Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rigatoni with Roasted Butternut Squash and Chicken Sausage

So Daniel has been out of the country with his family for almost 2 weeks now. The first week wasn't too bad because I was busy working and had family in town. But now that winter break has officially set in and my family have all left, I was starting to get pretty bummed. He suggested that I hang out with his very best friend so I thought it would be fun to cook for him. I quickly ran to my storage unit and pulled out all of my large white platters and bowls (it all matched! What a thought!!!) We invited another friend for dinner and she is a really picky eater so I knew I had to impress. It would also be a bit more of a challenge because Gil is gluten free. I had mastered the art of vegan, lactose-free, and diabetic friendly cooking so I thought to myself "bring it on, Celiac's!" I went to this wonderful little farmer's market called Sprouts near my house and found an incredible gluten-free section. I was a little overwhelmed because there really was a LOT to choose from. I picked up some sweet and spicy chicken sausage, gluten-free pasta, and some fresh (pre-chopped!!!) butternut squash (actually, that was from Costco) and was ready for a great meal! Not only is this dish gluten-free, but there's very little fat and sodium because we're cooking with chicken and squash! It is so cream and rich you'll want leftovers for days! Add some water to the sauce if it is too thick (and maybe set some sauce aside for leftovers!). I just might have to make this again tonight! hmm... Enjoy!!!

What you'll need (this made enough for 6-8 people):
2 lbs. chopped butternut squash
1 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. each Kosher salt & pepper
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 lbs. gluten-free pasta (rigatoni or penne would be perfect)
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 gloves garlic, minced
2 each spicy and sweet chicken sausage, removed from casing
Fresh sage, for garnish
Grated parmesan, for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 400*. Season the squash with a TINY bit of Kosher salt and pepper and olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes.
2. When the squash is tender (and squishy), add to a food processor (or blender) and puree until totally smooth. Let cool for a few minutes and mix in the yogurt. Set aside.
3. Now, start boiling a large pot of salted water. Drop your pasta in. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, add the chicken sausage. Break up until browned and set aside on a plate. 
4. Reduce the heat to low and sauté the shallots and garlic (because chicken is so lean, there will hardly be any fat, so no need to drain it). Add the garlic and shallots to the squash mixture.
5. Drain your pasta and toss in with the squash. Finally, add the chicken sausage and give everything a good toss. Top with some chopped sage and parmesan. 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tips in the Kitchen: How to Pipe Frosting

There is no recipe here but I wanted to share with you these adorable little pumpkin muffins we made in class last week at work. I am a preschool teacher and my kids are 3. I was a little afraid that they wouldn't like the frosting because it was cream cheese frosting. Believe it or not, they LOVED the it! The wanted more and more so I had to make a huge batch! I've given you all my recipe before, seen here. For the kids, I added a little bit extra powdered sugar (they changed "Sugar, sugar!!!" so I didn't really have a choice) to make it a little more sweet. The best part about cream cheese frosting is that it is so versatile. You can use it on pretty much any type of cake and it always tastes delicious!

Anyways, what I really want to do here is teach you an easy way how to pipe frosting onto a cupcake or muffin. We are not all Martha or Ina and I don't exactly have the steadiest of hands. I tried using one of those fancy piping kits but it was just a big mess. So for those of us who just want to make something pretty but keep it simple, here you go. To pipe the frosting, I filled a medium ziplock bag with the icing. There is NO need to waste money on official piping bags; they're just ziplock bags without the ziplock! Make sure that the icing has been in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and no more than 3 (you still want to be able to manipulate it). Next, I made a small slit in the bottom corner of the bag with a pair of clean scissors, and made swirls on the top of each muffin. If you have the attachments for different shapes from a kit, pop those into the bag and use them! Now, remember, make sure you let the muffins or cupcakes cool for at least 30 minutes before piping or else the icing will melt right off. I hope this helped and you enjoy it as much as my students did!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Spinach and Goat Cheese Wrap with Chicken

If I magically have enough time in the mornings to stop and pick up lunch before work, I 9 times out of 10 will stop at Whole Foods. The one in Beverly Hills is pretty good and their sandwich counter is just excellent. However, I find myself having a lot of trouble picking what to eat because they have so many choices!!! One morning I customized this particular wrap and made it for lunch the next 3 days in a row. A spinach tortilla has tons of vitamins in it, and I loaded it with spinach, arugula, and chicken. And, to make it a much healthier option, I chose aioli instead of mayo. If you REALLY don't like aioli, you can use mayo, but it's so much tastier and better for you! Well, I was so excited about it the first day I had it that I didn't want it to end so I saved it for the following day. When I recreated it at home, I made my own sun-dried tomato aioli by adding the 5 sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tbs. of garlic aioli into a small food processor and blending until it was pretty smooth. The colors are beautiful and it tastes as great as it looks! You can leave out the spinach or arugula but replace it with another lettuce to keep the crunch factor. If your kids aren't afraid of foods with colors, they'll love this! Remember, you can switch ingredients around all you want. This just happens to be one of my most favorite wraps ever. In fact, I think I might go make one right now... enjoy!

What you'll need:
1 large spinach tortilla
6 THIN slices cucumbers
1/4 cup arugula
1/4 cup fresh spinach
1 thinly sliced chicken breast
1/2 small purple onion, caramelized (you can leave this out)
2 tbs. crumbled goat cheese
1 tbs. garlic aioli
1 tbs. sun-dried tomato aioli

1. Lay out the tortilla on a flat surface. Evenly spread out the two aiolis.
2. On top of the aiolis, add the spinach and arugula, followed by the chicken breasts and cucumbers.
3. Finally, add the onions and goat cheese. Fold two sides in towards the middle, then the top one and start rolling until you have a beautiful wrap!
4. Secure with a toothpick, slice in half, and eat! P.S., if I'm feeling extra naughty, I use some extra aioli for dipping :)

enjoy :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stir Fry Green Beans

Wow. I don't even know what to say... I can't believe how long it has been since I last posted; I am SO SO SORRY!!! I'm sure you've all been just as busy as I have been. With that said, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you celebrate. I know I did!!! I had my first official catering job on Christmas for my family. I was told that it was better than Thanksgiving! Well two days later, I was finally ready to cook again. Tonight, Eliot made some DELICIOUS lamb chops (that recipe is coming up next!) and for a side dish we had baked potatoes and green beans. Instead of making them fancy with caramelized onions and garlic, i steamed them then tossed them in a VERY hot pan with a nice splash of Soy Vey... oh boy. These are one of the BEST side dishes I've EVER made!!! If you don't have any of the Soy Vey you can mix together sesame seeds, soy sauce (preferably ponzu or tamari), ginger, and a tiny bit of teriyaki sauce. If you have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's near you, just get the good stuff! Anyways, this was a VERY easy side dish that goes well with just about anything!

What you'll need:
1 package frozen French green beans
1-2 tbs. Soy Vey

1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. While the pan is heating up, add 2 tbs. water and your green beans into a large microwave-safe container. Cover with saran wrap and steam in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.
2. Remove from the microwave (watch out, it will be HOT HOT HOT when you remove the saran wrap!!!) and add the beans, NOT THE WATER, to the pan. Toss them around for a minute or two until they get really hot and add the sauce.
3. Add the Soy Vey to the pan, toss around for a minute or two and serve IMMEDIATELY! Pour any excess Soy Vey in the pan over the beans.
enjoy :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zucchini Latkes

If you read my last post, you know that in our house we believe everything is better if fried. That includes our vegetables. This week was Hanukkah, which meant potato latkes for days. However, by the time the 5th night had rolled around, I was sick of fried potatoes (shhhhh, don't tell anyone I said that!!!). We had the last of our summer zucchini that was on its way out. Of course the best thing I could think of to do is to turn them into latkes! I know, I know. I said I was sick of fried potatoes. But, there were only 3 potatoes in this mix and the rest is zucchini and onion! It was delicious, had a different taste than a potato latke, but was still crunchy and yummy! They are great all year round (or at least when you can find some good quality zucchini.) and... they're vegan!!! Leave the skin on the potatoes and zucchini for extra vitamins and nutrition. Enjoy this yummy veggie side dish that will please your pickiest eaters!

What you'll need:
1 LARGE zucchini or enough to equal 4 cups of shredded zucchini (when I say LARGE I mean HUUUUUGE!!!)
1 large onion
3-5 small gold potatoes
3 tbs. Kosher salt
2 tsp. pepper
Canola oil
1/4-1/2 cup flour

1. Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan (make sure the oil comes up the side of the pan about 1 inch). While the oil is heating, grate the onions in a food processor until its completely pureed (you can also use a blender). Unlike with the potato latkes, do NOT drain the liquid!!! Just transfer to a bowl.
2. In the same food processor, switch out the blade to the shredding plate (if you don't have, use a box grater) and shred the potatoes. Drain the liquid and add the potatoes into the bowl with the onions.
3. Shred the zucchini and add it to the bowl. 
4. Now it's time to get dirty! Use your hands to mix everything together. Add the salt and flour and mix again.
5. Make the latkes the size of a quarter and pack them down so they're pretty thin. Fry NO MORE than 4 or 5 latkes at a time (if you overcrowd the pan, the temperature of the oil will go down and everything will turn into mush). Fry for about 3 minutes per side.
6. Lay the latkes on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to let the oil drain off.
7. Serve with your favorite condiments (apple sauce and sour cream!!!).

enjoy :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Potato Latkes

So by now you should know that in my house we will fry just about anything, even if it's not supposed to be fried (chili, hot dogs, mashed potatoes...). So when Hanukkah came around, it was expected that we make some latkes (fried potato pancakes). I was sort of not in the mood to do it because it is a bit time consuming and was just going to buy the frozen ones from Trader Joe's (THEY ARE AMAZING!!!!!) but I really had no valid excuse to not make fresh. I've made them different ways every year, but shredding your potatoes and grating the onions in the only way to do it. It creates a tiny hash brown consistency, but fries to PERFECTION. And, can you believe it, these are vegan? The only reason is because I use no eggs. Instead, I use some of the liquid of the potatoes (NOT ONIONS!!! It's TOO strong!) and flour to bind the potatoes and onions. Some salt, pepper, and a whole lot of canola oil (this is the only kind!!!) will produce the most divine latkes you've ever had!!! Now, be careful, the oil will get hot and jump out at you and it REALLY hurts. Also, DO NOT crowd the pan! Everything will turn to mush because it brings down the temperature of the oil too quickly. Be patient, my friends! They'll be the best darn things you've ever eaten if you are patient!!! Anyways, you're sure to impress your guests any time of the year with these latkes!

What you'll need (this will make about 40 latkes that are 3-4 inches in diameter):
1 lb. gold potatoes (skin on if you're using a food processor)
1 1/2 large onion
3 tbs. kosher salt
1 cup flour (maybe less, depends on the consistency you want)
1 tbs. pepper
3 cups canola oil
1 cookie sheet lined with paper towels

1. Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan (make sure the oil comes up the side of the pan about 1 inch). While the oil is heating, grate the onions in a food processor until its completely pureed (you can also use a blender). Pour into a colander and strain as much of the liquid out as you can, then transfer to a large bowl.
2. In the same food processor, switch out the blade to the shredding plate (if you don't have, use a box grater) and shred the potatoes. Drain about 3/4 of the liquid and add the potatoes into the bowl with the onions.
3. Mix in the flour, a few tbs. at a time, and salt to the onions and potatoes (use your hands!). You want there to be just a TINY bit of liquid dripping off, but not TOO much or they'll separate in the pan.
4. Once the oil is hot enough, drop in patties the size of hockey pucks but totally flat (they'll puff up). Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side then flip. The SECOND they're golden brown on both sides, let them cool on the cooke sheet.
the frying station

5. Let cool for just 2 or 3 minutes and serve with apple sauce and/or sour cream!

enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

There is no recipe in tonight's post, but I did want to share with you the table settings, dessert table, and how we decorated this year for Thanksgiving. With 40 people joining us, we had to be creative with where to seat everyone. We could have crammed everyone inside but we decided to tent the front yard, hang lights, and cover each table with votive candles. It was very intimate, cozy, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We kept the center pieces simple, with sunflowers, and some other stuff. For more details on that, visit my sister's blog here. Of course, we served everything on white serving pieces, had bottles of water on each table (we save wine bottles, soak of the labels, and reuse them for water! So much cheaper and cuter than plastic bottles!) I hope you enjoy!

dessert table
dessert table