September 25, 2010



For dinner tonight I made Braised Chicken and Mushrooms in a Thyme and Madeira Sauce served with Roasted Green Beans and Red Peppers with Garlic .  I used succulent Chicken thighs, skinless and with the bone in, instead of the obvious Chicken breasts which to me, are much more dry and less flavorful.  The bone provides moisture and flavor when you braise.  Don't let the term braise scare you away from this easy and delicious recipe.  Braising is simply browning in fat on the stove top then adding a liquid and simmering until tender in the oven or on the stove top.  The recipe is divided into easy to follow steps that result in a delicious dinner.   Fire up the stove and sharpen your knives and prepare to be Cooking The Amazing.

Here is the recipe.

2 lbs.  Chicken Thighs,  skinless, bone in
2 T  Butter, unsalted
2 T  Olive Oil, extra virgin
1 t   Sea Salt, fine grain
1 t  Black Pepper, fresh ground
2 t  Thyme, dried or fresh
4  Strips Bacon, smoked, cut in lardons (see below)
2  Shallots (or 1 medium yellow Onion), diced fine
3  Garlic Cloves, minced fine
1 T Flour, all purpose
1 1/2 lb  Mushrooms, sliced thick (such as Chanterell, Crimini, Oyster, or Mixture of Wild Mushrooms)
3 T Olive Oil, extra virgin
3 T Butter, unsalted
1 c  Madeira Wine
1 1/2 c  Chicken Stock
1 T  Chicken Base (such as Better Than Bouillon)
3 T  Thyme, fresh, leaves removed

1.  Measure out all the above ingredients and have them in order as needed for the recipe.  This is a crucial step for recipe success in all recipes.  It prevents leaving out ingredients and mistakes later.
Prep all Vegetables by slicing and dicing as directed. 
Cut Bacon into lardons (see below).  Your cooking process will go much smoother, I promise.  This is called mise un place, a  French cooking term meaning having everything in place and ready to use.
A good habit to get into. 

2.  In a large pan heat 2 T Butter and 2 T Olive Oil until hot on medium high heat.  Add Chicken thighs allowing for plenty of room so they do not crowd the pan causing them to steam and not brown.  Add Salt and Pepper to the tops of the cooking Chicken.  Flip when the bottoms are brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Add Salt and Pepper and 2 t of Thyme to the browned side as the the other side cooks for 3-4 minutes.  When both sides are browned remove from the pan to a dish and set aside.  The Chicken will not be all the way cooked through at this stage.  Leave any oil in the pan for step two.  Remove the pan from the heat so the oil does not burn.

3.  Stack 4 strips of smoked Bacon and cut into 1/4 inch strips across.  This is a French cooking term called a lardon and is used to flavor and render fat for cooking.  In the pan the Chicken was in, heat the residual oil on medium high heat then add the Bacon strips and cook until crispy.  Then remove the pan from the heat and remove the Bacon to a paper towel lined dish to drain.
                 MAKING LARDONS

4.  Dice the Shallots (or Onion) and Garlic into a fine dice.  In the same pan place back on medium (reduce from medium high) heat.  There should be 3 T Bacon fat left in the pan.  If not add  enough Olive Oil to make total of 3 T.  If more than 3 T, remove the extra oil.   Add the diced Shallots and cook for about 1 minute then add the Garlic and cook for about 30 secs.  Stir in 1 T of Flour and cook for 2 minutes continuously stirring to prevent burning.  The Shallots will begin to brown.  Remove pan from the heat.

5.  In different large pan, heat 3 T Olive Oil and 3 T Butter in medium high heat and add the sliced Mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown and are cooked through.  You want the Mushrooms to brown and crisp.  This may take 15 mins or so.  Finish the braising sauce (step 6)  while the Mushrooms continue to saute.  Keep stirring the Mushrooms every minute or two while you make the sauce.

6.  While the Mushrooms are sauteing, make the braising sauce.  Place the Shallots and Garlic pan back on medium high heat and add 1 c Madeira Wine and bring to the boil stirring constantly then add 1 1/2 c Chicken Stock and 1 T Chicken Base and allow to boil and thicken stirring constantly for 4 minutes.  Scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan as you stir.  These brown bits are pure flavor and will improve the sauce.  The sauce will reduce and thicken and should coat the back of a spoon.

TIP:  Find Chicken Base near the Bouillon cubes or cans of Broth at the grocery.  It is a reduced meat paste that is full of flavor and Salt so always taste after using because it can make things very salty after reducing.  Don't use Bouillon cubes.  I use the brand Better Than Bouillon Organic that comes in a small jar.


7.  The Mushrooms should be sauteed by this point.  Add them to the sauce and reduce the heat to medium low and mix them in well.  Taste the sauce.  Add Salt and Pepper as needed.  Then place the Chicken thighs on top of the sauce and sprinkle with the 3 T of Fresh Thyme leaves and cover with a lid and braise for 20 minutes undisturbed.  The sauce should simmer and bubble slowly, not boil.  After 20 minutes taste the sauce again and correct for Salt and Pepper.  Cut into the largest piece of Chicken and be sure it is cooked through.  If not cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes more then recheck.
Serve over cooked Egg Noodles or Mashed Potatoes with Sauce spooned over liberally.

                       COPYRIGHT  (c)  2010

September 20, 2010


Chocolate is one of those versatile ingredients that needs little added to it to make something amazing.  My Chocolate Mousse recipe is one of those easy simple recipes where Chocolate is the star and it looks like you've spent all day preparing it.  The truth is this can be made in the morning before you go to work and waiting for you when you come home in the refrigerator.  This is not a classic French Mousse recipe but when you taste the richness of the Chocolate and the creamy Whipped Cream you would never know it is the Americanized version of lusciousness done in just minutes.  This can be served in chilled glasses with a dollop of Perfect Whipped Cream and shaved Chocolate or a dust of Cocoa Powder on top or use it between layers of rich and moist Chocolate Cake with a Ganache Icing.
My Chocolate Mousse Cake recipe will be my next post bringing it all together in one recipe. This is a great entertaining dessert because it frees you up to enjoy your guests when it is premade.  There are just three easy steps in turning Chocolate into amazing Mousse when you are Cooking The Amazing.

 Here is the recipe.

For Ganache: 
12 oz   Chocolate, chopped or chips (see below)
1 c  Heavy Whipping Cream 
1 t  Vanilla Extract 
1 pinch Sea Salt, fine grain (very small pinch)

For Whipped Cream:
4 c  Heavy Whipping Cream
4 t  Vanilla Extract
8 T  Powdered Sugar

For Decoration (Optional):
2 t  Cocoa Powder to dust tops
Shaved Dark or White Chocolate
Candied Nuts like Sugared Pecans
Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

1.  PLAN AHEAD:  Have prepared ahead what you will serve your Mousse in.  Several glasses or a large bowl.  Make sure you have room in your refrigerator and freezer to fit the glasses or bowl ahead of time for chilling later.  Learn from my mistake by not going to the refrigerator, hands full of Chocolate Mousse glasses, opening the doors to see a Watermelon and Big 2 Litters of Coke taking up any room!  Have your beaters and bowl and 4 c of Whipping Cream in freezer while you make the Ganache.

2.  In a large mixing bowl place 12 oz of very good Chocolate, chopped or in Chips.  If your wallet is bursting then buy the best Chocolate like Valrhona, Callebaut or Lindt.  There are amazing American Chocolates like Dove dark candy squares, which is my favorite to use and very reasonable, that you can chop into small chip sized pieces using a sharp serrated knife.

or use Ghirardelli  60% Cacao Chocolate Chips.

3.  Over medium high heat, bring 1 cup of Heavy Cream (Cream you buy to make Whipped Cream) to a gentle boil and poor the hot Cream over the Chocolate making sure all Chocolate is submerged.  Use a rubber spatula to push the Chocolate below the hot Cream surface.  This is the beginnings of Ganache.  A fancy French cooking term for one of best things you will ever eat!

4.  Do not stir and allow to sit on the counter for 5 minutes undisturbed.

5.  After 5 minutes, using a large spoon, whisk or rubber spatula, stir the Chocolate gently so that air is not incorporated into the Ganache.  It will look grainy at first then become glossy and smooth very quickly.  Be patient and keep stirring and all of a sudden you will see Chocolate bliss.  

6.  Once the Cream and Chocolate have come together add 1 t of Vanilla Extract and the tiniest pinch of fine grain Sea Salt and incorporate gently until well mixed.
Place in the refrigerator to cool for 20 mins.

7.  Towards the end of the Ganache chilling time, remove your chilled bowl and beaters and 4 c Heaving Whipping Cream from freezer.  Using a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid whisk attachment, whip the Heavy Cream with the 4 t of Vanilla Extract and 8 T Powdered Sugar into stiff peaks.  Set aside.

8.  Remove the chilled Ganache and spoon out 2 c into a large bowl.

9.  Spoon 1/3 of the Whipped Cream into the bowl of Ganache and mix well with the mixer until completely incorporated.  This will lighten it up.

10.  Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the rest of the Whipped Cream until well incorporated being careful not to deflate the Whipped Cream too much.

11.  Spoon the Mousse into glasses or a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hr (4-8 hrs is best) before serving or you can serve immediately for a softer Mousse.  Either way is delicious.  The Mousse will darken as it chills and thicken.

12.  To serve place a dollop of Whipped Cream on top and shaved Chocolate (White and/or Dark) or dust with Cocoa Powder.  Or Candied Nuts like Sugared Pecans or Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans.

TIP:  Add  layers of Raspberry puree blended with Whipped Cream between layers of Chocolate Mousse and Pound Cake in a glass.
TIP:  Pipe Chocolate Mousse in the center of Cupcakes for an amazing cream filling!  Fill a pastry bag with the Chocolate Mousse and using a long tip on  the end push the tip into the top of the cupcake deep to almost the bottom and fill as you remove back out.  Cover the hole it makes with Icing.

COPYRIGHT (c)  2010

September 13, 2010


Cinnamon Rolls can become addicting if you have ever eaten a really fresh baked one.  One that is made with real Brown Sugar and Cinnamon and creamy Butter with Dough that is fluffy and Buttery.
There are some that prefer a Cream Cheese Icing and others like a simple Powdered Sugar Icing but many people like them plain with nothing more than a hot cup of Coffee.  As they bake, the aroma of the sweet Cinnamon and Brown Sugar spreads from the kitchen and will all of a sudden draw a crowd from far and wide.  Don't let the steps below keep you from trying this recipe.  It is broken up into easy steps that make it seem not so hard once you are doing it.  And the end result is worth it all.  You can use a basic Yeast Bread Recipe for fluffy sweet Cinnamon Rolls or for Buttery rich Cinnamon Rolls use my Brioche Bread recipe.  Either one works perfect.  You'll be tempted to eat the fresh Cinnamon Rolls as soon as they come out of the oven but they need to cool some before eating.  The gooey filling is bubbling hot.  I must say I have not listened to my own advice and burned a lip once or twice...and it was worth it because I was Cooking The Amazing.

Here is the recipe.

1. STEP ONE:  First make the Bread Dough.  Either one of these recipes will work perfectly.   The Brioche Dough requires over night refrigeration if you are not planning on making these today.  It is worth the wait!  Brioche makes the best Cinnamon Rolls!

Here is the recipe for Brioche Bread Dough.

Or you can use Yeast Bread Dough which can be make the same day using your Bread machine to do all the work of kneading then it is baked in the oven. 
Here is the recipe for  Yeast Bread Dough.

2.  STEP TWO:  Follow the directions to making the recipe you choose for the Bread up to the point of:

BRIOCHE DOUGH:  Remove it from the refrigerator after over night resting and cut the Dough ball in half on Floured surface for rolling.  You are now ready to roll out your dough see STEP THREE.

YEAST BREAD DOUGH:  After the Dough has risen the first rise in the Bread machine, remove the Dough from the Bread machine to a Floured surface for rolling.  You are now ready to roll out your Dough see STEP THREE.

3.  STEP THREE:  Flour a board with 1/4 c All Purpose Flour and roll out your Dough to 1/4 inch thickness evenly in a rectangle shape.  I cut the Dough in half and make two separate batches from the Dough.  Total 24-30 Cinnamon Rolls.

4.  STEP FOUR:  Make the Cinnamon Filling.  Mix all the following ingredients in a medium bowl until it forms a paste using a fork. 

  • 2 1/4 c  Dark Brown Sugar, packed
  • 2 T   Ground Cinnamon
  • 1  Stick Butter, unsalted, softened
  • 2 t  Vanilla Extract
  • 1 c Pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

5.  STEP FIVE:  Spread the Cinnamon Filling evenly across the Dough to about 1/4 inch of the edge.

6.  STEP SIX:  Using your hands, roll the Dough from the bottom to the top.  Be careful not to compress the Dough to keep it fluffy after it bakes.

7.  STEP SEVEN:  Cut the Cinnamon Rolls from the rolled up Dough approximately 1 1/2 inch wide.  Cut gently so that they do not smash flat.  Use your hands to reform them into a round shape.  Makes about 24-30 Cinnamon Rolls.

8.  STEP EIGHT:  Place the cut Cinnamon Rolls an 1 1/2 inches apart in a prepared baking pan sprayed with Pam.  Either a 9 X 13 or 2 Cake pans will work.  Dark metal pans will cook them best.  Set them in a warm area to rise, doubling in size.  The Brioche will rise in about 2-2 1/2 hrs.  The Yeast Bread will rise in about 1 1/2- 2 hours.  I use my oven as a warm spot for rising by turning it on 200 degrees for 2 minutes then turn it off and opening the door and allowing most of the heat to escape.  Then I place the Cinnamon Rolls in the pans in the oven and close the door until double in size.

9.  STEP NINE:  After the Cinnamon Rolls have risen to double in size preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes in the center of the oven until the tops are browned.  Your oven may vary and require longer baking time.
10.  STEP TEN:  Allow to cool in the pan then ice with Icing if you desire.  Below are popular Icing recipes.


2  sticks Butter, unsalted, softened
16 oz. Cream Cheese, softened (2 bars)
4 c  Powdered Sugar
4 t  Vanilla Extract
1/4  t  Almond Extract
1 pinch  Salt (very small pinch)Total Prep Time: 7 minutes (except time to soften butter and cream cheese.)

  1. Allow Butter and Cream Cheese to sit out until it is room temperature and softened.
  2. In a large bowl, place the softened Butter.
  3. Cream the Butter with a hand mixer for 2 minutes.  Then add the Cream Cheese and cream for 2 minutes or so more.
  4. 1 cup at a time, add the Powdered Sugar and blend well.
  5. Add Salt, Vanilla and Almond Extracts and mix well.  Keep Cream Cheese Icing at room temperature for the best consistency to ice cakes.
  6. Refrigerate unused icing. To use again, bring to room temperature then mix with a hand mixer for about 1 minute before using.
  7. OPTION:  For those that like a very strong Cream Cheese taste add another 4 oz. of Cream Cheese for a more intense flavor.


2 c  Powdered Sugar
1 1/2  t   Vanilla Extract
1 1/2  T  Milk

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk or blend with a hand mixer until completely mixed well and runny. It takes a minute or two of mixing to become the right consistency.  Add 1 t more of Milk as needed if too thick.

2.  Pour over the cooled Cinnamon Rolls and allow to set before serving.

COPYRIGHT (c) 2010



My Grandma is one of those great home cooks that can make a can of beans taste like the best you've ever eaten.  She has a lot of great recipes that she has made over the years that are really good and you can't wait to eat them.  One of her most requested recipes is Banana Pudding.  It is a creamy luscious dessert that has comforting memories attached to it.  The recipe is simple and is best made the night before so the flavors can develop and the pudding can thicken. 
Here is her recipe (with her permission) that she has made for years and is a staple at our family get togethers.  The bowl is always scraped clean because it is that delicious.  Make this for your family and you will be Cooking The Amazing.
                       My Grandma

Here is Grandma's recipe.

3 c  Whole Milk
2  boxes, 5.1 oz  ea., Instant Vanilla Pudding (Jello)
8 oz  Sour Cream
16 oz  Cool Whip, divided
4-5  Bananas, large
1 Box  Vanilla Waffer Cookies, divided

1.  In a large mixing bowl pour  3 c Milk over the two boxes of Instant Vanilla Pudding *(This is the large boxes, 5.1 oz each) and mix with a hand mixer until well blended.

2.  Add Sour Cream and mix well with hand mixer.

3.  Add 12 oz of the Cool Whip (reserve the other 4 oz for the top later) and mix well with hand mixer.

4.  Spoon 1/4 th of the Pudding mixture into a very large serving bowl and slice 1/3 rd of the Bananas on top in a single layer.  Place a layer of whole Vanilla Waffers on top of Bananas and cover with 1/4 th of the Pudding mixture.

5.  Repeat these steps ending with the final 1/4 th layer of Pudding on top.

6.  Spoon the last 4 oz of Cool Whip on top of the Pudding layer evenly covering the entire surface.

6.  Crush about 5-6 Vanilla Waffer Cookies in a large sealed baggie (with all the air out) using a rolling pin or large can.  Sprinkle the crushed Cookies over the top of the Cool Whip then cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate over night (for best taste) or at least 8 hours.

7.  To serve, place whole Vanilla Waffer Cookies around the edge.

For an Amazing dessert, serve this Pudding over my fresh baked Banana Bread Muffins!

COPYRIGHT (c)  2010