February 2007

I spent the weekend in Dunn, North Carolina with my boyfriend’s family, celebrating the matriarch of the family’s 99th birthday. What a great occasion to celebrate! We stayed at his Aunt Mary’s house and she was so hospitable! I decided to post her recipe for pecan pie that Ben’s mom makes each year for Thanksgiving. (I’ve added it to my repertoire as well) The recipe is super easy and makes two pies.


Best Pecan Pie
Courtesy of Mary Pope

1 2/3 cups white sugar
1 2/3 cups white Karo syrup
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups pecans
2 T melted butter (optional)

Mix ingredients and pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 300 for 50-55 minutes. Makes 2 pies.



I was FINALLY able to blog about my Valentine’s Day dinner – it was definitely a good one! There some pictures too, so definitely check it out!

I cook chicken a lot and I’m always looking for new and easy recipes to make so I won’t be bored with my dinners on the weeknights. For this week’s issue, I’m providing three sauces you can make to serve with sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

The first is a piccata – I’ve probably made this recipe 20 times and it’s always a winner. The second is a pan sauce that I got from my local newspaper (The Washington Post) around a year ago. And the third is a sauce I created out of my love for gorgonzola cheese.


P.S. To cook the chicken, season both sides of a thin chicken breast (pound if necessary) with salt and pepper and preheat a skillet at medium-high heat with 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil. Cook the chicken five minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Lauren Hillman

Piccata Sauce – The Hillman Way
Serves 2

Remove the cooked chicken breasts from your saute pan and add to the pan 2 tb. lemon juice, 1 clove chopped garlic, ½ c. white wine, 1 chicken bullion cube and 1 tb. butter. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes – remove the remaining bullion if it has not dissolved yet; Add 1 tb. chopped parsley and serve over chicken.

Orange-Dijon Pan Sauce
From The Washington Post

Remove the cooked chicken breasts from your saute pan. Add to the pan ½ cup orange juice, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and ½ fresh chopped rosemary into the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce until the sauce is 1/4 cup.

Whisk in 1 tb. butter until the sauce is smooth and glossy. Serve over the chicken.

Gorgonzola Sauce
Serves 2

Remove the cooked chicken breasts from your saute pan. Add to the pan 1 tbs. chopped garlic, 1/4 cup white wine, 1 tbs. butter, and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Boil until reduced to around 1/4 cup. Add in 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola sauce and stir continuously until melted and incorporated into the sauce. Serve over the chicken.

I’ve already sent this recipe out to my Hillman’s Helpings e-mail list, but I thought I’d post it again here. I made it last night and remembered how much I love it! I served it with some garlicky sauteed spinach and a salad. Enjoy!

Chicken Francese

This recipe serves two, but feel free to double it as you see fit.
Pound two boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they are about ¼ inch thick. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, try using a rolling pin or a heavy- bottomed skillet as a substitute. They will all work!

Preheat a skillet at medium-high heat and add 2 tb. extra virgin olive oil. Set a bowl and a plate next to your stove. In the bowl, crack one egg and beat it lightly. On the plate, place 2 tb. each of grated parmesan cheese and dried parsley flakes. Dip the chicken breasts first in the egg and then coat it generously with the parm/parsley mixture.

Drop the coated chicken breasts in and cook them for about 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. (The thinner the chicken is, the less time it will take to cook). Try not to move the chicken in the pan or else the coating will fall off the chicken.

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and cover it with foil to keep it warm. To the skillet, add about ½ cup of white wine. This is called de-glazing the pan. You want to try and scrape the bits of leftover chicken off of the skillet. (This will minimize clean-up AND add flavor)

Add 1 chicken bullion cube to the wine.

Note: Bullion cubes can be found in the spice aisle of your grocery store. They are good to use in place of chicken stock, but also when you want a concentrated chicken flavor without much work.

Add 3-4 thin slices of lemon to the pan and bring to a boil. Swirl in 1.5 tb. of butter. Let the mixture boil together and add the chicken back to the pan. To give your dish some fresh herb flavor, you can garnish with some freshly chopped parsley.

I know, I’m a bit late in blogging about this dinner. I think I was just too full to think about it until now – jk.

My boyfriend is a very adventurous eater, but for special occasions, he prefers meat and potatoes. So, I’d already decided to bacon and leek mashed potatoes, stuffed tomatoes provencal (recipe below) and filet mignon with a brandy and peppercorn cream sauce — are you hungry yet?

I wracked my brain, trying to come up with the perfect appetizer – I looked through all my cookbooks twice and finally came upon this Aspragus Veloute in a Parisian cook book I got recently. It is basically pureed asparagus with leeks and chicken stock, but it was the perfect start to our special meal.

For dessert, creme brulee had to be it – I got a kitchen torch about a year ago and I’ve only used it twice.

We were sufficiently stuffed and ended up with a LOT of clean up 🙂

Asparagus VelouteAsparagus Veloute

Sautee one thinkly sliced leek in 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil until they are soft. Add 1 lb. of chopped asparagus. Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1 can of chicken stock (13-14 oz), cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender and add salt and pepper to taste.

I also toasted some baguette slices with some parmesan cheese to put on top of the soup.

dinner.jpgFilet Mignon with Brandy and Peppercorn Cream Sauce

I didnt buy much meat – only about 3/4 lb. – and it was actually the perfect amount for us because of all the other food I made.

Season the filet with salt and white pepper. (If you dont have white you can use black). Heat 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Place the steaks in the pan and do not move them for five minutes. Turn them over and cook them for another five minutes. Remove from the pan and losely cover. (this will give you medium-rare steaks).

For the sauce, add 1/2 cup minced shallots and 2 minced garlic cloves. Saute until translucent. Add 2 tb. flour and cook for one minute. Add 3/4 cup beef broth, 3 tbs. brandy, and 1/4 c. heavy cream. Add 2 tbs. roughly chopped green peppercorns in brine.

Bring sauce to a simmer and let thicken until it will coat the back of a spoon – about 5 minutes.

Serve over the steaks and enjoy!

The past few days in D.C. have been cold, wet and snowy. What could be better than a warm bowl of chili on these cold winter days? On Tuesday evening I whipped up the quickest and healthiest chili recipe I know. Clocking in at only 233 calories per serving (1 cup) you won’t feel guilty chowing down on seconds.

This recipe comes from my favorite cooking website/magazine, Cooking Light. I found it not too long ago in a compilation book I have. So far, I’ve given the recipe to friends, family members and co- workers and they’ve all raved about this easy, hearty AND healthy chili recipe.


Lauren Hillman

Adapted from Cooking Light

Vegetable cooking spray
1 pound ground round (you can use ground turkey if you like)
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes
2 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pepper
7 tablespoons nonfat sour cream
Sliced green onions (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Coat a large stockpot with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add meat, onion, and garlic, and cook until the meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well, and return mixture to pan. Add beans and the next 9 ingredients (beans through pepper); stir well. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream. Garnish with sliced green onions and cheese, if desired.

Serve with cornbread.

Bon Appetit!

I knew I’d be alone Fri, Sat and Sun night this weekend so I decided to make a 9×13 inch dish filled with eggplant parm so I wouldn’t haveto cook for myself at all – this eggplant parm is really easy and keeps for at least three days in the fridge! Enjoy.

Eggplant Parm

Thinly slice a large eggplant. Preheat a skillet with 1 tb vegetable oil.

Dip the eggplant slices first in flour, then in beaten egg, then again in flour. Lightly saute the eggplant slices until browned on both sides. You might use up a few eggs with this method.

Put a thin layer of your favorite tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 inch glass dish. Layer the eggplant slices, then more tomato sauce, then a large handful of shredded light mozzarella cheese. Repeat until the dish is filled to the top.

Place foil over the top of the dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the cheese is a little browned and bubbly on top. Serve as a side or a main dish with a side of pasta or spaghetti squash.

Giant Valentine CookieHello!
We’re all aware that Valentine’s Day was created by Hallmark, but that doesn’t deter us Americans from pulling out all the stops – or stop restaurants from charging ridiculous prices on this day of love. Why spend $100/person to go out when you can make an even better (and cheaper!) meal for your friends or special someone?

I’ve used the recipes below on various Valentine’s Days and they’ve all been hits! I’m not entirely sure what I’m making for V-day this year, but I’ll definitely blog about it on February 15th. Whether you’re spending the day with friends, family or your special someone these recipes are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Lauren Hillman

Mustard-Crusted Rack of Lamb
Serves 2

When I was thinking about what to use as the ‘main course’ for this Valentine’s menu, all I could think of were decadent foods. I was talking to my best friend Jamie and we decided that lobster risotto would be the perfect Valentine’s main course – decadent and rich. But, risotto is pretty hard to make and I didn’t want to burden you with that recipe. Instead, here is an unbelievable lamb recipe (definitely rich) that I make often. It’s fancy, but super easy and perfect for a special occasion.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Season one rack of lamb (8 chops; you can buy them anywhere but I get mine cheap at Costco) with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat 1 tb. vegetable oil in a pan and brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Remove the lamb from the skillet and (in this order) 2 tb. dijon mustard, 2 tsp. chopped garlic on all sides.

Combine 1/4 c. breadcrumbs and 1 tb. parm cheese in a bowl and press onto the lamb.

Roast the lamb in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 145-150 degrees (for medium rare).

Let the meat rest for 5 minutes, slice the chops and serve!

Provencal Tomatoes
From Ina Garten

These tomatoes were a wonderful addition to my menu two years ago. One serving is two stuffed tomatoes.

4 ripe tomatoes (2 1/2 to 3-inches in diameter – I used vine-ripened)
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (3 slices, crusts removed, made in your food processor)
1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1.5 scallions)
1/8 cup minced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the cores from the tomatoes, removing as little as possible. Cut them in half crosswise and, with your fingers, remove the seeds and juice. Place the tomato halves in a baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, scallions, basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle the tomato halves generously with salt and pepper. With your hands, fill the cavities and cover the tops of the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture. Bake the tomatoes for 15 minutes, or until they’re tender. Sprinkle with the cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 seconds more. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Giant Valentine Cookie

I first made this cookie in 2003 and was such a hit. Its cute wrapped in red plastic wrap with a bow around it – the perfect Valentine’s treat!

Preheat oven at 375 degrees; grease a heart-shaped pan. If you don’t have one, any sheet pan will do.

Combine 1 cup + 1 tbs. flour, ½ tsp. baking soda and ½ tsp. salt in a bowl. Beat 1 stick of butter, ½ cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup sugar until creamy.

Beat in 1 egg. Gradually add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.

Bake for 20-30 minutes. Let cool in pan.

Microwave 1 cup chocolate chips at 70% for 1 minute, then at 10 second intervals until they are melted and smooth. Spread over cookie in the shape of a heart. Decorate with sprinkles or M&M’s to your liking.

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