Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Attack of the Orange Food

The first thing I thought when I uploaded this photo was "wow, that's a lot of orange." If you have ever shopped hungry, you know that your cart starts to fill up with everything that looks evenly remotely delicious. Well, that's how this meal came about. BBQ chicken, baked beans, roasted sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, garlic bread and there was even dessert which I failed to take a photo of. So much delicious food all on one plate.
The nice thing about shopping hungry is sometimes you pick up a winner. I loved this bbq sauce. I bought it at Fresh & Easy and will definitely be buying it again.
Have you ever shopped hungry? Trader Joes and Fresh & Easy have those little sample tables which helps to curb the tummy rumbling a little but I still end up buying more than I need.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Capellini al Forno

I love the name of this dish and it makes such a great presentation that it's perfect for company. Also, it doesn't require that many ingredients so it's not expensive to make. The dense cheesy pasta goodness is so delicious.

I'm thinking of making this for family we have coming to visit but I also have so many other yummy things I want to serve. Decisions Decisions..... We spent all day today getting our guest room ready. It's the first time we've had a real guest room. I feel like such a grown-up now. I'm so excited to have them visit. I hope they'll be comfortable.
Is there anything special you do for family that visits?

Capellini al Forno
by Giada De laurentiis


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing pan
1 pound capellini (angel hair) pasta
1 cup plus 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 pound prosciutto, sliced 1/8-inch thick and coarsely chopped
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (25-ounce) jar marinara or tomato-basil sauce, warmed


Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch diameter nonstick spring form pan. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well and place in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons butter, 1 cup Parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss well until coated.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread 1/3 of the seasoned pasta on top. Arrange half of the prosciutto in a single layer on top. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella on top. Add 1/3 of the pasta and push down lightly to form an even layer. Repeat the layers with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, the remaining pasta, prosciutto, and mozzarella. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and Parmesan together. Sprinkle over the layers and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until light golden on top, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the sides of the pan and cut the pasta into wedges. Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sour Cream Cake with Candied Orange Peel and Marmalade

Southern Living is having a Holiday Cake Recipe Contest. They provide a few cake batter recipes to choose from and then you create the rest. I chose the Sour Cream Cake Mix batter to start with and thought I'd work with oranges. While this recipe is good, I don't think it's award-winning so I'm going to keep experimenting until I find the perfect Christmas cake.
I started by making candied orange peel. I'd never done this before but it couldn't be easier and it's really yummy. My hubby kept sneaking pieces while they were drying.
The filling is 1 cup of fresh whipped cream mixed with 1 cup of orange marmalade.
The frosting is 1 cup of whipped cream combined with 1/2 cup marscapone cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 Tablespoons of sugar.
It was definitely a fun and tasty experiment. I'm thinking of trying something with cranberries next. What do you think?
Oh, and it's FRIDAY!. Yay!
What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto

This recipe confirms that I don't like boiled asparagus. Next time, I will definitely roast it before adding it to the dish. Other than that, it's delicious and makes great leftovers for lunch since you can eat it cold. I used rigatoni pasta rather than spaghetti since that's what I had in the pantry. Make sure you use smoked mozzarella and not the regular kind since it adds a great flavor to the dish. I think it would be bland without it. Do you have a pasta recipe that is good for lunch the next day?

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto
by Giada De Laurentiis

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
3/4 pound spaghetti
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into strips
6 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, diced (about 1 cup)
6 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Cook the asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. With a spider or slotted spoon, remove asparagus from boiling water to a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking. When cool, strain, cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces, and set aside.

Return the water in the pot to a boil, adding additional water, if necessary. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add asparagus to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the pasta, and if needed, some of the reserved cooking liquid. Toss to coat. Add the prosciutto, mozzarella, and basil, and toss to combine. Turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Proof I Didn't Peak In High School

Kari over at Running Ricig is inspiring us to prove that we didn't peak in high school. This means doing the mile run and beating your high school time. Even though I never ran a timed mile in high school I figured if I could at least run a mile at a decent time that would be proof enough. I consider myself fairly athletic. I'm a big fan of zumba, step-aerobics and weight lifting, but I very rarely run. I almost always get a stitch in my side and then I get all whiney and complainy about being uncomfortable. I vowed not to do that this time though. I was going to do a mile if it killed me and it almost did. Sorry Kari, I may have cursed at you a few times. A mile seems really far when you're hot, sweaty and feeling like you're going to throw-up.
This is me sans make-up fresh out of bed with my racing bib and ready to run. Lucky husband was still snuggled in bed but indulged me by taking this photo.

Here are a few things I learned about trying to run a mile outside:
1. The treadmill at the gym is way easier.
2. Do not run first thing in the morning without any water or food for fuel.
3. If it's hot, you'll be even hotter in about 30 seconds.
4. Uphill SUCKS!
5. Running against the wind is not fun.
6. If you're not used to running, you'll be sucking in air so hard and fast it will sound like you're in labor.
7. You'll feel AWESOME when it's over. I was very proud even though it took me a while.
Post-Run and feeling Amazeballs.
Final time 11 minutes 40 seconds (including 30 seconds of walking when I thought I was going to throw-up)
I'm going to try and do this every Sunday to improve my time and stamina. Want to join me?
Thanks for inspiring me Kari. I really enjoyed the runner's high.

After a nice cold shower, I made a huge breakfast to reward myself.
Cheese grits, bacon, eggs with red bell pepper, chocolate chip scones, coffee, orange juice. So delicious. I'm ready for my nap. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Brendan's Irish Pub and Restaurant Review

Last night was party time, birthday style, at Brendan's Irish Pub and Restaurant then back to my place for cake and ice cream. Our good friend was celebrating his birthday and picked Brendan's for dinner. At first, I wasn't thrilled since I'd been to Brendan's when they first opened and the food was not good. However, I'm so glad to have tried it again since this time was much better. The food is much improved and the chef came to our table to introduce himself and deliver our dishes. If you're a beer fan, you'll love the huge selection they have. The atmosphere is fun but very loud. Beware of the strolling bagpipe player as it scared me when he sounded the first note. It was charming in the beginning but became a little too frequent. We sat in an alcove on the side which was great for our party size and private enough that we could talk and be heard clearly over the restaurant noise.
We started with the Irish Nachos. Can I just say, there is A LOT going on in this dish? Thick-sliced potato chips, Heinz beans (which I love), cheese sauce, sour cream, tomatoes, scallions, ground beef, peas and jalapenos. The peas bummed me out since I'm not a pea fun but the rest was tasty.
Prime Rib Sliders. Just OK. The buns were soggy and the onion on top was bland and cold. The prime rib itself was good as were the caramelized onions but the horseradish dipping sauce definitely needed more heat.
Croquettes- SO SO SO YUMMY. You must try these. Perfectly crisp, cheesy balls of potato goodness. I could have eaten many more plates of these.
The birthday boy with his filet mignon entree. He said it was delicious. Also, something great about this place, your entree (any entree you choose) is free on your birthday.
I will definitely be returning to try more dishes. There is a chicken curry entree that looks delicious.
Have you ever returned to a restaurant that you originally didn't like and changed your mind?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bobby Flay's Chicken Caccitore

This is the first Bobby Flay recipe I've ever made and I'm so glad I did. It was delicious. Lynn over at Happier Than A Pig In Mud is hosting a celebrity recipe cook-along for Bobby Flay. Head over to her website and check out all the other yummy dishes.
I decided to make Chicken Caccitore from one of Bobby Flay's recipe Throwdown episodes.

Obviously, the sauce is the highlight of the dish. It's a wonderful combination of onions, sweet bell pepper, and mushrooms. I left out the chile since I didn't have any on hand. It's perfectly balanced with the red wine and hints of balsamic that is added at the end. It makes terrific leftovers as well. I hope you'll give this recipe a try.

I received this wine as a birthday gift and served it with dinner. I love the label. Isn't it fun? I'll be buying some for hostess gifts.

Chicken Caccitore
by Bobby Flay

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
One 3lb chicken cut into eighths?
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced (julienned)
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup low sodium canned chicken broth
1 can (14-15 ounce) diced tomatoes and their juices
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar or capers?
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 lb spaghetti (#8 or #9) cooked al dente
Basil sprigs
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin-side down and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a large plate.
2. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown, season with salt and pepper and remove to a plate.
3. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano, garlic and chile flakes to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and cook until almost completely reduced. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a large shallow bowl and tent loosely with foil.
4. Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar and basil and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs. Serve over spaghetti and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scars of a Chef, Rick Tramonto

One of my favorite things is my library card. Our city library is newer, beautiful and has tons of great books. I always check out cookbooks before I commit to buying them. Recently, I noticed a section of books of chef memoirs and food writings. I must admit, I'd never heard of Rick Tramonto before but the title of his book grabbed my attention so I added it to my stack of cookbooks and I'm so glad I did. It's a quick read with lots of behind the scenes restaurant stories as well as his narrative on growing up and coming into his own as a man, chef and Christian. There are also several recipes throughout the book that I can't wait to try. I'm going to check out one of his cookbooks next.
Do you have a library card? Have you used it recently?
Who is your favorite chef?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Barefoot Contessa- Peach Blueberry Crumble

Peaches are in abundance right now. You can get a big container at Trader Joes for about $5. I love peaches. So sweet and juicy. Although, I was a little worried by the label on the box that stated what the peaches were coated in to keep them fresh. ICK! Luckily for this recipe, the peaches are peeled which I figure elminates most of the coating. Even the organic ones were covered in some type of beeswax mixture. Do you worry about what your produce has been sprayed with? I buy organic as much as I can but it gets expensive and I wonder "is this really organic?" One day, I'll have my own garden and I can control my produce, but until then I buy the best quality I can afford. Which leads me to my box of peaches and this recipe. Rather than make individual crumbles as directed in the recipe, I baked one large crumble. I served it hot from the oven with vanilla ice cream. Delicious.

Peach and Blueberry Crumbles
by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa

For the fruit:
2 pounds firm, ripe peaches (6 to 8 peaches)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)
For the crumble:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it's in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you want to make these early, store the unbaked crumbles in the refrigerator and bake before dinner.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Starbucks Cake Pops

It's Monday. Yuck, but you know what makes a Monday happy? A cake pop from Starbucks. I love these cute little treats. I plan to reward myself with one this afternoon.
Have you had one yet? Which flavor is your favorite?
I attempted to make my own cake pops last week but accidentally bought unsweetened melting chocolates to coat them in. Imagine my surprise when I bit into that nasty coating. Chocolate definitely needs sugar.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Giada's Chicken Spezzatino

It's Friday! Yay! What do you have planned for the weekend? I plan to sleep in, watch lots of Food Network, eat yummy food and maybe get off my booty to workout a little bit. I really could use the workouts since I have a Vegas trip coming up and I want to be able to show off some curves.
I received Giada's cookbook Everyday Italian for my birthday and so far every recipe I've tried has been good. Today, I'm posting her Chicken Spezzatino. There is another version of this on FoodNetwork.com but I'm not a big fan of artichokes so I prefer this one. I served it over a wild rice mixture from Trader Joes.
Chicken Spezzatino
by Giada De Laurentiis


2 Tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, cut into bite-size pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes with their juices
1 14oz can reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 chicken breasts with ribs (about 1.5 pounds) (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 15oz can organic kidney beans, drained (rinsed if not organic)


In a heavy 5.5 quart saucepan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the celery, carrot, and onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme. Add the chicken and press to submerge. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, turning the breasts over and stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the beans and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduced to a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf. Let the chicken cool about 5 minutes. Discard the skin and bones and cut the meat into bite size pieces. Return it to the stew and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I have some sad news to report. My basil plant is dying. I'm a very bad basil plant mommy. BUT, that won't stop me from buying another one at Trader Joes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Giada's Pine Nut Cookies

This is one of those treats that make you go "hmmmmm, what is in this?" In a good way. These are very unique cookies with hints of a licorice flavor from the fennel seed. Don't let that turn you off if you don't like licorice, it's very subtle. Perfect for a mid-afternoon snack with your coffee or tea.
I first saw these on the Food Network. Anyone else spend too much time lounging on the couch watching food porn? Then I saw them in my new Giada cookbook and had to try them.

Pine Nut Cookies
by Giada De Laurentiis

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pine nuts

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, fennel seed, and salt in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and mix just until blended.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into an 8-inch-long log. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line heavy large baking sheets with a silpat or parchment paper. Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick slices. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly apart. Press the pine nuts decoratively atop the cookies. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, about 15 minutes.

On another note, do you remember the fitness program The Firm? Those super skinny totally buffed out girls who hardly broke a sweat as they cheered you through the workout. I dusted off my old DVD and step last night. I actually got a pretty good sweat going. I think I'll be adding to my Jillan rotation. Do you have any old fitness videos? I'm pretty sure my mom still has one of the old Jane Fonda videos.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BBQ Ribs and Eats

BBQ ribs are one of my favorite grilled dishes. My husband makes delicious ribs. I don't let him make them very often because so so many calories and I can't help but eat at least half a rack by myself. He marinates them overnight, then puts on a dry rub, slathers them in his own bbq sauce and then loving sprays them with apple cider every half hour while they cook. He's a man who can cook and that's quite sexy.
We announced it was rib day to our friends and they brought the side dishes.
My hubby's ribs. I'm going to try and convince him to do a guest post and share the recipe. I'm bummed I didn't get a photo of him at the grill.

Jenni's pasta salad. Thanks for letting me keep the leftovers.

I made these beer and cheese biscuits.

Jen's broccoli salad. She made sure we got our greens for the day with crispy delicious bacon on top. Thanks Jen.

Todd's sweet potatoes, well actually these are from Bandits, but Todd gets credit for ordering and picking them up.

It must have been a blast because everybody stayed til after midnight, 3 bottles of wine were recycled and my patio furniture ended up in the garage for an impromptu poker game.
What did you do for the long weekend?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Flag Cake- Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone is having a wonderful time celebrating the amazing freedom we have as Americans. I'm so thankful that I live in such a great country.
What did you do for the long weekend?
I did some major cleaning and errand running, but I also got to spend time with some of my favorite people, my friends.
I'm sure there are many many people who made this delicious flag cake for the 4th. I followed the 1-2-3 cake recipe on the Swan's cake flour box and then topped it with fresh whipped cream and berries. I even counted out 50 blueberries to represent all 50 states. I'm off on the amount of strawberries though since all the lines wouldn't fit in the cake pan. The cake is dense for my taste but still yummy. Plus, you can't go wrong with berries and whipped cream.
Did you make anything special for the weekend? Any bbq treat you especially look forward to?