Chef Lane: Tarting It Up

The B Family went to Half Price Books last night, and I scored three new cookbooks, along with my Father-in-Law’s next holiday present.  God bless him.  He has suffered through nine years of crazy gifts from me.  But he loved his talking George Bush doll, and his Chia Obama.  Okay, loved is maybe too strong a word, but he did enjoy seeding Chia Obama’s ears, eyebrows and nostrils, so at least we know he was entertained.

Anyway, cookbooks.  This is about cooking, not my inappropriate gift giving–I can’t even remember how that started.  I get normal gifts for everyone else.  Only Pop gets the nutjob treatment.  Cookbooks.

The new ones are the Step-by-Step, the Mediterranean, and the Smoothie books. No, those aren’t all my cookbooks. I haven’t found all of them in the unpacking, yet. And yes, that is an upside down wall sconce being used as a book end.


I’ve done a fair amount of cooking today, for having only gotten started after four o’clock.  I made my crackers this morning, then went to the grocery store and came home with the fixings for five recipes out of my new books.  I also came home with steamed crab legs, cooked lobster tail, and shrimp cocktail because my mother has addicted my child to crustaceans and he has been begging me for crab for two weeks.

While I was resteaming the crab legs, I got started on Goat Cheese Tarts from the Step-by-Step cookbook.  This is my kind of book!  It is full of pictures, showing you how to, what to, and how it should look.  I’m pretty visual.  That helps me.

The recipe called for a sheet of puff pastry, 10 oz of goat cheese (I got two different kinds from the same brand), onion, corn, or tomato relish, one egg beaten, oil for drizzling, flour for dusting, and pepper. I also added chopped olives and a dash of sea salt for flavor.
This relish. You guys! This relish is delicious! I had no idea what kind of relish to get, only that B hates corn, so that was out. I chose this one because Wayne rhymes with Lane, and it was Award Winning. I chose wisely. Buy this.
In short: You dust some flour on a space, roll out your dough, then use something round (I used a glass) to cut out 12 circles of pastry. You transfer that pastry to a buttered up cookie tray (I used a stick of Land o’Lakes butter and just rubbed it all over the tray until it was slick.) Then, use a smaller circle to make an inner ring dent (don’t cut! just impress) on the circles of pastry, brush egg all over that, then prick the dough with a fork a few times to punch some holes. I don’t know why. It was an instruction and I followed it.
Then, you put a spoonful of relish in the center of each round, and I added a spoonful of chopped olives, then a dash of salt. Then, you put a round dollop of goat cheese on top, drizzle that with oil, and top with sprinkles of pepper.


That goes into an oven, preheated to 400, until the pastry is fluffy and the cheese is bubbly. It took about 12 minutes for mine. Serve hot or cold.


They don’t look like much, and I was actually afraid to eat one.  I served them to B first, since I had finished cracking and cleaning his crab legs first.  He said they were very good, so I tried one.  Um…I have 4 left.  I am saving them for tomorrow.  Maybe.

But the relish is the thing.  That relish is delicious!  It is exactly the right balance between sweet and savory.  Nom nom nom.  Probably a ridiculous amount of calories per bite, but I don’t care.  That’s good eatin’!

I had a lot of lobster left over, so I have made lobster salad.  We’ll see how that is tomorrow, and if I like it, I’ll tell you what I threw together for that.

Chef Lane: C is for Cracker

My friend, the illustrious Dr. Stephanie S., posted a recipe for basic homemade crackers on Facebook.  I had exactly one cup of whole wheat flour sitting in my pantry, so I decided to give it a try.  Mmmm!


First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and get a cookie sheet ready.  If it is non-stick, no worries.  Otherwise, give it a coat of cooking spray.

1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of water
3 tbs olive oil
3 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp garlic salt, ground with parsley
1/2 tsp chili powder
Knead the ingredients until dough forms, and is slightly sticky.
Roll out your dough (on a non-stick surface, or a surface prepped with cooking spray) to about 1/4 inch thickness, then cut into the shape of your choice.
Pop the cut crackers in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until crispy.
Remove from oven and enjoy!

Pretty tasty little wafers.  These would be good with hummus.  The basics are always the same: Flour, water, oil.  Mix up the flavor ingredients as you like to change up the taste.  Next time, I’m using rosemary!


Days of Christmas: Holiday Must Make–Truffles, Cake Balls, and Jars of Cake

I get 90% of my sweet recipes from Jamie over at A Dash of Domestic, including the idea for Jars of Cake and Cake Balls.  I saw this Holiday Truffles recipe on Facebook, and had to try it.  I figured it was a dessert I couldn’t bake to death or ruin in some other way.

I picked up the following at the grocery store, then Thor and I got to work tonight.

  • 2 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 bag of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 14oz can of condensed milk
  • 1 box of Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 2 things of Duncan Hines frosting (1 cream cheese, 1 chocolate)
  • 1 half gallon of whole milk
  • Assorted Sprinkles
  • 1 tin of cocoa
  • 12 4oz jelly jars with lids

Following the Holiday Truffles recipe, I melted up the chips and condensed milk, let Thor do the stirring, then popped it in the fridge to chill while I went to work on the cake.  Once everything was cool, I rolled up my truffle balls and then covered them in the assorted sprinkles.  I found it worked better to warm the chocolate in my hands a little before sprinkle dousing, and I found it worked really well to just roll the balls around inside a bowl of cocoa to cover them with that.  Now they are sitting in the freezer, waiting to go to a Christmas party.

Holiday Truffles

I made the red velvet cake batter as directed, then poured in 2 cups of chocolate chips (1 semi-sweet, 1 dark) at Thor’s behest.  Half the batter I poured into the tiny jars (situated on top of my Pampered Chef stone baking sheet–I love that thing so much!  Thank you Emily Reese!), filling the jars about halfway, then baked for 26 minutes at 350.  I used a teaspoon to scoop off the muffin-y tops of the cakes, then stuffed my cream cheese frosting into a ziplock baggie and cut a tiny pinch from a corner for a makeshift decorating tip.

After the cakes were cooled, I frosted them, screwed the jar lids on, and decorated one for you to see.  Those are now refrigerated, waiting to be delivered to their lucky owners.

Cakes cooling. I set them in warm water to help cool them down without breaking the glass. Ask me about my glass breaking story sometime.
Icing on the cake.
When is a door not a door? When it's ajar. Ahahahahaha! This is a cake in a jar.
Festive, non?

I baked the other half of the batter as a sheet, then mixed it up with about a quarter of the chocolate frosting (and the cake muffin tops I had cut from the jars) and formed cake balls with that.  I rolled the balls in cocoa, and have them in the freezer with the truffles, chilling and hanging out until it is time to be eaten.  Soon, my sweets, soon.

I did melt down some chocolate chips and mixed with whole milk, then dipped about 6 of the cake balls into that.  I caught Thor sneaking them from the platter where they were cooling.  The cake-faced grin would have given it away if the chocolate soul patch he was sporting had not.  Or the stomach ache he ended up with later.

We had fun.  Next up is the gingerbread train kit we’re putting together tomorrow.  Woo-woo!

On the topic of cooking, remember that if you leave a comment on ANY blog entry between now and December 30, like The Outside Lane on Facebook, or leave a comment on The Outside Lane on Facebook, you can win a month-long Premium Membership to my favorite Personal Chef’s website:

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Have–GIVEAWAY! Membership to

You all know how much I love Julie Anne Rhodes and her Personal Chef Approach to meal preparation.  Since joining her website as a Premium Member, in just under a year, I’ve gone from a woman who (not in)frequently set her kitchen on fire, and whose son would beg to go out to eat rather than attempt a mouthful of my Better Off Dead culinary offerings to a fairly decent cook, if I do say so myself.  I’m even venturing out and sharing my own little recipes in a fitness community–to nice results.  I give Julie Anne a lot of that credit.

Why?  Because her Personal Chef Approach to cooking took a weight of stress out of meal planning and preparation, so I could just get down to the business of food.  I also give her site and recipes a lot of credit for me being able to lose 15lbs since this summer.  With my foods prepped ahead of time (especially my lunches!) it’s been easier to eat healthy meals–and tasty meals, too.  It doesn’t hurt that she is fantastically funny, and shares more than just how-tos for cooking on her site.  Premium Members have direct daily access to her in the Forums–worth the membership when you have a question!

As part of the Holiday Shopping Guide, Julie Anne has offered up a gift certificate for a month-long Premium Membership.  One lucky The Outside Lane reader will win an all-access pass to for a full month.

The winner will be selected from all the comments received on The Outside Lane through the month December 30th, with the prize being announced on December 31st–so you can opt to start your membership as part of your New Year Resolutions to get fit, eat better, learn to cook/cook better, get to know interesting people, or just try something new.

Like The Outside Lane on Facebook, and that will count as an entry into the contest, too!

Share The Outside Lane with friends on Facebook, or share individual blog entries, and those will also count as entries.  Lots of ways to stuff the ballot box in your own favor 😉

Here’s what you could get (from Julie Anne herself):

Premium Members enjoy all-access privileges to The PCA™ and receive insider-only tips, exclusive recipes (including archived info), and a weekly menu plan. The menu plan alone is worth more than the price of membership in time, ease, and effort saved! Premium Member benefits include:

WEEKLY MENU PLAN Eliminate any guesswork and save time with an entire week’s worth of meal ideas. Easily tailored to your family’s specific tastes, detailed menu plans come with easy recipes, ready-to-go grocery shopping lists, and heat-to-eat instructions.

PREMIUM RECIPE LIBRARY ACCESS Access a much larger variety of original recipes. Every recipe is one I created (not borrowed from another source) and each has been tested and approved by the clients of my multi-award winning Personal Chef Service. Many recipes also offer variations to accommodate specific tastes and are so easy that, “if you can read, you can cook!”

HOW-TO VIDEOS Some people learn easier when shown than told, which is why Premium Members can view simple step-by-step slideshows for some of the site’s most popular recipes.

ONLINE FORUM Gain a sense of community by joining others and myself as they share their experiences in the kitchen – whether they’re cooking for the very first time or professionally. It’s a G-rated space where you can ask questions, share your successes, and personal cooking challenges. Plus, you’ll gain the secret tips, tricks, and good advice I’ve learned in more than a decade as an award-winning personal chef.

  • CYBER LIVING ROOM An easy way to stay in touch and make friends with other members with your interests. Share thoughts, questions, reviews of local restaurants, events you’ve attended, or family and pet photos. Popular topics include the current week’s menu plan and The PCA™.
  • RECIPE SHARING Have a tried-and-true recipe? Here’s your opportunity to tell everyone about it and discover fellow member’s favorite dishes.
  • MEMBER PROFILES Give your postings a personal touch with the ability to upload a profile pic, your interests, talents, or any other information you want to share.

Inside Dish A monthly e-newsletter with tips on applying The PCA™, advice on safe-food handling, and advance notice of upcoming products, shows, and news! (Premium Members also gain access to archived issues of the newsletter.)

 Our version of “Dear Abby,” only with kitchen woes instead of those of the heart. Send in any cooking desires, queries, or catastrophes, and each month two member’s questions and answers will be featured in the Inside Dish newsletter.

So start commenting, sharing and liking, friends!  Can’t wait to see you in the Forums on!

Video Post: Cooking with Chef Lane…or something

This is going to horrify Grace. It might actually make her cry and have nightmares.

Here is a video of me cooking dinner tonight. Baked chicken tenders (seasoned with McCormick’s lemon pepper), mashed potatoes (and gravy leftover from dinner at Babe’s), and ginger carrots.

It looks like there are holes in the stove because I was washing two of the eyes. I don’t really have counter space, so I just work where I can. And…yes, I wear latex gloves when I touch raw meat. Eugh!