Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars

Long ago, in a land far away, some of my lovely lady friends and I started a tradition of snacks, snark, and the Academy Awards. It fell by the wayside, but I brought it back, even though the ladies that started it all were unable to attend.
Next year, I will record the event a bit more carefully so we don't miss Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Motion Picture. * sigh *
One of our traditions is a Best Picture nominee themed cocktail (The Million Dollar Baby, The Blood Diamond, etc.). This year, I went a little further and themed some of the food as well.
We had Slumdog Sangria (which I have decided will be the Apple Blossom the rest of the time), Benjamin Buttoncakes, and Oroville Readerbacher Popcorn Mix. Lots of other food too, yes, but these were the only themey ones worth mentioning in this here blog.

Slumdog Sangria by you.
Slumdog Sangria/Apple Blossom
A take on the classic beverage which I'll make for any situation if given half a chance. It was cold and stormy and sort of fall-esque, so I was craving apples. I found this recipe on Design*Sponge and it was love at first site.
2 Pink Lady apples - I slice them super thin so that I get those beautiful center segments with the little star/flower in the middle; then I sliced the rest into thin strips that were maybe half an inch wide, keeping the pretty ones for garnish.
1/2 cup Calvados
2 bottles Pinot Grigio
1 bottle sparkling apple cider

I soaked the apples in the Calvados in the fridge for about an hour, then put them in a pitcher with two bottles of Barefoot Pinot Grigio and then let that sit for another hour or two. I considered adding apple juice, or apple cider, but worried about muddying the flavor or making it too sweet.
I placed one of the pretty slices in a glass, poured in the sangria leaving about an inch and a half of room at the top, then adding in some sparkling cider.
It was tasty and went down way too easily, as sangria tends to do.

Benjamin Buttoncakes - closeup by you.
Benjamin Buttoncakes
Okay, these were a total cheat based on what I had on hand, and again, my apple craving. I totally Sandra Lee'd some spice cake mix by adding apples, and frosting with cream cheese frosting. But then I shook a bunch of round sprinkles out of the container, and matched up four of each color to decorate the tops of the cupcakes to look like buttons.

Readerbacher close up by you.
Oroville Readerbacher Popcorn Mix
Again, based on what I had on hand, which unfortunately did not include Worcestershire sauce, which the recipe called for. I made do with soy and balsamic.
I popped my own popcorn, maybe 1/2 cup of kernels. I combined the popcorn with small pretzels in a baggie and added the flavoring. Because I was using more, I upped the amounts a bit.
5 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp garlic garni
1 tsp onion powder
soy sauce - maybe 2 or 3 tsps?
balsamic - maybe 1 or 2 tsps?

I poured it over the popcorn and pretzels and shook the living daylights out of it. Then I spread it out on a cookie sheet and baked it at 350 for 10 minutes or so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creme brulee
I finally did it! I made a delicious creme brulee and it was delicious and wonderful and awesome and delicious. Hot damn I love vanilla. I halved Alton's recipe since it was just Quinn and I (thanks for the lovely photo PHBF). I served it with fresh berries and my mouth fell in love.

Crème Brulee

* 1 quart heavy cream
* 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
* 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
* 6 large egg yolks
* 2 quarts hot water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh berries or experiment with adding different flavors to the custard.

Hang on. . . .

I just need to add some more bacon. . . .


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Eat Drink or Die may prove to be the end of my career. I really need to close the page, like now.

See, I couldn't ignore the meatball banner (could YOU?), so I clicked. And read about these yummy meatballs and thought of my grandmother and the meatballs she would make, and well, now I need to make meatballs too. How on earth am I going to get through all of these recipes I simply MUST make? And again with the meat?!

I plan to take plenty of guidance from Caprial's recipe, but mix in a page from Grandma's instruction. I was always a huge fan of Grandma's meatballs - you know the kind, you go to a party, there's a crock pot and a bunch of meatballs and some toothpicks? And the sauce is sweet and spicy and smoky and awesome? Well, all I can remember is grape jelly & bbq sauce (similar to this recipe) and baking the meatballs on a piece of paper bag to get rid of some of the fat. Genius.

I like the idea of sauteing the garlic and onions first, then mixing them in with the meat, and trying a baby meatball to test seasoning - how simple is that?! Of course, you know I'll be doing this with the leanest beef I can get my hands on, or ground chicken.


1/2 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 pounds ground meat

1 egg, slightly beaten (you might need two eggs; start with one and then decide on how well everything is binding)

1 cup soft white breadcrumbs

dried parsley and basil - approx 1/2 tbsp of each

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Heat a saute pan with olive oil, add the onions and cook over medium heat until the onions start to brown about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute quickly. Remove from the pan and chill. Once the onions are cold place in a large mixing bowl. Add all the ingredients and mix well. Try not to over mix the meat. Cook off a test meatball. Adjust seasonings. Form the meatballs and place on a cookie sheet lined with a clean paper bag (yes, I use the inside side of the ones I get from grocery shopping - reuse!). Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes or until done - you'll have to be willing to sacrifice one of the meatballs to peek into the center.

You can also brown the meatballs in a saute pan in olive oil before baking, but I think that just adds extra fat to the mix. Since fat = flavor, I'll humor you by mentioning that you COULD do it that way. You know, if you insisted. If you decide to clog your arteries like that, you'll probably only need 10-15 minutes in the oven.


I made the meatballs last night, and forgive my modesty, but Best. Meatballs. Ever. I even used actual beef, though it was 93% "extra" lean.

I made as directed with fresh sourdough for my breadcrumbs (I toasted first to dry it out a bit) and made a tomato sauce from scratch (which is so easy and tasty that I have no idea why I ever buy the jarred stuff).

I baked the meatballs at 375 for 10 minutes, flipped them over (onto cleaner spots on the paper bags) and baked for 10 minutes more. This recipe made around 30 good sized meatballs (think golf balls).

For the sauce, I did my "standard."

Smashed a couple of cloves of garlic and tossed into a pot with some olive oil to infuse the flavor into the oil. Then I added about a cup or so of diced yellow onion and let that all soften a bit. I added one can of stewed "Italian" tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce, half a can of tomato paste, and a glug of the cab we were drinking (Chateau St. Michele this time), let's call it a quarter cup. A sprinkling of dried herbs - I used oregano and marjoram, maybe a half tbsp of each, and a tsp or so of red pepper flakes. I tossed the lid on and let it bubble away for a while getting thick. Checking, stirring, tasting, added a tsp of sugar since it was really acidic, and three large basil leaves, ripped up into smaller pieces. Let it go for a while longer (maybe too long, it got REALLY thick), but damn it was awesome.

Once the meatballs were done I put a few into the pot of sauce and made sure they were coated. I served on a small pile of spaghetti, sprinkled with grated parmesan and then annoyed Quinn by going on and on about how good it was. See? Modest. I sent him to work today with a bunch of leftovers to make a meatball sandwich, and still have a ton left to make Swedish meatballs or something later (if I'm not in the mood for tomato sauce). I should've put them in the freezer.


I just found two fun new websites (thanks to the clever folks over at Food & Wine). Eat Drink or Die is the lovechild of the Funny or Die geniuses and Tom Colicchio. Stupid easy videos (check out the chicken pot pie one if you don't believe me).
Rouxbe has just motivated me to try making chocolate chip cookies from scratch (you may have to register - it's free - to see the video). I don't usually do this as I tend to be disappointed with my results. Also, why bother when the Toll House ready to go dough turns out so well? These ones actually look like I WANT my cookies to look, so I'm hoping they live up to expectations in taste as well. Then I can play with additions and make my own fabulous creations.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In honor of love

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and marketed love is in the air. And you know what? So what. I love a day dedicated to love. I love the crafts we did as kids, I love getting little pink/red/white/cutesy things for my friends and loved ones, I love the cheesy store bought valentines, I love an excuse to focus on sweetness. Yes, of course I want it year round, but I do look forward to the day dedicated expressly to it.
Quinn and I watched Iron Chef battle chocolate (copycats) last night since the Food Network gets all chocolatey this time of year (I watched Sandra Lee make an entire chocolate meal on Saturday). As an aside, I'd like to point out that some of the ideas totally stole from our ideas at the Glorious Battle Chocolate of last month. One of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, also has a great homage to all things Valentine's Day Dinners Cooked At Home For Your Sweetie. Seven different menus await and I totally can't decide which one sounds best.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Beef Bourguignon

I can't spell it to save my life but I love to eat it. When I was in Paris, screw those escargot, I was all about the Bourguignon. I can remember sitting at some cafe one day for lunch and ordering it and just melting a little. Great for chilly fall evenings, or RIGHT FREAKING NOW.
What is with me and beef lately? (Allrecipes seems to have a hit on their hands as well if you're Ina averse - I would recommend using fresh ingredients rather than canned; 4 1/2 stars with 183 reviews!)
As always, I'll look to cut back on calories where I can. I love that Allrecipes offers up nutrition information, so with that recipe coming in around 600 calories per serving, I think there must be some shaving to be done! Ina's doesn't have the same amount of butter, but does have more booze. . . hmmm.

Prep time: 0:30; Cook time: 1:15
Serves 6
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac
  • 1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
  • 1 can (2 cups) beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
  • Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.

But you know what? Screw that - I have a crock pot now bitches.

** update **
I finally made this, NOT using my crockpot, and you know what, it was kind of hard work. Well, time consuming work anyway. And because I didn't fully understand the recipe yet, and because I was already missing half of the stuff I needed, I didn't even attempt to make it healthier. Bacon. Fat.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes always make me think of my best friend's grandmother, Grandma B. I think I probably only had one at her house, but maybe it was my first. They are always somehow tied to her in my mind. These, and cracker lunches of course, but that's for another entry.
After seeing Robin Miller make them yesterday, it got me thinking about what might make the best possible recipe. I know I'll have to play with it a bit until I get it right, but so far, this seems to be pretty standard.

lean ground _____ (beef, turkey, whatev)
brown sugar?
Worcestershire sauce?
green pepper?
hamburger buns

I saw another recipe that featured chicken gumbo soup as part of the base, but I don't know how I feel about that. I'm thinking a little barbecue sauce might be good in place of some of the ketchup and brown sugar, but I have a feeling this is going to be one of those recipes that I make with whatever I have on hand at the time.

I'm guessing I'll saute the garlic and onions a bit (unless I'm using the powdered stuff), then add the meat and brown it. Then I'll add the other stuff and let it simmer for a bit so the flavors meld. I remember serving it with shredded cheese, and maybe chopped onions? Hmmm. I'll play with making it as South Beach friendly as possible too.
Thoughts? Secret family recipes that I just have to try?


I love lasagna. Not like Garfield loves lasagna, but I do love it. It says family to me - it's sort of an ongoing joke that at any Romo family gathering there will be a big old tray of Stouffer's lasagna. This (and grandma's spaghetti sauce) are why I plan our Mexican-Irish family dinner at an Italian restaurant every year. Whenever I'm missing my grandma it means one of three dinners will be on the table soon: lasagna, stew, or spaghetti with meat sauce. We'll get into her orange Jell-O salad later.
In any case, I've been home sick the majority of the week, and we all know that means nonstop HGTV and Food Network (since it doesn't really matter when I fall asleep and miss half of or perhaps three shows). Drawback being that I don't really have any food in the house and this is somewhat torturous. Yesterday and today featured lasagna and now I'm confident I'll have to make it next week. Give me a shout if you want to come over.
I think whenever I've made lasagna in the past I've used the recipe from the BH&G cookbook my dad got me.
Following are three recipes: the BH&G version, Ina Garten's Portobello mushroom lasagna, and finally Robin Miller's version, only because I love that she made a ton of ground beef and used it for lasagna one night, tacos another, and sloppy joes another. How easy is it to cook up a bunch of meat on a Sunday, have a delicious lasagna that night and leftovers for lunch during the week, then spend 15 minutes or so making tacos or joes?!

3/4 lb of your favorite ground meat (chicken, turkey, sausage, pork, beef)
1 c chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can of diced tomatoes (7 1/2 oz)
1 8 0z can tomato sauce
1 6 0z can tomato paste
2 tsp dried basil, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
(optional 1 tsp crushed fennel seed)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
6 lasagna noodles (5 oz)
1 beaten egg
2 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
8 oz of mozzarella (slice it if it's not already sliced)

Of course I typically use lowfat cheeses and chicken or turkey meat when I make this, but go with what you like.

Put the pasta water on to boil.
SAUCE - heat a small amount of olive oil over medium heat and add onions and garlic, cooking til fragrant. Add the meat and cook until it's well browned and drain off any fat. Stir in the tomatoes (undrained!), tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, (fennel if you're using it) and s&p. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occassionally.
NOODLES - while the sauce is simmering, cook the noodles according to package directions (I pull them when they're still pretty al dente so they don't get too mushy) and drain.
**note: you don't want the noodles to sit around after they've been cooked and drained or they go all stiff and weird**
FILLING - Again, while sauce is simmering, and noodles are cooking, combine egg, ricotta, 1/4 c of the grated cheese and the parsley flakes.
ASSEMBLY - In a 12 x 7 1/2 x 2" baking dish, add a small amount of sauce in the bottom. Lay half of the cooked noodles in, trimming if necessary. Spread with half of the cheese filling and top that with half of the meat sauce and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers sprinkling the remaining grated cheese on top.
BAKE - 375 for 30-35 minutes til heated through. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

This can be made ahead of time; just stop before baking. Cover with plastic wrap for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove the plastic, cover with foil and bake in a 375 oven for 35 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 20 minutes or til heated through.

Kosher salt
good olive oil
3/4 lb dried lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk (I bet I'd use low or nonfat)
12 tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 lbs portobello mushrooms
1 c freshly ground Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375.
SAUCE - bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt one stick of butter (8 tbsp) in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tbsp salt, the pepper & nutmeg, and cook over medium-low, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then a whisk, for 3-5 minutes til thick. Set aside off heat.
Separate mushroom stems from caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4" thick. Heat 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp butter in a 12" saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes til they are tender and release some of their juices. Toss occassionally to make sure they are cooking evenly. Repeat with remaining mushrooms and set aside.
NOODLES - while preparing the sauce, cook the noodles, drain and set aside.
ASSEMBLY - spread some sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 12 x 2" dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 c of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times. Final layer should be noodles, sauce and remaining Parmesan.
BAKE - at 375 for 45 minutes or til top is browned and sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

And because a) this post is damn long enough, and b) you can use the same basic idea to do this your own without following these exact recipes, (and maybe c), I've only made one of her recipes and I'm not quite comfortable vouching for the fact that all of her stuff turns out well with only one try under my belt) I'm only posting links to Robin's.
Sloppy Joes