Monday, December 5, 2011

Cranberry Sauce

It's the red headed step-child of Thanksgiving, but it's tasty and something that just makes Thanksgiving, Turkey Day.  My mom and I have a pretty standard recipe that I tweaked a little bit because I like to, along with the added bonus of annoying my Mom by making a slightly different version of what she usually does. :)

Cranberry Sauce:

8 oz fresh cranberries
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup - 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
pinch of salt
cinnamon stick
2-3 pinches of allspice
zest of 1 orange

Add everything but the zest into a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, taste for sweetness adding more sugar if you like.  Then add the zest and cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes.  Let cool and then refrigerate.  Serve with zested orange.

Spinach Artichoke dip

This past weekend a good couple friend of ours, Z and M, hosted a Holiday Cocktail Party.  M made delicious food and we all had fun playing games and getting into the holiday cheer.  I tried to help her out by bringing an appetizer, using my go-to easy Spinach Artichoke Dip.  It's semi-healthy, using low fat sour cream, mayonnaise and cheese, but let's face it, it's not the most calorie conscious dish.  It is however, really tasty.


1 bag of frozen spinach, de-thawed and all the water is pressed out of it OR 1 bag of fresh spinach, wilted with some olive oil, salt and pepper
1/2 a bag of shredded low moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup of light sour cream (estimate on this one, it may be more or less depending on
2/3 cup of light mayonnaise
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of freshly cracked pepper
zest of 1/2 a lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked off
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 can of artichokes in water, drained and chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine all ingredients a bowl and place into a large Ramekin dish (those heavy, white, circular thingys). Bake for 30 minutes or so, till it's bubbly and starting to brown but cooked through. Serve with pita chips, bagel chips, crusty bread, whatever you have to devour with. Be careful, this is super addicting and you'll think that because it's better for you, you can consume more. This is one of my favorite dips and my friends all seem to agree.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I couldn't be more excited for Thanksgiving   It's not only my favorite holiday, it's a meal I wish would be replicated more than once a year, sans calories of course.  Every year my mom and I cook the same meal and I can't get enough of it!  She will take care of all the baking, two kinds of pies.  I'll usually take care of the turkey, stuffing and side dishes to make it less work for her.

Sorry about the picture quality, only had my phone with me.
This past weekend we did a Friends Only Thanksgiving and had a great time.  Everyone brings a dish and we all have this pot luck style Thanksgiving dinner with lots of wine, football and no stress that La Familia sometimes bring.  I was responsible for the Turkey, a 23 pounder I aptly named Tessa.  I rubbed the inside and outside of her with Sage, Lemon, Salt and Pepper while also basting every 20 minutes.  She took about 3 hours but she was very tasty and juicy.

This Thanksgiving I will be celebrating with just my Parents.  The Boy is going home to the east coast for a few days and will be missed but we will have plenty of leftovers when he comes back.

I'll post some recipes later this week, especially my favorite - Stuffing and Sweet Potatoes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We're Back!!

Our trip was amazing. We are fully exhausted from traveling for more than 24 hours and playing time zone hop-scotch coming home. I will post more about everything, but here are a few highlights:

Faces of Bayon
Insane driving guidelines
Angkor Temples
Cambodian Cooking Class
Con Dao Islands
Housewarming BBQ with my brother
Gtting bitten, stung and crashing a Vespa

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Leaving on a jet plane...

The Boy and I are headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for 12 days.  Hopefully we will return full of unforgettable experiences and tasty food.  We will spend a few days in the beginning and end of our trip visiting my brother in Ho Chi Minh City.  In between HCMC, we will visit Phnom Phen, Siem Reap and a small little island south of Vietnam called Con Dao.  I'm really excited to be visiting my brother and spending his birthday with him along with sharing a special, long awaited trip with the Boy.

Wish us luck and safe travels!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Baked Ricotta with Roasted Butternut Squash

The Boy and I went to Cotogna a few weeks ago with another couple and greatly enjoyed the whole meal.  This restaurant is one of the hardest to get a reservation into but also keeps room for walk-ins which makes it feel a little more homey and welcoming.  Everything I've had at this restaurant is amazing, seriously amazing. 

They have this baked Ricotta dish that is to die for, so I decided to try and make it at home.  Picture to come shortly.

Baked Ricotta with Roasted Butternut Squash:

1 small butternut squash, cut into small cubes
1 cup ricotta, divided into 4 small Ramekin dishes
salt and pepper
olive oil
fresh sage leaves, minced
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
freshly toasted bread with olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Toss the butternut squash cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes till soft.  Once out of the oven, toss with the sage, put aside.

Increase the heat to 450 F.

Distribute the ricotta evenly into the 4 Ramekin dishes.  Add a heaping spoonful of the butternut squash, splash of olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Put into the oven for a few minutes, until the ricotta is soft.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle a little bit more sage on top.  Serve with toasted bread.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Followers Fest

Sorry for the lack of posts this month.  I've been super busy planning my trip with the Boy to Vietnam and Cambodia.  Will be showing a ton of pictures upon returning.

Making toasted pumpkin seeds this weekend.  Will post the recipe. This weekend, I promise.

Joining October Followers Fest - enjoy some great blogs...


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Slaw Salad

Lately I have really been craving cabbage.  I have no idea why but it's delicious and a great source vitamins, especially Vitamin C and Iron.  I had some leftover roast chicken and decided to make a healthy, low fat and tasty dinner consisting of a ton of veggies and some chicken.  I was really pleasantly surprised how yummy this was.

I loosely based it off a Slaw salad found at a lunch spot in the FiDi called Urban Picnic.  It's a Vietnamese Fusion lunch spot that my coworkers and I frequent at least once a week.

couple hand fulls of cabbage
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 - 2 carrots, freshly grated
2 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
orange segments
toasted cashews
chopped cilantro
chopped mint
cooked shredded chicken

1 garlic clove mashed and finely minced
3 splashes of soy sauce
drizzle of honey
splash of fish sauce
splash of white vinegar
splash of orange juice (squeeze whatever you have left from segmenting your orange
pinch of cracked black pepper
freshly grated ginger (1/2 teaspoon)
drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil
1 tbsp peanut oil

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a big bowl and stir to combine.  When just about to serve, add in all the veggies, chicken, and cashews.  Toss to coat with the dressing, add a touch more mint on top and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ricotta Pancakes

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mother that cooked all the time and loved doing it.  We always had our selection of breakfast the next morning, especially on big days - SAT's, Birthdays, Sunday's.  My mom was always a morning person and would wake up at 6am to start making breakfast.  This intrinsic quality was not passed down to me.  Never have I ever wanted to get up at 6am, let alone to make breakfast for people, unless it's Bay To Breakers.

My mom found this recipe from Martha and I never realized how easy and tasty it actually was.  I cut the recipe in half because the Boy and I were making it for just the two of us.

Ricotta Pancakes (serves two):

3 eggs, separated
pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup ricotta (non fat or whole milk)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4  tsp. baking powder
few pinches of cinnamon
few pinches of nutmeg
pinch of salt

lemon zest and sugar for dusting afterwards

Beat the egg whites till foamy, add the cream of tartar.  Whisk till stiff peaks form in a mixer.

Combine everything else with a whisk till combined.  Add 1/3 of the egg whites and stir to combine.  Fold in the rest of the egg whites, making sure not to over mix.

Heat up a griddle or frying pan, add a little butter and cook the pancakes in batches, 2-4 minutes on each sides.

Garnish with lemon zest and sugar (powered or granulated).  Should make about 7-8 pancakes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread Muffins are a thing of beauty.  They are salty, sweet, bready - everything I love (execpt the carbs).  I usually buy Jiffy CornBread Mix and add a few things in it to make it special.

Cornbread Muffins:

1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen white corn
4 dashes red pepper flakes
1 egg
1/3 cup non-fat milk
lime zest

muffin liners

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and let sit for a few minutes.  Spoon mixture into muffin tins with liners until halfway full.  Follow the directions and bake according to the box.

Enjoy with a little slice of butter and some more lime zest.

Ricotta Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Dates

A while ago I went up to Muir Woods with the Boy, Miss K, and her boyfriend.  We hiked and went to the Tourist Club for a beverage to enjoy the view.  On our way back we stopped on the side of the road at this little stand to pick up a few things.  We came back to the car with a ton of stuff, cherries, dates, pistachios, figs, almonds, we made out like bandits.  We were munching on everything in the car on the way back to the City.  I had tried Bacon Wrapped Dates at Wayfare Tavern and decided to give it a go on my own.

Ricotta Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Dates

1/2 cup whole milk Ricotta
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
4 strips of bacon, cut into thirds
12 dates, pitted and hollowed out with a chopstick
freezer zip top bag or piping bag (make sure it's a sturdy bag, mine exploded the first time I tried this)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine the ricotta with the lemon zest, salt, pepper and stir well.  Taste for seasoning.  Spoon mixture into a zip lock bag to one corner, or a piping bag.  Snip a tiny bit of the end and start piping the ricotta mixture into the hollowed out date.  Wrap with the bacon slice and place seam side down onto a baking sheet.  Repeat until all dates are stuffed and wrapped.  Put into the oven for 15-20 till bacon is cooked but not too crisp.

Stick a toothpick in it and serve while warm.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Basil Pesto

My family loves pesto, especially my father.  We will have it on bread with cheese, on pasta, on sandwiches or even in salads (I've added it to Caprese Salads when I don't have basil).  My version is fairly traditional with a few additions of parsley and cracked black pepper.  I also add a bit more garlic to make it more pungent.  Lastly, I only add a bit of freshly graded Parmesan Cheese at the end and fold it.

Basil Pesto:

4 garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 hand fulls of dry toasted pine nuts (maybe 1/3ish of a cup)
2 good pinches of salt
few grinds of freshly cracked pepper
1 very large bunch of basil (upwards of 30ish leaves)
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley
extra virgin olive oil, 1/4-1/2 cup
1/4 cup freshly graded Parmesan Cheese

In a food processor, pulse together the garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper till a paste forms (maybe 15-20 seconds).  Scrape down the sides with a spatula and add the basil and parsley.  Pulse lightly every second until the basil and parsley are chopped finely.  Push the on button on the food processor and drizzle in the olive oil from the top until a nice smooth pesto forms.  Take out and put into a bowl, fold in the Parmesan Cheese and taste for seasoning.  It should be a little garlicky, salty, and most of all basily.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pulled Chicken Tacos

I made some pizzas last week and had some left over pulled chicken from Trader Joes.  Usually I would make my own pulled chicken and my own BBQ sauce but I was tired and exhausted from a long week and figured I'd give this BBQ Pulled Chicken a shot.  I was really happy I did, it was tasty, spicy, smokey but not too sweet.  Perfect!  Like I said, I made pizzas last week and they turned out really well, post on that later but for now I used leftovers to make these tacos and it was truly a magical moment.

Pulled Chicken Tacos:

Leftover Pulled Chicken in BBQ Sauce from Trader Joes
shredded cheese - I used smoked Gouda
thinly sliced red onion or shallots
pea shoots (left over but you can use cabbage or any other green you want)
lime zest and juice
corn tortillas

Spoon pulled chicken mixture onto a few corn tortillas, top with some cheese, put in the microwave for 45 seconds or so.  Top with the onion, cilantro lime zest, any greens you desire.  Roll into taco form and chomp down on, chew, swallow, repeat.  Nom, nom, nom.

I loved them so much I ate 3 tacos.  Usually I cap it at two, but I couldn't resist one more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Corn and Basil Salad

A few years ago, I went to go visit my friend Katelyn in LA for the Fourth of July.  We had a party at her boyfriend's house and everyone brought a dish.  One of her friends brought this Corn and Basil Salad and it was amazing!

I'm part of a surprise birthday party for a friend of mine.  We are taking her to a water park and having a nice lunch picnic outside.  The great thing about this salad is that it is great cold or at room temperature which makes it perfect for having a picnic outside.

Corn and Basil Salad

2 cups of frozen corn, thawed and cooked
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 big hand full of basil, sliced into ribbons
hand full of parsley, chopped

Combine the cider vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil with a whisk and taste for seasoning.  Add to the corn, onion and garlic and coat to combine.  At the very end add the basil and parsley.  Serve at room temperature or cold.

Baked Beans

I am not from the South, nor did I ever really grow up on Southern Comfort Food.  However, living in San Francisco, your repitoire gets drastically expanded with every new restaurant or food truck opening.   This whole Southern kick started awhile back when I made my Pulled Pork Sliders, an equally delicious and laborious dish.  I have been thinking I should make it again but didn't want to put in the whole effort on a weeknight.  I calculated how long it would take to make BBQ ribs with all the fixings on the side and decided that would be put on hold for a warm Saturday afternoon with friend.  I did realize however, that I could make some of the "fixins" on the side and to hold off my BBQ fix for a bit.  Baked Beans and Coleslaw seemed like the perfect easy weeknight meal I could tackle in 30 minutes after I got home at 8pm from working out.

So here goes, I will be the first to admit that my recipe is not a standard recipe, it has out of all things Pancetta in it (to be fair I wanted to use bacon but TJ's was out of it).  The beans are actually Baked Beans from Trader Joes in which I doctored up, very unprofessional Amy.

Baked Beans:
tiny splash of peanut oil
2 ounces of cubed pancetta (half the box that TJ's had)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 can of Trader Joes Organic Baked Beans
1 heaping tsp chipotle sauce or 1 chipotle minced
splash of water
salt and pepper
2 scallions, chopped

In a sauce pan, heat the little amount of oil and add the pancetta, brown to render the fat.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno and sweat on medium heat.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper. 

Add the beans into the pan with all the sauce, add the chipotle and a splash of water.  Add back in the pancetta and let reduce on low to medium low heat for 7-10 minutes and taste for seasoning.  Garnish with the scallions and cilantro if you have it.

Corn Cakes

First of all I am very sorry for the lack of posting lately.  My computer is currently broken which makes the whole typing and uploading pictures a bit of a challenge.  Working on it though.  Should be resolved shortly - I hope!

After work yesterday, I realized that I had very little in my fridge to cook with.  I'm talking no lettuce, a half an onion, some limes, frozen corn, and pink lemonade.  Needless to say, it had been awhile since I went grocery shopping.

I just got back from an amazing long weekend in Manhattan with the Boy.  We visited the Boy's college roommate and his girlfriend.  They were very generous in letting us stay with them, which in turn forgoes us spending money on a hotel, which forwards that money to drinks and dinners out.  We had a fantastic but very busy time.  Ate at Momofuku Noodle Bar, almost got struck by lightning in a massive downpour, played with kittens, ate at Mermaid Inn, went to Birreria - a beer restaurant on the top of a 15 story building, ate dumplings at Rickshaw, saw X-Men: First Class, brunch at Elephant and Castle, visited High Line Park, tried to get boys to have pedicures, and lastly went to the Chelsea Market.  That was all in three days.  I finally came home on Sunday night exhausted both mentally and physically, but happy to be sleeping in my own bed, not an air mattress.  New York is an unbelievable city; cabs are everywhere, their driving is some sort of art, everything is always open, their hipsters are different, nothing ever stops, it's hot and humid, even at night.  I loved visiting and can't wait to be back visiting my college roommate in a month or so.  There is something truly unique about Manhattan, a buzz that is hard to describe but is very infectious. 

But back to the fact that there is no food in my fridge.  Here is my dilemma - I'm exhausted from my trip and working all day, don't have the energy to walk to Trader Joes and then up my hill back home, and it's hot (San Francisco is having some record breaking temperatures right now high 80's and low 90's - very un-San Franciscian like).  I figured I have to fashion something together to feed my grumbling belly.  I look into my freezer hoping there would be an amazing 5 course meal ready for me to eat but sadly that doesn't happen.  I see some frozen corn and remember a recipe I saw on Generation Y Foodie these Corn Fritters.  Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am - that's what I'm going to make.  Throw whatever I have in my stark fridge into them, serve with a Chipotle Aioli and I had a refreshing vegetarian dinner.  Now that I think about it, I could have added some Pancetta or Bacon to it to make it a little heartier but whatever it was damn tasty and I was very happy with the result.

Corn Cakes:

1 heaping cup of frozen corn, thawed
1/4 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 egg lightly beaten
zest of 1 lime - save the juice for the Aioli below
pinch red pepper flakes
few pinches of chili powder
few pinches of garlic powder
2 tbsp flour
1/4 - 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp- 1 tbsp peanut oil

Chipotle Aioli:
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 tsp chipotle paste
dash of garlic powder
salt and pepper
chopped cilantro

Green onion for garnish.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl combine the egg, lime zest, and seasonings together.  Add the flour and stir to combine.  Add the corn, onion, garlic and tomatoes.  Add the breadcrumbs until the batter is combined but not too dry.  On a plate sprinkle some of the breadcrumbs, enough to coat the cakes and season with salt and pepper.  Separate the batter into 4 sections and make 4 pattys.  Coat with the breadcrumbs on both sides.  In a large skillet heat the oil and add the cakes, you should hear a sizzle.  Cook on each side about 3 minutes till golden brown and transfer to the oven for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile make the Chipotle Aioli by combining all the ingredients and stir to combine.  You may want to add more lime juice or more chipotle paste to accommodate your liking.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beet and Watermelon Salad

After the Boy and I got back from Wine Country we stopped at Oola in SOMA for lunch.  We had this amazing Beet and Watermelon Salad that we completely devoured.  The Boy wanted to make it again for dinner, so we did and it turned out amazing.  I substituted Watercrests with Pea Shoots but Micro Greens work well here also.

Watermelon and Beet Salad:
4-5 beets, cubed
1-2 cups of largely cubed watermelon
1 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 large handful of pea shoots or some type of green
1 handful of pistachios
1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed
1 tbsp Champagne Vinegar or
Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar at TJ's
1 tsp - tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, put the thyme leaves, salt, pepper and vinegar in a bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil in a stream till combined.  Add to the rest of the salad and toss to combine.  Add a touch of cracked black pepper on top at the very end.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wine Time

The Boy and I took a very impromptu three day trip up to wine country this past holiday weekend.  We got incredibly lucky and found a great hotel in Rutherford last minute.  Many different, but amazing wineries were visited, and our bellies were stuffed with unbelievable food.  The weather was perfect and I couldn't be happier spending time away in wine country with the man that I love.

Here is a list of the wineries we went visited and highly recommend them:

We managed to score a reservation at Ad Hoc in Yountville and loved it.  If you are not familier with Ad Hoc, they create a new 4 course menu every night, for about $50 a person.  Here was our menu:

(1) Endive & Masche Salad - caramelized cauliflower, shaved celery, kalamata olives, toasted pine nuts, raisin caper vinaigrette
(2) Spiced Beef Hanger Steak - grilled pencil asparagus, white spring onions, espelette butter, crispy baked potato, bacon creme fraiche
(3) Central Coast Goat Gouda - fuji apples, wildflower honey, marcona almond butter
(4) Cinnamon Beignets - maple anglaise, chocolate and strawberry sauce

Lovely, perfect weekend.  If only all weekends were 3 days long and spent in Wine Country.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mandel Bread

Grandmothers make comfort food, period.  My grandmother, who I called "Grandmommy," was no exception.  She always made amazing food, I secretly hope that I got some of my culinary talent from her.  Along with her culinary abilities, she also was an amazing baker - I think that was passed on to my mother, and not me.  She would always have some sort of cake or cookie waiting for us when we came to visit her.  My favorite cookie was called "Mandel Bread." It is a cinnamon biscotti type cookie that is almost as addicting as a Dexter Episode (I would know).  From my mother, the story goes, Grandmommy got the recipe from Auntie Mil who was the sister of an Army Officer stationed with my Grandmother and my Grandfather on some base "out there."  No idea where "out there" is but I am in awe of all the men and women stationed abroad and I am eternally grateful for their service to keep me at home safe.

This cookie has been my favorite since as far back as I can remember (I'm assuming I was still in Pull-Ups but only my mother can verify this).  I brought this recipe to The District, where I went to college, and my roommates quickly learned how to survive on these cookies.  I would make double batches and store them in the freezer to see if they could last longer, but to no avail, would be gone in days.  These cookies have gotten my friends and me through sickness, breakups, midterms, lonely winters, arguments, and most importantly BIRTHDAYS!!!  They seriously cure everything. 

It was my old roommate, and great friend, Miss K's Birthday was this week and she requested Mandel Bread for her Birthday Dessert.  It was our go-to dessert anytime we were craving something sweet.  So Happy Birthday Miss K!  Glad to be celebrating this birthday with you!

Auntie Mils' Mandel Bread:


1 Cup Sugar
1/2 cup Crisco - I know, gross but necessary
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds (TJ's has slivered toasted almonds that work really well)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup of sugar
1 heaping tbsp. cinnamon or more

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

In a mixer, cream the sugar and Crisco for 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla.

Sift a 1/2 cup of flower over the almonds and toss to coat.  Add to the sugar/egg/Crisco mixture.

Sift the rest of the dry ingredients.  Then add to the mixer and stir to combine until a soft dough forms.  PLEASE DON'T over mix, the dough will get tough.

Separate into three sections and make three long loaves into a lined cookie sheet, 2" wide and 3/4" high.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, should be slightly golden brown on the edges.

Take out of the oven and cut the loaf on a diagonal into 1/2 in slices, turn on it's side and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Put back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, until crispy.  Transfer to a cookie rack and let cool.  Consume, drink a glass of milk, wipe away crumbs, repeat.

Thank the lovely Miss K for this picture, she is a much better photographer than I am

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fresh Spring Rolls

This past weekend was an epic one.  We celebrated the boy's birthday outdoors at Fort Mason on Saturday, saw a friends band at Maggie McGarry's, and the boy's baseball game on Sunday.  We were exhausted, sun soaked and looking for something light and fresh for dinner.  I found some spring roll wrappers at a random grocery store and suggested we make Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp.  We had initially decided on doing a whole Vietnamese themed dish with some Coconut Curry Chicken but after we consumed 3 spring rolls each, we were equally stuffed and exhausted from this weekend.  We called an audible and decided to marinate the chicken overnight to cook the next day, hopefully the Chicken will be in another blog post - if it's good.

I made two different dipping sauces for these Spring Rolls.  I always love a peanuty one, but decided to make another one, more sweet fish sauce/soy type.

Fresh Spring Rolls:

6 sheets of circular rice paper
15-18 cooked shrimp, depending on how big the shrimp are, sliced in half lengthwise
1/4 cucumber, seeded, sliced julienne (thin strips)
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (I got a bag of it at TJ's)
1 small yellow pepper, sliced julienne
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 hand full of rice noodles
1/4 cup mango, thinly sliced
hand full of mint leaves

Bring a kettle to boil.  In a heat proof dish, pour the boiled water over the rice noodles and let them cook.  It will take about 4-5 minutes.  Take them out of the hot water and put in a dish to cool.  In another circular dish large enough to hold the circular rice paper (I used a cake pan, but a pie plate works too), add some more of the hot water and let come to a temperature you can handle with bare hands.  Have a clean tea towel layed out and all of your other vegetables/fillings you would like to put in the roll.

Soak the rice paper in the hot water for 10 seconds, no more or it will get mush on you.  Take out the rice paper (it will still be a little firm) and place it on the towel.  Add all the fillers you want in the middle of the circle, and wrap like a burrito - the long side first, then the short sides and roll up as tight as possible.  (The boy will have you know that I am not the best wrapper/roller, all of mine weren't as tight as I wanted them, he is a much better roller than I am.)

Sweet Soy and Fish Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup water
1/8 cup sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 knob of ginger, graded
1/4 tsp jalapeno, minced
1/2 a shallot, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan, heat up the water and sugar and let dissolve.  Add all the other ingredients and let come to a very small simmer.  Taste for seasoning.  Pour into a small bowl to serve for dipping.  Use that same saucepan to make the second sauce (no need to wash - I'm all about saving time and making the boy do the fewest amount of dishes).

Peanut Dipping Sauce:

1 tbsp curry paste (I used green)
1/3 cup peanut butter (I like Skippy Natural)
few splashes of soy sauce
few splashes of fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp coconut milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp freshly graded ginger
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/8 - 1/4 cup water or so to make the consistency

In that same sauce pan, heat up the curry paste for a minute.  Add the peanut butter and stir to combine.  Make sure the heat is on low at this point.  Add in everything else and whisk to combine.  You may need to add some more water to thin it out.  Pour into another small bowl to serve for dipping.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Parsnip Puree

I learned how to make this dish from a friend of mine that is the executive Sous Chef at Volt in Frederick, MD.  He made this amazing dish of Seared Scallop over a Parsnip Puree with a Watercrest Salad.  It was one of the tastiest meals I've ever seen made at a small college kitchen.  After asking him how he made it, I was awed to learn that he boiled the parsnips in heavy cream and then pureed them.  As much as I love food, there are certain things that I won't indulge in, boiling anything in cream is one of them.  I figured I could use non-fat milk with a small slab of butter and result in something similar, I was happily surprised when my family and I had an Easter Dinner with Duck.

It tastes sweet, a bit nutty, and most defiantly creamy.  I add some nutmeg, salt and pepper to the parsnips and that's all you need.

Parsnip Puree:

4 parsnips, cut into 2 inch pieces
quart of skim milk, or 4 cups
1 - 2 tbsp butter
1 tsp - 1 tbsp salt and pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg

In a sauce pan, add everything and turn on the heat.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are tender.  Then use a spider (or a slotted spoon) and put all the parsnips in a blender or food processor.  Add a bit (maybe half a cup) of the cooking liquid and puree.  You may need to add more or less liquid depending on how you would like your consistency, should resemble a more liquidy mashed potatoes.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Serve warm!

*You can top with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

My boy is sick, 'nuf said.  I don't know if it's the plague or strep throat, but he's not feeling well and suggested having soup and watching a movie.  I'm not the biggest fan of soup, it's kinda one flavor for the entire meal.  I like having options on my plate, going from a savory rich steak to a tangy salad to a sweet, well, sweet potato.  Tortilla soup is the only soup I really like.  I think because there are so many options with toppings it doesn't make it one note and enjoyable for me.

I roasted a chicken breast with some spices, shredded it up and threw it in.  Pretty simple and soothing to my sickly boy.

Chicken Tortilla Soup:

1 chicken breast, skin on (or a few chicken breasts)
1 small/medium onion, finely chopped
1 small bell pepper, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
splash of tequila
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp. chipotle paste, or 1 chipotle chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 box of chicken stock
1 can of chopped tomatoes (optional, I don't use it)
1 cup frozen corn
1-2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 tbsp. garlic powder
few dashes of red pepper flakes
1 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil

Serving Toppings:
chopped onion
shredded cheese (jack or cheddar)
crumbled tortilla chips
lime wedges

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Drizzle some olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle with the seasonings.  Roast for 25-40 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken is.  Shred with a fork, or if you're brave, your dainty fingers.

While your chickadoos are cooking, bring a bigger pot with some olive oil up to medium high heat and saute the onion, pepper and garlic for a few minutes.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some seasonings (your choice of how much you want to add in there).  Add the chipotle paste and tomato paste and stir to combine.  Add the tequila and white wine, and let cook off for a few minutes.  Finally add the can of chopped tomatoes (optional) and the chicken stock, let simmer for 30 minutes or so, till everyone is begging you for a bowl.

Serve and garnish with chopped onion, cilantro, avocado, salsa, cheese, and crumbled tortilla chips.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stylish Blog Award

A very big thank you to my longtime friend Katelyn at Ever Learning Eyes for nominating me for a Stylish Blog Award.  While my blog isn't really about style as it as much about food, there is some food styling that goes into photographing those masterpieces, so I think this nomination was most definitely deserved.  Thanks Katelyn!

Rules of the Game:

  1. Thank the person who gave me the award, make a post and put a link back to the person.
  2. Share seven things about myself.
  3. Pass the award to 10 recently discovered great bloggers.
  4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

And the unknown trivia begins...
  1. I come from a long line of very talented culinary aficionados.  I learned a lot of different dishes from my mother (aka: Martha Stewart) and both my grandmothers.  I still have recipes from my maternal grandmother in her almost illegible handwriting. 
  2. I only drive barefoot.  I hate that I can't feel the pedals when I'm driving with shoes.
  3. I'm always thinking about what next meal I'm going to make.  Thinking of what I can make dinner with whatever is in my fridge, what wine to pair it with, and if can I bring it to work the next day; all those thoughts are bouncing around up there before I get home every day.
  4. I am a huge klutz.  I always have a bruise, cut, or injury on my body for some reason (right now - a back sprain and a cut up knee from a minor shaving accident).
  5. I always wear sunglasses outside whether it's sunny or not.  It drives the Boy crazy!
  6. Calla Lilies are my favorite flower, ever.
  7. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  I have been making the majority of the meal for my family since college.  One year my mom had a really bad flu and asked me to cook all of Thanksgiving for the family, been doing most of it ever since, minus the pies - Momma is the baker, not me.

Blogs that deserve this award:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fish Tacos

I am and will forever be a California girl.  Not the Katy Perry version, but the version that I know; consisting of Rainbow sandals year round, "California Stops," spending the summers at the pool or beach, running the Dish, family Sunday BBQ's, April Showers, and avocados.  Along with all of that comes Fish Tacos.  I grew up eating them, they were at every taquerilla I knew in San Diego, and I learned how to make them fairly quickly from my mother.  I choose the healthier option of grilling or broiling them rather than deep frying, and sometimes (most every time) I add unconventional toppings, like my Black Bean and Corn Salsa.

The boy and I were having a quick dinner one night and decided to opt for Fish Tacos.  They're extremely quick and easy, I think the total time took me to make dinner was 20 minutes for everything.  You marinate the fish for a few minutes (don't marinate the fish longer than 30 minutes or the acid will start cooking the fish and you have ceviche, while it is a very tasty dish, it's not so much the point of this recipe), cook it up in grill pan or broiler, add some toppings and enjoy.  It is really that simple.

Fish Tacos:

4 fish fillets, use any white fish such as Mahi Mahi or Tilapia
shredded cabbage
chopped scallions
chopped cilantro
slices of avocado
corn tortillas
Lemon Chipotle Crema - recipe see below

1/2 cup champagne or white wine (I used prosecco because I had it in my fridge)
juice of 1-2 lemons, I like Meyer Lemons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno or Serrano Chile, chopped AND/OR red pepper flakes
few cilantro leaves
chopped scallions
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Let everything marinate in a shallow dish for 10-15 minutes while you chop the toppings you want on the tacos and make the Lemon Crema.

Lemon Crema:
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper
few dashes of garlic powder
1/4 tsp chipotle sauce or paste (optional)

Mix everything in a small bowl and set aside to drizzle on top of the tacos.

Heat a grill pan to high heat, spray with non stick cooking spray.  Sear the fish fillets 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Take off the heat when the fish flakes with a fork.

Look at that flakey fish with those grill marks

Assemble your tacos:  Corn tortilla, top with fish, add avocado, cabbage, salsa, scallions, drizzle with the crema, garnish with chopped cilantro.  You're done!  Dinner in 20 minutes at the most.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

I was up in Park City a few weekends ago for a ski trip.  We had this amazing house, with a gorgeous kitchen, and a beautiful view.  We decided to make Breakfast Burritos one morning and picked up this amazing black bean and corn salsa to go on top.  I decided to make it at home.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa:

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup of cooked frozen corn
1 tomato, chopped into bite size pieces
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or any sweeter vinegar)
few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine all in a bowl and toss to combine.  Taste for seasoning.  Enjoy on Breakfast Burritos or with chips or as a refreshing side dish.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Caesar Salad - The Way to my Dad's Heart

I've said it before, I grew up eating a salad with almost every dinner my mother made.  Usually, it was some sort of leafy green, add tomatoes, radishes and some green onion to a red wine vinaigrette, and that was our tasty, every day salad.  I started introducing a Caesar Salad a bit ago and my father loves it.  Whenever I'm home, he begs me to make it.  My mother could have prepared an entire meal, salad included and he will still ask me to make it for him.  A conversation goes like this:

Dad: "Oh please sweet, just a little Caesar Salad?"
Me: "Dad.  No."

So this post is devoted to my dad, it's not his birthday, or Father's Day but there are certain things that just remind me of him some days, and Caesar Salad is often one of them.  My father is truly unique.  He let me sit in his lap and drive up the driveway when I was seven (totally legal), jump from the top of the refrigerator into his arms as a toddler, has trouble pronouncing words like "yeast" and "onion" with his Polish accent, and lastly, he is convinced that he is a "cool dad."  After all the years of laughing, driving, jumping, joking, and laughing again, he is my father that I love, the only father that I know and could ever be so lucky to have.

Dad - I love you and thank you for keeping things, well, interesting.

Anyway, back to reality, I made this for dinner a few nights ago.  I know some of you may be wary about using anchovy paste but trust me, you don't taste it, it just has a rich and complex saltiness that perfects the dressing.

Caesar Salad:

Serves 4 people
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped into 1/2 inch strips
Parmesan cheese, freshly graded

1 cup of day old, cubed bread - I used a baguette or some sort of dry bread
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder

In a saute pan, add the oil to medium high heat.  Add the bread and let toast in the oil, take the heat down to medium.  Season with salt and pepper and turn once the bread has a nice golden brown color.  Toast on the other side for a few more minutes and then put into a seperate bowl, sprinkle with a few dashes of garlic powder (if you do this in the hot pan, the garlic powder will burn and taste like well, burnt garlic and metal - super delicious).  Let the croutons cool.

Salad Dressing:
2 egg yolks
1/2 to 1 whole lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp anchovy paste - or a good squeeze (comes in a tube at the grocery store)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
dash or two of Worcestershire
1 garlic clove, finely minced
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil

In a sauce pan, heat an inch or two of water to a simmer.  Combine everything but the olive oil into a metal bowl and place on top of the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  Whisk rapidly for a minute or two until the egg yolk mixture thickens up a bit and lightens slightly, making sure that the eggs don't curdle or get chunky.  Take off the heat immediately and wipe off the hot water from below the metal bowl (or just place on a kitchen towel).  Whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you desire.  Thin custardy consistency is what I like, but to each his own.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.  Place the dressing at the bottom of your salad bowl and put the lettuce on top.  Sprinkle the croutons on top along with the Parmesan cheese.  Toss at the very last minute before serving/eating.  Enjoy Daddy!