, spread or pipe the cream cheese filling on the flat side of one cookie.  Top with another cookie.  Store in fridge to prevent filling from getting too soft and melting.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fresh Herb Focaccia

I feel like Oprah: "I love bread." haha.  I just happened to have all the fresh herbs from my herb garden (rosemary, thyme, parsley, and chives), so I went for it.   The top of the bread got a little more brown than I would have preferred (I forgot to check on it in the oven), but the inside was still soft and the bread tastes awesome.  I just ate it as it and thought it was delicious, but tomorrow I think I'll cut a slice in half and make a sandwich.  I'd definitely bake this again!

Fresh Herb Focaccia
Makes two 8" focaccia

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, divided
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzle
2&3/4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
coarse salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water; mix in the honey.  Let stand for 10 minutes to proof until the yeast has bloomed and is frothy.

Add the remaining water, olive oil, flour, salt, and herbs.  Mix on low speed until dough comes together.  Increase speed to medium-high and knead for about 5-8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.

Wipe a large bowl with olive oil and place dough in bowl, turning to coat.  Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm, draft-free place.  Let rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.  Punch dough down and return to lightly floured surface.  Divide dough in two.

Lightly oil two 8" baking pans.  Stretch each portion of dough to fit in the pans with even thickness.  Cover with towel and set in a warm place for 60 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450º.   Use fingers to make indentations in the dough.  Bake for ~13-15 minutes until focaccia is golden.  Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Remove from pans and let cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mini Strawberry Pavlovas

I had egg whites to use after using yolks for another recipe so I decided to make this sweet and airy dessert.  I love meringue.  It was all soft and marshmallow-y on the inside (see my photo below where I broke off part of the outer shell to get a view of the inside). Soooo good.   I chose to use store-bought whipped cream because that's what I had on hand.  As far as desserts go, it doesn't break the calorie bank that way.  Win-win.  Also, the shells kept well for several days.

(Makes 1 big 9" pavlova or 8 mini-pavlovas)

4 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups fruit (diced, sliced, or whatever)

Preheat oven to 275º and line one or two baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.

In one small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch.  In another small bowl, mix the vanilla and vinegar.   In the large bowl of your electric mixer, pour the egg whites and beat at low speed to start, gradually increasing the speed to medium.  When the whites reach soft peaks and the beaters leave trail marks, start adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time while also gradually increasing the speed so that you're at max speed by the time all the sugar is added.  Continue whipping until meringue holds stiff peaks.  Add the vanilla/vinegar and beat for another 20 seconds.

Immediately transfer the meringue to the prepared baking sheet, forming one big 9" circle on a single sheet or 8 smaller mounds on two sheets.  Even out the layer or create a dip in the center for the fruit.

Turn the heat down to 250º and bake for ~55-60 minutes for the large pavlova or ~40-45 minutes for the mini pavlovas.  They are done when the outside is dry to the touch, slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped.    Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlovas in the oven with the door ajar until cooled off.   (Can be stored in plastic bags or airtight containers for several days at this point.)

Make the whipped cream by mixing together the cream, vanilla, and sugar until stiff peaks form.  Spread over the pavlova shells and top with fruit of your choice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream

It was time to harvest my herbs, and I didn't want to dry my mint.  It's just so much better fresh.  So I decided to make ice cream as a nice treat.  I found this recipe online at TheBestMintChipIceCream.  Six egg yolks seemed like a lot, but egg whites keep well so I saved those for another recipe.   Although it took a lot of time to make, this ice cream was worth it.  The fresh mint flavor really pops and tastes much different than mint extract.  And I liked the chocolate bits--of course!  No seriously, the chocolate bits are good-they are somewhat soft in the ice cream, not overly hard.  Two thumbs up.  

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream
Recipe adapted slightly from Online Source
Makes 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (I used skim milk and it worked just fine)
1 large bunch fresh mint leaves (I used ~2 heaping cups/fistfuls of leaves)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces dark chocolate (I used semisweet baking squares)
2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring cream and milk to a simmer.   Remove from the heat, stir in the mint leaves, cover, and let steep for 2 hours.

In another heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined.  Quickly strain the mint-infused milk/cream into the pot with the eggs.  Really press hard on the mint leaves in the strainer to extract as much flavor as possible.  Discard the leaves.  Whisk the mixture and set over medium heat, whisking frequently, until a coating forms on a spoon and a finger swiped across the back of the spoon leaves a clean line (custard temperature reaches 170ºF).  Add salt to taste.

Pour custard through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container and chill in an ice bath (4 hours) or in the fridge overnight until temperature drops to 40ºF.

Pour cold mixture into an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's directions.   While it churns, melt chocolate in the microwave and stir to combine with oil.  At the end of the churning, drizzle chocolate into the ice cream to form thin lines of chocolate which will break into small chips.   Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Kansas City Ribs

This is my favorite style of ribs: a good rub and lots of sweet barbeque sauce.   I bought boneless country-style ribs because they were on sale at the store and just adjusted the time (much less time was needed for the boneless).  I did 90 minutes in a 300º oven, then finished off on the grill for 10-15 minutes with the sauce.  They were a little over-done for my taste.  Next time, I'd just get the regular ribs and follow the directions listed below.  Lesson learned. The taste of the rub and sauce was awesome though.

Kansas City Ribs
from Better Homes and Gardens: Grill It!

4-5 pound pork loin back ribs
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place ribs in shallow roasting pan.  Stir together the rub ingredients and sprinkle evenly over all sides of the pork.  Rub it in with your fingers.  Cover pan with foil and bake at 350º for 2 hours until tender.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in butter for 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir in all the other sauce ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until desired consistency.

Grill ribs over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, turning and brushing with sauce every few minutes.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

S'mores Cookies

I decided to experiment a little and make a fun twist on a chocolate chip cookie.  I found a recipe online and tweaked it a bit to get the results I wanted.  They tasted great.  I made 4 dozen cookies to share with friends, and every last one was gone by the end of the day. :)

S'mores Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1&1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 to 1 cup mini marshmallows

Use a mixer to cream the butter and both sugars until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Surround a marshmallow with dough to make a ball, a little larger than tablespoon-sized.  Place 12 balls of dough on a Silpat-lined (or greased) baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes at 350º.  Remove sheet from oven and press 1 to 3 marshmallows in the top of each cookie while they are still warm and not fully cooked.   Return to oven and bake about 3-4 minutes longer to finish cooking.  Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gnocchi with Asparagus and Basil Pesto

I'm always looking for ways to use the basil in my garden.  This was a good recipe.  I served it with some grilled chicken wings because Jeremy needs his meat for dinner, but it was filling enough to be a main course on its own.  Many someday I'll make my own homemade gnocchi, but for tonight, this was fast and easy.

Gnocchi with Asparagus and Basil Pesto
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb package of potato gnocchi
1 bunch asparagus, top half chopped into 1" pieces
1/3 cup Basil Pesto
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Basil Pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

To make the pesto, combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor.  Pulse until chopped, then slowly add the oil with the motor running until smooth.  Add the cheese and pulse until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Cook the gnocchi for a few minutes in boiling water (as directed on packaging) until they float to the surface.  Drain.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the asparagus and gnocchi and cook about 3 minutes.  Turn the gnocchi and cook another 3 minutes until golden and crisp.  Off the heat, stir in about 1/3 cup basil pesto.  Serve with a little freshly shaved Parmesan cheese.

Caprese Panini with Balsamic Syrup

I had some tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella left over from the previous dinner recipe, so this made a delicious lunch sandwich.  You can't see the balsamic syrup in the photo, but it added really nice flavor to the sandwich.

Caprese Panini with Bacon and Balsamic Syrup

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 slices bread
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large basil leaves
2 thin slices fresh mozzarella cheese (just enough to cover bread)
2 slices bacon
2 thin tomato slices
pinch salt
pinch pepper
cooking spray

Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to 1-2 tablespoons (~5-7 minutes).

Brush outer sides of bread slices with olive oil.  Brush the balsamic syrup on the inside of the bread slices.  Top the inside slice with basil leaves, cheese, bacon, and tomato.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add sandwich to pan and place a heavy skillet on top and gently press to flatten.  Cook 3 minutes each side or until cheese melts and bread is toasted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Caprese Chicken and Italian Baked Zucchini

Classic combo of basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella added to a chicken breast with a balsamic vinegar reduction.  Delicious.  I really liked the balsamic reduction sauce.  It made the photo uglier, but the flavor really blended well with the tomatoes and chicken and added extra moisture.  Instead of grape or cherry tomatoes, I just used slices of a regular tomato because that's what I had on hand. For the zucchini, I just sprinkled oil and various herbs and Parmesan cheese over the spears and baked until crisp-tender.

Caprese Chicken for 2

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
Italian seasoning
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomato slices (or a handful of halved grape tomatoes)
2 tablespoons shredded basil, plus extra for garnish
2-4 slices fresh mozzarella (depends on size)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, and cook until golden and cooked through, about 6-7 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.

Add balsamic vinegar to the skillet to deglaze, then add garlic and stir 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and season with salt.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in basil.

Return chicken to the skillet between the tomatoes.  Top each chicken with enough mozzarella to cover the breast and cover with a lid for a couple minutes to melt the cheese.

To plate, spoon tomatoes over the chicken and top with some fresh basil.

Baked Zucchini for 2

Cut a zucchini lengthwise into 4 spears.  Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over the spears, and sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, garlic powder, and grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350º for 12-15 minutes until desired level of tenderness.  Serve warm.