lattice chicken pot pie
Mexican street corn pasta
chicken Ghiveci
creamy chicken tortilla soup, jalapeno jack popovers
butter basted ribeyes, twice baked potatoes, broccoli
brisket tacos, pinto beans
pork souvlaki, naan

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Romaine with Creamy Italian Dressing

Romaine with Creamy Italian Dressing I love salad. Growing up I hated salad and we had it every night. I have been getting better about serving salad more often with dinner and Miss F has finally started to eat it, though she only eats lettuce and croutons. It's better than nothing, right? This salad dressing has the perfect tartness I look for in a dressing, the mayonnaise and parmesan amps up the richness. Once again, my mom's garden was a huge supplier for my dinner party salad. The only thing that didn't come from the garden was the red onion. This recipe is adapted from AllRecipes.
Romaine with Creamy Italian Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar

5 cups romaine, chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
½ red onion, sliced thin

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender until well mixed. Taste, add sugar if needed. Toss together the dressing with the romaine, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber and red onion. Serve.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Tomatoes

Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Tomatoes
I have been making this appetizer for years. I think I made it for the first dinner party I ever hosted, which occurred back in 1999 while I was still in college. I had just moved into a downtown loft and I was so excited to have a few friends over for baked ziti. My love for entertaining hasn't waned and I have served these quite a few times over the years.  The tomatoes and basil were fresh from my mom's garden.  Sometimes I will through the bruschetta under the broiler for a minute or two before serving to melt the cheese a little, but they taste great warm or cold.  I have also added a splash of balsamic to add a little kick.
Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Tomatoes

1 large bunch of basil (about 1/8 pound), coarse stems discarded
½ pound mozzarella, chopped fine
2 tomatoes (½ pound total), seeded and chopped fine
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 baguette, cut diagonally into ½ inch slices
1 garlic clove, halved

Chop the basil fine and in a bowl stir it together with the mozzarella, the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste, toss with half of the olive oil. Brush the baguette slices with the remaining olive oil and rub each with the garlic clove half. Lay the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the oiled sides of the toasts and serve.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Baked Penne with Corn, Zucchini and Basil

Baked Penne with Corn, Zucchini and Basil
I am always looking for new ways to prepare zucchini. It is so bountiful in the summer and one can only eat so much zucchini bread, I can even get tired of chocolate zucchini bread, though Miss F would disagree completely. This recipe is perfect for a dinner party. The casserole can be assembled in advance and then just baked once the guests arrived. Be sure to use fresh summer corn, it really makes a big difference.  This recipe is adapted from Williams-Sonoma.  It makes a huge pan, so cut the recipe in half and bake in an 8x8 for a usual dinner.
Baked Penne with Corn, Zucchini and Basil

Kosher salt, to taste
1 pound penne pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kernels cut from 4 ears of corn
2 pounds zucchini, cut into half moons
½ yellow onion, diced
4 tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Boil the penne for 8 to 10 minutes, drain and run under cold water. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels, salt and pepper to taste and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until just tender. Stir the corn in with the penne. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, then saute the zucchini for 5 to 7 minutes, until just tender. Stir the zucchini in with the penne. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and saute the onion for 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and white wine, cook for 3 minutes more.

Stir the tomato sauce and basil into the penne, along with the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan. Pour the pasta mixture into a glass 9x13 dish. Top with the remaining parmesan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve warm.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shrimp Scampi Bites

Shrimp Scampi Bites
I love serving shrimp as an appetizer at parties. They cook up quickly and are usually a crowd pleaser. I decided to take traditional shrimp scampi and adapt it to make an appetizer. All that is really needed for the conversion is a toothpick inserted into each shrimp. I harvested fresh parsley from my mom's garden, her garden provided so much for my dinner party.  I peeled the shrimp, but left the tail on, but you could peel the entire shrimp if you prefer. 
Shrimp Scampi Bites

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup butter, melted
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
juice from one large lemon or two small lemons
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Stir together the butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss the shrimp with the butter mixture. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from the oven, flip the shrimp and pour the lemon juice and half of the parsley over top. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes more, top with the remaining parsley and serve with toothpicks.
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Italian Creme Cake with Strawberries

Italian Creme Cake with Strawberries
I had never made an Italian Crème Cake before, in fact, I am not even sure I have ever eaten one before I made this cake.  Since there were so many guests at the dinner party, I knew I wanted a sizable cake to serve.  This is the first time I have ever made a cake that needed skewers for stability.  I must admit that I forgot to pull them before slicing the cake, so apologies to my guests who got a special surprise in their cake slice.  This cake is the perfect way to use summer strawberries.  I finally have a second bowl for my KitchenAid mixer, so that made things even easier.  Thanks to Restless Chipotle for the amazing recipe.
Italian Creme Cake with Strawberries

6 eggs, room temp
2 cups of sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ to 2 pounds of powdered sugar
A little buttermilk to thin if needed
2 quarts ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Separate the eggs, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add ½ cup sugar gradually, beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Cream the butter, remaining sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until the mixture resembles whipped cream. Stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture to the butter mixture in half cup additions, ending with the flour mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites. Spoon the batter into prepared pans, bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese and the butter together, add the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, beating until it reaches a creamy consistency. Add a tablespoon of buttermilk to thin, if needed.

Place one cooled layer on a cake plate, spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over top. Top with a layer of strawberry slices. Top with the second cake layer, cream cheese frosting and another layer of strawberry slices. Top with the final cake layer and stabilized with wooden skewers. Frost the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Stabilize layers with straws or wood skewers and frost with remaining cream cheese frosting. Arrange sliced strawberries on top of the cake. Chill for three hours, bring to room temperature before serving.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Dinner Party

Summer Dinner Party 1
Summer Dinner Party 2
Summer Dinner Party 3
Summer Dinner Party 4
I made a massive error when I registered for my wedding. I assumed 12 placesettings would be more than enough for any event I would host that would merit china. I was wrong. My last dinner party fell on a date that worked for everyone, which meant dinner for 15. Luckily, my friend Courtney has a very similar china pattern that she let me borrow (and I still need to return.) Lenox or Waterford, plain china with a silver rim never goes out of style. I do have my grandmother's silver, which doesn't seem to have the same number of any piece. There were at least 15 spoons, forks and salad forks, but I was short a knife. Her silver also has one "child" sized set, so one guest had a knife about the size of a salad for. I wonder if she noticed...

The more the merrier definitely applied to this party! After much furniture arranging and re-arranging, with Miss F's help, I decided to push the kitchen table up to the dining room table so that everyone wouldn't be cramped on one table and we wouldn't be separated, I worried that the people stuck in the kitchen would feel like they were banished to the kids' table.  I had 20 feet of table to decorate, so I decided to keep it really simple.  I used three white tablecloths overlapped to keep things cohesive.  I put a Gerber daisy in dollar store vases at each placesetting, so there was a pop of color at each seat.  I printed out menus on plain cardstock with a pink Gerber daisy sketch on each to tie in with the simple flower arrangements.

Cooking for 15 was daunting, but totally doable.  I was able to prepare most of the menu well in advance, which made things easy come party time.  The menu included shrimp scampi bites, bruschetta with mozzarella and tomatoes, mixed greens with creamy Italian dressing, herb marinated pork tenderloin, baked penne with corn, zucchini and basil, mozzarella basil bread and a strawberry Italian crème cake for dessert.  The pork and pasta baked at the same temperature and time (I so wish I had a second oven,) which made things very easy.  I just added the bread to the oven to warm while the pork was resting.  Thanks to all my friends for all their assistance in plating and serving, there is no way I could have done it all for 15 people.  As always, it was an amazingly fun time and I am so happy to have so many fantastic women in my life.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Cherry Cheesecake Bars
I finally invested in a cherry pitter
from Amazon and I am so glad I did. The best part is Miss F loves to operate it. I wish I had bought it years ago, especially since it was so cheap. Miss F loves cherries and loves making her hands pink from the cherries. I made these cheesecake bars based on a recipe from the Beverly Hills Market and Deli, but I made a few changes. These bars are super simple to make and I can't wait to try it with other summer berries. They are much easier than a cheesecake and have the same great taste.
Cherry Cheesecake Bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ¼ cup cherries, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon cornstarch
8 ounces cream cheese , softened
1⁄3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom of an 8" square pan. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325.

Meanwhile, combine cherries, 1 tablespoon sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until cherries are soft, about 5 minutes. Combine lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir into cherry mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

While cherry mixture is cooling, place cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla in a food processor. Process until smooth. Spread over cooled crust. Dollop cherry mixture over cream cheese layer. Cut through with a knife to swirl.

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Cut into 12 bars.
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Cherry Sour Cream Muffins

Cherry Sour Cream Muffins
My mom had a hip replacement last week and Miss F is obsessed with pitting cherries with our new cherry pitter, so it seemed perfect to make a batch of cherry muffins to take to her for breakfasts. Miss F was very insistent that the muffins be divided evenly, four for her, four for Grammy and four for Grandad. I love baking with sour cream, it is so easy and the results are fantastic. I adapted this recipe from a blueberry muffin recipe from Food and Wine magazine.  I am going to be so sad when cherry season is over, it is the best time of the year for fruit. 
Cherry Sour Cream Muffins

1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg at medium speed until frothy. Add the sugar and melted butter and beat until pale yellow, 1 minute. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until almost blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cherries into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full of batter. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool on a rack.
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Sweet Corn Fettuccine

Sweet Corn Fettucine
This pasta is "pinspired" by this recipe I had pinned from Fearless Homemaker.  The end product ended up being quite far from the original, but right now I am taking full advantage of my parents' vegetable garden when I can.  The bell pepper, tomato and basil were all homegrown, so they made the dish infinitely better.  The tomatoes melt into an amazing sauce that is quite full of flavor.  Miss F was mainly a fan of the bacon and bell pepper, she prefers her corn on the cob.
Sweet Corn Fettuccine

12 ounces fettuccine
6 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup corn kernels (from 1 to 2 fresh ears, or frozen)
½ cup dry white wine
¾ cup half-and-half
hand full of fresh basil

Prepare the fettucine per package instructions, drain and set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, drain on a paper towel and remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the pan. Add the bell pepper, tomato, garlic and corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the white wine, cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the half and half, salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the fettucine with the sauce, corn and bell pepper. Top with the bacon and sliced basil, serve.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cherry Ice Cream

This was a very fun ice cream to make. Miss F helped with the cherry preparation, she was so excited to turn her hands pink!  The first time I added the ice cream mixture to the machine, we had a giant fail.  The bow had not been in the freezer long enough, so no ice cream was made.  I froze it overnight and we had great success the next day.  The ice cream was the perfect sweet treat after enjoying steamed crabs.  Thanks to my friend Harmony for the ample cherry supply!  This recipe was inspired from Bon Appetit.
Cherry Ice Cream

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted, coarsely chopped
½ cup sugar

2 cups half and half
¾ cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine cherries and sugar in heavy large saucepan, stir and let sit for two hours. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until liquid thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate.

Bring the half and half to a simmer in a saucepan. Whisk sugar and yolks in medium bowl to blend well. Gradually whisk hot half and half into yolk mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 4 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat. Mix in whipping cream and vanilla. Refrigerate until cold, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Add the cream and egg mixture to your ice cream maker and process per the machine's instruction. Add the refrigerated cherry minutes for the last 15 minutes of processing. Transfer to a container and freeze.
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas

Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas
I originally saw this recipe on the Jey of Cooking, it originated from Cooking Light. I made quite a few changes to it, adding garden fresh bell pepper and black beans for a one dish meal. Adding the salsa verde, or green salsa, was a great way to impart flavor to the chicken and vegetables mixture. Miss F is obsessed with green salsa, she always commands the whole bowl whenever we go out for TexMex. Be sure to use fresh corn if available, it adds a nice sweetness to the chicken.
Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas

1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ red onion, chopped
½ bell pepper, diced
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 zucchini, diced
½ cup green salsa
8 tostada shells
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, diced

Preheat the broiler.

Combine cumin, salt and pepper and sprinkle over the chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and saute for 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, corn and onion, and saute for an additional 3 minutes, until chicken is done and vegetables begin to soften. Stir in salsa and cook for 1 minute more.

Arrange the tostada shells in a single layer on a baking sheet. Scoop two tablespoons of the beans onto each shell. Top with a tablespoon of cheese and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese begins to melt. Top each shell with 1/3 cup of the chicken and vegetable mixture and top again with a tablespoon of cheese. Return to oven and broil for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the cheese is melted. Top each with diced avocado and tomatoes.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Chocolate Ganache Cake
I love chocolate cake. It is one of my most favorite desserts. I made this to take to my parents house to eat after having a crab feast. The weather had different plans for us though, it was stormy all day, so Miss F and I stayed inside. We met friends for a game of bowling, went out for baked whole fish DIY spring rolls and ended the day with chocolate cake for dessert. Miss F made the batter completely herself, it was easy for her since no mixer is needed. She has it in her head that in order to eat the dessert, you have to help make the dessert. It really is quite cute! I adapted this recipe from Fine Cooking.
Chocolate Ganache Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and warm
1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup hot water
1/3 cup cream
¾ cup chocolate chips

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of an 8x2- or 9x2-inch round cake pan or line it with parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift only if the cocoa remains lumpy after whisking. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the eggs and vanilla; stir until well blended. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir just until all the flour is moistened. Pour the hot water over the batter; stir just until it’s incorporated and the batter is smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for a 9-inch pan; 35 to 40 min. for an 8-inch pan. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 min. Run a thin knife around the edge and invert the cake (peel off the parchment if necessary). Invert it again onto the rack and let cool completely.

In a two cup measure, add the chocolate chips and cream. Microwave for 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds. Stir until all the chips are melted and the ganache is smooth.

Once cool, set the rack over a baking sheet or foil. Pour the warm ganache over the cake and use an icing spatula to spread it over the top of the cake and down the sides. Let set for about an hour before serving.
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