Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Travel Size Champagne!

Sofia Blanc de Blanc

My friend Angie introduced me to this delicious drink in a can, Sofia Sparkling Wine (champagne). If you love champagne as much as I do then you will absolutely love this. It’s a 6 ounce can of sparkling deliciousness that is a single serving. There is nothing worse than cracking open a bottle of champagne and feeling the need to drink the entire bottle because you know it won’t be good the next day. I think this is the perfect solution. These are also great to take on a walk, or if you just have a sudden craving for a glass of bubbly. The flavor reminds me of a brut champagne, it’s not overly sweet, and has a surprisingly great flavor. Thanks for the intro Angie!

Chicken and Tomatillo Casserole

This is what a tomatillo looks like, kind of strange huh?
This is another yummy recipe from my new cook book. Once again these recipes are a bit time consuming, but the result is a delicious meal. Next time I make this I am going to increase the tomatillo's to 2 pounds for a little extra sauce.

Chicken and Tomatillo Casserole

1 ½ Pounds Tomatillos
1 Medium Spanish Onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
¼ Cup (loosely packed) Mint Leaves
1 Bunch Cilantro, stems and all, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1 Jalapeno, cored and seeded
4 Cloves Garlic

3 Cups Chicken, cooked and shredded
2 Teaspoons Salt
Vegetable Oil
10 6-inch Tortillas, cut into 2-inch-wide strips
1 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Remove the papery covering from the tomatillos. Wash and cut into quarters.
Blend the tomatillos in food processor or blender until liquidy. Add the onion and blend until smooth. Add the mint and cilantro, and blend until the herbs are finely chopped. Add the jalapeno and garlic, and blend until smooth. Pour the liquid into a medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then adjust the heat so that the sauce is simmering. Cook until the sauce ahs thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Set aside ½ cup of sauce.
Stir the shredded chicken into the remaining sauce. Stir in the salt.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour about ¼ inch of oil into a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Dip a corner of one of the tortilla strips into the oil; when it gives off a lively sizzle, the oil is ready. Add to the pan as many tortilla strips as will fit without overlapping. Fry the tortillas, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
Butter a 9 x 11 inch casserole or baking dish that is at least 2 ½ inches deep. Place a layer of the fried tortilla strips on the bottom. Spoon half of the sauce and chicken over the tortillas. Top with 1/3 cup each of the Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheese. Make another layer of the tortillas, sauce and cheeses. Top with another layer of tortillas and spread with the remaining sauce. Top with remaining cheeses.
Bake until the edges of the casserole are bubbling and the top layer of cheese is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from “Daisy Cooks!” by Daisy Martinez

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pork Braised in Chile Sauce

Wow, this meal was super delicious! I love pork in any form and with this mixture of chilies, and charred vegetables, it was simply amazing. I was actually surprised that it wasn't that spicy, next time I make it I will add a fresh jalapeno pepper with the seeds to give it a little kick. This is great meat for a rice dish, tacos, or in a burrito.
Pork Braised in Chile Sauce

4 Pounds Boneless Pork Shoulder or Butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Tablespoons Salt
1 Bay Leaf
10 Dried Ancho Chile Peppers
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Spanish Onion, peeled and cut in half through the middle
3 Plum Tomatoes, cut in half
¼ Cup Oil
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour

Put the pork in a heavy Dutch oven large enough to fit it comfortably. Pour in enough old water to cover the meat by 2 inches. Add the salt and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Skim off the foam from the surface as necessary.
Meanwhile, remove the stems from the chilies and tap out the seeds. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add half of the chilies and toast them, turning with tongs until they start to change color and crisp up a bit, about 4 minutes. Heat them gently so they don’t burn. Lift them out and place in a bowl. Repeat with the remaining chilies. Pour enough boiling water over the toasted chilies to cover them. Soak until completely softened, about 20 minutes. Drain well.
While the chilies are soaking, wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Place the onion and tomatoes, cut sides down, in the skillet. Cook turning the vegetables as often as necessary, until the tomatoes are blackened on all sides and the onions are blackened on both flat sides.
After the pork has been cooking for 1 hour, remove 2 cups of the cooking liquid and pour it into a blender jar. Add the onions and tomatoes, and puree until smooth. Add the chilies and blend until smooth. Remove another 2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside. Drain the pork, discarding the remaining liquid, and wipe out the pot. Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the canola oil. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes. Pour the chili sauce into the pot slowly. As it comes to a boil, it will thicken. Stir well, especially in the corners, to prevent the sauce from sticking and scorching as it thickens.
Add the pork and return the liquid to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until tender, about 1 hour. While the pork is cooking, there should be enough sauce to keep it moistened. If not, add the reserved pork cooking liquid as needed.
Serve over rice, or in a tortilla with shredded cabbage and sour cream for a delicious taco.

Recipe From “Daisy Cooks” by Daisy Martinez

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Cook Book!

Daisy Cooks!

I bought a new cook book, “Daisy Cooks”, when I was in Delaware and cooked a couple of new recipes with my friend Doug. This is a great cook book, with excellent instruction on how to prepare everything. It also has pictures of all the recipes, which I love. The recipes are a little time consuming, but if you enjoy being in the kitchen like I do, then you will really enjoy this book. The food looks, smells, and taste’s delicious. I will share some recipes as I get them typed up. You can also watch Daisy on public television; she is really lively and fun to watch.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Favorite Cook Books

My Favorite Cook Books

I have a ton of cook books but really only refer to a few when I’m in a pinch for a really good recipe. These are all very easy to follow, have good basic recipes which enable me to take the main ingredients and tweak them to make my own delicious creation. I often think of something to make and find the same recipe in 4 different cook books and blend all the things I like from each recipe to make the dish. My first recipe book I ever cooked out of was my mom’s Betty Crocker cook book, I still have fond memories of the enticing pictures of cookies and cakes in this timeless cook book. The first recipe I had of my own was the Better Homes cook book, which I still refer to today for basic recipes such as mayonnaise, frosting, or a simple pound cake. I have a all the Barefoot Contessa cook books and use these a lot for inspiration and really good recipes. I have never made anything from these books that I don’t like. Remember all those Indian recipes I posted??? Well almost all of them were inspired from my favorite cookbook, The Best Curry Ever. The recipes are well written, easy to follow, and simply delicious. You don’t need a million recipes to be a good cook, just a few cook books with really good recipes! Please enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Favorite Cooking Things

....brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.....

I love talking to people who cook and always ask them “what are your favorite kitchen items?” I thought it would be fun to share mine with you.
I must admit that the most necessary, but not necessarily the most fun items are my knives. If you have ever used a dull horrid knife you totally know what I’m talking about. I do have to admit that I have a plethora of knives and end up using 3 of them; my 10” chef’s knife, 8” utility knife, and my paring knife. I have Henckles but, bought them because they were comfortable for me….if you are buying a knife, don’t only look at a good quality brand, TRY THEM OUT FIRST!!! Working at Williams Sonoma in the past I have heard many people complain about their knives because they weren’t comfortable for them and good knives are really expensive!
In the cookware realm, I am an All Clad snob, and own excessive amounts of these beautiful shiny chrome pots and pans. The pans that I would rescue in case of a fire would be the 6 quart deep sauté pan (my friend Doug and I actually had a fight over it once!), the 12” skillet (plain and non-stick). I also love my Le Creuset for slow cooking and braises, I have a 5 quart braiser, and my new 7 quart French oven, they are not only the best pans ever made, but also fun to look at!
You can’t cook without some cooks tools! I use a few favorite’s all the time, my silicone spatulas, in all sizes and colors, my bamboo wooden spoons (they don’t pick up stains or odors!), and also my French made balloon whisk (this makes the best mashed potatoes, and the lightest whipped cream).
What are your favorite cooking things??? Let me know!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce

This is one of my favorite recipes. It has a ton of flavor and is an easy quick meal to make. I had a few people over last week, served this and everyone loved it. I served a fresh tomato salad with a rice-vinegar dressing and basil to start, and then served this with a generous helping of my yummy mashed potatoes; we ended the night with a 3 layer pumpkin cake, yummy! I got this recipe from Giada from the Food Network and changed a couple things.

Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
6 boneless (2-inch-thick) pork chops (about 3 pounds total)
Herbs de Provence
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning meat
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning meat
2 fennel bulbs with fronds, thinly sliced (about 8 ounces or 2 cups)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/3 additional cup
1 cup white wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
1/2 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and lightly chopped

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the pork chops with salt, pepper and a generous amount of Herbs de Provence. Add the pork to the pan and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side. Remove the pork from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.
Add the fennel, shallots, and 1/3 cup parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add the pork back into the pan, nestling the chops between the fennel and tomatoes so they are mostly submerged in the pan juices. Cook until the fennel is tender and the pork is done, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Place the pork on a serving dish. To finish the sauce, add the lemon zest, remaining 1/3 cup parsley, capers, and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Spoon over the pork chops and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Le Creuset!

I absolutely love Le Creuset cookware and am excited to announce that I finally got my 7 quart Dutch Oven that I have been coveting for the last few years! I received money for my birthday and made it to Williams Sonoma on my day off this week. This pot is beautiful. It's going to be perfect for everything-pot roast, soup & stew, pasta sauce, or even a big batch of fudge for the holidays!
I was so excited when I got this I was smiling the entire way home. Of course I had to break it in immediately, I made delicious Gumbo-I will post that recipe when I get it typed up. I just had to share my new kitchen toy with everyone, because it’s so fab!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fresh Veggie Salsa

It makes me sad that my vegetable garden is finally done producing and I have just a few tomatoes and zucchini left to eat. This is a really yummy veggie salsa my friend Greg made and I think I might have to make another batch today.

Fresh Veggie Salsa

2 Red Heirloom Tomatoes, diced
1 Yellow Tomato, diced
2 Shallots, chopped
1 Medium Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Handful Fresh Herbs-Greg used Flat Leaf Parsley, Basil, and Tarragon.
Coarse Salt and Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. This is good served with chips, on toasted baguette, or even as a side salad.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Potato Soup

I love potato soup and especially love how easy it is to prepare and how few ingredients it takes. I have also added ham or bacon to this recipe which makes it even better. If you have a little sour cream and chives, that makes the perfect complement!

Potato Soup

6 Potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 Medium Onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
6 Cups Chicken Stock (I use Pacific Brand)
2 Cups Half & Half
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

In large stock pot, heat oil over medium high heat, add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, add garlic and continue to cook two more minutes. Next add chicken stock and potatoes, turn heat to medium and cook until potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes.
Puree mixture in blender or food processor until smooth, return to stock pot. Stir in half &half and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat over low heat until ready to serve.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Beef Stew

There is nothing better than a piping hot bowl of hearty stew on a cold rainy day. This recipe provides just that, and can easily be served as a meal on its own. I merged my recipes for boef bourguignon, and pot roast to come up with this tasty stew and it turned out perfectly. It’s even better the next day as all the flavors blend together.

Beef Stew

3 Pound Pot Roast, fat and gristle removed, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped into medium sized pieces
1 Pound Crimini Mushrooms, washed and cut in half if small, quarters if large
4 Stalks Celery, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
5 Carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch thick slices (on a diagonal)
3 Tablespoons Double Concentrated Tomato Paste
2 Cups Dry Red Wine, I like to use Chianti
4 Cups Beef Stock (Pacific brand has the best flavor)
2 Cups Chicken Stock (Pacific brand has the best flavor)
3 Bay leaves
1 Teaspoon Herbs de Provence
Salt and Pepper
1 Tablespoon Gelatin
½ Cup Cold Water

In large dutch oven heat oil in pan until it starts smoking. Add half of the beef cubes sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper and cook until seared and browned on all sides, about 4 minutes, remove and set aside. Add more oil if need and brown the rest of the beef cubes, remove and set aside.
Add Onion to pan and reduce heat to medium high, continue cooking until onion is lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Add tomato paste and celery; continue to cook an additional 3 minutes.
Turn heat up to high and add wine, cook on high while scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan until wine reduces by half. Now add the seared beef cubes, beef stock, chicken stock, bay leaves, and, herbs de provence.
Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for one hour. Add carrots to the pan and continue to simmer uncovered for an additional hour. Dissolve gelatin in cold water and add to stew just before serving. This will add an additional thickness to the stew. Adjust flavorings with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tomato Bruschetta

This is one of my favorite appetizers to make. It's really simple and always a hit. I have given out this recipe many times and everyone always tells me it was the best dish at thier party. It's really funny that when I made this for my birthday party, I forgot the chevre!!! It is still in the fridge, looks like I need to make another batch! Sorry the picture is so blurry, I only took one picture of this and of course it didn't come out very well, I tried to doctor it up a bit, but with little success.
Tomato Bruschetta

6 Roma Tomatoes, diced
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bunch Cilantro, or Small Package Basil, chopped
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Pepper
4 ounces Chevre Cheese, Crumbled (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
French Baguette

Mix tomatoes, garlic, cilantro/basil, salt and pepper in medium mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and mix, set aside. Cut baguette into ¼ inch thick slices and place on baking sheet. Brush baguette slices with olive oil, place under broiler and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove from baking sheet and place on cooling rack.
Just before serving add chevre (if using) to tomato mixture and stir until just incorporated. Serve tomato bruschetta on top of browned baguette slices.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mulled Red Wine

This is my favorite winter drink and it seems I always have some in the fridge to heat up in case of emergency. I made this a couple days ago and now all I want to do is drink, not a good idea. It was so stinking cold yesterday that I did have a nice big mug of this with lunch, I made a yummy beef stew, but I will post that later, and by the time lunch was over I was nice and warm and in such a better mood.

Mulled Red Wine

1 Large Bottle Carlo Rossi Burgundy Wine 4 Litre (I know, high class here)
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
4 Cinnamon Sticks-broken into pieces
¼ Cup Whole Cloves
2 Tablespoons Whole Allspice Berries
1 Cup Raisins-Chopped
1 Cup Water

Add all ingredients except the wine to a large stock pot, bring to a boil and continue to boil for 10 minutes, should be very fragrant.
Add the wine and bring cook until very hot, but not boiling, serve and enjoy. You can add a splash of brandy if you need a little extra kick. Also, if you have leftovers, which you probably will considering this makes a gallon of wine, strain out the spices and you can re-use the jug the wine originally came in. This is also very good served cold.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Honey Mustard Glazed Ham

I think ham is one of my favorite treats. I don’t make it very often, but when I do I am in hog heaven! I got this recipe from my friend Doug and have never enjoyed a juicier and more delicious ham in my life. Everyone at my birthday party agreed and wanted left-over’s to take home with them, being my birthday and all I felt completely confident in saying NO without even the slightest guilt in my consciousness.
This recipe is super easy and takes hardly any prep time.

Honey Mustard Glazed Ham

1 Large Smoked Ham, with bone in.
1 Cup Honey Dijon Mustard
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Liter Ginger Ale

Trim any excess fat and any skin off ham, you will want to leave about 1/4 inch of fat to keep the ham tender. Score surface of ham with a sharp knife into ¾” diamonds. Mix honey dijon mustard and dark brown sugar in small bowl. Place ham into large baking dish and completely cover with mustard/ sugar glaze, pour remaining glaze over the top of the ham. Pour 1 inch of ginger ale into the pan. Cover ham with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove foil, baste ham with pan sauce and continue cooking for about 2-3 hours more, while basting with pan sauce every 20 minutes, adding ginger ale as needed to keep liquid at 1 inch. Cook until ham reaches 160 degrees. Remove ham from oven, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Place on large platter and serve. If you would like a sauce to serve with the ham, pour pan juices into saucepan and reduce by half and serve.