Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chicken with Tabbouleh and Fresh Herbs

Chicken with Tabbouleh

Hands down, this is one of my favorite lunches. Bulgur wheat (which you can pick up in almost any good grocery store) is a grain that is mild and slightly nutty. It cooks in lemon juice, water, olive oil, salt and pepper so it is already infused with flavor before you toss in the cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, parsley, mint, scallions and, if you are not a vegetarian, shredded chicken.

I make huge bowls of this around my house and its always gone lickity split. As I mentioned, it's usually a lunch dish but on warmer nights I serve it for dinner along with some grilled or warmed whole wheat pita.

Chicken with Tabbouleh

Store bought rotisserie chicken, shredded or chopped works fine here, but roasting whole bone in chicken breasts is easy, quick, always comes out moist and obviously tastes a touch better.

Chicken with Tabbouleh
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Family Style

serves 6

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
1 whole (2 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (or 1/2 a chopped rotisserie chicken)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (2 bunches)
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse (or English) cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a heat-proof bowl, pour boiling water over the bulgur wheat. Add the lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Stir. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the bulgur to stand at room temperature for an hour.

Place the chicken breast on a baking sheet and rub it with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into medium dice and add to the tabbouleh. Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Season to taste and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate. The flavors will improve as it sits.

Only roast chicken breasts if you can find them bone in, skin on. The skin protects the chicken and keeps it moist. Ina cautions to remind you that there is no substitute for fresh lemon juice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manchengo and Prociutto Wrapped Pears - An Appetizer

Manchengo and Prociutto Wrapped Pears Appetizer

Written last Saturday: I am sitting in my house alone waiting to be picked up for a girls night. Kids are with dad at Blockbuster picking out the movies for the weekend. There was talk of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, but who know what they will come home with. As for me, I am sitting at the computer (hello, dr. obvious) with the hum of the dishwasher running in the background listening to some Diana Krall, live. That woman knows how to soothe a soul. The song? A Case Of You. AKA- The Best One.

I have just finished wrapping up 16 pears with cheese and prociutto. Everyone is bringing an appetizer or something to share at Becca's house where we will eat, drink skinny girl margaritas and presumably play a game (since the invite stated "goofy girls game night"). I know Danielle is bringing figs with goat cheese and truffle honey. Our food will go together. On the other hand, I heard Kel, who is also going with us is bringing some salty carmel bars with sea salt. Fancy, until I heard she is putting some store bought carmel up on top of them things. Imma get crazy on up in her bidness, axing if she trying to poison us all...oh, law!

I forgot to tell you- our host Becca sprung on us that we have to talk that way tonight after we had rsvp yes. Becca is from somewhere deep in Louisiana and is one of the most well-read, smartest women I know. She also whips this sort of talk out regularly. Don't get her going, else ever body gone get doin' it too. Mmm-hmmm.

Manchengo and Prociutto Wrapped Pears Appetizer

Machengo and Prociutto Wrapped Pears

there is no formal recipe for this since it is just assembled

Top a piece of pear about 1/2" thick (or peach) with a thin piece of manchengo or parmesan cheese and wrap with prociutto. I cut the fat off of mine so no one is chewing on it forever.

Its a great appetizer to bring to someones house because there is no cooking required and can be served cold or at room temperature.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vanilla Grapefruit Granita Cocktail

Vanilla Grapefruit Granita Cocktail

I get really excited about recipes. That is no secret around here. So when I choose recipes for this blog I try to not talk them up too much and let the picture and recipe speak for itself. Sometimes a recipe comes along that I am particularly excited about and I can't help but to throw in a couple of you need to make this, stat!'s. My excitement and glee takes over and all I want to do is translate all of it to you, dear reader. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out or pass on a recipe that is a life changer. Yes, life changer. So I shout and use bold print and far too many exclamation points to get the message across. This is one such recipe. But I am going to pass on really hitting it home because I think this drink really does speak for itself. It's different, beautiful, easy, delicious, fresh and fun. It is also officially the best thing since sliced bread and has the capacity to elicit world peace. Point made. No exclamation points necessary.

vanilla grapefruit granita

They serve this cocktail at Rioja, one of my favorite restaurants in Denver. Rioja is hip and fun and the food is exceptional. I actually cried the first time I ate their artichoke truffle tortolloni. I was with my sister, Kaylee, who I had just picked up at the airport and friend Danielle. Kaylee spied my tear and yelled over her halibut "Omigosh, are you...crying?!?" She might as well have said "Get a hold of yourself, girl! You are an embarrassment to society". Danielle on the other hand was sympathetic and thought my tear was sweet. I suppose I was embarrassed because I made them swear to never say a word to anyone about it. I suppose I have come to terms since I can share it here now.

Vanilla Grapefruit Granita Cocktail

My husband and I went to Rioja again a couple weeks back before seeing Les Miserables. We sat outside and ordered preserved lemons with dipping sauce and a flatbread pizza with oven roasted tomatoes and homemade mozzarella to snack on. It was also the first time I ever looked at their cocktail list since I usually default to wine. I can't handle hard alcohol, even one, unless I can sleep in the next day or I'm feeling frisky and throw caution to the wind, or I'm at The Rio for a margarita. Either/or and all. However, this night I saw the grapefruit granita on the cocktail list. It was a mound of grapefruit granita flavored with vanilla bean speckles in a martini glass topped with crisp champagne. Granita is just frozen, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice mixed with a bit of sugar, water and in this case, vanilla bean and frozen in a tray. After a hour or so, you break up the mixture with a fork, then freeze again. Another hour later you break it up again. You do this another two times or so and are left with a slushy mixture that resembles snow cone shavings.

I made this cocktail the other night when friends came over for dinner. It tastes exactly like the one at Rioja. There was no shortage of oooh's and awww's over this thing. It's crisp and cool and so refreshing. When you pour the champagne over the grapefruit ice, it bubbles and fizzes gloriously, then finally settles in the glass dispersing the shavings. The shavings stay frozen in the glass a long while creating a icy cold slushy drink, slightly pink, with tiny vanilla flecks throughout. It a glorified mimosa only fifty times better, much more sophisticated and dressed for night time.

Vanilla Grapefruit Granita Cocktail

Vanilla Grapefruit Granita Cocktail
adapted from Rioja in Denver, Chef Jennifer Jasinski

makes enough for 8 drinks

2 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice or pink grapefruit juice
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
Chilled crisp champagne for serving (figure 5-6 cocktails per bottle, so buy accordingly)

Combine the juice and sugar and stir until mostly dissolved. Add water and seeds from vanilla bean. It's okay if the vanilla beans particles stay a bit clumpy and don't break up all the way. It makes for a pretty drink later. Whisk to combine. Pour liquid into a 8x8 pyrex dish or loaf pan and freeze for 1 hour. After an hour, use a fork to fluff up and break the ice that has formed on top. Freeze again. After another hour. Break the ice up with a fork again (it will be less liquid this time) Freeze again, for another 30 minutes to 1 hour and break up one final time. Place the dish back in the freezer until serving time.

To serve: Break up the ice chunks with a fork just before serving and put a heaping amount in a cold martini glass (about 1/2 cup each) and top with good quality cold champagne.

You can make the granita a day or two in advance. Once it has reached the ice shavings stage, it can sit in the freezer and be broken up again before serving the next day. The vanilla bean is pretty essential to the recipe. It rounds out the sourness of the grapefruit beautifully. And to those of you who swear you can't drink champagne because it gives you a headache, I say this: Cheap champagne causes headaches. It all has to do with the sugar content. Buy a bottle that's not sweet (stay away from rose champagne and prosecco unless you love it) $12 dollars or more a bottle and you should be home free. I'm sure there are more accurate rules to follow but I stick by these and have never gotten in trouble.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lemon Scented Carbonara

Lemon Scented Carbonara

Well hello there in Internet land. As you know, I try my hardest to blog about what I make in real time, meaning usually it was a week or so ago that I actually ate what were talking about here. Long story short- I am an exceptional hot mess and this ridiculously good recipe got pushed to the back of the pile. I made this in June when it was still spring in the rocky mountains (summer is a lolligagger in the higher elevations) and a nip was in the air come night time- which come to think of it, is the same weather we experience now, during the fall months. It's an old hardy har joke around here that Steamboat Springs experiences four seasons: winter, winter, 4th of July, and winter. Are you laughing? Me neither. Unfortunately this is somewhat true. It starts to snow come October but doesn't stick (stay on the ground) until about Halloween. It continues to be "winter" complete with snowstorms well in to May. Come June there's still a morning and evening nip. July and August are hot but come September 1st, fall kicks it into high gear until the middle of October. Not enough time if you ask me. Fall is my favorite time of year! Can I get an amen?

A lot of people say they couldn't live with our seasons. Most of those people have never seen Steamboat. We live in a paradise. Plus we get plenty of "blue bird days" during the winter months. This means, the sun comes out and although the temperature doesn't breach 50 degrees, like ever, you have these incredibly clear, blue, crisp sun shiny days imaginable. I know I just raved about Crested Butte and how beautiful it was compared to Steamboat earlier this summer. And it is jaw dropping. But Steamboat has charm, sweeping green valleys, tall aspen and pine trees, hidden rivers and creeks wind their way through town, well maintained hiking and biking paths are everywhere, wild flowers grow like weeds and Main St. is picture perfect. See?

photo courtesy of USA Today

What a sweet view, huh? Speaking of views, our house sold, we have moved, and this is our new one...


Not too shabby, eh? Okay, so it's not my view but rather, my in-laws. And yes, we are living with them for a few weeks until we find a place to rent. It is actually working out really well. We are not losers. Shut-it. I know how you think.

I suppose since the weather is exactly like when I made this pasta the first time, I should consider making it again. Traditional carbonara's are heavy although in a delicious way and fits the bill perfectly on a cold night. This version keeps all the creamy goodness you would normally find, but it's lightened up and made healthier by the addition of a ton of fresh herbs and lemon. Were talkin' fresh basil, scallions, garlic, thyme, and parsley, with pasta, pancetta, white wine, lemon, and both Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese. Oooooooh, yeah baby! You can use just Parmesan cheese if say, you are- hypothetically speaking of course- on a budget and realize when you pick up the block of Romano that it's an additional $12.94 on top of the $11 dollars worth of Parmesan you just chucked in your cart and refuse to pay $24 dollars in cheese for one meal that already broke the herb bank in the produce aisle. Yeah, don't even feel bad about that.


Disclaimer in case you are not familiar with carbonaras: Carbonara gets it's signature thick sauce from a combination of egg yolks, cheese, pancetta drippings and a little starchy pasta water. Don't be alarmed when you are asked to mix raw egg yolks directly into the hot pasta. The temperature of the noodles will cook the yolks, so no worries.

Lemon Scented Carbonara

Lemon Scented Carbonara
adapted from Rachael Ray

serves 4 or 6 (if your not as hungry)

Salt and coarse black pepper
1 lb. egg tagliatelle pasta (the egg pasta is a must)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 lb. pancetta, finely chopped
1 bunch thin scallions, finely chopped whites and greens separated
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large lemon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
3 large egg yolks
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
a couple handfuls freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
a couple handfuls freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (or more parmesan to sub)
Shredded basil for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, season with 1 teaspoon black pepper and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the scallion whites and garlic. Zest the lemon over the pan, stir in thyme and cook for 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low.

In a medium bowl, beat the reserved pasta cooking water with the egg yolks to temper them. Add the juice of the lemon, the parsley and scallion greens to the skillet. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Add the pasta to the skillet, turn off the heat and pour in the tempered eggs. Sprinkle in a small handful of each of the cheeses and toss vigorously for 1 minute until the sauce coats the pasta and is thick and shiny. Serve in shallow bowl with extra cheese and basil on top.

Dust off your chopping knife. The best way to tackle this thing is to chop everything (and zest your lemon) before hand. Then measure out the wine and put your egg yolks in a bowl and have everything ready to go into the pot when it's time. It will make your cooking much smoother.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Garlic Sauteed Spinach

Garlic Sauteed Spinach

This is my favorite way to eat spinach. It is robust and garlicky with the perfect balance of salt and pepper. Lemon is my favorite ingredient to top anything with and I adore it with the spinach.


Our last farmers market was this weekend. It's sad that we can only have a market seasonally up here in the mountains but it makes it that much more special when it comes around again in late spring. Every week during the run of the farmers market we stock up on summer tomatoes, beets, kale, broccoli and cucumbers but when we saw the huge bundle of spinach above we had to get it. Spinach wilts to nothing when cooked in a pan so it's a very good way to eat a lot of greens in one sitting.

Garlic Sauteed Spinach

Garlic Sauteed Spinach
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Family Style by Ina Garten

serves 6

1 1/2 pounds baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 a lemon, and the other half cut into wedges for serving

Rinse the spinach well in cold water to make sure it's very clean. Spin it dry in a salad spinner, leaving just a little water clinging to the leaves.

In a very large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute, but not until it's browned. Add all the spinach, the salt, and pepper to the pot, toss it with the garlic and oil, cover the pot, and cook it for 2 minutes. Uncover the pot, turn the heat on high, and cook the spinach until it's wilted. using a slotted spoon, lift the spinach to a serving bowl and top with the butter and squeeze the lemon over. Serve.

The recipe calls for baby spinach and it's what I normally use, but I got this huge gorgeous bundle from the farmers market and couldn't resist. Fresh spinach cooks down to nothing; don't be surprised at the volume of fresh spinach you need to serve six.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Disclaimer: I wrote this post yesterday:

It is rainy and cold out and I could think of nothing better than a pumpkin spice latte before heading off to get my manicure this morning. Sound a tad glamorous for a Thursday? Well that's because I left out the part where I just got Isabella on the bus and off to school, then, in a exactly a half hour we have a physical therapy appointment for Olivia, then I am making my own pumpkin spice latte instead of spending five bucks at Starbucks, before heading to the salon with my friend. So, the salon part is still glamorous but what can I say? That's how I roll. Alright, so it's just today that I'm rollin' like this. I am so going to read this in twenty years and wince at the word "rollin", just like Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis would wince at her comments about our political figures in the months after JFK was assassinated. Anyone see that special with Diane Sawyer besides me? Fascinating.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
makes 1-2 servings

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin or 1 teaspoon Torani Pumpkin Spice Syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1-2 shots espresso or 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee
sweetened whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

In a saucepan combine the milk, pumpkin and sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring, until steaming. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and spice and transfer to a blender and process for 15 seconds until foamy. if you don't have a blender, just whisk the mixture well with a wire whisk.

Pour into a large mug or two mugs. Add espresso on on top and stir. Top with whipped cream if desired and sprinkle with more pumpkin pie spice.

Golden graham cracker brown is the color of the latte but OPI's Big Apple Red will be the color of my nails in about 1.5 hours.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

I have said it before and I'll say it again. Risotto is not hard, it's just high maintenance. Stir, stir, stir, add liquid, stir, stir, stir, add liquid, sip, sip, sip, on the wine you poured yourself before you got into the stirring mess because you were smart and knew it would make the task that much more enjoyable, and voila! You have risotto simple as that.

Last week my mother in law invited some people over for dinner and asked if I would cook and join them. I had gone to the store earlier that day and was planning on making this wild mushroom risotto already so instead of changing menu's, I suggested she pick up more mushrooms and wine and I would just double the recipe. Have you ever stirred a pot of risotto that serves 12 people? It takes quite a while and quite a bit of wine for that matter, but the upside is I toned my biceps in the process. We hosted two other couples besides my in-laws and us, so there were eight people total. We had a fun evening and I got to know new people which can sometimes be awkward for me, but luckily they were a chatty bunch and my initial shyness eventually melted away enough to really enjoy myself. Meg, who was at the dinner said she would look for this post so here's a little shout out!

wild mushroom risotto

I have made this risotto a few times in the past undoubtedly in the fall when wild mushrooms are in season. The mixture of the different types of mushrooms are nice because they each have varying textures and it makes the risotto interesting. A fair amount of white wine is used for richness, but a surprisingly small amount of cheese and butter which is very nice for the waistline. Risotto has a bad rap because of all the calories it usually has but this one isn't too bad considering how delicious it is. One of the secrets is using dried porcini's to create a mushroom broth for part of the liquid and then pureeing the leftover softened mushrooms into a paste to be added as well. Both mushroom additions work with the wild mushrooms to create a strong backbone of flavor that carries the whole dish.

Wild Mushroom Risotto
adapted from Anne Burell

servings: 4 to 6

Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the heel of your hand
1 1/2 pounds assorted fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and cremini, cleaned and sliced
Kosher salt
1 cup (or 1 pkg) dried porcini mushrooms, soaking in 3 cups of very hot water
1 medium or 2 small onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
2 cups dry white wine
6 to 7 cups hot chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/2 cup chopped chives, for garnish

Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil and add the smashed garlic cloves. Bring to a medium-high heat. When the garlic cloves have begun to brown and are very aromatic, remove and discard them. Add the assorted fresh mushrooms to the pan and season generously with salt. Saute the mushrooms until they are soft an pliable. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Using your hand, carefully scoop the porcini mushrooms out of the hot water (they should have been allowed to sit in the water for at least 20 minutes). At this point the water should have cooled off significantly. If it is still too hot for your hand, use a slotted spoon. Pour the top 2/3 of the mushroom water into another container and reserve for use while making the risotto. Discard the bottom third. It contains a lot of sand and dirt from the mushrooms. Puree the rehydrated mushrooms with a little of the reserved mushroom water to make a smooth paste. This will not look good but it will certainly taste good! Reserve.

Coat a large saucepot abundantly with olive oil. Add the onions and season generously with salt. Bring the pot to a medium-high heat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently until they are soft and aromatic but have no color. Add the rice and stir to coat with the olive oil. Cook the rice for 2 to 3 minutes to toast, stirring frequently. Add wine to cover the surface of the rice and stir frequently until it has completely absorbed. Add the reserved mushroom water and then add chicken stock until the liquid has covered the surface of the rice. Stir frequently until the stock has absorbed into the rice. Repeat this process until the chicken stock is used up, stirring constantly, about 20-30 minutes. Check for seasoning, you probably will need to add salt (hint, hint).

During the last addition of stock, add the reserved sauteed mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of the pureed porcini mushrooms. When the stock has absorbed into the rice and the rice is cooked but still "al dente", remove the pot from the heat. Add the butter and cheese and whip until well combined. This will set the perfect consistency of the rice. The rice should flow and not be able to hold its shape and look very creamy. Serve immediately garnished with chives.

I love recipes by Anne Burell. I cant wait until she has her own cookbook. Risotto is easy. I repeat, risotto is easy so give it a try. Unless you don't stir, I don't know how you could mess it up. Confidence is everything in the kitchen. You can do this. You got this. I believe in you. You believe in you. Ready, break!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cracker Barrel's Double Fudge Coca Cola Cake

Cracker Barrel's Double Fudge Coca Cola Cake

This cake is kinda-sorta really freaking good. Baked in one tray with icing poured on the warm cake that sort of sets up and crackles as it cools. I made a coca cola cake with my Grandma Grillo when I was little and remember being fascinated that soda was an actual ingredient. I went to a Cracker Barrel with my grandma recently ordered this cake. I knew that I'd be scouring the Internet for a recipe. I am not sure if this is the actual recipe the restaurant uses or just a copy cat, but I read that mini marshmallows were the secret ingredient and this recipe calls for them. In my opinion, it tastes just like the cake I had with my Grandma. This calls for coke in both the cake and frosting. It's heavenly! The problem is this thing is so moist and not too sweet so you can eat a lot of cake in one sitting. I need a cake detox.

Cracker Barrel Double Fudge Coca Cola Cake
adapted from CDKitchen

makes 1 13x9" pan

1/2 cup butter
1 cup coca-cola
3/4 cup miniature marshmallows
1 square (1 ounce) semi sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coca cola (plus 2-3 tablespoons if needed)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place butter, cola, and semi sweet baking square in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add marshmallows and stir until all is blended and marshmallows are dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl blend the shortening, oil, vanilla, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and buttermilk and beat until smooth. mix flour with baking soda, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the shortening and egg mixture and beat. Scrape the bowl down to clean the sides. Add cooled coca coal mixture and beat. Add remainder of flour and beat until completely smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Batter will be thick.

Place batter into a 13"x 9"x 2" greased and floured baking pan. Set pan in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Stick a toothpick or knife into the center of the cake after it bakes. If the toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached, the cake is done. If batter sticks to the toothpick, keep baking. Cool cake.

For frosting: Cream butter, add cocoa, vanilla, chocolate syrup, and coca cola and beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar a little at a time and beat constantly. Scrape the sides of the bowl down to get all the ingredients incorporated. If the frosting seems a little dry, add more coca coal and beat well.

Frost the warm cake and let everything cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

My cake sank a bit in the middle. Next time I will put 1/4 cup less sugar into the cake and it should help with that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Homemade Fajita Seasoning and Chihuahua

Homemade Fajita Seasoning

True story: I just found out that I am Mexican. It gets better. My Great Grandma Amelia was originally from Chihuahua. What do I like to tell people now? I am from Chihuahua, Mexico! This is hilarious news to me. Do you hear what I'm telling you?? I am a Mexican! I always thought my Grandpa Burgos was 100% Spanish, as in from Europe because that is what he told everybody. There is even a city named Burgos in Spain (his last name). As long as I can remember my mothers family has joked about my grandpa (my fathers dad) possibly being Mexican. My grandpa has never confirmed it for whatever reason. I have gone through my entire life thinking I was a quarter Spanish until my Great Uncle Art unleashed the truth a few weeks ago. Not that it was a secret. Not to Uncle Art, anyway. He said my great grandma and her family had moved from Chihuahua to El Paso, Texas and she met my great grandfather there (who is legitimately Spanish from Europe). They dated for a while before my great grandmothers parents decided that this young man was not serious about their daughter. They disliked him so they up and moved the family to Los Angeles. My great grandpa didn't like that at all so he sold his bicycle shop in El Paso and followed. Obviously everything worked out because I am here.

Another true story: My Grandpas name was John. If you asked him, he'd say he was named after his father (the legitimately Spanish one). Naturally, I concluded my great grandpas name must have been John. Wrong again. His name was Juan! I know, it translates, but still... Hysterical, I tell you. Why was this such a secret?

For the record, I am a quarter Italian, Danish and Irish and one eighth each Mexican and Spanish. So no, I am not really from Chihuahua, Mexico. It's just fun to say.

In an attempt to honor my new found roots, I made vegetarian fajitas the other night. I correct myself, ahem, real vegetarian fajitas. Making your own seasoning blend is so easy and works like a charm. It even thickens up all the pan juices after adding a little water to the skillet like you would with a packet, except you control the salt and sugar content with no preservatives! Hooray!

Fajita Seasoning (and a recipe for vegetarian fajitas to follow)
adapted from Linda Larsen,

makes enough for 3 batches of fajitas (about 3 tablespoons each)

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour into a small plastic or resealable container, seal tightly and store in a cool, dry place. To use, saute your onions and bell pepper strips (or whatever vegetables and/or meat you are using) until done and sprinkle with three tablespoons of the seasoning and 1/3 cup of water. Cook and stir over medium heat until combined and thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve. Recipe can be halved easily if you do not want to make extra seasoning.

For my vegetarian fajitas, I cut 6 bell peppers (2 yellow, 2 red, and 2 green) and 1 1/2 medium yellow onions into thin strips. I sauté the peppers and onions in two or three batches at a time over medium-high to medium heat in a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil until browned and soft, removing each batch from the skillet and setting aside on a plate until all batches are done. When everything has been cooked, I put it all back into the skillet and add 3 tablespoons seasoning and 1/3 water, and stir and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve in flour tortillas that have been toasted on a open gas flame with pinto beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and cheese.

Hola, como te llamas? Donde esta la biblioteca? That is the extent of my Spanish. Guess I need to brush up if I am going to be claiming Chihuahua the rest of my life. Besides, everyone can speak Spanish. Everyone. It's a little embarrassing that I can't, and furthermore, took Spanish 1 twice (twice!) and this is all I remember. And Kel, dammit, this paragraph is not racist! My Friend loves to call anyone that, anytime they mention another culture. Seriously, the slightest mention. Doesn't even matter what it is.

The other day I said I was talking like a black woman from the south because I am reading the book The Help. My dog had jumped up on my bed and I told her how I yelled "Oh, law! Child, you best get out the bed fore I pull yo ears off!" Never mind what I said. I wouldn't really pull his ears off so no one needs to get their panties in a bunch. Anyway, I told her that the dog obeys my Jackson, Mississippi accent from 1962 about as good as my normal American one (translation: he didn't listen). She quickly called me a racist (standard) and pointed out that a Jackson, Mississippi accent IS American...Whatev- she knew what I meant and so do you, right?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow's Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

Gwyneth Paltrow's Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

What makes this soup so unique? The big chunks of meaty, concentrated, oven dried tomatoes in every bite. That, and the ingredient list is five items long. This recipe first caught my eye because it was so simple and I knew it would deliver with a big depth of flavor. And how! This is my new favorite soup. There is nothing better than walking into a house that smells of roasted tomatoes and garlic on a chilly evening, and serving yourself a huge bowl with bread. If you are a dunker, those hefty chunks of tomato stay on your bread seamlessly creating the perfect bite with all those soaked up juices. Another plus is this soup is completely healthy and vegan. Don't let that deter you from making it if that scares you, though. It is so delicious, and tastes great alone, but if you sprinkle some Romano cheese on top for garnish, it becomes amazing...and vegetarian, which is a little less scary than vegan, right?


I told my friend Kel about this soup. I told her how spectacular and delicious it was. She was bewildered that it didn't have cream in it. I told her it certainly did not need cream. She said "I can't eat tomato soup without cream". Pssshhhh, Americans. I'm not going to push Kel to make this because I already know how it will go down. She will say it was awesome, but even better with cream, because she will add cream. Then she will have to dunk a grilled cheese sandwich into it because Josh, her husband hates to eat just soup for dinner. You are probably wondering what is wrong with all of this. Nothing really. It's just that this soup doesn't need all of that. It has a quiet dignity that I would not like to exploit. Serious matters to ponder I tell you.


Slow Roasted Tomato Soup
adapted from My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow
serves 4

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

12 tomatoes (plum, beefsteak or heirloom), quartered, stems removed
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
olive oil
Kosher salt

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Line a 18x13 jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Place tomatoes skin side down and drizzle with olive oil until all tomatoes are covered. Drop unpeeled garlic cloves randomly around the sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle everything generously with salt. Roast for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until tomatoes are shriveled, but still juicy. When done, allow the pan to cool and pop the roasted garlic out from the skin and reserve for the soup.

Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or more as desired)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 fresh, large basil leaves
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with juices
1 recipe slow roasted tomatoes, with the garlic roasted with them, removed from the skins
Kosher salt (I used 2 teaspoons)
Freshly ground pepper (I used 1/4 teaspoon)

I added a few handfuls of baby spinach as well

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for two minutes, stirring so that it doesn't burn. Add the basil leaves, roasted garlic reserved from the roasted tomatoes, tomatoes and juice, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it uncovered for 40 minutes. As it simmers gently break apart the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. After cooking stir in the slow-roasted tomatoes with any juices and season with salt and pepper. Simmer everything together for 5 more minutes and serve hot. Sprinkle with Romano cheese if desired.

I added baby spinach to make my tomato soup florentine, which was wonderful. You can also freeze the oven dried tomatoes. I like the idea of this especially because you can oven dry summer tomatoes and eat them all winter long!