Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Feast!

I love Easter! Alleluia! I also love Easter feasts of endless counter tops filled to the brim with insanely high calorie/high flavor items. This Easter I must say I outdid myself. Everything looked and apparently tasted awesome. I say "apparently", because my Easter was tainted with the evil stomach bug which decided to strike me down right in the middle of my indulging. Darn sickness. I was in bed Easter mid day - Tuesday with an awful feverish disease...which has now been banished from my veins...Praise the Lord! It pains me to speak of these foods which I was not able to fully appreciate, but nevertheless they merit a nod of recognition.


Cheese tray: Gouda - my Aunt brought us some from Holland - yummy
Sharp Vermont white cheddar - my fam's favor
Brie - an absolute must for my Padre
Manchego - nice.
Fresh and delicious green and purple grapes
Mini crisp dill pickles
Homemade crackers - I used a recipe from the 101 cookbooks website - Wicked simple and awesome! There are a few left and they are still nice and crisp 5 days later. I sprinkled Parmesan on top before baking and then some coarse salt. I am lucky enough to have a pasta maker so I flattened them in this. Everyone loved them! I will be making these again!

Main Course:

Sauteed green and purple asparagus with shallots in a wine butter glaze. - I like my asparagus nice and crispy to I cut them up into 2 inch pieces and blanched them in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Then I sauteed the shallots in butter and olive oil - deglazed the pan with white wine. Added the blanched asparagus to the pan and sauteed a few more minutes. Salt and pepper. Nice, simple, and fresh - the light glaze was the perfect amount of flavor it needed.

Creamy Mashed new potatoes - I put cut up potatoes and put them in a pan of cold salted water...(fyi - if it grows below the ground you should put it in cold water and then bring to a boil...if it grows above the ground you bring to a boil and then add item). Cooked. Mashed. Added butter, heavy cream, and some chicken broth for flavor, salt and pepper. Another thing I learned about mashed potatoes...mash as smooth as you want before adding cream or milk - because after you add cream they won't get any smoother.

Garlic and herb roasted leg of lamb. - I marinate my lamb overnight in a mixture of Dijon, olive oil, fresh rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper, and garlic. Roasted 20 minutes per/1b. until internal temp of meat reached 145 degrees. Let rest 10-15 minutes before carving. We have this at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I think my sister came home from college just for the lamb.

Fresh and Hot homemade crusty dinner rolls. - I used a King Arthur Flour recipe - I made a starter dough Friday night. Then made the main dough Saturday - added the starter (this gives it the slight sourdough taste)...Benched, punched, benched, shaped and then refrigerated over night. Baked in hot oven 20 minutes before dinner on baking stones. Sounds complicated, but it was simple. Nothing beats hot dinner rolls.


Dutch Apple Pie - My chef's recipe - it is awesome and perfect. I will post the recipe from our book in the near future.
Oreo Cheesecake - I make a lighter cheesecake with sour cream and cream cheese - it yields a not so heavy on your stomach feeling cheesecake.

Not to mention I also made cinnamon scones for breakfast and a fritatta. Whew - now time to start planning for the next Holiday meal! : ) Happy Easter!

Monday, April 6, 2009

You don't need a tortilla to call it a taco.

small dice - pulsed in the food processor - fresh cilantro

I love taco salad. The absolute best dinner ever! Healthy...yummy...satisfying. What more could you ask for in a dinner? All the benefits of salad without the fat of dressing...its like eating a garden with a garden sauce. It is a quick meal, that is a crowd pleaser. I made a big taco salad last night for dinner...awesome. The thing that makes this salad shine is the Pico de Gallo. My sister is not a sweets person like me, instead she is always craving chips and dip. When she lived with me this past summer I made her lots and lots of Pico!

Chicken for tacos or taco salad:

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice

1/4 cup tequila (or white wine...better with tequila...but white wine will do)

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. fresh chopped garlic

1/4 chopped chopped fresh cilantro

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Place in Ziploc bag along with rest of ingredients. Mix and mush around. Place in fridge and marinate for at least 1 hour....the longer the better : ). Heat skillet to medium heat. Place chicken in pan and cook until no longer pink.

Salad fixins:

Romaine lettuce (or can use iceberg...but I think iceberg is wicked lame)

Shredded cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Pico de Gallo (recipe to follow)

Black beans


Crushed tortilla chips

Pico de Gallo:

1 large round tomato

1 small red onion

1 jalapeno

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/8 cup lemon or lime juice

Chop all ingredients nice and small. Or pulse in the food processor for a more finely chopped product. Tastes better if refrigerated overnight. Serve over salad, on tacos, or mix with chopped avocado and eat with chips.

Fun facts about Pico de Gallo:

- "Pico de Gallo" means "Rooster's beak" in Spanish...the jalapeno looks like a beak...this is why they call it this.

- The colors represent the Mexican flag red-tomato, green-jalapeno, white-onion.

- Another meaning of the name is from the verb "picar" which means: To chop or mince, or bite and sting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Silly Rabbit, Carrots are for kids.

I must say I used to loathe carrots. They looked like an accidental creation...weird shape, covered in dirt, tasted like dirt, but somehow wasn't dirt. Every time I eat a meal I hear my mom's voice in the back of my mind..."make sure you get some, take some carrot sticks." Well I guess her persistence finally paid off...believe it or not, I now like carrots. I enjoy carrots frequently as a mid afternoon snack with hummus, or ranch dressing, or plain. I must say though, the absolute best way to enjoy carrots is baked into a cake. : )

My mother loves 2 kinds of cake. Carrot and German Chocolate. For years I have been researching and testing out new recipes to find one that will satisfy her picky taste. I am proud to say I finally found a winner! My mom turned 29 again this past yeah...and I made this cake with the hopes of baking her the most perfect carrot cake I could. This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe with a few changes of my own. I nixed the pineapple on top, added 1 cup of coconut to the batter, used pecans instead of walnuts, omitted the raisins, and made it into 3- 8" round pans. The pineapple and the carrots make this cake so incredibly moist and delicious. I prefer cold carrot cake, so I like to chill my cake in the fridge for at least 12 hours before eating it...if it can last that long without someone eating it! The thing that really makes this cake awesome is the icing. Sometimes I find cream cheese icing to be too sweet, so sweet that it actually hurts my teeth. This icing is a nice blend of butter and cream cheese and yields a much lighter and delicate sweetness. In the future I hope to make the icing with 1/2 marscapone cheese and see what happens. Also, I think that banana bread or zucchini bread made into cake rounds would also be wicked good layered up with this icing. Without further ado...

Oh, and I realize I have been posting a lot of dessert recipes...which is truly my forte, but I promise to post more of my savory culinary recipes in the near future! FYI - This cake would be an awesome end to your upcoming Easter feasts!

Carrot Cake El Yummy

For the cake:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided, and sifted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 pound carrots, grated
1/2 cup diced fresh...or canned crushed pineapple

For the frosting:

3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 cup finely chopped pecans...I pulsed mine in the food processor.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans.

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the coconut and pecans with 1 tablespoon flour, mix into batter. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. DO NOT OVER MIX! Divide the batter equally between the 3 pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla with electric mixer until combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.
Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Repeat. Repeat. Cover sides with icing...then carefully press crushed pecans onto the sides only. Chill. Eat. Share only if you want people to love you! p.s. This picture is before I had a chance to clean up the it is a bit rustic and messy looking, but you get the idea : )