Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekend Edition: Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

In case you missed it here is what I was up to last week:

          Friday, March 29, 2013

          March Favorites

          The end of March is here. I cannot believe it. I kind of feel like the months have just blown by this year.  This weekend it is actually suppose to feel like Spring too. And it is Easter. Oh boy.

          My mind is racing for the weekend to arrive.  I have an itch to do some incredible cleaning. And of course with me, as soon as I clean I want to redecorate. That means some shopping is in order. Watch out.

          I haven't done a favorites post in a while so here is a mismatch of things I adore right now.

          Jack Black Lip Balm is the bomb. I have lip balm stashed everywhere. One at work. One in each of the bathrooms. Three in my purse (don't ask). Everywhere. So no it was not unreasonable to buy this four pack at Christmas. SPF 25 and all sorts of lovely flavors like grapefruit and black tea. Love!

          If you enjoy Peanut Butter you must try PB Crave.  They have flavors like cookie nookie that has pieces of cookie dough in it. Or how about Razzle Dazzle with raspberries. Let's just say I might have gone a bit overboard with cookie dough for breakfast. The best snack ever is some splattered on a banana. Yum, yum!

          OK so when I first saw these Roasted Coconut Chips at Trader Joe's I wasn't convinced they would be very good. I passed them up. It was Mr. J that pressed me into buying some.  (He is kind of like bringing a two year old to the store, we always end up with about $50 worth of unnecessary groceries when he comes along).They were purchased and pretty much completely consumed before we even made it  home. They say that they are good toppers for ice cream and salads, etc.  We just at them by the handful. So, so good!

          Cheap wine of the month award goes to Steak House. This $10 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon rivals our $100 bottles of Duckhorn.  It is so delicious and so cheap. Last time I picked up a bottle I noted a sign saying it had won an award from Wine Spectators.  Clearly they know what they are talking about more than I do. This has become our favorite go to cheap wine. It is now perfectly acceptable to pop the cork (or screw top) on a Friday, Monday or any other day of the week. 

          Happy Friday!

          Thursday, March 28, 2013

          Pass the Cookbook: Asian Fried Quinoa

          Today I am excited to start a new endeavor. It’s time for March’s Pass the Cookbook Club, hosted by Kita from Pass the Sushi.  Kita realized she had too many cookbooks not being used on a regular basis so she started Pass the Cookbook Club to make it a point to open and use a new cookbook each month. Lucky for us she invited friends. 

          March's cookbook was  “Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It”, by Guy Fieri. I was pretty excited for this selection as Mr. J and I watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives all the time.

          I wasn't on top of things in March and today came along a lot faster than I thought. Because of this I ended up picking what seemed to be the easiest dinner to throw together - Asian Fried Quinoa.  The other choices, Guy’s Cherry Cobbler Pizza, and his Snake Bite Sandwiches seemed pretty fantastic too. I am sure we will be checking them out as well. 

          To read more about how the cook book club works, see last month's post from Kita - Pioneer Woman’s Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin. To join the club, click the facebook group here

          Asian Fried Quinoa

          by Guy Fieri
          Prep Time: 20 minutes
          Cook Time: 45 minutes
          Keywords: saute side quinoa Chinese
          Ingredients (serves 6)
          • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
          • 3 cups chicken stock
          • 3 Tbsp olive oil
          • 2 cups finely chopped onion
          • 1 large shallot, finely minced
          • 1/4 cup finely minced garlic
          • 1/4 cup finely grated ginger
          • 1 cup green onions, chopped
          • 1 cup carrots, sliced
          • 2 cups baby bok choy, shredded finely
          • 1 cup celery, chopped into small pieces
          • 2 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
          • 1 cup snap peas, coursely chopped
          • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
          • 2 large eggs, beaten
          In a large skillet heated over medium heat, toast the quinoa until it turns light golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Once toasted, add the veggie stock to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and set aside.

          Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 1/2 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook until onions are well caramelized, making sure to stir frequently, about 15 minutes.

          Add the shallots to the skillet and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, and green onion, cooking for another 3-4 minutes, allowing everything to soften.

          Add the carrots, bok choy, celery, cabbage, and snap peas. Cook just until the bok choy and cabbage are wilted. Add the soy sauce, and mix ingredients well. Transfer the veggies to another bowl.

          Heat the other 1 1/2 Tbsp of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the quinoa and warm through, stirring frequently. When quinoa is heated through, drizzle the eggs over the surface of the quinoa. Once eggs have “set to cook”, gently incorporate them into the quinoa in pieces large enough that they are visible. Add the veggie mixture to the skillet and mix well.

          Taste for seasoning, adding more soy sauce if necessary and serve.
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          Wednesday, March 27, 2013

          WIAW and Palm Springs California

          This is what happens when I go to the west coast. I actually woke up about 2:40 but managed to stay in bed till 3:24am.

          The good thing is that before 6am I was able to do some work and get in a 4 mile run. 

          Breakfast was at the hotel.  The restaurant didn't open till 6. Between the time change and the run I was starving. I had a huge omelette with veggies and sausage, a blueberry muffin, fresh fruit, and coffee with soy milk.

          The traffic in California never stops amazing me.  There are six lane highways. Every inch is filled with cars. Even when it is not rush out. Cars, cars everywhere.

          We went to Palm Springs as our fun activity. I had never been to a dessert before. The landscape is crazy.  So different than anything I had ever experienced. By 9am it was already 70 degrees, the sun was blaring. 

          The first thing we did was hike in the canyons. We did a two mile loop with a 60 foot waterfall in the middle. I was a little concerned when the person at the visitor center said it was rattlesnake mating season.  Luckily we didn't find any of those.  I was most excited to see a cactus. 

          I was complete indecisive when it came to lunch. We finally ended up a burger bar because I really wanted sweet potato fries.  The burger was really good too. It was Tex-Mex themed with jalapenos, salsa, and avocado.

          Our last activity of the day was the aerial tram. The 10 minute ride up the canyons goes over several distinct climate zones and over 8,500 vertical ft. Our ears were a popping.

          I wasn't the most fond of the ride. We were up really high and tram swayed from side to side a bit.  Once we were at the top it was quite colder than in the dessert. We went from 80 degrees to 55.  We kept warm by doing the mild 1.5 mile nature walk.  There were several trails ranging from 1 to 12 miles.  Let's just say 1.5 was a stretch with all our other activities for the day.  We had some spectacular views on our short trip. .

          Dinner was at a local Mexican restaurant. Happy hour beers.

          Dinner salad. 

          Carne verde - slow roasted pork loin with green salsa.  

          It was a long day and we were exhausted by 7pm. I think we managed to stay up till about 8pm before we said good night.

          Tuesday, March 26, 2013

          New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

          I will never get sick of chocolate chip cookies. At one point I think I would have described myself as a cake person. Today there is no question in my mind that I am a cookies person. 

          These are the cookies that almost never happened. They take two kinds of flour.  Need 24 hours in the fridge. 

          And when I first made them I was home alone. Sampling the dough was my entertainment.

          Since the NY Times originally posted this recipe back in 2008 people across the country have been raving. The time in the fridge chills the dough making the cookies thick and chewy. 

          So, so good. 

          I am not sure what the exact magic is in these cookie but they are way better than your run of the mill chocolate chip cookies.

          New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

          by Emily Morris, New York Times
          Prep Time: 20 minutes, 24 hours chill time
          Cook Time: 18-20 minutes
          Keywords: bake dessert chocolate cookie
          Ingredients (24 cookies)
          • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
          • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
          • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
          • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
          • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
          • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
          • 2 large eggs
          • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
          • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet or dark chocolate disks (at least 60 percent cacao content)
          • Sea salt
          Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

          Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them.

          Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

          When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

          Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.

          Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more.

          Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.
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          Monday, March 25, 2013

          Caramelized Onion Jam {SRC}

          Secret Recipe Club

          It is the end of the month and that means it is time for the Secret Recipe Club post. For March I was assigned JJ of 84th & 3rd.

          She lives in Australia and loves brunch and chocolate.   I was so lost in her recipes because she does a lot of gluten-free and dairy-free dishes. With my interest in the Paleo diet I got quite a few ideas. 

          After a little searching I saw her caramelized onion jam. I couldn't get it out of my mind. She paired it with cheese and pears. Yum!  The onion jam was so easy to make with common ingredients, yet you could add it to so many dishes and entrees to really take things up a notch. 

          You can see below what we used ours for last weekend but I know that we will be making another batch soon.

          Caramelized Onion Jam

          by 84th & 3rd
          Prep Time: 10 minutes
          Cook Time: 20 minutes
          Keywords: saute
          Ingredients (serves 4)
          • 2 onions, thinly sliced
          • 1 tsp dry thyme
          • 2 Tbsp olive oil
          • pinch sea salt
          • 1/4 c water
          • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
          In a non-stick skillet over medium heat saute onions, thyme and salt in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the water and saute a further 5 minutes – stirring regularly. Turn down and cook a further 10 minutes on medium-low until onions are sweet and almost melting in the pan.

          Remove from heat, stir through vinegar. Sprinkle with a bit of extra thyme. Serve with cheese, bread and pears.
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          I used the caramelized onions to top a sweet potato with bleu cheese. It was so delicious. The onions melted into the cheese and gave a sharp bite with the sweetness of the sweet potato.

          My husband used it with a chicken salad salad sandwich. He called it a master piece.

          Saturday, March 23, 2013

          Weekend Edition: Saturday Only

          Hi folks, 

          This weekend could not come fast enough.  I was so happy by Friday night. 

          Mr. J and I are off to California tomorrow.  Its a work trip but I am sure we can sneak in some fun along the way. I think I am most excited about the temperatures. Screw this Spring time on the east coast with snow. Southern California is going to be 75. Flip flops here I come.

          In case you missed it here is what I was up to last week:

                Friday, March 22, 2013

                Corn Risotto Stuffed Peppers

                I like to have at least one good meal on the weekends. The process of making it doesn't have to be complicated but the meal needs to bring comfort. A sense of peace before work gets in the way again.

                This meal was a bit of a process but it feed us for three days. Plus I cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon than messing around in the kitchen with a glass of wine.

                You need to roast the peppers. We have an electric stove so I used our broiler, turning the peppers to make sure they were cooking evenly.  While this is taking place you can start the risotto.

                The peppers will get done about half way through the risotto cooking time. Once the risotto is a nice creamy consistency you put it all together. And into the oven they go to bake a few more mintues to melt the cheese.

                Mr. J had the job of topping the stuffing peppers with the thinned out sour cream and a little but of cilantro. I could hardly keep my hands off them waiting for him to finish.

                Corn Risotto Stuffed Peppers

                by Emily Morris, From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
                Prep Time: 25 minutes
                Cook Time: 45 minutes
                Keywords: bake entree Mexican
                Ingredients (serves 6)
                • 8 large poblanos
                • 6 c chicken or veggie broth
                • 2 T olive oil
                • 1 small onion, finely chopped
                • 1 garlic glove
                • 2 c arborio (risotto) rice
                • 1/2 c beer, preferably light or medium in color
                • 1 1/2 c corn, frozen or fresh
                • 3/4 c grated Monterey Jack cheese
                • 1/2 t salt
                • ground pepper to taste
                • 1/4 c crumbled queso fresco
                For the Peppers
                Lay the peppers on a cooking sheet side by side.

                Broil them for 10 minutes until nicely charred.

                Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.

                For the Risotto
                In a medium saucepan, heat the stock to a low simmer.

                On a separate burner, heat a larger saucepan over medium heat. Once the saucepan is hot, add oil and heat through. Then add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes.

                Add the rice to the pot and stir it a minute or two. Pour in beer and let summer for roughly a minute.

                Ladle 1 c of warm stock into rice mixture and simmer until absorbed.
                Add remaining stock, 1/2 c at a time, allowing stock to absorb before adding more stirring often.

                Along with the final addition of the stock, add the corn. By now, the risotto should be creamy and tender.

                Stir in the cheese, salt, and black pepper. Remove from heat.

                Putting it all together
                Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove aluminum foil from the cooking sheet. If you do not like the skins, gently rub off.

                Cut a slit lengthwise in each pepper and remove seeds.

                Fill each with risotto through the slit. Arrange them tightly in a baking dish, sprinkling the crumbled cheese between them.

                Bake for 10-15 minutes.

                While baking, whisk together the sour cream mixed with milk and salt. Once the peppers have cooked, drizzle the mixture over each one. Garnish with chives or scallions.
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