Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hamming it Up

Ham and Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Shallots 
Christmas dinner was a delicious success of scalloped potatoes, gingerbread cake, and ham. Oh so much ham! More ham than five of us could possible eat in a day. More ham than necessary for a huge pot of split pea soup, scrambles, and sandwiches. What to do with an excess of ham? I poked around the fridge and pantry for ingredients and came up with this delicious and easy meal perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try it out next time you're facing a few slabs of uneaten hog!

- 3 medium sized sweet potatoes, diced into 1" chunks
- 2-3 large shallots, sliced crosswise into disks
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp. minced parsley
- 2 c. roughly diced leftover smoked ham
- 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 eggs cooked to your liking (I like them poached!)

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Toss diced sweet potato chunks in olive oil and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften and turn brown. Turn potatoes occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent from sticking to the foil. Remove from oven.

While the potatoes are roasting caramelize the shallots. Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add shallots and break rings from disks with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow shallots to soften slightly over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and and caramelize shallots until they become very brown and soft. 

Once shallots have caramelized add roasted potatoes, ham, and parsley to pan and cook over medium until ham heats up and begins to brown. Meanwhile, heat broiler and prepare eggs to your liking (fried or poached works best). Once the ham and potato mixture is warmed through, sprinkle with an even layer of cheddar cheese and melt under boiler. Divide potato and ham hash among two plates and top with two eggs each. Serve with ketchup, Sriracha sauce, or your other favorite condiments! Very yummy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kris Krinkles!

Nutella and Cherry Crinkle Cookies
I was on my holiday baking marathon- Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti with White Chocolate, New Orleans Pralines, Fudge, Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, and Peanut and Pretzel Caramel Blondies! Yum! While I have tons of delicious treats for sharing, an unopened jar of Nutella sitting in the cupboard taunted me. I wanted to create a simple, holiday-themed cookie treat with this beloved chocolate-hazelnut spread. Tah dah! These cookies come together in a snap into a chewy and delicious addition to your holiday baking list!

- 1 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 1 c. Nutella
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 1/4 c. flour
- 2 c. dried cherries

Preheat oven to 325˚ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking pad. In a large mixing bowl cream together sugar, butter, and vanilla until smooth and creamy with an electric mixer. Blend in eggs and Nutella and mix until the batter is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients into the Nutella mixture in two additions, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Mix dried cherries into the batter until evenly distributed.

Drop tablespoonful dollops of cookie dough onto prepared baking sheet. Evenly space dough apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes until cookies have spread and are slightly puffy. Let cool on baking sheet for about 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will crinkle as they cool. So yummy, so easy . . . what can't Nutella do?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seeing Red

Moist and Delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes for Emily's Birthday
I am far, far away from my home and in St. Louis directing a charming holiday comedy called My Three Angels. It's been a fast and furious rehearsal process full of wonderful discoveries and challenges. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity to work in such a great city with such talented people. Among them is a lovely actor named Emily. She is portraying the role of the ingenue, Marie-Louise, a stubborn and romantically-minded young woman in love with a good-looking douche bag. On one of the first nights of rehearsal, Emily told us that her birthday was today. When I asked her favorite variety of cupcake, she replied without missing a beat: "Red velvet." My mom had been raving about some Red Velvet Cupcakes she had whipped up a few months ago, so I took this as the perfect opportunity to get myself back into the kitchen and try out the recipe. I made a couple of changes to my mom's recipe based on what was on hand in Dan's kitchen. They came out great. Fingers crossed that Emily will like eating this birthday surprise as much as we liked baking them!
- 2 1/2 c. flour
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 Tbsp. red food coloring
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 c. room temperature buttermilk
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 2 Tsp. vanilla, divided
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 c. or so of powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin tins with 24 paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl combine vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs, 1 Tbsp. vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar. Blend until thoroughly combined with a hand mixer. Batter should be smooth, thick, and bright red. In two of three batches, add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture. Blend thoroughly after each addition. Using a tablespoon, fill each cupcake liner with batter to 2/3 of the way full.

Bake cupcakes in oven for about 20-30 minutes until they are cooked through and slightly raised. Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

In the meantime, go ahead . . . taste the batter. You know you want to.

When the cupcakes have cooled completely prepare the cream cheese frosting. Blend together room temperature butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add remaining Tbsp. of vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar to the mixture about a cup at a time and blend after each addition until the frosting has reached the desired consistency. Carefully frost each cupcake with a butter knife or off-set spatula. Yum. Enjoy eating and sharing these tasty little treats!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Rain

Hot and Smoky Pumpkin Soup With Garlic Croutons
Somewhere between the morning mist and the hours of cold November rain, I ventured outside to walk the dog. What have I found strewn in the aftermath of my neighbors' drunken violent post-Halloween outbursts? The scattered remains of last week's Jack-o-Lanterns smashed upon the asphalt in some sort of macabre massacre of used gourds. What a waste. We had two perfectly edible pumpkins sitting in our living room. While we had every intention of carving them and setting them out on the front step, the traditional practice of wasting perfectly good food never materialized. What am I going to do with those pumpkins? Not wanting to take the route of utter pumpkin destruction, it occurred to me that I could actually eat them. So, on this cold and rainy November night I threw together this smoky (and satisfying) soup recipe. Please try it! And remember, think of the pumpkins.

- 1 whole pumpkin (about 2-4 lbs.)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 4-6 ancho chili peppers in adobo sauce, diced
- 1 c. milk
- 2 c. grated white cheddar cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- chives
- crumbled feta cheese for garnish
- 4 c. vegetable broth
- 4 c. old bread, cut into 1" cubes

Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Arrange bread cubes on the foil in an even layer. In a small bowl mash together garlic with 4 Tbsp. olive oil, whisk in 1 tsp. salt. Drizzle olive oil mixture over the bread cubes and toss together to coat evenly. Toast in oven for about 20-30 minutes until bread begins to dry out and turn golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn oven up to 425˚F. Slice pumpkin in half and scoop the seeds and stringy pulp. Discard innards. Slice the pumpkin into 1" thick pieces and arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and oregano and drizzle with olive oil. Roast pumpkin slices until they soften and begin to turn golden brown. It will take about an hour since pumpkin can be tough. Flip slices over about half way through to make sure both sides are browned.

Once the pumpkin has been roasted, allow it to cool for about 10-15 minutes so that it is easier to handle. Scoop the meat away from the skin. Discard the browned rinds and set the pumpkin aside.

In a large, heavy stock pot heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Cook onion over medium until it softens and begins to turns translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetable broth, chili peppers in their sauce, and pumpkin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes until everything is softened. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender. Return soup to a low heat and whisk in milk and grated cheddar cheese.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. And heat until soup is warmed through. Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons, crumbled feta, and chopped fresh chives. It will warm you from the inside out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gobble It Right Up!

Spaghetti and Smoky Cheese-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs
In about a month turkey will take center stage for Thanksgiving, but I was in the mood for a preview of fall's favorite fowl. Meatballs are a great dinner idea for fall and winter They are inexpensive to make, quick to throw together, and the flavor combos are endless. I turned up the taste factor on this meatball riff with a generous combination of spices, flavorful smoked mozzarella cheese, shallots, and diced pancetta. The flavor combination on the meatballs is bold, so I decided to go with my Simple and Delicious Marinara Sauce but feel free to use your favorite- either from a jar or from scratch. Either way, you won't be disappointed with this hearty dinner.

- 1 lb ground turkey
- 4 oz. diced pancetta
- 2 Tbsp. finely minced Italian parsley
- 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 1 egg
- a splash of milk
- 1 tsp. herbs d' Provence
- salt and pepper
- 1/3 c. dried breadcrumbs
- 16 oz. dried spaghetta
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 6 c. marinara sauce

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9x13" baking dish with a generous coating of cooking spray.

While things are heating up, place ground turkey, pancetta, parsley, red pepper flakes, shallots, egg, milk, herbs d' Provence, and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle mixture with about a tsp. of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Gently combine ingredients with bare hands, until the mixture is well incorporated. Form one meatball at a time in fingers, rolling gently in the palm to create a golf-ball sized sphere. Gently push a cheese cube into the center of the ball and roll around so that the cheese is totally covered. Place finished meatballs in the prepared baking dish. Once meatballs are formed, bake in oven for about 25-30 minutes until they are cooked through and beginning to brown. Remove from oven.

While meatballs are baking, heat the marinara sauce in a medium sauce pan. When the salted water comes to a rolling boil, cook pasta to al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1/4 c. pasta cooking water. Place the hot drained noodles in a large serving bowl and toss with butter and reserved pasta cooking water. Pour heated sauce over the pasta, then top with cooked meatballs. Serve with bread and salad!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Fast and Furious Pho Noodle Soup
This is one of the quickest and most satisfying soups I've made in a while. Something about steamy, brothy soups are hitting the spot for me right now. The abrupt change in weather to something decidedly "autumn" in tone definitely has something to do with it.  I had quite a bit of homemade broth remaining from a previous soup recipe as well as one lonely pork chop sitting in the fridge. This seemed like the perfect dinner to satisfy my appetite for soup during a time of year when I need to be warmed from the inside out. I served it with a little Sriracha hot sauce for an extra kick.

- 1 1" thick boneless pork chop
- 8 c. chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. shredded carrots
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced into 1" pieces
- 4 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
- 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger 
- 1 tsp. grated garlic
- 1 5 oz. package udon noodles
- salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. While waiting for the broth to boil, season pork chop with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cut across the grain into thin slices, about 1/8" thick. Place slices of pork in a small bowl and toss together with 2 Tbsp. of soy sauce and olive oil. Allow meat to sit and soak while waiting for the broth to come to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, season the broth with grated ginger, garlic, and remaining soy sauce. Once it is boiling add scallions, carrots, udon noodles, and sliced pork with marinade. Boil for about 4-5 minutes until noodles soften and pork is cooked through. Remove from heat and ladle into bowls. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired.

That's it! So easy and fast! It's fun to eat with chop sticks and then just drink the savory, delicious broth down. You can easily make this recipe with thin sliced beef or chicken!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Chicken Three Dinners (Day Three)

Pork and Shrimp Wonton Soup
One Chicken Three Dinners comes to an end with this deliciously warm and brothy soup. When I was growing up, I watched my mom make soup from scratch (broth included) and thought she was some sort of wizard. Perhaps there is a kind of magic to drawing savory flavor from the bones and bits of chicken we don't usually eat, but trust me, it's not difficult magic. This soup recipe makes good use of the leftover bones, skin, neck, and other chicken pieces reserved from the Buttery Roast Chicken recipe. I ended up with about 12 cups of broth, plenty for this wonton soup recipe and more! I used half of the broth for this recipe and froze the other half for a future soup recipe. And with Fall in full-swing, there will definitely be more soup recipes to come!

- 1 leftover chicken carcass, leftover skin, even the pan juices, broken into pieces
- 2 yellow onions, quartered
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- salt and pepper
- 2 small handfuls of assorted fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand will work (this time around I threw in a few whole sprigs of thyme, rosemary, Italian parsley, and marjoram)
- 1 package square wonton wrappers
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1/2 lb. ground pork
- 6 prawns, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 6 green onions, 3 minced and the remaining three sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. soy sauce, divided
- 1 tsp. cornstarch

Place leftover chicken parts in a large stockpot with quartered onions and handfuls of fresh herbs. Cover with water (about 12 cups) and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the soup for about 90 minutes. Season broth generously with salt and pepper to flavor it. It will probably take about 1-2 Tablespoons of salt to flavor it enough. Remove from heat and strain broth through a heavy-colander to remove solids. Discard solids. Return about half of the broth (about 6 cups) to the stockpot and reserve the rest. (Allow the reserved broth to cool completely before storing in a heavy-duty bag and freezing for later use.) Bring the broth in the stockpot to a boil.

While the broth is coming to a boil, prepare the wontons. In a medium bowl combine pork, shrimp, sesame oil, minced green onions, egg, grated garlic, grated ginger, and 1 tsp. of soy sauce. Using clean hands, mix the ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Lay out a piece of waxed paper to assemble wontons and mix together cornstarch with a few tablespoons of warm water in a small ramekin for sealing the wontons. Using one wrapper at a time, drop about 1 tsp. of pork and shrimp mixture into the center. Dip a finger in the cornstarch mixture and run it along 2 edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to make a triangle, pressing down a dry edge against a dampened edge. Moisten one corner of the wonton triangle and bring a moist corner to a dry corner. Press together to create a little "Bishop's Hat" shape. Fill and fold remaining wontons until all the wrappers and filling have been used. Be careful not to overfill the wontons.

Place the assembled wontons into the boiling broth along with the remaining sliced green onions and 2 Tbsp. of soy sauce. Boil for about 10 minutes until the filling is cooked completely and the wontons float to the surface. Remove from heat and serve hot. Season broth with extra soy sauce if desired.

(If you don't have the time or leftovers to make homemade broth, just use about 6 c. of store-bought chicken broth and this makes for a very quick soup.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

One Chicken Three Dinners (Day Two)

Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Poblanos and White Beans
Day Two of my Adventure on Chicken led me to put together an easy and filling one-dish dinner perfect for fall. I saved the extra chicken from the other night's Buttery Roast Chicken and Potatoes for this meal, but you can get a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket or just cook a couple of breast pieces to get about two cups of shredded chicken meat. It's easy to throw this together early in the day and then it just takes about 30 minutes in the oven when you get home from work. Easy to put together and enough to feed the whole family . . . you'll love this cheesy take on chicken.

- 2 c. shredded chicken meat (breast or thigh meat or a combo works great)
- 10 6"corn tortillas
- 1 jar green salsa 
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 15 oz. can white beans in their juices
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
- 1 c. or so crème fraîche
- 2 poblano chilis
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- oil for frying

Turn on the oven to broil and place the poblano chili peppers in a baking dish. Place in oven a broil, turning occasionally so that the skin on each side of the pepper turns bubbly and black. When the peppers are completely blackened, place in a resealable container and allow to cool. While the peppers are roasting, heat about 1 Tbsp. of oil in a small non-stick pan over medium-high. Fry tortillas one at a time, continuing to oil the pan as you go, until each is softened and slightly browned. It takes about 20-30 seconds per side. Drain fried tortillas on paper-towels to remove extra oil. Set aside until the peppers have cooled.

While the tortillas and peppers cool, prepare the beans and chicken. Heat about 1 Tbsp. of oil in a small pot, add garlic, and cook at medium heat for about 1 minute until the garlic softens and becomes fragrant. Add beans with their juices, cumin, chili powder, and ground coriander. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until mixture thickens. Stir often to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot. While beans are cooking, toss together chicken pieces with lime juice. Peel the brown and bubbled skin from the cooled peppers, scrape out seeds, remove stem, and roughly chop. Add peppers to chicken mixture and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spray a 9x13" baking pan with cooking oil and preheat the oven to 350˚F. To assemble the enchiladas. Lay a tortilla on a plate, spread with about 1 Tbsp. of the cooked beans, top with a sprinkle of chicken and pepper mixture, and then cover with about a teaspoon of crème fraîche. Roll enchilada and place in prepared baking pan. Continue assembling and rolling enchiladas until the pan is full and the enchiladas are nestled closely together. Cover the rolled enchiladas with an even layer of green salsa and then sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and begins to bubble on top. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. Yum!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Chicken Three Dinners (Day One)

Buttery Roast Chicken and Potatoes
With fall definitely falling upon us, it's time for yummy oven roasted recipes. The taste of a tender and juicy chicken is just so very satisfying on the dinner table with raindrops beating on the roof outside. I had been craving a savory roast chicken ever since reading Julia Child's autobiography where she describes at length the succulent butter-drenched chickens she feasted on in France. Taking a cue from Julia, I put together this yummy and easy roast chicken recipe together with the intention of using every bit of it for two other leftover recipes (skin, bones, and all). This is the first night of the chicken feast, made possible and super delicious thanks to handfuls of fresh herbs given to me from Marion's beautiful garden.

- 1 5 lb. whole chicken, rinsed with innards removed and reserved*
- a small handful of fresh chopped rosemary, thyme, and marjoram
- salt and lemon pepper
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 lemons, halved
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
- 5-6 medium carrots, cut into thirds crosswise

Rinse chicken in cold water and pat completely dry with paper towels. Season the inside of the chicken with a sprinkle of salt and several grinds of lemon pepper. Place in a roasting pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 375˚F. In a small bowl blend together butter with about 2/3 of the fresh herbs with a fork. Rub the outside of the chicken completely with the butter- this will make the skin crisp and delicious. Season the outside of the chicken generously with salt and lemon pepper. Spread the legs of the chicken apart and sprinkle the inside of the chicken with the remaining fresh herbs then stuff it with onion quarters and halved lemons. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and pin the skin flap closed with a couple of toothpicks.

Arrange the chicken at the center of the roasting pan and surround with sliced carrots and potatoes. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper and place the pan in the oven. Roast chicken for about 90 minutes, removing every 25 minutes or so to baste with drippings. Chicken in cooked through when a thermometer placed in the center of a meaty part of the bird registers to 180˚F. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Allow meat to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. I served mine with the roasted vegetables and some sauteed kale. It was a very tasty dish!

*After dinner, I removed any extra meat from the bird and saved it in a bag for chicken enchiladas. The bones, skin, chicken innards, and pan drippings I saved in a gallon freezer bag and placed it in the freezer so it would be ready for later.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Benefits of Friends

Jenn and Marion Pepperoni Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes and Smoked Mozzarella
Sometimes I dream of having my own charming little garden with ripe red tomatoes, fragrant garlic, and fresh savory herbs . . . but, alas, I haven't yet had the opportunity to prove my green thumb. With my recent move and a newly acquired backyard space, I have decided to try my hand at cultivating my own veggies. Although it's a bit too late for this year, I am lucky enough to have friends who have generously offered up a share of their harvest. On my recent trip to Seattle, Jennifer sent me home with a perfect pint of jewel-bright cherry tomatoes and just this afternoon, Marion gave me a whole box of tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, and baggies of herbs! For my first garden-fresh recipe, I decided to make use of those lovely tomatoes and some fresh basil. This pizza is extremely flavorful and easy to make. Try it tonight! (Thanks Jenn and Marion for sharing your beautiful fresh produce!)

- 1 lb. fresh refrigerated pizza dough, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before working
- 1 lb. cherry tomatoes, stems removed, rinsed and sliced in half
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 head of garlic, top sliced off
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 8 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 2 oz. sliced pepperoni
- 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, sliced into think strips

Preheat the oven to 450˚ F. Place the garlic on a small piece of foil, drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap tightly in the foil. Place the garlic on the middle rack of the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, begin to prepare the slice the tomatoes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried oregano and dried basil, and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Place baking sheet in oven after garlic has roasted for 20 minutes and put foil-wrapped garlic on the baking sheet with tomatoes. Roast tomatoes and garlic together for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for several minutes before handling. Keep the oven heated to 450˚F.

After the tomatoes and garlic has cooled slightly, pour the tomatoes into a small bowl and add the cloves of roasted garlic by squeezing them from the head. Mash up the tomatoes and garlic pieces with the back side of a large spoon and stir mixture together thoroughly. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Set aside and begin to work the dough and prepare the pizza toppings.

Turn out the pizza dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out into a thin 18" circle and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with an even coating of the tomato and garlic sauce.

Grate the smoked mozzarella and place in a medium bowl with the fresh mozzarella and fresh herbs. Toss lightly to combine ingredients then top the tomato mixture with an even layer of the cheese mixture. Arrange pepperoni slices on top on the cheese and brush the crust of the pizza with a thin coat of olive oil. Bake pizza in 450˚F oven for 20-25 minutes until the crust begins to turn brown and crisp and the cheese is golden and bubbly. Cut into wedges and eat! The perfect meal to share with friends!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heat of the Night

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup
It was a lovely time up in Seattle seeing old friends and checking out more than one delicious eatery. A quick two-night stay in one of my favorite cities in the world, an evening of watching the Mariners lose spectacularly to the Yankees, and the BEST soy latte I have ever had, and we were on our way back home. It was a nice end-of-summer get-away, but alas, it had to end with a long car trip with a rambunctious terrier. I was ready for a satisfying, light, and easy dinner when we rolled into the driveway. Luckily, inspiration struck, and I came up with this tasty version of "classic" Tex-Mex fare. It really hit the spot for a warm evening and made great use of several pantry and left-over fridge items (ie. the crumbly broken chips at the bottom of the bag and two-thirds of a jar of salsa). I'm definitely going to enjoy the leftovers tomorrow.

- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 1/2 c. jarred medium-heat red salsa
- 1 c. water
- 2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and kernels scraped off and reserved
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
- 1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies 
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- salt and pepper
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2-4 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 qt. chicken broth
- 1 c. crushed tortilla chips
- sour cream, pickled japapeño peppers, and shredded cheese for garnish (optional)

Place chicken breast in a small sauce pan with a lid and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour water and jarred salsa over chicken and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture is brought to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer chicken breast for 30-40 minutes until it has cooked through completely and it begins to soften.

While chicken is simmering, chop and dice other ingredients and begin to prepare the rest of the soup. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add onion and cook until it begins to turn translucent and begins to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add chopped fresh jalapeño pepper. Stir over medium until pepper begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add corn, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin, lime juice, and cardamom and stir to combine completely. Bring to a boil.

When broth is boiling, add the chicken breast and all the salsa into the broth mixture and stir to combine. Partially cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer soup for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove lid and using a pair of tongs and a wooden spoon, fish out chunks of chicken and shred using the tongs. By this point, this chicken should be extremely tender and this will be easy to do. Sprinkle soup with chopped cilantro and crushed tortilla chips, cover, and cook and additional 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Remove soup from heat and serve in bowls with sliced avocado, a sprinkle of grated cheese (ie. cheddar or pepper jack), a few pickled jalapeño peppers, additional crushed tortilla chips, and a small dollop of sour cream. It's got some heat and tons of flavor! You'll love it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sizzling September

Spinach Salad with Lemony-Peppery Chicken
Summer is not going down without a fight around here. After a rather mild and pleasant few dry months we were teased with a very Fall-like few days of chilly evenings. I thought it was about time to pull out my sweaters and stock pots of the long, wet months ahead . . . then BAM! This Labor Day weekend temperatures shot up into the high 90s and although my heart was turning towards concocting hearty soups and casseroles, my sweaty body tells me, "No, it's still salad weather." Very well, this quick spinach salad with grilled chicken breast is perfectly light meal for two to enjoy with your sweetie and a crisp glass of white wine during these remaining warm summer nights!

- 1 chicken breast, sliced in half down the center to create two thin fillets, then cut into four strips
- 5 oz. baby spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 1 Fuji apple, cored and sliced
- 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
- 1/4 c. crumbled Feta cheese
- 1/4 c. dried cherries
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- lemon pepper 

In a small bowl, whisk together minced garlic, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Set aside. Lay out filleted chicken breast pieces in a shallow bowl and sprinkle both sides with salt and a generous amount of lemon pepper. Pour lemon mixture over chicken breasts, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
After the chicken has marinated, heat the grill to high and cook chicken pieces for 4-5 minutes per side until grill marks appear. The chicken will cook quickly because it's sliced so thin. While chicken pieces are grilling, prepare the salad dressing and salad.

In a small bowl, whisk together shallots, honey, apple cider vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until the honey has dissolved. Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Assemble two salads with spinach, apple sliced, dried cherries, avocado, apple slices, and walnuts. Divide dressing evenly among each salad. Sprinkle with crumbled Feta cheese then lay two cooked chicken breast pieces across each salad. Eat up! Fast, easy, and delicious! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

H2C Inspired Recipe!

 Hood to Coast Van 2 Garbanzo Bean Salad
When I'm not cooking, it's likely I'm running. For the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to participate in Oregon's Hood to Coast relay race with a whole bunch of rad people. In the 200 mile race starting at Mt. Hood, each team of twelve has two vans of six runners with someone running constantly until the finish line in Seaside. It might sound a little nuts, but spending a day in a half in a van with a bunch of other smelly runners is some of the most fun I've ever had. This year, placed in Van 2, we had our first break at about 8 p.m. after a long, hot day of runs in the sun. Finished with our first legs, my van-mates and I were definitely ready for a meal and a shower. We decided to hit up a swanky Portland grocery store for sandwiches and deli items when I came across this delicious protein-packed bean salad. Maybe it was just the fact that, at the time, I was hungry for anything other than Luna bars and Vitamin Water, but I fell in love with this salad and found myself craving it on the drive home from Seaside. The next day I recreated it in my own kitchen. I served it as a side dish with grilled shrimp, but it's great on its own for lunch or dinner. Keep on running! And try this salad!

- 1 15. oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 large anchovy fillets, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
- juice from one lemon
- salt and pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2/3 c. Kalamata olives, sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely minced

Heat the broiler in the oven and line a baking sheet with foil. Place bell pepper on the sheet and broil for about 5 minutes per side, turning with a pair of tongs until the skin in charred and black. Remove from the oven and place is a resealable container or plastic bag until it cools. Once the pepper has cooled, the charred and bubbly skin should peel off easily. Discard skin and remove the seeds and stem. Slice into strips and place in a medium-sized bowl with sliced olives and rinsed garbanzo beans, set aside.

To make the dressing place the lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies in a blender or in a container to mix up with a immersion blender and blend together the mixture until smooth. Continue blending and slowly add olive oil to mixture. When the dressing becomes slightly thicker and creamy season with salt and pepper. Toss bean mixture with dressing and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hearts Afire!

Walnut Pesto with Chicken and Artichoke Hearts
As many of my food adventures began, this one started with an overabundance of ingredients in my pantry and fridge. I had quite a bit of fresh basil sitting around in need of a home, but wanted to pull a little twist on a classic pesto recipe. This was a very quick dinner that made plenty for two with leftovers. It's a great weeknight meal to try. Double the recipe for families! Dinner on the table in less that a half hour.

- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 c. marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
- 12 oz. dried spaghetti noodles
- a splash of dry white wine
- salt and pepper
- a small handful of fresh basil leaves
- juice from one lemon plus 1 tsp. of zest
- 1/4 c. walnuts
- 1 c. shredded pecorino romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
- 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled

Pesto is a snap to whip up in the food processor! Pulse the garlic cloves to a fine mince then add the basil, Italian parsley, and walnuts and run machine until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Add shredded pecorino romano and lemon juice and zest. Let the machine run and slowly drizzle about 1/4 c. of extra virgin olive oil until the mixture is creamy and to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add dried spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 c. of the cooking water. Set pasta and water aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and saute until they are nearly cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add artichoke hearts and white wine and bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 minutes for sauce to thicken. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
While chicken and artichoke hearts are simmering, toss together the warm cooked spaghetti with the prepared pesto, add a little of the hot pasta cooking water at a time to thin out the sauce. The texture should become silky. Plate the pesto-covered pasta, then spoon some of the chicken mixture and the juices on top. Sprinkle with extra pecorino romano. Eat up! It's good!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Salmon with Spice and Everything Nice

Spicy Salmon with Tomato Avocado Salsa and Pepperjack Polenta
The one food I always want to eat? Chips and salsa. After a run, I crave chips and salsa. Morning, afternoon, late night. It doesn't matter. If I don't eat anything else all day, I will eat chips and salsa. I have tried dozens of varieties and appreciate many for their subtle differences. One of my favorite salsas to make is a tomato avocado salsa- not quite salsa and not quite guacamole, this flavorful condiment is fantastic with tortilla chips, but I wanted to use it as part of a legitimate dinner recipe. Due to my passion for salmon, I figured a meet-up between these two ingredients was long overdue. I was right, the salmon's spicy dry rub with the freshness of the salsa and creamy polenta made for great all-around meal. It's an easy dinner for four, or easily cut in half for a dinner for two!

- 4 7 oz. salmon fillets
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 2 tsp. cardamom powder
- 1 tsp. dried minced garlic
- olive oil
- 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and roughly diced
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 3 tsp. ground cumin, divided
- 1 small handful of chopped fresh cilantro
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 tsp. hot sauce such as Tobasco
-1 c. polenta
- 1 qt. whole milk
- 1 c. grated pepperjack cheese

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Spray a shallow glass with non-stick cooking spray. Brush each salmon fillet on both sides with a little olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, set aside. In a small bowl mix together 2 tsp. cumin, cardamom, chili powder, and dried minced garlic until the spices are well combined. Sprinkle both sides of each fillet with an even coating of spice rub, then using your fingers press into the fish slightly. Bake the salmon in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through evenly, but still flaky and tender. 

While the salmon is baking prepare the polenta. In a medium heavy, bottomed sauce pan, heat milk over medium and bring to a simmer. Add polenta slowly and whisk into milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer together until the polenta softens and absorbs the milk, stir frequently to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan, 10-15 minutes. When polenta has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in grated pepperjack cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and cover to keep warm while finishing salmon and salsa.

In a large bowl combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro. Toss together with vinegar, 2 tsp. of cumin, lime juice, and hot sauce until well combined. Gently toss in the diced avocado and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more hot sauce and cumin if desired. 

Serve by divining up even portions of polenta among four plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Top salmon with the salsa. Serve with additional tortilla chips if desired.