An attorney writes about stuff she'd rather be doing: cooking, eating, wining, dining and traveling.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stuffed Clams Casino

I made these for "dinner" the day after Christmas for Mr. Foodie and myself. After the past few weeks of dinners out, cocktail parties, work dinners, and the topper of Christmas Eve and Christmas day meals, we really just wanted a bottle of wine, some nibbles and a movie.

I very highly recommend having the prosciutto freshly sliced at an Italian deli or Whole Foods. I had a bit of sticker shock at Whole Foods ($29.99 a pound, EEK!) but you only need three thin slices, so it's not so bad and totally worth it.

Stuffed Clams - makes a plate of 24, perfect for a party app or "dinner"

Steaming the clams:
12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/4 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. white wine
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
When hot, add the onion and garlic and cook about 2 minutes.
Add the clams and continue to cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the wine, lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Cover and steam for about 5 minutes or until the clams open.

Set the clams aside to cool a bit. When cool, remove the clam meat and set aside.

Make the filling:
3 slices good quality prosciutto, chopped
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 c. celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I used about 1 tsp.)
1 c. panko bread crumbs
1 small can clams, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 bottle clam juice
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a skillet.
Add the proscuitto, onion, celery and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft.
Mix in panko, canned clams and the fresh clam meat. Mix well.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and red pepper.
Add just enough clam juice to moisten the mixture (you won't need the whole bottle). I used maybe 1/2 cup.
Stir in most of the parmesan cheese, reserving a bit to sprinkle over the tops.

Fill the clams:
Gently break the clam shells apart at the hinges and rinse well to get rid of any sand.
Fill each shell with a spoonful of the filling.
Sprinkle with remaining parmesan.
Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

S'mores Cookie Bars

S'mores in the form of a cookie bar. Is there a discussion that needs to take place? Didn't think so.

S'mores Cookie Bars
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 and 1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 King size Hershey's bars
1.5 c. marshmallow creme or fluff (a 7 oz. jar was plenty)

Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
Cream butter and sugars in an electric mixer until fluffy.
Add egg and vanille and beat well.
Add dry ingredients and beat well.

Divide dough into 2 balls. Press one ball into the bottom of an 8x8 square pan. Place chocolate bars in single layer over the dough.
Spread marshmallow over the top of the chocolate.
Press 2nd ball of dough over the top.
I recommend flattening the dough in your hand first and then placing it over the top.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Let cool thoroughly before cutting into squares.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cuban Roast Pork

This was *almost* there. The flavors were really reminiscent of my favorite dish (roast pork with sour orange mojo) at our favorite Cuban spot, Cafe 28. However, cooking a pork roast all day in a slow cooker rendered the meat pretty dry. Ok, very dry.

If I were making this again, I would either use a pork shoulder or I would use the pork roast, but make it in a Dutch oven on the stove top and cook for far less time. This recipe has great potential, so I will definitely be trying again.

I will post the ingredients and what I did this time. If anyone tries this will modifications that work, let me know!

Cuban Roast Pork
1 pork roast or pork shoulder
1 c. lime juice
1 c. orange juice
2 yellow onions, thickly sliced
6-8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet until hot. Season pork with salt and pepper and brown well on both sides (about 5 minutes per side).

Add to slow cooker, pour juices over the top, top with garlic and onions and add the bay leaf.

Let cook on low for about 5 hours (not the 10 hours that it ended up cooking for by the time I got home from work).

Slice pork and spoon onions and juices over the top. Serve with black beans and rice.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Menu for the Week

After our four day eating and drinking binge, this will be a light week, cooking-wise, particularly in light of the fact that on Saturday I have two Christmas parties - one at Wildfire in the afternoon and one at Buca di Beppo that evening. Goo.

Monday: Mushroom-brie soup and green salads with Dijon vinaigrette
Tuesday: Some sort of chicken something - either in the slow cooker or stir fry
Wednesday: Cuban roast pork with black beans and rice
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: dinner with friends

Angie's Crock Pot Country Ribs

Angie is a good friend of mine - we met under somewhat unusual circumstances, but bonded over our mutual love of cooking and distaste for newbie wedding planners. Angie's blog can be found at right - Adventures in Home Cooking. I took her country ribs recipe and adapted it based on her comments and our penchant for all things spicy.

Crock Pot Country Ribs

3-4 lbs. of country style ribs
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. BBQ sauce (we LOVE Robinson's hot recipe)
1/2 c. beef broth
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. Penzey's black and red pepper blend (or 1/2 tbsp. each black and cayenne peppers)

Whisk all ingredients together (except ribs) in the bottom of a crock pot. Add ribs and immerse so that they are covered with the liquid. Cook on high for 4 hours or so, or on low for 6 hours. You can definitely cook them for longer, but they do start to fall apart.

Angie's recipe calls for serving the ribs with the pan juices; however, we found the resulting juice to be far too greasy for our tastes. I fished the rib meat out of the crock pot and put it into a saucepan and ladled just a bit of the pan juices over the meat to keep it moist. I served the rib meat with additional BBQ sauce at the table. Yummmmmmm.

This went fabulously with the Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin below and a green salad.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin

I had a whole host of stuff leftover from our two Thanksgiving celebrations that I was trying to use up tonight. I found a recipe for a two potato gratin on Epicurious and adapted it to use up the myriad bits of fresh herbs, 1/2 carton of cream, etc.

This was sooooo good. However. It is not even remotely good for you. In fact, I am pretty sure I could hear my ass growing and my arteries clogging with every bite. I have posted the recipe as I made it, and afterwards my thoughts on how I will adapt it for a healthier version that we can eat more often.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
6 baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1 sweet potato, peeled
1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter (although even if you are making the unhealthy version, I think you can leave this out all together - it made gross little oily puddles)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 c. monterey jack, shredded
1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice potatoes to 1/8 inch thickness using a food processor or mandoline.

Bring cream, butter (if using) and garlic to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Spray a 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with half of the herbs. Top with half of the cheese.

Repeat for a second layer.

Pour the cream mixture over the top. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.

Now, my thoughts for a healthier version:
The heavy cream is what really makes this dish bad news. I would not recommend replacing the cream with lowfat milk because the dish will end up watery. Rather, I would make a simple bechamel sauce with lowfat milk (recipe to follow) and use that instead of the cream and butter. Bechamel is thickened with flour, so it still has that creamier texture.

You can also reduce the amount of cheese (though what fun is that) or use reduced fat cheese. I don't like using reduced fat cheeses in hot dishes because it just doesn't melt right. For this recipe, I would probably opt to use a stronger flavored cheese like Swiss or Gruyere and cut back on the cheese by about 1/4 cup.

Finally, you could opt to use all sweet potatoes or use a higher proportion of sweet potatoes to Yukon Golds.

Bechamel sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 1/4 c. milk, heated

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the flour and cook for about two minutes. Slowly pour in the heated milk and whisk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.

For the potato gratin, stir in the minced garlic after the milk and use in place of the cream and butter.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Goat Cheese, Pesto, and Sundried Tomato Torta

This is a yummy, amazingly easy make-ahead appetizer that goes quickly. The red, white and green colors make it an obvious choice for a Christmas party.

Goat Cheese, Pesto and Sundried Tomato Torta

1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese
1 4 oz. log of goat cheese
1/2 c. pesto*
1 small jar of sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

* You can make your own pesto or use store-bought stuff. This recipe requires a pesto that can hold its shape, so if your pesto is a little runny, add grated parmesan cheese until it will stick to a spoon. Recipe for homemade pesto follows.

In a bowl, blend the goat cheese and cream cheese together.

In another bowl, mix 1/4 c. of the goat-cream cheese mixture with the sundried tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar.

Line a 2 cup ramekin (you can get this at Crate and Barrel for less than $5) with plastic wrap, leaving the ends long enough to fold back over the top. Spray the wrap lightly with cooking spray.

Press 1/2 of the goat cheese mixture into the bottom of the ramekin.
Spread 1/2 c. pesto over the top of the cheese.
Spread the sundried tomato mixture over the top of the pesto.
Spread the remaining goat cheese mixture over the top.

Fold the plastic wrap over the top to cover and chill for at least 1.5 hours.
To plate, unwrap the top, invert onto a plate and peel off the plastic wrap.
Serve with crackers or baguette slices.

Homemade pesto:
4 c. fresh basil leaves
3/4 c. pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
1 c. freshly grated parmesan
About 1/2 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pulse first 4 ingredients together in a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you get the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

This makes enough for the torta above and to sauce pasta for 2-4. This recipe makes a thicker pesto for the torta. If you are using to sauce pasta, reserve some of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ziti with Chicken, Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula Pesto and Feta

If you make the pesto and chicken ahead of time, you have dinner during the week in no time at all! This is good with the shredded meat from one large breast of Brined, Roasted Chicken .

The pesto is a slight twist on the classic basil pesto. Too many times I will buy a large tub of arugula, only to end up working late, ordering in, meeting friends for dinner, etc. This is a great way to use up arugula that is gasping for its last breath!

For the pesto (this makes about 1 c. pesto, you'll have leftovers):
1 container baby arugula (about 5 cups)
1/2 c. pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. parmesan cheese or more to taste
Olive oil, about 3/4 c.

Pulse arugula, pine nuts, cheese and garlic in a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Reserve about 1/2 c. pesto for this recipe and refrigerate or freeze the rest. Pesto freezes EXTREMELY well.

Ziti with Chicken, Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula Pesto and Feta
(makes enough for 2 hungry people plus a lunch the next day)
2 c. shredded, cooked chicken (the meat from one large bone-in chicken breast)
1 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 c. arugula pesto
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. feta cheese
1/2 ziti, penne or other short pasta

Boil water for pasta. Add pasta and cook per package directions. Drain and reserve 1/2 c. pasta water.

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Add shredded chicken and cook over medium heat until warmed, about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and pesto and mix well.

Add pasta and stir well to coat with sauce. If necessary, use the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce to coat the pasta.

Sprinkle in the parmesan, crumble the feta and mix well. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oil Popped Popcorn with Crack-like Popcorn Seasoning

Popcorn is a favorite snack in the Foodie household. We will almost always share a mini-bag of microwave stuff around 9pm with our "program" or Netflix movie (we are closet old people). Orville Redenbacher's Salt and Cracked Black Pepper was our popcorn of choice, but they've changed the recipe - it's still good, but not as good as it was.

I was at the grocery store yesterday and headed into the snack aisle to pick up a couple boxes of our standby salt and black pepper mini bags - and then I saw it. A bag of popcorn kernels. I had a flashback to our date night at Graham Elliot where fresh oil popped popcorn with interesting flavors like sour cream and chive or truffle replaces the typical bread basket. I ignored the boxes of microwave stuff and tossed a bag of kernels into the cart.

I decided to get all Graham Elliot and spice our evening popcorn. Oh my god. This is SO ADDICTIVE. It tastes similar to Cool Ranch Doritos, but better. I am typing this with spice and herb encrusted fingers.

Popcorn seasoning:
1 tsp. lemon pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. onion powder)
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1 cube chicken boullion, crushed into a powder, or 1/2 tsp. chicken boullion granules
1 tbsp. dried buttermilk (sold in the spice aisle). You could sub ranch dressing mix, onion soup mix or dried french onion dip mix. I used my Penzey's chip 'n dip mix.

Combine the above.
Pop popcorn according to package directions.
Melt 1-2 tbsp. butter and drizzle over popcorn. Shake well.
Season popcorn generously. The above proportions make enough for two batches.
Enjoy. Fight with your significant other over the last morsels in the bottom of the bowl.

Menu for the Week

Monday - Ziti with Chicken, Arugula Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Feta (using the Brined, Roasted Chicken I made this morning)

Tuesday - Pork Chops Adobado with black beans and rice

Wednesday - Harvest Salads with Chicken (more Brined, Roasted), pears, apples, dried cranberries, goat cheese and toasted nuts

Thursday - dinner at One Sixtyblue!

Friday - Green Chicken Curry with brown rice

Brined, Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts

My college friends will have their yearly Thanksgiving get-together next weekend, and due to people getting married, coupling up, etc. "Mangsgiving" has now reached a guest count of over 30. Last year, the hosts did a baked turkey and a deep fried turkey, and it wasn't quite enough.

So, this year I offered to do an extra turkey breast to supplement. I planned to brine the breast and cook it on the grill. However, I had never brined anything before, so I tested the process on some massive bone-in split chicken breasts. Brining locks in the moisture and keeps the meat tender and juicy. These are fabulous, either with a simple pan gravy or shredded for salads or pastas. Note that this is an overnight process, so start the day before you want to eat!

Brined and Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts
For the brine:
4 cups water + more to cover
1/4 c. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed
12 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. honey

4 large bone-in, skin on split chicken breasts

Bring 4 c. water just to a boil.
Stir in salt until it dissolves. Stir in honey until it dissolves. Add the remaining spices and remove from heat. Allow to cool.

Place chicken breasts in a large, sturdy Ziploc bag. Pour the brine mixture in. Add enough water to cover the chicken completely and shift the bag to mix everything together.

Set the Ziploc bag in a shallow pot in case you buy the cheap brand like me and it leaks. Put the pot in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400. Remove chicken from bag, discard brine.
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel.
Season generously with pepper, just a little salt (or none).
Roast chicken for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and shred for salads or pastas. OR make a quick pan sauce by placing the roasting pan over high heat, deglazing with a can of chicken broth, whisking to scrape up the brown bits, and stirring in a tablespoon of butter and a handful of chopped fresh herbs.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chicken and Artichoke Casserole

I am not typically a fan of anything that entails throwing a bunch of stuff in a casserole dish, covering it with "cream of something soup" and baking. However, I got this recipe from a friend and tweaked it a bit to our tastes, and it was delicious. I served this with Minute brown rice (regular brown rice takes too freaking long to make during the week). Combine the leftover rice and casserole and refrigerate for a very tasty lunch the next day that resembles a creamy risotto.

Chicken and Artichoke Casserole
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 can of artichokes, drained and quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can cream of mushroom soup*
1 can cream of chicken soup*
1/2 c. lemon juice*
1/2 to 1 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

*Try to get the 98% fat free or low sodium versions of the soups to lighten the dish.

**This is pretty lemony, so if you aren't a big fan of lemon flavor, you can use 1/4 c. lemon juice and 1/4 c. white wine. I liked it, but Mr. Foodie thought it was a little too lemony for his liking.

Heat a bit of oil in a medium skillet and brown the chicken chunks, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the soups, lemon juice (and wine, if using), garlic, parmesan and a little freshly ground black pepper in a casserole dish. It shouldn't need salt because of the soups.

Stir in the artichokes and browned chicken.

Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Serve with white or brown rice, or any short pasta.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taco Soup

Not quite chili, not quite tortilla soup. This freezes EXTREMELY well, so double it up and freeze half. Use the leanest ground beef available, and this is actually pretty good for you. The ingredients can be kept on hand for an impromptu football party meal.

Skip the jalapeno if you don't like it spicy. Don't add any salt to this soup, as the seasoning mixes can run on the salty side.

Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef (I use sirloin)
1 package taco seasoning (I get hot)
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 can of diced tomatoes (I like to use the Mexican style)
1 can of mild green chiles
1 c. frozen corn
1 can of jalapenos or 1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 can of kidney beans
2.5 cans of water
2 tsp. cumin

tortilla chips
shredded cheese
sour cream

Brown the ground beef in a soup pot. Add seasoning mixes, cumin and all other ingredients. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with desired toppings.

BOO-YAH! Cheap wine for cooking.

I have issues when it comes to cooking with wine. I love putting booze in damn near everything (remember, the only thing lawyers like more than suing people is getting drunk), however, it tears me up inside to dump the contents of a $10 bottle into a slow cooker or Dutch oven. But, on the other hand, any good chef lives by the mantra, "if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it."

I have found a great, cheap brand of wine that is perfect for cooking, and isn't bad for drinking: Golden Gate. Jewel carries it, and it typically retails for $5.99 a bottle, but every time I've been to Jewel, it's been on sale for $2.99 a bottle. I've seen cabernet, merlot, chardonnay and pinot grigio. I try to have a couple bottles of the cab and the pinot grigio on hand at that price.

Perfect for cooking, good for drinking and easy on your wallet. High five.

This Week's Menu

Monday: Seafood Stew with fennel and saffron, salad and crusty bread
Tuesday: Lemon Chicken and Artichoke Casserole with brown rice and broccoli
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff with Wild Mushrooms and Egg Noodles, arugula salad
Thursday: Something I've got stocked in the freezer - probably the ham, leek, mushroom and Gruyere quiche - and a salad.
Friday: my BFF's rehearsal dinner
Saturday: my BFF's wedding

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pork Chops Adobado

I would like to sincerely apologize to my loyal Justice Is Served readers (ummm...yeah, that would be my mom and Angie, but whatevs) for the lack of posts the past couple weeks. I've been crazy busy with my stoooooooooopid day job, but unfortunately lawyering pays the bills; cooking and blogging, alas, does not.

Anyway, I got this recipe from my good friend RSB, who got it from Smitten Kitchen, aka internet food porn. If you haven't checked out the smitten kitchen blog, you must: I have a sick girl crush on the author.

These chops are spicy and delicious! Perfect with a big salad and either roasted potatoes or rice and beans. The recipe is below, with my notes in parentheses.

Pork Chops Adobado - serves 4
4 boneless pork chops
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced (I thought 5 was perfect)
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. oregano (I didn't have I used a spice blend that listed oregano as the primary ingredient. I couldn't tell)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper (I used my Penzey's cayenne-black pepper blend)
1 tsp. salt (I think this is entirely unnecessary)
2 tbsp. olive oil (I used just over 1 tbsp.)

Heat olive oil, garlic and oregano in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the other spices, stir and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Place pork chops in a baking dish and pour spice rub over the top. Rub into chops, flip them over and get a little rub on the bottom of the dish, and use that to rub into the bottom of the chops. Put in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour.

Remove from fridge and let come up to room temperature for about 20 minutes. Preheat broiler or grill. Cook chops for about 4-5 minutes on each side, no longer. If using the broiler, make sure the oven rack is in the middle position to avoid the taste of burned garlic.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage

This is a really good, hearty fall soup. This recipe will require an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor.

3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 butternut squash, approximately 3 lbs., halved and seeds removed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fresh marjoram (or dried)
6 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 of an 8 oz. package of light cream cheese, softened
Tabasco to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Drizzle squash halves with olive oil, generously salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes on a baking sheet until tender.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage, using the spatula to crumble and set aside.

In a large heavy pot (make sure it is deep if using an immersion blender later), heat olive oil and saute onion for about 6 minutes, until it is just starting to caramelize. Add the garlic, sage and marjoram and saute for another minute.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add it to the pot. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup (or puree in batches in a regular blender or food processor). Add cream cheese and puree again. Stir in sausage crumbles, add cider vinegar and Tabasco to taste and heat through.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Not healthy at all, but who cares! Serve with tortilla chips.

1 8 oz. package light cream cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 package frozen spinach, thawed, water squeezed out and chopped
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
Fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder

Combine everything except shredded cheeses in a crockpot. Once everything is hot, stir in the cheeses. Keep warm in the crockpot until ready to serve. You can also just microwave everything on high, stirring every 30-45 seconds. Stir in the cheese at the end.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crockpot Coq Au Vin (chicken in wine for the non-pretentious)

OK, I will admit that sauteing onions at five o'clock this morning made me moderately nauseous for the rest of the day. However, this was so good it was worth it! To cut down on my bleary-eyed prep time this morning, I chopped all of the veggies the night before, measured out herbs and flour into my handy little prep bowls, set up the crockpot and set out the non-perishable ingredients.

Be sure to season the sauce well at the end or pass plenty of salt and pepper.

Crockpot Coq Au Vin
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 smallish carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 lb. white button mushrooms, stemmed and halved
4-6 strips of bacon (I found this to be largely unnecessary)
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 bottle dry red wine (according to the recipe, white works too for a lighter dish)
1 can chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme

The night before:

Chop all veggies and half mushrooms. Place onions, carrots and garlic in one bowl, mushrooms in another. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Measure out flour into a small prep bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set out next to crockpot with the chicken broth, red wine, thyme and salt and pepper.

In the morning:

Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add bacon and fry until crisp. Set aside, allow to cool slightly and chop. (I didn't think this added anything to the dish. I'm sure it imparted some flavor, but I'll probably leave it out next time).

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In the same skillet, brown chicken on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Place chicken in crockpot and sprinkle with bacon (if using).

In the same skillet, add the mushrooms and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and saute for about a minute longer. Sprinkle the veggies with the flour, stir to coat, and add veggies to the crockpot.

Return the pan to the heat and use the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits. Bring to a boil, add the chicken broth and add the liquid to the crockpot.

Add the thyme and cook on low for 8 hours.

If the sauce is too thin, ladle some of the liquid into a Pyrex measuring cup, add a couple tablespoons of flour and whisk well. Add this roux back into the crockpot, stir well and let cook on low for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.

Serve over egg noodles and with a green salad. And a nice big glass of whatever wine you cooked with. After all, the only thing lawyers like more than suing people is getting drunk! Enjoy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beef Barolo

I am not a fan of pot roast. It was one of my least favorite dinners growing up. However, I've learned that if you braise it in red wine, it's so much better (as most things are).

Beef Barolo
One 2-3 pound chuck roast
Salt and pepper
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
Olive oil
1 bottle dry red wine (you are supposed to use Barolo, but anything dry and red works)
1 can beef broth
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick

Sear the meat and saute the veggies:
Season the roast with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy large pot.
Sear the meat until browned on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side (only flip once so it gets nice and brown).
Remove the meat, set aside.
Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pot. Saute until just softened, about 3 minutes.

Get it braising:
Return the meat to the pot with the veggies.
Add the broth, wine, garlic, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer on low for about 3 hours or until the meat is tender.

**Crockpot variation** Sear the meat and saute veggies as above. Throw everything in a crockpot, dump in the wine, broth and spices. Cook on the low setting for at least 6 hours, 8 is even better.

Make the gravy:
Remove the meat and set aside.
Strain the liquid into a saucepan and discard the solids.
Bring liquid to a boil. When hot, ladle some of the liquid into a Pyrex measuring cup and add a few tablespoons of flour. Whisk this together.
Slowly add the flour mixture back into the pot, whisking constantly. Repeat until your gravy is the desired thickness.

I serve this with mashed potatoes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

This Week's Menu

Sunday: Beef Barolo (basically pot roast braised in wine) and red potatoes
Monday: Crockpot Coq Au Vin
Tuesday: Grilled Swordfish with Garden Veggie Risotto
Wednesday: Pork roast with sage and apples (in the crockpot)
Thursday: Mufaletta sandwiches on homemade focaccia
Friday: Steve and Jenny's rehearsal dinner!

I was very organized at the grocery store this week. I made sure I have all the ingredients for this week's menu, and I just picked up some fruit, bread, deli meats and a couple other things for lunches, etc. It was far more efficient and budget-friendly to shop that way!

Foccacia Bread

I am normally not big on bread. However, when we were in Italy, we had the most amazing foccacia for breakfast in the morning. It was nice and soft, yet crunchy on the outside, and it had ribbons of olive oil running through it. Yummmmmmmmmm...

I set out to make my own foccacia today. It is REALLY easy. It's as easy as making pizza crust dough. I made two batches: plain, which is in the freezer; and cheese and rosemary stuffed, which is sitting, half eaten, on my counter.

Here is the recipe, which makes two batches:
3.5 c. all purpose flour
1.5 tsp. salt
2 packets active yeast
1.5 c. warm water
1/4 c. olive oil

Light oil 2 8 inch square pans (glass or metal, doesn't matter)

In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients a few times to blend.
Add the warm water and olive oil and pulse until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out into a lightly oiled bowl. Place the bowl somewhere dark and warmish and let rise (I usually put it inside the microwave, power off obviously). The dough will double in size, give it about an hour.

For the plain foccacia:
Divide the dough into 2 balls
Simply stretch and pat each ball of dough into the two pans.
Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt
Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

For the cheese-rosemary foccacia:
Divide the dough into 4 balls.
Stretch and press 2 of the balls into each of the two pans.
Sprinkle with dried or chopped fresh rosemary
Top with thinly sliced white mild cheese (mozz, provolone, jack, etc.) - Leave a half inch border from the edge.
Stretch the remaning two balls into 8 inch squares. Place one over the top of the cheese in each pan, pinch top and bottom layers together.
Let rise again for about an hour.
Bake as described above.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Maple Glazed Salmon with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This was a meal. Mr. Foodie nicknamed it "George Hamilton Salmon."

I got the recipe from my Williams Sonoma Grilling and Roasting Cookbook. It sounded simple enough, so I thought I'd give it a try. It was good. The salmon didn't wow me, but the sweet potatoes were really, really yummy. I'd maybe squeeze some lemon over the salmon after cooking for some additional flavor.

2 servings
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced (not too thick)
1 tbsp. melted butter
Fresh ground pepper
A pinch of cinnamon
2 salmon fillets
salt and pepper
1/3 c. pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400.

Toss sliced potatoes with butter, pepper and cinnamon.

Place a sheet of foil over a rimmed baking sheet (unless you like cleaning carmelized sugar off of pans). Place potatoes in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring syrup and Worcestershire to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and let it reduce by about half (about 5 minutes).

Crank up the oven to 450.

Turn potato slices over and move closer together. Top with salmon that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Brush with 1/2 the glaze. Roast for 10 minutes.

Take fish out of the oven, baste with the remaining glaze and roast for about 7 more minutes.

DEFINITELY serve with a green salad to break up the monochromatic-ishness of it all. I would squeeze a lemon over the salmon for some extra flavor.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Well-Stocked Pantry

Momma LegalFoodie taught me that a well-stocked pantry is the secret to being a good at-home chef. If you keep these ingredients on hand, with some veggies and cheeses in the fridge and meats and fish in the freezer, you can pull a great weeknight meal practically out of your ass and impress people! Here is what I keep stocked in the pantry:

Canned diced tomatoes in assorted flavors
Tomato sauce and tomato paste
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Mild green chiles
Diced jalapenos
Black beans
Cannellini beans
Chili beans in hot sauce
Great Northern beans
Broths - chicken, beef, veggie
Chicken boullion cubes
Canned artichokes
Water chestnuts
Baby corn
Jarred marinated artichokes
Jarred sundried tomatoes
Jarred roasted red peppers
Rices - brown, white and assorted rice pilaf mixes (I like the Near East brand)
Egg noodles - skinny and wide
Pastas - one long (like linguine), one short (like penne), and one tiny(like orzo)
Panko breadcrumbs
Italian style breadcrumbs
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Thai chili sauce
Asian fish sauce
Rice vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
White wine vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Pear or other fruit vinegar
Olive oil
Peanut oil
Dark sesame oil
Canola or vegetable oil
Pine nuts
Peanut butter
Maple syrup
Dijon mustard
A solid spice rack: fleur de sel, black peppercorns, cayenne, cumin, coriander, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, dill, herbs de provence, an Italian seasoning blend, poultry seasoning, bay leaves, lemon pepper, seasoned salt, paprika, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, saffron, chili powder, vanilla extract

Slow Cooker Chicken Tangine

OK, so pretty much anything you can dump in a crock pot at 5:30 a.m. and just leave all day is awesome in my book. There is something so satisfying about having dinner make itself. I made a chicken tangine today that turned out pretty tasty. I thought I had couscous, but it turned out those boxes were just pesky brown rice pilaf mixes that take 40 minutes to cook so I never make them. I served this over white rice, but I think couscous would have been better.

Moroccan Chicken Tangine for the slow cooker
1 medium white or yellow onion, cut into thick slices
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cumin
1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 14 oz. can chicken broth (low sodium)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 lemons, quartered
1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Line bottom of crockpot with thick onion slices to prevent sticking and burning.

OK, when you start this, you can go one of two ways: simple or slightly more complicated:

1. Throw chicken, cumin, cayenne, broth and 1 tbsp. olive oil in crockpot on top of onion slices. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. of flour.


2. Heat oil in pan over medium high heat. Dredge chicken thighs in flour and quickly brown on each side (about 2 minutes). Remove chicken and place on top of onion slices. Stir spices into the pan with the remaining dredging flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the entire can of broth, scraping up the brown bits. Pour broth mixture into crockpot over chicken.

Now you're at the same spot.

Pour tomatoes with juice over chicken, add the parsley and garlic and tuck the lemon quarters around the chicken. Cook on low heat for 4-8 hours. About an hour before serving, add the chickpeas.

Serve over rice or couscous.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Week's Menu

So work has been pretty crazy lately - lots of getting home at 8pm and later. If I am home at a reasonable hour to make dinner, that usually means I got to the office at the butt crack of dawn and am too damn tired to make something. Long story short, we've been eating out a ton during the week.

Lawyering is really starting to get in the way of cooking. I feel like I'm losing my edge.

So, to keep me motivated during the week and to cut down on our spending so we can save for special meals out (i.e. Graham Elliot), I've decided to make a weekly menu and stick to it. I'll post the recipes and feedback that night, as well as the amount of time it took to make it.

Monday: Moroccan chicken tangine (in the slow cooker, yay!) served over quick cooking couscous

Tuesday: Maple glazed salmon and roasted yams. A little green salad on the side.

Wednesday: A little meatloaf that I made ahead of time. Sauteed veggies and a salad for a side.

Thursday: Szechwan tofu with broccoli, carrots and whatever other veggies need to be used up served over brown rice.

Friday: Most likely we will order pizza or sushi. If we stay in, I'll make tapas-style goat cheese in tomato sauce and patatas bravas and maybe some sangria in celebration of Friday.

Some Like It Hot: White Chicken Chili

I made this last week for a football party. It's a good way to use up leftover chicken. If you don't have any leftover chicken, you can buy a salt-free rotisserie chicken at the grocery, remove the skin and shred it for an easy shortcut.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. pickled jalapenos, chopped (I used LaPreferida's jarred jalapeno nacho slices)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 can low sodium chicken broth
2 15 oz. cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 pound cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
1/2 cup milk or half and half

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add celery, carrots, onion, pepper and jalapeno. Saute until just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add garlic, chili powder and cumin. Saute 1 minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer.

Add beans, chicken and milk. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat to medium and simmer. Chili is ready to eat in as little as 5 minutes if you're in a hurry. If not, I like to simmer it for about 30 minutes so the beans start to fall apart a bit.

Top with cheese, sour cream and chopped onions.

Stuff I Like

I will fully admit to being a brand snob about some things, Bloody Mary mixes being top of the list. Some taste like V8 and have no spiciness at all. Others are spicy, but in a liquified salsa sort of way. It's hard to find a great mix that has a good tomato flavor with the right amount of seasonings, Worcestershire and horseradish. I always ask at brunch what brand the restaurant uses so as not to, GASP, consume shitty Mrs. T's.

Behold the most glorious Bloody Mary mix of all time: Zing Zang.


Zing Zang is perfectly spicy without being too hot, and it doesn't taste like salsa. You can see all of the spices that are in it floating around in the bottle. It's really the only acceptable mix that you can buy.

In other news, Harry and David makes this tomato pepper relish that makes an amazing, easy dip.


Simply use a hand mixer to blend a whole jar of the relish with an 8 ounce package of cream cheese. Serve with salty tortilla chips. It's sweet and spicy. It's easy enough to keep the ingredients on hand in case of a party emergency.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Verdict: Southport Grocery

Oh my god. I cannot believe we haven't been there before today.

Well, we've tried to go there, but by the time we get up, get ready, pick up a paper and walk the four blocks, there is always an hour wait. The place is TINY. So, we usually end up going to Julius Meinl, Violet or Deleece, where the wait is minimal or non-existent.

I can see why people will wait, hungover, for more than an hour to eat here.

Southport Grocery may be my new favorite breakfast spot. I had perfectly spicy Bloody Mary (which was NOT made with Mrs. T's, thank god). I had an omelet with rosemary roasted ham, gruyere cheese, mushrooms and leeks. Leeks are one of my favorite things, as are ham-cheese-mushroom omelets, so this was perfection.

Mr. Foodie had the stuffed French toast, which was stuffed with cinnamon apples and cream cheese and topped with a maple glaze and walnuts.

The BEST PART was the red potato mash that accompanied my omelet. Smashed red potatoes with onions, sour cream and some other stuff - best mashed potatoes ever. I would seriously just order the mash. So good.

I would very highly recommend this place. I cannot believe it took us over three years to eat here!

Pimp My Wine Store

I hot pink sparkly puffy heart Que Syrah. They always have samples. They have a $13 and under rack of fool-proof wines. The owners are sweethearts. It's two blocks away from my house.

We rarely buy our wines anywhere else, and we rarely shop anything other than the 13 and under rack. There's really no reason to do so. The owners have a "if we don't like it, we don't sell it" policy, and they just happen to have fabulous taste.

If you work in the restaurant industry, mention that and get a card for 10% off all bar accessories. If you buy a certain amount of wine (I don't remember what it was, but we've far surpassed it), you get a card for 10% off anything in the store FOR LIFE. On top of that, if you buy a case, you get an additional discount. They honor both the case discount AND the card, so that amounts to huge savings and 12 bottles of delicious, solid wine picks.

Que Syrah is on Southport, between Waveland and Grace.

Football Favorites: Pizza Sammies

If you want your husband or boyfriend's friends to idolize you and tell your husband/boyfriend how awesome you are, make these. Pizza deliciousness in the form of a sandwich! Use any pizza topping you like.

Makes 6 sandwiches, and can easily be adapted to make more or less
3 or 4 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed. I sometimes trick Mr. Foodie and use turkey sausage.
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 small package white button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
Mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese
Your favorite pizza sauce
Italian seasoning or oregano, to taste
Crushed red pepper, to taste
6 french rolls
Aluminum foil

Brown sausage and set aside to drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
Add small amount of olive oil to a large skillet set on medium-high heat. Let heat, then add onion and green pepper.
Saute for 3 minutes, until veggies start to soften.
Add mushrooms and cook until mushroom just start to soften.
Turn heat to low and add sausage.
Add pizza sauce - enough to hold the ingredients together, but not so much that it is runny.
Add seasonings, to taste.
Add a handful of shredded cheese and mix well.

Split French rolls if they are not already split. Wrap aluminum foil around each roll to create a boat.
Stuff rolls with pizza mixture.
Top with additional cheese.
Bake at 400 until heated through and cheese is melty and browned.

These can be assembled ahead of time for a party. Simply take them out of the fridge when company arrives, let them come up to room temp and throw them in the oven at the start of the second quarter - they should be warm and toasty and delicious by halftime.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Verdict: Graham Elliot

Mr. Foodie and I went to Graham Elliot this past weekend for dinner. No special occasion, mostly lamenting the fact that all of our good friends are moving away and we are effing losers. So hell, we're not dropping Hamiltons at the bar with the crew on a Saturday night, might as well drop a couple Benjis on dinner, right?

Graham Elliot's schtick is comfort food, deconstructed, made really fancy and super expensive. My kind of place. We were early for our reservation, so we had a cocktail at the bar. Mr. Foodie had a beer that I cannot pronounce or spell, I had a delicious variation on a Pimm's Cup called the London Calling.

Instead of bread, GE serves POPCORN! Holy shit, I was in heaven. That day's flavor was sour cream and chive. It was fresh, oil-popped deliciousness with fresh chives. As Alanis Morissette once sang, "you've already won me overrrrrrrrrrr."

We started with Chef Elliot's "foielipops," initially made famous at the now-shuttered Avenues. It is a perfect little circle of foie gras on a stick and coated with strawberry Pop Rocks. It is fantastic!

For our first course, I had the aged cheddar risotto with julienned Granny Smith apples, pancetta, PBR-glazed onions and...CHEEZ-ITS! It's like they knew I was coming. I am ashamed of myself for spending $13 on an appetizer containing Cheez-Its, but it was delicious.

Mr. Foodie had the buffalo chicken, which was essentially the most expensive, hard to eat chicken wing he'd ever had. But again, it was fantastic. The small piece of chicken was accompanied by a fabulous house-made hot sauce, creamy blue cheese, and a celeriac slaw. Oh yeah, and Budweiser foam.

For the main course, I had the salmon "BLT." It was a perfectly grilled piece of salmon atop a huge pile of heirloom tomatoes (yummmmmmmm) and frisee. The whole thing rested on a small piece of white bread "brioche" and was doused in a tasty bacon vinaigrette.

Mr. Foodie had the short rib strognanoff. I thought it was only OK, but he's never met a stroganoff he didn't like. I think the version at Red Rooster is far superior. The short ribs were yummy though.

Then there was dessert. I am not a huge dessert fan, but it was heavenly. The peanut butter cream sandwiched between two slices of warm, dark chocolate brownie topped with a bruleed banana and crushed malted milk balls was awesome. I didn't care for the peanut butter ice cream that came on the side, but I don't like peanut butter in ice cream in general, so that's just me.

All in all, a fantastic, unique dining experience. I would highly recommend it. I don't think we'd go back, but only because it was expensive ($215 for all of the above, plus wine, tax, tip) and we have a really long list of places we still have yet to try. I don't think we've ever spent $150+ in the same place more than once.

Artichoke-Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Yummy AND healthy! What could be better?

Serves 4. Cut in half for 2 servings.

2.5 tbsp. breadcrumbs (not panko)
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 3 ounce log of herbed goat cheese (don't use the plain)
1 small jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.
Press 1/4 of the cheese mixture onto a chicken breast. Roll up, jelly roll style and secure with 2-3 wooden toothpicks.

Heat an ovenproof nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat.

Brown chicken 2 minutes on each side, 4 minutes total. (They actually will NOT fall apart like you think they would).

Finish chicken in the oven for about 15 minutes. If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, transfer chicken breasts to a baking sheet. Enjoy!

**Roasted red potatoes quartered, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and fresh rosemary make a great side.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Veggie-Packed, Less Sodium Ramen Noodle Soup

I fell in total lurve with ramen in college. I didn't eat it because I was poor, I ate it because it was delicious. Yummy and salty and like 25 cents a package. Holla. BUT 600% of daily sodium intake + zero nutritional value = fat ass.

Then there is the place down the street that makes a fantastic ramen noodle soup that is packed with veggies and not nearly as salty as cheapo packages. HOWEVER, $9 + tip + 30 minutes delivery = ridiculously overpriced ramen that I can make at home.

I decided to try making my own ramen like the place down the street. You can use whatever veggies you have available - this is a great recipe for when you've got fading veggies and not a whole hell of a lot else.

Serves 2 (plus a little leftover for lunch)
2 packages chicken flavor ramen noodles (discard the flavor packets)
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
A handful of baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
4 white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 c. frozen green peas or edamame
1 egg, beaten
1 can chicken broth

Put a large pot of water on to boil while you prep veggies.
Heat chicken broth in a separate pot.
When water boils, add ramen noodles and veggies, cook until noodles are soft.
Drizzle in beaten egg, cook briefly.
Drain noodles and veggies and place in a large serving bowl. Pour hot chicken broth over.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Honey Mustard Planked Salmon

This was so yummy. The marinade/glaze would also be really good on grilled chicken or pork tenderloin.

Serves 2
2 salmon fillets
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper
Cedar plank, soaked in water for at least 1 hour

Preheat the grill. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper.

Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Place the salmon in a shallow baking dish and pour 3/4 of the marinade over the fish, reserving a small amount. Let the fish marinate for about 30 minutes.

Place marinated fish on soaked plank and set the plank on the grill over medium-high heat. Let the fish cook for about 25 minutes, basting every 5 minutes with the reserved marinade.

The plank may burn a little - this is OK. Keep a spray bottle of water nearby in case it really starts to burn. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Insalata Caprese

Tomatoes peak in August. Take advantage and make some Caprese! Use the highest quality ingredients you can get your hands on.

Ripe tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella cheese in water
Fresh basil
Fresh ground pepper
Kosher salt
Good quality olive oil

If using small balls of mozzarella, leave whole and dice the tomatoes. If using large balls of mozzarella, slice and slice the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop basil and sprinkle over the top. Drizzle with oil.

Some versions of Caprese that I have had in the US have had balsamic vinegar as well. I don't care for it, as it masks the tomatoes. Also, we ate Caprese nearly every day in Italy, and none had vinegar.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Muffin Madness

I LOVE muffins in the morning. Here is a great basic muffin recipe, followed by several combos of "add-ins" to make different flavors of muffins.

But first, some tips, tricks and tools:

This muffin recipe is a snap if you measure the ingredients ahead of time. Investing in some prep bowls makes it easy to set your mise en place:

A mise en place is a French term for setting all of your ingredients out, pre-measured in the order you will use them. This speeds up the process and ensures you don't forget anything.

If you don't yet have a muffin tin and are planning to purchase one, I highly recommend the commercial quality bakeware from Williams-Sonoma. I NEVER thought it would make such a difference, but the pans heat so evenly! You end up with perfect baked goods everytime:

And finally, for zesting citrus fruits, see here

Makes 1 dozen large muffins, 1.5 dozen standard muffin tin sized muffins

3 c. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. minus 1 tsbp. sugar
2 eggs
1.5 c. plain low fat yogurt
Cooking spray OR muffin tin liners (I prefer liners, but either method works fine)

Heat oven to 375.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Beat in 1/2 of the dry ingredients.

Beat in 1/3 of the yogurt.

Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the remaining yogurt.

Spray 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line with papers. Divide batter into cups. Bake at 375 until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly on wire rack for 5 minutes, remove muffins from tin and cool on racks.


Lemon Blueberry: Add 1 tsp. grated lemon zest to butter-sugar mixture. Fold 1.5 c. fresh blueberries tossed in 1 tbsp. flour into finished batter.

Chocolate Orange: Add 1 tsp. grated orange zest to butter-sugar mixture. Fold 1 c. dark chocolate chips into finished batter.

Lemon Poppyseed: Add 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest to butter-sugar mixture. Add 3 tsbp. poppyseeds to dry ingredients.

Cranberry Orange: Add 1 tsp. grated orange zest to butter-sugar mixture. Fold 1 c. dried cranberries or 1.5 c. chopped fresh cranberries into finished batter.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pimp My Fave Sushi Spot

I just spent the last 36 hours in business travel hell.

Trapped on a runway for 4+ hours, seat kicker, multiple screaming children, seatmates with bad B.O., lack of air conditioning, missed connections, two hour layovers stretched into four, having to pay for an empty seat on an earlier flight - and that's just the beginning. AND they wanted me to actually pay $7 for a glass of crap wine to dull the pain? Bitch, please.

I knew exactly what I needed upon my return to sweet home Chicago. The entire cab ride home from the airport I could only think three thoughts: (1) it's a good thing knives aren't allowed on planes; (2); and (3) Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuushi. Sushi Mura!

We ordered in, but only because I had my fill of people for the week. Normally we go to the restaurant because they permit, nay ENCOURAGE, sake bombing. The chef, Hursan, will even come out, count you down and bomb with you.

The sushi is really good, and really cheap. Sure, this isn't Mirai. It's not Meiji. It's not Kaze. But for good, solid basics and a handful of creative rolls, you can't beat Sushi Mura at the price. Hey, it's way better than the overpriced garbage they call sushi at Japonais. Try the Mura Maki (salmon, hot pepper, zucchini, cream cheese, tempuraed), Crazy Maki (a little bit of everything), Double Decker Spicy Tuna (spicy tuna wrapped in tuna), and anything with unagi in it. Mr. LegalFoodie also enjoys the spider roll, but I'm allergic to shellfish, so I cannot confirm.

Sushi Mura is at 3647 N. Southport. Get to know Monica, the owner, and offer her boyfriend Hursan a few sake bombs, and they will treat you like old friends every time you come in.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

That juice so sweet like Georgia peaches, wanna suck it up like leeches, uhhhhhhh-huh!

Yeah, I just quoted lyrics from Freak Nasty's Da Dip, circa 1998. And what?

When it comes to my peach daiquiris, the post title is the straight truth! Whenever I make these for a girls' night or a BBQ, they are GONE.

1 small can of limeade concentrate
4 fresh peaches, pitted
1/2 can of light rum (use the empty limeade can to measure)
Ice cubes

Pour the whole lot in a blender and frappe! Taste, throw caution to the wind, and hit that shiz with an extra splash of rum. Remember, the only thing lawyers like more than suing people is getting sloshed.

Pour into margarita or daiquiri glasses and garnish with a lime if you're feeling fancy. Not so much? Pour them bitches into fratty red plastic cups and get after it.

Pimp My Microplane

If you are a wannabe chef like me, you MUST own a Microplane (or two, or three).

Seriously, these things are the shit.

The fine grater will take care of zesting lemons and grating ginger. The coarse grater will make light work of grating hard cheeses and chocolate, and apparently can even grate potatoes (I have yet to verify this). The medium ribbon grater is good for softer cheeses.

The traditional Microplane works well for the "fine" grater, but if you are looking to buy a medium ribbon or coarse grater, I would recommend the "paddle" versions for greater stability. These bitches is sharp! Wouldn't want to shred your knuckles into that high quality parmesan!

Get yours at Williams-Sonoma (aka Mecca). They also carry them at Crate and Barrel, Sur la Table and other places like a certain department store formerly known as Marshall Field's that I refuse to patronize.

Chunky Veggie Pasta Sauce

This sauce is great for the Chicken Parmesan recipe below, manicotti, stuffed shells, lasagna, over pasta, etc. If you're making lasagna, you'll need to make it a double.

Double, triple, sextuple this recipe and freeze!

First, riddle me this: how much time do you have?
1 hour or more: 1 14 oz. can of whole tomatoes in juice. I don't think they make these, so get the 28 ouncer and double the recipe!
30 minutes or less: 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice

After you've met your tomato/time needs, assemble the following:
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced (1 tsp. dried will suffice)

Heat a good amount of olive oil in a medium pan - I don't measure, so if I were a gambling woman, I'd say about 4 tbsp. But I don't gamble. Eyeball it, it's hard to screw this up.

Add the garlic and saute for a quick minute. Don't let it turn dark brown.
Add the onion and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes
Add the carrots and thyme and continue sauteeing for another 2 minutes
Add the tomatoes and the juice from the can. If using whole tomatoes, crush lightly with the back of a fork.

If using whole tomatoes, simmer for an hour or more. If using diced (which I like to do on weeknights), simmer for 15 minutes or more.

Season with black and crushed red pepper. Add a pinch of salt if necessary.

This deposition is making me HONGRY!

All of my cases seem to hit the same point in litigation at the same time. For a solid 8 months, all I did was serve and answer discovery requests. Now, thankfully that is over, and I've moved into the deposition phase. I had two deps last week, one today and I leave tomorrow for South Carolina for yet another. Later this month, it's off to Santa Barbara, L.A., Beantown and NYC for more depositional fun.

At any rate, all this question-asking and cross-examinationing really works up an appetite. I decided to try a hearty chicken parmesan recipe from Mario Batali. Normally, I am not a fan of anything that pairs chicken and cheese. However, this was really delicious, even if it took awhile. I skipped his sauce recipe and made my own Quick Chunky Veggie Pasta Sauce!

Chicken Parmesan
Serves 4 (we heart leftovers!)

4 chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
Italian-style breadcrumbs
Olive oil

1 recipe Chunky Veggie Pasta Sauce (see blog entry)

1/4 c. Parmesan, grated
1/4 c. Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (bonus points for fresh mozz, sliced)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap
Pound to 1/3- 1/2 inch thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin (beat that meat!)
Season chicken breasts LIGHTLY with salt and pepper

Heat small amount of oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet
Dip each chicken breast in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs
Cook 2 chicken breasts in the oil for 2 minutes on each side
Repeat with the remaining two breasts
**NOTE** Chicken will NOT be cooked through. This is OK. I swear I wouldn't give you salmonella, at least not on purpose.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a glass 9x13 baking dish. If you're lazy, you could use jarred marinara, but this won't be as good.
Place chicken breasts on top of the sauce
Top with the remaining sauce
Top with the cheeses - mozz first, then pecorino/parm combo

Bake for 20 minutes, make a nice little green salad (pasta would be too much), open that vino, and prepare yourself for the cheesy goodness.

Verdict: Terragusto

I LOVE Italian food. To celebrate one whole month of marriage, we headed to Terragusto to relive some honeymoon culinary memories. We had heard really good things about the food, and it's BYOB.

Terragusto? More like Terra-bly disappointing.

Service was HORRIBLE. Our waitress ignored us 90% of the time. However, there was a younger guy serving the table next to us, and he seemed really good. We had to ask twice to have our wine opened, we didn't get water until we were halfway through our second glass of wine, and we didn't get bread until we were done with our pasta course and waiting for our entree.
We did the Italian meal - an appetizer, a pasta and then a shared entree. I had the polenta with cheese sauce and asparagus, which was very good. My husband had a trio of bruschetta, which he said was only OK. 50% to start.
On to the pasta course. Terragusto hypes its housemade pastas as the cornerstone of their menu. However, both of our pastas were horrific. I had the four cheese ravioli in a brown butter sauce. The sauce was greasy and flavorless, so it was like eating cheese ravioli sitting in puddle of oil. Ick. My husband had their famous chard pasta baked in ragu. This was mediocre at best. The pasta was way overcooked, and it tasted like a tuna-less tuna noodle casserole. 0 for 2 on the pastas.
We shared the pork tenderloin for our main course. It was cooked within an inch of its life and was barely edible. Fail for the main course.
The Verdict: The polenta was really good, as was the bottle of wine we brought with us. That's where it ends. Sketchy service, overhyped pastas and an overcooked, dry main course were really disappointing. And disappointment doesn't come cheap - $120 for a meal that didn't include booze (or dessert)? I highly doubt we'll be back.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pimp My Aunt

My aunt made our wedding cake, which was a work of freaking art. It took her several months to make. Here it is, in all its glory:


It was delicious too! We had three flavors: margarita, white almond-Chambord and dark chocolate-Grand Marnier. Feel free to request her info.

I *heart* Monterosso Al Mare. Put that on a t-shirt.

We took an amazing honeymoon trip to Italy. We spent two weeks in Rome, the Cinque Terre, and Florence. The cuisine in each place was very different.

Rome was heavy on the red and cream sauces. Lots of pizza. Fantastic carbonara. And, contrary to what all the travel guides said, better gelato than Florence.

Florence was home of the monster T-bone (bistecca alla Firenze), white beans and minestrone.

And then there was the Cinque Terre, specifically Monterosso al Mare. Aka, LegalFoodie food heaven.

For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to experience the Cinque Terre, allow me to explain. The Cinque Terre is a chain of five towns along the Ligurian coast line. It is situated between La Spezia and Genoa, and it is spectacular. There isn't much to do except drink, eat and hike the five towns. Fine by me. I much prefer experiencing the culture to "seeing shit" anyhow. The five town hike is touted as a tourist event, but don't be fooled: it is physical. The good news is that you will eat like kings and sleep like babies after its completion!

The cuisine of Cinque Terre is, in a nutshell, exactly what I would want to eat if I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life. Very simple food, clean flavors. Everything is cooked with olive oil, lemon, white wine and simple herbs like fresh basil and parsley.

Regional specialties include:

Pesto: I had the best pesto that I have ever had in my life in Monterosso. The lasagna in Monterosso is vegetarian and includes bechamel and pesto sauces, but never red sauce. You will be hard pressed to find red sauce in the Cinque Terre. Pesto is commonly served with the regional trofiette pasta, which is a dumpling-style noodle similar to the German spaetzle, only thinner.


Fresh seafood: Because the Cinque Terre follows the Ligurian Sea coast line, the nightly specials at the restaurants are whatever comes out of the sea that day. Case in point: most restaurants have two seafood options (among others): mixed grill and mixed fry. What ends up on your plate is entirely dependent on the day's catch. My husband ordered the mixed grill and got a HUGE plate of calamari, prawns (which are the size of American lobsters), swordfish, sea bass, scampi, mussels and clams.
We had also had several fantastic versions of spaghetti with clams, spaghetti with mussels and spaghetti with clams and mussels.


And speaking of mussels, I had the most ridiculous mussels EVER at the L'Alta Marea restaurant. Perfectly steamed in white wine and lemon juice with just enough seasoning, we were absolutely sopping up the liquid with our bread.


Lemons/limoncino: They were growing EVERYWHERE. It was amazing to see the lemons go from grove to display to limoncello, or "limoncino" as it is called in the CT. Limoncello/limoncino is a sweet, lemon liqueur that is consumed after dinner.


White wine: We had a bottle of red. Just the one. Cinque Terre serves up an amazing white wine that goes perfectly with the light, fresh seafood cuisine of the region. It is cheaper than water, and we drank a ton of it. We loved it so much we had a case sent home.

Sciacchetra: Pronounced shock-AH-tra. The meaning of the word sciacchetra in Italian is "rare, delicious dessert wine." I totally made that up. But, with its sweet notes and smooth yet boozy finish, sciacchetra is the perfect pair for a Monterosso lemon tart or tiramisu. It is really, really hard to find outside the Cinque Terre, so we are conserving our two smuggled bottles for special occasions.

Grappa: Not necessarily native to the Cinque Terre, but I thought I'd include it. My husband and I had our first grappa experience in Monterosso. Our waiter asked us if we would like "smooth grappa" or "strong grappa." My husband initially said "strong," but seeing as we had demolished 2 bottles of wine with our amazing dinner, I said, "let's go smooth." Holy shit. I believe Mr. LegalFoodie compared grappa to being kicked in the face.

If you are ever headed to Cinque Terre, you must (a) pack me in your suitcase; and (b) stay in Monterosso. The other four towns simply do not compare. In addition, eating at ANY of the following establishments will be Euro well spent:

  • Belvidere (great view)
  • Ristorante Miky (Monterosso lemon tart dessert is to die for)
  • Ciak (pronounced "Chuck"; do NOT pass up the spaghetti with clams and mussels)
  • L'Alta Marea (do NOT pass up the steamed mussels)
  • Via Venti (the highlight of our stay)
  • "Yellow Top" - unfortunately I cannot remember the real name, but it's in the Old Town at the top of the hill halfway to the Hotel Porta Roca (not hard to find, town is small), big yellow awning, fantastic view and lunch
  • Bar Davy (pre-dinner drinks and great free snacks)

Trendy Shit: Rose wines

Yes, yes, I know. Pink wine is reminiscent of boxes with spigots, hillbillies and grandmas. It's "trashy." And Lord knows I hate trashy shit.

All roses are not created equal. All white zins are roses. HOW. EV. ER. All roses are NOT white zin! Say it with me people: trendy, not trashy!

Like easygoing jersey dresses and gladiator sandals, roses are big for summer. Here's why: roses are a bit sweet, a bit spicy and compliment a LOT of "summer" foods like grilled meats and stuff slathered in BBQ sauce. They are really easy to drink as well. It is as easy to drink a big glass of rose as it is to throw on your fave jersey dress and flat sandals.

A favorite summer rose is Borsao, a Spanish rose. Light and crisp with just enough sweetness, this wine tastes like strawberries in a more-mature-than-Boone's-Farm sort of way. It's got a nice little bit of spice to it as well. We just killed a bottle with grilled pork chops with a spicy rub - YUM.

Get yourself some Borsao at Que Syrah on Southport for about $12.

Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs

Sometimes you find a really great way to cook something. I do, all the time - usually from Cooks Illustrated or my The Best Recipe Book. I am NOT good at hard boiling eggs, but this method is fool-proof.

Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs, from The Best Recipe
Place eggs in a deep pot and add water - enough that the eggs are covered by one inch.
Bring to a boil.
Cover, turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

Prepare ice bath - fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water.
Remove eggs from hot water and immerse in the ice bath for 5 minutes.

German Potato Salad

Let me preface this posting with the following: I HATE potato salad. This American garbage that is smothered in mayo and mustard is revolting. Germans know how to do it RIGHT. New potatoes, bacon, hard cooked eggs and a really tasty vinaigrette.

The cooking, peeling and cooling of potatoes takes the longest. Allow 2-3 hours for this part. The rest is a snap.

This recipe has been in my family for generations. Don't eff it up, or I'll get Grandma Walsdorf on yo ass.

German Potato Salad (makes enough for a party)
5 lbs. red potatoes
8 oz. bacon, diced
4-5 green onions, chopped
2-3 hard cooked eggs, chopped*
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. white vinegar (the kind our cleaning lady uses to wash our floors, very versatile!)
1 cube chicken boullion, dissolved in 1/2 c. hot water
salt and pepper to taste (though I find the salt unnecessary)

Boil potatoes in salted water for 30-40 minutes until knife tender.
Drain and allow to cool until cool enough to handle.
Peel potatoes while still slightly warm.
Set aside to cool completely, and slice when cool.
Place in a LARGE bowl.

If you've made it this far, the rest is easy.

Fry bacon slowly until crisp.
Pour off the fat - NOT down your drain, dummy, unless you have a hot plumber. Then, by all means, clog that bad boy up and get Hottie McPlunger on the horn. If your plumber is a fat, balding dude with his buttcrack hanging out, use an old can or a bowl lined with tin foil. Discard when hardened.

Add the oil and vinegar to the bacon pan and cook over medium heat, scraping up all those delicious little bacon crusties stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Pour the hot vinaigrette over the potatoes.

Add green onions, white onion and eggs. Mix well.

Heat the chopped bacon and bouillion in the bacon pan until the bacon is softened and the bouillion is hot.
Pour over potatoes.
Mix well and season.

* See post: "Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs"

This should be served at room temperature for optimal deliciousness. Excellent as an accompaniement to anything off the grill.

The UItimate Stuffed Mushroom

I get requests for the recipe ALL. THE. TIME. Recipe was originally published in Bon Appetit in 2002. When I bring these to a party, they are gone within minutes. It's almost a waste of time to make them. However, I am a whore for validation, so once people are done stuffing their faces and the compliments start, I am secretly satisfied.

3 hot Italian sausage links (I've used turkey sausage, works fine)
1 tsp. oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package plain cream cheese (don't use light or fat-free - too runny)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg yolk
Black pepper
2 small packages of white mushrooms, stemmed and cleaned
Small amount of dry white wine

Preheat oven to 400.

Remove sausages from casings, crumble and brown over medium heat.
Add oregano and garlic.

Mix cream cheese, egg and 1/2 c. parmesan in a bowl.
Add the sausage mixture and mix well.

Arrange mushroom caps in a baking dish and brush insides lightly with wine.
Stuff mushrooms with a scant 1 tbsp. of cheese-sausage mixture.
Sprinkle remaining parmesan over the top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until brown.**

**Note: The mushrooms seem to release a LOT of liquid while they bake. Using a slotted spatula to remove them from the dish and placing them on a cooling rack set over paper towels to cool for a couple minutes helps them to set up.

Another suggestion I recently received was to bake the mushrooms on the cooling rack, set over a baking sheet, and reduce the baking time by a couple of minutes. I have yet to try this method, but it sounds promising. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

I made these up last week when I got home late, we were both STARVING and I was trying to figure out how to use up a ton of veggies from the farmers' market that were on their last legs. They turned out VERY tasty. This recipe can be adapted to be entirely vegetarian by doubling the veggies and omitting the meat, or you can sub any diced veggies you like or need to use up.

Makes 3 stuffed peppers
3 green bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded and wrapped in foil
2 servings cooked brown rice (I use Minute Rice - 1 c. rice to 1 c. water)
1/2 lb. ground turkey breast
Pinch cumin
Pinch onion powder
Large pinch chili powder
1 yellow squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, very finely minced*
One big spoonful of the adobo sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese

* They sell tiny cans of chipotles in adobo sauce in nearly every supermarket near the Mexican/Hispanic foods. The smallest cans (about two inches high) contain about 4 peppers and 2 tbsp. sauce. Reserve the remaining two peppers and sauce and make my chipotle lime vinaigrette (recipe to follow).

Prep green peppers and cook rice. Put rice in a large bowl.

Spray skillet with Pam and brown ground turkey. When browned, add spices.
Add turkey to rice and mix.

Spray skillet again and saute veggies until just soft.
Add cooked veggies to the turkey and rice.

Drain tomatoes and simmer with the minced chipotles and adobo sauce for 5-10 minutes.
Pour tomato sauce over rice mixture.
Add a small handful of cheese to the rice mixture and mix well.

Stuff into green peppers.
Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.
Top each pepper with a bit of cheese and bake for 5 minutes longer.

Bear Down Buffalo Chicken Dip (aka the Balldinger)

Not sure why my husband and our friend Jim nicknamed this "The Balldinger." That might have been the bottle of Jameson talking. At any rate, the BEST football party snack you will eat.

Bear Down Buffalo Chicken Dip
3 chicken breasts
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (light works just fine)
About 1/2 bottle of Frank Red Hot Sauce
2 tsbp. butter
About 1/4 c. blue cheese dressing (must use refrigerated stuff - none of that bottled crap!)

Preheat oven to 400.

Poach chicken breasts:
* Place in a pot and cover with enough water to cover by 1 inch
* Bring to a boil
* Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Allow chicken to cool and mince in a food processor. If you aren't bad ass enough to have a Cuisinart, shred the chicken with a fork or chop finely with a knife.

Place shredded chicken in the pot (emptied of the water, obvs), add hot sauce and butter. Simmer for about 10 minutes. If the chicken looks a bit dry, add a little more hot sauce.

Meanwhile, spread the cream cheese in the bottom of an 8x8 pan.

Top with chicken/sauce mixture.

Spread blue cheese over the top.

Bake the whole mess at 400 for 10-15 minutes, until heated through. Serve with Fritos Scoops and celery and carrots if there are dieting bitches coming over. Tortilla chips would probably work as well.

Let's start this party off right: Beer Margaritas!

My bridesmaids compiled the ultimate wedding gift for me - a cookbook composed of various recipes from all my friends and family, professionally printed and bound. I love it! I've made exactly one recipe from that book thus far - Beer Margaritas.

Holy shit.

These things are amazingly simply, and amazingly potent. Awesome for a party, as it takes approximately three minutes to make a pitcher and get back to the party! No one likes manning a blender at a BBQ. Remember as you are putting them down that they are 50% booze. Eh...eff it. Let's be honest - the only thing lawyers like more than suing people is getting sloshed. Enjoy!

Beer Margaritas
1 12 oz. can limeade
12 oz. water (booooo...but necessary)
12 oz. tequila (yaaaaaaay!)
12 oz. beer (use Lite)

Dump limeade into a pitcher. Use the empty can to measure water and tequila. Pour bottle or can of beer into the mix. Stir briefly, and serve over ice. Repeat. Stand up slowly.