Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cookin' a bit better

I came across these great tips on some cooking techniques and tips. I didn't copy all of them below so if you want to see more (boiling lobsters, seasoned meats, spice rubs, etc) go to the link.

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Cook Corn
Instead of boiling corn on the cob, dot it with a little butter, salt, and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast (350 degrees) until tender. Caramelize a little honey in a sauté pan and, when the corn comes out, brush with the honey.

—Alex Guarnaschelli, Butter, New York; host of Alex's Day Off (Cooking Channel)

Bread Meat
After you've breaded a piece of meat for panfrying (dip in flour, dip in a water-and-egg-white mixture, dip in bread crumbs), spray the breaded meat with a little water from a spritz bottle. The moisture will prevent the crumbs from absorbing too much oil while still preserving that crispy crunch.

—David Burke, David Burke Kitchen, New York

Make a Sandwich
Less is more. Proportion is key, making sure each element balances the next. I like a fresh slaw tossed in a light vinegar for some crunch and some acidity. Throw in the protein of your choosing, bearing in mind the salt that comes with cured or smoked meat. And when is adding a fried egg a bad thing? Butter the outside of your bread, griddle it, and that's a sandwich.

—Michael Schwartz, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami

Scramble Eggs
For two eggs, add two tablespoons of water and two tablespoons of heavy cream, season with salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, and whip the hell out of them with a whisk until frothy. Melt some butter over medium heat and cook the eggs, not touching them until they are partially set. Then start some light stirring until they're almost finished, and turn the heat off. They will finish cooking because the pan is still hot.

—Randy Zweiban, Province, Chicago

Grill Fruit
Start with ripe, juicy fruit with a high moisture content. Lightly brush on all sides with melted butter or coconut milk. Make a dessert rub by combining one cup sugar with one tablespoon cinnamon. Set up your grill for direct grilling — a preheated grate over a hot fire: Brush the grate clean with a stiff wire brush. Oil it with a paper towel folded into a tight pad, dipped in oil, and drawn across the bars of the grate. Oiling prevents sticking and gives you killer grill marks. Dip fruit in rub to coat on all sides, shaking off excess. Grill the fruit long enough to turn the sugar and fruit juices into bubbling, golden caramel.

—Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible; host of Primal Grill (PBS)

Sauté Garlic
Start with a cold pan, add olive oil, then garlic, and turn burner to low heat. Through the gradual increase of temperature, you'll infuse the oil with the flavor of garlic while it turns slightly brown.

—Marco Canora, Hearth, New York; author of Salt to Taste

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nutella Mousse Banana Trifle

I made this Nutella Mousse Banana Trifle for a work bbq this week. People called to me from across the tables how "Amazing" this was. Phrases like "Dear Lord." and "Oh my!" were heard from everyone. More than one person asked me how I made it. Luckily for all of you I took pictures as I did (and the best part - it's a semi-homemade NO BAKE dessert)!

Nutella Mousse Recipe:

1 Cup Heavy whipping cream
1/2 Cup Nutella spread (found in the PB aisle for those of you unfamiliar with the product)
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder

Lightly stir the instant coffee powder into the heavy whipping cream (if you do this in a metal bowl the entire mix will stay cold longer). Add the Nutella into the cream and using an electric whisk blend until you have soft peaks. Divide into individual containers and then let chill to set.


This is the original recipe that serves four - I quadrupled the recipe and layered 8 sliced bananas and two store bought angel food cakes to help make it go further.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Menu Swap Anyone?

Is anyone interested in doing a "menu exchange"? We have a list of dinners that we cycle through and I'm dying to get some new ideas. Anyone interested in changing dinner-ruts? :)

Prize Pizza

I cam across the Best Pizza Places in the U.S. article (by Food & Wine) in Yahoo News and I was excited to see that I've eaten at the Best Pizza Place in Portland - Apizza Scholls. 

There is no take out, dine in only, they only make so much pizza dough each day - when it's gone it's gone. And there is always a line down the block before the doors even open! I've only been once - when I first came to visit Portland back in 2008....and I'll be honest I remember it being good but not necessarily the best. I'm not saying it's not just that I need to try it again. 

So here's my question for you. Have you been to any of these "Best Pizza Places in the U.S."?

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Best Pizza Places in the U.S.

Top chefs and fabled bakers are among the new breed of pizzaiolo who are just as fanatic over the temperature of their ovens as how local their ingredients are. They're elevating pizza around the country from greasy pies in cardboard boxes to inspired creations with crackly, charred crusts topped with house-made cheese and charcuterie.

Here, we've chosen the best places for pizza around the country from new guard spots—including a Bay Area pizzeria that uses locally milled flour—to the nearly century-old East Coast institutions started by the original pizzaiolo obsessives that loyalists still (rightfully) love.

New York City; Co.

Signature item: Popeye (with pecorino, Gruyère, mozzarella, spinach, black pepper and garlic).

Sullivan Street Bakery founder Jim Lahey is one of the country's elite bakers, so it makes sense that people can't stop talking about his chewy, crisp, ever-so-slightly tangy pie crusts. Lahey's newest project: He developed the menu for Crust, a soon-to-open Neapolitan-style pie spot at LaGuardia Airport.

Oakland, CA; Pizzaiolo

Signature item: Marinara.

For chef-co-owner Charlie Hallowell, a Chez Panisse alum, seasonality and local ingredients are key—even the flour is milled in Oakland.

Boston; Santarpio's Pizza

Signature Item: Homemade Sausage Pie.

This super traditional pizzeria, with wood paneled walls covered with pictures of famous athletes, has been around for more than a century.

Los Angeles; Pizzeria Mozza

Signature Item: Squash blossoms, tomato and burrata.

Powerhouse team Mario Batali, Joseph Bastianich and Nancy Silverton combine the best California ingredients (squash blossoms and trumpet mushrooms) with Italian tradition (big wood-burning ovens and house-made mozzarella) to form some of L.A.'s best pies.

San Francisco; Flour + Water

Signature item: Margherita (with tomato sauce, Fior di Latte and extra-virgin olive oil).

The puffy, charred cornicione (end crust) is the result of just two minutes in the 800-degree wood-burning oven imported from Italy.

Providence, RI; Al Forno

Signature item: Margarita (with house-made pomodoro, fresh herbs, two cheeses and extra-virgin olive oil).

In 1980, Johanne Killeen and George Germon launched a new era of ambitious cooking in Providence with their thin-crusted, grilled pizzas topped with superfresh ingredients.

Brooklyn, NY; Di Fara

Signature item: Plain pie.

Seventy-two-year-old owner Domenico DeMarco makes all the pies at this Brooklyn pizza mecca, so they come out with the perfect balance of tomato sauce (made fresh daily), mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses. A Di Fara spin-off called Tagliare opened in LaGuardia Airport in the fall of 2010.

New Haven, CT; Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Signature item: White Clam pizza.

This longstanding classic, considered ground zero for New Haven-style "apizza," was started by Frank Pepe in 1925, and is now run by his grandchildren. The Original Tomato Pie (without mozzarella) is still on the menu.

Portland, OR; Apizza Scholls

Signature item: Apizza Amore (with tomato sauce, both fresh and aged mozzarella, pecorino, grana, olive oil, cured pork shoulder and fresh basil).

Pizzaiolos Brian Spangler, Dan Roberts and Jon Ullrich are so exacting about their craft that they mix their dough by hand daily and won't let customers put any more than three toppings on the nicely charred pies.

Chicago; Burt's Place

Signature item: Deep Dish Pizza with Caramelized Cheese Crust.

At this landmark Chicago eatery, Sharon Katz enforces the strict call-ahead reservation policy and husband Burt works the oven, pulling out pies with a lighter crust and less cheese than most Chicago deep-dish pizzas.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Starbucks Secret Menu

This morning my mother sent me to Yahoo News to see pictures of a chupacabra... while there was no chupacabra there was an article called "The Ultimate Guide to Starbucks Secret Menu" - and I had to share. 

So I'm sure some people are going to give me shit but I'm a fan of Starbucks. They don't make the best coffee ever and there are certainly companies I like more. But over all they don't over roast or burn their coffee (something that I just can't stand) and they gave my little sister her first job (which she's excelling at) - so for that they have a soft spot in my heart as well.

Having someone on the "inside" is always fun. She comes home from after work and brings all sorts of concoctions she's created (although she does love to put the white mocha in EVERYTHING). haha. I love that places have "Secret Menus" I don't even have to know what they are. In a foodie world like today, where more and more restaurants are refusing any substitutions (even for allergies) it's refreshing to see some places allow for personalization (and no, I don't mean "Have it Your Way").

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A list of the coffee giant's off-the-menu items

Frequenters of Starbucks know the situation all too well: You're standing in line, reciting the precise order of the five different descriptors that constitute "your drink," when you hear the person in front of you make a request so foreign sounding it completely throws your concentration.

A Zebra Mocha? A Grande Green Eye? A Captain Crunch Frappuccino? Say what? They may sound like a far cry from the standard drip cup or your simple Mocha Frappe, but these drinks are not Starbucks folklore. And really, considering that the coffee giant has in years past boasted offering some 87,000 different drink combinations, that such "secret" items exist should not be too surprising.

As it turns out, many of your fast-food and restaurant chain favorites have "secret" menus — places like Taco Bell, Wendy's, Subway, Chipotle, and even Jamba Juice. Of course, the one at beloved West Coast cult favorite, In-N-Out, is arguably the most famous. So well-known, in fact, that there's really not much "secret" about it anymore. Starbucks' off-the-menu items are certainly not as widely publicized as In-N-Out's, but they are known enough to the point where you won't get a dirty look from the barista when you ask for a Double Dirty Iced Chai.

Read on for an in-the-know guide to the "secret" drinks at Starbucks. Just remember that not all of the drink names may be universal so make sure you can at least explain how the drink is made to your barista.

Green Eye: A Red Eye or Black Eye, sure — that's one and two extra shots of espresso in a regular drip, respectively. But those that go for green get a sure-to-jack-you-up three shots of espresso boost to their cup of coffee.

Dirty Chai: A chai latte (hot or iced) with a shot of espresso added in. And if you want two shots? That's called a "Double Dirty" or "Extra Dirty" Chai.

Zebra Mocha: Sometimes also called a "Penguin Mocha," this drink combines the white chocolate mocha with the regular mocha for those who can't pick a favorite. Or, if you really want to take it to the next level, ask to have raspberry flavoring added for something called the "Red Tux" Mocha.

Chocolate Dalmatian: A White Chocolate Mocha with java chips and chocolate chips sprinkled in.

Cake Batter Frappuccino: Perhaps a little deceptively named, as there are no actual pieces of cake or cake batter in it, this beverage vanilla and almond syrup to a Vanilla Frappuccino.

Captain Crunch Frappuccino: No, this doesn't involve bringing the childhood-favorite cereal into the store and asking them to blend it in a frappe. Still, fans say that the combination of hazelnut syrup (though some folks contend it should be toffee nut) in a Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino is a dead ringer for the flavor of the cereal.

"Short" Drink: The Tall drink's smaller, less expensive younger brother.

French Press: Apparently if you ask, Starbucks will brew any of the coffee they sell in a French Press.

Super Cream Frappuccino: Like to go heavy on the whipped cream? Ask for a "Super Cream" version of your Frappe and you'll get half a cup of whipped cream blended in.

Affogato-Style Frappuccino: This one probably classifies more as an in-the-know than a "secret" one. Order any Frappe "affogato-style" and you'll get a shot of hot espresso added on top of your drink as opposed to having it blended in.

Triple C's: And the award for best alliteration in a Starbucks drink name goes to the Three C's: Cinnamon Dolce Latte with caramel syrup and chocolate mocha syrup.

Biscotti Frappuccino: This off-the-menu item sounds a little like a Starbucks version of a DQ Blizzard or a McFlurry, except you have to have to buy a package of biscotti cookies separately and ask your barista to blend them into your Frappe. Note: There seems to be some contention online as to whether or not baristas are actually allowed to put biscotti in the blender, so maybe only ask someone you know is willing to do you a favor.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Scream You Scream

Most of the country has been having more than their fair share of a heat wave this summer - while Portland has had a high of (maybe) 88* so far. It may not be over 100 here but that doesn't mean it's not Ice cream Weather.  (Found in the New York Times Dining & Wine section)

Ice Cream Favorites Grow Up
By Melissa Clark
Published: August 12, 2011

It all started with grasshopper pie. Shockingly green, made from mint chocolate-chip ice cream slathered with crème de menthe-flavored whipped “topping,” it was a specialty of one of our neighbors when I was growing up and a block-party staple.

I hadn’t thought of it in years. But it sprang to mind recently while I was trying to transform store-bought ice cream into a party-worthy dessert.

It used to be that a couple of cartons of premium ice cream made a perfectly respectable end to a summer soirée all on their own.

But these days, with ice cream makers nearly as prevalent in home kitchens as food processors, and fancy ice cream ubiquitous in every corner deli, I knew I needed to do a little more than just pass around the pints.

I wanted to make something just as easy as that grasshopper pie, but updated and fresh. Something that took advantage of the variety of intriguing ice cream flavors now available, but that added a personal spin to make a dinner-worthy dessert, without (to be blunt about it) requiring much effort.

Once I got going, icy ideas stormed through my brain. I thought about ice cream pies made from homemade cookie crumbs, topped with whipped cream infused with aromatic spices. I thought about a play on tiramisù using vanilla ice cream in place of mascarpone. I thought about those fancy iced bombes my mother used to make in the ’80s, with two or three layers of bright-hued whipped frozen mousse packed into a decorative mold.

A cheater’s version would simply pack layers of different colored ice cream and sorbet into a metal bowl. I added a tropical twist by combining coconut ice cream swirled with coconut macaroons, fresh mango and vibrant sorbet.

It was stunning, and quicker to put together than the time I spent locating the package of macaroons at the supermarket.

I also picked up some malted milk balls. When I got home, I froze them and pulverized them with a rolling pin, then used the crumbs, mixed with some malted milk powder, to make coffee ice cream malted bonbons. They are just the right size for noshing on straight out of the freezer, with no spoons required.

After these first two escapades, I learned that the key to making whimsical desserts with store-bought ice cream is patience.

I needed to sit on my hands while the pints softened enough to spread. To speed up this process a little, I slid the ice cream out of the pint container and onto a plate, and cut the frozen cylinder in half. Then, once I formed the bombe and the bonbons, I needed to sit on my hands again while the ice cream hardened in the freezer. Immediate gratification it’s not.

One way to avoid all that waiting around is to serve sundaes. All you need to do is make the sauce ahead of time.

As much as I appreciate a traditional hot fudge number, it’s butterscotch I pine for. Mine is based on maple syrup with a good slug of dark rum to keep things from getting too cloying. Poured over scoops of ginger ice cream and showered with walnuts and dollops of thick crème fraîche rather than whipped cream, it was cozily familiar yet quietly thrilling to eat.

Another childhood favorite was those frozen chocolate-chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.

For my modern grown-up version, I scooped ice cream into sliced baguettes, then drizzled it with either pepper-spiked apricot jam or sea-salt-strewn chocolate nut spread.

These sandwiches were sweet, savory, sophisticated and laughably easy, just like grasshopper pie — even if their color wasn’t quite as dramatic.

Tomato Heaven

I email subscribe to the Just a Pinch Recipe Club and today there was an article called "Savoring the Goodness of Homegrown Tomatoes" in the Janet's Notebook blog.  While I don't have homegrown anything I do love tomatoes and so had to share this article and recipe links with you.

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Growing up, my friend's grandfather always told us girls that to enjoy a fresh tomato all we needed was a sharp knife and a pinch of salt. Indeed, there were tomatoes served at every one of their meals during those hot, sticky summers. And as he would slice in to the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, juice would flow like a roiling creek. It was a wonder to my youthful, wide eyes. As a frequent dinner pest - er, I mean dinner guest - I was always first in line to sample his latest garden finds.

This certainly is the time of year to celebrate that bounty. Tomatoes are in their peak around the country, each one ripe for the tasting. While just a pinch of salt does do wonders, there are also some terrific tomato recipes out there that really get my taste-buds tingling.

Capreses are about the best thing to happen to the tomato since the invention of salt. Simply meaning a combination of basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, capreses come in many shapes and sizes: sandwiches, flatbreads, pasta, salads. Nikki Smith of Hemet, CA thinks that caprese pizza is the way to go. She uses fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, freshly chopped basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil to embellish a refrigerated pizza crust. The simplicity of the preparation is matched only by the simplicity of the flavors. Happily, they come together to form one delicious, crowd-pleasing treat.

Stuffed tomatoes are also a great way to make use of excess produce. Cherry tomatoes transform into darling, bite-size appetizers at the hand of Texas cook Jeanne Benavidez. She uses a mixture of cream cheese, onion, garlic and avocado to fill her party-ready Avocado-Stuffed Tomatoes. "A friend brought this to a back yard party once and I really liked it," says Jeanne. "She was kind enough to give me the easy recipe. I have made it several times and everyone seems to really enjoy the little morsels of coolness."

Equally cool, figuratively speaking, is Judy Sprague's recipe for full-size Stuffed Tomatoes. This fellow Kentuckian bowled me over with her bacon, broccoli and onion stuffed 'maters. Topped with panko breadcrumbs and salty Parmesan cheese, it's easy get creative with this one and add in other veggies of your choosing. (Extra zucchini, perhaps?) "I love the taste of this!" says Judy of her super summery dish. "It is a very easy side dish to make a meal special!"

Now, rather then cooking up his leftover tomatoes, Greg Honeycutt of Birmingham, AL chooses to preserve them in an especially unique way. "I dehydrate extra ones," he says. "I slice them as thin as I can, put them on a Silpat in a low oven and leave them be. 200 degrees for several hours usually does the trick. I then crush them to powder with mortar and pestle. Great for a tasty, colorful garnish, or to add a bit of flavor to anything you wish." Imagine how good those freshly dehydrated tomatoes will taste come soup-making season!

And Greg's not the only one preserving summer freshness for colder days ahead. Linda Scharek of Wildwood, FL described her favorite preservation method during a recent conversation in the Cooking Tips and Hints Discussion Group. "You can freeze tomatoes," she says. "Cut in quarters and put in a Ziplock bag. When you need tomatoes for sauce, just take them out of the freezer, skin will come right off, and use for whatever."

These great cooking ideas are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to celebrating the dear, humble tomato. Enjoy them simply sliced and sprinkled with a pinch of salt, baked atop an olive oil coated pizza crust, or stuffed with the freshest of herbs and veggies from your garden. No matter the how, simply enjoy. These warm days of bounty are meant to be savored.

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To finish off this entry I wanted to share a (different) caprese pizza recipe I'm dying to try - I'm going to have to alter the cooking instructions though because I don't have an outdoor grill.

Grilled Caprese Pizza with Balsamic Reduction

1 (14 oz.) can pre-made pizza dough
2 tomatoes, sliced
6-8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
5-6 leaves fresh basil, minced
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Unroll the pizza dough onto a sheet pan. Lightly coat each side with olive oil and cut into four pieces. Set aside. Prepare all the ingredients on a platter and set aside.

To make the Balsamic Reduction: Bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a light boil in a small sauce pan. Allow to boil, while stirring constantly for 4-6 minutes, or until reduced in half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat a grill over a medium high flame until grates are very hot. Hot grates are important to ensure the dough cooks quickly and doesn’t stick. Gently stretch each section of dough and carefully lay it across the grates. Cover and allow to cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Check halfway through to make sure they don’t burn. Flip using two tongs. Evenly distribute the tomato and mozzarella slices. Cover and allow to cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly melted. Remove from the flame and cut in half. Drizzle each slice with the balsamic reduction and sprinkle with minced basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as entree. Serves 6 – 7 as side.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Moroccan Style Tomato Soup With Chickpeas


1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
2 cups of stock
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
Parsley or cilantro for garnish


1. Cook onion and garlic and ginger in olive oil for 5 minutes.
2. Add 2 teaspoons each cumin, coriander and cinnamon; cook for 1 minute.
3. Add tomatoes, stock and cooked chickpeas.
4. Simmer until saucy.
5. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Steamed Eggplant With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Total Time:
25 minutes

1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons sambal olek or other chile paste
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 Asian or baby eggplant
1/4 cup chopped, roasted peanuts
1/4 cup sliced scallions.

1. In a bowl, whisk together peanut butter, 1/3 cup water, soy sauce, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, sambal olek and garlic.

2. Trim the ends of the eggplant. If using baby eggplant, peel them. Place in a steamer basket set over a pan of simmering water. Cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can wrap the eggplants individually in parchment and microwave until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.) Halve eggplants lengthwise.

3. Transfer eggplants to a platter, cut side up. Spoon peanut sauce over eggplant. Garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Yield: 6 servings as an appetizer; 3 to 4 as a side dish

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Food Slacker

Well so much for my 365 photo plan...just one too many things for me to remember. But here's the yummy Chicken Parmesan & Capollini Marinara w/ salad.

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