Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Drunken Spaghetti

This is one of my favorite Rachael Ray recipes. I've added a few ingredients to it to make it more filling. It's delicious and really fun for a crowd. This time I only used half a bottle of wine since that's all I had left, otherwise the spaghetti would have been a deeper purple color.

Drunken Spaghetti
by Rachael Ray


1 bottle dry Italian red wine


1 pound spaghetti

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound pancetta, smoked pancetta, or speck, chopped into fine dice

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 bundles black, Tuscan, or Dinosaur kale, thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus a chunk to shave at table


Pour the whole bottle of wine into a pasta pot and add about the same amount of water. Salt the liquid and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente. Heads up: Remove and reserve 1 cup of cooking water just before draining.

Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat with the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the garlic and swirl it around for 2 minutes more. Add the kale, let it wilt and then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Add the reserved cooking liquid, drained pasta and the grated cheese. Toss vigorously for at least a full minute, then serve in shallow bowls. Pass the Pecorino to shave over the pasta at the table.

*Notes: I also added 2 diced shallots, 1 cup of chopped mushrooms and a handful of toasted pine nuts. I substituted the kale for spinach and the pancetta for proscuitto.
3-day weekend coming up. What do you have planned?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lime Coconut Cookies

Chewy, sugary, lime deliciousness. I'm always looking for new cookie recipes and I found this one from the blog Lick The Bowl Good She has many other yummy recipes that I want to try.

Of course, I had to share with friends but not before I tucked some away in my freezer for a rainy day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

BBQ Macaroni Salad

We were having grilled chicken the other night and I wanted something quick for a side dish. One of my favorite blogs is Mel's Kitchen Cafe and that's where this recipe comes from. I made a few changes most notably I used orechiette since Trader Joe's doesn't carry macaroni noodles. The salad was delicious and a perfect addition to our meal.

BBQ Macaroni Salad

8-12 ounces turkey kielbasa, diced (I left this out since we had chicken as a main course)
1 pound elbow macaroni (orechiette)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 green onions, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise (I used full fat organic since that's what I had in the fridge)
1/2 cup BBQ sauce

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped turkey kielbasa and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and let it cool slightly before using in the recipe.

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni and cook until nearly tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool, draining again briefly. Transfer the moist pasta to a large bowl.

Stir in the kielbasa, bell pepper, celery, green onions, vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Let the pasta sit for about 5 minutes to absorb the flavors. Stir in the mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. The salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Check the seasonings before serving and stir in a few tablespoons of warm water before serving, if needed to bring the salad back to it’s creamy texture.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from The Cook’s Country Cookbook

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Barefoot Contessa Brownie Pudding

So, I've decided that i just don't have the patience to take amazing food photos. I so badly want to try what I've made that all I seem to be able to do is take a couple of quick pics. Maybe one day I'll slow down and hone my skills but until then, oh well.
This dessert is so decadent and delicious you'll forgive me for the bad lighting and blur. You must try this. It's chocolate at its best.

Brownie Pudding

by Ina Garten


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon framboise liqueur, optional
Vanilla ice cream, for serving


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise, if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream

Now I'm off to catch up on my google reader and suffer from some serious blog envy. There's a lot of great talent out there.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Farro, Farro, Where for art thou Farro?

This has happened to me a of couple times before. Once with grape leaves and another with ladyfingers. I head to the grocery store and they don't have what I need so I go to several more grocery stores and still can't find what I need. Previously, I have cried in frustration. Serious tears people, I'm ashamed to admit. Now, I keep it together and try to substitute. This time, I couldn't find farro. Thank you Giada for noting in your cookbook that barley can be used instead. I must have stood in the rice aisle for at least 10 minutes trying to wish farro to appear but instead I left the store with barley. It was very yummy but I couldn't help but wonder with each bite how much yummier it would have been with farro. Alas, I will be purchasing farro on Amazon as well as quick coooking grits which I can't find anywhere either. Ugh!

Cheesy Baked Farro (Barley)
by Giada de Laurentiis


Vegetable cooking spray

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups warm whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups faro or barley, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
Olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

For the sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 8 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil). Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the farro: In a large bowl, add the cheeses and stir to combine. Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and reserve. In a large stock pot, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the farro, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the faro is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, if necessary. Add the farro, thyme, and sauce to the bowl with the cheese. Stir until combined and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake until the top is golden brown and forms a crust, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

It tastes better than it looks in this picture. I need more light in my kitchen.
*note I left out the tomatoes in this dish.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Itty Bitty, Teeny Weeny Peanut Butter Cup Blossoms

Itty Bitty, Teeny Weeny Peanut Butter Cup Blossoms- wow is that a mouthful. I was looking for a recipe that makes a ton of cookies since I like to share and I came across this one from Cookies & Cups You'll have to visit her website for the recipe so I can send her some link love for posting such a delicious cookie. Everyone loved these. Definitely block out some for rolling them into little balls. Took me all afternoon. Although, I was babysitting at the time and had to stop several times to entertain the most adorable baby ever. I'm saving this recipe for many future uses. I hope you'll try them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nonna's Biscotti

For the bridal shower gifts to our guests, I baked a batch of Nonna's Biscotti and attached them to little bags of coffee that I bought at World Market. I chose this recipe since I already had brandy in my pantry and I'm always looking for ways to use it. I should have know better than to buy a huge bottle for one recipe a few months ago. Anybody have any good recipes that use brandy? I'd love for you to share them with me.
Aren't they cute? They keep for several days which is great since you can make them in advance.
Your kitchen will smell wonderful while they bake. I didn't have any trouble with crumbling when I cut them. I recommend you use a thin serrated knife. Once you make the initial first cut, press down hard and quickly; this way you shouldn't have any problems with the biscotti holding their shape.

Nonna's Biscotti
by Toni Oltranti


1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole almonds with skin, lightly toasted , cooled, and coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Stir together sugar, butter, brandy, and extracts in a large bowl, then stir in almonds and eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.

Chill dough, covered, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (16-by 2-inch) loaves on an ungreased large baking sheet.

Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer loaves to a rack and cool 15 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4-inch slices with a serrated knife.

Arrange biscotti, with a cut side down, on a clean baking sheet and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bridal Shower Luncheon

Saturday was bridal shower day at my house. I was in charge of the food Yay! and the maid or matron (since she's married) LOL handled the rest. It was such a beautiful day and other than the few noisy planes for the air show flying overhead it was a really nice shower. Makes me want to get married again, to the same man of course.
The shower was themed for her honeymoon destination, Italy, France and Greece. So so jealous.
I was lucky to have a little leftover for dinner that night since I was too tired to cook anything else.

Giada's Muffulettas great recipe for luncheons since you can make them the night before.

Caprese Salad

Layered Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Watermelon

Red, White and Blue potato chips from Trader Joes

Dark Chocolate & Cappuccino gelato with an almond twirl cookie.

What is your favorite dish you've had at a shower?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ventura County Fair Food

What better way to clog some arteries than eating at the Ventura County Fair, or any carnival for the matter. It seems everything is fried, salted, sweetened, covered in cheese or all of the above.
Kettle Korn is one of my favorite Fair foods. I worked the kettle korn booth one summer and it will always have a special place in my heart.
This is the same booth I worked at and it's been a Fair staple ever since I can remember.

Let's move on too the many many other food options available.....

My father in-law enjoying the roasted corn.

My hubby chose Pinks for his lunch.

He was given a totally macho Jennifer Lopez card for his order. The servers yell at the celebrity to come pick up your order. I saw Justin Timberlake too. LOL

With his hotdog, which I don't have a photo of, he also ordered chili-cheese fries. My heart stopped a little with each bite.

Did you go to your local fair this year? What's your favorite food? I was too stuffed to get my usual cinnamon roll and funnel cake but those are also big favorites.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spicy Salted Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I'm slowly learning how to create my own baked goods. It's definitely a process trying to get the right combination of dry ingredients to wet ingredients. I usually use the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe as my guide.
I love salted sweet treats and when I saw a bag of chocolate chunks on sale at Target this recipe was born.

Spicy Salted Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies
by Danielle

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs at room temperature
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Kosher Salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 deg.
In a medium bowl combine flours, cocoa powder, pepper and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together butter, sugars and salt until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla. Slowly add in flour mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
Using a small ice cream scoop, place scoops of dough approx 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are slightly darkened. Immediately after removing from oven, sprinkle a pinch of kosher on each cookie. Cool on wire racks and Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cowboy Hash and Eggs, Texas Toast and Salsa

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of tomatoes. I had some from my brother in-law's garden and when I was flipping through Rachael Ray's cookbook I saw salsa. YUM! I served this dish as breakfast for dinner. One thing about this though, I know it says 30 Minute Meals but between all the chopping and steps it took me at least an hour. Even with the lengthy prep time, it was worth it.
Do you like to have breakfast for dinner?

Cowboy Hash and Eggs, Texas Toast and Salsa
by Rachael Ray

Hash, Eggs and Texas Toast:
12 medium sized mushrooms, quartered
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
8 small red potatoes
3 slices applewood or hickory smoked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning) or coarse salt and pepper
Hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco), to your taste
2 cups, 8 ounces, shredded sharp Cheddar, pepper jack or smoked Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons butter, divided
4 extra large eggs
4 thick cut slices bread, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, white, wheat or crusty farmhouse
1 clove garlic, cracked away from skins
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or several drops hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco) Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Yellow Tomato Salsa: Any flavor or variety of store bought salsa that you may have in your pantry is a fine substitute here as well
3 medium or 2 large yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro or parsley leaves, chopped

Chop all veggies for hash. Pierce potatoes with a fork and cook on high in microwave 5 minutes. Remove potatoes from microwave oven and cool for 5 minutes.

While potatoes are working, add chopped bacon to a large skillet over medium high heat and brown until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain, wipe pan and return to heat.

Preheat your broiler to high. Preheat a nonstick griddle pan for frying eggs over medium heat.

Chop or wedge potatoes. Add oil to the skillet which you returned to the heat, then potatoes. Begin to brown and crisp potatoes, 2 minutes on each side. Use this time to chop your salsa ingredients.

Combine salsa in a small bowl and season with salt.

Back to the hash: add the mushrooms to potatoes. Brown mushrooms a minute or 2, then add peppers and onions and season mixture with grill seasoning blend or salt and pepper, then hot sauce. Cook 3 to 5 minutes longer until veggies are just tender and potatoes are cooked through. Turn off heat and add bacon back to the pan. Combine bacon with the veggies then add cheese to the pan to evenly cover the mixture. Tent the skillet with foil to gently melt cheese over vegetables and potatoes and to retain heat.

Add a couple pats, 1/2 tablespoon butter, to preheated griddle pan. Crack extra large eggs on to griddle and fry to desired doneness. Eggs may, of course, be scrambled as well. As you like!

Place thick cut bread under broiler and toast 6 inches from heat on both sides. Place 2 tablespoons butter in a small cup with a clove of garlic and ground cayenne pepper or a few drops of hot sauce. Melt in microwave for 30 seconds.

Brush toast with garlic cayenne butter and sprinkle with parsley. Remove from broiler.

Transfer vegetable and bacon hash to plates. Top each portion with a single fried egg or arrange the fried eggs evenly over the platter. Serve with Texas garlic toast and serve the salsa on the side to compliment either menu item.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rachael Ray's Hot Mamacita

I pulled out one of my old Rachael Ray cookbooks and randomly selected her recipe Hot Mamacita. She cracks me up with some of the dish names. This is for one of her many "stoups" thicker than soup but thinner than stew. Have you ever made one before?
This particular "stoup" is Turkey, Chorizo and Chipotle with Corn Cakes.
I made a few changes to the recipe. Mainly because chorizo freaks me out. I don't know why. I don't mind eating sausage but something about seeing glands and lymph nodes on the label makes me want to gag. Instead, I bought soy chorizo from Trader Joes. This was my first time purchasing it and I was pleasantly surprized. Once added to the dish, I couldn't tell it was soy. Also, I made the cornbread from scratch and added ground flax meal to the recipe. A quick, delicious and hearty meal. YUM-O!

Hot Mamacita
by Rachael Ray

1/2 pound chorizo (soy for me)
2 pounds ground turkey breast
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t (palmful) chili powder
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped (if you don't remove the seeds it will be really spicy)
kosher salt to taste
1 C Mexican beer (I used a Corona)
2 C chicken stock
1 can 28 oz. chopped stewed tomatoes (I used regular diced tomatoes)
1 can 15 oz. red kidney beans, drained ( I used pinto beans)
1 package 5 oz. Jiffy brand corn muffin mix
8 oz pepper-Jack cheese shredded
2 T unsalted butter

Heat a deep skillet or wide pot over medium-high heat. Add oil and chorizo, brown 1 minute. Push chorizo off to the side and add turkey to the pan. Brown turkey, crumbling meat as it cookis, 3 minutes. Add onions, garlic, chili powder, and chipotles. Cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add beed and cook another minute, stirring to loosen and bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broth, tomatoes, and beans. Bring to a bubble. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Heat a nonstick griddle pan over medium-high heat. Mix corn muffin mix accourding to package directions for corn cakes. Mix in cheese. Nest butter in a paper towel and rub grill with butter. Ladle batter onto griddle in 3-inch cakes; cook until golden, 3 minutes on each side. Transfer corn cakes to a plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Pour stoup into bowls, top with cheese-corn cakes- like a spicy corn-topped chili pot pie.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara

I must admit to being a light-weight when it comes to drinking. One glass of wine, I'm tipsy and happy but done. So for me, wine tasting trips are more about socializing and scenery rather than the actual wine. My cousin celebrated her birthday by arranging a girl's day wine tasting trip through Santa Barbara a couple months ago. And yes, I'm just now getting around to posting it. Ooops. Better late than never.
So....come along and taste with me.
We visited 3 wineries, Firestone (made famous by Andrew Firestone from the Bachelor), Bridlewood (absolutely beautiful) and honestly I can't remember the name of the third place.
I prefer white wine. How about you?

Most of the scenery photos are from Bridlewood. Since we went on a Monday it was really quiet and the staff allowed us to tour the member's only grounds. It's so beautiful. I would recommend you definitely stop here if you're in the area.
And then our glasses were empty, our heads a little fuzzy and it was time to hit up State St for dinner.
Have you ever been wine-tasting?
Do you have any Santa Barbara favorites?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

I've been missing my blog for the last week and of course all of your posts as well. My aunt and uncle came to visit and I did nothing but enjoy their company. I rarely checked Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or my blog. Now I'm Baaaacccck. My google reader is so full it's overwhelming but I'm going to try and read as many as I can before my eyes cross.
I'll leave you with this post of the yummiest bundt cake I've had in a while. I didn't get a chance to photograph a cut slice. Bad Bad blogger.
I made it for my family. Got to show off those baking skills.

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

by Barefoot Contessa

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup grated orange zest (from 4 large oranges)
3 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups good semisweet chocolate chunks

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the orange zest.

3. Sift together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 2 tablespoons flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the pan, set it on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.

5. For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cake.

So, what have I missed?