Friday, May 27, 2011

Pesto Lasagne

Pesto <span class=Lasagne">

After a trip I crave a nice meal at home. Going out is nice and one of my favorite thing to do, but making a hot delicious meal for my family at the end of the day gives me much more satisfaction. Dishes on the other hand, do not. This is a very light and thinner lasagna with gorgeous layers of fresh basil pesto, Parmesan cheese and bechamel sauce. It doesn't have globs of cheese but rather a dusting of Parmesan cheese on each layer. I figure it is the perfect reason to eat dessert afterwards! Note: I never said this was low fat. I just said it was light as in you don't feel heavy afterwards.

Pesto Lasagne
Adapted from Debi Mazar and Gabrielle Corcos
serves 9


  • Pesto, recipe follows
  • Besciamella, recipe follows
  • Butter, for baking dish, plus more for topping
  • 1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no boil lasagna noodles or regular pasta noodles, boiled.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Pesto:
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, about 4 ounces
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Besciamella:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 13 by 9 by 4 baking dish and add a thin layer of besciamella (bechamel sauce). Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles, and then another thin layer of besciamella. Gently spread about 4 tablespoons pesto across the surface, and then top with about 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Repeat until you finish layering the lasagne. Top with a final layer of noodles and spread a final very thin layer besciamella, pesto, Parmesan cheese and a little butter to help the cheese crisp-up when cooked in the oven.

Cook the lasagne for about 30 minutes. Serve dressed with some Parmesan and a drop of extra-virgin olive oil.

Fresh Pesto:

Combine the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in a mortar and pestle and pound until paste forms. Add the Parmesan cheese, Pecorino cheese, salt and pepper and stir until smooth.

Keep the pesto in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.

Mix the pasta and the pesto...serve garnished with some grated Parmesan (just a touch), fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of olive oil.


Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Cook's Note: This is an important moment, as you have to slowly toast the flour without burning it. This will help you lose the flowery taste.

Warm up the milk and gradually ladle into the pot with the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly while bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season the sauce with freshly grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper.


This is a crucial moment for your pesto, as you need to season with salt and pepper. Keep in mind that Parmigiano and Pecorino are both dry and salty cheeses. You have to taste your sauce a few times in order not to go overboard when you are seasoning it.

If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk, if too runny, return to the heat and add a pat of butter mixed with an equal amount of all-purpose flour. The most important thing though is: besciamella should not taste floury. If you think your sauce is ready, but you can spot a hint of "flouriness" when you taste it, think again, and keep on cooking it for a few minutes more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake

Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake

The concert was awesome! U2 rocked the house. 76,000 people packed into Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. Loud music, rowdy fans and the smell of beer and cigarettes in the air (and maybe another kind of smoke smell as well). Jeremy figured this one concert brought in around $34 million dollars. And this was the 89th show of the tour. Holy cow! U2 did not disappoint at all. They sang most of their all time hits including: Where The Streets Have No Name, With or Without You, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Beautiful Day, One (my favorite), Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Walk On, I Will Follow, Until The End Of The World, and All I Want Is You, among others.

concert pictures taken with the iphone so not the best quality



We also ate at really great restaurant while in Denver. I took Jeremy to The 9th Door which is a super cool Spanish tapas place with homemade sangria and divine food like pan fried artichoke hearts with lemon aioli drizzle and fried goat cheese in a spiced honey and prosciutto wrapped pears with Manchengo cheese. All in all an awesome place, with brick walls, candles, and live guitar Spanish music. The other highlight was this amazing breakfast place called Snooze. You have to get here early or there is always a very long wait. People do wait though, willingly because it is a unique restaurant. They serve organic coffee flown in fresh twice a week from Guatamala. Also their food is interesting and they encourage you to order half orders, customize the menu, and get a side of anything you want so you can sample to your hearts content. I got a half order of their version of eggs benedict. It was a smaller size sourdough toast topped with super creamy Taleggio cheese, prosciutto, a perfectly poached egg, Hollandaise and balsamic drizzle with fresh arugula on top. I might have also ordered a flight of their pancakes which flavors were: Pineapple upside down pancake with brown sugar, cinnamon syrup and chunks of fresh pineapple, then a red velvet pancake with a perfect cream cheese sauce followed by a lemon blueberry bar pancake. Heaven. Jeremy got a hash with arugula and basil and an egg on top accompanied by a side of cinnamon roll french toast.

our orders at Snooze:




We had many other delectable meals as well, like at Rioja which is located right on Larmier St. and serves an artichoke truffle tortellini to die for. Also a dinner at Ocean Prime which is basically an upscale steak house that focuses on fish but also serves steak. They have great sides a la carte like creamed spinach that tastes like straight up smoked bacon, and truffle mac and cheese. We had king crab legs to start. The waiter said they came form one of the "Deadliest Catch" boats. While there, I noticed the table next to us had a plaque on it that read "reserved for Bono" . I was really excited until the party showed up and Bono was not a part of it. It was three men with plans and paperwork and iphone and laptops. They knew Bono and were affiliated with the U2 concert somehow because they kept talking about it and him. I heard little snippets between conversation.

Amidst all this I got my mid-day mall tropical mojito I told you about. See? My trip was so fun!

Cocktail Time

Well, since I am just returning, I have a recipe to share that I made a few months back. I decided to wait and blog about it now because I thought it was more a spring food. I decided upon this particular recipe because it uses kirsch as the flavoring instead of vanilla. Kirsch is a cherry flavored liqueur and you can pick it up at any liquor store for a couple bucks. I find that the kirsch really adds to the fruitiness of the cake. This is a beautiful dessert and a fine breakfast the next day. You can even toast the leftover slices in the morning. Toasted pound cake with a bit of butter is insane.

Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake
adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

2 cups plus 8 Tbsp. cake flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

1 2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature

2 Tbsp. kirsch

1 cup blueberries, rinsed and dried well

1 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried well


1. Set an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Butter a standard-sized 9-cup bundt pan and dust it with flour, shaking out any excess. (If your pan in nonstick, you can get away with a simple coating of cooking spray, no flour needed.)

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons flour, the baking powder and salt.

4. In the bowl of a food processor, blend eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add butter and kirsch, and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture looks curdled, don’t worry. Add dry ingredients and process just to combine. Do not over mix. The batter should be thick and very smooth.

5. In a large bowl, toss berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

6. Transfer cake to a rack, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully invert the cake out of the pan onto the rack, and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Roast Chicken with Tangerines, Rosemary and Honey

I first published this recipe way back when I had no followers, so since I am on a little vacation I decided to re-publish it and put this very deserving recipe in the spotlight again. I'm ashamed to admit I cannot figure out how to remove the small pictures and process them through Flickr to make them larger, so be patient with me. As I mentioned below, this is the perfect method for roasting a chicken. If you have never attempted this before I really recommend you do it this way first to ensure success.

I love roasting whole chickens. I used to be afraid to attempt it. I have had visions of undercooked, raw bird and blood. Then having to deal with the dilemma of "do I stick it back in the oven and guess as to when it would be done?" Of course, I was always wrong with the guess resulting in a tough and dry bird. This trauma coupled with the fact that I once made a roast chicken for my Grandma Grillo that was a tad undercooked. I cannot even describe the level of freak out she had. I don't even know what happened exactly. I know she has always been concerned about salmonella but the next thing I knew my Grandpa was putting the dish of already carved chicken into the microwave to cook it longer. Gasp. This night resulted in making Jeremy a complete freak about salmonella. It was all too much chicken trauma for me, I suppose. I thought "chicken breasts for me!" But then, a couple years ago I stumbled upon the perfect method for roasting a chicken. So perfect, it's fittingly called "perfect roasted chicken". That recipe is in a word, fabulous and I normally don't deviate away from it, but instead, I will do variations of it. Once you have the method down, you can do anything you want with roast chicken. I love the versatility of it and there is nothing and I mean nothing better than the smell of roasting chicken and herbs when you are done with the day. I usually stuff mine with 1 halved whole garlic head, lemons and thyme and I scatter onions with a bit of olive oil on the bottom of the roasting pan and stick the chicken on top. Then, I'll rub it with a bit of melted butter and salt and pepper it. It smells like you died and went to heaven after the first 5 minutes. My Mom, who made the occasional roast chicken while I was growing up, would cover it in every spice she could find in her pantry. I'm not kidding, whatever she had, it seemed, went on this bird. Chili powder and lemon pepper for sure, accompanied by any combination of garlic salt, Lawry's salt, cayenne, and Mrs. dash, I imagine. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if she unloaded a bottle of hot sauce on the poor thing too. I don't think my mom really gave much thought to which spices go best together as much as she thought, "the more spice (of any kind) the tastier". I think that is her motto overall. It will probably come as no surprise when I tell you that my Mom loves salt. She is known to over salt things, if only on her own plate. She absolutely loves lemon juice too. Actually, she probably squeezed lemon juice over the whole chicken before adding all those spices. She puts it in practically everything she can.

I decided last night to deviate from my favorite roast chicken and try something new. I still stuck to the same tried and true method though. I think the trick is to buy a chicken within the 5-6lbs range. If they are a little lighter, that's OK too, but don't stray too far from that range. At that weight, you can cook it at 425 for exactly 1 1/2 hours and it will be perfect. Just make sure you cover it in foil after it's done to let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This is essential, because all the juices redistribute back through the meat during the rest period, making it moist. If you cut into it right away and don't let it rest, it will surely be dry. Sometimes at our house, when we cut into the dark meat the juice will look a little pink, but it is always due to there being blood on the bone ( I know, it's gross, but it's a fact of life) This does not mean the meat is not cooked. To ensure the chicken is safe to eat, after letting it rest out of the oven for a couple minutes, pierce the skin between the leg and the thigh with a knife. If the juice that runs out is clear (not pink or bloody) then you are golden. If not, I don't know what to tell you because it has never happened to me using this method with the right size chicken. (although, we can probably all assume that you could just stick it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes or so)

This is a great springtime chicken, I think. Not that it wouldn't be great any season. The citrus and slight sweetness is a welcome change. Also, I have to admit, my Mom's "everything but the kitchen sink" philosophy on chicken, is pretty darn tasty too.

Roast Chicken with Tangerines, Rosemary and Honey
adapted from Eugenia Bone's Recipe, Food and Wine Magazine

1- 5-6lb whole roasting chicken
4 garlic cloves, peeled
6 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 tangerines, washed and halved
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup honey
salt and
freshly ground pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Set the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and stuff the cavity with the garlic cloves, rosemary, and 4 of the halved tangerines. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine (available at the supermarket) Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and rub with the olive oil. Squeeze the remaining two tangerine halves over the top, and then pour on the wine. Drizzle the chicken with the honey and season with salt and pepper. Add a cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the pan.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, but 30 minutes into roasting, cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil (so the honey won't burn) then, 30 minutes or so from the time the chicken will be done, add the remaining 3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth to the bottom of the pan (the first cup will have evaporated, and the pan will have black drippings)

Let the chicken rest at room temperature covered in aluminum foil for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it (you may however, pierce the skin between the leg and the thigh to check for
done-ness) Pour the pan juices into a gravy separator and remove the oil/fat from the top. (alternately pour the drippings into a cup and spoon the fat from the top and discard)

Serve the chicken, carved with the pan juices poured on top.

I like to serve this dish with roasted sweet potatoes and an arugula salad with Parmesan cheese shavings and sunflower seeds mixed with a simple lemon and olive oil salt and pepper vinaigrette that I make myself. If you are using bottled dressing, I'd pick a red wine vinaigrette.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry Tart

Last weekend Jeremy and I went to a marriage conference. It was nothing short of awesome. In fact, we were required to write each other a love letter. How cool is that? This weekend, starting, ahem, today (that's Wednesday folks) we are going to Denver for a really long weekend all by ourselves. I got a shellac manicure, four nights worth of dinner reservations, an appointment for high tea at the Brown Palace, shopping at Park Meadows with the necessary stop at the California Cafe for a tropical mojito mid-day...Oh yeah, and tickets to U2!!! I bought the tickets in February and had to pinch myself because going to see U2 in concert is one of those things I wish I could do year after year, and is also a bucket list item for many people including me, but not something I would necessarily plan. It's usually one of those "Oh, I'll see them someday". Only the problem with "someday" that is sometimes you put it off too long and it never ends up happening. I made it happen because I hate the thought of that. I am seriously beyond excited to see this concert, however, I find it a little strange that I think I'm looking more forward to spending alone time with my husband. You see, he is a very good husband and well, I got a very good love letter.

Kel took this amazing picture of us at the marriage conference

Krysta and Jeremy

Strawberry Tart

My husband loves Strawberry tarts. He used to work at a hotel in Vail back when he was a "ski-bum" who would later move to Steamboat and train for the US Ski Team (moguls) before blowing out his knee. Boo! Anywho, back at that hotel they used to serve Strawberry Tart and he remembers eating them a lot. I think theirs was just the tart shell and berries, no pastry cream, which was fine with Jeremy because his favorite thing in the world is a little doctored up pie crust. This was awesome for a guy who was on a steady diet of Fruit Loops at the time.

Strawberry Tart

This strawberry tart, I'm happy to report is the real thing. Delicious and thick vanilla bean flecked pastry cream and all. Strawberry tart is a pleasant, unassuming dessert. All It's flavors blend easily into the others and you can be sure it's welcome on any dessert table. I love the fresh berries with the cream filling the most. It goes without saying that Jeremy's favorite part is the buttery crust. Opposites attract even with food preferences. I suppose that's what makes us such a good team.

Strawberry Tart
Adapted from Bouchon, By Thomas Keller

Pastry Cream
makes 3 cups

2 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 cup loosely packed cornstarch
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or liqueur or your choice (I used amaretto)

2 quarts strawberries, rinsed, dried and hulled for topping

Combine 1 2/3 cups of the milk and 5 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the pan along with the pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup milk and the cornstarch in a small bowl.

Whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper it, then return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until the pastry cream comes to a simmer and thickens. The mixture will become lumpy, so whisk vigorously. When the mixture is very thick, remove from the heat and continue to whisk to break up any remaining lumps. Let the pastry cream cool for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking often, then whisk in the butter and the Grand Marnier.

Immediately pour the pastry cream into a baking dish and press a piece of plastic across the surface of the cream; let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. (The pastry cream can be prepared up to 2 days in advance).


11 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (scant 2 cups) all-purpose flour
Butter and flour for the tart pan

Combine the butter and confectioners sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream until smooth. Mix in the egg. Add the salt, then gradually add the flour and mix until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. Butter and flour a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Flour a pastry board or other work surface. Roll the dough into an 11-to-12 inch circle about 1/4 inch thick, flouring the dough and board as necessary to keep it from sticking. Roll up the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it into the tart pan. Gently lift the edges to ease the dough into the corners of the pan, then push down gently to be certain the dough around the sides is 1/4 inch thick. Use a pairing knife to cut excess dough from the rim of the pan. If there are any holes, cracks, or thin spots in the sides of the crust, pat a bit of the dough scraps over them to create an even thickness.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line the tart shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Do not push down on the beans or they may damage the dough. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Do not rush the process--if the weights are removed too early, the sides of the crust will shrink. Remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 10-15 minutes, or until it is an even rich golden brown and the bottom is thoroughly cooked. Place on a cooling rack and cool completely.

To serve: No more than 4 hours before serving, transfer the pastry cream to a medium bowl. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Whisk the cream to loosen it slightly; do not over whip or it may thin out too much. The pastry cream can be piped, using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip or spooned into the shell.

Fill the shell about two-thirds full (the level will rise when you add the berries). Smooth the surface with an offset spatula. There may be a little extra pastry cream. Heap the berries on top of the tart. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spinach, Sweet Potato and Quinoa "Salad" with Salsa Verde


Alright vegan friends, AND carnivore friends. Attention. My friend Danielle made this one night for dinner and invited us over. She had told us about it before. I knew we were going to eat this when we showed up at their house that night. What I didn't know was just how much I was going to like it. I mean, who knew sweet potatoes, quinoa and spinach could taste so good? I certainly didn't. You can't know what I mean unless you make this. The quinoa is highly seasoned with cilantro, diced pickled jalapeno, and salsa verde. The spinach is sauteed in garlic, and the sweet potatoes are roasted, simply...but for some reason when you combine all of it along with creamy avocado, more salsa verde and perhaps a few dashes of Cholula hot sauce, good things happen my friends.

This is the sort of meal you will make over and over again because you will impress yourself, like we did. You will pat yourself on the back for making such a healthy meal taste so dang good. And it's really filling, so that's a bonus. The meal is as simple as you can get, but it does require a bit of prep. I like to make the quinoa in the afternoon and let it sit out, covered, until I'm ready to mix everything in later that evening. The quinoa can either be served warm or at room temperature, so it works out great. You roast the sweet potato about an half hour before eating, so really all that needs to be done come show time is a quick saute of the spinach and and a mixing of the quinoa. FYI, this recipe makes a lot of quinoa. You will have some left over. If you are not a huge quinoa eater, half the recipe. As written, the recipe yields about 2 cups of cooked quinoa per person. You won't need that much unless you have some hungry people to feed. I won't change the quantities because sometimes it all gets eaten.

Spinach, Sweet Potato and Quinoa "Salad" with Salsa Verde
adapted from, The Conscious Cook

serves 4

4 medium sized sweet potatoes
olive oil
1 huge 16 oz box of fresh baby spinach
6 cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced
2 cups whole grain quinoa
1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
3-4 tablespoons diced pickled jalapeno
juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Herdez brand Salsa Verde ("tomatillo" or green salsa), plus more for topping
2 avocados, cut into chunks
Cholula hot sauce, for serving

For the quinoa:
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Rinse 2 cups quinoa in a mesh strainer under running water for a few seconds. Add 2 quinoa to the boiling water and bring back to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat for 12 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all the water. Remove from heat, fluff, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Yields about 8 cups.

When quinoa is ready, mix in the cilantro, pickled jalapeno, lime juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and Herdez salsa. Set aside until ready to use.

For the sweet potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Pile potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread potatoes in a single layer and roast for 25 minutes, or until soft in the middle and lightly browned. Set aside.

For the spinach:
While potatoes are roasting, prepare the spinach. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2-3 tablespoon olive oil and add garlic. Saute for about 1 minute. Add spinach a bit at a time and turn the heat down to low. Toss spinach around until it wilts a bit and you can add more spinach to your pot. Once spinach is all in, cover the pot and let the spinach wilt down for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper and toss.

To eat:
Put a layer of spinach on the bottom of your plate. Next, add a heaping mound of quinoa, and top with sweet potatoes. Lastly, add chunks of fresh avocado and more green salsa on top. Sprinkle with black pepper for a pretty presentation. Serve at the table with more salsa and hot sauce.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cucumber Mint Hummus and Getting To Know You


I want to get to know you a little bit. I have some new people commenting and a few followers that I don't know very well and I would like to remedy that! I'd love to hear from ALL of you! If you have the time or find this exercise fun in any way, oblige me and answer in the comments section. In turn, If you read another persons answers that you like, go on over and check out their blog. I have the best little network going on if I do say so myself. I have already answered the questions myself.

Wanna play? In the comments section, answer the following 6 questions about yourselves. I want to hear from anyone who is willing, even if you are my best friend and I see you every other day, and even if I don't know you from Adam. Because then I will know you. I'm totally weird about making friends in real life. It has to happen organically under very natural circumstances. As I like to joke "conditions have to be perfect". This is because I really dislike shallow relationships. I'm not spread real wide, but I go deep, baby! Anyhow, I'm a lot more friendly over the Internet, so I'd like to take advantage of that. :)

1) Describe yourself in 5 words:

-straight-up (what you see is what you get. I wear my emotions on my sleeve)
-spunky (not so much in an excitable, physical way, well sometimes, but more so verbally)

2) If you could eat anything in an elaborate sit down dinner with your significant other what would you eat/drink? And where would this take place?

This would take place on the beach, complete with candles, tiki torches and white linen. We would be alone, except for the waiter serving us. We would eat a long course after course dinner under the stars. Too hokey? We would drink good champagne and eat a big fresh lobster dinner. Usually I'm a shrimp or white fish girl, but today, it's lobster with lots of lemon and butter. For dessert we would have some sort of tropical bread pudding with mango, coconut and Tahitian vanilla beans.

OK so that's the dinner dream. I also have a vivid lunch dream. I dream about food a lot.

Jeremy and I would be at a casual beach cafe (I'm on a beach kick) right on the sand, no floor. There would be a live reggae or calypso band playing. I would be in the cutest dress with a great tan, but that's just a side note. We would sit and drink cold beer or margaritas and eat from the fresh seafood BBQ they were having right on the beach. We would hang out all day. There would also be fresh tropical fruit platters for snacking. After sunset we would dance by the bonfire the restaurant lit with the live band that was still playing...What? It could happen. And if any of you know a place like this please, let me know!

3) Top five places I want to visit someday:

-Italy (Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Almafi Coast, Capri...OK well, all of it, really)
-Paris, France
-The Holy Land

Um, Greece should be up there too. It used to be #2 where Bali is, but have you seen Bali??? It's ridiculous gorgeous! Oh, so is Thailand. OK, so top 7 would include those too.

4) What are things most important to you in this life?

In order. My relationship with God, or as I like to call him, "The Lord". My relationships with my husband and family. Then, friends and people in general. I'm realizing how important relationships are. I am aspiring to learn what loving your neighbor is really all about and what that looks like.

5) Pet Peeves?

Picky eaters. Also when people use the first letter of someones name instead of actually saying their name. I have a formal side to me that hates this. Example : "Let's see what K thinks about this" instead of "Let's see what Krysta thinks about this". Maddening, I tell you. Maddening!

6) This is your life. Are you who you want to be?

I'm working on it.

And now...A recipe. Gosh, this is a food blog isn't it? This is not regular hummus. It tastes nothing like regular hummus. This is light and refreshing and a perfect "deck snack" as we head into Summer.

Cucumber Mint Hummus
created by my friend Danielle Heit, hummus extraordinaire

2 cans garbanzo beans (chick peas) drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tahini
juice from 2 lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 an English cucumber (sometimes called "hot house cucumbers") skin on, chopped
1/2 a container of mint leaves (about 15-20 medium sized leaves)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and blend until combined. While still blending, stream in olive oil a little a time and then continue to blend for at least a whole minute to make sure it's really smooth. Taste and add more salt or mint if you wish.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Leite's Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie

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I made these suckers a while ago but I think at the time, I was up to my ears in desserts to blog about. I went through my pictures from the last couple of months and found these. I instantly smiled and stared a little too long, reliving the fond memories. This cookie is not like all the other chocolate chip cookies out there. This cookie isn't studded with cute chips throughout. Oh, no. This cookie has HUGE chunks of chocolate throughout, making the finished product a sort of warm half cookie, half melty chocolate concoction that is pure bliss. And, I didn't even really love, love chocolate chip cookies to begin with. All that has changed.

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The recipe uses bread flour and cake flour. It's important to use the different flours to achieve the right texture for your cookie. Cake and bread flour is not expensive. Just buy some, okay? The other thing is you will want to use high quality chocolate. I like to buy bars and just cut it into seriously big chunks. Last time I used a combination of fat baking chocolate bars and Ghiradelli, but that's only because I couldn't find any Valrhona or E. Guittard chocolate in my town. You will need a lot of chocolate for this recipe. This is no cheap cookie. Also, something rather interesting: you sprinkle your raw cookie dough balls with sea salt before baking. Don't skip this step. Salt brings out the sweet. It's to die for. Sea salt is the best to use. Kosher is too coarse and not as salty. I like cookies freshly baked, so typically when I make a batch of dough, I form it all into balls, bake only what I need at the time and chuck the rest in a gallon sized Ziploc bag and put them into the refrigerator or freezer. When you want fresh baked cookies just add about 5-7 extra minutes of cooking in the oven. No need to defrost.

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As for me, I am writing this at my computer listening to Shania Twain's "From This Moment On" because she was on Oprah the other day and, I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, but if you are on Oprah, I get a little obsessed with you for a week or so. I used to listen to this song
at my Dad's house all through my sophomore year. I used to sing to myself in the mirror. I thought I might dance to this song when I got married. I loved Shania. Flash forward 14 years later when I hear who the guest is and I think "Why in the world is Oprah wasting one of her coveted last twenty shows on an interview with Shania Twain?!?" The love I had for her was gone. Where the hell had she been all these years? Fickle fame. Turns out she had a pretty juicy story of love and betrayal. After one hour I was back on the Shania bandwagon although I didn't even find her particularly endearing. Fickle fame.

Shoot. Now I have gone off on this rabbit trail and I'm trying desperately to find a way to fuse chocolate chip cookies and Shania Twain. It's not going to happen, folks. So, today you get a killer cookie recipe and a random paragraph. Bake the cookies. They will more than make up for it.

Leite's Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie
Adapted from David Leite via The New York Times via Smitten Kitchen, (phew!)

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or big chunks of chocolate, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and try to incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for up to 72 hours, or at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally and chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18-20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with the remaining dough, or reserve, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

You can find Valrhona's feves or oval shaped chocolate pieces (perfect for this recipe), at Whole Foods in half pounds. Baking disks can be found from a number of brands, from Jacques Torres to E. Guittard (Fresh Direct used to sell these by the quarter pound, but now just in one pound boxes, but still at a very reasonable price) to Ghiradelli. Can't find them? Use the largest chocolate chips you can find, or break apart baking bars like I mentioned above.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lunch Ideas-Sandwich Style

I sometimes feel like lunch is the "ugly stepchild" of mealtimes. It's often overlooked, or chowed on the go while the real focus falls on dinner. I'm here to say no more! Lunch can be surprisingly enjoyable, even if you are a busy stay-at-home mom, like me. I have a friend that does lunch up like I do on most days. We wait until nap time when the house is quiet and we can sit and fully enjoy the meal, without little kids biting our ankles. :) I'll prep my lunch before, while they are still awake, and then assemble and eat after bedtime. That way I can maximize my downtime. We are worth it, right? let's make a little time for ourselves. No more scarfing down nutrigrain bars between laundry loads and calling it acceptable. Yes? Yes!

I'm not suggesting you meal plan your lunches in advance. On the contrary, If I had to decide what I was going to have for lunch every single day, figure out the ingredients and shop for them every week like I do my dinners, I would go insane because that is just too much thought and prep. Let's put some pizzaz and life back into lunch. You don't have to settle for plain grilled cheese and PB&J because chances are you have all right ingredients to make something more exciting, if only you could think of it. That's the point of this post, to inspire creativity at lunchtime using very accessible ingredients.

And now, without further ado, I give you my favorite different and easy sandwich ideas: The Mexican black bean and jalapeno sandwich with salsa, toasted open faced chicken, Brie and tomato and finally, Sicilian tuna and white bean sandwiches.

To start: The Toasted Chicken, Brie and Tomato

Chicken, basil, brie sandwich

-Rotisserie chicken
-Brie cheese
-Mayonnaise (optional)
-Mrs. Dash Seasoning

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over a piece of bread (optional). Top with shredded rotisserie chicken, Brie cheese and tomato. Sprinkle the top with Mrs. Dash seasoning and a little bit of sea salt. Place in a toaster oven and turn to 400 degrees for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted, tomatoes are slightly roasted looking and the bread has toasted. Top with fresh torn basil. Enjoy!

Mexican Black Bean and Jalapeno Sandwich with Salsa

Bean and cheese sandwich with salsa


-Hearty bread such as sourdough
-Cheddar cheese
-Black beans
-Pickled jalapeno rings
-Store bought mild red salsa

Layer the bread with cheddar cheese, black beans and jalapeno rings. Cook in a panini press until cheese is melted. Alternately, grill on a pan on the stove like a grilled cheese sandwich. Dip the finished sandwich in salsa between bites.

Sicilian Tuna and White Bean Sandwich

Sicilian tuna salad sandwich

- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
-1 small garlic clove, minced
-1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
-Kosher salt and pepper
-1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7-ounce or larger) can solid white albacore in water (tuna)
-rustic Italian bread, sliced
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and garlic. Stir with a whisk. Add the red onions and toss and let stand 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. In large bowl, combine vinaigrette and beans. Puree 1/3 of the mixture in a mini-food processor until smooth. Fold mixture back into beans. Add tuna and a little more olive oil if it seems too dry. Stir in mint. mix until tuna is no longer chunky. Toast slices of bread until golden and crispy and top with tuna mixture. Garnish with more mint.

These are some great things to keep in mind when grocery shopping if you want great lunches on the fly: Buy crusty bread instead of or in addition to that soft Sara Lee or Orowheat sandwich bread you usually buy. It makes much better sandwiches for grilling or pressing, toasting or just eating plain. I like a nice sourdough boule. Bread makes or breaks a sandwich. You will also enjoy using it for toast, french toast, bread pudding, fresh bread crumbs...etc. Second, when shopping periodically pick up cans of tuna to keep in the pantry because usually if you have nothing else to make for lunch, you will have ingredients for a simple tuna salad (lemon, mayo, celery OR apple, cheddar, jalapeno) since there are so many different ways you an make it. Buy your usual cheddar cheese but also chuck something else in your cart, like smoked gouda, brie or fontina. Cheese keeps for a long time and you can make a pretty basic grilled cheese sandwich into something wicked good with cool cheeses like that in your fridge. Deli meat=bad (most of the time) Real meat=good (rotisserie chicken, leftover turkey and baked ham). Lastly, buy a panini press if you can. It will change your world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Grapefruit Brulee

Broiled Grapefruit

I'm back! I just returned from a long weekend in Grand Junction where my husband competed in his first mountain bike race of the season. Were still waiting to hear his placement. Apparently, people are slackers down there and wait 3 days to post results. Anyway, I have a pretty busy schedule today so I need a quick and easy breakfast. Enter Grapefruit Brulee. I saw this last week over at Seagrass Interiors and knew I had to make it.

I have had "broiled grapefruit" before during one of my stays at the Brown Palace in Denver. I loved the tangy citrus warm and sweetened by a sugar coating on top. This version has cinnamon on it. Even better! Happy Tuesday!

Grapefruit Brulee

Brown sugar
White sugar

Cut grapefruit in half. Slice a small piece off the bottom so the fruit will sit flat. With a serrated knife, cut around the fruit sections for easy eating. Sprinkle a mixture of brown sugar, regular sugar, and a little bit of cinnamon on top of the grapefruit (do this step right before putting into the oven. If you do it too far in advance, the mixture gets too juicy and doesn't broil very well). Place grapefruits in a glass pan and set under the broiler for about 5-8 minutes or until just brown. Serve and enjoy!