The Determined Cook

A place where perfection lies in the tasty morsel that finds its way into your mouth.

In a Zucchini-Kinda-Mood

Zucchini is one of my little one’s favorite vegetables.  I give it to her sauteed, baked, grilled and shredded in a salad.  This weekend, I decided to make zucchini fritters.  Scouring the web, I found a recipe on The Smitten Kitchen.  It was quick, easy, and the results were delicious.  In my version, I didn’t bake the fritters, but made them thin and fried them.  I also made a yoghurt dip with Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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Sunday Breakfast in a Dish

This is one of the easiest breakfast casseroles to make.  It takes every component of a hearty, Sunday breakfast and melds it together into a warm, comforting goodness.  The colors are inviting, the aroma wafting through the house is divine, and the ease with which it can be made is tempting.

I combine all the breakfast ingredients that I love, eggs, bacon, spring onions, orange and yellow peppers and hash browns and season with what fancies me at the time.  This is a great potluck dish as well as a great Christmas morning dish.  Prepared the night before, you can pop it into the oven when you wake up on a Monday, and by the time you are showered, changed and ready to eat breakfast (about an hour), you can have a Sunday Breakfast on a Monday Morning.  Imagine that!

Breakfast in a Dish

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When planning appetizers for our Memorial Weekend Party, I decided that I would try to work with a common ingredient – a fresh baguette.  My goal was to create a bruschetta bar where the baguette slice would work as the blank canvas, and art would be created with the various toppings.

I cut the baguette on a diagonal (the night before) and rubbed each slice with crushed garlic.  The baguette slices were then broiled on HIGH for about a minute on each side.  Wafts of toasted garlic and bread spread through the house.  For my toppings, I decided to go simple.  My first topping was a melange of Campari tomatoes (sliced thinly into half circles), chiffonade of mint and basil, lemon zest, red onion finely chopped, GOOD olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper.  For a slightly sweeter topping, I whipped a log of goat cheese and paired it with some great Italian fig jam.

My platter presentation was my pride.  Using lemon leaves from my garden and bell pepper pieces left over from another recipe, I decorated a silver serving platter.  The toasted baguettes were nicely nestled on top of the lemon leaves and my depression glass bowls served the toppings.  Not a bad way to turn something so simple into something so elegant.  Bon Apetit!

Golden toasted baguette with a home made tomato-basil spread.

Goat cheese and fig jam bruschetta.

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A Little Help From My Friends

Simple, tasty, refreshing…mid-week dinner.

More often than not, my dinners require a little help from my “friends”.  My friends are found in my pantry and in my freezer.  Most of them are products from Trader Joe’s as I can bet on their freshness, taste, and great quality.  For this particular meal, I headed to both the pantry and the freezer.  My butcher was kind enough to cut some medium thickness pork chops for me so I decided to grill those in a sweet and sour marinade.  A jar of peach caponata with some added olive oil and orange juice did the trick.  After marinating for about an hour, the chops were on the grill with the peach bits sizzling and the sweet sugars caramelizing.  Next was a quick side dish; Trader Joe’s makes this great frozen Polenta Provencale – a quick heat up and the side dish was prepared.  For something cool and refreshing, I scooped out some watermelon and drizzled it with olive oil and some salt.  What a quick tasty dinner for any night of the week.

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Thursdays with Nigella – Flourless Chocolate Lime Cupcakes

Let me start by saying that I am not a baker…the precision that comes with baking sends me running in the opposite direction.  However, I decided to try what looked like a simple, no-fuss Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake from Nigella Lawson.  I recruited my Maya Rosie as a sous chef and off to work we went.  This is a great recipe for anyone allergic to gluten, but be precise with your dry ingredients as you may have a crumbly mess.  All went well with our cookery until it got to the point where we had to pour the mixture into the spring foam baking pan.  I lifted the filled pan and and chocolate cake batter oozed out the bottom.  I quickly poured everything back into the mixing bowl.

Hmmm…someone has her fingers in the chocolate. See the look of sheer mischief.

I then quickly moved onto Plan B as the kitchen quickly turned into a cooking war zone.  Finding some pretty Ikea cupcake liners, I decided to use them – that way my servings were controlled.  We baked them for about 30 minutes and when the toothpick emerged dry, we pulled them out.

Patiently watching the cupcakes rise…the kitchen had the glorious aroma of warm chocolate and zesty lime.

After letting them cool for a bit, we devoured our individual servings.  The original recipe comes with a Margarita Cream, but having no tequila or cointreau, my style was a bit hampered.

Our version of Nigella’s cake…pretty cupcake in pretty Ikea cupcake holders.

Maya Rosie relished in the chocolate goodness of our efforts and I was left to clean a grand mess.  Thank goodness Daddy stepped in and decided to “help out”.  All in all, it was great fun!

My taste tester…the look on her face is priceless.

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Un Repas Pour le Printemps (A Springtime Meal)

We have had some unseasonably hot, humid weather.  During the day, all one wants to do is laze around with a fan pointed directly at them.  The evenings, however, are gorgeous – beautiful sunsets, birds and butterflies flitting around.  I tend to enjoy my backyard the most at this time of year.  Befitting the glorious outdoors, I decided to whip up my version of a perfect springtime meal.  That and I was home for the day, so I had some extra time on my hands.  On the menu was a Grilled Chicken (marinated in Greek yoghurt), Roasted Potatoes with a homemade Chimichurri Sauce, and Grilled Pita Bread.

Greek Yoghurt Chicken, Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce and Grilled Pita

We dined alfresco sipping on our new spring drinks (sparkling water with ice cubes made from our favorite juices).  Bon apetit!

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Thursdays with Nigella Lawson

If any of you know me personally, then you know that I have a massive woman crush on Nigella Lawson.  She is my inspiration, my food goddess, the perfect woman.  That said, I am now a proud owner of Nigella Kitchen.  I have been carrying this book around with me, pondering every word, looking at every recipe and relishing in every decadent photograph.  As an ode to Nigella, I have decided that I am going to devote my Thursday dinners to her. I attempted her African Drumsticks recipe, but substituted chicken thighs.  Accompanying that was a simple Risi e Bisi by the always dependable Rachael Ray.

ImageThis meal was planned right.  Chicken was prepped and marinated (over night) on Wednesday, and when I got home on Thursday, I kept it out for a bit and started on the Risi e Bisi.  They both cooked at the same time and were plated and devoured immediately.


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Simply Sandwiched

Hello everyone!  Well, I did fall off the wagon in my food blogging.  In fact, I haven’t been cooking for the last couple of days.  My poor little girl has been nibbling of leftovers, snacks, fruit, cheese, greens…not unhealthy, just not home cooked or wholesome.  That said, about a week ago I quickly made a sandwich that combined the tastes I was craving.  Most of the ingredients were in my fridge so I decided to just go for it.

Wheat Bread, smoked salmon, avacado, coarse ground pepper.  The initial idea for this sandwich came from my idol’s blog (In Erika’s Kitchen).  Her sandwich was much more sophisticated and called for pumpernickel bread, herbed goat cheese and the best smoked salmon.  Despite my fast-grabbed ingredients, the sandwich was satisfying.  I sat out in my garden, watched the birds and butterflies chase each other, and gradually let the stress of the day leave my shoulders.

I just bought Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen, so I promise that there will be some good food coming this way.  Bon Appetit!


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Weekend Meal on a Weeknight

The last week was quite hectic at work and at home and dinners have been more of a grab-and-go than a relaxed sit down experience.  My husband even moved our patio set to our luscious back yard so that I could enjoy some respite from my day as I watched my little butterfly play.  We have entertained in our backyard twice, but we have not used it ourselves.  So, yesterday, I decided to make a full dinner in an hour and hope for some down time after.  After visiting my trusty Jon’s market, I decided upon a family pack of breakfast tip steak, russet potatoes, fennel, a can of garbanzo beans and a can of black beans, red onions and mangoes.  My pantry runneth over with a variety of spices, so a quick marinade wouldn’t be a problem.  Here is the menu I came up with.

Grilled Tip Steak

Roasted Potatoes and Fennel

Black Bean and Garbanzo Bean Salad

Pickled Red Onions

I started cooking at 5:00 p.m. and the dishes were in the dishwasher by 7:30 p.m.  We relaxed, talked about our day (between bites and delicious moans) and watched the bats fly about at magic hour.

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Relishing in the Cooling Goodness of Yoghurt

Courtesy of Frappe Recipes (

Watching my waistline has been a lifelong battle.  This time around I have decided that I chosen the “correct” way – portion control, exercise and no deprivation.  One of my favorite warm weather staples, is yoghurt, especially Greek yoghurt.  In fact, Costco has a great deal on a large tub of Fage for about five dollars.  A cup of plain Greek yoghurt seasoned with honey and a bit of granola is my mid-morning snack, but I also love to use it as a cooking ingredient.  Here are some recipes that call of yoghurt…enjoy!

Chicken with Spring Onions, Chilli and Greek Yoghurt – Nigella Lawson

Auburgine Wontons with Pomegranate Raita – BBC Food

Lemon Yoghurt Cake – Ina Garten



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