Sunday, June 30, 2013

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

 On one of my nightly Pinterest sessions, I saw a recipe for homemade mozzarella sticks. I mean honestly, what can be better? It's fried cheese! But, we all want to fit into our skinny jeans so I opted for this much healthier recipe. They're baked rather than fried, I used panko instead of regular processed bread crumbs, and the cheese is fat free string cheese. This made for a great (and FAST!) appetizer that kept everyone's tummies happy until dinner was served. I also serve it with a side of warm sugar free marinara sauce for dipping. Favoloso!

What you'll need:
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup graded parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 400*. Remove all of the string cheese from the packets, cut in half, and freeze (I know I know, but this will make sure they don't melt the second they go in the oven!)
2. Line up 3 shallow dishes. In the first, toss together the flour, salt, and pepper. In another beat your egg, and in a final shallow dish toss together the panko, parmesan, and granulated garlic.
your dredging station
3. Line a baking sheet with foil. Roll each string cheese half in the flour, egg, then panko. Put on the baking sheet, spray the tops with olive oil spray and bake for 5 minutes, flip over, and bake for another 5 minutes.
4. Serve immediately with a side of warm marinara sauce for dipping.

enjoy :)

Top Five: Denver

I've been to Boulder a handful of times and every time is better than the last. The food is amazing, the people are so friendly, and the scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. This weekend I went to visit my sister in Denver (she moved there permanently after graduating from CU Boulder last May) and I didn't know I could love a city as much as I loved Boulder. Denver was just as, if not more, phenomenal. The food is BEYOND! It's all so fresh, fairly inexpensive, and quite decadent. Oh, and on every corner is a hip new restaurant with a fabulous happy hour. That's my new goal being back in LA, finding new happy hours to attack. Here are a few of my favorite moments from my first ever (and definitely not last) trip to Denver.
lemon/vinegar brussel sprouts, truffled parmesan aioli fries, burrata and caramelized onion burger
pomegranate margarita to cool us off on a VERY hot Denver day
a surprise ice cream social provided by Little Man at Le Creuset 
obviously I had to bring my sister Sprinkles Cupcakes 
happy hour sushi at Hapa (my fav sushi bar)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chive Risotto Cakes

If you've ever made risotto, you know just how aggravating the process can be. It's tedious, time consuming, and if you overcook it by ONE minute you've just tossed 45 minutes down the drain. Well, these risotto cakes are a totally different take on risotto. I watched my dear Barefoot Contessa make these risotto cakes a few weeks ago and I've wanted to try them ever since. Well it was a FABULOUS idea. The only mistake I made was not letting them sit in the fridge long enough for the mixture to harden (you can even prepare it in the morning before work and keep in the fridge all day until you're ready to cook). You can add or subtract any cheese and herb you want but chive and fontina is very mild and pairs well with the crunchy panko topping. You can try and be healthy and bake these but its just not the same as frying. Use grape seed oil to cut down the calories while frying if you want to have a happy conscience. Served with a light arugula salad with a nicoise dressing and you have a very easy but yummy weeknight dinner!

What you'll need:

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice 

½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt 

2 eggs, at room temperature

3 tbs. minced fresh chives 

1 ½ cups grated Fontina cheese
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt 
1cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Grape seed oil (for frying)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the rice for 20 minutes and drain.
2. When the rice is cooling, in a separate bowl mix together the yogurt, eggs, chives, and fontina. Add the cheese mixture to the rice, season with salt and pepper, and cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3. Heat the oil in a large pan. Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Use an ice cream scooper to make the cakes, pat them into the shape of a hockey puck and pat with panko on each side. Fry in the oil until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes per side).
4. Keep the cakes in a 250* oven to keep them warm on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil.
5. Serve HOT!

enjoy :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Endive and Avocado Salad

Like I said in my last post, we had an absolute FEAST for dinner on Father's Day. Along with the baked potato chips, we made this gorgeous endive and avocado salad (and when I say we, Alyx, one of my younger sisters, found it in a Barefoot Contessa cookbook and made it. Therefore, I give her all credit!). Endive, for those of you who have no idea what the heck it is, is a leafy vegetable that has a similar texture to the bottom crunchy white parts of romaine lettuce, but is bitter when eaten alone. But it was not bitter in this salad. It was accompanied by an INCREDIBLE vinaigrette, which you can use on any salad btw. It would be fabulous with some croutons, too. Oh, and remember that avocados will turn brown after a few minutes so don't slice them and assemble the salad until RIGHT BEFORE YOU INTEND ON SERVING IT!!! We do eat with our eyes, after all! 

What you'll need:

1 tbs. dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ( about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 heads endive
3 ripe avocados, sliced lengthwise 

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper (we have one of those fun milk frothers that does all of the work for you. You can find one here, from Target).

2. Peel the endive leaves and cut into chunks. Lay them on a large serving platter and set aside.
3. Next, peel, pit, and slice your avocados lengthwise and lay them across the endives.
4. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and serve immediately!

enjoy :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Baked Potato Chips

Hold the phone. Today, I made... HOMEMADE POTATO CHIPS!!! Yes, my friends, you read correctly. No need to adjust your glasses or screen. My mom inherited her mom's deli slicer a few years ago and for whatever reason, I decided to whip it out tonight for our Father's Day Feast and slice up some potatoes (oh, and by feast I mean lobster rolls, grilled shrimp skewers, mango salsa, endive and avocado salads, and, of course, Sprinkles Cupcakes!). I am addicted to potato chips so when I realized I could make hundreds of my own for about $1, I couldn't slice fast enough. You can make them without a mandolin or deli slicer but it is SO time consuming and I know I'd mess them up. Sur La Table, aka foodie and cook Mecca, has some that range anywhere from $20-90. Homemade potato chips are a tasty and popular side dish that will be a HUGE hit at your next Summer BBQ. Sure you can just go an buy a bag but really, that's pretty boring.

What you'll need:
3 russet potatoes, rinsed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic salt (I like Lawry's the best)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 450*. Slice your potatoes 1/8" thick on a mandolin or deli slicer.
2. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and distribute evenly on a cookie sheet, lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes (be sure to check on them for the last 10 minutes, some of mine burned).
4. Once they're golden brown and HOT OUT OF THE OVEN, take them out of the oven and sprinkle evenly with the salt, garlic salt, and pepper (if you try and do this once they've cooled, the salt and pepper will fall right off!)
5. Let cool for about 10 minutes then serve with your favorite dip!

enjoy :)

Happy Father's Day

I want to wish my daddy and my step-dad a happy Father's Day. I am who I am because of you both. Most kids are lucky to have one father in their life but I am even luckier to have you both. I love you more than words can say and I owe all of my successes and accomplishments to you. Thank you for your unconditional love and support over these past 25 years. I'm sure I haven't always made it easy but I love you both. Happy Father's Day, Daddy and El. And Happy Father's Day to my grandpa Carter, too!

I also want to take a minute to say Happy Father's Day to my grandpa, Bob, who passed away 7 years ago today. He was the perfect gentleman, decked out in head-to-toe Brooks Brothers every single day of his life (he once owned a pair of jeans but after wearing them once, by force, they mysteriously disappeared...). I miss your kisses and pinches every day, grandpa. I hope you're chowing down on a Sky High with pickles and a martini, shaken, not stirred, very cold.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Breakfast Sandwich

If you can find me one person in the world that doesn't secretly LOVE a McDonald's breakfast then I'll personally do your laundry for a year. Unsuccessful? Yea, I thought so! We had some of the Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches in the freezer but I just didn't feel right about microwaving my breakfast on a Sunday. I have been on a roll cooking this weekend so I decided to make my own! It's not just about how easy they are to make, but you are able to control the amount of anything you put it in. Today, I made a French omelet, some bacon (which I cook in the oven BTW), and a little bit of shredded fontina cheese on a fat free english muffin. Before I had a chance to ask Daniel if he was enjoying his, his plate was empty and there was a tiny piece of egg hanging off the side of his mouth... I guess that answers your question as to how good it was. You can certainly put whatever you want on it but I went classic with eggs, bacon, and cheese and all parties involved had happy tummies!

What you'll need (for two sandwiches):
2 extra large eggs
2 english muffins
4 strips bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used fontina)
1 tsp. margarine

1. Preheat your oven to 400*. Bake your bacon on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes (NO LONGER THAN THAT!). Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and let cool for a few minutes. Next, make your French omelet. Cut into quarters and set aside.
2. Toast your english muffins until they're golden brown. Place 1/4 of your omelet on the bottom half of the english muffin. Next, layer the bacon and top with the cheese.
3. Spread some of the margarine (or butter) on the top half of your english muffin and start eating!

Enjoy :)

Top Five

This week was one full of emotions and fun events. Thursday was our last day at school, Friday was graduation for the oldest class, and Saturday was my baby sister's 8th grade graduation (we spent the day together getting her hair done, going out to lunch, then going to Mecca, aka Tiffany's, to pick out her gift). Where did the last year go? Is it REALLY June already?! I guess this is what getting old feels like... Needless to say, I'm pooped! We have our last week of in-service this week then I begin summer camp! I can smell the Coppertone already! It's almost time for homemade popsicles, BBQs galore, swimming until I turn into a prune, and flipflop tan lines! Oh, and I feel as though I must let you all know that I FINALLY tasted Georgetown Cupcakes. I guess I'm just super biased because I'm borderline addicted to Sprinkles Cupcakes but I think Sprinkles wins the cupcake battle. Anyways, here is a peek at what I just obsessed over this past week!
I was daring and mixed the sugar free Passion Fruit & Pepper lemonade with the original... amazing!!!
how GORGEOUS are these flowers from a family at school?!
I know I'm late in the game but Veggie Grill is dangerously good... 
I may not have loved the cupcakes but this KitchenAid mixer at Georgetown Cupcakes made me want to cry
never seen a cooler bandaid in my life! where can I find these!
and just a bonus for you all, my baby sister at her 8th Grade Graduation :) Such a proud big sister!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tuna Salad

Very few things make me happier than a good old tuna sandwich. There are about ten million ways to make your tuna salad. I know you think it's ridiculous for me to tell you how to make tuna, but you'd be surprised how many times people ruin their tuna. Some people get fancy with veggies and sauces and eggs but I like to keep it simple: just mayo, relish, and the tuna. MAYBE I'll put some chopped red onions but not usually. Probably the biggest booboo made when making tuna is use way too much mayo. Just keep it simple, my friends. A little goes a long way. Slap some cheese on it, stick it under the broiler for a few minutes and you're good to go for a great, quick meal.

What you'll need (this will make 2 sandwiches):
4 slices whole wheat bread
1 can light tuna
1-2 tbs. light mayo
1 tbs. sweet relish
4 slices gruyere cheese

1. Drain your can of tuna and break it up in a bowl. To the bowl, add the mayo and relish. Toast your bread (so it doesn't burn in the oven).
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place all 4 pieces of the toasted bread on the paper. On two of the slices, evenly distribute the tuna. On top of the tuna, layer 2 slices of the cheese.
3. Turn on the broiler and let the sandwiches heat up until the cheese is brown and bubbly (DON'T LEAVE UNATTENDED, IT WILL BURN FAST!!!)
4. Serve with some pickles and you're good to go!

enjoy :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Top Five

This weekend I had brunch with my two best girlfriends at this fabulous little place in Sherman Oaks called Sweet Butter Kitchen. They have wonderful pastries, salads, sandwiches, and their breakfasts are supposed to be killer. We did a little shopping at a local boutique where I picked up the gorgeous necklace below, perfect for a dinner I attended last night for school (at the silent auction I won a grocery bag from Trader Joe's FULL of Italian food and a cookbook, ANDDDDD a dozen cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes!!!). Then, to end the weekend, we went to dinner for my Dad's birthday at Bombay Palace (remember how much I loved the tikka masala?! UGH it's just too good!!!) and had a Baskin Robbin's mud pie for dessert. Honestly, is there anything better? Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cupcakes and all things fancy but there's just something so sinfully satisfying about ice cream and fudge. OH!!! AND I actually bought one of those Hot Buns from the infomercials... NEWS BREAK!!! THEY WORK!!!!!
salted caramel brownie from Sweet Butter that I almost passed out from eating. SO good!!!
the FABULOUS statement necklace I bought at Soto in Sherman Oaks

nothing says summer like cantaloupe 

the Hot Buns works!
chicken and goat cheese sandwich... um, HELLO this was made for me

Sunday = bagels and lox