Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's That Time of Year

Warm, comforting dishes. I am so excited Fall is here. Although, it will probably only feel like fall for a few weeks. The dishes I cook always change with the weather. To me, when I'm eating dinner in the Fall, I want something that makes me feel warm and cozy. This is a fav of mine. Chicken Pot Pie. I usually cut the biscuit out large enough to cover the dish, but wanted you to see the yumminess inside. Try to resist tasting any leftovers in the pan. It dangerous and you could have indulged too much before it's actually dinner time. Just saying. I served my in ramekins, but you can serve this in a 13x9 casserole dish. Enjoy :)

Chicken Pot Pie - Serves 4-6

3 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup frozen sweet peas
2 garlic cloves; minced
2/3 cup flour
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup diced carrots
2 tablespoons minced thyme
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the biscuits:

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the chicken stock. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add the herbs, peas, bouillion cube, white wine, and cream. Cook over medium low heat until thickened. About 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.

Place the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are browned a little.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Dish She Dissed

I thought Amelia was going to love this dish. It's pasta, peas, carrots, broccoli, and cheese. Things she loves! And, to top it off, it was pink. Now, what little girl could resist that ?! Apparently mine. And, I even tried twice. I put it in her lunch the next day thinking the only reason she said she didn't like it the night before was to hack me off ;) What I thought was going to be a winner with her, ended up being a fail. Oh stink.

Good thing was, I loved it. I froze all the leftovers in snack size ziplocks for those no time to cook moments for myself. I do that with a lot of the leftovers in this house. Usually pasta or soup dishes. I put them in the fridge the night before, heat it up in the am, and put them in a thermos for Amelia to take to school. Saves a lot of time and I know she is eating something healthy and yummy at school.

I'm still including the recipe for this dish because it is REALLY good! Even though sweat pea disagrees.....

1 box of your favorite shaped pasta ( I used oricheitte)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup steamed broccoli florets
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
Kosher salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender ,about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until the peas are warmed through and the carrots are tender. Add the broccoli then stir in the cooked pasta. Add the marinara sauce and cheeses Stir until the mixture is incorporated and forms a sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Love of Garlic

Well, I am back from Napa. And, wow, it did not disappoint! It's taken me a full week to feel back to normal. Whatever that is! This was the view from the house we stayed at.



No, I didn't want to leave. But I was VERY ready to see the most precious girl in the world. I missed her a ton. A TON!




She did not appreciate it that I had left her to go to CA. After all, that's where Justin Bieber lives, and she could not believe I would not take her with me so we could go knock on his door to say hello. I tried explaining to her that's not how it works. But, what do I know, I'm just the Mom ;)

I have been cooking like crazy, hence the lack of posts. New clients plus my old ones are keeping me very busy. Which is a blessing. A very busy blessing!

This post is devoted to garlic. Or, as some might say, my perfume. There is garlic is the main dish and side dishes. When you add garlic, something special happens. You can smell this something as soon as it touches heat.

Garlic Chicken (Ina Garten)

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves - I promise it will not overpower your dish. The garlic becomes very sweet & mild
2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into eighths
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain the garlic and peel. Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland. Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

Roasted Root Vegetables

1 sweet potato; peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 butternut squash; peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 large carrots; peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 large shallots; peeled and left whole
10 garlic cloves; peeled; left whole
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Kosher Salt & Pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Place all the veggies, garlic, and shallots on a sheet pan. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence. Mix together well with your hands. Cook for 25-35 minutes. After you take it out of the oven, check seasonings. I usually need to add a little more salt.

Pearl Cous Cous

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots; chopped
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 3/4 cup Chicken Stock
Splash of white wine
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup Craisins
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cous cous to pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the splash of wine. Cook until absorbed. Add the chicken stock and craisins. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the pine nuts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Veggie Kind of Night

This post is for my BFF, Heather. Yes, you can be 30 something, and still have a BFF. And she has been that for the last 18 years :) While, I love some meat (grass fed & organic please), she would rather eat her veggies. This is a meal she would love. Trust me, no one will miss the meat in this meal. It is hearty, warm, and full of flavor. Delish.

Spinach Potato Cakes with Wild Mushroom Ragout

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cup assorted sliced wild mushrooms
2 large shallots; minced
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves; minced
2/3 cup mushroom broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

Spinach Potato Cake:

1/2 cup chopped and blanched spinach
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup seasoned flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup olive oil, for frying

Garnish:

2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons chopped chives

For the ragout: In a saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, green onions and garlic and continue sauteeing for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mushroom broth and wine to the Sauteed mixture and reduce by half. Finish with the butter and reseason.

For the potato cakes: In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, potatoes and garlic together. Season with salt and pepper. Portion the mixture into 2-ounce cakes. Dredge the cakes in the seasoned flour. Dip into the beaten egg, letting any excess drip off. Coat each cake completely with the seasoned bread crumbs.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil. When the pan is smoking hot, add the cakes. Saute until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the cakes over and continue sauteeing until golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper-lined plate.

Spoon the ragout in the center of the plate. Place the cakes in the center of the ragout. Garnish with chopped parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and chives.

Stuffed Tomatoes

3 beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the tomatoes in half, horizontally. Use a small spoon to gently hollow out the inside of the tomatoes, discarding the seeds and reserving the pulp and being careful not to puncture the outer shell. Chop the reserved pulp and put in a medium bowl. Add the parsley, bread crumbs, cheese, and pepper and mix gently to combine. Place the tomato halves in a buttered casserole dish, and fill with the bread crumb mixture. Drizzle the top of the tomatoes with olive oil. Bake until the tops are browned, about 20 minutes.

Sweet-n-Spicy Carrots

1 pound carrots; peeled and cut on the bias into 2 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
A fresh piece of rosemary
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat and add the carrots. Cook for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and set aside.

In a medium-size pot combine all the remaining ingredients, except the rosemary, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Add the drained carrots and toss to combine. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes to incorporate flavors. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with rosemary and serve.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's been a while..... a long while

I could sit here and tell you all the reasons why I haven't blogged lately. But, I doubt you would have any sympathy for me because I'm sure most of you are in the same boat. You know, the back-to-school plus working my booty off boat. At times, I have wanted to jump out and pretend I don't have all of this stuff to do. It's getting better though, I think. Maybe I am settling into this new kind of crazy. Or maybe I know I'm about to enjoy great long weekend in Napa, and am thinking I can get through anything in the meantime ...... Yes, I think that's it. I'm even excited about the sleep I will get on the airplane, not to mention the wine in my future. Ahhhh. I'm feeling better already.

On to my dinner for tonight - Lamb Chops. I adore them. And they are so simple to make. I like to make an easy cherry sauce to go with mine. Served with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Peas & Prosciutto. Easy enough for a week night meal or to entertain friends. Enjoy :)

Lamb Chop with Cherry Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 lamb chops
salt and pepper to taste
3 shallots (chopped)
1/2 cup ruby Port
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
3 tablespoons cherry jam
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a pan.
3. Add the lamb chops and cook until they reach the desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side to get a thick chop to medium rare.
4. Set the lamb aside and drain the drippings from the pan.
5. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute.
6. Add the port, broth, cherries, cherry jam, balsamic vinegar and deglaze the pan.
7. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until it thickens to form a sauce, about 6-10 minutes.
8. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Pour the sauce over the lamb




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Favorite Word

Crostata. Don't you just love that word?! When I say it in my head, I sound like Giada. When I say it out loud, I sound like a goob, because I am trying, unsuccessfully, to say it with an Italian accent. Total fail on my part. But, nontheless, I love saying it, love making it, and looove eating it. Did I mention that it is easy? I hate letting people in on how easy is it. There goes my cover once again....... Enjoy :)


Apple and Gorgonzola Crostata

Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons ice water
Filling:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the crust: In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the mascarpone cheese and lemon juice and pulse a few times. Add the ice water and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not over mix. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a disc, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling: Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the apple slices, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are softened, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, walnuts, and Gorgonzola.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet and place on a work surface. Place the chilled dough on the parchment paper. Roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Lift the parchment paper and transfer to the baking sheet. Spoon the apple filling into the center of the dough. Spread the filling evenly, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round. Pleat the edge of the pastry and pinch to seal any cracks in the dough.

Using a pastry brush, brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. I served mine sliced on a bed of mixed greens.

Mushroom Crostata

Use same crust recipe from above.

For the filling :

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 shallots, minced
1 pound assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, and button
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated smoked mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup ( 1 ounce) grated fontina cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp and golden, about four minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pancetta to a small bowl.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the shallots and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all of the moisture has evaporated, about 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked pancetta along with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Unwrap the chilled dough and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Lift the parchment paper and transfer it and the dough to the baking sheet.
Stir the mozzarella and fontina into the cooled mushroom filling and spread in the center of the dough circle, leaving a 2-inch border.

Sprinkle the filling with Parmesan.

Fold the dough border up over the filling to form an 8-inch round, pleating the edge of the pastry. Brush the crust with beaten egg. Bake the crostata until the crust is golden about 25 minutes. Slice and serve.




Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Salads

It's hot here. Way too hot for me to even want to eat. Ok, not really, but it sounds dramatic and I hope it helps me get my point across :) I am over it. And, trust me, up until this point I have been that girl who claims to loves summers in the South. I mean, we should be used to high temp and humidity. The fact that I am huddled up inside with the air blowing and the shades closed instead of suntanning by the pool speaks volumes. Summer salads have been one of my favorite things to eat this summer. Light, refreshing, and cool, Yes and thank you. Enjoy :)

Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad

1 seedless watermelon; cut into small chuncks
1 pint cherry tomatoes; halved
1/4 cup fresh basil; juilenned
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Mix the sugar and balsamic into a small sauce pan. Bring to a low boil and cook until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a glass cup and place in the fridge to cool completely. About 30-40 minutes

Meanwhile. in a bowl, combine the watermelon and cherry tomatoes. When the balsamic mixture is cool, pour over watermelon and tomatoes. Add fresh basil and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper

Cucumber, Pepper, and Red Onion Salad

1 yellow pepper; cut into a large dice
1/4 of a red onion, sliced very thin
3 tomatoes; seeds removed and diced
4 small cucumber; sliced
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix together well.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Casserole Comfort

I use to own a web-based, home- delivery meal service called Personally Yours. It offered mostly fresh, healthy options, but also included a casserole section. The only time I make casseroles now are when I am taking them to someone who needs a meal. Recently, I needed to make some, so Amelia and I got to work. I am officially "training" her to be my sous chef. She was actually a big help! Grated a lot of cheese, poured cans into bowls, and got her arm workout mixing everything together! I was very happy she was there to help. And it only cost me $5 :) A good idea when making someone a casserole is to divide it into two smaller casserole dishes instead of one large one. Bring one ready to heat and the other one frozen. Here are a few of my favorite casserole recipes. Enjoy :)

Baked Rigatoni
3 Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
Chicken, Wild Rice, and Mushroom

Baked Rigatoni

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, at room temperature
Pinch nutmeg
Sea salt and white pepper
1 cup grated fontina
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced thin
1 pound dry rigatoni
1 cup frozen petite peas
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Bechamel sauce:

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup fontina, prosciutto and season with salt and pepper.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain. Return pasta to the pot and pour in bechamel sauce. Mix well until all the pasta is coated with the sauce.

Into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pour the pasta with cream sauce. Smooth out top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup fontina. Dot the top with diced butter and bake in oven for 25 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden brown.

3 Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine

1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) carton ricotta cheese
1 box penne, cooked for 5-6 minutes
2 cups shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, oregano, and black pepper; sauté 3 minutes or just until spinach wilts.

Combine spinach mixture, cottage cheese, pasta, chicken, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, milk, and soup in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Chicken, Wild Rice, and Mushroom

1 box wild rice; cooked according to directions
1 roasted chicken, skin off, and shredded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, chopped and rinsed
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1 cup dry sherry
2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
1/2 cup sliced almonds


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has been released and has evaporated, 12 to 14 minutes. Add sherry, increase heat to high and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together chicken, milk, Parmesan, sour cream, cheese, parsley, green beans, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread the rice in an even layer in the prepared baking dish. Add the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake the casserole until it is bubbling and the almonds are golden brown, about 30 minutes.





Monday, August 8, 2011

A Sweet Way To End The Night....

Amelia lives for dessert. Doesn't really matter what it is, but she barley finishes her last bite of dinner before she is asking if she can go get something sweet. I could take it or leave it. I would much rather enjoy a nice plate of cheese and fruit as my dessert. Lately, I have been trying come up with some lighter dessert options. Banana Ice Cream, Watermelon and Cantaloupe with Mint, and Tropical Parfaits have been a hit so far. I love them because they take just a few minutes to prepare. Enjoy :)

Banana Ice Cream

4 large bananas; peeled and sliced
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons of fresh fruit ( I used Champagne Mangos )

Place banana slices on a plate and freeze for 2 hours.

Remove and put into a food processor with all but three tablespoons of the chocolate chips. Turn on and mix until creamy. Put into a cup or bowl and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and fruit.

Minty Watermelon & Cantaloupe

1 small cantaloupe
1 small seedless watermelon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoon fresh mint; chopped

In a small sauce pan, combine the water and sugar. Cook, over medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture into a glass measuring cup and place in the fridge. Cool completely.

When mixture is cooling. cut watermelon and cantaloupe in half. Using a melon baller, scoop out the fruit. Place in a bowl. Add the cooled simple sugar mixture and mint. Mix together. Garnish with fresh mint.

Tropical Parfaits

2 mangos; chopped
1 cup pineapple, chopped
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 tablespoon Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons chopped Macadamia nuts


In a mixer, combine the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium low speed for 2 minutes. Then, turn the speed up and mix until peaks have formed.

In a cup or bowl, layer the fruit, whipped cream, and nuts until filled to the top. Garnish with nuts and fresh mint.





Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's That Time Again

It's about that time again. Time where I have to set my alarm to get up, have clothes set out the night before, and get a book bag ready. School is about to start :( This summer has possibly been the shortest ever! Maybe because Amelia and I have thouroughly enjoyed it. This will be the first year that she will be in school everyday, all day. I'm not going to lie. I am sad. Very sad. But, thankfully, she goes to a wonderful school that she adores, so that definitely makes it better.

I am also not looking forward to the rushing out the door in the mornings. Though I'm not really sure why we rush. We get up on time every morning. I have everything ready to go. And, we usually even get to school 15 minutes early. This a sickness that my family suffers from. If we are not 15 minutes early somewhere, we are late. It's how our Dad raised us. I am trying to stop, but it's just not in me.

In our "rush" in the mornings. I like to have breakfast that is ready to grab-n-go.... you know, just in case we are only 10 minutes early and not 15. Muffins are easy to make and delicious. I try to make them a little more nutritious by using whole wheat pastry flour and by adding fresh fruit. Here are several recipes that are super yummy. And, just to make things better - kids love to make them!

Blueberry Banana Muffins
Peachy Muffins
Blueberry and Coconut Muffins

Peachy Muffins

Nonstick spray
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup low fat sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 peaches peeled, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, butter, sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Gently fold in the peaches.

Divide the batter evenly among the lined muffin cups. Bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely on a cooling rack, evenly among the lined muffin cups. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then let cool on a cooling rack.


Blueberry Coconut Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 400

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add coconut oil coconut milk, vanilla, and egg and mix well. Fold in shredded coconut and blueberries, Top with a little brown sugar.

Bake 20 minutes.


Blueberry Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 pint blueberries
1 cup mashed bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup diced bananas (1 banana)
1 cup small diced macadamia nuts
1 cup granola

Preheat oven to 350

Line 18 muffin cups with paper lines. Sift flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add melted butter and mix. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the mixture. Don't over mix. Fold in the diced bananas, nuts, blueberries, and granola. Spoon into paper liners. Bake 25-30 minutes.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Simple Veggie Sides

It is easy to add some extra flavor to the vegetable dishes we eat. Sauteed green beans, zucchini, squash can instantly become the highlight of your dinner instead of a just another vegetable that no one is touching. This past week, while I was teaching a cooking camp for kids. I explained to my class that you eat with your eyes and nose first, before you even take the first bite. Lets face it, the food needs to look good if you want others to eat it. I find the prettier I make veggies, the more likely my sweet pea is going to eat them!! Here are three of my go-to dishes.... Enjoy :)

Sauteed Green Bean with Wild Mushrooms Mushrooms
Roasted Broccoli with Shallot & Garlic
Sauteed Zucchini, Squash, and Cherry Tomatoes


Sauteed Green Beans

1 bag of fresh green beans; microwaved for 4 minutes
1 pkg wild mushrooms (or any kind you like)
Kosher Salt & Pepper
Splash of white wine
1 tablespoon butter

In a saute pan, heat the butter oven medium heat. Add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the green beans and white wine. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Season beans well with salt and pepper.

Roasted Broccoli with Shallots and Garlic

2 heads broccoli; cut in florets
4 large shallots; whole; peeled
5 garlic cloves; peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375

On a sheet pan, add all of the ingredients and mix well with you hands. Cook for 25 minutes.

Sauteed Zucchini and Squash with Cherry Tomatoes

2 Zucchini; sliced on the diagonal
2 Squash
3 garlic cloves; minced
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes; halved
Splash of white wine
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1/3 cup fresh parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat a skillet to medium high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, ass the zucchini and the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until it begins to lightly brown. About 6-8 minutes. Then add the cherry tomatoes and the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine. Cook for 1 more minute. Turn the heat off and add the parmesan.




Thursday, July 28, 2011

Easy Eggplant Dip

I love dips that can be make in a food processor. It's just so easy and it's easy clean up. It's a win, win. One of my favorites lately is an eggplant dip. It is creamy, a little bit spicy, and delicious. I serve it with Naan. I could be a little obsessed. Naan is a flatbread that resembles pita bread. But, with more flavor. I buy the Garlic Naan at Whole Foods. I can't tell you how good it is!
Enjoy :)

Preheat oven to 350

I small eggplant; skin removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red pepper; seeds and stem removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red onion; cut into 1 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves; skins removed
2 tablespoons olive oil; plus 1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pkg Naan or pita bread

Slice Naan in any way you want. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and place the Naan on the pan. Spray the top with nonstick spray.

Cook, until light brown. About 12-15 minutes.

Turn oven up to 400

Place all cut veggies and 2 tablespoons olive oil on a sheet pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes.

In a food processor, add veggies, lemon juice, and feta. Pulse a few times. Then, with it running, drizzle the remaining olive oil in. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baking 101

I can't believe that ten years ago, baking/pastries was what I wanted to pursue in culinary school. I have lost most of those skills. Or maybe just my passion for it. Every now and then I do have to bake something. Last week, I needed to bake a dessert for a small dinner party. Something "light". I chose to make an Angel Food Cake with an Orange Glaze and Fresh Berries. It was good, but didn't turn out too pretty, so I covered it with powdered sugar. Problem solved. Enjoy :)


2 cups sifted superfine sugar (put in a food processor to make superfine)
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups egg white (10-12 eggs) at ROOM TEMP (I let mine sit out for 6 hours)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 350

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour and sift.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. With a whisk attachment, beat on high until the eggs make a medium peak. About a minute. Then, turn the speed to medium and SLOWLY add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Literally, I sprinkled mine in. Whisk for a few minutes until it appears shiny. Whisk in the vanilla and orange zest and beat for 1 more minutes. Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold in with a spatula. Continue adding 1/4 cup at a time until it is all incorporated. Pour mixture into a bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove and let cool, upside down on a rack, for at least an hour.

For the Glaze :

1 cup vanilla greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle all over COOLED cake.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meatless Monday

A lot of people are choosing to start their week out by enjoying meat free meals. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy meat, as does my sweet daughter. Recently, she proclaimed she was a vegetarian. This, however, was short lived. As soon as we were standing at the meat counter at Whole Foods, she had changed her mind. I can't say I was surprised. The girl will devour some Rendevous ribs and loves a steak. I try to cook a vegetarian meal once a week for the family I cook for. My hope is that they will love it and not miss the meat. There are so many benefits for eating vegetarian - health and enviromental. Could you eat a meatless dinner once a week ?!?

Portabello Mushroom and Tomato Stack

8 portabello mushrooms; stems and gills removed ( I remove them by scraping them out with a spoon )
4 garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half
2 tomatoes; cut into 8 slices
4 slices whole mozzarella
8 Basil leaves
2 cups Baby Spinach or Arugula
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 400

Drizzle balsamic and olive oil on both sides of all the mushrooms. Then season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Put a half garlic clove on each mushrooms. Place in oven and cook, flipping once, for 12 minutes.

Remove and add a small handful of the baby spinach, two slices of tomato, basil, and slice of mozzarella to four of the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Top with another mushroom, making a "sandwich". Place back in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese has melted.

I served some warm marinara on the side as a sauce.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The One Thing I Didn't Want To Learn...

It's my favorite and something that I crave on a regular basis. I think I could eat it everyday. While I lived in Denver, you could get it delivered. Talk about convenient!! I'm talking about sushi. Now, before some of you stop reading here, sushi does not mean you are eating raw fish! Sushi actually just refers to the rice. You can fill the rolls with whatever you like. I always have said that I never wanted to learn how to make sushi because I loved it so much. I didn't want it to lose any appeal, which can sometime happen. The cooking school where I work offers a sushi class taught by the man that owns several Japanese/Sushi restaurants in Memphis. Well, a couple of years ago, I was scheduled to work one of the sushi classes. I was excited because I heard he made the instructor a huge platter of sushi. Yum. I, after working the class enough, now know how to roll sushi. Sooo glad I know how to now. It is so easy.

I made some recently while at the beach. My friends sent their hubby's to the store to pick up the ingredients. I should have known better. I was only warned after the fact. They came back with imitation crab. Hello?! We are at the BEACH - there is fresh seafood everywhere! They also brought back rock hard avocado's. All the girls got a good laugh at their expense. Needless to say, I had to go back to get the right ingredients. Live and learn....... I made two different types of rolls that night - Spicy Crab and Mango and Vegetable. If you can, sign up for a local sushi class. They are a ton of fun!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Requests.....

So, I got a request from a family friend who use to babysit my sister and I when we were little. She also "teenage-sat" us too when my parents would go out-of-town. Thankfully, she lived (as did my sister and I ;) to tell about it. And, yes, there were some stories. She requested some recipes with only a few ingredients. I get this request a lot from family & friends. Everyone is short on time these days and everyone is looking to put something healthy and yummy on the table for their family. So, Laurie, this is for you. Enjoy :)

Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 bunch italian parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
4 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon; juiced
1/2 lemon thinly sliced for garnish
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt & Pepper

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat your grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Cook 6 minutes per side. Remove and tent on a plate while you make the sauce.

Combine all ingredients, EXCEPT the olive oil, in a blender. Pulse a few times. Then, turn on and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place a little of the sauce on a plate, top with a chicken breast, and garnish with a fresh slice of lemon

I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. I hate it when I do this. It was beautiful and delicious!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Patience Paid Off

Well, surprise, surprise, I found out that I DO have patience. Who knew ?! Several weeks ago I blogged about the fruit infused cocktails I was making. I waited almost a month before I decided to open the first jar. It's amazing that I lasted this long. I packed them carefully for the long drive to the beach. Blueberry cocktails seemed like a natural addition to our trip. They were beautiful & delicious. To be honest, you could drink it on the rocks. It is that dangerously good. Be careful if you eat any blueberries that have been soaking - they are like little shots of vodka. I think I'm going to make Limoncello next.......

Blueberry Vodka
Splash of Cranberry Juice
Squeeze of Lime Juice
Tonic Water
Ice

Sit back and Enjoy :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back to Reality

After a week at the beach, I have hit the ground running... Teaching a cooking camp all day, then off to my regular cooking job at night, has left me, well, exhausted. I have a dozen posts almost ready to go. They are coming, so please be patient as I get back to my life of working, parenting, unpacking, etc. Thanks!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Simple Shrimp-n-Grits

I have made this for a lot of dinner parties, and it always disappears. I was very close to not sharing this recipe. Only, because I'm going to have to let people in on how simple and quick this dish is. But, this is what this blog is all about - sharing - so, I will :) This is great for a brunch or a dinner to entertain friends. I recently cooked it for friends at the beach. Enjoy :)


Shrimp-N-Grits

3/4 cup quick cook Grits
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, tail off
2 garlic cloves; finely minced
1/4 cup Italian Parsley
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups Chicken Broth or Milk
3 tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese; grated
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher Salt

In a bowl, combine the shrimp, white wine, garlic, cayenne pepper, and parsley.

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Slowly add the grits in, whisking the whole time. Turn the temp down to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes. Put all the ingredients from the shrimp bowl into the pot. Stir well and let cook for 5 minutes. Add butter, white cheddar, and parmesan. Garnish with several of the shrimp.

Check seasonings for salt and pepper.

* I added Fresh Corn & Bacon this past time*

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Easy Clean Up?? Count Me In.....

I despise doing the dishes. It is definitely my least favorite part of my day. I almost don't even want to write about it, because I don't want to relive it. But, oh yeah, this is a happy post about easy clean up, so I'll get back to it. I have written about one pot meals being a fav of mine and meals made in foil are no different. Easy, delicious, and fool proof. You can't go wrong. Enjoy :)

Asian Chicken with Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups baby spinach
1 cup shiitake mushrooms; sliced
4 cloves garlic; minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger; minced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
Red Pepper Flakes

Preheat oven to 375

Tear off 4 large pieces of aluminum foil. Place one cup of spinach in the middle of each piece. Place the chicken on top. Add 1/4 cup of the mushrooms on top of each piece of chicken. Then sprinkle the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes over the chicken and mushrooms. Drizzle each piece with the sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. Fold in all the edges of the foil and pinch to form a tight seal.

Place on a foil lined baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes. Remove and carefully (it will be steaming hot) open the foil. I remove the chicken and slice it. Then, I drain the sauce from the packets into a boil, reserving the spinach and mushrooms.

On a platter, place the spinach and mushrooms down. Place the sliced chicken on top and drizzle with a little of the reserved sauce. Serve the rest of the sauce on the side.

I served mine with Sauteed Snow Peas & Peppers



Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Best Meal Ever

It probably wasn't the prettiest, or the most delicious, or the most gourmet dinner. But, it was the best. For the first time in 6 months (which is REALLY long for us), my family was all here. This is just the sweetest time to me. No matter how "old" we get, my older sister will always be my "sissy" or my "say say". And, when we are in the house we grew up in, we immediately go back to acting like we are in high school. I'm sure my parents love it!! Times do change some though. These days, we watch our girls run off and play with each other, soaking up all the time they have together. And, we all sit around and enjoy the sweet smiles and laughs of my sister's baby. After having family portraits taken by a great photographer, Paige Miller, I wanted to cook the fam an easy, delicious dinner out by the pool. We enjoyed a wonderful family dinner with some great wine and just maybe a few Skinny Girl Margaritas ;) Family time is such a gift......... Enjoy :)

Grilled Beef Tenderloin
Grilled Vegetables with Lemon and Herb Dressing
Smashed Baby Rosemary & Garlic Potatoes

Grilled Beef Tenderloin

Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Beef Tenderloin
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves

Preheat grill to medium high heat.

Take the tenderloin out of the fridge and let it sit for 25 minutes. Rub olive oil all over the tenderloin. Then rub the kosher salt, pepper, and herbs all over.

Grill until very browned on all sides. Then move to a cooler part of the grill (non direct heat), cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes for medium rare (125-130 degrees).

Remove from heat and tent lightly with foil on a cooking board for 10 minutes. Slice and serve over mixed greens.

Grilled Vegetables with Lemon and Herb Dressing

1 eggplant; cut into rounds
1 zucchini; sliced thick
1 squash; sliced thick
1 red onion; sliced thick
1 bunch green onions
4 roma tomatoes; cut in half
2 fennel bulbs; sliced thick
2 red peppers; cut in half
2 yellow peppers; cut in half

Dressing :

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic; smashed
Kosher Salt
Pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
Olive Oil
Italian Parsley; chopped

Put all ingredients, except the olive oil and parsley, into a blender. Mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil. Stir in the parsley.

Heat a grill ( or grill pan) to medium high heat. Brush all the veggies with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Put all the veggies on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until tender and lightly charred. Remove and cut the peppers into a very large dice. Place all veggies on a platter and drizzle with dressing.

Smashed Baby Herb & Garlic Potatoes

2 pounds baby potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary; minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Heat a large pot of water to a soft boil. Add potatoes and boil until just tender. Drain. Lightly smash each potato with a fork or your fingers.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes and gently stir to coat with the herbs and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan.





Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sweet & Healthier

Yes, there are desserts than can be both!! I love using fresh fruit during the summer when I am making something sweet. This recipe is sooo simple, delicious, and beautiful. Enjoy :)

Fruit Tarts

Preheat oven to 350

1 1/2 cups nonfat lemon yogurt (you could also use a nonfat chocolate, raspberry, whatever you like)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh fruit of your choice (blueberries, strawberries, mango, kiwi, etc) Diced very small

Put the yogurt in a fine mesh strainer that's lined with a paper towel, and set over a bowl. Let drain for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a bowl , beat the oil, egg, and sugar until creamy. Slowly whisk in the two flour's until everything is combined and a soft dough has formed. You might need to switch to a wooden spoon because it might get a little tough with the whisk. Roll into a ball and place into the fridge for 1 hour.

Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Roll out the dough into a 1/8 inch thick sheet on a lightly floured surface. With a cookie cutter or small glass, make 24 rounds that are about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Place rounds into muffin pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove the tarts from the pan and let cool.

Put the strained yogurt in a small bowl. Carefully spoon about 2 teaspoons of yogurt in each tart. Top with your diced fruit and garnish with the fresh mint.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Shrimp Is The Fruit of the Sea" - Bubba

"Forest Gump" is still one of my favorite movies! If it's on TV, I am watching it. And, sometimes if I'm lucky, there is a marathon on TNT. It just makes me so happy :) I laugh and cry at the same parts every time, like I haven't seen it a million times before. I also share sweet Bubba's love of all things shrimp. If you are in Memphis, make sure to make it to the Farmer's Market downtown on Saturday. There is a wonderful man there that sells Royal Red shrimp. They are huge and delicious! They are my fav. Here are two shrimp appetizers that I like I have enjoyed lately....

Asian Style Sauteed Shrimp with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro; chopped
1 pound large shrimp
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a small bowl.

Shell and devein shrimp, leaving the tail on. Season well with salt and pepper.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat, and add olive oil and sesame oil. Add the shrimp in one layer and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn shrimp over and cook for another minutes. Remove to a plate/platter and enjoy immediately.

Sweet and Spicy Chili Shrimp

25 large shrimp; peeled & deveined; tail ON
1 tablespoon garlic; minced
1/2 tablespoon ginger; minced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro; finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
15 eggroll wrappers; cut in half diagonally (2 triangles)
1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the shrimp. Let marinate for 15 minutes.

Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Wrap each shrimp in an eggroll wrapper triangle. Seal with egg wash.

Cook in an inch of hot veggie oil (375 degrees) for 3-5 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Enjoy with sweet chili sauce for dipping.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Food Just Taste Better With.....

Booze. Yup. It really does. As you have probably already found out by reading this blog, I like to add a little something to most my dishes. Not a lot, but just enough to add another layer of flavor. This post is going to be devoted to one in particular type.... BEER. I have several favorite beer dishes such as..... Beer Cheese Dip, Beer Can Chicken, and Chocolate Stout Cake. The best part of cooking with beer is, of course, enjoying one while you are cooking:) Cheers!

Beer Cheese Dip (my sweet Mom has been making this forever and I never tire of it)

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic
1 tablespoon worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pound sharp cheddar; grated
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 cup beer

Cream the two cheeses in a food processor. Add the other ingredients and slowly pour in the beer. Serve with wheat thins. Doesn't get any easier then this and it is always a crowd pleaser!

Beer Can Chicken "Drunken Chicken"


1 whole chicken
3 tablespoons of your favorite rub (BBQ, cajun, whatever you like)
1 can beer

First things first...... Open the beer and take a few big sips out. Aahhh, better.

Then, remove the giblets and dry the chicken with a paper towel. Season the inside and outside of the bird with your rub of choice. Heat you grill to medium heat.

Holding the chicken upright, insert the beer can into the cavity. Place on the grill. You are wanting to grill this over indirect heat. Cook for about 2 hours. Until it is falling off the bone. Carefully lift the bird off the grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Your bird is going to its happy place. Give it some time :) Carve the chicken and Enjoy :)

* I would suggest you buy a Beer Can Chicken Rack at Home Depot. It makes it a little easier *

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Different Kind of Italian

While I love spaghetti as much as the next person, there is another side (many sides, actually) to Italian that don't include tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. When you think outside of the box, delicious things can happen. This is where the, "don't be afraid to experiment", comes into play. Here is a simple, wonderful recipe for one of those times. Enjoy :)

4 leeks; white parts only; halved and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic; peeled and smashed
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 container cherry tomatoes; halved
1 pkg prosciutto
1 box Orechiette pasta
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese; grated ( I like to do this in a food processor - just cut the cheese into chunks first)

1 small handful dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups ciabatta bread; cut into a large dice
1/2 cup skinless almonds; coarsely chopped
Kosher Salt & Pepper

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and sprig of thyme and rosemary. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover the leeks with all of the slices of prosciutto. Put a lid on the pan and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes.

Put the bread, almonds, and dried porcini mushrooms in a food processor, until it has the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta for 8-10 minutes until al dente.

Remove the prosciutto from the leeks and slice. Return back to the pan, then add 3/4 cup of the parmesan, and 1 cup of the breadcrumb mixture.

Drain the noodles, SAVING 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the leek mixture. Slowly add the reserved cooking liquid, until you get a creamy texture. Sprinkle the top of the pasta with 1/2 cup of the breadcrumb mixture and the rest of the parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Comforting Classic

Lasagna. We've all made it before. And, I'm pretty sure we all have a great recipe. You can make it a million different ways. I think the most important step, that should be included in every recipe, is letting the lasagna broil in the oven for a minute or two before you take it out. This is what makes the cheese brown & bubbly. It's the best part if you ask me. Enjoy :)

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chuck
2 links mild italian sausage; casings removed
1 onion; diced
4 garlic cloves; minced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning; plus 1/2 teaspoon for topping lasagna
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and squeezed of any excess liquid)
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan
kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter for dotting the top of the lasagna
No Boil Oven Ready Lasagna sheets

Sauce :

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk at room temp (I usually forget to bring it to room temp, so I just microwave for a few minutes)
1 1/2 cups of your fav tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, again whisking the whole time. Continue to cook until sauce is thick and creamy. About 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and add the tomato sauce.

Next, in a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the chuck and sausage, breaking up any large pieces. Season with the 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning and salt & pepper. Cook until browned. Add the minced garlic the last minute of cooking. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat.

In a bowl, mix together the ricotta and spinach. Season with salt & pepper.

In a 13x9 baking dish, spread 1/3 cup of the sauce on the bottom. Next add the pasta sheets, covering the sauce. Then spread all of the ricotta spinach mixture. Then, add another layer of lasagna noodles. Next, add all of the beef mixture and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Spread another 1/3 cup of the sauce. Add the last layer of lasagna noodles and top with remaining sauce, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and dot with butter. Lightly spray a piece of foil with nonstick spray and cover your lasagna. You do this so your cheese won't stick to it.

Cook for 40 minutes. Remove foil and turn the oven on broil. Broil until bubbly & browned. DO NOT leave the kitchen during this part. You will need to watch it the whole time to make sure it doesn't burn. Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes.

* I put a cookie sheet, lined with foil, underneath my lasagna pan. because some of the sauce seems to escape everytime *

Monday, June 27, 2011

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme

Anyone remember that line from a Simon & Garfunkel song? If you added basil in there, you would have all of my favorite herbs. When I first started working at Erling Jensen's 12 years ago, I would have to stem herbs for hours... literally. My hands were stained from all the thyme I had to stem! I love using fresh herbs in my food. It is a wonderful, healthy way to add a lot of flavor to any dish. I would suggest going to your local Home Depot or Lowe's and purchasing some herbs for your garden. Much more affordable than buying them. Tonight, my focus is on rosemary for my chicken, basil for my warm bread & tomato salad, and italian parsley in my succotash. Enjoy :)

Lemon, Garlic, & Rosemary Chicken

1 whole chicken; cut into 8 pieces
1 lemon; zested
2 lemons; juiced
4 cloves garlic; minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons rosemary; minced
Kosher Salt & Pepper
4 tablespoons Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350

Combine olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and garlic in a small bowl. Season both sides of the chicken well with salt & pepper. Heat a grill pan (or cast iron skillet) to medium high heat. Cook the chicken about 5 minutes per side, or until the chicken is browned. Transfer to the oven and continue to cook for 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh rosemary and lemon slices.

Succotash

4 ears of corn; shucked
2 garlic cloves; minced
3 shallots; thinly sliced
1 container cherry tomatoes; halved
1 cup frozen lima beans
2 tablespoons italian parsley; chopped
1/4 cup white wine (drinkable quality, of course)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher Salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the corn and shallots. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, lima beans, and garlic. Season everything with salt & pepper. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, Add the white wine and cook until it is absorbed. Garnish with fresh basil.

Warm Tomato & Bread Salad

2 cups of baguette or boule garlic bread. cut into 1 inch dice
8 tomatoes; large dice
3 cloves garlic; minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon fresh basil; thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the cubed bread and cook until lightly browned and toasted, about 5-7 minutes. Remove cubes and put in a bowl.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, salt & pepper, balsamic, and sugar to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes have softened. About 5 minutes. Place the the bread cubes back into the pan and stir to combine, making sure the bread is soaking up the liquid from the pan. Add the fresh basil and parmesan.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

"People Who Love to Eat Are Always The Best People" - Julia Child

Have there ever been any truer words spoken?!?! I do love to eat. And, I love feeding & eating with others! I want everyone to love it as much as I do. A perfect dining partner is one that is as enthusiastic about the food as you are. A question I get asked a lot is what are my favorite places to eat. I have a lot. Some are hidden treasures, while others are well-knowns. To me, all are delicious. That is the most important, but there are definitely other aspects of it that make it an experience. I am not super critical of restaurants, because after working in one, I know how hard it is.

Three Angels Diner - Pazole is delicious as well as their burger and grown up grilled cheese. Great brunch!

Trolley Stop Market - Pizza all the way!!

Golden Coast (the BEST dim sum in Memphis - they come around with a cart and you pick what you want. Don't be discouraged if you happen to see chicken feet ;)

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen - Fresh approach to Italian. Delicious. Perfectly executed every time I've been. Atmosphere and service can't be beat.

Bari - The cheese menu alone is enough reason to visit this place

Tsunami - My friends and I love to go and eat in the bar area. The bartender rocks and is so knowledgeable. Love that you can get small plates there.

Noodle Doodle Do (Do sushi) - I crave their Beef Curry Soup in the fall/winter. Fresh and delicious!

Las Tortugas - Black Bean tostada is a fav as well as their corn

Casa Blanca - Somedays I think I could live off their stuffed grape leaves

Taqueria La Guadalupana - The goat taco's are my go-to here. The meat is tender, gamey, and full of flavor.

The Elegant Farmer - Love everything about this new restaurant :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crab Cake Date..... For Three??

Let me explain...... About 13 years ago, I invited a guy, who I had a major crush on, over for dinner. I definitely wanted to impress. So I cooked one of my fav dishes at the time, Crab Cakes. When the doorbell rang that night, I went to find my crush at the door. With a friend. Hmmmm. Not a good sign when your date brings a friend along! He, however, remembers it differently. He says I invited his friend to tag along on our date. No way. I'm sure I wouldn't have done that. To this day, we continue to remember things differently :) Regardless of who is right (me), and at the request of my sister, I wanted to share this yummy recipe.

Crab Cakes (makes about 10)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion; small dice
1/2 cup celery; small dice
1/4 cup red bell pepper; small dice
1/4 cup yellow pepper; small dice
1 tablespoon garlic; minced
1 pound lump crab meat
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley; chopped
3 tablespoons creole or dijon mustard
1 lemon; juiced
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons creole seasoning
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup flour
Kosher Salt & Pepper
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Water
Veggie Oil for frying

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and peppers. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Place in a bowl and let mixture cool. When it has cooled. Add the green onions, parmesan, parsley, mayo, mustard, and juice of 1 lemon. Mix together - then gently add the crab meat and 3/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Mix (with your hands) until everything is incorporated. I use a 1/3 measuring cup to make sure all the patties are the same size. Scoop them all out and place on a platter until ready to cook.

On a plate, mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon creole seasoning. In a bowl mix together the 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water. Then, on another plate mix together the remaining bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon creole seasoning.

Dredge each cake into flour first, then the egg wash, then the bread crumbs. After you have done all patties. Heat 1/4 cup veggie oil in a nonstick saute pan. Cook cake for about 4 minutes on each side. As soon as you remove them from the heat, sprinkle them with the remaining creole seasoning.

Sauce :

1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup onions; chopped
1 whole lemon, skin removed, and cut in half
2 bay leaves
6 tablespoons cream
2 sticks unsalted butter; cut into small pieces and very cold
2 bay leaves

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients EXCEPT the butter, lemons, and cream. Cook over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes. Add the lemons and mash down with a spoon. Add the cream and whisk to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Next, whisk in the butter one piece at a time until all of the butter is gone. Strain sauce into a clean bowl. Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On A Lighter Note

When I lived in Denver, there was this wonderful little soup shop that made about 20 different kinds of soup everyday, year round. I would call and listen to a recording of what they had to offer, then make my way there. It was heaven to me and I often dream of opening such a place here. Soups are just so comforting. In the winter, I gravitate towards warm, hearty soups. But, in the summer, I adore soups on the lighter side. Gazpacho is always a fav of mine. So refreshing! Gazpacho is a liquid salad that originated in Spain. There are many different versions. These are two ways I like to prepare. Both are easy & fast. Perfect.

Traditional Gazpacho

2 cloves garlic; minced
1 small cucumber; peeled, seeded, and diced
1 red onion; diced
1 green bell pepper; diced
4 tomatoes; seeded; diced
4 cups tomato juice
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup pine nuts; toasted
Kosher salt & Pepper

Put all the veggies in a food processor and pulse until it is coarsely chopped.

Pour in a large bowl and add the garlic, red pepper flakes. olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt & pepper. Garnish with toasted pine nuts. Enjoy alongside a toasted piece of thick, crusty bread.

*Sometimes I like to add shrimp to the soup*


Watermelon Gazpacho

6 cups seeded watermelon; cubed
3 tomatoes; diced
2 stalks of celery; diced
1 cucumber; peeled, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 jalapeno; seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh mint; chopped
2 tablespoons pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Put all BUT 1 cup the watermelon, mint, and jalapeno in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour into a bowl, and add the 1 cup of cubed watermelon, jalapeno, and mint. ALWAYS check your seasonings. Add more salt & pepper if needed. Pour into a bowl or cup, sprinkle with pepitas, and garnish with a piece of watermelon. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yum, Yum, & Yum

Chicken. Wild Mushrooms. Wine. Of course it's yummy! And easy. I think mushrooms also fall into the category of "love em or hate em". The mushrooms add a wonderful earthiness to this dish while the lemon juice brightens it up a bit. This a good dish for a family dinner or to entertain friends :)


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz wild mushrooms
1/4 cup shallots; chopped
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme; chopped
3/4 cup white wine
4 oz creme fraiche
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of half & half
4 tablespoons butter; divided
Flour, for dredging
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Season chicken with salt & pepper. Dredge them in flour, shake off the excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter to a large saute pan over medium heat and cook chicken until lightly browned on each side (about 4 minutes per side). Remove chicken and place in a casserole dish.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, along with the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes, then add the wine. Increase heat to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Then add the creme fraiche, lemon juice, thyme, and half & half. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce has thickened a bit - about 5-10 minutes.

Pour sauce over chicken and cook for 20 minutes. Enjoy :)

* I served this dish with Roasted Broccoli & Shallots and Rosemary Polenta*



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Kind of Burger Night

I enjoy a burger as much as the next person. I just like mine a little more gourmet :) These are great to cook for friends! They will adore them! On the side, I love delicious truffled french fires - so addictive!!! You will want to make a lot because I assure you, you will be snacking on these before it's dinner time!


Burgers -

1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ketchup
Kosher Salt & Pepper

Gently mix all ingredient together, being careful not to over mix. Shape into 4 patties. Heat a grill, or grill pan, to medium-high heat. Cook for 7 minutes on one side, then flip once, and cook another 7 minutes.


My toppings of choice:

Gruyere Cheese
Caramelized Onions
Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Truffled Oven Fries

5 Russet Potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Truffle Oil
Nonstick spray

Preheat oven to 425

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch thick fries. Make sure they are all cut the same size so they cook evenly. Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil. Boil the potatoes for 6 minutes. Drain carefully and put into a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a nonstick spray (make sure there is just one layer) and cook for 15 minutes, then flip the fries and cook for another 15 minutes. Or until lightly browned.

When they are done, toss with fresh parmesan, parsley, & truffle oil. Enjoy :)