Saturday, August 7, 2010

Banana Pancakes and Shark Week

I originally wanted to have my post title be a quote from Jack Johnson's Banana Pancakes, but I refrained from being too cliché.. But as it is Friday, why don't you make you banana pancakes, pretend like it's the weekend now...
Sorry. I had a moment.
(Yes. I am continuing to listen to this song as I write this post.)

This week has been slightly uneventful, yet stressful and full or work.  But fortunately, I had friends and Shark Week to get me through.  For those of you who are too sheltered and don't know what Shark Week is, it is one of the best weeks of the year (I compared it to being the Hanukkah in August).  Basically, the Discovery Channel decides to grant its viewers with a week of continues sharky love - a gift every day of several hours of shark TV.
I know, I know... Sharks are scary and they eat things... But I mean, come on. Sharks are awesome.  They really don't just eat things, they are natural predators who don't like people to invade their personal space.  Sharks are awesome, and I would totally watch shows about sharks all day every day.
Shark Channel, anyone?!

Dusted with a little powdered sugar, anyone?
Anyways, a few mornings ago my friend and I decided to make pancakes before our workout (kind of contradictory, I know..) and she had an extra-ripe banana.  So we chopped them up and threw them into our pancake mixture.

Here's a secret, too... Put a dollop of sour cream in your pancakes to make them fluffy. Who knew?
Here's another secret... put a little oil in your pancakes and it will prevent them from sticking... What??!

Let's bow down to my fantastic friend Alicia for introducing me to these awesome tips!

So here's what we did...
Banana Pancakes
Jiffy baking mix, using the recipe on the box to make pancakes
1 tbsp sour cream
Look at that caramelized banana!!
1/2 tbsp oil
1 ripe banana, chopped (or mashed) and incorporated into the mixture.

Mix all of the above ingredients into the pancake batter.  Cook the pancakes until they start to bubble, and then flip.  Add a little milk if the batter thickens.

There you go! Yummy banana pancakes to enjoy.
Don't forget to catch up on the last few days of Shark Week!

Ciao e Bella Cucina,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Spicy Roasted Veggies with Spicy Fettucini

My friends have been feeding me. It's fantastic because I've been so poor, I haven't bought groceries in three weeks.  I'm living off of what I call, "Reserve Food," or "Bomb Shelter Food," because I've been eating out of my freezer/cans for the last few weeks.  I made my last box of pasta the other day... this is bad, I know.
And my friends realized that too, so they have helped me out. One brought over food from her garden at home, and we roasted some squash and carrots.  They were divine!  And on top of that, we made green bean fettucini with a little habanero sauce :) I like it spicy!

Roasted Veggies
Whatever vegetables you choose (we used carrots, onions, and squash. I've also done it with tomatoes)
Olive oil
Cajun seasoning (I use Slap Ya Mama)
Garlic powder

Cut the vegetables to your liking - you don't want them too thin, but the thinner they are the faster they cook.  Make sure they are of equal size so nothing cooks unevenly.
Spread them equally on a cookie sheet or roasting pan.  Drizzle liberally with olive oil and toss the veggies.  Sprinkle liberally with the garlic powder and cajun seasoning, and then sprinkle a little paprika and then toss the veggies.
Roast at 400°F for approximately 20 minutes (the thinner they are, the faster they cook... or the opposite).  Cook until opaque and tender.

Spicy Fettucini
Oil from roasted veggies
Olive oil
1/2 box fettucini, cooked
Large handful of green beans
Habanero sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Cook the green beans in the olive oil and garlic.  Once the fettucini is finished, toss in the noodles with the green beans.  Add in the oil from the roasted veggies, salt to taste, and about 6 drops of the habanero sauce. Toss and serve.

Now that was easy!

Ciao e Bella Cucina!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New KitchenAid? Let's Make Banana Bread!

I have a list called, "Mom, when you die you are giving me this..." and it is a list of kitchen items.  It consists of things like her All-Clad, Japanese dishes, China, a wooden bowl, a wooden pasta fork, and her KitchenAid (and various other items, as well).  She laughs every time I say it, and realizes I'm not kidding. My mother is the one who brought the wonders of cooking into my life, and I want that legacy to continue even after she's gone... When I make my first sukiyaki for my family, or a nabe.  Or ever time I make pasta.  But of course, that will be a long way from now. Seeing as my mother is in perfect health (and I'm happy about that) and I don't want to get married until I'm 90.

Anyways! So I get a call last fall from my mother (which was odd because I'm always the one who calls her) and she tells me, "You're grandmother has a present for you."  And I'm slightly shocked, but not all-to surprised.  My grandma is a fantastic woman, but she normally doesn't give presents. Just money (which ash always helped me in many many ways).  I promptly ask my mother what it is and she says, "Her KitchenAid."  I'm shocked.  Out of everything I want in my life, the KitchenAid is the one thing I knew would take me 500 years to purchase (since they're awfully expensive).  I laughed. I cried. I nearly had a myocardial infarction.  I was in cooking heaven, and this was at the same time I was discovering my absolute love for food and had a $5.00 hand blender.

Look at the color on the loaf - so golden!!
When I came home over Christmas there it was - in my grandmother's garage - a nearly brand new, barely used, professional "with-the-arms" KitchenAid with all the fix-ins.  I was nearly jumping out of my snow boots.  And to top it all off? My grandma offered me a go around at her cookbook cabinet.  I got about 100 cookbooks, mostly for baking, and I left with that KitchenAid.  But my tiny apartment could not accomodate, so I didn't bring it down until last week. And the first thing I do? I make banana bread, of course!

Banana bread is one of this things that instantly takes me back to my childhood.  I love the smell of the dough, and as it bakes it makes everything around it aromatic.  My mom always made it for swimming meets, so we could have a sweet, yet starchy, boost of energy at the end of the night.  This recipe was stolen from my neighbor many, many years ago.  And I will admit that it needs a change.  I made it and I was confused, because my bread was flat.  And I researched baking soda and baking powder (because the recipe called for baking soda) and there it was - baking soda requires acid, baking powder already has cream of tartar in it.  So, you may need to add a little cream of tartar to this recipe to make your bread nice and fluffy.

Banana Bread
3 large, ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Crisco (I used 1/4 cup unsalted butter)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Beat bananas until they are mashed in a small bowl.
In a stand mixer, beat eggs until light.  Then add sugar and butter and mix well.
Then add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well.
Mix in the mashed bananas.
Spray or grease 2 loaf pans and pour mixture evenly between the two.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and they pass the toothpick test.

Enjoy this delicious banana-y bread!
Look at that air pocket!
Ciao e Bella Cucina!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Purple Chicken Soup

I've never made soup. Ever. I've never watched my mother make it, I've never attempted to make it. Ever. At all. Zilch.
So this was an interesting experience! My mother was disappointed because I didn't make my own stock, but oh well.  I don't have time! But I bought free range chicken stock, which was fantastic!
I bought a lot of these ingredients awhile ago when I actually had money, and let me tell you what.. this will definitely last me forever! But it will be good when, in the middle of the semester, I have no money and it's cold out.  Sounds like a plan, right?? :)

The memories I have of soup growing up are phenomenal.  Mom always made some sort of soup every fall - Cincinnati-style chili, turkey noodle soup, chicken vegetable alphabet soup, white chili, or vegetable soup were her main soups.  She normally made two a year, and froze a bunch of it to keep and reuse on a lazy evening (along with homemade spaghetti sauce).  You'd know when she was making something good because she would always get out her pressure cooker on Sundays, after we had roasted chicken, to pressure cook the bones and make her own stock.  And after Thanksgiving, she'd always make a turkey stock.  Gosh! I can remember the smell of the house the next morning was amazing - you almost floated to the kitchen.  And she'd be in there, working away, to feed her family.  That morning you'd have fresh turkey sandwiches and then for a late afternoon snack, the first turkey noodle soup bowl of the season.

But me? No thought. I kind of just winged this, so if you have any suggestions please don't hesitate to comment!

Purple Chicken Soup
3 large chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
32 oz. + 1 cup free range chicken broth, or homemade equivalent
12 cups of water
1 1/2 cups red cabbage, chopped
1 1/2 cups green cabbage, chopped
6 stalks of celery hearts, chopped
5 large carrots, chopped
Dried basil, rosemary, and thyme
Cajun seasoning
Olive oil
1/2 red onion
1 package of pasta (I used campanelle)

Purple Chicken Soup
In a large pan, put all the vegetables (not onion) in there with about 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then add salt and the 1/2 cup of chicken broth and cover with a lid.  Let them cook until almost tender (you don't want them to be tender). Stir them every few minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the chicken into bite size pieces.  Then cook them in a large sauté pan with olive oil, and the herbs, and the cajun seasoning.  Or season the chicken to your liking :) Cook until ALMOST finished cooking.  You don't want to over cook the chicken.  Once the chicken is finished, put it in a separate container and cook the onions in the same oil.
Cook the pasta al dente with salt.
In a large stock pot, add the rest of the chicken stock and water.  Drain and add all of the above cooked items.  Stir it up and let the liquid simmer for at least an hour.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.

And here ya go!

Ciao e Bella Cucina!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Workouts and Hunger

I've recently (as of last Friday) started a workout regimen and I've been having a problem.  I get so hungry after I work out! I have been doing anywhere between 40 minutes to 80 minutes for workout, mixing cardio and weight lifting, so I'm going to have to find some sort of alternative to stuffing my face after I get home.

The other day I had an almond and apple sauce post-workout snack.  What do you suggest? I heard mixing carbohydrates and proteins is perfect for a mixture of replenishing quick energy and longer-lasting energy.

On other news, I'm in a rut. I want to create something yummy, but I have no money! It's a problem.  But I do promise that after I get my next pay check and after I pay rent, there will be a yummy recipe to follow!! Right now I'm living off of random vegetables, leftovers, and random things I can steal from my friends!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Physics, Ribeyes, and a good Pinot Noir

And now for my first actual blog update (with little to do with food, but just enough to belong here!).
Summer is slowly starting to wind down in the grand city of Knoxvegas, and I am definitely starting to feel it. Between finding hours at work, finding an opportunity to go home to Ohio, finding time for school, and finding time for food and friends, I'm slowly but surely losing myself. But I'll make it through, because I do have my good friends down here in Rocky Top.

Let me just say that class is hard. I love the fact that I'm taking a fast track course, but a four credit hour physics class in 16 days is kind of rough.  My friend and I are taking the same course but at different universities, and she started in June and I've already passed her (I started the first of July) and my final is the last Thursday of July. It's rough. I have a test every Tuesday and Thursday and a lab report due every Monday and Wednesday.  And this coming week I have a quiz Monday and Wednesday as well.
Not only am I taking that dreadful class, which lasts from 9 am to 3:20 (ughhh), I'm also trying to work 20+ hours.  Which, yeah, is no big deal... but c'mon. I'm doing that in 3 days. Haha! I don't work Monday-Wednesday, and I'm not usually scheduled on Fridays, so my work schedule is all over the place!  But it's okay, I only have two weeks.

Thankfully I've found time to go home this coming weekend.  Due to some family issues, I have to.  And having to deal with that stuff from so far away is rough - my brother and I have had to deal with it the same way, though, so I have someone to relate to.  I'm going to go home Friday morning and probably leave Saturday night, so that leaves little to no time for me.  But I may possibly be bringing back goodies for my kitchen!

Enough rambling, my friend and I had a good dinner this evening!  Emily and I had ribeyes (yum!) with feta butter, along with rice and baked broccoli.  No pictures today, but here's some tips!

If you melt about a tablespoon of butter and add in some fetta cheese, it makes a perfect, salty, cheesy spread for bread and meats.  We put it on top of our steaks and it was delectable!
I also cut up broccoli into mini little pieces and baked them at 400 degrees on a nonstick cooking sheet for about 20 minutes and it created a soft, yet crunchy alternative to fries.  Season with some dried herbs, salt, and pepper before putting them in the oven and they will be so yummy!

The gem of the evening was my 2005 Navarro Pinot Noir (that my mother so graciously gave me in April) and although I broke the cork, it opened up very well in the glass.  Teamed with a ribeye, it was so subtly sweet with a good acid level - my mouth was begging for more of this pairing!! What kind of wine do you like with your steak?

Ciao e Bella Cucina!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Something Fruity!

Yes. It's fruit time in Tennessee - well, at least for me and my fellow friends in my apartment.  My dear friend, Alicia, and I have been talking about making some sort of fruit pizza (in order to start the process of me obtaining baking skills), but it slowly turned into a cheesecake rendition of this classic dessert, and even a rendition of a classic cheesecake.  We walked around Kroger Marketplace, finding fresh fruits that would beautifully top this devine decadence.

We started with a store bought (yes, I know) sugar cookie dough put into a small baking pan, and then made some cheesecake filling with 1/3 fat cream cheese and fat free cream cheese, along with sugar, vanilla, eggs, and lime zest.  We baked those two together, and topped them with a sour cream, lime yogurt, sugar, and lime zest topping and then baking a few minutes longer.  Then we topped it with yummy fruits - raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, red plums, fresh cherries, and kiwi.  It was a sweet, tart, and tangy dessert, with a cheesecakey-sugary-chewy-cakey-yummy bottom :) ('Cause you know how we like our bottoms around here, huh?!)

Fruity Lime Cheesecake Pizza
1 sugar cookie dough package
Lots and lots of fresh fruit!!!
1 1/2 packages of 1/3 fat, fat free, or combo cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lime zest
2 eggs
1 small cup Weight Watchers Key Lime yogurt (or equivalent size)
1 small (8 oz) cup fat free sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp lime zest
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a small baking pan (I think mine is like... a 6x12 or something... some really random size), flatten out the raw cookie dough.
Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  Pour over top of the cookie dough. Bake for about 30-40 minutes (until the cheesecake is ALMOST cooked all the way through).  Remove and leave oven on.
While the cheesecake is cooking, mix all of the topping ingredients together.  Refrigerate until the cheesecake is finished.
Once the cheesecake is finished, top it with the topping. You want a thin layer, so you may not need it all.  Bake it for about 8 more minutes (Until the topping is no longer runny).
Let the cheesecake cool for about 40+ minutes, until it is cool on the top.  Then add your fresh fruit!!

Chill for at least another hour before you cut the cheesecake.

Um. Hello? Doesn't this look devine?!

It was so much fun to try this - we were all skeptical just because of my infamous baking skills. And of course I didn't follow a recipe (and yes, my cheesecake did fall, but I easily hid that with lots and lots of fruit!).  But regardless, the mixture was fantastic - the lime was tangy, the sugar..well...sugary sweet, and the fruit was a mixture of sweet and barely-ripe-tartness.  Team this with a little mint water (because it will make you thirsty!) and you're in for a good treat.  We even laughed a little at my roommate/friend's boyfriend, Phil, for gobbling up the rest of her (yes, her, because he didn't want his own) piece without even taking a breath - that usually means it's good, right?!

Ciao e bella cucina!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Fish Night!

Growing up my parents taught me to appreciate food.  My mother is an artist, and she loves to express herself through cooking.  I learned all my basics from her - how to make a roux, how to cut vegetables, how to devein shrimp... after my many tears and cries "I'm going to ruin something!" my mother taught me to trust myself through my cooking.  She also taught me that when food is made with love, it always tastes so much better.  And apparently a pie can only be made when you are happy, or else something bad will happen (and that is why she would get up before the sun to start pies during the holidays, to avoid any distractions from her two wild, salivating children).
She respected food so much, the meat guys at the local grocery store knew her by name. Her favorite was her meat man Joe, who always told her when good pieces of meat were coming in, when things were going on sale, or whatever - he had her back when it came to meat.  I had met him a couple of times when I was dragged to the grocery store, but I never really thought of him outside of that store.  Then he was laid off, and my mother was heartbroken.  She eventually made nice with the new meat guys, but it was never the same.
Then I started hanging out with my dear friend Emily, whom I explained in an earlier post that I hated her when I first knew her (and now she's one of my dearest friends, or "in my top 10 I'd like at my wedding," as she would say).  Band kids would start hanging out at her house at night, but it was always late when we were there so her parents and sister were asleep. But when Emily and I became better friends, I came over at different times.  And then I met her dad.  And I instantly knew that he was Joe, my mom's favorite meat man.  Clearly our friendship was meant to be.

But back to 2010, today was Friday Fish night at my apartment - Emily and I made spade fillets and salmon fillets.  We are both going through a "we can only go out if it is cheap" stage and we decided to stay in (because what isn't cheaper than that?!).  I was at the store today and I bought some salmon, which only costed $5.00, and between two people that's dirt cheap! I had all of the other ingredients at home, so cooking this evening was quick, painless, and easy on the wallet.

I was slightly inspired by my Pecan and Ginger Crusted Tilapia because I still have some left over ginger, so the salmon became my asian-inspired dish and the spade was cooked for a delicate pallet, only using fresh herbs and a little garlic.

Pecan and Garlic Sautéed Salmon
1 salmon filet, with skin
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dried basil

Rub the basil, salt, and freshly ground pepper into the flesh side of the salmon.
In a small sauté pan, start browning the garlic and ginger together in the olive oil, once it starts to brown, remove the garlic and the ginger and set aside (these will be used later), leaving the oil in the pan.  Turn the oil up on a high heat and once the oil is hot, put the salmon in skin side down, to crisp the skin.  Then flip and cook until the salmon is cooked through.

For this recipe, I made the same honey balsamic glaze that I made for the tilapia, but I added in both the browned garlic and ginger, as well as some ginger powder.

Herb and Garlic Fish
2 filets of white fish (whichever you choose)
2 tbsp fresh herbs, mashed with a little salt and olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Rub the fish filets with the herbs before adding to the heat.
Start to brown the garlic on a medium-high heat, and after a couple of minutes add your fish.  Sprinkle each side with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook on both sides, until the garlic starts to brown and the herbs start to cook as well.  Once the fish is cooked through, remove from heat and put in a warm oven.

Spicy Rice
Let's just say I'm always doing something crazy with my rice! Haha! :)
1 cup white rice, cooked per packaging directions
1 tbsp butter
Salt to taste
2 tsp herbes de provence
2 tsp habanero sauce

Once rice is cooked through, add in all the ingredients above and stir.  You may need to adjust per your taste, but I found that the spicier it was, the better it balanced the fish's delicate flavor.
Serve the white fish over the rice.

Ciao, e bella cucina!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You say Gelato, I say Gelato

My friend, Alicia, and I decided to venture into downtown this evening.  Several weeks ago we were driving down our main downtown strip and saw a cute gelato place but didn't have the opportunity to stop in.  So this evening, after cooking a really fresh and yummy dinner, we decided to give it a try!  And let me just tell you I was amazed.

I've never had gelato before, but last night I was watching Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives and Guy was talking about ice cream shops - and they just so happened to feature one very similar to our place.  I don't remember the shop that he was visiting, but they made their gelato fresh every morning, with the best ingredients, and made some interesting flavors!
I have heard from many people that gelato is a one-of-a-kind thing - it's creamy, rich, and decadent and you can't mimic that flavor any where else.  Being an ice cream connoisseur (because I work at an ice cream store that makes homemade ice cream), I thought that I was going to be hard to phase - and boy was I wrong!

This lovely little shop called Coolato sits right on Knoxville's main street downtown, sandwiched between a movie theatre, a sandwich shop, and a French Crepe-erie.  They have cute cafe like seating right outside, with a sidewalk menu, big shop windows with seating, and a sneaky little alley full of two-top tables (with more outdoor seating in the back).  You walk inside and you instantly feel like you've stepped into a confused time warp - it is very modern, with clean lines and stylish decor, but the old-time feeling of a European cafe.

They have a full hot menu, serving breakfast, lunches, salads, and appetizers (like a cheese and fruit plate!), and have a variety of drinks like coffee, iced chai lattes, and shakes made with gelato.  They also have a "bambino" section, so it's kid friendly as well!

Now when it comes to the gelato, they have 3 sizes - Piccolo (small, up to 2 flavors), Mediano (medium, up to 2 flavors), and Grande (large, up to 3 flavors).  I got a Mediano with 2 flavors and it was a little over $5.00, which for ice cream in Knoxville is nothing.  It is a little more pricey than a Marble Slab or Coldstone, but it is totally worth it - the quality is amazing.

They have a ton of different flavors, ranging from their nondairy fresh fruit sorbettos (fruit sorbets) and their fun flavors like tiramisu gelato, or turtle mascarpone cheesecake gelato.  They change their flavors daily, and of course have seasonal favorites.  Whatever they don't make fresh, they import from Italy (the owners apparently spent time out there and fell in love with the product).
I chose to have fresh peach sorbetto and and the Turtle Mascarpone Cheesecake.  Talk about delicious! The sorbetto was icy, but sweet (and not overly sweet) with just enough creaminess to make you forget it's not dairy, and then the turtle... well... it was a turtle. Don't get too excited, right? Haha! It was fantastic.  I also tested the the tiramisu and YUM! Just the perfect amount of sweetness and a hint of coffee - it was perfect.

They give you adorable little plastic cups with cute "specifically for gelato" spoons. I found this out the hard way because I asked "Don't y'all have normal sized spoons?" and boy, they sure don't! Alicia and I sat down and fell in love - promising to come back at least once a month (to try everything!) or at least when our wallets allow it.

I'm so glad I discovered this place, although they have been there for awhile and remain busy (especially because they stay open until 11 and are right next to a theatre).  I am happy we have some authentic and homemade food! Gotta have TLC, even when we eat out, right?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Orzo Stuffed Portabellas

Today was an awesome day - full of relaxation and food! My friend Emily came over and we had huge salads for lunch and laid out by the pool.  So when dinner time came, I wasn't really hungry. But I figured out something healthy, light, and yummy for dinner (after breaking a wine glass).  These mushrooms were absolutely delicious.

Orzo Stuffed Portabellas
2 large portabellas, whole with chopped stems
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Olive Oil
Feta cheese for garnishing

Brush the portabellas with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and roast them in the oven (or toaster oven) at 375° until cooked through (about 15 minutes).
In the meantime, cook about 1/2 of orzo per packaging directions. When finished, rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking.
Also, sauté the onions, stems, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until the onions are translucent.  When they are finished cooling, add in the herbs.
When the orzo is finished, stir it in to the onion mixture.  Then heat the mixture enough to slightly melt the cheddar cheese.
Pull the portabellas out of the oven and then fill them with the mixture.  Put them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes (until the cheese is fully melted and starts to bubble).

Garnish with feta cheese.

UM. HELLOO??!!! Yummy!!

Blue Cheese Caramelized Onions

The 4th of July is a day filled with patriotic music, bad American flag t-shirts, classic American food, and a lot of fireworks.  Today was definitely an Independence Day to remember for me! I spent it with a great friend of mine, cooking, drinking, and then enjoying a free festival in Knoxville's World Fair park.

My dear friend Emily and I have known each other since my sophomore year of high school.  She was a year older than me, so I really didn't know her outside of band (we both played clarinet).  Then, the following summer, she "left" the band, which made me the section leader.  And sure enough - she decided to come back, which kicked me out of my position.  I hated her for about 2 days and then we became great friends! How ironic. And now we both attend school at Tennessee and enjoy our time together.  We love cooking! And of course eating :) and she appreciates my growth as an experimental chef (because she gets to enjoy the products of my experiments!!).

Today we decided to make blue cheese burgers last minute, and we both wanted caramelized onions with them.  So here's what I came up with.

Blue Cheese Caramelized Onions
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
Splash of white wine (I used a Gewurztraminer we just so happened to be drinking)

Melt the butter down and then add the red onion and olive oil and stir.  Turn down the heat to a medium heat to prevent burning.  Add the salt and pepper and then stir.
About 10 minutes before serving, add in the blue cheese and allow it to melt.  Once the cheese is melted, add the wine and stir.  Allow the wine to reduce before topping your burgers.

Sorry no pictures today! I didn't have my camera, but I can assure you the onions were fantastic :) I could have eaten them by themselves!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oh, The Acid!

Today decided to be a very acidic day - and my mouth is feeling it! But the recipes are yummy, fresh, and wholesome.
My friend and I decided to do chicken (that she had been marinating forever, not on purpose) with brown rice, grilled pineapple, and fresh tomato salad.  Having the ripe tomatoes that I bought at Earth Fare definitely inspired me to grow my own tomatoes next summer. I'm not a big tomato person, but they are definitely growing on me.  I'm a texture eater, and tomatoes have a really awkward texture, so I am having to get past it. I really do like the flavor - so we'll see where this goes! I think I just need to continue cooking with them and working with them.. become one with the tomato!

Fresh Tomato, Basil, and Feta Cheese Salad
1 dry pint of grape tomatoes
20 leaves of fresh basil (they can vary in size), ripped
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 packet of splenda (about 1/4 tsp)

Slice the tomatoes into circles, about 3-4 parts per tomato. Put in a medium sized bowl and toss with feta cheese.  Add about 2 tbsp olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or until taste, and stir.  I like mine with a little more balsamic flavor.  Add in lemon juice and splenda and stir.  Before serving, stir in the basil.  You can let it set, but try to avoid letting the basil wilt.  Garnish with a little bit of feta crumbles, basil leaves, and some fresh parsley.

I am loving my little porch full of fresh herbs! It makes me so happy. I love to be able to go outside, pick off some basil for a dish, and walk back in and voila! Fresh herbs. Love it :) I'll probably do a post soon, when I decide to get some more (due to a bad mold that killed off my oregano... which was a sad day). But I'm going to become a little gardener on my teeny, tiny porch. :)

Garlic-Balsamic Chicken
2 chicken breasts
Salad Dressing
Pineapple, brushed with olive oil

Use the salad dressing above (it is listed as a strawberry balsamic, but you can just not add the strawberries and that is what was used) and make at least 2 servings of it (enough to cover the chicken).
The salad dressing is really useful - you can make it in advance and have it for quite a while. Because it really doesn't have anything in it that spoils, it can stick around. But anyways!
Marinade the chicken for at least 24 hours.
Grill or pan fry the chicken on both sides until thoroughly done. I honestly wasn't paying attention the whole time, so I don't really know how long it took. But it obviously depends on the size of the chicken, too! Haha. Then grill/fry the pineapple until tender.
Bring the marinade to a boil and add in a little flour that has been mixed with either more vinegar or water (to prevent clumping). Stir it in until it is thickened, and let it simmer.  Strain and place on top of the chicken and pineapple. Garnish with torn parsley leaves.

We served it with some brown rice. Yummy! It was a great way to end the day - nice, fresh, and wholesome food.  I had some good olive bruschetta today, too, which has possibly inspired me to make some myself? Hmmm. We'll see!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Health, Chicken Soup, and Other Yummy Thoughts

First things first, I am officially a Food Buzz featured publisher! Exciting, exciting!

More exciting news? I decided to start eating healthier, more natural foods.  So that means avoiding processed foods as much as possible, at least in my own home.  Although I do love my Kelloggs Fiber Plus bars, buying things that are natural/organic should help me become even healthier.  I've always been a bigger girl, so I'm assuming avoiding processed foods will also help me get down to a healthier weight. We'll see. I've always had a healthy body, just not weight. So I'm going to play it by ear.
But I went to Earth Fare today and bought some fun stuff! And stuff for chicken soup. I'm going to make some homemade soup for once - I've never done this before so it will be interesting! What makes it more interesting? I don't have a soup pot. Haha! Good luck to me :) Maybe I'll make a small batch and test it out first.

So be looking forward to some yummy chicken soup! I need to get my cook on. I've been out for too long!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's Been Too Long

Unfortunately, it's been about 100 years since I've updated. I'm sorry to keep all of you in such deep, foodie suspense.

I enjoyed my short, yet eventful week in California.  I stayed in the Auburn/mountain area for the majority of my stay, venturing to the bay area for a day.  I love California.  Being an Ohio native and current Tennessee resident, its crisp, clean air and diverse population definitely attract me.  I basically grew up in northeastern California, as well.  I enjoyed playing in the mountains, travelling to small towns, visiting my family in Nevada City (where my uncle worked in the Nevada City Winery and then owned his own catering business for several years), skiing in the Sierra Nevadas at Lake Tahoe, and driving the many miles on the hundreds of highways throughout the state.  It's so beautiful.
My aunt basically convinced me to consider California as a destination for residency and medical school, so there is potential I will be doing some research.

But on to food I go.

I don't have any pictures to upload from my adventures, but I'll chat about it anyways.

Let's just talk about how awesome my grandmother is at cooking.  She said "I may not be a wonderful cook, but I sure do know how to buy things!" and it's absolutely true! She is the epitome of a semi-homemade chef.  She'll buy amazing things and doctor them to her best ability.
Like her olive bruschetta. Creamed onions and chicken on top of croutons. Her amazing chili.
She also spoiled me with rack of lamb and filet! I was in red meat heaven.

My grandpa also took me to a little asian buffet for lunch.  It had fresh, tasteful sushi, with a fruit bar, vegetable bar, soup bar, and hot bar. It was amazing.
Homemade strawberry ice cream, anyone??

Unfortunately when I got home from my glamorous vacation, I entered an apartment with an empty refridgerator teamed with a nearly empty bank account. Oh joy.
Luckily this evening I had some left over cabbage with diced onion, some "naked noodles" (noodles with butter), and turkey kielbasa. It was good enough.

Let's hope I make it to the super market after I deposit my pay check!!! *crosses fingers*

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cajun Shrimp with a Chunky Tomato Sauce and Homemade Strawberry-Balsamic Salad

Here was my hearty meal before driving to South Carolina the next morning! I wanted to do some sort of shrimp on bread with a sauce, and this is what I came up with.  After spending many nights trying to fall asleep, I developed this idea.

Cajun Shrimp
6 Medium-large size shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Cajun seasoning
1/5 of a lemon (juice and zest)
1 tbsp Soy bean oil (for sautéing shrimp)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup milk (for sauce)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
Parmesan cheese
Fresh bread (I used ciabatta), cut into rectangles and toasted

In a large sauté pan, heat cooking oil and then throw your shrimp in there.  Sprinkle liberally with cajun seasoning and allow the shrimp to cook.  When shrimp are almost done, sprinkle a little bit of lemon on the shrimp (but not all, because you want most of it for the sauce).  When shrimp are finished, set them on a plate and keep them in a warm oven.

In the same pan, add in olive oil and flour to make a roux.  You can add the salt and pepper in now or wait until the sauce starts.  Mix up the oil and flour until you get an off-white paste.  Allow that paste to bubble and then add in milk, about 2 tbsp at a time.  You may have to use a whisk to stir.  Once the sauce starts to thicken, add in more milk.  You don't want it too thin, so add a little at a time.  Once the sauce is to your desired consistency, add in the tomato paste, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir.  Allow the mixture to bubble a little once the ingredients are incorporated.  Then throw in your tomatoes and allow the mixture to bubble again, which will allow the tomatoes to cook.  Then add your oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.  It could even use a little fresh basil if you have some (I didn't add it, but it definitely could have used it!)

Once sauce is done, bring out shrimp and dice the shrimp into large pieces.  Place the shrimp on the bread slices and then spoon the sauce over the shrimp.  Top them with some yummy parmesan cheese and serve!

I served this with my mom's classic balsamic salad.  The dressing is sweet, tangy, garlicky, and is so yummy you could drink this stuff!  When my mom would ask me to make this (when I was being a little sous chef), I would cry and cry thinking I would mess it up. But you really can't mess up this dressing.  It's so simple!
My mom made this when I was growing up in a wooden bowl that would easily grind the mixture, but that bowl is long gone so I had to develop my own process of making the dressing.

Strawberry-Balsamic Salad
2 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp sugar free strawberry jam

In a mortar and pestel (or some sort of grinding apparatus), throw in your garlic, about 1/2 tsp of salt and about 10 grinds of fresh pepper and then mush the garlic. You are going to want a paste consistency, so you have to work at it.
Once you get a paste consistency, use a whisk and stir in about 2 tbsp of olive oil. (I do this next part by taste, so you can continue to taste until you get the right flavor).  Once the oil has been mixed well, continue to add about the same amount of balsamic vinegar.  Taste until the mixture tastes like balsamic, and not oil.  Then add in the strawberry jam and mix again. Yummm!! Drizzle over some salad and serve.

When I make salads, I generally use fresh spinach.  I put a number of toppings on it: strawberries, walnuts, cranberries, mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts... basically anything goes well.  The sweet and salty topping mix generally makes it amazing.  Sometimes I sauté some chicken or steak and throw it on there.

What kind of salad dressing do you make??

Friday, June 18, 2010

My (Not So) Gourmet, and (Very) Yummy Dining in Myrtle Beach

Growing up, my family traveled A LOT. We went to Florida to visit my paternal grandparents at least once a year, normally in the spring, and traveled to California at least twice a year to visit my maternal grandparents.  We always made an attempt to stay in a condo, rental home, or with family so we could cook.  We never ate out at giant seafood buffets or chain restaurants.  We would occasionally venture out to try local dives that I wouldn't remember if they hit me in the face.

So when I came to Myrtle Beach with a friend for a short get-away, I was called "un-American" and my parents are apparently crazy because we've never dined at a large seafood buffet.  Well let me tell ya! What an experience!

We ate at two different seafood buffets and the first one was small and very good, but mainly fried, and the second one was a 900 seater! It was gigantic and the food, to my pleasant surprise, was pretty darn good! It was fresh, not all fried, and full of flavor. My favorite were the fried scallops, which were fresh and juicy and barely battered. I enjoyed myself very much!

Then tonight we ate at Joe's Crab Shack and it was a lot of fun! Noisy, but definitely fun! We both tried the steam pots and they were really yummy! And you got an awesome bib with it :) It was a great, exciting experience that we can't get from home. I'm glad that I got to go.

Tomorrow we're on our way back to Knoxville and my dad is coming to visit me for the weekend! I am going to hopefully make a couple of yummy dishes for him that I'll post on here.
Then I'll be off to California on Tuesday for a week! I probably won't have many posts coming that way, but my grandma is such an amazing cook I'm sure I'll have a lot to talk about when I get home :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chillin' Out at Chill Custom Creamery

I wanted to do a post about my workplace, Chill Custom Creamery, where we make ice cream with liquid nitrogen.  And I decided to make an ice cream and talk about it!
Chill Custom Creamery (Chill) is a locally owned, operated, and engineered ice cream store in Knoxville, TN.  The concept is a little different, and it is how we get our "Custom Creamery" part of our name. When you first come in, you get to choose a liquid base to start off with; currently we have: vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, soy base, dark chocolate frozen yogurt, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, or a pink lemonade sorbet.  After you choose a base, you get to choose if you'd like a flavor added to your ice cream. We have many different kinds of flavors to add in, some being: peanut butter, caramel, marshmallow cream, coconut, orange cream, pistachio, and almond.  Then you take your base and add in mix-ins, ranging from fruits to nuts to candy bars, we have almost anything you could think of. Then the fun really begins :)
The staff, also known as "Chillers," will take the mixture and freeze it on the spot! We freeze it with liquid nitrogen in kitchen aides, and the system is locally engineered! It's pretty awesome stuff.
When you get the ice cream, you will be surprised to find that it is a completely different texture than hardserve or soft-serve ice cream. And there's a reason.  Although it looks as if you're going to eat a gallon of liquid nitrogen, it isn't true!  When we add the liquid nitrogen, it boils at room temperature and it creates a creamier, thicker ice cream. It's so yummy.
What also adds to the experience is we make our own vanilla and chocolate ice cream in the store (nearly every day, a job that I have been happy to be in charge of every shift I come in).  The ice cream is rich, creamy, and full of flavor! As long as you don't over do it with your mix-ins and flavors, you will get to experience something new and taste some of the best ice cream you will ever have.

So today I wanted to make a strawberry-lemonade ice cream with a hint of coconut and it turned out okay.  I wasn't really impressed with the flavor of the lemon that we had (so I'm going to bring in my own lemon next time :D), but I was happy with the mixture of coconut, lemon, and strawberry! It should inspire me to make some sort of dessert at home, eh?? We'll see!!

I'm off to Myrtle Beach for the week and I am thinking about doing a "food review" of my trip. So we'll see what comes of it!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Easy Raspberry Chocolates with White Chocolate Drizzle

So after a failed attempt to make raspberry sorbet filled chocolate, I decided to just throw in the sorbet (literally)! I'm not a dessert person, so this is my sad attempt to make something sweet and yummy! Let's hope I develop my skills over the summer.

1/2 pint (8 oz) raspberry sorbet
2 packages (16 oz) semi-sweet baker's chocolate
2 oz white baker's chocolate

Have a cookie sheet wrapped with wax paper prepared. And make some space in the freezer!
Have a melon baller handy :)
Fill a large sauce pan with about 2 inches of water and place on the stove on medium heat. Find a large glass (or heat resistant) bowl to place over the water (where you will melt the chocolate). Chop the chocolate into smalle squares and add into the glass bowl. Continuously stir as the chocolate will begin to melt quickly. If the chocolate heats too quickly, turn the heat down. Once the chocolate has all melted, add in the sorbet, a little bit at a time, to melt into the chocolate. Don't add it too quickly!
Once all the sorbet is added, continuously stir as you "ball out" each serving of chocolate. I just formed small little circles with a small melon baller size. Stick them in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until the chocolate is no longer liquid.
You can melt the 2 oz of white chocolate in the microwave according to directions; it took about 1 1/2 minutes in my microwave. With the same spoon you stir with, drizzle the white chocolate liberally over the circles. I moved the circles closer together so it would be easier to drizzle. I ate a couple on the way, and they are a soft consistency! Yummy, and not what I expected!

Fresh Herb and Campanelle Ribbon Bake

Because food makes you feel better and cooking is the best therapy, a friend and I decided to mix the two together and have a cooking-fest. We wanted to make something italian, amazing, and fresh, and we came up with this awesome recipe!

Lots of olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 bottle of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic pasta sauce
1 package of campanelle pasta (serves 8)
1 8 oz package shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded parmesan romano blend
1 8 oz package ricotta
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (not packed)
1 tbsp fresh oregano and parsley

In a small bowl or mortar and pestel, crush garlic, oregano, parsley, and about 2 leaves of basil with 1/4 tsp of salt until it makes a thick paste. Set aside.
While cooking the pasta, pan fry the ground beef with 1/2 of the above mixture. Add about 1/2 tsp of salt in to the meat while cooking it.
Roll and slice the basil. You can chop it finer if you would rather have it that way. Add it in to a bowl with the ricotta cheese, about 1/4 cup of olive oil, the other 1/2 of herb mixture, and about 1 tbsp of the parmesan romano mixture. Set aside.
Once the pasta is finished, rinse it in cold water to stop cooking. Then mix the pasta, cooked beef, and half of the jar of pasta sauce in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large glass baking pan, spread 1/2 of the remaining pasta sauce in the bottom of the pan with about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add in half of the pasta mixture and spread evenly throughout the pan. Then spread the ricotta cheese mixture and on top, sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese bag.  Then add the other half of the pasta mixture.  Top with the rest of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of  parmesan romano mixture.
Cook for up to 30 minutes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pecan-Ginger Crusted Tilapia with a Honey-Balsamic Glaze

So I was feeling a little crazy today and decided to make something up. I had some tilapia in my freezer and some pecans in my pantry and decided to add a little spin on a classic dish. And it turned out fantastic! So here is the recipe:

2 Tilapia filets
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 inch chunk of ginger
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic - minced
Powdered ginger
1/4 cup of milk
Olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of honey

Puree/finely chop the ginger (I used a magic bullet) and combine with panko, pecans, and salt.  Set aside. In a separate bowl/plate, combine flour and powdered ginger. You only need enough to lightly coat each filet. Set aside.  Then pour your milk into another separate plate. Set aside.
While heating olive oil in a large sauté pan, you will dredge the filets in the following order: flour, milk, and pecan mixture. You lightly coat the fish, on both sides, in the flour and then put it in the milk and turn the filet so milk covers both sides as well. After you make the flour-milk paste, dip the fish in the pecan mixture, coating until you can't see any more white.  Then pan-fry the fish in the olive oil.
Allow the fish to completely brown on each side. As you can see in the picture, my fish was a dark-golden brown on both sides and was cooked perfectly. Set the finished fish on a plate and set in the oven while you make your glaze.
Do not remove any "crunchies" or oil from the pan before adding the vinegar. Remove your pan from the heat and let it cool for a minute or so before adding the balsamic vinegar. If you want a lighter garlic flavor, brown the garlic first. I didn't - I added the balsamic and garlic at the same time.  As soon as the balsamic is added into the pan, put it back on the heat and stir constantly.  Add in your honey and continue to stir. Add in a little salt and continue stirring.  The balsamic vinegar should be bubbling and steaming while it reduces - the more it reduces, the thicker it will be so you can decide when to stop reducing it.
Plate your fish and drizzle a little of the glaze on top and enjoy!! :)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Herb Roasted Chicken, Stuffed Mushrooms, and Asparagus Fettuccine

Wow! It's been awhile since I've made something and posted it on here. But let me tell you what, my friend Alicia and I decided to make a homemade dinner for Memorial Day and we came up with some yummy stuff!!

Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs
  • 4 chicken thighs, deboned and chopped into bite-size pieces (or equivalent of any cut of chicken)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh herbs (the more the merrier!)
    • We used basil, lemon balm, thyme, parsley, and rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Panko breadcrumbs
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Toss the chicken in about 3 tablespoons olive oil (if you cook with a less-fatty cut of chicken, you probably want to add more oil) and then lay it in a small, glass baking pan. Then sprinkle all the herbs over top of the chicken and toss again.  Then sprinkle the garlic over the chicken.
To make a breadcrumb topping, mix Panko and olive oil until lightly moist. Then, sprinkle the Panko topping over the chicken.
Place chicken in the middle of the oven and cook for about 40 minutes. The topping should be dark-golden brown.

Stuffed Mushrooms
  • 2 packs of mushrooms, stems removed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Basil and parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Italian bread crumbs
  • Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano cheese
  • Olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Finely chop the mushroom stems, putting the caps in a baking pan.
In small bowl, mix chopped stems, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and about 1 tablespoon of italian breadcrumbs. Once even mixed, cook in olive oil over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is warmed. Then put the mixture back in a bowl and mix in about 2 more tablespoons of breadcrumbs and about a tablespoon of the mixed cheese until incorporated into the mixture. Then fill the mushroom caps and top with more cheese. Pop in the oven, on a lower level, for about 15 minutes. Or until the mushrooms are cooked thoroughly.

Kickin' Asparagus Fettuccine
  • Fettuccine, half of a box
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, julienned
  • Soy bean oil
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Cajun salt
  • Pepper
  • Habanero sauce
Start to brown the garlic in 1 tablespoon of soy bean oil and once it begins to brown, add asparagus and toss. Cook asparagus for about 2-3 minutes before starting to cook the pasta. Toss in cajun salt and pepper in the asparagus.  You can continue cooking until the pasta is finished, or take off the heat once the asparagus reaches the desired consistency.
When the pasta is finished, drain it and toss it in the pan with the asparagus.  Add salt, olive oil, and habanero sauce to taste, continually tossing until it is incorporated into the pasta.

Pretty proud of this meal! It wasn't inspired by any recipe - it was totally off the top of our heads!! Yummy!!!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Pork and Carrot Stir-Fry

I haven't cooked anything good (or bad) in awhile - I've been surviving on basic cooking and Moe's.  So today at work I decided I was going to come home and cook something with pork. I didn't have any soy sauce, cabbage, sprouts, or any vegetable other than carrots.. so this is what I came up with. And it turned out pretty dang good!
I served it with a premade three cheese tortellini, but it could be served with any side.

  • Thinly cut pork chops, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Carrots, sliced diagonally (or cut in circles)
  • Salt, pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Chicken broth
  • Honey
Cook the garlic in about 3 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat and as soon as the garlic begins to color, throw in the pork and toss. Add in salt to taste, grind in some fresh pepper, and toss with fresh thyme.  Cook until pork is no longer pink. Place pork on a plate and drizzle with about 1 tbsp of honey (you don't have to use honey, I just found that it tied the pork and the carrots together). Place in a warm oven.

In the same pan, with the same oil, throw in your sliced carrots, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook on a medium-high heat. I browned the carrots for about a minute and then added in about 1/4 cup of chicken broth and brought down the heat to about a medium. Let the carrots cook, tossing them gently every few minutes. When the chicken broth is reduced, add in the pork and toss the mixture.

Yummy :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spade (Fish) with Rice

My friend brought over some fish that her dad caught last summer and told me I had to cook it.  She did the same thing to me a couple of weeks ago and so I tried to reproduce the amazing recipe I made (and did, fantastically I might say!).

This will work with any lighter, white fish (preferably not too light of a fish, but it would work).

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 2 filets of fish
  • Lots of olive oil :)
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cajun seasoning (I use Slap Ya Mama)
  • Some sort of seafood rub
I cooked the rice before hand because fish only takes a couple of minutes.  But cook the rice just a little before it's soft and then put cooked rice into a large sauté pan and cook it on a high heat.  Drizzle about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the rice and stir it in and then add the herbes, salt, and pepper to your taste.  You can allow it to brown a little if you'd like, or just allow the flavors to mend.

After you've cut your fish to your preferred size, on each side of the filet cover in a light coat of garlic and onion powder. I like to do both sides of the fish, but you could just do one; I think it is much better with both sides seasoned.

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) on medium-high heat.  When the oil gets hot, add the fish and cook on each side for about a minute.  After each side has turned color, cover in a light coat of your cajun seasoning and seafood rub on both sides of the fish and allow the fish to cook thoroughly.
Serve the fish over the rice.
Garnish if you'd like :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Asparagus, Shrimp, and Campanelle with Basil Pesto

I found this recipe on an amazing food blog, Gimme Some Oven, and I edited it due to my Kroger's lack of gnocchis.

By the way, this recipe only takes like 15 minutes! It's so simple, you might just die. Seriously :)

Oh, and PS, campanelle is a kind of noodle-yeah, I know-and it is fantastic.  Any larger and rounder noodle will do if you don't have gnocchis, but I'm sure it's about 100% better WITH gnocchis. But then again, I love gnocchis but am too lazy and poor to make them. Anyways.

  • Campanelle (or gnocchis, as the recipe calls for)
  • Raw shrimp (I used larger prawns and cut them up, but any size will do)
  • Basil pesto
  • Asparagus
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika
  • Olive oil
While cooking your noodles, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat and add your asparagus, cooking them for a couple of minutes (about 3-5, depending on how you soft you like your veggies) and then add in the shrimp
Once shrimp are added, sprinkle in a happy amount of salt, grind in some fresh pepper, and add in some paprika and stir them in
Allow the shrimp to turn pink, and occasionally stir in the process (or do some awesome pan flipping like me :])
Put the cooked noodles and asparagus/shrimp mixture into a separate bowl and toss
Then add the pesto, however much you'd like, and then toss it in
You can add some fresh parmesan on top, maybe a little fresh pepper :) have some fun!

According to my friend, I could have added in lemon. And I totally agree. Lemon or lime would have been fantastic.  And definitely more heat.  So cajun salt, or some chipotle Tabasco sauce would definitely be a good choice next time I made this recipe.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Easy Garlic Twice Baked Potatoes with Fresh Basil and Parsley

My first (published) success!

For the record, I am lazy and working on two papers, and I didn't want to go to the store. So I had to make dinner with what I had - and that is next to nothing. My mom recently came down to where I go to school to visit and bring me my birthday gifts :) and they so happened to be several fresh herbs for my patio. Luckily, I aso had some baking potatoes laying around and I could try this.

I have to admit that I also don't have any good cream laying around, so this recipe is made with milk. The twice baked potato part can be done by whatever recipe, it's the little extra touches that made a difference.

My mom taught me a way to cheat and make twice bake potatoes that saves time and heat, so you can follow this (because it's easy) or cook the potatoes how you normally do.
I suggest the garlic powder, because it's just enough kick to add the subtle flavor that you will be looking for.

Twice Baked Potato Ingredients:
  • Medium-sized baking potato (duhh)
  • Skim milk (or whatever you whip your potatoes with, this is all I had)
  • Garlic (I used powder, but for a stronger kick you could use fresh or roasted garlic)
  • Salt (could have used pepper, as well) to taste
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh basil and flat-leaf parsley (only a couple of leaves per potato)
Poke the potato with fork several times and then microwave it for 6 minutes or until it is slightly softened
Cut off the top of the potato (like a potato skin) and let it cool
Scooped out the meat and place into a medium-sized bowl
Add milk at about 2 tbsp at a time and whip on low-medium speed until the potato is at desired consistency (I like mine really whipped :])
Either whip or mix in garlic, salt, and pepper
Tear (DON'T CUT) the leaves of the herbs in small pieces and mix into the whipped potato

Place a small pinch of cheese into the bottom of the skin shell (you can take the top of the potato that you cut off and make a potato skin if you'd like, I placed it on top of the pinch of cheese and then placed another pinch of cheese on top of that :])
Layer the whipped potato and the cheese, ending with a "happy" pinch of cheese on top

I cooked my potato in the toaster oven for about 15 minutes on 375° on top of foil

Garnish with fresh parsley

Voila! A beautiful and colorful potato that has a bite of garlic and a hint of fresh herbs :)

This potato was enough for dinner, so if you wanted to use something like this for a side dish, I also suggest smaller potatoes.



My First Recipe

This will be the first recipe and it will go under the BAD list.
I'm currently cooking something right now, so let's hope that it turns out good :)

My mom has a fantastic balsamic salad dressing that goes fantastically with almost everything - especially spinach - that I made the other night and realized that I didn't want a salad. So I made some rotini that I planned to drizzle the dressing on them. Then I wanted some spinach. So I cooked the spinach in the balsamic dressing, then tossed in the rotini. Let's just say it was gross.

So basically garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, spinach, and rotini do not go well together. The spinach cooked in the balsamic was good, though!

I'm currently making a made up baked potato recipe, so let's hope this turns out good! I'll update after the fact.