Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chantilly Potatoes

When I was growing up, there was one dish that I demanded my mom to make for the holidays.  That dish was called Chantilly Potatoes.  It is a wonderfully decadent casserole of mashed potatoes, topped with a layer Chantilly cream, and finally, a layer of cheddar and parmesan cheeses.  Digging into it was such a treat.  I have updated that dish with some tips from this year’s Thanksgiving edition of Bon Appetit.  The article had some great ideas for creating some truly flavorful mashed potatoes.  I particularly liked their recommendation of heating the milk with aromatics.  It gives the potatoes a wonderful flavor. 

5 lb Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, peeled
8 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
.66 ounce container of chives, chopped
2 ½ cups whipping cream
2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375.  I like using Yukon gold for mashed potatoes because I can get away with not peeling the potatoes. Dice the potatoes and place in a large pot filled halfway with cold water.  Add 3 tablespoons kosher salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Meanwhile, gently heat the milk, cream, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and sprig of thyme in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Don’t let the mixture boil.  Once the mixture is very hot, take off heat and let the aromatics infuse the milk for 20 minutes.  Strain out the aromatics using a slotted spoon.  Mash the cooked potatoes with the butter and infused milk.  Stir in chopped chives.  Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan and a 9 x 13 pan.  Spread the mashed potatoes evenly into the prepared pans.  Whip the 2 ½ cups cream using an electric mixer.  Spread the whipped cream over the potatoes, and top with the cheddar and parmesan cheeses.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top gets a nice golden brown color. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chocolate Almond Bark

Yay, we are now firmly in my favorite days of the year – the holiday baking season!  At no other time of the year is it perfectly acceptable to bake dozens of various combinations of sugar, flour, and butter into heaping piles of cookies, cakes, and muffins, etc.  In addition to the baking, I love to make chocolate candy.  Dipping various things into melted chocolate is both easy and fun, like having your very own chocolate fondue party!  This year we made chocolate-covered pretzels, Ritz crackers dipped in a combination of chocolate and peppermint extract, and this chocolate-almond bark.  It is a bit unconventional, but I like the subtle savoriness produced by roasting the almonds in a little Worcestershire sauce, smoked sea salt, and cayenne pepper.

½ cup chopped raw almonds
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon Worcestshire sauce
pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces candy making chocolate (I used Ghirardelli’s Candy Making & Dipping Bar, Double Chocolate Flavor and really liked the results)

Heat oven to 160 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix ½ cup chopped almonds with the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and sea salt.  Place on baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.  Let the almonds cool.  Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave (be sure to use low heat) and mix the almonds into the chocolate. Spread into wax-paper lined 8 x 8 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle a pinch more of the sea salt on the top and let cool.  Break into bite-size pieces. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Roasted Radish and Carrot Medley

This is super simple, but it is a tasty side dish for a weeknight meal.  The ruby red of the radishes and the vivid orange of the carrots create a vibrant and colorful vegetable medley.  I love the way the spiciness of the black pepper plays off the sweetness of the carrots, and the sweetness of the fresh basil plays off the peppery taste of the radishes.  Lemon juice gives the medley a boost of brightness.

2 bunches radishes, tops removed, halved
1 cup baby carrots
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450.  In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper and then place in 8x8 baking pan.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables reach the desired tenderness.  Drizzle lemon juice over the vegetables and toss with fresh basil. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Smoked Paprika Dip

This hummus-like dip is filled with the earthy, smoky, redolent spices of smoked paprika, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. The smoked paprika gives the dip a beautiful rusty red color, making it festive addition to a holiday spread.  Not only is this complex and flavorful, but it comes together in just a few minutes.

1 15 ounce can cannellini or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In small bowl, mix smoked paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Place beans, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and mayonnaise in food processor and puree.  Stir in the seasoning mixture.  Serve with pita wedges or crackers, or whatever else floats your boat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dan Dan Noodles

Sometimes you just want that taste of spicy.  You crave something to get your adrenaline going, to perk up your taste buds, and to give you a bolt of energy.  We’ve been seeing and enjoying these noodles in local Chinese restaurants over the last couple years for their unique, and highly addictive, taste, and we just couldn’t resist the urge to try and perfect our own recipe.  These noodles represent the surprisingly harmonious combination of aromatic, creamy, umami, and spicy flavors.

2 leaves bok choy, julienned
1 celery rib, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 scallions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
dash white pepper
 2 teaspoons peanut oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons chile paste
1 teaspoon honey
1½ teaspoons oyster sauce
¾ cup chicken broth
12 ounces cooked spaghetti

additional sauce:
2 teaspoons chile paste
2 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey

Using a fork, mix chicken with soy sauce, rice wine and a bit of white pepper.  Heat oil over medium high heat in wok and brown chicken, sprinkling the cinnamon as it cooks.  In a bowl, whisk tahini, vinegar, broth, chile paste, honey and oyster sauce.  Once chicken is cooked, turn heat to low and add garlic.  Cook for about a minute, or until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tahini mixture and chicken broth, simmering until the sauce thickens.  Add the bok choy, carrot, celery and scallions.  Add the cooked spaghetti to the meat mixture.  Whisk the additional sauce ingredients in a bowl and coat the spaghetti and vegetables.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Orange Honey Madeleines

Proust’s famous remembrance of the madeleine misses something profoundly important about these cookies.  Madeleines are about savoring – but not just the end result.  Madeleines also require savoring the process of making them.  Madeleines require just a bit of patience, of enjoying the process of browning the butter, of beating the eggs, of buttering and flouring the pan oh so carefully to make sure you get all the ridges in each scallop.  They are about savoring the image of the batter sitting in the madeleine tins before they make their way into the oven, and of waiting for them to cool once they have come out of the oven.  Madeleines are about making that pot of tea and sitting down with the plate of madeleines that have just been dusted with powdered sugar and the perfectly brewed cup of tea and then finally, savoring each cake-like morsel.

½ cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the pan
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon honey, plus more for drizzling
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing the pan
½ cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 eggs
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the madeleine pan and dust with flour, removing excess flour. Melt the butter unsalted butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Throw in the whole cloves.  Cook until brown specks form on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set browned butter aside and remove cloves. 

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and salt.  Then add ½ cup powdered sugar and ½ cup flour and beat.  Place honey in small microwave-safe bowl and warm for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the orange juice and orange zest and then beat the mixture into batter. Add browned butter and beat to blend. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each prepared madeleine mold. 

Bake madeleines until golden brown tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in mold then gently tap madeleines out of molds. Place on rack to cool.  Dust madeleines with powdered sugar and drizzle with honey, if desired. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brie en Croute

Brie baked in puffed pastry…basically, a buttery cheese wrapped in a buttery crust.  How can that not be delicious?  In this version, I wanted to bring in the flavors of cherry and almonds.  Creamy brie cheese is covered in cherry preserves, toasted almonds, and brown sugar, and then baked in a buttery, flaky crust, a bit of sweet, nutty goodness just waiting to be unwrapped.

½ pound wedge of brie
1 puff pastry sheet
1/3 cup cherry preserves
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix the preserves and almond extract.  Place brie wedge in puff pastry and drizzle the preserve and almond extract mixture.  Sprinkle brown sugar and almonds on top and wrap in the puff pastry.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water and brush the egg mixture onto the pastry.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry turns golden brown.  Serve with fruit slices, crackers, baguette, or whatever floats your boat. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perfect Peas

I have always had a fondness for peas, as long as they are not overcooked.  They seem so happy and playful, with a hint of sweetness just waiting to burst through their outer layer.  Seasoning gently with salt, pepper, and butter rounds out the flavor enough for my taste buds.  However, I have learned that not all of us feel that way about peas.  Namely, my husband.  Seth does not share my fondness, unfortunately.  So after tinkering with various combinations, I found that adding fresh herbs, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese imbues these little green orbs with savory pep.  Seth calls these perfect peas, because they are the only way he will eat them happily.

1 pound bag of frozen peas, steamed
1 tbsp butter, softened
1/8 cup chopped mint
1/8 cup chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

In a small bowl, mix butter, herbs, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese.  Melt mixture over cooked peas and serve.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate and Szechuan Peppercorn Brownies

After seeing a recipe in Food and Wine for chocolate and Szechuan peppercorn brioche, I became obsessed with this combination.  Previously, I had only seen this spice used in savory foods, and here it was paired with chocolate!  The chocolaty goodness of brownies seemed like a great place to marry the flavors, and infusing the butter and the ganache with the peppercorns doesn't make the flavor too overpowering.

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, broken
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon espresso
3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease an 8x8 baking dish.  In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the peppercorns and the pieces of cinnamon stick.  Meanwhile, in a double boiler or microwave, melt the unsweetened chocolate and semisweet chocolate together.  Stir in the espresso to the melted chocolate.  Once the butter stops foaming and you can see browned bits at the bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes), take off heat and remove the peppercorns and cinnamon stick.  It may be easier to strain the contents of the pan and then return just the butter to it.  Stir the sugars, milk, vanilla, and salt into the butter in the pan.  Then stir in the cocoa powder and chocolate and espresso mixture.  Beat in the eggs, and then lastly, stir in the flour.  Bake in greased pan for about 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Feel free to underbake them a bit.  Once brownies are cooled, spread ganache.  I like to put them in the refrigerator to firm up the ganache. 

To make the ganache, bring the heavy cream and peppercorns to a simmer in a small pot. Strain the peppercorns and stir in semisweet chocolate chips. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Green Fruit Salad with Orange Yogurt Dressing

A tangy, citrus mixture coats sweet and sour bits of fruit to create an explosion of creamy, sweet, and zesty flavors in every bite. The emerald color of this fruit salad looks festive for the upcoming holidays, and it is super easy to toss together.

2 cups green grapes
2 green apples, cored and diced
3 kiwis, peeled, halved, and sliced
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, toss fruits together.  In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, orange juice and zest, and sugar.  Coat the tossed fruit with yogurt mixture.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rice with Fried Egg and Sausage

This simple, yet hearty, breakfast has evolved and changed with us over the years, but it has always been there in some form or another; a comfort breakfast for those mornings when you really need it.  We began making this breakfast in the Japanese tradition taught to me by my parents, a raw egg cracked over freshly cooked rice and mixed with Japanese furikake seasoning.  These days, we prefer a hybrid Japanese-Hawaiian version, using a fried egg instead of raw egg, adding meat, and keeping the ingredients separate until each bite.  Using thick soy sauce drizzled on lightly allows the umami flavor to stand out as distinct from the creamy yolk and savory meat, and offers a light alternative to the Hawaiian gravy.  Keeping ingredients separated in a more concentrated form in the bowl allows the flavors to really play off of one another in each bite.

½ cup Calrose rice
1 egg
¼ tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon thick soy sauce
splash of Sesame oil
sprinkle of Nori Goma Furikake
1 turkey breakfast sausage link

Cook rice fully in rice cooker or pot according to package directions.  Cook turkey sausage according to package directions; we generally just use a skillet.  For the egg, melt butter in skillet on medium heat.  Crack egg into skillet and fry just until egg white is cooked, or sunny-side up, roughly 1 minute.  Using a spatula to lightly break up the egg white around the yolk as it cooks will help ensure a fully cooked white, while keeping the yolk runny.  Put rice in a bowl, and lightly drizzle on sesame oil, thick soy sauce, and furikake seasoning.  Place the fried egg on top of the rice.  Chop up sausage and toss it in the bowl.  Just before eating, use a fork and knife to cut the egg up into small pieces and let the yolk run over the rice.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pork Patty Bánh Mì

A product of French colonialism in Vietnam, this sandwich is one the classic testaments to the benefits of cross-cultural cuisine.  With the wide variety of fusion delights we have available these days from gourmet food trucks and restaurants, and the exploding popularity of Bahn Mi sandwiches in particular, I think it's only natural we pay our homage to not only what is one of our favorite sandwiches but one of our favorite philosophies about food in general.  Simply put, break the rules, don't stick to tradition, and flavors always come first.  This is one of our favorite versions of the sandwich, packed with colors, flavors, and cultural influences.

1 baguette - (It is best to use a baguette that has not been all the way cooked yet, our grocery store calls them take and bake.)
half of a cucumber, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1 jalapeno, sliced and seeds removed
half of red onion, sliced
handful of cilantro sprigs
1 scallion, chopped
1/8 lb deli meat (we like to use slices of turkey breast, but feel free to experiment)

20 ounces ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, minced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon butter

fresh lime juice
Sriracha hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix ground pork, garlic, onion, oyster sauce, and salt and pepper and form into long thin patties to fit the baguette.  Melt the butter on a griddle or skillet over medium high heat and grill patties on both sides until they are cooked all the way through.

Cook “take and bake” baguette in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees, just until the outside starts to crisp.  Remove from oven, and using a bread knife, cut into desired length, then cut in half lengthwise leaving enough connected on one side to “hinge” it together.  Then, scoop out as much of the inside of the bread as you can with your fingers.  It’s usually best to just do the bottom, as the ridges on the top of the baguette can cause problems when scooping.

On the inside, spread mayonnaise and drizzle on Sriracha.  Place pork patties down first, then the deli meat, and then the cucumber slices, carrot, red onion, cilantro, scallion, and jalapeno to taste.  Drizzle with lime juice.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nutella Ice Cream

One of our favorite kitchen appliances is the ice cream maker.  We are totally hooked on making ice cream.  We hadn’t, however, been having too much luck with the American, or Philadelphia, style ice cream.  This type of ice cream is made without eggs.  Most of the time, we liked the taste, but the ice cream basically turned into a brick when placed in the freezer.  After seeing Melissa Clark’s article in the New York Times about this style of ice cream and tips to get around the freezing issue, we had renewed interest in playing around with the custard-free method.  Here is a yummy Nutella ice cream recipe based on some of the principles we learned from her article.

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup skim milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup nutella, plus rest of container for swirling
1 tablespoon whiskey

Heat the cream, milk, sugar, salt, and cocoa over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Be sure to whisk the cocoa into the milk mixture.  Take the pan off heat and add the vanilla, ½ cup Nutella, and the alcohol.  Stir until the Nutella is dissolved.  Chill for a few hours and then churn in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.  About 10 minutes before the ice cream is finished in the machine, swirl in the remainder of the Nutella.  It may help to heat the Nutella up a bit in the microwave to soften it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Banana-Raspberry Belgian Waffles

Breakfasts in our house can be a bit boring – toast, hardboiled egg, slices of apples. Every now and then, though, we need something to break up the monotony.  Banana-raspberry Belgian Waffles bring some serious decadence to the morning.  A heaping pile of Belgian waffles slathered in maple syrup and homemade whipped cream is like eating dessert for breakfast, and what could be more fun than that?

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ - 1 cup banana puree
6 ounces raspberries, halved

In a medium sized bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl, mix buttermilk, eggs, butter, almond extract, and banana puree.  Slowly stir the flour mixture into the buttermilk mixture, being sure to get rid of all the lumps.  Carefully stir in raspberries.  Pour batter into preheated waffle iron and cook until waffles are crisp and golden.  Serve with maple syrup, raspberries, and some home-made whipped cream.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chocolate Orange Muffins

It is always a pleasant surprise when you encounter unexpected, harmonious flavor combinations.  I remember the first time I had chocolate-coated candied orange peel – it was a revelation! Chocolate’s silky, creamy taste meets the sweet and sour citrus notes of orange to create a culinary symphony.  These muffins capture that chocolaty orange combination. 

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces dark chocolate chunks
2 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
¾ cup fresh orange juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
orange zest from 2 oranges

Heat oven to 350.  Grease muffin tin.  Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, beat sugar and butter.  Add eggs and combine.  Add orange juice and orange zest, yogurt, and vanilla until combined.  Slowly mix flour mixture into the wet ingredients.  Pour batter into muffin cups.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

To change these up a bit, I will sometimes coat them with a chocolate ganache.  When I do that, I heat three tablespoons of milk or cream in the microwave and then mix in 1/3 cup of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips.  Just dip the muffins in the ganache and enjoy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brown Butter and Sage Ravioli

Brown butter is a handy tool to have at your disposal.  Within just a few minutes, a simple, yet versatile, sauce is born.   You can use brown butter to coat everything from vegetables to veal, and it adds unexpected notes of flavor to baked goods such as brownies and cookies.  Infusing a nutty brown butter with broken leaves of sage and a bit of nutmeg makes a lovely meal when tossed with some cheese ravioli.

½ cup unsalted butter
12 sage leaves, torn
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice from half a lemon
¾ cup parmesan
9 ounces fresh cheese ravioli

Cook ravioli according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add sage leaves and let the butter brown, about two minutes.  You will see brown specks that have formed on the bottom of the pan.  Be careful to not burn the butter, otherwise the taste will be altered.  Add ground pepper, salt and nutmeg.  Take off heat and add lemon juice.  Once ravioli is cooked, add pasta to the brown butter mixture and toss with cheese.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Curried Chicken Salad

Nobody could blame you if you thought of chicken salad as boring.  Quite frankly, it often is.  But bring in a bit of Eastern influence, and chicken salad can become something else, something very not-boring.  Something fresh, something exciting, something that activates your taste buds.  This curried chicken salad brings together a variety of flavors and textures – crunchy and sweet apples, spicy red onions, buttery chunks of melt-in-your mouth chicken, and a cacophony of peppery, earthy, fiery, savory, sweet seasonings.

2 pounds boneless chicken breast
cayenne pepper
garlic powder
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 granny smith apple, diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 scallions
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon spice mix, recipe below

Spice Mix:
1 ½  teaspoons coriander, crushed
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ancho chile powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Mix all the spices together in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.   Cover each piece of chicken with a pat of butter and sprinkle a bit of turmeric, cayenne, garlic powder, paprika, and cumin on each.  Bake for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Turn the pieces over about half way through baking so both sides can get browned.  When cooked, let the chicken cool then shred or cut into chunks.  In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, apple pieces, red onion, and scallions.  In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and spice mix.  Add the mayonnaise mixture to the ingredients in the large bowl and mix together.  Refrigerate.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Citrus Herb Dip

These crispy, seasoned oven fries are served with a tangy and aromatic citrus herb dip.  The dip is heavy on the cilantro for a super-flavorful south of the border punch. Cutting the sweet potatoes into wedges gives them a good shape for dipping. Not only are these healthier, but to me, they taste better than any deep fried french fries I’ve had.

Oven Fries:
3 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup canola oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Citrus Herb Dip:
½ cup cilantro
1 scallion
1 teaspoon lime zest
juice from 1 lime
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the canola oil, salt, and peppers.  Bake for about 40 minutes, being sure to toss the pieces so all the sides brown.

In food processor, simply puree all dip ingredients.  Serve in a bowl for dipping!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rice Krispie Treats with Maple Syrup and Brown Sugar

No matter how old I get, I still have cravings for these childhood treats. How can one resist the crunchy combo of crisped rice cereal and gooey, melted marshmallows? A bit of maple syrup, brown sugar, and toasted pecans are added here to bring some autumn flavors to the mix.

½ cup unsalted butter
1 16 ounce bag of miniature marshmallows
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup toasted pecans
11 ½ cups rice cereal

Grease a 9x13 pan, or line with parchment paper. Melt butter over medium-low heat in large pot. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and stir until the brown sugar has dissolved. Add the marshmallows and stir until they have melted. Take off heat. Add the sea salt and vanilla and stir. Add rice cereal and toasted pecans to the melted marshmallow mixture and then press into prepared pan. Let cool.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grilled Chicken Salad with Soy Vinaigrette

Hot off the grill, this chicken has a flavor that is powerfully umami. It is a classic recipe from Jenn's mom’s kitchen, and it is usually the last thing we’ll throw on the grill at night. It requires almost no effort to cook, and it’s a great way to stretch our cookout into the next day, when we’ll chop it up and mix it into a fresh salad. The balance of smokiness, spices, herbs, veggies, and soy vinaigrette makes this the one salad we look forward to. We like to use a lot of parsley in this dish to help complement the soy and red wine vinegar.

Grilled Chicken:
Marinate ½ – 1 lb of chicken breast in
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp parsley
¼ tsp ground pepper

¼ cup soy sauce
1/8 cup canola oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp honey
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
splash of Franks red hot sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
¼ tsp oregano

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
2 carrots, shaved
½ cucumber, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
¼ red onion, sliced
grilled chicken, sliced

Marinate the chicken for at least 8 hours. Heat grill to medium high. Once hot, spread canola oil on grill grates, and place chicken down over the hot coals (or gas flame). Cook until one side has started to caramelize, and flip. Cook again until both sides are slightly charred. Remove from grill and chop into half-inch thick pieces. If you are refrigerating the meat for later, wait to chop until after you heat it back up.

In a large bowl, toss all salad ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients until emulsified. Drizzle over the salad.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spicy Sugar Snaps

A quick whisk of some chile oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil and you have a spicy dressing for some sweet sugar snap peas whipped up on no time. A sprinkling of sesame seeds adds a bit of nutty flavor.

8 ounce bag of sugar snap peas, steamed
1 teaspoon chile oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

Whisk chile oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Drizzle over peas and sprinkle sesame seeds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apricot Jam Bread Pudding

Bread pudding has a wonderful old fashioned feel to it. It is a dish built on a foundation of thrift – using up leftover bread and transforming it into a sweet treat. The allure of making bread pudding is that special moment when you have all the ingredients in your kitchen without needing to run for something at the store. This particular version came about when I had just the right ingredients in my fridge…day-old sourdough bread, dairy products, and some apricot jam just begging to be used.

3 cups cubed sourdough bread
3 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the half-and-half, eggs, egg yolks, and extracts. Add the cubed bread and allow it to soak in the mixture for about 10 minutes. Remove enough bread cubes from the mixture to cover the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Spread about half of the apricot jam and then cover with the remaining bread cubes. Pour the half-and-half mixture on top of the bread cubes and spread the remaining jam. Bake for an hour, or until the sides puff up and turn golden brown, and the center is set.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Herbed Goat Cheese Dip with Asparagus Spears

A tangy goat cheese dip contrasts beautifully with the unique, almost grassy, taste of steamed spears of asparagus. This makes a simple but elegant appetizer for a party.

5.5 ounce package goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
Steamed asparagus spears

Mix all ingredients in bowl. Serve with steamed asparagus. I steamed the stalks in a steamer pan set over boiling water. The thickness of the stalks will affect steaming time. If you are lucky to find super thin spears, it may only take a minute or two until it is tender.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vodka Sauce

Marinara sauce gets some much-needed zing with the addition of vodka. Balance the flavor out with some cream, cheese, and crisped pancetta. This dish reminds us of one served at our favorite Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. It takes us right back to the small, cramped, romantic dining room of the restaurant we visited often in our college youth. A dinner out and a moonlit stroll back to campus was perfection.

Marinara Sauce:
1/8 cup olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup chopped basil leaves

Vodka Sauce:
Marinara sauce (see above)
¾ cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream, room temperature
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces pancetta, cubed
2 cups frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta (we like penne)

This recipe is broken into two stages.  First, we make a simple marinara sauce.  Once complete, we transform it into a rich and decadent vodka sauce.

For the marinara sauce... In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté about 8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for an hour. Add basil leaves then take off heat and cool.

In a large sauté pan, combine the marinara sauce and vodka. Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture reduces by a quarter. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Crisp the pancetta cubes in a nonstick pan. Once the marinara and vodka mixture reduces, add the pancetta cubes and drippings from pan, heavy cream, Pecorino Romano cheese, butter, and peas. When the peas have cooked, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cooked penne pasta.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Swimming Rama

Since today is Seth's birthday, I figured I would post one of his favorite dishes.  Happy Birthday! This has become a favorite dish of mine as well.  One of the best things to result from my pregnancy is a newfound tolerance for spicy food.  Previously, I had absolutely no tolerance for anything spicy.  None.  Now I can finally appreciate the wonderful world of spicy food.  Swimming Rama was a dish that always sounded good to me in theory, but when I actually got the dish in a restaurant, it was too spicy for me and I couldn’t eat it.  Now I find myself craving the stir fried slices of chicken that have been coated with a creamy, spicy sauce and placed on a bed of spinach.

1 lb chicken breast, sliced thinly and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 ½ teaspoon chile paste
½ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon peanut oil
10 ounces spinach

Whisk peanut butter, honey, lime juice, fish sauce, and coconut milk in a small bowl.  Heat oil over high heat and brown chicken.  Reduce heat to medium and add shallot and garlic. Cook until the chicken has cooked through and the shallot is soft.  Add peanut sauce and chile paste and cook for another minute or two to allow the flavors to come together.  Serve over a handful of spinach and with a side of rice.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip with Seasoned Dippers

Great for entertaining hungry guests or spending a lazy Sunday on the couch, spinach artichoke dip is always a classic. By using the right cheeses, garlic and spices, we’ve created a creamy version of this dip that we can’t resist. Pour it in a bread bowl, and add in some seasoned, baked bread squares for dipping, and you’ve got an appetizer that both looks and tastes awesome!

5 tablespoons butter
3/8 cups flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup shredded Fontina cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
10 oz fresh spinach
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (15 0z) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and julienned
1 tablespoon butter, chopped into small pieces
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon pepper

Seasoned Dippers:
round loaf of bread
olive oil
cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Warm the two cups milk. Melt butter over medium heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Whisk in the milk and season the liquid with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Whisk the liquid for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Set the sauce aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in handfuls of spinach at a time, until all the spinach is incorporated. Add the garlic and artichokes, and sauté for 2 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Remove the vegetables from the heat and turn into a mixing bowl. Fold the cheese sauce into the vegetables. Turn the mixture into a baking pan. Sprinkle the pieces of butter on the top. Sprinkle ½ cup parmesan cheese and about ½ tsp of pepper of on the top as well. Bake the dip for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

To make the dippers, I like using a round loaf of bread so that I can use the hollowed out loaf as a bread bowl for serving. Chop up the bread from the cut-out part of the loaf into bite size pieces. Place in a mixing bowl and coat with oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Turn out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until they get toasted.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Making zucchini bread and muffins always seems bittersweet to me, a symbol that marks the changing of seasons. With the end of summer nigh and the festivities of fall right around the corner, zucchini bread is a yummy way to mark this transition.  Using shreds of summer produce in warm, spiced bread brings summer and fall together, if just for a moment.

Zucchini Bread
1 1/2 c flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 zucchini, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In another bowl, mix the sugars, vegetable oil, eggs, Greek yogurt, orange juice, orange zest, and zucchini.  Gradually incorporate the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix.  Bake in a greased loaf pan for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

To make the frosting, beat softened cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, orange zest, and orange juice.  Once the bread has cooled, spread frosting.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Broccoli with Garlic Sauce

This dish is a personal one for use, a dish we make to transport us back to a specific time and place.  The place was Philadelphia, and the time was college.  Whether it was a quick lunch between classes, a brief chance to see each other during the day, or an evening in the labs working late, this Chinese food cart had us covered day in and day out.  The Styrofoam container held a familiar, comforting meal, stir fried broccoli smothered in spicy garlic sauce, laid on a bed of rice.  For three dollars a piece, it had everything we needed to be happy.  Here is our attempt to recreate it.

3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3/8 cup chicken broth
5 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chili paste
1 and a half heads of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus 1 teaspoon
splash sesame oil
4 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
3 bunches of broccoli

In small bowl, whisk together oyster sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegars, and chili paste.  In another small bowl, whisk cornstarch and water and set aside.  Heat peanut oil in wok and cook broccoli in peanut oil, a splash of sesame oil and just a bit of water until the center of stalks become only slightly translucent yet remain crispy.  Remove broccoli and remove any water or oil that is left from cooking.  Heat a teaspoon or so of peanut oil and the splash of sesame oil on medium-low heat and cook garlic for about a minute (don’t let it burn).  Turn heat to medium low and add sauce.  Stir in sugar and bring sauce to a boil (continue to stir).  Add cornstarch and water mixture and cook on medium low for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add cooked broccoli to sauce and toss.  Serve with rice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arugula and Blueberry Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

This simple salad comes together in just a few minutes. I like the way the sweetness of blueberries plays off the peppery arugula. A tangy dressing holds it all together.

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
1/8 cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon poppy seeds
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoon honey

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl until emulsified.

2 cups arugula
2 cups spinach
½ cup blueberries
1/3 cup toasted nuts – I like to use pecans or almonds

Place ingredients in large bowl and toss with the lemon poppy seed dressing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mango Cucumber Salad

I just love the way the cucumbers and mangoes look in this salad. The green and orange look so summery and playful. The addition of lavender syrup provides a fragrant boost of flavor.

Lavender Syrup
½ cup water
1/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lavender

Bring all ingredients to a boil in small pan over high heat. When sugar is dissolved, strain and cool.

2 mangos, diced
½ cucumber, shredded
3-4 tablespoons of lavender syrup

Mix mangos and cucumber with three to four tablespoons of the lavender syrup.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Vegetable Toss

This vegetable toss is super simple and lets late summer vegetables shine. Because the emphasis is on the produce, it is important to get the best possible ingredients. A local farmer’s market is likely to have the juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes and sweet ears of corn that make this dish pop.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 ears corn, husked and kernels cut off
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 small zucchini, shredded
3 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup chopped parsley
1 lemon wedge

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the corn, tomatoes, and zucchini shreds and sauté for a minute. Add the scallions, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for about 4 more minutes or until the corn is cooked through. Throw in the parsley and stir. Drizzle lemon juice over the vegetables.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

This creamy rice dish is infused with the earthy flavor of mushrooms and enhanced with fresh herbs and a handful of sweet peas. The combination of dried and fresh mushrooms packs a warm, savory punch. I like to cook the cremini mushrooms before starting the risotto. Giving the mushrooms room to brown in a large sauté pan allows these guys to achieve maximum flavor. Top off the finished risotto with a sprinkling of Asiago cheese and you are good to go.

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of oregano
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio or medium-grain rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Asiago cheese, for serving

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Once the butter has melted and the bubbles in the mixture have started to subside, add the chopped mushrooms. Stir continuously, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the butter and oil mixture. After a few minutes, once the mushrooms have begun to brown and release their juices, take off heat.

Simmer the chicken broth with the dried porcinis for 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the dried mushrooms and finely chop. Keep the chicken broth warm over low heat. In a large pan, melt the butter and sauté the shallots until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice. Add the wine, stirring often, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Add a ladleful of the hot broth (about ¾ of a cup) to the rice. Stir the rice constantly until the rice absorbs the broth. Repeat until the rice is cooked and the mixture is creamy. Stir in the frozen peas, parsley and thyme. Once the peas are cooked, adjust the salt and pepper levels. Serve with a sprinkling of Asiago cheese.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Salt and Pepper Shrimp (Tom Rang Muoi)

This intense, flavor-packed, Vietnamese classic was actually introduced to me at a popular night spot in New York’s Chinatown.  Judging by the hour long wait outside with a throng of hungry locals, I figured the food must be pretty good.  My brother told me we had to get their specialty, salt and pepper prawns with the head on.  It was so delicious, it has stuck with me ever since, and spawned a mild obsession to recreate it.  These shrimp are meant to be eaten whole, body, shell, head, everything.  More often than not, they are deep fried, but after trying it both ways, we actually prefer pan frying them in less oil.

1 lb “head on” shrimp (in shell with head attached)
1/8-1/4 cup cornstarch – enough to lightly coat shrimp
2 tbs peanut oil for sautéing
¼ cup minced onion
1 ½ tablespoons minced jalapeno
10 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 finely chopped scallions
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly cracked pepper

To prepare shrimp, cut off long whiskers and sharp point on the top of the head using kitchen shears.  Put cornstarch in a bowl and roll each shrimp in the cornstarch, brushing off clumps, so that each shrimp is coated lightly and evenly.

Heat peanut oil in skillet on medium high.  Once the oil is hot, add shrimp and sauté on each side until red and golden, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove and place on paper towel.

Using separate skillet, or same skillet scraped out, heat a bit of oil on medium.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger and stir until fragrant and slightly soft.  Add jalapeno, scallion, and shrimp, and stir for 30 seconds while sprinkling most of salt and pepper on each side of shrimp.  Serve and sprinkle remaining salt and pepper on top.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mixed Berry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Put those summer berries to good use! These scones are chock full of plump fresh berries and coated with a sweet lemon glaze. I love taking one of these scones and a tall glass of iced tea outside with me and just basking in the afternoon sunshine.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup whipping cream + 1 tablespoon, plus more for brushing on scones
¾ cup fresh blueberries
¾ cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in bowl. Use a fork or pastry blender to fold in the butter chunks. The mixture should resemble coarse crumble. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour 1 cup and 1 tablespoon of cream. In a small bowl, coat the blueberries and strawberries with 1 tablespoon flour. Very carefully fold the berries into the scone batter, you don’t want too many berries to burst and discolor the batter. Place dough  onto a lightly floured surface and form into a circle about 1 inch thick, then run a knife through the dough to form 8 wedges. Alternatively, you can cut out small circles from the dough. Place on baking sheet and brush with some more cream. Bake for about 20 minutes, until it has cooked through and the top is golden brown. To make the glaze, whisk powdered sugar, milk, and lemon juice until the mixture has come together. Let cool for just a few minutes and then brush with glaze.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homemade Popcorn

We have lived many years without tasting the amazingness that is homemade popcorn.  Jenn was actually convinced she didn’t like popcorn.  Eventually, we got around to making some old fashioned popcorn, cooked on the stove and popped in a big ol pot.  Now even Jenn is hooked on it.  It’s all about having total control of the spices, herbs, and melty stuff you mix in.  When making it on the stove is so easy, economical, and delicious, we can’t understand why anyone would buy special gadgets or microwave bags.  Here is one of our favorite versions.  Popcorn, oh yea!  

1/8 cup corn oil – or enough to coat the bottom of the pot you are using
¼ cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt – we like using Johnny’s seasoning salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add three kernels of popcorn and cover pot with lid.  Once those have popped, add the ¼ cup of kernels.  Shake the pot frequently.  Once the popping has stopped, turn off heat, add the butter, cheese, and seasonings, and stir well to mix.  That's it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Strawberry Kiwi Salad

Summer heat calls for something light and refreshing. This salad fits the bill with its simple blend of sweet and sour flavors. Juicy slices of strawberry and kiwifruit are dressed with tangy lime juice and fresh basil. The perfect treat for a hot summer day!

1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 kiwifruits, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped basil
zest and juice from 1 lime

Mix strawberries and kiwi slices in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, lime zest, and basil. Pour lime and basil mixture over fruit and toss.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Avocado Topped Bagels

This breakfast concoction is inspired by something I tried recently at a nearby coffee shop.  They had this interesting bagel covered with an avocado, cream cheese, and lemon pepper spread.  It turned out to be a killer combination!  Tangy and creamy, with a kick of spice from the pepper – At home, we prepare this with the ingredients separated, which makes the flavors really pop, as well as some fresh herbs on top. If you’re an avocado lover like us, we highly recommend trying this.

1 everything bagel
1 avocado
cream cheese to taste
zest and juice from 1 lemon
ground pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro (or parsley)

In a small bowl, mix lemon zest, ground pepper, and sea salt.  Slice avocado and drizzle slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Toast bagel and spread cream cheese on top.  Place the avocado slices on the cream cheese.  Sprinkle with lemon zest mixture and herbs.

When picking out an avocado:  If you are making this within a day or two, make sure it is slightly soft and uniform.  Too mushy, and it is probably bruised or going bad.  Too hard, and it is unripe and will take around a week to soften up.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homemade Beer Bread

Beer bread is great, because it doesn't take hours to make, it has a nice subtle flavor, reminiscent of your favorite beer, and it has has that great pillowy inside and crusty outside you only get from fresh baked, homemade bread. Excellent with a sandwich, pasta, or best of all, on its own.

3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bottle of beer (we've enjoyed Newcastle and Blue Moon)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in beer. Place batter into greased loaf pan and bake for about 25 minutes. Brush on melted butter and continue baking for another ten minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Green Bean and Mushroom Pork Stir Fry

This stir fry has a delicious, unique flavor profile. Packed with umami, the flavors of hoisin, mushrooms, ground pork, and spice stand out right away. Supported by hints of garlic, sweet honey, rice wine, and soy, this dish surprised us with its complexity and richness of flavor, and has become a regular mainstay for weeknight dinners.

½ lb ground pork
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ tsp white pepper
dash black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon canola oil
splash sesame oil
3 cups chopped green beans
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces cremini ("baby bella") mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon honey
3 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon thick soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons chile paste

Whisk cornstarch, white and black peppers, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon rice wine. Coat the ground pork with the cornstarch mixture. Heat oil in wok over medium high heat and cook green beans, mushrooms, and garlic for five minutes and the mushrooms have started to brown. Add the ground pork and cook until the pork is cooked through. Whisk together hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauces, and chile pastes and add to the meat and vegetables. Cook for a few more minutes.

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

Is there ever an end to what you can do with fresh blackberries? Combine the sour of blackberries, the sweet of peaches, the creaminess of vanilla, and the spiciness of cinnamon and ginger to get this delicious, crumbly cobbler. Perfect for satisfying guests who know their sweets.

2¼ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup half and half
4 cups sliced peaches
2 cups blackberries
½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon half and half
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger

Whisk baking powder, 2 cups flour, and salt. Mix in the chilled butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumble. Stir in the half and half and form into dough. I like forming the batter into one large biscuit to place on top, but you can also form the dough into smaller clumps and place all of them on top.

Mix the fruit with ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup flour, vanilla, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour the fruit mixture into a greased baking dish and cover with the biscuit dough.

Brush half and half on the biscuit dough with a pastry brush. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, ginger and 2 tablespoons sugar and sprinkle before placing the cobbler in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

Avocado Bacon Penne

Avocado and bacon... a match made in heaven. This luscious and creamy pasta harnesses the same mystical powers that make avocado bacon burgers so delicious, and turns them away from the dark side, and toward the light! Forget all that cream, butter, and cheese, and savor the natural, buttery creaminess of avocados!

12 ounces penne
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, chopped
½ tsp red pepper
ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 avocadoes, sliced

Bring a large pot of water with salt to a boil, and cook the penne until pasta is about two minutes from being al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining it. Heat oil in large skillet and crisp the bacon. Add black pepper, red pepper, and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and wine. Bring to a boil then simmer for ten minutes. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and parsley. Add the almost cooked pasta to the skillet and finish cooking in there. Add about ½ cup of the reserved pasta water (add more if it is dry). When the pasta has cooked, top with the slices of avocadoes, letting the slices melt into the pasta.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Orange and Fennel Salad

There are many epic love stories throughout history - Romeo and Juliet, Napoleon and Josephine, Cleopatra and Mark Antony. None of these, however, compare to the perfect pairing of orange and fennel. The blend of citrus notes with the peppery, anise flavor of the fennel is a match made in heaven. Ahh, true love!

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced with a mandoline
1 orange, supremed and cut into chunks
1/2 cup thinly chopped Romaine lettuce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Toss fennel, orange, lettuce, and parsley together. Sprinkle lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

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