Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stuffed Squash

Lately, some of my girlfriends and I have been doing ladies dinner.  Each person brings something, appetizer, entree, side dish, dessert, wine, etc.  It is always super easy, we keep it pretty small, and we all have an amazing time.  This past time we decided on a Fall Theme for our dinner.  Perfect time to use some fall vegetables such as squash, kale and sage.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Apologies for the quality of the photo, I only had my phone with me

Stuffed Squash (serves 4-6):

2 acorn squash (or small pumpkins), halved vertically and seeds scooped out
.75 lb breakfast chicken sausage links, removed from the casings
1 sweet onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups of raw kale
1 heaping cup of diced stale bread
1 cup of chicken broth
chili powder
5-6 sage leaves, minced finely
1/2 cup or more of graded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.

Brush the halved squashes with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Dust the squashes with whatever seasonings you like (I used nutmeg, cinnamon and chili powder) maybe 1/4 tsp of each.  Flip over so they're face down and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the squash is soft but not mushy.

Take out of the oven, flip over and let cool for a few minutes.

While the squash is roasting, heat a little oil in a deep skillet and brown the chicken sausage, breaking it up with the back of your spoon into smaller bits.  Once browned, take out with a slotted spoon and let cool and drain on a paper towel.

Add the diced onion, carrots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and saute for 4-5 minutes until the onion is translucent.  Add the kale and cook for another few minutes.

Add the bread and the chicken broth and stir to combine.

Now it's time for the squash, take a spoon and carefully scoop out some of the flesh, not all of it, and contribute it to the stuffing mixture.  Be careful, the squash is still very hot and it's easy to puncture the skin, we need the skin in tact.  Once you scoop out all four squash halves, add half of the Parmesan cheese mixture, a little more salt and pepper along with the minced sage.  Stir together and taste for seasonings.

Return the stuffing mixture back to the hollowed out squashes equally distributing the stuffing.  Sprinkle the remaining of the Parmesan onto each squash and bake for another 10 minutes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pea Crostini Dip

I really don't know how to name this post...

This pesto like dip/spread/appetizer literally came out of what I had in my freezer and pantry.  We were hosting an impromptu Wine Wednesday night and I didn't have time to go to the grocery store beforehand and it was just a small party so, I winged it.  This dip was nutty and sweet with a little bit of heat from the red pepper flakes and it had a lovely green color.  Perfect with Pita Chips, toasted bread, or crackers with some cheese.

Pea Dip/Spread

1/2 an onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 - 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 bag of frozen peas
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
few handfuls of mint
few sprigs of parsley
2-3 tbsp half and half
1/2 cup graded Parmesan cheese

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and olive oil on medium heat.  Add the onion and saute til translucent.  Then add the garlic and the breadcrumbs and saute for a minute or two, until the breadcrumbs start smelling nutty. Add the peas and cook for one more minute.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Let cool for a few minutes.

While waiting for the peas to cool, in a food processor pulse the toasted almonds until a paste.  Season with bit of salt.  Add the cooled peas, onions, etc into the processor, add the mint and parsley and puree until smooth.  Taste for seasoning.

Transfer to a serving bowl and fold in the half and half along with the graded Parmesan cheese.  Let refrigerate (because let's face it, I didn't wait until the peas were completely cool) until ready to serve.

Yeah, go devour

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Prosciutto wrapped Figs

The Boy and I had some friends over for dinner a bit ago and I needed to make an appetizer to fend off hungry guests while I finished cooking.  My parents had given me some figs from their tree so I went with that.  Wrapped them in some Prosciutto, put a little dolop of bleu cheese on top and drizzled with some really well aged balsamic vinegar.  Bam, appetizers served!

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

4 figs, cut into sixths
8 slices of prosciutto, sliced into thirds long ways
2 tbsp blue cheese or gorgonzola
good balsamic vinegar
3 basil leaves, sliced very thinly

Wrap the prosciutto around each fig, crumble some blue cheese on top.  Drizzle the balsamic vinegar on top and garnish with the basil.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Baked Pasta and Veggies

This recipe appeared one night after facing a perfect storm of (1) lots of veggies and very little meat in my fridge (2) lack of inspiration, and (3) craving pasta.  Trying to convince yourself that eating pasta with "lots of veggies" somehow reduces the carb intake may be cheating a bit, but who cares.  This dish couldn't have been easier to make and The Boy and I were really happy with the turn out.  We may have even eaten it cold the next day.

Baked Pasta with Veggies

Veggies and Pasta:
4 slices of bacon, cut into strips
left over cooked shredded chicken (if you have it) - optional
1 onion, sliced
6 - 8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 bag of chopped kale
4 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1/2 bag of penne pasta

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a dutch oven (like my fancy new Le Creuset), cook the bacon strips with a little oil on medium heat til crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Dump the onion, mushrooms and pepper into the pot and saute with the bacon fat for 4-5 minutes, until cooked a little bit.  Add the kale, garlic and optional chicken, continue to cook.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Return the bacon to the pot and keep everything warm on low heat

While this is cooking down, cook your pasta in salted boiling water until a few minutes before al dente.

Now onto the Bechamel Sauce.

Bechamel Sauce:
3 - 4 tbsp butter
3 - 4 tbsp Wondra flour
2 cups of non fat milk
1/2 tsp graded nutmeg
1/2 tsp powderd mustard
Salt and Pepper
1/2/ - 3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used gouda and white cheddar)
couple dashes of chipotle hot sauce

Melt the butter in a sauce pan on medium heat, add the Wondra and whisk for 2 minutes.  Add the milk, nutmeg, mustard and S&P and whisk until the milk thickens (a few minutes).  Add the cheese and hot sauce, let it all melt and get acquainted with one another, finally taste for seasoning.

Dump the pasta in with the veggies and add the Bechamel sauce as well. Mix to combine.  Shred a little bit of cheese on top if you wish and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Let rest for a few minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crostini with Avocado and Honey


10 slices of French baguette
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 whole garlic clove
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
Drizzle of honey

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place bread on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast for 5 -7 mins, till a little golden but not hard.

Rub garlic clove on each slice of bread right when it comes out of the oven (mind your fingers).

Place a half slice of avocado on top of each crostini, sprinkle a few pine nuts on top and drizzle with honey. Serve warm.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Berry Crisp

After a few weeks of settling in, our place is finally starting to feel like it's our own.  I went to Cost Plus this weekend and purchased amazing things that made our apartment feel like an actual home.  Let's be honest - if The Boy came with me on this trip, half of these items wouldn't have been purchased, there would be many eye rolls, and lots of "do you really need this hun?"  I found a couple of great lamps, some homey candles, and these amazing Ramekin dishes (The Boy called these "Romului").  

We has a couple over for dinner and I decided to make these easy Berry Crisps for dessert the night before and just re-heat them in the oven after dinner.  I also managed to acquire a pretty significant burn on my knuckle taking these suckers out of the oven.  Battle wounds baby!

Berry Crisp, right out of the oven
Berry Crisp (serves 2):

1 handful of oats, maybe 1/2 - 3/4 cup
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
couple pinches of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
handful or two of slivered almonds
4 tbsp cold butter, cubed

3-4 big handfuls of frozen berries (mine were cherries and raspberries)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp almond extract
splash or two of Kirsch (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Make the topping first, everything together except the butter.  Then add the cold butter and mix with your hands to make a crumble texture.

In a big bowl mix all of the filling together.  Place into Ramekin dishes and sprinkle the topping.  I always add extra topping because that's my favorite part but do what you like.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden on top and smells yummy.

These guys are pretty, aren't they?  Even if they're called "Romului"

Monday, March 12, 2012

Key Lime Pie

So the Boy and I took the plunge and moved in together, yay!  We've been busy with packing, moving, unpacking, purchasing and assembling furniture - basically everyone's dream scenario.  Now that we're finally semi-settled, we've been having people over to see our new place.  This past Sunday we had a great couple over and I made some killer Shrimp Tacos and a Key Lime Pie.  Could not have been easier and tasted amazing!

My first baking adventure in my new kitchen, love the granite counter tops.

Key Lime Pie:

1/2 box of honey graham crackers, crushed in a food processor till you made crumbs (about 1 1/4 cup)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 good pinch of salt
6 tbsp. melted unsalted butter

4 egg yolks
1 14 oz can of sweetend, condensed milk
zest of 2 limes, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup lime juice, about 4-5 limes

Preheat oven to 350.  In a bowl combine the crumbled graham crackers, sugar and salt, stir with a wooden spoon to combine.  Slowly pour in the melted butter and mix around so it's evenly coated on the graham cracker crumbs.  Pour into a pie dish and use your fingers to firmly press against the sides first, then the middle making a crust.  Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool.

While your crust is cooling.  Add the 4 egg yolks into a mixer and beat on high for 3-4 minutes, until the egg yolks are fluffy and light in color.  Add the sweetened, condensed milk slowly and mix to incorporate.  Then add the zest and lime juice and use a wooden spoon to combine.  Pour the filling mixture into the cooled pie crust and bake for 15-16 minutes, until the middle is set.  Let cool completely, serve with whip cream and more lime zest.

Mango Salsa

This salsa is addicting.  I'm giving you complete warning before reading on, you will want to consume the entire bowl in one sitting.  You can use it as plain salsa with chips, put it on tacos, or pulled pork sliders.  It basically helps anything.

Mango Salsa:
1/2 bag of frozen mango pieces from TJ's, defrosted then chopped into small cubes
1/2 jalapeno, minced finely
1 small red onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1/2 - 1 lime
2-3 pinches of sugar, depending on how sweet the mango is
15 grape tomatoes, halved
bunch of cilantro, chopped
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder, if desired

Combine all in a large bowl and cover.  Let refrigerate for 30 minutes and then serve.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Roasted Heirloom Carrots

My great friend and college roommate was in town this past weekend.  We went to the farmers market at the Ferry Building on Saturday.  We picked up some amazingly fresh veggies, including baby heirloom carrots.  They were amazing, I couldn't believe we scored these.  They are almost too cute to eat, almost.

We made Chili con Carne, an arugula salad, cornbread, and roasted carrots.  I think the carrots were my favorite part of the meal.

Roasted Heirloom Carrots:

1-2 bunches of baby carrots, stems trimmed but left on
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Wash and dry the carrots and place in an oven proof dish.  Drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Sprinkle the brown sugar on top and bake in the oven for 20ish minutes (depending on the size of your carrots, mine were little).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thai Peanut Noodles

Another day of finding things in the pantry/fridge and seeing what my determined mind can create.  I bought some rice noodles awhile ago that are just taking up space in my pantry, they finally needed to be used at some point, and now the time for it.  I had some peppers and onions left over from Chili,and figured it couldn't hurt to make a Vegan- Friendly/Thai style noodle dish that could actually make it Blog-worthy.

So my experiment was set to go, hopefully not set to fail.

Thai Peanut Noodles:
handful of Stir Fry Rice Noodles 
1 tsp. peanut oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
2 carrots, sliced in rounds
scallions and basil for garnish
Tofu (optional)

Peanut Sauce:
1 tsp peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch knob of ginger, graded
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
few pinches of brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (if going completely vegan, just use salt)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
cracked black pepper
red chili flakes or chili powder
water if needed

Boil water in a pot large enough for the noodles.  Add the noodles and turn off the heat.  Let soak for 8 minutes in the hot water.

In another small sauce pan heat up the peanut oil.  Add the garlic, ginger and shallot to sweat for two minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients up to the water and stir with a whisk to combine.  Let simmer on very low heat for a few minutes while you chop up the veggies and get ready to stir fry.  Taste for seasoning, add water if too thick.

Heat up a wok on very high heat, add the oil and swirl, then add the onion, carrots and bell pepper (and tofu).  Stir fry for 3 minutes.  Add the noodles and stir fry for another minute.  Add as much sauce as you would like to the noodles, toss to combine.  Garnish with the scallions/basil and eat immediately.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gorgonzola and Honey Pizza

I made this pizza over New Years and it was delicious, if you love Gorgonzola.  Super easy to make and to eat.  I added some arugula on top to make it more "healthy."  To me it's similar to a dessert pizza but equally delicious.

On the left, BBQ Chicken/On the right, Gorgonzola and Honey sans Arugula

Gorgonzola and Honey Pizza:

1 whole wheat pizza dough ball
1/2 cup or so, of crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese
thinly sliced red onion
honey bear
thinly sliced scallions
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
Parmesan for topping

Preheat oven to 450F.

Stretch out the pizza to make a circle.  I use a combo of my hands, rolling pin and sheer willpower to make this happen.  Make it fairly thin then move to a pizza transferring device (with cornmeal under it) or a baking sheet if you don't have a pizza stone.

Drizzle olive oil over the dough making sure to get the crust (it will help it brown).  Sprinkle the Gorgonzola and onion over the dough, add some salt and pepper.  Pop in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the dough in the middle is cooked.

Once out of the oven, drizzle with the honey add the arugula on top and then drizzle the balsamic vinegar on top of that adding a bit of olive oil too.  Cut up and serve warm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chili con Carne

I'm trying to make a conscious effort to not overbuy groceries and see how long I can make things last.  I don't know if it's a new year resolution, but it's going well and I've surprised myself with what I can create from simple pantry and freezer items.  I realized that I have so much stuff in both the pantry and freezer, it's a waste to go out and buy more groceries when with a little creativity, and maybe a quick run to the corner store, I can make a really delicious dinner fairly quickly.

Here we come to Chili, I always have most of the stuff to make this and it always is delicious.  Serve it with Corn Bread and a Kale Salad and you have a lovely, healthy meal.  I used the leanest ground beef I can find, and only 2 slices of bacon which gives the Chili a smokey flavor without a ton of fat.  Using a lot of spice is the key to make a delicious and flavorful chili.

Chili con Carne:
2 slices of bacon, sliced into thin strips
1lb of extra lean ground beef
EVOO or some neutral oil
salt and pepper (at least a Tbsp. of each)
2 tbsp chili powder - I used both regular and ancho
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano and/or marjoram
1 large onion, diced
1 bell peppers, diced (I used yellow, choose a pretty color and go for it)
1/2 jalapeno, finely minced
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1-2 tbsp flour
1/2 -1 beer, I used a lager
1/2 small can of tomato paste
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce/puree
2-3 pinches of brown sugar
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1 can of Pinto or Kidney Beans (I used Pinto)
1 bay leaf
red chili flakes for heat if you want

shredded cheese
green onion
diced red onion

In a Dutch oven (I used my new Le Creuset, that what a Christmas present from the lovely Miss J) one medium heat, add the sliced up bacon.  Let the fat render out and remove with a slotted spoon, keeping the bacon fat in the pan.  Drain the bacon on a paper towel.

Add the ground beef, break up with a wooden spoon and let brown in the bacon fat.  Add the spices and stir to combine.  Then add the onion, peppers, garlic and jalapeno.  Let the vegetables cook/sweat with the beef for 5 minutes.

Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Then add some beer, sip the beer, then add the rest.  Stir and let the beer cook off for 4 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, sauce, brown sugar, and broth.  Mix it up and taste for seasoning.  If you want more heat, add the red chili flakes, but it will probably need more salt and pepper.

Add the beans and cook for 30 minutes on medium low, longer if you want, but 30 minutes is enough time for the flavors to meld together and you to make your Corn Bread Muffins and some type of salad.

Serve in a bowl garnished with anything you want, slurp and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kale Salad

New Year, fresh start, new resolutions, and season full of snow (hopefully in Tahoe).  Christmas and New Years was lovely.  Very nice, low key, we cooked a lot, drank red wine and celebrated what's to come in this next year.

After all of that heavy holiday food, I've committed to eating healthier and detoxing from all of the celebrations that December brings.  A lunch spot in downtown SF called Urban Picnic has this amazing Kale and Quinoa salad that I recently tried (remember, trying to eat better).

Kale Salad:

1 small shallot, finely diced
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 a small lemon
1 tsp. soy sauce
few pinches of sugar
black back pepper
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. grapeseed oil

few cups of kale, chopped
handful of slivered almonds, toasted
handful of blueberries
handful of cherry tomatoes
3 small sheets of nori, thinly sliced
few pinches of toasted sesame seeds
5-6 pieces of fresh mozzarella (I used the little balls at TJ's called Ciliegine) 

Combine all the ingredients for the salad dressing and then whisk in the oils.  Add the kale first and toss to coat.  Then add the other ingredients.  Add a little bit more black pepper or sesame oil to your liking.

Ginger, Carrot, and Sweet Potato Soup

Last night, I came home from a work event late and had literally nothing in my fridge.  I remembered this recipe I saw at Simply Scrumptious and thought if I could make something out of nothing, it would have to be soup.  Carrots? Check. Onion? Check. Oh yea, I have a sweet potato lying in my vegetable bowl that's looking questionable, sure let's throw that in there.  Dinner was made in 30 minutes and it warmed my chilly body up thanks to this exceptionally cold weather we've been having in San Francisco.

Ginger, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup:
Serves 1-2 people

1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped lemongrass (I didn't have it but it would make a nice addition)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1ish cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 - 1 cup light coconut milk
zest and juice of 1 clementine
salt and pepper
chili powder
red pepper flakes
olive oil
cilantro or mint for garnish

Heat oil in small sauce pan.  Add the shallots, onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass.  Add salt and pepper to sweat.  After a few minutes, add the carrots and sweet potato.  Add a touch more salt along with the chili powder and red pepper flakes.  Let cook for a minute or two and add the veggie stock.  Let simmer on medium low for 10ish minutes, until the sweet potato and the carrot are tender.

CAREFULLY transfer the mixture into a food processor or blender and puree till smooth.  You may need to add a bit more veggie stock to thin it out a bit.  Transfer puree back to stove and add the coconut milk, stir to combine.  Let cook for a few more minutes, taste for seasoning and serve with fresh herbs.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Fort Lauderdale skyline

The Boy and I just got back from a lovely 3 day weekend in Ft. Lauderdale.  He had a work conference while I sat in the sun on my lazy booty drinking naughty drinks and reading.  We did go deep sea fishing when we first got there which was a lot of fun.  We caught 5 fish total, including a black fin tuna.

Yes, my legs are that pale
My man, waiting for fish


It was a lovely weekend filled with lots of crab!  I finally got to eat Stone Crab for the first time in my life, it was so delic!  We also went to the Rustic Inn Crab House for some more stone crab, a Conch Salad and we went balls to the wall, and ordered Blue Garlic Crab.  They give you mallets, bibs, the whole nine, and you go Gladiator style on these delicious crab legs and claws.

It was a great restful trip and I'm really lucky I could go.  A big thanks to the Boy for flying me out with him!