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This cake turned out incredible.  I have been tempted everyday to make another one, but have convinced myself to hold off for Thanksgiving.  It would’t help with losing that baby weight, you know?  Only 72 hours before I make it though… yes, I’m counting down.  It was that good.  I’ve never made a cake with yogurt, but it made it so moist!  And surely it healthy, right?  Yogurt and only one stick of butter.  You can’t get much healthier than that.  Right?  One thing I suggest – use the recommended amount of whiskey.   I learned on the last cake that more is not better, in this case.  Unless you want to get drunk.  Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Cake with Whiskey Whipped Cream

Source: Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup whiskey (optional)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick of softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup plain, unflavored yogurt
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray 9 x 13 inch pan with baking spray. Combine whiskey and raisins in a bowl and allow to soak for awhile.  Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.  Add butter to a mixing bowl and beat. Add sugar and beat. Add in eggs 1 at a time, beating after each egg.  Add yogurt and pumpkin and mix gently until just combined.  Add flour mixture in increments, beating until just combined.  Drain raisins and stir in by hand.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

When cake is cool, make Whiskey Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey

Combine ingredients and begin mixing immediately on high speed until stiff, about 4 minutes. Spoon over cooled cake.

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The following weekend, after having Daniel’s parents, two of his friends came to visit.  After the Mediterranean topping was such a hit, I really wanted to have it one the actual dish.  What originally caught my attention about this dish was how you cooked the fish — inside a brown paper bag, in the oven.  When the meal has finished cooking, you pull out the bag, set it on the plates, and allow your guests to tear open the bag.  I thought the presentation was impressive, so I gave it a go.  They guys were definitely impressed.  BUT, nothing impressed us more than this homemade caesar salad.  YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS!!!  I can’t stress this enough.  If you ever order caesar salads in restaurants, you will absolutely love this salad.  We all agreed, we had never had anything this good before.  You won’t even believe that you produced this in your own kitchen.  Plus, it is healthy since it is a vinaigrette.  Promise me, if you are reading this, that you will try this caesar recipe soon!  You will never buy store bought again!

Lunchbag Swordfish with Mediterranean Topping (I used tilapia)

Source: Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello

3 cups vine-ripened plum (Roma) tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup (1 small) minced red onion
2 tablespoons rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped capers
1/2 cup roasted red or yellow bell peppers, coarsely chopped
12 pitted and sliced Greek olives (such as kalamata or Gaeta olives)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pepper olive oil or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound dried linguini
4 brown paper lunch bags or 4 large sheets parchment paper or waxed paper (see note)
4 (6-ounce) swordfish steaks

Put tomatoes in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add oregano, parsley, garlic, onion, capers, peppers, olives, lemon juice, pepper oil, and 4 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil. Stir gently just to mix and set aside at least 1 hour. Adjust seasonings, if desired. Mixture will become more liquid and sauce-like over time.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguini until al dente. Drain and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Reserve.

To cook the fish: (See Chef’s Note below if using waxed paper.) Place a small square of parchment or waxed paper at the bottom of each paper bag. Place small pile of linguini in each of the bags. Top with a spoonful of tomato sauce, making sure to moisten the linguini with the juices. Lay a piece of fish on top and arrange with another spoonful of sauce. Moisten again with juices from the sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Fold over the tops of the bags, place them on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes.

To serve, transfer the bags to 4 dinner plates and let each diner cut open the package to enjoy the aromas.

 

Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crackers

For the dressing:
3 medium garlic cloves
6 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the crackers:
2 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan

3 heads endive, cored and separated into whole leaves
1 head radicchio, separated into whole leaves
3 cups lightly packed arugula, stems removed
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan

 

To make the dressing: Chop and smear the garlic with the anchovies and salt until you create a smooth paste. Add the paste to a small bowl. Add the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and lots of pepper. Mix well. Whisk in the olive oil gradually. Add the cheese and whisk again. Set the dressing aside for 1 hour or longer (if overnight, refrigerate the dressing and bring it to room temperature about 1 hour before serving). Makes about 1 cup. (You can put all of the ingredients into a jar, cover tightly with a lid and shake to blend. This is a great way to store the dressing.)

To make the crackers: Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the cheese into the pan so it forms a lace-thin layer that fills the bottom of the skillet. The cheese will bubble in the pan. When the top side of the cheese has reached a pale gold color, after 3 to 4 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow the cheese to firm up for 1 minute. Carefully turn the cheese over with a spatula, return to heat, and cook until cheese is golden on both sides, about 1 more minute. Remove the cracker and drain it on paper towels to absorb any excess fat. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels and repeat the process 5 more times with the remaining cheese.

In a large bowl combine the endive, radicchio, and arugula. Drizzle enough dressing over the top to lightly coat the leaves (you may not need all the dressing). Toss to coat the leaves evenly. Arrange the leaves on serving plates. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan over each salad. Split each cracker into 2 or 3 pieces and garnish the salads with them. Serve immediately.

The Ultimate Topping

Daniel’s parents were recently in town, and when we have out-of-town guests I ususally try to fix seafood, since we live so close to the beach.  I had recently seen an episode of Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello (my new favorite show) where he made swordfish with a mediterranean topping.  Daniel and I love all things mediterranean, so I knew this would be a hit.  The recipe says that so much of the topping is made that it can be used for something else.  I made the topping the first night they were in town and used it as a topping for bruschetta.  We never ended up getting around to having it with the actual seafood dish, but the topping was a hit, none the less.  I honestly can’t think of anything it wouldn’t be good on.  Daniel even used some in his scramble eggs the next morning.  This is my new go-to topping whenever I want to wow guests.  We even had hamburgers on night and used what was left.  They were some of the best hamburgers I have ever had!!!

The Ultimate Topping

3 cups vine-ripened plum (Roma) tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup (1 small) minced red onion
2 tablespoons rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped capers
1/2 cup roasted red or yellow bell peppers, coarsely chopped
12 pitted and sliced Greek olives (such as kalamata or Gaeta olives)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pepper olive oil or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Key to roasting bell peppers:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Set bell peppers on top of foil lined baking sheet.  Rotate bell peppers every 20 minutes for an hour.  Take out of oven, all to cool, remove skin, and chop. 

Mix all ingredients and use on whatever you heart desires!

I love the Everyday Food magazine.  I discovered this little magazine, which is the size of a Reader’s Digest, a couple years ago, and every recipe I have tried out of here has not disappointed.  I also love pork.  I think I could eat pork every night.  I have been dying to try this recipe because it looked so good and now that we have a grill (yea!) I knew this would be one of the first things I fixed.  They were delicious and so easy to make!

Honey-soy Grilled Pork Chops 

Source: Everyday Food

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

salt

pepper

pork chops

Make glaze: combine honey, soy sauce, and ginger in small bowl. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Grill until opaque throughout, about 5-7 minutes per side. Brush pork with glaze and grill 30 seconds more per side.

Chocolate Chip Blondies

I have a huge sweet tooth.  Actually, huge doesn’t even begin to describe it.  I saw this recipe on Ashley’s blog (who else, right?) and wanted to try it.  I cannot begin to tell you how good these were.  I am not sure why I liked them so much because I am not a fan of brownies or of chocolate chip cookies.  You would think I wouldn’t like these, but they are now my favorite sweet!  My husband isn’t even a sweets fan, but these don’t even last 48 hours in our house.  I’m serious… not even 48 hours.  That is really sad.  Last batch didn’t even last 24 hours.  Problem is, these go so fast, it took me 6 batches in the past 4 weeks before I finally got a picture of these blondies.  I was planning on getting in shape after Emily came, so I told myself on the first batch, “Enjoy these.  You can’t make any more sweets for quite awhile.”  Well, they disappeared before I got a chance to take a picture, and I just had to share them with everyone, so, of course, I had to make another batch.  This happened 5 more times.  I made a point this last time to take a picture before I scarfed the last piece down.  I barely made it, but I got a picture!  Someone please try these so that I didn’t eat the all 6 batches in vain!

Chocolate Chip Blondies

Source: The Spicy Skillet

I absolutely love the little Everyday Food Magazine that Martha Stweart puts out.  It is the size of a Readers Digest and always has some of the best recipes with fresh ingredients, easy steps, and incredible flavor.  One of my favorite recipes from this magazine is the Southwestern Turkey Burgers I make.  Sooo good!  This recipe came from the first Everyday Food I ever picked up.  It was a special on grilling, and since we didn’t have a grill until recently, I have never tried a lot of the recipes.  The spice rub in that issue has always caught my eye, so we decided to try it.  We bought a whole chicken that was already quartered and rubbed everything down.  This was the best, I repeat, BEST chicken I have ever had.  Actually, I don’t like chicken at all.  I keep trying chicken recipes hoping that I find one that I can stomach, but I never have any luck.  I was to the point of giving up on chicken all together, but luckily we tried this recipe and my husband cooked the chicken on the grill perfectly.  I might go as far to say that this is my favorite meat recipe ever!  You have to try it!!!! 

All-Purpose Spice Rub

All-Purpose Spice Rubbed Chicken

Source: Everyday Food, July/August 2006

I love fresh, healthy pizzas, so I have been dying to try this recipe for West Coast grilled chicken pizzas from Ashley’s bog.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a grill until this weekend.  Daniel loves grilling, so what would be a better Father’s Day present than a grill and EVERYTHING that goes along with it.  We went to Lowes and spent quite awhile in there picking out the grill and all the must-have tools.  It was so cute to see Daniel so excited about it, and he even went on to claim every night this week as his night to cook.  Although the weather gets pretty hot here during the day, it cools off in the evening and makes for a perfect time to grill.  Due to getting accostomed to his new grill, the pizzas didn’t come out looking as pretty as Ashley’s, hence the up-close picture hiding the odd shape and the blackened crust, but it sure didn’t detract any from the taste.  The only thing we didn’t do was put the salad on top of the pizza.  Looks like we have another cook in the family now, and if every meal comes out tasting this incredible, I will gladly hand over my apron for couple nights during the week.