Monday, April 26, 2010

Seeing Red: Strawberry Goodness and Greens Salad

My very talented friend and creator of Plan Me Perfect, has inspired me to think strawberries. She posted to her fabulous blog twice today with incredibly beautiful strawberry goodness. Spring is in the air and that means so are strawberries. One of my fave ways to enjoy them are in salads. Now, I'm not a big salad eater but I'm trying to get more into it and this recipe definitely helps spark my interest. The dressing is also not necessarily what one would call "healthy" being that it uses an entire stick of butter, but its pretty darn delish and makes for my kinda salad! But if you wish to make it a little healthier, I think you can easily opt out about half the butter for olive oil- but please, keep some of the butter. It really adds to the flavor. I have no idea of the name of this salad or where the recipe comes from as it was passed down from my mama, but I love it and am happy to pass it on to you! Let's just call it.... Strawberry Goodness and Greens. Thanks for the inspiration, BFF!!

1 stick butter
1 pkg. ramen noodles (yes, Top Ramen- doesn't matter the flavor, your only using the noodles)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
romaine lettuce
crumbled feta or goat cheese, whichever you prefer
sliced black olives
sliced strawberries
chopped scallions

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add noodles, sesame seeds, walnuts. Cook until browned and noodles are tender, but not fully cooked. Set aside.

In another saucepan, mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar until sugar dissolves. Combine with noodle mixture and allow to cool to about room temperature.

Toss romaine, cheese, olives, strawberries and scallions. Just before serving, toss with dressing and serve remainder along side.

And how could I possibly post about strawberries without a little red pump inspiration. I die for these suede peep toes by Kate Spade. If I were a bride planning a wedding with touches of red, I would definitely wear these fab shoes!

Strawberry salad photo from Blue Studio
Kate Spade Red Peep Toe found at Nordstrom... on sale!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Grillin and Chillin with Short Ribs and Bread and Tomato Salad

It's been an absolutely fabulous weekend with sunny and warm weather to boot. Friday we had yet another delicious dinner at Tavern at Lark Creek. I love it there. The food is superb but I absolutely die for the interior of this restaurant.  It is in an old Victorian home from 1888 that has been updated to cherish the farm to table style food. It has that old farmhouse feel but has been updated and is absolutely gorgeous inside- exactly how I picture my dream kitchen!

Saturday brought on an early morning exploration of SF with one of my dearest and absolute cutest friends. We perused a gorgeous succulent nursery, enjoyed some yummy coffee and finished it off with some incredible japanese inspired pastries at Sandbox Bakery in Bernal Heights.

Following the morning tour of all things cute in SF Part 1 (there is much more cute to be seen), I met up with some more dear friends and we headed to Kate Spade to meet Tim Gunn. Now, I didn't exactly meet him cuz none of us were willing to drop $100 just to get close to him, but needless to say he was 10 feet away from me and I got to enjoy a few free glasses of champagne so no complaints!

And finally it is Sunday, the end of the weekend. After spending some quality time with the hubs and the hounds, we decided to finish it all off with a delicious dinner on the grill. It was 80 degrees and sunny out today so turning on my oven did not sound fun. Cooking on the deck sounded much more appealing so I decided to make our entire dinner on the grill. And the best part about grillin and chillin is that the hubs is the grill master so it's a meal that we can make together.

On tonights menu- Grilled Short Ribs with Grilled Bread and Tomato Salad. The short ribs, which are most often braised, are easier when done on the grill and take way less time. This recipe is flavored with a super simple barbeque style rub that is totally delish. The salad, for me, was the highlight of tonight's dinner. It's so summery and fresh tasting and grilling the tomatoes bring out their sweetness. And the grilled bread adds the perfect crunch. So on the next hot day when you find that turning your oven on is the last thing you want to do, fire up the grill, pop open a bottle of beer (what's better than an ice cold beer on a hot summer day!?) and get grillin.

Grilled Short Ribs

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup paprika
2 1/2 tbsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp granulated onion
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 lbs boneless beef short ribs
1 cup of your fave thick bbq sauce

In a medium bowl blend together sugars, paprika, salt, pepper, granulated onion and cayenne. Sprinkle short ribs liberally with mixture on all sides. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat grill using all burners set on high with the lid closed for 10-12 minutes. Place ribs on the grill, close lid and reduce heat to medium. Turn ribs every 3-5 minutes so that every side gets slightly carmelized, 15-20 minutes total, brushing with bbq sauce a couple of times while cooking. Ribs should be about medium rare to medium. Remove to plate and let stand for 5-10 minutes, covered in foil, before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Grilled Bread and Tomato Salad

1/4 cup butter
1 garlic clove
4 oz day old Italian bread, cut into 3/4 inch slices
3 dead ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into quarters
2 tbsp cup minced red onion
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add butter. When half melted, add garlic and cook 3-4 minutes until fragrant and lightly golden brown. Remove from heat and brush mixture on both sides of each slice of bread.

Preheat grill set on high with lid closed for 10-12 minutes. Place bread on grill, close lid and cook, turning once until you see nice grill marks, 2-4 minutes. Place tomatoes on grill, cook a few minutes per side.

Remove bread and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Place in large mixing bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, olive oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper. Toss gently and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve at room temperature.

Modern Housewife Tips:
1. For the bread salad, I was unable to find tarragon but had some fresh parsley on hand which is a nice substitution for this dish. I used beefsteak tomatoes but, when in season, heirloom tomatoes would be fab!
2. The recipe I found called for boneless but we could only find bone-in, which worked out ok but I think boneless could be a little more tender.
3. The rub used for the short ribs makes quite a bit more than you'll need but it can be stored in an air tight container for up to 2 months and would be great on just about anything you can think of to barbeque!

Short Rib recipe courtesy of epicurious
Grilled Bread and Tomato Salad recipe courtesy of epicurious

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back to Basics: Roast Chicken

I recently was watching an episode of No Reservations with the amazing Anthony Bourdain (I just love him). Instead of travelling in this episode, he focused solely on technique and the basics of cooking. His friend and incredible chef, Thomas Keller (owner of French Laundry which I hope to one day have the privilege and funds to dine at) did a little tutorial on the perfect Roast Chicken. It was an incredibly simple recipe and it made me think how important it is for a modern housewife like myself to be able to make the perfect roast chicken. Now, I have to admit, I've had some practice and am not quite there yet but I'm confident my next bird will be perfection. I've got the flavor and roasting part down. My only problem is I often roast the bird upside down. I can't even believe I'm announcing that to all of you, but its true. For some reason I just have a hard time telling when the little lady is on her stomach or on her back. But I think I've figured it out now. So... I feel its safe to share with you my secrets for roasting the perfect chicken.

Roast Chicken with Vegetables and Herb Butter

3 1/2 to 4 lbs whole chicken
salt and pepper
herb butter (recipe below)
1 lemon, quartered
1 yellow onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 parsnips, cut into large chunks
2 pounds potatoes (fingerling or new red potatoes are both great options), cut into large chunks
2 turnip, cut into large chunks
2 carrots, cut into large chunks

Allow chicken to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In bottom of roasting pan toss vegetables, including 1/2 of onion, with Olive Oil, salt and herbs (fresh sprigs of thyme are a great option).

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season chicken with salt and pepper, including inside of cavity. Fill cavity with lemon, garlic cloves and other half of onion. Rub exterior of chicken allover with some of herb butter, including under skin. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Drop 1-2 tbsp of herb butter over vegetables. Roast in oven for about an hour, occasionally basting with pan juices, until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.

Herb butter

1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, such as parley, oregano, thyme, or marjoram
1 cup butter, room temperature

Combine herbs and butter in a bowl or food processor, pulsing until combined.

Some tips:
1. Any unused herb butter can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. It's also great on a sizzling hot steak right off the grill.
2. Vegetables are also delicious when roasted separately and get a little crisper.
3. A great way for the hubby to feel involved and like the "man of the house" (even though we all know who is really in charge) is to have him do the carving.

Herb butter recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart
Roast chicken courtesy of moi, with influences by Martha and Joy of Cooking (a cookbook every modern housewife needs to add to their collection)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Scrumptious Sides: Sweet Potato Fries

I often serve sweet potato fries when entertaining because not only are they delish, but they are incredibly easy. I mean, who doesn't love sweet potato fries and after stumbling upon Giada's rendition with garlic mayonnaise, I've fallen in love all over again! Now, I do have a little secret. It's a little something I like to call Emily's Essence (ok, ok, so it's really Emeril's Essence but Emily's Essence has a nice ring to it, don't ya think?) The best thing about this scrumptious side is that it dazzles your guests while being so quick and easy that you can focus on your main course to really blow them away.

Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic Mayonnaise

4 sweet potatoes, cut into about 1 by 5 inch fries
3 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp Emeril's essence

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fries on foil lined baking sheet and toss with olive oil and Emeril's Essence, enough to lightly coat. Bake until golden, about 30-45 minutes.

In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice. Stir to combine.

When the fries come out of the oven sprinkle with salt to taste and serve garlic mayonnaise along side for dipping. Serves 4-6.

A couple small tips:
1. Keep an eye on the prize, er, fries. I'm not gonna lie, I've burnt a batch or two.
2. Make sure to toss fries about half way through. This way they will cook evenly and are much less likely to burn.
3. Emeril's Essence is a spice mix by, you guessed it, Emeril Lagasse. It's a pretty basic mix of spices- salt, onion, paprika, etc- but it's super delicious and good on many things... sprinkle it on asparagus before you cook it with a little olive oil. You won't be disappointed!
4. Another tasty option that is part of Giada's original recipe is tossing the fries with basil salt after baking. Sometimes I leave this step out depending on if I have fresh basil or not. The recipe is as follows:

Basil Salt

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tsp kosher salt (sea salt works well too)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Combine in a small bowl and sprinkle over fries after baking. 

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentis on and modified by moi.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cheese Plate for the Divinely Cheesy

If I had it my way, I would eat a cheese plate for dinner with a glass (or two) of vino at least a few times a week. But, being that I don't live alone and the hubs prefers carnivorous meals most nights, I have to settle for making myself a cheese plate as an afternoon snack on weekends, which I guess I can live with. I feel there are a few very important components in making the perfect cheese plate. Think of the following as my rules to live by in the world of delicious cheese plates.

To start, you need a plate! Find a cute platter or cheese board because in cheese plates, looks matter! I LOVE this plate that I stumbled upon at Flora Grubb in San Francisco. 

Now that we've found the plate, onto the cheese. I like to round out my plate with 3 cheeses of different varieties. I feel its best to start out with a crowd pleasing cheddar. You can find many great cheddars out there. A safe bet would be a delicious Cabot Sharp Cheddar from the Great State of Vermont (who will not apologize for their cheese!- tell me you've seen Thank You For Smoking) but I happen to like my cheddar with a bit more bite and Whole Foods stocks a great option from England called Seaside Cheddar. It's a bit softer and even a little crunchy, yes crunchy. I have no idea why but it's divine!

Moving on to the 2nd cheese... I like this to be my wild card cheese. The 2nd cheese is never pre-determined. I often browse the cheese counter at Whole Foods trying any and all cheeses they have out to taste and looking very eager and needy in the case that I haven't tried something I like enough to buy so that the cheese man will offer to gimme a little taste of whatever he has behind the counter. Sometimes I walk away with a delish gouda, or maybe a brie. 

For my final pick, I always go with a goat cheese. I found an amazingly delicious goat cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre called Humboldt Fog. Not only do I love love love goat cheese, but I love love LOVE this goat cheese. It has a thin layer of vegetable ash running through the center which doesn't add to the flavor much but makes the cheese wedge absolutely stunning. And like I said before, in cheese plates, looks matter!

Now, probably the most important rule when building a cheese plate is to realize that it's not all about cheese... you gotta throw in some extras. First, get a scrumptious salami. I like Sopressata, but no matter your choice, it's gotta be a cased, cured meat which you can find at a gourmet deli counter. You also need bread or crackers. I like to get a sourdough baguette, being that I'm in the bay area and all. Now keep in mind, crackers can be delish, but if you've gone for more soft cheese options then I'd definitely go for the bread. And finally... FIG JAM!! This is the most important component (Humboldt Fog is a close 2nd) to my cheese plates. There is just something truly special about a slice of sourdough baguette topped with a hunk of Humboldt Fog and topped off with a thin spreading of Fig Jam. I can't even explain where this little bite of goodness takes me but, believe me, you wanna go! 

Now pop open your favorite bottle of vino, slice some bread, sit back, relax, and eat some cheese!

Ain't No Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie

Who doesn't love to come home to the aroma of classic, cozy comfort food permeating from their oven. I know I do, although, usually the hubs is the one coming home to it while I'm the one preparing. Either way, all those classic comfort food dishes just tickle me pork! I came across this deliciously modern Chicken Pot Pie recipe in Cooking Light magazine a few years back. Being that it came from Cooking Light, it is obviously much lighter in fat than a classic Chicken Pot Pie but my fave thing about this dish (besides that its super tasty and makes great leftovers) is how easy it is. The phyllo dough topping makes this dish unbelievably simple and is a HUGE time saver. I think this dish is an absolute must for all you modern housewives to add to your repertoire.

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups red potato (about 1 pound)
2 cups diced onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 8oz.)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups fat free milk
1/2 cup less sodium chicken broth
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 12oz.)
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 sheets phyllo dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 375.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over med-high heat; add oil. Add potatoes and next 6 ingredients (through thyme). Saute for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle flour over vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in milk and broth. Increase heat to med-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken, peas, salt and pepper.
Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or work surface. Make sure to cover remaining phyllo dough with a towel to keep from drying out. Lightly spray phyllo sheet with cooking spray. Repeat layers with cooking spray and place phyllo layers loosely on top of mixture in dish. Place dish on baking sheet and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Makes about 6 servings.

A few tips:
1. To save even more time, grab an already cooked rotisserie chicken from your grocery store.
2. Phyllo dough can be found in the freezer section at your grocery store. You will get more sheets than you need in a pkg so feel free to throw those unused sheets back in your freezer for next time.
3. Fresh herbs are always nice, but I've found I can never use up all the herbs that come in a pkg, thus it ends up going to waste, which I hate! Dried herbs are just as yummy in this dish, just make sure to cut the amount in half as dried herbs are about twice as strong as fresh herbs.

recipe courtesy of Cooking Light April 2007

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

Being the very lucky lady that I am, I recently had the grand experience of dining at Gary Danko. For a small town girl like me, and as my mom would say, it was a real treat! The whole experience was too much to sum up in one sitting so for today, I'd like to focus on Oma.

Oh Oma! The hills are alive with the Sound of Oma. Somehow and someway three of my most favorite things came together in Oma.... cheese, Vermont and The Sound of Music. Oma is a beautiful cow's milk soft cheese, similar to a brie, made in Waitsfield, Vermont by Sebastian and Dan Von Trapp, direct decendents of the Captain and Maria!

The amazing thing about this cheese is not only that it is divinely cheesily delicious but that there are just too many similarities between the two of us. When I was a kid, my parents would take us to Waitsfield and we would stay in this Inn. Actually, I'm pretty sure the name of it was Waitsfield Inn, go figure. I remember my most favorite thing about it was that the room we would get had a loft where my brother and I would sleep and I thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Second, I live and die for cheese. Third, I grew up watching The Sound of Music which came to be my most favorite movie of all time. I even walked down the aisle at my wedding to Edelweiss.

I think I've found my soulmate, other than the hubs of course. So ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you, Oma...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Date Night In: Grilled Quail

About a year and a half ago, the hubs and I decided that as much as we love each other, the tiny confines of a one bedroom apartment for us and our two fairly large hounds was starting to feel a bit cramped. Thus, we decided to move out of the beautiful city of San Francisco and into the adorable town of Mill Valley just 15 minutes north of the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge. My absolute favorite thing about our new abode is the time we spend at home- just us, the dogs, a crackling fire and a delish dinner which makes for the perfect date night in. The more date nights in we have, the more ambitious we get with dinner, which led us to our most delicious date night meal to date... Five Spice Grilled Quail with Truffle Yaki Sauce.

Now, the name sounds a little daunting, I know. But if I can do it... you definitely can! Think of quail as tiny little chickens but much more delicious and totally easy. Just season with salt and pepper, grill 2-3 minutes per side and voila!

The piece de resistance of this dish was by far the sauce. Don't get me wrong, the quail was fabulous, but the sauce... I could eat the sauce on anything and everything and I'd live a very happy life! I think it'd be great on chicken or salmon as well as quail... but really, just give the quail a shot, I promise you won't be disappointed.

To make the Truffle Yaki Sauce:
3 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. mirin (japanese cooking wine)
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 (1/4 inch thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. white truffle oil

Whisk together 2 tablespoons of the water, soy sauce, grapeseed oil, vinegar, lime juice and mirin in a bowl. Stir in sugar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Transfer soy sauce mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir remaining 1 tbsp water and cornstarch together in a small bowl and whisk into soy sauce mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until thick. Gradually whisk in cream and remove from heat. Whisk in truffle oil. Arrange grilled quail on serving platter and spoon sauce over the quail.

Finally, have your hunny pop a bottle of Pinot Noir or your fave Chardonnay, light some candles, turn on a little Coltrane and enjoy!

And the best part about a date night at home... there is no one to impress but your hunny so you can gladly enjoy in your most comfy chic attire. I'd choose this because I just can't help but love a onesie and especially one by Marc by Marc Jacobs!

Thank you to Cakebread Cellars for publishing a fab cookbook and inspiring us to have romantic evenings at home.

recipe courtesy of The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook
Marc by Marc Jacobs Terry Jumpsuit from Shopbop

Sunday Dinner in Your Sunday Best

It's a cold, wet day here in NorCal which seems to be the case a lot lately. Not that I'm complaining because on these days, I want nothing more than to hang out in my kitchen and cook away the day. Now, if I were a baker, I'd probably make a scrumptious pie or maybe even some cookies to bring to my co-workers tomorrow. But alas, I am not a baker so to me, spending a day in the kitchen goes a little something like this... Sunday Pot Roast. This weeks Sunday Dinner in Your Sunday Best features an old classic that every self respecting modern housewife should know how to make. I like to consider myself a modern housewife, but funny thing is, I've never made a pot roast. I was given an adorable Le Creuset dutch oven as a wedding gift from my fabulous co-workers along with a jar of what looks to be a very delicious braising base for pot roasts. So, might as well test my skills today. The dinner will go a little something like this..

First and foremost, the Sunday Best! Being that this is a classic meal that housewives dating back to the 50's (probly even earlier but i'm no history buff) have made for their families, I think a 50's inspired dress is only fitting. I love the whimsical froggy print and the silhouette is so ladylike and feminine.

And of course... a girl's gotta have a cute apron! I think this half apron adds the perfect pop of color with some red patent pumps to pull the look together!

And now that we have the outfit figured out, on to the dish.

Yankee Pot Roast (a la Williams Sonoma)

1 beef chuck roast (3 to 4 lb.)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 jar Yankee Pot Roast Braising Base
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
8-10 baby red potatoes
buttered noodles for serving

This dish can be cooked in a slow cooker, but to me, there is just something about searing and starting the dish on the stove in my dutch oven and finishing the dish low and slow in the oven. I guess I'm just a little more old fashioned when it comes to cooking.

Dutch Oven Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In dutch oven over medium-high heat, sear roast on all sides, 10-12 minutes total. Transfer to plate. Pour off excess fat from pan. Add braising base and bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Return roast to pan. Cover and bake until meat is fork-tender, 2.5 to 3 hours, adding veggies during the last hour.

Carve roast into slices 1/2 inch thick. Skim fat off sauce, spoon sauce over meat. Serve with vegetables and buttered noodles. Serves 6-8.

And now... I think I'll get started!

froggy print dress and apron from anthropologie