Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Q & A

My friend Debbie is hosting Bunko at her house next week and wanted an idea for a "fresh, yummy, easy spring-ish dinner."  My first thought was, does it feel "spring-ish" in other parts of the country?  Really?  I'll still be making stew well into April here in Michigan.  

I've gotten over my jealousy however, and here is my recommendation.  I would make this Zesty Spring Salad and this Sun-Dried tomato quiche recipe.  If you want a little more you could throw in an appetizer.  I would bake some brie, top it with a jar of cranberry chutney, and serve it with crusty bread.  If you want a lot more, you could get a half or a quarter of a ham and some good mustards (honey, chipotle, etc.) to eat with it. 

I wish I was going to be there!  (For the food... not so much the Bunko :)

Zesty Spring Salad

From the Favorites Cookbook

1/3 c pecan pieces
2 T sugar
1/2 head green leaf lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, torn into pieces
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced 
1 orange, peeled and sliced
1 cup strawberries, halved
1 avocado, chopped

1/3 c vegetable oil
2 T sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 2 limes

Caramelize pecans by mixing with sugar in small skillet over low heat until sugar melts.  Spread on foil and cool, then break into pieces.  

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well.

Toss salad ingredients together with pecan pieces, add dressing to coat and serve.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Presidents Day Brunch

Here's why I love Presidents day: you forget about it.  There's no anticipation and then suddenly you realize, "Hey!  I have Monday off!"  Unless you are my 3 year old ex-neighbor, Aida.  Last year she invited us over for breakfast to celebrate and we each got to wear a different president's hat.  We all looked dashing in our three corner GW hats and Honest Abe top hats.  I believe her mom got to wear a Martha Washington bonnet.  So this post is for you Aida.  If you were here I would make you this breakfast on President's Day.

And just down the street from Aida is today's guest chef, Marianne Viray.  That's right, of panini fame.  She is my cooking kindred spirit.  Marianne and her husband James have traveled all over the world and today she is going to share one of her favorite  international food finds.

Rösti by Guest Chef Marianne

Rösti is a Swiss potato dish that my husband and I couldn’t get enough of on a trip to Switzerland two years ago.  It’s a common breakfast eaten by farmers and mountain-folk (lots of those there). I however, ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Loved the simplicity. Some consider rösti the Swiss national dish.  This is one of my traditional New Year Day dishes, along with some Swiss Fondue.  No time like the winter for the heavy cheese dishes!

5-6 boiled potatoes, chilled and grated (or get a bag of frozen hash browns and thaw before use)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. chopped ham or bacon
½ c. chopped mushrooms
½ c. diced sweet onion
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 c. grated cheese, Gueyere is authentic

 1. Lightly toss hash browns with salt, pepper, thyme and garlic.

2.  In non-stick frying pan, saute onion, bacon or ham, and mushrooms for a few minutes in 1 TBS. oil and pour grated potatoes on top. 

3.  Mix and fry on low for a minute, mix ½ of cheese into potato mixture and form into cake by patting it down with spatula. Let cook for about five minutes.

4.  When crust forms, turn carefully (using a plate to flip it over) and brown other side. Top with remaining grated cheese.  Put frying pan in broiler for a minute till cheese bubbles – looks so pretty like that!  Garnish with sliced cheery tomatoes if you like.

5.  If you want to be REALLY authentic, top with fried egg.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa Parties.  I've gotten tons of recipes from this cookbook that I love.  If you don't want to buy it, check it out from the library.  

12 T butter at room-temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) (you can sub 2 1/4 c flour + 1/4 c cornstarch)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt

For the Streusel
3/4 c light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t kosher salt
3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 c chopped walnuts (optional)

For the Glaze
1/2 c confectioners' sugar
 2 T real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 or 5 minutes, until light.  Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined.  Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed. 

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble.   Mix in the walnuts, if desired. 

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife.  Sprinkle with 3/4  cup streusel.  Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.  Carefully transfer the cake, streusel-side up, onto a serving plate.  Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny.  Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.   

Blueberry Smoothie

I never really got into making smoothies because it seemed like you always had to throw a banana in to get the right consistency and I really don't love bananas (unless they are served with Dulce de Leche).  Then I came across The Pioneer Woman's blueberry smoothie post and I fell in love.  I don't even like blueberries.  But I love these smoothies.  The only change I make is that I use vanilla yogurt instead of plain.  I think it adds a little extra punch.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine's Day

Abram and I made a deal when I found out how much flowers cost on Valentines Day.  No gifts, no nothin'.  We just spend all the money on really good food.  We stay in so that we don't have to worry about crowds or babysitters and we eat the night away.   

I couldn't decide on a dessert, so I just figured I'd give you the choice of two.  Both are chocolate because I don't think you should be allowed to celebrate Valentine's day without it. 


Spinach Almond Salad

This is a good one, and really easy to throw together.  Spinach, apples, bacon and almonds.  You can find the recipe (including the dressing) at Our Family Cooks.  

Grilled Ribeye with Gorgonzola Sauce

I don't have a picture of this succulent dish because I sent someone who shall remain nameless to the store to pick up some ribeye steaks and he came back with round eye steaks.  We made do, but I'm going to let you use your imagination to picture how delicious this recipe is. 

This recipe is from the Common Grill Cookbook.

4 10 oz. ribeye steaks
Ribeye marinade
Gorgonzola Sauce
4 T Gorgonzola cheese, grated
4 fresh herb sprigs, such as rosemary or thyme

Marinate steaks in ribeye marinade for 4 hours in refrigerator. 

Grill steak to personal taste.  Ladle Gorgonzola Sauce over steaks and sprinkle with grated Gorgonzola cheese.  Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.

Ribeye Marinade
1 cup olive oil
2 T dry mustard
1 T Worchestershire sauce
1 t garlice, minced
1 t soy sauce
1 t lemon juice
1/8 t hot sauce
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients; mix well.

Gorgonzola Sauce
1/4 c butter for sauteing onion
1/4 c butter cut into pieces and chilled
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c Madeira sherry 
3 c beef stock
1 c gorgonzola cheese, crumbled 

Melt 1/4 cup butter in saute pan.  Add onion and saute until brown.  Add Madeira, bring to a boil and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  

Add beef stock; return to a boil and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half again. 

Slowly add chilled butter pieces, whisking to dissolve. 

Add cheese and mix well.  Remove from heat.

White Cheddar Mashers

For most of my life I saw mashed potatoes strictly as an accompaniment to gravy.  They were only there so that I didn't have to drink the gravy straight from the gravy train.  Then I tried these and I find myself eating the leftovers straight out of the dish.  No adornments needed.  I also find myself hiding them in the back of the fridge so that no one else will see them and I'll get them all to myself, but that's another issue all together.  

Adapted from the Common Grill Cookbook

2 lbs. Idaho potatoes, peeled
1/4 lb. white cheddar cheese, grated
2 T melted butter
2 t seasoning salt
1/2 t white pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup sour cream

Cook potatoes in boiling water until soft, approximately 30 minutes.  Drain and transfer to large mixing bowl and slowly mash potatoes (use a masher, NOT electric beaters), add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. 

Tropical Green Beans

I could eat these all day. 

4 T olive oil
1 lb fresh green beans, cleaned, cut, and dried
1 small yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 t salt
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
2 t toasted pine nuts
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush a large baking dish with 2 T of olive oil.  Put green beans, onion, and garlic in the dish, drizle with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 25 minutes, stirring beans at least 3 times.  When tender, remove beans from oven and transfer to bowl.  Immediately drizzle with vinegar.  Add tomatoes, pine nuts and pepper, to taste, and toss. 

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

Janie's back folks!  Check out this beautiful cheesecake.  If there was ever any question, your Valentine will be yours after getting a taste of this.  

Cake can be completed up to one week ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted

3 bricks (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz) milk-chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Chocolate glaze
3 oz bittersweet baking chocolate
2 T butter
1 T light corn syrup

  1. Heat oven to 350.  Coat an 8-inch spring-form pan with nonstick spray.  Have ready a roasting pan larger than the spring-form pan.
  2. Crust: Put crumbs in a small bowl; stir in butter until evenly moistened.  Press firmly over bottom of pan.  Bake 8-10 minutes until set.  Cool on rack.  Wrap outside of pan with heavy duty foil.  reduce oven temperature to 300.  
  3. Filling: Beat cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, scraping sides of bowl several times with a rubber spatula.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla to combine.  Divide batter evenly between 3 medium bowls.  Stir melted milk chocolate into one bowl; pour into crust in an even layer.  Whisk pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into another bowl.  Carefully spoon over chocolate layer to cover, then gently smooth into an even layer with an offset spatula (take care that batters don't run together).  Stir semisweet chocolate into remaining batter.  Carefully spoon over pumpkin layer; spread carefully as above.  
  4. Set spring-form pan in center of roasting pan.  Place roasting pan in oven rack and add boiling water to come halfway up sides of spring-form pan.
  5. Bake 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours until set, but center still jiggles slightly when shaken. 
  6. Turn off oven (leave door closed); let cake cool in oven 1 hour (if cake hasn't pulled away from sides of pan, carefully run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake).  Remove foil.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack.  Cover; refrigerate at least four hours, overnight, or up to one week. 
  7. Chocolate Glaze: Stir ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat; cool slightly. 
  8. Remove pan sides; place cake on serving plate.  Spread glaze over top to edge (some may drip down side of cake).  Refrigerate until glaze sets.

Chocolate Mint Bundt Cake

I've had this recipe bookmarked for a long time from The Sisters' Cafe and I finally got to try it when Abram made it for me for my birthday.  It is fantastic.  And dare I say even better the next day for breakfast?  

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meal Rotation Recomendations

All right, all right.  I promise I haven't been eating fast food for the past 3 months.  I've been trying out everyone else's food blog recipes.  So here are four of my favorites.  And by favorites I mean I've made these each at least twice since I discovered them and they're officially on the meal rotation.

And coming soon, a Valentine's menu for you and yo' lu-vah...  

Chili Verde

Love this stuff.  It comes from The Sister's Cafe.  I recommend frying corn tortillas in canola oil and filling them with the shredded pork, sour cream, monterey jack cheese, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.  

Greek Chicken

I just realized I don't have a photo for this one, but rather than make you wait until the next time I make it, I'll just give it to you and hope you trust my recommendation.

I love any recipe that uses chicken thighs because they're so tender and juicy (not to mention cheap).  I also happen to love any recipe that uses sun dried tomatoes, so it's no wonder I love this baby.  Tomatoes aren't exactly in season right now, so I've just been throwing in a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes in place of the roma tomatoes and I think it tastes great.  I serve it over couscous which is a great combo.  

If you never cook couscous you don't know what you're missing out on.  Probably the easiest side dish known to man.  Pick some up the next time you're at the store. 

Sweet and Sour Chicken

If you haven't noticed, I'm a fan of My Kitchen Cafe.  And this is Melanie's most popular recipe. 

Ham and Pasta Skillet Dinner

This is delicious and kid friendly.  Of course, because I got it from Melanie.