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Working For The Weekend.

Happy Saturday! One of my favorite weekend treats are bloody marys. Below are some photos taken over the years, featuring bloody marys from Perennial (www.perennialchicago.com) , Gibson’s Steakhouse (www.gibsonssteakhouse.com), Dunlay’s (www.dunlaysonclark.com) and Deleece (www.deelece.com) I love the addition of a pickle to my blood marys! Thirsty, anyone?

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A Fiesta In Your Mouth.

Corn Salad With Toasted Almonds & Cilantro-Lime Dressing

This delicious and flavorful salad is reminiscent of summertime but can be eaten year round. With almonds and avocado, it’s hearty enough to be eaten alone, but you could certainly serve it as a side dish as well. This salad will definitely spice up your usual lunch or dinner time routine!

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of sweet corn, fresh, frozen or canned (if frozen, thawed and at room temperature)
  • small handful of fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tbsp raw slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • salt/pepper

To toast the almonds: Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and place in 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow them to cool before adding to the salad.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the corn, tomatoes, avocado and chives. In the food processor, add the cilantro, the juice from one lime and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Blend together until the cilantro leaves have been chopped into smaller pieces. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix together with a dash of salt and pepper. When serving, top the salad with a pinch of toasted almonds.

Crazy For Cauliflower.

Cauliflower Mock-Potatoes & Sizzling Steak

These cauliflower mock-potatoes are a great substitute for regular mashed potatoes. Cauliflower is low in carbs and high in fiber, so you can eat these without any guilt! You’ll swear you’re eating the real thing. I served them up with a simple steak, but they’d go great with chicken or fish, too! Enjoy!

Cauliflower Mock-Potatoes, Serves 3-5.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp light butter or light margarine
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh chives
  • garlic salt/black pepper

Chop the cauliflower into small pieces and boil it for approximately 7-10 minutes or until soft. Drain the water and put the cauliflower into the food processor. Blend until the consistency is smooth and all of the lumps are gone. Add the milk, sour cream and parmesan and blend again to mix. Heat a pot on low heat, and add the light butter. When the light butter has melted, add the cauliflower puree mixture and sprinkle a dash of garlic salt and black pepper. Top with fresh chives before serving.

Sizzling Steak, Serves 3-5.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium steaks (any type)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • garlic salt/hot red pepper flakes

In a mixing bowl, mix red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, crushed garlic, garlic salt and a dash of hot red pepper flakes. Put the steaks into a large ziplock bag and pour the liquid in. Allow the steak to sit and marinade for 1 hour. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat and then add the steak. Put the lid on and allow the steak to brown for 5 minutes. Then repeat on the other side of the steak. Remove the pan from the heat and keep the lid on, allowing the steak to sit for 5 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the steak, it should be cooked to a medium color inside.

Mac & Cheese, Please!

Basil & Leek Mac & Cheese

My friend Jenny came over for recently and I decided to make a jazzed up, reduced-fat mac & cheese. This tasty dish was the perfect winter-time comfort food afer a stressful work week. Lots of leftover, too, of course! De-lish!

Serves 5.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb orecchiete shaped pasta (you can use any shape you prefer)
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded 3 cheese blend (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp light butter or light margarine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • garlic salt/hot red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on  medium heat and sautee the leeks until they are soft. Allow the leeks to cool, and then combine them with the basil leaves and lemon zest in a food processor and blend until they are pureed to a smooth consistency. In the same pan that you cooked the leeks, melt 1 tbsp of light butter and 1 tbsp of crushed garlic. When it is melted, add 1 1/2 cups of the skim milk. Keep the heat on low, the milk can simmer but it should not boil. Add the basil and leek puree into the saucepan and allow to simmer on low heat.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta as directed on the package, but cook about 2 minutes under the stated time so it’s a bit firmer. Since this is also going in the oven, we don’t want the pasta to become mushy. Drain the pasta and remove any excess water.

Returning to the sauce, add the sour cream, cream cheese, shredded cheese, parmesan and stir to combine. Add a dash of garlic salt and hot red pepper flakes. Take the pasta, and put it into the sauce. After pasta is coated in the sauce, pour the mixture into a large, greased baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs, parmesan and shredded cheese over the top and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling and browned on top.

Feed Yourself & The People You Love.

Last night, my friend told me about an article she read called “11 Things to Know When You’re 25(ish).” She said that she thought of me when she read number 10 on the list. I think this is beyond true and is a huge part of the reason that I love to cook!

10. Feed Yourself and the People You Love

If you can master these things, you’re off to a really great start: eggup, a fantastic sandwich or burger, guacamole and some killer cookies. A few hints: The secret to great eggs is really low heat, and the trick to guacamole is lime juice—loads of it. Almost every soup starts the same way: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, stock.

People used to know how to make this list and more, but for all sorts of reasons, sometime in the last 60 or so years, convenience became more important than cooking and people began resorting to fake food (ever had GU?), fast food and frozen food. I literally had to call my mom from my first apartment because I didn’t know if you baked a potato for five minutes or two hours.

The act of feeding oneself is a skill every person can benefit from, and some of the most sacred moments in life happen when we gather around the table. The time we spend around the table, sharing meals and sharing stories, is significant, transforming time.

Learn to cook. Invite new and old friends to dinner. Practice hospitality and generosity. No one cares if they have to sit on lawn furniture, bring their own forks or drink out of a Mayor McCheese glass from 1982. What people want is to be heard and fed and nourished, physically and otherwise—to stop for just a little bit and have someone look them in the eye and listen to their stories and dreams. Make time for the table, and you’ll find it to be more than worth it every time.

You can find the full article here.

The Hardest Meal That I’ve Ever Cooked.

Roasted Leg Of Lamb, Roasted Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts

This was one of the most difficult (and perhaps least successful) meals that I’ve ever cooked. Gareth and I had only been dating for a few months, so on Valentines Day 2010 I wanted to do something to impress him, so I decided to cook him a traditional Welsh roast dinner. A roast dinner is very common in Wales and throughout the UK and is when you roast a type of meat in the oven (lamb, pork, etc) and then serve it with roast potatoes and vegetables. I chose to make him lamb because he said that was his favorite. So, I began on my journey to cook this meal for him. I had never cooked a leg of lamb, so I called my local butcher and requested a de-boned leg of lamb. When I went to pick it up and saw the size of this lamb leg, I was astounded. I had no idea it would be so big! (The lamb in the photo was HALF of the whole leg I purchased.) Not only that, it was a fortune! So I took this hunk of meat home and began preparing dinner for Gareth. The lamb had probably been in the oven for about 1 hour when Gareth arrived at my apartment, and was far from cooked. Two, three, four hours later… still not cooked. As it got even later, I realized this roast dinner was just not going to happen that night. So we took it out of the oven and went to bed. The next morning, we woke up early and put the lamb BACK in the oven, heated up the potatoes and brussel sprouts, and ended up eating the roast dinner for breakfast. That was the last time I cooked a leg of lamb. Maybe I should attempt it again for Valentines this year!

Scrumptious Stuffed Chicken.

Ricotta, Pancetta & Caper Stuffed Chicken Breast

Serves 3.

Ingredients:

  • 3 thin cut, butterflied chicken breasts
  • 1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced pancetta
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • garlic salt/black pepper
  • splash of white wine
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a pan. Add the garlic and shallots and sautee for 5 minutes until shallots are translucent. Add your pancetta and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until pancetta has browned. Add your capers and a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan. Allow the mixture to cool, then mix with the ricotta cheese. Lay your chicken breasts flat on a cutting board and put a large spoonful of the ricotta mixture onto one side and then folk the chicken breast over the ricotta mixture. Put the stuffed chicken breasts in a non-stick, oven-safe pan and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.