Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sloppy Joes - Part Deux

Never one to leave well enough alone, or remember something I did yesterday, I whipped up a new SJ recipe. It pretty much rocked and was super easy.
You're welcome.

1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, whatever)
1 c onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c green pepper, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp mustard
3/4 c ketchup
a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
brown sugar if needed - maybe a tsp

Toss a glug of olive oil into a pan over medium high and add the veggies. Saute until fragrant, then add the meat. Cook, breaking meat up into smaller bits until cooked through. At this point you can add the chili powder and a bit of salt as the meat cooks.
Drain off any fat from the meat, then add the Worcestershire, mustard, ketchup and brown sugar, and stir well to combine.

You can cover this and let it simmer for a bit, or go ahead and eat it right away if you're in a time crunch; it's pretty damn good right from the get go.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Champagne Risotto

Giada, Giada, Giada.
How do you know the way to my heart so well? Crispy prosciutto and champagne? Seriously? Please just stop toying with me already and let me move in.

Champagne Risotto
4 thin slices prosciutto
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
3/4 cup Champagne
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the slices of prosciutto on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until the prosciutto slices are almost completely crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. The slices will crisp up even more as they cool. Reserve for garnish.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Blanch the asparagus in the chicken stock for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set the asparagus aside and keep the chicken stock at a low simmer.

In another medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more. Add the Champagne and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the asparagus, remaining butter, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Spoon the risotto into serving dishes and garnish by breaking the crisp prosciutto into smaller pieces over the top of the risotto. Serve immediately.

Holy Christmas Cookie Exchange Options, Batman!

Martha's 365 options, of course.
Gourmet's faves from 1941-2008?!?! Yikes, that'll take a lifetime to get through!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tomato, Basil & Garlic Halibut

I stumbled across this recipe (yeah, it's from ConAgra, hence the brand names) and thought it looked easy and healthy and tasty. What more do you need really?

Tomato, Basil & Garlic Halibut
1 Teaspoon Ground black pepper
1 Cup Fresh basil leaves chopped
1 Can Hunt's Tomato Paste (6 oz ea)
1 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
1 Teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 Pounds halibut fillets
1 Tablespoon Fleischmann's Original Margarine
1 Can Hunt's Tomato Sauce (15 oz ea)

Combine garlic powder, thyme and pepper in small bowl; sprinkle evenly over both sides of fish.
Set aside.
Melt Fleischmann's in large skillet over medium heat. Add fish; cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from skillet; cover to keep warm.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil and water to same skillet; mix well. Carefully return fish to skillet, being careful not to allow sauce to cover tops of fish fillets; cover skillet with lid. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with fork and sauce is heated through. Serve fish with the sauce.

There were only two of us so I halved this recipe (except the margarine - I didn't want the fish to stick). It was pretty one note so I think I'll have to tweak it a bit before it's a keeper.

Joe's Spaghetti Bolognese

My roommate makes the most amazing, homey, hearty, rich, robust, delicious spag bol I've ever had in my life. Aside from the wild boar ragu at Myth (* sob *). note to self to get resos at Zinnia for Sean O'Briens wild boar meat sauce; nom.

He's made it twice now and every time I smell it cooking I come running. The first time I just had to have a taste, even though I had already eaten. The second time I was lucky enough to get my own gigantic portion. I determined then and there, that I simply must have this dish for my birthday dinner. He seemed to think I was teasing him, but oh no. This spag bol is the way I think spag bol was meant to taste. It's perfect.

Since he'll be off in lalaland (psh) for my birthday, I can't demand he make it for me and my friends as a gift in honor of the kickoff to my 32nd year on Earth. Damn.

What's a girl to do except to insist that he divulge all of his Mexican-English based Italian cuisine secrets? Last night was the night that he looked over my shoulder and walked me through it and well; I came close. There is just something that I can't quite grasp. Some weird, teeny tiny little spark that I was just unable to capture. Is it umami? Bay leaf? Acidity? I cannot tell but it was woefully absent from last night's attempt. To say I'm devastated is to put it mildly. That spark is what I wanted to serve! Without it, it's just spag bol! Good spag bol, but not Joe's LIFE ALTERING spag bol. It's a depth of flavor that I can't quite figure out, but I know I felt like I wanted to add a little wine to the sauce thinking that's what it was.

My birthday sucks already. :o( I hope someone brings cake.

Joe's Spaghetti Bolognese
serves 4-5
1 half of a medium/large white onion, finely chopped
1 half of a shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, smashed
8 oz of sliced mushrooms
1 lb ground beef (80/20 or 85/15 - you need some fat)
Mild Italian sausages - enough for each person to have one (I also used some of those Aidell's sundried tomato ones)
1 jar of Ralphs/Cala Foods tomato basil pasta sauce
pasta of your choice
olive oil
1-2 tbsp butter
salt & pepper
dried basil
4-5 bay leaves
Italian seasoning
red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese

Put a tbsp of olive oil into a large saute pan over med-hi. Add the butter and let melt.
Toss in the clove of garlic, the shallots, and about half to 2/3 of the onion and saute for a minute. Add mushrooms and saute just til the mushies get some color and start to soften. Pour the onion/mushie mixture into a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, add a teeny bit more oil (only if necessary to prevent sticking), and add the ground beef and remaining raw onion. Cook until browned and then pour off fat.
While meat is cooking in one pan, cook the sausages in another pan. Add a little oil so they don't stick, and sprinkle them with some Italian seasoning.

Add the jar of pasta sauce to the drained meat and stir the onion/mushie mixture back in. Toss in a tbsp or so of dried basil, a few dashes of red pepper flakes (you don't want it SPICY per se, just with a little bit of an undertone from the peppers), some oregano (1 - 2 tsps maybe?), and the bay leaves, and give it a good stir.
If the sausages are done, nestle them into the sauce as well, if not, you can do so once they are ready.

Let the sauce come to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Let simmer for 45 minutes or so; stirring a couple of times.

With 15 or so minutes left, get your pasta going.

Drain pasta, serve, and top with a generous portion of pasta sauce and a sausage. Top with a sprinkling of cheese.

Cry because of some undetermined depth of flavor that is missing that makes it not quite Joe's.
No wait, you don't even know what you're missing, so just enjoy it. I'll cry.

The clever gang over at Chowhound has plenty of nommy sounding suggestions too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beef Bourguignion

Ever since the movie I've been thinking about it. Much as I love my SB-esque beef & butternut squash stew from Giada (seriously, I dream about that damn stuff), it's worth seeing what the real deal, the ULTIMATE, is like.
I do NOT feel compelled to cook my way through Julia's books however. Or Martha's.
I'll happily stick to my own silly little blog, snagging tasty recipes from wherever, that I can then bastardize and healthify to my own liking. This one however, is worth a shot, in its full, unaltered glory.
Bon appetit.
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Birthday Cocktails

I like to honor the Sandra Lee in me with a little birthday inspired Cocktail Time. . .
Last year, no wait, two years ago? we had the Candy Cane and the Sugarplum (which I believe was some sort of blueberry vodka based beverage). This year I'm not straying far from that and I think I'll do the Candy Cane again, but swap out the mediocre Sugarplum for my favorite bubbly drink, the Champagne Cocktail.
See, I loves me some blueberries, and I found BLUEBERRY BITTERS. Blueberry. Bitters. Y'all. I was looking for a recipe for bitters to see if I could make my own blueberry ones, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a link to some clever people that have done all the work for me. I am hoping and praying that this is delicious, but we shall see.
For those of you unfortunate enough to have made it this far in life without the pleasure of a Champagne Cocktail, let me break it down for you:

Drop a sugar cube into a champagne glass and douse it with a generous hit of bitters. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

Seriously that easy and so yum. See how blueberry bitters could be awesome here? I do!

Now about that Candy Cane. . . I can't remember exactly what I did, but let's try this:

1 shot of Godiva white chocolate liqueur
1 shot of vanilla vodka
1 shot of peppermint Schnapps

Garnish with a mini candy cane (as the crushed peppermint candy rim I tried to go with was a bit of a nightmare).

I admit, it might not be equal parts of all three, but you can start there at least. Please keep in mind that while this is all milky delicious and candy tasting it is pure alcohol so don't go guzzling them down and then driving out to do your Christmas shopping.

Oh, and in honor of my roommate (who had never had one of these if you can even imagine) - maybe I'll also serve Snugglers. Should we rename them Snuggies to remain culturally relevant?
(BTW, Snugglers are hot chocolate with peppermint Schnapps). Might sound girly, but after a cold day of cutting down trees and stringing lights, they are just what the doctor ordered. As long as the doctor in question is Sandra Lee.

(it doesn't really kick off til 1:23, but I have no idea how to edit video, so, fast forward or something)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ina does it again

Darn that Ina Garten for tempting me with nomtastic deliciousness yet again. Delightfully French, and maybe even somewhat healthy, a little, somewhere, if I try. But hey, French people are thin, so maybe it's okay.

Mustard Roasted Fish
4 (8-ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces creme fraiche
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons drained capers

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. (You can also use an ovenproof baking dish.) Place the fish fillets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Combine the creme fraiche, 2 mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it's barely done. (The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it's done.) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
4 to 5 pounds broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.

Honey Vanilla Fromage Blanc
32 ounces fromage blanc
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup good honey
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Vanilla seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

Ripe stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, plums
Berries such as raspberries and strawberries
Citrus fruit such as oranges, cut in segments
Raspberry Sauce (see below)

Stir the fromage blanc, cream, honey, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble, spoon the fromage blanc mixture into shallow bowls. Place the fruit artfully on top and drizzle the dessert with raspberry sauce. Serve with extra raspberry sauce on the side. I find that some people like it less sweet with just a drizzle of sauce while others prefer more sauce.

Raspberry Sauce
1 half pint fresh raspberries
1/2 c sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tbsp framboise liqueur

Combine raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, jam, and framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until very smooth. Chill.

Turkey Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

I made a yumtastic soup last night. Totally SB friendly, healthy, yummy, and super super easy.

1 medium onion; diced
2-3 cloves of garlic; minced
4 turkey sausages, sliced into disks (I used Aidell's sundried tomato)
1 huge can of chicken stock
1 bunch of kale - washed, large stems/stalks removed, and roughly chopped
2 cans of white beans (great northern, cannelini, whatever)
salt and pepper
olive oil

Heat olive oil (2 tbsp or so) in a large stock pot. Sautee the onion and garlic until soft, then season with salt and pepper.
Add the turkey sausage and cook a bit longer - I like to see the sausage a bit browned.
Add the stock and the beans. Add the kale bit by bit (as it fits in your pot!) and stir to combine. Cover the pot and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until kale is wilted and everything is heated through. Taste broth for seasoning and add any additional seasoning as necessary - maybe even a dash of red pepper flakes if you like it spicy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Delicious, or horrifying?

I love my slow cooker. Love love love. I make stew and carnitas in it, and that's maybe. . . just. . . about. . it. I am torn on this recipe. I do like those little party meatballs that my Grandma used to make (you know, with the grape jelly barbecue type sauce?), and someone likens this dish to that. I don't know that I want to eat an entire roast with that flavor though, so I'm just not sure.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Roast
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast
1 (16 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Place onion soup mix in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place roast in the slow cooker, and top with cranberry sauce.
Cover, and cook 8 hours on Low.
Remove roast, and set aside. Set slow cooker to High. Whisk together butter and flour, and slowly mix into the liquid remaining in the slow cooker to create a thick gravy. Serve with the roast.

Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

When I was planning for Iron Chef Battle Cupcake, my beloved Buzzie suggested an idea I had long since dismissed - pineapple upside down cupcakes. I couldn't think of how to get the pineapples in place - normally you flip the cake over so the fruit and goo that was in the bottom of the pan is now on top. I envisioned messy, sticky, burnt on sugar that would tear apart the cakes and stick in the bottom of the pan and be a bastard to clean.
I wondered if I could just make the cakes and then top them later with what would typically go in the bottom of the pan.
I decided against it.
Until I saw this recipe, and now I'm rethinking things.
For my first go round, I actually tried it in regular sized cupcake tins (I had visions of minis and just using pineapple chunks).  I had to cut the pineapple rings into quarters (or smaller) to get them to fit into the cups.

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 (20 ounce) cans sliced pineapple
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/4 cup veggie oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs dark rum (I used Captain Morgan)
12 maraschino cherries, halved

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter; mix well. Spoon into 24 greased muffin cups. Drain pineapple, reserving the juice. Trim pineapple to fit the muffin cups; place pineapple in each cup (enough to create a layer).
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil and 1-1/4 cups of the reserved pineapple juice (this was the amount in one can); mix well. Spoon over pineapple, filling each cup two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Immediately invert onto wire racks to cool. Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Quinoa is a nice, South Beachy grain, and it's actually quite tasty, especially combined with the yummy, earthy flavors of wild mushrooms. Even if you cook too much of the liquid off (which I may have done) and it's not quite as soft and creamy as risotto typically is, the dish is still pretty damn fine overall. This is a great, easy, totally straightforward recipe. I loved the addition of goat cheese due to my severe goat cheese addiction. I typically use grated Parmesan or Romano cheese which are much more true to a standard risotto. This time around I used a little bit of both. This dish is much less labor intensive than a true risotto as well, since you add all of the liquid at once and leave it to simmer, rather than adding it ladle by ladle (though you can do that too!).

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, oysters, or porcinis, cleaned and chopped
1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/4 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay)
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled AND/OR 1/4 - 1/2 cup grated hard Italian cheese such as Parmesan

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

2. Add the olive oil and mushrooms, season again, and cook for another five minutes, or until mushrooms have begun giving off their water. (You can prepare the dish up to this point and set aside for an hour or two, or refrigerate overnight.)

3. Add the quinoa and the wine and broth, stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook at a bare simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the Parmesan and the goat cheese until both have melted, season to taste, and serve hot. You could also stir in some additional butter at this point if you're more interested in richness than waistlines.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Roast Chicken - spatchcocked, of course

I have been reveling in my usual Food Network weekend morning watching ritual, and with it being a half second away from Thanksgiving, Thanksgivingy recipes are flying out of my idiot box nonstop.
One or two of these recipes introduced me to spatchcocking. Not only is "spatchcock" the most fun, non filthy word you'll see all day, it's an awesome technique for quickly cooking whole birds. My oven isn't the hugest and I know with a whole giant gobbler in there, there won't be room for a single other dish. I'm also concerned that by the time I get around to making my Thanksgiving dinner, they won't even have any turkeys in the stores and I'll have to go with chicken anyway.
A quick walk down to Whole Foods yielded a $15, four pound organic bird that was mine for the taking. I spatchcocked my little heart out and then got down to business (please note that the extra step of removing the breast bone is not always included in spatchcocking instructions, and I didn't do it myself. I just broke the bone with a nice satisfying crunch and moved on.).

Roasted Spatchcocked Chicken & Gravy
6 cloves garlic - smashed
1 yellow onion
fresh rosemary - we used 2 really long sticks ("skewers"), so maybe 4 regular sized sticks
1 3-4 lb whole chicken
6 -8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper
chicken broth

I served this with sweet potato fries from Trader Joe's (chips and gravy are the best thing in the world), and roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper and parmesan cheese). I poured the gravy on the bird meat and the fries and danced around triumphantly, took a photo for facebook to make all my friends jealous and then hooked in. Thanksgiving will be a piece of piss.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Roughly chop the onion and put it in the bottom of a roasting pan, not one of those jobbies with the v shaped rack for a full bird, just a regular roasting pan with a flat rack.
Spatchcock your bird and lay it out flat. Lift the skin away from the meat by sliding your hand in and getting all nice and gooey. Place pats of butter, a clove of garlic, and a sprig of rosemary all over the bird; maybe one or two sets on each breast, one per leg and one per thigh.

Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, both sides.

Put the bird on the rack and pop it in the oven. Roast for 45-60 minutes. At about the 20 minute mark you can pop in and baste the bird with the buttery yummy goodness at the bottom of the pan to help crisp up the skin. Now is the perfect time to put the the sweet potato fries in as well.

Once the thigh registers close to 180 degrees and the breast near 170, your bird is done and ready to come out and rest. At this point flip the fries, and pop the asparagus in until done.

Break off the legs/thighs and wings, and cut off the breast meat. Slice that and separate the leg from the thigh to be served.

The gravy is tricky. Try to spoon off as much of the clear buttery juice as you can, leaving the yummy rich chickeny part behind. I poured about half a cup of pan juices/butter sauce with as many chunky chickeny scraping bits as I could find into a pan and fired up the heat to med-hi. I stirred in 2 and 1/2 tbsp of flour or so and let it cook for a few minutes to try to cook off the floury taste. I slowly added chicken broth up to about a cup and a half or two cups, plus 2 shots or so of bourbon, stirring constantly to try to prevent lumps. Once the gravy can coat the back of a spoon, Bob's your uncle and you're ready to go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Banana cupcakes

With Iron Chef: Battle Cupcake on the horizon I had some serious decisions to make.
Blueberry Lemon?
My classic Pumpkin Spice?
Something more classic?
Chocolate and. . . ? (banana, peanut butter, raspberry. . . . )
The options are limitless. However, I landed on chocolate and peanut butter. And banana. And butterscotch. Um. . .I may have gotten carried away.

Banana Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
5 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 - 1 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
Add ins: nuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 - 8 inch round pans, or prep cupcake pans. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the yogurt to the creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, or chips. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

I saw a lady on tv put the batter into a plastic bag and cut off the tip to pipe into the pans - this is my new favorite thing. I feel bad about wasting the bag, but it is so much cleaner and easier than spooning it in.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes (15 minutes for mini cupcakes, 20 minutes for full sized cupcakes). Remove from oven, and place on a damp tea towel to cool.

One batch I left plain. One I added semi sweet chocolate chips to. One I added butterscotch chips to.
Then I took a can of triple chocolate chip frosting and mixed 1/4 cup of peanut butter in. The results are pretty sweet; I may have to cut back on the sugar in the batter, or UCK make my own frosting so it's not so sweet. Of all the combos, I was the biggest fan of the plain cakes with the peanut butter and chocolate frosting; the boys like the chocolate chip with the peanut butter and chocolate frosting; we all agreed that while very tasty, the butterscotch chip version was just way too sweet.

I'm not in love with the results, but they're pretty damn tasty. I considered drizzling some bourbon caramel on top instead of frosting, but was too tired of baking to whip up a batch.

The next day I made the salted caramel frosting (which I added bourbon to, thankyouverymuch) I found on The Kitchn and this, my friends, was the winner. Definitely NOT on the butterscotch, but yes on the plain, and yes on the chocolate chip.
I think for my birthday I'll make my banana cake with the salted caramel bourbon frosting and maybe the drizzle of chocolate they mention in the recipe on Savour-fare.

The more I think about it, the more irritated I am that these cupcakes were so DENSE and banana bready. This here recipe is incredibly similar, but they're promising light and fluffy results. . . maybe I'll give it a shot. Maybe instead of using so many nanas to get that nana flavor, I'll have to * gasp * use banana extract or something. I think it's the fruit that's weighing things down.
This one wants me to believe it's the best ever (some cakes are so full of themselves). We shall see people, we shall see. Now that I have to make them for Thanksgiving it seems I'll have plenty of time to experiment.

Bourbon Caramel

Who doesn't want this?

Bourbon Caramel

Yield: 1 1/3 cups (serving size: about 1 tablespoon)

1 1/2 c sugar
2/3 c water
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 c evaporated low-fat milk
1/4 c ff 1/2 & 1/2
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp bourbon

Sprinkle sugar in an even layer in a large, heavy saucepan. Combine 2/3 cup water and syrup; pour over sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves (about 4 minutes), stirring gently. Cook an additional 20 minutes or until golden (do not stir). Remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk, half-and-half, and butter using a long-handled wooden spoon (mixture will bubble vigorously). Cook over low heat until mixture is smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Serve warm. (Mixture thickens as it cools.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hot Fudge Sauce

While at the Fairmont in Scottsdale this week, I had some chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream. I twas whiskey or scotch or something, but the important part is that it was HEAVEN.
This might be a great thing to make up as a gift. I found a recipe on kitchenplay's blog that looks like a good starting point. It is Nancy Silverton's recipe from The Wednesday Chef.

Hot Fudge Sauce
Makes 2 cups
7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tablespoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1. Melt chocolate pieces in large stainless steel mixing bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of gently simmering water. Be sure water does not touch bottom of mixing bowl to prevent chocolate from burning. Turn off heat and keep warm over warm water until ready to use.

2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder and instant coffee to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and to prevent burning on bottom of pan.

3. Whisk in melted chocolate. Boil hot fudge for few minutes to reduce to consistency you desire. It should be quite viscous and surface should have glossy shine. Cool slightly and beat in Cognac or brandy.

The steps for sterilizing glass jars can be found here.

Roasted Onion Vinaigrette

I was watching Food Network today and Michael Chiarello made this salad with a roasted onion vinaigrette. I can't stop thinking about how yummy that must be and so I feel the need to save it here. Perfect for a yummy fall dinner I bet.

Roasted Onion Vinaigrette
2 large sweet onions (Vidalia or Maui)
8 cloves peeled garlic, roasted

4 oz. balsamic vinegar, plus 2 ounces

12 oz. olive oil

¼ c. honey

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the outer brown skin away from the onion.Wrap onion in some tin foil, leaving an opening in the top. Drizzle onto the onion around 1 T. of olive oil, an ounce of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Close the opening and place on a baking sheet in the oven for 1 hour or until onion is completely soft and translucent. Cool slightly and place the entire onion and all the liquid into the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar and roasted garlic. Pulse to puree. Add honey and pulse to combine. Turn the machine on and drizzle in the remaining olive oil.

Mushroom pasta

After my bus decided to blow past me yesterday rather than stopping to pick me up, I decided to walk on a little further along the Embarcadero to the ferry building. I knew I had to come up with something for dinner, and what better place for culinary inspiration than there?
After impulse shopping with the hordes at Sur La Table (but I got one thing I actually needed, plus pirate cupcake papers and toppers), I ran right smack dab into one of my favorite shops in the whole wide world. Just like that, my decision was made - mushrooms it was. They had little mixed variety baskets for $5 so I picked up two.
But mushrooms and what? Steak or chicken? Pizza? Pasta?
Oh, but mushrooms and goat cheese are so good together. . . . okay, so I'll use some goat cheese too, why not?

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pasta
Whole wheat egg noodles (or other whole wheat pasta you have on hand - probably not spaghetti)
2 baskets of assorted wild mushies (I'm guessing it was about a pound, but we could've happily eaten twice this amount)
chive goat cheese (make your own by mixing fresh chives in with softened goat cheese, or make life easy)
1 large chicken breast
seasonings of your choice for chicken - I typically use a combo of poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic and onion powders
4 tbsp I can't believe it's not butter (ICBINB)
1 large shallot, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
lemon juice
black truffle oil

Clean and cut up the mushrooms. Place on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil and salt, and roast at 450 or 500 degrees until mushrooms are soft and browned - I have no idea how long this took because I am bad at this part. Stir once part way through.
Season and cook chicken in a pan over medium-high. You might want to butterfly the chicken to speed up cooking time.
In one tbsp of ICBINB, cook the shallots and garlic over medium heat until soft and fragarant - 4-5 minutes.
Once the mushrooms are done, add them to the shallots and garlic and add 1-2 more tbsp ICBINB as needed/desired.
Chop up chicken into bite sized pieces and add to mushroom mixture.

Drain pasta of most of the water, leaving a tablespoon or so behind. Add 1 tbsp ICBINB and leave on heat to melt down - 1-2 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture and stir to combine.
Stir in 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice.

Dish up pasta, sprinkle with chunks of goat cheese, and drizzle lightly with the truffle oil.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

If I was going to go anywhere for a Shepherd's Pie recipe, I'd go here. I just trust that man with my English standards, go figure. Leave it to an Irishman to go and whip up a kickass South Beach variation for me. The original recipe calls for cauliflower in place of the traditional white potatoes, but this clever boy subbed that out for sweet potatoes. I think I also heard murmurings of grated Parmesan cheese in the sweet p's too. Nom.
I was a little wary of edamame in the mix rather than peas, especially since there looked to be SO MUCH edamame, but it was great.

Shepherd's Pie
1 (16 ounce) package frozen cauliflower florets
(OR 3 large sweet potatoes)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cups shelled frozen edamame, defrosted
1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon low-fat sour cream
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheee

Heat the oven to 350. Spray a 2 quart casserole with cooking spray.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add cauliflower and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. (OR cook sweet potatoes until soft - nuke, boil, bake, whatever you prefer; I go with nuking since it's quickest)
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beef and brown for 10 minutes, stirring to break up lumps. Add edamame and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes longer. Stir in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt. Transfer meat mixture to the casserole.
With an electric mixer at medium speed, whip the cooked cauliflower (OR sweet potatoes) with sour cream, egg yolk, and another pinch of salt. Spoon cauliflower (OR sps) evenly over meat. Top with cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Asparagus and Soft Boiled Eggs with Truffle Oil

It seems a classic combo is soft boiled eggs and asparagus. Just ask Nigella or Jamie. Another classic idea is that of soldiers to dunk into said eggs - which are slices of buttered toast most often. I first saw Jamie Oliver make his "soldiers," and thought, wow. Bacon/prosciutto wrapped asparagus dunked in nummy egg yolk? What a great, simple breakfast; and a new way to eat eggs!
Later, I was hanging out at this great little wine bar in New York called Ino, where one of their signature dishes is "truffled egg toast" which was just divine. They took a small, but thick piece of toast; made a little nest for an egg which was somehow cooked in there to be perfect and runny and delicious; drizzled it with truffle oil and finished it off with some wee shaved asparagus bits.
This took me back to math class.
Runny egg yolk + asparagus = nom
Runny egg yolk + truffle oil = nom
Runny egg yolk + truffle oil + asparagus = nom x 2

Quinn made me my first ever soft boiled egg fairly recently, so maybe that's why I'm just getting into this classic egg cooking technique now. I hatched this brilliant snack idea that I've been dying to try = cook up some asparagus (boiled in salted water til just done), carefully peel and cut open a soft boiled egg so the yolk runs all over the joint, drizzle with white truffle oil, finish with some shaved Parmesan. Ta da!

Sadly, I had never soft boiled an egg in my life and have yet to do so successfully. They were just into hard boiled territory which made me pout and whine and stomp my feet and have a mini hissy fit that I had ruined my beautiful plan. :o(
Must. . . practice. . . . . soft. . . boiling. . . eggs. . . .
The flavors however? PERFECTION.

** update:
Still can't soft boil an egg. * sigh *

Dead Man's Ball - revisited

Oh lordy, that swamp water drink I tried to make? Did NOT go well. If anyone would like three bottles of green juice (featuring powdered broccoli and spinach), please let me know. I have some.
I did use the rest of the open bottle and a bunch of water to fill a glass apothecary jar with a creepy, sludgy, green liquid which I floated eyeballs in. So it was at least good for that; everyone kept asking me what it was.
The TruBlood however was a hit!
I took one bottle of fruit punch (the 365 Organic brand from Whole Foods was nice and dark)
1 1/2 c brandy
2 bottles cab sauv
lemon flavored fuzzy water if desired

I admit to drinking most of it myself, but those that I allowed to sample it seemed to like it or they're excellent liars. I think I just lost out to DJ AM's insanely fally cinnamony fruity vat o'sangria.
I had a major fail on the cupcakes thinking that I had spice cake mix at home and only realizing I didn't an hour before guests were supposed to begin arriving. Whole Foods had some "gluten free" stuff that my roomie was kind enough to pick up for me, but really? Do I want to hustle to try to make and clean up cupcakes in that kind of time crunch only to find out they suck? No. I was stressed out enough.
The other nibbles were hits though. I thought the fire roasted salsa was DIVINE and the mushroom/goat cheese bruschetta was gone really quickly. The pear blue cheese bites are SO easy to make (I didn't even end up roasting them! Just cut them into little pieces and topped with cheese; skewered with a toothpick), I think they'll be a new standard.

Next year I won't make the mistake of saying how much time I have and all that I've gotten done before the party. . . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Prep for the Dead Man's Ball - Halloween 2009

The kitchn has a great offering of Halloween appropriate wines which I LOVE. I picked up some Sinister Hand myself, but the others are great options to bring along to a party.
I tried not to let myself go too crazy with food on Halloween, but omg, I've already spent way too much money, so what's a little more? And if I don't make something I thought I might, no big deal, right? Right.

Let's start with drinks. Aside from the standard beer and wine people bring (and I have that appropriately covered as well - pun definitely intended - or you can always make your own a la etsy), we'll have:
Sangria a la Buzzie & Billy Bob
I'm also making a couple of cocktails, one very sangria like, one a little more. . . . uh. . . weird and margarita-esque.
Swamp Water (thanks to inspiration from Martha, of course)
(exact recipe to follow)
lime juice
green fruit juice blend
perhaps rimmed with a spicy salt
TruBlood (also inspired by Martha)
recipe to follow; I can't decide if I'm going sangria-esque or sticking with the brandy punch option. I'm just PRAYING it is as inky dark red as it looks in the photo.

Onto the nibbles. . .
Halloween candy, of course
Pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting (appropriately spooked out with spiders or spider webs or eerie faces)
Guacamole - I'm thinking I'll let it go all brown and gross looking and call it swamp sludge or something; ooh, Soylent Green!!
Fire roasted salsa - I've been wanting to make this for a while, and I think fire roasted salsa will look spookier than my standard pico de gallo. I'm going to make it using all the same ingredients I usually do, but I'm going to roast all of the veggies and then blend them in food processor. Pureed people perhaps?
Mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta - aka Innards on Toast or something
- for this one I'm going to roast up a bunch of wild mushrooms and toast some baguette slices (rubbed with garlic). A smear of goat cheese on the toast, a dollop of yummy roasted mushrooms and a drop of truffle oil - ce magnifique!
Maybe some Pear and roquefort cheese bites - Moldy something or others no doubt
- roasted pear til it's soft, topped with a chunk of cheese and speared with a toothpick
Or maybe just a cheese plate if I start running out of time, which is most likely.

I ordered up a ton of stuff from Safeway that's getting delivered tomorrow, and Saturday morning is going to be busy busy busy!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pork Loin with Apples

Fall again, which seems to translate to pork and apples for me more often than not. Definitely apples anyway, and pork and apples are a classic combo. Someone requested a nummy pork dinner after a perfect fall day of pumpkin patching and carving and I happily obliged - though not until 10pm or so. I tried to soothe the masses with a tasty apple drink in the meantime:
Apple Jack o'Lantern
1 1/2 shots of brandy (I used some VSOP I had)
a few dashes of Angostura bitters
apple cider
- can be served warm or cold. I'd love to add a little something else next time - - fizz perhaps? I put fizz in all my cocktails.

Roast Pork Loin with Apples
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (2-pound) boneless center cut pork loin, trimmed and tied (I totally forgot this step, whoops)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 stalks celery, thickly, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
(I used a few dashes of dried and it turned out fine)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter - I used I can't believe it's not butter
2 apples, cored and cut into 8 slices - I used Braeburns
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large ovenproof skillet heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Season the pork loin all over generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat until golden brown on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a plate and set it aside.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, herb sprigs, and 2 tablespoons of the butter to the skillet. Stir until the vegetables are browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the sliced apples, then push the mixture to the sides and set the pork loin in the middle of the skillet along with any collected juices on the plate. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the loin until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 140 to 150 degrees F, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Pork cooked this way will be slightly pink. If desired, cook the pork to 160 degrees F, but be aware that this lean cut will not be as moist at the higher temperature.

Transfer the pork a cutting board and cover it loosely with foil while you make the sauce (I let my pork sit for about 20 minutes as I cooked the sides; I just covered the whole pan with foil and left it sitting on top of the oven to stay warm). Arrange the apples and vegetables on a serving platter and set aside. Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Return the skillet to a high heat and add the vinegar scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Reduce by half then add the cider and reduce by about half again. Pull the skillet from the heat and whisk in the mustard, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove the strings (if you remembered to trim and tie your pork, which I did not) from the roast and slice into 1/2-inch thick pieces and arrange over the apple mixture. Drizzle some sauce over meat and serve the rest on the side.

I served this with twice baked sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. For the sprouts, I skipped the cheese and tossed in some dried cherries before serving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kick Ass Steak Sandwich

A great use for leftover steak, or you can always make steak specifically for it. If you're of the veg persuasion, portobello mushrooms are a fab sub for the steak and just as tasty. I'd score the top of my mushie and drizzle it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and grill it up.

Roasted peppers
Sliced french bread
Steak - cooked to your preference, grilled, pan seared, broiled, etc.
Pesto butter:
2 tbsp pesto
1 tbsp softened I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (I had some leftover garlic bread butter that I used, which is ICBINB, minced garlic, and grated parmesan/romano cheese)
Mix pesto and butter together to make a spread for bread.
Balsamic Onions:
One onion, sliced into 1/4" slices
Cook until soft in olive oil, then add 2-3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and remove from heat, stirring until vinegar is absorbed by the onions.

Spread pesto butter on one half of the bread. Top with peppers, steak, balsamic onions, and top with the second piece of bread. So, freaking, good.

Turkey Stroganoff

I could make this recipe every week and happily nom away. It's fast, easy, and super tasty. Win! SB friendly, of course; for phases 2 or 3.

Turkey Stroganoff
1 tbs olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup chicken broth
12 ounces of whole-wheat egg noodles
6 Jennie-O turkey meatballs - (my new favorite find; they are SO good) once you've nuked them, cut them into quarters
1 cup nonfat sour cream
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, bell pepper, and broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 6-8 minutes.
Add turkey and sour cream. Heat.
Serve over cooked noodles.

Chicken and Biscuits

Well, it IS possible. You can make a South Beach version of Chicken n Biscuits. I'm not a huge fan of this dish in general, but was determined to make a nice comforting SB version.
Starting with this recipe for the main dish, and recipe for Carquik biscuits from this site and tweaked them to make my final dish. I wasn't wild about the whole wheat flour in the dish - it made it look a bit weird and seemed just a tad gluey on reheating the next day; maybe next time I'll use more broth.

SB Chicken & Biscuits
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped baby carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons Splenda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth (or more as needed for desired consistency - I wanted a thicker sauce)
1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained
4 cups diced, cooked chicken meat (I used a rotisserie chicken for this)
cooking sherry or Dry Sac
fat free half and half

2 cups Carbquik
1/2 fat free half and half cup
1/8 cup water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dried basil
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place dry mix & baking soda in mixer bowl. On low speed, slowly add liquid until dough forms. Do not overwork dough.
Break into 6 equal portions; roll dough into balls and smoosh flat to be placed on top of the casserole mixture before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots in butter until softened; add in the mushrooms and 1/4 c of the sherry and let the liquid cook down a bit until veggies are tender. Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and pepper. Stir in broth, and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, boil 1 minute, reduce heat, and stir in peas and half and half. Simmer 5 minutes, then mix in chicken. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish.
Place the prepared biscuits on top of the casserole and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cover with foil, and bake for 10 more minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Have I seriously never shared my sangria recipe here? Ever? But, that's MADNESS. I make it all the time! In the case of a sudden zombie apocalypse wherein we are trapped in this apartment unable to go outside for food or beverage, we will always be able to subsist on canned goods and sangria because I ALWAYS have the fixins on hand (and I have a bit of a canned food hording problem).
While I'm sure this sangria is very good based on its 400 plus rave reviews, it's a bit labor intensive for me.

I'm pretty sure my sangria goes likes this:
2 bottles of inexpensive red wine (I seriously grab whatever looks familiar and is under $10 a bottle)
1/2 - 1 cup of brandy
1 cup of orange juice
1 small bottle of fuzzy water - lemon, lime or orange flavored work well
apple - sliced or cut into small cubes or wedges
orange - sliced
lime - sliced
lemon - sliced

If you have time, combine the oj and brandy and let the sliced fruit sit in this mix in the fridge for a couple of hours ahead of time, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine, taste and add sugar if you'd like; (I typically don't, but every once in a while it could use a couple of tablespoons) and refrigerate for another couple of hours. Add the fuzzy water just before serving and there you go. Sangria.

For white peach sangria:
2 bottles of white wine - I typically go with a pinot grigio, but again, whatever is inexpensive or on hand
1/2 - 1 c peach vodka
1 c peach nectar
1/2 bag of frozen peaches
1/2 bag of frozen mangoes
1 small bottle of fuzzy water - lemon or orange

For this one I combine the vodka, wine and nectar and refrigerate for a couple of hours, adding the frozen fruit and fuzzy water just before serving.

I also do white "antioxidant" sangria which is similar to the above but I use raspberry or blueberry flavored vodka, with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries as my fruit; the mixed berry fuzzy water and maybe some strawberry nectar or blueberry pom as the juice. This isn't so much a traditional sangria, but because it's made in the same style, I go with it on the nomenclature.

Finally, we have what I'll call "camping" sangria. This is for when you're making your sangria elsewhere and you don't want to be lugging 80 thousand ingredients around with you. Shockingly enough, it tastes just like sangria I've had at restaurants the world over, particularly in Mexico where they prefer it sweeter and more citrusy.

2 bottles of red
1 20 oz. bottle of Sierra Mist or other way too sweet lemon/limey soda
1 c of oj (most people have this in their fridge for you to pilfer, or you can get a small container of it easily)

Combine ingredients.
Aaaaaand that's it. Garnish again with the sliced fruit, but this is all that's necessary for a completely passable sangria. Shocking, I know. It doesn't pack the punch of the sangria with the added alcohol, but it's still tasty and refreshing, and let's face it, we don't always need extra alcohol.

*** Updated to include this recipe my stepmother found, which I clearly did not write since I would never suggest such a thing as adding more juice to get "less alcohol per glass" ***
Party-in-a-Pitcher Sangria

PER SERVING (1 generous cup): 125 calories, 0g fat, 5mg sodium, 13g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 7g sugars, 0.5g protein -- POINTS® value 2*

This sangria is CHOCK-FULL of fruit and deliciousness. Just don't underestimate the alcoholic intensity of fruit chunks that have been chilling in there for a while -- they're POTENT, people!

1 bottle red wine
1 can Sprite Zero (or 1 1/2 cups of any diet lemon-lime soda)
1 cup Diet Ocean Spray Cranberry Pomegranate (or another flavor of Diet Ocean Spray)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 small orange, peeled and chopped
Half a Fuji apple, chopped
Half a slightly under-ripe banana, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup pineapple chunks (if canned, packed in juice)

Place fruit in a large container that will not stain easily (like a glass pitcher or a high-quality plastic one). Cover fruit with wine and cranberry drink, and give mixture a good stir.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 hours. (It's TOTALLY worth it. Quit whining.)

Once ready to serve, add soda and give it a good stir. Pour and be sure to get a nice amount of fruit in each glass. Enjoy!

P.S. If you like your sangria with less alcohol per glass, add more of the cranberry drink until it tastes juuuuuust right.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cakes Cakes Cakes

Fall and baked goods just go hand in hand in my mind. The warm spice flavors and the brisk weather are a perfect match and I start adding cloves and or cinnamon to just about everything come October 1st, even though that's typically summer in San Francisco. So what if it's 76 degrees out? I want a pumpkin spice latte!!! (Not that you need to get yours at a worldwide chain; you can make them yourself too.) Apple cake, banana bread, and of course - oh yeah - my pumpkin spiced cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Mulled wine, apple cider. . . the list of fall treats just goes on endlessly.
Now that I am wracking my brain to create some delicious and perfect treat for my beloved Buzzie's bday dinner, I stumbled across some mind blowingly good sounding fall cakes thanks to the kitchn. I had been tossing around the idea of not trying to compete with her beloved Red Velvet (which I have never made, and me thinks now is not the time to try it out for the first time) and just doing a cheese course; perhaps using a wheel of cheese and decorating it to look like a cake (with goat cheese rosettes around the edges to act as frosting perhaps) when BAM. The Kitchn beats me to it (sort of).

(also, Truffle Tremor? Swoon.) I don't think I need a 3lb wheel of cheese for 6 people though; even though we COULD eat the whole thing. That's just it - we might.

Onto the cakier cake options (some still with my beloved goat cheese even!). . .

Harvest Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting
Makes one 9” layer cake

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup grated carrots
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup finely grated beets
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup safflower, canola or other mild-tasting oil
4 eggs

For the frosting:
15 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup

For garnish
8-12 walnut halves or 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Arrange oven racks to divide oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 400° F Grease two 9in x 2in cake pans, dust with a spoonful of flour and tap out. Line each with a round of parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir together carrots, zucchini, beets, nuts, and raisins.

In a large mixing bowl, beat maple syrup and oil together until emulsified. Add eggs one at a time, beating until batter is smooth. Add flour mixture in three or four batches, mixing gently until mixture is even. Gently mix in the vegetable mixture. Divide between baking pans.

Place one baking pan in center of each of the racks. Bake 25-35 minutes, until a skewer or paring knife inserted into centers comes out clear and cakes are pulling away from the sides of pans. Cool on a rack about 5 minutes, then gently remove from pans. Cool to room temperature before frosting.

To make frosting:
Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon and a strong arm, beat goat cheese and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill about 30 minutes, until firm.

To assemble:
Following our instructions on how to frost a layer cake, cut four strips of parchment or wax paper to line cake plate under the cake's edges. Place first cake layer on plate. If it has a peaked top, carefully shave it off using a bread knife or sharp slicing knife. Using an off-set spatula or table knife, spread with frosting, pushing it to edges. Place second layer, top down, squarely on first layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting over entire cake to eliminate crumbs. Frost with remaining frosting. Arrange walnut halves and/or flowers around edge. Can also be garnished by gently pressing handfuls of finely chopped walnuts into frosting.

NOTE: The recipe has been updated to reflect a larger quantity so that layers can be bigger. We have tested it several times and find this recipe works better when feeding a crowd. Of course, for a smaller cake you could halve the recipe and bake it in smaller pans, or in one pan and slice that layer into two layer for a more thin cake.

Banana Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Butter, for greasing pans
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup veggie oil
4 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 c sour cream (as suggested by reviewers)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
(or this one)

Cook's Note: This recipe is not formulated for a wedding cake, but for a normal size everyone can use. Increase as needed if you are making tiered or extra large cakes.

Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) round cake pans; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the eggs, oil, banana, sour cream and vanilla to another bowl and mix the wet ingredients separately. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened; do not beat. Mix in nuts.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake layers in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely. While the cake cools, make the frosting.

In a bowl, blend together the cream cheese and butter. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the pecans, or reserve them to sprinkle over the frosted cake. Fill and frost the cake when it is completely cool.

And of course I'm thinking up ways to de-Dean this recipe and healthify it a bit, but you know, sometimes you've just gotta go for it. We'll see. Reviewers complain that the cake isn't fluffy enough and is more like a dense bread - they suggest adding another egg or more water. . . can you imagine a banana cake with ganache frosting? Nom.

Banana Almond Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting
(yes, I just said that) Please do visit the blog, Savour Fare, as it offers up some fab photos and tips. Like this one!:
Now listen closely, because I am going to tell you the secret to baking a good cake: Beat the hell out of it before you add the flour, and beat it as little as possible afterwards. When you’re creaming butter and sugar, beat it until the mixture is not just combined, but fluffy, and nearly pure white. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition, and then beating some more. Once you add the dry ingredients, just stir until barely combined. What you don’t want to happen in cake is the development of gluten. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment cut to size, and spray with Baker’s Joy, and your cake will release perfectly.

1) Freeze your cake layers before you start decorating.
2) Split the layers with a serrated knife, and while you’re at it, cut off the domed top of the layer.
3) If you’re planning on decorating a lot of cakes, invest in a turntable. They’re not very expensive and make the process easier.
4) Secure your bottom layer to a surface (a small cake can be transferred from the decorating surface with a spatula, but for a larger cake you might want to build it on a cardboard round), then spread filling on each layer and stack, checking to make sure it remains level.
5) Don’t skimp on the frosting. There’s no sense in making a delicious cake and using frosting from a can. You can tell. Powdered sugar will do in a pinch, but the best buttercreams are sugar syrup based (and this particular buttercream, which is made with whipped caramel, might be the best thing you’ve ever tasted)
5) Start with a thin layer of frosting on the outside of your cake (called a crumb coat), chill, then add additional frosting.
6) If the cake is primarily for looks, have a thick layer of frosting — it will hide more imperfections. If you’re willing to embrace some imperfections, aim for a thinner coat of frosting so the sweetness doesn’t overpower the cake.

Almond Banana Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Frosting and Chocolate Icing

Cake and Frosting from The Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson, Icing from thepioneerwoman.com

For the cake
3/4 c. banana puree (2 sm bananas)
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. + 2 T flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 oz butter
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1 oz. almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add extracts and egg and beat until thoroughly combined. Combine buttermilk and banana in one bowl and dry ingredients in another, and add them in alternate batches to the butter sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester shows its done.

Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream (8 cups)
Ordinarily, buttercream frosting is the one time I would tell you to use unsalted butter, but with this caramel flavor, salted butter adds the perfect note of salt.
4 c. heavy cream
4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 lb salted butter

Combine sugar and water, heat until amber, following directions for caramel in the hazelnut praline paste recipe. Immediately add the cream. Cool 10 minutes, put in mixer bowl and cool until firm (but not ice cold). Whip with an electric mixer with balloon whisk attachment until the caramel is fluffy, add butter 2 T at a time and whip until butter is incorporated. Use before chilling.

For the icing:
7 T butter
2 heaping T cocoa powder
3 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
8 oz. powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the cocoa powder. Allow to bubble for 30 seconds, turn off the heat, then add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir until combined, let cool slightly, and pour over frosted and chilled cake.

Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

2 pounds tan-skinned sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
31/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced candied orange peel
3 tablespoons sugar

For cake:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes with fork; place on small baking sheet. Roast potatoes until soft, about 1 hour. Cool, peel, and mash potatoes. Measure 2 cups mashed potatoes; cool to lukewarm (reserve any remaining potatoes for another use). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; line pans with parchment. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Combine oil, 1 cup sugar, and brown sugar in large bowl; whisk until smooth. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, then mashed sweet potatoes. Whisk in flour mixture in 3 additions. Stir in 2/3 cup walnuts and 2/3 cup cranberries. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pans on racks.

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, scraping down bowl often. Beat in orange juice concentrate and vanilla.

Cut around pan sides; turn out cakes. Peel off parchment. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Combine orange peel, 3 tablespoons sugar, remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, and 1/4 cup cranberries in small bowl. Stir to coat with sugar. Transfer to sieve; sift off excess sugar. Sprinkle fruit and nut mixture decoratively atop cake. Chill until frosting sets, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Finally, they rave about this one; but I just don't know. . .
Oh, one more thing. Holla!

Steak Diane

My parents rave about this recipe so a very special lady, it's time to try it out. Still trying to decide if I want to serve it with everyone's favorite mashed sweet potatoes, or maybe some asparagus, and a Caesar salad of course.

South Beach Steak Diane
serves 4
4 (3 oz) beef tenderloin
5 tbsp trans free margarine
1/4 c onion, minced
1/4 c mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dried parsley
fresh chives to garnish (optional)
salt & pepper

Place each 3 oz piece of tenderloin between wax paper and pound with a mallet until the steak is about 1/2 inch thick.
Pat meat with paper towel to dry; season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, melt 3 Tbsp of the margarine and cook meat on medium to high heat for 2 minutes on each side.
Remove the meat from skillet onto a plate and keep warm.
In the same skillet, melt 2 Tbsp of margarine and saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic until veggies are semi-soft.
Add the mustard powder and Worcestershire, mixing well.
Add the meat to skillet and cook until meat is done to your liking.
Remove the meat and keep warm; combine lemon juice and parsley in the skillet and cook until warmed.
Pour sauce over the meat and garnish with chives; serve.

Buttercream & Creamcheese Frostings

They can't all be South Beach. . . .

Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
3 drops food coloring, or as needed (optional)
  1. Cream room temperature butter with a hand mixer, the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, or a wooden spoon until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla extract.
  2. Pour in milk and beat for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add food coloring, if using, and beat for thirty seconds until smooth or until desired color is reached.
This probably needs to be doubled up for most cupcake batches.
2/3 c cocoa will make it chocolate.
Use "clear" flavorings for WHITE icing (regular vanilla will tint it a bit).
Dries well for sugar cookies.
Refrigerate for an hour before using to thicken enough for piping.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.
Optional tweaks - 1 - 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. butter, and 2 c. powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
Add one more cup of sugar if you like a sweeter frosting; this one is very cream cheesy and not that sweet.
Might want to halve the recipe for smaller cakes (this frosts two 9" cakes).
Not stiff enough for any super fancy decorating schemes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My fellow SBers probably miss their starchy carby treats as much as I do, so I'm sure that these suggestions will create a flurry of activity in Carbquik sales.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
* makes 16 biscuits *
2 c Carbquik
2 oz cold butter
1/2 c shredded lowfat cheddar cheese
1 pinch garlic powder
1 pinch salt
1/4 c TJs ff half and half
1/4 c water

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees
-Cut the cold butter into the Carbquik with either a pasty cutter or two knives, till the mixture resembles coarse meal.
-Add the shredded cheese, a pinch of salt, and garlic powder and blend well.
-Mix the cream with water to equal 1/2 cup of liquid, pour into dry mix
-Mix till dough forms and comes together, but do not overwork the dough.
-Drop the dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet approx 1 ounce size portions.
-Bake in hot oven 8-10 minutes till biscuits are golden brown.

Blue Cheese Bites (not quite so healthy. . . )
* makes 4 dozen *
2 4 ounce packages crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup butter-softened
1 1/3 cups Carbquik Mix
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
Walnut or pecan halves (optional)

Beat cheese and butter at medium speed of electric beater until creamy. Add Carbquik, poppy seeds and red pepper, beat until blended.

Divide dough in half-shape each half into 8" log. Wrap in wax paper and chill 2 hours or until firm.
The dough can be rolled into logs, chilled overnight, and sliced and baked the next day.
You can omit the chilling time by rolling the dough out to 1/4" and using a 2" biscuit cutter to cut out rounds.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut each log into 1/4" slices, place on ungreased baking sheets. Press a walnut or pecan half into each slice-if desired. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool 1 minute on pans-remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Carbquik Beer Batter (onion rings here I come . . . )
1 pound fish fillets
4 tablespoons Carbquik
1 cup carbquik
1/2 cup low carb beer
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying

Low Carb Tartar Sauce (ew)
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Sour Cream
3 tablespoons pickle relish, no sugar added
Heat oil (1 1/2 inches) in heavy saucepan or deep fryer to 350ºF. Lightly coat fish in the 4 tablespoons of carbquik.
-Mix remaining ingredients with hand beater or wire whisk until smooth. (If batter is too thick, stir in additional beer, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.)
-Dip fish into batter, letting excess drip into bowl.(Being very careful not to break the batter using a very light touch on the fish, or use a fork to spear the fish)
-Fry fish about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown; drain. Serve hot with Low Carb tartar sauce.

Carbquik Banana Bread
2 1/3 c Carbquik
1/2 c Splenda
1/2 c Steel's Nature Sweet Brown Crystals
1/3 c canola oil
3 eggs
1 tbs milk
3 large, very ripe bananas
1 tbs vanilla extract
3/4 c chopped nuts

Mix together Carbquik, Splenda, brown crystals, oil, eggs and milk; beat well. Stir in bananas. Add vanilla and nuts. Bake in loaf pan at 350 degrees 55-60 minutes. Let cool on rack 15 minutes, then invert on plate or rack.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Walnut Chicken Stir Fry

I was craving something with an Asian flair, so last night brought us to Walnut Chicken Stir Fry. The walnut oil added a great new flavor which I can't wait to try in or on other dishes and dressings. I upped the veggies from the original recipe and scrapped the whole idea of "greens." I meant to serve it up with that yummy brown rice from TJs, but I didn't have any. Glad I upped the veggies to make up for it.

Walnut Chicken Stir Fry

chicken breasts, skinless, boneless - I used the tenders; enough for two people
2 tablespoons walnut oil - this might be my new favorite toy
3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts - toasted
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 medium onion
1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 package (4 ounces) broccoli flowerettes (or more!)
1 green bell pepper
a couple of handfuls of snowpeas

In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon walnut oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce. Set aside. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch strips. Add the chicken to the large bowl, stir to coat. Cover, then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut the peppers and onion into 1 inch strips.

In a small bowl combine the ginger with the reduced sodium chicken broth, and the remaining low-sodium soy sauce and garlic. Set aside.

In a large skillet (or Wok), heat the remaining walnut oil over medium high-heat, when hot, but not smoking, add the chicken (discard all remaining marinade), cook until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken, set aside. Now stir fry the onion and peppers until onion is tender, add the broccoli, cook until tender, add broth mixture and stir to coat and start to cook the garlic. Then add in chicken, cook stirring constantly until chicken is brought up to desired serving temperature. Turn off heat, add walnuts, and stir thoroughly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Twain Harte Pasta

I don't know what else to call this since I think it was the pasta sauce that was the magical ingredient here. I have scoured the interwebs trying to find this sauce to refer to it here, but I can't remember what it's called and Twain Harte Market's website doesn't work quite like Safeway's. (Mel, if you feel like digging through your trash and reading the label for me, please post it in the comments!).
Melissa & Piia and I had some girl talk to catch up on so we decided to have a nice healthy South Beach dinner over at Mel's. She had all sorts of goods to choose from in whipping something up, and I brought over some of my homemade pesto. We cooked up some whole wheat rotini. I baked some chicken with Italian spices and gourmet sea salt on Mel's gorgeous Le Crueset grill pan which I covet, even though some of my fellow home cooks struggle with them. I browned the chicken on both sides (four breasts) and then popped it in the oven at 350 until it looked done.
We heated up this magical sauce from TH Market, and I added about 3/4 of a cup of my homemade pesto to the full can of sauce. We cut up the chicken, tossed that with the other 1/4 cup of pesto that I thinned out a bit with some extra olive oil and then added it to the sauce and pasta. A sprinkling of parmesan and voila. It was possibly the best pasta I have had in a long time. Thank God Mel sent home leftovers since I am about to pull a Dickerson and eat it for breakfast.
We also had a great salad with oranges (expertly supremed by Piia), sliced dried apricots, avocado, tomatoes, and red onions with a citrus vinaigrette. Num.