Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tomato Meat Sauce

There is nothing more comforting than a rich hearty tomato meat sauce with my pasta. I had this craving the other day and whipped this dish up for a few friends that came over. It was unusually cold out so this really hit the spot. I love how easy pasta sauce is to make and it’s even better the next day for left-over’s. This is a standby for me if I need to feed a lot of people and don’t have a ton of time to cook. Feel free to add bell peppers, roasted red peppers, basil, or anything else to this sauce to make it your own!

Tomato Meat Sauce

1 Pound Ground Beef
1 Pound Ground Italian Sausage (I like to use spicy)
1 Teaspoon Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Large Onion, chopped
5 Stalks Celery, chopped
1 Pound Mushrooms, chopped
1 28-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
1 28-Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
2 Bay Leaves
Small Handful Italian Parsley, chopped

In a large stock pot, over medium high heat cook ground beef and Italian sausage with salt and pepper until browned, remove and drain grease. Next add 2 Tablespoons Olive oil, chili powder, and oregano to the pan and sauté the onion, garlic and celery until just translucent, then add mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms soften up a bit. Add the Meat back to the pan and the rest of the ingredients. Turn heat to a simmer and cook for at least an hour, stirring occasionally until all flavors are well blended and sauce is thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over your favorite pasta along with a lot of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a little sprinkle of parsley.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Steak Marsala

I love a good steak, and prefer to cook them at home so I know that it will be good. My friend Sue came over the other night and requested steaks with a gravy and I thought why not do a marsala and mushroom sauce, it would go perfect with steak! The result was perfection, I will defiantly make this dish again. I know there is a lot of butter in the sauce, but it really seasons it well and gives it a nice sheen. I served this with my mashed potatoes and oven roasted asparagus. Thanks for the great company and inspiration Sue!

Steak Marsala

¼ Cup Olive Oil
2 Shallots, finely chopped
1 ½ Pounds Mushrooms, sliced
2 Cups Dry Marsala Wine
1 14-Ounce Can Beef Stock
4 New York Strip Steaks
1 Stick Butter
3 Scallions, chopped thin
1 Tablespoon Chopped Italian Parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the shallots and mushrooms and cook over medium high heat until they become soft, remove and set aside.
Wipe the sauté pan with a paper towel and add another couple tablespoons oil to the pan, and place over high heat until just starting to smoke. Season the steaks liberally with salt and pepper and then place into the sauté pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side until a crust has formed and steaks are medium rare. Remove the steaks from the pan and cover with foil to rest.
Deglaze the pan with the marsala wine and then add the beef stock and reduce by 1/3. Add the mushrooms back to the pan and stir in the butter one tablespoon at a time until the sauce thickens and becomes a gravy-like consistency. Stir in the scallions and parsley and serve over the steaks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Japanese Pickled Cucumbers

I absolutely love cucumbers and love them even more when they are seasoned with any type of pickling spice. I found this recipe in my last Gourmet magazine and had to immediately go to the Asian market and buy the ingredients. I had never heard of Japanese cucumbers before this recipe, but sure enough they had them at the marked. They are really thin and don’t have any seeds, the skin is tender and has a bit of a spicy kick to it, I will definitely use these in the future, as I hate de-seeding cucumbers when I make salads.

Japanese Pickled Cucumbers

5 Japanese Cucumbers (you can find them at your Asian supermarket)
2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
½ Teaspoon Wasabi Powder
¼ Cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar
½ Teaspoon Soy Sauce

Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, cut cucumbers into long thin strips and place into a colander. Toss cucumbers with salt and let drain for 15 minutes. Rinse cucumbers under cold water, then squeeze handfuls of the cucumbers to remove excess water; pat dry.
Stir together the wasabi powder, vinegar, and soy sauce until wasabi powder is dissolved. Toss the cucumbers with the sauce and let sit for a few minutes for flavors to mingle. Serve within 2 days.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Black Out Cake

This is my friend Lynn’s recipe and I thought I would give it a try, it was heaven! It’s similar to my chocolate cake recipe, except it has coffee and instead of water, and uses butter instead of oil. I also tried out a new frosting, after being inspired by my last month’s Cooks magazine. I used some of the tips from that recipe along with some tips from my good old Betty Crocker. After I had the cake frosted, I thoght why not make it even more decadent, so I got out a block of milk chocolate and grated it all over the top. Thanks for the recipe Lynn!

Black Out Cake

4 cups sugar
3 1/4 cups flour
2 cups cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoon powder
6 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups brewed coffee
4 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. melted butter

In large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. In separate bowl whisk together all remaining ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix by hand until just combined. Pour batter into 3 9-inch buttered and floured cake pans. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup butter
¾ cups sour cream
4-5 cups powdered sugar

Heat chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool about 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream, add powdered sugar one cup at a time and beat until well incorporated. Add just enough powdered sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mango Margarita

I was trying to think of the perfect drink to complement my Indian dinner last week and immediately thought of the fantastic mango margarita’s I have had at Indian restaurants. I have tried many mango margarita mixes and was always disappointed because they are too sugary, so decided to experiment with my own recipe. I really enjoyed this concoction because it’s not super sweet, and it really tastes like fresh mangos. This will definitely be a staple for summer!

Mango Margaritas

1 Mango, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
12 Ounces Margarita Mix
6 Ounces Tequila

Muddle mango until completely smooth (I cheated and used my mini food processor). Add mango pulp, margarita mix and tequila to shaker with ice and shake until cold. Strain into 2 glasses full of ice and serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saag Paneer

The last time I made Saag I used chicken and my friend Therese said that Saag Paneer is so much better as the flavor of the chicken overwhelms the sauce. This inspired me to make my own paneer which I used in this recipe, and the result was sheer perfection! I am so glad that I did this, it’s now my absolute favorite dish! Thanks Therese for the inspiration!

Saag Paneer

10 Ounces Spinach Leaves, washed
1 Inch piece Fresh Ginger Root, grated
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Jalapeno, top removed, do not remove seeds
1 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Bay Leaves
¼ Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 Onion, finely chopped
1-14 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 Teaspoons Curry Powder (I like to use yellow curry powder)
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Cumin
6-8 Tablespoons Plain Yogurt
2 Pounds Paneer, cut into cubes (fry in a little bit of butter to brown, if desired)

Cook the spinach, without water in a tightly covered pan for 5 minutes. In the meantime put the ginger garlic chili pepper and ¼ cup of the water into a food processor and process until very finely minced. Next add the cooked spinach and process just until spinach is finely cut up, no not puree completely.
Heat the oil, add the bay leaves and peppercorns and fry for 2 minutes. Add the onion and fry for 6-8 minutes more.
Add the canned tomatoes to the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt, chili powder, and cumin and stir well to mix. Allow to cook for 2 minutes.
Add the spinach puree and the remaining water to the pan, and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in the yogurt 2 Tablespoons at a time and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for about 2 hours, for the flavors to meld together. (this is optional, but really makes the dish much more flavorful).
Add the paneer , cover and cook for 20 minutes more or until the paneer is heated through, stir in a little bit more yogurt and serve with warm naan bread, or over rice.

Paneer-Indian Cheese

I was so excited make paneer and was even more excited at how good it turned out! I had never dreamed that making cheese could be so easy, who would have ever thought? I looked at several recipes and decided to combine the techniques and ingredients to make my own version, and it turned out absolutely perfect. It only takes about an hour to make and is really fun to do, especially if you enjoy messing around in the kitchen like I do. I think next time I make it I will add a little bit of cumin to the paneer, as this would add a little extra flavor. I usually don’t show step by step pictures on how to make things, but thought it would be helpful with this recipe.


1 Gallon Whole Milk
1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Lemon, juiced, seeds removed
4 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Salt

Add milk and whipping cream to a large heavy pot over medium high heat, and just bring to a simmer (about 200 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Stir often while heating so milk does not burn on the bottom of the pan, then turn off the heat. Also, do not boil or milk will overflow the pot very quickly!
Add lemon juice and stir, then add vinegar one tablespoon at a time until milk starts to curdle, just add enough vinegar to curdle the milk and until the liquid becomes clear and is no longer cloudy (you may not use all the vinegar, or may need to use more), do not over-stir the milk. You have now separated the curds from the whey! Let sit for 10 minutes.
Pour the curdled milk into a strainer that is lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth or a flour sack that has been thoroughly rinsed so your cheese will not taste like fabric detergent. Sprinkle with the salt and stir to incorporate into the cheese. Secure the cloth at the top with a string or rubber band an press out as much water as possible.

Place a plate over the top of the cheese and weigh down with a gallon of water, let sit for a couple of hours to drain.
Unwrap and chill, you have now made cheese!
Here is a picture the paneer cut up into cubes, ready to eat.
If desired, serve drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice and freshly ground pepper, or you can fry (as shown above) in a little bit of butter and add to any Indian dish as a replacement for meat.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Indian Grilled Shrimp

I had some friends over for dinner last week and was cooking Indian food but couldn’t think of an appetizer. Luckily I had just received my new Food and Wine magazine and found this recipe. I thought I would give it a try and am glad I did, it was really yummy! I was going to grill the shrimp, but there was sideways rain outside, so I opted to use the broiler instead, which worked out perfectly. I just put the shrimp on a wire cooling rack and cooked them about 4 minutes per side, just until they were a little charred and cooked through.

Indian Grilled Shrimp

1 Cup Sour Cream
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon Cracked White and Black Peppercorns
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
½ Teaspoon Turmeric
16 Jumbo Shrimp, shelled and deveined

3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
½ Teaspoon Chat Masala
Lime Wedges, for serving

In large shallow dish, whisk the sour cream with the garlic, cumin seeds, garam masala, peppercorns, ground cumin, ginger and turmeric. Add the shrimp and coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.
Light a grill. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and thread onto skewers; season with salt. Oil the grates and grill over high heat until almost cooked through, 2 minutes per side. Brush the shrimp with the butter and grill until glazed and just cooked through. Sprinkle the shrimp with the Chat Masala and serve with lime wedges.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

I have had the laziest day off today and have been watching the food network all day. I hate to admit it by I am in my PJ’s still and it’s 7pm! I just got done watching Rachel Ray and she made these delicious looking pancakes and I had to immediately go to the kitchen and whip them up for dinner. I am actually typing out his recipe in-between flipping the pancakes. They smell absolutely amazing and I have already cheated and ate one fresh from the griddle and they are so amazing. The brown sugar, and the banana’s and the walnuts, it’s like bananas foster in a pancake. I can’t wait to hunker back down on the couch and indulge myself with more of these delectable treats.

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces, 1/4 cup, chopped walnuts
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 really ripe bananas, mashed up
½ cup vegetable oil
Butter, for buttering skillet
Maple syrup or honey, for drizzling

Mix dry ingredients, the first 7, in a bowl. In a another bowl, mix the wet ingredients, the next 4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, then fold in the mashed up bananas. Stir in the oil.
Heat a griddle over medium heat and brush with butter. Cook pancakes, each about 1/3 cup, until bubbles form on the top, then turn. Cakes will cook in about 2 minutes on each side. Keep pancakes tented with foil as they come off the griddle to keep them hot. Serve with drizzled honey or maple syrup over the top.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I had never heard of Cioppino until a couple of years ago when I had it at my friend Nan’s house on Christmas Eve. I was a little skeptical about a fish stew, but was pleasantly surprised by the amazing flavor of this dish. It wasn’t fishy at all and the combination of the fennel, white wine, and fish with an underlying tomato flavor was to die for. This was my first time making this and I over-cooked the salmon and halibut a bit, but it was otherwise very yummy. I think I will add some scallops next time too.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 cup oyster stock
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 pounds manila clams, scrubbed
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets such as halibut or salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks

Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, oyster and chicken stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Remove bay leaf. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes.
Recipe from FoodNetwork.Com

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oven Roasted Asparagus

I love asparagus and am so glad its back in season. I could eat this with every meal, or even on its own as a meal by itself. My favorite way to cook asparagus is on the grill, but it’s been so cold out that it isn’t worth the effort. Instead of grilling I often just use my oven! It only takes a few minutes and you get perfectly tender, crispy asparagus every time.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

1 Pound Asparagus
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Bend asparagus and snap off tough bottom part (about 2-3 inches), then wash and set aside to dry. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to ensure asparagus is coated thoroughly with the olive oil and salt & pepper.
Bake for 10-15 minutes in a 450 degree oven until just tender, if you desired you can turn on the broiler the last few minutes to slightly char the surface. Do not over-cook or asparagus will turn soggy.