Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Makes Brownies


I’m going to start this with a disclaimer: I’m not so great in the kitchen. I’ve never had a passion for cooking or baking; therefore, I don’t have the natural skills when it comes to recipes. I decided to take on the challenge of “Warm Nutty Caramel Brownies”. I believe I was set up for failure from the start. 1) They would not be served warm because they have to travel to work and wait around for a 2:30 meeting. 2) Something is up with my oven – I should call my landlord about that.

The recipe seemed simple at first, just a few things needed. I’ve made brownies and had some success in the past. There were a few special touches, but I was up for the challenge. The recipe called for “cake-like” brownies. I took that literally and thought it would be fun to combine a box of brownie mix with a box of cake mix. Spoiler alert: that mixture does not make cake-like brownies. It just makes cake.

Greg always takes photos of his food. So I decided to take some photos of my brownie journey. A couple things I learned:
– I really need to start a registry. I don’t own a real food processor or a mixer. These might have made my brownies more successful.
– Baking seems like more of a family activity. However, the lovely father/daughter photo on the back of the box kept me company.
– I’m glad a bought the nuts pre-chopped. This goes back to the food chopper problem.

Round 1 was a complete failure – straight to the garbage. Don’t be fooled by the photo, it did not come out well at all. Round 2 seemed ok – a little more of a cake consistency, some with nuts some without. All and all, this is not a recipe for a beginner – Greg’s supervision is definitely necessary!

Simple Pot Roast

This was the first recipe I made in my new Le Creuset Dutch Oven
and what a difference it made! The Le Creuset Dutch Oven, actually they call it a French Oven, is made of porcelain enamel cast iron which is unexcelled for its heat distribution and retention, this French oven cooks foods evenly and gently without hot spots at low temperatures.

1 chuck-eye roast(about 3 1/2 pounds), boneless
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 small carrot, chopped medium
1 small rib celery, chopped medium
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup dry red wine

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly pat roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roast to large plate; set aside. Reduce heat to medium; add onion, carrot, and celery to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and sugar; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and beef broths and thyme, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot; add enough water to come halfway up sides of roast. Bring liquid to simmer over medium heat, then place large piece of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook, turning roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

3. Transfer roast to carving board; tent with foil to keep warm. Allow liquid in pot to settle about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface; discard thyme sprig. Boil over high heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Add red wine and reduce again to 1 1/2 cups, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Using chef’s or carving knife, cut meat against the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices, or pull apart into large pieces; transfer meat to warmed serving platter and pour about 1/2 cup sauce over meat. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Made this for dinner the other night. It was fast and easy to make and very tasty!

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 40 min
Makes: 6 servings, 1 cup each

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes in medium bowl. Add stuffing mix, water and garlic; stir just until stuffing mix is moistened. Set aside.

PLACE chicken in 13×9-inch baking dish; sprinkle with the basil and cheese. Top with stuffing mixture.

BAKE 30 min. or until chicken is cooked through.

Parmesan & Herb Bread
Parmesan & Herb Bread

servings 4
time to make 20 min 5 min prep
8 slices continental bread
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce

1. Arrange slices of bread on a foil lined baking tray.
2. Mix remaining ingredients together.
3. Spread mixture liberally over each piece of bread.
4. Bake in a moderate oven, 180 C, for 10-15 mins or until crisp & golden.

Shun Knives


I’ve been wanting to get some new knives for a few months now, but wasn’t quite sure what to get. My wife’s uncle recommended I look into Shun knives. So I stopped by our local Sur La Tabla so I could check them out in person. I really liked the way they looked and how they felt in my hand. They have a D shaped black handle and Damascus style blades.

I purchased the Shun Paring Knife for $44.95 from Sur La Tabla and then ordered on the Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife with Scallops for $128.77 and the Shun Sharpening Steel for $39.95.

WOW! I never really realized how dull my old knives were until I started using the Shun knives. These things are scary sharp! They just melt through everything like butter. Shun knives are Japanese made and unlike a typical German knife with a 22 degree angle on the blade, the Shuns have a 16 degree angle. Making them super sharp and they stay that way for a long time thanks to the hardness of the VG-10 steel core and the 32 layers of high-carbon stainless steel.

Check out the video below to learn more about Shun from Food Network star Alton Brown

I’ve been using these knives for almost a month now and I honestly don’t know how I survived without them! Having good sharp knifes is probably one of the most important things you can have in your kitchen. In many ways these knifes are safer then my old dull knives because they don’t require the force that my old ones did when chopping or slicing. They really are a joy to use and I highly recommend them. Thanks Tom for introducing me to the wonderful world of Shun Knives!

Alton Brown also did an entertaining and informative video called the School for Knives. Its a good primer on the different types of knives and their uses. Check it out below…

Grilled Filet Mignon

Grilled Filet Mignon
Click on photo to enlarge.

This is my recipe for Grilled Filet Mignon.

I don’t actually measure what I put in my marinade, I’ve made it enough that I can just eyeball it. Feel free to experiment with the amounts you use.
What follows is a rough estimate of what I use for two steaks.

Add the following to a 1 gallon Zip Lock bag.

  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 3 minced garlic cloves. (I use minced garlic in a jar)
  • 3 tablespoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 2 Filet Mignons (I get mine from CostCo)

Shake and mix everything up in the bag so the steaks are well covered in the marinade. I let the steaks sit in the marinade at room temperature for 15-20mins while the Traeger Grill heats up to high. I usually use Hickory, Mesquite, Cherry, or Maple wood in the grill. I put the steaks on the grill for about 4 minutes and then use tongs to turn the steaks over. Don’t stab the steaks or the juices will come out.

I use a Remote Probe Thermometer that lets me keep an eye on the internal temperature of the steaks wirelessly. An instant-read thermometer would work as well. Remember medium rare is 145°F; medium 160°F and well done is 170°F. Filet Mignon taste best medium rare to medium.

When the steaks are done pull them off the grill and let them rest for about 10 minutes. DO NOT CUT INTO THE STEAKS TO CHECK FOR DONENESS!!! This will let all the good juices run out and dry out the steak!

I’ve never tried this on a gas or charcoal grill, but I imagine they will still taste pretty good. They just won’t have that extra flavor that the Traeger Grill adds.


Pampered Chef Party

Pampered Chef Salad ChopperWe had some friends over last week for a Pampered Chef Party. One of the cool new gadgets we got to try out is the Pampered Chef Salad Chopper. It’s like a pair of scissors, but with a blade and a scooper instead of two blades. It allows you to cut up your ingredients all together in a bowl. Its great for making salsa or guacamole. We made guacamole with it and used it to cut up onions, avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro. All in the bowl! You can read more about it and order one here.

We also made a 30 Minute Chicken IN THE MICROWAVE! It was very easy to make and you would never believe it was cooked in a microwave after tasting it.

Of course I had to also make a BBQ Chicken on the Trager Grill. I used hickory wood to smoke the chicken for 2 hours. As everything that comes off the Trager, it was delicious. Not everyone always has hours to cook chicken this way though so 30 mins in the microwave is perfect for those times when there just isn’t enough time.

For desert Jen, our Pampered Chef Consultant for the evening, made Warm Nutty Caramel Brownies. (Bill helped chop the nuts with the Pampered Chef Food Chopper) Mmmm… I’m going to go eat one or two or three right now!
Check out the recipes after the photos…

Click on a photo to make it bigger.

Our Little Helperpc-helper.jpgpc-guac.jpgpc-bread.jpgpc-cheese.jpgpc-cheese21.jpgBBQ ChickenBBQ Chickenpc-chicken.jpgpc-prep.jpgpc-chips.jpgpc-jen-brownies.jpgpc-jen.jpg

30-Minute Chicken



1 whole chicken (3 1/2-4 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Seasoning Mixture
Pampered Chef Rosemary Herb Seasoning Mix

1. For chicken, lightly spray Deep Covered Baker with oil using Kitchen Spritzer. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken cavity. Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Trim excess fat using Kitchen Shears, if necessary. Tie ends of legs together with cotton string. Lift wing tips up toward neck, then tuck under back of chicken. Place chicken onto Cutting Board; brush with oil using Chef’s Silicone Basting Brush.

2. Completely coat outside of chicken with seasoning mixture. Place chicken, breast side up, into baker.

3. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 25-30 minutes or until Pocket Thermometer registers 165°F in thickest part of breast and juices run clear. Remove from microwave. Cover with lid and let stand 10 minutes (temperature will rise to 170°F).

Yield: 4-6 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 490, Total Fat 29 g, Saturated Fat 8 g, Cholesterol 165 mg, Carbohydrate 2 g, Protein 52 g, Sodium 450 mg, Fiber 0 g

Variation: All-in-One Chicken Dinner: Prepare chicken as directed above and place into baker. Combine 1 cup each celery and carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces, and 3 cups red or russet potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces, in Classic Batter Bowl. Toss with additional seasoning and oil, if desired. Arrange vegetables around chicken. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 35-40 minutes or until Pocket Thermometer registers 165°F in thickest part of breast and juices run clear. Remove from microwave. Cover with lid and let stand 10 minutes (temperature will rise to 170°F).

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrients per serving: Calories 580, Total Fat 29 g, Saturated Fat 8 g, Cholesterol 165 mg, Carbohydrate 23 g, Protein 54 g, Sodium 500 mg, Fiber 3 g

Shopping List:
1 whole chicken (3 1/2-4 pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Variation: All-in-One Chicken Dinner:

1 whole chicken (3 1/2-4 pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 carrots

3 celery stalks

3 cups red or russet potatoes

Additional seasoning and oil (optional)


Warm Nutty Caramel Brownies

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided

1 package (18-21 ounces) brownie mix (plus ingredients to make cake-like brownies)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided

1 cup salted mixed nuts, divided

5 rolls (1.7 ounces each) milk chocolate-covered chewy caramels, divided (40 pieces total)

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush Large Bar Pan with oil using Chef’s Silicone Basting Brush. Chop 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate morsels using Food Chopper. In Classic Batter Bowl, combine brownie mix, water, oil, eggs and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar; mix well. Fold in chopped chocolate; pour batter into bar pan, spreading evenly using Small Mix ‘N Scraper(R).

2. Chop nuts using Food Chopper. Combine half of the nuts and remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar; sprinkle evenly over brownie batter. Bake 20-22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

3. Meanwhile, using Utility Knife, cut 16 caramels into quarters. Place remaining 1/2 cup chocolate morsels in Prep Bowl; microwave on HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring after each 20-second interval. Spoon melted chocolate into resealable plastic bag; set aside.

4. Remove bar pan from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack. Immediately press remaining 24 caramels evenly into brownie in four rows of six caramels each. Sprinkle quartered caramels and remaining nuts over brownies. Trim corner of chocolate-filled bag with Utility Knife; drizzle chocolate evenly over brownies. Cut into squares; serve warm using Mini-Serving Spatula. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Yield: 24 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 310, Total Fat 16 g, Saturated Fat 3.5 g, Cholesterol 25 mg, Carbohydrate 38 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 135 mg, Fiber less than 1 g

Shopping List:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1 package (18-21 ounces) brownie mix (plus ingredients to make cake-like brownies)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup salted mixed nuts

5 rolls (1.7 ounces each) milk chocolate-covered chewy caramels (40 pieces total)

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Enchiladas and Tostado Nachos

Enchiladas and Tostado Nachos

Labor Day Cookout

I was feeling a bit adventurous on Labor Day and decided to experiment a bit with a typical meal that I make.


  • Baby Back Ribs
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Corn Bread
  • Pecan Pie

Corn on the Cob:

Grilled Corn with Chipotle Butter and Cotija Cheese
I picked up some fresh California Sweet Corn from the local Albertsons and let the corn soak in some water for about 10mins before putting on the grill husk and all. About an hour later I pulled the corn off the grill and took the husks off.

Now, normally this is where I would dip the corn in melted butter and put salt and pepper on it, but this time I did something a little different. I took a small can of chipotle chilies in adobe sauce and put them in a blender along with about 1/4 cup of butter and a tablespoon or two of sugar. I blended this all together to make chipotle butter. I then heated it up in the microwave and then spread/poured it over the corn. To top it off I crumpled Cotija cheese on top of the corn.

I was unsure how this experiment would turn out, but after my first bite I new it was a success! The chipotle chiles definitely made the corn a bit spicy, but I loved the combination of the sweet corn and the spicy chipotle butter and the Cotija cheese gave it a nice bit of extra flavor.

Sweet Potatoes
Usually I get the micro bake sweet potatoes that are wrapped in plastic and you just pop in the microwave. They come out perfect every time. Unfortunitly there were none at the store, but they did have some fresh Yams and Sweet Potatoes. I went with the Sweet Potatoes.

I stabbed them a couple times with a fork and put them in the microwave for about 5mins. Then I mixed butter and brown sugar in a bowl and melted it in the microwave. I then rubbed the sweet potoates with the brown sugar butter and wrapped them in foil before putting them on the grill for about an hour. When the potatoes were done I split them open and added more of the melted brown sugar butter along with some chopped pecans.

The chopped pecans was something I’ve never done before, but had some on hand for the Pecan Pie. The interesting thing about these sweet potatoes were that they were white on the inside as opposed to orange which is what I was expecting. They still tasted like the orange kind to me though. The pecans added a nice flavor to the sweet potoates and I will definitely add them again if I have them on hand.

1/2 cup sugar in the raw
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
3 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons for water

Add it all into a saucepan and whisk to mix. Let the sauce simmer 10-15 minutes to thicken. Taste for seasoning.


As always I removed the membrane from the back of the ribs and then applied about 4 teaspoons of the rub on each side of the ribs. I smoked the ribs with cherry wood on my Trager Grill for 4 hours and then took them out and mopped some of the sauce on the ribs and wrapped them in foil. I let them smoke another hour before taking them out of the foil at which point the meat was almost falling off the bone. I let them cook another 30mins or so before taking them out to eat.


The rub was good and I made enough to last a few more times. It gave a nice flavor to the meat. The sauce was thick and sweet, but also had quite a bit of spice to it. I could have made it spicier by adding more of the cayenne pepper. Actually it was too spicy for the wife. I’m not sure if I will make this sauce again. It was a little to much on the vinegar side for my tastes.

The ribs turned out perfect! The meat cleanly came off the bone when biting into them and were full of smoky good flavor. I look forward to making ribs again!


This was a fun experiment and I encourage all of you to try to mix things up every now and then and add new ingredients to your recipes and see how they turn out.

Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon 2004


If you are a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon you will LOVE this estate grown Cab! I found it to be very balanced and smooth. This could easily be mistaken for a $100 wine. I paid about $40 for it at CostCo, but you should be able to find this just about anywhere. You might want to get a few, some to drink now and some more to cellar. It comes with a recommendation for five to eight years of cellaring.

Wine Spector rated it a 92 and Connoisseurs’ Guide gave it a 95!

Turnbull Wine Cellars are located with in the Oakville Appellation area of Napa Valley, California. I enjoyed this wine so much I even joined the Turnbull Wine Club!


Here is a video review of the 2004 Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon on wine library tv. The review of Turnbull starts at 5:45 in the video.

If anyone tries it, please leave your comments here.

Dinner Impossible

The Food Network has a show called Dinner Impossible hosted by Robert Irvine. On each episode Robert is given some sort of crazy food challenge that he has to complete within a certain amount of time. The first episode I saw named Race on the Rails: Dinner Train: Impossible involved him preparing dinner for passengers of a luxury locomotive. It was quite entertaining to watch him work in the small kitchen of a train car. He never knows what the challenge will be until he shows up at the location.

Food Network Camera CrewLast week I got to be part of the taping of one of his future episodes. The challenge of this episode was that he had to make a meal that would be magical and fool magicians. He did this by working with the guys from Chicago’s Modo restaurant and he created dishes that were not quite what they appeared (or tasted) to be. For example, he made a soup that tasted like pizza!

Soup that tastes like pizza!Cheesecake or Meat?Nachos for dessert?

Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) was the host of this episode and also helped in the kitchen. It was shot at the Orleans in Las Vegas during the Magic Live! convention. The meals were served to 16 magicians and there guests. Some of the magicians included Lance Burton and Siegfried. It should be a fun episode to watch when it airs on the Food Network on Halloween Night 2007.

Here is a photo of me and Neil Patrick Harris. (Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version)

Neil Patrick Harris

I also ran into David Blaine

David Blaine