Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Top Chef: Texas

Who doesn't love a little Tom Colicchio?
Top Chef continues to be one of my favorite shows on television. Season nine features the most chef-testants in the series history, with 29 culinary experts competing for a spot out in a group of 16 to make their culinary journey through the Lonestar state.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sent a Top Chef essentials kit via Klout because they deem me “influential” about food. What’s Klout, you ask? Klout measures influence online. “Our friendships and professional connections have moved online, making influence measurable for the first time in history. When you recommend, share, and create content you impact others.” (via Klout.com). If you’re signed up for Klout, you become eligible for Perks based on various factors—what you’re influential about, where you live, etc. Pretty cool, huh?
My Top Chef essentials kit arrived in a big, orange box. How fun! Upon opening it, I found the How to Cook Like a Top Chef cookbook, a pair of orange and silver tongs, a free trial for Top Chef University and a coupon for a Healthy Choice frozen meal. In preparation for the Top Chef: Texas premier, I took a look at the cookbook last night and it’s so fun if you’re a Top Chef fan like I am! It has some of the recipes that have won various challenges, a look inside the person lives of the contestants and fun tips and tricks for when you’re in the kitchen. With Christmas coming up, it would be a great gift for the foodie in your life.

I’m looking forward to tuning into tonight’s show. Will you be watching?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wine Wednesday: Dearly Beloved Forever Red


This past weekend my parents were in town, so I treated them to their first Trader Joe's experience. As we got to the wine section, this fun bottle caught my eye. I try really hard not to be one of those people who picks out their wine based on the label, but this one was just too fun to pass up. Plus, it was the night of the Walking Dead premier so I figured it suited the evening just right.

This red is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Carignane & Grenache and is very dark red in color. It has notes of cherry and blackberry, as the tasting notes indicate; however I did not catch the hints of oak as described. For a bottle under $10, I would recommend it for any of your upcoming Halloween parties or haunts. It has great flavors and a reasonable price and you can't go wrong with either. 

Vintage: 2009
Region: Mendocino County, California
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe's
Website (link to Trader Joe's site): http://www.traderjoes.com/onthecounter/wine.asp

Monday, October 17, 2011

Foodie Find: Epicurious App

I'm always looking for new recipes--oftentimes it seems that the hubs and I get in a rut of what food we make on a regular basis. We're often on the go, so I need something that is quick and easy to access away from the computer. That's where the Epicurious app comes in handy. 

I love everything about this app--it's easy to navigate, has multiple search functionalities and you can even browse by seasonal  categories. Most recently, I had to make a birthday treat for work and was able to look through the "Fall Desserts" category and find something delicious and easy to make. Another plus on this app is the ability to add any recipe to your "Favorites" category or make a shopping list for the grocery store. 

If you haven't already done so, download the Epicurious app here for your mobile or tablet device. 

On the subject of apps, do you have a favorite to share? I'd love to hear what apps you're using that you couldn't live without!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of October 16th

Another busy week is ahead of us! I'm slowly recovering from the whole kidney stone business and getting back into the swing of things. This week, we're fortunate enough to spend some time with the Orrs so there's not a lot of meals to be planned. Tonight the hubs made some of his fantastic mushroom risotto with a yummy filet. It was amazing...next time he makes the risotto, I need to stay in the kitchen with him to take notes, but tonight I was stuck on the couch resting. While short, I still want to share, so here goes the weekly menu plan:


Sunday: Mushroom risotto with filet mignon
Monday: Fried green tomato BLTs
Tuesday: Jalapeno chicken sausage from Trader Joe's
Wednesday: Feta chicken with couscous
Thursday-Sunday: Fun times with the Orrs!


Have a great week!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese

I used to not like goat cheese. For some reason, it intimidated me. I'm not sure if it was because it was from a goat or if the flavor was just too strong, but there was something about it that scared me off. I think the trick to goat cheese is just to keep it simple. Since the flavor is so pungent, you want to make sure to serve it with either light ingredients or other bold flavors that can stand up against it.

My lovely mother-in-law was up to visit us a few weeks ago, and the hubs wanted to make her a meal that impressed. He was in charge of the main entree and left the appetizer and salad up to me. I wanted to serve something that was complimentary to his scallops and risotto, when I came across this warm goat cheese salad from Epicurious, I thought it was the perfect pairing. The warmth of the goat cheese is just delicious against the crisp of the baby greens and the tang of the vinaigrette.

Tip: When cutting the goat cheese, use dental floss. Simply wrap each end around your finger like you're going to floss your teeth, instead cutting the goat cheese with the string. This will give you the round pieces you'll want without the crumbling that you'll get when using a knife. 


Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese
adapted from Epicurious
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water
2 (1/3-inch-thick) rounds soft mild goat cheese, cut from a cold log
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups mesclun (mixed baby salad greens; 1 oz)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Whisk together egg white and water. Dip cheese rounds in egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill 15 minutes.
Whisk together vinegar, salt, mustard, sugar, and a pinch of pepper in a small salad bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
Heat remaining teaspoon oil in a small nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté cheese until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Remove skillet from heat.
Add greens to dressing and toss gently to coat. Serve salad topped with warm cheese and almonds.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wine Wednesday: Murphy-Goode Zinfandel

In Kansas City, we're lucky enough to have the ability to purchase wine at Costco. A bonus is that the store closest to our house has a full-time sommelier on duty...I've heard that it's because our store has the second-highest grossing liquor sales in the country. (And I don't doubt it--I know that we contribute a hefty sum each month). Whenever we're in the store, we always make sure to ask the sommelier for recommendations on the newest options available. That's where we found this wine, the Murphy-Goode Zinfandel, which has turned into one of our favorites.

This Zinfandel comes from Sonoma County and is a mixture of fruit from the Alexander and Dry Creek areas. It's a bold wine with strong flavors of rich blackberries and cherries that are balanced by the soft tannins, which contribute to the perfect amount of dryness on the palate. Being a strong wine, it pairs well with steak, bbq or any other meat. We typically drink this alongside a filet mignon or lamb.

Vintage:2008
Region: Sonoma
Price: $16-20

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of October 9th

Wait? How is it October 8th? Where has the month gone? Unfortunately for me, October has not been the best month so far. Just over a week ago, I woke up with pain in my midsection that turned out to be a kidney stone. Not just a little one, but one that is stuck and not going anywhere anytime soon. Luckily, I'm having a procedure this week that will take care of my little problem but because of that, this week's menu is pretty easy and simple. I can't really do much around the house and the hubs has been pretty much waiting on me hand and foot, so we don't have anything very blog worthy in the queue. 


Since I've been stuck on the couch, I will be sharing a few non-cooking related things in the coming weeks. Pinterest has been my BFF--I've been creating some cute fall outfits and DIY jewelry that I think you all would love. Nothing like a kidney stone to help expand the horizons of this little ole blog. 


Back to the menu...here is what we'll be having this week:


Sunday: Rosemary potato soup
Monday: Trader Joe's Sweet Apple Chicken sausage and Brussels sprouts
Tuesday: Soft tacos
Wednesday: Grilled Cheese and Roasted Tomato soup
Thursday: Surgery day :(
Friday: Takeout
Saturday: Parents are in town, so whatever they bring over :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wine Wednesday: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc wines are my favorite white varietal, hands down. The Marlborough region of New Zealand is famous for producing some of the world's best, primarily because of the climate--cool, moderate and dry. What I love the most about Sauvignon Blancs is the crispness that comes across on the palate and the freshness of the flavor. Kim Crawford's Sauvignon Blanc has notes of citrus and pineapple, which pairs perfectly with various foods, from seafoods to salads, or can be enjoyed on its own. It's also both affordable and award-winning, with the 2009 vintage receiving 89 points from both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. I would recommend serving this alongside a first-course at a dinner party, or even on its own when drinking with friends.


Vintage: 2008 or 2009
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Price: $12-16.99
Website: http://www.kimcrawfordwines.co.nz/

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gorgeous Giveaway: Vintage Cake Stands

I am a sucker for a gorgeous cake stand, so I wanted to share a giveaway that the Jenna's of Just Cook Already are hosting. How pretty are these!
The good news is that they're offering three ways to enter. Make sure to head on over there before the giveaway ends next Friday!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Foodie Find: Blue Grotto Takeout

Blue Grotto Chef's Antipasti Platter 

There are times you just don't feel like cooking. Or eating out. Delivery is really not an option in Kansas City unless you want pizza or Chinese, so the last resort is often takeout. The first time we tried Blue Grotto, which is located in Brookside, we actually did eat in the restaurant. We had a Groupon-type coupon and went there straight after work one evening, so we were able to take advantage of the happy hour specials as well. Everything we had was fabulous, from the wine to the pizza, but what we enjoyed the most was the Antipasti Platter.

Like the description says, the Antipasti Platter is Chef's choice so the items included vary from time to time but we've never been disappointed. It always includes various meats, cheeses and veggies such as marinated mushrooms or asparagus, as well as flatbread and baguette slices. This time around, it included prosciutto, salami, cured olives, marinated mushrooms, and Gorgonzola and asiago cheeses. The amount of food you get for $17 is astounding. I mean, you could barely get that much prosciutto at the grocery store for $17 alone.

Next time you don't feel like cooking, stop by and pick up the Antipasti Platter for yourself. You seriously can't go wrong.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cumin & Chili Shrimp with Roasted Corn & Poblano Polenta




I love everything about cumin. The nutty, warm flavor it brings to each dish heightens the taste of every bite. The hubs tends to think that I add too much cumin when cooking sometimes but I just can't help myself.

When I came across this post from Elly Says Opa, I knew that it would become a favorite in our house. We really like trying new things with shrimp since it is healthy and so easy to prepare; and since discovering that polenta is really easy to make, we've been trying various versions ever since. The Mexican twist on the dish is fun and this would be a great meal to make the next time you have company over.

Cumin and Chili Shrimp with Roasted Corn and Poblano Polenta
from Elly Says Opa

For the shrimp:
Olive oil
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T cumin
1/2 T chili powder
1/2 T ancho chili powder

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toss shrimp with cumin and both chili powders in large bowl. Add to skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until shrimp is transparent and cooked through. Serve over polenta.

For the polenta:
1 poblano pepper
3/4 cup roasted corn
2 tsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2/3 to 2 cups chicken broth (depending on how thick you want the polenta)
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup Monterrey jack cheese
Salt and pepper

Over a gas burner or under your broiler, char the poblano on all sides, until the skin is blistery and black. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once cooled, peel and dice.

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat Add the garlic and stir until just fragrant. Stir in the chicken broth, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste; bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta – it will absorb the liquid almost immediately. Add the diced poblano and corn. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the cheese and reseason if necessary.

Serves 2

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of September 25th


How is it already Tuesday? We were out of town this past weekend, celebrating my mother-in-laws birthday, and with the craziness being busy and gone, I'm just now getting around to posting this. We were completely lazy on Sunday and then got carryout last night, so I better step it up for the rest of the week so that I have something to share with you all! The weather is just beautiful in our area, so we'll be spending more time outside and the hubs has an itch to grill...


Sunday: Cheese, bread and Spanish meats (chorizo and jamon)
Monday: Takeout
Tuesday: Lake chicken and grilled corn on the cob
Wednesday: Shrimp Pad Thai
Thursday: PF Changs for Happy Hour
Friday: Lamb Chops with Red Onion, Grape Tomatoes and Feta
Saturday: Grilled chicken and veggie skewers

Monday, September 26, 2011

Restaurant Review: BRGR Kitchen+Bar


Gourmet burgers are all the rage right now. Burger places have popped up all over Kansas City in the past year, from locally owned joints to the corporate-owned chain versions. We've tried quite a few, but hands down our favorite place to go is BRGR Kitchen+Bar. BRGR has a wide array of burgers and sides. From traditional to adventurous, you really can't go wrong. They also make their own ketchup and mustard, which makes it even more unique.

S&P Burger
 This time around, I tried the S&P which is more on the traditional side. For me, a true test of a restaurant is if they can get the simple things right. The S&P has lettuce, tomatoes, with your choice of cheese on a kaiser bun. I had mine medium-rare with cheddar cheese. The burger was perfectly juicy and filling, I could actually only eat half.

Juicy Lucy
The hubs decided on the Juicy Lucy, which is actually stuffed with American cheese. The flavors of worcestershire really came through in each bite and was a great compliment to the cheese.

The Combo
For our sides, we went with the sweet potato fries, onion straws and truffle tots. All three were fantastic, but our favorite were the onion straws. They were cut so thin, seasoned well and perfectly crisp. I prefer my fries to be a bit more crispy than the sweet potato version that we had, but they were still pretty good. As far as the truffle tots go, they were crisp and delicious. We would order them again for sure.

BRGR is a great restaurant, with wonderful atmosphere and delicious food. If you're ever craving a burger, I would recommend giving it a try!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Red Pepper & Corn Risotto with Seared Scallops

Risotto is something that takes time. And love. And more time. It's not something that can be rushed and should more than likely be made on a weekend night while sipping a glass of wine. Or two. Or three.

The hubs has gotten to the point that his risotto is pretty much perfect. Its taken lots of practice (and more nagging from me than he would like because it does take so long to make), but the end result is so worth it. It's definitely possible that the first time you try cooking risotto, it could be an utter failure. I encourage you not to give up. Risotto is a dish that warms the soul and its worth all of the time and effort that goes into it.

For this version, we made a red pepper and corn risotto served with seared sea scallops. The recipe below is for a larger group, but can be scaled down to accommodate a smaller crowd; however I recommend making the risotto as is because you just can't go wrong with leftovers.

Red Pepper and Corn Risotto

1 cup diced red pepper
1 cup corn, removed from ear
8 cups chicken stock
Bouquet garni (Rosemary, thyme and bay leaf in cheesecloth)
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (We use chardonnay)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 T fresh basil chiffonade

In medium skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, red pepper and corn until cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Add chicken stock and bouquet garni to a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until simmering. In a separate large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil, butter and shallots. Cook shallots until soft, for 5 minutes, then add garlic, stirring frequently. Add arborio rice to shallot and garlic mixture and continuously stir until rice is toasted, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and stir as wine is absorbed into rice. Add one ladle of stock at a time, while continuously stirring. Continue to add ladles of stock every 5 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Add red peppers, corn, and Parmesan stirring to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add to plate and sprinkle basil on top of risotto. Serve alongside scallops.

 

Seared Scallops

18 large sea scallops
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper

Start by rinsing scallops under warm water. Pat completely dry. Season each scallop liberally with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a cast iron skillet over high heat. Once pan is to temperature, add scallops and sear each side for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with risotto.

Serves 6


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wine Wednesday: Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon

We're lucky enough to know people that know about wine. One of Dave's good friends from high school is actually in the process of studying to become a sommelier. He just passed the test for the Introductory Sommelier Course through the Court of Master Sommelier, which I think is pretty impressive! Whenever we're looking for a recommendation on some good or different wine, we hit him up for suggestions. With the new chill in the air, we thought it would be good to try out some new reds--specifically those of the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal.


This past weekend we tried one of his recommendations, the 2006 Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon. It comes from the Paso Robles region of California and is a deep wine with rich color. The peppery flavors definitely come through on the palate and you can taste the hints of cherry throughout. This dry, full bodied wine pairs well with steak, lamb or even chocolate. 


Vintage: 2006
Region: California
Price: $14-16
Website: www.estanciaestates.com

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms

I love me some balsamic vinegar. I put it on my salads as a dressing, dip my bread in it on wine and cheese (and bread) night and use it whenever the chance presents itself. I had marked a recipe in my Google Reader for a Balsamic Chicken that Julia's husband had made for her a long time ago. Since it was my night to cook and we had all of the ingredients on-hand, I decided to try it out for an easy weeknight meal. And I'm sure glad that I did.

This chicken was delicious. It was tender and had the best flavors of not only balsamic, but garlic as well. I actually let mine marinate for about an hour before cooking, as I was waiting for the hubs to get home. Whenever we make this next, I will do the same as I think it added even more to the flavor of the dish. The mushrooms and mashed potatoes were a great compliment to the chicken. This will definitely be added to our recipe rotation.

from Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen

2 tsp Olive Oil
6 T Balsamic Vinegar
3 T Dijon Mustard
2 garlic cloves
Dash of salt and pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups Portabella Mushrooms, sliced
1/3 c. dry white wine
1/4 t dried thyme, mince

In a medium bowl, mix 4 T. balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Add chicken and marinate from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how strong you would like the balsamic flavor to be.

Heat oil in skillet and transfer chicken to skillet, discarding the marinade. Saute chicken until cooked through, about three minutes on each side. After cooked through, transfer chicken to a platter to keep warm.

Add remaining balsamic vinegar, white wine and thyme to the skillet, scraping brown bits from the bottom. Reduce to 1/4 cup and add mushrooms. Cook until tender. Serve mushrooms and sauce over chicken, with a side of mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reese's Pieces Ice Cream

Chocolate and peanut butter are my favorite sweet combination by far. The hubs is obsessed with peanut butter as well, so it's something that we always have to stock up on when we hit the aisles of Costco. I had some extra half and half in the refrigerator that needed to be used and since we're nearing summer's end, I thought it would be best used making some homemade ice cream.

I remembered bookmarking a recipe that Joelen had blogged about that was an adaptation from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop that included Reese's Pieces, which are my favorite candy. The recipe is easy to make and calls for few ingredients, so it was perfect for making on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. The biggest difference that separates this ice cream from others is that it does not call for eggs, which most do, but I didn't notice it at all. The flavor is rich and creamy and was a perfect treat on a warm September day.


Reese's Pieces Ice Cream

2 1/2 cups half and half
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup Reese's Pieces candies

In a large pan, whisk to combine the half and half, cocoa powder, sugar and salt.  Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, rolling boil and begins to foam up.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the peanut butter, whisking to blend thoroughly.

Refrigerate the mixture to chill thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After churning, fold in the candies into the ice cream and transfer mixture into a freezer safe container.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Grilled Romaine Salad


Grilling is one of my favorite things during the summertime for the obvious reasons. It's tasty, easy to clean up and I love the flavor of anything we cook on it. The hubs is old school--he had a huge charcoal grill that doubles as a smoker and prefers not to cook with gas on the grill. While it is a little more time consuming, I believe the wait it worth it when the food comes off the grill.

Doing the same old chicken, pork, etc. can get a little boring come summer's end, so a couple of weeks ago we decided to try doing a grilled romaine salad. It sounds a bit strange, but I definitely recommend giving it a try. The leaves get a perfect little char on them but still stay nice and crunchy. For this version, we added some smoky bacon, grilled corn, blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. You could make this a ton of different ways--next time I want to try a more citrus-y version and add some grilled salmon on top.


Grilled Romaine Salad
1 head romaine lettuce
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 ear corn
1/4 cup bacon, diced
2 T. blue cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Half romaine head lengthwise and brush with olive oil. Use remaining olive oil and brush over corn ear. Add both romaine lettuce, split side down, and corn to grill. Remove romaine from grill once leaf edges begin to char. Rotate corn on grill until all sides are cooked completely.

While lettuce and corn rest, combine balsamic vinegar, EVOO and a dash of salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Once dressing is made, remove corn kernels from cob. Top romaine halves with corn, bacon, blue cheese and balsamic.

We served this alongside some other grilled veggies for a lighter meal, but this would be good with steak or pork chops as well.

Serves 2

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of September 18th

It's been a rainy weekend here in Kansas City, so I've spent some time searching for new recipes, especially for those that call for seasonal ingredients. I used to keep all of my internet finds in a spreadsheet until I discovered the wonderful-ness of Pinterest. For those of you that haven't heard of Pinterest, it's a social networking site that allows you to organize and share all of the things you love across the web. Feel free to follow me on Pinterest to see all of the great Fall recipes I've saved so far: http://pinterest.com/ericawarren/foodie-finds/. I'm sure you'll see some of these sneaking into the weekly menus in the near future, but here's what we've got for this week:


Sunday: The Emmy's are on--one of my favorite nights of the year. The hubs is cooking steaks with mashed potatoes and asparagus.
Monday: Herb roasted chicken and fried okra. We hit up the farmer's market and okra was in abundance, so we picked up some that was just picked!
Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas
Wednesday: Tandoori Chicken from Just Cook Already
Thursday: Night out with work at Kona Grill--yummy sushi and cocktails!
Friday: Dinner with my father-in-law and his lovely wife
Saturday: Out celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Orange Peel Shrimp

There is a certain chain restaurant that has my heart. If you know me well, I avoid chains at all costs. If I'm spending my money on going out to eat, I like to support locally-owned restaurants if at all possible. For this one dish, I'll make an exception. From what I've found, the best Orange Peel Shrimp is from at P.F. Changs. Since the hubs and I don't eat out that often, I wanted to recreate this favorite dish so that I can make it at home whenever I have a craving for it.

Orange Peel Shrimp

1 lb. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sesame seed
Coarse salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 T chopped garlic
Peel from one orange
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup tomato sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
2 T Sriacha
4 Scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, 2 T reserved


In a large bowl, whish together egg whites, cornstarch, sesame seed and pinch of salt & pepper. Add shrimp, toss to coat.

Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook shrimp until golden and crisp. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Once all shrimp have been cooked and transferred to plate, add garlic, orange peel and scallions to skillet. Sautee for 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic. Add tomato sauce, orange juice, soy sauce, sugar and Srachia and bring to a boil. Simmer 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens. Add shrimp to pan and cook until heated through and coated with sauce. Top with remaining scallions and serve over brown rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wine Wednesday: Bogle Chardonnay


 
I'm going to start a new weekly feature on the blog that will allow me to share another passion beyond cooking: wine. The hubs and I are not wine connoisseurs by any means, but we are definitely taking the steps to learn more about wine. He's much better about describing the flavors but I am getting there!

Last weekend, we had Dave's mom and one of her friends over for dinner when they were in town. They were nice enough to bring a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy and actually shared their favorite--Bogle's Chardonnay. I'm typically not a huge chardonnay fan, sometimes the oakiness just takes over the flavors in my opinion. This is not the case with the Bogle version. It's very crisp on the palate, with the fruity flavors of apple and pear that come through. It's lighter in color than most chardonnays but the buttery taste is still there. We served this with a goat cheese and baby greens salad, which was a perfect compliment.

Vintage: 2010
Region: California
Price: $8-10

Foodie Find: Pasta Measuring Tool

One thing that I always have issues with is knowing how much pasta to cook. When you're making dinner for two, it seems to be even more difficult. I mainly struggle with this when making normal spaghetti or angel hair, simply because whenever I put the dry pasta in the pot, it never seems like enough.

A standard serving of pasta for two is two ounces. I ask you, what does two ounces of pasta actually look like? Because, I have no clue. Or least I had no clue. After doing some research, two ounces measures the diameter of a quarter, which yields about one cup of cooked pasta. However, if you're like me and will forget this fun little fact, there are other ways to get your measurement correct for two servings and beyond.
from Target
If you don't have a ton of storage space in your kitchen, 
this compact tool is a great option.

from Sur La Table
This tool has a sliding scale that measures servings from 1-4.


from Unica Home
A multi-functioning tool not only measures serving sizes 
but doubles as a trivet for your hot pot.

Do you use any tricks for making sure you cook the right amount of pasta? I'd love to hear any tips you might have!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Romesco Shrimp & Goat Cheese Polenta


Polenta was something that I had eaten a few times while out at fancy dinners, so I assumed it was difficult to make. It's one of those things that can be a major failure if you don't get the right consistency so I had always shied away from attempting it at home. The more I read about it, the more I got the courage to at least try making it once. The funny thing is that I couldn't have been more wrong. Polenta is actually very easy to make. Another plus is that it can take on so many different flavors, depending on how you prepare it.

I was inspired by a post that I saw from Cara's Cravings, pairing goat cheese polenta with shrimp in a romesco sauce. I made a few changes to her version but was still very happy with the results.

Shrimp in a Romesco Sauce with Goat Cheese Polenta
adapted from Cara's Cravings

Shrimp in Romesco Sauce:
1 lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large red pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large tomato, cored and seeded
1 slice white bread, crust removed
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/3 cup chicken broth

Start by roasting the red pepper. I set my oven to 450 degrees and placed the pepper directly on the oven rack and roasted for 10-15 minutes. Once roasted, place in a bowl and allow to cool (I put mine in the fridge). Peel the skin from the pepper and remove the seeds and then chop into pieces. The alternative is to buy jarred roasted red peppers and skip this step entirely.


While the red pepper is roasting, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, and cook the onions until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted pepper pieces, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are very soft and the onions are caramelized. Add the the tomato, bread, garlic and almonds, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned and fragrant. Add the paprika, red pepper, parsley, vinegar, and chicken broth and simmer for a few more minutes, to blend flavors. Use immersion blender to combine ingredients into a chunky sauce. Add shrimp to sauce and simmer until cooked through.

Goat Cheese Polenta:
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 oz goat cheese
Salt
Pepper


Heat chicken broth in medium saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cornmeal to the broth until smooth. Stir in goat cheese and season to taste with salt & pepper.

Divide polenta among serving plates and top with shrimp, romesco sauce and chopped parsley. Enjoy!

4 Servings


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of September 11th

Another busy week is upon us. I have two nighttime work events and then we're headed to a Royals game later in the week. We have a couple of new recipes on the list that we've added to our old standbys, but none of these have been shared on the blog so some new posts will definitely come from this week.

Sunday: Chicken Piccata
Monday: Reuben sandwiches with sweet potatoes
Tuesday: Pork chops with a leek-mustard sauce and asparagus
Wednesday: Spa night--I'm getting a massage, so the hubs is on his own
Thursday: La Bodega, one of my favorite restaurants in Kansas City
Friday: Guacamole burgers
Saturday: Royals game

What do you have planned for dinner this week? Trying anything new in your kitchen?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Berry Breakfast Smoothie

Saturdays are the day that the hubs and I run around town, getting all of our errands taken care of. We try to get everything done in the morning so that we can spend the afternoon either doing fun things or projects around the house. So that we can get those errands ran in a timely manner, we often make breakfast smoothies that are quick, filling, yummy and require little clean up in the kitchen. This particular morning, we made berry smoothies but have tried everything from chocolate and peanut butter to "Orange Julius" style.


Berry Breakfast Smoothies
4 servings

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
2 cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries)
1/2 cup skim milk
1 scoop protein powder
2 cups ice

Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.

This recipe makes four servings, so we just put the leftovers in either the refrigerator or freezer and grab for breakfast before work during the week.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cake

There are good things and bad things about celebrating birthdays at work. The good--the abundance of treats and goodies. The bad--the abundance of treats and goodies. Wait, did I just repeat myself? Luckily, I'm not in a huge department so we don't typically celebrate birthdays more than once or twice a month.

Since it's cooling down and the temps are feeling a bit more like fall, I felt like breaking out one of my favorite things--pumpkin! The birthday girl requested chocolate, so what's better than pumpkin and chocolate together?

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cake
adapted from Duncan Hines

1 package Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Spice Cake Mix
2 large eggs
1 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tub Whipped Cream Cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour Bundt pan. Combine cake mix, eggs, water and pumpkin in large bowl, beating for two minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in chocolate chips and then add to pan. Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool for at least 30 minutes and invert onto serving plate (I used my cake stand). Cool completely before frosting.

For this cake, I wanted to achieve the above look of the frosting pooling off the cake. I actually heated about 1/4 cup of the frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds and tempered another 1/4 cup into the heated mixture to thin out the frosting. Once it comes to the right consistency, spoon one tablespoon over the top of the cake and let run down the sides. Continue this process with the remainder of the frosting in the container. The first layer or two may be thinner than desired, but with the addition of each layer, it will become thicker and reflect the above consistency.

Before frosting cools completely, top with additional chocolate chips and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan

Getting back to things after the super long weekend. I was so fortunate to actually have a four-day weekend...nothing is better than getting an e-mail from the head honcho saying that instead of a half-day Friday, we were all getting a full day off! It was a fantastic way to start the weekend. Since it was a pretty busy weekend, we actually just got to the grocery store this evening and don't have a ton of cooking planned this week. Here is what we have in store this week:

Sunday: Shrimp, cheese and french bread
Monday: Sporting Kansas City game--it was my first time at Livestrong Park, which was not only so much fun but I got to see David Beckham in the flesh!
Tuesday: Beer Mac and Cheese (which you'll see in an upcoming post!)
Wednesday: Avocado BLTs
Thursday: Happy hour at Harry's in Westport
Friday: Shrimp with Romesco and Goat Cheese Polenta

In even better news, I actually made my own DIY lightbox tonight. We're celebrating a birthday in the office tomorrow, so I tested it out with the birthday treat I'm bringing. Let me tell you--it makes a world of difference in the quality of the pictures. So look for that upgrade soon!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Simple Saturday Breakfast

During the week, my breakfast staple is pretty much oatmeal out of a pouch. I actually never leave myself enough time in the morning to make breakfast at home, so oatmeal is the easiest thing that I can make right when I get into the office. So when it comes to the weekend, I try to make something that's a bit more flavorful but still is easy to prepare and clean up. Eggs are usually our go-to, but we try to make them a bit different each weekend so that it's not the same old, same old. This weekend I added an Italian flair by combining scrambled eggs with pancetta, parmesan cheese and fresh thyme.

Eggs with Pancetta, Parmesan and Thyme
Serves 2

1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T diced pancetta (or more to your liking)
4 eggs
1/4 c. milk
2 T parmesan cheese
Salt
Pepper
1/2 T fresh thyme

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and bring to temperature. Add pancetta to pan and saute until crispy. While pancetta is crisping, add eggs, milk and cheese to a bowl and whisk to combine. Once combined, add egg mixture to skillet and cook with pancetta until eggs are properly scrambled. Remove from skillet and sprinkle with thyme. Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brussels are the best!

I don't think that I've ever shared my love for Brussels sprouts. At least on this blog...friends, family, co-workers have all heard how much I love them. It was about time I shared my love of them with the interwebs. Brussels sprouts can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Crispy, sauteed, and even fried. One of my good friends makes a nice, creamy version with bacon that are delish. However, when I fix them at home, I prepare them in the simplest manner possible--roasted in the oven. Roasting brussels sprouts in the oven is just perfect--each little sprout is the perfect mix of crunchy but soft at the same time. And don't even get me started on the crispy little leaves that fall off the sprout and carmelize in the oven. Ah! I just can't get enough!

When picking out your Brussels sprouts in the grocery store, look for the ones that are a good green color, are firm and have compact leaves. Avoid those that look puffy and have yellow or holey leaves on the outside.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 2

15-20 Brussels sprouts, stems removed and quartered
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add Brussels sprouts to a large bowl and drizzel with olive oil and balsamic vinegar until well coated. Add salt and pepper and toss to cover. Add sprouts to baking sheet lined with foil and roast for 15-20 minutes or until caramelized.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan

It's another busy week in our house...which is great because we have a fun weekend to look forward to! My niece's first birthday was yesterday and we're celebrating this upcoming weekend with friends and family. On Sunday, the hubs and I will be running in the Head for the Cure 5K in memory of my grandpa and then hosting a brunch at our house afterwards. Since we'll be having a large group of people over, this week will consist of easier meals because we have a ton of things to do to get ready.

Sunday: Bread, olive tapenade, cheese and shrimp (our go-to easy weekend meal!)
Monday: Basil chicken sausage, wild rice and brussel sprouts
Tuesday: Hamburgers and red potatoes
Wednesday: Pineapple chicken stir-fry
Thursday: Turkey clubs with waffle fries
Friday: Out to eat/takeout
Saturday: BBQ at my brother's house!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan

I'm a day late posting this, but wanted to nonetheless. The hubs made a fantastic meal last night--he actually braised some pork belly for over six hours and it was delish. Unfortunately, our camera wasn't charged so I have no pictures but it was so yummy that we'll definitely be making it again. As far as the rest of our meals go, it's a busy week at work and we're headed to the lake this weekend, so everything we'll be having is fast and easy.

Sunday: Pappardelle Carbonara with Braised Pork Belly
Monday: BLTs with waffle fries
Tuesday: Panzanella salad
Wednesday: Smoked, Apple Chardonnay Chicken Sausage
Thursday: Eating out
Friday-Sunday: At the lake!

What do you like to cook when you have little time in your schedule? I'd love any suggestions!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

California Dreamin'

View from the San Clemente Pier

Last summer around this time, the hubs and I were visiting the small town of San Clemente, California. Most afternoons after spending time at the beach, we would head over to the restaurant on the pier for happy hour--one of my favorite things we had there were the fish tacos. They were the perfect accompaniment to a nice, cold cocktail and the freshness of the fish was delicious. Since we're not able to go back to California this summer, we decided to recreate those fish tacos but with a twist of our own by adding picked onions and tomatillo salsa.

Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos
adapted from Epicurious

Fish
1/2 pound Mahi-Mahi
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp. paprika
Lime zest
Olive Oil

Accompaniments
Pickled Red Onions--recipe below
Tomatillo Salsa--recipe below
Baja Cream (equal parts sour cream and mayo with lime zest)
Corn tortillas
Avocado

Season the Mahi-Mahi with salt, pepper, paprika and lime juice. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and bring to temperature. Add fish to pan and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes, or until flaky. Remove from heat and flake fish into pieces. Serve on warm corn tortillas with accompaniments and enjoy!

Pickled Red Onions

1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, cut into thin pieces
1 whole jalapeno, de-seeded and sliced thinly
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
Juice from 2 large limes, approximately 1/4 cup
Salt
Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, mix to combine and marinate in refrigerator for at least 8 hours before serving.

Tomatillo Salsa

4 medium tomatillos, husked, stemmed and divided
4 green onions, white and green parts separated
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Juice from 2 large limes, about 1/4 cup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line shallow cookie pan with foil and add tomatillos, the white parts of the green onion and garlic. Roast until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and remaining ingredients to food processor and pulse until chopped and combined.

Do you have any dishes inspired by vacation dining? I'd love to hear what food takes you back to one of your favorite vacation destinations!