Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce, Black Beans and Guacamole

Last night we invited our friends Jess and Curtis over to enjoy dinner with us.  Isn't it such fun cooking for friends and feasting in the accomplishments of a job well done?!  I just love it, and last night was no exception.  Being it that is was so cold and blustery I wanted to bring a bit of warmth at least to our meal and what works better for that then a little spicy Mexican!  Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce, Black Beans and Guacamole to be exact.

About a month ago I had my girlfriends Bonnie and Dawn over for a cooking night and we created this dish.  I wanted to share it with you all right away because we really enjoyed it.  But alas we forgot to take pictures!  Oops.... I blame it on being too busy laughing, gabbing and maybe a little bit of wine too.  I much prefer cookbooks with wonderful pictures to look at, don't you?  You want to know what in the world whatever it is you are making is supposed to look like when it is finished!  So I thought I would wait to showcase it until I made it again.  This seemed like the perfect night for it!

The Chicken Enchilada with Red Sauce Recipe comes from Steve Raichlen's Healthy Latin Cooking.  I usually associate Steve with BBQ, but this cookbook is outstanding.  He takes traditional Mexican and other Latin cooking and gets rid of all the excess fat and such and turns the meals into ones you could actually eat and thoroughly enjoy on a regular basis (without feeling like you need to go to the gym right after!)

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Enchiladas de pollo con salsa roja

For the Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of all visible fat
1/4 onion
1/2 tomato
1 sprig fresh cilantro
4- 4 1/2 cups Chicken Stock

For the Sauce
15 dried New Mexico red chile peppers, ancho chilis or chile colorados (found in the produce department)
1/2 tomato, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
1/4 medium onion, cut into 1" pieces
1 clove garlic
1 sprigs fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and ground black pepper to taste

12 corn tortillas (6" diameter)
1/4 cup minced white onions
3 tablespoons grated white Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

To Make the Chicken:,
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the chicken, onion, tomato, cilantro, and 4 cups of the stock.  Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let cool to room temperature.  When cool, shred or cut the chicken into thin slivers.  Strain the cooking liquid into a measuring cup and reserve for the sauce (you should have about 3 1/2 cups).

Meanwhile, coat a 13"x9" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

To Make the Sauce:
Stem the chile peppers, tear open, and remove and discard the ribs and seeds (Steve advises wearing rubber gloves when handling, but I didn't either time and was fine.  These aren't very spicy at all.  But do as you like.)  In the same saucepan you cooked the chicken in, combine the chile peppers and 3 cups of the reserved chicken cooking liquid.  Let soak for 5 minutes.  Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until softened.  (we somehow missed this soaking step the first time I made this and although it turned out wonderful, comparing the two I like the soaked version better.  It brought out all of the wonderful flavor of the chili's).

Transfer the chile peppers and 2 3/4 cups of the cooking liquid to a blender.  Add the tomatoes, onion pieces, garlic, cilantro, and oregano.  Puree until smooth.  The sauce should be thick but pourable; add a little more stock if necessary.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Pour 1/3 of the sauce into the prepared baking dish.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

Bring the remaining chicken liquid to a boil in the same saucepan over high heat.  Add the tortillas, one at a time, and cook for 10 seconds, or until soft and pliable. Remove to a plate and keep warm.  

Too Assemble:
Place 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken on each tortilla.  Top with 1 teaspoon of the minced onions and roll into a tube.  (If the tortilla splits don't worry about it.  You won't even noticed after they are baked.)  Arrange the enchiladas seam side down, in the prepared baking dish and spoon the remaining sauce on top.  Sprinkle with cheese.  

Bake the enchiladas for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling hot.  

**those yummy looking Mexican Jalepenos are homemade, care of Kathleen Jordan.  They were a perfect condiment to go along with the enchiladas.  Thanks again!

Classic Black Beans 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 oz. can Black Beans 
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. oregano
1 packet Sazon Goya without Annatto (found in the Mexican isle of your grocery store.  I see it everywhere.  You will have lots of this left for future recipes.)  
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion. peppers and garlic; cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  

I have tried quite a few black bean recipes, but this one found on the back label of the Goya brand black beans is our most favorite.  It is super easy and full of flavor.  These are great served over white rice!

Chunky Guacamole
2 ripe Haas Avocados
1/2 red onion, chopped into medium sized chunks
1 tomato, seeded and chopped into medium sized chunks
1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 lime, juiced
corse salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
a few dashes Tabasco
Half and seed your avocado.  Scoop out flesh and mash with fork.  I like to leave mine chunky.  Add onion, lime juice, salt and pepper and mix well.  Add your jalapeno slowly, starting with half, tasting every now and then to make sure you get it to the temperature you are happy with.  Same with the Tobasco sauce. Once you get the flavor you like, add the tomatoes and carefully stir.  
Serve as a dip with chips or on the side as a dip for your enchiladas.  We did both.  This is one of my guilty pleasures in life.  I could easily eat an entire bowl if not careful!

Thanks again Jess and Curtis for a lovely evening.  We had a wonderful time and we hope you did too.  Let's do it again soon!  And thanks for bringing the delicious dessert.  Yummmmmm.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Adrianne Bailey

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Adrianne Bailey
Adrianne and I at our friend Jessica's 30th Hippy Themed Birthday Party

Do you  have a friend that you have known you your whole life?  One that has seen you grow up into the person you are today- and still likes you?  One that you love even more now after all the bumps, up-downs, joys, laughs, cry's and brutal honesty.  One that is way more family then many blood relatives are.  Because your DNA might not be a match, but your souls do.  I am so blessed to have that friend in Adrianne.  We met when we were in kindergarten and looking back on my childhood it is hard to think of a time when she wasn't a part of it!  We went along on each others family vacations, spent the night at the others' house for not just a night here and there, but days on end. There was a short time when we drifted apart, for no real reason except attending different schools. A few years drifted in between us, but right after graduation we reconnected like no time had past.  My mom has a beautiful way of explaining this.  She says that in real, true friendships the space between seeing each other, no matter how long, is just a comma in your life.  So you never have to start all over, you just take a pause and begin again.  So for todays segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I bring you my BFF, Adrianne Bailey.  

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Stir-fry and curries! Cooking with veggies makes me happy, and makes me feel good about what I’m cooking. I love that I can always swap veggies that I love for those I’m not too fond of. I also love that I can throw ingredients together at the last minute and have a fabulous dish to serve to my family and friends. These are always great if I’m in a hurry or don’t really feel like cooking.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Meatloaf!  I don’t eat beef, so I don’t make this too often, but when I make it for my husband I can never get it right! My turkey meatloaf on the other hand is fantastic

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Momocho is definitely my favorite local restaurant. I’ve never had a bad meal there. Fabulous taquitos and the best margarita I’ve ever had. One restaurant that I’m dying to try out is the new Chocolate Bar restaurant that just opened downtown.

You are hosting a dinner party, what your top 5 Dinner Party Songs?
I like to play a random mix depending on the mood of the party and who the guests are.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
I’d choose either my dad’s special stewed chicken with mashed potatoes and corn, OR as many crab legs as I can fit into my stomach!

What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m having trouble sticking to just one book, so I’m bouncing between 3.  I’m reading “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist" by Michael J. Fox, “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”  by Janelle Brown, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Definitely my Magic Bullet!  It’s great for everything from making smoothies, to chopping nuts, to pureeing fruits and veggies. It’s also super easy to clean up, and doesn’t take up a ton of room on my kitchen counter.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
My signature go to dish would have to be chicken fajitas, I found an awesome recipe a few years ago, and have added and subtracted ingredients to make it my own.

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?
I’d have to say my family and friends. I couldn’t imagine living in a place without the ones I love the most. I also love our selection of markets and fun local restaurants.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
I have 2 that I can remember always loving as a child. My first favorite childhood meal is Stewed Chicken. My family always looked forward to this dinner, and my brother and I still request it for our special birthday dinners. I’ve only cooked it 1 time in my life. It just tastes so much better when my dad makes it. My second favorite childhood meal is friend noodles. My mom always made them for me in place of regular spaghetti, and I still make them as an adult. It’s my favorite way to eat pasta.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
That’s a tough one since I love so many movies. I think that I’d have to say my 3 favorite movies are Top Gun, A Christmas Story, and Failure to Launch.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Aldi, Giant Eagle, and sometimes Target. I try to do as little running around as possible when it comes to grocery shopping, but the deals at some stores are just too good to pass up!

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I love rich foods; anything with butter, cheese, sour cream…those are definitely my downfall when it comes to food.  Also dessert, there’s ALWAYS room for dessert!!!

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I’d like to start using my crock pot more.  I love the way slow cooker meals taste, and how easy they are. I always forget about using it though!

I love the fact that almost every time we get together with our families we do Dinner Nights In. Sure it is fun to go out to eat, but there is something so cool about trying out new recipes on each other. We have so many fun memories thanks to this (fondue night... eating stir-fry outside on your deck in the balmy summer nights... homemade pizzas... and one of your specialties- desserts! You definitely make some of the best!...goodness the list goes on!) Luckily I think that we have been almost 100% successful. I think we run on the same philosophy, if it stinks we can always order take out! So my big question to you is in all of your entertaining, have there been any times that you made a dish and it didn't turn out the way you had hoped? What did you do?! Any disasters you were able to fix on the fly or did you just "order take out"?
Wow, we sure do have a great time when we have our monthly dinner get-togethers.  Lots of terrific memories, and food that has been out of this world!  I’m trying to think back to all of the entertaining that I’ve done, and meals that I’ve cooked for family and friends, and I don’t think that there is a meal that I’ve completely screwed up while entertaining (hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself)!

I can remember making a birthday cake for my father in law, that tasted wonderful, but looked absolutely awful. I was making snicker-doodle flavored layer cake, with this special frosting. My layers were crooked, I didn’t have enough frosting, and when I did frost the cake, chunks of it started falling off. Ugh, what a disaster! We ended up making due with what the cake looked like, and ate it anyways. The cake was amazing, if you could get past what it looked like.

I’ve definitely messed up many times while cooking for Matt though!  On the occasion that I do make a disaster out of a meal, we either just find something random in the fridge to eat, make breakfast for dinner, or run out and grab something. 

Citrus Soy Stir Fry
(Rachael Ray)

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup stock, chicken or vegetable
1/2 cup Tamari - eyeball the amount
1 inch ginger root, peeled
1 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoons coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons high temp oil such as safflower, peanut or vegetable
1 pound thinly sliced chicken
1 cup shelled edamame
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 pound pea pods, halved on angle
1 small bunch of thin scallions, thinly sliced on an angle 2 inch pieces, whites and greens

In medium pot, combine chicken stock, tamari, knob ginger and orange marmalade.  Boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in juice from lemon.

Meanwhile, heat canola oil in skillet and cook chicken.  When chicken is cooked, set aside on plate. In same skillet you used for chicken, cook veggies.  When they are almost done, add chicken and sauce.

Serve over noodles.

**Veggies in this recipe can be substituted with any vegetable of your choice. More vegetables (leeks, water chestnuts, zucchini, mini corn, etc can also be added in addition to those in recipe.**

Thank you so much Adrianne for taking the time to do this interview for me! I loved reading your answers.  Here's to the rest of our life long friendship!  I can't wait to see what the future will bring us.  And for all of you looking for a super yummy and super easy recipe, Adrianne's Citrus Soy Stir Fry is a perfect one to try.  This was one of the fun recipe's she made for us when Scott and I came over for dinner one night.  It is delish!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Great Idea for a Date Night~ Loretta Paganini School of Cooking

For Valentine's Day this year Scott and I celebrated by having a Romantic Night in Paris....  not the real thing (although wouldn't that be great if we could just hop on a plane and go to Paris for the night.... ahhhh) but it did combine some of my favorite things: cooking, enjoying amazing food and spending time with my handsome husband!  We participated in a cooking class at Loretta Paganini School of Cooking.  If you have never done this before, hurry over to her website and sign up for a class right now!  I can't think of a more special night to have with you other half.  This would also make for a great Girl's Night Out, or some good Mother-Daughter Bonding Time.... oh the possibilities are endless!  They offer all sorts of classes: from hands off, where you get to watch a cooking demonstration (and eating all that the chef's cook for you), to class participation, to full hands on.  This way no matter what your cooking background is, or how dirty you want to get in the kitchen they have something just right for you.  I have taken part in each type of class and they are all a blast.  My personal favorite are the Hand's On classes.  I love leaving knowing I learned a bunch of cool new stuff for the kitchen and how fun is it when you get to sit, eat and enjoy a spectacular meal that you just made yourself.  It is pretty cool.  Just make sure you come hungry because you will be eating throughout the entire class and then you get to sit down to a meal after the class is finished.  Many times you will even get to take some of your own leftovers home because there is just so much food you couldn't possibly finish it in one night.

On Friday, Scott and I took part in one of their Cooking with a Partner classes, A Romantic Night in Paris.  For these classes the whole group is broken into smaller teams and each team prepares a course for the entire group to then enjoy at the end of the night at dinner.  You get to start off unwinding a bit, enjoying the wine or beer that you brought (yes, it is byob unless you want coffee or water) and the appetizers they set out for you, and get to know the other people you will be cooking with.  Then the head chef will come out, greet you and fill you in on what you will be doing tonight.  And then of course, break you into teams.  This evening we had both Loretta Paganini herself and Chef Tim McCoy.  They are both a blast to work with, definitely two of my favorites so we totally lucked out get both of them in one night.  Here is our menu for tonight:

Escalope of Salmon Roulade with Leek Beurre Blanc
Cream of Asparagus Soup with Chive Oil and Creme Fraiche
Frisee Salad with Vegetable Confetti in Tarragon Vinaigrette
Beef Filet Medallions with Mushroom Ragout
Gratin de Pommes de Terr
Pear Almond Tarte Tatin

Scott and I chose to prepare the Escalope of Salmon Roulade with Leek Beurre Blac.  We wanted to try making something new and different then what we would normally make at home.  I went picture crazy, so I will just let my photographs tell you about the rest of the evening...

click on the picture to enlarge

As you can see Scott got to be the fish guy.  He filleted the fish and then spread the roasted red pepper, shiitaki mushroom, spinach and shallot mixture onto the salmon.  He then dropped the rolled fish into the water bath for it to poach.  I was the sauce girl and I assisted in the plating.  I made the Leek Beurre Blanc sauce, which is a wonderfully delicious butter leek sauce.  Absolute Heaven.  After the salmon was poached, we very carefully sliced the fish and placed it onto a toast points and then topped it with a bit of the beurre blanc sauce.  This meal was so wonderful, and now after making it once in class we have decided that we will make it at home on our own really soon.  It wasn't very difficult at all, but really makes a statement on the plate and in your mouth.  

As our main course we enjoyed the Filet of Beef Medallions with the Mushroom Ragout and the Gratin de Pommes de Terre, which is a sliced potato gratin.  It was so fabulous!  Scott and I were really impressed that they were able to cook all 22 filet's to a perfect medium rare.  That couldn't be easy!  

This evening was great fun, and I am already checking out the class listing to see what I want to learn next... homemade pierogi's, knife skills, mozzarella workshop, homemade pasta....?!  Aghh!  How am I going to choose?!!    

I was just a little excited!!  

So go on, do something new on your next date night and take a class with Loretta.  They are great memory makers and plus you just might learn something.  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cake Pops

For Jackson's birthday this year I wanted to do something a little bit different for his birthday cake, so when I saw these adorable cake pops on Bakerella's website I knew I just had to give them a try!  These just seemed like the perfect dessert: easy for little hands to hold and not a lot of cake left to waste. Plus for adults, who generally don't want a whole piece of cake themselves, can enjoy that sweet little end of the meal without feeling like they went overboard.

First you take a box of cake mix and bake as directed for a 9x13 pan.  After you bake the cake, let cool completely.  I chose to bake it in the evening and let it cool over night.  Once cool, crumble into a large bowl and mix with about 3/4 of a tub or store bought cream cheese frosting.  I use the back of a large spoon, but Bakerella suggests even using your fingers.  This can get a bit messy, but no biggie.  That is part of the fun in baking, right?!   Roll mixture into quarter-sized balls and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with waxed paper or a Silpat.  You should get anywhere between 50-65.
Chill for several hours in the fridge or about 15-20 minutes in the freezer.  Be sure not to freeze, you just want them to get super cold.  Meanwhile, melt your chocolate or candy melts in the microwave or double boiler according to package directions.  Dip the very tips of the lollipop sticks into the melted chocolate and insert them just past halfway into your cake balls.
I found this whole process worked best if I kept all of the cake balls in the fridge and just pulled out what I needed.  As they warmed up they softened and started slipping off the sticks.  Next is the fun part!  Very gently dip your cake pops into the melted chocolate while slowly twirling and tapping on the side of the bowl to remove the excess chocolate.  My first ten or so seemed to take me ages to get just right, but then I got a great system down and I flew through the rest.  Make sure you cover the ball completely and the very top portion of the stick to help secure it.
While the chocolate is still warm add your sprinkles, candy crunches or whatever you want on the outside for extra yumminess.  Insert stick into a large piece of styrofoam and let harden in the fridge.  The first few I did I was letting them cool on the counter and they got a white spottiness to them.  Once I moved them to cool in the fridge the candy melts hardened smooth and silky.
Once they are completely cool, they can be stored in an airtight container for a few days on the counter or even longer in the fridge.  


These were a huge hit and I am already thinking of other reasons I have to make these again!  There are so many different options and flavors you can do.  Be sure to check out Bakerella's website so you can see all of her recipes and the many amazing pictures of her own Cake Pops- they super inspiring!

 I think these would be the perfect dessert for a baby shower, don't you?!  So ladies, start popping out those babies so I have another reason to make them!  *wink, wink*

*Because of being so super busy in preparation to Jackson's birthday parties I didn't get an opportunity to post this past Friday's, Feasting with Friends.  Please be sure to check back this week when I start up again to hear all about my wonderfully amazing friend Adrianne Bailey.  

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Baked Eggs

Creamy, dippy, and oh so lovely to look at.  This is a charming way to change up breakfast in your home.  

4 eggs (two for each ramekin)
1 tablespoon cream or half and half
1/2 teaspoon butter
freshly grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2 slices bacon, lightly cooked

Preheat oven to 375.  In a teakettle, boil water to fill your baking dish. You are going to cook these in a water bath so the eggs cook more evenly throughout.  So you want to line a baking dish with a folded paper towel (so the ramekins don't slide around and also so they don't sit directly on the hot dish).  Butter the ramekins and season with salt and paper, place inside baking dish.  Fill each ramekin with 1/2 tablespoon cream.  When water boils, carefully pour the water into the baking dish so it comes up half the sides of the ramekins.  Place baking dish in the oven and cook until the cream starts to bubble a bit.  Remove dish from oven and coil your bacon around the sides of the ramekins.  (This is how my recipe suggests, but after eating this I think I would crumble the bacon on the bottom of the dish instead.  Once they were cooked it was a little tricky cutting the bacon with your fork.  You almost needed a knife). Very carefully crack your eggs into the ramekins, season with a little more salt and pepper, top with remaining cream a small dollop of butter and grated parmesan cheese.  Place back in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the egg is opaque bit still jiggles slightly in the ramekin.  The egg will continue to cook once they are removed from the oven, so be careful not to overcook.  Serve with toast so you can sop up the creamy-wonderfulness of the eggs.

Cooking Note:
Today when I made these, I didn't have any half and half on hand nor real butter. So I tried them out using 1% milk and margarine.  And guess what, they were wonderful!  Sure they weren't quite as rich then if I used the full fat options.  But they were still completely creamy and delicious- and now a wonderful low fat recipe!  Awesome discovery!

**pay no attention to the tiny red dot on my egg.  It wasn't a bad egg, but merely a dot of food coloring.  I somehow got a dot of it in my butter when I made the cornflake cookies.  I have issues with food coloring.  I can never seem to keep it where it supposed to go, but instead on my fingers, countertop and now my butter.  

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Retro Recipe: Seven Up in Milk

Ok so who is brave enough to try it?!  I love how they call it "wholesome".  
Too funny.

Kitchen Tip of the Day- Reheating Pizza

Love leftover pizza, but hate the soggy crust that usually comes along with it once you reheat it in the microwave?  Me too!  So for today I wanted to share one of my favorite little tricks to make left over pizza taste as good the next time around as it did the first....  Reheat it in a frying pan!  Simple enough, right?

Spray a little Pam in your nonstick pan, turn the heat on low (for you don't want your crust to burn before your cheese is melted) and then put a lid on it to keep the steam inside making your cheese nice and gooey.   Check on the bottom of the pizza every now and then so you can adjust your heat if it is getting too dark too quickly.

This method takes a touch longer (usually about 5 minutes to reheat, verses 2) but having a nice crunchy crust on day two makes it oh so worth the extra 3 minutes!  This tip is particularly helpful for thin crust and homemade pizzas that don't hold up in the fridge as well and get soggy faster from the added moisture.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Sandy Lepley

One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”  

~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

In all the world if you could ever hope for the perfect Mother-in-law, you would only be lucky enough to get mine.  Not only is Sandy kind, modest and completely compassionate of others feelings, but she is also really fun!   I often think about how wonderful it is to have her be my other "Mom".  I have never gotten the feeling that I am just "married in" to her family.  She embraced me right away and through the years she has really turned into a friend, as well as my Mother-in-law.  I love the time we have chatting about girl stuff, family memories and of course food!  She is fearless in the kitchen and is always excited about trying out new recipes.  She has a famous motto that always makes me smile (for we have yet actually needed to do this) "If it stinks we can always order Pizza!"  What a great attitude to have in the kitchen!  I love it!  So for todays segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am honored to introduce you to Sandy Lepley.

Sandy Lepley
This photo was from a super fun "Big Night Out" at Loretta Paganini's School of Cooking

What is your favorite thing to cook?  
I like planning and cooking brunch.  It’s easy to do; so many recipes can be made the night before and then pulled from the fridge when it’s time to bake.  

How about your least favorite thing to cook? 
I’m intimidated by anything that requires yeast and/or a rolling pin.  I’m very thankful for ready-made pie crust.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out? 
This is a tough 2-part question.  I can’t say I have a favorite restaurant but when I’m in the mood for a particular meal that will dictate the restaurant choice.  For example, for Mexican food I like Cozumel, for Italian food it’s Osteria, for a quick burger and beer I like The Courtyard.  Once upon a time my girlfriends and I tried to eat at all the hottest new restaurants.  Currently there isn’t one on my radar screen.

You are hosting a dinner party, what are your top 5 Dinner Party Songs? 
My dinner party music varies by the guests who are coming to dinner so the music can be anything from jazz, oldies, country or classic rock.  Personally, I like jazz and Latin music best.  

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?  
My last meal might either be pizza or spaghetti and meatballs.  Since it would be my last meal, I certainly wouldn’t feel guilty about eating the whole pie or finishing a big bowl of pasta.  While we’re at it, let’s throw in some wonderful crusty Italian bread and Tiramisu, too!  

What are you currently reading? 
Because my job requires me to be on my computer all day, I don’t look forward to reading in the evenings.  Usually, I read a book or two while on vacation.  

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? 
My new favorite kitchen gadget is a little citrus juicer that I found in a kitchen store in Canada.  This little thing collects the seeds while the juice runs into a little pouring cup. The whole thing isn’t much bigger than a lemon.  I have a little silicone mixing spoon that I use often for getting stuff out of jars, cans or scraping small dishes.

Do you have a signature go-to dish? 
Because I’m always trying new recipes I don’t really have a signature dish, but the recipes I don’t vary much are chili, flank steak, clam chowder and holiday mashed potatoes.  

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland? 
My favorite things about Cleveland, without a doubt, are the theaters and the metro parks.  In addition to Playhouse Square and the Cleveland Playhouse, there are fantastic community theaters all around the suburbs, especially The Beck Center in Lakewood.  The Emerald Necklace around the Greater Cleveland area is absolutely beautiful and I enjoy several hiking trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you still cook it now as an adult?  
I have lots of favorite meals from my childhood and my meatloaf and chili are much like my mom’s. If I could have two recipes from my childhood it would be Grandma Turnbull’s mayonnaise and Grandma Ungar’s fresh green bean soup.

Top 3 Movies of all time?  
Everyone knows I love a “happy Hollywood ending.”  So it’s no wonder that I enjoy romantic comedies.  After much thought, my top three movies are Sabrina, Roman Holiday and Love Actually.

Where do you do your grocery shopping? 
Hands down Heinen’s is my #1 favorite grocery store.  Since there’s a Marc’s within walking distance to my house, it’s a great place for the “I forgot to get…” items. 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?  
A sack of potato chips and Rosati’s frozen custard.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?   
Yes, I would like to grill a duck, a beef brisket and make a lobster roll.

You host some of the best parties, always coming up with fun themes and a full menu to go along with- you are fearless in the kitchen, always trying new things.  I love that about you!  Can you tell me about one of your most favorite parties you hosted, menu included of course- if you can remember!   
My top favorite theme party was the Italian Cooking party.  Invites were sent to friends requesting them to bring a particular food item and to dress Italian (whatever that meant to them).  Once gathered, the party guests were divided into two groups, each group chose a Head Chef and each group was given time to come up with a menu from a list of available food items.  Each group had 90 minutes to make an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Also, each team had to set the table for the other team; even that became a competition.  The fun ensued as everyone scrambled to use the grills, oven, and microwave.  While Louis Prima, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra music played, we all enjoyed a very creative and not so bad dinner.  That evening was full of laughs.  

Another favorite cooking party was a Valentine’s Day cooking party. Couples were separated and put into teams and each team blindly chose a recipe for the meal.  The menu was Mixed Field Greens with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Salmon Chanted Evening Over a Bed of Lusty Mashed Potatoes and Strawberry-Rhubarb “Courting” Cake.  

Salmon Chanted Evening On a Bed of Lusty Mashed Potatoes 
(created by Robin Benzlé)

3 large potatoes, peeled and chunked
3 T unsalted butter
3 T light cream or half-and-half
1/4 tsp each ground black pepper, cayenne pepper and white pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 salmon fillet, about 1-1/2 #
1/2 c white dry vermouth
Juice of 1 lemon 
1 T butter
1/2 c cashews, coarsely chopped
2 T brown sugar
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

In large saucepan, cover potatoes with water, bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes, or   until fork-tender.  Remove from heat, drain off water and immediately add butter and cream.  Beat with electric mixer until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

Heat oven to broil.  Brush roasting pan with half the oil, place salmon in pan, and brush top of fish with remaining oil.  Pour wine over, then lemon juice.  Broil in center of oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until inside of salmon is flaky but not dry (do not turn).  Meanwhile melt butter in small skillet.  Add cashews and saute 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Stir in brown sugar, cook 1 minute and remove from heat.

Arrange warmed mashed potatoes on 2 dinner plates.  Cut salmon in half and place each half on top of potatoes.  Garnish with cashews and border with tomato wedges.

Makes 2 very generous servings.

(Note:  Adjust accordingly for number of servings required.)

*Please check out this link to find the recipe for the Strawberry-Rhubarb "Courting" Cake

Amie, this was great fun.  Thank you for asking me to be one of your featured guests.  I enjoy reading your website.

Sandy thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions and for your fun recipes!  I am super inspired to have a cooking theme night party at my house once the weather warms up.  Your party sounds like it was a blast!  Now I just have to figure out how to get on the guest list next time... *ahem... nudge, nudge*  :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cornflake Cookie Hearts

February I was in charge of bringing something yummy to share to my monthly MUMs group (Mom's Uplifting Moms).  I usually bring an egg dish of some sort, but as I said in my last post, grocery shopping still hadn't been done and I didn't have anything good to mix into my eggs.  And just plain old baked eggs with nothing yummy like cheese, peppers, or sausage is oh so boring.  So with a little brainstorming (and scouring around my pantry for ingredients) I decided to make one of my favorite cookies from my childhood.  We would always make them with my Grandma Trapp at Christmas time, and it was something my sister and I would always look forward to.  They are traditionally died green and made into wreaths with Red Hot's posing as berries, but since Valentine's Day is right around the corner I was inspired to make cookie hearts instead.

Cornflake Cookie Hearts

1 bag large marshmallows
1/3 cup butter or margarine
6 cups cornflakes
a couple dashes food coloring, in this instance I used red for the hearts
Pam, or other nonstick cooking spray (olive oil will work too if you don't have Pam onhand)

In a large pot under low heat melt your butter until completely smooth.  Add your marshmallows and continually stir until all of them are melted and smooth.  Add a few drops of your red food coloring and mix well until completely blended and is the color of your liking.  Remove from heat and add your cornflakes.  Mix well.  Using a small measuring cup sprayed with Pam, spoon out your cookies and place onto a Silpat or wax paper/ parchment paper that has also been sprayed with Pam.  You will want to move kind of quickly so your batch doesn't begin to harden in the pot.  While the dollops of cornflakes are still warm, spray fingers with Pam and carefully form your mounds into little hearts.  Let cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container.  If you need to stack, place be sure to lay parchment paper in between the layers so they don't stick together.

I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shrimp Potstickers

Oh how I love Asian food. I could eat it almost everyday and absolutely not tire of it.  One of my favorite appetizers are Potstickers/ Steamed Dumplings.  I love getting them at the Asian Market downtown and even Trader Joe's has great one's in their frozen section.  But up until the other night I never attempted making them myself.  I really, really needed to get some grocery shopping done, but in all of this snow I didn't really want to make the treck to the market.  I just so happened to have shrimp in my freezer, wanton wrappers in the fridge, a handful of veggies in the crisper and loads of Asian sauces, I figured tonight would be as good a night as any.  And guess what- they were amazing!!  I looked at a few recipes for inspiration, but then played around with them and made this one up according to what I happened to have on hand in my kitchen and pantry.  Scott was super impressed and we both gave these a 5 stars, it's a definite do again recipe.

For the Potstickers
1lb shrimp, cleaned and devined
1 stalk celery, chopped including the leaves (I used this instead of nappa cabbage, it worked really well)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
half an onion, chopped (if I had green onions I would have used these instead.  Use what you have onhand)
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 teasoons fresh ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon cilantro
2 Tablspoons Soy Vay's Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 8oz Package Wonton Wrappers or Gyoza Wrappers

For the Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce, to taste (I like Sriracha best)
1/4 teasoon Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
a pinch of sugar, more if you like a sweeter sauce

Whisk all the ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside.  The flavors will come together as it sits.

Take a half pound of the shrimp and put it in a food processor along with the celery (or nappa cabbage), carrots, bean sprouts, onion, ginger, cilantro, Teriyaki Sauce and sesame oil.  Pulse for 20 seconds or until smooth in consistency (you want a slight chunkiness, not soupy). Take the remaining half a pound of shrimp and chop into small chunks, then stir it into the mixture.
Now it is time to begin filling your wrappers!  I began with three wonton wrappers at one time and moved up to ten at a time.  Do what works for you.  As you go, you will get a rhythm.  Place just over a teaspoon of filling just off center of the wrapper.  Have a small bowl of water and a clean towel handy.  Moisten the edges of the wrappers with water, fold wrapper corner to corner to form a triangle.  Smooth the seam being sure not to let any filling to come out or they will fall apart while cooking.  Take a fork and gently press all the way around the seam to help seal and also to create a decorative edge.
I like to spray both sides of the dumplings with Pam so they won't stick to each other on the plate, or the pan when frying.  
Heat 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (not olive oil, it won't be able to get hot enough without burning) in a large skillet.  Add the dumplings and fry until golden brown, about 1 and a half minutes.  Add 1/2 cup hot water, partially cover and cook 4-5 minutes.  Move to a paper towel lined plate and drain slightly. Transfer to an oven-safe plate, cover with foil and keep warm in a low oven while you cook your next batch.

When ready to eat, transfer to a clean plate and serve with dipping sauce.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

To go organic or not to go organic, that is the question....

Well, if I absolutely could (and in the summer months I do a darn good job of it) I would buy nothing but organic produce.  The pesticides that go onto so many conventional fruits and vegetables is so high and so bad for you I have a hard time bringing myself to buy them.  Some time's though, it isn't always so easy- especially in the dead of winter.  I like to use this guide (below) as a reminder of which fruits and vegetables are super full of pesticides and which ones are on the safer side.  By now I have this list pretty well memorized, but I still carry around one that I printed and cut out in my wallet for reference.  Also a great thing to remember is if there is a skin that you will be peeling off and throwing away (NOT EATING) you can save by buying those conventional, for example oranges (keep in mind if you plan on using the zest of the oranges or lemons.  If so choose organic), bananas, onions, corn, etc.  If you will be eating the outside (apples, pears, strawberries-the worst!, peaches, etc) then please choose organic.  You might pay a little bit more, but isn't your health worth it?

If you would like to do a little more reading on the benefits of choosing organic please check out these websites.  They are eye-opening!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Scrambled Eggs with Feta and Green Onions

Scrambled Eggs with Feta and Green Onions

4 eggs
4 teaspoons milk (one teaspoon for each egg)
2 green onions sliced
2 Tablespoons crumbled feta
1 Tablespoon butter
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the eggs and milk together for about 2 minutes.  This will make sure your eggs are light, fluffy and super yummy.  The American Egg Board describes well beaten eggs as being "frothy and evenly colored".  It takes about 2 minutes to get them like this.  Everyone will ask you how you got your eggs so fluffy and pretty looking!

In a nonstick frying pan melt the butter until the very last of it is just liquifying.  Add the green onions and saute just until they are soft, but still retaining their bright green color.  Do not let them start to brown.  Pour in the eggs.  Do not scramble right away.  Just as they are beginning to set, using a spatula or a flat wooden spoon, push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute the runny parts.  This is a tip that I learned from watching Martha Stewart.  It really is the perfect way to cook the eggs slowly and still get a nice consistency.  When eggs are almost done, add the feta and season with pepper.  No salt is needed because the feta is salty enough.  Cook until the cheese is melted.  

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Kathleen Jordan

 "One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Kathleen Jordan

For this segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am featuring my cousin, Kathleen Jordan.  She was born and raised here in Cleveland, and I think if you ask her, this is where a huge part of her heart still  remains.  After lots of moving around to different parts of the country, due to her husband Rick's job,  they finally found themselves living in the beautiful Atlanta, Georgia.  It might not be Cleveland, but at least she gets good bragging rights for the early first signs of spring- we get a phone call each year letting us know the daffodils are blooming their bright yellow while we are usually still blanketed in snow.  Although we like to give her a hard time back, it always keeps me hopefully knowing that our Spring is just around the corner!  Kathleen is silly and fun and probably the best girlfriend you would ever want to have for her loyalty and caring runs deep.  Really the only fault I can think of is that she lives so far away.  Hopefully though this won't be forever- Cleveland loves and misses you guys!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
I think my favorite things to cook change with the seasons.  In the winter, I enjoy cooking more comfort foods like soups, stews and roasts.  But in the spring and summer, I try to use my oven as little as possible because it makes it unbearably hot in my Atlanta kitchen.  So, during those months we grill, saute or stir fry.  I have access to a wonderful local farmers market (Suwanee Farmer's Market).  It runs every Saturday from the first week in May all through October.  My weekly menus are inspired by the current harvest and recipes shared by the farmers.   I also like to make appetizer - party foods -- something I get from my mother....

What about your least favorite thing to cook?
Roast Turkey.  I don't really know why, but I just don't like to prepare and roast it.  I'll bet I can count on one hand how many times I have roasted one myself since I have been married.  In fact, the first time I roasted one, I cooked it upside down!

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one that you are dying to try out?
My favorite local (neighborhood) restaurant is Marlow's Tavern in Duluth, GA. It is a local chain that is owned and operated by the executive chef.  They have a trendy menu that changes with the seasons.  One I am dying to try is the Woodfire Grill It is the restaurant of Kevin Gillespie (one of the Top Chef Finalists).  But since his newly found popularity, there is a 3 month wait list!  Now back in Cleveland, I am dying to try one of Michael Symon's restaurants.

You are hosting a dinner party, what are your top 5 Dinner Party Songs?
I don't really have a top 5 songs. We usually pick music based on the evenings menu and guests.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
I would choose either a lobster and fillet dinner or pizza (but only if it were Antonio's)

What are you currently reading?
Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It  - And Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon.  Other than my cookbooks, I am not really reading anything at the moment.  I am looking for a good book though, so I am open to suggestions.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My food processor.  Rick bought me one about 3 years ago. And I let it sit for about a year before I even took it out of the box.  Now I wonder what I ever did without it all those years.  Also, I like my microplane.

Do you have a signature go to dish?
I don't really think so.  I love to try new things all the time.  I was blessed with a husband and 2 boys who are not picky eaters.  They are always open to try new things.

What do you miss most about Cleveland and is there anything you always try to make sure to do whenever you visit?
First and foremost I miss family.  I miss the holiday's and family get-togethers. I miss being at the "House of Performing Arts" and just sitting in your mom's kitchen having tea.  I miss the change of seasons and the snow.  I miss the West Side Market and Marc's.  I miss the ethnicity of the city.  We went to Little Italy last time I was home and it reminded me of the pocket neighborhoods with the local restaurants (not chains), deli's and bakeries.  There is nothing like that here in Atlanta.  What do I make sure I always do?  Rick said that is a no brainer.  Antonio's Pizza is a must.  And I always enjoy a visit to the West Side Market..

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you make it yourself now as an adult?
Perogis.  My mom makes excellent perogis.  She makes them small but full of filling and the dough is so tender.  I made them with her only twice.  But last October, I decided to overcome my fears and make them on my own.  After about a dozen phone calls to her each step of the way and 6 hours later with flour in my hair, I had 125 perogis.  I was pleased with the outcome and my family gave me a thumbs up.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
I only have 2.  Sound of Music (Your mom used to play this soundtrack on Saturday mornings when I was little.  It was our cleaning music at Babchi's house) and Gone with the Wind.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Rick would tell you that I don't do the grocery shopping.  And it is true for about 75 percent of the time.  I know that is weird for someone who loves to cook, but I honestly don't like to do the grocery shopping.  I do however make the list!  So he shops at (and I do too when I have to go) The Fresh Market - they sell local and USA produce and also have local meat and seafood, Publix and Costco -- And when in season - the Farmers Market (and I do love to go there each week!)

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Pizza and chips and salsa or dip.

Do you have any Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Yes. Two years ago, in a Bon Appetit Magazine there was a recipe to make your own homemade Corned Beef It takes 9 days to cure and brine .  This year I am determined to make it for St. Patrick's Day.  Also, I want to go back to baking yeast breads like I used to.  I had gotten quite good at it and had even won a blue ribbon for my egg bread at the Montgomery County Fair (Dayton, OH) when I lived there.  When I went back to work full time, I got away from baking and am really rusty now!

One of my most favorite things to get in the mail (or at least c/o the Trapp House) is your absolutely amazing box of wonderful homemade canned goods.  You have so many neat ones, things you wouldn't find except maybe in a speciality market.  When did you get into canning and where have you gotten some of these recipes?  And lately is there any canning I can do without buying a Pressure Cooker?

In the south they call it "Putting Up"  I started canning a little with my mom when I was first married.  We would can basic things like tomatoes, peaches and peach butter and applesauce.  Your mom canned too and made these things called Dilly Beans (green beans that taste like a dill pickle) which I loved.  But, it was years before I started doing it on my own.  About 5 years ago, we discovered the Suwanee Farmers Market.  It is all local Georgia farmers.  Their produce is typically picked the day before market.  It was there that I really got my inspiration.  I wanted to preserve these amazing fruits and vegetables to enjoy the year round.  So I started with recipes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.   When things started turning out, I collected more books and recipes and became more adventurous.  I also started talking to the farmers and they began sharing some of their family canning recipes with me.  Where else can you get a recipe for Corn Cob Jelly!  I started keeping a canning diary; dating and notating what I made and feedback - if it was good or not.  This became an excellent reference for the following year, as it prepared me for what was in season when and allowed me to plan ahead.   And yes you can preserve without a Pressure Caner.  The recipes I currently use are preserved using the Water Bath Canning method.  This method safely preserves high acidic foods.  Jams, jellies and fruits are naturally acidic. Pickles, chutneys, salsas, relishes and other condiments contain naturally low acidic foods and the addition of an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice; which then makes them safe for water bath canning.  Pressure canning is complex, but something I hope to try soon -- that could just be another culinary resolution!   Home canning can seem like a lot of work, and sometimes when I am halfway through cutting all my beans the exact same size for dilly beans, I wonder why I ever bought those extra few pounds???   But when all is done, knowing that each ingredient was prepared by hand and the freshness of the harvest is captured beneath the lid - it's absolutely worth it.

My recipe -- Party Foods.  My mom was the queen of party foods.  She was always coming up with new recipe ideas and creative ways to serve them.  Two recipes I remember and sometimes make are Bacon Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes and Sausage Pizza on Party Rye.  Today, I find myself being just like her.  Here are 2 of my favorite appetizers .  One is my husband's favorite and a recipe I used to bring to family get togethers when I lived back home - Mozzarella Cheese Dip.  And the other is one of my new found favorites - Spicy Shrimp Cakes with Corn Salsa.

16 oz Shredded Mozzarella
1 Cup Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dried Minced Onion

2 Tbsp Chopped Green Chili's 
Dash Garlic Salt 
Dash Worcestershire Sauce

Preheat Oven to 350. Mix all ingredients and spread evenly in oven safe dish.  Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve hot with Triscuit Crackers (these crackers work best -- they hold up to the cheese when dipped!) 

1 lb Medium Shrimp - peeled and deviened
4 tsp Olive Oil (or as needed)
1 small Red Pepper - finely chopped
1 Garlic Clove - minced
1/4 Cup Green Onions - thinly sliced white and green parts
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise

1 Tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
1 1/2 tsp Hot Pepper Sauce - or less to adjust heat to your taste 
1/2 tsp Sugar 
1/4 tsp Salt 
1 large Egg 
1/4 cup Cilantro - finely chopped 
3/4 cup Panko Bread Crumbs 

Pulse the shrimp in a food processor until finely chopped - set aside. 

In a large skillet heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the bell pepper and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the shrimp, green onions, mayonnaise, lime juice, hot pepper sauce, sugar, salt and egg stirring well.  Stir in the cilantro and 1/4 cup Panko (or more if needed to bind together - I always add more). 

Divide the shrimp mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each portion into a patty 1/2 inch thick.  Dredge both sides in the remaining Panko.  Refrigerate for at least an hour. 

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add 4 shrimp cakes and cook until browned on the bottom, about 4-5 minutes.  Turn and cook until browned and cooked through inside - about an additional 4-5 minutes.  Remove from pan and keep warm.  Repeat with the remaining 4 shrimp cakes and add oil if needed.  Serve with Corn Salsa (recipe below). 

Corn Salsa 
1 cup Frozen White Corn Kernels - thawed (or fresh when in season) 
3/4 cup diced Avocado 
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro 
3 Tbsp finely chopped Red Onion 
2 Tbsp finely chopped seeded Poblano Chile 
1 Tbsp fresh Lime Juice 1/4 tsp salt 

 In a bowl combine the corn, avocado, cilantro, onion, chili, lime juice and salt stirring gently. 

 **Shrimp Cakes can be prepared a day in advance.  You can also make them smaller. 

Kathleen, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me.  It was such fun to read and I learned so much!  I need to start doing some canning of my own- maybe a new resolution for me as well!  Although if I don't get around to it for at least another year, I know where to go so I can at least appear like I am "putting up"! Goodness, you have no idea how excited I am about your Mozzarella Cheese Dip Recipe!  This is one of those foods that takes me back to my childhood in a big way.  It wasn't a family gathering without it.  Now I just need to go to a party or host one myself, otherwise I could very well eat the entire thing on my own- very dangerous that stuff.  But in the best possible way!  And those Shrimp cakes sound de-lish!  Maybe Scott and I will just have to have an Appetizer Night one of these weekends....


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