Tuesday, October 11, 2011

South Beach Phase One

My friend Naomi asked me about my blog yesterday and she gave me the inspiration to write a post. Actually, I have been cooking a little more and taking pictures as I go along. Today I will post a bunch of recipes, because really, who knows when inspiration will strike again? And that would mean you might miss out on some great ideas!

The following recipes are all South Beach Phase 1 friendly, which means no sugar, bread, pasta, rice, starchy veggies, fatty meats or fruit. What's left, you say? That's what I said too...then I started searching on the internet for recipes and came up with these winners.

I've found that chick peas (garbanzo beans) are a great snack when you roast them up with some spices. They almost taste like corn nuts. Who woulda thunk?

Garam Masala Roasted Chickpeas

Feel free to use any spice you like, or a blend of spices. Indian curry powders are great here, as are all kinds of paprika or chili powder. Experiment!

2 15-oz cans chickpeas
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. fine-grain sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse very well. Let them dry for 5 minutes or so, then place them in a big bowl. Add the olive oil, Garam Masala and sea salt. Toss until the chickpeas are evenly coated.

Spread them out on a rimmed cookie sheet so that they’re not overlapping, then bake for 40 – 45 minutes, tossing the pan occasionally. They’re done when they’re crisp and crunchy.

Let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to a week (as if they’d last that long).

I know some people gag when they think of eggplant, but personally I love the flavor when roasted in the oven. I found this cute recipe for Eggplant Pizzettes, which is a fine alternative when you're craving a big pie from Skipolini's

Eggplant Pizzettes

Eggplant, skin left on and sliced
Spaghetti Sauce (no sugar)
Mozzarella Cheese
Black Olives, sliced

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 425 degrees F. Season eggplants with the salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until browned and almost tender, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once. Spread 1 tablespoon of pasta sauce on each eggplant slice. Top it off with shredded cheese and black olive slices. Bake until the cheese melts, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Who says you can't have a hearty low carb meal? We had this last night and it was great! The house smelled like a veggie pizza with onion, pepper and mushroom aromas filling the air. (Can you tell I have pizza on the brain?) Okay, so I don't ever remember ever having Chicken Cacciatore, so not sure how the flavors should have been, but this was delicious and filling. We served it on top of steamed spaghetti squash and roasted brussel sprouts.

Chicken Cacciatore

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup sliced mushrooms

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

In same skillet, heat oil, until hot but not smoking. Add garlic, onion, green pepper, and yellow pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, stock, and oregano. Bring mixture to a boil. Return chicken to skillet.

Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes. Place chicken on a serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

Add mushrooms to skillet; increase heat to high; cook until mushrooms are tender and sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve immediately.

If you've never done South Beach diet before, trust me when I say that breakfast is the hardest meal. You really have to tweak your brain that it's okay to have leftover chicken and veggies for breakfast. Or eggs. Or more eggs. This here is the best breakfast we've had in the past 3 weeks. We have tried it with a couple times, once with black beans and another with Fat free refried. While both were great, we preferred creaminess of the refried. Also, adding a piece of chopped up Canadian Bacon in there helped bring out that salty bacon flavor. Overall, a great recipe that we can whip up in about 10 minutes.

Huevo Ranchero - almost

1/2 cup black beans (or fat-free refried black beans)
dash cumin, if desired
1/2 thin slice red onion
1/2 oz. shredded reduced-fat cheese
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sugar-free salsa
chopped cilantro

Poach egg in simmering water. While egg is poaching, put beans in a microwave-safe bowl, and mash slightly with a dash of cumin, if desired. Top with onion and cheese, and microwave for about 30-45 seconds, until cheese is melted. Top with egg and then salsa and cilantro.

This is a very satisfying side dish to a simple grilled chicken or fish. The spices are flavorful but not overpowering. I was concerned that the whole cloves of garlic would be too sharp, but they were creamy and almost sweet. Once you get all that chopping out of the way, it is a very easy dish to cook!

Roasted Veggies with Chickpeas

1 large red onion sliced thinly
1 green pepper sliced thinly
1 red pepper slice thinly
2 cups whole button mushrooms
1 bulb of garlic separated and de papered
1 can drained chickpeas or 1 and 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas that have been prepared
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp chili powder (I like new mexico chili powder found in bags in the Hispanic food isle)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or more if you like it spicy
juice of one small lime

Pre Heat oven to 450
Slice peppers and onions very thin. In a big bowl place veggies, garlic and chickpeas. Drizzle with olive oil and then add spices. Mix with hands or cover and shake until veggies and spices are well mixed.
Spread veggies on a large greased pan. Bake for 25-45 minutes (depending on your oven) until veggies begin to brown to your liking. Drizzle with lime juice and garnish with cilantro or parsley.


Okay, so that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed seeing what I've been doing (food wise) and just maybe it will give you some inspiration to go find some new recipes to try out for yourself. Try a spice you've never used. Find a new veggie or meat and look up some new way to cook it....but whatever you do, embrace the therapy of cooking and enjoy nourishing your family and friends!

PS. Tonight will be Meditteranean Turkey Meatballs with a Feta Yogurt Sauce. Not sure the kids will eat it, but I might let them have a PB&J if they promise to take one bite!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Menu Planning

I'm trying what my friend Cathy suggested - menu planning for the week. I used to do it and I know it goes much easier just to have the plan and the ingredients on hand. Here is my menu for the rest of the week:

Chicken Parmesan
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Veggies

Turkey Burgers
Fresh Fruit

Crock Pot Mac 'n Chicken with Mushrooms

Thai Basil Chicken
Brown rice
Cucumber Salad

Do you do a menu plan or just wing it for dinners? What's on your list this week?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blackberry Muffins

I'm not sure if it's me just cutting back a bit on sugar here in this household, but the oldest boy, who's 6, said these were "the best muffins you ever made, mom." ((swoons))

OK, so this is my super easy and trusty (and not too sweet) muffin recipe that will accept any form of fruit, nut or chocolate. Or all of those things. In one batch. I usually just use what fruit is on sale that week - berries, bananas, plums, apples & nectarines are a few of my faves. I've also used half whole wheat flour and half white flour and it comes out just fine! You can substitute apple sauce for the oil too. And if you want to be even more stealthy, sneak in some ground flax or wheat germ. Shhhh, I won't tell.

Anything Muffins

2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
dash of salt
3/4 fruit or whatever
1 egg
4 Tbsp. oil
1 c. milk
topping: 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon mixed together

Preheat oven to 400. Mix dry ingredients together and then add fruit to it, so the pieces are coated in the flour mixture. In a small bowl mix the egg ,oil and milk together. Add the wet stuff to the dry and mix only until the mixture becomes all one consistency. Let set about 5 minutes and then fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Top each with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon sugar topping. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

I hope you will give it a try and let me know how they came out!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Butternut Lasagne

Today I am revisiting a recipe from last year. This was the one I was so excited about that I made it 3 times in one month, which I wouldn't recommend because it took a whole year to get to the point where I wanted it again. And now that I've had it for dinner and leftovers, I am anxious to make it again.....but I really don't want to burn out again, so I will wait.

But seriously, this is good. Really good. This time I made a few changes - I added a layer of spinach and also grated some onion into the bechamel. I just love the sweet roasted squash mixed with the savory browned sausage and veggies. If you have the time, make this! I made the butternut puree and browned the sausage the night before to cut down on my time in the kitchen during the day, when elusive crawling baby tends to get out of eyesight and chews on shoes or video game cords.

Butternut and Sausage Lasagna


1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
Freshy grated nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
2 T. grated onion
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
10-12 leaves fresh sage, very thinly sliced
1 box no boil, flat edged lasagna sheets
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup other sauteed veggies (spinach, mushrooms, eggplant, etc.)


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Drizzle squash with a little EVOO and season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast cut-side down until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool enough to handle, then scoop flesh out of skin and add to food processor. Puree squash with stock and brown sugar, in 2 batches if necessary, and reserve.

Heat a drizzle of EVOO in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage, crumbling it into very small bits as it cooks, about 7-8 minutes.

While the sausage cooks, heat a pot over medium heat. Add butter and grated onion until melty and fragrant. Whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg and the sage. Cook until thickened, about 7-8 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Spread about 1/3 white sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish then add a layer of pasta. Top with the cooked sausage and cover with 1/2 of the butternut puree and some Parmigiano. Cover with another layer of pasta, butternut sauce, other veggie of choice and Parmigiano. Add the last layer of pasta, remaining white sauce and more Parm cheese. Cover with foil and bake lasagna about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes or more to brown the top.

And now I want to give a product shout out of the day. This is a picture of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix (I threw the box away before thinking about taking a picture of it, but you can find it in huge quantities right next to the other bread and muffin mixes). It was so easy to make - just add eggs, oil and water. Y U M. Just yum.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bloody Eyeballs

Halloween Week is here and I love it!! We are trying to eat Halloween-y all week so here is what we made last night. They came out so cute and the boys loved calling their dinner "bloody eyeballs" with questions like this all through dinner: Where did you get the bloody eyeballs mom? The graveyard? Mmmm...these bloody eyeballs are really yummy. Is there blood inside? Let me check. Are these eyballs sitting on top of brains? Mmmm, I love to eat brains.

Okay so super easy recipe which is perfect for this hectic week. I'm sure everyone has their favorite meatball recipe, so use that or feel free to use mine. Thank you to Monica at http://lickthebowlgood.blogspot.com/ for inspiration!!

Bloody Eyballs (Turkey Meatballs in Sauce)

1 1/2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 pkg. ground turkey

1/4 c. chicken broth
1 egg
2 T grated onion
1 t. minced garlic (or a frozen cube from TJ's)
3 T. parmesan
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper
1 T. fresh chopped basil (or 2 frozen cubes from TJ's)

Mix broth through basil until well blended. Then add turkey and gently fold with your hands until it is evenly mixed. Make into meatballs.

First put the sauce in the pan, about halfway up. Add an olive to each raw meatball, pushing it down a bit. Plop them in the sauce and voila! Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. It's actually much simpler than the browning process I do for regular meatballs.

Nom nom!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

My parents were here helping me out while Tall Guy was away on a business trip the past 5 days. I really don't think I could have gotten through that time without them here. Seriously. Even with all three of us, taking care of these kids and their messes sometimes seems like shoveling the driveway while its snowing. The good part though, is that when the grandparents are here, kids hone in on the fact that any pleads to read a book, play tickle monster, "jungle", puzzles, Transformers or even "night soccer" will be happily obliged. So, thanks again Mom and Dad. We are already missing you!

With the extra arms in the house, I had some free time for a little cooking and decided to make some pumpkin ravioli in honor of Halloween Week. I actually used Kabocha Squash, which has a dense pumpkin texture and sweet flavor when roasted. I looked at some recipes, but ended up just eyeballing the filling mixture. I was really happy with the way it turned out and I think everyone else enjoyed it too! The picture does not do it justice - these early dark nights are bad for photography!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

1 Sugar Pumpkin or Kabocha Squash
1 T. olive oil
2 T brown sugar
salt/pepper to taste

1 small container Ricotta cheese
1 clove minced garlic
2 T. grated onion
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 T. chopped herbs (basil/thyme/parsley)

1 package wonton wrappers

1 stick butter
12-15 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
squeeze of lemon

Heat oven to 400. Cut squash in half horizontally, drizzle with oil, salt, pepper and rub in the brown sugar. Roast on baking sheet, cut side down, for about 30-40 minutes, or until very tender. Scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash down until the lumps are gone.

Add ricotta, parmesan, egg, onion, garlic, brown sugar and salt/pepper and mix until smooth.

Lay out the wontons on a large work surface and add about a teaspoon of the filling to each. Use water to seal the wrappers in half, taking care not to squish the filling out the sides. Really press down the edges!!

Okay, so now you are ready to roll. Get that water boiling.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once it is all melted, add the sage and cook on high until the butter is brown and the sage is crispy. Turn off heat. Add the squeeze of lemon juice and stir in.

Gently place the raviolis into boiling water. Watch close, you only want to warm them up. Once they rise to the top and get a bit translucent, about 2-3 minutes, take them out with a slotted spoon right onto your serving plate. Add the sauce.

Get ready for a party in your mouth (as Giada would say)!

This makes a TON of ravioli. I only boiled half and also had a bunch of leftover filling. The rest is now in the freezer ready for another gourmet meal. Hopefully Tall Guy will appreciate that when I pull it out next week!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Banana Bread

I don't have any stories about this recipe except that it comes from my mom and that I've been eating it for 30+ years. Sometimes perfection does not need to be messed with! (Oh, okay, I DID add the cinnamon to her recipe because I LOVE cinnamon!!) Thanks, mom. Someday we will get that cookbook put together!

Best Banana Bread (my mom's recipe)

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs well beaten
2 cups flour
1/2 t. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sour milk (add 1 tsp vinegar to milk)
1 cup banana pulp (about 2 large bananas)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
4. Stir in dry ingredients alternately with sour milk and banana pulp. Don't overmix.
5. Stir in nuts.
6. Bake in greased loaf pan for 50-60 minutes.

For 4 mini loaves, bake for 25 minutes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Risotto Cakes

It's a rare day when we actually have leftover risotto, but today happens to be that day. I've had these little puppies on the back of my mind for quite some time after seeing them on a recent episode of The Next Iron Chef. Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside....delish.

I did not follow a recipe so here is what I did:

Risotto Cakes

Leftover Mushroom Risotto (it was about 2 cups)
1 egg
2 T. flour
2 T. Parmesan
1 T. grated onion
1/2 clove minced garlic
salt/pepper to taste

Mix everything together and form patties. Fry in oil until the sides are crispy and brown, about 5 minutes per side. Serve hot*!

* Because of the baby, I usually try to cook dinner during the day when she is asleep, so I cooked these in the morning and plan to re-heat in the oven and serve them with Chicken Piccata and a green salad. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adventures in my Kitchen

Hey I've been cooking, really. Here's proof:

This is a little late night snack I made for our "date night" at the Dave Matthews Band concert a couple weeks ago (first night out together since the birth of our daughter.....5 months ago!). I ran out of time and did not get a picture of the finished sandwich, but it was incredibly yummy. I still think about it! I roasted eggplant and red peppers at 450 for 25 minutes with olive oil, salt & pepper. Carmelized the onions in a saute pan with a half teaspoon of sugar (to hasten things up) for about 20 minutes. I added goat cheese and fresh basil to this awesome roasted veggie sandwich on whole wheat!

Tried this new recipe called an Upside Down Pizza. Basically layered meat sauce, broccoli, mozzarella and pizza dough on top. It was quite tasty but probably more work than it was worth and harder to eat than the real right-side-up edition. Also, the kids saw the green layer and decided to snub their noses. Erg!

Here is shiny fresh tomato sauce straight from the garden! I had about 6 tomatoes sitting on the counter and decided this was the day I would finally try a fresh tomato sauce. Blanched and peeled the tomatoes first. Sauteed onion, garlic & red pepper flakes until soft, added chopped tomatoes, basil and salt. Simmered for half hour over low heat. Sweet and tangy goodness! The picture is very early on in the process...it turned into a nice red-orange chunky sauce. Added fresh basil, extra salt and olive oil to finish.

And finally, my second time making a green chile enchilada entirely from scratch. I made the green sauce the day before, roasting green hatch chiles then peeling, seeding and chopping them for the sauce. Inside the corn tortillas are shredded poached chicken and jack cheese. I LOVE the clean fresh taste of the sauce and think this simple recipe from a recent local paper is a keeper!

If anyone wants this recipe, please comment and I will post it.

See, I told you I was still cooking. I also made Martha Stewart's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars that were dense, balanced and incredibly addicting! Bon Apetit...until next time. -Deanna

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alevropita (Feta Tart)

Hi again, it's me, trying to touch base with my neglected blog. I am super excited and wanted to share this recipe I found in my new August issue of Saveur magazine called "The Greece Issue." I am really looking forward to trying more of the recipes because they all look fabulous. This tart was super easy to make and delish! The olive oil in the bottom of the pan gives it a nice crispy crust and the charred feta is both creamy and tangy. Although this was lovely as is, I think that it can be played around with...next time I might add some oregano or diced olives.

I love Saveur because it is not just a recipe magazine, but contains many stories about world travel centered around food. Each and every time I find the time to sit down and read, it ignites my fire to someday experience this kind of travel and get to the heart of a different culture by way of food. This particular dish was described by the writer as coming into the taverna after a morning of hiking the hills above a small village and finding her Greek hostess offering this straight from the oven. She found that the alevropita "might as well have been sent down by gods from Mount Olympus - nourishing, elemental and satisying to the soul." I heartily agree and all I did today was change diapers and pick up toys (not quite hiking the hills above a quaint Greek village - but oh well!)

I made this along with some baked chicken and a Greek salad for dinner, thinking the kids would not touch it, but they loved it and asked for seconds!! Give it a try as a side dish or appetizer...yum!!


6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. vodka
1 egg
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄8 tsp. baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1. Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18" x 13" x 1" rimmed baking sheet into oven for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp. oil, vodka, egg, and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

3. Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Monkey Bread

Mmmmmmm...this recipe came to fruition due to my recent obsession with clipping coupons and saving tons of money on groceries. I found a great deal on the Sunday SF Chronicle just for the purpose of getting those extra coupons. I've been reading the Contra Costa Times for so long, that I forgot the Chronicle has a food section on Sundays....BONUS!

Love love love how this turned out...it was not your basic muffin recipe where you whip it up in a few minutes, but well worth the effort. I've always been a little scared of yeast for some reason...it seems so mysterious. All that foamy business, and then waiting around for the dough to rise and stuff. Luckily the recipe was very precise (and long-winded) for newbies like me. Here it is verbatim:

Monkey Bread

Instant yeast streamlines yeasted baking because you don't need to "proof" it by first dissolving the yeast it in water, then waiting for tiny bubbles to appear on the surface. The rising times are also shorter. This bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but can be prepared a day ahead (see instructions).

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast ( 1/4-ounce packet)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the dough: Using a rubber spatula or whisk, thoroughly combine 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside.

In a small heavy saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter melts (150°-160° on a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat; add 1/4 cup cold water and set aside until the milk-butter mixture cools to 120°-130°, about 1 minute. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and mix well with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Attach the bowl and the flat paddle attachment to the mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add 1 egg and mix just until incorporated, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Repeat with the second egg, then add the vanilla. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup more flour and resume mixing on low speed until smooth, about 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons additional flour and raise the mixer to medium speed for about 45 seconds, or until the dough is smooth, still soft and slightly sticky.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with 1 tablespoon flour. Place dough in the center of the flour-dusted area. Knead the dough gently for about 1 minute, or until it is smooth and still just slightly sticky; add additional flour (1 to 2 tablespoons) only if necessary. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place (75° to 80°) until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size, 45 to 60 minutes. (No need to grease the bowl since covering it with plastic wrap keeps the dough surface moist.) The dough is ready if an indentation remains when touched.

For the coating: Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Reserve the butter in a separate bowl. Assembly: Lightly spray or grease a 10- to 12-cup nonstick tube or Bundt pan. Gently push down the dough to deflate it, divide it in half, then divide each half into 17 equal-size pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Coat each ball in melted butter, then roll in the spicy sugar mixture. Arrange the balls in the prepared pan, layering them evenly on top of each other. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour, or until about 1 1/2 times in size.

To bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375° at least 30 minutes before baking. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cover the pan with a serving plate and invert the bread onto it. Carefully lift the pan off the bread. Let the bread cool for 15 to 30 minutes to serve warm, or let cool even longer (up to 6 hours) to serve at room temperature.

To do ahead: Up to 24 hours before baking, prepare the dough as directed up to the point of assembly. Gently deflate the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use, but remove from the refrigerator at least one hour before assembly to let dough come to room temperature. Continue assembly and baking as directed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chicken Marbella

It's funny how convoluted life can be.....all these twisty roads that somehow always bring us back to what we love to do the most. For me one of those things is cooking (the other is pool, which I happen to be starting back up tonight!!) So while we have a precious new addition in our family and schedules have changed dramatically, I am determined to keep doing the things I love so that I can stay a happy mama.

Lately the adventurous and time consuming meals have been far and few between, but I finally feel that I am slowly able to try new recipes while the little one is sleeping happily in her swing. Most of the work on this one is making the marinade the night before, and then a little basting while it cooks. I served it with a salad and roasted red potatoes. YUM!

I love the combination of sweet, salty and tangy in this chicken. I found it in People magazine touted as Matt Lauer's favorite recipe that he's eaten on the Today show. I really liked the subtle meditteranean flavors of the olives, capers and prunes mixed together with oregano and wine. Give it a try if you are feeling like something a little different!

Chicken Marbella


1 whole chicken, 5 lbs. cut into 8 pieces
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
2 T. dried oregano
2 T. coarse salt
2 T. ground pepper
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
1 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T. fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

1. Combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes olives, capers and bay leaves in a large bowl. Cover and marinate in fridge overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Place chicken in large, shallow pan and spoon marinade over it evenly.

4. Pour white wine over the chicken, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices.

6. Transfer chicken, prunes olives and capers to serving platter with a slotted spoon. Moisten with pan juices and sprinkle with parsley or cilantro.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

All of us have colds here and I thought some old fashioned comfort food would hit the spot right about now. I remember visiting my grandma during my childhood and one of the dinners she would always make was Chicken and Dumplings.....the fluffy doughy biscuits floating at the top would try to melt away if I didn't gobble them up first. And then the thick stew filled with chicken and other tidbits would be next down the hatch. If there was any left, seconds were usually not out of the question. I remember her process was an all afternoon affair. She boiled the whole the chicken first while making her own stock, and then picked the meat off the bones for the soup. I'm sure that is what made it so special.

What's great about this recipe is that it takes literally 25 minutes tops and is so tasty and satisfying. I even had that flashback moment like in the movie Ratatouille, where Ego, the nasty food critic, tastes the dish and is sucked back in time to when he was a kid. Isn't that what food is about anyways? Making memories with your family and enjoying each other's company? It always amazes me what tastes and smells can bring me right back to being a kid.

Give this a try before the warm weather hits....you won't be disappointed and may even add it to your winter menu rotation like I am going to do!

Chicken and Dumplings by Rachael Ray


1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into small bite size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 turn of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced or thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, (I also added 1/4 t. dried thyme)
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken broth or stock, canned or paper container
2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup milk
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas

Dice tenders into bite size pieces and set aside. Wash hands.
Place a large pot on stove over medium high heat. Add oil, butter, vegetables and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season mixture with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Add flour to the pan and cook 2 minutes. Stir broth or stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken to the broth and stir.
Place biscuit mix in a bowl. Combine with 1/2 cup milk and parsley until a dough consistency forms. Drop tablespoonfuls of prepared mix into the pot, spacing dumplings evenly. Cover pot tightly and reduce heat to medium low. Steam dumplings 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir chicken and dumplings to thicken sauce a bit. Stir peas into the pan, remove chicken and dumplings from heat and serve in shallow bowls.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I wanted to re-post this recipe from last year in case anybody is looking for an awesome Thanksgiving dessert....enjoy!

I know, I know - more cheesecake, you say. I made this today for my in-laws Thanksgiving dinner coming up on Sunday and wanted to share it just in case anyone wanted a holiday dessert idea. Obviously I can't taste it to tell you how it is, but it got rave reviews over at http://www.allrecipes.com/. I will update the post on Monday to let you know the results.

1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed gingersnap cookies, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining mixture. Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect. (I piped the white mixture with a ziplock bag into a swirl effect instead)

Bake 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until filling is set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Allow to cool before removing pan rim. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Butternut and Sausage Lasagne

I've been trying some new recipes lately and haven't really had any bombs, which is unusual for me. Some recipes I've tried in the past month are Alphabet & Beef Soup, Mushroom Risotto, Sticky Coconut Chicken, Red Lentil & Kale Soup, and this one: Butternut and Sausage Lasagne. I loved it so much, that I had to take some time to post it up.

I got it from one of my mommy allies (thank you Traci!), and made a few minor adjustments. She mentioned that it was from Rachael Ray, but this is the closest I found from RR, which actually is kind of different. Maybe I will have to try that one next time. I think adding another veggie to bulk it up would be nice too...maybe mushrooms or spinach?

I bought the noodles from Trader Joes, as well as the Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage. And no mozzarella or ricotta makes this much cheaper to make than regular lasagne. It was rich, but not heavy. Subtle unique flavors, but not bland! The creamy sauce will fool your toddlers (and husbands) that it is made from cheese instead of nutrient-rich winter squash. If you have some time to make and freeze it this week, it would be a great to serve any holiday crashers you have coming for Turkey Day weekend.

Butternut and Sausage Lasagna


1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for liberal drizzling
Salt and pepper
Freshy grated nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
10-12 leaves fresh sage, very thinly sliced
1 box no boil, flat edged lasagna sheets
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Drizzle squash with a little EVOO and season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast cut-side down until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool enough to handle, then scoop flesh out of skin and add to food processor. Puree squash with stock and honey, in 2 batches if necessary, and reserve.
Heat a drizzle of EVOO in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage, crumbling it into very small bits as it cooks, about 7-8 minutes.
While the sausage cooks, heat a pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg and the sage. Cook until thickened, about 7-8 minutes, whisking occasionally. Mix in the squash puree to make your base sauce.
Spread a little sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish then add a layer of pasta. Top with 1/3 of the cooked sausage and cover with sauce and Parmigiano. Cover with another layer of pasta, sausage, sauce and Parmigiano. Repeat one more time, and for the last layer do pasta, sauce and remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake lasagna 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes or more to brown the top.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie

Hello out there....me again, finally. Yes, I know - one of the golden rules for maintaining an audience for your blog is to POST OFTEN. But guess what? I actually have an excuse that is more than just "I got busy." I got pregnant! We are a little suprised, but blessed and getting more excited by the day to meet our new little bean in March.

The only thing I could have blogged about in the past 3 months would have been Jamba Juice, grilled cheese or pre-natal vitamins. For some reason, the nausea bug hit hard this time, much worse than my previous two. I could not get enough watermelon, strawberries and lemonade, but handling raw meat gave me the heebies, especially chicken. If I could manage to cook something for the family, the last thing I wanted to do was photograph it and write about it. Ew.

But now I'm feeling better and ready to start cooking again. I got this recipe from the show America's Test Kitchen, which I DVR'd and watched twice. I'm not going to lie, this pie was time consuming and tedious. It seems like it took me a good part of a day. With all the timing and cooling, it is very precise...but that's what the test kitchen is for - they do all the legwork for a perfect recipe every time. And perfect it is! The filling is tart and rich, the meringue fluffy, creamy and stacked to the sky. Instead of baking the pie to cook the meringue, it uses an Italian Meringue which is cooked by hot sugar syrup that you stream in while whipping. This prevents the common "weeping" of water from the egg whites, which makes your meringue slide off and get goopy over time.

So read this a few times before you start. I made my own pie crust, but next time will just buy a pre-made one and save the extra step.

Lemon Filling
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated zest (see note)
½ cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
8 large egg yolks (4 whites reserved for the meringue)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
Note: Zest the lemons before juicing them.

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large nonreactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture becomes translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in egg yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Pour into cooked and cooled pie crust. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

½ cup water
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium to high heat. Once syrup comes to a rolling boil, cook for exactly 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside while beating egg whites. The 4 minute time frame was stressed in the show to get the sugar syrup to the right temperature.

Beat egg whites in stand mixer at medium-low speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and cream of tartar, and beat gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until egg whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into whites. Add vanilla and beat until the meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 7-9 minutes)

Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches the edges of the crust. Use the spatula to create peaks all over the meringue. Bake until peaks turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.

This picture was taken after the pie had been under a piece of plastic wrap and sitting in the fridge overnight. You can see how well the meringue stood up! Yes, I have to admit - this was breakfast today. At least I can blame it on the baby now. (evil grins)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Carrot Fennel Soup

Do most people go to farmer's markets with a list? Or a menu they are trying to shop for? If so, I must be the minority type of patron. While I seek out bargains and stick to a list for pantry items, I am extremely impulsive when it comes to buying fresh produce. Most times I see something that looks particularly fresh or intriguing. Something that would normally cost a fortune at the local supermarket. Take fennel bulbs, for instance. They cost $3+ at the grocery store, but fresh from the fields....$1.50 and !

Anyway, once home with my fennel this week (or okra or pattypan squash) the question always comes up, what am I going to do with that thing? I've made a raw shaved fennel salad on this blog, so now it's time for a soup. This one is actually pretty healthy and dairy free. I really enjoyed the sweet and subtle anise flavor of this soup. Don't leave out the fennel oil...it really makes the soup stand out!

Carrots and fennel caramelize when roasted at high heat, then release their sweet essence when blended. A drizzle of fennel-seed oil echoes and intensifies the fennel flavor.

Carrot Fennel Soup

1 medium fennel bulbs with fronds
5 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Special equipment:an electric coffee/spice grinder

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lowest position.

Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve. Discard stalks and remaining fronds. Slice bulb 1/4 inch thick and toss with carrots, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a 4-sided sheet pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Blend vegetables in a blender with broth until very smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Thin to desired consistency with water and simmer 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, finely grind fennel seeds in grinder and stir into remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Serve soup drizzled with fennel oil and sprinkled with reserved fronds.

Soup can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Serves 4.
Fennel oil can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature

Recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008

Coconut Macaroons

I have not really been a fan of coconut until the last couple years, when I learned how to make Thai curry with the milk. And then a few Halloweens ago, I tried an Almond Joy from my son's candy stash - and I was sold! So, now I like coconut, but for health reasons it's only an occasional treat.

I wanted to make an unusual cookie for my afternoon tea, and this easy recipe hit the spot!

Coconut Macaroons
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla using your hands until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garden Goodies

Recently got home from vacation with fresh yummy produce waiting to be picked from my garden! What a wonderful gift....

Okay, so I've been really slacking on my blog updates, but I am working on a few posts as I type, so stay tuned....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Italian Shepherd's Pie

Sauteed fresh zucchini + turkey bolognese sauce + leftover mashed potatoes = My made-up Italian Shepherd's Pie = awesome yumminess.

I've never made an actual Shepherd's Pie, nor have I ordered it from a restaurant. It seems that whenever I see it on a menu, there is a myriad of reasons that prevent me from ordering it......I've had a big lunch that day or it's 100 degrees out or I'm having a hankering instead for some fish n' chips with my Guinness. And because of this, I don't really feel like making it with an Italian flair is altogether blasphemous. I don't know what its supposed to taste like, so it's not confusing to me and my tiny little brain.

Anyway, this is really an attempt to stretch out ingredients from a previous meal....instead of using all 1.25 lbs of the turkey package the night before, I saved about a half pound to whip up this quick bolognese sauce.

Quick Turkey Bolognese
1T. light olive oil
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1/2 diced onion
2 diced carrots
1 diced red bell
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 small jar TJ's marinara sauce

Brown the turkey with the onion, carrots, bell and garlic until done. Add marinara and parm. Simmer for about half hour, stirring occasionally, until thick.

Alright, so throw this bad boy together. Saute those zucchini (I used 5 small ones) on high heat to get some color and add to bottom of large pie pan. Top with the bolognese and then the leftover mashed potatoes. I added a bit of parmesan on top of the pie. Cook at 375 for 45 minutes and if the top is not brown enough, crank up the broiler for a minute.

If your pie pan is loaded to the brim like mine, please put a cookie sheet underneath. Please? Oh, and next time I'm adding mushrooms..mmmmmmmmmm.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Roasted Salsa and Cilantro Lime Chicken

Made this yummy recipe up, based on what was left in my fridge and the fact that the Cuisinart was sprung out from the depths of the garage for the salsa recipe (tiny kitchen=no storage). We really liked the south of the border zingy chicken BBQ'd this way.

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Throw the following in the food processor:

1/2 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro
3 T. light olive oil
1 tsp. pepper
juice from 1 lime plus zest

I did not add salt because the chicken we had was "plumped" (you've seen the commercial) with some kind of saline solution. From now on, I will seek out the all natural chicken whenever I can because it was actually too salty without any added salt in the marinade. Scary.

Anyways, marinade 4 hours, poking the chicken a couple times with a fork violently to inject more flavor. While doing this, as tempting as it might be, avoid yelling "die, die, die" or else your significant other might have you committed.

Grill and eat. Easy Spanish rice recipe coming soon.

While you have the cuisinart out, here is another recipe that is pretty easy. Roasted salsa has a smoky mellow flavor and when you make your own, it's easy to control the heat or lack of it (if you are like me). The recipe I read here called for a whopping 20-25 serranos. Ummmm.....after tasting ONE bite of ONE serrano that was ALREADY ROASTED, I wanted to chug a whole gallon of milk to cool off my mouth, so I adjusted it down to a measly 3 peppers and it was still plenty hot!

Roasted Salsa

16 roma tomatoes, halved
2 onions, quartered
8-10 garlic cloves
3-5 serrano peppers
1 bunch cilantro
1 T. salt
lime juice to taste.

Preheat oven to 375. Lay tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers out on cookie sheets and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 20-25 minutes.

Cool off a bit and pulse in a cuisinart with cilantro and salt. Add lime juice to taste.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green Curry Chicken

Today I did a little demonstration for some friends and made Green Curry Chicken for lunch. I know for me, there is a world of difference between watching someone cook and trying to figure it out from a written recipe. I'm assuming that's the reason that the Food Network is wildly popular - most people prefer visual learning. But even with those shows, the measurements and cook times are vague or glossed over.

Luckily for us, vague is the best way to cook Thai food....you do it by taste, trying to find the right balance between the 4 S's -- salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Once you have the ingredients and understand their strengths, it is easy to do. For blog's sake, I've written out a recipe with precise ingredients for a guideline, but it's up to you what your palate prefers. Some people like spicier and others like sweeter. Make up your own veggie combination too...green beans, sweet potatoes, and summer squash are all fine additions. I've put my favorite brands in there too, in case you were curious.

Thank you to my enthusiastic tasters too....it was a fun afternoon!

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

1 lb. chicken breast tender, cut into bite-sized chunks
2-3 tbs. green curry paste (Mae Ploy brand)
1 can coconut milk (Mae Ploy or Chaokoh brand)
3 kaffir lime leaves, split and thinly sliced
¼ to ½ cup chicken broth (optional)
1 tsp. fish sauce or to taste (Golden Boy or Three Crabs brand)
1 tbs. brown sugar or to taste
1 cup eggplant, cut in bite sized pieces
1 sliced red bell pepper
½ sliced onion
3 sliced carrots
½ lime
½ cup Thai basil leaves

1. Saute the chicken until just done, set aside.*
2. Do not shake the coconut milk before using, so that the cream stays on top. Scoop out ½ cup coconut cream into a pan over medium high heat until bubbly and the oil surfaces (3 mins). Add curry paste and fry it in the cream until fragrant (3 mins)
3. Add the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Add broth until you get a consistency and richness that you like. (If you like it super-rich, skip the broth.) Bring to a boil.
4. Add the veggies and simmer uncovered until they are tender (7-10 mins.)
5. Add the chicken back in and bring back to a simmer. Add the basil. Squeeze the lime juice in. Stir and remove from the heat. Serve over rice.

*You could add the raw chicken in at the end of step 2, but after having a few batches curdle on me, I’ve decided it’s better just to sauté the chicken before.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

I don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden my DVR is recording Barefoot Contessa every day. Probably more like 5 episodes a day. I've always loved the simple and delicious recipes of Ina Garten, but tall guy does not appreciate her New England sensibilities and her trips to the "market" for fresh lobster, caviar and truffle oil. So I have to watch them in secret or deal with the snickering in the background.

Anyways, this sandwich is reproduced from one of those episodes. Most of my prep was done in the morning so I could enjoy my day and then put it together at the last minute. I caramelized the onion when it was still cool in the house and then grilled a flank steak right before serving (yes, this girl can BBQ with the big boys).

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

Saute until brown:
1 large sliced onion
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve

Lightly score flank steak and marinate in: (4 hours+)
2 T. soy
2 T worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp pepper
1 T. brown sugar

Cook on a hot grill until medium rare. Let rest 10 minutes then thinly slice against the grain.

1/4 cup mayo
2 T. brown mustard

4 toasted ciabatta rolls
spread 1 T. sauce on each
add 4 oz. sliced flank steak
then 1/4 of the onions
2 tomato slices (optional)
top with spinach or arugula

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Caribbean Steak Wrap

Stuck at home today, so I have a little time to share my dinner with you. I wish I could have actually shared it because it was quite tasty. My goal over the next couple of weeks is to try out some of the recipes I've been clipping over the years.

I am now trying to stick to a food budget and so I am meal planning on Sunday for weeknight meals in order to shop more efficiently. This is something I have not done in the past and so far it has been really nice to have all the ingredients I need because I have actually planned it that way. Yay for being organized!

Approximate cost for main ingredients (the rest I had on hand):

1 lb. thin sliced steak - $5
1 can black beans - .60
1 mango - $1
1 avocado - $1
lime - .20
cilantro - .50
4 large flour tortillas - $1
$9.30 for 4 servings

This was one of my clippings from the Contra Costa Times called "Steak Wraps with Rum Black Beans and Mango-Avocado Relish" and was tagged as a 30 minute dish. I shortened the title because although descriptive, it's just too much. I also don't consider mango, avocado, cilantro and lime juice to be a "relish." Whatever. On to the recipe - it seems long, but just read over it before you start and it comes together pretty quick.

Caribbean Steak Wraps

3 T. olive oil
3 t. jerk seasoning (purchased, or make it as follows)
1 t. salt plus more to taste
1 lb. thin steak (flank or carne asada cut)
2 cloves garlic
1 can black beans
1/4 cup water
1 ripe mango
1 ripe avocado
1 T. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 T. rum
4 large flour tortillas

Preheat the broiler.
Combine 1 T. of the oil with 2 t. of the jerk seasoning and 1 t. salt in a small bowl. Rub this mixture into both sides of the meat and place the meat on a baking sheet. Broil until medium rare, about 5 minutes per side for flank steak (less for carne asada cut). Let it rest until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T. oil in skillet. Add the garlic and remaining teaspoon of jerk seasoning and saute for a few minutes. Add the beans and and water and simmer gently for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the avocado and mango and place in serving bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and add chopped cilantro. Toss with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the rum to the beans, and increase the heat to cook off the alcohol for a couple minutes. Season the beans with salt and pepper.
Slice the steak into thin strips. Serve fajita style with each component laid out, or roll everything into a burrito for your lucky guests. I also added a dollop of sour cream because I thought it was lacking in sauciness.

Easy Jerk Seasoning
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. ground ginger

Tall guy really enjoyed it and was impressed that it did not taste like your average Mexican burrito. He thought it was like one of those gourmet burritos that cost $8 a pop. He was also happy to have an extra to take to work tomorrow. I just love it when a plan comes together....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Little Einsteins Rocket Cake

Happy 3rd Birthday, Wesley! Yesterday we had a nice little art party where the kids got to create some masterpieces and get messy. We had a fun time, even though I was hoping for a non-rainy day so we could be outside.

The Little Einsteins Rocket was a cake I had envisioned making for a few months because it is his favorite show....and the art theme of the party seemed to go along with it. One who has not worked with cakes or fondant might have tried a less ambitious first project, like a simple round cake. But noooooo....not me. I don't work up to these things, I just dive in and go for it.

You can find the fondant recipe on my previous post. After using almost a whole bottle of red food coloring, I still had a big pink mass of fondant. I ran out to Michaels to find the Wiltons Icing Color, which I added a bit at a time to get the right red. I did not want to knead it out on my table in order to avoid staining it, so here was my solution. Lots of powdered sugar in a baking dish.

For the cake, I used 2 boxed cake mixes. The first one I made was a rectangle for the base. The second batch was split between a round cake pan for the base of the rocket, and a small oven safe mixing bowl, which was used for the top. I realized that it would need a little shaping, so I just used a serrated knife and started carving away. It wasn't pretty, but I think the shape was pretty close. A layer of frosting held each level together.

For the boosters, I used two Twinkies, with one end cut off, separately covered in fondant. The rudders sticking up were pieces of graham crackers covered in fondant and then stuck into the Twinkies. The antenna was a covered cut down straw and a fondant ball stuck into it. The windows were stuck on with royal icing and the lights were cut from banana Laffy Taffy.

I ended up cutting the base cake into a free form because it was falling apart at the edges. I added marshmallows as clouds, but mostly to hide the crumbs and frosting left on the cookie sheet. Sneaky, right?

I had fun making this cake when the kids weren't up in my business and trying to steal pieces of pure sugar fondant to fuel their already crazy behavior or thinking it was fun to "skate" in the powdered sugar that landed on the floor. They also wanted me change the channel or get them a snack while my hands were covered in Crisco or food coloring. It was an adventure and maybe by July's birthday I will have forgotten the challenge of it all....and only remember how excited he was about that rocket cake. Totally worth it!