Friday, May 30, 2008

Thai Fish Sauce - Take Two

In an attempt to reuse the famous Thai fish sauce from my Pad Thai, I decided to make another recipe this week that used the same ingredient. Too often I buy ingredients for one recipe and then they sit in the back of my pantry never to be reused. I had tagged a recipe in one of my Cooking Light magazines several months ago that also required Thai fish sauce so it was perfect for my ingredient repeat I was going for. This was a really fun dish to prepare and it was a change of pace for us -we rarely eat red meat and Thai Tacos are very unordinary.

Thai Beef Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Slaw
Cooking Light April 2007


1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (such as Lee Kum Kee)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound flank steak, trimmed (I could only find 2pd flank steaks at the grocery so I doubled the recipe)
Cooking spray

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups packaged angel hair slaw
2 cups packaged matchstick-cut carrots
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Remaining ingredient:
8 (6-inch) fat-free flour tortillas (We used whole wheat tortillas)


To prepare steak, combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add steak to bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

Prepare grill or broiler.

Remove steak from bag; discard marinade. Place steak on grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray;

cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.

To prepare slaw, combine juice and next 6 ingredients (through 2 garlic cloves) in a large bowl. Add slaw and next 3 ingredients (through cilantro); toss well to combine.

Divide steak evenly among tortillas; spoon about 1/2 cup slaw onto each tortilla. Fold in half; serve immediately.


4 servings (serving size: 2 tacos)

Forrest really liked this meal, I wasn't a big fan of the Slaw. The meat was amazing and had so much flavor though. I enjoyed the meat alone the next day for leftovers. I wouldn't make the slaw next time - too many ingredients for not a big enough pay off. Note: if you make the steak, it seems like it is way to small of an amount for the marinade but it isn't. The fish sauce and the ginger and the garlic chili sauce are all really strong ingredients so they go a long way.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

As American as Corn on the Cob

When I was planning my Memorial Day menu, I knew I wanted to make something patriotic. I could make star-shaped cookies or something of the sort but that seemed a little too cheeky. After further thought I remembered the saying, "As American as Apple Pie" - well after the Great Lime Tart Debacle of 2008 I knew that attempting dessert of any kind was out of the question for quite a while. I pondered my American Menu Item issue for a little longer and contrived the answer through a bit of stretching. Corn was as American as Apple Pie - I mean the Indians and the Pilgrims served it at the first Thanksgiving after all! And I happen to love corn on the cob so this seemed like the perfect solution. I have a recipe for roasted corn and since we don't have a grill it is my only option. I wanted to prepare it using a recipe that I use often and even though Chipotle Chile Powder isn't the most American spice the end result is delicious so I ignored that fact.

Chipotle Lime Butter:
recipe courtesy me!
1 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature ( I used I Can't Believe it's Not Butter)
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Put the butter in a mixing bowl and, using a rubber spatula, mix the lime juice, salt and chipotle. Use immediately or refrigerate.

Roasted Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Lime Butter
recipe courtesy me!

6 ears corn, shucked
Chipotle Lime Butter, recipe above

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat each ear of corn in 1 tablespoons of the chipotle lime butter

and wrap individually in foil.

Roast until hot and steaming, about 25 minutes. Serve with extra butter on the side.

In the picture above you can see the flecks of chipotle and the butter and lime juice at the bottom of the foil packet. This is truly a delectable side dish and awesome for the coming summer months!

Monday, May 26, 2008

When Life Hands you Limes - Make Margaritas!

This weekend I had a very huge cooking disaster. It was a painful experience that I would rather not talk about, but I figure that it is equally important to talk about my failures in the kitchen as it is to talk about my successes. I was going to a Cook Out at my new bosses home and I wanted to bring something homemade. I thought it would be a nice gesture and homemade goodies are always more tasty. I knew they would be providing the food so I figured a dessert would be the most appropriate dish to bring. Baking is not my forte so I didn't want to attempt something super complicated. When I came across a dessert recipe that didn't even require baking I was sold. I found the recipe for a Lime Macadamia Nut Tart on the internet and it seemed fairly simple. It basically looked like all I had to do was assemble the ingredients and it would result in a yummy and impressive desert. Well I had no idea how wrong I would be in this assumption. As I begin to prepare the recipe I seemed to be in pretty good shape. The first steps involved making the crust for the tart and I was on the right track. This seemed easy! However, I started to head down a dark and scary road as I began to prepare the filling. The recipe I found instructed me to stir the custard/filling for 8 minutes until it thickened. After 8 minutes my filling was anything but thick, so I continued to whisk for several more minutes. Not wanting to over do it, I removed my filling from the heat when I began to see the "bubbles" this recipe refers to. I let the filling sit for 20 minutes as suggested and then poured it into my crust. This is when I started to realize I had just ruined my "easy and impressive dessert". As I poured the filling into the crust, the pieces of the graham cracker crust began to break off and swim in the filling. This dessert was no longer the perfectly pretty gift I had desired it would be. I kept my hopes high and convinced myself that I could cover the mistake with whip cream when I garnished the tart. I let the tart sit over night in order to allow it to set. As I woke up the next day I was like a child on Christmas morning hoping Santa had brought me what I wanted - only this time what I wanted was a perfectly set tart. I rushed to the fridge, opened it, gave the pan a jiggle and knew for sure there was no saving this dessert. It hadn't set at all and it was a liquid mess inside of the sopped crust. I removed the tart from the fridge and tart pan and attempted to garnish it for a picture. As I did this, the liquid burst through the unsupported sides of the crust and began to flood my countertop. I accepted defeat and hurriedly transferred my failed attempt to the garbage can. I spent the rest of the day deciding what I would bring to the party now that my first option was ruined. What could I make with Limes? I pondered this question for several hours and realized I had a great idea for my left over limes. It didn't solve my party dilemma, but it would help lighten my mood - Margaritas! So I made myself a cocktail with the left over lime juice and brushed my Lime Tart experience under the tequila soaked rug!

Lime-and-Macadamia Nut Tart
Southern Living 2003

1 (5 1/3-ounce) package graham crackers, crushed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
6 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lime rind
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 large limes)
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 drop green liquid food coloring (optional)
1 drop yellow liquid food coloring (optional)
Garnishes: toasted macadamia nuts, lime slices, and whipped cream

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Firmly press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan.

Bake crust at 350° for 7 to 9 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Whisk together eggs, grated lime rind, and fresh lime juice in a non-aluminum saucepan over low heat.

Add 1 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons melted butter, and if desired, food coloring; cook, whisking constantly, 8 minutes or until lime mixture is thickened and bubbly.

Let cool 15 to 20 minutes. Pour filling into prepared crust; cover and chill 4 hours or until set.

Remove sides of tart pan, and garnish, if desired.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sick and Thai-red

I have a newfound hatred for grocery shopping. I used to enjoy shopping at the supermarket once a week, but now I can't bare the thought of this putrid event. I don't know if it is the long lines, the freezing atmosphere, or the huge bill at the end of experience that has done me in. Whatever the culprit, I am scarred. The unfortunate part of it all is that it is a chore I can't eliminate. I have to go to the grocery - if I want to eat, cook or feed my husband I need to suck it up and brave the big bad world that is the supermarket.

So for someone who really hates to shop for groceries, I don't know why I keep making it so hard on myself. Almost every other week, some elusive ingredient ends up on my grocery list that I have to hunt far and wide for before I can find it. This week it was Thai fish sauce. I have been wanting to use my new wok, so I searched for a recipe that I thought we would enjoy. After finding it, I jotted down the ingredients and I was off. Since I live in DC, I am normally very fortunate when it comes to ethnic ingredients in the national supermarket chains. The Safeway near my house has a wide selection of Hispanic and Asian ingredients and I can usually find what I need. Today I wasn't so lucky. I trudged my way through all of the aisles painstakingly marking off each item on my weekly list as I placed it in the basket. When I got frighteningly close to the checkout I realized that there were two items on the list that had not been crossed off - rice sticks and Thai fish sauce. Both of these were key ingredients in my Pad Thai recipe and I new I needed to find them. I went back to the Asian aisle and came up dry. I remembered seeing rice sticks at Trader Joe's and I was certain that they would have Thai fish sauce too. I checked out and made my way to my second grocery store of the day. I found the rice sticks in a flash and didn't see anything in the Asian section that resembled Thai fish sauce. I asked the attendant if they carried it and he immediately answered with a negative. I could have screamed! Despite his undesirable answer, he did offer up where he purchases his Thai fish sauce - World Market. I headed out of the store and back to my car feeling extremely frustrated. I could not believe that I had to drive to the other side of town to World Market for another ingredient. This was way too much wok - oops, I mean work. Once I arrived at World Market before I even made it to the back of the store where their food products are placed I came across a bowl made in Thailand - this had to be a positive omen.

It was! I found Thai Fish Sauce at World Market and after three stores, a quarter tank of gas, and 3 hours I was finished my grocery shopping for the week. Now do you understand why I loathe this weekly occurrence?

With the memory of my shopping trip buried, I jumped right in to my first wok prepared recipe. This was an amazing dish! It was a little heavy on the prep work and I was glad that I chose to prepare it on a weekend. Forrest happily served as my sous chef and the meal came together fairly quickly with his help. We had a ton leftover that we will eat another night this week and it was a great change of pace for a Saturday night dinner. Way more delicious than takeout and healthier too!

Cooking Light May 2000

6 3/4 cups water, divided
1/2 pound uncooked rice sticks (rice-flour noodles) or vermicelli
2 tablespoons oil, divided
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten ( I will substitute Egg Beaters next time)
3/4 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
6 lime wedges

Place 6 cups water in a stir-fry pan or wok; bring to a boil. Add noodles; cook 4 minutes. (I would cook it for 6 minutes next time, I found they could have been a little more tender)

Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well. Place cooked noodles in a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon oil; toss well. Set aside.

Combine 3/4 cup water, soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar; set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a stir-fry pan or wok over medium heat. Add eggs; stir-fry 1 minute. Add eggs to noodle mixture.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and garlic;

stir-fry 5 minutes. Add to noodle mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add shrimp, onions, and paprika; stir-fry 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture

and noodle mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; toss with sprouts and cilantro. Sprinkle with peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.

I peppered my shrimp and chicken before I cooked them for additional flavor. I did not salt them because I knew the soy sauce and fish sauce would provide enough salt for the entire dish and I didn't want to introduce additional salt in any way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sghetti Noodle Beans

When my nephew IV was about 2 years old we would ask him what he ate for lunch during school and every single day his reply would be the same - "SghettiNoodleBeans". All one word, very confident and clear as day. It was as if we were the idiots for not knowing what he meant. After a little bit of discussion (well as much discussion as you can have with a two year old, especially one who uses words like sghettinoodlebeans) we found out that this meant pasta with tomato sauce. Now, his parents weren't sending him to some kind of tomato sauce pushing school with stock in Ragu so he didn't actually have this meal everyday, but he sure said they did. Despite how often he was actually being served pasta and tomato sauce, when he did eat this infamous meal it must have left a big impression on his young mind. To this day, IV still loves spaghetti! One of his favorite things to do is to sleep at his NiNi and Pappi's house and to go eat "sghetti" with them at their favorite Italian restaurant. So in honor of little IV I decided to whip up a very easy (cheat) dish of SghettiNoodleBeans - Forrest still calls it that! I admit it, sometimes I do not make everything homemade. Even when I don't I try to spruce up what I have chosen to serve so it has a little bit of a special touch. It is not much of a recipe, but I have included instructions to what I do if for some reason I serve pre-made tomato sauce.

IV of "Sghettinoodlebeans"

Tomato Sauce w/ Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

1 Jar of store bought tomato sauce
1 can of artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 chicken breast cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Onion
3 gloves of garlic
Dry Basil
Dry Oregano
Crushed Red Pepper
1 bag of whole wheat Penne Rigate
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Saute 1 chopped onion and 3 minced gloves of garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until softened. Add Chicken pieces to pot, salt and pepper, cook throughout. Add premade tomato sauce to pot. Simmer on low for 15 minutes. Add quartered artichoke hearts. Sprinkle sauce with dry basil, dry oregano and crushed red pepper. Serve over cooked whole wheat pasta and garnish with shaved Parmesan.

Looks like my niece might follow in her cousin's footsteps - call me crazy, but she seems to be enjoying her sghetti-os as well!

BBQ Bash

A friend of ours had his first annual summer BBQ this weekend. They are pretty big BBQs with more people invited than I think I even know. Since he has these BBQs often during the summer, he has it down to a science of how to entertain so many people. He provides the meat and then according to the first letter of your last name you have to bring either, drinks, condiments, or chips and dips. We fell into the chips and dip category. I wasn't feeling up to cooking on Saturday morning, so I was just going to "phone it in" and bring jarred salsa and some tortilla chips. My sister found this idea appalling, especially coming from me (since I enjoy cooking so much). Not wanting to disappoint, I did a quick dip recipe search on the internet and chose the recipe that seemed the easiest and most tasty. I was glad that I made a home made dip, as several people at the party seemed to really enjoy it!

Red Pepper - Cheese Dip
Cooking Light October 2004

1 large red bell pepper
1 small onion, peeled and halved
Cooking spray
1 whole garlic head
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese ( I used 8 ounces b/c it seemed too thin)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Preheat broiler.

Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove peel and discard. Set roasted pepper aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 400°.

Place onion halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap in foil. Place garlic on baking sheet with onion. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes; turn over onion halves. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until onions are soft and begin to brown. Place onion halves on a plate.

Return garlic to oven, and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Separate the cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.

Place roasted pepper, onion, and garlic pulp in a food processor;

process until fairly smooth. Add yogurt, cheese, cumin seed, and ground red pepper; process until smooth. Spoon dip into a bowl, and stir in parsley. Cover and chill.

Next time I would use jarred roasted red peppers to save some time. I don't think it would change the taste much and then I wouldn't have to worry about peeling the skin off of the pepper.

I think this would also be delicious as a sandwich spread.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Creatures of Habit

In New Orleans, it is a tradition for restaurants and home cooks to make Red Beans and Rice on Mondays. The tradition started in a time when ham was a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. Cooks would use the Ham hock leftover from Sunday to flavor the beans and a pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. While I don't ever remember my momma scrubbing any clothes, we did in fact have Red Beans and Rice every single Monday of my childhood. This may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but I assure you it isn't. I don't know if my mom was really that much of a traditionalist but I tend to believe that the steadiness had a lot to do with my daddy. He is a creature of habit and he is less than enthusiastic about change when it comes to eating. He likes things a certain way and I am sure he would have been devastated if my mom had served anything other than Red Beans on a Monday. Now that all of their kids have grown up and moved out of the house, my mom rarely will cook a pot of Red Beans. But I guarantee that if you give my dear old dad a call on any given Monday he will tell you that is what he ate for lunch at a restaurant around town. Maybe I am just a Daddy's girl, but I find predictability very endearing! Since I have had my own house I haven't attempted to make Red Beans, so I broke out my Cooking Light Magazine and my washboard and got started. I liked that Cooking light offered up a healthier version to this childhood/New Orleans classic and I paired it with brown rice to introduce some whole grains to the meal. Although this dish is very time consuming, it was simple, very cheap to make, and very delicious! (We also ate Popeye's Chicken every Sunday while we watched the New Orleans Saints play - so Monday wasn't our only dedicated meal day of the week).

Red Beans and Rice with Smoke Turkey Sausage
Cooking Light 2007


cups dried small red beans
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 cup water
2 tablespoons salt-free Cajun seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 bay leaves
3/4 pound smoked turkey sausage, thinly sliced
3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice (I used Brown Rice)
Chopped green onions (optional)


Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours. Drain beans.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté for 4 minutes. Stir in beans, 10 cups water, and the next 4 ingredients (through sausage); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours (I found that it took about 3 hours) or until bean mixture thickens. (I also took about 1 cup of the beans and smashed them with the back of my cooking spoon against the pot to help the gravy thicken). Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions, if desired.


6 servings (serving size: 1 cup bean mixture and 1/2 cup rice)

I added more Turkey Sausage than the recipe suggested and this made the dish a tad too salty. I will take better care next time to put the exact amount in the dish that the recipe calls for.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't Mess with the Original

I learned a valuable lesson this weekend - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I have made chili several times using a 2 alarm chili kit and it is delicious. I saw a recipe in a cooking magazine that I bought at the airport and decided that I wanted to give it a try. The article accompanying the recipe said that the recipe used pure chili powders that gave the chili a heartier flavor than if you used "old-fashioned chili mix". That sentence sold me. If I could make a chili with more flavor than my 2 alarm chili mix chili it had to be delicious. I quickly realized that this recipe had several differences, the main one being that it didn't call for ground beef. The meat it required was boneless beef chuck cut into cubes, it sounded strange but I was willing to give it a try. It also called for beer and not just any beer but my favorite, Dos Equis Amber. I have seen chili recipes made with beer but hadn't ever tried it myself so I was excited about this aspect of the recipe. From the very beginning of cooking it, I wasn't too fired up about this dish. Nothing about it looked like, smelled like or tasted like chili. The recipe needed to be cooked low and slow and after three hours I was really hoping that it would be delicious, but the chunks of beef resembled Alpo too closely to make my mouth water at all. In the end it really wasn't that good (Forrest liked it but he likes everything) and it didn't come anywhere close to the chili mix kit recipe. But just in case (for some odd reason) this paragraph sold you, I have included the recipe below......

Texas Beef Chili with Poblanos & Beer
Recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine

3 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
2 large sweet onions, diced (about 4 cups)
2 large fresh poblano peppers (or green bell peppers), stemmed, seeded, and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
4-1/2 lb. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks, 3 to 4 inches long
3 Tbs. New Mexico chile powder (or 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder)
1 Tbs. chipotle chile powder
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cloves (I omitted this from the recipe)
12-oz. bottle amber ale, such as Shiner Bock (made in Shiner, Texas), Dos Equis Amber, or Anchor Steam Liberty Ale
1-1/2 qt. homemade or low-salt beef broth

To Make:

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, translucent, and starting to brown, 8 to 10 min. Add the poblanos, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the poblanos soften, another 8 to 10 min. If the pan seems dry, add a little more olive oil. Add the garlic and 1 tsp. salt and sauté for another 5 min. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil in an 8-quart or larger Dutch oven (preferably enameled cast iron) over medium-high heat. Sear the beef cubes until browned and crusty on two sides, working in batches to avoid crowding the pan. With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the browned beef to a bowl. During searing, it’s fine if the pan bottom gets quite dark, but if it smells like it’s burning, reduce the heat a bit. If the pan ever gets dry, add a little more oil.

Once all the beef is seared and set aside, add the onions and peppers to the pan, along with the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, chile powders, cumin, and cloves and cook, stirring, until the spices coat the vegetables and are fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Slowly add the beer while scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to dissolve the coating of spices. Simmer until the beer is reduced by about half and the mixture has thickened slightly, 5 to 7 min. Add the beef, along with any accumulated juices, and the beef broth. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Test a cube of meat—you should be able to cut it with a spoon. Discard the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.If not serving immediately, chill overnight. The next day, skim any fat from the top, if necessary, before reheating.

To serve, heat the chili gently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about 2 cups of the beef cubes to a plate. Shred the meat with a fork and return it to pot. (The shredded meat will help create a thicker texture.) Taste and add more salt if needed. Heat the beans in a medium bowl covered with plastic in the microwave (or heat them gently in a saucepan). Arrange the beans, chopped red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, and sour cream in small bowls to serve as garnishes with the chili.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"You'll be a Dentist"

Over the last few weeks I have been undergoing some very painful dental work. I hate the dentist! And I can't ever go to the dentist without thinking of Steve Martin as the evil dentist in The Little Shop of Horrors. In my opinion, he was brilliant in that role as was the rest of the cast. I don't know if that movie was a big success when it was released but it was a movie that we watched thousands of times growing up and we all loved it! When I was younger and we would watch The Little Shop of Horrors I always thought that Audrey II resembled an artichoke.

So through my own personal six degrees of sedation....I mean separation, my recent dentist visits reminded me of Steve Martin as Orin Scrivello, DDS, and Dr. Scrivello reminded me of Audrey II and Audrey II reminded me of artichokes. The human mind is a powerful thing, or a crazy one depending on how you look at it;-) When I think of food I usually tend to cook it shortly after. While I didn't have any artichokes laying around, I settled on my favorite artichoke dish that incorporated their hearts and is a breeze to throw together - Artichoke Stuffing. The following recipe is one I formally recorded after watching my mom make this dish from memory for years. The recipe below is for a very small amount. I make it for my husband and I as a side dish for dinner and it is enough for two large portions. You can double, triple or even quadruple the recipe depending on how many people you are feeding. My mom makes this as a side dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas and she uses about four cans of artichoke hearts and increases the other ingredients to match. This is so delicious, the cheese becomes crusty in the oven and the breadcrumbs and the olive oil are so flavorful. Now, say ah!

Italian Artichoke Stuffing
Recipe derived from my Mom

1 can of artichoke hearts quartered
1/4 cup of Parmesan Reggiano Cheese
1/4 cup of Italian Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Place quartered artichoke hearts in a glass baking dish. Pepper the artichoke hearts to taste. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over artichoke hearts and stir to coat. Pour half of the olive oil over hearts and crumbs to moisten. Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese over the mixture and coat with remaining Olive Oil. Stir to combine. Sprinkle on top with Parmesan Cheese. Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


If I am watching TV you can be sure I am watching the Food Network. Last week I noticed that three different celebrity chefs referenced the muffuletta, a famous New Orleans Sandwich. I admittingly watch a ton of their programs but this particular occurrence seemed strange. It isn't Mardi Gras or any other New Orleans related holiday so for three Chefs on three different shows to talk about the muffuletta was more than a coincidence. Rachel Ray made a muffuletta salad, Emeril made a classic muffuletta and Mario Batali mentioned it in a discussion on famous Italian sandwiches. I quickly decided it must be a sign. A sign for what? I didn't know, but I was going to use it as motivation to research a recipe and recreate the classic at home. Now back home I could get a Large "Muff" (around 10 inches in diameter) for about $8 and feed four people. Well Northern Virginia isn't "back home" so it cost me quite a bit more to get all the ingredients for the recipe (side note - gas isn't $4.05/gallon back home either). Despite the cost, I had to forge forward since the Food Network's hidden/or not so hidden message had told me to do it ;-)

Growing up in New Orleans, the muffuletta was something we ate quite often. We didn't get ours from the originators (Central Grocery) though. We ate our muffulettas from Ben's and they were amazing. Ben's set the standard very high and I had alot to live up to with my William Sonoma recipe. I knew I was taking a chance by making a traditional New Orleans dish based off of a non-New Orleans source, but I have had the sandwich enough to know that they were using all the right ingredients. This recipe was spot on! The sandwiches turned out delicious and very authentic tasting.

Olive Salad
Recipe courtesy William Sonoma


1 1/2 cups queen pimiento-stuffed olives
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup Italian gardinera (pickled cauliflower,
carrots, red pepper and celery)
1/4 cup pickled pepperoncini
1/4 cup capers, drained (I omitted from the recipe)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup olive oil


Place the queen and Kalamata olives, the gardinera, pepperoncini and capers on a cutting board. (I used the mini food processor to make it easier). Roughly chop the ingredients, cutting each piece 2 or 3 times. The mixture should be very coarse. Transfer to a bowl and add the garlic, parsley, oregano and olive oil. Stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Serves 4.

New Orleans Muffuletta

Recipe courtesy William Sonoma


4 Kaiser or other round, seeded rolls, each 4
inches in diameter, split
1 cup olive salad
3 oz. thinly sliced cooked ham
3 oz. thinly sliced Genoa salami
4 oz. thinly sliced mortadella
4 slices provolone cheese


Lay the roll halves, cut sides up, on a work surface. Brush the cut sides with oil from the olive salad. On the bottom half of each roll, spread 2 Tbs. to 1/4 cup olive salad. Place the ham, salami, mortadella and cheese on top, dividing evenly. Cover each sandwich with the top half of a roll. Cook the sandwiches immediately, or cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

Preheat an electric panini press on medium-low according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Place the sandwiches, one at a time, on the preheated panini press. Cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until the sandwich is warmed through and the cheese is melted, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board and cut each into quarters. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From Quiche to Crawfish

My husband and I traveled home to New Orleans this past weekend for his little brother's high school graduation. An added bonus to being home this weekend was that it was also Mother's Day. Normally we wouldn't travel home for this holiday so it was nice to be able to spend the day with our moms. Since it was my first Mother's Day that I had someone other than my own Mom to honor, I wanted to make it special. We spent the night at Forrest's parent's house on Saturday so I planned on making a memorable Mother's Day Breakfast for his mom and his family. I knew Quiche wouldn't be the most popular choice for a house full of men but it was Mother's Day after all and women love quiche (stereotypically). I was still interested in pleasing the boys too so I chose a quiche that had a hashbrowns-crust instead of pie crust and added sausage to one of them to try and "man it up" a little. I recruited Forrest's brothers and his dad to help out and they all did an awesome job. Simon took my emailed grocery list and did the shopping for all the items I needed, Denton woke me up at 6:00am so I could get started cooking and Mr. Paul made sure Mrs. Pat knew the plan and didn't make conflicting breakfast plans for that day.

I purposely chose a recipe I had made before since I knew I was cooking for a bunch of people on a big day and I didn't feel it was a good time to start experimenting. Well despite my best efforts it ended up being a huge science experiment to say the least. Cooking in someone else's oven proved to be quite the adventure. I had a big piece of humble pie (or should I say humble quiche) that morning. Maybe I wasn't such the little chef after all - I had a recipe that was fairly simple to assemble and cook and for some reason it took me twice as long to cook than it had the first time I made it. I even had to call in the guest of honor to help me re-asses the cooking times and the rapidly browning crusts (Sorry Mrs. Pat!) The flavor turned out correctly, but the cooking times were so off that it really bugged me. In the end, everyone was happy and I was elated to cook for my new family!

Hashbrown Quiche
Recipe courtesy Paula Dean, 2007

3 cups, shredded frozen hash browns, thawed and drained
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup diced cooked ham ( I put ham in one and Andouille Sausage in the other)
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 cup shredded Cheddar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Gently press the drained hash browns between paper towels to dry them as best as possible. In a 9-inch pie plate, toss the hash browns with the melted butter into the plate. Press them into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When the hash brown crust is ready pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is light golden brown on top and puffed. (By the Way - The sausage quiche was voted the crowd favorite.)

After breakfast, we headed to my family's for a crawfish boil. The crawfish were delicious and I couldn't have asked for two better meals with two better families during our visit to New Orleans!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rain, Rain Go Away

Last Saturday I got my first request for something that someone read about on my blog.....sort of. We had a party this past weekend and one of our friends revealed that another one of our friends was hoping that the mini cheesecakes from a couple posts ago would make an appearance. Well the two guys in question play on Forrest's softball team and I promised that I would bring a batch to their game on Thursday. Auburn was playing Yale and it was a big game for Forrest since he cross pollinates between the two teams. I had promised to go and since I was already scheduled to make an appearance I figured it wouldn't be a big deal to whip up a batch of the coveted cheesecakes. So this I did and to everyone's dismay the game ended up being rained out. Sadly, I wasn't able to deliver on my first blog re-do request and Dubanskey didn't get his cheesecakes, sorry Dubs there is always next time. And subsequently, Forrest and I have to eat 30 mini cheesecakes in the next two days before we go out of town (only partially complaining about this fact). So until the next game........Geaux Tigers, oops, I mean Go Tigers!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Right "Wing"ed

Before my husband and I got married people were more than willing to share their best marriage advice with us. We heard it all, from "respect each" other to "laugh everyday" and we even got our fair shares of "Don't do it"s. One suggestion that we heard over and over was "to make sure you are willing to compromise". Well compromise is not my most favorite activity. I normally prefer to flat out get my way. I know that this isn't going to always be an option so I decided to start practicing this thing called compromise in the kitchen. Forrest loves hot wings and if I never eat hot wings again it may be too soon. So when I saw Giada make these Balsamic Chicken Wings on her show, Everyday Italian, I knew it would be a great recipe to try that would hopefully satisfy Forrest's cravings for wings and turn out to be the right type of wings for me to enjoy. Well, Forrest loved them:

And I thought they were really appetizing as well. This little thing called compromise may not be so bad after all................

Balsamic Chicken Wings
Recipe courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 sprigs of rosemary
5 garlic cloves, halved
10 to 12 chicken wings
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine the balsamic, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary sprigs, and garlic cloves, in a large, re-sealable plastic bag. Shake and squeeze the contents of the bag to dissolve the honey and the brown sugar. Add the chicken wings to the bag and seal with as little air as possible in the bag. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the chicken wings on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the skin is caramelized and very dark in spots, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan. Bring the marinade to a boil (in order to kill bacteria). Reduce the heat to simmer and cook over low heat until thick, about 15 minutes. Reserve.

Use a pastry brush to brush some of the cooked marinade on the cooked chicken. Place the chicken on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and the chopped parsley.

Cook's note: I like the rosemary and garlic flavors in the background. Brushing the cooked wings with the reduced marinade helps the flavors along. Also, re-moistening helps the parsley and the seeds to adhere.

I used peanuts to sprinkle on top of the wings instead of sesame seeds because I couldn't find them at the grocery. I also marinated the wings all day instead of two hours and it gave them a lot of flavor.