Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Late Christmas!

Hello Everyone!
I have been stranded in Boise with my family due to the weather in Portland and just got back home and into the swing of things! I will be up and blogging very soon (I forgot my camera on my trip, and didn't have my laptop, so no blogging!). Thanks for all the Christmas and New Years wishes!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Carne de Puerco con Chile

This dish was the star of our meal, as pork should always be! I love nothing better than really good, tender juicy pork carnitas, and this was the real thing. I usually don’t do well frying meat in lard, but I do have to admit this was really amazing! You can stop at that point if you want, but you can also infuse the meat with a lot of flavor after it’s cooked by braising it in sofrito, as this recipe shows. This recipe is really spicy, if you like a more mild dish, just reduce the amount of peppers, or remove the seeds.

Carne de Puerco con Chile

4 Pounds Pork Loin, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons Salt
¼ Cup Beef Stock
2 Cloves Garlic
¼ Onion
4 Jalapeno Peppers, charred and stems removed
2 Roma Tomatoes, halved
1 Cup Water
1 Pound Lard (For Frying)

Place the pork loin in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, stir to coat and let sit for a couple of hours.
To make the sofrito, combine all remaining ingredients in a blender and puree.
Heat the lard in a very large wide deep pan and fry the meat over medium heat until very tender and just barely starting to brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the meat and drain on paper towels. Next pour lard from pan and wipe out, place meat back in, add sofrito and cook for one hour over low heat. Serve with tortillas and beans.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Frijoles de Loya (Pinto Beans)

I have never laughed over a dish more than this one. My friend Silvia that was telling me how to make the beans, so I was following her direction until it came to the cooking part. If you know me you know that I love to stir stuff while cooking, it just makes me feel better. I’ve even gotten in trouble at friends houses when I just automatically go over to the stove when they are cooking and give the dish a little stir. So Silvia had me put the beans on the heat and told me not to stir the beans, well this just killed me and two hours later, I was still not allowed to stir the dish! Finally she gave in and told me to give it a stir, so I was laughing and stirred the beans counter-clockwise, for bad luck and just to bug her. I think every time I make this dish I’m just going to laugh out loud!

Frijoles de Loya

1 Pound Pinto Beans
½ Onion, skin removed
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled
3 Cups Beef Stock
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Strips Bacon, fried and cut into small pieces (optional)

Go through beans very thoroughly to ensure there are not any little pebbles in them, and wash thoroughly. Place beans, onion, garlic, salt, bacon, and beef stock into a large heavy stock pot (about 6 quarts, the beans really expand a ton). Add enough water to the pot to cover the beans by a couple inches. Place on stove and bring to a boil, turn heat down to a simmer and let cook until tender, about 3 hours. As beans are cooking just add more water to ensure they are covered. When beans are nice and tender strain and serve.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sopa de Fideo

My friend Silvia that lives in Bend came up to visit a couple weeks ago and prepared the most amazing Mexican Food! It was so much fun to learn some new recipes and not have to do all the cooking like usual. We had 8 people over for dinner and everyone left very fat and happy.
The menu included: Sopa de Fideo (Soup with Noodles), Carne de Puerco con Chile (Pork with Chile), Frijoles de Loya (Pinto Beans), two kinds of Salsa, Guacamole, and my home made Flour Tortillas. I will be posting all the other recipes very soon as well, except for the salsa, as it’s a “secret” recipe. I may share my version of her salsa though, as I wouldn’t want to keep everyone completely in the dark!
Thank you for sharing your recipes Silvia, and I sure wish you would let me share your Secret Salsa Recipe!

Sopa de Fideo

1 Bag Fideo Fino (Vermicelli) 6 ounces
¼ Yellow Onion
1 Clove Garlic
8 Ounces Tomato Sauce
3 Cups Water
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Lard (or Crisco)

In a large frying pan, heat the lard over medium high heat and fry the Fideo until golden brown, turning constantly as to not burn the noodles, remove and drain on a paper towel. In a large saucepan, combine the noodles and all other ingredients. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until reduced and thick and noodles are very tender. Remove the onion quarter and season to taste with more salt if needed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sweet Potato Casserole

This is a dish that I only make for Thanksgiving and look forward to it every year. This is a Southern recipe and is always a hit at dinner. It’s creamy, sweet, and could almost be served as dessert. I like this so much better than the traditional baked sweet potatoes with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows which I always ate growing up. I first had this recipe about 5 years ago when my friend Doug made it. I thought he was crazy going to so much work for a side dish, but now realize it is definitely worth it.
I like to use yams instead of sweet potatoes because of the beautiful orange color they add do the dish. If you like sweet potatoes better or can’t find yams, it will turn out just as good.

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 Medium Sweet Potatoes or Yams
¼ Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
½ Cup Evaporated Milk
¼ Cup Melted Butter

1 Cup Brown Sugar
½ Cup Flour
½ Cup Melted Butter
1 Cup Chopped Pecans

Peel and dice potatoes and place in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking until very soft, about 20 minutes, drain well. Next mash the potatoes with a mixer or heavy duty whisk and add sugar, eggs, evaporated milk and melted butter, mix well. Place potato mixture into a medium sized casserole dish, set aside.
For the topping combine all ingredients and mix with hands to form a crumb mixture. Spread evenly over the potatoes. Bake in a 375 degree pre-heated oven until bubbling and top is just crisp, about 30 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

If your not a huge sweet potato fan, you can always try out my Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I have been told that they are the best mashed potatoes people have ever had. Well, once you look at the ingredient list, I think you will understand why they are so amazing. I made a double batch of these for Thanksgiving as well and they were so good, I wish I had some to eat right now, just looking at the picture is making me hungry. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thai Coconut Curry with Squash & Chicken

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving! I sure did, and feel about 10 pounds heavier because of it. Also, I got so tied up with work and eating this weekend I forgot that I didn’t have anything lined up to post, so sorry it’s been so long. I finally wasn’t in charge of the meal this year and went over to a friend’s house. We had 3 appetizers, turkey, 13 side dishes, and 3 desserts…a foodies dream come true, all I had to do was bring mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (you think I’m from Idaho?) I will do a post about these a little later this week when I get all my pictures ready.
So onto the curry dish…I had an acorn squash hanging out on the counter this week and I thought I would throw it in a curry with some chicken and it was really good, I can’t wait to make this dish again. It’s really quick and with the exception of the cilantro, I had all the ingredients on hand. This is also a very quick dish to make, so it’s perfect to throw together after work. I like my curry dishes pretty spicy so I used a full (or rather heaping) tablespoon of curry paste, if you’re not a spice fan, you may want to cut back to a teaspoon or so and then add more to taste.

Thai Coconut Curry with Squash & Chicken

1 Acorn Squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
2 Shallots, chopped
1 Garlic Clove, chopped
1 Tablespoon Thai Green Curry Paste
1 Can Unsweetened Coconut Milk (reduced fat is fine in this dish!)
1 Teaspoon Fish Sauce, or more to taste
2 Teaspoons Dark Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 Large Chicken Breast, cut into cubes
Cilantro, or Thai Basil, for garnish

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the squash and boil until just tender. Drain and set aside.
In a small food processor or blender combine the shallots, garlic, curry paste coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, and salt, process to form a smooth sauce.
In a medium sized pot, add the oil and sauté the chicken until just browned. Add the curry sauce and squash and cook until fragrant and squash is very tender, about 5 minutes. Serve over rice if desired with cilantro or basil for garnish.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Potato Soup

I used to make potato soup with just onion, milk and potatoes…this recipe is has evolved dramatically, and so has the flavor. I love the subtle onion taste that the leeks leave, and with the addition of the celery and carrots, it really kicks up the flavor dramatically. On top of this, when you cook the vegetables in chicken stock and then puree them into a nice thick creamy soup, it makes it simply sinful. This recipe is a little unusual for potato soup, but I must insist on the use of the carrot and celery as it adds so much flavor, although it does change the color from a perfect creamy white to a lightly yellow tint, it’s worth the sacrifice. If you want a more hearty soup, skip the blender and serve it as a rich, chunky vegetable soup.

Potato Soup

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Leeks, thoroughly cleaned green parts remove, and finely chopped
3 Carrots, peeled and diced
3 Celery Stalks, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
6 Russet Potatoes, skinned and cut into ¾ inch cubes
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
8 Cups Chicken Stock (Or vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup)
Salt & Pepper
2 Cups Heavy Cream
Bacon, for garnish (optional)

In a large stock pot over medium high heat add the olive oil and leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Next add the carrots, celery, and garlic, and a good pinch of salt and pepper, continue cooking until just softened, about 5 minutes more. Next add the potatoes, thyme, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, turn down heat and continue to cook until all the vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes or so. Remove the soup from the heat and use a stick blender to puree the vegetables into a fine smooth soup. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, pour into bowls and add a generous amount of crispy bacon bits. If you are making this a vegetarian dish you can garnish with some fresh green onion, chives, or thyme.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lychee Martini

I absolutely love the flavor of lychee, it's so unusual and indescribable I'm not even going to try. It's a fruit native to China, and has a very short season as a fresh fruit in the US, about 7 weeks to be exact. I have only been able to find fresh lychee's at the Asian super marked during the later part of summer.
For this cocktail I had to resort to a canned lychee, and used the syrup as part of the flavoring. It's light, refreshing, and in-between citrus and peachy in flavor. You must use a very high quality vodka in this drink, as the lychee has a very light flavor, and anything less than top shelf would definitely overwhelm the delicate, delicious flavor of the lychee.
Lychee Martini
3 Ounces Good Vodka
3 Ounces Lychee Juice (from the can)
Lychee, for garnish
Shake the vodka and lychee juice in a cocktail shaker full of ice until very cold, strain into a martinin glass, garnish with lychee's and serve immediately.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Braised Lamb Shanks

This is a really easy lamb recipe to make, especially if you are not very familiar with making lamb. It’s very similar to pot-roast in preparation, the oven does all the work for you. A lamb shank is the lower part of the leg, and is very tough, but after braising for a couple hours becomes delicious and tender. I have had lamb shanks at restaurants many times and thought it would be fun to make them for dinner this week, and they turned out great. I just used a basic recipe of red wine, broth and some veggies for the braising liquid. I served mine over a bed of my delicious mashed potatoes with oven roasted asparagus.

Braised Lamb Shanks

4 Lamb Shanks
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Small Yellow Onions, or 1 Large, diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
2 Cups Red Wine (full bodied)
2 Cups Beef Stock
1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary
3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
2 Bay Leaves

Season the lamb with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil until just smoking and then sear the meat until golden brown on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onions, celery, and carrots and sauté until just tender and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Next add the stock, rosemary, garlic cloves and bay leaves and bring to a simmer, place the meat back into the pan. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until meat is tender and almost falling off the bone, about 2 hours. Remove from oven and take meat out and cover to keep warm.
To make the gravy, remove the bay leaves from the liquid and puree with a stick blender, or in a regular blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve along side of the lamb.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Steak and Potato Salad

It seems that I have been eating really hearty meals the last couple weeks, and wanted to do something healthy, but filling at the same time for dinner this week. I created this delicious salad with mixed greens, avocado, tomatoes, grilled potatoes, and skirt steak. It turned out just like I imagined it…light, but filling, and a nice combination of flavors with the fresh summer and fall veggies mixed together.

Steak and Potato Salad

1 ½ Pounds Skirt Steak
1 Pound Mixed Greens (I used the pre-washed bagged mix)
2 Carrots, julienned
2 Stalks Celery, sliced thin
2 Tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 Avocadoes, cut into wedges
1 Pound Small Red Potatoes, cut in half
½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for the steak
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
½ Teaspoon Salt & Pepper, plus more for the steak
½ Teaspoon Sugar

To prepare the steak, brush liberally with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, let sit covered at room temperature for one hour. In the meantime boil the red potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until just tender, drain and cool.
Heat a grill pan over high heat, brush lightly with oil and grill potatoes until lightly charred, remove and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper, set aside to cool. Next heat grill pan until smoking, add steak and cook for 3-5 minutes per side over high heat or until medium rare. Place steak onto a clean plate, cover and let rest for at least five minutes. Cut steak at a diagonal into ¼-inch thick slices.
To make dressing whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt & pepper and sugar until well combined.
To assemble the salad, arrange greens , veggies, and steak onto a plate and then drizzle with the dressing, serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Apple Crisp

I had some apples in my fridge that I had forgotten about, I was going to make apple sauce to go with a pork dish, but decided that an apple crisp would be so much better. I love the crumbly slightly crunchy topping with the lightly sugared and spiced apples, it’s truly a match made in heaven. Normally I would have served this with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, but since it was an unplanned dessert, I had to go without.

Apple Crisp

6 Tart Apples
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Cup Oatmeal
1 Cup Brown Sugar
½ Cup Flour
1 Stick Butter

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Skin, core and slice apples into ¼ inch thick slices and place into a large bowl. Next, sprinkle with the apples with the sugar 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon, mix to coat. Place apples in a medium sized greased baking dish.
To prepare the topping combine the oatmeal, brown sugar and ½ cups flour. Add butter and using your fingers or a fork blend in the butter until the mixture comes together and forms large crumbs. Sprinkle topping over apples.
Bake the apple crisp until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hamburger Casserole

I have been a little under the weather this week and just couldn’t make it to the store to get groceries to make dinner the other night, so I took a trip trough the pantry and the freezer and came up with this recipe. My friend Tina used to make this for me when I lived in Boise many years ago and I always enjoyed how simple and flavorful it was, so I thought it would be the perfect recipe for me while I was not feeling well, but still ravenously hungry. I don’t make many casseroles, but always enjoy them when I do because they are so easy and flavorful, I secretly think that the fifties house wives were much smarter than we are now because of their easy all-inclusive casserole recipes. Thanks Tina for this delicious and easy recipe!

Hamburger Casserole

12 Ounces Pasta, penne or egg noodles work the best
1 Pound Ground Beef
1 Small Yellow Onion, chopped
8 Ounces Cream Cheese
3 Tablespoons Sour Cream
1 15 Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
1 Teaspoon Salt & Pepper
1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Cook pasta until almost al dente, drain and reserve. In a large skillet cook the hamburger and onion together until the hamburger is browned, then drain. Next mix together the pasta, ground beef & onion mixture, cream cheese, sour cream, tomato sauce, and salt & pepper until well combined. Place mixture into a medium sized casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the grated cheddar cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and top is golden brown, let rest for a few minutes and serve.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pumpkin Waffles

I have been so busy with work I haven’t been able to get into the kitchen this last week, it’s killing me! I had today off and have been wanting to try out a pumpkin waffle recipe and thought that would be perfect for breakfast today. I’m not a big fan of belgium waffles, so I used a traditional waffle iron and they turned out really soft, moist and delicious. This recipe can be used with a belgium waffle iron as well, so just use whatever you have on hand. I think you could even make pumpkin pancakes with this batter, the ingredients are pretty similar to pancake batter, maybe I will give that a try next time.
I was going to make a cinnamon flavored whipped cream for the topping, but was too lazy, so I melted some butter over the top and drizzed them with a little honey, perfection!

Pumpkin Waffles

2 ½ Cups Flour
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
4 Eggs
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 15 Ounce Can Pumpkin
6 Tablespoons Butter, melted

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients with a whisk, set aside. In a second large bowl whisk together all the remaining ingredients until well combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients, whisking until completely incorporated.
Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees (to keep waffles warm while you make them)
Pour the appropriate amount of batter into your greased and pre-heated waffle iron and cook according to the manufactures directions, place waffle in oven to keep warm, and repeat until all batter is used.
Serve with warm maple syrup, or honey.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pork Carnitas

I’m sorry if I’ve bored you with the last few postings, I know that salsa’s and chips aren’t too exciting, even to the novice cook. I was actually just trying to get those out of the way to post this yummy recipe. I love pork carnitas and this is the easiest recipe ever. True pork carnitas is pork fried in fat the entire time and I just couldn’t get into that as it really grosses me out a bit thinking about cooking meat in fat for a couple hours.
A friend from work made this and recommended it to me because it was such a good recipes, and I had seen versions of this before but never tried it out, but will put it in my top 10 favorite Mexican recipes for future use. Oh, can I also tell you how amazing the house smells while this cooks? Definitely need a little snack to tie you over until the meat is done!

Pork Carnitas

4 Pounds Country Boneless Country Ribs, or Butt Roast
6 Cloves Garlic, peeled
1 Orange, zested and juiced
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Quart Chicken Stock
¼ Cup Brandy

Trim large pieces of fat from the ribs, and reserve. In a large heavy dutch oven or 12 inch deep skillet add the pork, fat, garlic, orange zest and juice, ground cumin, salt and enough chicken stock to just cover the meat. Cover pot with lid and bring to a low simmer, cover and cook until meat is very tender, about 2 hours.
Uncover, turn heat up to medium and boil until liquid is reduced by half, add the brandy and continue cooking stirring often, until liquid evaporates and the meat starts to get browned and crispy, about 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly remove any large pieces of fat, and shred with a fork, should be very easy to shred at this time, and serve on tortillas with salsa. I served mine with a pico de gallo and the Avocado & Tomatillo Salsa.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa

I saw this recipe online and had to make it, as I am such a huge salsa fan. The flavor is bright, tangy, and almost refreshing. I don’t use tomatillos very often, but when I do I always enjoy them. This recipe went perfectly with my pork tacos that I made this week, don’t worry that recipe will be up very soon! I think next time I make it I might add a bit of sour cream to make the texture a little more creamy. Also, this recipe makes a pretty large batch, so you may want to cut it in half.

Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa

3 Avocados, peeled and chopped
8 Ounces Fresh Tomatillos, husked, rinsed and chopped
2 Serrano Pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tablespoons Onion, minced
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped

Place the tomatillos, Serrano peppers, onion, and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely minced. Add the avocados and pulse until the texture is to your liking, I left mine a little bit chunky.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pico de Gallo

This is the good old basic salsa recipe. I love the fresh flavor and the ease of this recipe. If you are not a huge cilantro fan you can use flat leaf parsley instead. You can also add many other ingredients to mix this recipe up a bit, such as roasted corn, black beans, cucumber, jicima, or any fresh hers you like. I made two bowls of this salsa this week and had it with chips for lunch, it’s just so good.

Pico de Gallo

4 Tomatoes, diced
½ Yellow Onion, finely minced
1 Serrano Pepper , seeds removed and finely minced(or jalapeno if you don’t like your salsa hot)
Handful Cilantro, chopped
½ Teaspoon Salt

Mix all ingredients well and let sit for a few minutes for all the flavors to mingle.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Almost Guilt Free Chips

Do you ever have a craving for chips? I think I do on a daily basis, but try not to have them on hand because they would be gone within minutes. I also love chips and salsa, It’s one of my favorite snacks, and I could eat them every day of the week. When I plan on making salsa, I love to make these oven baked chips, because they are so much healthier that fried corn chips. The texture is similar to a regular chip, just a bit tougher, but I personally like the extra bit of crunch it adds.

Almost Guilt Free Chips

6 Corn Tortillas
Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
Kosher Salt

Cut tortillas into the size of chips you like, and lay on a baking sheet in a single layer. Spray the chips liberally with the cooking spray then sprinkle with salt. Bake at 500 degrees until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Make sure to watch them carefully because they do burn really easily. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pumpkin Crème Brulee

I love pumpkin anything…pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin…I think you get the idea. I had a couple friends over for dinner last week and wanted to do something fall-esque for dessert and though that a pumpkin crème brulee would be perfect, and it was. Crème brulee is one of my all time favorite desserts and the addition of pumpkin was amazing. I gobbled mine down quickly and finished another for breakfast in the morning. I think that I might have to make these only once a year because they are way too tempting sitting in the fridge. They are really creamy, not too sweat, and the caramelized sugar on top is the perfect complement to the rich pumpkin flavor.

Pumpkin Crème Brulee

2 Cups Heavy Cream
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Sugar
8 Egg Yolks
½ Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Cup Pumpkin

In a saucepan combine the cream, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Bring to just a simmer over medium high heat, stirring constantly to keep the cream from burning. Remove from the heat.

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks until frothy. Add 1 cup of the hot cream, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Add the rest of the cream mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth into a clean bowl. (I used my large Pyrex measuring dish with a spout so I could pour it into the ramekins easily).

Pour mixture into 6 ½-cup ramekins and place in a 9x12 inch pan, pour enough boiling water into the dish to come half way up the ramekins. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven until custard is just set, in the center, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from water bath and chill for at least 3 hours, to overnight.

To serve sprinkle each custard with ½ teaspoon granulated sugar and caramelize with a torch, or place under a broiler and watch carefully as sugar caramelizes quickly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Coq Au Vin & Rosemary Polenta

I have seen this recipe made many times and have been dying to try it out. I have never had Coq Au Vin before, but knew it would be delicious because of the list of ingredients. I got this recipe from Tyler Florence from the Food Network. This turned out to be pure perfection! There is such a depth of flavor, and even though there are a lot of ingredients in the recipe, it’s quite easy to make. I served my version over a bed of rosemary polenta, which went perfectly with this rich hearty dish.
To make this dish more over the top than it already is I used the freshest just picked Oregon Chantrelle mushrooms, they were pure heaven, and so full of flavor and texture!

Coq Au Vin

6 slices bacon
2 chicken breasts 2 thighs 2 legs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt Pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups pearl onions, peeled
2 cups mushrooms
2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 bottle Burgundy wine
2 cups chicken broth
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
3 bay leaves Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Coat chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper. Brown chicken in hot bacon fat on both sides.
Add garlic, onions, mushrooms and carrots. Saute 2 minutes to soften. Pour cognac into a small glass. Remove pan from heat, pour in cognac, Flambe by lighting a long match and holding it just above the pot, light the fumes. The brandy will catch fire and the flames will burn out within 1 minute. When the flames die down, return the pan to the heat and gradually stir in the wine and broth. When the wine is well blended, add the herbs. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce a bit. You may want to add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste or cornstarch to aid in the thickening process.
To serve, top the chicken and vegetables with reserved crumbled bacon and fresh parsley.

Rosemary Polenta

1 ½ Cups Water
2 Cups Cream
4 Springs Rosemary
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Instant Polenta
¼ Cup Butter
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese

In a large sauce pan add the water, cream, rosemary, and salt, bring to a simmer and turn down heat to the lowest setting and steep the rosemary for about 20 minutes, then remove. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the polenta, turn down to low and cook for about 5 minutes or until polenta is cooked through. Add butter and parmesan cheese, stir to combine.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Endive with Apple & Honey

I was trying to think of an easy appetizer to go with dinner this week and this came to mind. It’s such a simple recipe that can be thrown together in minutes and has intense delicious flavor. I love the combination of blue cheese and apple, which is such a classic pairing. I usually do this with a crostini, but didn’t want to bother with slicing and browning bread, so substituted endive instead. I love the crunch the endive added to the dish, and it cut out a lot of calories and prep time.

Endive with Apple & Honey

2 Endives
4 Ounces Blue Cheese (I used a really pungent gorgonzola)
1 Sweet Red Apple, cut into thin slices

Trim ends off the endive and separate the leaves. Fill each leaf with a little blue cheese, and then press the apple slice into the blue cheese to hold it in place. Drizzle with a little honey, and serve.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

I am still lucky to have some left over tomatoes and decided to make a version of Pam’s roasted tomato sauce that I saw on her blog a few weeks ago. Can I just tell you how amazing this sauce smelled while roasting in the oven, and then even more amazing reducing on the stove top! I used small tomatoes, that hardly had any seeds in them, so I didn’t go to the trouble of taking the seeds out, but I did remove the skins since they were a little tough. This sauce is so good on its own, and would also be great on pizza, or with some sausage or hamburger added to make it a bit more hearty. I am actually making another batch tomorrow with the rest of my tomatoes!Thanks for this delicious recipe Pam!

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

14 Tomatoes
1 Sweet Onion
Dried Thyme
Dried Oregano
Salt & Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic

Start by removing the skin from the tomatoes-Cut an x in the skin at the bottom point of the tomato and then place in boiling water for about 15 seconds, then place in an ice bath to cool, skin will easily pull away from tomato, continue until all tomatoes are peeled.
Cut out stem and quarter tomatoes, place on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, add onion and sprinkle generously with the thyme, oregano, salt & pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Place in a 350 degree oven for one hour, or until tomatoes are lightly wilted and onions are lightly golden.
Process in batches in a blender or food processor until sauce is fairly smooth, pour into a large sauce pan. Add garlic an additional tablespoon thyme and oregano (or more/less to taste). Bring to a light simmer and let cook until nice and thick, about 1-1 ½ hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and a little bit of sugar if too acidic.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Flour Tortillas

Growing up I always loved going to my aunt Sheila’s house because she made delicious homemade flour tortillas. They were soft, flavorful, and fresh off the stove, much better than you could buy in the grocery store. She didn’t use a recipe, so I was never able to re-create her masterpiece. Luckily my cousin December has come up with a recipe, so I can finally make fresh tortillas too.

Flour Tortillas

3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Cup, plus 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Shortening
1 1/8 Cups Warm Water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour baking powder and salt. With a fork cut in the shortening until well incorporated. Add the water and continue to mix with a fork until the dough comes together, lightly knead the dough incorporating enough flour to form a soft, barely sticky dough. You will have extra flour, so don’t overwork the dough and make it tough. Divide the dough into 2 inch rounds, cover with a towel and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Lightly flour a board and roll out the tortillas to about 1/8 inch thick. Cook tortillas in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until lightly browned on each side, about 1 minute. Keep wrapped in a towel while cooking other tortillas to keep warm.
Makes about 8-10 tortillas.

I used a seasoned hamburger and my yummy tomato cucumber salsa to make tacos. I can’t really call this a recipe, but here is how I make the meat. Fry one pound of hamburger until browned, drain fat. Add one 15 ounce can tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and serve.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Olive Oil & Herb Tomatoes

I am still using up the remaining tomatoes from my garden and decided to make my version of sundried tomatoes. I absolutely love a good sundried tomato, and this is a great recipe. I use these tomatoes in pasta, on pizza, or to make a yummy sundried tomato pesto. If you have seen the price of good pre-packaged sundried tomatoes, you will realize that its much about the same price as making your own, but these are much better. Also, make sure to use the oil, it will have a delicious herby/tomato flavor after a few days, and make a really delicious bread dip.

Olive Oil & Herb Tomatoes

Tomatoes (I prefer smaller tomatoes as they are much sweeter and have less seeds).
Dried Oregano
Dried Rosemary
Dried Thyme
Salt & Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut tomatoes into ¼ inch-thick slices and lay in a single layer on cookie sheet. Next sprinkle tomatoes with the oregano, rosemary, thyme, and salt & pepper, don’t be shy with the herbs!
Bake until tomatoes are dried through, and almost crisp on the edge, about 3-4 hours. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Next layer tomatoes into a clean container and then pour enough olive oil to just cover top layer of tomatoes, seal tightly and store in refrigerator for up to one month.

Here is how your tomatoes will look when they are done, much smaller and the skin will be a bit crinkly.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Irish Cream

My co-worker Val makes the best homemade Irish Cream and there is nothing better than having a splash of it in your coffee in the morning on your day off. This recipe is really easy to make and is a great gift to give. It’s quick recipe and makes about 1 liter. I also like to drink it over ice on its own for an after dinner treat. Cheers!

Irish Cream

1 ¾ Cups Brandy
1 Can Fat Free Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Cup Fat Free Half & Half
1 Cup Egg Beaters
2 Tablespoons Hershey’s Syrup
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Teaspoons Instant Coffee
½ Teaspoon Almond Extract

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk and store in an air tight container for up to two weeks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tomato & Cucumber Salsa

I just harvested about a million tomatoes from my garden the other day, and thought I could use some of them in a salsa. I should have a better game plan for my tomatoes, because every fall they all ripen at the same time and I am scrambling to use them all! One of my favorite things is a fresh salsa, and you can’t beat the flavor a fresh garden tomato. I also have several cucumbers and decided to throw that into the salsa for a bit of texture and flavor, it was really good.

Tomato & Cucumber Salsa

6 Tomatoes, Diced small
1 Cucumber, peeled and seeded, chopped small
½ Sweet Onion, diced
½ Bunch Cilantro, chopped
2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeds removed and diced
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Ground Cumin

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, add more salt if necessary. Let sit for a few minutes for the flavors to mingle together. If you like a spicier salsa, don’t remove the seeds from the peppers. Serve with corn chips! I also add a lot of fresh herbs to my salsa to add more flavor, like oregano, thyme, or parsley. Enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Birthday!

Last year I threw myself a birthday party and decided that it was so much fun I had to do it again. This year I decided to do a sit down dinner instead of last year’s appetizers and more casual affair. Beings that I live in a small house, my dining room was not big enough for my 14 guests, so I decided to put the dining table in the living room. I brought in the outdoor table and put it together with my dining table so we had enough room for everyone. I also hung some lights above the table and lit a ton of candles for ambiance. It turned out to be the perfect space for dinner!

Here is a picture of the place settings…I used mailing labels as place card holders for everyone so they knew where to sit. They also double as a tag for their glass, so they wouldn’t lose it. I had a box of votive candles I placed all over the table so we would have lots of candle light.

For dinner I serve my yummy Paella, which had shrimp, chicken, chorizo sausage, mussels, rice, tomatoes, onion and garlic, you can find the recipe here. The traditional way to serve paella is on its own or with a loaf of bread, which I also did. It was so nice to throw a dinner party and only have to worry about cooking one dish!

Everyone had such a nice time sitting around the table, eating and chatting, and laughing a lot.

Well you can’t have a birthday without dessert, right? I looked for some Spanish desserts and wasn’t really impressed with my options, so I decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake, since that’s one of my favorites. I made this last fall, and have been craving it ever since, you can find the recipe here. Also one of my friends brought a really delicious spice cake with cream cheese frosting, so it was the perfect ending to the night, two desserts!
I received a couple of new cookbooks, which I can’t wait to write about and a finishing salt sampler which I have already broken into. Thanks everyone for making my 30th the best ever!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pumpkin Cake

My friend Greg had a birthday party last week and I volunteered to bring a cake and am so glad I made this one, I just wish I had some left over to eat right now. It is one of my favorite cakes and is perfect for any fall dinner party or birthday celebration. I was trying to think of a way to make a nice presentation and found that my hydrangea bush had the perfect leaves to do the task. This cake is so moist, and full of flavor that you really can’t go wrong. It makes a full 3 layers, so it feeds a ton of people. I posted this recipe last fall but the picture didn’t do it any justice, so I thought I could get away with deleting that post and re-submitting it. Also, I wanted to ensure that no one missed out on this amazing recipe.

p.s. Today is MY birthday, Yeah!!! I'm officially 30 and am throwing myself a birthday party. Yes I know it's crazy throwing yourself a party, but why not? (I did it last year too and it was a blast!). I am making paella and a pumpkin cheesecake...I will post pictures soon!

Pumpkin Cake

3 Cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 ½ Cups Sugar
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
4 Eggs
1 15 Ounce Can Pure Pumpkin
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
¾ Cup Raisins
¾ Cup Sweetened Flaked Coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8 inch cake pans, or two 9 inch cake pans. Sift together flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and oil in large bowl until combined (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add pumpkin and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until incorporated. Stir in raisins and coconut. Divide batter between prepared pans. Smooth tops.
Bake Cakes until tester toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about1 hour. Cool cakes completely in pans on rack. Run knife around cakes and loosen. Invert cakes onto wire rack to cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 Ounces Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 Stick Butter, room temperature
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
4 Cups Powdered Sugar

Cream together cream cheese, butter and vanilla over medium speed with an electric mixer. Continue beating on low, while adding powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, and mixing until completely incorporated. Add up to 1/2 cup additional powdered sugar if necessary to bring to spreading consistency.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quick Chicken Soup

I came down with a cold last week and had a sudden craving for homemade chicken soup. When I used to live near my parents my mom would always whip up a batch of chicken soup and bring it over to me when I was sick so I wouldn’t starve, aren't mom's the best?
Not feeling well I just didn’t have the energy to roast and boil the bones and veggies to make a rich hearty broth like I usually do so I was brainstorming what I could do to get the same flavor, which let me to a scavenger hunt through my pantry…It was a huge success! I found a jar of turkey gravy base from Williams Sonoma and I thought to myself, why not give it a try? It added that bit of richness you can only get from boiling the bones and vegetables for hours, and it took only minutes to whip up. I also used a roasted chicken from the deli so this really is the perfect soup to make when you’re in a rush or not feeling well.

Quick Chicken Soup

1 Large Yellow Onion, diced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 Carrots, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
4 Stalks Celery, sliced
1 Teaspoon Salt & Pepper
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 16 Ounce Bag Frozen Corn
4 Cups Chicken Stock
1 16 Ounce Jar Turkey Gravy Base
2 Cups Water
1 Roasted Chicken, skinned and meat cut into small pieces

Heat a dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat and add a little vegetable oil. Next add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme and continue to cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the corn, chicken stock, gravy base and water. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat down to low and simmer until the carrots and celery are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken and stir to incorporate, adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Black Pepper Chicken

This is the easiest recipe to make and it has so much flavor. I was craving Thai food the other night and remembered this recipe in my Food and Wine magazine and had everything on hand to make it, so dinner was served. This is such a nice balance of sweet, tangy, and spicy, I just finished the left-overs tonight. I love the small amount of ingredients that it takes, and you get enough sauce to serve over rice.

Black Pepper Chicken

½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Asian Fish Sauce (or more to taste)
¼ Cup Water
3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 Teaspoon Fresh Ginger, finely grated (I love ginger, so I doubled this amount)
1 Teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
2 Thai Chili’s, cut in half (I substituted Serrano Chili’s)
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
1 Pound Boneless Skinless Chicken (breast or thigh)
Cilantro, for garnish

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, fish sauce, water, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, pepper, and chilies.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the shallot and cook over medium high heat until softened. Add the sauce mixture and the chicken and simmer over high heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.