Monday, March 30, 2009

In the Kitchen with Tim

Yesterday, Natalie, Tim and I began to prepare for a fundraiser that Tim (a professional who has had lots of experience, including a residence at The American Hotel's restaurant) is catering on Tuesday evening. I would like to share with you two things I learned (well I learned a lot, but I will save it for another post!) while cooking with Chef Tim: how to roast red peppers and how to create a cucumber & smoked salmon hors d'oeurve.

First, the red peppers:

I coated the whole peppers in Spanish paprika-infused olive oil and salt and pepper.

Next, we put the peppers on a hot grill for about 10-15 minutes until the skins were charred and the peppers were beginning to soften. At this point, Tim wrapped the peppers in foil and put them on the top rack of the grill to let them continue to steam-cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Once off the grill, we put them in a bowl to allow them to cool to a degree of which I could handle them. Next, I peeled off the skins and scrapped out the seeds and discarded the stems.

Voila! Fire-Roasted Red Peppers!

We ended up pureeing these to mix with a mango puree, which will be a dipping sauce for grilled shrimp.

Next, the cucumbers and salmon.

I sliced up some lovely seedless cucumbers. They looked like English cucumbers but weren't marked so. Next, Tim poured some ginger flavored rice vinegar onto the slices and we allowed them to marinate for about 20-30 minutes, while tossing them throughout that time. Tim then lined a pan with the slices for us to top with salmon.

Tim mixed together some herbed Alouette cheese and sour cream (see above picture - the bowl to the right). We will use this to top off the salmon.

Here Tim opened up a large filet of smoked salmon and was showing me how it flakes apart nicely. We then used some to top each cucumber slice.

Here Natalie is topping the salmon with the cheese mixture (we enjoyed dipping the extra cucumber slices in the cheese for a snack!).

It was my job to top off each dollop of cheese with two capers. A tip from Tim: He likes to rinse jarred capers under water because they are very vinegary themselves and are usually in a vinegar-based liquid, all of which can be over-powering.

A lovely appetizer!!

Tim mentioned that he is going to get some fresh dill to sprinkle on top for an extra taste and festive flair!

Stayed tuned for photos from the event!

Taco Pie

Here's a recipe that I whipped up on Saturday for lunch. It's adapted from one of Doris Christopher's Pampered Chef Cookbooks, Stoneware Sensations. Knowing that everyone likes tacos, I thought this would be quick and delicious.

1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoons cornmean, divided - I used white cornmeal because it's what I had but yellow cornmeal would have given the crust a nicer golden color
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 cup chunky salsa
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded iceburg lettuce
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup pitted, sliced ripe black olives

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray Pam in a 9" pie plate (stoneware, if you have it). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal evenly onto bottom and sides of prepared pie plate.

For crust, combine the remaining 1/4 cup cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk and oil; stir until mixture forms a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out crust to a 10-inch circle. Place in prepared pie plate; shape edge to form rim (my crust circle didn't get big enough to go the entire way to the rim, which is ok).

For filling, cook ground beef in a large frying pan until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and water (according to the packet's instructions), reduce heat and let mixture thicken for a few minutes. Stir in the salsa. Spoon beef mix into pie crust; sprinkle with the cheese. Bake about 13 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Top pie with lettuce, tomato, and olives, as well as any other favorite taco toppings (sour cream, guacamole, beans, jalapenos, extra salsa or taco sauce, etc.).

There is only lettuce on 1/2 because my brother doesn't like tomato chunks and black olives!

This would be very tasty and super simply to throw together on a busy night because all the ingredients are pantry/fridge staples. And it's less messy than struggling with cracking shells and torn tortillas. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Yummm... I've been eating these nonstop since I made them Sunday afternoon! After all, I can't let them go to waste...

This is an Ina Garten recipe from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. I edited her cooking time below because it was way too long. I got exactly 22 cupcakes as the recipe says. I was hesitant to fill the liners nearly full with batter, but they turned out ok so go for it!
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound) - I used 5 regular sized carrots. It seems like a lot but I used it all and it was good.
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
For the frosting:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar - I did not use this much. Add a little at a time until it gets to the taste you like but I think 1 pound is too much.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
Line muffin pans with paper liners. Scoop the batter into 22 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for an additional 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously (do because there is a lot of frosting) and serve. Store cupcakes in refrigerator.

Vanilla Baked Peaches and Blueberries

On Saturday night I wanted a light and fruity dessert and came across a recipe for Vanilla Baked Peaches and Blueberries in the John Ash book. I was rushing the peach season and bought 3 peaches at the grocery store. Sadly, they were not very good at all - gritty, not sweet and wouldn't peel even though they were ripe - and one was moldy inside. However, after the 2 non-moldy peaches roasted for awhile, they tasted quite good. I will try this recipe again when we are abundant with peaches later in the summer. I need to learn to work with what's in season, even though these summery fresh fruit recipes are tempting.

I halved the below recipe because there were only two of us and we still had some leftovers for the next day!

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup crisp, light-bodied white wine (I used Chardonnay)
2 3x1/2-inch strips of orange zest
1 small cinnamon stick broken in half (I didn't have sticks so I added 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, which works well too)
1 3-inch vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used extract)
6 large ripe peaches, halved & pitted (I peeled them too because I hate peach skin)
4 small 1-inch sprigs of rosemary, optional (I didn't use but I definitely will when my herb garden is in full swing this summer)
2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degress. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, wine, zest, cinnamon and vanilla (if using bean, slit and scrape seeds into pan). Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat.
Place the peaches cut side up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Tuck rosemary sprigs, if using, in between the peaches and pour the sugar syrup over them. Bake for 30-35 minutes, basting freqently or until the peaches are cooked through but still maintain their shape. After 20 minutes, you can sprinkle the blueberries around the peaches to let them soften just a little and infuse the peaches and syrup with their flavor. Don't leave the blueberries in for longer than 10 minutes or they'll get mushy. Or you don't have to roast the blueberries at all.
Spoon the fruits and syrup into bowls and serve warm or at room temperature with creme fraiche, yogurt or ice cream.
We ate our's warm with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicken Chili

While flipping through the Barefoot Contessa Parties book looking for ideas for my sister's graduation party, which will be catered by yours truly, I found a chicken chili recipe. I decided to make it for my family for lunch. In the Parties book, the recipe was for 12 but the below recipe is reduced to 6.

4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions) - I used 2
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced - I used 1/2 of a green pepper instead because it's what I had
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained - I used crushed tomatoes with basil
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves - I didn't use any but it would have been better if I did!
4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
For serving:
Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. If using whole tomatoes: Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

We ate it with tortilla chips because it was very thick like a salsa, which I liked. It would have been good with shredded sharp cheddar but we didn't have any. I ate this warmed up for lunch today and it was even better a day old.

This was the first time I used my mom's cast iron cookware (It's not Le Creuset but it is French!) and everything cooked very evenly... and the chili looked glamorous in the red pot!

The Barefoot Contessa's Parties is a great book with several party-themed menus, like the Academy Awards Party, a Picnic and an Autumn Party. This book includes two of our family's favorites: Chinese Chicken Salad and Lemon Squares. I am going to make a Pesto and Peas Pasta Salad from the book for Arielle's party.

Baked Beans by John Ash

To go with the previous post of Chicken Chipolte Rolls, I made baked beans from my new cookbook by John Ash: Cooking One on One. These are a slightly heathier variation of my mom's delicious summer beans which contain lots of molasses, brown sugar and ketchup. John's had a great taste with the carrots and soy sauce, which is unconventional in my mind.

¾ cup thinly-sliced onions (I chopped mine)
½ cup diced carrots
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
⅓ cup white wine
3 cups cooked Esther's Swedish beans (I used two 14 oz. cans Great Northern Beans)
⅓ cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt; to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper; to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saute pan saute the onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil over moderate heat until lightly browned. Combine with remaining ingredients and place in a lightly-buttered or oiled casserole. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes. This recipe yields 6 to 8 servings.

I baked them for about 45 minutes. The sauce was still kind of runny. I like my baked beans extra thick, which probably is due to the hours of slow cooking and tons of sugar my mom traditionally uses. But these were very good! Sweet and savory.

A meat (bacon or pancetta) could be added but I really enjoyed them vegetarian.

Of course, I could not find Ester's Swedish beans at our local Giant, but I'll keep my eyes out for them when I'm elsewhere because I'll definitely make these again.

Chipotle Chicken Rolls

Obviously I was too hungry to get a good picture!
We got home from our little getaway to Atlantic City on Saturday afternoon. After relaxing for awhile, I flipped through the Rachael Ray: 365 No Repeats (can you tell this is one of the two cookbooks at Greg's house?!) and found this chicken roll recipe. After Greg's approval of the dish, I went to the store and then began the recipe:
Chipotle Chicken Rolls
1 pkg (1 1/3lb) ground chicken breast (I used just 1 lb and it was enough)
6 scallions, thinly sliced, then chopped
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (I used 2 cloves)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped or 3 tablespoons of a chipotle flavored salsa
salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Dipping Sauce
1 ripe Hass avocado
juice of 3 limes (I only used 1)
handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp coarse salt
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400.
In a bowl, combine ground chicken, scallions, cheddar cheese, garlic, and chipotles and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a sealable plastic bag. To turn the sealable plastic bag into a homemade pastry bag, trim 1 1/2 inches off one of the bottom corners of the plastic bag. Push the chicken mixture to the cut corner without pushing it through the hole. Reserve while you prepare the phyllo.
Arrange 1 sheet of phyllo dough with the long side closest to you on your kitchen counter, brush liberally from edge to edge with melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place another sheet of phyllo on top, again brush liberally with butter, and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the third layer of phyllo.Place the trimmed end of the pastry bag 1/2 inch in from the left side and 1/2 inch up from the bottom of the phyllo sheet. Squeeze half of the chicken mixture from the bag while moving along in a straight line from left to right. Roll the front edge of the phyllo sheet away from you, encasing the chicken mixture. Continue until you have completed a long roll. Tuck the ends in and then brush the entire outside of the phyllo log with more melted butter. Transfer the first log to a rimmed cookie sheet, putting the seam side down. Repeat this process to make a second log with the remaining chicken mixture.
Bake 15 minutes or until the log feels firm to the touch.
While the phyllo-wrapped chicken is in the oven, cut the avocado in half lengthwise, cutting around the pit. Separate the halves and scoop out the pit with a spoon, then use the spoon to scoop the avocado from it's skin. Place the avocado in a food processor and combine with lime juice, cilantro, coarse salt, and about 3 tablespoons of water. Process until avocado mixture is smooth, then stream the EVOO into the dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Once the chipotle chicken rolls are cooked, remove from oven and let them cool just enough to handle. Slice into bite sizes pieces for dipping.

The rolls waiting to be baked. I let them in the oven for about 17 minutes and then sliced into the thickest part of the roll (eventhough it should be uniform without a 'thickest part'!) to test the doneness.

I had a lot of trouble with the phyllo dough, which was excepted because of my past experience with it, which I didn't recall until I started unrolling the dough. Note: Make sure the dough is completely thawed before you unroll it; otherwise, it will crack, hence the 2 smaller rolls and one long one, which didn't matter because you're slicing them anyway.

You have to be very careful while squeezing the chicken mixture through the bag. My bag burst so I ended up forming the meat into a log without the bag, which is an option too.

The avacado dipping sauce was kind of bland. I added pepper and more salt but it was still refreshing with the chicken. We used the Magic Bullet instead of a food processor. Greg is always the MB guy so he was in charge of making the sauce and he did a fine job!

I had to open an entire can of chipoltes just for the one, so now I am looking for something to do with these hot little guys...

These rolls can also be served as an appetizer... a slice on a toothpick!

The chicken rolls were very flavorful and despite the phyllo dough drama, I would make these again! I would play around with a different dipping sauce next time though.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Irish Raisin Bread

This week, I PAadventure blogged about my St. Patrick's Day, which includes an Irish Raisin Bread recipe. This is a simple recipe that can be whipped up in no time. It's an old recipe from our church cookbook.

Let me know if you try the recipe!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Our office was treated to some delicious cannolis from Termini Bros. in Philadelphia. We tried the original cannoli, filled with ricotta cheese and mini chocolate chips, as well as the crisp shells filled with a vanilla custard (shown) and chocolate cream filling! These were a heavenly afternoon treat! I will surely look out for them the next time I visit the Reading Terminal Market when I'm in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

RR's Apple Fritters

We had some softening apples that I was going to turn into a crisp or pie but then I got to thinking and that's kind of boring. Not that those desserts aren't delicious; they are and I love them. I just wanted to look for something different to make with apples and I found the answer in a Rachel Ray cookbook:

4 medium sized apples, washed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Bisquik
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Vegetable oil
Core and slice apples into 1/4-inch rings. Place in a bowl and add lemon juice. Coat the rings with the juice to prevent browning.

In a large pot or deep saucepan, add 1-inch of vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat. To test temperature of oil: oil is ready when a 1-inch cube of bread browns nicely in 40 seconds.
In a medium bowl, mix Bisquik, water and nutmeg.
Coat a few rings of apples in Bisquik mix. Place one ring at a time in the hot oil. Let fry 4-5 minutes until brown and the apple is soft. Put fried rings on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. You'll have to do a few batches to fry all the apples.
Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

You can flip the fritters in the oil to get each side evenly brown but it's not necessary.

These were a yummy treat! Really make sure you sop up as much of the oil as you can with paper towels. These would be good topped with vanilla ice cream too. It's such an easy recipe! I used Gala apples but Rachel recommends golden delicious.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Fritquiche

It was just Arielle and I for dinner last night and she was in the mood for eggs so she suggested frittata. My mom makes a frittata she likes but we couldn't find the recipe and I ended up making something that was a mix between a frittata and a quiche.

1 potato, cleaned and chopped
2 sausage links - I used Italian
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
6 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon freeze dried parsley - fresh can be used, a chopped handful
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
In a small saucepan, add potatoes & a pinch of salt. Add water to cover potatoes. Heat to medium-high and simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain and reserve cooked potatoes.
In a small fry pan, cook the sausage in some water until cooked through. Put on a plate, let cool briefly and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large fry pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add potatoes; cook another minute. Add sausage. Let heat on medium-low while you fix the eggs.
In a medium bowl, add eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and parsley. Beat well - til a little frothy. Pour egg mix into fry pan. Let cook a minute or two while scrapping down sides. Slide egg mix into Pam-sprayed pie plate (or keep in pan if it's oven proof) and top with Mozarella.
Cook for 12-15 minutes until "fritquiche" puffs and has a nice, golden color. (Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't overbake and dry out)

Adding the chopped potatoes to the pot to boil them.

Chopping the green pepper.

Frying the onions, green peppers and potatoes.

Whisking the eggs and cream.

The parsley I used in the eggs. We keep this in our refrigerator.

I enjoy to make quiches so putting it in the oven to finish off, made me think of a crustless quiche. Otherwise the heaviness and use of mozzarella made me think of the Italian frittata. Yum!
Other meats like shredded chicken or cubed ham could have been used. Fried mushroom slices would have been a good addition as well.

To me, I don't know if it was just what we ate growing up, but I always saw eggs as strictly a breakfast food. But after spending time in France, Spain and Jamaica, I have found that eggs are a staple base for dinners and lunch. This 'fritquiche' is very substantial due to the potatoes and sausage, and after a large piece, I was quite satisfied.


On Saturday night, friends of ours invited us out to Bangkok Wok, one of my favorite place to eat. I began eating Thai food in Roanoke where I fell in love with Thai curries.
Pictured above are a few dishes we enjoyed that night, clockwise from top left: Tom Yum Talay soup, Chicken Pad Thai, Peanut Curry, [I forget], and Pad Woon Sen. I am sad to say I forget the name of the one dish. I have never had a bad dish here, but this dish smelled like a diaper pail! The diner, Pat, said it tasted ok, but the smell was a little much. Let me do some more asking about the dish's name so you can steer clear of it if you go here. Everyone else loved their meal!

I had Masaman Chicken Curry and the most delicious papaya salad, as per Kalin's recommendation. The slightly spicy dressing mixed with the papaya, shredded cabbage, tomatoes and peanuts... this was heaven!
Tom Yum is one of my all time favorite soups - the mushrooms, lemongrass, lime, shrimp in a sweet and sour broth... there are so many flavors playing at once and they all taste so good together. Greg got the large tom yum talay, containing various sea creatures, for his dinner.

Kalin and Luke tried the coconut ice cream for dessert, served up in a coconut half. I had a bite and it was creamy and fresh.

Just to fullfil our nagging sweet tooth, Julie and I shared a slice of carrot cake and Pat enjoyed chocolate cake.

And we were lucky enough to get our reservation in front of the fish tank - so beautiful and mesmerizing.

Remember - it's BYOB so go prepared!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Pea Soup!

I bought split peas for a previous post and when I saw them in the pantry the other day, I thought a vegetarian soup would be good for a Friday supper during Lent.

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks has a Vegetarian Split Pea Soup with these exact ingredients – I just halved her recipe and wrote the recipe based on what I did.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup split peas, rinsed and picked free of white shells/skins
2 cups vegetable stock
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Cayenne pepper
Hot sauce, optional

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and slightly brown, 2 minutes. Add peas, stock, water and salt & pepper to taste. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20-25 until peas are tender. Remove half of the peas & broth into a cup/container and use a handheld blender to puree the peas. Return to pot. Add more water or stock if soup needs thinned to your liking. Ladle into bowl and drizzle with olive oil and hot sauce (if using). Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Serves 2.

I used Wegman’s brand culinary vegetable stock, which added to the body of the soup. Chicken stock would have been good too. Heidi also says you could use water completely instead of any stock but I think that would be rather bland.

To only puree half of the peas, gives the soup texture instead of it being completely pureed.

Greg had the idea to add hot sauce to his soup. I did too but the smell was a little overwhelming and it made me think of hot wings, which was a bit unappealing to me. But Greg liked it.

I still have more peas so I need to think of something to do with them other than soup....

Friday, March 13, 2009

Juliana's Italian Restaurant

My newest PAadventure blog post.

This was a pleasant, unintentional find!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Apple Tarte Tatin

After visiting a friend in Normandy and eating her mom's incredibly delicous apple tart, I knew I had to work on creating something like it myself. This visit was nearly 4 years ago and I haven't tried a French apple tart yet. Since Normandy is famous for it's crepes and tarts and I've been there to try the real things, I thought I would be up to a big challenge to match the perfect taste, which I have now realized I am...

I was going through some of my Aunt's old cookbooks - the ones at the grocery store check out that are 5 1/5x 8 1/2 - and many of the recipes didn't look too appetizing to me. Then I found a Land O Lakes Recipe Collection called From The Market: Fast and Fresh (date unknown but I'm guessing from the '80s), and inside I found a recipe called Caramelized Apple Tarte Tatin. We were having leftovers for dinner but didn't have a dessert, so I thought I'd give a French tarte a try. It was interesting... read on...

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour (1/2 cup minus one tablespoon can be used instead of cake flour - what I did)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cold water

Apple Layer:
6 small tart red cooking apples
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
In a medium bowl combine flours and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until crumbly (I used my hands). With fork, mix in water just until moistened. Form pastry into ball. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours).

Core, peel & slice apples into 1/8-inch slices. Keep slices in a bowl of cold water until ready to put in pie plate.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough into 12-inch circle; set aside.

Grease sides of a 10-inch quiche pan or pie plate (I used pie plate but wished I had a tart pan to use), then arrange sliced apples in pinwheel form; dot with 6 tablespoons butter. In 2-quart saucepan, cook 1/3 cup sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and forms a caramel syrup (approx. 7 minutes - watch very closely; burns easily). Drizzle over top of apples. Place rolled pastry over apples, tucking edge of pastry into pan to seal. Prick all over top of dough with fork. Bake 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then invert onto serving platter; serve warm with whipped cream.

The flour, sugar and butter as I was adding the water.
The pastry right before I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.
You can see the little recipe book in the background and how the tart is supposed to look!
Slicing the apples. I used empire which are sweet but worked well anyway - may tart was probably sweeter than intended but that's how I like it!
The pastry over the apples right before it goes in the oven.
The tart inverted on a plate. The shell cracked a little in one area because the edges stuck to the pie plate. You could leave the skin on the apples to give it color. Adding cinnamon may give it color too, although it's not typically used in a French tart.

I say to grease the sides of the pan because the portion of the dough I tucked into the plate stuck to the pan and didn't cleanly invert. Also, I had to make the caramel sauce twice because the first time the sugar burnt. The second time I was very cautious and I think I didn't let the sugar get to the correct stage before I poured it over the apples - as soon as the caramel hit the apples, it sizzled and then hardened. It baked up just fine but I think it is intended to let it get to more of a soft ball stage. Either way, it will work. My tart didn't look fancy, but it was very tasty. I need to work on my pinwheel formation. I lost count of how many apples I peeled so I think I just tried to crame too many in there! Once the fall comes around and there are tons of apples available, I'll try again at home where I have a tarte pan. Chez Greg is slowly getting a stocked kitchen but it's a work in progress.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


From reading a fellow Pennsylvanian's blog about handmade goods, I found an artist from Pittsburgh who made postcards out of recycled soda, beer and energy drink boxes. She (The Point) cut the cardboard in postcard-sized rectangles and they are perfect cards for another hobby of mine: Postcrossing.

You can find more of the The Point's works at Etsy.

This is very semi-food related, but I am excited by these postcards so I had to share. Tonight I am making a dessert so tomorrow there will be a recipe posted!

Monday, March 9, 2009

A new cookbook

After a few days of anticipation, last Friday I received a new cookbook I ordered online - John Ash: Cooking One on One. A friend of mine, Tim, who is a chef, let me borrow his copy and I liked it so much, I wanted a copy of my own. I know of a certain book store website that I have been dying to use: Better World Books uses their proceeds to fund literacy programs throughout the world. They sell new and used books, and the shipping is free. I found John Ash's book used for about $7 and besides missing the dust jack and a few dings on the hardcover, the interrior of the book is perfect!
For students: the site was originally created for buying and selling textbooks, which they still do today.

Not only can you find great books for great prices at this site, the sales fund a good cause!
Back to the cookbook... There are tons of great, versatile recipes for marinades, sauces, vinaigrettes and salsas. As the name implies, there are detailed tips to explain how the recipes work. There is a wine pairing section, cooking time charts, a detailed glossary in the back, and descriptive introductions to each of the chapters.
Some dishes I am looking forward to:
Soba and Chicken in Green Tea Broth
Grilled Tequila-Lime Marinated Salmon
Vanilla Baked Peaches and Blueberries
Oven-Dried Mediterranean Salad
Basic Red Wine Pan Sauce for Hamburgers or Steaks
Yogurt & Mint Marinade
Pineapple Melon Salsa
Wow... those are just a few... I have a lot of work ahead of me!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thai Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

Last night I made a scrumptous Thai Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry. I got the recipe from the South Beach Diet Cookbook that Angie let me borrow, but I changed it a little. It doesn't call for chicken but I wanted to give it more substance. Sadly, I didn't take a picture last night.

1 13.5-oz can coconut milk (no sugar added)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. grated lime peel (and lemon peel if you have it)
1 cup asparagus, cut in 1-in. pieces
1 red pepper, sliced in strips
1 cup sliced mushroom (I used baby bellas)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry roasted cashews (or peanuts)
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, oven roasted with olive oil and salt & pepper, chopped into bit-sized pieces
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce (preferrably soy sauce but I didn't have any and this tasted good too)
1 tablespoon lime juice (& 1 tablespoon lemon juice but I didn't have it)
2 tsp. dried basil (but a handful of fresh would have been sooo much better)

With a hand blender, combine the coconut milk, garlic and lime peel. Pulse to process (the cookbook says it will turn into a paste but mine didn't, which is ok). Pour into a large skillet. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, bell pepper, cashews, and red-pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken, worchestershire sauce, lime juice, and basil and simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

If you have bok choy, you can add some just to give you more greens.

Let me tell you, this was great! I had to add some more salt at the end but it was hot and sweet. It was not quite like my favorite Thai dishes at restaurants, bit it was good enough. The unique combo of coconut milk, cashews and hot pepper flake... so good, I crave it!

You have to be careful not to over-cook the vegetables. I let mine simmer for longer than the recipe calls for because it was my intention to let the flavors meld more, but I guess it's not necessary - I like my veggies a little crunchy.

I cooked up some couscous (we were out of rice) to serve with it for Greg.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One Good Woman

My newest post for the PAadventure blog is now up!

I love this shop! My co-worker and my aunt introduced me to the place. It's a good spot to get stocking stuffers at Christmas time.

They have a lot of really chic lunch bags too if you're in the market for one.

Of course, like any gourmet shop, it's a tad expensive but it's fun to visit every once in awhile to treat yourself or buy gifts. They will make great gift baskets - if you pick out the contents, they'll wrap it up in cellophane and ribbons! They also have gift bags in which they'll neatly wrap a gift.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Surprise Chili

Because I hadn't had meat in a few days, I was craving it. So I searched for a SBD-friendly chili recipe. I have made chili before on this diet - and several times not on the diet because it's easy, filling and delicious. And it's a good way to pack a lot of protein into a meal. I was inspired by this recipe but as I went forward with the soup, I omitted and added according to what I had on hand. I thank Marisa at Slashfood for the inspiration!

This is how my recipe went down:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1lb ground beef (90/10 - or less fat if you can), browned and drained
1 14-oz can black beans, rinsed (I used the Giant brand Nature's Promise)
1 14-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed (I used the Giant brand Nature's Promise)
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I used Hunt's Fire Roasted with Garlic)
1 14-oz can tomato sauce (I used the Giant brand Nature's Promise)
1 tablespoon (approx.) chili powder
1 teaspoon (approx.) cumin
Salt & Pepper
4 or 5 dashes hot sauce (I hope this didn't have sugar!)
1 large leaf (I should have added more) green chard, sliced in 1-in ribbons

Make sure all ingredients are free of added sugar.

In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onions and a minute later, the garlic. Saute until soft but not brown. Add all ingredients, in the order listed, except the chard. Let it all simmer for about an hour. Next add the stalkier parts of the chard to get it cooking - about 10 minutes. Then add the remainder of the chard and let it cook on low for 20 minutes - keep checking to make sure chard doesn't get over cooked and lose it's greenness.

Greg ate his with tortilla chips as I jealously watched. Fat free cheddar would have been good on top too.

Oh and I call this a surprise because of the chic peas, chard and dashes of hot sauce which gave it an extra kick! They were great additions and the chard gives you some green veggies in the meal.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs...

... and more eggs!

That sad time has come when I have to go on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. What this means is no sugar, fruit, carbs, caffeine or alcohol - all of which I love! What I can eat is beef and chicken breasts, vegetables, beans and EGGS!

I originally started this diet last Thursday and was good until Friday when we had lunch at the 3rd Street Deli and then everything went downhill... until yesterday.

So I ate Scrambled Eggs with Sauteed Mushrooms and Feta Cheese for dinner last Thursday, breakfast on Friday and again for breakfast yesterday morning. It was soooo good (sadly, I forgot to photograph it)! By clicking above, you'll find the recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen, a great blog with South Beach recipes. I will be trying more of her recipes in the near future, especially some soups.

Last night for dinner, because I forgot my chicken at home and only have veggies, eggs and turkey bacon at Greg's, more EGGS it was! I get the SELF magazine recipe of the week and yesterday the feature was Veggie Scrambled Eggs. I tried it (minus the carrots because of SBD) and found it quite satisfying.

Below is the origional recipe, which serves 8.

From SELF Magazine

8 asparagus stalks
6 whole eggs
6 egg whites
2 small carrots, grated
1/4 cup reduced-fat Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons sweet chili powder
1/2 teaspon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 slices whole-wheat bread
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (plus sprigs for garnish)

Steam asparagus 1 minute; chop. Whisk next 9 ingredients in a bowl. Add asparagus. Coat a large pan with cooking spray. Add oil; heat on high heat; reduce to medium. Cook egg mixture, stirring, until eggs are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.

However, this is what I did for just myself:

5 stalks asparagus, chopped into 1-in pieces, microwaved for 30 seconds
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
a few shakes of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil

Heat a skillet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and then turn heat to medium-low. Crack eggs into bowl, add spices and beat with whisk until a bit frothy. Add asparagus and cheese. Pour into pan and immediately start turning until done to your likeness.

Three eggs with chili powder, s&p. The chili powder gave the eggs an unexpected kick!

I probably shouldn't have had this cheese on SBD but it's great cheese from Italy that I found at Wegman's.

The final, yummy product! It was a satisfying dinner (well, I am trying to convince myself it was).

I intended to have another egg scramble for breakfast but I think I need a break from eggs for a little while!

Oh and don't worry... lots of yummy things can be made on Phase 1 so I'll have plenty of good recipes/inspirations to share along the way. And I don't do the diet in it's entirety - just Phase 1 for 14 days because it does wonders for the belly! Then I'll be back to chocolate- and carb-filled creations (in moderation, of course. HA!)!

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Weekend with Susi

On Saturday I went to visit my friend Susi and her husband Jeff in Kensington, MD (a few miles from D.C.). I haven't seen Susi since her birthday in September so I was so excited to see her since she is working on her 6th month of pregnancy. She now has a perfectly round belly and lots of preparing to do for her little arrival, but other than that, I'm happy to report she's the same Susi that I miss so much. We had a great weekend of catching up, shopping for baby things, and most importantly, eating!
I brought Susi some gifts - outfits for the baby girl and a necklace for her.

After a day of shopping, Jeff went off to the gym and Susi and I enjoyed ice cream sundaes - mint chocolate chip, coconut pineapple, and chocolate ice creams, sliced banana, sliced pear and hot fudge. This was quite a melange of tastes but it hit the spot (I really love the coconut pineapple by Edy's)!

I also made apple crisp, one of Susi's favorites that I used to make for her while we were at Hollins. I failed to take pictures, but I will be making it again soon and I will post the recipe then.

That night for dinner we had pizza - we bought the the par-baked tomato and mozzarelle pizza at Whole Foods, and added ham and pineapple. And to wash it down, some sparkling apple cider.

Susi, Jeff and Alex (she will be named Alexandra)

After dinner, we ventured out to Savannah's, a bar near their house. We enjoyed the karaoke, the entertaining town-folk and a few drinks before we were ready to head back home. Once we got back, Jeff poured shots of Blutwurzlikor, liquor made from the wurz root. This liquor is from Susi's hometown, Eschlkam, and when she's home or when her parents come to visit, they make sure to stock up their freezer (there is a kirch from her hometown that I love even more). At 45% alcohol, it was a nice send-off to bed! The color and taste is very similar to Jager. It's for medicinal purposes, so they say... as Jeff said, the Germans will come up with an reason to have some yummy liquor! And at 45% alcohol, it was a nice send-off to bed!

Susi and Jeff will be having a wedding and christening in Germany in January, so I am anxiously awaiting that trip, which I'm sure will provide me with great blog fodder.