Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Meat Eating/Vegetarian/Vegan Thanksviging Part II

Since I work for an investment company, we are open the day after Thanksgiving, which means no travel to Northern California for turkey this year for Dave and bet! Most of my family is coming to Newport Beach this year and we are having ten people for a feast in my 800 square foot beach cottage. Being the obsessive planner that I am, and trying to please the (newly vegan or vegetarian) palates of all family members, I started early on the menu planning this year and assigned everyone a dish according to their expertise. Here's what we are making:

*Turkey- I will be roasting a turkey filled with fresh herbs, lemon, seasonings...luckily I have done this before and there will be plenty of help
*Gravy- Dad's specialty
*Michael Mathews' famous sausage and cognac stuffing- again, Dad's specialty
*Natalie's vegan version of Mathews' stuffing
*Buttermilk and chive mashed potatoes- me..I prefer to use buttermilk because I like them tangy and you can use nonfat buttermilk, which has lots of flavor, but eliminates the fat
*Sauteed green beans with apple wood smoked bacon and shallots- Dave my husband loves these so he will be making them this year
*Vegan sweet potatoes au gratin- Nat
*Shaved brussel sprout salad- Nat
*Rolls- Aunt Kathy
*Cranberry Chutney- Aunt Kathy
*Pumpkin pie- mom's specialty

In honor of it being turkey day this week, I thought I'd post two recipes in order to help those of you who are still menu planning...stay tuned for the results of our Thanksgiving feast! (and wish us luck!)

Dad's Famous Gravy

3/4 cup dry white vermouth
2 tablespoons Cognac
1/3 cup all purpose flour
About 5 ½ cups of broth – turkey, veal stock, and/or chicken
About 4 tablespoons of fat – reserved from Turkey or use butter
All the browned bits from the bottom of the turkey pan

Pour pan juices from roasting pan into large measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface. Transfer 4 tablespoons fat to medium saucepan (if needed, use some of reserved fat from turkey broth to measure 4 tablespoons total). Discard any excess fat.

Place roasting pan over 2 burners set at medium-high heat. Add vermouth and Cognac to pan and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Add degreased pan juices and 1 cup broth; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits.

Heat reserved 4 tablespoons fat in saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour, whisking until smooth. Whisk constantly until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in pan-juice mixture and 3 cups of broth. Simmer until gravy is thick enough to coat spoon, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Carmel Apple Pie
I made this this weekend for the Marshall Thanksgiving and it turned out pretty good. It came from the holiday issue of Cooking Light.


1/4 c flour
1/4 c packed brown sugar
2 T chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
3 T chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 T chilled vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
3 T ice water
cooking spray

1/4 c white sugar
2 T cornstarch
4 c thinly sliced granny smith apples
3 c thinly sliced fuji apples

Carmel Sauce-
1/2 c store bought fat free caramel sauce
1/8 t sea salt


Topping- combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse ten times, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.

Crust- combine flour and salt in food processor. Add 3 T butter and shortening. Pulse 4 times or until mixture looks crumbly. With processor on, add ice water until mixture combines. Remove from food processor and press into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Overlap two pieces of plastic wrap on a smooth surface. Place dough in center and cover with an additional two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll evenly into an 11 inch circle. Freeze circle of dough about 5 minutes, until it can be easily removed from the plastic wrap. Press into pie pan.

Preheat oven to 375.

Filling- whisk together cornstarch and sugar. Add apples. Toss to combine. Add apple mixture to pie pan, mounding slightly in the center.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove pie and top evenly with topping. Bake an additional 25 minutes until golden. Top with caramel sauce and whipped cream, if desired.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Meat Eating / Vegetarian / Vegan Thanksgiving... How we are going to do all 3 (Part 1)

This Thanksgiving is going to be different than our usual Thanksgivings (except for the family and lots of red wine part). For one, we will be celebrating in Southern California for the first time since 1993, but also, in the past year, I have switched to a mostly vegetarian diet and my brother has gone completely vegan. In turn, we are trying to plan aspects of the dinner that will please everyone.

Being the Mathews resident vegetarian chef, I am planning the vegan dishes, simply because they are different than my family's normal style of cooking. I have been familiarizing myself with this diet in the past couple of months and have tried to make it from whole, plant based sources instead of simply finding freaky soy replacements for meat; tofurkey anyone?

Here's what I am making along with some recipe highlights. I'll post full recipes and reviews after the holiday.

Triple Spiced Creamy Sweet Potato Gratin
Based on a recipe from Kathy Patalsky, writer of Healthy Happy Life. Kathy writes a great blog with vegan recipes and wellness tips. She put together a delicious looking potato au gratin recipe that I hope to recreate with some added sweet potatoes.

Sauteed Shaved Brussels Sprouts
Featuring balsamic, red onions, pine nuts and cranberries. I make this often, this year sans prosciutto.

Mathews (now Vegan) Stuffing
My dad makes great stuffing. I am going to attempt a version without animal products. His famous ingredients are Congac and veal stock. I am adding portabello mushrooms, walnuts, butternut squash and lots of fresh herbs.

We'll see if we'll be keeping these recipes around for future Thanksgivings. Melanie should be posting some of her recipe ideas shortly and we'll catch up with how this all went after the holiday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fiesta Mac and Cheese

On the subject of mac and cheese, I adapted this from the December issue of Cooking Light. It was really good and only took about 15 minutes of prep time plus an additional 15 minutes of cook time. It was all made in one pot so barely a mess. This would make a good week night meal. I think you could use any type of cheese in this. Pepper jack might make a nice substitute for the white cheddar, but I just used what I had in the fridge.

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne
1 T butter, divided
1 c chopped red bell pepper
2 1/2 T flour
1 1/2 c nonfat milk
1/2 c extra sharp cheddar
1/2 c white cheddar
1 small can fire roasted green chilies
1/2 c thinly sliced green onion
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 slice sourdough bread

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. In the pasta pot, melt 1 T butter. Add bell peppers and cook 5 min until tender. Add to pasta.

Add flour to pan. Slowly add milk and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat, slowly add cheese while stirring constantly until melted into milk mixture. Stir in chilies, salt, and pepper. Add to pasta mixture. Add green onions and toss until well

Place bread in small food chopper and process until crumbly. Melt remaining butter. Mix bread crumbs and butter together in bowl.

Pour pasta into small oven proof dish. Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes

Fall is in the air. Even though it is 85 degrees outside in San Luis Obispo, I am dreaming of stews, soups and braised everything, so I figured it was time to post my favorite mac recipe. This recipe originated in a Cooking Light circa 2005 when Melanie and I were roommates in college. We love it so much we still both make it and modify it accordingly.

Ingredients (serves 8)
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes

Cooking spray or spray olive oil

a sprinkle of Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 ounces sourdough b
read, torn into pieces
1 teaspoon butter, melted

2 cups cheese- I use a combo of blue cheese, extra sharp cheddar and fontina

1 egg
, whisked
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated low-fat milk

12 ounces large elbow macaroni or medium size shells

Line a baking sheet with foil and spread out tomatoes. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour until the tomatoes blister and start to appear sun dried.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine bread pieces, melted butter and a pinch of sea salt until crumbs are formed. Lay out crumbs on a separate baking sheet and cook 15 minutes or until golden.

Boil pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente by package directions. In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients. After draining pasta, return to a medium heat and stir in your bowl of cheese, milk, egg and spice mixture. Cook for 4 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve immediately topped with bread crumbs and tomatoes.

Leftovers are good, but fresh is best with this recipe. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tuscan Potato Soup

In the spirit of fall being in full effect, I made this soup the other evening. The gist of the recipe came from a recent Cooking Light, but I changed it up a bit. This was a pretty easy weeknight dinner to make (I recommend an immersion blender) and the leftovers were great in lunches for the week! The Yukon potatoes gave this soup a very creamy texture without all the added fat of using a lot of butter or cream. I have never done crumbled sausage on top before, but now could not imagine this soup without it.


2 heads garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups finely chopped onion, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 1/4 pounds cubed peeled Yukon gold potato (about 6 cups)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
3 green onion stalks, chopped roughly

6 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage, casings removed


Preheat oven to 400.

Cut off pointed end of each garlic head to partially reveal cloves, place each head in the center of a small sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon oil over each head; wrap each in foil. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Squeeze to extract pulp; discard skins.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 cups onion; sauté 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in pepper, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and potato; sauté 2 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in half-and-half. Squeeze roasted garlic into pot, blend entire pot with immersion blender until smooth (can be done in a real blender if you do not have an immersion blender). Finely grate 2 ounces cheese to yield 1/2 cup; stir into soup. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1/2 cup onion; sauté for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and sausage cook 8 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble sausage.

Divide soup into bowls, top with remaining cheese, sausage crumbles, and green onions.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coconut Water: Nature's Gatorade

Where have I been for I don't know, a month? I guess keeping busy training for a half marathon. The event took place this Sunday where over one thousand runners raced in the local City to the Sea Half Marathon. During my training, I discovered a drink called coconut water. The health promoting, new age hipster blogs that I read rave about it, so I decided to give it a try. It has since been a staple beverage in my household that I enjoy after strenuous workouts or a night of partying alike.

So what is it?
Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is the clear liquid found inside young, green, unripe coconuts. When a coconut ripens, the liquid inside hardens and becomes a part of the white flesh, which is used to make coconut milk.

Coconut water is naturally 99% fat free and low in carbohydrates and sugars. It is a natural isotonic beverage that contains essential salts and minerals in the same concentration as our bodies, thus making it ideal for replenishing and rehydrating after a workout. Ten ounces of coconut water has more potassium than a banana (about 15 times more than most sports drinks) thus making it ideal for preventing cramps and promoting muscle recovery. Best of all, it is a drink found in nature, so when you drink it you can be confident that it doesn't have chemicals, artificial colors, added sugars or preservatives that you would find in most sports drinks.

What does it taste like?
I have an undying love for coconut and anything with coconut in it. So naturally, I enjoy the taste of this beverage quite a lot. My best description of the flavor would be a very cold, flat, coconut taste that is nutty and not overly sweet. If coconut isn't your thing, many companies make "flavored" coconut water that is naturally created with the juices of other fruits such as lime or passion fruit. I prefer the original flavor.

Other random facts:
  • It has almost identical properties to human blood plasma, and in times of war or famine it has successfully been used as a replacement for intravenous hydration fluid.
  • Some pregnant women prefer drinking coconut water as a natural aid to help ease digestion problems or heartburn during pregnancy. The lauric acid found in coconut water is the same as human breast milk.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Low Fat Banana Bread Muffins

2 large eggs
3/4 c organic sugar
1/3 c applesauce
3 smashed extra ripe bananas
1 T canola oil
1 T vanilla extract
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 c toasted chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325. Using mixer, beat eggs and sugar for 5 minutes until thick. Add remaining wet ingredients, sift in dry ingredients. Pour mixture into baking cups. Bake until tops are golden brown, about 30 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Nutty and cheesy with a toasty hazelnut crunch. Not meant to be eaten alone. Not meant for those watching their caloric intake.

This was a pretty darn good version of roasted butternut squash lasagna that I found on Food Network via Michael Chiarello. I made this for a small dinner with friends and we really enjoyed it. It was a balanced, hearty meal that went well with wine. In addition, it was also my first successful venture at creating a bechamel sauce that didn't resemble paste.


2 large butternut squash, about 3 to 5 pounds
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 t Fennel seeds, crushed
1 t cinnamon
2 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups ricotta cheese (or a 15-ounce container)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 large eggs
1 pound dried lasagna sheets (about 24 sheets), each 6 1/2 by 3 inches
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup toasted, crumbled hazelnuts

For the sauce:
2 quarts 2 percent milk
6 T unsalted butter
1 T sage, minced
2 t minced garlic
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 t salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

Lasagna Assembly Extras
Butter, for dish
1 pound mozzarella, grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the squash's hard shell. Trim about 1/2-inch off the top and bottom ends so you can set each section of the squash flat on a cutting board. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a spoon, and coarsely chop the squash into 1/2-inch chunks. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl, toss the squash with the oil, sage, fennel, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the squash in the oven until very soft and beginning to brown, 40 to 50 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove the squash from the oven and puree in a food processor with fresh nutmeg.

In a large bowl, mix the squash puree, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the lasagna sheets until al dente. Drain the sheets and spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with oil and set aside.

Prepare the sauce: In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a slow simmer over medium heat. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sage and garlic to the butter, cook for 30 seconds, then add the flour and stir. Add about 3 cups of the milk, and whisk vigorously to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, while whisking continuously. Add the remaining milk and whisk again. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Adjust the heat to low to maintain a slow simmer, and cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Makes about 8 cups.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon a ladle of bechamel into the dish and spread to coat the bottom. Place a single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the bechamel. Spread some of the squash mixture evenly over the lasagna sheets and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top. Repeat this step until all ingredients are used, starting with 2 to 3 ladles of bechamel for each layer. Keep building the layers until the pan is full to about 1/4-inch from the top. Finish with cheese and sauce directly over the noodles. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour. Remove the cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Right before removing from oven, sprinkle with hazelnuts. Allow lasagna to rest before slicing. Serve warm.

  • The leftovers of this are especially delicious
  • I made a half version of this recipe (it would still be enough to serve 6 people minimum because it is such a rich dish)
  • If you have extra bechamel sauce- mix it with marinara and toss over whole wheat spaghetti for a quick meal
  • This recipe is quick for a weeknight if you roast the squash the day before
  • You can also use frozen or prepared butternut squash cubes to cut out extra prep time

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Channa Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry)

Masala = Spice Mix = The heart and soul of any Indian Food

Garam Masala = My new favorite spice = smells like Chai tea

I've been on a bit of a vegetarian Indian food kick lately and have stocked my spice drawer accordingly. Channa masala is a classic Northern Indian dish that I came across on and decided to give it a whirl after sampling something similar at Trader Joe's (they had a vegetarian Indian food sample night recently). It is a curry made of chickpeas that is beautiful in color, fragrant and rather healthy.

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/2 T ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t ground turmeric
6 T chopped tomatoes (or half a can)
1/2 cup water
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 t paprika
1/2 t garam masala
1/2 t salt
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/2 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 t fresh ginger, grated


Pour olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat. When warm, add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric. Stir until combined and cook for 30 seconds or so, or until it is very fragrant.

Stir in the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dump in the chickpeas and the pour in the water. Stir until combined, and then bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add the paprika, garam masala, salt, and lemon juice. Cover and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle in the ginger and jalapeno. Cook for another 30 seconds. Season with salt if needed.


  • I served this over Trader Joe's garlic naan. It comes in the frozen section of their store and it is delicious!
  • I hear it is also served with rice.
  • I found all of the spices that you can't find at a regular grocery store at Cost Plus World Market. They have a nice selection of unusual and exotic spices.
  • This was pretty mellow in terms of heat. If you want to kick it up a notch add more jalapeno or forget to deseed it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Organic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this for Wendy's Birthday last weekend. Recipe is from Bon Appetit online. The recipe called for using everything organic. I used organic carrots, flour, and sugar but didn't go to the extreme to find things like organic cream cheese. I think I would recommend adding a little more coconut if you like it to give it more texture as well as some golden raisens if you are in to those. I added toasted walnuts, but probably would have added more than the 3/4 cup the recipe calls for if I did it again. This is also one of those recipes you could use applesauce instead of some of the oil to make it healthier due to the density of the cake.

1/3 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1 lb organic carrots
1 c chopped pineapple
1 1/2 c organic all purpose flour
1/2 c organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 c organic cane sugar
2 t baking soda
2 1/4 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1/2 c dark brown sugar
3/4 c canola oil
1 T vanilla extract
3 eggs
frosting recipe (below)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 eight inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Place the coconut in a cup of warm water to soften it for 15 minutes.

Put carrots in the food processor and process for 1 minute. Add the pineapple and puree, 1-2 minutes until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add brown sugar and whisk to break up pieces.

Drain the coconut and place it in a medium bowl. Add the oil, vanilla, eggs, and carrot-pineapple puree, whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing with a spatula to incorporate, but not overmix. When the batter is almost mixed, add chopped walnuts if desired. Pour batter into prepared pans.

The recipe called to bake for 55 minutes, however, I checked mine after 30 minutes and it was done. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes, invert onto a rack and cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

3 8 oz packages reduced fat or nonfat cream cheese (I used 2 nonfat and 1 light)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 t grated lemon zest
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 T vanilla extract
2 3/4 c powdered sugar

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese and butter on med high speed until combined and airy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla.

Sift the powdered sugar. Turn mixer to low speed and slowly pour into frosting mixture.

Fill the inside of cake and frost the outter layer. I 'decorated' the cake by mixing the remaining frosting with yellow food coloring (and then later with green) and putting into frosting bags. I recommend putting the frosting in the fridge for a bit if you want to use it to decorate the cake in order to make it a little stiffer. As a side note, I think the recipe made a little too much frosting unless you wanted to really mound it up on the cake. I also used this frosting on red velvet cupcakes this week and it is a nice airy and not too sweet frosting to compliment many types of dessert.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Baked Ziti

I apologize for the super ugly picture. It was a last minute Marshall family decision that this must be posted so it was taken with my camera phone that I am still not very capable with. This recipe uses very few ingredients and comes together quickly and pretty delish so I thought I'd share.

1 16 oz bag penette pasta (mini penne)
1 16 oz container part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
1 large egg
4 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
2 8 oz jars organic marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe's)
1 T dried Italian seasoning
1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Boil pasta per package directions. Drain in cold water and set aside. Whisk ricotta, Parmesan, egg, Italian seasoning, basil, and salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl until combined. Add pasta and mix until pasta is thoroughly coated in cheese mixture.

In a large casserole dish coated in cooking spray, add half the pasta cheese mixture, top with 1 jar of marinara sauce and 1/2 the mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of pasta, sauce and cheese. Top with additional Parmesan cheese as desired and sprinkle with a little Italian seasoning blend. Bake uncovered at 375 until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

*This can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated.
*This recipe yields enough to feed 8 (or more if you have a salad) people. You could easily half it and use a smaller dish.
*I was in a hurry and put this recipe together in about 15 minutes. It makes a great weeknight meal. If you had more time, you could always use home made marinara.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dijon Pizza with Pear, Arugula, Goat Cheese

First off— if you like spicy, go to Trader Joe's and get yourself some of their Dijon mustard! It is unique blend they import from France and it is delicious and unusual compared to the average jar of Grey Poupon. I have always trusted TJs to sell great products at a good price and at $1.60 something for 13 ounces I guess you can't beat it.

Moving forward from my tangent, I am skipping my backlog of recipes to present you with this new pizza recipe. It is loosely inspired from this month's Bon Appetite and the flavor combination is pretty divine. I created it as an "experimental" pizza when we had pizza night last week and paired it with a more traditional "super veggie" sort of pizza. It was so delicous, we actually finished this one first! This pizza took about 10 minutes to prepare which is always a plus for a busy weeknight.

one package prepared pizza dough
corn meal
2 bosch pears, skin on, sliced into thin slivers
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 T dijon mustard
handful of arugula
6 red onion "rings"
1/3 cup parmesan blend

Let pizza dough set out of fridge for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Flatten out pizza dough in a 12 - 15 inch round. Lay on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal or in a pizza pan. Prick the dough with a fork and par bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Spread a thin layer of Dijon onto the dough. Top with arugula and then sprinkle goat cheese and onion rings throughout.Arrange pears in a circular pattern. Sprinkle entire pizza with parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes out of oven and serve.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sour Cream-Hazelnut Waffles with Warm Berry Coulis

I saw these in this month's Bon Appetit and just had to find an occasion to make them. I am not much of a pancake person, but when it comes to waffles, I love their crunchy outer layer, delicate fluffy inside AND the infinite flavor/topping possibilities!

The random twin ESP hit again as Melanie and I happened to make the same recipe on the same day. She will probably add her notes to this post later as we both used different modifications.

Waffle Ingredients (adapted from Bon Appetit, AUG 2009) -makes about 20
1 stick butter, unsalted
1/4 cup honey
3 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream (I actually used nonfat organic Greek yogurt)
2/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (reserve some for topping)

Pure organic maple syrup
warm berry coulis (see recipe below)

Melt the butter with honey in a small saucepan over low heat. In a large bowl, whisk together flour through baking soda. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs through sour cream. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Add the honey butter mixture and sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Heat oven to 250 degrees. This is to keep the waffles warm while you take the time to make them all one-by-one in your waffle iron. Heat your waffle iron and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Depending on the size of your iron, add about a ladle full of waffle batter to the iron and cook for 5 minutes or until the steaming stops and the outside of the waffle is crispy. Place in oven until remaining waffles are finished.

Serve waffles warm and drizzle with maple syrup, a spoonful of berry coulis and sprinkled hazelnuts.

Warm Berry Coulis Ingredients- makes 3.5 cups
2 cups fresh strawberries, divided
2 cups fresh raspberries, divided
1 cup fresh blueberries, divided
1 cup fresh blackberries, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 T fresh lemon juice

Place half of every berry in a medium saucepan. Add sugar and lemon juice to the berries and let stand for 30 minutes or until the natural juices are released. Bring the berry mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until berries are soft- about 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to release as much juice as possible. Discard the solids in the strainer.

Return the berry puree to the saucepan. Add remaining reserved berries to the saucepan over medium heat and stir until warm- about five minutes. Spoon over waffles.

  • The actual recipe calls for full-fat versions of everything. I did not do this and I don't think the recipe was missing anything.
  • This recipe was originated at Balthazar restaurant in New York
  • I love fresh berries and I didn't see the need to spoil beautiful, expensive, edible berries in a sauce. I used this handy frozen mix from Trader Joe's that has all these berries in it already and probably saved myself ten bucks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two Tasty Blog Recipes I Tried This Weekend

We had guests for the weekend so I decided to whip up some recipes that I saw on the web this week.

The first was a recipe from 101 Cook Books which was a Red Pesto Ravioli made with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, walnuts and spinach. I followed this recipe almost exactly except that I doubled the pesto recipe to ensure I'd have more for later. This was a hit with our guests and was also a healthy and balanced vegetarian meal. I paired it with a Greek Salad. Check out the recipe below.

Red Pesto Ravioli

For dessert, I made a peach and creme fraiche pie that I found on Smitten Kitchen. This recipe was originally from Martha Stewart. It was delicious and I thought that the creme fraiche really took the peaches to another level of flavor complexity. It was also the first time that I've been successful with making a perfect crumble topping! I learned that the trick is to keep everything really cold before putting it into the oven. I sliced almost frozen butter and mixed it in with the dry crumble ingredients and it turned out really crumbly and crispy. I'm not sure if it was chef error or just juicy California peaches, but I couldn't get the pie to set and be sliceable. It ended up pretty ugly on the plate and was in essence a pie crust with a peach/creme fraiche/crumble soup on top. I think if i were to create this again I would skip the pie crust and just make it in a 8x8 pan as a peach cobbler.

Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie

Both of the blogs have much better pictures than I take so check out their photos- they are beautiful.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I took a whirlwind trip to San Francisco this weekend and found that Kelsey has a fabulous little cupcake place in her neighborhood (Cow Hollow) called Kara's Cupcakes. They are made from locally sourced (organic when possible) ingredients and made from scratch daily. I couldn't decide on just one, so I took a little sampler pack back to SLO with me!

The flavors are Java, Smores, Fleur de sel (chocolate filled with salted caramel) and Kara's Karrot. See more at

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer Caprese Salad on Flatbread

I love juicy red tomatoes that just plain taste like summer. I picked up some fresh tomatoes and arugula from Farmer's Market and got to work on a new caprese dish. This makes for a nice light dinner on a hot day or could be made more miniature and served as appetizers.

Ingredients (serves 2 if made this way)
6 - 8 ounces fresh pizza dough
1 handful fresh basil leaves (or other similar greens)
1 T pine nuts or walnuts
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Parmesan or other hard cheese
1 large hot house or heirloom tomato, cut into thick slices
4 thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese (the kind that is packed in water)
1 cup fresh arugula or other similar greens
1 T capers
a drizzle of good quality olive oil
fresh cracked salt and pepper to taste

Roll out the pizza dough into thin 6" circles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, prick the surface a few times with a fork and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden and slightly crispy.

In the meantime, make the pesto sauce by placing basil through Parmesan in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and saucy. It should be a drizzling consistency, so you may need to add more liquid as necessary.

When flat breads are finished baking, top with arugula, cheese and tomato slices. Drizzle with pesto mixture and sprinkle with capers, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vegan Blueberry Banana Smoothie

This cold refreshing beverage makes a nice breakfast or post work out pick-me-up on hot summer days. I have been on quite the smoothie kick lately and this is one of my favorite combinations, which packs a lot of vitamins and nutrients. Most of this fruit is in season right now which is convenient for making your own frozen fruit. (Much more economical than buying it already frozen in many cases!) Simply wash, slice and set the fruit on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Let it freeze solid like this in the freezer and then transfer it to a plastic bag or freezer safe container. It should last a few weeks.

Ingredients (serves 1)

1 ripe banana
1/8 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
3/4 cup soy, nut or rice based milk (I enjoy hazelnut milk)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Spicy Chickpea Green Salad

I got this recipe from my mom (Kristie!) and then added a little bit of extra goodies to it. She's been making it on hot Sacramento summer nights to pair with a crisp glass of white wine and grilled salmon. It can be made to be an entree or side salad depending on serving size. Not only is it vegan, but it is really delicious and healthy! It's also not as spicy as spicy as the title may lead you to think- so if you want it really spicy, you might skimp on deseeding the serrano chiles.

Ingredients (serves 6 as a side salad)
adapted from Food Network's Guy Fieri's recipe
1 clove garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, seeded, ribs removed and finely diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 English cucumber, sliced, skin on
1/2 bunch mint, leaves roughly chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
1 head red leaf lettuce, shredded
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Combine the garlic, pepper, red onion, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste, in a large bowl.

Add the chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and toss in the lettuce and arugula. Plate and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes with Yogurt Spice Paste

I eat a lot of potatoes. They are sort of my go-to comfort food to the point that I am always looking for new delicious recipes. Naturally, when I came across these gems in this month's Bon Appetit, I just had to try them. They have a feature this month on exotic barbecue that explores a bunch of new-to-me flavors. Let me say these potatoes were worth every random extra ingredient that I had to pick up at the store! These little guys are a flavor party in your mouth! In the magazine, it says to barbecue the potatoes, but I chose to twice bake them to save myself some time.

Ingredients (serves 6)
Potatoes and Stuffing
large unpeeled russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
tablespoons butter, melted
tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
green onion, finely chopped
serrano chile, seeded, minced
tablespoon sesame seeds
Coarse kosher salt

Yogurt Spice Paste
garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
teaspoon salt
teaspoon ground coriander
teaspoon ground cumin
cup plain Greek-style yogurt
teaspoons vegetable oil
teaspoons fresh lemon juice
cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes with a fork and cook in oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and slice in half.

Using a spoon, scoop out the insides of the potatoes into a bowl leaving just the shell. Mash and mix in cheese, melted butter, cilantro, green onion, chile, and sesame seeds. Season potato mixture generously with salt and pepper; divide among potato shells.

For the yogurt spice paste, combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender. Using on/off turns, blend until mixture is finely chopped. Add yogurt, oil, and lemon juice and process until smooth puree forms. Transfer to small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To flavor the potato skin, dip the bottoms of the potatoes in the yogurt paste and dredge in sesame seeds. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and pour equal portions of the remaining yogurt sauce on top of each potato. Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds. Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve warm. These make great leftovers if you can't finish them all.

* If you have leftover yogurt sauce, it makes a wonderful lowfat dip for fresh veggies!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

French Onion Soup

You either love it or you hate it. For me, I've always had this sick love for French onion soup— the salted broth, the crunchy croutons, the crusted cheese on top— every time I see it on a restaurant menu, I just have to order it. This recipe is adapted from Julia Child's own recipe. Adding cognac to it gives the broth a rich, decadent touch so I suggest you pair it with an equally fancy cheese topping.

Ingredients (makes 6+ bowls of soup)
2-1/2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2-1/2 quarts vegetable stock
4 to 5 tablespoons Cognac (I used Brandy- I'm cheap!)
1 cup dry white vermouth

Serve with
sliced baguette
sliced Gruyere cheese
grated Parmesan cheese


Melt the butter in a large stock pan and melt. Next add in the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook covered over medium heat until the onions are tender and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the salt and sugar and raise the temperature to a medium high heat. Cook the onions, uncovered for about 30 minutes, until they are golden in color.

Add the flour and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups heated vegetable stock. Add the remaining stock and alcohols and simmer covered for an hour over low heat.

To prepare the bowls, pour soup into individual oven safe bowls. Add a thin slice of toasted baguette and top with cheeses. The amount of cheese used will vary on your preference, but a small handful of cheese for each bowl should be good. Broil bowls in the oven until the topping is golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs or Italian seasoning.


  • This soup is inexpensive and wonderful to freeze for an easy weeknight meal. Just add the toppings after thawing.
  • Slice the onions as thin as possible. I would recommend using a mandolin if you have one.
  • You may choose to skimp on cooking the soup for a full hour, but do not skimp on browning the onions before adding the liquid. It will result in nasty potent oniony soup. I know from experience :)
  • I used a stock photo for this article as to not ward people off from trying this lovely soup recipe. Although my soup looked similar, my photo of it turned out terrible!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mediterranean Cous Cous

I made this for a little falafel night at my friend Jenna's house. It was pretty tasty and had a nice range of sweet / salty / sour flavors going on. I was really unsure about adding apricot to the salad, but it ended up adding a nice punch to the flavor. It also made for some nice leftovers— I made too much and we ended up eating this for a week. I would definitely recommend hunting down some Israeli cous cous. I had never tried it before, but picked some up at Trader Joe's, and the texture is out of this world!

3 cups cooked cous cous- I used whole wheat and Israeli
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced kalamata olives
1/4 cup shredded mint leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricot
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup diced roasted peppers

3 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1/4 clove garlic, minced finely
salt and pepper to taste

Cook cous cous according to package directions. When done, fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside. Get to chopping all your salad fixings and add them to the bowl as you go.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and toss into salad. Serve room temperature or cold.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs

I adopted this Turkish recipe from this month's Bon Appetit because we were lacking in some of the required spices. It was an amazing balance of spicy and creamy. I served it with spanakopita triangles, lemon zest roasted broccoli, and corn barbecued in chili pepper and garlic.

Ingredients (makes three dinner sized skewers):
2 t crushed red peppers
2 t paprika
1 c nonfat Greek yogurt
3 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T tomato paste
2 t kosher salt
1 t fresh ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sliced lemon
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks for grilling

Mix peppers through garlic in a bowl and whisk together. Add lemon slices and chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to one day. Remove chicken from bowl and thread onto skewers. Barbecue over medium heat 12 minutes, turning twice.

This would have been wonderful served with pita bread, hummus, plain yogurt, feta cheese, and a greek style salad as well.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tofu Satay with Rice and Vegetables

I did it... After all these months of cooking predominantly vegetarian, I finally tried cooking tofu.

My sister and I grew up fearful of this slimy white substance. I have fond memories of our aunt visiting from Napa Valley for the weekend and bringing various goodies from sake to chocolate cheese. She was an advocate for tofu and always tried to trick us into eating it. I remember sampling some dessert mousse that she brought over and once we knew it was tofu, it instantly became inedible regardless of how good it was. We were just plain picky-as-you-can-get kids.

I'd have to say after all these years, I am no longer a picky eater and have become quite adventurous when dining. Knowing that tofu is quite good for you and packed with protein, I decided to take a stab at tofu satay. It was pretty good... definitely a light meal that I felt good about eating. Try it for yourself if you dare.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 block of extra firm tofu, rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 T tamari soy sauce
2 T Asian sesame oil
2 T sherry or sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 seranno pepper, minced

3/4 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup natural-style peanut butter, smooth or chunky
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t curry powder
1 1/2 T brown sugar
1 T lime juice
1 T canola oil
1 1/2 T tamari soy sauce
Dash cayenne pepper

1 large yam, peeled and cut into sticks
2 cups green beans, trimmed
12 fresh basil leaves
3 cups cooked brown rice

Cut the tofu into bite sized pieces and pat dry again with a paper towel. Let tofu marinate in a bowl with the soy sauce through serrano for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

In a blender, combine satay sauce ingredients and let set until ready to serve.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a pyrex pan, lay out marinated tofu and drizzle with a little satay sauce. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and firm.

Meanwhile, steam the yams and green beans. The yams will take approximately 10 minutes (test with a fork) in a steamer attachment and the beans will take 6 if you want to keep them crispy.

When tofu is done cooking, divide rice equally among plates and top with basil, veggies and tofu. Drizzle with satay sauce.

  • If you are feeling lazy, you can substitute home made satay sauce for bottled satay sauce. You can find this pretty easily in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores. This would make for a very easy weeknight meal.
  • Make sure to get firm or extra firm tofu or it wont roast to the proper texture.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Chive Dressing

Beets are a "nutritional powerhouse" of vegetables and can be cooked in a variety of ways. The rich, colorful hues of beets make for a dramatic presentation in any salad. When beets are in season, (summer through winter) they are tender and sweet which pairs nicely with tangy goat cheese. They have also become a recent fixture in fine dining where you may see anything from beet soup to beet "carpaccio."

Ingredients (makes 4 dinner sized salads)

1 T fresh chopped chives
1/2 t minced shallot
2 T balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cooked barley- cook in vegetable broth with a little salt for added flavor
3 cups mixed greens- I used mache, spinach and red leaf lettuce
2 beets, peeled and sliced into thin circles
1/2 a red onion, sliced into rings
4 ounces herbed goat cheese

Prepare dressing by combining ingredients together and whisking vigorously. Let dressing set while cooking the remainder of your salad to let the flavors marry.

In a steamer attachment on your stove, steam beet slices for approximately 12 minutes or until you can pierce them with a knife. Let cool to room temperature.

Assemble salad by putting a bed of grains on your plate. Add greens, beets and rings of onion. Drizzle with dressing and top with crumbled goat cheese and fresh cracked salt and pepper.

  • When purchasing beets, get ones that are about 2 inches in diameter that still have healthy looking greens attached. They can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
  • The highly nutritious green tops of beets can be eaten as well– in a salad or cooked like you would spinach.
  • Next time, I might add mandarin orange wedges to this salad

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Baked Beans

This is a great recipe to accompany anything at a summer barbecue. This recipe belongs to our Grandma Midge and has been in the family for years. I am pretty sure our dad ate this as a kid. It reminds me of many family Fourth of Julys. I have been making this recipe a lot since the purchase of the new grill. It sounds labor intensive due to the cook times, but once you have prepared the sauce, you can leave it alone and just remember to check on it occasionally.


1 lb dried navy beans or small white beans, rinsed and soaked for up to 8 hours
8 oz bacon chopped (I used prosciutto or it could be eliminated all together)
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
2 c ketchup
6 T maple syrup
6 T dark molasses
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t pepper

Rinse beans after soaking for up to 8 hours. Boil in an oven proof pot for 45 minutes until tender, drain and reserve 1 c of cooking liquid. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cook bacon in flame proof baking dish, until crisp, add onion and garlic, saute an additional 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and cook until dissolved and slightly bubbly. Add remaining ingredients. Cook in oven 2 1/2 hours stirring every half hour. Remove lid and cook an additional 30 minutes prior to serving. Add reserved cooking liquid if sauce becomes too thick.

Two Bean Salad with Tarragon Dressing

Who doesn't love cold salads? This recipe is perfect as a healthy side dish to serve at summer barbecues and can even be made a day in advance. The dressing has a nice balance of sweetness and tang which compliments the flavorful crunch of the green beans.

Recipe Adapted from Vegetarian Times


1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbs fresh tarragon

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
6 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 c pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 c sliced red onion
1/4 c finely chopped Italian parsley

Fill large pot with 1 inch of water and set steamer basket in pot. Cover, and bring water to a boil. Place green beans in steamer basket. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and steam 2 - 3 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender. Cool.

Toss green beans with all remaining salad ingredients and place in large serving bowl.

For the dressing, blend vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, garlic, salt and pepper in blender or food processor until smooth. With machine running, gradually add oil and tarragon through feed tube, and blend until smooth. Pour dressing over salad, and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lobster Mac and Cheese

¡Warning! Don't make this if you are on a diet. This rich, creamy, cheesy macaroni and cheese with lobster tails was a creation made from combining a couple of different macaroni recipes together, substituting my favorite cheeses and adding lobster tails to it. The lobster isn't necessary, in fact it's probably a little gratuitous for humble macaroni and cheese, but it gives it a nice sea food flair and an added texture.

4 cups dry pasta shells- small or medium size
1 T olive oil
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, minced
4 T flour
3 cups half and half
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz gorgonzola cheese, shredded
8 oz fontina cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked lobster tails, cut into pieces
1/2 cup panko crumbs

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta shells. Cook according to package directions, keeping them on the al dente side. Remove and drain. Place shells into a bowl and toss with olive oil.

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter and add garlic and onions. Cook about five minutes on medium heat until translucent. Turn heat to low and sprinkle in flour to create a roux. Whisk vigorously. Cook for another minute or two and slowly add half and half while stirring. Next, add your cheeses. Reserve half of the cheddar cheese for topping.

Add your cheese sauce to the bowl of macaroni shells and stir gently. Add spices and then stir in lobster tails. Put pasta into a greased 9x9 pan. You may have some extra for another pan depending on the size of your shells (yay leftovers!). Top macaroni with remaining cheddar and sprinkle with panko and some additional nutmeg. Cook in oven for 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and topping is golden.

  • I like to serve my mac and cheese with a heaping side of steamed spinach and broccoli.
  • I purchased my lobster tails from Trader Joe's in the frozen section. They come cooked, cut and ready to go for this recipe. Just defrost and rinse.
  • Try substituting with your favorite cheeses. A lot of people shy away from blue cheese varieties, but it really adds an interesting layer of flavor.
  • This recipe is very rich and could easily serve 6 people if accompanied with enough vegetables and a salad.
  • Pairs nicely with a Pinot Noir. We actually started with Tolosa Pinot Gris and finished with Pinot Noir.
  • Check back later for Stovetop Macaroni with Roasted Tomatoes, a much healthier version that I make adapted from Cooking Light :D

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Need a good Sunday Brunch this week?

For those of you that live in SLO, we tried this great new place over Memorial Day weekend while helping Nat and Garret scope out wedding venues. It is called Profile and it is in an old house on Marsh Street in downtown San Luis Obispo. A few noteworthy items are their $15 bottomless mimosas made from Tobin James Dreamweaver champagne. They had amazing eggs benedict (pictured below) and cinnamon bun french toast (pictured above). They have a very cute indoor sun room as well as an outdoor patio that was great for brunch. They are open from 10am-2pm for Sunday brunch and also have a week day happy hour. On Tuesdays, it is 25% off for Cal Poly students and faculty.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Turkey Feta Burgers

Time for some grilling weather!

Ingredients (makes 4 patties):
1 lb (or a little more) ground lean turkey
1 container reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
1 t oregano
1 t garlic powder
1 t olive oil
salt and pepper as desired

Mix above ingredients in a bowl until blended. Divide into four equal parts and shape into patties. Barbecue on medium heat for 6-8 minutes per side (until cooked all the way through). Toast buns with butter and garlic salt. Top burgers with mustard, tomatoes, avocado slices, and arugula as desired.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Artichoke Spinach Dip

I made a ton of this dip this weekend for a little Memorial Day barbecue. This dip is always a hit at parties and can be made ahead of time and heated right before guests arrive. This can be modified to be as healthy or as naughty as you like, but the full-on heart attack version tastes the best. This recipe will make a 9x9 Pyrex pan worth of dip.

1 cup daisy sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 80z block cream cheese, room temp

1 bag chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1 large jar marinated artichokes, chopped- reserve the juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t hot sauce
1 cup sharp cheddar or Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin to taste

1/2 cup home made bread crumbs (see below)- substitute with panko if lazy

Serve with tortilla chips, sliced peppers, carrot sticks, thin sliced toasted baguettes, etc.

In a large bowl, mix the first 7 ingredients together. Add half of the vinegary juices from the jar of artichokes to the mixture. Add a half cup of the cheese into the dip and season to taste. Transfer to a greased pyrex pan and top with remaining cheese.

To make the bread crumbs, toast 5 slices of sourdough bread until golden. Tear into pieces and combine in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Add 1/4 cup melted butter and mix. Crumble on top of dip.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden and dip is bubbly. Serve warm.

  • Add a jalapeno that is seeded and finely chopped for an extra crunch and spicy kick.
  • If dip needs a little more of that marinated vinegary taste, add red wine vinegar
  • Forgo cream cheese and just use mayonnaise and sour cream

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mojitos with lime simple syrup

I started growing an herb garden this year and for some reason decided mint was a good component. Once it actually sprouted (I didn't kill it!) I nicknamed it the mojito bush. Over mother's day weekend we tried making mojitos by putting mint in the food processor (I would not recommend this). After discussing over gross mojitos, we decided that it would have been better with out the chunks. I perfected it last weekend by creating a lime and mint flavored simple syrup (no chunks in your drink that way). These can be made with any type of fruit muddled in the bottom of the glass- strawberries, mangos, or blackberries work well- but they are also good just plain.

Ingredients (makes 2 cups simple syrup):
1/2 c white sugar
8 oz water
the zest of four large limes
1 c mint, crushed

Per Drink:
1 2 oz shot white rum
juice of 1/4 lime
2 T simple syrup
sparkling water as needed

Combine the water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and pour into a jar or pyrex measuring cup. Add mint leaves and lime zest. Cover and refridgerate for at least 4 hours. Strain out the mint and lime zest prior to serving.

Add fruit to bottom of a pint glass (if desired). Fill to the top with ice. Add rum, lime juice, simple syrup, and fill to the rim with sparkling water. Garnish with lime and mint. Great on a hot day!

Note that the picture above is the 'chunky' version and not the smooth recipe below- forgot to take a picture!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tortellini Market Salad with Pesto

I made this salad for a sunset dinner with a friend on a lazy Sunday after a weekend of eating pizza for dinner (okay maybe we had the rest of it for breakfast too!) You will feel good eating this salad because it's fresh, healthy and colorful. The dressing / pesto recipes here are enough for about 4 dinner sized salads, but I will leave the rest of the amounts up to your personal tastes and preferences.


1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup packed Italian parsley
2 T pine nuts
1 T chopped shallot
2 T lemon juice
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 t chopped basil leaves
4 t red wine vinegar
3 t olive oil

2 cups organic red leaf lettuce, washed and chopped
2 cups mache lettuce*
2 cups baby lettuce blend
shelled English peas, cooked and set to room temperature
thin sliced radishes
thin sliced English cucumber
thin sliced red onions
cooked asparagus tips (I forgot to add these but it was my intention)
avocado slices
fresh cheese tortellini, cooked and drained
toasted pine nuts
crumbled farmer's cheese or queso blanco (in the Mexican food cold aisle of the market)
salt and pepper to taste

Add pesto ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to add more oil or lemon depending on the thickness you desire. Let set up to a day in the refrigerator.

Blend dressing ingredients together and let set out.

Let lettuce crisp up by washing and setting in the refrigerator covered with a wet paper towel. When you are ready to serve, toss the lettuce in a large bowl with the other vegetables and dressing. Plate salad onto individual plates and add tortellini, pine nuts and cheese to each individually. Drizzle each plate with pesto and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

*I have a new obsession with mache lettuce, which is slowly gaining popularity in America. It tastes nutty, is a rich green color and has a delicate texture. High in vitamins A, B and C, it is known to fight stress and fatigue. It also has a third more iron in it than spinach! I haven't seen mache in many grocery stores as of yet, but I have found it in the bagged lettuce area at Trader Joe's.

Thank you Narineh for taking lovely pictures of the meal! You should check out her blog Traditionally Modern Designs for more (and other great design, home, food, etc. stuff!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cheese Fondue

This recipe has been in our family for years...I remember our parents making it when we were kids and not being too fond of the taste of Swiss cheese or white wine at the age of 5-12, Nat and I would always delight in dark portions of fried chicken Hungry Man TV dinners. Now that we are grown up, we enjoy this recipe all the time. We modified it a bit this time by using extra sharp cheddar in conjunction with the Swiss cheese. We used spicy chicken sausages, red mini bell peppers, broccoli, garlic mushrooms, and or course sourdough bread as dipping mechanisms, but really anything that tastes good with cheese works. We also served this with side salads to balance out the richness of the rest of the meal.

1 pound Swiss cheese grated- use the store brand kind- it melts the best and doesn't separate
1/4 pound Extra Sharp Wisconsin Cheddar grated (we used Trader Joes brand)
1 split garlic clove
1 c drinkable white wine- we used Meridian Chardonnay
2 t cornstarch
1 t dry mustard
dash nutmeg
1 t Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Grate cheese and mix with dry ingredients in a bowl. Rub the garlic clove on the inside of the fondue pot. Heat the wine in fondue pot over the stove. Slowly add the cheese, stirring constantly until desired texture is achieved- you want it to coat the spoon. Add Worcestershire sauce just before serving. Transfer to fondue burner and enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brie with Almonds and Fruit Preserves

This recipe makes for a quick and easy appetizer. I found a wonderful jar of fig (slight obsession) preserves, but I presume any fruit preserve that is not overly sweetened would do well.


one triangle brie- approx 6-10 oz
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup prepared preserves

apple slices and crostinis for dipping

Cut the brie into slices and place in a slightly oiled baking dish. Top with almonds, salt, pepper and oil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and apply a thin layer of preserves. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Serve warm with toasted bread slices and apples.

I have found that with serving brie the most important thing is to not skimp on quality. Crappy store brand brie will taste like it. Some bries have more of a consistency of rubber than a nice soft cheese. I recommend buying double or triple cream brie from Trader Joe's and make sure that when it is chilled in the refrigerator that it still is soft to the touch.

Here are some more brie facts I found on the web
  • The white moldy Brie rind is edible and is usually eaten along with the softer interior.
  • Underripe Brie will feel hard when gently pressed with your finger, while overripe Brie will feel too soft and runny to the touch. The exterior should be firm, while the center should be springy but not watery.
  • Brie stops aging once it is sliced, so if it is not properly aged when you cut into it, it will not improve.
  • Brie should be brought to room temperature or warmed before eating.
  • French Brie has a lower fat content (about 40 percent) than American Brie which has up to 60 percent fat content. However, true Brie cheese is unpasteurized and illegal to import to the US.
  • Champagne goes particularly well with Brie cheese.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

For the last several years, our Mother's Day tradition has been a ladies weekend somewhere (usually San Luis Obispo) with the twins and Kristie. This year, we had it in Newport and Nat and I decided to cook most of the meals at home...great food blog opportunities...right? This is a very easy family recipe that usually makes an appearance around the holidays. We broke it out a little early this year with the mimosas for mom!

1/2 stick salted butter, melted, plus 2 T
2 T cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/4 c brown sugar
1 package premade dough- such as Bridgeford ready dough or Trader Joe's white pizza dough
2 T flour

1 package low fat cream cheese, softened
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c powdered sugar
3 T milk

Roll out the dough onto a large flourer surface into a rectangle. Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar together in a bowl with a fork. Pour melted butter over the surface of the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Tightly roll the dough into a long tube. Now, this is a trick I did not know, but having mom in town this weekend, she shared the best way to cut cinnamon rolls EVER! Take a piece of unwaxed dental floss (about a foot long) and lay the tube of dough on top of it. Slowly bring the two ends together like you are going to tie a knot and it slices the dough into perfect little pieces without mushing the ends together. (See pic below).

Place slices into a greased baking pan about 1 inch apart and spoon remaining melted butter over the tops. Bake on 325 for 20 minutes until golden brown.

While the rolls are baking, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a mixer to create frosting. Generously top each roll as they come out of the oven.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vegetable Fried Rice

This is an easy weeknight meal I prepare often that sneaks in a lot of healthy vegetables. The trick is to combine roughly one cup of vegetables and one scrambled egg white for every cup of rice. You can use any combination of vegetables that you like that goes well with soy sauce. It is also good with some extra thrown in rotisserie chicken or small precooked shrimp for you meat eaters.


2 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup white onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped snap peas
1 cup shredded napa cabbage
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
3 cups precooked brown rice
3 egg whites
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup green onion
cumin, white pepper, soy sauce, red pepper flakes to taste

Add oil to pan and sautee onions and garlic. Slowly add vegetables in order of how long they take to cook. When vegetables are almost done, add rice and egg and stir until egg is cooked thoroughly. Add more delicate herbs and vegetables and season to taste. Give pan a good pour of soy sauce and serve hot.

The trick with the rice is to use day old rice or to not go overboard on adding liquid to the pan of rice. Too much liquid will result in mush.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Green Onion and Sharp Cheddar Quinoa

I think quinoa is the next hot ticket food item. It is nutritious, delicious and has so many varieties of ways to cook it. This recipe is from the SF Gate which claims to be a quinoa / risotto combination— "quinotto." It's good! I added a few extras to it and it really makes a creamy and delicious grain that could be a main dish or side dish.


1 cup quinoa
3 cups hot diluted broth
3 green onions, thinly sliced
About 3 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 heaping tablespoons cottage cheese
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt, black and red pepper, to taste
A grating of fresh nutmeg

In a heavy nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat, lightly toast the quinoa until it turns slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup of broth, stirring as you go. When it has absorbed, add more liquid, a little at a time, in the same style as risotto, with less stirring. Add more liquid when the grains look as if they have absorbed all the liquid in the pan. Cook this way for about 10 minutes.

When the grains are just tender, another 5 minutes or so, add a little more liquid, and stir in the green onions. Cover and remove from the heat. Allow the quinoa to rest for 5-10 minutes, then add the cheddar, cottage cheese, salt, black and red pepper, and nutmeg. Add the tomatoes.

Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to melt the cheese, then fluff up the grains with a fork to gently combine. If the cheese hasn't melted, return the quinoa to a medium-low heat until it has.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Coffee Chocolate Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Toasted Coconut Whipped Cream

Now for a baking recipe... I made this last weekend when Garret's dad Dennis was in town. The McElveny men have a special place in their hearts for pineapple upside down cake, so I always try to make a new experimental version when I have an occasion. I got the chocolate cake recipe from Simply Organic and the rest came from my head. The cake itself is pretty exceptional. It is light but very moist. Dennis also brought up a couple of wines that were created before I was born so we had one to accompany our cake.

1 can pineapple rings, in natural juices
2 T rum
2 T brown sugar
1 t melted butter

1.75 cups flour
1.75 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup strong coffee
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 t vanilla

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1 cup whipping cream
3 T powdered sugar
1 T coffee

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 10 inch cake pan and line top with parchment paper. sprinkle the inside of the pan with the brown sugar, butter and rum and then line with pineapple slices.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt). In a large bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (eggs through vanilla). Stir well with a mixer and gradually add the contents of the dry bowl to the wet bowl.

Carefully pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 55 minutes.

While cake is baking, chill your mixer beaters and a bowl in the freezer. Line a baking sheet with the coconut and cook until golden- about 10 minutes.

When cake is done, cool for 10 minutes and invert onto a cake plate. While cake is cooling, beat whipping cream, sugar and coffee in a bowl until it is the right consistency. Slice the cake onto serving plates and top with cream and coconut.

Buttercup Kitchenaid Mixer

It has arrived!!! Thank you grandpa and grandma! I received an early wedding gift from my grandparents today. My grandparents couldn't afford a high end mixer in their early married years and realized what a wonderful asset they were to the kitchen when they finally purchased one. Grandma decided that when her granddaughters got married that she would get them mixers. I can't wait to start baking... and making pizza dough... and bread... and cookies... oh my.

I got buttercup mainly because I love yellow and decided it would be a great heirloom to pass down to someone someday. I look at all the rust, chocolate and pea soup colored kitchen things my mom still has lying around and it brings a happy nostalgia for the past.