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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Lunch Time!

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I go through phases where I buy lunch a lot at work and when I’m good at planning ahead and bringing my lunch. I’m on a phase of bringing my lunch right now. The thing for me about packing a lunch is that is still needs to be fresh an interesting and delicious. Last night I picked up some groceries to help the attempt at saving money and being slightly healthier.
Today’s (and the rest of the weeks) menu is a turkey sandwich. I know it sounds boring, but it’s not! I used a cheddar foccacia bread with smoked turkey and smoked Gouda cheese, a chipotle Dijon mayo, tomato and drag cilantro.

Yummmmmmmmmm!!

Almond and cherry cupcakes

My brother-in-laws birthday was on Sunday.  I also work with him, so I decided to make cupcakes to take to the office on Monday.  I decided to go a little bit Sandra Lee on the cupcakes, and just got a box of white cake mix and spruced it up with almond extract and chopped maraschino cherries.  The almond flavoring made a HUGE difference!  I will never make a plain boxed cake without adding it.

1 box white cake mix

3 eggs

1 and 1/3 cups water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 or 1 1/2 tablespoon(s) almond extract

1/4 cup or so maraschino cherries, chopped

1 tub store bought vanilla frosting

Prepare the cake mix according to the instructions.  Add in the extract and chopped cherries.  Divide the batter into the lined cupcake pan and cook according to the package directions.  Test by sticking a tooth pick or a piece of spaghetti into the center.  They are done when it comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes completely cool before icing.  I did half of the cupcakes with plain vanilla frosting and topped with a cherry.  I mixed half of the frosting with about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the cherry juice.  It gave it great flavor and a fun color.

Enjoy!

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Blue Cheese Cheese Ball

I LOVE cheese (in case you haven’t noticed that yet!)!!  My mum has made this cheese ball, but I’m not sure where the recipe came from originally.  Whatever angel created it, I am thankful for them.  It’s fantastic and quick and easy to put together.

2 blocks of cream cheese

2 containers processed cheddar cheese (I used BL, but my mum has used the Old English brand)

1 container blue cheese crumbles (about 5 or 6 ounces)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Craisons, walnuts or pecans

Blend all of the ingredients with a mixer (it helps to have the ingredients at room temperature).  Roll into a ball with your hands or plastic baggies.  Roll in craisons or nuts.  I prefer the craisons because they give a wonderful tart balance to the bite of the blue cheese.  Refrigerate for several hours or ideally over night.

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Herbed Cream Cheese Log

I found this recipe in my trusty “Finger Foods” cook book.  I made it for a friends house warming/ graduation party over the weekend.  It was very tasty.  I was pleasantly surprised with how easy actually making the log was, but if you want to go with an even easier appetizer you could mix in the parsley, tarragon and dill with the cream cheese form a ball and roll in the chives.  The log did make a very presentation though!

2 blocks cream cheese

2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 clove garlic

1 container fresh chives

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon

2 teaspoons dill (I used dried, but fresh would be better)

Make a paste with the garlic.  I used minced garlic and then pulled a knife sideways across the garlic until it breaks down.  This helps spread the flavor throughout the whole thing and eliminate a potent bite.

Mix the cream cheese (dong this at room temperature is best), lemon juice and garlic with an electric mixer.

Cover a jelly roll pan with tin foil.

Snip the chives in small pieces and spread evenly over the foil.  Spread the cream cheese over the chives.  I ended up using my hands, because it kept sticking to the spatula and knife.  Chop the parsley and tarragon.  Sprinkle the herbs (including the dill) across the top of the cream cheese.

Pull the short end of the foil up and fold the cheese a few inches in.  Keep rolling into a log with the help of the foil.  Use your fingers to smooth any sections.  Once you reach the other end and it’s a lovely log.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or over night.

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Happy Father’s Day!!

Sadly I didn’t get to spend the day with my dad, but am so grateful to have such an amazing dad!!  He rarely would do things for me (mostly fixing things), but would always teach me as he did and show me how to do it.  I am so grateful for this, because I may not remember how to do something completely but at least know where to start.  He has always been supportive and loving and I’m a lucky girl!

How did you celebrate your dad today?

 

 

 

Cherry Clafouti

I saw this recipe in my latest edition of Bon Appetit magazine and knew I had to make it.  It looks (and I found, smells) like summer.  It is the perfect recipe to have it your summer rotation, especially if you like to entertain.  It uses simple, fresh ingredients, is very quick to prepare and really just offers that simple fresh summer taste that is unbeatable.  I already have a list of other seasonal fruits to adjust the recipe with, so stayed tuned soon for black raspberry clafouti, peach clafouti, raspberry and mint clafouti, blueberry clafouti… I actually cut the original recipe in half when I made it, so you will see that it made 4 individual servings in ramekins for me.  If you follow the recipe below don’t be surprised when it makes a full cake or numerous ramekins, be delighted!

1 pound fresh cherries, steamed and pitted

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

4 large eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 tsp finely and freshly grated lemon zest

3/4 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp kosher salt

powdered sugar (to dust after baking)

You will need a 10″ spring form pan or 8 ramekins

Preheat the over to 375.  Butter pan or ramekins.  Spread the cherries in a single layer in the pan or dishes.

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan; bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Set aside. Combine eggs, flour, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to blend. Gradually whisk in hot milk mixture; whisk until custard is smooth. Pour custard evenly over cherries in pan. If necessary, gently shake pan to allow custard to settle.

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Bake clafouti until custard is set and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes for ramekins and 45-55 minutes for cake pan. Let cool 3 minutes, then run a knife around pan sides to loosen clafouti (if using a cake pan). Dust top with powdered sugar; cut into wedges and serve.

Grape Salad (Take recipe cards for this with you to the picnic)

My aunt made this grape salad a while back for a picnic, and I thought it was so delicious and asked for the recipe.  I made it for a picnic at my friends house.  I had to e-mail the recipe to several people the next day.  After hearing that the reception after church after the baptism was a pot luck, I decided to make this.  The bowl was scraped clean and was the talk of the luncheon, with several requests for the recipes.  If you want to be proactive and really wow your friends and family, pre type up some recipe cards for the inevitable, “who made that”, “can you send me the recipe” because you will hear it!  Or of course, you can direct them to my blog to get the recipe!

4-5 pounds grapes (I mix half green and half purple)

1 cup sour cream (I used lite)

1 TBS vanilla

1 block cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Rinse the grapes and mix them in a large bowl.  Mix the sour cream with the vanilla in one bowl.  In a separate bowl mix the cream cheese and sugar.  (You do have to do this in 2 steps)  Then combine the sour cream mixture with the cream cheese.  Pour over the grapes and mix.  Combine the brown sugar and pecans and spread over the grapes.  It tastes best when you do this the night before because it gives the brown sugar and pecans a chance to caramelize a bit.

The type of weekend that summers are made for

In the past few weeks spring and summer weather has finally arrived in Pittsburgh after quite a long stent of rain in May.  It was a great weekend spent with friends and family.  It was one of those weekends that make you fall asleep with a smile still on your face and your heart full of joy.

Friday evenings festivities began directly after work when I met a few friends right after work for some dinner and drinks to celebrate my good friend, Nick’s, birthday.  After dinner we went to the Pirate’s game.  It was a great day and night for a baseball game at PNC park.  We didn’t make it there until the 6th inning, but luckily it was a tie that took the game to 12 innings!  And, the Pirates WON!!  It was a fantastic night and an exciting way to celebrate another year of Nick’s life.

Saturday morning brought a trip to the zoo with my family.  It also happened to be my parents 34th anniversary.  We got to see lots of animals, and the favorite part for me and my 2 year old niece, Claire, was watching the elephants play in the water.  After the zoo we had a late lunch at Narcisi Winery in Gibsonia.  If you are in the area, you should definitely check it out.  They have amazing outdoor seating, great wine list and wonderful menu.  I can be picky when it comes to wine, and find a lot of smaller local wine to be too sweet for my taste.  They had a really nice selection, and did have several sweet fruity wines, but also had dry reds and whites.  Megan and I enjoyed their flagship wine, Stella.  You can check out their listings and menu here www.narcisiwinery.com.  I had the Pasta Lulu which was delicious.

Sunday was my niece Avery’s baptism.  We were surrounded by lots of family and great friends.  My dad baptized the baby at his home church.  Avery was the 5th generation to be baptized at the same font, and 4 of the generations were there today!  After church we joined in a pot luck lunch that was already scheduled for the church, specifically recent graduates.  It was so nice to catch up with everyone.  Sunday evening brought some more fun in the sun at the pool.

It really was a fantastic weekend, and I hope everyone else had just as great of a weekend!!

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Pasta with toasted breadcrumbs and broiled cheesy tomatoes

I was recently checking one of my favorite blogs, Noble Pig,  to find new recipes and inspiration.  I saw her recipe with a simple pasta dinner with basil and parmesan broiled tomatoes, and had to try it.  I combined that idea with another recipe for pasta with toasted bread crumbs I had found in my Quick Fixes cookbook.

I don’t think I will ever have pasta without the tomatoes broiled cheese, it was really delicious.

Whole wheat pasta

Olive Oil

Plum Tomatoes (figure on about 3 or 4 slices per person)

Mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

Breadcrumbs (I used panko)

1/2 TBS minced garlic

Fresh lemon juice

Boil water and cook the pasta in salted water according to the directions.  Cut the tomatoes in thick slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven at 375 for about 5 minutes to soften.  While the tomatoes are roasting, heat olive oil in the skillet.  Add the garlic and cook for just a minute.  Add the bread crumbs and sprinkle with the lemon juice.  Toast the breadcrumbs until they are golden.  Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss with the breadcrumbs.  Add the basil and let it wilt slightly.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese and put under  the broiler for 2-4 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly.  Top each plate with a few slices of the tomato and a leaf of fresh basil.

Scallop Burgers with Cilantro Lime Mayonaise

I am a huge food nerd.  I admit I spend hours a week flipping through my cook books and reading other food blogs and recipes sites.  When I found this recipe on http://www.food.com, I knew I had to try it as soon as possible because I really like scallops and like absolutely LOVE cilantro!  It has been long been a running joke in my family about how much I love scallops, because years and years (perhaps even a decade <gross!>) my grandpa had made scallops for us for dinner and I mentioned how good they were and how much I liked scallops.  Since he is the sweetest and kindest guy in the world, scallops were also on the menu the next time we went for dinner.  While we were eating them, he asked if I liked them and I of course replied that I did (because I honestly did!).  The next few times we were there he either made them or asked which of us liked them, and my family would all reply that we all did but I was the one who REALLY loved them.  If you mention scallops to my family, they will vouch for how much I love them 🙂  I would happily have my grandpa cook me scallops for many more years to come!

Phew, got a bit off subject!  Anyways, luckily I was able to convince my friend and taste tester Mandy to come over for dinner on Tuesday to give this a whirl.  Overall, we were both fans of the burgers.  In the future I would take the advice of using the food processor to chop the scallops and other ingredients (I did this by hand, trying to avoid another dirty dish!).  I think having the scallops diced a bit finer would have helped them stay together a little bit better.  I would reserve a bit of the scallops and roughly chop so you still had some bigger chunks in some bites.  Also, the recipe said to make them into little sliders which would be cute for a party, but since it was just Mandy and I, we made them burger size.

Scallop Burgers                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 medium vidalia onion, finely diced

2 TBS butter

2 lbs fresh sea scallops (since we were just making burgers for us, I used 3/4 of a pound)

3 TBS flour

3 TBS panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 TBS fresh lime juice

1 TBS freshly grated ginger

2 TBS oil

12 mini buns (or a few large buns)

Cilantro Lime Mayonnaise

4 TBS fresh lime juice (I used about 2 1/2 limes, but honestly didn’t measure)

1/2 tsp hot sauce

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Finely the dice the onion and then saute in butter until translucent.  Remove from the heat and set to the side to cool.

While the onions are cooking, chop the finely chop the cilantro.  Mix the mayonnaise with the remaining ingredients until combined.  Put the mayo in the fridge to let the flavors meld.

Chop scallops (or chop in the food processor) until coarsely chopped.  Transfer to large bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients, except the vegetable oil.  I had to use slightly more flour and a bit extra of the bread crumbs.  Add the onions (which we forgot, so they were a topping on the burger).    If the mixture seems to lose add either more egg or flour.

Shape the mixture into little “slider” size or larger patties and place on lined dish.  Put the patties in the fridge to cool for about 1 hour or in the freezer for about 15 or 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in the skillet and place the patties or sliders in the pan until the scallops appear translucent and the patties are golden brown.

Place the burgers in the buns and top with the cilantro lime mayo and enjoy!  I served the burgers with a mixed greens salad with tomatoes, avocado and grilled corn kernels with a cilantro lime vinaigrette.