Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tart Lemon Squares

Happy Saturday!  I took pictures of these lovely lemon squares on Thursday, but could not bring myself to post a dessert on Good Friday.  Made with real lemons, these lemon squares are a brightly colored departure from the usual brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  The tart lemon filling complements the crisp, buttery crust.  Makes 9 large or 16 small squares.



1 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/4 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbs.flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking powder


Preheat the oven to 350.  In a medium bowl, mix together crust ingredients.  Stir until the mixture forms a dough-like texture, and you can form a ball with in. 

Pat the dough into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 8 by 8 inch square pan.  Bake the crust at 350 for about 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling.  Beat eggs with sugar until they become a pale, fluffy yellow.  Add flour and baking powder, and continue to stir.  Add lemon juice and zest, and stir for about 1 more minute.
Pour filling onto the hot crust.

Bake at 350 for about 25 more minutes, or until the top is slightly browned.  Allow to cool for 1 to 2 hours, then cut into squares and serve.  Unlike with most bar cookies, I actually prefer the edge or corner pieces of these!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tangy Fried Apples

Just to be clear, these are a side dish, not a dessert.  They are sweet and have a great cinnamon taste, and the apple cider vinegar serves two purposes - it changes the way the apples cook, and they cause the apples to have a two-dimensional taste that really pops. 

3 large Golden Delicious apples, cut into thick slices (about 2 pounds)
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Slice apples and place in a medium bowl.  Toss with vinegar to coat.  Melt butter in a small metal pot over medium heat.  Place apples in a bowl and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add sugar and cinnamon and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples have softened and the liquid has thickened slightly.  Serve warm.

Shown here with pork chops.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Smoked Salmon Sliders

Yesterday I attended my friend Michael's annual Spring potluck brunch. I had to wear a thick sweater because it doesn't quite feel like spring yet here in Kentucky, but it was great to relax and catch up with friends.  I wanted to share with you what I brought - one of my favorite brunch items - smoked salmon sliders.  Lots of people love smoked salmon on a bagel, and these provide it in a delightful finger food option.  These are appropriate for any season.  Makes 12 sliders.

12 mini bagels
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 4 oz. package smoked salmon
1/4 cup copped red onion (optional)


Slice bagels if not pre-sliced.  Unwrap salmon and cut into 12 pieces.  Spread each bagel half generously with cream cheese.  Place a piece of salmon on the bottom half of each bagel.  Top with red onion, and then with top half of bagel.  Serve or refrigerate.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pesto Goat Cheese spread

This is an appetizer that is very easy to whip up in 5 minutes and store in the fridge.  It has a creamy, savory flavor.  I invented this a few years ago out of what I had in the fridge, and I liked it enough to recreate it many times. 

1 4 oz. log goat cheese, softened
1 Tbs. store-bought pesto
2 Tbs. have cream
Crackers for serving


Unwrap goat cheese into a small mixing bowl.  Mix in pesto.

Mix in cream and stir until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.  (You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, but I recommend it because it allows the flavors to blend).  Serve with crackers or toast points.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Compromise Cookies

I'm home!  Had a great time in Atlanta, but so happy to be back in the Bluegrass state! 

When my husband and I first got together, the relationship was great, but I knew there was one issue that would be difficult to resolve.  He was an oatmeal cookie kind of guy and I was a chocolate chip kind of girl!  I created a new cookie with an oatmeal base, dark chocolate chips and walnuts.  This cookie is the perfect compromise...crisp on the edges, chewy on the inside, great oatmeal texture, and satifies your chocolate craving.  It has a little bit of cinnamon to accentuate the dark chocolate, and has a lovely chocolate-vanilla-cinnamon aftertaste.  This is sure to be a cookie that members of your family can compromise on too!  Makes about 4 dozen.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 and 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I recommend Ghirardelli 60% chips)


Preheat oven to 375.  Mix flour, cinnamon, and baking soda together in small bowl and set aside.  Using a mixer or a fork, cream butter, both sugars, and vanilla until slightly sluffy.  Add eggs and continue to mix.  In 3 or 4 batches, add flour mixture, stirring after each batch.  Add oats in several batches and mix until incorporated.  Add walnuts and chocolate chips and stir to distribute.

Drop in rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 for 9 minutes, or until cookies are slightly browned around the edges.  Remove from cookie sheet, then cool before eating.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Hello!  I am in Atlanta for a work conference.  I am having a great time, meeting other actuaries from around the nation and Canada.  I will return on Thursday and will get back to cooking and posting on Friday.  Since I started the blog just a couple of weeks ago, I've been having an awesome time cooking the foods, taking the pictures, and sharing my favorite foods here with all you other Modern Janes (and Modern Joes too)!  I just wanted to let you know I am on vacation this week, and definitely not losing interest.  I have many ideas of things to share over the next few months, so stay tuned!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Steak Salad

Yay, it's Saturday! 

If you're like me, you are debating whether you want to go out for dinner tonight, or make something at home.  Last night my husband Dave and I stayed home and made one of our favorites - steak salad.  This salad is a careful mixture, combining the flavors of crunchy vegetables, tart balsamic vinegar, creamy blue cheese, tender steak, and tender steak.  It is also a great balance of nutrients.  This recipe serves 2 for a great date night at home dinner, but can easily be doubled or tripled to serve more.


1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
(if your vinegar is not very sweet, you may want to add 1 tsp. sugar)

3 cups torn baby greens
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
3/4 lb. steak tips, or steak cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup red onion slices
2 oz. crumbled bleu cheese
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar


Peel cucumber.  Cut into quarters.  Scoop out seeds with a spoon, and then slice.  Place in bowl with dressing, and stir to coat.  (This pickles the cucumbers ever so slightly.) 

Meanwhile,  heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Add steak tips and cook for 5 minutes.  Add onion slices to pan, and cook for another 5 -10 minutes, stirring occacionally.When steak appears to be cooked thoroughly, add the 1 tsp. vinegar to the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove pan from heat.

Add lettuce and tomatoes to salad bowl, and toss salad to coat with dressing.  Place the salad onto dinner-sized plates.  Top with crumbled bleu cheese.  Put warm steak mixture on top of salad, and serve immediately. 

Tastes great with a glass of red wine!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fabulous Brownies

Happy Friday!

These brownies really are all that!  They have a deep, complex chocolate flavor, are moist and chewy, and will truly delight your palate.  They are adapted from a Cook's Country recipe I found and fell in love with a couple of years ago. Unlike with other brownies, you will have had your fill after just one because the chocolate is so satiating.  They are good to bring to a picnic or other gathering because brownies are something everyone likes, and these ones are so far above average. One of my actuary (math nerd) coworkers tried them and said "Carol, I have an equation that I use to evaluate brownies.  It's the amount of chocolatey fudgy goodness, divided by the number of square inches of the brownie.  Your brownies maxed this equation out"!  I couldn't have said it better!  Make these and find out for yourself.  Makes 20 squares.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 1 oz. squares Baker's unsweetened chocolate
5 1 oz. squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate
3 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350.  Remove eggs from refrigerator so they can warm to room temperature.  In a small saucepan over low heat or in a double boiler, melt butter and chocolates together.  When melted, remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder until smooth.  Allow mixture to cool for 20 minutes. 

Beat eggs lightly in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add sugar and stir until light yellow and slightly fluffy.  Gradually stir in chocolate mixture.

Add vanilla, then stir in flour in 3 or 4 batches.  Add walnuts if using.  Line an 8 by 8 inch baking pan with foil, and butter the foil.  Pour batter into the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.  Cool for 2 hours on a cooling rack, then cut into squares and serve.  Do not add frosting - it's just not needed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pork chops cooked with shallots and beer

Pork chops have been one of my favorites since childhood.  These are tender and flavorful..  The beer blends nicely with the pork flavor, and the caramelized shallots add a nice touch.  These make a good weeknight meal, but are good enough to make when company comes over as well.

2 Tbs. oil
3 large or 6 small shallots, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2-4 pork chops
1 12 oz. bottle Lager-style beer


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Arrange shallot slices in the bottom of the pan.  Place the larger slices towards the center of the pan. 

Cook shallots for 2 minutes.  Then add shallots to the pan, and pour 3/4 cup of the beer over them.

Cook shallots for 10 minutes on each side.  Add more beer if you see that there is no liquid visible in the pan.  Continue to cok until pork chops are done.  You may need to cut into centers of chope to see if they are done.  When pork chops are cooked to your liking, remove them from the pan.

Add 1/4 cup more beer to the shallots in the pan.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until visible liquid has cooked away, and the shallots have begun to turn a light brown color.

Remove from heat, and serve pork chops with shallots.  Barbecue sauce tastes great on these!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cheddar Biscuits

These biscuits are a New England favorite.  I first tried them a few years ago when I lived in Connecticut, and they are a childhood favorite of my husband's.  They are easy to make, light, fluffy, and have a good cheese flavor.  They go well alongside many foods, and are easy to throw together when you want a quick homemeade bread to serve.  Makes 1 dozen. 

Special equipment required:  pastry blender.  If you don't have one, I recommend it as an affordable investment.  It costs only around $10, and will come in handy for many baking projects.


1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter (1/2 stick), cut into pieces
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shressed sharp cheddar


Preheat oven to 450.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add butter. 

Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until the mixture resebbles small peas.  Dig out a small 'well' in the center of the mixture, and add milk all at one time. 

Stir together until the mixture becomes doughy.  Stir in cheese until evenly distributed. 

Drop in large spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until slightly brown around the edges.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then remove from sheet and serve.  Store leftovers in the fridge.

Shown here with vegetable soup.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Vegetable soup

I absolutely love homemade soup.  This vegetable soup is packed with tasty vegetable flavor and easy to cook.  Great for lunch or dinner. I use beef broth, but substituting vegetable broth will make it fully vegetarian. This soup can easily be stored in the fridge for several days and reheated, but it is best to let the pot cool down before putting it in the fridge.  Makes 6 servings.

1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 cups (1 can) beef broth
1 can Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes
1.5 cup carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1.5 cup celery, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup coursely chopped white or yellow inion
1 cup cut green beans, fresh or frozen
3 o4 4 medium red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces


Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high-heat.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, and saute for 5 minutes.

Add beef broth and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. 

Then add 3 cups of water, and bring to a rolling boil.  Add green beans and potatoes, and boil for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat, but leave pot on the stove.  Cover the pot, and let stand for at least 10 minutes.  Serve hot. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blueberry Muffins

My first baking post!  Happy Friday.  These are very tasty and easy to whip up on a weekend morning for breakfast.  They are warm and full of fresh blueberry flavor.  They keep extremely well in the freezer for up to a month.  When frozen, just microwave on high for 60 seconds to thaw for a quick breakfast treat.  Makes 1 dozen.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup fresh blueberries

Pregheat oven to 350.   Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl.  Add egg, oil, milk and vanilla, and stir until batter is smooth. 

Add blueberries, and gently stir to distribute.

Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.  Spoon batter into wrappers, filling each one about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thai peanut stir-fry

This is a great weeknight dinner recipe.  It is healthy with chicken, fresh vegetables and peanuts, and does not require any chopping at all.  At my local grocery store, carrots and sugar snap peas are sold in a bag together in the produce section, in the perfect size for the recipe.  Exactly what you need to help get your family through a busy week!  Serves 3-4.

1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 lb. fresh chicken breast tenderloins
1 cup fresh baby carrots
1 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 cup peanuts
1/3 cup Thai peanut sauce (I prefer the one made by Target).
Hot cooked rice or other grain for serving


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken to pan, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add carrots and sugar cnap peas to pan, and saute for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Reduce heat to medium low, add peanuts to pan, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add peanut sauce to pan and cook, stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with hot cooked rice.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Meaty Mac!

This is one of my favorite dinner recipes, which I created myself.  It is a macaroni dish with a creamy tomato meat sauce.  Finely chopped vegetables cut the acidity and give it a tiny bit of crunch.  This dish is great for family dinners and potlucks.  It can also serve as that perfect something to take to a friend who has had a new baby or lost a loved one.  This dish keeps well in the fridge for a few days and tastes great as leftovers.  Makes 6 main dish servings.


1 Tbs. oil
1/3 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
4 cloves fresh garlic, finally chopped
1 lb. 92% lean ground beef
1 5 oz. can Italian seasoned tomato paste
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Chop vegetables and mix together to make vegetable confetti.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add vegetable confetti and saute for 2 minutes.

Add meat to skillet and cook until thoroughly browned.  Add tomato paste and stir until combined.

Add cans of tomatoes one at a time.  Simmer for 5 minutes after each can.  Add cream in two batches.  Simmer for 3 minutes after each half. 

Add cheese and stir thoroughly to melt into sauce.  Add macaroni to pan and cook for 2 to minutes, stirring to combine.  Remove from heat and serve.  Garnish with additional grated Parmesan.

Happy Eating!