Thursday, April 30, 2009

.grilled skewered steak w/ roasted red pepper salsa.

This was another recipe I made for our appetizer night last week. When I was working up my app menu, I wanted to make sure I had a little bit from each food group. I had brie puffs (dairy and grain), italian stuffed mushrooms (veggie), crab cakes with the chipotle lime aioli (seafood), and I needed a meat. I had some flank steak in the freezer so I got that out to thaw. It was the perfect addition for our meal.

This is a great appetizer too. One I will be making for sure when I have a party!

You'll need one jar of roasted red pepper and 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes.

Chop up 1 clove garlic, 1 jalapeno (seeded), and 1/2 of one small onion.

If you want absolutely no heat in this salsa, leave out the jalapeno. If you want some, feel free to add as much or as little as you desire.

In a saucepan, add a little olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno for a minute taking care not to burn the garlic.

Drain the liquid out of the pepper jar. Do a quick chop to make sure there are no big pieces left.

Add that and the half can of diced tomatoes to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over medium high heat for about 4 minutes, stirring often, then reduce to low and let stew for 10 minutes.

Now the night before our appetizer night, I put the flank steak in a ziploc with crushed cloves of garlic (2) a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. The longer this can sit in the fridge, the better the flavor will be because the garlic will absorb into the flesh.

Thinly slice the steak. Remember, this is an appetizer. You don't want to have big honkin pieces of meat on the skewer because it will make it more difficult to eat.

Make sure you cut on the cross-grain.

Skewer up the steak.

I'm using my grill pan but you can use your bbq grill. In fact, the bbq grill will give it some awesome smoky flavor. If you use the bbq grill, please make sure you soak the skewers well. You don't want them to burn to a crisp.

Grill for 3 minutes on each side. Pull from the grill and place on a platter. Put the salsa in a bowl with a spoon so people can scoop some out on their plates.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

.italian stuffed mushrooms.

The other night we had appetizer night, which I do when I'm craving multiple things at the same time. I usually do this on Friday as a kind of "celebration" for surviving the week. Normally I don't fix this kind of fancy food, but I was in the mood to try new things.

On the menu: Brie puffs (I used my profiteroles recipe and added grated Brie cheese to the dough before piping), Grilled Steak Kabobs with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Crab Cakes with Chipotle Lime Aioli, and Italian Stuffed Mushrooms. For dessert I made Coconut Parfaits using toasted coconut pound cake and coconut whipped cream.

Today's blog entry shows how I made the mushrooms.

In a skillet, put a little olive oil and cook some mild italian sausage (1 cup) with 1/2 cup finely diced onion. Saute until the sausage is cooked through.

Transfer the onion and sausage to a bowl and add 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs, 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and one egg.

Mix everything together well using a fork.

Remove the stems from all of the mushrooms, leaving only the caps. You can dice up the mushroom stems and add to the filling if you wish. I chose not to this time.

Place the mushrooms in a baking dish.

Fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing. Make sure they mound up nice and high because you want to have enough filling so when you bite in it should be 50/50 in flavor.

Cut up 1/4 stick of butter and place strategically around the mushrooms. It will melt as the mushrooms bake and keep them from sticking to the baking dish. Put in a 350* oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

.brownies to die for.

Last night my husband wanted brownies. I usually make these cakey brownies that are a lot like Texas sheet cake. Okay.. it is Texas sheet cake, but we don't call it that. He wanted rich, gooey, chewy brownies that lull you into sweet chocolate dreams. It sounded pretty good to me!

I remember I have a specialty cookbook called Chocolate. That's it. Chocolate. There are recipes for brownies, cookies, cupcakes, cakes... all devoted to my obsession. :) So I peeked in there for the perfect brownie recipe and found it.

The nice thing about this recipe too is that you dirty one dish -- a large saucepan.. minus the brownie pan you actually bake these guys in.

First you need to take 3/4 cups butter (1 1/2 sticks) and put in a saucepan over medium heat and melt completely. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.

When it's melted, add 2/3 cup cocoa powder. Mix well.

Next, measure out 1 2/3 c. sugar and add that, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pan and whisk in. It'll get really thick, but that's okay.

Whisk in 2 eggs and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla just until it's all mixed in. Don't over beat.

Sprinkle in 1 cup flour. Use a spatula to mix it all together and not the whisk. I tried it with the whisk and it was so thick it took forever to knock it all out from the middle. So learn from me... use a spatula.

Add 3/4 chocolate chips. You can use semi sweet, milk, or white chocolate chips. I'm not fussy... but I used plain ol semi sweet.

Chop 1 to 1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans.

Spray an 8x8 baking pan with Pam and dump in the brownie batter. Spread out evenly.

Sprinkle enough chopped nuts on top to cover the surface. Pop in a 350* oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. When you insert a toothpick in the center, it should come out a little gooey on the stick. You don't want to overbake because then it won't be a moist, chewy brownie.
Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. Again.. trust me when I say let it cool. I didn't and when I cut into it, it was too gooey and wouldn't hold it's shape.
These were sinful and decadent. I could hardly eat even one of these they were so rich. So sit down and enjoy these with a tall cold glass of milk.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

.grilled swordfish w/ bacon.

I've been looking at making meals that are healthier, and quicker to make for my family. Granted, this has bacon on it, but you can opt out and use turkey bacon, or pancetta. In fact, this dish is inspired by an italian one I saw Giada De Laurentis make the other day called Swordfish Spiedini and she used pancetta, which is traditional.

I, however, did not have pancetta, so I used the next best thing. Bacon. Everything's better with bacon on it, right?

Start by rinsing and patting dry one swordfish steak. If the fish smells bad or is slimy at all, do not use. Cut into bite sized cubes.

Put in a bowl and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Also add about 1/2 tsp basil and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and 2 Tbsp lemon juice, or the juice of one fresh lemon.

I let this marinade for about 15 minutes, but if you want to let this sit overnight, it'll taste even better.

Put the swordfish on skewers (if you're grilling outside, make sure you soak the bamboo skewers for at least 30 minutes. This will keep them from burning up.

Take a slice of bacon and skewer it at the bottom, wrap around, then attach to the top of the skewer to keep it in place.

Place the skewers on the grill and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes. It will take 10-12 minutes for these to cook all the way through.

Look how delicious these are. The meat of the swordfish will be firm and opaque, and the bacon will be beautifully crispened on the outside.

The flavor of the swordfish is out of this world. I served it with some parmesan orzo and veggie.

You can have this on your table in 30 minutes flat. So quick, easy, and delicious. Bon appetit!
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

.pan seared duck with sesame ginger glaze.

Have you ever felt uninspired? Lately I've been feeling that way and then compound it with Spring Break and a husband working wonky hours.... well.. it's enough to drive me crazy.

I hope everyone had a great Easter. It was a crazy busy weekend for us, and since we had no special plans, our big dinner got put off until Monday. I made pan seared duck breast with a sesame ginger glaze, roasted fingerling potatoes, salad, and rolls. I was going to make a coconut mousse cake, but we still had brownies left and I decided not to make the cake until later this week. (I can't wait!)

I looked everywhere for 2 weeks for duck breast. Virtually impossible to find!!! My good friend, Deb was over here last week for scrapbooking and lunch and she mentioned a shop over near her home that had specialty type meats so I called and yesss they had some! So I had the husband pick it up on his way home from work on Friday. Two breasts cost me $20! Yikes. I think I might take up duck hunting in the very near future because this turned out amazing. Paige (my 7 yr old) loved it so much and told me I had to make it again soon. (I'm thinking I might make roast duck lo mein. mmmm)

This is a very easy dish to make. It's uncomplicated, which is refreshing when it comes to a holiday meal.

First, in a saucepan you need to put the glaze ingredients.

1/4 cup water
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1 dash red pepper flakes

Bring to a boil until it thickens. Set aside. This can be made days in advance and held in the fridge. I made some last week to have with lettuce wraps and sealed it in a ziploc and tossed into the freezer. All I had to do was pull it out and heat. Perfect!

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet with a couple cloves of peeled and crushed garlic. Sear each side of the duck breast for 4-5 minutes, starting with the fat side down. Use a spoon to continually spoon some of the fat over the top of each breast as it cooks. Pull from the pan and put in a baking dish. Pour some glaze on top of the duck and put in a 400* oven for 10 minutes.

Serve with rice or potatoes, salad, and bread.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

.strawberry wontons.

Today was a great day. I invited a couple girlfriends over for lunch and for scrapbooking. I met them over at 2Peas, and while I have gotten together with Deb quite a few times, I have only had email conversations with Denise. I had planned on making Santa Fe Chicken Salad for lunch, but while grocery shopping yesterday, I had a sudden craving for lettuce wraps.....

... and crab rangoon... (weak)

For dessert, I decided to make some deep fried strawberry wontons. What is a strawberry wonton, you ask? Oh my.... well, let me show you what it is!

In a bowl (this bowl looks really small in the picture, but it's not) mix together 1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, a dash cinnamon, and about 1 cup finely diced strawberries.

While munching on these, we all decided that any kind of berry would be awesome in these. Raspberries. Blackberries.... we really aren't particular. They were so delicious!

Take won ton wrappers (usually found by the tofu products in your grocery store) and lay as many out as you need. This recipe will make almost 2 dozen. Spoon a little filling in the middle of each wrapper.

Crack open an egg and separate. We need the egg whites to act as glue.

Dip your finger in the egg white, and run it around all four sides of the won ton wrapper. Place another won ton wrapper on top and seal the edges well. Put a dab of egg white on the corners and then pinch the corners together (as seen in the picture).

Repeat until you've made all the filled won tons. Put them on a plate and stick in the freezer. You want to firm up the filling a bit before frying otherwise it will ooze out into your oil.

Heat your oil in a pot or wok to 350* F. Carefully add each won ton and fry until golden brown. Let drain well on paper towels.

Drizzle the tops with chocolate ganache (or you can use Hershey's syrup) and put a dollop of whipped cream on the side.

Serve warm (my friends said they're still pretty tasty cold too).
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

.easter nests.

I love Easter time!  Like I said in a previous entry, I was going to make various Easter type treats and dishes to inspire you in the kitchen this holiday.  We only have one week left!

Today, Paige and I made these sweet little chocolate rice krispy nests.  They were so much fun and if you've got kids in the house who like to get creative in the kitchen, you must make these with them.  Quick, easy, and super yummy.

In a pot, melt 1/4 cup butter over low heat.  Add 1 bag (10 oz) marshmallows and stir until they're all melted.  Make sure you or your child keeps stirring so the marshmallows don't burn in the pan.  Nobody likes a burnt rice krispy treat.  Ick.

When the marshmallows have melted, add 5 cups rice krispies.  Stir well to make sure everything's coated.

Put 1 cup chocolate chips in a bowl.  Pop in the microwave for 1 minute and then stir to make sure they're all melted.

Scoop the melted chocolate into the pan and stir.  This will give the nests a "dirty" look.  I suppose if you wanted to skip this step you could.. or you could even use cocoa krispies instead of regular.   I like it this way because it gives the krispy nest more firmness and isn't so wimpy and sticky.

Put cupcake liners in a muffin pan.

Spoon a good amount of rice krispies into each muffin cup.  Use your fingers or some other kind of tool to dent in the center.  I had Paige use this Pampered Chef tool that I sprayed with Pam (so it wouldn't stick).

As you can see, we had to sneak a few bites which left us short 1 nest.  (oops) This recipe will make a full dozen though if you can exercise enough self control. 

Put 1/2 cup shredded coconut in a ziploc and put a small bit of green food coloring in.  If you use the Wilton gel type coloring, stick a toothpick into the color and then into the coconut.  That's all you'll need because we don't want glow in the dark green.  We just want to barely tint the coconut to make it look like light colored grass.

Put a little coconut grass in the middle where the indentation is.

The final step is to put some M&Ms or those candy malted robin's eggs in the middle.  We used M&Ms with almonds that were the Easter pastel.  One green, pink, yellow, blue, and purple egg.  What a full nest for a little birdie!

.salmon dill eggs benedict.

With my husband working nights (he goes back to days this week! WAHOO!!!) I have felt so guilty because he doesn't get nearly as many homecooked meals because he has to go in so early.  One of his favorite things is eggs benedict.  When we were first married, we would always hit this awesome brunch buffet at this nice hotel by our home on  the weekend.    Eggs benedict would be the first thing on his plate.  So the other day I thought I would surprise him by making this for him.  He loved it!

Eggs benedict is usually made with a toasted english muffin, a slice of canadian bacon, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce.  Mine is made with the english muffin, a slice of smoked salmon, poached egg, and a dill hollandaise sauce.  Yummy. If you're looking for something new to make for breakfast this coming Easter Sunday, you should try this!

Hollandaise sauce is a rich, egg sauce.  Not difficult to make.  First you need to cut up 4 Tbsp butter and set to the side.

In a bowl put 3 egg yolks, 1 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, a dash pepper, and 1 pat of butter.  Put over a pot of boiling water in a double boiler method.  Stir with a rubber spatula consistently so the eggs don't turn into scrambled eggs.  When the pat of butter melts, add another pat and repeat until all the butter has been incorporated.  By this time, the eggs should start cooking and thickening the sauce.  When it's thick and coats the spatula, remove from the top of the pot.

Add some fresh chopped dill (or dried dill) (about 1/2 tsp).

This is the smoked salmon I used.  It's usually found in the deli section of your grocery store.  Do not buy the kind down the tuna aisle.  It's not the same kind.

Now we need to poach the eggs.  Poaching means to let the egg cook in water or steam.  An easy way to do this is to first break an egg into a bowl and then pour into a skillet of hot water.

Repeat.  I made 3 eggs... you keep adding for however many you're making this for.  Let poach for 3 minutes.

Use a serrated spoon to scoop from the water. 

Plate everything and serve with fruit and sausage or bacon.

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