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


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

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.