Monday, December 17, 2007

Insalata Caprese

Or salad in the style of the Island of Capri. There are more versions on how to make this than you can shake a stick at. I've seen it layered, overlapped and on skewers. I've seen it topped with just olive oil, with just balsamic vinegar and with a mixture of both. And most importantly if you have a set of working eyes you don't require a recipe. If you can see it you can make it. So going off of this basic principle, I knew I liked mine stacked, with more balsamic vinegar than olive oil and topped with julienned basil instead of whole basil leaves. But, always the perfectionist, I decided to do some research and see if I was "missing out" on something that would take my basic idea into an AWESOME idea!

So I went on and found a recipe for the salad but I wasn't interested on the recipe as much as I was interested in the reviews. I find a lot of insight on the reviews, what people did different, how they made a recipe better, you know.... insight. So I found the following review by someone called YOGAFOODIE:
"I've been making this salad for years. However, us Sicilians make it a little different. Also, another trick is to use fresh bocconcini (the smaller fresh moz. balls) and to use very fresh Roma (chopped) tomatoes or cherry/plum tomatoes. I add a lot of balsamic dressing with only a splash of olive oil (plus at least 3-4 cloves of fresh chopped garlic). Mix together and let the flavors marinate together (it tastes delicious when the balsamic vinegar and garlic flavors soak into the cheese). Just a little Sicilian twist to the caprese salad. "

With this little tid bit in mind I set out to make the Caprese salad my own. And it completely surpassed my expectations. It was savory, light, fresh and best of all TASTY!!! Ryan really liked it, he liked it so much he has requested it for Christmas Day. I think I will make it as an appetizer or something we can munch on during the day. And since it's already dressed in the Christmas colors how could that be wrong? So here is my take on Insalata Caprese:

Insalata Caprese con una Claud Torsione
In English, Salad in the style of Capri with a Claud Twist

2 Vine Ripened Tomatoes (can be purchased at the grocery store)

2 Buffalo Mozzarella

Basil Leaves, julienned (About 3 or 4 it's really your preference)

1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 tbspn Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tspn Finely Chopped Garlic

Coarse Salt

Combine Balsamic vinegar and garlic in a bowl and then slowly mix in the Olive Oil until emulsified. Set the mixture aside and let "marinate" at room temperature for an hour to an hour and a half. A little before your hour or your hour an a half is done slice up your Buffalo Mozzarella . Place cheese on a platter or deep dish and pour 2 tablespoons of the balsamic mixture over the mozzarella slices. Let the cheese marinate in the balsamic vinegar for an hour. Then slice up two tomatoes, you should get about six 1/4" slices out of every tomato. Place tomatoes slices on a platter and season with coarse salt. Then with a slotted spoon transfer mozzarella cheese slices on top of the tomato slices. Then sprinkle the balsamic vinegar the cheese was marinating in around the tomato slices. Sprinkle basil over the top of the stacks, serve and enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Frito Candy aka Crazy Bark

No you are not mistaken, you read that right Frito Candy! It's a bark made of the most uncommon ingredients Fritos, pretzels, Reese's peanut butter cups and chocolate. And let me just tell you it's TASTY!!!

I thought it sounded a little weird but I couldn't help and be intrigued and thank God I was. It's sweet, it's salty with a caramelized flavor in the back ground.. I don't know what else to say you will just have to try it for yourself. I will have to say if you like chocolate covered pretzels then you'll like this and I almost forgot about my favorite part it's sooooo easy to make!

Sweet, Salty, Frito Candy
Courtesy of Cookie Madness

2 cups pretzels
1 cup Fritos
8 mini peanut butter cups (Cut in half)
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or however many you want) (I used the exact amount I think if you add more chocolate it would be too sweet)
Optional: Some peanuts for the top (Definately used them and I think it helps make it look "pretty")

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper or no-stick (Release) foil.

Place pretzels in food processor and pulse to break - don’t pulverize. Add Fritos to processor and break them up with pretzels. Dump into pan. Unwrap peanut butter cups and throw them in the mix.

Place butter in a non-stick saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in brown sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring once or twice. Pour over Frito mixture and bake for 8 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy. Return to oven for 1 minute to soften chips. Spread softened chocolate chips over bars.

Cool at room temperature until you feel the pan is cool enough to be transfered to your refrigerator, then transfer to refrigerator to set the chocolate. When chocolate is set, lift from pan and break the candy up as you would almond toffee. You can eat it cold or let it come back down to room temp. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, really.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Product Rave: Dr. Pete's Praline Mustard Glaze

Dr. Pete's Praline Mustard Glaze as mentioned in our Friends Thanksgiving Review is a little slice of heaven. The blend of Pralines, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves is to die!

We had it as a dip poured over cream cheese but it would be perfect on ham. There is aso a recipe on their website for a Praline Sweet Potato Casserole that uses this glaze and it sounds absolutely sinful!

How is it we got the little Savannah treasure in Orange County you ask, I'll tell you. Our friend Lisette was in Savannah for her annual Birthday trip with her Mom and brought back a bottle of this and so kindly brought it to our Friends Thanksgiving. And we instantly fell in love with it. Well I just fell so bad that she brought her one and only bottle to our shindig so I went on a mission to try to find it. I called the company direct and asked if they had a retailer in the West Coast that sold it. The nice man on the other end of the phone said, in his beautiful southern twang, that they only had 5 retailers in the entire West Coast that sold it, my heart instantly sank. He then asked me for my zip code and told me there was a local retailer but that they were far away. He said they were all the way in Laguna Niguel! Well I just perked up and started laughing I told him I was from Orange County and 40 minutes is nothing to us! He still felt that was too far so he checked to see if there was one closer. He then said there is one located at 123 N. Glassell in Orange do you know where that is? By this point I was hysterical I told him that was right up the street from my house. He burst out lauging and said I was one lucky girl! So I high tailed it over there and bought one bottle for Lisette and one bottle for myself. And that is how the little Savannah treasure ended up in Orange County.

Anywho, you can buy it directly from them or call them and see if they have any retailers that sell it near you. If you buy it directly from them they have a four item minimum but you can mix and match so you don't have to get four of the same thing. But that wouldn't be so bad either because this stuff is liquid gold!

Grandma Trudy's Famous Cranberry Relish

So Ryan's cousin Suzie wanted to make her Grandmother's famous cranberry relish. She calls up her Grandma Trudy and asks her for her famous recipe, waiting in anticipation to be handed the precious family heirloom Suzie's jaw drops when Grandma Trudy says, "Just look on the back of the cranberry bag it's right there." That is one of my favorite stories kinda reminicent of when Monica from Friends finds out Phoebe's Grandma's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe is really the Nestle Tollhouse recipe that can be found on the back of the bag as well.

Personally I don't care for cranberry sauce but I like this relish. It's easy, tart & sweet all the things I like all rolled into one. I make it the night before so when it's served it looks more like cranberry sauce and less like a relish but I like it that way. I think it's the introduction of the water which can be omitted if you'd like it to be more like a relish. The Ocean Spray recipe doesn't call for water but the bag, which was a different brand, that I got my recipe from did.

My friend Rich at our Friends Thanksgiving said "I don't like cranberry sauce. As a matter of fact I think it's the nastiest most vile thing on the table at Thanskgiving, but I can't stop eating this. Is it bad that I just want to eat this by itself?" My friend Lisette said it would taste good over a plain cheesecake as well.

Grandma Trudy's Famous Cranberry Orange Relish

1 bag fresh cranberries

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

the zest of one orange

1 orange segmented

The night before in a food processor or blender combine all ingredients and blend. Put in a container and refrigerate until needed.

Awesome Sausage, Apple & Cranberry Stuffing

This recipe was ranked pretty high on allrecipes so I decided to try it. I must preface this by saying I do not like stuffing and did not try it, but Ryan had it and he said it was really good and our friends seemed to like it as well. Next time I think I will try it because I tried Mom MaryAnn's at regular Thanksgiving and I think I like stuffing now.

Awesome Sausage, Apple & Cranberry Stuffing

1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread (Used sourdough)
3 3/4 cups cubed white bread (Used sourdough)
1 pound ground turkey sausage (Used 1/2 Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage & 1/2 Jimmy Dean Hot sausage)
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped (Used green Granny Smith)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped (Omitted for obvious reasons)
3/4 cup turkey stock (Used low sodium chicken broth)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degree F (175 degree C). Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.

Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, parsley, and liver. Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into turkey to loosely fill. I didn't stuff the stuffing in the turkey. I baked in a 13x9 dish for 30-35 minutes and then stirred it half way through cooking to make sure it cooked evenly. I must warn you this is a dry stuffing so if you like your stuffing on the moist side, you will need to add a lot more stock/broth. About 3 times as much.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

My roast turkey brings all the boys to the yard and they're like it's better than yours! You're damn right it's better than yours! I could teach you, but I'd have to charge! Okay so maybe I won't charge but I will teach you or should I say show you.

So this is the first turkey I have ever made and if I do say so myself it turned out quite AWESOME! It was golden brown, juicy, and flavorful. Pretty much everything a roast turkey should be. So I was a little scared of making a turkey but since I was hosting Friends Thanksgiving I couldn't very well ask someone else to bring the turkey so I elicited the help of my Domestic Superhero Aunt Trish. And she recommended I brine the turkey. Apparently anybody who's anybody is brining their turkey.

Here is the recipe I used. It's from Alton Brown on the food network and it was very, very good. As always I can never follow a recipe to the "T" so my changes are in parenthesis.
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey (I made a smaller 12-13 pnd turkey)
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt (I used regular table salt)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock (Used chicken stock because the store was out of veggie)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger (Used ground ginger about 1/8th of a tspn, next time I'll use more)
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil (Softened 1 stick of unsalted butter instead)
Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) (I used my cooler. I did a layer of ice in the cooler then double bagged the turkey in Turkey size oven bags breast down. Placed it in the cooler over the ice. Then poured in the brine and the ice water into the bag. Then I weighted down the turkey using a small plastic cutting board and tied the bag. This kep the tukey submerged. Place some more ice around the turkey). combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.
Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage.
Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil. (I just massaged the turkey with the softened butter, I must have used up a little over 1/2 of the stick of butter)
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.
Chica Tip: Sorry I couldn't help myself, Ryan & I watch "Simply Delicioso" on Food Network and can't help making fun of Ingrid Hoffman's lameness. But I digress, back to my tip. I almost hate giving this tip away but I will. If you find yourself having to buy a lot of spices like here for the brine you will end up spending a small fortune in spices and this might deter you from making this recipe so... Instead of going to the spice aisle, ignore it all together and go straight to the Mexican or the Ethnic aisle of your grocery store. There in the Mexican section of the aisle you will find the spices you need in little plastic bags for the embarassing price of $0.79 to $0.99!!!! That's right for about 1/4 of the price of fancy schmancy McCormicks in the fancy schmancy bottles.

Friends Thanksgiving II

Friends Thanksgiving

You are probably asking yourself what is Friends Thanksgiving? Well in a nutshell it's an excuse for Friends to get together before Thanksgiving and have a good time while enjoying some good Thanksgiving grub. And best of all it's family drama free.

This was the first year we had Friends Thanksgiving and it was also the first time I ever made a turkey and if I do say so myself it turned out quite AWESOME!!!! But we'll get to that a little later. Friends Thanksgiving was everything I hoped for and more. The food was great, the drinks were great and I don't think any of us had laughed that hard in a while.

The little group in attendance was comprised of Ryan & I (of course), Lisette & Jeff and Rich & Steph. Lisette brought an awesome broccoli casserole, a nice tossed salad and an amazing dip called Dr. Pete's Praline and Mustard Glaze she purchased on a recent trip to Savannah, GA. If you have never had it, and there is a good chance you haven't, you must! It's like heaven, I kid you not. It tastes like the best pralines you ever had in a reduction of maple sugar kicked up by a team of spices like cinnamon, cloves and of course mustard. She served it over cream cheese with an assortment of crackers and it was to die!

Stephanie brought an apple pie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate pie. She was supposed to bring a relish tray (crudite) but forgot it. And when she forgot it she probably made the worst mistake of her life because Lisette and I have yet to let her live that down. Especially since Lisette was looking forward to putting black olives on each of her fingers tips and then eat them off one by one. Yes I did call her a five year old for this.

I made the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. And I was very pleased with how they all came out. Ryan, the hater of all things potato minus french fries, even LOVED these potatoes but who wouldn't love something that has a boat load of cream cheese in it, I mean really!

Anyway when the girls arrived I greeted each with a split of champagne with a straw and of course a smile. The "women" hung around in the kitchen working on the finishing touches and talking about "girl stuff" a.k.a. gossiping while the "men" hung out in the balcony enjoying their beers and cigars. Unfortunately dinner took a little longer than expected and the "men" ended up getting drunk before dinner was served. And when we finally announced dinner was ready Jeff jokingly answered "Wow there's food too, I thought we were just getting drunk."

We then all gathered up around the table and believe it or not we held hands and went around the table saying something we were thankful for. I kid you not! I thought the guys were going to refuse to do it but they didn't, mostly they were joking about what they were thankful for, but they did humor us girls and did it. And then it came time to grub and boy did we ever! So much so that Stephanie felt the need to relieve herself at the table, not pee just gas. I thought Lisette was going to throw up because she had the unfortunate luck of being seated by her. After dinner all the boys except for Ryan fell asleep. I couldn't believe Ryan was awake he's usually the first to pass out but there he was awake. But it didn't last very long he got tired of our girl talk and put himself to sleep but not before Stephanie did a booty dance over Rich's head. Which he woke up half way through and all he saw was Stephanie's butt and thought she was farting on him, he quickly shielded himself. And that is how Friends Thanksgiving came to an end.

We are all looking forward to doing it again next year except we'll have to put someone else in charge of the crudite, Steph I'm looking in your direction.

P.S. I must warn you if you do have a Friends Thanksgiving, it will feel like you are cheating on real Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead

This was the first year our family celebrated Dia de los Muertos (DDLM) in the states. We as kids never celebrated DDLM sure my Mom and Aunts would put out fruit and bread out on the kitchen table and light a candle but there was never a "celebration". This year I decided that needed to change. Truth be told it wasn't just this year, as I get older and watch our nieces and nephews grow up I think about them growing up not knowing our Mexican culture and traditions and that saddens me very much.

So this year my sister Lucy and I got together and arranged for a pot luck style dinner and to make an altar/shrine just like it's done in Mexico. Lucky for us our Mom and our Aunts were just as excited as us. They were however very skeptical. How were we (Lucy & I) supposed to pull off Dia de los Muertos if we had never celebrated it or build an altar/shrine? My Mom as a matter of fact said, and I quote, "What do you know about sugar skull making?"

Well everyone was blown away. Not only did the sugar skulls come out good but the altar/shrine kicked butt! Which is great because I seriously was afraid of it looking like a two bit operation. Everyone did an awesome job. Lucy was the Queen being able to find Marigolds & decorations. My Mom went above and beyond by making a kick butt Pozole and then a roasted acorn squash as an offering. My Tia Nelva not to be outdone made Tinga and my Aunt Celeste provided all the garnishes for the pozole. Ryan made tri-tip & my brother in law Cesar made his famous BBQ'd ribs. And everyone brought pictures it was just too awesome for words.

Our altar/shrine consisted of "the smells" which are key, they are said to lead the deceased to the altar, and they are amazing. The strong scent of the Marigolds combined with the smell of the sugar skulls that smell like freshly iced cake and the smell of Pan de Muertos / Bread of the dead with the heavy scent of toated sesame seeds is incredible. We also had pictures of my Abuelita (Grandma) Irene, Cesar's Dad who recently passed and Ryan's beloved Pop pop.

There were offerings or things that the deceased liked and enjoyed during their time on earth. For my Abuelita we had Rompope (Mexican eggnog), cigarettes (because she took joy in this rare treat), Vaporub (because according to her it cured everything. You had a headache put some Vaporub on it, your stomach hurts put some Vaporub on it. I kid you not one time my uncle Poncho had Vaporub smeared all over his head, he was a believer too), Coca Cola (because she said it helped her digestion). For Pop pop we put out St. Patrick's Day beads, a deck of card (because he loved to play card), a bottle of wine and his sugar skull was decorated with his "signature" $2 bills.

For all of our deceased we put out glasses of water because they are thirsty after their long voyage and we also played some festive cumbias (Mexican dance music). I also included the memorial prayer card that was handed out at my sister in law's gradmother's funeral. I just had to, her funeral took place in March and the Thursday before our dinner I was cleaning out my purse and there it was. I felt it wasn't coincidence and therefore I placed the card on the altar next to Pop pop's sugar skull.

All and all it was a great night we all reminisced about our loved ones and it really felt like they were there and they were happy being amond us as we remembered them fondly and missed them so much. I encourage everyone to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in their own special way. It is a beautiful Holiday that should be celebrated more. If you ever do you'll realize that there was a good reason why the Aztecs fought the Spaniards Priest to keep it.

Again, due to my technical incompetence the slide show of our altar is in the post above.

Emeril's Shrimp Scampi

What I liked about this shrimp scampi was the addition of the crushed capers. Now I don't know how Emeril intended for you to crush capers but the only way I could think of doing it at the time was through the use of a garlic press. And boy did that require some elbow grease, so much so that Ryan had to do it.

Though I did like it, it wan't "saucy" enough for me. I think next time I would add the lesser of two evils, either more butter or heavy cream. Tough choice because they are both oh soooo bad, in an oh soooo good kinda way. Oh and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to make it a little "flirtier".

Emeril's Shrimp Scampi
Recipe courtesy of Food Network

1 pound large (16-20 count per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used colosal shrimp)
2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows (I used his bottled Essence that you purchase at the grocery store)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon capers, crushed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound cooked linguini
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with the Essence.
Place the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and spread them out evenly in the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes and quickly turn the shrimp. Add the garlic and capers to the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter to the skillet and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Season the shrimp with the salt and pepper and add the pasta, tossing to coat well. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve hot.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Mexican Sugar Skulls II

Mexican Sugar Skulls

For Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead I was hell bound on making these. Well I'm lying, first I thought of buying them, but they are so gosh darn expensive that making them became a non issue. And though they are easy to make there sure is a lot of waiting. For instance after you take them out of the mold you have to let them dry for 8 hours, then you have to hollow them out and then let them dry for an additional 12 hours. Then you have to fuse the two pieces together with icing and then let them dry for an additional 2 hours before you can decorate them. So as you can see although they are easy to make they sure are time tedious.

My original goal was to make 20, giving me enough to decorate our altar/shrine with & then some for the kids to decorate themselves. Needless to say due to the long process I only made six.

Here is where I found the molds. They have detailed instructions complete with illustrations showing you how to make them, so I won't write them here. But I will say I did not buy them online they have a list of retailers that carry them so lucky for me the Bowers Kidseum in Santa Ana had them so all I or should I say all Ryan had to do was drive down there are purchase one. I purchase the large sugar skull mold which consists of two parts, the front & the back of the skull, they have all kinds of different sizes and varieties.

Here are some tips:

-Don't be too over zealous in packing in the sugar, I was and therefore I only got 6 sugar skulls when I should have gotten 10.
-If you have never worked with 10 pounds of sugar before may I suggest opting out of the 10 pound bag and buying two 5 pound bags instead. Reason I say this is no matter how big a bowl you have at home there is nooooo way you will be able to fit 10 pounds of sugar in it.
-The Merengue powder I was able to find at Michael's Arts & Crafs same with the color paste.
-For 10 large sugar skulls the website advices you use 4 pounds of sugar for the royal icing. I found that 2 pounds was more than enough. Seriously though, I have about 2/4 of it still left.

I hope next year some of you try to do this or at least think about celebrating Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. It's a beautiful holiday that allows us to remember our beloved family and friends who have passed.

P.S. Since I cannot get the slide show and the text to coincide in one post the slide show is in the post above.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open Letter to My Loving Husband Ryan

Dear Loving Husband,

Though I love your funny comments, thank you by the way, if you plan on going on a tangent (see second comment on Taco Salad Post) or turning this into your own public forum may I suggest that you please get your own blog.

Love Always,
Your Loving Wife & Cook Claudia

Monday, October 8, 2007

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

So last night we had Mom, Dad and Nona over for dinner and we made The Man Pleaser. And oooo girl did we eat our weight in calories, carbs and saturated fats, but it was oh so good! So tonight, and maybe for the next two weeks, Ryan and I are on a "diet".

I had been sitting on this recipe for a couple of weeks now and today was the perfect day for it. Usually I am against salads as a main course because I don't think of them as a "main course". But boy oh boy did this salad prove me wrong. Not only was it filling but it was oh so tasty! We made some modifications, of course, but that doesn't deter from the orginal recipe.

Chicken Chipotle Taco Salad Recipe Courtesy of: Cooking Light Magazine

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2/3 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce (I also added a tspn of the adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder (Used Mexican Chili Powder)
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breast) (I blackened & BBQ'd the chicken breasts, see notes below)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (Used whole grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup diced peeled avocado (omitted, only because there were no ripe ones at the grocery store)
1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (omitted because I didn't feel like beans)
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added whole-kernel corn, rinsed and drained (Used Trader Joes Fire Roasted Corn)

To prepare dressing, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring well. (Did this an hour ahead to let the flavors combine)

To prepare salad, combine lettuce and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad (I drizzled a little over the top, see above picture for looks); toss gently to coat (I didn't toss I served as is with the dressing on the side and even then we only used a fraction of it). Serve immediately.

Tip: Add a spoonful of adobo sauce for a spicier salad. Kidney or pinto beans also taste great in this dish.

Yield 4 servings (serving size: 2 1/2 cups)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 249(30% from fat); FAT 8.2g (sat 2.8g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 23.3g; CHOLESTEROL 50mg; CALCIUM 106mg; SODIUM 650mg; FIBER 7g; IRON 2.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 25.1g
David Bonom Cooking Light, AUGUST 2006

Notes: Here is my secret recipe to blackening the chicken; rinse and pat chicken dry, start by seasoning one side at a time, sprinkle salt (enough to season or taste), then cayenne pepper (only if you want it truly spicy), then go to Ralph /Kroger and buy their Blackenend Chicken Seasoning and sprinkle it on 'til every litle bit of the chicken is covered in it and repeat on the other side. Ha ha! You thought I was going to give you a recipe full of different spices to make your own blackened season didn't cha! You should know by now I take my help where I can get it. One more thing if you make it as I suggest it will be a little spicy.

Final Thought: I don't know why it's called a taco salad as there is no trace of "taco" anywhere, but I digres. This recipe could be easily thrown together by buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and cubing the breast and saving the rest for another meal, perhaps some taquitos mmmm...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Claud's Chili that's only second to Mama MaryAnn's

I got this recipe off of at the beginning of the year and made it for Supebowl and again for the third time this past weekend. Needless to say it was awesome! And coming from me that means a lot afterall I am famous for saying, when asked what I was going to eat at the Orange County Fair, "I'm gonna eat chili cheese everything!"

When I got this recipe I read through the various reviews, which I stronly recommend you do if you take a recipe from this site or any site that offers reviews. Anywho, after reading the many reviews I tweaked the recipe as I saw fit for us. As everyone knows chili is a matter of taste some like it sweet while some like it hot. I like it with some spice and very savory, which I think this recipe does well.

I've noted my changes in red and have converted this recipe from stove top to slow cooker (8qt crockpot) recipe. I'd also like to note that I have never made it as it is written nor have I made it on the stove top. The only way I've made it is how I suggest you make it, but it's completely up to you. You can also easily 1/2 the recipe and still end up with a lot of chilli.

One last thing as you look through some of my "adjustments" they may seem a little unorthodox or like I have a total disregard for health but this is comfort food people not diet food so put that in yo' pipe and smoke it!

Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

2 pounds ground beef chuck (I used stew beef cut into little cubes, so they break up easily)
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I used hot Italian Sausage)
3 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (Due to crockpot space I used (3) 14.5 oz cans)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped (didn't use, don't care for it)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (only used 1/2 due to space in crockpot)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (only used 1/2 due to space in crockpot)
2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped (I used jalapenos with seeds removed)
1 tablespoon bacon bits (Used 4 bacon strips instead, crumble & reserve grease)
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 cup beer (Used one full beer, Pacifico to be exact)
1/4 cup chili powder (For a special kick use Mexican chili powder)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (the first time I made I didn't add it because I didn't have it & honestly I didn't see a difference with it)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano (If you use the Mexican chili powder use Mexican Oregano)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™) (I used Cholula)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 3/4 tbspn)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon white sugar (Didn't use, I like it savory so I added the juice of 1/2 a lime instead)
1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips such as Fritos® (Have never used)
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese (I don't "measure" shredded cheese I just shred it and whatever Ryan doesn't eat before hand we use)

This directions are split to show ST=Stovetop & CP=Crock Pot
1.ST:Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan, and cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease.
CP:The directions will be the same, except if you use the beef stew meat do not drain as it will not be greasy just juicy. While you are browning the meat saute the onions in the bacon grease until tender then transfer contents to crockpot, both the meat and the onions.

2.ST:Pour in the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
CP: Pour the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the fritos & cheese of course, into Crockpot and mix well. And set to cook on HIGH for 10 hours. Keep a close eye on it because it might spill over from being full.

3.ST:After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate, and serve the next day. CP: In the last 2 hours of cooking give the chili a taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed, I've never had to, at this point if you'd like to make it a little spicier add some crush red pepper flakes. I have done that and it does make it spicier.

4.ST:To serve, ladle into bowls, and top with corn chips and shredded Cheddar cheese.
CP: I do not use the corn chips but I do offer sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese & green onions and I serve the chili in bread bowls.
A couple of last minute notes: I'm sure there are easier ways to make chili out there but I like this one. And believe it or not it isn't greasy at all. One last thing, I recommend you try serving this in Rosemary bread bread bowls. Trust me it's soooo worth it and you can buy the bread in the bakery section of any grocery store. If you want to add a little something different, on one of the blogs I visit the gal revealed the "secret ingredient" in her chili, cinnamon. Which totally made sence and made me wonder why I hand't thought of it before. So if you are feeling adventurous try putting in just a dash to really play up the spices.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Easy Oreo Truffles - The Little Black Balls That Started It All

Picture & Recipe Courtesy of

These little truffles were the ones that gave me the baking bug, which is kinda ironic seeing how these aren't a "baked good" at all. But what they are is delicious!!! Not only are these truffles a must try but they will become one of the most requested items you make.

They are soooo easy to make and yet they look so gourmet when they're done you'll be embarrassed to tell people how easy they were to make, I know I was. So when you make these do as the Mom did in the old Rice Crispies Treats commercials. Pretend you slaved all day in the kitchen and don't forget to throw a sprinkling of cocoa powder in your face for effect. To make these even easier, be sure to check out my notes below.

Easy Oreo Truffles

1 pkg. (1 lb., 2 oz.) OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted
CRUSH 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
DIP balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
REFRIGERATE until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

TIP:How to Easily Dip Truffles
Place truffle ball in melted chocolate to coat; roll if necessary. Lift truffle from chocolate using 2 forks (this will allow excess chocolate to run off) before placing on wax paper. You can also put the balls in the refrigerator to firm up a bit, then poke a toothpick in them and then dip them into the chocolate. I usually use the forks.

NOTE: I take a shortcut that takes these Truffles from easy to fool proof in 30 seconds flat. Instead of melting the baking chocolate in a double boiler. I side step that whole thing by simply buying dipping chocolate, the kind you melt in the microwave. There is no additional clean up & it's sooo easy to do.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Penne Rustica aka Man Pleaser

If anyone has been to Macaroni Grill they know there are two must haves, the Pasta Milano & the Penne Rustica. This rich pasta dish is a luscious mix of penne, pancetta, shrimp & grilled chicken all swimming in a decadent cream sauce. And although it might seem like it's too much work, trust me when you get a whiff of the garlic & rosemary sauteing in the butter, you won't second guess the work! You may have to hit the gym first thing in the morning though, which is why I would only recommend you make this for special occasions or as the AKA suggests to please your man or impress your friends & family.
Overall we liked the recipe very much. The sauce is too die. Is it a carbon copy of Macaroni Grill's Penne Rustica? No, but it's a good rival and I will definately be making this again.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe as the recipe I got off the internet wasn't very complete. I will write the recipe as is, but please see my notes/changes below. So without further a do here is the Man Pleaser, I mean the Penne Rustica!

Penne Rustica

1 tbspn Butter
1 tbspn Garlic
1/2 tbspn Dijon Mustard
1/2 tspn Salt
1/2 tspn Chopped Rosemary
1/2 cup Marsala Wine
1/8 tspn Cayenne Pepper
4 cups Heavy Cream

Saute butter, garlic and rosemary until garlic & rosemary are fragrant. Add Marsala wine and reduce by 1/3. Add remaining ingredients and reduce by half of original volume set aside.

1/2 oz pancetta or bacon
9 ea. Shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used colossal)
6 oz. grilled chicken breast, sliced
16 oz. penne, pre-cooked
3 oz. butter
1/2 Tblspn shallots,chopped
Pinch of Salt & pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tspn paprika

Saute pancetta until it begins to brown. Add butter, shallots and shrimp. Cook until shrimp re evenly pink but still translucent. Add chicken, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. Add sauce and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and simmer until sauce thickens. In a large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken mixture with precooked pasta. Place this mixture into single serving dishes or one large casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 300* for 10-15 minutes.

NOTES: I baked the Penne Rustica in my 2 1/2 qt. corning ware dish. I strongly recommend you bake it in a dish that is at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep for the sauce's sake. First off the sauce, if I would have let it reduce by 1/2 I would probably still be cooking. I did the sauce as the water boiled & the penne was done & the "penne" part was ready for the sauce. And trust me the sauce was thick enough and it didn't reduce by half. Second, I used four slices of pancetta because I couldn't bring myself to ordering 1oz at the deli. Next time I think I would add 1/2 of the 1/4 pound I bought if not all. As for the chicken I used 1 chicken breast and seasoned it with salt & pepper. Third, the Parmesan cheese is wrong. You do add a 1/2 a cup into the the mixture however, you still require more to sprinkle on top. I would sprinkle enough to cover the top but not make a full layer of cheese on top. Also I would finely grate it too as apposed to shredding it. Finally, the paprika I would just sprinkle it liberally & eye ball it. That's what's going to give it that beautiful Tuscan inspired color.

Other than that I would recommend you enjoy it with a special someone or a group of someones with a good bottle of wine and Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder's "Taking Timbuktu". I know what you're thinking this meals requires some Sinatra but trust me this Album brings the romance,sexiness and vibrance of all these wonderful flavors to life!

And just so you are sure to try this here is one last shot. This one, is a shot after we dug in so you can see all the layers of deliciousness!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My First Post

I thought long and hard about this which then led me to think why do I need a blog if I can't even think of anything to write for my first post? Truth is I was over thinking it. I was building it all in my mind as my big inauguration into the world of blogs. Picturing confetti & champagne pouring down on me as I hit "Publish Post". Flash bulbs going off as I heard the paparazzi yell "Claudia over here, over here Claudia" as I stepped away from the computer and onto the red carpet.

So without much of a bang, this is my first post. I hope to share recipe reviews, events in my life, various writings, restaurants I've visited and recommend.

Let's see if all of this is what this blog ends up being. Sometimes these things have a mind of their own.