Friday, August 31, 2012

"We got engaged 2 years ago" dinner

He put a ring on it at Disneyland

To celebrate, I surprised him with a semi-fancy dinner. Remember those beautiful heirloom tomatoes we got at the Farmer's Market?

Well, I got some mozzarella and some fresh homegrown basil and made this:

I followed The Pioneer Woman's reduce-the-balsamic-method (basically, carefully reduce the balsamic until it's a syrup) and drizzled that, and some olive oil, salt, and pepper, over it all. It was refreshing and divine. 

Served it with stuffed bell peppers + gravy (marinara sauce). 

I started with Giada De Laurentiis and Emeril's recipes, but then customized it by: 

* using ground turkey 
* using spicy Italian pork sausage 
* excluding the egg, rice, and bread crumbs 
* using jarred marinara sauce (added extra seasoning, a little bit of sugar, and wine) 
* pre-cooking the meat before stuffing 
* par-boiling the peppers 
* using extra seasoning (i.e. Italian seasoning, Mexican oregano, garlic) 
* adding chopped mushrooms and onions, fresh basil 
* covering the tops with pecorino romano and mozzarella (last 7 minutes or so) 

Turned out pretty tasty. We seemed to eat peppers for days! Next time, I want to try them "meatloaf" style: topped with ketchup, with the meat baked in the oven. 

It was a really colorful dinner

P.S. Being married rules. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Padfoot the pupster's 1st birthday + chili!

St. Paddy's Day 2012, this little monster/ love-bug joined our lives (after 3 months of searching)! He's got some labrador in him, as well as some rottweiler and Australian shepherd. He's the silliest (he likes to play with his toys on his back, holding them in between his front paws, like an otter) and sweetest puppy and we feel like he was made for us.

We don't know his exact birth-date, but we decided August 17th made sense. He was approx. 7 months when we brought him home. St. Paddy's Day was March 17th. The 17th lands in the middle-ish of the month. So, we gathered the in-laws and threw him a party.

I cooked him a plate of real bacon and cheese. And we gave him a bone as long as he is.

For the adults, we grilled some chicken drumsticks (marinated the drumsticks in beer for a couple hours, then sprinkled with a dry rub of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper). The secret ingredient: basting the chicken with homemade BBQ sauce the last 10 mins or so. Everything's better homemade, yes?

BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses or honey (or mix n' match ... honey will be sweeter of course) 
  • 2T butter
  • 1/2t garlic powder (I always add extra)
  • 1/2t onion powder
  • 1/4t chili powder
  • 1t paprika
  • 1/4t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2t cayenne pepper (add more if you want it spicier, but taste it first and add slowly) 
  • 1t salt
  • 1t coarsely ground black pepper


Simmer all ingredients for up to 20 minutes. For a thicker sauce, simmer longer, and for thinner, simmer less!

The winner of the day, though, was a homemade chili. We topped it on Nathan's hot dogs (better than Hebrew National, IMHO) or just ate it by itself.

I followed this recipe exactly - except cutting the quantities and adding half a bottle of Blue Moon's Summer Honey Wheat. Because IMHO, chili recipes are only improved by adding beer.

All-Beef Chili Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces (I used scissors because uncooked bacon is hard to slice up! Chewy, slippery little suckers ...) 
  • Half an onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of ground beef (I used 90/10) 
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • 8oz can of tomato sauce (I didn't have any on hand but did you know that tomato sauce is basically just one part tomato paste and one part water?) 
  • 1/2 cup beef broth 
  • 1/2T molasses
  • 1/2T honey
  • 1T paprika 
  • 1/2T ground cumin 
  • 1/2T chili powder 
  • 1/2t cayenne 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Half a bottle of beer (whatever you have in the fridge is fine) 


Fry the bacon over medium heat until it begins to get crispy, then add the chopped onions and fry over high heat, stirring often, until they begin to brown. Add in the ground beef and stir in well. Cook this, still over high heat and stirring occasionally, until the beef is browned. This will take a few minutes. When the beef is about halfway browned, toss in the chopped garlic and mix well.

the recipe doesn't call for red peppers, but I had some extra lying around ... 

Once the beef is well browned, add the tomato sauce, molasses, honey, beef broth, and beer. Add all the spices except the cayenne and stir well. Bring to a simmer and taste. Add salt or the cayenne if it needs it. You can of course add much more cayenne or chili powder if you like things really spicy, but it’s best to taste first and then add more. This is also when we added half a bottle of beer.

I've made this with both ground beef and turkey ... we prefer it with beef, but turkey is healthier

Let the chili cook on a gentle simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving. I served mine the next day so the flavors really had time to become friendly with each other and it was tasty!

I less than three Farmer's Markets

I used to sleep till noon. That was probably because staying up till 4am was normal for me. But then I got a puppy and since we're still crate training, we have to wake up a lot earlier to let him out.

One pro that came out of all this early morning business? Farmer's Markets!

A couple of weekends ago, I was on the hunt for fresh beets. The fabulous @authoressanon tweeted about how delicious fresh beets were so I wanted to try it.

Other than staining everything it touches, beets are great and one of my favorite vegetables. Sugary sweet and so easy to cook, you can either:

(1) Per @authoressanon: peel, slice thinly, sauté them in real butter (which I hardly ever use ... we're an olive oil family) until done to your liking, and then sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Tip: to speed up the cooking, cover them, but watch them carefully so you don't overcook them! I served them with my go-to panko salmon recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs: Simply Recipes.

(2) Another way to cook the beets came from my awesome chef friend from Google. Chef Russell is the Master of Meat. He makes the tastiest homemade bacon and is a magician with duck fat. To cook the beets, he told me to: trim the tops and bottom, but do not peel. Scrub until clean and place in foil pouches. 350 oven for about 1 hour 30 mins. I checked them at an hour. They're ready when you can easily pierce them with a knife. Using paper towels, carefully (because they're steaming hot!) rub the skin off. Cube and then serve with whatever sauce you have on hand (I had made honey mustard chicken so I just poured the extra chicken sauce over the beets - yum!). Or you can just toss with fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.

Here's today Farmer's Market bounty (courtesy of the Sunnyvale Farmer's Market):

Brown eggs, white eggs, speckled eggs, and one blue egg! 

I seriously can't stop buying heirloom tomatoes ... one of my all-time favorite ways to eat them is: poppy-seed bagel, cucumber+chive whipped cream cheese, and huge slices of tomatoes lightly sprinkled with pink salt. What's your favorite way to eat an heirloom tomato?

I'm going to whip up a Joe's scramble minus the scramble with the beautiful eggs tomorrow. Joe's scramble consists of ground beef, garlic, onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, your favorite spices/ herbs, and scrambled eggs - except I don't like scrambled eggs (unless Thomas Keller makes them because (A) I'd eat anything Thomas Keller makes and (B) his restaurant Ad Hoc makes them with crème fraîche). So I'm going to do it with sunny-side up eggs instead and probably add avocados, because I'm addicted to avocados. I got those at the Farmer's Market, too. 

blast to the past: Christmas

Today, I took my puppy to the beach for the first time:

Mitchell's Cove, Santa Cruz

It was a long, wonderful day that included a stop at my favorite fish market that makes the best cioppino in the universe:

Phil's Fish Market, Moss Landing

Now, he's asleep at my feet and I'm feeling lazy. So all I'm going to do is sit on this couch, with a glass of my favorite champagne (Domaine Carneros Vermeil Demi Sec) and catch this blog up. There has been a lot of epic eating since December 2011 and, well, not a lot of blogging.

Let's go back to Christmas!

Christmas morning, I woke up, baked a ham, and prepped the $103 prime rib (Whole Foods, highly recommend their meat). It was strange because it was the first time I didn't wake Christmas morning, ready to rouse my parents from sleep (they don't live with me anymore) and bound into the living room to see what Santa had brought. Instead, I was all woman-of-the-manor and stuff with a house full of in-laws to entertain.

Really, though. The whole day, I felt more like a general preparing for battle: cooking my first Christmas dinner ever. The hardest part? Trying to get everything out on the table at the same time AND piping hot.

Christmas Dinner menu (recipes linked when available):

* honey-baked ham (Costco!)

* garlic + rosemary rubbed bone-in prime rib with red wine + rosemary au jus (you can use thyme or rosemary)

Disclaimer: not the actual Christmas prime rib, but the same recipe

* mashed potatoes (pretty much just add a lot of butter and milk or cream and you can't screw this up ... though I may invest in a food mill ...)

* asparagus + bacon tossed in a champagne vinaigrette and topped with poached eggs (recipe: blanch the asparagus and cut into bite-size pieces, fry or microwave the bacon and crumble over the asparagus, 4 poached eggs [using this spiffy contraption], and dressed with champagne vinaigrette [I like Girard's champagne vinaigrette])

* salad with grilled pears and a homemade brown sugar balsamic dressing (recipe for dressing: 1 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, stir well with a whisk)

* creamed corn (cheated - this one came from a can)

* dinner rolls (cheated - store bought)


* homemade vanilla bean creme brulee (I will talk about this recipe in another post - it's a doozy)
* homemade pecan pie
* homemade pumpkin pie
* homemade chocolate crinkle cookies
* and so much peppermint bark that I had tins of it left on Valentine's Day ...

***tip of the day*** eat leftover prime rib with spaghetti (half red sauce, half alfredo - the jar stuff is fine) ... it's ... ah ... my mouth just filled with drool.

Only 4 more months till Christmas!!!