Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gruyère, Fig, and Balsamic Shallot Pizza

today was a perfectly miserable day outside. it rained all day. no, it poured. we got a total of 4" of rain in 12 hours.
i basically sat on the couch all day in my pj's and plowed through stieg larsson's "the girl who played with fire". i flew through "the girl with the dragon tattoo" and couldn't wait to get my hands on the second book. i am 9/10ths of the way through it and am already planning to dive right into his third and final book, "the girl who kicked the hornets nest".
i finally got myself off the couch around 5:30, took a shower and made dinner. it was quick, easy, and amazingly delicious. the pictures aren't pretty, but this was amazing. gruyère, fig, and balsamic shallot pizza. YUM!
i actually threw on a bunch of arugula at the last minute. too bad i immediately inhaled it and didn't take a final photo. (again, my apologies for the poor one above.) this pizza barely even justifies a recipe. basically i caramelized some thinly sliced shallots (low and slow over medium-low heat with a little olive oil and salt) and added some balsamic vinegar. i let that reduce down until it was thick and poured the balsamic and shallots over some rolled out whole wheat dough. then i sprinkled some shredded grueyere cheese and laid some thinly sliced figs on the top. 12 minutes in a 450 degree F oven and it was wonderfully, bubbly, and browned. i devoured every bite.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vote for Me!

i made it to challenge #2 of the foodbuzz project food blog thanks in part to those of you who voted for me. a big THANK YOU to those who did.

it's that time again, if you are interested in voting for me and moving me along to challenge #3, click here to vote. thank you ahead of time!

you can read all about my challenge #2 entry here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Korean Barbecue Feast

my husband (on the left) served in the united states army for 5 years after college, before i ever laid eyes on him. 12 of those months were spent at camp greaves, korea, about 2 hours north of seoul. apparently he discovered a love for ramen there because since i have known him, he has consumed copious amount of it. yes, the ramen that comes in orange squares with spice packets. he spices it up with korean red chili powder or cheese, even a stray mushroom or green onion has found its way into his ramen bowl. it seems to be the easiest korean meal for him to replicate but i often hear him talking about the other dishes he loved - bi bim bap, spicy cucumbers, bulgogi, yaki-mandu, and of course his favorite korean beer - OB.

ever since our discovery of H-mart, an asian market near us, i have been thinking about making him a traditional korean meal. perhaps this challenge was just the push i needed because i found myself doing all kinds of research about korean food.
i settled on the traditional bulgogi (barbecued beef) over rice, with some sides including kimchi (fermented cabbage), spicy cucumbers, and yaki-mandu (fried egg roll).
kimchi takes a little forethought because it needs to ferment for at least 24 hours. some even think the flavor is better the longer it spends in fermentation. however, it seems no korean meal is complete without it, so i had to include this cabbage dish. the same goes for sticky rice, a integral part of nearly every meal of the day. (since kimchi is such a classic dish, i followed this recipe to a T.)

the yaki-mandu was the most labor intensive dish. filled with beef, chicken, shrimp, or pork, this fried dumpling-type dish also includes cabbage, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and soy sauce. a simple dipping sauce of tamari, red pepper, and sesame seeds completes this sure-to-be-inhaled finger food.
a quick and easy side of spicy cucumbers has a wonderful spicy bite contrasting the cool cucumbers. this was by far the easiest dish. i even had most of the ingredients already in the house.
last, but not least, the bulgogi - my favorite. marinated for 5 hours and quickly seared on both sides, this thinly sliced rib eye was super tender and full of flavor.

after tonight, i realize ramen doesn't do korean cuisine justice, but now i've at least scratched the surface. as for my husband? he has already requested the bulgogi again. i may have just scored myself some major points!

adapted from the essential asian cookbook

1 lb rib-eye steak, thinly sliced
2 tbs sesame seeds
1/3 cup Tamari Soy Sauce
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions including the white parts, thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs agave nectar
1 tbs  sesame oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
couple grinds black pepper

combine all ingredients and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
sear over medium-high heat for 1 minute per side. serve over hot rice.

adapted from

1 lb ground pork
1 large yellow onion
2 cups carrots
1/4 large napa cabbage, diced and boiled, squeeze out excess water
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, diced
2 eggs, divided
1/8 cup tamari soy sauce
16 oz round wonton wrappers

pulse onions and carrots in food processor until uniformly chopped.  in a large bowl, combine onions and carrots with cooked cabbage, green onions, mushrooms, 1 egg (lightly beaten) and soy sauce. add ground pork and mix well with your hands to combine.
whisk 1 egg in a small bowl and set aside. spoon teaspoon amounts of pork mixture into center of wonton wrappers.
using your finger, smear egg wash around half the edge of the wonton wrapper. fold in half and pinch to seal. repeat with remaining pork mixture and wonton wrappers.
fry filled yaki-mandu 2 minutes per side and serve immediately or keep warm in 145 degree F oven until ready to serve.
serve with dipping sauce: 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp red pepper paste, 1 tsp sesame seeds.

Spicy Cucumbers
adapted from

1 hothouse cucumber, quartered and sliced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp tamari soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp red pepper paste

sprinkle salt over sliced cucumbers in a colander and let sit for 1 hour. whisk remaining ingredients together in a medium bowl and toss cucumbers well. serve immediately or store in fridge until ready to serve.

a special thanks to those who read and voted for my first foodbuzz project food blog entry. this is my entry for challenge #2 - the classics. contestants are asked to pick an ethnic classic outside our comfort zone and keep the dish as authentic as possible.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Double Tomato Pasta

one of my regular clients is crazy about sun-dried tomatoes. i am always on the look out for recipes with them in it. when i saw this sun-dried tomato pasta salad recipe from the pioneer woman, i knew i had to make it.
i changed a couple of things, mainly adding more tomatoes and leaving out the olives but it turned out amazing. the tomato flavor is intense from both the sun-dried tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes and the parmesan cheese gives it a nice saltiness. some fresh basil gives it just the something the dish needs. it's great both warm and chilled making it a very versatile side dish. you could add some chicken and broccoli and make it a main dish.

Double Tomato Pasta
makes 8-10 side servings

(adapted from the pioneer woman)

1 jar sun-dried tomatoes (8.5 oz), drained, reserve olive oil
5 cloves garlic
3 tbs red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 box (16 oz) whole wheat rotini pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
12 basil leaves, chopped
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

cook pasta according to package directions.

meanwhile, pulse sun-dried tomatoes and garlic in a food processor until pureed. combine reserved olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and extra olive oil to make 3/4 cup. add oil and vinegar and pulse again until smooth. add salt and pepper to taste.

drain pasta and pour sun-dried tomato mixture over rotini. add halved cherry tomatoes, basil, and grated parmesan cheese. toss well to combine. sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese over the top before serving.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gluten-Free Cupcakes

i told you there would be more cupcakes . . .
while in new mexico, not only did i make carrot cake balls, but i also made some gluten-free chocolate cupcakes for M. i finally used my babycakes cookbook and adapted their cupcakes. actually, i made 12 cupcakes and one cake with the recipe.
these also happen to be dairy free and refined sugar-free. now before you dismiss them as flavor-free, not only did M like them, but the rest of us gluten-full people did too. i know a lot of gluten-free food is pretty good, but not until this recipe would i voluntarially eat a cupcakes labeled gluten-free. even poor M says she has never really found a gluten-free recipe for cake that actually tastes seriously good.
if you have someone in your family with a food allergy, i highly recommend this cookbook. almost all of the recipes are allergen-free (gluten, nuts, dairy, and sugar mostly). i am actually excited to try some more of the recipes in the babycakes cookbook now.
it must be noted that the chocolate icing i used is not dairy free or sugar-free but it is an old standby and is ohhh so good. i haven't found a chocolate icing recipe to beat it yet. if you are interested, babycakes has a chocolate icing recipe too.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
(adapted from babycakes)

 1 3/4 cups garbanzo-fava bean flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbs + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp salt
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee

prehead oven to 325 degrees F. line 2 muffin tins with paper liners (either makes 24 cupcakes, 12 cupcakes and 1 - 9" round cake, or 2 - 9" round cakes).

whisk together dry ingredients (flour through salt). add oil, agave, honey, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla. stir until smooth. add hot coffee and stir until incorportated.

scoop batter into paper liner filling almost to the top (about 1/3 cup each). bake for 22 minutes on center rack, rotating 180 degree after 15 minutes. remove from oven and let cool completely.

ice cupcakes with approximately 1 tbs of frosting on each cupcakes. store in airtight container in fridge.

Chocolate Frosting

9 tbs butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
9 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
7 tbs evaporated milk

use an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment to cream butter and vanilla extract until smooth, about 2 minutes. in small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and sugar. add sugar in 4 parts alternating with evaporated milk. beat until light a fluffy, approximately 4 minutes.

note: if icing seems too soft, add more sugar and cocoa, if too thick, add a little more evaporated milk.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Project Food Blog - Peach Brandy Pork

i am participating in the foodbuzz project food blog competition. for the first challenge, i am charged with describing what defines me as a food blogger.

well . . . i love food! this may be a ridiculously obvious statement due to the fact that i am both a personal chef and a food blogger but eating is the one thing i do several times a day, every day, and never get sick of. seriously, i have been eating every day of my life (10,931 days to be exact) yet i haven't grown tired of tasting and i haven't even scrapped the surface of my culinary discovery. there is still so much food i have yet to try - so many amazing smells, flavors, and edible combinations i have never even heard of let alone tasted. but, as with most things in life, food must be experienced one bite at a time. since i also love to travel, it's only fitting that one of my favorite ways to discover a new place is through the local food.
for now, life finds me a stones throw the farm i grew up on in the mid-atlantic. from a young age, eating fresh, local produce was a part of life. i distinctly remember summer nights, driving our farm jeep over the hill to our neighbors fields. we would walk the corn rows just as the lightning bugs would emerge and hand-pick our ears of sweet corn for dinner that night. it doesn't get much fresher than that!
this way of eating continues to be my #1 food philosophy, eat food that is fresh, local, and in-season. juicy red tomatoes taste best in august picked right from the vine, not in february when they no doubt started their thousand miles journey to me green and hard. it's only natural that now with the change of seasons, comes a change in what i am craving. but, in a last ditch effort to savor the last bit of summer, tonight i am merging summer and fall with peach brandy pork tenderloin.
i got my hands of a big box of the last of the peach harvest - encore peaches to be exact. these "last of the season" peaches are not as sweet as their summer cousins making them perfect for this dish. some sauteed shallots, reduced brandy, peach preserves, and a pat of butter make this mouthwatering dish the perfect way to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall. with every new season comes new things to try. as sad as i am to see the sun setting earlier and the last of summers juicy, sweet peaches, part of me cannot wait for autumns bounty!
before i close, i will leave you with my peach brandy pork recipe. the reason i began blogging in the first place was to share my recipes with those nearest and dearest to me. perhaps that is what defines me as a food blogger - my recipes.

Peach Brandy Pork
(serves 4)

1 pork tenderloin (you can also use pork chops)
salt and pepper
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs unsalted butter
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup peach preserves
3 large peaches, peeled and thinly sliced (or 2 cups frozen sliced peaches, thawed)

preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. season both sides of pork with salt and pepper. sear each side 2 minutes. remove from skillet and place in baking dish. bake until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F.

meanwhile, add butter to olive oil in skillet. add sliced shallots and saute until tender. pour in brandy and let it cook down by half. add peach preserves and peaches and simmer 3-4 minutes. reduce heat to low and keep warm until pork is cooked.

remove pork from oven when internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F. let stand for 5 minutes, loosely covered. slice and serve with peach mixture spooned over the top.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Green Goddess Dressing

i have been posting a ridiculous amount of cupcakes and sweets it seems. i do actually eat other food, promise. i have been trying to do some more baking in an attempt to improve my baking skills. plus, a new client of mine has requested cupcakes every week.
but, i think it's time to post a somewhat more balanced recipe. when i returned from a bachelorette weekend, i was craving some veggies so i threw together a salad. it was quite tasty because i had some peppery arugula which i happen to love. anyway, long story short, i finally made ina garten's green goddess salad dressing for my salad.
i have been meaning to try it for some time now mainly because i seem to usually have the ingredients in my fridge. i changed a couple of things to make it a little healthier (1/2 the amount of mayo, used olive oil mayo, and used greek yogurt instead of sour cream).
 so, enjoy this recipe, there are more cupcakes to come:)

Green Goddess Dressing
(adapted from ina garten)

1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1.4 cup water (optional, if needed)

blend all ingredients (except water) together in a blender until smooth. add water to reach desired consistency.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ravens Martini

so now that i have opened the bottle of black current liqueur, i have to come up with some other ideas besides the shady islander.
since tonight is the ravens first game and we are out of beer, i decided on a ravens martini. it's very suiting that the drink happens to be dark purple too. it must be fate.
so, here we sit, sipping our martinis and watching the jets out play our beloved ravens. a last minute touch down before the end of the first half is giving us renewed hope. here's hoping the game continues this turn around in the second half!

Ravens Martini
(makes 2 drinks)

fill shaker with ice. combine 3 ounces of your favorite vodka with 2 ounces of black current liqueur and shake well. fill 2 glasses with ice and divide contents of shaker into both glasses.


we also had our version of the classic football chili. we had garlic naan and an indian chili of sorts - baingan bharta. E actually requested this again even though he isn't even a big eggplant fan. so give this dish a chance, if nothing else, it's a great vehicle for garlic naan. i'm pretty sure that's why E likes it so much.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Shady Islander

i have been absent all week because of a super annoying summer cold. aren't those the worst? especially now when the weather is so wonderful here in the mid-atlantic. it's been in the mid-seventies during the day and actually a little chilly at night.
i have had this weekend to look forward to though. N, is up from miami for our friend L's bachelorette party in atlantic city. we decided a cocktail was in order to accompany our cheese, crackers, and guacamole.
i don't usually post drink recipes, but this one was so good, i had to share it with you all.  it's a perfect summer cocktail - fruity and refreshing. while sitting outside on our patio, drink in hand and breeze in the trees it felt almost like we were on a tropical island. i recommend you make this and celebrate the last weeks of summer.
someone gave us this bottle of blackcurrent liqueur at one of our summer solstice parties and i haven't quite known what to do with it. the recipe was on the back of the bottle - how easy is that?! E and N named it the shady islander because it looks a bit like a dark and stormy but tastes fruitier and more sinister. 

The Shady Islander
(makes 2 drinks)

2 oz blackcurrent liqueur
4 oz dark rum
4 oz pineapple juice

shake well and serve over ice.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Carrot Cake Balls

while in NM, i promised to make my brother, W, carrot cupcakes for his birthday. i'm not sure if it was the altitude or the fact that we didn't have a mixer so it was hand-mixed, but for whatever reason, the cupcakes were a utter fail. they, spread out way too much (nearly spilling over the muffin tin) and when i pulled them out of the oven, the middle sank. they were some ugly cupcakes. so ugly i couldn't bear to take a picture. my plan was just to ice them and accept the failure. after all, they did taste good (i checked).
the problem with my "fix everything with icing plan" was this: as i tried to pry them from the muffin pan, the tops basically crumbled off. that when the though hit me . . .

when life hands you deflated, ugly cupcakes, make cake balls!
i had seen something on the food network about cake balls and i even saw a food blog post about cupcakes balls. this was the answer to my ugly cupcake dilemma. i remembered the show saying cake balls were made by crumbling up baked cake and mixing it with the icing to crate a moist, compact-able dough.
i just crumbled up the cupcakes and then mixed it with the cream cheese icing i had made to spread on the cupcakes.
hence the topping became the binding.
i used a tablespoon to measure out uniform size balls and rolled them up. it made 34 balls.
i placed them all on wax paper to prevent them from sticking and then stuck them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
meanwhile, i melted white chocolate chips in a double broiler (heat-proof glass bowl over simmering water) to dip the cake balls in to make them extra pretty.
i only had enough white chocolate chips to dip 3/4 of the balls so i used extra cream cheese icing and piped it on the remaining carrot cake balls.
W said they were both good but liked the iced ones the best. he's the expert!

even though this does take extra time, it's a different, unexpected treat. i'd love to try it with chocolate cake and dip them in melted dark chocolate chips. yum!

Carrot Cake Balls
(makes 34 balls)

3/4 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

mix butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. add eggs, one at a time. in a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients. slowly add dry ingredients (flour through salt) to wet until completely mixed. add in carrots and pineapple and pour into 8x8 baking pan.

bake for 30-40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean) then remove from oven and let cool.

once cake has completely cooled, crumble into large bowl.

2 tbs cream cheese, room temperature
4 tbs butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

cream together cream cheese and butter. add powdered sugar a little at a time and then vanilla extract. whip in mixer until light and fluffy

stir icing into crumbled cake and stir well. the mixture should be able to hold together. form into uniform size balls and place in freezer for 15-20 minutes.

meanwhile, melt a bag of white chocolate chips. using tooth picks, dip semi-frozen balls into melted chocolate. place on wax paper until chocolate has set. then, enjoy!

note: you can also make a double batch of cream cheese icing and safe half for piping on top of the carrot cake balls. if you do this, keep balls refrigerated.

happy belated 32nd W!
(you're my favorite brother:)

Fondue Pot Giveaway Winner!

the winner of my one year blog-aversary giveaway is . . .

True Random Number Generator


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#47 - debbie!  she said "I like to dip strawberries and angel food cake in chocolate."

congratulations debbie. i will be contacting you to get your mailing address so you can enjoy your chocolate and cheese as soon as possible.

thanks to all 122 people who entered! i know some of you are new to good clean fun and i hope you take some time to look around. your feedback is always welcome. feel free to post a comment or drop me an email at:

welcome and thanks for visiting my little spot in the blogosphere:)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Last Chance for the Fondue Giveaway!

i will be choosing the winner of the fondue pot giveaway tomorrow (monday, september 6th) at noon est.

if you would like to be entered to win an electric fondue pot to celebrate my one year blog-aversary, click here and post a comment telling me what your favorite thing is to dip into melted chocolate. be sure to include your email address so i can contact you if you win!

good luck and happy dipping:)

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Week in Pictures

i've been visiting my adorable nieces, my favorite brother, and my fabulous sister-in-law with my mom in gorgeous new mexico. the weather has been amazing here - sunny, breezy, and 80 during the day (with no humidity - man i love the west) and cool and crisp at night. we haven't been doing much cooking but we have been having fun!

so, without further adieu, here is a peek at my week. no words, just photos . . .
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