Sunday, December 5, 2010

Potato Gnocchi with Lemon-Thyme Sauce

Our neighbor recently had their lemon tree trimmed, so he brought us several fresh lemons. This inspired me to try a new recipe, Potato Gnocchi with Lemon-Thyme Sauce, from Cooking Light magazine since we had both a package of gnocchi and fresh thyme on hand (instead of carving out the time required to make the gnocchi from scratch as the recipe suggests, using already prepared gnocchi made this recipe a doable weeknight dinner). The sauteed shallots, butter, and thyme were perfect compliments to the fresh lemon. The shavings of the Parmigiano-Reggiano added a bit of saltiness which further enhanced the dish. This recipe produced an extremely satisfying warm dinner on a cool night. The combination of flavors were very pleasing and I appreciated how extremely easy it was with the short cut I took. Since we still have several lemons in the bowl on the kitchen counter, I may just be making this again very soon.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pasta with Roasted Asparagus & Goat Cheese

For times when I'm in the mood for an easy recipe requiring only a few ingredients, one of my favorite sources is Martha Stewart's cookbook Everyday Food: Great Food Fast. I knew once I learned she had a second edition out earlier this year that I'd buy it eventually. Only five ingredients (counting chives as a garnish) come together in Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Goat Cheese to make a simple, yet delicious meal. It's an amazingly easy recipe guarantying pleasing results. It can quickly be prepared for a satisfying weeknight dinner. I especially enjoyed using goat cheese as the "sauce" for the pasta. How can one not love the smooth, creaminess of goat cheese tossed with warm pasta? Of course I couldn't have pasta without also garnishing it with a few shavings of Parmesan.

Turkey Sausage Breakfast Rolls

If you're in the mood for a warm and savory breakfast option for a weekend morning or Sunday brunch, these Turkey Sausage Breakfast Rolls are very enjoyable while not requiring much prep time. I slightly rolled out an 11 oz. can of French bread dough (from the refrigerator section of the grocery) into a rectangular shape. I then brushed all but the edges with 2 T. of melted butter and topped it evenly with the turkey mixture (8 oz. fully cooked turkey sausage, 1/2 onion which had been caramelized, 2 t. dried sage, and 1/4 t. salt). It was then topped with 3 oz. grated smoked Gruyere cheese. The dough was rolled up like a jellyroll and sliced into 12 pieces and placed in a 13X9 baking dish. After baking for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, they were the perfect compliment to a warm drink and fresh fruit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I enjoy trying a variety of lasagna recipes because lasagna is such a satisfying dish featuring layers of unique flavor combinations. When the recipe for Butternut Squash Lasagna popped up in my email InBox from the Chow blog, I couldn't help but be intrigued. Only within the last couple of years I have discovered an appreciation for butternut squash, so I was tempted to give it a try. Since I have not yet developed the same appreciation for chestnuts, I was a bit gun-shy about this ingredient, however, after checking in a several stories including a speciality grocery, I couldn't locate the unsweetened chestnut purée which this recipe calls for. I then decided to also skip the alternative suggested for the chestnut purée (thinly sliced roasted chestnuts) since I really can't enjoy the consistency of roasted chestnuts. The combination of the browned butternut squash and mushrooms with the Béchamel Sauce, Fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Gorgonzola was amazing. I had not only never had butternut squash in a lasagna, but the Gorgonzola was also a new experience in my lasagna baking world. I loved the tanginess of the Gorgonzola and the balance it provided to the sweetness of the squash. I'm not sure what the flavor profile would have been like with the unsweetened chestnut purée, but it was an excellent dish without it. The primary change I will make next time is to use regular lasagna noodles which I'll boil since the box of par-cooked lasagna noodles made the dish dry based on the amount of sauce.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Plum Buckle with Pecan Topping

While I have enjoyed cobblers, I wasn't familiar with a "buckle", basically a baked dessert featuring fruit. This cake-like wonderfulness, Plum Buckle with Pecan Topping (from, was a delectable desert and a most appropriate way to feature late summer stone fruit. It was so good when I made it in August that I can't believe I forgot to post it (but it would make a nice holiday dessert, or perhaps a version with fresh cranberries)! The batter produced a moist cake which was sweet, and the fresh tartness of the plumbs were an ideal compliment. The crunchy texture of the pecan topping added interest to the dessert while capping it with a bit more sweetness. Another nice perk about this dessert is the ease to which it is assembled. Topped with a heaping mound of fresh whipped cream, this dessert will leave you craving seconds!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

As a child one of my favorite casseroles of my mother's was her chicken baked with white rice and a can of cream of mushroom soup. This casserole is a grown up version of that concept, so I had to give it a taste. While I've had a number of misses in the last few months with recipes which didn't turn out as well as expected, I've yet to be disappointed by a recipe from Their Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole kept this streak alive. I really like both wild rice and Arborio rice so the opportunity to have both in a dish was hard to pass up. The porcini mushrooms added a nice earthiness to the casserole which was a winning match with the thyme. While the casserole involved a number of steps and took a bit of time to assemble, it was well worth the effort. The casserole also reheated very nicely for an easy weeknight option.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Raisin Pecan Monkey Bread with Orange Cream Cheese Glaze

This is definitely for anyone who has a sweet tooth and enjoys something decedent for breakfast. I assembled the Raisin Pecan Monkey Bread one evening (using both raisins and pecans), popped it into the refrigerator, then pulled it out and baked it the next morning as I was getting ready for work. It was a winner with the office staff and it went quickly. It is so amazing when served warm from the oven with the icing slightly soft from the warmth of the bread. It's really a scrumptious sweet treat. This was my first time serving it with the Orange Cream Cheese Glaze and I don't foresee every making it again without it. Besides, if you want to impress the co-workers and am already serving them something fattening, why not go all the way!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Crunch Bars

I love almost anything with pumpkin (although I recently had a red curry with chicken and pumpkin entree at a Thai restaurant near campus that I didn't really enjoy), and pumpkin pie is one of my all time favorite pies (and something I enjoy year round). If you are looking for an alternative to pumpkin pie and want a dessert your family will go crazy for, look no further. This is one of my favorite pumpkin recipes. In my opinion it's a lot easier than making a pie. I still remember the first time I had this dessert which was at a Thanksgiving gathering and our friend Dale Lund had made it. When he explained the bars had a dry cake mix sprinkled on top before baking I was a bit skeptical, but after one bite I was hooked. These Pumpkin Pie Crunch Bars are even better topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Give them a try this Thanksgiving and let me know what you think...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blue Cheese Souffle

It's seems I have been so busy since moving to the Bay area in the spring for the new job that it's been really difficult to post on a regular basis. I'm feeling a bit embarrassed by how infrequent I've been. I have still tried to make time to enjoy some time in the kitchen though, and to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I recently attempted my very first souffle. While I've heard stories of how challenging a souffle can be, I am looking forward to making many more in the future.

This Blue Cheese Souffle from the Barefoot Contessa was surprising easily and we absolutely loved the way it turned out. If you're a fan of blue cheese, you must really give this souffle a try. I just loved the taste of the blue cheese with the somewhat crunchy and tangy Parmesan and butter coating on the sides of it. The souffle was excellent paired with a salad of fresh mixed greens. Since I was unsure of exactly how to serve it I ended up deflating it, but have since learned from our Betty Crocker cookbook how a souffle should be separated instead of spooned out. It was so enjoyable I will look forward to making this souffle again, but I'll probably first attempt a chocolate one!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stuffed Red Bell Pepper

During my childhood my parents always had a prolific garden each summer with an abundance of cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, and bell peppers. One of my favorites dishes of my mom's each summer was baked stuffed bell peppers. While we do have a small garden of our own with some bell peppers now, it doesn't include my favorite variety--red bell peppers. However, I found a good sale on them recently so I pulled out the Stuffed Red Bell Pepper recipe which I've frequently used. I cooked about 1 lb. of ground turkey with one large diced onion, and the remaining portion of the pepper tops diced. I then added 2 T. ketchup, 2 t. Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 t. oregano, 1/2 beef stock, and 1 c. cooked rice (I used brown rice). The mixture was then stuffed into 4 large red bell peppers, and cooked for 7 hours on low in the slow cooker. I then garnished the pepper with chopped fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan. This recipe produces a low fat yet very pleasing dinner without much effort.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Coconut Pancakes

We recently went to the Sunnyside Cafe in Berkeley for a mid-Sunday morning breakfast. I was intrigued by one of their featured items and decided to give them a try...Coconut & Chocolate Chip Pancakes. They were so amazing I decided to attempt a recreation at home (minus the chocolate chips). I took a basic pancake recipe from "Cooking" by James Peterson (2 c. flour, 2 t. baking powder, 1/4 t. salt, 3 eggs, 2 c. milk), but replaced the milk with coconut milk and I added about 2/3 c. shredded coconut. The result was very pleasing! The pancakes had a nice coconut flavor and were lighter in color than some pancakes. While it seems a bit unusual to have pieces of chewy coconut in pancakes, I did really enjoy this variation on typical pancakes. The richness of the pancakes was also quite satisfying to my sweet tooth.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lemon Fig Bar

Our bi-monthly delivery of organic fruits and veggies recently contained a pint of fresh figs. While I enjoy Fig Newtons, they aren't something I buy. I stood there looking at the fresh figs wondering if I'd ever had a fig in any way other than those stick-to-the-roof-of-your mouth cookies (which then require lots of water to remove the sticky dough from your mouth). I came up with nothing.

At this point I turned to my two shelves of cookbooks which have never let me down in the past. Much to my shock, out of all of those books I found one which listed figs in the table of contents: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day (one of their books from the famed New York restuarant where everything is healthy and homemade). Turning to the referenced page I discovered a recipe for Lemon Date Bars. In the small foot note at the bottom it mentioned that figs could be substituted for the dates. Since I hate dates, substituting them for figs would be the only way I'd try a Lemon Date Bar (and then discovering if I even remotely liked the figs)!

While the recipe may have intended the figs to be dried like the dates, it seemed to work fine. The bars were a nice chewy consistency with a crunchy crumb topping. The bars required very few ingredients and all were basic pantry items already on hand. The bars even seemed like they would be much healthier than the average cookie. The only disappoint was the lemon was so subtle I had no idea it was there! Since another pint of fresh figs just arrived a few days ago (why didn't we think to block figs on our delivery list???) and due to the lack of options I'm discovering for them, I may be making these bars again. This time I'll be substituting some of the water for additional lemon juice and might just throw in lemon zest as well.

If you too discover a pint of fresh figs on your doorstep, here's what to do. In a saucepan, combine 2 c. chopped figs (or dates if you dare), juice of 1 lemon, and 1/2 c. water. Cook covered on how heat for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. In a bowl, cream together 1/2 c. room temp butter, and 3/4 c. packed brown sugar. Stir in 1 3/4 c. flour, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t. baking soda. Add the oats and mix well. Press 2/3 of the dough into an oiled 9" baking pan. Pour the fig mixture over the dough and spread evenly. Crumble the remaining dough on top and bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan. That's it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fresh Herb Dip

If you're in need of a quick but yummy appetizer, here's the answer. This Fresh Herb Dip is really quite simple and yet it's a crowd pleaser. The combination of fresh dill, parsley, and scallions with the cream cheese and sour cream are the perfect summer delight (although I enjoy this dip year-round). The dip has a real freshness to it and isn't overly heavy. Paired with cucumber wedges and red bell pepper it is a truly satisfying appetizer without being too filling, so you'll still be able to enjoy the main course.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Steak & Onions with Sour Cream Sauce & Mashed Potatoes

Cooler fall weather is the perfect time for a slow cooked dinner. It can be challenging to pull together a hearty weeknight meal, so I recently put the ingredients together the night before and when I walked in the door from work the following evening, I was greeted by the wonderful aroma of a effortlessly prepared dinner. "The Slow Cooking Book: The Best Little Cookbook for Slow-Cooked Meals" by Fog City Press is my go-to for great slow-cooked meals. As instructed, I cut 2 lbs. of steak into 4" cubes, coated them with 1/4 c. flour (shaked in a ziplock works the best), then browned them in two batches using 1 T. butter and 1 T. oil per batch. After putting the beef into the slow cooker, I then sauteed until tender 2 sliced large yellow onions with 3 cloves chopped garlic. 1 c. beef stock, 2 t. Worcestershire sauce, and 1 t. soy sauce was then added to the onions to deglaze the pan. The onion mixture was added to the beef and I seasoned it with salt and fresh ground black pepper. After cooking on low for 8 hours, I then stirred in 3/4 c. sour cream and served it on mashed potatoes and garnished it with chopped fresh parsley. For such an easily prepared meal, this dinner was outstanding! As expected, the beef was super tender and the creamy smoothness of the sour cream sauce was favorable and well-suited for the mashed potatoes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad

A few months ago a co-worker told me about the blog Chow which features San Francisco area restaurants and well as recipe suggestions. A couple of days ago the recipe which arrived in my InBox from Chow was a Fresh Corn & Tomato Salad . Since I had all of the ingredients for it on hand and since I was still in search of summer, I decided to give it a try (truth be told, I substituted frozen corn since I didn't have fresh corn on the cob). Again, this salad was a hit and just what I needed on a cool July day. Of course it's hard to go wrong with any salad which starts out with a 1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil! I loved the freshness of this salad and the combination of the sweet corn and tomatoes with the basil. It also couldn't have been any easier.

Cucumber Tomato Salad

July has been an extremely gray, foggy, and cool month here in the Bay area. San Francisco's high one day recently was a new record at only 56 degrees, and there was a couple of days this week that I used my space heater in my Berkeley office. Needless to say, I've been longing for the "feel" of summer! This just isn't what this Midwestern boy who spent the last 11 years in Southern California is used to for a time called "summer"! I was able to get a bit of the summer feel with this Cucumber Tomato Salad. After Steve's first bite he even explained "this tastes like summer". This quick and easy salad tasted extremely fresh and healthy. The addition of the feta cheese and optional olives provided a nice contrast to the balsamic vinegar. Every summer while growing up my dad always had a much bigger than necessary garden. Lots of varieties of tomatoes were in abundance each year since they are his favorite veggie. One of my mother's favorites were the cucumbers which she would used to produce a couple varieties of popular pickles. This salad conjured up some nice summer memories of the Kansas farm (and some not so nice like the hours of pulling weeds in the heat and humidity!).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Our neighbor's lemon tree has produced a bountiful crop this year and they recently told us we could take what we'd like. They didn't have to tell me twice! In search of a new recipe to try which featured fresh lemon, I thought a pound cake might be fun to try. The second cookbook I pulled off my shelf had just what I was looking for...Lemon Yogurt Cake. While it didn't have the usual richness from butter like a typical pound cake, it was wonderfully moist with a great flavor. In addition to the lemon zest providing a fresh flavor to the cake, the lemon syrup and lemon icing both delivered an amazing taste while not being too in-your-face with lemon. On my first attempt I simply poured the lemon syrup over the freshly baked cake as the directions indicated, but I ended up with too much of it saturating the top center of the cake and leaving it with a gooey under baked appearance (as you can see in the photo). My second attempt at this recipe produced better results and it was warmly received at the office. This time instead of pouring the syrup over it, I used a pastry brush and basted each of the sides and ends of the loaf several times to more evenly distribute the sweet lemon wonderfulness. The combination of sweet, tart, and rich moistness really make the cake outstanding!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Green Beans with Sweet Onion, Bacon & Sea Salt

Oh, the smell of sizzling bacon. What a wonderful aroma. As it was frying the tantalizing scent immediately made we think of being in a country farm house on a cold winter morning. Or, perhaps a crowded diner for Sunday brunch. Instead, I was frying it up to make some fresh green beans a bit more interesting for dinner (and perhaps a little less healthy). I also caramelized a sweet onion and tossed it with the beans and allowed them to cook until somewhat tender. I finished this side dish with a sprinkling of sea salt and I must say, they went quickly and were rather delightful. The smoky, crisp bacon and surprising sweetness of the onion were a pleasant addition.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nantes Carrots with Balsamic Glaze

After almost 11 years in the dry arid environment of Southern California, it's exciting to be in the lush, green Bay Area. The close proximately to Napa, Sonoma and other fertile farming areas like the Central Valley have quickly expanded our access to an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables. We recently signed up for a bi-monthly delivery of organic fruits and veggies to our home from Farm Fresh to You, which is a farm founded by a woman and her then-husband following her degrees from UC-Riverside and UC-Davis. Our recent delivery included Nantes Carrots, which are sweet, mild carrots that were about 4-6" long. After sautéing them in a butter/olive oil combination, I finished them in Balsamic Vinegar and allowed it to slightly thicken into a sweet and sour glaze. The carrots were tender on the outside while having just enough crispness hiding within to provide a bit of resistance to the bite. The freshness of the carrots left me longing in anticipation of the other yet-to-be-delivered summer goodies.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lemon & Blueberry Coffee Cake

Now that we're out of our tiny temporary condo and into our Bay Area home, I've been itching to do some baking. The house next door has a large lemon tree in the backyard which was just too tempting since the home has been empty. The new buyers haven't moved in yet, so I couldn't resist this weekend by picking a few. Of all the wonderful options for fresh lemons, what to choose? Since we also had fresh organic blueberries, I set out to find the perfect combination for the fresh tartness of the lemons and the subtle sweetness of the blueberries. This Lemon & Blueberry Coffee Cake from Cooking Light magazine did the trick. Not only did I get my baking fix, but it went quickly at the office. As expected, the lemon and blueberry were an excellent pairing. Plus, the almond paste helped to produce an extremely moist texture while also adding an additional layer of flavor. I also enjoyed the crunchy texture of the sliced almond and cinnamon topping.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Roasted Veggies with Organic Mixed Greens & Herbs

As I mentioned previously, I enjoy roasted vegetables--they are easy to prepare and provide a more intensified flavor due to being caramelized. I cubed a peeled sweet potato several carrots, and an onion, and then tossed them in olive oil, salt, pepper, whole grain Dijon mustard, and garlic. They were roasted at 425 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. After slightly cooling, I used them to top off a salad of organic mixed greens with fresh herbs including dill, cilantro, and Italian parsley. A light drizzling of honey mustard dressing was the perfect pairing with the sweetness of the roasted vegetables.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gnocchi Nicoise and Roasted Asparagus

This was my first attempt at Gnocchi Nicoise and I must say that it was one of the most flavorable dishes I have ever made! I was thoroughly pleased with the robust and well-rounded flavors produced by the bacon, orange peel, carrots, nicoise olives, shallots, and brandy. It was also a quick and easy recipe to prepare. For a side I roasted asparagus with salt, pepper, and olive oil, (400 degrees for 10 minutes) and then added grated Parmesan and heated for an additional two minutes. I love roasting vegetables due to the way it intensifies their flavors, and the rich saltiness of the Parmesan finished off the asparagus quite well.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Black & White Chili with Beer Bread

Prior to our move, I spent a few minutes during my lunch break one day browsing the magazine section in UCSD's campus bookstore. As usual, I eventually gravitated to the food and cooking themed section. The cover of Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers from America's Test Kitchen caught my eye. While giving it a quick flip through I couldn't help but be intrigued by their Black & White Chili. I immediately liked the flavor so much I've now made it a couple of times. I even took a crock pot full to work for a potluck lunch (where it was a big hit). It's a very fresh and light brothy chili compared to what most of us think of when we hear chili (not a heavy thick tomato based concoction). It was especially enjoyable paired with a slice of hot from-the-oven beer bread made which I'd prepared from a mix purchased at Trader Joe's. Now that it's been a few weeks, I am ready for another bowl of it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wine Brownies

A few months ago I discovered Irvine's Marche Noir bakery which incorporates "wine flour" into pasta and baked items. I hadn't previously heard of wine flour, so I was intrigued and decided to check out their selection. According to their web site, when grapes are squeezed during the wine making process, the skins and seeds (known as pomace) "not only imparts flavor to the wine, but also gains flavor in the process", and "if dried and milled properly, it becomes a nutritious fragrant flour. High in iron, fiber, and Res-V as well as antioxidants."

I was able to easily order from their web site a sampling of each their brownies: Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Currant & Cherry. The brownies offered a rich chocolate complexity (like any good brownie), while also providing a unique undertone from the wine flour. The brownies went fast, so I'll be curious to try some of their other products soon.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Whole Wheat Pasta with Shitake Mushrooms & Chicken

I'm really embarrassed by how long it's been since my last posting. We spent much of March packing for the big move from San Diego to the Bay Area. Since our arrival on April 1st, most of my time has been spent acclimating to the new job (at Cal Berkeley) and surroundings. Since we're also in a one bedroom rental condo until the closing of our house on May 21st, there hasn't been much of an opportunity to cook with the limited resources of the kitchen.

I love almost any pasta dish, especially those with a cream sauce, which I try to avoid due to the fat and calories. This dish was my attempt at a creamy white sauce that was a bit more guilt-free. I sauteed an onion with chicken, garlic and shitake mushrooms, then added sour cream and a can of cream of mushroom soup (thinned slightly with the pasta water). Garnished with Italian parsley and freshly grated Parmesan, it was satisfying, delicious, and pretty simple to throw together.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cheddar Dill Cornbread

A nice bowl of hot soup or spicy chili is always that much better with Cheddar Dill Cornbread. I'm not sure how you can ever go wrong with cheese and bread together, and the dill sent this to a whole new level. While the amount of flour versus cornmeal in this recipe produces more of a "bread" consistency than the typical texture of cornbread, it otherwise was a wonderful compliment and I'll be craving a piece tonight.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lemon Pepper Pasta with Grilled Chicken

I love almost any pasta dish. Since we're in the process of packing to move from San Diego to Berkeley, recently we were again looking for an easy dinner which wouldn't dirty up a lot of dishes. I grabbed a bag of lemon pepper pasta (from Trader Joe's), tossed it with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and grilled chicken. I then garnished it with freshly grated parmesan and Italian parsley. It was a very nice deviation from pasta with the usual red sauce. The lemon and pepper were a delightful combination and the freshness of the lemon juice imparted a refreshing and healthy nuance to the dish. My sister Anita enjoys making pasta, so I wonder if she's tried the lemon and pepper combo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Turkey Meatball Subs with Spicy Red Bell Pepper Sauce

Now who wouldn't like this as a quick and easy dinner, Turkey Meatball Subs with Spicy Red Bell Pepper Sauce? I simply took some frozen turkey meatballs which I had from Trader Joes and combined them with a jar of pasta sauce from Safeway, Spicy Red Bell Pepper Sauce. I added them to a sourdough roll and toasted it with freshly grated parmesan, and it was a very tasty and easy weeknight dinner. The meal was rounded-out with a black eyed pea and veggie salad from Costco.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Extraordinary Desserts

We went yesterday afternoon to Extraordinary Desserts to celebrate the sale of our home, since we'll be moving next month from San Diego to the Bay Area. Karen Krasne and her staff do an amazing job at both of their locations (Little Italy and Balboa Park). I wish my photography skills were up to par with their unbelievable dessert presentation abilities. Every one of their desserts are simply irresistible and the quality is always off the chart! We enjoyed immensely the Chocolate Macadamia Torte and the Roasted Coconut Cream Cake, but perhaps next time I'll try the Lemon Bars or Chocolate Truffle Loaf (also pictured here). I read once that Karen grew up in San Diego and since she was an avid surfer she picked Hawaii for her college destination. After completing a degree in nutrition she eventually made her way to France for culinary studies (obviously in pastries). Whatever her background, I'm so glad she's been able to share her remarkable talents with San Diego.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pulled Pork Tacos with Zesty Slaw

During one of my recent episodes of channel surfing between my usual favorites (two channels of HGTV, one of DIY, and two of the FoodNetwork), I landed on The Neely's making Pulled Pork Tacos with Zesty Slaw. The pulled pork was very nicely flavored and I loved having it featured as a taco. The citrus and chili powder were a nice compliment to one another. While their Zesty Slaw was anything but zesty, it was at least a healthy and fresh side. I will look forward to again making these tacos.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Favorite Kitchen Gadget

Since I wear contacts I can chop onions by the bag without tears, but nevertheless, I love using my Alligator. During a cooking class as part of a staff retreat last year at Great News Cookware and Cooking School in Pacific Beach, I was introduced to the Alligator. While I've been known to love kitchen gadgets (and probably have many more than I need), I most frequently use the Alligator to quickly and uniformly chop onions. Since I love onions and they are a staple in so many recipes I make, the Alligator makes chopping them a breeze! Give it a try.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

I recently was battling a cold and sore throat. When you're under the weather and you can't have mom's chicken soup, why not kick it up a notch to something even better? I revisited another winning recipe from one of my favorite chefs, The Barefoot Contessa, with her Chicken Stew with Biscuits. It's a hearty casserole that is the ultimate challenge to even the toughest cold. I roasted the chicken breasts the night before which made it more manageable with the clock, although it is not a difficult recipe. This recipe also make for great leftovers which were easily reheated in the oven. I'll definitely be making this dish again, although I think next time I'll try sauteing the pearl onions with the chopped onions in hopes of mellowing out the stronger than desired flavor they provided.

Pumpkin Pancakes

As my family members can confirm, I'm known for loving dishes containing pumpkin. Is there a better way to start the weekend than Pumpkin Pancakes? The blend of spices including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves were the perfect complement to the pumpkin. This recipe is a keeper!

Friday, February 19, 2010

TJ Dog with TJ Corn

San Diego's border city, Tijuana, is known for their TJ (Tijuana) Dogs which are sold by street vendors. A Friday night seemed the perfect time to try the two newest menus items at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Lucha Libre. Their TJ Dog is a bacon wrapped hot dog (and if that's not good enough by itself!), piled with grilled red and green bell peppers and onions. A hit of mustard, mayo, and spices topped off this delectable combination. I left Lucha Libre wondering why I had only ordered one, it was that amazing! Their Mexican-inspired TJ Corn was also a pleasant medley of flavors. The sweet yellow corn was enhanced by the queso enchilado (aged cheese with spices and chile), lime, mayo, and chile. For those of you in San Diego, I highly recommend both of these new dishes, but you also can't go wrong with any of their gourmet tacos or other menu items. Be sure to indulge in the Creamy Cilantro Salsa (now that's a recipe I would pay for!).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ice Cream Bar with Chocolate and Toasted Almonds

I don't need a hot summer day, I can easily enjoy ice cream anytime of the year. I'm a big wimp with the cold in the winter, but not even that will stop me from a good ice cream experience! If you haven't already discovered this amazingly inexpensive treat--a mere $1.50 at Costco's food court--you can enjoy this incredible vanilla ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and rolled in toasted almonds. The large size is impressive as well as the high quality of the ice cream and almonds.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Scallop Potatoes with Ham & Green Chilies

The cater for our office holiday party in December provided an excellent feast including carved turkey breast, prime rib, stuffing, gravy, and lots of sides. I might have normally passed up the scallop potatoes with ham, but I was intrigued as soon as I spotted the green chilies. While I've had scallop potatoes many times before, I had not had them with chilies. I was really impressed by the additional layer of flavor the chilies provided to what is not normally that interesting of a dish. I recently tried to recreate this by starting with the Betty Crocker Cheesy Scallop Potatoes recipe to which I added a small can of green chilies. While my concoction didn't have the level of rich, creaminess as the cater achieved (but I hadn't used cream like they may have), it was still a pleasant, comforting meal for a cool winter evening.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Homemade Tortilla Chips

We recently had some corn tortillas leftover from pulled pork tacos which I'd made, so I didn't want them to go to waste. I remembered having seen Martha Stewart use corn tortillas to make homemade tortilla chips (okay, maybe semi-homemade). By simply brushing them with olive oil, lightly sprinkling with salt and chili powder, cutting into pie shape wedges, and baking for 18-20 minutes, we had really good tortilla chips, perfect for game-day nachos.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Five to six times a week my day begins with a bowl of oatmeal, so I look forward to Sunday mornings as an opportunity to get the day started with something that is not eaten from a bowl. Since I had buttermilk remaining from another recipe (the Red Velvet Cake) and we had blueberries in the fridge, I whipped up these Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. They were fluffy and packed with juicy blueberries (and really hit the spot since they weren't oatmeal!).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Scott's Short Ribs with Fennel and Leeks

The Christmas day champagne brunch at the Catamaran Hotel on Mission Bay at Pacific Beach included the most amazing braised short ribs. I couldn't help myself in having a second serving of them. They were simply so tender and moist with a rich flavor. I attempted this short ribs with vegetables recipe and found them to be very easily and flavorful. I also enjoyed the combination of vegetables which included fennel and leeks. It was a hearty meal for a January evening.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Chips & Cream Cheese Icing

Several times now, one of my coworkers, Way-Jen, has brought in a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes which is located near her home in Mira Mesa. While all of the cakes that I've had the fortune to sample have been excellent, I was blown away by their Red Velvet Cake (with chocolate chips and cream cheese icing). It's not often when you are lucky enough to stumble upon a cake as moist and rich as their red velvet. I've been on the hunt for a recipe which will deliver the same degree of moistness and great flavor. Two years ago while home in the Midwest at Christmas, I tore out a red velvet recipe from one of Mary Jo's home magazines (with her blessing of course). I finally recently tried it. While I'm told it had great flavor and others seemed to enjoy it, I was disappointed that the moistness I was hoping to replicate from Nothing Bundt Cakes was not delivered by this recipe (even though it included buttermilk as is traditional in a Southern red velvet cake). If you know of a great red velvet cake recipe, please send it my way as the hunt is still on...