Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweet Sadie Dog and a Wine Winner!

I fully admit: I have not been cooking much lately, and when I have been cooking I've also been too lazy hungry to take photos.  So, today I'm treating you to a Sadie post.

As I browsed through old photos, I realized I have not posted any new pics of Sadie since we adopted her.  You see, the poor thing had been attacked by another dog before we adopted her.  She had to have surgery, stitches, and came to us skinny, with a shaved back and a fear of all other dogs.  Look at her now.

With a lot of love and patience Sadie has certainly come out of her shell and grown back a beautiful coat!  She is such a little love; I cannot imagine coming home without seeing her absurdly long tail wagging uncontrollably in excitement.  She now loves other dogs and continues to love people.  ....and she went for a few dips in the ocean for the first time last weekend, her fear of water conquered!

{photos taken by iPhone so pardon any suckiness!}


And thanks to all who entered the Wine Spectator Giveaway!  The winner is..............................Lauren from Head Over Heels !  Congrats, sweetie.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wine Spectator Giveaway Reminder!

After spending an entire beautiful, sunny weekend outside, sitting inside feels kinda lame. Monday Blues. Well, just reminding you to enter in the Wine Spectator Giveaway if you haven't already! You only have until this evening so get to it!

I've enjoyed reading the favorite wines of those who've already responded.  Based on all your great recommendations, it looks like someone {me} will need to make a trip to the local wine store to stock up the reserves!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weekend Wine Spectator Giveaway!

Happy Friday!  It's sunny and warm outside and I cannot begin to describe how excited I am for the weekend.  Tomorrow, I have a doggie beach date with some former coworkers.  The rest of the weekend I just plan on relaxing and enjoying the sun and laughing at my March Madness picks.

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Can you tell I'm in a good mood?  In the hopes of putting you in a good mood as well, I've decided to do a weekend giveaway!  One lucky reader will receive a year subscription to Wine Spectator....a $49.95 value for those counting :)  I've always loved this magazine since I enjoy wine, but can't really say I'm any type of vino expert.  Having good wine recommendations when heading into the store always helps save me from wasting money on "eh" wine.

How to Enter:

• US Residents only (sorry my international friends)

• Leave a comment telling me your favorite bottle of wine

Extra entries (leave a separate comment for each):

• For an extra entry, become a Twitter follower or let me know you already are following my mindless babble

• For another extra entry, become a Google Friend (click "join this site" in the right sidebar)

• For another extra entry, tweet about this giveaway using this link:

Entries due Monday, March 22nd at 9PM Pacific.  Good luck!
*This contest is not sponsored by any parties. Winner chosen by

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guinness Beef Stew for St. Patty's Day

Surely you will see countless Guinness recipes on this St. Patty's Day.  However, I must tell you that this one is special!  As I (attempted to) reorganize my tags in a fit of boredom and bad TV, I noticed how very few 'beef' recipes I've posted on the site.  Truth is, of all the things I love in this world, I just don't love beef.  I know, I know...I've come around on a lot of foods, and perhaps this just may be one of them.

Mini Guinness Beef Stew

Though I put on my best show - cringing and making faces while cooking the stew, once I dug in I had to sheepishly admit that damn, this stuff is pretty good! This stew is chock full of flavor, hearty veggies and of course, hunks of beef.

Speaking of hearty veggies, I had never cooked with parsnips or really knew what they looked liked.  Luckily the friendly guy working produce at Henry's was so kind as to not only show me what they were, but also pull some fresh ones from the back.  Have I mentioned that I love Henry's?

Mini Guinness Beef Stew

Apparently I am the last person in the world to enjoy parsnips as I received not two but three comments on my purchase from other customers inquiring what I was making and mentioning the deliciousness of parsnips. For those in the dark like me, don't let the odd paint smell of parsnips turn you off! They're like carrots, only tastier :)  The original recipe called for turnips, but I just couldn't add one more oddity to my meal.  Instead, I added good old standbys:  Yukon Gold potatoes (a definite must add) and celery.

Hope you enjoy St. Patrick's Day. What are your plans? Green beer and Guinness Stew, I hope! :) 

Guinness Beef Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light March '10

Canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
salt & pepper for seasoning beef
2 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into cubes (don't use lean stew meat as it will get tough with the slow cooking)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 cups chopped onion (about 3)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
1 (11.2 oz) bottle Guinness Draught
1 tablespoon raisins
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into chunks
1 1/2 cups diagonally sliced carrots (peeled)
1 1/2 cups diagonally sliced parsnips (peeled)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Heat several rounds of oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons butter to pan.

2. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper; dredge beef in flour. Add half of beef to pan and cook 5 minutes, until browned but not cooked through. Remove beef and repeat procedure with remaining beef.

3. Add onion to pan and cook about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, beer, scraping bottom of pan to loosen brown bits. Return meat to pot; stir in 1 teaspoon salt, raisins, caraway seeds, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

4. Uncover and bring back to a slow boil. Cook uncovered for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot, parsnip, celery and potatoes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Uncover and bring back to boil, cook 10 minutes or until veggies are cooked and tender. Remove bay leaf & sprinkle with parsley.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Glaze

While the rest of the country seems to be enjoying a nice thaw, the weather in SoCal has been quite tempestuous at best. Persistent rain showers on the weekends turns in to sunny, but extremely windy days with uber chilly nights. I suppose I can't complain since I never had to trudge through freezing temps or shovel my car out of the snow this winter, but a girl can still wish for the warm weather to come back! When all else (and mother nature) fails, I bake something citrusy to remind me of sunny days and springtime!

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins While I was baking these miniature, bite sized delights, I couldn't but help wonder who first thought that lemon and poppy seeds would make a stellar combination. Poppy seeds are so strange, yet so delicious, adding a nice crunch to an otherwise light muffin. A sweet lemony glaze sends these muffins over the top, and makes them so pretty, don't you think?

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Being a lover of all things lemon, I didn't mind that I used quite a lot of lemon in this recipe.  Fresh lemon juice and zest add a nice zing to the batter, while fat free lemon yogurt keeps these moist and tender.  If you're crazy and would like to tame down your zing level, feel free to substitute vanilla or plain yogurt for the lemon. 

Ok, before I start babbling....back to Lost!  I can't even believe I'm multitasking during my favorite TV show!  Is there rehab for habitual multitaskers?!

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemony Glaze
Adapted from Bon App├ęti, May '09

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (8 oz container) lemon yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
2 large eggs
1/8 cup poppy seeds

lemon icing
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°
1. Butter and flour three mini muffin pans or line with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and baking soda in medium bowl. Whisk yogurt and lemon juice in small bowl to blend.

2. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and lemon peel in large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until mixture is light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with yogurt mixture in 2 additions. Mix just until blended. Mix in poppy seeds. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups by generous tablespoonfuls.

3. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pans and cool on rack.

4. Once completely cooled, mix 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice with powdered sugar. Continue adding powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached (about 1/2 cup)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fried Mozzarella Bites with Homemade Tomato Sauce

ooey gooey deliciousness. I toyed with titling this post those very three words, but thought that just might be weird. But, now that you're here and reading, I'll just go ahead and tell you there is nothing better than any foods that can be described as ooey gooey deliciousness! With a crisp shell and a gooey, melted cheese center, each of these mozzarella bites tasted a little bit like {fried} heaven dunked in tasty, amazing sauce.

Mozzarella Balls

I'd like to say these are perfect party foods, but the bites are best eaten straight from the fryer. I'm not sure how elegant of a party you typically host, but nothing about deep frying inside of your house is at all sophisticated in my opinion. First off, the smell lingers in your house for days, and then there's me, the ever put-together chef, freaking out about dropping things in hot oil and periodically yelping like a scared baby.

Fried Mozzarella Bites

So, yes. I'm advising you to make these and enjoy them all on your own. The minor heartburn afterwards? SO definitely worth it!

PS. I must thank my mother for giving me this most dreaded Christmas gift, the infamous Fry Daddy. While I looked at it with glee, I knew it would only spell diet disaster. Yes, you can fry anything, especially in our house! After devouring bite after yummy mozzarella bite, hubby decided to use the extra breading and fry a steak. Gross!! Ok...I lie. It was pretty good.

Fried Mozzarella Bites with Homemade Tomato Sauce
slightly adapted from Pink Bites 

1 8 oz container of mozzarella balls (I used the ciliegine, "cherry" sized mozzarella balls)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1 cup of plain flour
2 cups of panko
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and pepper
canola oil for frying
 (you'll end up with a lot of excess flour, breading, etc.  Halve the breading if you prefer, but having the excess makes dunking easier! Or, you can double the amount of cheese)

1.  Drain the cheese and dry on paper towels. Prepare your breading station by having 3 bowls ready. Put flour in one, season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the eggs with the milk and pour into the second bowl. Add the breadcrumbs with the dried oregano and garlic salt to the last bowl and mix well.

2. Dip each piece of cheese in the flour, then in the egg mixture and lastly in the breadcrumbs, shaking off excess after each step. Repeat the breading process again and place cheese balls on a flat plate.

3.  Heat about oil up to minimum line in Fry Daddy or in a medium sauce pan to 350 degrees. Carefully lower cheese balls, a few of a time and cook until they are golden, about a minute or so. Remove and drain in paper towels. Repeat with the remaining cheese making sure oil comes up to temperature before adding more cheese.

Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (try Muir Glen)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium-heat and add the onions. cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more and add the diced tomatoes.

2. Fill half of the tomato can with water and add to the pot. Add spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until sauce is thickened (this process took awhile for me.  I let simmer until very thick b/c I like thick sauce). Season with salt and pepper to taste.