Archive for the ‘Foo’s Cookin’’ Category

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Two-Color Ziti Fake-Bake

September 10, 2010

The September Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine had a 30-minute meal recipe for Two-Color Ziti Fake-Bake. It looked like something that both Dan and I would like and I thought it would be perfect to portion out and freeze for future lunches/dinners. I also loved that it used kale – since I seem to be on a kale kick.

My end result looked nothing like the magazine photo, but I’m o.k. with that. The reason being – mine looked way better, hah!

The Ingredients:

3/4 Pound Ziti Pasta
3.5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic – grated or finely chopped
1 Bunch Kale – the recipe suggested Tuscan or dinosaur – I got organic dinosaur – taken off stems and thinly sliced
Freshly Grated Nutmeg – to taste
1 Cup Fresh Ricotta
1/4 Cup Grated Onion – I chopped mine
One 28 Ounce Can of Italian Tomatoes in Puree – I just used Hunt’s Puree
A Few Fresh Basil Leaves
8 oz. Thinly Sliced Fresh Mozzarella
Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese – I probably used 1/2 Cup or more

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add the ziti pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. I just set my aside in a measuring cup.

I prepped the kale while the pasta cooked.

I took it off the stems, thinly sliced it and gave it a second rinse. Apparently “Organic” means straight out of the ground – this bunch had tons of soil between the leaves.

I sautéed the kale with 1.5 tablespoons olive oil and garlic. I stirred until the kale became wilted and then added the freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper and then transferred to a plate.

I measured out the ricotta into a casserole dish and placed it under the broiler.

You want to make sure the oven rack is in the upper third of the oven.

I used the same sauté pan from the kale for the next step. Heat the remaining olive oil and onion, 2 cloves of garlic and basil over medium heat. The recipe then tells you to use a blender or food processor to puree the tomatoes. I just bought pureed tomatoes, so I opened the can and added the puree to the onion, garlic and basil. I then added salt and pepper to taste. I lowered the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

The next step was to build the casserole dish.

I added the pasta, reserved cooking water and the kale on top of the golden browned ricotta.

I then added all of the sauce to the pasta and then topped with freshly shredded Parmesan and the sliced fresh mozzarella. The recipe wanted me to only use 2/3 of the sauce and use the rest at the table. Nope – I just added it all and I’m glad I did – the extra sauce was the perfect amount. It also suggested a thin layer of Parm, I used a thick layer and I didn’t have giant spaces between my fresh mozzarella – I set each piece next to each other. Probably why mine didn’t look like the magazine photo after cooking. I placed the dish under the broiler for about 8-10 minutes until the cheese was golden and bubbling.

The recipe says it serves 4 – I think it was more like 6-8.

Dan and I both gobbled it up and had plenty of containers for the freezer for future meals. Even though there are a lot of photographs, the prep time was really easy. I love that the only oven time was under the broiler – normally ziti bake takes at least an hour in the oven. Pre-cooking the pasta was a great idea. That Rachael Ray – always thinking of time savers for busy cooks. Love that! This would be an easy mid-week meal. I served it with a warm rustic bread and it was delicious!

Have a great weekend everyone! We’ll be heading to the Bay Area for a crazy hat party on Saturday – I hope to have lots of photos from that.

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Corn Chowder

September 9, 2010

So I take it you guys aren’t big fans of eggplant pasta, LOL. No worries, today’s recipe is much more sinful.

Yesterday’s weather made me crave soup. The wind, the overcast skies – I knew I wanted to make soup after work. You see, living in Sacramento, CA with hotter temps has made us all think 70 degrees is freezing. Break out the hoodies, blankets and Uggs. No seriously, I’m not kidding.

I had remembered seeing corn for super cheap at the store and corn chowder is one of my favorite soups – so I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and surfed the Internet on my iPhone to come up with a recipe. I ended up combining several recipes to make my own.

The Ingredients:

6 Ears of Corn – I used 3 sweet white and 3 yellow – it was just over 3 cups.
8 Ounces of Bacon – Cut into strips
1 Large Sweet White Onion
1 Large Leek – sliced into moon shapes – slit down center and chop
1 Pound Yukon Gold Potatoes – 3 medium = 1 pound
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme
2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
4 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Teaspoons Cornstarch – dissolved into 2 tablespoons water
Salt and Ground Pepper – to taste

Bacon, bacon, bacon… I love me some bacon. I used a dutch oven and set the stove to a medium heat and added the chopped bacon. Once it rendered a few tablespoons of fat, I increased the heat to high and cooked the bacon until crisp and golden brown. I then poured off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.

I prepped my onion, leek and thyme and measured out the ground cumin and butter.

Adding butter to bacon fat felt so wrong, but so right at the same time. The smells coming from this pot were heavenly. I Sautéed the ingredients, stirring occasionally until the onion and leeks were soft.

I then added the corn, potatoes…

and chicken stock to the pot. I brought things to a boil and cooked for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes were soft. I used a potato masher to mash some of the corn and potatoes in the pot. I reduced the heat to medium.

I added the corn starch and water mixture and waited for the soup to thicken a bit. The mashing really helped to thicken it as well. I let the soup simmer for about 5 more minutes – stirring it throughout. I then pulled it off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.

I added the super sinful heavy whipping cream and continued to give the chowder a good stir. I did try the soup before adding the chowder and it was really good. You could omit that step if you are really watching calories. Me, not so much. I wanted mine super creamy and rich. I added salt and pepper to taste.

Outdoor photo with what natural light was left…

Indoor photo just before diving in. I seriously had to refrain from eating 2-3 bowls of this chowder. I stopped after one and have been thinking about it ever since. Sort of like the scalloped tomato dish. I have bowls stacked in my fridge ready to go for lunches.

I found so many corn chowder recipes the included bell pepper, cheese and many other interesting ingredients. I am happy that I omitted some things and added others. 2 thumbs up – I will for sure be making this soup many more times.

Dan came through the front door and thought we were having taco night because of the smells. Taco night is his favorite, guess that will need to happen soon.

So are you a fan of corn chowder? How about clam chowder?

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Nat’s Peach Pit Crisp

September 2, 2010

9/02/10 – It’s 90210 day and I’m celebrating with a recipe for Nat’s Peach Pit Crisp – named after the famous 90210 hangout,  The Peach Pit Diner. Yep, just made that name up. Remember Peach Pit After Dark?

The truth is, I actually found Anne Burrell’s recipe on the Food Network website for Peach Crisp. I omitted a few items and increased some of the ingredients and renamed it for the purpose of celebrating the day.

I can’t even begin to explain how obsessed I was with 90210 back when it first aired in 1990. How crazy, 20 years, really? Wow… I taped every episode on the family VCR and I color coded each VHS cassette. I had pins, stickers, trading cards, magazine articles, posters, and most importantly… the FREAKIN’ DOLLS. I had all of the dolls and multiple outfits for each – I still have the boxes and the outfits are sealed in the original packaging and worth about $1.50, hah!

Check out Kelly and Donna hangin’ out on my peaches. “Donna Martin Graduates” – You know you’re jealous… Brandon looks a little possessed, but Brenda sure is rockin’ her Blossom hat. I can’t forget good ol’ Dylan McKay – with his eyebrow scar. Bad boy central.

The Ingredients:

For the Filling
6 Large Ripe Peaches – pitted, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Lemon – zested and juiced
3 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar – tightly packed
2 Tablespoons Sugar – because the brown wasn’t enough 😉
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Kosher Salt

For the Topping
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 1/4 Stick Cold Unsalted Butter – cut into pea sized pieces
Pinch of Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons Cold Water

Set your oven to 350 degrees F and then prep your peaches – peel and cut into chunks and place into a large bowl.

Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and toss.

Add the rest of the filling ingredients and stir to combine.

Divide the filling evenly between 8 (6 ounce) ramekins.

For the topping… combine all of the ingredients in a bowl (except for the water) and mix with your hands. I really made sure that the pieces of butter were evenly dispersed. After a minute or two of mixing, gradually add the 2 tablespoons of water until the mixture is clumpy, but still crumbly.

Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and top each ramekin with the topping. Be sure to loosely sprinkle the topping  – you don’t want to pack it down. The idea is for it to be a loose crumble. Bake until the filling is hot and bubbly and the topping is brown and crispy. The original recipe said 20-25 minutes – mine easily took 35-40 minutes.

I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream and was good to go.

I had fun looking through all of my old trading cards…

And then I dove right in… It was awesome! Dan and I both gobbled it down. 6 more to enjoy…think I’ll be giving some away.

Happy 90210 Day!

P.S. – For all of you original 90210 fans – who was your favorite character?

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South of the Border Tomato Soup

August 30, 2010

The weather over the weekend was a sneak peek into fall – it was overcast in the mornings and I actually broke out a sweatshirt. I love Fall so much that I knew I wanted to find a soup recipe. My Mom is the “Queen” of homemade soups and it’s time I adopted a similar title.

I have stacks and stacks of magazines full of recipes and I decided I would focus on the latest Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine. There was a recipe for South of the Border Tomato Soup and apparently I still have an obsession with all things tomato.

I have always loved a good tomato soup teamed with a grilled cheese sandwich, but this had a different spin and I knew I wanted to give it a try.

The Ingredients:

4 Pints Grape Tomatoes – I had another container in the fridge – that’s a lot of tomatoes, thank God for Trader Joe’s and their cheap grape tomatoes.
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 Cups Chicken Broth – I used low sodium because I had some left from the Tofu Shirataki Ramen recipe
1 Teaspoon Honey
1 Ripe Avocado
1/4 Cup Plain Reduced-Fat Greek Yogurt – I used Fage 0%
4 Ounces Sharp Yellow Cheddar Cheese – Shredded (1 Packed Cup)
1/2 Teaspoon Ancho Chile Powder
1.5 Cups Lightly Crushed Baked Tortilla Chips – I used Trader Joe’s Spicy Soy and Flaxseed Tortilla Chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and place the tomatoes on top. My parchment paper said it could withstand 400 degrees F. I was a little leery to try it at 450, but decided after consulting with Dan to give it a go. No issues, it worked like a champ.

Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Oven shot…

Roast the tomatoes until the skins begin to split and blister, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes and any of the juices to a food processor.

I had to do mine in 3 batches – how sad is it that I had to reference my post on the minty pea and butter bean hummus recipe to see how the blender/food processor went together. Hah! I need to use it more often.

Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the tomatoes and process until coarsely pureed, about 10 seconds.

Force the mixture through a fine sieve/strainer set over a medium saucepan, discarding the seeds and pulp.

You are left with the above nightmare. Cleaning that puppy was not fun!

Add the honey and the remaining 1 cup chicken broth to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, about 5-10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash the avocado; stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. (You could also do this step while the tomatoes are in the oven)

I used a fork to mash the ingredients together.

I stored the avo mixture in the fridge and started on the cheese. Place the cheese in a medium bowl and sprinkle the ancho chile  powder on top.

Let the soup finish simmering and then ladle into bowls and serve with the avocado cream, cheese and tortilla chips.

This soup was incredible! Totally worth the extra work and steps of making it from scratch.

I was able to enjoy a rather large bowl, and I had 3 containers left for lunches or dinners this week.

Next time I think I will double the recipe – especially when I can get tomatoes on sale.

The mess was not equal to the fruits of my labor – a double batch and a full-sized food processor would have helped.

I look forward to many more soup recipes here on the blog and enjoying them all Fall/Winter long.

What’s your favorite soup?

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Coconut Shrimp

August 27, 2010

It was time to make something that the hub and I could enjoy together.  Dan told me when I started this blog not to worry about him for dinners. Sure, he loves when I cook something that he would like, but he’s just not the adventurous type. I love veggies and trying new things. He loves cereal, corn dogs and pizza.

I stumbled upon a recipe in my Taste of Home Summer Appetizer magazine for Coconut Shrimp and I knew he would like it. I attempted to make it on several occasions but never brought the actual recipe to the grocery store – I was always missing 1-2 items. I finally copied the recipe into my phone and yesterday I picked up the last two ingredients on my lunch hour.

The Ingredients:

1 Can (14 ounces) Light Coconut Milk
1 Jalapeño Pepper – seeded and chopped
1/4 Cup Minced Fresh Cilantro
1- 1/4 Pounds Raw Medium Shrimp – I used 1 lb. of large peeled/deveined with tails on.
3/4 Cup all-purpose Flour
4 Egg Whites
3/4 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
3/4 Cup Flaked Coconut, lightly toasted – whoops, forgot that step!
1/3 Cup Apricot Preserves
1 Teaspoon Spicy Brown Mustard

Directions:

Place 2 tablespoons coconut milk in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. (This will be used in the dipping sauce later)

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the jalapeño, cilantro and remaining coconut milk.

I got my jalapeño and cilantro chopped up for the marinade…

…and  my shrimp washed and then it was time to add everything to the Ziploc bag.

I placed the shrimp into the bag and gently turned it to make sure all of the shrimp were coated well with the marinade. I then set the bag in the fridge for an hour while I hit the treadmill.

The next step… Place flour in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, lightly beat the 4 egg whites. In a third bowl, combine the bread crumbs and the lightly toasted coconut. I did not toast mine – due to forgetting that step all together. It stuck really well without being toasted. The shrimp would probably turn out more golden if I had done the toasting step. Maybe next time.

Drain and discard the marinade.

Dip shrimp in flour and then egg whites. Then roll them into the panko/coconut mixture. This took a while, but was worth the effort.

Place the coated shrimp on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-9 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. I turned mine over at 9 minutes and the second side only took about 6 minutes.

I prepared the dipping sauce while the shrimp was in the oven.

I grabbed the 2 tablespoons of coconut milk out of the fridge and added a heaping teaspoon of Sierra Nevada Porter and Spicy Brown Mustard to 1/3 cup apricot preserves and used a fork to really mix it well.

My photos are super orange due to the lack of natural sunlight. No worries – I’m shopping for a new camera 😉 – otherwise the fall/winter months could be really difficult for my food photos after 6:00 p.m.

Back to the shrimp… The kitchen smelled amazing, the timer went off and it was time for plating, final blog photos and eating.

Kind of hard to see their shapes with them piled on the plate.

I just kept wanting to pull the toasted coating off the shrimp pieces.

More photos…

More grainy photos…

These were iPhone photos with very little light…

I made a side of coleslaw and we both dove in. We pretty much ate the entire cookie sheet full of shrimp between the two of us. It was awesome! The perfect amount of crunch combined with plump and juicy shrimp. The sauce was addicting – I wanted to lick the bowl.

While it was a more time-consuming meal to prepare, I managed. I worked a full 8 hr. day, got in a 70 minute treadmill workout and still had time to prepare and sit down for a nice dinner with Dan. Couldn’t ask for anything more perfect than that.

Have a great weekend!

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Aarti’s Massaged Kale Salad

August 26, 2010

So it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with all things Food Network. Watching the 6th season of The Next Food Network Star definitely fell into that obsession.  I really liked Aarti Sequeira from the beginning. I loved that she was a food blogger over at Aarti Paarti before going on the show. Her personal style was to infuse Indian cuisine into everyday American foods. She questioned her ability to compete with working/professionally trained chefs, yet she won lots of the competitions and challenges. I was not surprised that she was crowned The Next Food Network Star.

Her first showed aired over the weekend. I set the DVR and watched it on Monday. I really liked her style and the first show had some great recipes. Sloppy Bombay Joe’s – which I plan on making at some point, Massaged Kale Salad, which I did make,  and Creamy Pistachio Pops.

I loved the Kale Chips I made back in July…but those were cooked. Raw kale? Who knew? The concept was really interesting to me.

The Ingredients:

1 Bunch of Kale – She used black kale – I already had regular curly kale on hand  – she mentioned that was fine too. (Remove stalks and discard, ribbon slice the leaves).
1 Lemon – Juiced
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Plus extra for drizzling
Kosher Salt to Taste
2 Teaspoons Honey – I added a little more
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Mango – Diced small (about 1 cup)
Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) – about 2 rounded tablespoons – I used about 4 tablespoons.

Directions:

Wash your kale and then pat dry with paper towels.

Using your hands – strip the kale off the stalk. This was very easy. I just held the stalk firmly and used my hand to slide through the curly leaves – they came right off the stalk very easily.

You are left with a pretty big pile of kale leaves. The idea is to roll them up as best as you can and then use a sharp knife to finely slice the kale into ribbons.

The curly kale made the process a little harder than what Aarti did with the black kale, but it worked in the end. I added the kale ribbons to a large bowl with 1/2 the lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt.

You then dive right into the bowl with your hands. Massage the kale, lemon, oil and salt mixture until the kale starts to soften and wilt. I had a photo of me massaging the kale, but my hand looked like a giant ham hock and that was really disturbing. Massage the kale for a good 2-3 minutes. Aarti mentioned that it will start to smell like bananas – not so much, never got the banana aroma.

The volume of the kale definitely changed – before massaging, the kale was almost to the top of the bowl. It was amazing how much softer it got after the 3 minutes.

I got my mango chopped and then I started preparing the dressing.

I whisked together the remaining lemon juice, honey and freshly ground black pepper. I then slowly added the 1/4 cup of oil, while whisking until it formed the texture of a well mixed dressing. I tasted it, added some more honey and some more lemon juice – I thought it was a little too oily.

I added the pepitas to the salad and poured on the dressing, tossed, and then plated.

Outside photo with sunlight…

Inside photo with my iPhone…

What an amazing salad. It was perfect for a 106 degree day. I ate a small bowl, had some cheese toast with celery root and carrot salad and then had a hot date with my treadmill and the Rachel Zoe Project, followed by Top Chef and another small bowl of the salad – OMG, it tasted even better after marinating in the fridge for longer. The salad is addicting. Aarti mentioned on her show that because of the hearty structure of kale, it will hold up for several days in the fridge – dressing and all. What an awesome lunch option for me, love it!

I’m really looking forward to future Aarti Party shows. It’s about time I kicked things up Indian style. This blog was about branching out and trying new foods and styles of cooking. Never in a million years did I think I’d be looking forward to seconds, thirds and fourths of a raw kale salad.

Go me…

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Cheese Toast w/Celery Root and Carrot Salad

August 15, 2010

I was a little apprehensive going into my weekend. It’s Dan’s annual motorcycle ride with his buddies and I always get a little (scratch that) “a lot” nervous as soon as he leaves the driveway.

I made sure to keep myself busy all weekend.

Friday night was pedicures and sushi with my bestie. Saturday was spent hanging out with my parents up at their place. We filled the day with shopping, lunching, Baskin Robbins and cooking – I made the scalloped tomatoes as a side dish to my Mom’s chicken picatta. It was fabulous! I got home in time for another monster treadmill workout and then called it a night. Higgins and I hit the pillow hard and slept through the night. That’s kind of rare when Dan isn’t home.

I had movie plans today with girlfriends. We met up for the first showing of Eat Pray Love  and then headed to Whole Foods for lunch and shopping. I cruised through the salad bar at Whole Foods and wished I had access to it on a more regular basis – like it was permanently located in my house for daily lunches 😉 –  We didn’t finish up with lunch until 4:00 p.m. and I knew I wanted something light for a late dinner.

I have been on the search for celery root for a while. The food co-op doesn’t carry it on a regular basis, Nugget never has it – so when I saw it at Whole Foods, I knew I needed to get it to try a recipe I had bookmarked in my Williams-Sonoma Complete Outdoor Living Cookbook. Cheese toasts with celery root-carrot salad.

The Ingredients:

1 Ounce Sherry Wine Vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1.5 Ounces Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Large Carrots (I didn’t peel mine before shredding)
1/2 Celery Root
Garlic Powder, Parsley, Salt and Ground pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Shredded Gruyère Cheese
Sliced Rustic Italian Bread – I only had 1/2 a loaf – I made 8 pieces and still had enough salad left over for another 8-10 pieces. The recipe called for large slices of coarse country bread – I had smaller Rustic Italian leftover from the scalloped tomatoes.

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Pour in the oil, whisking constantly until blended and then set aside.

Get your carrots shredded and then get to work on your celery root.

I took a picture of it standing up so you could get the idea if you aren’t familiar with a celery root. Whole Foods does some prep on theirs, sometimes they come all hairy and coconut like on the bottom bulb part.

The celery root’s flesh discolors when exposed to oxygen, so the vinegar from the dressing will help it remain white in color.  The first thing you want to do is slice the end of the bulb off. Next you want to slice away the skin, leaving as much flesh as possible.

Slice around the root until all skin is removed.

I then cut my root in 1/2 and shredded it with the grater.

After you get the celery root shredded, add it to a large bowl with the shredded carrots. The next step is to mix the shredded veggies together and add your seasonings.

Garlic powder, salt, pepper and parsley (The recipe says you could use fresh tarragon, chervil or parsley, I only had dried parsley and it worked out fine). The next step is to add the sherry, Dijon and evoo dressing to the carrots and celery root mix.

Preheat the broiler on your oven while you prep the toast.

Brush your bread with olive oil and then put under the broiler for 2 minutes on 1 side. Then take the toasted bread out of the oven and turn the pieces over. Then brush with a little more olive oil and place the shredded Gruyère on top of each piece and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes  – until the cheese melts and the edges are golden brown.

I forgot to take a picture of the melted cheese, whoops. Last step – top the cheese toast with the salad mixture and serve.

I could not wait to dive in.

I loved the flavor combination and will definitely be making these as an appetizer at my next gathering. I’m apparently going to need to invite about 100 people over, because I keep saying that after every dish I post on this blog. I ate 3 pieces for dinner and it was the perfect ending to a relaxing day with friends.

Tomorrow it’s back to the 8-5 grind. I hope everyone had a great weekend.