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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Taco Soup

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T olive oil
1.5 lbs ground turkey

1 large can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can red kidney beans
2 cups vegetable broth
1 package taco seasoning

sliced avocado, sour cream, cilantro, cheddar cheese, tortilla chips for garnish

Saute the onion and garlic in a large soup pot until translucent. Add turkey until browned. Drain. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 20 minutes. Garnish with avocado slices, chips, cheese, and sour cream. This can be made vegetarian by eliminating the turkey and using an additional can of black beans.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May is Bike Month!

Okay this it totally food unrelated, but for those of you who don't know, May is national bike month. Ride your bike more and enjoy the sunshine!

Bike Love Poster by Dora Drimilas

Some Biking Links
Bike Happening (This Thursday night! in SLO)
SLO County Bike Coalition
Bikely- cycling routes
Map my Ride

World's Best Bean Dip

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo (this is you Nar)! I grew up on this bean dip- Superbowl, house parties, any occasion to make bean dip- we made it. I believe the recipe originated from an old family friend Randi Smith. This is always a hit and really easy to make. It makes a great burrito too! Watch out you may find Melanie and I selling bean dip burritos with avocado slices out of a little cart at the beach some day.


1-2 cans vegetarian Rosarita beans
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
onion powder
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
(or use half a packet of taco seasoning if lazy)
3-15 good splashes of hot sauce, depending on your tolerance
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese- reserve most for topping

Mix beans through hot sauce in a bowl. Add spices to your personal tastes or preferences. Mix in some of the cheese for added drippy cheesy gooiness in each bite. Put in an oven safe dish, top with remaining cheese and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until hot and the cheese is melted. Serve with chips. Make extra. It will go quickly at large gatherings.

* As a side note, I usually make this with lightened versions of the sour cream and cream cheese to attempt to reduce chances of diabetes and heart disease in unsuspecting friends. I am a huge fan of sour cream as a condiment and have discovered that Daisy Light sour cream is the best light sour cream out there. The rest are grainy, flavorless and uncomparable to full fat sour cream.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Roasted Chicken

This is such a great, easy recipe that can make a component to so many other dishes. The lemon under the skin gave the chicken a wonderful flavor- even cut up in salads the next day!

1 whole chicken
1 lemon
1 T salt
1 T pepper
1 head garlic, crushed
4 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
1 T fresh thyme
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
cooking spray

Cut the lemon in thin slices. Saute 2 minutes each side on low heat in a small frying pan coated in cooking spray. Let cool. Meanwhile, clean the chicken and loosen the skin, but leave the skin on. Place onto a large roasting pan. Place lemon slices, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, and thyme under the chicken skin. Tie up the legs with twine. Coat chicken in cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff the chicken with onion. Cook on 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 325. Cook an additional hour or until a meat themometer in the meaty part of the leg registers 180 degrees. I served this with buttermilk smashed potatoes and broccoli. I also made a sauce out of the chicken drippings by adding 1/2 cup dry white wine, 1 cup vegetable broth, and reducing until thickened. It was pretty awesome.