Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Childhood Throwback: Ranch Oyster Crackers

Certain foods just exude memories of childhood. Seems just like yesterday I was popping Bagel Bites in the toaster oven and picking off those creepy square pepperoni pieces one by one...Or, eating the cornbread coating of the corn dog, sans hot dog. Apparently I liked things 'just so' by a very young age!

Ranch Oyster Crackers

I distinctly remember one of the grade school homeroom mothers always made ranch oyster crackers. I'm not sure why or for what occasion, but all I know is that I ate them a lot and my mom surely didn't make them! The other day I got an intense craving for them and was pleased to find they weren't just a figment of my imagination. And, 20-some odd years later, they're just as tasty as I remember.

Try these zesty crackers in a bowl of chili. Its an utter delight.

Homeroom Ranch Oyster Crackers
1 1oz. package Ranch dressing mix
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper (optional)
1/4 cup canola oil
5 cups oyster crackers

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
1. In a large bowl, combine ranch, dill, garlic powder, lemon pepper and oil. Stir until well combined.
2. Add oyster crackers and toss gently until crackers are evenly covered with seasoning.
3. Spread crackers evenly on a cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Gently stir about half way through baking.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale & Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays everyone! Being a relative newcomer to California, I still have a hard time adjusting to a warm & sunny Christmas. Where's the snow, people? Luckily (or unluckily) our house is so poorly insulated that we will probably spend our nights sipping hot cocoa and wearing fuzzy slippers anyway. Here's to wishing all of you warm and cozy nights with your family :)

This yummy & healthy dish is my new holiday favorite. Surprisingly, this veggie dish was the hit of our Thanksgiving spread (I'm still partial to dessert, of course) and I plan on bringing it to Christmas dinner at our friends' house tomorrow. Sauteed kale, green beans and mushrooms are nicely spiced with red pepper flakes, lemon and Parmesan cheese. It doesn't get much easier than this, folks!

Have a very Merry Christmas and stay warm!

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale
adapted from my favorite cook I love to hate (Giada)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (about 14 mushrooms)
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and slice into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used a 1/4 teaspoon)
1 bunch kale (1/2 pound), rinsed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan + extra for sprinkling

1. Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, green beans, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add the wine and continue cooking until the green beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the kale and continue cooking until the kale has wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan to taste and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Foodie Gift Guide

Hope your Christmas shopping is going well! For those go-getters out there, it must be quite satisfying to sit back and relax while you watch the rest of us scurry around in a frenzy. While I am not quite finished, I have never been more grateful for the internet. Since most of our gift recipients live elsewhere, I've come to rely on the internet for 99.99% of my shopping.

For anyone with a foodie on their Christmas list, here's a few ideas that personally leave me salivating, intrigued, or feeling guilty because its the season of giving, (not gift giving for myself!):

Lava Lake Lamb

Lava Lake Ranch raises 100% grass fed free-range lambs. And when I say free-range, just think that these guys have grazing lands that extend over 800,000 acres! I was lucky enough to try the Rosemary Garlic Lamb Sausage and let me tell you it was heavenly. The seasonings were just right to compliment, but not detract from the meat. Served with some veggies and Crash Hot Potatoes, this was just about a perfect meal.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Though I consider myself fairly educated about what I eat, the virtues of sustainable farming and slow food, I was nonetheless utterly fascinated by this book. Pollan's book forces you to face the fact that so few of us really consider what we eat on a daily basis.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
I'm not sure if I need to give a testimonial for the true greatness of this mixer, but if you're still in the dark you must buy one! Th
ere are quite a few models to chose from - ranging from the simple to the fancy schmancy.

Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan
If you're really loved by someone, buy them this pancake pan and wait around until they make you a tasty morsel. I mean, how could you say no to fluffy delicious-ness. I've been coveting this guy for quite awhile now.
Magnetic Spice Rack Board

If you're any type of foodie, you probably have an absurd number of spices, artisan salts and rubs. If you're anything like me, you probably have spices falling out of drawers and lazy susans and you're continually asking yourself "where the hell is the {insert spice name here}?!" This magnetic board comes to the rescue. Not only is it cute, but no more cussing needed.

Hearst Ranch Grass Fed Beef
I'm not what you'd call a meat eater, but I can certainly appreciate some good looking steaks. If I'm buying you a present this year and you're reading this guide, you uh, may or may not be receiving some cows in the mail. Along with aged steaks and hamburgers, they also sell artisan sauces and jerky. Yum!

Happy Holidays to you and your favorite foodie!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers

Let's be honest. What's better than chicken pot pie?

Chicken Pot Pie Turnover**Ahem, eating chicken pot pie out of your hands, of course!**

Maybe its just me but taking any culinary classic and modifying it for portability is culinary genius (think Mickey D's handheld apple pies!). And thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and the fine folks at Challenge Dairy butter, I had some delicious ingredients on hand to make a one of a kind, creative dish.

Though chicken pot pie is really nothing new or cutting edge, I thought I'd spice up the filling with grilled chicken seasoned with beau monde seasoning, a blend of celery, onion and salt, and smoked paprika for a little extra zing.

Chicken Pot Pie TurnoverI've seen pot pie topped with pastry pie dough, biscuits, and cornbread, so I thought I'd give puff pastry a try for a change. I ended up loving these turnovers for the crust to filling ratio. I've always been a fan of the crust top, but not bottom, so this is just perfect for me. Flaky goodness all around. Delicious. And portable. Yum.

Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers
1 package Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed on counter for 30-40 minutes
1 lb chicken tenders, cubed
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon beau monde seasoning
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/3 cup diced onion
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can reduced fat cream of mushroom or celery soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon corn starch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Sprinkle beau monde seasoning, paprika, salt and pepper on to chicken. Saute chicken until golden brown on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet.

Add remaining tablespoon of butter to skillet and saute carrots and onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add mixed vegetables and sprinkle veggies with garlic powder. Stir for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan.

Add soup and chicken broth to pan and simmer until warm and well combined, about 4 minutes. Combine corn starch with enough water to make a thick paste. Add to chicken/veggie mixture and continue to stir until thickened. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool.

On a floured suface, roll puff pastry sheets into an 11-12inch square. Be sure not to roll dough to thinly. Cut each sheet into 4 squares.

Spoon mixture evenly among squares. Brush edges of square with water and fold over to create triangle. Place on 2 separate baking sheets.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

If you happen to have a great recipe idea more exciting than portable chicken pot pie, try entering the 1,2,3 Puff! Recipe contest or a chance for a trip to Montana!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Soft Potato Quick Rolls

After consecutive days of being unable to breathe due to an unfortunate constriction in my waistband, I began to seriously second guess my holiday gluttony. I love my family but more importantly, my family loves to eat. After a yummy Thanksgiving feast and days of shuttling my parents around to each of our favorite restaurants in town, things were surely getting a little tight. Luckily, I awoke this morning to discover that my pants had finally granted me a freebie by stretching out so I can resume eating leftovers. {{sigh of relief}}.

Soft Quick Dinner Rolls
Last night hubby and I desperately wanted turkey sandwiches but could not subject ourselves to a 10th grocery store trip in a week. I scoured the internet for a quick sandwich roll recipe and found several using a common theme of potato flakes, onion powder, yeast and a muffin tin. With a total rise time of about 50 minutes (split between two sessions), these rolls were ready right before bed time, a perfect time to gorge on bread, dont you think?

I must say i'm desperately in love with this easy recipe. I added Parmesan cheese, used roasted garlic potato flakes and threw in a little extra sugar. Next time, I may try adding real garlic and some cheese. The possibilities are endless!

Soft Potato Quick Rolls
adapted from Allrecipes and King Arthur's Flour

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup dry roasted garlic potato flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and stir. Add potato flakes, salt, egg, oil, onion powder, cheese and 1 cup of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour. Continue stirring until smooth, scraping batter from sides of bowl.

Cover and let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 20 to 30 minutes. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.

Once risen, punch down dough. Spoon dough evenly into greased muffin cups. Let rise until batter reaches tops of cups, or about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll

Pumpkin RollI feel a little bit older every time I find myself saying "Can you believe its already {insert current month}?" I surely don't remember muttering things like that in college. Perhaps my more youthful self had more exciting things to talk about, but I now find myself saying this phrase every month and even every holiday. Seriously though -- Can you believe its already Thanksgiving?

For the 3rd year in a row, I'm hosting Thanksgiving in San Diego for my family. This year, I think I need to shake things up a bit. Any ideas? I've been glued to the Food Network looking for some inspiration, but I just end up wondering how did all these people get their own TV show?

In the meantime, if you're looking for a fantastic Thanksgiving dessert try this pumpkin roll. Not only is it pretty, but its orange. Classic Fall if you ask me.

Classic Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll
courtesy of Libby's Pumpkin

1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin

Cream Filling
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for sprinkling on cake

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with cooking spray or butter pan; line with wax or parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel liberally with powdered sugar.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Slowly stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

4. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth. Slowly & carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Re-roll cake tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, and slice.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffies

A lot of women have specific characteristics they seek out in a potential mate or husband - say, sexy & rich yet romantic & can ride a unicycle. Me? Not that I have low standards but I always just wanted someone who could make me laugh and swoon simultaneously. It never even crossed my little black book to find someone who could cook.

pumpkin chocolate chip muffieLuckily, hubby has become quite the chef on his own (well under my tutelage, of course!). First Man Food Mondays, now cookies?! Apparently marriage does get better with age. These cookies are so soft they're more like muffies to me. Regardless of what they are, I know that they taste good and I just ate one too many of these tonight.

Super Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffies (Muffin + Cookie)
Adapted from Joy the Baker and Spork or Foon?

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Position a rack in the middle of the oven . Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. You could also simply use a 1/4-cup measuring cup if you don’t have a scoop. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16-18 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gourmet's Latin Style Chicken and Rice

When hubby and I moved to San Diego two years ago we couldn't wait to fully embrace an active, outdoorsy lifestyle - hikes on the weekends, laps in the Pacific ocean, kayaking & surfing, perhaps a few evening sunset runs. While we have indulged ourselves of each of these activities, life and work tend to get in the way and make for some very good excuses.

Gourmet's Latin Style Chicken and Rice
After two years of gym free living, we finally took the plunge and decided to join one, realizing our appetites were larger than our desires for physical movement. Ho Hum. I'm both excited and a little sad. Maybe joining a gym will get me running outside more often :) Funny how I need to pay someone else money to inspire myself to indulge in a free activity!

On to the food, I made this Latin Style Chicken and Rice when looking for a quick and easy weeknight meal. First spotted by Cate from Sweetnicks this yummy dish originated from the soon to be defunct Gourmet Magazine (sad, very sad). The dish doesn't strike me as particularly Latin, but I liked it nonetheless. Hubby especially loved the chicken thighs as we traditionally eat chicken breasts or tenders out of habit and ease. As a compromise, I used half and half and was happy with the results. The original recipe calls for bone-in chicken thighs so proceed as you please!

Gourmet's Latin Style Chicken and Rice
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup medium grain white rice
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
salt & pepper

Season chicken salt and pepper to taste. Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (at least 2 inches deep) over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken, turning once, about 10 minutes total. Transfer chicken with tongs to a plate.

In the same pan, cook onion and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth, water, saffron, tumeric, garlic salt and bay leaf and bring to a full boil. Nestle chicken in rice, keeping as much rice around (rather than under) chicken as possible, and add juices from plate.

Simmer, covered tightly with lid, over low heat until chicken is cooked through, rice is tender, and most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 -25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peas. Cover with a kitchen towel and then lid and let stand until all of liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lazy Baker Oatmeal Cherry Raisin Spice Cookies

Confession Time...I'm still feeling a little under the weather and haven't cooked dinner in oh, 2 weeks?! Luckily, hubby has stepped in as the happy house-husband and uses the blog like a virtual cookbook. I knew this site would come in handy one day!

Oatmeal Raisin Cherry Spice CookiesWhile I may not be preparing meals, this does not mean I won't bake! Every sick woman needs cookies and breads, don't you think? The lovely folks at Lazy Baker must have been channeling my inner laziness and offered to send me a sample of their cookie mix. Though not typically a huge fan of prepackaged foods, anything with the name lazy sounds great right about now.

Oatmeal Raisin Cherry Spice Cookies
Wanting something out of the ordinary, I tried their Oatmeal Cherry Raisin Spice cookie mix, which comes in a very cute package by the way. See the sleeping chef? That's me.
Just add butter, egg, and vanilla and you're good to go. Seriously, it doesn't get easier than this.

Lazy Baker CookiesVerdict: If you're anything like us and like a little spice in your cookies, these are perfect for you. If not a fan of spice, keep looking! These came out much more plump and round than pictured on their website, but that's how I like 'em - thick and soft yet chewy! Mmm... Seriously, these are perfect and tasted even the better the next day! Check 'em out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Honey Beer Bread

Let me caveat this post by noting that though this turned out to be the recipe from hell, it was utterly delicious and something I will make again and again- perhaps one of my favorite pumpkin recipes. And because you are probably much more attentive and organized than me, I presume you shouldn't experience one problem when baking and enjoying this super healthy bread.

Pumpkin Beer BreadSo, why the recipe from hell?

Monday: Measure out ingredients only to find I am out of sugar. Postpone making of bread.
Tuesday: Hubby buys sugar but I'm too lazy to make bread. Realize we only have IPA which is too hoppy for bread.
Wednesday: Go out to store in search of pumpkin beer to find they carry only 1 brand and its $11 for a 6-pack. I'm not made of money here, folks. Settle for using the Kirin Light in my fridge. Arrive home. Too late to make bread.
Thursday: Oops, where's the flax seed?. Send hubby out to store. Oops, food processor does not grind flax seed very well. Power through these setbacks. Decide to put raisins in one of the loaves only to have the entire package of raisins fall into the dough. DOH!This damn bread better be good....

So, there you have it! It may have taken nearly a week to make this pumpkin bread but it was clearly worth it. As a cold weather hater, fall has traditionally served as a sign of bad things to come. However, along with pretty fall leaves I've always loved the food that comes along with fall and just about anything pumpkin flavored.

Pumpkin Beer BreadThis bread makes 2 loaves so consider halving the recipe if you're unable to consume 2 whole loaves with your husband alone. We don't have these problems! Enjoy and don't forget to read the ingredient list before proceeding :)

Pumpkin Honey Beer Bread

adapted from Cooking Light

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup ground flaxseed (try using a coffee grinder to grind the flaxseed)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup honey or pumpkin beer (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon honey
3 large eggs
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup raisins
Cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour,

salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk.

3. Combine 1/2 cup water and ground flaxseed.
Combine sugar, oil, beer, honey and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at

medium-high speed until well blended. Add flaxseed mixture and pumpkin.

4. Beat at low speed just until blended. Slowly add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Stir in raisins. Divide batter between 2 (9 x 5–inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes -1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grilled Salmon Salad with Sweet Citrus Vinaigrette

Back in grade school, I won the perfect attendance award not one but two grades in a row. As a child I was blessed with a strong immune system and really never, ever got sick....except for the one time I faked it to skip school. Luckily I've stayed pretty healthy into adulthood and have never gotten the flu despite being too much of a wuss to willingly subject myself to a flu shot.

Salmon Spinach SaladThis year, fueled by the flu media frenzy, I lined up with the masses and sat down for my first ever flu shot. Good news: it didn't hurt. Bad news: I'm sick now. boo.

I don't blame the shot - I know its a killed virus vaccine but I can't help but wonder at the bad coincidence. Ho Hum.

What does this have to do with a salad you might ask? Well, I admit not much though I did search for a recipe containing oranges to get my ever important Vitamin C dosage for the day. Wives tale or not I still overdose on Vitamin C when not feeling up to my grade school glory days of health.

Citrus Salmon Spinach SaladBeyond the Vitamin C, this salad is heart friendly and chock full of other goodies: omega-3 fatty acids & Vitamin D from salmon, beta carotene & Vitamin A from spinach, and heart healthy olive oil. The flavors came together quite nicely and after a meal like this, I hope my immune system will get a kick in the right direction!

Grilled Salmon and Spinach Salad with Sweet Citrus Vinaigrette
Cooking Light

Sweet Citrus Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
2 teaspoons black pepper
Cooking spray
1 package fresh spinach
4 oranges, each peeled and cut into 6 slices

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

2. To prepare vinaigrette, combine first vinaigrette ingredients in a large bowl and stir well with a whisk.

3. Drizzle lemon juice over salmon fillets; sprinkle with black pepper. Place fillets, skin sides up, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Remove skin from fillets; discard.

4. Toss spinach with vinaigrette to taste. Add spinach and oranges and serve immediately.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sesame Peanut (long life) Soba Noodles

Though my mother has been doing it for years, I've just now jumped on the bandwagon of using peanut butter in sauces and especially Asian dishes. In my younger, more health conscious days I scoffed at her peanut sauces fearing the fat and calories. Um, these days I just can't get enough! To hell with the diet! :)

Paired with a heartier buckwheat noodle, peanut butter shines but does not overpower this dish. Mixed with a little red pepper, rice vinegar, sweet chili sauce and soy sauce, these noodles epitomize my love of sweet & savory dishes. And while it may be Fall for many of you around the country, good ol' SD continues to surprise me with record high temperatures and an absurdly hot, un-air conditioned kitchen. Luckily you can serve these noodles cool, warm or hot depending on the temps in your area.

If you need to reheat, a touch of water and soy sauce helps to bring these noodles back to life. Speaking of life, its hubby's birthday & following my mother's tradition, noodles bring long life to the birthday boy or girl consuming them. Just don't cut the noodles lest you lead a broken or shortened life. Ahh, mama always knows best!

Sesame Peanut Soba Noodles
adapted from Crabby Cook

4 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
3 Tablespoons Honey
4 Tablespoons Water
1 Tablespoon sweet chili sauce
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste

9 oz. cooked soba noodles
3/4 cup julienned carrots
Sesame Seeds for garnish

Cook the soba noodles according to package directions. Run soba noodles under cold water and then allow to drain fully.

While soba are cooking, combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Gently stir until peanut butter fully combines into sauce. Pour sauce into large bowl.

Heat saucepan over medium heat and saute carrots until crisp-tender. Remove from heat.

Toss soba and vegetables with sauce and carrots, mix well, ensuring the noodles are evenly covered in sauce.

Cover and allow to rest for about 20-30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Black Bean Mushroom Burgers

First off, congrats to the winners of the Macy's shopping giveaway! Amber (lucky #3) would host a black and white themed party while Kerstin (lucky # 15) wants to host a Mexican themed party with guac and margs. Yum! Thanks for entering the giveaway and let us know what you buy!

On to other good stuff...Do you ever find yourself making something that tastes so delicious but looks utterly unattractive? Well, file me under "ugly but yummy" because I truly struggled whether I should post these or not. In the end, I couldn't resist because we loved these Black Bean Mushroom burgers so much.

Black Bean Mushroom BurgerAmong good things in life, black beans and mushrooms hang out at the top of my list. Unlike other things that hang out up there (cake & ice cream), these ingredients are actually good for me and you. Even better, my carnivore hubby gave these a big thumbs up so rest assured, you too can subject a vegetarian meal upon your favorite meat eater.

Grab your handy dandy food processor and get to work. Black beans are whirled with sauteed baby bellas, a little bread crumb action and cilantro. Add goat cheese and form into yummy patties. Though we fired these up on the grill, things got a little messy and next time I will just saute them in a pan with a lot of cooking spray and/or olive oil. They're a little too fragile for the grill in my opinion. Serve on toasty English Muffins and you have yourself a veg treat!

I found these tasty burgers on Culinary in the Country and stayed pretty true to the recipe so head on over there to check it out. My only recommendations would be to use a full tub of goat cheese, consider using more bread crumbs, and to saute these babies!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Macy's Shopping Giveaway...for a good cause!

As a die-hard food lover, its hard to imagine a day going by without eating delicious food, perusing food photos on the internet, while sometimes reading through cooking magazines on the side. Did I mention I'm a multi-tasker?

The sad reality is that at least one in six young children live on the brink of hunger in the United States. According to Feeding America, an estimated 12.4 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2007. Given the current state of the economy, I can only imagine that this number may have increased.

Along with Feeding America, Macy's is launching "COME TOGETHER, an innovative awareness and fundraising campaign that aims to feed 10 million people suffering from hunger. Come Together invites the public to rally around the cause by hosting special dinners in their homes and asking their guests to pledge a donation to Feeding America. In return, Macy’s will match these donations dollar-for-dollar until the total goal of 10 million meals is reached."

How can you help raise 10 Million meals for families in need? All you have to do is host a dinner for your friends - something I know we all do on a regular basis.

· HOST - Friends and families across the country can host dinner parties from casual to formal, send invitations and manage party details including themes and recipes on the . In lieu of bringing traditional host gifts, guests are suggested to make a donation to Feeding America.
· GIVE - Donate $1 directly at any Macy's register, one dollar provides dinner for seven.
· SHOP- Macy's customers can shop for the cause and get special savings in-store on October 17, when Macy's hosts a national Shop For A Cause day. A portion of the $5 in-store ticket sales will benefit Feeding America.

In honor of this great cause and to spread awareness of the reality many families in America face, I'm hosting a Macy's giveaway for a $25 gift card. To enter, please take the time to:

  • Visit the Feeding America and Come Together websites,
  • consider donating to the cause, and
  • leave a comment on what you'd serve at your "Come Together" dinner party.
I will randomly select two lucky winners from the entries received by Sunday, September 20th, 11:59 pacific. Good luck!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sweet Chili Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce WrapsI tend to be quite a busy body so I continually struggle with sitting around doing nothing. On the plus side, I tend to be fairly productive, spending my weekend days running around from one errand to the next, but it's certainly a negative when I can't just relax and the weekend leaves me exhausted! Well, lucky for me, college football season is in gear so that means lots of Saturday lazy days couch time is in store.

Sweet Chili Chicken Lettuce Wraps
While I truly love college football, it's quite possible I love the snacks & munchies we make for football couch time even more. On Saturday, I decided to make something refreshing and an old-standby for Amer-asian food fans everywhere - Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Google Chicken lettuce wrap recipes, and you'll find quite a plethora of PF Chang's Copy Cat recipes. I decided to mix a few ingredients from several recipes, add a few touches of my own and see how things turned out.

These were delicious, but its hard to mimic the absolutely perfectly round lettuce cups served at restaurants. Do they hire someone just to pick out perfect heads of lettuce?! If you know the secret, please share.

Have a great week and stay tuned for a**shopping** giveaway this week!

Sweet Chili Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from various internet sources

1 pound ground chicken or turkey
Montreal Grill Seasoning (by McCormick) & salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons lite soy sauce
1 -2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
dash of black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 cups Cole Slaw (cabbage & carrot) mix
3 scallions, chopped on an angle
1 can sliced water chestnuts, diced into small pieces
1 head of romaine or iceberg lettuce

In a medium bowl, sprinkle chicken with grill seasoning, salt and peper. Stir to combine.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine sesame oil,hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sweet chili sauce, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Heat a large skillet to hot. Add olive oil, then chicken. Cook chicken 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the red peppers, cabbage and carrot mix, scallions and water chestnuts and stir-fry another 2 minutes. Add sauce mixture and saute until all is warm, about another 2 minutes.

Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken salad in the center of each lettuce leaf

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Feta and Caramelized Onions

As summer comes to a close, I find myself wondering "how'd it get so freakin' hot here?!" San Diego, land of mild climes has become a perpetual hot box. Needless to say I haven't embraced any reunions with the kitchen. I dared to turn on the oven a few days ago and we paid the price after two consecutively sticky days.

While I will always be someone who just loves steamin hot food, salads have never seemed more appetizing. This is one of my favorites with you guessed it, feta cheese! (sorry Brittwilk!) Toss a few summer ripe strawberries with chopped spinach, feta, grilled asparagus and caramelized onions and you have yourself a cool meal that won't leave you sweating! We tried this with a little bit of Annie's Natural Shiitake & Sesame Vinaigrette.

Hope you all have a great weekend and a happy Labor(less) day! I'll leave you with a recent picture of our big puppy, Sadie, taken on a hike this morning. She looks happy, huh? That's because we're in the shade! :)

Strawberry Salad
recipe by hubby

1 small red onion, sliced
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
1 bag of baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 pint of strawberries, sliced
1 small package of reduced fat crumbled feta (about 3oz)

1. Coat large nonstick skillet with cooking spray over medium heat. Slowly saute red onion slices until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add asparagus and saute lightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. In a large bowl, toss chopped spinach, feta cheese, and strawberries. Add cooled veggies and toss with your favorite dressing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ode to Trader Joe's

While I muster up the energy to use hubby's Mac, I'm still computerless. I have gobs of pictures sitting on my camera so hopefully I will figure it all out. I know I'm being an old curmudgeon. I need to get with new technology! Embrace the no-right-click mouse! Until then, I have a picture-less post for you today :) Since Trader Joe's is within walking distance of my house, I frequent the store quite often. Despite my near daily trips to the store, I find myself continually surprised by someone mentioning their favorite Trader Joe's product. Usually, one which I've never even seen! I typically aim for my old favorites each trip and though I love TJ's, the aisles can sometimes get a little cluttered. Maybe it's the organization freak in me, but I will never understand why cookies & crackers are placed on the shelves above frozen meats. In any case, here are my can't-live-without products from TJ's. Please share your favorites with me as well so I can branch out!

TJ's Must-Have List:
*Thai Shrimp Gyoza- numero uno on our list. We consume these like we're never going to eat Asian food again. They're delicious. Second only to my momma's homemade stuff. Serve with sweet chili sauce and experience a little heaven.

*Pollo Asada Chicken Breasts - a very recent find thanks to some yummy in-store samples. Great on the BBQ and they're thinly sliced so they cook in no time and stay very juicy.

*Bag of Sliced Cremini Mushrooms- I love throwing these in stir-fries and have found the price per oz to be much cheaper than anywhere else

*TJ's reduced fat version of Wheat Thins - you know my obsession and dare I say I like these even more than the "real thing"?! Go through a box a week. Gross, but true.

*Cat Cookies - comes in a tub and are highly addictive. Not sure why they picked cats, but whatever. They're yummy nonetheless. These come in three flavors: cinnamon, chocolate, and 'normal' :)

*Dr Praeger's California Style Veggie Burgers - You can probably buy these elsewhere for those of you unlucky folks without a local TJ.

*Eggplant hummus - Eat me with Wheat Thins & you'll be happy.

*Love/hate relationship - Par baked Ciabatta bread: I really love this bread. As the name implies, it hasn't been baked fully so you can recreate freshly baked bread in your home. I've found that if you don’t eat this right away it gets moldy quickly...very quickly. So buy it only if you're gonna eat the whole thing!

If this post just left you hungry for more Trader Joe's, check out Trader Joe's Fan, a fun site with TJ's recipes, reviews and new location rumors!
So...what's your favorite??

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Lemon Mint Yogurt Sauce

Sad, but true. Over the weekend I ran over my laptop's power cord with the vacuum. Darn dog sheds too much! Oh, and I don't pay enough attention. Alas, I am computer-less. Hubby stays mentally fit with a Mac yet while I consider myself tech savvy, I just can't jump on board.

So, my internet time has been drastically cut short. Perhaps that will be a good thing so I can spend more time cooking?

We loved these Moroccan spiced lamb meatballs but missed out on the one key Moroccan ingredient: ras el hanout, a mix of about 12 spices like cardamom, clove, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, mace, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric! I figured that in a pinch a blend of garam maslala and curry powder would suffice. Don't ask how I came to that conclusion but it worked :) Hopefully you'll find it easier to locate in your town; I went so far as to email a local Moroccan restaurant for a recommendation but she didnt know of any markets in the area that sell it. Next time, I'll plan ahead and order on the internet.

To top off the meatballs, we made a lemon mint yogurt sauce that nicely complimented the meat. I really never had any idea I would love the mint / lamb combo so much but it just works. And I can't really explain why, so just try it. Find some top quality pita bread and you have yourself a very tasty and exotic meal! I found this recipe in the same Sunset magazine I keep oohing and ahhing over {that I swiped from the gym.oops.}

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Lemon Mint Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 1/2 cups (14 oz.) low fat Greek yogurt
finely shredded zest of 1 lemon (use a Microplane zester)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp minced garlic

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside until ready to serve meatballs. Chill, if desired.

2 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp ras el hanout (or 2 tsp curry powder and 2 tsp garam masala)
1 tsp salt & 1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 lb ground lamb
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp olive oil

1. In a large bowl, combine ginger, garlic, ras el hanout, salt and pepper. Add meats and gently combine with hands until spices are just evenly distributed. Do not overmix.

2. Gently roll meat into 1 1/2 inch balls and set on a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line another baking pan with paper towels.

3. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Brown meatballs in batches on all sides, turning as needed for about 10-12 minutes (medium rare). Transfer meatballs to towel lined pan.

4. Transfer meatballs to serving dish and serve with yogurt sauce & pitas.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Feta Avocado Tomato Dip

When the sun is blazing and our non-air conditioned house heats up, spending time sweating in the kitchen seems like a dangerous proposition. While I may be a bit of a baby when it comes to cold temperatures, I get equally cranky when the temps rise. I suppose its a good thing we're in San Diego now, huh?

Luckily I have an arsenal of light, no-heat recipes that save hubby and me from eating out every night...or having cranky me heat up our kitchen and house. This dip is one of my all-time favorites that I like to make after a trip to the farmer's market. Best paired with crackers, pita, or baguettes, I particularly love this dip because it gives me a reason to indulge in my most absurd obsession: Wheat Thins. Mmm...of all the good things on the earth, I would pick Wheat Thins over almost any snack as my last on earth :) Enjoy this cool & fresh snack!

Feta Avocado Tomato Dip
courtesy of Ralph's recipes

2 avocados, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil (I used a little less)
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt

Combine avocados, tomatoes, and onion in a bowl. Mix gently & stir in the cilantro. Add feta, olive oil, vinegar, cumin and salt. Mix until combined. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Saffron Couscous and Chicken with Apricots and Chickpeas

The other day I found a Sunset magazine just chock full of great recipes. Before living on the west coast, I thought it quite pretentious that a whole magazine was dedicated to the lucky people living on the picturesque west coast, already drenched in good weather. I mean, I was stuck in the middle of the country and spent more than half of my year in freezing temperatures. Instead of taking weekend road trips to picturesque coastal towns, I drove through traffic. Well, needless to say I have fallen in love with Sunset magazine and become "one of those lucky people." Yay for California :) After having these recipes hanging on my fridge, I finally got around to making them and am quite happy with the results.

I particularly loved this dinner because it required no grocery trips for me. Having quick and easy recipes that can come straight out of the pantry are always a lifesaver during the week. We grilled up some chicken and simmered it with a zesty sauce full of diced apricots, chickpeas, tomatoes and a hint of spice. Though I can't say I love spicy food, there is just something special about the sweet & spicy flavor combination. As a side, we whipped up some saffron couscous from the Sunset magazine article I have hanging on my fridge. While this was yummy (I love all couscous, so am rather easy to please), I think next time I'll add another spice yet to be determined to add a flavor kick.

I couldn't seem to get a great photo, but this chicken is uber yummy and definitely worth a try!

Chicken with tomatoes, apricots & chickpeas
Adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 pound chicken tenders
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic
1/3 cup dried apricots
1 tbsp sugar
3 minced garlic cloves
1 can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Sprinkle chicken tenders with kosher salt & ground pepper
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet/saucepan over medium high heat then add spices (cumin through cayenne). Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, turning once. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Add tomatoes, apricots, sugar and garlic cloves to the skillet. Return chicken to the pan and simmer until chicken is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in garbanzo beans and parsley. Cook until beans are heated through.

Saffron Couscous

Also adapted from Sunset, Feb '09

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp plus 1/2 tbsp butter, divided
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup raisins
ground pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, bring broth, 1 tbsp butter, saffron and salt to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat & cover tightly. Let stand 10 minutes.

2. Melt remaining 1/2 tbsp butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add carrot and cook, stirring occasionally until carrot is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add raisins and saute an additional 2 minutes.

3. Stir almonds and carrot raisin mixture into couscous, fluffing with a fork.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coconut Banana Bread with a Boozy Twist

coconut banana breadSome days I wonder if my sweet tooth mysteriously disappeared, would I become a supermodel?? OK, ok. I'd have to grow about a foot, get a few tweaks here and there, find myself a new hairdo, but seriously...I live to eat dessert. Case in point - tonight I decided a slow leisurely jog would be best because of the hot temps. Upon arriving home a hot & sweaty mess, I decided it'd only be appropriate to satiate myself with a huge slice of Coconut Banana Bread. Do you think the slow jog canceled out the bread? Fat chance (no pun intended)!

coconut banana bread
Lucky for me, this bread is based on a Cooking Light recipe so all is not lost! I've made Coconut Banana Bread before, last time using coconut milk but no real coconut. This time, I decided to shake things up. With 3 bananas and lots of shredded coconut, this one is so full of flavor and quite tropical. You wouldn't even guess what kind of booze I snuck in there. It works, I promise.

I say if we can't be supermodels, eat bread baked with booze! :)

Coconut Banana Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar (use baker's sugar if possible)
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
3 mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
3 tablespoons Kentucky Whiskey (can use dark rum)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut + 1 tbsp coconut, divided
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk.

3. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add banana, yogurt, whiskey, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in shredded coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut.

5. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ziti with Creamy Lamb Ragu...and a Winner!!

Carb loading is traditionally a favorite activity of many a marathoner. However, hubby and I are really just normal folks who happen to love carbs in any shape or form. This evening, we decided to celebrate a great weekend with heaps of good pasta and a loaf of our favorite bread from the Hillcrest farmer's market. If you're ever in the area, check out the very appropriately named "Best Bread" booth. Ooh, I could live there it's so good.

Lamb Ragu
Another one of Giada's winning recipes, this dish comes together fairly quickly thus minimizing the insane heat creation in our home. Ziti pairs quite nicely with a lamb ragu flavored with sauteed shallots, fresh mint, & a touch of ricotta for creaminess. We paired these beloved carbs with a nice bottle of chardonnay to round out a perfect summer meal. Lamb was also a nice change from the usual chicken and/or shrimp I've been cooking.

Ziti with Lamb RaguBefore I leave you with the recipe I also wanted to give a huge shout out to Melissa from Baking for the Boys for being the WINNER of my reader recipe contest. This is a very late congratulations but thank you so much for your Angels on Horseback recipe! Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the winning recipe (I dont know how you all entertain and manage to take photos), but I can provide you with some testimonials if you want proof of how delicious these were! As I was looking for easy entertaining recipes, shrimp wrapped in bacon and drizzled with homemade bbq sauce definitely fit the bill.

To thank Melissa for her great recipe, I'm sending her a copy of Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays: unforgettable desserts for every season. In my opinion, this book is a chocoholic's dream. Good thing Melissa likes chocolate :) Enjoy!

Both delicious recipes follow:

Ziti with Lamb Ragu
Adapted from Giada
1 pound rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground turkey (*you can use all ground lamb)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
4 1/2 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or home made
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
3/4 cup ricotta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

In a large skillet warm olive oil over high heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the ground lamb, ground turkey, salt, and pepper. Cook until the lamb has browned and most of the juices have evaporated. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add the marinara sauce and simmer over low heat about 10 minutes. Add the mint and ricotta and stir until mixed. Add the pasta and stir to coat. Serve immediately with a loaf of warm bread.

Angels on Horseback
Courtesy of Melissa

36 large shrimp
salt and pepper
1/4 pound bacon

1. Season shrimp with salt and pepper
2. Wrap in bacon
3. Broil until done, about 10 minutes
4. Brush w/ BBQ sauce (recipe follows)
*I pre-cooked the bacon a bit so that the shrimp didn't overcook and also sprinkled the bacon/shrimp with a touch of brown sugar.

La Posada BBQ Sauce
yield: 1 1/2 pints
5 oz. Worcestershire sauce
5 oz. soy sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced
5 oz. tomato puree
1 1/2 T. dark brown sugar
1 c. heavy whipping cream

1. In a small saucepan combine Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, tomato puree and dark brown sugar. Stir on medium heat until sugar has dissolved.

2. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. In a large sauce pan, add cream and bring to a boil. Simmer until the cream sticks to the back of spoon. Stir in BBQ sauce base to taste. Bring mixture back to boil and simmer again until it coats the back of a spoon

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sesame Five-Spice Shrimp en papillote

Thanks for all the notes about Sadie! She's truly a great puppy though I'm not sure how I'll deal with her in a few months. She's already 47 pounds but has the most ginormous lion-sized paws. I think we have a Marmaduke on our hands!

On to the food, hubby cooked Five Spice Shrimp for Man Food Mondays. My favorite Monday tradition has not died, I've just been a lazy blogger.

Five Spice Shrimp
Always out to impress, he tackled this recipe which called for en papilotte cooking. Fancy-schmancy, huh? Ok, it was very easy but it still sounds cool, right? Steaming the shrimp in parchment paper resulted in some of the most tender & juicy shrimp I've ever had. To top it off, a slightly sweet & spicy marinade made me very happy - is there any better taste combo?

Pair this with any veggies you like....the spiced shrimp is definitely the star of the show! We ate big bowls of steamed brown rice along with our own personal lovely packets. Cooking with parchment paper has become one of our favorite ways of cooking. I suppose this way two hungry eaters don't have to fight over second helpings...we each get our own bundle of food!

Five Spice Shrimp en papilotte
Eating Well

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/4 pounds raw large shrimp. peeled and deveined
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, chopped

1. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, honey, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, five-spice powder and crushed red pepper (if using) in a large bowl. Add shrimp and mix well. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400°F

3. Add corn, snap peas and bell pepper in a medium bowl. Prepare large rectangles of parchment paper.

4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer one-fourth of the shrimp into the middle of the parchment paper. Place one-fourth of the vegetable mixture (about 1 cup) on top of each portion of shrimp.

5. Close the packet to cover the ingredients. Starting at the top, seal the packet by folding the edges together in a series of small, tight folds. Twist the tip of the packet and tuck it underneath to help keep the packet closed. Place the packets on a large rimmed baking sheet (packets may overlap slightly). Bake until the shrimp are just cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, place the reserved marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and boil until reduced slightly, just a few minutes.

7. Let the packets rest unopened for 5 minutes. Serve the shrimp and vegetables drizzled with the reduced marinade and a side of steaming hot brown rice.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Meet our Newest Addition!

Well, there must be something in the air. First, Grace found herself some cutie new kittens.

Then, not quite ready for any kids, we thought we'd experiment with being parents when this 7 month old darling stepped into our lives. Welcome to the blogosphere Sadie!

As you can see, she's already a bit of a ham.

But, here's her serious face:

She needs some work on her commands, but otherwise she is the sweetest little gal. Hubby never knew that having a puppy would be such a chick magnet. Oh well, too late...

Have a good weekend!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Curry Crunch Chicken Salad with Naan

curry crunch chicken salad
Though it could've been one of the hottest weekends in my San Diego memory, we successfully pulled off our move with only a few missing items: hubby's chess pieces, a few towels, and my laptop power cord. Last time we moved, we lost a whole box of Christmas decorations, so I consider this a success! :) I have always been more of a fan of Santa then chess anyway.

I'm loving the new kitchen, though I still feel like a guest in someone else's house. Since we are still in the midst of settling in and getting used to our neighborhood, eating out has become increasingly tempting. A little happy hour here, a few drinks there...Tonight, however, we were determined to cook our first meal, though we knew it had to be an easy one.

I found Rachael Ray's Curry Crunch Chicken Salad to be full of flavor and as I mentioned, very easy to pull together. I poached a few chicken breasts, though in a bind, you could also purchase a rotisserie chicken and shred it. Spiced with cardamom, curry powder, honey and a dash of cinnamon, the chicken salad takes on a uniquely sweet & spiced flavor. Best of all, grapes and toasted almonds add a nice crunch to each bite. Served with warm and toasty naan bread and a few sauteed garlic scallions, you have yourself a full meal.

I hope to have more yummy eats to share this week. Now that I have a gas stove and a Henry's right outside my door, I have no excuses! Have a great week!

Curry Crunch Chicken Salad with Naan
Source: Rachael Ray
1 cup plain Greek style yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
ground cinnamon for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 cups poached chicken, chopped
1 cup red grapes, halved
4 scallions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 naan breads (I purchased Naan from Trader Joes)

1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, curry powder, honey, tumeric and cardamom. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste and whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Add chopped chicken, grapes, scallions and almonds to the dressing and toss to coat. Serve with toasted/warm naan bread.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Feta Stuffed Tomato and Basil Phyllo Pizza

Hope everyone had a happy 4th of July weekend! We spent the day relaxing on the beach, basking in the sun and visiting a few local drinking establishments. During those precious moments when I was not relaxing, drinking or sunning myself, I packed (...boxes and boxes of crap)! We are getting ready to move to a new house in just a few short days so sadly cooking has been on the decline.

Tomato & Basil Phyllo Pizza
Everyday, hubby packs up a little bit more of the kitchen and I find myself missing key kitchen items like my food processor, cutting boards, & knives while in the midst of preparing a recipe!

So, to save us both from WWII, we officially "shut down" our kitchen tonight with a very summery Feta Stuffed Basil and Tomato Phyllo Pizza from July's Cooking Light.

Feta Phyllo Pizza
Our basil plant's life was coming to an end so we thought we'd give him one last chance to shine along with my favorite cheese, feta. Though phyllo is sometimes tricky to handle, this is a great "throw together" meal that's a perfect appetizer for guests or just a light dinner. As for us, we sat outside with two glasses of white wine, munching away on our last meal in our first apartment as a married couple :) Enjoy!

Click here for the recipe
*The only modification I made was to double the cheese & tomatoes and use full sheets of phyllo instead of halves.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chipotle Chicken Tostada Cups

Hi World! It's me, the blog deserter. Y'all still there? :)

chicken tostada cups
Shortly after catching my breath following hubby's graduation bash, I realized that doom and gloom was lurking on my doorstep. In all my excitement to come up with a fancy schmancy menu for the party, I had forgotten about an (expensive) certification test I was taking in just a few short days. Luckily, I can tell you all that I passed! ...And now back to my normal life.

While still coaching my parents on the wonders of uploading digital photography, I have just a few photos to share with you from the party. A coworker brought these yummy apps to a potluck and I immediately knew I wanted to make them for the party.

chicken tostada cups

In true Sharon style, I kept meticulous grocery list spreadsheets and a timed cooking schedule, but somehow forgot to buy the main ingredients for the base of these tostada cups - a guacamole-esque mixture. After at least 6 separate grocery trips in one week, I am not sure how this happened! Needless to say, I powered on and just made the chicken filling for the tortilla cups and topped them with a sprig of cilantro so they wouldn't look too plain. Since the party was an all-day affair, I also skipped the sour cream topping.

I heard these were yummy, but I never got a chance to try them! It's quite an easy, fancy looking recipe that everyone loved. The cups are made by baking flour tortillas in muffin cups for a few minutes in the oven and topped with a chipotle chicken filling. I found that these browned up very quickly so watch them!

Now that I have my life back, I hope to be posting much more often. I also owe you the winner of the reader recipe contest so stay tuned!!

Chicken Tostada Cups sans avocado
Adapted from Cuisine at Home

3 flour tortillas (8")
3/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped (remove some of the seeds if you're a wuss like me!)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (used combo of breast and thighs)
cilantro for topping
sour cream, if desired
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat both sides of tortillas with nonstick cooking spray. Stack the tortillas and cut into 8 wedges. Push the tortillas into muffin cups. Bake for about 5-6 minutes or until golden. Watch the tortillas carefully. Remove tortillas from oven and allow to cool slightly.

In a small saucepan, simmer ketchup, sugar, chipotles & adobo sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, chili powder, and chicken over medium heat. Cook until chicken mixture is syrupy.

Top each tortilla cup with chicken mixture. Top with a cilantro sprig and a touch of sour cream, if desired.