Friday, May 29, 2009

Sauce on toast

I don't know what I was more into last night - the discovery of an Earthlike planet orbiting a neighboring star on "Search for Second Earth" on the Science Channel (I've never tried to hide my geekiness), or the toast I was eating.
I had made my standard onion/tomato pasta (with the addition of some of the Pinot I was drinking to help saucify things, minus any cheese or basil because I didn't have them) a couple of nights ago and had some leftovers. The leftovers consisted of about 7 noodles and a whole heap of tomatoes and onions and yum. Because I worship at the altar of SF Sourdough, I just about always have some around. I toasted up a piece and heated the oven to 450 because I'm impatient. I smeared the onion/tomato mix onto the toast and covered it with crumbled goat cheese and popped it in the oven for a few to warm and melt the cheese.
Seriously you guys, I think I'm just going to eat this for dinner every night now. It was tangy, sweet, salty, savory, a little bit spicy, creamy and crunchy all at once. It was a very simple, happy discovery; you know, like finding a planet that looks like it could potentially support life but with way less math and stuff.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sloppeh joe, slop, sloppeh joe

No, this is not my first sloppy joe entry. Seems I'm obsessed. In any case, I got the fixins for the most part (except the Sriracha which I really wanted to include, boo, though I guess I could always go to one of those "grocery store" things I've been hearing so much about lately) and I need to cook this meat up asap. Now who wants to come over for dinner tomorrow?

Here's what I'm thinking of pulling together:

2 lbs ground beef (lean thanks)
1 diced onion (but I may not use all of it depending on how big it is)
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup ketchup
1 small can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 -2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
celery powder or celery salt
salt and pepper to taste

(If I had Sriracha I'd hold off on the garlic, tomato paste and vinegar until after I had added the Sriracha and then tweak from there, maybe going with garlic powder at that point rather than fresh.)

I'll start the onions and garlic (mmmm, I can almost smell it) and once soft I'll add the meat, cook til almost all the pink is gone and drain off the fat. Then I'll stir in all the rest of the ingredients, and let it simmer, stirring frequently til it's heated through.
Served on buns or in pita pockets with shredded cheese and crispy sweet potato fries on the side . . . yum. Just like Lunch Lady used to make.

** update **
So I had no celery anything, and threw in 1/4 tsp of Italian Seasoning and maybe 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes, just because. I only used about 1 1/2 tsp of brown sugar and didn't need to add any salt or pepper. Alas, while tangy and "fine" it was completely flat and one dimensional. I think it really needs the veg aspect of green peppers and/or celery. Next go round I'll do the meat and veggies, and I'll work on the sauce separately to give it some time to meld and deepen, and then I'll mix it in to the meat and veg. Perhaps some ancho chili powder to add a smoky layer with the spice instead of the flakes. It won't be an easy clean up one pot meal anymore, but hey.
I'm also thinking of Mexican variations with some corn and black beans mixed in with more Mexican seasonings rather than Italian; maybe even a kick of cocoa powder.

** Delicious coworker update **
Thanks Denise!!!

1 pound ground chuck (or whatever kind of ground beef you use)
2 tbl oil to brown the meat
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 of a large green bell pepper, chopped fine
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup catsup
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tbl Worcestershire sauce
2 tbl white vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tbl parsley, minced

Brown meat, onions and celery. Spoon off the leftover and grease.
Combine all of the rest except parsley.
Mix well and pour over the meat.

Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

CYT Vanilla Cupcakes

As mentioned, here are the Cook Yourself Thin Cupcakes. My friend and coworker Lizzie came across this show and was an instant fan. She bought the book immediately, sent me the link and has come down to talk to me about recipes she's seen a few times. Last week she surprised me with my own copy of the cookbook and I can't wait to try out some of the recipes. They're no brainers, but they sound excellent. Lizzie made dinner for us the other night using some of her recipes from the book and it was fab.

Frosted Vanilla Cupcakes
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1 1/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar (dare you try sugar substitute?!)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded peeled zucchini (about 2 small)


  1. Combine the egg whites, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Set over (not in) a pan of simmering water.
  3. Stir continuously over heat until the mixture is warm and the sugar is completely dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  5. Using a handheld electric or standing mixer, set on high beat until the mixture is entirely cooled, glossy and stiff, about 7 minutes.
  6. Beat in the lemon zest, and add the butter cubes, a few at a time, beating until the butter is almost fully incorporated after each addition.
  7. Beat until smooth – once smooth, take care not to over beat, or the mixture will get lumpy.
  8. Let frosting set and cool in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes) while making the cupcakes.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  2. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven. Line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla with a handheld electric or standing mixer until thick and light colored, about 4 minutes.
  5. Beat in the zucchini on medium speed until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until fully incorporated, scraping down the bowl once with a spatula during beating.
  7. Use a 1/3 cup measure to spoon into the muffin cups.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes, turning the pans midway through baking.
  9. Transfer cupcakes onto a wire rack, and cool completely before icing with the chilled frosting.

Zucchini Bread

While we're talking zukes, who doesn't freak out over a scrumptious slice of zucchini bread? No one I know!!! Well, once you've convinced them to try it if they're all veggie averse. Next experiment might be a recipe for white cupcakes that's been healthified by using zucchini to moisten the batter rather than oil. Even I am skeptical, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2-3 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F ( 165 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy. Mix in oil and sugar. Stir in zucchini and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, soda, baking powder, salt and nuts; stir into the egg mixture. Divide batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until done.
To healthify this one or just jazz it up, you can do the old applesauce (oooh, or cinnamon applesauce!) in place of oil trick (I'd only do half though - if you try to go with NO oil you won't be that pleased with your results), and try adding other favorite dried fruits or coconut, additional spices like nutmeg, and even chocolate chips. Mention of streusel topping ran rampant on the review boards, but since I'd be trying to go healthy with this, I'd personally skip it.
Many of the reviewers on Allrecipes suggest using more zucchini than is originally called for - up to as much as a full extra cup in fact.
A vegan chimed in as well, suggesting substituting 3/4 cup of applesauce for the 3 eggs and using whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour, and then just using 3/4 cup of oil because of all the applesauce (she used safflower). I am certainly going to go with the whole wheat flour.
So many options!!!

07/05/09 UPDATE *******
2 c wheat flour
1 c AP flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 1/2 c sugar
3/4 c apple sauce
1/4 c Canola oil
1 c toasted walnuts & pecans, chopped

* half of this batter went into a loaf pan

With the remaining batter, I halved that again and to one portion added 1 tsp orange juice (freshly squeezed - I wanted zest too but don't have a freaking zester, can you believe that crap?); to the other portion I added one quarter of a Granny Smith apple, chopped small. I put these into mini muffin tins and topped the orange side with vanilla sugar, and the apple side with cinnamon sugar. And crossed my fingers because I know baking is finicky and I completely screwed with the recipe above. . . .
The minis were done in 20 and I let the loaf cook for another 40.
The orange version wasn't orangey enough for me, so I made up a quick glaze using freshly squeezed orange juice that I cooked down with a pinch of vanilla sugar, and then, because I have NO icing sugar in my house, but luckily some Pillsbury vanilla frosting, a good glop of that until I had a nice smooth and thin orange glaze. I drizzled this over the top and called it done.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Is it zucchini blossom season yet?! Ever since I had my first zucchini blossom at Delfina I've lusted over these. Theirs were stuffed with ricotta, but come on, how can you not use goat cheese? Luckily Giada is with me. Now I just have to figure out where the hell to get them - the ones at the farmer's market have been weensy and few and far between.

Fried Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sparkling water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/3 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1 green onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
8 zucchini blossoms* see Cook's Note
Vegetable oil, for frying

Cook's Note: Zucchini blossoms can be found at farmer's markets and specialty grocery stores. As an alternative, try using baby bell peppers. Cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Fill with the cheese mixture and dip the cut end in flour before dipping in the batter.
SJE's Note: Also, I hear the male blossoms are the way to go.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, water and salt until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, basil, and green onion. Mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons filling into each blossom. Close the blossoms and gently twist the petals to seal.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 1 minute.) Dip the stuffed zucchini blossoms in the batter and allow any excess batter to drip off. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Allow the cooked blossoms to drain on paper towels.

Season with salt and serve with your favorite marinara sauce or vinaigrette.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blueberry Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Yesterday I was watching Martha Stewart while I ate the hell out of a big old messy burrito. She was making the most delicate, girly little lemon meringue cupcakes that looked amazing. In my mind, I host these extravagant girls only brunches and get togethers where things are all feminine and adorable and these cupcakes would totally work it.
And then I thought nothing of them as she moved onto paper flowers (which would also be great for said party). Until I read Vanilla Garlic's post about "The Cupcake That You Never Saw." Blueberry curd?! OF COURSE!
Leave it to an actual culinary genius to come up with this on his own, as I bumble along the interwebs snagging and reinterpreting (and sometimes just copying) the numtastic things I come across.
Once upon a time I made some really yummy lemon/strawberry cupcakes, with lemon frosting featuring the zest from the lemons that grew in our backyard and I was quite pleased with me (I used the juice in the frosting and batter as well). And much as I love lemon and strawberry together, blueberry and lemon?! Sweet mother. So now, whether or not VG manages to recreate his magic, I'm going to have to try it on my own.

Martha's Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Makes 24

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Lemon Curd
  • Seven-Minute Frosting
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  4. To finish, spread 1 tablespoon lemon curd onto middle of each cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip (Ateco #828 or Wilton #8B) with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from surface of frosting, and wave it back and forth until frosting is lightly browned all over. Serve immediately.
BUT! Forget that lemon cake plus lemon curd nonsense! Blueberry curd - hell yes. Plus I'm sure you can imagine that I'm going to throw a few blueberries into some of the cupcakes because the gorgeous purple polka dots look so awesome and taste fantastic.

Blueberry curd:
1 pint blueberries
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries until smooth. Pass the puree through a chinois set over a bowl, using a pestle to press on the solids and extract as much juice as possible; discard the solids. You should have about 1/2 cup juice.

In the top pan of a double boiler or in a nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until blended. Then whisk in the blueberry juice, salt, and lemon juice. Set the top pan over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan, or set the saucepan over medium-low heat. (If using a saucepan, take care not to heat the mixture too quickly.) Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon, until the mixture is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Begin adding the butter a little at a time, stirring each addition until blended before adding more. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until a finger drawn across the back of the spatula leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes more. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Pass the curd through the chinois set over a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk to blend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Better Than Sex Pie

Okay, maybe it's only better than bad sex, but it's still a damn good pie. The best part is that each serving is only 217 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 29 grams of carbs, 324 mg Sodium and 1 gram of fiber. Because you care.
This could even ALMOST be made South Beach friendly I bet (the crust is the only downfall and creative types could figure out a workaround I'm sure).
To give credit where credit is due, this is from an old cookbook I had from when I first started cooking (and wanting to be healthy about it) and ironically, this is the only recipe I remember from it. Because women are happy eating flavorless diet meals and rice cakes (oh I'm sorry, some "other" women who aren't me, I seem to like to eat like a man), the book is called, "Cooking Healthy With a Man In Mind" by JoAnna M. Lund ("Real food for real men who want to stay living healthy in the real world. . . and for the women who love them." I'm serious.). Possibly the best part is the picture on the front of the book (click on the link to Amazon above) - the shot is of good ol Jo-Jo with her well fed man in plaid shirt and trucker hat. Classic. In any case, the pie is easy and a hit at picnics and stuff.

1 medium sliced banana (into rounds)
1 6 oz chocolate flavored pie crust
1/4 c chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 small pkg (4 serving) JELL-O sugar free instant butterscotch pudding
2/3 c Carnation nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/4 c water
2 tbsp reduced fat peanut butter
3/4 c lite Cool Whip
2 chocolate graham crackers, crumbled for topping pie

Layer bananas on bottom of crust. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of peanuts on top.
In a large bowl, combine dry pudding, milk, and water. Mix well with a whisk. Blend in peanut butter until smooth. Pour mixture evenly into crust and refrigerate for at least five minutes. Spread Cool Whip evenly over filling. Sprinkle crumbled graham crackers and the rest of the peanuts over the top and refrigerate for one hour to set completely. Cut into 8 slices.

I have a feeling you might get away with using non-fat milk instead of the dry milk/water combo, but if you try and fail, don't blame me please.


How on Earth I haven't posted this yet I can't even imagine. This is such a summer staple. I make a few batches and freeze them in ice cube trays or other small containers (and if I'm feeling super housewifey, I seal them in those little seal-a-meal bags) for later use. Great on pizza, pasta, sandwiches, as a snack with cheese and crackers, mixed in with other cheese or red sauce. . . . everything basically. Feel free to edit the amount of garlic to your taste if you don't like it too garlicky. You can sub other nuts for the pistachios as well - I just made it with walnuts to avoid the whole salmonella scare or whatever it was.

6 small garlic cloves
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
(secret ingredients:)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco

In a food processor with the motor running chop the garlic fine, add the pistachios, the olive oil, the soy sauce, the Tabasco and the basil, then the cheese. Puree the mixture until it is smooth.

I also do a sundried tomato pesto from time to time, but I've yet to nail down a particular recipe. I'll put that on my to do list. Until then:

1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
few cloves of garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
salt and pepper to taste
extra olive oil in case it gets too thick

Might be nice to combine the two as well - yum.

With both the sun-dried tomato and the regular pesto recipes, plus a thing of cream cheese you can make that awesome three layer torta - sundried, cream cheese, basil + crackers or baguette = perfect party snack.
Like this one.

Spray a container with nonstick spray. Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides. I typically just do three thin layers - tomato on the bottom, cream cheese in the middle, pesto on top. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Five Ingredient Fix

I do not know who this new girl is, cooking on Food Network, but she just won me over with today's menu. I started stalking her at sweet potatoes with caramelized onions, and then she knocked me on my ass with roasted brussels sprouts with bacon lardons. Claire Robinson, I'm keeping my eye on you.
I made these with apricot glazed pork chops, and it was a perfect pairing. Of course, I upped the bacon content from 4 oz to 6 (come on, it's bacon) in the brussels sprouts. I admit to being a little unsure of the apples and walnuts and I almost skipped them and just did bacony sprouts. I'm glad I went for it though, as the apples and nuts added some really good fresh, green & nutty flavors, respectively. I might have the sweet potato's babies, if it were to ask me to. Holy jeez those were good.

Maple Sweet Potato Puree with Caramelized Onions
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into rough chunks
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup, plus 2 tablespoons (I think we all know Vermont maple syrup is the only way to go here)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided in 1/2
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
Hot water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place sweet potatoes, 1/4 cup of the maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large mixing bowl. Toss to evenly coat and place on sheet tray. Roast in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft. Be sure to check on them after 15 minutes and stir, if needed.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sliced onion, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the pan becomes dry.

Transfer sweet potato mixture to a food processor, (may need to be done in batches) and add about a tablespoon of hot water. Pulse until just blended and then add half the caramelized onions. Pulse just a few times until desired consistency, adding more hot water for a smoother puree. Fold in remaining caramelized onions, reserving some for garnish.

Serve in a warm dish and garnish with the reserved caramelized onions. YUMMY!!!

Crispy Brussels Sprouts
4 ounces thick slab applewood smoked bacon, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, and halved lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a sheet pan, lay out bacon slices. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and the fat has rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Carefully toss Brussels sprouts in the hot pan, and season with salt and pepper. Return the pan to the oven, and roast, turning once, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, the walnuts and apples and toss to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter, top with the bacon, and serve warm.

Apricot Glazed Pork Chops
four pork chops (I used boneless, but either is fine)
1 jar of apricot/orange marmalade/jam
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup hot water
salt & pepper
2-4 tbsp olive oil

I heated up the marmalade/jam and mixed in some vinegar and hot water along with 2 tbsp olive oil. I seasoned the pork with salt and pepper and let it marinate in the jam mixture for about an hour. I heated another tbsp or so of olive oil in a pan and once hot, placed the chops in to sear. I cooked them for approximately 7 minutes on each side while allowing the sauce to cook down and thicken.
They were okay, but nothing phenomenal. I think maybe they needed a little bit more tang so maybe next time I'll add more vinegar, or maybe try them with sweet chili sauce.

I managed to get a non-brussels sprout eater to go back for seconds on this one, so you know it's seriously good. Washed down with a nice spicy Syrah, and followed up with fresh strawberries with vanilla yogurt, and a nice mellow Scotch over Tarot readings, and this was a meal that won't soon be forgotten.