Lemon-Dill Butter

The consistency of this butter is a little different due to the lemon zest and juice that are added. It melts the same and tastes just as good though.

This butter is delicious on probably anything. So far I have enjoyed it on grilled shrimp, orzo, and tilapia. It is super easy to make and adds a nice touch to your meal.


  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 tbsp. dried dill (or 1 tbsp. fresh dill)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest


In a small dish, melt butter on microwave for 20 seconds. Remove and add all ingredients. Stir to combine everything. Taste for seasonings. Put in refrigerator for about 30 minutes until the butter has set.

If you want, after about 15 minutes (when the butter is still soft and pliable but is not liquefied) you can move it from the bowl to plastic wrap and form it into a log. Or you can just leave it in the bowl and serve from there.


Lemon-Dill Orzo

Last week I made this orzo as an experimental side dish to grilled shrimp. Not to toot my own horn, but it was amazing. Everyone said they wanted seconds, and unfortunately I had not made enough for that. Which is rare, because normally I cook enough for a large army (even though there are generally only 2-4 of us eating). This week I made sure to make enough for leftovers plus some.

Tonight I made this glorious dish again, but added feta and grape tomatoes. It was again, amazing. I make it with a scampi-type sauce to coat the orzo, but I add lots of herbs.

I serve this dish cold or at room temp, but you could serve it warm if you would like. I kind of like it as a pasta salad-esq dish.


  • 3 cups dry orzo
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. Gourmet Garden Italian herb paste
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill (or fresh)
  • ¼ cup feta
  • ¾ cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest (zest of 1 or 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of about 2 lemons)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Basil oil, optional


Cook the orzo according to directions. Drain and leave in colander.

Cut the tomatoes into small pieces (if using grape or cherry tomatoes cut them into quarters or eighths).

In a separate sauté pan, combine 2 tbsp. olive oil with the herb paste, lemon zest, lemon juice, and dill and whisk together. Cook on medium low heat. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Once the rest of your meal is ready, pour the room temp orzo into a serving bowl. Pour the sauce on top and stir to coat all the orzo. Add feta and chopped tomatoes. Toss some more. Taste to see if any seasonings need to be added. Drizzle basil olive oil on top.

Baked-on gunk ruining your pans?

Ever have trouble with baked on food? I have. A lot. And I generally just scrub and scrub and it comes off. However, there have been a few times that this technique got me nowhere. I did some research online in a desperate attempt to clean my pyrex.

You will only need a few basil supplies to save your pans:

  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • Water
  • A stove
  • A metal whisk
  • Scouring pad

I found out that you can pour a layer of baking soda into the almost-ruined pan and then fill the pan ¾ of the way up with warm water. Place the pan on the stove and turn the burner to low. Simmer the liquid for about 15 minutes and about every 2 minutes use a metal whisk to scrape the burnt-on pieces from the bottom of the pan.

When it looks like you have most of the burnt-on stuff removed, pour the water out and add a little vinegar to the pan. Use a scouring pad to scrub the last few pieces off. Rinse with water and clean as usual.

Potato and Corn Chowder with Chicken Ceasar Salad

At Martha’s Market a few weeks ago I discovered Frontier Soups. It is a company that makes dry soup mixes and they are wonderful! You can order them online or you can look at local retailers. I know that Whole Foods carries the soups. Tonight I am making perhaps the simplest meal you can make. It is Illinois Prairie Corn Chowder with a chicken Caesar salad (which is a salad bag mix).

All you have to do is get the soup mix and a Dole Caesar salad bag (I think Dole has the best dressing and I particularly love their Ultimate Caesar salad mix).

I basically followed the directions on the soup mix but I changed a few things. I used 1 ½ cups of half and half and ½ cup 2% milk, instead of the 2 cups of cream that it calls for. I also added an extra 2 cups of frozen corn (since fresh isn’t in season). The directions say to peel the potatoes, but I left the skins on mine. I also wanted my soup a little thicker so I added a little extra milk that I mixed with cornstarch. Also, I added garlic powder, lots of salt and pepper to the soup.


  • 1 bag Dole Ultimate Caesar salad mix
  • 1 chicken breast
  • A few shakes of each: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper
  • Olive oil (about 2 tbsp.)
  • 1 bag of Frontier Soups Illinois Corn Chowder Mix
  • Extra ingredients that the soup calls for: 2-3 white potatoes (I used about 5 small ones), 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, 2 cups cream or milk, 8 cups low sodium chicken broth.
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup milk
  • 2 -3 tbsp. salt (I know it’s a lot but you have to flavor the potatoes and the corn)
  • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded (for garnish)


Wash potatoes and cut them into ¼ inch pieces. Put them into a large (at least 12 cup) pot. Pour in 8 cups of low sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5 minutes and then add the ingredients in the soup mix bag. Lower heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

Marinate the chicken in paprika, garlic powder, olive oil, onion powder, salt and pepper. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a sauté pan, add a little olive oil (maybe 1 tsp.) over medium high heat. When pan is hot, add the chicken breast (I cut mine into half lengthwise, so it will cook and cool more quickly). Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is browned and then flip the chicken and repeat. Set aside and let cool.

Add the 2 cups of cream (or milk and cream mix) and the fresh or frozen corn kernels to the soup. Let cook on low, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, until slightly thickened. I found that mine did not thicken as much as I had hoped, so I mixed 1 tsp. of cornstarch into ¼ cup cold milk and added that to the soup and stirred.

Cut the chicken into thin slices. Pour the contents of the salad bag into a bowl and toss together. Put chilled chicken on top and serve alongside the soup.

Remove the bay leaf from the soup before serving. Garnish with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese.

Roasted Red Peppers

Using just 3 red peppers makes more than this picture shows, I had already used some of the roasted peppers, but the jar was mostly filled when I finished making the batch.

It is so easy to make your own homemade roasted red peppers and they can be used in so many dishes. I am not a huge pepper fan, but roasting them brings out their sweetness. You can use as many peppers as you want to do this. You can use these peppers in pastas, on sandwiches, burgers, to make roasted red pepper pesto, roasted red pepper soup, or roasted red pepper mayonnaise.


Heat the oven to 450°. Put however many red peppers you want onto a baking sheet. I used 3 peppers when I made my batch, but you can use as few or as many as you would like. Bake them until each side is blackened, rotating as needed. This takes about 30 minutes total.

Take the peppers out of the oven once they are blackened on all 4 sides and place them in a large glass bowl. Immediately cover with saran wrap so that it is air tight. This will allow the peppers to “sweat” their skins off so that you can peel them.

Once cooled, peel the skins off. Pull off the stem and rip open and gently scrape all the seeds out.

Cut into slices. Pack into an old jar, drizzle with olive oil, and shake up so the olive oil is evenly distributed. Store in your fridge.

Steak Pot Pie with Cabernet Sauvignon, Potatoes, and Mushrooms

Hurricane Sandy is on the rise and it is cold and rainy here. School has been closed for tomorrow, so I am taking this as a “snowday”. My roommate and I figured it is the perfect day to make a fire, carve pumpkins, have mimosas and drink our current favorite red wine (Espuela del Gaucho’s Malbec), which was the perfect accompaniment to the steak pot pie). So, we did just that. It was a wonderful fall day!

We also figured that we should have cold-weather meal, and what better than a steak pot pie filled with mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, Cabernet and Balsamic! I found this recipe on pinterest. Lindsey Weiss created this recipe in honor of her home town or Kansas City, and went on the Today show to make this delicious pot pie! I have changed the recipe slightly to suit my taste.

The first time I made this dish I did not use the right meat (I can’t remember what I used but it was too tough, even though it cooked for 3 hours). My parents brought me tenderloin tips from a local farm in Maryland and I used those this time and the dish turned out to be much more tender and flavorful! You could probably use beef cubes for stew, but I think I will only use tenderloin tips from now on.

This dish takes a while to make but it is well worth it!


  • 1 pound tenderloin tips (I have used other steaks, but find this one to be the best for this dish)
  • 2 tbsp. McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms (baby portabella’s would work as well)
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced thyme
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced oregano
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon, chilled (Merlot would probably work too)
  • 1 package prepared puff pastry sheets
  • 2 eggs, beaten


If using a cut of meat that is not already diced up, then dice the meat. In a large Ziploc bag, marinate the steak in Montreal steak seasoning, ¼ cup red wine, and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar.

Prep your veggies: Use a damp cloth to wipe the mushroom caps clean and remove the stems. Cut into small pieces (I don’t love mushrooms so I cut mine pretty small but you can make them bigger if you enjoy mushrooms). Peel and cut the carrots into ½ inch pieces. Cut the onion into ½ inch pieces. Mince the garlic. Wash and cut the potatoes into ½ inch pieces. Finely chop the fresh rosemary. Chill the red wine (it is best to have it at least slightly chilled so that the cornstarch doesn’t clump when it is added to the wine).

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the steak pieces in the olive oil just until browned (but not fully cooked). Use a slotted spoon to remove steak from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. In the same pot, sauté the onion and carrots until softened and aromatic (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms, potatoes, and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, covered. Stir in paprika, thyme, oregano, rosemary, bay leaves, and a little salt and pepper.

Add the beef stock and browned steak into the pot. Stir to combine everything and reduce the heat to medium low.

Cover the pot and allow the stew to simmer gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. At this point, you want the meat to be very tender and the potatoes to be very cooked (you might want to taste a piece of each to check).

Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the cornstarch with chilled red wine and whisk. Turn the heat up to medium and pour in the cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to simmer rapidly until thickened, about 5 minutes. If the stew isn’t thick enough for you, add a little more wine to a measuring cup (even if it’s not chilled) and a little more cornstarch (about 1 tsp.) and whisk together, then add that to the stew and stir altogether.

Remove bay leaves from the filling and pour into a pyrex baking dish. You want the filling to almost reach the top so that the pastry has something to rest on.

Cut the pastry into strips (if needed) and place onto the casserole dish so that the entire dish is covered. Whisk 2 eggs together and brush the top of the pastry with the eggs.

Cut 2 slits into each pie to allow the steam to escape and brush pastry with the rest of the beaten egg. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or just until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown. You might want to put a baking sheet on the rack below the casserole to catch any juices that overflow during baking. I made this mistake of not doing this and the entire bottom of the oven was covered in red wine and balsamic juices.

Serve with roasted broccoli, a salad, or asparagus.

The Better Burger Sauce

This is an all-in-one burger sauce. It combines the most common condiments  (plus a few other ingredients) to make a delectable sauce that is wonderful served on burgers or on grilled steak sandwiches. I do not fancy relish or pickles but you could add some sweet relish to the mix and it would probably be good for those who enjoy that kind of thing.


  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup mayo (I used Dukes)
  • 1 tbs. ketchup
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire
  • ¼ tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • A few shakes garlic powder and paprika


Mix all ingredients together and serve on burgers or steak sandwiches.

Creamy Pesto Fettuccini Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

The other night I got a brilliant idea: mix homemade pesto into the base of my alfredo sauce for a creamy and delightful pasta. I also added grilled chicken, but you could always add grilled shrimp, or serve as a vegetarian dish.

In August I made a huge batch of basil pesto because my basil plant was going bonkers! (the recipe for the pesto is posted under sauces). You could use store-bought pesto (basil or roasted red pepper, or sun dried tomato would all work) but make sure that you get a really good one – sometimes you pay for what you get!

Ingredients for the Marinade

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied (or 10-15 raw, deveined and peeled jumbo shrimp)
  • A few shakes of each: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, mustard powder, salt and ground pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. white wine (I used pinot grigio)

Ingredients for the Sauce

  • Fettuccini noodles
  • 1 stick of butter, salted is best for this
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk (2% or whole is preferable)
  • ½ to ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan (you must be careful when adding the parm to the hot milk mixture or it will clump – details to follow)
  • A lot of freshly ground pepper (maybe about 1 tbsp)
  • A lot of salt (maybe 1 tsp – or more to taste)
  • 2 tsp. basil pesto (thawed – I froze my pesto into ice cube trays when I made it and then I defrost what I want before I use it)
  • Basil oil (optional)


Butterfly the chicken by taking a very sharp knife and cutting the chicken in half lengthwise (I buy Perdue chicken breasts when they’re on sale -they come with the tenderloin still attached so you may have to trim that off as well). Marinate the chicken (or shrimp) in a few shakes of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Add a splash of white wine (I used pinot grigio) and about 4-5 tbsp. olive oil. Mix altogether in a large Ziploc bag and let sit for about 2 hours. *If you are using shrimp instead of chicken then you will need to skewer them onto kebobs (if they are 4\wooden make sure they have been soaked in water for at least an hour)*

Preheat the grill (I use charcoal so it takes about 30 minutes to preheat). When really hot, add the chicken and grill for about 3-5 minutes on each side. You want it to be nice and char-grilled. Take chicken off grill and set aside.

Melt the butter on low. Once butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth and thickened slightly.

At this point, raise heat to medium and add the milk and whisk until thickened. Add a fair amount of freshly ground pepper (at least 1 tsp) and salt. Turn off heat and wait about 2 minutes. Add the parm and whisk immediately. Do not add the parm to scolding hot milk or it will congeal and the dish will be ruined (if this does happen, which it has happened to every cook I know, then just use a strainer to fish out the congealed parm and then  re-add the parm to the milk mixture).

Whisk the alfredo sauce until thickened. Add the pesto and stir. Taste to see if it needs salt or pepper. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little more milk and whisk. The sauce should continue to thicken once it sits.

At this point, cook the fettuccini noodles, about 10-12 minutes. Drain the noodles and add to the sauce (you can also just serve the sauce on top of the noodles, instead of mixing altogether in the pot). If you do add the noodles to the sauce, let the whole concoction sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the pasta with grilled chicken on top and drizzle with basil oil.

Green Beans with Shallots

This recipe was inspired by the green beans with shallots from Whole Foods. They were not an exact replicate, but still very tasty indeed.


  • 1 pound green beans, washed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder


Trim both ends off of the green beans. Dice the shallot.

Fill a large sauté pan with salted water. Add the green beans and bring to a boil. Cook green beans for 5-7 minutes and then remove with tongs to a separate plate.

Pour out the water from the sauté pan and add a little olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring.

Once the shallot is translucent and a little browned, add the green beans back to the pan. Sprinkle a little salt, ground pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Turn heat down to medium low and add 2 tbsp. butter and toss. Cover and warm the green beans back up for about 4 minutes.

Loredona Viognier

I have been on a big Viognier kick recently. I am trying to a new one night, which I must admit, is not my favorite. It is a little too acidic for my taste. I prefer my viogniers too be a bit smoother and fruitier (even though I don’t love sweet wines). It is on sale at Kroger for $7.99 from the regular price of $14.99.