Berry Breeze

Mr. BrookCook searched for the perfect Mother’s Day cocktail and this was it. ūüôā Springy, tasty, and, in the vein of a Moscow Mule, topped with a splash of ginger beer. I loved it!

This cocktail recipe was adapted from Camille Austin of Hakkasan in New York City, via Town and Country magazine. It would also be perfect for the upcoming holiday weekend- and all summer long.

Yield: 1 drink

  • 2 oz lemon vodka
  • 4-5 blackberries
  • .25 oz fresh lime juice
  • ginger beer, to taste
  1. Muddle blackberries in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add vodka and lime juice; shake over ice.
  3. Strain into ice filled double old-fashioned glass or copper mug.
  4. Top with ginger beer, to taste.
  5. Garnish with a lime wheel, a lime wedge, and/or blackberries. Serve.

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Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ‚̧ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. ūüôā

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ‚̧

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1¬†T coarse¬†salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400¬į, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

There are so many end-of-the-school-year parties this time of year. A great time to share a crowd-pleasing casserole! I brought this baked pasta dish to my son’s pre-County Championship Swim Meet pasta dinner. I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for the recipe. ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from such a fun book- Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes by Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food and Wine. I love Chapple’s column in the printed magazine and knew I would enjoy this book as well. The pasta and the meatballs cook in the oven. Truly genius!

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed basil, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti,¬†rigatoni,¬†rotini, fusilli, shells, or campanelle pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 28 oz (about 3 cups) prepared marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread crumbs, eggs, 1/3 cup torn basil, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into one-inch balls.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, spread half of the pasta in an even layer.
  5. Arrange half of the meatballs (about 16) and mozzarella on the pasta.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara on top and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pasta, meatballs, cheese, and marinara. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and parmesan and serve.

Make Ahead: The baked pasta can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.

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Baked Risotto with Peas, Asparagus, & Pancetta

In case you were worried that I wasn’t embracing early spring vegetables… I have another asparagus and pea recipe to share! ūüėČ

I almost exclusively use my pressure cooker just to make risotto. It converts an otherwise time-consuming dish into a lovely weeknight meal. Well, baking risotto performs similar magic. Fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from TheKitchn.com, contributed by Nealey Dozier. This risotto could also be par-baked in advance, the night before, and reheated on the stovetop with one or two cups of additional stock prior to serving. Perfect when entertaining guests.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 ounces finely chopped pancetta (or olive oil for vegetarian version)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large shallots (4 cloves), finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 pound pencil-thin asparagus stalks, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, or to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven 400¬įF, preferably on convection.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon butter and shallots to the pancetta drippings and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the rice and sauté until every grain is coated with butter, about 1 minute.
  4. Increase heat to high. Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid evaporates. Add stock and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the liquid is almost cooked out and the risotto is creamy, about 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and place over moderate heat. Stir in peas and asparagus and cook until the vegetables are bright green and warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with additional Parmesan and reserved pancetta.

To Make in Advance: Bake the risotto for 15 – 20 minutes. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator. When ready to serve, add 1 1/2 cups hot stock and vegetables and cook over medium heat until warm. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Season to taste.

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Pasta Primavera with Asparagus, Peas, & Cr√®me Fra√ģche

This quick and fresh dinner was truly springtime on a plate. It uses a combination of early spring vegetables- asparagus, peas, and scallions- which, as the author describes, makes it a “true celebration of the season.”

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I modified the proportions and omitted the tarragon. I also used reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Loved it!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, stems trimmed
  • 3/4¬†pound asparagus, ends snapped
  • 3¬†tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1¬†cup fresh English peas
  • 1/3¬†cup (5 large) thinly sliced spring onion, white part only (or use shallot)
  • 5¬†garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¬†coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 16¬†ounces pappardelle, fettuccine or tagliatelle, preferably fresh
  • 1¬†cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature
  • 6 oz (3/4 cup)¬†cr√®me fra√ģche or whole milk Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup¬†finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, slice snap peas in half and asparagus stems into 1/4-inch-thick pieces; leave asparagus tips whole.
  3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add snap peas, asparagus, English peas and onion. Cook until vegetables are barely tender (but not too soft or mushy), 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  5. Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente (1 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta, more for dried pasta). Drain well, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  6. Transfer pasta to the skillet of prepared vegetables or to a large bowl.
  7. Immediately toss pasta with vegetables, Parmigiano-Reggiano, cr√®me fra√ģche and herbs.
  8. Thin sauce to desired consistency with reserved pasta water.
  9. Season generously with salt and pepper, if needed, to taste. Serve.

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Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Skillet

Somehow, we seem to always have a conflict with a having timely Cinco de Mayo feast. This year, my son has his Swim Club Dinner Dance (at an Italian restaurant, by the way), so, we had our feast early. This way, there is also time to have a second feast. Good planning, right?

This quick and easy, crowd-pleasing dish was perfect for our early Cinco de Mayo celebration. It would be perfect for a Mexican-inspired weeknight meal any other day of the year too. We enjoyed it with chips and guacamole, of course. ūüėČ

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I reduced the oven temperature, and increased the proportions as well as the pan size. Great.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola¬†oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 ¬†teaspoons kosher salt
  • 24 oz (1 1/2 jars) medium red salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic Chipotle Salsa)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 corn tortillas, torn into quarters
  • 6 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 to 2 cans (15.5-ounce each) black beans, drained, rinsed (I used 1 1/2 cans)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 425¬įF, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine salsa, sour cream, and 6 T water in a large bowl; stir to combine. Fold in tortillas, chicken, and beans until thoroughly coated.
  3. Heat oil in a 12″ ovenproof skillet over medium. (I used cast iron.)
  4. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer onion mixture to the chicken and bean mixture; reserve hot skillet. Fold to incorporate evenly.
  6. Return mixture to reserved skillet and transfer to preheated oven until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mixture should be bubbling on the edges.
  7. Remove skillet from the oven. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top.
  8. Return skillet to oven and bake until cheese is lightly browned, melted and bubbling, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  9. Top with cilantro, if desired.

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Apple-Cider Doughnut Cake

I had my first apple-cider doughnut this past fall at a beautiful farm on the East end of Long Island. It was freshly made, hot, and delicious. Naturally, this recipe caught my eye. It is a giant version of fabulousness- even incorporating whole wheat flour and olive oil.

This cake was magnificent. I will make it again in the fall, although I think it is truly season-less. The olive oil and applesauce made it incredibly moist as well. This recipe was adapted from A New Way to Bake, via Martha Stewart Living. I reduced the baking temperature because my Bundt pan has a dark non-stick coating. I also reduced the amount of cinnamon sugar topping. We enjoyed it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Yield: One 10-inch Bundt Cake
For the Cake:
  • room temperature unsalted butter, or melted butter, for the pan
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh apple cider
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream, for serving, optional

For the Topping:

  • 2 T natural cane sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees if using a dark pan, or 350 degrees in a standard pan, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. (This step in incredibly important in a Bundt pan- make sure all of the crevices are coated.)
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups sugar, cider, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and eggs. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; whisk until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  5. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; let cool 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, mix together 2 T sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
  7. Invert warm cake onto rack. Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar.
  8. Let cool completely before serving. Cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature up to 2 days.

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