Wow, it's been a while! I wanted to get this one out for all of you participating in holiday cookie swaps. This year I added these chocolate "crackle" cookies to my holiday cookie baking. I can't get into the holiday spirit until I spend a day baking lots and lots of cookies. Each of these cookies has been a part of my daily diet lately :) Might have to do round two this weekend because I'm quickly running out! Wouldn't you much rather spend this last weekend before Christmas giving your home the aroma of cookies instead of standing in long lines at the dreadful mall? Speaking of, I haven't even begun Christmas shopping...
See Recipes for other cookies pictured!
Chili always freezes great, so make some room in your freezer. I like to use some of the leftovers to make a "chili-mac". I really can't wait till Jianna starts eating. I hope my cooking agrees with her!
Restaurant Eve. It was one of our first nights out without our little Jianna and I think we talked about her the ENTIRE time :) Makes me wonder what we ever talked about before! My sister and cousins gave me a gift certificate there for my baby shower. How cool is it to get a gift for mommy AND daddy at a baby shower instead of a gazillion bibs and onesies!?! Well, we jumped at the opportunity to use it, and indulged in the 5 course tasting menu. For the last course, Neil picked the plum frangipane tart, and poor thing only got a bite, b/c I was devouring it. So, I had to figure out a way to recreate it...for Neil, of course :) I've made frangipane before, so all I had to do was top it with sliced plums. The end result was a success, not exact, but a success nonetheless. The only mistake I made was that I should have gotten the plums VERY ripe. They were semi-ripe when I made this, and I didn't get as much plum flavor as I would have liked. Anyways, this recipe is versatile. Thanksgiving is next month.....maybe I'll make it with apples :) I don't want to get anyone's hopes up (you know who you are), so don't quote me on this!
I had extra crust for some scrumptious mini-tarts too!
See Plum Frangipane Tart Recipe!
See Pie Crust Recipe!
I wanted to leave you with something easy, summery, colorful, refreshing, and cool to the tongue..much needed with the extreme summer heat this year! I served this alongside barbecue jerk chicken and it complimented the spicy dish beautifully. This is yet another recipe that's entirely customizable to your tastes. I swapped out parsley for cilantro. You can also swap out lemon for lime. Use chickpeas or fava beans instead of black beans. Throw in some ripe, chopped mango for even more vibrant color and a touch of sweet. Just make it yours!
I'll try not to be gone too long. Hopefully, my peanut gives me the luxury to continue my cooking/baking passion in due time. The bumbo seat will sure come in handy on my kitchen counter :) And soon enough, if she's willing, I'll have my very own sous chef, as I was for my mom :)
Along with the pasta, I had a pizza craving, so we grilled a homemade pizza with roasted peppers, onions, and fresh mozzarella. If you haven't read my grilled pizza post from a year ago, it's an absolute must do this summer season!
Pizza and Pasta...doesn't get better than that! Ok, maybe Pizza, Pasta and Wine :)...I'm almost there!!
One of the items I made are these hashbrown crusted quiches. I got the idea from food network, but made my own variation for the quiche fillings. While I love all things "homemade", If you're making several brunch items, a "from scratch" crust isn't always practical. Using this hashbrown crust is a major time saver and so delicious. Who doesn't like a crispy potato crust? Quiche 1 was made with roasted red peppers, spinach, caramelized onions, mushrooms, chives and montery jack cheddar. Quiche 2 was made with chorizo, roasted red pepper, scallions, and a fun cilantro/jalapeno pesto to dollop on top. Have fun with this one and try your own variation. A simple asparagus and leek quiche would be a perfect compliment to the potato crust.
I'm now on week 35, and luckily still feeling great...not too much longer to go!
I've only had "pearl pasta" at DC's Central restaurant. They make a creamy mushroom pearl pasta "risotto" that's just divine. But, what I loved most about the dish is the tiny little pearls. It looked so unique, elegant, and had a wonderful bite...very different from any other pasta I've ever had. Ever since then, I've been keeping an eye out for this cute pasta, with no luck. Recently, I came across a box of "Israeli Couscous" at Trader Joes that appeared to look very similar. I was thrilled to discover that it's exactly what I was looking for! It definitely tastes more like a pasta than couscous, but call it whatever you want. Neil calls it "addictive", and I think that's the best description. Israeli couscous will be yet another staple in my home.
I didn't make Central's version of it because I wanted something more summery and light. So, I made it with cremini/shitake mushrooms, lemon, dill, thyme, and chives. It's delicious, refreshing, and light. And unlike "risotto", it doesn't need to be served right away. This tastes fantastic at room temperature, so I suggest you take this dish to a friend's bbq this summer. That's what I made it for. Oh, and this also fits my "need for ease" right now :) I'm going to try the "risotto" version of it soon.
I'm nearing the "home stretch" of my pregnancy and as many of you have noticed, my cooking/baking has slowed down quite a bit...although eating hasn't :) Most everything I make now has to be fast and easy. This cake definitely fits the bill. You don't need to have any baking ability whatsoever for this one, yet your guests will see you as quite the expert. This is my go to cake whenever I have a last minute guest or making an elaborate dinner which requires a super quick dessert. And it definitely doesn't look or taste "quick". It's incredibly light and moist with the perfect sweetness and tartness from the berries. Look at how pretty this will look on your kitchen table for the sunny, warm months ahead! And you have the satisfaction of it coming freshly baked from your oven in the same time it would take you to go out and buy one. It's best served as soon as it's cooled to take advantage of the sugary crisp topping. The cake stands on it's own, but serving it with freshly whipped cream or ice cream is how I like it. Make it with whatever berries look good that day. You're really missing out if you don't try this one!
I've never been a salad person, but to balance out my increased consumption of pepperoni pizza, I've been trying to incorporate it into my diet for my little peanut. This is not at all easy for me given that my idea of a salad has always been potato or macaroni salad :) So, obviously not any salad will do. Luckily the traditional salad that I usually dodge can be easily reinvented into exotic goodness.
The word "salad" doesn't do this yummy dish justice. Loaded with balsamic onions, figs, nuts, and cheese, not only is it healthy, but it's absolutely delicious. Customize this to your own liking by switching out different types of nuts, cheese, fruit, etc. Adding some roasted chicken or even sliced steak makes this into a fabulous meal as well. I'm still not a "salad person", but I've come a long way :)
I'm 26 weeks now and counting. Still no major cravings, although swedish fish have been appearing on my kitchen counter lately :)
This is your basic pad thai technique that everyone should have if they ever attempt to make this at home. My cousin has been bugging me to post the recipe, and honestly I never got around to it, b/c I was being too lazy about writing it up. It's more so a technique than a recipe. If you follow it, I guarantee you'll be happy with the results. Plus, you'll feel so much better eating this knowing exactly what went in, versus your local takeout Thai. Customize the ingredients to make your own personal pad thai. I loathe bean sprouts, so I keep them out of mine :) The key to pad thai is using a wok, not over crowding your wok, and working very quickly. The biggest mistake people make with pad thai is trying to make a gazillion servings worth at one time. You'll just end up w/ a big mush of unflavorful noodles. I know it's annoying, but the best results are achieved by cooking only 2-4 servings at a time. So, I agree this is probably not the best dish to entertain with, but it's great for a night home w/ a few friends.
On a completely different topic, I know I've been a little slow with my updates lately. But, I have a decent excuse! Turns out that back in October, '09 when my kitchen oven crapped out on me, my "God-given" oven was pre-heating, and now I'm 5 1/2 months along with a baby girl on the way in July :) I was completely lethargic the first trimester, so my cooking slowed down, but, the 2nd trimester has been wonderful to me so far. Oh, and I haven't had any food aversions or weird cravings. Well, Neil thinks my nightly strawberry milk craving is a little bizarre and that it looks like I'm chugging Pepto Besmol. I guess it is weird, considering I haven't drank that stuff since I was 5 years old! I also crave a lot of pepperoni pizza, burgers, and meatballs (hence my recent meatball post). So far I've been blessed, and things are moving along beautifully. I don't know about the future life of this blog, as I prepare for the life of our 'peanut', but, I'll try my best!
This recipe doesn't make many appearances in my house, so it's a real treat for us. I rarely make these meatballs because, besides the tomato sauce and protein, this isn't exactly a "healthy" meal. Sure, you can make them healthy by using leaner meats like ground turkey, but what's the fun in that? I don't like substitutes, and have always been one to just stick with the real thing. These traditional meatballs were a blast to make. Sitting down to eat this comfort filled meal transported me to an italian home complete with "grandma's meatballs"...even though I made the meatballs :) You must try these meatballs. If you follow the directions, you are guaranteed the most fabulous, tender, mouth watering meatball. The secret lies in not overmixing or overpacking your meat. Also, I added milk-soaked bread to make them extra moist. I didn't add too many spices/herbs to the meatball mixture itself, because I wanted the natural flavors of the meat to shine, but play around with it as you wish. However, I can't stress enough, be very gentle with the meat. Overworking it will result in tough/dry meatballs. These freeze well too. I froze them and Neil ate very well during our massive snowstorms, chowing down on hearty meatball subs. I told him to make the most of them now because it'll be another year before he sees these again :)
I checked the weather and planned ahead this past weekend. They were calling for a slow, steady cold rain on Sunday, so I knew I'd be in need for some comfort. Comfort came in the form of homemade buttermilk biscuits, gravy, and bacon for breakfast. I bought the few ingredients I needed on Friday after work. Starting the day off with these lifted my spirits and kept them going all day long. And to top it off, I was blessed with the most gorgeous sunny day on this holiday Monday :) These biscuits are unbelievably easy and fast to make, so try making them for your rainy day! Turn them into a dinner biscuit by adding cheddar and chives to the recipe.
I had a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit which I dipped in country gravy. Talk about comfort!! Neil stuck w/ the original biscuit n' gravy :) Btw, making a country gravy is essentially a simple bechamel recipe that you can find anywhere. The only difference is that the base roux is made with meat drippings (in this case, bacon) and flour, instead of butter and flour.
Happy New Year! I can't believe the holidays are over and we're back to reality so soon. Jan/Feb/March are the hardest months for me b/c it's frigid cold without the holiday spirit. I'm just counting down the days till Spring! We did have a wonderful holiday season though. Christmas in San Fran was a treat. My sister in law made some delicious Indian food from scratch. I was sure to get all the recipes, so look out for that in 2010.
After ringing in the New Year at Zaytinya, we celebrated my mom's bday on New Years Day. Luckily it was a holiday, and I got to spend the day baking a fabulous cake. I haven't baked a cake in a while, so to ease back into it, I made a simple strawberry cake with none of the fancy, laborious fillers that I normally do. This cake just personifies "fun", and it's made for a lady, having been coined the "Pink Lady" cake. The name of the cake hooked me, and strawberries in the cake batter sealed the deal. This cake makes you want to have a slumber party with your girlfriends, dance to Madonna, and of course stuff your face with cake. No, I did not entertain that, but the daydream was ever present. But, no worries, the boys enjoyed the pink as well. I found the recipe on the Smittenkitchen blog (which is becoming my favorite food blog out there). The recipe originates from the Sky High cook book, and when you look at this cake you'll see that it really is "sky high". In fact I had to take it to my parents without a cover. My cake top was too small, and even my largest cake box couldn't fit it. So, if you plan to travel with this cake, prepare your compartment ahead of time. I did make some alterations to the recipe as noted below. Feel free to follow my changes, or just stick with the original. Happy eating in 2010 :)
- I used 2 cups strawberries (versus 1 1/2 cup).
- I thawed the strawberries before I pureed them. The frozen strawberries will solidify you softened butter.
- I followed the cream cheese frosting recipe but then folded in 1 1/2 cup of freshly whipped heavy cream. Only reason for this, is that my mom likes a "lighter" tasting frosting, although this obviously add more fat :)
- The recipe calls to mix 8 egg whites just to blend. I did this with 4 of the egg whites. With the remaining 4, I whipped them to somewhat stiff peaks, and gently folded them into the batter at the end. I did this for a fluffier cake.
- The cake itself is not very sweet, but the frosting is. If you are eating the cake alone, add about 1/2 cup more sugar.
- I added about 4-5 drops of red food coloring (versus 2) to the batter. It's suppose to be pink!!
- I used frozen strawberries, which is what the recipe calls for. If you use fresh, and they aren't very sweet, do compensate with additional sugar. I recommend sticking with the frozen for consistency.