Sunday, August 31, 2008

Request Fulfilled !

My oldest brother Trey is a really picky eater. He isn't adventurous at all as far as his tastebuds are concerned. When I visited home last weekend I asked him what type of things he would be interested in seeing on my blog. He rattled off a long list of dishes that contained things like Shepard's pie, Pepper steak, and "something stuffed". Since "stuffed" dishes and Shepard's pie didn't seem to be the healthiest options I was pleased to find a recipe for Pepper Steak in the newest issue of Cooking Light.

Pepper Steak
Cooking Light September 2008


3/4 pound flank steak, trimmed
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine), dry sherry, or sake ( I used sake)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 cup vertically sliced yellow onion
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper strips (about 1 medium)
1 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper strips (about 1 medium)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups hot cooked short-grain rice ( I used brown whole grain rice)


1. Cut steak across grain into 1/4-inch slices; cut slices into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Cut strips into 3-inch-long pieces.

Combine steak pieces, soy sauce, wine, sugar, and black pepper.

2. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add onion and garlic to wok; stir-fry 30 seconds or until onion begins to brown. Add red and green bell peppers to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Spoon bell pepper mixture into a large bowl.

3. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add half of steak mixture to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until browned. Add cooked steak mixture to bell pepper mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining steak mixture.

Return steak mixture to wok; sprinkle with salt. Stir-fry 1 minute or just until heated. Serve over rice.


4 servings (serving size: 1 cup beef mixture and 3/4 cup rice)

This version of pepper steak was very easy to prepare. For some unknown reason we don't eat a lot of red meat in our house so this suggestion from my brother was a great change for us. The liquid mixture for the steak gave it great flavor. We really enjoyed this meal. If you don't have a wok you could easily prepare this recipe in a regular flat skillet.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Big Saturday Morning

Today is a big day in my household. I think for my husband it is somewhat similar, if not more special than Christmas morning. It is the first Saturday of the 2008 College Football Season. He has been patiently waiting (ok maybe not so patiently) for this day for almost a year now. He has been watching re-airings of games from last season, studying recruiting reports and reading college football blogs all in anticipation of this day.

I wanted to start his day right, so I woke up and cooked him a homemade breakfast so he would know I was supportive of his excitement. Homemade breakfast is a rarity in my home. I don't like to wake up super early on the weekends and I wake up in just enough time to shower and scoot out of the door on weekdays. Forrest usually eats a bowl of Cheerios or Oatmeal so he was very pleased with his Saturday Morning Football Breakfast. As he entered the kitchen for the first time this morning to the smell of pancakes cooking in the pan I made sure to greet him with the obligatory, "Good Morning and War Eagle!"

Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
Recipe Courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups pancake and waffle mix (recommended: Krusteaz)
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup frozen blueberries
Melted butter

Stir 1/3 cup of water and sugar in a small saucepan

over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in the honey. Set aside and keep the honey syrup warm.

Using a rubber spatula, stir the remaining 1 2/3 cups of water and vanilla in a large bowl.

Add the pancake mix and stir just until moistened but still lumpy. Stir in the ricotta into the pancake mixture,
then stir gently to incorporate the ricotta but maintain a lumpy batter. Fold in the blueberries.

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Brush with the melted butter. Working in batches, spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.

Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with the honey syrup.

These pancakes were amazing! The light honey syrup was very subtle and did not take away from the pancakes and their added flavor of ricotta and vanilla. Forrest opted for Sugar Free Maple Syrup since the honey syrup from the recipe was definitely more sugar than he needs in the morning. Using frozen blueberries worked wonderfully in producing perfectly plump blueberries that were anything but mushy inside of the cooked pancakes. Next time I make these I would sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top for aesthetic purposes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cheesecakes and Softball Take 2

Tomorrow night is Forrest's end of season Auburn Softball Team party. Since I was never successful at delivering my mini cheesecakes to the team during the season I figured that I would attempt my petite pastries one more time for this group of friends. The only problem was that I hate to make the same thing over and over again. I had a cheesecake recipe I saw Giada make on TV that I had saved in my Food recipe box several months ago. Although they were much more involved than my usual mini cheesecakes I figured it was worth it to try something new.

Individual Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes
Recipe Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

1/3 cup finely crushed chocolate wafers
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 orange, zested
1 egg
Butter, for greasing

Special equipment: mini muffin tin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the crushed chocolate wafers and the melted butter.

Place a tightly packed teaspoon of the wafer mixture into each mini-muffin cup and press down firmly.

In a food processor combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1/4 cup of the sugar, half of the orange zest, and the egg.

Blend until smooth. Lightly grease the sides of the mini muffin tin with butter. Fill the cups with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheesecake mixture.

Place the mini muffin tin in a baking dish and pour enough hot water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the mini muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer the mini muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Use a small knife to gently pop the cheesecakes out of the cups.

Just before serving, combine the remaining orange zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Top each individual cheesecake with about 1/4 teaspoon of the orange zest mixture and serve.

I think these chocolate and orange cheesecakes would be an awesome dessert to serve at a Halloween party since they are appropriately colored. I will be making these again in a few months!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Missing Blogger

Sorry I haven't been posting. I am visiting back home in New Orleans and I haven't cooked anything in a few days. But I have been eating...... Check out the crispy trout I indulged in Saturday night that my parents caught off of their pier:

Nothing like fresh fish (very fresh fish) !

I am getting a new godchild this week so be expecting an update in the next few days.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Name Game

I guess it is my own fault. And I only have myself to blame. I have made food and all food related things such a huge part of our lives that my poor husband is totally confused. The first time I realized that something was a little curious was when I was working upstairs in my office and he called up to me that I should hurry down before I missed "Bobby Filet" on his new show on the Food Network. I laughed so hard I nearly busted a lung. Then just last night he referenced "Nelly Frittata". Now I am not sure if he did it to make me laugh because he remembers the Bobby Filet incident or if he really thinks it is her name. Whichever it is, it worked. I chuckled for a good 5 minutes!

Linguine and Prosciutto Frittatas
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 pound linguine pasta
7 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
6 ounces diced prosciutto
5 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, diced (1 cup diced)
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Special equipment: 1 regular-sized muffin tin for 12 muffins

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander. While the pasta is still in the colander, use kitchen sheers to cut the linguine into smaller pieces. The pasta should measure about 3 cups.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the muffin tin.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, cream, and mascarpone cheese. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Add the cut pasta, prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, Asiago cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Stir until the ingredients are combined.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, fill each of the muffin tins until both the pasta and liquid are at the top.

Bake until firm and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes before removing from the tin.

Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

These frittatas were delicious. When I saw Giada make these on the Food Network I knew I had to try them out. It seemed so unique to put pasta into a frittata. I am not sure how but it works. The pasta, the eggs, the cheese and the prosciutto all work together magically. This was amazingly easy and such a treat! It would be an awesome breakfast, or brunch, or dinner (like we did).

Monday, August 18, 2008

2 Sawhorses and a Plywood Board

In an attempt to use the leftover crawfish I defrosted for yesterday's mirlitons I found a quick crawfish pasta recipe that looked delicious. It wasn't the healthiest of recipes but every now and then I figure that is ok as long as we practice portion control.

As I prepared tonight's meal I couldn't help but think about the first time Forrest met my entire family. It was a Friday during Lent and as tradition has it we were going to feast on boiled crawfish for dinner. Most New Orleanians are Catholic and during Lent you are supposed to abstain from eating meat on Fridays which gives us the perfect excuse to indulge in this local favorite. It was after Hurricane Katrina and my parents were in the process of rebuilding their home. They were at the stage of construction where all that existed was the structure and the freshly drywalled interior. Otherwise the house was completely empty. Despite its premature state, they were further along than any of my other family member's rebuilding efforts so therefore they were set to host the meal. My parent's home is located on Lake Pontchartrain providing for beautiful scenery. I can remember the night like it was yesterday. My Daddy opened all of the windows to let the cool breeze flow through the un-air conditioned house. He set up two saw horses with plywood placed on top for a makeshift table. We all stood around the table and talked and ate and drank and laughed - it was great fun. As people finished eating they retired to upside down paint buckets for seating. It was all very rustic and not at all how you imagine your first introduction of your family to your future husband. No tables, no chairs and no electricity is not exactly your ideal set up for a dinner gathering. Although it was very primitive I could not have asked for a better scenario. We were together as a family to eat and enjoy each other in spite of everything going on in our lives at the time. I think Forrest learned a lot about my family that night. We made do with what we had and we had a blast! He recalls it fondly from time to time so I am certain it left a lasting impression on his mind.

Crawfish and Cream over Pasta
Recipe Courtesy Emeril Lagasse

1 pound linguine or fettucine
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Essence, (recipe in link)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound crawfish tails*
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return to the pot and toss with the olive oil and reserved cooking liquid. Cover to keep warm.

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Essence, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the white wine and cook over high heat until nearly all evaporated. Add the cream lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally,

until slightly reduced. Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring, to warm through.

Add the onions and parsley and cook for 1 minute.

Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Cook until the pasta is warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Turn out into a serving bowl and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Serve.

This pasta dish was super fast and super delicious. I think it would be great with shrimp as well. It had just enough spice to tickle your taste buds without being overpowering.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Picky Eater - No More

When I was a little girl I remember my Grannie making stuffed mirlitons. I was such a picky eater as a child that I never actually tasted her mirlitons. When I was younger I rarely ate vegetables and stayed far away from things that were green. It seems so ridiculous now that I know how delicious most green things are and how much I love vegetables. The saddest part is that my Grannie is no longer with us and I missed my opportunity to taste her stuffed mirlitons - I am sure they were divine as she was an amazing cook. When I came across this recipe in Cooking Light I immediately added it to my weekly menu. I had to create this dish since I missed it during my childhood.

Cooking Light April 2002


4 mirlitons (a.k.a. squash chayote)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/4 cups cooked crawfish tail meat (about 14 ounces)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1 large egg, lightly beaten


Pierce mirlitons with a fork.

Place in a Dutch oven; cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool. Cut mirlitons in half lengthwise; discard seeds. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Chop pulp; place in a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 6 minutes or until onion is tender. Add onion mixture, crawfish, and remaining ingredients (I added 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese to the mixture for extra flavor)

to chopped pulp;

stir to combine.

Spoon about 1/2 cup crawfish mixture into each shell; place stuffed mirlitons on a baking sheet.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until crawfish mixture is thoroughly heated and golden.


8 servings (serving size: 1 mirliton half)

This recipe was just as delicious as I had imagined. Next time I make this dish I would boil the mirlitons for longer than 30 minutes in order to soften the innards more. Even thought this was a dish from my past it was great to cook because I had never had it before so the element of surprise was there.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gold Medal Winning Salsa

I have been obsessed with the Olympics (or the "Bolympics" as my nephew IV refers to them) since they started last Friday. Every morning I have to drag myself out of bed trying to fight my late night hangover. I have been staying up way past my usual bed time to watch. The last time I was this in to the Olympics was in 1996 and I don't remember watching nearly as many games as I have this time around. I am even enthralled by synchronized diving. I mean who even knew that was a sport ?!?! No matter which game is on I can't seem to pry my eyes off of the TV. I think it must be my love of competition. I am very competitive and come from an extremely competitive family. We turned everything into a contest - from cleaning our rooms to who gives the best Christmas gift. Throw a scoring system or an outcome model on anything and I am game.

And if there was a salsa making contest I would definitely enter the following recipe. I made a salsa last weekend that in my opinion is the Micheal Phelps of Salsas. I have mentioned two facts in prior posts that probably contribute to my adoration for this salsa - one, I don't like tomato salsa and two, I absolutely LOVE corn. This fresh corn salsa was amazing. The Tequila Lime dressing (although mayo sounded weird on corn) was fabulous and my addition of the jalapeño pepper rounded out the sweetness of the corn.

Roasted Corn Salsa with Tequila-Lime Dressing
Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

5 medium ears yellow corn, silk removed, husk intact.
5 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade (I used Light Jarred Mayo)
2 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup diced green onions
1/2 Serrano pepper, finely chopped (seeds included - I used a whole one)
1 Jalapeño pepper (I added this to the recipe)
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper (I used 2 whole red bell peppers)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I used parsley)
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish
Tortilla chips, for garnish

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

Soak corn in water for 5 minutes, drain and pat dry.

Lightly rub each ear of corn with 1 teaspoon of the oil and place the corn directly on the grill. Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until the kernels are lightly browned on all sides, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside until cool. When the ears have cooled, cut the kernels from the cobs and transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, tequila, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Pour the mayonnaise-tequila dressing over the cooled corn kernels. Stir in the green onions, diced serrano pepper, Jalapeno pepper, red bell pepper, and parsley.

Adjust seasonings, as needed. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Place corn salsa in a serving bowl, garnish with avocado slices, and serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Violet Vanity

I have a friend who went through a period when her hair color was purple. It was after "mall bangs" and shortly before "the Rachel". She is someone who is really into her appearance so I know she thought it looked good. It wasn't a horrific dye job or a bad chemical reaction to a chlorinated pool - she did it on purpose. The funniest part about the entire situation is that she used to say her hair color was "eggplant" as if that made the situation better. I never totally understood her justification. Why was it shameful to have purple hair, but more noble to have a hair hue named after a bitter fruit? I can't ever cook eggplant without thinking of my purple headed pal (who will remain nameless to protect her identity and preserve her dignity). In my opinion I much prefer to eat my eggplant than to resemble it!

Eggplant Marinara Pasta Casserole
Cooking Light August 2008


6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Cooking spray
1 ounce pancetta, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
16 ounces uncooked penne (tube-shaped pasta)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1 (3-inch) piece French bread baguette (2 ounces) (I used whole-wheat)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


1. Arrange eggplant on several layers of heavy-duty paper towels. Sprinkle eggplant with 1 teaspoon kosher salt; let stand 15 minutes. Pat dry with additional paper towels.

2. Preheat oven to 450°.

3. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet; cool.

4. Cook pancetta in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, oil, and garlic to pan; cook 6 minutes or until onion is lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add wine to pan; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in basil, oregano, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; partially cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat; stir in eggplant.

5. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Add pasta and reserved 1/4 cup cooking water to tomato mixture; stir well. Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with fontina.

6. Place baguette in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/2 cups. Add Parmesan to processor; pulse 5 times. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over fontina.

7. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

This casserole was amazing. It took a long time to cook so I wouldn't cook it on a weeknight after work again, but we will definitely be having it soon. The flavor medley was amazing and the rich color after the casserole baked in the oven was beautiful (see above). I particularly loved the texture of the crumbled baguette mixed with the Parmesan cheese. After baking, the breadcrumbs became extra crunchy and were the perfect compliment to the soft melted fontina cheese.