Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cranberry Extravaganza Continued (White Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies)

My cranberry extravaganza finished off with White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.  There are several variations of this recipe around and I always wanted to try it.  I found this one on the internet.  They did not disappoint!  I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and best wishes to you all in the New Year. I am very excited to see what this new year brings...  hopefully plenty of cooking adventures and blogging!

White Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 Tbs. brandy
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets (or line with parchment paper). 
2.  In large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth.  Beat in the egg and brandy. 
3.  Combine the flour and baking soda and stir into the sugar mixture.
4.  Gently mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. 
5.  Drop by spoonfulls* onto prepared cookie sheets.
6.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool 1 minute on cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool.

*I made my cookies using approximately 1/2 Tbs. of raw dough for each one (so on the smallish side), and I got just over 3 dozen cookies from this recipe.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cranberry Extravaganza!

This Christmas season has been fun so far.  The boys are just on the verge of crawling and are starting to get into everything.  They love the Christmas tree.  I think they see it as their own personal entertainment center!  Even though they are keeping me pretty busy, I have found some time to cook and bake over the past few weeks.  I was on a cranberry kick and made a bunch of things, some new, and some from The Secret Chef recipes.

Cranberry Chutney
This is one of my favorite holiday recipes.  You can pour it over a block of cream cheese or brie and use it as an appetizer (serve with crackers), use it as a cranberry sauce with your holiday turkey, or serve it with other meats such as ham or pork roast.  It is in the cookbook, however, I forgot to mention in the cookbook that you can add a teaspoon or so of fresh orange zest to give it a little extra flavor.  I usually squeeze a little bit of the juice from the orange as well (approximately a Tablespoon or so).  I find it makes enough for a couple of appetizers or an appetizer and one small bowl of sauce.  The photo above shows approximately  one third of the mixture over a one pound block of cream cheese.

1 (12oz) bag of cranberries
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 large granny smith apple, cored and chopped
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves (you can substitute all-spice)

1.  Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.
2.  Bring to a boil on the stove.  Reduce heat to low and stir constantly until apple is tender and mixture thickens, approximately 15-20 minutes.
3.  Cool completely.  Store in the refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature.

Carol's Cranberry Horseradish Dip Mix
My sister recently became a Wildtree sales representative, so I discovered that this fall.  They make some great dip mixes that are perfect to have on hand this time of year--  especially for last minute entertaining.  I bought a bunch of cream cheese and crackers when they went on sale and if I need something quick to bring to a holiday event or have unexpected guests, I can whip one of the dips up quickly.  I love the Carol's Cranberry Horseradish Dip for this time of year.  Everyone likes it and the products are all-natural and peanut free.  You can search Holly's Wildtree on facebook or maybe this link!/topic.php?uid=175145615830108&topic=250 will work?

Chicken with Maple Cranberry Sauce
This recipe is also in the cookbook.  It is sooooo easy but looks "fancy"!  It serves approximately 4 people.

1 cup red cooking wine (burgundy)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbs. butter
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken

1.  In a small-medium bowl, combine the red wine, maple syrup, and dried cranberries.  Set aside.
2.  In a large skillet, heat butter over mdeium heat until hot.  Add the chicken and cook for approximately 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan and keep it warm.
3.  Add the maple cranberry sauce to the pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes
4.  Combine the cornstarch and 1 Tbs. cold water in a small bowl.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the skillet and cook until the sauce thickens and turns clear, about 1 minute.
5.  Return the chicken to the skillet and spoon the sauce over the chicken.  Simmer one minute.  Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over it.

I'll continue the Cranberry Extravaganza in my next post...  with the recipe for Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  As I am sitting here writing this post, I can't help but remember last Thanksgiving.  I was pregnant with my twin boys and we had 500 cook book orders pending.  Right after Thanksgiving, I ended up getting put on strict bedrest (which continued until I delivered on St. Patrick's Day!)  Fortunately, my husband and our families pitched in and helped us pack up and deliver all 500 of those cookbooks!  I was able to do all of the correspondence and paperwork from the couch, so that kept me busy.  And everything ended up fine in the end.  The boys were born prematurely, but they were healthy and strong.  They are eight months old now and doing great.  I am so thankful for that!  And I am so thankful for all of the help our families have given us!

We ended up doing a second printing of the cookbooks, so we do have some books available again this year.  They make great Christmas/Hannukah gifts (they are especially good for teacher gifts)!  They are $16.95 (including tax).  Ordering info is in this post: Savory Secrets Cookbook Ordering Info .  I think I have about 100 books left for sale.

I also wanted to give everyone a tip.  If you are fortunate enough to have leftover turkey and need some recipes to use it up, the Chicken and Wildrice Casserole I posted awhile back can also be made with turkey! Just substitute the same amount of cooked turkey in place of the chicken.  One reader commented that she added frozen veggies to the casserole and I thought that was a great idea!  I also saw a similar recipe online that called for a can of green beans (or you could probably use about two cups of frozen).

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Secret Chef Marinated London Broil

The Marinated London Broil was one of the all-time favorite menu items at The Secret Chef.  It is included in the Savory Secrets cook book, so if you already have the cookbook, then this recipe will not be new to you.  Customers always raved about it and commented how everyone in their family, even picky eaters, liked it.  It's a really easy marinade recipe and it freezes great.  The main secret is to use a restaurant cut London Broil-- that just means to use what is called "Flank Steak" in the grocery store.  I meant to post this recipe on the blog weeks ago, but of course I have been busy and just never seemed to find the time.  Sorry about the slightly blurry picture.  It does not do justice to the recipe!

I will be back in a couple of days with a brief Thanksgiving post and also in December I have some cranberry recipes planned!

The Secret Chef Marinated London Broil

4 oz mayonnaise (weird, I know, but trust me!)
1/3 cup lite soy sauce
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 lb. flank steak

1.  Mix all ingredients (including steak) in a large freezer bag.  Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

2.  Remove steak from marinade.

3.  Grill or broil about 6 inches from heat, for approximately 6-8 minutes.  Turn steak over, and grill or broil for 6-8 minutes longer, or until cooked through (it may take longer in the broiler). 

4.  Let steak stand a couple of minutes before slicing.  Important:  Cut across the grain into thin slices to serve, or even better, cut diagonally across the grain into slices.


If making this dish ahead to freeze:  Freeze sreak in marinade after step 1. Thaw in the refrigerator.  Continue at step 2 to cook.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Favorite Fall Pumpkin Recipes

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the cooler weather and all of the beautiful colors here in Pennsylvania. I had a great time taking the boys to Merrymead Farm to the Fall Harvest Days and I got some cute pictures.  The adorable little pumpkin hats are hand made and were purchased from an etsy seller (since everyone asks!)

I also love pumpkin spice lattes, cider doughnuts, ginger snaps, and all of the other yummy fall eats.  I had a ton of pumpkin to use up, so I tested several new recipes this month.  The pumpkin chocolate chip muffins did not make the cut, but the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin spice cake were pretty delicious!  The pumpkin spice cake is especially good topped with some pumpkin icecream.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 365 degrees F. 

2.  Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve baking soda with milk and stir into wet ingredients.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix well.

3.  Add vanilla and chocolate chips.

4.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet* and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown and firm. *I flattened the cookies first a little bit before baking.  These are a cake-like cookie (not crispy) and they do not flatten much at all during cooking.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (16 oz) can pumpkin
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, mix well.  Combine dry ingredients.  Stir into creamed mixture just until moistened.  Stir into creamed mixture just until moistened.  Stir in pumpkin and vanilla extract.

3.  Pour into a greased bundt or tube pan and bake for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until it tests done.

I just made a really simple confectioners sugar glaze for my cake.  There are other glaze recipes that use butter, which are very good, but I just made this simple glaze.

Powdered Sugar Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar (preferably sifted)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. milk

1.  Mix together all the ingredients with a fork or whisk.
2.  Pour over cake.

Note:  I usually don't sift the powdered sugar for the glaze unless it is for something special.  My glaze does sometimes have some little lumps, but it still tastes the same. =)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

As my former customers know, I didn't really do too many traditional casseroles at The Secret Chef.  This one caught my eye though, because it was just SO easy.  I had to try it!  It came out pretty decent.  I loved that the rice did not have to be cooked before assembling the casserole.  I was super lazy thrifty and used leftover rotisserie chicken.  I served it with steamed broccoli and baked sweet potatoes to make the dinner a little healthier.  This would be a good recipe to double and freeze one (unbaked) for later.  I tested it and it froze just fine!

Note to self:  Get some prettier casserole dishes if I am going to be making and photographing casseroles very often--  the photos came out very "blah". 

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
(serves 4)

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 (6 oz) box Uncle Ben's Wild Rice Mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
approximately 2/3 can milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into 2-quart casserole dish (sprayed with non-stick spray).
3.  Cover and bake 30 minutes.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Back!!! (with Sante Fe Chicken Burritos)

Hello Everyone!  It has been a busy four months with these little munchkins, but things are finally settling into a bit of a routine.  I am starting to have (a little) time to cook again so my plan is to update this blog with super easy meals, that even a mom of four month old twins can make!  I would also love to hear from any of you who have some quick, healthy meals you like to cook.  If I make and post your recipe, I will give the credit to you/your blog, of course!

The first meal I tested was Santa Fe Chicken Burritos.  The filling cooks in the crock pot. They were so easy and tasted yummy.  I will definitely make them again in the future. 

Santa Fe Chicken Burritos

1 can Black Beans, drained
1 can Corn, drained
1 cup Salsa, divided
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
8 oz. block cream cheese (you can use lite cream cheese, if desired)
fresh cilantro, optional
1 package Whole Wheat Tortillas

1.  Add the black beans, corn, and 1/2 cup salsa to the crock pot and stir. 

2.  Add the chicken breast and the remaining salsa.  Cook on high 3 hours.

3.  Add the cream cheese and cook 1 hour more.

4.  Shred the chicken using two forks, then spoon the mixture onto the flour tortillas and roll up into burritos. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

I think the flavor of this dish depends heavily on the flavor of the salsa you use.  You can increase the flavor by adding some onion, chili powder, cumin, ceyenne pepper, etc.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Twins are Here!!

Hello Everyone!
I just wanted to announce that Benjamin Reid and William Henry arrived on Wednesday, March 17th.  Benjamin was 3lbs. 4oz, 15 in. long, and William was 4lbs. 11oz, 18 in. long.  They were 6 weeks early, so they are still in the NICU learning how to eat and grow.  They are doing great and hopefully will be home soon!  I had a bit of a rough recovery, but am doing much better now.  I can't believe the boys are already 2 weeks old!  [Sorry the pictures are so small...  blogger made some changes and I need to figure out how to make them bigger. I will try again tomorrow!]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Savory Secrets Second Printing Update

Hello Everyone!  I finally have everything set with the printer for the second run of Savory Secrets cookbooks.  The books should be ready next week (about March 2nd).  If you would like to purchase a cookbook, they are $15.99 each, plus tax and shipping.  If you order 3 or more books, they are $14.99 each, plus tax and shipping.

Please pay for your book(s) via pay pal or by mailing a check (use chart below to calculate cost). Once your payment is received we will mail your book(s) out via media mail. If you need your order sent priority mail, please email me back for pricing.

To pay by pay pal: go to and there is an option to send money to an email address. Fill out your info and send your payment to

To pay by personal check: Please make check out to: "Gretchen Albanese" and email me at for my mailing address.

Pricing Chart:

1 book ($15.99ea) = $15.99 + (0.96 tx)= $16.95 + 2.38 shipping = $19.33 (total for ONE book)

2 books ($15.99ea) = $31.98 + (1.92 tx)= $33.90 + 2.77 shipping = $36.67 (total for TWO books)

3 books ($14.99ea) = $44.97 + (2.70 tx)= $47.67 + 3.16 shipping = $50.83 (total for THREE books)

4 books ($14.99ea) = $59.96 + (3.60 tx)= $63.56 + 3.55 shipping = $67.11 (total for FOUR books)

5 books ($14.99ea) = $74.95 + (4.50 tx)= $79.45 + 3.94 shipping = $83.39 (total for FIVE books)

6 books ($14.99ea) = $89.94 + (5.40 tx)= $94.27 + 4.33 shipping = $98.60 (total for SIX books)

7 books ($14.99ea) = $104.93 + (6.30 tx)= $111.23 + 4.72 shipping = $115.95 (total for SEVEN books)

8 books ($14.99ea) = $119.92 + (7.20 tx)= $127.12 + 5.11 shipping = $132.23 (total for EIGHT books)

Please email me for pricing on orders of more than 8 books.

And in case anyone wants an update on the twins =) ... it looks like I will be delivering early, probably in the next week or two! Of course, I am really trying to get these books out before then! My family will be helping (again!) to make sure the books are packaged and sent out, if Mike and I are unable to do it ourselves. Thank you everyone for asking about me. I will update on the blog once the babies are here.