Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Centerpieces

No recipe here. I just thought I'd share with you a few pictures of the centerpieces I made out of Mason jars, clear (in the jar with candles) and black (in the jars with the sunflowers) marbles, bows made out of raffia, floating UNSCENTED (the last thing you need is another scent during a meal like this) candles, and fresh sunflowers!
Here is a photo of the entire Thanksgiving meal. 
enjoy :)

Jewish Casserole

The common staple at ANY event involving food (ok, so every event you could think of) most often will include the Jewish Casserole (green bean casserole). There are many variations of this classic dish, but for Thanksgiving, I went traditional as can be. Remember, Thanksgiving is NEVER the time to experiment with recipes. If something goes wrong, you'll NEVER hear the end of it. So here goes another classic Thanksgiving dish that we all know and love!

What you'll need (to feed about 8-10 people)
2 lbs frozen green beans (they're easier to work with)
2 cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
2 small cans of sliced water chestnuts
2 containers of crunchy onions (Trader Joe's makes them, but French's is always the best!)
1 tbs. fresh black pepper
1 large baking dish (Pyrex)

1. Preheat oven to 375*
2. In a large bowl, mix together half of one can of the crunchy onions, green beans, soup, pepper, water chestnuts, and Worcestershire Sauce.
3. Place the mixture in a large baking dish and bake for 40 minutes.
4. Remove from oven, and cover the top with the remainder of the crunchy onions (or until the top is covered entirely) and bake for another 20 minutes.
5. Remove and cool.

enjoy :)

Thanksgiving Roasted Turkey

In our house, we always have 2 turkeys; one roasted in the oven (classic), and one that Eliot does on the smoker in the backyard for about 5-6 hours (yes, it is as delicious as it sounds). This year the roasted turkey was my job. Believe me, I was scared! It is the ONE dish that everyone looks forward to all year. But with a little help from Grandma and every Thanksgiving FoodNetwork show I've ever watched, I was able to successfully roast a delicious turkey. While we all have our own recipes and instructions to cooking the perfect bird I used the 300* oven, 20 minutes per pound method. It's much easier than I thought it was going to be! Instead of placing vegetables under the bird and herbs under the skin, I slathered it all over with in an herb butter. The crunch on the skin... UGH! Incredible!!!

What you'll need:
1 15-20 lb. turkey
2 sticks unsalted butter AT ROOM TEMPERATURE (you can use vegan butter if you wish)
1 tbs. kosher salt
2 tbs. fresh marjoram
2 tbs. fresh sage
2 tbs. fresh rosemary
1 pair latex gloves

1. Preheat your oven to 300*
2. Place all of the herbs and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
3. Add the butter and mix for about 1 minute or until you get a smooth consistency.
4. Pat your turkey dry with a paper towel, and place on top of a rack inside a roasting pan.
5. Put on the gloves, and using your hands (remember, they're a chef's BEST tool), slather the butter all over the bird.

6. Place the bird in the oven for about 5 hours. (20 minutes per pound, using a meat thermometer right in the center of the bird, once it's 165)
7. REMOVE FROM OVEN IMMEDIATELY!!! It will dry out, even if you turn off the oven. LEAVE IT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!!!
carve and enjoy :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Most Delicious Chocolate Cake EVER

I did it! I successfully cooked an entire Thanksgiving Dinner on my own! Ok, ok, you caught me! I DID have help from Kit and Grandma. BUT I think I did a pretty great job. Of course I served "the" mashed potatoes (whose recipe I've already had numerous requests for and can be found here), a turkey, and everything else! I must say, though, that my chocolate cake for dessert was one of the most incredible things I made that night. My mouth it watering right now just thinking about it. Theres coffee in the cake itself and in the icing. HELLO!!! What's better than coffee and chocolate?! Anywho, I feel as though it's only fair for me to share the recipe for you. It is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that you can find here. I've made the cake a few times now and have since made a few changes that worked out very well. 

This is what you'll need for the cake:
¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cups cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup non-dairy creamer (yes, I promise it works just as well as buttermilk will)
½ cup vegetable oil (canola oil works here, too. NOT OLIVE OIL. NO NO NO!!!) 
2 extra-large eggs (AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!!!)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
2 round cake pans

1. Preheat oven to 350*
2. In one bowl, sift together (fancy word for put through a metal strainer to get out all of the lumps) the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In another bowl (preferably in the bowl of an electric mixer), combine the milk, oil (either canola or vegetable), eggs, and vanilla until smooth. 
4. Once the wet ingredients are mixed well, slowly add the dry ingredients, a little bit at a time (of you try to add it all at once, you'll be wearing a beautiful flour-covered shirt).
5. After you've mixed the wet and dry ingredients, slowly add in the HOT coffee. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to get all of the bits of batter. ***IT WILL BE VERY LIQUIDY. THAT'S OK!!! IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE, SO DON'T WORRY!!!***
6. Evenly distribute the batter into the two pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Make sure you let them cool for AT LEAST 30 minutes before you ice the cakes.

What you'll need for the icing:
6 ounces food semisweet chocolate chips (about ½ of the bag)
½ lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!!!)
1 extra-large egg yolk (AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!!!)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup sifted confectioners' sugar (fancy word for powdered sugar)
1 tsp. instant coffee dissolved into 2 tbs. HOTTEST (but not boiling) water

1. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. (This is called a "double-boiler. It's VERY important NOT to boil water and to NOT let it touch the bottom of the bowl. THE CHOCOLATE WILL BURN IMMEDIATELY!!!)
2. Once melted, let sit at room temperature to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.
4. Add the egg yolk and vanilla to the fluffed butter.
5. SLOWLY add in the sifted powdered sugar, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl every so often making sure to get it all mixed very well. 
6. Add the dissolved coffee and melted chocolate to the butter and powdered sugar mixture and mix for about 1 minute on LOW (you don't want to whip it, you want it to remain thick and rich)
7. Once the cakes are cool, place on a plate and ice!!!
1. Line your plate or cake pan with FOLDED pieces of wax paper. It will keep the plate clean and they easily slide off when you're ready to serve.
2. To make sure that the cakes ice evenly, slice horizontally off the tops of the cakes, making them flat on the bottom and top. 
3. Place the first layer with the flat side down and cut side facing up. Ice the top, then add the second layer of the cake with the flat side facing UP and the cut side facing down (so, both CUT sides facing each other). 
4. Your cake will be flat all over and evenly iced.

enjoy :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Herb Garden

As part of "Go Green Week," I thought I should do my part to go a little bit greener. I tend to buy unnecessary amounts of herbs at the market, use them once, stick them in the fridge and forget about them; about $10 every week down the drain on unused herbs!
I have NEVER been able to keep a plant alive for more than 5 minutes, but I figured "Why Not?!" So I planted my own little herb garden on my kitchen counter! I made it my little project for the day. So I headed down to my local nursery, purchased some organic herbs and plain pots, and painted them all white! (I have a thing about kitchens being white. Just seems so much more clean and pretty) Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme :) I used the fresh rosemary last night in making the brown rice pizza crust and sprinkled some of the fresh basil under one of the layers of the cheese and ohmygosh, fresh makes all the difference!!! Here's to keeping those little babies alive for more than a week!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Parmesan Zucchini Circles

So lunch today was a little difficult. I had no idea what direction to go in for lunch. I was sorta hungry, but not hungry enough for a full meal, and nothing really sounded yummy. So, of course, I turned to my new obsession, Pinterest, to look for a new recipe for something healthy and satisfying. I landed upon this website called Clean Eating, and found this AMAZING recipe for parmesan zucchini circles. And, as it just so happens, I just purchased a GORGEOUS zucchini from Whole Foods that I didn't want to go bad. All I can say is that within minutes, the zucchini circles were all gobbled up!!!

What you'll need:
1/4 cup PLAIN bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried oregano (try herbs de provence, too!)
1 egg white
2 tbs. water
1 zucchini cut into 1/4 inch circles (leave the skin on!)

1. Preheat oven to 425*
2. In one bowl, mix the brad crumbs, parmesan cheese, pepper, onion powder, and oregano.

3. In a second bowl, whisk together the egg whites and water.
4. Slice 1 zucchini into as many 1/4 inch circles as you can, leaving the skin ON!

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray, or line with tin foil (whichever floats your boat).
5. Dip the Circles into the egg whites, then coat with the bread crumb/parmesan mixture.

6. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping them over half way thru.

enjoy :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup

Tonight was the night! The maiden voyage of my new Crock Pot!!! Oh my God, I can't believe it's taken me this long to buy one! It makes life so easy!!! Anywho, I have been so overwhelmed for the past few days trying to decide what to make for it's inaugural meal. It was chilly today so I figured it needed to be something cozy and comforting. I've also been reading on blogs, and my new OBSESSION Pintreest (thanks, Lindsay!!!), that Mondays are supposed to be "Meatless Monday." With that said, what's better than mushroom barley!? It's hearty, it's healthy, and it's friggin delish!!! This was also my first time making it so I was a bit worried; I didn't want to mess anything up! So I took a little bit of Mama's recipe (which is to DIE for!) and some that I found online. I think it ended pretty well and with two very happy tummies :)

What you'll need:
1 qt. veggie broth
1 large onion
3 carrots
2 celery stalks (leaves, too!)
1 tbs. olive oil
1 lb. mushrooms (whichever you want!)
8 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbs. dried thyme
1 tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup pearl barley
1 tbs. kosher salt
1 tbs. pepper
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
2. dried bay leaves

1. In a pot of 2 cups boiling water, add the dried mushrooms and set aside so they can plump back up OFF THE HEAT. (Once they're cooked, use CLEAN kitchen scissors to cut them into small-ISH pieces)

2. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a large sauce pan. As the mushrooms are gettin' their groove back, finely chop the onion and celery and sauté over medium heat, for about 4-5 minutes (don't let the onions brown). Do NOT add salt or pepper, there will be plenty in the rest of the meal.
3. Once cooked, pour the onions and celery, ALL of the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and their liquid (some recipes will tell you to add just half of their liquid but it has too much good flavor to waste!!!) into the crock pot.
4. Peel and chop the carrots to pieces about the size of dimes, smaller if you wish. Plop them into the crock pot.

5. Add the veggie broth, thyme, salt, pepper, parsley, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves.

6. Finally, add the barley and mix everything well.
7. Set on low and let cook for about 8 hours. (Stir every so often, if you're home. If not, then don't worry!)
8. After 8 hours, turn off crock pot. It will get VERY thick, so don't worry if it looks a little watery even after 8 hours.

9. Serve in bowls garnished with parsley (parmesan if you're Daniel) and some crusty bread.

enjoy :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

My mother has re-named me "Typhoid Mary" because I have gotten everyone around me sick :( I guess that's the price you pay when you spend your days teaching preschool. To try and make it up to her, I made her a Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread! The smell of Pumpkin Bread in the oven is the quintessential smell of the season and makes anyone feel cozy. I found this recipe on an AMAZING vegan blog, Hell Yeah It's Vegan that has INCREDIBLE recipes that are both vegan, yummy, and healthy!!! To make it my own, I had to add in the chocolate chips, duh!!!

This is what you'll need:

1 loaf pan
1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. cinnamon 
¼ tsp. cloves

***if you have pumpkin pie seasoning, it has all of these in it and you can use that instead!***

1 cup pumpkin puree 

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

3 tbs. maple syrup

3 tbs. water
1 cup chocolate chips (ok, you don't really need THAT many but I love chocolate :))

1. Preheat oven to 350*.
2. Spray/flour the loaf pan so the bread doesn't stick.
3. In 1 bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
4. In another bowl, mix together the pumpkin, oil, syrup, and water. 
5. In a large standing mixer (I still don't have one :() slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry.
***it will be very liquidy, that's ok!!!***
6. Add mixture to loaf pan and place in oven.
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, checking at 40 minutes with a tooth pick to make sure its cooking all of the way through.

enjoy :)

Mini Zucchini Pizza

I spent the better part of the last week sick in bed. So when it came to Saturday night “Date Night,” I was definitely not in the mood to cook a glamorous, gigantic meal. Daniel’s stomach, on the other hand, was in the mood. So for the main course, I stuck with “The Lamb,” and I tried to be creative with an appetizer that could fill his belly and not kill me while cooking. So I came upon a great little recipe for Zucchini Pizzas. I have oven used zucchini in lasagna as a substitute for the pasta. They were pretty good and very easy to make! P.S., sorry for the low-quality of the pictures. I didn't feel well enough to mess around and make them look pretty. But the food was still great :)

What you’ll need for the zucchini pizza

2 small zucchini
2 tbs. Olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 block of part skim mozzarella
Pasta sauce
Baking sheet
Grill pan

1. Cut zucchini on the diagonal to make 2 inch long pieces (if you are using a large zucchini, just cut circles that are about ½ inch thick.
2. Brush both sides of the zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill zucchini for about 2-3 minutes per side (if you don’t have a grill pan, broil in the oven for a few minutes, flip over, and broil again).
4. Place zucchini on a baking sheet, and spoon about 1 tsp. pasta sauce on each, and top with a slice of mozzarella.
5. Broil in the oven for about 3-4 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted

enjoy :)


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

So after 2 days substituting a Kindergarten class, I have come down with a nasty cold. I could only stay in bed for about 15 minutes until I became disgustingly bored and sick of the SVU reruns that I've seen countless times (don't get me wrong, I LOVEEE my SVU!!!). I had a bowl full of ripe bananas and decided to make some chocolate chip banana bread. I was met with quite a difficult task, however, because I do not have an electric mixer. Why, you ask? While I LOVE to bake and cook, Grandma Joansie said I can't have one until I'm married, so I guess I will wait and continue to mix by hand. Hands are, though, a cooks best tools! AND, your house will smell INCREDIBLE!!! 

This is what you'll need:

3 large bowls
1 loaf pan (like this one, here)
3 ripe bananas (they're perfect when they get brown spots on them)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbs. milk (I used non-dairy creamer)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (come on, why not?!)

1. Preheat oven to 375*
2. Cream together the sugar and the butter until they are nice and fluffy.
3. Once fluffy, add the eggs, one by one.
4. In a separate bowl, peel and mash together the bananas and add milk and cinnamon.
5. In a 2nd bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
6. Add the banana mixture to the butter/egg/sugar mixture.
7. Once combined, add in the dry ingredients (the 2nd bowl) to the mixer, followed by the chocolate chips.

8. Use a cooking spray or butter a loaf pan and add everything.
10. Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before removing from pan (this will keep it from falling apart and sticking to the sides of the pan).

enjoy :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Date Night #3

Friday night date night this week posed a bit of a challenge. I had no idea what to make. I asked Daniel if he wanted "The Lamb," seen here, or something new. He said something new so I could add it to my blog for all of you guys to see. So I turned on one of my many TiVo'd episodes of Barefoot Contessa to see what she was whipping up. Her recipe for Chicken Milanese IMMEDIATELY caught my eye and made my mouth water. It used to be one of my FAVORITE meals at the incredible Oyster House Saloon in Studio City. (It's not the most attractive place, but dear god it's DELICIOUS!!!) Every time my grandparents from Tucson came to visit, we went there for dinner. And, without fail, I ordered the Chicken Milanese. So I worked with my memory and the Barefoot recipe to create my own take on it. Basically, it's a giant chicken finger. What's not to love? I also served the mashed potatoes, and roasted onions with this meal. Perfection!!!

What you'll need:
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.
1 meat tenderizer mallet
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbs. kosher salt
1 tbs. pepper
1 extra-large egg
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. earth balance (vegan soy butter)
1 lemon, sliced thinly

1. On a cutting board lined with saran wrap, place the chicken breasts 1 inch apart, and cover with saran wrap. Bang the mallet over each piece, front and back, until about 1/4 inch thick. (You want them to be thin, so they cook quicker, and are much more tender after they have been beaten a bit.)
2. Set up a dredging station : 1. Flour, salt, and pepper on one plate 2. Cracked egg and water in a bowl, beaten. 3. Bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on second plate.
3. Pat down the chicken with a paper towel (this will let the breading mixture stick to it much better), and begin the dredging process.
4. Dip into flour on both sides, shaking off the excess, then dipping in egg, and finally the bread crumbs, coating evenly and thoroughly on both sides.

5. Heat a large non-stick skillet with 2 tbs. olive oil and 1 tbs earth balance (will make it beautifully golden brown), and cook chicken for about 2 minutes on either side, flipping when the first side is golden brown.

6. After chicken has been cooked, place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil.
7. Place two THIN slices of lemons on each piece of chicken while it's cooling on the baking sheet. The hot chicken will absorb just a HINT of the lemon, giving it an amazing flavor (NOT too intense, I promise!!!)
8. With lemon slices sill on the chicken (you don't have to eat them), put onto your serving platter.

enjoy :)

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving is coming early for you, my friends! I am about to share with you one of my signature dishes, that most wait an entire year to enjoy!!! But, because I love you so much, and because I was running low on posts, I have decided to let you in on my secret recipe for the most AMAZING mashed potatoes you'll ever eat :) Roasted garlic mashed potatoes! They are NON-DAIRY, VEGAN (if you don't add the yogurt), and delicious!!!!

What you'll need (enough for 2 people):
5 yukon gold potatoes
1 entire head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 tbs. kosher salt
2/3 tbs. pepper
1/4 up non-dairy creamer
2 tbs earth balance at room temperature (vegan soy butter)
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 450*
2. Cut the head of garlic in half, horizontally, drizzle with olive oil, and place cut side up in a ramekin/heat-safe ceramic dish (or on a baking sheet lined with foil if you don't have a ramekin). Place in the oven, on top rack, and roast until golden brown (your nose will know when it's read!), about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
*** if you don't have heads of garlic, you can certainly use whole cloves of garlic. just watch them more closely as they roast, so they don't burn***
3. Peel (I know, the worst part!) and cut the potatoes into 1 inch pieces.

4. Place the potatoes in a pot full of COLD water. You want the potatoes and water to heat up together. NEVER use already-boiling water when cooking potatoes. Let cook on high, and, once boiling, salt the water. The potatoes will cook evenly if you do this.
5. After the water has been boiling for about 5-10 minutes, poke the potatoes with a fork. Once they slide off the fork on their own, they're ready to be drained and mashed!

6. Drain potatoes, place back into the pot, add the roasted garlic (to remove them from the heads, squeeze until they fall out), and begin mashing.
7. Once the potatoes are almost completely mashed, but still a little chunky, add the butter (MUST BE ROOM TEMPERATURE!!! WE WANT IT TO MELT INTO THE POTATOES, WITOUT BRINGING DOWN THE TEMPERATURE OF THE POTATOES), salt, and pepper. Mix very well, and mash a little more.
8. Finally, add the non-dairy creamer and the yogurt and mix well!
9. Taste before serving, you may need a little more salt or pepper.
10. Scoop onto a plate (if it's a casual dinner, leave the potatoes in the pot so they stay warm. If you put them into a bowl, the'll get colder much faster. If it's a fancy dinner with more people, then placing into a serving bowl is just fine!)

enjoy :)

Herb Roasted Onions

Onion rings are delicious! Caramelized onions are delicious! But, I know I can't have something fried or caramelized in ever meal. I can, however, have onions in every meal. So my dearest Barefoot Contessa showed me an AMAZING twist on how to do onions. After whipping up a quick marinade and roasting in the oven for 40 minutes, you'll never want to eat onions in any other way! I promise!

What you'll need (enough for 2 people):
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbs. dijon mustard
1 tbs. chopped garlic
2 tsp. chopped, fresh thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
Large bowl for mixing
1 large red onion
1 large sweet onion

1. Preheat oven to 400*.
2. Cut just the very, very, tip of the onions off (we want to leave the ends, they'll hold the onions together as they roast), and peel off the outer layer. Cut in half, length wise, and cut into wedges.
3. Add garlic, mustard, thyme, salt, and peper into a bowl, whisk together.

4. Slowly add in olive oil, mixing as you go.
5. Toss the onions in the marinade, very slowly and carefully, we want the onions to stay together!

6. Spray a baking sheet with a non-stick spray, place onions, and half of the marinade, on the sheet, and bake for 35-40 mintues. Your nose will know when they're ready.
7. Once they're done, remove from oven, and add the remainder of the marinade to the top of the onions.

enjoy :)

Rosemary Croutons

I am the type of person who can eat the same meal every day for a week without getting sick of it. Then, I'll hit a wall!!! I've been on a healthy kick and have tried adding more salads into my daily regiment but I was SICK AND TIRED of the same salads every day, and store bought croutons are pretty yucky. Naturally, I decided to make my own croutons! I went to the market and used day-old bread (no, that doesn't mean it went bad, it just means that it's a little crunchy, which I LOVEEE, and it's a fraction of the price!!!). They're crunchy on the outside, and bursting with flavor on the inside!
What you'll need:
GOOD french bread/sour dough/ rosemary bread
2 tbs. Earth Balance (vegan soy butter)
1 tsp. chopped rosemary
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Larget bowl for mixing

1. Chop the bread into bit size pieces (if you like your croutons crunchy, you can use the crust of the bred, as well as the inside pieces) and place into the large bowl.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and pour over the bread. Mix well.
3. Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper, and mix very well.

4. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat (WITH NO OIL OR BUTTER! THERE IS BUTTER IN THE MIXTURE!, and flip the bread pieces once they turn golden brown.
5. Drain onto a plate lined with paper towels, wait about 10 minutes for them too cool, then serve!

enjoy :)