Monday, January 31, 2011

Penne with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

When I was little, I was one of those kids who hated mushrooms because they were "slimy".  Then, when I was a teenager I wouldn't eat mushrooms because "eating fungus is gross".  Well something must have happened to me because mushrooms are now one of my favorite ingredients.  I love their earthiness and the way it can almost feel like you're eating meat, without actually eating meat of course.  This pasta dish is hearty, earthy and probably going to become one of my favorite dinners.  Served with some bread and a salad with a bunch of veggies, this meal is awesome.

Serves 4 as a main dish

4 T. butter, divided 
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used one box of button and one box of baby bella)
1/2 t. dried basil
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
1/4 c. vegetable broth
1/4 c. white wine
2 T. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
2 t. fresh chives, chopped (optional)

parmesan cheese (optional)

1 lb. penne pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling and add pasta.  Cook according to directions on box to al dente.

In a large skillet, melt 2 T. butter over medium.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds before adding mushrooms, basil, salt, pepper, vegetable broth and white wine.  Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 6 minutes.  

Add the remaining 2 T. butter, olive oil. and lemon juice.  Let the butter melt and then bring to a boil for 3-5 minutes and let the sauce thicken to your liking.  Add parsley and chives and then spoon over cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese.  


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Friday, January 28, 2011

Lemon Bars

Today I accomplished something I consider amazing .  With my daughter playing in another room, I managed to bake with no other adults in the house for the very first time since she was born nearly 11 months ago.  Of course, this Betty Crocker recipe is one of the most simple baking recipes I've ever seen, but still.  I kept one eye on her and one eye on my lemon custard, she kept herself entertained, and when she went down for her afternoon nap I was able to relax with an extremely tasty lemon bar.  Please note that the recipe calls for a dusting of powdered sugar, and not the avalanche I gave it.

1 c. all purpose flour (minus 1 T.)
1/2 c. butter, softened (do not substitute margarine)
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1 T. grated lemon peel
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
extra powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, butter and 1/4 c. powdered sugar.  It will be very un-dough-like, do not worry.  Press it into an ungreased 8x8 pan, with a 1/4 inch edge on each side.

Bake for 20 minutes then remove from oven.

While the crust is in the oven, beat the remaining ingredients (except for the extra powdered sugar) with an electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes, until light an fluffy.  Pour over hot crust.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar.

Cut into pieces and savor while your kid is sleeping.

*When I took this out of the oven, I was really concerned.  I'd never made lemon bars before and when they came out, the top was a thin brown crust.  They tasted exactly right, so no worries if this happens to you as well.  Also, it's just my opinion, but the lemon filling might be the best I've ever had.

~Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, Bridal Edition
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Easy Roast Chicken

I vowed that I would never in my life make a chicken, turkey, quail, or any kind of bird that would require me sticking a hand inside of it. Luckily for me, my husband doesn't mind doing that and I now have a new favorite dinner. Roast Chicken. It's easy to prepare and even easier to eat. Even the white meat is juicy!  What's even better is all of the leftovers you can get out of it.  I'm currently in the habit of making this every other Sunday, but when there are more mouths around here that actually eat chicken (the baby won't), I could see this becoming a weekly tradition.

Serves 6, but we just use the leftovers to make something else.

1 5-6 lb. roasting chicken
salt and pepper
1 large bunch of fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head of garlic, cut in half
4 T. butter, melted divided
1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 c. chicken stock
2 T. all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425.
Remove the giblets(or have your significant other do this). Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with the thyme, both halves of the lemon, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with 2 T. of melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Scatter the onion slices around the chicken

Roast the chicken for 1.5 hours or until the juices run clear. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy.

Remove all the fat from the bottom of the pan (my chickens never seem to leave any fat). Add the chicken stock to the pan and return to the oven for 3-4 minutes and scrape the bottom of the pan. Combine the 2 T. flour with the remaining 2 T. melted butter and add to the pan. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and season it to taste. Keep it warm over a very low flame while you carve the chicken.

Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve immediately with the warm gravy.

Original recipe can be found in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lemon Tarragon Peas

Marriage is all about compromise.  When B and I got married, we combined pretty conflicting food choices and had to compromise on those.  So, he's started eating more bell peppers and I've started eating pork chops and also peas.  I came across this easy pea recipe the other day while in search for an easy side dish and decided that is was pea time again.  I love tarragon and lemon so the thought of the two of them together had me actually anticipating peas for once.  The end result was extremely flavorful peas, that were just a tad heavy on the butter and not too licoricey from the tarragon.  What's even better, is that my 10 month old who used to cry while eating peas gobbled these up.

Serves 4 adults as a side dish.  Takes about 15 minutes to cook from start to finish.

16 oz. bag of frozen peas
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 T. butter (I recommend using 1 1/2 T.)
1 t. minced fresh tarragon (or 1/2 t. dried)
1/2 t. grated lemon peel
1 t. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Place peas, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and add just enough water to cover.  Boil, then reduce and simmer for 6 minutes.  Drain

Return the peas to the saucepan and add all the remaining ingredients.  Stir until the butter is melted.  


~Original recipe found on

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

This is my go-to side dish for nights when I have no idea what to serve with dinner.  No, there are no vegetables so it's not exactly healthy, but it is quite delicious.  It takes very little time, and requires hardly any attention which means it's a perfect dish to make while you're devoting your time elsewhere.

This quickly became a favorite in my house and is now known simply as "mac and cheese".

1 1/2 T. butter or margarine (we're a butter household)
1 c. orzo pasta
1 3/4 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper (optional)
basil, cut into a chiffonade(optional)

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  When melted stir in the orzo to coat and toast for a minute.  Pour in broth and simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is barely gone.  Stir in parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper, and basil if you choose.


~The basil adds a lot of flavor, so you don't need to use much.  I add it when it's summer and growing like a weed in my garden.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Emperors of Chocolate ~ book review

My name is Lauren and I'm a chocoholic.  Actually, I think I was raised to be one, so it's not technically my fault.  My dad instilled a love of all things chocolatey from a very young age and I'm now the owner of perhaps the sweetest tooth ever.  So when I first heard of the book The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner I knew that I had to read it.

The Emperors of Chocolate is an in-depth study of the inner workings of the two giants in the American chocolate business:  Hershey and Mars.  This is made all the more interesting when you learn that Mars has only allowed a couple of interviews to be conducted ever since at least the 1960s.  Hershey is almost as secretive but has to release a certain amount of information because they are a publicly held company.

Think of Willy Wonka, but instead of England, it's McLean, Virginia.  Instead of Oompa Loompas who live in the factory, you have factory workers who get to go home, but can't say anything about the company they work for.  Willy Wonka wears eclectic clothes.  Forrest Mars didn't, but he was an odd fellow indeed.  Even his children were denied the luxury of a single M&M because the company needed them to be sold.

Forrest Mars took over the company that makes us our Snickers bars in the 1960s after his father passed away.  Mars also owns a number of other business that shocked me, like Pedigree and Whiskas.  Forrest had his eyes set on world domination of the chocolate industry, and it seems that he has achieved it.  To do this though, he behaved as a tyrant, haraunging his staff, and screaming at them for specks of chocolate on their uniforms.  He was a difficult man to work for, but he was good at what he did.

Then we come to Milton Hershey.  Different in almost every way from Forrest, Milton wanted to create a utopian town centered around a chocolate factory.  He went blindly into making chocolates after selling his caramel company and started throwing ingredients together in an attempt to create milk chocolate.  He ended up being successful and created Hershey, Pennsylvania.  He also created a school for orphans, based in Hershey.  He didn't have his mind set on world domination, only helping out the town he founded and keeping the school going.  That's perhaps why Hershey is known as a non-threat to the world chocolate industry.  Hershey never tried to branch out and adapt their flavors to other countries' tastes.  The world at large views Hershey's chocolate as "barnyard" and "stale", which I would have to agree with.  His town exists now, mostly as a tourist trap, but at least it's a sweet smelling one.  Oh, and nobody is allowed to tour his factory anymore, for fear of secrets getting out.

Overall I think this book was incredibly fun to read.  It's meant as a business book, but the first half reads almost like a novel.  The second half stalled just a bit for me when it got into the nitty gritty of who owns what companies and who was running which sector of which company when.  Other than that, this is well worth the time for anybody who is interested in knowing where our obsession with certain candy bars came about.

I have to go buy some M&Ms now.

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Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats in Chocolate

I love to bake.  I have for years.  I consider myself to be pretty good at it.  For some reason though, I suck at making Rice Krispies.  The first time I tried I was about 19 years old.  The result:  hard as a brick.  They could break your teeth they were so hard.  Up until yesterday I had only attempted them once more and while they were better, they still broke the tip off of a knife.  Yesterday I saw a recipe for these heavenly looking things on Brown Eyed Baker and decided that I needed to give it another go.

This time they were peanut butter Rice Krispie Treats, and they were dipped in CHOCOLATE!  How could a sane person resist?  Well, this one couldn't so now I'm sitting here eating one as I type this and I'm telling you, they are fantastic.  I managed to mix everything well enough that there's still that slight gooeyness that comes with a Rice Krispie, even though I know that I could have mixed it a little more.  So there!  I have conquered my nemesis.  Rice Krispie Treat, I no longer fear you.  But I will dip you in chocolate from now on.

1.5 T. butter
5 oz (half of a bag) marshmallows
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
3 c. Rice Krispies

For the Dipping Chocolate:
2 c. milk chocolate chips
2 T. vegetable shortening

Grease an 8x8 inch square pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add in the marshmallow and stir until melted.  Add the peanut butter and keep stirring until everything is completely melted and combined.  Remove from heat and stir in cereal.

Press the mixture into the greased pan and place in refrigerator for an hour, or until set.  Do not try and speed it up by putting it in the freezer, it will make the treats too hard later and you'll lose time waiting for them to warm up.  I know this from experience.

After they have set up in the fridge, remove the pan and run a knife around the edges and turn out onto a cutting board.  Cut into small squares, about 3 dozen.  If you try and cut more, you'll likely run out of chocolate.  I know this from experience as well.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and shortening until melted smooth.

Skewer each square with a toothpick and dip into the chocolate mixture, covering all sides.  Place the dipped square onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

These can store in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

Original recipe can be found here Brown Eyed Baker's delicious recipe

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baby's Apples

It's a little lame that the first food post on my new cooking blog is baby food, but a lot of my time revolves around the little lady right now!  This is all I ended up cooking yesterday, so here it is.

One goal I had for myself as a stay at home mom was to make my daughter's food.  At almost eleven months old, I can proudly say that she has never had a bit of puree from a jar or pouch or however else they come.

I don't believe that you need a special machine to make purees for your baby.  I think all you need is a steamer basket, a food processor or food mill, some ice cube trays and a little bit of time.

Here's how I make baby lady's apples.

4-6 medium sized apples  ~  I prefer to use Fuji as they are a firmer fruit and still low in acid.  Golden and Red Delicious ones are also low acidity apples, but baby lady seems to like the Fuji ones more.

Cut the apples into slices.  In pot that fits your steamer basket, bring an inch of water to a boil.  When it is boiling, add the apple slices to the basket and cover the pot with a lid.  After about 8 minutes, check the apples by poking them with a knife.  If they are ready the knife will slide in with no hesitation.

At this point remove the apples to a separate bowl and allow to cool for about 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  At that point, remove the apple peel with a knife and place the slices in a food processor.  Run or pulse until the apples are at a consistency your baby can handle.

Freeze in ice cube trays.

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Friday, January 21, 2011


So, in case you don't know me, my name is Lauren and my last name starts with the letters MO.  Therefore, we have L-Mo.

I moved to the DC area about 4 years ago when I got married.  Since I was in a new area and didn't know a single person here, I spent a lot of my time cooking and baking, and also reading books.  I would give myself goals, like 50 books in a year, or something like that.  In 2009 I ended up with 48 I believe.

Flash forward to January 2011 and I now have a 10 month old little girl, who is a joy, but like most babies is a free-time suck.  When I was pregnant I had decided that as a stay at home mom I would have lots of time for hobbies, so much though that I could even pick up a few new ones.  Boy, was I wrong!  Only recently was I able to start cooking and baking, mostly as part of a New Year's resolution to cook more (the Subway people knew our order by heart), and also reading again.  I have the goal of 33 books this year, 3 each from 11 categories.  

So, to wrap it up, I want to share the recipes that I discover and enjoy, and I'll also review the books that I read whether I like them or not.  


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