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Giovanni Rana Pasta and Sauces

pasta1

TORTELLONI PROSCIUTTO w/ MARINARA

I recently had the opportunity to try the new line of Giovanni Rana fresh pastas and sauces. If you live in NY or Italy you may be familiar with Giovanni. From what I read online, he is a very popular guy and has a restaurant in Chelsea Market. All varieties of pasta tasted great but my favorites were the spinach and the mushroom ravs. I don’t have an Italian grandmother but if I did I imagine her bolognese sauce would be just like Giovanni’s. I was really impressed.

pasta2

FETTUCCINE PAGLIA E FIENO w/ BOLOGNESE

ranaThe best part is that you can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes. No exaggerating. The pasta cooks in under 4 minutes.  Find the Rana products in your local safeway supermarket –refrigerated section.

Thanks Gio!

JALEO by José Andrés

Best meal ever. If you are in Vegas this is a must. Really delicious food. Minus 1 star for leaving smelling like a camp fire. They have an open spit in the dinning area of the restaurant and they were roasting a baby pig and that bad boy was smoking up a storm. I had to air out my clothes when we got back to the hotel. 

Favorite dish: white asparagus with lemon, thyme and idiazábal cheese. Not crazy about food served out of a shoe.

Website: http://www.jaleo.com/

Rating:

drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating drumstick rating

Irish Soda Bread with Cranberries

DSC01830

Around St. Patty’s day I decided to make a sweet Irish soda bread. I followed the recipe below but added a heaping 1/2 cup of cranberries and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Next time I’ll add a bit more sugar. Turned out super tasty. Tell me that doesn’t look good…

Recipe link

Recipe w/caraway seeds

DSC01832

 

Dim Sum Coconut Jelly

coconut jellies

Have you been to a dim sum restaurant and tried the coconut jelly dessert from the cart? Well, if you have and you liked it …try this recipe. Who would have guessed Tyler Florence would have featured it on his TV show.

As usual the video and the recipe posted on the Food network site were not exactly the same. I chose wrong and decided to follow the written word… I have a feeling I should have gone with Tyler. In the end everything turned out fine but I had to cut the tops off all my jellies. For some unknown reason there was a layer of clear sugar water covering the top.

Recipe link
Tyler’s Ultimate

5 year Blogaversary! Chocolate-Stout Brownies

beerbrownie

Something sweet for this special occasion. This was deliciously dense, chocolaty and moist. You won’t be able to eat more than a tiny square. Soooo rich! More like fudge than a brownie.

brownies

Note: hit the foil with some cooking spray to ease the removal.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit Magazine / February 2012

Happy Turkey Day!

Heritage (Left) Diestel (Right)

Sorry I have been away for a bit. I started a new job in October and just haven’t had time to blog. I aim to do better in the new year! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As always we were given the task to cook the birds. We ended up making two this year… One 10 lb. Heritage bird from a local farm and a 12 lb. Diestel Natural from Whole Foods.

Heritage -400 degrees for 1 hr 45 min

The heritage turkey was running around up until the morning it was delivered to our house. I guess that’s why it looks so slim and trim! Both turned out delicious in the end. The main difference was that the heritage dark meat tasted much more gamey in flavor. Yum!

Diestel  -350 degrees for 2 hrs 15 min

Citizen Chef Healthy Meals


A new company in San Francisco called Citizen Chef just launched a line of fast, fresh,healthy stir fry meals to prepare at home. Each package comes with cut veggies, a grain and a gourmet sauce. All you need to add is a protein of your choice and dinner is served in 15 minutes.

inside the box

When asked if I would like to try the product it was a no brainer…fast and easy are my two favorite words when it comes to cooking. Of the 3 varieties I had I was the most impressed with the Thai stir fry because I’ve always found Asian cuisine the hardest to recreate at home and this Thai Sesame sauce blew me away. It tasted just like the massaman curry that I love to order from our local Thai restaurant.

Chicken w/ Thai Sesame Sauce (fresh coconut milk, roasted sesame seeds, & a hint of ginger)

I also enjoyed the couscous in the Limone Garlic package. We are in a grain rut and always end up with rice. This was a very nice change.

Shrimp w/ Limone Garlic Sauce (fresh garlic, lemon peel, & extra virgin olive oil)

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the meals. Mike and I would definitely purchase them in the future…the only bummer is that you can only find Citizen Chef in certain Bay Area Whole Foods markets. Hopefully they get picked up nationally. See if they are in your neighborhood here.
Get a $3 off coupon here

Website: http://www.citizenchef.com/

Full Circle Organic Produce Delivery Review + $10 off Coupon


Full Circle
 launched the Bay Area branch of its produce delivery service during the first week of June. They contacted me to see if I was interested in a free trial. I get offers to try similar services often and usually I pass because I am happy with my current delivery company, but when I checked out the Full Circle website the option to not only receive fruits & veggies but other groceries caught my attention. I thought the opportunity to purchase artisan goods including:  dairy & eggs, bread & pasta, meat, seafood, jam, coffee, honey and chocolate was very unique and something I had to check out.

Box #1 with my balls of pizza dough

My first “Sprout” size box (feeds 2-3 people) arrived right on time and everything was fresh and pretty clean. Items come straight from the farm so you should expect some dirt and bugs. In addition to the produce I added 2 balls of pizza dough from the grocery. We love to make pizza on the grill in the summer. Each ball was the perfect amount for a personal size pizza. All it needed was some heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Turned out perfect…nice thin crust.

We also made a risotto with the leeks. Insanely good. See recipe here

Box #2 came the following week and we had just about eaten everything from our first box.

Contents of box #2 with my addition of free range eggs

The baby golden beats were delicious. I just put them in foil and roasted them in the oven for an hour and they were good to go.

Beets ready for the oven

Overall, the service has been great. The produce arrived in good condition and tasted wonderful. Every new service has positive things going for them and some areas that need improvement. Here is my assessment on Full Circle

Pros:
1. Variety! Since the produce is not coming from 1 single farm but 10+ California farms there are many more fruit & veg options and you can’t beat the added grocery items.
2. Choice – usually you make an exclusion list of produce you don’t want and if one of the items is scheduled the farm will just double up or in some cases triple up on other items already in your box. At Full Circle you can login to your account and see what is coming and switch items out yourself by choosing other items that are available that week – usually there are at least 10 additional items to choose from. I LOVE this option!
3. Delivery time – boxes are delivered overnight at the same time every week so when you wake up it’s there. No need to worry about having a delivery midday and everything going bad while sitting out in the sun.
4. Customer service – the website was easy to navigate and the process from signing up to receiving goods was a breeze. Customer service has been checking in to see if my deliveries were on time, produce was in good condition and to see if I had any concerns.

Cons:
1. Exemption list – they only allow you to select 5 items to exclude. If you don’t have time to go to your account and make changes each week you may receive things you don’t like or need. I happen to have a lot of exclusions because I have several citrus trees, herbs and veg growing in my yard so 5 doesn’t cut it.
2. Delivery schedule – boxes are scheduled to be delivered automatically every week. You have to personally contact the company if you want to skip a week or place a hold on your account. Not a big deal but a little incovienent. I would prefer to be able to login to my account and make adjustments to an online calendar instead of having to send emails or make phone calls. *They fixed this issue in August!

The pros definitely out-way the cons so give Full Circle a try. Next shipment, I plan to order salmon!

Website: http://www.fullcircle.com/

COUPON OFFER: $10 off your first box. Use promo code (exp 12/13): SOCIAL10

If you decide to sign up, please let them know Nicole Whalen referred you.

Risotto with Leeks, Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil


This was the  first recipe I made with items from my Full Circle organic produce delivery. Mike is not a fan of truffle oil but he loved this dish. All the ingredients worked together magically!

Tip: It was hot out and I was not about to turn on the oven… so for the mushrooms I just sauteed them in a pan!

shrooms & onions                     leeks & cream                              rice & stock

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | September 2007

Smitten Ice Cream


Smitten Ice Cream first gained popularity when owner Robyn Sue hit the streets of SF pulling a red wagon equipped with a homemade liquid nitrogen run ice cream machine named “kelvin.”  Eventually she opened a brick and mortar store in a converted shipping container in Hayes Valley. Mike and I finally had the opportunity to check it out 2 weeks ago. The shop has 4 “kelvin” machines and each makes a single flavor: vanilla, chocolate and two seasonal flavors (that change daily). Every single scoop is made to order in 60 seconds using liquid nitrogen! It will be the freshest, coolest, creamiest ice cream you’ve ever had!

Check out our ice cream being made:

The final product…..

Ritual Coffee with Cocoa Nib brittle (left) and Strawberry pink peppercorn with lemon caramel sauce* (right)

I’m sure the vanilla and chocolate are good but if you’re making a special trip to this place be adventurous and try the suggested flavor combination of the day as I did*.

Website: http://smittenicecream.com/

Smitten Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Green Bean Spaghetti Carbonara


This was soooo good….like breakfast for dinner. I did add the egg to the noodles too early which ended up making my sauce more scrambled than oozy but that didn’t stop me from devouring every last bite. Next time, I will remember to let my spaghetti cool a bit before mixing all the ingredients. I had some spinach on hand so I added that to the bacon/onion mixture. Yum.

Recipe link
Rachael Ray Magazine /Oct 2011

Carrot Soup with Thyme and Fennel


If you have any leftover carrots that the Easter bunny didn’t eat or your CSA gave you a ton … try this soup. Honestly, if I didn’t make this myself I would have had no idea it was carrot. The combo of thyme and fennel creates a super unique flavor that I could not get enough of. Mike and I really enjoyed this.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | March 1999

Guinness Float


Our St. Patrick’s day was spent as usual making corned beef. This year we made reuben sandwiches and for dessert I decided to make floats. I’m not a Guinness kinda gal, but my Irishman is, so this was my gift to him. It’s a pretty involved cocktail to make but he thoroughly enjoyed it so it was worth the time. I downed the ice cream and the whipped topping but most of the bitter stout remained in the glass. All that was left of Mike’s was a bit o’ cream on the tip of his nose.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit magazine / Feb 2011

reuben

Past corned beef recipes:
Guinness Corned Beef and Cabbage
Basic Corned Beef Sandwich
Corned Beef Hash with Fried egg

Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Stew


We arrived late in the morning to the fish booth at the Los Gatos farmers market and missed out on the lobster tail special they had so the fish lady suggested we try her insanely huge prawns instead. She said they tasted just like lobster and she was not kidding! I knew exactly how I wanted to use them… I had just read the Feb. issue of BA and this recipe jumped out at me. To go with the massive shrimps we picked up some cod and halibut from Whole Foods. The result was a pool of wonderfully sweet, salty,clammy, smokey flavors. I will for sure make this again in the future.

BTW -we used polenta instead of the suggested grits but I’m sure it would be great with grits or rice.

Note: The real name of this dish is Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Muddle but the word muddle is unappetizing to me so I changed it.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit magazine / FEBRUARY 2012

Potato Latkes


I’ve had the best of both worlds because I’ve grown up celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. This year my parents came to my house to celebrate Chanukah and we made latkes. When I broke out my new Cuisinart food processor to grate the potatoes and onion my mom shook her head in dismay. “I always use a grater,” she said, “we are not making hashbrowns!”

My mom likes her potato and onion mixture to be like mush, not shredded. So after I used the shredder attachment and it was not to her liking I changed the blade and gave it a few pulses to get it to her perfect consistency. Making latkes is pretty simple and delicious. Happy Chanukah!

Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside

My Mom’s Latkes Recipe
Makes about 16

Ingredients:
2 large russet potatoes (peeled)
1 onion
1 tsp. salt
1 egg (beaten)
3 Tbsp. matzo meal
Vegetable oil to fry
Apple Sauce & Sour cream for serving

Instructions:
Grate the onion and potatoes with a box grater or as I described above (much faster!) into a bowl. Then mix with the remaining ingredients. Heat a skillet with vegetable oil (enough to cover 1/2 of the pancakes) over high heat. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil (don’t crowd) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain the latkes on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.

Coconut Macaroons


For holiday gifts this year I chose to make the 2011 Food & Wine magazine coconut macaroons because I thought it was going to be quick and easy. I was wrong. My first batch was a disaster. I tried to half the recipe because it said it made 40 and I only needed 20. What resulted was a bunch of coconut pancake-like cookies.

Round 1 = EPIC FAIL

I tried again and made the full amount because it was obvious I didn’t have enough coconut. Whoever “tested and perfected” this recipe at F&W mag didn’t do a good job.

Reason 1 – The recipe doesn’t come close to making 40 macaroons as stated, it was more like 25.
Reason 2 -Don’t bake for 25 minutes! If you don’t want badly burnt cookies watch them carefully once they hit 10 minutes in the oven …anything over 15 and you are in trouble.
Reason 3 – There was no mention that the macaroons may run during baking so if you want them to look like what you see in a store (round balls) then you will have to trim the edges.
Reason 4 – They say to stick the finished product in the fridge for about 5 minutes for the chocolate to set. It takes a good 20 min.

In the end they still tasted killer but in order to not have to doctor them up to look presentable they need either more coconut or less sweetened condensed milk.

Recipe link
Food & Wine magazine, Dec. 2011

Delicata Squash Soup


I’d never seen or tasted a delicata squash until it arrived in our CSA delivery. After some research I found out that it is sweet and most commonly prepared by simply roasting it in the oven, but I decided to take it a step further and make it into a soup.

You know it's a delicata squash by the cool green stripes

When they said it was sweet I expected flavors similar to a butternut squash but it was much more subtle. This tasted like a potato soup with a touch of sweetness. I’ve made many squash soups and sometimes they turn out bland but this, although mild, I found uniquely delicious.

Recipe link
Food & Wine magazine / Feb 1999

For more winter squash recipes check out other bloggers participating in the Food Network’s Fall Fest (a season long franchise where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about seasonal produce every week)…

 

 

And Love It Too: Warm Winter Chili
The Sensitive Epicure: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Cooking Channel: Kabocha Squash Pasta
CIA Dropout: Stuffed Winter Squash
What’s Gaby Cooking: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bisque With Sage Cream
FN Dish: Simply Roasted Winter Squash
Napa Farmhouse 1885:
Pomme d’or With Wild Mushroom Risotto

Baked Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter


Our CSA delivery was overflowing with beets in November. Since I was tired of making beet salads I started looking for a unique way to use them when this ravioli recipe grabbed my attention.

If you are not a fan of beets this is not going to convert you. You have to like the flavor because it is prominent. If you enjoy beets like I do you will find these truly satisfying. The only change I would make to the recipe next time is maybe use a more pungent cheese like blue. Other reviewers said they had tried that and I can see that really kicking up the flavor.


I made a few modifications to the  Bon Appétit  recipe.
1. I’m lazy so I chose to use wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta (they suggested this option to save time)
2. Instead of boiling the ravioli’s I followed the directions on the wonton package to bake them. Preheat oven to 375. Mist a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place filled ravioli onto prepared baking sheet and brush tops of ravioli lightly with olive oil then bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Then I spooned over the poppy seed butter (which I added sage to).

This baked version would be better served as an Appetizer – cut in triangles with the butter on the side for dipping.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit  | May 2005

For more tasty beet recipes check out other bloggers participating in the Food Network’s Fall Fest (a season long franchise where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about seasonal produce every week)…

 

 

What’s Gaby Cooking: Farro Beet and Herb Salad
My Angel’s Allergies:
Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad
Cooking Channel:
Garlicky Beet Salad With Walnuts and Dates
The Sensitive Epicure:
Simply Sauteed Beets
FN Dish:
Top 3 Beet Salad Recipes
And Love It Too: Raw, Vegan and Sugar-Free Red Velvet Fudge
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Beet Salad With Crispy Leeks and Bacon
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Beet Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

Farm Fresh To You – Organic Produce Delivery Service ($10 off coupon)

ffty-box
If you were thinking about having organic produce delivered to your home here is your chance. I received a coupon code for $10 off your first shipment from Farm Fresh to You, a Bay Area delivery service. We’ve been getting deliveries from them for over 3 years and we really enjoy it.

To redeem this offer mention promo code #6164 when signing up online or by phone. Please let them know I referred you by giving them my customer id# 63355. Enjoy!

ffty_best_of_bayWebsite: http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/

*This discount is for NEW customers only.

See my past posts about this great local company:
Our first delivery
Recipes made with our produce

Garlic-Pesto, Brie & Onion Burger


We love burgers…this time it was made with beef from our grass-fed beef club. The meat was fantastic. This recipe is from the burger queen herself, Miss Ray. Tasty…but not good for a first date.

Recipe link
Rachael Ray

Beet Risotto

beet2

burrellpinotI wanted to try something new with our beets — no roasting or salads. The October 2009 Food & Wine magazine had the solution…risotto! Not only was it tasty but it was gorgeous to look at. To accompany the risotto Mike served a fantastic Pinot from Burrell School Winery. It had tons of berry flavor and a hint of spice which is what made it so nice with the risotto – it added a bit of a kick to the meal. Burrell is a hidden jewel in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The wines are complex, unique and very affordable. Stop by the old, red school house and taste some great wine, meet wonderful people and take in the spectacular view.

Recipe link
Burrell School website: http://www.burrellschool.com/

Pork Tenderloin with Figs and Port Sauce

pork&figs
We got a box of figs in our produce shipment and I had no idea what to do with them. We had never cooked with figs. I ended up winging it because I couldn’t find one recipe that had everything I wanted. First I slathered a pork loin with evoo, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary and thyme. Mike then threw it on the grill and did his thing. Meanwhile, I made a fig sauce using a Martha Stewart recipe I found online (below). I was low on port so I used 1/2 port & 1/2 red wine. It was not overly sweet so I added a little sugar. The sauce came together easily. It was thick, closer to a glaze. I could have thinned it out with some water but I liked the consistency. It was a wonderful complement to the pork.

Recipe link

Linguine with Herb Broth and Clams

clams
Usually when I make linguine with clams I make the pasta in one pot and the clams & broth in another. When I found this recipe where you cook your pasta in the clam broth I knew I needed to try it out. It seemed like a interesting idea. As I followed the directions I ended up needing to add a lot of extra wine & water to the pot in order to cover the pasta so it would cook. There just wasn’t enough broth. Because we used packaged pasta it needed time and liquid to get soft which left us with a thick starchy sauce instead of a broth. In the end it still tasted really good but I think this would work marvelously with fresh pasta.

Recipe link

Creamy Tomato Soup

tomato soup

We just received a copy of a new cookbook published by Mike’s family friend. The book is filled with mouthwatering classic Italian recipes that are simple and quick to prepare. The prominent theme throughout is the importance of eating together as a family and it stresses the benefits of getting children involved with cooking at home at an early age. Recipes come complete with kitchen tips, weekly menus and shopping lists for people on the go. It also includes useful sections that help you decide what to make with the items you have in your fridge and how to turn leftovers into a delicious meal.

The first thing we decided to make was the tomato soup because we had some ripe heirloom tomatoes that needed to be devoured. The soup turned out lovely and surprisingly light. We paired it with a grilled cheese panini. Delightful!

If you’re looking for easy, healthy and flavorful dishes pick up a copy of Cooking Dinner: Simple Italian Family Recipes Everyone Can Make by Rima Barkett & Claudia Pruett

Recipe for Creamy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Cooking Dinner by Barkett & Pruett

1/4 cup olive oil
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
4 fresh basil leaves
1 small sprig fresh oregano
1 small sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
dash ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-oz can quality diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, optional

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic,onion,carrot and celery. Saute 5-8 minutes, stirring often. Add herbs, salt, pepper and wine, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes more. Add diced tomatoes and 1 cup broth. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 min. Remove from heat. Remove herbs and blend soup with an immersion blender or in small batches in blender. Be careful of hot liquid! Add remaining broth and cream. Reheat over low heat until barely boiling. Taste and adjust salt/pepper.

*We used 1/2 canned and 1/2 fresh tomatoes. Makes 4 small bowls or 2 large.


Corn Chowder

cornchowder

We received 4 ears of corn in our produce delivery so we decided to make a chowder. We made a couple changes to the Tyler Florence recipe we found included adding BACON! Instead of using the butter we used the bacon drippings to saute the onion, garlic and thyme. We also sprinkled in some additional herbs and we substituted half and half for the cream to make it nice and light. Delish!

Recipe link

View more Tyler recipes here: http://tylerflorencefridays.blogspot.com/

Spicy Sauteed Fish with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

orangeroughyolivestomatoes
Yum, Yum, Yum. I truly enjoyed this. It was so garlicky that it kinda tasted like a scampi. If you like garlic you should like this. The only modification to the recipe was we used half the amount of chili flakes. For some reason I prefer to taste my food and not have my mouth on fi-yah.

Recipe link

Quick and Easy Cioppino

cioppino
The title says it all. This was super simple to prepare. When you think of Cioppino you usually think of a pot boiling away for hours. This was done in 30 minutes but doesn’t lack flavor. Our modifications to the recipe included adding fresh basil and substituting chicken stock for the water. For the fish we chose jumbo shrimp, mussels and scallops. I think any hearty white fish would go well. Served with crusty garlic bread this was a fantastic meal that we were able to whip up after a long day at work.

Recipe link

Halibut with Capers, Olives, and Tomatoes

halibutwolives
Mike really loved this dish. The flavors were very Mediterranean inspired and would be grand with couscous (we didn’t have any). The topping was a wonderful combination of sweet and sour.

Recipe link

Eggplant Parmesan: Parmigiana di Melanzane

eggplantparm
OMG! This was awesome. Little stacks from heaven. Mario put his foot in this recipe. If you like eggplant, you’ll love this…heck, if you don’t like eggplant I have a feeling you’ll like this. It was time consuming and messy to make (why are eggplant recipes always so complicated?) but sooo worth it. The tomato sauce that went along with this will now be our go-to pasta sauce. I would of been happy with just a bowl of sauce!

Recipe link

Corn-Bacon Spoon Bread

spoonbread
We served this up as a side dish at our 4th of July Fried Chicken dinner. This is not your typical corn bread, it’s light and airy more like a frittata because you use a lot of beaten eggs. It’s also not sweet. I think I would have liked it a tad more sweet so I will add more sugar next time. Nice alternative to the norm.

Recipe link

Onion Strings

onionstrings

These were soooo good and easy to make. Tasted similar to the ones I get at the Counter. I used 2 medium sized onions (red & white). I didn’t have the patience to do more than one batch so I tossed them all in at the same time. They still turned out fantastic, just had to keep them in the fryer a little longer (about 4-5 minutes). I will make these again and again. Great recipe Pioneer Woman!

If you don’t have a portable deep fryer I highly recommend getting one like ours (see here).

Recipe link

Keller vs. Colicchio – Battle of the Bacon Fried Egg Sandwiches

tomvstom

Keller is on the left side

I was cravin’ a kicked up BLT and found two recipes online from Thomas Keller (French Laundry/Ad Hoc) and Tom Colicchio (Craft/Top Chef). I couldn’t decide which to try so I made both (on different days…I’m not that piggy!). I hate to say it but it ended up in a tie. Both sandos were good but definitely missing something.

The  Pro’s:

Keller – yummy bread and cheese selection
Colicchio –  frisee with oil/vinegar was a grand addition

The Con’s:

Keller – Needed a more flavorful sauce. Mayo just didn’t cut it.
Colicchio – This needed a big juicy slice of tomato. It was a tad dry.

Next time I will make a combination of the two.

Keller – Recipe link

Colicchio (from his new cookbook: ‘witchcraft) – Recipe link

egg sando battle

Ziti with Pesto Pantesco

batalipasta

I picked this Mario Batali recipe because we had not been to the grocery in a week and it included ingredients that we had at home. This is similar to a dish I have made many times but this is a bit more zippy in flavor. I love this kind of pasta sauce because you toss everything in a blender and you’re done. Super easy and fast. Make sure you don’t try this on a first date because the garlic is potent.

Recipe link (we used penne and 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes!)

Bayou Burger

bayouburger
Mike decided to surprise me with a new burger he found in the Great Burgers cookbook by Bob Sloan. Preparing us for our upcoming trip to NOLA he made the Bayou burger which is a lamb/andouille sausage patty packed with cajun flare. This had great flavor and was super juicy. I will warn you that these bad boys stay with you far after the time you eat them (if you know what I mean)…

Ingredients (adapted from Great Burgers- makes 4)
1lb ground lamb
1 andouille sausage (3 ounces) cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 egg beaten
2 tsp. cajun seasoning
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
pepper to taste

Mix everything together to make burgers. Cook 5 minutes then flip for 4-5 more minutes. Serve with red onion, lettuce and mayo or creole mustard. We added tomato.

Buy the book

Hey! I’m in the process of planning our New Orleans trip. Any suggestions for food/fun please leave a comment here or send me an email.

Farm Fresh To You – ($15 off coupon) Organic Produce Delivery Service

ffty-box
If you were thinking about having organic produce delivered to your home here is your chance. I received a coupon code for $15 off your first shipment from Farm Fresh to You, a Bay Area delivery service. We’ve been getting deliveries from them for over 5 years and we really enjoy it.  To redeem this offer mention promo code #NICZ9497 when signing up.  Enjoy!

ffty_best_of_bayWebsite: http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/

*This discount is for NEW customers only or those who have not received a delivery in 3 months.

See my past posts about this great local company:
Our first delivery
Recipes made with our produce

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

orangechicken
This was nothing like the orange chicken at Panda Express. This was much healthier because it’s not fried. I found this recipe in the 15 minute meal section of June’s Bon Appétit. As you can see we added mushrooms because they came along with the peas in our produce delivery and we used yellow onion instead of red. I have to admit I think I like the Panda Express version better but this was a tasty alternative and my waist appreciated it.

Recipe link

Seared Scallops with Roasted Garlic Cream

scallopswgarlic
I’m baaaack! Sorry for the sporadic posts… my real job has actually been keeping me very busy 😥

Welcome to another episode of Top Scallop (if you watch Top Chef you’ll know what I mean). We have been eating a lot of scallops lately. These were covered in a light garlic sauce. I know it’s hard to see but trust me it’s there. Of course it was good — they were covered in garlic cream and served with buttered rice!

Recipe link

Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Balsamic Brown Butter

shroompasta

buitoni

These Buitoni Agnolotti’s (similiar to ravioli) arrived at our house as another perk of being a member of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker Program. I love mushrooms so I was psyched to try them. Picture fresh pasta filled with a mixture of crimini & portobella shrooms, cheese and garlic. All good things. To go along with them Mike and I decided to prepare a  light sauce as to not mask the flavors. Good choice because the mushrooms were not overly flavorful. The balsamic brown butter sauce was a Giada recipe and was a perfect compliment — sweet and nutty. I would definitely pick these up if I saw them in the grocery and I was looking for a quick tasty meal.

Recipe link (we substituted pine nuts for walnuts)

Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp

shrimp risotto

For a risotto this was easy to make (of course I say that because Mike made it 🙂 ). The first day we ate this the lemon just lingered in the background and gave a kiss of citrus. The next day it was much more pronounced. This was the first risotto I’ve had that was better the following day. Not at all clumpy or dry and the flavors matured. Good stuff!

Recipe link

Pan Sauteed Scallops with Fresh Herb Pasta Salad and a Parsley Coulis

parsleyscallops

Back to cooking at home…. after all that Food & Wine…

This dish is meant to be served cool (the pasta) so it would be perfect on a hot night. I actually think it would also be good served warm. The flavor is very floral with the many herbs used. It’s like a mouthful of Spring. This was light and tasty.

Recipe link

Thomas Keller Cooking Demo – Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

keller
As Mike and I arrived in beautiful Pebble Beach we both headed off to our first events. He went to the Vérité tasting and I went to the Thomas Keller cooking demo. For those of you who need an introduction Keller is the renown owner/chef of The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Per Se. Things started off with a quick intro by the head honcho at Food & Wine Magazine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin. This was the first time I had seen Chef Keller in the flesh and he was very personable and humorous.

He wasted no time and immediately began making two gnocchi dishes: a classic potato gnocchi with mushrooms and peas then a flour based choux dough gnocchi with onions and a garlic emulsion. Keller made the whole process look  easy but I guarantee it isn’t. He grew up making gnocchi with his Nona. She said that you know when the dough is ready when it feels like your earlobe. Thomas said that the key to making great gnocchi is practice. The more times you make it the better it gets. Don’t expect it to turn out perfect the first time.

Throughout his demo he stressed three things:

1.  Seasonal cooking is essential to making a successful dish. Everyone should have a garden.

2. The importance of getting kids in the kitchen and cooking.

3.  Salt, Salt and more Salt (he loves this stuff). He talked about it at length. He feels salt enhances flavors unlike pepper which can change flavors. That is one thing I noticed while eating at Ad Hoc the food is always seasoned perfectly.

goodiesAs the cooking came to a close my mouth was watering and I was ready to eat but the gnocchi would not be mine. This was the first demo I’ve been to where you didn’t get to sample the goods at the end (a bit of a let down) so I can’t tell you if the food was tasty (who are we kidding …of course it was) but I can tell you that it smelled heavenly. What we did receive was a cool gift bag that had 4 chocolate bouchons and a French Laundry/ Pebble Beach apron. Spending the morning with Thomas Keller was a fun experience and I’m excited to make gnocchi at home for Mike, he loves them (ya…he will probably end up making them for me…😆).

RECIPES: Here is copy of the handouts I received.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

Our friends over at FoodBuzz were extremely generous and gave Mike and I tickets to the second annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine extravaganza. This is one of the premiere culinary events in the Country with over 60 celebrity chefs and 250 Wineries. It is the ultimate Foodie weekend and we had a fabulous time!

We went to the following events:

  • Thomas Keller Cooking Demo
  • Vérité Winery Bordeaux Blends Wine Tasting
  • Farm-to-Table Lunch
  • Lexus Grand Tasting – Saturday

We will blog in detail about all of these soon, but in the meantime here is a little taste of what’s to come…


*to turn the music off, click on the speaker in the top left corner

Farm Fresh To You – Home Produce Delivery revisited

So we have been receiving deliveries of organic produce for 6 months now and we LOVE IT. We cook a lot more and eat much more healthy. I’ll be honest with you — I’m sooooo glad it’s Spring. I’m all greened out!

Here are some dishes we have made with our garden goodies (click on images to enlarge):
orecchiette-with-sauteed-greens fish-with-orange-fennel-salsa kale-gratin penne-with-spinach-sauce creamy-leek-soup pasta-with-roasted-veg ribollita spinach-with-mushrooms1

Recipe links (in order of appearance in photos above):
Orecchiette with Sautéed Greens and Scallion Sauce – kicked up buttered noodles, next time we’ll add shrooms & chicken
Grilled Fish with Orange-Fennel Salsa – yum!
Kale Gratin with Pancetta – mmm…we used bacon
Penne with Spinach Sauce – a little dry
Creamy Leek Soup – I added bacon
Pasta with Roasted Vegetables, Tomatoes and Basil – everything but the kitchen sink pasta, good hot or cold
Ribollita con Verdure – better the next day
Spinach and Mushrooms with Truffle Oil – truffle oil has an interesting flavor

If you would like to give Farm Fresh To You a try here is a $10 off coupon for your first order.

Lamb Chops with Pear and Kiwi Salsa

kiwilamb
The only reason we decided to try this recipe is that we received a whole bunch of kiwi’s in our produce delivery. I was extremely skeptical that the ingredients in the salsa would mesh but they did. It had a fresh, tropical vibe. I have to say that the broiling method of cooking the chops was fantastic. When Mike pulled them out of the oven I thought they were burned, but they were charred on the outside and perfectly pink on the inside. It’s a fast and easy dish to prepare.

Recipe link

Grilled Rosemary Chicken with Creamy Grits and Shiitake Mushroom Sauce

chickenandgrits
Ready to feel guilty? Then this is the dish for you! On day 3 of Mike’s birthday celebration I decided to make him this for dinner. It was outstanding but also used the majority of a carton of heavy cream. In reflection I could have forgone the cream in the grits and used 1/3 less in the sauce, but you only live once, might as well go all the way. No longer will grits be relegated to the breakfast table.

Modifications to the recipe: added a little parm to the grits, used bacon instead of pancetta in the sauce.

Recipe link

Kara’s vs. Sprinkles — Cupcake Throwdown

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Sprinkles (left) vs. Kara's (right)

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View from the Top

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Check out that cake to frosting ratio

The biggest cupcake rivalry that exists in Silicon Valley is Kara’s vs. Sprinkles!

As mentioned in the past I work in walking distance to Santana row. Kara’s cupcakes opened in October. I was actually kinda excited because I currently have to travel 25 minutes to get my cupcake fix from Sprinkles. When I arrived I was surprised to find a shop the size of a bread box. There is a counter and the door. You can fit maybe two people inside comfortably. I was all jazzed to try their java and banana cakes but the employee working told me that since the store is minuscule they can only make 1/2 of the flavors you will find at other locations. I guess they don’t get the concept of making different flavors each day. I had to settle for lemon, vanilla (pictured above), coconut, fleur de sel and peanut butter.

So how did they measure up to my beloved Sprinkles? There really was no comparison between the two. Sprinkles trounced Kara’s in flavor, variety and size. Kara’s cupcakes tasted like they were straight out of a grocery store bakery (and that’s not a good thing). The cake was dry, almost flavorless and the frosting tasted like a GIANT glob of shortening. The best of the bunch was the coconut.

I really wanted the tiny cakes to be good so I could fulfill my cravings on a more regular basis but I just can’t stomach them. So sad…

Note: An in-depth Sprinkles review can be found here

Halibut with Roasted Beets, Beet Greens, and Dill-Orange Gremolata

beetsandhalibut
We got beets! I’ve been waiting for beets to arrive in our produce delivery for months. Beets are the bomb and if you don’t agree, you haven’t had them prepared in a way that brings out their yumminess. After preparing this recipe we learned beet greens are not to be discarded. They are wonderful. At the suggestion of other reviewers we added garlic to the gremolata and once the fish was cooked I finished it with a little orange juice to give it a punch of citrus. The meal was light, healthy and delicious.

Recipe link

Irish White Soda Bread w/ Caraway Seeds

irishsodabread1
sodabreadThis has to be the easiest bread recipe in the world. It contains 5 ingredients and no yeast and no waiting for rising. From start to finish it took 35 minutes. I have to be honest I had doubts that this would be edible. I was envisioning a big solid rock emerging from the oven. To my surprise it did turn out. It was dense but still soft and chewy on the inside and tasted just like rye bread. I truly enjoyed it.

Tasty Tip: we used reduced fat buttermilk (2 cups) and it was all good.

Recipe link

Guinness Corned Beef and Cabbage

cornedbeef

I married an Irish man so I now celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. For the first time we made a St. Paddy’s day meal for Mike’s family.

pearsalad

Simple awesome salad

The menu:

  • Pear Salad with blue cheese, bacon, walnuts and shallot vinaigrette (recipe)
  • Guinness Corned Beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots
  • White Soda Bread w/ caraway seeds (recipe)
  • Sprinkles Irish cupcakes

The main dish was corned beef. I am a corned beef fiend although I grew up eating it in another form… corned beef on rye with mustard and a dill pickle. This was the first time Mike or I had attempted to cook the beef at home. When I read the recipe Mike found I was very concerned that it would not turn out right. The whole idea of boiling meat just sounded wrong but I would find out it was sooo right. The result was amazing. It was tender yet firm and the flavor was perfection. I can’t wait to make it again next year. I’m already planning the menu. Seriously.

Happy St. Patrick’s day!

Beef Recipe link

Tasty Tip: Don’t be tempted to sample the braising liquid before adding the veggies. It will taste like a pool of salt. The Guinness flavor throughout is very mild. We will use 2 bottles of beer next time and less water.

Sautéed Chicken with Olives, Capers and Roasted Lemons

lemonchick
I was craving lemon chicken so I went on a crusade to find a new recipe. The first I came across was by Lidia Bastianich who is one of Mike’s aunt’s favorite celeb chefs. In her honor I thought we should give it a try. It looked like a light and fresh dish. The result was a smorgasbord of flavors: sour (lemon), tangy (capers) and salty (olives). The chicken paired nicely with the accompanying sauteed spinach & breadcrumbs. Winner, Winner chicken dinner! I now know why aunt Joan is a follower of the PBS star.

Recipe link

Collard Greens with Fennel and Orange Butter

orange-collards

If you think the taste of collard greens is too bitter, this recipe is for you. Orange and greens are an inspirational combo. I had no idea how this recipe would turn out when I found it on the Food & Wine magazine website. All I knew was that it would use 3 items from our recent produce shipment:  collard greens, fennel and oranges! Yippee! The orange juice coats the collards and transforms into a sweet glaze. Mike breaded and lightly pan fried some sole filets to go along side. This will grace our table again in the near future.

Recipe link

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

cornish-hen
This is one of my favorite winter meals. Hearty, scrumptious, comfort food. You can make side dishes to accompany this but we usually go Medieval and devour the birds in one sitting. Every time I purchase cornish hens (usually frozen but still super tasty) I am amazed at how cheap they are. It’s the best spent $7.

cornish-hensIngredients
2 game hens
butter
garlic salt
Secret ingredient… Lay’s classic potato chips (gives a salty crunch)

Preparation
Rinse hens, remove giblets (if any), pat dry, then arrange in a baking pan. Slather slightly melted butter all over the hens. Shake some garlic salt on and inside the cavity. Then lightly crush the potato chips by hand and sprinkle on and around the birds. Place in a 350 degree oven and roast until juices run clear when hens are pierced in thickest part of thighs, about 80 minutes. If at the 60 minute mark the birds are not golden brown on top turn up the heat to 400. Remove from oven, spoon some cooking liquid over hens and serve immediately.

Source:  Mom circa 1990

French Onion Soup

onion-soup

I finally prepared my first Julia Child recipe. I figured if I’m gonna do something French I better refer to the master. This was easy but time consuming. Next to lobster bisque and tomato, onion is my favorite kind of soup. It’s so comforting and rich. Good the first day, outstanding 4 days later. The flavors really change over time. If you can wait (I couldn’t) prepare this a few days before you want to serve. It tastes like an item from a five star restaurant.

what lies beneath the cheesey goodness

what lies beneath the cheesy goodness

Recipe link

Fondue for Two

This year we again stayed home for Valentine’s day. We feasted on fresh Dungeness crab and then indulged in this….

vdayfondue

Chocolate fondue with a shot of Baileys Irish Cream

fonduefor2To accompany the chocolate we had strawberries, apples, bananas, pirouette wafers and rice crispy treats. Good stuff! The cute sweetheart fondue set was my “V” day gift from Mike last year.

Flashback: Valentine’s day 2008

Scallops with Brussels Sprouts and Lemon-Chive Crème Fraîche

scallops

You say you don’t like brussel sprouts…I say you haven’t had them like this! I had to find an interesting way to prepare the brussel sprouts that arrived in our produce delivery because Mike is not a fan. In this recipe instead of leaving the sprouts whole you slice them up and sauté with BACON. While I made the sprouts Mike seared our scallops like a pro. When topped with the lemon creme fraîche the citrus combo was out of this world.


Recipe link

Food & Wine magazine /Feb. 2006

Sweet Chili

chili
I prefer sweet chili over spicy. This recipe is one of my mom’s. It’s super easy and fast to make. An official 30 minute meal that tastes like it was bubblin’ away on the stove top for an entire day.

Ingredients
1.5 lbs ground beef
garlic salt
1 can kidney beans (drained)
2 cans stewed tomatoes with onions and peppers
1T chili powder
2 pinches of cinnamon
sugar

Directions
Brown the beef in a large pot with a couple shakes of garlic salt. Drain any excess grease. Add beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cinnamon and sugar to your desired taste. I like it really sweet so I use about 2 tablespoons of sugar but put some in, stir and taste, to see how much you prefer. Simmer until thick about 20 minutes.

Top with grated cheese,chopped onion and sour cream then serve with a side of cornbread.

Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Onion and Fennel and Fennel Cream

porkleaks

In our produce delivery we received fennel. I thought —Yuck! I despise black licorice so I thought that would also be the case for this vegetable. I was wrong, I found out I love fennel. It has the aroma of black licorice but the flavor of sweet onions once sauteed. This dish turned out to be brilliant.

We cooked the pork 10 minutes on the stove and 10 minutes in the oven and it came out just right. Juicy and tender. Pork is so easy to prepare and tastes amazing without having to do much to it. A little salt and pepper and it’s gold.

Recipe link

Chicken Soup with Miniature Leek-Chive Matzo Balls

matzosoup

OMG! How cute are these matzo balls?!? Usually this isn’t the case. I once went to a deli in NY and my colleague ordered matzo ball soup and all she got was a single ball the size of my head. No joke. This is a time intensive dish. Don’t think you can whip this up on a weeknight. The recipe for the soup seemed a little on the bland side so I made some enhancements. I added carrots,onions,celery and chopped roasted chicken breast to the stock. It turned out soooo good. Mikes reaction… “This is the best thing you’ve ever made.” My mom is going to be impressed.

ballssmall balls2

Tasty Tip: Want to save some time — stick the ball mixture in the freezer for 1 hour instead of the fridge for 2.

Recipe link

Amazing Taste Seasonings

chickencollardgreens

I received a sample box of Amazing Taste Seasoning packs in late December (Thanks Sara!). Mike and I decided to try out the poultry blend first. We’re always looking for easy ways to spice up a chicken breast. The seasonings can be used as a marinade or rub. It was a week night and I was starving so we applied the seasoning to the meat and quickly tossed it on the BBQ. The flavor was nice…kind of a sweet and spicy paprika. What I was most impressed with was the texture it gave the chicken. It was crispy and tasted like it had been baked or lightly fried. A dream come true…fried chicken on the grill without the messy grease!

We served the chicken atop a bed of creamed collard greens. The recipe for the greens was from the Neelys. The happiest couple on the Food Network (overly, if you ask me). It was a tasty union.

amazingtaste amazingchick1

I look forward to trying the many other Amazing Taste varieties. At 99 cents, it’s an inexpensive way to jazz up a meal.

Website: http://www.amazingtaste.com/

Pan Fried Onion Dip

oniondip
Another well received appetizer at my sister’s “b” day bash was this onion dip by the Barefoot Contessa. This took some time to prepare (40 minutes) but was well worth it. The final concoction was sweet and creamy with a bit of a kick. I served this with long pretzel sticks (which everyone thought was a yummy and interesting combo). Now that I think back, kettle potato chips would have also gone well.

Tip: cut the oil/butter in half!

Recipe link

Shaking Beef

shakingbeef

I had a Slanted door Shaking Beef craving so I went in search of the recipe and I found it. I have to admit this wasn’t as good as the real deal but it was a close, close second. I guess if it was that easy to make at home Charles would be out of business. Oh, don’t omit the lime dipping sauce as it was divine.

Tasty Tip: The instructions say to cook the meat 6-8 minutes. Do that if you want your meat well done, if not go for 4-6 minutes.

Recipe link

Cherry Tomato Red Clam Sauce with Linguini

red-linguiniclams

I usually stick to a white sauce when it comes to linguini with clams but this was excellent. I think I’m a convert.

Ms. Ray, you did it again…

Recipe link

Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Shallot and Thyme Crust

rack-of-lamb

As mentioned in the previous post we decided to try out our Daregal fresh frozen herbs on a Rack of Lamb. This application really allowed the herbs to shine. The recipe we used was super simple to prepare and downright delicious.

Recipe link

Minestrone Soup

minestronesoup

This recipe is a keeper! But it was much more work to make than I expected. In my mind we were going to throw a bunch of veggies in a pot and ta-dah — Minestrone. Not exactly. You do toss a bunch of veggies in a pot but it’s done in numerous intervals. It all starts with bacon (or pancetta) which is what brings out all the magnificent flavors. Each layer is slowly bathed in bacon fat and eventually transforms into a cauldron of love.

Tasty Tip: We didn’t bother with the drawn out overnight bean procedure. Instead we popped open a can of white beans and it turned out just fine.

Recipe link

Our Holiday Feast

Christmas dinner was at our house this year. Here was the menu:

Filet mignon with port sauce and horseradish cream, radish apple and onion salad, sherry vinegar and molasses glazed carrots, potato mushroom gratin and caramel banana bread pudding. It was a meal to remember!

Pics…

shroom-gratin

carrots

bread-pudding

Everything turned out fantastic. I would make any one of these recipes again and again and again…

Eggnog French Toast

This is our go-to Christmas morning breakfast. While Mike is excited to tear into his gifts, I’m waiting to tear into these bad boys.

eggnog-french-toast

Instructions: Cut up a loaf of crusty french or sourdough bread into thick slices. Then take slices and dip both sides in eggnog (no egg or milk needed). Toss in a pan with lots of butter and cook till golden brown. Serve with powdered sugar, Aunt Jemima and a slab of bacon. Mmm, Mmm good.

Katie Lee Joel’s Logan County Hamburgers

katie-lee-burger

A while back I read about “The Burger Bash” hosted by Rachael Ray at the Food Network New York Wine & Food festival (Oct 10th). Celeb chefs dueled to see who made the best burger and the winner of the night was Katie Lee Joel’s (Season 1 host of Top Chef ,cookbook author and wife to Billy) Logan County Hamburgers. I l-o-v-e a good burger so I had to give it a try. Most of the news coverage gave Katie Lee a hard time because they didn’t think she did anything spectacular to deserve the win. They basically called her burger an embellished grill cheese. I think it’s closer to a patty melt. Either way it tasted damn good! You hold your trophy high Katie Lee!

Recipe link

Cinnamon-Bun Ebelskiver

ebelskiver

What is a Cinnamon-Bun Ebelskiver? It’s basically a cinnamon roll and a pancake rolled into one!

We received the Williams-Sonoma ebelskiver pan as a gift a few years back. Last weekend we whipped it out and made breakfast for the family before we went to cut down Christmas trees. Mike and I have made nutella, boysenberry and peanut butter filled ebelskivers in the past but these were by far the best. Each bite oozed cinnamon sugary goodness (don’t go light on the filling). The drizzle of cream cheese frosting was awesome. It was light, airy and melted in your mouth.

Recipe link

(click images for a closer look at the preparation)
ebelskiverstep1 ebelskiverstep2 ebelskiverstep3 ebelskiverstep4 ebelskiverstep5 ebelskiverstep6

Continue reading

Spicy Shrimp and Bok Choy Noodle Soup

shrimpsoup
This was phenomenal. I never thought we would be able to make a Pho like soup at home, much less in 30 minutes and all in one pot. I was astonished at how good this was. I slurped my bowl up with a side of hoisin sauce to add a little sweetness. I could eat this every week. Hats off to you Rachael Ray!

Tasty Tip: We cut the amount of ginger in half and used just under 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes in order to keep the heat to a minimum. It was perfect.

Recipe link

Tyler’s Ultimate Caramelized Pears with Rum Raisin Mascarpone

ultimatepear
This is a fancy looking dessert without much work. The crumbled amaretto cookie was the ingredient that brought the WoW factor. Delish!

Tasty Tip: Next time I would add some vanilla to the marscapone to sweeten it up a bit.

Recipe link

Tyler’s Ultimate Veal Osso Buco

osso-buco
When I saw the Osso Buco episode on Tyler Florence’s show I knew I had to make it. It looked unbelievably good. I’ll admit the online instructions were a bit confusing so I took the advise of other reviewers that suggested we use a less expensive wine, a smaller amount of wine (1/2 bottle) and increase the amount of veggies. I also decided not to throw an entire head of garlic in with the paper skin since the directions didn’t say anything about removing it. I in-turn used 7-8 pealed garlic cloves.

gremolata

Gremolata

The recipe called for a gremolata garnish. I made it even though I thought it might be unnecessary. Thank goodness because it took the dish to a whole new level. The orange zest, garlic, cranberries and nuts along with the succulent veal was an eye opening experience.

If you’re having guests over for dinner this is a real show-stopper.

Recipe link

Rotisserie Turkey

bbqturkey

butterballturkeyMike and I didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner at home this year which meant no left over turkey. So I decided to have a post Thanskgiving feast at our house yesterday. When I informed Mike of my plans he was not at all excited but when I told him we could BBQ he agreed. I picked up a Butterball Boneless Turkey Roast and Mike threw it on the rotisserie. After two hours and periodic basting with some Bone Suckin’ Sauce (a gift from mom’s trip to North Carolina) it was sweet, tender and juicy. What a super easy way to prepare a bird. Served with a side of Stove Top stuffing (the best 5 minute stuffing in the world) and cranberry sauce it was just like the real thing.

Dutch Apple Pie

dutchapplepie

Mike made this all by himself… the Liberty apples from our produce delivery worked wonderfully. Serve with a big dollop of ice cream!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING WEEKEND!

applepie dutchpie

Recipe link

Tasty Tip: Mike used this pie crust mix from Williams-Sonoma. It worked perfect.
crust

Halibut with Multiple Sauces

I am really behind in posting all the fish dishes we’ve been feasting on. Here are some pictures from the last couple months. Halibut has been a recurring favorite…

halibutpeppers

Grilled Halibut with Grilled Red Pepper Harissa

This was spicy. It made my nose run and eyes water but I still ate every last bite. I liked how all the ingredients were prepared on the grill. The pepper sauce is chunky so you get tiny crunchy bites of garlic. Recipe link

hallibutguac

Grilled Halibut with Creamy Guacamole Sauce

This guacamole was tart and smooth. I used the whole avocado instead of half. A colorful and satisfying dish. Recipe link

halibutsalsa

Pan Fried Halibut with Pico de Gallo Salsa

Very versitile salsa. Great with fish, tacos and chips. Recipe link

Mom’s Zucchini Bread

zucbreadfinal

I have no idea where my mom got this recipe for zucchini bread. All I know is she made it a lot growing up. This was my first time making it myself. It came out like I remember but I left out the nuts. My favorite way to eat it is covered in cream cheese. I can transform anything healthy into something bad. Continue reading

Potato Soup with Kale and Chorizo

kalesoupfinal

Kale arrived in our produce delivery. I’d never had Kale before. Looking at recipes, potatoes seemed to be Kale’s most popular accompaniment. I decided to make a soup. In the end the flavors/consistency turned out to be a cross between a minestrone and tortilla soup. The kale had a unique taste. The soup was a bit spicy from the chorizo (but not hot) and smokey from the paprika.

We followed the online suggestions to add more onion and cut the amount of Kale. I think adding chicken would be good next time.

Don’t skimp on the croutons. The salty crunch really made the dish. The method for making croutons at our house is to cut up some sourdough then sprinkle with olive oil and garlic salt and bake for 7-10 minutes. It was a light and hearty winter soup.

Recipe link

Food Blogging Award

fabulous-food-blogger-award
Fellow food blogger, Foong, over at The Food Site bestowed the Fabulous Food Blogger Award on me last week. The award was created by Jessie of The Hungry Mouse. Both have great blogs that I read regularly. I was honored to be recognized. Now, this post is not intended to pat myself on the back. I wanted to spread the love. I’m going to take this opportunity to introduce you to some additional food blogs that make me drool…

  1. the Good Mood Food blog – dude in Ireland that can do magic with a camera.
  2. off the (meat)hook – this blog leaves me hungry and laughing…
  3. culinary concoctions by peabody – insane baked goodies can be found here.
  4. Thursday Night Smackdown – Michelle serves up tasty dishes with a side of potty mouth.

Check them out. You’ll be happy you did!

Baked Acorn Squash

bakedacornsquash

This was a Dyn-o-mite dish! Each and every bite took a dip in a pool of butter and brown sugar. Simple and sweet.

Recipe link

Red Wine Pot Roast with Honey and Thyme

When the weather starts to get cooler I like to bust out my trusty dutch oven and make one-pot meals. We had a bag of potatoes from our produce delivery to use so I decide to make a pot roast. I found an interesting recipe online from Dave Lieberman. It was remarkably easy to prepare and tasted magnificent. The hint o’ honey and the wine (Santa Cruz Zin) made the dish sing. The veggies and beef sucked up all the flavors and were tender and sweet.

This was my first Lieberman recipe and I was impressed with the results.

Recipe link

Obama Burgers


To get in the election spirit we made Obama Pizza burgers. This was an online bonus recipe in the new Food Network magazine.

It’s a burger in between two pieces of garlic bread…what’s not to like?

Recipe link

Mike and I have already mailed in our ballets. Get out and vote Nov 4th!

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

check out those vanilla beans!

You all know I purchased Giada De Laurentiis’ new cookbook “Giada’s Kitchen” in order to attend the signing event. Well, the book is actually really nice. The pictures are beautiful and the recipes are inventive. The first recipe we decided to make was the “Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto” (we used acorn squash). Mike “the king of risotto” was intrigued by the use of vanilla in the stock*. I was super surprised to find out a single vanilla bean was $12 ($8 on sale)!!! The dish turned out fabulous. The vanilla was not at all overpowering. It just sits in the background adding a bit of sweetness. The modifications we made to the recipe included using 1.5 cups of wine (a santa lucia highlands chardonnay worked perfectly) and we puréed some of the squash and added it in along with the chunks. I would suggest serving this as a side or starter since it is a bit heavy.

Recipe:Buy the book or grab the recipe from Serious Eats.

*this was the subject of Mike’s chit chat session with Giada.🙄

Radish, Apple and Onion Salad

I’m not really a salad person. I will have one as a starter but never as a main course. The salads we eat at home are not usually worthy of a post. That is until now. This salad was the bomb! The dill dressing went perfectly with the spicy radish, sweet onions and tart apples. We continued to use the leftover dressing throughout the week on any piece of lettuce we could get our hands on.

Rachael Ray, I don’t care what others say about you, I have yet to try a recipe of yours that I didn’t like…

Recipe link
The only thing I left out was the poppy seeds (didn’t have any).

Grilled Mozzarella Burger with Sundried Tomato and Arugula Pesto


Mike picked this recipe because we had a bunch of arugula and mozzarella to use up. This was our first attempt at a stuffed burger. I was a bit worried that the pesto would ooze out all over the grill but it remained in tact. The pesto did not use a lot of oil so the consistency was more like a paste. We chose to nix the buns and go with naan since we already had it in the fridge. I fell in love with naan ever since we made lamb burgers. It makes the meal much less heavy.

We both found the burgers to be marvelous. They were j-u-i-c-y and flavorful. Looking at those photos makes me want to fire up the grill. You must try this.

Recipe link

Tasty Tip: a blue or swiss cheese would probably also go nicely.

Foodbuzz Launches


Foodbuzz.com officially launched today! What is Foodbuzz?

It’s the first-ever community site devoted exclusively to food and dining content—an unparalleled resource for searching, surfing and sharing with fellow foodies everywhere.

Check it out if you want to have access to tons of food blogs from around the world. You can share recipes, restaurant reviews, food videos, news and photos. I have been a member since February and I love connecting with other food minded individuals.

To join you don’t need to have a food blog, but if you do I highly recommend becoming a Featured Publisher. FoodBuzz provides some great benefits like free passes to food events, advertising opportunities, sponsored dinners and every once in a while you get surprise goodies in the mail. Go here to sign up and in the referral spot please write: Bay Area Foodie http://www.bayareafoodieblog.com

Chicken Parmesan battle

Bon Appétit “Classic” vs. “New” Chicken Parm battle

I found two chicken parmesan recipes from Bon Appétit. The Sept 2008 cover featured a classic version by Mario Batali’s Otto restaurant and the June 2008 issue featured a new somewhat healthier version. Mike and I made both to see… which recipe reigned supreme.

The “classic” version was pretty time consuming to make but worth it. The sauce was tangy and the chicken ooey gooey. Many dishes benefit from some time in the fridge –this is not one of them. Starve yourself for the day and tuck-in! This is best pipin’ hot out the oven.

Modifications to sauce : Mike added fresh oregano plus 1/2 can of tomato paste to thicken.   Classic Recipe link

Classic

The “new” recipe was fast and easy to prepare. The garlic chicken covered in cheese was super juicy, and the roasted tomatoes burst in your mouth and were a perfect complement to the chicken. It was a fresh and light dish but when all was said and done I didn’t really feel like I was eating chicken parmesan.

Modifications: I added Italian seasoning and fresh basil to the dish to punch up the flavors.  New Recipe link

New

THE VERDICT: both were good in their own ways but if I had to pick a winner it would be… the Classic … you can’t beat crispy chicken slathered with tomato sauce & bubblin’ mozzarella!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

After making that pumpkin soup you didn’t think we were going to trash these did you?

Mmmm…salty

(Click image to enlarge)

Recipe link

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

We received a Sugerpie pumpkin in our produce shipment from Farm Fresh to You. I really didn’t know what to do with it. My plan was to stick it by the front door and see if it would make it to Halloween but Mike had other ideas. He wanted to make soup and that’s exactly what he did (with a little help from me….).

spiced pumpkin soup garnished w/ heavy cream, cilantro & roasted pumpkin seeds

The ingredients used in this dish were pretty unique for a pumpkin soup (banana, coconut and curry) but they all melded perfectly. The flavor was not overly sweet and the spice was subtle. I actually added a little extra condensed milk because I prefer the sweetness. When we make this again I might even use regular coconut milk instead of unsweetened. I wish I had smell-o-vision because this had a wonderful aroma. If you want an early taste of the holidays try this sumptuous soup. I’m glad Mike saved the pumpkin from its Halloween demise…

Recipe source: Bon Appétit Magazine – November 2002
Recipe link
Need instructions for cooking a pumpkin? Look here

Note: This is my entry for the First Thursday: Color orange event (Hey, it started out orange!) held by Michelle @ Thursday Night Smackdown

Creamy Pasta with Tomato Confit and Fresh Goat Cheese

Have you ever made pasta in the same manner as a risotto? Well, here’s your chance. It’s the same concept except you substitute small pasta for the rice. The result is a slow cooked masterpiece and well worth the time it takes to prepare. The sauce was so rich and creamy I actually felt guilty eating it. It tasted as though I would put on 5 pounds once I finished. Mike and I probably should have eaten smaller portions with a salad instead of devouring the entire pan. Next time, oh yes, there will be a next time, I think I will use 1/2 the amount of cheese and add a little more tomato. I’m sure it will turn out just as good and I will have a clear conscience 😀.

Step 1 - make Tomato Confit

Step 2,3 - brown the pasta and start adding stock

Step 4 - add tomatoes, cheese & herbs

Note: After checking the Chavrie Goat cheese label I see it’s not super high in fat but it sure tastes like it is…

Recipe link

Honeydew Melon sorbet

What to do with a huge ripe melon? Make sorbet! Summer is supposed to be over, but the last 2 weeks we had some fiery days down here in the South Bay. Beat the heat with this…

We looked to Emeril for the recipe.

BTW – this melon was from our first shipment of organic produce from Farm Fresh to You.

Heirloom Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Pizza

Mike & I woke up to a pizza episode on the Essence of Emeril. Emeril’s Pizza Alla Napoletana was inspirational. We had a basket of cherry tomats to use up so we decided to create our own interpretation of his pizza. We rolled out a Trader Joe’s pre-made dough then rubbed it with a garlic clove. Next, we sprinkled our tomatoes (that had been salted and peppered), fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn purple basil (from our AeroGarden), chopped oregano (from our outdoor garden) and a drizzle of EVOO. Tossed it in the oven and 10 minutes later…

This was the best pizza we have ever made at home and quite possibly the best pizza we have ever had. Goes to show if you use fresh ingredients you can do wonders… The tomatoes were insanely sweet and the hint of garlic in the background was spectacular!

BTW- the tomatoes were from our first shipment of organic produce from Farm Fresh to You.

Tasty Tip: tools to prepare the perfect pizza

Chicken Tikka

Indian food has never been a favorite of mine, probably because the only times I have had it was when coworkers took me to all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffets. It was always a bad experience where I ended up eating tons of bread and not much else. When I saw this chicken recipe in the October 08 issue of Food & Wine magazine I thought it was time to give Indian food another try. The mag recommended making a cilantro mint yogurt sauce to accompany the Tikka because it does bring the heat. Both had beautiful colors and flavors. Served with grilled naan and a simple cucumber & tomato salad I have a new found affection for Indian food.

Recipe link

Seared Scallops with Roasted Corn and Herbs

Pete, the winner of Rachael Ray’s Hey, Can you cook?! competition returned to the show to prepare a meal. His dish looked really good so we made it. What do you think? The scallops were grand and the corn I could totally see eating at our next Thanksgiving dinner. They were super buttery and had all those memorable holiday flavors. I think Pete deserves his win…

Recipe link

Sauvignon Blanc Steamed Mussels

I was in the mood for mussels. I order them at restaurants all the time but have never made them at home. I didn’t think it would be so easy. Once you take the time to clean them the actual prep/cook time is minimal. Mike and I picked up 2 lbs of farm raised black and New Zealand green lipped mussels for $10 at Whole Foods market. What a deal! We got a mixture because we didn’t know which was better. Now we know… go for the green lipped, they were much more meaty and sweet. I like my mussels drenched in garlic. The recipe I used only asked for 1 measly garlic clove. I used 3 and when I make this again I will probably use 4. We served this up with a side salad and crusty garlic bread (yes, more garlic). Excellent meal.

Recipe link

Dog cupcakes

While standing at the check out counter at Summer Winds Garden Center I saw a small display of Ma snax organic dog cake mix. It was a weird location to sell dog treats, but I thought I’d give them a try. I wasn’t about to bake a big cake for Edison (our 105 pound black lab mix) as he would make a total mess, so instead I made carob-peanut cupcakes with peanut butter frosting.

I tried taking a picture of Edison as he ate a cupcake but as soon as we gave it to him it was devoured, so I decided to make my first video blog. Here is Mr. Ed chowing down. He loves these little dense cupcakes!

Website: www.masnax.com

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Tis the season to be eating tomatoes! I was watching the Tomato episode of Jamie Oliver’s show Jamie at Home and decided to make a tomato feast. Mike and I went to the farmers market and got a bevy of heirlooms. They look soooo good this time of year.

We followed Jamie’s instructions for making the “mothership tomato salad”. As seen on the show this is the starting point for numerous dishes. From this we made a caprese salad as well as a tomato pasta salad. The tomatoes we purchased were perfect. Ripe and juicy. Jamie suggests that you salt your tomats before eating to concentrate the flavors. This salting process really does make a difference with the final product. Preparing the two dishes was super easy. For the caprese layer tomato, mozzarella, black pepper, balsamic, red chile and basil, and then you’re good to go.

For the salad you smash up the remaining tomatoes with your hands, add to cooked rotini pasta and dig in. Pop it in the fridge for a bit and it’s 10Xs better. Quick, simple and delicious recipes.

Recipe link

Baileys Shiver


The Baileys Shiver is my new go-to after dinner cocktail on a hot night. I have been a fan of baileys on the rocks since I was a kid (literally). On the rare occasion where my dad would have an alcoholic beverage this was his drink of choice and he would always allow me to have a little sip. Well, my old Baileys has gotten a face-lift known as the Shiver and it is mighty good.

Recipe (quantities are for one serving)

Step 1: Drop 2 large ice cubes into your blender (that’s 2 per person)
Step 2: Add 3 ½ oz. of Baileys per person
Step 3: Blend until completely smooth
Step 4: Pour into your glasses

Tasty Tip: Add a scoop of vanilla froyo to the mix and it’s even better.

More Baileys recipes

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

I was excited to see a recipe from Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in the Sept. issue of Food & Wine. I love Asian cuisine but I usually find it difficult to prepare at home. This dish on the other hand was extremely easy to make. One of the main ingredients was fish sauce. When Mike cracked open the bottle he made a funny face. This was our first time cooking with fish sauce and we were a bit worried about its pungent smell but it ended up tasting fantastic. After we finished eating Mike said, “I would make this again in a heartbeat.” It was that good. The sauce was sweet yet peppery and the cilantro gave it a fresh punch. Next time we fix this I might throw in some bean sprouts.

Tasty Tip: Make a little extra sauce – Mike and I had to duel over who would get the last spoonful!

Recipe link

AeroGarden

Have you seen this gadget on a late night infomercial? Well, my dad did. He gave this to Mike and I for our wedding anniversary this year. The unit uses aeroponic technology which is

a dirt-free growing method where plant roots are suspended in air within a 100% humidity, highly-oxygenated growing chamber. Because the roots are bathed with ideal levels of nutrients, water and oxygen, plants grow significantly faster, are healthier and have a higher nutrient content than plants grown in soil

When we put the contraption together we had many doubts that it would actually work. But take a look, it is going bananas! Now, it didn’t happen overnight. It takes 3-4 weeks until you get something worth eating and the manual says it will continue to grow for 4 months. Our version came with the gourmet herb seed kit which includes basil, thyme, mint, chives, parsley and dill. At the 6 week mark the only herb that hasn’t really made much progress are the chives. The only negative to this appliance is that it has fluorescent bulbs that need to turn on for 16 hours a day and they are so bright that they light up your entire house if it’s dark. It’s like a built in security system. Other than that we love our indoor garden. It’s so nice to be able to grab the herbs and immediately start cooking since they are clean and bug free. Once the herbs are gone we are going to try the salad greens. We will have our own little lettuce patch. Get yours today!

Weeks 1-6 below (click image to enlarge)

Penne with Triple Tomato Sauce

This was the first pasta sauce I have made where you throw everything in a Cuisinart — no stove top cooking involved. When finished it looked like a cream sauce, yet no dairy was added. It was simple and flavorful. Perfect for a hot summer night. This was one of the “30 best fast recipes” featured in the Sept. issue of Food & Wine mag.

Recipe link

Elvis Presley’s Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich

I was viewing TV the other night and a show came on all about sandwiches. One place in NY that serves up Elvis’ favorite sando made an impression on my mind. After watching I was determined to make one. I found a version of the recipe and whipped out one of my favorite wedding gifts…THE GRIDDLER!

I love this 4-in-1 grill. It transforms a regular sandwich to a warm, ooey gooey, crispy delight. Instead of following the recipe exactly I decided to kick it up a few notches by adding nutella and honey. I’ve read that bacon is also a good addition.

I personally enjoyed the honey version best and Mike liked the nutella. Next time I would slice the bananas instead of mash. The consistency was a little too babyfoodie for my taste. Overall a sweet sandwich.

Cake Wrecks

I usually keep the content on this blog to restaurant reviews and recipes but when I stumbled on to this site called Cake Wrecks I had to share. The name says it all…it’s a blog about really bad/crazy/weird cake designs. It’s pretty hilarious especially the commentary. Keep in mind these baked goodies are NOT homemade; someone actually paid cold hard cash for these beautiful disasters. Here is a sample:

I have a feeling when the people ordering this cake said "Write Welcome on it" this is not what they meant.

Check out one of the worst cakes. I hope it doesn’t make you lose your appetite!

Spanish Tortilla

We were in Napa for a family reunion last month. For dinner one evening Francisco (Mike’s cousin’s husband) prepared traditional Spanish Tortillas. Francisco is from Spain. When I heard tortilla I immediately thought of the Mexican version but this was completely different. It was more like a frittata composed of eggs, onion and potatoes. Francisco let me watch him prepare the tortillas. The prep actually took most of the day since he was cooking for 25 people. He did everything from memory so there was no recipe. The tortilla was served up with a delicious tomato gazpacho. The tortilla was light and fluffy yet hearty. The flavors were very subtle — it would also pair nicely with a simple salad of baby greens and tomatoes drizzled with evoo and balsamic.

Gracias Francisco! Mike and I will try to make this on our own someday soon.

From what I remember (I started drinking beer around the time of the flipping, which is the most difficult part of the process) this recipe is very similar to Francisco’s.

More photos (click to enlarge):

Francisco @ work                       Frying Potatoes                   Potato & Egg Mix

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