Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy Sugar Cookies



















Sugar cookies and Christmas! There are millions of sugar cookie recipes out there, all basically the same, with small tweaks here and there.  I tried this recipe out from The Food Network with great success, with much help from the readers comments who mention how hard and crumbly the dough becomes after resting in the fridge, making it nearly impossible to roll out and work with.  So after I made the dough, I went ahead and rolled it out, cut my shapes and then put them on the sheet pans which went into the fridge for about an hour.  Once I removed them from the fridge, they were firm and solid.  Brilliant!  They baked evenly and did not spread.  This is the way to go.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Orange and Ginger Spiced Cranberry Sauce





















 Here we are!  Only one day left to roll out all that food!  Get your engines running and grab those elastic - wasted pants and let the holidays officially begin.  I've got a million things to do and little time so I'm just going to blast this one out before hitting the road dutifully armed with some capers, Brussles Sprouts and this cranberry sauce.
I had a last minute thought last night as I had was cleaning out the fridge and noticed some organic cranberries just staring back at me.  (Random grocery purchase by the husband?).  Anyway, I just started tossing a little bit of this and a little bit of that into the pan and I'll be, it's pretty darn good!  I love it when that happens!  Give it a try if you are feeling adventurous.
Here's to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!  Cheers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thomas Keller's AMAZING Roasted Chicken



















The plan was to have an excellent picture of my perfectly golden chicken, in all it's crispy-skinned glory.  But with the daylight being what it is these days, I can't get my act together in time to cook and have any light available for a decent photo.  So, here's all that's left as any evidence that a spectacular meal was had here last night.
In my past chicken - roasting life, before I discovered this life-changing recipe, I would shove various complex compound butters under the skin, stuff the cavity with onions or lemons and garlic, or all 3.  Then I'd season the bird lightly and place on a roasting pan, carefully lined with tin foil.  In the end, I did have a delicious chicken, no doubt.  I mean, it was really good.  But now, after roasting the bird Thomas Keller's way, (hello, it's Thomas Keller!), I can not believe I got away with the old way.  It's unbelievable how. much. better. this is and it's SO MUCH EASIER.  Do I have your attention?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Butter, Lemon, Dijon and Capers





















Brussels Sprouts might be most under-appreciated and most detested vegetable on the planet.  It's a sad and unfortunate truth!  I think I know why these poor little cruciferae suffer from such misguided hate.  It started a long time ago... In a kitchen near you...  a pile of pale green, boiled to death, mushy mini cabbages sitting lifelessly on a plate with a weird cabbage-y bitter smell filling the kitchen, cutting through whatever else was cooking that made you instantly un-hungry for dinner.  Dinner hopes dashed, appetite gone.  This, I believe, is how most of us were served our Brussels sprouts back in the day.  And it wasn't good.  Or pretty.

Now, let's start over.  Close your eyes and imagine beautifully roasted, slightly caramelized and glistening, beautiful baby Brussels sprouts rolling around in a delightful, aromatic combination of garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and capers, oh, and butter.  Roasted first, then left to steam so that each bite is perfectly al dente.  Not squishy mushy and not hard and under cooked, but just right.  Welcome to the new millennium of The. Brussels. Sprout.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lemon Ginger Tea

Clayton Junior Illustration
Sometimes life is too funny!  Last night I made my favorite night-time elixir, and this morning, as I was checking out my favorite blog, I came across this illustration featuring my 3 ingredient love.  Pure coincidence!
This serendipitous happening makes me inclined to share with you a lovely tea, great for sore throats,  upset stomach, or simply winding down for the night.  It's as easy as boiling water and squeezing a lemon.  Simply divine.

Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey

All these measurements are rough and can be adjusted to your liking.  The more ginger root, the more zingy your tea and the more honey, the sweeter.  It may take a few rounds to get to your tastes.  I buy a lot of ginger to have on hand, and I always have lemons in the fridge.

Ginger root - about 3 inches, cleaned and skin removed
About 3 cups filtered water
2-3 TBLS raw honey (I use Tupelo)

Boil water with ginger for about 5 minutes.
Strain into a heat-proof pitcher and add honey while still hot.
Enjoy this either hot or cold.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BOO!


















I've been meaning to make these little guys for 2 years now and I finally remembered to do it before Halloween!  I am DYING over their cuteness and the simplicity of this recipe.  It's an ideally spooky kitchen activity for you and your little chefs OR for the little trick - or - treater inside all of us.
If you can spare 2 egg whites, some powdered sugar, cream of tartar, and a few hours of waiting for these ghosts to emerge out of a barely - on oven, then this is for you - get started!  Halloween is ALMOST here!!!
Do yourself a favor and read the post from 101cookbooks about this recipe, Heidi goes into this with fine detail and great cooking tips. Also, amazingly CUTE photos!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fig Jam with Lavender and Vanilla


This recipe caught my eye mostly because it mentions lavender and since I bought a 1 lb bag of dried lavender flowers, I would like to find a way to use them in the culinary world.  Being that figs are just now in season and also that the author of this recipe recommends accompanying this jam with goat cheese, I was happy to give it a shot...  Not to mention, all the ingredients called for sound like they were hand-picked by Jane Austin...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hot Toddy Pudding Cake with Tupelo Honey



Gourmet Magazine (RIP) is/was a huge source of inspiration for me and every so often, I flip through an old issue until something interesting jumps out at me, then it's off to the market, with a mission.  There's not much to this recipe, and you might actually already have all the ingredients in your pantry. (I did, right down to the Scotch).  And what's even better than not having to make a special trip to the grocery store is that this is really, really good.  It comes out of the oven and takes your breath away - simply gorgeous.  Perfect for a winter night, (I know, but it's summer!).  I happened to have a top-shelf, fancy Scotch in the liquor cabinet (Glen Rothes - husband b-day gift), and it definitely added to the depth of this dessert, its fruity and spicy undertones were very noticeable and appreciated.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Parmesan Crisps












The best thing about cheese is that it loves to be in close proximity to wine and since I love both of these things dearly, eating cheese and drinking wine puts me in a very happy place. Pairing the right wines with cheese can put you over the edge with delight and, though I am no sommelier, I know that Parmesan and a bold red wine (Zin), OR a crisp white (Sav Blanc) even can be a very lovely match.
This is an easy and different cheesy, noshy "cracker" that will make your guests think you are the most amazing host who does everything, like even make your own crackers, just because.  Or maybe you want to garnish your scrumptious farmer's market salad (or Caesar), with one or two of these crispy little buggers...  The hardest part of this is making sure you don't burn the cheese.  Seriously, as soon as you see the cheese start to bubble and brown, you are seconds from the end and you really don't want to burn beautiful, (expensive), Parmesan!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yea!

A happy day!  My first tomatoes have been plucked!  Just thought I'd share my joy with you and hopefully my plants yield many more beautiful tomatoes for the next few months...
***UPDATE :  Delicious!  Juicy and so sweet : )

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mac 'n Cheese

You know that age-old, slightly morose question... What would your last meal be?  I've never had a problem answering that, no matter what new and amazing foods I eat and no matter where I may travel, I will always go back to this none-to-classy... Mac 'n Cheese, PLEASE!!!
The surprising element to this is that I NEVER make it for myself.  I'm perfectly happy with a few choice frozen "entrees".  (Amy's is good and Trader Joes' is AMAZING).  It's all too easy to pop in the oven and sit back wait for the oozing gooey cheesy one million calorie mess of deliciousness.  (Served with an enormous side of sauteed kale some how makes me feel healthy and almost guilt-free.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HAPPY BDAY, NK!



In celebration of my husband's birthday, I made - per his request - angel food cake with chocolate frosting.  He told me his grandmother used to make it for him, Awwww!  Since I wasn't there to ever taste his nana's cake, I can pretty much say with certainty, her cake was better - it always is - however, this came out just fine.  (Maybe it's me, I'm not a lover of angel food cake to begin with, oh the things we do for love...) Anyway, the chocolate frosting is every bit as good as you'd expect with butter as the main ingredient, it's a stand-up frosting recipe to keep on file.

I usually only feature food on this site which reflects my personal eating and cooking style, that being, local, seasonal and organic.  The only way that this cake fits into that type of classification is that it is seasonal in so far as it is a birthday cake and we celebrated a birthday. (OK, the ingredients were all organic, too).  Other than that, this one is the anomaly for this blog and I am posting it with love and the fact that we all deserve a little b-day cake every now and then!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Zucchini Ricotta Galette

If you have never made a galette before, you need to listen up...  It is a simple, rustic and wonderful free-form pastry shell, ready to be filled with either sweet or savory ingredients, infiltrating your kitchen with that homey smell of baking pie crusts, mmm butter...  I made this often while I was in culinary school, and somehow, I lost touch with what is now, my new (old) love.  I was reminded of this old friend while checking out one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, and once I laid my eyes on Deb's zucchini galette, I was already grabbing my keys to head to the market.  Think of this as a rustic puff pastry/pie crust ready to be filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients.  (Oh, and cheese, lots of cheese!).
Since zucchini is well into their season, and usually in super-abundance, (and especially if you are growing your own and can't figure out a new way to use them), here you go...  Ricotta and Parmesan lay down the creamy, tangy, simply luxurious foundation.  Play around with your fillings, once you make your first galette, you will start to roll countless ideas around in your foodie imagination.  My advise, go forth with wild abandon!

Keep in mind, you are making a pastry dough, so all ingredients need to be cold, cold, cold and handled to a bare minimum for a flaky crust.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Strawberry Semifreddo



















Delicious, red, ripe strawberries are all over the markets now and boy are they good!  Sweet, juicy and sold on the side of any country road, they are the true sign that summer has arrived.  If you find yourself with a few pints of sun-ripened strawberries, give this a shot for your next large group get together, (July 4th BBQ, anyone??).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

White Onion Soup



















I am in an eternal search for elegant, yet simple and seasonal meals.  Quality ingredients and minimal steps guide me to recipes just like this.  One of my favorite cookbooks, Living and Eating by John Pawson and Annie Bell, is loaded with this exact mantra.  Every recipe I have tried has proven itself to be something worth repeating over and over and over.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot Buttered Cherries with Vanilla Ice Cream






















I love everything about the title of this post.  "HOT, BUTTERED CHERRIES... VANILLA ICE CREAM", is that not an amazing group of words? I made this last night, right around midnight.  Nothing better than a late night dessert shared with friends over an intense game of UNO.  With cherries at the peak of the season, there is no reason why you shouldn't make this right NOW!  Deliciously plump and warm cherries on top of creamy vanilla ice cream is one hell of a way to end the night.  What's better?  Leave the pits in and stems attached to make for an even easier and more beautiful presentation..

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ahhh, chamomile!





















I was at Whole Foods yesterday and to my surprise, I was handed a big bunch of free organic herbs, compliments of Kenter Canyon Farms - they sell local, organic lettuces and herbs and their "spicy" lettuce mix is always in my fridge.  In my lovely bouquet was rosemary, chamomile, and lemongrass, AMAZING.  The chamomile alone was so delightful, I couldn't wait to bring it home and make a pot of tea.  Now, I am determined to add German chamomile to my growing mini-garden, the tiny-daisy like flowers are so sweet, they just make me smile.  I read that adding chamomile to your compost adds absorption of calcium and spraying the tea on to propagation flats can prevent them from damping off.
If you find yourself with fresh chamomile flowers, just pinch off about a dozen or so flowers per cup of  almost boiling water and steep for just a few minutes.  No other word to describe it, other than utterly delightful.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bad Kitty!


Well, that didn't take long...  After 2 short days, Tony the Cat, found his "new" litter box, aka my tomato plants.  I can only image what a big pot of loose, fresh soil means to a cat, so I was half-way expecting this to happen - yuck!  Anyway, I think I have come up with a solution, (only time will tell), but I laid out some jute across the wine barrel, and I have a feeling this will make for a good deterrent.  God forbid the cats actually use the litter box!  I'll let you know if this works...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

GROW!






















I am so excited!  After talking and talking (and talking and talking), about it, I finally DID it!  My minuscule garden has taken off - the objective, other than the obvious, (delicious, home-grown vegetables), is to prove to my husband that I can keep a garden alive and thriving and once that is proven, I will then earn my right to a real, proper full-sized, mega garden.  For now, I am as happy as a blue jay with my start.  A pair of organic heirloom tomatoes,(black zebra and juane flamme), two types of organic basil, and one sweet little strawberry plant.  I'm planning to buy more herbs and perhaps an artichoke plant, but I am simply thrilled to get my hands dirty and sit and watch my little plantings GROW!



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Salsa Verde Chicken with Roasted Corn and Poblanos


We went to our friends' annual Cinco De Mayo pot-luck last night and the food was terrific! There's nothing better than a big table full of people's yummy hard work.  Pot-lucks are the best way to get people together with tons of food (and booze!), saving the hostessing heroine hours of work, along with fist-fulls of money. It's so interesting to see what other people like to create.  If every guest puts forth just a wee bit of effort, great things will happen. Last night, it was enchiladas, chile rellenos, roasted salsas, fresh guac, carnitas, and on and on... Muy delicioso!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pan Seared Haloumi with Fresh Favas


Haloumi is a mild yet salty cheese hailing from Greece. It's made from either goats or sheep's milk. I've used it a few times and I think I'll be using it more as I have fallen deeply in love with it. It's charm is in it's firm texture, as you can grill or pan fry it without it turning in to a big gooey mess. This Greek staple is a brilliant substitute for meat and it's especially wonderful with fresh herbs and sweet, ripe tomatoes. A robustly salty and chewy texture is unlike any other cheese you've had and is wonderful grilled and simply finished with a squeeze of lemon. It's the perfect summer addition to your up-coming cook-outs!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nothing to do with Food...



But, this Frank Viva Earth Day cover for The New Yorker just made my day....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lavender Mojitos


The mere hint of lavender sends me into a world of utter and complete bliss. It invokes such an overwhelming calm that I generally forget everything else momentarily and I am suddenly able to just BE IN THE MOMENT. In Southern California, lavender grows happily and aggressively, (sometimes into the size of a VW Beetle!). I doubt that there could be anything better than combining the inherent calming properties of lavender with the equally relaxing properties of alcohol, (booze), making for the quintessential pool-side lazy-day drink. A match made in lavender colored heaven.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ruby Red Grapefruit and Avocado Salad


As I sit in front of a very angry Pacific Ocean, (our weekend get-away rental is perched, literally, on top of the sea, where the weather isn't exactly cooperating with my idea of beach weather), I have decided to imagine that it's hot outside, (like it was last year), and that I will be eating this salad for lunch...
Yvette and I did this photo shoot ages ago and it kinda got lost in the shuffle, but what better time to share this beautiful salad with you as we could all use a reminder that spring is around the corner, and this salad is perfect for lunch on a warm day. With buttery avocados, crunchy hazelnuts, and juicy pink grapefruit segments, this bright, cheery salad is simply lovely. I like to serve it for brunch with a hearty veggie fritatta and bubbly mimosas.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Roasted Garlic and Broccoli Soup


Buying a giant bunch of beautiful broccoli right before we take off for a long weekend may not have been the wisest of decisions, or was it?? Now that my kitchen is filled with the smell of roasted garlic, and dinner is well on it's way to being finished, I'm thinking that my impetuousness was more of a stroke of pure genius.
Making veggie soups are simple, and a wonderful way to clean out that fridge. By adding roasted garlic, you turn an ordinary soup in to something a little more special. You might as well roast a few heads of garlic, while you have the oven on - they are great to have on hand. They should keep about a week in the fridge.

Roasted Garlic and Broccoli Soup
Borrowed from The Los Angeles Times

Serves 6 - 8

1 large, plump head of garlic
pinch of salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil

1 large bunch of broccoli
2 TBLS butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed into 1 '' dice
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.
Slice the top 1/4 off the head of garlic. Drizzle olive oil over head of garlic, season with salt and pepper and place the top back over the head. Wrap in tin foil and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool.

While garlic is roasting, heat oil or butter in a large pot, and sweat onions for about 5 minutes and add chopped broccoli florets and potato cubes. Add stock and bring to a boil.
Partially cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until potato is cooked thoroughly.
Once the roasted garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted cloves into the soup.
Season with salt and pepper.

Puree soup in batches, or (better yet!), use an immersion blender. Serve soup hot.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Orange Spiced Doughnuts


"Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?"
-Homer Simpson

These take a few hours, and require your attention, but if you are ready to take on the challenge, frying and all, then this are a great doughnut recipe. My suggestion is to make the full recipe if you are having a bunch of friends over - as this yields a large amount. If you happen to be doing this for just a few (two) people, cut this in half. (I did). They won't keep for long, so it's best to fry 'em up and eat 'em warm.



Doughnuts With Old English Spice

1 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast
1/3 cup super fine sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups plus 2 TBLS whole milk (warmed until tepid)
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 1 orange
5 1/2 TBLS butter, softened and cubed
1 3/4 pints vegetable oil

For flavored sugar:

1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp all-spice
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, scored lengthwise, seeds removed


Put the yeast in a bowl with a TBLS of sugar and a TBLS of flour and mix in the warm milk. Put in a warm spot until mixture is frothy.
Put the rest of the sugar, flour, butter and zest into a bowl and add add yeast mixture. Bring together with a spoon and form a ball. Use your clean hands to form a nice ball and knead dough for about 5 minutes, or until soft and silky.
Place ball into a bowl, and place a damp towel over it and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the flavored sugar by mixing all ingredients in a bowl and set it aside.

When the dough had doubled in size, knock it back by pushing or punching the air out of the dough. This will allow the dough to rise again and the doughnuts will be light and fluffy.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out until it's about 1/2 inch thick.
Cutout about 25 little holes with a glass rim or cookie cutter- about 2" in diameter. Place on greased cookie sheet and place damp cloth on top and allow to double in size, about 45 minutes.

Once they have doubled in size, use a chop stick to pop into the middle of each blob to form a hole.
Time to fry - BE CAREFUL!!! Heat oil in a deep, heavy sauce pan. Check oil temp by dropping a small piece of left over dough into the oil. If it drops and pops back up right away and turns golden after about 1 minute, the oil is hot enough.
Fry doughnuts in batches, about 2 minutes, removing them with a slotted spoon, and setting on paper napkins to drain.
While still hot, dust with flavored sugar and eat warm.



video

Sunday, January 31, 2010

No. Boxed. Mixes.


I was at the market, in the baking isle, and I saw brownies, mmm, brownies... They looked so good, so chocolate-y, so easy. I instantly grabbed a box and tossed it to my cart. It was with me for quite a while, staring up at me, we were very happy together. This box stayed with me a long while, making it all the way to the checkout line and almost onto the belt, when I realized what I was doing... STOP! I grabbed the box just before it was scanned, and ran it back to the baking isle, right where I had found it. Sorry, I can't do this...it's not you, it's me. I had committed a minor sin in the culinary world... Even when it seems so much more convenient, so much easier, you must stay strong and repeat after me: NO. BOXED. MIXES.

I promise you, these brownies are really simple, quick to mix and it's so much more rewarding to make something this good from scratch. I try to always have dark chocolate, butter, flour, and eggs stocked and ready. If you are well prepared, then this brownie heaven can be yours, too!

Dark Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Donna Hay, Entertaining.

8 oz. butter (2 sticks)
8 oz. dark chocolate
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Fleur De Sel to sprinkle on top before baking.

Preheat oven to 350.
Place butter and chocolate in a sauce pan over very low heat and melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and thick. Fold the egg mixture with the melted butter and chocolate.
Add flour and baking powder and gently fold through.
Pour mixture into a greased 8 x 8 pan ( I line my pans with parchment after I butter the pan).
Sprinkle some Fleur de Sel on top of wet mix.
Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until set.
Allow to cool and dust with either cocoa powder or powdered sugar.

Makes about 1 dozen squares.
No chocolate for you, Auggie : )

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken Wrapped in Pancetta with Leeks and Thyme

I love Jamie Oliver - everything about him makes me happy. I've been following him since he was "The Naked Chef" years ago. I love his cool, hip, reckless style of cooking. To me, he takes away any hint of chef-snobbery, and makes cooking appear un-intimidating and fun, (which is the way it should be!) If you don't have a cookbook of his, I suggest you grab one, any one is well worth the money. His recipes are loosely written, and in way that it feels like he's talking, guiding you through each page, so it's great for any cooking level. This recipe comes from Cook with Jamie, and it is my husband's absolute favorite. The chicken is moist, flavorful, and the leeks are buttery soft and pretty amazing. I like to serve it with a simple arugula salad and rice or cous-cous, to sop up the yummy pan juices.


Chicken Wrapped in Pancetta with Leeks and Thyme
From Cooking with Jamie
Serves 2-4

2 Organic chicken breasts, bone in, skin removed
2 leeks, trimmed and washed
a few sprigs of thyme
about 1 TBLS butter
pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 TBLS dry white wine
About 1/4 lb sliced pancetta (I buy hormone, cruelty free)

Preheat oven to 400
In a bowl add chicken, leeks, thyme, salt, pepper, butter and wine.
Toss around and place in a roasting pan. (I lined my pan with tin-foil, per Jamie's suggestion, for easy cleanup).
Wrap chicken breasts with pancetta, place on top of leeks.
Fold the tin foil inwards, to protect leeks from burning.
Drizzle top of chicken with olive oil and place a few sprigs of thyme on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes.