Friday, December 3, 2010

Welcome Winter Dinner

The cold has come and with it my desire to eat warm foods has amplified itself, especially since I have to fight to keep warm in our house which may or may not have insulation.  (I'm leaning towards not.)  To welcome winter I decided to pick up some grocery items that seemed wintery to me - a butternut squash (a whole one - not the pre-peeled and diced cubes in a bag that I normally buy), pears, walnuts, and filet mignon (steaks aren't just for summer BBQ's as far as I'm concerned, and it was on sale).

{Curried Butternut Squash Soup, Garlic crusted Filet, and Warm Pear and Walnut Salad}

The Curried Butternut Squash was simple and easy to make but packed a lot of flavor.  And when I say simple, I mean simple after the peeling, coring, and cutting battle was won with the squash.  

{squash simmering}

I used Ellie Krieger's recipe from Food Network and to be honest I probably wouldn't change much - it was really delicious.

For the Warm Pear and Walnut Salad I toasted walnuts in a pan with some maple syrup and added the sliced pears and cooked them for about 2 to 3 minutes each side.  I added the walnuts and pears to chopped butter lettuce and topped it with gorgonzola cheese crumbles and a simple balsamic vinaigrette (I like Trader Joe's low fat balsamic dressing).

{walnuts and pears with maple syrup}

{finished salad}

For the filet, which doesn't need much at all, I like to rub it with fresh chopped garlic, salt and pepper -  and that's it.  Then I leave it up to the bf to grill it just right... which he seems to be getting better at (thank goodness!).


It was the perfect dinner to get me in the winter mood and ready for some warm, seasonal, delicious cooking.

Happy Winter Everyone! Stay warm!

peace, love, warmth, and happiness!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

For me, Memorial Day weekend always symbolizes the welcoming of summer.  It's the first long weekend of the summer.  The sun is shining, the collective smell of food on the grill wafts through the air, and shorts and sundresses get pulled out of the trenches of the closet where they have been hiding all winter.  Ahhh, life is good on Memorial Day weekend, there is no work on Monday and it seems like there is all the time in the world.  So to make this Memorial Day truly memorable I decided to take a culinary risk of epic proportions in hopes of delivering my Mom the perfect homemade present - my very first ever pie from scratch, and a strawberry rhubarb pie for that matter.  Never mind that I had no clue what rhubarb was (did you know it's actually a vegetable?!) up until about 3 weeks ago when I came across a recipe in the archives of Deb's Smitten Kitchen site.  I was mesmerized... the redness of the strawberries and rhubarb, the perfect latticed crust, the golden color of the cooked pie with juicy gooeyness peeking through.  It was love at first sight.  I had never wanted something so bad.  (Well, that's not true, but it felt like it at the time.)  But could I do it, I asked myself?  Also I asked myself what's a pastry cutter and where do I find one?  Finally, I decided to go for it and work out the pastry cutter issue as I went along.  I mean, how hard could it be really?  The phrase "easy as pie" had to come from some sort of truth, right?

First stop.  Strawberry farm for some fresh, juicy goodness.

{strawberry farm}

Next, it was time to get my hands dirty... well more like doughy.  I was shocked and in awe of the amount of butter that goes into a pie crust.  It's crazy, but in a good way.  I like butter.

{I can't believe it's all butter!}

{making the dough}

After the dough was made (with my $5 pastry cutter from Target), I cut it in half and formed two disks which I wrapped in saran wrap and put in the fridge over night.  The next morning, yes this was a two day process, I let the dough sit out for about a half hour and then I was ready to roll!

{pie dish, dough, rolling pin}

Rolling the first disk of dough was rather hard but that's because I didn't give the dough enough time to come to room temperature.  The second disk was much easier but then I felt it was too warm and tried to move it, completely rolled out, into the fridge, which resulted in flour going everywhere and an almost ruined rolled out piece of dough.

{rolled out crust}

Helpful tip!  Roll out your dough sandwiched between two sheets of wax paper.  But make sure you flour each sheet well!  I made the mistake of not flouring the top sheet... that got me into a sticky situation.

And now the fun part!

{red - rhubarb and strawberries}


{new pie dish}

And then you wait... and check the oven obsessively because it would be such a shame to burn something this beautiful.


And Voila!  Like they say, easy as pie!

{so pretty!!}

Since I'm not much for baking I found it surprising that I loved making this pie.  It was calming, therapeutic, and turned out so yummy I ate 2 slices... and I thought I didn't like pie!

Get the recipe from --> here.

peace, love, pie, and happiness!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Perfect Soup

I can't get this soup off my mind since I made it, it was so good that thoughts of making SOUP, well just this soup, are constantly floating through my mind.  I'm not normally a soup kind of girl, it's never filling enough as a meal and too filling as an appetizer.  And if I'm gonna spend some time in the kitchen I want to come out with elaborate results, not just a pot full of stuff in water.  But since first trying Ribollita, during the Tuscan cooking class Sabrina and I took, my taste buds were hooked.  Ribollita is a Tuscan soup that literally means "reboiled."  My findings while searching the web for a recipe led me to believe that often Ribollita contains a mix of veggies, a leafy green, white beans, possibly pancetta, and sometimes stale bread is mixed directly into the soup.  No recipe stood out to me, so I decided to take my best shot at making this soup sans recipe - after all the basic idea of the dish is to throw together leftovers in a pot.  It was easy and delicious, very delicious.  In fact, I ate it so fast I only snapped a few shots on my iphone and wasn't going to share the recipe until I made it again and took some better photos, but I'm just too excited.  I simply must share.

Michelle's Vegetable Ribollita

serves 4

1 large carrot
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
½ onion chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 can Italian flavored chopped tomatoes
2 to 3 cups chopped kale
about 2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste


1)   Heat olive oil in a pot.  Chop all vegetables.
2)   Put carrots and onions and minced garlic in pot and sauté until slightly soft.
3)   Add zucchini and squash and sauté for about 2 minutes.
4)   Add vegetable broth and water.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
5)   Add canned tomatoes with juice.  Bring to a boil.
6)   Add chopped kale and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until squash and kale are tender but not soggy.
7)   Top with parmesan cheese and serve with toasted French or Italian bread.

And if my calculations are correct (which I think they are) when made with veggie broth and before adding the parmesan cheese and bread, each serving only has about 120 calories in it!  It could be the perfect diet food.  And I managed to eat it as a whole meal (with copious amounts of bread, naturally).


peace, love, food, and happiness!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Vegan Banana Pancakes

After resolving to only eat fruit for breakfast as some kind of diet / desire to eat healthier, I woke up craving pancakes more than I have ever craved pancakes in my entire life.  I checked my kitchen only to discover that indeed I had a box of pancake mix... but not a single egg in the fridge.  Sigh.  But I would not give up that easily on my dream of having pancakes that morning!  And I most certainly would not walk the two whole blocks to the store for one measly egg.  Yes, I may be lazy, but I am also innovative... I came up with Vegan (only by circumstance) Banana Pancakes - single serving size with strawberries (thanks roomie) and banana slices.

The pancakes turned out so good!  I was pleasantly surprised at how moist and fluffy they were!  Way better than using a box mix!

Recipe (one serving):

1/2 cup whole wheat flour or white flour (I used mainly whole wheat with a little bit of white flour)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
dash of cinnamon
1/3 cup (or more if needed) almond milk (or soy milk)
1/2 banana (ripe and mashed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.  In another bowl, combine all other ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir well.  Add more almond milk if batter is too thick.

Cook on medium-high heat in a skillet till browned on both sides.

Top with left over half of banana and whatever else you like! Enjoy!

peace, love, pancakes, and happiness!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chicken - inspired by Top Chef's Fabio Viviani

I love the show Top Chef!  So when TV Guide went to Top Chef's fan favorite from season five  - Fabio Viviani's restaurant, Firenze Osteria, to film him making a Julia Child inspired dish in honor of Meryl Streep's Academy Award nomination for "Julie and Julia" I was all about it.  Fabio showed us how to make a simple whole roasted chicken.  The end result looked so delicious I decided I simply had to make this recipe as soon as possible.  Up until this point I have never worked with a whole chicken before.  So that was a little scary.  Fabio recommended getting the chicken de-boned, so I asked the Whole Food folks to do that for me.  The guy gave me a funny look when he asked what kind of chicken I would like and I responded with "the kind you can roast, I guess."  While he deboned my chicken (I couldn't watch him actually deboning it, yuck) I picked up some lemon, rosemary, and garlic.  And that was all I needed!  At least for the chicken, I also picked up some beautiful organic carrots, stuff to make garlic cheese mash potatoes, and shallots to carmelize. 

Working with the whole chicken wasn't as traumatizing as I had imagined it.  I sliced up the lemons, smashed the garlic, and pulled the leaves of rosemary from the stem and stuffed the chicken and then used toothpicks to secure the closure.

Rub olive oil on the chicken and salt and pepper both sides.  Next I heated olive oil in a pan and seared the chicken on both sides before putting it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.  I threw the cut up organic carrots into the pan to roast with the chicken as well.

While the chicken was roasting I got to work on the carmelized shallots from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite cooking blogs and the shallots being one of my favorite recipes.  They are so easy and so yummy.  Even if you don't like onions (like my roomie) you will probably love these.  Melt about 6 tablespoons butter to every pound of shallots in a pan.  Add peeled shallots and toss in about 3 tablespoons sugar (I like a little less) and saute for about 10 min until the shallots begin to brown.  Add 3 tablespoons quality red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper.  Transfer shallots (and juice!) to a glass baking dish and bake for about 15 -30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  I put them in with the chicken at 425 and adjusted the time accordingly.

Next, the mash potatoes.  These were simple.  I mashed the cooked yukon gold potatoes with garlic (which I put in the water with the boiling potatoes), cheddar cheese, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper, garlic powder, and green onions.  The potatoes were delicious, but the stand out really was the chicken.  I was excited with how it came out!  And the carrots in the roasted chicken juice... yummmm...

Roasted chicken and carrots

carmelized shallots

dinner is served!

What a fun dinner!  Thanks Fabio!

peace, love, cooking, and happiness!
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