Saturday, August 28, 2010

This Big Egg Question

there have been quite a few reports about eggs recently leaving people with lots of questions. can i still eat eggs? are they safe? where do you get your eggs? are the eggs you are using in my food good?
it seems that this salmonella outbreak is only in large egg farms. i personally get all of my eggs from a local farm with 24 chickens. they are free range chickens that live a very happy, antibiotic-free, comfortable life. how do i know this? i know the owner personally. she lovingly cares for "her ladies" as she calls them as well and eugenue and harry, the 2 roosters (in separate chicken yards of course).
this woman also happens to be my mother. yes, i have an advantage having a family member raise chickens but you too can have a personal relationship with your local farmer. i highly recommend buying your eggs (and most all of your produce for that matter) from local farmers. go to your local farmers market and shake the hand of the person that grows what you eat. if you don't have a local farmers market, look for actual local farms in your area and ask them if you can buy directly from them.
something happens when you establish a relationship with the person who is in charge of what you put into your body. you become directly attached and realize you enjoy being involved in the process. you can ask the farmer questions and get honest answers. try calling up perdue and getting that kind of customer service.
bottom line, if you buy your eggs from a small local farmer, you can go and visit the chickens, see the environment in which they live, and ask that farmer questions about current issues. you will feel better and your food will taste better.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

nearly a year ago, i had one of these chocolate espresso cupcakes. the moment i bit into it i knew i had to get the recipe. i had to have it. i would stop at nothing to get it! come hell or high water - there is no price i wouldn't pay - i would beg, borrow, and steal . . .
good thing E's wonderful aunt C not only had the recipe but was willing to share it with me, thus avoiding groveling, embarrassment, and possible jail time. thank you, thank you, thank you aunt C! i think of you with every bite.
fast-forward 10 months and i am just getting around to making them. good lord, what took me so long?!? well, funny story . . . i had a lot of time on my hands last weekend in a place with very limited access to television and no internet. that's right, you heard me. not just no high-speed internet, no internet. at all. what's a girl to do??? i hauled all of my recipes i have been meaning to organize in a big box, poured myself a big glass of wine, and sorted through them. (if you must know, i organize by category - you know, chicken, seafood, beef, soup, sides, etc. - a place them all in plastic sheet protectors. this keeps me from getting splatters on my printed recipes.
so, wow, i found so many recipes i have been meaning to make were buried among old favorites. it was like discovering new treasures. as soon as i spotted this one, my mouth began to water and i put it at the top of the pile. i tasted batter and icing along the way and when i finally sunk my teeth into an iced cupcake, they were as amazing as i remembered. i savored inhaled every bite. again, thanks aunt C!
if you are smart, you will make these. if you are wise, you won't share.

a couple of things . . . as ina garten always says, coffee really does bring out the chocolate flavor in baked goods so don't skip it. it's worth having instant espresso powder around just for baked goods. i cut back on the sugar (i just can't help myself) and the espresso in these. i found them plenty coffee-y and sweet, but if you want the extra sugar and caffeine (i didn't miss it one bit), you can find the original recipe here. the is actually for cake, so i adapted the baking time for cupcakes. i found that 18 minutes was perfect in my oven but i recommend checking your after 15 minutes just in case your oven is different. i also turned the pan halfway through the baking time for even cooking.

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes
(adapted from Bon App├ętit)

2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 cup sugar
2 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese*

preheat to 325°F. line cupcake pan with paper cups.

Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; lift pans off cakes and remove parchment. Place wire rack atop each cake; invert again so top side is up. cool completely.

sift cocoa powder and espresso powder into large bowl. bring 1 cup of cream to boil in small saucepan. slowly pour cream over cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. add remaining 1/2 cup cream and sugar, whisking until sugar dissolves. chill until cold (at least 2 hours).

whisk cold mascarpone in mixer with whisk attachment. slowly pour in chilled chocolate/cream mixture and whisk on low until blended and smooth. increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not over beat or mixture will curdle).

frost cupcakes, store in airtight container and keep chilled.

don't forget to enter my giveaway before september 6th! simply leave a comment on this post and you are entered to win!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Year Anniversary Giveway

in honor of my year of blogging, i have a free giveaway up for grabs.
a brand new trudeau electric fondue set. this 11 piece set is perfect for a dinner party with appetizers dipped in cheese and dessert dipped in chocolate.
to enter this giveaway, please leave a comment to this post telling me what your favorite thing is to dip into chocolate. please also include your email address so i can contact you if you win. the winner will be chosen monday, september 6th.
good luck!

oh, by the way, if you are interested in other free giveaways, you may want to check out giveaway scout - a giveaway search engine. you can subscribe to receive updates on the latest giveaways on the web.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blog Anniversary - Baingan Bharta

today is my one year blogiversary! it's hard to believe i have been doing this for a whole year. wow. in 365 days i have put up 304 posts. this blog is not currently where i want it to be, but i am still enjoying doing it and there are still a few people reading.
in celebration of one year, i conducted my first attempt to re-create one of my favorite indian dishes - . i find myself ordering this when i am overwhelmed by the usually large indian restaurant menus. it proved to be fairly easy to make and a turned out to be quite pleased with the results. even E, not a lover of eggplant, liked this dish. i served it on top of a little brown rice (to absorb a little of the spiciness) and some of trader joe's garlic naan.
this dish was a perfect way to use up some of my csa goods. i used some onions and 5 skinny eggplants. i couldn't find indian peppers so i used poblano chili peppers and they seemed to work perfectly. of course, this isn't quite the real thing but i will be making it again and enjoying the leftovers.

Baingan Bharta
serves 6

2 cups eggplant
2 tbs olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 poblano peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs ginger, minced
1 tbs ground cumin 
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbs coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1/2 lime
salt to taste
grill eggplant over grill or gas stove until blackened. transfer to bowl and cover with plastic. let sit.
meanwhile, heat oil in pan over medium heat. add chopped onions, peppers, garlic, and ginger (i throw these in the food processor separately until desired texture).
saute until tender.
add spices and cook 1 minute.
add tomato and stir well. all some salt and simmer, covered on low for 10 minutes.

meanwhile, peel cooled eggplant. the skin should come off easily now. mash well, or blend in food processor.
add to pot and continue to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. add salt as necessary to taste. add juice of half a lime before serving.

i honor of my one year anniversary of blogging, i will be having a giveaway this week. stay tuned and thanks for reading:)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Creamy Vermouth Pasta

i know, i know. i just did a post on "fried zucchini" and now i am giving you a recipe for "cream" vermouth pasta. rest assured there is just a touch of cream in this and it's worth every drop. furthermore, there is nothing wrong with a little fat. you can do it, buy the heavy cream and use a little here are there. your taste buds will thank you.
i have to admit, i really hesitated posting this recipe. it is a constant client favorite. people can't get enough of this dish and it is very versatile. you can make it plain (as seen below) or add sliced sausage (kielbasa is amazing in this), chicken, or (my personal favorite) shrimp. let me tell you, this dish is beyond decadent with shrimp. i truly feel sorry for those allergic to shellfish. my heart goes out to you . . .
so, like i said. i almost hate to give out the recipe to a constant favorite. now everyone will know it truly is easy to make delicious dishes. i may be out of a job. please feel sorry for me. the least you can do is make this dish and make this sacrifice worth it.
the sweet vermouth is really the secret ingredient in this dish. it is what puts this over the top. if you don't have sweet vermouth, do not try to substitute something else. while marsala wine or sherry would be good, it will change the dish. it's worth a trip to the liquor store. while you're there, get a nice bottle of wine to drink with this too.
the other versatile aspect of this dish (besides adding any kind of protein) is the pasta. we are a whole wheat angel hair household, so that's what i used. but, you could use any shape of pasta you like. pene would be wonderful for trapping this sweet and creamy sauce.
oh, one more thing, if you add sausage, chicken, or shrimp to this dish, cook that first and then set it aside while you make the sauce. be sure to use the same pan so you get all those wonderful browned pieces when you deglaze the pan with the sweet vermouth. then, add the protein back in at the end before you toss the pasta in the sauce)

Creamy Vermouth Pasta
4 main course servings

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1/2 cup sweet vermouth
1 - 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (or really any kind of canned tomato you have on hand, chopped, diced, whole, fresh, i have even used four cheese marinara sauce with success)
1/4 cup heavy cream
juice from 1/2 lemon
3/4 box pasta

cook pasta according to package directions.

meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet. add shallots and garlic and saute until tender. season with salt and pepper to taste and continue sauteing until just starting to brown. add red pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds. add sweet vermouth and simmer until reduced by half. add in tomatoes and simmer for 2-3 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off. add cream and reduce heat to almost low. squeeze 1/2 lemon and stir well. add in cooked pasta and make sure all pasta is well coated.

serve immediately and savor every bite!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fried Zucchini

yes, fried. that's panko and parmesan breaded and fried. YUM!
it seems zucchini always finds it's way into my one straw farm bag every week at the farmers market. my csa has lots of choices but i guess deep down i must really like zucchini because i always seem to get it. i decided some fried zucchini was in order to use up the end of last weeks zucchini.
this recipe is super easy and really doesn't take much time either if you are set up correctly. you can also make this an hour or so ahead of time and keep them warm and crispy in the oven. i decided to use the same breading for some chicken tenders to make for an easy dinner.
the cheesy, crunchy, garlicky zucchini is so good. every crunch yields the tender zucchini center. to die for. serve this fried zucchini over some homemade (or heck, store-bought) marinara sauce and it's pure crunchy goodness.

Fried Zucchini
(makes 4 side dishes)

2 medium-large zucchini
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs garlic mrs. dash
2 eggs
olive oil

set out two plates and one shallow bowl. pour flour on one plate, crack two eggs into shallow bowl, and mix panko, parmesan cheese, and mrs. dash on another plate. whisk eggs to even consistency.

slice zucchini into 1/2" thick rounds. dredge zucchini round in flour, dip into egg mixture, then dredge in panko/parmesan mixture. repeat with remaining zucchini rounds.

heat 1/2" of olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. when hot, add zucchini rounds and let fry approximately 2 minutes per side. drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. continue with all zucchini rounds, adding more olive oil if necessary.

serve immediately or keep warm in 175 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Caprese Salad

need another way to enjoy all of those wonderfully juicy, ripe august tomatoes? look no further than a classic caprese salad. it's a great way to use up your abundance of basil too. bonus!
nothing tastes quite as fresh and natural as a mouthful of creamy mozzerella, juicy tomato, fresh basil, and acidic balsamic vinegar. i have memories of enjoying the "real thing" in italy. one bite of this simple salad, and i'm right back to an outdoor cafe on the beach in cinque terre with N. just thinking about it makes me want to dig out my travel journal from our adventures in france and italy that summer 8(?!) years ago. . .
the other bonus of this salad is it's ridiculously easy. for real. it's almost silly to post this as a recipe. a splash of balsamic and olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a chiffonade of basil, and some chopped tomatoes and mozzerella. that's it!

Caprese Salad
serves 4-6

3-4 ripe tomatoes (i used orange and red for color - halved cherry tomatoes work wonderfully too)
bunch of fresh basil (about 10-12 leaves)
8oz mozzarella cheese(i have used both buffalo and part skim with success)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. chop tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. cut mozzarella up into same size pieces. stack basil leaves on top of each other and roll tightly into a cigarette shape. slice into thin strips - chiffonade. add everything to balsamic vinegar mix and stir well. let sit for 10 minutes to let flavors meld. stir well before serving.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My New Toy

warning: this post is not food related - proceed at your own risk!

i simply couldn't help but share my exciting news. i opened the door saturday and found a wonderful surprise . . .
my wonderful husband not only listened to my not so subtle hints about what i wanted for my birthday this year but he even ordered it 2 months early so i could enjoy it now.

enter my new canon rebel t1i.
i cannot tell you how excited i am to finally have a "real" camera. i have been wanting one for some time now (ever since my dinosaur manual canon rebel camera that uses *gasp* film became obsolete. don't get me wrong, i LOVE my canon powershot digital elph and will still use it (it's wonderful for travel - fits into a clutch or pocket perfectly) but i am simply obsessed with my new rebel.
i decided after much research to just get the body and go with the canon ef 50mm f/1.8 lens. it doesn't zoom (i already have a zoom lens and macro lens on my wish list) but it is amazing the quality of pictures this little lens takes and the great price ($99).
the night it came, i spent 2+ hours just going through the manual trying out all of the settings and playing with the different shutter speeds and aperture settings (i know, i'm a geek for reading the manual). i am by no means a photographer. i have never taken a class and know even less than nothing so hopefully you will be patient with me while i figure this thing out.
thanks to my wonderfully amazing thoughtful husband for the camera and my wonderful parents for the early birthday lens present. i love them and you!
dignan better turn that frown upside down. he and roxy will get used to being my photography subjects soon enough.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Baked Barley with Mushrooms

i rarely ever make something for a client unless i have already made it myself and tasted it. most dishes get a "test run" if you will. the exception to this rule comes for my regular client who follows a strict diet out of a book. basically, she gave me a diet book and i simply follow it to a "T". the book lays out all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. i just prepare everything and use the recipes provided.

this diet is very basic (i.e. lots of fish, vegetables, and very few carbs - only oatmeal and barley really) so the recipes are very basic and easy too. imagine my surprise when i made took the lid off the baked barley recipe and the most wonderful aroma filled my nose. i simply had to have a bite of it. i was even more surprised when not only was it complex and tasty, but i loved it.
i adapted the recipe and made it for myself later that week. the changes i made resulted in an even more delicious dish. the mushrooms lend an almost meaty flavor and the onions and garlic nearly melt into the barley making it taste almost decadent. the best way to describe it is barley risotto - that's how rich it tastes. yet it is surprisingly good for you.

according to wikipedia, "barley contains eight essential amino acids. According to a recent study, eating whole grain barley can regulate blood sugar (i.e. reduce blood glucose response to a meal) for up to 10 hours after consumption compared to white or even whole-grain wheat, which has a similar glycemic index."
i served my baked barley as a side dish to balsamic glazed salmon with fresh, juicy corn on the cob. prefection! this baked barley dish would also be a prefect fall meal but if you added some chicken or ground turkey, it could also be a great one pot summer meal. you know what that means - less dishes!

Baked Barley with Mushrooms
(makes 6-8 sides dishes)
adapted from the whole food bible

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, minced
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup barley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 tbs low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups vegetable stock

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

in large oven safe pot with lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. add shallots, onion, garlic, and cabbage. saute until tender and just starting to brown. add mushrooms and continue to cook until tender and liquid has cooked off. add pepper, barley, thyme, and rosemary. saute for 1 minute. add wine and vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour. remove from oven and stir. keep covered for 15-30 minutes until ready to serve.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Coconut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

today is my dad's birthday (happy, happy birthday dad!)
in honor of this momentous day in history (jimmy dean and antonio banderas also share this birthday) i made him his #1 requested ice cream flavor - coconut chocolate chip. i almost made him the old standby of a coconut cake but then i remembered when i first got my ice cream maker, i took flavor requests and his was coconut chocolate chip.
it all stems back to hoffman's homemade ice cream in westminster, md. dad always got coconut chocolate chip. i swear, since then he always asks places if they have coconut chocolate chip. tonight, casa de wasti not only had his favorite flavor but it was the feature (and only) flavor on the menu.
served with a side of chocolate chip cookies (there is a story behind these cookies for a later post).

it must be noted that you need to use "cream of coconut" for this recipe. do not confuse coconut milk as a suitable substitute. it's not. i found cream of coconut in the "mixers" asile in wegmans. it was nestled right along side "bloody mary mix" and "whisky sour mix" both of which i promise you would taste 100 times better if you didn't use a drink mix but back to the task at hand - ice cream.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
15 oz cream of coconut
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 oz dark chocolate (60% cacao)

whisk together milk, cream of coconut, heavy cream, and shredded coconut. add mix to ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions. i let mine whirl away for 20 minutes. while that is working, chop chocolate up into small pieces/shreds. add chocolate in for last 2 minutes of churning. store ice cream in an airtight container and put in freezer for 2-4 hours before serving.


**happy birthday dad!**
i love you like crazy and can't wait to celebrate many, many more birthdays with you:)

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Perfect BLT

nothing says late summer like a big, ripe, juicy tomato. i love the ones that are as big as my hand - they are perfect for a BLT. the biggest tomatoes make for the best BLTs because all you need is one think slice.
this is the perfect BLT according to goodcleanfun. i understand that not everyone will agree with everything i say below. that's okay. it's okay that you are wrong. it's a free country. i do highly recommend you try my suggestions below. you may surprise yourself. after-all, it's better to eat a decent BLT than no BLT at all, right?

the secret to a great BLT is not the size of the tomato (although don't get me wrong, it is key). the secret is super crispy bacon, and no skimping on it either. you need at least 2 slices if not 3 of really crispy bacon. the key to really crispy bacon is to bake it in the oven. those of you who know this secret are nodding your heads, aren't you?
for those of you who are scratching your heads, you have to try this:

1. preheat oven to 375 degree F.

2. line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

3. line up your bacon as close together as possible without overlapping.

4. bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

5. keep and eye on the bacon! i always set the timer for 15 minutes, check them and then set the timer for 5 minute intervals.

i know that everyone has a different opinion about their bacon crispness. i'm sorry, but if you like it limp, you are wrong:) i like mine just shy of burned. after you pull the bacon out, let it drain on paper towels, and then hold it up between your fingers, the bacon better stick straight out on its own. if it is the least bit droopy, the bacon is not finished! put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes!

now it's time to assemble your sandwich . . .

start with lightly toasted bread. (go with you favorite bread here. mine is whole wheat but as long as the bacon is crisp, the bread is negotiable with me.)
spread a very thin layer of mayo on it. very thin. i use hellman's olive oil mayo. that's just how i roll. again, use your favorite as long is it's not the abomination that is miracle whip. the mayo is just a moisture agent not the star of the show people!
layer on some crispy romaine lettuce. yes romaine! iceberg is nothing more than water and imparts no flavor whatsoever.
now it's time to slice up that ridiculously large, firm, ripe, deep red tomato. (it needs to be purchased at a farm stand or farmer's market people. i have yet to taste a decent store bought tomato. if you have only eaten tomatoes from the grocery store you have never had a tomato. seriously. (ok, side note. my friend from college swore she hated tomatoes. i brought her home and made her a tomato sandwich picked from my grandfather's garden. just a tomato sandwich. we are talking bread and tomatoes. that's it. she ate every last bite. stop reading, look-up the location of the nearest farmer's market, get in your car and drive, or walk, there and buy a tomato. you'll thank me).
finally, layer on that wonderful, heavenly, super crispy bacon.
wait! that's not enough bacon. layer three more half pieces the other way.
see, i told you you need 3 pieces of bacon:) cut it in half, take a bite, and thank god you are not a vegetarian*. marvel that this is damn near the most wonderful thing that has ever passed your lips then make another sandwich. i won't tell anyone. promise.

*(i apologize to those who are vegetarians or vegans out there. i meant no offense. i am also sorry you will never experience this perfection of a sandwich.)
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