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(s) for 2020:
* Make at least 20 recipes for the Instant Pot
* Use the Spiralizer more often

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Anne's Potatoes au Gratin

I had a few potatoes in my pantry that I really needed to use, as well as extra Gruyère cheese and cream to use up after the quiche recipe.  So this menu choice was a no-brainer for me.  I looked at a few recipes for scalloped/au gratin potatoes and then just "winged" my own version.  I was excited because I got to use my mandolin to slice the potatoes (I am easily entertained by kitchen gadgets, as you may have noticed).  Jeremy and I both really enjoyed this dish (I consider it a really good recipe when Jeremy actually verbalizes that he likes it without prompting).   Really delicious (probably not super-healthy, but whatever... It's nice to have a comfort food every now and then).

Anne's Potatoes au Gratin
Serves: 3-4

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1&1/2 to 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, thyme, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until cream becomes thicker and reduces just a bit.  Add the potatoes, stir, and cook for 3 more minutes.  (Add more salt, pepper, or cayenne to taste if desired)

Pour potato mixture into a greased glass pie plate or other appropriate baking dish.  Top with the Gruyère cheese.   Cover the gratin with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350ºF.  Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown.   Let stand a couple minutes before serving.

Garlic Chicken Kiev

I've made this Chicken Kiev recipe before but I don't think I ever posted it, so I'm doing so now.  It was easy and good, but nothing really super special. We liked the crunch of the Panko.

Garlic Chicken Kiev
(from Betty Crocker's Eat and Lose Weight Cookbook)
Makes 6 servings
Calories: 190

3 tablespoons reduced-calorie spread, softened
1 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (or crushed cornflakes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk or skim milk

Mix spread, chives, and garlic powder.  Shape into a rectangle, 3x2 inches.  Cover and freeze about 30 minutes until firm.

Trim fat from chicken.  Flatten each chicken breast to 1/4" thickness between waxed paper.

Cut chive mixture crosswise into 6 pieces.  Place 1 piece on center of each chicken breast.  Fold long ends of chicken over chives mixture;  fold up ends and secure with a toothpick.

Mix bread crumbs, parsley, and paprika.  Dip chicken into milk and lightly and evenly coat with crumbs.  Place chicken, seam-side-down, on greased baking pan.  Bake uncovered at 425º for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is done.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Anne's Rainbow Chard and Gruyère Quiche (2012 - Week 4)

 2012 Week 4 Mystery Ingredient: Chard

Chard, also known as Swiss Chard, is a leafy green vegetable. The leaves are always green, but the stalks differ in color, giving names to the variations (like Red Chard or Rainbow Chard).  My grocery store happened to have Rainbow Chard in stock on the day I went, so that's what I got.

I decided to make a quiche this week, so I began an internet search looking for the best quiche recipe.  I looked at six different highly-rated recipes, and I couldn't believe the variations between them.  For the same 9" quiche, the quantity of eggs varied from 3 to 10, cheese from 1/2 cup to 2&1/2 cups, cream/milk from 1 cup to 4 cups.  Crazy!!  So I made my own special quiche recipe instead.  And I have to brag a little... it turned out spectacularly.  DELICIOUS!   The flavor of the chard and bacon and Gruyère blended together perfectly in the egg mixture.  Here's my special original recipe:

Anne's Rainbow Chard and Gruyère Quiche

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz bacon, diced
1 bunch Swiss Chard, any variety (I had 5 ribs in my bunch of Rainbow Chard)
~3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (I just threw in a large handful)
6 eggs
1 cup Crème fraîche (If you can't find it, substitute 1:1 heavy whipping cream and sour cream)
1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme
pinch salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
9" deep-dish pie crust (buy or make your own.. make sure it's deep dish!)

Preheat oven to 375º.

Heat oil in large saute pan and cook shallots until soft.  Add garlic and cook 1 more minute.  Transfer to a large bowl.  In the same pan, fry bacon until the fat is rendered.  When fully cooked, transfer bacon to a paper towel to remove excess grease, then move to the same bowl as the shallots and garlic, but leave the fat drippings in the pan.

Strip chard leaves from their ribs (see my photo).  You can do this easily by pushing up on the leaves while holding the bottom end of the rib.   Chop the ribs small and shred the leaves.
 Fry the chard rib pieces in the bacon fat until tender.  Covering the pan will help speed up this process.  Add the shredded chard leaves, cover pan, and wilt leaves for about 3 minutes.  Add all the chard to the bowl with the shallots and bacon, add the shredded cheese, and stir to combine.

Beat eggs together with the crème fraîche until frothy and season with thyme, salt, and pepper.

Fill the pie shell with the chard mixture and pour the egg mixture over the top.

Bake at 375º for about 35-40 minutes until set throughout.   Remove from oven and let sit for a little while.  Serve at room temperature.    (Note: To reheat leftovers, cover with foil and bake for ~15 min at 300º F.... or just microwave for a minute).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Seared Scallops on Farfalle with Tomato-Cream Sauce (2012- Week 3)

2012 Week 3 Mystery Ingredient: Sea Scallops

I've never had scallops.  I know- hard to believe!   There are a LOT of foods I've never had which is exactly the reason for this New Year's Resolution Challenge.  They're always preparing scallops on Top Chef and all those other cooking shows, so I figured there must be something special about them.   Well... I found out WHY when I visited the grocery store.  At $12-18/pound, it's no wonder!   (A pound would get you about 16-18 scallops.)   Jeremy said, "At that price, I'd rather have a steak!"  Yes, it seems this is a "special occasion" type of food for those budget-minded.

I think I cooked the scallops pretty much to perfection....a nice sear on the outside and still translucent on the inside.  Jeremy didn't care for the texture, but I liked them, much to my surprise.  Still, I don't see what the fuss is about.  They were good, but I'm not head-over-heels in love.   I guess it was nice to try something different.  Now the pasta, on the other hand.... WOW!  This was a restaurant-quality sauce, in my humble opinion.  And it was my own special recipe!  :)

Seared Scallops on Farfalle with Tomato-Cream Sauce
Serves: 2 

6 oz farfalle pasta
1&1/4 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
~2/3 cup chopped seeded roma tomato
~1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper 
8 sea scallops (~1/2 pound)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Remove the small side muscle from the scallops (if needed--mine were already removed), rinse, and thoroughly pat the scallops dry with a paper towel.  Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine white wine, shallots, garlic, and lemon juice in a large skillet; bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced by half (about 5 minutes).  Add cream, cooking over medium heat for 1 minute, then add butter and stir until melted.  Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Add the pasta to the skillet and toss well.  Cover and keep warm.

Before cooking the scallops, make sure they are completely dry.  Salt and pepper the scallops.  Add the butter and oil to a saute pan on high heat.  Once the fat begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other.  Sear the scallops for about 90 seconds on each side.  Do not move or touch the scallops once they are in the pan, except to flip once.  The scallops should have a 1/4-inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center.  Serve immediately. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Garbanzo Bean and Zucchini Salad (2012 - Week 2)

2012 Week 2 Mystery Ingredient: Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans)

I didn't like the Hummus, so I decided to try a second recipe using the mystery ingredient.  This recipe was MUCH more to my liking.   It's just a really tasty and refreshing salad, quick and easy to make.  I enjoyed it.

Garbanzo Bean and Zucchini Salad

Recipe from Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis
4 servings

Salad Ingredients:
1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed
2 medium zucchini, diced 
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
5 romaine lettuce leaves, cut crosswise into 1/2" strips
1-ounce Parmesan, crumbled into 1/4" pieces

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (squeezed from 1/2 lemon)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans, zucchini, corn, onion, and lettuce in a large salad bowl.  Whisk together the vinaigrette and toss with the salad.  Garnish with the crumbled Parmesan cheese and serve.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hummus (2012 - Week 2)

2012 Week 2 Mystery Ingredient: Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans)

This recipe was made at the cooking class I attended at Ripon College.  Everyone else LOVED the hummus, but I just didn't care for it that much.  Maybe I should have spread it on some pita bread instead of eating a spoonful by itself.  I guess I tried TWO new ingredients today--chickpeas and tahini. When I tried a taste of the tahini in the recipe, it wasn't terrible as the chef warned us it might be.  It reminded me of sesame seed peanut butter.  But somehow, I just didn't like the mashed chickpeas. I'm going to try a different recipe using garbanzo beans and see if I like it any better.

 Sorry about the poor picture quality (taken with my camera phone)
1 can (16 oz) chickpeas or garbanzo beans 
1/4 cup liquid from the can of chickpeas
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
1&1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle as desired

Drain chickpeas and reserve liquid.  Combine chickpeas, 1/4 cup of reserved liquid, and remaining ingredients in blender or food processor.  Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.   Place in serving bowl and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rosemary and Lemon Pulled Pork Stew

I was invited to attend a cooking class at Ripon College by a friend of mine.  We made four different dishes at the class, and my station was assigned the Portuguese-inspired Pulled Pork Stew.   Everyone commented on how flavorful the dish was.   We served it over a lemon-garlic couscous.

Rosemary and Lemon Pork Stew


1&1/2 lbs boneless pulled pork

1&1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1&1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz trimmed and sliced mushrooms
2 cups sliced onions
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
parsley or cilantro (to garnish)

Toss the pulled pork in flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Brown it in olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, and sliced onions, and saute for 5 more minutes.  Stir in the wine, oregano, coriander, and rosemary, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cover stew and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until liquid thickens up a bit.   Just before serving, stir in the fresh lemon juice.  Garnish with parsley or cilantro served over cooked lentils or couscous.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Soup #5: Cheese Potato Soup

For my Bridal Shower, I was showered with soup recipes.  This is the fifth soup recipe I'm posting, gifted by Jeremy's Aunt Pat and cousin Sandy.    We received a few cheesy potato soup recipes.  This one was quick and easy, and we liked it.  We made half the recipe so that we wouldn't be eating soup all week long, and it still made quite a bit.  We ate it as a side dish to a seasoned pork chop salad.  Yum.

Cheese Potato Soup

Makes: 8-12 servings

8-10 potatoes, peeled and cubed
12-16 cheese slices (Kraft singles)
6-8 Chicken Bouillon cubes
2 cans Cream of Celery soup
1 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Place potatoes in large pot and cover with water.  Cook with bouillon cubes until potatoes are soft and pour off as much liquid as you want (the more you pour off, the thicker the soup).  Save the liquid in case you need to add more back in later.  Add the cream of celery soup, cheese slices, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix together and heat until the cheese melts.  Use an immersion blender for a smoother soup.  Serve.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Persimmon Bread (2012 - Week 1)

2012 Week 1 Mystery Ingredient: Persimmons

After making the Persimmon Pudding, I had extra persimmons that I didn't want to waste, so I made this bread.  I liked it, although I wish I would have taken it out of the oven a few minutes sooner.  Oh well.   It made two loaves, so I'll have to pawn off the second one...

Persimmon Bread
Adapted from James Beard's Persimmon Bread
Makes 2 Loaves

3&1/2 cups flour
1&1/2  teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2&1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs
2/3 cup Cognac, Bourbon, or Whiskey
2 cups Persimmon puree (may add extra for moister bread)
1-2 cups walnuts (to taste)
1-2 cups raisins (or other fruit, to taste)

To prepare the persimmon puree, cut the persimmons lengthwise and scoop out the flesh using a spoon.  Discard the skin and any seeds.  Puree in a food processor or blender.

Sift the first 6 dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree, and then the nuts and raisins.

Grease 2 loaf pans and line the bottom with parchment paper or dust with flour.  Pour mixture into pans and bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Persimmon Pudding (2012 - Week 1)

This begins my 2012 Resolution to make one recipe per week using an ingredient I've never cooked with before.

Persimmon Pudding (with Crème fraîche)
Week 1 Mystery Ingredient:  Persimmons

I've heard of this fruit and they're seasonal around Christmastime, but it's one of those things I just automatically passed by, not knowing how they taste or what to do with them.  I decided to change that. 

My local grocer had Hachiya Persimmons, which look a lot like tomatoes.  I did my research and learned that you have to let them completely ripen to the point of feeling like you're holding a water balloon full of jelly-- if not, they will taste terrible.  So yes, the photo looks like they are going bad, but they're actually just right.  I waited til they got really squishy and mushy and cut into one for a taste of the pulp.  It was somewhat like a sweet slimy apricot.  Not bad, although I don't think I'd just eat a whole persimmon.  They are probably best used in a recipe.  I got more pulp out of my persimmons than I had expected (almost 1 cup pulp per persimmon!), so I saved the extras and made another recipe..coming soon! 

First, I made Persimmon Pudding.   It was delicious!  It was less like pudding and more like pumpkin pie.  In fact, it tasted a lot like pumpkin pie.  I should also mention my great disappointment, but not with the pudding.  I wanted to add a dollop of cream on my pudding.  I found some Crème fraîche at Sendik's, and I got really excited because the chefs on the Food Network Channel are always using it... on everything, all the time, so there must be something really special about it, right?  No, not special at all.  I don't get it.  It's not bad, but it tastes more like sour cream, and who wants sour cream on their desserts?!?  In the future, I'll stick with whipped cream or ice cream, thank you very much. 

Persimmon Pudding
Servings: 12

2 cups persimmon pulp (~2-4 ripe persimmons)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
2&1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Crème fraîche (to top, if desired)

To prepare pulp, cut ripe persimmons lengthwise and scoop out flesh with a spoon.  Discard the skin and any brown seeds you may find.  Puree in a food processor or blender.  (You can freeze the pulp and use at a later date.)

In a mixing bowl, combine persimmon pulp, baking soda, sugar, and eggs.  Mix well.  Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, milk, and melted butter.  Stir to combine.

Pour into a greased 9x13" baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes until set.  The pudding will rise, but fall when removed from oven.   Slice and serve with a dollop of cream if desired.