Tuesday, March 27, 2012

guest chef!

Vance is on vacation - and it is amazing for me! Tonight he went on a beer run and came home with an assortment of brews including Yazoo Dos Perros & Hefeweizen, Sweet Water Georgia Brown and Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company Southern Pecan Ale. He also made some delicious chicken and tomato quesadillas that were great with my guacamole. Dinner of champions.
I know - could there be any more guac on that plate?
The quesadillas were filled with cheddar, Monterey Jack, sliced tomato and leftover chicken from last night's barbecue. He cooked (in a saute pan) on each side in a little EVOO and S&P until cheese was melted through. 
Guacamole - always a good idea
3 ripe avocados, mashed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 purple onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
S&P to taste
juice of a lime
Peel and mash avocados. Add remaning ingredients and mix well. Squeeze lime juice over entire dish to prevent browning.

Monday, March 26, 2012

gettin' our grill on

Vance and I have been taking advantage of the nice spring weather by grilling up a storm! Grilled tilapia with cumin and lime over a Mexican pasta, Italian sausage with peppers onions and tonight was BBQ chicken with grilled zucchini and yellow squash. 
and what good is grilling without a little Stella?
Quick grill recipes!

This quick marinade/dressing works for your fish and a pasta
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced parsley or fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Marinate 2 tilapia fillets in about a third of this dressing (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours). Place fish on a non-stick grill pan or basket. Grill for about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Tilapia tends to be no more than 1/2 inch thick and will cook quickly! I served this over a room temperature pasta. Mexican pasta is a quick dish with orzo (or other short pasta), can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies, drained/rinsed black beans, corn, chopped green pepper and about half a diced purple onion. Toss with remaining dressing and top with fresh cilantro. If it is too dry add more EVOO and S&P.

BBQ Chicken 
Barbecue Sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon mustard
Few dashes of Tabassco
This amount of sauce easily covered our 3 chicken breasts and had about half the sauce left to use later (or for dipping)!

In a sauce pan over medium heat, saute the garlic in butter until soft. Add remaining ingredients and cook until mixed and slightly thickened.
Martha Stewart has some simple tips on grilling barbecue chicken. We used skin on/bone in breasts and they were awesome!
Grilled squash and zucchini - tossed with EVOO and S&P - grilled for just about 8 minutes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the trendiest of desserts

..right now - I think - are cake pops. I am having a very trendy week. I was walking to work yesterday, and I caught my reflection and thought, "do I look like I am trying to be 19?" Answer: "yes." I had on a fuchsia dress from Forever 21 with skinny belt and turquoise nail polish. To top it off, I got a bit too much sun this weekend so I have those oh-so-attractive white and pink tan marks on my neck and shoulders. 
 Ah well - what's a mid-to-late 20 something to do? So in keeping with my trendy Monday at work, I made a trendy dessert at night. Taking advice from my friend, Sarah, who said cake pops are a breeze to make, I whipped up a batch last night. If you are trendy, you will like these. If you like little cute things, you will like these. If you like chocolate, you will love these.
-Bake cake as directed in a 9 x 13 pan and let cool completely.
-Crumble cake up into a large bowl. 
-Soften frosting for 10 seconds in microwave. Add frosting to crumbled cake and stir with a fork until frosting disappears and is completely incorporated into the cake crumbs. Test your mixture by picking up a handful and squeezing it together. It should hold together without breaking apart.If mixture is too dry, add more frosting.
-Roll mixture into walnut-sized cake balls and transfer to a wax paper lined baking cookie sheet. Make sure balls are tightly packed and look smooth with no cracks. If they appear cracked, you may need to add more frosting.    
-Transfer cookie sheet with cake balls to freezer or refrigerator for about 30 to 60 minutes.
-Place chocolate chips (or melting chocolate) in a small, deep microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring each time until completely melted. The melted coating should coat a spoon but still be able to slowly drip off. If coating is too thick, add shortening or vegetable oil 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Do not exceed 2 teaspoons per 16 ounces of candy coating or the cake pops will crack.
-Remove cake balls from freezer. Dip tips of lollipop sticks into candy coating and insert sticks no more than halfway into center of your cake balls. Let them set for 1 to 2 minutes, resting on the cake ball, sticks in the air.
-Pick up cake pop by the stick and dip into candy coating. Gently tap stick against side of bowl and rotate cake pop to help excess coating fall back into bowl. (Reheat and/or melt more candy coating as needed.)
If decorating your cake pop, add your sprinkles, nuts or candy right after dipping, before coating dries.
Poke stick of cake pop into Styrofoam block to stand up straight and dry completely, about 5 minutes. I didn't have a Styrofoam block so I put a pizza pan with holes in it over a baking dish and strategically balanced the pops.
I dipped my pops in white or semi-sweet chocolate and topped with crushed nuts, sprinkles,
and crushed cookie.



Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

I am a big believer in observing holidays with appropriate meal and/or drink. New Year's Day - pork 'n sauerkraut with beer. Thanksgiving with turkey and wine. Ham and scalloped potatoes on Easter. And last night was corned beef, cabbage, colcannon and 
Guinness for St. Patty's Day. 

My corned beef recipe was from Closet Cooking. This blogger must cook all the time because he so many recipes! Traditional corned beef preparation consists of simmering the meat for about an hour per pound with some spices. The dish I made last night requires roasting the meat after simmering. A dijon, honey and brown sugar glaze is spread on top. 
Beef, post simmering, pre-roasting, covered in honey, dijon and brown sugar

Vance's favorite part of this meal was the colcannon. This dish is basically mashed potatoes with cabbage (reoccurring element last night) and leek. It is quite tasty!

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 savoy cabbage, trimmed, pale-green leaves finely shredded (4 cups)
1 leek, pale-green and white parts only, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt
  1. Preheat broiler. Peel and quarter potatoes, and place in a medium saucepan; add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Mash with a potato masher or pass through a ricer; cover pan to keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine cabbage, leek, milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and nutmeg; season with salt. Cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage and leek is soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Stir into potatoes.
  3. Spread mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish. Make a small well in the center, and place under the broiler until lightly browned on top, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from broiler. Place remaining 2 tablespoons butter in well. Serve immediately, spooning melted butter from well onto each serving, if desired.

Enjoy a few of these while cooking!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pretty in Pink

Homemade pizza - we know this is good. Our pizza last night has been dubbed "pretty in pink" as it was a smoked salmon pizza on a pink tomato and cream cheese base. This pizza was also inspired by one of my mom's favorite breakfast, lox 'n bagel with all the fixin's.
1 wheat pizza dough ball
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
half a cucumber, cut into thin strips
1-2 small tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained well
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan
2 teaspoons garlic powder
half purple onion, sliced thin
flour for dusting
cornmeal for dusting
3-4 oz smoked salmon, roughly chopped
Preheat oven and pizza stone at 400 for about 15 minutes. Roll out pizza dough on floured surface. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven and dust with a bit of cornmeal. Assemble dough on stone. Mix cream cheese and tomato with 1 tablespoon cilantro in a small bowl and spread evenly on dough. Top with salmon, onion, cucumber strip, tomato slices, capers, mozzarella, Parmesan, S&P to taste and garlic powder. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on how crispy you like your pizza. After baking, top with remaining cilantro.
There is nothing like a good pizza to hit the spot at dinner. Enjoy!

Also, have you watched Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel? It basically highlights amazing desserts around the country (mostly NYC). They are talking about The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn right now - it looks amazing!! I think I like the Cooking Channel better than Foodnetwork TV. Okay, I am going back to drooling over the Best Chocolate in the World.

Monday, March 12, 2012

sausage frittata

Vance went into work at 9 tonight - tear. I wanted to make something hearty and quick for dinner and a sausage frittata was just the thing!
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
small onion, sliced
2 small redskin potatoes, boiled and sliced
6 to 7 breakfast sausage links, cut into quarters
little EVOO
1/3 shredded mozzarella
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute onion in butter until soft, add bell pepper and a little olive oil - saute for about 5 minutes. Remove sauteed vegetables from pan, add sliced sausage and cook until brown. Once sausage is cooked, return onions/peppers to the pan, sliced potatoes and some salt and pepper.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Pour egg mixture into saute pan that contains sausage and vegetables. Keep the pan over medium high heat for a few minutes - you will feel the eggs begin to set. Sprinkle cheeses on top and place in preheated oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Test to make sure the eggs are done all the way through. Slice and enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

spring is in the air...

This time of year always makes me anxious for fresh colors, tan legs, pedicured toes - I am feeling so ready for spring.
Here are a few things that I am adding to my spring look (or hope to!). 
Yellow Twill Skinny Pants via Forever 21
Chambray Shirt - Hive 'n Honey via Piperlime
Shorts via J. Crew Factory
Yellow Kitty.

Mint Candy Apple.
Fairy Teal.

What things do you have your eye on for spring? Have a good night!

Friday, March 9, 2012

caramelized onion & apple tart

Happy Friday all! So glad the week is winding down. In addition to my Fuzzy Pom last night, I made a tasty tart. This savory and sweet tart is based off of a Real Simple recipe.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, sliced
1 large apple (such as Braeburn or Gala), sliced into thin pieces
kosher salt and black pepper 
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons honey for drizzling 
  1. Heat oven to 400ยบ F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the apple slices, cider, dash of salt, and grind or two of fresh black pepper and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the pastry sheet on a lightly Pammed baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the sour cream, leaving a small border. Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Drizzle honey on top and cut into pieces before serving. 
Served with a salad, this is a great fast dinner. You can cut the tart into smaller squares and it makes a nice a nice hors d'oeuvres too. My tart was made in a small jelly roll pan, but if you use a large cookie sheet you can easily double everything for a crowd. So ready for the weekend, Vance and I are beginning house hunting this weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fuzzy Pom

Pomegranate juice (good for your heart?), chilled vodka, club soda and lime. Yes - I know - that sounds good. 
Vodka, Pom juice, lime, club soda and Pete the cocktail shaker
Mildly sweet, fuzzy and citrusy - yum.
about a shot and a half of vodka
2-3 shot glasses of pomegranate juice
juice of a quarter of a lime - squeezed well
shake it hard!
strain over ice (or up) and garnish with a lime
enjoy (with a little brie and crackers, while watching Shameless on Showtime) - last bit is optional.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

can't get enough avocado

Right? Couldn't you just eat avocado on everything? Burgers, turkey wraps, fluffy omelets, the list goes on. A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe on Full Measure of Happiness for avocado and eggs on toast. So simple - why have I not smashed a ripe avocado onto toast before? Easy. Delicious. Breakfast for dinner - just our style.
Toasted whole grain bread, avocado (ripe) spread evenly, sliced tomato, little S&P, eggs over medium or as you like them. Served here with Alexia* sweet potato fries. I added a little Tabasco at the end - amazing. Why is this so good? What do you put avocado on? 

On a side note, I got a text from my buddy, Josh, last night. He said he made a sausage and pasta dish inspired by this posting from a few weeks ago. Thanks, Josh! That totally made my day. Night all - I am going to bed to dream about avocado.

*Alexia coupons can often be found through couponcabin.com and Alexiafoods.com - awesome frozen rolls and fries.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

old friends, good beer and a great time

This past weekend, our friends Sarah and Teddy came to Nashville. We had a great time - mojitos at Rumba, food trucks at Elmington Park, brewery tour and tasting at Yazoo and brunch at Bricktops. Yes - we ate and drank and laughed a lot. Weekends go too fast!
Teddy, Sarah & Vance enjoying Yazoo Hefeweizen

Thursday, March 1, 2012

quick dinners

Weeknight dinners can be such a challenge! Finding fast recipes are a must during busy weeks. Here are two quick recipes that used up some leftovers and were delicious!
Pasta with Swiss chard, onion and sausage
Boil some short pasta (penne, bowtie, rotini, etc.), drain and set aside. Cook a few sausages and slice. I used 3 Italian sausage - cook and set aside. Slice and sautee half an onion. When onion is about translucent, add sausage back in and pasta. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of EVOO in the pan with a touch of black pepper. Take a leafy green like Swiss chard, spinach or even broccoli rab, roughly chop and add to pan. Constantly stir until greens are wilted. The beauty (and ease) of this dish is you don't really need spices because sausage has such flavors that come out in the cooking. Top with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Sweet potato, spinach, zucchini & white bean quesadillas
Peel and cube a sweet potato, steam until soft. Drain and mash with a fork. Sautee a chopped zucchini and a can of drained and rinsed white beans in a little EVOO. When zucchini is soft, add about 2 to 3 handfuls of fresh spinach. Sautee and add season with S&P. Spread the mashed sweet potato on a corn tortilla. Layer sweet potato, jack cheese, zucchini sautee mixture and top tortilla. Grill in a pan or griddle on the stove (coat the pan with EVOO first). Cook until cheese is melted and corn tortillas are lightly golden. Serve with salsa and sour cream. These quesadillas are delicious - a little messy, but good!