Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

We went out for Easter Brunch to The Tavern at Lark Creek. We were so disappointed. :( Its so beautiful there, inside and out, but we were seated at a booth by the window...which sounds really nice, doesn't it? It was the absolute most uncomfortable table we've ever sat at before!! The table was too low...or the booth was too high...and the legs/feet of the table were just right in the way. I couldn't cross my legs, and I had to sit with the pole between my legs! Really, really uncomfortable, especially since I was wearing a dress. The food itself was fine. The service was extremely sloooowwww! We noticed that our waiter paid so much attention to the 6 top next to us, but just barely even acknowledged our presence unless we flagged him down, which wasn't an easy feat. Yes, they were busy, but really that wasn't the issue. I didn't get the impression that the kitchen was backed up. Our server didn't seem stressed, just really non-chalant. We were there for 2 solid hours, and for a Prix Fixe menu, it shouldn't have taken forever. What a bummer. I really wanted to love this place.

Moving on to a much more enjoyable experience. Easter dinner, prepared by my husband and myself - at home. I did some roasted asparagus with olive oil, garlic cloves, salt & pepper, roasted carrots with just olive oil, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. My husband made a New York Strip Roast (?!) that he studded with garlic cloves, and gravy (not pictured, for some reason). Everything turned out delicious. I think eating at restaurants on holidays is overrated. When will we learn?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Corned Beef & Cabbage Soup

I was going to make Baked Potato Soup for dinner last night, using my leftover potatoes from St. Patrick's Day. But then I burned the bacon. And I mean BURNT! A thought occurred to me: Maybe instead, I could make Corned Beef & Cabbage Soup with the rest of the leftovers, carrots, cabbage, & corned beef! It was very similar to Baked Potato Soup, but a very creative way to use my leftovers from St. Paddy's Day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

I've probably made this here before, but its been awhile. This dish is so easy and so delicious!

olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz can tomato sauce
28oz can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 tsp ea: oregano, basil
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
1 eggplant
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 oz Mozzarella, shredded

Saute the carrot, pepper, & onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil on med heat, until soft, about 5 or 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for at least 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. You can leave the sauce chunky, or you can blend into a smoother sauce using an emulsion blender, which is what I did.

While the sauce is simmering, peel the eggplant and slice into 1/2" thick discs. Layer them on paper towels, sprinkle generously with seasalt to draw away excess liquid. Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Brush each slice with a little olive oil, then grill on the bbq for about 5 minutes per side, low heat, just enough to get a slight grill mark.

Put about a cup of the sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Now layer half of the eggplant, half of the Parm, and half of the Mozz. Layer the rest of the eggplant, the rest of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes in a 350 oven. Let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!

***I don't like my eggplant breaded, so I prefer to cut out a lot of calories & fat by grilling them. It tastes just as delicious as the fattening, breaded kind!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Grilled Artichokes

Why have I never made these before?? They take a little more work than just steaming, but oh so worth it! All you do is trim them, cut them in half lengthwise, then blanch for about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels until cool enough to handle, then scoop out the furry insides. In a bowl, mix about 3/4 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, some fresh cracked pepper & salt. Brush each artichoke with the marinade. Grill on the BBQ (high heat) for about 10 minutes or until you get some nice grill marks. Serve right away or eat chilled. The great thing is that mayonnaise and/or melted butter is not necessary! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cheeseburger Soup

Last chance recipe for February!! Its been a slow month on my blog! One thing thats pretty cool about food blogging is that I can just search my own blog for a recipe! However, I found out that I never did blog about this Cheeseburger Soup that I've made a few times! Which is good, because I am always needing new recipes to put on my blog. I have been really trying to avoid white carbs: bread, rice, pasta, etc. Its been extremely difficult. I of course have been craving cheeseburgers and sandwiches like crazy! Luckily, I remembered this soup just in time for it still to be winter and chilly enough to enjoy a nice, hearty soup as opposed to caving in to bread. Not that this soup is healthy, because its super high in fat and calories! ;) I know it might sound like the weirdest soup ever, but it is so, so good! And it couldn't be easier, or more economical, to make.

1 lb lean ground beef*
2 qts chicken stock*
1/4 cup half and half*
16 oz Velveeta
8 oz shredded cheddar*
1 10 oz can HOT Rotel (diced tomatoes & habaneros)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste (I'm still obsessed with Pink Himalayan salt)
chopped romaine lettuce, diced red onion, & Sriracha for garnish* (you could even top with sautee'd mushrooms or diced pickles...whatever you normally enjoy on your cheeseburger! Bacon? Go for it!)

Brown the ground beef in a soup pot over med-hi heat until pink is gone. Drain. Set aside for a minute while it keeps draining. Add the chicken stock to the pot, stir to pick up any meat particles stuck on the bottom of the pan. Add the half and half. Bring to a simmer. Cut the Velveeta into chunks, add to soup pot, along with the cheddar cheese. Add the cooked ground beef back in the pot, as well as the Rotel, Italian seasonings, salt & fresh ground pepper. Keep on a low simmer until all the cheese is melted, anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. If it doesn't seem thick enough, you can add about a teaspoon of flour to about a quarter cup of milk and whisk together into a "slurry", then add to the soup. Simmer until its thick enough to resemble a cheese sauce. Garnish with the lettuce, onions, & Sriracha. Enjoy! Serves about 6.

Enjoy this soup!!

*I always try to use organic meat, veg, dairy, etc, and I use organic, low sodium broth. This should always go without saying when it comes to my recipes. BTW, Paradise Foods (Novato & Corte Madera) has the absolute best variety of organic meat!! I buy 99% of my meat at the Novato location. I do my shopping primarily there and at Marinwood Market, but I do like to shop at Trader Joes once in awhile. They have a great, inexpensive wine selection, but I don't buy my meat there. Cheap spices & olive oil, too! But great quality!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tri Tip Sandwiches with Carmelized Onions

Tri Tip Sandwiches! I marinated the Tri Tip in Worshestershire sauce, garlic, onions, and rosemary overnight, then grilled it on the BBQ (ok, my husband did that part!). Sliced thin, served on a Ciabatta roll with carmelized onions, white cheddar and horseradish aioli. Super delicious! Used the leftovers in burritos for lunch.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dungeness Crab Louie Salad

So, I've been wanting to challenge myself on my blogging lately. I currently have two challenges. The first one is a 28 day challenge that is to improve my blog just a little bit each day in February. Little things such as rearranging buttons, getting new fonts, etc. I haven't exactly started yet. I'm not sure how it works as far as accountability is concerned, but its just a matter of me taking the time to read more about it.

My second challenge is that back in the fall, I offered to help a friend of a friend who is writing a cook book. (Am I jealous much? You bet!) Well, he didn't need my assistance back then, but he's asking for it now. I don't get paid or anything like that, but it will help me to push my culinary limits and use ingredients that I normally wouldn't use or explore cultures that I normally wouldn't even think to try. Well, I got my list of 6 recipes that I need to test and I'm already intimidated. Not necessarily by the ingredients or cultures, although its true that I'm not looking forward to working with Conch or Salmon, but I'm scared of the techie stuff thats included. I'm no food stylist. I don't have lots of props. I'm not even sure how to open a zip file! lol I'm trying not to get overwhelmed by the scary stuff. As long as I can create the recipes, I'll go from there. I think I see a few dinner parties in my future, as I only have about 4 weeks to complete this task and theres no way my husband and I can eat all of this food.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about the Crab Louie. Its Dungeness Crab season here in the Bay Area. We had a shortage of it over Thanksgiving and Christmas and I've only just now had a chance to buy some at our local grocery, Marinwood Market. I thought it would be healthy and hearty. And aside from picking the crab meat out, its really easy.

Crab Meat* (I think I had about a pound when I was finished picking my Medium sized crab)
Mixed Lettuces: butter, iceberg, Upland watercress, baby spinach
Persian Cucumbers & Red Radishes, sliced and quartered
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Hard Boiled Egg, sliced
Avocado, sliced
Carrots, shredded
1000 Island dressing (I used store bought. This was a huge mistake. Next time I will make it homemade.

Wash and prepare all veggies. Toss the lettuce and put in one big bowl, or individual bowls. Put a handful of each veggie ingredient along the rim of the bowl(s). Place a generous portion of the crab in the middle, drizzle with the dressing, and enjoy! I forgot this, but a lemon wedge garnish would be lovely!

*You can get crab meat already picked from the shell from your fishmonger. Mine didn't have any, so he cracked and cleaned a whole crab for me, which made it easier. But next time I'd rather use the pre-picked meat.

Monday, January 28, 2013

(Vegan) Red Lentil Soup

Ok, I know I've done Red Lentil Soup before, but I usually add bacon or use chicken stock. But since my daughter has gone Vegan, I've been searching for some ideas that we can all eat for dinner. This is great soup! The veggies don't turn mushy and it has a nice earthy, rustic flavor. We didn't miss any of the "meat" flavor! Although, a nice sprinkling of Parmesan would certainly be nice if you wanted to downgrade it to Vegetarian. I tell ya, this has been quite the learning experience! Not enough to turn me into a full time Vegan, but I can handle it on occasion. I love my meat! ;)

Vegan Red Lentil Soup

2 T red onion, chopped
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 t dried basil
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes & green chiles)
1 fresh tomato, chopped
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water
3 kale leaves, stem removed, sliced thin
2 T red wine vinegar
Himalayan Pink Salt & freshly ground pepper*

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and basil; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in lentils and add water & tomatoes. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. Add the kale and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes until wilted. Add the vinegar, salt & pepper. Serves 4-6. (recipe adapted from Bob's Red Mill)

I partnered the soup with some grilled White Cheddar Cheese sandwiches. Perfect for a cold, rainy night!

*I love this pink salt! I use it all the time...but $9.49 at Amazon? I get mine for $1.99 at Trader Joes!* 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Turkey Burger & Spiced Baked Fries

This is what I made for dinner last night. I'm trying really hard to cut out white carbs, plus I'm trying to offer some vegan choices for my daughter. I made some veggie burgers for her but didn't take a pic yet. I'd never made them before and always wanted to. They smelled great and look pretty, but the were a little mushy. I'd probably add more oatmeal next time, or roll them in some panko before frying.

Anyway, these recipes are super easy and very flavorful!

For the Turkey Burgers:
Put 1 lb ground turkey, 5 diced mushrooms, 2 T finely minced fresh garlic, & 2 T Soy Vay Veri Teri sauce into a large ziplock bag. Close tightly, squeezing most of the air out, and massage the ingredients until well mixed. Should give you 4 generous patties. Grill. Serve with Butter/Bibb Lettuce (or buns), swiss cheese, avocado, & red onion...or whatever floats your boat!*my recipe*

For the Spiced Baked Fries:
Slice 2 large Russet potatoes into thick wedges. Toss them in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil and some pink Himalayan salt (Trader Joes, $1.99. Love this stuff!!!!). Bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Flip them over and sprinkle a mixture of 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon oregano, & 1 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder. Bake for 15 more minutes. (I have a new oven, so I had to turn mine down to 425 for the last 15 minutes cuz they were getting too brown.) *This recipe was from FoodNetwork Magazine*


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

Isn't this pretty?

I just butterflied a 3 lb pork loin roast, pounded it down to make it a bit thinner and easier to stuff, then layered some chopped kale that I had tossed in olive oil, garlic, pink salt, & pepper, a few slices of Prosciutto, & about 1/2 a cup shredded Fontina cheese. Put a few sprigs of rosemary on the seam, tied it up with some string to keep it all secure, drizzled some olive oil over it, then roasted on a rack with a bit of water in the pan, at 325 for about 45 - 50 minutes or until the thermometer reads 160. Let rest for 10 minutes in some aluminum foil. Drizzle with more olive oil. Slice into spirals. I didn't take a pic, but I served it over a bed of large Northern White Beans & wild rice. Super delicious! ( I know I made something very similar to this earlier this month, but this one turned out a lot better and I was much happier with this one! It might be because the one I did before was a tenderloin, whereas this one was a loin....much fattier, flavorful cut of pork.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Max's is closing down! La Plancha opening soon!

I must admit that I hadn't been to Max's in probably about a year. The other day, my daughter asked where we could get a good cheeseburger, so I suggested Max's. Right before we walked in I said to her, "I'm always trying to think of a great restaurant that has a variety of American fare, etc. and we never think of Max's. We really need to come here more often!" Then we walked in the door and saw that the main dining room was taped off and a big sign saying that a new concept, La Plancha, is opening up on February 6th. I was confused because the bar to the left was still open and appeared to still be operating as Max's. I thought that maybe they were going to have 2 concepts in 1 space: Max's on the left, La Plancha to the right. But sadly, thats not the case! Max's hasn't earned a profit in over 2 years, according to two staffers there. So, the same owners are hoping that this new Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar will appeal to Marin residents. I am not sure that we necessarily needed another Mexican restaurant, but I'll give it a shot. They compare it more to Guymas in Tiburon, rather than say, The Cantina in Mill Valley. I grabbed a copy of their menu and some of their selections look intriguing: Albondigas con Crema - Beef & Chorizo Meatballs with Tomato Sauce, Chile en Nogada - Poblano Pepper stuffed with Ground Pork, Raisins, Pineapple, Onions, with Walnut Cream Sauce & Pomegranate Seeds, plus they have your standard Tacos, Burritos, Tamales (one with Lamb, Onion, Chile Verde, Achiote Crema! Different!), and a nice selection of Margaritas, Wine, & Cerveza (they have a bucket of Mini's! Haven't had that since I was in Ensenada as a 20 something!). I'm looking forward to sipping on a Campeon Top Shelf Margarita while nibbling on some Antojitos Mexican Street Snacks at La Plancha next month.

I really am going to miss Max's, though. Its too bad. Among some of the favorites that I will miss is their delicious Chopped Salad, the Potato Skins, the Sliders, and of course, their amazing Reuben Sandwich! Friends tell me that I should check out Millers East Coast Deli in the Montecito Shopping Center where Pasta Pomodoro used to be, next time I need a Matzo Ball fix!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Braciola di Maiale

I was at Nello Cucina last month and contemplated ordering this dish. However, I filled up on the Carpaccio and didn't get to try it, so I had immediate designs to recreate the dish for dinner one night. It makes for a really rustic dinner on a cold winters night.

3 lbs pork tenderloin, pounded as thin as you can get it, sprinkle with salt & pepper
3 oz Proscuitto
4 oz Mozzarella di Bufala (the kind in the water, so its soft)
A bunch of Spinach leaves
White Northern Beans (I used canned)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Layer the pork with the Proscuitto, cheese, & spinach. Gently roll lengthwise away from you. Fasten with several toothpicks. Lay the tenderloin seam side down on a rack over a roasting pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with water. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until the temp reaches 160. Remove, cover with foil, let rest for 10 minutes before removing toothpicks and slicing into spirals. Serve over the warmed through white beans, garnish with Parmesan and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil if desired. Enjoy!