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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Special Venison

Jeremy's sister gave us some venison tenderloins from the deer she shot.  I found this recipe from Penzey's Spices and went with it.   I accidentally seared the meat a little long on one side (not really burnt though), but it still tasted good.  I wish I had made the sauce that goes with it but I didn't have beef stock or currants so I skipped it. 

Special Venison
Serves 4

1 lb venison (or beef tenderloin)
1 teaspoon cracked rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon beef soup base
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
2 tablespoons grape or raspberry jelly

Wash the tenderloins and pat dry.  Mix the rosemary, coriander, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil to make a paste.  Rub the tenderloin with the paste; cover and chill for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450º.   Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat until hot; add the remaining oil and tilt to coat the bottom.  Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper and sear in the hot skillet, about 3 minutes on both sides.   Transfer to the oven and cook until a meat thermometer reads 125-130º, about 20-30 minutes. 

In the hot skillet, add the wine to deglaze the pan.  Stir in the currants and beef soup base mixed with 3/4 cup water.  Boil over medium-high heat.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, and rosemary.  Add to the skillet and simmer until mixture is thickened.  Whisk in the jelly and adjust seasonings.  Slice the tenderloin and serve with sauce drizzled over the meat.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Steak au Poivre and Brussels Sprouts

For Jeremy's birthday, I decided to make steak.  I had asked him what he wanted me to make for his birthday, but he kept saying "anything" so I found this recipe for pan-seared steak with black pepper and red wine.   It was delicious.  Easy to make and easy to cut the recipe down to 2 portions.  I also served onion rings and Brussels sprouts.  No complaints.   And with this 50th new recipe, I've officially completed my 2013 New Year's Resolution Challenge.  Yay!

Steak au Poivre   (2013 Cookbook Challenge)
from How to Cook Everything
Serves 4

4 tenderloin filets, 4 -6 oz each
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
3/4 cup good red wine
2 sprigs fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

Sprinkle the steaks liberally with pepper.   Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium heat.  When the foam subsides, increase temperature to medium-high and put in the steaks.  Cook steaks for 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer to an ovenproof platter and put platter in the oven at 200º. 

Over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet, along with the shallots.  Stir about 1 minute.  Add the wine and tarragon; raise heat to high, and let most of the liquid bubble away.  Pour any juices that have accumulated on the steak platter back into the sauce.  Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

Braised and Glazed Brussels Sprouts
from How to Cook Everything
Serves 4

3 tablespoons butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper

Combine butter, sprouts, and stock in a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover, and simmer until sprouts are just tender, about 5-10 minutes.  Uncover and raise heat to boil off all the liquid.  Let them sizzle until golden and crisp.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


While I wrapped presents, Jeremy made the cookies.  When he saw the result, he got mad and said I should throw out the the cookbook (Joy of Cooking) because the recipe failed.  He said it was a bad cookbook (even though it's been around for over 75 years). Instead of nice round puffy snickerdoodles, we got very flat and crunchy cookies.    Hypothesized reasons for the imperfect cookies may have been: the recipe used too much butter, not enough flour, the butter was too soft, the baking soda was expired, the dough balls were made too big, the cookie sheets were warped, and the oven isn't perfectly level (he seriously got out his level to confirm).  With all that said, they STILL TASTE GOOD.  So who cares? :)  In the future, I'll try a different recipe though.

Snickerdoodles   (2013 Cookbook Challenge)
Recipe from Joy of Cooking
Makes 36 cookies (3" size)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1&1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
for rolling:
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar; add eggs and beat until well combined.  Stir in the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.  Shape the dough into 1&1/4" balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Arrange a couple inches apart on greased cookie sheets.  Bake 12-14 minutes at 350º, one sheet at a time, until the cookies are golden brown at the edges.  Let stand a couple minutes, then remove to a rack to cool.

The first batch that made Jeremy go into cookie rage:

Smoky Sausage and Bean Chili

We're having a weekly soup fundraiser contest at work.  Each week, somebody brings in a soup; at the end of the contest, the person who gets the most employees to buy a bowl of their soup wins, with the sales going to charity.  I realized I would need a crockpot-friendly recipe since it was going to be at work all day, so I decided to go with chili because it's winter and cold and chili is the perfect hearty dish to warm you up.    I found a non-traditional chili recipe in a Slow Cooker cookbook I own, and I went with that.  I was short on time so I made up my own instructions, added bacon, did some stuff on the stovetop, used canned beans instead of dry, and transferred everything to the crockpot to heat. I doubled the recipe which barely fit in my crockpot.  I liked it a lot, but I added a tad too much chili powder for my taste.  Otherwise, it would have been perfect.  I served it with mini corn muffins.

Smoky Sausage and Bean Chili
adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution
Serves 6-8

5 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon
2 onions, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced 1/2" thick
8 oz andouille sausasge, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon; set aside on a paper towel, then chop into small pieces.  

Transfer the bacon drippings remaining in the pan to a large pot and use to saute the onions and bell pepper until they begin to soften.  Add chili powder, garlic, cumin, and oregano, and stir for a minute.  Transfer to a slow cooker.

Stir everything else into the slow cooker, including the crumbled bacon.  Take some of the white beans and mash them, adding the mash back into the slow cooker.  Stir well.  Cover and cook until heated through.  Remove bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I've been wanting to make Paella for a long time (it was a dish on my chef-y bucket list), and I had some shrimp in the freezer that I wanted to use, so I figured it was a good time to try.  I saw this recipe in a Cooking for Two cookbook and followed it except I omitted the chicken thighs because I thought shrimp and chorizo would be plenty filling and it was one less thing I'd have to buy.   I actually doubled the recipe so that I'd use up the package of chorizo and now we'll have leftovers for tomorrow.  I liked it but it wasn't as "wow" as I'd hoped.  Still, it was good enough that I'd make it again.  It's a nice filling one-pot dinner.

from Cooking for Two 2009
Serves 2

salt and pepper
8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
4 oz chorizo, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into 1/2" wide strips
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
pinch Saffron threads
3/4 cup Arborio or Valencia rice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1&1/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until needed.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown the chicken well on both sides, about 5 minutes, flipping it halfway through cooking.  Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the chorizo, bell pepper, shallot, saffron, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until the chorizo and pepper are well browned, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the rice and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the broth, scraping up any browned bits.  Return the chicken to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the thighs register 170ºF and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Scatter the shrimp over the rice and continue to cook, covered, until the rice is tender and shrimp are cooked, about 5 minutes.  If soccarat (the crusty brown layer of rice on the bottom of the pan) is desired, leave the skillet uncovered over medium-high heat for another 5 minutes.

Off the heat, sprinkle the peas and parsley over the rice, cover, and let warm through, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Elvis" Ice Cream

I had extra whipping cream in my fridge, so I decided to make ice cream.  I found this recipe for Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream in a cookbook and added mini chocolate chips that we had in our pantry, too.    Delish!  I think Elvis would approve.

Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream
Recipe from The Ice Cream Bible
Serves 8

2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups milk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups whipping (35%) cream
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips (optional)

In a bowl, whisk eggs with sugar until thickened and pale yellow.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring milk to a simmer.  Gradually whisk into the egg mixture.  Return entire mixture to the sauce pan and cook over low hear, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Be careful not to let it boil.   Strain into a large bowl.  Let cool to room temperature.

Whisk in the bananas, whipping cream, and peanut butter.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or until completely cold.

Stir cream mixture.  Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer instructions.  If using chocolate chips, add in the last 5 minutes of freezing.   Put in airtight container and freeze.


Just the other week, I watched Ratatouille with my 1-year-old nephew (ok, he was taking a nap, and I was doing the watching..shhh, don't judge).  Chefs on Chopped and various cooking shows seem to make this dish a lot, so I figured it must be something good.  And if a cartoon mouse can make it, then so can I, right?   I needed a side dish to go with our meat, and eggplant told me it wanted redemption over the last failed eggplant recipe (see failure), so this seemed like a perfect choice.  It was good.  I added a little too much oil because I forgot that I had halved the recipe, but whatever.  Accidents happen.  It still tasted good.

Ratatouille   (2013 Cookbook Challenge)
from James Beard's American Cookery
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 green peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 large eggplant, diced
4 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" slices
8-10 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil in a deep saucepan or kettle until onions are transparent.  Add the peppers, eggplant, and zucchini and blend well.  Reduced heat; cover and cook 7-8 minutes until the eggplant begins to soften.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings and continue simmering, covered, for another 10 minutes.  Remove cover and let the mixture cook down, stirring often.  Add more seasoning to taste.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pumpkin Pies

This year for our big extended family Thanksgiving, I signed up to make pumpkin pie.  Since I needed two pies, I decided to try two different recipes (my mother-in-law graciously lent me a second pie dish).  They were both good, but my preference, taste-wise, was the first recipe from The New Best Recipe cookbook.  It was a lot more time consuming to make my own crust and it had a lot more ingredients, but I liked the richer, sweeter, creamier filling.  My first crust accidentally shrunk as I baked it (prompting me to ask for pie weights for Christmas).  Also, after we cut into it, I realized I should have kept it in the oven for 5-10 more minutes because the center of the pie wasn't set as well as it could have been, but it still tasted delicious. The second Pumpkin Pie recipe was just off the McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice jar that Jeremy found in the cupboard.  It tasted just fine--you can't screw up a simple recipe.

Pumpkin Pie   (2013 Cookbook Challenge)
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen: The New Best Recipe

Pie Shell:
1&1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Pie Filling:
2 cups (16 oz) plain canned pumpkin puree
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs

Directions for Pie Shell:
Process the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined.  Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds.   Scatter the butter pieces over the flour and cut into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses.  Turn into a medium bowl.   Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture and using a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix.  Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 1 more tablespoon of ice water if necessary.  Flatten dough into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 2 days before rolling.

Remove dough from fridge (if in fridge longer than an hour, let sit a few minutes until malleable).  Using a rolling pin, roll dough on a lightly floured work surface or between two sheets of parchment paper, working from the center to the edges in clockwise fashion, until it becomes a 12-inch circle.   Transfer the dough to a 9" pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling over the pie pan.   Ease the dough into the pan corners and trim the dough edges to about 1/2 inch beyond the rim of the pan.  Fold the overhang under itself and flute the dough using your fingers to make a pattern or a fork to flatten dough against the rim.  Refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes, then freeze until very cold, about 20 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375º.  Remove the dough-lined pie plate from the freezer and press a doubled piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil inside the pie shell, folding the edges to shield the fluted edge.  Distribute 2 cups ceramic or metal pie weights over the foil.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Carefully remove the pie weights and foil and continue to bake until light golden brown, 5-6 minutes.  This will produce a partially baked crust that is now ready for the filling.   As soon as the pie shell comes out of the oven, adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and increase oven temperature to 400º. 

Directions for Pumpkin Pie Filling:
While the crust is baking, process the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, spices, and salt in a food processor for 1 minute until combined.  Transfer mixture to a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stovetop and bring to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat.  Cook the pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the heavy cream and milk into the pumpkin mixture and bring to a bare simmer.   Process the eggs in the food processor for about 5 seconds until whites and yolks are combined.  With the motor running, slowly pour about half of the hot pumpkin mixture through the feed tube to combine with the eggs.  Stop the machine and add the remaining pumpkin mixture. Process 30 seconds longer.

Immediately pour the warm filling mixture into the hot pie crust.  (Ladle any excess filling into the pie after it has baked 5 minutes and had a chance to settle.)  Bake the pie at 400º on the lowest rack in the oven about 25 minutes, until the filling is puffed, dry-looking, lightly cracked around the edges, and the center wiggles a little when pie is gently shaken.  Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour.


McCormick Signature Pumpkin Pie
from McCormick

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 unbaked pie crust, frozen

Mix all ingredients together and pour into pie crust.   Bake in preheated 425º oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350º and bake another 40 minutes.   Cool completely.