Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I have been eating a lot of sweet potatoes lately. They are inexpensive, healthy, delicious, and simple to cook! I usually bake them like a regular potato, or slice them up and roast them with some olive oil (not surprising, given my affinity for roasting). I have also been enjoying the recent trend of the sweet potato fry option in restaurants, but when I tried making them at home, I was not getting the same crispy-fry texture. I thought it must be the price you pay for baking versus deep frying.

However, this recipe is wonderful because it gets the sweet potato fries more crispy than my previous baking attempts (although I must admit, still not as crispy as frying). Also, there is a dipping sauce included. The sauce is a nice touch -- I mean, who doesn't LOVE dipping their fries in something tasty? This is also the first dip I've tried that complements the sweet potato flavor well (ketchup unfortunately tastes really bazaar with sweet potato IMO).

I've made these fries on the side of bison burgers a few times, and you should definitely give it a try; it is SUCH a good combo (I will have to post the burger recipe soon). Also, I definitely enjoy just eating them as a snack (while nomming on the couch, of course). Either way, you can't go wrong!

* Sweet potato, peeled and sliced
* Corn starch
* Olive oil
* Salt

-- The proportions depend on how much you want to make. It's very flexible. See instructions below.

Dipping Sauce
* Mayonnaise
* Sriracha sauce

-- I like 3 parts mayonnaise to 1 part Sriracha (nice and spicy), but alter proportions depending on your taste. Just mix the two ingredients, and serve with the fries!

* Preheat oven to 425 F.
* Put your prepared sweet potatoes in a bag.
* Sprinkle in a little corn starch, and give it a good shake. The corn starch should just lightly coat the potato on all sides. Start out with just a little, and add if you need more (it's hard to dust the corn starch off if you put too much on, but possible if need be).
* Then lay your potato slices on your baking sheet or in a bowl, and lightly coat with olive oil. You while want to use your hands to toss the slices to make sure all sides have a nice light coating. Then, lay slices on your baking sheet like so:
* Bake for about 15 minutes. I then like to flip all the fries onto the opposite side, and bake for another 5 minutes or so (this helps get both sides nice and crispy).
* Lay your fries on a napkin, and sprinkle with some salt. I let the fries sit there for a few minutes, they will start to crisp up more as they cool.
* Serve with your dipping sauce!
* Note: When cutting, the picture above is a good example of the desired size for a good & crispy fry.

Recipe adapted from this blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Omelette

Now, time to put those omelette skills to the test! This is a new favorite. Red pepper and goat cheese is such a classic combo, seen mostly in pastas and sandwiches. But trust me, it's time to give those flavors a try a la an herby, fluffy omelette stuffed with the creamy, tangy goat cheese, alongside the sweet & smokey roasted red peppers. Just stellar.

How To: Omelette

When I have a little free time, one of my MOST favorite things to do is to sleep in, and cook up a hearty breakfast or brunch. Eggs also happen to be one of my favorite foods, so I wanted to share the basic techniques for creating classic egg dishes (planning for more to come). Hopefully, when you have some free time, you can whip up some eggs for you and your loved ones!

Omelettes can be a little tricky. I've tried multiple methods, but I have found a fail-proof way that works for me, so I hope it can help you! And please, have NO fear if you haven't made them before! The first few times I tried, I ended up with last-minute scrambled eggs, but practice makes perfect.

Here's what you'll need for each omelette:
* 2 extra-large eggs
* 2 tbsp. milk (some people swear by water for fluffing omelettes, but I like milk)
* 8 or 9-inch omelette pan, buttered well
* Sturdy spatula (somewhat small works better for me)
* Whatever you want to fill your omelette with!

* Whisk the eggs and milk together until just combined (this is another point of contention, some people like to whisk the batter until frothy -- you can try both and see what you like)
* Season with salt and pepper (or add any other herbs or spices you like)
* While mixing the eggs, heat your buttered pan on medium heat.
* When the pan gets warm, pour in your egg mixture.
* The bottom will set, and immediately turn the heat down to low.
* Give the top a stir as you wait for it to cook through more (making sure not to break the bottom).
* Sometimes I will put a lid on the top just for about 30 seconds, to help the omelette cook through a little more quickly (so the bottom doesn't burn).
* When there is still a little liquid on top, and the bottom has set completely (without getting browned), flip your omelette over carefully with a sturdy plastic spatula.
* This is close to what you want (got a little more cooked than I would like)...
* As soon as you have flipped, immediately take the pan off the heat, and put your filling in!
* Then, just fold, and serve!

Favorite Fillers
* Ham and cheddar cheese
* Bacon, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese
* Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and gruyere
* Green bell pepper, onion, and cheddar cheese
* Turkey, avocado, and Monterey jack
* Green chili and chorizo
* Roasted red pepper and goat cheese

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Menu Planning

There are many recipes I wanted to blog about post-Christmas feasting, but then I realized that might not be beneficial in anticipation of cooking/baking for Christmas and New Years. So, I have been scouring the internet, my favorite cookbooks, blogs, as well as searching for inspiration from family traditions, to provide a compilation of things that I plan on making or have made in the past (and others that I am cataloging for future years), so that y'all can see if these recipes interest you this Christmas!

* Red Velvet Pancakes
* Eggnog French Toast
* Lemon Cranberry Muffins
* Caramel Apple Sticky Buns
* Baked French Toast Casserole
I've made this before. SO good. I hope to make it some lazy day over the break, and if so, will post pics then!
* Cranberry Nutmeg Pancakes w/ Meyer Lemon Curd

Cheese Plate

* Camembert & Pears
* Baked Brie w/ Cranberry Sauce & Walnuts
* Baked Brie w/ Rosemary Honey & Toasted Almonds

* Whisky & Coke Ham
You are looking at a tried and true Fiedler family tradition here. My Dad makes this ham every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it is seriously the BEST.HAM.EVER. And yes, there is a bit of a theme here. The Fiedlers absolutely love cooking with (and drinking) whisky. The recipe above is where my Dad got the idea (thank you, Emeril). I know he has put a couple twists on it, but if you follow this recipe, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. After Christmas, I will try to remember to post some pics of my Dad's, and talk with him about any other suggestions he has for the recipe. But until then, please try it out for your own Christmas!! It will be one of the best presents you can give your family!
* Roasted Turkey
There are lots of great turkey recipes, but I included this one because it includes a good brine. In my humble opinion, brining is THE MOST important step to having a good turkey! Please don't overlook it! You should definitely read up on the process if you haven't done so in the past.
* Beef Bourguignon
I made this for a dinner party, and it's one of the best things I've ever cooked. I really wish I would've taken pictures and posted about it, because it is a complex recipe. However, if you want to impress, this is without a doubt the dish to make!!
* Roast Prime Rib
* Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

* Cranberry Sauce
* Green Bean Casserole
* Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts
* Roasted Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes
* Mashed Cauliflower & Cheese
Also made this at the dinner party, and everyone raved about it! Sorry I didn't take any pics of this either.

* Rum Cake
* Guiness Gingerbread
* Chocolate Cherry Trifle
I'm in charge of dessert for Christmas day, and this is what I am making. Will get a post up as soon as I can afterward. Doesn't it look fantastic?!
* Peppermint Ice Cream
I reallyyy want an ice cream maker from Santa.
* White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Gift Box Ideas
* Decorated Sugar Cookies (cookie recipe and glaze; TB: 12/22)
* Peppermint Bark (very easy to make; TB: 12/22)
* Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pies w/ Toasted Almond Cream (first time making these; TB: 12/23)
* Red Velvet Cake Balls
* Sinner Bark (this, and next three are on my blog)
* Seven Layer Bars
* Gingerbread Cookies
* Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
* Hot Chocolate Mix

* Crock Pot Hot Cocoa
* Peppermint Mocha
* Cranberry-Pomegranate Margarita
* Cranberry-Ginger Fizz
* Pomegranate-Vanilla Sangria

Hope this helps. Wishing you, and your family, a very Merry Christmas feast!

P.S. If anyone has great holiday recipes, please please share!

Baked Oatmeal w/ Cranberries

There's so much I love about baking with oats... oatmeal cookies, crumble topping on pies, granola, etc. However, I've never been a big fan of oatmeal (although I sometimes forced myself to eat it). It's something about the weird, goopy texture. Fortunately, this recipe has definitely changed that less-than-pleasant oatmeal experience into an absolute treat. It has all the properties of the oat things I love (especially the texture), while still being a healthy breakfast (granted it has some butter and sugar, but not too much considering this recipe makes 4-5 servings). Try it -- you will definitely be surprised at how much better oatmeal just got!

Roasted Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes

Here's another roasted dish! I thought it would be great for the holidays, because it looks very festive. It would also work well in the summer, at the peak of tomato season. This is a perfect side to a nice steak, served with some crusty bread. It is packed with layers of flavor and texture -- crunchy/crisp, bright burst of acidity, hint of heat, and I could seriously go on... I promise, you won't feel like you're eating two healthy veggies at once (but you will be). So, Merry Christmas!

How To: Roasting

One of my favorite ways to prepare side dishes in the winter is roasting (grilling is for summer, of course). It's so easy, and so underrated!

For vegetables, all you need to do is put a little olive oil and s&p on them, and bake somewhere between 400-450 F depending on the dish. Then, just watch them until they get all browned and crispy on the edges (they may even look a little burned, but they're probably not, trust me). The length of cooking time will depend on what exactly you're cooking, but veggies usually take around 15-20 mins, and potatoes will be closer to 45 mins-1 hour.

For fruit, it's pretty much the same, except just flavor with some form of sugar sprinkled over the top.

Another wonderful thing about roasting is that it enhances the natural flavor of whatever you're roasting. If you roast a fruit, it brings out the sugars of the fruit, and makes the fruit taste much more decadent. When you roast vegetables, the particular essence of that vegetable comes out, and believe me, you never knew vegetables tasted that good. Also, it keeps a lot more of the nutrients in the vegetable, as opposed to steaming (and tastes wayyy better).

Great Things to Roast
* Potatoes, whole garlic cloves
* Green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
* Pineapple, peaches (any stone fruit), and many more!
* Lots of meats (obviously)

2 Things You've Probably Never Thought of Roasting
* Avocado
* Grapefruit

And here's how they're both done...

Roasted Grapefruit
* Cut a grapefruit in half, and separate each section with a paring knife.
* Set up the grapefruit on a baking dish (you may need to cut a little off the bottom to get it to sit up without falling over), and drizzled with your choice of sugar. I spread about a tablespoon of honey over the top. But you can use white sugar, brown sugar, etc. Or just go au naturel. I like a little bit of sugar to balance out the bitterness of the grapefruit.
* Broil the grapefruit for about 5 minutes.
* See how juicy and delicious it looks now! Every flavor of the grapefruit is enhanced (including the bitterness - so definitely only for grapefruit lovers). With this preparation, it tastes more like dessert than breakfast.

Roasted Avocado
I can't believe I just started doing this. I didn't think avocado could get any better -- until now! When roasted, the outside gets a little bit of a crust, and then the inside is sooo creamy. Absolutely delicious! Serve it with a salad, eggs, on toast or a sandwich, or just enjoy on its own!

* Remove the pit and skin, and slice.
* Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and s&p.

* Bake on 400 F for about 15 minutes. Yum!

One of my favorite snacks: cracker, good piece of turkey (would be great with leftover Christmas turkey!), and the roasted avocado.

** Another roasted dish recipe coming soon: Roasted Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes

Question: What else do people like to roast?? I would love to hear!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Sinner" Bark (Chocolate, Whiskey-Marshmallow Cream, Caramel, & Candied Bacon)

What says holiday cheer like bacon and whiskey? Well, I can't think of much else. That's why I'm spreading the love to all my friends and family this Christmas, with this decadent, and sinful, bark -- and you should too!

For those of you who haven't had bacon with chocolate, or bacon with caramel, or bacon with *see ingredients below*, you are missing out. Believe it or not, bacon is a fantastic complement to dessert. The salty/savoriness helps something sweet from becoming the dreaded sickly-sweet, and instead creates a rich, well-balanced bite.

What is really special about this bark is the addition of the whiskey in the marshmallow layer. And yes, you can actually taste the whiskey. When you are done chewing, the whiskey is the last flavor to come through at the end -- it sneaks up on you, and then lingers on your palate -- truly the warmest, and most welcome, surprise.

Seven Layer Bars

This is my most coveted holiday treat. I have been making these bars every year since I was about 16. And every year, my family gorges on them. At this point, they would probably riot if I didn't bake them. I think these may be somewhat of an acquired, or maybe just for just particular, tastes. Some people aren't a huge fan of them, but the people who are, are seriously obsessed (they are very sweet, and very addictive).

And my favorite thing is that these bars are the SIMPLEST thing I bake, and are a nice break from some of my more complicated baking ambitions. Literally all you do is layer, and bake the ingredients, and voila -- holiday magic. Hope you, and your family, enjoy!

Gingerbread Cookies w/ White Chocolate

"These taste like Christmas."

This is the first year I've made these cookies, and they are definitely going into the yearly "To Bake For the Holidays" bank. I have made gingerbread men, and just regular gingerbread, but I have never made gingerbread cookies quite like this before. I have to say I prefer this recipe, because they have all the gingerbread taste in a soft cookie form. The texture is so great -- you could eat about 10 at once if you're not careful!

I really wanted to add white chocolate Hershey kisses (to mimic my usual peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses), but I couldn't find them in the store. I could have sworn they made them around the holidays -- does anyone know? Anyways, instead I just got some white chocolate chips, and melted them in the center. It did the trick. I made some cookies with, and some without, the white chocolate, and both were fabulous! The white chocolate ones were definitely the favorite -- it pairs beautifully with the gingerbread by adding a nice creaminess to the spiced cookie. ENJOY!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

I made these at the beginning of the semester for my college/forever roomie, Kelly, to celebrate her birthday! I also took some leftovers to friends at school, which is always appreciated by over-caffeinated law students. I thought these would be great to post around the holidays, because they would be a lovely addition to a gift basket.

Salted caramel is such a traditional and delicious treat. I love how the salt picks up interesting notes of the caramel, and then, in this recipe, the addition of the shortbread and chocolate layers brings even more flavor to the party. You could also just make the caramel recipe (double the caramel layer below in a 8X8 pan), and then just top with fleur de sel for just a traditional salted caramel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oven "Fried" Chicken

I've been trying out a variety of new chicken recipes. To be honest, I always have chicken on hand, and had found myself in a rut doing the same old chicken breast-with-random seasoning song-and-dance. So, I decided to mix things up with some twists on classics and modern flavors (more to come!).

One of my all-time favorite foods is fried chicken (God Bless the South). But, if I eat it, I will fall into a bliss-filled food coma almost immediately. Unfortunately, I can't afford to be put in a greasy stupor these days, so this recipe is a healthy and delicious substitute for my favorite Southern classic.

It starts out the same way as a traditional fried chicken recipe, with a long soak in a buttermilk marinade. Then, it is breaded with crushed corn flakes, but instead of being fried, it is baked in the oven! It's a wonderful preparation, because you get the wonderfully crunchy texture, without all of the calories. The marinade is based on spices that I really like, and gives it an excellent flavor, but of course it can be modified to your taste/what you have available. Same goes with corn flake breading. Also, this chicken goes very well with my Orzo Stuffed Peppers. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

White Chocolate Orange Cookies

Lesson learned from having a food blog: People will often sucker you into baking them things. Okay, so I wasn't "suckered" into baking these cookies, but wanted to share them with some co-workers before I left for the new school year. (Yes, I am seriously back-logged on my blogs).

I'd been wanting to make some cookies, because they are very low maintenance for people who are quite busy (like I've been finding myself), and easy to share with a crowd. I found a recipe here that sounded simple and unique! I've had white chocolate cookies, but these were an interesting twist with orange and walnuts in lieu of the normal macadamia nuts. And they certainly were delightful. The creaminess of the white chocolate and hint of orange was reminiscent of my childhood Dreamsicle days, and they disappeared quickly at work! After I baked the cookie, I also decided to do a quick orange glaze, because I had the ingredients on hand, and it was really easy. It also helped to add a little oomph of orange, and kept the cookie nice and moist. (They will still be great if you choose to make them without the glaze, you just may want to increase the orange zest to 1 1/2-2 teaspoons).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Orzo Stuffed Bell Peppers

(Isn't my new camera awesome?! Yeah, I'm kinda obsessed.)

I have fallen for bell peppers for oh-so-many reasons. I love how there are different types, each with their own distinct personality and flavor profile. And the different aspects of each pepper changes drastically depending on the preparation. (This could probably be said of most vegetables, and one of many reasons I love cooking them.) One of my daily rituals includes slicing up red peppers, and taking them to work with some hummus or taziki, for a crispy, yet slightly juicy, mid-afternoon bite. They are also wonderful roasted and served in a pasta dish or as a side (just simple with some EVOO and s&p). The Tex-Mex feign in me loves sauteeing them slowly with onions and serving with fajitas, quesadillas, nachos, etc. They can also be sauteed quickly in a hot wok with an easy stir fry. (And the possibilities go on and on.)

If you are a bell pepper fan as well, go out and grab some soon, as their peak season falls between late summer and autumn. I hope you enjoy them in whatever preparation you prefer, and I really hope you try this recipe! In this dish, the roasted pepper takes on a sweet tenderness, while encapsulating a light, herby pasta mixture. It's a lovely presentation alongside fish, poultry, or steak, and is a delightfully fresh, healthy side that's packed full of flavor.

* 1-2 zucchini, grated
* 1 (14-ounce) can diced Italian style tomatoes, drained
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
* 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (or Pecorino Romano)
* 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
* Optional: 1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (for a hint of heat)
* 3 cups chicken broth or water (chicken broth imparts more flavor to the orzo)
* 1 cup orzo
* 4-5 bell peppers (red or yellow)
* Optional: bread crumbs, and more Parmigiano-Reggiano & Italian parsley to sprinkle on top

* Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
* In a large bowl, mix together the zucchini, tomatoes, parsley, cheese, EVOO, and s&p (and red pepper flakes if you choose).
* Then, partially cook the orzo by boiling in chicken broth for 4 minutes. (Save the chicken broth and pour into the baking dish you are using to bake your peppers in).
* Add the orzo to the vegetable mixture.
* Next, prepare your bell peppers by cutting off the tops and taking out all the ribs and seeds.
* Fill the peppers with the orzo mixture. Then place upright in the baking dish (already with the saved chicken broth in).
* Cover your baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
* Remove the foil, and sprinkle the top of the peppers with bread crumbs and more grated Parmagiano-Reggiano.
* Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
* Sprinkle top with parsley and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from here.

~ Stay fresh!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Exciting News!

One aspect of my blog that has definitely been lacking is the photography. I usually get caught up in the cooking, and forgot to take photos along the way. The ones I usually do take are quick shots with my iPhone. Well, friends, that's all about to change, because I finally got myself a present (that I have been dreaming about for a long time)... an SLR camera! The Canon EOS Rebel T3i to be exact! It's a good one for a beginner like myself.

And so, I have been playing with it the last few days, and have already started taking shots for my next few blog posts. Just wanted y'all to get excited, and hope that you like my upcoming photos!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Triple-Layer Carrot Cake

I know that carrots are generally regarded as a spring vegetable, however, this cake is such a fabulous treat during the hot summer months. Not to mention, it was requested from my co-workers at the DA's on my last day (holla!). Get ready, because this is one of those "best-ever" recipes (I got a few of those when I made it), and the three layers of deliciousness will have people thinking you are a pro baker!

I've included in the recipe a medley of spices that give a nice kick to the sweet and oh-so moist texture of the cake. Then, the light, pillowy cream cheese frosting smooths out the texture from the nuts and carrot, and gives the cake a decadent finish.
Believe me, if you are a carrot cake fan, find the next possible excuse (friend's birthday, potluck, dinner party), or heck, make up an excuse, and bake this cake!!

Cake Ingredients

* Butter (for buttering the pans)
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (choose high quality spices, it will make a big difference in flavor)
* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon all spice
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 4 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
* 3 cups grated carrots (about 6-8 carrots)
* 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted (or walnuts if preferred)
* Note: Make sure you have 3 (8" or 9") round pans (important that they are same size and brand) and parchment paper.

Frosting Ingredients
* 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
* 12 tablespoons salted butter, a.k.a. 1 1/2 sticks (or if have unsalted butter on hand, just add a pinch of salt to the frosting at the end)
* 2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* Optional: 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted (for decorating side of cake)

Cake Directions
* Preheat oven to 350 F.
* In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices).
* Add eggs and vegetable oil, using either a hand mixer or cake stand mixer.
* Stir in grated carrots and pecans to batter.
* To prepare the pans, coat with butter and line bottom of pan with parchment paper (very important step, otherwise you have a difficult time getting the cake out of the pans).
* Pour batter evenly between the three pans. Bake for about 35 minutes.
* Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for about 5-10 minutes (until pan is cool).
* Then, remove the cake from pan by turning over and gently patting the bottom. Cool on wax paper until room temperature (do not want the cakes to be warm at all when frosting--otherwise gooey mess will ensue).
Note on Toasting
* Whenever I use nuts in any recipe, I always toast them. Toasting brings out the oils in the nuts, and you will be amazed at how much tastier they are. If you would like to go this extra step, all you need to do is warm the nuts in a pan on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Keep a watchful eye on the nuts, and stir occasionally, so that the nuts do not burn. After I toast the nuts, then I give them a chop.

Frosting Directions
* While cakes are in the oven or cooling, this is a good time to make the frosting.
* Beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
* Then, add the powdered sugar little by little (don't add all at once, or sugar will splay everywhere).
* Mix in the vanilla, and whip for a couple minutes until fluffy.

* When time to frost, set up the cake on your cake dish, and put small pieces of wax paper under bottom layer (this way you can remove the wax pieces when done frosting, and your cake base will be clean).
* Spread a layer of frosting between three layers of cake.
* Then you will go about frosting the entire outside of the cake. You can use an icing knife or just use a regular butter knife.
* As you can see from the first picture, I decorated the cake by pressing chopped pecan pieces up the side of my cake, almost halfway. This is really easy- literally jut press into the cake using the palm of your hand, and it has a really nice professional look.
* Slice and serve to your most favorite friends!
~ Stay fresh!

* This recipe was born of Alton Brown's and Paula Dean's love child.

Zesty Lemon Bars

Ingredients (Crust)
* 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temp
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 2 cups flour
* Pinch salt

Ingredients (Filling)
* 6 eggs, room temp
* 3 cups granulated sugar
* 1/2 - 1 tablespoon lemon zest, depending how zesty you like your treats (note: don't get any of the white part when zesting--it is very bitter!)
* 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 6-7 lemons, depending on size)
* 1 cup flour
* Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Crust Directions

* Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
* Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, and add the butter/sugar mixture on low until just combined.
* Gather the dough into a ball.
* Press the dough into a greased 9" X 13" pan. Build the dough up up along the edges higher than the center of the pan, about 1/2 inch up the pan.
* Chill the dough for 30 minutes in refrigerator.
* Bake the crust for 15 minutes or so, until light golden brown.
* Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling Instructions
* Whisk together the eggs and sugar. Then, mix in the rest of the ingredients until combined (don't over beat the eggs).
* Pour the mixture over the crust.
* Bake for 30-35 minutes.
* Let the lemon bars cool completely to room temperature before cutting and serving.
* Cut into triangles or squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and voila!

Recipe adapted from here.

~ Hope you enjoy these super fresh and tangy treats!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Basic Marinara Sauce

*1/4 cup EVOO
* 1 small-medium onion, small diced (I like Spanish/yellow)
* 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, hand-torn
* 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed (buy very good quality, because this will affect the quality of the marinara drastically)
* Salt and pepper, to taste

* To prepare the tomatoes, drain from can and take out the whole tomato. Give each tomato a good squeeze (or a couple) to break the tomato apart into small pieces (do so slowly and wear an apron, because otherwise will get some splash back).
* Heat the EVOO over medium heat, and add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft (make sure are watching carefully and stirring to ensure the garlic does not burn).
* Add your crushed tomatoes, and cook for about 20 minutes until the sauce reduces to a thicker consistency, stirring occasionally.
* Take the sauce off the heat, and season with salt and pepper. (When you let the sit sauce cool it will also thicken up a bit more). ENJOY!

* If you are using in the eggplant recipe, let the sauce cool a bit before using.
* Also, you will want to double this recipe if you are making a large batch of the eggplant.
* You can also make in advance to save yourself time that day, and just reheat on the stove if you are serving with spaghetti (or whatever you fancy doing with it).

~ Stay fresh!

Eggplant Parmigiana

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. This is seriously the truest of all cliches. Ladies, if you haven't learned this yet, it's probably not too late. Just make sure you really want him to stick around before you get him hooked.

No matter your feeling on eggplant in other preparations, there's no snubbing it in this dish. The eggplant is crisp, yet tender, and it is the ultimate comfort food, without being need-a-nap-now heavy. It's the quintessential dish that is best in it's most pure, fresh form. When a dish is about classic simplicity, the recipe usually is straight forward, and the ingredients should be the best you can find (this is what separates the just-okay from the great).

Luckily for us, eggplants are looking absolutely gorgeous, and you should be noticing their deep purple, taught, shiny skin is beaming with joy right now. So, go get you some, and make a delicious dish that will impress that lucky man in your life, or anyone else that enjoys a good meal!


* 1-2 eggplants
* 4 eggs
* All-purpose flour
* Bread crumbs
* 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
* 8-16 oz. sliced mozzarella (buffalo preferred)
* Fresh basil, for garnish
* 2 cups-1 quart marinara sauce (see my recipe, or buy your favorite from the store if you need to save a little time)
* Optional: spaghetti (for serving on the side)

Note on Range
* The range indicates how much you want to make.
* If you follow the lower end (1 eggplant, 8 oz. mozzarella, 2 cups marinara), then this will make about 2 layers of eggplant in a 9X13 inch dish. My favorite preparation is 4 layers, and if you want this amount then follow the high end. Just be warned that this is a lot of food, so share, or be prepared to enjoy leftovers for a few days (it reheats very well).
* It also depends on the size of the eggplant because they do vary greatly. This would be for medium-sized eggplants.

* Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch pieces (I personally like them as thin as I can get them).
* Lay the sliced eggplant onto a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. (I know this seems strange, but it brings out the moisture from the eggplant, and will make them more tender). Once the eggplant starts to sweat, after about 5 minutes, dry off with paper towel.
* Assemble your frying station for the eggplant. I like to pan fry mine. Lay out dishes for your flour, bread crumbs, and eggs (whisked) like so.
* Sorry there are no measurements for the flour and bread crumbs. What I do is put down a thick coating of the flour on a plate or shallow dish (season the flour up with a little salt and pepper) and do the same with the bread crumbs (except I grate a little Parmigiano Reggiano into the bread crumbs as well). When I start to run low, I will replenish as needed.

* So, here's what you need to pan fry the eggplant:
** Coat your pan in EVOO, and heat on medium high heat.
** Coat your eggplant pieces in the flour, then dip in the egg, and then dredge in the bread crumbs.
** I do this for as many as can fit in the pan, then fry those up, and repeat the process until they are all done. Be prepared with some plates or cutting boards lined with paper towels to let your finished fried eggplant pieces hang out until you are done. It should look like so:
* When you are done frying your eggplant, let cool until room temperature.
* Then, it is time to assemble the dish. Preheat oven to 350 F.
* Spoon a layer of marinara on the bottom of your dish. Then, put down a layer of eggplant, then a layer of marinara, mozzarella, and a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Each layer should look like this:
* Continue layering. Make sure to reserve enough mozzarella and a good amount Parm to top off the dish.
* Cook in oven for about 30-35 minutes. I increased the temperature to 400 for the last 5 minutes to brown the cheese on the top.
* While the dish is cooking, make some spaghetti (if you wish). Pasta is really wonderful with this dish, because it soaks up the excess marinara, and balances the cheesiness from the mozzarella. Also, would be very nice with some crusty bread.
* Serve with pasta or bread, and top with some more grated Parm and julienned Basil (see first picture). ENJOY!

~ Stay fresh!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Super Fresh Cherry Pie

Lately, I have been noticing some sinfully red cherries cropping up, and behold, it is cherry season. Around the same time the cherries began blushing at me, it was also nearing my Dad's birthday, so I put two and two together, and made him a super fresh cherry pie (I really am an awesome daughter).
And I must humbly admit, it got rave reviews. My Dad has since divulged that he was initially a little worried, because he tends to find most cherry pie sickly-sweet. However, he said this was the perfect balance of sweetness, and was definitely not shy about going back for more! The texture of the fresh cherries were really nice and plump, and it had a unique depth of flavor from the hint of orange, vanilla, and almond. It was also sweet, and definitely a little tart, but it wasn't toooo sweet.

I hope you break away from the syrupy-canned stuff, and try out this super fresh pie while the picking is still good!

* 6 cups Bing cherries, halved pitted (a big bag)
* 2 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
* 4 tablespoons butter
* Pie Crust (see "How To")

* Pit the cherries. Now, this was by far the most time-consuming part. I used a small knife to accomplish the job, and just plunked down in front of the tv with my cherries and a bowl. You can also buy a cherry pitter if you prefer.
* Preheat the oven to 400.
* Mix the pitted cherries with all of the ingredients, except the butter, in a large bowl.
* Pour the cherry mixture into your pie crust, and then dot with top with the butter.
* Roll your pie crust over top, and decorate (see "How To" for directions).
* Line the edges of crust with foil (so they don't burn), and bake for 30 minutes.
* Remove the foil band, brush the top with heavy cream or egg whites, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
* Continue baking for approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown.

* Let the pie cool on a rack for 4 hours or so. I like to bake the pie the day before serving, and let it cool overnight. The reason being that the filling needs to cool to thicken up to the right consistency. I really think it's just easiest to do it a day ahead so you don't run out of time, and there's not too much pressure.
* Slice and serve! It's not pictured, but this pie is so good with some vanilla ice cream. The mild flavor is a creamy complement to the tart, sweet cherries.

Recipe adapted from here.

~ Stay fresh!