Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vegetarian Etouffee

A few months ago, my friends and I conspired a trip to New Orleans for New Year's Eve. The trip didn't end up happening, but an excitement for Cajun-style cooking happened instead.

In October, Garret and I went to a restaurant in San Jose's Santana Row, called Roux, where we had a sampling of cheesy grits, crawfish etouffee over rice, fried okra and Mississippi brews. The food was great and I especially enjoyed the etouffee. Etouffee (eh-too-fay) means "smothered" in French. In this case, covered in a rich tomato gravy.

When I came back from my trip up North, I decided to try and make etouffee, but in a vegetarian-friendly way. Here are my findings from digging through the internet and compiling this recipe. I can't guarantee it's authenticity to real Cajun food, but it's delicious and a great comfort food in cold weather.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1/2 chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1, 8 ounce block tofu, chopped into small cubes (carnivores may like shrimp or chicken)
Salt, cayenne, and black pepper
Tabasco sauce
juice of half a lemon
chopped parsley

4 servings cheesy grits or rice

I used this recipe for grits, but substituted broth for milk and used Quick Grits instead of polenta.

Melt the butter in a heavy pan until melted. Sift flour into butter mixture and whisk. Stir constantly for 15-20 minutes over medium heat until mixture becomes a brown color— be careful not to burn. You will smell it if the butter burns and you will need to start over.

Add the vegetables to this mixture and saute until the onions become translucent. Add thyme, tomato paste and stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Add tofu in the last 10 minutes of cooking. To finish, add salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste and squeeze in half a lemon. Stir and serve over cheesy grits. Top with parsley.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Need Some Tested Thanksgiving Recipes?

This weekend we decided to have a little pre-Thanksgiving feast with our friends in SLO since there are a bunch of us that like to cook and we are all going all over California for the actual holiday. Much was made out of the Thanksgiving issues of Bon Appetit and Cooking light that I really liked and thought I would pass along in case anyone is looking for some great recipes to try:

Malt Beer Brined Turkey With Malt Glaze:

This was a deliciously juicy and had great flavor. Due to Dave's new interest in beer making, we decided to go for some beer inspired recipes. We cooked it in a "turkey roaster" (think giant crock pot) on 350 for about 4 1/2 hours. The only thing I changed is I used three of Dave's American Pale Ale beers from the keg to baste with instead of the water that the recipe called for.

Mixed Mushroom and Tarragon Gravy:

Great flavor. I kind of messed up the texture on this by using light sour cream instead of creme fraiche. Use the real deal. I also subbed Trader Joe's turkey broth for the home made turkey stock due to time.

Framboise Cranberry Sauce

Not too sweet and super easy! I'd make it again. I might add a tiny bit more orange zest next time. We made it the day before and I feel like the flavors melded together quite nicely. We could actually taste the raspberry from the framboise.

And Nat made a really nice vegetarian mushroom stuffing I thought I'd also share. The flavor was really nice:

3 boxes assorted mushrooms, sliced thin
1 stick butter
2 white onions, chopped
9 cloves garlic, minced
a good large splash of brandy- might have been like a 1/2 cup
2 boxes of corn bread stuffing mix
2 cups home made mushroom stock (or can sub veg stock)
1 bag collard "southern" greens from TJ's

To season- salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, cayenne, paprika to taste

Cook mushrooms and onions in a stick of butter, add brandy, cook until most of liquid is absorbed- about 15 minutes.

Cook greens in a pan for like 30 min with garlic, seasonings and some liquid- broth or water or both until well cooked.

Mix everything in a bowl, add more season if necessary, butter the pan well, and cook at 350 for an hour or until golden brown.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spinach Salad with Avocado and Orange

I have a ton of Thanksgiving / wintery recipes to share, but somehow I can't get in the holiday mood to post them yet. I've been working on holiday campaigns at work since September, so I think in my mind we skipped December, and it is already February!

I made this salad recently (that I found via Bon Appetit archives of mine) and it was pleasantly simple and delicious. With all these ingredients in season right now, it makes a beautiful palette of colors and a nice side dish.

2 T finely chopped shallots
2 T seasoned rice vinegar
1 T vegetable oil
2 t peeled, minced ginger
1/2 t sesame oil

1 bag organic baby spinach
1 large ripe orange
1 large ripe avocado

salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together first five ingredients until well combined. (This can be done up to two days in advance.)

In a serving bowl or plate, arrange spinach. Peel the orange with a knife so that none of the skin or white pith remains and cut into wedges. Cut the avocado into long wedges as well. Place both the orange and the avocado in the spinach and lightly toss with dressing. Season with a light sprinkling of fresh salt and pepper and serve within 2 hours.

I think this salad would also be just as nice (but less simple) with the addition of pomegranate seeds, walnuts or thin slices of red onion.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes

There are exactly 51 days of the year when Garret and I are the same age. The remaining 305 days of the year, he likes to endearingly call me a cradle robber or his cougar. Thankfully, I still get carded at the grocery store, and he usually doesn't. Garret finally entered his "late twenties" this week so we celebrated with friends at his favorite beer bar where we had tacos, craft brews and these cupcakes I made. They aren't exactly the typical fluffy-cakey cupcake most are used to. I would say they are more of a hybrid between a brownie and a flourless chocolate flavor. Topped with a bourbon-vanilla bean-brown sugar frosting, they were pretty good.

Cupcake Ingredients (makes 24)
4 sticks butter
14 ounces, high quality chocolate (I used a combo of 80% cacao and a little milk chocolate)
2 cups white sugar
8 eggs
2 T flour

Cupcake Directions
In a sauce pan, heat butter to medium heat until it melts. Break the chocolate bars into pieces and slowly stir/melt the chocolate into the butter without scorching. Transfer to a bowl. Add sugar to the chocolate mix and stir with a wood spoon until combined. Let cool slightly.

Add eggs one at a time to the frosting while mixing on a medium speed. When combined, add flour. Transfer batter to cupcake pans.

Bake cupcakes at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. They might remain a little doughy at this point, but that is okay. Turn the oven off and let the cupcakes cool for ten minutes with the oven door open, (in the oven the cakes will puff up and then collapse upon cooling) then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.

Frosting Ingredients
(makes a LOT- you could probably half this if you aren't a frosting person)
1, 80z package of cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
vanilla beans from inside of vanilla pod- not completely necessary

Frosting Directions
Add cream cheese and butter to a bowl and mix on High for 5 minutes. Slowly add bourbon and brown sugar and keep mixing on high until well combined and fluffy. Add powdered sugar until frosting reaches desired stiffness. Add in vanilla beans for pretty specks, mostly.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes in desired amounts. If you don't plan to eat these right away, store covered in refrigerator until you plan to enjoy. Right before serving, you may like to sprinkle with some large sugar crystals or chocolate powder.

Happy Birthday Garret!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fig and Goat Cheese Appetizer

Fig season is just about coming to an end in San Luis Obispo, but I thought I would share this easy little recipe that is both sweet and tangy and full of that figgy goodness.

The twin has moved out to twelve fine acres of Edna Valley and with her sweet rental came a large mature fig tree with an abundant crop of ripe purple figs. So naturally, I stole quite a few of them this season. Garret and I have a tiny little fig tree on our porch that we once thought was barren, but this year it produced three whole figs! I think we are on to something.

6-10 figs, any color (anticipate about 1-1.5 figs per person)

*per fig half*
1/4 teaspoon creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon chevre
a drizzle of honey or agave nectar
a dash of pepper

Clean figs under cool water. Pat dry and slice in half, removing stems. Top each half with a small dollop of creme fraiche followed by a coin of goat cheese. Place figs on a plate and carefully drizzle with honey or raw agave nectar and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Barley and Lentil Veggie 'Burgers'

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light. We have an increasing number of veggie lovers in the group so I decided my first attempt at this for our 4OJ BBQ this year. I know I am a little late to post, but pictures were not taken on that occasion. We did a little BBQ last weekend before the Cal Poly/University of Montana football game (Go Mustangs!) and I made these patties once again. I recommend making the mix ahead of time and letting it set up in the fridge (up to two days) for more consistent 'burgers'. If you can't completely ditch the meat, Dave mixed this with half sirloin and half veggie mix and he really liked it. The extra fat from the ground beef made the patties stay in tact a little better. As pictured above, we topped them with pepper jack, sliced avocado, and ketchup. They are also very good served on a bun toasted with mayo and the regular burger fixings. Enjoy!

1 1/2 c water
1/2 c dried lentils
cooking spray
1 c chopped onion
1/4 c grated carrot or sweet potato
2 t minced garlic
2 T tomato paste
1 1/2 t ground cumin
3/4 t dried oregano
1/2 t chile powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 c cooked barley (about 1/3 c dried and boiled in water for 40 minutes)
1/2 c plain breadcrumbs
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 large egg, 2 large egg whites
3 t canola oil

Combine lentils and water in a small sauce pan. Cook about 30 minutes until tender and remove from heat. Drain any excess water. Reserve 1/2 cooked lentils in a large mixing bowl and add the rest to your food processor. Pulse until a paste is formed. Add the paste to the bowl with the reserved lentils. (As a side note, since my processor was already out of the cabinet, I also used to "chop" the majority of the ingredients in this recipe- super easy!)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a little cooking spray added. Add onion and carrot. Saute about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add garlic and continue to cook one more minute. Add tomato paste, cumin, chile powder, oregano, and salt. Cook one more minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour into lentil mixture. Add barley and remaining ingredients through egg. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour until firm.

Divide mixture into 8 portions and form into patties. Heat 1 1/2 t canola oil in a large non stick pan (I used my grill pan). Grill 4 patties at a time. Cook three minutes per side. Repeat with remaining patties. Serve with pepper jack, sliced avocado, pickles, onion, salsa...whatever you like on your burgers.
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Friday, August 6, 2010

Southwestern Cobb Salad

This is an awesome salad we adapted from the July Cooking Light. You can pretty much put whatever you want in the salad, but the dressing is the amazing part. I used turkey bacon thinking it would be "healthier". Subsequently, I read an article discussing that there isn't much difference in nutrition between turkey and pork bacon. In a nutshell, one ounce of turkey bacon has 107 calories per serving, 8 grams of fat, and a 640 mg of sodium. In contrast, pork bacon has 149 calories, 11 g of fat, and 680 mg of sodium. (Granted this will all differ by the actual product you buy). Now knowing that the difference isn't that substantial, I probably would have splurged on the real just tastes and crumbles better! (and this recipe doesn't use all that much). We had the leftovers for lunch the next day and they were just as delicious as the dinner. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


3 T white balsamic vinegar
1 t honey
3/4 t ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t ground red pepper
2 T canola oil

3 slices center cut bacon
cooking spray
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, coated in cooking spray, S&P and grilled 8 min per side
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 c pico de gallo- we just used chopped farmers market tomato
1/2 c diced avocado
1/2 c crumbled queso fresco
1/4 c chopped green onions
1 can low sodium organic black beans
2 eggs hard boiled and finely chopped

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add the oil, stirring constantly with a whisk, set aside.

Cook bacon in a non stick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and crumble.

Arrange 2 cups lettuce on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 2 t bacon, 5 T chopped chicken breast, 2 T pico de gallo, 2 T queso fresco, 1 T onions, 2 T chopped egg and 1/3 c beans. Drizzle dressing evenly over salads.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Grilled Lamb and Summer Squash Soup

My girlfriends came up from San Diego a few weeks ago and I promised them a delicious dinner. Since I had all day Friday off to plan, I decided to make things that were seasonal and I had never personally made before. Our dinner consisted of grilled lamb "lollipops" (recipe came from a coworker who made this at a work BBQ a few weeks prior), summer squash soup with cumin brown butter (from 101cookbooks), artichokes, and a mixed greens salad with farmers market tomatoes and home grown cucumbers from my garden. We had a day of wine tasting planned, so none of these recipes are super complex...just takes a little prior planning. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Grilled Lamb

1 "frenched" cut rack of lamb
1 bottle decent zinfandel- I used Trader Joe's organic
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 T fresh oregano
1/4 c olive oil

Clean lamb and trim any excess fat. Mix all ingredients and marinate overnight in a shallow glass pan. If you can start marinating in the morning, this should prob suffice, it just needs a long soak in the vino.
Preheat the barbecue to med high. Grill the lamb fat side down for 12 minutes, turn and cook until desired doneness (we did about 5 more minutes for pink, but not super rare). Cover in foil and let rest at least 5 min, cut in between bones. we had some flare ups due to the olive oil/fat combination. Dave ended up bbqing it over foil after he got some initiall grill marks on this and it worked great.

Buttermilk Squash Soup (care of 101cookbooks)

1 t cumin seeds
1/4 c butter
sea salt

3 T butter
2 med yellow onions, chopped
2 med garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 lbs yellow summer squash
4 c vegetable stock
1 c buttermilk
1 bunch chives, finely chopped

In your smallest frying pan, over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds until they are fragrant. Just a minute or two. Use a mortar and pestle to pound the seeds into a fine powder. (If you don't have this, you can leave them still tastes good). Set aside. In the same skillet, melt the butter and cook until it's brown. Remove from heat, stir the cumin into the butter along with a couple pinches of salt, then set aside in a warm place. You want the butter to stay liquid until you're ready to use it.

To make the soup, heat the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and a bit of salt. Saute for a few minutes, or until the onions start to get translucent. Stir in the potatoes and squash and cook for another 7-10 minutes, or until the squash starts to soften up. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of the stock (most of it) - the stock should just barely cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, roughly another 25 minutes. Remove the soup from heat, puree completely with a hand blender, then stir in the buttermilk. If you need to thin the soup out with a bit more stock, you can do so. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve each bowl topped with plenty of the cumin butter, and a sprinkling of chives.

Since the initial making of this soup, I couldn't get enough of it and made another batch. It hold up really nicely in the fridge, which makes it a great thing to prepare ahead of time if needed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Chipotle Peaches

I love summer because of the simplicity of foods you can make on the grill. Dave and I made this dish from the Bon Appetit July 2010 edition to celebrate the completion of our (his) hard work on the back yard. It was pretty easy and does not require a lot of ingredients, which are things I look for on week night cooking. It was a great use of summer fruit and the adobo sauce gave it a nice smoky flavor. We served this over brown rice with a little extra sauce poured over the top.

nonstick spray
1/3 c peach preserves
1/3 c peach nectar
4 t red wine vinegar
2 t adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
2 t extra virgin olive oil
1 t chopped fresh cilantro
3 large peaches, rinsed, cut in half
1 pack boneless skinless chicken tenders

Coat grill rack with nonstick spray. Prep barbecue on medium high heat. Stir preserves and next three ingredients, 2 t oil, and cilantro into bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/4 cup dressing into another smaller bowl for brushing.

Brush peaches, then chicken with oil and dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Grill peaches until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.

Makes 4 servings. Place chicken and peaches over brown rice. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's Summer Time!

One of my friends made a recipe similar to this a few months ago for a dinner party we had and everyone loved it. I modified it a bit to go along with a Thai Red Duck Curry dish that Natalie made for us last weekend. The coolness and the texture were really nice to finish off a spicy meal. I am hoping one day Nat will post the curry recipe. I keep having dreams about it.

30 Nabisco "Famous Chocolate Wafer" cookies, crushed (I used my food processor)
5 T butter, melted
1 pinch salt
1 t vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients and press into a pie plate that has been greased with cooking spray. Cook on 325 for 6-8 minutes until firm. Completely cool on a wire rack.

2 pints of your favorite sorbet. I used pomegranate, but I imagine lemon or coconut or raspberry would also be fantastic with this.

Set out sorbet until soft and spread evenly into pie with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until set about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the whipped cream.

Whipped cream:
2 c whipping cream
1 t vanilla
1/4 c powdered sugar- add more to desired sweetness

Beat in a cold bowl until stiff. Top the pie with the cream and again cover with plastic wrap. Freeze at least two hours.

To serve: Remove pie from freezer 20 minutes before serving. Top with toasted almonds and coconut.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spinach and Cheese Tart

Dave and I moved to San Luis Obispo last week and with that I have a renewed commitment to start cooking and blogging again. Another great thing about this is that Natalie and I can now cook together! We decided to cook a feast this weekend in celebration of our house (mainly kitchen see above) finally being assembled. The menu included the following:

  • Spiced white bean dip with whole wheat flatbread
  • Spinach and cheese tart with cornmeal crust
  • Grilled portobello mushrooms with pesto and Swiss cheese
  • Grilled tri tip
  • Mache salad with sun dried tomatoes, lentils, and Parmesan cheese

There is a vegetarian blog I follow regularly called 101 Cookbooks that has some amazing recipes. The post last week was a for a turnip greens tart. I have never made a tart before, but it seemed like a good challenge. I made this for our dinner this weekend, but I modified it by using spinach instead of turnip greens. I will warn you for those of you who have never made a tart that it is extremely time consuming. That said, I would still do it again. I would probably add a little more cheese, some caramelized red onions, and maybe some minced marinated artichoke hearts to give it more texture. The recipe makes two shells so I will probably attempt this soon...keep you posted! (recipe in the hyperlink above)

Natalie will have to post the mushrooms and salad recipes because these were her incredible contributions to the feast. Below is the dip recipe I created, which was really simple, but a great appetizer for a complicated dinner menu. Enjoy!

Spiced White Bean Dip
1 can white cannellini beans, drained
1/8 c olive oil
1/8 c lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 t kosher salt (more to taste if desired)
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 t toasted cumin seeds
1 t coriander powder
1/2 t white pepper
dash of red wine vinegar

In food processor, pulse all ingredients until smooth. I put in a bowl and drizzled with a little more olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper, and some feta cheese. I served this with store bought whole wheat flat bread that I toasted and cut into triangles and carrot sticks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Margaritas My Way

I would call these skinny girl margaritas, but let's face it- margaritas don't make anyone skinny. I liked this recipe because they were light and refreshing and didn't make you feel like going into diabetic shock after drinking them. They also went really well with a big plate of home made nachos and a movie.

This mixture should fit nicely into a standard blender and make a nice smoothie-like consistency. You can get all these ingredients at Trader Joe's.

Fruit Margaritas

3 cups ice
1 cup frozen fruit (I like pineapple)
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
3 ounces agave nectar
1/2 cup sparkling water
4-7 shots Resposado or 100% agave Tequila

Add ingredients to blender in order as above. Blend. Add more alcohol or ice as necessary. This should make 3-4 drinks. Top with a splash of Cointreau if you are feeling Cadillac.

Note: If you don't want them fruity, substitute fruit for another cup of ice and add a little more lime juice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's almost March- I know, right?

Let's just say my attempt at vegan Thanksgiving was good and bad- the vegan "cheese" was so bad that I had to take a recipe blogging hiatus for four months! I've been really busy doing things like:

planning for a big day,

enjoying the beautiful Central Coast weather,


and wearing silly hats!

But in the meantime, I bring you this glorious soup recipe. I really enjoy the Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup at California Pizza Kitchen, so I made an attempt at recreating it. Recipe follows:

Smashed Pea and Barley Soup

1 t olive oil
half of a white onion, minced
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup diced celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups split peas, rinsed

1/2 cup barley

1.5 t salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t fresh thyme
juice of half a lemon

Snipped green onions, parsley and cracked pepper for garnish

Coat a large stock pot with olive oil and sautee the carrots, celery, onions and garlic for 5-7 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the peas and reduce to a simmer. Let this cook covered for about an hour.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook the barley according to package directions. (It should take about an hour.)

When the peas are done cooking, turn the heat off on the soup pot and roughly blend with an immersion blender making sure to keep some of the peas still intact and not pureed. Add the cooked barley to the soup and season with the remaining ingredients. You may need to add more broth at this point to get a desired soup consistency. Garnish with parsley and chopped green onions and serve.